the review staff Editor:
Meredith Davis Production Editor:
Meredith Davis First readers:
Xavier Vega Layout Design:
editorial Humming birds and Voltron. Stick with me now; there is a connection (you’ll also have to dive into the magazine and read “Horst’s Hummingbirds” to get the reference). My humming birds - that’s what this is. And by “this” I mean, the poetry, the stories, the magazine and all of it. My humming birds. Always there, flitting about, and I’m not sure why they chose me, but here we are. Here we still are. Attempts to make them flit away are of no use. Besides, I do like their humming, and though they do not make me special, they do make up me. Like Voltron, these humming birds assemble to create who I am. They exist both outside of my self and within. They are not wholly out of my control, but they’re not entirely under it either. They are beautiful and fierce. Powerful and delicate. Destructive and healing. So, there you have it. Humming birds and Voltron. The pull to do what I do, to both assemble beauty and give it away, is an act of volition and compulsion. I like my humming birds, and I really like how it feels when they’re all assembled too – and for that I need a lot of help. I am so grateful to Katie for always putting the magazine together so beautifully, to Xavier for always giving the submissions a clean first read, and to you, the authors and artists who give it all away. Really, that’s all I ask as an editor, a publisher, and a lover of literature and art – don’t hold back; I want it all. Keep none of it for yourself. Put everything you have into your art and then let it go to join the humming of our souls that make us whole.
table of contents Poetry Ferment Alex Hoffman-Ellis......................................................................................................................9 Saturday Night Gary Lark....................................................................................................................................10 Fighting Gary Lark.....................................................................................................................................11 Kissed by Indian Jane Gary Lark.....................................................................................................................................13 Notice of Overpayment Cameron Morse..........................................................................................................................22 Fall Insects Joe Sullivan..................................................................................................................................23 To Angela Christina Fulton.........................................................................................................................25 Rayleigh Scattering Ellen Fee.....................................................................................................................................34 Task Ellen Fee.....................................................................................................................................35 Van Gogh 1887 Ellen Fee.....................................................................................................................................36 Immortality Katie DePasquale.......................................................................................................................37
“Why Is America So Obsessed with Guns?” Ace Boggess..................................................................................................................................50 Gunshot & Repose Jason Roberts................................................................................................................................51 Counter-Intuitive Ashia Ajani...................................................................................................................................54 You Asked Me About My Illness Benjamin Gorman........................................................................................................................55 Lullaby Andrew Brown.............................................................................................................................56 Predictable News Beth Gulley...................................................................................................................................57 The Pâtissier Confronts the Future Katie DePasquale.........................................................................................................................60 Basic White Girl Cathy Cook..................................................................................................................................62 The Immense Weight of Longing Judyth Hill...................................................................................................................................64 Without Benjamin Gorman.......................................................................................................................68 And a Song of Despair A.J. Rau........................................................................................................................................69
Photography & Illustrations Tangier Gerhard Schneibel.....................................................................................................Front Cover Night Bloom #32 Samantha Malay.........................................................................................................................12 Tattoo Shop Robbie Masso.............................................................................................................................24 Forensic Finds: Woman in Cab William Crawford.......................................................................................................................38 Prissy Little Man Alan Nelson................................................................................................................................41 Rough Work Alan Nelson................................................................................................................................52 Ladies Laura Gill....................................................................................................................................59 I Feel Lively Aneta Zeleznikova.....................................................................................................................61 Landscape with Held Leaf Charter Weeks...........................................................................................................................66
Fiction Horstâ€™s Hummingbirds Charles Joseph Albert.................................................................................................................14 Errands Ryan Habermeyer.......................................................................................................................26 Jimmy the Candy Man Donald Himelstein.....................................................................................................................42
let the wreckage sit like driftwood briny winds and countless hours weathering morphing debris into a foundation something beautifully splintered to build on
A Saturday Night Gary Lark
It’s a wood file, a rasp, drawn across the corners to turn them egg-end and comely. You learn about progress as it scrapes away the fifty-year-old houses, the ones built during WWII, quick-built with no insulation and drains that don’t go anywhere, for the cannon fodder babies learning to play hopscotch, and mumblety-peg with switchblades, how Thaddeus Johnson’s liquor store can be opened with a .38. The moon is gray-green riding the tall smokestacks between here and the river. You bring Becky Long to this hill on a Saturday night where you see the lights glimmering uptown, the dark out toward Driscoll flats, and you wonder if she’ll let you. You can smell a fart under the perfume. You put your arm around her damp soft shoulder. You kiss her and she kisses back. You could be anywhere feeling her lips, finding her tongue and you don’t care about a fart or the price of dogfood.
Fighting Gary Lark
At lunchtime they would square off, off campus, in back of Lenny’s, the only hamburger joint in the neighborhood. It was bare knuckles, standup fighting— no low blows or kicking, no funny business, no refs either. This wasn’t third-graders poking bony ribs. It was the first time I saw how a knuckle could tear the flesh of a face. They usually didn’t last more than five minutes and the same pairs never fought twice. Three years later I would get my turn in an alley where there were no rules and innocence was punished with a kick to the head. I would take my lack of skill to Basic Training the following year, charging through the bayonet range yelling “Kill. Kill. Kill. Kill. Kill.” as many times as necessary. We battered each other with pugil sticks, rising from the dust and grit to fight again. Three years later in a convoy of green trucks I looked in the rearview mirror as my face opened to see maggots busy inside.
Night Bloom #32 Samantha Malay
Kissed by Indian Jane Gary Lark
It was a nowhere night between bars along the bay, after we’d crawled into the back seat she leaned on my face her boozy dry mouth finding mine as if there were some reason for it and my wife smiling at us like this turned her on and the rain didn’t smell of diesel. That’s when I knew for sure that the ground where I stood was cracked and filling with a dark tide. That meaningless mouth and my wife’s grin holding nothing but disease and I on my way to some slick fall, that dry mouth a whisper on the way down.
Horst’s Hummingbirds Charles Joseph Albert
Horst didn’t become aware of his strange gift until he got to college. Not, he told himself years later, that the college had anything to do with it. More because he’d lived his whole life in Montréal, and University was the first time he had lived in the countryside. It was his freshman roommate, Kerri, who first brought it to Horst’s attention on their way to class one morning in the spring. “So what is it with you and the hummingbirds, anyway?” Kerri asked. Kerri, a tall, fairhaired fellow, seemed to Horst to be impossibly worldly and self-assured. “Every time we walk to class, they’re buzzing around you.” Horst looked up. There were several hummingbirds in the air. Actually, Horst didn’t have a reason to think he was being singled out; wasn’t it more likely that Kerri, with his expensive suit, perfect tan, and immaculate coiffure was more likely to excite this Disneyesque sort of aviary homage. Horst, shorter, of pale complexion, and with dowdy clothes and an unkempt mop of orange hair, felt conspicuously less glamorous than his wealthy friend. But walking alone later that day through the open lawns of the campus, Horst was aware that the hummingbirds were not going away. And it was true—he didn’t see the tiny birds gathering near anyone other than him. He began, then, to admire their strange way of dancing around him in the air. Of perching on trees nearby, then flitting from branch to branch in his wake. They were quite something: little winged jewels, disappearing from the branches of a tree he had passed, and then reappearing in the one next to him. He also marveled that he hadn’t noticed this earlier. True, people often called him oblivious—he liked to think of himself as having acute powers of concentration. He could tune out all distractions in the classroom. So well that he had entered the technical college with a full scholarship. After a few days of awareness of his winged host, he brought it up again to Kerri. He felt a little stupid, but after all, Kerri had pointed it out first. “So, what do you think it is about those hummingbirds?” he said as he and Kerri were both closing their textbooks for the night. “I… don’t they ever follow anyone else?”
“No,” Kerri said, and shot him a sideways smile. “Something in your hair, maybe?” He and Horst both got their toothbrushes, put on their slippers, and padded down the hall to the dorm bathroom. “I use the same shampoo as half the guys on this floor,” Horst said, turning to face a mirror. He looked at his reflection: rather on the thin side, bony face, unremarkable features. OK, his hair was rather bright orange, but there were certainly other people here—men and women—with the same hair color. “Aftershave?” Kerri continued. “Deodorant? Combination of all three?” “Right,” Horst mumbled through the toothpaste. “Maybe it’s the florid clothes you wear,” Kerri snickered. Which was a laugh, all right, because Horst’s entire wardrobe was in two colors: brown and dark blue. Horst didn’t bring it up again, to Kerri or to anyone else. He felt a little foolish even having mentioned it at all. How was Kerri supposed to know what was up with hummingbirds? He did try changing deodorant and shampoo over the course of the year, just to see what would happen. He didn’t wear aftershave and couldn’t change that. He even wore a hat that fall and winter. But nothing made any difference. The hummingbirds always appeared. From nowhere! And always within a few minutes of his stepping outside. They would hover 1–2 dozen feet in the air over his head, performing their curious dance. Sometimes they would execute tight little maneuvers off to his left or right. They never seemed approached from the front or behind, though, and they never got very close.
After some few attempts to diminish his attractiveness to them, Horst eventually stopped thinking about them. He wasn’t really outside all that much. He had his studies to think of, as well as his new friends at University. Ultimately, the inexplicable attraction the birds felt toward him didn’t have the much impact on his life. He certainly didn’t intend to show off to anyone, play the freak show. He was a serious young man, he had been raised by sober and hard-working people, and since, so far as he knew, hummingbirds couldn’t be trained to fetch valuables or earn money, he really didn’t see what use they were. And so he lived anonymously with his talent. If it could even be called that. Only once, in his senior year, did the birds make any sort of impact in his life. There was a pretty girl named Mariah in their introductory Arabic class, dark-haired, with a maddeningly appealing slant to her eyes and a beguiling smile. He was too shy to talk to her in front of the rest of the class, for she was very bright, and got the better of even the unflappable Kerri, when they sparred in class. Kerri seemed to notice Horst’s interest in Mariah, for he invited the two of them, along with his own girlfriend and one other couple, to his family’s cabin near Gros Morne for spring break. Kerri had brought a lot of beer, and everyone got good and drunk the first night. The next morning, after the sun was already high in the sky, Horst woke to find he and Mariah were the only ones left in the cabin. “Everyone else went to the lake,” Mariah said, popping some aspirin at the one-room cabin’s kitchen sink. Horst, still lying on the floor in a sleeping bag, propped himself up on one elbow to watch her. She was wearing baggy sweats as pajamas, but somehow to Horst she looked more appealingly feminine than ever. He felt fine, and had only feigned sleep while the others had been stumbling about preparing to leave, under the faint hope that Kerri had arranged for the two of them to be left behind together. Now, however, with beer cans and food wrappers strewn about, the air stale, and Mariah looking rather the worse for the night’s drinking, he decided that this wasn’t a good time to reveal the heartache of longing he had begun to feel for her. But, to his horror, he discovered that he had grown aroused, just watching her. He shamefacedly got up, holding his wadded jeans strategically in front for modesty, and went to the bathroom to change from his pajamas. There he splashed cold water onto his face and tried to calm himself down. “Come on,” he mumbled, grabbing a backpack when he got out, “Let’s go join them!” “Oh—okay,” Mariah said. She was moving very slowly. She went to the kitchen area to
stuff some food in the backpack. Horst handed her his bathing suit to put in and then busied himself cleaning up the detritus of the previous night. He wished he had the nerve to say something more to her, something that would let her know he was interested. But what? She wouldn’t let him shoulder the pack, though at least she seemed pleased by the offer. So they walked along the wooded trail to the lake, Mariah sounding a little forced in her cheerful small talk. Horst saw her looking at him several times with those alluring eyes. And he fortified himself with the hope that she might like him. Two hummingbirds flitted from tree to tree, keeping up with them. They got to the lake, but the shoreline appeared to be deserted. The others were nowhere to be seen. Horst and Mariah wandered along the shore until they came to a low, flat ledge of rock that jutted into the lake. Horst stopped there to get a better look, searching the shoreline with increasing gloom. How much longer before Mariah would want to give up and return to the cabin? Mariah came up onto the rock next to him, and grunted as she slung her backpack to the ground. She had insisted on carrying it herself, and now as she unzipped it, he could see that it contained, in addition to their towels, a half dozen beer bottles. “Hair of the dog?” she said with a wince, and opened a bottle for him. She didn’t seem to notice three or four other hummingbirds now joined the first two. “Where are our bathing suits?” Horst asked, digging through the jumble in the sack. “Yeah–I changed my mind. We don’t need them,” she said. His heart sank as she clinked her bottle against his. Just drinking, then—no swimming. They sat down on the rock, warmed by the faint spring sun, and Mariah took a long draught from her bottle. She told him a story about her younger sister and a snake, the lilt of her voice drawing him in deeper, causing him an unexpected torture of desire. Her long, silky hair, partially obscuring her laughing eyes, sent his heart into his throat, though he didn’t know why. This was going nowhere. He stifled a sigh and drained his bottle. At least she seemed content to be with him, for she looked relaxed. After she drained her second beer, she stood up. “Ready to go in?” she said. “Back in the cabin?” Horst said, stumbling to his feet.
“No, dummy! The water! Come on!” “But—” he didn’t understand. “Skinny dipping, silly!” She began pulling her tee shirt off over her head. Horst choked on his beer. He couldn’t help blushing furiously, though he tried his best to be suave. He wasn’t sure if he was allowed to watch her undress. So he bent his head down and focused on pulling his boots off very slowly. But he knew that Mariah was stripping right in front of him. Finally he blurted out, “I’ll just go back to the trees and wait for you to get in.” “Why?” Mariah asked. “What are you afraid of?” Horst looked up then, and watched, hypnotized, as she peeled off her panties, then lowered herself down into the water from the rocks’ edge. She disappeared under the water, springing up a dozen feet to the right. “Come on!” she shouted, turning around. “It’s fantastic!” That was all he needed. Horst scrambled out of the rest of his clothes and was behind her in a heartbeat. In a few moments they were out up to their necks, splashing around in a kind of natural sensuality Horst had never dreamed possible. Mariah could only stand the cold water for a few minutes, though, and then she was back on the rocks, lying out on her stomach in the sun. Horst swam to a spot a dozen yards away and began to climb out, too. “No, come lie down over here,” Mariah said. Her dark eyes had that irresistible slant to them again; his heart gave a little somersault. “It’s OK,” she added to his obvious consternation. “I’ve got an IUD.” *** Later, as she lay dozing, the rapture that Horst had been feeling began to sour inexplicably. A morbid fear crept into his head that all this had happened too quickly. What if he was just a weekend fling? Did Mariah really care for him? Would she move on to someone else once they were back at school? He leaned onto one elbow. They were both still naked on the beach towel. The pines
around them were speckled with his tiny feathered companions. He got up, lovesickness and beer buzzing loudly inside his head, and walked to the bird-laden trees. “Hey,” he called back to her, turning around. “Look at this.” “Seen it!” she said with a knowing lilt. But Horst didn’t move. He stood facing her, arms out. After a moment, she did finally look up. Then she let out a gasp of surprise. Hovering like a halo around his head were a half dozen hummingbirds. Another two or three swooped lazy figures over his outstretched arms. Then Horst felt the daintiest prick imaginable as one lighted on his shoulder. Another came to rest on his opposite hand, just for a moment, to be replaced immediately by another two. Mariah sat up, hugging her knees in amazement. “How… how are you doing that?” she said. *** They married a year later. But Horst never completely eradicated the worry that she married him because of the thing with the hummingbirds, and not because she truly loved him. *** In Montréal, where Horst and Mariah raised their family, hummingbirds only rarely made an appearance to their yard. On their summer holidays to the lake while their three girls were growing up, Mariah would always, always ask him to call the hummingbirds to him. The birds never let Mariah or the girls near them, however, and would rise up, hovering in their inscrutable dance whenever they came close. Their girls grew up uninterested in the trick, as though everyone’s father could attract hummingbirds. Even as grown women, they never really paid much attention. Horst retired from his job with the Planning Department when he was sixty. They bought a retirement cottage in the Laurentians, where Mariah would gaze in wonder at their aviary posse on their morning and evening walks. One day, shortly after Horst had retired, he had gone for a drive by himself. He had more time on his hands now, and he had begun to feel remiss in not exploring his “useless gift,” as he had come to think of it.
Why had he never decided to try this before: could he actually communicate with the hummingbirds? He went to some woods outside of town. Within a few minutes, he had the usual three or four birds. “Hummingbirds,” he commanded, “I would like you to fly in a circle for me.” There was no change; they continued their inexplicable and apparently random hover dancing. He stood very still and concentrated. “Land,” he commanded. Still no change in the movements. He closed his eyes and tried to visualize them landing on the pine tree in front of him. He focused strenuously, calling into his mind’s eye the image of the deep green needles in front of him dotted with the colors of the brilliant birds. After a long moment, he noticed the buzzing noise was gone, and he opened his eyes. The pine in front of him looked exactly as he had pictured it: a Christmas tree with a hundred hummingbird ornaments. He spent the rest of the day there in the park, trying to command their behavior, concentrating, visualizing. But it was very hard work, and he was rarely successful. At last, thoroughly tired out, he went home. He vowed to come out again sometime and try further experiments, but somehow he
never seemed to have the time or the energy for it. Years passed, and Horst was again out for a walk—this time, with Mariah. They talked about “his” hummingbirds. “I always wondered why you didn’t go into aviary studies. Or even aviation,” she murmured, following with her eyes their solitary hummingbird accompanist. “Flying never interested me,” Horst said. “Besides, it isn’t... I don’t know anything about them... It’s just an... affinity. They for me. Not vice versa.” He was feeling short of breath and not very talkative. “Still,” she sighed, “it always seemed like it should have led to something!” He recounted again his experiment in the park, how he had managed to visualize them into a pine tree, but how little reward it felt like there was for so much effort. Something about his increasing difficulty in talking seemed to alarm her, so she steered him back to their house, and kept hushing him. She had him stretch out on the sofa while she made a phone call. As Horst lay back on their sofa and closed his eyes, he saw once again the dance of the hummingbirds before him: brilliant, vermillion and ruby, or violet, or tiny cerulean ones… their dance as inexplicable as ever. And only now, now that it was too late, he had a sudden keen sense of regret. In all of these years, he had only thought about trying to discover something useful about them. And, all his life, that foolish distraction had prevented him from understanding the true miracle that they had been trying to show him: their unfathomable, joyous, and utterly pointless beauty.
Notice of Overpayment Cameron Morse
September morning cools my forehead like a wet washcloth pressed and folded in Mother’s hands. The riding lawnmower carves track marks in the grass like the gurney trundling across the carpet late on the night of my first seizure. A part of me died somewhere between Cripple Creek and Pikes Peak Regional, between the ambulance and the emergency room, the part that worries, feeling anything other than gratitude for this tiny tinker’s life. So you will understand why I don’t care about the reduction of my benefits, why I sit at the sky-blue bedside of late morning and rest my tired eyes.
All the art is yours nails for hanging, too, in the gray October afternoon sing summer crickets in the distant city bushes recalling the past greenways paved now your eyes came through over the phone theyâ€™re bright and searching while mine look down searching another way inside
Fall Insects Joe Sullivan
can we meet up sometime between the green or the gray of northeastern secrets between us and the world can we sing like fall insects not yet gone to sleep gone to death offspring ready to take our places
Tattoo Shop Robbie Masso
Christina Fulton My father went out drippy… and yours with a lurid and lengthy— BANG. Pisces seem to only rest in pieces, before they swim away. Brain matter and paper work strewn over a backyard, an office chair, and a moment we cannot get back. Do they understand the wet irony that soaks up their time and ours? They blew out the candles and then all was smoke. We were snuffed out with them. We’ll always remember that red, waxy feeling and smell of unopened birthday cards and used up matches.
Ryan Habermeyer I’m having lunch with my old friend Meg McKay. Meg’s a lifestyle coach. I’m happy to see Meg. Meg the egg. That’s what we call her. She had the cancer a year ago and when she lost all her hair we discovered this gorgeous bald head, shaped just like an egg. It was stunning. You wanted to rub it for good luck. You wanted to crack it open to see what kind of yolk was swimming inside. We all hated her for hiding it from us all these years. Naturally, we were a touch disappointed when Meg’s doctors gave her the thumbs up. It’s not every day you see baldness like that. So when Meg called me up out of nowhere and said we needed to talk I couldn’t say no. Once or twice a year it’s just common sense to have lunch with a girl like Meg who can coach you through your life. We eat light. It’s at the little bistro not far from the Bismarck Hotel. The one built in the ‘40s by all the former Nazis trying to leave a better testament to civilization. Lots of style in that building inside and out. Meg knows. Once we saw a movie star go in the hotel. She wore sunglasses that covered most of her face, but we knew it was her. We wanted to introduce ourselves but couldn’t remember her name. We whistled but she didn’t pay attention. After walking around the boutiques she hurried back to the hotel and we followed, but when we asked the front desk clerk he said no celebrities lived at the hotel. We knew he was lying, but we couldn’t prove it. We spent the next two months trying to remember her name. We never did figure it out. Then Meg got the cancer and we lost interest. We pick off each other’s plate. Friends do that when they’re not the best of friends. That and air kisses. Classic overcompensation. We talk about husbands, children, vacations, and errands. The whole time I am stealing glances at Meg’s hair. When she was first dying Meg lost her hair with style. We would be sitting on a couch and she’d lazily pulled away a handful. She never skipped a beat in the conversation. We all admired this. Then she went through a head-scarf phase. She had all sorts of designs, very fashionable. They made us a little uncomfortable because what we really wanted to see was that egg head. Now that she is on the mend Meg has a wig. I know it is a wig. My neighbor, Mr. Marsh, who is blind, could tell you that is a wig. I also know that because she is a lifestyle coach Meg is the kind of woman never to admit such a thing. “I met a man,” Meg suddenly blurts out. She keeps munching on the walnuts in her salad.
“Oh,” I say. It doesn’t register. I am expecting her to tell me about a client. But there is this pause. Then my face scrunches. “Oh?” I’m sure to feign interest. Meg smiles. “No. Not like that. I love David.” I have been friends with Meg for many years. She really means this. “And I love Elliot,” I smile. “Of course you do.” Here is what happened. Meg was at the park near the plaza when a strange man approached her. He was an older gentleman, well-dressed, plenty of cologne, probably charming before the onset of too many wrinkles. Without a doubt he had style. He had come into town to pick up a wig from a boutique. The wig was for his wife. Before settling on the purchase he wanted to see what it looked like on a woman. His was very particular about the way she looked. “It’s a brief errand,” the old man said. “It will only take a few minutes. Please. I’ll even pay you for your time.” Meg did not hesitate. Help an old man? Sure. This was her way of paying back the universe for its generosity. The old man’s name was Maxwell. It was his anniversary. He had already been to the bakery and picked up the dessert. All that was left was the wig. He commented that Meg’s head looked almost an exact replica of his wife’s head. That’s why he approached her. Who says things like this? Old men without a care in the world. Coincidences like this don’t happen all the time. No they do not, Meg smiles. On the walk to the boutique Maxwell kept saying over and over, “I will pay you for your time.” “My god, you’re a prostitute,” I laugh. “I know!” Meg laughs, but the kind of nervous laugh, like she is hiding something. “There was no sex. Trust me. If you saw this man even you would take sex off the table,” Meg the egg says. Maxwell explained everything about the dessert. Petit fours. How they take hours to prepare because the cakes need to be layered properly and just enough fondant and shaping the buttercream icing on top. He explained in that old man manner of assuming you’re a jackass, but gentle, just a touch condescending.
“I’ve had them before,” Maxwell explained to Meg the egg. “In Paris. It was our anniversary. It’s hard not to live in the past.” Meg asked how many years he had been married. Maxwell said forty-two. “Well,” Meg said, “I’m sure your wife will enjoy this gift.” “That might be difficult,” Maxwell said. “My wife is dead.” Before going inside the boutique Maxwell insisted on feeling Meg’s head. He had forgotten to make sure that Meg’s head and his dead wife’s head felt exactly the same. It has to be exact, he said. Meg agreed, but she tells me she felt a little weird standing outside the boutique with Maxwell fondling her head. I can picture it. Those wrinkled old man fingers rubbing gently against Meg’s scalp like he is a master phrenologist, or a grocery boy stacking tomatoes. I envy that. Honestly, I do. A kind of lovely alienness that only happens in the stories of others. “Was that it? Just weird?” I ask. “No,” Meg hesitates, like she doesn’t want to tell me, like she is embarrassed. “But don’t laugh.” Another pause. “It made me feel alive. Not just walking through time, but alive. Like have you ever had that feeling where all of a sudden you think, my god, the grass is green, I pushed a seven-pound-six-ounce baby out of my vagina and I am still here?” “Don’t stop,” I say, trying to disguise my jealousy. “What happened next?” Inside the boutique was an earthy aroma mingled with a sharp chemical scent. It was Meg’s first time in a wig shop. “It was horrible,” Meg tells me. “I couldn’t decide if I was at a Renaissance fair or a museum of torture.”
There were Styrofoam heads everywhere. There were wigs made from the hair of horses, yaks, goats, and even humans. Some were chic and nonchalant, others outlandish, the kind of thing to wear if you wanted to see Paris burn down during the revolution. Some of the wigs were on mannequin heads and others strewn on the floor like road kill. There was even a scandalous display of pubic wigs. There were dozens of colors. Most were simple designs. In a different time and place this might have appeared as a psychedelic outpost on the frontier hawking Apache scalps. “Do you know what the funny thing is?” Meg said, picking some lettuce between her teeth. “I wanted to touch everything.” She could not explain the urge. The animal hair felt different from the synthetic wigs. It felt alive. It tickled as she rubbed it between her fingers. The thought occurred to her most of the hair was from something dead. It made her a little uncomfortable not knowing if the hair had been taken while the animal or person was still alive, or if patience had been exercised. In some cases the hair was a gift. We had both been to fundraisers where women shaved their heads for cancer-stricken friends. I had always found that practice sweet and cruel. Who would give such a gift—allowing a piece of herself to wander aimlessly in the world? If a woman came across her own hair in a shop like that, would she recognize it? Meg and Maxwell stood at the counter while the wig-maker thumbed through a stack of receipts trying to figure out which wig he ordered. She excused herself into the rear of the shop. Meg says they could hear her shuffling through boxes. When she came back to the counter she seemed bewildered. “I’m sorry, sir, but there’s no record of your wife,” the wig-maker said. “Poor Maxwell,” Meg says. “He looked like he had seen a ghost. He kept telling her his wife’s name over and over. He said it was his anniversary. He said he was out running errands. The boutique owner looked like she had been run over by an ice cream truck. She was pale and visibly upset. She kept saying she had no record of that order.” Finally the wig-maker asked if this was not a mix-up. “Was your wife ever here?” she asked. Maxwell was flustered. His face alternated between being pale and red. “Of course she was here. Where else would she be? We were married for forty-two years.” “No,” the wig-maker said, “was she ever here.” It went on like this for a few minutes. “It felt like I was in a bad Abbott and Costello routine,” Meg says.
Eventually, the wig-maker brought them into the back room to sort through all the boxes. What color was the wig? Red, Maxwell told her. The wig-maker said there were certain shades of red: crimson, scarlet, Tuscan, chestnut, ruby, and about a dozen others. Meg and Maxwell looked at a card with different color shades. The old man pointed to one. “There. That’s the color she wanted,” he said. “That’s a specialty order,” the wig-maker said. “It takes six weeks on a specialty wig. Was she here six weeks ago?” “That’s not possible,” Maxwell said. “She died last year.” Meg says the wig-maker smiled and nodded and poor old Maxwell looked pleased, like there was an odd pleasure in telling people he had a dead wife. “Maybe he got off on it,” Meg says. I don’t say this, but Meg must know the feeling. How many times did we have to hear her tell someone she had the cancer? Some people feigned sympathy or twisted their faces with discomfort. Others tried to change the subject. Many embraced the awkward silence. “You won’t believe what the wig-maker said,” Meg tells me. “What?” She sips more coffee, making me wait. “You’re in luck,” the wig-maker said. “I make wigs for all occasions. Parties, funerals, the movies, you name it. Women all over the world buy their wigs from me. So walk around, look at the selection. Perhaps you’ll find what you’re looking for.” They wandered the wig shop for about an hour. Maxwell wasn’t sure which wig was best. It was like picking out a whole new head. How do you find a new head for your wife? he said. Your dead wife? Meg shrugged. Without ever raising a fuss she modeled dozens of wigs. “You look like a movie star,” Maxwell told her, smiling weakly. Meg says she could feel his grief. All the time she was sick she had never felt grief like that, grief like a marionette on strings unable to untangle yourself from your own puppeteering. He said he felt like Goldilocks. Too thick and curly. Too thin and straight. This color makes the skin too pale. This color too dark. Nothing just right.
If I had been there I would have told him this is the way a marriage ends. Not with an affair or an accident or lengthy illness, but with a wig. Meg the egg pays the bill but neither of us is ready to leave. We sit there for a while. Maybe she is thinking about her husband and children. Maybe I should be thinking about mine. There is plenty to look at. The fountains. The bell tower. The smell of spiced cider from the vendor’s cart. The courthouse with gargoyles on the façade, gargoyles with their fat, bald heads and twisted faces. There are tourists, capturing the world in photographs. I’ve always wondered what happens to the picture of me in the photograph. Is it still me? Does it think? Does it feel? Does it ever move around inside that photograph? Or does time really freeze for some people? “That’s some story,” I say. “It’s not over,” Meg says. “But I don’t know if you want to hear the end of this.” “Why not?” “I’m not sure you’ll understand,” Meg says. “Try me.” Maxwell had a room at the Bismarck Hotel. He invited Meg to join him. She couldn’t leave him like that. She couldn’t leave him all alone, could she? “You’re a saint,” I tell her. Meg looks away like she doesn’t believe it. Maxwell ordered room service. They drank expensive champagne. They ate the petit fours. Meg stared at the arabesque designs on the carpets. There was something repulsive and beautiful about them, filling the room with a crushing loneliness. Then Maxwell asked if she wanted to take a bath. “I won’t watch,” he insisted. “It’s just my wife always bathed when we came to this hotel. It was her favorite thing.” “There it is. The perv,” I laugh. “Hold on,” Meg says. “We’re not to the end yet.” “I think you’re drunk,” Meg told the old man. “I’m still here,” Maxwell said.
“So I took a bath,” Meg tells me. “I locked the door. I undressed slowly. Maybe he was watching me through a peephole or the other side of the mirror. Norman Bates-style. But I wasn’t thinking about that. I was watching myself. The entire time I was sick I never saw myself, really saw myself.” Meg is speaking calmly now, almost like in a schoolgirl’s dream. Her eyes are not with me. “Did you know my head is shaped like a perfect egg?” “Now you’re just talking crazy,” I laugh. “So what happened? How did this end?” “When I was finished with the bath he was asleep in the bed. I took the red wig and left the room. I never saw him again.” “That’s it?” I said, disappointed. “That’s it.” “You stole it?” “It was payment. He promised to pay me for my time.” “Have you put it on?” “What, the wig?” “Yes, the wig.” “No. I’m not ready.” “What do you mean?” “Sometimes when I was sick I wished I was another person. I’m not sure I’m ready for that right now. Have you ever felt that way before? Have you ever wanted to be another person?” “No,” I say, not believing my own words, “I’ve never felt that way before.” “See,” Meg smiles, “I knew you wouldn’t understand.” I walk around the plaza, throw a few pennies into the fountain and stare at the pigeon shit thinking it might be a Jackson Pollock rip-off, but eventually I end up at the Bismarck Hotel. I ask for the presidential suite. There is no presidential suite. I ask for the honeymoon suite. There is no honeymoon suite. “Just give me a goddamn room for movie stars,” I say.
Once I lock the door behind me I take the wig out of the shopping bag. It fits snugly. I undress at the window. Slowly, one piece of clothing at a time until I am wearing nothing but the wig I bought on sale at the boutique. It’s a certain shade of red. Nobody is watching. I sit in the bathtub and look at myself in the mirror. What am I hoping to see? I don’t know. Nobody is watching there either. I run my fingers through the wig hair. I can almost feel it, like real hair. I wonder how long I would have to wear this until these two heads twined into one. I wish I was bald like my friend Meg McKay. I wish I had the cancer. I wish I had style. I wish my head was the replica of someone else. I wish my life was something other than what it is. I wish my words did not vanish into the air like so many kisses. I wish I did not have lists in my head, an errand for every hour tomorrow, dancing through my thoughts like pink elephants on bicycles under the crepuscular sky. I wish I didn’t hear the sound of my heart like it was underwater, as if it is lifting into my throat and I have to swallow it over and over to keep the sound from becoming an unbearable noise as it fills the room. One. Two. Three. I see how long I can hold my breath. I’m good with numbers. Whole, rational, integers, imaginary, fractal, or otherwise. One. Two. Three. I was the Sagamore Hills regional mathematics champion. I would have won state had I not discovered kissing with Elliot Schroder. That was the summer before eighth grade, when happiness was like a linear equation with only two variables. Three. Two. One.
Rayleigh Scattering Ellen Fee
It isnâ€™t the mountain changing but the miles of atmosphere that dye the slope in hyacinth and indigo. We watch the bluffs become sky, forgetting which shades are horizon, which water, wrapped in the last of each otherâ€™s summer hues. A loon dips into the steely lake, chasing fish. When I blink inky haze forms on your jaw, at the edges of your eyes. I am grateful for the crowded blueness of this air. I collect the molecules between us in a jar and thrust it toward you, guess how much.
combine the sugar and the egg. whisk until the mixture turns the color of your childhood bedroom, whisk until sweat pearls on your neck and the backs of your knees. add the vanilla. allow it to run over the teaspoon, staining your fingerprints with sweet alcohol. hold them to your nose while you wait for the train. hope nobody notices, hope somebody does. sift the flour. beat the sieve hard against your palm, it would be the most feminine of bruises. understand youâ€™ll never make this cake. understand itâ€™s made you a hundred times over and is still unsatisfied.
Van Gogh 1887 Ellen Fee
see me as fifty thousand brush-strokes, watch the bits of me wander in stride with my limbs like oil-paint scales, lagging pixels from some other centuryâ€™s medium. press your ear to me and listen for the rustle of leaves, watch for scratches. there is bark that lines my heels and the arches of my feet. I sweep the dust from the floor before you visit, wake up on a bed of cattails and reeds, fuzz of milkweed pods and pussywillow.
The sailfish on the Cross-Bronx faces the overpass and poses a question, though it’s more of a blue and silver comma than a question mark, separating life and death on the apartment wall, bright in its dirt/brick/concrete tower, one clear moment among smogdulled glass. There’s that old photo of Hemingway with a pair of sailfish he’d caught, their tails strung up to the outer edges of the picture, their sails ripped and incomplete between their spines, while he poses, dark and boxer-bladed, cruel and in his prime. But your sailfish here on the expressway is perfectly preserved, leaping, conquering the urban ocean, bill rammed out into the world, while in your false skin of metal/leather/ rubber, you barrel past at 80, moving through the city’s core. You may dream that you’re like Papa, doling out the best, last words. But taxidermy’s not for humans. You won’t hang on someone’s wall forever when your flash of earthly time has passed. Your dead body won’t draw sunlight, your words may not hold true. Who will blink and marvel at you?
Forensic Finds: Woman in Cab William Crawford
Prissy Little Man Alan Nelson
Jimmy the Candy Man Don Himelstein
In the summer of 1974 I had just begun a new job with the New York State Bureau of Labor, but with a wife, a one year old baby, and a second one on the way, I needed to earn some extra money. So I went back to the only business I knew anything about, selling small toys on a rack to drugstores, novelty shops, and corner candy stores. I was living in the Bronx back then so my best chance of building up a route was to stay local and keep my driving time down. I had learned the business working for a small toy company while attending college at night, and knew a few good wholesalers to buy packaged toys so it didn’t take long to get myself started with a small toy route. After maybe two months, I had picked up a few good customers and was on the lookout for maybe two or three more decent stops. Mostly I did this on weekends or on my days off so I had to make my time worthwhile. On a warm September morning in the Park Chester complex I spotted the candy store. It looked busy this early fall Saturday with young women pushing strollers, and a small crowd of older men standing around. So I found a parking space and walked on over. The place was dark like most candy stores back then, and an older guy was standing behind the counter where tobacco products, candy, and newspapers were sold. He was busy waiting on customers so when I saw a chance I jumped in quickly about placing my toy rotator in the store. “You got to talk to the boss,” he said in a gravelly voice. “Okay, is he here?” He pointed with his index finger. “He’s right over there, but he’s on the phone.” I turned to look where he pointed. A young guy, maybe thirty or so was talking quietly on the wall phone, his mouth pressed snugly into the speaker so nobody could hear him. He had sandy blond hair and a hard, tight body that was trim around the waist. This guy worked out, I thought, and he doesn’t take any crap. I never knew why I had that first impression, when he turned slightly and I saw his profile I knew I was right. He was a street guy, all right, someone who came up the hard way. Finally, after a few minutes he hung up the phone. “Hi, I’m a toy rack jobber, I understand you own the store.”
He gave me a tough who the hell are you look. “Yeah, so what-a you want?” “I’d like to put a toy rotator in your store, you know, packaged toys, for little kids. You seem to have quite a few in this neighborhood.” He didn’t say anything at first, just kept staring at me like he was sizing me up. “Yeah, well, what’s the deal, is this on consignment, or what?” “No, you pay for whatever we put on the rack, but we’ll replace anything torn or broken.” “So what kind of percentage are we working on?” “Forty percent on all merchandise, and I’ll give you an extra two percent for cash, okay?” I knew that look in his light blue eyes. He was wondering if I would give him another one or two percent for cash, but for now he thought it might be a good deal. “Tell you what, put your toys in and we’ll see what happens.” “Great.” “I’m Jimmy,” he said, “let’s find you a good place for your rotator. Now how often do you come in and replace the merchandise?” “I’d say once every three or four weeks, maybe sooner if necessary.” “Good,” the wall phone began to ring. “I got to go.” “Okay, thanks, Jimmy.”
He hadn’t heard me, he was back on the phone already talking, but before I left I could hear what he was saying, and it only began to register when I got out into the street. He was telling somebody that if the guy did something like that again he was going to put him in the hospital for a few weeks. Returning to the store I set up my rotator and Jimmy found me a nice spot a little ways back near the wall, where the young mothers and the kids could see the packaged toys on the spinners. In less than half an hour everything was set up and I gave the invoice to Jimmy who took out a thick roll of bills and paid me my $36.00. Every three or four weeks I’d show up and replace the merchandise with new packaged toys so that it became a regular routine. At first the rotator did all right but when the weather turned cooler fewer mothers with small children came out and the toys were not selling so well off the rotators. One morning I came in to service the rack, but Jimmy told me not to fill it up. “Can’t do it now,” he said, “the bag man is here and I got to finish the receipts.” Bag man, I thought, he doesn’t seem to care if everyone knows he is running a bookmaking joint. It was no real big surprise, of course, back in those days a good number of neighborhood candy stores ran the local numbers and also took the race track bets. “Can I come back later?” I asked. I could see the wheels in his mind spinning, thinking it over. “Yeah, but don’t come back for at least an hour, okay.” “Sure, Jimmy,” I said, “Thanks, I’ll come back later when you’re not so busy.” I had another stop in a small neighborhood drugstore and took my time servicing the rotator, and then returned to Jimmy’s candy store. By that time, he had just about finished his receipts and the young bag man, a hard looking, dark skinned guy, maybe Puerto Rican or Italian, but not somebody you would want to fool around with was getting ready to leave. As he was walking out of the store I heard him say quietly, “Next time, you Irish son of a bitch, better have those receipts ready, you understand me?” I could see that look flare-up in Jimmy’s burning, angry blue eyes that he wasn’t happy with this guy, but for a long second he didn’t say anything, just
watched him walking toward the front door but as he was about to leave Jimmy called after him, “You watch your mouth what you say in my store, Rudy!” Rudy stopped and looked back, his dark face a mask of cold fury, and his coal black eyes blazing with restrained rage, but then as if he realized where he was his face relaxed and even his eyes lost their vicious, savage stare. He smiled, but his eyes still glared with a spiteful touch of coldness. “Jimmy, you got that right, we all got to look out for ourselves. Right, buddy boy?” Now Jimmy looked more relaxed and grinned back at him. “Don’t we all, Rudy.” They stared another second, and you could feel the tension between them, then Rudy turned and walked out and Jimmy took a long, deep breath to calm himself, but whatever went on between them was not good, not in their world, and even an outsider like myself could sense it wasn’t right. I serviced the rotator with new packed toys and gave Jimmy the invoice. He looked at the bill, but you could see he wasn’t himself, and that something was on his mind. Almost without thinking he paid me my $31.00, and walked into the back room. When I was leaving the store, I noticed that it had become very quiet, and most of the people had left. Walking out I called to the old guy who was always behind the front counter, “See you in a couple of weeks, Fred.” “Let’s hope so,” he answered. I though he was kidding me but when I looked at his face he was quite serious. “What are you talking about?” I asked. He kind of laughed to hide his discomfort. “Oh, nothing, just talking.” I knew right away he had said something that he shouldn’t have and was trying to cover it up, and that it was better not to push it. “Right, see you in a couple of weeks,” I called, and walked out into the street. I serviced the rack a few more times, but Jimmy had lost that likeable way about him, he just wasn’t the same anymore, and on a few trips, he wouldn’t even let me fill in the racks.
“Come back next week,” he would say, “money is tight, nobody is buying your toys anymore.” You could almost feel the change that had come over him, and then one Saturday morning I walked into the store and my rotator had been pushed way in the rear where nobody could even see it or get to the toys, and in the spot where my rotator had been a heavy wooden separation board had been placed. I knew immediately that my toy rack was finished, and that I would have to take it out, but when I walked around the other side of the board I couldn’t believe what had replaced me. A Las Vegas slot machine was sitting where my rotator had been, waiting for customers. So that was it, but of course everyone knew you didn’t just set-up a slot machine like that, it was connected, and you had to have permission from the right people to do it, or else. I had assumed Jimmy was connected since he was taking book on the numbers and the race track, and that was his real business, and my toy rack was just a convenience to fill up his store to make it look like it was a real candy store. “I’m sorry,” he said, when I saw him, “but the slot makes more money. I’ll pay you what I owe and you can take the rotator out, okay?” “Alright Jimmy, I’ll take it down and get everything out of the store, and then I’ll come back and settle up with you.” “Yeah, sure,” he replied. “Like I said, I’m sorry, but times are tough, and every buck counts, you understand me?” I didn’t really, but what could I do. When you lose an account it’s always hard, but that’s business and you suck it up and move on. I got a box from the car trunk came back and dismantled the rotator, but then I couldn’t find Jimmy so I went back to the car with the box of toys and the rotator parts. My mind was on replacing the lost account and thinking about where I should go next to try and get the rack into another good spot. I had just reached into the trunk for a new invoice pad when I heard the first blast of fire. What the hell was that, I thought, and looked across the street in front of Jimmy’s store where I thought the sound had come from. An older woman with a shopping bag was running down the block and a middle aged man with a small child in his arms raced across the street almost running into a small delivery truck. Then another shot rocked like a clap of thunder. This shot was loud, like an explosion in the sky, but who was doing the shooting? At that moment I couldn’t think, my mind was a blank of shock and cold fear. A second later a man wearing work clothes raced out of
Jimmy’s store almost reaching a big double parked black car waiting in the street. I was so surprised that I didn’t even take cover. It was all happening so fast my mind couldn’t register quickly enough. In the same breath Jimmy was charging from the store and pulled the trigger of the pistol he was holding in his hand. Pistol in his hand! Oh my God, I thought. The bullet must have hit the car. The driver then fired a round out the side window. Then the man in work clothes jumped into the car as it pulled away in a screech of burning tires. Jimmy staggered but kept right on firing as the car raced away in a blaze of speed and then disappeared around the corner. It had all happened so fast, and now everything was suddenly very quiet. Nobody moved, people remained hidden behind parked cars. A teenage couple cringed like frightened sheep right next to me, and I hadn’t even noticed them before. The girl stood up and screamed, “Oh my God no, Jimmy was hit.” Sure enough Jimmy was wobbling slightly and then gave a last terrible effort to stand but collapsed hitting the sidewalk hard. Another shock hit my nerves, but in that second a police car with sirens going full blast raced around the corner and roared to a sudden stop.
People appeared and a few rushed toward the scene, but the young policeman yelled for everyone to get back, and stay away. Now more police cars raced around, and in a moment two more police cars arrived. A sergeant got out of one of the cars and took control. I had never seen anything like this before, but within a few minutes the police had everyone who had witnessed the shooting lined up against the store window. A tall, heavy set cop had the teenage couple and me walk across the street and join the others. When I got there Jimmy’s body was already covered with a soiled blanket, but it hadn’t surprised me since the moment I had seen him drop I knew within the very deepest part of my soul that he was dead. Standing together the teenage girl whispered in my ear, “Say mister, I don’t know what you saw, but if I was you it would be better if you don’t say nothing to the cops, these people are not fooling around.” I gave her a glancing look, and a weak smile, “Yeah sure, thanks a lot.” The patrolman standing almost right in front of us turned and stared at me. “No talking, understand. Everyone just look in front, and keep quiet.” I didn’t say anything and I suppose he never expected an answer. It was just better not to bring any attention on yourself. Within a few minutes two plain clothes detectives were walking along the line talking to people and asking questions.
Finally, they got to the teenage couple. “Okay sweetheart, what did you see?” one of them asked. “I never saw nothing,” she responded. “Me and my boyfriend were walking across the street, we didn’t see a thing, right Sean?” “Yeah, that’s right,” Sean replied. “We was walking down the block and when we heard the first shots we hide behind this guy’s car. He can tell you, right Mister?” All at once everyone was staring at me. The girl had a friendly sweet face, but cold fear burned around her gray eyes. When I glanced at the boy he had the same nervous stare in his dark, assertive eyes, but with less fear, a cool bravado. “That’s right, officer,” I said. “When the first shot went off I immediately ducked behind my car. This young couple rushed right next to me.” “Yeah, okay, so what did you see?” the cop asked. “What, oh, absolutely nothing,” I answered. “We couldn’t see a thing. We were hiding behind the car during the whole thing.” “See, I told you,” the boy cut in, hastily. “We couldn’t see anything, we was too far away.” The plain clothes detective gave us a disguised, annoyed look. “Yeah, sure, nobody in this neighborhood ever notices anything. Everyone is deaf and dumb.” He moved on down the line, talking to the remaining people, asking them the same questions. When he finished he called out, “All right, you can all leave, but if you should hear anything give us a call at the local station house, now beat it.” We all had a sigh of relief and I began walking back to the car but not before I passed Jimmy’s body lying under the dirty blanket. It gave me a sudden chill, and for a second I could still see him telling me he was too busy, that he had to make up the receipts for the bag man, and then I heard the shots again in my mind, but I knew it was better to forget the whole incident, that it had nothing to do with me, but how do you forget a human being, a man, good or bad, someone who had dreams, hopes, maybe loved a woman, had a child, I never did find out, but all I did remember was everyone called him Jimmy the Candy Man, and that would always be his name for me, and nothing would ever change it.
“Why Is America So Obsessed with Guns?” —question asked by Ellen McGrath Smith Ace Boggess
Eight in the morning, shots poison the moment with their loud accounting. From my mountain, I might not learn the where of them: neighbor’s house, woods, dirty streets of the city below. I know the why is love … for vengeance, target practice, hunting. Maybe the news will tell me later how a man loved murder during a deal gone bad, else officers loved their fear of a child on the corner reaching for his phone. If not that, coming silence on the subject reassures me someone loved how soda cans explode like a stainedglass window shattered by a stone, loved the arterial spray from a buck collapsing earthward like the meteor that someday kills the world.
Gunshot & Repose (A brief response to Plumly’s “Souls of Suicides as Birds”) Jason Roberts Plumly might have us all birds in the aftermath, but the way the barrel rooted in the mouth, I could almost see a black elm shunting-or maple ganglia sprouting-upward from the wound, the cloud of blood a kind of crimson plumage shading the body from the heat of this one life.
Rough Work Alan Nelson
Counter-Intuitive Ashia Ajani
He sits you on the kitchen sink Counts the opals in your mouth with his tongue Kissing your calves and sucking your kneecaps Makes love poems with his trachea and lungs He’s grown familiar with your taste He compares you to dishes of a country tantamount to a penitentiary He remembers everything Relishes every memory Your skin is an analogy for the rubble and destruction The color of olive bark Maybe he could patch it back together with enough saliva His plea is hidden within every caustic remark He tries to kiss away the bruises of occupation Of military state Of marauders and betrayal Of a land without a face Your bodies do not fit together quite right The stubble on your legs like barbwire The sharpness of his collarbone between your thighs The scars on his hands remind you of the remnants of “cease-fire” His fingers glisten His lungs are thick with carbon monoxide and flat plains Grandfathers without skin And babies without names He’s fasting Enjoys the scents of days past Thyme and sugared lemons He stopped praying but his faith is steadfast
You Asked Me About My Illness Benjamin Gorman
It’s not like a flood. No sudden thundering wave. Nothing looms. No dark clouds in the distance. You’re on the beach and you’re alone. The others around you walk in and out of the water as do you. The water laps gently against your ankles but the beach is close. Slowly the tide comes in Or you go out, And now the water is at your knees. But the beach is right there others have been here before you’ve always been here. And the tide comes in, or you walk farther, The water climbs slowly, your thighs Your waist, but The beach is right there You’ve always been here. The water has always been here, This is how it always was! Then You feel the water on your chin, the beach Is far away, but You’ve always been here. Then Your feet don’t touch the ground. Then There’s nothing in sight, but You’ve always been here You’ve always been underwater You’ve always been drowning.
One time we said nothing but touched each other for hours. I thought of the places we’d been and the places we were going. Our bodies were ashes buried in snow. What is love? You wanted to know. I thought of the places we’d been and the places we were going. By touching me, you heard the only song I know. In speech you are the pause between words. In sound you are the silence unheard. In sight you are invisible matter. In taste you are the air in batter. In touch you are the witness to friction. You are the sense realized only in fiction. Our bodies were ashes buried in snow. What love is or what it means—which do you want to know? I thought of the places we’d been and the places we were going. By touching me, you heard the only song I know. What love is and what it means—I think you already know. One time we said nothing but touched each other for hours.
Predictable News Beth Gulley
A record number of babies were born in Iceland yesterday. Nine months past the football win. In other predictable news, Iâ€™m delighted again to wake to your smile and fresh brewed coffee.
The Pâtissier Confronts the Future Katie DePasquale
The unicorns reside in unformed globs of raw dough shot with neon, candy stars, sprinkled with edible pearlescent balls before their upturned faces meet the heat: those faces, painted with edible glitter, their eyelashes poked up like glass splinters beneath horns swirled of pastel meringue. You can get sugar shock when you inhale the floating ions of many cake pops, the travesty of tie-dyed grilled cheese, rainbows smeared across white-chocolate bark, hot chocolate whirlpools with marshmallow rot. It’s all sweet, springy, tender as your own shrieking sons, who intently name all that’s blue in the world—pond parrot butterflies clouds (no, the sky)—and whose veins seem blue, too, thrumming with blood, while their future faces flicker over their features, delicate, temporary as these magic creatures entombed in your food and yearning for freedom. Years will layer years, you’ll be flour to dust, your boys’ faces will fix and they’ll stop making lists, start ignoring the fringe, the edges of charm that make life what it is. Your body, now speck-sized, will spill out on the wind. All they’ll hug is the air.
I Feel Lively
Basic White Girl Cathy Cook
I didn’t hear the smoke alarm or see my 12-year-old brother in swimming goggles ‘to protect his eyes’ he said from the steam of the pie—pumpkin, but I have the picture framed, of my big brother with his sandy blond mullet and chubby cheeks, like a mad scientist with blue goggles strapped to his face and a pair of big blue oven mitts protecting him from steam and heat as his first pie leaks and he’s proud in that picture and I, the family sloth, always teaching them new and exciting ways to sleep in, avoid work, and imagine excuses, dragged myself to the kitchen at 11 when the pie was cooled and the bird was in the oven. Mom checked its belly button, what must’ve been 20 times and like every year she asked her mom for the gravy recipe, a half jar of turkey juices, milk, thicken stovetop, stir. I mash the potatoes and peel, but mom peels faster, 2 potatoes to my every 1. Dad is slow though, each slide of the peeler cautious as though he’s trying to carve the potato out of the skin, afraid to damage the milk-white body within.
And maybe it’s silly-basic-bitch-white-girl to order Pumpkin Spice Lattes with their whip cream-pumpkin syrup-nutmegoversweet-cinnamon-treat 4 dollar promise but nutmeg and pumpkin put me right back in that kitchen with pies cooling under dishtowels —pumpkin and pecan—and mom watching the belly button rise on that fat turkey, big brother’s swimming goggles on the counter, just in case there are more pie emergencies today.
The Immense Weight of Longing Judyth Hill
We remember dreams, not data, at the wild, wild end. ~ Jim Harrison Baskets of hazel leaves turn to gold. Her tears smell of their fine liqueur, their grief of skin and shell their longing to be oil on the Belovedâ€™s body. The Ones that go about singing taste that scent in the wind. Go to seed: sunflowers will grow up among the stocks of finished corn, remembering. This is where we bury the living: moonlight seedhead vine The gods you weep for will return as ghosts and you will wear their face in the next world Little one, little one rise from the ashes, from smear and count, the true history of the world is inside the Tale.
Glass slippers, clocks chiming midnight, chariots, chaffinch, and linnet, snow and snowmelt, silken dresses translate in autumn from pumpkin to castle. This is the royalty of the vegetable garden. Now you are no longer caught. You have grown hollow in the place that holds you. That emptiness is gift, is opportunity, Looking like a Ball, a Prince, a Later. Grow the green fuse that takes you out of the stepmotherâ€™s house and onward. Remember that dance, and then the leaving? How barefoot, you ran. Knowing, if the shoe fits you will have to wear it.
Landscape with Held Leaf Charter Weeks
There’s no humming in the air. No slightly off-key notes wafting through the kitchen carried on the scent of morning eggs and tea leaves. The gentle clink of last night’s plates put back in place can’t be heard. No warm burst of wet air from a hot shower left on too long. No soft dusting of steam coats the mirror, no lingering smell of mint shampoo and peach soap. The air is thick and heavy, no ripples or gusts trailing off the turns of a twinkling skirt on a twirling girl. Only a bed with one half left unused, And a note on the table I could never bring myself to read.
And a Song of Despair A.J. Rau
Surely Neruda was grinning at his typewriter, carefully rolling a cigarette with his uncommonly pink fingers when he came up with those first twenty pieces. And when he finally took a moment to unstring his damp boots and replace them with the now room-warm slippers, to drape his bony shoulders with the burgundy cardigan, I am confident he needed that one final poem, that twenty would just not do, that there was something he didnâ€™t hear. So he listened in the cracking whispers of the fire that muttered in the kitchen, then he waited for the moisture from the gum of his wet boots to fall and make the measly sounds that droplets make. And when nothing was revealed, he rocked on the legs of his chair hoping that some epiphany might shake loose from the creaks of this shoddy chair. Who would have thought the puny squeak of a mouse crushed under a chair leg would be responsible for the chagrin of thousands of readers who simply wanted to read a book on love.
contributors Photography & Illustrations William C. Crawford is a photographer and writer based in Winston-Salem, NC. He invented Forensic Foraging, an alternative technique for digital photography. See ForensicForaging.com. Laura Gill is a writer and photographer living in Washington, D.C., and her essays have appeared in Entropy, Windmill, and The Blue Mesa Review. Gill recently graduated from the Bennington Writing Seminars, where she used image and text in her thesis collection titled, “A Type of Legacy.” Samantha Malay is inspired by the plant kingdom and her collection of vintage textiles and old postcards. She works with reclaimed fabric, travel ephemera and beeswax to create new textures and patterns. Malay was born in Berlin, Germany and grew up in rural eastern Washington State. She is a theatrical wardrobe technician by trade, a writer and a mixed-media artist. Her poem/collage “Rimrock Ranch” was exhibited at Core Gallery in Seattle, Washington in January 2017, and a series of her mixed-media images was published in the September 2017 issue of The Grief Diaries. Her artwork is available at Royal Mansion Gallery and Garden Essentia, both in Seattle. Robbie Masso is a published poet and photographer as well as abstract artist. His website is RobbieMassoArt.com. Alan Nelson is a writer, actor, photographer and lawyer. He has essays, stories, epistles, photos, screenplays and poetry published or forthcoming in the following: Commonline Journal, Convergence, International Poetry Review, California Quarterly, Wisconsin Review, Illya’s Honey, Manhattanville Review, Red River Review, Adirondack Review, Red Cedar Review, Hawai’i Review, Kennesaw Review, Haggard and Halloo, Review Americana, South Carolina Review, Pegasus Review, Red Cedar Review, Fulcrum, Connecticut River Review, Blue Fifth Review, Arbitrary & Capricious, Chiron Review, SNReview, American Scholar, Inklette and others. Nelson’s IMDB link: http://m.imdb.com/name/nm6394406/
Gerhard Schneibel is a fiction writer and photographer who blogs at http://schneibel.net. Charter Weeks has been a photographer for 50 years with an emphasis on documentary work and street photography. Aneta Zeleznikova likes taking pictures of interesting sentences in books. She loves a running gallery from a bus, tram, airplane... she deeply admires moments of beauty. She’s interested in discreet things in space. And she hopes that one day she’ll be able to eat clouds. Zelezinkova says of herself, “I am designer, photographer, architect, writer, artist, ... I am.”
Fiction Charles Joseph Albert is a physicist and owner of a metallurgy shop in San Jose, California, where he lives with his wife and three boys. His poems and fiction have appeared recently in The Wifiles, Asissi, The Ibis Head Review, Quarterday, Chicago Literati, 300 Days of Sun, Abstract Jam, Literary Hatchet, and Here Comes Everyone. Ryan Habermeyer’s debut collection of short stories, The Science of Lost Futures, won the BoA Editions Short Fiction prize and will be published next year. He received his PhD from the University of Missouri and MFA from UMass Amherst. He has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and his fiction has most recently appeared in or is forthcoming from Cream City Review, Carolina Quarterly, Fiction International, Los Angeles Review, Chattahoochee Review, Fiction Southeast, Cincinnati Review, Black Warrior Review, Dislocate, Mid-American Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, and others. Donald Himelstein’s novel, Above Honor, was published by Fireside Publications, and his short story, “The Best Gift of All,” was published in the Holiday Tales Anthology.
Poetry Ashia Ajani is a junior Environmental Studies major at Yale College from Denver, Colorado. She is the co-president of WORD: Spoken Word at Yale. She is a Minor Disturbance Denver Youth Poetry alumnus. She was awarded honorable mention in poetry for the 2015 National YoungArts. She is releasing a chapbook. Ace Boggess is author of three books of poetry, most recently Ultra Deep Field (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2017), and the novel A Song Without a Melody (Hyperborea Publishing, 2016). His writing has appeared in Harvard Review, Mid-American Review, RATTLE, River Styx, North Dakota Quarterly and many other journals. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia. Andy Brown is a full-time freelance writer based in Richmond, Va. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Bacopa Literary Review, New Orleans Review and Phoebe. He earned an MFA at George Mason University and lives online at www.poetrymode.com. Cathy Cook writes news articles, columns, poems, creative nonfiction, grocery lists, and fiction. Her work has been published in The Daily Lobo, Conceptions Southwest, and The Chaffey Review. Her poetry is inspired by the body of the land and by the landscape of her body. Find more work at rewritereread.wordpress.com. Katie DePasquale is a writer and editor who likes telling a good story and making sure it’s correctly punctuated. Her fiction and essays have appeared in Blink-Ink, Vida: Women in Literary Arts, The Drum, Midway Journal, and The Toast, among other places. Her fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Ellen Fee graduated from the University of Minnesota and lives in St. Paul, where she practices creative writing with a group of brilliant kids at an after-school program. Her work has previously appeared in Corbel Stone Press and Ivory Tower. Christina Fulton graduated from Florida Atlantic University with her MFA in fiction. She is currently teaching at Miami Dade College North. Two of her poems have appeared in Open Minds Quarterly. Three of her poems are on The Outsider website. Also, three of them have been published recently on The Stay Weird and Keep Writing website. Her creative nonfiction pieces “Spiderman and The Old Man,” “Manahawkin Vice,” and “Do You Remember?” have been in The Scarlet Leaf Review, The Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, and The Route Seven Review.
Benjamin Gorman is a 21 year old EMT and student at Tufts University. He is also a research assistant in a lab studying Schizophrenia. He will be applying to medical school next year. Beth Gulley teaches English in Overland Park, Kansas. She recently published in The Same, Prompts!, and 365 Days: A Poetry Anthology. Her passions include working with homeless children, traveling, and drinking coffee. Judyth Hill is a life-long poet, educated at Sarah Lawrence College, studying with Galway Kinnell and Robert Bly; currently living on the aspen-swept Front Range of the Colorado Rockies. She conducts poetry and memoir workshops at conferences world-round, including San Miguel Writers Conference 2018, and lead Culinary WildWriting Adventures: Eat-WriteTravel.com. Her nine published books of poetry include Dazzling Wobble and Tzimtzum, and she authored the internationally acclaimed poem, “Wage Peace,” widely anthologized, set to music, performed and recorded by national choirs and orchestras. Alex Hoffman-Ellis was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, although equally claims the Pacific Northwest as home. He’s a professional football player in the CFL of Canada, part-time jewelry maker, avid traveler, a one-time subsitute teacher, and occasional urban gardener. He has been published in Mason J. Press’s America: Anthology, as well as The Skyblues blog (skybluecollective.com.) Upcoming works include two submissions in Backlash Press’s upcoming journal, as well as a chapbook through Mason J. Press. He currently spend the majority of his year in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada when not traveling. Gary Lark’s work includes: “River of Solace,” Editor’s Choice Chapbook Award from Turtle Island Quarterly, Flowstone Press, 2016; “In the House of Memory,” BatCat Press, 2016; “Without a Map,” Wellstone Press, 2013; “Getting By,” winner of the Holland Prize from Logan House Press, 2009; and three other chapbooks. His work has appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, The Sun, Poet Lore, and ZYZZYVA. Three poems were featured on The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor.
Poetry, cont. Cameron Morse taught and studied in China. Diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2014, he is currently a third-year MFA candidate at UMKC and lives with his wife, Lili, in Blue Springs, Missouri. His poems have been or will be published in over 50 different magazines, including New Letters, pamplemousse, Fourth & Sycamore and TYPO. His first collection, Fall Risk, is forthcoming from Glass Lyre Press. A.J. Rau is a senior user research lead at Novo Nordisk A/S where he researches how people manage chronic diseases. He is also a research advisor for the Copenhagen Institute of Neurocreativity, a reviewer of Touchpoint – The Journal of Service Design, and a former assistant editor of The Chattahoochee Review. Jason Roberts is an atheist-vegetarian-divorcee who doubles as a shade-tree mechanic, an armchair philosopher, and an emotional prostitute for South Carolina’s Department of Mental Health. I have an associate’s degree in Automotive Technology, a bachelor’s degree in English, and a master’s degree in Counseling. Joe Sullivan is author of a novel, Three Thirds, and recent fiction and poetry in American Chordata, Pamplemousse and Ginosko Literary Journal. He works as a dance magazine editor and plays sax in several bands in New York City.