APIARY ONLINE Issue 2. Spring/Summer 2011 Copyright © by APIARY Magazine 2011 ISSN: 2160-9608 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without the publisher’s written permission, except for brief quotations in reviews. All works rights return to the authors upon publication. www.apiarymagazine.com firstname.lastname@example.org Illustrations on opposite page and masthead by Joanna S. Quigley. Back cover image from Joe Boruchow.
APIARY publishes work by writers of all ages. However, some content may not be appropriate for younger children. We also distribute a kid-friendly PDF edition of the magazine, free for schools and teachers. If you would like a copy of this edition, email email@example.com
online issue 2
CONTENTS i. connection 8 13 15 17 18 20 34 35 37 39 41 47 50 71
Untitled Instincts/Instances Admetus Common Names Creation Mutes Derinkuyu Too Late Children at Bulguska Temple Love the Yankees Devotional #22: Prayer H The Journey Genie in Reverse Caring Ain’t Currency We Are Better Than Human Now
77 79 83 85 87
Demolished Poem 2 Where There’s Smoke Those About To Be Free Fall Frenzy
Teresa McCann Jaclyn Sadicario Toby Altman Hannah McDonald Vanessa Gennarelli Dolan Morgan Meredith Kahn Grant Clauser Lauren Rile Smith Steve Burke Mansi Bhagwate Mike Cohen Brandon Bell Julia Rose Roberts
ii. danger Adriann “The Pen” Bautista Harry Baker Rachel Brown Roger Santiváñez Stephanie L. Morris
88 89 91 95 99 103 109 110 112
Twine Nina Melito Fire Radio David Kertis Almost Billy Brennan Guernica Justin Ching I Feel A Cliff Coming. Ras. Mashramani Military-Information Complex Enrique Sacerio-Garí Fire Changed Everything Phyllis Mass The Dark Areas Stephanie J. Walker-Pérez Untitled Aleyah K. Macon iii. outside
114 117 118 120 122 127 134 142 147
What Lasts-- Nuns vs. Trees Star-Gazing Blue The Logger Real Life Only Leaves The Slut Buck Conversations
Catherine Staples Patrick Lucy Shannon Connor Winward Steve Burke Jonathan Davenport Stacey Wisniewski Leyla Eraslan Nathanael Green Jennifer French
Italics denote Apiary Youth - Philadelphia writers between the ages of 8 and 18
Editors Michelle E. Crouch Lillian Dunn Nick Forrest Tamara Oakman Tiana Pyer-Pereira
Interns: Julia Hurley, Maddy Kruhly, Rory Margraf, Matt Thompson, Monica Zaleska
APIARY has grown up fast. In the months since Issue 1, our project has expanded in ways we never imagined. We’ve gone live with readings and panels at Swarthmore College, Giovanni’s Room, Big Blue Marble Books, the Tritone, and Arcadia University. We’ve teamed up with awesome local groups like Art Sanctuary, Feet Active - a monthly yoga-dance-vegan cupcake party - and Geekadelphia.com. PhillyCAM trained us to film our events and document Philadelphia’s amazing spoken word scene (watch out for our upcoming public access show, which may or may not feature cats reading poetry). We socialmedia’d our hearts out, raised $4,000 through Kickstarter, revamped the website, and learned how to use Twitter. Sort of. Oh yeah, and we still make a magazine, too. With the submissions pouring in, we’ve been able to snag work by Philadelphia’s best poets and writers - ones you’ve heard of, ones you haven’t, ones who are still in middle school. Our online issue is just one piece of the puzzle. apiarymagazine.com will be publishing even more great writing, interviews, and video features throughout the year, and we’ll be back in paper with Issue 3 in November. It’s hard to say what APIARY will look like in another year. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that keeping up with Philadelphia’s many literary scenes requires nearconstant evolution. All that we can promise is that, like Philadelphia, it’ll be diverse, energetic, and a lot of fun.
UNTITLED She gave me the crazy eyes darted her blue hydrangeasÂ tightly in a bunch as if at apron waist by a translucent ribbon in a glass vase. She gave me the back of her head. Her thirty-nine year old head of hair wrapped up brown horsetail swish the same as her sepia photograph in the hallway where she was smiling long ago with two front teeth amiss.Â Today, her skull
8 Teresa McCann
sticks out of her skin. The outskirts of her hair The ones that don’t fit in They are delicately on fire, like the burnt bronze shingles, the seven o’clock light against the house as the sun goes down. Still, she sweats. We all sweat. Max leaves the door open trailing behind him a black tutu, a compromise. Put some boy clothes on now, Max. (Firmer). Max. (As if we wouldn’t notice). But girls don’t wear black tutus... so I can... What are
9 Teresa McCann
you trying to prove. By this, Max. I don’t know what you’re trying to prove. I don’t get it, Maxy-boy. Husky-boy. Roughy, toughy boy. But he is everything nice. Reaching into the fruit bowl while she is inside. Asking about the butterfly net. The fairies that might be dancing in the yard. Propping his giant atlas on his knees, sporting gold mardi gras beads. Beauty emerges from order. The more order there is, the more beauty. And the more beauty, the more order... the more balance. The more good. There must be no overexcitement, overabundance,
10 Teresa McCann
because it only overwhelms. There must be just enough food to feed the fish so that they don’t die. They must keep flaunting their tails attractively near the tank light. Just enough space for the flowers before the hands reach down and remove the excess. Today, she takes out her clippers to trim. How quiet it is inside with Max while we are outside “at the party”. Eating baked eggplant in stiff, white garden chairs at the time when day is horizontal. When the sun creeps up under the table umbrella and finds my eyes. She gave me the tight-frown, crazy look. Crazy blue.
11 Teresa McCann
Instantly cold. The quick, silent crazy eyes made me look inside the house, at its lack of electric light and growing blue, gray, black... made me wish my ribs were connected, that there was no soft space in between where the spirit who possessed her might spot me and break in to crack its yellow smile and dart its eyes through me. Ice cold the lemonade she was hastily pouring at the moment, for Salvatore, her younger son, who plays with trucks.
12 Teresa McCann
INSTINCTS/ INSTANCES it’s the same idea. the first version of the narrative mirrored exactly the factual events, while later editions seem to have been revised— like the Greeks and their wine colored sea being a bright blue to us now, as most of the time looking back through the fog bending into the city streets, we find more than there was, and less than we needed and hoped for, or something completely different or the opposite. i curl up close next to my first instincts they are red in the face, fixated on the streetlight streaks shining through the slivers of the blinds, unfolded, their breath slight, quivering. the blank sky is falling to make a blank ground. it isn’t a surprise. i am trying to tell them their discoloration and instance won’t
13 Jaclyn Sadicario
make anyone change their minds or change the trajectory they are riding on, or create a rip in time, to change anything back or forward. the sleet hits the window panes forcing off the remnants of the last storm only to remind us that it came, it was once here.
L7 Joe Boruchow
Admetus and Alcestis, man and wife.
Ad: I will walk out now with the dogs, for I love them and they lick my hand, they will lead me where I can lie with wild gods and walk in their light. You are the goddess of the ditch and the sluice gate and the hoof of the cow; you are the daughter of Hermes, I think, for I saw you with his dog, and I know what dogs know, for they love me, and they lick my hand, and they show me the secret places where the bones of the gods are buried. And I know the gods have bodies: I have seen them fresh from the river, I watch them from the woods, I want to talk with them. Al: I wanted to walk in my garden, to rake my corn and beans and cucumbers, to follow the threads of an ancient life that quiets the will. But I brought you in
15 Toby Altman
and let you sleep, I cared for you, as though you were a traveling god, ready to take this house and build it in a superior bliss. I even let you share my bed, where my body is not my own, black ash, hot coals: I burn the bed-blankets; I lame my fatherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s horses. I know you have dragged the altar behind the house, and left the sacrifice to rot, I know, because I am out there with the dogs, circling the carcass. We will not touch it. The corpse is split, spouting pure water; the wood is flooded. The gods will not walk there. Since I was a girl, I have heard their steps like distant music, even in my sleep. But all this week my sleep has been silent. I dream of youâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; your hands are burned, and your foot is lame and the dogs do not know you.
COMMON NAMES Never fall in love with boys with common names, Or every time you open a book, Or skim the police blotter in the newspaper, Or watch a sitcom on a major network There they all are. Clearer in your mindâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s eye than anything in front of you. You cannot see some story about Ryan Jones, 19, convicted On four counts of felony so-and-so Without pausing to think of Ryan Evans, 23, And the way you used to smile walking past his dorm room window. It will happen like this all the time, In grocery storesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; checkout aisles, in the car in rush hour traffic. Just when you thought you wanted anonymity in a lover, You cannot shake the resonance of John or Patrick or Matt or Mike or Josh. Their memories leave a bruise on your brain in the shape of a fist, But if one of them would just caress you, You would wear his invisible handprint like a crown.
CREATION MUTES Some dykes get such mean horizon eyes. You might notice it when two first meet- mealy brim battle lines sharp like lobsters as they clip around smelling the copper out of each other. Upstate on the farm, remember those butches who barely touched? Around the fire pit they stared into the split ribcage of roasting meat almost strangers to each other. Their shape
18 Vanessa Gennarelli
lost amongst their layers.
Flannel covered statues. What is it about butchness and silence? Not echoey like trauma. It’s an energy onto itself. A sour sort of mean. Upstate on the farm the 5 year old girl with bowl cut raced around demanding lighters from farmhands and shooting rats. Ruthless she carried them by their tails. How does this silence happen? Vanessa Gennarelli
excerpted from Never a Note Forfeit Above all, the red-winged blackbird. Her whistle-ly call and the long after— There’s distance in it, heat and light. All the places we’ve loved The deer are skittish grace, just faltering prayers leaping away. Not so the blackbird— never a note forfeit as we come close. She holds the line steady through arc and dive,
114 Catherine Staples
Oka-leee—and echo over the inland sea. Fescue, foxtail and flax, wave on wave, violet, hay-blue, then a sudden whirling swathe of white. Something in this meadow takes us back summers to windy Lamma island, curling path to a hip bone of white sand: nest home for the Hong Kong green sea turtles. Remember the volcanic rock shaping the bay? A glacier’s work, the drowned sea risen; earth’s sweet continuance—
115 Catherine Staples
all these cousins leaping from the prow. And now, blackbirds prolificâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;look here a saucer of marsh grass hidden by cattail, a second clutch of blue scrawled with a brown script.
company, to get customer support on the line, forgetting that the page can’t and won’t load. It’s an instinct like chewing, flinching, suckling: press the button, an extension of fingers, long electric knuckles. He wonders how long it will be before fingers have memory, one gig each to stick in holes around the house. He imagines a type of sex that involves long streams of data exchange, and the two men in ties are now assembling some sort of large tripod in the street. They stick pieces of metal here and there, screw things this way and that, and finally stand back to look at it. One of them peers inside of it as if using a microscope, adjusts some knobs, then nods and begins disassembly. Then a scan complete from Joaquin’s computer: malware everywhere. 114 items require attention. Mostly tracking cookies, a few harmless Trojans, and one red-lettered, five-alarm beast -- a keylogger and screen snapshotter. The little bug gets inside you, records everything you type, sends it out to a third party along with a picture of the site you typed it into. Objective? Get your credit card information. Your passwords. Social security number. This is another technology that would be wonderful for people: let it step inside you for a moment, walk out with what defines you, and leave you behind staring at your shoelaces, wondering what you are. Identity theft. His mind sprints: have I done anything vulnerable recently? The book -- I bought a book online. Used my credit card. Fuck. The program can’t fix the problem, windows resets to an earlier date (another great thing for people to try, he thinks) back to a time when things worked properly. I should look at my checking account balance, he worries, but I need to log into the bank’s website -- and the internet still doesn’t
23 Dolan Morgan
work, all while someone out there is running around inside my names and numbers, wearing what I am, a binary skin and numerical muscles. He thinks of the men outside with their black ties, but they are gone on the breeze again. He dials 411, asks for the cable company, sits on hold for twenty minutes, listens to the crackly Soul and RnB hits, and is finally greeted by Julia. She tells him to remind her to tell him about a special offer. He makes a mental note before describing the problem. You need a technician, perhaps a new modem, she says. He could be there in three days, on Wednesday, between noon and four pm. Three days? Christ. It seems impossible, but he reminds her without complaint to tell him about the special offer. It’s not very special and perhaps not even an offer. They leave it at that. While he waits out the days, Joaquin breaks it off with his fiancé, piles dishes into the sink, gets too drunk, spends too much money, and doesn’t read a book. On Tuesday night, the day before the technician is scheduled, he meets with Alex, his ex-fiancé, to talk about how they might still know each other now that it’s over. Eventually, they decide maybe they can’t, and sit on a bench near the river watching rats run through the rocks. Joaquin tells her he loves her. She seems to think something doesn’t add up in his reasoning, the things he says to justify ending it. She may be right: Joaquin had said what he felt but he didn’t know whether he really felt that way or if he only thought he did. On the way home, they walk together longer than necessary. That’s it though. On Wednesday, the phone rings at 6 AM. Joaquin had dreamed of
24 Dolan Morgan
riding in an empty airplane with Alex over the ocean. They watched other planes dip into the water and bring up millions of fish on their wings. He answers the phone. It’s the computer voice woman. She wants him to press a button for yes or a button for no, confirming or cancelling the appointment. He presses 1 for yes and falls back to sleep wondering whether or not he is really capable of loving anyone. At 10, the phone rings again. He answers. The computer voice woman. 1 for yes, 2 for no. Confirm or cancel. He presses 1 again. Yes. This time, Joaquin gets up. This is the big day he has been waiting for. Shredded wheat for breakfast. In an hour, he’ll exercise. 50 sit ups, 30 pushups. Repeat. In the mean time, he plays the apartment’s Nintendo Wii. He swings swords, bombs into caves, finds the keys. An hour comes and goes. He doesn’t exercise. The technician is nowhere to be seen. He checks his phone -- two missed calls, one message. It’s from the cable company. A technician has come to the house and left. Joaquin calls the number in the missed call list. The person in the message does not answer; instead he gets the pre-recorded voice. How long ago had she recorded all these messages? How many times have they been said? He imagines all the millions of people who have listened to her already and also the dead silence that must have answered back so many times as she got readied for operation, jaunty greetings spoken into long dark chambers. Computers talking to themselves are just as lonely as people, he thinks. In a half hour, he is finally talking to an operator. Remind me to tell you about a special offer. He assures Joaquin that the technician will come
25 Dolan Morgan
back. It’s good that you called. Joaquin doesn’t remember to remind him about the offer. 4 o’clock: no technician. He calls the computer woman, who he has now named Penny, and he tells Penny to get him an operator. It takes her a minute to get his meaning, but she does, and soon he’s talking to a real person again. The technician’s not coming. He went home. He has a family. He is tired. Is there anyone else? Joaquin is offered an appointment in two weeks. No good. I am canceling my service, he says. Let me connect you to the department that deals with that. With service cancellation? With not canceling service. What? They will try to offer you what you want so that you don’t cancel. You can’t offer me what I want? No, we have a special department for that. What’s the number? I can’t give you the number. I can only connect you. The Niceness Department is a secret service? Yes. Tell me about the special offer. He does, then makes the transfer. The Niceness Department is very pleasant. They lower Joaquin’s monthly bills, give him free HBO, and get a technician on the way to the house. He will be there before 6. Great. The
26 Dolan Morgan
technician calls Joaquin personally. Gives him his own cell number. He sounds like a sweetheart. He’s right around the corner. Be there in 15. Through the window, Joaquin sees a man in a hazardous material suit working on the second story of a building. The man is carrying debris and dropping it from the roof into the alley. His mask makes him appear to have two huge onyx eyes and a long metal mouth. It is hard to imagine a person inside of that suit, but Joaquin assumes there must be. 6 rolls by -- and no technician. More haz-mat suited men appear alongside the first, each with the huge black eyes and all hauling grey and unmarked debris. They work hard on whatever it is they’re doing. What could have happened over in that building that would require these people? Asbestos? It was common in the area. Joaquin sometimes wondered about his own building as well, what kind of poisons were sitting in the walls. 7, still no one. He calls the tech’s cell. This number does not exist. He calls Penny. He asks for the Niceness Department. He is connected to a regular operator. He asks for Niceness Department again. She pretends like she doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Joaquin asks her if there are other departments that operators only reveal at the perfect moment, and if the internet company’s offices are enormous, a full city block of buildings containing innumerable little departments for this and that, all loosely connected via a maze of elevators and stairways. He asks her what secret code he has to utter. She says she doesn’t know. Joaquin tells her he will cancel his service -- and is immediately connected to the Niceness Department. Joaquin now gets Showtime. The technician will not be coming. They are going home. They have families. They are tired.
27 Dolan Morgan
Having a technician come tomorrow is impossible. It must happen. It can’t. I am cancelling my service. Hold please. Okay. The technician will be there tomorrow between 9 am and 7 pm. Remind me about the special offer. What special offer? There is no more special offer. Where did it go? Somewhere in the world, there is a warehouse filled with dead offers, a man there standing guard and making sure you don’t get your grubby hands on them. Joaquin spends the evening playing the Wii and watching the haz-mat men. He explores the Wii’s extra features out of boredom. From the main menu, you can design a small virtual version of yourself, a Mii. Joaquin’s almost looks like him even. When the Wii connects to the internet, the little versions of ourselves walk from Wii to Wii, he thinks, from house to house. He imagines the tiny Joaquin, expression never changing, marching through the cables in the walls and the streets to strangers’ houses. He pretends it’s a long walk, that it’s not light but dark, like the tunnels between underground cities in Turkey. He imagines doing it between people’s heads. It still wouldn’t be me, though, he thinks. Just a little pretend Mii crawling in someone else’s ear, looking around and finding a fake little them. They can walk together, play games together, but the real us? We’re outside the console, just kind of watching. We don’t even control them. They have a will of their own, these
28 Dolan Morgan
replicas. At one point or another, he falls asleep. At 6 am, the phone rings. Penny. She wants to know what’s up. He tells her with the press of a button. He reads a book on the couch. At 11, the phone rings again. Penny? Yes. She tells him that a technician was at the house, that no one was home, that the appointment is cancelled. Penny, get me an operator, he says, Penny right now. It takes a while, but it happens. Joaquin says he is cancelling, then gets transferred to the Niceness Department, is told nothing can be done, says he’s cancelling, something is done, the technician is available, but Joaquin will have to retrieve him. The technician is on the corner of this street and that. If you meet him it will happen. His name is Daryl. Joaquin puts on his shoes, throws on an old t-shirt, and sees that the haz-mat men are hammering through all the walls of the apartment building across the street. More have appeared on the roof of the building next door. He rides his bike to the cross streets the operator gave him, a fifteen minute ride into a part of town he doesn’t recognize. In a parking lot, empty except for an old white van, a man, tall and muscular, wearing a company uniform, stands outside smoking a cigarette. Joaquin fills him in. The technician is disinterested, bored, but agrees to take care of the problem. Joaquin rides his bike in front of the van, leading the technician down the streets back to the apartment. Inside, the technician pushes aside the book case and leers into the tangle of cords. With a meter attached to the wall, he takes measurements and watches needles bounce back and forth. Is that the same meter that the men in ties used? Joaquin can’t tell.
29 Dolan Morgan
Something in the movement and readouts tells the technician he needs to go outside. Joaquin follows him into the backyard, a mess of weeds and flowers grown waist high. They push their way toward the fence in the back. The technician climbs a pole, pokes around the cables, then heads back upstairs, rechecks the meter. Suddenly he speaks: “Shit.” He doesn’t say anything else, then they’re back downstairs and into the yard. The technician gets on all fours and crawls into the grass. The only trace of him now is the swivel of the blades as he moves beneath. Joaquin tries to follow him but keeps losing track. Finally, he locates the technician in the far corner of the yard, prying a steel door open, a door embedded in the ground, one Joaquin has never seen before. It comes loose off its hinges, rusty and crumbling, and the technician literally tosses the whole thing aside, flattening a distant patch of grass. He turns his flashlight on and hops in through the door, taking him a few feet down underground. Joaquin follows. Inside the door they find a place where it seems all the neighborhood’s cables come together. The technician begins to rifle through them, grunting a bit as he works. The wires and cables are so thick here as to form a wall -- as if so many thousands of tunnels had been built that they finally blocked each other out. Joaquin stares at their black lengths, taught and coiled like viper stalks, and wonders, what if we cut all the connections? Would they fall limp to the ground and reveal some larger and more direct path behind them? He tries to pretend that’s the case, but beyond the wall of tangled wires is just some old concrete and dirt. When you cut the cords, all you get is bedrock, solid earth, dead ends. He notices helicopters circling above, maybe four or five of them.
30 Dolan Morgan
The technician tells him he needs a contractor, someone to come and rip the walls open, rewire the building. Someone has cut your lines, ruined your connections. The technician has no guesses on who or why, nor does Joaquin. When they emerge through the door, Joaquin sees haz-mat men just on the other side of the chain link fence, poking about the neighborâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s backyard. Cheerfully, he calls to them to ask what they are looking for. Only one of them looks up, his mask pointed at Joaquin for just a few seconds, but neither says anything. The technician says he has to be at his next appointment, but guarantees Joaquin will get a call about scheduling the contractor. As the technician excuses himself, Joaquin notices even more helicopters appearing over the block, and in the distance a sort of purple smoke. The neighborhood is literally swarming with these masked men now: he sees them in bedroom windows, checking drawers, reading papers, ruffling sheets, emerging through alleys and looking around atop all the roofs. His phone is ringing up stairs, but so are many of the phones in other apartments. The smoke appears to be coming from all directions, but he doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t hear the sound of sirens at all. Joaquin runs upstairs, see that he has missed a call from a restricted number, and then buzzes the fire department. They have already gotten some calls about the smoke in the area, someone is on the way. Yet, while Joaquin sits on the couch, he never hears any fire trucks drive by. Eventually, as dark comes on, the haz-mat men disperse. The neighborhood is quiet again, the helicopters gone. Joaquin calls a friend to find out if anything strange happened on the news, but no one answers. That night, he is awakened by barking. Out the window, Joaquin sees
31 Dolan Morgan
a pack of wild dogs running through the streets, maybe fifty of them, some stalling behind to bark at stray cats or people. When he wakes up the next morning, they are gone, and there is no trace of them. The smoke is gone as well. No helicopters, no men. It’s a beautiful summer afternoon and Joaquin still doesn’t have internet. He waits all day for a call, but none come. He calls Penny and she connects him to an operator who lets him know that he just has to keep waiting. A light in the kitchen blows, and when he replaces the bulb, Joaquin sees that the wires have crumbled, disintegrated. He wonders if anyone out there is enjoying being him, if they are doing something constructive with his names and numbers. And then he walks outside, goes into the yard, rushes through the overgrowth, hops through the steal doorway, and grabs as many black cords and wires as he can fit in his fist -- and pulls. They come out of the wall with a little dirt trailing behind them, even some tree roots and rocks, as if they had grown there like plants, as if they were sucking up water from the soil. Yet, nothing changes. He has pulled out the wires, cut the connections, but there’s no visible difference. At a nearby café, people are still using their laptops, checking their emails. Lights are on in neighborhood windows. No one else has technicians in their yard checking cords. It’s all still working. Joaquin wonders what those wires were actually for, what that technician was even looking for down there. It dawns on him that it’s entirely possible he wasn’t even trying to fix my internet. In the next few days, no one calls and nothing happens. After a while, he gets tired of waiting for the phone to ring, for the
32 Dolan Morgan
dogs to come back, for Alex to buzz the door, for anything really, and he just gets up and goes. He walks for exactly six miles. He doesn’t find anything. Joaquin wonders if anyone else is doing the same thing, has had the same exact idea -- and if maybe this time it’s just that they simply weren’t lucky. I mean, we’ve got to connect sometime, he thinks.
TOO LATE Freckles, Auburn hair, Princess or Wolf? Why not both? In and out of love in the Blink of an eye. Why are you with her? Because she asked. Courage is more complex than A simple question. What did she have to loseâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; A Friend? I stand to lose more. Do I dare? Is there still time? What could change? Everything. Meredith Kahn
CHILDREN AT BULGUSKA TEMPLE LOVE THE YANKEES In the mouth of the grotto, light patters like leaves in fall, trying to get in the doorway. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a line of old women, bent and dutiful, lighting incense sticks under the bodhisattvas. I pay a man five dollars to scratch love and family and something else on a tile that will keep rain off the prayer hall on the hill. There are at least five different ways to say this. School kids in Yankee caps high five me by the gift shop. I take their picture. When the bronze shrine bell rings we all look skyward and east.
Sunset Peacock Vicky Faye Aquino
DEVOTIONAL #22: PRAYER Try not to wake from the dream of driving, of running, the trance that moves your hand over a blank page. Asleep your fingers hold the violinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s bow, they are loose and precise, practicing their only purpose. To funnel meaning into silence. Dumb, they stitch together gut and wire. Your body knows itself when you think of nothing, and, knowing nothing but itself, your body bends to its task: air in, air out, hands resting on the steering wheel while your headlights rake the asphalt road and interrupt the nighttime worlds of moths and rabbits. Whom you donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t see. Whose voice was escaping the radio, and taking you with it? With the bag of chips, your hand moves to your mouth and then the bag is empty.
37 Lauren Rile Smith
Where was your mind? With the temporary calligraphy of smoke writing intentions on the air as it stretches, changes, dissipates, wakes to clear air. Delivering, as it disappears, its message to heaven.
Lauren Rile Smith
H Head down in the cold, I can still tell when I’m passing neighbor-Connie’s: from the cigarette butts in the street – the way we can tell where the sun reaches least: from the lingering ice, as at the bus stop. Last night I dreamt of a seizure disorder, if not benign then at least not threatening, a prospect of healing somehow in it clearly moving from character to vague dream-character as if it were a party game: Musical Chairs. Pass-The-Orange. A seat gained, the comfort of an orange snug beneath the chin. But this morning, anything but dream-like, demands attention – in the unsure footing, in the chill, but especially in the brightness of the three-quarter moon – all convexity, but at least a light at which we can stare...And suddenly I am glad I am on my way to work, am warmed by this: my exhalations a vow of silence visible, my head empty as a light bulb in a closed refrigerator. Or not empty, maybe just full of this: cold, dark, and an insistent hum. Johannes Kepler, seventeenth-century astronomer, one clear night while working with concave mirrors feels moon-warmth on the back of one hand. “I involuntarily turned around to see whether
39 Steve Burke
someone was breathing on my hand.â&#x20AC;? Think of it as this: Kepler waking in bed to find that heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s tossed one hand near the mouth of a sleeping, unexpected lover: a lover once considered as distant as that moon. And, think of this: that maybe we are irregularly contoured, cupped and curved so we can throw off, take in, as we do so much else, warmth. But all this speculation must cease, as the H, a shoebox of light, rolls up to the curb, its door opening up, without thought, in welcome.
hatcha reading?” He asked nonchalantly as I sat reading ‘Love Story’ by Eric Segal, on a long but comfortable train ride. I lowered the book with a scowl on my face to look at whoever was disturbing me from enjoying ‘some passionate lovemaking.’ “Hi!” He said again. “Can’t you read?” I asked him a little haughtily. “Love story, by Eric Segal.” I informed and hid back behind the book. “Ever been in love?” He asked me. What was his problem? Couldn’t he let me read in peace? Duh! “None of your god damned business,” I retorted. He nodded knowingly, “I see, never been in love, ha.” “First of all Mister, I don’t even know you. Why should I tell you? And second of all...” I stopped mid sentence. There was no second of all! I was trying to think of something clever to say to him. He smiled- a lopsided, mischievous one- and kept smiling at me. He had the kind of eyes that reflect a smile. I smiled too. The ice was broken. Fact: It was a long ride. There was not much to do except read and listen to music which becomes redundant after a while. “Mike.” He said and raised his palm. “No need to know my name.”
41 Mansi Bhagwate
“Okay. What are you, CIA?” “You can call me Misty. How do you like that?” I raised my eyebrows. “Ummm. Alright with me.” He shrugged, “Let’s go to the cafe.” He said and got up suddenly. I hesitated for a second but followed him to the cafe and we both got a cuppa coffee each :Black for him, milk and extra sugar for me. “So where are you going?” “You ask a lot of questions don’t you?” I made a face. “San Diego. I’m meeting a couple of high school friends. It’s a mini reunion. How about you? “LA. Got some stuff to do.” “Yeah like what? What in the world could you possibly have to do in LA? Tryin to be a star or sumthin?” I said and smiled wickedly while sizing him up. You see he was dressed like rock star style. A tilted baseball cap, earrings (were those sterling silver?), a loose black Tee, pants so large they could be on the floor any moment, tattoo, probably hidden somewhere and black sneakers. Cliché! I wasn’t into guys like him. “Nah. Other stuff.” He said and looked out the window. I realized he might have been hurt by my retort. I didn’t care. So where ARE you going?” “Told ya. Hey, you didn’t answer my question. Ever been in love?” I smiled, “Don’t think so. No. Have had a few crushes, one BF, but don’t think I have ever loved anyone. What’s the difference anyway?” “There is.” He said wisely. “You know how you feel when you are infatuated to someone? The rush, the longing,” he said, trying to be melodramatic. “Now imagine it’s like that, but only 10 times stronger. That
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my dear is love.” He concluded. I grunted, “More like fatal attraction.” I was not a skeptic, only young. I was almost 20 years old and still hopeful that I might fall head over heels in love with someone and live happily ever after with him. But I didn’t want it to be seen by others especially guys like Mike, because they had a tendency to be shallow. “Seems like you know exactly what it is. Have you been in love?” I questioned CIA style. “Not yet. But someday I would love to fall in love. It inspires you to do stuff,” his eyes lighted up as he said this. Who was this guy, talking so openly about falling in love? I looked at him again. He was not unattractive. That would be an understatement. He was quite attractive. He was cute with soft pull-able cheeks, a round face and jet black eyes. As, I was observing him, we heard a loud thud in the next compartment. “Shit. Oh shit.” Mike exclaimed and ran to the compartment. “Fuck.” I could hear him swear. “Fuck!” even louder. I couldn’t keep acting as if my butt was glued to the seat, so I got up and went to see what was wrong. Mike was standing dumbstruck and staring at what looked like a guitar bag. “What happened?” I asked. Mike was pointing to the guitar bag, as if he had seen a dead body. I bent down to pick it up. It made loud jangling noises as I did and Mike came out of his daze. “Do you want me to open it?” I asked and without waiting for a reply, started opening the zipper, ever so gently. I pulled out the guitar from inside. Thankfully, it wasn’t broken, but it was wobbly. Mike was extremely relieved to see that his guitar was in one piece. His eyes were sparkling. Did
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he have tears of joy in his eyes? “Thank God! Thank God!” he heaved a sigh of relief. “She is quite expensive. You know. Gotta check to see if she is still playing well.” He said and took her out of my hands as he turned to go to the cafe. “You coming or what?” He asked. Of course I was going with him. He suddenly seemed cool. He was an artist. He played the guitar. I have always had a thing for artists. My first crush was my music teacher. He played the piano so well. Then there was Lincoln, my buddy, who played drums. I had a huge, huge crush on him, till I realized he was gay. And now there was Mike. Did I already have a little crush on him? Let’s find out, I told me. Mike tuned the guitar. Then for the next 30 minutes, he belted out tunes on her as if she was an extension of him. He handled her deftly and with a lot of care. There was a small crowd cheering for him and I sat there gazing at this stranger I had met and disliked instantly. We spent many hours together on the train, talking, singing, peeking into each other’s lives. I was definitely attracted to him. Weird thing was I wasn’t so sure about him. He was not flirting with me. Hell! He hadn’t even tried to know my name again. Fact: Most guys interested in a girl will ask for her number within 30 minutes of exchanging pleasantries. Mike was probably not most guys. A part of me was enjoying this little fantasy; meeting a stranger on a train, getting attracted, maybe even falling in love, and then never meeting him again. When this thought occurred to me, I felt a pang, a sudden pain in my heart. I was never going to
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see him again. “I am never going to see you again after tonight, am I?” I asked not masking my sadness. “That’s not necessary. We can keep in touch you know. You can call. Maybe get together sometime.” He winked at me. Did I just blush? I was holding my breath as I waited for him to ask my number. But he changed the subject. We talked about current events. Mike was angry about the state of the world. He sang a song about it (with a lot of expletives I cannot mention.) He seemed unhappy by the way people were so mean to each other. He talked about the Oklahoma bombing, the attack on Japanese subways, the earthquake. “Don’t even get me started on human rights violations.” He said. “Wish I could do something. Someday I will.” He said with determination “Until then, I can make music right?” Now I was floored. This ordinary looking guy, but so extraordinary. What started out as a dull encounter, was transforming into a very fascinating incident. I felt like this journey should not end. As I was thinking, Mike mumbled something about wanting to sleep. He said he was exhausted and needed to rest before the big day tomorrow. What was I supposed to do? I hadn’t even told him my name yet. I wanted to shout for him to stop so we could keep talking and keep going farther and farther away. But I didn’t. I tried to catch up on some sleep too. It was hard to come by. San Diego came early. He was still asleep when I disembarked. I left him my phone number. But I was certain he would never call me. It really was the end of a dream and it was not so nice. My heart was aching to leave without exchanging good byes. But I had to go. Oh Mike! Will I ever see you
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again? I thought. See him, I did. A few years later, I saw him on T.V and almost choked. I told my boyfriend (now husband) about this tiny revelation. “Preposterous!” he bellowed. Preposterous or not, when I think about that chance encounter with Mike, I can’t help but notice Mike Shinoda the musician from Linkin Park. Was it possible, I met him on the train when he was still struggling to make a mark? Does he ever think about me? Is he really the Mike, I met on the train or does my mind play games with me just so I can find some solace. How I wish, I hadn’t been so secretive. If only we had exchanged names and numbers. If only we had stayed in touch. If only I had not been so judgmental about appearances. There are endless ‘if only’ and countless ‘what if.’ Truth is I missed my chance. Now I will never know. The fault is my own.
GENIE IN REVERSE
early exhausted from rubbing the tarnished teakettle, I figured something was up when a genie popped out. But since he emerged feet-first, I should have realized something was down. “I shall grant you three wishes,” the genie announced, like the cliché he appeared to be. So absorbed had I been in my task, I nearly wished the teakettle untarnished. But before I had time to collect my second thought, the genie stopped me from composing a request. “No new wishes, please,” he declared, “I shall grant the last three wishes you have made. Do you recall what they were?” I thought back desperately. “I wish I knew,” I responded with unintended irony. “We shall see,” said the genie, and he seized the teakettle. Out he poured my misty memory of recent conversations. The first and most recent memory was of a party the previous day and certain inane remarks of the sort that are typically made in casual company. “I’d like to go fishing tomorrow,” our host was saying, “but it may rain. What do you think?” Smiling apologetically, I had replied, “I wish I knew.” So much for the first wish…. I looked at the genie as the rain beat down outside the window. No thanks to the genie, my most recent wish had already been fulfilled, although I felt anything but fulfilled. My second wish was from before the party. I was dressed in my
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favorite brown corduroy jacket when my wife asked, “Where is that nice gray blazer I bought you for your birthday?” The gray blazer was a gift I’d accepted graciously though I much prefer wearing the corduroy jacket. Not wanting to insult her, I fell back on my accustomed innocuous response, “I wish I knew.” It occurred to me that I had come to resort regularly and almost unconsciously to that phrase because it had served me adequately on so many occasions. As I now stood beside the genie, though, I wished it hadn’t. Of course my wife located the gray blazer in a closet and that is what I was wearing at the party when I made the wish about the weather. So the first two wishes had come to a not very fruitful fruition even before the genie had made his appearance. One wish remained, and I hoped it would prove more useful than the last two. The third memory was of a meeting the preceding day with my broker who was advising me of options regarding available annuities. “There is always considerable uncertainty,” he was saying. “The return on a lifetime annuity versus a limited term annuity depends upon a person’s longevity. I could advise you precisely if you could tell me just how long you are going to live,” he chuckled. “I wish I knew,” I replied. The genie and I exchanged significant glances. Here at last was a significant wish I’d happened to make. It would be an extraordinary thing to know when you are going to die. This was information that could be used to advantage in making plans and making investments. It would be helpful in appropriating time and priorities for projects. It would be nice to know. Or would it? It seemed an assurance that would allow for great freedom of activity. But it was only an assurance of life, not of health, so the restrictions
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of caution remained. Then I thought of time becoming more finite than ever. Counting down birthdays would be even more unsettling than counting them up. Seeing the trepidation on my face the genie offered, â&#x20AC;&#x153;I can grant that wish or you may substitute another but it must be a small wish, not a major one, for I am the sort of genie whose forward gears are slow.â&#x20AC;? I smiled at him resignedly and wished the teakettle untarnished. The genie stepped forward ponderously and with great effort performed some mystical gesticulations. Then, having thus granted my wish, the genie jumped back into the shiny vessel, feet first.
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CARING AIN’T CURRENCY TUESDAY
f you arrived first, you fed Goldman. Bose kept the vulture chained to the gate outside the Human Recesses office trailer, located off a dirt road on the outskirts of Louisville. The recession had sucked away most of our business, so feeding Goldman was my one sure task. I parked by the gate; my lone working headlight blinded the bird awake. He kept his perch, fluttered his wings and muttered like a drunk succumbing to an alarm clock. “Like you have any complaints.” I pushed open the gate, metal chilled by fall morning, and swung the statuesque bird inward. Razor eyes cut out of his face, the skin scalded brain. I squatted to the weathered tool chest by the gate and patted inside for Goldman’s birdie granola and bottle of water. He dipped his scoliosis neck and barked a challenge. Unchain me and we’ll see what’s what, he said. Fat chance. Bowls filled, I cowered to my car, coasted down the gravel drive to the trailer. In the parking area I found Bose’s high back chair swiveling in the breeze. The deeper the company’s rut, the less Bose got out of his chair. He rolled around our doublewide with slack shoulders, soothsaying warnings of revenue streams drying up, everyone drowning. “We’re human resources consultants, damn it,” he’d say. “If we ain’t consulting, what’s our point?” Answer: We had no point. In message board ads we posed as H.R.
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experts, baiting sucker small businesses into sending us money for nothing. Being the young guy, I focused on internet advertising but handled spillover sales when Ted went out to smoke and Bose napped, cruised chat rooms, wheeled to the indoor porta-potty and pissed from one seat to the other, leaving the mess for me to clean up. By default, I was also the janitor. Since I arrived at 7 a.m., for a few hours I had the trailer to myself. I powered up Bose’s computer and trudged through his instant messenger history. His fingers said smut that would make a porn star blush. Until four in the morning he had cruised chat rooms in search of a hookup. After striking out, he no doubt beat off to free previews on porn sites. I was jealous. My pocket change wage afforded no discretionary cash for a home internet subscription. After shoving down some leftover macaroni and watching three hours of TV, I had to rely on imagined ex-girlfriends as stimulus for dry stroking. On Bose’s computer a new message popped up from TreasureChesty4U. “Sup, Thick Rick Bose?” the message said. As I exxed out the message a car kicked up gravel in the parking lot. Quickly I turned off Bose’s monitor and lunged the five feet to my desk. Sitting down I smelled myself in the reflection of my computer monitor. As my body took on more pounds and shed more hair the possibility of a personal life cemented itself as preposterous. Friday nights Bose would drive to the city to pick up drunken chicks at clubs. He shaved, showered, and sanded the ash off his cheeks. The effect was: Hey, look at the clean fat man. I preferred working, living, hiding outside the judging city lights. My indifference to self-betterment had no spectators. Meanwhile, old friends labeled me a hermit and quit calling. Their
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lives entered the family phase. Mom gave up on grandbabies. Ted’s smoker hack preceded him through the entry flap. Wearing a metallic floral shirt Hawaiians will wear in the year 3,000, he bypassed his desk and planted himself behind me. “What’s up?” he asked. “Hey man.” “Tired. Watched Vanilla Sky last night. You should’ve come over.” He always invited me over to watch movies. I mistakenly accepted once. The only place to sit was an armchair trying to pass for a loveseat. Throughout the movie—A Knight’s Tale—he sat crosslegged and tapped my knee with his foot. Out of the corner of my eye I caught him watching me. With the remote he turned up the volume. “In a sec this smoking chick’s gonna walk by in the background,” he said. “You’ve seen this already?” “Check out that main dude. Nice. So do you like girls or what?” “Yeah. Girls.” “That all you like?” His hand dropped on my thigh. Sorry to come off homophobic, but I left Ted’s apartment. Not that he was gay. He wasn’t straight, either—he simply sought to fill every hole on the face of the earth. Mornings I would keep my attention from him, hoping he would leave me alone. That failed, and he would spray the back of my head with every second of his life, or in this case the entire plot to Vanilla Sky. “At the end of the movie, finally, after dreaming all that crazy shit, they found a cure for Tom Cruise’s face. And the cure,” he said, “was a surgery.” “I might want to see that one day.”
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“You won’t see it.” “I need to pee.” I went to hide in the indoor porta-john. Thin plastic walls treated the entire office to splatters and grunts and other bathroom embarrassments. I sat to pee, snuffing the prattle of high elevation urination. As I pissed into the blue liquid below, Bose rattled his chair up the front ramp. “Teddy,” Bose said, entering the trailer. “Where’s Dusty?” “Bathroom,” Ted said. “He’s acting seriously messed up today.” A moment of silence. “Is he crying?” “Shh. Maybe.” “Wanna tip the potty?” I cut my stream and barreled out to the hand sanitizer station. Bose cackled in his chair like a middle-aged demon child, squinting out of his lazy left eye. His right eye was lazy, too. So were his neck, arms, legs and feet. Hell, he was all lazy. “Flog off at home all you want,” he said, “but when you’re here you gotta work.” “How’s developing the Spanish market going?” I asked. A few days earlier, Bose had blogged his plan to break into “the Spanish market.” At a real human resources firm, blogging company strategies would be a capital offense. Luckily Human Recesses wasn’t terribly real. Our sole purpose was to skim six hundred bucks off a sucker here, nine hundred off a sap there, so nobody cared that Bose had a blog. Unfortunately, the sucker pool was drying up fast. “I need to hire a Latino,” Bose wrote in the
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blog. “White people know we ain’t legit. And white people talk. Don’t hire Human Recesses, they say. Bastards. But here’s the opportunity: white people talk in English. All I need to do is market to dudes who can’t speak English and therefore haven’t heard to not hire us.” Bose decompressed in his chair. “I got bigger probs than the Spanish market. Like do you know that chick I’ve been giving the bone to? Little cluck cluck? She be married. Stupid, I know. We’ve only had only a couple nights of incredible deep dicking but I really am falling for this one, probably. And there’s more on top of that: the backers,” meaning his dad, “don’t give two shits about saving the dream.” Deeming Human Recesses a “dream” was a stretch, and saving it seemed an unlikely interest for Bose. He didn’t even have interest enough to stay awake an entire morning. Example: When I next looked up, he was asleep. * “Dusty,” Bose said, awakening from his nap. I pretended not to hear him through my headphones. He rolled over anyway, kicking against the floor like a just born colt. On my screen, an instant message popped up from Mr. Reál, my lone LTS, or Long Term Sucker—someone stupid enough to sign a long-term contract for human resources consulting. “Yo dusty,” Bose said. “I got a message.” “Ah Jesus. Not another M2M.”
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It wasn’t from an M2M (Month 2 Month), who wrote only to cancel, usually after $300 (one month) or $600 (two months), the latter being our revenue goal for each client. Though meager, revenue was pure profit since we didn’t do actually anything for clients beyond letting them feel like they had human resources expertise. “I bet he’s canceling,” Bose said. “No way. Mr. Reál’s the dude I told you about with the personalized marshmallow company. He’s a lifer.” I opened the message.
RealDeal1742: dear dip-holes, i’m canceling.
“I knew it,” Bose said. “This is normal.” Mr. Reál threatened to cancel all the time. Still, the stress of losing my lone LTS cranked open my sweat glands. I began piecemealing reasons Mr. Reál should maintain his contract: I had to pay rent, car payments, the cable bill. I couldn’t let him cancel. DustinCaresHR: Good to hear from you, Mr. Reál. How can I help you today? “The ignore approach,” Bose said. “Pretend he doesn’t want to cancel. That always works.” “Does it?” “It should!”
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RealDeal1742: how’d you type the ‘a like that? w/ the accent?
“I was gonna ask that,” Bose said. I told Mr. Reál how to type the a like that and offered to show him a plethora of cool keyboard shortcuts, because I valued his business and wanted to be his full service human resource. I didn’t mention that, according to his file, he had only two employees and, with such a tiny staff, didn’t need H.R. support. Conversely, we needed his monthly payment. DustinCaresHR: We have so many services that will ramp up your business. Have I told you about ComfortCare? RealDeal1742: i doubt we reálly need that. DustinCaresHR: With ComfortCare, we process your payroll checks. Just send them to us and we’ll take care of the painstaking process of stamping your signature onto your checks. RealDeal1742: i only write 4 payroll checks a month. DustinCaresHR3: ComfortCare—Let us clear your plate so you can focus on growing your business. RealDeal1742: r u listening? sometimes it’s like u dudes arent reálly a reál company.
“You’re losing him,” Bose said. “Shut up. There’s still one thing I can do.” “Beg?”
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“No, idiot. I’ll actually try to help him.”
DustinCaresHR: Is there something I can help with today? RealDeal1742: about a million things. but i’m scared to say b/c u dudes always make things worse. but i reálly do need some f ’n help. DustinCaresHR: That’s why we’re here. RealDeal1742: ok, here’s the sitch: just yesterday i pretended to teabag my secretary. it was a joke! but I reálly thought we had that kind of thing going. like she’s flirty all the time. but maybe i should’ve taken a dif approach, like asking her out. but would that have been a bad move too? i’m positioned over her (I mean that figuratively) (unfortunately), but if she said yes then i could’ve teabagged her in a private setting and not in front of eric, my idiot brother’s kid who works for me part time. this all happened right after i yelled to eric to come here and watch me teabag flo. did he warn me I was committing suicide? no. now flo’s threatening some pain in the ass lawsuit. “ ‘Positioned over her,’ ” Bose said. “ ‘Figuratively.’ That there’s comical.” I asked Mr. Reál how he planned to handle the Flo situation. Asking a client his plan for handling a crisis, then rephrasing it back at him, was our number one method of support.
RealDeal1742: i guess i should apologize. DustinCaresHR: Maybe just say you’re sorry? Surely she’s rational.
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RealDeal1742: she’s a woman. DustinCaresHR: Yes, and you’re a man. A man who owns a personalized marshmallow business. Have you considered apologizing using a marshmallow? His cursor blinked for an eternity. Bose’s anticipation pushed him so close to the screen he nearly sat in my lap.
RealDeal1742: apologize w/ a marshmallow. that is f ’n beautiful.
Just like that, I became a hero. Bose and I high-fived and celebrated with a shameful fat man dance-a-thon. To Mr. Reál I typed, “Just doing my job.” Then, on Bose’s genius suggestion, I explained that our billing cycle had changed. I typed, “I’ll need to go ahead and run your credit card for the next month’s service.” * After I saved the Reál account, Bose begged me to become Director of Spanish Operations. “With that accent squiggly trick you’re halfway to speaking authentic Español,” he said. The promotion would carry no payraise, so I refused it. Dejected, Bose left for lunch. When Ted stepped out for afternoon cigarette number three, I jumped to Bose’s computer and read his instant messenger history. A new exchange with SweatYoungThing69, dominated by the letter M on repeat (mmmmmm), culminated with a plan
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to meet at the Rodeway Inn. “I’m twenty minutes away,” Bose typed to her. “I’ll be there in thirty.” He returned two hours later, on his feet for the first time in a week. He so rarely stood that I had forgotten he was a goliath, a linebacker mountain that eclipsed the small Latino woman cowering behind him. The woman wore a khaki smock and held a folded bath towel over her arm, extended in the bird-perch position. “This is Lupe or Lupita,” Bose announced. He pushed his chair to his desk and began blogging. The speechless woman surveyed the trailer, shoulders square to the exit. “Just stay right there,” he said as he finished typing. On my computer I pulled up his blog and read the just-finished entry: “When life gives you a packet of lemonade, just add water.” So I goes to meet old girl (you know who) at the motel for a pity poke. Apparently she had a stroke on her way over, ‘cos her ass never did show. So I wanders around the hotel, peep the hot tub for backup box. I don’t find nothing but this foreigner chick pushing a cart of towels. I’m like, Hey you. She thanks me. I’m like, Thanks for what? She thanks me again. Something tells me this girl’s Spanish… Ted returned, snuffed cigarette waiting in his ear, sniffing like a hound dog on the sex scent. “What’s her story?” he asked. “La muchacha is a gold mine,” Bose said. “She’s our ticket to breaking into that Spanish market that’s been worrying us bananas.” “Hola,” Ted said to her. “Thank you,” she said.
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“Don’t mention it. You a fan of el cinemas?” “Leave Lupe alone, Ted,” Bose said. Her nametag said María, I could see it from six feet away. “This girl’s our All Star and nobody’s corrupting her. That goes double for you, Dusty.” “Start housekeeping?” she asked. “What? No. The Spanish market I told you about. Do you have to hover? Hovering makes me nervous. Just go back there and sit. Sssiiitttt. Fine.” From his desk he removed a rag that, considering his x-rated internet history, had surely cleaned some nasty spews. “Housekeeping back there in the corner. For the love of flipping Hank. I’m taking fifteen.” After Bose went outside, María keeled into the chair at the empty desk next to mine. Sitting in silence, I imagined our inability to communicate as sage. Actually I felt awkward and she just seemed tired. I caught her eye and nodded at Bose’s desk. “Idiot,” I said. She didn’t even squint to hear me better. She just went on massaging her ankles. WEDNESDAY I started my morning by reading Bose’s latest cyber binge, inspired by post-hiring dissonance over María. His chat room come-ons led with: “Bad hire leaves manager blue. Care to cheer me up?” By primetime he latched onto “Bug Sexy,” a randy-fingered single mother who tucked her kids in early so Bose could “come on over.” The night must’ve gone well, as around
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nine Bose arrived at the trailer with Bug Sexy in tow. One of her hocks held a Mickey Mouse purse, the other squeezed Bose at the waist, their doughy bodies mixing like chemicals in an elementary school science experiment. “Well ain’t this,” she breathed in the trailer, “quaint.” “That’s Dusty over there,” Bose said. “Teddy’s against the window. Wave hi, Teddy.” She smushed a finger into Bose’s mouth. “I’m hungry, daddy,” she said. “I wouldn’t mind seconds,” he mumbled. “Go warm up the car, baby bush.” After she left, he hollered while beating his chest like Tarzan. “Absolute freak.” Wrapped in an after-sex glow, he bounded to his computer, gunned his fingers across the keyboard. “I don’t know her name and she’s my effing savior!” As soon as he finished the blog entry, I pulled it up: Two Birds, One Dong Hooked up with an angelita last night. Get this: when we wuz sanz clothes she started raving espanol like a loco. My fantasy of doing a Latino? Fulfilled, and I didn’t even have to cross the racial divide. More importantly, as I poured it to her I got this grande idea that tapping her ass would be the key to tapping into the Spanish market. Now here she is in my office, positioned under me (LITERALLY). Life can’t get no sweeter.
What a jerk. He stole Mr. Reál’s line.
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Bug Sexy shared a desk with María. All afternoon she flitted rapid Spanish at the poor displaced cleaning lady. María didn’t look up from the square of filing cabinet she had dedicated herself to waxing. In my head I played around with what weird scenario would lead me to doing it with one of them, both of them, on my desk. No scenarios came to me, just like no woman had come to me in a year. I didn’t have time to dwell. Caring ain’t currency. An electronic gong piped through my headphones, signaling a new instant message. RealDeal1742: dear idiots, now flo is quitting AND suing my ass. she said the personalized marshmallow (SORRY I SEXUALLY HARASSED YOU) confirmed her harassment claim. it’s evidence she said!!! i’m ruined!!! my dreams are flushed!!! Stress made my head sweat. Cool as a cucumber didn’t run in my genes—I was a pickle under pressure. I ran to the bathroom. The seat was covered in urine. I ripped off a wad of toilet paper and started to wipe off the seat, but newfound hatred for the world kept me from following through. I hovered my ass over the toilet and peed, then I stepped out to the hand sanitizer station. There stood Bug Sexy, impatiently tapping her foot. Shit, I thought and tried to close the door and clean up the mess, but she wormed past me and slammed the door in my face. Back at my desk, Mr. Reál’s message now had fifteen additional lines, each demanding I answer him. I turned off my monitor and rested my head
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on my desk like a school kid taking a nap. A sleep fog seeped into me before I was startled by the porta-potty door creaking open and clacking closed. With one open eye I watched Bug Sexy stomp to Bose’s desk. “He’s a little urinater,” she said. “I got to deal with this crap at home with my kids. I ain’t even dealing with it here.” Bose said he would deal with it. She fussed to her desk and began cursing me to María. Somehow, with my head down, her angry whispered Spanish sounded soothing. She might as well have been the ocean. Mouth closed I exhaled a yawn out my nose. The next thing I knew Bose was shaking me, saying, “Dusty, Dusty.” I ignored him and pretended to sleep, like I used to do when mom tried to wake me for church. “Girls sit to pee, Dusty,” he said. “Hear me? We’ve lived the good bachelor life but now we got some chicks in here and need to show some respect. Got that? If you can hear me, remember: When you pee, try and focus on the task at hand, or in hand if you know what I’m saying, and don’t hit the seat…” Alone I awoke to a dog barking outside the trailer. The office was night black, save the blinking lights on sleeping computers. Computer buzzing made the trailer feel like a true waking world where computers created reality; they dreamed the world we lived in. I did so little off the net that that might as well have been the case. I shook my mouse to wake my monitor. Words swam into shape on screen. When they formed a hundred instant message threats from Mr. Reál, I turned my monitor right back off.
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I felt my way to the exit and stepped into the night. Dark when I arrived, dark when I left. Fuck the stars. The dog kept barking and sounded close enough to give me a chill. I often heard country dogs howling from nearby farmhouses, but they never came so close. I hustled to my car and then bounced across the bumpy drive to the gate. “The shit?” I said. Goldman’s chain rose into the air. A spiky wet mutt stood below him, wailing into the sky. Feathers rained down as Goldman careened in circles as if lassoed. His wings faltered, he dropped and the dog lunged up. At the last second Goldman saved himself with wild desperate flaps. I jumped out of the car, unstrapped my belt and threw it at the mutt, hollering, “Get on outta here,” sounding like an old prospector. The mutt held ground for a growl. Pants held by the waist, I stomped the gravel. The dog stood ground for a growl before it trotted away, looking over its shoulder to cuss me. “It’s alright, boy,” I called to Goldman. I hated the bird but didn’t like seeing him in a panic. “That old mutt ain’t coming back.” Nothing I said would bring the dumb bird down. Driving to the highway, I could still see him in my rearview, flying fitted circles against the red night sky. THURSDAY I coasted through the gate, which to my surprise was open. Goldman stood on the ground, shocked comatose from his run in with Cujo. I coasted to the parking area, where Bose slept in his car, strung across the back seat.
64 Brandon Bell
He never beat me to work, let alone slept there. I let him doze, hustled inside and checked his blog. Title of the latest entry: Firing Someone. Complete body text: Sucks balls. Money turned precious and foreign. I took a mental inventory of my CDs and their resell value and cussed myself for splurging on a Subway foot long for dinner every night. I should’ve been nicer to Bose. His idiocy blinded me to the fact that he held my financial fate in his hands. Minutes later Bose’s chair fought through the door flap like a chick cracking out of an egg. He slumped into the chair. His sliced eyelids showed red like horizon sun through venetian blinds. I sat up and gave my first friendly wave since the day he hired me. “You chatting with someone?” he asked. A message from Mr. Reál flashed on my screen. “I’m in town,” it said. “Loading your coordinates into the GPS.” “I guess you heard,” Bose said. “Heard what, sir?” “That Lupe or whatever was gonna tank us.” His meaning sank in. “She’s gone?” “Long gone. Eighty-sixed. Damn shame. The trailer’s never been cleaner. So that sucks. Then me and Bug Sexy got into a barn burner last night.” He wagged his nose, thumbing a missing chunk. “Yet another soulmate gone bust.” “God, I’m sorry,” I said. “Me too. If only she’d chewed my nose off before I went and fired
65 Brandon Bell
Ted.” “You what?” “Messenger’s beeping again.” Mr. Reál had uploaded a picture of an oversized marshmallow. Scribbled across it were the words, “Your reckoning comes now.” “You get along with your dad?” Bose asked. “I—” “I don’t. He does call me the prodigy son, though.” “Prodigal.” “That’s the word. Probably doesn’t mean it. Nice of him to say it, I guess.” He looked into me, rolled forward a couple feet, stopped and farted. “I tried holding that in, I swear. Say: you never fart.” His accusation so took me by surprise that a smile wrinkled on my face. I tried shaking it off, dipped my head and pretended to scroll through my email. “I fart.” “I never smell anything come out of you.” I couldn’t keep the chuckle from rolling out. Despite his ineptitude, clueless bigotry and overall laziness, he could be funny. Or at least honest to the point of ridiculousness. I raised a cheek and strained, but nothing came. “You’re right,” I said. “I don’t fart.” “You might wanna get that looked at.” As if going to swat a fly, he shot out of his chair and smacked the wall. His outburst hinted at a man ready to conquer the world, or at least raise Human Recesses to mediocrity. But standing had depleted him. “Goddamn,” he said. “Why’s it so hard to coast by these days?”
66 Brandon Bell
He soon fell asleep, his mouth a crater that fouled up the trailer with morning breath and refilled my venom. Watching him snore, I imagined Mr. Reál busting in and blowing us away. It wouldn’t have been so bad as long as he popped Bose first. Then the flap swung open. “Assassin!” I dove under my desk. My fingers, tangled in computer cords, brought down my keyboard and mouse and nearly toppled the monitor, too. I grabbed the monitor and caught a glimpse of Ted coming through the flap. His hair was a mess and his arms were tattooed with dance club stamps. Bose slipped out of his chair, unsure if he should react to the havoc I had caused or the man he had fired. “What are you doing here?” he asked Ted. “I like work here, dude,” he said. “What’s that little Mexican guy doing out there?” “What guy?” “That little short guy sitting on your car.” The three of us crowded around the porthole window like cruiseship tourists smiling at a hurricane. In the parking lot a round man, wearing a sweatshirt puff-painted with marshmallows, fumbled with a shiny blue crossbow. “Jesus,” I said. “He wasn’t bluffing.” “That’s just a Nerf crossbow,” said Bose. “You don’t know that,” Ted said. “Real one’s don’t take neon green arrows. Ah, what the hell.” Bose brushed us aside, taking full view of the window. “How’d Goldman get loose?”
67 Brandon Bell
I felt like I was watching a dream. The vulture dragged his chain across the parking lot, fluttering his wings as if about to fly away. Instead he began squawking, circling in the gravel. I had never felt more affinity with him. Like me, he could now go anywhere, do anything, and he chose to stay put and complain. “Old dude just kicked Goldman,” Bose said. “Is this really happening?” “Why do you keep saying that?” “It’s my LTS. The guy who threatened to kill me.” “Threatening my boy and cutting Goldman loose? Nuh-uh, this won’t do.” Bose ran back to his desk and rooted through drawers. Pens and paperclips clicked out and post-its latched to his wrists as he unearthed an aluminum ashtray. “I can’t believe I got us killed,” I told Ted. “Is Bose through with that new girl yet?” he asked. “We’re at Def-Jam 3,” Bose said. He wrote POLICE in black marker on the ashtray, stapled it to his breast pocket. “We hafta circle the wagons to get that prick out there. Thank god I didn’t fire either of you. I didn’t fire you, right?” “Human Recesses for life,” said Ted. “Good. Good.” “Bastard,” Ted whispered. “I ain’t going out like that. I literally built this place with my bare fucking sales.” “What’s that?” Bose asked. Ted began rubbing his crotch. “Is Lupe here?”
68 Brandon Bell
“Dammit, Teddy. Your one-track pain is a real cock in my ass.” He threw a stapler that sailed over my head and exploded against the wall. “That’s a weapon, Dusty. Now Teddy, you grab Lupe’s mop and follow me.” Bose charged out the flap. Out the window I watched as Mr. Reál tugged the handle of my driver-side door. He flinched at Bose’s reflection in the window, spun with the crossbow. “The crossbow’s real,” Bose yelled. Feet digging into the gravel, he changed course and darted toward a crop of trees behind the trailer. “We gotta,” I said, but Ted had already run outside. He stunned Mr. Reál with a broom shot to the back of the head. Holding the halved broom, he bolted out of view. Mr. Reál charged after him. A clang rocked the trailer and for a second everything quieted. Someone begged or laughed or was tickled to death. I had to hide. Using the stapler I smashed out the overhead lights, darkening the trailer and creating a downpour of plastic shards and fluorescent tubing. I fumbled for the porta-potty, clawed for the door and hid inside. When my butt hit the wet seat I regretted sitting down. I had so many regrets. They filed in line to nag me, so many I couldn’t pay attention to any of them. I heard the entry-flap open. Holding my breath, I eased down the occupied lock. I sat listening, wet, regretting. I hoped Mr. Reál wouldn’t find me. Brandon Bell
Untitled Skuds McKinley
WE ARE BETTER THAN HUMAN NOW
tepping out the front door into the autumn morning involves the same set of ephemeral sensations: the sting of slightly-below-record-average temperature, mechanisms adjusting to the cathedral window palette— claymation yellows, burnt ochres. The faintest whiff of something burning. In an instant the shock is over and I’m one more gear in the whirring and bustling day. This particular morning I’m greeted with abnormal gusto by the obsolete model that lives two doors down. He smiles and waves not just his right hand, but the whole limb in my direction, then heads down the block. What a peculiar old thing. Every night he arrives home late lugging two or three paper bags, hunched over, ample stomach straining visibly under gray suspenders. He’s always greeted by a retinue of hungry neighborhood cats. Milo told me that he saw into one of the paper bags once, and that there was a squirrel trap in it. Goldie—a cat that used to rub herself against my leg—hasn’t been seen in two weeks. I hop down my seven front steps, kicking each leg out in a ridiculous dance, savoring the illusion that I’m not being watched. I turn left, round a corner, and walk for half a block. Milo is waiting for me in the usual spot, underneath four habitually somber London Plane Trees. Today, their waterlogged bark splits into patches of emerald green and orange. He wears a spearmint jacket and a fedora pulled
71 Julia Rose Roberts
over his eyes; his slice of the world ends at the cigarette he’s smoking. “Good morning!” I announce. While I’m sure he hasn’t noticed me, he isn’t startled. “Hey,” he says, pulling his hat up, drinking in my countenance with a long look. He pulls a face at the camera hidden in the tree branches—fingers tugging at the corners of his lips, eyeballs rolling back. It makes me giggle. Then he says, “let’s get going.” We walk side-by-side to Walker’s, foist ourselves up onto worn leather stools at the counter. The televisions in the corner restaurant are blaring with the morning news. “What would you like?” Walker asks us. He works every single day. His immense spectacles magnify his eyes at least threefold, and though we always order the same thing, he always asks what we want. “Two cups of oil,” Milo says, “no cream and sugar.” “Two plates of scrap,” I add, “go easy on the bolts.” Walker nods and goes off to prepare the meal. His motions are fluid, and he generally seems an efficient machine. But some of the advertisements crowding the walls—for mail-order self-repair kits, mostly-organic cigarettes—must date all the way back to the twenty-fifties. I wonder how long Walker has been operating on the premises; if his memory is glitchy, he could be seeing us for the first time every morning. Milo and I have been sitting in comfortable silence for twenty minutes. The news reports that one of the panda triplets successfully resurrected in a Hong Kong bestiary has developed an addiction to pain pills. They cut to a shot of the fuzzy creature after a few hours without medication, and he’s huddled in the corner of his cage, crying and crying. One of the
72 Julia Rose Roberts
cub’s caretakers tells the camera, “the best option at this point would be to put him down. We could dissect his brain, figure out how this happens, and make another bear.” Milo is watching his boots dangle, occasionally sipping his mug of oil and pursing his lips. He feels no urgent need to speak, but I’m getting uncomfortable. “How’s work going?” I ask him. He frowns, stares at the wall. “It’s alright. You know that.” Milo is a freelance tinkerer and professional cruncher of numbers. He spends three days of the week in a Silicon Sector cubicle. The other four he works from home, building machines. His apartment is littered with the obsolete and expired fruits of his labor: masses of wire that whine like guitars when you disturb the air around them, a gadget that projects light on the wall when you sing into a microphone. He’s even built a machine that writes public speeches; it knows how to arrange language in a sentence, and spits out strings of pre-programmed words when you flip it on. “What are you working on now exactly?” I ask him. My friend rolls his eyes. “Nothing exciting,” he says. “Some company hired me to build a prototype of a cheap way to photograph outer space. It’s like attaching a camera to one of those ancient weather balloons, except it has to travel farther out. And the whole damn thing isn’t supposed to break—it can’t crash-land on a hill or anything. That’s the tricky part.” I nod in an “of course it is” kind of way, although the whole affair is tricky to me. I know a few basic mechanical concepts; I fixed the circuits on my mobile glider when they fizzled out. But the composition of anything
73 Julia Rose Roberts
more complex is well beyond my scope of understanding. “I’m not sure what the point is,” Milo concludes. “We already know there’s nothing out there.” I force myself to nod, then take a forkful of scrap into my mouth to avoid replying. As always the taste is just a little too coppery—the mark of cheap sustenance—but there’s something comforting about it. I let a chunk float around in my mouth for a second and screech against my incisors, then grind it into bits and swallow. “I accidentally cut myself this morning.” Milo shows me his palm: there’s a long rusty sliver along the top. I wince. It emits yellow sparks in my direction. “Why didn’t you fix that right away?” He says nothing, doesn’t budge. “Why didn’t you mention it earlier?” He finally cracks a bemused grin at my urgent tone. “I dunno,” he says, “part of the job really. Guess I sort of forgot about it. Anyway, it’s easily fixed.” “Ugh.” “Why don’t you fix it, Lucinda?” He’s still grinning. “Why would I fix it? You could easily take care of it yourself, you said as much.” “I certainly could.” His tone is almost boastful. “But you could use the practice. You’ll get one of these someday yourself, and then you’ll be in a fix.” I hate it when he does this; challenges me in a capacity we both know I’m ignorant in, then makes out that he’s trying to teach me something.
74 Julia Rose Roberts
Nonetheless, I can’t argue with him. “Oh alright.” He’s already extracting a tiny leather case from his back pocket. He hands it to me. There, in the restaurant, holding his left palm nervously in my hands, I feel suddenly overwhelmed by a bizarre emotion. The plates behind my cheeks are burning, and I’m slightly dizzy. What well-crafted palms, I find myself thinking. I begin to consider his eyes, then try and focus again on the situation at hand. I’m drawing oxygen in quickly and at length, much more than I need to keep the motor behind my breastplate running. Could it be that I’m about to suffer a collapse? My shaking hands push these thoughts out of my mind. With a blue lighter, a liquid pen, and a vial of melted steel, I weld the slice in Milo’s hand shut. I look up when I’m finished to see his clear blue eyes and wry expression trained on my face. My cheeks still feel warm. It takes a moment before I realize I’m clutching his hand. “Are you alright?” he asks me, drawing it back and waving it in the air to cool the metal.” “Yes. I’m fine.” Milo and I pay Walker and part ways soon after that. He, to work on his galaxy exploration unit, while I return home to the massive columns of books that I tally for a living. Unlike my friend, I’m fond of my work. I count the parts of speech—nouns, adverbs, etc.—in books The Library has yet to catalogue. “Autumn” is a distinctly blue and foggy word, despite the foliage on the streets. “Philistine” is snaky and writhes around my wrists. Milo never asks about what I do. Still, I feel off all afternoon. I can’t shake the sense that I missed
75 Julia Rose Roberts
something at Walkerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s. Something that should have happened with Milo, and very nearly did. But the thought is illogical, incongruent. Tomorrow, I decide as my sleep function kicks in, tomorrow Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll make an appointment for a system check.
Julia Rose Roberts
Hard Edge Joe Boruchow
DEMOLISHED I pulverized the voice of you won’t survive this I shattered the pane of lack and need more And shoved the shards underfoot I stepped on the crack And broke the back of mother pain I twisted off the head of struggle And shouted down its neck, “no more!” I crumbled up the stories of my past And threw them in the incinerator of my burning heart I pushed disappointment out the window And willed it to fall to its demise I SMASHED THE MESS YOU LEFT HERE I SMASHED THE MESS YOU LEFT I SMASHED THE MESS, YOU I SMASHED THE MESS
77 Adriann “The Pen” Bautista
I SMASHED THE MESS YOU LEFT HERE I SMASHED
Adriann “The Pen” Bautista
POEM 2 my fingers lovingly caress the leather finish gently stroking the metal fittings like nipples brushing with the tips of my fingers the combination dial but i stop myself from opening the case within it madness i want so badly to open the case cauterize the world with its nuclear payload turn the key awaiting only verification from the pentagon but the pentagon is down the whole defense department was taken out that afternoon in the barn when she did her yoga climb up my back
79 Harry Baker
im a defenseless puppy what kind of person tortures a puppy? well, this puppy is packing nukes but without the authorization code all bark and no boom so love ghandi that i am i fade into the background of her life no bridges burning no napalm madness adult romance a dolt romance puppies age faster than people im almost all grown up now i try not to hurt myself more than neccessary why tilt at windmills? why seek paradise? why chase the ball when shes not throwing it? sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s only faking you out get the ball, boy!
80 Harry Baker
laughing at the stupid dog its a sham its a mirage its a hacky screenplay trick invented to sell soap brief moments of happiness are also available so ill plan to enjoy them as they arise and stop thinking about the future zen it out make the most of moments of whatever kind they may be like the moment you realize itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s over man what a rush the genius finally listens to her skipping record hears the lyrics it sinks in like bad advertising
81 Harry Baker
ill try it without the fire this time instead of flames i lift my leg to warn the next puppy move on to the next bridge to paradise bridges to paradise county most have been reduced to ash im leaving this one up in case she ever misses her puppy
Cars and Housetops Joe Boruchow
Medallion Joe Boruchow
WHERE THEREâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S SMOKE Where thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s smoke it pools, refuses to course left or right down the hall it slips under doors hides between folds in the linen closet marks the wall behind the toaster, marks you. You now expect a whisping curl beneath your hood, the workplace coffeepot. You grow accustomed. Every day key in hand the door opens
83 Rachel Brown
it rushes to greet you, a whiff of fire.
THOSE ABOUT TO BE We stayed dark. The sun ignited its failure upon Our brains. The boiling vision of the city Fell from the last flashing window. The houses in El Cerro looked like rubble from a wretched time. We walked on, breathing the fragrance of the fruits, lushness Of the sunrise slowly penetrated by the nausea of Muddy streets. Shouts and knives. Hidden, encrusted in transParent bottles, being strangers in the eyes of the peoPle was hell and release from a crushing fatigue. Silence was the path, the detour we arrived at through Fear. No use singing. Too melancholy, watchIng an adolescent girl torn between blood and Rough laughter.
85 Roger SantivĂĄĂąez
Sweet was the corner. Under trees in their whispering time It surged toward anger, the rigid trembling of the constellaTions . And shining heads in the night.
Roger SantivĂĄĂąez Translated by Naomi Lindstrom
FREE FALL FRENZY Grey skies The blackest eyes beat one into submission. Crack the whip callous centurion. Minds shift fevers pitch; Bullet in the chamber. Round and round cringing at the sound, POW! Your mental is broken. A million shards penetrate the soul. How so? For it was purchased by dirty deeds...weeps, bleeds Lord deliver me! Wretched No longer allowed to breathe. Morbid breeze breaks the silence like a guillotine. Cut off--no more. Yes, no more. Creatureâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s cauldron simmers Disguising the whisper. Release me at once, I demand. Take a stand, Each movement impossible quick sand.
Stephanie L. Morris
TWINE a crack sutured shut in my skull still showing, tar lines spilled on cement sidewalk a crack sutured shut, soft spot rages, shutters closed, shaken babies rock cradles, a crack, sutured shut, soft cry river waging war, raven sought, crave release, resignation, a crack, sutured shut, soft on corner, staple copies staple copies staple copies spilled coffee a crack sutured, shut, soft tracks spare parts, rabbit tail shift right, tinfoil wishes rust a crack, sutured shut in my skull, still showing tar, lines spilled on cement sidewalk
Nina Melito 88
FIRE RADIO We lay and listened to the fire radio outside in the dark. Didn’t watch the flashing lights of the firetruck but they painted the walls anyway, beat against our eyes flickering. We waited until the neighbors’ false alarm was over before shifting toward each other again. Whispering to stay peaceful, we could not hear our own words undistorted, but could hear our breath when we didn’t speak. 89 David Kertis
The moment that came between us was sudden; it happened and we rolled away like the lull, fell into that hole in the night and were both that quickly asleep.
he car lurched onward, a ruby beetle seeking refuge from an impending seasonal shift, and the exhaust which trailed it seemed a desperate smoke signal. Guiding the bug on its doomed path was Anthony, and to his right, his seven-year-old daughter, wailing as she cradled a now-four-fingered hand. Despite having made, by a recognized grace, only one trip to the emergency room in the past seven years, Anthony realized blurrily that he was driving there as if the course were rote: Surmount the San Franciscan hill that was Abrams Ave, crest the top, cross the train tracks at the bottom, and pass under the glare of one traffic light (hopefully green) at the four-way intersection on the other side to pull up to the front doors of the E.R. It was a simple path he now cursed because he’d yet to make it up the hill, as his car sputtered and flitted, pushing forward only in short bursts. All that mattered was getting this hunk of shit down the other side of the hill and through the intersection so that his daughter’s severed digit—a good two-thirds of a pinky finger contained by an iced Ziploc bag in the cupholder—could be reattached. He was trying to focus solely on ending her pain, but he couldn’t keep back the thought that, in a sense, they had been lucky: he’d have cut off her thumb if she’d placed her hand on the other side of the cutting board, as he cried over the onions and the gut-pounding severance of losing his father. Dad, be with her now, he thought as the car approached the hilltop
91 Billy Brennan
with trepidation. He didn’t know if he believed in the import behind his invocation, but then the car crested the hill, instantly stalled—and began rolling down the other side. Now just the tracks and the intersection lay ahead. He said nothing to soothe her because he did not want her to hear his voice quiver or to give an impression of his weakness. If she observed this on her own in later years, so be it; but he would not be the one to let her know. The towel wrapping her hand looked wine-soaked from the blood; he’d used tape to keep it tightly in place because he didn’t believe in her tiny right hand’s ability to maintain pressure. What a sickening story to tell, he thought. “Well, I was crying—over the onions I was cutting!—and I didn’t see her come up through the tears . . .” He could imagine the questions that longlost aunts and uncles would ask him at the funeral. His father’s funeral, not Kelly’s. There would be no funeral for Kelly—there would never be a funeral for Kelly—because now his car was swiftly descending the hill (it seemed twice as steep going down as it had on the way up) and he was giving no thought to the brake because there were no cars ahead on the road or stopped at the intersection. Hell, if traffic was clear, he’d blow the light. From deep within him, a bellowing laugh rose—it began with a rattle in his diaphragm, slithered up his esophagus, struck the vocal chords, and, before he could retain it, lunged from him and coiled itself around his daughter’s screams. How strange was it that he was laughing? The thought of his dad’s sneezing had inexplicably come to his mind, and this seemed to be what had brought on the fit. He envisioned the man as he remembered him most
92 Billy Brennan
clearly: standing in the bleachers of his son’s high school baseball game, wearing the team’s viridian in support and saying, Come on, Ant, hang in there, you got this, as Anthony rounded third base for home. His dad’s sneezing and coughing on those nights after games, exacerbated by the dust from the diamond and by his own weak lungs, never failed to scare the hell out of someone in a nearby room, and Anthony’s mother had made it a tradition to yell in response, “Here comes the—” Train. At the bottom of the hill, a red-and-white striped arm was falling across the road, coming down to keep cars—to keep him and his daughter—out of its path, but he realized through a sickening self-view that if he hit the brakes they would stop either just in time or in the underbelly of the locomotive. On both sides of the arm signals flared and died over and over, like a warning light being shone through amber, and a bell with a steady beat clanged. Clenching the steering wheel, he moved his foot from over the brake and pressed the gas to its end with such force that his shaking ankle nearly failed him. His daughter screamed, “Dad! Stop! Train!” and he broke his silence to tell her to hold on, seeing from the corner of his eye her misinterpretation of the command, as her right hand gripped the bloody towel tighter, so that the knuckles went pure as the fist reddened. Here comes the train . . . It ran three measly cars long, and he realized that they would clear its front end and make it safe across if it the car would keep its same speed. It bellowed at him—he thought distantly of how little it sounded like his father—and then they cracked the striped arm in two, careened over the
93 Billy Brennan
tracks, and were kissed by the blunt power of the train’s passage through the black plume behind. He found himself trembling, pulling breath in deep drags, crying—but he feared his daughter would turn to see his blood-rushed and contorted face, his pitiful display of humanity, and be sliced by him again. Yet she was crying, too—he heard her sobbing Daddy . . . Daddy— and he thought maybe, if she cried a little harder and he a little less, she’d see nothing through the tears but a blood red towel and he a green light.
GUERNICA I went to prison today, Got out before night, But not before it fell dark, I went because all my biggest fans are behind bars, Young Bloods with a talent for transcribing poems From bottom bunk beds to witness stands, They know heartbreak without ever feeling first love, The silence of a motherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s tears behind glass, That makes them think, Remember when? Things were as simple as getting up at 8:00 am, Kids they were, The color of freshly bathed blackboards, But this world too quickly beat the lessons into their skin, Tattoos iller than Van Gogh, With more pain in the brush strokes, These children, Hold onto Glocks for foster care, Because the hands of pops are absent,
95 Justin Ching
Inherit exit wounds, Large enough for the sunlight to dance ink from their skin, To the graffiti across row homes, Like coloring books they could never afford as kids, Bodies too sloppy to stay in between chalk outlines, So they bleed into the sidewalk to give food for weeds, What are dreams? When my students tell me in ten years they plan to be tombstones, Black Jacks, Who’d rather stay alive at seventeen, Than bust before they hit twenty-one, Face up Kings, But Aces in the hole, Playing solitaire with a pad and a pen on death row, Picassos trying to craft brand new from the dimensions of a cube, ‘Cause in Philly, It’s always the same old portrait of the surreal, A Guernica of murder and cheese steaks, Death captured by oil on canvas, It makes me sick, Like the last greasy meal before the death penalty on Christmas Day,
96 Justin Ching
When the only hope you have left, Is a prayer you have grown hard enough for your skin to become diamonds, Invincible to the sting of a lethal injection, I try to convince them of the impossible: That if they write enough pretty poems about winter, Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll keep them from pushing up daisies in the springtime, That if they spit with enough emotion, The bullets will cry themselves to the ground, Drowning in their regret, Because they know the pain of mothers and sons, And if they find a park as lonely as them, Jump off of a swing set with no one around, They can still be free, Even if a jury of their peers will never believe them, These kids remain fenced in, Hear the taunting song of an icecream truck as it passes by the prison yard, Like the most innocent kind of joy driving away from them, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll be there to catch that cool, Smuggle in sparklers and otter pops, The reluctant fugitive I am, Always arriving a mistake too late,
97 Justin Ching
And leaving early, Forgive me if time and again I smile when I see some of my students absent, It is comforting to know, At least at few of them, If only a few, Are now waiting for me on the outside.
I FEEL A CLIFF COMING. The day it comes I will stand at the edge and the wind will blow and I will be wearing something soft and dramatic and fluttering like an R&B singer. The cliff will either be red like Mars or white like a glacier and either way stark. The cliff will say ‘Now is the time’ and it will confront me with truth. ‘Your body will decrescendo. Your heart is winding down. You have irregular cells on your cervix. You have irregular cells everywhere. You have soft veins. You have a family history of high blood pressure and stroke. You are not invincible. Death lives in every part of you and death will win.’ ‘At any moment you may become your mother. Your oldest child may die and this may trigger your first truly manic episode. You will trash your life once. Then another time. Then another time. Then another time until your husband picks up the children and runs, leaving you crusted with nail polish in the home you built together and the home you tried to kill them in.’ ‘You will disappoint and alienate the spirits of your dead loved ones. You will be too agnostic, too interracial, too esoteric, too removed for them. They will look at your Subaru and scoff, returning to the backdams of a certain third world country, never to appear before you again.’
99 Ras. Mashramani
‘You will hate your family. Your husband will lose his spine and your children will be losers. You will not to be able to do anything about that except leave, and you might. If you do you will swallow your guilt and failure with tranquilizers and someone much younger. And maybe plastic surgery. Or some sort of cult.’ ‘You will watch your friends die. Your brilliant, talented friends. Your beautiful friends. The ones you had sex with and/or the ones who helped save your life when you were raging around in your 20s. They will die from cancer and AIDs and car accidents and drug overdoses and ectopic pregnancies and suicide and homicide and heart attack. And after a while you will stop making them because what’s the point.’ ‘Someone will steal your identity off the internet or out of the garbage. You will lose everything that made you legitimate in a capitalist society. There will be no recourse. Your children will be at the mercy of federal financial aid and we all know how THAT goes.’ ‘You will begin hoisting your pants above your belly button and wearing cotton tunics to camouflage your mid-section. You will talk about your beauty in the past tense.’ ‘You will lose your radical ideals. You will forget about The System or whatever and you will become firmly attached to things like a 401k and the house you bought in the suburbs. You will be like ‘Baudrillard was really a
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nut!’.’ ‘You will become horribly disfigured after being attacked by a burglar in the middle of the night. You will never recover psychologically and although he won’t admit it, neither will your husband.’ ‘You will wake up next to your husband and he will be dead. You will never be able to sleep next to another person aga--’ And I will say, ‘Alright, cliff, chill.’ And the cliff will say, ‘Just saying.’ And I will say, ‘Well what am I supposed to do now?’ And the cliff will say ‘Jump.’ And I will say, ‘That’s it? Just kill myself?’ And the cliff will say, ‘I’m not that kind of cliff.’
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Untitled Sabrina Stewart-McDonald Teen Lounge, Fleisher Art Memorial
MILITARY-INFORMATION COMPLEX We have Mary on the line from the heart of their capital: Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s an eerie feeling, a silence, bombs that go off in waiting hugging my child, holding hands under the bed, sensing your unblinking eye. Now I am awe-struck by your cruising fire and orange bursting around me, a scene I remember from Apocalypse. Ambulances reported on the move in Baghdad. On board the Theodore Roosevelt targets are born and guided from above to hit and destroy, to strike both cheeks at once with our sticks, an eye for an eye, massive arms synchronized to control their will. Split the split-screens
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and look at the whole. Pelicans and storks lost their way north from Africa. Looking for their nests, the air filled with rapid dominance and eggs were not hatched and children were torn apart bird watching in a dark spring. We bring you the news from afar with precise adjectives for our programs, never shedding a tear before your eyes. At night we curl up, embedded, dreaming of freedom for ourselves, grasping at freedom from uniforms. We hear the breaking news signal and we must perform the tension of victory at hand, of danger at the edges and no fear from above. Smile now and then. Our complex can be treated on a couch later on, after the children have been buried,
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the caskets wrapped with our flag and fewer birds are flying by from Africa in search of a certain home. The all clear resounds and we are out of danger. We can keep on transmitting for our viewersâ&#x20AC;Ś
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COMPLEJO MILITAR-INFORMATIVO Tenemos a María en la línea en el corazón de su capital: --una extraña sensación, un silencio, bombas que explotan en la espera abrazando a mi niño, dándonos la mano debajo de la cama, sintiendo vuestros ojos sin párpados. Ahora conmovida por fuegos cruceros y anaranjados estallantes, todo me recuerda una escena de Apocalipsis-Informan que las ambulancias corren por Bagdad. A bordo del Theodore Roosevelt nacen los blancos dirigidos desde los cielos para golpear y destruir, para darles en las dos mejillas a la vez con el palo, ojo por ojo, armas masivas sincronizadas para controlar su voluntad. Hay que partir las pantallas partidas
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para ver el conjunto completo. Los pelícanos y las cigüeñas perdieron su norte al subir desde África. Buscando sus nidos, el aire se les llenó de dominación rápida y los huevos no se abrieron y los niños se desgarraron mirando las aves desde una primavera oscurecida. Traemos las noticias desde lejos con adjetivos exactos para nuestra programación, sin dejar correr una lágrima ante vuestros ojos. Incrustados, acurrucándonos en la cama militar, soñamos con nuestra libertad, buscando libertarnos de los uniformes. Oímos la señal que anuncia las noticias de último minuto y hemos de representar la tensión de la victoria a la mano, al borde del peligro que nos rodea, siempre sin miedo a lo de arriba. Hay que sonreír de vez en cuando.
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Nuestro complejo se puede tratar en un sofá más adelante, después de enterrar a los niños, de envolver los ataúdes con nuestra bandera y pocos pájaros estén volando desde África en busca de cierto hogar. Ya suenan de nuevo las sirenas y estamos fuera de peligro. Podemos seguir transmitiendo para nuestros espectadores…
Enrique Sacerio-Garí 108
FIRE CHANGED EVERYTHING
Dedicated to IRRT
Instead of an Amazon Warrior, sloughed off responsibilities lay like dead skin or tangled wool for amateurs to sort and knit into sweaters. Tiny phoenixes condoning black moods and erratic behavior rose anew from those ashes, granting her a lifetime pass. Her life, strewn about like tossed pick-up sticks, even as she was eased from the whirlwind to the quiet void. The ancient seawall collapsed, no longer a barrier against the crushing waves impotent to extinguish that long-ago fire, which spun joy into pain. A shrink might have listened, but that kind of healing was exotic back then. We all shared the flame. A long-ago lost child remained lost. Breathe not a hint to those who might save them, mother said. Practice your poker face. Phyllis Mass
THE DARK AREAS I watched all those old movies Put it in the dark areas they said I didn’t even pay attention And no one ever turned a head I don’t care about you selling drugs Just keep it away from our kids I guess that didn’t work to well It’s now sold to the highest bid You thought that you were ruining us Another way to keep us down But look at the shape of our country As the world watches and frowns I guess there is a thing called Karma Everyone is paying for this And if you try to stop the madness Your life becomes at risk And a police officer was killed today
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I didn’t even know him still it hurts All the violence, all the anger This entire world has gone berserk Keep it in the Dark Areas he said But the Dark gave away to the Light Once we saw what was going on It became a dreadful sight The Dark Areas has exploded with indifference They’re either scared or they don’t care Always talking about this thing Respect While showing their underwear The Dark Areas are becoming darker still To snitch under pain of death Being held hostage every day I now know why Jesus wept
Stephanie J. Walker-Pérez
UNTITLED beneath the workings of the wood is where i linger. while quick fast feet shuffle upon me. overtop of me. beyond me. hands thrusting forward, onto me. and holding me. and molding me and throwing me about. mutilating shapes. i am pliable. the hands move. i move with the hands. flexing back, and beyond, and back, and back once more until i am released. i am no more. rung out onto the floor. seeping and leaking through the workings of the wood, i collect myself to be shuffled upon. Aleyah K. Macon 112
The Image of Man Joe Boruchow
Waterfall Joe Boruchow
WHAT LASTS— Above all, the red-winged blackbird. Her whistle-ly call and the long after— There’s distance in it, Heat and light. All the places we’ve loved The deer are skittish grace, just faltering prayers leaping away. Not so the blackbird— never a note forfeit as we come close. She holds the line steady through arc and dive,
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Oka-leee—and echo over the inland sea. Fescue, foxtail and flax, wave on wave, violet, hay-blue, then a sudden whirling swathe of white. Something in this meadow takes us back summers to windy Lamma island, curling path to a hip bone of white sand: nest home for the Hong Kong green sea turtles. Remember the volcanic rock shaping the bay? A glacier’s work, the drowned sea risen; earth’s sweet continuance—
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all these cousins leaping from the prow. And now, blackbirds prolificâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;look here a saucer of marsh grass hidden by cattail, a second clutch of blue scrawled with a brown script.
NUNS VS. TREES
Regular nuns are nuns whose hums hatch eggs. Watch the trees with regular nuns around humming for chicks. They come with big hearts and heavy saws, thrifty, hungry nuns with envelopes of receipts from Home Depot. They make a great black tent of themselves to stay awhile in any forest, humming. You can hear them like a sunrise, which is to say if you were an egg youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d hatch just in time for breakfast. Patrick Lucy
STAR-GAZING Talk to me again. Speak slowly and use very big words. I want to coax your voice from your tongue I want to rasp together taste buds and make a song seductive and unexpected like crickets under the winter sky. I want to shout and startle the stars to fall like snowflakes. I want to know the taste of crystal constellations clear as our
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infatuation but I bite my lip and turn to remark obliquely on the absence of Gemini.
Shannon Connor Winward
BLUE In mid-morning drizzle the pond-side heron seen head on looks next to nothing a graceless stalk on a bulbous body It is like language: sometimes silence seems the better option the simpler way But then there is a pivot and comes the slow flex the signing of possibility even on the pocked surface the reflection sinuous as a smile as the contemplation of graceful flight Steve Burke 120
Untitled Kayla Iuliucci Teen Lounge, Fleisher Art Memorial
THE LOGGER It wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t long after he took the job in the Sierras That he began to notice a change. The way the men on the porch of the saloon watched him admiringly As he passed by in his new blue jeans and red knit cap Changed his step to a self-conscious swagger. Girls at the diner would giggle into their milkshakes when he cleared his throat and Ordered coffee at the counter- black, of course. Nights he lay exhausted in his bed listening To the scream and clatter of the sawmill, comforted. He was a man now. The giant trees That he and his crew sent skidding downslope with a Heyyup! and a glad curse were Important. They fed the mills hungrily tearing into the tree flesh with The toothy grin of the steam-powered saws, the mills that his father and uncle and Grandfather had run, cutting boards for the ships in the harbor to haul away. Grizzled but still strong as an ox the foreman Calls and curses as the morning sun sends angled golden shafts To illuminate the ferns and redwood trunks. Pull! Come on now, boy! Work that pole! Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a mighty fine lunch Waiting back at camp. Nobody Loves these trees more than me. I know their
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Bark like the face of my mother. Heave ho! I cut my teeth on the sapwood and suckled on the roots. I am this forest! Money flowed downriver with the logs, heavy and dangerous In the tide. The hills bristled with trees. Trees everwhere, from bottom of the Valley to top of the mountain it was trees. East of the Cascades Was Lodgepole pine country, in spacious soft floored groves. Douglas Firs Were West of the mountains, on the wetter soil, thin and rocky though it was, Good for nothing but growing trees really, they sprouted up right Behind the plowman as he toiled on the hillsides. The cities on the coast were Built around the stumps which were everywhere left behind by the first settlers, too big And too many to dig out. Portlandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first name was Stumptown. Following the dollar of the company man Men spent their lives hacking at the stumps of eighteen-footers Two man saws, heave-ho, each pulling for his life Old-growth flew down the hills to the waiting maw of the mills Where the sawyer called and turned the logs to get the truest grain Trees thousands of years old processed into so many board-feet So many houses and so many dollars. Singing the songs of the trees
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They loved the forests and they cut them down. And the logger grew older. And stubborn To change in his ways when the grapple loaders the cats and the Dozers came grinding up the mountainside. Spits angrily and Looks on when trees that took two days to fell with axes and hand saws Are too quickly bested by fume coughing oil powered growling Chain saws that leave nothing to the imagination. These machines don’t just eat wood, he hisses to his partner They’re hungry for us too! Look, where has old John the choke setter Gone? And Bill Ireson that old fox of a sawyer- boy, when he turns a log It’s a sight to see- but where has he gone? And Smith and young O’Reilly Too- it’s the machines, eyes widening he lowers his voice as a tractor Lumbers past, you could barely hear him over the din, yes they’re hungry alright And they won’t stop until they’re up here eating these woods All by themselves. As it turned out When the man in the suit finally handed the old logger His Dear John letter and hundred dollar bill in the parking lot It wasn’t the machines that got him. So, hooted the old logger, you want me to stay out of these woods Because of some flea bitten old owl?
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Eats mice eats possums shits everywhere? Spit dribbling down his beard he raved, curved beak and Nasty talons! Watch out he grabs at the lapel of a passerby. Your bones are built of these trees! Their sap runs in your veins! Pressing his sharp beaked nose close to alarmed face, hissing, The woods are mine for I grew tall and shouldered my first axe under The far up dome of spreading branches matching My strength against those giants- as big around as a house! Passerby pushes him away scared and he slumps against a wall, half sobbing, Every tree fallen was proof enough! We mastered this land for the glory of God And Christ dies on every redwood. Then he disappeared. The town went on much the same without the old logger Slow death in the faces of the old, and the young Moved away if they could. The companies still made their profits, and foresters with fancy degrees And hardhats walked the timbered slopes with clipboards In hand and made soft comments into their radios. The loggers that were left looked bored in the warm cabs of their clawed machines Stacking 10 ton logs they pulled levers and Thought about baseball. On the weekends they wore slacks and oxfords And sipped iced tea in front of the television.
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There were stories- not quite believable- rumors really, Whispered between some of the old-timers on coffee breaks, That at night in the forest, above the new cuts made in Environmentally-friendly fashion, a flapping sound could be heard Not quite a bird, more like denim against tired skin, Wings of tattered flannel flapping madly, and a call like a smokersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; cough. Then nothing, except the faraway hoot of an owl. The forest has a way of forgetting New growth shooting up while fungus and worms Eat the old. Scars grown over, cuts healed. Forests change, but they donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t stop. Never stop. The old logger perches on a high branch And looks at the moon and strains to remember The girls at the diner, his new blue jeans, the call of the foreman The clang of the dinner gong made of a rusty circular saw blade, Like threads of a dream just gone. Head swiveling, he sees movement in the undergrowth. A mouse cautiously noses his way from under a leaf. Spreading his wings and diving forward into the pillared vault His memories echo among the tree-tops Dropping heavy like rain in the summer. Jonathan Davenport
’s long curly hair smacked me in the face again as we rounded the corner of a turn into nowhere. Allegheny National Forest had swallowed us whole in its leisurely winding roads and vague signage. We were on the fourth road since entering an hour ago, labeled “Heart’s Content Campsite.” Trees walked past the car windows as I slowed my car, following the clearer alternate signs; the shoe on the corner of a sign, a marked stone, and a purple Chinese lantern. The forest seemed to sigh us into itself, pulling us away from even the most remote farmland. Afternoon light twinkled through luscious trees, swaying under the slight breeze. There were sycamores and white oak, playing with shadows off the crumbling dirt road. My low car and muffled radio became the only sounds in the universe. I turned off the radio and found silence but for my crunching tires, out of place in this untouched forest. Through the open window, the smell of the earth filled my nostrils. Dust billowed up from the road and made us sneeze. The humid air surrounded us and pulled sweat to our foreheads. The sun began its descent through the veil of various shades of green; it glowed harshly in my face. “Are we lost?” I asked, stopping the car. CT rifled through the stack of maps on her lap and opened one, staring with intensity at the blue and red lines.
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“Maybe. Let’s keep going.” My car lurched along for about a mile more down the thin road before we saw people standing near the road. A hand painted cloth sign hung from the highest trees, announcing, “Welcome Home.” The sudden people walking around were of every age and walk of life, most looking slightly worn and dirty. Beer was floating in a giant barrel around which a group of five men were gathered. The sudden return to a population jarred us and I could only slow the car and stare. A girl whose age was hard to place came up to my car window and I stopped. She was wearing what looked like homemade rags. Her hair was dusty and dreadlocked, and she had multiple facial piercings, the most intriguing being a piercing at the top of her nose, through her forehead. “Welcome home, ladies. This is A-camp; Rainbowland is down the road a few miles. Park your car on the left side of the road anywhere you find space. Make sure your tires are completely off the road or the Forest Rangers will let us hear about it. Have fun.” She smiled and waved us on. We drove past cars lined bumper to bumper down the side of the forest, every make and model, some with bumper stickers, most covered in a light dust. Haphazard smiley faces and slogans about saving the planet and loving one’s brother were scrawled into the coated windows. After passing out of the general area of A-camp, we went further into the forest. “Welcome home, sisters!” was shouted through my car window by hikers in all stages walking by. We saw a middle-aged couple with professional hiking gear, and farther down the road, three teenagers laughing and lugging fresh water back in canteens to their campsite. CT and I glanced
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around frantically trying to absorb everything around us. I attempted to pull into several spaces but there was either too much mud, too deep of a ravine next to the roadside, or my driving was just too bad. By time I parked the car, the sky was beginning to darken. “Well. Let’s do this.” My friend since freshmen year of college said to me, in the eerie silence, parked far away from the turn-off to the mysterious Rainbowland. We rooted through the trunk and retrieved our bags. We filled our water bottle, grabbed the sleeping bags and tent, and began trudging towards the unknown, expecting everything and planning no regrets.
I wake to drums. Ears perked. Stand at attention People. Warm burrow. Protection. Mate awakened. Whiskers sense men. I must protect. Must investigate. Scurry through underbrush. Stay hidden. Owls. Stay alert. Burned wood. Small group of men. Food smell. Stay. Wait. Hoard before cold. CT and I trekked for about five miles, through dense forest and deepening shadows. We kept pushing forward, through small campsites along the path to greet newcomers. At one site, a twenty-something blond man was sitting cross-legged in front of a small tent, surrounded by wired
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flowers. We had a brief conversation about life, boyfriends, peace and he handed me a flower in return for one of the hemp bracelets hanging from my backpack. CT and I barely spoke in between meeting other people. The cars that had lined the road began to drop off. After about a half mile of awkwardly parked cars, they ceased to be and we were thrust into the forest. We followed the winding road down a steep ravine and heard drums. “I think we’re almost there!” The beaten dirt path led us through more groups of thick Evergreens and next to a small creek. Campsites became more frequent and we had passing conversations, glimmers of a shared life between most people we encountered. There were dogs everywhere, some with a collar belonging to someone, and some belonging to everyone. One dog began to follow us, sniffing our trail. The large dark mutt whined and kept his head low. “Aw, he looks lost.” I stopped. “Don’t play with him, he’ll never leave us and never find his owner.” CT said, weary of the walk. She looked around for support from other hikers, but we had since trudged on ahead of any passing companions. “Oh.” She continued onward and I lagged behind. I broke off a piece of a nutrition bar I had been eating and slipped it to his mouth. He lightly lapped it up and looked into my eyes as I patted his head. “It’s okay, honey. You can stay with us until we find your owner.” I whispered into his ear. “Zoey!”
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“Okay!” I slid my hand over the dog’s broad face and continued walking in the pleasant silence of the trees between campsites. As we curved around a hill, a young woman on a bicycle stopped, spraying rocks and yelling, “Jasmine! Schwag dog! Schwag!” As her purple layers of skirts coursed around the bike, her dark eyes darted to us from under her flowing mane of black hair, then back to the dog. The dog wagged its tail and ran over. I smiled and walked on. Many humans. I see them. They do not see me. Possible danger if the deer fled. Alone or in small packs. Ears perked. Nose cocked. No weapons. No cooked beast. Scraps left for dogs. Wait for dark. Avoid dogs. Get food. Return to mate. Safety in a pile of leaves. I rest. I wait. Held. We reached an area partially cleared of underbrush and made our camp in the midst of small tents held up by poles. There were people wandering everywhere, ignoring us as we moved into the world of the tent my uncle had lent us, ballooning out of our hands. A mother playing with a young child shouted over, offering advice and support, but the spikes to hammer into the ground seemed immense after the tiring walk. “I give up, want to just sleep under it tonight? Let’s be like real hippies.” I said and CT glared at me. “I’ll finish it. You go get something to eat.” She said and went back to work, content to be alone. I looked around through the trees seated in the cooling twilight. I pulled a
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sweatshirt out of my back pack, then slung the pack over my shoulders. The sounds of laughter, quiet talking, and the bubbling creek came to my ears. I was greeted along the trail by a trio of children asking for candy. I pulled out the bag of lollipops I had stashed in my backpack before leaving the car and took one for each of them and myself. The path from our tent became a tiny tendril leading to a hole in the forest called Main Circle. It was heralded by signs and people sitting in tents around its edges, asking for pocket trash and weed. Out of the shadows came a shape I had known before. A small, round-shouldered girl fought her way through the milling crowd to greet me. “Welcome home, girl! I haven’t seen you in ages!” Anna’s sweet face smiled and we hugged. “Isn’t it wonderful?” “Yes it is, Anna. I feel…I don’t know.” She laughed and grabbed my hand. “Let’s get some food before it’s all gone. My favorite kitchen is still serving, I think.” We walked hand in hand past a tepee and multiple tents to a lazy hill that led to a campfire. By now the sky had darkened to the point where I had to pull out my flashlight. Anna led the way to the tree bark counter and waited in a line of several people. We asked what was for dinner and an aged man with weathered skin told us, “It’s a good night. Ganja pasta.” Anna turned to me and we quietly went over the last year of our lives in broad detail. School, work, boys, home. When it was her turn in line, she pulled a tin plate out of her swaying cloths around her body and presented it
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to the teenage girl serving out of a huge cauldron. “Thank you, sister.” “Lovin’ you!” We found space on the logs surrounding the fire and ate the warm pasta with our fingers, in silence but for the couple wrapped in an old Native American blanket, speaking of their plans for the day of meditation. They touched their heads closely together and whispered excited tones. I finished my half of the pasta and asked a young man with shadows dancing across his face next to me for a cigarette. He pulled out his pack of tobacco and rolled me one, lighting it for me. “Thank you brother.” He nodded and I sat on the ground, leaning back onto the rough log behind me. Night. Dark. People calm. Dogs asleep. Safety around circle of men. Sweet smell. Burning food. No meat. Comfort. Jump onto log. Find food. No. People. Terror. Freeze. Wait. Food offered. Warm hand. Female. Safety. Love. Eat food. Connect. Live. Stacey Wisniewski
f all the hobbies, habits and playtime games the children her age engaged in, Sara knew hers was the most special there was. She also knew, because she was a mature little girl, that it was strange and would mean many years of being treated strangely. She accepted this with uncommon dignity. Every day after school, she went to the same place, beneath the same tree, and tipped her head back against the bark. It was a beautiful tree, with leaves shaped like raindrops, she thought. It had a short trunk, as though the limbs couldn’t wait to stretch and grow. In winter, it was quiet and empty, but satisfyingly so. In summer, it was shady and welcoming in a way that her neighbor’s pool just would never be. She often stayed, forgetting the time, until it was dark and when she hurried home, her dinner was cold and unappetizing on the table. Her parents no longer asked her where she had been, which was fine, as she had started lying to them long ago. She recognized that no one wanted to hear that she’d been talking with a tree.
* “I’ve been thinking,” said the tree. She had a name for the tree, but she liked to change it every day.
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There were so many nice names in the world, and the tree didn’t seem to mind at all. Simon was mostly absorbed in his own conundrum. Sara had realized at the first moment that Simon’s voice had slipped into her mind like wind through her hair that hearing trees was abnormal. It took only a few minutes of polite conversation to realize that this tree itself was unique, because it didn’t know it was a tree. She enjoyed the guessing game Simon played every day, and thought perhaps Simon enjoyed his ideas more than he would have liked knowing the answer, no matter how wrong his guesses were. “I feel strong,” Simon said. “You are,” she replied, patting his solid trunk. “Do you know what else is strong?” he inquired. She closed her eyes. Iron. Typhoon winds. Trash compactors. Elephants. Her Dad. Ants. Options flew around her brain like sparrows enjoying an updraft. “Well, the tensile strength of the silk used to make a spider’s web is greater than steel,” Sara said. She had a knack for retaining knowledge, and had read extensively, especially to prepare for this game. “You don’t say,” Simon said speculatively. His long branches swayed in the wind, maybe more sway than was physically possible given the slight breeze. “A spider’s web. I think I like that. Tell me more.” “Spiders weave these intricate and beautiful designs,” Sara explained. She held out her arms and her fingers stretched, framing her view of the green field and the rusted playground in the distance. “And insects get caught in them, and then spiders eat them.”
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Simon seemed to consider this for some time. “So I trap food,” he said finally. “Spider webs do that, yes,” Sara nodded. “How clever of me.” Sara smiled. “I’m someone’s home,” the tree said, with a note of longing in his voice, and Sara slouched a little lower in the grass between his roots, fingers tracing the curving gnarls and the grooves between plates of bark. “That’s a nice thing to be.” Sara loved the way the sun filtered through Simon’s leaves, creating shapes that defied rulers and angels on her arms and legs. She waited while Simon thought. “Are you a spider?” he asked. “No,” she said, shaking her head with a small laugh. “Is there a spider anywhere about?” he asked. “Maybe, but I don’t see any.” The tree let out a sigh. Sara felt it soft against her skin, raising the little hairs on the back of her neck. She giggled again. “If there’s no spiders, then I’m probably not a spider web.” “No, I don’t think you are,” Sara said, squinting at the sunset’s brilliance. “Hmmm,” said Simon. It was a hum that radiated into Sara’s bones, a warm feeling, very much like falling asleep. And she did just that.
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* Sara went to the tree less frequently, and each time was harder than the last. She expected his voice to be softer each time, to fade like her belief in fairies did. But John’s voice was always as strong a presence to her as the rest of him. Despite being a very even-tempered young woman, she found that she’d started to get angry. She fully realized things like talking trees didn’t exist, and she couldn’t decide whether it was the truth or the exception that frustrated her more. “I think I’m small,” John said. It was autumn, and leaves were dropping. Sara watched them fall, her eyes studied them when they hit the ground. The edges were still tinged green, and the veins reached towards that last bit of life. “You’re not small,” Sara said. “I feel small,” John said. The rate at which the leaves fell from his brittle branches—he’d be barren by the time the conversation was over. Sara looked over her shoulders, wondering if anyone noticed, which was, of course, silly. People avoided her and the tree as much as possible. “I feel small and dark.” Sara closed her eyes and wrapped a hand in the fabric of her scarf. A pebble, at the bottom of a river. Grit, trapped in the fur of a stray cat. A forgotten penny in a sewer. She remembered a conversation they had shared, when she was just a girl… “Maybe you’re a spider,” she offered. “No,” John said. There was a tremor or tone in his voice she hadn’t
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heard before. “I’m smaller. I’m less than a spider. Tell me what’s weaker than a spider.” Sara never had been exceptionally imaginative, so she was forced to answer with the truth. “Well, spiders eat flies, so—“ “That’s it. I’m a fly, I bet. I think I lost my wings. They were—were ripped off. I think that’s right. Or--probably a spider ate them. Anyhow, I can’t fly. What good is a fly who can’t fly? I’m no good to anyone.” “Flying’s not so special,” Sara said. “Maybe,” John replied, but it didn’t sound genuine. Sara picked up a leaf, dry and brittle as an old bone. She rubbed it against her cheek. She knew this would be the last time she came to her tree. Silly as it was, she felt like crying, and when it hurt more to hold it in, she let the tears roll down and the sad noises escape her throat. When she put a hand against the familiar trunk, it felt damp. “I got lost,” John continued. His voice sounded harsh in her ears over the sound of her crying into her wool scarf. “I think I’m far away from where I wanted to be,” he went on, “and got caught, in a web, and now I’ll probably die.” “You won’t die,” Sara said. “Not anytime soon.” The tree took in her assurance, and considered it. “You don’t understand,” he said finally. Sara stood and dusted the grass and dirt from her pants. She rubbed her face, ignoring how sore it felt. She knew it was selfish to not say goodbye, but she couldn’t seem to wring the words out of herself. So, she left. She felt her heart beat in her steps. When she turned back, all the trees seemed to
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glow those magnificent fiery tones of fall. All but John, who was weak shades of brown and gray—as though he were the smoke. Sara wondered if she would always recognize her tree, when it was no longer hers. After she had moved away and came home only for holidays, when beloved friends and young moments were faded in her mind--would she still know him from the other silent trees who had never said a word to her? She only pondered it briefly, because she knew she would always know him. It wasn’t a comforting thought. The years lost would be loud between them. They would each be different. Maybe John would realize by then that he was a tree. Maybe he would be angry, or hurt, and maybe things would never be the same again. Sara realized that her concerns over their reunion were an irrational hope in disguise. Sara considered the leaf she held, the one from her tree. She’d had the intention of pressing it carefully between pages of her favorite novel, but she let it twirl and tumble to the ground. It didn’t really belong to her, it never had. * It was always present, somewhere in Sara’s mind, lingering like a wonderful dream long after you’re awake. She waited for the memory of green leaves and a soft voice to wither and fall from her thoughts as the seasons continued to change, but they never did. Moments and loves and hurts and time built up around the tree, but it was there. She smiled as she walked slowly through the fields. She had led
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a sensible and good life. Now, her husband was dead. Her children lived elsewhere, with families of their own. Sara had now entered what some might call the sunset of her life. Sara’s favorite time of day always had been sunset. The tree looked the same to her, and she was relieved. In all that time, it hadn’t been claimed by development or disease. She had come directly from the service, with a mind blank like a clear blue sky. She would be missed at the reception, but sometimes, Sara thought it was nice to be missed. She touched the trunk of the tree. Michael, she decided. Today, he would be Michael. “I’ve been thinking,” came a clear, familiar voice. It didn’t sound rusted by age, the way her voice did. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the feeling of the tear running down her cheek. “What have you been thinking, Michael?” she asked, taking her place between the welcoming roots. “Feathers. And wings, maybe,” he went on, as the breeze picked up, tugging Sara’s silver hair out of its careful arrangement. “What has wings?” Sara closed her eyes, breathing deeply the smells of early summer as she thought. Dragonflies. A Pegasus. Sparrows enjoying an updraft. “Angels have wings,” she replied. The last long fingers of daylight stroked her face while Michael thought. “Angels,” he said in a round, awed tone. “What else do they have?” “Well,” Sara said, “they have halos, rings of light or of gold that hang over their heads to let everyone know what they are.” The leaves rustled around her, out of sync with the rise and fall of the
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wind. “Oh, now that’s thinking,” Michael said approvingly. “Something to let everyone know what you are. I think we may be on to something. A gold ring--that seems right.” Sara rubbed her thumb gently over the wedding band that had left its permanent impression in her finger. “Think so?” she laughed. “Yes, I like where this is going. Tell me what else an angel has.” Sara thought. “Well, sometimes they have a harp.” “Are you a harp?” Michael asked. Sara smiled; she could feel her laughter inside of her like sunshine in her bones. “No, I’m not a harp.” Michael considered this as the sky’s intense oranges and reds fell slowly to a sleepy and luxurious purple. It always would be her favorite time of day. “I don’t think I am an angel,” Michael said finally. “No, probably not,” Sara said. “Too bad,” Michael replied. “An angel seems like a good thing to be.” “Don’t worry,” Sara said, running her knotted hands over Michael’s roots, “You are a good thing.” Sara peered up at the leaves waving gently above her. They glowed softly in rising moonlight, and the luminous green color of them could easily have been compared to jade or emeralds. But they were only leaves, and they were beautiful. Leyla Eraslan
THE SLUT BUCK
ndrew didn’t know that he’d killed the slut buck. He’d just settled to one knee, trained the crosshairs on the broadside and squeezed the trigger. And with that, he thought he’d finally done it. Now, the buck was in the bed of his truck. The sun was drooping past its highpoint and the other guys were waiting for him. The rubber of his tires crunched in the gravel up the drive to the lodge. Clint, Gabe and Steve all sat outside. In their hands, beers cold with November air. Rifles leaned against a stained wood wall like soldiers on a smoke break. Andrew slipped it into park and hopped out. His cheeks tugged to form a smile, but he fought them, trying to keep it this side of sheepish. “Heard some shooting your way,” said Steve. Steve’s camo coveralls hung off his shoulders. The butt of a cigarette disappeared toward lips hidden by a beard. “Yeah.” Andrew forced down a trill of excitement and reached for a beer. “How’d you boys do?” he asked. He popped the top and tipped it to his mouth, the can cold against his bare lip. Gabe shrugged, old shoulders lifting a belly thick and hard with suet. “Shot a doe just after dawn. We got her cooling off in the shed.” Clint, a mirror image of Gabe, but thirty years thinner, shook his
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head. “Saw a few young ones. Babies. You probably would’ve shot ’em, though.” Clint winked and Steve and Gabe chuckled. Andrew took another swig past a smile. “Nah. A man’s got to have pride,” he said. He thought then of the buck. He’d seen it step out from behind a bush, regal with slow, sinuous movements. A look over its shoulder at him with brown eyes before he took it. His first buck. Clint scratched at his beard and nodded to Andrew’s truck. “Well, what’s in the bed? You get something this morning, or were you just firing one off at nothing?” “Got a buck,” he said. Another gulp. “Shit!” said Steve with a smile that finally separated his mouth from his whiskers. “He’s popped his buck cherry.” He held out one hand and Andrew shook it. “Your first?” asked Gabe. The old boy grunted as he pushed himself up from the picnic table. Andrew nodded. “Got a couple does before. But this is my first buck.” He bit his cheek. “Just five years late.” Steve pushed at the inside of his mouth with his tongue so a lump of wiry hair bristled on his face. “Just been waiting for the right one. And he’s better looking than yours.” Everyone laughed and Andrew tried to cool the warmth he felt with another swallow of beer. Gabe shook his head. “You can’t eat the horns anyway. But that first
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one’s something special.” Clint pointed to the truck with his beer. “Well, if you got one of your own, let’s see him.” Andrew used his thumb and forefinger to twist the hasp on the bed cap then dropped the tailgate. He squinted into the dark and reached in. A soft hiss of fur against the bed liner as he pulled the body out. “Nice rack on him. Eight points?” asked Steve. “Nine,” said Andrew. The memory came to Andrew in frantic, urgent flashes. The deer peeking out behind the scrub. The tremors in his chest. Trying to stifle his heaving breaths. The jolt of his rifle. Thrusting one fist into the air and choking back a yell of triumph when the buck rolled onto its back. Feeling a warm amazement wash over him at the softness of its fur. Clint took the antlers in one hand and lifted the head to examine it. His thumb ticked against a chip in one antler. He turned a smile to Gabe. “Recognize this?” Gabe squinted and stepped closer. “Well shit. You got the slut buck.” “The what?” Clint clapped Andrew on the shoulder. “The slut buck. He makes his rounds and goes home with a new guy every so often.” Gabe pointed at the chip in the antlers. “He would’ve been my first if I hadn’t been so goddamn nervous. I was shaking so bad I fired off a shot before I should have. The bullet nicked his antlers and spooked him off. Got him about five years later, though. Got this exact rack hanging up on my wall.”
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“My cousin got him a few years back up in New Hampshire with a bow,” said Steve. Gabe took the antlers in both hands appreciatively, nostalgia in his voice. “They say he’s been around since before the Indians. Gets laid out and taken home by somebody, then shows up again later. But I haven’t seen him in a few years.” “I killed a buck that’s been killed before?” Clint chuckled. “He just doesn’t like to settle down.” Gabe lifted his beer from the tailgate, motioned cheers to Andrew and drank. “He’s good eatin’. Trust me. I know.” Andrew looked back to the deer. It lay on its back with its belly open and legs splayed wide. Steve stepped in close and pulled the deer sideways on the tailgate. “Let’s get him hung up in the shed,” he said. Andrew swallowed and took one hind leg in each hand. They carried the swaying body between them. Steve said, “Don’t worry about it, pal. It’s still a hell of a kill.” “Yeah,” said Andrew.
CONVERSATIONS get down. sit on the grass: the dandelions say, here. no, over here! yes, and here we are, too, conspiring with the wind again. the sparrows chatter, together-to-the-bush, what-a-lovely-day, up-to-this-tree, oh-my-what’s-for-lunch. the hawk cries, lonely! hungry! lovely! and dives. (duck.) the mockingbird, top of the fir tree again, performs his aria for all the world. doesn’t he run out of breath? the wren protests she’s just as good, singing, beautiful, eautiful, eautiful, and yes, I’m tiny but I’m proud of me, yes, I’m tiny but I’m proud of me. the trees sigh always, hasten the day, bend and sway, or cool the night, lost to sight. and me on the grass or you on the grass, shhh. 147
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TOBY ALTMAN‘s chapbook Asides is forthcoming from Splitleaves Press. His poems have recently appeared in The Adirondack Review and Philadelphia Stories. He is co-founder of Damask, a small press focusing on verse in traditional forms. HARRY BAKER: Bakeowski; verb, combination of 3 Neanderthal grunts. “Boouh” meaning back off of me i will bite you; “Kah” meaning calm down, i know i bit you, but you were warned; and “Skee” meaning space alien hippie hybrid party locust from the future. Sent back from the post apocalyptic hell that was 2013 to warn mankind he quickly realized a good cleansing apocalypse was just what this planet needed. Bound by duty however he has encoded survival instructions in theworldsmostimportantblog.blogspot.com and imbakeowski. blogspot.com ADRIANN “THE PEN” BAUTISTA, a native of Philadelphia, PA, writes poetry and plays. She has four Christian play productions to her credit; My name is Struggle/ Victory; Sister, You Better Change your Hat!; Don’t you know, He rose and He lives!, and the most recent RESTORED. Her plays have been ministered in Chester, Philadelphia and the Morton area of Pennsylvania. Adriann has published two chapooks entitled Ballad of a Beautiful Brown King and SisterStrength and a full length book entitled Sanctuary of Snow. Adriann is also cofounder of the all female poetry ensemble Wings of Worth. BRANDON BELL lives in Louisville, Ky. His work has appeared in Leaf Garden, Barrier Islands Review, and Inkspill Magazine (United Kingdom). MANSI BHAGWATE was born and brought up in Mumbai, India. She wrote her first short story in 3rd grade and continued to nurture her passion from there. She was a guest columnist for the Times of India and also acted as ‘Guest Editor for a day’. A self proclaimed feminist, she takes a proactive stance to social issues. She was a task force member of the non profit organization Blue Ribbon Movement that worked towards empowering the youth in India through education. She is a staunch follower of Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non violence and truth. She is also a part of Usiloquy Dance Designs, a multicultural Bharatnatyam dance troupe in Philadelphia. Dancing and writing are her lifelines! She can be found at www.mansibhagwate.blogspot.com BILLY BRENNAN studies English and Italian literature at Fordham University, where he is an editor of the university’s literary magazine, The Ampersand. Currently, he is writing a novel and a short story collection and working with a group of classmates and faculty to develop a new-form online literary journal which will launch in September. RACHEL BROWN graduated with a BA in mathematics and nine houseplants. Her work can also be found in the Spring ‘11 print issue of Apiary and online at PANK magazine.
STEVE BURKE has been published in the Mad Poets Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, and Spitball. He has been a featured reader at the Free Library’s Monday Series, the Big Blue Marble Bookstore, the Green Line Poetry Series, & the original Painted Bride Gallery. He lives in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia with wife-Giselle and daughter-Mariah and has worked for many years as a labor and delivery nurse. JUSTIN CHING hails from Los Angeles, California, and serves as the Director of The Excelano Project, the University of Pennsylvania’s award winning poetry collective. As a slam poet, he was a winner of the Collegiate Union Poetry Slam Invitational, 2009 national championship. He has shared the stage with the likes of Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, and Anis Mojgani among others. Justin also works with the Youth Arts & Self-Empowerment Project to bring poetry to local Philadelphia jails and recently served as Chair of the School District of Philadelphia’s Comprehensive Committee for Racial and Cultural Harmony. GRANT CLAUSER lives in Hatfield PA and works as an editor for Electronic House where he writes about expensive home electronics and get to try out a lot of them. In 2010 he was selected as the Montgomery County Poet Laureate by Robert Bly. Poems appear around The Literary Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, The Heartland Review, Cortland Review, The Seattle Review, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Philadelphia Stories and others. He writes, irregularly, the blog www.poetcore.com. His favorite dry fly is the Parachute Adams. His favorite nymph is a basic Hare’s Ear with a brass bead. For bass he sticks mostly to a Clouser Minnow (no relation) and sometimes a Murry Hellgrammite. MIKE COHEN enjoys sharing observations on such things that can matter without having to matter. Life is full of annoyances that demand way too much attention and delights that do not get nearly enough. Mike’s aim is to correct this imbalance to whatever extent he can through his writing. Currently, Mike hosts Poetry Aloud and Alive, a popular monthly poetry program in its fifth year at Mt. Airy’s Big Blue Marble Book Store. He takes part in guiding tours at Woodmere Art Museum. His articles on Philadelphia sculpture appear in the Schuylkill Valley Journal in which he is a contributing editor. JONATHAN DAVENPORT is a songwriter and freelance musician living in Philadelphia, PA. He leads the Perseverance/PercyFearAnts Jazz Band, a New Orleans style traditional jazz band. This is his first time as a published writer. NATHANAEL GREEN is a marketing and advertising copywriter, novelist, and freelance writer. He also holds an MFA in Creative Writing and has published fiction and written articles for trade journals and a local newspaper. Some of his fiction and essays have appeared in 322 Review, Glassworks, New Myths, and Fractured West. Nate has taught English composition as an adjunct professor and is currently writing a historical adventure
novel set in Colonial Pennsylvania LEYLA ERASLAN owes her unrepentant weirdness to a South Jersey upbringing and reading too many books. Currently an employee of a Philadelphia arts education nonprofit, Leyla lives in South Philly, or so it is rumored. Her writing has been featured in City Paper, the Fringe Festival, and most recently in PDC’s Primary Stages. She has performed as an actress and storyteller in the Five Minute Follies, Queer Memoir and more. She’s involved in a smattering of other artistic endeavors, and enjoys the word ’smattering’. Leyla’s passions include art, helping people, and drawing lips in the corners of her notebook. JENNIFER FRENCH is a poet when the stream flows and a teacher when the children call her name. She is a mother every day when the sun rises in the distance (even behind clouds) and plows through the waiting stardust. She can be found sometimes pulling dandelions, singing in the car, or talking to the cat. She collects too many things, but names slip away from her at just the wrong moment. VANESSA GENNARELLI is a Content Strategist for Flat World Knowledge and facilitates writing through Peer 2 Peer University, a forum for peer learning. She graduated from Grinnell College, lives in Old City, Philadelphia and works out of the coworking environment Indyhall. Her chapbook Creation Mutes (Tablemeat Labs) is available in print and as a Kindle single. MAX GONTAREK is a sophomore creative writing major at the Creative and Performing Arts High School of Philadelphia. He has been published in the Mad Poets Review as well as in his school’s literary and art magazine, UWA, which he also works in as a copy editor. He has been writing for as long as he can remember and plans to continue to do so until he forgets how. MEREDITH KAHN would like to tell you a secret. (eds.) DAVID KERTIS has been living and writing in Philadelphia since 1978. He works as a claims adjuster and is indebted to all the friends and teachers who have helped him with his poetry. PATRICK DAVID LUCY lives and works in Philadelphia. He is the author of two chapbooks, LIVE FIELDS: GROWTHS 1-5 (self released) and WILLIAM (con/crescent press, forthcoming). Recent work has appeared (or will shortly) in Gulf Coast, elimae, Revista Laboratorio and elsewhere. He’s a member of the New Philadelphia Poets. Learn more about Patrick at catchconfetti.com. RAS. MASHRAMANI lives in Philadelphia and blogs ferociously at motherWAP.blogspot.com. She has recently appeared in the online publications >killauthor and New Wave Vomit. Her latest project includes an online
collection of erotica entitled DOWN, which can be found at notupbut.tumblr.com PHYLLIS MASS is a poet, freelance writer and editor who leads private writing workshops and is co-facilitator of a writing workshop at Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania. Her most recent fiction, poetry, and opinion pieces appear in a variety of on-line and print publications. Poetry at www.blazevox.org, at www. spotlitmagazine.net and in print, non fiction at www.phlmetropolis.com. She was one of the nineteen essay finalists in Philadelphia’s 2006 citywide Autobiographical Project which marked the tercentenary of Benjamin Franklin’s birth. TERESA MCCANN, 19, is enjoying her first year at Temple University studying piano performance in the Boyer school of music. HANNAH MCDONALD has a very good point. (eds.) NINA MELITO writes out of a second-story window on Poplar street. She studies at Temple University. DOLAN MORGAN lives and writes in Brooklyn. STEPHANIE MORRIS is a poet who resides in Delaware County, PA with her three sons. Stephanie’s first publication appeared in Apiary’s first issue. In addition, her work has also appeared in Danse Macabre Du Jour’s online literary magazine and a poetry book titled Unbreakable & Other Domestic Violence Poems. LAUREN RILE SMITH is an acrobat, library assistant, and freelance writer and editor. This summer, she is growing raspberries on her roof and preparing for the 2011 Philadelphia Fringe Festival with her movement arts company, Tangle. JULIA ROSE ROBERTS works in publishing in Philadelphia. In her spare time she futzes around on tumblr (photonjr.tumblr.com), produces and consumes sentences, volunteers for Books through Bars, and dreams of becoming a karaoke superstar. She’s recently started reviewing books and music for Stereo Subversion (stereosubversion.com). She’d like to thank CH for being a sport. ENRIQUE SACERIO-GARÍ studied engineering at the University of Connecticut. He received a PhD from Yale University with a dissertation on Jorge Luis Borges. He is currently the Dorothy Nepper Marshall Professor of Hispanic and Hispanic-American Studies at Bryn Mawr College. His poems are collected in Poemas interreales (Pennsylvania, 1981; Madrid, 1999; La Habana, 2004) and in Otros motivos interreales (in press).
JACLYN SADICARIO is a New Yorker living in Philadelphia who recently graduated from Temple University with a Double major in English & Psychology and a minor in Women’s Studies. She is the proud owner of two cats, a comfortable chair, and a diverse collection of vinyl records. More of her work can be found in her blog, jaclynsadicario.blogspot.com. ROGER SANTIVÁÑEZ was born in Piura, on the northern coast of Peru. His book Amaranth precedido de Amastris (‘Amaranth preceded Amastris’) came out in Madrid in 2010 and his next book, Roberts Pool Crepusculos (‘Roberts Pool Twilight’) will appear in Lima shortly. He earned a Ph. D. in Latin American literature at Temple University, where this semester he is teaching Hispanic Readings. CATHERINE STAPLES teaches in the Honors program at Villanova University and she’s had poems in Blackbird, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, The Southern Review, Third Coast, The Michigan Quarterly Review, West Branch and others. Honors include the University of Pennsylvania’s William Carlos Williams Award, two APR Distinguished Poets’ Residencies, and The New England Poetry Club’s Boyle/ Farber Award. Last month, she was named a finalist for the May Swenson Poetry Award, Utah State University. “What Lasts” is from Never a Note Forfeit Number Eight in the Keystone Chapbook Series, selected by Betsy Sholl for the 2010 Keystone Chapbook Prize STEPHANIE J. WALKER-PE’REZ was born in Chester, Pennsylvania where she has resided the majority of her life, leaving only once to live in Atlanta, Georgia. She attended the AIPH where she won quite a few awards. She enjoys writing music and playing piano. Stephanie says, “After a few close calls with success frustrated, I stopped writing for a while, then gave myself to the Lord. Upon discovering that I had cancer, I found myself picking up my pen again, but this time for inspirational poetry. These poems he has placed in my mind, heart, and soul not for just me but for all who would read them.” SHANNON CONNOR WINWARD is a Delaware poet and author and a devotee of the open mic. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in such venues as: Pedestal Magazine, Flash Fiction Online, This Modern Writer [Pank Magazine], Vestal Review, Witches & Pagans Magazine, Basement Stories, Shot Glass Journal, Ideomancer, The Magazine of Speculative Poetry, and Dreamstreets, and the upcoming anthologies Jack-O’-Spec: Tales of Halloween and Fantasy (Raven Electrik Ink) and Twisted Fairy Tales: Volume Two (Wicked East Press). To read her accounts of writing, mommyhood, and general sassiness, stop by her blog at ladytairngire.livejournal.com. STACY WISNIEWSKI is a writer of poetry and fiction, gathering her inspiration from the beauty of the indefinable qualities of people and the mysterious relationships between them. She is currently a student at Arcadia University, eagerly awaiting graduation to begin immersing herself fully in the world of creative writing. Stacey can frequently be found imagining her next story while baking cookies or dancing around in a tutu.