A Small Collection of Bold and Delightful Things... Volume 1. 2012
Special thanks to Richard Clark, BC’s Gold Star Patron of the Arts and an enthusiastic
and dedicated force behind propelling this first issue of Belletrist Coterie into print and beyond. We happily welcome him into the fold and look forward to working with him in issues and on projects to come.
Editor in Chief: Kimberly Lojewski
Senior Editor: Todd Bursztyn
Violetta Beckerman Josh Beckerman Shastri Akella Jesse Priest Ashley Ellen Goetz
Associate Editor: Richard Clark
More Thanks and Gratitude to the Following Very Special People: Joanne and David Brown James Brock Rick Jackson Bradley Kemph Sara Lively Cuauhtemoc Yescas
Ryan Brown from The Water’s
Edge Productions www.thewatersedgeproductions.com
Niklas Aman for the use of “Momentum” www.niklasaman.com And thanks to all of our amazing contributors that shared their talent, passion, time, and stories with us!
Editor’s Note: Belletrist Coterie began with a reverence for the story as an almost spiritual artifact. With its power to bind
and edify, to distinguish, to upheave, to transform and guide history, and to shape the clay of the human myth in its universal tongue, the narrative represents the ongoing glossolalia of our earthly experience.
The story, then, is a sacred but endangered language. The prophets, bards, and virtuosos that still speak it
do so from sundry worldwide podiums and must compete with newer – and often louder – cultural voices: technology, immediacy, efficiency, inanity, entropy, modernity. As such, Belletrist Coterie is as much about looking to the ancient traditions as it is about contemporizing them, and we’ve made it our mission to create a place where the story can flourish in its many forms, styles, genres, and mediums, both past and present.
We have been lucky to collaborate with some extremely passionate storytellers and story-lovers, and the idea
of “the coterie” has strengthened and grown into an actual collection of wonderful writing, art, photography, journalism, and music. The coterie now is an elegant but motley crew of venerable raconteurs, quixotic wayfarers, salty sea-pirates, reclusive linguists, travelling gypsies, shanty-singers, obsessive logophiles, and those they inspire. Belletrist Coterie is the storyteller’s community, a bastion of faith in this fantastical tradition.
We hope you will enjoy this first issue as much as we have enjoyed making it. Sincerely,
Table of Contents, Delights, and Wonders:
The Eternal Cycle of Human Disposition Lev Yilmaz 5 The Fisherman’s Vision Jonathon Bellot 6 Batiks Eric Suriyasena 2,8,9,10,11 The Art of Batik Shastri Akella 8 The Dance of the Polyglot James Brock 11 “Because We’ve Never Had Better Pad Thai” James Brock 12 After the Sensible Divorce James Brock 13 See Carnifex (Gone Lame) Hilary Gan 14 81S / 64W Chas Holden 17 Damsel un-Distressed Chas Holden 17 Lady in the Snow Meghan Byrnes 18 New York Richard Kostelanetz 19 Choose Your Own Adventure Sunday Crystal Koe 20 What I Can Remember of the Bar in Which the Incident Ocurred Rich Ives 21
Streaking Hare Lauren Turton 26 Interview with John K Samson Rob Hiatt and Tom DeMarchi 27 Clean Living People I Admire Lev Yilmaz 30 Anniversary Alyse Bensel 31 Bakersfield w. Gosnell 32 Flower Girl Tegan Webb 33 Magnolia Eric Montoya 34 Rise and Fall Eric Montoya 35 Horse Feathers Eric Montoya 36 The Eclectic Genius of Eric Montoya Todd Bursztyn 36 Woman Eric Montoya 37 Mike With Da Fishes Eric Montoya 38 How Mermaids Were Made Giorgia Sage 39 Curtains Sarah Gancher Sarai 40 Once Upon Jane Yolen 44 Injection (Model: Whitney Razor) Lauren Turton 45 3
The Mother Gina Balibrera 46 Spring Hare Lauren Turton 51 Song for the Pomme de Terre Jenneâ€™ R Andrews 52 The Fishermanâ€™s Plea Skylaar Amann 53 Growth Rings Janet Barry 54 Sleep Anywhere Eleanor Leonne Bennett 55 Deep in the West-Fjords of Iceland Thorvaldur Orn Kristmundsson 56 Fog Tom DeMarchi 70 How to Tell a Lie July Westhale 73 The Art of Patachitra (Leaf Paintings) Shastri Akella 74 The Gypsy Girls: Edicts of God Milly Stilinovic 78 How to Date a Cute Tattoed Bohemian Folk Singer Lev Yilmaz 83
Interview with Frank Turner Kimberly Lojewski 84 Whippoorwhill Jesse Milner 87 Introduction to Creative Writing, Prompt Number 666: Jesse Milner 90
Desiring Metaphor Jesse Milner 91 The Closing Rachel S. Thomas-Medwid 92 The Tiger Emily Bludworth 94 The Gods of Touch Karen R. Tolchin 96 Silvery Day Amy Glasenapp 101 The Aluminum Lady Matthew Dexter 102 Interview with Old Man Luedecke Kimberly Lojewski 104 Where Did it Go? Frances Saux 107 The Good Life Ashley Ellen Goetz 110 About Our Contributors 112
by Lev Yilmaz
The Fisherman’s Vision by Jonathon Bellot The fisherman had told everyone but his love that (and his wife) he saw her in the worst of places: in the crests of waves, in a purple night’s constellations, in white dreams that left him as embarrassed as a teenager. He could not tell her—either of them. He had a wife of thirteen years and two bony little girls who had dim cowlike eyes so unlike the eyes of the lawyers and even presidents he had imagined they might be, eyes that melted him all the same when they told him Thank you for getting us dinner, we love you, and he would say You doh need to fank me for nothin’, and they would say Yes, we do, and Fank your mawder for preparing it, We did, but you caught it, Silly little girls, and his wife would stare and not say much but smile; to the fisherman, she could speak so well and it had to be because she had started getting an education before her parents could no longer afford to send her to primary school, and she was sometimes pretty, but she said little, and the girls spoke like she did. His rum-shop friends, who he had told about his vision, laughed. They had never seen anything like it and thought he had made it up or was crazy and they told him, You need better sex. Tell de wife— wha was her name again—Jordan aunt’s cousin, not true? Yeah, tell her to give you de Eve before de apple. And he had tried and it was all fine but not grand, not grand at all, yes, he had someone to hold and someone’s hand to press and trace besides his own as he did with himself alone in the boat, as he caressed the Dora the Explorer shirt he had worn for years, and he wondered what the girls thought the noises in the house were and decided many days that he didn’t want them to know, not for thirty or fifty years. The fisherman would sometimes drift off instead of looking for fish, and it would make no difference because most of what he caught was garbage, mossy sandals and Rasta locks that had come off in the water and Styrofoam containers that looked to him like clams, the one creature he felt awe and repulsion for. One time, he had drifted further out than ever, for he had felt that gray afternoon that he wanted nothing more than to just go into the horizon and never come back, leave everyone on shore. He had gone far, far, past the little guano-splattered rock where the clams bred and where the great sharks were said to live, he had just kept going, kept going until the sea turned gray and there seemed nothing to go to, and it was then he believed he had reached the end of the world, a concept he had not believed in until he felt its sublime terror. The fisherman had tried and tried to paddle back but he had lost sight of everything, madness, he went for five minutes in one way before deciding he was only going further towards that silent cataclysm; and then, as he lay in his boat and began to pray, first to God and then to his wife and daughters, he felt the boat tremble. He flew up. Silent grayness, and then a whale the size of a comet rose out of the water, and on its back was a beautiful dark woman wearing nothing but her beauty, dark hair curly and matted as a mermaid’s. A tremendous wave rocked his boat. At the crest, he was suddenly, briefly, face-to-face with her; she had smiled, cradled his face, and blew him a kiss on the nose with breath that left him with visions of glistering neon palaces in far-off metal lands, and the only word he would remember thinking was Fortune. 6
The next thing he knew, he was on the shore of the island, body soaked and lungs gray with pain, his net filled with a vast quantity of fishes he had never seen before. A crowd had gathered around him. His wife was in tears, his daughters silent and staring. Oh, my God, she said as he sat up. Thank the Lord. He had opened his mouth and gargoyled his face but no words would come out; indeed, he wasn’t able to speak for seven days, despite the incantations of Monsignor Bakkus and the fisherman’s wife’s new sexual positions, which she forced upon him each night for a week. It was only when he went out to fish on the seventh day, rowing as far as he could and finding nothing but the neighboring islands of the archipelago and teetering cruise ships and white speedboats filled with scuba-diving tourists in tight black suits off to who-knew-where he’d often wondered, that his voice returned, and it returned when he swore at the heavens and the deeps, realizing after a strain of you stupid bitchfocking mawder of Christ that he was swearing in his old voice. Except his voice was weak and ragged, a longlost thing found. He sounded so different, indeed, that when he went home, his wife shrieked in a voice louder than he’d thought she was capable of and had alerted the Monsignor, who had been on his daily walk. The fisherman realized Bakkus would try to exorcise what he mistook for a malevolent deity and so he fled, running through the town of rusted and rotting shacks until he was out of breath. When he returned, the monsignor had gone and his wife had prepared the last of the fish they had saved up; he had brought nothing home that day. It was enough for one and a half persons. Sorry, he said. Is it really you? she asked, Of course, he said, My voice jess ole, is all, and he looked at the fish and said, Give it to de girls, What about you? asked the wife, I doh need any food, he replied, give it to dem, and have some too, You need it, she said, I not hungry, he said, You have to eat, you getting thin like a skeleton, she said, I doh want to eat no damn fish. But he went out to sea again that night and tried his best to catch an octopus that had been lounging on the surface and then rowed back when he felt his boat being bumped by creatures he couldn’t see. He brought home a crab he had found on the beach when bringing the boat ashore as well as a bouquet of moss and seaweed and coral he had assembled, and when his wife, who was in tears as she cooked a can of corned beef because he had not told her he was going, saw the things in his hand, she swore, then chuckled, Always a sense of humor. I love you, he said. Thank you, she said. It’s true, he said, and I’m sorry, Me, too, she sighed, but don’t worry about those kinds of things, and let’s just go inside and get some rest, and in the morning you’ll have a crabback and you can look at the bouquet when you eat at the table, and I’ll hold your hand like you like, No, the fisherman said, I brought de crab for you, and I go make it for you myself, and all you need to give me at de table is your hand. And that night the fisherman slept in the arms of his wife like he had done with his mother and his girls came in to sleep in his own arms, and soon they were all snoring and sighing except for the fisherman, who tried and tried to silence the sound of the breached ocean and erase the sight of that impossible woman from his memory, and after he had tried for an hour, his younger daughter woke up and said, Daddy, why are you crying, and he whispered after glancing at his still-sleeping wife, Daddy isn’t, he jess has some salt in his eyes, and when he gets a good night sleep, he will be fine, jess fine, better than ever. 7
Eric Suriyasena and the Tradition of Batik For eons now, fabrics have been a sought after treasure in the East, with travelers from all over Europe and further West exploring dangerous seas in order to hold a bolt of fabled cotton, silk, or wool in the ports of India, Sri Lanka, or China. When fabric is combined with painting, there is the creation of an art form that holds a distinctive place in the collection of any art connoisseur.
This is precisely what batiks do. Craftsmen hand-dye wax-based dyes on a cloth, creating rich
religious, mythical, or other symbolic motifs whose edges bleed into the cloth, making each figure, animal, or sign look almost as if it has a colored halo. The process is long, and if you ever step into a workshop where this artwork is made, you will find artisans leaning over a tautly drawn cloth, carefully setting the design in place.
Like all labor-intensive forms of art, batik in its original form faces the threat of extinction. Modern
machine-made prints that mimic the unique effect of the batik – and that are cheaper to produce, and so more cost-effective – are slowly replacing the traditional art form. Eric Suriyasena uses his own experience as a batik artist to save the art form in his atelier. Even as he is constantly challenged to keep alive his creative instincts in an industry that’s becoming increasingly mechanized, he is pleased to see that the Indonesian batik has now been designated by UNESCO as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.” In his own words, “We hope to introduce this beautiful fine art Industry to the world which is a million dollar project.”
“Batik is part of our heritage; it is a beautiful tradition that needs to be kept alive in our country, and shared with the world”
Join Eric Suriyasena’s Facebook page to find out where his art is on sale, both online and in galleries worldover. 9
The Dance of the Polyglot by James Brock
Don’t you love it, how in foreign tongues
animals speak such different languages? My Rhode Island Red goes cock-a-doodle-doo in Providence, and in Bali she sings orio orio orio-io-io, and in the Faulklands she cries elgin baylor! And don’t think it’s ever the same for my hen, my mad red hen. What use the same words? What use the same words? Isn’t every language an abandonment? a capsized Rodin? a split-fingered fastball? I prefer my Middle Idahoan, my first love-words chasing Teresa, shameless polysyllabics of bluebird and syringa, of rainbow trout, Mormons, appaloosa, and fire, of fir, of Dusty Springfield. And now, to be mired with the same words, this all-purpose and serviceable English, leaving dogs to yip and yap. Oh, I miss the polyglot! Don’t you? O Baryshnikov! O The Sisters Gabor! O Pepe LePeu! O Desi Arnez! and even you, T.S. Eliot, whose name means ripened banana when spoken aloud in 500 BCE Yucatan: tseliot tseliot, whispers that Mayan bird of paradise, flashing wing and wonder, for love, my friend, multilingual love.
“Because we’ve never had better Pad Thai!” by James Brock for B and K
To dance of Florida, a crenellated skirt, the high stilts
of gin and rhythm, To speak of Florida, To leave of Florida, a bed, a mother, To whittle and paint of Florida, a ghost orchid, every twenty-dollar bill American mailed to La Habana, To cry of Florida, To labor of Florida, Orlando, oranges, and Okeechobee, To flower of Florida, a Bob Rauschenberg left-over underexposure, the live oaks of Eatonville, To insist of Florida, an on-ramp to Interstate 95, Richard Nixon at sea, the Calusa and their third soul, To ache of Florida, a saw palmetto, To praise of Florida, the one, two good karma women of Fort Myers, their luncheon at the Thai place in the Island Park mall, the note they leave with the tip, a happy, happy raft wafting over the basil curry and green tea, or a Sandhill Crane, lifting and falling into flight, a thank you for the wind, the sure and flowering wind.
After The Sensible Divorce by
Well after your sensible divorce, after the after-play
that follows the day at the office, stopping our walk: a cloud backlit by the mid-January moon. â€œOh, a tiger smoking a cigarette,â€? you say to the cloud, a shape to share with Emory, your son. At such a moment, a men-memory passing, it is impossible not to think of Walt Whitman and his adhesive and filial and big, big love. It is impossible not to think of the son abandoned. My friend (myself!) consider the air-plant this night, that takes hold in the fissures of the live oak, feeding from nitrogen and leaf matter, or better, the sharp-lobed hepatica, setting seeds adrift to the winds, which may find purchase, a landing, in a split of rock, propagating on nothing but sand and rust, a good hard winter, and then, before the leafs of maple bud, shoots from wiry stems, tiny heads of flowers, pink, or blue, or white, depending on the acidity the roots draw from. And even if this flower must close its bloom in darkness, and even if this plant is doomed before its first winter cover, a father might stay, son-struck, and attend.
See Carnifex (Gone Lame) by Hilary Gan Even though he’d known the horse would be there, Lyle tilted his hat forward on his head when he walked into Third Base and saw it sitting with Amos. The horse smelled him immediately, and when he sat down at the heavily varnished bar counter with them, she flattened her ears along her skull and finished the rest of her Jack and Coke. She was a good horse, fine-boned and dapple grey, but the hairs had grown back in the opposite direction along the lines where the angry red weals had been, leaving long, uneven stripes. Even in the dark of the bar there seemed to be more than Lyle remembered, but in spite of them she was a nicelooking horse. She spit out her ice and signaled the waitress for another drink. “When are you leaving for Texas?” Lyle asked Amos. “Thursday morning.” “Good riddance,” Lyle said. “Yeah, yeah,” said Amos, and grinned. Lyle saw then that he had his arm draped over the horse’s withers and wanted to laugh. “How’ve you been?” asked the horse. She showed some of her teeth. “Pretty good,” Lyle said, thinking the horse was being a bit of a cunt, and leering at her to make her uncomfortable. “How’s working for Amos treating you?” “Just fine,” the horse said. The waitress brought the horse’s drink and the horse lapped at it and looked over at the abandoned pool table, where two cues sat propped neatly against the far edge and another one lay across two of the pockets. In the dim light the horse’s eye looked a dusty blue. “Where are you staying right now?” Amos asked. His worn-out Buffalo Bills shirt was too large, and his undershirt was stiff, and he plucked at his shoulders to pull the collars off his neck. “In Allegany.” “At Terry’s?” Lyle nodded. “I might crash there. I don’t feel like driving back out to the Haskell and I’ve gotta come back into town tomorrow anyway.” “Yeah, that’s fine.” Lyle knew Amos wouldn’t be crashing at Terry’s, and smirked at the arm around the horse; the horse saw it and said belligerently, “How’s Anita?” Lyle added the other corner of his mouth to his expression. The horse snorted into her drink and showed the whites of her eyes. Amos said, “We were just talking about that time we all went riding up near Rock City.” Lyle kept himself from flinching; said, carefully, laughingly, “What, like four years ago?” He wasn’t sure if Amos was fucking with him or the horse. “Three,” said the horse. “And a half.” “Didn’t you get stuck between two boulders and we had to tie one of your legs up and drag you 14
out backwards?” “That was the chestnut,” said the horse. “I got my scars later that day.” Amos laughed at that, and rubbed at his shirts again. Lyle’s eyelid twitched and his mouth formed into a firm line when he attempted to smile and failed. He smoothed his hand on his jeans to rid himself of the sensation of a whip-handle. “Didn’t you have to shoot that horse?” Amos asked. “The chestnut.” “No, that was Terry’s bay. Got hit by a car and broke two legs.” Lyle wondered again at Amos. “Good,” Amos said. “I liked that horse.” “I still use it for training,” Lyle said. The horse nipped at her hind flank. “Weren’t we going to go get something to eat?” Amos asked. “Actually, I might take off,” said the horse. “I have to get up at four tomorrow to pull the plow.” “We’ll walk you home,” said Amos. “It’s just right around the corner,” said the horse, with a glance at Lyle. “I’ll be alright.” Her skin rippled along the weals as though a fly had landed there, or a crop. “Phoebe,” Lyle said. The horse twitched an ear forward. “We’ll walk you home.” “My truck’s there anyway,” said Amos. “Alright,” said the horse. Lyle held one of the heavy double wooden doors open and the noise of the bar dissipated. The air was cool and the sky was the same dusty blue that had been in the horse’s eye earlier, streaked with long lines of dark grey clouds. The horse was walking funny and Lyle wondered just how much she had had to drink. The horse’s place really was just around the corner. Lyle stopped at the end of the driveway. “You all have a good night,” he said. “Oh, come on, Lyle,” said Amos. “You just got here.” The horse turned around. “Come on, Lyle,” she said, and showed her teeth again in a different sort of expression. From there Lyle could smell the horse smell of her, like hard work and leather and dust. Lyle went with them up the drive. The horse unlocked the barn door and let them in; the barn was dark and as the horse disappeared into the doorway the scars on her coat shone icy blue. Lyle wished he’d stayed at the end of the driveway. The horse turned the lights on and disappeared into the tack room. Lyle sat down on a hay bale and took off his hat, and Amos settled across from him in one of the saddles. “I should really go,” Lyle said. “Don’t be a fag,” Amos said. Lyle shrugged. The horse came out of the tack room. “Want a smoke?” She pulled out a pack of cigarettes 15
from a drawer. “Isn’t it dangerous to smoke in a barn?” Lyle asked Amos. The horse laughed, then said, “God, you’re such a fucking asshole.” “I’m sensing a lot of hostility from you,” Lyle said to the horse. The horse ignored him and clamped a cigarette between her teeth. “Can you please light this for me?” the horse asked Amos, shoving a lighter across the floor. Amos did. The horse inhaled, then kicked the pack of cigarettes over to Lyle. Lyle took a cigarette and held his hand out to Amos for the lighter. “No, seriously, why are you so angry?” he asked around his inhale. The horse rolled her eyes and scuffed the ground. Lyle grinned. But the horse only looked at him and moved closer to Amos. In her strange sideways shuffle and the light of the barn, Lyle saw the jagged gleam of pale bone protruding from the left hind leg, just below the hock joint, and the shine and pulse of the exposed vessels. Lyle looked away at Amos, who winked. Bile rose in Lyle’s throat, and he put his hat on with white hands and carefully stabbed out the butt in the dirt of the floor. “Thanks for the cigarette,” he muttered. He closed the barn door behind him.
81S / 64W by
Chas Holden thick grain -y finger-tips flick 4:00 golden sunshine as auto- mobile air whips wind-waves from longbowbent gememerald grass-blades through Blue-Ridge’d valley— AnselAdams contour’d & cumulousshadow’d. neonorange diamondshaped signs bloom with stamen-script reading “MOWERS AHEAD” & rows of striped constructionsite barrels grow like toplesstoadstoolstumps, while tiny-wing’d-lives vaporize, s t r e a king whitesunlit windshield-scars.
Damsel un-Distressed by Chas Holden on a grey rain day she removed her shoes holding them casually as a parcel and walked with crane’s grace unstilted on long ivory legs across the flooded asphalt river a crescent-moon smile piercing through her dark dripping hair
by Richard Kostelanetz
Choose Your Own Adventure Sunday by Crystal Koe (1) Wake too early. Watery sunrise shivers through the blinds. Back in bed (3) or Smoke (6) (2) in bed. It takes too long to decide on a movie, so you continue with Scrubs season 6. Everyone’s pregnant, or a new mother. The men deal with it differently—booze, driving seven hours to be told miscarriage. It’s still a rosy dark in your room. Call your pregnant friend (4) or Smoke (6) (3) you find it hard to fall asleep. Your husband’s walking to work in late winter. You’re wrapped in wool blankets. A list of to-dos presses on the back of your neck. Make breakfast (5) or Clean (7) (4) in Texas. Listen, imagine her growing. You’re not there to see the second baby you’ve missed since leaving. Her husband works on Sundays too, does the laundry. But she sits with a baby kicking her insides. You just sit. Smoke (6) or Clean (7)
5) for one. One egg. Two microwaved sausages. So much cheese the egg loses egg-taste. The floor gritty under your feet. You listen to the microwave’s hum, eye (the sink of unwashed dishes. Watch Netflix (2) or Call your pregnant friend (4)
(6) a bowl by yourself on the porch.
Pretend you didn’t when your husband comes home. He always knows from your red eyes, the smell on your hair. You love the feel of not caring, a burn in your throat. Watch Netflix (2) or Back in bed (3) (7) the bathroom. Ungloved, wipe grime with a damp sponge, scrub the toilet, the sink, the tub, scrub as if scrubbing away the chance of his leaving you for a cleaner house, a hotter meal, better sex. You will never be so perfect. Back to (1)
What I Can Remember of the Bar in Which the Incident Occurred by Rich Ives
I don’t know why I didn’t count the men. Perhaps because they seemed so similar to me that I experienced them as a single man, a man telling stories. I heard them tell each part of their stories, several of them, one at a time, taking turns I would have said if there had been any pattern I could have found, if the stories could have been said to be in any way I could discern complete or related. I wanted desperately to find the key to what they were doing, but they ignored me and spoke so similarly I wondered if they weren’t somehow advancing some preconceived agenda to my disadvantage, the gullible stranger in a foreign bar. I had failed to decipher what task they pursued so easily without appearing to even acknowledge my presence though I am sure they were well aware of me. They were well-spoken, despite their appearances, and thoughtful. Slow and careful in their pronouncements, selective about the positioning of the pauses, almost hesitant in the slow movements of glass or cigarette. I listened to them carefully, long gaps punctuating their pauses, followed by the creak of a stool or the obscene fart of skin against naugahyde, eliciting not a snigger. My eyes focused on a bulbous wilted vegetable lying next to the bartender’s foul rag. The sharp slaps of a polite game of billiards continued to echo. The squat rounded figure sat dwarfed by the size of the freshly cut stump it was perched upon, the open fire in front of it drifting puffs of smoke from one side to the other as the faint wind shifted directions. There was no gradual approach to the giant cedar forest because of the cutting. Only tall trees or no tall trees. No gradual changing of underbrush to small trees to taller ones to the full forest cover. Much of the surrounding area had been clear-cut years ago, and now some of the giant cedars were missing, and the rest rose suddenly out of the deep snow, dwarfing the open space around them and everything in it. The long reddish hair of the silent figure on the stump hung down over a leather shawl in strands like ragged cedar bark. The water seemed to be removing the bottom half of the man’s head. His large ears had lost their lobes to it, and his pointed nose seemed almost ready to breathe it. This made him appear serious, almost as if he were trying to stay motionless, in hiding, his nearly bald pate meant to pass for a stone with a little stringy brown moss on it. The two brothers lay with their lips parted, dark hoods cowling the back of their prostrate heads, their eyes alert as if anticipating something marvelous. A single bulb dangled from the ceiling, but the light was not lit, and the illumination from the single dirty window was fading fast.
A cluster of seven naked men was arrayed like a study in concentration along the white sand of the otherwise abandoned beach. The air was cool, but the men lay still, as if in anticipation. Each man had his short blonde hair cut like a medieval pageboy. Time erased itself from the white beach. Were they waiting for the sun to change them? The angle of light from the one window at the end of the bar seemed to silhouette the menâ€™s noses as it gradually softened towards the back of the room. Their heads looked like a row of overgrown horseradish bulbs lit softly in a festival of partially filled glasses and cigarettes raised to offer variation, as if each one were a different note played by the symphony of descending daylight. Not a single man sported a mustache or beard. Several of the heads were so smooth they seemed carefully shaved. Two were topped with bowler hats. From the back of the room the second figure appeared to slowly meld into the first. The light faded, only one eye and a bit of the brown felt hat reaching out beyond the head and large body of the first figure. He must have been turned this way. The men sat stoically, without speaking. Two more had donned bowler hats, each hat exactly like the others. Two smoked and two slowly sipped at something, probably beer, in large frosted glasses. One man sipped loudly at a cup of soup. The leaves were gone and the branches were short, as if they had been trimmed, leaving the shorter branches like thorns in silhouettes of jagged interruption to the fresh snow. Four of the men had shifted position and stood, facing each other. It was surprising to see that they were the same height and it made their noses appear repetitive. The rest of their features were ordinary, but different from each other. Except for the bowler hats, which they all removed at the same time as they began to quietly address each other. The odd white stems protruded from the ground like giant onions with palm-like fronds bent over along the rise of their solid white trunks. There was something creaturely about them. It had become difficult to call them trees. The manâ€™s face was bulbous and plain, nothing but an excess of ordinariness to distinguish it. He held a handkerchief to his nose and lips without moving for so long you might wonder if there really was anything at all underneath. When he finally pulled the handkerchief forward, his face actually came away with it. Beneath was an exact replica of the mask he had removed. In this part of the forest several tall thin trees rose to a great height before any limbs began to give them life. As if some very tall animal had stripped them bare in a deeply snowed-in and desperate winter. 22
One of the men was joking and eating something pickled with his beer. It was red and shaped like a small banana. I thought for a minute that the men had decided to take a break until I realized they all understood this as a part of the telling. The second man lifted a long green beanlike object with a pointed end that might have been a tail or the remnant of a large flower that had turned brown. He began chewing and moved the object slowly into his mouth from his outstretched arm as he chewed. If it weren’t for the motion of his jaw, he would have appeared to be swallowing the thing whole. When the four men who had been conversing standing up, with their bowler hats now removed, stopped talking, the one with his back to the bar turned around and stared to the right, where the window that had gone dark had revealed the descent of the sun. A large, ragged rope was tied above his eyebrows, one end sticking up into the air at his forehead and the other descending to his neck, where it was attached to another rope. One of the men raised his arm to the top of the counter. He was holding a fawn-colored glove with the fingers dangling out over his grip in that gesture only the wealthy or the pretentious use when they wish to keep their clothing pristine and their position clear. The glove man reached out towards the rope man with his glove in his hand and held it in front of the man’s open mouth. A row of small trees seemed to emerge from the forest in a straight line, as if marching, each enclosed in a heavy bark skirt to protect it from some unknown danger. A man was crawling on his hands and knees, making his way slowly up the row, through the clean white snow. A bright purple kale sat in a clay pot on the barroom table, gone gangly and tall, its fat wide leaves drooping but still opening up to the pink undersides of the royal centers of the colorful leaves. Someone had placed an eye, it must have been glass or plastic, exactly where the bottom of the lowest leaf was separating from the plant stem. The smoke from the fire curled upwards like the strands of a rope. The knobby clump of undergrowth at the foot of the one tall cedar separated from the forest’s edge sported purple flowers like those on the head of a thistle, even now, in the middle of the winter. The man in front of the kale pot was speaking. Rain fell everywhere, he said. Descending like an engineer’s lines in a portrait of the regimented inner life of a building. There had been a boat out on a lake in that rain, a fisherman and an umbrella. And that was all. At the end of the row of small trees, a stake appeared, metal, iron perhaps, perfectly vertical and attached to a thick black rope that curled out concentrically and veered off away from the line of trees. The man who had been following the edge of the forest to the line of trees followed the rope, still on his hands and knees. 23
The scarecrow attached to the rope was dressed in a dirty white trenchcoat and a brown felt bowler hat. The mask where the face should have been was so realistic that if it weren’t for the missing hands and feet, the figure might have been alive. The expression on the figure’s face was relaxed, confident. The man’s head turned slightly in the water. and a hand rose from underneath the otherwise undisturbed surface. He grabbed his nose with that hand in the gesture that one associates with someone about to submerge, but the man just waited. Turned to the side like that, you could see the bags under his eyes. The men lined up at the bar until they seemed to have all taken the same position and their noses had become aligned in a long row descending in size towards the window, which was still faintly emitting a soft gray light. I raised my hand in front of my face in line with my vision of the row of men’s noses. I tried to get my fingers to assume the shape of yet one more, larger nose. The wooden frames behind the scarecrow held the thorny vines in place, two dimensional, laying a geometric grid across the snow, as if that might be the only real purpose available to them. In time I noticed, as one of the men turned towards me without paying me any attention, that a small peach-colored bulb was mounted on the upper slope of his left nostril. Like a man with three chins yelling, the position of the man rising from the water suggested an incredible violence, but no sound issued forth, none at least that could be heard over the river’s steady wet thrum. A large tree protruded now, where it had not been before, in an almost perfectly vertical line from the surface of the water. Its top had been cut clean, no branches at all. A second man, in a wooden rowboat drifted next to it. The rain continued falling, nearly as vertical as the tree. On the barroom table next to the purple kale lay an onion with a fat ass, a pepper that appeared to have eaten too much, a tomato so soft it began leaking. Shallots, they’re called shallots, said the bartender. No one was listening. I was no longer listening to the stories of the men. I was in them. I could not understand what the men were saying, or what it meant, but I knew that I was in the stories, each one of them. I was no longer sure if I was in the bar or only in the stories. I took off my bowler hat. I picked up my gloves and reached for my rope. I pushed aside my bowl of soup and my plate of vegetables. I finished my glass of beer and my cigarette. One of the men was looking at me as if he were looking into a mirror, just as I had looked at him. I considered practicing the rope trick and reached for the piece I had brought with me, unnaturally clean and bright now in the 24
darkened bar. Then I decided to leave it there with the man who was more interested in it than I was, a stranger, a foreigner I think, and I left him alone in the bar.
Music Break: John K Samson on Songs, Poems, Publishing, and Winter in Canada
John K. Samson is the singer, songwriter, and current frontman for the award winning band, The Weakerthans. He lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he’s also the managing editor and co-founder of the publishing house, Arbeiter Ring. In 2010 Samson was named Winnipeg’s Ambassador of the Arts. In 2011 he released his first full length solo album, the widely acclaimed and beautifully evocative Provincial, which was inspired by Samson’s native landscape.
BC: Your new book, “Lyrics and Poems, 1997-2012” has all of us excited beyond reason, not to mention your new solo album “Provincial.” How did you arrive at the idea to explore those different roads in Manitoba as the theme of “Provincial”?
JKS: To be honest, I think the idea of the roads began as an excuse to go drive around, just go visit
some new places and old ones to see what might come of it. So I decided I would take four different roads in Manitoba and try to write something about each of them that would explore the historical and the contemporary, and give a sense of landscape. Originally they were all to be 7 inch records, which I liked the limits of—9 minutes or so, three songs to make it work. And at some point I got really into the idea that I could take someone to the site of all the songs, if they had a couple days free, and that’s when it became a full-length record project.
BC: Due to the setting of many of your songs (Manitoba/Winnipeg), you’re often pegged as a regional
writer. Non-Canadians who hear PROVINCIAL probably won’t recognize references to things like Portage Avenue or Ninette Sanatorium. Yet the references work, in part because the lyrics are delivered with melody, but also because you’re so good at the particular-universal. When you’re writing, how conscious is this? In other words, do you ever scrap references because they’re too obscure? Or do you create scenarios and characters to serve the location?
JKS: That’s true, though most Canadians won’t recognize these references, either. I don’t think I’ve
ever resisted a reference as too obscure, I sort of revel in those ones, but do endeavor to give them some kind of context that will make sense to someone who doesn’t know the place. Sometimes it is pretty extreme, I guess. The references at the end of the song “One Great City,” for example, where I speak of the “Golden Business boy” and the North End of Winnipeg--one would likely need to have attended elementary school in Winnipeg and been taught the statue of a Golden Boy atop the Manitoba Legislature faces north, towards Manitoba’s natural resources, to really get it. But I think listeners sometimes like that feeling of obscurity and uniqueness.
BC: What was it about this most recent batch of songs that made you decide to record a solo album instead of with The Weakerthans?
JKS: I think they could have been Weakerthans songs if I had brought the band into the process ear-
lier on, but by the time I had half of it done I was well on my way. I don’t think it would have been fair to them, as I had pretty clear ideas about what the songs should be, and wanted a variety of instruments and musicians to mirror the traveling theme of the songs.
BC: I’ve been reading through LYRICS AND POEMS. If I didn’t know your songs I’d have a difficult
time distinguishing one from the other. For example, “Lament” has the same sonnet structure and rhythm of “(manifest),” “(hospital vespers),” and “(past due)” from RECONSTRUCTION SITE. How do you decide when something’s going to be a song or stand alone as a poem? And what role does storytelling have in your writing and your music? 27
JKS: I’m not really sure why some things become songs and others don’t. Most of them do, but what doesn’t is put into the “poem” category. I do think my strongest pieces have some narrative to them, I often consider myself more a thwarted or stunted short-story writer than a poet or lyricist.
BC: Your lyrics, stories and images are elegant, subtle, evocative and transcendent, (not necessarily in that order). For example, “Plea from a Cat Named Virtute” is much more than a song about your cat, and “Tournament of Hearts,” is about more than curling (although curling is awesome!). These songs are so powerful that they make me want to cry if I’m not careful. My question is: how do you do that?
JKS: That’s really flattering, I think. I have to say I did have some doubts when preparing the book of
lyrics as it made me realize that the music itself injects some levity and comfort into my more bleak and depressive writing. I’m not sure I can comment on how others receive the songs. My hope is that some people see something of themselves there, that songs can provoke some kind of empathy, which is a very political and important feeling.
BC: How much of your writing is calculated and crafted, as opposed to being the product of pure creative inspiration?
JKS: I would say there has to be both, but the editing process is the most important step in a song to
me. And I like a long process, to carry something around with me and work on it while I am supposed to be doing other things. I find unfinished songs to be valuable company.
BC: Recently at a writers conference you said that you write songs because you’re a failed short story
writer. The room was full of novelists and short story writers who would probably chuck their laptops if they could write songs as well as you. Do you think this is a natural artistic temperament--the desire to work in a form that doesn’t come naturally?
JKS: Yeah, maybe you are right, the grass is often greener and so on. But I have felt that way most of
my life. From the earliest times I can remember, I wanted to write stories and books. I think of songwriting as a way I’ve found to make that work, and don’t get me wrong, I am extremely grateful for it.
BC: Can you tell us a little about Arbeiter Ring? Why did you start it in the first place? What are some of the criteria for the books you publish? What books are forthcoming?
JKS: Sure, I started ARP with my friend Todd, the same month I started The Weakerthans with my
friend Jason. I just really wanted to be involved in books. My two favourite things are books and music, and being in a place like Winnipeg, cheap rents, supportive arts community, has somehow allowed me to work with both. ARP focuses on leftist politics, but also publishes fiction and poetry and cultural studies. For instance, a recent season included a book that confronts the extreme right wing Canadian governments’ recent attempts to reform immigration laws, a book of poetry, and a graphic novel. So our criteria, while focused on activism and propaganda, are really broad.
BC: Are you still writing short stories, or do you focus your energies exclusively on songs and poems? JKS: I’ve never actually completed a short story. I’m comfortable and pleased to work on songs for now.
BC: Another of our amazing musical contributors, Frank Turner, recently wrote an eloquent and soulful press release for your newest album. Are you planning on any future collaboration together?
JKS: I do hope so. It has been a great pleasure and inspiration to get to talk to Frank and listen to his songs. He’s a remarkable writer and an incredible force in the world.
BC: And finally… can you tell us a John K. Samson story? Any story: funny, sad, crazy, meaningful. We would love to hear a story about your life! 28
JKS: It is winter here in Winnipeg, and they recently installed new parking meters. They are electron-
ic, so you can use a credit card, but they don’t work when it gets really cold. Last week it was minus 35 or so, and I was standing in the snow and wind trying to make a meter take my card and it kept refusing, so I started kicking it and really hurt my knee. Not much of a story, I guess. I’ve also recently been struggling through a round of depression and anxiety, which is uncommon for me. I recognize my insanely enviable luck and life, but that doesn’t matter to depression, which makes everything dull, fearful and joyless. Seems like a sizable percentage of people I care about encounter the same kind of problems, and maybe it is weird to find that a bit comforting, but I do. So, if you are going through something similar, count me among the many who are rooting for you. And I’ll just be presumptuous and take some hope and support from you, wherever you are.
by Lev Yilmaz 30
Anniversary by Alyse Bensel
Labor Day I jump from rock to rock in the shallows of Whipple Dam, man-made water store for drought. Beside me, a young boy soaks his water shoes. His father charts the species of insect the boy catches with his net. Dragonfly larvae: a black, aquatic scorpion, length of my little finger. The boy places wriggling larvae in a clear plastic bin alongside juvenile crayfish, some minnows. Everything still resists dormancy. The season is still so warm. Last year, back home, as we argued, I drove Jon to Indian Rock Dam, where bulldozers piled boulders and gravel so high only tumbling down the walls got you near water. He chucked pebbles, trying to reach the murky depths. The bits bounced off rocks, echoes filling silence. Bored, he wanted to head back to the city. Today, buzzards circle high overhead. I stare up at the sun, its light a halo. .
Bakersfield by w gosnell
It was the kind of town that inspires wayward children to sell lemonade. But who can know the good and bad news behind the clapboard dwellings along the sleepy lanes of Yesterdays towns. A white figure hangs laundry next to a barn and the aroma of rhubarb pie enters the yard through an open window. A winsome melody travels backwards through a light blue apron that flaps on a wind rocked clothesline. Thereâ€™s clearly work to be done on a common afternoon in a forgotten town. A flattened Coke can glitters in the street, someone left the screen door open at the house on the corner of Orchard and Elm, a stray cat runs out of the alley behind a closed gas station next to the Presbyterian church. Who knows how to keep track of time in a forgotten town. How can such a small bucket standing on the bottom step of a wooden back porch contain so much water. 32
by Tegan Elizabeth Webb
We girls begin not like flowers, but like seeds falling from the bellies of trees; we lay dormant under
the leaf carpets, minding our own business until the age of thirteen, and then the fire ignites. It unlocks us from the hard cocoons we inherit from our mothers and we begin to grow, slowly with young green flesh so fragile and so determined to reach the sun. It is so bright we cannot see those who love us, we cannot see those who have come to cut us down. Now I am seeing girls everywhere. Milk limbs spilling from flowers, noses dusted with pollen and golden flax for hair. Stargazer lily eyes, rose mouths with their secrets tucked into each layer of petals. Like the silver my mother found hidden in her maid’s petticoats last Sunday. “I cannot stand to think of such a scandal in my own house. Under my very nose,” she spat, and I nodded, covering my belly with my silk robe. I dream of girls with alien faces, their skulls exposed and their hands with extra finger bones. They examine me with ancient instruments, the kind they used to use in Salem, and when I wake I feel the probing of a hand from inside my swollen belly. The fear feels like that hand covering my throat, five fingers without bones around my heart. My mother cannot stop talking about Sophie’s wedding dress. It makes me nauseous, although I could blame that on the morning sickness. My father doesn’t say anything, but lights his cigarette and scowls at the sun. When I look at my father, I remember how he once told me that everyone born in New Orleans has a heart that beats like the wings of the pink katydid, and as they grow older, the vibrations slow to a wet thump that sounds like an insect being squashed. He said that some people aren’t born with hearts at all. I said that I think everyone is born with a heart, but not everybody knows how to use it properly. It may be performing its physical function perfectly, forcing blood through limp veins to keep the body upright, but the compassion is the lacking component, the missing plasma. Compassion is a bi- product of convergent evolution; some of us have it, some of us don’t. I want to tell him that we all have hearts when we are born. My father has made Sophie promise not to get married for two years; perhaps he thinks he can talk her out of it. He detests her fiancée. I can’t imagine what he will say about me. About us. Us. The word creeps up and circumnavigates the terror, a word so small it is enough to unlock all of my maternal compassion. My heart evolves suddenly, from katydid larvae into a bouquet of glorious pink insects. From a daughter’s heart into a mother’s. I turn to my mother, my father, and my sister, and say “She will be the flower girl at Sophie’s wedding.”
The Eclectic Genius of Eric Montoya
We first encountered Eric Montoya’s work during a somewhat hallucinatory midnight stroll through historic Ybor City in 2006. Housed in the Brad Cooper Gallery and lit only by the club neon from across the street, a face emerged from the darkly imbricated lily petals on the canvas that hung closest to the gallery windows. At the time, we didn’t know if the face was really there or if it was just our, ahem, imaginations at work. That we were able to discern was the signature on the piece, and now, six years later, that brief moment of clarity is really paying off.
Eric Montoya is a Seattle-based artist whose paintings gained notoriety across the US and abroad for their striking blend of portraiture with landscape. Perhaps most widely known for what BC affectionately dubs “the flower face,” Montoya’s aesthetics are informed by his unique heritage, itself a melding of real and imagined ethnicities, ancient and modern religions, majority and minority identities. He writes: “I am a compilation of my heritage, society and time. I was estranged and intimately connected to both dominant and dominated communities. I am an eighth generation Chicano who can trace our family back to the 17th century, from the Juan de Oñate expedition into present day New Mexico. My grandfather said we were Spanish, but we roasted chiles and ate
tortillas de maiz. My Father called us Mexicans out of indignation towards my grandfather, not recognizing how his own parents were mestizo Apaches. “My family is now privileged enough to call ourselves Chicanos, benefiting from a legacy of intellectuals and advocates who have contested identities. This heritage is married to my mother’s Oregonian Mormon roots where all is one color but contradicts itself. Living in a predominantly Mormon town my grandfather was a farmer and a Mormon, yet made his living driving the local beer truck. My grandmother’s father was killed after a late night poker game and my mother went off to BYU where she met and married a Catholic Mexican. It’s these contradictions and connections that feed my life and my art.” Montoya’s most recent series of work, “Memoir Americana,” invites us to view the narrative of American history as an inextricable mixture of cultural symbols, landscapes, people, and memories. You can find “Memoir Americana” along with his previous series at ericmontoya.com.
How Mermaids Were Made by Georgia Sage
Mother Ocean parted her round, white-capped lips and gulped down the towns and the cars and the people She watched as the selkies stitched fishtails to the peopleâ€™s thighs Sighed like silk curtains as they cried, their blood turning black in the water as they grasped the shaking winter fingers of the trees kicking through a nebula of sediment as scales devoured them She sang, grating glass along the sand along their supple, slipping skin She cupped their scattered legs tangled in the weeds washed up on the shore in the inky skin of her palms Hid the cars in the abysses of her crows feet and the towns in the spaces between her gaping rock teeth Mother Ocean laughed, sharp salt ridges on her tongue oil slicking her throat urchins catching in her hair and watched her new children swim into the dark Like shivers.
Curtains by Sarah Gancher Sarai So you might have heard in 1962 Fidel Castro let Nikita Khrushchev store missiles on the island of Cuba which isn’t all that far from the U.S.A. which I am in more of a position to know than you are. Other stuff happened that year like John Glenn going around one of the planets, earth or moon or sun, I’ve never been sure which even though, again, I can see more than you. And those people back when James Meredith decided to enroll at the University of Mississippi, I remember their faces, like dried apple cores going moldy, from t.v. I was twelve. I’m thirteen now because I’ll always be thirteen because I died in 1963 because my bike flipped because I barreled down the hill, loop-de-looped and landed in a ditch. The hot asphalt guy helping the ditch-digging guy didn’t hear the steamroller guy shout. The hot asphalt guy isn’t up here yet and I’ve done everything I can for him (which isn’t much of anything but it is something) because he was really sorry about the whole thing. I could tell you what it’s like up here when you Downed start talking to us Upped, asking favors, trying to bargain, and like that, but if I tell too much I might get in trouble, like I did in sixth grade when I told the boys about menstruation (I have two older sisters, man). My folks didn’t care but the girls in my class were euuuuy and tsk tsk-y. My ma got her girls using tampons right away, is what I shared is what older sister #1 told me. The hot asphalt guy’s name is Brian. He’s Catholic. The Name is good about respecting everyone’s stupidity, Catholics’, Protestants’, Jews’, Muslims’, Hindus’ and so on. As long as you don’t do anything that is dried-apple-core ugly you don’t have to worry. I don’t know where the dried apple cores are in finality. Of personal experience where you are, I only knew not-perfect family stuff like Ma slamming doors because of something Pop did or Pop getting red as wrapping paper when she ran at him with a kitchen knife. Family stuff like what I’m gonna tell you. So yeah I Upped, which is what all of death is for most everyone, a rising, and it has nothing to do with what you are told it has to do with because like I said we have Muslims and Hindus and Samoans here. You get invisible and somehow, there you are, in a pneumatic tube like they used at a department store downtown L.A. when Mom paid for my clothes. There is place for the Downed, as I said before, the moldy apple cores. I’m not supposed to see it, but I might, sometime. I know how to get around rules, some. I want to talk about my brother-in-law who I didn’t get to know much but it was a big thing him and my sister marrying. My sister had run away to Chicago from L.A. She was eighteen. In my family her leaving was a scandal because although she told my parents before she left, and got a friend to drive her to Greyhound, it was still considered rash and rude. My other sister was valedictorian in high school and went to a fancy college. You can figure out why my sister who ran away, ran away. The valedictorian sister is twelve years older than me and still with you all, and so is the running-away sister, who is eight years older than me. 40
One of the last things I heard before I Upped was from my best friend Allison’s grandma who was cooking a soup with ox bones and potatoes and an apple thrown in to sweeten up the kale and collards. “Stop by tomorrow and we’ll fatten you up,” she said. I don’t have a body now so too late for that, but it wasn’t like I was skinny. My brother-in-law was a black man. I suppose you don’t need me to tell you he was a man because that is what brothers-in-law are, like brothers are though I never had one. Sisters are women which both of mine had become when I was down there even though I was a girl which was kind of weird, like being an only child, only not being an only child. Well it wasn’t that weird but I said “kind of weird” and it was kind of weird. We started out in New York State so I know what storms are like. I have to mention this because I Upped in the San Fernando Valley where we moved to when we moved to California. The sky would suck itself in over the Long Island Sound when we lived in New York State and close its eyes and wait like the biggest brat on the block trying to fake you about while she hides and hopes you walk by so she can whop you with something like dried pussy willow branch or water from the hose or just scare you by jumping out. That’s what the house in Encino felt like when my sister called my parents to tell them about her husband, which he was, because she’d married him in Chicago after she ran away to that city and got a job at the phone company—where they allowed her to wear only three pieces of jewelry at a time because, I don’t know why. We got people coming up here with twenty pieces of jewelry all over them so I guess the phone company changed its policy but three-pieces-a-jewelry was standard when my sister married a black man. So there is the white of envelopes. I liked envelopes because birthday cards with five dollar bills came in envelopes and at your party you might get a card that had paper dolls as part of it all in a white envelope, plus clouds, when not being sucked into the sky, are white but my sister was not that kind of white. She was human white. And there is a particular cave, the Nancy Jane Tavern in New Mexico, we stopped at when we drove from New York State to California. For a minute the tour guide let us see how dark dark can be and it is black dark black. Also the gown my sister who was a valedictorian at her high school wore was black and it was not any other color. You haven’t met Sunday our cat who died when he was twenty-one years old (yeah, I’m talking about you, kitty) but she was black and I know you have seen cats who are black so you know what black looks like and my sister’s husband was not that kind of black. He was human black. He had more more voice than my pop did. I remember that. I remember thinking, he has more voice than Pop or Ma and trying to figure out why and not knowing. Pa once said opera singer ladies had to be fat to have those voices and that he liked those voices but my brother-in-law wasn’t fat and didn’t have an opera lady voice. I told my oldest sister the valedictorian about him having more voice when she called from the East Coast where she was going to college. She told me to shut up so I did. Oh, I was telling you about after the phone call from my sister who married a black man. Well, 41
the feeling in our house was like outdoors before a storm, kind of gloomy and tense but exciting. I didn’t know what was happening. Pop was a good regular pop who liked to drink liquors he kept under the sink next to the Ajax. He had good buddies who also drank liquors. I remember going to their houses. Their liquors were on shelves and one of them had his liquors in a cabinet with glass doors. So fancy. My sister who was human white and her husband who was human black moved to L.A. because it was easier to be human white and black married in Los Angeles than in Chicago. They lived on Vermont Avenue while I was still hanging out on earth and that is not in the San Fernando Valley because if you are black even human black you did not live in the San Fernando Valley. My parents didn’t live there because they were human white but because that’s where they found the tract house. They did their best. Ma was the religious one and I went to a Protestant Sunday School though I mainly remember that it was either me or the blonde girl next to me threw up one time. Pop was Jewish and human white. I don’t know if I liked my brother-in-law. I met him only twice. He’s still with you so I’ll figure it out later when he Ups. The time on a watch or a clock doesn’t mean a thing but I still have to wait to meet my nieces and nephews, my sister’s and his kids who I loved even before they were born and they’ve never met me. It is good to have something to look forward to. When I was alive I wanted to meet Cleopatra and Emma Goldman. You’d think I had, now that we’re three Upped females, but so far, no go. My brother-in-law got a job at what he did. The car repair shop was in the San Fernando Valley but they lived on Vermont Avenue so it was a good thing he worked at a car repair place so he could fix his car if it needed it because he drove a lot back and forth a lot. I loved the car radio and the music from it which my sister played before she moved to Chicago. She wouldn’t let me touch the knob. She liked Elvis before she moved to Chicago and said she wondered how she could let Elvis know she really understood him and would be really nice to him and let him talk to her about anything, and that she understood so much that the other kind of girls could never understand because they were easy with life and happy-pretty. I pretended to look like Cleopatra with my Halloween wig and walking the Egyptian way. Maybe I liked Emma Goldman because I looked more like her than I looked like Cleopatra although my sister who got married didn’t look like Emma or Cleopatra and she didn’t look like one of the happy-pretty girls. I think my grandma pulled up beets in Sweden. I think my other grandma pulled up beets in Russia. My brother-in-law had been in the Army and gone to France and Germany when the U.S. was not at war but he started in Virginia where his pop had a farm. He was like my sister because his brothers and sisters, of which he had more than we did, were honor roll types and teachers. He ran away to the Army. I can tell you for a fact that up here like souls find like souls and that is what I see all the time, although I haven’t seen Emma Goldman, but I have all the time in the world and believe you me that’s a lot of time. She might be one of the people who created the world up here with her nice 42
ideas about the “disorder of things” and how it’s all “illumined by the spiritual light of Anarchism.” This world is nicer than the one you live in except I still haven’t met my nieces and nephews who I love. I’m not wishing they leave the earth. I can wait. So okay, back to the afternoon we met my brother-in-law. Pop had drunk a bottle of liquors but it wasn’t full when he started, so he really drank a glass or two and he added ice to his drink. Oh. He and Ma fed us this line about how we were all equal, everyone on Earth was equal and we were all children-of-The Name. It’s true and all, but pretty obvious, like telling a kid, Don’t barrel down a hill on your bike, which they never said. I might or might not have to end this story. Who cares about the phone call from my sister who ran away (though she didn’t run away)? Sunday the cat cares. Yay, Sunday! Let’s move on to when we met my brother-in-law. They came to visit us and I hadn’t seen my sister the eighteen-year-old runaway for a year so she wasn’t eighteen any more. My oldest sister was on the East Coast, as I have mentioned. My pop pulled the curtains closed and said something about the neighbors. He looked scared like I think he looked when he was my age, but Un-Upped, in New York City and the Irish kids were coming to beat him up. Ma’s ma didn’t want her to marry a person who was a yid but when she found out he liked liquors she approved and he could be really funny, besides. I’m a little pink in the cheeks about Pa pulling the curtain when my brother-in-law who was human black came to visit. Embarrassed is what I mean as you already know. But Pa’s face never got like a dried apple-core-face and there is more to the story. When my brother-in-law was in the living room for a few minutes, drinking liquors with my pa, my pa pulled open the curtain, all the way back. My sister was in the kitchen talking lots and lots with my ma so neither of them saw the sun shining through the glass or the neighbor across the street mowing his lawn or his kid Herbie throwing a Frisbee to his puppy. I see planets and stars and real deal wonders you dream of, or see photographs and t.v. shows of, and things you can’t even imagine, but I sorta miss seeing things like the sun shining through the window and my pa and my brother-in-law laughing about something or other and me pretending to be a big pitcher of lemonade with little ears shaped like handles which I was better at than I was at bicycling. Pretending. Listening to your pa and your brother-in-law who is human black is okay. Watching people live and get better was almost as good as living up here, though this place will be more fun when I can meet my nieces and nephews. I already love them.
Once Upon by Jane Yolen
Once Upon A Time there was a Wolf, but not a Wolf, an Other, whose mother and father were others, who looked not like us,
Republican or Dem in other words- Them. They were forest dwellers, child sellers, meat eaters, wife beaters, idol makers oath breakersâ€” in other words, Wolf. So Happy Ever After means we kill the Wolf, spill his blood, knock him out, bury him in mud, make him dance in red hot shoes. For us to win The Wolf must lose. --ÂŠ2009
The Mother by Gina Balibrera When his mother finally emerged from the woods, the young boy gazed at a woman transformed. She had almost no hair at all. Perhaps most startling about this change was that the woman, now with feathery strands of tawny gold light on her thin brow, had never altered her appearance since the boy had begun to exist outside of her. Visions of the mother he had known entered the boy now like electric charges: the mother, shuttering the windows to get some peace, weighty hair swinging like a pendulum at her back, slatted light narrowing into dark where he sat on the floor. The mother, braiding her hair and knotting it at the bottom unto itself, twisting the braids around her head like a sailor working ropes. And a fainter, more precious memory the boy had retained years earlier: drying the tears and snot on his apple cheeks with the mother’s hair, the pleasure of the hair’s rich and generous warmth. Nevertheless, when she appeared in the clearing, the boy emitted a shriek of recognition. He jabbed both hands in the air; he shouted her name. She had entered the woods before, but never for this many hours. It had been a full day this time. When the mother continued her silent path, the boy ran to her, a small body in corduroy overalls, a round bobbing head, a red, sweet mouth. The woman with short hair walked past him at an angle to deny a meeting of their eyes. She moved through the sounds coming from the young boy like a train. Her face, as he saw it edging toward him and then quickly past, moving over rocks until it was gone, was like one he knew but could not place. It was her. She had no sisters, no friends. No one to mimic her fine features by way of years spent arguing over tea, trifling, troubling. The face without its hair was unburdened by shadows. Light played on the smooth planes of this face with manic energy. The mother’s eyes careened about the woods elfishly, alighting at all places and none. The boy observed shoulders delicate as the wishbones they had torn together beneath the velvet cover of her hair, now bare, light as balsa wood. The boy recorded the scenes of her new face and stored them in his mind like rotoscope stills. Through the lighted space where the boy waited the mother moved foxlike from one hole into another, running when she saw the thickest part of the woods beyond the clearing. Facing her attentive silhouette, the woods made another door. She entered with finality, a harsh kind of grace. The mother left the boy alone, save for the rotoscope images of her face that he would conjure in the small palms of his hands, for the years that followed. In order to complicate his loneliness, the boy began an apprenticeship with a gnarled sailor on his eighteenth birthday. The pair embarked from the dock of their island on a morning the sun rose red. On another island, thick hills roiled in flames. The haze carried by westward winds dusted the vision of the two men standing on the dock, one old, and one little more than a boy. Loading the boat, they saw the tiny diamond flecks their nostrils couldn’t help but consume; their eyes swelled and itched. The young man had left the house where he had grown up alone in the dark of the morning. Inside the house was an iron skillet on a hob, an oil-lamp, an unvarnished desk. Lonely items that 46
perhaps would wait for him until he returned from this journey. On the morning that his mother had become a brief rotoscope vision, the boy came back their home and opened the shutters to make himself plain to the light outside, to someone who might bring news or rescue. He opened the rusted latch of a trunk with dimpled hands, cutting the soft web of skin between thumb and forefinger. Sucking the blood, he recalled a metallic taste not unlike his own slow salt tears. Inside the trunk were the mother’s things: a calico dress that her mother, who had died before the boy was born, had sewed by hand, a machete swaddled in a skein of leather and tied with cord, postcards from places the mother feared to speak aloud (“N,” or “P,” or “L” she would whisper, as though the ghosts were listening for the vibrations of her lips) bound in turgid rubber bands, and a comforting smell like mildew that floated and hung in the air like one of her pale ghosts. The boy had fanned the postcards like a croupier’s deck on the rough table where he and his mother had eaten a dinner of beetroots and potatoes the night before. He had dragged a stool to the window and climbed atop it, looking out into the half-world in which he was newly alone. From the lever at the top of the shutters he hung the dress like an illustration of suicide, framed in the window. The machete he put in a pocket of the dress that had been intended for sprinkling grain. The boy’s toys lay scattered on the floor: olive-colored plastic army guys dancing the architecture of war, a slingshot of a wishboned branch that he typically regarded with hesitation, for he was no cat to shoot an egg from its nest or strike a bird from flight. He admired the implement’s shape, but had no use for it. There were jacks and marbles, a solitary train. These he gathered and piled into the trunk, shoving it closed. That night the boy had slept beneath the waves of his grandmother’s dress and dreamed of the innumerable times his mother had disappeared into the woods and faithfully emerged, long hair whipping around her face, pale arms outstretched to him. Was it her hair that swept over his skin as he slept that night on the floor? More likely the hem of his grandmother’s calico dress, its unraveling threads. The old man shouted for the young sailor to come aboard. There was work to be done if they were to find the old man’s island. Over the nine months since the younger’s eighteenth birthday, the maps had been drawn and re-drawn. In the polished hull, they slept head to foot, rising in shifts to tend to the deck. Holding a rope just before dawn, the thick black around him swirled with drizzle; he could have been climbing out of the shaft of a mine. Regardless of whether they ever found the old man’s island the younger sailor had islands of his own in mind. By mid-morning, the water would be calm as a bath, a uniform gray horizon encircling their vessel. The men might forget their purpose, the lessons inscribed upon the younger by the older’s tremulous voice, and they might admire the sky as it turned violet and laugh as though both were old men. At lunch, the young sailor used a knife to crack at cans the way he had as a boy with his mother’s machete. The meal he made to share with the old sailor was familiar also: sardines on toast. When she walked into the woods he had been six. On the first day he boiled water in the iron 47
skillet, which was deep enough to cook vegetables from the garden and rice all at once. He poured the water into the garden, scalding the big toe on his left foot. The second day he pulled the slingshot out of the trunk with trembling hands and shot the bird, only to take her eggs for himself. He buried her body beneath the tree, piled her grave with forget-me-nots from the garden and a cardboard headstone colored in crayon: “Thanks for the eggs.” On the third night the boy awoke dully to the heat of his urine and blinked into the urgent brightness of the moon through his grandmother’s dress. He stole the bread and can of sardines from the open window of Mr. and Mrs. Five and Dime. Mrs. Dime snored luxuriously upstairs as the boy crept through the grayed aisles; Mr. Dime slept like the dead. The boy had stopped attending school. At six, alone, he decided to engage was too heavy a daily task. He sent a note detailing the mystery of his mother’s disappearance and the brief story of her hair. When the pointed man knocked on the door it had been nineteen days since the mother had vanished. The man had a mincing step, a pointed beard and pointed shoes. He had seen rabbits coming in and out of the opened shutters and merely wanted to address the issue. Was the boy’s mother home? The boy rocked a rabbit in his arms, black and white and newly born, shook his round head no. The pointed man was framed by branches from outside. Behind him the sun was low and violet and he cast his eyes around the room, resting them on the wall opposite from where he stood in the doorway. Rabbits shivered and stacked their bodies and the man pointed his chin at them. The pointed man was no Elder, but the boy knew it wouldn’t be long before they arrived. The hair had arrived in the fireplace the following morning. It was neat as a bundle of kindling, bound with the black cord she wore. Burn this, it seemed to say. Burn this to fill your nostrils with a pungent odor of memory and to warm yourself. Curling in ordered ringlets at the ends, golden streaks like painted glass. The boy cradled the hair in his dimpled arms. It was less heavy than he had hoped it to be, as though in leaving his mother’s head the hair had lost its properties of warmth. That night the soft moon projected images onto the wall for the boy to trace. The lines and shapes became maps of the places she might have gone: N or L or P. He saw them now on the wall, displayed by the moon’s light. Icy, wooded islands he’d not known. Sharp as India ink on the wall were the upside-down lands he had imagined, with hissing wind, glassine ponds bubbling with huge red and silver scaled fish. Hills of clouded ice. Argent castles, their polished silver turrets rising against the hills, limpid as dawn. Caverns halting the earth with cracked depths. His grandmother would have lived in a hovel like a rabbit’s, with pigs rooting in the yard. Fearing the images would be gone in the morning, the boy rose from his bed and began tracing the maps on the wall. He drew the water and the docks and the storms that threatened their carefully moored ships. The boy drew whorls of black smoke and a consuming fire--for how else would they eat or stay warm? Those who watched the fire burning through the middle of their islands would suspend their disbelief, cover their faces (pale, amber-eyed, like the boy’s mother) with handkerchiefs and silence their fear. The world would go on. The smoke would clear and the embers die and the villages would remain. But on the wall, the fires raged in faithful permanence. When the light left the room, the boy took the bundle of hair to his bed, in the straw he had 48
gathered for the rabbits, and he slept with it at his chest. The islands weren’t far beyond the horizon circling the sailors’ boat. The young man served sardines to the older man, who told him of the pleasures of a warm sweet body, as the young man who was still a boy smiled through the noon glare. When the old man was still young and the Split still fresh, pink dolphins had swum the rivers and taken to the shores of the old man’s island, adapting to the change with fur. The old man had seen them first while making love to a woman of nobility. He had been a young man then, virile enough to watch the dolphins skim like pebbles on the water without the arch-browed duchess noticing. The Elders had made their decision on the sixty-seventh day after the mother’s disappearance. The boy had turned seven and his hair was long. Eleven ribs showed through the shirt he wore, and into his hands he fixed his eyes, replaying the rotoscope of his mother and her islands privately. The boy had demonstrated sufficiency. The boy had adequately fed himself (slingshot, eggs). The boy had caused no disturbance nor committed any crimes (the night at Mr. and Mrs. Dime’s was undiscovered, perhaps salutarily forgotten). Village resources were scarce. That said, it stood to reason that the boy must engage, that the boy must not be neglected (proclaimed a withered cat-eyed woman, blue veins crossing her forehead like rivers on a map). The boy would remain at home. The boy would receive two visitors each week. Someone to help him engage (a young man in gold-rimmed spectacles: soft voice, careful laugh) and someone to assess (the pointed man, again). With the help of the gentle spectacled man, the boy had charted various paths to each of the islands, N, P and L. The man held the rabbits and suggested the boy name them. The islands or the rabbits? The boy hardly glanced behind him at the man from where he stood at the wall, tracing a faint green route. He didn’t have to wait for the moon anymore. The rotoscope secrets appeared by his own lucid will. As the young boy’s face grew longer the pointed man began making more decisions. At sixteen, the hair was to be burned as a practical measure. His mother would be ten years older now, the freckles on her nose spread with age, spiderwebs of years dusting her translucent skin. Can you even remember her face? Surely she has other children now. There was no anger even now; there never had been. The pointed man held the Split globe like the sliced half of an orange. Even now, he said, the world is larger than that wall. His mother’s hair had grown heavier over the years, retaining dust and rabbit-hair, bedded in straw and protected from the elements: the furnace of plasma raging beneath the shore, and the toxic hail that streaked the sky of their miraculously turning planet purple for two months out of the year. The saddest days had been those following the burning of the hair, in which the boy could not conjure his mother’s face at all. As the smell of burnt hair eased out of the room through the louvered shutters, flashes of his mother’s image returned to him in dreams, but only as she had appeared in the forest clearing, so many years before. He could not imagine his mother’s hair growing back in the time that had passed since he had last seen her, or extrapolate from recollection her face, curtained by heavy gold hair. It was as if the paper of this image, relied upon for too long, had disintegrated from overuse. The pointed man weighed the Split globe in one hand. He had determined an excellent 49
apprenticeship for when the time came--would the boy like to discuss it? The rabbits had grown accustomed to the pointed man. He made a show of stroking them and feeding them with earth-sodden carrots from his own neat pockets. But the boy and the pointed man had spoken this soft argument so many times already. The boy did not wish to bake bread or raise beds of beetroot and turnip or dive for pearls or trim beards with a rusty blade. The pointed man deemed a sailorâ€™s apprenticeship a less suitable appointment for the boy, not because of the watery eyes of the captain, yellow from liquor, or the negligible level of nobility awarded to the profession. No amount of nautical roughness would tarnish the boy or weaken his mind. The boy retained elegance in each movement. When the pointed man had taught him to rub the bow of the ancient violin against its greasy strings, or when together they had built a house of rocks for the boy to sleep inside of when the moonâ€™s images through the dress waving in the window saddened him too much, the boy had moved with grace. No, the pointed man objected because life on a boat would take the boy away from their village, where the pointed man admitted that he nurtured a specific type of caring for the boy, one that overran his assessment duties like watercolor. In turn, the young man, who was still mostly a boy, had dreaded parting with the pointed man. He would miss his creaking steps inside the cottage, the homemade food he occasionally placed on the table without a word, the sharp edge of his care. Indeed, the young man missed the pointed man now, as he sat in the boat in the middle of a golden sea. On the rocking boat before a sun and moon sharing a violet-edged sky, two sailors, one old and the other young, sat facing each other, both dreaming of islands.
Song for the Pomme de Terre by Jenne’ R Andrews
“My heart is a calm potato…” Robert Bly --Pommes de terre en robe des champs. “potatoes wearing a dress from the fields.”
Morning, dark coffee, the milky white light, the blind hum of the refrigerator. Le printemps, les fleurs sont plus ouvertes Les daffodils, arrivistes. Dressing without pain-four more days, probation For an uncommitted crime. Lent: None come to the Father but by me but what of the mother, Le Terre Y su canciones. Here, the mockingbird trills over thirty different patterns in addition to its own; It often calls by moonlight. Do not drink the radioactive water Sings the chary mockingbird. Our bones shine long after the moon wanes. I saw no foxes last night no flame-bright epiphany Streaking over the dark--Cheval d’Or rolling in his run, his galvanic legs nearly trapping him beneath the fence. The eighteen wheelers bear down around deadman’s curve, drivers blind or headless. A heartache eases like a cooling potato, its skin wrinkling; we sing a thousand songs Waiting here, in the garden, petite pomme de terre wearing its dress from the fields. 52
The Fisherman’s Plea by Skylaar Amann
Silky selkie sealskin, steal away with me. Fish whiskers, moaning roan eyes, row home with me. Smother your blubber pelt over me, cover me with thick fur, salt coat. Slump your trunk in the bottom of my boat. Your wet nose blows bubbles among blue baubles, glass floats, rotting seaweed, green reeds. Wrap your damp flapping fins over my dry thick skin. Hold your cold cheek near my old grey beard, rest your wet flat fluke on my tough leather boots or my pale bare feet. Empty seat in my dinghy, your singing bark haunts me, hunting sleek shadows in the waves, the caves, the grey haze of fog. Sea dog, mermaid, my eyes graze your tide pool mirror gaze, look back at me. My oar slaps the whitecaps, torn border, low tide, tide line. Scattered shells—dogwinkle, spiral whelk—tattered sea palm, bull kelp. Help me Whelpie, rise from the deep, foam lathering your leather. Slither on deck, tangle the nets, hang from the stern. I’ll dangle you in pearls, curls of sea grass, whorls of salt-white snails, velella sails, chiton chains, braids of limpet beads and vertebrae. Cosset you in brine, cradle you, coddle you. We’ll dine on plankton—rank, divine—hooked chinook guts in buckets, silver coho, scallop, king salmon, herring, crab. When night pours down, we’ll listen to the sea roar, the fog horn, the wind around the boat borne toward land. Waves lick the sand, feet stand, your fins turn bone-white hands, concave waist, curved hips, two endless legs bend and twist. Peels of wire fur off soft red lips, slim teeth within. Human skin from hide, my bride beside me. Still the tide caught forever in your deep sea eyes. 53
Growth Rings by Janet Barry
The trees in my living room
grew slowly, patiently, one taking root beneath the piano, barely putting out leaves for a year or two, and two, so close together, their trunks wrapped, twisted, until only the squirrels could tell that they were not a single pillar, a single heartwood fused about the fish tank. The moosewood, in its time, spread out its great platter leaves, and the tall white pines, dropping sappy cones on the coffee table, each shoving a wreath of roots beneath the carpet. We strung lanterns in the branches of the elm, starry winter lights as its limbs spread across the nighttime ceiling. We placed a sofa in the grove of slender birches, a rocker and two recliners, blending well with the soft hued poplars. Then the hemlock. Sprouting silently one evening in the dusky gloom, taking root in exact center. Year after year we waltzed around that tree, pretending not to notice its black silhouette, the bare dirt spreading beneath its dark branches. We swept around the edges. We planted fast growing vines and vacuumed under the lilac hedge. We cleared out the choke cherries and hung all our books in the branches of the oak; we laid a winding magazine path through the beech.
The birds come each year now, to nest in the willows. The path wanders around and around, through the great forest, and then, around, and around the hemlock, buried now in a shroud of vines, a haven for the shady underground creatures who peer out at me, waiting.
Deep in the West-fjords of Iceland - REMOTE PLACES â€“ VANISHING COMMUNITIESA Story in Pictures
Djupid is a photographic project made around the deep fjord Isafjardardjup, in the western part of Iceland,
over a period of six years. The project depicts the life of the farmers, farms, deserted farms and the landscape of one the oldest farming communities in Iceland. Where hardship and harsh weather conditions have put a mark on their daily life from the times of the first settlers in Iceland. The area is isolated and unspoilt and spectacular in its grandeur. Nevertheless, some farmers still cling to the traditional way of life rooted in the oldest settlement in the country. This community has been under decline in recent years and few farms are now inhabited. Here in Iceland as elsewhere in the world people seek to the bigger towns and cities for more opportunities in their daily life. What connects this declining farming community close to the Arctic Circle is that the same trend can be seen globally; traditions, heritage and knowledge die out since there is no one to take over the family farm. This is the story of the inhabitants, the farmers and there surroundings, who live in a remote part of Iceland. Its one of the oldest farming community's in Iceland, dating back to the settlers time. This remote cultural landscape is transformed, the organic relationship between humans and nature as well as the loss of know-how and the passing away of traditional culture is inevitable.
Not only have I traveled to countries suffering war, followed major sport events, met kings and queens, world leaders and musicians, but also realised that it takes no more than the story of a simple life of one person to make it greater than the everyday headlines of world events. Thorvaldur Ă–rn Kristmundsson
Photo index: Picture 01 (p58):
Wintertime in the deep fjords of Iceland. Once inhabited by hundreds of people and farms in every fjord, now only few remain. -2007. ( picture: a fjord with calm water and ice floating on the top)
Picture 02 (p59): Vatnsfjordur (name of the church farm), pastor and farmer Baldur Vilhelmsson. The last pastor to serve in this West Fjord farming community. With him ends a long story of priests in Vatnsfjordur, over 700 years. 2005 ( picture: a priest in front of his church)
Picture 03 (p60): Mjoifjordur. (name of fjord) Abandoned farmhouse and the remains of a small
wooden rowing boat lies still in the snow. What used to be homes to families for centuries are now only reminders of history. 2007 ( picture: in the foreground is a small boat covered with snow- behind a farm- wintertime.)
Picture 04 (p61): Ragna Adalsteinsdottir, a farmer at Laugaboli in the west fjords. She lost two of her
children and a grandchild in avalanches long ago, however, over the years she has learned to live with this tragedy. 2006. ( picture: an elderly woman sits in her living room looking out the window)
Picture 05 (p62): Sheep round-up in West Fjords. Every autumn the farmers gather their sheep from the mountains for a round-up. For more than 20 years, tens of thousands of sheep were herded every year but today it is only 6-700 hundred. 2009 ( picture: sheep in a fence, a woman looks at them)
Picture 06 (p63): Aedey island.
The young workers in the island of Aedey, get prepared to have lunch after harvesting eiderdown the whole morning. After school ends in springtime, the kids spend the entire summer helping out with farming. 2008 ( picture: three kids at the kitchen table) (Aedey island has its name from Eider duck nesting habitat )
Picture 07 (p64): Vigur island.
On the farm in Vigur island, cows are put out in the morning time to roam the island for fresh grass and some exercise. 2009 (picture: cows coming out of a house, a young girl is waiting for them)
Picture 08 (p65): Vigur island. In springtime, the Arctic Tern migrates from the Antarctic to Iceland,
flying 36.000 km twice a year. Its welcomed by farmers in the West Fjords, for the protection it brings. The farmers boy is attacked by a flock of terns when walking in there habitat on the island. 2009 ( picture: a boy with a flock of birds above his head)
Picture 09 (p66): Aedey island. Wild goslings are flocked like sheep. They are getting prepared to be put into a gosling house overnight. The farmer raises them up for one year and they are used as food for the farm. 2008 (picture: young birds in the foreground on a farm)
Picture 010 (p67): Sigmundur Sigmundsson, farmer Latrum. One of few remaining full time farmers in the community. 2005. (picture: man standing with horses. a farm in background)
Picture 011 (p68): Adalsteinn Valdimarsson, farmer Strandseljum stands in front of his old sheep
house, built over 100 years ago. He is one of the last remaining farmers in the community. 2005. (picture : man standing in front of an old sheep house, behind him sheep are running)
Picture 012 (p69): Kristjan Kristjansson, farmer Hvitanesi, has sold all his stock but remains in his farm with a few horses and a couple of sheep.
Fog by Tom DeMarchi Rob’s first-grade teacher, Mrs. Manning, sent all the parents an e-mail earlier in the week about some items that’d gone missing from the classroom. “We’re not accusing any of the children,” it read, “but we’d like parents to be aware that we most definitely have a thief in our midst. Please be sure to ask your child to take his or her personal items home at the end of the school day so we can avoid future thefts. And if any of the following items turn up at your house, please be sure to have your child return them to the rightful owner immediately.” The list includes: • Mini flashlight • Padlock • Hair clip (pink) • Barbie doll • Dora the Explorer stickers The naked Barbie lay on the table next to my water glass. When Rob brought Barbie home, still clothed in a powder blue flight attendant outfit, he didn’t try to hide her. He’d gone so far as to bring her to the table and pull off her dress. Everything else, including an uninventoried, rhinestoneencrusted fake fingernail, had been piling up in his nightstand all week. I was waiting for the right moment to mention Mrs. Manning’s e-mail. Surely she’d noted the timing of Rob’s return and the missing items. “Who’s your friend?” I picked Barbie up and put her back down almost immediately. For a long time he didn’t answer. We both sat listening to the occasional car pass the house. The heater kicked on, and Rob said, “Is that what Mom looked like?” His index finger was buried knuckle-deep in his nostril. He looked at his empty plate and gave his finger a twist. “Don’t you remember?” I picked up my fork and knife and sawed into my cold steak. “Go wash your hands and then eat up.” Rob extracted his finger, without the audible pop I’d expected, and inspected his fingertip. He reached for a roll. “Touch that and the doll gets it.” I raised my knife above Barbie’s torso. “Go,” I said. He shrugged, pushed away from the table, and zig-zagged down the hall to the bathroom. I heard the faucet turn on and off quickly. As he tromped back down the hall, flapping his hands, I looked for the limp that’d recently disappeared. I put down my fork. “Let’s see.” Rob extended his hands. I felt the dampness in his palms, nodded, and handed him a roll. He 70
took a bite and sat down. “Not really,” he said. “Well, kind of.” He reached for the butter. “It’s hot in here.” I’d recently taken to setting the thermostat at eighty. Any lower and I felt a chill. “Kind of what?” “Kind of remember Mom. Can you do this?” I buttered his roll and tried to ignore Barbie. Most of her body lay on the table surface, but her feet rested on my placemat, and this annoyed me the way it annoyed me when Joni used to slip off her shoes and toss her feet on the dashboard during the long weekend drives to the lake. I handed him back the roll and cut myself a wedge of steak that I ended up chewing like old gum. “Her hair was darker. That’s all I remember.” Rob scratched his nose and wiped something on his leg. “Slightly darker,” I managed. “How about another roll? I can butter it. Just say the word.” I scooted back my placemat until Barbie’s heels hit oak. “I’m still finishing this one.” He nibbled at the crust as if trying to prove his point. He chewed longer than it should’ve taken and stared at his plate. Finally he said, “When her hair got wet it got dark. Way darker than when it was dry. She filled the tub with bubbles and told me to sail my boat through the fog. We used to take baths together. She used different shampoo.” I wondered if Rob remembered the fog. The police said he’d floated to the surface face up and that the current deposited him on the shore with his legs still in the water—water so cold, the doctors said, that it could’ve killed him had he continued drifting. Weeks after the accident, he cried when they removed the casts, as if they were amputating his legs. Later that night, after Rob was asleep, I rinsed the dishes, set the table for breakfast, took a long hot shower, and put out my clothes for the morning on the chest at the foot of the bed. For a while I tried to read but none of the words looked like words. My eyes kept passing over pages without absorbing a single sentence, so I turned off the light and curled up in a blanket like a cocoon and waited for my eyes to adjust to the dark. Outside the wind blew. Every once in a while a car passed and its headlights scanned the room. Each time another car approached, I closed my eyes before it passed, the headlights flashing across my lids. Then I kept my eyes closed until I couldn’t hear the car anymore. This game got tiresome, so I got up and, without turning on the light, fumbled across the room and switched on my computer. While it booted up I tiptoed into Rob’s room and eased open his nightstand drawer. He lay flat on his stomach and snored. I took special care not to disturb his other loot when I fished out Barbie. Back in my room I seated her against the monitor. I pulled up Mrs. Manning’s message and hit reply. “Dear Mrs. Manning,” I typed. “Thank you for alerting me of the recent crime wave at McCarthy Elementary. To be perfectly honest, I resent the implication that one of the children is to blame. Have you recently hired a new custodian? Have you considered your colleagues? Elementary school teachers don’t earn very much. “Regardless of who the guilty party is, I appreciate the warning, and I’ll be sure to urge Rob to keep his personal belongings with him at all times. You can’t be too cautious these days.” 71
I hit send and turned off the monitor. The room went black. I sat for a long time listening for another car, and when I finally heard one approaching I watched it pass, wondering who was driving, if there were passengers, where they were going. Long after the rattle of the loose muffler disappeared, I sat waiting for someone else to drive by. The heater turned on with a whoosh, the first blast of hot air giving me goose bumps, which I took as a sign to go to bed. There would be no more passing traffic. We lived on a side street. I picked up Barbie and said, â€œItâ€™s getting late.â€? I considered putting her in my own nightstand drawer, but instead pulled her into my blanket cocoon and hugged her to my chest where it was warm.
How to Tell a Lie by July Westhale
I lived in a city that lived in a thicket of ice. There was a house with cupboards full of sand and there were our open mouths, open to catch, to catch. There was a creek in a canonical town, glass crow skies ripe, falling with night tremors where we threaded tin cans like anchors between our windows, our mouths pressed together across the Pacific. It was our buzz over taut lines, learned lines, The region there changed from bone desert to tundra through the narrow pathways of stolen mapscape, there was somebody elseâ€™s meal ticket, and as we walked our mouths netted the dirt coming through our teeth. When the dark broke out in hives behind the panes, the house became an unsafe version of what we thought we knew. And it is still, this place, everything I said it was. The wood splintering with what I told you I would do to make the sand melt on your buzz, dirt teeth gnashing down like gunfire hail on the roof, sparklers combusting franticly for celebrations we arenâ€™t a part of, but make ourselves come to, to show up, to shut our mouths that catch on the wars of windows slammed shut. 73
The Art of Patachitra (Leaf Paintings) by Shastri Akella In the darkness of pre-dawn, Kamala lights a kerosene lamp and sweeps her backyard with a broomstick. She then mops the floor with well-drawn water. She is not cleaning. She is setting up her altar. The place where she will sit to paint. “Painting and prayer are no different to me,” says Kamala. “The faces I paint are the ones I started worshipping when I first learned about God.” She brings out the bamboo leaves. She bends them a little and is satisfied with the crackling sound they give; they are now perfect to be painted on. She turns the knob of the lantern and sits down cross-legged. In the morning, she uses the knife to carve fruits or cut cauliflowers. At night, she employs it to carve faces: the bow-wielding prince Ram and the demons he fights; the crafty Shakuni who with a wicked game of dice duped the virtuous Pandava princes out of their kingdom; the lamenting Damayanti who whispers to a swan her longing for her exiled king. By sunrise, a bamboo sheet is ready with this plethora of myths that the Indian children listen to for bedtime stories and the village folk watch in street theaters. Kamala then brings out her nib. She dips it in an ink she has made with kerosene soot and crushed coal. She dips the ink into the edges of the figures she’s carved, giving their bodies, eyes, and fingers a rich black outline. She lets her painting dry over the course of the morning, and by afternoon, she carefully slices it in seven equal parts, each shaped like a rectangle and holding a portion of the story: a sword ready to deliver a just blow, a face turned away. Then, with the needle she inherited from her great-grandmother – she is amazed that a needle has seen so many years, over a hundred, she believes – she pulls a thread through the edges of the spliced bamboo leaves. Two knotted lines on each end, and she is done. She carefully folds the painted leaves that are now connected on their ends. It looks and opens like the palm manuscripts on which the ancients once inscribed their knowledge. She adds it to the bag that has a collection of eighteen such palm leaf paintings which she has been working on for a month. Bamboo leaves are stubborn; they take a lot of coaxing to yield to her pen and paintings, says Kamala. She ties the bag. The middleman will be here in a while, to buy her paintings and sell them in the city for double the rate. She does not complain. He helps her keep her tradition alive and earn enough to cook two meals a day. She looks at the sun and the shadow of her hut to tell the time. She decides she has enough time to go and offer her prayers to the bamboo tree. She ties a few coins into knot at the edge of her sari. She plods to the market to buy a packet of vermillion and coconut water; she will honor the bamboo tree with her humble offerings and prayers. She believes the bamboo god must be appeased if her fingers are to continue to channel divine faces onto leaves with ink and pen. The bus, to Kamala, is a noisy creature, and sitting inside makes her feel like she has voluntarily stepped into the belly of a beast. She clutches at her cloth bag, but not too tightly. It contains her best cotton saris, six of them, which she reserves for special occasions. There is the annual festival of 75
married women, when she goes with the women in her Brahmin community to tie a vermilion-colored thread around the banyan so the tree spirits bless her husband with a long life. Then there is the festival of lights, Diwali, where Kamala lights a few simple earthen lamps with coconut oil. In the light their wicks provide, she wears one of her favorite cotton saris, sits with her husband and watches the village celebrate with flower pots and sparklers. As the bus jolts forward, taking Kamala out of the village for the first time in forty-two years, she tries to quell her anxiety by thinking about the new body of work she has just finished. It is a series of palm leaf paintings that are done not in the black ink that binds her fingers, eyes, and brush in an ancient flourish of tradition, but in color. She departs from the traditional themes of gods and goddesses, and portrays feral creatures of the wild: deer, tiger, big-winged birds in flight, bears, and panthers in the jungles of Orissa not far from her village. “The ancients after all worshipped Nature according to the Rig Veda,” she says, explaining the narrative arc of the wild in her paintings. For these paintings, she drew her colors from conch shells, old cowries, indigo, hibiscus, and basil. The process was laborious: The kerosene burner hissed in her backyard for long hours in the night, and Kamala, sitting close by to avoid the expense of lighting a lantern, etched out the animal forms on the palm leaves. She watched the stones and leaves in the sizzling vegetable oil giving up their form to a thin line of color. Kamala carefully drew on the residual color that lined the corners of her black cauldron with the tip of her carving ink pen, filling the colors along the outlines of the leafcarvings. She watched the plumes of the bird turn blue, the eyes of the tiger turn yellow, and the body of the deer turn brown. “The middleman told me I have been invited,” says Kamala, yelling to be heard over the cacophony of bus talk. “The government has created a crafts exhibition, where they want artisans to sell their products directly to customers. I will still have to give some share to the middleman, but I get to keep a little more.” He had encouraged her to make colored plates, drawing on his experience of what he had seen. “At first I was scared,” says Kamala. I wonder if it is the color that intimidated her, the concepts of color coordination. She shakes her head. No, her mother had been an excellent teacher. She had often taken Kamala as a child to the neighboring woods to teach her form and color. “Watch the roots of a tree well, and you will paint with perfection every demon claw,” her mother had said. “Look at the lotus leaves carefully, and your hands will never flinch when drawing the eye of a Goddess.” Well, then what was it she feared? She explains timidly. “I had painted the deer and the tiger on the same parchment. The color made them look so alive that for a moment I wondered if the deer will be afraid of the tiger. If it will jump off the page and run away.” These colored paintings she keeps carefully tucked between the saris in her cloth bag. Kamala also brings along a trunk of her traditional black ink paintings, the ones that portray the gods and their pastimes, for tradition’s sake, if not just for good luck. The city of Hyderabad is a novel and altogether shocking experience for Kamala. It is the noise she first notices, the honking, and the buzz of the engines. The crowds at the crafts exhibition, on the other hand, she is comfortable with; there is an annual cattle fair on the outskirts of her village. She had 76
seen crowds throng the grounds for the entire duration of the fair. Kamala likes to observe the little intimacies between customers: a girl asking her friend how this painting will look in the drawing hall beside the sofa set, a husband asking his wife if she will like this as an anniversary gift, students debating over the portrayal of animals. Her art forms a linking chain that brings this diverse crowd together. At least that is the part Kamala likes to remember: keen eyes and busy fingers that examine her paintings. On the bus back home, her luggage is much lighter than when she left. All of her color paintings have sold out. She has also sold a major chunk of her traditional narrative paintings, a sort of validation for Kamala and the age old traditions she learned from her mother’s hand. This was her art, her form. Her family history. Kamala’s children have not adapted to her form of art. Her daughter is married to a court clerk and lives in Delhi, where she teaches Hindi at a government school. Her son is beginning to build his footing in a software company. “They have seen me work late into the night. They want an easier life,” says Kamala. “They don’t want to toil for long hours.” But Kamala is not worried about keeping the tradition alive. She believes there are two kinds of children: biological and spiritual. She will someday find her spiritual child. Someone who will embrace her art and carry it forward along with all the rituals of worshipping the bamboo trees and worshipping the atelier where her works are prepared. Now, on the bus that is taking her back to her village, as she leans her head against the bus window, to wish away the city noises that buzz in her head even after she has left the city behind, she thinks again of the deer and the tiger. She imagines the deer stepping out of the painting and leaping onto the wall and out into the city, its bamboo leaf body arresting the eyes of all who glimpse it.
The Gypsy Girls: Edicts of God An Immersive Journalism Piece by Milica Milly Stilinovic I stood staring at the gaping hole where my door knob once existed. There was no way to get into my duplex apartment. Nor was there a way to rest my weary and swollen summer feet. My pot plants were gone too - not that I was ever good at looking after them - but they were my plants and I wanted them back. With a groan I slumped down onto the warm patio and lit up a cigarette. My legs were swelling inside my jeans. Inside, the comforts of cool showering, air-conditioning and chilled pinot gris awaited. Outside, the reality was a hot stone patio burning my ass and thighs. My frustration rose as the veins in my temples and the backs of my arms started tracing heat-induced bloodlines across my skin. I was not moving. I knew they would come, on the dot, with a door knob and an explanation. Sure enough, not long after my jeans had become intolerable stove-pipes, they clambered up the stairs to meet me. Lively, dusty, gypsy girls gathered their long, floor-scraping skirts and huddled around me. “Ciao, lady,” said Angela, the oldest of the four. “Mina said her first word today. It was Dada.” Mina was the youngest of the four sisters. With large and curious brown eyes she stared at me as she sucked a mixture of dirt, jam and chocolate off of her grubby fingers. “Where is my door knob, girls?” I asked coldly. They stopped their fidgeting and scratching to look up at me. “Door knob?” Angela asked, feigning ignorance. “What’s a door knob?” I scanned all four pairs of eyes staring back at me and noticed each of them was holding her breath. “No doorknob, no lesson,” I said as I stood up and proceeded to seek shade under a Tilia tree in the back garden. I knew that taking away their afternoon reading lesson had serious repercussions. Their future as anything but prostitutes depended on the girls’ ability to learn how to read and be able to forge out for different lives. I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of shame and guilt as I pondered over the fact that the only thing protecting them from the same fate as their mother’s was the alphabet and a thin veil of makeshift underwear. This is how it began. My time with the gypsy girls. It was a tedious July day and the sun bounced off the tip of my pen as I struggled to write. It was hot. Swelteringly hot. So hot I couldn’t string a sentence together. A knock came at the door and I was relieved at the opportunity to procrastinate. I peered though the peep hole of my thick oak door and witnessed three girls gasping for air after a short run in the unforgiving midday sun had left them breathless. The tallest girl, with a shock of thick, bowl-cut and straw-blonde hair, continued her incessant 78
banging as she shouted, “Lady! Hey, lady!” The second tallest girl, dark-featured with a wirey-thin frame, clutched the hands of the smallest, whose clothing was far too big and mature for a child so young. “Maybe she’s not home?” Wirey-girl asked. Straw-blonde’s uninterrupted knocking sent thudding shockwaves though my apartment. “Oh she’s home all right,” Straw-blonde paused in her knocking to answer. ‘I saw her on her bread walk today.” Before the banging became intolerable I jerked open the door and greeted the girls with an unwelcoming “Yes?” “Oh, lady! Hi, Lady,” Straw-blonde cracked into a broad smile, displaying teeth that were as stained and unkempt as her mis-matched clothing and fingernails. “Please, we need to use your phone.” I was warned of this. Many times, locals would lecture me on inviting gypsy children into my home. They will come in and look. Before you know it, their parents will return to steal the entire contents of your home. “What do you need the phone for?” I asked. “We need to call our mother.” Wirey-girl smiled, pleading with her eyes to get her wish. “Where is your mother?” I still had trouble trusting their tattered clothes and waif-like expressions. “She’s at home.” Home to the gypsy girls and their mother was a discarded caravan bordered with metal sheeting that aided to conceal its wear-and-tear holes. Its walls were lined with milk cartons. This monstrosity stood, elbowing the main road and my street. Passing by on my afternoon walk I would often see the girls playing baseball, with tree-twigs and rolled up socks, while their mother serviced yet another lonely truck driver heading home to his wife after a long morning shift. “Well, if she’s home then you can speak to her.” I was about to close the door when Strawblonde wedged her foot between the thick oak and lock. “No, we can’t,” she pleaded. “She’s with someone and we have to warn her of the police.” Visions of my pending, bludgeoning, gypsy death swam in my brain. “Please, lady,” Straw-blonde, now begging, grabbed on to my hand. “She’s all we’ve got.” A twinge of guilt unhinged my body from the thick oak door and let them in. “Phone’s just in front of you in the hall way,” I gestured for them to enter and headed to wipe the charcoal fingerprints they left on my door knob. Straw-blonde removed a piece of worn paper from her skirts and lifted the receiver. I noticed her faltering over the numbers. She picked up the paper and attempted to match whatever number looked similar to that on the paper. The development of her body hinted to me that she was a teenager and yet Straw-blonde, just like her younger siblings, was completely illiterate. “Let me help.” I took the paper from her and dialed the mobile number scratched onto it. “Mama!” Straw-blonde shouted into the receiver. “Policija! But it’s OK - we are safe down the road.” Straw-blonde turned to thank me but I cut her short. 79
“What are your names?” I asked. “I’m Angela,” Straw-blonde answered. “That’s Christina,” she said pointing to Wirey-girl. “And the little one is Doonya.” “Why are you not in school?” “Mama says once she figures out who has the brains she will send them to school,” Strawblonde sighed. “The others stay home and have to help Mama with her work.” The hair at the back of my neck stood on end. Children being subjected to sexual servitude is not new. What is new is the increase of hundreds and thousands of children that are forced into it each year. According to the United Nations an estimated 700,000 to four million women and children, per annum, are trafficked around the world for the purposes of forced prostitution and other forms of exploitation. A good percentage of these statistics are women and children who were manipulated by a billion dollar human trafficking business. Others, especially in third world countries, are forced into sexual servitude by members of their family. “Would you like to learn how to read?” I asked the fidgeting trio. “You mean, you would teach us?” Christina smiled and smoothed the dark hair from her eyes. “If you’re keen.” I stepped outside and grabbed a twig from the Tilia tree and stabbed it into the dry earth. “See that shadow?” I asked, pointing to my attempt of a sun-dial. “When it reaches that angle come for your lesson.” The children stared at the twig, as if to memorise the shadow’s position, and nodded affirmatively. “We should be getting back to Mama.” Angela smoothed her skirt and grabbed Doonya’s hand. “See you tomorrow.” The girls snatched the twig, ran up the dusty street, and reached home in time to catch a lone truck driver fix the fly of his jeans and head home to lunch with his wife. After that, every day we sat on the warm stone steps out the front of my apartment. By the third week into their hourly lesson, the girls had proven their ability with an enviable dedication. They could recite the alphabet backwards. They could count and were now learning to read and write small words albeit with scratchy and uncertain strokes. Angela was usually the most determined out of all of them. She would even put in extra hours at home, mouthing words on milk cartons while nursing their youngest sister Mina in her arms. Lately, however, she was focusing her attention elsewhere. One day she spent entire the lesson teaching Doonya how to seductively purse and pout her lips. “Stop it, Angela!” Christina covered her ears while Angela stroked her chest. When I later asked Christina why she covered her ears instead of her eyes, she mentioned it was because she would often see her mother pursing and pouting in much the same fashion. Her mother’s seduction was often followed by the sounds of rickety bed springs popping and old beds banging up 80
against the caravan’s paper-thin walls. “I hate it,” Christina said, close to tears. “The men always stare at me.” “That’s enough!” I hissed at Angela, who was mocking Christina’s distress by twirling her straw-blonde hair and licking her lips. I wasn’t sure whether it was worry or determination, but because of Angela’s decline, she consumed my thoughts more than the other girls. Time and time again, I would see her up and down the street, hiking her skirt to flash her legs at the neighbours. She would laugh at their shocked faces as they glared at her from their car. She also had a boyfriend now whom she often spoke about but I never saw. The more she spoke of him the more I was overwhelmed by a sickening sensation that I was witnessing a mere child becoming aware of her sexuality. In this case the sickness was double-fold. Since 2004, the exploitation of children in Serbia had risen by 37 per cent. “The majority of these cases are girls between 15 and 16 years of age,” Ivana Radovic, Program Coordinator for Serbian SOS hotline Astra, told Serbian media. “Most cases believe they are engaged in a romantic affair with the manipulator. The manipulator will ask them to go on a trip, after which they will be forced into street prostitution.” Most cases are children from homes with bad living conditions. “Which makes them naive and easy to manipulate,” she said. Angela’s behaviour made me realise she believed that, no matter how many words she learned to read or write, she would still end up a prostitute. Her boyfriend, exposing her to the adult world of seduction, was grooming her for sex. As I sat gazing in searing rage under the Tilia tree, a gentle knock stirred me from my thoughts. Angela, with a look of sheer regret, stared mournfully at me for a few seconds before placing the offensive door knob beside me. She nodded and turned her face from me as she walked to take the hand of Mina who was killing ants with her plastic shoes. They didn’t come around again. My guess was that they realised they couldn’t fight against their stereotypes or change their fate. They had succumbed to the idea that they would be prostitutes - just ones that could maybe read which company the next truck driver was from that opened their door in the middle of the night. I hoped that would not be the case, but couldn’t help but feel the odds were stacked up too highly against them. “Here it is!” I leapt out of my friend’s car onto the dusty tracks of the main road and walked towards my old residence. In a country where not much had changed for seven years this street certainly didn’t follow suit. Neighbours had built extra stories above their already swollen houses. Fences were higher, land was bought, sold, and filled with the bustling sound of families sharing Sunday dinners. 81
â€œDid you find it?â€? he asked, lighting up a cigarette. I walked over to the elbow, desperately wanting to see the old caravan, children out the front playing makeshift baseball, even Mina clumsily running across the dusty yard to greet me with her grubby hands. Our lessons were not a way to change them. Their purpose was to give the gypsy girls a sense of choice. So many years later, standing on the empty elbow of the main road and my old street, I wondered if they had really been given any kind of choice at all.
by Lev Yilmaz 83
Music Break: Frank Turner Talks Sea Shanties, Storytelling, and Corrupt Lithuanian Border Guards Frank Turner is an English singer-songwriter who currently enjoys the Kerrang!-bestowed title of “Everybody’s favourite punk-rock troubadour.” While attempts to describe his style through the years have relied on such labels as “folk-punk,” “alt-rock,” “post-hardcore,” or any combination of these terms, his infectious double-time melodies and unforgettable lyrics have placed him at the forefront of the UK music scene and earned him an international following. Fans and critics alike have described his music as “inspirational,” citing his ability to speak to diverse audiences “like an old friend.” His touring mates include such acts as Flogging Molly, The Offspring, and a little-known punk group called Green Day. In February of this year, Turner sold out Wembley Arena as the headlining act, playing for a crowd of 12,000. Turner’s most recent album, England Keep My Bones (yes, an homage to Shakespeare’s Life and Death of King John), entered the UK chart at number 12 on the week of its release. He has a new, yet unnamed album scheduled for release in 2013.
BC: A young English man, Eton educated, becomes a folk-punk sensation, known for brilliant lyricism, a genre spanning and extremely catchy musical style, as well as a gritty, core-cutting honesty that bleeds out through each and every song. Can you take us from point A to point B in your own words? How did music become the centrifugal force in your life and when did you make the decision to commit yourself absolutely?
FT: Haha, well, that’s a big question. I got into music properly, rock’n’roll, at about age 11 when I stumbled across Iron Maiden. My parents are into classical music but nothing more modern than that, so it kind of blew my mind to discover this stuff. Right away I wanted to be a musician. I was in a band by age 13, started touring when I was 16. When I was at university I was touring as much as I was studying (with Million Dead), and by time I graduated I was pretty much a full-time musician already anyway. It was a gradual process, there wasn’t really a eureka moment. When Million Dead broke up I knew I wanted to stay on the road, I loved it so much, but I also needed to play a different kind of music, I was pretty soul-sick of playing hardcore there and then. So I tried out playing an acoustic guitar, and it felt right, so I kept going. The rest is history, as they say.
BC: What is the most rewarding part of your career as a musician so far? FT: The fact that I have a career. I’ve wanted to be a professional travelling musician for a really long time, and I’m more than aware that most people who want to do this for a living don’t get the opportunity, or don’t get it for long. I’m proud of the fact that I travel the world and support myself through music. That’s highlight enough.
BC: If you had to choose a different career? FT: Uh, I studied history at university and I guess I’d be pretty happy being a history teacher. I may have too many tattoos now though, haha.
BC: Your music has changed quite a bit throughout the years. England Keep My Bones seems to engage in some exploration of your own culture and heritage. How did you come to that and why? 84
What is it about the traditional songs that you find interesting or important?
FT: Well, first of all, my music changing over time is to be expected. Some people get annoyed with me for not replicating my first album over and over. That’s nonsensical to me, I need and want to develop, test new waters. As for the national identity angle, well, it’s a number of things. I haven’t lived anywhere for a long time now, and I spend a lot of time outside of England on the road, so my conception of what “home” is has become more generalized, and I think of England as a whole as home now. Also, the more time you spend surrounded by people from somewhere else, the more opportunity you have to reflect on your own nationality, and how much or how little it defines you. As I get older I feel more English, for better or worse, and it intrigues me. Traditional music I find interesting because it combines my two passions - music and history. Traditional folk music is the music of my ancestors, and I’m interested in that. It’s kind of mind-blowing to sing a song and know that many generations of people before you have sung it too, in different contexts.
BC: One of the most amazing roles any artist or musician has is the ability to retain the past/traditions and contemporize it with the future. Make this amalgamation accessible to younger generations. Do you ever see yourself in this role?
FT: Traditions, to be relevant, have to be living, so I’m very much in favor of trying to recontextualize traditional music for a modern context, whether with specific songs or more generally with the form. So, uh, yes!
BC: What is the secret to singing/songwriting in such a way that makes people want to jump up and down and sing along with their hands held up in the air. (I know this is true because I am not a sing-outloud-dancing type, and I am assaulted by the overwhelming desire whenever I listen to your songs.) How do you infuse such passion and conviction into your music? I am banking on you leading the next big revolution.
FT: If I knew the answers to this question I’d write a best-selling handbook and retire. Joke. In seriousness I’m not sure why people respond to what I do in the way they do, I just try and write what I consider to be good songs and present them well. I’m happy that people do get excited about it!
BC: With your intense touring schedule you have been described as a troubadour. I think the description suits. Would you agree?
FT: Yeah sure, why not. BC: Sailor’s Boots is one of my favorites. So beautiful. Do you think you would have made a good sailor? And any plans for more sea shanties in the future?
FT: I’m fascinated by the sea, and by the fact that, as an island, people from Britain are historically linked with the sea. I think it’s actually true, if I had been born 200 years ago, in all likelihood I would have joined the navy. I have to live by the sea, wherever and whenever I settle down (if I ever do, haha). 85
I did a little sailing when I was younger, I did OK.
BC: Since this magazine is focused on storytelling through different artistic mediums, how would you say that storytelling fits into the life of a musician?
FT: Well I’m not sure it does necessarily - there are plenty of songwriters who are not storytellers, it’s only one style to be adopted. As it happens, I do consider myself to be a storyteller of sorts. I certainly come from a family of drunken yarn-spinners. Touring is also a kind of episodic lifestyle - given that you’re usually in a new place every day - which lends itself well to anecdotage.
BC: And finally…will you tell us a story? It can be about your best day, your worst moment, your happiest random encounter. What you did yesterday afternoon. Anything you’d like to share. We would love a Frank Turner story!
FT: Probably the worst day I ever had on tour was in Eastern Europe. I started the day in Talinn. I had to get a bus to Riga, to meet a friend, and then drive to Lithuania to play a festival that evening. The bus was overbooked, so we (my tour manager and I) had to bribe our way on. Then it got stopped by cops with sniffer dogs for an hour. In Riga, I nearly lost my passport and our friend with the car ran late. The car broke down just outside Riga, but we managed to fix it. Crossing the border into Lithuania, we got our passports confiscated by corrupt border guards and had to drive 20 miles to an ATM to get some Lithuanian cash to pay him off and get them back again. When we got into Lithuania, we were driving down the highway at 80mph when we hit a deer crossing the road. Thankfully (and miraculously), no one was hurt, but the car was a write off. The Lithuanian cops showed up hours later and towed us 20 miles in the wrong direction and dropped us off at a motel run by their mates who wanted to overcharge us for a room. In the end we were rescued by our driver’s brother. Oh, and the festival we were supposed to be going to was shut down because someone was stabbed. That was quite a day...
Whippoorwill by Jesse Milner
for Win Everham
Last night when I walked the dog
I heard a lonely whippoorwill singing into the slash pine darkness. Itâ€™s been out there every night this early spring, and its cry does sound so much like its name, whippoorwill. I love the song, the way the music rides on the tropical night, a little quickening in the black woods that line our subdivision, beyond which lie acres of wetlands and mangroves stretching all the way to Estero Bay. When I was a little Baptist boy in Virginia, the night woods were filled with whippoorwills and Iâ€™m happy the singing has endured into this new century, this modern time when I am so tired of the world, and I mean the civilized world, the humming, smoking whirl of electrified lives in motion, the music of which comes from machines, allowing us to hear our voices rippling through space, even though with each hour, we have less and less to say. Whippoorwill is so bone simple, a lightness in the body, a memory still living in syllables that fly across the night, and with each step I walk toward that music, with each step, I long to whisper bird song myself. Better yet, take my body, Lord, so that I might become the singing itself and fly over the moonlit waters traced in little fingers of yellow, glimmering, simmering rivers that flow south, following gravity toward the Gulf. Is it too much to ask,
to only ask, for an eternity of hollow bones, feathers, and beautiful whispers of whippoorwill? * Alas, a scientist friend informs me it wasn’t a whippoorwill; instead the bird I heard was a goat-sucking cousin: Chuck-will’s-widow, caprimulgus carolinensis, also a nocturnal critter of the nightjar family.
And last night I went out refreshed with my new knowledge heard only silence in the nearby woods, almost as if the newly-named bird had fled, as if, it knew that I knew it wasn’t what I thought it was, yes, a feathered imposter who’d taken me back into the forests of memory. But then I wondered, what the hell’s the difference? The bird music did take me back to the land of tobacco, to a time when the very woods seemed ancient, when the world was dark and mysterious and beautiful in a way that only a child can intuit. I was a child once. There were whippoorwills, once.
So, tonight I will listen for the Chuck-will’s-widow, whose song is as haunting as the name, which makes me wonder, who was Chuck, and what is there about will that so often teaches us only about our very human powerlessness? And Christ, what about the word widow, signifier of both loss and survival?
The scientist friend tells me of a friend of his who wants to reinvent the common names of plants and animals, so that the words match up with the thing signified. A dusty-mottled orchid would be come the coke-bottle orchid,
because indeed, its slender body imitates gleaming green glass, and mottled is such an ugly word. But I tell my friend, how in the world would poetry work, if every named thing had a different name, depending upon each individual interpretation? What if I started calling Chuck-willâ€™s-widow feathered brownie, or if I called orchids flowered queens? And worse,
what if I called the sainted resurrection fern nestled in the arms of a pond cypress, what if I called that sacred bloom, creeping green plant?
Introduction to Creative Writing, Prompt Number 666: by Jesse Milner
I walked into a bar and ordered a childhood dream. It tasted like sand. And ants. Like the sand
and ants I gathered from the sandbox at the Navy base we lived at in San Diego when I was a kid. I ate some of the ants, and though they tasted bitter, it was a pleasing kind of tartness, so I filled the pocket of my brown sweater with little black ants, took them home and gave them to my mother. She kissed me on my forehead, and thanked me. But she emptied my sweater’s pocket into the dead grass in the tiny front yard and asked me to please, please, don’t bring home insects. My mom and I would laugh about this for years, and she even kept a picture of me wearing that brown sweater, smiling in some beautiful childhood park where tall eucalyptus trees waved into a blue California sky. These days, my mom is in a nursing home in Virginia. She doesn’t remember much about the life we shared when I was a skinny little kid who loved to ride his bike and dreamed about going to Disneyland. Later in my life, I walked into bars and ordered shots of bourbon and pitchers of beer. I remember when I dreamed of death, of walking out into a Chicago winter night and just lying down in the snow until it drifted over me, until I forgot everything: my childhood, San Diego, ants, my mother, and the way alcohol changes everything, brings it own forgetting, which is at first sweet and comfortable, but then it bares its teeth.
I walked into a childhood dream and ordered a bar. Once I almost drowned at Dam Neck, Virginia. I was twelve and had walked out to the sandbar before the tide rolled in and made wading back impossible. So my friend and I tried to swim the twenty yards or so to that point where our little toes might touch the sandy bottom, and in that way we might be saved. I remember tiring in the current, swallowing seawater and light, thrashing toward complete panic when a man grabbed my friend and me, carried us to safety. I barely remember this episode, but I’d like to retrospectively order that long-forgotten man a drink. I walked into childhood and ordered a dream. It was full of black bears and churches with stained glass windows that softly purpled memory with scenes of John the Baptist and his buddy Jesus. I bet John would have loved to have walked into a bar and ordered one of Jesus’s dreams, one of those apocalyptic beauties that foretold the fiery end of the world. I bet Jesus would have loved to order a cold beer on one of those forty days he spent in the wilderness.
I walked into a childhood Jesus and ordered a dream. Of salvation, sheep, eternal life, and Eskimo Pies, all whirling together into one super-dooper bar of chocolate and wooly delight that lingers in your mouth, forever. Amen.
Desiring Metaphor by Jesse Milner
I long for the security of nighttime
when darkness is a quilt, not in the sense of a store-bought blanket or any other clichĂŠ; no, the black night is a quilt hand-sewn by my grandmother on a starlit Virginia night, filled with sleeping violets and those soulful blues that can be either colors or flowers gleaming across the fields of the Lord.
The Closing by Rachel S Thomas-Medwid When they take him out they call him a tumor. Peering between the flaps, clamped open like raw chicken, they exclaim, there it is! And I want to correct, say, there he is, but I can’t because I’m asleep. Of course. No one wants to be awake when their belly is pried by a blade, opened in layers of skin and fat and secretions. Even they are surprised at what they find. After the eureka! there is a general pause, a silent oh! (lord) at what waves up at them. Or appears to be waving, for really he stopped being a person years ago. My brother. There he is in all his glory, his hair like a troll, black and unruly; this not something I had imagined. He has what resembles limbs, although flat and too sharp, maybe like a platypus. And his face. Push back the hair and there he is. Grim, contemplative, his ears blackened and shriveled like an old man’s. No one has touched him yet. One of the doctors: I’ve heard of these things, but I’ve never seen one. Not like this anyway. Another: That is quite the tumor. And yet another, this one female: That’s not a tumor. And she reaches in to feel him; his first human hand. “Fetus in fetu.” A whisper, just to herself. Maybe to me. The nurse, also whispering, checks my face first as if afraid I might hear. “Is it alive? “No. They live parasitically. It’s possible there is brain tissue, but no functioning as a human.” Then she takes the scalpel and begins to cut, wedging through the cord that links him to me. “This is good news.” She says, latexed fingers like fat worms next to his little claws. She looks at the nurse, but really is addressing the doctors. The Americans who rode airplanes for two days to witness me, who constantly check their watches as if missing something outside the clinic. “How is that good?” “The village superstitions. Once the fetus, so to speak, is gone, he’ll gain weight, grow normally. The rumors will stop.” “What rumors?” The nurse asks. “That it’s his mother’s fault. That something is wrong with her.” Then there is suction, a great wet yelp at his removal. They all take a step back with their jetlagged eyes. “How does it happen?” The nurse again. “An abortive attempt at identical twinning. Early on, this guy here was engulfed by the other. It’s very rare, a random occurrence.” She pauses to lift him higher. “Back home, they would have 92
removed him right after birth, not waited nine years.” “Why did they wait?” The nurse asks. “So long.” “Lack of resources,” she answers, turning him slowly under the exposed ceiling bulb. “Fear.” One of the doctors then: Identical?, eyeing me, my brother, pretending to compare. The resemblance is uncanny. In the air, on his own, my brother cowers like a mole, eyes nowhere to be seen. The only sound is that of my oxygen mask; a breath and a pause, another and a pause. “Someone get a blanket.” The female doctor finally says. “Wrap him up.” The nurse grabs a towel from the tray table and hands it to her. After wiping him off, hair standing electric, she swaddles his body like a newborn. Handing him to another doctor, the joker, she says, “Take him away.” In the doorway, the doctor pulls down the corner of the towel and pretends to make my brother wave. She is the only one who waves back. I want to, but of course I cannot. She turns back to the table and begins the closing. Her arm stretching high into the space above and then back into me as the others stand and watch.
The Tiger by Emily Bludworth
I hear the word orange, and I’m thinking tigers, remembering one impossibly large tiger resting on his immense side in a cage at a gas station in Louisiana. Barely visible in the dark cage, his existence rose up towards you the way a bad piece of news lifts you from yourself, and you wobble through the day a little more alive. His hot breath shot past yellow teeth, lips rimmed in black, flat tongue pink against the dirt. It smelled the way you’d think it would smell, and, like I said, we could barely see him. I watched him as long as the others would let me, shouldering out families traveling in caravan, who wanted a glimpse. Brian came back from inside and said there were dirty playing cards in a vending machine in the men’s restroom, and that was unexpected too. The swamp, green, buzzed all around us like prehistory. We’d seen, from the highway, its milky brown water, men slicing through the water in white boats. From our car the boats were silent, sliding off into shadows and byways. His fur, orange, striped, unlikely, hardly blazed but hugged his athletic body faithfully, his haunches and paws, his chest, his rib cage puffing out and in, even the dipping scoop where his abdomen met his thigh. Although he would not let me do it, if I held his head in my arms, my arms would have been entirely full. Nurses, in movies, hold the heads of wounded soldiers, pressing against their brows with a cool compress. Wounded things are more lovable than whole, so we think, until we observe the mess that pain makes. There’s a terror in things coming apart. My tiger, thankfully, is perfectly composed, laid out as if on a bed, as if he has fainted and we’re giving him a little air. My tiger, my tiger, dizzy with heat. 94
We left him there, panting on his side. In New Orleans, the little shotgun houses looked unsafe, too close to the ground. Mightily from the streets the mansions rose. In the afternoon it was hot, fans were on, and people drank in the shade of dark bars. The streets laced out in all directions. Light played over the city, filtered through leaves. We drank, I bought a dress and ate spicy soup. It was as if everything was breathing slowly, and slowly growing. I wandered as if in an ancient forest, afraid I would lose my way back. The past and the future were sliding back and forth, like luggage across the floor of a rocking ship. I wanted not just a way in but also a way out, to slide in both directions without having to choose. I didn’t want to come unhooked from the dark world.
The Gods of Touch by Karen R Tolchin I. My first time was late at night on a twin bed, the winter of my junior year at a small women’s college. “Take off all of your clothes and lie down,” he said, sweeping all of my stuffed animals into a heap on the floor. A radiator hissed and gagged every few minutes, a relic of the college’s ancient wars against the Pennsylvania cold. “I don’t know,” I said, a late-bloomer clutching her bloomers. “Relax,” he said, pushing me down. For hours, Brian rubbed everything from my earlobes to the spaces between my toes, paying exquisite attention to spots I’d hardly noticed myself in twenty years of body ownership, like the crease of an elbow and the plane of a hip. I was no virgin, yet he handled my body with such profound reverence, I might as well have been draped across an altar. Miracle of miracles, he wasn’t interested in trading places and having me reciprocate. I’d been running after the popular boys for years, but I could never relax in their company, convinced they were all prettier than I. They fueled this fear with off-hand observations about my body in a state of undress. “Wow, you’re very pale for a brunette, aren’t you?” one guy had asked me. This was back in the eighties, when girls were still using baby oil and aluminum reflectors to cultivate tans. Flicking the small mole at the base of my left ear lobe, another had just said, “Huh.” “Wow, that’s some bush,” my uncircumcised high school boyfriend—a ringer for Bono, the coolest of the cool boys—once said to me. “Ever think about trimming it? Can I do it?” I was horrified, humiliated. I thought only porn stars gave themselves that sort of haircut. I’m Jewish, but it never would have occurred to me to complain about his own uncut status. While I ought to have been enjoying my flat stomach and other fleeting attributes, not to mention savoring the cool boys’ bodies, I fretted over my perceived flaws. Brian was fashioned from different, less socially assured cloth, but there was nothing hesitant in his touch. His full-body massages became a prelude to the first good sex I’d ever had, no doubt because they shut off my brain. What sense was there in racing behind, to the past, or ahead, to the future—or worse, to Christie Brinkley modeling a swimsuit in Sports Illustrated—when there was so much pleasure to be had in the present moment? Finally, a way to be Zen. “More,” I told him. “Again!” I made him do it over and over, after that first night. Once I knew what to want, I was voracious, insatiable. Until then, my body had been more a site of pain than pleasure. I was a neurotic, psychosomatic girl. “A pleasant girl with lots of nervous energy,” a gastroenterologist once dictated into a recorder 96
about me, in my presence. The fact that I needed a gastroenterologist in my teens says more than I ever could about my rampant anxiety. Brian didn’t own sneakers, believed social programs were for suckers, liked (on occasion) to lick my eyeballs, and made disconcerting comments about knowing how to dispose of human bodies with bags of lime, Mafioso-style. Yet it took me a full three years to extricate myself from the relationship. He was my first god of touch. II. I had been told that the blind were especially gifted at it, touch being one of the senses that grows to fill the space left by sight. I was in my mid-twenties and had never paid for it. My mom found a man at a YMCA in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and booked the appointment. We were visiting my brother Charlie, who was waiting for a double lung transplant. Without a cure for cystic fibrosis, Charlie’s options were limited. “Third door on the right,” the man at the desk told me. “Take off your clothes, get under the sheet. He’ll knock in a few minutes.” It happened in a windowless, cinderblock room painted a glossy white. The air stank of ancient gym socks and pine disinfectant. He was old with wild eyebrows, a wide girth. Despite his blindness, I felt awkward lying naked before him under a thin sheet. “Anything in particular you want me to focus on?” he asked. “Yes, please,” I said. “My neck seems to have locked in the lefthand position.” I nattered on about Charlie for a while. “You see?” I might as well have said. “I’m not some spoiled girl looking for a spa treatment. I’m in real pain. I have stress.” As if a YMCA massage were a luxury item, as if massage therapists were a judgmental group, as if general wellness couldn’t be enough of a reason. As if conjuring psychosomatic pain to mirror Charlie’s legitimate disease could do my brother one ounce of good. It would take a long time for me to understand the connection between stress and back pain, to know that anxiety couldn’t be any part of the treatment because it was the root cause of the disease. “Might as well light your cigars with hundred dollar bills,” as a used car salesman in Altoona, PA, once said to me about buying new. I couldn’t help searching the blind masseur’s clouded eyes as he tried to coax my muscles into a less aggressively guarded stance. “Was it good for you?” I wanted to ask him in a jocular way when it was over, knowing it wasn’t. How could it be? The man was stuck in a concrete box, impervious to any beauty in the women who stripped before him day after day. Oedipus of the Young Men’s Christian Association, doomed to a life spent rubbing the necks of co-dependent young Jewish women. Breathing in the sweat of games won and lost long ago. III.
The worst one I ever had was in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1999, where Charlie was competing 97
in the Winter World Transplant Olympic Games. I’d nearly crippled myself during my first day skiing with him. He was in far superior shape than I despite having two new lungs and a freshly healed sternum. Watching Charlie glide through the giant slalom as a competitor, I began to let myself believe in his good health. My wounds were athletic as opposed to self-inflicted—clear progress for me. Alone in the moonlight, I drove our rental car through a mathematical suburban labyrinth. 115 West Southeast 44th Terrace, 247 East Northwest 14th Place… I’d have fared considerably better with directions that asked me to scan the Rockies for a speckled boulder shaped like Eleanor Roosevelt. Eventually, I found my Mormon masseur in a split-level. As he led me down a flight of shagcarpeted stairs to his basement home office, a grisly headline loomed before me: “Jewish Tourist Lured to Her Death via Dismemberment by Promise of Discount Massage. Got What She Deserved for being Decadent/Cheap.” The masseur brought out a medieval set of vibrating paddles to apply to my spasming hamstrings in lieu of his hands. He discouraged me from disrobing. I endured the paddles through my corduroys for as long as I could. “I’m sorry,” I said, struggling up onto my elbows, “but I think the treatment might be more effective without those things.” He flipped the “off” switches on his paddles and frowned at me, his be-paddled hands like massive bear claws. “The paddles are better,” he said. He reached for me once again as the machines began to whine. As I lay there feeling no relief, I realized with unusual clarity, “This man does not want to touch my body.” It was the first time such a thought had ever occurred to me. I had encountered criticism but never outright rejection. He was Pygmalion, repulsed by my flesh-and-blood form. At least I knew I would survive the encounter, since murder requires a certain intimacy. Seven years later, my Utah massage came back to me when I read the French philosopher Bernard Henri-Lévy’s travel narrative American Vertigo. After a (sanitized, touch-free) Vegas lap dance, Henri-Lévy wrote, “Such is the wretchedness of Eros in the land of the Puritans.” When I wanted to be touched, I should go looking for Bernard Henri-Lévy, a European sensualist unfettered by American religious dogma. A fellow believer in the sanctity of skin on skin. The truth, though, is that he’s a sexy French celebrity surrounded by the most beautiful brunettes on the planet. Alone in a hotel room with Henri-Lévy and my neuroses, I’d probably make the Puritans seem like porn stars. IV. Eros is alive and well in Miami, Florida, drunk on the scent of bougainvillea and rainstorms and mojitos, like everyone else. I saw him before he saw me. He was sitting on the steps outside his office on Las Olas Boulevard, waiting for me in a form-fitting black t-shirt, yoga pants, and espadrilles. Robert gazed off in the distance like a hot, Latin version of Rodin’s “Thinker.” I had followed a Coast Guardsman south, hoping for a rescue, inevitably needing a rescue from 98
my rescuer. I was thirty-three, the same age as Christ when he wandered in the wilderness and was crucified. Put simply, my sense of high drama endured. I was paying people to touch me on a weekly basis. It was as much intimacy as I could take. The popular expression is “Spa Whore,” but I always felt more like a John. I went into rooms with countless strangers, took off my clothes, and paid other people to make my body feel good for an hour. Eros kept me on his table for nearly twice my allotted time, and I wondered, when his hands grazed my (immaculately trimmed) bush—twice, three times—under the auspices of thigh work, if this was deliberate. I sat and talked with him for too long afterwards, some awkwardness returning to my liquefied form as I wondered what he might or might not want with me. What could anyone possibly want with a young, neurotic divorcée? “What a whore my ex-wife turned out to be,” Robert told me over dinner. As he elaborated bitterly on his ex-wife’s vicissitudes and boasted about tax evasion, I couldn’t hide my dismay. My healer was broken. I was forever romanticizing rescuers and healers, and they were forever revealing themselves to be mere mortals. Still, he gave me a lasting gift when I told him I was flying home to see my brother, who was ill again. After six years, Charlie’s body was rejecting his new lungs. Forget the giant slalom. My brother could no longer negotiate a single flight of stairs. “Do this when it gets to be too much,” Robert told me. He took my index and middle finger and showed me how to press them firmly against my chestbone, about four inches north of my sternum, and release. “I don’t know why. It just helps.” A month later, my brother was dead. Eight years later, I still take my index and middle finger and feel for the same spot absently, when I’m grieving. I press firmly and release. V. I should only be with women. Now that I’ve reached my forties, solid wisdom has (finally) arrived in the form of this epiphany. An hour south of San Diego, in Baja Mexico, there is a spa called Rancho La Puerta. It’s at the base of a mountain. They feed you organic vegetarian Mexican food, and you choose between hiking, arts and crafts, Pilates. A few enlightened men see Rancho La Puerta’s value, but it’s mostly sleepaway camp for women. Rich women, hectic women, broken women, earnest women, casual women, yogic women—I’ve been all of them except rich. My mother always brings me as her guest—a real gift, especially when you consider that she finds the average spa treatment about as pleasant as a waterboarding. All it takes for her is a good murder mystery and a hammock. An elderly Shoshone called Grandfather Raven used to offer “Drumming Circle,” but doesn’t anymore. He once offered a bunch of us a handful of semiprecious stones from a leather pouch. I picked out all blue stones while he flirted with a wealthy, peppy blond in her mid-sixties. “What should I do to feel happier?” I asked him, enacting the dual roles of Broken/Earnest Woman. He broke away from the blond just long enough to consider the stones in my hand and take back a couple of the blue ones. He tossed a few red and orange ones into my palm in their stead. 99
“That should help,” he said, before turning away. Apparently, peppy, blond, and wealthy will trump anxious, dark, and struggling every time, even with holy men. I frowned at my palm. I had liked the symmetry of my Variations on the Theme of Blue, drunk on the aesthetics of sadness. Was it really as simple as choosing passion and light instead? In the private treatment rooms at Rancho La Puerta, round Mexican women with strong hands have poured locally grown rosemary-infused oil on my head and braided my hair. They’ve pushed steaming river rocks along the intricate tendons and muscle fibers that crisscross my back. They’ve scoured my skin with salt rubs, rinsed me over a table, and swaddled me tightly in warm towels. It’s not hard to see why my mother finds spa treatments torturous, but to me, each one is sublime. I’ve padded around a quiet building full of terra cotta tiles, yarn art paintings, French doors, and women in white robes sipping lemonade. I’ve worked to quiet my fears of the postcolonial implications of me, a white woman, taking so much healing from so many women of color. I’ve tipped too much and praised every practitioner’s skill with an effusiveness bordering on the grotesque. I’m trying to get it down to a single, heartfelt “Muchas gracias.” With women, I’m neither a whore nor a John, neither sinner nor saint. While I recognize that not every male practitioner would view me as a sexual object, and that, conversely, not every female practitioner is heterosexual, I’m different in female hands. I think about different things. I try to be an infant being mothered, and mothered well, possibly by Gaia herself. Infants gradually allow themselves to be kneaded; mothers allow themselves to be needed. It’s about touch and communion, and it can feel sacred. Gaia has quite a belly on her, too—the sort of belly that can deliver the entire world—and, one might expect, a correspondingly large bush. In her hands, I feel more at ease taking up a little extra space in the world, with my own Caesarean pouch and scar. As the mother of a young child, I can no longer go to Mexico for a week with my own mother, but I can and do seek out strong, local women who possess the same talent for calming my body. My fight against cystic fibrosis turned out to be a lifelong struggle, as—despite my best efforts to keep from passing along the disease—my son Charlie was born with the same blight that shortened his uncle and namesake’s life. I am told that I must pace myself and tend to my own body and spirit with care, if I am going to be of lasting help to my son. Somehow, it’s easier to allow myself the pleasure if I contextualize it this way. In the hands of healing women, it seems churlish not to accept so much goodness, not to let myself feel something akin to calm. I’m able to let go of the old body vigilance that always complicated my progress with male practitioners. It is surely a gross oversimplification of the world of gods and men, but it can ease my suffering all the same. Driving home, I slide my hand inside my shirt. I feel for the place four inches above my sternum. “Press down,” I whisper to myself. Then I release.
Silvery Day by Amy Glasenapp
In the morning, she receives a mysterious phone call. “Hello,” she whispers, whiskey breath fogging up the mouthpiece. It’s an old rotary phone, the kind with the spring cord, yellow. There is no answer. Blinds fall shut with a windless fffwip. She unsticks her feet from the tile, hangs up. Traffic hums thirteen stories down, and the old man at the corner brays his harmonica under clouds that refuse to part. She can’t see him, he can’t see her. He never sees her. From the kitchen, the stainless steel voice predicts another silvery day. She feels the cameras on her, each one twisting in its jointed mount, but she cannot see them. The daytime is merely a case of electric lights penetrating the orifices of a dollhouse, and she never knows whether her back is turned, or if she’s facing forward. Something like hot breath spreads across the back of her neck, dampening the skin. In a moment, she’ll start to paint her face.
The Aluminum Lady by Matthew Dexter
On the beach where the waves crash against the shore watching orgiastic tourists and the porous opening where vendors see money glowing in the pupils of foreigners; that’s where I sit, unemployed and happy; if not lonely…it would be perfect. They are workers of all persuasions: eighty year old men who will never retire trudge ten miles every day holding ironwood carvings tied together around their necks while their wives peddle painted ceramics so heavy that the women no longer feel the weight, only listen to the instruments clinking as they march. The lines on their faces are a labyrinth that leads them onward, often days without any sales; they never complain. There are also the young: children forced to sell trinkets because their parents refuse to work, unable to attend school, the boys and girls are the breadwinners. In between are all ages, the ones who sell silver in black cases. They also sell marijuana and cocaine for exorbitant prices to tourists who don’t know how to find the local tiendita. “Hola amigo,” they say. “Hola compa,” I say. They hold the bags in the palm of their hands; make two hundred pesos instead of carrying the heavy stuff like a donkey. All the vendors wear white; they are the mules of the beach, trying to survive while skinny American girls burn the top of their breasts and haggle over the price of a sombrero. “Ten dollars,” the girls say. “Nothing more, don’t screw me.” “Eleven,” says the old man just trying to feed his family. The girl waves the crumpled bills in the man’s face and adjusts the strings of her bikini. Her nipples are her negotiation leverage; they always have been. She rubs lotion on her shoulders and walks into the ocean. The man approaches others; most shun him like a pariah and he focuses on the silhouettes being pushed by the sinking son toward him. His daughter is pregnant. The electricity bill is due. The crescent curvature of the land so majestic he hardly notices anymore. Most potential customers are rude, exasperated by the pervasive salesmanship that permeates like paradisiacal cockroaches. “Como estas compa?” I ask. “Bien, bien,” they say if they just sold something. In the summer it is, “Mal, no hay gente.” I try to make small talk in Spanish, invite a beer if I have one. They are busy men. There is plato and mota to sell. “You want some coca?” they ask. I ride a wave back out to sea, watch a manta ray making love to the freedom, six feet above the surface. 102
“Nunca mas,” I say. “Tal vez doce años en el pasado.” He nods when I tell him that perhaps a dozen years ago I would be thrilled to purchase some blow. Those days made it impossible to work, utterly unemployable; we drink our cervezas and watch the sweat of vendors dripping into the sand. “Que chido,” they say. “You see the sting ray?” I feel it burning into my lungs, the yearning to work, but unable to return to the infirmary from the crack. I came down to Mexico to die. The American dream is not only dead; it was decapitated by the Zetas. I am not retired because I am too poor to be. I sleep on the beach and eat from the trash cans. Sometimes I have to wrestle greedy pigeons for the Styrofoam. Those winged bastards think they have a claim to it just because they use their decrepit beaks to peck holes in the containers. My forehead, cheeks, and chin are scarred from savage birds. One day I will start eating the seagulls instead of the leftover frijoles and guacamole in the trash bins. “Hola señora,” I say to the only woman who understands me. Every night she hunts for aluminum cans and stuffs them into her bags. She does not care about the dirty glances she receives or the smell that exudes from her wrinkled flesh. She is the woman who has no name. She punches the winged demons and sometimes knocks them dead on the sand. Mortality is nothing to a Mexican. They are religious, with faith and a deep conviction of an afterlife. I wonder if there will be empty beer cans in the afterlife. Will the woman crush them against her skull to impress tourists? Will that one tooth that remains ever fall out? “Como estas?” I ask the lady. She never answers. The ants crawl across her fingers as she dumps out some Coca-Cola. The moon rises higher over the sea and the drunks get loud as they pile into their vehicles and drive away. The men have long since taken apart the beach tents, hitched the wave runners to the back of their trucks. I am alone again, on the dunes, unemployed. “Nobody wants a crack-head as a nurse,” the headmaster told me. Now the ocean is my mistress and the sand is my pillow. Blanketed by dust, serenaded by crickets and the stars so close, I trace the lines on my face, the constellation Ophiuchus: the only zodiac worth following; and a thousand miles from the border, battling crabs for the good spot to sleep, I wait for the new dawn. Morons drive to work in steel coffins and drink coffee, toiling their entire existence so they can build a diminutive empire that they are too old to enjoy. Bird shit. But the garbage is all a man needs. It does not judge.
Music Break: Old Man Luedecke: the Banjo Maven of Nova Scotia Talks to BC about Bicycling Tours, Forging a Career in the Folk Industry, and the Potential Dangers of Train Hopping
Old Man Luedecke, is one of Canada’s best loved and most intriguing roots singer-songwriters. His memorable melodies, poetic sense, and easy charisma appeal to anyone searching for new growth from old roots. His music has been wholeheartedly adopted and is becoming representative for its traditional storytelling folk elements. It speaks to a new generation of people craving such meaning in their music. Old Man Luedecke has received great recognition for his works, including Juno Awards (The Canadian Grammy) for “Proof of Love” and “My Hands Are On Fire and Other Love Songs.” http://www.oldmanluedecke.ca/
BC: So, to begin, tell us about your transition from college student in Montreal to professional banjo player.
OML: University was an inspiring and liberating place. When I had enough, I decided I wanted
to go read books in the Yukon. I went to Dawson City, an old Gold Rush town, with a rich and recent history. I fell in love with my wife and followed her down to Vancouver. I bought a banjo on a whim and taught myself to play 1998, mostly using recordings and resources from libraries. I had been searching for a long time for that sort of outlet. Within a year the rhythm of the banjo had taken over my life and provided a channel for the things that I had to say, a unique place to find my own voice. I wrote a handful of songs the first year and have been writing them ever since. Writing songs became a means for me to find my way into the instrument. After a few years, I realized that this was what I wanted. Becoming a performer. I became addicted to the live performance.
BC: Why the banjo in particular? OML: The banjo seemed uncluttered and lonely without lots and lots of baggage. The field
recordings that I listened to through the library were of people who played solo. There was no industry. No celebrity. I see folk music as basic and honest. Once you start selling records you move out of folk genre.
BC: Then you could be considered an anomaly? OML: Haha. Yeah. I guess I sell a few records. But I’ve made my own way. No one has ever looked at me with dollar signs in their eyes. In the beginning, I booked all of my own tours. My wife and I did a bicycle tour: I painted a sign, put a banjo on my bike, and booked a bar tour around Nova Scotia. I won some large tours. A few awards.
BC: A few huge awards. Congratulations on the Junos. Have you ever thought of doing a train hopping tour?
OML: Train hopping? No… never really crossed my mind. I’m too meek. BC: It’s very evocative of the romanticism of traveling banjo players. OML: Sure. Haha. But I think trains go much faster now. And the banjo weighs about 10 lbs. Maybe if I had a guide.
BC: I think that might negate the coolness. OML: Would it? Oh well. I mostly travel in cars now. I’m often alone on the road. There is an aspect of travel to folk music. One of the features is that it’s a social endeavor. Getting out there 104
and meeting and having a connection with people. I create these things in a kind of solitary tortured environment and then run around and share them and that makes me happy. That seems to tap into the history of the music. People always talk about what we’ve lost, but really… that aspect is pretty vital and ongoing.
BC: You’ve recently had twin daughters. How has that changed your perspective of life? OML: Having children has allowed some memories of my earliest excitements to come back.
Possibility and excitement. On the one hand, I know that I have two kids living on the single income of a banjo playing folk musician. However, love seems to surround and enrich all of my endeavors. The world seems more vibrant, writing is more vibrant, reading is more vibrant. It’s completely changed my outlook. There’s a washing in hopeful memories that has never happened to me before. Previously I haven’t really had the time to look back.
BC: What kind of traditions would you like to pass on to them? OML: Well, of course the arts… but I hope that they find on their own that this is a roaring environment. I want them to choose their own paths and find delight in everything.
BC: How did your parents take your decision to become a professional banjo player? OML: Well, they’re pleased now. What parent would support their kid on embarking on a banjo
career? They follow my career more closely than I do. They know when and where I’m playing, and if something has been written about me. It’s come around in a nice circle.
BC: Your songs often display the simple complexity of nature and an optimism that doesn’t sound naïve. How do you manage that?
OML: I work hard in a way to express things that sound truthful and not just like, yeah, life is
good. The difference between good writing and bad, basically everyone is writing about the same stuff, is whether it sounds like it means anything or whether it sounds like everything you’ve ever heard before. I am always trying to find a way of expressing the complexity of things and not ever leaving my audience behind, because it doesn’t seem that cut and dry to me.
BC: How does audience interaction and telling stories play a role in what you do? OML: It’s a big part of my show. I usually tell tangential stories that connect in some way to my songs. It’s something that I value. Yeah, it’s a huge part. Very important.
BC: Some of your songs, such as The Palace is Golden, have a very fairytale/folk feel while dealing with contemporary situations. Is that on purpose?
OML: Well that song in particular was describing where we were living and how lucky we felt.
People in blues and folk music often re-use and recycle verses and themes. I wanted it to evoke this idea of a mythic time and place although it was contemporary.
BC: It’s one of my favorites OML: Yeah, it’s a heartbreaker BC: Speaking of topics of particular songs, have you cooked anything special lately? OML: I made enchiladas at lunch. I don’t like pancakes, so I’ve made them three times in the last week trying to get over my aversion.
BC: Between touring, writing, and babies, have you had the chance to read any books that you really liked lately? 105
OML: I recently read East of Eden by John Steinbeck. I thought I was over him but I’m not. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, and Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.
BC: And finally, do you have any life advice for people still trying to find their own place in the world?
OML: There’s a huge amount of time and work that goes into waiting for the good stuff. It’s about hard work and also letting go of the hard work. The payoff is usually what is happening while you’re paying attention to something else.
Where Did It Go? by Frances Saux
They were sitting away from the fire, and away from the ocean churning. “This guy I knew once took a burning piece of paper from a bonfire. We were in the circus together, and one night it went crazy and they burned all the books and when they went to bed, he and I saw that one paper still intact, and he just reached in and grabbed it. Almost caught himself on fire. He swears he felt his skin bubbling. And it was a page from his diary someone must have taken out, but a page from years ago. It said, ‘Today, I sent a letter to Audrey telling her about the acrobats and their tight-fitting costumes and their wigs, hoping she’d get jealous. God, I miss Audrey.’” “Who was Audrey?” “Some girlfriend, I guess. He never bragged about her. She must have been really special.” Tanto spread his legs out on the sand, letting it into the cuffs of his dress pants. He wished he hadn’t worn them to the beach. Or the tie. He felt knotted down in his work clothes. He remembered going to the beach shirtless and in bellbottoms, sweating it all off by the fire. Sam looked over at him. “What was the circus like?” Tanto shrugged. “You’ve seen it. It was bright, inside and out. And we slept in cot. It smelled. Not like this.” “Yeah, this town’s really taken off.” Tanto shrugged. “I guess it has. But people don’t have fun anymore. And the schools are so strict.” “Yeah but, you know, kids these days,” Sam said. The kids were sitting in a circle around their small fire, dressing their palms in the warmth. They laughed a bit through the thickness of their sweaters. Tanto picked out his daughter, in the jeans and turtleneck, testing a cup of cocoa with her bottom lip and pulling back when it was too hot. She set it down at an angle in the sand. Sometimes he forgot she was thirteen, and well into thirteen as of that, growing out of the age like she’d grown out of her childhood jumpers. She just didn’t look—Tanto squinted to see her across the fire—she didn’t look like he remembered thirteen looking. Back in his day, in this town, there were swearwords in the streets, and thirteen was when he stayed out much past nine with his friends in the leather coats with the sleeves too long and looked for graffiti on the wall behind the bar. When he was thirteen, the bars would crowd on weeknights, all night, with adults in red dresses and some with beards and red-flavored drinks. This town didn’t have bars anymore, Tanto thought. Or if it did, they were ghost bars. “Why don’t we ever go out for a drink anymore?” Sam shrugged. “We’ve all got kids now. And jobs.” Tanto nodded. “And wives. What was the name of that one place, off of Grove?” “The Neon?” 107
“Right. I always told myself I’d go there when I was old enough to get away with it, but I never have. I wonder why.” “You ran off to the circus.” “Yeah.” Tanto scratched his arm. He ran off at sixteen, one year when the circus stopped on Main Street and the whole town emptied out into the audience to watch. He’d been practicing tricks all summer, turning flips and dives in the heat and winning bets so he could buy himself a ticket to somewhere in case the ringmaster turned him down. Now, out of nowhere, this town was a somewhere. They had a real downtown, with actual office buildings. People stopped at red lights. Nobody spit out the window when the president came on television. “So what ever happened to the guy?” “Huh?” “Who burnt his hand?” “Oh. Him. He wrote to Audrey—with his bad hand, his good hand was injured pretty bad— and she never answered him. In the meantime, he learned to juggle seven balls with just his left hand and his foot. And at some point we passed through the village he was from and he went running in the crowd to find her.” “Sounds like a dedicated guy.” “Just young.” “I’m guessing he didn’t find her in the crowd.” “No, he did. But she’d grown up and was carrying the child of some bank teller and she looked exhausted from hours of dishwashing at restaurants.” “That’s too bad for your friend. But real life’s got to get you at some point, right?” “Well actually, they ran away together the next day. They raised the baby in a beach house somewhere around here and I saw them once, and then never again.” Sam turned to him. “You made that part up.” “Yeah, that’s what someone would say these days.” Sam bit his lip. “Well nothing crazy ever happened to me like that. I went to college, met Day, married her.” “Yeah, but you grew up in the city. Things are expected of you there.” Sam nodded, in place of understanding. Sam wouldn’t understand, Tanto thought. He was surely a great father; a good husband, too. But was the kind that liked supervising the kids at their parties and driving them home from school. Back in the day, Tanto remembered, they walked home from school, and they took their time. Back in the day they didn’t have places to be like they did now. Sam stared at the teenagers, faces young and red with heat. “They’re really growing up, aren’t they. Going to be in their own cubicles soon.” “Not quite there yet,” Tanto said, “but getting there. Yes, getting there.” He watched his daughter knock the cup over with her elbow and giggle, and soon the whole 108
circle was giggling without knowing why. It was like burning the books in the circus; someone started it and then it didn’t make sense, and that didn’t matter. “They’re the only loud and impulsive thing left in this town,” Tanto said. “You should be careful. They’re getting to be the age where soon they’ll go and run away to the circus.” Tanto laughed. “What’s there to worry? Haven’t seen a circus around in years.” They sat back in silence and Tanto watched the fire burn, and then watched the water, feet from the fire, walking nearer, walking nearer.
The Good Life by Ashley Ellen Goetz
a lot smoother when you listen; makes you giggle a tad longer when you play; Life gets dipped in meaning when you look in color; warm and fuzzy; knit into the community; knee deep when necessary; Life; sky high when required; Life; best when dressed all up in the flow; Life; never forgotten when moments are captured on paper; Life; with keys at least;
a pretty thing pinned down; untumble your brumbles; make memories permanent. Fin.
A special dedication to Ashley Ellen Goetz, a friend, editor, and amazing person who inspired many and was taken away far too soon.
About Our Contributors: Shastri Akella worked at a street theater troupe and at Google for five years before taking a break to pursue an MFA at the UMass (Amherst). His work has appeared in a national daily in India (The Hindu) and has been longlisted for the Oxford E-Author competition. He heads the editorial committee of ‘Inked’, the journal produced by the English undergrads of Umass. His stories are forthcoming in the &Now Paris conference and Danse Macabre. Skylaar Amann is a poet and artist living in Portland, Oregon. Her poetry has recently been published in Cirque, Sea Stories, and Prime Number. She writes regularly on the subjects of the sea, love, and chronic pain. www.skylaaramann.com Jenne’ R. Andrews: Since her early publication in The Little Magazine, Café Solo, The Lamp in the Spine and Ms., Jenne’ R. Andrews has been heralded for her dazzling use of language and the emotional power of her work. Her poetry has appeared in numerous quarterlies and literary magazines including The American Poetry Review, The Seneca Review, The Bloomsbury Review, The Colorado Review, The Ontario Review, and a poem appears in the fall issue of The Adirondack Review. Her published collections include Reunion, Lynx House Press, Chris Howell, editor and chapbooks In Pursuit of the Family, Minnesota Writers Publishing House edited by Robert Bly, and The Dark Animal of Liberty, Leaping Mountain Press, James Grabill and John Bradley, editors. She is a fellow of the NEA and earned the MFA at Colorado State. Gina Balibrera is an MFA Candidate in Prose at the University of Michigan. Originally from San Francisco, she’s also lived in Tucson, Barcelona, Singapore and Bogotá. Janet Barry is a musician and poet, with works published or forthcoming in a number of journals and anthologies including Ragged-Sky, Off-the-Coast, Cider Press Review, Canary, Tygerburning, and the Christian Science Monitor. She has twice been judge for Poetry Out Loud, and received a Pushcart Nomination for her poem “Winter Barn”. Janet holds a BM in organ performance and an MFA in poetry. Jonathan Bellot is pursuing an MFA in Fiction at Florida State University. His fiction and nonfiction has appeared or is forthcoming in The New Humanism, Transnational Literature, BIM: Arts for the 21st Century, and Black Lantern Publishing. He was born in 1987 in Cincinnati, Ohio to Dominican parents, and has lived in Dominica since he was nine. For two years, he has been a member of a committee in Dominica helping to organize the Nature Island Literary Festival, an acclaimed festival on the island that has featured such renowned Caribbean writers as Derek Walcott and Kei Miller. Eleanor Leonne Bennett is a 15 year old photographer and artist who has won contests with National Geographic,The Woodland Trust, The World Photography Organisation, Winstons Wish, Papworth Trust, Mencap, Big Issue, Wrexham science , Fennel and Fern and Nature’s Best Photography. She has had her photographs published in exhibitions and magazines across the world including the Guardian, RSPB Birds , RSPB Bird Life, Dot Dot Dash ,Alabama Coast , Alabama Seaport and NG Kids Magazine (the most popular kids magazine in the world). She was also the only person from the UK to have her work displayed in the National Geographic and Airbus run See The Bigger Picture global exhibition tour with the United Nations International Year Of Biodiversity 2010.Only visual artist published in the Taj Mahal Review June 2011. Youngest artist to be displayed in Charnwood Art’s Vision 09 Exhibition and New Mill’s Artlounge Dark Colours Exhibition. 112
Alyse Bensel is currently pursuing her MFA in poetry at Penn State. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in MAYDAY Magazine, Cider Press Review, and Foothill Poetry, among others. When not engaged in her teaching and studies, she volunteers for a cat rescue and participates in a work-share program at a local CSA farm. Emily Bludworth is a former high school teacher (go Panthers), and a yoga instructor. Her work has appeared on radio and in print, published most recently in Goldfish. A native Houstonian, she currently studies and teaches at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. James Brock has published four books of poetry, his favorite being nearly Florida, published by Anhinga Press in 2000. Anhingas are also his favorite waterfowl. His current acting gig is playing Lucifer in Barry Cavin’s Faustus Burns Brightly, where he gets to wear painter stilts and channel Nosferatu and Liberace. Meghan Byrnes is a freelance artist, writer and pretend scientist living in a magical lake house in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains. She is most interested in the overlap between art, mysticism, and natural science, and is currently working on writing and illustrating her first children’s book. These selfportrait photographs are preliminary test shots for the book’s illustrations, which will be completed in two-toned charcoal and pastel. Tom DeMarchi teaches at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Florida. His work has been published in a variety of journals, newspapers, and magazines. When not teaching or sleeping, he’s directing the Sanibel Island Writers Conference (www.fgcu.edu/siwc). Matthew Dexter: Like nomadic Pericú natives before him, Matthew Dexter survives on a huntergatherer subsistence diet of shrimp tacos, smoked marlin, cold beer, and warm sunshine. He lives in Cabo San Lucas. Hilary Gan was born in the backwoods of the Empire State and sentenced to a lifetime of walking into furniture. She moved to Arizona in 2003 and intends to write her little heart out from that locale evermore. Her work has appeared in Jersey Devil Press and The Blue Guitar Magazine; her story, “The Pragmatist,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and selected as a Million Writers Award Notable Story. She likes dirty blues music, fluffy kittens, and egomaniacs. W. Gosnell’s poems and stories have appeared in Soundings east, The Kit cat review, Negative capability, The Windless orchard and others. Amy Glasenapp is a Creative Writing MFA candidate at San Francisco State University and an instructor at Lekha School of Creative Writing. She is currently working on a short story collection and a novel for young adults. Ashley Ellen Goetz was a writer, painter, teacher, and designer attending University of Massachusetts, Amherst for her MFA in fiction. She was a beloved member of Belletrist Coterie and a talented and amazing individual. Robert P. Hiatt: After fleeing Philadelphia in 1987, Hiatt lived on a remote island in the Gulf of Mexico for many years. He eventually moved to another island which actually has a bridge to the mainland. He lives there now with his bewitching wife Betsie, his underage daughter Marza, and a passel of annoying critters, all of whom he loves deeply and expects nothing in return. He is currently 113
teaching English Composition at Florida Gulf Coast University. Chas Holden is a freelance writer/photographer and struggling poet/grad-student. Trained as a journalist, he is currently a disciple of poetry as a more potent way to disseminate discovered truths. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in 5x5,a handful of stones, New Verse News, unFold, and the Poets for Living Waters project. Rich Ives has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation and photography. His writing has appeared in Verse, North American Review, Massachusetts Review, Northwest Review, Quarterly West, Iowa Review, Poetry Northwest, Virginia Quarterly Review, Fiction Daily and many more. He is the 2009 winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander. His story collection, The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking, was one of five finalists for the 2009 Starcherone Innovative Fiction Prize. In 2010 he has been a finalist in fiction at Black Warrior Review and Mississippi Review and in poetry at Cloudbank and Mississippi Review. In 2011 he is again a finalist in poetry at Mississippi Review, as well as a nominee for the Pushcart Prize and a double nominee for Best of the Net. He is the 2012 winner of the Creative Nonfiction Prize from Thin Air magazine. The Spring 2011 Bitter Oleander contains a feature including an interview and 18 of his hybrid works. Michael Lee Johnson is a poet and freelance writer from Itasca, Illinois, heavily influenced by CarlSandburg, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Irving Layton, Leonard Cohen, and Allen Ginsberg. His new illustrated poetry chapbook, From Which Place the Morning Rises, and photo version of The Lost American: from Exile to Freedom are available from Lulu (http://stores.lulu.com/ promomanusa).Also, Challenge of Night and Day, and Chicago Poems, has been published in more than 24 countries. He is also editor/publisher of five poetry sites (seehttp://poetryman.mysite.com). Crystal Koe is an M.F.A. candidate at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, where she lives with her husband, pet cat, and four other roommates. She is also the editor of ripples: a postcard periodical, a twice-monthly postcard literary magazine (housed online at ripplesbypost.com). Richard Kostelanetz’s work in several fields appear in various editions of Readers Guide to Twentieth-Century Writers, Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature, Contemporary Poets, Contemporary Novelists, Postmodern Fiction, Webster’s Dictionary of American Writers, The HarperCollins Reader’s Encyclopedia of American Literature, Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Directory of American Scholars, Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, Who’s Who in American Art, NNDB.com,Wikipedia.com, and Britannica.com, among other distinguished directories. Otherwise, he survives in New York, where he was born, unemployed and thus overworked. Thorvaldur Örn Kristmundsson is a photojournalist and photographer from Reykjavik, Iceland. For many years he was a chairman for Icelandic Press Photographers Association along with the chairman for the Nordic Press Photographers Community. He has covered multiple major news events happening in Iceland and many other parts of the world. He has worked and made stories for various agencies and magazines all over the world. His focus today is towards photo documentary and exploring the photographic medium as an art form. Jesse Millner’s poems and prose have appeared in River Styx, Pearl, Willow Springs, Atlanta Review, 114
Slant, Cider Press Review, and numerous other literary magazines. He has published six poetry chapbooks and one full-length collection, The Neighborhoods of My Past Sorrow (Kitsune Books, 2009). His next book, Dispatches from the Department of Supernatural Explanation, will be released in April of 2012. Jesse teaches writing courses at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Florida. Giorgia Sage is a San Franciscan writer who enjoys long bus rides and thick fog. She does most of her writing high up in a cold and windy place or by the ocean. She enjoys talking to cats and goats. She devours words how other people devour food and often remembers what people say long after they do. Frances Saux is a writer from San Francisco, California. She is in the process of discovering herself as a writer. In the meantime, she is enjoying her life in the city. Rachel S. Thomas-Medwid’s fiction has been published in 10,000 Tons of Black Ink, Freight Train Magazine, Farmhouse Magazine, Sleet Magazine, Katherine Press Review, In Posse, Literal Latte, and A & U Magazine. A few of her writing honors include placing in the Lorian Hemingway short story contest, the Literal Latte contest, the Writer’s Digest Competition, and the National John Steinbeck Competition. One of her short stories, The God of Meat, was performed as part of the Open Theater Festival in Boston recently. Professionally, Rachel is the news editor of the American Meteorological Society’s monthly magazine and blog, The Front Page, in which she edits and writes about the hot topic of global warming. Karen R. Tolchin, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English at Florida Gulf Coast University. The author of Part Blood, Part Ketchup: Coming of Age in American Literature and Film, Tolchin’s teaching and scholarly interests involve creative nonfiction, film adaptation, and pedagogy. She lives in southwestern Florida with her husband Tom and their son Charlie. Lauren Turton is a self-portrait and fine art photographer from Dayton, Ohio now residing in sunny San Diego, California. She has knowledge in film photography including 35mm, 120mm, and 4x5 large format film as well as non-silver processing techniques. Lauren enjoys combining her knowledge of film photography with the digital techniques of today. As a self-portrait photographer Lauren enjoys putting herself in unique and interesting situations that make others curious about the strange world that’s taking place in her photographs. She resides in a little beach house with her very supportive boyfriend, Bryan and a tiny jackachi named Luckie Loo. More works, the entire “Streaking Hare” and “Spring Hare” series, and information on Lauren Turton can be found at www. LaurenTurtonPhotography.com. Giorgia Sage is a San Franciscan writer who enjoys long bus rides and thick fog. She does most of her writing high up in a cold and windy place or by the ocean. She enjoys talking to cats and goats. She devours words how other people devour food and often remembers what people say long after they do. Sarah Gancher Sarai’s stories have been published in Storyglossia, Fairy Tale Review, Stone’sThrow, Weber Studies, Tampa Review, South Dakota Review, ragazine.cc, The Writing Disorder and others. Her poetry collection, The Future Is Happy, was published by BlazeVOX [books]. She lives in New York and blogs at My3,000 Loving Arms(http://my3000lovingarms.blogspot.com). Jenny Siviter is an Austin based artist who works in the medium of rainbows and love, capturing the spiritual nature of her subjects. Her work recalls a mystic transcendence that at once transports the 115
viewer to higher planes of pure emotionality while reminding them that there is no time but the present to be themselves. She enjoys coffee and tea. Milly Stilinovic, the offspring of two fiery broadcast journalists and authors of black-listed books, was told from a very young age that history is always written by the victor. The born and bred Australian Serb has experienced the horrors of war and passed borders in the dark of the night with armed gunmen. She has ran from NATO tomahawks and became a freedom-fighting statistic in the 2000 revolution which saw the overthrow of Milosevic’s stronghold regime. These experiences only fortified her desire to use her immersive literary journey to discover these untold truths. Her only armour? A solid 13-year career in theatre acting and a master in journalism. She contributes her “wracting” (writer-acting) to Australian online publishers such as ninemsn, Red Scout and Scavenger. Stilinovic resides, on the docks of Sydney harbour, with her long-suffering partner and her ever-depleting prized wine collection. Tegan Elizabeth Webb is a fledgling writer working out of Melbourne, Australia. She began writing at the tender age of five, when her father gave her her first notebook, and to this day he is still unaware of what he started. She is a lover of animals, craft and the written word. To date, she has been published in the Writing Disorder, and in Francesca Lia Block’s Love Magick Anthology. July Westhale is a poet, activist, and radical archivist with a weakness for botany and hotair balloons. She is a 2011 Emerging LGBT Voices Fellow in Poetry through the Lambda Literary Foundation. Her poetry has most recently been published in University of Wisconsin’s Women in REDzine, Generations Literary Journal, Hinchas de Poesia, WordRiot, 580 Split, Quarterly West, Muzzle Magazine and So to Speak: A Feminist Literary Journal. Her poetry can also be found in the recently released anthology, Conversations at the Wartime Café: a Decade of War 2001-2011. A graduate of Mills College, she is currently a candidate for the MFA in Poetry at Lesley University. www.julywesthale.com Jane Yolen is an author of children’s books, fantasy, and science fiction, including Owl Moon, The Devil’s Arithmetic, and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? She is also a poet, a teacher of writing and literature, and a reviewer of children’s literature. She has been called the Hans Christian Andersen of America and the Aesop of the twentieth century. Her books and stories have won the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, two Christopher Medals, the World Fantasy Award, three Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards, the Golden Kite Award, the Jewish Book Award, the World Fantasy Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Association of Jewish Libraries Award among many others. Her website address is: http://janeyolen.com/ Lev Yilmaz is the animator, publisher, and filmmaker responsible for the wildly popular Tales of Mere Existence animated comic series. His films and animation have exploded in notoriety online and garnered the attention of a variety of major media outlets like Comedy Central, The Onion, New York City’s Rooftop Film Festival, and Showtime. His bedraggled, continually defeated self-portrait has become the internet’s version of a household name. In 2009, Simon & Schuster published Lev’s first “official” book, Sunny Side Down: A Collection of Tales of Mere Existence. Today, Lev’s work is most widely accessed via his website, IngredientX.com, and his YouTube channel, AgentXPQ, which currently reports over 37 million video views.
Issue 1 2012