APIARY IN LOVE 2012
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 infatuation but I bite my lip and turn to remark obliquely on the absence of Gemini.
Shannon Connor Winward
The Arrival Love arrived one day With excited genitalia and youthful promises I turned him away Said return when you mature Love came back Distant and bitter I turned him away Said return when you learn forgiveness Love came back Demanding and jealous I turned him away Said return when you learn patience Love came back Fleeting and fickle I turned him away Said return when you learn commitment Love came back Free and powerful A reflection of me
Admetus 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 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€™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€” your hands are burned, and your foot is lame and the dogs do not know you. Toby Altman
A BLOODY SOMETHING I’m always trying to reinvent myself as selfeffacing, the kind of girl everybody loves more. I grab my jaw in my hand and squeeze the crap out of it but it stops for no man. And what’s the use of trying when my face is worth a thousand words and everyone already knows me as second cousin to the devil? If I had to think of the thing on my body that bleeds the most, it would definitely be my vagina. That’s not true for everyone, even the women. For example: people who have granulomas bleed a lot from them. A granuloma is a lesion of epithelioid microphages. Ryan had one on his finger once and some days it was a steady stream of blood. He kept a bandage on it but it could bleed right through. Sometimes it would burst open while we were making love, pressure from the need causing bursting anywhere it could. I buy Batman band-aids, doing my best to make pain fun! I have dreams of celebrities and the skin divers—1,800 weak ideas: the big ones kicking the shit out of a fat kid, the little ones groaning, “Better him than me.” I’m chemistry drifting through sleep, suspended in aspic or twirling about or using a debit card. Sitting. Eating. Calling a friend. Passing the time.
One time Alex told me he had no feeling at all in his right leg. Go ahead, smack it, pinch it. Whatever you do, won’t hurt. Whatever I do? Anything. I smacked it. You won’t hurt me. Are you sure? Yes. Really? Yes. I looked into his eyes, deep into his small brown eyes. Was this a lie? I knew it wouldn’t prove anything to fuck up his leg, feeling or no feeling, but I had to test it, I had to know. Was he so desperate to be touched? Was this how far a person with a face full of landmines had to go for contact? Ready? Yes. I have Reynaud’s disease. It’s a blood vessel disorder. My fingers turn white, they tingle and prune up and go dead. It’s like I’m turning to rubbery stone, from the tips in.
There was a boy in my high school named Alex. He had terrible acne. How tough must it be to walk around with a face that repulses people! I would have hidden myself at all times, waiting it out, waiting until it cleared up to start my life, even if it never cleared up, but not Alex. He was pally with the tough guys and swung from the chandelier.
I used both hands to pinch the leg as hard as possible, forefinger on forefinger, thumb on thumb, and there was Alex: stoic as a cucumber while I viced the shit out of his inner thigh. I was impressed. If this was a lie, he was masterful at controlling his reactions to pain. Hot. If not, this poor guy was making it with a face full of landmines and a dead leg. Fearless! Hot.
You think this is it—all white lands and whiter thoughts—this is happiness. But beneath this is the past, crawling along at a snail’s pace, keeping time. And there are memories of it—home movies, real and imagined—in habits.
I have Mitral Valve Prolapse. It’s a heart condition. A bulging valve causes extra beats and panic attacks, fatigue and dizziness. It feels like something’s flopping around in there. It’s like having a fish for a heart. I’d like to be the spokesperson for it like Linda Carter is for Irritable
Bowel Syndrome. She’s one of the only women I can think of who’s sexy enough to pull that one off. Lucky for me, MVP is romantic: fluttering heart, swooning from lust, gentle and delicate flower. One time Alex offered to tie my shoe. I was sitting in the library with my feet up on the table and I hadn’t noticed but there it was: untied, the tongue lolling lustily along my sock. I eyed his neck colonies, geysers held at bay by the thinnest of membranes. I was positive that Alex’s bloody something was his face. Sure, tie it. It felt like a favor. anytime, taking a week to digest one meal. I must have evolved to survive a very boring environment. For a girl like me, this modern world can be too much of a good thing. Alex made a big show of it just like he made a big show of everything, crawling up on the long library table to kneel before my foot. He glanced over at another table where the tough guys sat with single serving bags of Lays chips and cute girls from the ninth grade. He held up my leg for them as some kind of evidence or offering. The girls smiled at me with a certain approving sympathy. It stopped feeling like a favor. In the 1920’s, popular silent screen comedian Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was accused of raping and killing a young girl. This brought scandal to Hollywood and inspired the organization of the first ever movie ratings board. Fatty Arbuckle is one of Hollywood’s early bloody somethings, of which there have been thousands, including, most notoriously bloody-Hollywood-something of all, Fatty’s legacy, the MPAA. Instead of tying my shoe, Alex pulled out the lace, the plastic end clicking against each metal eyelet. I didn’t protest. I was frozen in the gazes of the tough guys and the headlights of the cute girls with my foot in the lap of a pizza face who I now believed capable of anything. He held the lace above his head, cocky smile, head cocked.
When I exercise vigorously or get overwhelmingly embarrassed, my face turns a devastating red: the red of the tropical hibiscus flower or the red sea, the scarlet tanager, the heart of a pomegranate, the light district that goes by that name, redder than the carmine bee-eater, redder than the Native American red man. Alex leaped from the table, making off with my lace and I gave chase, grateful for the chance to run. The library was connected to the auditorium and I followed him through the back door, which led backstage. Come on man, gimme it back! You gotta catch me, bro. It was dark in the backstage hallway. I followed its lead, bunching up by the door. As I turned the corner he hooked me with an arm and used the momentum to spin me around, in one motion, into the costume room and into a kiss. I was on the exhale. He kissed like a strongman, specialty: tongue. There wasn’t room in my mouth for my own tongue anymore and it retreated, bunching up in the throat. In quiet moments, I’m confronted by my floating double—peering back through frosted glass, face screwed up like a yawning cat, begging questions and all in a frenzy. A sequoia named General Sherman is the biggest living thing on earth. Sending off his nesting birds, he learns the news of California. How cheated he must feel—to have parried root to root, and root to stone, and root to earth for two-thousand years, where the tip of every spindly sprig must be a thumb, master in the art of war—now that any hairless ape with some damp cash for a set of clothes can waltz into an elevator and scrape the sky.
Anni Murray Rudegeair
y eight-year-old son recited grace as we stared at the steam rising from the dish of lasagna on the kitchen table. “Bless-us-oh-lord-and-thesethy-gifts-which-we-are-about-to-receive-from-thybounty- through-Christ-our-lord-amen.” “Oscar,” my husband Samuel said. “I think that was the fastest version of ‘grace’ I have ever heard.” “Well, I’m hungry. Let’s get this show on the road!” I looked at Samuel and shook my head. We never knew what was going to come out of that kid’s mouth at any given moment. I put a slice of lasagna on a plate in front of Oscar. “Wow, it’s hot!” he said, touching the lasagna with his fingertips. “Yeah, you should see the steam coming from it!” Samuel said. “You’d better blow on it.” I sprinkled grated cheese on Oscar’s lasagna, then placed a scoop of green beans next to it. “Your lasagna is on the right and the green beans are on the left,” I told him. “Water’s next to your plate on the right and fork and napkin on the left.” Oscar gently moved his right hand until it made contact with the glass, and then, with the fingertips of his left hand, he tapped lightly on the table until he located the napkin and fork. Once he found the fork, he began to dig in. He managed to scoop a healthy, but sloppy, chunk of lasagna onto his fork. When he brought the golden slab of carbs to his lips he quickly blew on it three times before shoving it in his mouth. We watched him for a response. With a mouth full of food he announced, “This is delicious!” When we were finished, there were two pieces of lasagna left over and I felt like they were staring at me. I knew why. “I’m going to wrap this up and bring it to Olga,” I said. “Oh jeez!” Oscar said, getting up from the table and pushing in his chair. “How long are you going to be?” “Not long.” “You have to read to me and put me to bed soon,” he said. “You’re gonna be over there and she’s gonna be talking and talking and talking!” Samuel began clearing the table. “I got an idea,” he said. “Bring her the lasagna and then ask her to put you in her will! She’s gotta be loaded!”
“C’mon, you guys. That poor woman is ninetyfour years old. Both of her sons hardly communicate with her, and her extended family is no better. I feel badly for her.” “She should feel badly for you because she talks so much!” Oscar said. “Don’t worry,” I said. “I’ll just be a few minutes.” “Mom, wait a second. Look what I’m gonna do!” Oscar located his empty plate on the table and then carefully held it as he walked to the counter. My husband and I had been practicing this process with him, so we watched silently, trying not to jump in to help. Oscar made it to the counter with the plate, but he slid it over too far towards the sink. Before we could stop it, the plate teetered on the edge and then fell into the sink with a loud crash. Oscar jumped. “Oh no!” he said. “It’s OK, sweetie,” I said. “Even sighted people drop things, don’t worry.” “I drop things all the time,” my husband said. “You do?” Oscar was blinking back tears. “Yeah, Daddy is a huge klutz!” I said. “Hey,” Samuel looked at me, “aren’t you supposed to be delivering some lasagna right about now?” “Don’t be long!” Oscar said as I dashed out the door. I stepped out into the chilly evening. Poor Oscar, I thought as I walked toward Olga’s house. Single two-bedroom ranch homes lined the street—built in the forty’s they served as either a ‘starter home’, or a ‘finisher home’. Mine was the former, Olga’s the latter. As I passed under a streetlight I cringed when I saw a familiar sign—a yellow diamond with black letters reading, “Blind Child Area.” Screw you, I wanted to say to the sign. It stood in the spotlight like a diva at the Metropolitan Opera. I squeezed the foil pan of lasagna tightly and walked on. I arrived at Olga’s house and knocked at the door. She came to the door and held it open for me. I had been there a few weeks ago with some lentil soup, but her four-foot-ten frame seemed even smaller somehow. “Look at my hands,” she started immediately and held her hands up for me to see. “Hi Olga,” I said standing in her entryway. I looked down at her hands. They were twisted and thick, like gnarled tree trunks. “This hand is pointing East, and this hand is pointing West,” she said. “I can’t hold anything
anymore. I try to eat and I drop my fork, my spoon, everything.” She shook her head. “Did I tell you how long it’s been since my son in California called me?” Two years. “How long?” I said. “Two years,” she went on. “I always have to be the one to call him. Can you believe it?” Could I believe it? Actually – Stop it, Loretta, behave yourself! “That’s awful,” I said. “Look at this.” She pointed to her left eye, noticeably smaller than the right. “This one they screwed up with that experimental laser.” She waved her hand in front of her eye. “Nothing. Maculate Degeneration.” Macular. It was getting chilly. Take a deep breath. Be patient. Then she pointed to her right eye with her crooked index finger. It shone, clouded and coated, like an opal stone. “This one has the cataract. I can barely see your face. Your dark hair, I can see, and your jacket, is it blue? No black. I can see that. Everything else is a blur.” She waved her stiff hand around and shook her head. “I brought you some lasagna, Olga.” “Oh, good.” She smiled, patted me on the shoulder and let me into the house. She walked with a cane and I followed her as she slowly limped into the living room. Her house was spotless. Like a pictorial from Harper’s Bazaar on how to properly keep one’s home in nineteen fifty seven. A tall but narrow china closet stood dignified against one wall. Porcelain figurines created scenes on every shelf; elegant women in broad hats and walking canes, boys and girls frolicking and frozen on an unseen countryside, birds tilting up their chins, silently chirping. Olga is not alone while she watches figure skating on TV at night, she’s not alone while she listens to Perry Como cassettes on the tape player that her son gave her—these figurines are her company, her friends. She had told me that most of them were gifts from her father as she was growing up. He owned a barber shop in the Warwick Hotel and every now and then he’d go to a nice jewelry shop and buy something special for her. Some of the figurines are probably worth a small fortune. “I fell again.” Olga said, proudly. “You did? What happened?”
She stopped hobbling and pointed toward her living room curtains. “I put up my winter curtains.” Winter curtains? Who changes their curtains for the seasons? When I put up the blinds in my front window two years ago, I put ‘em up and I never looked back. “Why didn’t you call me, Olga?” I said. “Samuel and I could have helped you with that.” She shooed at me with the east-facing hand. “Oh, I just got the step ladder and did it myself. I’ve done it myself forever. It’s this foot. It’s giving me trouble again.” She pointed at her foot wrapped with a bandage. “You think my son would call me to see if I need anything?” Her eyes flashed with sudden ferocity. “You think my granddaughter would stop by to see if I’m OK? An hour away is not that far. I used to have the whole family here. Around that table for Thanksgiving.” She pointed toward her dining room. Her dining room could have been roped off like an exhibit in an art museum. A beautiful cut-glass bowl was the centerpiece of a mahogany table dressed with a delicate runner crocheted by Olga when her fingers were more nimble. A pair of crystal candelabras flanked the centerpiece. The china cabinet was full of dishes and settings from Olga’s collection as well as her mother’s collection. Once, when I brought her some meatloaf, Olga showed me all of her and her mother’s good silver. She opened the velvet-lined box and it was stunning to see the silverware in immaculate condition. “My son—the one who lives an hour away—is on a waiting list now for his kidney,” she said, bringing me back to the moment. “Yes, you mentioned that the last time I was here. I’m sorry to hear that.” I started to shuffle a bit towards the kitchen just to keep things moving. “You know how many pills he has to take?” Olga continued. More than you, from what I recall. She held out her palm before I could respond. “He takes thirty pills during the day! And me?” She pointed to the center of her palm, directing me to lean it and look closely. “I take one baby aspirin. That’s it. For all the pain I’m in with my hands and my foot, that’s all I can take on account of my heart. I’m not allowed to take any pain killers.” A pain killer sounds good right about now. I had always wanted these visits to be more somehow. I envisioned coming here once a week and bonding with Olga—I would listen to her stories
while she taught me how to sew, or she would show me how to cook her prized recipes while I kept her company, again listening to her stories. I wanted a Tuesdays with Morrie, but I wasn’t getting it. Instead of a patient, sage mentor, my Morrie was a bitter, voluble, self-centered old woman. And on top of it all, she never asked me about my life. About my son. She went on. “I died twice, you know.” “I remember, you told me. Once at your house, and once in the elevator...” “In the elevator at Lankenau Hospital. My heart stopped. They brought me back, though.” “Well, Olga, I’m glad you’re here now!” I cleared my throat. At this rate, she would probably outlive all of us. We made it to the threshold of the kitchen. I spotted the refrigerator beckoning me. Olga stopped again. “You know my mother ignored my crippled sister. I was the one,” she pointed to her chest, “who taught her how to speak.” That was one of the stories that always fascinated me. I couldn’t imagine practically ignoring my own child because of a disability. “She couldn’t walk or talk good, but she had her mind.” Olga tapped on the side of her head with her deformed finger. “My mother had a business making dresses and she was very talented, but she shouldn’t have had children. She was cold. She didn’t nurture us. This is what I remember of my mother...” Suddenly, she thrust her hand in front of my face like a Caucasian, arthritic member of The Supremes singing “Stop in the Name of Love.” “‘Not now, Olga!’ she’d say to me. ‘Not now. I’m busy.’ She was always making dresses. Working. That’s what I remember from my mother. ‘Not now.’ You know who raised me? Not my mother.” “Who?” I leaned in toward the kitchen hoping that we would begin to saunter again. “A colored woman. She lived with us.” Her eyes grew fierce again. “She kissed my scrapes, she fixed my dinner, not my mother.” She looked down shaking her head. It struck me that at ninety-four years old, she still carried such visceral resentment toward her mother. “I’ll just put this in the fridge for you, Olga. I can’t stay long. I have to put Oscar to bed soon.” She was blocking my path. “I didn’t want to marry my husband, you know.” I knew. “Really?” I sidestepped her a bit, still looking at her while creeping toward the fridge.
“But when I watched him with my sister he was so good to her. He would carry her up the stairs, he took her out to eat. Nobody saw cripples at restaurants back then.” “That’s true.” “That’s why I married him.” She put her hand over her heart. “He was a good man.” She sighed. “But I never had an orgasm with him.’ I almost dropped the lasagna. This I had not heard before! She went on, “He was so shy in bed, he’d just touch me and he was finished.” I stood in silence, blinking. She pointed to the fridge. “Oh, you can put that right on the top shelf there.” Olga walked towards me, leaning on her cane, wincing each time she took a small, slow step. I opened the refrigerator door and my heart broke. There was half a bottle of ketchup turned upside down, a bottle of milk, a small loaf of white bread, some plastic baggies each with a few slices of turkey, salami and cheese, and a container of Tropicana orange juice. I had never seen it so sparse before. “Pierce is going shopping for me on Wednesday so you came just in time. I can probably make two or three meals from what you’ve brought.” Pierce was Olga’s landscaper, who went grocery shopping for Olga once a week. That young man is earning his place in heaven. I placed the lasagna on the top shelf. “How’s your little man doing? How old is he now?” Olga said holding on to my arm tightly. I was surprised at her question. “He’s...he’s eight.” “Eight!” She smiled. “My goodness! I remember him when he was so small.” “You do?” “Yes. He was with your husband in the snow outside a few years ago now. I was watching from the window.” Why hadn’t she ever told me this? She went on. “Your husband took off his tiny glove and put a little bit of snow in his hand. He wanted him to know what snow felt like. And I just stood at the window watching and I had tears in my eyes.” “Olga, you don’t have to feel badly for him.” “And when you used to push him on the swing in the yard. I would open up my window so I could hear your voices. You would sing to him and he would sing back to you. And I’d hear him laugh.” She started to giggle herself. “What a sweetheart he
is! He must be too big for that swing now!” “That was his toddler swing.” “How are his eyes?” She squeezed my arm again. “I’ve see you and him practicing outside with his little cane, tapping it back and forth. Is there any hope?” “Um...well, not really. Not now, anyway.” I felt a lump in my throat, but I wouldn’t give in to it. “We have a very good doctor, and none of the surgeries worked.” “You know I pray for little Oscar every night,” she said. “You do?” “I pray for my two sons first—I tell God to watch over the one in California who never calls me. And then Edward, that he’ll find a donor, and little Oscar is third. I tell God, please, bless him and his parents. Give them patience. He’s gonna be OK, but his parents are gonna need patience.” “Well, your prayers must be working, Olga! Samuel and I are very patient with him.” “And I know what it’s like not to see. It’s hard, but at least I could see at one time.” My eyes started to well up. As much as I thought that I had my son’s blindness in perspective, as determined as I was that he would be an independent, successful blind adult, and as much as I’d convinced myself that I wasn’t desperately hoping that his blindness will be cured one day, a prayer from the heart of this old woman across our driveway with nothing in her refrigerator grabbed my throat, my stomach, my heart and didn’t let go. She leaned in close to me and I could smell the scent of her soap and the little bit of perfume on her clothes. “I know he’s going to see one day.” She spoke softly. “Oh, it’s not going to be perfect vision, I can tell you, but I know it’s going to happen. I won’t be here to see it myself, but I’ll be a little angel on his shoulder when it does.” She tapped my shoulder gently. A tear raced down my face and I sniffled. “I pray for those doctors, too. I say, ‘God, let those doctors find a cure fast, so he can see his beautiful parents.’ I know it’s gonna happen.” She patted my cheek. “Thank you, Olga.” “Come here, I have something for you.” She led me into the dining room. There was a large box of jewelry on the table. “I’m going through all of my things that I’m leaving to my family. Most of them
have already requested certain items. My opera coat, my good fur, my mother’s china. Huh! They all know what they want. Do you believe the nerve?” I wiped my nose with a tissue from my pocket. “Here,” she said holding up a gold necklace. “You take this.” “Olga, you don’t have to give me anything.” “My father bought this for me when I was a young woman.” “Thank you.” I kissed her on the cheek and gave her a hug. My eye caught the time on my watch. “Oh my gosh! I have to put Oscar to bed! I have to run now, Olga.” “Go ahead, then.” “Thank you. The necklace is beautiful.” “Bring Oscar around to see me sometime. I’ll give him some cookies.” “Okay, Olga!” I called from the front door. When I returned home Oscar was already asleep. I showed my husband the necklace. Three green gems were arranged in a simple setting on a gold chain. “Look to see if it’s good gold,” Samuel said. “That doesn’t matter,” I told him. “Just check. You never know.” I brought the necklace under a lamp and carefully examined the setting, looking for an indication of the type of gold. “There is something on it,” I said tilting the back of the setting in the light. A cluster of small raised letters glistened on the gold. I blinked as I brought the necklace closer and then saw the marking on it. AVON “What does it say?” Samuel asked. “Um. Fourteen karat gold,” I told him. “That could be worth something.” I smiled at him. It was.
THE CHIMERA Well, I’ve never been to England, But I kinda like the Beatles. “Never Been to Spain” – Hoyt Axton Evan Glasowicz grew up in Oklahoma, but almost from the time he got there, he knew that what he wanted to do was to transcend his flat, flatly drawling environment and, one day, make his way for one coast or the other, or maybe Europe. As soon as he learned about them, he envisioned himself hanging out at the Dome in Paris, or the Café Reggio in Greenwich Village and talking to beautiful, educated women. By the time he was thirteen, he began planning on attending a college that would take him far away from the core of the windblown surroundings that was once labeled by some canny cartographer as “The Great American Desert.” Soon after that, he resolved that he would attempt to leave behind the natural accent that he’d developed during his years in the Sooner State and indeed this would be his ticket to assimilation in the wider, beautiful world. A night person from his mid-teens on, for night was the escape from the diurnal and everyday as it so certainly was in New York and Vegas and London and Paris, Evan would stay up in the late Seventies and watch the Tomorrow show with Tom Snyder. Actually, what he did was study it. He strategized that emulating Snyder’s vaguely Germanically-tinged Milwaukee accent would serve to improve his tinny Norman inflections. At the same time something grounded and Midwestern would be preserved. Every day at school he would practice – practice sounding like he hadn’t been living in Norman, Oklahoma for twelve years. He would try to sound like he’d just dropped in from Chicago or maybe Philadelphia, like Katherine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story; or, at points, maybe Yale, or perhaps Oxford. Mainly, he would attempt to talk philosophy with his cohorts, or at least his eighteen-year-old conception of it. Because philosophy must be what people discussed at the Café Reggio in the Village or the Dome. He played tennis because that’s what he figured kids in the English “public” schools like Eaton played even though the truth was that it was more often rugby. And when match day was cold he would always wear what he thought was an elegant, wine colored turtleneck underneath his school shirt. What happened to Evan Glasowicz in college
may have been predictable. He made it as far as St. Louis but there became lost, and lost for many years. However, somewhere along the ride, or more properly the journey, he did manage to pick up that peculiar St. Louis roll and drop of the tongue in Blueberry Hill, the Midwestern bar he, as a lingering night junkie, hung out in after classes. From that point onward, whenever and wherever he might order his neat scotch, whether it was at the Tavern on the Green in Central Park or Murphy’s in West Philly, that Delmar-Avenuewest-of-the-park elocution would return and rise to the tip of his tongue. Lost, lost in a world of attempted pretense and actual anomie, he did a hitch in the army and then was finally accepted into the Art History Department of NYU for graduate studies. Hadn’t he finally arrived? However, one of the first things that a professor said to him once he knew him well was: “Whatever happened to your Oklahoma accent?” Evan knew that the best reply to this question was to shut up. Just not say a word. Who could explain those days by the high school lockers, trying to sound like Kate Hepburn? On his way to Ph.D.-hood Evan opened up a small lithograph shop in the first-floor entryway of his two floor Greenwich Village apartment. He obtained his artwork mostly through contacts made in grad school as well as some he’d made while serving his largely nondescript and nearly disreputable two-year hitch in the army. There he had done some service as an interpreter. First English and now German. He could be airy and frothy as a dollop of whipped cream in a cup of espresso in two languages now. The gnawing question, however, was this: “Would Evan Glasowicz, now widely known in certain of the most desirable circles, ever truly meet with his destiny – realize his true colors ever again?” She came in the form of a mirage and, after resting for a while in Evan’s corner of the Earth, she left like she had been some sort of delicate afternoon daydream. Though she was probably more tough than delicate in her worldly way. By Evan’s reckoning she was probably the most cultivated woman in the world. She traveled some sort of subterranean circuit, touching bases in Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Budapest, Istanbul, and probably even Tangier. She had been a stewardess for Malev, and had worked as a waitress, model, and as a cat and dog sitter. Her hair was virtually black and her skin was virtually white and porcelain-like – the color of certain Ming vases that Evan had observed. She spoke with a princess-like whispering elocution which sculpted itself around a
darkly comic sensibility. She walked with an enthusiastic bounce that recalled the days when call girls could actually enjoy their work. “We’re Methodists,” was about all Evan learned about her family. How much shock and wonder a family of Methodists would have to deal with in a case such as hers, Evan could only guess at. Her first name was Lauren, emphasis on the last syllable. Evan envisioned a tumultuous adolescence, perhaps led on several continents wherein her name might have evolved from Laurie, to Lauren, to Lauren. Her last name was alternately Bernstein, Hymowicz, or Sullivan. The names didn’t change out of any manipulative game playing or sadism, but they rather embodied the sorts of veils that a woman who rode the metaphysical subways of the world might require or need to employ at a moment’s notice. Lauren and Evan had met on the street on Times Square as she was on her way to have some photos enlarged and Evan was strolling over to an I. Goldberg to buy a couple of sweatshirts to use when exercising with his ab rocker. In retrospect Evan always suspected that her “photos” were probably images of some sort of artwork – Expressionist paintings? Or possibly dolls, or children, or maybe upstate, or even Provencal, landscapes. “Yes, Provencal,” thought Evan in his inspired, bamboozled mind. But he was only able to know, or guess, about such things by making his way through the dreamlike stream of communication that developed between them. He never got a chance to enter her apartment – it was eternally being sprayed, or retiled, or degrouted. It became Terra Incognita to Evan except for the view from the front door which revealed that the elegant, refined, filigreed uptown interior that he had expected was touched by a somehow unearthly, spectrally warm, glow. But it also seemed to be a forbidding and private world that her abode provided entrée into – a world at the farthest edge of his own experience, and, it seemed to Evan, that it was a domain not to be shared with anyone that didn’t lead some phantasmagorical sort of life. As had been the case in the army, Evan found himself to be an interpreter; an ambassador between Lauren’s world, a world as unusual and exotic to Evan as some far-out galaxy, and the bleary and at times darkly fanatical commercial world that verged on him as he dealt with his daily life. But her discreet byways were, by all rights beyond Evan’s suzerainty – would always be. “This life,” he thought, “must take the discretion of an aristocrat.” A walk and a talk that
Evan necessarily released himself from in his pre-and early adolescence when he became known as a walking noisemaker, the token, half-Jew comedian and wiseacre in a frosty Southern Baptist locality. For Evan, as for others in different times and places, becoming a comedian in his early teens was a matter of survival – a mode of being for the ugly duckling still shy of being a tennis-playing swan. Gender too appeared to be a factor in Lauren’s life. Her province was a woman’s province, or so it seemed. Men, with their undisguisable and unmistakable mastiff-like behavior could never ultimately keep the necessary secrets or swallow the necessary documents – an activity that seemed second-nature to Lauren. With men, too much of everyday life involved camaraderie, whether it be the sort found in a cricket club, a gentlemen’s club, or a corner bar. All of these sorts of establishments seemed to call for the disgorgement and dissemination of every last inner secret. That the road to discovery ranges through the realm of sex is something that many men, and then women, have proclaimed. And sex was like that for Lauren, who ruthlessly and unabashedly expended the effort necessary to seek fulfillment. And it was the way through which Evan came to understand her. So he didn’t directly know when, or where, or why about her. That didn’t stop him, months after her disappearance back into the global miasma with nothing but an erotic Brassai postcard for a goodbye (and a vague reference to street theatre in Sarajevo), from stopping, thinking, learning, and trying to assemble her and reassemble himself. It happened one night, in the dark, after the most brutally beautiful sex that Evan could ever remember having. He turned to Lauren to tell her about an experience that he’d had while playing tennis as a child. In fact his head was feeling like it did after playing a match on the Oklahoma plains on a summer’s day – like a haze spun of the softest candy spider webs imaginable. He looked at her as she held his hand, her face streaked as it was with the most sleek and streamlined black eyebrows that he’d ever seen, and began to speak to the most cultivated woman in the world in the thickest, most uncontrollable Cleveland County drawl imaginable: “Ah thought that wuz good!” So Evan Glasowicz finally realized what he’d always feared: That he was the purest of Oklahoma dirt and nothing more, and that fact relieved him more than anything else ever did. Peter Baroth
Foreign Focus relation is another country and i can’t find a second proof of identity to drop the money on a passport. you smuggled in cubans from canada. your smile says that you just smoked one. i don’t find that attractive. i don’t find anything. my bed is empty. my phone is silent, not just because of setting. i can’t write. i write about a body. i can only write bodies, write on my bodies with a body. it seems so impersonal. it seems i take it personal. it seems like a writer block. i want to block your body into this scene. i want to ask you if you get along with your mother. there is a time and a place. i want to know what your regular childhood meals were. all i can focus on is wanting and it is driving me, since i don’t have a car. i don’t have a car or a big bank account. i have two cats and a comfortable chair. i resist the urge to use the word “comfy.” i resist the urge to consume chocolate. i indulge in writing about it. i want something else. something cinematic, a waking point a conversation at 7 am. watching the sun do one of the two things it does during the day. or ignoring that for night sky. i want to see nature. i want to see movies of nature. it isn’t my nature to think this and that and that’s why i pour it into language framework. i feel like a geriatric Jackson Pollack. i feel like O’Hara’s last cigarette. i feel like i want a cigarette. i feel like i want someone to touch my hair and say “is that okay?” because i need that question even without a question. i need for someone to say “it’s okay. it’s cool.” i need for someone to take my glasses off.
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€™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€™ 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.
p in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane! It’s a bald Superman dressed in black slacks, black shirt, and gold tie, big hands, abstract eyebrows and ginormous feet. He’s flying over the Independence Blue Cross Building dropping barrettes from his pocket, waving goodbye to a little girl that called for his help that day. This was a drawing handed to me on a school day once forgotten, yet till this day I can still remember her words… “I like what you did to my hair Daddy. I didn’t know boys, I mean, men, styled hair. Mommy said men don’t know nothing but I think she don’t know you.” She doesn’t. “Huh?” The correct term is, she doesn’t know me. “Right, I think she doesn’t know you.” Grab your bag, grab your lunch, and stop messin’ in your hair. “Daddy, don’t forget your wallet and please don’t eat my Honey-Bun!” Out the door, we’re rushing to beat the school bell. 8 a.m., a kiss and two prayers later, we part ways. Three hours pass and I get the phone call full of crying and sobbing and hiccupping tears. “DADDY THIS BOY, MY HAIR, HE MESSED UP MY HAIR!” Baby-Girl, boys don’t know nothing. “B-b-boys d-don’t know ‘anything,’ Daddy.” Cutie, calm down. Everything will be all right. Laughed all the way to her school only to see such a sight: a puffy-haired Treasure-Troll fighting back tears with all her might. Walked her to the corner, wiped her tears with my gold tie; whipped out the black rat-tailed comb and a bottle of Frizz-Ease, extra ballies held in a rubber band. Here’s bald Superman with big hands and a sobbing Smurf sitting Indian style on my ginormous feet, and I asked, “What happened?” And she says; “be-, b-becau, because he, HE!” …breathe. Try again, and don’t start with ‘because.’ “Because this stupid little boy kept messing with my hair, and if I wouldn’t lose my behavior star on the teacher’s board, I’D CHOKE HIM TILL HE’S NOT STUPID NO MORE!” Anymore. “Right, Anymore. Kept saying my name all wrong and pulling on plaits, then poof! Then you came and…how was your day?” Didn’t let her know I had just finished fighting with her mother and a monster lawyer in the sequel of “Superman and the Court-House of Doom,” so I kissed her on the head and said, this is the best part of my day so far, as I rushed her back to her classroom. She tries to hand me barrettes that fall from my pocket. I say to hold them for Daddy, and as I turn the corner, I hear the bell ring for art class. At the end of the school day, she asked if we would ever part. I knelt at the bus stop to lotion her face and answered with a promise of two things to start. I will never leave you, and I will never lie to you. She asked if I would ever let anything harm her. I said, baby girl, you are my heart and I will forever be your armor. She asks “Did you eat the Honey-Bun I hid in the basement?” And as I rise to my feet to rush to the store for a replacement, she hands me a picture. It’s a bald man dressed in all black wearing a gold tie that I had no business wearing that day, yet I let her pick out for me anyway. Over the top of the drawing in red crayon is the word… “Superman.” Smyte IX
The Robbery The invitation to your engagement party had my name and the name of my ex-wife on it, so it had been a couple of years. At the party I sat with your old friends from college. They asked how I knew you and I lied and told them we got caught side by side on the floor of a bank during a robbery; the criminals with shotguns drawn, waving excitedly, ready to fire hundreds of holes into anything standing in their way. I told them your face was too beautiful to feel such pain so I crawled on your back to shield you from them. I saw the looks on their faces. I knew I said too much. Then someone came to the table behind me. It was Tim, your soon-to-be husband. “Stewart. So glad you could make it,” he said through his shiny teeth. His suit was expensive and tailored. “Congratulations,” mine was too small and the sleeves rode up every time I extended my arms. “Where’s Susan?” “I don’t know anyone named Susan,” I said. “Your wife?” “I don’t have a wife. Listen, I like you, David. I just want to wish you all the best,” I shook his hand again and smiled. “It’s Tim, Stewart,” he said. “Right. Congratulations.” I went to the bar while he made his rounds at the table. I sat back down at the table with your friends, Tony, Amanda and Rosemarie. I brought them all Old Fashioneds. They wanted to know more about the robbery. “It was cold that day. A cold day in November. They yelled ‘don’t anybody call the cops’ on their way out. One of the tellers tried to pull the silent alarm but they shot off her hand. The blood on the beige tile looked like a painting. Not a Monet, more like a Twombly.” “Were you afraid?” Tony asked. “I was more than afraid.” Amanda asked why she never heard the story before and I said you didn’t want to talk about it. Post-traumatic stress. Then Rosemarie piled on with more questions about which bank and when it happened, and why hadn’t she read about it in the paper, or seen it on the news? I opened my mouth to make something up. Then I saw you. You were in a white dress with black lines circling all around. It was strapless and to your knees. You had everything. I wanted to run across the room. I wanted to buck off my chair like bull at rodeo. I wanted to
tell you that I never stopped wondering what would happen. That I thought getting married to Susan and buying a house would make it stop. That I thought getting older and having a career and money to spend could somehow change the way I felt. But it never did. You looked at me. You looked right into my eyes and you saw something. Maybe you saw everything I was thinking, because you bit your lip the way you used to when you had something serious to consider. The same way you would when we were both just starting out and I would walk by your desk in the morning on my way to some meeting. Then it was gone. Someone else said hello and a smile whisked it away. You were kissed on the cheek by an old man with a paisley handkerchief in his breast pocket. I asked if anyone needed another drink before I got up and left. At the wedding they will remove the ‘speak now or forever hold your peace’ part from the sermon. They always do now. And I won’t come rushing in like Dustin Hoffman anyway, banging on a sheet of glass. I’ll just keep going to work every day looking forward to football games and the weekends.
HOW WE GOT OUR HEART The birds flew deep inside us and made nests in our lungs â€” eggs hatched. Molted feathers made a soft carpet and we coughed. Chirps rang in our hollow tree body. Bones went ceramic. Shell chards crushed into grit. In the cage of our ribs, flight was limited, not impossible, the way that nothing is impossible, but still the birds realized what they sacrificed for warmth. The birds lost the power to fly. Waste-winged, they huddled together and started to pump, and pump, going nowhere.
Courtney K. Bambrick