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Issue 12

Spring/Summer 2018


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR This is the spring issue that refused to end, and thus became the spring/summer issue. We had so many great submissions that we didn’t know how to stop, and since this is our 12th issue, making it extra large feels kind of appropriate. Never thought we’d get this far! The 18 voices featured in these virtual pages are all unique and spellbinding. We have writing from around the world represented, including our first piece of translation in Gad KaynarKissinger’s poem, “What’s Left.” If you’re looking for something steamy, check out Madeline Anthes’ “I May Never Be Clean Again.” For some potent micro fiction, see both Marvin Shackelford and Melissa Goode’s contributions. Essays from Chila Woychik, Julia Edinger, and Suzy Rigdon explore family and self (and how both can be fruitful and dangerous). And, from Robert James Russell, we have a lovely mixed media piece that I’m sure you’ll enjoy. Oddly enough, about 1/3 of this issue’s writers have last names that start with R. What does it mean? Who knows, but I thought it was interesting. That’s all for this round, but before I sign off, I want to welcome Kristen M. Ploetz to the A+A family. Her impact has been incredible on this issue. Until the fall, XOXO BW

Editorial Board

Founder: Brendan Todt • Editor in Chief: Benjamin Woodard Poetry Editors: Liz Ann Young & Summar West Fiction Editors: Whitney Groves & Cathy Ulrich Creative Nonfiction Editor: Emily Arnason Casey Assistant Editors: Kristen M. Ploetz & Breana Steele


TABLE OF CONTENTS Marvin Shackelford ƒ

Nashville

6

Above the Fourth Cataract

7

Melissa Goode ƒ

Pretenders

8

Robert James Russell ∞

Blue Heron

9

Chila Woychik ≈

Remembrancer

10

Tess Walsh ƒ

Dandelions

12

Gad Kaynar-Kissinger †

What’s Left

16

Griffin Robillard †

Use Within Three Days of Opening

17

Madeline Anthes ƒ

I May Never Be Clean Again

18

Tonya Eberhard †

Fireworks

20

Eric Andrew Newman ƒ

Shit House

22

Emily J. Cousins †

Perfect Dream Decoder

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Jessica Mehta †

Namesakes

26

Julia Edinger ≈

The Manifestation of an Eating Disorder

28

Jade Riordan †

Ceiling Unlimited

32

Giancarlo Riccobon ƒ

Congratulations

34

Paul Reyns †

The Woman Who Rowed with Klimt

37

Suzy Rigdon ≈

Notes on a Whiteboard

38

Sarah “Sam” Saltiel ƒ

A Line by Line Translation of Last Night

50

Call for Submissions

59

Contributor Notes

60

Fiction – ƒ

CNF – ≈

Poetry – †

Mixed media – ∞


Atlas and Alice Literary Magazine Sioux City, Iowa www.atlasandalice.com atlasandalice@gmail.com

Š Atlas and Alice, All Rights Reserved


MARVIN SHACKELFORD

Nashville The city swallows the stars. It swallows swampland and pasture and sends the hills into hiding. Its breath rattles. Out of its mouth drives an armored convoy bearing missiles, sandbags, rations, maps, ransoms, the missives of every war we ever might fight. From my front door I see them march across the sea. I try to sink back into our skyline of dead gods and burnt altars. All night men in orange surplices wash loose the day’s shortcomings. Tall girls in taller boots run ahead of the deluge, laughing. Their mouths open so wide I’m drawn to the shock of their teeth. Gravity, you understand, is the price we pay. I hold a fist against my heart, salute. They’re unsure it’s funny anymore, but by dawn we’ve come to terms. They will: hold silent, hold hands. Walk with short steps. Wait as long as they can. I will: stir up the dirt and asphalt so it’s easier to breathe. I will cock a hat on my head and let the heartache in my throat twang to the top. I’ll remember when all this was farmland. Remember cattle slowly drawing their spines through drought. One day after the next they disappear. I carry a tiny metal box between heart and ribs, and it tells me when to sing. This is not the moment to let it bleed. It’s not the time to swallow. Soon we’ll drink up the sun and see just how endless it is. Nothing will last but cement, gridlock, the sky. Then I’ll lift up on the waves. This isn’t it.

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Above the Fourth Cataract The water standing in the field begins to show a current. It’s chocolate and impenetrable. It carries up to the driveway and then over the road. You talk about driving through it. You tell me your mother has died. The crumbling of her teeth woke you. In a huff of fear and exhaustion you tease the house to higher ground. You fry up the insides of the day and place them in my mouth. I work it around. She gathered the world just behind her eyes, you say, let it build cataracts over time. Shifting of earth and thinning of tides. What pooled was enough to drown her. We are somewhere near the head of the deluge. Around us the waters stir, begin to pull away. I make a pitcher of my hands to drink it. It tastes of stillness, plague. I’ve arrived late on this scene so many times, come without having consulted the map. You’re not surprised. You pick your feet up high. We have to deal with this.

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MELISSA GOODE

Pretenders The water rushes to our feet, creeping up our ankles, and disappears again. Gravity shifts, the ground flying away from beneath us. I lean on your arm. It is the first time I have touched you in ninety-six days and the blood surges below your skin. It does. What I mean is—I can feel you. The waves are rimmed silver-white. They flash and flare as they rise and crash. I haven’t let go of your arm. Not yet. I hum that song by the Pretenders, “I’ll Stand By You,” and you laugh, thank fuck. A seagull hovers over us, squawking, as if we have food we are not giving over. It swoops higher and then plunges towards the waves. “Can you stop the fucking humming?” you say. I lift a microphone and sing, directing the song straight to you. You drag me close, pulling my head to your chest, stifling me. I press my face harder against your sternum. Here. Here is the place. Your hand moves down my hair, feather-light, and maybe you don’t want me to feel you doing this. You sing from the Pretenders’ “Hymn To Her.” Jesus, that song. Here we go, lying beside each other, down on the floor, and it is not lost on me—she will always carry on. I breathe you in deep, deeper. Fill me up. The film starts, stuttering light, the reel beginning when you put your arm, warm, alive, around my shoulders for the first time. Is this the film you see too when you close your eyes? The water submerges our feet, ankles, rising to our knees, our hips. It does not stop. I listen for what you might say—it starts with Honey, Baby—but I cannot hear you anymore. The waves are so loud. They boom.

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ROBERT JAMES RUSSELL

Blue Heron

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CHILA WOYCHIK

Remembrancer For Christine Dear Sister, Makes sense Iowa feels home to me. Crop plats so large you drive a mile, and the spread keeps going. They say South Dakota’s are even bigger, some five or seven miles square. But Indiana where you were raised? I’m not sure; I’ve never been there. My paternal grandpa’s piddly seven acres behind the old Illinois homestead, with a kitchen pump handle and no other plumbing, grew corn. The John Deere tractor’s flywheel took all that three-hundred-pound man could give it before the characteristic pop pop popping began. But he didn’t work those rows for nothing; his payout was mealtime when he ate and ate and ate. Half a dozen eggs, half a pound of bacon for breakfast. Sausage gravy and biscuits some days. Roast and potatoes, supper. Fried chicken. Corn on the cob. And homemade pies tasty as anything you ever had. The crank on the ice cream maker hardened along with the ice cream when the rocksalted ice started melting in earnest. We lived a block away. This was our growing-up, the one you missed, the land and seasons, the oldtimey meals and the Hicksville blood running agrestic, green, and good. This was Dad’s family. Mine. You had another family raise you—to call your own—but we have always been sisters, even after you died too young. But our strange breed also had a German mother, yours and mine, as European as they get, strange indeed when you realize we settled smack in the middle of a provincial Midwest. Mother, lover of all things wurst: knockwurst, liverwurst, bierwurst. Maker of spaetzle and dumplings, red cabbage and rouladen. A small cold beer with each dinner meal.

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The palate learned diversity that way, tongue split along the lines of Bavarian and backwoods. I took a twenty years’ hiatus from that lineage to experience urbanity, discovered fine restaurants hold charm, hefty prices, and unique savor-jumpers, but even so, those memories of youth hover hard, and I’ve never junked the urge for homecooked meals. In my own kitchen, I fumble, knowledge, a lost vision in the presence of such worthy childhood ghosts. The acumen, I have, but lacking is desire, except the desire to be a child again alongside Mutti’s counter, watching her make Bavarian Zwetschgenkuchen, fresh plum cake, attuning my ears to her lovely throaty phrases, hearing an old German polka record spinning on the turntable. Or in Illinois Grandma’s cold winter / hot summer home where I felt secure, ran free and feral, where her third-grade education and stories of working in the humid Arkansas cottonfields at age eleven gave rise to imagination and family strength and a can-do spirit of endurance still bound tightly to our pith in the face of each new adversity. Corn is browning up here in Iowa now, Sister, cobs hang near-ready on every stalk. This is cattle feed, corn sweeteners, and ethanol. Soybeans too will feed the livestock. We won’t rabbit trail the herbicide and pesticide fiasco, that long and winding road to a sterile future. Gardens are big and neighbors share with each other, and somewhere beside these lanes a pumpkin pie has just been taken out of the oven. I can’t tell you how long these fields or how high the sky above them. I can’t tell you how often we visit a grocery store (often). But just as often, I can’t tell you how many glass jars of pickles, tomatoes, beets, and jellies have been put up along these rural routes. Or how many freezers labor under now-frozen berries picked from our own bushes and plants, how many animals have been taken to a meat market every small country town seems to provide. I can only talk about an independence bred and bred so deeply it sprouts without water and thrives without sun. This hopeless autonomy, we’ve learned to live with, just as we once learned to wrangle metropolitan traffic, and just like those who move here seldom move away, turn green with the pastures in spring, and ochre, come fall. I’ll tell you more one day, and one day we’ll meet in a place far away from these clarion skies and countless hills. Like the land and stars become us, too the living, the meals, the memories. We’re all wrapped up in this lyric, blanketed in this kismet called rural. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think of you.

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TESS WALSH

Dandelions We came to Vermont to heal; that’s what the website had promised our parents. Written word therapy sounded just academic enough for us to hold onto our good girl titles. It wasn’t rehab; it was gentler than that. Our problems were gentler than that. The driveway was gravel and the barn had a kitchen in it, just as rustic as the information packet. There were dandelions everywhere, persistently poking their baby fat faces between the links of a chain fence, dotting the fields with stubborn optimism. It was too cold for dandelions. They knew that and they fought it, the highlighted proof that pretty could also be tough. They drank up the sky, trying to be sunflowers because they were sick of being called weeds. I was housed in a dorm with five other teenage girls who were silent and spooky in the same manner I was: scarred arms, empty eyes. Our days were spent sitting outside with a young, would-be hipster therapist named Jenna who drew henna patterns over our white lines and encouraged us to make lists, pour forth our feelings onto uniform notebooks, write down every word we knew. When she jogged inside to grab water or a sweatshirt, we would pull long-stemmed dandelions out of the ground. One girl chewed on the stems; another braided them into a limp chain. At night, we were different. We were all more intimate with the dark; it looked more like us than those dandelions, than the positive mantras Jenna printed onto our skin. We sat in the narrow hallway of our dorm, the six of us, eating stale cookies we stole from the barn-kitchen and attempting to make conversation. Sometimes we made up stories and excelled at taking our imaginations to extremes. The girl with the pierced eyebrow admitted that she liked to write, just not about her feelings, and the rest of us were quick to agree. The blue-eyed girl said that was why she had agreed to come here, to heal this way.

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Nothing was black and white except for the letters teased onto a page.

The brunette lived on a farm in New Hampshire and wore her hair in a ballerina bun. She had peculiar eyes; cat pupils, different colors, like she took Bradbury’s advice four steps further and stuffed her eyes with not only wonder, but broken glass. She blinked slow but talked fast, and she had a lot to say once the sun went down. She was the first to talk; mostly she talked about her boyfriend, a soccer player named Aaron who liked blueberry pancakes. It was on the third night that we found out Aaron shot himself. She told us matter-of-factly and lapsed into silence. I gave her one of the tasteless cookies and she bit into it as if she hadn’t just scooped out half her soul and left it on the carpet for us to pick at. I wondered if too much truth could kill you like prescription medication. I wondered how many pills we collectively swallowed each morning. Our disorders made a long list on Jenna’s clipboard, lined up like buttons on a coat. The girl with stick legs and snowy eyes braided her hair with needle fingers and drank flat Dr. Pepper. She had a red velvet voice; throaty, full, too big for her bones, and draped herself in her father’s oversized flannels. We pretended to understand when she told us she was once admitted to the hospital for sleep deprivation. Too anxious, she said. She stayed awake for 97 hours and she said she felt her brain start to unravel, each fleshy string separating with every sip of coffee. She had pills by the time she came to Vermont, fat purple ones she called tranquilizers. They gave her bad dreams. She never said, but sometimes we heard her crying while she slept. The blonde from Connecticut who wore a cross around her neck usually sat by the window. Once she lifted up her shirt to show us surgical scars, carefully touching the woven skin like she was fingering rosary beads. It was only after she woke up that she started to pray, she said, because even Catholics get bitter. I almost told her that I understood, that my mother whispered me to sleep with the words hallowed be thy name and I pretended I was the sacred one because to pray meant to hope and even at nine years old I couldn’t afford to do that. The words got stuck in my throat like wet tissue paper. I swallowed a few times, and the blonde turned to look out the window again. The oldest girl was the one with the ring in her eyebrow. When she pushed back her hair, I could see more metal lining the shell of her ear and I was reminded of spaceships and green aliens. She wore the same vest every day, decorated with patches advertising bands I’d never heard of, bands that played angry music. She was angry, too, at a lot of things: the government, public schools, binary gender stereotypes. She 13


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claimed that anger was one of the only things that could change the world. I told her, joking, that she would make an excellent lawyer, but she shook her head as she sucked on a cough drop. She didn’t want to be a part of the system; she called herself an anarchist. The youngest girl had hazel eyes, big and heavy-lidded; bovine eyes, long lashes. She was too pretty and too soft for someone from the city who grew up with one foot in the gutter and two hands on the future. She was a foster kid when she was younger, with two ratty toys and a few sweaters to her juvenile name. She didn’t know what meatloaf was until she was thirteen, because foster parents liked to feed her whatever could be microwaved in sixty seconds or less. She said welfare cheese was better than Land O’Lakes and the reason she was so optimistic was because she has no other choice; when you hit bottom at six years old, you can only go up. The trick was being patient, because the wheels of fate are creaky and slow. And there was me, in the middle, picking crumbs off the Cheeto-colored carpet and trying to think of my story, because I felt like a puzzle carved out of loose change. I never fit. I was incongruous. My story was incongruous, stitched together clumsily with shoelaces and dental floss. I could not convey myself in a few sentences. I always talked too much.

I’m not interesting, I told them abruptly. Not tragic. I come from a nice home in a nice town. I go to a nice school. The word college makes me want to vomit. My mother bakes muffins and pies, my dad coaches Little League. They’re good people, honest people. They grew up in the city and never learned how to pronounce R; they were raised on discount soups and the idea that suburbs were Edenic. I’m always telling stories. I lied a lot when I was little, and never lost the habit. There are worse sins, but the point of Catholic school is to teach you not to sin at all. I was never a Messiah, but I had the complex from so many years of bad blood and little siblings. I’ve never been hospitalized. Never even broken a bone. I’m not an activist, just melting popsicles and a few contradictions. A hypocrite. Too emotional. The girl with the dead boyfriend looked up with her cat eyes. Aren’t we all? she said We were only there a week and went home with stained hands and increased vocabularies, with strict instructions to journal as often as we brushed our teeth. We had each filled a notebook by the time we were declared “healed” and sent away from maternal mountains and Jenna’s tearful embraces. By our last night, we were reading poetry out loud to each other and it made the night richer. We transcended our

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realities and our stories. We became alphabet vampires, imagination junkies, sinking our teeth into paper to sap all the blood out of horror we had already lived. We emptied ourselves. We became dandelions.

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GAD KAYNAR-KISSINGER

What’s Left Poetry is a safe In a foreign city Hotel. A tour guide Trying to get lost. Salted peanuts In the bar after midnight. A second after they closed. A second before blacking out. Poetry is what’s left After you have left And took the elevator. And walked side by side down the hallway. You went inside your room. And didn’t lock the door. She went inside hers And did. Poetry is what’s left. — Translated by Natalie Feinstein . 16


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GRIFFIN ROBILLARD

Use Within Three Days of Opening Our banner will fall, the clothes heavy with rainwater while every heart at once skips a beat because in the morning with the lights on and my head down I can’t stomach the coffee you made me or the letters I said I’d write or the photos I said I’d take or the thoughts I said I’d had—but didn’t. The bananas are rotting in the freezer and I’m kidding myself there’s no mold on the last strawberry, cutting around the cancerous bits like a citrus farmer. Some casualties are unavoidable.

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MADELINE ANTHES

I May Never Be Clean Again Oh, Mother, forgive me, I may never be clean again. I know the words. I heard them whispered over paper napkins and squeezed hands. I heard them as my knees bruised and I pressed my hands into steeples in front of my chest. I heard them repeated over the pulpit and in basements; if I bow my head now, I can still hear the echoes. These were the words that would save me and keep me whole. I remember the rings and the roses. Promises and blessings. I made a vow. To you, to Father, to myself, to God. But Mother, I think I know what heaven feels like. I know this hurts you. You wanted more for me. A chance to transcend to another life after this one. One that you think you’ll never reach because of your own broken vows. I know you wanted me to be better. But, Mother, had you seen him. Had you seen his rust-spotted shirt and the way his hands hung in his pockets, wrists bent and elbows out; you would want to see what those hands could do. You would want to see if they were hard or soft for you. And, Mother, they were so soft.

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Had you seen the way his lip curled back. Felt the way his hair fell forward on my cheek, the way his hands stained me, the way my arching back ached, the way my head tilted skyward. If you could have felt the fire that rose up within me when his blue eyes found mine, scorching me from the inside out. Had you heard the way he said my name, as though it was some secret we share. A prayer. Had you seen everything, you’d know I had to. Together, we had to. I might scald my skin red in hopes of redemption, but I hope I never lose the feeling of his fingertips under my ribs. Oh, Mother, have you ever felt like this? Pray for me, pray for me, pray me clean, but I may never be clean again.

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TONYA EBERHARD

Fireworks After dessert there is a lull. Forks devour the patriotic cake, scrape up red and blue frosting smeared on paper plates. The mosquitos are lazy. Weak flyers—they hover out of reach from candles coughing smoke. Starspangled napkins take flight with the wind. Life hasn’t exhausted you yet. You cry on the short drive to the lake about all the things I forgot how to understand. Even when we lay down a blanket after staking out a spot, you cannot keep still. There is too much to take in: people that go by with blankets and bug spray, children waving glow sticks. The world is so different when you can travel on legs. I close my eyes and think of good things—health, breathing, unpolluted living. The boy I met this summer. There is no impatience waiting for the sky to darken. I’ve seen it a dozen times and wish it would take longer. Past sunset, your mother rocks you to sleep. Mother—the schoolgirl who hid my library books in her desk, snickering over my panic. Mom—the girl 20


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who laughed at me for writing poetry for middle school boys that would never love back, even if they knew what love was. Someday you will understand the words Be kind to your mother, like I did when I was twenty-one, filled with guilt, sharp and mean. For now, she hums to you as you sleep. You cannot hear her voice or the noise— but I will tell you, every organized boom is a lullaby. Those are the things you must fight for in this torn world as explosions tear at the untouchable sky.

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ERIC ANDREW NEWMAN

Shit House Here you are on your hands and knees again, cleaning shit off the bathroom floor. It’s a messy business, so you strip down until you’re only wearing your boxer shorts and a pair of canary yellow rubber gloves. You pick up the woven blue bath mat, splattered with Jackson Pollack shit stains, and set it aside to throw into the washing machine later. The white tile floor and the white porcelain toilet are easy to clean. Just wipe them down using Soft Scrub with Bleach and a wet sponge. The hardest part is when the liquid shit leaks down into the hinges of the toilet seat and you have to clean it out of all the tiny creases. In order to clean the hinges, you need to get a screwdriver from the junk drawer in the kitchen and take them apart. Then you rinse off the screws and hinges in the bathroom sink piece by piece. You grab a rag from the cleaning closet and dry them off, then put everything back together. You once interviewed for a job as an orderly in a hospital in your youth. One of the questions they asked you was how much experience do you have in cleaning up shit. You told the interviewer she would be surprised by how much shit you have to clean up when you work in a bookstore, or any retail business with a public restroom. Sometimes a random stranger will just come in off the street and blow up the whole bathroom, like some sort of domestic terrorist. When your wife has a terminal illness, she’ll often be taking medication that gives her explosive diarrhea. When she gets up from bed, which isn’t very often at all, it’s only to use the bathroom. A lot of the time, she won’t be able to make it. You pick up her dirty underwear from off the bathroom floor and rinse them under the faucet of the bathtub. The particles of shit get caught in the small holes of the hair catcher and now you have to clean that out too. Once you’re done cleaning the bathroom, you take off your rubber gloves like a surgeon and toss them into the bucket under the sink. You pull on your pants and t22


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shirt neatly folded up on the floor outside the bathroom door. Then you walk into the bedroom and lie down on the bed next to your wife. You curl yourself up into the shape of a bean and place yourself in the bean-shaped curve of your wife’s ear. You send sweet whispers down the canal of her ear like paper boats until they drown in the sound of the rain.

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EMILY J. COUSINS

Perfect Dream Decoder I’ll tell you what we’ll do we will string a cord from your brain to the televisions switch on the monitors one at a time watch the slow motion hooves of your night horses turn over & over the ground will give crack beneath them I will finally know what it means not like when you tell me I will finally know what it all means

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JESSICA MEHTA

Namesakes My mother named me after her father she hated. Like buying Papo’s notice with a fat grandchild would make up for anything. My mother named me after famous cowboys then went and married an NDN herself. Meanwhile her own mother said No darker. My mom named me the second most popular girls name in 1981 because firsts were for good girls without panic. My middle name was the same as a boy in sixth grade with greasy nails and dirty hair so I said it was short for Colette. My mother was a surprise fifteen years too late. In the hospital, her father said, She ain’t much to look at, is she? and asked the nurse to name her. The little Mexican girl chose Rita after her own 26


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child and nobody not nowhere ever could say a pearl was an ugly thing. My mother named me for a man she despised well after his girth had gone to skeleton and the coffin flies went still—but still, I thought a namesake should mean something good and holy like clean slates, buried shames and starting overs.

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JULIA EDINGER

The Manifestation of an Eating Disorder It is only when you are vulnerable that she appears. When you are cowering, helpless, and desperate, she comes in the night and shows herself. Little by little, she manifests herself into a being, or rather a beast, and becomes a part of you. She is powerful, and relentless. She feeds off of your insecurities, and she works her way into your thoughts. Soon, she is everywhere. She is everything. She takes over your world, your life, and any remnants of who you once were. “Come with me,” she whispers from the mirror, “I will show you happiness.” If I could go back to that moment, I would disappear in the opposite direction. Maybe I would fight, I would scream, I would cry and beg her to leave me alone. I would punch the glass and shatter the monster. But I was only twelve years old. I was vulnerable. I listened to the voice. I gave her the power to continue. “You’re worthless,” she taunts, “but I can change that.” “I’m worthless?” I ask, helplessly. I am flawed, and I understand that. I am weak, and I have accepted that. I had not contemplated worthlessness. Is it true? “You are a waste of space,” she grins, maliciously. “You have no value, and you benefit nobody. The world would be better off if you just disappeared.” Tears leak from my eyes. Their salty taste enters my mouth. I look into the mirror, watching my face contort. My eyes are wrinkled, my nose is too big, my mouth is not the right shape… “You hate yourself,” she states. “You may not have known that before, but you do.” “I hate myself?” Everything she says is unknown to me, but as soon as she says it I start to believe it. “Maybe I do.” “You’ve always been the ugly one, the fat one, the weird one. Haven’t you noticed you’re different? Haven’t you felt that distance? You will never fit in like the 28


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other girls do. Don’t you want it to stop? Don’t you want to feel better about yourself?” I should have told her to go away. I should have told her I was happy. I should have told her I didn’t need her. Instead— “Show me the way.”

Weeks pass. I follow her orders. I pick at my breakfast. I throw away my lunch. I do everything she tells me to do. I dare to believe in her promises. “I will make you strong,” she swears. She tells me that soon I will feel my strength, but I continue to feel weaker and weaker. I feel empty, as if I am becoming a shadow of myself. I start to forget how I used to be happy, and what I used to like about myself. She points out all of the things that are wrong with me, things I didn’t see before. She makes me rethink everything I thought I liked about myself. When I follow her orders, she seems proud. When I skip a meal, she smiles at me through the mirror, impressed. It is when I eat that she gets angry. When she is angry, she is cruel. “Did you really just eat that?” she hisses, furiously. “I’m sorry!” I cry, “I was so hungry… I’m sorry…” “Do you think you deserve that, fat ass? Do you think you will ever be happy if you continue to stuff your face like an animal? Don’t you have any self-control?” I fall to the bathroom floor. My reflection is my enemy. When I see her, I see myself for who I really am. She is the one who shows me the truth—the only one who can save me. I can’t go on being this hideous being, taking up room and inconveniencing those I love. I will be strong. I will be beautiful. I will follow all of her orders until I am finally happy. “I’m sorry,” I say, finally facing myself in the mirror, “I will do better.”

Months pass. She becomes a greater part of my life. Honestly, she is becoming the center of my life. We are developing a relationship, and I think I love her. She has helped me so much in so little time. I have lost ten pounds since we have met, and I continue to lose more. She has shown me the way. I am becoming the person I want to be, the person I did not know I wasn’t until she showed me the truth. I constantly try to please her. She has given me so much. She has saved me from myself. I owe her my life. “How do I look?” I say, smiling confidently into the mirror. She laughs at me.

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“Do you actually think you look good?” She smirks, “I mean, you’re tolerable now. But you have a long way to go.” My smile fades, as I look long and hard into the mirror. She is right. The progress was in my mind. I disgust myself. My face is fat, my arms and legs are fat, my stomach is fat… “Please fix me,” I whimper, touching the glass. “Please, make me beautiful?”

Time continues to pass, but the only thing relevant in my life is my progress. I have not made enough. I need to lose more. I need to disappear. My friends and family are beginning to worry. They do not understand. They don’t realize that my whole life has changed. Neither my grades nor my friends feel important anymore. All I can think about is making myself disappear. She showed me that. She helped me understand. She is no longer stuck within the mirror. She is no longer just a sick voice in the back of my head. She walks beside me and guides me in the direction I need to go. She shows me what to do, and what not to do. She tells me what to say, and sometimes I let her speak for me. She lives through me. She has taken over everything, but she told me I should let her. I trust her. She has done so much already. “Why did you eat that?” she shouts, after I eat a muffin. It is the only thing I have eaten in days. “I had to,” I whisper. I am so weak. She is right. Why do I do this to myself? I am only hurting myself when I eat like this. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have.” “Don’t worry, Dear,” she whispers, tucking my hair behind my ear, “I can help you with that, too.” She shows me a trick. She takes me to the bathroom, leads me over to the toilet. She puts a finger into my throat and relieves me of the food. It is gone. I am okay. I have not regressed. I owe her everything. I owe her my life. I am the shadow of her, an alter ego, and I follow her lead. If I stay on this path, I will be beautiful. If I stay with her, I will be happy.

It has been so long since she first came to me, first showed me. But I barely remember this year with her. I could list all of the things I have eaten for months, but I could not describe any outings I have had with friends or family. They say I have been absent and preoccupied. My mind rests with her, with her orders, and her promises. She promised me that I would be strong now. I am not. My skin is becoming very pale, and my arms are becoming bony. The scale says I am incredibly underweight, 30


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but she tells me otherwise. She convinces me that the scale is wrong. She tells me I must continue, or I will go back to the horrid version of me I was before she came along. I’m dizzy and weak and cold in spite of the three sweaters hugging my bones. “Leave me alone,” I cry, cowering in the corner of the bathroom in which it began, but for a different reason this time. “You don’t want that,” she assures me. “You need me. You are nothing without me.” “You can’t control me anymore,” I say firmly. “I can do this on my own.” This is not the first time I have tried to escape from her power, but she is so much stronger than me. She replaced my longing for food with insults and her demeaning criticism. She told me how awful I was. I would never be beautiful without her. “I made you,” she laughs carelessly. “If you want to do this on your own, fine. But I promise, you will go back to the worthless piece of shit you were before.” I freeze, considering. Did she make me? I try to remember who I was before it all began. I can barely recall, but I do remember being happier. I remember feeling lighter. I remember having dreams greater than my appearance. Now, I wake up each day dreaming of the sweet taste of a slice of plain wheat bread, but reminding myself how bad it will taste coming back up. I grip the memory of the bile taste in my mouth and wrap my tongue around it, grimacing, sucking it in for strength. “You’ve promised me a lot of things,” I spit. There has not been this much confidence or certainty in anything I have said for a long time. “It ends now.”

Years later, I am healthy, but I still don’t know if I ever learned how to be strong. I am happy, but I never learned to feel beautiful. The ghost of her haunts me. Her cruel words echo through me as I lay in bed waiting for sleep. She comes to me still, even now, when I am vulnerable. Some days, she wants me to kill myself. Some days, she wants me to let her back in. And on my worst days, I think about taking her back. When something goes wrong and I begin to backslide, I see her grinning from the mirror. I hear her voice, menacingly asking me to come with her. She tells me I am not worthy of love, but that she can change it. She tells me I will never be enough, but that she can help. She reminds me of my worthlessness, but promises me I can be beautiful. I do want that. But I am stronger than I was. I will not let her back in. She will always be there: watching me, taunting me. She is ever-present, laughing at my failures and mocking my successes. A part of me forever, she is a benign tumor, lurking within. The fight will never be over, but I will not lose myself again. 31


Atlas & Alice | Issue 12, Spring/Summer 2018

JADE RIORDAN

Ceiling Unlimited I tuck myself into the roof shingles & stucco the sky with Blu Tack & glow-in-the-dark stars. When the light under the door goes out, I catch my forest green curtains on the trees’ fingers so that there’s enough street light to read by. I telescope gaze through the eavestrough at the cars pulling into their driveways across the road & try to make shadow puppets with their headlights. In the (dream)space between my neighbours’ houses, I tiptoe across porchlight brightened chimney smoke then slip onto the rafters. I cover every splinter & square foot with the whisper of bedtime stories from years ago,

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with almost sleepwalk, with hush (& remember). I wake to the garbage truck backing up. I wake when Halley’s comet returns.

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GIANCARLO RICCOBON

Congratulations “Congratulations,” she says. If you say, “Congrats, yourself,” and jiggle the tassel on your cap, she’ll say, “Not your diploma. I mean congrats on the—you know.” If you pretend you don’t know, she’ll stroke the bulge under your black gown (Maternity-Size). If you recoil and say, “Careful!” she’ll say, “I just wanted to feel him kick, Diana. I’ve never felt a kick before.” If you say, “What is this, a sideshow attraction? Step right up, folks, and feel it kick!” she’ll say, “Sorry. I thought you’re used to people doing that.” If you rub your ring finger (heavy from what’s missing) and say, “I’ll never get used to—to people touching me,” she’ll say, “You mean other than your boyfriend, of course?” Forget it. Better try again.

If you say, “Congrats, yourself,” she’ll say, “Not your diploma. I mean—you know.” If you pretend you don’t know, she’ll stroke the bulge under your gown. If you say, “Aw, thanks,” and try not to recoil, she’ll say, “What are you gonna name him?” If you say, “Never got a chance to think about it,” she’ll say, “I thought you already had a name picked out.” If you say, “Honestly, I can’t see that far ahead,” she’ll say, “Well, I’d be happy to help you name him. Remember in seventh grade, when we were dreaming up names for our kids?” Scratch that. 34


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If you say, “Congrats, yourself,” she’ll say, “Not your diploma. I mean—you know.” If you say, “But June, what if it’s too much for me to handle?” she’ll say, “Relax, you’ll make an awesome mom.” If you say, “It’s not that. I just don’t know how much I’ll get to see him, once I start work next week. I’m gonna deliver Pepsi by day and serve drinks by night, remember? And now a full-time mom, too,” she’ll say, “Shouldn’t your boyfriend help with that?” If you say, “Yeah, but no way that’ll ever happen,” she’ll recoil like she’s the one being dumped and say, “Well, he doesn’t know what he’s missing. You know, I can babysit for you, even if he won’t.” You want to shake her and shout, Get your own! Except you don’t want her to get her own like you did.

If you say, “Congrats, yourself,” she’ll say, “Not your diploma. I mean—you know.” If you say, “I know what you mean. I’m just not ready to talk, okay?” she’ll say, “Well, when will you be ready? We didn’t used to keep secrets from each other. Not before I spent a semester in France, anyway.” If you say, “What’s so secret about it? Can’t you tell? It was the two of us in a backseat bed with sunvisor sheets until he kicked me out while the engine was still warm and told me to walk the rest of the way,” she’ll say, “Oh. I didn’t know. How could I? I’ve never had a—you know.” You can tell.

If you say, “What for?” she’ll say, “What else? Your bundle of joy.” If you say, “So what? It doesn’t exactly take talent to get pregnant,” she’ll say, “Hey, I’m sorry this didn’t go like you hoped, but you can at least be grateful for what you’ve got. If you don’t want to start a family, I bet a lot of folks would gladly trade places with you.” Words fail you. They dump you on the tarmac and expect you to walk the rest of the way. Where are you even walking? You don’t know anymore.

Unless. You say, “Thanks, but I don’t really feel like celebrating right now. I’m not asking you to understand completely, but can you at least try?”

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She says, “It’s okay, no need to be so shy. It’s just exciting for me. For you, I mean. You must be super excited,” and she pokes the only souvenir your ex left behind. You slap her hand away and say, “Don’t touch me. Please.” She gawks at you like you’re a stranger. Maybe you are. You turn your back to her. You may not have many options left, but at least you can save the tatters of your dignity. You know what to name him now: Eugene. Greek for well-born. Not true, not even close, but for his sake you’ll pretend. Tell him Daddy had to travel far away. Tell him Daddy and Mommy had a fight and now they’re taking a timeout from each other. Tell him Daddy is six feet under. Anything to save your kid’s dignity.

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PAUL REYNS

The Woman Who Rowed With Klimt When she was young her father told her that though she walk forever only God could round a lake. He named her Krystal after the purity of water. For her thirteenth birthday, she received a rowboat and had the run of an Austrian hamlet. At first light he found her feeding larks on a hillside. They forced out the vessel which he would render light. And, in monkish mist, though her eyes might search the distance Only an aging master could vanish right into her.

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SUZY RIGDON

Notes on a Whiteboard Rita Johnson Kenway, a woman of arts, letters, music, and an all-around good sport died at age 80 on Friday, Feb. 4, 2011 at Collier’s Rehab and Nursing Center in Ellsworth. — The Ellsworth American, February 11, 2011 § You know you’ve arrived when you see the bright yellow canopy of Thurston’s Lobster Pound, known less for being blown to smithereens in the 1999 Stephen King film Storm of the Century than for their buttery lobster roles. You sometimes buy a crate of shedders here after the eight-hour slog up the east coast with perhaps a stop for homemade fudge along the way if the tides are good and you haven’t had to rush. The car is always weighed down by kayaks, books, enough food for three months rather than just a week or two, and clothes for every type of Maine day. The weathered boards of the Bernard dock bounce the car’s tires and you feel the eyes of the equally weathered lobstermen watching you, TOURIST stamped in infrared ink across your forehead despite spending each summer of your life here just off the coast. But you skip the driving snows of January, the bitter winds of March, so you must be a tourist. A summer person. Even from the dock, the rock bar with three small homes and the rounded meadow of Gotts Island is visible, and you jump ahead thirty minutes to after the loading of the boat, the trek across sometimes flat, sometimes choppy, and often foggy strip of water separating the island from the mainland. You picture your feet in the grass, pretending you have been bare footed all summer. You walk over the tiny stones in the road soaking in the slight pain because that is the only type of pain there should be in life. 38


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The Island. It’s a common term for anyone who has ever spent time on an island, whether in Maine or elsewhere. You call Gotts “the Island” in conversation with friends who spend time on their own Islands further south. You are proud you are so far north in the shadow of Acadia. You look forward to your grandparents’ house on the hill, in the middle of the “town” although it is no more than that stone road and a few houses. From the kitchen window, you can see the sloping hill, the graveyard, the wide expanse of ocean that sparkles each sunny evening around five. You often stand there while preparing supper and wish you could have this view every day. That you could be here forever. § That spring [Northwood] proposed to 19-year-old Rita in the rose arbor of her parents’ garden. They were married Aug. 20, 1950, just six months later. As a new bride, Mrs. Kenway found the second love of her life, Great Gotts Island, a woodsy island about a quarter mile due south of Bass Harbor Head. — The Ellsworth American § Notes for a poem: Red Barn ……“On this site in 1897, nothing ……happened” House Trim Front door Picnic table, stained Poppies Mail house, one room ……“For lobster, call the Snow boys” Raspberries . Green Fresh cut lawn Crab apples Leaves Firs Asparagus

Brown Freckles Suntanned skin Pencil sketch: uprooted tree Organs: Electric, circa 1980 Pump, circa 1904 Wooden high chair Flag pole Mushrooms Dirt Sand Seaweed Sea glass, common Pink Rocks, flat Flowers 39


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Juniper Stairwell Seaweed Sea glass, common . Blue Ocean, shimmering Sea glass, rare Lichen Painting of the shoreline Eyes Blueberries: pies, muffins.

Wallpaper, dining room Lipstick Cover: Gott’s Island, Maine: Its People, 1880-1992 Headstones Grey Urn Ashes

§ In my home office sits a 5×7 picture of me and my older brother on Gotts. We’re young, in elementary school. I’m all in pink, my curly hair pushed back in the breeze. Matt, my brother, looks like Spiderman, all in red and blue, with his bright red hair. We’re sitting on a white fence with the paint chipped off in places from the years and salty air. The sky is a cloudless blue and behind us, the ocean is a darker shade of that blue. In the foreground there is a tombstone, gray and marbled, nearly as tall as we are. It’s one of the oldest in the cemetery, the newest plots marked only with plaques. § Elf Houses This is how you build them: [1] Gather materials. Suggestions include sticks, pinecones, sand dollars, sea glass, mushrooms, moss, lichen, buoys, and general nautical detritus found along the rocky shore. [2] Choose a time when no one is on the path. When you hear people coming, you and your brother or mother or grandmother must hide. The houses are only magic if no one sees them being built. [3] Get elaborate. Swimming pools made from lichen, balconies and canopies made from chunks of moss or spare bits of bark, and even small hammocks strung from old fishing nets will be appreciated by the tiny tenants. Bonus points if you can build into the side of a log or in the shade of large tree-fungi. 40


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[4] Make them visible. You want travelers to see your handy work, so keep the construction close enough to the path that walkers will see it. However, they don’t have to be too obvious, because there is joy in finally spotting a good house or compound after the tenth time walking past. [5] Keep building. There haven’t been studies done yet about this, but anecdotal evidence suggests it extends life by at least 100 years. § Inch along. Two inches then fingers, pale under black push deep, wriggle and place a seed, tiny and white, to be covered. The dirt is rich and dark, packed and crumbling. Moist. From one, Rita moves on. Wriggle deep, cover—next line. She works, back bent under cool sunshine, while salted air bristles the fine hairs along her nape. Flicks of her wrists pull sprouting weeds, their white bodies dropping flecks of dirt from truncated roots. Then she places them, one among others on the mound to be removed— flung into woodland piles, shaded by firs. Her body bows and twists, back convex as rows clear, rows emerge. In June, the greens reach her knees. Soft swaying asparagus caught in a rippling wind. The velveteen fronds tickle as she roots around their bases. Fingers working; always working. Spires inverted in the rich earth, pulled free and shaken. She stoops, gloves on and works roots free, smacks bodies against her thigh to shake off the excess, places them in woven baskets. The greens reach her chest by late summer, cats lazing in their shade, fur gray against the verdance. Soft motions in afternoon haze, still digging, pulling. Coaxing. She kneels among giants, her spine now concave. § “Mum and dad would come up on Memorial Day to plant it,” says Ms. [Nancy] Rigdon, “And when we’d all arrive in July there’d be lots of weeding to do. But it was an enormous garden and produced way more than we could eat. Mum wanted to give the vegetables away but the neighbors didn’t want to take advantage of her so she brought out this old white scale and would charge something like 25 cents for a pound of tomatoes or beans or anything.” — The Ellsworth American

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§ Sometime when I was in high school, my mom bought a small, square whiteboard to leave on Gotts for my grandmother. It had painted shells around the erasable surface and a pale wooden back. We used a black marker to leave notes for each other and for her. Gone for a walk Dinner is at 5:30. Don’t eat. Down at the shore § For the longest time, Grandma assured us that she had a cameo in Storm of the Century. She swore up and down that she was the old woman in the rocking chair, watching television as the storm closed in. We paused the tape, rewound, strained our eyes, but were never quite sure. § We knew something was wrong in the way her eyes unfocused, in the way words didn’t quite make it out right, in the way thoughts wouldn’t coalesce as they should. We knew something was wrong when she no longer recognized our faces in a photo only three years old. We were bigger, but our shapes remained the same. § Make her laugh. My dad loves telling the story of Thanksgiving on the Island, before I was born. There’s no hardwired electricity, just solar power and gas lamps in the house, or anywhere on the Island for that matter. In the kitchen, there are two long lights fixed vertically to the wall above the sink, bordering the clock. At night, their light doesn’t quite reach the far corners of the room. It’s surprising how many dishes four people can make, so after cooking all day on a (then) wood-fired stove, my dad and grandma would stand for an hour or more at the sink, one suds up, and the other drying. Glassware would go first, then plates and then pots, all hand-dried and carefully put away. Probably my grandfather had the radio on, tuned to a classical station. 42


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As the hour wore on, their fingers turned to prunes, and my dad recalls how hard they’d laugh at everything and anything. § The best thing to do on Gotts, besides read, is write. I don’t know exactly why this is, but as soon as my feet touch the ground, words start fighting to get out of me. Stories creep into my brain as I walk wooded paths, and I have to race to get them down. Every summer, I bring at least two notebooks, and now my laptop, which I charge during the middle of each sunny day. I often fill a backpack with paper, pens, snacks and a water bottle, and set out to find a quiet piece of rock. My newest spot is just off the aptly named Eastern Neck Cove. (The Island is shaped like a bear without any front legs or paws.) I walk down a steep path, marked by slick stones, and cross a pebble beach. Then I wipe off my shoes so I don’t lose my footing, and climb up the large, granite slabs. There’s a nook shaped like a seat which overlooks the ocean, the passing lobster boats, and the mountains of Acadia beyond, including what hikers call the Wonderland Trail. Hearing the water lap against the shore, and feeling the breeze after it skims off the waves, seems for me the best source of inspiration. Others have felt this, too. My grandmother wrote a book about the Island on the Island. Many other writers have spent lifetimes of summers composing there: the late Ruth Moore, our neighbors Christina Gillis and John Gillis, me, Ted Holmes, the late Ben Weinberg, Kathy Weinberg, John Baldwin. § Ruth Moore, one of the most famous of the many writers to have lived and worked on Gotts, said about the Island: “That was the place you were homesick for, even when you were there.” § Most of my memories of her are about forgetting: the way she’d repeat herself all day, the way she looked right at me and told me (a much younger version of) Suzanne was playing upstairs. I see the photos of her from when I was small, or before I existed, and in them her eyes are bright behind her glasses, or she’s geared up for a hike across the Island. 43


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At first, I was too young to appreciate her, and then I grew too old to retrieve those happier memories, instead languishing in unfocused looks, half-finished sentences. I still have stories of her, though. § Make her laugh One of the peculiarities of my grandmother’s dementia was her fondness of and dependence on tissues. In every pocket of every shirt, jacket, or pair of pants, crumpled white wads were stuffed and hoarded. It became a ritual before any jaunt no matter how short, to first check to make sure she was well-equipped for even the runniest of noses. Whenever my mom would ask, “Got your tissues, Mum?” she’d pull them out, overflowing from her fingers, the display causing tremendous laughter from the two of them. § Don’t turn on the stove You’ve already: ……eaten lunch ……taken your medicine ……eaten a banana § She made it more than half a mile down a path and through the woods. In my imagining of the story it’s raining. Night. She’s alone and clinging to a tree, not sure how to make it back to the house. Not sure where she is despite knowing every rock of the Island by heart. When I think of it, her hair is always whipping across her face as though in a gale. Yet I’m sure that what really happened was that she wandered off during the day and the path was well-enough traveled that someone spotted her and brought her home. For the first time, we locked the doors. §

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On the inside cover of her book, Gotts Island: Its People, given to my mother as a gift: December 1993

To Nancy, ……….May the love for Gotts Island, which developed in the girl you were, stay alive in the woman you have become. ……….Love Mom Merry Christmas § We named it—That Silence. Uncomfortable silence and repetitions and lapses in memory and self. “I hate gardening,” she said. “I hate classical music.” We named it and it grew swift and black, weighing down and down upon us. § The Home had a large wooden porch out back with four picnic tables in the shade and flower boxes on the railing. Inside were long tables for group lunches, and as we crossed through the main visiting space, a baby waddled by with the help of her mother. Early August in Maine is beautiful, even when not on the Island. Even when on the mainland surrounded by strip malls and L. L. Bean outlets. We sat outside, sunglasses shading us from sun, shading us from her vacancy there. There and not there. § Hand on pale windowpane. Pale, too, palms pressed and white. Face blurred through the glass, but the voice is still clear. Despite the sunshine and the flower boxes, despite babies gurgling and nutritional lunches, we couldn’t stay. Her hand, white against the front glass, pressed through to us. “Don’t leave me here. Don’t leave me here, please.”

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§ When you walk into the wide open of the meadow, the ocean stretches out before you, all the way to Tremont Harbor, where we depart for the Island each year. You can even see the tiny yellow speck of Thurston’s Lobster Pound. But closer, on a granite outcrop of the mainland is the red flashing bulb of the Bass Harbor Head Light. The path winds its way from wood, to seaside, back to woods. Near dawn the deer emerge from the firs and nibble at the dew-laden flora, and some of the wild blueberries, which are buried under sharp fronds of juniper and golden-hued grass. In the morning before the crows have begun cawing, the steady thrum of lobster boats cocoons you; heartbeats in utero. The sky is a deep blue and low wisps of fog hug the mountains beyond. The only thing you can break are silken webs, intricate decagons strung between trees. § Each clear night after dinner, we stack the dirty dishes by the sink, put on our shoes and jackets and head out the barn door. Even in August the air cools considerably in the evening, and I usually pull my sweater tight. We walk through the lawn, cross the small “Town Road” which is nothing more than an unpaved dirt and stone path, and walk toward the cemetery. Its white fence has been repainted and looks bright in the dimming light. We stand on the grass just behind the open gate and watch as the sun drops lower and lower into the sky. It’s inevitable that someone jokes they can hear the sun sizzling against the watery horizon. The colors are brightest after the sun disappears. The bottom of the clouds turn liquid gold first, and then morph into sherbets—raspberry, orange and grape. The colors widen and reach above our heads and behind us in this place with more sky than land. We have hundreds of photographs taken of sunsets from this exact point, framed by the fence and the tombstones, and the one American flag planted in the southeast corner. We look down over the sloping hill to the view my grandmother and my uncle have, the view my parents will eventually have as they rest. §

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In the trust started by my grandfather, my mother and her brothers now own the house. They may not sell or rent it out, as per his directive. Eventually my brother and I will claim ownership. § During the winter term of my senior year of college, I wrote a novella for my thesis called The Widow Porch. It takes place on the barely fictitious Rainier Island, off the coast of Maine. The grown son and his wife and their two children travel to the Island to take care of his mother, Miriam, who is suffering from dementia. There were too many elements plucked straight from my life for this book to have worked. The details were too close. I was too close. I handed in my completed manuscript and met with my two advisors on a typical winter day in upstate New York: cold, snowy and gray. I felt satisfied that I had accomplished my longest piece of writing to date. My mother rang me the next morning around nine, just before I set off on the fourhour drive home for the weeklong break prior to the spring semester. My grandmother had passed away early that morning, she said, around two. § There was only one limited printing of my grandmother’s book. Practically anyone with ties to the Island purchased a copy and shows it to those who come to visit. At least once a summer, my mother encounters someone who mentions how much they love it, or someone who tells her a fun fact they learned by reading it. We own two copies: one at my parents’ house and one on the Island. I want to have one down here in Maryland, to be able to flip through and see the picture of my mother’s christening in front of the barn—the first event of this nature on the Island in 35 years—and to read about the messy histories of all of the tangled families on Gotts’ shores. The only copies available online are fetching $125. How much is too much? Who is selling it? § February 19, 2011 A Service of Thanksgiving for the Life of Rita J. Kenway 47


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Songs my mother played: Sinfonia from Cantata No. 156 by J.S. Bach – flute Air from Overture in D by J.S. Bach – flute § The summer after she died. Silence in the house, freshly opened from a dormant winter. Instead of the usual foggy landscape of early June in Maine, the water glittered in the afternoon sun. Upstairs, in a room shared for over fifty summers, I imagine my grandfather stood quietly. Two pairs of her shoes, gray, were lined up under the musty linens in the closet. On the bureau is a glass hand mirror with a pink-carved rose on the back. A goldplated brush sits beside an old perfume bottle that belongs in the nineteen-twenties, with its little beaded pump. I squeeze it sometimes and believe I can smell Chanel No. 5. Three button-up flannel shirts hang in the closet in my room. I always wear one of them: it’s the color of eggplant with yellow and blue stripes down the breasts. I’d never wear it on the mainland. Grandma wore it gardening. Her books line the shelf above my drawers—lessons on drawing and watercolor, the encyclopedia, a dictionary, a bird guide. Her artwork—self-taught on long summer days—hangs around the house: a seascape, the tall August grass parted in paths. Her book is tucked on the bookshelf behind the stairs. We still write notes on the whiteboard we bought when her dementia started worsening. The last one I wrote says, “Picking blueberries. Back soon.”

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SARAH “SAM” SALTIEL

A Line by Line Translation of Last Night (1) I’d been feeling antsy, been stuck at home too long and all that. I wanted to get my body into motion before I became some sedentary organic matter crumbling into my couch. . . . . . (2) I took myself out to a movie but made the mistake of sitting off to the side and way too close to the screen so by the end of it, my shoulders were nearly vibrating from the tension in them. I loitered a bit in my seat, waiting for everyone to filter out, digging my fingers deep into my neck muscles in order to unlock my aches. . I followed these two girls out the door and stood in the lobby of the movie theater for a while, looking at all the energy going on around me. There were two people working at the snack

(1) I have been stumbling through the month. I don’t know how to be at home anymore but I keep coming back to it, revolving around it in circles like a comet drawing closer and closer until it sinks into the atmosphere. It’s too empty, and walking around feels like walking through layers of dust. I miss you. . (2) I went out to a movie by myself at that movie theater that we always used to go to, the one with the seats that are much deeper than you would expect and so you sink into them for eons. Walking in, I remembered how we always used to sit in the back so that we could make jokes and whisper, and sitting anywhere near there felt like a violation of your memory, and so I sat near the front, in the seats that were so shitty that we never would’ve sat there together. I thought the movie would distract me but I drowned my eyes in Technicolor and I couldn’t stop the 50


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counter, neither of them even college aged. The girl serving the customers seemed tired and had wisps of hair that were slowly separating from the rest of her head. At the ticket office a family of four was waiting patiently in line. The dad was typing on his Blackberry while the older sister reached over to poke her brother every few moments. Through the window the street was moving in slow motion, clogged up by snow that seemed to be drifting into every crack of life. Across the street there was a bar with the name “Mike’s!” in giant neon letters, as if it was proclaiming how excited it was to be owned by someone named Mike. . (3) I shifted my weight, not wanting to stand any longer in the middle of the room, but not feeling ready to go home. Through the door next to me I could hear the dramatic swell of a horror movie soundtrack. Someone screamed. . I wound my scarf tight around my neck and tucked my face into the collar of my jacket before heading out and crossing the street. . . . . . . (4) I didn’t bother to head for the crosswalk but cut through the middle of the street, dodging around the cars waiting for the streetlight to change

repetitive thought-cycling going on behind them. I tried not blinking, to see if I deprived myself of those moments of dark, maybe I could focus in on the screen. No dice. . . . . . . . . . . . . . (3) After the movie, I couldn’t bring myself to move, I couldn’t think of any space that I wanted to exist in, there was just this sense of wrongness deep inside of me, fluttering in my gut. I once described the feeling to you like living out two alternate realities in one body. I feel like I contain a self slightly shifted from myself. Were those the sorts of things you were talking about when you said that I say things that make you feel like you’re suffocating? . I decided to go to a bar because I wanted to flood my brain full of things that are not your emptiness. . (4) I once told you that sometimes I step into traffic without looking to see if cars are coming. You got this look on your face that was the same look that 51


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color. A man in a blue sedan had his arm lounging out of the window, a cigarette dangling between his fingers. He eyed me evenly, showing no sign that the biting cold was twisting its way into his car. A wind picked up and some of the embers from his cigarette flew towards my face. . . . . . . . . . (5) I shuffled into Mike’s! and immediately started depositing my layers onto the bar stool closest to the door. It was the sort of place that Davey would have liked, with a few people scattered throughout the badly-lit room, nursing their liquor on top of tables that looked like they had come prepackaged with a certain level of aesthetic grime. . . . . . . . . . . . .

you had when you told me you didn’t want to be around me anymore, and you quickly changed the subject. What was going through your mind at that point? For a while after that conversation, I would imagine that you had made me promise not to do that, would fantasize that you had made me swear an oath to you. While crossing the street to the bar, I thought about that, and maybe that was too much to expect of you. Maybe wanting you to hold me to that promise was putting a weight on you that you couldn’t handle. You always seemed so sure of yourself. I thought you could carry that weight. . (5) The bar was the sort of place that you, me, and Davey would’ve loved to find in college. I saw Davey a few days ago for one of our Tuesday afternoon lunches and I told him that I’ve been having trouble sleeping, that my bed feels too empty. He said it’s not like we had ever had anything romantic between the two of us, so he didn’t understand why the bed’s emptiness would bother me. I didn’t know how to explain to him that it’s not just about the bed, it’s that everything feels emptier, and my waking up in the middle of the night feels like my brain wants me to relive that emptiness. It’s as if I need myself to know at every moment, even asleep, that your vacancies are living, breathing sores crouching in the corners of my life with crusting, weeping mouths. People always understand if someone’s upset 52


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. . . . . . . . . . (6) Every person in the place slumped towards the ground, into the décor, their clothes blending into the surroundings. I could almost see the afterimages of their selves from previous days, returning once again to sit in the same spot and drink the same drink. I ordered a gin and tonic and the bartender nodded but kept wiping down the beer tap with a rag with idling movements, as if he knew that he could afford to take his time, that I wasn’t going anywhere. . . . . . . . . . . (7) Eventually, drink in hand, I cast my gaze over the bar again, looking for the ideal seat. Near the back was a man with golden stubble glittering on his jawline and a large beer occupying the space in front of him.

about a break up, but what about a friendship that was a thousand times deeper than any sort of romantic love? I feel robbed of mourning you because I was never in love with you, and so I feel like I don’t have a right to the deep platonic absence that you’ve left behind. You would have understood. You always did. . (6) Everyone in that bar looked like they belonged there. I felt like I belonged there. You know how we used to make up stories behind the people sitting in those seedy bars, the ones who you just know would go up to the bartender and say, “the regular.” We’d give them elaborate backstories for the reason that they were drinking. Well here’s one for you: She’s been feeling like she’s been spiraling downwards for months and her best friend was the only one she could talk to about it. Anytime she was upset, she could go to her best friend and… take all those awful thoughts and give them to that friend. She never thought about where those awful thoughts were going, what was happening to all that darkness. Best friend has now left. Forever. She orders a gin and tonic to dilute her pain. Guess who it is? . (7) I didn’t want to sit by myself. I don’t think I could’ve stood any more emptiness. In some ways I’m so angry with you but you’re not here to be angry at. I needed someone, some body to reflect my emotions back to me. I 53


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. . . (8) Without even thinking about it, I headed in his direction, rounding my shoulders and swaying my hips. . “Mind if I join you?” I asked and he looked up at me. It took a moment for him to internalize my request but he nodded and gestured at the seat in front of him. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (9) I sat down, took a sip of my drink and regarded him behind his beer. . “You look like you’re waiting for something,” he said, and I wasn’t sure how to take that so I sat with it for a moment. . “I don’t think I’m happy,” I responded, deciding that that was the most accurate thing to say. He nodded slowly, as if this was something that he had

needed to do something with them. . (8) I walked towards a man that I saw. He looked lonely. He looked like the type of person I might think was attractive if I was still noticing that people were attractive. My hips swayed from side to side as I walked towards him and I know that if you were here you would’ve called me out on my performativity. But you’re not. Sometimes I feel like I’m a character written by someone who doesn’t know how to write anyone other than herself, so she does that, but writes versions of herself sexualizing herself. I don’t know if that means that I actually feel sexy or if I feel so detached from myself that I’m narrating my own life from afar, how I’d like it to be told. . The man let me sit next to him but it didn’t matter. . (9) I told the man that I didn’t think I was happy. I don’t know if that was the answer to what he said to me. I don’t know if it mattered. I really just wanted to tell someone, anyone. I wanted to want to tell the man, but really I wanted to tell you, could feel the old habit of unhappiness tugging at me. I wanted to get my phone out and call you and sit with you on the line. Maybe this is why you were so upset with me. You felt that I only wanted you for my pain. But it’s not true and I feel…. if you could 54


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suspected. “Are you?” I asked. . “Probably not,” he replied, then lifted his beer up to his mouth, I watched his throat contract as he swallowed and mimicked his motion. I held the liquid on my tongue, moving it around my mouth until it felt bitter. . . (10) We sat like that for a half an hour, an hour, maybe forever, exchanging small talk. I wasn’t paying so much attention to what we were saying but every few sentences, I shifted a little bit forward, moved my hand a bit closer to his. I could tell that he noticed but he didn’t do anything in reaction, negative or positive. I had made it through three gin and tonics and my knuckles were just barely brushing against the outside of his forearm when he stood up abruptly. He started to walk away from the table and I stared blankly after him until he turned to look behind him. . (11) “Are you coming?” he asked, and I nodded and— . . . . . . . . . . .

have tried a bit harder, then you would’ve seen that you mattered to me so much, and what type of best friend banishes someone from their life with no warning? You could have told me. I could have changed, done something. Why didn’t you tell me? .

(10) I ended up flirting with the guy. Touching his arm, moving closer to him, things like that. I watched myself from afar and I couldn’t bring myself to care whether I was successful or not. It was a thing to do, like anything. But I’m writing myself here, so I have decided to write myself as flirty, because that’s better than writing a void. . . . . . . . (11) The guy invited me back to his place. I’ve been writing lists of things that I would tell you if you were still talking to me: how my day’s going, how the coffee shop around the corner came out with a hazelnut flavor that I think you would love, how the couple next door has started arguing again in wallshattering screams. All of my lists turn into me writing out different versions of our last conversation, the points that I wish I could’ve made, the things that I wish I could’ve said to change your 55


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.

mind.

(12) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

(12) The guy’s hands were rough on my skin and I felt him moving from position to position and I felt like an animator, repeating the motions that I have been taught to do, but unable to activate any other form of movement. . Sitting on his bed, he pushed my head down towards his crotch and I remember lying on my bed with my head on your lap while you stroked my hair. . I felt so empty. . He let out a grunt that originated in the base of his stomach and I told you that night how much I wanted to destroy my body, I could feel my body and it was hurting I was hurting and I just wanted it to stop. He maneuvered me to straddle him. I could feel your/his body going stiff under me. . You held me down for two hours, not letting me move until I stopped crying, until I calmed down. You didn’t think I should be allowed agency, didn’t think I could be trusted to stand and move around the world without hurtling towards my own destruction. You were probably right. . He flipped me around so that he was lying on top of me and started thrusting into me and I did not want this and I thought I did. I held very still until he 56


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. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

was done and he rolled off of me. There were no terms of endearment or affection and our mediocre sex hung in the air like a tension. I thought about getting up to go home but that seemed too far and too immense. He got up to get a glass of water and I rolled onto my side and closed my eyes, pretending to be asleep. . The day after you saved my life was the day that you left. You told me that you loved me but that you couldn’t be around me, that my life was too much of a pressure for you to bear and how could you do that? How could I? I hate you and hate myself and I don’t know how to reconcile those two. . I woke up in the middle of the night, as I’ve been doing for weeks now. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and will find myself reaching across empty expanses of sheets, shivering but with my blankets damp with my sweat. I’ll only wake up for a moment before falling back asleep but it’s several times a night, stretching the span of my sleep, and every time that I wake up, I feel in that moment all the other moments that I’ve had to wake up like this. That feverish, half-conscious state of mind has the reside of warped time collecting to it like stagnating pond water, and I can’t help but feel that I am doomed to live out that moment again and again. That somehow that moment is more real than the rest of my life and the rest of my seconds spent awake are 57


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. . . . . . . . . . . (13) — I sat in his shower, feeling like there were things inside of me shaking, coming loose. I heard a knock on the door—apparently he had woken up. . “Um… lady? You alright in there?” . . . . . . . . . . . (14) I put my head between my knees, trying to breathe that moment out of existence. . I don’t know how I got here.

grayshades, blurs existing between those seconds where I am horrifyingly aware of the emptiness of my bed and my body. . This time, of course, I wasn’t in my bed. I felt the man’s arm around me and everything felt too heavy, too much, I am too much and this is too much and I am so so sorry that I was too much. (13) I tried to creep out of his apartment but was paralyzed with the idea of going home, of seeing that space without you, of sitting with my pain alone, and of sitting with the pain that my pain caused you. . I opened random doors until I found the bathroom, with pristine white tiled floors. I dropped all my clothes there in a heap and sat on the shower floor, turning on the hot water until the sound of it battering against my head started to drown my thoughts. The guy knocked on the door to check if I was ok and I didn’t know how to answer. . (14) I put my head between my knees, trying to breathe that moment out of existence. . I don’t know how I got here.

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CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS ______________________________________________ We’re always looking for writing that spans genres, that demands to be read, that might be considered the black sheep of a family. Art and science thrill us, but so does the simple image of a man standing at a crossroads. Surprise us. Thrill us. Make us laugh and cry and cringe. Tell us your thoughts. We can’t wait to hear from you! For submission guidelines, please visit http://atlasandalice.com/submit/

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CONTRIBUTOR NOTES ______________________________________________ Madeline Anthes is the acquisitions editor for Hypertrophic Literary. Her writing can be found in journals like WhiskeyPaper, Lost Balloon, Cease, Cows, and Third Point Press. You can find her on Twitter at @maddieanthes, and find more of her work at madelineanthes.com. Emily J. Cousins lives, teaches, and writes in Denver, CO. Emily’s poems have appeared in, or are forthcoming from, Denver Quarterly, The Laurel Review, Copper Nickel, Bombay Gin, Hobart, The Collapsar, and elsewhere. Tonya Eberhard‘s most recent work has appeared in DuM dUm zine & press, Picaroon Poetry, and Shantih Journal. She lives in Minnesota. Julia Edinger is an emerging writer who has published work in Mind Murals, The Buzz Book, Pamplemousse, and Bridge. She graduated with an English degree from The University of Toledo in May, 2018. She was a member of Sigma Tau Delta, an international English honors society. She is currently seeking a job in publishing. For more information, visit juliaedinger.wixsite.com/write. Melissa Goode’s work has appeared in Wigleaf, Magazine, Forge Literary Magazine, and matchbook, Review) was recently chosen by Aimee Bender for Books). She lives in Australia. You can find twitter.com/melgoodewriter

SmokeLong Quarterly, WhiskeyPaper, Split Lip among others. Her story “It falls” (Jellyfish Best Small Fictions 2018 (Braddock Avenue her here: www.melissagoode.com and at

Gad Kaynar-Kissinger (70) is a retired Associate Professor from the Theater Department at Tel Aviv University. His poetry was published in major Israeli literary periodicals and supplements, and compiled in seven books, including a bi-lingual Hebrew-Spanish publication Lo que queda (What Remains). For ADHD he won “The General Israeli Writers’ Union” Award (2010). Kaynar is a stage, TV and film actor, and translator of 70 plays from English, German, Norwegian and Swedish. For his Ibsen translations he was designated in 2009 by the Norwegian King as “Knight First Class of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit.” Jessica (Tyner) Mehta is a Cherokee poet and novelist. She’s the author of six collections of poetry including the forthcoming Savagery, the forthcoming Constellations of My Body, SecretTelling Bones, Orygun, What Makes an Always, and The Last Exotic Petting Zoo, as well as the novel The Wrong Kind of Indian. She’s been awarded numerous poet-in-residencies posts, including positions at Hosking Houses Trust and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in StratfordUpon-Avon, England, Paris Lit Up in France, and the Acequia Madre House in Santa Fe, NM. Jessica is the recipient of a Barbara Deming Memorial Fund in Poetry. She is the owner of a

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multi-award winning writing services business, MehtaFor, and is the founder of the Get it Ohm! karma yoga movement. Visit Jessica’s author site at www.jessicamehta.com. Eric Andrew Newman lives in Los Angeles with his partner and their dog. He works as an archivist for a nonprofit foundation by day, and as a writer and editor of flash fiction by night. He has previously been named as a finalist for the Robert J. DeMott Short Prose Contest and the Howard Frank Mosher Short Fiction Prize. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Ellipsis Zine, Exposition Review, Gargoyle, New Madrid, Pithead Chapel, and Quarter After Eight, among others. Paul Reyns has been published in LEVITATE, Panoplyzine, and Penultimate Peanut Magazine, with work forthcoming in The Write Launch. He lives in New Hampshire, where he enjoys skiing and birdwatching. Giancarlo Riccobon is a reader for Helen Literary Magazine, a graphic designer for Alternating Current Press, and a former Second Reader for Polyphony Lit. His work has been published by Star 82 Review, and he has won honorable mention in the Ralph Munn Creative Writing Contest for three years running. Suzy Rigdon holds an MFA from George Mason University where she manages the Fall for the Book literary festival and teaches undergraduate English. Her debut novel Into the Night was published in 2014, and her short prose has appeared in Coldnoon Magazine, The Northern Virginia Review, Bartleby Snopes, and The Albion Review. Visit suzannerigdonauthor.com for more information, or follow her on Twitter: @SuzyRigdon Jade Riordan is from northern Canada; she’s currently attending university further south. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Contemporary Verse 2, The Malahat Review, Outrageous Fortune, Room, 3Elements Literary Review, and elsewhere. She is a member of Bywords’ selection committee. Griffin Robillard is a poet and musician with a B.A. from Boston College. He currently resides in Brooklyn, NY. Robert James Russell is the author of the novellas Mesilla (Dock Street Press) and Sea of Trees (Winter Goose Publishing), and the chapbook Don’t Ask Me to Spell It Out (WhiskeyPaper Press). He is a founding editor of the literary journals Midwestern Gothic and CHEAP POP. You can find him online at robertjamesrussell.com. Sarah “Sam” Saltiel is a transmedia artist based in Chicago where she is finishing up an undergraduate degree in English, Visual Arts, and Creative Writing. Among other mediums, she works in dance, installation, poetry, prose, graphite, animation, and game design. Most of her art is interested in the body and in how we negotiate the relationship with the body, particularly in how that extends to mental illness and intersectional feminism. She has been

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published in Duende, Thoreau’s Rooster, Flight Journal, and Are We Europe, among other places. Her work can be found on her professional Facebook page. Marvin Shackelford is author of the collections Endless Building (poems) and Tall Tales from the Ladies’ Auxiliary (stories, forthcoming from Alternating Current). He resides in Southern Middle Tennessee, earning a living in agriculture. Tess Walsh is currently pursuing degrees in English and Education at Lesley University in Massachusetts. More of her work can be found at tessannjoan.tumblr.com. German-born Chila Woychik has bylines in Cimarron, Portland Review (online), Silk Road, Stonecoast, and others. She won the 2017 Loren Eiseley Creative Nonfiction Award & the 2016 Linda Julian Creative Nonfiction Award. She is the founding editor at Eastern Iowa Review and has finished an essay collection she hopes to get published one day soon. www.chilawoychik.com

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Image Credits: All images in this issue: Benjamin Woodard.

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Profile for Atlas and Alice Literary Magazine

Atlas and Alice - Issue 12  

Spring/Summer 2018

Atlas and Alice - Issue 12  

Spring/Summer 2018

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