The Review Staff: Editor:
Meredith Davis Production Editor:
Meredith Davis Layout Design:
Katie Nicksic First readers:
Lauren Kloslnski Xavier Vega Cover Photo, Front:
Storage Tanks, Monterey, CA by: Roger Camp Cover Photo, Back:
Burned Wall, Butte, Montana by: Roger Camp
Editorial Apeiron is in its fifth year. I am excited about that. When we started this magazine, it was purely out of the love of literature and the thought of publishing new works. At the time, the general sentiment I’d heard about starting yet another literary journal was, good luck. As in, you’ll be lucky if you last a year. And although we are still small, and readers, editors, and interns have come and gone, we are tenacious. I still do this for the love of literature and the feeling of publishing something new. Though, the feeling doesn’t from the publishing, really. The feeling comes when I open your submission, a poem or maybe some fiction, and the first line leads me to the last with a wave like feeling in my sternum – it circles ‘round my breast bone, looping through my ribs, and every now and then your words simultaneously break me apart and make me whole. And when it happens I try to grab that piece to give my readers that feeling. When the feeling stops I will stop opening submissions, but until then I am here. I’m not always on time as deadlines are terribly tricky things – mice leaving traps empty and untripped – but I will continue to honor your work and your process and try to do justice to the words that both break and build me. Thank you to all the readers, authors, and artists who make Apeiron possible each and every time. I'm glad it turned out to be more than a year; I’m excited to see what the next five will bring. -M
Table of Contents Photography Storage Tanks, Monterey, CA Roger Camp................................................................................................................Front Cover Hudson Joshua B. Huitz............................................................................................................................12 Two Houses, Peggyâ€™s Cove, Nova Scotia Roger Camp.................................................................................................................................18 Shade Dave Petraglia............................................................................................................................40 Burned Wall, Butte, Montana Roger Camp.................................................................................................................Back Cover
Poetry Something Personal, in Translation C.C. Russell...................................................................................................................................6 Leftovers & Reruns Samir Atassi..................................................................................................................................8 Raising My Pumpkin Samir Atassi..................................................................................................................................9 The End of the Universe Greg Hill......................................................................................................................................10 Each Friday Christina Lee...............................................................................................................................19 Rio Grande Gorge Bridge Christina Lee..............................................................................................................................27 The Handless Maiden (a Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale) Christina Lee..............................................................................................................................28
Moving Right Along Matthew Sisson.........................................................................................................................29 Not Yet Renee Anderson.........................................................................................................................30 Convergence Lawrence William Berggoetz.....................................................................................................31 The Circle of Life Brian McCarty.............................................................................................................................33 Epoch, a Division of Time Carol Matos................................................................................................................................42 Pilgrimage Jonathan Louis Duckworth........................................................................................................43 Let Us Leave Tom Montag...............................................................................................................................44
Non-Fiction The Ewe Stephen Brown............................................................................................................................13
Fiction Years Later Sieghard Jiang............................................................................................................................20 The Last Harvest Lee Reilly.....................................................................................................................................35 Tchotchke Ingrid Bruck................................................................................................................................41
Something Personal, in Translation C.C. Russell
You exited the water. You were of the water. You were wet â€“ all of the separate significances of this. Twenty years now and still waves, the insistent sound of their lapping. Things we cannot extinguish, this obstinate undercurrent of memory. Leaving the water, you were the water. Twenty years of dry hours but occasionally, the waves of this. Its insistent press. Its undertow.
Leftovers & Reruns Samir Atassi
I’ve seen this one before, and I can’t look away. Your hair’s a thicket of snakes, as you reach into the fridge for whatever we have and pull out a pound of ground, Laying it on the counter among rings of Shiraz. You circle the kitchen in endless sentences, and one of your words tips a bottle of Neuro Bliss to the floor. I watch you wipe it up in oversized purple sweatpants, butt-crack peeking out as knobby feet almost slip in the liquid, but catch their balance on bobby pins. And the fat Mangoscented candle burns on, as we flip from Law & Order to House to Castle. Your Cleveland Browns blanket fails; too many cigarette holes decorate its fleecy armor. From under the ashy orange helmet I watch as you add the can of sauce & stir it into the meat smoking on the stove. You turn to me and say, “We’ll make Sloppy Joes out of it.” You plop a small pile onto each stale bun, we eat them, then give in to sleep, becoming a hump of covers in the TV’s glow, a favorite show, a live feed from the past running on
Raising My Pumpkin Samir Atassi
My little sister is distracted by her two baby daughters blowing around like leaves in her living room. I myself, pregnant with turkey, sink deeper into the couch season by season, having no children only this pumpkin I brought from the supermarket. Petting it with sleepy eyes, I decide to raise my pumpkin this fall; gonna dress him in my green poncho, name him Julio, and stick a fresh jalapeno into the gash of his mouth. Or I’ll fit him with a monocle, and make him read this back stack of New Yorkers I got piled up to my eyes. His crazy grin by candlelight might give some teeny ghosts a fright, pointing him out where he smokes his jalapeno in the dark corner of the porch. We could learn Arabic from the Rosetta Stone together. I’ll keep him warm, and safe enough, teaching him all my best chess defenses. I’ll show him how to put together a bookshelf in half an hour, how to sweep the patio free & clean of leaves; of course I’ll have to fit him with a pair of twiggy hands so he can handle these daily tasks. When he’s old enough I will affix to his face a beard of cat-hair clippings, and with time he may come to grow legs of stepladder. One day the apparatus of him might be seen looking over the hedges that shield my porch from the parking lot’s homeless spaces waiting to be claimed. And my claim would be these lessons given, watching his eyes flicker like dark candles of home, editing the final shapes of his feelings as they occur to him, just the way we talked about in our Sunday writing workshops. And when he’s ready to sleep, I’ll blow out the glow in the carved holes, watch his smoky soul rise and curl up out of his darkening face. But the drumbeat will go on. I feel it now thumping on my chest, in time with the tiny feet of my nieces on a sugar-high, doing a Turkey Dance on top of me, my hand still resting, fatherly, on the pumpkin. And as my eyes clear I can see my sister’s watching all of us, tilting her head to the side like she used to; she’s having her own vision.
The End of the Universe Greg Hill
is farther away than we can imagine, though we imagine its cold finality like the end of the night when we’ve piled into the last lonely car in midnight’s snow-tossed parking lot, the last one along the industrial road behind the airport. You and I breathe in together, heavy hopeful breaths, and watch your black glove turn black key until the rusted Nissan wakes up from its own vacation. The end of the universe has no more light posts bowing sadly on the sides of salted highways. It will not matter where you drive, Love, anywhere it is the same, the last star’s last atoms flung apart so far and so quickly the welcome signs have all been turned around in the glass doors, the last books closed, memories of moons long gone, the old quanta make no bother anymore, skate aimlessly away from everything else, like the water bugs that used to exist— along with small frog orchestras, toy dolls and motel rooms, and bottle caps and little yellow threads and grandfather’s breath and stories— that just don’t anymore. All that’s left, my love, between all the uncounted electrons and the exhaust from your last half tank, are the dials of the car’s mute radio and this bag of Cheetos, and I think there may be some napkins in the glovebox.
Joshua B. Huitz
Stephen Brown Screefield’s ears perked up like they always do when he sees wildlife. He looked ready to chase. But he was looking down twenty feet of loose boulder towards the ice-covered Stillwater River, three-foot rapids bubbling out of the pockets where the ice couldn’t tame the rush. That’s all I could think about when I saw those ears — the ice and rapids and my dog, Scree, gone with them. My other two pups were still lost in the leisure the hike was supposed to be when they looked up to see me running along the fifty-foot granite wall of the narrow canyon trail screaming, raspy and desperate, “Leave it!” Screefield has never “left it.” It’s the only time his loyalty leaves him. I have chased him for hours over miles, following paw prints in the snow, hearing playful yips as he flushed deer from distant foliage. It’s the wolf in him, what little there is. But he did “leave it” this time. He stood on slick rock at the edge of the trail, staring down at something, his eyes ignoring my yelling but his body petrified. When I got to him, he finally looked at me. Down the tumble of rock and snow at the riverbank was a bighorn ewe kicking with her front hooves but unable to move, her back legs under her and her eyes wild, fixed on Scree. Of all the whitetail deer Scree had chased and failed to get, he had no desire to get this bighorn sheep. Maybe the sport of it was gone. Maybe he felt bad for the ewe. It seemed, rather, he was worried. He looked up at me like I should do something. It was something he had never seen. He was uncomfortable and looking to me for understanding, for direction. I felt the knife in my pocket, watching the ewe rock back and forth. Maybe its back hooves were caught between rocks. Maybe I could set it free. I began to go down to it, when my other two dogs noticed, finally being ripped from their seven-month-old-puppy world to the immediate world of this sheep stuck down by the rush of the river. “Stay!” I yelled. Screefield sat, but the puppies launched at the new wonder. I scrambled down the rocks, trying and failing to grab their collars. They circled the ewe, who still could only rock back and forth, kicking her front hooves as if to run. But
her back legs remained under her, motionless. Trail, my coonhound, bellowed, then looked to me and back at the bighorn. He didn’t know what to do but keep screaming. I joined, “Trail! NO!” The other pup, Lana, an 80 lb. malamute puppy, ran around the ewe, barking, lost in her unsure surprise of this creature before her. I grabbed Trail and threw his 60 lb. frame up a few rocks. He stayed. Screefield still looked down at me. I walked around the icy riverbank where Lana was in front of the ewe, barking over and over. The ewe eyed me, kicking her hooves at Lana’s barks and my screams. My voice was getting hoarse, the fear of the rapids beneath Lana tearing at my larynx. I stepped carefully on the snow and deep grey of early spring ice. Below the ice was the sapphire tumble of the waves and waterfalls that had carved the fifty-foot canyon walls around me. The ever-blue rush turned to jade and then foamy white in places where it navigated slabs of jagged granite, some of the boulders big as SUVs. The mess of rock, ice, and torrent didn’t slow down until dropping and levelling out a little under a mile downstream where the trailhead was. When I reached Lana, she went submissively limp, laying on her back on the ice. I widened my feet, bent down to scoop her up, and began up the rocks. The sheep stopped kicking as I shuffled around her. I looked down at her back hooves, none of them lodged in the boulders. On the rocks above the ewe, shit and sheep hair were scattered. The sky had been trying to snow all morning, fog lying low in the canyon and wetting each rock, leaving the slope up to the trail slick. Some rocks were rooted in the slope and others ready to tumble. I met Trail halfway up the ascent and began slapping his ass, urging him up the hill. As stubborn as that coonhound can be, he skipped up the boulders. When I got Lana up to the trail, Screefield greeted us with a paw on Lana’s head and a whine. I looked down at the bighorn, holding Lana’s collar, but feeling the knife in my coat pocket. I’d never killed anything before. I tried to picture it - putting my left hand on the ewe’s back, calming her for one last moment, and ripping my right hand with the knife across her throat. Screefield was still whining. “I’m sorry,” I yelled at no one and everyone. “I can’t do anything. Fuck.” Lana was tugging at her collar, lunging down the rocks again. Trail followed her urges, running down the rocks to look at the marooned sheep again. His body was rigid, still unsure of what he was supposed to do, so he let out another cry from deep in his ribcage to let me know something had to be done. “Trail! Trail, leave it. Come, Trail!” In his blood he couldn’t “leave it.” His job was to find something and let me know about it.
“Trail, come! Trail, leave it. Come, Trail!” But he wouldn’t, couldn’t listen. He had found something and his puppy mind wouldn’t let anything else but his instincts enter it. Why did I seldom hike with leashes? Why did I have to be so against ruining the freedom of my dog’s enjoyment in nature? Why was that a part of my moral code as a dog owner? Why was I not prepared for a moment like this? I scrambled down after him, still holding Lana as she pulled me. Screefield whined, still watching. “Scree stay! Good boy. Thank you.” I got Trail, and began lifting him with one arm, throwing him up the rocks again. When I did, Lana got loose in the other hand, circled the ewe again - rough barks flying from her jaws just inches from the sheep. The ewe rocked back and forth, kicking her front hooves here and there. I threw Trail up the rocks and pointed at him. He understood. When I went around the bighorn, she again stopped. I looked at her wet hair, watching it rise up and down. Her breaths were not heaving but slow, calm. She knew that I had no intentions to hurt her. She knew I wanted to get Lana and leave. She knew when I did, that she would be left with a fate she had already accepted. I grabbed Lana, threw her over my shoulder, and began the second ascent. “I’m so sorry,” I said while passing the ewe. A few feet above the sheep I slipped, letting Lana loose, and she again leapt up to meet the helpless ungulate. I stood up, “Fuck. Lana! No! Come!” She again stood in front of the ewe, barking over and over. The ewe no longer kicked. She no longer looked Lana in the eyes. She just stared ahead at the steep canyon wall, perhaps up at the gaps in fog, the white ripples of waterfalls petrified in ice on the sheer cliffs of the canyon walls, or the hints of blue sky above the jagged ridges of the Beartooth Mountains. I picked up a big rock and threw it down by Lana, “FUCK! COME! HERE! FUCK! LANA!” She didn’t flinch, still barking at the sheep. I took a deep breath and again went down to the iced riverbank. “Lana, get the fuck over here!” When I reached her, she again flopped on her back. I picked her up, my legs starting to shake, sweat dripping from my moustache. I marched up, again slipping on the rocks, my legs and feet no longer having enough control to navigate the variable of each rock’s stability and slickness.
“God dammit!” I tried to tug Lana up towards the trail by her collar, but she was still submissively limp. “Lana, let’s GO!” Trail was just above us, ready to leap down and bellow again. “Stay! You fucking stay, Trail.” He did. I threw Lana over my shoulder and gave Trail a nudge on the butt. Focusing on finding solid rocks, I placed each foot down carefully while kicking my other knee up in front me to find the next safe step. Lana lay limp in my arms, her tongue lolling and still watching the ewe at the bottom of the hill. I held her tight, gripping her loose puppy skin with my hands, while shepherding Trail in front of me. At the top, Scree again greeted us with a paw and a whine. I set Lana down, holding tightly to her collar, and kicked Trail on the butt to keep him focused on getting down the path. Scree led the way, ready to leave the situation and go home, sprinting ahead fifty yards at a time before stopping to look back and check on the pups and me. I don’t know what it means to die well. I don’t know what was behind that ewe’s stare up the canyon wall, into the gaps of fog, up at the last blue sky there was to find that day. I’m not sure about much of anything. But when I got to town I called the game warden. He told me he’d take care of it.
Two Houses, Peggyâ€™s Cove, Nova Scotia Roger Camp
Each Friday Christina Lee
outside a yellow house at 8:00 am, the woman washes her car. She wears solar-system flannel pajamas. She scrubs and the rings around Saturn quiver. Hard at work, she never looks up to see me idling in the car line but I can see her face, absorbed
in the peace of a sail catching wind, a clean sheet shaken over a bed, smooth with its purpose.
I think of her as I unlock my classroom door, write the date on the board, sort photocopies, put water on for coffee, wipe yesterday’s grime off a desk. I think of her as I will my work
to catch, fill, lift me high above the itch of another day’s folded hours.
Sieghard Jiang Ten years ago she was pursuing her Master’s degree in sociology in a Chinese university. She and another classmate, Gang Chen, worked as volunteers for a non-governmental organisation. Their tasks were to explain to sex workers how to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS, and to give them free condoms. Her motivation of being a volunteer was not as selfless as it appeared but her real intention was to practise her skill of field work, a typical methodology for social sciences. She endeavoured to collect data to support her arguments of her graduate thesis. Her supervisor required her to report her progress once every two weeks. This day, she came to her supervisor’s office and submitted her research. After skimming her report for several minutes, her supervisor asked: “You and Gang Chen serve as volunteers for the same NGO?” Nodding her head, she added: “But we work in different quarters of the city. In theory, our subjects are different.” “You and Gang conduct research individually, each covering three quarters, in total, six quarters of our city. Yesterday I read Gang’s report and just now yours. I am not sure if you discussed with each other before. But, I find that about 80% of your subjects come from the same village!” With a solemn expression, her supervisor uttered each syllable forcefully: “Presumably, a chain of sex trade may have been formed in this village.” She was totally speechless out of this sudden shock. “You and Gang can probably do a field work in the village together and may discover more. But you must bear one thing in mind. When you communicate with your subjects, you shall always remember your research purpose, but meanwhile you shall try to understand your subjects. Do not forget your identity as an academic researcher and its corresponding mission, but do not neglect the indispensable morals of ‘putting human being at the centre’!” Following their supervisor’s advice, she and Gang started to cooperate. One of the advantages of male-female co-operation was that they could conduct interviews with subjects of different genders more easily. Gradually they won the trust and even
friendship of many sex workers. When she and Gang said they wanted to visit their hometown, some of them were very ready to help. Her memory for that day was still vivid. She walked behind a female sex worker towards the village. She felt uneasy in an exciting manner because she knew what waited ahead was a cruel truth which might help her enter into the academic community. The situation was just as her supervisor had presumed. Among all villagers who migrated to the city, for those aged from 20 to 35, 70% of them made a livelihood as sex worker; in terms of gender, within this age scope, approximately 85% of the female worked as sex workers and the rate of the male was relatively lower but still amounted to 75%. The fundamental reason was that the village failed to provide any local sources for income, therefore gave no option for its villagers. On the other hand, the situation was worsened by the introduction and influence among villagers. Precedent villagers set the example and intentionally introduced forthcoming villagers for the same trade. Some of them even established an illegal intermediary network which proactively drew villagers still in their hometown to the city. On the basis of this field work, she and Gang published a joint paper. And thanks to this starting point of research, she received an offer of PhD scholarship from an overseas university. After graduation, she returned to China and held a teaching post in a Chinese university. Sometimes she looked back and felt that she had only turned around in the flowing river of time then all of a sudden, she became a supervisor for Master students. But, ten years had actually passed. Now, she stood again in front of the village, followed by two of her Master students. One of them asked: “Professor, is this village now quite different from ten years ago?” “In terms of construction, ten years ago, there were only one-floor cottages. At that time, the best road in the village was made of stones, about half a metre in width. Now, as we can see, there are many two-floor cottages and a cement road which I suppose is the major road of the village. But, this road is only half a metre wider than the old. Besides, the locations of these new cottages are the same as ten years ago. This means, they just demolished the old and rebuilt them in the original places. Look, these are photos I took in the village ten years ago.” She gave them a photo album. “Do you see? The locations of these houses do not change, in other words, the local government did not re-design the village over the past ten years. But we cannot conclude that the local government is completely absent. At least it rebuilt this cement road! If we pay visits to any villagers later, you shall observe very carefully both the exterior surrounding and the interior decoration of their houses. For example, do they have a
centralised supply of tap water? Or do they install water pump machines individually? Besides talking with them for academic purposes, you shall observe their living environment, their cloths, even the plantation in the village. These factors can help us make an initial judgement on the village’s overall condition.” “Oh, professor, it sounds so exciting, as if we were spies to steal military information from the enemy’s headquarters!” She smiled and replied: “We do need the sharp eyes of ‘spy’. But this is not ‘enemy’s headquarters’. It is the ‘headquarters of people’. My supervisor gave me a particular lesson which influenced me profoundly.” She could not help but continuing with a solemn voice. “Researchers shall always maintain calm and objective but we also shall bear in mind the indispensable morals of ‘putting people at the centre’. Our subjects are people, people of flesh and blood, people with idea and soul.” “Professor, the small boy in this photo, his smile is so innocent. How cute!” She looked at the photo closely and recalled the then ten-year- old boy. She and Gang came to the village several times. They came across this boy when they arrived at the village for the first time. Since then, every time when they conducted field work in the village, he followed them like a shadow. When they finished their last work and were going to leave, she gave him several books of fairy tale and beautiful stationary as gifts. Gang asked him what he wished to do when he grew up. The boy answered with a shy voice: “I wish to be like you.” His eyes blinked with sparkles longing for the outside world and knowledge. Her eyes became moist the moment she heard his dream. “Professor, do you think this boy still lives in the village?” “He shall be twenty years old this year. I wish he studies in a university.” “Professor, shall we try to find him?” She nodded her head, “Yes, let’s try.” Very excited at this task, these two students started to compare the house in the photo with those in front of them. She looked at them silently from behind and felt agitated. An old man walked by. The two students rushed towards him and asked if he knew the boy. “Oh, isn’t he the elder brother of the LI family? Look,” the old man pointed to a group of children playing not far away from them, “the little girl with two pigtails and green coat,
she is his younger sister.” “And this boy, the brother? Where is he?” “He left the village many years ago.” “For work or study?” “The youngsters of our village seldom study. They are eager to earn money quickly. He went to a city for work with a group of countrymen.” “What does he do in the city?” “He … I have no idea. Perhaps you shall ask his family members. ” She listened to this conversation on the side and felt her heart went down further and further. She robbed the photo from the students and walked with big strides towards the girl. “Excuse me, may I ask, is this boy your brother?” “Yes, he is my brother. Who are you, please? Why do you have a photo of my brother?” “My surname is Zhao. I am a professor. I took this photo ten years ago in this village. Your brother helped me a lot at that time. He even carried the camera for me. Before I left, I gave him some books as gifts.” “Oh, those books were from you!” “Did you read them?” “Yes, they are my brother’s treasure. He never lends them to other kids because he fears they may make them dirty. If I were not his sister, I think I would not be allowed to even to touch them!” “Where is your brother now?” “He did not come back home for over two years.” “Does he call you regularly? Do you, or your parents, have his telephone number?” “He seldom calls us. But he gives money to my father every month through bank.”
“Where is your mother?” “My mother died several years ago. She was ill. My father said it was incurable.” She tidied the girl’s soft bang which was a little messy. “How old are you?” “Almost eleven. My brother is ten years elder than me.” “Can you show me your home?” The girl led them to her home. Ten years ago, she did not visit this family. On the current living standards, this family was barely able to make ends meet. The girl had mentioned that her mother died of an incurable disease so she assumed maybe the family had used up all their savings to treat the patient. The girl introduced them to her father very happily. Her father, over fifty years old, welcomed them warm-heartedly when he knew that she was the teacher who gave his son books. The girl fetched an iron box from a cupboard and placed the box at a table. “Mrs. Zhao, please open it!” The iron box had already begun to rust. She opened it and was stunned. In the box orderly lied books of fairy tale, notebooks, pencils and pens which she and Gang gave him ten years ago. The father took out a note of fifty RMB Yuan from his pocket and asked the girl to buy biscuits from a grocery. She tried to stop him but he insisted. After the girl ran out happily with the money, the father prepared tea and said in a low voice to her: “Mrs. Zhao, I don’t want to discuss this in front of the child. Her brother did not call us for over one year and did not give us any money as he did before. I told a lie to my daughter that her brother was too busy with his work to come back home. But the truth is, he is in prison.” “Prison? What did he do?” “You came to this village ten years ago and did research. It is not hard for you to figure out the reason.” “Please forgive my frankness. But if it is only prostitute, unless quite serious, he shall not be put into prison, according to relevant Chinese laws.” “My son, he worked as a prostitute and pimp.”
“Prostitute and pimp are quite different cases. How long is the sentence?” “Two years. Now one year has passed.” “Would you please tell me which prison he is in? I would like to see him.” The girl saw them off when they were going to leave the village, and dragged slightly her coat when the three were about to enter the car. She crouched down and asked her with a smile: “Do you want to tell me anything?” “Mrs. Zhao, if you find my brother, can you ask him to come home, please?” She caressed the girl’s thin shoulders and again her soft bangs, and nodded her head. She maintained regular contact with Gang after their graduation. He continued his PhD study in a Chinese university and later assumed a teaching post in another city. Like her, he was now an associate professor. She called him and asked if he was willing to go with her to a prison and visit the boy whom they met ten years ago. She and Gang sat in a small visiting room of the prison and waited for the boy. A young man was led in by a prison officer. Ten years! Now he was twenty. His head down, he sat opposite to them and said in a very light and low voice: “Mr. Chen, Mrs. Zhao, …” He burst into tears and could not finish his sentence. Nor could she utter anything. Gang Chen managed to speak calmly: “Boy, don’t cry. You still remember us?” He sobbed for a while and tried his best to calm down. He replied now hoarsely: “Yes, I do.” She finally controlled herself and said softly: “You have grown up, much higher and more handsome than before.” “Mrs. Zhao, I … I must have let you down. I am a disappointment to you.” Gang consoled him: “Boy, don’t say that. I won’t deny that I do feel sorry for you and even a little angry. But I can understand. In this world, there are many things we cannot control and many occasions when we have no choice.”
She added: “Absolutely. But when you leave prison one year later, do not make the same mistake or go to the wrong direction again. Many years ago, you were young and to earn money under emergency you had no alternative. But now you are twenty and you have more legitimate choices.” She took a deep breath, bent towards him and asked the boy in a tentative manner: “Do you still remember your answer, when Mr. Chen asked you at that time what you wanted to do in the future?” He looked at her and his eyes became redder with tears flowing out. “I answered: I want to be like you.” Gang Chen’s voice trembled slightly like theirs. “And now? Do you still want to be like us?” “Yes, I do. I had this wish for so many years. But my current situation … I can never be like you …” She held her fists and told him: “If this is still your wish, please become us. Ten years ago, I did not have the consciousness or the capacity. But now if you want to start again, I can help you …” What you wished and finally became true is dream, whereas what you never wished but eventually happened is destiny. During the passing of age and the turning of life, many years later, we raise our heads and here you are, again in front of us.
Rio Grande Gorge Bridge Christina Lee
You can walk right over it, right out onto it. There are low rails but no fences, no mesh net. You can joke about jumping. One kid does, his family shushing him as he laughs and points out where he’d splatter down in the wash of bright color. The rest of us shudder and ease from the edge, back to the road, where we buy sage wands from truck beds. It’s still too fresh, we’re told, to smudge the really stubborn ghosts. Give it a week. From the road there’s no hint of gorge, no seismic gash. It’s folded flat, tucked deep in the thick swath of predictable desert.
The Handless Maiden (a Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale) Christina Lee
Regeneration is an unreachable dream, he says, fastening the buckles back on my wrists. I mention the circle, the angel in the orchard, the pear at my lips. He laughs, insists: if longing conjured anything other than loneliness we’d all be whole. And so he has my sleeves sewn long to hide my seams, to hide the spot where silver rubs skin until I bleed. At night we soak the wounds in salt water while he talks about salt’s healing properties. When he leaves for war I loose the clasps, let the wind lick the scars the silver left: the consequence of taking shape for someone else. Nights now I wake to tingling wrists. My blood syncopates, pounds a promise. A lightness gathers in me, a stillness like the silence after a song’s last note.
Brown, almost translucent, you’ve seen age spots on your grandparent’s hands, on your parents’. Some look like suns orbited by planets, or comets with long
Moving Right Along Matthew Sisson
tails, two eyes and a big clown nose. Others form maps of distant archipelagos, even vampire bites. Mine are the numbers on a pair of dice, or singular and large, the unseen sniper’s fatal wound. They have never achieved the eternal spotted beauty of a Seurat.
Renee Anderson The gray field knows it isn’t, tells her so. Don’t let early buzzing make you a fool. She winks, swaying in white bloom— her dance reddens my cheeks. One branch beckons that I come sit beneath her fullness. I don’t. And now, it’s night. I wonder how her flowers appeal to gleaming headlights. It isn’t a lover she looks for but someone to initial her trunk with a pocketknife. Someone to prove to her it’s time.
Lawrence William Berggoetz A sutra I repeated for many years never made sense until finding myself in a desert, before a canyon, a winding river between the twin cliffs a thousand feet below, and the air adrift within the walled abyss lurches and falls down the vertical tunnel of rusted rock that leaves me stranded, buffeted by wind that sings in siren lyric against my face. When nightfall arrives, and I sit outside my tent quietly staring at the stellar sea of black sky aswirl with thousands of fires swelling into a cosmic portrait of chaos, I realize the stars and earth are moored together, not by gravity, but by the same awe and confusion which makes me think of death when I contemplate the distance between us.
I came here wounded, my arm, broken by a fall, now resting in a sling. The pain is vanquished as I sit like an icon positioned on a table without food. Behind my back are all the memories I have forgotten, linked like train cars together on an abandoned rail track, while I look at what I cannot quite understand, like a child staring at its parent before it knows language, alert and smiling, its head tilted and still bald. I hold my fracture like a cup from which I must drink if I am not to vanish, my blood is no longer enough to save me. When the wind becomes too much in the early morningâ€™s broken sky and I begin to drift into the bright mosaic of the twilight world, my thoughts spiraling into breathlessness and wonder, I realize that regardless of what I once loved, and once believed, I must not die calling your name.
The Circle of Life Brian McCarty
My neighbors shrink-wrapped Shangri-La, shipped it to suburbia: tiki torches, citronella, recipes for cocktails with soft rock titles and tiny umbrellas, selfies beside a plastic palm—the patio set’s packing peanuts paced Bermuda Grass like footprints in sand. The centerpiece—a 3-foot deep inflatable pool. They said, “take a dip any time.” I imagined lukewarm water lapping loose-fitting bellies with varying degrees of hair as we stood in a circle avoiding eye contact. Each morning as they left for work they ran their fingers through the water, described it as “azure” and “cerulean,” language lifted from the cruise brochures tacked above the kitchen sink, “someday” scrawled upon the surf in bubble letters. Otherwise, prospective soakings in accumulated polyvinyl chlorides and bromines, golden-shouldered and decked out in swimsuits that would fail to cause the most pious heartland congregation to blush, never happened. Fireflies, honeysuckle, and grill smoke wilted in the heat. The pool remained as neglected as the his and hers kayaks bought the prior summer. Its frame began to budge and sag; odysseys of bullfrogs and dragonflies, water bugs and an anonymous amphibian— perhaps a cousin of primordial man— scratched the lily pads and rotted leaves that bogged the surface. It became a backyard Okefenokee, the once-blue vinyl circle transfigured into a circle of life.
A promiscuous mosquito cosmos veined the humidity. My neighbors, shoulders charred in tank top and sports bra, vowed to kill the source. With hatchet and machete, they gored the vines clotting our fencerow, the gusto of the pioneers, unfazed by late shifts and overtime. Behind them, the pool buzzed Marvin Gaye come-ons as the soured waters spawned an insect baby boom. More weeks passed; the pool, bloated and forlorn, was suffering. One day, I saw “I’ve lost the will to live” scrawled into its algae in the bloviated script of paraffin oils used by planes to carve love notes into the sky. When I looked up, there was neither text nor plane, just a late-season wind denuding the sycamores. By late September, they’d drained the pool. For weeks thereafter, it remained on the lawn, edges still ridged around sunken center like a condom dropped straight from the package onto the fading shag of leaves.
The Last Harvest Lee Reilly
The way Mitch knows the corn is done for is the brown crispness that rises six inches from the cracked soil, the worst he’s seen in his ninety years, as if, with Sis’s passing, their farm has died with her, from drought or maybe justice. He swerves at the thought, inspiring the young couple in the back seat of his Ford to reach for door handles. She’s his great-grandniece, last seen a year ago. The husband’s new and wears cologne. Steadied, they resume the stilted questions of urbanites Mitch used to find charming. Today, he answers sparely. No, it’s too late to plant anything else. No, that’s not wheat. Not quinoa. Not barley. “Stop guessing,” the niece chides the husband. Mitch can’t remember if this is her second or third husband. These days, people discard parts of their lives too fast for Mitch to keep up with. He doesn’t believe in forevers anymore, especially heaven, but he does believe in the sanctity of good ground, of shared time, of the meanings shared things have. “I’m not guessing,” the husband insists. “They grow barley around here.” Mitch knows these two are secretly shopping for heirlooms, maybe a dinner bell or a real butter churn, something quaint and rural, a conversation piece. Reluctantly he leads
them through the plain house he grew up in, recently cleansed of Sis’s clothes. The church ladies did it, while Mamie Davies sat with him in the car, handing him Kleenex. The niece lingers over the old Singer, and now she’s remarking on the cherry coffee table, hand carved by Mitch’s father. “When Roosevelt won, Dad was so sure America had gone communist that he chopped down the cherry tree to mark the day America died,” Mitch explains. The niece smiles faintly. “Franklin, not Teddy,” he clarifies. “Oh?” Her eyes are as blank as marshmallows. Apparently even presidents can be discarded. Awkwardness hovers. Battling arthritis, Mitch leads the two upstairs, past portraits no one asks about; they stop in the old guestroom. “What’s this doing here?” the niece asks, pointing to the fainting couch, an elaborate oddity designed for winded ladies with parasols, not flat Illinois farms with barn cats. Sis took it in payment for a hog when they were still in their teens and first running the farm without their parents, who’d died of flu in quick succession, as if they were inseparable. Sis could hitch a mule team as fast as anybody then, and after their first good harvest, she got a little mischievous.
The niece hops on to the couch, slim jeans and high-heeled boots on the long stretch of velvet. “This house—everything in it—feels like peace,” she sighs. Peace? Hardly. All last winter, Sis had yearned and argued and made them both miserable. One time, she breathlessly cornered Mitch in this room. “Please. I want to see the angels.” “Oh, but so do I,” he’d said. She’d laughed, coughed, reached for the highboy to catch her fall. “Typical! Only thinking about yourself. God won’t hold this against you. But I’ll hold every stupid pain I suffer against you. I will haunt you, little brother.” “I can’t.” “Always the mouse. Mother always said so.” “No.” “Afraid of girls even!” She wasn’t usually mean like that. It was the cough getting to her. Now the husband remarks on the craftsmanship of the highboy, which Mitch made when he was fourteen. When the man fiddles with one of the delicate drawers, it makes a cracking sound. “Oh no,” the niece breathes. “Back off,” the husband says. She retreats to the window. Stymied, Mitch feels picked apart, like a curiosity, not a man, and now he’s remembering how that tiny drawer stumped him back in shop class, so narrow it was; the teacher said, “You can do it that way but it won’t last,” and Sis said, “Betcha it lasts forever.” “Damn!” the husband says. The drawer is in pieces. Long ago that insurance man with the good territory who wanted to marry Sis was irritated just like this one. The man refused to admit he’d left the chicken coop open— and the coyote in. He was insulted even. He squared off with Mitch, sweating in his suit, while Sis watched from the flower patch. Back then, she had auburn hair and a way with children, but she said No to the match: Promises had been made to her dying mother, she
said. Sometimes Mitch doubted this claim: The prospect of Sis in a marriage was like a bobcat in a cage, and maybe, secretly, she knew this about herself. But in seventy years, through three sawdust droughts and a round of chinch bugs, they never talked of it. “Can you fix it?” the niece asks Mitch. Then eight months ago Mitch found Sis stretched out on the fainting couch. “I think this…is the right place to take a last breath, don’t you?” she wheezed. “I can’t.” “You won’t.” “Can’t.” “You owe me.” “Nonsense. Because of that suitor in the suit?” “No. Because I love you.” Her smile was made of waxed paper. Her voice had no air in it. Her skin drooped off her bones like laundry on a line and quivered when the pain surged. But her eyes were still hers, wry, and now tearing. In Mitch’s hands, the pillow was impossibly plush. “I love it,” the niece says from the couch, arms folded under her head. There’s a tingle battling for Mitch’s mouth, threatening a smile. It’s not his smile. He knows exactly what Sis would do with these two. His eyes travel the elegant curve of the couch back and the scroll of the single arm rest, curled under itself, the deep red velvet. He opens his arms grandly. “I’ve been saving the Franklin Roosevelt table for you,” he announces, and there’s a new light in him, his own glinting yes. The niece and the husband are so delighted and so surprised, and yes, they’ve brought bungee cords.
Tchotchke Ingrid Bruck
There it sits, white and delicate, artistry on her bedside table. It belongs to my 90-yearold mother. She had nine children by our father, a testament to womanly power. Her work was having the babies she loved, always ready for the next, enamored by the newest hanging on one breast, a book in her other hand. She leaves older children to raise each other. She’s a man lover who has married three times and esteems love’s power. Each time she widowed, her belief in love delivered another good man of WWII vintage. She treasures this porcelain statuette of mother and baby and has kept it close for forty years. It’s fine white porcelain. A slim young girl plays with her baby. A pure maiden, long white dress glues to curves. Long braided hair, tied to her head. She leans back, face tilts away from a naked urchin who clutches her skirt. This pretty girl with a baby is what I want to be. Chubby face and hands reach up, his fine fingers extend in supplication but the smiling girl doesn’t pick up her baby. Hands held behind her back, she withholds the child’s bow and arrows. This figurine sat in a shop window in Monticello. At seventeen, I bought it and it cost a month’s wages. I cleaned bathrooms, made beds and dried dishes at a summer retreat and squandered college money to buy a pure incarnation of mother and child. Sharing my mother’s fantasy of motherhood, I loved this precious tchotchke with its irresistible engraved image, it embodied my belief in love, a dream I held for a decade. More than anything, I wanted to be a mother. The vision shattered when I was thirty. My lover unveiled the mysterious look I saw on the girl’s face, he said he thought the artist depicted a young woman who used her charm to trick Cupid out of his bow and arrows. Suddenly I saw Cupid and revealed was a flirt taunting a baby. What I’d held holy evaporated, white purity crystalized cold inside me. I felt betrayed by naivety and disowned it. When I look at this figurine today, I see the feminine wiles of deceit, seduction and lust. I wanted that mother and child out of my life. Its beauty and cost stopped me from breaking it or tossing it in the trash. Instead I gave it to my mother. A true believer in motherhood deception, she treasures what I cast off.
Epoch, a Division of Time Carol Matos
What was doesn’t work. My longing has closed, not dead in its track but like a fusion of gender or the stuff stars shed in space. Hegel declared every idea contains its opposite— that life is wondrous yet we smell the sulphur preserved deep within earth’s crust. Not to get stuck I move forth drawn to undigested fragments not speeding past pool halls on the back of a bike but on my pen: “our greatest right is to choose how we think.” My breath lands on a child a tiny prophet proclaiming “start” so I wander into an ancient atmosphere rendered speechless with generational tugging with pulsing solar waves with this child running to me. It’s something fierce this striving late in life to become an image of yourself with more thirst.
Jonathan Louis Duckworth Journeyed through valley where the starved wraiths of bears gut themselves on their own claws to die while they’re still alive. Hiked to the mountain’s scalp up there, close enough to lowest stars that cold fire melts the lodges’ tin roofs. Climbed to the summit— blinding night-blaze of bottom-feeding stars. Whispered the question to any celestial ear turned my way: are you getting older too? I am not my fear of leaving this world.
Let us leave these stones where the sun will heat them. Let them break open in
Let Us Leave
the afternoon and dream
of the fire which made them. And, then, in the cool of evening, let them think they are the stars they are. 44
Contributors Fiction Ingrid Bruck lives in Amish country in Pennsylvania, a landscape that inhabits her writing. She’s a retired library director with a second life of gardening and writing. She writes short form poetry and flash fiction. Last year was one of firsts - first time grandmother, first time published. Current work appears in Unbroken Journal, Rat’s Ass Review, W.I.S.H., and Entropy. You can find her published work at: ingridbruck.com Lee Reilly is the author of two nonfiction books, as well as dozens of articles and essays. Her fiction and nonfiction have been awarded recognition from Writers at Work, Illinois Arts Council, Florida Review, River Styx, Hunger Mountain, and other publications and arts organizations. She has an MFA from Vermont College. Xiaohu/Sieghard JIANG is now a PhD student in the University of Macau. He worked as translator and published three translation books (all from English to Chinese) in mainland China. He also published short Chinese fictions in newspapers and magazines in Macau.
Non-Fiction Stephen Brown is a twenty-four- year-old graduate of Colorado State University, where he received his B.A. in English. At Colorado State, he won first place prize in the Nonfiction category of the 2014 Creative Writing Scholarship Competition and had poetry published in the student literary magazine, The Greyrock Review. He currently resides in Red Lodge, MT, where he is studying and writing on its wilderness with his puppy apprentice, Screefield.
Photography Roger Camp is the author of three photography books including the award-winning Butterflies in Flight, Thames & Hudson, 2002, and Heat, Charta, Milano, 2008. His work has appeared in over 100 magazines including The New York Quarterly, New England Review, and Witness. Joshua B. Huitz is an emerging Photographer based out of New York, photographing mainly Street Photography, Wildlife and Landscape. Huitz's ability to see and capture everyday life and present it in a unique fashion is influenced by the texture of film, cinema and art. He has been published in the "2017 Wild View Animals of NYC Calendar" and Issue #19 (Celebratory issue) of Vines Literary Journal. Visit www.saatchiart.com/ joshhuitz for more A Best Small Fictions 2015 Winner, Dave Petraglia's writing and art has appeared in Bartleby Snopes, bohemianizm, Cheap Pop, Crack the Spine, Chicago Literati, Gambling the Aisle, Hayden's Ferry, Medium, McSweeney's, Necessary Fiction, New Pop Lit, North American Review, Per Contra, Pithead Chapel, Points in Case, Prick of the Spindle, Popular Science, Prairie Schooner, Razed, SmokeLong Quarterly, and others. His blog is at www.davepetraglia.com
Poetry Renee Anderson is a graduate school drop-out and genre-fiction- writer-turned- poet living in Asheville, North Carolina. Samir Atassi is an Arab-American poet who has been writing poems since he was 18. He received his B.A. in English from Kent State University in 2005, and recently earned his MFA at Ashland University, where he graduated in summer 2014. He lives in Westlake, Ohio where he works as a restaurant manager. Lawrence William Berggoetz has been nominated for inclusion in Best New Poets 2017. He has been published in The Bitter Oleander, Sheapshead Review, Pacific Quarterly, Skidrow Penthouse, Poetry Pacific, JONAH, Oddville Press, and others. He is a graduate of Purdue University, and has written the book Under One Sun. Jonathan Louis Duckworth received his MFA from Florida International University. His fiction, poetry, and non-fiction appears in New Ohio Review, Fourteen Hills, PANK Magazine, Thrice Fiction, Cha, Superstition Review, and elsewhere. Greg Hill is a writer and voice over talent in West Hartford, Connecticut and has an MFA fromVermont of College of Fine Arts. His work has appeared in Atlas and Alice, Life and Legends, Past Ten, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, and elsewhere. In the evenings, he composes little tunes for his daughters, who are too young to know how poorly their father plays the piano. Christina Lee has an M.F.A. from Seattle Pacific and published work in Hoot Review, The Toast, Relief Journal, Whale Road Review, and Tin House’s "Broadside Thirty." She’s also been a contest finalist for Ruminate Magazine and was chosen to attend A Room of Her Own's latest summer writing retreat. She teaches at a public junior high just outside Los Angeles.
Carol Matos’ debut collection of poems, The Hush Before the Animals Attack, was published by Main Street Rag in 2013. Her poetry has appeared in 34th Parallel, The Comstock Review, ROOM, The Prose-Poem Project, RHINO, and The Chattahoochee Review. She has been a semifinalist for the Spoon River Poetry Review Editors’ Prize, and was recently nominated for the Pushcart Poetry Prize. Formerly a professional photographer with exhibitions in New York City and Europe, she now serves as Director of Administration at Manhattan School of Music. Brian McCarty attempts to understand the complex and at times absurd experience of living in middle America through poetry. His poems have previously been published in Lunch Ticket, The Common Ground Review, Spry, and others. He teaches literature, composition, and creative writing at Kansas State University. Tom Montag is the author of In This Place: Selected Poems 1982-2013, This Wrecked World, and The Miles No One Wants. He has been a featured poet at Atticus Review, Contemporary American Voices, Houseboat, and Basil O'Flaherty Review, and received Pushcart Prize nominations from Provo Canyon Review, Blue Heron Review, and The Lake. C.C. Russell lives in Wyoming with his wife and daughter. His writing has appeared in such places as Wyvern Lit, Rattle, Word Riot, The Cimarron Review, and The Colorado Review. He has also lived in New York and Ohio. Matthew Sisson’s work has appeared in magazines and journals ranging from JAMA: “The Journal of the American Medical Association,” to the Harvard Review Online. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and his book, Please, Call Me Moby, was published by The Pecan Grove Press, St. Mary's University, San Antonio, Texas.