Editors: Meredith Davis and Lisa Andrews Art Editor and Advisor: Chris Butler Production Editor: Lisa Andrews Cover Art: Chris Butler Apeiron Review is published every January, May, and August. Unsolicited submissions are welcome. Manuscripts must be pasted into the body of an email and sent to email@example.com. For submission guidelines, schedules, news, and archived issues, please visit our website at apeironreview.com ÂŠApeiron Review. All rights revert to the author upon publication.
Table of Contents Poetry Barnacle Larry Thomas 8 The Tiber Domenic Scopa 12 Black Snakes of Kentucky Yvette Schnoeker-Shorb
Some Day Deborah Purdy
The Canal Wiley Reading 16 Canvas Trolling Skies Charles F. Thielman
Birl Suzanne Highland
Redemption Molly Gleeson 29 Heart Sutra Translation Melodee Jarvis
Brothers Andrew Gretes 46 Glut Jackie Anne Morrill 50 Etymologies of Patricide: Assault Jackie Anne Morrill 51 Three Ghazals Ali Eteraz 54 Taste
Tell Me What It Makes You Think About
Cypripedium Acaule (Pink Lady Slipper) Kelly DuMar 57 Fifty Autumns Kelly DuMar 58 Fiddlehead Kelly DuMar 59 A Romance Tim Suermondt 60 List of Lives Uncrossed Suzanne Highland 62 I Remember The Day Anthony J Langford
Conference No Show Dan Sklar 74 Mugged Andrew Gretes
Accept What is Happening Rich Boucher 85 1971 Richard Fox 86 Rockwellâ€™s America Louis Gallo
Suffering Darkness at Sea Richard King Perkins II 96 Vanessa Atalanta Joan Colby 97
Fiction Mamaâ€™s Bread Aida Ibisevic 17 Ilka and Ivan Phyllis Green 24 The One You Love Gabriel Valjan 35 Bleat Robyn Ritchie 47 My Dad is a Bird Eric Lutz 52 Course of Treatment James Seals 54 Standards of American Measurement Robert Wexelblatt 76
Nonfiction Lexicon For a Travelogue, 2001
Yi Shun Lai
Redemption Molly Gleeson 29 My History of Racism Henry F. Tonn 88
Photography More to See Leah Givens 14 Oak in Fog Emily Strauss 34 Just Before Flight Laura Story Johnson 53 Vigilantia Joel Blumenau 61 Out of Tracks Fabio Sassi 84
EDITORIAL From lisa andrews and meredith davis Welcome to Issue 4 of Apeiron Review. We’ve officially cleared the dreaded one year mark and we’re not only going strong, but gaining strength. We’re certainly still new kids to the world of publishing, but we love what we do and love creating a place for writers to showcase their work. Apeiron is a Greek term with a lot of vagueness surrounding it. The concept was created by the pre-Socratic philosopher Anaximander. The gist, as we understand it, is that the apeiron is the beginning of beginnings. It is the chaos from which everything in the universe has been created. In some books it’s defined as the unlimited, infinite and indefinite. We aren’t philosophers, but when we write we try to reach that place of beginnings. The primordial pool of emotion builds inside us into a rawness that has the potentional to spiral into life and into our writing. Or at least, that’s the plan. There’s some talk of endings and destruction, but let’s pretend otherwise. For us, we see the apeiron as the beginning of an idea that builds into art. Somewhere a philosopher is reading this and shaking their head. It’s ok. This is art. What’s with the iron? Somewhere around Issue 2 it was pointed out to us that Apeiron is Ape-Iron. You know what that means. There’s an ape waiting to be drawn in a future issue. Since the apeiron is such a vague indefinite blob, we might as well use an ape and an iron. Again, philosophers, this is art. We’re very proud of this issue and every issue that we’ve produced. The amount of support that we’ve received has been overwhelming. We will announce our Pushcart Nominees in the upcoming months and will start looking for other ways to help promote our authors. Happy reading! 7
Larry Thomas Barnacle Of the sea this eyeless creature, of lineage foundering for millions of years in utter darkness, blessed with a single stalk, a boneless, one and only finger, so sensitive to touch that in mere contact wobbles like the molten alloy of a soldering iron, fusing it for life to the hull of a boat holy as the skin of a goddess.
Yi Shun Lai Lexicon for a Travelogue: 2001 DPP: Democratic Progressive Party. A political party in Taiwan. Advocates full separation from China. Usage: “The DPP’s platform includes official recognition of the Taiwanese language, and movement towards independence from China.” Dialect: A language derived from a root language. Usage: “Taiwanese is just a dialect of Chinese.” Ex-patriot: A person born and raised in one country, now living in another. Usage: “My parents are ex-patriots, but they go home to Taiwan to vote for independence from China every year.” Country love: Adoration of one’s country of origin. Sometimes excessive. Usage: “Is it really fair to vote in a country you don’t live in any more?” “That is country love, my misguided daughter.” Vacation: Time spent in recuperation or rest. Usage: “Everyone’s so tense over the election that being here can hardly be called a vacation.” Election: The democratic, usually emotionally charged selection of any candidate. Usage: “Watching the DPP candidate get shot during a routine campaign parade gave my dad a stroke.” Hospital: Location at which one can acquire medical services for emergencies. Usage: “We’re taking your dad to the hospital in Tainan for some observation.” Patient: Quality of personage involving quiet rumination and perseverance. Typically leaves little room for argument. Usage: “Be patient, your father will be seen by someone soon.” Kuo Ming Tang: Party advocating re-unification of Taiwan with China. Usage: “The KMT believes that Taiwan return to its rightful place in the Chinese republic.” 9
Secondary definition: Someone believing in such a mission. Usage: “Aiya! That ankle looks bad. Did the KMT do that to you? They’ll do anything to get us to speak Chinese, won’t they?” “Dad! Don’t say that to her! What if she voted for the KMT?” Patient: Personage in need of the care of a medical professional. Not to be confused with any quality of personage. Usage: “I didn’t come here to be asked about my personal political beliefs! I came here to be a patient!” Police: Official presence meant to establish order in society. Not to be confused with a peacekeeping body. Usage: “Bring the police over. I want this man thrown out.” “He’s a patient here, just like you. You don’t need the police.” Malcommunication: Communication with the express purpose of pissing someone off. Usage: “Officer, this whole thing is a malcommunication. Lady, if you’re going to talk to me, you have to do it in Taiwanese. I can’t understand Chinese. Taiwanese. I’m Taiwanese. What? No, they’re not the same language.” Education: Time in school. Usage: “You can’t speak Chinese? What kind of education is that?” Insult: Deliberate verbal assault. Usage: “Don’t insult me by pretending you don’t speak Chinese. Everyone in Taiwan speaks Chinese.” Mother Tongue: The language of one’s home country. “Taiwanese is my mother tongue.” Mother Country: Country of one’s origin. Usage: “China is the mother country of Taiwan.” Antagonism: Deliberate contradiction. Usage: “No, it’s not.” Voice: Implement by which to express any emotion or opinion. Usage: “You ate Taiwanese rice for breakfast, you’ll eat Taiwanese rice for lunch, you’re standing 10
on Taiwanese soil, and you want to tell me in Chinese what my mother tongue is?” Vote: Implement by which to express opinion, or emotion. Usage: “In years to come, vote for independence. Vote the DPP. I would, if I could.”
Domenic Scopa The Tiber When the twins, Romulus and Remus, were born, Amulius threw them into the Tiber River and exposed them to die I. 1997 A moth quivered in the light fixture above. In its shadows, the G.I. Joe doll, his plastic M-16 aimed at my mother. When she entered the bathroom she slammed the half-opened door, speaking to someone on the phone about daddy’s accident. The ambulance he drove collided with a Pontiac, had run a red light. The seat belt melted to its buckle. To escape, he sliced it. His bewilderment was like mine, which cemented my crossed legs to the tub. Mother turned the brass knob. Water flowed, peppered with grit residue. That year my parents separated, I visited my father on the weekends. After therapy, I would lay my head on his chest, an afternoon football game muted on the television. Wrapped in blankets, his snore lulled me to sleep. I forgive him for the abandonment. 12
He did what was needed. That may have made a difference. II. 2013 My brother greeted me at the doorway crying over the cedar box he cradled. I wanted to tell him that it was just a dog’s ashes in that cedar box, but I couldn’t. I think I know what my brother is thinking three weeks later. His plump hand clutches an orange while his other peels the rind. He expects a thump in the living room, nails that click across the floor. Moist jowls that nuzzle the crease behind his knee. I wish I had pet the dog more. I feel guilty for not weeping with my brother. I hope he can forgive me. Romulus, after an argument with Remus, kills his brother.
Yvette Schnoeker-Shorb Black Snakes of Kentucky Here in Arizona, I’ve been thinking about black rat snakes in Kentucky, the way they move, gliding so smoothly, heads raised, determined, like periscopes in an ocean of autumn leaves—red maple, golden oak, pine needles fallen onto the path. Peaceful, their long, shiny bodies whisper swiftly by on either side of me. I miss that trail, the quietude of woodlands filled with broken sunlight and the soft motion of unanticipated company sliding through the ferns, slipping like scaly shadows in the understory above shallow soils, layers of flora in the lower slopes hiding limestone, sandstone, and shale. When I asked about those eight-foot serpents, the park ranger handed me an outdated field guide to identify the gliders, telling me to keep it, as most people don’t inquire about the reptiles—well, only if they are suspected of being poisonous. But size inspires black snake persecution anyway, he went on to say, adding that their temperament tends to be shy, but the creatures could quickly bend to bite when battered with a walking stick.
I remember this while poking a dead agave stalk into the base of an old saguaro— trunk full of bullet holes—and attempting to remove a beer can, label long faded. A nearby granite crevice comes alive with the rear-fanged beast who, at last glance, had been tightly curled, asleep or resting. Rather than rattle at my intrusion, the tail remains still, but the body coils, head alert, forked tongue sensing for something amiss near its metamorphic rock shelter. I feel pressure, unsettled here in the desert, knowing there is so little protection and high visibility for its slithering dwellers. Deep in the sediment of my afternoon soul, I long to stroll back amidst those large, dark snakes in the slant light of rolling forest.
More to See
Deborah Purdy Some Day The world. Before dawn. Something unripe will be lost. Will end visibly. Stones or sounds. Or seeds straight from sand. And it has happened before. Many houses will be shining. Many doors will be dark as tar. Children will reach up to catch stars which will fall out of the sky someday. Stones will sink. Sounds will soar. Flowers will sour out of the light.
Wiley Reading The Canal At four o’clock the water’s warm and honey colored at the canal. The snakes bask on the bleached husks of the water-swollen tires, and Queen Anne’s Lace grows profusely on the hard clay banks. At five o’clock the broken body of a small boy who fell, screaming, from the water tower floats by a crow lands on his belly and the water looks briefly like rust.
Aida Ibisevic Mama’s Bread (Sarajevo, the winter of 1993-1994) Regardless of how much flour we had, Mama always baked bread on the nights when Brat was returning from the shift in the trenches. She was easy to find - hips against the counter, swaying to a song in her head while she wiped her hands on the apron. On the counter, miniature salt and sugar boxes encircled her, and a hefty white pot in which the flour glistened under candlelight. When the flour was gone, she poured in mekinje, a chaff mix once used as food for cows. Book burning days ended with the previous winter. Most neighborhoods in the city had since installed gas. Ours came with a hastily improvised system. A thick, orange pipe burgeoned through the building like a firehouse pole, while narrow plumbing pipes, as if they were some kind of inverse IVs, attached to it on each floor, and spread the gas to our homes. Small gas explosions happened often around the neighborhood. Click – boom! Click – boom! The only one bouncing with happiness was the wood stove we called Little Monster. Since we capacitated it for gas it was lit almost always; its cheeks blossomed with orange. A little cosmos of hoses distributed the gas all over our home. They bordered the divide between the ceiling and the wall, and rollercoaster’d down in sharp angles. Minute transfusion tubes ran under the remaining rugs like an organism’s digestive tract. Needles on ends of the tubes lit up into modern torches. Tens of these illuminated the kitchen, and charred the walls into wavy textures. Our forgotten rooms were open wide; they stood with whatever furniture was still left. Just above the human reach was the dust from the shelling; it teased, titillated, and brought out the coughs. But no matter how much Mama scrubbed 17
it still remained, the invisible termite. By then Brat had been in the trenches for more than a year. Two years? Manly angles straightened adolescent pudginess from his cheeks. He grew. A mature growth spurt snuck up and threatened to go on, regardless of whether flesh could afford to come along. He was a giant bag of bones in camouflage and heavy boots strangled with mud. By some standards he was the warrior he wanted to be before he joined the army. But that was another time. Another Brat. Seeing Mama make the bread was like re-watching a favorite movie. I knew the scenes so well I shadowed her from behind. First, she took off her rings, letting the bands race themselves on the counter. With, now ring-less fingers, she tickled the yeast and sugar until they curled together in bubbles. She added them to the flour, and chased it all down with warm water. If I closed my eyes, I heard gummy snow boots of a boy crossing a puddle of mud. I knew the twists her left hand took as she turned the pot like a steering wheel, around and around. Her right hand caressed, squeezed, pushed and punched, punched, punched it all into a thick, beige paste. At times she halted both hands, and slid in more water. She moved fallen bangs from her face with a wrist, and continued. Exaggerating the time needed to make the bread, Mama went on even after the dough was dry on touch. This was a cue for Sestra to place a kitchen towel over it, while Mama scraped the remaining dough off her fingers with a knife. The draft picked up almost all the boys in Bratâ€™s, and surrounding, generations. Lucky few paid hefty sums for diagnoses of non-existent illnesses. Other lucky ones joined the police. Luckiest ran away to other lands. But the majority of boys were the same as Brat: playing the guitar at home some days, and some days playing the guns at the front. What he did in the trenches, he didnâ€™t say. He didnâ€™t say much overall, and 18
knit his jokes with cynicism. I lowered the volume of my own humor. I recognized his soldier stares - deprived, furious stares of people who clawed onto the last morsels of time that disappeared, a look that is not good on anyone, but what to do when peace leaves without asking? He always used to be open with me. Now, I knew he was my Brat only when we walked downstairs before a shift, and he squeezed the life out of me. The next moment he’d jump on the back of a green pickup, and I’d run after it until my legs gave out. On the truck were another thirty boys or so joking their way to the front. All shaven to the skull, all their skulls innocent, fragile, and alike, like eggs in a crate. On the days they stayed at the headquarters in town I knocked on the gate looking for him until the guards would shoo me away. Sometimes he brought home a loose schedule indicating days he’d be at home, and the times he’d be off at war. We were so happy then. Mama chain-smoked and drank endless coffee, delighting in this documented affirmation, this handwritten life certificate, of when and that her son would return. After the bread watching I walked in a triangle of solitude in the direction of door-phone-window-door. Mama waited with me. We told ourselves we were waiting for the bread to rise. Our conversation grew in absence. During his days off, Brat was interested in everyday things: girls, coffee, and an occasional book. He liked poetry, and music. And he liked to reminisce about the time before. He was not interested in what I wanted to hear the most - the war on the front. The siege, my war, became too predictable. But Brat, Brat didn’t want to talk about his war. “What is it like out there?” “It’s another planet,” Brat said. 19
“It can’t be another planet as it’s our backyard,” I protested. “What is it really like?” “It’s cold. Wet. Dark. One day I’ll tell you.” “Tell me now! Tell me first!” “I’ll tell you first,” he promised. “Tell me today!” “You’re too young.” “Nah huh! I’m eleven.” “You’re too young. You’re not supposed to see it yet.” “I am! I am!” “No.” “When will I be old enough?” “Hopefully, you won’t.” Mama eventually always returned to the kitchen. There she massaged her arthritic hands so she could punch the risen bread some more before putting it in the pan. Before, Mama always decorated her food. She made bread into more than bread. Now her hands could no longer tend the small details, so I painted the dough with a mix of oil and powdered eggs. Sestra was sitting on a velvety chair. She shuffled a pack of cards, and spread them on the kitchen table, by a Nostradamus book. She read the cards, and then compared them to the sixteenth century babblings. Dissatisfied, she picked them up, one by one, and shuffled again. A better answer always came the third time around. The bread was in the oven, baking to its own rhythm. I rolled Sestra a cigarette. A small rolling machine cost me the last mortar 20
end-point in my shrapnel collection. She smoked greedily, half a cigarette in one puff. She complained it was harsh without the filter. Mama caressed Sestra’s hair. Everyone smokes now… there are fewer filters than people. Besides a filter can’t save one from a mortar. I believed then that I too would grow up to be a soldier, so Brat gave me little presents. Sometimes a camouflage bandana, sometimes a pocketknife. He taught me about guns, and zigzagging through the streets. He didn’t like it, but he gave in, as it was not a bad thing to know considering. Excited we had a language of our own now, I yearned for the day I could defend him. When the scent of baked bread spread through the kitchen, I heard determined, staccato steps. Sestra quickly pushed the rest of the cigarette into Mama’s lips, and smiled as Tata opened the kitchen door. His schedule was as erratic as Brat’s. He was at the hospital for days sometimes. At home he held the dining room hostage to experiments. I was his involuntary assistant. This is how you irrigate the eye … give me that instrument… no, not that one the other one… looks like scissors… good!... can you snap a picture?... Focus then snap… I know we don’t have a flash… take it, don’t be so stubborn! Have imagination… it will work, it must work! …Where are you going?... An argument ensued. Mama came to Tata’s defense, Sestra to mine. We bickered to murder the time. Brat came in just as we bickered about what time he’d arrive. He put down his war things, a helmet he got after another soldier died, and a life vest he and a neighbor had sewn together. He nodded to each of us, and smiled. I rushed in for a hug. The bread was finished. It was an invaluable amber brown small dome. Even though it was only a few inches from one side to the other through the center, Mama put it on a cake platter. We used our china daily. When life currency is 21
as good as this moment only, every bread is a special occasion. Sestra put the cards away. Tata smiled and picked up the knife. Brat drank a glass of water. I eyed the newborn. Mama said to wait for the bread to cool off a little. It’s better that way. Hungry, we couldn’t wait so Tata cut it open. He tried to divide it into five exact pieces. The smallest he held for himself. Hotness raged out of the bread, and I hoped it wouldn’t evaporate. Mama said to slow down; to save a little for tomorrow, we have no more flour. All three of us cried at once, cried loudly. Let us eat the whole bread tonight, Mama. Let us fill up tonight, who knows what happens tomorrow. Hiding his eyes, Tata looked out the window.
Charles F. Thielman Canvas Trolling Skies First adagio threading stems, I wake to write before dawn, dark window to blank wall. Spirit bound by cedar incense strands, and long tendons of wind-blown fog, illusions ladled into my eyes below another jet-contrailed sky. Perhaps, spring wrapped yellow on the eastern horizon will thread soul glow through sandstone. Votive flame through glass. Dew beads on a crowâ€™s wings as time washes chalk lines off asphalt. I peer inside receding dark blue, raven feathers on antlered skull one dream stride from road gravel. My life on a flatbed truck gathering twilight. 23
Phyllis Green Ilka and Ivan
We are squeezed in here like packaged cigars. I only hope Ilka is not taken. Still it feels like a burden is lifted to know little Herman will be cared for by good friends, Betty and John. They have already taken him to England and changed his name to Johnny. I wish my Ilka could have accompanied them but even if she had forged papers, her looks would not pass. She is dark and sad looking. Her desperate eyes with the blueness underneath, her mournful sighs, her tears like afternoon rain, would all be suspect. She cannot laugh playfully like Betty. But of course, Betty would not be mistaken for one of us so laugh she can. The man next to me has let loose his bowels with a squoosh. It is powerful and sickening, but I say nothing. It could also happen to me so who am I to judge. I cover my nose with my left hand. We must bear this conveyance like the canned and smelly sardines that we are and hope for the best. Perhaps the rumors are not true. I am considered healthy. They must have low standards as I feel weak and fevered. The food is scarce and moldy. How can I work? But they tattoo me and send me to bury hundreds of my fellow men lying in deep ditches like pieces of garbage. The smell. I puke. Everyone pukes. We shovel earth onto them. They are heaped together like dead rats. Once they were my neighbors, your neighbors, friends who drank and cursed. They told jokes and guffawed. They pissed in the woods. Maybe they spit in your face. They were not perfect. They were human. But now, they are massed together to rot because someone thinks it is the right thing to do. At night, when it is that I can sleep, I dream that I am tossing dirt on Ilka. I see her face in the dead masses in the hole. I wake up in sweat and terror. Where are you, my evening star?
At long last I am liberated. I have lost a hundred pounds. I look like I died last week. I walk like the cripple that I am. Wherever I go I do not find Ilka. I search records, make phone calls, try my old contacts. Nothing. I do not know if I can exist without her. I make my way to England and locate Betty and John and my son who wants to keep the name Johnny. He does not know me. John and Betty do not want to part with him. “We have raised him,” they say. Swine! Still in the end I prevail. I find work and eventually my son and I get passage to America. My son has come around. He takes care of me. He finds work. He displays photographs of Ilka and me that we sent with him to England. He telephones Betty and John of his progress. He calls them Mom and Dad. So why not kill me. I don’t like their betrayal, but I admit he is alive because of them. I grant them that, the traitorous souls. God will have trouble figuring out what to do with them when they pass. I let it up to God. I find a job at a factory. Johnny (he insists yet on being called Johnny) and I have a different last name that breaks my heart, but still he is with me. He calls me Pops. “How was your day, Pops?” “What’s for dinner, Pops?” “Pops, let’s take in a movie.” He surprises me one day with a paperweight he had made of clear plastic with Ilka’s face inside, enlarged from her photograph. He presented it to me for my birthday. I said, “One is not enough. Here take some cash and have them make duplicates. I want to see her face everywhere.” I now have seven Ilka paperweights. Everywhere I look I see Ilka. Fellow factory workers want to fix me up. I tell them, “Forget it. I am married to Ilka Rosenbaum nee Moritz from the moment I laid eyes on her to this very instant. No one will take her place. We are married for eternity.” Then I go home and look at her in the plastic. 25
Johnny finds a woman he likes, Dorothy. She is not Jewish, but he says he isn’t either. What can I do? They marry and present me with a granddaughter, Lois. Little Lois grows up slowly to my delight because every minute with her is a joy. She does not look like Ilka I am sorry to say. She looks like Dorothy and a tiny bit like Johnny. But I adore her. And she is so fond of my paperweights. She likes to draw and tries to draw the face of Ilka to make me happy. She’s not bad. I think maybe she’ll be an artist, maybe not. I got let go from the factory (loss of orders) and went to another factory where we make mannequins. These are women mannequins for department stores— naked bodies that clothes will be put on at the department store in order to make them more attractive for selling. Women will see the clothes on the mannequins and say to themselves, “oh, I can look like that.” A fellow worker has seen my paperweight and thinks Ilka is some dish. He talks about it at work so I bring one in to brag and say, “This is my beautiful wife.” Before I know it Mark, the factory artist, is making an Ilka mannequin. The body is perfect. Of course Ilka was not perfect in body, except she was perfect for me, but I tell him—you have captured her. And he smiles and says, “What would you think if we made fifty of these mannequins for Macy’s? You could go to Macy’s and see Ilka everywhere, Ivan.” And without thought I said, “It would be the greatest gift I have ever received except for my son and Dorothy and Lois. Maybe even better than them.” Mark called me over to the production room when they were ready. Fifty, I counted them, fifty Ilkas. was quivering like the first time I laid eyes on her. But then when he told the workers to start laying them in the van, so close to each other, so on top of each other that the mannequins could not breathe, I saw my real Ilka in the cattle cars packed in as I had been and I shouted, “No, no! Not that!” 26
“What’s wrong?” Mark asked kindly. He was upset because he only wanted me to be happy. Nice man. I said, “I have four hundred dollars. I can go home right now and get it or I could call my granddaughter and she will bring it here. These Ilkas must go to Macy’s in the style befitting an Ilka. Call the cab company and have them send over fifty cabs. Each one will have an Ilka gently placed in the cab and they will arrive at Macy’s as an Ilka should.” And that is what was done. Lois, bright and cheery, dressed in her jeans and purple tee shirt, came to the factory with my cash. And now picture this. Each Ilka, proud though naked, was perched crossways (the platform on the right side of the floorboard, her alabaster hips secured by the seat belt, her head resting on the back window by the driver’s side so she could look out and see New York City—the tall buildings, the street vendors selling chestnuts and hot dogs and tacos, the cars, the scurrying tourists and workers). Then slowly and carefully the cabbies drove off to the department store, about four minutes apart. I waved them off. At last Ilka traveled like a real woman. Like a free woman.
Suzanne Highland Birl
birl \burl\, verb: 1. To spin or cause to rotate.
They say that love is as worthy an endeavor. Mine is its own, a break-met battle, a hook I’d throw my weight against. The suddenness of unknowing is what takes us, what forceful whirl sees our eyes undone, our hands unclasped, Our permeations revealed. I can’t leave you, you told me. Can’t. As if other options chose to retreat and leave you. I could, Would—if given the ride. But then I remember: Being loved without meriting it is the eye of the storm. There, in the static, we risk the most. And I’ve lived on breaks And eggshells by the hurricane’s edge, my toes drier for it, my heart stopped. I see fear and read shelter. They say that you find yourself in solitude, but if you were lost in that place, hung up by the difference, what then? It’s a wild card. The wheels will move in place regardless.
Molly Gleeson Redemption It started from love. In fact, there didn’t seem to be a lot of love in XiFeng, a hard-scrabble city in the eastern part of Gansu Province, China. I had gone there to teach English, and even after three years in Chongqing, I clearly was not used to the country yet. I would sit in my fourth floor apartment (no elevator) and listen to the city– the incessant honking of horns, the POP-crackle-crackle of fireworks exploding in front of newly opened stores, the chatter from the street, the one-eyed security guard gossiping with my neighbors. Sometimes it was impossible to think, much less do anything else. It was much the same at the high school where I taught. The students would chant their answers in unison to their teachers–a class of 60 or 70 being too large for any individual attention. Even the basics of life, like going to the toilet, were difficult. I would squat over the troughs that served as toilets in the school, the stench being so bad that the windows were left open even in the middle of winter. The school, and the teachers’ apartments, were without heat for weeks. Often we were without water and electricity as well. It was, to be sure, a hardship post. Nothing about XiFeng was easy. Walking down the street was difficult–if not from the throngs of Chinese staring and laughing at you, then from all the obstacles in the way–bicycles, motorcycles, random half poles sticking out of the sidewalk, the broken sidewalks themselves. Nothing was easy. Within a few months, I really thought the stress of the place would make me completely lose my mind. But I had found good things, and good people in XiFeng. My fellow foreign teachers and I had a lot to laugh about, and they served as my major support system. One of the teachers I fell in love with, and while undoubtedly it was unwise and precipitous of me, I couldn’t help myself. Nate seemed, at the time, 29
perfect, and above the fray that was XiFeng. So it was out of love that December that I sought one of the good things I had found in China–poetry. I had a collection of Li Bai’s poetry from the Tang Dynasty, and knowing that Nate loved learning the Chinese language, I wanted to find a calligrapher who could put one of his poems on a scroll as a gift. I asked my Chinese friend Zhang Meng, “Do you know how I could get a Chinese scroll made?” “I have no idea,” she said, seemingly surprised that I would ask such a thing. I was surprised she didn’t know, but this was modern China, after all. “I saw a frame shop downtown. Maybe they could help us,” I suggested. We braved the staring crowds, walked past the wagonloads of lychees for sale, the KFC knock-off known as Dico’s, and then the new, shimmering KFC itself. We crossed streets jammed with green and rusted taxis, bicyclists, and electric motorbikes. Finally, we arrived at the frame shop, a quiet oasis in the midst of a madhouse. The store had a black pot-bellied coal stove in the center of it, and a middle-aged woman sat near it making tea. She rose from her seat when she saw me. My Chinese was poor, so Zhang Meng translated for me. “She’s looking for someone to do a poem in calligraphy,” Zhang Meng explained to the shopkeeper. In fact, the woman knew the head of the XiFeng Calligrapher’s Guild. She promptly got on her cell phone and called him. He told her that we could meet him immediately in his apartment. So we did. Zhou De Kou, the master calligrapher, called to us from his fifth floor apartment (no elevator), and greeted us at his door. It was eye-opening to see such a lovely apartment in XiFeng, when mine was such a disaster. This apartment was decorated with bonsai plants, chairs made out of cloth and wood, and of course, elaborate scrolls of callig30
raphy made by the artist himself. The living room smelled of pungent, grassy green tea, and I noticed a brown pottery tea set on a nearby table. Zhou De Kou listened to Zhang Meng interpret what I wanted, looked at the book I had brought with me, and then went to his own reference. He got out his bamboo paper, the ink, and the brushes. He paused and thought for a while. The light was fading when he finally placed his first strokes on the paper. I could hear the musical notes of children playing five stories below. The room moved into shadow; it was late in the day. I watched him swirl the brush in the ink, and then deftly place it on the paper, flicking the Chinese characters into place. Once there, the words took on a life of their own, standing out from the paper like black spokes on a bicycle. He consulted Zhang Meng on a few points. I don’t know if it was to flatter her, to keep her talking, or because he really needed the answer. Regardless, she looked at his book, and told him what she had discovered. Zhou De Kou asked Zhang Meng questions about her life, and in her bouncy, happy way she told him she was a student at the nearby college. Clearly he was taken with her–this pretty young Chinese woman who was interested in his work, interested in life. A balm to an old soul. I found myself getting weepy and emotional. In this moment I loved China, despite its flaws. Here was an elderly Chinese artist, a young Chinese woman helping him, the complete silence of the darkening room, a sad ancient poem. Oh, how I loved China then. He soon finished, and then we walked back out into the cacophony of life. So bright a gleam on the foot of my bed– Could there have been a frost already? Lifting myself to look, I found that it was moonlight. 31
Sinking back again, I thought suddenly of home. By Li Bai (701-762) (Translated by Witter Byner, 1920, from “300 Tang Poems”)
Melodee Jarvis Heart Sutra Translation We chant: Om. Gate. Gate.
like white women in red prayer shawls do. Embarrassing. But remember: when you feel tempted to roll your eyes, shut them. Coax a sliver of light through, keep your spine straight, follow your breath. When thoughts come, notice, and let them go–
Our work, our migraines, our myelins, our rent, our lovers, our phones, our uncontrolled loans, our sick days used up, our grace period resolved, and now we have to live the rest of our lives we thought we had all this time to learn how to live we still don’t know (we don’t) no we don’t no we don’t no we don’t have a clue or children or a car or a good credit score or a working wardrobe a wardrobe for microclimates a cash repository or a working concept of our own divinities or anything like pretty basic things we should have we are fucked. Fuck. Para. Gate.
All hail and awaken! perfected, opened, emptied selves.
Emily Strauss Oak in Fog
Gabriel Valjan The One You Love She wiped down the mirror after the shower. One stroke of the glass revealed the opposite ear; another stroke introduced half of the face and another the second half and the last but final stroke introduced Amanda. She wanted to think of herself as beautiful, and she told Amanda in the mirror that she was beautiful. There was a shy smile and then the downcast eyes before lifting them up to brush her hair with every stroke placing every wet strand in place. She looked into the mirror and, seeing the reflection, smiled briefly before clicking the light off. Her room was a simple affair, enormous for two, done up with heartthrobs on one of the walls. All the walls were white, the bed sheets, too, the latter seemingly glacial in the dark. The two beds had been placed against opposite-facing walls. The great window, a window seat really, was peopled with pillows and stuffed animals. The books were arranged in a single row of shelving at the head of each bed with room to spare for alarm clocks with digital faces. The wall-to-wall carpeting, inside the perimeter of the baseboards, was plush enough to silence footsteps; and, in the right-angled elbow of her room, there stood, stagnant, the iron radiator that hissed in the proper season. She sees her bed; she sees her diary with its little clasp lock, the lock doing its job. Based on her inspection, everything was secure, so she closed and locked the door to the room. She saw the image again in the mirror behind the door. She was ready to lay down her thoughts on the soon-to-be-open pages. Their voices were at it again, this time downstairs. I wish they would shut up. God, please make them stop. I wish they would just shut up. She wrote that in her diary. “I’m goddamn sick of it. Let it go, Margie,” her father was yelling. 35
“No, Frank. I will not let it go. It’s been six months and you act like it never happened,” her mother had screamed at her father. She then heard her mother’s faraway footsteps pick up cadence and stop. Must’ve rushed him and stopped short in front of him for that last one, she wrote. The conversation is now out of earshot but definitely moving about the kitchen, she was thinking as she listened. “She doesn’t have to hear everything,” her mother might’ve said, but she wasn’t certain, because Mom was calming her voice down. She always did that to Dad, explode and walk away, leaving the debris of the argument for him to pick up. Dad would get angrier when she did that because he was still mad, still wanted to yell, still blow off steam, as he would say. “She should hear. In fact, I think at times she’s the only one in this house who makes any sense,” her father had yelled. “Lower your voice, Frank, and don’t be ridiculous, will you, she’s just a child. She hardly understands grieving,” her mother said to her father while she started scribbling furiously. I understand. I understand. I UNDERSTAND, she printed, practically engraved, in deep, hurtful strokes into the paper. She did hear her mother this time. “You should calm down, Frank. We ought to have a nice family dinner. That’s what we should do. It would be nice, wouldn’t it? It would be like old times. I’m just thinking that we ought to get her to eat more, that’s all.” She looked at the mirror behind the door. The reflection seemed to be imagining that their mother was trying now to make up to their father when she had said that, possibly putting her hands on his chest as some attempt to soothe him. “You should calm down,” her father said. “I’m fine, and stop bothering the girl 36
about food. You think eating solves everything. She’s not like your sister’s kids, eating every damn thing in sight, you know. She isn’t slopping herself in candy and sodas, like they do.” His voice seemed have dropped in register, as if he had settled down. Amanda could imagine him adding, “Stop rushing her. Grief takes time. Everybody said that, including that shrink,” he might have replied, immune to his wife’s touch. “The girl obsesses over food, Frank. That and exercise—she’s so secretive. It’s disturbing. Now all she does is run around with that ridiculous diary of hers,” she heard her mother say to her father. “Ridiculous? What’s so disturbing about that, Margie? Good for her for having an outlet. Writing is a good thing. Exercise is better. She is the only one around here being constructive about it all. She’s not smoking, her grades are good, and I can think of worse things to complain about. I was just talking to the Petersons and Steve thinks his daughter is active, if you know what I mean. If she wants to write then I say let her write, let her write her heart out. Far worse things she could be doing. God only knows…” her father said, his voice trailing off, in her defense. Image and reflection are in agreement, smiling as they look at each other. “Stephanie can’t be sexually active, Frank. The girl is too young.” Mother was clueless as always. She paused her pen. Stephanie Peterson was well on her way to becoming the local slut. Stephanie tried to be nice to her, but she had no interest in learning how to put on slut paint or listen to Stephanie’s inane commentary on clothes. Two years into Windsor Point and it was easy to learn what was what and who was who; and it was typical that the adults were the last to have a clue about anything. Bobby down the street dealt weed, but her parents and other adults would ramble like porch gossips about Bobby… Bobby made the Dean’s List; 37
Bobby’s fantastic at football; Bobby this and Bobby that; but she wasn’t too sure about everything about Bobby, since she was a freshman and he was a junior, but Stephanie she did know: there was no rumor there. Frank and Margie had moved to Windsor Point, saying The Point, as if it was a status that they had wanted and aspired to all their lives. It was the perfect little oasis for them to create that little bubble of life for all four of them, because Windsor is that quaint little suburb with uniform blocks of green lawns, sprinklers spraying them in synchronicity, the paperboy on the bicycle mechanically throwing newspapers at perfect intervals that landed in wet slaps on the porches in protective plastic. As she stretched on the cool, white sheets she couldn’t help but think of that sound, slap, slap—couldn’t help but think of Bobby and Stephanie together—him wearing a condom. Slap, slap. She had a crush on Bobby. She hated admitting it, felt guilty about it, but she wrote about that, too. The Point, as her parents called it, had it all, or so they said: clean air, clean streets, next to non-existent crime, appreciable real estate, although she saw nothing but cookie-cutter homes with central-air. Her parents had been sold on the area because of the respectable schools; they had fallen in love with the enviable state-of-the-art computers in the schools, and Wi-Fi everywhere. The girl in the mirror saw it differently: there was the whole lot of them at school in the latest clothes, with the most up-to-date cell phones, the big allowances and credit card limits, and always with places to go and things to do that made her feel insignificant. She was not one of them. Windsor Point had several coffee shops sprinkled across town, organic food stores, organic clothing—even Bobby’s weed was supposedly organic. Windsor Point had your yoga studios, your fitness centers and even the town pool was so picture-perfect that it was likely, she wrote, that nobody peed in it. 38
She had once, not because she had wanted to; she just couldn’t wait. She had tried—really, she had tried to hold it, but when she had gotten to the bathroom, there was Stephanie talking about Bobby. She didn’t want to hear it. She hated Stephanie and her perfect boobs. “Mir-an-da? …Dinner!” her mother called out. She rolled her eyes. Mom and her damn, perfect dinners matched Dad’s perfect weekend barbecues and attempts at male bonding. Miranda wrote about them, feeling some pity for Dad trying to keep current with the men younger than him. He’s an accountant for God’s sake, she wrote, underlining for God’s sake. She wrote, Dad puts a lot of effort in making sure his buddies have the best beer, the best snacks. It was boys’ day in and girls’ day out. The monster flat-screen was Dad’s pride and joy with 700 hundred channels; he purchased that flat screen because it had this feature: when he was watching a game, he could watch one game and then press some other button on one of the remotes and another box for another game would appear inside the larger screen. Frank watched professional football on Sundays with the men while Margie went shopping. Margie came home with her prizes and Frank reeled around his sport’s room, high-fiving, hooting, and clincking beer bottles. Miranda kept herself scarce, especially when Bobby’s father was there. He always stroked her hair, small-talked to her about school, and did the one thing that she absolutely hated: he tried to get her to sit on his lap and watch the game with him. Actually, it wasn’t really sitting on his lap when she thought about it—more like pick her up and placed her down on his thigh, which he would bounce up and down in a nervous gallop. He varied the cadence in a manner too nonchalantly insistent for him not to know what it did to her. “Mir-an-da? …Dinner now!” her mother repeated. Miranda’s stomach turned. In the mirror she saw a sour, almost angry face start to form but she didn’t give it 39
a chance because she flung the door open and a spasm of light from the window flashed across the surface, making the image disappear. “Mir-an-da? …Right now!” her mother yelled. “I’m right here, Mom. No need for you to yell,” she announced quietly. Miranda moved into the kitchen. She felt as if she were the phantom in the family. She was the soft-spoken one, the one whom the other girls teased mercilessly about her non-existence, giggled when the teacher called upon her. “Oh, sorry. I didn’t hear you coming into the kitchen. You mustn’t sneak up on me like that, honey,” her mother had said with an apologetic smile, oven mitts on, about to pull the casserole out. Dad had just come in from his TV room. “You know what I mean. Please sit down,” her mother instructed. “I’m not very hungry,” she told her mother as she sat down in her chair. Her father placed his hand momentarily onto hers as his way of saying hi before he took his napkin and put it on his lap. They sat at a rectangular table with all sides having chairs, all seats taken, except one. Margie and Frank sat opposite of each other and Miranda faced the empty one. “See what I mean, Frank. She says she’s not hungry,” her mother fussed, plating the food at her granite countertop. Windsor Point kitchens were designed to elicit envy. “Leave the girl alone, Margie,” he said and touched the side of Miranda’s face. She gave him a smile. The plate came in from the side: tuna casserole and scalloped potatoes. Miranda began to feel ill to her stomach. She munched on some bread already on the table, though she wasn’t keen on the carbohydrates. Too much garlic, she thought. “Why so much cheese, Mom?” she asked between small bites of the garlic bread. “You know that’s unhealthy calories,” she said, turning an edge of her 40
casserole up with her fork, grimacing at the elbow macaroni and shriveled green peas. It looked like vomit. “Never mind unhealthy. Unhealthy is not eating,” Margie said, anxiously digging into the stringy pile of fish, cheese, and peas on her own dish. “Might I have a salad instead?” Miranda asked. “No. Salad is either with your dinner or after your meal; but it’s not your dinner. You’re a growing girl and not a rabbit,” her mother said between forkfuls and sips of her white wine. “Growing girl” made Miranda think of Bobby because boys grow and Stephanie had boobs. So did Amanda but as identical twins, Miranda didn’t bloom at the chest. “Must you be so harsh, Marge,” Frank said, holding his fork still over his dish. “I really wish you would support me here, Frank. The girl has to eat more.” “Drop it…just drop it, please. I’m in no mood tonight,” he said. “Please have some, Miranda, then some salad later, but please try for Daddy.” “Just give in, Frank. Talk to her like a baby. Fine, let her have her way then. Try being a good father,” her mother said, stabbing and lifting the casserole noisily. “There’s no need to be mean,” he said. “I’m sorry. May I be excused? I’m not very hungry,” Miranda said. “Yes, you may be excused,” he said. He gave his wife a very cold look. Before she passed her mother, she said, “You’re a good Dad.” Her mother looked straight ahead and ignored Miranda. As Miranda turned to go upstairs, she heard a fork clash with a plate. “Frank? What are you doing?” She heard her father say something but his voice was receding. Miranda smiled, thinking about her diary. Dinner was another status thing in Windsor Point. Miranda discussed that in her diary. The adults were always talking about how their lives would be different from that of their parents, how they would talk with and not yell at their 41
kids, debate rather than argue with their families when it came to disagreements or decisions; and they all seemed to agree that all their meals would be more than just fuel. Miranda tried to write about food; she tried, but couldn’t, because all of it made her want to throw up. Upstairs, while they ate, Miranda worked out watching another aerobic DVD and then took a shower. She let the steam rise and the water get hot as she washed off the sweat, washed off the soap, until she felt clean again. After toweling off she cleared off a spot on the mirror to look at herself. It was the same reflection. Mom had too many mirrors, but one of her women friends, possibly Stephanie’s mother, had gotten it into her Mom’s head that mirrors make rooms look larger, so there were mirrors everywhere in the house. The bathroom was modest but who wants a huge bathroom, Miranda thought as she touched her breasts, turning sideways in the reflection, wondering whether they would get bigger. Amanda had bigger ones. She had the body of a preteen boy she had concluded. Bobby could never be interested in her. She dressed and went back into her room. “There you are,” Dad said, with Mom at his side, all smiling and forgetful of dinner. He left her a salad on her nightstand table. This was one of those parent-child conferences, Miranda had that premonition that this was one of those interventions she had read about; but those don’t happen in Windsor, do they, she asked herself silently. “We’re concerned about you, dear,” Margie said first and then with the predictable arm around her shoulder, Frank added, “We know it’s a difficult time, but we mean well, sweetie, and I know sometimes we take it out on each other in front of you, but we do mean well,” he repeated for himself his difference between meaning and intention. Miranda gave them both her indifferent whatever shrug and a wincing, pinched 42
look with her lips. She was in no mood. Frank and Margie stood in that artificial embrace that made her feel as if they were strangers in her room. They were her parents, so she had to pretend to listen to them. She sat on her bed and put her pillow between her and them. Their voices became more subdued and, in their mind, more persuasive. “We were thinking that you might need help, more than what we can do for you,” her mother said, hands together in front of her, the eyes looking at her father for agreement. Miranda listened. “We know it’s been a difficult time for you. We know the move has been difficult for you. Everything hasn’t quite gone well for us as a family, especially with Amanda. The last six months have been hard for all of us,” her mother said, always the talking one, the poor one at touchy-feely discourse. Dad was the stiff one, the resolute stoic; he was the marble column of moral support there doing that pulse of an inward squeeze at the round of his wife’s shoulder. Miranda observed them. There was plenty that she wanted to write, if they would just leave. “You’ve got to stop blaming yourself,” her mother said, pleading with those brown eyes of hers. “It wasn’t your fault, Miranda,” her mother continued. “But it was my fault,” Miranda answered. Her father let go of her mother and stepped forward and sat beside Miranda on the bed. “I know you keep saying that and you want to believe that, but we all know it was an accident. We’ve been through this a thousand times, Miranda. You and your sister got into an argument. Sisters do that, but you can’t blame yourself. She stepped away from you because she was mad. Really, you can’t blame yourself,” he said to her, his voice rhythmic but his eyes very much in pain, recalling and repeating his practiced speech. “But it was my fault,” Miranda answered. “Miranda, please stop. Insisting that it was your fault won’t bring her back. We 43
all miss Amanda, and we all know that you two had some special relationship. Everyone knows sisters have a special connection, especially twins.” “I’ve made an appointment with Dr. Harper,” her mother announced. “Oh, please. Not another shrink,” Miranda whined. “I’m sorry, but this has to stop. I’ve been permissive and your mother is right. You have to eat; there has to be changes. You’re stunting yourself physically and emotionally; and as much as I hate saying it, it’s not normal behavior. You don’t have any friends; you haven’t even made any effort to make any,” her father said. Margie dry-washed her hands smiled. “It’s all for the best. It really is, dear. It would be best if you agree to it. It would make everything so much easier. It’s so hard to see the one you love like this…well, you must know what I’m trying to say.” Miranda sat there after they left her room. Her father had caved. He wasn’t a good Dad anymore. She heard voices outside. Miranda walked over to the window. She saw herself in the glass as she approached the window. The voices she heard belonged to Bobby and Stephanie. It was warm outside. The sun was nurturing and wholesome. Bobby’s parents had put in the one thing that most Windsor residents didn’t have—a swing set; and there was Stephanie on the swing and Bobby behind her pushing her. He was leaning over her and getting a good view, giving her a mild kiss before pushing her some more, pushing her higher until she squeaked, “Stop, Bobby, you’re scaring me now,” then screamed, half-excited and half-terrified. Nobody looked or showed the least concern. His pushing her aroused a smile of panic across Stephanie’s pretty, little face. He was enjoying it. Miranda thought of her twin, Amanda. They were both alike. Amanda stopped growing because she had died; Miranda stopped growing because she ate so little. They had both stopped. That was how they were alike. 44
They had both liked Bobby; and then there was that day Miranda had caught Amanda kissing him. Miranda had written: The bitch had that proud, defiant look of being caught at first but she also remembered that it had turned apologetic on their walk home. Miranda was walking fast, off the sidewalk and into the street and then onto the sidewalk again, to avoid her sister whenever she would come near her. Nobody must have thought anything of it: two sisters arguing with some pushing and shoving, loud voices. Hearing the roar of one of the neighborhood boys testing out his new set of wheels, Miranda thought nothing of it, with nothing in her mind, except for that blind spot the massive magnolia caused in the sidewalk, the glaring sunlight that day, and the curve of the street, the car coming loudly, when she pushed Amanda into the street for the car to take her. That was how they were different, but she didnâ€™t write about that.
Andrew Gretes Brothers I would bring my laundry basket of toys to your door and turn the knob like a conspirator. You would lift your head from studying and throw a blanket over your homework to lull it asleep. We’d pull Granddad’s army duffel bag out of the closet, a tacit understanding reached: The year is 2176; cyborgs dominate mankind... Bed-sheets transformed into mountain ranges, bookshelves into war-torn skyscrapers, shoes into suede tanks. As I’d manipulate Batman in my hands, you’d taunt my synthetic utility belt with a koala bear named “Pouches.” Plots as convoluted as a Tale of Two Cities, we’d improvise on the fly like mime prodigies.
Do you remember? Is it possible to be so close again— in range of telepathy?
Robyn Ritchie Bleat They told you he ate little boys. Swallowed them whole, faces first—their varied skin tones, all obsidian and almond, parsnip pale and pink. They were small but not that small and so his throat would enlarge the way a python’s gullet expanded for rodents. The shoes sometimes popped off as his mouth closed, and little sneakers with light-up soles flashed down at his feet. His ice blue eyes would gleam above a red mouth, throat clinching, crushing bone down, and it was the satisfaction that only came after a really fine meal, like when your mom made pizza and let you pick your own toppings. They told you he lurked in the shadows of beautiful things, like the oak trees in fall when the leaves turned and the wind was sharp and whispers were everywhere. Whispers which were really only the stiff brown leaves scraping the ground, your mom said, but oh you knew better. The gnashing of teeth, his call to you, a little rabbit, a lamb, a gazelle in the herd out on the plains of the park, where the yellow tube slide rose to your left, the monkey bars beyond that. They told you he’ll get you if you step off the mulch. Towards the dark of the forest surrounding the playground—that was his territory. And little boys who didn’t heed such warnings were never heard from again, and their moms, well, they cried every night over empty shoes. You didn’t want that for your own mom, did you? Yet your curiosity was a thing alive in you, moving and twisting endlessly deep in your gut, the way you imagined barely digested little boys in his gut. You stared out between the trees intently while your friends played freeze tag behind you, shoes scuffling in the mulch that was damp from the rain and smelled of earth. They told you he was watching you again, and you thought they said that to 47
scare you at first. But then you realized it was true–the ice blue glint from deep within the shadowy soul of the forest was always on you lately. And you saw it move closer as the leaves scraped against the ground—but no, of course it was really him calling out to you, wasn’t it? You wondered if the other little boys had heard him in their playtime, when their moms were talking with other moms, when you and your friends played Red Rover. You thought it sounded familiar, soothing almost and yet fervent, like when your mom told you that she— Love you. They told you that you wouldn’t even see him coming, but what did they know anyway? You could see him just fine. Either you were more aware than the other boys had been or he wanted you to see him, and it was probably a bit of both. Maybe he didn’t mean to eat you, you thought as he came to the edge of the forest darkness and you could see the tatters of his clothes, the mop of his hair—he looked almost familiar, like a father who’d walked away from you and mom when you were just a toddler, like a photograph that was filmed with forgetfulness and corroded with time. I love you. They told you he’d take you in the dark, but sunset was a few minutes away and when he came to stand before you, you saw clearly. His mouth twitched at the sides and you wondered if his breath smelled like yours, like bubblegum and white chocolate. He looked at you and the wind whipped higher and it carried the sounds away, as if your friends ran to the back of the playground shouting Red Rover, Red Rover. They washed out like the tide and when it washed back in, all you could hear was him, though his mouth did not open and you felt that fervent insistence tugging at you, as your shoes toed the line of mulch. You’d never seen such eyes before, never imagined whole icebergs could wash ashore here and find their way into someone’s skull. 48
And I love you. You shuddered. Oh, I love you like you were my own. You knew he wouldn’t hurt you, not you, he let you see him, he met you in the sunlight and he did not open his mouth to you, so, maybe, if you reached out, maybe if you took a step— *** A long time ago, your mom told you that you were special and beautiful. She told you that no one good in the world would ever leave you, no one good would ever forsake you. She told you that anyone who did do those things was not good and was not worth your time. She told you this before you could fully understand what it meant or where it came from or why she said it with redringed eyes. But mom didn’t know everything, really. She didn’t know everyone. She didn’t know that some people would love you just as much as she did. You thought this when you were young. And you grew as you went down the gullet. And the older you, as you moved and twisted, sobbed and laughed. Ah, but it’s not love.
Jackie Anne Morrill Glut 1. Maybe I should start eating stones: One cold heave to roll around tongue Pressed flower of my mouth Itâ€™s gravel that tides over 2. I could float above the basin Tread low with butter on my skin When the shoal of reds approach Pica and nails And salt chafing the centerâ€™s eye
Jackie Anne Morrill Etymologies of Patricide: Assault Thighs itching pink— I used to run for miles miles: tongue You couldn’t keep your hands
(to yourself )
Unwind the chase to crave the belly to soil: finger to, Daddy’s little dictionary girl scissor legs dirty (red) soot
splay is to open with force display begs come inside Know, it wasn’t your boot Kicking shadows behind the couch But the shears: your hands splitting rose hips
Eric Lutz My Dad Is A Bird The day it happened I was in the kitchen after school with mom and she was cutting up carrots and dad was home early. Dad was smiling, too, and asked me if I wanted to come with him somewhere; he’d buy me hot chocolate. I yelled, “Yeah,” and mom looked at dad, and dad said, “Come on, don’t worry,” and so we went. What happened was, when we were walking to the store, past the train tracks, my dad kneeled down and he said, “Something’s going to happen soon. I want you to see it and remember it and tell mom.” “What?” I asked. “You’ll see. It’ll be great.” I heard the blare of a horn, three times–short short long. Two lights were moving toward us. It was winter. My dad looked down at me and smirked. His eyes seemed wild. Like they couldn’t be tamed, even by him. Second thing people ask is how do I feel about it, am I mad. Answer is, No, I’m not mad. I understand, I guess. During the Army I knew a guy named Daniel and we were friends. Something bad was going to happen once and Daniel said if he didn’t make it, and I did, to go to Mobile and tell his wife what happened. He ended up OK but if he hadn’t I would’ve gone, you better believe. Sometimes, when it’s fall and the birds are flying south, I think of my dad. He goes with them, flying over the trees. They’re lined up like an arrow pointed where they’re headed, and I’m not sure where. Towards the sun, I guess. He flaps his wings and looks down at me, and he keeps saying, “Watch this.” 52
Laura Story Johnson Just Before Flight
Ali Eteraz Three Ghazals 1 It had winked out, love, the sun of pain. Until you came, love, I had none of pain. I am Iblis, love, submitting sajdas morose. My back is broke, love, with a ton of pain. And my longing, love, necklaces like a noose. The rope of hope, love, is spun of pain. Did you forget, love, the orphanage we escaped? Fatherless, love, I’m again the son of pain. Life is a circus, love; and Eteraz its joke. Never again, love, will I find fun in pain. 2 It is not the world. It is a sultanate of sorrow. There is no scale right for the weight of sorrow. To those mothers in winter I abandoned lactating. I spread upon the world at the rate of sorrow. And those fathers that found my existence insulting. My genes are plaited with the traits of sorrow. 54
And those religions to which my blasphemy is biting. I gave wine to flood the gates of sorrow. And whatever will become of the crimes I’m hiding? Judge me after I’ve crossed the straits of sorrow. 3 I used to envy the lovers that strolled in Palo Alto I used to watch the clocks that tolled in Palo Alto The smoke we exhaled ringed your hair like a crown, You were the only royal form to behold in Palo Alto So we were friends for the passing of seven shadows, You made me a poet with rhymes of gold in Palo Alto All the alleyways tell me to seek you in vineyards, No bout of drug or booze soften the cold in Palo Alto. Each discovery of you leads to a disappearance for me, Sometimes wanderers see my soul sold in Palo Alto.
Nels Hanson Taste The after-savor of fruit— cherry, pear, strawberry, star-scattered red-purple Santa Rosa plum—like sudden morning breeze, branches pressing out buds in Spring, moon on water moving, wine and smoke, rain, doves’ call at sunset—you give to me.
Rich Boucher Tell Me What It Makes You Think About I spent a day at the museum where I exhibited no reaction to any of the art on display. There was a giant six-foot-high sculpture, constructed of red and orange and yellow crayons, designed to look like a fire frozen in time, and I went right up to it and felt nothing at it. I felt nothing at it intensely, in my bones and through the skin of my arms, until the sculptureâ€™s eyes started to betray its emotions, showing me that my intense nonreaction had made it feel ashamed and worthless. There was a small chandelier, fashioned from a cluster of pine cones and orbited by an afro of black wire, lit by a spotlight obviously bought at Home Depot, and I think I was supposed to get a message about courage from this thing, but instead I walked up close and stood under it and folded my arms and gave no reaction to it. As hard as I could. Tears started to drip from the chandelier like wax melting. There was a painting, in mostly muted yellows and blacks depicting two naked witches, a brunette and a redhead, sharing a nighttime broom ride up into Heaven. The artist had been careful to make the two witches differently-shaped, one a bit slender and the other one on the chubby side. You could see how the artist gave some thought as to how naked witch tits would move, or seem to move, while high up in the rare air where you can start to see Heaven approaching. I stood in front of this painting and gave it nothing. The look on my face neither respected nor insulted the work; the look on my face, if you were there and happened to see me, was the look of someone trying to find, in the far-off distance, something meaningful. The witches could not have cared less what I thought of them.
Kelly DuMar Cypripedium Acaule (Pink Lady Slipper) Locate first the two basal leaves like lush and felty hips springing and spreading greenly open and up from the brown paper crumble of leaf rot churning and clotting beneath her bottom; see how the root is sending its straw-like stalk straight up like a pipe with the pull of desire rising and rushing and spilling into the orchid’s pink-white flesh like a vulva-flashing brazen beauty of the forest where you find yourself kneeling and praying into this bliss, fingering the clean soft slit of her purse, parting her lips, puffed and pulsing like a blood swollen heart beating against my rain slick palm; then ask, you must ask—have you ever looked, no really looked, at yourself— why have you never seen anything like this? 57
Kelly DuMar Fifty Autumns One autumn I turned fifty in the woods. Leaves of black ash, red maple blazed and blew onto swamp cabbage, stinking and wilting. Cinnamon ferns were browning and crisping, and I could tell there was time but no date in the woods–—it was any year of every decade adding up to this new age. I came to a footbridge planted over a tiny creek, made of planks sewn from hardwoods, planed and nailed to beams. One step and I could feel it sink a little and settle, and there in the swamp I knew the maple and ash would stand, the soil would be new and new again, the bridge would last, but not forever; the planks already were rotting and splintering from all the walking and weather, and soon enough it would take just one final step—maybe mine—to mash the last splinter of bridge back into the muck. I kept walking and crossing something like a bridge and what I know now is: Time wastes you. It’s time to burst skin, trust without trying, set fires, brew mysterious stews, wake sleeping giants, spark unborn spirits, revive broken ones. There’s time to give your love for free.
Kelly DuMar Fiddlehead If as a child you woke up unfurled unfolded untucked being touched where you didnâ€™t ask to be touched and tasted where sweetness was a secret you meant to keep; and if, in this earlier life, your throat stopped your scream while your spine was snapped and your organs made a meal for the beast; then maybe, by some accident of nature, the smallest seed of who you might have been sank into this soil, and after the withering frozen sleep of the long dead season there might be this miracle of waking tucked but untouched unseen and undamaged
unfolding unfurling untucking until you see who youâ€™ve become and how far you can reach with this new spine.
Tim Suermondt A Romance This is how it didnâ€™t happen: the sterling looks, the hearts wanting to leap out of their chests, autumn nights amid a parade of leaves, the future in the present and the world curled with you in bed, waiting to dance.
Joel Blumenau Vigilantia
Suzanne Highland List of Lives Uncrossed It’s the angles of you. A sharpshooter would see the dirt under my nails and cross me for being unclean, take me to Roman baths filled with breasts and ask for my beginnings, but it’s the angles of you I see in the spaces between epochs and ages, between gods and mountains. I ask you, do you hold us together still, are we waiting, are we turning, and I pull on the skin on my nose and my hands and look through vultures’ eyes. Somehow it seems only fitting. Your elbow, the bend in the river; your brows, coarse with time. I see futures laid out like lanterns and feel fogged over, overlooked, under-seen, turning to dirt in the palm of your hands. Such sweet hands. I have eyes made for the time after the time. I see our children; they smile, I smile. In the forest, men die for less than love, cross their bows and ties, do everything right. The roots make burrows for small animals. I ask you, do you hold us together still? and you say—
Anthony J Langford I Remember The Day I recall a time before folly and elation dissipated before despondency made the world brittle as though it could all be left behind in the next instant through a flick of a blade or some such way severed the reverence for life which once soared like the proverbial rocket when a compliment could turn a day on its head and a hug made the entire world radiate when temporary infatuation was worth dying for.
without the voices of yesterday only the overwhelming call to eradicate the old and perhaps build again. But I cannot come back dispirited, strained, fractured and if I was askedâ€Ś I really donâ€™t know if Iâ€™d want to.
Before age brought the anchor and time turned against me and everything was an obsolete battle against decay but I shouldered the grindstone regardless until the only thing left to ask was how long? And now there is barely enough to remember nothing to show what once was a vacuum a husk experiences exhausted 63
James Seals Course of Treatment He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD. – PROVERBS 18:22
“Are you going to kill mommy?” Ethan asks. I would like to, I think. Instead I say, “No, why?” Ethan ignores my question. He absentmindedly pets his unconscious mother’s medical bracelet, spinning it left then right. Nurses replace doctors, while nurse’s aides fiddle with tubes, pillows, buttons. Everyone surveys me. “Grandma said you’re going to kill mommy,” Ethan says. “The paperwork,” said the hospital’s counselor, “declares you as your ex-wife’s life guardian.” “Really,” I said, raising my eyebrows. I held the twelve pages of legal jargon in both hands. I perused it, pausing thoughtfully with every other page. The counselor scrutinized me. “Do you understand what’s being said,” she asked. “Of course,” I replied. I recited to her that the living will, notarized three years before the divorce, makes known that I am the sole authority with regards to my ex’s life. I can prolong medical treatments or simply sever the cords that allow those annoying beeps and pssts, bellows and complaints to continue. How ironic, I thought. My smile must have revealed to the hospital counselor that I found this befalling fortuitous. She frowned. “No,” I told her, “I do not want to forfeit my responsibilities in such a critical matter.” I didn’t care what my ex-wife’s parents wanted me to do, or what they believed was best. I had stopped, I confessed to the counselor, considering
their feelings the day they elected–yes, elected–to overlook my birthday. As the counselor sped away, I yelled, “You don’t understand: She and I were still legally married. They owed me a gift.” Ethan climbs upon my lap. The room smells bacteria-free. He hands me the remote. I attempt to flatten his cowlick. I fail. I knew that I would, and I have accepted the fact that I am the failure that his mommy so often proclaimed me to be. I tell him that Mommy may never wake. Ethan admits, “I know,” which is his standard answer. I explain that his Mommy fell from a really high boulder. He knows this too: He was as usual playing around the base while she rock climbed. Ethan, cradling his video game, seems bored with my explanation. He begins pressing the rubber, multicolored buttons on the remote. The television turns on. Our conversation ends. Independence Day flashes before our eyes. Two hours race by. I tell my ex one of my “lame” jokes, “Time flies even when you’re not having fun, huh?” She doesn’t sneer as she would normally do. Her face looks peaceful, calm, maybe a bit bloated. I turn up the television, forgetting that Ethan has fallen asleep, to drown out the heart rate monitor: beep-beep . . . beep-beep. Patricia, the ex-mother-in-law, sits across the hall. She glances at her daughter every few minutes, as a way of imparting to me that she would like a visit absent my presence. I make a show of donning my coat. I snap each button in drawn-out intervals, feigning exhaustion. I ensure that each finger fits snugly in my gloves. My grey beanie sops my sweat, concealing my discomfort at wearing winter gear indoors. Patricia replies, “Of course I’ll watch him. No, I don’t need anything. I don’t think this is the time or place for alcohol; I don’t care what you’re craving.” I leave her, saying: “A zinfandel. That’s what I’ll have. It’s your favorite.” *** 65
Music forced everyone onto the dance floor. Bass thumped walls. A girl, Jill, whirled her arms above her head like mating snakes. I downed my liquor. I approached her. She did not flee like the others. I danced in front of her, maneuvering so that she and I became partners. She smiled. I smiled, even though I believed her less interesting up close. She shouted something. I replied, “I don’t know. I can’t hear you. Want a drink?” Her teeth glowed in the blue light. She bobbed her head, which I took for a yes. I chased down the barmaid. Jill didn’t watch me leave. She had closed her eyes, possessed by the tempo. I returned, abandoning my rigid personality to the rhythms. Then I noticed the barmaid, circling. I flagged her down, took the beers. A bouncer soon after informed us that there were no drinks allowed on the dance floor. “Yes, we should take a break,” Jill agreed. “That’s right, to rehydrate.” I went on to say that alcohol only promotes nose-painting, sleep and urine. Jill giggled. Then she wanted to know what that meant. I hesitated. I told her to forget it. She insisted. I said, “It’s from Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth, the porter.” She shook her head, either not understanding or unable to hear. “Never mind,” I shouted over the Euro vibe that the DJ spun. Jill and I married six months later. As we promised to have and to hold from that day forward, Jill stared into my eyes. I examined the ground. She held my hands tightly. I stood, wilting. I obeyed the minister, repeating, “For better, or for worse, for richer, or for poorer.” We sliced the Magic Kingdom cake that the Disneyland wedding planner had provided. I kept thinking that we were doomed. I thought to myself, Disneyland’s the happiest place on Earth: Where do we go from here? She didn’t know it then, but I had believed that marriage led to love, and I wanted to be loved. We began traveling the world: Japan, Australia, Guam, New Zealand. We gave 66
up dinners and nights out with friends to fulfill her dream of seeing Rome. We designated a Roman alley as our own. The alley contained our favorite gelato parlor, her favorite thousand-year-old doors, an old man who roasted chestnuts, and around one of our alley’s corners the massive structure of the Pantheon snuck up on us, generating the most beautiful smile Jill would ever display. Jill left me the first note: You are my lover and friend. The next month I wrote: Thank you for such a wonderful life. She often stuffed secret messages into my out-of-town bags for me to find while I unpacked. Some mornings I wrote, Press play, on the bathroom mirror, where she would find our CD player filled with Ben Harper singing: You look like gold to me and I’m not too blind to see you look like gold *** “Let’s have a baby,” Jill said. I didn’t reply. Jill sat, stared, waited. Then her warm gaze transformed into a glare. I thought that having babies was a bad idea. We debated the problem of the over-populated world. She didn’t care. I did. I believed that children would prevent us from seeing Machu Picchu and skydiving, and all the things she and I had dreamed of seeing and doing. Jill professed, “You’re wrong.” She informed me that my ideas were unfounded and that people travel and accomplish their goals, even with children. Ethan was born on a Sunday, and I disagreed with Jill’s visitors who repeatedly said, “childbirth is beautiful.” I chose not to cut the umbilical cord. I shouted at the doctor, “No, just get the two of them cleaned up.” I had nearly passed out. The stench, I admitted, was unbearable. I hated the screaming, the sudden movements of the hospital staff. Ethan lingered, I told Jill’s visitors. They 67
pulled him out with a pair of spoons, calling the contraption forceps. The doctor counted aloud–one two three–then he jerked and tugged. It was horrifying. Jill chose to name my son after her grandfather. I only agreed because Ethan is the protagonist of Ethan Frome, a novel by Edith Wharton, one of my favorites. From day one, Ethan refused his mother’s milk, though Jill and the nurses pleaded, questioned and begged for him to cooperate. Jill, disheartened by Ethan’s refusal, chose to feed him organic, gluten-free, soy formula from a bottle. “It’s the chemicals I fear,” Jill said, “I don’t want to poison him.” Jill seemed to treasure every inch of Ethan. She made funny faces at him. She patted his tiny feet together. I was shocked when she began goo-gooing and gaa-gaaing. She had asserted that baby talk stunts a child’s development. She didn’t respond when I questioned her about it. Instead, she focused on Ethan, rubbing the bridge of his nose till he eased into sleep. They looked serene. I admired their bond. Two weeks later, however, Jill began sleeping through the night. I wandered about the house dumbfounded. I seemed the only person who could hear Ethan’s howls. I became the sole parent waking and feeding and patting his back. Jill no longer changed his diaper or restored his pacifier. “You need to make him sleep in his own bed,” Jill shouted. But I enjoyed Ethan sleeping in our bed. “He’s so cute in his red onesie,” I said, “and I love the way he sleeps with his arms and legs straight out like he’s in a coffin.” Jill yelled at me. She cried. She slapped at me. She thought that I unconsciously wanted Ethan dead. I thought she was being ridiculous because it would be subconsciously, not unconsciously. Jill bemoaned my “inappropriate joke.” I went on to say, “Ethan loves it when I shake him really, really fast until he 68
falls asleep.” Jill didn’t talk to me for weeks. After she forgave me, Ethan and I started postponing nightly activities, awaiting Mommy’s return home. I informed him that we were going to surprise her. He smiled, showing his gums. Jill explained, “I need to work late.” The excuse revolved around her company: an important project for an important client. “Aren’t they all?” I asked. She ignored me. I told her that Ethan and I had an important–. She hung up. The next week Ethan walked from the couch to the coffee table. Jill shrieked. She threw her hands into the air as if she were in a southern Baptist church shouting, Thank you, Lord. I said to her, “Yeah, I know. He’s been walking for some time now.” Then Ethan uttered, “Da Da.” Then he smiled. Jill sprang to her feet, gathered her belongings. She muttered something that sounded like “You’re making him into Daddy’s little boy.” Jill raced for the door. *** “Come home first,” I said. Jill couldn’t. She had brought her gym clothes. She believed that it would be simpler and more economical to go straight to the gym from work. “I’m in training,” she replied, but she didn’t say for what. I reluctantly disclosed that I wanted some relief from Ethan, a short break here or there. “Ethan wants to see his mommy too,” I said. We had been playing and running errands all day. Jill disregarded my petitions. She replied, “Get real,” when I asked for adult conversation. I gave in. I folded like I had the day, the month, years prior. I suggested that Ethan and I pop by 69
the gym so that he could see his mommy. “We can stay until his bedtime,” I said. She sighed then answered, “Fine.” “Come home first,” I said, a month later. “You’re just trying to keep me from my friends.” I no longer used Ethan as the reason for why Jill should leave work, should decline drinks or should come home before midnight. On weekends, Ethan would ask, “Where Mommy?” “She’s still sleeping buddy,” I would reply. Then we would don our hats for the park or don our swim trunks for the pool or put on our mittens before building a snowman. Jill and I began arguing, shouting, in front of Ethan. “I don’t care about your friends,” I told her. She went on to say that I needed to find someone other than her for entertainment. We argued for days. Then we refused to speak. Jill began leaving notes: You never listen. At first I thought her messages were accusations, but the notes seemed familiar: You’re always trying to teach me a lesson; You’re so selfish; You’re so damn defensive. The notes became a long list–posted on the refrigerator–of things that I had said during arguments. “I can’t believe that you’re transcribing what I say,” I shouted at her. “Then stop saying such absurd things.” *** Todd worked-out at Jill’s gym. He looked homely. He looked as if he needed to start eating meat again. Jill became a vegetarian. Todd worked part-time for various companies: clothing store, camping-gear outlet and other merchandisers who offered discounts to their employees. 70
“He’s just a friend,” Jill replied. “Why are you suspicious of everyone?” “Why doesn’t he look me in the eyes?” I asked. Jill, again, ignored my concerns, saying, “Why can’t you trust me?” She remained firm to her stance, saying that she and Todd were just friends. Before long, Todd and Jill became “good friends,” then “best friends.” Finally I asked, “Should I worry about you and Todd and the texting and everything else?” “I don’t know,” Jill said, turning away. “Probably,” she continued, which eventually led to her reply, “I hate you, too.” After Sunday service, I make my way to the hospital. I choose to walk the three miles from church, taking in the crisp air, the fall colors, the unusual amplification of neighborhood sounds–baying dogs, playing children, garage doors in motion. I stopped at the alternative coffee shop: The Trendy Roast. I ordered espresso from the purple-haired girl. Today’s a beautiful day, I think, still chanting the refrain of my favorite Lutheran song: This is the feast of victory for our God. For the Lamb Who was slain has begun His reign: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! *** Patricia, Rob (the ex-father-in-law), Todd (the ex’s now live-in boyfriend), the hospital counselor and a man in a brown suit huddle near Jill. Ethan sits at a table situated under the television, coloring in a book. The masses hush as I stroll past the nurses’ station–where eyes follow my route–into the room. Beep-beeps and pssts greet me. Ethan yells, “Daddy!” and I reply, “Nice job, buddy. Why don’t you move over here away from that flickering light?” Ethan of course tells 71
me, “I’m fine.” I wanted to ask him how he had slept, if he had missed me, what he had been eating. We have big plans next weekend: my weekend. I need to remind him to bring his jersey, but I wasn’t given the opportunity. “We don’t want you visiting Jill,” Patricia says. The “we” that Patricia refers to stare in my direction, seemingly awaiting my reply. I pucker my lips; I squint my eyelids; I look up, to the left. My hope is to show pensiveness. I am unsure of my success as everyone remains quiet. After some seconds I say, “I am reflecting upon your pronouncement.” “This is ridiculous,” Patricia shouts. The hospital counselor consoles Patricia. She turns to face me. She introduces the man in the brown suit: a lawyer. “Taft, like the president?” I ask. Mr. Taft shakes his head as I question him about his ancestor’s presidential failures: “What do you think of the Payne-Aldrich Tariff; that thing with the Canadians; that other affair with those business guys?” Mr. Taft tries to interrupt, saying, “Excuse me, but...” I ignore his efforts. “Shut up!” Patricia yells. “Just shut up.” Todd and Rob pace the room. Ethan stops coloring. He clasps his hands, places them in his lap, leans into his knees. Beep-beeps and pssts continue to sound, and the buzz and flicker of the light bulb persists. Everyone talks at once. A male voice mentions injustice. The hospital counselor “strongly requests” that I listen to Mr. Taft’s offer. Patricia calls me immature. Ethan cries. The light flickers. A nurse enters, stops, turns, departs. Eyes peer through the ICU windows. I say, “Ethan, there’s no need to cry.” He wants to go home. He says that he doesn’t like it here. He wants his mom72
my. I tell him that I understand. The light continues flickering. Beep-beeps call out. I answer Mr. Taft, the hospital counselor. Todd and Rob pace. The light flickers. Beep-beep. Patricia moves to Jill’s side. She parts Jill’s hair. “We won’t let anything harm you,” Patricia says. Todd and Rob pace. The light flickers. Beep-beep. Nurses gather just outside the door. Todd and Rob pace. The light flickers. Beep-beep. “Get out!” I yell. “Get out now.” Ethan starts. His crying resumes. The light flickers. Beep-beep. Everyone starts when I point then yell a second time. Someone says, “You’re being unreasonable.” The light flickers. Beep-beep. Patricia beckons Ethan. I say, “Stay there buddy. Draw me a nice picture.” Protests sound as I push everyone into the hallway. I slam the door. Objections continue. I close the blinds. The light flickers. Beep-beep. I look at Ethan. I smile.
Dan Sklar Conference No Show Your name is on the list. They have a name tag for you on the registration table. They have a room reserved for you with chairs and white board and podium and a bottle of cold water for your presentation. They have the title of your talk and workshop printed in the handsome pamphlet of events and itâ€™s on the marquee. Some attendees of the conference who find your title and description interesting are planning to see it. You are a no show. Your name tag is the only one left on the table. People choose another presentation or plan to leave early. Maybe someone wonders for a split second what it was. Maybe not. Maybe it is better 74
to be a no show sometimes. The folks running the conference say to each other, he is a no show and are secretly pleased. In some ways you are glad to be a no show. Someone has to be a no show. What do the no shows do when they do not show? Why are they no shows? Why did they even apply and send in their paper and check? No shows are away. No shows are gone. No shows are not there. When you are dead you are a permanent no show. There comes a time in everyoneâ€™s life when you have to be a no show and the people will think you are irresponsible and feel superior to you. I mean, after all, they showed, they were responsible.
Showing is the least you can do. They were responsible and maybe we need no shows so everyone else can feel good in their responsibility. Someone has to keep hotel workers employed. Someone has to be committed to the conference. They put on their name tag, saw the keynote speaker, went to the talks and workshops, took notes, gave their talk or workshop. And they were convinced about whatever they were convinced about. Had lunch and collegial conversation, about how wonderful technology is in the classroom, maybe ate too much, there was a lot of food and all agreed it was very good. When the afternoon sessions are through, they get into their cars and head home feeling responsible and confident in what they do and believe in.
They feel accomplished, successful and quite pleased with themselves as well they should be. They are contributing to their field and education and society. There are as many reasons why the no show doesnâ€™t show as there are no shows. As for me, I want to sit outside and watch the birds and sky and grass and trees and cat in June sunshine and I am deeply into Crime and Punishment and Raskolnikov and how they blame it on the house painter who even confesses. And besides, the cat and I want to be outside all the time and that is what it has come to. I have become a cat you have to let out and have nothing to prove and do not need to convinced anybody of anything. poetry 75
Robert Wexelblatt Standards of American Measurement
She noticed that the air in the hotel bar was chilled and still. It was quiet too, but then it wasn’t yet three o’clock in the afternoon. Subdued lighting gave the place the feel of permanent dusk. Abigail thought momentarily of Sleeping Beauty’s enchanted castle, the scullions, chambermaids, guards, the royal couple, all suspended in time, waiting for happy hour. There were no briars but also no windows. In a corner booth three fortyish men in ties and jackets spoke in low voices. She recognized two of them from the convention. They could have been negotiating a deal or perhaps it was a job interview, somebody who wanted to jump ship or was being inveigled into doing so. In another corner two young women were listening attentively to an older one. Abigail guessed she was telling jokes, the bitter kind at which nobody is supposed to laugh out loud. They were all dressed in sweaters under dark blazers. Abigail didn’t recognize any of them. Other than the bored bartender and the even more bored cocktail waitress, no one else was in the place. Abigail walked up to the bar, sat on a stool. The bartender’s hairline was receding; the track light reflected off his forehead. “What can I get for you?” he asked. He didn’t smile at her, nor did he frown. “Tonic. Lime twist.” “Coming right up.” *** Ari had promised himself he’d get up and leave the third time the speaker used the word valorize but stayed put until the fifth. Feeling guilty about his rudeness, he thought of hiding in his room, perhaps reading something to clear his head and palate; but, craving pretzels and something fizzy, he chose the conventional refuge, a haven where nothing was likely to be foregrounded or problematized
for at least a couple more hours. He could hardly help spotting Abigail right away, no more than he could help thinking of a cello when he did. He too saw the groups in the corner booths, conspiring, he thought, as in breathing together rather than planning to blow anything up. More escapees, he figured. Ari was at the hotel to deliver a paper on Joseph Conrad’s The Rover at the regional Modern Language Association Conference. His chairman had suggested he “get out more,” hinting that “a few presentations wouldn’t hurt” when his contract came up. So he had cobbled together a proposal that was accepted. He’d written the paper in two days the week before. Though it valorized nothing, it did praise valor. There was another conference at the hotel, or rather a convention, something about indoor air-conditioning. He’d seen the two notices side-by-side in the lobby welcoming the forces of scholarship and sales. Whimsically, he imagined giving a presentation to the other crowd. It would be about how global warming was a godsend to business. He’d do an upbeat PowerPoint correlating rising temperatures with the projected sales of indoor air-conditioning units, how more units would mean more electricity made from burning more fossil fuels which would release more carbon dioxide leading to still higher temperatures and so demand for more air-conditioning units. “The apocalypse is a business opportunity,” he’d have explained. “Planetary incineration’s the ultimate positive feedback loop. It’s an ill wind, etc.” *** Abigail sipped her tonic and wondered what might go on at a Modern Language conference. “Well,” she mused, “nobody’s going to be speaking Latin or Hittite.” She had witnessed a member of the hotel staff rolling his eyes as he derisively referred to the scholars as “the brown shoes.” Academics aren’t big 77
tippers, apparently. Soon enough Edith, George, and Mr. Calimonte would be there. Well, maybe not George. In the meantime, it was a relief simply not to have to see any more x and y axes, bar graphs, bullet points. *** Ari chose a stool two down from Abigail. The bartender came over, raised his head then his eyebrows. “Virgin Mary,” said Ari. Abigail turned toward him Ari shrugged. Abigail pointed at her glass. “Virgin G and T.” “So, not much vodka going today.” “Oh, just wait.” “You hiding out too?” “Hiding out? No. Just not there.” He nodded. “What was the last straw?” She sipped at her tonic, looked at him a little wickedly. “Sales figures for eastern Nebraska.” “I’m guessing flat?” She laughed. “You?” “Oh, for me it was—wait, I don’t want to get this wrong.” He took a folded program from the side pocket of his tweed jacket, opened it and read: “Men Without Women Without Men colon the Hermeneutics of Bakhtinian Polyphonic Unfinalizability in Barnes, Baldwin, Hurston, and Hemingway.” “Oh, the alliteration.” “The colon’s more essential.” “Essential?” 78
“It’s how you make a title for an academic paper. First you come up with a misleadingly alluring phrase, then the colon, then what it’s really about.” “Irritable colon. Irritating, I mean.” “I myself have gone post-colonial. No colons, ever. I want to start a trend.” “So do you choose just the deceptively fascinating phrase or the boring honest one?” He raised his hand and fluttered it in the universal com si, com sa gesture. “It depends.” “On?” “How good a misleading phrase I can come up with.” “What was it? The Hermeneutics of—?” “Bakhtinian Polyphonic Unfinalizability. It would be devastating in German.” “It sounds sort of German, actually.” Ari cocked his head, she nodded, and he moved to the stool next to hers. “There was this famous mathematician, von Neumann,” he said. “German, I’m guessing.” “Surprisingly enough, born in Hungary.” “The Germans got around. So, von Neumann.” “He came up with the microcentury.” “Microcentury? Is that short or long? It sounds both.” “Good question. Can be either, I suppose. It’s von Neumann’s measurement for the maximum length of a lecture.” “Which is?” “Precisely fifty-two minutes and thirty-four seconds.” “Not bad. Not even all that German.” “Or Hungarian, I suppose. Anyway, von Neumann became an American. We Americans have our own ways of measuring things.” 79
“Miles not kilometers, you mean? That sort of thing?” “If we possessed a more law-abiding nature we’d use kilometers.” “That’s true. Every year in school we had to study the metric system. Every September the science teachers would say we’d be on next year.” “See? Americans good at ignoring stuff like that. Directives.” “Tea in Boston Harbor? The Whiskey Rebellion?” “Right.” “Beverage directives especially.” The bartender came over, pointed to their glasses, raised his eyebrows. They both shook their heads. “Once upon a simpler time,” said Ari, “in some area codes, lunches were measured out in martinis.” “Three, I think.” “Bad old days. Like Sherlock Holmes’ three-pipe problems.” “That’s English.” “True.” “So what’s really American?” “American Standards of Measurement. Well, let’s see. The aircraft carrier. That’s for big, powerful things.” “Not very exact.” “Okay. The football field. Our national standard measure of distance. Long as three football fields. Wide as three football fields.” “The Brits would say pitch.” “Probably. Okay then, Rhode Island.” “Rhode Island” “Sure. Means big when referring to icebergs, small when referring to countries.” 80
“Like Andorra?” “Or San Marino.” “Give us another.” “Root canal.” “Root canal? How’s that work?” “Standard measure for level of pain. You know, as in sitting through reports on sales in eastern Nebraska.” “Worse than root canal. Right.” “Exactly.” “I’ve got one.” “Shoot.” “Bottles of Tabasco sauce.” “A measure of—?” “Marriages. How many bottles of Tabasco sauce between the wedding and the divorce. Average is seven. Did you know the Cajuns used to give a bottle as a wedding present? It’s kosher, too.” “You don’t say.” “I’m from Baton Rouge, so I know.” “Red Stick.” “Better in French, don’t you think?” “I suppose the French have their proper measurements, too. But I can’t think of one.” “Expensive as Chateau Lafite-Rothschild? Fattening as pâté de foie gras?” He was impressed. “I’m Ari,” he said and held out his hand. *** Later, when the others crowded in, Abigail introduced Ari to her colleagues as a regional manager from Armonk, New York, and he introduced her to his 81
as an associate professor from Notre Dame, expert on Joseph Conrad and Nora Ephron. The following morning, she read out his paper on Conrad and gave the most astonishing answers to the panelâ€™s questions, while he delivered an extemporaneous talk he called Carbon Dioxide, Our Best Friend. It lasted just over fifty-two minutes. That night Abigail said the day had been a real Rhode Island and Ari presented her with a sumptuously wrapped bottle of Tabasco sauce. At last check, they were on their fifth bottle.
Andrew Gretes Mugged When I saw the three of you rounding the corner, what I wanted most was clarity. Colored t-shirts. Blue for a “good beating,” yellow for “kidnapping,” red for “robbery,” white for “homicide.” But the street lights were dim and Murphy’s Law was black, so I booked it for destination fence. Mom called the morning after and asked, “Son, how tall was the fence?” “Babel” came to mind. It’s not that life flashes before your eyes; it’s that everything tries to get out at once and bottlenecks on the ramp under your tongue.
Mugger #3 unzips Muggee #1’s stolen backpack. Mugger #3 cocks one eye and takes out a small book titled “The Parables of Kierkegaard.” Mugger #3 is suddenly moved to study Danish, spends seven years receiving his doctorate in theology, and becomes a Knight of Faith. Meanwhile, Muggee #1 buys a pole-vault at the local pawnshop and spends his quixotic days fighting fences. But poems have no plots. Just alleys, cul-de-sacs. Wallets strewn on the street,stanzas scaled in retreat.
I think Moses misheard. I bet the burning bush roared back, “I am what you want.” Dangling on the metal spider-web of destination fence, I wanted witnesses, I wanted a pantheon. I was a polytheist. Occasionally, I imagine writing this poem as a post-modern screenplay... 83
Fabio Sassi Out of Tracks
Rich Boucher Accept What Is Happening There is a life that contains a galaxy that contains a world that contains a continent that contains a nation that contains a state that contains a city that contains me and a painting framed in hand-carved gold. This painting is being looked at by me and telling me about a small, red fire in a wooded area of a grey, overcast world that has a lot of Autumn in it. Maybe this painting is actually an open window. In the background of the painting, through some breaks in the trees, an almost blue sky is visible. But it seems so far away in the perspective of the painting. The sky, seen between the distant trees, seems so far away that nothing can probably be done about this fire. This fire will probably burn until it no longer wants to. There are red leaves on the ground around the fire, but I canâ€™t see the fire because it is obscured by pink smoke, which seems to roll in the air slowly, like the ruddy ink breath of an octopus. The smoke is actually coming out of the painting, out into the museum, and I can smell it. This acrid smoke smells like a spicy perfume, a dizzying potpourri, combined with the scent of the first time I ever smelled my motherâ€™s lipstick. I suddenly remember the first girl who ever let me touch her. I suddenly remember feeling sad when I learned that my aunt used to be a nun. I suddenly remember that when my mother used to sing to me as a baby, sometimes it sounded like she was crying. Maybe this painting is actually an open window.
Richard Fox 1971 When Allen Ginsberg visited Webster College supplicants filled the Loretto-Hilton Theatre the beat opened with Howl heard many lines echoed pausing for sips of water he surveyed the suits the chic the freaks offered the house his thermostat a baritone Please Master hippies nodded their heads waved peace signs he swallowed a sly smile rumbled through America
Allen Ginsberg rode to the airport in a car bereft of reverse and first gears grateful the window rolled down
there was a VIP reception there was a VIP banquet there was a VIP apartment
Allen Ginsberg strolled dormitory halls room to room he considered canvases slid proffered poems into his pouch kvelled over a newly fired goblet in the kitchen he called out ingredients assembled a macrobiotic meal guitars sax fiddle set a meter matched by knife to board 86
lotus in a circle sharing common bowls he led chants a meditation pulled out finger cymbals danced shadowed by young feet on an empty bed in someoneâ€™s room dirty sheets stained quilt patchouli he flopped snored the night endured cafeteria breakfast
Louis Gallo Rockwellâ€™s America Empty bottles of Pepto-Bismol wail like bassoons in every niche. One of us can only drink decaffeinated coffee and no tea. Television programs are off limits, especially the dire Weather Channel. We swallow three capsules of Librium a day. Nothing is good for us. Soap scratches our skin. Fruit breaks us out. Before bed we massage each otherâ€™s kidneys with lanolin. Our physicians advise us to dim the lights. The children have eerie heartbeats. They sob in the refrigerator. We try to keep their fevers down.
Henry F. Tonn My History of Racism
Young people have never been exposed to the racial segregation that existed in the southern United States before its official end in 1954. It is time for a few reminiscences from those who lived through it before we are no longer around. I was born in a working class neighborhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1942. Philadelphia had no segregation policy, but very few communities would have been considered integrated. Everyone on my street and in the immediate vicinity was white, and mostly Catholic. There was an African American community somewhere nearby because I interacted with them at Hunting Park, which was located one block from my row house. But I never actually had a “Negro” friend. My parents would never had allowed it, and it would have been dangerous for such a person to visit my street anyway. The public school I attended nearby was all white. Segregation did not exist in Philadelphia but racism certainly did. The slang term for black people in those days was “jigaboos,” or “jigs” for short. Some years later when African Americans gradually began to move into my neighborhood, there was considerable trepidation. The younger, more mobile families left, while the old guard remained until they died. When I recently planned to re-visit this neighborhood I was warned against it. It had become a tough, black slum, I was told, and the only white people who ever ventured into the area were policemen and social workers. I went anyway. They regarded me with some curiosity but treated me politely. It was, however, depressingly run down. My family moved to North Carolina in 1949 when I was six because my father feared I would become a hoodlum if I remained in the city. He also liked what he called “the fresh, clean air of the South.” In North Carolina there was a very clear line of demarcation between blacks and whites. Blacks were deferent
to whites, and most interaction between the two was between employer and employee, or house owner and maid or gardener. Interracial dating was out of the question. My parents were very unusual racists. They were exceedingly polite to all black people but related to them more like a master would his servant. They certainly considered them to be, with some exceptions, an inferior race. However, when a gardener who worked on a millionaire’s estate where my grandmother also was employed as the cook asked if he could bring his family on vacation to our home in the South, my parents readily agreed. The man had a wife and six children and they all showed up on our doorstep one day in the summer. We had a small house with one bathroom and I don’t know where we put them all, but they remained for a week taking in the splendors of the South. I was eight or nine at the time and distinctly remember the man-who had never before been to the South-relating to my father an interesting and revealing story. While half way through Virginia, he and his family stopped at a service station to buy some food and use the toilet facilities. The attendant there told them as politely as he could that they were forbidden to use the toilet facilities because they were colored people. The gardener was shocked by this revelation. “What am I supposed to do with my children?” he asked, waving his hand around. “They’ve got to go to the bathroom.” The man shook his head and was genuinely apologetic. “I’d let you use the facilities, but I’d lose my job if the owner found out. I’ll tell you what,” he said, taking the man’s arm and leading him outside. He pointed to a wooded area behind the service station. “Why don’t you take everybody out there and do your business. That’s the best I can do. I’m sorry about that, but I could get in trouble for even letting you go there.” I remember my father nodding when he heard this story and extending his 89
commiserations. But, in fact, my father was a conservative man and a racist himself and did not believe that blacks and whites should be sharing the same facilities anywhere. And yet this family lived in our house and shared the facilities for a week. I guess they were considered different because we knew them. In those days I remember that “coloreds” had a separate entrance to the movies and sat exclusively in the balcony. They sat in the back of the city bus. They did not frequent white restaurants or white hotels. They had their own. However, they served as cooks, waiters, bellhops, and elevator operators in white hotels, and wore nice uniforms in the more upscale establishments. I remember the first time an African American sat in the front of the same bus I was riding. Two young girls got on and proceeded to the back. One of them suddenly stopped, however, and sat down around the middle of the bus, right across from me. Her partner laughed and said, “Come on back here, girl,” and beckoned. The girl got up reluctantly and made her way to the back while all the white people gave her angry looks. The next time I rode the bus an elderly African American lady with a head scarf was already seated toward the front of the bus. Nobody was paying her any heed. We adjusted. The definition of a “Negro” could be difficult at times. Chapel Hill high school had a black basketball star during my high school years. He also dated a white girl from his class. There was something of an uproar about this because integration of the schools in North Carolina had not yet occurred, even though we were long past 1954. The student and his parents, however, made it very clear that they were Indians from India and not African American, and therefore the rules did not apply to them. And they had the papers to prove it. “He’s just as black as the ace of spades,” my mother said, shaking her head. “So, what’s the difference?” 90
I heard that opinion expressed often in my social group. I also heard that this particular individual was quite popular with his peer group in high school. He was accepted as one of them. Now, it gets interesting. In the mid-fifties my father wanted to add an extra bedroom on to our house because the family was growing. He was a police officer in good standing and my mother was a secretary but, even though he visited the loan officers in almost every bank in the city, no one would give him the loan. In desperation, he went to the local African American bank-the only one in the city-and they, wishing to expand their business into the white community, granted him the loan. My conservative and prejudiced father, furious at this slight by all the white banks, moved the familyâ€™s banking account to the African American bank. I will never forget accompanying my mother the first time she cashed her check at this new bank. There were nothing but black people there. Suddenly, I was in the minority-a weird experience. Even stranger: our teller was a very black female. In fact, all the tellers were black females. She took my motherâ€™s check and counted out the money and handed it to her under the bars. I was literally stunned. I didnâ€™t know Negroes could count that high. In 1960 I went off to college. The high schools and institutions of higher learning were still segregated in the South. The college I attended was all white and the teams we played in sports were all white. In fact, the only time I saw black basketball players was on television. I will never forget sitting in the assembly hall at High Point College in 1962 toward the end of the semester and hearing the president inform us that the board of trustees had decided to allow a black student to take a course in the institution that summer. I remember being irate. How dare these people infiltrate our institutions. They had their own! However, in the same year I transferred as a junior to the University of North 91
Carolina at Chapel Hill and remember my first night on campus seeing a black male student escorting an attractive white coed to her dormitory. I stared openmouthed. Something like this was heretofore forbidden in the land I inhabited. But then I noticed none of the other students were paying any attention. Nobody seemed to care. Obviously, I was entering a new world. It was a portent of things to come. I was a psychology major and a sociology minor in those days and two of the courses I took during my junior year were “Sociology of the Negro” and “Sociology of African Societies.” The courses were taught by a Dr. Johnson who was white but considered a world expert on the subjects. He was a boring lecturer but the textbooks were relatively interesting and I remember giving serious thought to the information being imparted. It seemed to me Dr. Johnson and the textbooks had a liberal bias, and I found myself often disagreeing with many of their positions. However, they were the “experts” and I was the student and it behooved me to give serious consideration to their points of view. Gradually, therefore, my perspective began to change. It is often the tiny, insignificant events in life that can greatly alter our outlook on things, and this event occurred for me during the second summer session at Chapel Hill in 1963. I was taking a course in child psychology and, as fate would have it, a very attractive, bright and bubbly African American female ended up sitting next to me in the class. At some point we began chatting, and soon were actively joshing each other about all sorts of things before class began. I learned that she was dating a tall, cool dude on campus and was having all kinds of trouble with him. He was alternately demanding or aloof towards her and she was wondering if she should break off the relationship. I sort of became her counselor. One day, during our break, I was standing outside in the sun chatting with 92
another student when this particular coed came up to us carrying an ice cream cone. Without hesitation she stuck the cone in my face and offered me a lick. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. The idea of licking the same ice cream as a Negro was simply beyond consideration. My mother would have fainted dead away, only to be revived by a stiff dose of smelling salts. I politely declined and the other student did the same, and we continued our conversation, now a threesome. Later, however, I had second thoughts about the event. Why would I not want to share an ice cream cone with this girl? She was smart and good-looking and she was just like me. Our only difference was skin color. What was wrong with this picture? I began harboring misgivings about everything I had been taught in my youth. I began to wonder if Dr. Johnson’s opinions on these matters were right after all. I began to wonder if anything I had been taught in the past was right. Such are the benefits of education. All of this was brought into greater focus several weeks later. My roommate for the summer was a freshman from Alabama named Jim. Jim was born and raised in a small town and his racial opinions were quite outspoken. He believed there was nothing wrong with Negroes “as long as they knew their place.” The idea of a person of color being equal to him in any way was absurd. The fact that a conspicuous number of African Americans were attending Carolina that summer was something he duly noted but to which he paid little heed. The day arrived, then, when Jim and I were lounging outside the school cafeteria-affectionately called Ptomaine Hall by the students-when none other than The Bubbly One came bouncing along in our direction. She greeted me happily and beamed as I introduced her to my roommate. There followed a three-way conversation with me and the girl doing most of the talking while Jim looked 93
on in something of a detached manner. Finally, The Bubbly One, having no idea what was really going on, said, “Well, I have to go, boys. Class is waiting. It was very nice to meet you, Jim. Ta ta for now.” And she waved her little fingers and sashayed away, all of her wonderful parts retreating in glorious harmony. There was a pause. Jim stared after her for a moment, and then said, “Damn, what a nigger!” I grimace at this memory, but that’s how it was. It was Jim’s highest compliment, probably the first he ever gave to an African American. “She’s as smart as you, Jim, you know,” I said. “What do you think of that?” “Don’t be ridiculous,” he snorted. But already the worm of doubt was boring into his consciousness. He, too, began to question the teachings of his past. In the following years old ideas would fall away and the world would be seen in a different light. In his thirties he would become the warden of a maximum security prison where the majority of the inmates were black. He would pride himself in handling his responsibilities with fairness and justice. But he would not remember how it all began: a chance encounter with a splendid African American coed that summer of his freshman year. In 1965 I moved to New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, N.M. where I pursued a masters degree in psychology. Here I was confronted with a set of race relations never before experienced. The school was composed of Caucasians-called “Anglos” or “gringos”-, Hispanics, Native American Indians, and African Americans. Although everyone coexisted admirably at the school, there was considerable animosity in the town between the Caucasians and the Hispanics. I once witnessed a full fledged riot between the two in a parking lot outside of a gymnasium in nearby Albuquerque. Furthermore, the Native Americans disliked both the Caucasians and the Hispanics, while the African Americans were largely ignored. Their numbers apparently were considered too 94
small to be important in the great scheme of things. In fact, the basketball star at Highlands University actually dated both a blonde Caucasian and a very darkskinned African American at the same time. A few males on campus envied him openly. The final irony for me, however, came the day I asked a pretty Hispanic coed on campus for a date and she spurned me by saying, â€œI donâ€™t date gringos.â€? So, now I was the object of racism. It has been said that familiarity breeds contempt, but where race relations are concerned, I believe the opposite is true. Lack of familiarity breeds ignorance, and ignorance leads to prejudice and discrimination. In a progressively shrinking world, people of different religions, cultures and ethnic groups are going to be interacting more and more. It is incumbent that we develop a healthy familiarity with each other. Not to do so will lead to the same problems of the past and more complicated problems in the future.
Richard King Perkins II Suffering Darkness at Sea We are not cast adrift in the murky blackness of night but lie swaddled in heavy layers of a damp grey blanket insulating and killing us simultaneously together as one.
Joan Colby Vanessa Atalanta Hundreds of Red Admirals flutter, an extravaganza in the flowering crab. Sweet nectar of spring. Migrations of the spirit. Storms to the west are greening an ominous sky. A butterfly lands on my flowered shirt. Discovers the error. Iâ€™m discovering whatâ€™s awry. A month early. Pale Fire of frost. These docile wings need no literary allusions, just stinging nettles for spawning. Their artistry: to shake blossoms into surrender while a tornado watch darkens the landscape. How it was never truth that transfixed beauty, but fear.
Contributors Joel Blumenau has been shooting photos, writing and drawing for decades to great self-acclaim. After publishing his art in Saturday Afternoon in the 1980’s, he only recently began releasing his work again and self-published a novel he wrote 25 years ago entitled Jerzey. He lives in the suburbs of Chicago with his wife, two daughters and a nervous dog. Rich Boucher lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Rich writes and performs steadily in the Duke City, and is the occasional Guest Editor of the weekly poetry column “The DitchRider” at DukeCityFix.com. Rich’s poems have appeared in HyperText, Visceral Uterus, The Mas Tequila Review, The Camel Saloon, Borderline, Brawler, The Eunoia Review, The Subterranean Quarterly and The Nervous Breakdown, among others. Hear his poems at richboucher.bandcamp.com.
Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, New York Quarterly, the new renaissance, Grand Street, Epoch, and Prairie Schooner. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, Rhino Poetry Award, the new renaissance Award for Poetry, and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She was a finalist in the GSU Poetry Contest (2007), , Nimrod International Pablo Neruda Prize (2009, 2012), and received honorable mentions in the North American Review’s James Hearst Poetry Contest (2008, 2010). She is the editor of Illinois Racing News, and lives on a small horse farm in Northern Illinois. She has published 10 books including The Lonely Hearts Killers, The Atrocity Book and her newest book from Future Cycle Press—Dead Horses. FutureCycle will
also publish “Selected Poems” in 2013. Kelly DuMar’s writing is inspired by nature, family, and her belief in the artistry of shared stories to transform individuals and communities. Her recent and forthcoming publications include fiction in Sliver of Stone, Open Road Review, Literary Mama, and Red Earth Review, as well as poems in Lingerpost, Blast Furnace, Emerge, and *82 Review, and short plays by Art Age and Foxing Quarterly. Kelly’s plays are produced around the US and Canada and published by a variety of dramatic publishers. She founded and produces the Our Voices Festival of Women Playwrights at Wellesley College, now in its 8th year. Her website is www.kellydumar.com Ali Eteraz is the author of the award-winning spiritual memoir Children of Dust (HarperCollins) and has been published in various literary journals. He spent his twenties in Philadelphia and has read his work at The Free Library. He is currently trying to adapt the Urdu ghazal into English and looks to Agha Shahid Ali and Mirza Ghalib as inspirations. Richard H. Fox was born and bred in Worcester MA. He attended Webster University, as much artist colony as college, in the early 1970’s. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous journals including Above Place, Boston Literary Magazine, OVS, Poetry Quarterly, Midstream Magazine, and The Worcester Review. For the past year, many of his poems have focused on cancer from the patient’s point of view drawing on hope, humor, and unforeseen gifts. His book Time Bomb will be published in 2013. Richard seconds Stanley Kunitz’ motion that people in Worcester are “provoked to poetry.” 99
Louis Gallo’s work has appeared in Glimmer Train, Berkeley Fiction Review, Missouri Review, Southern Quarterly, New Orleans Review, Mississippi Review, Portland Review, storySouth, Bellingham Review, Greensboro Review, Tampa Review, The Ledge, New Oregon Review, Pennsylvania Literary Review, Rattle, Baltimore Review, Texas Review, Wide Awake in the Pelican State (LSU fiction anthology), Rosebud, Portland Review, American Literary Review and many others. Chapbooks include The Abomination of Fascination and The Truth Changes. Poetry volumes include Halloween and Omens. He is the founding editor of the now inoperative Barataria Review and Books: A New Orleans Review. He has been a contributing editor of The Pushcart Press. He has received an NEA individual artist grant from the state of South Carolina. He teaches at Radford University in Virginia, where he lives with his wife and daughters. Leah Givens’ photographs have appeared in journals including The Colored Lens, The Bellingham Review, and Red Fez. Her work was shown in a juried exhibition at the St. Louis Artists’ Guild. Her educational background is primarily in medicine; she received her M.D. from Washington University in St. Louis and has focused on medical research. She is also a published author of short fiction and is revising a novel manuscript. Molly Gleeson spent seven years teaching English overseas, in China, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. She has been published on the websites waybeyondborders. com and modernloverejects.com, as well as a print magazine called The Ryder, published in her hometown, Bloomington, Indiana. She is currently working on a memoir of her time in Saudi Arabia, entitled My Heart is a Wilderness. Phyllis Green’s stories have appeared in Epiphany, Bluestem, Prick of the Spindle, 100
The Chaffin Journal, Rougarou, Orion Headless, apt, ShatterColors, Paper Darts, The Cossack Review, Empirical Magazine and other literary journals. She will have an upcoming story in Poydras Review. She is a Pushcart nominee and Micro Award nominee. Phyllis is a graduate of Westminster College, New Wilmington, PA and the University of Pittsburgh. Andrew Gretes is the author of the forthcoming novel, How to Dispose of Dead Elephants (Sandstone Press). His short stories and poems have appeared in Fiction Fix, The Monarch Review, and Emerge Literary Journal. He currently writes and lives in Washington D.C. Nels Hanson’s fiction received the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award and two Pushcart Prize nominations. Stories have appeared in Antioch Review, Texas Review, Black Warrior Review, Southeast Review, Montreal Review, and other journals. Poems are in press at Stone Highway Review, Word Riot, Paper Scissors Literary Magazine, Oklahoma Review, Heavy Feather Review, Citron Review, Scintilla, Emerge Literary Journal, Poetry Porch, Ilanot Review, Drunk Monkeys, and Hoot & Hare Review. Suzanne Highland is a graduate of Florida State University’s creative writing program, where she studied under poets Kara Candito and Erin Belieu, as well as Pulitzer Prize winning fiction author Robert Olen Butler. Her work has been published in The Kudzu Review and Petrichor Review. She’s currently living and working in Sarasota, Florida.
Aida Ibisevic was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. She moved to Washington DC area in 1995. Melodee Jarvis lives in Oakland and works at a suicide hotline in San Francisco, training new volunteers and staff on how to help people not kill themselves. Unsurprisingly, most of her poetry is about the Bay Area and/or death. Though most of her poetry sucks, she make really excellent nutritional yeast/sriracha/ curry popcorn, so at least she can be proud of one thing. Laura Story Johnson is an attorney working in human rights research and advocacy. Born and raised in Iowa, she has lived in New York City, bush Alaska, Mongolia, Boston, west of the Zambezi River in Zambia, and in Austria. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has most recently appeared in Great Lakes Review and Eclectica Magazine. She currently resides in Chicago with her husband and two children. www.laurastoryjohnson.com Yi Shun Lai is the fiction editor for the Los Angeles Review. Her non-fiction has been published at TheHairpin.com, Inlandia, the Christian Science Monitor, and Big Lucks, among others. Anthony J. Langford lives in Sydney Australia. He is a father and step-father. He writes novels, stories, poetry and makes video poems. Some of his recent publications include Ink, Sweat & Tears, Microliterature, Otoliths and bluestem. He works in television and has made short films, some of which have screened internationally. A novella, Bottomless River (2012) and a poetry collection, Caged without Walls (2013) are out through Ginninderra Press. A wide selection of his work can be found at www.anthonyjlangford.com 102
Eric Lutz is a writer of fiction, journalisms and essays. His work has appeared in Salon, Newcity and The Boiler Journal. He lives in Illinois. Jackie Anne Morrill lives in Worcester, Massachusetts and is a recent MFA graduate of Sarah Lawrence College. She holds a monthly reading and writing group for women with her fiancé called the Round Room Women’s Reading. Her work can be seen in The Ballard Street Poetry Journal, Amethyst Arsenic, elimae, The Legendary, The Boiler Journal, decomP, and Radius: Poetry from the Center to the Edge. Richard King Perkins II is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in longterm care facilities. He has a daughter, Sage. His work has appeared in hundreds of publications including Prime Mincer, Sheepshead Review, Sierra Nevada Review, Fox Cry, Two Thirds North and The Red Cedar Review. He has poems forthcoming in Bluestem, Poetry Salzburg Review and The William and Mary Review. Deborah Purdy lives in the Philadelphia area where she writes poetry and creates fiber art. She is originally from Virginia and holds BA and MA degrees from Hollins University, and a MSLS from Clarion University. She has been a research scientist and a librarian. Wiley Reading lives in a sunny house at the top of a hill with four delightful hippies and two grouchy buns. When he’s not writing or drawing, he reads the entire internet, cooks compulsively, and doesn’t take the same route to the grocery store twice, if he can help it.
Robyn Ritchie is a twenty-something in a midlife crisis who gets published sometimes. Her long-term goals include hanging out with the director of the Human Centipede movies and getting rich. Yvette A. Schnoeker-Shorb’s work has appeared in The Voices Project, Jelly Bucket, The Broken Plate, Spectrum, Inner Art Journal, Epiphany Magazine, Dark Matter: A Journal of Speculative Writing, Pedestal Magazine, Wilderness House Literary Review, Poydras Review, Red River Review, Entelechy: Mind & Culture, Blueline, Spillway Magazine, The Fine Line, Foliate Oak, and other journals and forums. Her poem, “Molts,” was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She holds an interdisciplinary MA from Prescott College and is co-founder of Native West Press--a 501(c)(3) nonprofit natural history press. Domenic Scopa is a philosophy student at Suffolk University. He has been published in several online and print journals and has worked with poets such as: David Ferry, Fred Marchant, and George Kalogeris. Domenic intends to finish his senior year and apply for graduate school with the intention of attaining an MFA in creative writing. James Seals earned his bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and English from the Southern New Hampshire University. He is currently pursuing an MFA in Fiction from SNHU. James’ stories have appeared in Forge Journal, Amoskeag Journal, and Rio Grande Review. His poetry has been anthologized in Measuring Twine: Poetry with Strings Attach. Dan Sklar teaches creative writing at Endicott College in Massachusetts. Recent publications include the Harvard Review, New York Quarterly, Ibbetson Street 104
Press, and The Art of the One-Act. Tim Suermondt is the author of two full-length collections: Trying to Help the Elephant Man Dance (The Backwaters Press, 2007 ) and Just Beautiful from New York Quarterly Books, 2010. He has published poems in Poetry, The Georgia Review, Blackbird, Able Muse, Prairie Schooner, PANK, Bellevue Literary Review and Stand Magazine (U.K.) and has poems forthcoming in Gargoyle, A Narrow Fellow and DMQ Review among others. After many years in Queens and Brooklyn, he has moved to Cambridge with his wife, the poet Pui Ying Wong. Charles F. Thielman: Born and raised in Charleston, S.C., moved to Chicago, educated at red-bricked universities and on city streets, Charles’ first reading of “Leaves of Grass” spawned a 4-month-long ’66 VW camper van journey to the west coast with Rudy, a black lab, in the passenger seat, Steinbeck and Kerouac garnishing the wind. Not a few of his other poems have been accepted by literary journals, such as The Pedestal, Poetry365, The Criterion [India], Poetry Salzburg [Austria], Gangway, The Oyez Review, Muse, Battered Suitcase, Poetry Kanto [Japan], Open Road [Planet Earth], Pastiche [England], Tiger’s Eye and Rusty Nail. His chapbook, Into the Owl-Dreamed Night, is available from Uttered Chaos Press, utteredchaos.org Larry Thomas is a member of the Texas Institute of Letters, and was privileged to serve as the 2008 Texas Poet Laureate. He has published several collections of poems, most recently Uncle Ernest (Virtual Artists Collective, Chicago, 2013) and Colors (Right Hand Pointing/online, 2013). My New and Selected Poems (TCU Press, 2008) was a semi-finalist for the National Book Award. 105
Henry Tonn is a semi-retired psychologist whose fiction, nonfiction, poetry, literary and book reviews have appeared in such print journals as the Gettysburg Review, Fifth Wednesday Journal, and Connecticut Review, and online publications such as Front Porch Journal, Summerset Review, and Newpages.com. Ronan Bennett short-listed Gabriel Valjan for the 2010 Fish Short Story Prize. Gabriel’s short stories and some of his poetry continue to appear in literary journals and online magazines. He won first prize in ZOUCH Magazine’s inaugural Lit Bits Contest. Winter Goose Publishing has published two of his novels in the Roma Series: Roma, Underground (Feb. 2011) and Wasp’s Nest (Nov. 2012). The novel, Threading the Needle, is scheduled for Oct. 2013. He lives in New England. Robert Wexelblatt is professor of humanities at Boston University’s College of General Studies. He has published essays, stories, and poems in a wide variety of journals, two story collections, Life in the Temperate Zone and The Decline of Our Neighborhood, a book of essays, Professors at Play; his novel, Zublinka Among Women, won the Indie Book Awards First Prize for Fiction. His most recent book is a short novel, Losses.
Poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and photography originally published in summer 2013