BARNHOUSE issue one

Page 1

BARNHOUSE issue one / winter 2019 1


BARNHOUSE staff co-editor-in-chief/

Kevin Latimer


Jason Harris

managing editor/

Dorrian Hawkins

fiction editor/

Charlie Plue

poetry editor/

Angelo Maneage

nonfiction editor/

Maryann Dowdell


thanks (to)

Long Long Journal, the Manhattan Project, the Cleveland State University Poetry Center, Mahall’s (& their fried chicken), Mac’s Backs, Visible Voice Books, and CODA. Caryl Pagel, Mike Geither, Peter Roth, Dan Riordan, Krysia Orlowski, Zach Savich, Hilary Plum, our friends from Juniper, and you. BARNHOUSE loves you.


fiction/ pg 7


Tara Isabel Zambrano Simeon Ralph Timston Johnston Callie Zucker Catherine Parnell

poetry/ pg 16 Amanda Stovieck Daniel Uncapher Lisa Reily Adedayo Agarau Hilary Plum Gretchen Rockwell Heikki Houtari V.C. McCabe Emily Lake Hansen Amy Kinsman Nome Patrick alyssa hanna Sneha Subramanian Kanta Kylan Rice

nonfiction/ pg 43 Diane Payne Gregg Williard Les Hunter Grace Roberson Rimsha Syed

contributors/ pg 55





GHOST WALK Tara Isabel Zambrano Trying to shake off the last night, the men from slums in Mumbai sip hot, sugared chai, running one of their fingers around the rim of the only porcelain cup in their household. Above, a whale of grey clouds irritates them─ will the monsoon flood their homes again, will they take turns to sleep on a single bed. Get up, do something, their wives urge while rinsing dishes and mopping floors, their sweat and second-guessed ideas of prying, eavesdropping on their idle husbands, smudged on the walls, on the forever running TV screens and static sputtering old radios. The men clench their tobacco-stained teeth, blame the downturn in every job, blame the rain-drenched sun that refuses to shine and dry their skin and eyes. Throughout the day, the men from slums ghost walk through the bazaars, trade drugs, and piss on the walls of abandoned buildings. They have wicked tongues and slippery hands. Old dogs with big pupils behind borrowed Ray Bans chewing calluses onto the sides of their tongues. As the smog-filled sky is haloed by a rising moon, the men from slums measure up the call girls standing at the sidewalks throughout the city, dimples of pink dusk on their sequined tank tops scatter around their second-hand stilettos. Smoking a left-over bud, they wink at the streetwalkers, their feet on pedestrian crossings like commuter trains of Mumbai, speeding and slowing abruptly in their narrow tracks. Paused at traffic signals, cars, trucks and buses rev together as if parts of a giant animal ready to crush them, toss them in the gutters. Drunk and high, the men from slums return, claiming how hard they worked all day long. Late at night, they trace their painted, long-nailed, pinkies into their wives’ necks to their nipples like a slow song, biting the humidity with their alcohol breath. On the highways surrounding their homes, sirens whine and with every push, the men feel small─like moths sucked into a pitcher plant, vanishing. Unable to finish, they roll over and pass out. Their wives stare into the low ceilings and touch themselves, arching their torsos, trying to remember what a dick feels like. A plane takes off from a nearby airport and alongside the earth beneath their bodies, the women shudder─ a shrill cry escaping from their lips and rising into the noisy, sticky air before settling between their dark, widespread legs.


SHE REMEMBERS Simeon Ralph She thought he’d just have to touch a match to the notebook and whoosh, but, although the pages browned and curled, the nascent flames sighed into nothing and Neville’s face grew more crimson. He held the book away from his body, pinching a coil of the wire-binding between his thumb and forefinger as if he were holding the tail of a dead mouse or a clump of hair pulled from the plughole. Eventually, he fetched a tin of lighter fluid from under the kitchen sink. The thin metal screamed like old bed springs as he squeezed it empty. After that, it had gone up easily. She watched the pages crisp and her words transform into thin grey plumes that drifted up and over the garden fence and into the world and wished she’d got the washing off the line first. She remembers closing her eyes and inhaling as if she could taste them. As an experiment, she’d once scrawled half a dozen nouns onto scraps of paper and squeezed them between her teeth until her spit was blue. Each of them, mother, wife, love, death, was as bland and pulpy as the last. “That’s that,”, Nev said. She remembers the wisp of ash that caught in the long hairs of his eyebrow. The sort of detail she would have noted down had she anything to write on. He’d never been keen on the idea. “Creative ironing’s more up your street,” he said. But he had laughed when he said it and so she had laughed too. “It’s free, Nev. Subsidised.” “Nothing’s free,” he’d said. But the class didn’t clash with league night for the pool or the darts or the football and she promised to have Anthony in bed and a stew in the slow cooker before she left. “All right, love, if you must.” It was odd being back in a classroom. There were flipcharts and marker pens instead of blackboards and chalk but the smell hadn’t changed. Lemon floor polish. Only eight in their group, all crowded around a couple of desks, so no back row to hide in. She remembers the ache in the small of her back from the moulded plastic seats. His name was Patrick. Never Pat or Paddy. A serious name. A writer’s name. But he was a daft looking fella, really, squeezed into that brown leather coat that had no place on a man only a handful of years younger than herself. She remembers his crow’s feet and that flop of boyish fringe. He was, perhaps, a little soft in the chin. Kind, though. She was all elbows. The oldest one there by at least ten years. The only one not dressed almost entirely in black, as if she’d missed a letter home about uniform. Her cheeks were hot as they went around the table, introducing themselves. They all had fascinating jobs and 9

aspirations and works in progress. When it was time to start, they opened beautiful notebooks with cream paper like wedding invitations. She remembers the scritch of their fountain pen nibs as they etched and sculpted. She had a biro with the plastic stopper chewed off and a shopping list notepad she’d bought new that morning. The pages were oily. Patrick talked about marking marks on the page. Of stealing half-heard conversations in supermarket queues. Of listening, and moulding what they heard into something theirs. The second week, he gave them each an object and they created the character who owned it. He’d unbuckled his wristwatch and handed it to her. The strap was faded and supple. Underneath the surface layers of leather and cologne, there was the slightest hint of hot, damp, earth. She made marks. Neville was usually asleep in front of the telly by the time she came home. Patrick said that without conflict there was no narrative. She made him a gardener. The earth, she supposed. He’d lose the watch. The buckle would work itself loose and he’d fold it into the soil without noticing. It was a present from his wife. No, his ex-wife. No, she’d died. He still wore the ring. He’d rake his fingers through the soil searching for what he had lost. Is that conflict? she asked him, near the end. Does he ever find the watch? He’d placed his hand lightly on her forearm. She didn’t answer. She’d written multiple endings. In one, he was left on his knees, wrist-deep in loose earth, still searching. In another, he held the watch in his palm and brushed away the soil. She was not sure that either worked. Neville turned both endings into ash. He carried a scrap of one of them back into the house, caught in his brow. He didn’t read often and he didn’t read well, but he was not a stupid man. A funny thing to remember now, with Neville six years gone. The other day, she’d watched a program presented by that young professor fella. Neville would always break into an impersonation whenever the professor popped up on something. Any tea, love? He’d say. One of the universe’s greatest mysteries, the whereabouts of the tea. And he’d laugh and so would she. He was a good man, really, Neville. He worked hard when there was work to work hard at, and they’d had their fair share of laughter. The professor talked about that cat in a box, and whether it was alive or dead and how it could be both. And then he’d talked about an infinite number of universes with an infinite number of possibilities stretching away forever and she remembered the ash in Neville’s brow. And how, if the professor was to be believed then somewhere her notebook was not burned. Somewhere, her gardener was still raking through the soil and somewhere else he was holding the watch in his palm and brushing away the dirt. Somewhere, at least, she still made marks. 10

heart in the marketplace Tim Johnston —for ABBs, I dreamt you were a crossing guard

To see you again would be cause to release the suppressed grin you once hoped to sew over your own, the smile you called an abrupt wave, a calm swell in the evening water, an anomaly of the natural world where, below, the nothing-at-all becomes the pre-beached monastery for gulls—what scientists needed alive. We cannot outrun this eventual gravity. We failed once before as it compressed our dust into a perfect spherical oddity where we could dwell. The excavation taught us our dust was the ash of scarred pasts with no means of disposal. In a deep winter, we watched it fall, collecting over a breezeless, debris-cluttered world. Concede to this orbit again, to embrace as both stubborn tree and stymied vine. Let’s not forget we are frost lines under frozen, receding swales. Unlock your hands, let them pass as strangers, lie cruciform to the spine, allow the other to wander, to loosely cradle the shoulder. Ours were always an unsecured keeping—a heavy door, left ajar. I once thought the virtue of the rock was its affinity to erosion. I made every excuse an addict would. Call this strange joy a feeling of pride, experience, of gratefulness to these older eyes seeing nothing was possible without one more journey alone. To age means to know background noise fills a room to drown it of its emptiness, to know when shadows are just as effective. I’d leave wordless, take my brief happiness with me. I’d keep my life, my path, as was after and before you. I’d like there to be a crowd, with noise, with hustle. I’d like it to wrap around me as water would absorb a body not meant to emerge. Remember me the same way you would experience a ghost whose purpose has moved toward something neither of us understand. Tell no one, for your sake. Let me remain the nothing I was, the flash of light the simple trick of the eyes, your mind, playing along.


THESE ARE THE THINGS WE DO NOT LEAVE BEHIND Callie Zucker do I have a body? My whole body was so many worms attached loosely at the hip or shoulder to keep me upright. I leaned over my bathroom countertop, hip bones grinding against the yellowing ceramic. Pulled the skin under my eyes down and peered into the wet red of my inner eyelids. The crack in the mirror doubled my face and I grinned as I turned my head, watching my reflections do the same. I contorted my face in every way I could think of until a dull thud overhead startled me back into reality. The couple upstairs was arguing again. Their fighting words fell on me like broken glass. I felt each slice, the hot raw pain of loving hate. I crawled under the table in the kitchen and lay down on my back to watch the stars on the underside of the wood. My stomach feasted on itself that night, like most of the nights before. I gingerly stroked the mountain range of my protruding ribs. Skin, skin, skin, my body was a mess of bones held together by sausage casing. I was shrinking like a vitamin C tablet in a glass of water; my body left me faster and faster as if I really was dissolving, finally. I closed my eyes and thought about sewing fishing wire to my navel and floating upwards, a balloon of a girl tethered to nothing at all. But balloons get caught on birds and planes, tangle and pop. On hazy nights like this it always came back to me. The story as it was always told. Once upon a time, there was a marble bathtub. Our legs tangled there, the first of many times my wet legs would curl around another’s. I was barely a woman with a glass of wine in my hand, bubbles sliding down my collar bone. I felt like such an adult, my thin hair tied in a messy knot on the top of my scalp. Child was a word to me, a past state of being that surely I was beyond by now. Because it was a Tuesday, and Tuesdays were broth-only days, I heated up two cups of vegetable broth on the stove. While I waited I popped two aspirin in my mouth and crunched down on them, the medical bitter of the pills like a deep breath after swimming underwater. I’d began to chew aspirin in July and it had quickly become an unbreakable habit. The first crack flooded my mouth with sharp powder and steadied me on my feet, even if just for ten minutes. Broth was warm. Dinner. If you eat broth with a small spoon, it feels like more. But my hunger still drove me to distraction, fingers curling around the corners of the kitchen table. I thought maybe they were talons of some endangered bird of prey, my feathers molten off my body to reveal the raw pink of my skin. I gripped the table and searched the reflection of my back in the oven for my wings, but I blinked and blinked and there were no wings there. I blinked once more and for a moment saw the gashes where they’d been torn off my body, still hot and red and dripping but no wings in sight. When I looked up again my back was smooth and my bones reached up through my skin like root vegetables. I felt my feet on the ground but they did not feel me and Once upon a time I’m a girl, always a girl but that day I’m a woman, the way my dress gathers around my thighs when I sit. You’re so scared of my little body, which I think is that of a woman, chicken calves all mottled with bruises from gym class. I imagined you grabbing me with rough hands and skimming your aftershave-smelling face against the smooth flesh of my neck, holding my waist like I was an older girl. 12

I opened my eyes to stop the flood. Decided to grab my coat and walk to quiet the buzz in my head, the pit in my stomach. I started at the sight of my hand on the doorknob; whose hand is that? Mine, still mine, always mine. I walked through downtown. Lights of laundromats with nobody inside seared into my eyes, the wet slap of my shoes in puddles formed during rains I didn’t notice punctuated my nighttime constitutional. The moon was barely rising. Once upon a time, I knelt on the hard sand of the baseball diamond like grits and I think of punishing; that which I’ll do to myself but more importantly that you’ll do to me, hair held back towards the small of my back while you twitch and jerk and shame yourself over me. I walked along the highway shoulder and into the tunnel, where I stood looking at the cobalt glow of the CALL BOX signs. No cars had passed in the past fifteen minutes so I sat on the dirty asphalt, dirtying the edges of my white nightdress. “Excuse me, this is my call box.” I swiveled to see who had spoken. A little boy stood over me, his neatly trimmed hair tucked behind his large ears. He was dressed in a school uniform not unlike the one I had worn at the private schools I’d attended: blue sweater over a crisp white collar, black pants, shiny loafers. He held a large clear umbrella over his head and frowned at me. “I’m sorry,” I began, my voice straining to escape my mouth. Only after he shifted his weight from his left side to his right did I notice the leash he held in his hand. My eyes followed the leash to its base; a small red leather collar circling the slender neck of a fawn. I stared at the little deer. Her beetle black eyes stared back at me as she trembled on her twiglike legs. Her joints were simply knots hidden underneath her taut skin, her short hair the same reddish-orange as the boy’s. “Who do we have here?” I asked softly, holding my hand out to the baby animal. She stepped backwards and fell over her awkward body, the collar and leash wrenching her neck upwards as her body twisted around itself. The boy knelt and helped her to stand, scowling at me. “She doesn’t like to be touched. Touching hurts us. It’s enough to have to endure the wind and the hair that grows on our bodies,” he informed me. I scratched at my knee and he watched me intently. “You can stay longer, but I don’t have room under my umbrella. The winds will come soon and they will hurt.” “The wind will hurt?” “Most things hurt. The only thing that feels good is the right-way of velvet.” I opened my mouth to respond but he was busy undoing the red leather collar around his pet’s neck. He took her in his arms; they both winced. His breathing was heavy as he held her close, his small mouth twisting into an ugly grimace. “I can hold her if you’d like, if it hurts you,” I offered. He looked at me with tears in his eyes. “I have to do it. I am trying my best.” He squeezed his eyes shut. I listened closer; he was holding his breath. His face started to redden.


Panic rose in my chest at his trembling lips, my mind echoed Once upon a time I slept beside a yellow lampshade, you tucked a strand of hair behind my ear and stroked my forearm where it hung over the side of my twin bed. You hope I stay this way forever, a sleeping beauty of sorts, my leaden limbs paperweights for my sheets and my hair spread like so many rivers across my cotton pillowcase. The little boy opened his eyes, a reflective wall of tears separating them from what he saw. He put the fawn down. The creature, which had been whimpering weakly, collapsed onto the ground. The boy sat too, catching his breath. We sat in silence for a few minutes. I resisted the urge to reach out to the boy; my reflex to comfort him would only cause more harm. Once his breathing had slowed, I looked at him. His eyes were closed sleepily, his umbrella opened at his feet. The fawn lay still at his side. Her glassy eyes gave her away; she was dead. “I think your pet is hurt,” I tried gently. He looked at her and smiled, putting his puttylike hand on her torso. Looking down at his watch, he stood and smoothed out his sweater. “Now that she’s let me go, you can have this place.” He told me while he picked up his umbrella. The slap of his loafers on the concrete resounded throughout the tunnel as he began to walk out towards the open night. “Are you going to leave her there?” He turned around; the moon shone through his umbrella. Moonset was approaching and my feet ached to remember the long walk home. “What would I do with her?” “You can’t just leave her!” “I don’t see why not. She’s dead.” “She was your pet, she’s—was yours.” “Yes, well, that was then. She’s no longer mine.” He turned back around and continued on. I tried to stand up, my head spinning with the effort. Instead I knelt over the deer and felt her round belly. She was no longer warm. Once upon a time, you made my body into a marionette and my mouth into an unbroken line and then you snipped my strings and let me fall. Once upon a time, your malevolent love left me curled on the bathroom, blood drying in the sink where I’d tried too hard to scratch away the fingerling bruises you’d painted on my body in mauve and goldenrod. Once upon a time, we both hoped I would disappear and I have been trying ever since.


A SWARMING CONTINUUM Catherine Parnell The comfort of her deathbed was not lost on Rosine; after all, life had been a series of discomforts. The village in Alsace-Lorraine, so small she could not wait to escape. The sheep, the choking smell of manure that clung to her skin. The stable, mucking out the stalls. The pregnant cats and their kittens, the stuffed sack dropped in deep waters. The sanctity of Sunday, the dark before dawn, the fact of her existence: an only child, the only surviving child, a girl child, the cemetery cradling her unnamed brothers and sisters, unsuckled, unswaddled Lavigne children. Babies with wings, they were. Her mother kept strands of their hair in the Bible and whenever Rosine was to read aloud her fingers would brush against the keepsakes, and she stammered. Dieu, dieu, dieu. Yet, there was relief offered by the peddler who belled his way through the village with his wares: a thimble for her mother; a sack of nails for her father; dirty German sweets for the village children; and for her, tattered books whose endings were missing, pages lost to a fire, no doubt. A book she treasured, treasures (and where is it?) illustrated by one Gustav Doré, also from Alsace-Lorraine: Don Quixote, a man who turned a shaving bowl into a knight’s helmet. A man whose dream was destroyed by the Knight of the White Moon, or put on hold, as it were. Always a man, is it? If Doré could get out, so could she, and she did. When the war came to Ornes, Rosine was gone, and when she returned, to look, to search—where had they all gone?—there was nothing but rubble and bone and the church and the chapel and the cemetery. The dead have their secrets. This she knows, as she balances between life and death. But she has no secrets, only sins, which might be the same thing. And her transgression? One eye saw the future. It is here. The other eye winked with vengeance.




THE BEAST WITH NO FACE Amanda Stovicek You think the wolf, the bear, or the cougar will be your undoing. You manufacture fears for these animals, and avoid the woods and dark gullies and back roads of your anytown hometown. You carry a small pistol with a tortoise shell grip and extra bullets made of silver because your research said that would help against werewolves if they existed and if not, would at least do the same skull-splitting damage at the appropriate range. You rent books from the library about survival, about gutting the carcass of an elk and living inside in case of snow. You never leave your house long enough to get stranded, and definitely not on days when it will snow, but you want to be prepared. You watch The Grey and Backcountry and even throw Anaconda in for good measure. You slip words like feral and bestial into your everyday vocabulary and the grocer who checks you out at the big box store laughs nervously as he slides ten packages of ground meat over the barcode scanner. You comment that all ferine creatures need to eat, but the grocer just hands you the receipt. You begin to think that no one is prepared for the inevitable. Animal attacks happen anywhere, everywhere, next door, down the street, all over the countryside. You print a pamphlet of the warning signs, pets refusing to enter certain areas, large fecal samples around edges of property, larger animals herding together, smaller animals going missing, pawprints. No one listens. You turn a corner when posting flyers of wolf-bear-cougar hybrids when it hits you. Like the crack of an egg on your neck, like a liquid sluicing down your body. There is an animal here. The shadows grow longer and deeper in your face until all becomes a hooded black. There is a beast here but he has no face and his hands are colder than a glacial wind. Your neighbors find your body peaceful but empty, chimera-faced flyers arranged neatly like a halo.


BIG FICTION Daniel Uncapher So let’s say b=c X via big blender queen and caca county o big showofoff t / Interrogate These Faces do I look like a novice to you? (Corona) of the (bogo sale) \\ [[I just like holding it][[] Long est runn ing incid ent without investigatory measures: lockaway island plea \ o monad key g o \ n HYPOCRITE ? \ KYS yo (bottom: TOP) I said go ahead and ZIP ZAG YA DONE FOR no mono in the morning (long leggy sink thing) ye on leaky rims \ \ \\/ We Unfortunately Do Not Pay ) We Unfortunately Do Not Pay ) )) Skeptical Face \ \\ // /\ \ \ Most boil down to \ \ / simply (wherever, or ideally) Fine/f (finite as is) ||||||||| How do I locate my child(ren)? ACTION 1: how do you respond? p ACTION 2: how do you think? t t a


r n

e s

o 18

ACTION 3: here goes: o l | \\ g l Anyway, you can’t just like, ,eave on some righteous crusade What else can I be expected to do p Stolen for nothin Yup yup took it all \ all



e y


In Memory of Two Lives Lisa Reily For Thyrza

I remember when you told me about the cow, its eye dangling and bloodied, strung from its face, flies buzzing as it bowed its head to chew the winter grass; I remember the soup you made, red with paprika from your daughter’s garden, black beans soft and inviting; and your words pallid across the dining table. When you spoke, I felt your heartbeat, imagined your child-eyes wide as father drove you past the field; green moons that swallowed and held forever an eye suspended; a curious object attached to a cow. When you spoke, I saw the grass, the bloodied lens, father driving, unaware, and the quiet of your passing.


sins Adedayo Agarau for paht

the space between a sermon & the preacher’s righteousness can be measured by mouth your mother tells you to tell god about the thirst in your throat you say to her:

my demons are self righteous

& on friday

during confession, the priest takes you into his mouth

& on thursday

a black & yellow kite is lost in a field of echoes

& on wednesday

you dream that the moon man comes wearing a wedding dress

& on tuesday

you hold his hands & ask for confession maybe the sea will dilate into a field of salt water & blue maybe the waves will rise & crash before you maybe he will shift all the absence forming a crew between your lips cower shyly phrasing, i love you

& on monday

he does not come out to play / your body feels like a distance away from home / you watch the boys fresh with happiness run after the ball & their unmade music

& on sunday

the priest cleanses you


Agent (i) Hilary Plum Woke late moths changed course when I turned off in the night don’t know what did we represent Developer correcting town square’s angles again you woke from the recorded sound of train Chose not to add anything to this chose to keep it like this In time silent to talkies to cell phone in jail kids shouldn’t be heard before rock glacier annuls


ENGINES OF LEBANON Daniel Uncapher engine01: heart-shaped strawberries the rise of video-streaming services, the one great thing that "was in her poetry:" an unwavering reverence for the first take wearing further losses, the rhyme that her grandmother made met with some laughter—only when the family feared that her breasts once again began in plain sight, where they were made available, adding far more evidence, as disrupting the information networks ends up helping these wretched facts revealed for good in the required songs at school engine02: a treatment for being a woman maybe kissing may supply some noise groping through youth they kissed in a drunken, coy, Smack My Bitch through a night out in lowlife London kind of way, fighting to the last frame, the no-sex scene women until, to be a scandal, her life is revealed, that man other fuck with— an amateur boxer filled the pictures of her bruised face, denied that the resemblance was intentional: performance-based self-obliteration, powerful financial interests engine03: companion piece to pretty swirl to make a video to convince us that she "found love" one of the few women of color to order government agents in Hollywood drew up identity with her subject in drug-fueled biographical chapters; people will, it turns out, have to listen; she guarantees that people with pre-existing topographies will be rejected by insurers. "Oh, that's reduced the number of unsightly things, increased the permissibility needed to skip treatment." As a result, according to studies of herself, the complexities of a human hair, artfully sourced engine04: such discussions as require these abuses she noted with pleasure the eight-armed tugging at her mother’s unpublished sea, permitted in softness no privacy, the names of cities crossed in relation to every psychic subjugation; her round overrun face a map, the shells they found, spilling sperm, infiltrated regions like “water closet,” other legless religious land lying flat aside the heightened title of indecorous other dimensions—it may have been almost all the motivation at once, inescapable halves of the single hybrid being otherwise known as slow boil


Not That Smile Gretchen Rockwell She sits across from me and smiles Needle teeth, small mouth, big smile Her eyes are dark and they smile It is not the way I smile I open my mouth and so does she still with a smile and her maw is black Teeth glinting like stars in the void which smiles She is the void and I smile Falling into the mouth of her mouth smile Astronaut helmetless snap-tether smile No lunar landings here just smile Whole worlds open up then sink into smile Comets fly by in flashes smile Nebulas scatter and choke with smile There is no gravity to smile The speed is faster than smile I am a rocket with no smile There is no place to land no smile The crescent of the sun appears smile I am falling into its well and it flares smile Somehow I am still cold smile White heat of it smile There is only light smile I cannot get smile I cannot smile She is me and I am smile Open again open world open smile Black is the darkest smile Teeth are the sharpest smile is the coldest smile Her eyes are my smile Her voice is smile Words crackle like Apollo radios smile Understand the smile Static is smile She is smile She me we smile One slow blink one last smile Rictus lips bared teeth smile I know you smile I know smile I can no longer smile

after Dara Wier


And her smile snaps.


Missing Eucalyptus Heikki Houtari Going long on grace, I'm walking halfway to a wall. I'm following a bouncing ball. If there were roses, would they do with my approval? Native-species zealots had the hillside cut. The word I wanted, “centrifuge,� came back when I relaxed. The skies divided, opted out, and I said, There but for the five point two five feet per second squared acceleration due to lunar gravity go I.


Give the Bard a Hep A Shot V.C. McCabe "None of our employees has Hepatitis!" brags the handwritten sign hanging on the door of the local Piggly Wiggly. Skull face drug mules walk on, hauling big backpacks on shoulders so sharp and boney it's a wonder they don't break, to the fast food joint on the corner, which doesn't bear a Hep A status sign, making their drop at the drive-thru window. The news says it's ok, it's rare to catch Hep A from food service workers. Still, they keep an updated list of each diagnosis. Today, another overdose at the school playground, where a student stepped on a used needle. The news says it’s okay, it didn’t break the skin.


Invasions Emily Lake Hansen Each summer sugar ants invade the pantry - the half dug out room where the drawers are lined in someone else’s parchment paper we haven’t yet replaced. The buggers persist in the shallow seal of an oatmeal canister, in the sugar I’ve tried putting in a ziplock, in the red sauces we swear were unopened. For years, wasps got in too through some small hole above the window we tried to close with masking tape. I would run out of the room, my hands a flair at the sight of one, its buzzing echoing into the hallway like an oven timer or a nun. But over time, I learned to cope. Some organic cleaner in one hand, a blue glass jar in the other, I entered the kitchen again like a knight with a panic disorder. Our son huddled in the hallway - mom, did you get it yet? And even if I had to lie - nothing will ever hurt you - I always said yes.


james the less Amy Kinsman you look just like him. in the mirror you compare yourself, turning and twisting. is it in the jaw, the brow? both of you brown as your mother: hair, eyes, skin, but in you something lacks, something missing. downstairs, she’s wailing into john’s chest while you rinse your brother’s blood into the sink, watch it drain into nothingness as the crowd pounds at the door tell us more, tell us more rattling in their open locust mouths, hungering, your baby photos, not enough school reports, not enough his mangled body, not enough. what’s a statement worth? trussed up in your darkest suit reading from a paper under flashing bulbs: it is with great sadness we announce the death of a man who liked a sugar in his coffee who gently caught spiders and took them outside who tucked six siblings in at night and ask for privacy at this time. no, let howling silence say you’ll never fucking know him.


Introduction Hilary Plum After a heuristic. A plane of skin my hand didn’t manage. A car arriving along a path a needle took from the belly. Shadow locating the clavicle. Dream of no pregnancy not mine. A protectorate. Knot resolving into blood. I was in an elevator not breathing the scent of a car I would drive to your inclination. A couple cells or one. They all study poetry now, the librarian shook his head, this would never shake the UN. Relating by blood or pixel. A mechanism for English between us I hear you’re at home. After I never went it was not because of what I heard happened where you were meant to be. After the fact I took care. 30

Not Equal To Heikki Houtari I'm living on the edge and if the flower has no nectar I might die. My zippers inaccessible, I need an altar ego to undo. The human thumb says to the human finger, Who's opposing who? and anatomically I stand corrected – all equivalence is false. I'll give to you a paper without pins if you'll stay stationary for one nanosecond relative to me.


In the Rookery Emily Lake Hansen We came to see alligators, to watch their large bodies slunk in and out of the water, to wait on tiptoes for one to open its mouth, expose the rows of teeth we’re raised to be scared of. Instead we found nests and nests of baby birds, a village of egrets and spoonbills feeding their young, resting on eggs, flying above us without fear. You had tears in your eyes as you watched them, the pink feathered little ones fluttering between swamp trees. I waited still and earnestly for you to remember the alligators beneath us, their thick tails thumping against the dock, their mouths agape in anticipation of the fall.


THE LOUDNESS OF LOSS Nome Patrick on being asked if I still feel the loss of my mother

No I don’t feel it –the bone snapping in defeat, the heart reaching out to break free, the paper taste of food on morning stripped of lights, the feather of feet floating across the neon-dark room, the emptiness of songs on afternoon soaked in pills, the leaf of hands sailing across the smell-choked air in the room, the hum of ghosts on night drowned in stereo rants, the blur of body sinking into grief-soft bones in the room, the loudness of loss but these days I feel like –a thread drenched in fire, a bird lynched out of its songs, a garden rigged of flowers, a flower rumpled into weed, a tree sawed into scars, a love song cut off in its prime, a mouth desolate of voice, a chick homing in a storm, a butterfly baptized with ash, a road growing into a forest, a home eaten by fire, the loudness of loss I am going to die –in the petals of a dream, in the shroud of sleep in the loneliness of time, in the loudness of a clock in the rage of a room, in the blindness of dawn, in the nude of a nightmare, in the exit of a closed door anyways –just like my grandma who died in her sleep, just like my grandpa in a hunt for birds, just like my mama on a December evening, unnoticed.


where could i carry alyssa hanna i am lying in bed a swollen coma. three o’clock, six, nine, twelve. twelve is the end, the beginning, the zero your mouth forms when you say I’ll be home before midnight, don’t leave a shoe behind. the tracing fingers of an analog clock, the slow tick of a vein pulsing through erect flesh, supple, pliable as willpower. you say that you always pray to saint michael when you’ve lost something. i can’t remember if he is the patron saint of finding, but i swallow my thoughts as a letter to a spirit; mom always told me that jesus was the only one we prayed to. the heat of winter, height of indoor sweat, warming vodka— your tongue pulls gasps and god from my lips. no, no, no, just the way things are, time and impossibilities: they float bloated, hungry, you: a prince charming with a scraggly beard panting overhead. you say there’s no more time, the carriage has turned pumpkin, shove me into a gourd and i don’t know what i’m looking for but i think i have lost something and left it behind in the sheets, a crucifix, a rosary, a baptism, my first communion; jesus clicks his tongue and saint michael forgives my mother.


[Autumnal With Rilke] Sneha Subramanian Kanta * an erasure of Rilke's Day In Autumn (Translated by Mary Kinzie)

After summer's yield let your shadow lengthen in the pastures let rough winds fly final fruits, coax them on days of warmer light hale them golden toward their term of sweetness whoever's homeless now, shelter; who lives alone read a little, draft long letters, along the city's avenues wander, wild leaves loosen.


HOW TO KILL A DEMON Nome Patrick Like God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, New York, Nigeria, Trump

I have learnt how to write my demons in initial capitals. In my head, I have mirrored my body split open –an animal laid out on on a wet field, pulled the bird out of my body, nosed it as a rippled cloud before it rains weighed its wings, its ash-dark beak, its eyes, & listened to its voice watched her fly through the gaps of silence where the moon sits up to adjust my shadows, watched the tongue-soft of her limbs, watched her crash against the windowsill in a shriek clean as my father’s whistling on December-dark nights.

I curled into the darkest part of my room 36

that could have been the end of me a crucifix lying in the ruins of an old cathedral.

In an orchard, my body homes bird-songs, I ask mine if she knows this song, or that one

it’s how i imagine my dust-dressed mama. I wish my bird safe flight always,

the thumb of a moon tracing the aspen of her chartreus wings. If truly my body is a temple She could watch my demons


sing them panegyrics remind them how much she wants them to leave this body, a nest of a flesh, a habitat

this temple, her temple a 37

monastery fleshed out from the godless body of a boy naming his father after a psalm.

In reality, I have come to know

there is no way to kill a demon than naming it after a body –

the godly planned pogrom.


Agent (iv) Hilary Plum Never learned the name of your disease Stepped off the bus and just one bone Still learning something

years you didn’t reply in the foot broke taste of your hand

Every city starts with a harbor Basket of hands of the slow workers downstream And a river has a mouth and

every belly of every ship every harvest floating

Someone said it would be healing I know the names of more extinct birds

descended again

Someone said it would be you And looking for new growth Someone called the song calming

and your absence in the enclosure

In my hand the glove was dry There was traffic The next line I recited I had to choose

as a lost tooth limbs shading even your face

grooves cut into vessels drip

where our history would begin


EXEGESIS (WITH DETAIL FROM RUBEN’S DESCENT FROM THE CROSS) Kylan Rice this is your movie and your hazmat suit that I am wearing so when you direct me to walk tonight on camera across the scree slope with two other people who love you also bagged in oversized white shrouds and to lay down at regular intervals in the shrub oak I do not hesitate there are other reasons too the closest I have come to turbines blurring wind and throbbing red as if to hammer home at the long neck of the canyon I am this tall don’t hit me was with you that was also the night you confessed you were done with beauty which always thinks it knows what it is and what it is in the middle of doing to you what would otherwise be called violence in sleeves and flags of blood or a body being lowered in a sheet held in place by someone’s teeth in the upper right-hand corner it thinks it is causing you to lose yourself in it in its cut lip in its mother’s college sweater in the eros in the fact it never texts back 40

UNDER OCEAN Sneha Subramanian Kanta bellies, aqua-green plants bloom & fold their bodies. The ocean is full muscle. A funeral house. Bones bury beyond its epidermis & decompose partially. Certain unbearable things are left at the brink of an ocean: like a solitary baby shoe. Who is to say whether land is made holy by small feet or small feet are holy until there is a land to place them on? The ocean swallows the sun like vast fields of poppies sprout out of barren land & the sky dissolves into black. We breathe abstractions that is the ether. It offers itself piece by piece as a companion for our midnight psalms. Our throats are thick with the promise of water. We forget what it is to be mortal under a warm night. The ocean fans our sweat in breezes that flow as swiftly as one may cross continents. The waxing gibbous looks like a seedless white grape & a child wants to eat it. A fullness clutches the ocean & lightning cracks the sky open as a walnut seed. We are buried under a tar roof & the face of mercy is dual: undying things & people. This night is a lost black book. The name of our beloveds left back prick our tongues as shards of glass. We learn to make everything edible & chew on it. In the journey from earth to elsewhere, it takes seventy days to be mummified. Anubis & Thoth are absent from the sky. We, along with our gods of resurrection breathe into the ocean. Our bodies are sixty percent water & the ocean is second to blood flow. We hear soft gurgles of the ocean & share bread with the gulls overhead. The ocean rises like yeast in our minds. My mother says the dead come to visit as birds & are never to be unfed. Never mind our hunger, our bodies that turn waiflike, or desolation. Halfway before dawn we see little red boats speckle over a part of the ocean & the rising sun. All that dies comes back in another form. We hold the promise of tomorrow on our lips. The ocean has made us forget all language. Everything calls out to us: the fields, the land. Surrender, surrender. We again make fugitives of ourselves. One vein of our body remembers & always flows into the ocean.


It is a New Year Again, & The News Doubts The Number of People Killed in a Herdsmen Attack in Benue Nome Patrick & that way i tick the calendar again/ for the new names to dirge our tongues/ & the fallen don't even sleep well/ how we see them on TV/ & think of how a new year opens more space/ for corpses than coronations/ & a woman still looks through the door hole/ to find if her sons will be back today/ & the stereo still buums about African girls with the future on their backsides/ & the president speaks from a place of illiteracy/ & don't we think the youths are the future we always pray for?/ & the storm is over & the sun has come/ & the rainbows are nowhere to be found/ & God we keep digging holes/ keep lowering bodies/ keep lowering our heads/ keep watching the ambulance howl through the streets/ & we still see our mothers praying to God/ for a new dawn/ for the ones remaining/ & we still see our fathers carry grief in their breast pockets/ & we keep saying the national anthem/ Arise O’ compatriot/ & we keep humming/ we will meet again at the other side where the river is pure/ & our mouths are home of prayers & curses/& funnily enough our leaders still drown their days in liquors/ & women/ & motels/ & lies/ & we know the grasses are swallowing us up/ & the trees are coming down/ & our limbs & our hands/ can't even stop the black-out from coming/ it is new year again/ & the country wakes into a new fire/ whose ashes we can't even boast of/ & at the end of the street/ a boy points a stick to his friend/ do i mistake this for societal influence?/ too much death news/ too much bomb news/ too much hefty men on army camouflage/ in a van pointing weapons towards the creator/ & my friends & I don't stop thinking about boning/ the fair new girl in our class/ do i mistake this for societal influence?/ my pastors still pray for the country/ it is the only thing they are good at/ asides preaching tithes & prosperity/ but somewhere in my body a boy is going numb/ crying red/ kneeling at the feet of a god/ lord please, save my country/ because it’s easier to beg for mercy than be merciful/ & it is a new year/ my country weeps & digs more graves




PREDICTIONS Diane Payne Belly pregnant with child, I stand awkwardly in a living room surrounded by academics, friends of my unborn child’s father. Maybe that inability to call him boyfriend or lover permeated through the room that day. They probably knew his ex-wife, since she also worked at the university, and they may have wondered where in the hell I surfaced from and why I was at their party. Everything was so damn abrupt, yet, there I was, writing my thesis hundreds of miles from my campus, surrounded by strangers wondering about my academic future, my plans, while I was just focusing on delivering this child, and wondering what the hell I was now doing in Wisconsin, living with a man I barely knew (but you knew him well enough to have sex--Did I know him well enough for that?). A man leans over to ask, “What do you do with the MFA degree?” Considering that I was nine months pregnant and my due date was two days before I hopefully finished my thesis, I point to my belly, and some laugh uncomfortably, others turn away to whisper in the kitchen, and I long I to pour myself a glass of wine. To change the direction of the conversation, I see a photo of their daughter and ask her name. “Zoe. Ahh,” I mutter, shaking my head professorially. Then I repeat myself like a moron pretending to be a professor. “Zoe. That’s an unusual name.” “No, it’s very common,” Father Professor says, rolling his eyes. Then he rambles on about the origin of the name, and I’m afraid I’ll be peeing on his floor if his lecture doesn’t end soon. I twist my legs together until I can’t stand it any longer, and it’s at that moment I know that this man sees me as a woman who will be a single mother, a single mother who will one day take this child of mine to New York City, spend hours looking for a bargain theater ticket, then take my unfortunate child to see a Broadway play where we sit on aluminum folding chairs on the third floor of a fire hazard building, not seeing The Lion King in a beautiful theater, no, we will climb many steps in a urine-scented, dark staircase, and we will sit in the front row, though almost all the seats are empty, and while we are sweating, watching this production up close, I’ll hear the name “Zoe” on the stage and remember him.


Bloated Gasters Gregg Williard

The ant stops. In the third season of this writing and art making life, in this three-season porch afternoon, staring down at that ant, and these floorboards, made of hay colored material neither wood nor plastic, (“composite”), that stretch beyond in all directions, you think, for that ant, the vista must look Sonoran- bleak, arctic-blank. But that’s your imagining, something out of The Incredible Shrinking Man. That ant just sets out, indifferent to the terrain. Its progress is neither scurry nor march nor meander, a compound of halt and drive, improvisation and plan, straight ahead and double back that recalls your 1960’s High School Social Studies teacher, probably younger then than you are now, battling metal illness as he distilled the antlike hive mind of Communist ideology into, “two steps forward, one step back.” He could have been describing the increments of his own paranoia, a slow-motion hop-scotch, mincing tip toe tilt, climaxing in his own Bolshevik revolution, a homicidal tango shot gun chase around the backyard after his screaming wife. Now the ant shows a Lenin’s cunning at the precipice between boards, sees it’s not such a chasm at all, that the boards curve-cut gentle, easily straddled onward to the wall, five feet away on two sides and ten to twelve on the others. There’s life force here, surely, in delicate steps to Virginia Woolf’s moth in the window reel, yet equally unanswerable to Virginia’s or your idea of what for. Oh sure, the ants have their collective plan, in trance of pheromones, multitasking burrow, feed and flight, breed and fight commands, nature’s pure communist utopia tunneled underground, busy with the dialectics of this way and that, trial and error until the river is forged on leaves and twigs, and the army HoChi-Minh’s a trail to the Marxist queen. This ant has a big rear bulb, what you read is a gaster, a 45

storage sac, like the extra gas tank on the underside of a WWII fighter plane. This solitary ant must be on a mission to rejoin its own, bearing food, fuel, stuff for the hive, bloated as you feel with your sac of culture stuff, media stuff, collective story stuff you are driven to bring home, wherever that is. Like the image of the ants riding leaves and twigs to cross streams, taking them and you to the other side, and movies: Charlton Heston battling ants in something imperfectly remembered but demanding, like an ant tickling up your ankle, and your answering scratch or flick of attention that sends you on a quick google scurry after the name: The Naked Jungle, 1954, telling the story of “Leiningen and Ants,” where a plantation owner in the Amazon battles a rebellious mail order bride and an invasion of army ants, both overwhelming his every defense.

It takes you to another story of alien ants and horror, one of the scariest stories you have ever read, by the pre-Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin, “Sandkings.” You note, perhaps, that The Naked Jungle was directed by Byron Haskin, and produced by George Pal, the famous film making team that also made Conquest of Space, War of the Worlds, The Power, and Robinson Crusoe on Mars. Haskin directed scores of other effects-laden films, like From the Earth to the Moon, and episodes of The Outer Limits, which did a very bad adaptation of Sandkings. Finding such associations with movies, science fiction, and fantasy comes effortlessly. After thinking about any subject at all, even something as small and incidental and spontaneous as the sight of this ant across the floor of this deck, movies seem an inevitable two or three degrees of separation away. But this can’t be truly inevitable, or especially rational. Surely it must reflect personal tastes, history, obsessions, the contents of your bloated gaster of cultural consciousness. Maybe you’ve known for a long time that you are a “cinephile,” “movie nut,” “film buff” or whatever you want to call someone who thinks, talks, reads, writes and watches movies in autonomic key. Yet the monikers sit uneasy, because with you there seems so little in common with others who glory in the names. You have never felt quite so lonely as in a room full of Cineastes, perhaps in between showings at a film festival or during intermission, or at a lecture by and about a director you especially like, but is becoming alarmingly popular, as Richard Linklater, David Lynch or Guy Madden once were. There is a sense of deepening loneliness: this passionate connection with a world can still not be something recognizably human, in the social, everyday sense, but rather a longing for a realm that is realer than real, like matt painted landscapes in Hitchcock films. Like love. This may sometimes depress you, like the Sunset Boulevard Gloria Swanson trapped in the movie past, or an old episode of Twilight Zone where the silent star melts into her old film of eternal movie youth, and you bemoan the epistemological quandary of describing movie inflected experience in movie metaphors. Is it mere nostalgia for a past time that animates absorption with movies? But the movies aren’t all old, often aren’t any good, are boring to watch and boring to think about, not to mention write about, and, you suspect, to read about. You would like to find other associations from this ant, which is well on its way to disappearing into the far crack between floorboard and baseboard to be gone from your life forever before you can give it, and this moment, its due in words, maybe like Virginia Woolf writes in “The Death of the Moth.” It was published, posthumously, in 1942, a year after she filled her pockets with stones and walked to her death 46

in the Ouse River: “Nevertheless, the present specimen with his narrow, hay-colored wings, fringed with a tassel of the same color, seemed to be content with life… One is apt to forget all about life.” You want your moth life back, before it’s too late. You look up, and the ant is gone. And you drag this gaster, this damn sac of tricks and tinker’s scrap, trivia and ephemera and longing, looking, again, for home.


Stripped Down Les Hunter I was watching television from the 15th floor of Excalibur Las Vegas Hotel and Casino®. The casino has four immense skyscrapers forming a square around its bewildering labyrinth of gaming areas, shops, stages, and restaurants. The main exterior feature, oriented towards a southerly corner of The Strip and three other colossal casinos, is a whimsical castle of denticulated parapets, storybook towers, and multi-colored (and nightly illuminated!) decorative spires evoking conquest, both monetary and carnal. I had just given a scholarly talk to a polite but sleepy audience of six greying academics and I was determined to discover the FABULOUS AND SEXY FUN promised by an aging Las Vegas advertisement back at home in the B Terminal of the Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport. I wanted to learn what draws 43 million people a year to Vegas, and what does the existence of Vegas as a primary tourist destination say about America? The TV automatically turned to one of several channels devoted entirely to the FUN waiting at Excalibur. A friendly voiceover informed me that the hotel features a large gaming area for children in the basement, called—I do not jest—Fun Dungeon, where kiddos can play video and side stall games, go through a kind of laser maze that requires some serious body contortion, and go see a medieval show, Tournament of Kings, where you can eat an entire roasted Cornish hen with your bare hands while watching dudes in armor joust on horses. The most startling thing, however, about Fun Dungeon, were the array of mechanical quarter games called coin-pushers where you drop a coin through a slot. The idea of these machines is to get a quarter to fall just right, so its weight will push other coins over the edge of the display, through the dispenser, and into your pocket. These machines allow the casino to teach children the highs and lows of gambling at an early age. It’s phenomenal longitudinal planning on the part of Excalibur, and I hope the other casinos appreciate the work they do in hooking future audiences early. The next infomercial offered a startling juxtaposition to the one for Fun Dungeon: Thunder Down Under, “Vegas’ only all-male revue,” features rugged, buff, shirtless, all white, young men in cowboy hats, boots, and jeans. They stripped, strutted, and hurled each other joyously through the air in a pink profusion of sweat and oil. Excalibur is thought of as the family-oriented casino, which suggests that it is not strange at all that these two seemingly incongruous things should coexist peacefully. The logic of the casino, where every craving is constructed through meticulous ad placement, is the logic of desire itself: the only thing standing between you and that desire being met, is how much you’re willing to pay. Having exhausted the ads for the FUN, SEX, and LUXURY to be had at Excalibur— always just outside, down the hall, just around the corner, always so close—I flipped to another station, where the James Cameron movie Avatar, was halfway through. In these types of movies (Dances with Wolves, The Last Samurai), the good-looking white man, embittered and isolated by his own (white, colonizing, male, etc.) people assumes the ways and customs of the Other, becomes better at being the Other than any of them ever were, and then leads them against his own former people, who are clearly in the wrong. Oh, and he always gets to have a 48

sexy time with one of the local girls. I couldn’t help reflect that its tiresome and ridiculous plot was apropos of the kind of fantasy that Vegas is built on: a world where one goes to plunder, learn and master the ways of the locals, have a sexual adventure along the way, and then safely return, if not rich materially than wealthy in knowledge and experience; changed, better. Properly briefed for plunder, I journeyed out of the Excalibur, down the street to the island-themed Mandalay Bay. As I waded through the shocking Vegas heat, I grew eager for the FUN awaiting me. I wanted to take it all in. The excitement that you feel before entering a Vegas casino continues as you step through the doors and the cool air blasts towards and envelops you. A Vegas casino is 40 degrees cooler than the average summer temperature in the Mojave. But once inside, you quickly feel let down, confused, and agitated. The blinking lights and random dings, whistles, and siren songs of a thousand garish slot machines, the throngs of people walking haphazardly in every direction with foot-long drinks in hand, and the subdued off-lighting meant to highlight the games, create a claustrophobic, strangely giddy sensation. In Vegas casinos, this feeling is compounded by the lack of windows, a feature I found in every gaming area I entered. That, and a lack of clocks, makes it so that you never know what time it is, or even if it’s night or day, except that generally casinos are even more crowded and chaotic in the evening. And there are always people at the machines: old, young, American and foreign. Many of them are locked into the one-armed bandits by a metal chain, latched on at their belt, which connects them to their valuable pre-paid playing card. The card is inserted into a slot in the machine, making both man and machine one. The hapless cyborgs, everywhere in the gaming area, are caught in an endless cycle of pulling slots, winning and (mostly) losing, powered by the dark energy of their own bank accounts. Las Vegas Massacre shooter Stephen Paddock (who, from the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay, shot and killed 58 people) was one of these Sisyphean mutants, locked in for life. According to his brother, Paddock “was a gambler … that was his job … playing video poker … all the time and (living) in a hotel room.” This cycle of great expectation followed (routinely) by great loss and disappointment left its impression on me as I left the Mandalay. In a ride across town I asked my Lyft driver, Carlos, what he thought of Vegas. He said he loved it: “You never know what’s just around the corner.” Carlos was spot on with this observation. In their essay “Learning from Las Vegas,” architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown contend that unlike most other buildings throughout history, for Las Vegas casinos “communication dominates space as an element in the architecture and in the landscape.” That is to say, unlike a house or a church in most eras, which primarily shelter people but also indeed do communicate say, luxury or the glory of God, the primary function of Las Vegas casinos is to communicate to those outside the building rather than to shelter people inside. The target audience of the Las Vegas casino is those who have yet to enter. Everything in Vegas is exterior: shiny, sexy, simulacra; interiority and its distant cousin, self-reflection, is assiduously shunned. This focus on the exterior has a temporal factor as well. Time is experienced in Las Vegas primarily as a feeling of great expectation for something, followed by consumption, which creates an immediate letdown, which sets up the next high. What could be more American? If, as the Four Noble Truths say, desire is the cause of all suffering, then one suffers greatly in Las Vegas. I thanked Carlos, and stepped out of my Lyft down near the end of The Strip near a burrito joint that I’d read about. Off-Strip the skyline is filled with distant lights and billboards 49

for exotic dancers and firing ranges. But, more than anything, if you are anywhere on the south side of town, the monolith of Trump Casino towers over the shoddy gas stations and crumbling roadways. Its gold and white façade reflects the city back on itself tauntingly, a twoway mirror reflecting, not luxury, but the dusty and desolate landscape. The Strip and its environs are a poor man’s idea of luxury: in that way, Trump and his tower are metonymic of Las Vegas, and the great collapsing experiment of Americanism as a whole. The Trumps and Adelsons of the world own not only the casinos, but also own our image of success, and they use that image to further their own brands, all the while turning the fortunes they've made off the teeming masses against those self-same people through tax breaks for the already-rich, rampant crony-capitalism, and the destruction of the social safety net. The greatest “sin” in Sin City is not gambling, nor boozing, nor lust, but this most startling juxtaposition: great luxury surrounded by vast poverty. Las Vegas Shooter Stephen Paddock recognized the terrible disjuncture between wealth and scarcity everywhere in the City. After years of living the high life, his fortunes had shifted, and he had lost vast amounts of cash. No longer the high-roller he once was, and on the verge of living on the other side, he chose annihilation instead of desperation. This disparity is recognizable the moment you pass the last mega-casino on the Strip, the Stratosphere, going north towards Downtown, where I walked alone later that evening. You’ll pass vacant buildings, used muffler shops, a veteran’s shelter, and empty parking lots. And then there are the old, almost quaint, paint-peeling midcentury monuments to decadence like the Little White Wedding Chapel Drive-In, where LatePeriod Elvis impersonators marry couples in a Pink Cadillac and perform for them a karaoke version of “Viva Las Vegas”: “Viva Las Vegas with your neon flashin'/ And your one-armed bandits crashin’/ All those hopes down the drain.” More than Trump or Adelson, Martin or Sinatra, Elvis is the quintessential Las Vegas habitué. It was in Vegas that he lived many of his final years as his routine reached ever more elaborate levels of spectacle and decadence. As his leisure suits grew heavy with sequins, so did his body with food, booze, and drugs. A city ready to supply whatever is next was more than even a King could handle, and his overindulgence caught up with him. Nearly everybody visiting Las Vegas lives this Kingly dream for a time, from the drunken frat boys on the Strip to the narcotized gamblers linked umbilically by security chains to their machines at 5 a.m., to the lines for brownies at the legalized pot stores. And this kind of self-displacement, this refusal to exist in our moment in space and time, is a symptom of a malaise suffered in every American city. Chemically or through fantasy, or merely through the illusion of our own futures (we vote against our own best interests as the millionaires we envision ourselves to someday be), we anesthetize ourselves by imagining our lives Elsewhere instead of the tedium of Topeka, Minnetonka, Dubuque, or Cleveland. But 50,000,000 Elvis-, and 43,000,000 Vegas- fans can’t be wrong. Elvis is emblematic of success in America; a poor boy from Tupelo ‘done good. He’s Horatio Alger, Ben Franklin, Jay-Z, Alexander Hamilton, and, (according largely to himself) Donald Trump. That is the life that Americans fantasize about: To visit the exotic country, master the ways of the locals, and conquer with newfound knowledge. And then, rich by your own toil, you can live only in the limitless future, always looking ahead, never behind.


What’s in a Name Grace Roberson I was on the 26 heading west from Downtown, headphones in, starting the last leg of The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy, when suddenly a face appeared before me. She had caramel skin and wide brown eyes, and unruly curls that fell down her back. She was undeniably cute, probably around five years old. ”Hi!” She said excitedly, flashing her white baby teeth. “Hi,” I said, softening. I closed my book, the plastic casing crinkling when the pages met at the spine. It was raining, and the part of the bus I was sitting in was leaking. Drops of water landed swiftly on my kneecaps. “What’s your name?” She asked me, settling in the seat next to me. In that moment I wished I could be small again and believe that everyone I encountered had a sense of benignity until I learned otherwise There was one incident in May when I was on my way home from work, it had to have been a little past ten o'clock. A guy was combing his hair and stared straight at me. I immediately looked out the window and moved my tote bag onto my lap. Moments later he came up to my seat and held his hand out to me. I looked up at him. "No," I said harshly. He got off the bus a few stops later and let out a scream. As much as I was concerned with his grooming habits, I was more annoyed than frightened by our unplanned encounter - as a woman, the last thing I want to be seen as is an invitation; especially late at night, on the bus, alone. “Grace,” I said to the girl. It felt so strange saying my name out loud. I’m so used to my own anonymity when I’m on public transportation - fellow passengers know nothing about me, but we are united by the sole fact that we’re all just going from one place to another in order to continue our day. But in that moment I made myself vulnerable; I was no longer a mystery to the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority. “Your name is RACE?” She exclaimed. “No, Grace,” I said, trying hard to emphasize the first two letters of my name and the sound they made together. “Race?” I sighed in defeat. “I have to show you something!” She said. She reached into her sequin crossbody Minnie Mouse purse and pulled out a dollar. Feigning astonishment, I told her to put it away. She obeyed. Her brother appeared next to her, not much older than she was. “Hey,” She addressed him, “Her name is Race!” 51

“Race? Like a racetrack?” He said, clearly amused. “No, Gr--” I said, suddenly defensive again. His little sister then proceeded to trace her fingers on my denim jacket, mimicking a car. I eyed their mother, who was sitting in the handicapped section of the bus with a stroller that held another child. She looked tired. We made eye contact, and I hoped in those few seconds that she understood what I was trying to say with my gaze - It's okay that they're sitting here. They're not bothering me. Moments later I ceased to exist to the siblings. Attempting small talk would be inappropriate, considering that up until I met them I was engrossed in a memoir in which the author had just gone through a miscarriage. Right next to me, they were in their own world, play wrestling and teasing each other. The bus lurched forward and her backpack fell on the floor, and her brother immediately picked it up for her. I witnessed a moment of tenderness but seconds later it dissipated when he said "I have to show you something" and put his mouth on her arm. She shrieked, and the sound rattled my eardrums. The situation was escalating. I wasn't sure what to do, and I felt like the flight attendant on my returning trip home from California in 2013 when the guy sitting next to me was snoring so loudly the whole plane could hear it - hesitant and unsure of her level of authority. I thought of the Sour Patch Kids commercials that aired years ago and debuted the slogan "First they're sour, then they're sweet." That is how I view behavior between younger siblings that are close in age - sour, sweet, sour, sweet - it's a consistent cycle but there is a reason "mild" doesn't quite fit in there. It's one or the other. The same can be said about the candy. The kids and their mother got off the bus, headed for the Walz Branch of the Cleveland Public Library. The girl and her brother didn't say bye to me and I scolded myself for caring about it for even a few seconds. I see and hear my name every day, but when it rolls off my own tongue I'm hit with an overwhelming rush of self-awareness. The five letters contain my personhood, and within them are the interwoven components, old and new - sister, daughter, friend, writer, student, employee, cheap tequila enthusiast. When I'm stepping onto a bus I'm often leaving a place that a lot of myself has seeped into. I wonder what people see when they look up after paying their fares and taking their seats. I wonder if they notice my frizzy hair, the redness on my cheeks that are illuminated by fluorescent lighting, my unintentionally tomboyish work outfits of striped tshirts tucked into shorts with my beat-up pair of New Balances. On the bus, I can be anything and nothing simultaneously. And the day I told the little girl my name, I was approachable.


Hip-Hop Feminism, Beyoncé and Radical SelfLove Rimsha Syed Transgressing all notions of female subjectivity at the hands of patriarchal and imperial modes of oppression, Beyoncé’s use of hip-hop feminism uplifts a feminist attempt to create a pro sex stance amongst women of color while simultaneously destroying raced and gendered perceptions of black masculinity. I did not learn the importance of contemporary black feminism in easily accessible mediums until I took a college course on Beyoncé feminism. Hip hop feminism strives to embrace the contradictory awareness of misogynior within the genre. Not only does this third wave feminist movement open dialogue about nonconformity but denounces the oppressive essence of respectability politics that places rigid strains on black diaspora women. By engaging in social activism, hip hop feminism brings attention to the disproportionate experience of violent forces against women of color such as sexual violence, negative self-perception, and love. Furthermore, the overt/ growing digital presence is key evidence of the movement’s strength and commitment to creating spaces in which women don’t have to ascribe to ‘traditional’ (sexist) roles of womanhood. The fact that figures like Beyoncé are role models to young black children and children of color is evidence enough of hip-hop feminisms’ impact. Between a generationally specific emphasis on intersection and the importance of recognizing the inherent political appearance of black bodies, as multiple generations of black feminists channeled their unapologetic discourse into music, Beyoncé has created an image that supports sexual freedom, promotes radical black femme self-love and destroys heteropatriarchy. Significant to several of Beyoncé’s pieces, including 7/11, is the space given for sexual expression that is normally not afforded to black women. 7/11 is a showcase of black girl joy, normalizing women’s sexual liberation disjointed from the male gaze/ a society that hyper sexualizes the WoC body. An emphasis on platonic intimate relationships with other women of color is hardly something to dismiss. Beyoncé strategically places focus on herself and the dynamic she creates with women of color; ensuring that men do not take up space in this moment of carefreeness. While serious reprisals exist for women of color who freely express their sexual agency and desire, engagement with anti-heteronormative forms of musical aesthetics attempts to lessen this burden. Hip hop feminism aims simply to redefine modes of femininity within queer affirming stances, that transgress gender stereotypes evident in sexual politics.

An intellectual grasp of hip-hop feminism is needed to fight the stereotype that black women are undeserving of proper love. This radical conception of feminism is anti-state, antinormativity, and anti-capitalist in its “[refusal of] essentialist political stances about what is right or wrong and who or what gets to be called feminist” (Cooper et all, 2013). The percussive way hip hop, a presumably male dominated musicosphere, is synthesized with feminism goes beyond the confinement of femininity. Through this framework, Beyoncé 53

furthers a gender sensitive and queer inclusive discourse in the context of contemporary hip hop aesthetics. She seeks to allow black girls and women (and men) to be comfortable in their social realities with fear of being abject to gross stereotypes. Respectability politics generally dictates what minority/ marginalized groups are forced to teach themselves in exchange for better treatment amongst power dynamics. Examples include regulated speech, confirmatory beauty ideals [not wearing natural hair], getting married, hiding queerness, subduing expression, etc. A lot of contemporary black hip hop feminism centers around the idea that black women can be both ratchet and respectable; alluding that ratchetness is used to vehemently resist and challenge norms that black women are subject to. Challenging stereotypes that sexualize black bodies for simply existing by in turn, displaying a free range of non-hegemonic sexuality is also achieved by black female performers who offer positive messages on sexual confidence. It’s important to recognize that authentic intersectional feminism challenges black male sexuality “as an undifferentiated and monolithic racial and gender category” (Richardson). Evident still in black male contemporary rap/ hip hop, masculinity does not exist without femininity because masculinity is always an extension of a relationship with a woman. Femininity can literally undue masculinity, which makes it a powerful force in changing the dynamic of how black men treat emotions, intimacy, etc. The chance for “femme” and queer spaces in videos like Jay Z’s “Smile,” draw attention to physical and emotional intimacy present, but subdued. By publicly announcing his sexual orientation, Frank Ocean contributed to a more inclusive outlet, allowing artists to express themselves beyond the rigidness of heteronormative behavior. While there is an inherent “hardness” in male rappers’ performance of gender, hip hop feminism aims to deconstruct hegemonic masculinity to make room for creativity unfocused on racial capitalism. I have a deep appreciation for music video themes that center platonic female relationships and those that exclude men entirely. Ratchet respectability is performed in a multitude of ways based on age, geographic origin, the modes of heteronormative and homo romantic relationships, and the role of femmes/ nb+ individuals. Beyoncé’s significant stage presence identity goes beyond the dichotomies imposed on black women. Instead, “Beyoncé is an acknowledgement of the impact of racialized sexism on black female sexual expression and a brazen unwillingness to conform to respectability” (Brown 186). In the attempt to incorporate pain, work and anger, Beyoncé’s “6 Inch Heels” shows us that sex is not always sexy. A song about a girl who works as a stripper in a club for autonomous financial gain while she “grinds from Monday to Friday, works from Friday to Sunday” defies respectability in every form. Between working class visual representations to completely owning making money as a stripper. “6 Inch Heels” singlehandedly normalizes sex work as respectable and pushes against stereotypical narratives that stigmatize nontraditional gender role work. Black femme communities are often taught to internalize the white and/ or patriarchal gaze and to behave in accordance to what that gaze would want to see to gain basic respect. However, Beyoncé, and the many other radical feminists both in and out of the music industry, do not stand for that.


contributors/ Gregg Williard’s work has appeared, most recently, in Slag Review, One Person's Trash, Duende and X-Ray, among others. He teaches ESL to refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq and Bhutan in Madison, Wisconsin. Simeon Ralph is a writer, lecturer and musician with the noise-rock band Fashoda Crisis. Currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at MMU his work has recently appeared in Bull & Cross, The Cabinet of Heed, The Ekphrastic Review, Riggwelter Press and Storgy. Originally from Essex, he now lives in Norwich. Kylan Rice has work published in the Kenyon Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Denver Quarterly, Carolina Quarterly, West Branch, and elsewhere. Amy Kinsman (they/them) is a poet and playwright from Manchester, England. As well as being founding editor of Riggwelter Press and associate editor of Three Drops From A Cauldron, they are also the host of a regular poetry open mic. Their debut pamphlet & was joint winner of the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet Prize 2017. Grace Roberson is a senior at Cleveland State University, where she is studying English and serves as copy editor for The Vindicator, the on-campus arts and culture magazine. Her biggest inspirations include Sylvia Plath, Sloane Crosley, and Eula Biss. Tara Isabel Zambrano works as a semiconductor chip designer in a startup. Her work has been published in Tin House Online, The Cincinnati Review, Slice, Bat City Review, Yemassee, The Minnesota Review and others. She reads prose for The Common. Tara moved from India to the United States two decades ago and holds an instrument rating for single engine aircraft. She lives in Texas. Les Hunter’s plays include Down by Contact (Dobama Theatre/Playwrights Local), Weimar (Baldwin Wallace Department of Theatre and Dance), To the Orchard (Playwrights Local), and all three parts of the collaboratively written off-Broadway NYC hit, The Jackson Heights Trilogy(Theatre 167). His prose has appeared in Fiction Southeast, Cutbank, American Theatre Magazine, and as chapters in the books Performing the Progressive Era and Experimental O’Neill. He is an assistant professor of English at Baldwin Wallace University. Callie Zucker is an emerging writer currently pursuing a Creative Writing major at Colorado College and currently resides in Colorado Springs. Her work can be seen in Furrow magazine and is forthcoming in december magazine and LONG LONG journal. Sneha Subramanian Kanta is a GREAT scholarship awardee, and has earned a second postgraduate degree in literature from England. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her chapbook Home is Hyperbole won the Boston Uncommon Chapbook Series (Boston Accent Lit). She is the founding editor of Parentheses Journal and author of Synecdoche (The Poetry Annals) and Prosopopoeia (Ghost City Press).


Gretchen Rockwell is a poet and supplemental instructor of English at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, RI. She enjoys writing poems about gender and sexuality, history, space, science, and unusual connections. Her work has appeared on Glass: Poets Resist and is forthcoming from the New Plains Review and Alternating Current Press. Amanda Stovicek is a poet from Northeast Ohio made of star stuff. Her work has appeared in Red Queen Lit Mag, Gordon Square Review, sidereal magazine, and elsewhere. Her debut micro-chapbook, SPACE SPECTACULAR, was published by Ghost City Press. Visit her website at and find her on Twitter @amae099. alyssa hanna graduated from Purchase College with a degree in Creative Writing and a minor in History. She was a finalist in the 2017 James Wright poetry contest and was nominated for a 2017 Pushcart Prize. alyssa is an aquarium technician and intends on pursuing her MFA when the time is right. She lives in Westchester with her fish and lizards. Follow her on Twitter/Instagram @alyssawaking Nome Emeka Patrick is a Nigerian artist who writes from a room close to banana trees and bird songs. His works are on or forthcoming on gaze journal, vagabond lit city, prachya review, tuck magazine, African writer, Kalahari review, Dwarts, and some few others. He is a student of English language and literature in the University of Benin, Nigeria. Emily Lake Hansen is the author of the chapbook The Way the Body Had to Travel (dancing girl press, 2014). Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Nightjar Review, Stirring: A Literary Collection, Atticus Review, 8 Poems, and Clementine Unbound among others. A 2018 Best of the Net nominee, she received her MFA from Georgia College & State University and currently writes, teaches, and plays too many children's board games in Atlanta. Rimsha Syed is an Austin-based daughter of Pakistani-Muslim immigrants. She has studied journalism and women and gender studies in the hopes of disrupting imperial influenced media and re-teaching history from the perspective of all those affected by systems of colonialism and imperialism meant to exploit working class people of color. You can read more of her work here: and follow her on insta/twitter @sassysamosa. Adedayo Agarau, the author of For Boys Who Went, is a Nigerian documentary photographer and poet. He explores the concept of godhood, boyhood, distance and absence. His poems have been featured on Kalahari, Brittle Paper, Gaze Mag, Allegro, Obra Artifact, Praxis Magazine, Jalada Africa, African Writer, Click 042, One Jarcar Press, Expound Magazine, Geometry, 8poems and elsewhere. Adedayo was shortlisted on the Erbacce UK Poetry Chapbook Prize 2016. Adedayo’s work, Stones, made the shortlist of Babishai Niwe Poetry Prize. He is the Winner of the Eriata Oribhabor Food Poetry Prize 2015, Runner-Up Eriata Oribhabor Poetry Prize and PIN Food Poetry Contest 2017. He tweets @adedayoagarau. Daniel Uncapher is the Sparks Fellow at Notre Dame, where he received his MFA. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Chicago Quarterly Review, Tin House Online, Baltimore Review, Hawai'i Pacific Review, Neon, and others. Hilary Plum is the author of the novel Strawberry Fields, winner of the Fence Modern Prize in Prose (2018); the work of nonfiction Watchfires (2016), winner of the 2018 GLCA New Writers Award; and the novel They Dragged Them Through the Streets (2013). She teaches at 56

Cleveland State University and in the NEOMFA and is associate director of the CSU Poetry Center. With Zach Savich she edits the Open Prose Series at Rescue Press. Catherine Parnell is an independent consultant and occasional university lecturer as well as an instructor at Grub Street in Boston. She’s the Senior Associate Editor for Consequence Magazine. Her non-fiction chapbook, The Kingdom of His Will, was published in 2007, and recent publications include blog posts, interviews, and stories in Redivider, TSR: The Southampton Review, Spaces, Post Road, The Baltimore Review, roger, and other literary magazines, as well as various newspapers and newsletters. Similar work by Timston Johnston can be found at BULL, WHISKEY PAPER, HOBART (online), and several other admirable elsewheres. He was recently chased by three geese, but he's fine now. Diane Payne’s most recent publications include:Notre Dame Review, Obra/Artiface, Reservoir, Spry Literary Review, Watershed Review, Superstition Review, Windmill Review, Tishman Review, Whiskey Island, Quarterly, Fourth River, Split Lip Review,The Offing, Elke: A little Journal, Punctuate, Outpost 19, McNeese Review, The Meadow, and Mused. She is included in the newly released Flash Nonfiction Funny and is the author of Burning Tulips (Red Hen Press). In a past century Heikki Huotari attended a one-room school and spent summers on a forest-fire lookout tower, is now a retired math professor, and has published three chapbooks, one of which won the Gambling The Aisle prize, and one collection, Fractal Idyll (A..P Press). Another collection is in press. Lisa Reily is a former literacy consultant, dance director and teacher from Australia. Her poetry and short stories have been published in several journals, such as Panoply, Amaryllis, Riggwelter, Magma Poetry, and DNA Magazine. Lisa is currently a full-time budget traveller and her writing is often inspired by her journey. You can find out more about Lisa at V.C. McCabe is a West Virginian poet and music journalist whose work appears, or is forthcoming, in Poet Lore, Prairie Schooner, The Minnesota Review, Tar River Poetry, Spillway, Appalachian Heritage, Queen Mob's Teahouse, Entropy, Coldfront, The Charleston Gazette-Mail newspaper, and elsewhere. She can be found online at and @vcmpoetry on Twitter.


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