The Review Staff Editors Lisa Andrews Meredith Davis
Design Editors Lisa Andrews
Production Editors Lisa Andrews Meredith Davis
First Readers Michael Cooper Tiara DeGuzman Gina Dozois Marcene Gandolfo Ashley Hutson Xavier Vega
Interviewer Xavier Vega
What’s the longest word in the English language? The answer? Smiles. There’s a mile between S’s. And it works doubly because our smiles over your support of Apeiron are endless. Our audience continues to grow with our little magazine. Scribd, our previous method of distributing Apeiron, shows over 30,000 reads since our launch. Website analytics show over 10,000 unique visitors to our website, which means that readers share each issue with friends. How could our smiles not be miles long? I’ve worked on literary magazines on and off for going on a decade. I love working on them and submitting my work to them, but more importantly I love the community that surrounds every ‘zine old and new. Writers are a special sort of needy people. We write because we have to, but we share our writing out of a longing to be heard. A literary magazine of any sort is a place where voices gather and discourse is born. Not so long ago, I approached Meredith with the idea to start a literary magazine. I’d worked as an editor for several college literary magazines, slushed for online magazines, and wanted to try my hands at starting a ‘zine from the ground up. But I didn’t want to go it alone. These babies are a lot of work, and “baby” is an apt term. We’ve nursed Apeiron along for just over three years now, and she’s walking around on her own two legs. Apeiron now has a fairly full staff of first (slush) readers, interviewers, book reviewers, bloggers, and other literary savvy whatnots. (Meredith will fill you in on all of this in the coming weeks.) This magazine has been an integral part of my life for the last three years, and so my decision to leave has been a difficult one. As far as you, the reader,
will see, Apeiron is still headed toward a bigger and brighter future. Meredith has a better grip than most mothers of toddlers on this magazine, and I’m looking forward to watching it continue to grow from the sidelines. I’ll be staying on for the present to continue layout product and help with web-related stuff when needed, but all editor-type functions, ownership, power, crown? Can we go with crown? Are now in Meredith’s possession. I’ve hit a point in my personal and professional life where I have to make choices regarding exciting things like happiness and career growth, and something had to give somewhere. But enough about all of that. Meredith is this super-English-professor-dance-instructing-pug-mom -and-reading-teacher-superhero. She’s got this. So for the fun part, Issue 9 is beautiful. We’ve incorporated more artwork and an interview (which I believe will be the first of many). There’s an illustrated poem, the first we’ve published, by Jan Karlsson on page 29 that felt just right for us. The bittersweetness of “Sugar” on page 12 left us looking for a drink, and the sadness of “Scamps” a nonfiction piece on page 83, reminds us to appreciate those in our lives. So while you’re turning the pages of this freshly printed manuscript, remember that time moves on silent wings and doesn’t wait for us to notice its passing. Happy reading!
Poetry The Seal’s Wife Milla van der Have 9 Enchantment of Eleven Rachel Crawford 10 Fractal Rachel Crawford 11 River Man Sandy Coomer 17 Witness Katie Metcalfe 18 DNR, or A Catechism Katryn Dierksen 21 For Immediate Release Hannah Albee 22 Love Anne Britting Oleson 25 Saturated JJ Starr Flank JJ Starr This Is How the Dead Return Steve Klepetar
26 27 28
I’m Dandy Jan Karlsson 29 (And Your Chew) Callie Koenig 30 Basketball Night at the Headman’s House, Serberida, Sumatra Roger Camp 31 In Winter Krista Marie DeBehnke 37 Between Verona & Pedova Elizabeth Reitzell 38 [Fingers Brush Across] Kevin Murphy 39 Red Dresses Cheryl Smart 40 The Regret Wave Brianna Barnes 41 The Sunburn Brianna Barnes 42 Z-bop Jevin Lee Albuquerque 43 Tangerine and Baby Blue Richa Gupta 44
Homecoming Todd Outcalt 51 Colors of Sin and Summer Sage Kubis 58 Dual Sounds Kyle Kineman 60 Perhaps Tom Montag 61 At the Museum Gift Shop Kevin Casey 62 In the Aftermath of Another Fire Amie Sharp 63 Marks of Mercy Jesse Morales 68 Cornbread Malcolm Friend 69 Letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Cure Boredom Pattie Flint 70 I Thought This Was the Prank Call and My TV a Safe Place Jessie Janeshek 71 Undone Andrea Collins At the Back Door R.W. Poole Our Brief Ecstatic Body R.W. Poole Easter Morning, Luna Pier, Two Men Fishing in a Boat Daniel James Sundahl
72 79 80
Essence John Saul On the Gulf of Honduras Nina Ficenec Batman, Retired Trevor Pyle Day/Night Confusion Jennifer Peterson Still Sometimes Jennifer Peterson Undercurrent John Wunsch Driving the Back Road Country John Wunsch Last Year at Anaheim Gregory Crosby Bison Andrea Janelle Dickens canyon stream John Clark Vincent his fingers John Clark Vincent Anatomy of Solitude Sally Zakariya
86 90 91 92 93 97 98 105 106 107 108 109
A Brief History of Attraction Sally Zakariya 110 Today, the pesticide man Jerrod Schwarz 111 Knuckles, Midnight, and the Heaven of an Empty Pool Jerrod Schwarz 112 12 Weeks Samantha Williams Road Trip Tess Fellows Being a Teenager Valentina Saavedtra Public Transportation Eric Zipper When There Is Nothing Left to Say Andrew Hemmert
113 114 115 120
Favorite Roommate On Rooting Witness God Bless You Once—no actually Kilmarnak, VA Pallet Pit Stop, Rabbit Ears Pass
122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129
Megan Sampson Lisa Gaudio Jennifer Met Jennifer Met Eugene Goldin Ann Howells G. Timothy Gordon Corinne White
Fiction Sugar Alaina Symanovich 12 Another’s Place Marc Joan 20 The Observer Ralph Uttaro 32 Father’s Day Cedric Yamanaka 45 Keyholes Helena Duncan 53 Fish Bone. Snow Globe Emily Walling 54 6
The Patron Saint of Falling Down Justin Lawrence Daugherty Hummels Robert Lunday Too Small for This Miranda Freeman The Day All People Were Kind: a Fable Julie Albright
55 57 64 67
Now, You and I Crunch Like an Overpriced Gluten-Free Pretzel Jen Ferguson 75 The Cat and the Tree My Baby’s Scars Bison
Andréa J. Onstad Victoria Griffin Andrea Janelle Dickens
76 94 106
Manju Soni Jim Ross
The Powers That Be Dian Lajdziak Western Maryland RR Station Cumberland, Maryland Stephen Pohl Western Maryland RR Tunnel Big Savage Mountain Stephen Pohl Keeler -Population 50 Mitzi McMahon Chive Seed Pods in Yellow Violet Mitzi McMahon Interview: Anna Smetanenko with Three Photos
Nonfiction Scamps Piecework
36 50 59 66 116 7
The Sealâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Wife Milla van der Have
We went swimming for sunken cities. The water was clear, almost maternal and your hair spread out like seaweed, staking claim of something lost. Our strokes were tranquil, a sense long gone from our lives, as we floated through the warmth of summer and I imagined your legs of silver and you belonging next to me.
Enchantment of Eleven Rachel Crawford
For Wallace Stevens Ten oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;clock has passed, as all things do, the white nightgowns are still. But their strange sisters stir. Silken swamp lights glimmer in dark rooms where even insurance salesmen dream in purple and blue and yellow and green. Placid housewives dream of riot, surly teenagers of love, while children talk in their sleep. House by house, moldering skulls catch fire as through the suburbs creeps the witching hour.
Fractal Rachel Crawford
Even in death she was gorgeous, her pagan flesh blossoming like a pink and bleeding Neo-Platonic rose. For Hypatia of Alexandria, death was consummationâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; on the library steps, Euclidian elegance embraced the twisting vibrance of a Mandelbrot Set. The monks, excoriated by reason, are gone. Hypatia, shivering with sound and motion, writhes still in brilliant reiteration.
SUGAR Alaina Symanovich “The one friend I told about these arrangements went off on a rant about empowerment and self-respect. To set the record straight: I have a strong feminine role “model.
y dad can spin anything: challah braids, Danish pinwheel pastries, fondant flowers in every variety. When I visited Dad’s bakery after school, I’d sit cross-legged on a stool and watch as he mixed the dough to rise overnight. Friday afternoons were my favorite. With weekend weddings and the Saturday-morning rush ahead, Dad hurried from station to station with honey slicked palms as he checked the buttercream frosting and put oatmeal-raisin cookies in to bake and shaped cinnamon rolls. When I was old enough, I did the easy tasks: sifting flours, transferring cookies to cooling racks, misting baguettes fresh out of the oven. And
all the while, as constant as the whirr of the mixer or the hum of the industrial freezer, were Dad’s stories. He broke his arm on the playground in third grade, fighting with a girl. When he lost the fight, his brothers left him blacked-out on basketball court. His first kiss was in seventh grade, on a school field trip, with Melanie Richards. She smelled like strawberries. He didn’t fall in love with my mom at first sight. In fact, he didn’t even call her after the first date: She called him. The first party he and Mom threw as a couple, no one attended. It was a New Year’s Eve party, the
roads were bad, and his college apartment was five snaking miles from campus. So he and Mom ate cheese curls and watched the ball drop and had sex on the plaid couch that came with the apartment furnishings. Those stories grew with me. In elementary and middle school, they were full of whoopee cushions, sibling fights, gym-class shenanigans. It wasn’t until high school that they took on a prickling tone: regrets, missed connections, disappointments. It wasn’t until I left for college that they’d really started to burn. *** I enter the hotel through a door tucked between two dumpsters whose trash smells sweet, like rotting cantaloupe. I should know: I like to let fruits rot on my kitchen counter. They smell best after the mold spreads and weakens the skin—when the outsides are soft but still holding together. Dave’s text informs me he’s wearing a maroon sweater. I tell him I’m in pink, but there’s no need; when I exit the back stairs into the lobby, his eyes claim me immediately. He stands when I approach, his arms twisting around me, and I let him pull me tight. His kiss surprises me more than it should. “Dave?” I smile, as if I don’t taste him on my lips. His arms are still on my hips, his hands on my lower back. “I’m Ruth.” But he already knows this. He knows my age, my pictures, my life in a two-sentence brief. He was selective; he wanted the most bang for his buck. His push—gentle but insistent—leads me to the lounge. He waves the waitress over quickly, and I order liquor just as fast. He is not embarrassed when the waitress needs to see my ID. He does not order alcohol because he needs to drive us back to his hotel. Also, he wants to remember this night. I’m on my second Jack and Ginger when Dave mentions his wife. He was up-front from the beginning, selecting “married” instead of “rather not say” on his online profile, but still. I didn’t expect to learn her name. I have standards when it comes to married men. I distance myself from relationships as much as possible: If I live in the same town as the wife, forget it. I don’t want to be in the checkout line at Walgreen’s wondering are you the woman whose house I visit Monday
mornings? You know, 222 Linden? Gray ranch, red shutters? If I don’t live in the same town as the wife, then fine. But I don’t want to know her particulars. So I try to let my vision fuzz when Dave whips out his smartphone and scrolls through pictures of his houses. There’s the New York apartment with the view of Central Park, the white two-story in Connecticut, the high-rise condo in Florida. There’s every place his wife lives and breathes and believes her husband is one of the good guys. “I love Betty, I do,” Dave says. And there it is, I think. Her name. Already I’m picturing a face—platinum hair, crow’s feet, cakey lipstick. A woman who goes to spin classes and studies her hips in the mirror and worries she’ll never look thin enough. A woman who smiles at Whole Foods cashiers and tips cab drivers well. A woman—Betty—the taste is like anise—who makes me wish I were drunk already. “…but she’s so frigid,” Dave continues. “I mean, I make all the money, I bend over backward to take care of the business, and she acts like it’s nothing. I’m not saying I deserve sex for what I do. But I think I deserve…” He gestures with his hand, a wafting motion. “Affection?” When Dave’s eyes meet mine, I see Betty leave them. “Love,” he smiles. Then he signals the waitress for another Jack and Ginger. I try to smile back, as if I don’t know what happens after the third drink. *** The one friend I told about these arrangements went off on a rant about empowerment and self-respect. To set the record straight: I have a strong feminine role model. I doubt that my friend, with her swishy skirts and wannabe dreadlocks, could withstand my mom’s scalding glare. Think of a cooking torch hovering over crème brûlée—the welts of carmelization that speckle the surface, the brown bubbling to almost-black, the sugar surrendering to the heat. Compared to my mom, that’s downright gentle. I remember being in sixth grade—prepubescent— begging Mom to let me talk to Dad on the phone one afternoon. He was away at a bakers’ convention in Charlottesville, three days of whole-wheat-flour 13
keynotes and meringue demos. I was still visiting the bakery every day after school, but only long enough to wave to whoever was on prep duty. “Mom, please?” I whispered. “You’ve been talking to him for twenty minutes.” It was unusual to hear them talk at all, much less for an extended conversation. Usually Mom got home from the law firm late, long past Dad’s 9 p.m. baker’s bedtime, and she never seemed sorry about it. I wondered if she was tying up the line just so I couldn’t. “Hold on,” she mouthed, batting a hand in my direction. She raised her voice. “Yes, John, I have to go. Your mistress wants you.” With that, she thrust the phone at me and grabbed her keys off the counter. “They need me at the office,” she said over her shoulder. “There’s leftovers in the fridge.” Mom didn’t come home until after midnight, but Dad talked to me for hours. I sat at the kitchen table, stared at the backyard, and listened to him spin story after story as the light faded. *** It’s better this way, Dave tells me as he signs the check. Betty’s satisfied, he gets what he needs, the marriage stays together. They have a son, after all. I look at my hands, pretzeled together in my lap, and wonder about Dave’s son. He’s probably older than me, though not by much. He’d probably fuck me, too, in the typical way: for free, after some flirting in a bar. In this world, it’s empowered to go home with a stranger, but degrading to let it help with rent.
Get it, girl!—but only sex. You, girl, don’t get money. “Are you comfortable getting in my car?” Dave asks. “My hotel’s just down the street.” In the mirror, I’ve rehearsed being this helpless. “Well—” I glance down, then up. “Yes. I think so. But I should text someone, let them know where I am.” “Of course,” Dave nods. “Text whoever you like.” “Just for safety,” I add, my own little dig. It really scares the businessmen when you say the ‘s’ word. You see their reputations flash before their eyes, the scandal if they were to be caught with you—or caught hurting you. “Of course,” he repeats. “I don’t want any trouble.” I send a text to myself, making sure Dave sees my thumbs moving. “Done,” I tell him, and he takes my hand. As he leads me from the lounge, I glance back at the crisp Jacksons on the table. I wonder which one of us, me or the waitress, will get the most tonight. *** As long as I can remember, I wanted to be a secretary. Dad let me answer the phone at the bakery, and I gloried in my color-coded sticky notes, my desk drawers organized down to the last paper clip, my bulletin board with all the staff ’s schedules posted at perfect perpendiculars. Sometimes I’d spend whole Saturdays at the bakery writing “while you were out” messages in painstaking cursive and deleting the junk mail from the bakery’s email account. That’s how I found the email from Lisa. I miss you, J, it read. It took me too long to connect J to John—my dad. I did the professional thing. I pretended I was a real secretary, dressed in pumps and fake pearls, perched ramrod-straight on the edge of my chair. A real secretary would recognize a personal email. A real secretary would know how to forget what she’d seen. I did everything a real secretary would, up to closing time, when I found Dad sweeping behind the counter. I felt my invisible pumps disappear and my pearls dissolve as I sighed and asked him, please, to tell me a story. He stopped sweeping to smile at me. The old bemused smile: raised eyebrows, pressed-together lips, honey-warm eyes. “And what kind of story would
you like?” “Tell me about Mom,” I said, eyes on the floor. Stars of white speckled the tile; salt or sugar, I couldn’t tell. “Tell me again how you met.” *** Alcohol works in funny ways. When it’s fermenting, the yeast breaks down all the sugar and leaves behind ethanol, poison. Doesn’t matter if you start with grapes or barley, molasses or potatoes—the yeast gobbles up all the sweet and tells your blood: here, have fun with this. Alcoholics feel this on a grand scale. Over time, their bodies forget how to regulate blood sugar. Their insulin can be too high or too low. They can become diabetic, even die. I wonder about my insulin as Dave pulls into the lot of the La Quinta. What parts of my body have the Jack and Gingers saturated? Has my blood taken them everywhere, from the little veins in my toes to the fat ones in my wrists? If I took a butcher knife to my wrist now, would I smell whiskey? Dave’s hand moves in mine as he guides me through the lobby. A little stroke: his thumb on my palm. The first stroke of many. I don’t make eye contact with the woman behind the counter, but in my peripheral vision I detect curly hair, thick-lensed glasses, maroon lipstick. I detect judgment, too, but that’s nothing new. I expect it from women who work the graveyard shift. After we climb into bed, but before he asks me to take off my clothes, Dave pauses. A patronizing moment. “I know this isn’t just about the money,” he begins. “No,” I lie. “It’s an arrangement.” I nod. “I want to see you again. Often.” I nod. His hands spin through my hair, fingering the long pieces, tickling my scalp. “But you must need something,” he whispers, his mouth moving to my ear. I tell my answer to the ceiling. The curdled texture of the white ceiling: like cottage cheese, or clumpedup baking soda. “School,” I lie. “Help getting my paralegal certificate. It’s a couple thousand dollars.” The heat of Dave’s mouth moves from my neck to my lips. He exhales on me, smiles, says he thinks
we can make that happen. After a long kiss, after my mouth is free of his tongue, he gives a playful little laugh. “A smart girl,” he says. “That’s what I like to see.” I nod. And then says he’d like to see more. *** Of course my mom balked when I, a smiling tenyear-old, told her my dream of becoming a secretary. She said secretaries barely exist in this day and age— if anything, I’d be a personal assistant. She said it with a face as if she’d smelled something foul. “Well, maybe I could be a paralegal,” I said. “Like Nancy at your office. You love Nancy.” Mom laughed. Loudly. “Nancy’s a paralegal because she was afraid of the LSAT. Is that what you want to be? Afraid?” When I turned away, Mom spoke to my back. “You’re better than that, Ruth,” she said. “Act like it.” *** Dave deposits me, three hundred dollars richer, at the gas station a few blocks from my apartment. Because I always stop at the Shell after an arrangement, Nadia behind the counter doesn’t look up from her Ok! magazine as I make my ritual trek to the grocery aisle. There, where it always sits, is the jumbo-size box of Saltines. Four sleeves: 4844 milligrams of sodium. I calculated it one night when I couldn’t sleep. In my apartment, in my bed, crumbs of cracker and salt spill around me as I eat through each sleeve. Caressing the pristine white wrappers, easing the crackers toward my mouth, sliding them past my lips. I let the white mess glom the crevices of my molars and the spaces between my teeth. Eventually the taste is so overwhelming I don’t think I can swallow; I just hold the ball of white in my mouth, eyes burning, lips swollen, thinking my blood must have turned to salt and sludged to a standstill. Finally, eyes squeezed shut, I swallow.
The Powers That B e Dian Lajdziak
River Man Sandy Coomer
We swam the Tennessee River with your dead eyes open to us, silent within willow fronds on the surface, green tendrils reaching down. Your body hung there, suspended for days. No one knew you, or counted you missing, or turned the shore end over end to discover your ending. It was an accident—finding you. The rescue boats weren’t sent for you, nor the lights on the early dawn striping the water meant to catch a shadow, a silhouette, dark and human-like among the rushes. Swimmers, safe in our suits, watched over by so many guardians, glided by without so much as a prayer for you, as fond of ignorance that day as any other. This was your funeral procession. Bless the river minnows and the fat blue catfish, the bull frogs on the stones sloshing a drunken song, the sound of the current patiently tugging your pants leg, the sun’s rays that recognized your face as earth, not water, not meant to float so still, thick and water-boarded, tangled in a journey of silence and night. You were a sentence in the newspaper. Unloaded from your house of sticks after the last swimmer passed— no name, no hometown— your cells swollen, sloughing into the vast throat of river, you were the voice imagined in our watery dreams, trapped beneath glass, the liquid breath over the words we finally found for you on the shore. 17
Witness Katie Metcalfe
Your elbow is arrow sharp, but I clutch you tighter, squeezing an ebbing warmth as your blood starts to cool, pool, and settle. You wanted death to find you here, where stars stuff the sky. I remember the candle crackling in the lantern, the night before we left the safety of the cabin. I remember the hot devastation of our last fuck. How you gripped my waist and moved to the rhythm of my heart beat. Now loss pummels my torso as your body decomposes. I sit and watch the process. I eat two nuts and four raisins from the trail mix bag. I take a sip of water. I remember, four years ago today, shouting through the glass of your hospital window. I shouted â&#x20AC;&#x153;I love you,â&#x20AC;? my emotions a cradle of knots until you said it back and managed a smile. The wolves come after two days.
From the branches of a tree I watch them pull you into pieces. They take out your throat, tongue, heart, lungs, liver. I never imagined I would ever see these intimate parts of your being. You would have wanted this. The wolves don’t look, but I know they know I’m balancing on the sixth branch up. They walk slowly away, bellies low. You’ve made the ghosts of the forest drowsy. I wait until the ravens and the rain have moved on, then scrabble through your bones for something to keep. I take a piece of your spine, an intact rib, a bone from your middle finger. I leave the ring I gave you, half-buried in leaf mulch and new earth. I sit with your bones for a while, listen to the curious bees attracted by the sweet smell of your warm remains. I sleep, the taste of your beautiful wreckage in my mouth. When I wake, nature’s little ones are circling you, excited. It’s time to leave I pack your bones in the face cloth we shared, dry blood under my nails. I follow the sun home.
A n o t h e r ’s P l a c e Marc Joan It is cool under the banyans, and quiet, except for the sounds of a bird in the branches—feathers brushing rich, dark leaves with the dry rustle of a silk fan unfolding.
There is a part of India, near Mysore, where the Kaveri river helps feed the impossible lushness of paddy fields. Indeed, where the green of the paddy is dominant, and where the imported car has yet to compete with the bullock cart and the bare foot. Take the train to a certain rural station in this blessed region. From there, engage your chosen mode of transport. Ask for the old house, from the time of the Raj. Everybody knows it, even today. It is haunted; the Englishman’s children died, and he left. Certainly the building is drenched in expatriate melancholy; perhaps bereavements are more bitter when they are borne in a foreign land. Yes, the house has a story to tell, but I have another. There is no beginning or end to it, as such. It’s not that kind of story. That day I walked from the house to that reach of the river where the banyans half-hide a clutch of temples, still white in spite of time’s monsoons. Discarded and forlorn, like broken shells in an abandoned nest, they are home only to spiders, obese and drugged by plenty. It is cool under the banyans, and quiet, except for the sounds of a bird in the branches—feathers brushing rich, dark leaves with the dry rustle of a silk fan unfolding. Here, at the sand-silted shore, the river is slow-moving and silent. One of the temple buildings is planted close to the bank. From it, steps lead to the water’s edge—no—they lead into the water. I stand and peer at them; stairs descending to dark green depths. Why? Has the river encroached upon them over time? If not, then why 20
build steps under water; and how? And why were the temples deserted? I try to photograph the descent. The steps are so white; they draw the eye down where the pale stone fades into a green world. I can see occasional movements, sometimes quick glimmers, as of a fish’s belly. Sometimes a slow, dark shadow, moving closer, as though curious but cautious, always on the edge of sight. Then I feel it. You will have felt it too, at one time or another: the sensation of being watched. I turn and see her. Standing a few feet away, soaking wet, immodest by Indian standards, she seems unconcerned that her sari clings to her body. She regards me, unsmiling, hostile. Her eyes seem almost inhuman: flat and devoid of expression. My smile goes unanswered. The message is clear: This is not your place. You are not welcome. You must leave. Cowed, with a muttered apology, averting my eyes, I start to retrace my steps, back to the house. I walk for only a few minutes before realizing that my camera case is too light. Cursing, I turn around again. I make my passage noisy, beating the lantana aside with a stick, so as not to alarm her with a sudden return. There are the steps, white, empty except for a black Canon; and pristine, except for the wet footprints leading down, down into the water. Yes, leading into, but not out of, the unpeopled river; disappearing, evaporating before my eyes, in the heat of the Mysore sun.
DNR, or A Catechism Katryn Dierksen
In my chest, somewhere between strange, swollen breasts, swollen like water balloons, tense in their elastic, taught wrap, I dig out a lump of resistance beneath blue veins. If you want to feel it, you could put your finger on my self-destruct trigger and perhaps Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d combust at your hands, rather than mine & in an odd way, that would be more fair.
For Immediate Release Hannah Albee
My daughter, the introvert, spent most of her first fourteen years keeping words inside her mouth. On her birthday, she ran out of room and stopped eating. A month and a half later, on Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday: a syringe delivers solutions of water, salt, and sugar to a feathery vein in her arm. Heated blankets ready to crush the twigs left of her limbs. She kept the birdfeeders full this winter. We watched the birds populate the maple and pear tree, turning snow brown with a splatter of seed pods. An old woman behind the curtain, with dementia, bleats like a goat, “oh-oh-oh!” A catheter extracts fluid from her bladder. We hear her daughter’s voice, steady and strong, say, “It’ll be over soon Ma”. But the undulating voice visits from time to time, for the duration of our evening emergency room visit. My daughter and son stare at each other, creating a new private joke, suppressing laughter, silently mouthing mimicries each time the woman bleats. I am in an emergency room with my children, one who is starving, my ex-husband, a goat, and her kid on Mardi Gras. “oh-oh-oh!” Is this how dissipation happens? The parading cast of specialists announce her body is “catabolic.” Marionette Words dance alongside:
cannibal catacombs diabolic catheter catabolic catatonic cathartic Un – metabolic: the body feeds itself with i t s e l f. When the body feeds itself on muscle, sooner or later it will find its own heart.
She asks for lentil soup, which happened to be what she ate every day when she was two. Lent begins the next morning. Her body soaks up and wrings out hospital fluids. My daughter, the stoic one, now wails on the floor, doubled up in a fetal curve. Her back heaves. I can see the bones now, rods and joints sliding under skin. I think of the moment water churns on a capsizing boat. Starvation will stop the following: smell, taste, stomach acid production, esophageal motility, intestinal contraction, and hunger. There is “Re-feeding Syndrome” to worry about: Eating too much, too soon, causes: heart attack, organ damage, seizure. Which also happens to be the same risks of starvation. Anorexia has the highest death rate of all mental illnesses.
Her eye sight is also disordered: she is Happy with her [dis] appearance. Happy. * At 92 pounds and 5 feet 3 inches tall, her body mass index indicates the professional recommendation for in-patient treatment at a swanky medical office building. There is debate about this. We stay home and venture out for therapy and nutritionist appointments, the pediatrician, the radiologist. She drinks a cup of barium.
* The skin on her stomach stretched, she is a balloon on a string, floating away. I am a mother of a colicky baby again. I am forcing medicine on a young child again. I am spending hours supervising every bite of five small meals a day. On her bed, in the big, overstuffed arm chair. Under Blankets. Any place but the table. She cries at the table. *
highly driven ambitious. Perfectionistic.
* With bony, shriveled fingers she picks at garbanzo beans and measures slope on graph paper. With bony fingers, she presses a small plastic ruler onto the page, carefully mapping straight lines. With bony fingers she lifts the bottle of Ensure and takes a sip. With bony fingers she solves for x. With bony fingers she makes uniform, rounded letters and numbers from the top of the page to the bottom. At this rate she ingests two hundred calories per hour. 23
*On respite, I watch an unrecognizable and intentionally undernourished Matthew McConaughey portray a character with AIDS. I read the next day: the actor is struggling to gain his weight back. I wonder if he, too, writhes on the floor with a teaspoon of quinoa. * She ventures to school, under a supervised meal plan, 504 accommodations, high-calorie snacks and lunches in the nurse’s office. She ventures home for high-calorie afternoon snacks and high-calorie dinners and high-calorie bedtime snacks. I cook with butter and whole milk. On my left, her brother scarfs it all down, asking for seconds. On my right, she pulls each bite apart, separates the foods with her fork into manageable categories the size of pill boxes. They are the inverse of Jack Sprat and his wife: one could eat no fat the other could eat no lean and so between the two of them, I try and balance the mean. * She begins to speak. She discusses taste, temperature, and texture. Talks about mean girls. Guffaws: friends are telling her she’s pretty (I want to sock them). Texts and gets texts and shows me what she reads and what she writes. Argues and whines and rambles. Reads aloud from her Reproductive System worksheet. Laughs. Quizzes me for shock value. Informs me of the rate of speed that semen travels: “Over two hundred miles per hour!” (I find this absolutely unbelievable). Tells me again, stirring the pot. I’ll take it. The words spill out, the food goes in.
Love Anne Britting Oleson (for S.B.) We’re walking the neighborhoods of Hampstead, stopping for coffee, moving on past Keats’ house, closed this morning, gates locked. Locked, too, is the wrought-iron gate into the cemetery housing the remains of Rex Harrison’s wife, dead too young, and the more elderly George du Maurier. You lean against the fence, look pensively through while telling me of your new love—you, the most hopeful man I’ve ever met. He’s so wonderful, bless him. The July sun whisks shadows from your face, your smile the joy of saffron butterflies lifting from the tall grass between the gravestones. He understands—when I die, I want to be lying in someone’s arms.
Saturated JJ Starr
You have become a stack for the woodshed that never made it. you have become so like that. Feed for the silverfish, the centipedes. Waterlogged by the seasons, you cannot burn.
Flank JJ Starr
I bore a bastard dead and so unformed it may as well have been the skin I lopped off my finger while slicing lemons. The juice of that citrus, a liquid fire; but it was the blunt force of the knife breaking through the nail that did the worst. This was a year before that bled-out failure of a life disrupted me. I healed just fine, the anxiety of living returned. I can probably still bear children. Had I wanted it, this would have been as tragic as the relief of the loss. Swept out and swept clean. Guilt culture. Guilt cultures me.
This Is How the Dead Return Steve Klepetar
in scratched glasses filthy with thumbprints, bewildered,. It always rains and the mossy earth smells of smoke, canvas and wet trees. No one gets any sleep. The dead girls braid each otherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hair. They sit around the campfire and tell ghost stories. Next morning the whole campground is dotted with conical holes. Another camping trip disaster. Muddy shoes, muddy socks, dead boy loses his glasses, dead girl her keys. Is this what we came back for? Broken guitar strings, dead batteries? Freeze-dried Astronaut food? Next time letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s come back somewhere with a pool, like sales reps at a convention in the Holiday Inn. Somewhere like Omaha sounds good.
Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m Dandy Jan Karlsson
( A n d Yo u r C h e w ) Callie Koenig
When War Pig slides the high-gauged septum ring out of his nose (hiding it in his freshly pierced navel), removes the skull and cross bones flask from his back pocket and goes to work at his “grown-up” job...
Assimilation has begun and it started with...does anyone know your real name?
When the Players Club member turns down the 12” subs in the trunk, removes the switches and then sells his tricked-out rice burner to buy the highest safety rated SUV on the market that he can load his wife, daughters, and their customized bicycles into...
Assimilation trades your slammed Civic for tiny fingerprints on un-tinted backseat windows.
When he asks one high day along the river when he’ll feel like an “adult,” and the only answer to give (the obvious but difficult one) is the answer he finds when his family funds his road to sobriety... Assimilation abuses you more than the substances you craved until you thank her for the abuse. When she takes down the duck-face selfies, stops posting about politics she doesn’t understand, and instead sets her sonogram photo as her profile picture, posts about her abnormal food cravings and, after nine months, uploads hourly pictures of her new “toy”...
Assimilation doesn’t reach everyone.
When he quits packing his lip, stops spending every weekend watching ESPN while pounding Bud Lights, removes the hats (representing his favorite teams) which successfully hid his thinning hair, and takes a razor to what is left... Assimilation steals your hair (and your chew) but leaves you with a beautiful wife and baby boy. When the “real world” pressures her to cut off her mohawk (returning her to wallflower status), take the ring out of her lip and go to bed hours before 3 a.m.... Assimilation cuts off the “balls” you found in an attempt to be seen. When they begin to tattoo names like “Mason,” “Emma” and “Isabella” on their bodies instead of butterflies, skulls and band emblems... 30
Assimilation changes your priorities to something more permanent.
Basketball Night at the Headmanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s House, Serberida, Sumatra Roger Camp
We are honored guests in the headmanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s house a blue cinder block box smack in the jungle green, a cement slab passing as a porch lazily evaporating beneath my bare feet. Across the red clay track chattering monkeys perform alfresco in the palms as fruit bats darting in webbed flight probe the open window the pink guest-room walls sweating insecticide as we crawl into moist beds. Lying in darkness nostrils sunk in malarial air we listen to the villagers over the throbbing generator cheer on the Lakers playing in the room next door.
The Observer R a l p h U t ta r o
“But Maria was sweeter. Life hadn’t hardened her yet.”
“I know people,” Little Joe Pugliese would often say. “I’m an observer of the human species. I know their tendencies.” His observation post was a stool behind the counter of a newsstand on the platform of the 23rd Street subway station. It was a dingy triangle of space recessed into the tile wall lining the platform. Strip fluorescent lights buzzed overhead, their bare tubes and exposed ballasts crusted with soot and the remnants of dead insects. He and his brother Benny had inherited the lease from their father. It was a damp Wednesday night in late October. Little Joe wore a knit cap on his head with the hood of a sweatshirt pulled up over it, fingerless gloves to keep his hands warm, but still the chill penetrated deep into his joints. His knees ached. His arthritis was flaring up again. He had spent the evening as he always did, watching the passengers spill out the doors of the trains onto the platform in front of him. A few of them stopped to grab a paper, a bottle of Diet Pepsi, a pack of gum. One of his regulars lingered to talk baseball. His Yankees were in the World Series again. Little Joe was a Mets fan. It was a little after ten-thirty, almost time to clear out the till and close up for the night. A young girl paced back and forth in front of the store. Women would do that if they were alone, especially the younger ones. It made them feel safer. This one was blonde, her hair cut short and blunt, big pale blue eyes, long legs sheathed in black leggings and black boots, a wool coat that hung like a cape from her shoulders. A real doll. The R train rumbled into the station but the girl didn’t get on. A young couple got off and quickly disappeared up the stairs. The girl looked to her left down into the dark tunnel, then to her right at the long row of thick
green columns lining the edge of the platform. She looked twice in both directions then began to pace again. Little Joe judged the girl to be Russian, maybe Slovak. She had those cold, fishy eyes, the long turned-up nose, probably spoke with that harsh, guttural accent he found so grating. Guessing nationalities was a little game his father had devised to help pass the time. They would pick out a passenger and try to figure out where he was from, what he did for a living, whether he had an accent. Little Joe read somewhere that over eight hundred languages and dialects were spoken in New York. The number stuck in his head. Eight hundred! The game was mostly Big Joe asking the questions, then good-naturedly critiquing Little Joe’s responses. Big Joe was thick and square, curly black hair running up his chest and back, climbing out of the top of his shirt. He had a deep baritone voice and a laugh that came from down in his belly. He was tagged Big Joe during his boxing days, back when the Golden Gloves amateur tournament was a big deal in New York, the results reported in the sports pages. Little Joe still had the yellowed clippings, his father’s name in agate type with a circle of blue ink surrounding it like a halo. Big Joe Pugliese believed in hard work. He demanded it from his children too. As a boy, Little Joe would sweep the gritty concrete floor, load and straighten the gum and candy displays, lug stacks of newspapers down the stairs from where they were dropped on the corner of Broadway and 22nd Street outside the Flatiron Building. The work never bothered Little Joe. He was proud just to be with his father, doing his part to help. His father trusted him too. Little Joe knew when to keep his mouth shut. He knew enough not to tell his mother about the bottle of whiskey Big Joe kept under the counter, or the woman with the heavy perfume that came by to visit on Saturday afternoons. His father would slip him some change, tell him to take a break and go get an egg cream at the luncheonette across from Madison Square Park. The woman would still be there sometimes when Little Joe got back. Sometimes she would be behind the counter leaning up against his father on his stool. Sometimes the bottle of whiskey would be open. Little Joe relished those times in the store when
it was just the two of them, the chores all done, idly passing the time guessing people’s stories. “The guy in the raincoat over there,” Big Joe might ask. “Italian.” “Why?” “He’s pretty short, got the dark hair.” “Nah! Look at the nose. It’s big like an Italian’s but flat. The skin is almost green too. He’s a Greek.” “You think?” “Yeah, yeah. Probably runs a diner.” Big Joe Pugliese was a fervent believer in stereotypes. The Irish were drinkers, the Germans tight with their money, a Polack was bound to be stubborn. Greeks ran restaurants. It wasn’t prejudice. Big Joe had a free, easy way with most people, although he was cautious when it came to the coloreds and the Puerto Ricans. You just couldn’t trust those people. Little Joe admired the way people were drawn to his father. They respected him. No, it wasn’t prejudice, it was just the way Big Joe saw the world. Little Joe was nineteen when his father passed away. He and Benny took over the business to support themselves and their mother. They had run it together ever since. The place hadn’t changed much. There was still a cooler to the right of the entrance with rows of colorful bottles—soda, juice, flavored water--shining through the sweaty panes of two sliding glass doors. On the left was a set of wooden racks that angled with the wall and held seven tiers of magazines. The fast movers like People and Time were on the bottom rung, just above the low wire stand that held stacks of newspapers and tabloids, The Times sitting staidly alongside The Daily News, The Post and The National Enquirer. Hustler and Playboy and the other glossy smut rags were at the top, tucked behind slabs of translucent plastic so that only the titles showed. Little Joe ran a clean shop like his father did. He didn’t sell to teenagers: no porn, no cigarettes, not even a tin of Copenhagen. After his father passed away, Little Joe stopped guessing people’s stories. For the longest time, he couldn’t bring himself to play the game alone. Instead, he would pick out the prettiest girl on the platform and imagine. What would her voice sound 33
like? How would her perfume smell? Would she kiss with her lips open or part them gently and let his tongue explore the warm pink depths of her mouth? There were fewer girls on the subway alone back then. The city was on the verge of bankruptcy, crime was high, homeless people sprawled undisturbed on mattresses right along 23rd Street, the subway platforms reeked of urine. The city was safer now after Giuliani came in and cleaned things up. Still, Little Joe’s daughter worried about him. He thought about Maria as he watched the young blonde girl check her Blackberry. “Why don’t you and Uncle Benny hire someone to work at night?” Maria had asked that just the other day. “Ahh, if you don’t keep it in the family, they’ll rob you blind. All of them.” Little Joe and Benny alternated shifts, the two of them managing to cover all the hours between six in the morning and eleven at night on weekdays, ten to eight on Saturdays and Sundays. One of Little Joe’s friends from elementary school would occasionally take a shift if there was a wedding or a First Communion or a family wake, but even that made him uncomfortable. Little Joe took a sip of espresso from the little demitasse cup that looked like a child’s toy in his thick hand. “You gotta watch ‘em like a hawk, especially the ones you think you can trust. They end up being the worst.” Maria came up behind him and rubbed his shoulders. “You work too hard. And there are all those crazy people in the subway.” “People is one thing I know. I’m an observer of
the human species.” “And I know their tendencies,” Maria teased, lowering her voice to a deep rasp. She laughed and kissed him softly on the top of his head. She was seventeen, beautiful like her mother with thick black hair and a pale, flawless complexion. But Maria was sweeter. Life hadn’t hardened her yet. There was a saying Little Joe heard once, that having a daughter was like falling in love all over again. That was the way it was with Maria. Not only was she beautiful, she was smart-- straight A’s on her report card almost every term. Benny’s boys could take over the business if they wanted it, but not Maria. She was going to college. He reached his hand back and placed it gently over one of hers. “Don’t worry. Your old man knows how to take care of himself.” He never told her about the Saturday Night Special he kept under the counter, stuffed in an old cigar box where he could get to it quickly. He had a billy club and a baseball bat under there, too. The subway was safer now, but still you couldn’t be too sure. Little Joe had been robbed four times, twice at gunpoint and two other times with a knife. Maria never knew about any of that either, unless her mother told her. Little Joe saw it coming every time. There was something about the way the guy moved, a certain look in his eye that triggered a switch in Little Joe’s brain. It was after the fourth robbery that he bought the gun. Little Joe supplied the transit cops with free coffee like his father did. One of them had a beat which included the 23rd Street station and he and Little Joe started talking one night. The cop said he had a good piece he could sell him cheap, told him not to worry about registering it as long as he kept it in the shop. Little Joe never had to use it, but he had reached for it a few times. That was usually enough. The crooks had that sixth sense too. They would just walk off nonchalantly or start browsing the magazine rack as if there was nothing on their minds, but Little Joe knew better. The young girl was safer than she knew standing in front of his newsstand. She didn’t look much older than Maria. She hugged her arms to her chest and stared out at the tracks. The Q express clattered past on the center track, by-passing the station on its way
uptown. The silhouettes of passengers were framed in the windows: a middle-aged woman absorbed in a book; a couple of kids with wires dangling down the sides of their faces, their heads bobbing up and down to the beat of the music pounding in their earbuds; a white-haired man sound asleep with his head lolling back against the window. After awhile, another local train pulled into the station. It was almost empty. No one got off. The young blonde still didn’t get on. As the train lurched forward and slowly rolled away, she walked toward Little Joe. She didn’t browse the magazine rack, didn’t open the door to the cooler, didn’t pick a roll of Lifesavers from the candy and gum display. She just stood there in front of the counter. Her mascara had run and deposited little clots of black ink at the corners of her eyes like she had been crying. Maybe she had just broken up with her boyfriend. “Don’t worry sweetheart,” he felt like telling her. “You’ll have no trouble finding another.” If he was twenty years younger, he might have thought about making a play for her. “Ya’ ok hon?” was what he said instead. “Whaddya need?” “Money.” She said it so softly, Little Joe thought he had misheard her. “’What?” “Money. I need money.” To Little Joe’s surprise, she wasn’t European at all. There was no accent, maybe just a hint of the Midwest. “Money?” “Yes, money.” Her voice was flat, emotionless. “Put it in a bag and give it to me.” “Is this is stick up?” Little Joe leaned back on his stool, smiling softly. It was probably some prank her friends had put her up to. “Yes. Open the drawer.” “C’mon, honey. I’ve got to close up and go home. You’re too pretty to be a gangster.” “Don’t fuck with me!” The sudden shrillness in her voice startled him. She reached into her coat pocket and, just like that, Little Joe found himself staring at a small silver revolver. He never saw it coming, hadn’t thought to reach for his billy club let alone the gun. Everything began to move in slow-motion. The girl extended both of her gloved hands in front of her, the left one trying to steady the trembling
right. Her left eye was closed in concentration. Her lips twitched slightly. Little Joe raised his arms over his head, nodded his chin at the till. “Take it,” he said. “Go ahead.” There was a flash of light and, a split second later, a noise not much louder than a firecracker. An intense pain tunneled into Little Joe’s chest, out of all proportion to the small popping sound. He was knocked back off his stool onto the cold concrete floor. The ceiling started spinning, wisps of smoke hung in the air, a pungent sulfurous smell filled his nostrils. The girl looked puzzled, staring down at the nose of the gun. She craned her neck in one direction then the other, but the station was empty. Little Joe opened his mouth to say something but only a thick, liquid, rattling sound came out. The girl reached around the counter and opened the till. She looked back over her shoulder again as she emptied the stacks of bills into her purse. She was so young, so pretty, had looked so vulnerable pacing back in forth in front of his store. It was only now that he noticed the glassy eyes, the tell-tale flare of the nostrils, raw and pink around the edges. She was all coked up. Little Joe lay on his back. He couldn’t feel his legs. He saw his father looking down at him, shaking his head sadly from side to side. How cuddin’ ya see it? Didn’t I teach you nothing? Then he saw the barrel of the gun pointed at him again, the girl’s cold blue eyes narrowed behind it. He began to whisper “Hail Mary, full of grace…”
Western Maryland RR Station Cumberland, Maryland Stephen Pohl
In Winter Krista Marie DeBehnke A doe and fawn wander up Maple Drive, past the shed breathing wind through cracked walls. They are half-hidden beneath beams of moonlight, filtered through clouds that threaten a storm. My father told me once if there’s one, there’s more, so I slow the Corolla I learned to drive years ago in winter. I look for movement. They press their knees into the fresh dusting of snow that covers my father’s yard, shaded by a pine— the perfect place for sleep—as I wonder how they can be so cold and still dream.
Between Verona & Pedova Elizabeth Reitzell
The sandaled woman peels an orange on the 1289 train. Acid rains from the rind. It juices on her freckles. I inhale to taste, but she’s too far and I’m too low on cash to buy my own from the tented outdoor vendor. The man across wants to taste them. He wants to smooth her freckles down, and he’s close enough to taste the specks, to get lost between the woman’s dark orange spots, as I had all night alone on the Munchen Haubanhof cold floor, clawing my bags close & sipping steamless coffee. Beside me a man sips rose pomerance crushed with mint on ice, rimmed with a half-moon orange slice.
[Fingers Brush Across] Kevin Murphy
fingers brush across worn marble that spells your nameâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; smell of fresh cut grass
Red Dresses Cheryl Smart
Her red dress isn’t what it used to be. Vintage, shipped from Paris. The seams are a bit weak, and it smells of cedar from the chest where it’s been stored. She airs it out and puts it on to see if it still works. She feels beautiful. Pearl buttons grace the spine. Shoulders bare, elegant folds charm feminine curves. The gossamer fabric floats and flutters magic when she twirls. Anti-clockwise— she unwinds the years and goes back. He tiptoes in, the magic of the dress an easy seduction. Silver hair goes dark, his eyes bright as their laughter. Back to their first home and second dog. Soft whispers on pregnant bellies. Back to wildflowers
instead of long stem. Tender notes on paper napkins. Rainy Sunday mornings, and lazy bicycle rides in the country. They tried to kiss as they pedaled, and he fell off his bike. A twisted ankle twisted two hearts together even more. The dress ignites crucial moments that fuse them together. Spinning around, they switch up and go clockwise. All the time putting the years back on. They grow old together, pleased and satisfied. “Red dresses are nice,” she says. “But the silver in your hair makes me melt.”
The Regret Wave Brianna Barnes
I try to fingerspell to her “H-I,” all I know and it’s wrong— Her upper lip seizes, a fantastic earthquake on an artificial *Strawberry* chemical gloss I can smell across the room. She flees, sobbing, and her daughter assesses my face: the degree of guilt, extent of confusion, is it enough to exonerate? Will the couch-flowers accept my body as pollen when I melt into them? Daughter discloses, “This is the first time an outsider has tried to talk to her,” and leaves to console what must by now be inconsolable, a personhood reflected after its denial by so many others who regard Deafness as a silence instead of a culture. Pity dispensed unsolicited, else abuse freely given. All I can do is greet this dynamic, note it, remember it. Here is someone else’s pain: Wave a meaningless hello. I should have waved. 41
The Sunburn Brianna Barnes
Beach sleep and burn; wave-song lulled me into the sun’s searing gift. Woke up damaged. I found a clamshell that looked like me, tightly-closed. No inside promises. Walked into CVS redder than its sign, with seaweed in my hair. Slathered aloe gel on my body in the aisle. Employee stopped me, said, “What do you think you are doing?” I was a homeless teenage mermaid. “Fuck you,” I spat, the way I had learned from the others. As he called security I opened a candy bar and bit into it defiantly, chocolate drool dripping from scabrous lips as I ran all the way back to the seashore where I had to learn to make my own medicine. I peeled off layers of self under the sun, that too-bright star attacking me from the past, until all my skin was new 42
Z-bop Jevin Lee Albuquerque
Walkin the Quarter, New Orleans Ghost of Z-bop regular, drum Mississippi talking beats non-stop Birds say hi: “Can you hear that bird, talking? He’s talking to me Hey Darlin, how ‘bout a dollar? Crazy last night, clubbed by the cops” White boy stare, Z-bop’s swollen eye “Darlin’, sing you a happy birthday song, for a little tip Go ahead mudslide let that steel guitar rip Hey man hold that one, boy Damn, you white keep that beat lesson for free few extra tips One your white girls For me, Brutha” Big smile, ratatatat “That’s it now, Hold that beat… Hey pretty little thing: Check out my poor feet” Holes in socks, calloused hands, Wiggling toes The ladies’ man
Tangerine and Baby Blue Richa Gupta
It was a vast expanse of solemn trees, immaculately arranged, splattered with shades of gorgeous huesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;ocher, teal, and baby blue, but the ambience was dry, arid, parched, the rustle of leaves was only to be heard as travelers paved their path through the woods lighting a fire, more than an incandescent spark fighting its way to be distinguished in the dark. A while later, torrential ashes swirled, blending against the setting of black, as particles of fire, glittering, surreal, plummeted towards the Earth, illuminating all it touched. The world was enveloped by that acrid scent, the world was set alight by tangerine sparkles, the inky sky shielded by billowing gray smoke, which spread out like a billowing charcoal cloak. The trees, unable to withstand the boiling wrath that emanated from its merciless, whipping flames, exposed to the lustrous, glowing light and the scorching heat that warmed the night. Its rage fortified, with its sweltering blaze, and the crimson flares that ruthlessly beat down The surroundings were vague, hazy, pervaded with loss of the vast expanse of majestic trees, immaculately arranged, splattered with shades of gorgeous huesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;ocher, teal, and baby blue. Once the fire ceased, which took many days, the green was gone, to be replaced by glistening embers that shone faintly, as though craving the warmth of the whirling fumes and quivering flames. Yet, for an observant, passive onlooker, the sight would have been dazzling, hypnotic, of the radiant fire that consumed the woods radiating transitory beauty and transient warmth only to be extinguished by water or time, can we appreciate the effects it has, on modest hues of ocher, teal, and baby blue 44
Fa t h e r ’s D a y Cedric Yamanaka
+Diamond Head Memorial Park, 9:18 a.m. Graveyards are very much like people. No two are alike. Each has its own personality. Some are large, open, welcoming. Others are small, dark, foreboding. The first graveyard I visit belongs to the previous category—clean, well-manicured, the lush grasses of the country clubs my late father once frequented. Dad—Dr. Amon Aldridge, dentist—died three years ago today, on Father’s Day. When I was a young boy, Dad used to say if you drive into the Diamond Head Memorial Park at night and shine the headlights of your car onto the statue of the Virgin Mary, it will dance for you. If you don’t drive away, the statue will walk off its pedestal and approach. The only thing dancing in the cemetery right now are offerings of red birds of paradise and a little girl doing a happy jig in front of a tombstone.
She’s too young to understand graveyard protocol. Dad’s office used to be located in Kalihi, next to a bank and a fishing supply store. The first time he checked my teeth, I must’ve been four or five years old. I sat in the reclining chair, hands clenched in fists, staring into the cold light of the overhead lamp. “Open,” said Dad, through his surgical mask. I couldn’t open my mouth, afraid of the jarring contact of his metal drill on my teeth. “Son, I said ‘open.’” He pressed my lower lip down onto my teeth with his thumb, drawing blood. I opened my mouth as Dad stepped on the foot pedal that brought life to his waiting drill. Today, for the first time, I am searching for Dad’s grave. I walk through the graveyard—heart pounding, 45
palms sweaty—studying the names on tombstones. Many display dates from history class. One man was born in 1918, the end of World War I. Another woman was born in 1941, the year of the Pearl Harbor attack. Still another woman was born in 1959— the year Hawaii became a state. None of these names belong to my father. *** It was just like Dad to leave us on Father’s Day. Mom called me on the phone and gave me the news. I lay in bed, not sure I’d heard correctly. I had a hard time breathing, like I’d been kicked in the stomach. Dad had gone into the hospital on Saturday to remove a stubborn callus from his big toe. A routine procedure, he was supposed to be in and out the same afternoon. But something went terribly wrong. Doctors said he suffered a stroke during the surgery. He never woke up and passed away the next day. “What am I gonna do now?” said Mom, over the phone. “I might as well be dead, too.” Numb, I lit up my ice pipe. The crystal methamphetamine surged into my lungs and brain, clearing and blurring all at the same horrible time. *** Three things Dad taught me. 1. How to drive a car. 2. How to be a family man. 3. How to do drugs. National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, 10:21 a.m. I always thought dentists like Dad were supposed to make decent money. But if that was the case, why did I grow up in such a dump? I was raised on School Street, on the second floor of a two-story apartment complex filled with cons and people on welfare. We lived above a florist and a dry cleaning business. One neighbor grew marijuana. Another talked to herself, sometimes yelling. Across the street, folks stripped cars and left them to rust in tall weeds the way diners eat lobsters and crabs and leave their shells behind. The truth is I never knew Dad very well. He was never home much. Dad visited us once a week, if 46
we were lucky. He’d come over every Sunday afternoon. 1:30 sharp. I can still hear the sound of his Plymouth’s tires crushing gravel on the driveway. He walked in to the house carrying a box of pastries from Liliha Bakery. Donuts, custard tarts, long johns. “Eat,” he said. He’d ask me about school and watch TV for several hours. Sometimes he’d stay and eat dinner with us, most times not. Then he’d leave. “Where does Dad go every night?” I asked Mom once. “Never mind,” she said. I don’t know if Dad was a veteran. He could have been in the Korean War or the Vietnam War, I guess. Maybe even World War II. We never talked about it. We never talked about anything. I make a stop here at Punchbowl, just in case. I walk past rows of neat, well-kept graves sporting tiny American flags waving in the breeze. Across from me an older couple places anthuriums at a tombstone. A toddler with a pacifier in his mouth salutes. Couples walk through the columbarium. Had Dad been buried in a coffin or cremated? Which would he prefer? I have no idea. I search all of the markers, taking no chances. Hawaiian Memorial Park Cemetery, 12:58 p.m. In Loving Memory I think Dad would like this cemetery. I think I could grow to like the place myself. On the windward side, with a stunning view of the Koolaus. The dark clouds hovering above the mountains appear pregnant, ready to give violent birth to a storm at any second. You can see the ocean, Kaneohe Bay, clear to Chinaman’s Hat. I pass a new grave with a fresh pile of dirt, cubes of grass, and a green tarp. Tons of flowers, wreaths, and balloons surround the new plot. I examine the clean, polished tombstone. To Owen, Our Beloved Son A child. Five years old. When I was five, I smoked my first joint. I saw Dad sitting in the backyard, laughing and smoking doobs with the neighbors. When they were done, I found a tiny roach in an ashtray, lit it up, and filled my lungs with smoke. That was the beginning of the end. On my eleventh birthday, Dad caught me messing with his stash of Percocet and Demerol he got
from his drug rep buddies. Sometimes, I mixed the pills with Cutty Sark and Sprite. Other times I offered some of the pills to the older kids at school. In return, they gave me a couple of joints. We all started hanging out, skipping school, getting high, and talking about how nobody understood us and how much better we were than all of the other Punahou clowns. To support our four-hundred-dollar-a-day habits, we shoplifted, cracked safes, even talked about robbing a bank. One day, I got arrested for passing bad checks and the Family Court judge looked me in the eye and sentenced me to probation. “The next time you screw up,” he said. “I will not hesitate to throw you in jail.” We both knew the guy was giving me a break. Hell, he played golf with Dad. I wanted to stand up in front of that smug-ass judge and tell him, damn it, I was already in jail. My fucking disease was burning holes in my brain, stealing my soul, murdering my spirit. At sixteen, the only dream I had left was to be able to shoot the poor fuck staring back at me in the mirror. As I look at young Owen’s tombstone one last time, I hope I never have to see what a coffin for a five-year-old looks like. *** I don’t have a plan. I just keep on driving. When I see a cemetery, I stop. Dad once tried to teach me to drive. I was fourteen years old. We climbed into his Plymouth. I never felt more nervous in my life. He ordered me to buckle my seatbelts and to turn off the radio. Then he told me to place my hands on the steering wheel and gently press down on the accelerator. After a while, I was driving. “Turn right,” he said. I did, but accidentally stepped on the gas instead of the brake. The car smashed into a chain-linked fence in front of Roosevelt High School. Thank goodness, it was a Sunday afternoon. No one was around. And thank goodness there was no major damage to Dad’s car. Just a cracked light bulb and some chipped paint on the fender. “You’re hopeless!” said Dad, taking the wheel and driving us home. I sat in the passenger’s seat, feeling like a failure, craving dope. Dad never gave me an-
other driving lesson. That night I partied with the boys and overdosed big-time on cocaine. Somehow, I’m not sure how, I wound up at the emergency room, pants drenched with my own piss and shit. The doctors said I was lucky. My heart had stopped beating for nineteen seconds. *** It oughta be simple enough. I ask my mother where Dad is buried. She tells me. I visit the grave. Bring some flowers. Make peace with the old man. That’s how most people do it, right? Well, I tried. But Mom never told me where Dad’s buried. I don’t think she knew. Hell, Mom refused to go to his funeral. She also ordered me not to go. I saw the write up in the newspaper obituaries. AMON ALDRIDGE, 72, of Hawaii Kai, died June 19. Born in Honolulu. Dentist for 31 years. Visitation 9:00–10:00 a.m., Saturday, at Borthwick Mortuary. Service at 10:00 a.m. Aloha Attire. I didn’t want to upset Mom. So instead of going to Dad’s funeral, I went to Waialae Iki Park to watch my seven-year-old son, Neal, play soccer. Mom stayed at home, sitting on the floor with a deck of battered cards, playing solitaire. “You killed him,” she said, before I left. “You and your stupid habit.” “I killed him?” “He wanted the best for you, Isaiah. He sent you to the best schools. He dreamed of you taking over his practice one day. Instead, you grew up to be a useless chronic.” The next time I saw Mom, she was hanging in the closet, one of Dad’s ties wrapped around her neck. Manoa Chinese Cemetery, 2:16 p.m. Dear Momma, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry for everything I’ve done to you, to Dad, to our family. I realize now everything was my fault. But I’m finally getting help. Just like you and Dad always wanted. Thanks to the great counselors at the Ewa 47
Beach Treatment Center, I’ve lived to see my twenty-third birthday. I’ve been clean for two years, eight months, nine days. They have taught me about my disease and what I have to do to kill it. I will never let any of that crap into my blood ever again. Thanks to treatment, I can see things clearly now. Things I could never see before. Sometimes, though, I discover things that scare the shit out of me. Like what? Like my wife is having an affair. Amy works as a receptionist at one of the TV stations and is boning the weatherman. I had a hunch something was up. It hit me the afternoon I visited Amy at work. I’d never been to a TV station before, so I figured I’d surprise Amy and take her to lunch. I walked through the heavy glass doors. Posters of programs the station showed hung on the walls. Amy looked up from her computer screen. She didn’t seem happy to see me. “Isaiah,” she said. “What are you doing here?” “I was in the neighborhood,” I said. “I thought I’d take you to lunch.” “Um, I’m sorry, Isaiah. I’m very busy.” As I stood at Amy’s desk, a lot of folks I saw on TV walked by. There was anchorman Jim Emery, sipping a Big Gulp, and Stacy Keene, carrying a thick manila folder full of papers and newspaper clippings. The funny thing was they weren’t smiling like they always did on TV. Then the weatherman walked by. He looked at Amy and smiled. My wife smiled back. That’s when it hit me. When we were at home, Amy never paid much attention to the news until the weather came on. Then she stopped whatever she was doing—eyes lit up, cheeks turned red—and watched as the geeky weatherman talked about highs and lows, variable winds, and surf heights. A weatherman in Hawaii. How silly is that? One day at the treatment center, I was in the gym—I’d benched three hundred and ten pounds, a personal best—when I got a phone call from the weatherman’s old lady. “You’d better talk to your wife,” she said, crying. “About what?” “About screwing my husband.” Momma, it’s kinda funny. While my fellow patients at the treatment center use their passes to go to the beach or visit girlfriends, I’m using my free time to search for Dad’s grave. They say we chronics, we’ll always be addicted to something. Some of the boys have turned to cigarettes, coffee, weight lifting or even writing poetry. Me, all of a sudden, I’m addicted to finding out where the Old 48
Man is buried. How’s everything with you? Dad used to tell me that at night, fireballs representing the spirits of the dead dance above the tombstones of this cemetery. Have you seen any? Momma. I’m sosososososo sorry. Momma? Oahu Cemetery, 3:49 p.m. All of a sudden, I’m not thinking straight. Something inside of me screams for dope. An evil voice orders me to drive to Hotel Street, walk into a dark video arcade or gambling room, and buy me some shit. I don’t think Dad would like this cemetery. The stones here look old, dark. Secrets lie within their cracks. A hearse is parked in a gravel driveway, near a new grave covered with ginger plants. Dad wouldn’t want to spend eternity in a place with secrets. He had too many of his own. The day I turned sixteen, I learned two of the biggest. “It’s time you heard the truth about your father,” said Mom. “Your father and I, we were never married.” “What?” I said, rocked. “We were never married. I just happened to be one of his, I don’t know, flings.” “And I was a mistake?” “Yeah. In fact, your old man has a couple of other mistakes floating around. While we’re at it, I might as well tell you another secret. Last year, the Casanova got married.” “What?” “Your father managed to hook himself up with his young dental hygienist.” “Karin?” Karin was going to the University and worked part-time for Dad. The only good thing about going to Dad’s office was seeing Karin. She was always very sweet. While Dad ruthlessly probed my gums and dug plaque out of the spaces between my teeth, she stood over me with her brown eyes and smiled. Afterwards, we’d talk outside. She’d ask me about school, music, my friends. A Kleenex soft with blood would be pressed against my aching gums. “What does that young girl see in an old man like him?” said Mom. “Probably out for his money. Oh
well. And your father, can you believe him? What a cradle robber. He’ll get what he deserves. I wish I’d never set eyes on him.” Once, when I was a kid, I came here to the Oahu Cemetery to smoke some batu. A worker in the crematorium showed me the big iron ovens where they burn corpses. He even showed me a metal pan full of gray ash, bone, and teeth. Today, black smoke from the crematorium rises into the sky. Nuuanu Memorial Park, 5:06 p.m. A large centipede climbs out of the tall grass and rests on the tombstone for someone named Fernandez. The insect pauses as if it realizes it is being watched. Its armor is the color of dried blood. Last night, my boy Neal gave me a card with “Happy Father’s Day” written in glitter on green construction paper. Amy took me out to dinner— steaks—and talked about how everyone at her TV station was stressed out because another ratings period was approaching. Then she dropped me off at the treatment center and told me she had to work
late. I didn’t say a word about the weatherman. Hell, Amy’s a nice, sweet girl. Clean, sober. If she’s lost her faith in a loser like me, who can blame her? One Father’s Day—when I was nine years old and high on spray paint—I made Dad a card in school. I glued yarn to a piece of cardboard in the shape of a golf club and ball. My father golfed three times a week at the Oahu Country Club, where he was a member. This was before his foot started bothering him. “Happy Father’s Day,” I said, handing him the card. “Thanks, son,” he said, taping the card to the dresser mirror. He hugged me, his breath sour with nineteenth-hole beer. He’d never hug me again. I look for the centipede, but it is gone. For some reason, I find myself disappointed. Damn, it’s getting late. I’d better get back to the treatment center. Or the counselors will have my ass. I’ll find you, Dad. I promise. Maybe tomorrow. Right now, I gotta get me some rest. There are too many graveyards for me to cover in one day.
Western Mar yland RR Tunnel, Big Savage Mountain Stephen Pohl
Homecoming Todd Outcalt
I went home again and walked those paths I once had knownâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;now so narrow and so smallâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;the fence lines draped in clover ringed by vine. There were tombstones on the hill and where the trees grew tall there stood a sense of time. I could have worked there in the boyhood fields foreverâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;or so it seemed. But all the light had faded from my mind, and there was only forward left to live. Some had passed or would pass away again. And then awhile I wanted to return in kind, but knew I could not, nor would this last: leaving again what I had already left behind.
Keyholes Helena Duncan
On a summer day my girlfriend and I saw a skeleton in a box by a dumpster. It was a jumble of curled-up bones, sitting and holding its knees against its chest like those casts of people found in Pompeii. We unfolded it and held it up by its shoulders for inspection. It must have been retired from some anatomy class, but we didn’t know why. It was only missing one little finger bone. We were forgiving. We brought it back to our new place and hung it up on the living room wall. In those days, we told each other everything. We recounted our dreams each morning. My girlfriend’s dreams were always wild and I was jealous. I think sometimes she made them up. We went back and forth until we were talking nonsense at each other. To make the apartment bigger we kept the windows open all the time. The sunlight made us restless and happy. We inhabited a perpetual afternoon. I painted old glass bottles to make them into vases, and she lied and told me they looked good. We propped up the coffee table’s short leg with a dictionary we always had to kick back into place. We reupholstered the couches and argued about the colors. From the wall, the skeleton supervised, offering occasional input. My girlfriend cut her own hair, and it always looked even. We aligned our plans and our goals and our circadian rhythms. We didn’t like the silence of sleep, so when one of us woke first we’d nudge the other and whispered ourselves into wakefulness. Her favorite thing to say was “I’m an open book.” So I listened to her talk about her sister and her jobs and her conspiracies and her music and her travels and her pleasures. I listed my mistakes and my synchronicities and my past minds. We got high off this kind of kenosis. I warned her I’d forgotten a lot. Some of my memories are as tiny as keyholes and she said she still wanted to press her eye up to them if she could.
My girlfriend once told me she liked sex because it’s nosy. In those days we threw little dinner parties every week. Our guests greeted the skeleton warmly. They hung their scarves and hats on it. Sometimes it came down from the wall and joined our dancing. We had little patience for quiet people, so we’d get our guests drunk. The apartment walls reverberated with former secrets. We enjoyed the lives of others, but we liked to hear about ourselves more. They said we were an unlikely couple. They said we were so open, but what else is there to be? We made elaborate displays of our acceptance of each other. Perhaps we were improbable, but we wore our improbability like a badge. At Christmas we strung lights through the skeleton’s ribs, but when my mother came to visit we stuck it in the coat closet. We thought it might have scared her. We heard it tapping feebly at the closet door and we pleaded with it to stay quiet just a day longer. Dusk seemed to come more often. My girlfriend told me she didn’t experience regret. I said what do you mean? I listed all the things she told me and said what about this, or this, or this, you don’t regret this? She was hurt. Those are personal, she said. I said I thought you were an open book and she said that doesn’t mean you get to write things in the margins. In my memory, those days lay flat and exquisite like flowers pressed onto a page. But now I’m exhausted. I’ve been scattered and need to gather myself up again; I’ll need a thousand mornings of silence before I can feel un-depleted. We asked each other everything, but I never wondered why skeletons always look as though they’re smiling.
Fish Bone. Snow Globe E m i ly W a l l i n g
I step out of the dark hole I call an office. Greeted by sunlight through the snow globe. I walk down the hallway as it curves like a fish bone. Students out in the park run to escape the chill. Snowflakes collide with dirty windows, obliterating their own lives. Spiders call the tops of the windows their home. They weave their lives. Unearth the sacs from their bodies. Unmoved by the world outside this snow globe.
The Patron S aint of Falling D own J us t i n L a w r e n c e D a u g h e r t y
Trace kept talking about Christian martyrs. “The Romans chopped Saint Paul’s head off,” the boy said. Elliot had no experience with children. He set up the cans on the old fence again. He had had his brother, Trace’s father, in common. “The boy needs another male in his life,” Elliot’s sister-in-law had said. Elliot walked back to where Trace stood with the rifle. “Peter was crucified upside-down,” Trace said. Elliot helped the boy shoot. He got better with each shot. “I’m no good at this,” Elliot said. Trace shrugged and shot again, this time without Elliot’s help. What would the boy’s father do with him? Elliot took another turn at shooting. One can was filled with holes. Trace knelt and looked through the holes at the sun. Elliot emptied his flask of whiskey, shook away the burn. “Saint Sebastian was bound and shot full of arrows,” Trace said. “He looked like an urchin.” Elliot put the gun and beer in his trunk. On the ride home, Elliot tried to find something to say to the boy that might mean something. Trace flipped through his book on martyrs. He stopped when he came across pictures. “Do you think I’ll be martyred?” Trace asked. “I don’t think they do that anymore,” Elliot said. “What about my dad?” Trace asked. He wanted to say it was not the same thing. There are versions of the truth and that’s only one of them. He pulled the car to the shoulder. He went to the trunk for a beer and sat again in the driver’s seat. As he drank, he rested his hand on the dashboard.
The old engine shuddered now and then, the whole car rumbling. *** Elliot sat at the kitchen table. He was drunk and his sister-in-law, Miriam, was catching up. Trace and some neighborhood boys and girls played zombies around them. They stumbled in and out of the room, groaning and pretending to eat brains. “I think you two should do something less...manly,” Miriam said. “He needs balance.” Elliot thought about the shooting. He thought about what it might be like to be shot and survive. He mentioned going to get more beer and stared at the door. Miriam picked at a sandwich. The children howled and moaned. “He should think about death less,” Elliot said. “What’s the point?” Miriam asked. Elliot tapped on the table, bit his lip. “I just don’t know if this is best,” he said. He checked the fridge, his hand on the cold handle, looking in at the near-empty box. “You’re not his father,” Miriam said. “No one is,” Elliot said. Miriam looked away, took a long, hard pull on a bottle of gin. The children flowed into the room. They swarmed around Miriam, pretended to eat her. She watched Elliot open the door and stand in the dark doorway. He said he would think of something. He said everyone’s got so much living left to do. 55
*** Miriam came home to find Elliot digging in their front yard. He had a sapling on one side of him and Trace on the other. Trace took over digging. “Is this your idea?” Miriam asked. Neither Elliot nor Trace responded. “It’s going to grow into something big and vibrant,” Elliot said. “What do you know about how to keep it alive?” Miriam asked. Elliot tried to get close to Miriam. She put her hands in her pockets. Elliot took a leaf in his fingers. “Trees have been living on their own forever,” he said. “Some are over one-thousand-years old. They’ve seen the rise and fall of empires.” “I guess there’s nothing to worry about, then,” Miriam said. *** Elliot put Trace in charge of the tree. It was not growing like it should. The climate was wrong for the tree, Miriam had tried to tell Elliot. She watched Trace from the kitchen window. She took an old
photo of her and her husband and folded it up and tossed it in the trash. Elliot walked in with an axe. Miriam did not look at him. She asked if he ever felt like a ghost, just haunting a place. Trace kicked the tree, commanded it to grow. “I think the tree’s sick,” Elliot said. He picked up the axe. He went outside and Miriam followed. They all stood contemplating the tree. “What if everything’s fine?” Miriam asked. “Better to keep it from suffering,” Elliot said. Trace asked if he could do it. Miriam threw her hands up. Elliot showed Trace the way to swing the axe. “Keep swinging at it,” he said. “A bunch of cuts and slices will do it. It all adds up.” Trace hesitated, thinking. “Can the tree be a saint?” he asked. Elliot took Miriam’s hand. He drank from a can and she closed her jacket against the wind. “What’s it the saint of ?” Elliot asked. Trace swung and connected. He wrenched the axe from the tree. “It’s the patron saint of falling-down,” he said. “What about healing?” Miriam asked. “Or of the undead,” Elliot said. “It’s not time for that, yet,” Trace said.
Hummels R o b e r t L u n d ay At the corner store was an ad that read “House Sitter Needed.” I have the house my Mom left me, along with her collection of Hummels. But I took one of the phone-number tags anyway. It’s a good home, my Mom’s, but it still feels like hers. The Hummels remind me of her. Really, they remind me of me, staring at them for hours, knowing I couldn’t touch. The Hummels used to whisper to me in German. I called the number and an old guy answered. He asked me about myself. I made up some stuff about just moving back to town and staying with my sister’s family and needing a little time alone. He gave me his address. “Come by this afternoon and we can talk business,” he told me. It was a big old house, with a long porch and a sad-looking rocker by the door. I rang the bell, waited, and was about to leave when he opened the door. The old guy had wisps of yellow-gray hair. He invited me in, we talked, and I found myself telling more lies. Then he shook my hand and we had a deal. He gave me a key and said, “Come over on Sunday; I’ll be gone.” Next Sunday I drove over with one sack of clothes. I went in like I had always belonged in that house; like I already knew what was in every room. The old guy had left a list of things to take care of. I took note of the house plants, the garbage that needed to be put out on Tuesday, and the box by the door for piling mail. Everything in the house seemed to be watching me. The hawk-nosed faces in the engravings, the scrolled knobs on the sideboard, the statuette of the rearing stallion on the coffee table—it was all watching me. The old guy had one Hummel, a chimney sweep that my Mom also had. That was the only thing in the house that wasn’t watching me. I knew it wasn’t watching me because it was me. I went upstairs and tried some doors. All the upstairs doors were locked except one. On the one unlocked door the old guy had left a note: “Sleep Here.” I went inside. It was a nice room, but the dresser drawers and closet were empty. There was a sailboat painting above the bed, a mirror on the opposite wall, and a window from which I could see the walnut tree in the front yard. And wallpaper: this was a house with a lot of wallpaper. That made the house seem like it was crowded and noisy, because there were hundreds of random faces everywhere,
watching me. As I lay down on the bed I thought that I wanted to get out, but I had shaken the old guy’s hand. Should I try to pick the locks on the closed cabinets and doors? I thought, after I woke up a couple hours later. I put that notion aside and went downstairs. I remembered that I hadn’t tried any doors on the first floor. One door, the door to the basement I guessed, was locked. Another was open to a closet with antique odds and ends: an old slide projector, a baseball bat and a glove like a mummy’s face, and some National Geographic magazines stacked high as a child. I went out for Indian food, then back to the old guy’s house, where I fell asleep again. I was tired, as if the house were sucking the life out of me. I slept another couple hours, in my clothes, on the made-up bed. Later, in the kitchen, I looked through drawers. In one were some keys— lots of keys, including old ones. Let the snooping begin, I thought. First, I tried the basement door: it was one of the old keys, of which there were only a few. I felt for a light switch, but couldn’t find it. Slowly and carefully I went down the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs my face touched the string to a ceiling light. I flicked it on. Then, to my amazement and embarrassment, I saw the old guy himself, sitting in an arm chair in a corner of the basement, in a little area set up like a small apartment. I stood there, not moving, and not saying a word, but just staring, afraid of what was wrong with this. He wasn’t supposed to be there, but it was his house. I wasn’t supposed to be in the basement. The old guy sat still, but he was glowering at me, like I had violated his trust, although he had never said anything about the locked doors. But I knew that a locked door said what it had to say. After a while he stopped looking at me, as if I wasn’t there. I backed up toward the stairs, flicked off the light, and climbed the stairs slowly. Then I locked the basement door, and put the keys back in the kitchen drawer. I got my stuff and on the way out snatched the Hummel. It seemed right to rescue the little guy. I went home— to Mom’s home, my home, and placed the little guy next to his twin in the cabinet. Then I sat down in my Mom’s favorite armchair— my chair, now. It was getting dark, but I didn’t get up to turn on the lights. I just sat there. It was good to be home. It was good to sit there in the dark, in a chair I had known all my life.
Colors of Sin and Summer Sage Kubis carnal yellow: you lay in a lawn chair with your top off sweat tastes like salt and your shampoo running down long legs, he uses the ice in your glass to trace glowing rivulets and his mouth tastes like cigarettes and summer but it’s too hot to touch blood red: you cut your hand on broken glass you threw when he called you names the carpet already has blood in the fibers you scrape it with a towel your hand is still bleeding and you taste it, metal sunburnt skin-split Band-Aid it and shower while you cry azure blue: the sun baked the sky like pottery a glaze over backyards, beaches hot to the touch no shoes. bake the soles of your feet blacktop bubbling under chipped toes stand on one foot while you wait for him to cross in front of cars that shudder in gasping heat midnight: drive fast, windows down, he’s laughing and his teeth look blue in the dashboard lights you want to kiss him and you want to kill him and you want to throw yourself into the bowl of the night sky throw yourself into the stars crack into a million little pieces and take him with you
baby peach: mornings are when you think it’ll all be okay sometime you don’t sleep touching him but he’s warm and it spreads you tracked sand into the bed on burnt feet you tracked your smile into bed on soft lips his breath is an ocean and in it are a thousand grains of sand a thousand undiscovered leagues you drown, but it feels like floating.
Dual Sounds Kyle Kineman
She works a pair of jeans with their threadbare gashes and folded lines for days while he works on growing a wild mustache and sings a ragged dog’s howl to an oldies station. I may not always love you trails from the bedroom down one long hallway, out of tune, in shrill Gaussian functions, bouncing from brown shag carpet to stark white wall. She hums her church hymns, drowned out by the violent tremors of a dryer’s fever dream, waiting to spend a life waiting, living through home shopping networks, department store perfumes and butterscotch candy. God only knows what I’d be without you, enough to inspire thoughts of another distant lifetime, enough to fill every inherited ruby glass pitcher like a bittersweet fractal in her head.
Perhaps Tom Montag
Perhaps we donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know what to run from. Perhaps the wind blows us back. Perhaps foam at the edge of wave evaporates. The sky has stars until the end.
At the Museum Gift Shop Kevin Casey
I hold a lump of amber to the skylight, and the glossy, pumpkin knuckle is a prism in reverse, absorbing fractured light, compressing it to saffron smoldering. But pivoting my wrist to catch the facets etched among the bits of ancient insects I can’t recall the card from the display I’d read not twenty minutes past— how long ago did the giant fern-tree weep that shed this burnished tear? A million years? One hundred? It seems something I should know... Surface-stuck on these fly-paper days, I can’t discern a decade through this lens of frozen honey, let alone some unreal millions. And so back into the bin it goes, silent, its mythical depths still unsounded— just another pretty, semi-precious gem.
In the Aftermath of Another Fire Amie Sharp
Rain has fallen on Colorado. Showers runnel into drains or droop the reeds’ leafing feathers. Fire warning signs spin out of the red. This is what we prayed for. But the burn scars cannot bear the water’s touch, funneling into torrents and then sliding walls of mud. The mountainsides break away. Fire then water. Burn then flood. Heaps mound with the soft char of scorched things. Curled plastic, concrete pilings stark against a netherworld of ghost ash. It’s the way of fire, they say, and soon in the foothills and in the ruined forest aspen will sprout baby colonies over the cindered hillsides. Delicate coin-leaves will wave in the wind, so unlike the blackened pine bristles. A few saplings are already growing, children of fire, promising us that one day their smooth trunks will hold down the very earth.
To o S m a l l f o r T h i s Miranda Freeman
is voice had never sounded so cold. Not cold like cruel or distant, no. Cold as if one of the icicles descending from the branch above him had plunged down his throat and into his trembling lungs. He is sitting cross-legged on the ground, the snow rising higher around his bare legs with each passing second. A puff of frozen air spasms out of his mouth with every exhalation. There’s no one around for miles, and I know it. This was supposed to be one of the perks of moving up to the mountains—escaping the angry honking on Sunset Boulevard in favor of quiet nights spent reading together in front of the fireplace. Now, it seems like a recipe for a death that never even makes it to the papers. “West,” I say, sinking down to the forest floor. This is his name. Not East or North, but West. I think I knew we would be married the second he first introduced himself. His eyes shift upward to meet my gaze, but he doesn’t say anything. Perhaps he no longer can. “West,” I repeat. Calmly, because it is one of the only adverbs that won’t send him into a spiral of frustration and resentment. “We need to get you back in the house.” A minute shake of his head. I feel the tears brewing, but I try to keep them at bay. Crying is for a person who does not have the immediate responsibility of ensuring her husband does not perish in the forest. But I cannot run the mile back to the house, locate my cell phone, and drive down the winding road until the X in the upper corner of my phone evolves 64
into that single bar of hope. Because if I leave West to call an ambulance, there is a good chance he will take the opportunity to wade even further into the silence of the woods. And with the fresh snow plummeting down from above, I fear I may not be able to find him again. I will add this to the list of reasons why I do not favor winter. “Please,” I say. My voice cracks into a million pieces, like a mirror dropped from a second-story window. This time he does not answer. I have tried to understand West for almost every minute of the six years I have known him. It is difficult. He is the majestic lion jailed in an enclosure that is too small for him, and all I have is a ticket to the zoo. He is depressed, and I try to understand that. I read books and blog posts. I make therapy appointments that he occasionally keeps. I order the model ships he enjoyed building as a child. These things are not the right things. “My darling,” I say. “Come with me, please. Tomorrow will be better.” Though, of course, I cannot promise this will be so. I shrug off my heavy coat and drape it around his shoulders. It is too small for him, but I am able to stuff his arms into the sleeves with moderate success. If not for the wisps of frozen air exiting his mouth, I would not be certain that he is still alive. I circle behind him and thrust my arms beneath his axillae. After a deep breath, I heave upward. His body rises two inches off the ground before sinking back into the snow. I am too small for this, just as I
am too small for the rest of his problems. “Please,” I say. I am crying now, the tears dripping off my face a tiny rainstorm amidst the blizzard ripping by around us. I drop to my knees, wrapping my arms around him until I can feel his bare chest against my palms. He is too cold. “West!” I scream. He is motionless. But still the breaths come. I tear off my hat and pull it down over his ears. Then, I run. Back to the house. Back to the car. Back to my phone. I have no other choice. I am too small for this.
Chive Seed Pods in Yellow-Violet Mitzi McMahon 66
The Day All People Were K ind: a Fable Julie Albright
This was the day the blue jays also stopped dive-bombing the cats in the backyard. This was the day that people, when looking at a cat, could not even remember the word “aloof.” The day the man in traffic gave a jaunty wave to the motherfucker who blocked the intersection. The day the grumpy lady at the post office counter was blown kisses by people carrying heavy parcels. On this day, customs security shooed airline passengers past, pooh-poohing their passports: Please. We’re just glad you’re traveling. This was the day mother embraced daughter, husband held wife, the pain-in-the-ass uncle with the patriotic chain emails instead sent hand written love letters to everyone he knew. All people were magnificent, beneficent, heaven sent, worthy of a stamp. This was the day no one saw a picture of herself and said, What, do I have seven chins? Instead, mirrors prompted thoughts like You are a shining jewel. Overachievers met their To-Do lists with exclamations. I am an accomplished person already! This was the day the man said as he shaved, I have all that I need. The day the old woman said, I did as well as I could. The day people remembered they had once been loved, despite their imperfections. That was one day. The next day was every other day, and the blue jays screeched Attack! and memory became short, and kindness was a small sliver in a long hour.
Marks of Mercy Jesse Morales
See, the hovering child gathers everything: hand-brushes, arguments, honey drips, the obsolete ring of a rotary phone. Home, for a child, is a kind of overfilled coverture, bursting like a cheesecloth or a heavy sky. For her, floating between television and easel, patio and mailbox and den, truth needs no art: each object seems true, full, lacking nothing. Somehow, even handling her kittens so eagerly, her eyes bespeak a kind of suspension, a kind of easy girlish quietism, the old faith that the line of our lives runs solid from this world into the next: life after life, life inside life, life bursting every border, lifeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s fire enflaming us all in hand-to-mouth joy. How sweet to be a child, to taste the more concrete pains of living, to love your own limited geography boisterously, to mark your own walls with fingerpaint, to embody a metaphysic of mercy in fluttering kisses after a hurt feline cry.
Cornbread Malcolm Friend for Jerrilyn Fowler Your mom doesn’t trust anyone who makes cornbread with sugar. Growing up you don’t question this, swallow the grit of cornmeal on New Year’s, Christmas, and about 150 occasions in between. The first time you taste sweet cornbread you nearly spit it out, have to wash it down with water. Understand like your mother you have learned not to trust anyone who cannot swallow the grit and grain that’s sent their way as is, who can’t accept that some things are meant to be coarse, who need to sweeten their load. Your life is the swallow of this grit and coarse.
Let’s Cure Boredom Pattie Flint
A cure for the apathy of responsibility? There is an epidemic, you say. There’s a lot of sick people, I reply. I bite your wrist gently leaving a pink crown around the flower my teeth have made. I am a vaccine, I say. Smile and bite me back. Let me borrow your uncle’s antique pipe and fill it with bubble mixture. I’ll let you wear my silk stockings and we can feed all the squirrels in the park marshmallows. I’ll blow my bubblegum into your open mouth. We will collapse into a pile of dry umbrellas and damp shoes. There will be mud on the walls and dirty dishes in the sink.
I Thought This Was the Prank Call and My TV a Safe Place Jessie Janeshek so I masturbated drew the short straw watched Channel 8’s long-term forecast. Lockjaw, decimate lumberjacks brewing beer in my basement saying I love you I was just thinking of you as I rubbed myself raw with fabric softener spiders already filling up starshaped jars.
I hate, hate, hate breaking news waking up in your bed panhandling correspondence playing “Prelude Majestic” on a Yamaha keyboard in a pink clown wig, bodysuit two hours of my life donated to Bradley Cooper I wait for storms and inevitable puke
The night rings laryngitis my depression unheimlich. I sit on a question mark under your canopy my pony dolls in blue pockets Our snowfall will damage a car or small child but there was that time I put a note in your mailbox fed and pampered the cat until it was happy.
You left to play villain in a white sailor dress. I listened. It sounded like everything fixed.
Undone Andrea Collins
can’t quite fit
in my new skin
for me brother
don’t give up
Me you we must always return to the womb where we can try to give her skin back become reborn or stay undone I always try
to do this
I go back to the hospital 1978 Isn’t there an instrument for this type of thing or abortion clinic Too late to let me go 9:11 a.m. back in Fate! or leave me undone or throw the seed of me into the sun soaked soil sow me in a plat of farmland where I’d grow like golden wheat and bake like bare dough Take me back before I began unfolding or crusting I mean crowning or slit down the middle letting butter and her burning hands were on me already I wanted to give this skin back to the sea of fluid in her putrid sac 72
Don’t you Hate that Brother? We can’t just give it back. Nevermind let’s not go back to history let’s start
I saw you there with your girlfriend weren’t you on the news?
and her black eye
Here let me rip it for you tear her layers from your bone yours is so thick just wait okay now use the sharp end of that stone you know the one you used to beat that man with or I mean stick or go back home to fondle another prostitute with your tiny “little prick!” she used to call you There now are you mad enough now take a knife pierce it through just don’t cut the vein or maybe let a little drain her life not mine which of which is even me or you or her that’s why we have to peel from the bone I’ll do the rest like I always do Just go back to snorting cocaine like you always do and I’ll go back to this way that way always wondering who I am or what to do with all this fucking skin I keep pulling from me you
Wait! Come back!
with all these layers that look like her covered in fur red or reddish I can’t remember back before she said she wished her kids both of us were dead or never born, better to her strangers without mouths or ears or her eyes without skin so she wouldn’t have to see herself or someone else she could’ve been but never was nor could be like us just unknown free if that’s what you want to call her us me but I just keep trying on new skin so maybe she will win and die and this will all end beginning without beatings and terrors like the beast she is or was to us all those years or just a few that you remember I never stop pulling at it but she just regrows, so
over her face/beast-waste inside my skin where she still grows put one of your prison tattoos No! I don’t care which one! In between my shoulder blades That’s the last place I saw it or felt it one of the two Okay Now I don’t care what type of font script ink
color just make it fit
In cursive I
I don’t care
as long as you write Undone.
can’t quite peel hers from you
But you didn’t try not to be like her mirror her twin with a scrotum and tiny “little prick” she used to call you. You just hide in her skin. Even though that pisses me off Thank you for helping me put this goddamned thing on and the tattoo! I’ll go back in history and begin you again. Fix all your problems for you. Just hold on. Wait. Don’t give up trying. Soon again or sometime in the future when you’re not you and I am not me neither of us her there will be a time when I hold you with new skin like I always do.
N o w, Yo u a n d I Crunch Like an Overpriced Gluten-Free Pretzel J e n F e r g us o n
I know you both from hours of horrible broken English thank-you-Russian-vodka nights. And, oh my, talk slowly mornings when I am a northern stained-glass window pane and you are twined stained-glass window panes too, muddy in the morning before light. I know you from being locked outside the only bathroom in our childhood house, your voices laughing when you heard the sound of a stream hitting the hardwood floor. We are bitch fights, tear-downs, the taste of salt water on chapped lips on the Cuban shore. We joke that Fidel must be dead, that even communism is beautiful, that even loss is beautiful, that beauty is how the past talks to whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s to come through childhood French picture books, sold now, lost now to us. We agree, now, when we travel together the passengers must never sleep, never sleep.
The Cat and the Tree A N D R É A J . O N S TA D
here was once an old woman and an old man who lived at the top of a very high mountain. When they were young, they lived in the city where the man was a mason and the woman a stenographer. A year after their marriage, they had their first child—a boy they named Vincent. The boy died a few years later after succumbing to a childhood illness that left him blind in one eye and deaf in one ear. The couple was very sad, the woman especially. Many years passed during which the young woman was unable to conceive another child. She grew despondent, quit her job, stayed home, and cried. The man, beside himself with worry for his young wife, suggested they move as far away as they could from the hustle and worries of the city. Perhaps the peacefulness of rural living would help the situation. His young wife agreed. This decision brought them to the mountain where the husband, using his masonry talents, built a tiny cabin at the very top. There was a great deal of manzanita brush and old growth madrone that had to be cleared for the building site. The woman despaired that all this had to be cut away. She loved the smooth red bark of the manzanita that was silken to her touch, especially on the bushes that had grown into trees—pygmies with thick trunks. She loved the madrone for its smooth, flesh-colored bark that reminded her of baby skin. Her husband consoled her. They would have wood for their fire for a very long time he said, and promised her she could plant any trees she desired. The mountain forest was known for an abundance of Douglas fir, Jack pine, white pine, and white oak 76
that played host to mistletoe. In the olden days, it also was home to great stands of redwood that grew in familial clumps, a matriarch always present. These had long ago been harvested by lumber companies. Only one stand remained and that was further down the mountain alongside a road that hugged the ridge overlooking a deep valley. It was said that this stand was not cut because a mountain lion and a girl crawled up into the boughs, both refusing to come down when the men with chainsaws came roaring through. The loggers would have shot the lion, but they were afraid to do so because the lion and the girl were inseparable. If they shot the lion, they would likely shoot the girl. So they left the stand alone and called it Lion’s Grove. When the woman heard this story, she purchased a dozen redwood seedlings the size of her thumb, planted them in clay pots, and watered them every day, determined to transplant them when they were strong enough to survive without her doting care. Now, just as the husband hoped, once atop the mountain the woman conceived and gave birth to a child every year. However, every year, one child died. This tragedy continued until there were no more children left and the woman was too old to have any more. The man and woman buried their children in graves that surrounded their cabin. Atop each the woman planted one of the thriving redwood trees that she’d nurtured from seedlings. The husband made cement markers for each. In time, a grove of redwood trees surrounded the cabin, each rooted in the bones of a child. Every morning the woman would go out of the cabin with her coffee cup in
hand and talk to her tree children. In the evening she would go out in her long flannel nightgown and sing them a lullaby. After many years of this ritual, the man, now old with a grey beard to his waist that he sometimes braided and beaded for special events, became weary of his wife pretending trees were her children. The trees had grown tall and ominous. They swayed in the wind, joining boughs, sighing and crying way above the cabin’s rooftop. In sharp winds they bent nearly to the ground, threatening the old couple’s safety. They blocked all the sunlight coming into the tiny cabin so it was always dark and dreary inside with sad sounds of their sighing and the old woman’s crying. So the old man spent most of his time outside near the compost pit far away from the trees and their oppressive darkness contemplating his wife’s demise and his own safety. One day as he was sitting on a stump next to the compost heap smoking his pipe and looking up at the swaying trees each one named for a dead child, he considered his options. He could cut them down but his wife would call him a murderer. If he did nothing, they could one day fall during a storm and kill them both, or if that did not happen, his wife would continue talking to them and he would soon go as insane as she, listening to baby talk and lullabies day after day, year after year. The old man did not think he could stand another minute, but he did not know what to do. Right about then a spotted black and white cat appeared. It was crawling cautiously on its belly, tail switching. It slunk near the compost pit and pounced on the muskmelon rinds the old man had thrown into it after his breakfast. “Hey you!” he shouted at the cat. The cat ran, a big chunk of melon rind in its jaws. That night, the old man watched his wife snoring comfortably after she had sung her nightly lullabies to her tree children. Unable to sleep, he rose and once again sat outside by the compost heap, smoking his pipe. As he smoked, he saw the spotted cat visible in the dry field, making its way towards the compost. “Hey you!” he called out. “If you’re hungry I have something better for you.” And he went inside the cabin and brought out a small bit of veni-
son his wife was thawing for their supper. The man held out his hand and the spotted cat came near and sniffed. The man saw the cat had one ear missing and one eye was milky white—blind. “Vince?” he said. “Vince?” The cat looked at him through his one eye, grabbed the meat and ran. That night the old man lay next to his old wife and again listened to her snore. He wondered if he should tell her he saw Vince and that he was now a cat. He soon fell asleep and in his dreams he dreamt he had a multitude of cat sons who helped him build a high masonry wall all around the cabin. When he awoke, he shook off the dream still fresh in his mind, determined to forget all about the cat, fearing he was becoming as crazy as his wife. That morning as he sat away from the house on his favorite madrone stump next to the compost pit where the sun warmed his balding head and skinny arms, he saw a rustling near the fence line where the weeds grew thick and high. As he watched, there was a tumble, grunt, a sigh and then the spotted cat leaped high, proud, a snake clamped in his jaws, right in its middle speared by the cat’s sharp teeth, its two ends twitching and curling up alongside the cat’s muzzle like thick whiskers. The head twisted and turned, furious, not quite dead, its forked tongue flicking, hissing, its tail rattling, for it was a rattlesnake, venomous and deadly. The cat with one eye and one ear, bit down hard. The rattling and hissing stopped. The snake fell in two parts at the old man’s feet, wriggled just a moment in the aftershock of death, and lay still. The cat sat back on its haunches and looked the old man square in the eyes. The old man took another puff on his pipe. “Vince?” he said and patted his lap. The cat jumped up, turned once around, and settled into the old man’s lap for a long morning nap. The two dozed. When the sun was noon high the old man said to the cat, “Come on boy, come to the house to meet the wife and have some lunch.” The two of them walked from the sunlight into the dark gloom of the circle of trees and into the house. “Wife,” the old man called out. “Someone’s here I’d like you to meet.” The old woman came from the kitchen wiping her
hands on her apron. “Wife,” the old man said pointing at the cat, “it’s Vince.” The old woman took one look at the cat and fell over dead. Some time after the old man buried his wife in a nice sunny spot out near the compost pit and made a lovely cement tombstone for her (hoping thereby to brighten her everlasting rest), he and Vince were sitting out near the pit, the old man on his favorite madrone stump and Vince on another much the same, when he chanced to look over at the foreboding ring of trees circling his house, their boughs joined, swaying together as if one. They seemed to be laughing at him, mocking, menacing. The old man looked over at Vince curled in a tight knot and said, “How about we cut down those trees once and for all and build a cat fence around the cabin?” Vince stretched long, sat up, looked over at the trees, hopped off the stump and walked over to the chainsaw. The old man followed and soon all twelve trees were lying dead around the cabin. The old man bucked them up into rounds, spread them out for drying and splitting—enough firewood for several winters—and set about scraping off the muck and leaves of years that covered the tiny tombstones of each of his children. He said to Vince, “how about me and you making a cat fence to go around this place?” That very day the old man, using Vince as his model, began building cement cats on every tombstone.
In between each of the cat’s mouths he sculpted a snake that curled around like whiskers. Each snake end connected with the snake end of the next cat, so that in a year’s time the old man’s house now filled with light and air was circled by cement cats with snake whiskers. The old man no longer had to go to the compost pile to get his sun. He sat on his porch swing, smoking, Vince by his side. One day as he smoked he looked over at the compost pit and the lovely cement marker he had made for his wife and knew what he had to do. He bought a tiny redwood seedling and planted it on her grave. For the rest of his years he sat on his porch, Vince on his lap or by his side, watching that redwood tree grow. Over the years, other cats crept in from the field, from down the steep meadow through the star thistle, from the seasonal creek that ran at the bottom of the mountain. They’d creep up and sit atop the cement cats and sun themselves during the day or yowl at the moon their yellow eyes glowing in the dark or they would just watch the old man and Vince grow older and older. The old man’s beard touched the ground, still braided and beaded, now trickled with spittle. Sometimes he’d put a little food out for them, a bit of venison on the cement cats’ backs, but mostly he and Vince would just sit and gaze over at the redwood tree growing taller and taller, reaching her branches out to them, sighing.
At the Back Door R.W. Poole
Here the part most Self and sleeve swaddled paused— burlap bound—twined— hearing heavy breathing Winter at the back door— knuckled warning. It was October when I watched the stalker first stand not quite still— tap tap. The shape of dull beguiling Fall slant with yellow blinding— resigns—drops under cover. I’m sure it comes too fast— my days of blunder fumbling crumblement of all the last—but I lift the latch. And enters all the soughing sighing Past.
Our Brief Ecstatic Body R.W. Poole
First, Lay your hand across my throat and hear the ocean. Rising. Falling. Hold a shell against my belly touch your tongue to ambiguity and laugh. It will not last. It will tangle— it will pass. So lay your hand— no, bend your finger slowly forward soft as a noun with no consonant’s castanets clacking no beat and no beaten— just soft, euoi bring your hand across my throat you’ll find the ocean full of belly, full of deep fissures melt in iron ore— oh— the irony of ornamental constancy— tease the lipstick off a whore, and bring your hand with all its salt and ocean licking on the shore of our remorse that is no more. Now pray for morning. Pray for more.
Easter Morning, Luna Pier, Two Men Fishing in a Boat Daniel James Sundahl
And over them gray calm, fog folded fatly over the water, a hundred yards or so of visibility. Their bait stalks along the bottom, Gracefully misbegotten. Strange how the mind on a morning like this looks for tone and terminology, a sad attempt to understand Godâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s timelessness giving forth Time. Someone at the pierâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s edge faces east, listening to the water slopping the stones below; an alien conscience or another phantom of loss and gain. On the boat, a match spurts; a finger held too near the flame brings that old curse of pain cleaving the fog-bound air, patience hardened to a pittance. In the hover of a white bird, the light begins to shape and feather. A respite from fear some poet might think. But the waitâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s begun again, the water rounding the stones in penitence.
SCAMPS M a n ju S o n i … Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. You must wake up with sorrow. You must speak to it till your voice catches the thread of all sorrows and you see the size of the cloth
e was my children’s Motabapa, translated as “older father.” They adored him, and he broke their hearts. He was my brother-inlaw, my husband’s brother, twelve years older than him. Motabapa had nicknamed both my children Scampino, with the plural being Scampinos. They in turn called him Scamps. He teased them, tickled them, made them giggle, bought them ice cream, and let them play with his earlobes. Tall and slim, with eyes that crinkled and dimples that cratered his cheeks when he smiled, Motabapa epitomized timeless elegance. His shirts were hand-sewn with his name embroidered on the pocket and cuffs. His shoes were fine Italian leather. He also had a keen eye for a good diamond, he was a descendent of a long line of jewelers after all, and diamonds were his trade. He had a knack for choosing nicknames. His nickname for his younger brother was Joe, after Joe Valachi, the cauliflower-faced gangster who ratted out on the Cosa Nostra. His nickname for his father-in-law was aptly, Bob, after Bob Hope. An overweight cousin
Naomi Shihab Nye, 1952.
was named Mother Moo. I met him for the first time when I was twenty-five and he was thirty-seven. Apart from a mischievous smile and a, “Hi,” he didn’t speak much to me then. But over the years we developed a soft, respectful friendship, unusual in most extended Indian families, which are often divided by gender. Motabapa’s wife, my sister-in-law, was my best friend and my ally in our daily struggle against our mother-in-law’s well meaning, but tight, matriarchal control of her family. When we moved from Durban, in South Africa, to the UK, he and his wife visited us. He wanted to be sure his Scampinos were happy in their new home. I learned later that he had mortgaged his house to pay for the trip. It was Christmas, a magical time. He loved going to the pub and visiting Canterbury Cathedral. He listened, in awe, to the sublime voices of the choir rising up into the ancient ceiling. Between Christmas and New Year we visited 83
Geneva. The city, sitting on the curved fingertip of Lake Geneva and surrounded by the Alps, was a mosaic of ancient castles and modern skyscrapers. The lake is no doubt gorgeous during the summer, not so much in the midst of winter. One evening, as we walked to our hotel the wind coming off the lake stung us like sand in a desert storm. We hurried along and moved a street inland into the lap of luxury shopping on Rue du Rhône. Before long, Motabapa was distracted, riveted by the pear-shaped flawless diamond in the window of a jewelry store. Without another word, he stepped in. He pretended we were a wealthy family on vacation. With his long woolen coat and granite jaw he looked the part. The middle-aged saleslady was so enamored with him she barely gave the rest of us a glance. She brought out the diamond, clasped in the prongs of a pair of gem tweezers. It was pristine, a small glimpse of heaven. Half a million dollars worth of heaven. Motabapa charmed her for a full ten minutes. He chatted about how he would transfer the money from South Africa the next day, what the exchange rate was, and how the diamond business in general was. Warm again, we said goodbye. She smiled; her eyes never left him. The little charade was one more treasure we filed away in our drawer of memories. A few months later we visited Durban. It was the tail end of summer and our time there was a whirlwind of martinis and a cocktail of Thai, Greek, Indian, and South African food. Our signature drink was the color of summer sky served on crushed ice in a tall glass, a combination of blue Curaçao, vermouth, and gin. After two weeks we said our tearful farewells to Motabapa, his wife, Mots, their two sons, both in their twenties, my mother-in-law, and the rest of the family. We had planned to spend a few nights in Johannesburg with my parents before returning to London. We had finished dinner and were in the lounge, scattered around the TV. The phone rang. It was my mother-in-law, for my husband. I knew something was wrong, the time was well past her bedtime. What could be so urgent? With my heart tightening, I watched the blood drain out of my husband’s face as he spoke his mother. He could barely whisper the 84
words. “He shot himself. In his heart.” With those words, our lives were shattered. On a balmy, autumn evening, Motabapa, aged a mere fifty-two years, took his own life. He lay down in bed, using a small towel, maybe to muffle the sharp, distinctive bark of the gun or maybe it was a vain attempt to prevent his blood soiling the bedding, and shot himself. As that tiny piece of metal tore through his heart, it broke ours. He left a small yellow post-it note on a pile of clothes in the cupboard “I’m sorry, I am so tired.” His parting words to my husband, a few days before, were, “There’s never enough time.” As we entered the house I was struck by the silence that permeated every corner. The rooms overflowed with family, friends, neighbors, and yet the silence was deafening. My friend collapsed onto my shoulder, her body trembled, as she mumbled, “He’s gone.” My husband stooped to hug his mother, her face devoid of emotion, her facial muscles unable to express the depth of her loss. She had lost her husband three years before and now the unimaginable loss of her eldest child. In the days and weeks that followed, we entered a surreal world, filled with a dense fog, each aware of the others around us but each of us intensely lonely. I experienced in agonizing detail the myriad emotions and questions that occur to those who survive the suicidal death of a loved one. How could he do this to us? I was overcome with guilt at having missed his depression. I resented him. I grieved at losing him. I wept at how alone he must have felt. I imagined him laying his head down on the pillow and pointing the muzzle of the gun to his chest. What did he think of as he pulled the trigger? I shuddered at how much pain he must have been in. Often these wild swings of emotion would follow each other in swift succession, leaving me helpless and drained. Even though this was not the first funeral in our family, we learned new Hindu superstitions and rituals. We should not allow our tears to fall into the casket as this may hold the soul back from being reincarnated. My friend’s red choodiyan (bangles) that had adorned her wrists since she was a young bride, were broken on the side of the casket to cut her ties with her husband to allow his soul to move on. Little
cakes were placed next to him, to sustain him in his journey into the afterlife after his cremation. For two weeks we kept the ghee lamp burning in front of a photograph of him, one that I had taken on his trip to the UK. He looked happy. His smile partly hidden behind his mustache. Every evening we gathered in a circle on the floor to sing in prayer. Hymns that asked the Almighty to bestow peace upon the soul that had arrived at His doorstep took on a new poignancy. “Why?” Why was a question that tormented me day and night. Alone or in conversation, it found its way into my thoughts and words. Why took on innumerable forms. Why did he do it? Why did we not detect the signs? Why did he not tell us of his pain? Why was he so good at deception? Why did he start, and then stop, the antidepressants? My husband and I, both doctors, knew of the possibility of antidepressants causing suicides. Had the antidepressants killed him? Desperate for answers, we asked questions. We tried to reenact the last weeks of his life. To no avail. I searched the Internet. The words swam in front of my eyes, Depression. SSRIs. Antidepressants. Suicide ideation. The word ideation, so positive, so hopeful, mutated to take on a sinister meaning when coupled with suicide. There were anecdotal, scare-mongering sites, like the doctor in the Eastern Arizona Courier who blamed suicides on SSRI drugs, which she compared with LSD. Medical publications were murky. I found it impossible to apply complex statistics from large populations to our individual tragic situation. It would take another decade before the data would show that antidepressant treatment decreases the risk for suicide among depressed patients, although, as with Motabapa, the risk of suicide is still very high within the first few weeks of starting treatment. My children, torn out of their cocoons into adulthood, missed him. My son developed shingles and after extensive investigations, all negative, we concluded it was related to the stress of losing Motabapa. At the funeral, my daughter, in her white salwaar kameez and her unsmiling face, looked far older than nine. Laughter and joy had fled their lives. On the thirteenth day after Motabapa’s death, we held a prayer. His eldest son, his eyes bloodshot but his face stoic, offered spoonfuls of herbs and shred-
ded wood into a small fire while the priest chanted mantras in Sanskrit. We watched the flames flicker and inhaled the smell of incense and camphor. Afterwards we chatted softly, and laughed occasionally. Three months later we moved to the US. The summer went by. Our children started school and made new friends. Over the next few years, I watched, through their written words, my children’s broken hearts begin to heal. My teenage son wrote, “The death of my uncle has taught me a very valuable lesson. Treat every time you meet someone as the last. You are never certain whether you’ll see them again. If I hadn’t learned that early, my life may be different today.” My ten-year old daughter, in an essay on Maya Angelou’s poem “Alone,” wrote, “… when my uncle died I realized how much he meant to me and I felt very alone. I felt alone because memories came back to me, memories of my uncle and I…. My life has a lot of loneliness in it; however, it is spread out over years and years, so it doesn’t seem like a lot. I hope that loneliness and I will never have to meet again.” My children may never fully mend, though they continually heal. The presence of Motabapa’s suicide is a keloid scar, thick and palpable.
Essence John Saul
I like to think they folded under the weight of my emails folded is a manner of speaking weight too but anything spoken is spoken in a manner of speaking blood as a word is only a word don’t believe me? ask René Magritte I’ll give you his number afterwards you’ll need one code for Belgium, another code for the dead anyway I badgered the folks at Hangman Books over in Florida until finally they folded and brought out a volume of poetry by that fine young man in Ohio now I know poetry isn’t real life though they say that about schools about football, fashion, even banking or politics even technology I suppose road-mending is real life but I can’t just go out and mend the road, can I? farming’s real life so how about gardening? I know nothing about it can name ten trees at the most and one is a tamarisk so that hardly counts hardly cuts me out to be a gardener it isn’t as if gardeners go around naming trees all day but besides, as a woman said once, reality is a crutch for those who can’t cope with drugs you were a drug remember you used to let me taste your stuff, I felt your breath, found your veins heard you whisper, whisper my name, yes you were my drug I have to get you out of my system out, did you know that how could you know, you’ve moved on 86
as if living was a dance with sidesteps, movings-on you waltzing on and me glued to the same piece of floor, under the twirling ballroom light, stood in the way of everyone twirling and cha-cha-cha-ing me haunted by everything you touched from blackcurrants on bushes, any currants, any bushes, anything on any bush, the word bush, any word sounding like bush, rhyming with bush to any country mentioned in passing down to your mother in a photograph anyone anywhere in a photograph any photograph anywhere to your father behind those long-ago enemy lines, having his parachute fall all around him and running like hell for the nearest wood so don’t mention wars either or woods or crows, there are crows everywhere, we should never have talked about crows or your mad sisters who said you dressed like a clown when you were so obviously so so very well they were jealous, weren’t they so very so beautiful and so haunting, every story I read, you’ve got into it somehow someone has a party and you’re there sails a boat and it’s your feet on the planks someone is running across the concourse to catch the train surely that’s you opening a window making the tomatoes in the frying pan sizzle so haunting that I’m glad of all we didn’t do together glad we didn’t walk there, or there didn’t share those Irish cliffs the Sphinx, Niagara the zoo with the baby raccoons I almost suggested glad we didn’t order an Indian takeaway in the dark—that’s still a breeze chicken tikka masala with naan and that dahl you do, are you still there, no drink, no thanks glad we didn’t try that particular bit of intimate fancy stuff even if we were headed that way glad you never read a word by this young man from Ohio 87
now in Florida apparently Tallahassee to be exact double L double S double E one H from Ohio to Tallahassee it must feel a little stupid to move to a place that’s harder to spell (I digress) anyone shaky at spelling would hesitate to move from Texas or Atlanta to Minnesota, even Missouri and it’s no wonder Minneapolis is a hotbed of professors of literature as the presidential advisors say: if you can’t spell it don’t go there so Chattanooga’s a ghost town, Albuquerque, Milwaukee … only the best educated even consider Massachusetts while New York is crammed and L A grows and grows although with skilled renaming the population of Cincinnati could treble overnight I suppose if you were dyslexic you wouldn’t care much one way or the other anyone can eat yoghurt whether it’s got an h in the middle or not and that’s the digression at an end because since you remarked most men don’t eat yoghurt at breakfast I never touch the stuff don’t eat much at all actually buy packets and tins, take them home, assign them suitable cupboards, try and see their labels face outwards, see families of the same product are not separated who needs traumas in the kitchen, the world’s cruel enough as it is if it’s light I just look at the packets and tins, I don’t open them I might dial the Indian, I just did I might glance at the shelves before shutting the cupboards in the moonlight, if there’s moonlight I don’t open anything much, I open this little thin thing instead with the words looking so neat on the page, words on their first day of school oh, let them add in brackets, that fuzz-free blazer, the leather smell of the satchel, not to mention the other childhood intoxicants, close brackets before me a feast for the eyes and the ears, as they say, flown over from Tallahassee if you think about it, jetted in from the States with Rolls Royce engines, escorted by flight crews in uniform all reasons to be grateful grateful to him, because if you were the drug he’s on the rehab team I open it and read that a good job to have, if you can find it, isn’t selling houses, driving trucks or fashion designing it’s repackaging brightness, it’s harnessing starlight 88
yes, there are jobs in the economy, but a good job is another matter, it isn’t cleaning windows on skyscrapers, or unloading containers it’s recording the wind it’s agitating for there to be more wind work for young people so push the other projects towards the back burner—that knife act the postman and I have been discussing quite long enough now—walking the Sahara for charity as you did fortunately I never saw those things because they’d be haunting me now didn’t see you listening to the sand, enchanted by the stars sleeping like the gypsy with the lion in that painting by what’s-his-name didn’t see you rollerblading or returning home with fish strung on a pole slung over your shoulder running up clothes skinning a deer appraising gemstones somersaulting from the top board to the pool but as we not once stepped inside a pub I can be here today gaily waving this book by the young man from Ohio sorry, Tallahassee where you’re never far from an alligator a gun a glade, a warm sea he’s crazy stranded on his digital archipelago, with only verbal boats to save him talking about being struck down in a doorway by inspiration talking about repackaging brightness, about wedding planners thawing out boxes of butterflies he’s crazy advising us to watch out for peacocks to, he says here on page 61 lay in the grass all day and it will repair itself in the dark but not too crazy he knows a thing, or two he’s onto the essence so here’s to you Nick, thanks and hopefully we all know someone like you, to say thanks to thanks for being you for being there. 89
On the Gulf of Honduras Nina Ficenec
the patojos are chatting —how most things in the world work better in pairs— selling chayote. Long toes stretching to reach for the bottle under the bench while cinnamon limbs hop back and forth along the lozenges on the sand, lace and dust dancing and parched as los turistas stroll by. The patojos mumble Chish, whisper Bagre. ¡Bien señor, es la tos con flema! La turista hears that the water is warm. El turista says that sweat is an eyesore. La turista says there’s a color worth waiting for. El turista hears that gray is always in season.
Batman, Retired Trevor Pyle
Everyone wants to make a big thing of it, but the truth is there’s only so many times you can throw a supervillain off a skyscraper and watch him yell noooooooooooooooo oooooooooooooooooooo oooooooooooooooooooo oooooooooooooooooooo until he lands on a gasoline truck and make it bloom like fiery algae. Now I run a car lot where the Batmobile sits on display— its engine removed, of course. Sometimes a villain will come in to mutter threats and drink free coffee. I always send them away with a nice used Camry or crossover SUV. People love that I wear the mask with a dress shirt and tie. Sometimes to entertain the kids I’ll growl, “Of course I have good prices—I’m Batman!” The only thing that bothers me is a couple months after I started, the Joker opened his own lot across the street. At first I suspected a diabolical plot— cars that launched their drivers, laughing gas instead of air conditioning. It turns out he just wants to compete. He wears a cowboy hat, saws prices in half with a green chainsaw in his ads. You wouldn’t believe how goddamn popular they are.
Day/Night Confusion Jennifer Peterson
The nurse tucks this phrase into my purse, along with a stash of disposable breast pads and one ticket to a week of Percocet, as your father wheels us out into the weird October snowfall that accompanied your birth. We learn the meaning of the term that very midnight when you rouse from a day of slumber in the auntsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; and in-lawsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; arms to bellow into our faces, until it breaks over me how irreversible is my mistake. This is why, when a dear infertile friend drops by to nestle you against her pressed pintucks and impossibly flat abdomen, I want to tell her to thank God for the dark and light, the certainty of sitting to her three neat meals, even the blessed punctuation of the bloody days.
Still Sometimes Jennifer Peterson
I startle when they give you back as though I, who was once the hander off of bawling children, now must hold the tonic for a mounting cry. My matter leaps to satisfy your demands, while the mind straggles, a spectator to your crushing preference. I have fed you in the dark so many nights, with my own tears slipping in my mouth. What kind of fountain drips both salt and sweet? I fear I cannot keep you from that brackish part of me, but you astound me with your power to find and tap the good, to breach my shell. Always at your first face of the day, I break openâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;like an egg giving way above the bowlâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s smile.
M y B a b y ’s S c a r s VICTORIA GRIFFIN
he has scars all over her body. I ask her where they came from. She won’t tell me. I run my finger along a scar snaking up her leg, from the outside of her knee up her thigh, all the way to her hip. She pushes my hand away, and I place it in the small of her back, wrapping my arm around her waist and pulling her toward me. I kiss her lips. They are like two soft, pink scars. We’re sitting on the hood of my Camaro in the parking lot of my apartment complex, waiting for the streetlights to come on. My baby’s red hair is so light it’s almost pink, but it looks muddy brown in
the waning light. I don’t like that. It makes her look sad. “Tell me where your scars came from.” She doesn’t answer. I put a finger beneath her chin and draw her lips to mine. She feels so good. I try to be gentle, but the thought of her body, so small and fragile, makes me want her more. I press my tongue into her mouth, feeling the smooth sharpness of her teeth, and my hand is on the back of her neck, thin like dry pasta. “Baby—” I pull myself away just enough to speak, sucking her lower lip between words. “Baby, tell me you want me.”
She doesn’t say anything, but her hazel eyes begin to burn like the glowing end of a cigarette. I pull her onto my lap, my knuckles scraping the cold metal of the hood, and I kiss her softly, gently. Her lips part as I run my fingers under her tank top, up her back, over the scars making hash marks across her spine. I taste her tongue in my mouth, sweet like apples. A soft clink rises from the asphalt below as the needle falls from the hood. We should probably pick it up, but neither of us think to—with a combination of lust and heroine flowing through our veins. I leap off the hood of the car and scoop her in my arms, relishing in the feel of her hair against my bare arms and the way my pores absorb her scent—I feel it swirling within my body, stronger than anything I’ve ever shot through a needle. She’s still in my arms as I climb the stairs, but I have to sit her on her feet to open the apartment door. Her hand is in the small of my back as I push the door open. I spin and wrap my arms around her waist, pulling her inside. Her scent is heavy on my body, and as I strip her clothes away it becomes heavier. Under the weight, I fall backward onto the bed. She follows, her hips pressing into mine, and hands are grasping at my shirt, pulling it over my head, undoing my belt. Then I’m floating over her skin, and the air conditioning kicks on, pushing cold air around the room just as I push my way into her. We’re both panting and begging each other, and there’s nothing I can do or think or say until we’re finished, lying next to each other on top of the covers. Her hand is on my stomach, and mine is behind her neck. Our arms are spread like two figures on the cross, and we’re staring at the ceiling like we’ll find something written there. “Where did your scars come from?” She doesn’t answer, but I feel a twitch in her neck. I roll onto my side so that I’m inches from her, and I lower one hand near her abdomen, not touching her, just hovering above the skin. “What about this one? This long one above your belly button?” She still doesn’t answer. I touch the thin, pink line, and she recoils. “Baby…” I move in closer, and she pulls away. I press my
palm against her hip, trying to keep her close. She’s trembling. I raise myself above her and see blood soaking the comforter. “Did I hurt you?” I roll her over like a hollow log. Her lower back is sliced from one dimple to the other, leaking like a split open water hose. Blood rolls over her skin, soaking the light blue comforter like a flame against the daytime sky. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.” I wrap her in my arms, her back against my chest, her neck lulling forward. There is a scar on her left shoulder. My mind flashes back to a broken beer bottle hurled across the room, the gash on her shoulder, blood dropping onto the carpet like rain. I squeeze her tighter, hold on. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Baby, please forgive me. I never meant to hurt you.” She doesn’t answer me. I start to get scared. I hold her tighter. Her strawberry hair falls over the bed as she droops in my grasp. I flip her over and put my ear to her chest, listening to her breathing, her lungs pumping life through her body—her small, fragile body. Oh God, what if she stops breathing? Everything in me is repulsed by the thought (repulsed by myself?), repulsed by hands on me, a man’s hands, rough and callused from the unforgiving jackhammer. He holds me down on the floor while my mom’s at work and touches me where I know he shouldn’t, but I’m too little to stop him. When my mom comes home he’ll touch her the same way, and she’ll like it, never knowing what her husband’s hands have done. Come on son, hold still. “Look at me, baby.” Her eyes are cold, staring upward as though looking through the ceiling to the sky, the clouds, the heavens. (Is there hope there?) God, I love her—and she loves me. She fucks me like she loves me, though she doesn’t say it. She fucks me like I’m the only one in the world she’d want to fuck. (What about the blood?) I wouldn’t hurt her. I’ll never hurt her. (What about the blood?) She is so still. Oh God, she is so still. I jump from the bed, my bare feet thudding against the carpet as I 95
pace back and forth, my head swiveling to watch her naked body lying motionless on the bed. I hear a little boy screaming— (from the apartment below?) (It’s in your head.) —as his father fucks him on the floor and asks him if he likes it. Oh, tell me you like it. I tear at my fingernails. They’re ripped down so that the tender, pink flesh is exposed. It looks like her scars. She begins to cough. I am beside her in a moment, kneeling alongside the bed. “Can you hear me? Oh baby, can you hear me?” She turns her head slowly and stiffly, like a bar runs through her neck. In her eyes is something familiar, something that makes my palms sweat and gooseflesh crawl over my arms. Her lips part, the red tongue inside looking like the blood exposed from the slit in her back, and though her body remains still and calm, her hoarse voice trembles as she speaks.
“Let me go.” I move in closer. I don’t understand. “Let you go where?” The tear that leaks from the corner of her eye looks familiar, too, but I don’t know why. She just loves me. She just loves me so much. I climb onto the bed and hold her like I know she wants me to. Then we fuck, her sweet, soft body so perfect against mine. As we lie in each other’s arms, I wipe the tears from her cheeks, my fingers gently following the raised scars. My sweet baby. I ask her where her scars came from.
Undercurrent John Wunsch
Summer heat rising in hot mist the fields on fire the streams clogged with kill-river cottonwood spores a flock of great storm birds sensing danger and weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re casting our lines into green-gold water shot through with sunlight We embrace the broil the seething steaming upheaval alive with writhing snakes whirring horse flies and moaning frogs We dive into clouds shimmering on fire folded into waves Sweet drops form on our sunburnt necks honeycomb nectar licked dripping delicious A tug at the end of our lines emanates from darkness beneath the undercurrent beneath the shadows skulking A fluke-like bite gnaws a wriggling worm We can wash away the slimy trail flicked wet by a skeleton-snail its key notes on our hands trace the oily green warts of summerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s crawl slipped past the undersurface of a splash
Driving the Back Road Country John Wunsch Jimmy driving a red Ford pickup midnight down a dirt road squashed bugs windshield my nine year old body bouncing up and down front seat 95 mph deer raccoon snakes possum eyes white like fire headlights glaring 1965 Jimmy turning so sharply almost tips us over wheels squealing foot stomping the gas fat tattoo beefy right arm reads GOD PRAYS TOO fly by signs BROWNING PURDIN LINNEUS swampland marshland deathcap hyacinth waterlily cornflower snapdragon wolfbane the rank the profane the bulbous croak of frogs Jimmy’s dog Rebel back seat barking wolf-like ferocious hysterical panic-stricken barks guts hang down pot belt bucket fat careening semi misses just barely its horn blaring eyes widen the deep blackness blackness coming closer yet far away flash by a farmstead flash by a black lake corn-tobacco peanut-whiskey breath breathing heavily crewcut 25 year old Jimmy fisheye black frame glasses missing a front tooth missing a front shirt pocket confederate flag bobbing wildly on the rearview loaded shotgun in the back Jimmy’s fat hand crabbed around the wheel callous-thick with no regrets oncoming rigs hurtling toward us screaming past head-on crash missing us by inches the racket of crickets drowned out by the engine’s roar the poisoning frightening threatening emptiness of pitchfork-tractor trencher-crawler country back-road country bitch-whiskey Bible country country of roadside crosses of insects and sweat and distances country of still-life horses still as a copperplate stamp on desolate farmland of obscene clouds of aerial crop dusting sprayed in a surreal-bright midday sun country of roadside churches salvation-damnation the ten o’clock shot glass pulled back in roadside taverns the air moist thick rich of rank vegetation of death of dreams gone awry an almost palpable texture skeletons in the trees witches in the woods windows shuttered strangers out signs flash by NO EXIT YIELD CAUTION no turning back owl hawk bat cries dog fox wolf 98
hush and moan stench of swamp-gut sweat stench of birth and decay stench of water-borne disease rumble-kill a bone-jarring thump! under the tires the truck lurches veers a sharp right Jimmy oblivious tires screeching in the mirror a bloody clump of fur left behind sharp turn onto a road of tar stone pebble tumult uproar the truck jouncing bouncing Jimmy laughing Rebel barking blackened windows factories farms rail yards chemical tanks smoke oil gasoline Jimmy takes out a flask gulps it down ghost-dance the underside of trees headlights gleaming a motorcycle roars oncoming Jimmyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s laugh crackles Jimmyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s laugh sizzles at the agonizing impossible terminal last second senses reacts brakes not in time
Piecework J i m R o ss
hen mom was four, her father walked out, and her mother and grandmother got jobs doing ironing. Instead of receiving an hourly wage, they were paid piecework, meaning a flat rate for each ironed garment that passed muster. This arrangement was thought to discourage clock punching and encourage workers to become more efficient and productive. As long as few pieces failed quality control or elicited complaints, a fairly efficient worker fared well. This seemed like a win-win scenario for both employer and workers. However, the arrangement could be abused by workers who
cherry-picked the easier garments or whose work quality was lower than desired, but not low enough to produce rejections. It could be abused by employers who assigned garments based on favoritism. Unions have opposed piece work, claiming it promotes a sweatshop atmosphere and impedes collective bargaining to obtain fair wages for all workers. Nearly 50 years later, in 1970, I was 23 and desperately needed work. I couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t find work in DC or Baltimore. I heard the U.S. Census needed enumerators in Harlem to knock on the doors of households that hadnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t mailed back their decennial Census
forms. Enumerators normally were paid an hourly wage, but when few people jumped at the chance to knock on unfamiliar doors in Harlem, Census officials came up with a deal with greater upside potential: $2.80 for a short form, $5.00 for a long form, plus 30 cents for each enumerated occupant. So, if four people lived in a short-form household, an enumerator in Harlem was paid $2.80 + $1.20 = $4.00, almost double the standard hourly rate enumerators. By comparison, the minimum wage then was $1.60/ hour ($10 in today’s dollars). Lured by the piecework deal, applications flooded in at the Harlem Census office on West 125th Street. I moved back up to New York, settled in with family, and got trained with 14 others. After a week, the others quit or were fired as no-shows or for curbstoning (faking the data). I fast got into the Census mentality of counting housing units and people. Early on, I told my supervisor a large single-family home—a former mansion from once luxurious Harlem—had been subdivided during the Great Depression into 12 units, but somehow that eluded the Census! Most units were occupied. I asked: how can I account for this complexity? My point was, one form couldn’t capture it. Her response was: complete a short form (since that’s what the address was randomly selected for) for each subdivided housing unit, and you’ll get paid $2.80 for documenting unit, plus the usual 30 cents per enumerated occupant. As the summer wore on, I found several more houses like that, plus undocumented, occupied units hidden in sub-basements and attics, adding credence to allegations that blacks and other minorities were undercounted. Most Harlemites welcomed the Census taker as a rare visitor. For me, the chance to enter their personal space created an equally rare opportunity. Many had lived in Harlem since the Depression, locally known as the Harlem Renaissance. Some led me on tours of their immaculately preserved brownstones or exhibited treasures, ranging from feather boas to artifacts of the ancestral home. They often shared drink—water, sweet tea, coffee, ginger beer, coconut soda—and sometimes food—sardines, fried chicken, oatmeal cookies, a pie slice. Once, after I found three homeless men living in an attic, I pitched in a quarter so together we had enough to buy a bottle of Twister, a kerosene-adul-
terated wine, flavored with an overpowering dollop of peppermint. When I was assigned to work in Spanish Harlem for a few days, I wondered how I’d manage with my rudimentary Spanish. A 12-yearold boy volunteered to serve as my guide and translator in exchange for coconut soda, tres leches, and financial considerations. My sweetest moment came when a tinny voice behind the door yelled, “Whatchoowant?” I answered “I come to take your Census.” And she yelled back, “Well, I ain’t got much left, but what I got, you can have.” She invited me in, served ginger tea with sardines on toast. I paid her $2.00 of my $3.10. As I readied to depart, she grabbed my wrist with her strong fingers and announced, “The days they go slow, but the years they fly by.” Sometimes, the spectacularly bizarre happened. With eight seated family members observing, one woman insisted I sit in the middle of her living room floor. As I worked through a long form—wishing it’d been short—she got down next to me, said she hadn’t been with a man since her husband died in Vietnam, and maintained the charade of trying to climb on top of me as uncontrollable laughter possessed the onlookers. I persisted with my questions like a priest hearing confessions. When done, I’d made: $5.00 + $2.70 = $7.70. Nothing like that ever happened again, but interrupting couples inflagrante delictu was a regular occurrence. “We’re having sex. How long is this going to take?” was a common query. Now and then, a voice from another room yelled, “You come back here now and finish up what you started!” Having established a personal policy that being the occasion of coitus interruptus made bad business, I usually said, “I’ll come again.” No question, shit happened. One time, when I knocked on a third story walk-up’s door, the occupant—a single male—threw open the door and pressed the blade of a machete against my throat. Having no way to defend myself, I reached deep inside to discover how he and I might remove ourselves from this predicament. Not knowing why, I yelled, “Banzai,” like a Japanese suicide pilot from World War II. My apparent assailant laughed hard, re-located his machete to a neutral position, and invited me in. I accepted his invitation, asked him the short-form questions, and after a quick cup of tea, 101
was gone, having just made $2.80 + $.30 = $3.10. However, I froze another time when a drunken man waved a barbecue spear at me as if I were a rabid dog. I couldn’t capture his attention long enough to penetrate his rage. Fortunately, his wife coaxed him out of the picture and answered my questions. What frightened me most, however, were racist innuendo and implicit threats, such as, “This building isn’t a safe place to be, especially for your white ass.” Viewing the community members as collaborators, I told people we needed accurate counts because getting government funds for Harlem’s residents depended on it. They believed this hippy-looking Census taker with aviator glasses and long hair, who ineptly imitated Richie Haven’s “Fatherless Child.” I felt safe and welcomed. For the final month, because many households remained unenumerated, we were authorized to collect “last resort” data. Instead of having to complete the Census form with a resident, we were encouraged to sit with the resident manager to obtain even partial data expeditiously. A piecework bonanza! The Census paid me well but— had I the money—would have paid handsomely for these rich experiences, human and culinary. Summer spent, I returned to DC. Three years later, still single in DC at 26, I was hired piecework on a U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) project. To evaluate the effects of prison-based drug treatment on community adjustment and recidivism, my job was to track down and interview men recently released from Federal prisons, most-
ly parolees. Their detailed answers later would be crunched by my employer to evaluate program effectiveness. Being paid $50 a head—$270 in today’s dollars—I felt like a bounty hunter, except I also got to pay $20—$100 in today’s dollars—so I felt like a candyman too. The thrill was in the chase, becoming a visitor, giving money away, and making this crazy escapade work. Most days were remarkably unproductive—days elapsed between interviews, even weeks if I was waiting for new territory. Travel advances were meagre. I had no credit cards, so mine was a strictly-cash economy. I didn’t own a car, so in D.C. or Baltimore, I traveled strictly by bus, cab, or foot. Out of town, I drove a car rented by my boss, who expected me to hang fire, ready to jump on a moment’s notice, even if I didn’t have the financial wherewithal to feed myself, find an appropriate place to sleep, or pay for gas. If I spent weeks pursuing a case unfruitfully, I was paid nothing—that’s the nature of piecework— and had a tough time even getting reimbursed for legitimate expenses. All the other trained interviewers quit before completing a single interview. After weeks of disappointment, the stars aligned, and I completed five interviews in one day in the D.C./Baltimore area, the last with a parolee wanted by the FBI. When I found him at his mother’s house painting her dining room, he calmly stopped, cleaned himself up, and pulled a six-pack of Miller’s out of the fridge. We both imbibed, he answered my questions, and I was gone. The $50 x 5 = $250 I made that day amounted to two month’s rent! A few weeks later, in one tear-ass January day, I conducted interviews in a boiler room in Newark, NJ at 8 a.m., on the back of a pick-up in Hartford, CT at 1 p.m., and in a parolee’s dining room in snowy western Massachusetts at 8 p.m. Many interviews took place in safe, neutral places, but I had no qualms going into homes, was often offered food and drink, and usually accepted. Eating together put everyone at ease. I was offered marijuana too—when penalties for personal possession were stiff—and, of course, declined. This gig finally turned into one big lark. Several months later, I was re-hired piecework to track down and interview women who’d been released from Federal prisons. Mom warned me these women would be “all pros and no poetry.” My boss
tried to assuage mom’s concerns: “based on prison photos, most of them are burnt-out cases, not live wires.” Could prison photos predict accurately how these women would live out “in the free”? Before imprisonment, when they’d been drug involved, nearly all had plied their wares as sex workers. Wasn’t returning to “the life” their natural default? The women’s project began on high adrenaline. Angie’s drug aftercare said she was “on escaped status,” but her PO said she’d been expelled from prison as a troublemaker. I finally reached Angie by phone at her PO’s office and we agreed to meet at what I learned later was a major drug drop. Her roommate intercepted me, claimed Angie had gotten “tied up,” and led me on a wild ride through alleys and condemned buildings. When we finally began climbing their time-worn staircase, past apartments without doors, eyes peered anxiously around the doorframes. I was slow to catch on: I was entering my first shooting gallery! When we entered their apartment—the only one with a door—Angie was naked from the waist up. At first she thought I was a customer, and then figured out who I was. “I expected an older man,” she said as she donned a ruffled, crepe-type strapless halter top. She sat down, bounced back up, grabbed a broom, and began to sweep vigorously until her roommate ordered, “You don’t sweep now!” Angie was obviously high, but seemed to answer my questions about drug use and illegal activities with remarkable focus, thoroughness, and candor. When I asked about prostitution, her demeanor changed, she turned away, took a grey flowery top out of a drawer, and switched tops. Finished, I paid the $20 she was due, she signed a receipt, and I figured I’d be set free. Instead, she moved toward her bed, sat down on her feet, started to sway back and forth on the bed, and asked, “You sport? You have fun with a woman?” I stood up and said, “Someone’s waiting for me up town. I gotta go.” $50! Weeks later, I caught a train from DC to New York after an ex-addict claimed she could deliver Janie who was “back on pills.” I met my informant, we rode a bus together throughout Harlem as she crumbled coconut cake into the hair of an infant she caressed, and the infant grabbed and ate the crumbs. We entered a fast-food joint where the staff wore
white “Muslim Imports” aprons. She propped the infant on the counter, put a dry diaper in my left hand, told me “if anyone asks, tell them you’re waiting for your wife,” and disappeared. I stood holding the infant, all eyes on me, wondering if there was any chance this day could end happily. When they didn’t have any bean pie or carrot cake, I ordered a “Fishboat and Little Hugger.” After nearly two hours, my harried informant returned with a scribbled note: “Tell the man don’t be mad.” I gave my informant bus fare home plus $5. Zip for me. Train home. Toward the end, I was sent to Texas to team with a female interviewer from Los Angeles. One afternoon, we reached Joey, the husband of the woman we had to interview, Maggie. Joey suggested the four of us gather at their favorite drinking-hole. When we arrived, Maggie—formerly, a high-priced hooker— was dressed to kill in a white silk dress. We drank White Gloves (banana puree with rum) with them, and then drank another round. “Dallas has already lost six conventions this year because the police drove out the hookers,” Maggie complained. “Lots of riches to be made in the construction industry,” Joey remarked in the men’s room, as he flashed the innards of his snakeskin wallet, a thick wad of 100 dollar bills. It didn’t compute fast enough that Maggie and her pimp husband were back “in the life.” When Maggie asked my colleague as a personal favor to “ball” Joey, we knew things had spun totally out of control. Breakfast in the wee hours became the counterplan, followed by a few hours of shut-eye. On day two, my colleague successfully interviewed Maggie, while I babysat Joey. $50 split two ways! Attempts to conduct interviews at jails or prisons often generated resistance from line correctional staff, despite my BOP credentials. One interview in Baltimore City Jail was summarily ended halfway through without explanation; another time, in Texas, I was refused access rudely. Perhaps correctional staff feared I was evaluating them, routinely treated visitors like this, were unaware of or disrespected my credentials, or rigidly applied visitor time limits, even to officially-sanctioned visits. Though some acquiesced to “the life,” many others celebrated leaving it behind. Preparing me for an interview, one PO warned, “Try to keep your fly up. 103
It’s going to be hard.” However, I’d interviewed her fisherman boyfriend seven months earlier in Boston over malted milks, and it was eminently clear they were committed to each other and to making a clean break. We toasted their future over blueberry pie and glasses of milk. Another time, to interview one person, I had to eat dinner with four. The two men had been partners in prison; so had the two women. When they got out, the two women hooked up with the two men in two closely-connected, mutually-supportive straight couples. An hour away, in the living room of a yellow Victorian home worthy of Currier & Ives, a woman who emanated having her act together told me, “My husband knows nothing about my prior life—the drugs, hooking, having a girlfriend. That’s behind me and where it stays.” There was wide agreement among the women that women’s prisons offered almost no programs to help them develop marketable skills they could apply out “in the free” to find legitimate work with growth possibilities. That compounded their dearth of solid work experience before prison. Hooking was often the only form of work that ever brought them “good money.” Many gravitated back to “the life”—a form of piecework—precisely because they had limited coping skills and that’s all they knew. Some said they felt so out of sorts living in the community that that they actively sought and celebrated their return to prison. Such women felt they had a place, role, job, and relationships in prison that they could never dream of duplicating out “in the free,” where life placed too many decisions on their shoulders. Piecework worked for me because (1) I was naïve
enough (and correct) to believe I could get away with repeatedly placing myself in harms way; (2) the adrenaline rush fueled me, (3) each project morphed into an adventure, and (4) I was motivated to experience research “on the ground.” However, piecework seemed to work for hardly anyone else. After the prison follow-up studies, I got my first salaried job. I never worked piecework again or used piecework to pay people I hired. My experience tells me the motivational rationale behind piecework is fundamentally flawed. The real reasons employers promote piecework are to predict costs and avoid paying benefits. Piecework doesn’t work because many workers to take shortcuts that undercut the integrity of the work product; and, harvest low-hanging fruit rapidly, while leaving more inaccessible fruit for someone else. It fosters resentment and pits workers competitively against each other. Instead, workers paid appropriate wages should be provided with necessary training and continuing supports to instill necessary skills, build teamwork, and enhance intrinsic motivation. I treasure the opportunities I had to become a visitor in the lives of people who truly lived dayin-and-day-out in harms way, who struggled to find and keep work, and often to break the chains of intergenerational poverty, racism, gender discrimination, drug addiction, grossly deficient coping skills, and barriers to employment associated with drug use histories and criminal records. Thanks to piecework, for the first time in my life, I had money in the bank to give me a small cushion in case the bottom fell out. Would that they were so lucky.
Last Year at Anaheim Gregory Crosby
The major chord slips into the minor, a hurricane twisted into drizzle. Of all things, this seemed most impossible, like a bomb pulling itself together, the little black sheep of shrapnel come home. We used to talk all day about the weather, & knew the weather would talk about us, our faces cisterns for the rainwater, upturned in the glow, the cloud-haloed light. It was a supreme fiction to be sure. In truth, every drought begins with a kiss or two. The mountain loses its white cap. An empty soda can thirsts for rust. This is the way of things, & even of no things, all the ones there & not there: in other words, the world as it is & as it was, & the memory of standing in line & not the ride itself.
*Bison Andrea Janelle Dickens
The herd is chewing grasses to the nubs, and trampling ancient dwellings easily. Biologists and archaeologists propose a plan to manage bison, push them to land outside the park. Bison moosey along to upland lakes and land. Like many species now extinct, the herd will cooperate for visitors lull tourists into approaching near to them, then run, aloof and skittish, into the woods. The grazers seem to know they’re safe within the park, where hunting is prohibited. But Rangers say the bison are not wanted, though bison roamed in Arizona for thousands of years. The goal: to maintain the hunt, cull these ancients down to ninety head. *This poem is an oulipo poem which is based upon the newspaper article: Loomis, Brandon. “Grand Canyon wants to Evict Some Bison.” The Republic/AZ Central. 5 April, 2014. Web.
canyon stream John Clark Vincent
the trail turned rough a few miles back. stones lifted by patience, stoically rising from soil eroded through decades of makeshift riverbeds and too many hikers, awakened by light from every midday dawn, rise to meet my boots. the trail and those it carries descends to greet a creek, this salmon stream, clinging to its heritage with shallow songs now sharp, now softly sullen, now coursing on to larger tales than these. rounding a bend that forces my feet to water’s edge i see this day’s first chinook. too large. silvered back exposed, darkening with the need to spawn. fighting a dearth of water more than any current, it has lived a life and now remembers the promise made amid these smooth pebbles. let me live. let me live and swim and feed freely and the day will come when i repay the gift and dance once more along these banks. who hasn’t felt this call of home, this will to arrive at meaning, return to peace from life rash and clumsy, exhausting, yet eventually cherished as we sense the stream grow shallow. sense then see then feel then understand we have grown too large to swim among these pebbled memories. too tired to turn away. we swim where others have swum. we swim until we’re greeted with the sweet stench of kept promises.
his fingers John Clark Vincent
there were moments when my father could not stand. could only lay, rigid with pain, on tasteless teal carpet my mother chose for our dining room floor. he lay beside the used, upright piano she had found at a local sale then painted pink once it was delivered. the piano i enjoyed playing but hated practicing on. i never practiced when my father’s back was bad. his fingers squeezed white knuckled anything in reach. a leg of the piano stool or the pipe feeding a heat radiator if the spasms came in warmer months. i don’t know why the piano stool wasn’t pink. i always assumed my mother ran out of paint but i never asked. now she’s dead and so’s my dad, but i remember the one time the ambulance came. a single tear rolled down his cheek as two attendants who knew him lifted him onto their gurney. i thought his fingers might snap that metal frame. his hands were large, hardened by the farm and by his own stubbornness. i was afraid of him and i loved him. before the ambulance arrived my older brother and his friends came by, back from college. my father made me meet them at the door and find a way to keep them outside. don’t let them in, he said. so i took my own money and gave it to my brother and sent them on an errand. i don’t remember what they bought but i can’t forget how proud i felt, even though my father said nothing. it wasn’t praise i was looking for when i held his hand, waiting for help.
Anatomy of Solitude Sally Zakariya
She makes a room for herself under the table, so small it encompasses the world She climbs a tree, sits reading on a high branch, opening her book to multitudes Older, she walks from her town to the city, an invisible throng walking alongside her She sings the old song One is one and all alone and evermore shall be so, knowing that to be alone is not always to be lonely She invites Beethoven in sometimes while she cooks or tidies the house or drives to work Or she goes to the park and lets birds and squirrels tell her their stories Sometimes she sits quietly, a sense of pleasant, undemanding aimlessness a sort of softening between the bones a mind that lets the words in, if they come Sometimes wind scatters the words, rain washes them away Solitude invites them back
A Brief History of Attraction Sally Zakariya
In the beginning you wore a lavender shirt and a yellow sash and a gallery of ink on your skin and your glance set the whole of me ringing like a gong or the beginning was before that when we both were somewhere in London feeling somehow the presence of the unknown other there on the Bayswater Road where you showed your art and I bought kebabs from the man in the open window or perhaps the beginning was earlier still when we rose into life weeks apart on opposite coasts shaking the wombâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s shawl from our shoulders reaching for what we didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t even know we wanted and we began the dance of approaching sleeping and waking in a single dream striking out against whatever stood between us and then one day we met and you wore a lavender shirt
Today, the pesticide man Jerrod Schwarz
Today, the pesticide man finds the victims of someone’s first BB gun— shattered cologne bottle, a blank CD’s craggy edges, the splatter of cheap coffee from a cheaper cup. His boots crunch the glass and plastic deep into the soil pine saplings fight over. A thousand bull ants create the colony’s first counter culture, exfoliate their segments in dried creamer, while millions more writhe around branches that have already blocked out the sun.
Knuckles, Midnight, and the Haven of an Empty Pool Jerrod Schwarz
Delilah dips her fist in the shallow endâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; slow punches a fallen oak blossomâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; and watches chlorine force the new scabs open, force brown clots red then pink then nothing. Inside, blood cakes the triangles of her broken plate; a square cut of lasagna cools at the other end of the table.
12 Weeks Samantha Williams
Who knew three months could be so small. Size of a peach pitâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; you created a plateau inside me. I dabbled with the idea of holding you Like grease to a Jheri curl. And when they gelled my belly down I watched you unfold. August 24th, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll wake up with a hangover. Icing from the birthday cake I would have made you smeared across my cheek; Hennessey on my breath smell of sage in the cracks of my palms.
Road Trip Tess Fellows
the suitcase on your shoulder contains the air you will breathe the rest of your life with valuables tucked into your kidneys you hose gas all over yourself for energy and wear sunglasses on your rainy day road trip
Being a Teenager Valentina Saavedra
I watch the house through my window The blinds arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t closing, not slamming into the windowpane; Downward Inside: the small blonde child, bulging eyes Sane like still water There! There! She screams to her mother, terrified I see her through my window Holding the gun to my head Driving the bullet through my thick skull.
ANNA SME TANENKO, ARTIST Interview by Xavier Vega
Photo 1: Page 117 XAVIER: The imagery at times looks pixelated, leading me to believe you used computer techniques to splice and distort your artwork. Thematically speaking, do you feel your work is influenced by modern technology? ANNA: I am inspired by curiosity. Understanding where we the people came from, possibilities and different ways of thinking via analyzing the historical landscape, traces of human potential. Why and how certain things made their way towards the normative acceptance and why others were denied or lost, due to which factors. The gaps of informational intake on individual and social level. And of course technology is part of it, how each medium allows us to think and extend ourselves. XAVIER: If I were to take a crack at any commentary on technology, I would guess this piece serves as a chameleon collage, which almost animates a web-surfing session. Any thoughts on that? ANNA: Web surfing interpretation is appealing to me. The input of so much information that is available on the net and it’s translation to a mind container leaves stains on our (un)consciousness. The works presented are open for interpretation and having your comment I can fetch up from here a collaborative view on the piece. What you see on the image is ship’s fenders mashed further. Between them is a 116
bicycle; just as bicycle was a start for further wheel transportation, reshaping landscape, routine and infrastructure, so is the internet- a digital bicycle of today. Since fenders serve as ship’s protection at the pier, new and innovative lies outside protective areas. And as time goes further, the common disbelief spreads that not many new ideas are out there. The area gets narrower, it is true, but perhaps only in the horizontal space, in depths- there is still (and always) place to go. Human potential is enormous since we constantly re-wire ourselves and even if we would get inspiration from Antiquity, for example, we’d look from the eyes of today, allowing in this way, a mash between past, present and a future. When reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula it is easy to notice how author proudly goes about back in the day scientific discoveries and their usage in everyday life. Most of us already take internet for granted, as something regular and mundane. However one day it will be the same Bram Stocker’s memory. As the book also deals both with superstitious and scientific approach, the debate between philosophers and neuroscientist regarding freedom/mind patterns will be solved and new questions will rise. ANNA: The story is not an interpretation of a work, but, as mentioned before, a one of the possible looks piled with your comment (that is why works never have titles). An open dialog. Association game. How would you take the story further?
Photo 2: XAVIER: In this piece, I love how the bright lines contrast with the darkness. It feels very neon, like a lone city-scape acting as an oasis in a black desert, or perhaps even a carnival that has grown out of the soil and in the moonlight. And while there is madness in the center of the piece, the exterior is very symmetrical, almost cold in its logic. This center is almost a protective bubble, a framing device at the least. Would you say this piece is inspired by longing? Preservation of a memory? ANNA: Or a look into the new; pieces of a chain string held from neon glowing streets filled with wilderness and joy of extended day time, allowing new paths to be walked in delightful excitement.
Once days were short and numbered, Falling twice asleep. We put the light surrounding When thought in its unrested greed Steamed out from chaining surface Leading man, changing man Extensions walk Un-thought of deeds. Photo 3: XAVIER: This photo is my absolute favorite of the bunch. I love how all these basic items are sewn together in such a bizarre manner. It is like a collage, but much smoother; the lack of jaggedness makes the piece serene. ANNA: Just like making sense of information entering mind at once, harmony within the overflow.
XAVIER: To me, this is a snapshot of dream. I say all of this to lead into my questions. The lower portion looks a bit distorted, as to mimic a corrupt computer file, which makes me thinks of glitches. And of course, it can be said that a dream is just a random spout of memorized stimuli, or a brain glitch, if you will. ANNA: I’d say a dream is more of a psycho-emotional re-habitation. It’s a visually encoded temp folder of our current mental condition. XAVIER: Is this piece commenting on the brain’s ability to demand structure and meaning? Did you create a deliberate Rorschach? ANNA: It’s interesting you would call the most figurative image of all these a Rorschach one. Rorschach images give hints towards multiple interpretations, without too much revelation and guidance towards the specific parts or a whole. However, since these works are open for an interpretation, Rorschach reference goes well, keeping in mind that there are no right or wrong answers and approaches to viewing a work. I like seeing where people’s thoughts go while in-taking a work.
Brain always adds to the gaps and chaos of thinking, making information out of things it sees. Developed over the time consciousness always needs stimuli to feed from, brain feeds off information. If it is chaotic or not there, it will generate some. That’s why people go crazy in minus decibel rooms. If they were to perceive it as a deliberate drift of mind or meditative state, there is a chance, I suspect, of survival mechanisms kicking in allowing tolerance towards own extended and echoing in the ringing silence heartbeat. However, if a person expects something in there to happen, the experience becomes unbearable. That is the trick of mind: even though brain has own routine of working, the thinking processes we guide it with can shape its direction as well. Know what you think. XAVIER: The use of photo negatives gives parts of this piece a foreboding sense of disarray. May I ask what your intention was when you sprinkled negative imagery throughout this piece? What was the purpose of creating such contrast? ANNA: Aesthetics.
Public Transportation Eric Zipper
When facing sideways on the bus, every stoplight is a small limbo, the lurch of deceleration without the payoff the world outside freezes solid, a moment caught in time as you pull sideways, forever awaiting the jerk of the tires that never comes. “This is my stop,” you whisper, but no one hears you. “This is my stop,” you say, louder this time. The driver turns and looks with empty eyes, the world outside frozen over. A man at the back of the bus begins digging into the metallic floors, looking for China. A woman with a dog stands on the seats, and holds her mutt above her head, muttering gibberish. “I’ve seen this movie,” you say, but the dog opens its mouth and butterflies spill onto the floor. “Oh. Nevermind.” Outside a child stands motionless at the side of the road, his expensive cell phone slipping, forever and ever and ever, from his tiny sweat-soaked hands.
When There Is Nothing Left to Say Andrew Hemmert
There is always the road curling eternal toward distance, flanked by barbed fences and defined, at night, by electric glow. When the sun is high, the road is snarled fur, alabaster stares, corpses half-devoured by birds. There is, always, the road. Whole forests of cypress thick as thunder. Also shopping mallsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;the world put under.
Favorite Roommate Megan Sampson
I found your camera lens in the sink obviously soaking in vinegar and witch hazel to make foam. your little quirks are impeccable in the grocery store aisle after aisle I listen for you. click click
My scuba gear expired, but my license is still good. Do you want to go swimming under the lilac bush? I’ll try to smell underwater, because I’m jealous you can open your eyes. Tell me again what birth looks like through a long, black tube. You said something about oil and pastels… I found your tattoo in my memory box drawn out with a felt-tip and contour lines to be a stand-in. you’re so unkempt in an admirable, gracious storm way like a Pollock masterpiece. I don’t like the topography between you and me and him and here. I’ll set your camera on our tripod. Next time you use my chemicals, please ask.
On Rooting Lisa Gaudio
I want dirty hands, momma, muddy fingers, cracked lines along beaten palms, nicotine fingers sliced at the tips. I want working hands with calloused edges along roughed up knuckles, greasy elbows, slicked black and sleek with engine oil moisturizer. I want to scuffle with concrete burn through thin skin films like onions shedding layers. I want out of this red lipstick, caked-on, made up makeup that you’re stuck on. I want no more flower-scented sprays or edible body crèmes, no more bobby pins or boxed-up bouquets of lacy things no more, “You’d look so pretty if…” hour-long conversations something about the way a woman should act something about choosing dresses over jeans, being sweet. Crossing my legs covering up a part of who I am. I hate pink, momma, and Barbie dolls never taught me how to write, how to use these hands, these building hands, these open palms molding a woman out of a girl, momma, you should be proud. My fingers count my talents, momma, I want to wear their trades like rings.
Witness Jennifer Met
Issa wrote there are no utter strangers under the cherry tree the beauty bonds us together like tragedy—unspoken I show my daughter how to sketch her family tree from root to tip a line—a river traveling to nourish each leaf at her age I learned of Edo period earthquakes of the Chernobyl disaster— of strangers—I couldn’t grasp my ancestors’ silence so I aspired to difference to action—writing fiction stories of valor of sons aiding fathers of survivors—now history repeating—I watch her draw with pink crayon only to suggest black instead… my daughter loves her mother—my daughter loves too easy
God Bless You Jennifer Met as a child she had nightmares about a tsunami a great, giant wave—stories tall and she would never swim in a pool—let alone a lake never mind the ocean— her parents said—miles away but she couldn’t forget the way it goes out and comes in a breath before a sneeze— ah ah ah CHOO—exploding forth and the seabed looks dry she warned me growing up—do not go to investigate this is just the wave fooling you that is what it does—leaves the beach bare and so people come to see what’s going on— but then the wave—as sneezing wall— the sea’s leveling breath— and it’s as if you never were as a child she feared suddenness—being swept away but she never worried about what happened next—like mud stained—well, everything—like what others would be left to mourn— ruined land—stranded fish rotting—and splintered trees—sodden wasteland—and grief…who knew there could be something worse—later those long days at a home her mind leaving—slipping away she still shreds a Kleenex— irrationally—with no memory why—childhood dreams gone her life receding—then pouring forth in wailing—then left with a feeling of great unease— and with skepticism— every time someone reminds her after—God has blessed you
Once—no actually Eugene Goldin
Once—no—actually—many times There were two hearts In love With each other But largely Because of logistics and pragmatics Financial statements And fears of Being bad And history And family And Religion and friends And tailwinds and headwinds Of varying kinds They held to their positions And let the time pass. And the earth spun around the sun As their worlds went by. And the skin developed wrinkles And age became a variable And their hearts kept beating anyway Until one day They beat No More. And they each felt a tear As they Shut their eyes.
Kilmarnak, VA Ann Howells
the phone call doesn’t tear you from sleep you’ve been unable to sleep a deep voice at line’s far end questions gently— collects pieces of broken cup larger fragments first stacks them neatly goes back for bits and slivers— you’re bent over the toilet clutching its porcelain sides coffee and fried pie gushing bitter acid taste of your mouth you’re staggering like a drunk hasty suitcase, harried trip east Sasha in the backseat repeating it’s not true! it’s not true! what do you remember? crossing the Mississippi— St. Louis’s huge arch and all those golden arches pausing for restrooms, coffee roadside poppies like red flags marking construction sites; gas line, water line, life line— reunion you planned but never held crawfish recipe you promised book by Margaret Coel you stood in line so long to have signed none of it matters none of it matters at all
Pallet G. Timothy Gordon
Sometimes, when too troubled By darkness, I wake from a dead sleep To a pallet of Moon. I know She has been lying beside me Again, in my bed, with nothing To be but beautiful, With nothing to speak or cede Or believe, weaving no night nuance Of Elavil and Seconal and Dalmane Druglove, only tracks of deeply-dreamtDreams who keep the sky quiet On the far side of night. Other sleepers must have felt her, Pressed on the low, flat, Western brim, grew against her, Moved as one.
Pit Stop, Rabbit Ears Pass Corinne White
taquitos roll on a tin belt deliberate, ninety nine cent rations for the ramblin’ of the road, for us scraggled lovers, who love these stale mounds of spinning meat amongst postcards and cigarettes. We kids buy ten, and it starts to rain. Mountain rain smells sweet, untouched like a newborn deer unable to move. We eat taquitos in the van and i’m sad to leave the beauty of the station, of the rolling meals of cheap freedom. But here we move on, to somewhere—our bodies high up, in flux, screaming for chords of truth
Contributors Hannah Albee is an MFA student in Creative and Professional Writing at Western Connecticut State University, an editor of its literary journal Poor Yorick, (pooryorickjournal.com), and a daycare teacher. She also has a Master of Education kicking about. Her work deals with the real, the beautiful and the ugly on both concrete and abstract levels. Its forms are eclectic but lean toward prose and experimental. A semi-finalist in the 2014 Faulkner-Wisdom competition and recent Pushcart Prize nominee, Jevin Lee Albuquerque’s work has appeared in numerous literary journals. Two of his most current works, a poem and short story, were translated by Bernard Turle and can be found in the French collectif, Poussières Du Monde (Éditions François Bourin, 2014). In a former life, he was a professional soccer player. He has a degree in Latin American Studies from UCLA. Julie Albright studied Creative Writing at Carnegie Mellon University and earned an MFA from the University of Pittsburgh. In 1999 she founded The Writing Studio, through which she provides tutoring and creative writing workshops for kids. She’s written for local publications including the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pulp Magazine, Pittsburgh City Paper, and Carnegie Mellon Today, and her short stories have appeared in Third Coast, The Good Men Project, womenwriters.net, and more. Brianna Barnes lives in Austin, Texas. She has a dual Bachelor’s degree in Literature and Fine Art from the University of California at Santa Cruz. She is anti-shame and anti-euphemism and is all about mitigating risk and enhancing resiliency. She is a nerd in so much pain.
Roger Camp lives in Seal Beach, CA, where he tends a flower garden, walks his beloved Paris yearly, is apprenticed to a master mason, naps in a hammock, plays blues piano evenings and kayak fishes.
His work has appeared in the Atlanta Review, North American Review, Pank, and is forthcoming in the Tampa Review and Hopkins Review. Kevin Casey has contributed poems to recent editions of Grasslimb, Frostwriting, Words Dance, Turtle Island Review, decomP, and other publications. A graduate of UMass, Amherst, and the University of Connecticut, his new chapbook “The wind considers everything—” (Flutter Press) will appear this spring. He currently teaches literature at a small university in Maine, where he enjoys fishing, snowshoeing, and hiking. Andrea Collins is a passionate writer, reader, and creative writing workshop instructor. She is an IMA Creative Writing graduate from Antioch University Midwest. She earned her BA with a concentration in creative writing from Wittenberg University. Along with poetry, Andrea Collins writes short stories and essays. Her work has appeared in publications, such as The Rumpus, Plath Profiles, Bridge Eight, Heart & Sole, Beach Unleash, and Off The Rocks. She is currently working on a memoir, many poems, and ongoing projects that support women veterans, animal welfare, and language arts within her community. Sandy Coomer is a poet, mixed media artist, and endurance athlete. Her poems have most recently been published in Rose Red Review, Fields Magazine, and Pilcrow & Dagger. Her poetry book, The Presence of Absence, won the 2014 Janice Keck Literary Award for Poetry and was published in December. She live in Brentwood, TN. Rachel Crawford has worked as a waitress, guitar teacher, childbirth educator, bail bondswoman, high school and college English teacher, editor, and writer. Her poetry has appeared in Red Rock Review, Mudlark, Lucid Rhythms, The Lyric, and Figures of Speech, and she has twice received Baylor University’s Beall Poetry Festival Poetry in the Arts award. She is a
contributing co-editor of Her Texas: Story, Image, Poem & Song (Wings Press, 2015). She holds degrees in English from the University of Texas at Austin and Baylor University. She is a native Texan (born in Dallas), and she currently lives in central Texas with her husband and daughter.
Jenny Ferguson is a Canadian studying for her PhD at the University of South Dakota. Her first novel Border Markers is forthcoming from NeWest Press. Nina Ficenec is a writer and illustrator currently residing in the Southern United States with her little boy.
Gregory Crosby is the author of Spooky Action at a Distance (2014, The Operating System). His work has previously appeared in Court Green, Epiphany, Sink Review, Copper Nickel, Leveler, Ping Pong, Rattle, and Sink Review, among others.
Pattie Flint is an uprooted Seattle native toughing it out in Scotland binding books by hand. She has been published in Five [Quarterly], Hippocampus, and TAB, amongst others. She is currently working on her MFA at Cedar Crest College.
Justin Lawrence Daugherty lives in Atlanta and on Twitter at @jdaugherty1081. He is the co-founder of Jellyfish Highway Press, founder/managing editor of Sundog Lit, and edits for New South Journal and Cartridge Lit, a lit mag dedicated to work inspired by video games.
Miranda Freeman earned her B.A. from UCLA in 2012, and currently attends graduate school in a very snow-mangled Boston. Her work has appeared in Lunch Ticket and Massacre Magazine.
Krista DeBehnke lives and write in Lafayette, Louisiana. Her poetry has appeared in the Portland Review, Railtown Almanac, Rock & Sling and Up The Staircase Quarterly, among others. Andrea Janelle Dickens is a native of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia and currently lives in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, where she is a beekeeper and a ceramic artist. She teaches in the Writing Programs at Arizona State and volunteers at the Desert Botanical Garden. Some of her recent work has appeared in Rivet, of zoos, streetcake, New South, Found Poetry Review, and Thin Air. Katryn Dierksen is an English major at the University of Missouri St. Louis. As an artist, she enjoys the process of creating in any accessible format. She has been published once before in Bellerive. Helena Duncan is a fiction writer from Salt Lake City, Utah, studying creative writing at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. Tess Fellows preserves the loud world in portable jars. She has been published in Northeastern University’s Spectrum Literary Arts Magazine.
Malcolm Friend is a poet originally from the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. He received his BA from Vanderbilt University, where he was the 2014 recipient of the Merrill Moore Prize for Poetry, and is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Pittsburgh. He is also a 2014 recipient of a Talbot International Award for writing. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as La Respuesta magazine, the Fjords Review’s Black American Edition, Alicante’s Información, fields magazine, Pretty Owl Poetry, and elsewhere. Lisa Gaudio’s poetry has also been published in Central Connecticut State University’s literary magazine The Helix, of which she also serves as managing editor. Eugene Goldin was born in Manhattan and grew up in Queens. He was most recently published in The East Jasmine Review, Stoneboat Literary Journal, and The Subterranean Quarterly. G. Timothy Gordon’s work include: OPEN HOUSE (fictions) will be published in February, while GROUND OF THIS BLUE EARTH and UNDER ARIES were published in 2012 and 2014, respectively. An expanded edition of the prize-winning RiverStone Press poetry chapbook competi131
tion, EVERYTHING SPEAKING CHINESE, is pending book publication. Awards include National Endowment for the Arts & Humanities Fellowships and writing residencies, while individual poems have been nominated for Pushcarts. NIGHT COMPANY was nominated for an NEA Western States’ Book Awards. Victoria Griffin is an East Tennessee native, currently studying English and playing softball at Campbell University in North Carolina. Her short fiction has been published in The Fringe Magazine, Fiction 365, 6 Tales, and Calliope Nerve. Richa Gupta is a fifteen-year old girl living in Bangalore, India, with her parents and sister. She started developing an interest in poetry from a young age, and has been honing her interest by writing and composing. She plans to publish a book of a collection of her poetry and short stories. She is also interested in western classical piano, Hindustani vocal and mathematics. Milla van der Have (1975) wrote her first poem at 16, during a physics class. She has been writing ever since. In 2013 one of her short stories won a New Millennium Fiction Award. Milla lives and works in Utrecht, The Netherlands. See www.millavanderhave.nl/publications for full list. Andrew Hemmert’s poems have appeared in Cumberland River Review, Jersey Devil Press, and Driftwood Press. He is currently pursuing an MFA in Poetry at Southern Illinois University. Ann Howells’s poetry has recently appeared in Crannog (Ire), Free State Review, Voices de la Luna and San Pedro River Review as well as other small press and university journals. She serves on the board of Dallas Poets Community, a 501-c-3 non-profit, and has edited its journal, Illya’s Honey, since 1999, recently taking it from print to digital. Her chapbook, Black Crow in Flight, was published by Main Street Rag Publishing (2007). A second chapbook, the Rosebud Diaries, was published in limited edition by Willet Press (2012). She has been nominated four times for a Pushcart, twice this year. 132
Jessie Janeshek’s first book of poems is Invisible Mink (Iris Press, 2010). An Assistant Professor of English and the Director of Writing at Bethany College, she holds a Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and an M.F.A. from Emerson College. She co-edited the literary anthology Outscape: Writings on Fences and Frontiers (KWG Press, 2008). Marc Joan has spent most of his career engaged in biomedical research, and therefore can lay claim to the usual cluster of academic publications. I have been writing fiction for several years, but have only recently begun to submit this material for publication. He’s at work published in Issue 2 of Madcap Review and has had several other stories short-listed by various markets. Janne Karlsson (1973) is a prolific artist from Sweden. His dark, surreal madness is ridiculously widely spread over the world. Janne is also a fan of beer and jägermeister. These things cost money, so please buy Janne´s books and chaps through Epic Rites Press, or through his website www.svenskapache.se Steve Klepetar’s work has received several nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. His latest collections include Speaking to the Field Mice (Sweatshoppe Publications), Blue Season (with Joseph Lisowski, mgv2>publishing), My Son Writes a Report on the Warsaw Ghetto (Flutter Press), and Return of the Bride of Frankenstein (Kind of a Hurricane Press). Callie Koenig has attained her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Creative Writing from the University of Maine at Farmington. She is from, and once again resides in, Central Oregon. Callie has had a short story, a piece of non-fiction, and a poem published in The Sandy River Review. Sage Kubis lives in a small town in New Jersey. She’s currently taking a gap year to travel the world and write angsty poems, both of which are going well. You can find more of her work on gypsyluna. blogspot.com. Dian Lajdziak is from Detroit, Michigan.
Robert Lunday has one published book of poems, Mad Flights, from Ashland Poetry Press. He lives on a small horse farm in central Texas and teach for Houston Community College. Mitzi McMahon lives in Wisconsin, near Lake Michigan, where she writes fiction and chases the light, camera in hand. My fiction has appeared in over two dozen publications, including The Bitter Oleander, The Summerset Review, The Santa Fe Literary Review, and The Evansville Review. My photography work is forthcoming in Marathon Literary Review. She holds a BA in Business.
Jesse Morales is a Pushcart Prize-nominated poet who received her artistic trining as a dancer. Her writing appears in Geez Magazine, Deep South Magazine, and The Journal of War, Literature, and the Arts, among others. Jesse makes her home in Greensboro, North Carolina. Kevin Murphy’s work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Heron Tree, Gravel Magazine, 5x5, Empty Sink Publishing, and other journals. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Idaho. He currently resides in Asheville, NC, with his person named Shannon.
Jennifer Met is a writer and artist living in North Idaho. She holds a Master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Colorado in Boulder, where she received the Jovanovich Award for Imaginative Writing. She has had work published or forthcoming in Barely South Review, Frogpond, pacificREVIEW, South by Southeast, The Heron’s Nest, The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku, Acorn, A Hundred Gourds, Contemporary Haibun Online, and elsewhere.
Anne Britting Oleson has been published widely on four continents. She earned her MFA at the Stonecoast program of USM. She has published two chapbooks, The Church of St. Materiana (2007) and The Beauty of It (2010). A third chapbook, Planes and Trains and Automobiles, is forthcoming from Portent Press (UK), and a novel, The Book of the Mandolin Player, is forthcoming from B Ink Publishing—both in 2015.
Katie Metcalfe is an English writer, blogger, poet and publisher with five books under her belt. She’s the creator and editor of five magazines: Beautiful Scruffiness, Big Eyes, Fires in the North, Wyrd Words & Effigies, and Morbid Curse. Her poetry collections include ‘One of Many Knots,’ ‘The Absence of Trees’ and ‘The Long Stillness.’ More information can be found here: http://katiemariemetcalfe.weebly.com/
Andréa Onstad has had several monologues appear in collections published by Heinemann and plays produced in various venues in the United States and Germany. Andréa currently lives in an off-the-grid cabin in Northern California.
Tom Montag is most recently the author of In This Place: Selected Poems 1982-2013, as well as Middle Ground, Curlew: Home, Kissing Poetry’s Sister, The Idea of the Local, and The Big Book of Ben Zen. Recent poems will be found at Architrave Press, Atticus Review, Blue Heron Review, The Broken City, The Chaffin Journal, Digital Papercut, Foliate Oak, Hamilton Stone Review, Hummingbird, The Magnolia Review, Mud Season Review, On the Rusk, Plainsong, Riding Light Review, Split Rock, Sand, Stoneboat, Third Wednesday, and Verse Virtual. He blogs as The Middlewesterner and serves as Managing Editor of the Lorine Niedecker Monograph Series, What Region?
Todd Outcalt is the author of thirty books in six languages with most recent collection of poetry, Where in the World We Meet (Chatter House Press). His most recent poetry has been published in The Oklahoma Review, The Christian Science Monitor, Rattle and elsewhere. Jennifer Peterson is a graduate of the MFA program at Albertus Magnus College, the wife of Joe, and the mother of Helen and Harriet. Her poems have appeared in Cumberland River Review and Pembroke Magazine. Stephen Pohl writes from Baltimore. He has a degree in Theater Arts from Towson University. He is former Baltimore cop and insurance claims investigator, now working as a background investigator. 133
His articles, poetry, and stories have appeared in regional and national publications and online. R.W. Poole writes poetry and tends steer in the hills of New Hampshire. Trevor Pyle is a journalist and poet in Washington state. He has previously been published in The Bicycle Review and Lost Coast Review. Elizabeth Reitzell, a creative writer from Los Angeles County with a focus on poetry, travel narratives, and fiction. Her poetry submission to your publication was prompted by a motivation to have her written words read, in hopes that she may find connection with others through sharing pieces of herself. She graduated from Whittier College with a double major in English with a Creative Writing emphasis and Philosophy, and she also minored in Film Studies. After a 40 year career as a public health researcher, Jim Ross resumed creative pursuits last summer to resuscitate his long-neglected right brain. Since then, he’s published photos, poems, and/or non-fiction stories in 15 journals, including Friends Journal, Pif Magazine, and Lunch Ticket. His greatest joy was sharing his experience in caring for his mother during her final months and days. A graduate of Georgetown and Howard Universities, he and his wife split their time between Maryland and West Virginia. They look forward with great excitement to becoming grandparents of twins this July. Valentina Saavedra is a high schooler in Miami and hates the color pink. Megan Sampson is a full-time high school English teacher, and she also advises the student newspaper. When she’s not teaching, Megan enjoys writing poetry, reading poetry, and crafting. She currently lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and two cats. She recently earned her master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Rhetoric and Composition.
John Saul’s work has appeared extensively in the UK and internationally, and is next due to appear in the prestigious US magazine, Gargoyle. He has four collections of short fiction published (three at Salt Publishing, UK). He is currently collaborating in an innovative project for words and music. In 2014 excerpts from this were performed at the National Portrait Gallery and Write Idea Festival in London. A website with more information is at www.johnsaul.co.uk Jerrod Schwarz is currently in graduate school. His work has appeared in Jersey Devil Press, Squalorly, and Four Ties Literary Review. Amie Sharp was the featured poet for the July 2013 issue of Atticus Review, and has been published or has poems forthcoming in Forge, the Lascaux Review, the Bellevue Literary Review, the Pisgah Review, the 2River View, and the New Formalist, among others. I received an MA in English from the University of South Florida in 2004, and an MFA in poetry from Seattle Pacific University in 2008. A member of the Colorado Poets Center, I’m now an assistant professor of English at Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs, where I teach poetry, composition, and literature. Cheryl Smart is a 2nd year MFA candidate at the University of Memphis, studying Creative Nonfiction and Poetry. She is current Nonfiction Editor of U of M’s literary journal, The Pinch. During her undergrad college career, Cheryl divided her studies between Philosophy and Poetry. She has publications appearing or forthcoming in The Little Patuxent Review, Appalachian Heritage, Cleaver Magazine, Word Riot, Crack the Spine, and others. In another life, Cheryl was a hip hop aerobics instructor long before Zumba made it trendy. Anna Smetanenko is a multidisciplinary artist, from Kyiv, Ukraine, currently studying Fine Arts in Netherlands. Everything started at the age of 7. Anna read Ukrainian stories about endless sunflower fields, which inspired to write her own fairy tales. Manju Soni is a Connecticut-based writer of thrillers and thrilling narrative nonfiction. And because
she was born and brought up under apartheid, much of her work has apartheid as a theme. Her work in progress is a narrative nonfiction book for young adults about how a Swedish racehorse and the youth of South Africa fought apartheid for a better education. She also publishes free science ebooks for middle graders in the iTunes store and on my website, www.awestem.org. J.J. Starr was born and raised in Chicago, Ill. She attended Stephens College in Columbia, Mo. Since graduating she has traveled the Western United States, and recently settled in New York City where she studies Arabic. Her work has appeared in Drunken Boat, Floodwall, and Stirring. Daniel James Sundahl is professor in American Studies and English at Hillsdale College where he has taught for thirty-one years. Alaina Symanovich is a graduate student pursuing an MA in creative writing at Penn State University. Her work has appeared in Word Riot, Switchback, Fogged Clarity, Skin to Skin, and other journals.
Cedric Yamanaka was a recipient of the Helen Deutsch Fellowship while receiving his MA in Creative Writing from Boston University. His first collection of short stories, In Good Company, was published by the University of Hawaii Press in 2002. Sally Zakariya’s poems have appeared in Broadkill Review, Boston Literary Magazine, Emerge, Third Wednesday, Evening Street Review, Theodate, and elsewhere and have won prizes from the Poetry Society of Virginia and the Virginia Writers Club. She has published two chapbooks, Insectomania (2013) and Arithmetic and other verses (2011), and blogs at www.ButDoesItRhyme. com. Eric Zipper is a writer and comedian residing in Portland OR, where he hikes and drinks beer during the time that he should be writing. He has been published in Straylight and The Write Room, and his hobbies include reading comics, telling dumb jokes, and adding bacon to traditional Jewish dishes.
Ralph Uttaro holds a law degree from Duke University and lives in Rochester, New York. His work has recently appeared in Bartleby Snopes, Toasted Cheese, and decomP magazinE. Corinne White graduated from Northwestern University in 2013, where she was a member of the Creative Writing program. Since then she has worked in hospitality and sales at her family’s luxury guest ranch in southern Wyoming (brushcreekranch.com). Her writing focuses on the American West. Samantha Williams is an Art and Creative Writing student at the University of West Georgia. Her concentration is in painting and printmaking. She has been published in the University journal and is trying to get her poetry out into the universe. John C. Wunsch, an attorney, works and lives in Libertyville Illinois.