Atlas and Alice Literary Magazine
Issue 1, 2013
Atlas and Alice Literary Magazine
Issue 1, 2013 www.atlasandalice.com firstname.lastname@example.org ÂŠ Atlas and Alice, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR This first issue of Atlas and Alice has been nearly two years in the making. It started, as many things do, with a simple speculative conversation—probably over drinks: Do you think we could operate our own literary magazine? Many of us have probably had conversations like this. About wanting to start up a bar, or a bookstore, or a coffeehouse. For the longest time, I thought Atlas and Alice would suffer the same fate as those other longshot, hair brain startups, but because of a dedicated and energetic group of friends—who, quite frankly, are far more efficient at this than me—Atlas and Alice got its legs. And now here it is, presented to you. The idea behind A&A was intersection, even before we had the name Atlas and Alice ironed out. At the time, we only narrowly defined the idea of intersection. Poetry meets prose. Arts meet sciences. Truth meets lie. In our submissions, we got those kinds of intersections, but to me, the fundamental intersection of our magazine has turned out to be the intersection of minds, the spirit of collaboration that first got A&A going and which, after a protracted reading period, brought it to completion. If there’s anything I’ve learned about the process, it’s that this magazine is a conversation. You won’t find a thesis in our first issue. With any luck, you’ll see pieces speaking to—and sometimes arguing with—each other. We have included pieces that challenged our aesthetic preferences and our understanding of form. In “Works Cited from our Family Vacation to Colonial Williamsburg,” you’ll find our most exaggerated (and humorous and innovative) revision of one of academia’s most dreaded forms. Sam Martone intended his “Fortuna, Land of Hope and Glory” to “function as annotations for a map,” which “can be read in pretty much any order,” so please, skip around, start and stop. Read the magazine and see how pieces speak to each other, how individual pieces might speak to themselves, and most of all, how they speak to you. Before you go off to engage the magazine, I want to note the people involved in its creation. First, I want to thank our writers for their generosity in contributing to a new literary magazine. They exceeded, by far, any expectations we might have had for our fledgling issue. Second, our editors and readers. There’s absolutely no way I could have gotten this magazine off the ground by myself. Our readers’ and editors’ insights excited and sometimes startled me, and their work makes the magazine what it is. Many of our editors were involved in the conception of the magazine, but other friends and colleagues contributed to its realization. To you, I am hugely indebted. I’d like to thank our Managing Editor, Mahtem Shiferraw, for all the practical, logistical work she’s done in actually assembling the magazine into product it is now. Mahtem, you can expect an envelope stuffed full of Monopoly money to be arriving soon. And finally, you, our reader, thanks for visiting us. Without you, this magazine is just another tree falling in the forest with no one around to listen. I hope you enjoy the magazine and spread the word about Atlas and Alice. Brendan Todt Editor in Chief
EDITORIAL BOARD Brendan Todt – Editor in Chief Mahtem Shiferraw – Managing Editor Benjamin Woodard – Fiction Editor Whitney Groves – Fiction Editor Jon Cone – Poetry Editor Liz Blood – CNF Editor
Our lovely readers: Courtney Adams, Nate Adams, Brittany Alsot, Sarah Braud, Bill Conroy, Sarah Kilch Gaffney, Lori Haslem, Glenda Hoheimer, BJ Hollars, Matei Paun, Tim Quirk, Sarah Seltzer, Jamilla Stone, DJ Todt, Ian Wallace.
TABLE OF CONTENTS Naked before the Dead – by Ian Bodkin
15 June, 1942: German Saboteurs Launched from U-584, Landing on the Florida Coast – by Paul David Adkins
Dirt Can’t Talk To Dirt – by Robert Vivian
A Series of Unlikely Explanations – by Deborah Purdy
Alone – by Ashley Boswell A Pattern That Perplexes – by Ashley Boswell
Fortuna, Land of Hope and Glory – by Sam Martone
The American Solider – by Drew Pisarra Lola – by Drew Pisarra
Sanctuary – by Jack Caseros
Portobello Road – by Kaitlyn Duling
Peter Rugowski – by Aimee Henkel
I lie when visiting the hairdresser – by Danielle Hunt
Works Cited from Our Family Vacation to Colonial Williamsburg – by Tom Luckie III
how to become more respectable at your job in four easy steps – by Marie Nunalee
The Chicken or Fish Option – by Brian Clifton
That Letter Never Reached Me – by Priscilla Atkins
DNA Coding Lights - 1
Naked Before the Dead
by Ian Bodkin I’ve never held the nude of a spoon, Caught the reflection of knife to fork Unfastening her narrow strips of labor While boys enjoy the legs & eggs Amidst those spiraling lights—da club —of eighty’s ballads that get stuck all Days in my head to Destiny gyrating Melodies that we both believe absent . . In my garage, Catullus cusses a sparrow, Damns, kills, opines a lack of peck Between her thought & cleave, we are The age, “brushed shoulders already While we travel between the sight of sea . .” —Have you walked up to her—shuffled— spoken in dreams—offered a dance? —My sweaty palms are trying to be more than the stupidity of my intellect. This is what I will weigh before closed blinds as neighbors walk down through a transom —Do you write with your hand? —I wake or stumble to a robe behind the door, all manner of warmth has left me . Thank you for continuing to count Strewn or in speaking freely hung Between the broken limbs we would Say is a deer at his antlers along our Road . . dogs have stolen Our spotlight again.
Oh boy! You have no left handed Tact, between laughter & wine You adorn that Hee-haw-under-bitten Grin with napkins of neglect. Do you Judge this a triumph? Huh? A fool is not The discourse of the night. You are The stained toilet and measurement Of dust resting on baseboards. I’m sorry, Do you judge me a jester? Grasp The gaze of your brother’s eyes, we all Know you have forgotten your father’s
Face. But either one may pay me because Over a milleniae, there has been no money In poetry. But return my cloth or be Marked by guests & readers in 300 Lines of hendecasyllables, when I Only need a word—Damned . . Please enter your account number Followed by the alchemic symbol Carbon because it all gets spoken— Debt, relief, collection, an immediate Return—to nothing. We value you In your feedback & the squelch From your receiver . . . —When do you mention friends? —I belong to a tribe, corrivals on the road, passing notes & other such stains, what we dramatically call the work —So do you wait on blackbirds or pigeons? —Everything is a harbinger, the very wind a message as I am the son of a student from the Monterey School of Language— a training of spooks & crypts—while I am a gleaner. Palms of dirt, torn leaves ground into a pulp & brushed away from my hands by fingers —What if you could make landfall? —I would wait on my meteoric plummet over days . . If I was ever to speak clearly & enunciate My life, I’d say that I am my Grandmother’s Screen door—or— pretending to be a squirrel With my sister running along a fallen tree—or —My mother & I alone on a walk, laughing At the dogs as they chase each other across Our path—or & truly if—I had the courage to Write, I would tell you about a man I knew Somehow someday somewhere splitting The last stump—our whole winter’s stack of Firewood in the background—before he Rested his hands on the shoulders of his Children & said, You worked hard today, I’m proud of you . . Now run down To your grandmother’s house & see what you
Can do. If I had the wherewithal to stand, Without slouch, at my six feet & six inches To speak aloud, then I’d acknowledge the word Or phrase that modifies or qualifies my every Fear: almost . . . —How do you define anger? —One part not thinking of morning, two parts whisky, a spritz of everything I fear I am capable of & some shaved Marrow—men I have known . —Do you find ecstasy when you scream? —I return home —How do you dress your wounds? —I treat the world like a faint silhouette while I confess into its screen. Only I refer to that day as the Killing Field, Up the back steps—what can only be Imagined—the lump of it all, or I saw The shed skin . pulled & flattened In a raccoon outline that must have been A child. Not much further out, out, into The yard, the red flesh, the muscle lacking A recognizable shape . a few paces Without pity east, somewhere near the pump An unplayable position—a pink tail laid Stiff to unkempt fur shaded the underbelly Of a cloud—an opossum in need of its Crushed skull & if one was a bite, the next Just a course, then down the hill lay a whole Other carcass, doe, a deer, a female deer— Fur stained with all the blood that had been A womb the night before . . the dog Gnawing on a leg . . . We apologize we are experiencing A large number of poets tonight But we value your call & we will Answer in the order that poetry is Demanded, but feel free to send Your dreams out amongst the stars While leaving a message that we Will answer whenever possible: I know I saw you die but it has taken
Years to admit. Through many seas & many people I have crossed to you, Grandma, to deliver these wretched Rites of death like a gift, but I spend Too many hours speaking to the lilies Of the field or butterflies on the porch To think you do not know me. In ash As in life, I honor you by every custom You taught me. These words fall From my mouth as sad gifts covered In tears, now & forever my dear, Hail & farewell.
15 June, 1942: German Saboteurs, Launched from U-584, Landing on the Florida Coast by Paul David Adkins
The whole Gold Coast blacked out aware four German agents slipped ashore somewhere south of Jacksonville. They came to blow up, my mother heard, the 17th Street Causeway Bridge 12
just as she crossed it in the rumble seat of her motherâ€™s Roadster, hurtling her headlong into the middle of deep New River. She never knew the saboteurs were caught and tried as spies. It was a secret. She never knew a dog dug up the bombs they buried in the dunes. Even if she did know, it didnâ€™t matter. More were on the way, she heard, in their U-boats and dinghies quiet as midnight crabs, insistent as waves black and buffing the shore with the muffled rubbing of their keel spines.
Dirt Canâ€™t Talk To Dirt
by Robert Vivian
The dead in their listening, the dead in their waiting, the dead feeding the earth one anthill at a time and the dead the first to feel tremors and earthquakes and trains approaching in the distance in what is left of their eyeteeth that used to be revealed in warm or dubious smiles, the dead working steadily at disintegration and decay, D-words of great subtlety and power, the dead knocking on the temple of the heart and playing dead but not acting, no, playing as moss, roots, and dandelions play and the swaying of branches, playing like grass growing shoots of slender greenness curving in the bright air like dervishes in the miraculous alchemy of death transformed into life into spirit in silent gaga refrain so the dead the best way to grow flowers so soft velvety petals may feed on sunlight, and though I walk through a Slovenian graveyard at midnight I will fear no evil because after the first death there is no other and this has been proven by near death survivors who calmly offer reports of a kindly white light beckoning to them, the dead staunch supporters of copious tears they absorb into themselves like blots of ink or wine stains on expensive dresses or sweaters, the dead becoming handkerchiefs we carry around in our shirt pockets or shove into our jeans until we need to yank them out and honk on them with abandon, and I keep learning things from the dead I cannot learn from anyone else, not even nuns or gurus, the dead I knew personally when they were alive and the more formal dead whom I only came by chance to know by walking among their graves in London and Wroclaw, Poland, which is the best past time I could ever ask for, better than golf or checkers or playing the fiddle. And the dead supine in their coffins or incinerated into ashes piled in urns like gunpowder or scattered above a beloved lake or river or the roof of a high rise sometimes blowing back into the face of the one whoâ€™s trying to scatter them, which is a breach of good taste and etiquette only to the living who prefer the dead to go where they are bidden and not come back like so much choking smoke, and the dead letting their hair down as it curls all the way beneath them like slowly licking flames of cool, cool fire, the dead with their skeleton hands folded together on bellies that no longer exist so itâ€™s bone on bone, digital, middle, and proximal phalanxes astride vertebrae or pelvis like a stack of strange china and the dead listening again, listening very, very carefully and without the slightest trace of judgment, and the Mexican boy I knew once with one blind eye who told me how a gang of boys attacked him and held him down and slit his throat and left him in a ditch to die but the Lord stopped the bleeding, he told me, and I believed him as I have believed few others though
it felt like a dead boy was saying these same haunting words of gospel, words I have repeated to myself so often it’s become a chant, a mantra of great hypnotic power, and the dead again with their breathable secret they keep imparting without saying a word, that dirt can’t talk to dirt and soil is forever, that being dead is not onus-ridden but liberation as free as the wind, and I will be a caddis fly in the mouth of a trout and can suffer no greater deliverance than to be swallowed by water and Ezekiel in the valley of the dry bones looking for his stopwatch, his eraser, and the key to his camel’s nose-ring and not finding them—and the dead watching these comical proceedings with great sympathy though they would never deign to interfere out of respect for cosmic forces already set in motion before yes was a word and move was a verb and the dead listening again and oh how they listen, the dead hearing all we have to say and dream and world famous for no longer giving a shit as we ride their coat tails to the very end, which is not bitter as some might claim but of an incomparable sweetness and delight, taking us to the threshold of a vast astonishment.
A Series of Unlikely Explanations by Deborah Purdy
It could be the curse of a too-long remembering Any reprieve would be welcome if it could be found in a grain of salt, settled in threads of a feather, situated in time with the others. It could be the blessing of a pearl in a web woven by traveling sisters, worn down by time and in time for the unveiling.
by Ashley Boswell
there is a tediousness in what we do – a type of larva – or hatching eggs we notice in the parameters of our vision.
when we say that we never noticed, they’ll know we lied. (run child run) brown weasel; loose thread. . . .
A Pattern That Perplexes
by Ashely Boswell
I feel quite Weak today Pile upon pile Toad: no voice
Ye pine as A pine â€“ wide forest Bright sky Fast runner Turning Knobs (Oh knees) --- & the need Like wheel No, wait! (Hopeful steal).
Fortuna, Land of Hope and Glory by Sam Martone
AN ARRIVAL In this city of excess, you could get lost just by making a wrong turn in a back alley, you could walk out one end of the city and wind up right in front of it again, looking up at the billboards and blinking lights. It used to seem so easy. The world used to be so small, limited by mountain ranges, by coasts, by monsters too strong for your tiny hands. You followed your father wherever you went. Everything occurred in a sensible sequence. But he is gone, and now the story unfolds like a map. The world is much bigger than you ever could have imagined, and you have only just begun to dip your toes in. You and the former prince explore the city, unsure if there’s a certain order to this place, if there is a chain reaction of events that will set off a visible cause and effect, everything in sequence—or if you’re meant to embrace disorder, open-endedness, uncertainty. This city, it comes alive at night. If you arrive during the day, simply walk in circles just outside the entrance, just until the sky shifts in stuttering shades to dark. It will happen in minutes. This is one thing, in this new world, you can predict. A GAMBLE The casino is this city’s main attraction. There is always a casino, somewhere in the world. Sometimes two. During the day, there is a traveling theater troupe that performs one scene from a tragic love story, over and over, as though they’ve forgotten all their other lines. At night, the stage is adorned with dancers in red dresses, can-canning at the catcalling crowd. You and the prince play the slots, three bells in a row ringing. Place bets on beasts that barrel from the gates, destroy each other. Watch the races and remember the dreams you had of road trips in the rain, where you, safe and dry, traced drops of water on the backseat window, guessing which one would river down the glass first. You play a giant board game where you are the playing piece, and this game, it feels more like real life than real life does, or at least, more honest. Roll the die. Examine the ground beneath your feet. Find something, or fall through a trapdoor. Start back at start. You can feel something looking down at you from above, a tapping tangled in your hair. You don’t know why you’re here.
There must be something you should be doing, searching for your mother or defeating an unknown darkness. Here you are still playing games. Open the treasure chests at the end, acquire your medal, your edged boomerang. Slide your finger along its side. See if it draws blood from you, or something else entirely. AN IMPORTANT DETAIL An elderly man tells you that when he was small, this city was small, too. It was only ten years ago when a bridge was built, a bridge to the north that brought a steady flow of visitors, that made this city into a city. Ten years have passed since you were in that part of the world, ten years you spent imprisoned. You wonder what other changes will have taken place once you returnâ€”to your village,
to the former prince’s former castle, to the town where the girl gave you the yellow ribbon from her hair. Your father’s death, your kidnapping, this bridge being built. They are all connected somehow, intertwined. In your dreams, coincidences often mean nothing, but here, awake, there is no such thing as coincidence. Everything adds up to something else. There are some objects in the world that you aren’t able to use until much later. You fold up this new knowledge, put it in your bag. This, you think, is for later. A TAMING When you think of beginnings that have begun before this one, the hero is always alone, or accompanied by a few close friends, or joined by mercenaries with different skills and occupations: warrior, magician, thief. You expect that the former prince will be one of those companions to you, there until the end, when you find what is waiting for you. But the monster tamer tells you that, in this world, creatures you defeat will rise up too, lick your hand like kittens and charge into the next battle beside you. You need a wagon to keep these beasts, your own personal ark. You can find a wagon at the curio shop, he tells you, but it is only open at night. When the wagon becomes full, the monster tamer will take care of the monsters that do not fit. In you dreams, you are a child again, drawing monsters in your kindergarten classroom. Your teachers are telling you to stop. You are using too much printer paper, they say. The monsters are slobbering on the couch, eating your classmates. The monster tamer gives you a bag of snacks, treats to give to the creatures, to make them trust you before you unsheathe your sword, throw your boomerang, thrust your spear. You dream of a world where all your friends are monsters, unfamiliar and confused, your words lost to perked furry ears or found by them. In the monsters’ monstrous eyes, a look of nothing understood, or everything. A RUMOR In the inn, one of the performers from the casino worries about the world’s instability. He tells you of a castle to the northeast that has been ravaged by monsters. You see the look on the former prince’s face. That’s his castle, his former castle, the castle where his sick father ruled, where his sick father was short on time. That is what’s become of it in his absence, what’s become of it with his half-brother as king, with his stepmother controlling everything behind the scenes. In your dreams, you are in a castle. In your dreams, you remember being born. Maybe you were a prince, once, too.
It’s a question you never got to ask your father. Maybe your mother will know, if you can find her, if she is able to be found. The actor signs his autograph on the blade of your sword, even though you didn’t ask. He performs that one scene again for you, the romance, the tragedy, the question of what to call a snowflake if you have never seen snow, if naming it anything else would make it any less cold. You and the former prince leave him in the middle of his soliloquy. Often, the former prince will comment on the city you’re in, on the occurrences that are occurring, but right now, he has nothing to say, and you, silent as ever, can offer nothing to comfort him. A CURIOSITY When night falls, wander down the winding alleys behind the casino. In some back corner of the city, you will find the curio shop, its doors open to those who can find it in the dark. Inside, the shelves are lined with strange trinkets and toys, violins snapped at the necks, cheap souvenirs selling for far more than they’re worth. A small man emerges from the back, leans over the counter, smells your hair like he’s appraising you, inspecting a diamond to make sure it’s not cubic zirconia. He says he’ll sell you a wagon. At a discount, fortunately—it would be rather early for the world to turn on you, to make necessities impossible to acquire. He says the wagon is waiting for you outside, even though he has not moved from his post. You think he is ripping you off, that you will leave to look for the wagon and he will stash your money somewhere else, claim you never paid him. But when you walk out of the city, there’s the wagon, its horse, and you suddenly feel more ready for everything that is to come. AN UNPLEASANT REMINDER In the basement jail, the guard says you can speak with the prisoners through the bars. You know that this can be useful: criminals often hold important information, offer up secrets with little persuasion, these men who have nothing left to lose, doomed to spend eternity here. But one cell is empty, and another has no bars at all, closed off instead by a red door that you cannot yet unlock. That will come later. Between these two cells, though, is a cell with a barred door like a cage, a cell where a man sits laughing on the cobblestoned ground. He is reminiscing, to anyone who will listen, to you since you are here, about the days when he kidnapped for pay, stole children from their beds, from under the noses of their protectors, and then you recognize his face, though it is lined and
fallen, crow’s feet clawing at the corners of his eyes. He is one of the men who kidnapped the prince, who led your father to his death, who is just as responsible as you are for his absence, for his irrevocable gone-ness. You want to reach through the bars, grab him by the throat, but you cannot. All you can do is listen to what he says, and listen to him again, hear his inadvertent confession repeated over and over, word for word for word. A FORTUNE TOLD Visit her at her house during the day or in her tent in the square at night: either way, your future will appear the same to her. The fortuneteller can tell you are in a quandary, but she knows that the woman you’re looking for is alive and well, waiting for you to find her. You know if this fortuneteller is really a seer, she is speaking of your mother. In your dreams, you have visited fortunetellers: a palm reader who said your aura was green, a woman who laid each tarot card on the table like she was pulling back the curtain on your destiny, but none of that felt real, they felt like what they were: dreams, dreams that could predict nothing, that couldn’t save your father because in your dreams he was alive and well, hundreds of miles away, writing you a postcard, that couldn’t find your mother because in your dreams she was never lost. Long ago, there was a time when you thought you held your future in your pocket. Now, the fortuneteller tells you to head north: north to the bridge built ten years ago, toward the castle ruled by a new heir, toward the towns you remember, the places you could never forget or get away from. Take a walk outside the city. Day will become night, or the other way around.
The American Soldier
by Drew Pisarra
I’m going to get drunk on Ballantine whiskey and traffic in illegal firearms and stay in seedy, fleabag hotels and have illicit affairs with beautiful people already involved with marginally attractive other people who are corrupt and think money solves all their problems and keep their precious belongings in rickety lockers located in bus stations or train stations or athletic clubs or in safe deposit boxes or in safes. I’m so tired of being safe. I ‘m going to get fucked, literally fucked, and sleep with whomever I want whenever I want and sometimes even with those I don’t really want but just kind of want and not when I totally want to but sometimes when I have to and I want them to desire me and obsess about me and dream about me and constantly come up with new ways to please me, challenge me, intoxicate me, and call me so often I have to get my phone number changed. I want to change. I’m going to be sick, not with cancer or AIDS or alcoholism or post-traumatic stress disorder or even depression but with a disease that hasn’t even been invented yet, a disease that no one’s even had before and when I get it they’re not going to know what it is at first so they’re going to misdiagnose me until they finally figure it out what it is and then they’re going to be so surprised that they won’t know what to do except to name it after me. It’s going to happen. Just wait.
by Drew Pisarra
At some point in his or her life every poet has to write a poem about Mother. Not because he’s angry. Not because she’s sentimental. But because mothers, more than fathers, nudge us down paths of respectability. They grin and cajole then wax judgmental so that 40 years later we stand in the middle of a life we half-picked, suddenly stunned that we only resisted halfway. My mom once caught me masturbating, then shut the door and asked if I wanted pancakes. I locked eyes with my mom while simulating sex onstage in a nightclub in Baltimore. In neither case was she shocked. At most she was curious. “Who is this stranger?” Her pursed mouth seemed to say. I sometimes wonder if she ever recounts either incident to her neighbor, a former co-worker who takes care of Lola, my mother’s dog, whenever mom’s away. Does my mom ever experience a flashback while down on all fours and scrubbing random linoleum? Does she think that I’ve outgrown her? Did I ever grow up at all?
by Jack Caseros
It takes a long time after figuring out just how little there is to do that you start forgetting about the boredom. Boredom is boring (obviously)—but less so than worrying about boredom, which feels like an imminent bear mauling that never comes. All the terror, but the claw never even rips through your skin. Boredom is long in the tooth, except that it’s not predatory, it’s just for show, and just if you are right for breeding. Time sips through in little gulps; the beast menacing, calm collected watching you fritter—it paces, the light glints off its long fangs, and all the while a small beast grows inside you, ready to burst out at any opportune moment— Waiting for the bus outside your room, waiting and waiting and listening to the same playlist loop through your ear buds, all two thousand five hundred ninety eight songs clip clip clapping with no solace, nothing new, nothing unexpected, not even the bus, right on time at eight fortytwo— Eating lunch, eager for the noodles on your styrofoam mall plate, but you are feeding the beast, and it creeps up through your fingertips, reaches for anything, for the stupid free news rag or your phone or a napkin to twist twist twist with no solace, nothing new happening today on Twitter, same old shit, nothing unpretentious, not even your ex-girlfriend Sasha’s manic aphorisms about loving and letting go so you can hunt down— (Sasha is bored too, she watches TV in the background and peruses her phone, updates her Facebook profile every thirty seconds and Twitters about the next commercial she’s seen a thousand times)—
Standing on the job in the middle of a neat suburban lawn raking thatch and wondering how four years of philosophy left you with a seasonal gardener for rich people who don’t care to do more than watch their hydrangeas bloom out of the corner of your eye—and each little pile of thatch looks like a new face—you look again and you recognize them, they look the same as every face you have seen—nothing unintended there, just the parietal flexing its grey muscle—
(Sasha sees faces too, hundreds of them, some unfamiliar but tagged, which leads to more photos and further strangers, all oddly familiar, and complete with a small profile to help her feel that she is not so alone in the world, she is just faraway)—
Or sleeping with the orange light pulsating through your window, dizzied by the hum of the refrigerator, the dross of the furnace, the creak of every last floorboard, until you feel the spin in your head start to outrun the spin of the earth, and you wake up next to the cool porcelain toilet and ask what there was to do now— (Sasha is in bed and doesn’t know what to do either. She decides to go for a walk, and ends up at your building, on your doorstep, wondering if you were busy).
You always seem busy, but you never are. You will walk for hours through the city marching with purpose to no end, just making circles through the neighborhoods. After an hour or so you make it back to your building, and almost dip into the corner coffee shop. Sasha is sitting on your stoop, looking through her phone.
(Dear Electronic Diary, Sasha typed into Twitter, I am so booorrllluhhdd. It didn’t make sense, but what did it matter? There were thousands of people on Twitter too bored to have nothing to say).
You are wet, and Sasha is getting wet sitting on the stoop. You approach, but Sasha doesn’t raise her head. You make it to the door past her before she turns around and looks up to you.
(Sasha realizes she is on your stoop. She sees your face but thinks about her phone calls through the day, trying to remember if she had any legitimate reason to be on her ex-boyfriend’s stoop in the rain). Hullo, you say, caught with the keys in your hand. Do you want in?
(I am getting pretty wet).
No reason to drown. Come on in.
And in the warm baby blue apartment you light the stove and boil water for tea, hang Sasha’s clothes in the bathroom and loan her jeans and a hoodie. You have music but forget to put it on, so you sit together in the quiet, watching each other’s reflections in the teacups, finding all the wrong words to say, so saying nothing, just staring at each other like museum artifacts. This is our private collection, we can touch. We can fondle and smell and taste, we can feel all the life that happened and the lives that have happened since. Blow into these cheeks, calm your hyperventilating. It’s not getting serious, we’re just living. Nothing that can’t be undone. We’re so undone. In our sanctuary waiting out the boredom.
Portobello Road by Kaitlin Duling
One man said to another man “You got my sister pregnant, you ruin things, I hate you, you pay full price!” He sat on the bumper of an old white van. Across the way, a blind Caribbean lined a kettle drum with his curve. The ring rung through the crowd like transfer paper. There wasn’t really a crowd; there was shopping. The man, the seller, he tilted his head and old body this and that way, listening. The other man paid full price because he ruined things and because. Later, a pickpocket stole five pounds from my shirt and my face made a face that had creases; It had creases and I watched him go.
by Aimee Henkel
Peter Rugowski and the girl waited and while they waited, they watched the endless road and the veiled red cliffs low in the distance where the sun hovered just above the horizon, glowing through waves of dust and heat and silt that spiraled up from the desert floor. There were no trees here, no long, thin branches for the birds to rest so they scurried along the ground, brown and quick like shadows. The unending brush sprouted and clung to the rocky soil, taking water from roots deep in the ground. The girl smacked her gum and her eyes searched his face time and again as she leaned against his truck. She brushed against him, sighing as she pulled away, and then spit her gum against the white concrete wall where countless Mexicans had come to sit and wait for the only bus to Vegas that carried migrants and immigrants and Latinos and God knew what else toward the broken city. He was glad for the bus because it carried the Mexicans away, even though they came back and hunkered down the next day as if waiting was their occupation. They stared at the dirt, baked hard and smooth by the sun like stained glass, and some were hypnotized by the brown earth or the cloudless blue sky, or the infinite desert and the loneliness they saw there, and some talked and laughed and drank beer until the bus came, never taking him into account. “This place is ramshackle,” the girl said. “It ain’t yours.” Peter Rugowski spit against the wall, thinking of the Mexicans who stole from him, or haggled bitterly - though he never gave in; no, not ever - and then there were the mamas who brought filthy, barefoot children. They stared, those black haired beetles, and he hated them. “Would you sell me a beer?” She grinned under the brim of her cap. “No.” “I’ve got cash.” “Let’s not debate it.” He wanted the bus to Vegas to come, but it wasn’t on time. Too tired to wait any longer, he limped inside his store and watched the girl through the dusty window, her red baseball cap covering a gold braid that hung below her waist and made her seem like a little girl, except she towered above him. She followed him inside. “I haven’t got anyone in Vegas.” “No?” Peter said as he rubbed the counter, his reflection as pale as the moon.
He was stooped from a crooked spine and wore his faded brown hair long and combed over a walnut-sized mole on his forehead. He didn’t care about her troubles or want to feel or think a certain way about her. He wanted to be alone. “That’s none of my concern.” “I have skills,” she said, her head tilted like a desert bird. “Legal skills?” “Oh, don’t be sour – what else kind of work would I do?” She smiled and rolled her eyes. “As if I knew,” Peter muttered. As a child, Peter was abandoned and his adoptive parents forgave nothing. When he was a boy, Mrs. Rugowski slapped him, which served to her like talking. The blows made him ashamed. Peter knew his deformity was the reason no one loved him and he didn’t blame the Rugowski’s or anyone else for his loneliness and fear. Now he owned the Rugowski store. The migrants were his only customers. Mexicans, waiting against the wall, their eyes impossible to see. Sometimes he got tourists on their way to Cali or the Hoover Dam, lost and searching for some other road. The mamas came, driving children ahead of them like cattle, carrying baskets and sacks, their hair and clothes layered with dust and smoke. He rarely saw white women, women who did not smell of peppers and beans, of sweat and desert and despair. Now he could see the bus as it churned toward them, grill spitting smoke and steam like an old train. A patch of clouds had stalled over the desert just above, throwing shadows against the sand. The bus appeared to devour the road as it came, its windshield like eyes glinting in the failing light. The girl turned and left the store. When it careened to a stop, she stepped up onto the platform beside the driver and then backed down. She ran toward the store, eyes hidden by the brim of her hat. “Couldn’t you be kind to me?” Her eyes welled as the bus pulled away. “How do I do that?” “I’m here, aren’t I?” There was no one else coming down the road, so he and the girl were alone. “Why?” Peter said, and then he limped back to the cooler and opened a beer. It tasted like caramel. She shrugged. “Where else should I be?” “Vegas.” Peter drank the beer in one long swallow.
“Just like that?” “Sure,” he said. “Can’t you help me?” “That’s the question, isn’t it?” Peter locked up the store and she followed him. After he turned the corner toward his house - no, the Rugowski house – she stood in the dark watching him leave, her eyes two shadows in a pale, white face. Later when he looked, he saw that she had left. He wondered where she had gone. He knew soon he would be depressed again and confined to bed, sadness settling on him like stones until he couldn’t breathe. People did that to him sometimes. *** Peter drove his old truck to see Blind Sophia and when he turned into the parking lot he read again the sign that said “no skateboarding, no loitering, and no playing loud music.” The Mexican boys with their blue jeans belted around their thighs and the piercings in their faces stood under a lamppost across the street. A cloud of smoke hovered above them and he feared they had just come from her apartment. Adjusting his glasses, he climbed the stairs to her apartment and looked down as they crossed the street. He stood under her porch light and felt ashamed. They whistled and shouted “Amigo. Amigo.” Blind Sophia Ramirez called out from behind the door when he knocked. “It’s me, Peter.” When she opened the door, he squeezed past her. She wore a pink, fuzzy housecoat and her face shone with moisturizer. He saw that her hair was wiry and grey under the towel she wore and she had new house slippers. “Did you go out recently?” “My sister came,” she said, “and brought me slippers.” “You know I would give you anything you wanted.” “Eh,” Sophia waved her hand and searched for her cigarettes on the end table. Her living room was cluttered and ash-colored and she could not get from one end of the room to the other without walking into something. Now that she was obese and lazy, she had no interest in finding her way around the place to put things away. When he was with her, he could not think of anything to say. He had been coming here since she was very young, but he tried not to think about that or the other men who came here. Peter folded his hands and waited, grateful she could not see. She stood up without ceremony and motioned him toward the bedroom.
He went inside and waited for her and when she knelt down, he knew what she would do in the dark and humid room. There would be no lovemaking. He would not hold her, feel her skin or touch her. She would serve him and be finished. Everything would be as it had been before. When she finished and stood up, he looked at her red knees ashamed and lonely. “Sophia,” he whispered. “No.” He closed his eyes and listened, could hear her lighter and the deep exhale as she began her thirtieth, or perhaps one hundredth, cigarette of the day. “Just this once come and lay with me.” “No.” “If“If you were smarter you would know I won’t.” Lying there, he was as alone as he had ever been and felt as if he stood at a precipice, ready to pitch forward into an abyss. Eventually he came to sit beside her. “What was that, Sophia?” “I do what I want to do.” “We could have talked.” “Yes, so talk.” “Life is too heavy, too full. I don’t know how to get out from under it.” “There’s nowhere to go.” Sophia stubbed out her cigarette. “You just pay me.” Peter felt in his back pocket for a wad of bills, handing them to her without counting. She felt through the bills and seemed satisfied. “You can’t come anymore.” Peter felt his face flush, “What do you mean?” “I’m getting married soon. My husband will be living here.” “You’re getting married?” Peter cursed in Polish, a word he hadn’t heard in a very long time. “Who is he?” “No one knows him.” “Don’t you feel anything for me?” Peter touched her, his eyes searching her face. “What can I feel?” She shrugged, her face showing a disappointment that baffled him. “You can love me.” Sophia smiled until her teeth were exposed and then she laughed and the laughter hurt him and soon tears flowed down his cheeks. “Please, please don’t laugh.” Peter covered his face with his hands. “I’ve loved you my whole life. You’re the only person who was ever kind to me. Had I known you wanted to get married I would have asked you. I always thought you were happy as you were.” “No, you were happy.” “That’s never been true.” He stood and opened her door, eager to leave. Now the moon shone fully against his face.
*** Outside the store, he sat in his truck staring at the pitted moon. After a long while, he went inside the store to get a beer from the refrigerator. The harsh florescent lights overhead burned his eyes and the flies buzzed and dove above him. Just as he reached the cooler, he heard the door open, the bell clanging against the glass. “Who’s there?” Peter jogged toward the front to chase out whatever drunken migrant had come. And as he rounded the corner, he saw the thin girl in the baseball cap, now in muddy jeans and a grey, dusty shirt. Her face was shrouded by shadow and he could hardly see her eyes. Peter did not want her to see him like this, and he wished to banish her from his store forever. “What are you doing here?” Peter waved her away. She cleared her throat. “You’re not open?” Her eyes drifted over his mole, then down to his scuffed left shoe. She put both hands in her back pockets, leaning forward as if he were hard of hearing. “I’m just here for cigarettes.” She whispered. “I’m not open.” Peter limped past her to the door and held it open. She made no move to leave and there was no compromise on her face. “I just need a pack of Marlboros.” “Where did you come from?” Peter put his hand over his eyes, exhausted. The girl pulled out a pack of gum and stuffed the last two pieces in her mouth, then blew a small bubble. When it popped, some of the green stuck to the side of her lip. “Where are you staying?” Peter closed the door again and swatted at the mosquito on his cheek. “Here and there.” She regarded him, her head tilted, eyes narrowed and shining. Stepping closer, her gaze wandered, studying the lights overhead and the rows of packaged chips and bread and candy. “I haven’t had a place in a while.” She stepped closer, her eyes never leaving his, then she touched him on the shoulder. She took his hand and pulled him toward the back of the store, for what purpose he could hardly understand. He realized his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth, then he heard a fly buzz overhead. He limped behind her toward the back of the store, watching her braid swing as she moved. It was hard not to wish that a girl like her might need someplace to belong, that he might be a place someone could belong to, but he wasn’t foolish. This girl would find another home soon enough, but for the time being he was satisfied.
I lie when visiting the hairdresser
by Danielle Hunt
There I am staring at myself in a mirror covered in some kind of 1984ish uniform, talking to a voice from behind, alongside others, who refuse to look my way. Do you want me to trim the layers? Depending on the answer I choose, will my social status change? Am I destitute for poverty and uneven bangs? Which way do you part your hair? Is this a personality test? If I part it to the left, does that mean I prefer exercise over watching documentaries? If I part it in the middle, does that mean I'm into pot and illegal automobile accessories? Would you like a flatiron or a blow-out? I must examine myself. Do I belong to the blow-outs or the flat-irons? Am I made of iron or wind? Am I flat or containing body? Have you ever tried our silk-protein frizzcalming fly-away-defeating serum? Does it come in two color choices? Should I have received a message about what color to choose ten years prior to this engagement? Will this be cash or credit? I look back at the others. There they are, lined up like vegetables, spilling their guts.
Works Cited from Our Family Vacation to Colonial Williamsburg by Tom Luckie III
Air Bud: Golden Receiver. Dir. Richard Martin. Perf. Tim Conway, Kevin Zegers, Air Bud, and Warren Moon. Disney, 1998. DVD. Baby Geniuses. Dir. Bob Clark. Perf. Kathleen Turner, Christopher Lloyd, Kim Cattrall, and Dom DeLuise. TriStar Pictures, 1999. DV D. Dunston Checks In. Dir. Ken Kwapis. Perf. Jason Alexander, Eric Lloyd, and Faye Dunaway. 20th Century Fox, 1996. DVD. “Greater Richmond and Vicinity.” Map. Michelin Mid-Atlantic USA Road Atlas. Greenville: Michelin Travel Publications, 2004. Print. Instruction Manual for Magnavox MC47BT81 Portable DVD Player. Philips Electronics North America, Inc., 2003. Print. Lewis, Shari. “The Song that Doesn’t End.” Lamb Chop’s Sing-Along, Play-Along. A&M, 1992. CD. Morgan, Clarissa. “Why You Can’t Drive 80-Fucking-Miles-an-Hour on Interstate 81 with Four Fucking Kids in the Van, Philip.” Somewhere Near Cortland, NY. 7 July 2005. Lecture. Morgan, Gregory. “Do We Get to See the Horsies Soon?” 7,8,9,10 July 2005. Alexandria Bay, NY Syracuse, NY, Binghamton, NY, Scranton, PA, Arlington, VA, Mechanicsville, VA, Richmond, VA, and Williamsburg, VA. Performance. Morgan, Philip. “If You Would Have Gotten Me the GPS I Wanted for Father’s Day, We Wouldn’t be in This Goddamn Mess.” Petersburg, VA. 8 July 2005. Rant. ---. “Either This Song or This Vacation Will End Tonight. You Decide, You Little Shits.” Williamsburg, VA. 9 July 2005. Ultimatum. Morgan, Samantha. “How I Will Ensure We Watch Air Bud: Golden Receiver Seven Times During This Vacation.” Outskirts of Harrisburg, PA. 12 July 2005. Tantrum. Olmert, Michael. Official Guide to Colonial Williamsburg. Williamsburg: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2004. Print. Penner, Fred. “The Cat Came Back. The Cat Came Back. Youngheart, 1998. CD. Space Jam. Dir. Joe Pytka. Perf. Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, Bill Murray, Wayne Knight, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Porky Pig, Marvin the
Martian, PepĂŠ Le Pew, Yosemite Sam, The Tasmanian Devil, Sylvester, Tweety Bird, Lola Bunny, and Foghorn Leghorn. Warner Brothers, 1996. DVD. Unknown Artist. Please Wash Me I am Dirtier Than a $3 Hooker. 11 July 2005. Dirt on Dodge Caravan Window. Courtyard by Marriot Parking Lot, Williamsburg, VA.
how to become more respectable at your job in four easy steps by Marie Nunalee
step one: shave all extraneous body hairs. clip off all that five o’clock foreshadowing. grow out what’s on your head. chop short what's on your head. pull out the nose hoop your mother lamented for months. obscure the fang-sporting cupcake headlining your forearm. iron the wrinkled button down that sat in your hamper for three weeks. reserve punny band tees for the weekends. spray chemicals to force forth affability. step two: probably best to taper off that smoking habit. look busy. smile winsome at staring strangers who willingly enter your threshold. point people in the direction of what’s right in front of them. apologize profusely for properly following protocol. sweep filthy, invisible two-ton bowling balls across the floor at least twice daily. feather-dust the gray spectres of bunny rabbits situated on the shelving. conceive of fancies to be jotted only when the Man is off stuffing his mug full of sodium- pumped poison on lunch break. with big eyes and fast feet, furtively search for intangibles, say, true utopia. step three: if you date boys and girls, you should probably only let the opposite sex swing by and probably only on the day of the second full moon of the third month after the last time they visited you. g-d knows what the gossips’d say if your job is in a busy area and g-d knows you never will and one day the boss might comment, “she’s a little hottie,” and all you’ll know how to say is, “my boyfriend thinks so too.” bisexual erasure is the worst but yes it is nice to extricate your closeclenching elastic queer bracelet sometimes but step four: the fact is that to be respectable at your low-wage retail job you must store your lightning bug politics inside a tight-sealed canning jar until they suffocate. and it is best to say solely yes-sir-nosir, to acquiesce yes I will drop this to do that. and the fact is also that to be respectable you must simply be the best Disney World Hall of Presidents animatronic version of your self and not yourself.
The Chicken Or Fish Option I. At night the birds turn to fish –watch them waver in the water.
by Brian Clifton
Their wings beat eddies; their lungs fluid-filled. Under the moon who’s to say a feather is not a scale on which to measure blood and saline? Hideous, hideous fish. They swim through a feral kitten’s utterance. They are where they are not– their beaks with obtuse angles. Their songs wrapped in bubbles. Silent wing broken against surface tension. Where are birds’ gills? Their ballast bladders? This is why as fish they only last a night. Imagine wearing that mask constantly breeching against windows. Sunrise, their broken gasp of air. II. In the day, the birds turn to brides. A monstrous plumage gown that hangs from their necks. Their wings merely the ornaments they long to dissolve at night. The brides buff their talon rings with chlorine until they’re nighted minnows and they suffocate. 43
That Letter Never Reached Me
by Priscilla Atkins
disordered lines from a correspondence, Ingeborg Bachmann & Paul Celan (also, Max Frisch & PC; Gisèle Celan-Lestrange & IB) I am becoming more and more afraid of letters because they look upon us so rigidly. Your place is with Paul ~ better~ sure of you than of me. All I ask, if ~ give him a little parcel for his birthday. That letter never reached me, dear Max Frisch. Dear Max Frisch, I often ask myself why so much silence. I would like to come to you. I must ask you to come to Paris. We have––you, Ingeborg and I––been provoked, Max Frisch. I am no Robespierre, Max Frisch! There are many lies around us, Max Frisch. And at the same time I ask you to maintain the utmost discretion. I am writing to Ingeborg at the same time––with the same intention. These lines are meant warmly––please do not take them any other way. (aborted draft) I warmly request a chance to talk things over. (not sent) Dear Paul Celan! My letter to you has preoccupied me for days; to it I have devoted entire mornings and entire evenings. You give me credit for not being an anti-semite. Do you understand what I mean if I say that this does not give me much leeway? Dear Paul Celan! This is the fourth attempt to write a letter. I live with a wound that was certainly not inflected by Hitler, but with a wound too.
I often read your poems during the summer, already in hospital; then again and again, afterwards, as I have difficulties. Do not misunderstand me, dear Paul Celan: I do not doubt your horror... And if your exclamation HITLERISM, HITLERISM, HITLERISM, THE PEAKED CAPS! had not ensued in the context of a literary review ~ I would have addressed the political problem. You must excuse me if the letter does not sound very spontaneous; I wrote you a spontaneous one yesterday. That poem you wrote accusing me of murder. That letter, which I crumpled up. That I am sincerely looking forward to meeting you ~ and that I am nervous about it. Timeline: December 1958: Ingeborg in Paris with Frisch without informing Celan. (note to self: Gisèle’s and Ingeborg’s letters are in purple type.) My dear Ingeborg, I am still deeply ~ I was slightly paralyzed ~ surprised ~ what you, for me. I feel strongly I am well I find a path I had my years (at what a price!) I know very well I try, I try I still try I fear I do not feel I would like I hardly dare I would like to know I send you I send you I often I sent you a little sign ~ did the Italian postal service bring it? My dear Gisèle, I am coming to you in my despair. 45
And I do not even know what to ask of you. I think very often of you. (282) I often think of you. (283) Every evening I have tried to continue my longer letter. Now I cannot ~ because it tries to do too many things. I would rather bring it with me to Paris ~ make something clearer that concerns no one but you and me. Many regards GisĂ¨le.
When you approached me at the Hotel du Louvre. Whenever you want and can come! I will pick you up. Dear Ingeborg, I am sorry I will not be able to come after all. Dear Paul, Next week is just as good for us. We do not have any plan. Dear Ingeborg, I am afraid I am writing again, already today, I will not be able to come next week either. Dearest Paul, How good you did not come. I am not well either. Like you, I am also not always well. Ingeborg, I am telling myself that the letter you said you would write has only failed to arrive because it is difficult for you to write it. Do you remember what I said to you when I saw you last, two years ago, in Paris, in the taxi, before you left?
Author’s Biographies Aimee Henkel has had many lives. Although she lost the first few to bad living, her latest have been rather productive. She has studied poetry and fiction at NYU, Manhattanville and the Hudson Valley Writer's Center, worked as a corporate writer, being published anonymously in national newspapers and magazines. She has been publishing in literary journals since 2010. Ashley Boswell completed her MFA at Eastern Washington University with a Poetry emphasis and her BA at the University of Nevada, Reno with an English Writing focus. She has been published in the Writer’s Gazette and in the University of Nevada, Reno publication entitled The Brushfire. Additionally, she her work has been published or is forthcoming in Punchnel’s, Red Fez, and Electric Rather. Also, she has completed textbook reviews for publishers such as Pearson/Longman, Bedford/St. Martin’s and McGraw Hill. Brian Clifton lives in Kansas City, Missouri. His work can be found in: burntdistrict, Iodine, Third Wednesday, The Dirty Napkin, and other magazines. Danielle Hunt has grown up in Northern and Southern California. Her work has appeared in Muse, Harlot of the Arts: A Revealing Look at the Arts of Persuasion, Four Ties Literature Review, Web Del Sol and crackthespine.com. She currently lives in Riverside, California with her daughter and husband and has a fabulous garden. Deborah Purdy lives in the Philadelphia area where she writes poetry and creates fiber art. She is originally from Virginia and holds BA and MA degrees from Hollins University, and a MSLS from Clarion University. She has been a research scientist and a librarian. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in River & South Review, Apeiron Review, Gravel, and other publications. Drew Pisarra is a retired ventriloquist who now works for the website of a cable network. His poetry has nothing to do with either. These poems are part of a series inspired by the movies of Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Ian Bodkin refuses to personalize his license plate, but he plans on buying a canoe to cover it in bumper stickers. He received his MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Handsome Journal, Misjudge Your Limits, Rain Taxi, and Marco Polo Arts Magazine among others. Ian is a fool with an unkempt beard and a wife who culls him from the rapids of the mighty James. He runs with their dog, Orion, marking bush by bush. He lounges with Trixie, their cat, clawing the couch. Jack Caseros is a Canadian writer and scientist. His first novel, Onwards & Outwards, was defiantly independentlypublished in 2012 to zero acclaim. His newest novel is looking for a publishing house to call home. You can read a little more about Jack at www.jackcaseros.webs.com. Kaitlyn Duling is a recent graduate of Knox College in Galesburg, IL. She now splits her time between AmeriCorps KEYS in Pittsburgh, writing/reading poems, and other creative pursuits. She would always love to write/read more poems. You can find her in Catch Magazine, Outrageous Fortune, Wilde Magazine, and others. She is full of thanks. Marie Nunalee lives in Asheville, North Carolina. She will soon be featured in the NewerYork's Electric Encyclopedia of Experimental Literature and indefinite space 2014, among others. She can be found writing at www.swordfishermons.tumblr.com. Paul David Adkins lives in New York and works as a counselor. Priscilla Atkins likes reading, dark chocolate and red wine. Her book, The Café of Our Departure, is forthcoming from Sibling Rivalry Press. Robert Vivian has published four novels and two books of essays. He teaches at Vermont College. Sam Martone lives in Tempe, Arizona, where he spends his evenings attempting to defeat the final boss of Dragon Quest V. Tom Luckie III is an MFA candidate at Butler University. His fiction has appeared in First Stop Fiction and Broken Pencil.
Issue Images Cover image and design © Mahtem Shiferraw. Pink shoes image pg. 34, © of K.Z.S. Shadow tree image pg. 17, © Sokrate Pictures. All other images in the issue © Mahtem Shiferraw.
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Issue 1 | Winter 2013