The Review Staff Editor: Meredith Davis Production Editor: Meredith Davis Fiction Editor: Xavier Vega Layout Design: Katie Nicksic
Cover Photo, Front: San Francisco Forage, by William C. Crawford Cover Photo, Back: San Francisco Forage, by William C. Crawford
Editorial: I feel knitted back together by the work in this issue. I feel connected to and by the words that are not mine but are the sinew beneath my flesh. Yes, I chose all the pieces in this issue, therefore this makes some sense, yet I find it to be an extraordinary fact of good writing that someone elseâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s words can form the shape of my private thoughts. How is this possible? My own poetry, when I read the pages and pages in journals unshelved and placed in and out of moving boxes, feels far, far away. But yours saves me. Yours pulls me back together by threads and yarns of varying lots and weights and I feel reconstructed. And so, for all my hand wringing over writing an editorial, I come back to the two sentiments that are overwhelming each issue: gratitude and humility. I will let the work speak for itself; you know how I feel about it. Let it pull you back together and become part of the pattern of who we all are, joined by the words of others so much like the ones we try to speak ourselves. -M
Table of Contents Poetry January, Lake Champlain Holly Painter........................................................................................................................................9 The Cadenza Matthew James Babcock.................................................................................................................10 Though Matthew James Babcock.................................................................................................................12 New Yearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Eve Komal Keshran...................................................................................................................................13 Cold in a Winterless Nation Komal Keshran..................................................................................................................................14 The Flow of It All Komal Keshran..................................................................................................................................15 Winterhaven Park Jesse Albatrosov...............................................................................................................................17 Without You, the Night Wins Travis Stephens.................................................................................................................................29 12:10 to Smithtown Andrea Wolper...................................................................................................................................30 Time on Your Hands Jim Ross............................................................................................................................................38 Stephen Hawking on Eviction Day Jim Ross............................................................................................................................................48
Puberty Poem David J. Hills......................................................................................................................................50 Leaving Hagerstown David J. Hills......................................................................................................................................51 Canticle for University Parks, Oxford David J. Hills......................................................................................................................................52 Bar Deco Hannah Yoest.....................................................................................................................................54 Of Course You Can Go Home Moshe Fine.......................................................................................................................................64 Rabbi Yochanan and Resh Lakish Moshe Fine........................................................................................................................................65 fingers crossed Andrew Gillis.....................................................................................................................................66 oh little nebula, brain in the moon Andrew Gillis.....................................................................................................................................70 gut grief Andrew Gillis.....................................................................................................................................72 American Migrant Alf Abuhajleh.....................................................................................................................................78 Untitled Colin Webb........................................................................................................................................79
Poetry, continued rojas enters the pit, colorado 2013 Lucas Peel.........................................................................................................................................80 Hallelujah Junction Dominic Symes.................................................................................................................................88 From & To the Fields Ellen Zhang........................................................................................................................................90
Photography San Francisco Forage William C. Crawford.........................................................................................................Front Cover Night Journey: Rainy Night Stephen Fretz....................................................................................................................................25 San Francisco Forage William C. Crawford..........................................................................................................................47 Night Journey: Good Haul Stephen Fretz...................................................................................................................................69 San Francisco Forage William C. Crawford...........................................................................................................Back Cover
Non-Fiction How Dog Walking Socializes Jim Ross............................................................................................................................................26
Fiction Rain Zebulon Huset....................................................................................................................................18 Hamster Disaster R.C. Weissenberg..............................................................................................................................32 The Old Stone Toad Test R.C. Weissenberg..............................................................................................................................34 As Novelas James Brodows.................................................................................................................................37 The Ministry of Guidance Sogol Sur...........................................................................................................................................39 In Flight Henry Dane........................................................................................................................................55 Seven to None Rhea Dhanbhoora.............................................................................................................................73 The Hermit Patrick Legay....................................................................................................................................82
January, Lake Champlain Holly Painter Frozen mounds reared up beside the only vents in the ice, where water sighed through between drifting slabs covered in tiny cracks like a war of spiders. We sat to loosen our snowshoes and charging onto the ice, my wife hollered, Who’s dancing on Lake Champlain? We’re dancing on Lake Champlain! 17 degrees, the warmest day of the year. Our son was looked after, and work could be missed. Spinning, laughing, we slid further out, flopping onto our bellies to peer down at grains of sand, individually visible, ridged in drifts, and preserved for all of winter under a solid foot of impossible clearness shot through with champagne bubbles. I’d never seen such perfect ice. I want to bring our son back with us, to show him the sand and the perfect ice and the air torpedoes trapped inside. But at two, everything is magic. He can’t understand how rare this is for the rest of us.
Matthew James Babcock The composed snows of April second drape the scrubby hills east of Willow Creek in ten new blues. Past the Riverside Drive exit a pewter El Dorado with California plates passes us on our highway cruise to my childhood home. Mozartâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s piano concerto in E flat major sweetens the car radio. The host in butterscotch tones announces the eveningâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s tribute to the cadenza, which my wife tells me is a variation on a theme where the piece seems about to end but then goes on. We are two adults and three young girls traveling past the town of Firth and a semi-truck trailer improvised into a billboard for Vollmer Well Drilling.
Time transposes us as we ride toward and away from my eighteenth summer when my wife and daughters were no more material than the bright stains of sun that soaked shaggy clumps of dry lace vines over the doorway to the wooden garden shed I stained on that endless Saturday in my Bandits practice jersey and denim shorts, midway along this debut flight toward the diminishing point where things seem about to end but then go on.
Matthew James Babcock this sudden maze of April rain dashes every square of sidewalk with the crazed verve of a mad impressionist, the cloudburst crashing, glazing gray pavement as though born to emblazon the ground with slashes of fresh chaos, swerving and smashing a splashed camouflage on porches and curbs as though flicked from the fibers of some tormented brush— though I watch from where I’m trapped behind glass—the drops fly as dew shaken from lilies tossed and crushed under the hooves of the hero’s grazing mare, as whole notes blown from the bell of primal spring, now that I consider desire at the window, feeling it hard to want any other thing than to know that rains pass, and the glory astonishes in the passing when I step out on our street after the sun-sparked droplets have stopped rolling down invisible strings, clashing in a rhapsody of gutters where I can hold my daughter to the light as a symbol of desire and see the silken hair in the curve of her neck blaze as though part of an endless fire.
New Year’s Eve Komal Keshran
Her lipstick the colour of burnt sugar/ she leaned in and whispered/ How come your soul sings while others scream/ and I told her that she was giving me far too much credit for something champagne had inflicted/ But for real now/ I can’t seem to find my keys/ or the bag I had packed for that matter/ and all the furniture is drowning in glitter/ and there’s a boy in the corner who’s choking on his own dry humour/ And every second longer I stand here I lose my mind a little more/ I’d assume there are sequins in the pool by now / and something should be on fire at this point/ but I see no smoke/ instead there is the wafting scent of nail lacquer/ and corn chips/ and soon/ there will be fire in the sky/ and we will collectively celebrate the chance to start again.
Cold in A Winterless Nation Komal Keshran
every nightfall I close the windows and draw the curtains so I can’t look myself in the eyes and my hands are always warmer than my chest in the nights and the January winds have begun to blow so harsh that I am forced to have fleeces draped over my jackets seated in a small wooden chair in our cold colour-coordinated kitchen where you perch upon the countertop every evening so we can run therapy blowing clouds of grey smoke and blush-coloured dreams from our chapped lips questioning the things others never dared turn an eye to every little passerby a paradox in themselves that we took upon ourselves to decipher as we sat upon stolen bar stools on our front yard overlooking the rest of the world this is how every day spent in January was. as December was. as November was. ‘This was The Greater Depression,’ you joked one night; to which I chuckled, but did not disagree. every night was cold so we smoked to keep ourselves warm every morning was bright so we wore shades of ridiculous sorts and scarves of exotic make for all we ever cared about was the cinematography of the film as a whole because if we were to truly be remembered only as a fragment of The Greater Depression we’d prefer if we bore it in colour.
The Flow of It All Komal Keshran
This city wouldn’t be itself if firecrackers didn’t sound every time we saw the moon/ I’ve never gone further than the border outside Lilly’s/ and I have too many tattoos to count by the age of 20/ but the moon is a stranger to me/ no more than the sun is an old college buddy/ I miss painting your nails and telling you to scrub your damn knees/ and from the sighs that sound throughout the halls/ I know mother’s coffee has run cold/ and now fires burn bright in my old playing grounds/ and every time I cough I imagine another forest tree is torn down/ but if I called you up/ from a burner or a coin-eater/ you’d pick up/ and I’d hear video game gunshots and playground curses/ because you’d never leave your couch for anything less than a Thursday bargain/ but when the storm draws close and my car will not start/ I can depend on Monday to bring you running to my part of the world/ because some things never change/ and the roads will wind no less to bring you here/ than my mother will stir a fuss because you’re near/ and it will all be worth it/ because then I’ll be reminded that the moon is out when we kiss.
Winterhaven Park Jesse Albatrosov
When I make my way back to the edge of my earth, it is here that I fold myself between moist graduals, in search of grounding where I cry out to the waves please wash me of this series of mistakes each one withdrawing as I inch my naked feet near receding elegantly into the mammoth pool— a grouse against my christening. The wettest sand, the sand saturated by ground and moon— it’s drawing each offering back, pushing forth clean surges a messy tide engaging in a vigilant tease, disbursing gifts upon the shore to lure us again even though it has the power to take us and our lives—to drink us like a famished earth-animal. I like to sit here— a savory treat for the underbelly of the ocean a leery goad for each frothy appendage seeping towards me. This is where I come when I’ve nothing left at all in me, where I lust for newness, where I stood just out of reach and married. Each time I’ve met the very foundation of my being I crawl back again, barely viable, seeking guidance a conscientious request to be renewed again. With each regeneration of myself I’m none the wiser. I like to think to be human is to drown more than you swim—
Zebulon Huset The rain was falling so hard that if it didn’t hit you on the way down, it bounced high enough to hit you from the ground. These were the kind of afternoons Sara liked best. When all the stores closed and everyone hid inside their houses, or, when the tornado sirens go off, as they tend to, their basements. Sara was outside dancing. Skipping through puddles, spinning pirouettes on the curb by the supermarket and belly flopping into the waist deep reservoir that the rain made where Highway Ten’s access road elbowed by the flower shop. Even the highway was empty and it seemed as if the whole world was hers. “You’re soaking wet, Sara Jean!” Sara scolded, imitating her mother, “I was worried sick about you!” Sara laughed. She almost never got yelled at and she never caught colds, or any kind of illness from the rain. The only time she ever got sick was from kids at school — dirty kids with runny noses who vomit in the cafeteria. She found a few small rocks by a crumbling parking block behind the flower shop and tried to skip them in the little lake. *** Two years before, on an afternoon when her older brother Timmy was home sick, Sara’s father had showed up at her first grade class and signed her out of school early for the day. He took her down to the Mississippi River by the Coon Rapids Dam and they walked along the water. Sara got too close to the edge and almost fell into the churning water but her daddy caught her arm and they bought a soda from a machine. He told her that her mom had asked him to leave, and that he was moving away. “When are you going to come back?” Sara had asked him. “I don’t know. That’s up to your mom,” he said, skipping a stone along the river. Sara had never seen anyone skip a rock before, and her eyes opened wide. “How did you do that?” she asked, amazed. Her father chuckled, and showed her how to hold the rock with her index finger along the edge. How to angle her arm just right so that the rock bounced and didn’t just sink. 18
After half an hour she had it down and could skip the rock for two bounces every time. The wind picked up a little and Sara shivered. The sun was going down. Her father took one last stone and with a grunt, threw it as far down the river as he could, then hoisted Sara onto his shoulders and walked back to his truck. The next day was Saturday and Sara woke up early, before even Timmy was out of bed. Her father’s truck was gone. She ran into an overwhelming scent of burned coffee in the kitchen. Her mom sat absolutely still in her old tan bathrobe, holding a coffee mug with both hands. Protecting it. “Mom, where’s Daddy? I want to try to skip rocks again today; I think I can get three! I really do!” “Your father’s gone, Sara,” her mother said without moving any part of her body except her lips. “When will he be back?” Sara was already thinking of where to find the flattest rocks. She’d seen some by a bike rack the day before. “That’s up to him, but I don’t think he’ll be coming back.” “But…” “Sara, I need you to go outside and play now. Mommy needs quiet.” So Sara went outside and played in the sandbox with her Barbies. She buried the little Skipper doll and had Ken walking around trying to find her while Barbie sat in her little pink convertible with her little pink cell phone to her ear. *** The rocks didn’t skip well and Sara got tired of seeing them sink so quickly, so she decided to walk to the library about half a mile up the access road. The ditches were filled with turgid water which constantly spilled over the curb onto the pavement. It curled over itself on the way to the low point by the flower shop where the storm drains were filled up and had stopped performing their function entirely. Timmy used to take her out after a rain. They would find little pine needles and race them along the side of the road like tiny canoes. Whoever’s needle made it to the drain first had to eat the other’s green vegetables that night. Sometimes, if it was green beans, Timmy would eat them, even if he’d won. Sara had almost choked on them once. After that, Timmy said he hated green beans whenever they were served, but he would always sneak them off of Sara’s plate and put them onto his own. Sara couldn’t eat them now or 19
she’d throw up. Timmy was four years older than her. A few months after Sara’s father had taught her to skip rocks Timmy had ridden his bike down to the dam to look for him. And never came back. Sara had helped her mom put up pieces of paper with Timmy’s picture on them for awhile, but they stopped after a year. Her mom stopped drinking coffee in the morning, and started sleeping until the afternoon everyday. She quit her job as a receptionist and started working at a bar not far away. The tornado sirens by the bank across the street started whirring. Mocking her mother’s voice, Sara reprimanded herself. “Sara Jean! What are you doing outside with the tornado warning going off? Get your little tushy in this car right now!” Her mother never left the house when it rained. Up ahead Sara saw something sticking out of the ditch between the highway and access road by Arby’s. She couldn’t quite make out what it was, but it hadn’t been there the day before, so it was adventure time. She shook her hair out quickly and tied it back with the rubber band she had on her wrist. She could feel big lumps in it but Detective Sara Jean always wore her hair in a ponytail. “Now, to the mystery!” she shouted, looking around quickly to make sure there were no cars on the road, which of course there weren’t. Even before the sirens had started no one had been out. Sara hadn’t seen one car driving. Skipping up to the mystery object, she couldn’t help but smile. She loved mysteries. She used to go to the library with her neighbor Tina, and she would check out as many Nancy Drew books as they would let her take. Then, when she’d read all of them, she read all of the Choose Your Own Adventure books, going through each possible scenario after she played out her favorite. But just before second grade, Tina got really sick, and her mom said they had to move to be closer to a hospital in Pennsylvania. Now no one would take her to the library, and until she turned twelve she needed a parent with her to check out books. As Sara got closer to the thing in the ditch, she could see that it was the back end of a car. A grey-blue car whose entire front end was underwater leaving the back right window at eye level from the access road. It looked exactly like the car her Sunday School teacher, Ms. Johnson used to drive. *** “Sara, can you stay after class for a few minutes please? I would like to talk to you,” Ms. Johnson had said in her tender voice as one Sunday School class was letting out. 20
“Yes, Ms. Johnson,” Sara replied. She didn’t want to stay. Her mom had told her that Timmy could come home any day and she wanted to be there when he did. Every time she made crafts in school she would make one for her mom and one for Timmy. She had a construction paper bouquet of flowers, a cut out of a turkey she made tracing her hand, a clay turtle, and a cotton-ball snowman for him. She thought he would like the turtle the most. He used to have a pet turtle named Jonas when Sara was just a baby. He used to tell her about all the tricks he could do. He was the best turtle ever, but he got out of the house one night and Mom had accidentally backed over him with her car. When Ms. Johnson had finally ushered the other children out of the room, Sara was tired of sitting inside and was hopping from foot to foot, pretending she was playing hopscotch. “Sara, I’m worried about you.” Ms. Johnson sat down in a chair next to where Sara was standing. “What do you mean, Ms. Johnson?” Sara asked as she hit the imaginary four square. “Well, you and your mother have been through a lot, no one would deny that.” Sara nodded. She’d heard people say things like that before. They said it must be hard. They said she must miss Timmy. Sara used to tell them that she missed her father too, but that they would both be coming back soon, and that when she gets old enough, she’d go find where they are by the dam and they’d all come back again. Then people started acting weird, and patting her head too hard, so now she just nodded. “But you aren’t looking good, Sara. Are you eating enough, hon—” Sara’s mom was suddenly looming right in front of the two, eyes hard slits, nose flared. “We are just fine, Janet. I would appreciate it if you would stop questioning my parenting— goodbye.” She grabbed Sara’s arm and yanked her out of the church. They walked home so quickly that Sara had to run every other step so that she didn’t fall with her mom still pulling on her arm. They never went back to church. *** “Ms. Johnson?” Sara asked quietly. She had forgotten about Detective Sara Jean, and was trying to remember the hand gestures to go along with Jesus Loves You. “Ms. Johnson, are you in there?” The water swirled around her knees as she stepped into 22
the edge of the ditch to get a little closer. She cupped her hands around her face so she could look into the back window. No-one was inside, but the windshield was broken. Sara stepped back out of the ditch and onto the road, no longer in the mood for mysteries. She turned to cross the street away from the highway. Towards Arby’s. Up against the curb the water worked its way around a pile of clothes. “Ms. Johnson? Is that you?” Sara called as she hop-stepped through the ankle deep water in the road. Within a few steps she could tell it wasn’t Ms. Johnson. It was a man. The top of his head was bald and very white, and there were wisps of blond hair coming from behind his ears. Sara walked around to the sidewalk so she could see him better. His mouth was open, and he was missing most of his teeth. His gums were a pale pink. Water rushed over his head as the rain continued to fall. Next to his nose there was a big rip, and she thought she could see teeth in there, but then she realized it was bone. He looked like a mannequin from the mall. She touched his face. It was cold. She touched her own face; it was cold too, but softer than his was. His eyes were open, but it didn’t look like he was looking at anything. They looked like someone had poured milk on top of them. In her mother’s tone again, she scolded the body. “You see what happens when you go out in a tornado?” She shook her finger at the man. His blond hair waved in the rushing water. “Do you hear me?” Sara shouted, “There’s no coming back!” She reached over without thinking and shook the man’s shoulder. “There’s no coming back! There’s no coming back,” her voice fell to a whisper, “There’s no coming back.” Sara sat next to the body for a minute. Just looking at it. In the water she could almost make out her reflection. She was pale, her hair flat against her cheeks. The man’s hair waved into her reflection and for a second she thought she saw her mother. She stood up quickly and looked around for her. There was no one but her and the man. Sara touched her face. It was cold. She could feel her hair blanketing her cheeks, smothering them, burying them. She shook her head violently, as if to shake the hair off of her head. Water sprayed from her split ends, but she couldn’t see. Her eyes were closed. In the darkness she heard her brother. He was with her father, and they were laughing. She could hear water. They were waiting for her at the dam, she just knew it. She’d always known it. When Sara opened her eyes she noticed a long flat rock and picked it up. It would be perfect for skipping. 23
Night Journey: Rainy Night Stephen Fretz
How Dog Walking Socializes Jim Ross
After the past year, I’ve become quite hesitant about humans. After months of sitting in what felt like house arrest—ankles shackled by invisible cuffs—I’ve begun to venture out with Teddy. I believe Teddy could give a catatonic the courage to dance and sing. We’ve been going to the C&O Canal towpath at Great Falls lately as frequent visitors. We walk about five miles which, given the length of his bichon havanese legs, equals 40 people miles. After that he’s ready to play. We go for socialization. I tell people it’s for his and explain his predecessor was always snapping at people. Today, Teddy encountered his first seeing-eye dog—a beautiful animal, half collie, half shepherd. “We gotta let them do their dance,” said the walker. We kept passing leashes back and forth as our dogs circled and sniffed. Once, we passed the leashes under the dogs. How’d I maneuvered this exercise with a blind man? I didn’t. His wife was walking their seeing-eye dog while he walked alongside, using his cane to determine where walking was safe. This is where the benefits to me come in. It’s not just about Teddy’s socialization. I’m trying to get reacquainted with people. What better place to ease the re-entry than where I remember being at my best, walking along the towpath? Today, the first people we encountered were two rather tall women about 35 years old. One had a baby strapped to her chest. The other wore a beautiful, broad-brimmed straw hat with a blue ribbon tied around. When the straw-hatted one saw Teddy, she bent over, rubbed his head, and oohed and aahed, “He’s absolutely wonderful. Nothing in life could be more perfect!” I knew she was talking about Teddy, but it made me feel good because Teddy’s my dog. And he really is just about perfect. When someone tries to pet him, he cooperates, even encourages. When we meet someone new, he often rests on his belly to show he’s in the mood for rubbing. Sometimes, he even flips over on his back right there on the towpath to show he’s the gentlest dog ever born. He’s already learned he needs to be adaptable. When some people bend over to rub, if you hug the ground or lie flat on your back, they might not bend over the extra inches. Stand up and take it!
One problem Teddy has is that some people’s standing height equals his own height standing on his hind legs. He has a particular affinity for such little people. The other day, a four-year-old boy bent over to pet Teddy, who immediately stood up and started licking the boy on the lips. The boy licked him right back, which was somewhat cute when it wasn’t disgusting. The boy’s parents weren’t fazed because, as they said, “We have two dogs at home. We do this every day.” Using the element of surprise, today Teddy tried the same maneuver on a three-year-old girl who nearly toppled over once for each year of her life. It would seem Teddy is least gentle with those who need the most gentleness. Over the crest of the hill, we saw a 70-year-old woman pushing a baby carriage alongside a 40-year-old woman walking a miniature bulldog. When they saw us coming, the younger woman ducked 20 feet off the path and gave her bulldog treats while repeating, “Good dog,” until we passed. Teddy, of course, wanted to go see the bulldog to make sure he was all right. I convinced him we needed to walk on by. At the end of our walk, when we reached the refreshment stand—just past the restroom with the doggie water bowl—we again encountered the women with their miniature bulldog. Seeing us approach, the younger woman again took her bulldog 20 feet off the sidewalk and fed him treats. I called out, “Not socialized?” She shook her head and, with her eyes bugging out of her head, said, “Nooooo!” Gaping at us, the old woman laughed, “Socialized? He’s a sociopath!” Apparently, there are sociopathic dogs too. Knowing that makes me feel compassion for Teddy. He too will need to learn how to walk on by—instead of putting himself in harm’s way. For now, I’m watching Teddy to learn about circle dances, straw hats with blue ribbons, standing up to those your own size, belly rubbing maneuvers, and holding one’s space. My goal: to learn a few tricks from the master.
Without You the Night Wins Travis Stephens
It might come to this: to wake in a night of stars, each one said to be an orb of flame, a furious explosion shackled by gravity, whose wish is to devour all it can reach. You wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know it from the porch slick with dew as unseen birds shiver in the oleander and wait for light. This afghan, knit by my grandmother, is full of holes. The dark pokes a finger through, gleefully. Our bed is calling me because it is warm and your absence is now perfectly offset by this chilly night mostly dark and peopled only by distant angry stars.
12:10 to Smithtown Andrea Wolper
This is an old train. The window—scratched and streaked and measled by an ancient cherry soda— Renders everything it passes In gauzy glazed soft focus, As if some too-commercial shutterbug Mistaking beauty for a muted, manufactured frame, Had Vaselined the suburbs, sky, and sandpits. As if the blinding chrome of spotlights tow’ring high above home plate, Or rows of forklifts, bright gerbera orange and sun-slashed into blocks of shine and shadow, Required alteration. As if the trampled fields alone, The creekbeds lined with beer cans, Graffiti’d backs of buildings, The distant hills and houses— As if these sights in naked light were lacking, And beauty, flawed, were not held dearer still.
Hamster Disaster R.C. Weissenberg
The rodent burst from the cage and flopped to the floor. It raced through the room, dodging debris, while Stefani chased after it into the hall. The rodent deftly swerved into the bathroom. “MAMA MARIA!” a voice shrieked from inside, and a soaked, naked Claudio rushed through the door, nearly slamming into Stefani. “YOUR RAT!” he screamed, covering himself with a towel, “It’s in the tub!” “It’s not a rat,” Stefani said and shoved her way through. She saw the rodent paddling rapidly in the corner of the tub, vainly scrambling to grip the wall. White and orange dye swirled over the water like melted sherbet. The rodent was mostly gray now. She could see the chopped stub of what used to be a tail. “It is a rat,” she said. “It’s dead!” Claudio said, charging at it with a plunger. Stefani didn’t protest. She had loved her hamster, but now that she knew it was a rat, it grossed her out.
Some stabs and shrieks later, Claudio emerged victorious, and the rodent floated in the warm bathwater, lifeless. Just then, their father walked in. “What are you idiots doing?” he said, and then he saw the rat. “What’s this?” “A rat,” Stefani said, “My pet wasn’t a hamster.” “That’s ten dollars. I spent ten dollars on your rodent,” her father grumbled. “Clean it.” “Claudio killed it,” she said. “It’s HER rat,” the boy protested. “I want this clean,” their father said, “I’m not bathing in rat water. And you,” he pointed at Stefani, “Whatever you buy you should appreciate. Don’t you know what money is?” He smacked her on the forehead and walked away. The rodent was discarded, the tub drained and disinfected. With her pet gone, Stefani didn’t know what to do with the cage. It had cost her twenty dollars of her own money.
The Old Stone Toad Test R.C. Weissenberg
Jose Luis and Marisela fought their way to the backyard. “You’re lying,” Marisela said. “You’re not telling the truth,” Jose Luis said, “That’s as bad as lying.” “No, it isn’t,” she said. “Yes, it is.” “Ask him,” she said, pointing to the stone bird bath. The bird bath held in its center a stone toad, complete with cape and crown, ringed by a moat of dark green water. “Who’s telling the truth?” Marisela asked the toad. They stared at the toad for a while, but it didn’t say a word. “We haven’t talked to him in a long time,” Jose Luis said, “He might be…” Something moved in the murky water. Jose Luis moved closer. Suddenly a dark glob leaped out of the water and latched onto his shirt. He shrieked. It was a live, dirty brown toad, a real one, and it clung to his collar. “Get off me!” Jose Luis screamed and slapped the toad off his shirt. The toad plopped onto the ground, apparently unharmed. Marisela’s eyes widened in horrified delight. “You’re lying,” she said, “I knew it.” Jose Luis denied he lied, Marisela denied his denial, and the siblings continued their quarrel, as the stone toad silently stared. Meanwhile, the living toad hopped off into the garden, blending into the soil and the fallen leaves.
James Brodows The novela Celebridade leaps from the Brazilian televisions and streets. At last week’s Flamengo soccer match the fans shook homemade signs: Quem matou Lineu? (Who killed Lineu?) The question on everybody’s mind after the soap opera murder. And this week with the revelatory episode looming: Eu matei Lineu (I killed Lineu) Eu sei quem matou Lineu (I know who killed Lineu) In Copacabana at 3:00 AM prostitutes swarm the bars and corners as men circle. A motorist revs his engine behind an unmarked patrol car. The police throw him against a wall in handcuffs, and twenty minutes later he is freed. A young man in a suit approaches two friends who linger. “I know places with beautiful women, why don’t you have a look?” He consults doormen as they enter the clubs without paying the cover fees. They purchase and finish drinks, then proceed to his next commission. At the final stop they’re permitted a single free admission. While one friend disappears behind a black door beneath the neon sign American Bar, the guide and other friend wait amid the bouncer and working girls pleading to work inside. Two are denied entry, and as the girls debate a next move, there is a moment of rest. The young man steps forward, opening a conversation: “Quem matou Lineu?”
Time on Your Hands Jim Ross
A whet-necked, white-faced Census taker in still-charred Harlem, where all the jobs were, and they paid us by the unit and head, not the hour, I sang “Fatherless Child” like Richie Havens, as if, singing on a hot summer’s day would blend me in, so out of place, I belonged there. Running fit, I tore up seven flights, knocked hard and on hearing “what choo want?” shouted through the spy-hole of the grey security door “I wanna take your Census,” to wit, the tiny, tinny voice of its elder single female occupant, residing in a one bedroom, with small kitchen and bath who with the elevator out rarely climbed up or down or any direction for that matter came at me, “I ain’t got much left, but what I got you can have.” We quickly dispensed with business to focus on her gift of home-brewed ginger tea and toasty sardines. “And here’s the two bucks for your time,” I said, plunking down $2 of the $3.10 I just earned, thank you kindly. As I rushed off to the door next door my new friend with sardine ginger lips grabbed my wrist with gentle fingers meant to sew: “Time on your hands creeps like chicken pox where you can’t scratch. The days, they go slow but the years, they fly by.”
The Ministry of Guidance Sogol Sur
Sogol entered her mother’s bedroom and asked her if she had a chador. Her mother closed her book and widened her honey-coloured eyes. “Why?” Sogol smiled, barely concealing her excitement. “I’ve been given an appointment for The Ministry of Guidance tomorrow!” “I know,” her mother said, “but why do you want to wear a chador?” “To fool them,” Sogol laughed, “to look chaste.” “Actually, I do have a chador,” her mother said, half-laughing, “a proper black one I used to wear when I first started teaching.” “See, I’m not the only hypocrite. I have to be sure that they’ll give me permission for my poetry collection.” Her mother opened the wooden door of her closet, stepped into it and rummaged through her sheets and clothes. “I’m not sure if I can find it though,” she murmured. “Oh, here it is!” Stepping out of the closet, she handed a lengthy black cloth to Sogol. “Wear it now. You should look confident and comfortable in it, otherwise, they’ll know it is the first and last time you’re wearing it.” She dropped the chador on Sogol’s head, and they both looked in the enormous woodenframed mirror on the vanity table beside the bed. After a few seconds of surprise, they both let out a hysterical laugh. “Actually it kind of suits you,” Sogol’s mother said, still laughing. “You look like the actresses in the TV series shown in Ramadan. Chaste. And fake.” Sogol guffawed back, “I’m not fake! I actually look like a proper Muslim girl. It has transformed my whole character, weird how one piece of clothing can do so much.” Sogol let go of the chador and it fell to the floor. “Thanks, mum.” Staring into her mother’s eyes thinking about their strangely beautiful colour, asali. Her mother touched her shoulders, “Don’t worry, your book will be published. We have already censored all the naughty things in your poems. They will pick on a few things, you will change them, and done. That’s how it is with my translations. It’s not difficult, 39
just annoying.” “I know. But I really want this, I’ve never wanted anything as much as the publication of this book. I want to become a real poet.” “You are a real poet.” Her mother reassured her. “You know what I mean.” When Sogol left her mother’s bedroom at midnight, she realised she was shaking in ecstasy, with the black chador in her hand, the key to her dreams. Despite the fact that she had to get up early in the morning in order to make it to the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance by 9:00 AM, she couldn’t fall asleep. She lay awake until three in the morning, dreaming of strolling with her mother in green alleys, watching the sunset, and finally fathoming the colour of her mother’s slanted eyes - not the colour of honey – but sunset. She recalled this is an image in one of her poems, called “Honey of the Sun,” asal-e-khorshid. She woke up at seven with The Fugees’ “Ready or Not” blasting out of her mobile, but she could not open her eyes because they were too dry. She got out of bed, eyes half-closed, head throbbing, her room the golden orange of the sunset in her dream. She looked around her room and saw the chador lying on the floor, a dead serpent. She went to the bathroom, cautious not to make any sound so her mother wouldn’t wake up. She urinated and imagined herself at the Ministry of Guidance. She was excited about going to that castle, thrilled about wearing a chador, acting chaste, pretending to be a virginal Muslim girl. Then she thought of all the boys and girls she wrote poetry about, and thought about her mother. She hadn’t told her mother that the first page would be a dedication note to her. For everything she had done, for all the encouragement and inspiration. Sogol wanted to weep with a strange joy, despite the fact that it was early in the morning and she felt puffy and realised she was sitting on the toilet seat for nothing, just thinking about being published and making her hard-working mother proud. She pulled up her pants and looked in the mirror, brushing her teeth. Her toothbrush moving in and out of her mouth, the toothpaste felt like congealed vomit. She wished she could eat something before leaving the house, but she knew she couldn’t at such an early hour. She could hardly open her mouth. She kept staring at her puffy, sleepy face in the mirror. She knew everybody who considered her pretty did so because they hadn’t seen her mother. Those who saw her mother only called Sogol naaz: cute, never pretty. They were absolutely right. She thought of her age, twenty-two, and her mother’s, fifty-three, and thought the impossible thought, what if her mother died like her dad did ten years ago. She would 40
turn 50 soon. She thought of her poem, called “Age” – Your age is raining on me, like cactus on bare skin. What did she even mean? She almost hoped her poetry would get banned because it was bad and publishing it would be a disgrace. But they were still poems. It would make her mother happy. She went to her room, putting a black scarf on her head, maghna’e. The formal headscarf, something she used to wear at school and then at the university. Something she hated. A black scarf that would just fit the head, sewn under the chin, covering breasts and neck also. She then wore a long green manteau to look bad. Bad enough to be chaste. She looked in the mirror and realised she was happy despite everything. She avoided using any makeup to look even more chaste and innocent. She knew that without it, her face looked like the face of a clueless twelve-year-old. She was aware she could look innocent even when she wasn’t. This was all a game and she was going to win. Her mother knew people in the publishing industry, and she could only go to the formidable Ministry because her mother had pulled strings. She was, after all, lucky. Sogol put on a quilted black jacket on top of her manteau to keep warm. And then she threw the chador on her head, almost laughing in the mirror, suffocated by excitement. If this is the price of being published, I will pay it; it will be funny. She left their house in Vanak and walked to the main square in order to flag down a shared taxi. She did not feel like driving in the morning traffic of Tehran, she wanted to snore happily in the taaksi behind her enormous sunglasses that cut her off from her surroundings, the morning, the smoke, the people shouting about politics in the taxi at eight in the morning; she just couldn’t deal. Her eyes were aching from lack of sleep. She wanted to be home, and to find an excuse to enter her mother’s bedroom and cuddle with her on the bed under the pretext that it was cold. She was aware that her friends and classmates were mostly applying to go continue their studies abroad; the US, the UK, Canada, Germany, France, and even Malaysia. “Anywhere but here. Studying is an excuse to leave,” her best friend, Yasaman, had said. But Sogol would never do that. Despite everything, she loved her country, like a mother loving her mentally-disabled child. She liked Tehran despite the pollution, religion, corruption, madness, and anger. Despite these things or because of them, she usually wondered. It felt like being inside a piece of postmodern art. She loved Tehran because that was where her father died and where her mother lived. She would become successful in Tehran, like her mother. She did not mind the compulsory hejab, unlike many of her friends who constantly complained about it. She found it funny, ironic, to wear a hijab, to cover your sins, to exchange numbers with cologne-scented boys whilst being undercover. It was like being a spy. It was a game, and she knew she would win. Because she was clever, like her dead father and her lively mother. When she reached the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, her body started trembling under her chador. It was not just the enormity of the building that was 41
disarming; there was something inexplicably intimidating about it. It was situated inside an organized garden, with security guards looking like soldiers. The building itself was an enormous brown cube. Two security guards pounced in front of her. “Ma’am, where are you going?” “I have an appointment. At 9:00,” Sogol whispered, looking at the grey ground. “With whom? And why?” “Regarding my poetry book, with Mr. Mohammadi.” “Okay, go.” They let her pass through the bars into the glossy building. All the newly published books were on display; she stood and looked at them: The Life of Imam Ali, The Holy Wars of the Prophet Muhammad, The Different Interpretations of Baghareh Sura, Hazrate Fatemeh, and Her Holy Life. Sogol was stunned. Where was all the poetry? All the books she always purchased from the bookshops? Sohrab Sepehri, Forough Farrokhzad, Ahmad Shamloo, translations of Sylvia Plath, Lorca, and Neruda. There was no trace of them; they obviously did not belong on the display of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. She laughed at her own naïveté. She relished the hypocrisy in a strange way, just as she was reveling in wearing a black chador. She took the lift to the fourth floor to Mr. Mohammadi’s office. Sogol was ready to express to a hideous bearded man that she was an Islam-loving poet. That she was chaste. And she was pure. She found the office and there were a few other people in the sunny room behind their desks, a few men and one woman. The woman was also wrapped in a black chador. Sogol felt vaguely victorious; she was terrified but tried to be confident. “Salam,” she smiled at the unfriendly woman. “I am looking for Mr. Mohammadi,” Sogol was careful not to even look at the men. Not even one look at the namahram. Before the woman opened her mouth, one of the men emerged in front of her, unsmiling. “That’s me.” Sogol was speechless. Mr. Mohammadi looked like the opposite of what she had in mind. To start with, Mr. Mohammdi was clean-shaven. Milky white skin, no trace of a stain, acne or beard on his smooth face. His eyes were light blue, matching his shirt, his brown eyelashes draping his eyes. Sogol looked down, she could stare at the physical beauty of Mr. Mohammadi for hours if she let herself. She looked down at his shoes, shiny black, like wet nights after snow. 42
“I…” “What do you want, ma’am?” Mr. Mohammadi was “licking her with his eyes,” as her friends would’ve described. “Mr. Afshar told me to come here, to see whether or not my book has been granted permission for publication.” “What is your book called?” “Earthquake in Ruins.” “Oh yes, let me see,” Mr. Mohammadi, sat behind his computer, scrolling up and down, Sogol looked down. “It’s number 18653279.” “Okay.” “We don’t know yet.” Mr. Mohammadi shot her another blue glance. “It is still being processed.” Sogol wanted to scream. It was more than a year now. She was twenty one when her mother found her a publisher who would publish the poems. She fought hard not to say anything and to be polite. “Alright, thank you very much.” “Goodbye.” Mr. Mohammadi didn’t even look at her. On her way out, Sogol was holding onto her chador so that it wouldn’t fall. She hated the fact that she felt like sobbing. She walked quickly, she could not wait to leave, to get rid of the suffocating chador, and to return to the safety of home. She was walking out of the garden into the empty alley when Mr. Mohammadi jumped in front of her. Sogol thought, what a strange coincidence, until Mr. Mohamadi told her, “Look, I did not want to say it in front of my colleagues, but your book has been deemed immoral, therefore, it was refused permission.” Sogol opened her mouth without uttering a word, then closed it. Mr. Mohammadi had more to say to her, “But I really want to help you.” Sogol avoided his eyes not because she wanted to look chaste, but because she realised she could not tolerate his heavy glances at her lips. “I will call you on Friday to tell you how to fix the problems if you want.” “That is terribly kind of you. Thank you; I will fix everything you say is problematic.” 43
“You’re not married, are you? Would it be okay if I called?” Mr. Mohammadi said, stepping closer to Sogol. “I’m not married,” Sogol muttered. Mr. Mohammadi took out his Nokia mobile, “What is your number then?” Sogol uttered her mobile number, wanting to escape. Mr. Mohammadi repeated the number to her before saving it, slowly stepping closer. Sogol could not move. A car passed by. To Sogol’s relief, Mr. Mohammadi stepped back and said, “I’ll call you to discuss this. Bye for now.” And turned towards the direction of the Ministry. Sogol ran all the way back to the crowded taaksi station. Kurt Cobain was screaming in her ears and she was staring at the traffic in order to withhold her tears. She loathed them. She detested her weakness. She wished she could be like her mother. If a man had talked to her mother like that, her mother would’ve strangled him. Her mother wouldn’t have been a pushover like her, ready to be abused by a repulsive, beautiful hypocrite in order to get her books published. Her mother was genuine. Sogol was fake, like her chador, innocence, and chastity; like her poetry. She did not even deserve to get published. She was shedding tears, and noticed she couldn’t even hear Kurt Cobain, because the taxi driver was screaming at someone in the traffic, calling another driver a “whore’s son,” madar jendeh. Sogol took off her chador and headphones, pushing them in her black bag, and realised her phone was ringing. It was a new number. Mr. Mohammadi’s lustful tone of voice filled her ears like poison, “Are you free on Friday?” “Yes! I can even come to your office tomorrow.” Sogol said, trembling. “Oh, but the Ministry is closed on Fridays. We have to meet someplace else.” Mr. Mohammadi murmured, “How about my flat?” Sogol did not know how to respond. She felt like holding her phone to the swearing mouth of the cab driver. “Where do you live?” Sogol asked, not wanting to miss out on this ugly opportunity. “East Tehran.” Sogol had a vivid premonition of herself in Mr. Mohammadi’s claustrophobic flat in the polluted East Tehran, stripped and shivering, Mr. Mohammadi forcing her to kneel on his carpetless floor. Sogol whispered to her phone, “Can I call you back?” and hung up, pushing against the other passengers sitting beside her. The taxi stopped near her house, 44
opposite Mr. Bahman’s corner shop. Sogol paid the driver and got out of the car. Their house was strangely quiet because her mother was out with her sisters. Sogol slept for five hours. She dreamt of fire, of Mr. Mohammadi running after her in clean alleys with his repulsive beauty and instead of a penis, he had a pen hanging out from between his skinny white thighs. Sogol ran, not wanting to be skewered by that cheap Bic biro. She ran and was eventually woken by the sound of her mother, talking on the phone, laughing, and Sogol left her sweaty bed, finding it hard to breathe. Her mother hung up, looking worried, “What is wrong, my darling?” Sogol told her everything, everything about Mr. Mohammadi, about his long lashes, devouring blue eyes, his “offer of help,” the published books on the display of the Ministry, the garden, the taxi driver using swear words when Mr. Mohammadi called. She recounted this to make the whole episode sound funny, but her mother was furious. Her mother wasn’t laughing, she was shaking with fury. “How dare he!” her mother exclaimed. “Call him, tell him what he is doing is illegal, tell him he has no right to abuse his power, tell him to fuck himself, call him. Now!” “Calm down, maman.” “Get me some water,” her mother said. Sogol brought out the cold bottle of water from the fridge. Poured two glasses, giving one to her mother, slurping the other herself. “Don’t even call him. Just completely ignore him. Let him die, filthy piece of shit!” Sogol laughed. She went to her room and called him from her mobile, “I consulted with my mother. She says this is supposed to be a formal process. This is not how it should be.” After a few seconds of stone silence his informal, aggressively flirtatious tone changed into a formal one, “Okay, ma’am. Whatever suits you. Ensha’allah the answer will be positive.” He hung up without saying goodbye. Sogol knew her book would not be published. Then the sound of the kettle filled her room, this was the music she loved the most. Her mother was making tea.
San Francisco Forage William C. Crawford
Stephen Hawking on Eviction Day Jim Ross
1 Calling a man “just a tad” fastidious in his dress, or sloppy in his work habits or hyper in his attention span, or a soufflé “just a tad” rich, burnt, or fallen, or film “just a tad” erotic, slow-paced, or gory represents an ironic conceit by using an undefined term, “just a tad,” to refer to something that’s small, but maybe not so small after all. Einstein, for all his genius, could not define the limits of “just a tad,” track its movement in time and space, or describe its capacity to expand without end. Hawking, the greatest genius of our days, could not lay hold of the meaning of having “just a tad” more time left to have another drink, run again along the canal on a steamy summer day, dance on the river bank, or do whatever we came here to do. Oddly, “just a tad” tends to occupy more space, be more weighty or catch more glitter than “a tad,” because the word “just,” by limiting, and making something diminutive, somehow enlarges, magnifies, or brightens. Or perhaps the word “just” somehow renders “a tad” more righteous, by distinguishing it from “a tad” regarded as unjust. 48
2 You came to occupy just a tad of my inner space. You gained access not by force, insinuation or intellectual argument but by breathing life into crevices, by laying on warm hands by stretching the inner spaces and letting in light through play and applying to muscles, tendons, emotions and thoughts, a healing salve, loving kindness, and the chance to release and re-connect. Eviction is just a tad insufficient as a means of removing you from a present and future space of defined and undefined possibility because no matter how large the excision around the sites where you took hold there remains always just a tad and the tendency to expand, multiply and connect so you remain. Still, I feel just a tad lacking, And perhaps somewhat unjust and wonder now what Hawking would do to make the best use of time even while I remain just a tad sad, less, apologetic.
Puberty Poem David J. Hills
Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d forgotten all of it until now: his dark hair, my dark hair, the hair on my legs sprouting like moss on the trees; our skin wet with sweat from running through the trees; the slant of the sun as it fell between the trees; the anxious way we dressed behind different trees; the later way we searched for conversation under the needled floor; the gash on his foot pumping blood onto the kitchen floor; his mom: What did you need to take your shoes off for?
Leaving Hagerstown David J. Hills
When you reach the city a car alarm will sound like a memory you had once but are already forgetting: a few bodies you knew, a joint passed between familiar hands, laughter, a screeching, singing car. Whose? Only after shucking off a mortal coil will you see how beautiful it is: the rivers and the creek beds bursting with life; the streets you memorized without trying; the mountains gathering their towns like a mother gathers her children in from playing; and the cars, of course; the cars and the bodies who filled them; the cars and the car alarms; hands outstretched in tag; the gentlest touch that sets cars blazing.
Canticle for University Parks, Oxford David J. Hills
When the sun finally breaks and the air is soft and muggy enough to swim in and the sidewalks are cracking from foot traffic and the brutalism of Wolfson is weighing on the soul you will find us between willows older than God, along the forearm of the River Cherwell, treading on clean stones (because nothing here stays dry long enough to dirty), talking about Sylvia Plath and home and how lonely the buildings look today and wondering if they ever take a break from their grandeur to just sit and listen. Today he is wearing short sleeves for the first time in ages and I am learning to hate sweaters for the way theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve hidden his skin. Already he is stealing this place from me. I know it by the way I am afraid to uncover some rotting leaf for fear of finding him there. He is the snipped tail on the dog we love and the ripples from a punt pole; he is the thrill of the jackhammer two blocks down; the bicycle bell and the loose pram wheel; the daisy field and the cricket pitch and the bench where he pauses to tie his shoe. He is telling me about Sylvia Plath, how he lost her last month on a Ryanair plane to Greece. (How he manages to lose everything he loves right in the middle.) Our path ends at the corner of Parks Road and Norham Gardens where every double-decker in Oxford is waiting for us. It is June, and the last day we will see each other, and the whole city feels like it is coming alive.
Hannah Yoest I know the light in his eyes is from the emergency vehicles passing in the street bellowâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; but in his eyes their signals shimmer, held there like moonlight on a lake fitful from wind and wakes. I rock to and fro, causing a shadow to cross his face, only partially eclipsing the glow. His gaze itself is a buoy holding me through the tumult of the light.
Henry Dane I was a six-year-old meat missile. My parents drove their car across a parking lot into a mattress store and were killed instantly. I landed in soft, goose-down feather bed. *** I was adopted by my father’s brother, Uncle Luke, a self-taught, self-employed carpenter outside Chicago. When I was eight Uncle Luke had an interview for a decent job in New York City. I was on Christmas vacation from school, and he brought me with him on the train. The job didn’t pan out, but so the trip wouldn’t be a complete bust, Uncle Luke decided we would visit the Empire State Building. We stood in line for two hours with holiday crowds and took a packed elevator up to the open-air observatory on the 86th floor. The ride lasted a long time and my ears popped. Outside in the winter chill my uncle stared out into space, lost in a dream until I cried from the cold. “Last time I take you anywhere,” Uncle Luke said. His promise lasted four years. Uncle Luke received a notice on a piece of embossed stationery from a law firm declaring him sole heir to possessions belonging to his deceased father: a parcel of land near Denver, Colorado; a house; its contents; and a “homemade mechanical aircraft under construction, known as ‘the Byrd’, as shown in the enclosed photograph.” Plus an “expense fund.” The terms required my uncle to continue his father’s work on the flying machine in order to receive the bequest. Uncle Luke signed the agreement, and they gave him a check. He told me all this the day he informed me we were moving. I asked to see the photo of the aircraft. “Later,” he said. “Just pack the truck with things you need.” “Not until you show me the picture.” 55
He thrust the snapshot at me. I took it from his hand and studied it. He snatched it back and said, “Get a move on.” “I don’t want to go.” “Pack up your stuff,” he said with a cold edge, “Or stay here until the landlord throws you out.” I emptied the clothes from my bureau drawer and threw them in a bag. *** The scenery on the road to my grandfather’s place was endless stretches of trees with the occasional gas station, where we stopped to refuel and grab a bite to eat. Radio reception was poor, with hellfire preachers and scratchy country music. The truck had a cassette tape player in it. I dug out a tape by Jimi Hendrix from the bottom of the glove box and popped it in the player. Fuzz guitar licks blasted out. My uncle hit the eject button. “I don’t need reminders of Viet Nam, thank you.” We took turns driving and sleeping. My uncle had taught me to drive when I was eleven. I was an old hand with a year of driving under my belt. After long stints behind the wheel, my uncle passed out beside me, I turned the radio down and slipped in the Hendrix cassette. That revived me enough to eject the tape before my uncle woke up and return to the radio until the next shift change. We arrived on the third day of non-stop driving at sunset. Uncle Luke covered the last hundred miles. I was wide-awake in anticipation. We got our first glimpse of the “flying machine” from a long way off, lit by the ruby rays of the setting sun. The thing stole the breath from both of us. It looked way too large to ever get up in the air, yet it resembled a gigantic bird, nested beside a shack in a clearing on the edge of a dense oak forest. Close up it was a sea of white waves, a thing created by a gifted sculptor or a mad carpenter. *** The little rustic house beside it was the only structure for miles, part of the property listed in my grandfather’s will. Now the building belonged to Uncle Luke, like its winged guardian.
“I don’t feel right about entering that house just yet,” my Uncle Luke said. “We’ll wait a day.” We set up a lean-to against a shack around the corner from the flying machine. I woke next morning, alone and confused, to the sound of hammering. I pulled back the door flap of the tent and saw my uncle pounding away at the bird-thing with a mallet. It was hard to tell whether he was building it or destroying it. His gray T-shirt was black with sweat and grime. The vast white mound dwarfed him in the light of day, like the scene in the old photo that came in the mail and changed everything. Uncle Luke spent his time in the Viet Nam war as a mechanic servicing Huey helicopters. Working on a giant flying machine seemed a reminder of those days that didn’t bother him. *** When my uncle was a young man, his father, an engineer, sent him a round-trip plane ticket to London, paid for with the proceeds of a profitable project. He took Luke to see the site of a famous landmark on the outskirts of the city. They boarded a bus with a destination placard that read, “Crystal Palace.” They rode to the last stop on the line, in the middle of a residential housing district. John asked the bus driver how to reach Crystal Palace. The driver told them this was as close as they could get on the bus. They’d need to finish the journey on foot. After a long walk under threatening skies, Uncle Luke and his father came to a wild field sprouting electric towers. High-tension wires overhead buzzed and hummed with electricity. His father told him that on this site, in among the towers, stood the ruins of Crystal Palace, a world-famous exhibition that had burned to the ground nearly a hundred years before. Together they waded into overgrown fields as a light drizzle began. My grandfather showed Uncle Luke the remnants of fantastic animals, once on display at the great palace. Ruined remains of great stone dinosaurs grazed in the tall weeds and saplings. Uncle Luke gazed through the falling rain in sad reverence at the broken stub of a Brontosaurus’s tail, the crumbled claws of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and the rows of rocky spines dotting a headless Stegosaurus’s arching back. His father insisted they try to find his favorite animal in spite of the increasing downpour. By the time they did they were thoroughly drenched. They stood together in torrential rain and marveled at a stone statue of an Archaeopteryx, the prehistoric bird of prey believed by some to be the missing link between dinosaurs and birds.
“I still remember those beasts from a bygone era,” Uncle Luke told me. “Watching them go extinct all over again. For years afterward, I dreamed of going back there, hooking them up to those electrical towers and jolting them back to life.” *** I discovered my grandfather’s home was much more than a shack when I ventured into it later that day. The house boasted a kitchen, two miniature bedrooms, a bathroom, and a workshop. The place was set up to support a single purpose: the building of the flying machine. The shop contained hundreds of tools hung from hooks, in cabinets, and on shelves. It was equipped with a working lathe and various grinding machines to form parts and shapes needed to make that impossible aircraft. There was an old wooden desk with rolled-up handwritten blueprints and plans in large cardboard boxes alongside it. We moved our few possessions into the shack and set up housekeeping. Uncle Luke tacked up the old photograph on the doorpost. Then he went out the door and got back into the pickup, slammed the door, and kicked over the engine. I rushed out after him, convinced he was going to leave me there. “Wait!” I hollered. 58
He rolled down the window and grinned at me. “Stay with our stuff,” he said. “I’m just going to fetch a few things at a store we passed on the way here.” I sat on the bare ground outside the door, keeping a wary eye on the sleeping machine. Uncle Luke returned an hour later with shopping bags full of food and supplies. We carried them into the shack. He opened one of the bags, pulled out a box, and handed it to me. I gaped at a plastic model kit of a Brontosaurus. He never gave me gifts, not even on my birthday or Christmas. Life with my uncle was strictly no-frills. Later I realized the kit was intended to keep me busy and out of his hair while he worked. It also turned out to be a parting gift. *** Uncle Luke enrolled me in a school miles away. I was still a minor, and it was the law that I get an education. He drove me there in the morning and came to fetch me at the end of the day. It was a very different place from the school I used to attend. The kids were dressed in nice clothes and plenty of them had cell phones. I guessed their families were doing pretty well. Students and teachers kept their distance from me and I kept to myself. I might have otherwise dreaded going to that school, if I hadn’t liked its library so well. The cavernous room was packed with shelves full of dusty books. The place was usually empty, except for me. I never saw any librarian, and no one was on duty to check out anything. I took whatever books I wanted and brought them back when I was through. The Art History section had a good collection of books on different artists. One clothbound volume, Bird in Flight, by Hans Delooft, had a shredded cover, weighed at least five pounds and became my new best friend. The volume featured Constantin Brancusi, whose sculptures embraced the nature of flight with few of the physical aspects of birds. His sinewy Bird in Space reached up and soared through the heavens without ever leaving the ground. There was a chapter on Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex on the Flight of Birds and a collection of illustrated plates of his drawings of flying machines that were said to have failed. One rainy day after the lunchtime recess bell, a gang of boys closed ranks on me at an inside corner of the school building. They barked nasty laughs and blocked me in. The leader, Stevie, a huge brute with a crew cut, broke from the group, stepped forward, and leaned into me with clenched fists. 59
He opened his hands, and shoved me hard. I staggered back, clutching my beloved library book, worried about dropping it in the mud. Stevie came at me again with a furious, scrunched-up face. I swung the book as hard as I could and caught him full on the nose. A hard splat reverberated between the school’s brick walls. Blood sprayed from his face like I’d knocked the cap off a hydrant. He clapped his hands to his face and ran off wailing. My book was saved from the mud but covered in blood. The other kids backed away. From then on they let me alone. I never brought the book back to the library. *** Uncle Luke stroked his mustache, deep in thought, driving me to and from school. As soon as we arrived home, he busied himself with the Byrd or working in the shop. We rarely spoke. I prepared suppers for us. He collected his plate and picked at it while he worked. I ate alone at the table, then spent the evening doing my homework, reading my books, or working on my own constructions from slats of light wood and scraps salvaged from my uncle’s trash bucket. Late in the evenings, Uncle Luke settled back and relaxed in an overstuffed chair. He kept his pipe going with Ohio Blue Tip matches as he pored over my grandfather’s papers. When I felt sleepy I said goodnight, mainly to myself, and went to bed. *** On the last day I came awake to the steady drone of engines. I got up and checked Uncle Luke’s room. He wasn’t there and his bed hadn’t been slept in. I sniffed at a vague stench of scorched hair—or feathers. I opened the door to an overcast morning, and I was hit with the full force of the burning stink. I noticed the ground that had been beneath the Byrd was now a vast area of pale earth. Far above it in the sky hung a low, feathery cloud, if a cloud could have hung that low and been solid enough to block out the sun. The cloud shimmered and pulsed with the thrumming motor. An intense flash blinded me—
BEEE-YAAAM! The screeching blast flung me through the doorway. Lying on the floor, I somehow found the sense to kick the door shut on debris pelting the shack. When all was silent, I crawled over and cracked open the door to fuming heaps of wood and metal on the ground in front of the shack. No one came to check out the explosion. Maybe we were too far out in the sticks for anyone to have heard it. Or people may have realized what it was and stayed away. I left everything where it was in the shack, except for my grandfather’s plans. I loaded those into the cartons and pushed them into the center of the living room. I placed the plastic model Brontosaurus on top of the pile and fetched the Ohio Blue Tip matches from the kitchen. The flaps of the cardboard boxes curled and fumed. The blueprints caught fire. Flames licked the feet of the dinosaur. The plastic lizard bowed his head on its long, green neck in heat and shame. On my way out the door, I pulled out the thumbtack and grabbed the old photo off the wall and stuck it in my wallet. The sun was almost set. I started the Ford and drove away. I didn’t check the rear-view mirror for a long time. When I finally did, the shack was a firefly sparking in the night. I drove until the truck ran out of gas. I walked a couple miles, sticking my thumb out at cars. They whizzed by. A kid hitchhiking at night was a tough sell in those parts, but in less than an hour a beat-up Range Rover with a loud exhaust skidded to a halt. An old guy rolled down the window. He leaned out and blinked at me. He was either very tired or very drunk. “Can ya drive me into town?” “Sure thing,” I said. He slid over on the bench seat and I opened the door and hopped behind the wheel. He snored beside me the whole ride, but I could hardly hear him. I think the muffler had a hole in it. I left him sleeping, parked on a side street with no meters. I spent the rest of the night sitting in the train station. I took a train to New York City and I slept most of the ride. I might have snored a bit myself. ***
I woke from a dream where I was flying. I hid myself away in a corner of the Empire State Building open-air observation deck on the 86th floor. I’d managed to get in just before closing. The curved metal fence that’s supposed to keep people from jumping would be easy to get over with a little boost. I set my heavy backpack down and removed the parts of the flying apparatus. I assembled the base and cross pieces and unfolded the folded wing panels. Then I strapped the harness tight. I took the picture from my wallet and studied it. My grandfather silhouetted against a dream. *** An updraft tugged the photo from my hand. It fluttered up and away with the breeze. The wind was just right. I closed my eyes and tilted my face up to the hazy daylight. Hendrix chords droned in my head, thrumming like the music of the motors of the flying machine that soared through my dreams the night before. I spread the wings open and caught the wind. Like Hendrix, I was ready to kiss the sky— *** —goodbye. The aircraft coasted along on the brisk current. The weight provided just enough ballast to keep it gliding straight and true. Whoever found the flying machine was probably baffled by the big book of birds-in-flight with its stained, shredded cover, strapped into a harness designed by da Vinci, with adjustments courtesy of my grandfather.
Of Course You Can Go Home Moshe Fine
Should the seasons mistake themselves for wolves circling faster, and the sun chase the moon around the center of the universe ten thousand times an hour and should the sky be scribbled bright still it is so long until an ending and should knees always joint up, heel to ass, the old Russians will still click dominos on the concrete chessboards of Ocean Parkway each time I come to Brooklyn and the wiry junkie still beats his mother along the cars moving past and I cannot see a Jew in black and white without rising to spit at his feet, and still on Facebook my uncle shares a speech on the brown virus swarming Europe.
Rabbi Yochanan and Resh Lahkish Moshe Fine
Yochanan sat in meditation opposite the doors of the women’s baths glowing like a chalice still kiln red halfway between sunlight and shadow, filled with the livid roe of a pomegranate so the daughters of Israel, emerging, might look first upon fat Yochanan of all the stuff of the world and bear children as beautiful. When Resh Lahkish gladiator highwayman leaping shore to shore splashes in beside him bathing, in the river, says sorry thought you were a chick Yochanan replies study with me and you shall have my sister he can do nothing but accept and lumber from the water to disband his men, sodden robes dripping off his erection and when he fucks Yochanan’s sister that night he can see only the Rabbi’s beardless face shining purple and heatgold, shadow and sun, and when Resh Lahkish kicks the bucket Yochanan walks squiggly lines around the Beis Medrash, from abortive partner to partner, until he dies, finally, for grieving.
fingers crossed Andrew Gillis
iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m sitting on the concrete step of my front porch at midnight when i catch the young man who lives across the street kick open his backyard gate and saunter out upon the lawn pushing a heavy load of sunshine in a wheelbarrow. he wipes the sweat off his forehead, forced to bask in the sweet of the yellow heat, and leads his goods to the edge of the curb where he then pours it wholesale into the gutter, product sifting without fanfare through the lip of overgrown weeds, singing its usual heaven-sent hum into the deep of grime and shade, becoming an echo of itself. i used to call this a waste. i used to consider the worst crime to be the ruining of something made from oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hands: warm and welcome gifts like fresh bread, carvings and clay, letters sent to lovers with a blush of perfume. but the sunlight digs deep in its own grave, through the cracks of the concrete belly, and bends the ancient knuckles
of its hand around the wet mulch beneath the neighborhood’s collective lawn. a type of recycled good i haven’t seen or felt anywhere else. i stop to wonder if somewhere on the other side of this empty suburban street there exists in my neighbor’s wheelbarrow a blueprint for the type of mourning that’s spurned from wasted chances, from hands held out palm-up with an invitation never taken; if in the world there exists instructions for a forgiveness that comes when the worst of the ruining has long since passed. i wait every night to see if my neighbor leaves it behind so i may find those words and earn them. when he roughly drags that wheelbarrow back behind the gate and disappears without a single word into the confines of his own home, i think, i hope, that from this loss a new grass will grow.
Night Journey: Good Haul Stephen Fretz
oh little nebula, brain in the moon, Andrew Gillis
iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve counted the inches of space between myself and the roof of night, swallowed them until the bright white glow of secondhand sun crowns the atmosphere, until every constellation of contented stars rains wet and hot upon the upturned mulch of my backyard, their sight akin to pen clicks, knuckles popping, fleeting and gone before they start. i am the son of a father who never claimed that name, absence insisting i draw maps that trail nowhere, faces that belong to no one, and i wonder if there is a truth in the back of every brain that we ignore until it hurts us, mind eaten by sleep and smoke, forced by a falling sky to finally address the one thing inside us that could kill. there are nonsense psalms transcribed in those secret journals of my misspent youth, and when the words are turned inside out, nonsense texts becoming postcards, i see his name in the verses, a to:
is that enough? i’ve drawn enough eyes to know how the nose and mouth are meant to follow, but in one journal a hard stare returns on me half finished, cut off by the news of how he shifted from is to was. the sketch then blinded from detail by a window flood of sun on the milk white page. i think to myself if i don’t move, maybe it won’t be true, myself stuck until night to gather the truth of my own last message to him among a heap of stars
Andrew Gillis thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s an older man, i know, who sleeps among this thicket with a face like mine, eyes like mine, corporeal form curled behind the curtain of shadow at the heart of spiderweb oak. i have seen the night turn over in its sleep, a wide black, no forgiving star to cut the even dark of canopy apart, and i wonder if this will be when i find his grave and finally clear the path between us, upturn the sick of scripture i spoke to him in tongues but swallowed back, hid, in the tar of my own throat. i am no man carved from the shadow of his frame, yet still, i wonder, if.
Seven to None
Rhea Dhanbhoora They can’t book the baug because they’re a mixed family and the husband hasn’t had his Navjote, but their eight-year-old wants to be like the other children in the colony, so they decide to have a ceremony on the terrace instead. She’s more interested in gifts than prayers, she says, twirling desperately in her polka dot dress, and insists on creamcoloured lace attire and flower braids for her big day. The husband hopes the traditional dinner afterwards won’t disappoint. The wife hopes she can convince the priests at the Agiary to perform the ceremony for a mixed faith family, and that everyone shows up for her little girl, even those who don’t think the family belongs in the flat. The flat for one her mother left in her will for this family of three, so they could stop looking at the hole-in-the-wall houses they couldn’t afford in the crumbling buildings they didn’t want to live in outside the big red gates. The ceremony is a success. The priest doesn’t protest, neither do the neighbours. The stage is littered with lilies as children play and adults wait for the bar to open. Dinner is served after the rum and salty wafers, seven-courses on banana leaves spread out on rented wooden tables. The wife hand-makes the personal printed menus on cream paper, tied with the lilac ribbons that also hold the slippery satin covers together to hide paintsplatters on the plastic chairs. Occasionally, one of the elaborate wreaths swinging over the makeshift canopy on the terrace drops a stray flower into the votives by the place settings.
Lagan Nu Achar, Sarya & Topli Paneer The wife has forgotten to order the rotli, but she has time to sneak an order in. The husband believes she’s done this to cause him undue stress. His hands are on her neck after their argument, one thumb pressing down lightly, then lifting up — teasing the threat she often wishes he would go through with. He folds her into a quick embrace when they hear their daughter shuffling into the room in her cream lace dress. Everyone thinks the caterer has made the softest cottage cheese, and the best apricot and date pickle. The daughter sneaks into the kitchen with her friend in the silver slingbacks for more saria wafers, wiping oily hands on her new dress, the straps of her sudrah proudly sticking out of the scalloped neck. The husband’s hands hover airily over the nape of his wife’s neck, his fingers lightly tracing frizzy strands of hair that have fallen down from a hurried bun as he utters a polite Jamva Chalo Ji to her side of the family. Sali Jardaloo Chicken The husband is not happy with his wife’s poultry selection, even though a week ago he was craving the potato sticks and apricot in the sweet and sour chicken gravy that his wife hates. His foot finds hers under the table as they discuss it at lunch. He knows it’s heavy enough to crush her little toe; he’s done it before. The daughter practices her prayers for the event. The husband’s foot reaches for his wife’s under the table, looking for a little entertainment that the row of diners sitting across can see clearly. The chicken gravy is too sweet and she prefers farchas, but she eats it so her daughter doesn’t think parts of dinner are optional. Patra ni macchi A week before the ceremony, the wife is tired of talking about the menu but her daughter wants to know whether there will be two types of fish. No, we can’t afford two types of fish, she doesn’t tell her. The husband says he can’t keep giving the wife money to spoil the child. She wants to dip into her savings to give her daughter the two types of fish but her husband has used the money on another Rolex. What’s hers is his, and what’s his, is his also. Everyone compliments the husband’s new watch. The steamed fish with the grass green spices is a big hit too. The husband gives his daughter a crisp note to spend at the toy stall he told his wife she shouldn’t have wasted money organising for the children. Salli Boti Someone tells her that loneliness is an illusion the month she starts poring over menus alone. It was unfair to think she is lonely because she is lucky enough to find a good man. I’m tired, I forgot, she says when her husband asks why the mutton has the same potato stick gravy as the chicken, but he knocks a lunchtime peg of rum off the table in 74
disagreement. Her daughter wants to know if daddy is angry. It was an accident, the wife tells her. There are no leftovers for the crowd-pleaser mutton course. The daughter scoops the Salli Boti up excitedly because her friends are pleased with the selection too. The husband sets his extra-large peg of rum down gently as he takes credit for the clever addition to the menu. Lilu Lasan Akuri None of the guests will be vegetarian, so the wife puts eggs instead of ladyfingers on the menu for people who don’t want to eat the fish. The husband thinks she should have cut the course out — the egg is terrible anyway. Money doesn’t grow on trees, he says. He puts another bottle of alcohol on her credit card because his money is for more important things like school fees and new shirts to replace all those she’s ruined. He squeezes her hand a little too hard when she asks him to pass her the salt at lunch. The caterer is complimented for adding garlic and spring onions to the scrambled egg mix served to all the guests, even those who have had the fish. The husband has seconds after a friend says it’s the best egg he’s had at a Navjote. He squeezes his wife’s hand gently as he passes the salt across their daughter’s head, and tells guests that dinner is a success because they’ve spent months going over the menu together. Lucky girl, the wife’s family nods with approval as he pours another peg. “Tandarosti,” they say raising their glasses to his health.
Mutton pulao daal There’s too much mutton on the menu and this dish would be better with some fried potatoes, the husband says as they dig into some of the rice and spicy lentil gravy for a quick lunch before the wife rushes off to pick up the priest. Their daughter loves mutton, but he doesn’t think she should be eating so much of it. It’s too spicy, so he spits a mouthful of it out on the table in protest. The daughter laughs and follows suit, wondering why her mother seems sad that they’re joking around, especially on such a good day. The wife spends the ten minutes she’s saved to iron her sari for the evening cleaning up the mess instead. No one notices the wrinkles on the pleats of her sari as she tucks them out of sight in a demure double-cross under the white tablecloths on the rented wooden tables. There’s no beating the tender mutton in this rice, the guests say, politely refraining from mentioning the missing potatoes. The husband busies himself in conversation with a fellow diner about the perfect spice balance in the lentil gravy. Her daughter rudely lifts her elbows up on the table in protest when the suited-up servers offer her some: she’s had enough at lunch. Lagan nu custard The wife is relieved dessert is not a source of contention. The husband loves the sickly sweet condensed milk, egg and sugar custard, though the daughter would have preferred cake. His shirt is not as crisp and white as he likes, so he spills red wine on the white lace tablecloth his wife was going to use at the ceremony. But he’s in a good mood, so he doesn’t shout about the mess. She rushes out to find a plastic replacement, so she doesn’t have time to blow dry her hair after arranging her daughter’s in a pretty flower-filled braid. Guests at the dessert table try to guess whether there’s nutmeg in the custard, the children are disappointed there’s no cake. This shirt is his favourite white shirt, the husband boasts as he drapes his dinner jacket over a lilac-bowed chair and rolls up his sleeves to dig into a third helping of sickly sweet custard. What a pity they haven’t put out a real white lace tablecloth, the neighbours say. There’s been a beverage related accident, they’re told. The wife tucks a frizzy strand of hair into the headscarf of her badly draped, wrinkled sari as people file out. Her daughter waves her friend in the silver slingbacks off, happy she finally has her own ceremony to discuss on the playground. 76
The daughter clutches the garlands she’s pulled down from the canopies with both hands, tucking her braids behind her ears before snuffing out the flames in the votives one by one. She’s happy she can finally wear a sudrah and kusti like the other children in the colony. The wife busies herself with the cleaning because the husband doesn’t want to pay the hired help extra to clear up after the guests have left. The husband would like to turn in, so the wife gathers up the presents and envelopes filled with money in a hurry. He doesn’t think the satin cloth on the chairs was draped well enough. She’s lucky no one noticed that the silver threads running through the handmade rose and lily garlands were uneven. She should have hired a professional if she couldn’t handle things herself. The daughter sits with a pile of presents in the living room as the husband rummages through envelopes filled with money that will go into his bank account instead of in a new one for the little girl. At least they’ve made up some of the money the wife wasted on the elaborate, unnecessary dinner with all the wrong dishes. The wife folds her crumpled sari in silence. A mass of orange flags flicker under the streetlights in the distance as she brushes out the knots in her hair she couldn’t get to before the Navjote began. The engraved ses from the ceremony lies forgotten on the rented wooden tables that will be taken away in the morning. He will blame her for letting those who, like him, are not part of the faith, touch the holy fruit, raw rice and rose water he left sitting out on the German-silver platter.
American Migrant Alf Abuhajleh
“You came here and took the jobs our fathers built for us.” We exploit our talents in the fertile fields, in the shadows of portable toilets, in asparagus rows retching, wrapping ripped rags around numb fingers for a nightshift at the Blue Smoke Slaughterhouse. “You came here and took the money our mothers earned for us.” We save what we can—for the future we promised each other, as our broken bodies built temporary walls against doubt and disappointment—and send the rest back to the remaining. “You came here and took the power our politicians wielded for us.” We march for dignity, for Corky and Chavez. We stand in solidarity, in the rain. Like those before us, since Tammany, we learnt to organize, to assemble, to smile through the beatings with grace. “You came here and took the way of life our priests designed for us.” We huddle in the kickoff din after mass with Merriam-Webster on the kitchen table. Every Sunday a new word: Grateful. Gritty. Ravenous. The movement always forward, upward tilting, pulled toward our own divine crapshoot. “Why did you come here and take the dreams our gods shaped for us?” What else can we feed our children?
Rothko says, You—i’m interested in You (& my eyes’ colors, too); not in your interpretation of my eyes (say, White Center), but what happens when they meet w/ yours at a point you might want to wander somewhere else from, & after that, meet the rest of the colors, too —(Rothko’s democratic) . . . & you should also know these big tragic eyes (for a while orange, later pink, & as you’ll notice now black) from just a few particular drying-hours way back in 1950, want to make you feel
cold, seeing me Oh so warm! against the blank AC’d room, & all these colors you’ve been mistakenly trying to read into just want to love you—i’m interested in You (not my eyes’ color!); i want to see just what you think of You; it’s not some dooming, rectangular mirror, it doesn’t echo via chromatic association; it’s what ends up happening when you look into someone’s big eyes before realizing they might see you there, enjoying all the tragedy/ecstasy of these colors, as you wonder if you’re finally learning to enjoy You. & as you leave the Rothko exhibit today, ignore the suspicion you came here to meet a friend—We’ve known each other this entire time
rojas enters the pit, colorado 2013 Lucas Peel
this is how we have learned to love: sticky basements, blood spatter on a white tee. you say we should see the other guy with a crimson smile, and i think about how punk that really is. you, whose biggest fear is not being able to communicate with the dead in your native tongue. me, who flattened the earth with my want. see how we earn our scars, laughing and at the expense of others. see how the story is written, after the fact and with only one left speaking, or standing. see how we name the streets for your dead. see: Pueblo, Arapahoe, Kiowa, Cheyenne. out here they’re always burning something but, never the bones. those be buried. be built on. see how strong the foundation, see all of us white kids dancing on a mass grave. feel the weight of our boots, snuffing you out like a still-lit cigarette, these hands that haven’t yet had to bury one of its own, but ready still for the blood. i think about the kind of creatures we are or can be: born of the dirt and to it will one day return, just to see how much we can fuck up in between. and what of the plains, sprawling towards the horizon like the gold or god we’ve been looking for? burn it all, you say. become the ember or wildfire or howling wind, and you will find it, there, in the ground, where you left us behind for good.
The papers had been running stories about him for years. Hikers saw a grisled figure that disappeared in the trees. Campers came back to find their tents all rummaged through, but not by animals. The useful things were taken. Tools, cooking implements, books, blankets, clothes. Everything else was left arranged in rows. No one was sure who he was, or if he was even real. There was talk of bigfoot. Others reposting or commenting on the articles thought he was probably just a lunatic. These stories kept on coming up on her feed, and she would wonder. She would read the details and think about what it would be like to live away from everything, if the fluorescent humming would totally disappear. So, with her tent and cooler, she went out there on the long weekend and waited. Steaks crackling and smoking on the grill. She banged on pots and pans, and called out, “Hermits wel-come, her-mits wel-cooome!” But, every time she made a racket, nothing happened, just the wilderness got deadly still. After the fire was out, she lied awake in the blackness of her tent, listening, deciphering the sounds. During the day, she walked along the creek, calling out to the hermit. The last morning it pelted rain, and she got drenched packing up. Her nose started running and she was sneezing, coughing, and feeling faint. There was a hill of mud between her and the old oil road where she had left her car. The cooler hung from her shoulder by its strap. The rucksack and tent were on her back. She pulled herself up the mud by the low branches and saplings. When she got to the top, the blood rushed out of her head, everything went pins and needles, and she tumbled down backwards. When she awoke, covered in mud, she was lying on a flannel blanket under a shelter of plastic and tin with the rain pattering, and someone standing over her. He sat down beside her head. “It will be hard for me. The words do not come easily… not being used for so long.” The hermit spoke haltingly, and sort of over-pronounced. Like he was giving a very 82
formal address but couldn’t mask his mistrust in what he was saying. He picked something up from his lap. A notebook. He wrote down the words before he spoke them, looking only at the paper. She felt her head with her palm, looked up at him, and rubbed her eyes. He turned away, searched through the piles of stuff around him, then pivoted back with two spoons and a container of yogurt that looked just like the one from her cooler. “How long has it been since you’ve spoken to another person?” He shoveled in some yogurt, looking at the notebook, writing words, and eventually he answered, sometimes with minutes between phrases. “Since I left. Al-though I have seen people since. But you are the first woman I have seen or heard since I left.” “Great. Good to know.” He didn’t acknowledge the sarcasm. It was hard not to look directly at the dabs of yogurt caught in his beard as he ate and spoke. When he did make eye-contact with her, it
surprised him and derailed his speech. “How long ago was that -- that you ‘left’?” “How long ago was… the leak? ...that spill. that big oil spill?” “Which one?” “The one up north.” “I wouldn’t know. There’s been so many.” She sneezed and it startled him, but he collected himself, wrote some words, considered them, and then spoke. “Twenty-some. Close to thirty. Years.”
“...And you’ve lived here all this time?” “No… I found this place later.” “...Why?” “Because I was… traveling through from the river.” “But why did you choose to live in the woods alone for thirty years?” “I do not remember exactly what the reasons were then. It felt right.” “Well, then why did you stay?” “It felt right.” He didn’t laugh or smirk. He had spoken his sincere and complete answer. “Come on. Talk to me. I’m here. You may as well talk now.” “No, thank you. No insult meant.” He looked suddenly into her eyes, then away, and shook his head, turned his face down to the notebook, mouthing words to himself, and without putting his eyes back on her, he spoke more. “When I am here there is nothing else... but my experience. No worry but my experience. There is me, the world, and my thoughts. And not much difference between them. Here I am the experience. I do not need to go by a name or to think about myself 85
in terms of how I think others think of me. I have the daylight and the moonlight and my books.” “...So you’re a narcissist?” He blinked into the notebook. “Narcissis... I do not know. I am helping you, corr-ect? I think... I just have a lower tol-er-ance for... con-tam-i-nation... Maybe that is why being out here is where I live.” He looked around. Birds were calling. The rain had stopped. Sunlight broke through the gaps in the shelter. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and said, “Eat whatever you want... except the a-ru-gu-la -that is only for me. I will read now... Reading is better... There is good light now… Here.” He took a paperback from the pile of books beside him, set it in his lap, and handed her a volume of stories that had the front cover missing and the name of some school board stamped across the frontispiece. She took it, opened the first page, and kept an eye on him. He was there reading but gone in his book. She closed her eyes and the wilderness performed its motifs around her. She looked down and the low-angled sun pierced through the makeshift roof, enlivening the characters on the page.
Hallelujah Junction Dominic Symes
they are stacking up the chairs at the Exeter as we walk out of the cinema Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m a sucker for endings those parting tears from the perspective of an open fireplace remember us to the balmy night nothing is supposed to last forever & shouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t this be liberating? my fingers play this conversation as Schubert as a young Mozart as a fleeting thought as exit music for a film a song for the flies that rest on your unbuttoned shirt & the words that transform your tongue into a foreign body a song the sound of your piss in the bathroom with the curtains drawn slides pass across the wall these brief moments of stillness these antiquated forms we learn by touch alone in your bed we have another conversation remaining staunchly theoretical right up until the moment I fall asleep on your chest
I hear the call for last drinks ringing through the alley though Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m hardly here Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m with you in that remembered summer my heart is like the skin of a peach in the blazing afternoon go ahead & fuck me up
From & To the Fields Ellen Zhang
Coming to terms with the fields, our backs tenses only when needed. It’s been five years and sometimes you dream in English. You tell me it takes you time to picture home. Sometimes, I mix up my tenses. I can’t remember who came, come, comes first. I always know what season it is, which state we head into, and what our hands do next. Our hands are not beautiful. They are not the fruits of our labor, in the most literal. It’s a good thing, really, since English is our second language. You joke you speak of apples, quite literally. It is summer now, the kind that melts from Saturdays, you relinquish parts of yourself into me, secrets preserved like of the past. We blow white powder, we wish it were dust, off our hands. It flies back into our face, sticking to our teeth, between every tilde, unraveling of shadows in dusk. Last Saturday, we folded sadness into tamales, holding remnants of the promises that we’ve made. This is the pause between exhaustions. Not much survives that dryness of desert. Maybe the thirst for salt. Maybe nothing.
Contributors Fiction & Non-Fiction James Brodows’ writing has appeared in Cordite Poetry Review; Litro; Pif Magazine; Southword Journal; Wilderness House Literary Review. Henry Dane’s stories have appeared in The Infinite Spectacle: Short Stories of Displaced Reality, Lighthouse Digest, Route One Magazine, and Thread. Rhea Dhanbhoora has spent most her life writing poetry, stories, and essays. In 2003 she published a book of poems title Poetry Through Time. She holds an English degree from the University of London, where she worked as a Reporter and Feature Writer in Bombay. Rhea focuses on telling stories of women, specifically in the Zoroastrian/Parsi community. She is currently pursuing my MFA in Fiction at Sarah Lawrence, in New York, and she is also the Fiction Editor at Lumina Journal. Zebulon Huset is a writer and photographer living in San Diego. He received his MFA from the University of Washington, and his writing has recently appeared in The Southern Review, Louisville Review, Meridian, North American Review, The Cortland Review, The Portland Review, The Maine Review, and The Roanoke Review among others. He occasionally publishes a writing prompt blog (Notebooking Daily) and his flash fiction submission guide was reposted at The Review Review. Patrick Legay wore a green Robin Hood costume as a child in Halifax, N.S., playing stories in the forest around the lake with his siblings and school friends, who were generally also dressed up as something. Sometime after the costume no longer fit, Patrick moved to Toronto for school, but stayed to do labour relations and pay equity work with university unions. He now lives and writes by the far ocean in Victoria, B.C. His work has previously appeared in The Writing Disorder, Danse Macabre, and Literary Yard. Jim Ross resumed creative pursuits in 2015 after retiring from public health research. He’s since published 80 pieces of nonfiction, several poems, and 180 photos in 85 journals in North America, Europe, and Asia. His publications include Bombay Gin, Columbia Journal, Friends Journal, Gravel, Ilanot Review, Lunch Ticket, MAKE, The Atlantic, and Thin Air. He and his wife-parents of two health professionals and grandparents of four little ones--split their time between Maryland and West Virginia.
Sogol Sur is the author of Sorrows of the Sun (Skyscraper, 2017). She just completed a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London. R.C. Weissenberg is a writer of various things (mostly short stories), who spends most of his time in the Southwestern United States - that is, when he isn’t reading and traveling to other worlds.
Photography William C. Crawford is a photographer based in Winston-Salem, NC. He invented Forensic Foraging, a modern motif for digital photographers Stephen Fretz continues to do the photo equivalent of “write what you know,” believing – pace Shelby Lee Downard – that the banality of these sites actually increases their power, as sorcery is the last thing we expect. Being schizophrenic and collecting Disability gives him plenty of time for this. His photographic education came from reading every issue of Aperture in the college library, and a weekend at William Eggleston’s house, which may have involved some drinking. The work is in color because the world is.
Poetry Alf Abuhajleh, originally from Sweden, lives in Lake Tahoe, California. This is his literary debut. Jesse Albatrosov is a poet living and writing in the Central Florida area with her husband and five children. She is currently obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature and spends her free time reading and studying the Japanese language. As an ESL tutor, Jesse is passionate about language learning and currently works with students online and in her community. She is a 2018 Pushcart Prize nominee, and her work is published or forthcoming in The American Journal of Poetry, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Feminine Collective, Sky Island Journal, Mothers Always Write, Press 53’s Prime Number Magazine, and others. Matthew James- Professor. Writer. Failed breakdancer. Books: Points of Reference (Folded Word); Strange Terrain (Mad Hat); and Heterodoxologies (Educe Press). Future Perfect (Ferry Street Books) and Four Tales of Troubled Love (Harvard Square Editions) forthcoming in 2018. Have also donated unicycles to the disadvantaged. Moshe Fine was born in 1993, in Brooklyn, New York’s Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. He is an MFA candidate at the University of Baltimore. His work has appeared in The Birds We Piled Loosely, and is forthcoming from Alternating Current. He has served as poetry editor of Welter. Andrew Gillis is a student at Stephen F. Austin State University and is working towards a BFA in Creative Writing. He’s been published in the literary undergrad journal HUMID three times before, and lives in Nagocdoches, Texas. David J. Hills is a poet and playwright from the Great Appalachian Valley currently living in Baltimore, Maryland. His work has previously appeared in Flight, an anthology in response to the refugee crisis. Komal Keshran is a youngin with a vision to change the world via art. She is interested in language and math, apart from the arts. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in 100/100 Home (print), Tweetlit (online), The Write Launch (online), APIARY 9: Sanctuary (print), Bridge: The Bluffton University Literary Journal (online) and Red Weather (online). Find her online at malandherwords.tumblr.com. Holly Painter is a poet, writer, and editor from southeast Michigan. Her first full-length book of poetry, Excerpts from a Natural History, was published by Titus Books in Auckland, New Zealand in 2015. Her poetry, fiction, and essays have also been published in literary journals and anthologies in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China, and Singapore. Holly lives with her wife and son in Vermont, where she teaches writing and literature at the University of Vermont. Lucas Peel is a professional ranter, amateur mess maker, and real life manchild. His work has appeared in the Allegheny Review, TL;DR Magazine, and the University of Colorado’s undergraduate feature, Reading in the Raw. Lucas currently lives in Aiea, Hawaii. We do not know what he is yelling about.
Travis Stephens was raised on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. He earned a degree at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, before departing for the West Coast. Stephens became a sea captain and now resides in California. He has been published in the Upriver anthology, NOTA, Stoneboat Review, Crosswinds Poetry Journal, and publications of the USNPS in Glacier Bay, Alaska. Dominic Symes (27) is a poet from Adelaide, Australia. His poetry has been published in Voiceworks, Award Winning Australian Writing (2016), Coldnoon (IND), Broadsheet (NZ) and is featured in the 2017 Australian Book Review ‘States of Poetry’ series. His criticism and reviews have appeared in Cordite. He is currently undertaking a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Adelaide. <http://www.domsymes.com> Colin Webb is a native of Baltimore, Maryland. Recent and forthcoming publications of his poetry can be found in The Northern Virginia Review, Garfield Lake Review, Forage Poetry, Cha, Mad Swirl, The Northridge Review, LEVITATE, Mantra Review, and others. Widely known as a singer and songwriter working in jazz, improvisation, and experimental music, Andrea Wolper is also a writer whose published work includes journalism, poetry, and two non-fiction books (Routledge; Watson-Guptill). In her Cento project she combines poetry and texts with composed and improvised music in a variety of musical settings, both conventional and unconventional. www.andreawolper.com Hannah Yoest is a writer and editor living in Washington D.C., where she works for a weekly magazine. She graduated from the University of Virginia where she studied fine art photography and political science. She also studied and workshopped poetry with Josh Bell at the Iowa Writers Workshop summer course. Ellen Zhang is an undergraduate student at Harvard University majoring in the life sciences. She serves as Editor-In-Chief of Harvard Prescriptions, and her poems appear in The Albion Review, Cuckoo Quarterly, The Quotable, several anthologies, and elsewhere. Ellen has received recognition from Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, Presidential’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, and Michigan State University. She has also studied under Jorie Graham and Joshua Bell.