The Review Staff Editor: Meredith Davis Design Editor: Lisa Andrews Production Editor: Lisa Andrews Meredith Davis First Readers: Michael cooper Tiara DeGuzman Raven Eckman Ashley Hutson Ashley Marvel Xavier Vega
remember turning 10. It was a big deal. Finally, double digits. One of the big kids. Maybe this meant my older brother would stop messing with me and give me the respect a decade deserves. Maybe, but he didn’t. Still, I was pretty pumped to finally be 10 and on my way to eye liner, leg shaving, and hair dying. What did I know proper application, bleeding ankles, and chemical burns? At 10, 16 was looming ever closer and that was sure to be awesome. As Apeiron releases this tenth issue it’s not nearly as dramatic as being alive your first full decade, but it makes me think maybe we can get there. This past year has been busy for me personally and for us as a magazine as we gain more attention, have the opportunity to grow, and work with an ever shifting staff. We are small and fierce. One certainty remains: the words will come. I keep myself grounded in your words, and as long as they keep coming, I’ll still be here. Readers will be here too. Our readership continues to grow as we try
new things, change leadership roles, and maybe miss a self-imposed deadline or two. But that’s why I run my own publication. I can shift the deadline and break my own rules because I want it to be good, and so do you. This issue is special not only because it’s the 10th, but because it was more selective, took more time, and has such depth. The authors presented here you may have read before, or this may be the first time; it certainly won’t be the last. The stories and images will stay with you as they do with me – in my mind each its own ornament which hangs from a tree, as the sun, setting just behind, sends bars of final warmth and light through the colored glass leaves. My 10 year old self still lives there. Climbing high into that sunset tree to settle on a branch with stories and poems in hand. Escaping, for the moment, all the big brothers and adult duties of my life, breathing in the warmth and color of the light of your words.
Table of Contents P o etr y Verbs Farzana Marie.........1
Losing Elnora May Allison Albuno.........25
Between the Teeth A.D. Lauren...........2
Recently Defunct Poem Aaron Reeder....................26
Razor Perch Farzana Marie........3
Hunting Aaron Reeder........................27
The Broken Branch A.D. Lauren..............4
Canoga Park Christopher Eskilson................28
The River Lethe Laura Sullivan..........12
Mental Health Movies Cynthia Bargar.............................30
Before Dusk in the Herb Garden Yermiyahu Ahron Taub......................14
Clockwork Emily Teitsworth...........................31
The Empire of Silence Charles Rafferty...............16
Three Qualms Cynthia Bargar...........................32
Outside the Church with a Cigarette Jessica Tyson..............................................17
An Empty Playground Robert Fillman........................33
Movement, in Black and White Yermiyahy Ahron Taub...................19
Picking Green Beans with Lily Kelley Rossier..................................34
Flamethrower Michelle Brooks........................20
Expert William Aarnes........................35
One Summer Carl Boon................................21
Bottom Charles Rafferty........................36
Valdez, Alaska Juleenn Eun Sun Johnson..................22
Lower Garden District Beau Boudreaux..............40
Poe tr y Mata Hari Beau Boudreaux........................41
Seven Ways of Looking at a Nude Woman Todd Outcalt.........................................................79
Irony Sleeps Hot, One Leg Out Jessica Morey-Collins........................43
Loggerheads Keith Dunlap.......................80
â€”ectomy Carrie Beyer........................44
Sails S.C. Sirleaf..........................88
at the counter making meat Carrie Beyer..............................45
Heaven Has a Bike Shop Kaitlyn Crow.......................90
How to Touch a Woman Drew Attana......................46
Souvenir Samuel Ryan........................91
Bar Fight Drew Attana......................50
Precision Kayla Rae Candrilli.............94
Origins A.D. Lauren......................53
Sexual vs. Sensual Todd Outcalt........................95
The Outward Visible Sign Sarah Jefferis..........................63
A Boy Away From Home Katrina Kasch......................99
The Actor in a Play About Animals Danielle Cole..........................................64
In Conclusion, Before I Begin Steve Nickman......................100
Disorderly Abecedarian.10:Beware Devon Miller-Duggan............................67 The Rape Scarf Blake Love........75 Light Gabriel Furshong.................76
Fiction The Fine Art of Goldfish Kristie Smeltzer.........................5
To Summit or Not to Summit Fatima Jamal.....................58
Remodeling Bill Vernon........................23
Slugger Daniel Davis.....................59
1964 Davis Horner........................37
Shangri-La Angela Doll Carlson.....................65
After the Sail Joe Giordano.......................47
A New Trick James Hartman.......................77
God’s Plan Nick Hilbourn.......................52
Casas de Mercy and Love Michael Tesauro.......................83
What I Didn’t Know About Love Is the Sheer Terror Melissa Ritter.......................62
The Other Side of the Sill Debra Danz.......................92
Twelve Z.Z. Boone......................56 That’s Just Something People Say Tommy Dean.......................57
Thirteen Minutes C. Evans Mylonas.......................97
P h o to g ra p hy
The Unabridged Autobiography of Ron Riekki Ron Riekki....................................................................11
Eye Ariana Nelson................................18
Weekend Weather Davon Loeb............51
Blue Balloons Jennifer Lothrigel...............................29
My Childhood Ron Riekki............69
Labyrinth Rebekah Levin..................................42
Drought Caitlin Garvey.....................71
No Room Jennifer Lothrigel...............................68
A Bit Ron Riekki............89
High Point Apartments Kayla Rae Candrilli..........................81
Verbs Farzana Marie Verbs were different before. I locked doors, loaded washing machines, aimed for A’s, shot the moon. Sweep was for dust, not mines. I might have ordered a CreamSlush® from Sonic, enlisted someone’s help carrying a bookshelf up the stairs, engaged in conversation with a neighbor, jumped into the pool. March was a month, blouse was a noun worn by a woman, brief was an adjective encouraged in comments directly preceding lunch. I had not developed relationships with verb-preposition couples like dress down pack out form up If someone had said, fill in the blanks after these verbs I would not have said taps after play older after return suicide
Between the Teeth A.D. Lauren
She warmed in the chest of the knives withdrawn; we were friends, I blocked the exits. She is an expedition, canine or allegory caught in the window or between the teeth of wanderers. Un-clenched and patient the bone of the birdâ€™s neck would fly away when winter came. I foil my motherâ€™s suicide with subtle gestures. We are safe now. I block exits. She descends at dusk with an affectionate murmur and grapefruit juice. Borrowing time, I want to tell her all those pretty things to keep her.
Razor Perch Farzana Marie
Our pathways on camp are lined with walls topped with razor-studded wire loops. Always darting in and out, perching unperturbed between tiny swords the sparrows, the swallows, the warblers on their migrations do not miscalculate, are not caughtâ€” they are not, as we are, and as we hope our enemies will be, deterred by these obstacles. The birds find their way through the war. The dove builds her nest above the air conditioner cooling a metal shipping container containing an office. The poet sits among sandbags and writes, to the rhythm of rotary wings constantly landing and taking off, landing and taking off.
The Broken Branch A.D. Lauren
My grandmother said goodbye in another life, slipping when we begged her to accept our love. the blemish of losing wears itself on the pinkest of throats: not wounded or staggering towards the door to lock it - somethingâ€™s changed in us, in her forever. She needed her mother to collect words for her. We must grow to live with these fertile voids, they collect themselves in ritual mounds. Abraham forgives us: he drew the knife once too.
The Fine Art of Goldfish Kristie Smeltzer
On my way home from teaching at Phillips Prep, I see a yard sale with a table of bottles and jars. My wife, Mariel, is a photographer—an artist who gets completely lost in her work, which makes me worry for our children. We met in art school; now I teach art, and she makes art to sell, succeeding mostly. Her newest project involves colored glass bottles with wide mouths; that’s all I know. I stop to peruse the bottles. An interestingly shaped squat bottle would be perfect except it’s clear. A translucent brick red bottle would work but for its small mouth. None of the others are even close to the bottles Mariel’s been bringing home. A cobalt blue vase on another table catches my eye. In my former life, I was an oil painter, but it was too messy a profes-
sion. I’ve painted many an ocean, cobalt and other blues dancing in the waves. The vase is bigger than others Mariel brought home, but maybe it’ll work. The top is shaped like a Victrola cone, narrowing in the neck then expanding to a wide base. The vase’s shape and color please me, so I risk it and hand the yard sale’s proprietor two bucks. At home, Mariel’s in our backyard with the kids. She absentmindedly kisses my cheek, then resumes standing over the children, looking with one eye closed. Lana sprawls in the grass, wearing a bright orange kid bikini with torn clover stems strewn across her stomach. She laces tiny fingers through deep green, overgrown grass. Next to her in a teal kiddy pool, Zane squats, poking his reflection. On a lawn chair perch Mariel’s cam5
eras—el-cheapo digital Cannon for instant gratification, her heavy Nikon from college, loaded with black and white film, and her newer Nikon F6 with color. She jokes her love affair with Nikon glass started before we met. Mariel stands, one eye covered still, staring into the sun. Sometimes I worry she’ll forget the children entirely when she’s working. When they’re her art subjects, I fear she’ll leave them standing in a river half-naked for hours after she’s finished, like the fruit subjects of her college still lifes that remained fermenting and molding in her room until I threw them away. I would protest against her using the kids as models altogether if her work wasn’t so goddamn beautiful. Lana’s eight going on thirty, her big blue eyes angelic. Six year-old Zane looks like a wood sprite, all ribs and elbows, but his little biceps hint one day he’ll be the jock in high school the girls’ll cry over. Zane stands to greet me, but Mariel barks at him not to move. He cowers back down over the water and resumes poking. She grabs the college Nikon and snaps a few photos. I step closer, to see what she sees—get a sense of her perspective. Lana looks up, shielding her eyes from the sun with a hand, and says, “Dad, you’re in my light.” I step away from artist and subjects, pick up the cameras, and sit in the lawn chair. Mariel walks over, takes the Cannon, and trades me the old Nikon. “What’s that, Garfield?” 6
She points at the newsprint-wrapped vase. I’m surprised she noticed the package, or me for that matter. Her compositions consume her. I hand her the present. “Maybe it would work in your new project?” Mariel opens it. “Like the blue, but the vase’s neck’s too small.” She places the vase in my lap and strolls back over to the kids. “Zane, look at your reflection while you’re poking.” She takes some digital. “Better.” I am less necessary in the backyard studio than the lawn chair, so I go inside to start dinner. Soon Mariel will be spent and the children starved. Goodness knows when or what she’s fed them last. That’s an exaggeration; Mariel’s a fine cook. However, she prioritizes cooking, eating for that matter, below more creative pursuits. After starting marinara sauce, I swap work clothes for shorts and a T-shirt. Summer is most apparent in our garden—the common ground between Mariel and me. We tend plants and flowers with equal devotion. I pluck some basil leaves for the sauce. Mission accomplished, I inhale garden aromas for a moment: the sharp scent of tomatoes and green bell peppers. The sweet perfume of ripening strawberries. The wind shifts, and the mingled scents of the garden’s flowers reach me. The acrid odor of marigolds, Mariel’s darlings. The
sweeter smell of petunias, my favorite. Mariel wraps her arms around my waist, squeezes. She startles me because I had my eyes and ears closed, focusing all energy to my nose. She kisses the back of my neck. “I’ll pick some flowers for that lovely vase.” “I meant it to be part of your project. We have plenty of vases.” “It’s not right for the project. The thought was sweet.” This conversation is a re-run of previous discussions about my role in her art. My contributions are never right for her work. Mariel’s priorities rank art, kids, and then me, and though we share the kids, I feel left out entirely of her art. Mariel turns my face to hers and kisses my chin. “Don’t be sour.” I’m making an argument of a thank you, which is foolish. I sigh and let the point go. Again. I hold out the basil for Mariel to breathe in. “The sauce smells delectable, dear.” She strolls toward the flowers. “Check on the children in the bath. Zane felt cold, and Lana had clover in her navel.” The kids splash in the huge garden tub, swamping the bathroom rug as I enter. I’m grateful they are my children again and not models. “Look! Mom and me made it today.” Lana, naked except for her bracelet, holds her arm out for me to appraise it as if she were royalty. Zane dumps a cupful of water on her head. “Hey,” she squeals and pokes his stomach. “Dad,” Zane says, “Mom says you know about bookmaking. Can we make books this weekend?” “Your bracelet is lovely.” I kiss Lana’s pruney hand. “And you, buddy, are on for Saturday.” Lana giggles. Zane pumps his fist in the air and says yes a few times. They are such characters. I wonder which bits of their personalities came from Mariel and me, and which are from cosmic dust, past lives—whatever fills in the gaps. I say, “Finish washing your parts. I’ll be back in a few to help you dry off.” As I leave, Lana
commands Zane to wash his parts from ears to toes. Bossiness she gets from her mother. In the kitchen, Mariel arranges cadmium yellow and perinone orange marigolds in the cobalt vase. She washes her hands then breaks spaghetti and eases it into a pot of boiling water. I say, “Tell me about your project, please.” “I’ll surprise you.” Mariel stirs the pasta. “I hate surprises.” I pause. “I like being part of the planning. Like I’m part of the process too.” “You are, even when you don’t know it.” She pats my cheek. “Garfield, finish the garlic bread. I’ll retrieve the babes. They must be pruney.” *** The next day when I arrive home from work, Zane sits crying on the front stoop.“What’s the matter, buddy?” I sit and wrap my arm around his shoulders. He looks up, heaves in a sob. “’M in trouble. Go see Mom.” He sobs again, hangs his head. I cannot effectively comfort him until I know the whole story, so I head into the house. After dropping off my briefcase and loosening my tie, I find Mariel and Lana in the backyard. Lana, wearing a forest green fairy costume with pale blue gossamer wings, drapes over a branch like a jungle cat. Below her, as a safety precaution I assume, sits the kids’ Sponge Bob Square Pants beanbag chair. Lana plucks maple leaves and casts them into the breeze, where they flutter exposing their kelly green topside and pale underbellies. I say, “What’s Zane’s story?” “Good,” Mariel says. “Now that you’re home Lana and I can go get actual work done.” Lana wraps her arms around the branch and swoops down, like a fairy-monkey. She swings back and forth a moment before she expertly misses the beanbag chair and lands on her feet. I suppress an urge to clap at her dismount. She’s in cahoots with her mother, and her mother’s in a huff. “What happened?” “He’s making me nutso. I can’t work when he won’t listen.” Mariel picks up her cameras and nods 7
at Lana to go into the house. “You sent our son off bawling because he’s not following your artistic direction?” “Don’t go superior on me.” “Mariel—” She cuts me off. “I don’t wanna get into this now. I’m taking Lana to the park to finish these shots before the light sours.” Mariel shoves past me toward the house. Lana hovers in the doorway, pirouetting. “Dammit, stop,” I say. “Listen to yourself.” Mariel barks at Lana: “Inside.” Lana scurries in. Mariel walks back and gets in my face. She speaks slowly through clenched teeth. “Not. Now.” She turns and storms through the house with Lana chas8
ing after. I hurl the beanbag chair against the house. We never make a clear run through this topic. The plastic kiddy pool buckles and cracks from the water’s weight as I overturn it and kick it repeatedly. I sigh. I have a job to do—I have to stop being the enraged husband so I can be the comforting dad. On the stoop, Zane sits, dry-eyed. He holds his head in a hand and drags his toe across the concrete step below him. I sit next to him. He says, “Mom’s real mad.” “She’s mad at me, big guy.” I shoulder bump him. “I climbed higher in the tree than she said. Wanted to see how high I could get, but she said
I was out of the shot. She yelled I could get hurt.” Zane looks up, eyes brimming. I feel as if my tie were still on, cinched too tight, causing a dull suffocating ache to spread from my neck down into my chest. Mariel’s patience for Zane dissipates when she’s focused on artist-ing instead of mothering. He says, “I’ve never not been in trouble a day in my whole life.” What abominable things we parents are. What a burden of power we bear. Intentions meaningless, our capacity to hurt our children is infinite. Poor Zane’s been on the receiving end more and more lately. Just this summer, he’s gotten in trouble and upset over something insignificant at least ten times. I rub tear trails from Zane’s cheeks. “I’m going to tell you something, a man-to-man secret.” Zane nods, leans closer until our knees touch. “Mom won’t be mad anymore when she gets back. Anger’s like snow, it melts unless a person tries to keep it cold on purpose. But love—love’s like the geode in your room. It’s hard and beautiful and can survive just about anything.” Zane says, “Even lava?” Of course he doesn’t understand. I’m making a lame extended metaphor to explain love to a six year-old—trying to express an idea I don’t understand. “Sure,” I say, “Even lava.” The neighbor’s sprinkler clicks on. The sound makes me feel lighter, eases the ache in my chest. As a child, we had a sprinkler toy that my brother, Lincoln, and I spent an entire summer running through until we were so pruney and grass-stained that Mom made us come inside each day. I’ll replace the kids’ pool with a sprinkler toy. Even after sunset, the girls haven’t returned. I feed Zane grilled cheese and tomato soup then set him up in the family room with his Spy Kids DVD. In the kitchen, I load the dishwasher. The room feels too quiet, so I turn on the washer. Mariel and Lana come home and find me in the kitchen. Mariel says, “Where’s Zane?”
I tell her he’s watching a movie. She and Lana go to the family room, and I hear them all laughing. Mariel returns to the kitchen. Apparently she’s warmed to Zane but kept her anger for me on ice. I lean on the counter and look out the window. “Garfield, sometimes I don’t know what to say to you.” “It’s one thing that I rank below photography to you—it’s another thing to do that to the kids.” “What is it with men and hierarchies? I love plenty of things. I don’t spend time pondering which I love more than others.” I turn and face her. “It’s great to hear you say that, but the things you do don’t fit.” “If you’d shut up and stop being such a judgmental bastard, you’d see there’s no line between my family and my art.” I turn my back, put my hands flat on the counter to steady myself. I can’t look at her while I say this thing I’ve minced words about too long. “I don’t want you to say something to Zane—something you’ll forget the minute it leaves your lips—that he’ll wait his whole life for you to take back.” “What the hell are you saying?” she says. She steps toward me, but I choose not to turn. “Zane said to me today that he’s been in trouble every day of his life.” Mariel interrupts, “That’s not true.” “It doesn’t matter what’s true; what Zane believes is what matters.” Mariel places her hand between my shoulder blades. “We’ll make mistakes. All parents do. But I want us to do all we can to—” Mariel says, “I hear you.” She rubs my back. “I get it.” “Yeah?” “You want us to do all we can to not ruin them,” she says. “I hear you.” Mariel walks upstairs before I turn. I expected to feel relief, but I’m weary. After putting the kids to bed, I join Mariel in our room. We make up. 9
I watch fan blade shadows flicker on the ceiling. “Tell me about the new project.” Before drifting off, Mariel says, “Garfield, tomorrow afternoon all will be revealed.” *** The next day, I go through my routine. Wake, make breakfast, work. Phillips Prep offers optional summer programs, but kids don’t want to be in summer school even for art classes. Each summer we slog through, and my reward is one or two standout pieces that make kids realize they’re talented. The day is without such an event. I speed five over the limit on the way home, anxious to understand what Mariel’s been up to. At home, I rush through and drop my things on the kitchen counter. In the yard, Mariel stands, back to me, looking at the maple tree. Without turning, she says, “Perfect timing.” A dozen bottles hang from the tree’s branches. Inside them, goldfish swim. The afternoon sun shines through the glass, casting pools of brick red, yolk yellow, and other colors of light filled with darting fish shadows onto a white sheet spread on the grass. Zane and Lana lie at the sheet’s edge. They reach out, trying to catch shadow fish. A breeze blows through the branches, and the projected colors move as well as the fish. Dancing stained glass. Zane says, “Mom says we can keep the fish, if it’s okay with you.” “Please, Daddy?” Lana says. Mariel turns. “See that.” She points out a deep blue splash on the sheet. “Found the last bottle today.” “Dad?” Zane looks at me. Lana, too. I laugh. When do I ever say no to their whims— Mariel’s or the children’s. I’m the practical man. “Of course. We’ll have to get a proper tank for so many.” “Better shoot this while the light’s perfect, before the fish boil.” Mariel grabs the digital camera and snaps a test shot, which pleases her, so she hands the camera to me and picks up the Nikon with color 10
film. She points the lens at Zane. “You know you’re my favorite male model ever, right?” Zane smiles wide and reveals the hint of a dimple in his left cheek; Mariel snaps a shot. I set the Cannon down. I’ll see Mariel’s prints later. For now I enjoy the scene before me. Mariel shoots the kids trying to catch the fish; then they lie on the sheet, a rainbow of orbs and fish shadows dancing across their bodies. After a half-hour the sun shifts, the light’s angle no longer perfect. Mariel sighs. She collects cameras and tells the kids to get up and shake out the kinks. They run around the yard, chasing each other and screaming—models no more. I pull Mariel to me and kiss her. “Beautiful. Wouldn’t have got it if you’d told me.” “I know.” She watches the children a moment. “Will you help them get the fish down? A bath is calling me.” I tell her I will. In the kitchen, the kids and I fill large bowls with cool water. I cut the twine attaching bottles to branches and hand them to the kids. They take the bottles, one-by-one, and get the fish into bowls. After the fish are safe, I send the kids off to get dressed. The maple tree I’d always found so simple and lovely now looks bland. An ordinary thing that was extraordinary moments ago. I fall in love with Mariel again. I fall in love with the childhood we’re creating together for Lana and Zane. Inside I find the blue bottle Mariel bought for me and cut a length of twine. In the backyard, I hang the bottle from the maple. The sunlight has faded, a faint blue blob all the bottle creates now. But tomorrow, the afternoon’s brilliant sunrays will shine through, and the sapphire blue light dancing in the breeze will remind me.
The Un abr i d g e d Autobi o g raphy of R o n R ie k ki Ron Riekki
I have three jobs. They all pay minimum wage. I work at a prison as an EMT. I work for an ambulance company. I work as a janitor. I have a Ph.D. in English. My Ph.D. is bleeding. I’m trying to tourniquet my past. I get home so tired that I feel like the letters of goodbye. On Tuesday, an inmate spat in my face. They did a worker’s compensation for it. The doctor said I’ll be fine. He said that I won’t get HIV. I won’t get hepatitis. He said he’s seen a hundred guys come in with spit on their face and all he tells them to do is wipe it away. I wipe it away. I go to my closet apartment. I sleep on my closet bed. I wake up. I eat my closet cereal and then I write this before work. I rush to write this. I skip sleep to write this. We have three patients in one day at the ambulance company. They’re all psych patients. They’ve been Baker Acted. The first one tells me he was trying to climb out a window. He asks me why it’s a big deal if all he wanted to do was climb out a window. The window was on the sixth floor. He said he wasn’t going to jump. I ask him if he was going to fly. No, he tells me, he can’t afford a plane ticket, not at those prices. He tells me he lost his job. He says he’s trying to find a job. I think of lost-and-founds. I think of a box filled with jobs and the Baker Act patient going through the box and only finding plumbing and actuaries and dentistry and all the things he’s never done, throwing mathematicians and motivational speakers to the side to get to the bottom of an empty box. The second person tried to kill himself with pencil shavings. He swallowed pencil shavings. He doesn’t talk. I see pencil shavings on his pants. His jacket has pencil shavings. I imagine him years later, unable to use anything but pens.
Suicide is stupid, I think. I’m hurrying to write this. I don’t have time to tell you about the third patient. When I work as a janitor, I occasionally slip and tell them I have a Ph.D. They always look at me like I’m insane. They look at me as if I have pencil shavings in my eyes, as if I’m on a sixtieth-story window and I’m trying to get a plane ticket. I bend over and pick up a pop can and put it in the garbage. I’m paid the same to do this as I’m paid to try to take a b.p. at the prison. The same minimum wage. The sphygmomanometers at the prison don’t work. They have holes in them. We guess their blood pressure. They pay me to not take blood pressures. The nurse there tells me that they shouldn’t have gone to prison if they want their blood pressure taken correctly. He says blood pressures are for people who don’t kill, for people who don’t rob banks. He speaks like this even after I leave the nursing station and it is empty. He speaks to the walls. The inmates speak to the walls. In prison, everyone speaks to the walls. I’m about to head there. I’m about to go speak to the walls for a twelve-hour shift. For now, I’m speaking to you. I’m telling you about America. I’m telling you what doesn’t work. I’m telling you that some people win the lottery and some people can’t get the Coke off their hands. It sticks like depression. I don’t care. I’m going to keep living until I die. And even after that, I’ll still try to write as fast and as much as I can until they send me to another Hell.
The River Lethe Laura Sullivan
Our house was one block south of Lock No. 4, where a boat traveling upriver would slip into a limestone vault and wait to be raised over the dam by a swell sluicing under the gates, or a boat going the other way would wait for the bottom to slowly fall out. Just below the lock at the concrete plant, the river bottom was dredged then chugged up a steep conveyor belt dumping sand into one of two towering piles, twin pyramids along our drab tannic Nile destined to be swept into batches of slurry churned in truck bellies that poured the stuff out as driveways, foundations, vaults. Every couple of years the bottom overtook the top, mud and silt dragged by a swollen current overstepping its banks, oozing under doorsills, barging through windows, plastering dregs all over anything still there after the water crept back where it belonged leaving every house in its wake a spent tea bag caked with sludge that cemented the bottom of our shoes to the floor. Once a tornado grabbed the river from its bed, double knotted the beer-bottle-brown current like a shoestring then smacked it back down right where itâ€™d been in a pyrotechny spray of water, sand and flat rocks.
All those years just down the street, yet none of us ever dipped even a toe in the water much less touched bottom, never once cast for shad or those storied six-foot muskie, never walked over the Singing Bridge without white-knuckling whatever was ours to carry across. Instead we looked down over the bridge rails at debris bobbing on the surface and wondered whose lives those scraps had been tethered to before they were picked off to be either ferried irretrievably downstream or sunk into the muck vault of river bottom, buried in so much sediment that even if some resolute dragnet could ever winch it all back up weâ€™d be left with nothing weâ€™d recognize as anything other than waterlogged, mud-crusted, unredeemable loss.
Before Dusk in the Herb Garden Yermiyahu Ahron Taub
There is a time of day when the herb garden green of my bathroom is not folly, when the remarks of friends— one: that she could never apply make-up against this backdrop, and of another: that these walls evoke pea soup, and of another: that it needs to be changed immediately for there should be a law with a heavy fine levied against walls this color and of a gentle yet another: that the color is really not so terrible— do not sting and do not linger in soap or skin but are only periodically examined from within a desk drawer There is a time of day when the herb garden green of my bathroom is not folly, when I recall the excitement of the moment of color selection in the big box store, the whirling/weaving of elements on the wheel/loom, my need to bring garden indoors, to feel myself nude daily in green, my wish to heighten the green of the Yiddish poster announcing sports tournaments of muscular Jews who would not long thereafter likely have been felled into mass graves in the forests of Poland or elsewhere, and I am reminded of the forest’s ability to heal and to conceal There is a time of day when the herb garden green of my bathroom is not folly, when the beige-ness that preceded it does not at all beckon when the privilege of ownership of home, however small it may be, of finally having entered adulthood and of having made it as defined in a land of plenty (for some), is laced, but not doused, with ambivalence, for yes the bathroom is quite small, and the floor tiles so worn, and the bathtub surround and the sink countertop are so very plastic and it’s really the bank that owns all of this anyway
There is a time of day when the herb garden green of my bathroom is not folly, when the rays of the setting sun beam through the window and transform the walls into panels of green gold brightness and I am walking whitely after bath into a grove of leaf and quiet whispered to by Jewish athletes doing chin-ups in the forests of Poland and all that I have known to be folly final and irrevocable is mere mistake, and perhaps minor at that, or perhaps simply steps on a path pebbly, to be embraced in the light of ebbing day.
The Empire of Silence Charles Rafferty The smoke of the snuffed candle is twice silent. It cannot be seen as it moves among the cellos and clarinets in the house of the blind musician.
Outside the Church with a Cigarette Jessica tyson found text from various translated signs
Because you are dangerous, you must not enter. This entrance closes punctually in every afternoon, leaves the garden pleased to walk one, two months, asks the outside smoking section Please don’t stay here— your visit is our pleasure and your smoke is damaging. Grass has feelings too, don’t tread on them. Cremates of greenness, prunes of longing. No explanations inside the church. The .mp3 prayer praises the load. You aim for an unmannered imagination. The cool cowboy flicks his cigarette butt into the street, but he lives in an old movie. Now, life is living you.
EYE ARIANA NELSON
MOVEMENT, IN BLACK AND WHITE YERMIYAHU AHRON TAUB
The photograph finds you so. A tendril or two have escaped your cornflower-bordered kerchief. You sit on the back stoop of a rowhouse; an air conditioner protrudes from the kitchen window. A childâ€™s arm reaches forever across your lap. There is a particular model of car in the left-hand corner that scatters grains of bitterness on this genealogical moment. You are looking away into action occurring beyond the frame. There are children whose games hover on the brink of quarrel. There is a husband whose underwear will soon need placement on the line. You try to remember the whereabouts of clothes pins. There are dresses that require mending, although your own on this day drapes elegantly over your crossed legs. All of this is somehow apparent from the trajectory of certain lines around your turned-away mouth, certain etchings in your turned-away brow. And from hands, mapped by calluses and veins, that even in stillness, seem without rest, searching for signposts, en route to the next task. These are hands that have learned to improvise, to conjure, to repair. They are rarely without food or utensil or article of clothing. And so the still hands, or rather the still itself, becomes a film viewed, a moving picture as they say, whirring quietly in the cinema of memory. Except your eyes. Only these are off limits. Perhaps it is the angle of the camera, the photographer racing to capture what we may never know. Perhaps it is the guarding of self, the retreat of the subject: not me, surely not me. Here are these others. Mother, there is no need to look at the camera. Even caught unawares, you are prepared. Even in contour and still I see you.
FLAMETHROWER MICHELLE BROOKS
If I were a weapon, I’d be a Molotov Cocktail, poised in the hand of a revolutionary. Cheap and easy to make, I’d explode once, sacrificing the container to set the known world ablaze. And if I were a potion, I’d be truth serum, and you’d tell me secrets that you had concealed even from yourself. I’d infect your blood with the promise of liberation. And if I were a plant, I’d be Poison Hemlock streaked with purple and red. Who knows? Maybe you’d pick me, mistaking me for something harmless.
ONE SUMMER CARL BOON
One summer, when you’re older and your fearless nature stilled by logic and care, I’ll be waiting near the hillside with a towel and a way to bring you home. We’ll remember what it meant to dive among the Devil’s Rocks— the wash of ruthless waves, the dangers of being young, the lovely, necessary disrespect. But for now I sit and watch the sea. You are lunging at the shoreline. Evening will revisit the islands and the bays, the boys treading in sandals past the fence where the stones since winter have rearranged themselves. You are laughing in your stillindomitable skin, daring me the places I’m afraid to go.
VALDEZ, ALASKA JULEEN EUN SUN JOHNSON
A place where rain came down washing color sideways. The town sounds muffled by cloud covers held by the Chugach Mountains created by glaciers 100 million years ago. No one fights in an empty bar. Vacant except for mice and memories of unkept carpet, still sheds its top layer or maybe the damp air has helped the vegetation to grow green where the stage lights opened up the night to music. My kindergarten ears listen to rock music. I practice sets with the bands. I dance on wood checkered floor. I gave my unexpecting baby dolls liquor in bottles and watch them take in liquid through plastic mouths. At 12-years- old my parents paid me to clean the bathrooms in the bar. I never got the stink out of the urinals. Vomit in pieces on the floor, filled with chunks of tomatoes. I knew the strings of white were once noodles, now resembled shoe laces. A piss stain rang out as a beam of light, out of Dial hand soap onto the dirtied floor. The St. Pauli Girl mirror, the Genesis sign, and the Neon Alaskan Amber sign have been auctioned off. My youth online or sold to other bars in town. A pig rotates over an oven. A fat lip filled with an apple.
REMODELING BILL VERNON
Ruth parks our Olds halfway up the driveway, and out of the corner of my eyes I can see her standing there watching me. I continue working and don’t look up at her until she comes over, stares down at me, and says, “Charlie, what do you think you’re doing?” “I had a dream that there’s gold in our yard, and I intend to find it.” Then I grin widely, imitating the way she seems to think of me at times. Ruth appears to be rooted dead center in the triangle of the three holes I’ve dug. The piles of dirt are almost as high as her hips. She stares at me, then shakes her head. “Oh, Charlie.” I lean on my spade and soften my expression into a sly smile. “We’re gonna be rich.” “Please stop it and come inside.” “Nothing in there. It’s all out here.” Ruth shakes her head again, then looks across the street behind me and waves. I look around and there’s Dave and Beth Ann
Philpot, walking down their sidewalk from their front door. They must’ve already waved at Ruth. They walk to their old Mercedes at the curb and Dave shouts, “Whatta you got, drainage problems!?” “No! I’m digging for---” Ruth shouts, “It’s all fixed now!” Dave nods, Beth Ann smiles, they get in their car and drive off. Ruth tells me, “It’s supper time.” “Look what I already found.” I fish the watch out of my pants pocket and try to hand it to her. It hangs limp from between my index finger and thumb, dirt-encrusted silvery frame, twisted cloth strap that’s broken apart in the middle, shattered crystal face. She stares at it, then me, and a hint of moisture seems to be gathering near her right eye. I put it back in my pocket, stab the earth with the point of the shovel right in front of her 23
toes, and tell her to move. “I think you’re a sign. The gold must be right under where you stopped.” She looks down, then up at me, and takes a deep breath. She thinks a minute, then laughs. I grin back like an idiot. She says, “Okay, I think I get it. Have it your way. I won’t insist on remodeling the house.” “It’s okay. The gold will pay for it.” I dig the shovel in somewhat deep. She sounds somewhat uncertain, maybe desperate, saying, “I said the remodeling’s off.” “I told you it was a bad idea even if your sister’s visit was a sign you needed to do it.” The shovel slips in my hands to extend limply away at arm’s length. “You sure?” She just nods. I say, “Well, if that’s settled, what’s for dinner?”
“You can just take me out to eat.” I go to the nearest pile and start on it. “What’re you doing now?” she asks. “Got to fill in the holes for those roses.” I nod toward the lilac bushes that partially hide the flowers. She looks there, sees them, then glares at me. I say, “One for each hole and then I’m done, but these holes are a little too deep.” “Sometimes I think you’re too deep, Charlie. And sometimes I wish you were at the bottom of a hole just like these.”
Losing Elnora May Allison Albino
After everyone left, the nurse said, “We’ll take good care of her” meaning they would wheel her to the morgue so that a man could pick her up, burn her down to two plastic boxes of gray ash no different from that which falls from a cigarette or from burning wood. Two boxes in a white plastic bag like Friday take-out. We would carry Mom home put her on the dining room table a centerpiece in an altar of condolence cards. She stays there and collects dust. Not like the mausoleums of spiral staircases or marble floors with the echo of churches Not like the crosses high enough to prick blood from clouds Not like oak coffins of brass handles, silk pillows— no weeping, organs, processions of black cars The dead do not fight over their mourners, over how many bouquets are left or how well a grave’s tended, a rosebush or a plot of weeds; they don’t attend their own funerals. The dead have their own agenda. To go, to leave in peace and in fury, without permission without looking back.
Recently Defunct Poem Aaron Reeder
When the news in a white coat was unchained and charged through the door, he almost caught it in his left hand. He was to die in his acquired yellow skin. They began prodding with their ‘forgive me’ and ‘this box is for your teeth.’ At the finish of the exam he wanted to send something addressed to those deciding how to save his remaining landfill body, or ask if they could start with his stiff hand because of how bad it made is writing—a joke oiled monthly like a red rag caught in a serpentine belt and tossed through the engine, or the starter rigged full of quit. He asked me to write down what I understood to be his pressing concerns. I asked what he wanted to call this document. Call it the gospel. Call it breaking bread, or all the shit us kids lost under the car’s back seat. It was a symptom. The sudden outbursts of nothing and profanity. Remember my affection, he said once, for the coast and cold Pepsi. My body is wilting, and if this is the beginning of my last words, call them wildflowers from now on. He asked how he could fit a broom into his story.
Hunting Aaron Reeder
When they say you’ll be buried with your hands crossing your chest, you think of the beauty left behind. Months before my father dies I want to be a tongue in a hunter’s mouth. Or the hunter weaved into the hills and say I found what I was looking to kill, to say I masked my scent in the quarry of his still fading flower tattoos. The cysts buried in my knuckles didn’t keep me from pulling the smoothness of the rifle’s blue trigger, didn’t keep me from tracking the shadow’s clicking jaws. We can sit passing the gut knife around. I want to say I can come home—the messy job of hunting done. But tonight I make my hands in the shape of a crown, hold them over my head. Like a streetlamp, steal a little light from each day. Where there is a gate to pass through, hold the moon up a little longer, I’ve worn its chill around the room. This has become the weather of my name.
Canoga Park Christopher Eskilson
Grandpa would retire the flag when dusk came over. He’d walk through the turquoise of the front door, and he’d struggle, only slightly, to turn the worn handle with a hand made blue by the slow veins painting the translucent paper palette that was his skin. He’d cross the browns and greens which were his lawn, sometimes swampy from the spurting-spewing of the sprinklers that he could not fix forever towards his nation’s symbol, drooping nobly in the hot and windless air of the San Fernando Valley, where life is 80 degrees but still feels cold and lonely in the sea of homes and houses that never seems to end. He’d take the flag out of its beige holder on the beige wall of the beige house and grasp the yellow, chipping wood that was the pole and circle that scratchy fabric of the stars and stripes around it and around it Clean and careful as the solider that he was so long ago in a war that meant something then and something now. He would walk back with America in the care of his tired, skinny arm that was always protected by the Members Only, and he would set the piece in its silent corner of the house where it slept until the morning. 28
Blue Balloons Jennifer Lothrigel
Mental Health Movies Cynthia Bargar
After the movie, the ladies room line. A woman asks how I liked it. I say, it was good. She tells me to see Love & Mercy, “another mental health movie.” She finds these fascinating, “probably, because I’m a former mental health worker.” I like them too, I tell her, probably because I’m a former mental patient. Silence & a hand shake. Out in the lobby, Nick with three strangers. One apologizes, as if she were guilty of something, “we were just chatting.” The movie spoke to her, “I’m bipolar, just like the father!” Her troubles began at forty. Oh, I was younger, I say, locked up at 26. Back then, they called it manic depression. “What are you on? What are you on?” – frantic – “lithium, like him? I took it for two days, terrible.” I took it for six years, I tell her. “You know we’re miracles, don’t you, don’t you?” she pleads.
Clockwork Emily Teitsworth
When I turn to you and touch your cheek, your eyes open. I tell you that I ripped off my skin. You ask why. Want to know what I found underneath? I say, rusted clockwork and chrysanthemums You kiss me and it feels like I am filling with tar that keeps sticking to the mismatched gears that keep me breathing.
In the morning, I need your help to stretch my skin back over my ribs so I can hide my wilting lungs. Later, you are making me coffee and when I look into the empty mug there are rusted thumbtacks instead of coffee stains.
Three Qualms Cynthia Bargar First Qualm Before I traveled through a body into a body, who was I? — Kazim Ali Water exhausted, unable to breathe. Aching for a heart to listen — heart to see the surface. Heart to hover over the strange & tiny sea. Heart unblended. Heart bruised: for thrift, limbs, organza. Like breath on a mirror. Second Qualm She saw herself bereft of body. — Susan Howe In the moment of falling I blame cobblestones; pale baby in a padded helmet squirming in the stroller, lips parched and cracked; a tiny bird under the left front wheel — a few bloody feathers in the gutter. Third Qualm I don’t remember anything. You don’t either. — Michael Burkard
Girl in a locket, a trace, a stone. I polish the stone carry it in my pocket wear it around my neck. When I swap her for a glass globe two dewy irises glisten on my windshield tucked under the wipers — buds about to burst.
An Empty Playground Robert Fillman
October has fallen into our laps again, and the summer-green leaves are moved to turn. At noon the playground is empty, no wild shrieking laughter, children in school. We sit on a hard wooden bench in a suburban park after a period of rain and slouch into each other, our legs crossed into a loverâ€™s knot. A rust red flow of leaves trickles to our feet, lays on gray concrete, contracts, darkens like a wet rag. Some catch, cling to the jean of your thigh. But their light touch canâ€™t soften the pain of another long month trying any more than I can round a belly.
Picking Green Beans with Lily Kelley Rossier
like we used to do together you and i before you died and we stopped putting things together basil garlic olive oil pine nuts my italian grandmother asked when are you going to start cooking again so we drove to the farm and picked green beans lily and i tunbridge hill vermont a place where you and i went contra dancing spinning barefoot my skirt twirling out laughter how will i ever be okay again picking green beans with lily the wind blowing the scent of tarragon
Expert William Aarnes
On Thursday night, when his step-mother made his father’s weekly call, the boy explained he’d been watching the news with his mom and decided he’d grow up to be an expert on disaster debris. He thought he’d start with maybe a set of mixing bowls. He planned to crash them on the garage floor, take pictures of how they scattered, sweep up the pieces, and see how well they fit together. His stepmother agreed to send money—enough for a few bowls. She wanted to warn him about shards but guessed his mom already had. So she encouraged him: “We’ll expect reports on what you find.” Then she wished she’d hung up before telling him it’s rarely a mistake to suspect human error.
Bottom Charles R afferty
The bottom of the moon is always turned toward usâ€”even as it floats through daylight on the other side of the world. We look up, and it desolates the cities and the fields alike. Ice light. Bone light. There are many things that canâ€™t be helped: the wave moving toward the shore that will destroy it, the smoke leaving the source of itself. I toss a penny and a wish over the starboard bow. They head for the mud that calls them.
D AV I S H O R N E R
spent this summer in Mississippi with Uncle Ted and Aunt Emma Kolb. This summer, for me, was all about the Beatles and Karen Claxton. Uncle Ted and Aunt Emma are pretty lenient people, so they didn’t see anything wrong with my going to see A Hard Day’s Night, and taking Karen Claxton on kind of a date to go see it with me. The last time I saw Karen was last Christmas when my family came to Jackson for a visit and we went over to the Claxton’s house. All of the grown-ups and my older sister and Karen’s older sister and brother left the house to go do something and left me to watch over Karen and her friend Amelia. Well I watched them all right! And they gave me something to watch I tell you. Admittedly they were both in fifth grade and I was in sixth, so there wasn’t all that much to see you could say. It was still a very entertaining hour I spent with those two. After they had showed me pretty much everything they had to show, I told them I had a secret to tell each of them and for them to come over
so I could whisper it in their ear. And then I kissed them. On the mouth. They were still giggling and blushing when the grown-ups came back. Sorry, I’m supposed to be telling about my summer, not last Christmas. But that’s who Karen Claxton is. She is red hot, although nobody knows that about her except me and I guess Amelia. We were getting ready for me and Karen to go to the movie so Aunt Emma bought me a free haircut. I tried to tell the barber on the sly to leave my bangs so they would keep growing like the Beatles, but Aunt Emma told him what she wanted and that was that since, after all, she paid for it. I really liked the movie too. The Beatles were running all over this train station and singing their songs. It had some funny gags too. I held Karen’s hand for a while, and I kissed her twice. I really enjoyed being with her again. That was the only time I saw her, but I kept thinking about her all summer. What my summer was really all about was spending time and doing things with my aunt and uncle. 37
It was about lazy days on the houseboat. My aunt and uncle’s houseboat stayed at a marina on the Pearl River Reservoir, and we spent as much time as possible out on the water. It was in the process of getting named the “Ross Barnett Reservoir” for the governor, but my aunt and uncle kept calling it the Pearl River Reservoir, I think because they thought the governor was kind of an idiot. My uncle showed me how to syphon gas from the can into the tank without getting a mouthful of gasoline. He showed me how to tie the right kind of knots when the boat docked. I also learned a little bit about how to cuss from him, which he couldn’t keep from doing if something went wrong or he got frustrated. The day he did get a mouthful of gas was the day I learned several new cuss words. One day he gave me the steering wheel of the boat and coached me on how to steer it. He had learned all about boats in the U.S. Navy during the war. He eventually had become a submariner aboard the USS Grouper in the central Pacific, and used to see dead Japs floating in the water when the sub would surface. It was funny how he didn’t really want to talk about it much. Oh yes, my Aunt Emma taught me things too. She taught me as much or more about fishing than Uncle Ted did – how the rod and reel worked, and the proper motion and wrist-flick for an effective cast. She taught me how to play five card stud and blackjack – something my dear Baptist parents would never have imparted to me even if they knew how. The reservoir was a man-made lake, but Mississippi summer had already taken it over. We spent nights anchored in a cove, listening to the plop of catfish and bass, and the choirs of a million frogs filling up the ears of the night. It was so humid that sweat formed on your face even when you were sitting still. There were also adventures on the land. We always had to go to Low and Pearl’s for fried catfish. Fried everything, really. I would have sworn they fried the cole slaw and iced tea as well as the fish, hush puppies, potatoes, and onion rings. If the weather was clear Aunt Emma took me to the 38
Country Club to swim. I met friends there – kids I had met during past summers. We would chew the fat and play games and do the cannonball and jackknife off of the low dive. One night all three of us dressed up and went to have dinner at the Country Club – filet mignon and all the trimmings. In 1964, Mississippi was still under the Prohibition law. Uncle Ted and Aunt Emma could order bourbon and Scotch whiskey though, even if I’m not sure how they did it. Maybe you had to be a member of the club to drink. That was the night when, as their guest, I had my first drink of bourbon and water. It was a little bourbon and a lot of water and I drank the whole thing. I thought it tasted terrible, even though I acted as if I liked it. It was that same night when we drove down this dirt road right outside of town and stopped at a little shack. Uncle Ted went into the shack and came back in a couple of minutes with a cardboard box. It had a dozen jars full of clear liquid. I would keep pretending that I liked bourbon and water but there was no way I was going to drink any of this stuff. Honestly, though, what my summer was really all about – not just my summer, but everybody in Mississippi’s summer, in other words, what Mississippi’s summer was all about was Freedom Summer. This is what I need to tell about more than anything else. People here believed that Bobby Kennedy was mad at Mississippi. They thought he and a lot of other northerners hated Mississippi and were trying to bring shame down on the state and its people. Thousands of students, black and white, swarmed into Mississippi in the late spring and set up offices all over the state in order to register people to vote and organize a new political party. They were registering negroes to vote actually. By the end of summer, I think even LBJ was mad at Mississippi. In late June the story broke that three of the volunteers – one negro student from Mississippi and two white students, both Jews from New York – were missing. For several weeks the story of the search for the three boys continued to be reported every night on the news. The FBI became involved,
then the U.S. Navy, while reporters and journalists and lawyers and civil rights activists continued to pour into the state. And ordinary Mississippians were gripped with fear and horror. “Well I certainly hope they find them and they’re all right. But really now, how could two Jews and a negro come to Mississippi at a time like this and not expect there to be trouble? I don’t think they used very good sense. That’s all I’m saying.” My Aunt Emma is a pretty tolerant person. So is Uncle Ted. But in Mississippi nobody likes people coming in from the outside and telling them how to do things. My Uncle said it felt like Mississippi was being singled out by the Federal government, and there was nothing people here hated more than that. Bobby Kennedy may have been mad because the people here wouldn’t cooperate with the FBI unless they were forced to, but Uncle Ted said Kennedy just didn’t understand southerners and their resistance to federal authority. Every night the story was updated on the WLBT evening news in Jackson. Aunt Emma was from the town of Union in Neshoba County, just down the road from Philadelphia. She watched the images as they flashed on the screen: “Oh Law, I know that boy! I went to school with him!” And she would fearfully shake her head and go back to fixing supper. It wasn’t as if this was all anyone talked about. The only time I really thought about it was during the news. It was in the back of everybody’s minds though. There was fear, and anger. It was everywhere. Anger at the Federal government, and also anger at the Ku Klux Klan for all the awful things they were doing to these volunteers. Most people had figured that the Klan was behind the disappearance of the three workers, but people were hesitant about saying anything. They were more scared of the Klan than they were mad at them, you could say. It was only a few days before my aunt and uncle were supposed to drive me back home that they found the bodies. They had been buried in the mud inside an earthen dam. It was obvious to everybody that they had been murdered. After she watched the news Aunt Emma said she felt sick and was going
to bed. The negro had broken bones and was shot three times. People became more terrified than before. I wondered if they might declare Mississippi an outlaw state and send occupation troops. It wasn’t all that far-fetched to think something like that either. As we drove home Aunt Emma said: “When we get to South Carolina I may just decide to stay there. I don’t know what’s happening to my home.” A minute later she turned around to look at me and said: “Your folks will take me in, won’t they?” “I guess. You’ll have to ask them though.” “Oh you know I’m just being silly!” she grinned and turned back around. “I am worried about Mississippi though.” I read a story in TIME magazine a few days ago that told about all the other things that happened. Churches got burned, people got beat up, and a thousand people got arrested. I won’t put all the statistics down here, but stuff like this was happening all summer long. I really had a lot of fun this summer and many great memories. I was hoping our class would get an assignment like this because I wanted to write about this summer. I wasn’t sure I was going to write about three dead young men who were found buried in a levee. But I felt like I had to talk about it some. That was my summer.
Lower Garden District Beau Boudreaux
Sometimes I would not speak a word of French for almost a year. - Stendhal Tuesday night, a high-lit evening Renée speaks fluent French over the mahogany stretch of bar like wash over a hint of beach— the west coast of France, Rennes, surfing waves of La Rochelle must order another hi-ball just in that moment she may have saved me a trip across the Atlantic— two wanton weeks of Paris…mint in her perfume as she speaks with her hands, she could be a muse or guide dancing can-can with finger tambourines but when she spoke again the melancholy divorcée emerges selling subprime Louisiana real estate around the block, a woman bitten like a pond where you shouldn’t eat the fish.
Mata Hari Beau Boudreaux
At her execution she wears an Amazonian tailored suit, and new white gloves— Margaretha Geertruida Zelle daughter of a Dutch investor names herself “Eye of the Day” studies Indonesian and joins a dance company famed exotic dancer— raven haired, olive skinned, her dance of a Javanese Princess posing of Hindu birth. A femme fatale, double agent she provides her powers of seduction, undresses the officers— veils drop until bearing a jeweled bra, seldom without, her eagerness to perform in close to nothing.
Labyrinth Rebekah Levin
Irony Sleeps Hot, One Leg Out Jessica Morey-Collins
Irony sleeps hot, one leg out from under the blankets. Her tips root for a human composed, for now mostly of cloud. In a past life, a man made of match-heads grasped the last-minute snag in her nylons. Of course she ignited, the wild of her will to fire eschewed his skin and singed hers with melted thermoplastic. How bad she’d wanted him to find her thighs creamy, and now he’d vanished— rasped right out of existence against her stocking. She’d rejected the bell, knock-knock-knocked, shifted weight from one stem to another. She’d asked, half premonition, about the nap-dream through which he fogged her glasses. See, wondering what happened has become her favorite pastime.
—ectomy Carrie Beyer
You—or maybe only I—knew it was cancer when your breast pushed out in ribbons flowering where no flowering belonged. In muddy dusk you lay upon the couch so stifled, frankincense— the solvent of despair—drained from your eyes. And being thirsty, I curled my fingers on a lancet, deftly severed muscle into two. I seized upon that bulbous frond of poison to scrape out as a melon firmish flesh that pulsed its stench into insentient room. Had God the mercy to faint you toward unconscious space, we could have rested there a while, flayed open as you were. But restive in the dark yet—you or I— I just kept digging. Underneath that pungent bowl were black coagulated roots snaked down and onward under arms, deep unto deep. I set each rotten part aside, where you could see some sense of what I’d done—and yanked once more at blackest root, crushed it as gravel in my hand but with it came the rest of your sweet breast, a supple nipple balanced on the knife— no pulse of its soft flesh inside my mouth.
at the counter making meat Carrie Beyer
my hands in meat to make a meal—Fleischküchle— a meat I make when there is nothing else, when there is nothing but the default— my Mama’s back before a hot-lard pan, my mouth almost able to say the word—say it: Fleischküchle— the way she—full of throat and sneer, her hands always pressing, pummeling, on her face the look of a food processor— splintered the Saltines for coating little patties me trying to be livid at the counter as she was livid, wondering whose Ärger she worked into ground meat, perhaps possibility pounding right down into that meat, where we could swallow it me still carrying along things like Fleisch, close as I carry along my skin and muscles, Blut— those things swallowed having presence yet, disappearance not precluding existence our eyes a rabid panic—meaty hands looking like something thrashed between them, the smell of flesh, the meat left rotting on her hands before she washed with lye or Dawn, before she summoned me to eat
How to Touch a Woman Drew Attana
Paperback romances and those flashy, photoshopped magazines lining grocery store checkout lines tell me that sharing her bed, her eager body, that exploring the depth of her fantasies is the height of intimacy, yet they say nothing of making sure the lights are separate from the darks, of choosing Black Cherry wood stain for the shelves you built together, or the necessity of your hand placed not in strategic erogenous zones, but on the small of her back, the pressure keeping her stable as she reads for her grandmother, for her family, while her black heels sink inch by inch, into the soft mud of an Oshkosh graveyard.
After the Sail Joe Giordano
onathan drove the boat. “Ready about.” I ducked under the boom. Jonathan’s suit was rainbow. “Helm’s alee.” I released the working sheet. The boom shifted starboard. I slid to port and winched trim the lazy sheet until the telltales were straight out. I perched onto the high side of the boat and sucked in briny air. Wind rippled through the sails, the boat sliced through blue swells, and the rigging stretched and groaned. Jonathan was home for the summer from Cornell, and his father let us use the boat. We’d hit the bars Friday nights, and I’d invite a woman to go sailing the next day. After the sail, I took her to
a movie, park afterwards, and while the windows fogged, see if she would go all the way. We’d just dropped Marilena at the pier so she could get ready for our date. Jonathan and I didn’t compete for women; he was gay. My father told me when I was seventeen. One winter evening, the sun was down by five, we were in the garage, and I helped my father change the oil in our car. He used a wooden creeper on squeaky wheels to slide under and untighten the oil pan bolt. He rolled out, and I handed him a rag. He said, “Peter, you know that Jonathan’s gay?” I stiffened. “What the hell gives you that idea?” 47
I never spoke to my father in that tone of voice. He achieved the ideal of love and fear with me. I braced for his reaction. His face darkened, then his brown eyes softened. “He’s still Jonathan.” He slid under the car. Come on, I thought, Jonathan gay? I’d known him since the first day of kindergarten at P.S. 52; every other kid cried for their mothers. Thereafter, we were conjoined. At Franklin K. Lane High, I was more interested in Bernadette Gioielli’s long black hair than Biology class. A hulking delinquent, Dickie DiAngelo, declared that she was his. I had more hormones than brains, and Dickie caught me with my arm around Bernadette in the hallway. His meat claw hands had me pinned to the wall, and Jonathan jumped him. DiAngelo gave me a shiner and split Jonathan’s lip before the gym teacher broke up the fight. Jonathan showed zero interest in girls. I thought him shy. I sighed at my blindness. By mid-August, a string of women had taken up my offer to sail, but none interested me past Saturday night. I met Marilena at the Oak Beach bar the night before. She was Brazilian from Rio and came to the States to attend Barnard. Her cariocan lilt captured me, and we talked late into the night. She was an art history major and wanted to be a curator. I didn’t know a Van Eyck from a Van Gogh, but when she discussed them, I was fascinated. Marilena knew her way around a boat. She had a slim figure, wore an orange two-piece, and her skin had the sheen of bronze. Her green eyes were like a magnifying glass in sunlight and burned Cupid’s arrow through my heart. Marilena brought her guitar and taught me Cássa Eller’s Luz dos Olhos. I sang along in mangled Portuguese. Jonathan teased my pronunciation, but otherwise was quiet. Marilena and I laughed ourselves into a bellyache while Jonathan sipped his Schlitz. I wished I could’ve bottled the afternoon. After we dropped Marilena on the dock, I waved with an, “Ate logo – see you later.” 48
When we motored away, Jonathan gave me a long look. His brow furrowed. “You guys really hit it off.” Jonathan never commented on a woman before. I said, “I’ve never met anyone like her.” There were some gray clouds in the distance, but I wanted to feel wind in my hair. I told Jonathan to head back out. As the boat cut through the water, the thought of Marilena filled my chest with oxygen. We smelled rain before the squall hit. The boat rode up green hills of surf and slapped down throwing up a salty foam. We were drenched by rain and sea. Thunder clapped. I jumped. Lightening flashed like a match strike. I cried out, “Weeooo,” and beamed at Jonathan. He shouted. “Wouldn’t it be cool to be sucked into the storm like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and be dropped into another world?” Jonathan smiled but his eyes looked sad. In fifteen minutes, the storm died, and the freshened air was welcome. The two of us were soaked as if plunged into a baptismal lake. I sidled over to Jonathan and we clinked beer bottles. I had a buzz from the alcohol, and Jonathan’s face was flushed. Jonathan put his hand on my arm. “You know that I love you.” I gulped. My mouth opened, but I didn’t speak. His declaration repeated in my brain on our way back to the boat slip. We furled the sail and tied the boat to the dock. What had encouraged Jonathan? Was he jealous of Marilena? Jonathan said, “Sorry, the beer went to my head.” “Sure.” “I’ll call you tomorrow?” “Yeah.” As I showered and dressed at home, my thoughts whirred. Should we talk about it? What if Jonathan acted on his feelings? Was I attracted to him? I shook my head. By the time I picked up Marilena, my gut was sour. Marilena and I went for a drink. She did the talking and asked if I was feeling okay. We went to a movie, but I hardly heard a word. I took her straight home. At the door, her face was in shadows. I mumbled that I’d call, but she didn’t look
convinced. The next day, Jonathan and I met at Jones Beach. We spread our blankets near the sea where the breeze was cool. Jonathan waded into the water; the sea rolled in like shavings from a carpenter’s plane and erased his footprints in the sand. He swam far out and was a blur on the horizon. When Jonathan came in, he said he needed to return early to Cornell. I nodded. He left the next day. I picked up the phone to dial Marilena’s number. The vision of her triggered the echo of Jonathan’s voice professing his love for me. I couldn’t disassociate the two. My affection for her eroded like sand swept out by the tide and left me hollow. I never called. It was years before I saw Jonathan; he came to my father’s wake. We hugged, and I had to fight back tears. His partner Brad was with him. Brad was a bond trader for Lehman Brothers, and you could’ve cut sirloin with the crease in his designer suit. Jonathan brought up our school days to Brad; in Jonathan’s version, we kicked DeAngelo’s ass. I laughed, and just for a minute the sadness for my father’s passing left me. Brad excused himself for the men’s room and didn’t return. Jonathan and I talked until some cousins approached to pay their respects. We said we’d call, but never spoke again. Our boyhood together was the Garden of Eden, no way to return.
Bar Fight Drew Attana I had a dog who used to scratch at his eyes when the pollen was high, so much that he would look like he’d come out the loser in a bar fight. I see him most days, in piles of dirty laundry or under the crumpled thrust of hand-me-down comforters. Spread out like a bathmat on the cool tiles. At a knock on the front door, I still hear the clatter of nails, long past the need for clipping, and the stern tone of his bark, a marriage of menace and curiosity, though all that echoes on wood floors and poster-filled walls is the snap, crackle and pop of vinyl, the swirling notes of Elton’s baby grand as he teases out some fondness from the dead-eye of yesterday—before the splitting of bank accounts, the division of yet unopened wedding gifts, before my first w-a-l-k down the sharp diagonal of Foster Road, into the park without the urgency of the frayed, red leash pulled taut or even thought of carrying his leash at all.
We e ke n d We a t h e r Davon Loeb
Under the weight of the toppling sky, and the volume of sharp rains, and the hard yells of my parents shaking the grout between the bricks of our home—on many of these nights, I am dust clinging to those shaking corners, while Mother and Father push-pull their iron bodies into each other. And when they speak, it’s of divorce, and it’s like the weather on weekends—maybe it’ll rain—maybe I will leave—and maybe I don’t love you. I watch their four-legged-dance shadowing beneath a crack in the door. Father reminds her that she is never home, and—you are my wife, and you should be home—and must love me, and always and forever. Those bedroom walls are thin, and if asbestos could grow anywhere—it grew there. And when he yells, Mother never hides—she squares up, and tells him—to mind his damn business, and I’m a grown-ass woman, and you can tell me when to be home and where to go when you make enough damn money for me to not have to work. My knees have glued to my chest. I am a ball cradling back and forth—somewhere between the door and the doorframe; and my parents like this train that shunts, as their bodies crash—and there’s always this violence—like the control the body will take over its emotions, and possess its movements, and just like the billows that hang low above this house—judgment too, gets clouded. And Father bargains for her phone by slamming his fist, and she says, she will give him the phone after calling the police. Her, I-wish-you-would, thunder-talk only tightens his draw and blares his bark, until her mouth becomes her whole body and his hands become his mouth, and then we all shake—at once, like a family. 51
God’s Plan Nick Hilbourn
nce you know the future, it changes. I did this when I was young. Twelve years old and waiting for my mother to return home, knowing that God prevents all humans from knowing His plan. If you can guess what He’s up to, then He quickly changes it so you don’t catch on. I was imagining all the possible ways my mother could meet her end on the way home. Car crash. Alien abduction. Murderous hitchhiker. It worked. Thirty years later, I was watching her suffocate in a wilting frame of bruised skin. Eyes languidly tracing my movements in her bedroom, drawing all her strength to exert one gigantic stare at my blurred form. This was the same house where I’d waited for her with my arms gripping knees to my chest. Every muscle in my body tense. Thirty years ago. It was just a room over. My twelve-year-old mind circling through all the imaginable scenarios, knocking them off one-by-one. And yet. How can you even think how time changes things? All the innumerable, microscopic circumstances that come together to form the present? There was a tangible emotion in the room, a desperation. I wasn’t sure if it was hers or mine. She knew everything was fading. Imagine knowing that the only access she has left to the world is an image seen through an opaque glass That her only access to the world is a seeing that is not seeing at all. I looked at her knowing she did not know that I was looking at her. Thirty years ago. I’d never thought of this. I always thought of actions, of verbs. Never nouns. Never death. God must’ve known this, I thought.
Origins A.D. Lauren
He’s helped me grip her swollen wrists. Mutilating her body, which grew on highway meridians – there’s only one I want to talk to. Eve: Don’t you know it’s reckless to sing lullabies? I don’t want to be bittersweet but I would have talked to you and your crickety limbs. You can come out now. They won’t get you. I want to tell you about the tiger lilies this time of year. We can pick them together, bring them to her bedside.
What I Didn’t Know About Love Is the S h e e r Te r r o r Melissa Ritter
ransparency through which one sees the rickety skeleton of the other and one’s self. The parched crumbling dustiness of the frame bleeding from the eyes. Relief is only momentary. Wasn’t there a time when it was different? When I could settle into a being - an interval - an evening - and assume no danger. Was I elsewhere? Glazed. Lulled by a smaller pinhole of awareness unknowingly occluded by the seeming exuberance of my chaotically upswept hair. Hair I’d glimpse in the mirror and think looked sexy and smart in its haphazard swirl – a worn chopstick recruited to loop and fasten the unruly mop. Medusa sometimes flashed but I assumed that was recollection of my father long dead by his own hand - he who related myth with a relish I adored. I neglected the furies. I didn’t know - I didn’t know that loneliness - the absence – the loss - of a particular love - lovers’ love - could kill. Still those loosely coiled snakes perhaps better left where they were - my hair now blown out – the shafts attended - fully offered to broken-hearted takers with bloody eyes and dust-pile innards. They shriek as they grasp the flaming determined tangle.
And disappear abruptly with accusations of possibly nothing but what my terrified transparent imagination conjures from memories of tragic stories my long dead father read aloud to my sister and me. Does my own dust and blood choke? Is it written. So much so well executed in my day in my life and my hair no longer falling out as it was for a while thus reminding me of the rapidity of decay and the loss of chance or relief. I brush it out and see my 12-year-old-self – one unaware she’d be sent away from home a year later never to return – my 12-year-old-self transfixed by the lion gold waves the brush rendered as I pulled it through the then thick gloss of strands. I would marvel and could not figure how I was not wanted – how such hair did not equate with worth. I didn’t know that one thing has not a thing to do with any other – that what I see or feel or want or have or do is of itself and reverberates unpredictably and that my hair and my worth and my terror and my loneliness and my not knowing a fucking thing are all woven – yes – but in an inscrutable jumble and that each instant a bolt of love shoots through I am flush with fragile perfection. 55
Twelve Z.Z. Boone
When I was a twelve, I became convinced that my parents were trying to kill me. It first dawned on me one evening when I found my father trying to fix a lamp in the garage. He had removed the bulb, replaced the cord, and plugged it in. “Do me a favor,” he said. “Stick your finger in the socket.” I did, and the shock made me pull back my hand as if I’d just set off a mouse trap. “Good,” he said. “We have juice.” After that, I slept very lightly, with a chair propped against my bedroom door. I refused to let either of them drive me anywhere unless a reliable witness was along. I became aware of every step I took, of everything that was going on behind me. “I had the same kind of thing when I was your age,” my older sister said. “It’ll pass.” One Saturday I went to the parish priest and confessed. I said, “This might be a sin. I’m not sure. But I believe my mother and father are trying to murder me.” He told me that I was in violation of the Fourth Commandment and that I needed to perform the Stations of the Cross immediately, that day. Then one Sunday, sitting around the dinner table, I refused to eat the chicken pot pie my mother had made. “I think it’s poison,” I said. My mother replaced my plate with hers, but I was wise to that trick, too. “Look,” I said. “I know what’s up. I don’t know why, but I know you both want me out of the way. 56
My sister stood up, wiped her mouth with a napkin, said, “Good luck” to no one in particular, and left the table. My mother and father looked at each another and finally my mother asked me what I was talking about. “You want to see me on the other side of the dirt,” I said. My father laughed, but mom hushed him and said, “Joseph, we both love you very much. We’ve devoted our lives to keeping you safe.” But that night in bed, I could hear them plotting. When I put my ear to the wall, my dad said, “So now what? “We’ll have to try something else,” my mother said. “This obviously isn’t working.” They started to act nicer to me, but I knew that was just an effort to throw me off my game. A few days later I took the few things I had— my birthday money, some clothes, my iPod—and I ran away. We lived in Del Rio, Texas, so crossing the Mexican border was a snap. I made my way down to Monterrey and lived on the street for six years. Not a terrific existence. But I was eventually befriended by a man named Rosales, who taught me the reupholstery business. Recently I contacted my sister by email. She told me both our parents are dead. I have no reason to disbelieve her. Except that every so often I think I see them. They’ll be hidden in the shadows of some cantina, or staring at me from the window of a passing bus, or wearing cheap costumes and posing as two people they never were.
That’s Just Something People Say Tommy Dean
She woke in the middle of the night. The security light no longer shone through the window above her head. The alarm clock was lifeless, not even blinking its infrared digits. She pulled back the heavy comforter and felt the chill of late November prodding her uncovered arms. Walking, the floor felt like pin pricks, her legs still dreaming. She left the bedroom, trying to walk past the echoless, empty, spare rooms. She cracked the door to Sarah’s room. It was starting to smell like dust. The scent of strawberry from the hair detangler or the lilac from the girl’s nighttime lotion were mere memories. She found her husband in the sunroom, his face flush against the window. Outside, the snow fell from the sky and clustered like dead moths upon rutted and scarred cornfields. For days, the ground had been frozen, preparing to support the sky’s outpouring. Her husband turned at the touch of her hand on his back. She could feel the knotted muscles. He looked back at her, the glee in his eyes like a child’s, the resemblance to Sarah ghostly. “The first snow is here,” he said, his voice singing. “How long has the power been off ?” she asked. He turned back to the window. “You know how much she loved it.” His breath condensed against the window pane. “Why does it always have to be so cold here?” “Come with me,” he said, pulling her out of the room, and into the kitchen, where her feet smacked
against the faux hardwood floors. “I’m not going out there. Certainly not dressed like this.” “We can’t wait. We’ve got to live, Kylie.” He threw a jacket at her, which she caught around the sleeve. He stopped at the door. “She’s out there.” “Who? Sarah?” Her name was a new fear that chopped at the knees of her resolve to move on. But she scrambled out the door after him, afraid that whatever strange mission he was on would just lead her to lose Sarah again. Every day was a loss incomparable except to the day before. She found him spinning in a drunken circle in the middle of the barren cornfield. “People say that our loved ones come back to us in the form of other living things. Birds, mostly. But what if your child loved snow? It’s possible, right?” “That’s just something people say to make themselves feel better,” she said. She wiped a snowflake off of his eyelash. “Leave them. I want them to cover me. All of me.” She laid down beside him, shivering. She watched the crystals fall from the sky, thinking about time travel, snow morphing into stars. For a time, she felt covered, embraced by something, that if she couldn’t quite call Sarah, was enough to heal the smallest cuts of loss.
To Summit or Not to Summit Fatima Jamal
Thwarted by the altitude, his hands clenched to surrender feet away from the frosted top. “Poor Ahmed,” Sara hissed. “Why did he come if he is acrophobic?” “Perhaps his passion for adventure dwarfed his fear, “I said. “Or maybe he was overexcited how tapping the summit would solve his problems.” We spent the climb talking about Ahmed. It was weird, how we didn’t notice him carrying his nation flag that in minutes would be the only flag flitting at the summit. As if patriotism was a mere abstract noun, not an end in itself to test our stamina.
Slugger Daniel Davis
The helicopter appeared over the square about a quarter after two, something of a dead time in that part of town. No one really shopping, and the diner had already closed, though a few grandfathered customers were allowed to remain inside. I’d just come from there, took a smoke break to get a Coke and a biscuit, and the helicopter flew into view just as I was opening the door of the barbershop to go back inside. “What the fuck’s the racket?” Fletch asked. It was just me and him, so he was permitted to cuss. “Chopper,” I told him. I glanced out the window, craning my neck upwards. “Looks like one of Don Lillman’s.” “Lillman knows better than to fly over the courthouse,” Fletch said, joining me. “Goddamn, he’s low.” We weren’t the only ones who thought so. What few people I could see—either coming from, or going to, the courthouse, which stood in the center of the square like some misplaced Medieval dropout—had stopped in their tracks, coattails and skirts flapping in the new artificial breeze, frozen like chickens in a rainstorm. The helicopter hovered a few yards above the highest spire of the courthouse, dipping and bobbing even though I don’t remember there being much of a wind. One of those little four-seater jobs, mostly white except for a baby blue stripe running down the side, pilot and three passengers. Definitely one of Lillman’s, though Fletch was right: Lillman wouldn’t risk flying over a government building. “Get your glasses,” I told Fletch. “This feels funky.” Fletch kept a pair of binoculars in the shop. He said it was to watch the birds, and I granted
we had some funny looking pigeons roosting in the area. But I thought, secretly, he used them to spy on the college kids who lived above the shops and stores. He got the binoculars, and instead of offering them to me, he put them up to his own eyes. “Well, I’ll be damned,” he said, a frown drawing down the fatty wrinkles on his cheeks. “You gonna tell me?” I asked. He shook his head and raised the binoculars again. “It’s Peter Davenport.” I grunted. Wasn’t a name I’d heard in a while. Peter must’ve graduated two, three years earlier. Kind of faded away. Everyone thought he’d get a full-ride scholarship to a state college, courtesy of his bat, but it turned out his grades hadn’t been good enough, and he’d only stayed on the team because his coach had been putting it to the vice principal. Got into a community college upstate, outside of Chicago, but not one we’d heard of. “He flying?” I asked. “Yeah. Other kid…shit, I don’t know him. Kinda looks familiar though.” The helicopter turned a little, sluggishly. I don’t remember Peter being able to fly, and he’d been the kind of kid to tell you that. Showboat, a natural athlete, a real slugger. Could run the bases like no one’s business. A little deficient in right field, but no one gave a shit when you carried your team to state three years running. “Don’t see Lillman,” Fletch said. “Never known him to loan one of his choppers and him not be up in it.” “Just the two of them?” “Yup.” A couple of cops had come out of the court59
house to check on the commotion. The helicopter dipped a little, as though acknowledging their presence, and that’s when I began to realize the feeling that had been growing in my gut: unease. It can sneak up on you without you knowing it. It’d been that way when my first wife died. An aneurism took her, middle of the day, all alone in the house. I called around noon and got no response, and figured she was out shopping. Left a voicemail. Come three o’clock, and she still hadn’t returned my message. Nothing to really raise your hackles, of course; it wasn’t like I’d said anything meaningful, or asked a question that couldn’t wait until after work. But I called again and still no one answered, so I phoned our neighbor, Doris Grahme, who trotted next door and found Valerie on the kitchen floor. The helicopter turned, so that the passenger side was facing us. Facing, I should say, the small crowd that had gathered. Maybe ten people total, including the two policemen. I saw faces staring out of storefronts and apartment windows, an audience surprised out of their routines, but not curious enough—or too cautious—to go outside. The passenger door of the helicopter opened, and I was pretty sure you weren’t supposed to do that, not even so low. The door slammed back shut, and I could see the passenger recoil. The helicopter spun a little off-center, probably Peter reacting to a shout of pain.
The door opened again and stayed open, braced by a leg. Something bulky and green appeared in the passenger’s lap, and even from this distance I could tell it for what it was: a duffle bag, stuffed to the brim. The unease in my stomach spread up into my throat, and I started for the door. “Craig, stay,” Fletch said, reaching for me. I stayed. The passenger reached into the bag, scooped up armfuls of paper, and tossed it out. Confetti, colorless in the afternoon sun, floating downward to the bystanders in circling arcs. You didn’t need to hear the shouts of shock and joy to know what it was. You know money when you see it. “First Mid,” Fletch whispered, and he wasn’t the brightest man you’ll find, but he can be quick when the situation calls for it. People grabbed handfuls of money out of the air, and still more of it rained down. I even saw the cops getting in on it, and I can’t say I blame them now, because small town cops work hard to bring home the bacon, but at the time I couldn’t help but hate them. Get those people out of there, I wanted to shout, don’t you know a damn thing about aerodynamics? Of course they didn’t. Nor did the people who began trickling outside, eager to be part of the action now that there was a profit in it. Not sure how my mind went in the right di-
rection. Part of it was Fletch; I’d learn afterward that he had no idea what was going to happen, that he’d been afraid the boys had guns or something. Guess I owe my life to Fletch’s ignorance. Or maybe not. Probably not, to be honest, but I’ve been a lot nicer to him since that day. The money continued to rain down, a drizzle of riches, but some of the bills weren’t reaching the ground. Some of them were floating around the cabin, and I think Peter of all people began to get an idea that he’d made a mistake. The revelation came too late and too slow, but it was there, because the helicopter shied away a little, as though he were leaning toward his friend and saying, Maybe we should stop. Being cautious can save your life. Like I said, I could be proof. But sometimes, being cautious at the wrong time can get you killed. Peter’s proof of that. The dip of the blades. That did it. All of a sudden, the money stopped falling. Just stopped. Hung there in the air for a heartbeat, caught in a momentary flux of gravity. I heard once, on some history show, how long ago it got so cold in Europe, the snow hung suspended in the air, just little miniature crystal chandeliers floating between the clouds and the ground. That’s what I thought of, in the brief moment I had time to think. And, God it’s hard for me to admit this, but even still I can only think of one word to describe that scene: Beautiful. Then the money started moving again, but upwards this time, towards the rotors. By this point, Peter knew was what going on, and thank God he got that helicopter turned away. Otherwise, it would’ve gone straight down, right into that crowd, who would’ve spent their final second realizing that, just like in the fables they heard as a child, greed had gotten the better of them in the end. Instead, the helicopter tilted upwards, going in reverse. The whump of the blades became muffled, choked, and wouldn’t you know it, the passenger couldn’t hold onto the duffle bag. It slipped into the air, zipper wide open, and a small fortune—close to thirty grand, turned out—shot straight up into the blades.
Even a talented pilot like Don Lillman would’ve been lost at that point. Peter wasn’t a talented pilot; turned out, he’d been flying for less than a year. Learned specifically for this occasion. A friend showed up afterwards. A third guy who’d been in on it from day one, then turned tail the morning before it all went down. Could be this guy’s lying, but the police believed him, the lawyers all believed him, and I believe him. Didn’t know him; he was from up north. But I can’t say what he’d have to gain by lying; even after he confessed everything in a plea deal, he still spent time behind bars. Smoke exploded from the rotors. The helicopter jerked wildly to the left. The tail blades clipped the bridge edge of a storefront, and sparks joined the smoke. I don’t know if it was a mechanical reaction, or panic on Peter’s part, but the helicopter spun too fast back to the right, so quickly and crazily that it did a full one-eighty, and the cabin of the helicopter slammed into the exact same building at the exact same spot. No explosion. Nothing like that. You see that in the theater, like the one whose marquee ended up being impaled by a flying rotor blade. The helicopter didn’t fall straight down, either; if it had, those two boys might’ve survived, and maybe the three bystanders who were killed. Instead, whether because of Peter or—more likely at this point—simple physics, the helicopter rebounded from the brick wall, then came back again, just as hard. And again. And again. Glass flew. Metal flew. By this point, Fletch and I were on the ground, the window above us shattered, the entire square consumed by the screech and roar of the destruction. You couldn’t even hear the screams. After smashing into the building for a fourth time, the helicopter finally meandered to the other side of the street. The sheriff ’s office stood there, next to McHale’s Pub ‘n Grub, and the helicopter tried to come down in the alley between the two. Didn’t make it. Peter did, at least most of him. They found the passenger in an apartment above the storefront that had taken the beating. 61
That kid’s name was Dwayne Delaney. He’d been on the same team as Peter. Shortstop. Unimpressive player, but then most of them were when compared to Peter Davenport. They’d gone to school up north together. That’s where they’d met the third guy. This third man, whose name I don’t remember, insisted the plan was mainly Delaney’s idea, at least at first. Then Peter took control of it. Delaney had worked at First Mid National Bank his senior year. Peter began taking flying lessons. Robin Hood Complex, one of the local headlines said. They came down and hit the bank on a Tuesday evening, just before closing time. First bank robbery we’d had since the Depression. Thursday afternoon, they rented the helicopter from Don Lillman, giving him three times his normal fee to stay behind. He took it. No crime in that, nothing technically illegal, but Lillman had to leave town by the time all was said and done. No idea what became of him. Three bystanders killed, all by shrapnel. It could’ve been worse; by the time the helicopter went down, at least twenty people were gathered in the square, not to mention all those watching from indoors. A few survivors felt guilty enough to cough up the money they’d collected, but not everyone. Not most of them, in fact. They found another duffle bag in the helicopter, and a third in a room at the Day’s Inn. And they gathered up what was left on the street, and factored in what had been torn to microscopic shreds in the rotors. And still, after all their advanced math and statistics and probabilities, they couldn’t account for all of it. Almost nine thousand still missing. I’m grateful to still be alive. If not for Fletch, I might not be telling this story. But I’d be lying if I said there weren’t nights where I thought about what I could’ve stuffed into my pockets. Not much, nothing much that would truly be missed. But enough to cover the bills for the next couple months? Guarantee the shop would stay open until I retire? Yes, I think about that. And I don’t feel the least bit guilty for it either. Still, I’m grateful to be alive. Sometimes, you just have to settle for what you can get. 62
The Outward Visible Sign Sarah Jefferis
The nits formed whole colonies, planted flags in my head as if it was the moon. Mama used blue insecticide shampoo day after day. Our ritual of TV dinners, counting blessings, a hot metal comb. Without a washer she couldnâ€™t clean sheets daily as the doctor recommended. I slept sheet-less, on a plastic mattress cover because I was at 9, 10 and 11 still wetting the bed. My pee a lice pool. A warning. An exit strategy. A mark to keep them all away. Infestations are trailingâ€™s of the Gods, outward visible signs of inward invisible truths. Perhaps the Pediatrician, a man of the bleached collar cloth, liked how I clutched the paper or the feel of his finger inside me. I never watched, turned my head to the wall and stared. Could hear mama sighing in the hall, the lip of her slip glistening against the run in her stockings. 63
The Actor in a Play About Animals Danielle Cole
These open windows are not open for air but for light Not for birds but for other things desiring wings The dome collects echoes of legs crossing, uncrossing Of hands fumbling in pockets, searching For an anchor These open windows are not open They are exhaling Murmuring a rhythm of focused attention Muddled with daydreams and the relaxed rigor of anticipated joy The actor unfolds the intricate origami of his body Translating a swan into a fish These open windows are not open to let in They are open to let out Bravery blasts from his muscles A sheen of sweat shines on his skin He is a hero mirroring flight and fin Studied gestures Transfix the animal in me
Shangri-La Angela Doll Carlson
His name really should have been Randy or Clem. He looked like a Randy or Clem. His mother called him “Nilly,” but no one else did. To the rest of the population of Homer Township, he was Niles. Niles wore his upbringing low and tight across his belly and it pulled his overalls down from his sunken shoulders so that he was always in a stooped position. He was younger than he looked at first blush or even, perhaps, at second blush. Most of the salon staff thought he was slow, but not Debra. She thought he was the Buddha and she told him this on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday mornings when she worked. He would stare a moment, sigh heavy, smile a little and then move on to the daily tasks of opening the place. Debra grew up in Homer Township and thought she knew Niles better than anyone. She studied yoga in Gresham, had a tattoo of a lotus flower on her shoulder, and kept a boa constrictor called “Sam” as a pet. Niles opened the salon every morning of the
week and sometimes on Saturday. Niles would make his way to work from his house off the dogleg road just off Route 83. The road bore his family name, Winslow, because they settled the land and founded most of the town in the early 1800’s. His father said they came from money and maybe royalty, but these days it didn’t show. Niles lived alone in the old house with peeling white clapboard and aging acreage. He didn’t have visitors apart from his Aunt Polly, who was content to wipe down his refrigerator and countertops once a week and lecture Niles about the “state of affairs.” Niles was content to let her wipe down his refrigerator and countertops once a week, but, truth be told, he had no idea what she meant by the lectures. He would just stare a moment, sigh heavy, smile a little and then move on his daily tasks. The rumors started in High School. A month before he graduated, Niles’ parents died. First his father dropped dead from a heart attack while walking the back forty, then his mother a week lat65
er, also from a heart attack. She was putting up jam from peaches that Aunt Polly picked up in Gresham. The canning gear was laid out on the kitchen table and the jam was boiling over when Niles found her. Aunt Polly tried to scrub the stovetop, but the jam never came loose. Some mornings Niles would run his fingers over the burnt places and find it sticky. Sometimes the feel of it would occupy him for hours. He pined for that jam. No one really took the rumors seriously. They thought he was harmless and he would probably never amount to much. The rumors became whispers from the dark corners of the bar or the PTA meetings, hanging there like old Henry Johnson’s breaking wind – pungent and lingering. When Niles got the job at Barb Porter’s salon, people snickered, but they kept it in the dark corners of the bars or the PTA meetings. That Barb Porter consented to hire him was more the scandal than anything else. Barb prided herself on that salon. It had been called “The Up-Do” when her mother ran the place, but when Barb took over she expanded services to include manicures and pedicures, adding tanning beds a year later. She changed the name to “Shangri-La Spa” because she thought it sounded like a place you’d go in Atlanta or maybe New York. From the windows of the Shangri-La, Niles watched as the town changed, adding theaters and tanning beds and bypasses from the interstate. He saw old familiar houses come down and new houses rise up when the shirt factory closed and the technology park opened. Henry Johnson in particular was agitated about the change. He thought the Shangri-La was just another symptom of what he called this “cancer.” Debra left work just before 5pm on Monday. She thought Niles was beautiful and she stopped to tell him so. Niles just stared and then sighed heavy, “heavier than usual” she would say when questioned about it later. “He was glowing,” she told them, “like he’d been in bed #3 set to copper.” It was Debra who discovered them in the Shangri-La the next morning. Henry was shouting so loud that Debra heard it through the window. He 66
didn’t care for change. He didn’t care for Niles. He didn’t care for the Shangri-la. It wasn’t the anger that brought him there with a gun in his hand. It was the drinking. Debra said she heard it all from outside the door. By the time she got the door opened Henry was clutching his chest. By the time she reached Niles where he stood, Henry collapsed on the ground in a heap, gone from a massive heart attack. That part came from being mean spirited. She said Niles was peaceful. She was sure now about her hunch. She was even tempted to ask if she might rub his belly. As if he could hear her thoughts, Niles stared, sighed heavy, smiled a little and moved on to the daily tasks of opening the place as the ambulance pulled up outside the Shangri-La. People would talk, but Debra didn’t believe the rumors. He was the Buddha.
Disorderly Abecedarian.10: Beware Devon Miller-Duggan
Monsters have been known to take large bites from the moon with their xyphoid—god-grinding-size—teeth. It’s because they’re both everywhere and nowhere that they’re so grumpy. Never underestimate the crankiness of creatures who never know what they hunger for and dream of nothing but being full. Even angels have it easier. So my grandson tells me stars taste like 16 watermelons, moon like 14 oranges. It’s no ruse to finagle more time with the video game, it’s that he’s for-real gone wherever innocents go before sleep, places that could believe “The star fell in my hands and that was crazy!” Unto where all the monsters gnash their teeth and quip away at each other’s expense—the zeitgeist of monsterdom wants itself to taste like oranges, wants to inherit watermelons and stars that can be handheld. They opine on the subject of crossbreeding dreams and nightmares, on monster love. They love their drippy bits and razory chunks, and want to keep however many eyes they have in interesting places, but in a yawn or two, there won’t be anywhere in nowhere or everywhere for them to form and salivate. They’ll have been forced to elevate themselves, fluffed up, into another orangey dimension, somewhere on the verge of the watermelon universe, which will, of course, require papers with every jot and title neatly inscribed with stolen crayons pincered awkwardly between two claws. Hear the story: Everything falls into someone’s hand; it’s always crazy. Pull up a corner of the universe and bundle in. It’s for the best.
No Room Jennifer Lothrigel
My Childhood Ron Riekki
want to tell you about my childhood, but it’s just memories of food and crying. It’s like a string of oranges and tears and fish and running and spaghetti and eyes. It bores me, but I want to find a story in there because when I read fiction online it seems like it’s always about growing up. It feels sometimes like I was thrown into my twenties, like I skipped elementary school and jumped over being a teenager, as if all of those overweight, depressed years have been erased from my head. Since then, it’s been factories and marching. It’s been yelling and avoiding war. I remember all of that. I remember being on Diego Garcia when the L.T. came in and yelled “ThreatCon Alpha” and we all realized that people were going to die and get ribbons and lose legs and get medals. It felt like a football team huddle. But I didn’t play sports in high school, so I can’t tell you stories about that. I didn’t date. I didn’t do drugs. I didn’t see a dead body while walking on railroad tracks. I saw dead bodies later. I had friends who became dead bodies in the Army. Most of them died by their own hands. By their own throats. From drinking themselves to death. We had vending machines on base with beer in them. They would deliver vodka to your barracks room any hour of the day. The military is made for alcoholics. It’s like it was crafted around alcohol. I got so drunk in the Army one time that I couldn’t feel my face. I kept
smashing it against the window to show my buddies that I couldn’t feel anything and the Guardia Civil came and I ran, because another guy I know on base was killed by the Guardia Civil. In Spain, they don’t play. They siesta. The police there have siestas of violence. They make American police look like saints, like Mother Theresas, like anorexic Gandhis. This is supposed to be about my childhood. I know that nostalgia is the way to go. Someone told me that Pixar are billionaires because they shove nostalgia down our throats; they shove it into our hands. Story is about childhood. Not the hood. It’s a nostalgia of whiteness. It’s a snowstorm of nostalgia. A blizzard of nostalgia. I’m too black to be heard. I’m so black that I’m thick with night. I’m so black that I’m eaten by shadows, the shadows of government and police and life just swallow me up and I want to tell you about Arkansas, but the town where I grew up doesn’t exist in literature. I want to tell you about later going to a high school in Detroit, but those stories are all bankrupt. Those stories have been segregated to black magazines, to African-American literature, to capital “O” – Other journals. I didn’t have a Dad, so how do I tell you father stories? How do I make you see a parental ghost? How do you get to know an Arkansas ghost town? How can I make you visualize the ghost food I had? Make you taste my ghost tears?
Drought Caitlin Garvey
ake Delton dried up on June 8, 2008, the same day Momma died of breast cancer. In Wisconsin Dells, twelve inches of rain filled the lake, and the rising water crashed through a dam, which drained the lake into the Wisconsin River. In Oak Park, Illinois, a hospice nurse wheeled Momma’s cold body out of her bedroom. Three homes in the Dells washed away, and several other businesses and homes filled with water and deteriorated as my Dad, sisters, and I watched Momma breathe for the last time. One expert termed the Delton drainage a “one thousand-year catastrophe.” All that was left was mud. *** I first saw Momma dive into Lake Delton when I was 5 years old. The lake was a short walk from the cabin where our family was staying for
the week, and I could see her from the cabin’s porch swing. It was 6 a.m., and I would have been asleep had I not heard her open the screen door. I leapt down from the bunk bed that I shared with my little sister, Sarah, and I followed Momma. The surroundings were quiet, and she was the only person in the water. All I could hear was the creaking of the porch swing and the little splashes of the lake. She was a breaststroker. She scooped the water and pushed it forward with both hands, diving and disappearing under the water and then rising again. When she reached the dock, she pushed off of it and the water was clear enough for me to see her calf muscles. Her pale skin glistened in the water, and I was mesmerized by the repetition of her stroke. She repelled the water as I kicked my legs back and forth to make the swing move. I remember thinking that she was more than human—strong, mysterious, distant, intangible. In the Dells, we stayed for free at a log cab71
in owned by my grandmother’s friend, Betty Day. We took advantage of her hospitality, and every summer for ten years, we packed the minivan with snacks and CDs and drove the four hours from the suburb of Chicago. Although I had grown up just a short car ride from Lake Michigan beaches, Lake Delton was the first big body of water I had ever seen. I remember standing several feet behind the dock instead of venturing out onto it with the rest of the family, scared that if I got too close to the lake it would swallow me whole. “Come on, sweetie,” Momma would say, beckoning me toward the unfamiliar. That summer, as well as the summers that followed, was about learning to trust her, to expel trepidation, to take her hand and tackle the lake. We started small. There was a twenty-meter pool adjacent to our cabin, and she put orange floaties around my pudgy arms, splattered me with sunscreen, and said I shouldn’t be scared, that the floaties would keep me on the surface. Momma held my hand as I progressed slowly down the stairs into the water, and when I felt the tips of my hair submerge, I looked up at her, wide-eyed, to make sure she wasn’t lying. She urged me to continue, and I followed her lead, kicking my feet as she pulled my arms. As I felt her grip on my arms loosen, I immediately became less confident and yelled at her to not let go. 72
“You’ll be ok,” she said, “I’m right here,” and as she said that, she released both of my arms and stepped back in the water just a bit. I flailed at first, but then got the hang of it, and grinned at her. She backed up further and further, and even though I knew she was already watching me, I yelled, “Look!” as I kicked my legs and moved my arms across the length of the pool. Soon I was navigating the water without my floaties and without Momma. The lake was the next step. I stood on rocks with my toes dipped in the water and watched as Dells-locals and tourists jet-skied across its waters and took motorboats and kayaks out onto its surface. I saw kids younger than me splashing and squirting each other with toy guns. I asked Momma how deep the water was, and she jumped in to show me, disappearing for a moment. When she came up for air, she smiled, and I followed suit. I put on my goggles and held my breath as I bobbed up and down. As I swam, I noticed that there were areas of the lake that were warmer than others for a reason I couldn’t understand, and at one point I screamed when I felt something brush up against my leg. “Probably just seaweed,” I remembered Momma saying, but the moment reminded me that the lake was still somewhat of a mystery with a life of its own, a whole world beneath its shiny blue surface. Soon summer in the Dells meant building new memories on Lake Delton. Even though our bodies and minds had changed from year to year, the lake remembered us each time we returned. My sisters and I embraced it back, getting acquainted with its surface. We visited it daily for hours, taking on its waves with jet skis, seeing it from above by parasailing, running our hands through it as we kayaked, splashing and chicken fighting each other, and sitting on its rocks to watch the fireworks on the 4th of July. Once, Meaghan, Sarah, and I threw bread into the lake to feed the ducks, and we watched as a mother duck guided her ducklings past the grass and into the water where part of our loaf
rested. When we went back to Oak Park at the end of our summer trips, we left pieces of ourselves behind in the lake. I grew out of floaties and eventually replaced one-piece swimsuits with bikinis. I remember, as a thirteen-year-old, staring at my body in a bikini the same way I had first stared at Lake Delton, a mix of fear, confusion, and awe. A little extra skin seeped over the sides of my suit, I had stretch marks running up my inner thighs, and my breasts—not yet fully formed—hung awkwardly in their top. Momma began knocking on my door to tell me to hurry up, we’re going to the lake, and when I didn’t respond, she came in and saw me staring down at my stomach. I tried to cover up, but she arched my shoulders back, stood me in front of the mirror, and behind me, whispered, “You are so beautiful.” She then backed away toward the door, and I wanted to tell her to come back, to stay in the room with me for a little while longer. I wanted to ask her questions, I wanted to know if I was normal, if I was going to be okay, and most importantly, I wanted to procrastinate puberty, to have her linger there in that moment before I had to navigate my new body and adulthood alone, but she had gone before I had a chance to say anything. The lake didn’t care about my new body or my new suit. My stomach fat formed three rolls when I cannonballed into it, but the water made my image issues feel less significant. The lake was forgiving of my flaws, and I didn’t want to step out of it. Confidently, I exposed my pale stomach while sitting in an inner tube and gently running my fingers through the water. The water was a source of comfort for me, a reassuring smile, and stayed that way for a long time. Eventually, I viewed my body as a way of getting from one end of the pool to the other, and as Momma timed my swims in Lake Delton when I was 15 years old, I cared more about my speed than my size. When I advanced to the sectional swim meet in high school, I put on a Fast Skin, a competition suit that ran down to my ankles and hugged my body so tight but in the water made
me feel more fish-like than human. When I walked out onto the pool deck and saw Momma in the bleachers, she smiled at me, a smile that said you’ve done it. She was sitting in the bleachers wearing a baseball cap that covered her bald scalp, and I wondered how she even made it to that meet in her condition. I stopped briefly on the deck to grin back at her, but then had to jump in the water with my teammates. Her baseball cap smile haunts me to this day, as that was the first time I realized that I was so close to her yet knew so little about the world that lay beneath her surface. But I knew her surface well—her skin, her wounds, her scars. I was 15 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I had ditched my last two classes of high school to drive to the hospital where she had been staying for over two weeks. When I got to her room, she was sleeping. During her sleep, a nurse came in every ten minutes to check for changes to her numbers—blood pressure, temperature, heart rate. After the third check, the nurse signaled for me to come out into the hall. “No changes,” she said, “which is a good sign. She will be groggy when she wakes up and she’ll have difficulty moving her arms.” In 2007, when Momma had a double mastectomy, doctors removed the lymph nodes under her arm, and as a result she had to do daily physical therapy in the form of stretching her arm above her head, and I oversaw her stretching when she practiced in the bathroom. In 2008, she was under hospice care and her right arm, wrapped with gauze, was largely swollen due to a rare infection. The hospice nurse informed us how to change her gauze: start with the fresh gauze at the top left behind the pinky, then come down to the right on top of the thumb, repeat, then go behind the ring finger and in front of the thumb, repeat, then around the wrist twice, then around the palm three times, then up the arm… My Dad, sisters, and I all played a role. We woke her up. I helped her into the shower and 73
washed her hair. We took pictures of her wounds, something the nurse had suggested so that we could see if there was any sign of healing. There never was. I checked her temperature. I fed her dinner. Once, when I was changing her gauze, Momma and I stared at each other for a minute. I stopped moving my hands, and we just stared. There was so much I wanted to say and ask, but never felt I could; maybe the amount of questions was overwhelming, maybe it would open a Pandora’s box of sorts, a too short glimpse into the intricacies of her life before it got taken away, or maybe, most likely, we just didn’t know how to navigate the rising tide. I wanted to know what she was like as a kid, as a teenager; I wanted to know if she ever did anything rebellious; I wanted to know what she thought of my sisters and me; I wanted to know if she was scared; I wanted to know if she regretted her career in law; I wanted to know if she regretted giving up law to be a mother; I wanted to tell her I was gay and hear her reaction; I wanted to know if there was hope; I wanted to know what I should do if there was no hope. Instead, I looked down at her arm and went back to changing her gauze. And soon she began to fill the silence with indignation. When she was confined to her bed, she made Dad sleep downstairs. She called the hospice nurse an “idiot.” She threw the movie that Meaghan had bought her across the room in disgust, saying she would never watch something like that. She threw a spoon at me. None of us could say anything right, and she was disappearing. My dad, sisters, and I went to the Dells a few months before the drought. Momma mandated the vacation after she had found me crying on the floor of the living room while listening to “Chemo Limo” by Regina Spektor. She rolled her eyes at me, then pulled my arm and said, “Get up right now. Stop this self-pity. You’re going away for the weekend.” We stayed for two nights at a resort, and it rained the whole time. I dipped my foot in the lake on a dare from Sarah, and the 74
frigid lake waters almost spat my foot right back out. The night before Momma died, Dad told us that we’d each get some private time with her. “We’ll stay up around her bed in waves,” he said. “I’ll go first.” Then, reluctantly, “When it’s your turn, say goodbye.” *** Lake Delton was a body of water that embraced us, that calmed us, that scared us at times. It watched us grow up. It consumed us. When the entire lake drained into the Wisconsin River, it took away houses, bankrupted businesses, caused major road closings, damaged crops, and devastated locals. After it drained, all that was left was mud, and its muddy outline haunted the Dells and its residents. My family went back in 2008 to see what remained, and Meaghan was brave enough to step in the piles of mud that functioned almost like quicksand. Her legs sunk deeper and deeper into the mud, and it took her almost ten minutes to walk four steps. On June 7, 2008, I sat beside Momma’s bed. I stared at her for twenty minutes but said nothing. Lake Delton gave life and took it away. It was this force I couldn’t fully comprehend, a place that I visited every summer but knew so very little about. I wasn’t prepared for the drought. I always felt like I was waiting for it to tell me something, for something to emerge out of the water, for some clue to pop up from under its surface that would make it more familiar, compensate for its vastness. I wanted to linger a little longer in its waters to uncover its mystery.
The Rape Scarf Blake Love
He leaves a black scarf entangled in upturned blue chairs you find it in bruised morning light cycling through slivers of night his hands on your throat a throttle-rhythm unstopping part of him a world without oxygen ethers out and it’s easy to play dead until he’s done you don’t call police you won’t answer questions you make a call to a friend laughing after you say I got raped She stops listening says you’re sick
you keep the knitted thing bundled in a closet name it rape scarf chuckling over an inside joke no one could know You pack it in a box with other odds and ends move it up California coast stuffed away forgotten until a lover who loves going through drawers pulls it from a pile drapes it around his neck asking how do I look? you giggle suggest a drink
walk seven blocks for a beer arm in arm stop him saying my rapist wore that his eyes flash violent black-green below furrowed brow rips it from his body a poison snake throws your hand screams you’re sick the rape scarf floats lonely lands in broken limbs of acacia trees for all the world to see
Light Gabriel Furshong
Chimaltenengo, Guatemala Light bleeds over a garden wall glides across the soil She looks around they came into this house Light spills around a clothesline rises up the wooden pole She looks across soldiers came in through this door The bones of her bare feet flex in pools of light muscles taut on tiptoe She looks into the shadow of a tree her skin begins to burn
A New Trick James Hartman
hey say an old dog can’t learn new tricks, and I had no reason to believe otherwise about myself until the day I met Claudia, until I smelled the death overwhelming her. I have long smelled the death on my own fur, my paws, but it is relatively distant, and its progression is slow. It is something I only get a whiff of if I turn my body a certain way. They also say that we can’t really behave in a way that would not betray what we know or understand, but I’m telling you we can. Or at least I can. I can disguise it. Because of Claudia. I could smell the death on her from three blocks away, through our thick-brick walls. The death wrinkled my nose awake as I slept at the foot of the couch. Three blocks north, moving...northwest.
That’s the other thing about it: death leaves a wake, a trail, and the stronger the death the more pungent the trail. So on our walk instead of circling our neighborhood block I got Todd to head towards the shopping center. We crossed the large intersection, snaked our way through the parking lot and found her, there, in front of Half-Price books, strapped to a wheelchair. I was not surprised. Death that overwhelming, she had to be handicapped in some way. She was older than I thought. Or maybe she just looked older. A black visor hid half her face, but you could still see the slant, the downward slope her skin made, from right to left. There really wasn’t a mouth, just folds. Her arms bent unnaturally inward as if against their will, her hands clumped in her lap like a gob of meat. Her 77
sharp-thin knees bent inward too, as if something was being done to her entire body in direct violation of nature’s order. My nose wanted to turn away, the death-stink was so powerful. But I could not allow that. Panting, I trotted right up to her, my tongue bouncing out my mouth like it had its own separate mind, as usual. The person behind her wheelchair, whom I knew immediately as her husband—not just because he was always smiling or that his voice was always cheerful or that he told her he loved her very, very much, but from the way he moved her, knowing exactly where to wheel her a second before her voice instructed him. I was surprised she could talk. But it didn’t surprise me that she was rendered speechless when I reared up on my back legs—careful to place my paws on the rim of her seat away from her delicate-pale skin— and lapped her face, my tongue playfully slapping at the strange fatty folds of her skin. Her black visor fell off. For just one moment, I fell back on my front paws, awestruck by the crystal intensity of her eyes. They were so bright and wide, reflecting a clarity as sheer as a pond of ice mirroring a bluelight sky. I was paralyzed, entranced by their vital color. The skin of her face did not move itself, yet I could tell she was smiling. Her eyes had just the faintest upward tilt. I reared back up and licked her entire face, her husband bursting loud, giddy shrieks of delight. “Claudia, who do you have there!? Is that your new friend!?” Her arms twitched, spasmed. It made my stomach somersault, watching her try to move her arms to hug me but her arms not budging, the folds in the skin of her face flinching, trying to respond but repeatedly malfunctioning. I licked her entire face again and this time a childish squeal escaped from somewhere between the folds of her face, and I licked them, the folds, over and over, each subsequent squeal more piercingly high and excited, her husband behind the wheelchair clapping his hands together and laughing, Todd behind me semi-laughing, semi-commanding me to be easy, be easy Roger, hey, be easy now. Sometimes that’s not what life requires. Sometimes it requires you 78
to slobber a person you know is hurting under great pain with all the love and warmth you can possibly, ferociously muster out of your soul, because life for that person is not easy, and that’s what I did one day to my friend Claudia, whom I never saw again. It’s been months since I met my friend Claudia, but I can still feel the exact angular curvature of the folds in the face of her skin as my tongue pressed on them, the give, like warm clay. I can still hear the precise pitch of her excited squeal, how it kept rising, and rising. Sometimes, when Todd has left the house and my eyes have trouble closing, and the dark around me layers itself more heavily, I open my mouth and try to mimic the music of her happiness, but it is a note I always just barely miss.
Seven Ways of Looking at a Nude Woman Todd Outcalt
I He thinks if there had been more wine in the mix Some of his conversation would have been funny And may have led to sex II A man can never be certain she is not a mantis But is most grateful for having survived the coitus Without losing his head III He is not thinking about sex at all but about how In the perfect Platonian plane she is a rare combination Of body mind and soul IV Of course he is thinking about sex Which happens about every seven minutes on average And is also about how long it lasts V The moon is perfect much like her breasts And the way her hands move against The silk roadmap of her skin VI He is a visual creature which is why she is nude As she leans over the bathroom sink To brush her teeth VII He wants to express his love in ways other than this Not just looking at her that way but in every other way That does not lead to a kiss
Loggerheads Keith Dunlap Because my light was brighter you let me go ahead on the scrub path through stinging sea grass to the beach. This was in prehistoric times when teenagers wore flat-bottomed sneakers and tight-fitting straight-legged jeans, just before developers built a rampart of condominiums along the constantly collecting and constantly dissolving shore. I forget how it was we knew that tonight was the night that the earth was sure to move. But we set the alarm, coaxed each other out of bed, and stumbled forward toward the sound of dark surf rolling back and forth. You were the first to see and you grabbed me from behind, to keep my step from trespassing on what was an ancient rite: the almost imperceptible sight of strong-willed monsters as they rose and fell, each carapace laboring up the strand to mate and bury its nest, as if the beach itself were breathing in and out in patient silent duty, as if all nature had the same anxious premonition, as if our being there was a sign, and my stupidly shining my flashlight into the reptile eyes a match to set the tropical world ablaze.
High Point Apartments Kayla Rae Candrilli
Casas de Mercy and Love Michael Tesauro
alda’s son, Tomás, was on his way to meet her at the house that belonged to Herb and Madeline. Herb was Nalda’s chiropractor. Madeline was Herb’s wife and sometimes secretary. Nalda looked through the slivers between the blinds, searching for her son’s gray hatchback with the dented passenger side door. As she watched the street, she thought about the time her husband Gil said the children needed to learn English. She knew then that they would get divorced one day. Outside, the slick, wet asphalt shone under the streetlight. A cloud of insects twisted and moved with the wind. The sky was vast and open and full of bright pinpricks. These were stars, Nalda knew that, but they seemed so unreal. The idea of stars, divorce, her son, the absence of her adult daughter—these imaginary weights had become so heavy. Nalda knew Tomás would be upset that this meeting point was not their house. Her son did not like Herb or Madeline or their white teeth and country pantry-themed house. He said they
looked like news anchors from the public access channel. There would be no home court advantage here. Neither of them had any part in this household. She could go on in her head—go on about houses, homes, casas de mercy and love but the one she raised her children in was no longer loving. It had come to that. Tomás arrived and parked under the streetlight. He exited his car, slamming the door behind him. She could hear it through the window. The gnats, moths, whatever they were, swarmed him. He swatted the insects. He had grown a mustache. Tomás walked across the street. He stopped at the edge of the sidewalk. He tapped the front lawn with his foot like he was testing the waters of a shallow pool. Nalda went outside and stood on the walkway between the flower bushes. They were obtrusive, pink. She felt as if these flowers, begonias, would interrupt this important conversation. “I have your book in my car,” she said, hoping that her voice sounded sweet to him. But because she was an educator, her voice was authoritarian and stiff. 83
To her numerous other children, a whole elementary school’s worth, she was a giant. Giant Principal Bastos. Fe-fi-fo-you’re suspended. Grind your bones to make you read, and so on. As a principal, her voice made her feel tall amongst the small, busy beings that inhabited her school. But now Tomás was the giant. He took up much more of the emptiness than her. His head was amongst the stars and spotted cloud breaks. Could he see her down there, by the pink bushes? Sometimes her girlfriends said things like, “he’s grown so tall” and “look how grown up he is now.” These statements probably meant exactly what they meant, since he was at least six foot. Sometimes, ‘tall’ and ‘grown up’ held other, hidden meanings. They meant “you two have grown so much apart” and “you two hardly talk anymore.” “Fine,” he said. “I’m here to talk.” “Any more books coming to the house?” Nalda asked. “What is it mom?” he asked. What was it, she thought? His question was more of a demand. She and her husband were getting a divorce. That was it, but how to tell him? After she and Gil were separated for the second and last time, the children were absent in her life. Their absence could have been because that they were in their mid- and late-twenties. That was probably the reason, but it was Tomás who took the separation the hardest. The news of divorce might set him off. He would disappear, she thought. Behind them, a cyclist rode by. Nalda watched the man pass, glad for this distraction. Tomás turned to watch the cyclist. “Look at this idiot,” Tomás said. “Mijo,” Nalda said. “Ignore him. He didn’t hurt anyone.” He did not answer, but instead watched the cyclist ride away. “Son,” Nalda said. “I’ve been talking to Madeline and Herb—“ “And?” he said. “What did you want to talk about?” “Your father and I are getting divorced.” “Oh.” “I thought it was for the best—“ 84
The boy stared at her, around her. There was something wrong and different in his eyes. They were bloodshot. They categorized the whole scene as they zipped around in their sockets. His mouth was tight and thin. He was too tall. He was on drugs, probably. Was she wasting his grown up time? Perhaps, she thought. She thought of the tall, adult things he might have been doing instead, like smoking marijuana inside his apartment or having unprotected sex. In a way, she was keeping him from the evils, the males formas out to get him. She was his mother after all. Nalda thought about him when he was a baby. In her mind, she imagined stretching above him at a thunderous rate. Now, she imagined carrying him around. He was a heavy child to hold. And he was round and wrinkled and serious. What a serious baby, her girlfriends would tell her. She even thought of their old house, the one neither of them stood in front of. How she used to bathe him in the tub. She remembered this too. Once, in that old house, Naldá had to bathe Tomás and her husband refused to help. Maybe she refused to let him, but she felt like it was Gil’s doing though. She bathed the boy alone. Her daughter, who was a toddler at the time, was elsewhere. Her husband was gone too. Where did they all go, she wondered? She could not recall now. “Son,” she said. “Yeah?” “Son,” she said again. “Are you okay?” “I’m fine,” he said. “How does dad feel?” “I don’t know,” she said. “He kept mowing the lawn after I told him.” “What do you expect?” he asked. “How do you just respond to that?” She did not know the answer. “I’ve been praying with Madeline and Herb,” she said. “They encouraged me with my decision.” “Why?” “Well,” she said, “Herb has noticed changes in your father. Psychological-“ “Herb’s a fucking chiropractor,” he said. “Who cares what he notices?”
“Please don’t talk like that,” she said. “I don’t like it when you curse.” “Fine,” he said. “Sorry.” The boy looked around. For a time, he looked at his hands. She watched at him look at his hands. She knew he was not really sorry. This was not even the first time he was loud with her. He had yelled at her or in her general direction numerous times in his life. Her first real memory of him in fact, outside of his birth, was him screaming at her during a bath. In her thoughts, Nalda went back to the bathroom of this first memory. She lowered Tomás into the water in the bathtub. He was screaming. His voice filled the bathroom and bounced across the egg colored walls. This was bathroom of their family house, the house on El Camino Street. In this memory, she sang. How nice it was, she thought. She wished it were like that still. In this memory, she sang over him. This was in español, before Gil said she had to teach the children English. “What about dad?” he asked. “Will he get excommunicated?” “That’s not going to happen,” Nalda said. “Okay,” he said. He shuffled around the car keys that were in his pocket. “I’m sorry about your guys’ stuff. I need to leave. I have to finish a paper.” “We still love,” she began, and stopped. She could still see the bathroom in the landscape of her memories. She could almost feel the steam. “I know,” he said. “Can we talk about it later?” This giant caricature of her son turned to leave. Where was he going, Nalda thought? This Tomás was nothing like the boy she held above the tub in the bathroom. She recalled how sturdy her hands had been when they held him up. She used to be young and vital and appreciated. She had held him just above the pool of soap water. “Is it too hot?” she blurted out. Tomás paused. He turned back toward her. “What?” he asked. “Is what too hot?” He stared at her for a time. His mouth was open. Then, Nalda realized where she was, under a street light for the whole neighborhood to see. They were the only ones out there. It was just them, like always, like her memories of the bathroom.
“Son?” “Yeah mom,” he said. “What is it? Are you okay?” He leaned closer to her. His sharp, raw eyes were more evident. She wanted to ask him what he was doing with himself. What was he doing with himself ? There were so many different, terrible pathways that a boy who fell away from Mass could stumble down. If Tomás became gay or a drug user she would point the finger at Gil for being too harsh. The people around her parish would talk. They would know, and the judgment would trickle down to her. It was all too much. She started to cry. “Mom,” Tomás said. “Come on. You don’t got to cry.” “Yes I do,” she said. “It’s all too much.” “It’s just divorce,” he said. “It happens to like fifty-percent of everyone.” “Fifty-percent of marriages,” she said. “Marriages, not everybody.” “Doesn’t that mean everybody?” She cried more. He moved closer to her. She could only make out his silhouette. The light, the streetlight behind him shone and he looked like an image of a saint. This heavenly body approaching her, its hand extended. She shuddered. “Don’t,” he said. “Don’t cry. I can’t handle it right now.” There was his face. His jaw line, hers, the chin of her father, the mustache like her younger brothers. The nose and lips belonged to Gil. His eyes, much like her own, were gray. There was her son, and all of his adulthood. How he had changed, how he had grown into this human being she was only familiar with, but did not know. She started to shield again. She learned this idea, shielding. It was a concept about the mind that she learned about in her therapy sessions. Her marriage therapist, a wonderful young woman named Martina, told her that she did this often. When she and her husband fought, she would shield by traveling deep into her memories. It was slipping from the present. She focused on her years as a young moth85
er, these vague and clouded memories. There was the time she and Gil fought in front of the children. Someone threw a ceramic mug and it broke by the children’s feet. That was a painful memory. She forced it away. Their fight became only images, brief flashes of voice and bare teeth. Then she made this memory disappear. In her mind, she saw it again—the door that lead into the bathroom. And in her mind, she opened this door. She saw, when she entered the bathroom, Tomás as a baby. The boy was screaming. He was so young, so pale at the time. She held him above the water, and he screamed. All of these memories looked so clear, so precise. The bathroom in their old house, the El Camino house, her son, the walls and the water; all of them, clear. “Mom,” he said. “Why are you smiling?” She heard her adult son’s adult voice, but it floated away. She focused on the image of the bathroom. How beautiful it all was. That bathroom was where she first heard herself laugh after both of her children were born. She was sure of this. Nalda remembered more—voices filled the bathroom. The boy screamed and screamed and still she sung. His voice was a thousand fists that struck at the walls. She heard herself singing, “la linda manita.” This was the right thing to do. She listened, the voice went on, this voice of hers once beautiful and light, “que tiene el bebé.” Then, there was Gil’s hand gripping her shoulder. His shirt was off. He still had a flat stomach, a flat chest. He did not yet have his pacemaker. He screamed like baby Tomás screamed, but louder. “Mira what are you doing?” and “You’re hurting him, esta quemando.” Gil’s voice was so strong, she could feel the muscles in his voice. She felt the feverish air above the bath water. Her son writhed in her hands. How small he was, how red he was. Then, she felt the heat. She remembered how Gil pushed her away from the tub. He snatched up the boy in his hands. This, she recalled, was the most she had seen Gil hold his son. She could see now the 86
bright, peeling skin. She had burnt Tomás. “¿Que cojones estás haciendo?” Gil yelled at her. He towered over her, this figure of a man. That was the most Spanish he had used in months. It sounded better than his broken, formal English. Nalda remembered how she could not speak when she tried. She only sat there, the vapors hot, moist on her neck. Her hair stuck against the skin. Of course she was not trying to hurt him; she only wanted to sing. She had just gone blank. So blank, so many years ago. “Mom,” Tomás said again. “You need to go inside? Say something. Please?” And then all of the memories disappeared. They flooded out of her mind through some drain. She smiled at him. She felt her tears. She wiped them away. “I’ve been looking at nice little casitas around here,” she said. “If I get one, maybe you can live in the back?” “It’s okay mom,” he said. “If you’re selling the house, it’s fine. Don’t be sad.” “Your father’s there,” she said. “We’ll see what happens.” She was ashamed to some degree or another. There was the thought that Gil was right in his decision. There was always that thought. There were enough memories to justify it. He had always made himself seem in the right. She could not pinpoint that first memory. When did he first posture his rightness? Had it always been? Was that time in the bathroom the start of it? Was it when she almost killed her son? “Mijo,” she said. “We both love you. It was my fault.” “No,” he said. “Come on. Dad’s an asshole.” She wondered how she could possibly be a mother? She wanted to be the moderate Catholic woman, the principal, the PhD she had been for most of her adult life. When Nalda was all of these things, she was in control. But at that moment, she felt like she was only the woman who put her son in burning water. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “It was my fault. I
wasn’t thinking. I burned you.” “What?” “I burned you,” she said. “I almost killed you.” “What are you even talking about?” he asked. “It’s my fault you’re doing drugs,” she said. “What?” he said. “I’m not on drugs.” “What about the blanquita that you’re dating?” she said. “Is she real? Is she a boy? “You joking right?” Tomás said. “But why haven’t I met her?” Nalda asked. “Does she have a problem too? I need to know these things. You can’t keep me out of your life.” “Mom,” he said. “You met Kate once. She works at a bank. She’s fine. I’m fine. No one does drugs.” “If you do,” Nalda said. “It’s my fault. And you should get help.” “Mom,” he said, his voice cracking. “You’re hysterical. You need to go inside and calm down. We’ll talk later.” “I needed to do what was best for me,” she said. “Being unhappy in a relationship is unhealthy.” These words crowded against her teeth; she wanted to scream. Maybe even, he wanted to scream; but tall adults do not scream. “Yeah,” he said. “I know but—“ She began to cry again. Her better judgment stopped the act of screaming. She did not think he deserved to be screamed at, even Herb and Madeline thought he did. They said she coddled him. They said that this new opportunity could be used to reorganize her relationship with her son. “I’m going to go,” he said. “I don’t know what else to do.” She thought of separation, size, and distance. She thought how she held him swathed in that white terry cloth, swathed in that white room before placing him in the water. He stepped away from her. “Well,” Tomás started, and he turned. Nalda heard the moths running into the bulb of the streetlight, her son’s breathing, the wheels of the cyclist riding back down the street. “Son—“ “What is this asshole looking at?” he said.
“Please ignore him,” she said. “He’s not looking at anything.” The man on the bicycle rode parallel to them, his eyes met hers eyes. The cyclist had taunt face. His lips pursed. “What are you looking at?” Tomás yelled to him. There was no answer. The cyclist rode on. And then Tomás ran. He ran in the cyclist’s direction, his muscles working in unison. His tall, adult body closed in on the gap “Tomás, no.” Her son, she thought, was probably on drugs. Probably, she thought, it was her fault. She called out to him again. There was a sound of a body falling to the asphalt. Maybe Tomás had tripped. Or maybe he had tackled the man. Would she have heard the bicycle? She wanted to go see what was going on, but she did not. She had to let him go. Now, she had stopped crying. Now, she stood by the begonia bushes in front of Herb and Madeline’s house. She felt small there, next to the endless road, the moths dancing in the light overhead.
Sails S.C. Sirleaf
Tender new sails, frayed and split. Your grandmaâ€™s quilt, worn and thready slipped down to oak. A nuanced naivety in sheets smoothed to be undone. Blooms on the dress I saved to buy caught in the hinge of the door And the two of us lying quiet with revelations of regret as the curtain catches. The fairness of blame on another, aimless and spiraling. Bright white linen Raised high for the run, now torn in two.
A Bit Ron Riekki
I was just at the prison. I was just asking them to switch me to a safer part. I told my boss that where I was at, I had a feeling someone would be killed there soon. It’s out of hand. The prisoners run the place. I tell her I want regular sick call. There’s another lady there. She’s a new hire. It’s her first day. The head nurse is asking her if she could put her on the permanent schedule. The woman is unsure. She says she wants to see a bit more of what it’s like. “It’s a bit crazy in here, isn’t it?” The woman nods. “Did it go well today?” “A man stuck soap in his chest. He opened his chest and stuck soap in there.” “He cut himself open?” “Yes.” “And shoved soap inside himself ?” “He put a soap dispenser in his chest. Inside his chest.” “They do that.” “Really?” “Things like that.” “Really?” “It’s a bit crazy in there.” The woman says she doesn’t want to be on the schedule. “I can put you down for just one day.” She doesn’t want to be on the schedule at all. She doesn’t want to waste anyone’s time. The head nurse says that she can move her to sick call instead. She says she would consider that. The head nurse asks if she can do that then. The woman says that maybe it’s best not to be on the schedule at all. The head nurse says that’s fine. The woman leaves. I’m alone. We’re in a sealed room. The doors lock strongly behind you when you leave. The glass, I believe, is bulletproof, so it’s like sound has been strangled. The head nurse looks at me. I’m not sure what I’m going to say.
Heaven Has a Bike Shop, Too Kaitlyn Crow
Bikes donâ€™t break down, they fall apart. We had a lot of bikes come to pieces â€“ A lot of bikes living on their last legs, see, The whole town seemed to share one tire pump And one year someone lost it in their tool shed. You could hear the kids coming from a mile away; The tires suffocating, the rubber gasping for air. It was a slow trip to the convenience store on two flats, But not for Clarence Jones, this thin smart-mouth With leg muscles that could take him anywhere. It was as though his life depended on it, head of the pack, Eyes gleaming with determination and a grin on his face. You could see the image forming in the depths of his mind: The bike stripping away beneath his body as he took to the sky, Finding home in the clouds while I watched from the window. The clerk leaned to me and said that I would never believe this, But Mrs. Jones scheduled young Clarence for his first round of chemotherapy, And that when he was biking for the clouds, he was dreaming hard.
I should have stolen your umbrella Not as a keepsake Some dreadful reminder of past bliss, now absent Nor for any misplaced spite Scoped through crosshairs from my heart to yours Neither holds any use. No lasting impact here. But just because, now, Iâ€™m cold and wet And youâ€™re more prepared To weather the storm ahead Than I.
The Other Side of the Sill Debra Danz
I convinced my ear to press itself against the glass window to hear a world outside, and one inside – it listened carefully and heard both of them shattering to pieces. The falling fragments clinked as they hit the ground; reminding me of a song I used to sing to you – the one that made you laugh until you cried. I invited my lips to brush against your plump cheek and tickle you as a flittering snowflake would. The picture of you in my locket lured them to pucker. They were disappointed when they brushed up against a worn, gold frame – the metal made them curl and frown – the flake melted – and evaporated when denied the chance to grace your cheek. I talked my nose into taking a whiff of your pajamas, I asked it to take baby breaths, savoring the scent before it wore off – the heavenly aroma that would be lost forever. My nose consented to the pain of knowing your sweet smell one last time – offering me the divine state of denial for just a few moments longer. I promised my eyes that if they could lift their heavy lids for just one moment, they would see that this was all a bad dream – none of it was real. I assured them you would be on the other side of the window, begging us to come back in – with chubby, outstretched arms wiggling in our direction. Those sad eyes saw both daylight and their own reflection – they didn’t notice the window between – they didn’t see the ghost behind it. 92
I persuaded my fingers to give the windowpane a little touch, so that it would be stained by my prints – proof of my existence. Proof that this body of decomposing flesh is still breathing. If I stand close to the window and exhale only, it will get foggy – I won’t be able to see through to the other side – I won’t be able to see those shades of you. Will my last breath be expelled from my body in a huff, trapping my soul on a pane of glass? Promise – before the window clears, you’ll collect the last streak of soul- soaked vapor, and put it somewhere safe – close to wherever you are. I have raised myself 300 feet above the ground, where the wind whistles differently: like an orchestra of heavenly birds soaring in silvery violin flutters. As they circle my head, their wings gingerly tap my nose. The tickle makes me sneeze and I almost lose my balance – teetering on the edge. I have yet to stick out my tongue for a taste of the clouds billowing around me. The cotton candy puffs simply do not appeal to my palate. But oh, what if those gluttonous clouds decide to sauté my body in toxic rain, then gobble me up on my way down? They will feed on my tormented mind – plagued by “what could have been/should have been” thoughts. I have elevated my body 22 stories above the smell of dampness lifting from the sidewalk; above the odor of open garbage bags where cats had feasted the night before. I suppose the sour
aroma will grow in my nostrils as my body swoops closer to the ground – scent of summer – scent of slumber. I have an image of myself descending slowly with eyes wide open, the festering foulness coming ever closer, intoxicating me with its wicked stench – but only until I stop breathing. Although, I haven’t yet turned for one last look at the window behind, I know my reflection has tears in the hollows of its cheeks. The tears are as transparent as glass – taking on color from whatever is behind. If I turn around, I may see the colors of my life in that bedroom – through the glass window – through the transparent tears – through the lip prints on a metal locket. I may catch sight of you sitting on your wooden horse, rocking back and forth, and laughing at the thrill of it. Only then will I see that your dimple is awake – alive. It’s been asleep for a little while. I’m guessing that it had a secret life because it forgot to visit me – as I convinced myself
it would. It hadn’t made an appearance since the last time I wiggled your toes, and sang that song – the one that ends with me tickling the bottom of your feet, “wee,wee, wee, all the way home”. I don’t remember crying the day your dimple died. Not a sound left my mouth – the lullabies came to a rest – a veil of hush over my world. I have asked my body to leave this ledge knowing that it will never return. It has given me a nod of agreement by leaning forward. My body is not afraid to fly for one last chance to hear the lyrical rhyme of a familiar song – one last taste of a melted snowflake on your cheek – one last scent of sour milk still seeping through my blouse – one last sight of outstretched arms waiting to be held – one last stroke of a soft little cheek adorned with a dimple. My body is afraid only of slowly decaying in isolation, of leaving my soul behind – on the sill – and still on the other side of the window. 93
Precision Kayla Rae Candrilli —After Susan Glaspell’s Trifles Sister, when our mother screamed for help, you left the house and threw pebbles into the open mouths of daffodils. And when your practiced precision let the rocks fly, did you compare your crushed flower heads to our mother battered on the floor? I think of you turning away when he tacked her to the wall like a painting, his thick hand aligning her throat plumb and flush with the wood grain. I saw it all, Sister. And if you had stayed loyal to your sex, you would have seen: men’s hands aren’t always as clean as they might be.
Sexual vs. Sensual Todd Outcalt
She was asking about the difference Between sexual and sensual Suggesting I thought a compromise Between the two And I pointed out that light Was particle and wave at once And for illustration Pointed at the full moon
Thirteen Minutes C. Evans Mylonas Momma squirrel immersed herself in the warped, plastic bowl of sunflower seeds. Blue jays had already come and gone for their daily ration of nuts. Edith often smiled at their struggle to stuff one more peanut into their beaks before flying away. She particularly liked the one with the crooked left wing. It looked like it had been caught in a weed whacker. Damaged goods—like her. The squirrel’s head bobbed up and down, each time depositing empty bits of shell at its tiny clawed feet. Edith watched with drug-induced clarity. Always looking on from her desk, tucked into the far corner of her studio apartment, she’d never been this close. From her current position, sprawled on the floor near the door, Edith counted eight teats 96
on the new momma’s belly. The twins, as Edith referred to them, had grown so fast. They chased one another all around the metal staircase, and clung to the apartment building’s stucco walls like spiders, with legs stretched and claws gripping. Today, they settled for dining with birds over, challenging their mother for her bowl. Edith had enjoyed the antics of her furry and feathered neighbors, but that was a long time ago. She never stopped feeding them. Her lousy mood wasn’t their fault. She studied her outstretched hand. Is that mine? It’s so old. She remembered running young fingers over her grandmother’s hand. The skin puckered and rolled,
slack against frail bones, but it felt as smooth and soft as chinchilla. Her mother’s hands shriveled into arthritic claws, but had the same silken feel. Edith didn’t care how supple her hands were; she hated the black, lumpy veins that weaved over each tendon. And cold, the tips of her fingers always so numb with cold. She had thought the radiation might at least warm her up. She had decided to leave her arms outstretched, with legs together, in the crucifix position; after all, she was sacrificing herself. But now, she wondered if maybe she should cross them over her chest. She tried to lift her arm. It would not move. She tried to turn her head, it too would not move. Rigor mortis couldn’t have set in already? A split second of panic pulsed through her. She’d been careful about ingesting each pill slowly with a shot of vodka to wash it down. She did not want to vomit them up and risk being found half-conscious. But if she could not move her head and vomit, she might choke to death on regurgitated Chef Boyardee Ravioli. Maybe she shouldn’t have eaten, but she was so hungry and never drank on an empty stomach. According to the clock, eight minutes had passed since she’d taken up her current position. Momma squirrel tipped her bowl to reach the last of the seeds. It landed bottom up with the remaining morsels hidden underneath. The squirrel must have had her fill because she flicked her tail in
Edith’s direction, as if to say “Thanks,” and scampered away. Edith tried to whisper goodbye, but her tongue lay heavy and dry in her mouth. Wasn’t my life supposed to flash before me? Or did that only happen with sudden deaths? She closed her eyes. Her thoughts swirled as one convoluted blur, like vanilla ice cream in a blender with bits of fruit dropped in. First the blueberries, then a strawberry, and maybe some pineapple, each piece making its mark through the white cream until it blends, leaving only a hint of color. She sighed, her breath shallow and raspy. She couldn’t remember the last time she had been able to take a deep breath. Ten minutes. A slight breeze came in through the open door. She liked living in Southern California, leaving her doors and windows open most of the year. She hated winter and being locked inside. Pigeons cooed as they fed at the bottom of the stairs. Edith’s hearing amplified each crunch of bird seed. She hated pigeons—they crapped on the handrail—and she usually chased them away. Nothing she could do about it today. Edith had read that when the body releases its spirit it also releases its bodily fluids. She made sure to wear her heavy duty Depends. The ones she used when she traveled to places with few facilities. That was before her knees went bad. When did everything start to fall apart?
Eleven minutes. The breeze ruffled her Last Will and Testament. The paramedics, or medical examiner, or whoever it is that retrieves dead bodies, may think it strange that her body lay on the floor while her final instructions lay on the bed. She liked lying on the floor. It felt good on her bent and brittle back. Last month, the doctor said she’d broken a rib from sneezing too hard. How does one not sneeze hard? She wanted to make sure someone noticed her papers. She had left very specific instructions to be cremated and her ashes to be sent floating down the Blanco River, just outside of Wimberley, Texas. She wanted to drift down the low water rapids one final time. She looked out toward the sky. Everything faded behind a grey fog. It was still a couple of hours before Nikki would come home. Edith’s downstairs neighbor usually popped in to say hi before heading out for her improvisation class. At first, Edith hadn’t wanted Nikki to find her, but then the young actress complained about a shortage of life experiences and how her acting lacked substance as a result. So, Edith decided to provide Nikki with an 98
experience to draw from. I should have left her the bird seed. Twelve minutes. Fog turned into bright mist. The weight of her body fell away. Pain she had felt for years dissipated, but not with the same numbness she felt with drugs. A tangle of memories sorted themselves out, one by one: her third birthday party, the yellow, polka- dot hat she wore on her first trip to the beach, the scent of her father’s aftershave, her first kiss. Memories pulsed fast then slow, fast then slow, like the up and down swing of a pendulum. Bits of faces bled into a collage, shifting and changing. Mom? Dad? Clark Gable? Why not? This is heaven, right? Thirteen minutes. The tingle that swept through her felt better than her first bite of mocha almond fudge ice cream, better than illicit sex with Pablo on a beach in Mazatlan, better than hearing the first cries of her baby girl. Oh, it’s you.
A Boy Away From Home Katrina Kasch
Blue sweater and a broken arm in plaster I was just a boy away from home scared of winter broke and celibate my mother, Undoer of Knots, said: Child, I love you I am there with you but I ran out of change and had to hang up I thought: ok, let’s get busy and found a job at a pickle factory going through the wheel of days and nights read the story of D.S 19 times (they asked in all the languages of the world: what’s that you are reading?) stayed awake until early a.m.’s, thinking tomorrow is fucked - have to go to work and can’t sleep at all always longed for fresh bread in the morning much the same story - race for survival, shit weather... once I said: I am not coming today and he said: you are coming right now, or you don’t come at all I said: fine I was calm All the signs were saying Child, I love you, I am there with you night has fallen for the fifth or perhaps seventh time in a row when I met someone whose hands made me want to be touched I said: can I get you a drink? not a sleek move but does it matter if it’s meant to be? we walked out into the first frost - winter came while we sat inside and I said: let’s go my breath visible in the cold air
In Conclusion, Before I Begin Steve Nickman
In conclusion, before I begin to make less sense and less— and that is when you’ll one by one withdraw discreetly as a student shuts her book annoyed when the material becomes too dense, as a man decides to end his talk with an old friend met again who’s changed and asks too much— I thank you for remembering all my jokes, I forgive you all your nos, I ask your pardon for being too much me. I think I will wander now that I am allowed not to make one thought follow on the last. Things call me: bells from the church next to the convent where Sister Felicita showed me the piano, eight chimes at eight o’clock, my bedtime, though it was still light, baby clams just below the sand sending up bubbles as the wave fell back, clouds in procession, squares of amazement on my quilt, dream animals.
Contributors Poe tr y William Aarnes has published two collections with Ninety-Six Press—Learning to Dance (1991) and Predicaments (2001). A third collection—Do in Dour—is forthcoming from Kelsay Books. His work has appeared in such magazines as Poetry, The Seneca Review, and Red Savina Review. Recent poems have has appeared in Main Street Rag, Shark Reef, and Empty Sink. Allison Albino has been teaching French in New York City for the past eleven years. She studied creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and did graduate work in French literature at New York University. She has attended writing conferences in Prague with the University of New Orleans, advanced workshops at the 92nd Y in New York City with Mark Doty and Emily Fragos, and most recently, attended the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference at Middlebury. Originally from Los Angeles, Drew Attana spent over a decade kicking around the West Coast, getting into trouble from Tijuana to Portland, before heading to Cajun Country. His fiction has appeared in Pathos Literary Journal and his poetry has appeared in Eunoia Review and Drunk Monkeys Magazine. He is currently living and writing in Lafayette, Louisiana. Cynthia Bargar is a poet living in Boston and Provincetown, Massachusetts. She must reside near the ocean in order to survive. Her poems have been published in Gargoyle, LUMINA Online, Sonic Boom, The Centrifugal Eye, Poesia, and Boiling River. Her picture poem, Chimera, a collaboration with artist Nick Thorkelson, spent many days on a Boston fence as part of the 102
exhibit, Windows on Fort Point. Carrie Beyer is a Kansas farm native living near the Puget Sound. She writes from her home, where she lives with her husband and three young boys. She studied English literature and creative writing at Kansas State University and the University of Texas at Arlington. Carl Boon lives and works in Istanbul, Turkey. Recent or forthcoming poems appear in Posit, The Tulane Review, The Blue Bonnet Review, Badlands, and many other magazines. Beau Boudreaux teaches English in Continuing Studies at Tulane University in New Orleans. His first book collection of poetry, RUNNING RED, RUNNING REDDER, was published in the spring of 2012 by Cherry Grove Collections. He has published poetry in journals including Antioch Review and Cream City Review, also in anthologies along with The Southern Poetry Anthology. Michelle Brooks has published a collection of poetry, Make Yourself Small, (Backwaters Press). A native Texan, she has spent most of her adult life in Detroit, her favorite city. Kayla Rae Candrilli received a Bachelors and Masters in Creative Writing from Penn State University and is a current MFA candidate at the University of Alabama. Candrilli was awarded first place in Vela Magazine’s non-fiction contest for women, and is published or forthcoming in The Chattahoochee Review, Puerto del Sol, CutBank, The Boiler, Pacifica Literary, and others. Danielle Cole is a lover of light, an appreciator of absurdity, and a psychotherapist living and
working in Philadelphia. Kaitlyn Crow is a seventeen year old poet from Northern Virginia. She started writing poetry when she realized that her words flowed better when she put a pen to paper. Her work can also be found at Vagabond City Literary Journal. Keith Dunlap is a former co-editor of The Columbia Review and former co-editor of Cutbank, having received his M.F.A. from the University of Montana. His poems have been accepted for publication in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, The Brooklyn Review, The Carolina Quarterly, The Georgetown Review, Poet Lore, and Sou’wester, among other places. He has a B.A. in English from Columbia College in New York and an M.A. in Classics from Columbia University. He lives in Portland, Maine, with his wife, the novelist, Jenny Siler, and his daughter, Vivica. Christopher Eskilson lives in Los Angeles and attends Pitzer College to study English. He also works as an editor for the small arts group the Hexagon Collective. Robert Fillman lives in eastern Pennsylvania with his wife, Melissa, and his two children, Emma and Robbie. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Lehigh University, where he teaches English and edits the university’s creative writing journal, Amaranth. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the Aurorean, Plain Spoke, The Chaffin Journal, The Meadow, Straylight, Third Wednesday, among other journals. Gabriel Furshong writes Missoula, MT, where he works for the Montana Wilderness Association. His prose has been published in High Country News, Montana Quarterly, the Earth Island Journal, and the Cobalt Review, among other publications. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in the anthology “I Go To The Ruined Place: Contemporary Poems in Defense of Global Human Rights,” (Lost Horse Press), the CutBank Literary Magazine, the Cossack Review and Drunk Monkeys.
Sarah Jefferis’ first poetry book Forgetting the Salt was published by Foothills Press in October 2008. Recently she was awarded a Community Arts Partnership grant for fiction, a CNF fellowship from the Saltonstall Arts Colony as well as the Bea Gonzalez poetry prize for her poems, “Motherhood,” and “The Cake, The Chalice and the Bird.” Her poems and nonfiction have appeared in The Stone Canoe, The American Literary Review, Ithaca Lit. com, The Mississippi Review, Icon, The Hollins Critic, The Patterson Review, Icarus, The Healing Muse and other journals. Her essay, entitled, “Blood and Chocolate,” appeared in an anthology entitled Labor Day: True Birth Stories from Today’s Best Women Writers and published by Farrar Straus and Giroux in April 2014. She has been both a poetry fellow and fiction fellow at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers Center in California. She holds an M.A. from Hollins University, an M.F.A. (Poetry) from Cornell University and a PhD (Memoir) from SUNY Binghamton. She is working on completing her first novel, entitled Running After Jesus, a second book of poetry about how secrets destroy our teeth, and a collection of essays on grief. Currently she lives in Ithaca, NY, with her two daughters. You can find out more about her publications and writing consultant business entitled: Write. Now. at www.sarahjefferis.net. Juleen Eun Sun Johnson Johnson has had poems published in printed publications, including Cirque, Ink Noise Review, Nervous Breakdown, The Rio Grand Review, Buried Letter Press and VoiceCatchers. Johnson currently writes and creates art in Portland, OR. Katia Kash is a traveling writer from London. Her poetry can be found in 3 a.m., Oval Fiction, Streetcake, Shampoo and Forth Magazine. She is also a trained aerialist and takes pictures on film. A.D. Lauren and is currently an undergraduate student studying creative writing at Emory University. 103
Blake Love is a poet, currently living in Portland, Oregon and holds a BA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University and an MFA in Creative Writing from University of Southern Maine. Love writes work that speaks to the voice(s) in his world. Farzana Marie is a poet and PhD candidate (Persian Literature/Creative Writing) at the University of Arizona. Farzana’s poetry and translations have appeared in print and on-line journals including The Rusty Nail, Fourteen Hills, Zócalo, Antiphon, Guernica, The Atticus Review, and The Fourth River. She is the author of a nonfiction book (2013), a poetry chapbook, “Letters to War and Lethe” (2014), and a book of Persian Dari poetry in translation, “Load Poems Like Guns: Women’s Poetry from Herat, Afghanistan” (2015). She is president of the nonprofit Civil Vision International and can be found on Twitter @ farzanamarie Devon Miller-Duggan has published poems in Rattle, Shenandoah, Margie, Christianity and Literature, Gargoyle. She teaches Creative Writing at the University of Delaware. Her books include Pinning the Bird to the Wall from Tres Chicas Books in 2008 and a chapbook of poems about angels, Neither Prayer, Nor Bird from Finishing Line Press in 2013. Jessica Morey-Collins is an MFA student at the University of New Orleans, where she works as associate poetry editor for Bayou Magazine. She received a scholarship to attend the 2015 NYS Summer Writer’s Institute. Her poems can be found or are forthcoming in the North American Review, Vinyl Poetry, ILK Journal, Pleiades, Black Tongue Review and elsewhere. Steven Nickman is a poet and child psychiatrist from Brookline, MA and takes a special interest in the experiences and dilemmas of adoptive families. His work has most recently appeared in Third Wednesday, Rhino Magazine, Mid-American Review, Antigonish Review and The Bulletin of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry. He enjoys translating poetry from Spanish and Portuguese 104
as well as incorporating foreign languages into his original work. He is also a longtime member of Poemworks: The Workshop for Publishing Poets. Charles Rafferty has published poems in The New Yorker, Prairie Schooner, and The Southern Review. His tenth collection of poems, The Unleashable Dog, was published by Steel Toe Books in 2014. Currently, He directs the MFA program at Albertus Magnus College. Aaron Reeder is an MFA student of poetry at The University of New Mexico. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Kudzu House Quarterly, Bitter Oleander, Black Tongue Review, The Great American Literary Magazine, and others. He is the author of the forthcoming chapbook, DAWN (Orange Monkey Publishing, 2015). His chapbook, Small Flicks of Light was a finalist and honorable mention in the 2015 ELJ Mini-Collection Contest, and his work in The Great American Lit Mag was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He is the poetry editor for Blue Mesa Review and the active Secretary of the Inland Empire Literary Organization, PoetrIE. Kelly Rossier was recently awarded a Fulbright grant in creative writing and will travel to Ljubljana, Slovenia this fall to finish a collection of lyric essays she’s been working on since she first visited Eastern Europe a few years ago. A singer and performance artist, originally from Brooklyn, she’s been raising her children and a coop full of chickens in rural Vermont for the last ten years. She has an MFA in creative non-fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is currently working on a second graduate degree at Dartmouth College. Samuel Ryan is a poet residing in Kennesaw, GA. Having completed an undergraduate degree in English this past year, he is currently considering graduate programs for an MAPW, and is working on releasing his first chapbook. His work has been previously published in Kennesaw State University’s Share magazine, as well as the Kennesaw journal Punk Rock and Poetry.
S.C. Sirleaf is a professor from the Deep South who takes too many Polaroids. She publishes under the name S. C. Sirleaf and has appeared in Crack the Spine. Laura Sullivan’s work has recently appeared in Clockhouse, Southern Women’s Review and the Oxford University Press collection Poverty/Privlege: A Reader for Writers. She is a graphic designer in Tallahassee, Florida. Yermiyahu Ahron Taub is the author of four books of poetry, including most recently Prayers of a Heretic/Tfiles fun an apikoyres (2013). Tsugreytndik zikh tsu tantsn: naye Yidishe lider/Preparing to Dance: New Yiddish songs, a CD of nine of his Yiddish poems set to music by Michał Górczyński was released on the Multikulti Project label (www. multikulti.com). Taub was honored by the Museum of Jewish Heritage as one of New York’s best emerging Jewish artists and has been nominated four times for a Pushcart Prize and twice for a Best of the Net award. Please visit his web site at www. yataub.net. Emily Teitsworth is a junior at Susquehanna University. She studies creative writing and publishing/editing. She has had poetry recently published in Stone Canoe. Jessica Tyson poetry has been published in a few literary journals, including Rip-Rap Crab Creek Review, and The Acorn Review. She graduated with an MFA from the University of Washington at Seattle, and also completed the undergraduate creative writing program at California State University at Long Beach. She currently works as a real estate operations and marketing manager in San Diego, California; her freelance writing appears on numerous blogs and articles across the internet, often under someone else’s name. She was also nominated for a Pushcart Prize this past year.
Fiction Z.Z. Boone’s fiction has appeared in New Ohio Review, Berkeley Fiction Review, Potomac Review, and others. Angela Doll Carlson is a poet and essayist and fiction writer whose work has appeared most recently in publications both online and offline, such as Burnside Writer’s Collective, St. Katherine Review, Rock & Sling, Image Journal’s “Good Letters” blog, Ruminate Magazine (online) and Art House America. Her first book, Nearly Orthodox: On Being a Modern Woman in an Ancient Tradition (Ancient Faith Publishers) was released July 2014. Her latest book, Garden in the East: The Spiritual Life of the Body is due out from Ancient Faith Publishers in 2016. Angela currently lives in Chicago, IL, with her husband, David, and her 4 outrageously spirited yet remarkably likable children. Debra Danz was born and raised in NY, but now resides in Switzerland with her two children. She is currently writing a book of short, dark stories as a dedication to her late husband. Her work has been published in 50 – Word Stories, Journal of Microliterature, The Bookends Review, online and the 2014 anthology. She is a member of The Writing Women of Zurich, and has contributed a few pieces to the club blog. Daniel Davis is the Nonfiction Editor for The Prompt Literary Magazine. His own work has appeared in various online and print journals. You can find him at Facebook.com/DanielDavis05 and on Twitter @dan_davis86. Tommy Dean is the author of a flash fiction chapbook entitled Special Like the People on TV from Redbird Chapbooks. A graduate of the Queens University of Charlotte MFA program, he has been previously published in the Watershed Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, r.kv.r.y, Boston Literary Magazine, Foliate Oak, and Gravel. Find him @TommyDeanWriter on Twitter. 105
Joe Giordano was born in Brooklyn. He and his wife, Jane, have lived in Greece, Brazil, Belgium and Netherlands. They now live in Texas with their little shih tzu, Sophia. Joe’s stories have appeared in more than sixty magazines including Bartleby Snopes, Newfound Journal, and The Summerset Review. His novel, Birds of Passage, An Italian Immigrant Coming of Age Story, will be published in October by Harvard Square Editions.
Ron Riekki’s books include U.P., The Way North, and Here. Melissa Ritter is a psychologist-psychoanalyst in NYC. She is in private practice, teaches, edites, writes (-ish). For the past few years, she’s been particularly compelled by poetry, believing it’s often as close to “truth” as one can achieve.
Kristie Smeltzer’s work has appeared in So to Speak and The Florida Review. Her short story, “Bridges,” James Hartman’s short fiction has appeared in Blue was a finalist in the 2007 Phoebe Fiction Contest. Five Notebook, Peaches Literary Magazine, Gravel Literary Michael Dominic Tesauro received his MFA/MA Journal, and Spelk. His literary criticism is forthcoming from Chapman University. He writes for Life & Thyme in The Hemingway Review. He has a History degree Magazine. Occasionally, he teaches composition and from Adrian College, an English degree from Florida writing. His work has been published in Zocalo Public Atlantic University, and a Master of Fine Arts in Square, Crack the Spine, Wilderness House Review, What Creative Writing from Eastern Kentucky University. Weekly Baltimore, Inlandia Journal, and others. He He lives in Kentucky, and has finished his first novel. was shortlisted for the 2013 Pen 2 Paper Writing Nick Hilbourn teaches special needs students near Competition. Philadelphia. He’s an award-winning journalist, Bill Vernon served in the United States Marine columnist for Headstuff.org and PointsInCase. Corps, studied English literature, then taught com. His work most recently appeared in Brain of it. Writing is his therapy, along with exercising Forgetting, Infinite Acacia and LAROLA. He blogs at outdoors and doing international folkdances. His largethingslargerthings.tumblr.com poems, stories and nonfiction have appeared in a Davis Horner has been a staff features writer for variety of magazines and anthologies, and Five Star various tabloids and newspapers. He recently has Mysteries published his novel OLD TOWN in 2005. had stories appear in Scrutiny, Furious Gazelle, Gravel and Foliate Oak. He lives in Greenville SC with his wife and two cats. His wife and one of the cats are internationally famous. He is not. Fatima Jamal was the Glimmer Train Family Matters finalist. Her Fiction appeared and forthcoming in CRATE and Crack the Spine. She lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia with her husband and two children. C. Evans Mylonas is a contributing writer for the Oshana Regional Library Newsletter in Oshakati, Namibia, where she has been volunteering as an English instructor. She uses her spare time to work on her novel. Ms. Mylonas has been published in Thema Literary Journal, and is a two time scholarship recipient to Western Michigan’s Summer Writing Program in Prague. 106
N onF icti on Caitlin Garvey lives in Chicago, where she works as an English lecturer at a two-year college. She is currently enrolled in Northwestern University’s MFA program in Creative Nonfiction. Ron Riekki’s books include U.P., The Way North, and Here. Davon Loeb earned an MFA in Creative Writing and a B.A. in English. He writes creative nonfiction and poetry. His work has been featured in Apeiron Review, Word Riot, Drunk Monkeys, Harpoon Review, Connotation Press, Portland Review, and Duende Literary Journal, among others. Davon is a 2016 Pushcart Prize nominee. Currently, he is working on his first collection of lyrical essays.
P hotography Kayla Rae Candrilli received a Bachelors and Masters in Creative Writing from Penn State University and is a current MFA candidate at the University of Alabama. Candrilli was awarded first place in Vela Magazine’s non-fiction contest for women, and is published or forthcoming in The Chattahoochee Review, Puerto del Sol, CutBank, The Boiler, Pacifica Literary, and others. Rebekah Levin, while studying classical ballet full-time, has almost received her B.A. in Communication Arts at Florida International University. She enjoys reading, traveling, and creating imaginative worlds in her head. Jennifer Lothrigel is an artist and poet residing in Southern, CA. Her work is an exploration of the feminine psyche, both personal and archetypal. She creates intuitively, draws from the mystery of the unconscious, and weaves her findings together. Ariana Nelson’s photography captures what it means to be human - both in direct and indirect ways.
Poetry, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Flash Fiction, & Photography