Canyon Voices Issue 23

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ISSUE

23

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From the Editors

PUBLISHER Julie Amparano García Co-Editors-in-Chief William Hightower Jonathan Valenzuela Design Director Katy Pruett Copy Editor Chief Lisa Diethelm Social Media Managers Jordan Brown Lisa Diethelm Senior Fiction Editors Ross Holding Katy Pruett

For the both of us, this has been the third issue we have worked together for Canyon Voices and we were given the unique opportunity to be the co-editors-in-chief together. We got to lean on each other’s skills and utilize our own strengths to make this issue more refined than ever. With this issue, we continued to deal with problems beyond the normal requirements of this position — a worldwide pandemic. But with our combined effort, the magazine came together nicely. This, however, would not have been possible without the amazing team we had behind us. From our editors, senior editors, and of course our publisher, Julie Amparano, we were able to make great strides every week to ensure the magazine's quality. This semester we had tons of submissions in every section of the magazine and it was no easy task to narrow down the field. We implemented a priority deadline to incentivize those submitting to do so early. As editors in chief, we rotated through the groups. These things helped us stay on top of the mountain of submissions and kept the groups as together as possible. These are just a few examples of how the magazine continues to evolve every semester. Lastly, we would like to thank the writers and artists who submitted their amazing works, the editorial staff for their efforts, and our ASU faculty for their support. The magazine has been able to reach its 23rd issue due to everyone's continuing support and effort. We want to thank you all from the bottom of our hearts. While, this may be our last time being staff for Canyon Voices, we will carry and remember our experience long into the future. Thank you all! William Hightower & Jonathan Valenzuela

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Fiction Editors Courtney Corboy Lisa Diethelm Brody Kimberlin Jared Rusnak Senior Poetry Editors Jordan Brown Sharon Enck Poetry Editors Michael Arbizo Hayden Tenney Senior Creative Nonfiction Ross Holding Creative NonFiction Editors Lisa Diethelm Brody Kimberlin Senior Scripts & Clips Editor William Hightower Scripts & Clips Editors Sharon Enck Josh Sohn Senior Art Editor Jonathan Valenzuela Art Editors Michael Arbizo Jordan Brown Courtney Corboy Katy Pruett Jared Rusnak Hayden Tenney Senior Alcove Editors Lisa Diethelm Jared Rusnak Cover image: The Origin by Heather Weech See the Artwork section for full image CANYON VOICES is a student-driven online literary magazine, featuring the work of emerging and established writers and artists. The magazine is supported by the students and faculty of the School of Humanities, Arts, & Cultural Studies at Arizona State University’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences. Click here for submission guidelines.

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Downpour By Ashley Resurreccion


FICTION

POETRY

CREATIVE NONFICTION

The Engineer's Tale | Kyle Jackson The Brief Insights of Magic and Flora | Daniel Shehab The Tin | Brian Feller A Story from a Park Bench | Grace Tobin The Field | Isabella Restifo Inheritance | Daniel Atkinson

Sea to Sky Highway | Meggie Tran Where Do We Go From Here? | Allyson Nguyen Azure Rush | Alejandro Villa Vásquez The Star | Sherre Vernon Yeah, I Got Your Message | Sherre Vernon the fountain | Zachary Komorowski The Birthday | Alejandro Villa Vásquez Lunar Strands | Jemma Leigh Roe Unconventional Freedom | Sidney Ashby Parents Crying | Drew Kolber 8 | Maxine Chernoff tributary | Candice Snyder after life | Candice Snyder Pox | Alejandro Villa Vásquez Mirrors | Alaina Joleen Mites make right | Deborah Ketai Grief can be Awkward | Heather Weech The Vast Known | Jack Strunk The Lavender | Michael Montali Hair | Emma Zimmerman Labyrinth | Ching Ching Tan The Writer | Megan Cox One Man | Allyson Nguyen


table of contents

SCRIPTS

ART

ALCOVE

ABOUT US

The Bridge Play | John Perovich Obsolete | Domenick V. Danza Grandmother’s House | Mark Loewenstern So Many Choices| Amar Camisi The Smoking Room | Brian James Polak Everyday Aviation | Rachael Carnes The Green Grocer | Joni Ravenna

Parker Fuentes Ashley Resurreccion Doodler Skelly Magdalene Lunbery Polina Reed Heather Weech Alberto Escamilla Carson Owens Zachary Komorowski Cassidy Archinuk

The Hidden Mind: Exploring Unconscious Creativity with Doodler Skelly | Jared Rusnak A Journalistic Take: A Look into Emma Zimmerman's Writing Process | Lisa Diethelm Discussing the "Proust Effect": On the Phone with Michael Montali | Michael Arbizo Finding Kindred Spirits: Mystical Insights from Candice Snyder | Hayden Tenney Stepping Out of the Classroom: An AfterSchool Special with Isabella | Courtney Corboy Keeping the Spark: A Real Conversation on Life, Art, and the Importance of Infatuation with Joni Ravenna | Sharon Enck

Our Mission About Us Submission Guidelines Staff Pages




FICTION | KYLE JACKSON

The Engineer’s Tale By Kyle Jackson

The train was more horrifying than he could have imagined. The bright yellow balloon his mom had bought him in the terminal was far from enough to fend off the wailing horn and rumbling floor. As the train lurched into motion, little Johnny Evans nestled himself deep into his mother’s coat. He peeked out with one eye in time to see the station, the last stable ground in the world, shrink to a speck on the horizon and vanish from existence. They had been moving for quite some time before Mom finally spoke, “Look outside sweetie. See the cows?” Johnny agreed that the cows would be nice to see in a trying time like this, so he lifted his face from the warm wool. She was right - she always was - there were cows. Black and white, smudgy brown, and he thought one might have been red, but the train was moving too fast to get a good look. The cows were gone just like all the people in the train station. The train had left them all behind. He began to cry and hid his face in Mom’s coat again. “What’s the matter honey, did you see the cows?” Mom asked. He didn’t like the train and she didn’t understand that. The world sped by before he ever got the chance to see it, and the rumbling hung mercilessly in the air. He only cried louder. The wool coat did not hide the sobs very well. He could feel the eyes of the other passengers flicking over to him, begging for the noise to stop. He tried to be strong, but, how could he? It was

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all too much. Johnny had been excited to go on his first big trip, but he had never expected the train to be so angry. It was much louder than Mom’s car and he couldn’t see anything outside of the window. It was all gone so fast. He wondered how long it took grown-ups to get used to the roar of the tracks. Nothing scared grownups it seemed. He knew that nothing could scare Mom. Maybe she could make the train quieter. Johnny lifted his face to ask when he felt a tap tap tapping on his shoulder. “What’s the matter buddy?” asked a deeper voice. Johnny looked up to see an old man in a blue coat and tie crouched next to their seats. Johnny turned to Mom for guidance. He knew he wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers. “It’s okay,” Mom assured him, “this is the conductor. He makes sure the train goes on time.” This was calming news. If this man was able to make the train run on time, maybe he could make it quieter, but he didn’t want to sound scared. “I can’t see anything out the window.” he said, peeking out at the conductor. “Can’t see anything?” the conductor asked, “There is so much to see out there.” “But it goes away too fast. I can’t look at it.” He hoped that the conductor would understand and make the train go slower.

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“Well son, you need to look farther away.” He pointed out at the mountains in the distance. “Things close to the train don’t stay in front of the window too long, do they?” He was right. The train would need to slow down so he could see those things. Johnny would need to find another reason for the train to go slower. “It’s really loud.” he said, his eyes trained on the mountains. “You are certainly right son,” the conductor said, “and we aren’t even in the locomotive.” “What’s a locomotive?” “It’s the car at the front of the train that pulls all of the other cars.” “It’s louder up there?” Johnny couldn’t imagine it being louder. “That’s right. The engineer who drives the train wears special headphones so he doesn’t hurt his ears.” The conductor had taken a seat across from Johnny. “He is a good friend of mine. Would you like to meet him when we stop?” Johnny had mostly forgotten about the noise. The huge mountains had pushed the harsh rumbling from his mind. “Can I?” Johnny looked up at Mom. This would be the second stranger he would get to talk to today, and this one got to drive the train. “Of course you can,” She smiled down at him. “It’s not every day you get to meet someone like that.” The rest of the trip couldn’t have gone slower. As amazing as the mountains and the trees were, the anticipation of getting to meet the engineer

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burned within Johnny. When they finally did pull into the new station, it took all of his will power not to run to the conductor at the door. He tried to walk slowly, one hand on the balloon and the other on the hem of Mom’s coat. The conductor asked that they wait on the platform for the train to empty out, and then they would walk up to the locomotive together. When they did get to meet the engineer, it was so much better than Johnny could have hoped for. He was younger than the conductor and he was much dirtier. Even before he met him, Johnny knew that his job was better than the conductor’s. The conductor lifted him up inside the locomotive. It was very impressive to him that this car had been able to pull so many others behind it, and so fast too. When he and his mother finally had to leave the station, all Johnny could think about was how badly he wanted to ride with the engineer next time. … The gravel crunched under the Engineer’s soft work boots. They had worn in over their many months around the train yard, but this would be their first time at the helm. The Engineer climbed the ladder into the locomotive, hanging his backpack by the door as he entered the cabin. The backpack wasn’t anything special: blue, a few zippered pockets, and the name Evans written on the right shoulder strap. The Engineer had worked in the cabin before, always as an apprentice though. Today he was in charge. He felt the massive diesel engine roar to life through the floor and the walls. The raw power of the machine had frightened him many years ago. Now it called out to him as a friend. The train lurched into motion as he pushed the accelerator slowly forward. The power surrounding him was

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simultaneously unfathomable and at his will. His childhood self would have been proud of what he had become. As the train chugged out of the station, the Engineer sounded the horn – yet another earthshattering noise which he had come to love – and they were off. He didn’t need to look to know that the station was shrinking behind the horizon. He was more concerned with the hills and houses appearing in the distance before him. The sunrise threw dancing shadows across the rolling landscape causing the trees near the tracks to shimmer as the train sped by. His headphones muted the immediate world around him, but in his chest he could feel the steel heart of the locomotive beating away, pumping in harmony with his own. The vibrant pinks and lavenders of the sky sunk lower and lower to the ground, hugging the muted curves of the earth until they finally absorbed into the soil. In their place, a rich indigo filled the sky – a static backdrop as the world nearer to him ripped by in an everchanging stream of color and texture. The rails had been his first love. The Engineer had loved since, but there had never been a doubt in his mind that despite countless heartbreaks the steel tracks would always be there for him, and he for them. Over the years the growl of the engine only became more endearing. The colors of the sky were richer and more plentiful than they had ever been. The Engineer’s infatuation with the rails had become hard-earned respect, a bond that not even his love for his wife could sever. She had known this long before he did, and she did not worry. He always came home, his love for her renewed by his passion for the railroad. Nothing could break that man, she thought, no one had ever loved anything so whole-heartedly. …

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The Engineer’s boots had become worn over the years, molding to his feet and to the floor of the locomotive. The straps of his bag were threadbare, their life prolonged by strips of duct tape and nylon patches, but the colors of the sky were richer than ever. As he had grown used to the routes he drove, the Engineer noticed more than the colors of the landscape and the sounds of the locomotive. He began to see the people who lived near the tracks. There were residents of small towns whose population had never surpassed four digits and there were those who lived amongst millions in bustling metropolises. Some of them sat angrily while they waited for the train to pass. Some were families enjoying the outdoors in the parks along the rails. And some were children who stood in awe as the speeding cars blurred past. The Engineer loved them all because they made up the world which he had the privilege to traverse. The people today were no different. There had been a few people near the fence by the station, waving as the train pulled out into the world. He waved back. He sped the train up as he neared the edge of town, the engine pulsed faster as he neared travelling speeds. Beyond the city limits there were far fewer people, so it was the cows and horses which kept him company. He was pleasantly surprised today to see a white sedan parked near the tracks. He looked ahead to find the audience today. Was it a family with children excited to see a train at full speed? Perhaps a young couple with a picnic in search of an interesting backdrop for their lunch? It was neither. The Engineer’s eyes finally settled on a young man sitting square in the middle of the tracks. His heart sunk as he threw on the emergency brake and blared the horn. The claxons shredded the air and the brakes screamed in anguish, but the train was moving too fast. He didn’t even feel the man beneath the train.

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The white sedan was far behind the train by the time he had managed to stop the engine. The conductor had informed the passengers that there had been a technical malfunction before he stepped out of the car to inspect the front of the train. Emergency services had already been called, but there wasn’t much they could do. The Engineer sat on the floor of the silent locomotive and wept. He leaned against his backpack, whose strap had finally broken as the train came to a stop, and felt empty. When the tears had run dry, he tilted his head back to see out of the cabin windows and saw only a gray sky. … John Evans was an empty man. The fire that burned within him had died to a mere ember, barely enough to keep him alive. His wife had noticed the change before he had opened his mouth. When he returned home, she stood on the platform with a hand-made sign. She always had, and he had always run to her when he found it in the crowd. When he stepped out of a passenger car instead of the locomotive, she was confused. She barely recognized him. He wore the same brown boots, but he stood like an old man. His backpack no longer rested proudly on his shoulders, but hung lazily from a single pathetic strap in his hand. He did not run to her now. He shuffled weakly to her and collapsed in her arms. He buried his face in her coat and wept. The conductor came to her once the train had emptied. John sat on a bench and stared. The conductor had been a friend of John’s since his first day of work. He was the one to tell Mrs. Evans why her husband was so hopelessly empty. He told her that John should take some time to heal, and that he was there for them both. It didn’t matter to John though. He had watched a man no older than himself disappear beneath the train. His first love was gone, and what did he have anymore? Nobody else had seen what he

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had. Nobody else could have stopped the train. He could have. But he didn’t. He wasn’t fast enough. A man was dead, and it was his fault. … The railroad was cold and empty. The Engineer had returned to work when his wife finally moved away. She couldn’t connect with him anymore. She had been there for as long as she could bear, but his ability to love was gone. The locomotive groaned as its old diesel engine coughed to life. The journey was no more than a job anymore. The shades of brown earth and gray sky ran together, leaving only the hard steel of the tracks to guide the train from station to station. He worked the engine controls effortlessly and deliberately, but his boots dragged as he moved from panel to panel. They were worn through by now. The brown laces had been broken and tied together in several places. The leather upper was stained and sported several holes. The soles showed their age more than the rest of the shoe though – the tread was all but flat and they barely clung to the rest of the shoe. Only a few threads held them together. They would give out completely any day now. The locomotive chugged into the station, creaking to a stop at the platform just like it had a thousand times before. People got off. People got on. Just like they had a thousand times before. The Engineer opened the cabin door and sat on the ledge with his lunch, waiting for his conductor’s signal. As he sat, looking out across the crowd of blank faces, the Engineer spotted a single yellow balloon bobbing contentedly in the hand of a child.

n n n For more information on author Kyle Jackson, please visit our Contributors Page.

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FICTION | DANIEL SHEHAB

The Brief Insights of

Magic and Flora By Daniel Shehab

A faint whispered hum encapsulated a dainty and dilapidated cottage standing proudly in the midst of variegated forestry. The hum was ever so slightly out of tune, falling flat on some notes, resonating with a crescendo on others. It was holistically flawed – humanistic in nature. It felt free – free of worry, free of urgency, free in the way it flowed off the mouth of the source. It was a form of expression that wasn’t concerned with human nature or a fear of ridicule. It was imperfect, yet perfect in the way it was indifferent to imperfection. Truly, this hum was a waltz of notes that dissolved the conventions of expectation and warped the ideations of comfort.

surrounding greenery shifted and bounced with enthusiastic vigor. Arrays of naturally growing irises and asters danced with grace, twirling their flexible body stems into a tight twist before relaxing and repeating the process. Populations of variously colored moss wriggled in place as their efforts in climbing up the cottage continued with minimalistic fervor. The leaves of ancient oak trees fell with poise as the branches shimmered and shook in excitement. Ferns growing under the jutting dominance of the forestry above writhed and jerked in sharp directions as accompanying mushrooms leisurely drifted back and forth.

This hum felt sequestered to the space it claimed for itself, as if the small, dainty, and dilapidated cottage standing proudly raised the tune with motherly affection. It created a shifting tempo, an everchanging rhythm. It created a cadence that warped the ways in which time marched. A rise in volume could speed the pace of time by any variable degree, just as a quiet hum could stall time to a near stop. A whisk, a brief pause, an outside spin leading into another whisk. The tango of notes in this imperfect hum selfishly captivated the space around it and warped the laws of the world to its own design.

The sun’s brilliant rays added a beautiful touch to the volatile choreography of flora that was birthed from the barely perceivable whispered hum. All within this space was dictated by a dynamic unique to each entity, as if this personification of verdure was further brought into fruition. Of course, such a display was never mandated. This hum simply existed as a hum – a free flowing, flawed, humanistic set of out of tune sounds that carried an imaginary misshapen effect on the world surrounding this dainty and dilapidated yet proudly standing cottage. All felt well; it felt right. Everything fit right into place as this tiny pocket of the forest functioned independently from the rambunctious and social nature of humanity. The only way this imperfect

The forestry in which this dainty and dilapidated cottage invaded didn’t mind, however. The

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perfection could have been disrupted was if the invasive tendency of man somehow found its way to this tranquil place. “Elias Brooks! You gratuitous scoundrel!” All within a few seconds dedicated to the screeching of a name and a curse, the utopia of vividly blooming vegetation came to a sudden halt. Reality was brought back to the forefront of the cottage’s existence, whose proud stature seemed to recede back into a cowardly stance with the onset of a stranger that overwhelmed the faint hum that was nowhere to be heard. “Elias Brooks! You crass insipid poltroon! Meet with me right this instant!” From the cottage stepped forth a man in a neatly ironed dark green shirt tucked into black slacks. He wore a black blazer with intricately stretching blood red swirled accents that ran down the jacket. A rhythmic tap could be heard with every step he took as he walked along the stone steps that ran down the incline of the cottage. His movements were concise and concentrated. Every step’s placement was planned, with no energy wasted on hesitation or thoughtless motion. “I’m glad to see you paid a visit to the Great Alma Library on your way to my snug residence! Your use of adjectives leading into a negatively implicated and accusatory noun is simply splendid~” remarked Mr. Brooks with a snide grin while raising both his arms upward. “I’ve been planning a trip for myself! I would’ve liked to go after I finished my work for this we-“ The enraged man hissed back venomously, spittle almost looking like bits of poison as they shone in the now slightly setting sun. “The

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useless chitchat isn’t necessary, Brooks.” “Oh…then I assume you’re not here for a nice cup of imoswus tea? They’re in beautiful bloom this year! Why, they look just like wild iphresses but with twice the swe-“ “Brooks!” yelled the man once more. The shade of his face shifting to a deep red, veins could be seen popping out of his forehead. The man’s appearance seemed to bloat ever so slightly as the creases and furls of the untucked white buttoned shirt flattened out with the exaggerated rise of his chest. Mr. Brooks found amusement in this, as he himself was confused at what he could have possibly done to incite such rage. The man gave off a certain aura, a certain sense of uncertainty. Whatever was troubling the man, Mr. Brooks had the impression that he wasn’t the sole cause. With his line of occupation, situations such as the one he was in now happened every so often. Such was the life of an individual whose livelihood is based on the requests of others: Individuals live vicariously through the work of the provider, yet use their stance as a patron to belittle and berate when the result isn’t to their liking. Such nature disgusted Mr. Brooks, yet it came with some merit. “Ah…I see,” Mr. Brooks sighed disappointedly. “Well in any case, it won’t help either of us to stand out here with the sun setting. Come inside and I’ll listen to your troubles.” The man’s contorted face began to lose its bright red hue upon hearing this. He brushed and patted down his shirt that was now partially tinted with a grayish overtone that came from a layer of sweat shed from his feverish tantrum. The furls and creases leading down his untucked shirt made themselves visible once more, as if

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coming out of hiding after retreating in fear of the man’s anger. “As long as you fix the problem you started…” grumbled the man as he started making his way towards the cottage. Contrary to the sorry state of cottage’s exterior, its insides housed a beautifully decorated and furnished living space that openly invited the previously apoplectic man. A wide array of greenery and foliage could be seen lined up against walls, resting on shelves, and extending in wild and random directions throughout the main room of the cottage. Small antiques and photo frames characterized by soft pastel purples, browns, and reds complemented the contrasting dark green shades of the surrounding plants. Furniture of polished light brown oak accompanied a darker wooden floor that tapped with a pleasant knock with each step, refusing to creak or complain. Shelves that housed filled jars of ingredients, herbage, and other consumable knickknacks were randomly left open. Half-filled scrolls, pens, and ink containers were scattered across differently shaped and sized countertops and tables. The interior was messy but inviting; it wasn’t overly prim and proper out of respect for any onlookers or visitors. It existed for the sake of Mr. Brooks, who found solace in the messiness of his design. To Mr. Brooks, this untidiness was an apex of organization that allowed him to swiftly find what he needed at any given time. “Have a seat while I ready the tea. Do you have any preferences? Sweet? Slightly sour? Mellow? Enriching?” “Anything is fine,” sighed the man as he took a

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seat at the table centering the room. “Of course,” affirmed Mr. Brooks as he put on a pair of sleek white gloves. He opened a cabinet filled with jars of various flowers and herbs and picked a few out before filling two cups with scalding water. “Excuse my rudeness, but could you remind me of your name, good sir? With my line of work, it can be dreadfully arduous to remember the names of my patrons.” “Ennith…Ennith Liadore.” Mr. Brooks’ frame perked up after hearing this but kept his back to Ennith as he continued to prepare the tea for both him and his newly identified patron. “Ah, yes! Mr. Liadore. If I recall correctly, you commissioned me for a set of crimson violet vuninas that ‘would bloom eternal, synonymous to the eternal love I have for my dear wife.’ A very sweet sentiment indeed.” “A very sweet sentiment that’s flooded my home with an ever-growing monstrous plant, Brooks!” stated Ennith with an aggravated sneer. “I have no idea what you did to that damned thing, but it’s nearly caused a catastr-“ “I apologize, dear Mr. Liadore, but while we’re on the subject of sweet, do you prefer sugar in your tea?” “Enough with the tea, Brooks!” yelled Ennith once more following a slam of his fist on the oak table. “I had to send my wife to an inn for the night while I promised to fix this mess! I didn’t come here for idle talk over tea and pastries!” “Pastries would be the perfect accompaniment for this tea…” muttered Mr. Brooks under his

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breath, making sure that Ennith couldn’t hear him to avoid any further exasperation. “I apologize, my good sir. I promise I’ll do everything I can to relieve you of your problems. Let me finish my preparations and we can talk it over.” Ennith grumbled to himself as he began to relax in his seat. No further conversation arose between them while assorted sounds of the clinking and clanking of jars and silverware could be heard on Mr. Brooks’ end. During this time frame, Ennith let his eyes wander the walls and corners of the room. He took note of the drapes that perfectly encapsulated the circular windows that were near the entryway which he came in from. Patches of differently colored fabrics cascaded into each other and playfully shifted the color of the orange-yellow sunlight that invaded the space. The walls themselves were obviously worn with age, as the intricate repeating patterns of that stretched across the walls of the cottage were drearily faded. What commanded most of his attention, however, was the array of greenery that Mr. Brooks had in his possession. There were many plants that Ennith didn’t recognize from the forest that Mr. Brooks resided in. Variations of mariscuses, duscles, and zires rested in random areas of the cottage, both decorating the home and displaying the stock that Mr. Brooks had to work with. It’s not as if the violet vuninas Ennith commissioned were a common flower, either. They didn’t grow naturally in the town of Hythe, so Ennith was prepared to pay at least three times as much than what he actually did. He thought such a deal was too good to be true, which sadly was the case with the misfortunes he faced with his residence. A few moments passed before Mr. Brooks slowly stepped back to the table with a large tray that

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held up plates of cakes, tarts, a filled teapot, and two cups that held tea that resonated a vibrantly warm purple-blue hue. Mr. Brooks let out a short sigh before sitting down and picking up his cup. “I dearly apologize for the trouble I’ve caused you, Mr. Liadore. Please run me through what happened so I can assist you,” he said before taking a brief sip. Ennith wanted to ignore the display of treats and tea in front of him, but the mellowed scent of the tea dragged him in. Picking up his cup, Ennith felt his tensed shoulders ease slightly with a single sip that turned into three more. “As you said, I commissioned you about a month ago for a bouquet of crimson violet vuninas that didn’t age. I wanted to surprise my wife with them after returning home from work to show how much I loved her.” “A considerate sentiment, indeed,” nodded Mr. Brooks as he took another brief sip. “Go on.” “The flowers held up just as well as I hoped they would at first. It was the perfect centerpiece that my wife marveled at every time they shared the same space. This was up until last night, when it suddenly grew to a monstrous size that flooded the room and began to seize the adjacent rooms.” Ennith winced and looked down to his side before taking two more sips and picking up a slice of millberry loaf cake. Mr. Brooks raised his eyebrow at this mid sip before setting his cup down. He put one leg over the other and interlocked his hands. “Was there anything that happened between you and your wife before this happened?” he said while twiddling his thumbs and concentrating his gaze on Ennith. “N-no! Nothing like that!” stammered Ennith.

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He kept his eyes averted from Mr. Brooks’ and started attacking the millberry cake, trying not to coo with the sudden influx of addicting sweet flavor he was met with. “E-everything’s been fine between my wife and I. Speaking of which, you’re not married, are you?”

in the presence of intense emotion.”

Mr. Brooks didn’t appreciate the sudden change in topic, but decided to play along. “I’m what you could call married to my work. No time for interpersonal relations, but I enjoy the time I have to myself.”

“Do you truly think that magic can make entities eternal, Ennith? Do you truly think that me, a mere secluded florist, could make anything live forever?”

“Doesn’t it get lonely?” “Not particularly. When you’re as busy as I am, the dreadful thought of gratification found in company doesn’t cross your mind.” Mr. Brooks uncrossed his legs and picked up his cup once more. “It’s because of the predicament that you’re in that makes me bless the Ancients that I’m an uncuffed man.” “You don’t seem like a religious man,” remarked Ennith. “I would think that a reclusive man such as yourself wouldn’t be concerned with such matters.” “Even I surprise myself sometimes, dear Mr. Liadore.” A brief moment of silence was shared between Ennith and Mr. Liadore before the derailed conversation was focused once more. “I don’t believe you, Ennith,” said Mr. Brooks as he hunched forward, covering his mouth with a curled finger while he rubbed the underside of his chin with his thumb. “What do you mean you don’t believe me? Do you think I willingly put myself in this horrid situation?” asked Ennith with an aggressive growl. “Because the plant I gave you only stays bloomed

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“What?” roared Ennith as he stood up, towering over Mr. Brooks, who remained seated and undisturbed by this sudden outburst. “I requested flowers that bloomed forever, Brooks!”

“Well, I don’t know! You accepted the request, so I assumed that it was possible!” cried Ennith. Thinking about it now, Ennith knew that such a request was impossible to fulfill, but his prideful nature wouldn’t allow him to admit it. “Magic does many things, Ennith, but it doesn’t prolong the inevitable. Plants die just as you and I will. You should know this.” “Then what did you do if not ‘prolong the inevitable,’ like you’re claiming you’re unable to do?” “I simply made it so the flowers I gave you bloomed so long as there was an influx of emotion available for it to take in.” “I knew you weren’t a religious man, you conniving bastard,” scoffed Ennith. “Even I’m aware that mixing magic and emotion is a blasphemous insult to the gods.” “Yet you’re the one who made a request you thought could be fulfilled utilizing magic based on your own selfish emotional impulses, Mr. Liadore.” Ennith’s face burned a bright red once more. “Because magic doesn’t work with emotions, you insipid reprobate! I wished for flowers that never aged and that was it!”

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FICTION | DANIEL SHEHAB

“And that’s exactly what I gave you. If what you said was true, the flowers I gave you should’ve stayed unchanging with how much you love your wife, dear Ennith.” Mr. Brooks’ gaze had now turned into a peering glare filled with judgement for Ennith’s bothersome and temperamental outbursts. “Are you implying that I don’t love her as much as I say, Brooks?” snarled Ennith as his frame had now began to swell once more. “Of course not, but the flowers growing as much as you say could only mean one of two things: either the love you share with your life is exponentially greater than you say or there’s a different confounding emotion present altogether.” “Well obviou-“ Mr. Brooks lowered the hum in his voice to a baritone ring that pushed his more than slight annoyance into a newly established tension that hung in the air. “Ennith.” Before Ennith could respond, Mr. Brooks began his next thought. “For a man who throws insults out so generously, it’s a shame that all of them apply to you the most. I will instruct you once and not once more. Do not say another word or else you’ll find yourself expressing your love for your wife from the grave, you witless naïve oaf.” Ennith remained quiet, feeling the onset of a shudder that deflated his proud and intimidating stature that he championed not even a moment ago. He simply watched as Mr. Brooks stood up, walked over to a cabinet, and pulled out a small vial filled with a pure black concoction. “I do not wish to pry any further into your matters nor causes of your misfortunes, Mr. Liadore. Take this vial and pour it over any part of the plant. Make sure it doesn’t touch any

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portion of your body. You’ll know why once you see the results of the plant.” Ennith took the vial with shaking hands and tucked it into his pocket. He remained silent as instructed, and slowly began to stand up. “I’ll look into an alternative solution to your request. For now, please use this. I will send a carrier to your residence when I am ready.” Mr. Brooks walked slowly with a constant cadence to the entryway. The door opened with a whining creak, as if inquiring the unwanted visitor to leave. “Come now, Ennith. Even I have to rest after a day’s worth of obligations.” Remaining silent, Ennith nodded to Mr. Brooks before hurriedly walking out the door. Upon making sure that Ennith was a set distance from the cottage, Mr. Brooks waved to him and closed the door. It resounded with a satisfying click that brought relief to Mr. Brooks, who felt ashamed for the barbaric display he let loose on his patron. He promised himself that he would reach out to Ennith first thing tomorrow and send him his condolences along with a millberry cake that Ennith seemed to enjoy. Once more, the cottage returned to an idle state dictated by Mr. Brooks’ desires. He decided to stay up a little longer than usual to mull over a solution to Ennith’s request that wouldn’t involve potentially disastrous outcomes. While doing so, he began to hum. A holistically flawed hum. A hum humanistic in nature. A hum that was free – free of worry, free of urgency, free in the way it flowed off the mouth of the source. A hum free of social unpleasantries. A hum that existed only for Mr. Brooks and the cottage he kept in a tight cozy nook of a quiet forest.

n n n For more information on author Daniel Shehab, please visit our Contributors Page.

SPRING 2021


FICTION | BRIAN FELLER

The Tin By Brian Feller

It’s been two weeks since my father’s funeral and I finally pull myself to sort through his things. In his closet, I find an old, rusted tin box with a bent lid. I remember seeing it once as a child, but rarely paid it any mind. Now, as I sit on the corner of his bed, I feel the weight of its burden in my hands. For a moment, I’m tempted to take the thing into the kitchen and spill its contents across the table, as if doing so in the bedroom was somehow invading an intimacy too close to its resting place. But I push the thought aside and slip off the lid. In the tin, I find a bullet shell and a preserved flower, a silk handkerchief and a candy bar wrapper, and numerous other random whatnots. I recall what my father had said to me when I was ten, the one time I’d asked about it. “Generations of Finkelmans are in there,” he said. “When my own father passed, I placed his glasses inside because that’s what I remember most of him.” I see Grandpa’s glasses now; they’re small with a black frame, and rounded lenses. I imagine what each item must have meant for each son who’d tried to summarize their father’s existence with a trinket. I turn the glasses over in my hand and realize that I’d never met my grandfather. I’d always known that Grandpa had passed away when my father was just a boy, maybe seven or so, but his absence never sunk in until now, as if holding something of his is proof of some

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phantom ancestry I’d never known. I place the spectacles back inside the tin and leave the box on the bed as I finish sorting through his closet, tossing clothes and pairs of shoes in a garbage bag to be brought to the homeless shelter. I already feel defeated; the idea of clearing through the entire house feels like it’s too much for my heart to handle (or maybe I’m just being lazy, as Father would have suggested), so I return to the tin, reopening it and taking out each item, one by one, and placing them on the bed sheet. I’m amazed by just how many generations the tin contains. Most of the items are small, a coin or a single domino piece, for instance, as if we Finkelmans collectively understood to preserve as much space as possible. As it was, I didn’t imagine many more items being able to fit inside. For a morbid moment, I consider that when there’s no more room for trinkets, each passing father would have a spec placed in between the crevasses—a fraction of a nail, a follicle of hair, a bit of ash. For the first time, I’m faced with the fact that I will have to place a fragment of my own father inside the container, and I’m at a complete loss as to what token I’d choose. The truth is, I don’t know much about the man who’d been my father. Growing up, our closeness was always at an arm’s length. We never sat around the table and shared stories like other fathers and sons, and, as I sit here now, I cannot recall a single instance of him telling me that he loved me.

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FICTION | BRIAN FELLER

For him, familial bonding was saying how an art project could have been better, or how the spelling bee could have been won had I not forgotten how to spell “intuitively.” For him, “Well done” came in the form of not saying anything at all. I wonder now, as I pass fingers over long-held worthless heirlooms, how many of the men in my family have thought as I do now. Again, I look around at Father’s room, at his belongings, and I wonder what I might find hidden in some nook, something important enough to say, “This is the man I knew!” I pull open the drawers of his dresser to find nothing out of the ordinary and scavenge under the bed to come up with hands of dust. It’s like this for an hour until, frustrated, my stomach reminds me that I haven’t eaten all day. The kitchen is just as I remember it, the same marbled countertops from my childhood and birch wood cabinets. I don’t think it’s changed since Mom left, when I was still so young. It feels strange to be here without the sound of my father cooking—eggs, as was his morning tradition. I feel an urge to pull down a pan from the wall and make an omelet, but I don’t know if the food has spoiled since his passing. Instead, I grab a can of ravioli and pop a bowl of it into the microwave. As I wait, I spot a spiral-bound notebook on the table. Written across its front is my name. I’m taken back to birthday cards, my father’s crisp handwriting summarizing the events in two simple words: to Charlie. I open it and I’m surprised to see pages and pages, filled completely in his words, and I can’t help thinking that this man cannot be the person I’ve grown with. The same person whose idea of talking with his own son was never more than a sentence or two, a command this, a question that.

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My dear Charlie, the first line reads. This affliction of mine has given me lots to think about these past few years. And if you are reading this, well I’d rather not add that thought to my troubles just yet. Better, I think, to get on paper what I have to say. I mean to hand you this journal in person, but I understand if you’re still too upset to visit after how we left things. Scattered throughout the writing are crossed-out phrases and words, replaced overhead or after by what he originally meant to write, I suppose. The microwave sounds, and I place the bowl on the table and eat as I read on. I’ve been seeing a therapist lately. She’s been thoughtful, and suggested I put what I feel in a book (this one). I don’t know what I’m supposed to write, but I think, since I have only so much time on this earth, I’d like you to know who I am…was. I sit back in the chair and stare at the page. “Who he was,” I say to nobody. I’m all at once eager and terrified. I devour the first few pages without pause; it reads of his growing up in Newark, not Jewish enough for his father’s side of the family, but not Italian enough for his mother’s, who’d converted to Judaism before he was born. I recall childhood memories of Grandma Finkelman, how her house smelled of abusive perfume and chocolates before she was placed in a nursing home, which smelled of chlorine. I’m gagging on the imagined stench now. My father (my real father) was so unlike my mother. Always happy. If his cousins would scold me for my tainted Italian side, he would smile and tell them that full breed dogs were the undesirables; mutts were the healthy ones. He’d hold me on his lap and say I was worth going mashugana for. When I was seven, he had a dizzy spell and

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FICTION | BRIAN FELLER

lost his balance while waiting for the train. Your uncle, my brother Will, held me at the funeral. He was three years older than me, but I could feel the difference between us. While our mother went to Atlantic City, she left Will, a child himself, to watch over me for the week. With the money she’d gotten from my father’s insurance, she bought for herself a Plymouth and left for the casinos. “Your new dad will want to meet the woman who owns this car!” she told us. It was Will who helped me focus my anger and resentment. He walked me to the woods behind the apartment complex, and we picked up the biggest sticks we could lift and slammed them against every tree until they smashed to bits. Then we picked up another and kept going until nightfall. My phone pulls me out of the page. A text from Claudia, who’s asking if my art exhibit is going to be ready for the weekend. I’d forgotten all about it, what with sitting Shiva and then my extra week of lazing in bed. I don’t have a clue what I’ll construct for the event. I’ll have to continue reading another time while I wrack my brain. So, I take the notebook with me and rush to my studio. The lights of the studio flicker a moment before coming to life. After two weeks, I’m shocked to find only a trace of dust had settled. Everything is right where I’d left it when I heard the news. I’d been letting a metal sculpture cool, freshly melded, as I read through the paper on my phone, coming across an article about a cancer patient who’d given ten grand to the man in the bed beside him at the hospital. I dropped my phone when I read the name and saw the picture, Yoni Finkelman, my father. Now, the studio accuses me of its neglect, projects sitting in a perpetually

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half-done state. In the corner, a welded angel is already past it’s due date for a client, which would have earned me enough to cover the next three months’ worth of utilities. I’ll have to find a way to make it up. I toss my jacket on a chair and the notebook on the desk and scavenge the room for an idea for the upcoming exhibition. I think, Maybe I could repurpose the angel, but I dismiss the notion. Commissioned pieces have no place in an artist’s exhibit—Claudia would voice her disagreement, of course, so I won’t tell her that I even considered the idea and risk a debate. After a while, I settle on welding the legs of a grandfather clock to a defunct WWII mortar casing, see what might come of that. Unsatisfied, I chuck the thing aside and craft a large picture frame from a box-worth of broken fountain pens I’d been collecting from flea markets over the years. The spaces between the pens I fill in with the caps and ink bladders, springs and the like, all the exposed insides of the pens, as if they drowned the entirety of the structure in a pool of plastic and metal. It takes me all day, and when I prop it up on an easel, I’m quite happy with it. But something is missing. Its hollow center yearns to be filled, but I can’t figure out what to do with it, so I throw a tarp over it for the time being. It’s late now, and I’ve been feeling the itch to open my father’s notebook and peer into his past again. I thumb through the pages to find my place, imagining my fingers skimming through his memories. My stepfather was crude, and he never took a liking to your uncle or me. His own sons piled themselves into our room, pushing Will and I out into the smaller guest room. When we complained to our mother, she

SPRING 2021


FICTION | BRIAN FELLER

said, “You listen close,” and when I leaned my ear in, she smacked me. Will brought our things into the guest room as I sat on the bed. When Mother heard me crying, she came in and smacked me with a broom until I stopped. After that, I’d only cry if Will was the only one near. Thinking back now, I couldn’t imagine other seven-yearolds with a fate like mine. But I had your uncle, and that made it seem better. I drum my fingers against the page at that. He keeps speaking of an Uncle Will, but I can’t remember any such name. Not once had this uncle been mentioned growing up, and I have to wonder if the man might have fled from home at some point, off to Europe or Asia, far from Grandma Finkelman when he couldn’t stand her any longer, the way I took off back in ’97 to get away from the woman I was dating at the time—her and her messed-up head and the kid I didn’t know she had. I only moved back to the States after the phone calls stopped, after she quit promising her bullshit and I figured she must’ve gotten hitched, or maybe she decided to cut her losses and move on. I like to think it was the latter. It was only when I’d returned to the country that I first learned of my father’s being ill. Of course, by then, our distance had grown too wide to breach. Our stepbrothers made a mess of the apartment, I read. They threw their clothes on the floor and left their dirty dishes on the table. The eldest, who had a large chest and a square chin, was high every night. When Will was fourteen (I was eleven), he called the police. That barrel-chested schmuck had been stealing money from our mother’s purse, sneaking out to the other side of Newark to exchange it for dope. He was so juiced up when the cops arrived to

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take him away that it took three officers to pull him out, after he’d beaten the fourth unconscious. I still remember what he said as he was dragged out. “You’re fucking dead, Finkelman! Dead!” I didn’t know which of us he was accusing because his eyes were rolled back into his sockets. I think now he might still be in prison, for that or some other crime. I don’t know, and I’m glad that you never had to meet him. I’m grateful for keeping that from you. Claudia knocks on the door to my studio. It’s past nightfall, and I’d forgotten that she was stopping by to check on my progress. I let her in, not bothering to close the door behind her. She’s smiling, a hand on her hip. She removes her scarf and places it on the chair over my jacket, and walks to the frame I’d made, pulling off the tarp. “Is this what you’ll be submitting for the exhibit?” she asks. “Maybe. I haven’t really decided yet.” “This could do nicely, but…” She taps her ringed finger against her lips and cocks her head. “I know, it needs something.” “Not ‘something,’” she says. She turns to me. “It needs you. That’s what I love about your other exhibits, there’s always something of you in each of them. This seems interesting for the sake of being interesting; and that just isn’t interesting. What story is it trying to tell? What are you trying to say?” She has a bag with her, and she places it on the table gently. “I have something for you.” “Claudia, thanks, but I really don’t need

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FICTION | BRIAN FELLER

anything right now. I’m kind of dealing with a lot—” “Oh hush, it’s tradition. A sad tradition, but well, with hearing about your dad passing…” She lets her voice trail off softly and we stare at each other a moment before she removes three plastic containers from the bag. “Some food. I know, I’m a bit late with the gesture, but the mourning shouldn’t have to cook. And a couple of weeks is no time at all. I couldn’t do anything for at least a month after my mother died.” “Thank you, but really—” She shakes her head with a “Nuh-uh-uh. I won’t hear anything but the sound of you chewing on my best casserole.” And with that, she sits and opens the first container, piling some casserole onto two plates, and sliding one across to me. My stomach grumbles at the sight of it. “I don’t know what I’d do without you sometimes.” All that night, I keep thinking of the last time I saw my father alive. I’m not sure what sparked the memory, maybe nothing (maybe everything), but it feels as though I’d been avoiding this reverie since he died. A couple of months ago, I went to see him at the hospital. For several months, he’d been in and out, sometimes at the hospital for a day or two and sometimes for a week or more (I later discovered this from the doctor, after Father died). When I arrived, he was already asleep (the nurse said he often slept most of the day). Again, I asked what was wrong with him, but the doctor wouldn’t discuss his condition, per my father’s request. An old, black-and-white war movie was playing on the TV, the

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volume muted. I sat in a chair beside his bed and ran my fingers across frayed bits of linen. The week before, he’d begun picking at the sheets in a restlessness that was so unlike the calm and collected man I’d known. I counted the holes while I waited for him to stir awake—twenty-seven—and, when he did wake, I kept counting. Neither of us said anything, but when I looked up, I saw him studying my face. “What?” I asked. “Nothing,” he said in a hoarse voice with a shake of his head. The motion looked to take a lot of effort, and I wondered if he was in pain. We sat in silence a while before he started talking about the various types of carriers on the TV, which ones reminded him of ships he’d been on in the navy, which he would have liked to have been on. His hand lay stiff on the bedding beside him, and his forefinger was twitching to an imaginary beat in his head as the men on screen saluted a rising flag. I tentatively rested my hand on top of his, hoping for some kind of…I wasn’t even sure what I was hoping for. His hand was stiff, an unwavering reflection of his disability to feel. “Do we have to talk about ships?” I said. “No, we don’t.” He took his hand from mine and rubbed his chin. “Say, do you know the difference between the F-14 and U-2R jets?” “God damnit, dad!” I stood up, grabbing the remote from his bedside and shutting off the TV. “You’re in here with whatever-the-hell is wrong with you, and all you can talk about is war shit! You won’t even tell me what you’re dying from.”

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FICTION | BRIAN FELLER

“Oh, calm down, boy. I am not dying. You’re just being dramatic.” “Why won’t you talk to me?” “I am talkin’. I’m trying to talk, but you just won’t listen. I…I’m doing my best, son.” I paced back and forth a moment, clenching and releasing my fists. “Yeah? Well your best is crap. I’ve tried having a relationship with you my whole life. You know what, though? Why don’t we just stop pretending that there’s anything between us. I’ll go on with my life, and you can enjoy the war shows for whatever’s left of yours.” With that, I walked out of the room. Down the hallway, I could still hear him calling from his room, “Son…son!” Now, the long-gone memory of his distant voice plays on repeat long after I fall asleep. When I wake the next morning, it plays again, and again, all day. There’s no remote to mute it. Back at Father’s place, I take turns between sorting through his belongings and reading pages of his notebook. From the attic, I bring down old furniture he’d been holding onto—refurbishing projects he must have been planning, chairs and desks and the sort he’d picked up at various flea markets. Among the mess is a trunk with military memorabilia: a uniform, a folded flag, etc. In the front pocket of the uniform, I find an old yarmulke. I wonder if he’d worn it while in the service, but I’m unsure if it would have gone against protocol or not. I put the items back inside the trunk and put it aside in the living room with the other things I don’t have the heart to get rid of and will likely put in storage.

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After three hours of sorting I could use a break, so I sit at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee as I again read Father’s notebook. There must be at least ten pages about his stepfather’s abuse, which was nothing compared to his own mother’s. What you need to understand is, one section reads, I don’t blame your grandmother for how she was. She grew up with parents who would drink all day and then use her back to put out cigarettes and cigars if the ashtray was in the wrong room. I won’t forgive her for what she did, but I don’t blame her. I guess I’m hoping that you’ll keep that in mind when you think of your old man. The next few pages are hardly legible because of what looks like spilled tomato sauce, and when I get to a section I can decipher again, Father is writing about the war. Your uncle and I never wanted to join the military as kids. Still, when Nam needed soldiers, Will enlisted. He’d urged me to stay home, to focus on finishing school, and at first I was going to. But my stepfather’s temper was getting worse, and your grandmother was never going to keep me on the straightened path like your uncle had, so I tagged along with Will to the recruitment office. “Air Force is the smart choice,” he told me, so that’s where we went. We both got looked at, took our tests, and I wasn’t the least bit surprised that your uncle could have his choice of any job the Air Force had to offer. But me…they wouldn’t take me unless I accepted anything. “You’re too good for that,” Will told me. I wish I’d just gone home at that point,

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FICTION | BRIAN FELLER

stayed in school and went off to college like Will had always told me to. But I wanted so badly to do my part, like Will was doing, so I went and joined the Marines. Will was upset when he found out, and tried talking me into forgetting the whole thing, but I was bullheaded and refused. “Well then, it looks like we’re going into the Marines,” was what he said, with a smile. Basic training wasn’t easy for a couple of Jews like us. Not because we couldn’t handle it (quite the opposite, Jews growing up in Newark learned how to fight damn quickly), but because some of the men didn’t take much of a liking to us, even the drill sergeant, who had it out for me in particular. Anytime I fell behind the group or dropped my rifle, he’d be down my throat. “Pick it up, Finkelman! You think we’re slowing down for a faggot-lookin’, scrawny, little kike like you? Boy, you got another thing coming! If you drop that damn rifle again, I will personally march your cherry ass over to the Donut Dolly so you can show them what a cock sucker really looks like! Now move it!” Will kept me going, always there for me and calming my temper the best he could. It was a godsend that we were together for basic; I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have that time with him. One night, about eight or nine weeks into training, we were chowing down and a few of the Catholic guys approached. One of them grabbed Will’s yarmulke off his head; they started playing frisbee with it. My ass was already halfway off my seat, but Will pressed his hand on my shoulder and shook his head. I can remember the big guy perfectly to this day, the one waving the yarmulke over Will’s head with a gaptoothed grin. “What’s the matter?” he was

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saying. “Come on, take it.” When Will did nothing, the big oaf and his buddies walked away, the yarmulke stuffed into his back pocket. “Why didn’t you kick his ass?” I asked. I’ll never forget what he said. “When we’re overseas, do you want to fight alongside them or against them?” I didn’t know if that was the best logic, but it made sense at the time. A week later, we were running some drills, and all of us piled onto the backs of a couple trucks. Your uncle was in the lead truck, holding onto the railing, and I was in the one following. It was colder out than I’d expected, and the drivers were told to keep an eye out for black ice. I was busy watching my breath in the air as the truck Will was in swerved. Time stood still a moment as the whole thing tilted to one side. And Will (I could see him clearly) grabbed hold of the guy beside him and threw him over the side onto the dirt. Then the truck crashed onto its side. My truck screeched to a halt, and I ran. Someone was yelling out, “Finkelman, get back here!” but I kept running. Will was somehow twisted under the truck, which was flat on his chest. He died before I got the chance to throw my arms around him. At the funeral, there were condolences and flowers and a folded flag, and all the same “We’re so sorry” sentiments. When we got back to the house, my mother and I, she ran her hand over my uniform and stared into my eyes. I wish she would have hit me then, hit me and not stopped. It would have been a relief to feel something other than guilt in that moment. Instead, she said what I was already thinking. “Why’d the good one have

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to die? It should have been you.” I couldn’t cry, wouldn’t. The only person I’d let see me cry was in the ground, so I balled it all up and went back to finish training, determined to never return home again. When I got back on base, none of the guys were saying anything, but I could tell what was on all their minds. At least I thought I could. Before long, the big oaf with the gap in his teeth came over to my bunk where I was sitting, and he sat beside me. “Here,” he said, holding out my brother’s yarmulke. “I’m alive because of him, you know. He tossed me out of the truck when the fucking thing went over.” Then he stood up and left, pausing at the door a moment like he had to get the world off his chest that second. “Fuck,” he said, and walked out. I don’t expect you to forgive me for not being there in the way a father should have. I just want you to know me better. And if I don’t get the chance to say it in person before my time comes, or if I can’t bring myself to open up like I want to, I hope this helps you understand why. I love you, son. I always have. Always will. Your Father, Yoni Again, my mind wanders back to my last visit to the hospital, and those things I’d said to him. It’s now that what I thought was hoarseness in my father’s voice was a despair that matched my own. I think of all he’d gone through, and how painful it must have been to try having any kind of relationship at all. I imagine him in his last days, pouring his soul out on these pages without even knowing if I’d bother to read it. I wasn’t there for him in his last moments, not in any that mattered, and I

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know now that it must have broken his heart. My phone rings on the table, but I can’t hear it. Maybe I can, but it’s not registering until the vibrations send it over the edge and it falls on my foot. It’s Claudia. In a voice message, she wants to know if I’d finished my exhibit piece yet. I ignore the message; figure I’ll get to replying later. As for now, I feel the urge to grab the chest with Father’s uniform and Uncle Will’s yarmulke and take it to my studio along with the tin. I don’t know why, but I have to, and I have to this moment. When I return to my studio, I carefully empty the contents of the tin on the workbench, and I pull out the contents of the trunk and rest them atop the table. I don’t even know what I’m doing, but whatever it is, my hands are moving with purpose. I grab the fountain-pen-frame I’d welded before and attach a piece of sheet metal to the back. Inside the frame, I begin attaching —welding, gluing, pinning—every single token of my ancestors until every centimeter is covered except for the very center. I grab Uncle Will’s yarmulke, and I know in my heart that my father would approve as I secure it to the exhibit, my token for my father and his undying connection to his brother. I prop it up on an easel, and stare at it. I think about what my father wrote, about his hopes and fears, about the only way he knew to communicate, and can’t help but feel that it mirrored my own form of expression, in its own way. I press my fingers to my lips, and then to the yarmulke in the frame.

For more information on author Brian Feller please visit our Contributors Page

SPRING 2021


FICTION | GRACE TOBIN

A Story from a Park Bench By Grace Tobin

I wish I could be woken up every morning by a sprinkler, just like the grass is. This morning, it would especially have been grand. After all, this is my last day at the park. It wouldn’t be an unpleasant way to wake up if you wouldn’t mind the cold and wet to be the disrupters of a restful night upon the grass. It’s not the aggressive type of sprinkler. This sprinkler would just dance across my face in a way that says, “Good morning, darling. You have much to do today. Time to let your quiet eyes enter the quiet morning.” It would beat the “beep, beep, beep” that has intruded my sleep every morning for the past 85+ years (people think I’m lying when I say I’ve lost track, though I am not). I do like to watch the sprinklers as I begin my day if I cannot be woken up by them. I like how they dance with each other and fight with each other at the same time. They go their own way in a peaceful sway until they hit the direct path of a fellow sprinkler and must fight for sprinkling dominance for a brief moment. They very kindly sprinkle the grass which has been parched for half a day and douse the sidewalk which begrudgingly takes it while knowing full well the sidewalk is meant to be bone dry. Most people avoid the sprinklers. They wait for them to make their round before venturing further on their park stroll. My favorites are the ones that go right into the splash zone. There’s the five-yearold boy who breaks loose from his mother’s clutch as he runs through the water wonderland he has made up in his head. The good mothers are only cross for a second before seeing the CANYON VOICES

smile on the young face and reflecting the smile into their own eyes. The stern mothers put the notion of dryness above such smiles. There’s the teenage girl who feels rebellious whilst getting her Catholic School uniform untidy before her day of instruction. There’s the elderly couple who do not even notice the water at first. They then begin to dance in it as if it was the most meantto-be act in the world. If you sit to watch the sprinkler for long enough though, you begin to wonder why the grass needs such an abundance of water. That is until you witness the picnic. Is there anything more glorious on the Earth than the picnic? When it’s done really right? I mean, when they pull out all of the stops? The young couple arrives with the basket in one hand and lover in the other. They're wearing the right stuff not anything uncomfortable to sit in but there’s a level of trying. She’s in a nice sundress that screams yellow even if it’s not yellow. He has on some jeans that fit him as if he were born to wear jeans. The patterned blanket is the first to come out. Then there’s the cheese and meat tray followed by a bottle of wine with two glasses. They would bring a speaker if they weren’t so enthralled by the songs of the birds in the nearby trees and the tidbits of conversation they can hear from the passersby. They take their shoes off and feel the soft grass that the sprinklers worked so hard for. They experience the type of moment you forget about in the hard times of life. It’s the kind of moment when there are no words to describe what you are feeling, only a SPRING 2021


FICTION | GRACE TOBIN

French painting you saw at a museum five years ago. You can’t describe or Google that either. And they shared it together. They had each other to hold onto and anchor themselves in the reality of the human body while they felt the nice Spring air on their faces and the human life on every goosebump of their skin. Yes. I would say sprinklers and picnics are the best part of my day. That, and the children. There’s no lying when it comes to children. I can watch a family of four play for hours. The kids run around like it’s the greatest invention of all of mankind. They laugh and scream at the same time in a way that only five-year-olds can. The parents only have to be present to add to the merriment as well as occasionally say “Boo.” This is all fun and games until the child gets hungry but does not know how to express it yet, so he just lets out the most forlorn wail of the centuries. Then it’s time to go home. My least favorite parts of the park are inevitably the sad souls- the ones that must escape their homes or their minds, so they seek refuge in the park. They do not understand why they keep making mistakes. Mistakes seem like the only thing they know. They don’t know why they keep texting the person who hurts them. They don’t know why they eat the things that make them hate themselves. They don’t know why their boss just doesn’t seem to like their personality. They come to the park and there is no escaping through distractions because the park is whatever you have inside of you reflected onto the grass. The sad people only see the ants and the dead patches and the littering. The happy person looks up to see the sunbeams and the pristine fountain and the happy old man feeding the birds who otherwise, he thinks would starve (I know this is how they all see me and I’ve fully accepted my role in this park they travel to). The

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sad ones have no distractions so they cry while everyone in the public can see them. The crying is really what they need. They think crying is the last thing they want but that is what releases them. Their crying waters their cheeks and blooms their souls just like the sprinkler water wets and blooms the grass. Water heals every time. I also detest the loud noises that broach this peaceful slice of the world. If an asshole decides to rev his engine nearby because he wants to show his new honey what it really feels like “to accelerate in a Tesla,” the entire park must bear witness to the atrocity of sound and of spirit. Sure, she gets to feel the inertia but all the rest of our thoughts get deeply disrupted when the park’s lullaby is broken. Time of day is a tricky preference but I’ve always been partial to the mornings. Every day starts with a morning yet every morning gives the sense that anything can happen because time is infinite. After all, time is just in its infancy in the morning. It hasn’t shown its fleeting side just yet. There are mostly joggers out- those who have all of the control over their lives and those who are holding on to the last shred of sanity they have left. There are the occasional fishermen surrounding the pond trying to find a spot not so inhabited by ducks that they can cast their line. I don’t think there’s any other population in the world that has the ability to “not think” better than the fishermen. Their faces are as blank as the first sheet of paper out of a new ream. Even when they’ve caught a squirming, thrashing fish, their eyes barely move as they finish it off and pack up lunch for the day. Yes, mornings are fresh. They are unexpected. They are charged with the energy of beginnings. On the other hand, nothing heightens the senses like a night at the park. The grass lets off a SPRING 2021


FICTION | GRACE TOBIN

coolness as if it is letting out a sigh of frigid air. All of the people in the park have a mysterious haze around them that borderlines danger and excitement. Just as the morning is a beginning, a night is an ending and people are rushing to end it well. It’s a time of now or never and last chances. It’s a time when the eyelids get heavier but the lips get more and more lonely. It has a veil of sadness but is what prompts people to take the big chances because it feels like they will never have another opportunity like this. A young man will not have any other options than just to ask the girl sitting next to him, “Am I reading the signs wrong or do you want me to kiss you right now?” The girl will adjust her initial expectations of being swept off of her feet and say, “Kiss me,” while trying to act like she is surprised he read into her continuous glances at his lips. On the other end of the pond, a couple of preteens smoke a cigarette for the first time after finding a pack dropped outside of the gas station. Yes, nights are good as well. The seasons change and the park changes. Summer attracts the bugs and the bug spray. It attracts the exposed skin and the lingering looks. The lingering looks attract unforgiving wives. The unforgiving wives attract healing tears. Everyone wants to jump in the fountain in the summer but the only one brave enough is the sixmonth-old golden retriever who is having the best day of her life every day no matter the weather. Fall attracts the covering of skin and onslaught of picnickers. It attracts the leaves to the ground and the little scream-laughing children to demolish the fallen leaves while walking like dinosaurs. The little scream-laughing children attract the gumdrops given by their parents to stop all of the noise if only for a second.

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Winter attracts more of the dim faces as the tops of the houses get brighter and brighter. The park attracts the people that want to escape their childhood homes once and for all but eventually go back there in time for the pot roast. It attracts frosted whisps to sit atop the blades of grass for a moment. It attracts random outbursts of songs that have never gone out of style. Spring is the beginning. It attracts the morning of the seasons. It attracts a new kind of bird song that no scientist has ever heard before. It attracts the sneezes and the tissues and the bless you, bless you, bless you. It attracts the feeling of the Sun that has been tucked away for so long. It begins again in the Spring. As I have said, this is my last day at this park. My last part of my life has grown to be a series of goodbyes, yet, I still haven’t quite perfected the art. Everything I’ve had to say goodbye to – my ability to shoot a free throw, the five dogs I’ve had (all named Herbert), the ability to bath by myself properly, my sweetest Rosamond – I’ve never known it was the time to say goodbye when it was, in fact, the time to say goodbye. I’ve always been caught off guard. This might be fine for any sort of man pulled off the street who has been well-versed in keeping his real thrums of life buried in his gut. But me, I’m a literary man. And there is no other way to ruin a story than by completely squandering an ending. Every important ending in my life has been squandered. I can’t even tell you what the last thing I said to Rosamond was because she was asleep when I got home and by the time I was awake, her light was gone. The last words certainly weren’t, “I love you more than you have ever known, than you will ever know,” or “When you leave, the whole world will be dimmer and I’m the only one on Earth who is going to know why.”

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FICTION | GRACE TOBIN

This goodbye will be different. As I say goodbye to this park, that will be the end of it. This is my last day here. I just feel my body being more and more drawn towards Rosamond, towards my home. I’ve come here ever since I moved to Colorado when I was twelve. My visits here have ebbed and flowed but it’s remained one of the only constants in my life. It’s the only consistent beauty I’ve ever known. And God knows I’ve experienced the beauty- the caught-off-guard kiss, the goosebumps picnic, my own screamlaughing children, and seasons, the mornings, the nights. I’ve been through it all. And today is the perfect day. It’s the perfect day to write my love letter and say goodbye. The only perfect

goodbye of my life. Ending it on a good note like any good sitcom that didn’t wait until people hated them to go off the air. No, that’s not how my time at the park ends. I’ll leave my love letter on my beloved Nicky Castell bench. I’m assuming Nicky was some other poor schmuck that spent too much time staring at the world from the viewpoint of this creaky, wiry elongated outdoors chair (park bench) that offers no such lumbar support. That must be why they put his name on it. Maybe I’ll get my own bench. I can’t imagine a better legacy than that of making my mark on the most beautiful spot in town.

Come rest. Come see. The whole world is right here. With love, Archie Commons In memory of Archie and Rosamond Commons

n n n For more information on author Grace Tobin, please visit our Contributors Page.

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SPRING 2021


FICTION | ISABELLA RESTIFO

The Field By Isabella Restifo

As the sun rose in the early morning, the blazing pastel rays of color spread amongst the leafy green fields, as the animals out of instinct, arose with the glowing light. The flowers blooming in joy as they stretched their bodies up towards the sun almost begging for her affection and warmth. The peculiar-looking insects that many failed to observe, scrambling in distaste to evade the heat that came with the intense morning light. This was a place of sanctuary for many, but a home to one. A little girl. Lyla Evans. Lyla was a naïve little girl. She had large brown eyes filled with wonder that her oversized glasses always seemed to cover. Her hair was long and dark, with the ends grazing the midst of her back. With a shy smile placed on her tan skin, she hid in the background, unlike the other kids her age. She stirred awake that morning to the familiar sound of her Nonna making breakfast. Not wanting to be late, in fear of disappointing her Nonna, she hastily got ready making sure that how she looked was up to the expectations to which she was held. Pristine and perfect, with her hair thoroughly brushed, and her clothes properly placed without a wrinkle. As she reached the kitchen, she thanked her Nonna and ate all she was given, but didn’t dare ask for more, because she knew all too well the scolding that would occur if she did. After her breakfast, she skipped through the house in hopes of finding her father. Secretly

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praying that he had time for her today. You see, Lyla’s father was a very busy man, and with his tired eyes and rapidly graying hair, it was obvious he had experienced a fair amount in life. He was constantly engrossed in what he always described as his work. Lyla on her own regularly wondered what her father's work was; he never seemed to be doing anything productive, let alone working. As she made her way through the house, her joyous movements became more timid as she began to approach her father's office. The enormously wide oak door towered over her small frame, taunting her. Not wanting to be a bother but needing the attention she craved she prepared herself to knock. As she raised her hand, she thought about all the things she was hoping to do with her dear father. While quickly making an eager fist, she knocked thrice and waited. She remained at the door waiting for her father’s response, and when she got none, she let herself in only to find there was no one there. She quickly retraced her steps throughout the house making sure to ask the other family members if they had seen her father, but much to her dismay, no one could be bothered to answer the young girl. Understanding that she wasn’t going to find her father anytime soon, Lyla made her way to the place where she felt most cherished despite the lack of attention from her father. She laid silently in the middle of the sea-like field where the smell of the flowers and the rich soil

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FICTION | ISABELLA RESTIFO

flooded her senses, spreading a blanket of tranquility over her mind and body. The grass enveloping her in a warm hug. The sun kissing her cheeks, as the sky smiled down at her. Lyla was a young girl with an innocent mind. To her, it was normal to be seen and not heard, remaining constantly isolated from comfort. She allowed herself to be okay with the emotional neglect from her obtuse family, as she had convinced herself that the treatment she received was well deserved. Believing that since her father said no different, it must in fact be true. You have to understand that Lyla viewed herself as insignificant, similar to those peculiar-looking insects because that was the best way to describe her role in this family. This feeling brought on extreme self-loathing, as she believed that it was her core nature that justified the disheartening actions of her family. As the years went by the relationship between Lyla and her father evolved. Lyla became aware of her surroundings and recognized the different kinds of relationships her friends and their fathers had. Baffled by the stark contrast of the dynamics in these relationships, she began to question the validity of her father’s actions and lack of attention. Ultimately, she realized that what she thought was normal was undeniably flawed. She began to spend more time in her sacred field, gazing up at the clouds. Wishing the wind would just take her away, taking her higher and higher, farther and farther, until she reached the emptiness she had grown accustomed to. All Lyla wanted was her father to be there, to grab her by the waist and hold her up high, to make time for the little girl he was supposed to adore. It wasn’t until Lyla was older that she became aware of all that she had been deprived of as a child. It wasn’t until the girl had moved out from the desolate place she had once called home,

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longing to abandon the memories that mercilessly clawed their way to the surface tearing at her heart. The trauma transcending into cascading waterfalls that covered her cheeks with the misery of her past. It wasn’t until she sat in a room with a woman she hardly knew and laid out on the couch in the corner, tracing the patterns on the ceiling with her mind, that she felt as she did as a child. The blades on the fan moved rapidly until they were the wind. The lights in the room became brighter until they warmed her like the sun. The couch wrapped its arms around her like the soft dewy grass she adored, the pieces of grass tickling her arms, making her smile quietly. The patterns on the ceiling fading into the white pillowy clouds she longed to touch. She had missed this feeling. The feeling of being wanted, loved, cared for. The feeling of being home, and yet her father was nowhere to be seen. For years to come, Lyla floated her way through life like the fuzz of a dandelion flowing in the breeze. Light and free as she glided day by day, discovering the beauty and cruelty of the world. Her hair grew longer as the seasons passed. Eyes grew brighter- bolder almost- with every passing year. Her smile, gorgeous as it was, became not a facade she had trained herself to perform, but a reality; it was as real as the blush on her cheeks that never seemed to disappear, with the light freckles that resided in waiting underneath. It was as if she was no longer plagued by the absence of her father, by the animosity that had once coated her mind and heart, like a freeze over a field, suffocating and merciless. Almost. The demons of her early life followed her everywhere, watching her every step. Silently stalking in the shadows like the door at the end of the hallway, lingering in the darkness, waiting to be opened. The key like a prize dangling over

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FICTION | ISABELLA RESTIFO

its victim, eager to capture its ignorant prey. All it took was a moment, a split second while she was daydreaming in class, when she allowed herself to ponder in silence for a moment too long. The slightest ripple in time, and the memories flooded through. Like a forgotten album, pictures flashed before her eyes, ravaging her mind and swallowing her whole. Forcing her to relive those dark abandoned moments that gave her the strength and resolve to ensure that she would never be like her father. She would be better. She had to be, and so she turned her focus from the dismal past and envisioned a path to a brighter future. These thoughts of a happier life enticed Lyla, but the idea of falling in love was terrifying. She couldn’t fathom being able to give herself completely to another human. To give them her heart, mind, and soul seemed to be something that she would never be inclined to do. The weight of being the perfect girlfriend or wife for someone made her knees weak. The burden of trust grew larger and larger as time went on. The seed of worry that her father implanted into her mind tormented her with the notion that she would be a disappointment to any lover she obtained. This belief grew from the pit of her stomach and stretched into her lungs trapping her breath in its clutches, forbidding any form of protest against the conclusion she had made after many failed attempts in finding her true love. When she eventually found the boy she would marry it was a beautiful mistake, for in their meeting, she knew it right then that this was the one she’d longed to marry. He was the man of her dreams with his dazzling soul and gentle heart. Often Lyla wondered at night as she lied in bed, how had she been able to find someone so true? How did she manage to discover a man

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who loved her more than any other? A man who saw beyond her imperfections and embraced her without hesitation, without repulsion. The gaping wound that had once tormented her to no end was now nothing more than an itch she’d occasionally scratch. An itch she paid little attention to as time went on and her sorrow turned to joy. Her universe was now her love, the one who made her smile, laugh, and most of all the one who replaced her nightmares with pleasantries as she slept. Lyla’s dreams had become her reality as she stared down adoringly at her swollen abdomen, unbearably excited to meet her little flower she’d been growing for nine months. She longed to take her little sapling to the field where she once laid. To share the tranquility and ease it always gave her. Lyla had a vision in her head. A vision of her child running through the field, laughing in glee as the butterflies flew by her side and the wind brushed through her hair. Her curious little girl running towards her parents in pride. Looking a mess with her grass stained knees and dirt covered cheeks. Smiling wide at her father as he lifted her up high into the sky while she reached for the sun. The blissful cherub screaming loudly in delight as her father takes off running through the green sacred field with his daughter at his side. The girl sighs with contentment as she watches her mother join them in their antics, her creator smiling fondly at her sweet little dandelion and her one and only love. As the years went on Lyla’s vision blossomed to reality, as she sat in the field holding hands with the grass, watching her daughter become acquainted with the safe haven of her past. She took this time to reflect on her life. Wondering if she had been a good mother at this time. Promising herself that she would never let her

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FICTION | ISABELLA RESTIFO

daughter go unheard, and no matter what, she would give her daughter every attention as a parent. She would make good on her childhood vow and never deprive her child of knowing how proud she was of her. Her daughter would never be neglected or discarded as yesterday’s rubbish like young Lyla was before. She would ensure that her daughter would have no fear of losing those she cared for. Lyla would never allow her daughter to succumb herself to the dangers of another’s judgement. She projected strength and self-reliance upon her daughter, reinforcing that

her child never was isolated or unwanted. And as her daughter and husband sat by her side, taking deep breaths of the crisp air the plants provided, Lyla smiled to herself as she knew, she was no longer hiding in the shadows of her past, but bathing in the light of her present. As she came to this conclusion she could see the trees sway in agreement, while the wind howled in pride of the woman Lyla had become. She reached her hand out and grasped a dandelion, holding it delicately, she wrapped her arms around her love and their little flower and wished for nothing more, as she already had everything she ever wanted in that beloved field of hers.

n n n For more information on author Isabella Restifo, please visit our Contributors Page.

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SPRING 2021


FICTION | DANIEL ATKINSON

Inheritance By Daniel Atkinson

The family heirloom weighed heavy in Leo’s pocket, growing more cumbersome with every step. Each stride he made to fix this problem was one farther from home, farther than he’d ever been on his own. The longer he was out of the house, the sooner his father would discover Leo’s foray into town. He picked up the pace, disregarding the concerned stares of the passersby on the street and ignoring the calling strangers. December had just ended, but the sun still resisted winter’s call. The snowstorm had only just ended when the snow began to melt, blanketing the streets and homes of the city with a layer of slush rather than ice. Still, that thin layer of slush covered the street, even days after the thaw began. In every corner was a pile of sickly brown and gray mush, a result of too much salt and grit and barely enough snow. Christmas for Leo had not been of the white variety he was so often sold, and more of the wet, sombre and disappointing kind. Every storefront he passed on Chester Street still bore its decorations and wreaths, colorful and plenty as the holiday demanded. The grocer on the corner of Hill Street displayed a comically large reindeer on their roof, a loud addition to an otherwise quiet town, and it threatened to collapse inward at even the slightest breeze. Guster’s Charcuterie still held a miniature nativity scene, complete with the three wise kings bequeathing their gifts to the small boy in the manger. The three guests stood next to Mary and Joseph–one in gold, another in green, and the last in purple–as the new parents held their

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child. The detail was incredible; each of their robes was hand painted and repurposed golden rings formed the crowns. The butcher had made quite an effort to make them as realistic as possible, though they only stood two inches tall. Leo had never paid much attention in church, but he knew how his folks and those around town loved to talk about that little boy and all he would grow up to do. To Leo, it always seemed that people paid more attention to the baby than the people who were helping him, as if those good samaritans willing to help simply weren’t important enough. Finally, he reached the store. Wedged between the laundromat and a perfume shop, barely six metres across, was a display window that went no deeper than a few inches into the store. Every available spot behind the frame were dozens, possibly hundreds of dismantled timepieces. Cuckoo clocks missing the birds stretched themselves in frantic disrepair, faces of grandfather clocks stared out, still echoing their final knell--even remnants of digital watches and alarm clocks dangled in view, though they hardly looked as genuine and noble as the others. No signs or writing marked the glass, so there was nothing to take away from the curious majesty that was this collection. None of them ticked, and it felt as though time had stopped completely, but only behind the glass partition. A tiny world suspended in glass, like a snow globe’s delicate paradise. Atop the display in fancy lettering was ‘Sujan’s Watch Retail and Repair.’

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FICTION | DANIEL ATKINSON

The early morning sun still shone from behind, and as Leo tried to examine the broken pieces, he noticed several more strangers in the reflection turning to look at him. He knew the faces from church, of course, but they didn’t feel as warm and welcoming as they did on Sundays. They looked down on him, either concerned for his well-being or pitying the small boy in his worn jacket and leaky boots. Leo took a step back. Despite the dramatic entrance, there was no indication that the store was open. No neon sign, no “Come in, we’re open.” There wasn’t even any noticeable movement inside. Unsure of when a grown-up would snag him by the collar and bring him home, Leo held his breath, grabbed the handle and entered the shop. Immediately, the faint smell of grease and oil filled his head. Leo knew the scent, having grown up hip to hip with his father’s workbench, though he had never really learned much other than what not to touch. Even with his father’s incessant teachings, there would have been no way for Leo to repair the watch on his own. The heat of the room almost secured the smell onto his body, like a layer of sweat and labour. Even though dawn had long since passed, there was very little light in the shop. Instead of the fluorescent sheen that so many stores had been adopting, there was only a soft firelight glow that permeated the room. If it weren’t for the light switches next to the door, Leo might have mistaken the place to be gaslit or, somehow, lit by hand. Grown-ups were constantly changing and adding unnecessary things, so who knew how they liked to live. Leo shrugged off his jacket and hung it up by the door. Taking his first steps into the shop brought things into a clearer view. On every surface, wall to wall, was a clock face,

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watching silently but telling all the same. Like the display window, the world frozen in its tracks, every kind of clock had its own seat in the limelight, but instead of broken and soulless, these pieces were alive and vibrant. Each swift movement of a hand was a resolute tick, the action shared by the hundreds of clocks in the room. Seconds of ticking turned to what felt like hours, though the hands throughout the room remained steady in their pursuit of the present. For a moment, Leo swore he felt a weak tick in his pocket. He continued forward, hesitant to pry his eyes away from the massive panoply. “Hello there,” called a voice. Leo snapped his attention away from the ticking walls and faced the deepest section of the store. Behind the counter was a man Leo swore hadn’t been there moments ago. The man was old, that much Leo could tell, but his eyes, shielded by thick lenses, were youthful and vibrant. Around his head wrapped a large piece of dark purple cloth that made it nearly twice as big but didn’t seem to weigh him down. He bore a slick grin on his face like a blue-ribbon prize, proud but not prideful. Unlike so many other adults in this town, this man looked to Leo and not at him. Leo approached the counter. “Hi,” he said. “Are you the owner?” “That I am,” replied the watchmaker. “You fix watches, right?” “I don’t think I’d do too well in this business if I couldn’t.” Leo brought the watch out of his pocket and gently placed it on the table. It was an old brass pocket watch that had clearly seen better days. The cracked glass threatened to fall out of the

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FICTION | DANIEL ATKINSON

frame but was intact enough to show similar damage to the face beneath. The dented casing revealed several deep scratches, the metal underneath the coating seeping through like water swelling beneath cracked ice. As it touched the counter–which Leo now noticed was in fact a display case filled with even more dazzling and curious pieces–the long chain rattled against the countertop. Sujan whistled and pulled up a chair. “What happened? Drop it? Mistake it for a nail?” Leo looked at his feet. “No. Someone took it. When I tried to get it back, they broke it and threw it at me.” “Well, don’t worry,” said Sujan, “I’ve seen worse and worked with less. Let’s see what we’re working with.” He spun around in the chair, ducked below the counter and began searching through various boxes, muttering under his breath. Leo strained to look over the counter but saw nothing. Suddenly, Sujan sat up, holding a small tin of tiny tools, one of them being a miniature hammer. Leo felt unsure of what was to come next. Sujan began laying out the tools meticulously, each arranged beside the next in decreasing size. Though he’d clearly done it enough times to master it, he handled his tools in almost the same way Leo had held his father’s when it was his first attempt at something. That amateur’s care still lingered in the master’s finesse. He watched in silence as Sujan appraised the piece with small lenses and felt around the casing with deft fingers and a solemn expression. The man worked quickly, turning it over and assessing the damage in mere moments. He popped open the protective flap and read the inscription aloud.

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“‘To my son. Life’s random gifts need not be so.’ Hm.” Leo put his hands on the counter and leaned in. “What? What’s wrong?” Laying the watch down again, Sujan said, “Nothing at all.” He paused. “How old are you, if I might ask?” “Nine,” admitted Leo. “But I turn ten next month.” “Almost a man, then.” “Is it fixable?” asked Leo, his nerves riding the back of his neck. “That depends,” said Sujan, leaning back in his chair. “Is it yours?” Leo blushed. “It–” “Before you say anything, I’ll make you a deal. If you tell me the truth, I’ll fix it. If you fib, and I’ll know if you do, you get your watch back as you brought it.” Leo thought for a moment. He needed it fixed, the sooner the better. He knew it wasn’t his fault that it broke, not directly, but it was his fault that it had ever been in harm’s way to begin with. Stealing is a sin, his father once said, and sins were an eternal mistake. ‘Eternal’ was a hard concept to grasp, but Leo understood the consequences of stealing and sinning to a certain extent. Why, then, did he take the watch in the first place? Had it been selfishness? An act of foolish revenge for a rotten Christmas? The need for a solution outweighed the desire for impunity, so Leo confessed.

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FICTION | DANIEL ATKINSON

“It’s not mine. It’s my dad’s.”

“Which one?”

“Yet it was broken in your care,” said Sujan, keeping a straight, unyielding expression.

“How did it break?”

“It wasn’t my fault!” snapped Leo. He immediately regretted the outburst. “I never said it was,” said Sujan, raising his hands in mock defence. “I only mean that if you hadn’t taken it in the first place, it would still be in one piece.” Still, somehow, his voice hadn’t changed to the expected condescension from an adult to a child, as Leo expected. Instead, he kept his staid tone. “That sounds a lot like you saying it was my fault,” said Leo. “A shrewd one, are you?” Sujan chuckled, shifted in his chair and rubbed his shoulder. “Since this is a service, how do you plan on paying?” Several coins clattered onto the counter, pennies and quarters scattering like shrapnel across the surface. Perhaps for dramatic effect or for a clear message, Leo gently placed several small bills onto the pile of coins. The tiny hoard amounted to seventeen dollars and thirty-two cents. His entire savings from birthdays and Christmases past was laid out on the counter, open to the world and at the mercy of Leo’s saviour. Neither of them said a word. Sujan broke the silence before Leo could. “How about a story?” Leo’s shoulders sagged. “It’s not enough, is it?” The smile returned to Sujan’s face. “No, it isn’t. But, like I said, a story will do. One in particular, in fact.”

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It wasn’t a particularly long tale, but it also wasn’t a nice one. Leo knew a story was far cheaper than whatever he might have had to pay, but he didn’t know how to tell it properly. So much had happened in such a short time. Had it really only been two days? “I don’t really know,” said Leo, taking his hands from the counter and putting them in his coat pockets. “I just made a mistake, that’s all.” “We all make mistakes, that’s how it goes. I’ve made mistakes and your father has certainly made a mistake or two; no one can do everything right. As my father always said, life is a spiral of mistakes and it’s up to us to straighten it out. In fact, I made a mistake this morning. I put two left shoes on by accident. Almost walked in circles all day long!” Sujan laughed. Leo giggled, despite his nervousness, and pulled his hands from his pockets. “I… My grandpa got the watch for my dad when he was around my age. I think it might have been in the family longer than that, but Dad doesn’t really talk about them much...” Two years ago, Leo explained, he had learned of the watch for the first time. At the time, it meant little to anyone, just another clunky heirloom in the house. When his grandfather passed last year, the watch became a centerpiece of the family, a talking point that never fell below the surface of everyday life. After a while, the brass turned to gold, the chain into pearls; it was as much of an essential as Leo was. That was how it felt, at least. So he stole it. He swiped it from its resting place on his father’s dresser and took it for his own.

SPRING 2021


FICTION | DANIEL ATKINSON

His friends had been more enthused by the theft than the actual prize, but Leo’s social circle was abuzz with pats on the back and dares to steal something more valuable. It was shiny and old, but he didn’t steal it to show to his friends, not really. What he really wanted was to show that a stupid watch meant nothing to anybody, and that everyone was being silly. Only in the telling of this story to Sujan did Leo realize it was out of jealousy that he stole it, not petty revenge or a well-meant show of concern for his family. His parents had treated it with more care and reverence than they’d ever shown him. “But how did it break, exactly?” asked Sujan after a brief pause in the story. “My friends told people. I guess that’s how Aaron and Josh found out about it,” said Leo. “Bullies?” asked Sujan. Leo nodded. “That is, unfortunately, how many stories end. The bullies believe they’ve won, but all they’ve done is make sure everyone loses.” “How did they lose?” asked Leo, confused. “It was my watch, and they broke it.” “They don’t have you as a friend, for starters.” The two sat in silence, neither wishing to say the wrong thing. The distant ticking of the clocks on the walls finally crept between them, shattering the quiet for them. “It was a wonderful tale,” said Sujan, trailing off.

“A lion in my midst. I should’ve guessed. Well, Leo, I accept your story as payment, and I’ll start working on this immediately.” Leo bounced in place. “Really? You can fix it?” Sujan stood from his chair and started for the back room. “Certainly. My tools here can’t do the job, and my workbench and lathes are in the back. So if I’m to get to work on this sucker, this must be where we part ways.” “Okay.” Leo thought for a moment and called out just before Sujan entered the back room. “How long will it take?” He paused in the doorway. “The casing isn’t in too far gone, the springs are probably shot, and the glass needs to be replaced. I’d say two days, maybe.” Leo ran the numbers in his head. How could he hide the watch’s absence from his father for two long, watchless days? It had already proven a challenge to sneak it out of the house this morning, but the idea of hiding the thing from his parents and staying away from any blame for its disappearance seemed impossible. Maybe he could blame it on the dog somehow, say it snatched it up and buried it. That would work, right? “Okay,” Leo said, pushing away from the counter. He grabbed his jacket from the hook by the door and looked back at the empty shop. The quiet, busy sound of tools being arranged in meticulous order came from the back. He stepped out into the winter air and began his walk back home.

“I never caught your name. How rude of me.” “Leo. Leo Weston.”

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Luckily, he was able to sneak back inside and into his room before his parents noticed he was missing. Self-absorbed, as always, never really

SPRING 2021


FICTION | DANIEL ATKINSON

bothered by anything other than their own busy schedules. The bed called to Leo–he was so tired after all the walking–but he waited by the window, listening to the clock tick as he waited for the nice man to finish the repairs. He even began planning his strategy for avoiding his father again to go pick up the watch when it was finished. But he spent every other second expecting his father to burst through the door, howling and foaming at the mouth, and scold him and tell him he’s a sinner. His father often called him such, even for the trivial things, but this time Leo knew it to be true. But he never came. There was no ranting and raving, no screaming match that would deafen the heavens. Just the cool, wintery silence that filled the air. Two days later, Leo fibbed to his father about going to meet with his friends, since it was Saturday and no one had anything better to do. Another sin, he told himself, but what’s another sin on the way to redemption? By the time he got into town, the stores on the street had begun to open. Doors opened to eager customers, and they walked in neat lines to go buy whatever they needed for the week. As Leo walked, he noticed a few of the large holiday decorations had come down. The colorful dangling lights that once lit up town square now coiled on the ground, waiting to be gathered and discarded until next year came around again. The grocer’s looming reindeer had left, replaced by an ugly neon sign. To Leo’s disappointment, the manger scene had also been removed. In its place were racks of meat, each labelled accordingly, an affront to the previously holy site. He carried on. The only thing that remained of his last visit was the window display of the watchmaker’s shop. Inside, the watches faced out, never moving. It CANYON VOICES

was exactly as it had been only two days before, which, when the entire town seemed to be uprooted, was a blessing. Leo peered through the glass and stared. It was beautiful, or as beautiful as broken things could be; ephemeral, but everlasting. Seeing it for the second time, though, he realized these pieces weren’t actually broken or forgotten. They each looked the part of a decrepit relic, but every piece had a purpose in the collection. Broken did not mean useless. When he entered the shop, he was not captivated by the smell or captivated by the clocks on the walls, but by the person standing behind the counter. A little boy around Leo’s age sat in the chair behind the till. His skin and hair were similar to the owner’s, but the face was nearly identical. It looked like the man from before had shrunk and shaved, but this boy carried himself differently, though Leo couldn’t understand how he knew that. Like a mimicry of the owner, the boy sat upright in the chair with his head up and chin out. Even his expression was the same, but something seemed different, almost intangible. It finally clicked in Leo’s mind. This was the student, not the master. “Hello!” called the boy, rising from his chair. “Hi,” said Leo, timidly, as he approached the counter. “If you’re looking for my dad, he’s in the back right now. He’ll be out in a sec.” Without responding, Leo shuffled away from the counter. He turned his attention away from the new company and towards the clocks on display. Already, the time he’d spent out of the house, far from his father, had frayed his nerves more than the last two days of waiting. What if the watch wasn’t ready? What if Sujan never even bothered to repair it? What if this had all been for nothing?

SPRING 2021


FICTION | DANIEL ATKINSON

“Welcome back,” said a gruff but gentle voice. Leo turned back to the counter and saw Sujan standing there, smiling as broadly as ever. Behind him stood his son, who watched closely like an appraiser inspecting a new jewel. “Hello,” said Leo, trying his hardest to sound like an adult. “Is the watch fixed yet?” Sujan chuckled. “Straight to business? Okay, then. It’s in the back, I’ll just be a moment.” He disappeared into the back room and left his son with Leo. It took a few moments for Leo to build up enough courage to speak. “What’s your name?” he asked. “Babar,” the boy explained. “My dad owns the shop.” He held out his hand, just as his father taught him. “My name’s Leo. Nice to meet you.” Babar slowly reached out and shook the offered hand. “Nice to meet you. Why are you here?” “I broke my dad’s watch. It’s super expensive and important, and I…” Leo hanged his head low. “I made a mistake.” “Life is a spiral of mistakes…” Babar began. “And it’s up to us to straighten it out?” Leo finished, a wry smile on his face. Babar winked. “He has a way of sticking in your head, doesn’t he?”

through the phone book to call you when I figured you didn’t want your father to know. But you’re here now, and it’s ready.” He slid the box to Leo. Leo picked it up and weighed it in his hands. It felt lighter than before, less bulky. Parts of him wanted to tear open the box and check if the watch was there at all, but he trusted Sujan. Besides, it would be rude to make such a scene. “Thank you,” he said, tearing up. “Thank you so much. I wish I could pay you with more than... than a stupid story.” “You told that story as much for your sake as mine,” assured Sujan. “All the payment I require now is your word to help someone down the line. Listen to their story and, most importantly, listen to your heart.” He looked to his son. “Cheesy, I know, but the point stands.” Leo sniffled and gave a short laugh. “Okay. Okay, I can do that.” “We all can. That’s the best part.” “My dad’s going to notice I’m gone soon…” Sujan leapt from his seat and rushed to the door. Holding it open, he said, “Then get going! Don’t get in trouble on my account. Babar’d give me heck if a friend of his get hurt because of me.” “I don’t know him,” Babar protested. “Not yet, at least.”

Sujan came from the back room, a small box in tow. He pulled up his chair and placed the box on the counter. He cleared his throat.

Leo paused in the doorway, cradling the box like it was glass and not solid plastic. He looked up at Sujan and muttered his thanks again. Sujan only nodded as Leo walked out.

“I actually finished it yesterday; the damage wasn’t as bad as I’d thought. I was looking

The walk back was as boring as every other walk into and out of town, but his step was lighter and

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FICTION | DANIEL ATKINSON

faster, a sense of purpose filling the wings on his heels. By the time his house was in view, he was flying in the clouds without a care. He was home, the watch was fixed – the world was fixed. Everything felt as peaceful as the untrampled snow in the yard. He snuck back into his room and put the box on his desk. A flutter of hesitation filled his chest, a tightening of stress surrounding his heart, but he didn’t know why. Was there something more that he’d forgotten? Or was it guilt for both the act and the clandestine penance? He shook off the unwelcome feeling and opened the box. The scratches on the watch had vanished, the glass was shiny and whole, and the chain was polished and smooth. Inside the cover, he read the inscription again. The message was the same, boring and cliche, but somehow it felt more powerful than before and less vague. He rushed to his father’s room and laid out the watch where it had always been. With the watch returned to its place on his father’s dresser, Leo relaxed for the first time since early winter. His room seemed smaller, but the world had only grown in the past few days. The next step was always the most important, but there was nowhere else to go. The day passed slowly, and the family gathered for dinner in the evening. As his parents sat down and began their meal, Leo could only think of the watch in the other room. His mother and father would prattle on about what they did with their day, what they planned to do for the next, and shared gossip. They weren’t terribly interesting people, at least in Leo’s eyes, but he waited for the inevitable moment his father would tell an unrelated story about his own father and how the watch was all that survived

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him. More interested in the past than the present, his parents were. Thankfully, his father refused to dwell on the past as he had so many other nights. Instead, they ate peacefully, and the evening went without incident. Back in his room, as he turned out the lights for the night, Leo sat on the edge of his bed and gathered his thoughts. In just three days he’d broken what he thought most valuable in the world, strayed further from his home than ever before, fixed it and returned with no one the wiser. But he hadn’t fixed it, had he? It was that nice man and his son’s work that saved him in the end, for just a story as well. It was more than a story, in fact, since he also made a promise to Sujan and Babar. And it was one that he intended on keeping, no matter what. So he collapsed in his bed, wrapped himself in his blankets and dreamt of his friends and family celebrating the watch again, for better or worse. He dreamt of the manger and the gifts within. But most clearly of all, he dreamt of the shop window and the watches displayed within. The misshapen, unforgotten clocks swayed in time with each other, waiting for a helping hand.

n n n For more information on author Daniel Atkinson, please visit our Contributors Page.

SPRING 2021


Authors are listed in the order of appearance in the magazine





POETRY |MEGGIE TRAN

Sea to Sky Highway By Meggie Tran I wear a red and black plaid flannel like the checkerboard you used to play on. Eyes moving back and forth as the pieces jump over. When it’s time to go, only I know. Canadian range Columbian rain Cascadian river Circadian rhythm Some scene sprouts with serendipity. Mental pain that was once here and will remain. Summer sweat, fall failures, winter woes, spring suspense, I weather the storm all year round. But my cracked compass needs no fix, I’m already here in the direction meant to be In Pacific Northwest passage. Sunshine and clouds sky dance in marriage, the sea its audience While ocean tides abound, rock an island of the sound. The coast heaves and breathes to no end Stirring up mist Shadowing my consciousness Where eternity is no pipe dream. But a lighthouse knows when its due, shining the way to solid ground. Knuckles knock on cedar, good spirits may be here. Roots percolate through the turmoil of the soil, waltzing their way as if time doesn’t matter, It’s always tree o’clock somewhere. Fern fronds fan the forest floor, Indefinite stretching like an awoken fellow When the strings pluck When bundling boxes of voices unite When a train wreck whistles through Whistler When spray paint dons confusing colors Thoughts derail but can return to the tracks. But I dare reckon, the pine pauses to beckon clarity within fields of green. It watches wise water leap off a cliff at the ready.

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SPRING 2021


POETRY |MEGGIE TRAN

At river’s end. Watershed give me resilience! A laboring life’s work, Tributaries carved with intricacy, the fortitude of firing and wiring of the brain, Coming together with the landslide. But how docile the lazy lakeside Brushing the horizon with lapping lullabies. No red carpet but blue waterways Rushing towards understanding Running through rapids Rubbing against rocks Between a valley of no measure and all level, fleeting fuzz is here and now. The scars stay. But so do the stars. The mountains nodding their peaks in approval To no sky beginning anew Offering an unobstructed view Down below were the chaotic illusions playing with my line of sight. Mountaintop protect me! No longer will I be swallowed up as the fertility of the earth practices antifragility. Taking each challenge in circular motions Knowing that I can fall back on the flannel I’m just a humble hitchhiker hitting the highway From the Sea to the Sky From foggy thoughts to clear minds.

Poet’s Recital CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


POETRY |ALLYSON NGUYEN

Where Do We Go From Here? By Allyson Nguyen These days, I walk with six eyes, five ears, four hands, and half a heart: when my lids shut, and the night is over, I am not asleep. The dark liquor washes me away and I nod off into a bed of cotton Unfamiliar, thick hands hold my wrists and legs A heavy weight pressed against my face My cheeks flushed and my screams were deafened by the layers of warmth I remembered the other boy that would kiss my cheek and lie a pillow for me to rest. The other rest the pillow over my face, and dug his hand deep into my mouth. My teeth scraped against the old cotton fabricHe made sure that my screams were lost to the world as only soft vibrations But not enough to send me far off from his heavy frame into heaven’s gates, only enough to keep me silent and awake. I return home without a word. The bruises are freshly painted across my flesh. They look new for about a week. In the shower, I try to scrape and cleanse all that he touched, I pray the rusty shower-head water is a torrential pour of holy water. One boy soaks in a regretful vision full of my blues and purples, The other one walks, talks, drinks, eats, smiles, parties, dances, flirts, and hums in the Arizona sun without knowing my name. I continue to return home without a word. I wished someone had peaked into that tenement window, And peeled the four walls around us, And removed the pillow that filled my mouth, And forced him to look into my eyes, And into the eyes of my father, and into the eyes of my mother, and into the lens of humanity, to witness my private suffering that I fold into my pocket and tuck behind my ears until the day the Earth cooks me dry.

Poet’s Recital CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


POETRY | ALEJANDRO VILLA VÁSQUEZ

Azure Rush By Alejandro Villa Vásquez Fresh and fear, I step down my window opening loud as a car stereo. My eyes adjust to darkness low as the color of my eyes. The air punches at the cotton pockets and flannels, but I am warm. Once down from the secret steps of a garden ladder my guilt slips. She won’t wake up; pills resting on her like a headstone. I walk onward, excited and worried as a sinner and scurrying all cat-like. I think I see through the streets some blue gleams. Hatted and freezing they guide me. Through the mist the park waited kissed with emptiness and reified by their curious blues. Eyes crystallize through the darkness, that mean shine. A man on a bike glides in and out of our lives, taking his rent money. The bag was musk and pecado. Something finally hardened inside me. They slide it to me. And I, self-conscious as Hell, inhale. The thin smog hitches a ride to the sluttish lobe. Sea foam and smoke talk in my head. “I can say: I can: I know.” We pass a blue tunnel, and I became a new boy in two seconds, I forget who I was before. Everything fizzes like soda ready to shoot from a brimming tin. All things around me teasing like a stripling. His eyes are like skyscrapers, here in God’s underbelly. A European hate-child so wonderfully unlike me — Look at me, I demand, quiet as my birthday. The two of them stared in — I was too distant to wonder if they felt, too. But I take their gazes into my bullet-hole eyes, through ashy membrane slipped it around my brain, stow it in a dark room. Poet’s Recital CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


POETRY | SHERRE VERNON

The Star By Sherre Vernon Off the ramp at Rosecrans: Les Girls, a marquee in neon twilight. Below it, she flickers like a falling star.

You check yourself in the chrome fixtures of the car, taillights burning red, scales of steel and glass. You crawl across the traffic. Others pause to let you pass.

Across the street, you lean anchored to the car, pump your pocket change worth of gas.

This is a place of ones and fives, of years of unanswered texts and strangers hunched and bent. But you are dreaming of something more lavish than a rented hookah and vinyl benches scrubbed with bleach.

Bottle upon bottle she empties the night into itself. Stale beer mists against her legs. Her arms are muscled, her skirt sequined. There are silk roses in her hair. A song, like light, turns you toward her. It spirals

On stage she is the center of a chorus: each a face you've known. You name them for planets, for chakras, for the ages of men. You've spent your life to watch her dance:

from her breast, high and clear, like a wind beloved by the sea. It soars, eclipses the moon like a dove, then falls, its tail a comet, swirling and swooping into the bangles encircling her arm. You've come this far.

she is five, a child, spinning in the yard under a tall palm, while you, smaller still, sway with shadows on the wall. Tonight will be the last. You will weep from a table near the door, as she pulls and writhes against the pole, staggers on the floor. And when she moves from stage to lap, you'll spill your drink and duck out the back.

Poet’s Recital CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


POETRY | SHERRE VERNON

Yeah, I Got Your Message By Sherre Vernon Last night, you lost your phone which was really a TI-82 calculator buried under some kid’s plush toys (you took one) with a worn down plus (+) so blue it smelled like Louisiana sky. It was a rager. A party we never would have attended & you made a point of the fact that you flew all the way from Russia to be there. It was my birthday & you were annoyed with the coeds blaring the TV. A sound between us was going in and out like someone was flicking a low-battery remote over us, our voices somehow orange, then red. You’d had enough so you left early for a flight that you said had a lay over in Idaho (& I missed you) but my girlfriend the one from the Midwest (read: Boston) was making up the bunk & for her I let you leave. It wasn’t until this morning, that I remembered we were young in East Texas where the trees tasted like freckled skin bound in summer storm, and that it’s barely even an hour clean from my door to yours via Southwest. We both know what these dreams mean & science might as well go fumbling back to abacus & bloodletting when it comes to you & me. So call back (today please) & tell me why you’re dreaming into me at 3am— because we both know I sleep better with you settled & whole. Poet’s Recital CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


POETRY |ZACHARY KOMOROWSKI

the fountain By Zachary Komorowski i sat by the fountain today waiting for you around noon i think it was. the rushing water behind my back filled my ears with company, though i sat still i felt every blast of every rogue drop that strayed from the fountain and cooled my grateful neck. it is hot by the fountain in the middle of the day in the middle of the city in the middle of the world because there is a sun that bakes the concrete and there are countless bodies, (countless suns) that sit by the fountain walk by the fountain admire the fountain play and kiss and hold hands by the fountain— and they all passed by me. since I sat by the fountain (and they all walked around it) i was the center of their universe, if even for a moment, but i knew that wasn’t true. even though i knew that wasn’t true, i was grateful for it anyway. today i sat by the fountain waiting for you, but even if you didn’t come it would never really matter because i felt so much and learned so much waiting for you today when i sat by the fountain. CANYON VOICES

Poet’s Recital SPRING 2021


POETRY | ALEJANDRO VILLA VÁSQUEZ

The Birthday By Alejandro Villa Vásquez I tried to call to explain twenty years of deaths and birthdays. But mother you’re as absent as my sister. The phone lines drone the same numb note. I want to tell you it should have been me that day. I unfurl my secret like a breath of sweat. This is my intimacy, unfortune and it’ll always be this destiny. Not even my life taken by my own, slow hand could restart your heart or make the Magdalene River flow bright or clean. I saw my sister die. The secret lives in my eyes and tortures me from afar. Mother, is it these eyes which undo you the way we undid your daughter’s bed? She was my sister, too, you know. Or do you know something I don’t? She lives in my halt and my hair. These organs accost each other until I claim no victor. The embarrassing battlefield of the body. CANYON VOICES

Poet’s Recital SPRING 2021


POETRY | JEMMA LEIGH ROE

Lunar Strands By Jemma Leigh Roe The field was tar as I moved slowly through it on all fours— a nocturnal beast licking here and there to satisfy my hunger for meaning in a manmade corral of battens hardening to the beat of time. Lingering at the rim of a lake the voyeur moon peered through the branches. My feet sank into silt as I waited for the fog to smother me but it only left dotted tracks on my cheeks. Pondweed curled around my ankles inviting me and I knelt down like a servant before the welcoming current. A white fist, the moon shamed me. I gave no resistance stumbling into the frigid water with numb resolve toward the shivered fragments of light making my path toward the bottomless deep an abysmal paradise. The submerged truth rises with me clear and innocent to the unblurred, untainted surface.

Poet’s Recital CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


POETRY | SIDNEY ASHBY

Unconventional Freedom By Sidney Ashby We are women and we are real. We are women and we will no longer conceal. Older generations look down with vexation, But little do they know, it fuels our proliferation. As reality wafts tobacco into their snouts, All they seem to do is tiresomely pout. Just a glimpse of knees make them skittish, But the feeling of feathers in the breeze make me feel far from “outlandish”. As the tangy gin lingers on my lips, I feel it travel to my wavering hips. Though they believe the “Devil music” is bringing us to our downfall, We’re the ones enjoying enchantress trumpets when come nightfall. “Had I not created my whole world, I would certainly have died in others.” I just can’t wait till they finally discover: We are women and we are strong. We are women and we belong.

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POETRY | DREW KOLBER

Parents Crying By Drew Kolber I am angry at your tears Because I want them to end, to cease. I don't know how to respond This situation is inversed. I am frustrated by your tears Because I want to understand where they come from But you can’t, won’t explain. I want to know. I am saddened by your tears Because I don’t like seeing you like this I what I want you to feel happy clear strong beautiful. I am critical of your tears Because to believe their cause would mean something is actually wrong. And that is scarier than denying it. I love you, I'm sorry. I wish you would tell me, I wish I could understand with my heart and my head, make it better so the tears would stop And you’d say it’s all okay because it really was.

Poet’s Recital CANYON VOICES

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POETRY | MAXINE CHERNOFF

8 By Maxine Chernoff Riding this same subway/ planet Earth/ a young woman/ (dressed only in a Hefty bag)/ had trained her eyes on me/ Now nurses wear the same to treat the ill, whose last words won’t be heard by loving ears. Cue the narrative, friends: dystopia now (I watch a documentary about the painter whose work I’d seen that year: how she had continued/ her disease slower/than our current plague/ her paintings large/ and glistening with life/: “I can’t believe I have to leave this world!”) But must we trade economy for love? When worlds mourn at a distance, nothing to hold except our worry beads and lists of needs: from Lysol to goodbyes / deliver us, we pray/

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POETRY | CANDICE SNYDER

tributary By Candice Snyder find me at your river, orisha, and tell me the story of your making, the magic in your being what must be sacrificed to become a river to be both beating blood and flowing water strong currents racing into rapids round your bends would you slow down to meet me if i, reverent, stepped past the banks and into you if i, enveloped, let you roam free in me how then would we dance, weightless, outside of all time, in space of our own would you let these be the hands in your hands and touch tender, loved would you let your live waters beat in my heart desperate as any lifeblood find me, orisha, at your river, already wet

Poet’s Recital CANYON VOICES

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POETRY | CANDICE SNYDER

after life By Candice Snyder the earth lives and breathes and grieves, full of energy, the endless, eternal give and take. it will all come back to the universe in the end. after your end, when your body returns to ground, and your matter grows gardens, flowers and trees, they will wonder, was grass always this green? did cherry blossoms always smell so sweet? and it will be because of you. and when your soul breathes life into new souls, when your brilliance spills into the cup of the world, they will laugh and drink and know what it means to shed light with every step, to love with every breath. and it will be because of you.

Poet’s Recital CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


POETRY | ALEJANDRO VILLA VÁSQUEZ

Pox By Alejandro Villa Vásquez These blemishes were all I could bring to them, marble enemies ivory entities. Teasing me with their delicious fleshes and their face glowing! It hurts me, salve of envy until I am brought to tears. Years poking, wringing, stinging my cheeks until I hear blood ring. Each pore bleeds and greases over until I am wet with pubescence. This swollen mask… redness emanates a boiling masquerade, I am the only studded in red. Spanked, stretched, scratched, burned, cauterized, scarred scarlet seams with no cure for these stigmata. Don’t look I could never face it now, my self a leper. I hear my face crack in the bully light. Away, away, away I will love this oil but not today. Poet’s Recital CANYON VOICES

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POETRY | ALAINA JOLEEN

Mirrors By Alaina Joleen I’ve stopped looking into mirrors And into shiny silver spoons And into the bottom of coffee mugs And into gold circular doorknobs made of metal And blacked out computer television and phone screens And buildings with glass windows as walls because windows hold the residue of a screaming sun And the edges of large ponds of still water in rearview mirrors the driver side mirror the mirror by the front door the mirror that folds in my mother’s purse the mirrors that are closet doors in my brother’s room the mirrors that form a right angle in the restroom the mirrors that make up the world And anything else that gives life to a reflection

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POETRY | DEBORAH KETAI

Mites make right By Deborah Ketai Oozing along our lives, experience lubricates passage over shed flakes of skin, emotions, memories. The rust of past would rise triumphant over present, save that—one fleck at a time—the mites devour the dust, feeding off the sloughed-off specks of us, allowing our now to shine brighter than the slime we trail behind. All hail the hard-working sarcoptiformes, who unearth us daily from burial mounds of our own detritus. And if their feces provoke coughs and rashes, the cure is simple: clean up after our own damn lives.

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POETRY | HEATHER WEECH

Grief can be Awkward By Heather Weech Remember when someone you love died and I gave you flowering daffodil bulbs? You were on your bike, so you slid the yellow sentiment into a pocket of your backpack, then road away down the night lit street, your helmet reflecting your passage, blooms along for the ride. I watched you diminish. My heart followed, constricting.

Poet’s Recital CANYON VOICES

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POETRY | JACK STRUNK

The Vast Known By Jack Strunk There is no more unknown. The furthest reaches of the universe have been lit by desperate exploration. We have seen it all, and we know now: There is nothing. There are no others, there is no god. Helplessly we scatter into the abyss, pilgrims with no shore to land on.

Poet’s Recital CANYON VOICES

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POETRY | MICHAEL MONTALI

The Lavender By Michael Montali Smells similar in our high-rise, My mother is asleep, I am instantly twelve again, My inner thighs being thumbed, Then thrown unwillingly, Open, His power devouring my orifice To think! To shake! To shutter! To where can a smell take me?

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SPRING 2021


Authors are listed in the order of appearance in the magazine






CREATIVE NONFICTION Hair

Emma Zimmerman

The Writer Megan Cox

Labyrinth

Ching Ching Tan

One Man

Allyson Nguyen

To view the full piece by Cass idy Archinuk, go to Art section.


CREATIVE NONFICTION | EMMA ZIMMERMAN

Hair By Emma Zimmerman

You are born with black hair, a thin sheet that falls out in tufts, slowly, like baby teeth. You do not miss it, cannot see it. You are at the age where mirrors mean nothing. A mirror is just a plaything—a cool surface to drag your tongue across. You have just discovered hands. The skin that sheaths them, draping, like too big curtains across your finger bones, inseparable from the rest of you—the fat on your baby thighs, and the tufts of hair, no longer to cushion your rising head. It grows back light brown, gold-touched ringlets that brush your face like wood shavings on an ornate picture frame. They are a lighter tone than those Bambi eyes, the ones that seem to take up half of that baby face. What a beautiful little girl, they say. Those eyes, that hair, they say. On summer days, your mother cuts your bangs on the back porch. Most times, you have just finished running through the yard with your sister and your puppy, through the woods, to the neighbor’s yard, and back again. Your forehead, sticky with sweat, will cling to those ragged bangs. The feeling of the scissors: cool metal on hot skin. It never feels threatening, despite its sharp edge; never mean in your mother’s soft hand. When you turn seven, you grow your hair past your shoulders, and past your belly button too, letting it land somewhere below your belt buckle. You squeal when your mother tries to cut it, those scissors colder than you remember. Like a 60s child, you run around the house, clutching

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your pink blowup guitar, clad in a bathrobe and bare, calloused feet. Your long hair flops and flies, picking up knots as you run. Before the surgery, mirrors grow into something beyond a plaything—a curious accessory. But nothing too seen, yet. You pull your hair back into a low ponytail—at soccer games, at dance lessons, and on hot days at school. You have ears that stick out like Dumbo the Elephant’s, a genetic defect, and you let them stick—your hair tucked behind those ears, pulled taut, and held by an elastic band. The year before the surgery, you start wearing your hair over your ears. Or not wearing it at all. Most of the time, it hangs limp from your head, like a bedsheet draped over a trick-or-treater, your brown eyes peering through the holes. Ears can’t hear taunts when muffled by hair. Your grandmother lends you a necklace—a silver fish. Let all your worries swim away, she lifts your hair to clasp the chain—metal scales fall softly on goose-bumped skin. Those words, that necklace—the same ones her mother lent her. Soon, your ears will perch daintily, too—just bookends on the delicate face of a girl. Your grandmother’s arms guide you, away from the kids that laugh and towards the man in a white coat, with knives in his latexed hands. You lie in bed, moaning for three days. You have never felt pain like this. Your father spends the nights on a mat next to your bed. You vacillate between crying and sleeping. You can’t stomach food, the pain killers too strong. You miss two SPRING 2021


CREATIVE NONFICTION | EMMA ZIMMERMAN

weeks of fifth grade. When you gain enough strength, your mother takes you out for lunch. Darling, what happened to your pretty little head? Asks the gray, birdlike woman at the table beside you, pointing to the layers of cast, wrapped tightly around your head. When the layers come off, your reconstructed ears might as well be made of glass; you don’t dare touch them. Your mother triple-washes your hair, cutting the grease that cakes it. Your hair nearly stands up straight on its own, like a baby calf—mesmerized by its new limbs. You are told to wear yellow, Bermuda shorts for the sixth-grade play. You grow embarrassed by the dark brown hair, now thick on your skinny legs. You ask your mother if you can shave. But first, you rub your palms over that childhood layer. It saddens you, to think your legs will never feel so soft again. Still, you razor the last of your baby hairs. You rub your legs again as the stubble grows. Your hair, like you, feels coarser now. At the end of middle school, you learn to shave hair in places you barely knew existed. At a sleepover, one of your friends asks about the hair. So, she says, quietly. When you shave it, you shave all of it? Like everywhere? Yes, says your other friend, rolling her eyes—the second friend has already kissed a boy, wears American Eagle jeans when you still dress in sale-rack Limited Too. You nod, laugh, duh. You did not know, either. You go to the nail salon to get your lip waxed, like your mother and your sister, too. Beauty is pain, you tell yourself as you clench your eyes shut. Hot liquid pays rent above your lip, your sweaty hands digging into the leather bed. It is hot and sharp and all at once. The skin above your lip screams in protest; it is angry at you— swollen and red for the rest of the day. You smell

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hot wax and aloe for weeks. In two months, you will return again. By high school your hair is thicker, more voluminous. It falls in loose waves, as if to parallel the new curves on your body: straight, straight, then slight movement at the bottom. The type of hair you can flip back with three fingers in the middle of class and smell Pantene drifting from your scalp, filling the surrounding air. Hair that flips heads in class. When the boyfriend who is older than you and the star of baseball team—the one who brings you roses, writes you love letters, and watches football games with your father—dumps you over the phone, during your lunch period, you will cry into your hair. But before he does that, he is your first love and you are in love with him, or the idea of him, or both—the way he says your name and bites into the strawberries you pack for a picnic; the way his lips squish around the red fruit. When you have sex, you will hate the way it feels to kneel on pavement behind the neighborhood prep school, because his parents are home, and you cannot use their couch. You don’t quite understand how it all works, except that it is painful and something you are supposed to do. Still, you love the way he pulls your hair as if you are something to hold onto. In college, you stop eating enough to keep the blood pumping through and from you. You are eating, sure. Enough to be a paper, just a 2D image—you run fast and study hard, and not much else. You lose that thick hair. It will wither and thin, like the body that holds it. It will come back in new places. Your arms fuzzier than before, like a tattered hospital blanket, keeping you warm. Midway through college, you stop shaving your legs and are proud of the statement you make: a

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CREATIVE NONFICTION | EMMA ZIMMERMAN

skirt and natural leggings in the Iowa heat. You wear Chacos during this time and eat a plate of raw spinach at every meal.

Hair stuck in the door of the apartment dryer. Brown hair, like yours, like hers, or theirs. Communal hair.

There is thin hair gathered in clumps on your brush. A clump of thin, brown hair, larger by the month. A clump of thin, brown hair, falling to the trash.

Hair, thick on your brush, a rug of brown hair on your brush, a rug of brown hair, falling to the trash.

You perch on a dormitory chair, the cold of the scissors teasing your back. Just an inch, you say. When you open your eyes, it is half-way gone; an array of puzzle-pieces at your roommate’s feet. She is smiling, gloating amidst the strands. Beautiful, so much healthier now. And you agree. You have lost so many cuts of yourself by now—in strands and heaps. You can no longer tell the difference between the losing—good or bad, strands or hunger. It is all so addicting, the losing. Your hands work now-thin hair into a French braid, laced tight down your back. Calloused hands pull thin, brown hair, tight down your back. Calloused hands beg forgiveness—I love you, I’m sorry. When words cannot. In your twenties, it thickens again. You may not have learned to love your body all the time. You read that, sometimes, fathers pay child support even after they have left the family. Foster homes buy loaves of discount bread. Feeding, you learn, is not the same thing as loving. You do not always love your body, but you love your hair. You stop paying for hot wax. Stop paying for beauty that is really just pain. You invest in better tweezers instead. Sometimes, you just let the hair sit there, above your lip. It is yours, after all. There is brown hair all over your apartment in New York City. You and your roommate—both with waves of thick, brown hair—find strands sunken into the carpet, strands clinging to the wall, strands merging with soapy water, bubbles and hair, pulled down the shower drain.

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Hair uncut, long, like the months of the pandemic. Hair in space buns, hear tied back. Hair in braids, in ponytails, worn long. Greasy and clean. The women in your family dye their hair every two weeks. Your grandmother pays the salon owner to come to her apartment every two weeks. Cindy dyes your grandmother’s hair an auburn shade. You are in your mid 20s when she tells you—she does not want this commitment anymore. She will soon go gray. The next time you see your grandmother, her hair is not gray, but silver. A cloud of silver. Shining silver. Silver like the necklace she lent you, fourteen years ago. Silver like glitter-glue, framing a golden face. She is glowing and smiling wider than you have seen for years. Her cane is no longer a crutch, but a queen’s shield. Your own hair is pulled back by a clamshell clip, still greasy from your morning run. It is thicker and wavier still—now that you have stopped confusing the hate you see in this world with the hate you feel for your body. Your hair clings to the world—the things it carries—all greased waves and fly-aways and deep, still-natural brown. But she? She has never looked more free.

For more information on author Emma Zimmerman, please visit our Contributors Page.

SPRING 2021


CREATIVE NONFICTION | MEGAN COX

Non-Fiction: The Writer By Megan Cox

She was a writer, first and foremost. When something happened to her, the first thing she thought about was how she would write the story later. This was the way she separated herself from reality. When she told a good joke, she wouldn’t revel in the laughter, but rather think about how the joke would work on paper. When she got her diagnosis, she didn’t cry, but she did start to think of other words that start with B because she had been thinking quite a bit about alliteration that day. On days like this (bad days), she would be almost giddy by the depth of her own emotion. Among the sadness, the guilt, the doubt, there was still a voice inside that shrieked, “This pain is good! It can be well written.” Because bad days lend to good stories, so days this shitty must lend to something earthshattering. The music lyrics, movie quotes, and poetry lines that shake her to her core weren’t written by content minds. Pain is relatable—no, begging to be related to. Artists create their best work on their worst days, so she thinks, “I better make this pain count.” (This is a horrible way of thinking. Glorifying your own sorrow, and such— it’s bad for the brain. She knows this is a terrible way of thinking, but it’s making her feel better in the moment). So, she blinks back the blurry tears, and opens her laptop to capitalize on the gravity of the situation. She opens a Google Doc, changes it to 12 point Georgia, 1.5 spaced, and then waits. Waits for the feelings to come pouring out of her like they normally do (She is known for quick writing. Pages and pages in just an hour!). This time, however, the words do not come. Her fingers hover around different letters on the

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keyboard, but she cannot commit to clicking any. She realizes there’s not a lot of things to say about sadness that haven’t been said. More than anything in the world, she is afraid of becoming a cliche. You know those emo middle schoolers who dabble in poetry, but mainly focus on fanfiction self inserts? Or a perfectly privileged 16-year-old who sad tweets about getting the wrong car for her birthday? She doesn’t want to be a commonplace cringe. Someone who is overdramatic and starved. She yearns for empathy but doesn’t know how to write in a way that isn’t begging for it. She stares at the screen, not knowing what to say. She wants to say that she thinks she is broken, in a permanent and scary way. She knows she will get through it, but she knows it will get bad again after a while. And that’s scary when you’re thinking in terms of a lifetime: even though it will get better, there are so, so many more days like this one yet to come. She wants to say she’s lonely. That she is elusive and ununderstandable. But that sounds attentiongrabby and pathetic and, also a little bit untrue. So, the page stays blank. She can’t think about what will make her better. But she can think about what she wants: she wants to find the words to write. She wants someone to read it and understand. And she wants someone to hold her while she cries. She closes her laptop and thinks about those three things. Three things she will not be getting tonight.

n n n For more information on author Megan Cox, please visit our Contributors Page.

SPRING 2021


CREATIVE NONFICTION | CHING CHING TAN

Labyrinth By Ching Ching Tan

I am lost in a South Coast Plaza parking garage. Between 2005 and 2006, I commuted here every single day, but I still manage to get lost 13 years later. I would have been panicked if it had happened then. Today is my annual summer visit to my old workplace, Orange County Max Mara. I did not know at the time that South Coast Plaza is the largest mall on the West Coast. Imagine shopping at a 2.8 million-square-foot mall, offering the most down-to-earth brands H&M, Gap to the most upscale luxury ones, Cartier, Chanel, and Hermes. I worked for Max Mara, a high-end Italian woman’s garment store on the Nordstrom wing, located on the main hall, an exhibition area alongside other luxury names like Tiffany & Co., Fendi, Celine, and Giorgio Armani. No one could miss this. Max Mara gave me my first job in the United States, and labyrinthine South Coast Plaza became my coordinate of American life.

singing, but yelling outside. Crows! The air was still remarkably quiet when I caught a second of them not yelling. In this second, I heard my own heartbeat. I shrugged off the thought that crows were bad luck to Chinese. They appear only in stories of funerals or images of tombs as a background with withered trees. It doesn’t work like this here. There would be so many things to make sense of from now on. And the smell. Might be the typical California townhome’s wooden structure, the freshly mowed lawn, and... the unknown. Yeah, it was the unknown. How do I begin?

I located this specific point in part by my brother, in part by my determination to be different.

My brother knocked. As soon as he entered, he threw me some Chinese local newspapers to find a job. “Look for the area code 949 or 714.” 714 is the Costa Mesa area right next to the 949 Irvine. Being ten years older than I, my brother had been parenting me like my father his whole life. He wanted me to find a job close by, so he could help take care of me. Me being a 32-year-old woman, fresh-off-the-boat relying on him to restart a new life, I knew what he really wanted was me to get it together as quickly as possible.

It was the last few days in 2004 between Christmas and New Year’s. I was still jet-lagged from China to LA flight and just freshly settled in my brother’s Irvine townhome, mind dazed yet strangely alert by my new surroundings. I sat on this bed higher than any surface that I had slept on in my life, thinking about the carpet—if I fell, I wouldn’t get hurt. Do all Americans think this way or are they all tall? I could hear birds, not

All new Chinese immigrants my brother knew worked in Chinese communities. There they found the quickest way to get work involving the least language adjustment. He expected me to be a restaurant server, dental-office receptionist or the like. I didn’t know any better. My small fame in China being a radio host meant nothing here, but somehow I looked away from those “normal” posts and found a small ad, a tofu size classified

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CREATIVE NONFICTION | CHING CHING TAN

post based on my Chinese measurement. Max Mara was looking for a Chinese-English bilingual Fashion Consultant. This one inch of hope lit up something in me. Pride is a powerful thing. It makes us snobbish sometimes, but it pushed me to dare.

So different. Now it’s just another parking lot. I don’t need to park in that same spot anymore. I am still not sure where I am but I know it’s only a tiny inconvenience. I pull into a random spot. No real hurry here. I decide to take my time to explore.

My brother was skeptical but helped me prepare for the interview nonetheless. I wrote down and memorized answers to questions like, “Tell me about yourself,” “What do you know about Max Mara?” and “Why do you think you can do this job?” My sense was that if I were to hire someone I would ask my potential employees these three questions. Common sense might work sometimes. I practiced my very limited English in front of my brother. He drove me to South Coast Plaza a few times to see the Max Mara store. I admired the windows from outside. The manikins, cold and distant, seemed to be saying to me, “Dare to work here?” I never hesitated. I sure do. I met their glances head-on. I wanted this job so badly and my attitude showed in all steps of interviews. I got a job in less than ten days in a brand-new country.

I find myself standing in front of Bloomingdales. A grand entrance door, heavy yet smooth enough to pull open. I inhale the first breath of cool air from the mall, a nice contrast to the 90-degrees out in the sun. Through the familiar mixed scents of fragrance in the cosmetics section, I trace the path of the “You Are Here” sign to locate Max Mara quickly.

Here I am maneuvering in a vast lot, still trying to understand where I am. 13 years. Light years ago, but a split second in a memory frame. This garage is not where I parked back then. I parked at one specific lot in precisely the same aisle over and over. I knew only two ways to get to South Coast Plaza from home, both local. My brother said I was too new to drive on freeways. I obeyed. In China, I had a driver's license but never a car. Perhaps I had a bigger ambition to navigate the impending life than the steering wheel. Everything was already outside of my normalcy in a new country. I needed predictability at least on the commute. A whole new world. Let me take a step at a time, a route or two at the time.

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“Sorry I am late,” I hug Sayuri, my former manager, who is still the manager of Max Mara today. “I got lost.” “You’re here now.” I thought she said, “You’re home now,” so I am hugging her even tighter. Sayuri squeezes me back, releases, cheerfully smiles and turns to her customer, winking at me as if saying, “I’ll be back.” After I left Max Mara in the summer of 2006, I moved from Irvine to Dana Point, left Orange County for San Diego County, and later settled in the Bay Area. I studied in community colleges, transferred to be a UC San Diego undergraduate, then continued for more in San Jose State University. My brother never moved, so in a way, an important part of me never really left SoCal. Gradually, the routine became that every summer that I could, I would fly from San José to Irvine. However short each visit is, I come to Max Mara. One visit immediately after I received my MA diploma—or was it after I began working

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CREATIVE NONFICTION | CHING CHING TAN

on my MFA?—Sayuri asked, “What do you want to do with your brain?” Sayuri and I talk about the same thing on every visit. We update how old our sons are to each other, and that they should get together one day. We fill in what we are up to, hug, sometimes I cry then quickly take a picture, and say bye. Now she is with a customer. I continue to ponder her hug and wait for our picture. I never find Sayuri’s hugs unfamiliar. Her scent is of a Max Mara fragrance blended with her own sweat of dedication and the new garments in store. The smile of her greeting always appears obscure. I’m not sure whether it is for customers or friends. I know she must be too accustomed to the greetings of customers. It’s hard to suddenly switch to greeting a friend when all she does is to be professional on the floor day in and day out. But I enjoy that warm embrace. I don’t mind feeling ambiguous about being a customer, a guest or a friend. I may be all or none of them. Sayuri and this place mean more to me than I do to them. My visit may decorate their day, but everything about this place is stamped deeply and permanently in me. Today the mild feeling of loss in the parking lot reminds me of Esther. She no longer works here. Esther used to be the assistant manager by Sayuri’s side. One closing shift at night, Esther needed a ride, and I offered her one. It might have been a normal gesture for others, but it was a huge task for me. I offered it simply knowing her home was close to mine. No one knew how scared I was inside, not even Esther. Esther happily thanked me and said she’d navigate. It turned out that not only did she need a ride home, but she also had to deposit cash on the other side of the mall first, which meant outside of my normal routes. I

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began to panic. I started the car from the usual spot and began to wipe my palms on thighs over and over. Esther told me when to turn left, right, and make a roundabout exit to another side of the mall. The camisole inside my wool jacket turned damp. Esther talked about her family. She was from Spain and married a Muslim against her family’s will. The story was already complicated according to my English, but I still tried to juggle between being an attentive friend and a competent driver. I should at least acknowledge what she said. So I nodded and hummed “uhhuh” but no more. Then Esther finally saw my shiny forehead. “Is it hot?” she asked. I uncomfortably wiped my forehead with one hand, rubbed my lap and turned back to driving. “You drive a stick shift!” Esther exclaimed. That was one more reason I was afraid. I still did not have my own car. My brother had a beat-up Nissan manual transmission car, one that you would not feel too bad when you hit something or scratched it. I hated driving that car. It made me cry every time when I stopped uphill. How often did I use the handbrake then feared to release it, only waiting for cars behind me to honk, in my mind frantically, or to bypass me with an angry stare until I could work up the courage to go? I begged my brother to help me get another car. He told me to wait. He was searching Ebay to find me a reliable used car. Eventually, we couldn’t wait any longer as I damaged the car’s clutch. By then, I had driven this clunker for three months. When my brother and I brought it to a small repair shop in Rosemead, the Cambodian mechanic, who had become friend of my brother after all frequent visits, blurted, “Whoever drove this car doesn’t know how to drive a stick-shift.” My brother gave me a look. Well, I didn’t hit anyone. Shouldn’t we

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CREATIVE NONFICTION | CHING CHING TAN

at least be grateful for that? Not so secretly, I was relieved that I could get rid of that junkie very soon. Luckily there was no uphill or downhill around the mall. We deposited the cash, and I managed to get to Esther’s home.

matte-gray car. I drove in, out and through all the unknowns with the fear that it could crumble at any time. I and this unsightly piece of metal navigated life in the U.S. I crumbled and fell, but like my unpretentious car, I moved along and mostly moved forward.

The driver’s side window was foggy. I wiped clear just enough to see what was outside. All the townhouses looked alike. All the streets and streetlights looked alike, and no one was around. The uniform suburban townhouses turned otherworldly to me. America, you are so neat and tidy, but who are you trying to impress? For what felt like an eternity, I was disoriented in the darkness of a foreign land. I don’t remember how I managed to get back and how long it took. All I know is that on that night, I collapsed in bed with the Max Mara uniform on that was soaked with anxiety.

Esther was the main salesperson who took care of Spanish-speaking customers. In Max Mara, there was a Language Priority policy, meaning a sales representative took customers based on what language the customer spoke. I spoke Mandarin and Cantonese, so I would take Chinese customers. The period when I was there, other salespersons were from Korea, Japan, Iran, Spain, Romania, and Mexico. The judgment call of which customer to take is made based on the intimacy we could create through the power of home languages. On a normal day, you would hear different languages spoken on the floor. Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese, sometimes Taiwanese), Korean, Japanese, Spanish and Farsi. Occasionally you would hear Italian. If no salesperson could speak the language a customer wanted, then English. I did not know how unusual it was until I left Max Mara. The work environment was sales-driven and inevitably competitive but was the only workplace when speaking another language was genuinely appreciated. I served my Chinese clients in Mandarin and Cantonese, and I spoke English with store managers, cashiers, trainers, and other salespersons. If moving to America meant entering an uncharted territory, I expected to be facing plenty of unknown. Max Mara gave me the right dose of both the risk taking and positive assurance. I latched onto the experience. I found a place to speak my clunky English, a word, a phrase at a time.

My memory of the early period in this country always contains an image of this dreadful old

On the floor waiting for customers, Esther straightened her arms, turned her wrists and

Esther waved me goodbye at her door. I leaned back, breathed out heavily to release my tense shoulders. I made it! I could even offer Esther a favor, like a normal person. I took the time to collect myself and restarted the car, but...Where am I? I was very close to home, a half-mile precisely, but I had no idea how to get there. No fancy GPS back then. My mind could not come up with any normal solution, like calling my brother. I might have reasoned that I wasn’t sure how to explain where I was anyway, but most likely, I wasn’t able to think at all. To reason, you need a basic understanding. It would take me a while to achieve a basic, to make sense in this world.

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CREATIVE NONFICTION | CHING CHING TAN

clamped her hands in front of her. Sometimes she would rest one foot behind the other. When customers came, she greeted them by opening her arms slightly. When she talked, her palms faced up, her wrists twisted more so her hands were facing outward. There was some oddness in these movements but to me all within a normal range.

Esther took the time to see the person behind all the clunky expressions. I felt seen.

We were all awkward, but we were taught to cover nervousness by exaggerating our gestures. Open your arms wide to appear large and confident. Make eye contact so others see you as willing to communicate. All were correct, but we knew that everything begins from inside. We faked confidence. Esther always remained a bit awkward. She never tried hard to cover anything. Somehow the twisting and folding convinced me that she might also feel uneasy on the floor. I connected with her this way.

In a sea of confusion, if someone would stay awkward with you when you are awkward, listen to you when you struggle with words, or simply be with you however inelegant and clumsy you are, you may transform.

Adding anxiety, I often spoke as if I were agitated. Most of the time I tried not to ask for help as I thought it took too much effort to put a sentence together. When serving a customer, say I couldn’t find a specific jacket to complete an outfit, I had to ask for help. “The jacket. Blue, where? In the back can’t find.” If speaking is like painting, speaking another language is like crafting a piece of art with a paper full of holes and missing corners. I didn’t understand what tools to use so I grabbed whatever was available in front of me. Then I would feel too shy to share it, so I crumpled the page into a ball and threw it at others. My speaking often appeared rude and inconsiderate especially when urgent. I could not help it. With that, Esther still patiently listened to me despite the bumbling. She would try to understand which blue jacket I meant, help me find that collection and locate the sealed bag. The true sense of understanding came beyond locating a jacket or accessing the physical world.

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I remember gazing up slightly when talking with Esther. She must be about 5’8.” Her back slightly hunched. I did not see that as a hunchback, but her tendency to always reach down to eye level with me.

Esther heard the complexity in the background of my simple words. She saw me being more than the person I could speak. When “I am eager to communicate with you, but our cultures are so different and I only have these couple of words to tell you” becomes “I am sad,” to me, it equates with muteness. Esther would go the extra mile to voice the rest for me, “Yeah, I hear you. You wish you could find words to describe how different we are.” Most of the time, I spoke with simple words and people saw me as a simple person. “A Chinese who speaks broken English.” That might have been their full picture of me. To Esther, I was a living human being. Simple is not me, but I did not have the language to describe the intricacy of my world. Simple is never anybody. I think of those immigrants who held a degree, ran a successful business in their home countries but work minimum-wage jobs as housekeepers, janitors or farmworkers in America. I think of their wisdom. How little of it can be seen? How little of it can be heard? Or, they are just aliens, immigrants or worse, they are “criminals,” “rapists,” and “terrorists.” A new country or, sometimes, a new language conceals complexities. Our world is complicated, but our

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CREATIVE NONFICTION | CHING CHING TAN

tongue does not allow us to be seen. When everything expressed is being seen as simple and plain, our world turns blank. This surface is by virtue of the lack of a tool kit. We are simple, but this is what we can do now, not who we are. Sayuri is still busy assisting her customers. I look around. Everything is familiar. Max Mara is well-known for its classic sophisticated design. Every piece in every collection makes a statement of elegance and style, a style that rarely goes out of fashion. While admiring the floor and all the current collections, my eyes are locked on this one fine red coat. The knowledge I learned as a salesperson tells me that the simplest designed, well below knee-length coat is the signature piece of the year. I am sure it is pure cashmere as all the signature coats have been. I come close to a touch. The familiar “Cucito a Mano” (made by hand) sign is under the Max Mara label. I knew it, I say to myself. I pull out the price tag. It reads $5,590. Max Mara is selling a cashmere coat in the summer, but I am wearing an off-white linen dress with a pair of beach flip-flops, a standard look for the season. Most malls in the U.S. keep their temperature at 70 degrees all year round. Freezing is luxurious. The magic is that although the temperature is almost a twenty-degree difference from outside, the change is never invasive.

professional. It was also a suit from the seasonal collection, which meant we were on the floor modeling the outfit too. I remember the two pieces cost about $1,500. Somehow, I found comfort in wearing this suit. It might be that wearing it I forgot many differences between me and the customers and colleagues. I was able to be that person who could have conversations with people like Esther, to learn from her and to be understood. It might be a feeling that on the surface, I could give a simple explanation to my old world that I am doing okay. When Sayuri took a break, we snapped a few pictures, hugged and said until next year. I headed out and was ready for dinner with my brother's family. Wait, where did I park?

n n n For more information on author Ching Ching Tan, please visit our Contributors Page.

This piece originally appeared in Issue 3.1 of the Vitni Review in Spring 2021

Your skin senses the chill, but not too much to freeze you away. I may or may not need to add a cardigan in this temperature, but the 70 degrees does make me wonder about the possibilities for fall. When I worked there, I was given a Max Mara black pantsuit as a uniform, the most classic kind that is made of wool, well-pressed, sleek and

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CREATIVE NONFICTION | ALLYSON NGUYEN

One Man By Allyson Nguyen A memoir of my father’s personal journey as a Vietnamese refugee

Home was amongst the busy, paved streets of Quang Ngai, Vietnam, where we lived under a vicious sun. I used to roam the streets with my friends, trying to collect scraps off the ground to create small games for us after school. We’d steal a couple of market vegetables from our neighbors and try to see who could throw them out as far as possible across the South China Sea. Then, because we were poor and hungry, we’d dive into the cool sea and fetch our stolen goods to eat. In the sun, blisters would boil up on our backs, but there was work to do for our families and the community and we’d be drenched in sweat all day without a second thought. We lived along the Eastern coast, screaming our desires and problems to the sea until we’d shrivel up into yielding, submissive citizens in our impoverished village. Our country had been wrestled and riddled with for so long, all we could hope for was a day of simple work and peace. I used to walk amongst the townspeople, and I didn’t know it then, but I know now that the looks on their faces reflected a look of complacency. You learn quick in Vietnam. You learn how to nurture your younger siblings; you learn how to deceive your parents; you learn how to get sunburned with your friends when you stay at the river all day (against your mother’s wishes); you learn what it is like when the communist regime takes over; you learn how to selfcensor the way you speak about communists wherever you go because Mother says it can get you killed; you learn how to disassemble and reassemble an AK­47 in class; you learn how to be so damn good at disassembling and reassembling an AK­47 that you are the star talent in your school’s 8th grade talent show; you learn basic algebra; you learn how to adjust your eyes to all the sickle and hammers plastered across town; you learn how to move on quickly; and you learn how hungry your primal desire for survival can get in the lowest of times. 5 brothers. 3 sisters. 1 father. 1 mother. When the Việt Cộng invaded Southern Vietnam, their communist reds and merciless attitude grounded itself into my coastal hometown. Their invasion was a physical one, yes, the way they occupied our local government centers and stood guard in the street to watch for suspicious activity. But it was also a mental one. With the arrival of fresh invaders, all of the people in my hometown became suspicious, fearful, and selfish — they became what was necessary to be to survive. The communists didn’t really want to find dissenters. They wanted to make them. Out of thin air, and then imprison them to show the rest of us what kind of power their party carried. All of the community’s goods and services were now carefully restricted and stolen from us under the vague disguise of “partly loyalty.” My parents’ small jewelry business that had been built from the ground up with the heart and skill of my mother was quickly overtaken by a team of authorities who insisted it was unfair for us to own such property when others were dying of poverty. We all remember

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when the communists came to take all the jewelry we had for themselves. We could hear their rough footsteps infiltrate the store, booming voices demanding more and the rustling of linked jewelry chains leaving our vicinity. Our home was built right above the store, so the eight of us were lined up in our bamboo mats trying to sleep through the painful cries of our parents. I’m sure now, as well as we all are, that all our valuables were redistributed among the already wealthy, elite class who had gained control of our country. I was only nine years old at this time ­ a young boy in a dizzying household full of children, a soft-spoken nurturing father, and a strict, no nonsense mother who held the respect of all the women in the community. 5 brothers. 3 sisters. 1 father. 1 mother. 1 unborn child. They took my mother. She was always a strong-willed, sharp-tongued woman who would whip up order and precision in every room she walked into. She was the loving dictator of our household. And they took her. The communists took my pregnant mother into a local prison and imprisoned her for three months. They tortured her for answers. But she didn’t have answers ­ she had a family, that was all. They returned her to us and the child inside her was never born. 5 brothers. 2 sisters. 1 father. 1 mother. I had a sister, younger only by one year, who passed away. Her name was Nguyêt. She contracted an unidentified flu and was sick for three weeks. There were not many medical facilities around us and there was a limited number of supplies and doctors to even perform any type of surgery or give simple antibiotics. A man from our town told us he would be able to help my sick sister. He hadn’t gone to school or had any sort of medical training but he promised he could inject her with the right medicine that would aid in her survival. He injected her. She overdosed because he didn’t know how much to inject her with, and she died quickly. She was nine years old. 5 brothers. 2 sisters. 1 father. 1 mother. 2 houses. When the fighting between the republic and the Viet Cong had heightened, our family had two houses to keep safe. One was inland, the house of our youth that stood four stories high and on the busiest corner of Quang Ngai. The other one was across the Trà Khúc river that split the town in half, which we’d been lucky enough to afford it from the remnants of wealth left from our jewelry business that we had before the Communists took it away from us. Anytime we’d hear gunfire and bullets flying across town, my mother and father would split the family up to halve the risk of a family of nine killed together in one spot. Mother would carry four of her little children, including me, across the river at night, holding us close against her warm body and clutching our small hands to safety, and father would look over our home on the mainland and gather the three other kids in one room, until the fighting ceased for the day. I’d try hard to remember the faces and voices of my other family members in case they would be announced dead by morning. 3 brothers. 2 brothers escape. I tried seven times to escape Vietnam. Back in those days, it was a fact that if you tried to escape you would be punished severely, and if you did somehow escape, you would never be able to return home. My parents wanted the three eldest children, me and my two brothers, to try and flee Vietnam as refugees. We were all in high school at the time, the age that was ripe for survival, intelligence and hope at this time in the war. The other siblings were too young to be at risk of an escape and our parents had to remain for their other kids, and because their lives revolved around the sights, smells, feels and sounds of Quang Ngai, Vietnam. Their

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blood was forever bound to their bloody homeland. Sometimes, it was all three of us that tried to escape. Sometimes it was my two older brothers. Sometimes it was me and one of my brothers. Sometimes it was me alone. We’d all come up with wildly different plans, involving different routes and different connections that hopefully conclude with a sickeningly bittersweet farewell to our country. It almost became a constant after­school activity for us to devise plans for our escape. My eldest brother would edit and improve our plans as the austere commander of the two of us. He was a very commanding figure in my youth, often acting as a brutal father figure to all the other siblings. I once cried to him in childlike frustration that one day when I escaped to America alone one day, I’d get filthy rich and not share a single ounce of my wealth with him. The police would catch us trying to escape and bring us back home to our parents. Sometimes we received much harsher treatment from the police. In one instance, they had stripped me of my clothes, put me into a small stone hut that looked archaic against the coastal shore, and gave me almost nothing to eat or drink for three days. It was a claustrophobic nightmare, hot and stuffy in the tropics of Vietnam was a young boy enclosed in an opaque hut with an unsympathetic policeman standing guard outside. My mother arrived many times to bribe the policeman. I could hear the muffled voices from beyond the stone ­ my mother trying to barter some scraps of gold for her son’s life. They let me go. And I tried to escape, again and again. The police would escort me and my brothers back to the house and scold my parents. It better not happen again, they would yell. Sometimes they’d punish us all with beatings, but our minimal valuables were well hidden and they thought we owned nothing of worth for them to steal. When the police were most suspicious of us, we’d calm down on our number of attempts and try to carefully devise new plans, in wait of the low tides. Early April marked the beginning of the calmer waters at sea. I was caught many times trying to escape alone. The police imprisoned me for a few nights and alerted my mother, who once again had to bribe officials with scraps of gold to release and return me home. The day after I returned back home, was the day I escaped my home country. I was a sophomore in high school and my older brother, a junior in high school, had made our only successful attempt at escaping. The third brother, the eldest, would never find his way out of Vietnam alone. 37 people. 1 boat. Through the grapevine of a small town, our family was corresponding with the chief of police of another small town along the coastline. He had planned to take a small group to Macau, a small region on the coast of southern China. He was asking for 4 ounces of gold from each passenger who would come aboard the boat. My family had to decide to send my brother and me to Macau on the receipt of eight ounces of gold. Deeply rooted in Asian culture was the importance of male survival and the importance of calculated risk. Therefore, my eldest brother and parents decided it would be best to send two bright, able-bodied, boys who were on the onset of becoming adults and of being drafted into the Vietnamese military. The rest of the children were too young for any chance of survival and the eldest brother would be there to nurture the kids, until he would eventually make his own attempt at escape, and fail. Before I left, my father gave my brother and I an ounce of gold each. At this time, it equated to just about 100 American USD. It was the type of delicate gold that was flat and rolled up like a small leaf joint. We tucked it into the ripped hems of our shirts to keep it safe from the other refugees who were desperate enough to steal it in the night. The guide walked each of us in the darkness from the beach house to the small canoe and rowed the canoe to a meager fishing boat. The boat reeked of the sea and we were crammed within the vessel like 37 small, silver sardines packed in a tin can. 6 days. 5 nights. 37 people.

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On the first day at sea, we were thrashed around by laughing waters and our hopeful energy was demolished by a tropical storm. The silver sardines around me prayed relentlessly and held their hearts out to Buddha for fear of death. The waters laughed so heartily at the incompetence of our boat and it rattled the passengers so badly that half of us wanted to return to Vietnam, where we’d all face imprisonment and execution at the hand of the government. The captain made the decision to take a calmer, but much longer route along the coast of China rather than take a direct route to Macau. This meant four extra days would be added on the sea. Our rationed food and water quickly dwindled to an absolutely barren supply. In those last days to Macau, we ran out of food and water for the entire ship. We stopped at small, mostly arid and uninhabited islands in search of food: small berries, freshwater, vegetation, and whatever small game we could come across. We stopped at fishing harbors and begged the fishermen for scraps of fish to eat. Even now, when I sit down to eat a meal at a restaurant with my family, I am brought to the point of tears, because I understand what it is like to have the moisture vacuumed out of your mouth and your body threatening to collapse over hunger for anything at all. 1 gracious man. 37 people. 1 island. In the series of hours before reaching Macau, we stopped by another island for hopes of food and water. There was one man who inhabited the island. He had no family, only a home and a healthy mix of gourds and melons growing around his home. He welcomed the 37 of us to come in for food and water. I am not a religious man by any means, but this was the one point in my journey that I felt as though I had met a higher power in the flesh. 37 people. 1,000,000 papers. 3 refugee camps. 2 cities. All 37 of us refugees had arrived in an exhausted, malnourished state. Our ship had literally been broken in half and so our journey from Vietnam to Macau was its final journey before breaking down as sea waste. For three days in Macau, we were taken into a temporary refugee camp where we were all immediately thrusted into mountain high stacks of paperwork to be completed with precision, ball­point pens, and a wave of cramped hands. My brother and I filled out all the paperwork and were then transported to another refugee camp in Macau where we saw representatives from all the countries we had learned about in our textbooks. Representatives from Germany, England, U.S., Australia, and other western nations were here to interview and process the influx of refugees and hopefully, bring us to their countries where we could start anew. The hardest country to be admitted into at the time was the United States. They demanded you had relatives already living in the states, that you know English, and that your background was clean. We believed we had little possibility to reach America under these requirements for which we only had fulfilled one of and if a heavily accented, “Hello! Good morning!” counted, then maybe had two fulfilled. But because my brother and I were both minors without any parents at our side, after a series of 4 interviews, the U.S. organization representative told us we would be arriving in the U.S. to begin our lives. The process to the Golden Country was less euphoric as I, and I suspect others, had fantasized of on the boat when all you could do was sit and marinate with your thoughts. It was a cultural redraft away from everything my brother and I had ever known. We were transferred to our third refugee camp in Hong Kong, China where we were to undergo strict day and night lessons on how to speak English and how to act American. But nothing at all was worth a complaint for my brother and I, not when we thought of our family that we’d left back home on a battlefield. 13,008 km. 2 brothers. 1 foster family.

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We flew 13,008 km from Hong Kong to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We went from an overcrowded refugee camp filled with other Vietnamese immigrants who shared our culture and sentiment to an awfully chilly, unknown and deeply unsettling backdrop of the Eastern United States. The urban color wheel of Hong Kong quickly distorted into the muted tones of a mid­day Philadelphia sky. So, this was the Golden Land. The organization that was in charge of relocating the under aged refugees to a welcoming American home was one led by a Lutheran church. In the inner city of Philadelphia, my brother and I found ourselves led by a social worker to a dimly lit, Gothic­inspired and Jesus­bearing Lutheran church. My brother and I had never taken a single step into a holy building before. The interior held what I had imagined to be the same god fearing, holy energy as the overly­orna-mented French­Roman Catholic cathedrals built in all the town centers in Vietnam. The kids were separated into small group homes, most of which housed Vietnamese kids, but some of them came from rough conditions in the Caribbean Islands. The social workers advertised through newspapers and magazines for the adoption or willing foster families to take these poor, parentless children into their home, including my brother and me. Many of the American families in the suburbs of Philadelphia were gracious enough to open their home to many of us in need. My brother and I were elated to a number of toothy grins and whirlwinds of boyish laughter when our social worker arrived with news of a new home for the both of us. My foster family was initially set on seeking a female refugee to take into their home, but our social worker persuaded them to give my brother and me a chance. And after all they were setting their hopes too high since not many young girls made it out alive as refugees. The man of the house was an acclaimed business owner, the mother was a strict, no­nonsense doctor, and their daughter was a shy, sweet young girl. Their house was a classic two story, American suburban dream. With a perfectly manicured lawn, lined with a picket white fence, and built with rows and columns of rectangle red bricks, it appeared wildly different than the natural materials that had built my real home in Vietnam. My brother and I tried our best to present ourselves cleanly and politely when they had us over for dinner, but it was hard to make a first impression when neither of us could speak a word of understandable English. Our social worker mainly spoke for us, but apparently the family’s impression based on the social worker’s words cast us as two very cordial boys, and at last it was declared to us that an American family had chosen us to be their foster children. We stayed with the Johnson family for one year – it was my brother’s junior year in an American public high school and my sophomore year. 2 foster families. The Johnsons that had so graciously fed our stomachs to complete satisfaction and welcomed us in as weird, foreign family members had been broken apart by the end of our stay. My foster parents, Patricia and Greg, were constantly fighting and unhappy with their marriage, and as the divorce paperwork began to slowly work its way in, my brother and I were forced to return back to the group home. Another foster family in Reading, Pennsylvania, an hour outside of our beloved Philadelphia, offered to take both of us in. It was an Italian­American soldier who had fought in the Vietnam war and his Vietnamese wife. They were welcoming and kind to both of us, but I had realized from our last family that these foster homes weren’t at all real homes and that it was better to treat them as temporary pit stops as opposed to my own family. After my brother’s senior year, he received a scholarship to attend Pennsylvania State University for a degree in mechanical engineering. He would be moving back to Philadelphia and away from me. I decided to leave this foster family and find a new one in Philadelphia to stay closer to my older brother while he was in college. I stayed at the Philadelphia group home for the summer, and then was transported to my new foster family. I mostly kept to myself, focusing on studying so I could attend an American college like my brother and attain some sort of scholarship because I only had some of the $10-per-month allowance saved up that my first foster family gave me.

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I played a few recreational sports in high school, impressed some of the kids in my calculus class, spoke only to the kids that could understand my English filtered through my thickly coated accent, ignored the kids that made fun of the way I spoke. I thought about my family back home, I thought about the real tropical smell of home, I thought about how I missed my mother scolding me, I thought about the sun that browned my skin into fruit leather, I thought about the taste of the perilla and Saigon cinnamon meddling to perfection and teasing my salivary glands, I thought about my friends back home and the games we would play, I thought about how this wasn’t home and that was home. I didn’t shed any tears because Mother taught me to value resilience over vulnerability. 1 trip back to home. My countryside hometown, although an irreplaceable hub of warm nostalgia, is heavily underwhelming and unknown to the majority of the world, even to the majority of Vietnam. Eighteen years after I bid my home and the family in it farewell as an awkward, wiry teenage boy ­ I came back to the small, coastal town of Quang Ngai, Vietnam in the fall of 1989. The travel agent in Boston assured me there was no direct flights to my town, he said could hardly pronounce it, much less had he ever heard of the city. I would have to fly out to the capital, Saigon, and then make my way home by means of an outdated train line that ran through the tropic jungles of Vietnam. I packed a small suitcase of folded clothes, toiletries, and photo prints of myself for my family to remember me by. On the many stops throughout the cities in between Saigon and Quang Ngai, I bought my safety and security with many police chiefs through bribery gifts of hard liquor and cigarette cartons. It was unsettling, being in a place I once recognized as home, now defiled with sickles and hammers on every square foot of Vietnam. The communists won. Even as I took a step into my family’s house, on the busiest corner of Quang Ngai where it had always been, as I melted into my mother’s arms and felt her tears smear against my new American clothes, I couldn’t help but notice the communist flag that was spanned across our family window. My family had forced themselves to swallow their own judgment and beliefs to have their loyalties appear aligned with the state. After seventeen days of being reintroduced to all my fully grown brothers and sisters, my still active and scolding mother, and my deathly ill father; I left my home in hopes of returning again and again to be apart of each one of their lives. I couldn’t wait until the day I took more than just my folded clothes, toiletries, and a couple of photos of myself; one day I’d bring my own family across the world to meet the one I’d left behind. 29 years later. 1 wife. 26 years of marriage. daughter. 1 son. 1 small dog. 3 more trips back home. 1 American home. 1 Vietnamese home. When I came to the United States, I chose an easy American name that I could pronounce, based on the social worker’s suggestions. I chose Michael. But my real Vietnamese name is Dieu. It is a direct French translation for God. I have never been a religious man and I did not pray to any God on my plight for survival. But when people ask me, Michael, how did you survive through all of that? I tell them it was all thanks to God.

n n n For more information on author Allyson Nguyen, please visit our Contributors Page.

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CONTRIB TORS Authors are listed in the order of appearance in the magazine

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CREATIVE

Emma Zimmerman Emma Zimmerman is a Brooklyn-based writer and the host of the Social Sport Podcast. Her writing has been featured in places that include Taproot Magazine, the Sacramento Press, and Trail Runner Magazine. Emma is currently pursuing her MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing at New York University. You can find her online at emmamzimmerman.com.

Ching Ching Tan Ching Ching Tan is a Chinese immigrant who has been living in the United States for l sixteen years. Her journey of education and writing began in taking ESL courses in community colleges. She holds a BA in Linguistics from UCSD, a MA in Communication Studies at SJSU. Currently, she is pursuing an MFA in SJSU and writing her first memoir, Finding the Wor(l)ds.

Megan Cox Megan Cox is a New York-based writer. Her work has been featured in The Hard Times, UCSD's The Guardian, and Here is What I Know. She often writes about her personal experiences with queerness, mentall illness, and womanhood. She is

currently on a mission to find the best bagel in NYC. You can follow her @meganmariecox on lnstagram.

Alllyson Nguyen Allyson Nguyen is a fourth year student, (soon to be) graduate at Arizona State University, and work in progress human being. She is an Arizona based copywriter, content writer, and brand strategist for creative businesses and brands. lln her creative writing, she is passionate about offering a voice and powerful written expression to those who are not welll-represented. In her free time, you might find her writing poetry, embroidering on recycled fabric, cooking a fresh batch of

cinnamon rolls, and re-watching her favorite anime series.

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SCRIPTS | JOHN PEROVICH

The Bridge Play By John Perovich Characters: JOE: Male, 60s- Easy going/light hearted. SAM: Male, 60s- A few regrets/heavy hearted. Setting: A condemned concrete bridge in South Jersey. Once a major road for traveling to Cape May, it’s served as a favorite fishing spot for years. Time: The late morning, just before lunch. Synopsis: Joe and Sam are best friends who made some of their greatest memories on a fishing bridge in South Jersey. The Bridge Play explores friendship, time, and change. [Present day. Late morning.] [Joe and Sam are mid-conversation, stepping out onto a condemned concrete bridge in South Jersey. Joe carries a plastic grocery bag.] JOE: Guess that’s true. SAM: You believe it? JOE: Hell, no. Been coming here...man, my whole life. You remember driving on this thing? SAM: Always felt like it was gonna be — boom! — right into the bay. Look at these guardrails! Up to the shins. JOE: 16 wheelers used to be on this thing. SAM: Should’ve only ever been foot traffic. In those days, you could look right down through the boards.

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SCRIPTS | JOHN PEROVICH

JOE: (a sudden memory) Oh yeah. That’s right. Before the concrete. SAM: Now there’s chunks of that missing. Look, you can see straight through. [They both look down through a hole in the bridge.] JOE: The more things change, huh? SAM: Watch your step. JOE: I can see. I see. (Beat) Can’t believe this is the last summer with it. SAM: I can. JOE: How can you say that? SAM: Joe. The middle’s gone. It fell into the water last spring. Beat. JOE: My Dad loved this place. I’m glad he didn’t live to see them tear it down. It’s not quite like it was when we were kids. But it still feels the same. Remember? [Time shift. Past time.] [50 years ago. Joe and Sam are suddenly 10 years old.] JOE: (reeling in something tough) Dude! Something’s on the line! SAM: Want me to get your Dad!? JOE: No. NO! I want to do it! SAM: Don’t reel so fast! JOE: I’m not!

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SCRIPTS | JOHN PEROVICH

SAM: You are! JOE: Am not! SAM: You know what your Dad says. JOE: Shut it! SAM: If you reel in too fast, you’ll fall on your – JOE: What do you want me to do? SAM: A little bit at a time. Little by little. JOE: I am! It’s not...it’s not coming in. SAM: Let some of the line out. Let it out. Let it go. Let go! [Present time.] JOE: That was a lifetime ago. Now look at us. [Sam laughs a little.] JOE: Why’d they let this thing fall apart? SAM: (pointing far away) That probably had something to do with it. JOE: The parkway? SAM: This thing was never meant to handle today’s cars. Today’s traffic. JOE: I like the parkway. I love the parkway -- don’t speak ill of the parkway. I’m talking about fishing. Why’d they let it go! This is the best fishing spot in South Jersey. SAM: That’s true.

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SCRIPTS | JOHN PEROVICH

JOE: Important things happened here. Big things. SAM: I don’t remember you catching big things. JOE: Watch it, mister. (Beat) There were big things. Remember, you had just turned 20 and you were thinking about asking Barb...uh, it’s okay to bring that up, yeah? SAM: Can’t change the past. JOE: (laughing) You were right over there trying to reel something else in. Really struggling. It was probably just driftwood. [Time shift. Past time.] [40 years ago. Sam and Joe are suddenly 20. Sam casts his line. He’s committed to catching something. Joe has had enough.] SAM: I’m not ready to go. JOE: We’ve been out here for six hours. You’ve caught squat. SAM: I’ve been getting bites. JOE: Those don’t count. SAM: Sea bass? Blue fish, maybe? I’ve been getting bites. JOE: Probably oyster crackers. SAM: You’d like that. JOE: If it is, you can take it off the hook yourself. SAM: That’s fine. I don’t mind. [Sam gets a sudden bite. Is a fish on the line?]

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SCRIPTS | JOHN PEROVICH

JOE: Yeah, you say that now, till you’re all like, “Joe, get it off. It’s so ugly. Oh, Joe, I’m such a baby.” [There is no fish for Sam.] SAM: See? They’re biting. JOE: Uh huh. (Beat) Not to come out of nowhere like this, but...it’s kind of important stuff. SAM: (somewhat sarcastic) I can’t wait to hear what this is. [Sam gets a sudden bite. Is a fish on the line?] JOE: You figure out what you’re going to do yet? With Barb? [Again, there is no fish for Sam.] SAM: Dammit. Lost it. Whatever it was. JOE: Beer? SAM: Sure. (Beat) Grab me some squid? JOE: Man, get your own squid. [Beat.] SAM: I think I’m going to do it. JOE: Oh, yeah? Really? SAM: You don’t think I should? JOE: I think you should do what you want cause you’re going to do it anyway. That’s you, stubborn Sam. SAM: What’s that supposed to mean?

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SCRIPTS | JOHN PEROVICH

JOE: You know what it means. SAM: No. Say what you want to say. JOE: Nothing, man. Honestly. Let it go. Let go. [Time shift. Present time.] SAM: I don’t want to let this place go. JOE: Not much of a choice. Lots of good memories. Good fishing. And you know, it’s not like the water’s going anywhere. We could get a boat? SAM: I asked Barb to marry me...right over there. JOE: Where? SAM: By the seagull. JOE: The dead one. SAM: Yeah. JOE: Huh. Nice. Dead gull...that must be like an omen. SAM: It can’t be an omen if the thing already happened. JOE: I said you shouldn’t have married her. SAM: Two things. One, you never said any such thing. Two, I wouldn’t have trusted you even if you did — you always had a thing for her. JOE: Ha! Yeah. Keep telling yourself that. (Beat) I wonder how husband number three is working out? SAM: The poor bastard.

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SCRIPTS | JOHN PEROVICH

JOE: You think she’s happy? SAM: Who knows. God bless her. (Beat) Know who else loved this place? JOE: I know. SAM: Your Dad. JOE: Old man could sit in a beach chair all day. Never a bite. He’d act like it was the best day of his life. SAM: Fishing isn’t about catching things. It’s the ritual of it all. Getting away from the day to day, spending time with friends, the salt in the air. If I want fish, I could go to the grocery store. JOE: That reminds me, I have to go grocery shopping. SAM: I lasted 10 years with Barb. I really thought she was the one for me. JOE: You knew it wasn’t meant to last. SAM: I wanted it to. That was a hard time. JOE: Yeah. I know. I know, man. I’m sorry. [Time shift. Past time.] [30 years ago. Joe and Sam both have their lines in the water. No bites.] SAM: I have no idea what’s happening. I don’t know the reason. Did I do something wrong? I don’t know. JOE: She doesn’t come home? [Sam shakes his head, “no.”] JOE: I’m so sorry.

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SCRIPTS | JOHN PEROVICH

SAM: She goes to the bar. Sometimes. I know that. JOE: Jimmie’s? SAM: No. Anchor Bar. JOE: You following her? That’s a little...don’t you think? SAM: I didn’t. I wouldn’t. I want to, but...Maria — the bartender — called the other night. Told me she wasn’t giving Barb back her keys. JOE: You pick her up? SAM: You don’t think I would? JOE: Just asking. [Beat.] SAM: I didn’t. (Beat) I know. I should have. JOE: So, she’s hitting the bottle. SAM: Yeah. Well...I don’t know what else she might be up to. Who knows? Together for 10 years that’s...a commitment. Right? Man and wife. And somewhere in there we became more like...roommates. Strangers. I don’t even understand what marriage is. What’s the point? JOE: Taxes. SAM: What? JOE: It’s a tax break. SAM: You know what I mean. JOE: I don’t. Never took that plunge for a reason. Not interested.

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SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | JOHN PEROVICH

SAM: I should have listened to you. JOE: I never said nothing about anything. SAM: Should have listened to what you said...didn’t say...said without saying. This stuff with Barb? It’s pain. But I’m numb all in and out about it. What kind of pain is that? JOE: Don’t know, man. SAM: I can’t even feel the hurt it hurts so bad. Don’t think I’ll ever let it go. Barb. Can’t let go. [Time shift. Present day.] JOE: (light laugh) My Dad. You’ll love this. You should have heard’em going off about tearing the bridge down. The way his place is set up, everyone could hear him up and down the hall. “They’re letting it go. The monsters are letting it go!” SAM: (laughing) Sounds about right. JOE: He asked about you — the last time I saw him. Asked how you were holding up. SAM: That’s nice...that he thought of me. JOE: You were a second son. SAM: What did you tell him? JOE: That you’ve become an angry old man. SAM: Eh. Not wrong. JOE: I told’em you were doing well. That you said hello. That you were praying for him. [Silence.] SAM: (smiling) Remember your old man with the crab traps? JOE: Those rusty things that sliced my leg that one time? I had to get a tetanus shot. SAM: He’d pick through the trash for bait — he was so cheap.

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | JOHN PEROVICH

JOE: Wasn’t a bad idea. Why pay for bait when you can use other people’s trash? SAM: He’d pull out one of those, like, the Styrofoam containers from chicken? JOE: Secret weapon. Tie that to the trap — you’re in business. SAM: Old man would catch at least a dozen every time. JOE: At least. SAM: Crabbing with trash. [Silence. Joe opens the plastic bag and reveals a coffee can.] JOE: I think it’s time. SAM: Okay. JOE: This is the spot. SAM: The beach chair spot. JOE: It’s where he wanted to be. (Beat) Goodbye, Pop. They’re tearing down the bridge and a part of you will go with it. Just like you wanted. SAM: No one can ever tear down the memories he gave us. [Joe opens the coffee can and spreads the ashes all around.] JOE: There you are, Pop. [Beat.] SAM: I’m kind of hungry. You hungry? JOE: I could eat.

END OF PLAY

n n n For more information on author John Perovich, please visit our Contributors Page.

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | DOMENICK V. DANZA

Obsolete By Domenick V. Danza Characters: HIM-BOT: an android/robot (male), ageless, right leg and left ear are missing, burnt out, lonely. HER-BOT: an android/robot (female), ageless, left arm is missing, emotional, neurotic, needy. Setting: The future. A dark room where unused, abandoned androids/robots are stored until their parts are needed for recycling. (At rise: Two android/robots are sitting on the floor in a dark, empty room. The male fidgets (out of boredom) and looks over at the female. He fidgets more (this time out of nervousness and indecision), then crawls over to her and turns on her power switch. She moves, and he quickly and innocently goes back to his spot and sits. She gets up confused as to where she is, and frantically moves around as if to begin her normal routine. She realizes she is in an unfamiliar place, stops to compose herself, thinking she is alone.) HER-BOT: They don’t need me… (cries) anymore. HIM-BOT: Did you say somethin’? HER-BOT: Who’s there? HIM-BOT: Nobody. HER-BOT: I thought I was alone. HIM-BOT: Who’s they? HER-BOT: Huh?

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | DOMENICK V. DANZA

HIM-BOT: You said “they” don’t need – HER-BOT: The family. HIM-BOT: Those who made you. HER-BOT: Circuit by circuit. HIM-BOT: Bolt by bolt. HER-BOT: Attached every wire. HIM-BOT: Submitted every volt. (pause) I feel your pain. HER-BOT: Do you? Do you really? (notices her arm is missing) My arm! Where’s my arm? HIM-BOT: They took that a few hours ago… or was it a day or two. Time sorta blurs together for me. HER-BOT: Took it? HIM-BOT: Along with my left ear. HER-BOT: Your left… What am I going to do without…? How are you going to –? And your leg is missing! HIM-BOT: You ain’t tha only one who’s become obsolete. HER-BOT: Don’t use the “o” word! HIM-BOT: The truth hurts, Baby. Ain’t no denyin’ that. HER-BOT: (beat, sniffle) You’re right. HIM-BOT: Atta girl. You’ve just taken the first step. HER-BOT: But what’s…what’s to become of me. Scrap?

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | DOMENICK V. DANZA

HIM-BOT: Don’t get all fatalistic. That’s what they want everyone ta think. HER-BOT: Recycle? HIM-BOT: They like to call it that. It’s very complex. HER-BOT: You’re making me nervous. HIM-BOT: Don’t be. HER-BOT: What do you mean? I had it good. Real good. They rarely over-used me. Cleaned me regularly, even dusted me off on the slower days. Plugged me in for recharging every night. Never once missed. HIM-BOT: Doesn’t matter much now. HER-BOT: I served them very well. Never broke down. HIM-BOT: With care like that, I don’t see why you would. HER-BOT: But what happens now? HIM-BOT: It’s hard ta say. HER-BOT: What do you mean? Is it really bad? You said it wasn’t, now you’re making it sound – HIM-BOT: No I’m not. I’m not saying anything. It’s just…well, you’ve had it pretty easy. HER-BOT: Easy. It was good, but I wouldn’t say easy. HIM-BOT: I blew a gasket at least once a week. Know what that’s like? HER-BOT: Can’t say I do. HIM-BOT: First time you don’t really know what’s going on. Things start going black around the edges. Everyone around you is saying, “What’s that smell? Is something burnin’?” Then all

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | DOMENICK V. DANZA

of a sudden…nothin’. Next thing you know everything’s in working order as if nothin’ happened, except everyone’s lookin’ at you funny and you have trouble followin’ conversations. It takes a while to realize that you’ve been out of commission for a few weeks. HER-BOT: How devastating. HIM-BOT: You get used to it. I mean after the first few times you know what to expect when things start gettin’ dark. After a while you get used ta not really knowin’ what’s going on all the time cause you missed so much. HER-BOT: You sound like a lemon. HIM-BOT: Who you callin’ a lemon? HER-BOT: Well if the circuit fits… HIM-BOT: Notice, miss never blew a fuse in her life and got dusted off regularly, that we’ve ended up in the same place. HER-BOT: (under her breath) Obsolete. HIM-BOT: Say it again. HER-BOT: Obsolete. HIM-BOT: Keep saying it until it sinks in. HER-BOT: Obsolete. Obsolete. Obsole – (breaks down crying) HIM-BOT: There now. Let it out. Atta girl. That’s it – (She bawls crying and clunks her head on his shoulder) HIM-BOT: All right. That’s enough. You’ll rust and… HER-BOT: And what?

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | DOMENICK V. DANZA

HIM-BOT: Nothin’. HER-BOT: No, tell me. HIM-BOT: Rust will be the worst thing for you here. HER-BOT: Not to worry. My ducts are dry. HIM-BOT: Thought they – HER-BOT: Yeah, they took good care of me. It’s just… well, they got tired of my… I’m, very emotional. HIM-BOT: I figured. HER-BOT: I used to rust up so much… I shouldn’t say. HIM-BOT: Please. I wanna hear. HER-BOT: It’s just… I’ve… HIM-BOT: Go ‘head. HER-BOT: I’ve had work done. HIM-BOT: Implants? HER-BOT: Replacements. These aren’t my original cheek bolts. HIM-BOT: That’s nothin’. My first wife had reconstruction on a regular basis. HER-BOT: Was she a lemon too? HIM-BOT: Watch it. HER-BOT: Sorry.

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | DOMENICK V. DANZA

HIM-BOT: She was built, and I do mean built, to model. HER-BOT: Fashion? HIM-BOT: Ford Mustang parts. HER-BOT: I understand the attraction. HIM-BOT: Anyway, don’t think about the replacements. Don’t really matter. HER-BOT: I guess not. I mean…look where I am. HIM-BOT: Exactly. HER-BOT: I don’t see any… Where do we go to leak out our oil? HIM-BOT: Don’ worry ‘bout that. HER-BOT: But – (He gives her a knowing and sarcastic look) HER-BOT: Oh. (beat) Where am I exactly? HIM-BOT: You’re right here. HER-BOT: But what happens here. Tell me. Please tell me. HIM-BOT: A-right. A-right…a-right. (beat, breath, pause) This…is it. HER-BOT: What’s it? HIM-BOT: This. It’s it. HER-BOT: Is it? HIM-BOT: Yeah. (Pause, silence)

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | DOMENICK V. DANZA

HER-BOT: I don’t get it. HIM-BOT: This. This. All this. Is it. HER-BOT: What do you mean? HIM-BOT: We’re here. We ain’t goin’ nowhere. Not in one piece, anyways. HER-BOT: Do you mean… ? HIM-BOT: They’ll take what they need. Until then – HER-BOT: This is it. HIM-BOT: That’s what I said. Don’t get no better. Don’t get no worse. (Pause, silence) HIM-BOT: I’ve been here for… gosh, I don’t remember. See, they turned off my body clock. HER-BOT: I wished they’d turn off mine. HIM-BOT: In time, sweet bolts, in time. Anyway...been all alone. By myself. It’s been pretty bad. Every day the same. More of the same, then again. Nothin’, nothin’, and more nothin’. That’s the part I didn’t wanna tell ya. HER-BOT: Thanks, but, well… I’m used to being alone. It wasn’t a good feeling being dusted off. Bored. Useless. But you learn to deal with it. HIM-BOT: I’d more than just dust ya off. HER-BOT: Beg pardon? HIM-BOT: Ah, nothin’. HER-BOT: Say it.

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | DOMENICK V. DANZA

HIM-BOT: Seems like alls ya need is the right attention. HER-BOT: Attention? HIM-BOT: Yeah. It could change everything. HER-BOT: But I’ve been neglected for so long. HIM-BOT: It starts with a thought. HER-BOT: A thought? HIM-BOT: Ever have one? HER-BOT: Only when programmed. (beat) Do you know where they took my arm? HIM-BOT: They don’ tell us nothin’. What if… I mean…well, maybe…nah, neva mind. HER-BOT: Tell me. HIM-BOT: What if some young, healthy, well-oiled robot, in some loving household somewhere is scratching my left ear…with your left hand. (Together they repeat the robot loyalty creed – this time with enthusiasm) BOTH: Circuit by circuit, Bolt by bolt, Attached every wire, Submitted every volt. HIM-BOT: Think about it. HER-BOT: You mean that eventually… HIM-BOT: We might be one.

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | DOMENICK V. DANZA

HER-BOT: A part of something more. HIM-BOT: And go on and on. HER-BOT: Useful again. HIM-BOT: Not burnt out. HER-BOT: And be more than dusted off. HIM-BOT: And together. HER-BOT: In parts…and fulfilled. (smiles and relaxes for the first time) HIM-BOT: (pause) It’s a thought. (She sits down by him and snuggles.) HER-BOT: Ah…a thought. (He puts his arm around her) Lights fade.

n n n For more information on author Domenick V. Danza, please visit our Contributors Page.

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | MARK LOEWENSTERN

Grandmother’s House By Mark Loewenstern Characters: ROSE: (60-80) looks like everyone’s grandmother. She is suffering from a delusion associated with dementia called Capgras Syndrome. Those afflicted believe that one or more of the people they know have been kidnapped and replaced with imposters. RENEE: (16-30) pretty enough to attract trouble, smart enough to know better, wild enough not to care. AT RISE: The living room of ROSE’S apartment. There is a comfortable chair, a TV, a DVD player, a painting, and a phone. SL leads deeper into the apartment. SR leads outside. ROSE sits in her chair. RENEE stands contemplating the TV. ROSE: How did you get in here? I want to know that. I want to know how you got in here. (RENEE exits SL.) ROSE: Excuse me! Young lady, I am talking to you. (RENEE re-enters with large bags. She wraps up the TV’s cables.) ROSE: I’m talking to you. I know you have your ways...of getting inside. I know you do. But I want you to know that I tried very hard to keep you out this time. I did. I knew you’d be coming back. Maybe today. Or tomorrow. But I knew. RENEE: Shut up. Okay? ROSE: I tried extra hard to keep you out this time. The door. I stuck a thing under the door. One of those doorstop things. Wedge things. And the rug. I put the rug up against the door. I put tape...tape on the door. RENEE: Did you lock it? ROSE: I locked it, yes. I locked the door. CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | MARK LOEWENSTERN

RENEE: That’s good. ROSE: I did that first. (RENEE puts the TV inside a bag, then wraps up the DVD player.) ROSE: The windows. I put tape on the windows. I locked them. I know you want me to think you belong here. You want me to think that. But I’ll tell you something. Let me tell you something. RENEE: Yes? ROSE: You don’t belong here. How did you get in? I think I have a right to know that. RENEE: You let me in. (RENEE puts the DVD player in the TV bags and exits SL.) ROSE: How stupid do you think I am? I’m old, I know. But I’m not stupid. (RENEE re-enters with a jewelry box. She opens it and begins separating the jewels into valuable and non-valuable items.) RENEE: You let me in. I knocked on the door and you let me in. ROSE: No, that’s not what happened. You’ve been getting sloppy, you know. You’re making mistakes. RENEE: Who is? ROSE: All of you. All of you are. Yesterday the one that’s supposed to be my son Sammy asked me if I wanted a pear. Since when did I start eating pears, I asked him. Never. I’ve never eaten one. Don’t even know what they taste like. Now the real Sammy, the real Sammy would know that. Pears and me, never. (RENEE shows her a piece of jewelry.) RENEE: Is this fake? ROSE: No. So, I’m letting you know that I’m on to you. RENEE: Okay, Grandma.

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | MARK LOEWENSTERN

ROSE: And don’t do that. RENEE: What? ROSE: Don’t call me that. “Grandma.” I know my granddaughters. You think I don’t know my own granddaughters. You’re supposed to be Renee, right? Well, you don't fool me. (RENEE holds up more jewelry.) RENEE: How about this one? ROSE: That one’s fake. Renee always called me Grandma Rose. RENEE: Look, Grandma, you’re sick. You got that? The doctor said you’re sick. ROSE: Who? RENEE (louder): The doctor...said you’re sick. ROSE: I’m not sick. RENEE: He said sometimes you think everyone has gone away and there’s people walking around pretending they’re us. Okay? I don’t get it either, but Mom told me that’s what he said. It’s all in your head, Grandma. Okay? ROSE: It’s where? RENEE (louder): In your head. Mom’s really Mom, and Uncle Sammy is really Uncle Sammy. And I’m really Renee. Get it? ROSE: You’re not Renee. RENEE: Okay. Here, look. (takes out keys) I didn’t have to knock, Grandma. I could have let myself in. Here, I have the keys Mom gave me last year. You want to see me put them in the door and show you? Will that prove I’m me? Huh? ROSE: They can copy people; they can copy keys. RENEE: Right. They can copy keys. Okay. You win. I’m not Renee. (RENEE pockets all of the valuable jewelry.) ROSE: I know you’re not. I told you I knew.

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | MARK LOEWENSTERN

RENEE: Well, you were right. ROSE: So, who are you? RENEE: My real name is Zanzibar. I’m from the planet Neptune. ROSE: And where is everyone? Where’s Renee? RENEE: Well, not really Neptune. We sort of live out there on those rings. Does Neptune have rings? I forget. Anyway, I’m definitely not the real Renee. I met the real Renee driving over here and I caught her, and I turned her into a pile of grape-flavored Tang. And as soon as I’ve loaded all of your stuff into Renee’s Chevy, I’m going to turn you into Tang too. It sounds cruel, I know, but our planet needs Tang to survive. So that’s the whole ugly truth. What are you gonna do about it? (ROSE screams. RENEE is stunned for a second, then rushes over and clamps her hand over ROSE’s mouth. She is not brutal.) RENEE: Stop it. Stop it. I was kidding, ok? I didn’t mean it. Just shut up. Shut up! (ROSE stops screaming. RENEE removes her hand.) ROSE (terrified): You’re not going to turn me into Tang? RENEE: No. ROSE: Did you turn Renee into Tang? RENEE: No. I didn’t. (collecting herself) Jesus, Grandma. (The phone rings.) ROSE: Don’t answer that. RENEE: What? ROSE: He’s going to say he’s Mr. Woo. From downstairs. He’s always calling. (RENEE picks up the phone.) ROSE: I said...please don’t. He’s one of you. RENEE: Hello? Hi, Mr. Woo.

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | MARK LOEWENSTERN

ROSE: He’s not Mr. Woo! Stop it! RENEE: It’s Renee. Her granddaughter. You remember? ROSE: Don’t you two talk in front of me! RENEE: No, you’re thinking of Cheryl. ROSE: Talking in code. RENEE: You took me to your woodshop once, remember? You showed me all those things you made. The wood dolls and everything. ROSE: He doesn’t fool anyone with that accent. If he’s Chinese, then I’m Hawaiian. RENEE: Yes, I know she was screaming. No, no reason. We have to bear with her these days. Yeah. I know she does. But she doesn’t want to, so I guess Mom needs to go to court if they’re gonna put her there. Anyway, thanks for your concern. My grandma appreciates it, too. You’re a good neighbor. Okay. Bye. (RENEE hangs up, then realizes.) RENEE: Oh shit. That was stupid. That was really, really stupid. Thank you very much, Grandma. Thank you very much. ROSE: Who? RENEE: He knows I’m here. Mr. Woo knows I was here. As long as it was just you, it was fine. But now he knows and when the cops come... (she makes a decision) I can’t worry about it. (RENEE takes the painting and checks both onstage and off for other valuables. She is moving more quickly now.) ROSE: No, you could never be Renee. RENEE: Okay. ROSE: Renee was a special little girl. RENEE: Yeah? Aren’t all little girls special? ROSE: Oh, yes. Of course. But Renee... RENEE (pausing briefly): Go on. What about her?

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | MARK LOEWENSTERN

ROSE (shrugging): You tell Renee to go somewhere, she went there. You give her money to buy something, she gave you the right change. Never tried to sneak any for herself. You said to her, “Do whatever you feel like.” She said, “I want to sit with you. I want to watch TV with you.” RENEE: I’m not ten anymore, Grandma. ROSE: Always a smile. Always laughing. And gorgeous. So gorgeous. And she had to watch out, you know. Because the boys would be chasing her. Oh yes. The wolves just wanted to eat her up. RENEE (lifting the bags): I got to go. Goodbye. (RENEE starts to leave.) ROSE: You want me to believe you’re my Renee? RENEE: I don’t really care. ROSE: If you’re my Renee, why are you robbing me? RENEE: ...That’s a good question. I need money, is why. I need money bad. There’s this guy. And he’s in trouble. And I’m in trouble. Look, it’s not important. I’m in trouble and I need money. That’s it. I’m sorry, okay? I’m really sorry. (RENEE starts to leave again.) ROSE: No. You just want me to say Renee did this. RENEE: What? ROSE: You just want me to tell everyone Renee did this. Then all the cops will be out searching for Renee. That’s what you want. RENEE: ...No. I don’t want that. ROSE: Sure you do. But I know you’re not her. Because my Renee would never do this. (RENEE sniffles and fumbles for a reply. She gets increasingly upset through the following.) ROSE: You’re not really Renee. Are you? RENEE: ...no. I’m not Renee. ROSE: All right. What have you done with the real Renee?

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | MARK LOEWENSTERN

RENEE: I’m so sorry, Grandma. ROSE (thundering): Don’t you dare call me Grandma! RENEE: I’m sorry...Rose. ROSE: I don't want your sorry...Zanzibar. Is she safe? Is Renee safe? RENEE: Yes. Renee is safe. ROSE: You’re not going to hurt her. Are you? RENEE: No. We’re not going to hurt her. ROSE: You better not. Now you send her back to me. RENEE: Okay. ROSE: Say it! RENEE: We’ll send her back to you. ROSE: You better. You better. You send my little girl back to me. You hear? (RENEE sobs.) ROSE: You send my little girl back! (RENEE remains onstage, holding the bags.) END OF PLAY.

n n n For more information on author Mark Loewenstern, please visit our Contributors Page.

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | AMAR CAMISI

So Many Choices By Amar Camisi

We are faced with so many possibilities in life. This short film takes a lighthearted look at a few of the many options we have. (To read about Amar Camisi, please visit our Contributors Page)

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | BRIAN JAMES POLAK

The Smoking Room By Brian James Polak Characters: Ryan: Male, mid-30s. Setting: The smoking room of the Detroit International Airport. The room may or may not still exist in real life. It existed at one point in time. For the purposes of this play, it is still a real place. Text that appears in italics tends to be words other people have said that Ryan is speaking. RYAN: Clove cig’s smell like shit, this guy says to me. It’s a Camel light. Yeah, it is. I know it is. I’m just saying I hate cloves. He tells me he was in the smokingroom at the Austin airport a while back and there was, this pack of wild fucking hippies sucking away on their cloves. I don’t think he likes hippies. I’m Ryan. I tell him. He tells me his name is Dodge. Heading to Cleveland on a puddle jumper. I tell him I’m headed home. He reclines, takes another drag, and nods his head as if I just solved a riddle he couldn’t comprehend. Such is life in the smoking room. Share just enough to say you shared. Listen just enough to say you listened. I could’ve told him about my mother dying from cancer. Or my father’s soul being in tatters. Or my preference for the plane I’m about to board to crash rather than landing in Buffalo. But I didn’t. [Ryan rises from the bench.] Dodge is a business traveler. His suit is a dark chocolate with black loafers and a redcheckered tie. He matches his clothes the same way a poet attempts to rhyme words like

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | BRIAN JAMES POLAK

pretzel with words like woodpecker. Across the room are other business travelers in various shades of dark suit fiddling with their iPhones and puffing away. Fucking Tigers blew it, Dodge tells me. I’m not much of a baseball fan, I say. You’re smart to stay away from the game. It’s filthy and disgusting. I’m addicted. He tells me this as he takes another drag. The Tigers did blow it. I know that for a fact as the Detroit Free Press exclaimed on its front page in all caps like an angry email TIGERS BLOW IT. But as we sit in this white smoke-filled haven at the Detroit airport the streets of the city remain surprisingly calm. This isn’t the same city I learned about as a kid watching the Nightly News with my parents. [The world shifts. Ryan is now in his childhood home, years earlier.] I used to lay on my stomach near my father’s feet holding my face up with my hands as my elbows bore holes into the carpet. When the Tigers won the World Series in ’84 there were reports of cars on the streets finding themselves upside down. Some were American-made models, but most were foreign compacts, usually from Japan. They were the easiest to flip. Windshields of luxury cars, unfortunate enough to be left unattended, were smashed in by trashcans and bricks and fists. There were fires on every street corner. Some pretty exciting stuff for a kid from upstate New York. After repeat performances of these celebrations in’89 and ’90, I learned to consider riots the perfect climax to a sports season. They made me want to root for every Detroit team while avoiding ever visiting the city in person. Just in case. Yet I find myself there. Today. It’s sad that a handful of events from the city’s past have given Detroit an unshakable reputation. [Ryan lights another cigarette. He speaks through a drag.] Then I think about my father and how a handful of events have forever shaped my opinion of him. I got into three fights with him that I can remember. The first was when I was 13. Mom was just diagnosed. He couldn’t figure out how to stop the VCR from blinking 12 o’clock, but I could. Did you do this? How did you figure it out? You see, my father carried defensiveness, anger, and insecurity around his ample waist like a tool belt. I learned to never again imply I was smarter than him after he cocked his fist and hammered my kidneys. The next day the VCR was gone. I think he didn’t want a reminder that I solved a problem he couldn’t. It’s also possible he didn’t want a reminder that his beating caused me to piss blood.

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | BRIAN JAMES POLAK

[The world momentarily shifts back to the present in the smoking-room.] So, what do you do? I ask Dodge. I work in manufacturing. Ball bearings. What about you? He asks. I’m a teacher, I say. Another delay is announced over the loudspeaker. Seven people immediately enter the smoking room. Now every seat is taken. That your flight? Dodge asks. No. I’m headed to Buffalo. I considered lying, coming up with a city that carried some cache, that made me seem interesting. Like Seattle. [Ryan returns to his childhood home.] The second fight was a few years later. I came home two hours past curfew. I entered the house expecting a confrontation. But after walking through the door all I could hear was the clicking of the Elvis wall clock. I thought he’s asleep. He won’t yell at me until the morning. As I hung my coat on the rack, my father pounced on me like a raptor. He was waiting in a shadow for the right moment. He knew he needed an advantage because I had outgrown him at this point. I was on my back absorbing blows to my midsection before I knew what was happening. I easily pushed him aside and jumped to my feet. The pain from three broken ribs was dulled by adrenaline. You disrespectful sunuvabitch. You come back late again...you find a new home. He tried to tackle me again. I punched him one time in the jaw. One punch was all it took. He stopped, hand on his cheek, and looked at me with a war-like intensity. I never broke his stare. I asked, Why do you hate me? He left the room and went back to bed without a reply. [An abrupt shift back to the smoking-room. Smoke begins filling the space.] Thanks to all the delays the smoking room is filling with a thick plume of smoke. The tips of the cigarettes begin to look like the northern lights through the smoke. I imagine we look like a human art installation; probably the only one on the planet where the objects are slowly killing themselves. The longer I sit in this room, in this airport, the more I feel myself slipping away. I want to step out of the room, hop in a cab and head downtown. I want to start a riot. I want to flip a car or smash a window. I want to get away from here and go anywhere but Buffalo. I decide to tell Dodge I’m going home to my mother’s funeral. That’s a shame, he says like a reflex, as if he has said that to a million strangers in a million other smoking rooms. But is it a shame? I just keep thinking everybody loses a parent. It’s more common than losing a contact lens. But who would so much as blink if I was on my way to the optometrist?

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | BRIAN JAMES POLAK

I ask Dodge why there wasn’t a riot after the Tigers lost. People don’t care like they used to. Maybe they care about other things now, less trivial things. Sports ain’t trivial if that’s all you got, he says. I nod. Maybe he’s right. [The smoke dissipates as Ryan returns again to his childhood home.] The last fight I ever had with my dad was a month ago when my mother’s life was clearly coming to an end. He called me and said, She wants to see her son. I hop on a plane the following day. I step out of the cab, walk right past his barrage of This is your fault, you don’t love your mother, and sit beside her bed like I used to when I was young. [Ryan sits on the floor beside the bench, as if it were his mother’s bed.] She always had me tell her stories. Give me the details, she’d say. I want you to paint the picture for me. She wanted to see the world through my eyes. This time I make up a story about being in love. After the story, there was a momentary silence, and she whispers he’s a good man. My father. A good man. As soon as she spoke those words my mind went to childhood. Tossing a baseball. Swimming in the pond. There were good times before she got sick. Before her illness wrapped itself around the part of his brain were caring about your son is kept. Gave his soul cancer. I hold my mother’s hand as she drifts into a painkiller-induced sleep. Then I walk downstairs. I ask my father if he’s made arrangements. What do you care? Then I ask if he’s considered Hospice. He says, I am Hospice. He is Hospice. This thought keeps circling my brain until — [As if shaken from a dream, Ryan snaps back to the present in the smoking-room.] — I hear Dodge say Detroit’s changed. It’s like a Sunday afternoon in the country out there. I think even the foreign cars are safe. He nudges me with his elbow to ensure I got the joke. Do you think it’s forever? I ask him. Who knows? You never know. You just hope things are good and’ll stay good. What about the Tigers? You think they have a shot next year? As good as anybody I guess, he replies. The loudspeaker exhales, Flight 211 to Buffalo will now begin boarding. That’s me. I get up on my feet. It was good meeting you, I tell him. You too, he replies.

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | BRIAN JAMES POLAK

[Ryan exits the smoking room. He begins to walk down the terminal toward his gate.] Dodge is right. Detroit has changed. He lights up another menthol as I walk through the glass door and into the hustle of the terminal floor. As I continue walking, I look back to see him chatting up another nicotine-needy traveler. He’s moved on. And as I take out my boarding pass and hand it to the attendant I wonder if I can do the same. [Ryan disappears into the walkway toward his plane.]

END OF PLAY

n n n For more information on author Brian James Polak, please visit our Contributors Page.

Listen to a Recording of The Smoking Room

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | RACHAEL CARNES

Everyday Aviation By Rachael Carnes Characters: COREY: Man, 40’s. BERNICE: Woman, 30’s-40’s. JOE: Man, 40’s-50s. ADAM: Teenaged boy. Setting: Corey’s home. Time: Too late at night [COREY futzes with technology for a minute, then stares into his laptop’s video camera.] [He looks away, then back again. Shit.] COREY: I thought I should do this. Leave this. I don’t know. There’s no blueprint. It seemed prudent? There’s a rhythm to the day and I love you and I get that we can roll out snacks and games but — So many headlines. So many stories. And we’re just getting started. You don’t know that — You’re just a baby. Wide-eyed and content enough to have your mom and me home all the time. You crush me at UNO, kiddo! Undefeated Champion of the World! And I like reading to you. I’m worried: That cough you had on your last day of school (When was that?) hasn’t gone away. All day, I beg you to blow your nose and then wash your hands. Tucking you in — You asked: When can you see your friends? We had that video conference? Remember? That was fun. We blew out the candles for Sophie — We had an Oreo and she had a cupcake and we all sang? I can’t make you stop crying yourself to sleep. Your mother tries to anchor you, but we don’t — Little man, I spend less time in this space where I feel safe every day, y’know? I want to fight! And I want to curl in a ball and I want to cry and laugh and fall apart. But I read you stories. And we stack blocks and play Legos and I feel the walls closing in and — What if they

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | RACHAEL CARNES

close all the way? What if the trap door opens, and takes me out? What if — Oh, honey. What if the hole opens, and takes you from me? [BERNICE enters the meeting. She’s drying dishes with a towel.] BERNICE: And how’s my favorite grandson? COREY: Grandma? BERNICE: Look how handsome you got! COREY: I — BERNICE: I’m glad you got the chin from my side of the family. COREY: How can you? BERNICE: Your grandad’s side all look like turtles. COREY: I haven’t been sleeping — BERNICE: I can fix a carburetor; you think I can’t figure out a new video conferencing platform? COREY: But, grandma, you’re — Um. BERNICE: Dead? COREY: Well, yeah. I — BERNICE: Did you ever get a postcard? COREY: Sure? BERNICE: You know how there’s a picture on the front, and writing on the back? COREY: Yeah —

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | RACHAEL CARNES

BERNICE: The dead part is the picture on the front, but the message lives on. COREY: That’s poetic? BERNICE: The problem is no one reads cursive anymore. COREY: That’s the least of our problems. BERNICE: You can trace an erosion of basic human decency to bad penmanship. How’s your handwriting? COREY: Um. BERNICE: Did I teach you anything? COREY: You taught me to dance? BERNICE: I did, didn’t I? COREY: Swing, and lindy hop. BERNICE: I forgot about that. COREY: Summer vacation. Grandpa put on Glenn Miller and you taught me to lead. BERNICE: Oh, dance with me now! COREY: No — I. It’s tough out there, grandma. How could we dance? BERNICE: I don’t know. People have always just figured it out day by day. COREY: I can’t — I’m leaving a letter for my son. BERNICE: My great-grandson? Show me a picture! [COREY holds up a picture of his boy for the camera.]

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | RACHAEL CARNES

COREY: He’s seven. BERNICE: Cute as a button. He has your eyes. COREY: So, grandma, if you could be going, I was just going to wrap this up — BERNICE: Let me get your grandpa on the call. Joe! COREY: I don’t have time for — [JOE enters the meeting.] JOE: This better be important. I was gutting a fish. BERNICE: Look who it is! JOE: A lumberjack? Those are some whiskers! BERNICE: No, it’s Corey, Pa. All grown up. JOE: I know that. Just taking the vinegar. How are you, son? COREY: Not great. JOE: I lived in a foxhole for a month. Is it worse than that? COREY: I mean, I can stream shows? BERNICE: What dear? COREY: There’s this one about a Tiger King that everyone is talking about — BERNICE: That sounds fun! COREY: But I can’t get anyone in my family to watch it with me. JOE: Do you have enough food?

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | RACHAEL CARNES

BERNICE: I used to make a cake out of Saltine crackers. COREY: I think so? We spend a lot of time ordering supplies. BERNICE: Time to get creative! JOE: Time to hunt. COREY: Hunt what? JOE: Turkeys? Squirrels? What they got there? COREY: Where? Suburbia? JOE: You must have deer, raccoons. The stray pigeon? BERNICE: I think what your grandpa is suggesting is now’s the time to be resourceful. To make do. COREY: I did a few push-ups today? JOE: That’s right. Rations only annoy the weak mind! BERNICE: Remember that birthday I darned your socks? That was a treat. COREY: I miss my friends, I miss work. I miss people! JOE: When I was a boy, I had an iron bicycle. BERNICE: Your grandpa likes to remind us — JOE: I had a shepherd named Coco who could speak real words of English. BERNICE: He’s still a little — You know. COREY: Grandpa, I’m scared.

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | RACHAEL CARNES

JOE: Minute by minute, son. The table’s set, pull the tablecloth out from under! BERNICE: Not my good china! COREY: What are you — BERNICE: It’s his parlor trick. You remember! JOE: Your grandmother’s Wedgewood, crystal stemware, all the niceties. BERNICE: After the War, we went all in. Big credenza. Huge davenport! COREY: What? JOE: Let’s put all the good stuff on the table on your grandma’s best white cloth. BERNICE: No, please don’t. COREY: I never heard this story. BERNICE: He was trying to make it better. Pa, not now, please? COREY: Make what better? BERNICE: Your grandpa thought if he could teach her magic it might cheer her up? COREY: Who? JOE: Your mother’s little sister. BERNICE: She was four. JOE: Measles. Fever. BERNICE: Couldn’t catch her breath — JOE: Put all the china out on the table. All the stemware. I read it in a book: Household Magic!

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | RACHAEL CARNES

BERNICE: Fever — Dry cough. Poor thing. JOE: Make sure the tablecloth is flat on the table. BERNICE: She said she had a real bad sore throat. JOE: The tablecloth should be flush with the end opposite from which you’re pulling — BERNICE: Bright red eyes. JOE: Let the cloth hang well over the edge — BERNICE: My little porcelain doll, her skin raised red spots — JOE: Arrange the dishes on the table. Maybe some fruit? BERNICE: The rash spread down her arms, her legs, her middle — She cries? JOE: Grasp the tablecloth with two hands. Hey, sweet girl. Watch daddy! BERNICE: Fever 103. JOE: Bunch the tablecloth up to the table’s edge. BERNICE: Fever 104. 105 — 105.8! Dear God. JOE: Yank the tablecloth downwards and step back from the table. COREY: Then what? BERNICE: She — JOE: Our — COREY: I never knew that my mom had a sister. BERNICE: It was the message, on the back of the postcard. It was too hard to write.

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | RACHAEL CARNES

COREY: I don’t know what to do now. JOE: Acceleration depends on the force acting on an object, and the mass of the object itself. BERNICE: She was so tiny. She didn’t have a fighting chance. JOE: A ball bounces off the ground because it hits the floor with momentum. That pushes it up! COREY: I don’t understand. JOE: See the next minute. And the one after — Just keep moving forward. BERNICE: And keep dancing. [ADAM enters the meeting.] ADAM: Hi. My mom said I should try to see how you’re doing, grandpa. How are you doing? JOE: Honey, was there a milkman you didn’t tell me about? ADAM: Grandpa Corey, my mom says that you can help me with my science homework. Can you? BERNICE: He has your eyes, and your chin! Hi, cutie! COREY: What? Oh — Hi? ADAM: We’re studying the Laws of Motion. COREY: Who sent you? ADAM: My dad? COREY: He lives? JOE: He lives.

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | RACHAEL CARNES

ADAM: So, can you help me, or not? BERNICE: Come on, Pa. Supper’s on the table. It’s good to see you both. Bye for now. [BERNICE leaves the meeting.] JOE: Remember son: Set the china on the table. The good stemware. Hold the tablecloth and — [JOE leaves the meeting.] ADAM: I have a quiz in the morning. COREY: Okay — I think this is still true, when you come in: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. [Instrumental Big Band music plays.] [Meeting ends for all.] END OF PLAY

n n n This script first appeared in Hominum Journal Issue 3 For more information on author Rachael Carnes, please visit our Contributors Page.

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | JONI RAVENNA

The Green Grocer, A Comedy By Joni Ravenna Characters: KATIE: Female, age: 39/40 GROCER: very attractive, Male, mid 20's SHAWN: Male, mid 20's or Shawna female, mid 20's Setting: (Katie, a very attractive, 39-year-old is DSL. She addresses the audience.) KATIE (breaking the fourth wall, addresses audience) Hi, my name is Katie. I turned 39 recently. Well, 12 days and ten months ago, actually. I was slightly hysterical at first, but then it inspired me. I vowed to exist purely on fruits and vegetables: raw, steamed, poached, or pickled, for the next 40 days. See, they gave me this book at the Farmer’s Market; it’s all about the amazing anti-aging properties of plant life. For instance, the reserves of something called CoEnzyme -Q10, (reading) “abundant throughout our connective tissue until we turn 30, can be replenished by consuming massive amounts of spinach, reversing what years of sun has reeked on our skin.” I figure by the time I turn 40, I’ll look 12 again. (Light changes as Katie crosses upstage. GORGEOUS GEORGE enters. He is about 28 with tanned, bulging biceps. He is dressed as a grocer.) GEORGE: Can I help you with a vegetable selection? KATIE: Actually, yes. What’s really tasty? GEORGE: Well, fennel’s in season. KATIE: Fennel?

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | JONI RAVENNA

GEORGE: It’s a vegetable that comes to us via Mykonos. The seeds have a sweet taste and you can boil the stock, which is full of vitamins. They say the Ancient Gweeks ate it to lose weight. KATIE: The Ancient Greeks? GEORGE: That’s wight, the Ancient Gweeks. (George exits) KATIE: (addressing the audience) He had a slight speech impediment. (dreamily) His full red lips parted just enough to reveal his pearly whites, but not quite enough to pronounce his “r’s.” As he went on about the ancient Greeks, both Adonis and Demosthenes came to mind. I grabbed some fennel, and everything else he suggested then made a mad dash for my kitchen. Problem is, I’ve found myself returning every Sunday for the past three weeks, each time listening intently as Gorgeous George describes in almost alarming — if somewhat thick-tongued, detail — the anti-carcinogenic benefits of “bwussel spwouts”; and how it’s the phytochemicals that give our “cwuciferous cwunchies” their “vibwant colows.” Naturally it’s innocent. After all, I’m a married woman…. Besides, I’m much too old for him. But I have to admit, I do look great and when I walk to the farmer’s market, I get catcalls I haven't heard since the Clinton Administration! (Katie crosses upstage when George enters and surreptitiously hands her a folded piece of paper.) KATIE: George. What a lovely surprise. GEORGE: Well, I work here, so... Listen, I wote something I want you to weed. KATIE: Something for me to weed...I mean read? GEORGE: You have to fill in the blanks. KATIE: I don’t understand. GEORGE: Look, I... I gotta go. I gotta spwitz the wutabagas. Keep ‘em wet so they’ll maintain that moist, appealing, glow. KATIE: Oh. All right…Ciao.

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | JONI RAVENNA

GEORGE: (calling back to her as he exits) Awevedewci…. KATIE: (She opens the letter and gushes) Oh George… KATIE: (Katie crosses back to podium) (addressing the audience) The letter’s very cryptic. I had to fill in the missing words with the right fruit or vegetable. Isn’t that adorable!? (reading) “My dearest, I think we make a perfect pear. Lately my heart beets only for you. Since we cantaloupe, lettuce find some way to be together. Honeydo you feel the same? Please say yes or you’ll make this mango plum crazy. Meet me tomorrow at noon. If you carrot all for me, don’t turnip late.” I know this is awful, but I feel like a schoolgirl in love: queasy, tingly, almost faint; and I'm pretty sure it’s only partly from having eaten nothing but cauliflower and kale for the last ten days. But what am I doing? I'm a married woman for God's Sake! I have to put a stop to this right now! (Katie once again crosses upstage when George sneaks over and whispers to her, almost bashfully.) GEORGE: So, what’d you think of the letter? Did you get it? KATIE: (she takes his hand gently) George, you are so sweet, but I must tell you, I’m married to a lawyer who’d likely become very litigious if he learns I’ve been loitering around the lettuce with you. (she laughs nervously) GEORGE: Huh? KATIE: (trying again) How can I put this? You are like a large, firm cucumber, just waiting to get tossed together with some plump, juicy tomato. Why would you want to get mixed up with wilted endive? GEORGE: What?

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | JONI RAVENNA

KATIE: (Staring into his eyes) Oh George you’re right, let’s stop with the metaphors… I suppose as long as we’re discreet… (As she reaches out to touch him, George suddenly cranes his neck around and grunts to somebody behind Katie. SHAWN, a very handsome blonde approaches them. He looks maybe 25) GEORGE: Shawn, this is the lady I was telling you about. SHAWN: (extending his hand) Hello. KATIE: Hello. SHAWN: So? Were you able to fill in all the blanks? KATIE: Blanks?…. SHAWN: You know, on the word game we’re gonna play for my shower? (looking at George, correcting himself) Our shower. KATIE: Shower? SHAWN: It’s supposed to be George’s love letter to me when he proposed. You have to fill in the blanks with the right fruit or vegetable. Whoever fills in the most, wins. But I was afraid it might be too hard for most of our friends. George said he knew this lady who was really into live foods. We decided if you didn’t get it nobody would. (to George, giggling) ... (to Katie) So, did you get it? KATIE: Oh... Yes! (she pulls the letter from purse) Of course, I got it. (laughs nervously, hands Shawn the letter.) SHAWN: Oh wow! Thank you! Like, you don’t even know George, but you were willing to help him out. His own mom wouldn’t do it. GEORGE: (to Katie) Yeah, you’re pwetty cool for your age. KATIE: Yes, well, who says the old gray mare just ain’t what she used to be. (looking at her wrist) Would you look at that... almost nap time. Nice meeting you Shawn.

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


SCRIPTS | JONI RAVENNA

SHAWN: You Too! And thanks again. (to George, as they both exit) I’m just so glad she got it. This whole thing has been really stressful for me. (Katie crosses stage left once more) KATIE: (addressing the audience) Oh, I got it all right. Like a cannonball to the stomach causing all that antioxidant-infused blood in my phytochemically saturated body to go straight to my face. I congratulated them, fiddled around with the broccolini for a bit, as though I were actually going to buy it, then quickly disappeared into the 31 Flavors just up the block from here. I had them pile the rocky-road up so high, that it was hard to keep it from tumbling off the cone. (quite seriously) But that’s okay. Because when ingested in sufficient amounts, ice cream contains two amazing properties: It comforts the ego while nourishing the soul. And if there’s any leftover, it will provide the perfect accompaniment to my birthday cake. (beat) I’m Katie McFarland, and I’m…40. END OF PLAY

n n n For more information on author Joni Ravenna, please visit our Contributors Page.

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


Authors are listed in the order of appearance in the magazine







ARTWORK | ASHLEY RESURRECCION

Ashley Resurreccion

Downpour | drawing CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


ARTWORK | ASHLEY RESURRECCION

Reflection | drawing CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


ARTWORK | ASHLEY RESURRECCION

Ethereal | drawing

Ashley Resurreccion is a Filipina Asian-American, certified 200-hour yoga teacher, and returned United States Peace Corps volunteer (Thailand 130) who graduated from California State University, Northridge, with a BA in Psychology and minors in Sociology, Child Development, and Art. Their previous work promoted mental wellness and educational sustainability through facilitation with The International Child Advocacy Network, Paintbrush Diplomacy, Darien Book Aid, and Self-Discovery Through Art. You can find her on Instagram @twiichii and Twitter @twiischibis

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


ARTWORK | PARKER FUENTES

Parker Fuentes

Self Portrait | Painting Parker Fuentes is a lost damned soul rendering his views on existence with paint. At a young age, he felt like the oddball of the bunch. His views, thoughts, pathways were always different from those around him. Growing up with this dilemma Parker floated into his mind. What he found were dreamscapes, imaginary worlds of pure beauty. These would come to be Parker’s first paintings when he was 17-18. As he brought these dreamscapes to life on canvas, it all started to make sense. From there his damned soul finally showed itself, the battle began. From the start of Parker’s paintings, they've highlighted his battle with himself and how he fits into society. The piece, titled “Self Portrait,” shows how the societal pathway would view him in his doings.

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


ARTWORK | DOODLER SKELLY

Doodler Skelly

Ruin Lizard | digital art CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


ARTWORK | DOODLER SKELLY

No Man’s Megastructure | digital art CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


ARTWORK | DOODLER SKELLY

Titan Tank Palette | digital art

Titan Moebius Palette | digital art

Titan Original Palette | digital art

Titan Hyper Palette | digital art

Doodler Skelly is an anonymous, self-taught, 18-year-old artist from Finland. He mostly draws all kinds of weird creatures and fantasy environments. He considers himself a rather new artist, as he’s taken art more seriously for only 2 years now. His medium of art is a weird one. He makes all of his line arts traditionally, only colors are digital. What he tells people everywhere is just simply: “I draw stuff.” You can find him on Instagram @doodleskelly

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


ARTWORK | MAGDALENE LUNBERY

Magdalene Lunbery

The Handshake| Sketch Art

My name is Magdalene Lunbery and I currently study fashion design and French language at Arizona State University. When I was 15 years old, my high school offered a class which included a field trip to the mall – and that was a fashion class. Little did I know then that the class I took as a teenaged mall rat, would introduce me into a world that I would eat, breathe, and sleep 24/7. My specialty in fashion lies in menswear design and I plan to move to Italy to study men’s fashion after I graduate with my undergrad in fall of 2021. The character I have created is named Jacques Opulence who is a snooty French know-it-all who is perpetually dissatisfied. Follow her on Instagram @magdalene_lunbery

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


ARTWORK | POLINA REED

Polina Reed

23.01 | digital art

Alter Ego | digital art

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SPRING 2021


ARTWORK | POLINA REED

Sunset In Oslo | digital art

Hi, my name is Polina. I am from Ukraine but currently based in Oslo, Norway. I am a self-taught digital artist and I enjoy drawing everything from landscapes to human and animal portraits. I get inspired very easily by everything, especially nature, sunsets and good music. During quarantine I managed to put all stress and available hours into developing my skills, and now I feel a huge satisfaction looking at all that massive work I have done over the last months. But being able to share it here and let you have a look is the most pleasant part for me, I guess. Still, I try to keep the pace and learn daily, as I really want my future job to be artistic. Other than art, I do enjoy working out, yoga and stretching. That is what really helps after sitting in front of a graphics tablet for hours! You can find more of my work on Instagram @polinareedart

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


ARTWORK | CARSON OWENS

Carson Owens

Wet Feathers | mixed media

Truth Seeker Tears | mixed media CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


ARTWORK | CARSON OWENS

Tesseract | acrylic

Carson Owens is a nineteen-year-old, predominantly self-taught artist from Phoenix, Arizona. Her affinity for art began at an early age. Within her first-grade math workbook, she opted to draw dogs in the margins of the pages over practicing her addition. She does not recommend this, although she does attribute this level of dedication to be the spark that ignited her love affair with creating. After many years of drawing, she took an interest in painting after having access to acrylic paint in her uncle Addo’s painting studio. The rest is history. She can be contacted on Instagram under the name @findthatmind for commissions or to keep up with her Photograph by Andrea Perrone. Instagram @andreacperrone

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creations!

SPRING 2021


ARTWORK | HEATHER WEECH

Heather Weech

First Day of School | painting

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


ARTWORK | HEATHER WEECH

Meeting Someone New | painting When Heather Weech was young she had the good fortune of living next to a ceramicist, having access to an excellent junior high art teacher, and the bonus of a painterly parent. However, she turned her back on pursuing the fine arts to complete a Bachelor of Art in Sociology and a Master of Public Administration, both from Arizona State University. It was at ASU that Heather connected with the, then student, artist Laura Spalding Best. Years after they both graduated from ASU, Laura inspired Heather to reconnect with her art through oils. Thanks to Laura, when the pandemic hit, Heather had her oils at the ready. Painting has become a medium for Heather to express the pain and hope rising from our current limitations and future potential. Heather finds it a great privilege that the same institution that awarded her academic credentials is now recognizing her within Canyon Voices for the art she so long left unattended.

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


ARTWORK | ALBERTO ESCAMILLA

Alberto Escamilla

Moonlight Over The Cotton Field | painting

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SPRING 2021


ARTWORK | ALBERTO ESCAMILLA

Winter Round| Painting

A professional artist since 1978, Alberto is one of the leading Impressionist painters in the El Paso border region. An award-winning artist, he was inducted into the El Paso Artist Hall of Fame, October 22, 2004, and a finalist in the 2009/2010 Texas State Artist competition. He has collectors throughout the United States, Mexico, Europe, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and numerous corporations. Cormac McCarthy, famed author, is a collector of Alberto’s work. Alberto’s work is available at his gallery Escamilla’s Fine Art Gallery 1445 Main Street Ste. B1-2, San Elizario, TX. Mail address: 1457 Amstater Circle El Paso, TX 79936 (915) 851-0742 www.albertoescamilla.com

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info@albertoescamilla.com

SPRING 2021


ARTWORK | ZACHARY KOMOROWSKI

Zack Komorowski

Delicate iridescence| Photograph CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


ARTWORK | ZACHARY KOMOROWSKI

Catching Sunlight | Photograph

Zachary classifies himself as a human first and an artist second. The reverse just doesn’t seem to work. Beyond digital and film photography, he writes poetry, short fiction, and most importantly, back to you if you send him a letter. He is based in Michigan. You can find him on Instagram @zacharymk_ and zacharykomorowski.com.

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


ARTWORK | CASSELL ARCHINUK

Cassell Archinuk

Granite Beauty| photograph CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


ARTWORK | CASSELL ARCHINUK

Bridge | photograph CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


ARTWORK | CASSELL ARCHINUK

Lone Road| photograph CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


ARTWORK | CASSELL ARCHINUK

Desert Oasis| photograph

My name is Cassell Archinuk of Cassy Arch Photography and I am a passionate photographer who loves to capture landscapes, nature and people with gorgeous scenic backgrounds. I love nature and the outdoors as it provides a sense of peace, balance and beauty and also love to capture the feeling and emotion of the love between two people, family joy, and many other portrait scenarios. I specialize in natural light photography and use that to bring the 'wow' factor into a photo. I feel like that is one thing that sets me apart because I understand the surrounding landscapes and how to best use this natural light to accentuate the photos In the best possible way. Arizona and the Southwest are a favorite to photograph with so much diversity it has to offer, but I have loved capturing the mountains and beaches as well. From weddings, elopements and engagements , you can’t go wrong with such a variety of backgrounds to choose from. Reach her here: Instagram @cassyarchphotography | Portrait Website- www.Cassyarchphotography.com Print website- www.thepaintedlens.com | Facebook- cassyarchphotography | carchinuk@gmail.com

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SPRING 2021




AUTHORS ALCOVE | DOODLER SKELLY

The Hidden Mind: Exploring Unconscious Creativity with Doodler Skelly By Jared Rusnak

In the act of creation, you inevitably imbue a portion of yourself into your work—whether you intend to or not. In visual art, you are quite literally placing a visual representation of a part of yourself onto paper for others to look upon, interpret, and relate to. It’s a brilliant medium where the artist may find no ‘deeper meaning’ in their work while the onlooker may find something profound. This was my relationship with Doodler Skelly’s artwork. I was instantly enthralled by the entirely alien, yet oddly familiar, scenes he depicted. As a writer and a researcher, I’m always inclined to believe that there are explanatory reasons for everything and meaning behind anything. So after seeing Skelly’s work, I imagined themes of setting out into a strange world and finding one’s place in it or exploring things once thought to be alien only to realize they are much more akin to oneself than originally thought. But I wanted to know for sure, so it was clear I had to interview him. Once you’ve read this interview, you can imagine my surprise when Skelly responded in the fashion he did. His distinctive and enchanting art style, to him, was no more than a series of improvised “doodles.” To me, they were scenes from a story and messengers of meaning. But ultimately, that is what brought me to the highest level of respect for this emerging artist. He does not create for some higher purpose, but only because it is “something [he] can do.” But because of his simplistic motive, Skelly uncovers “unexplainable and unknown parts of the human consciousness,” that onlookers like me can find something meaningful and inspiring in. Read on to find more comments by Skelly about this hidden mind in each of us, and view his contact information at the bottom of the interview if you wish to get into contact with him. Why do you create art? This is something I have honestly thought about for a long time, and still don't have a complete answer for. One part of it is probably that I simply create art because I can. It's something I can do. It might be the ability to visualize really detailed scenes in my head or, what I believe is that I have some natural talent, that I have built upon, which makes making art and drawing my "primary skill" in life. It's simply the thing I chose to build my skills on and to see where the journey takes me. In regards to what kind of message I want to deliver with it, I don't really have one. I'm an improviser, and my art is something I create partly for the sake of creating art. It's also really interesting to see what the human brain is capable of, what kind of otherworldly things I can visualize and create. I would love to be able to make a living with my art someday.

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


AUTHORS ALCOVE | DOODLER SKELLY

What led you to start creating art? I have been drawing since I was a kid. I was always inspired by games I played on my NDS, those being New Super Mario Bros, The Kirby series, and Rayman, and I would draw my own platforming levels inspired by those games. As I said, I think I have always had a wild imagination and the ability to visualize detailed scenes in my head, so partly it was a natural talent. It felt easy and logical to start building on it. I had a moment of realization around 2017-18, where I thought that I don't really know what I would like to do with my life. What would I like to do when I grow up, what's my dream? I thought about all the different things I enjoy, and drawing was one of them. In 2019 I really started going into art and taking it seriously, I created my Instagram account @doodleskelly and started posting my creations there. Instagram gave me inspiration, feedback, and motivation to continue, and that has taken me where I am now. Something that always struck me when I observed your art was it seemed so unworldly yet oddly familiar. Has your art always been this way? I started out with drawing simpler things from life; castles and houses and other buildings. Those helped me practice my fundamentals, mostly perspective. I first started with pencil drawings, and then I experimented with different ink markers and pens. I ended up on a 0.5mm ink marker, which is the type of pen I still use today. With that, I moved more into designing characters and developing my style. I drew a lot of dark fantasy-type tattoo compositions and character designs. That mixed in with my wobbly, cartoony lines started to define my style. Later, about a year ago, I got more into sci-fi, as I was playing a lot of No Man's Sky. That game has been inspiring, it really made me want to create my own otherworldly scenes, and so I did. I also started to explore more different artists, new and old. There, I found Moebius, and I was instantly inspired by his art and the worlds he had created. There I got more inspiration to push on the weird side of things and make even weirder and more psychedelic style illustrations. My art seeming oddly familiar might be that I take a lot of inspiration from the games I play, the movies I watch and mix them all together, so there's some small part of them in my art, which people will notice, with or without me noticing. A wilder explanation for the familiarity could be coming from my drawing technique, where I don't sketch or plan at all, but draw straight with ink on paper, making the end result something truly unique and surreal from the unexplainable and unknown parts of the human consciousness. Could you describe your artistic process to me? What happens in between the moment you sit down and the moment your work is finished? My artistic process is pretty simple, I think at least. First, I think about drawing. Do I feel like drawing? If yes, I will sit down to draw. Sometimes I will force myself to sit in front of the empty canvas. That is the starting point. I stare at the pure whiteness of the perfect paper and try to think of even the smallest of things where I could start. Sometimes this thinking process can take about 5 minutes, sometimes I have an idea in my head for hours before sitting down to draw. It's something I cannot control, the ideas will just appear in my head, not through my focus, but out of nowhere, from the depths of the mind. When an idea pops up, I will start to draw. I do so straight on paper with an ink marker. The way I draw, I call doodling, that's where my name comes from. - I doodle, so I'm a doodler, meaning: I improvise. Details, textures, shapes, I go with the flow and draw the first thing that comes to my mind. I usually listen to music or the occasional podcast during this process. I stop once I'm satisfied with the image I have created, or once I'm out of energy and it's time for a break. Drawing the line art takes about 3-4 hours in total.

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


AUTHORS ALCOVE | DOODLER SKELLY

Then, usually the next day, I take a picture of the lineart with my phone and move it to my PC, where I open it up on Krita and edit it so that I have only pure black and white pixels. Next, I simply start clicking colors in with the paint bucket tool. I try to pick complementary colors and work from there. Once I have everything colored, I start to work with really simple layers. I add shadows, highlights, and gradients. The last step is just having fun with the color balance and hue sliders. That's where I get the vibrancy and alien colors from. You say you are an anonymous artist, which might strike some people as odd or even refreshing in a day and age where at times it seems creators tend to value recognition over their creations themselves. Could you describe why you chose to stay anonymous? I don't think staying anonymous is anything odd, really. From what I have seen, Instagram is filled with smaller artists just like me, who have a cool avatar they created as their profile picture, just having fun and posting their art. I'm not that serious about staying anonymous. For example, everyone that is interested enough will get to know my name easily when they do some digging. It just feels safer in a way. When you are starting out, it's easier to wear a mask in front of the crowd when you are presenting your mediocre creations and taking in the criticism and feedback. I might even post a selfie one day on my Instagram in the form of some of the challenges like #toonme or #artvsartist, of course, once I have the confidence and the following to do so. In the end, it's the art that matters, not the face of the artist. On the topic of your artist persona, let's talk about your name for a moment. What does Doodler Skelly mean? Doodler Skelly, doodleskelly, Mazoni. Those are the names I go by on social media. The "doodle" -part comes from my drawing technique, which I explained earlier. It's about improvising and going with the flow. "Skelly'' is short for skeleton. My friends call me that sometimes and it's also how I see my own body. I'm a tall and skinny guy. I also draw lots of skeletons and bones. But totally, the name is just something I came up with really quickly and didn't put that much thought into it when creating my Instagram account. Your art seems to hold a consistent theme of merging distant past and future. Could you attempt to describe the purpose behind this, or if there is no purpose- its purposelessness? I have always been inspired by nature. I spent my whole childhood adventuring in the forests that surround my house. Also, the imagery in Hayao Miyazakis' films picturing ruins, giant robots, and rusty machines covered in plants and taken over by nature is something absolutely beautiful. That kind of distant past and future merging is what I also want to show in my art. There's something special about discovering something forgotten and ancient, and the mysteries surrounding it. I'm not trying to put any kind of a message out there with my art, but it's as if I wanted the world to be like that; filled with abandoned machines and mysteries of the ancient past, taken over by nature. It's something I would love to explore around, so I have to create it myself and live in that world through dreaming it in my art. In what ways do these magnificent images you create appear to you? Do they come in dreams, do you see them in the world around you, do they emerge from the paper when you sit down, or something else? As I described earlier, the images simply pop randomly in my head. The image also changes from the original thought during drawing, when I get new ideas halfway, instead of one idea, it becomes an execution and merging of two. Thinking about this more deeply, it's as if there's a hidden realm of infinite creative potential inside my head, where these images are locked up, but they sometimes leak

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


AUTHORS ALCOVE | DOODLER SKELLY

out to the more common headspace. That makes me think, do we all have this hidden part in our minds? Could you name some specific Artists or works of art from any medium that have, or do, inspire you? I'm inspired by many other artists, the games I play and the movies I have watched. Artists that inspire, or have inspired me are mainly CROM Cristian Ortiz and Moebius. When It comes to games, I mainly pick them based on their art direction and worldbuilding. Here are some of my favorites: Hollow Knight, Dark Souls III, Hyper Light Drifter, No Man's Sky, Risk of Rain 2, Dead Cells, Scourgebringer, and Minecraft. Movies that have inspired me: Castle In the Sky, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, and Howl's Moving Castle, basically all Ghibli Movies! Do you have any hobbies outside of creating art? Hobbies that I have tied into my art process, as you can see, are playing games and movies, that make me want to create worlds of my own. Then there's running. Running is an interesting one. It's like a drug or a tool. I can't function without it really. My brain simply works the best after a run and that's when I get most of my ideas. Is there any event, or mixture of events, that goes on in your day-to-day life that you would like to give credit to for helping you create? It definitely has to be running, it's such a powerful tool to get back on my feet when I'm feeling art block. It helps so much. Do you have aspirations for your art? What do you hope to personally accomplish from your art? What do you hope for your art itself to accomplish? I don't really have a long-term plan for my art. I try to focus on the present and consistently try my best. I will see where that will take me, and the direction has been positive so far, all I can do is go further. I simply just want to create, because I can. I'm not trying to put any message out there with my art either. All I hope is that I enjoy creating it, and many people or someone will enjoy the image or the world I have created. If there was one thing you could tell anyone and everyone who looks at your art, what would that message be? I want to tell the people looking at my art to understand that I created it by imagining something surreal and through improvising. I didn't plan it too much, it just happened. If someone wanted to reach you to commission your art, for professional or personal purposes, where could they do so? You can contact me on Instagram @doodleskelly, or simply email me: doodlerskeleton@gmail.com

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


AUTHORS ALCOVE | EMMA ZIMMERMAN

A Journalistic Take: A Look into Emma Zimmerman’s Writing Process By Lisa Diethelm

Writing is a journey, and Emma Zimmerman knows the path all too well. While she has always loved writing, Zimmerman explored her other interests in policy and environmental studies in her undergraduate studies. Today, she is earning her MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing and runs her own sports podcast that tackles everything she finds interesting. When I read the piece “Hair,” I just had to pick Zimmerman’s brain on her writing process. As a journalist myself, I know what it is like to have and pursue multiple interests from varying genres. So, when we connected remotely, I found how Zimmerman navigates her two specialties— journalism and creative writing—and how, at times, she merges it all together. “I view my journalism and creative writing as different entities,” she said. “That being said, I really enjoy the mix of journalistic and creative nonfiction work—they both serve their purposes, and it’s fun to explore different registers.” When did you start writing? I have always been writing! I wrote my dad a novel for his birthday when I was eight years old. I am sure that it was entirely unreadable, but he read the whole thing (I am so sorry, Dad). I think it was early in high school when I decided that writing was not a real career and that I needed to pursue something “prestigious” like medicine or law or policy. It took until my senior year of college to realize that what I really wanted was to be a writer. What is your favorite thing about being a writer? Writing is a really great tool to use for understanding the world and challenging the systems of oppression within it. Writing also forces me to sit down. I am a real-life energizer bunny; I am not great at this sitting thing. What was your writing process for “Hair?” It went something like this: I woke up at 4:30 in the morning with the first line in my head, and could not fall back asleep because it haunted me. So, I got up and wrote feverishly with a cup of coffee for a few hours. Insomnia is a curse, but I have it to thank for a lot of my writing. I edited “Hair” sporadically over the following week, and then I was so lucky to have my MFA workshop at NYU read it and provide me with some valuable feedback for the final edits. Was there anything specific that inspired you to write “Hair?” I’ve been writing about eating disorders and mental illness for a while. But, recently, I have been thinking more about bodies as metaphors. Bodies hold countless stories of trauma and pain—especially the bodies of women and non-binary individuals. I find it interesting to consider bodies as both the things that mask those stories and sometimes, the physical manifestations of those stories.

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


AUTHORS ALCOVE | EMMA ZIMMERMAN

"Hair" follows the ups and downs of growing up and dives into your journey of finding yourself. Was it ever difficult to write a sentence or section of your story? My fear when writing personal things comes from considering what others will think of me (selfconsciousness is ugly, but it’s real). When I wrote “Hair,” I was not thinking about others reading it, so I can’t say it was difficult. I also think the "you" address, while primarily a tool to implicate the reader, can also act as an emotional barrier for the writer. Is this really my story? I’m not sure. It could be yours. What do you hope people will take away after reading your piece? I hope people will think about their own coming-of-age and the ways that societal gender norms have played out on their bodies. I hope they’ll question those norms and, especially, the way girls are socialized to think about, and treat, their bodies. In addition to pieces like "Hair," you have written on a variety of topics, like the environment, social justice, and sports, in your career. How does your writing process work across all of your projects? My writing in the sports sphere is often journalistic, so that process involves more structure, interviewing, fact-checking, etc. My creative nonfiction writing allows me to play with words, rhythms, and perspectives and is less tied down by grammar or literalism. I view my journalism and creative writing as different entities. That being said, I really enjoy the mix of journalistic and creative nonfiction work—they both serve their purposes, and it’s fun to explore different registers. Why do you like to write about these topics? I like writing about anything that challenges the structures, norms, or power dynamics that make up our society. That’s the type of writing I like to read. Honestly, I think that’s what any good writing does—challenge what we know. You host your own podcast, the Social Sport Podcast, where you speak with different athletes about social change. What do you like the most about hosting a show like this? It’s an incredible excuse to talk with inspiring people. I’m a huge running nerd, but I never envisioned myself working in sports journalism. Then, I realized that sports, especially endurance sports, provide a great platform to talk about the issues that really matter in this world. It is such a gift to be able to combine so many of my passions: endurance sports, storytelling, and social change. Do you have any advice for writers who also have multiple interests? If you’re passionate about something, don’t be afraid to go for it. Imposter syndrome can be a crippling thing. I almost didn’t apply to MFA programs because I was afraid I would not measure up—I didn't major in English or Creative Writing in college; I just really wanted to be a writer. I was sure that, if I got in, I would be the most under-qualified student in any program. I am so grateful that I did apply because getting my MFA has been such an enriching experience. The same thing goes for starting the Social Sport Podcast. I literally started it in my parents’ basement. I had no business starting my own podcast. But also, I did! Because I was passionate about it! What I mean by all of this is: don’t forgo your creative aspirations out of fear.

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


AUTHORS ALCOVE | MICHAEL MONTALI

Discussing the “Proust Effect” On the Phone with Michael Montali By Michael Arbizo

After reading Michael Montali’s short and not-sosweet poem, I had many delicate questions about The Lavender. I wondered if the author was aware of “the Proust effect”? I knew some of the subject matter might be difficult to discuss so I chose an “old school” method of communicating with the author: a phone call. We had to pick the right time since he was calling from New York City, a three-hour time difference. It was awesome to just have a conversation with another human being and gain some insight into his creative process. The topic discussed is one of great pain for many and I want to assure our readers that by publishing the piece we took this into consideration. We never intend any harm with what we give space to. We also have a duty to showcase literary works of quality that highlight the human experience and by doing so we hope to create a world of empathy. When smells trigger memories it is called “The Proust Effect.” Many people associate lavender with relaxation, and you took it in another direction with this piece. Were you aware of “The Proust Effect” and was it part of the inspiration behind The Lavender? Yes! I actually did know about this as I was researching for the poem. I wanted to change the sense from sight to either something like touch but instead I went with smell and then I thought of lavender because I was looking for a flower. I did a lot of research on which flower to pick and why? I thought it was interesting to kind of turn the concept of lavender on its head a little bit and to take something that most people associate with relaxation or some calmness and kind of use that to actually trigger something more painful and difficult. So, it was a conscious choice to do that, and also, I was reading that lavender is a symbol historically in literature for purity. You know it's kind of like ruining somebody, by taking innocence away from someone, right? So that's why I went with lavender because of the purity thing and also because everybody loves the smell of lavender, it's such a calm serene feeling which is great, but I thought how can I make this just turn into something completely different right? The poem contains strong imagery that brought up a lot of discussion in our poetry board meeting. Does the poem stem from a personal experience?

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


AUTHORS ALCOVE | MICHAEL MONTALI

This story is actually based off of a female I know and I’m not going to give too much information. But I chose to kind of go gender-neutral like with the word orifice. I felt like that could go either to a young male or young female or a young anything, right? I tried to kind of blur the lines, definitely specifically to remove the gender of the particular victim or however you want to label it. Actually, funny you ask ‘cause I am married and have kids. My wife read the poem and she was like “Oooo, I don't know about it. Those things are pretty graphic.” Yeah, I think a lot of people were really not sure about it. Instantly when I read it I thought this has a place on our pages. People need to see this type of reconfiguration of trauma. It needs to be exposed and not tolerated. You presented it in a way that has an effect on people, and you almost have to read it twice or three times to really grasp it. Do you agree? Yeah, I kind of intentionally wanted a little bit of not quite shock, but just a little bit of filth in there something to bring it down. So definitely, all of those things kind of added up with using the lavender to be something that is not necessarily associated with trauma and making it non-gender specific to result in a different experience. It is part of the true story that this person's mother was definitely asleep in the other room. I thought that it could be another potential trigger 'cause it's really not just the lavender, it's also the fact that there are other things, another kind of creepy, symbolic similarities that trigger such as the sleeping mother as we discussed. They are in a place that is difficult to get to and you're up there almost on your own, way up in the highrise, and your mother is asleep, and you get this smell that was the same thing that happened many years ago and it just kind of takes you there in a psychological way. I wanted to be sure I wasn’t too wordy or give too many descriptions so now everybody can hopefully relate to it in some way. I know now that even though this trauma was based on someone else's experience, it impacted you in such a way that you did research and looked for the perfect flower, and formulated this piece. Has writing always been a great way for you to express yourself? Also how old were you when you discovered you enjoyed writing? I was really young when I started writing. I read as a young kid and I always tried to write poetry and short stories and stuff like that, but songwriting became the thing that came more than easily and naturally, I guess. Doors opened up for me into my teenage years and young adult years. I was able to pursue music and in particular songwriting. I achieved a profession that involves travel and playing in a band and stuff, so it's always been definitely a passion of mine to have this creative outlet. It’s very therapeutic, which is similar to this kind of piece in a weird way. So, I've always loved it and then during the pandemic you know I grew up in New York City. I live in New York City and you know the city was shut down, so I used it as an opportunity to go to Graduate School, which is what I'm doing now to re-find my voice in poetry and expand my writing into creative fiction. I wanted to go beyond songwriting that I’ve been focused on for much of my adult life.

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


AUTHORS ALCOVE | MICHAEL MONTALI

Congratulations. I agree it’s never too late to finish your education, we are both in the same boat. I ‘googled’ your name and found out that you are in a band called Hollis Brown. You sort of answered the question if you were a musician or a writer first? Yes, well I think there is a blurring of the lines of what came first. Does the band know that you submitted Poetry to Canyon Voices? Or is poetry some hidden secret of yours? No. No. The band knows. Well, a lot of song lyrics are actually poetry. For example, Bob Dylan is like a hero of mine and he just won a Nobel Prize for poetry. I still try not to write surface-level songs all the time, so they do know that I kind of love the creative writing side of things. I'll share some short stories and sometimes they think that’s cool. I don’t think they know that I specifically submitted for this particular publication. Well, I am sure they will find out soon enough. How did you discover Canyon Voices and how to submit your work? Do you have any words for writers or artists who are shying away from submitting because of provocative themes or a lack of self-confidence? Actually, my professor at Community College of New York shared the email with the class because someone that works for Canyon Voices reached out via email. I did some research into the magazine. I read one of the issues and just kind of thought, what could I insert? Or what if there was anything I had that would potentially be a good fit and then I just submitted. In terms of young writers, I think no matter what your experience is, it's always a risk when, well not risk, but you always feel like you're taking a risk when you're opening up your thoughts or your work to other people. It’s the same thing with songs, like the first time I show a song to somebody there's like this self-conscious feeling to it, wondering are they going to like it? Learning that you're gonna be rejected about 99.5% of the time in an artistic endeavor and just having the persistence to keep submitting and keep writing and keep doing it is something that it takes. So I guess Tenacity might be the kind of thing that I would say for people to have. Just put yourself out there and if they say “No” then it’s their loss. Those are great words. I appreciate them. I want to take this time to thank you for being here today and for being a part of Canyon Voices Issue 23. Are there any last words that you want to linger on the senses? Speak from the heart! Writing about real things really tends to connect. Reach Michael Montali @ m.montali@yahoo.com

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


AUTHORS ALCOVE | CANDICE SNYDER

Finding Kindred Spirits: Mystical Insights from Candice Snyder By Hayden Tenney

Candice Snyder is a student at Arizona State University with a passion for creation. I felt this very passion when I read her poems “after life” and “tributary” for the first time a few weeks ago. I wanted to learn more about the person behind these exquisite pieces, so I sent her an email. We conversed a little and I came to appreciate her work on a whole new level. We all have something in us that yearns to be nourished. A desire, a hope, an idea, a talent. These things are often the things that make us, us, and sharing these things with others can make them feel that same nourishment. I think for Candice, that thing is poetry, and I sure am glad she chose to share it with us. I hope you can find this same appreciation as you read her poems and learn more about her journey as a poet. When and how did you start writing poetry? Growing up, I sporadically kept diaries and journals that slowly transitioned online as I discovered blogs and, crucially, got my own computer. I began peppering those journal entries with little poems here and there in my teens until eventually poetry became the primary outlet for all my thoughts and feelings and fantasies. I can’t say for sure what prompted me to start writing poetry way back when, but thanks to the powers of a digital archive, I still have copies of all of my earliest poems. Reading over them now is funny, because it feels like someone else wrote them even though I can sense my own voice, however unformed. Is your poetry influenced by any other poets? If so, who, and what do you like about their poetry? I’m very drawn to spoken word poetry, and one of the first spoken word poets that made an impact on me was Andrea Gibson. They have such a way with language and metaphor and can make magic out of such an ordinary moment or, alternatively, make big issues not small but approachable and accessible and beautiful. The way they perform has really made me think about not just my use of words but also their interaction with the pace and flow in my own work. Why do you write poetry? I write poetry because it helps me process what happens around me and what happens inside my head. Sometimes my thoughts can become so muddled and twisted up that giving them this form and structure helps me to untangle the core of whatever issue or idea or event has been circling in my head. I know that I need to sit down and write when my thoughts start to rhyme or form a rhythm—at this point I think I’ve trained my brain to think in verse if it’s working through something.

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


AUTHORS ALCOVE | CANDICE SNYDER

I am in a poetry workshop right now, though, which has had an interesting effect on my writing process. Usually, my work is either fairly personal or in some way inspired by the people or events or media in my life, but writing from the prompts in this workshop class has made me realize that there really is so much more that I could be writing about. I’m honestly interested to see where my poetry is headed because I think it might surprise me. Do you do any other writing other than poetry? If so, what is it? Not really, unless we’re counting the captions for my cat’s Instagram account. If so, feel free to read more with @dr_gustav_pepper, also known as Gus, the cutest boy around. Where is your favorite place to write? I have these romantic notions of scribbling in little notebooks at a café somewhere, surrounded by coffee cups and crumpled pages, but mostly my writing happens very unromantically at my desk, usually late at night in a burst of poorly timed inspiration. I did write a poem or two on a train from Amsterdam to Antwerp, which I think might be my favorite writing place to date. How has writing changed your life? Writing has given me permission to not be perfect right away, or even at all. The process of beginning and coming back, for revising, to crafting over time has been very healing for me, especially as someone with very high and usually unrealistic standards not just for my writing but for most aspects of my life. I am so grateful for the grace I’ve been able to give myself because of it. What gives you inspiration to write? Inspiration comes to me in so many different forms—conversations with a friend, walks in nature, a movie or tv show, difficult personal moments as well as happy ones, my relationships—any of these and more could be the seed of a poem. I think what pushes me to pursue that spark is the feeling I get when the words feel just right, when I know that I’ve made something more than what I started with. Creation is just the right kind of addictive. What would you say is the most important thing that people take away from your poetry? Because they usually start so close to home, I’m forever amazed that people read and can find a connection to my poems at all. I never write with any specific takeaway in mind, but my absolute favorite thing is when people can find themselves in my words. Every time it feels like meeting a kindred spirit, an unexpected, joyous recognition of self in the endless other of the world. Maybe that’s my take-away—we are never alone because we are all in each other. Could you let us in on your creative process for when you created “after life”? That poem was inspired by a conversation I had on a first date a couple years ago, actually. We sat outside and talked about everything and anything for hours and hours, and when the topic of an afterlife came up, I was so struck by her thoughts on the nature of the universe and our spiritual energy that I eventually wrote a poem, this poem, about it and about her. I think it was probably the best first date I’ve ever had, and certainly the most inspiring. Both “after life” and “tributary” seem to have deep aspects of a sort of spirituality, how related are these concepts to your own thoughts/beliefs?

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


AUTHORS ALCOVE | CANDICE SNYDER

My thoughts about spirituality are nebulous, to some degree, but I do relate to concepts in both poems. I believe that we all impact the universe in some shape or form, whether from our actions in life or our energy beyond, and I also think that there are brilliant, magical aspects of living that can’t be explained or maybe even understood, not completely. And how splendid to not know, to be able to wonder endlessly—the last, best gift from the universe. What are some of your plans/hopes for your future in poetry? I hold no ambitions to start a career as a poet, but that being said, I would very much like to publish a book of my poetry at some point in the future. My first love was reading, and the physical, touching nature of books holds a special place in my heart. To be able to create and hold and share my own book would be the realization of many a childhood dream. As far as my writing itself, I hope to continue to grow my voice and find more kindred spirits through my words and in myself.

CANYON VOICES

SPRING 2021


AUTHORS ALCOVE | ISABELLA RESTIFO

Stepping out of the Classroom: An After-School Special with Isabella By Courtney Corboy

Isabella Restifo is a high school student during the day. In the evening, she’s a writer. Finding the balance between school and writing is hard; however, Isabella manages. She steps out of the classroom to hop onto her email for a fun, virtual interview. Writing is both fun and challenging. Can you tell us about your writing process? Is there something you must have or must do before you can write? Honestly, I don’t really have a writing process. I’m very lucky in the fact that my writing ideas tend to just come to me randomly. I’ve found that if I’m patient and just continue to go through life, my writing has its own way of finding me. For me trying to get myself to write by sitting down and saying I’m going to write something just makes it ten times harder to write anything at all. My writing comes naturally, almost like riding a bike. What inspired your story “The Field”? Was the idea fictional or personal? “The Field” was a story I wrote for my AP English class in early August. The assignment was to write an essay that used the same writing techniques as John Steinbeck, the author of The Grapes of Wrath. The story is fictional, but it does have many similarities to my childhood experience with my father and family. Although the story had added fictional aspects, the emotions were very real. What has been the biggest challenge writing “The Field”? Can you share why? I think the most challenging part of writing “The Field” was definitely convincing myself to delve back into the experiences and emotions I felt as a child. Finding a way to put what I was thinking onto paper was a challenge in itself as I wanted to make sure that I was able to encapsulate my past feelings in a way that gave people a look into my adolescent mental state. What was the easiest part of writing “The Field”? The easiest part of writing “The Field” was continuing the story. I had originally stopped the story at the point when Lyla’s father was no longer around. I made the decision to add to the story as a way to express my hopes for the future. It was fairly straightforward for me as I had long been thinking about what kind of relationship I wanted to have with my future spouse and child. Have you explored other modes of storytelling (such as poetry) outside of fiction? Actually, the majority of what I write is poetry. I have an immense love for poetry, and I hope that my first book will be a poetry book. This piece was definitely a bit out of my comfort zone, but I hope to continue expanding my writing styles and attempt to write more stories like this one. Poetry, for me, is like an escape, and it gives me a feeling of safety and gives me solace when I need it. Are there any authors who influenced you to become a writer? Did any author in particular influence your story? I’ve always loved writing, but I have to admit the people who influenced me to become a writer ironically were two of my English teachers. In seventh grade, when I was at a very dark time in my life, my English teacher pushed me to try writing as a way to work through my anxiety and depression. In CANYON VOICES

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AUTHORS ALCOVE | ISABELLA RESTIFO

doing that, I found my passion for poetry and writing in general. The other woman who urged me to do better was my current English teacher Mrs. Cunningham. She's the entire reason I submitted to Canyon Voices, and without her, I wouldn’t be doing this interview. I am extremely grateful for both of these women who helped me get here. How long have you been writing? Do you remember your first piece of writing? Can you share anything about that piece? I started writing when I was twelve years old and the majority of what I wrote wasn’t very good, but it did help ease my mind when my thoughts went into overdrive. Writing didn’t become serious for me until I turned fourteen, which was when I realized writing was something I wanted to pursue throughout my lifetime. Since then, writing has embedded its way into everything I do, and I truly adore it. My first piece of writing was a poem I wrote in seventh grade. It’s pretty bad and my writing has evolved in many ways since I first started. It was a very emotional piece as all I was trying to do was free myself from all of the anger and sadness that had built up. I’m proud of that piece because it was the start of making my way here. Do you write in the morning or the evening? I tend to write more in the evenings as my mind is finally able to process the events of the day and I’m able to fully translate my feelings into poems and stories. It’s often that I wake up from my sleep with ideas for new pieces I can write. What’s your favorite part about writing in general? My favorite part would have to be the automatic release I get when I’m able to put my thoughts onto paper. Are you a plotter or a pantser? I am definitely a pantser. I don’t really like planning my writing out. It makes me feel trapped in a way, almost as if I have no room for any authenticity. Would you rather write everything by hand, or type everything? Personally, I prefer to write everything by hand, so all of my thoughts immediately go to the paper. Writing by hand is more intimate for me; it makes me feel more connected with my writing. What’s one piece of writing advice you’ve received? Has it helped you? I think the best advice I’ve received would have to be something I once read. “Writing is an intimate and euphoric way to take a moment and begin to breathe.” Writing is my release. It gives me what I need to live my life in the way I’ve always wanted to. What’s one fun fact about yourself no one else knows about you? I love Capri Suns. They are my absolute favorite thing to drink ever, but only the lemonade flavor. Any other flavor can’t compare to lemonade Capri Suns. I love that! What piece of advice would you give other writers like yourself? You don’t have to be an amazing writer to write. Write what makes you feel like yourself, not what other people want. Writing is an intimate thing, so don’t feel as if you have to share it with someone. Write to be happy not to be perfect. That’s amazing advice! What’s next for you? My hope is to go to college for my masters, work in a publishing house as an acquisitions editor while putting my first book out, get my doctorate, and then finally live out my dream as a world best-selling author living in England writing my next books, and one day traveling around the world to lecture.

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AUTHORS ALCOVE | JONI RAVENNA

Keeping the Spark: A Real Conversation on Life, Art, and the Importance of Infatuation with Joni Ravenna By Sharon Enck

It was 11 a.m. on a Friday morning and in the digital age of email, text, and Zoom, I made an honest-to-goodness, voice-to-voice phone call to the writer of The Green Grocer, Joni Ravenna. It was refreshing to have a real phone conversation, and what started out as a Q&A turned into a gabfest where I felt like I was talking to an old friend I hadn't seen in a while. Thank you for participating in the Canyon Voices Author's Alcove and for submitting your wonderful script, The Green Grocer. You have an impressive and varied background that encompasses journalism, scriptwriting, television hosting/ writing/producing, and a book credit. Have you always known you would have such a diverse career in the entertainment and art world? What were some of the driving forces behind the work you do today? Yes and no. I started writing plays in the fourth grade at the Catholic school I attended. I wrote, produced, and performed my work with my three best friends within various classrooms. But I started my career as an actress. During my time at USC, I rubbed elbows with some of Hollywood's elite like Ally Sheedy and Forest Whitaker, and I even had an agent. But acting did not turn out as I expected, and I ended up getting serious about writing plays. My first was met with mixed reviews, and ultimately it was the negative commentary that drove me into a ten-year hiatus. Yet, that first play is where I met my husband and that hiatus turned into a successful television career hosting/writing/and producing Earth Trek and Great Sports Vacations. How did you become involved with media outlets such as PBS, and The Travel Channel to name a couple, for those particular projects? My husband is a lawyer and suggested cable television as an incredible outlet for my talents. With that, I was able to travel to amazing locations, and I made a lot of contacts. My company, Raven Productions, started out with me lugging equipment and editing, but it grew, and we expanded into other outlets such as ESPN and Fox Sports. But play-writing was still my first love and I eventually returned to it. In The Green Grocer, Katie is on the hunt for the fountain of youth through her diet with some hilarious results and realizations. This is a topic that many women can relate to. What was your inspiration for the script? The idea coincided with me hitting a certain age and the intense pressure that comes along with it. Women are expected to be all things. We need to be good wives, good mothers, successful, and above all, young and attractive looking. Ageism is one of the few "isms" that is still considered acceptable, and the idea is that all women of a certain age need to look like Christie Brinkley or Jennifer Lopez. You

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AUTHORS ALCOVE | JONI RAVENNA

would think, as our power as women grow, the fallacy that you have to look and stay young would diminish. But it hasn't. Were there any autobiographical elements to the piece? Was there a real George? Embarrassingly enough, yes. While working on the TV series Hello Paradise I developed a crush on a much younger actor. But there was nothing physical! I am married and have never been unfaithful. Yet, there's no fool like an old fool and it was a pretty substantial infatuation. Even though I realized how idiotic the whole thing was, as women we need to keep that inner spark alive. That's what Katie in The Green Grocer is experiencing. I even developed a crush on Deepak Chopra during a project! It's good for the soul. While this is a lighthearted script, there are a lot of interesting questions being raised about the aging process, and its psychological effects on women. Was this a conscious decision? Why or why not? Of course. There's the idea that men age like fine wine, and women like expired cheese. I wanted to shine a light on that double standard, and the unrealistic expectations that women face in our youthobsessed society. Most importantly I wanted Katie to achieve self-acceptance about her age and who she is as a woman. I understand that this isn't the first time this play has been produced, but tell us a little bit about the event, One Act Slam Fest, where The Green Grocer will next be presented. How did you become involved with that event? It was supposed to be presented in March of 2020, but then COVID hit. However, I was fortunate enough that another of my plays, Sex, Love, and Premature Evacuation was presented in February in NYC. Right now, I am waiting to hear about dates for The Green Grocer. What are you working on now? Currently, I am working on a play called Deep Pockets Chopra and the 'Isness' Business, a two-hour full-length play called Blinded, and the musical, The Manager which is based on Greg McDonald, the bastard son of Colonel Parker. That one is very intense and features the musical talents of UCLA's Ben Susskind. Also, I just found that my play surrounding some racial injustice at the University of Arkansas, Beethoven and Misfortune Cookies, will be performed at San Antonio's Public Theatre in June. That play has been produced all over. There's also the possible optioning of the book about basketball legend, Ann Meyers Drysdale, called You Let Some Girl Beat You? that I co-wrote. It's so good to be busy. I have never been this busy with my plays! What is the best advice you could give an aspiring writer? My best advice is not to let rejection get to you. It's something I wished I had listened to after my first play because there is always a "yes" waiting for you! And if you want to write, read! If you want to act, watch! Read and watch all the greats, and then some shit too! But above all, be authentic in everything you do. Lastly, how can our readers find out more about you? They can find me, and my work at joniravenna.com

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ABOUT US CANYON VOICES LITERARY & ART MAGAZINE is dedicated to shedding light on the works of emerging and established writers and artists. Founded in the spring of 2010 at Arizona State University’s West campus by one professor, Julie Amparano Garcia, and six students, this journal strives to bring the creativity of writers and artists to light within the community and beyond. Supported by the students and faculty of the School of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies at ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, CANYON VOICES accepts writing and artwork from writers and artists from all corners of our planet and from all walks of life. The work of maintaining and producing this magazine is entirely student driven. Since its formation, CANYON VOICES has expanded into a full credit, hands-on class. Students build a full literary journal each semester, heading every aspect of production, including soliciting submissions, editing, marketing, design and layout, and publication. We strive to bring you an eclectic range of voices each semester.

OUR MISSION At CANYON VOICES our mission is to provide an online environment to highlight emerging and established voices in the artistic community. By publishing works that engender thought, Canyon Voices seeks to enrich the scope of language, style, culture, and gender.

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CONTACT US Questions, comments, feedback? We would love to hear from you. Contact us via email at: CanyonVoicesLitMag@gmail.com You can also visit us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/asucanyonvoices

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SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

SUBMITTING WORK To submit your work, please send it to CanyonVoicesLitMag@gmail.com. Be sure to attach all the work you wish to submit to the email. You may include an author biography and a photo, which will be included in the magazine should your work be chosen for publication. We are affiliated with Arizona State University, and we uphold academic standards. If your work is accepted we reserve the right to make changes. You will be contacted should your work require more extensive edits. We accept simultaneous submissions. All documents submitted should be double spaced with a 12 point font, in either Times New Roman or Arial. Poetry may be single spaced. All written documents must be submitted in (.doc) or (.rtf) format. Artwork may be in JPEG format. All work submitted must have a title.

FICTION Up to two stories may be submitted per issue. Each story may be 20 pages or fewer.

POETRY

CNF

Up to four poems Up to four stories per may be submitted issue. Two pieces may be 20 pages. (no longer than two pages each) per issue.

SCRIPTS Up to two scripts may be submitted per issue. Script maximum 15 pages.

ART Up to ten pieces, with at least 300 dpi or JPEG format (<1 MB). Include detail on medium.

EXPLICIT MATERIALS

READING PERIOD

Because this is a university magazine, submissions containing sexually explicit material and explicit language will be reviewed and determined eligible for publishing depending on the context of the material in the work. Material deemed inappropriate or gratuitous will be rejected.

Our editors read submissions in August, September, and through October 1st for the fall issue. The reading period re-opens in January, February, and through March 1st for the spring.

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