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atlas and alice literary magazine issue 3| spring 2015


atlas and alice literary magazine issue 3| spring 2015

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

Š Atlas and Alice, All Rights Reserved.


Our History

Atlas and Alice Literary Magazine takes its name from the ATLAS and ALICE experiments at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. These experiments look to explain some of the most fundamental characteristics of the universe. Although the names of these experiments are technically acronyms, we find it beautiful, ironic, compelling that they also share names with two eminent literary figures. We’re all about intersections. We like things that meet, conjoin, dance, rebound, explode. Bring two things together; see what happens. Among our favorite intersections are pieces that resist genre classification.


Editorial Board Brendan Todt – Founder Benjamin Woodard – Editor in Chief | Social Media Extraordinaire Mahtem Shiferraw – Managing Editor | Poetry Editor | Designer Whitney Groves – Fiction Editor Donald Quist – Fiction Editor Sarah Seltzer – Creative Non-Fiction Editor Emily Arnason Casey – Creative Non-Fiction Editor

Editors Emeritus: Jon Cone, Liz Blood. Readers: Sarah Braud, Sarah Kilch Gaffney, Glenda Hoheimer, BJ Hollars, Emily Madden, Tim Quirk, Jamilla Stone, DJ Todt and Ian Wallace.


Letter from the Editor

I’m so proud of this fantastic new issue of Atlas and Alice. Our editors and staff have filtered out sixteen gems for your pleasure: works that are inspiring, unsettling, honest, otherworldly, personal, and universal. You won’t be disappointed, dear reader. As an organization, I feel like we’ve truly found our voice assembling this issue. The pieces here flow in a wonderful manner. So drink in the words. Intoxicate yourself on the imagery between these virtual covers. Do not pause or worry about running dry, for we aim to keep your cup full. In fact, we’re already piecing together our next edition. Thanks for taking the time to read our magazine. Without you, we are nothing, of course. Until next time, Benjamin Woodard Editor In Chief


Table of Contents Andrea Gilham

Eve

10

Backdrop

12

Matthew Woodman

Field Dressing

14

Jacob Aiello

Green Scrubs

16

Sossity Chiricuzio

Chamber in my heart

20

Erin Calabria

Redshift

24

Marius Surleac

deep down into all this nonsense equilibrium a stare

30

Mindy Hung

Three Drinking Stories

32

Iosif Rikhter

Tender (Book Excerpt)

36

J.I. Kleinberg

Found Poems

44

Ben Westlie

Weapon

56

Demon

58

Valentina Cano

Heeding a Warning

60

Daniel Hudon

The Secrets of the Universe

62

Chloe N. Clark

Five of –

64

Richard Hartshorn

Loose Ends

68

Rose Maria Woodson

I Have Been With Ghosts

76

Justin Lawrence Daugherty

By Fire or By Flood

80

Aimee Henkel

Perhaps What’s Coming

84

Call for Submissions

88

Contributor Notes

89


ANDREA GILHAM


Atlas & Alice | Issue 3, Spring 2015

Eve I name rose, honeysuckle, mosaic. When it rains I say patter; I say pin drops of crystal. Through the clouds I say Venus, and Venus, and Venus. I don’t say brilliant, or shiny, or twinkle. I say thigh, toe, muscle-bone. I have no language but deceit and in this deceit pleasure is unsaid. But I say again. I say here, here, and please here. I say the color of a baby’s cry, the color of ravishing—a hungry mouth, a mango, a breast—this is the color to paint me. Paint my eyes the color shock, the color “Mockingbird Song.” My hair paint tornado. Paint me vain. Hold me pink but touch me black. The beauty of a serpent is in the way it writhes. I writhe in silence— my mouth sewn shut with the black thread of a crow’s feather. I chomp at the weight. I shine my teeth on apples. I practice tearing the meat away from the skin.

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Backdrop Silence has retreated beyond the blade of fan; grasses blade in the wind. The bark stripped bare; Tree’s striptease— the lightning a cat o’ nine tails. Forty lashes for the thief who stole the full moon. A florescent satiates Night’s slow dance. In another state

buzz

someone’s brother swallowed a bullet; a lover’s betrayal captured in the curve of signature the last silence. A mother is gone—her red lipstick always smiling bedside picture; a father’s kiss lingers of salt and olive. This silence is electric. On every napkin a room; in every corner a line scrawled in pencil—where am I? What ghost will I turn down tonight? Black velvet drapes the window—shut out the light—the blinking, inconsolable light.

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MATTHEW WOODMAN

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Field Dressing the moonno subtracted negated gypsum-welled chalk-faced it’s there it isn’t how are you still here your eyes sewn your legs sown in salt it’s too much to bear it’s always been.

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JACOB AIELLO

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Green Scrubs The first thing they ask after everything else is if you’d like to wear the green scrubs or the regular hospital gown with the ass hanging out. “Are you sure the green scrubs is what you want to wear?” they ask. “You’re sure you wouldn’t be more comfortable in a gown?” Even without green being your favorite color I’m sure you’d be most comfortable in the green scrubs. Apparently you do too because you say green scrubs, of course green scrubs, and then they take everything we’ve brought in with us and put it all in a large paper bag they say they’ll lock in a cupboard and we can have back when we leave. This is strange, we both agree, and even more strange when they then lock all the drawers and cupboards in your room, batten down the hatches like we are together a course of destruction, like size medium latex gloves are something worth protecting from the likes of us. The nurse is a very large man with light steps and soft hands that he sanitizes at every opportunity. He doesn’t answer when we ask him why they’ve taken our things or why they’ve hidden even the remote to the television, which is heartbreaking. “What’s the meaning of this?” I ask, and he doesn’t answer, and all I really want to do right now is sit by your side and hold your hand and watch Animal Planet on the television and every once in a while reassure you that everything’s going to be alright, but the remote to the television is gone and the television is mounted too high to be able to turn it on without the remote and also right now I wouldn’t necessarily believe me if I said everything was going to be alright. “We don’t want to steal your latex gloves!” I want to tell him. “Why have you taken our things?” “She’s wearing green scrubs,” is all he says. These are the meanings of green, which I look up when I finally return home, alone, to the clothes in your closet arranged by color, mostly green, which you wear all the time and which wearing has never done anything but bring out the blue in your eyes: 1. Of the color between blue and yellow in the spectrum, colored like grass or emeralds: the leaves are bright green. 2. Consisting of fresh vegetables of this color. 3. Denoting a light or flag of this color used as a signal to proceed. 4. Covered with grass, trees, or other plants. 5. (Of a product) not harmful to the environment. 6. (Of a plant or fruit) young or unripe: green shoots. 7. (Of wood) unseasoned. 8. (Of a person) inexperienced, naive, or gullible: a green recruit fresh from college. 9. (Of a memory) not fading. 10. Still strong or vigorous. 11. (Of a wound) fresh, not healed. 12. (Of the complexion of a person) pale and sickly-looking: “Are you all right? You look absolutely green.” You are some of these thing often and others only every once in a while and some not at all, like 2 for example. I have never known you to be consisting of fresh green vegetables. But I have known you to be 6 sometimes, 5 and 9 and often 10, 3 when you’ve had too much to drink and fumble up the stairs and 16


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forget how 11 you are, and then the following morning sometimes 12, and sometimes 12 also when I’m driving esses from here to the coast and you’re reading in the backseat of the car and I eventually have to pull over so you can vomit. You’re also 7 when it comes to fending for yourself, I guess, not that you haven’t had to fend for yourself before because you have and in more dire situations than I’ve ever experienced, but seem to forget that you have and how so and so, when finding yourself in a dire situation sometimes make it more dire. Like, for example, coming to the emergency room because of a headache and then when the triage nurse asks how you’re feeling you say pretty depressed, actually, actually you’ve been spending a considerable amount of time lately listening to Blue by Joni Mitchell, which already would be concerning but even more so considering you don’t even like Joni Mitchell. They must see this all the time, I’m sure, and by now they have protocols to follow. They get you straightaway to your own room, the special room with the locks on all the cupboards and drawers and the television that only responds to its absent remote, and instead of just giving you the standard hospital gown with the ass hanging out they ask if you wouldn’t like to wear the green scrubs instead. “Are you sure you wouldn’t be more comfortable in the green scrubs?” they ask, and of course you would, because among other things green is your favorite color.

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SOSSITY CHIRICUZIO

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Chamber in my heart I'm plumbing the depths. Of me. Looking for stories that will reflect. Truth. Stories that bring relief, or release. I’m typing and typing and trying and trying and this word and this phrase and this metaphor. This piece of context. This profile. This blue eye. This beard. This. Somewhere in here is an answer. Somewhere is me. This way of standing. This scar on the sole of my foot, glass buried in schoolyard mud. This memory of wasp stings. This doll that isn't the doll but is just enough like it to make me burst into tears at 18, at Christmas, at the familiar feel of her fabric body in my hand. I’m looking for a thread. Something I can get ahold of. Something I can tug. Something that will catch on the sharp edges of memory and spark a nerve pain memory that I lost. Something the same color as that blanket. No. Forget that blanket. No. Forget me on that blanket. No. Don't forget. Those raw voiced memories hold a part of me. And by hold I mean trap. And by trap I mean I want to let it go. I’m rooting around in the dark. I open my mouth wider to catch the light of this full moon. I feel it trickle down into my gut, where so many knowings live. I feel it seeping around corners. Cool light. Raising the flesh on my arms. Light like whiskers. Light like mirror. I see a tiny girl, betrayed. I see a tiny cougar, spitting nails. I scoop out a chamber in my heart. Line it with the softest cotton cushions, and rabbit skins. Hang fairy lights. Put out bowls of meat, and milk. I can hold them soft here. I can hold them safe.

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ERIN CALABRIA

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Redshift The night I went to meet you at Penn Station, I immediately got lost. All the store fronts around the departure board had changed since that summer after college when I would ride the Vermonter into the city, and you would meet me and take me to your parents’ house in Bergen County. After that summer, you moved to Scotland to get your Master’s degree while I stayed at home and worked at a nearby farm, grinding cider apples long past frost. ** On the visible spectrum of light, red has the lowest frequency, and blue the highest. When a luminous object approaches, the wavelength of its light shortens relative to the observer and moves towards the blue end of the spectrum, causing a “blueshift.” ** Now that I’d moved to New York and you were back home again in Jersey, you’d called, asked me to meet. It took me almost half an hour circling the station perimeter before I found you, the one recognizable thing among the chain restaurants and wolf-eyed commuters, your hair longer but your feet still shod in the same battered sneakers. ** When a luminous object moves away, the wavelength of its light stretches and slides towards the red end of the spectrum, causing a “redshift.” ** You took me to a Middle Eastern place somewhere in the village – warm, candle-lit, smelling of pita. You told me about where you’d been before coming home. Tanzania. Croatia. All the things I’d missed since you’d said over a choppy Skype connection that you didn’t think things would work out. ** Nearly all of the light glinting throughout the universe from distant galaxies and stars shows a redshift, which proves that the universe is expanding, all things moving away from each other in all directions. ** The waitress brought us hummus, olives, rice. When the cheque came, they wouldn’t take your credit card – cash only. I paid. Outside, we found one of those sketchy ATMs that remind me of slot machines. I told you it would charge you extra. You said you didn’t care, took the green stack the machine coughed up, paid me back.

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** The speed at which an object moves away is called recession velocity. The greater the recession velocity, the greater the redshift of light, and vice versa. ** We walked around in the September dark, found a bakery, not Magnolia’s but near there. I let you choose some kind of complicated bar or brownie, something with too many nuts or chips in it. I wasn’t hungry anymore, but you pushed it towards me until I asked you why you really wanted to see me. And you told me how you’d made a mistake. How you hadn’t known how to undo it. How you’d missed me. Your eyes began to gleam. Despite everything, I was still one of the few people who knew you were going blind. ** The more distant a star, the greater the redshift observed, and so the greater the recession velocity carrying it farther and farther away. ** Since then, we tried again. We failed again. We stopped speaking. One World Trade Center slowly raised its blue glass bulk over lower Manhattan. You moved to Montana, then Panama. More and more green keeps sprouting up the old meat-packing rails north of Chelsea. I took a job I think every day of leaving. I hear your eyes are getting worse. ** In other words, the thing that is already most distant from us is also the thing moving most rapidly away. ** Perhaps you don’t remember, but there was a night near the end of college, before I’d ever even seen New York, when you took my hand and spread a blanket on the cool grass outside your dorm room. It was spring, and I was trying to ignore my hay fever. Eyes burning, nose running, I pretended not to wonder whether you loved me or not. We lay down on our backs and looked up. It was clichéd, this scene, but it felt like we were close. Arms touching side by side, we watched the ancient stars pulse and wink above us, each trail of light shifted red by the expansion of all things away from each other, even if we could not see it, even if we still believed ourselves to be in control of our individual motion, forgetting that we 25


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would always be subject to the same physics that sustain everything else in the world.

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MARIUS SURLEAC

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deep down into all this nonsense

equilibrium a stare

step on the cotton rocks covered with fog my tracks become liquid I become gaseous & condense on the light bulb flickering joy that has my name written in the corners and the mopboard distorts the beat of butterfly’s wings a flow of electrons dancing on invisible circles the same jive I once knew brings hope in the crowd and coconut melts chocolate in my potential mouth cells burst out proteins like from a blister & hold the antennas with DNA forks each neuron digging with its dendrites will give me your words into

deeper generations upon

mutant walk nearby a sudden collapse tricks the worm holes & gives religion new meanings as well to science findings of God

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MINDY HUNG

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Three Drinking Stories Bodies of Water I had a job as a pool boy to a woman who claimed that water made her thirsty. She could only be satisfied with tea and freshly squeezed juices. All summer long, I picked grapefruit and lemons for her and her garbage stank of pulped fruit. I didn't mind the labor. The yard had all kinds of trees and vines. It was a pleasure to come back with baskets heaped full, my hands smelling of citrus. And she would drawl in her honeyed voice, Why, you're as hardworking as a farm full of Mexicans. I knew what she was when I signed up. She gave me my first blow job and my second and third. She was happy with me because of how quickly I’d come and come and come again. I was just another kind of juice to her. **

The Mail The last time I saw her, she said she was going on a pilgrimage to Mecca, a grand tour of the East. I received a postcard of desert and a camel. On the other side, she had written “Thirsty,” and that was it. I didn’t see her when she got back, even though I had her keys; I had been watering her plants. It was soon afterward that she had died in a car accident. She was one of those people whom I knew well enough and yet, to this day, I can’t remember her face. When I think of her, I think of sand. **

Personal Records My dad left me a trove of 45s which I listened to, one by one, for the next two years. It became a ritual. I’d come home from work and I'd open a bottle of Chablis. I would shuffle barefoot across my back porch, slip the record from its frail paper liner and set it delicately on the player. Then I would slouch in the swing and swig from the bottle and listen. Sometimes I fell asleep that way, in the cold, in the dark. And I would stumble inside and pass out on my bed, unable to remember the song I'd heard the next day. When I tell the story about my dad’s collection, I think I’m telling the story of how much I missed my father, how much I hated him, and how I became an 32


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alcoholic. But mostly, I’m telling you the story of how all of these secret melodies came to be in my head. My mind is never blank, never clear, no matter how much I try to think of nothing. Always there is a tune, the words, a ukulele strum, and the click of the needle as the song skips and repeats, and skips and repeats.

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IOSIF RIKHTER

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Book Excerpt – Tender Eight years before I have sex with my voluptuous, sophisticated high school teacher, my mother gives me a Valuable Life Lesson. “A Russian girl will betray you to the fascists,” she says, having just extracted from me that I fancy my classmate Nadia with her blue eyes and blond hair. At age eight, I have difficulty believing that Nadia and her French braid are going to turn me in to the fascists when they invade. Even the idea of fascists invading seems preposterous and makes me question my mother’s credibility. The fascists were defeated long ago in WWII and are beaten soundly every night on television. “She will never understand what it is like to be Jewish!” says my mother. “She will always be a Russian national and will have a green light wherever she goes. She will marry a burly Russian national hoodlum, and their children will have green lights too. You will always have the red light. If given a choice between a Russian and a Jew, people will always hire a Russian. That’s what the green light means. You are a Jew, and you should marry a Jewish girl so your children will be Jewish and you will all have the red light!” This startling goal makes no sense. “Would it not be better to marry a Russian national so our children would have a green light?” I ask my mother. She gives me a sly, conspiratorial look, moving a little closer to me. I shift back a little, afraid to be smothered. “Half-Russian and half-Jewish girls are the ones you should date,” she whispers triumphantly. “This way after you get married, she will not betray you to the fascists, and your children will have the green light!” To control our class bully Vlad, Mrs. Zhukh has him sit at the same desk as me. Vlad lives on the second floor of the red building not far from the schoolyard, so close to school that I can see his apartment from my desk. All I need to do is stretch my neck a little and look out the window. When I do, sometimes I can spot a short, shapeless woman in a housedress moving around the kitchen: his mom. He has a mom. This is one of the few things I know about his life outside school. In the beginning of the third grade, after disappearing for a week, Vlad unexpectedly hops into the classroom on two crutches. His right ankle is in a heavy gypsum cast. Rumor has it he jumped out of his apartment window to escape some domestic trouble. His crutches are not slowing him down a bit. During recess he moves around stealthily, with dizzying speed, swallowing the length of the hall in two or three seconds. You think you just saw him at the far end of the hall, but before you know it, he is standing menacingly right next to you, propped up on his left leg and two crutches, his right ankle in a cast, his right knee bent, his leg dangling. “Do you have a quarter?” he asks. Vlad never takes off his school uniform pants, which are much too short with ballooning knees. Fall, winter, or spring, his bare, unclean, and sockless ankles are visible. It dawns on me that these are his only pants. In September, all 36


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boys in school are expected to purchase new grey school pants. To make them last, we change out of them as soon as we get home. Vlad seems to get a uniform only every other year and probably wears it in his sleep. After Vlad and I have shared a desk by the window for several months, it occurs to me that we have at least one thing in common: Vlad likes Nadia. I can tell by how he looks at her in gym class. Vlad’s gym sneakers are so decrepit that the sole tears off his right sneaker, which is under more stress because of his poorly healed ankle. The sole flaps open, revealing Vlad’s dirty big toe. Before gym, Vlad asks to borrow my sneakers, which are brand-new and are a size too big, because unlike my school uniform they are meant to last two years. During the class they serve Vlad well, and he asks me if he can keep them for a while. His stare is intense and deliberate. Vlad’s words come out of his mouth with his usual stutter—“sn-snsneakers”—and his foot is stomping on the floor as if he were in Mrs. Zhukh’s class. I freeze and hear myself say that yes, he can keep them, I don’t need them, really. I tell my father that my sneakers got stolen. I endure an hour of my mother chewing me out for not appreciating her enough and not watching over my possessions. Once the storm passes, they buy me new sneakers so in the next gym class both Vlad and I can run, stretch, climb the rope, and play volleyball. He doesn’t thank me. After the class, however, Vlad looks less intimidating and I can detect a trace of genuine interest emanating from him, as if he has realized we are of the same species. Vlad’s unwashed face, spotty from frostbite marks and old scars, starts crossing the border onto my side of the desk to look at my spelling and my answers to arithmetic problems. Soon he gets so comfortable that with a quiet stutter he even asks me questions. I answer them in a whisper that Mrs. Zhukh does not seem to notice. As a result, slowly, Vlad’s grades go up from D’s to C’s, and even occasionally B’s. He does not get a single D in the first two quarters! I am proud of Vlad and pleased with myself. Oddly, Mrs. Zhukh’s enthusiasm about Vlad’s progress is muted. She praises him only occasionally but not effusively and gives me strange looks during recess. One day I look up and catch her watching Vlad copy my class work. Our eyes meet for two long seconds, and Mrs. Zhukh looks away without saying a word. With an uncomfortable shudder I understand the meaning of her strange looks. It is clear now that there are three of us in on this conspiracy. She has known all along that Vlad was copying my work, and she has not said a word. Why would she? Everybody understands that, at best, Vlad will be graduating every year with a C-minus after a summer-long remediation until he completes compulsory middle school and leaves its premises for good only to end up in a facility for juvenile delinquents. Mrs. Zhukh deviously recruited me to help her in graduating Vlad before he ends up in the facility. All around me, I see other boys giving in to Vlad’s demands, handing over the coins their parents gave them for cafeteria lunch, or offering resistance and 37


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enduring after-school ambushes, swollen lips, and bloody noses. Since Vlad got my sneakers and his grades went up, I have not been ambushed once, neither by Vlad nor by anybody else. Nadia seems impressed by my special relationship with Vlad. She does not say anything, but I get the feeling that maybe—just maybe—Nadia likes me. Her desk is next to ours, and sometimes she purses her lips and tosses me a sly, playful look that she does not direct at anyone else. Nadia’s googly eyes make me suspect that she is less concerned with red lights and green lights and such than my mother would want me to believe. Vlad appears angry and restless when he notices “the look,” as if he has an urge to beat up somebody he can’t. Nadia starts calling me on the telephone to clarify home assignments. And, she is almost always free to meet when I call and ask her if she wants to go for a walk, a euphemism for playing outside in the yards. We are always with her friends. I learn that they are sure that Vlad has a crush on Nadia because he, a resident of the derelict red buildings, has been spotted in our little park, where he does not belong. I also learn that he does not stand a chance, not because he is a budding criminal but because I have the best body in the class. I am shocked that my body makes a bigger impression on the girls than my brains. In my world, knowledge and straight A’s are more important than physique, and, to underscore my intelligence, I immediately give them a lecture about Mbabane, the capital of Swaziland. In fourth grade we become carelessly independent, taking buses, trams, and subways all over the sprawling perilous city. We start going to movies. The most jaw-dropping is the 1964 French blockbuster Fantomas, featuring greenheaded Jean Marais majestically, as if in slow motion, pacing his palatial habitat, swinging both hands back and forth in unison as only Jean Marais can. We start smoking at the same time and with Nadia, things start to change. Her hair is now much shorter. She wears blue tights—a much-sought-after accessory available to very few. Her movements have become slower, more economical and deliberate. Under her uniform I can make out the contours of new breasts. Myléne Demongeot has the best breasts (and the best pair of legs) allowed to reach us from the decadent West. The images of her insinuate themselves into my vision of Nadia. Nadia, with Myléne’s breasts, is invitingly looking at me and I realize that, Vlad or no Vlad, I must ask Nadia out on a date. When I finally do, she nods her head, and I imagine Myléne Demongeot smiling. Since even Indian summers in our city are cool, I can see my breath. The sun is low and pale, and airy rays of light come at an angle through half-bare park trees. The wind blows gently; the trees barely sway but shed a few of their remaining pale-yellow leaves. Nadia wears new brown boots I have not seen before. Our long shadows have wide hips and incongruously small heads. We are talking, or, I am talking, and Nadia is listening. In the movie theater I keep glancing at her. Nadia is engrossed in the movie and does not seem to notice. In my first tentative act of conscious tenderness, I take Nadia’s hand and hold it in mine. Her hand is warm and dry, 38


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but lifeless. In order to bring it back to life I squeeze it. Her face remains calm, more distant than I have ever seen it. When I look around for a more experienced male to imitate, all I see are rows of white faces transfixed by the romantic action on a dark screen showing dark city streets at night. Hoping to force some action, I suggest a walk in the park. Our shadows, now much longer, precede us. The hilly and untended park is crisscrossed by narrow winding trails. We make our way through half-naked trees, taking one of the leaf-covered paths, me first, chattering about the movie. Nadia is not dispassionate anymore; she is animated and excited as she follows me nimbly through the gleaming park. Inexplicably her suede boots are still clean. We soon come to the top of a hill we know well from sledding there in winter. We pause to look at each other, and then, without a word, we run down the hill, letting our bodies be pulled down by the force of gravity into a breathless fall. Nadia is wearing a skirt, and although she is taller, her steps are quicker and smaller than mine. We are laughing as we run. When we reach the bottom, in one smooth motion, Nadia is on the grass in front of me. I land next to her, our faces three feet apart. Nadia is no longer laughing but smiling. Her blue eyes are shining, and I suddenly notice black mascara on her eyelashes. Oh, where are you, Jean Marais from Fantomas? Where are you, pouting Myléne Demongeot, Milady Winters from The Three Musketeers, with a lily burned on your left breast, the hottest woman on Earth? I know exactly what the two of you would have done next. Your smiles would have slowly disappeared as you recognized the momentousness of the occasion. You would have moved gracefully closer to each other, with Jean Marais leaning on his elbow, and Myléne turning slightly onto her back. You would then have looked longingly into each other’s eyes. Finally you, Jean Marais, you would have allowed your lips to fall on ready Myléne’s, while both of you slowly and simultaneously closed your eyes . . . But the French movie stars leave Nadia and me to our own devices. Nadia is looking at me seriously, her hair tousled, but her blue eyes are not turning color. She is not helping. She is not turning imperceptibly on her back like sinuous Myléne. She is lying there quietly waiting for me to be Jean Marais. After a while, I walk Nadia home, toward the playground between buildings 41-B and 41-C. My thoughts are back on the autumn grass, where the magic from the movies did not happen. As we turn the corner, we see a crowd swarming around a mobile truck-based telescoping crane, the type that is used for small construction jobs. Curious residents of buildings 41-B and 41-C are leaning over their balconies, pointing at the crane, and talking excitedly. Their voices sound hollow and amplified, as if we are in a cavern. I notice a bunch of kids, including Serge and others, running across the park and disappearing into the crowd, trying to squeeze through to where the action is. Close to us, an elderly shriveled woman wearing a white shawl over her head is sobbing. Now and then she uses 39


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the shawl corners to wipe away tears. She appears to be in a state of shock, and we understand that something horrible has occurred. “What happened?” I ask the woman. She has shriveled so much I am actually looking down at her. Nadia, tensing up next to me, is ready to cry. “The door was loose and he could not hang on,” says the prune-woman, waving her hand in the crane’s direction. “What did he jump on the moving truck for?” Her anger seems directed at no one in particular, as is customary in our empire. But then, the free-floating anger finds its target. “His mother should have watched him better! But it is too late now . . .” She pauses for a moment and then zeroes in on another culprit. “And the idiot driver should know better than to speed in the projects . . .” The woman starts crying again. Nadia’s eyes are red and she is shivering. “I am going home,” she says. She waves at me and starts walking slowly to building 41-B, and I wave back at her—so long, Nadia—my thoughts already returning to the catastrophe. Crouching, I squeeze through the crowd until I stumble upon my friends standing with their backs to me, staring at something on the ground. Lying on the pavement between the crowd and the truck is the body of a kid my size, covered with a piece of tarp. The kid is not breathing. I have never seen a body this still. There is a small puddle of black oily liquid next to what looks like the tarpcovered head. This can only be blood . . . but why is it black? Somebody throws a bucketful of sand over the puddle. The sand gets soaked with what must be blood but stays dark. My eyes move to the victim’s legs. The tarp is short, and the dead kid’s dirty ankles stick out awkwardly from underneath, out of his faded, too-short, grey school-uniform pants. And then I notice his sneakers. My sneakers. The kid who jumped onto the moving truck and fell off the cabin door, whose body went flying, whose head hit the pavement and cracked open, releasing a pool of black oil, the one who is now lying dead under the tarp in front of me—this kid was wearing my old black sneakers when he died. The pavement is suddenly tilting under my feet, and my legs feel like rubber trying to keep me vertical on the nonexistent slope. A wave of nausea sweeps over me, and I take a step to the side to keep my balance. As the nausea recedes and my legs grow steadier, I feel peculiarly detached, as if I am watching myself on a screen. Detachment is a mental trick my thirteen-year-old mind is using: I will pretend that Vlad’s body under the tarp is not real, so that I can deal with the horror of his death. In the movies, people get killed all the time. This is as fake as the green face of Fantomas. I am imagining a film called The Incongruous Death of Vlad. In it, I can see myself standing still and looking down on the worn-out footwear that was once mine. I am contemplating the far-reaching deal wherein I exchanged my sneakers for the protection of the young gangster-in-the-making, my teacher’s approval and favors, and, ultimately and unexpectedly, my friends’ respect and Nadia’s affection. I did not know that the tree of knowledge grew sneakers rather than apples. 40


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Vlad died a useless death and his death will never happen to me, I think as I return to my building in the dark. He and I were too different. Even our houses were different colors. Nadia has been home for a while, and from now on we’ll be just friends. I need to call her and tell her about Vlad.

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J.I. KLEINBERG

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Found poems The Vision: Artist’s Statement I am curious about the world and reflect on how we function in it, how (or whether) we change and what we’re made of: rocks, water, light, time. I am a very busy plodder. I have always made things. Sometimes they were physical objects, sometimes words. They have been useful and useless, pretty and ugly, but always filling in for the things I wish I could say better aloud. The creative work that’s most satisfying to me seems to combine the visual and the verbal; the found poems are both. I don’t see these as poems that are meant to be transcribed onto the blank page; they are collages, not separate from their visual existence. What propels me is the surprise, the accident, the noticing that allows me to recycle the unintended into this curious, evolving, personal, visualverbal syntax. **

The Process

The phrases leap from the page to my eye. When I see “the color | the pond | rejects” in the middle of a magazine page I don’t know how it will fit with other 44


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words, I only know that it’s not the meaning intended by the original text and it ignites something in me. I don’t go looking for specific words to make a poem; finding them is nearly impossible. When I discover a chunk of text I like, I cut it from the magazine and tear it into a small shape that joins the hundreds (or thousands) on my work table. Typically, I’ll find a “trigger” phrase that calls to mind several other fragments I've already harvested, which I then gather and assemble into a “found poem.” I am drawn to the music in the words, the iambic lilt, the assonance and alliteration. But the words are more than language; they are physical objects, paper-color-font, sliced from magazine pages with an X-Acto knife, edges torn, words separated from prefixes, suffixes or punctuation to suggest new meaning, and finally arrayed across the work table that is my palette. From sense I excise nonsense, first turning words back into raw material, then recombining them to disclose this new syntax. It’s a visual process – the words, the torn edges, the small cascade of phrases afloat on the background – somewhere between Dada and Twitter, between ransom note and haiku. **

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BEN WESTLIE

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Weapon He makes calls to anyone. There’s selfishness in all of us. something no one can teach. He told you while near a tender sleep in a form of a whisper barely words and then You’re a great friend. How will you know the way to escape those words? If only you were clever enough to invent a weapon for the heart. A blanket full, thick, so warm with transforming temperatures where the moon repositions and like creatures in stories let’s become rampant with our bodies. Who was he calling in that mellow light? He smelled like a night you knew would end too soon. The dawn is magically unkind, and your body will be nestled into the curve of his, You’ll contemplate your closeness, and it’s vanishing, his handsomeness even in the morning, in slumber, and his humble unknowing. Tomorrow these sweet hours will just be ordinary, Your two warm bodies, beguiled, one unaware, the other longing for a binding spell, an altering rebirth.

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Demon Tonight, you’re out reading the stars trying to remember their stories as if their meaning could articulate their shine. This is about your shame, the nakedness of humans, there are so many you hunger for. Their wholeness, the heat of the skin, the body’s glow without a fabric cover. You never mention your problem with vodka, its swimming seduction. Heating you up like sleeping in the sun. You’re afraid of yourself, this lusting demon, who aches to be used like a hotel room. Downtown you find yourself going where so many secrets are flickering in blurry bedrooms. You’re consumed, by this relentless urge to hunt for someone, a random lover to make you feel worth his naked body. You’re grateful to be alive, and always for the stars, their distraction, their un-harmful company.

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VALENTINA CANO

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Heeding a Warning Your voice wraps around me. It brings to mind the fog stained with fire, the smell of ashes. I run my fingers through the sound, weaving it into knots that will make you stumble on the words. Make it hard to swallow. Allow you to hear the crackling of the driest leaves as they catch flame.

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DANIEL HUDON

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The Secrets of the Universe When I dive into the tank I picture myself diving into the universe, as if the fifty thousand tons of pure water could self-gravitate in space and they didn’t need this mine to contain them, nevermind the rest of the Earth. To change one of the eleven thousand photomultiplier tubes in the tank then becomes a hero’s journey, to cross the abyss of space perhaps to a distant star that has suddenly gone dormant and I must find out why. We are obsessed with why. Why neutrinos are so abundant yet elusive. Why they have so little mass. Why Ettore disappeared so long ago. Why nature is so stubborn in giving up her secrets. Changing a tube gives a small measure of success against the failure of a grand unified theory that no one will let go of. We are human. We have our favorites and it’s tough to see them fail. We tell ourselves we’re still doing important work – neutrinos from supernovae, neutrino oscillations and so on – even though we’ve failed to see the proton decay, which is why we designed the tank in the first place. We quote Fermi all the time: “If only Ettore were here.” Then we would understand. But for all we know, the proton never decays and unlike ourselves, atoms live forever. Meanwhile, the sea of water envelops me while the myriad neutrinos – from the sun, from distant exploding stars -- pass through as if I weren’t there. When I resurface with the old tube in hand, I always feel like I’ve been gone a long time.

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CHLOE N. CLARK

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Five of— They say that the heart derived from the cup the pouring over and over of water from one to the other Cups are beginnings and endings as well The water threatens sometimes to engulf consume absorb taste and swallow Cups are happiness and honesty and nine ways that a wish might come true if it was known how to make the wish at all Sometimes the clouds swell From the clouds came rain and washed it all Down came the rain and washed the spider Out of everything there is little understood of the water It is here and there and sometimes when the cross is placed we find ourselves wanting to hand

The cups are passed from hand Hand to hand One cup to

the next We find loss always where we least expect it

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RICHARD HARTSHORN

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Loose Ends Rewind Drahomíra, my roommate, has lent me her camcorder and a pair of her old snowboarding pants to take my mind off the frostnip. I am huddled in the stands between a silver-haired fox who intermittently shivers when he thinks I'm not looking, and a preteen, earmuffed redhead with a weatherbeaten Norwegian flag and no parent in sight. I open the flip-screen with my thumb when the little tape inside clicks to a stop. The man asks if I'm filming the event. “My friend is racing,” I say. I'm just holding this for her.” “Who's your friend?” “She's from the Czech Republic. Racing for America, though.” “Oh yeah. Dragon-whatshername.” “Drahomíra.” He nods as if I'm repeating exactly what he said, then brings his gaze back to the men grooming the icy humps, or whatever you call them, that the five boarders will battle during the qualifying race. I imagine Drahomíra leaping the humps as if soaring over icebergs, a palm gripping the tip of her board as she lines up a smooth landing. I press play. Smooth landing. Icy humps. I feel like I'm always lousing up the lingo.

Best Girl In the first bit of video, Drahomíra carries an air-conditioner box, brimming with empty bottles, to the front door of our apartment, wearing nothing but red pajama pants and a sports bra. The weather outside our window looks glorious and summery. I hear my own voice behind the lens: “Is this how you want it?” Her head, licorice braids poking from beneath her knit cap, swivels. “Yeah, yeah,” she says, banging the box against the door, dropping three bottles, bashing the door open with her elbow, and rolling the empties out with her bare foot. She sets the box outside, snatches a black Ramones tee from the futon, throws it over her head in one fluid motion, composes herself. “Fuck. You rolling?” Me: “Whoops.” “Nah, keep going.” She makes eye contact with me – present-day me, not the greenhorn behind the camera. “Hi,” she says, “I'm Drahomíra. My last night of drinking is over. Those are the last beers you will see in here.” My past self giggles. The camera shudders. “Leanna laughs,” says Drahomíra, “but she is in charge of this.” She begins strumming an air-guitar and sing-talking about the World Cup. 68


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The camera convulses as I crack up. I hear myself say, “There you have it, world,” and the shot smash-cuts as a sober girl starts to speak again.

Big Closeup(s) This shot is just Drahomíra's face. Winter hat pulled down to her eyebrows. “Whatcha doing today, hungry girl?” My voice. Drahomíra: “Gonna stomp out a clean run.” “And it'll all be on film.” She taps on the side of the camera. “No. No. This is going to be all talking. Like a diary. You don't see the shit that happens. You just read. You just listen and take my word for it.” Smash cut to Summer Olympic party at Lacie's cabin. Drahomíra is on the couch, squished between two girls I don't recognize. Her braids are a few inches longer and bunched into a weedy pile. The couch's holey arm is straddled by my Astronomy professor, whose beer hovers in front of her lips without ever actually touching them. The camera is shaky in my hand, which must have been cradling a bottle a few minutes earlier. Drahomíra is the only one looking at me and not at the television, but she looks away when she sees that the camera is on. Her face is sallow and watery. Something happens on the TV, and the room blows up. The girls sandwiching Drahomíra leap to their feet. My professor toasts someone offscreen. The wobbly shot moves in close to Drahomíra as the camerawoman, me, lowers herself to eye level. “So, what do you think of the Summer Olympics?” I ask. She's hugging her knees. Her dimples are flattened by some kind of worry. “Nothing but a bunch of naked asses and whining,” she says. “Let's see these bitches snowboard in bare feet.” My past self doesn't say anything. I wish she would. Drahomíra gives me a look you could light the Olympic torch with, then pie-faces the lens with her palm. There's some blank space here.

Key Grip She's yanking out reps on the makeshift pullup bar we fixed to her bedroom door. She groans with each pull, as if flames are whirling in her lungs. My voice opens the scene with a rare uneasiness. “Um, it's the end of November, and here's our heroine doing a workout in prep – ” She shushes me. “Just watch me do this. You don't have to be saying shit all the time.”

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But I begin a phony count as she laboriously switches from overhand to underhand and heaves her chin over the bar: “Nine-hundred-seventy-three, nine-hundred-seventy-four – ” “Leanna. Enough.” But it's not enough for me. “Do you want to tell everyone what happened at Man of Derbyshire tonight?” I feel a hollow spot in my chest. I wish I would shut up. Drahomíra sucks a huge breath through her nose. She pulls two slow, loud reps, and it reminds me of yawning on purpose to stall a conversation. “Dude asks if he can buy me a drink. I say no. Dude takes it the wrong way. Dude tosses his shot on me like some music-video ho.” She says the whole thing with her arms completely straightened, sweat gliding between valleys of sinew, hills of lean muscle quivering. “Tell everyone what you did after that. It was Han-Solo-grade.” She peers up at her knuckles, which are probably whitening and ready to snap. She hasn't looked at me the entire time. “Three more,” she says.

Cutting Room There's an idle shot of the rubbery blue shower curtain, and Drahomíra's voice screeches Crass lyrics over the rhythmic spray of hot tap on fiberglass. The video chokes and cuts away, as if the rest of the scene has been purposely taped over.

Single Take Now I remember why Rodrigo was there: he helped dig our cars out before Drahomíra had a big day. I can see the blizzard outside the window. He's holding a steel shovel that looks like it handles snow about as well as a giant pizza cutter. His other hand is on his hip, and he's wearing a nerdy grin. Drahomíra's braids are so long and disheveled that it's hard to tell where they end and her black neck-gaiter begins. She's cramming a pair of goggles into an overly-packed sports bag. The corners of the living room are piled with fleeces and snow pants and boarding gear. “I'm getting this all in one shot, guys; we're not doing this over.” I'm nasally. I had a cold that weekend. Drahomíra's mumbling as she scrambles. The words are inaudible. I give up on my roommate and sweep-pan to Rodrigo. “We're running out of reel, Bromeo,” I say. “Make love to me over here.” “I'm not the one with the news,” he says through a laugh. The shovel slips out of his hand. He bends over to grab it before the snow melts into the carpet. Drahomíra: “I got dumped!” Hurt undercuts the mock excitement. She lobs a glove at me and bullseyes the lens. 70


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Smash. Drahomíra stands on the bottom of a podium alongside two other girls, whose arms are raised in identical Ys. She pulls a bottle of champagne from behind her back, pops the cork, looks up at the girls, and places the bottle at her crotch. The aggravated foam erupts all over their sponsor-patched coats. I remember drinking some of that. I don't remember if she did.

Deleted Scene Spliced between the podium shot and some group footage at Man of Derbyshire – in which seven bundled-up snowboarders stand in a crescent, guzzling mugs of beer and singing an off-key “Happy Birthday” to Drahomíra, who smirks into the eye of a red velvet cupcake the size of her face – is an idle shot of Drahomíra and two other female boarders, fully dressed for the slope, sitting on metal folding chairs and propping their plasticky boots on the same ottoman. Astrid, Norwegian, on Drahomíra's left: “I promise to medal this year.” Olivia, American, black, in the middle: “Gonna have some fun on the road, kick up some powder, and deny all the dipshits who propose to me on the way.” Drahomíra, far right: “I want to take it easy this time around.” The rest of us exhale through our noses. She's referring to last year, when she swallowed eighty-five sleeping pills and hoped she'd never wake up. I heard her vomiting in her sleep. The doctors thanked me for caring enough to phone an ambulance. Drahomíra still hasn't. Me, behind the camera: “Yeah.” Drahomíra's hair is so short that it's all tucked beneath her snow cap. This was filmed a long time ago. It's out of place. The whole scene could have been something we'd meant to get rid of, something that spoiled the whole chronicle. Sorry. I'm not sure how this got here.

Talking Head Drahomíra sets the already-rolling camera on a TV tray. When it's where she wants it, she leans back, slides her orange juice aside, and scribbles something on a note card in purple Sharpie. It is early in the morning and I must be asleep in the next room. She holds up the card: Let me go. She mouths the words. Her hand reaches behind the lens, and we're live again.

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Live Feed The gate opens. The redhead is cheering for Astrid, who eventually leaves the rest of the boarders, including Drahomíra, in a powdery cloud. Drahomíra is locked into second until she's somewhere else, as if there's a rip in time. The guy next to me feels it too. She takes the tallest hill at a speed that leaves her twenty feet above the others, who are already holding unspeakable air. She hangs there, wags her arms in little circles for balance. The laymen think she's panicking. The edge of her board meets the surface of the next slippery curve, and her entire body snaps backwards as if yanked by phantom thread, her head stuttering along the ground for what feels like years, snow tidal-waving over her crucified arms, until she crumples into a motionless heap. I try to brush away the thought that she did this on purpose, that she still wants to die. My bones go numb.

Batch Capture Through the tiny screen, I watch a professional cameraman film a hairsprayed journalist, who holds Drahomíra's fissured helmet in outstretched hands as though it's an artifact. She yaps into a headset and makes owly eye contact with the TV camera. Drahomíra stands just offscreen, her palm fixed to the back of her head. “This isn't figure skating,” she says when the journalist finally asks her how she stood up and finished after that crash. Then she looks at me. She's still smiling when she walks over to me, recovered helmet tucked under her arm, but her other hand never leaves the back of her head, as if she's making sure all the precious parts of her are still there.

Dailies The blue light behind the hotel bar reminds me of an icy peak made of glowing bottles, its perfectly symmetrical shoulders infinitely sloping. I imagine a miniature Drahomíra sliding down, circling her arms like she's grown wings and is trying to take flight for the first time, too far away for us to see if she's in control. No one else is thinking this. It's midnight. Astrid, Olivia, and a few others are lined up in the bar's identical high chairs, doing vodka shots and hashing over the day's races. The crash is never brought up. Drahomíra, separated from the others by an empty seat and still wearing snow-pants and a scarf, is probably thinking about how out of place everyone looks held up by polished oak. Or she's thinking about how arrogant I was to tell her she's not allowed to do what she wants with her own life, including end it. I wonder how often she thinks about that. 72


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I, in front of the blackening mouth of the fireplace, press REC when the group stops talking about Astrid's medal. I wedge the camera between the back cushion and the arm. Drahomíra finally gets up, looking as though she wants to tell everyone goodnight, but quietly slinks off when no one looks at her. When she sees that the camera's on, she waggles her fingers at the lens. Before I can ask my roommate to stay and talk to me, Astrid, the bestdressed of us in a burgundy skirt and Chuck Taylors, bounds from her chair and tackles Drahomíra from behind. Drahomíra doesn't seem surprised at being bowled over. She pushes herself up, spins effortlessly out of Astrid's grasp, and locks her in a half-nelson until enough is enough. There is cheering from the bar. The wrestlers hug. Astrid looks afraid to let go. When she does, Drahomíra plops down next to me on the sofa, knocking the camera over the side. She blows a deep breath. The fire flickers and we sink into the cushions.

Rough Cut She's next to me on the futon, clipping her toenails. Her foot, blotchy from the hot shower, is splayed on the coffee table next to an open cream soda. I'm kneeling with my legs behind me, and for some reason, I feel like I should be filming this part – here are the feet that did all the work, the feet she got back up on when everyone thought she'd been smashed to pieces – but the camera is in the ski bag across the room, and it's busted. “You get a shot of the speedometer? It's probably reading six trillion by now.” I'm too exhausted to laugh. “Yeah,” I say. “You got the shot?” “I just mean it's been a trip. No.” She puts the clippers aside and runs the pad of her index finger along her big toe. “You don't have to film anything else,” she says. She stands, crosses the room, and begins unloading more sweaty clothes from the bag, looking at most of the items as if they're someone else's. Her snowboard, scuffed beyond what any whetstone or wax job could repair, loafs ingloriously in the center of the floor. “Are you going to try to kill yourself again?” Drahomíra doesn't freeze in place with a handful of pink socks like an actress in a dramatization. She opens a damp towel, drapes it over a chair, tosses the empty bag into oblivion, and doesn't look at me. “Isn't one life enough to worry about, Leanna?” I shrug. She shrugs back. I feel the hollowness expanding through my chest again, but this time it holds my voice in. She sets a bare foot on the snowboard, follows it with the other, rocks her hips as if she's shooting down a slope, gives me a quick look to see if I'm watching. 73


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Cue Mark Just now, over video chat, she asked me, “Leanna, do you ever think about what you want to do?” I've just finished giving her the rundown of my senior thesis. The connection is choppy. Her ropey braids dangle past her chest. Bubbles of staticky snow pop up on the screen when she moves too fast. “You should come see me graduate,” I say. I know she won't. She's busy, but it's more that the distance between us feels safe. “You're a good friend, Leanna.” She says it as though assuring me of something I was worried about. We lose the connection. I recline onto my pillow and shut my eyes. I wonder if she'll ever cut her hair. The camera is at the bottom of a box I never unpacked. I haven't worn snow-pants in years.

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ROSE MARIA WOODSON

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I Have Been With Ghosts so long I can see through my hands. A door closes. The knob melts. This is when the house flickers & goes out. I walk & walk a road river. Footsteps swim away. The stone shadows me. Faithful dog. I fall at the mountain’s feet holding what cannot be held. Grief, uphill struggle, rolls back, crushes me in the morning fog, still in love with the pasture & trough, old oaks, & barn cats bathing on the long splintered fence still cantering around emptiness. Now cloudy cabochon moments, silent as dead sparrows, slip through my small hands. At night, I envy the moon, moving through the house that was always just sweet ice.

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JUSTIN LAWRENCE DAUGHERTY

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By Fire or By Flood Jackson gathered all the broken down clown statues and figures and imprisoned them in the funhouse. Being surrounded by all those clowns, day in and day out, made him feel the urge to put knives to his throat, to stab at the insides of his legs. He bought the amusement park in August and now it was almost a year later and still nothing had been sorted out. He stood in the poorly lit room, full of dead-eyed clowns, some with flaking paint or wreathed in weeds, thinking he should destroy them. He thought of what sort of retribution that might unleash. Karma is a promise of your failure to do anything good. Sebastian walked in with a sledgehammer. Jackson waved him off. “I'm afraid of what that will do,” Jackson said. The light flickered, like all the lights at the park did. “Where'd you get that thing?” he asked. “I've lived here for eight or nine months and I've never seen that.” “You'd be surprised what's left behind,” Sebastian said. Jackson described the breakdown as being hollowed out, all that's inside scraped and shoveled with a spade. His father, the Idaho potato magnate, had tried to buy his health back. See also: silence and invisibility. He put Jackson on planes to anywhere he wanted to go, threw money at the problem as if he could suffocate it. When he returned, each time, his father asked how he felt, and each time Jackson said, “How am I supposed to feel?” He found the abandoned amusement park, talked about it as often as he talked to his father. Eventually, another problem too easy to solve, his father bought the park and Jackson moved in. Jackson spent each day waiting on the sky to open up and let loose all the armageddon it had been holding back. Jackson spent hours each day riding the only ride he'd fixed: a rickety wooden roller coaster he rode alone and drunk. He rode between five and ten times daily. He'd met Sebastian one night sleeping in one of the concession stands. He had wandered away the house he owned with his wife and kept walking until he was too tired to fight or walk any longer. Sebastian apologized when Jackson woke him, but Jackson shook his head and asked if he wanted to ride the coaster. They rode and Sebastian got off, scared. “That thing is dangerous,” he said. “That's a pretty natural reaction to fear and adrenaline,” Jackson said. “No, I mean that it's like at any moment the whole thing could crumble and crush us underneath all that rubble.” Jackson sat in a car, asked Sebastian to start the coaster again. “I've been on this ride so many times, I don't notice a difference between terror and boredom anymore,” he said. Jackson had nightmares about the end of the world nightly. Every day, he checked the news for any signs of the apocalypse: rivers running with blood, the risen dead, dragons descending from the skies. He found a story about an ice 80


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shelf the size of Manhattan falling into the ocean, pointed it out to Sebastian at the breakfast table set up on the dysfunctional carousel. Horses had long since been graffitied or had holes punched in them. Someone had broken the poles holding some of them up and they lay strewn around the men. Jackson slid the newspaper across the table, his finger resting on the story. “Should we be preparing for disaster?” Sebastian asked. “That's basically what we're doing,” Jackson said. “Sitting here?” “When it happens, we're just going to be sitting around, doing the same things we would have been doing otherwise,” Jackson said. Jackson's father flew into town, showed up at the park. He found Jackson dousing a ride in kerosene. Raccoons were painted on the sides, pelican and alligator statues perched on top. “Glad to see you're getting better,” Jackson's father said. “I'm doing better than ever,” Jackson said. He produced a book of matches, asked his dad to stand back. He held a match against the matchbook. “What are these machines for?” he asked. “I don't know, Jackson. Tell me.” “They're supposed to be exciting, but they only do what they're designed for. They spin in circles or rise way up and drop you from the sky. You ride and you either ride again or you go do whatever you had been doing before it started,” he said. Sebastian found a group of teenage boys smoking and wandering the grounds one night. He pulled a gun on the boys and brought them to Jackson. “I found these hooligans trying to enjoy your park for free,” Sebastian said. Jackson took the handgun from Sebastian, tossed it in the overgrown bushes. They stood next to a water ride perched over a pond full of stagnant water. Jackson smelled something rotten. He told the boys to go home, to forget his idiot friend. “We just wanted to have fun,” one of the boys said. “There's this big park with all these rides and things, and it's just empty and falling apart.” Jackson kicked at the bones of a dead bird. He asked for a cigarette from the boys. “How do you think this world's going to end?” he asked. “I don't know,” one of them said. “By fire or by flood, I suppose.” “What if it ends quietly and we just don't notice?” Jackson asked. Jackson opened the park up to admission for the one ride. People wandered in nightly, looking for anything to do. They heard about the park and the one working roller coaster in the middle of it. People remarked on the ugliness of the park, wondered how anyone could want to live there. After a couple weeks, crowds of people showed up nightly. Jackson ran the coaster long into the night, drinking and searching the news. Sebastian stopped riding, instead reading manuals on park maintenance. He inspected the ride, tried to ensure it would not collapse and kill anyone. He brought his 81


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concern to Jackson. “What's the point of doing something if there's no risk of ending?” Jackson asked. “There's the possibility of a thing, then there's the likelihood of it,” Sebastian said. One night near the end of the first year, Sebastian locked the gate of the park, turned thrill-seekers away. He told them the park was closed for repairs, that the ride was unsafe for passengers. A crowd had gathered and some were drunk and many were angry. They demanded to be let in and Sebastian told them there was nothing to be done. He walked toward the coaster, heard the roar of its machinery. Jackson rode alone. Sebastian stopped the ride, Jackson's car static at the top of a rise, ready to drop. The wood moaned beneath him. He yelled for Sebastian to start the ride again. He yelled until Sebastian gave in and let the coaster rumble back to life. Jackson hollered for Sebastian to make the coaster go faster, and his voice was soon lost in the howling of speed and rushing sound, and Sebastian watched each turn and tumble, ever twist and upside-down groan of metal on track, and the wood and metal held, and he watched for all that held it together to begin tearing itself apart.

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AIMEE HENKEL

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Perhaps. What’s Coming My daughter hides the Wii remote. She’s only six, but already she knows how to hoard, to protect, to make sure that no one touches what is hers. My daughter is obsessed with TV. As soon as she wakes up, the TV goes on. When she comes home from school, she rushes through her homework to get back to the TV. If she can’t watch it, if we forbid her, she is relentless about asking us – can I watch later? Can I watch tomorrow? When can I watch again? Mommy, I’ll just watch a little while. My husband and I are recovering drug addicts. We watch this behavior and it scares us to death. She is greedy with food. She cannot wait her turn. If she loses a game, she bursts into tears and refuses to play again. If she cannot be immediately gratified, she doesn’t want it anymore, or rages, or finds a way to manipulate someone else to get it for her. She lies. She cheats at games. I am sixteen years clean. It has taken me this long to have children. For many years, I was afraid. I didn’t want to have them because I was damaged. My DNA held a curse I wouldn’t wish on anyone, the propensity to use something that made me feel good until it made me feel bad: Hostess Cupcakes, video games, cigarettes, men, alcohol, drugs. I didn’t want to watch my child go through what I had, to suffer the degradation, the shame, the powerlessness over substances. Now my daughter is powerless over TV. I wish I knew what to do. I talk to her about letting go. My husband and I take her to church so she can learn to trust and love God. We pray at the table, and whenever we have a problem. We let her know she has choices. We love her madly, endlessly. We don’t smoke. We show affection. We sign her up for soccer, swim lessons, take her camping. And still, she shows the symptoms, the signs, already. I listen to other mothers in meetings, which I attend faithfully. Some of them have children who are using actively, some have children in jail. Some have lost one or two children already, often to the same drug. I have never used heroin or crack. Now there are more terrible drugs, bath salts and meth. Who knows what will be available when she grows up? I think about the mothers who share in meetings about their sons, their little boys going to prison for years on end. Three strikes and you’re out. Many of them used while their children were still young, locking themselves in bathrooms or bedrooms while outside they called and begged to be fed, or played with or taken outside. Sometimes I say, well of course those children are using now. They are just doing what their parents did. My daughter has never seen me use drugs. She doesn’t even know my history. We tell her we go to meetings to talk about our feelings, and it’s true. But I rarely talk about this feeling, this terror in the pit of my stomach. Will she find alcohol, drugs? Will she die of an overdose before she is 25? There was a small part of me that believed I used drugs as a sort of selfmedication against the abuse I suffered as a child. I had a whole host of reasons 84


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why I used that had nothing to do with a disease: abuse, poverty, abandonment, rage. I wanted to believe the disease of addiction wasn’t in the fiber of my being, but it is. I can see it in her face when we take away the TV. She is anguished and lost, fearful that the anchor of her world has been taken from her and now she is listing, unsure. When I learned I was pregnant, I promised I would do everything – absolutely anything – to keep my child from becoming an addict. I ate well during my pregnancy. I took prenatal vitamins with the special brain enhancing oils. I exercised, went to all my doctor appointments and read to her while she was still smaller than my palm. I thought I could stem the tide of disease that threatened her. I knew there was a chance when I conceived her, and I took the risk anyway. Sometimes I wonder if I was selfish to do it, to bring her into a world that might suck her into her addiction as easily as water down a drain. I thought I was stronger than the disease. And when she was a baby I nursed her, despite the hospital’s insistence that she be bottle fed. I hired post-partum doulas and put her on a feeding schedule. I slept on the couch by her crib night after night and held her for hours on end, to make sure she felt a sense of security I had never had. As she grew, I propped her up on pillows and read to her, looking her in the eye to mirror her responses, smiling – always smiling – laughing and cooing until I thought my mind had melted. I made her baby food from scratch from vegetables out of our garden, swaddled her in cloth diapers a friend had made from flannel. I nursed her until she was one and a half. She had a warm room, a father who rocked her to sleep more nights than not, and a clean house with a puppy and a wealth of toys. When she got older, I took her to the park, pushed her on swings, played Little People, took her on walks and hikes, carried her in Baby Bjorns, hiking packs and carted her on sunny days in strollers everywhere I could think of – nature walks, playgroup outings, made friends with the neighborhood moms, got out of my comfort zone. And here I am, looking once again at a hidden Wii remote. She’s hiding it from her brother, who will want to watch, too. My daughter cannot stand to share her beloved television with anyone. It must be her way or no way at all. If he will not watch what she wants, she will beg him until he leaves the room. He has learned to play quietly alone, or with us, while our daughter is lost inside the adventures of the Transformers. She tells me she loves Optimus Prime. She says if she ever met him, she would kiss him on the mouth. We’ve considered getting rid of the television, and I’m not sure why we don’t. Besides watching football and the occasional movie, as parents we rarely watch it. I encourage reading by getting them into bed early and reading them story after story. My daughter is halfway through Harry Potter. And she will leave the TV for reading time with mommy, which I love. We crawl into my bed and 85


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cuddle, and I read to her as long as I can. It is a precious time for us, a period of my day I cannot do without. This is when I believe she will be okay. That she will study hard in school, get involved in extracurricular sports, play an instrument, and volunteer at a hospital. This is the time when I know she will be fine; that her heart is so good and wide open and willing to be loved that nothing will stop her from being successful and hopeful in her life. But I am a fighter. Met with resistance of any kind, I fight first and ask questions later. It’s not something I’m proud of; I want to change. I’m afraid I’ve instilled that in her as well. She sees me resist and has learned to push back – hard. So there is a bratty part of her I cannot stand, a part that calls me names and throws things and argues. I see that part of myself mirrored back to me and I wonder, when was the last time I threw something? I never have, so where did this come from? Was it just in her mind, or did she see it on TV? And is the television shaping who she is, so that she is being molded into an addict, just by virtue of being left alone with it. Is the TV becoming her parent? More and more she wants to be alone with it, to the point where she has trouble finding other things to do. I wish I were a better entertainer, but crafts bore me. I cannot stand to paint rocks or cut paper. I love when they play on their own, but the things they like to do are messy and annoying. There’s play dough and painting and chalk, and all the children things that occupy me as much as them. I don’t want to be taken away from my life to join in theirs. It’s my guilty secret. I want to be left alone. I feel that I am as much a culprit in my daughter’s TV addiction as she is, as it is. I let her watch because I need to fold laundry or make dinner or clean the kitchen. I need to read the news, or my book, or talk on the phone. I need to be stimulated. I can’t do kids the way I did in the beginning, nor do I want to – and if that makes me a bad mother, so be it. Many days I say, if the kids are alive at the end of the day, it’s a successful day. Sometimes I say, they can use their inheritance for therapy. What can I do? I am only human. I know my daughter has had an infinitely better life than mine, even at 6. My mother married a West Point graduate in 1969, just when Lieutenants were being shipped off to Vietnam, and he was transferred to Germany just before I was born. My mother had me in a German hospital attended by doctors who spoke no English. She had no family or friends with her, and in those days, the fathers weren’t allowed in the operating room. From Germany, we moved several times before I was ten, and during those years living with my father I was severely abused. Although I have worked through it, I marvel sometimes at my ability to love and be loved, despite my father’s terrible betrayals. I sobbed on my daughters sixth birthday, knowing she was safe and loved and protected. I had never known that luxury. For many years in recovery from addiction, I believed that my use and abuse of drugs was due to outside forces – for I crashed my life early on and continued digging the hole deeper and deeper as time went on. Abusive 86


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relationships, harder and harder drugs, running from place to place without a stable home or education to stand on, I floundered for many years until I came into recovery. Miraculous as it is, I am still clean, despite Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and manic depression that developed over my childhood and into my addiction. But now, I cannot deny that something deeper had a hold of me long before I picked up a drug, and perhaps long before the abuse or the mental illness. Perhaps I had been steered toward obsessive behaviors and decisions and people before I ever had a choice. I think it’s very possible. I remember a time I used to walk 1 mile for a package of Hostess Cupcakes. I read a book a day for many years, even between classes in middle school and even in class while the teacher spoke. It was as if I couldn’t live without the books, the cupcakes. Later, when I fell in the love with the boy next door, I couldn’t live without him either and we met late at night when my mother was sleeping, creeping out the front window and talking on the lawn. I took crazy risks to be with people, fearful they wouldn’t like me if I didn’t do what they wanted. I tried to be like everyone else, and gave up my identity at a moment’s notice. If some boy showed interest in me, I accepted it open handed, as if I had nothing of myself left. And then, I abandoned myself completely and the drugs took hold. I don’t want this for my daughter. I feel an instinctive fear, a growling urge to keep her in the house, to lock her away from anything she might enjoy, like Rapunzel in a tower. But, like any good fairy tale, there is a lesson to be learned – I know that no matter what I try to do, fate will have its way, and perhaps the disease will have its way, too. I can’t tell. I struggle with the idea of telling her about what addiction is, what it means. If I had to draw a family tree, she would see alcoholics on both sides of her family, addictions everywhere. How can I tell her the truth, that she is at risk for something as deadly as cancer, and possibly as inescapable as cystic fibrosis? The disease will kill her if left untreated. I’ve been to a dozen funerals, and heard of dozens more. People die – young people die – every day from this disease and yet, I struggle with the decision to tell her. Will that create a selffulfilling prophecy, or can I protect her by taking her to meetings with me, surrounding her with people in recovery and destroying the illusion that drugs and alcohol are harmless for her? I don’t know. There is a part of me that wants to expose her to the truth now, but she’s so young I doubt it would penetrate. I want to build a wall against the coming tide. I want her to be safe. At the end of my addiction I was selling my body and using night and day. That’s what addiction did to me, and if I had continued I would be dead. I know I am living on borrowed time, but is she? I am doing my best to save her, but I am left to wonder. Is there anything I can do?

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Call for Submissions ______________________________________________ Issue 4 is on the horizon, so send us your work now! We’re 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 ______________________________________________ Aimee Henkel has studied poetry and fiction at NYU, Manhattanville and the Hudson Valley Writer's Center and has been published in literary journals, magazines and newspapers as a community journalist. She will be publishing her first co-authored non-fiction book in November through Arundel Publishing. Andrea Gilham received her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She currently resides in Mount Vernon, Indiana with her husband and two children. Ben Westlie is the author of three chapbooks of poems: Sometimes Out of Turn, Extraordinary Construction and The Performance all published by Finishing Line Press. His poems have been included in the anthology Time You Let Me In: 25 Poets Under 25 edited and selected by Naomi Shihab Nye and has an MFA in Poetry from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Chloe N. Clark is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing & Environment. She enjoys all things Doctor Who, cupcakes, and stage magic. Not necessarily in that order. Follow her @PintsNCupcakes. Daniel Hudon, originally from Canada, is an adjunct lecturer in astronomy, math, and physics in Boston, MA. Some of his writing links can be found at people.bu.edu/hudon. Erin Calabria grew up in rural Western Massachusetts and now lives in New York City. Her writing has appeared in Luna Luna Magazine, River Teeth's "Beautiful Things" column, and the Readers Report series on The Rumpus. Her documentary work has also aired on public radio. Tweets @Erin_Calabria." J.I. Kleinberg is artist, poet and freelance writer. A Pushcart nominee, her writing has appeared in numerous literary journals. Her found poems, from a growing collection of over 825, explore the accidental syntax of unintentional phrases: each text fragment is extracted from the magazine page, where the words on one line are related to the words on the next line only by physical proximity, not by their intended sense or syntax. She lives in Bellingham, Washington, and doesn’t own a television. Jacob Aiello lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and four cats. He's currently amassing a collection of short fiction consisting of far too many pronouns, some of which have appeared or are forthcoming from Atlas & Alice, Knee-Jerk, Storm Cellar Quarterly, Pinball, Vending Machine Press, Fiddleblack, Menacing Hedge, SmokeLong Quarterly, Litro Magazine, Drunk Monkeys, Storychord, The Portland Review and The Wordstock Ten, among others. Justin Lawrence Daugherty lives in Atlanta and on Twitter at @jdaugherty1081. He is the cofounder of Jellyfish Highway Press, founder/managing editor of Sundog Lit, and edits for New South Journal and Cartridge Lit, a literary magazine dedicated to work inspired by video games. Iosif Rikhter is a pseudonym.

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Atlas & Alice | Issue 3, Spring 2015 Marius Surleac was published by Pif Magazine, MadHat Lit, Literary Orphans, Prick of the Spindle, Bare Fiction Futures Trading and other journals.He has translated many writers into Romanian, including poetry by Marc Vincenz, Fady Joudah, Susan Lewis, Valzhyna Mort. His book Zeppelin Jack was published by Herg Benet Publishing (2011). His translation of The Propaganda Factory, or Speaking of Trees (by Marc Vincenz), is forthcoming (Tracus Arte Publishing, 2015). Matthew Woodman teaches composition at California State University, Bakersfield. His poems have appeared in recent issues of Agave, 300 Days of Sun, Cactus Heart, and El Portal. When he isn’t teaching or writing, he’s getting into trouble of one sort or another. He really should know better. Mindy Hung’s essays and articles have appeared in Salon, Bitch, The New York Times, and other fine publications. Her short (often very short) fiction has appeared in Joyland, PANK, and The New Quarterly. She received a New York Foundation for the Arts fiction fellowship in 2010. She contributes occasionally to The Toast. Her debut novel, Trip, was published in 2012 by Outpost19. Richard Hartshorn grew up in a brown and white house. It is now red. There is no longer a sandbox. He was the recipient of the 2011 Richard Bausch Short Story Prize, and his work has appeared in Drunken Boat, The Writing Disorder, theNewerYork, and elsewhere. He earned an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Rose Maria Woodson has work forthcoming in Gravel Literary Journal and has also been published in Jet Fuel, Behemoth Review, Decades Review, Apeiron Review, Scapegoat Review and Stirring. Sossity Chiricuzio is a queer femme outlaw poet, a working class sex radical storyteller. What her friends parents often referred to as a bad influence, and possibly still do. Previous publications include: Adrienne, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and The Outrider Review. More info: sossitywrites.com. Valentina Cano is a student of classical singing who spends whatever free time she has either reading or writing. She also watches over a veritable army of pets, including her five, very spoiled, snakes. Her works have appeared in numerous publications and her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Web. She lives in Miami, Florida. Note: Cover design by Mahtem Shiferraw for Atlas & Alice. Found poems images all by J.I. Kleinberg. Fire hydrant, Blurred painting, Red plants &back cover images by Mahtem Shiferraw for Atlas & Alice. All other images courtesy of Flickr, via Creative Commons.

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atlas and alice literary magazine issue 3 | spring 2015

Atlas and Alice Literary Magazine  

Issue 3 | Spring 2015

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