"Untitled" (Issue No.1)

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Copyright © 2022

BirdHouse Magazine Minneapolis, MN birdhousemagazine com birdhouselitmag@gmail com

Edited by Liam Nekich, Kayla Igantowicz, Mahdi Khamseh, Lili Rojas, and Dante Rocío Also published on Medium and on the BirdHouse website; some pieces may have been republished from Medium


BirdHouse is a literary and art magazine Inspired by the erce passion of modernists in the early 20th century to break from the clear-cut storytelling and formulaic verse of traditional literature, we aim to revitalize this rebellious nature in our editions and the local literary/art community. We welcome and encourage submissions from all groups and identities: craving diverse ideas and experiences, but also searching for distinctive ways that the experimentation of the work varies with one's background

We seek stories, poems, and art that are "eccentric": pieces which deviate from their, respective, mainstream mediums and experiment with form, content, character, setting, mood, language, and composition We seek pieces that are not afraid to push beyond the status uo, pieces that introduce previously unexpressed views and concepts to enhance the modern literary/artistic canon

Thank You

We would like to thank our contributors for their generosity, willingness for us to handle their work, and for making this edition of BirdHouse possible.


In the past 40 years, cultural discoursespecically relating to the arts and humanities has gradually inched closer, deeper, further into a postmodern fallacy that has altered our identities, the ways in which we think, govern our thoughts, what we say, how we react, how we write. e arts have always been a written record of mankind, a sort of manuscript that denes our human race in all of its dierences e arts have tracked our progressions, our regressions, the rise and fall of societies, kings, ueens, deaths, heartbreaks In times of war, they have

wet our ngers with the very humanity that we had forgotten In classrooms, they act as extraterrestrial worlds that our children's minds inhabit. In laboratories, the serve as portraits of natural truths. In every corner of a street, in the parks in our neighbourhoods, in our bookshelves, even within our thoughts, they are mirrors into our metaphysical selves; removing the veils of an every day society that seemingly exhausts the "hidden human" within us, one which composes our sense of presence, our sense of existence. While this discussion of metaphysics and existentialism in the arts is rather short lived (our Kierkegaard impression is not the best, and Halloween was almost a month ago), it is best to observe that postmodernism has indeed tainted the precedent foundations of the role of arts in mankind While the arts have pushed man inwards, postmodernism rejects the "sel" and bases itself on "group" identity, on society, culture; the "sel" holds no value By extending into a "man made" world, rather than reecting on the natural capabilities and truths that dene manhood, postmodernism distorts our sense of reality, deceiving us into an endless sense of uidity

Words, texts, and ideas lack meaning As the "sel" is rejected and no objective truth is accepted, only "groups" are le: warring, opposing, and imposing power upon one another without end. Since there is no sense of belonging, no sense of "sel", nothing to grab onto for only the sum of individuals is now important, not their composition how can the very record of mankind, our vehicle for expression, accurately portray who we are? Our social constructs, our societies, the things that drive us away from our "natural sense of being" (to roughly call it) do not dene us; the ability

for a piece of wood to build a home does not dene its nature Due to this inherent lack of "sel" and objective truth, our artistic endeavors have degraded as well, as the materialistic, postmodern, ideology has created a void which cannot be lled, a void which was previously lled by the desire to know, the desire to expand, the desire to nd objective truths in an unfamiliar reality; a desire which ultimately led to a familiarization of "onesel" (ironic how it is "one" self, not "many" self, not "group" self"onesel"). is has led to a sense of "fake expression", where the arts have diverted to satisfying the "groups" Language has been altered for non experimental reasons Experimentation the very foundation of expansion in every eld, the driving force behind discovery - has been frowned upon out of the fear of oending "groups"; even the minimal experimentation that exists is "boxed up" to ensure "peace" between "groups" Pieces lack meaning e need for audience replaces the uality of one's work Postmodernism has made us numb to change, numb to curiosity, for it is too busy dealing with "groups", the satisfaction of "groups", engagements and disagreements with "groups"

Postmodernism is turning writing into a dying craft.

Postmodernism is too busy ensuring that everyone is pleased, that this imaginary reality of conformity and arrogance is xed in stone And while the 1920's was an era (particularly for the United States) of materialistic conformity, now we are in a bizarrely similar era: an era of "conformity of thought" (it seems as if Orwell's 1984 is hauntingly becoming a reality).

e extent of this argument, of course, may be further debated But it is clear that postmodernism has turned writing - and the arts - into an exploration of "people pleasing" and "fake expression", rather than a key to what composes us, and our purpose in the world around us In an attempt to somewhat alleviate the losses to the arts due to this postmodern thought, we have decided to start a new literary and art magazine dedicated to the ideals and creativity of modernism - an ideology that does not dene an era, rather a process that denes the very nature of the human race e essence of our magazine is experimentation Experimentation is what drives thought forward, it is what has led to the extermination of diseases, spacecra in interstellar space, advancements in physics, chemistry, philosophy, history, and more relevant to this magazine the arts e greatest artists and authors have been those who redened previous ways of thinking, people who have absorbed all known knowledge in their respective mediums, and decided to push the bounds of what was acceptable, of what was known and could be know fearlessly

Moreover, at BirdHouse, we wish to exemplify this experimentation, this curiosity with one's cra, this relentless desire to know, and know, and know, till one no longer exists separate to their cra; a desire to experiment without the compartmentalization of oending others, and the lack of depth of postmodern ideology. We look for pieces that go beyond the status uo, that are eccentric, fearless, not hesitant to experiment and end up somewhere completely new Furthermore, we also look to aid emerging authors and artists with these endeavors Our world is studded with hidden creators who have no avenue to present their cra and what they have done with it. We want to be the lighthouse that presents their work, that breaks through this postmodern wrath

and gives light to a presence of "sel", a desire to know, a desire to expand, experiment, express "onesel". With each edition, we wish to change our magazine, its format, its content, battle new topics, ideas, change the course of what a magazine can be, what literature and art can be More than that, we long to create a community of creators, a place to share, a place of serenity, originality, a place where people inspire each other, engage in fruitful debates, and constantly uestion the world around them and their presence within it

With this edition, we present to you a set of diverse pieces, random, eccentric. Individually, they posses powerful themes and motifs. Together, they exist in an unbalanced coherence, they feel undened (hence, the lack of a title and cover for the magazine) e pieces embrace the absurd, the odd, they experiment with language and form, composition and narration, texture and rhythm. We hope that with this rst edition, we establish a revival of individuality, a fearless desire to know beyond what can be known; an almost "distaste" for satisfaction More importantly, however, we thank our contributors for their boldness, creativity, and generosity for allowing us to start our publication with their work; it was more than an honor to work with each and every one of them And to those reading this edition, thank you for your attention to the voices and visions of those bound within these covers



Cailey Tarriane is an avid reader and has poetry published in scattered literary magazines She has written over four novels, and she can be found freuently scribbling about her beloved pets.

Dayna Lellis is a math teacher who likes baking, hiking, reading, and writing in her spare time She is passionate about education and socio emotional health To learn more about Dayna and her writing, visit daynapoetry.strikingly.com.

Luke Obregon is an aspiring writer from the Chicagoland area. He enjoys writing poetry, as well as lm analysis . His writing inuences range from Wordsworth to Mariah Carey

Jaci Jamison is a lover of language arts who fell into a career as a high school mathematics teacher Poetry is a recently newfound joy for her.

Milda De Voe is a ctionista, collector of obscure awards, admirer of optimists in the face of dread Lingerer on Twitter @mmdevoe Author of Book&Baby, a prize winning productivity guide for writers who have kids mmdevoe com

Homeless Without A Cause is a young Moroccan writer looking to make sense of the world through the power of pen and paper

Odin Hartshorn Halvorson is a writer, geek, and hopeful futurist A current MLIS student and intern with EveryLibrary, Odin is also a graduate from Stonecoast MFA His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has appeared online and in print. He co-founded Round Table Writers, an organization dedicated to “writers helping writers” and hosts the Round Table Radio podcast

Lili Rojas (taurus moon and sun, cancer rising) is a multimedia artist from Minneapolis ey oen specialize in collage, blending together elements like poetry and painting.

phinexso is a poet, photographer and freelance philosopher You can nd them by following any stream of nonsense that you may stumble across phinexso is not a person, simply a collection phinexso, at the very least, is, and that’s all anyone can ever say.

Kendall Gabos is currently a sophomore at e University of Minnesota. She is currently pursuing an English degree and plans on being a writer or dipping her toes into the publishing and editing industry She enjoys writing about the memories that people have a hard time vocalizing and creating a moment where they experience the acknowledgment that they are not alone in all this madness and chaos of the world.

Helen Weil is a fourth-year psychology and creative writing student at the University of Minnesota She enjoys writing short stories, watching movies, and spending time with her roommates who oen inspire characters in her works

Michael J Corey writes books about bioluminescence and people on the run Sometimes he tries to make you laugh @writer errant

Liam Nekich is a third year English and Creative Writing student at the University of Minnesota He enjoys gobbedygook, nonsense, and books When he's not busting down moves on the danceoor, you can nd him writing sappy poetry and silly little stories in his free time.


Dante Rocío (he/they) is a cosmopolitan poet, linguist, human rights advocate and a multilingual translator and interpreter A Liberal Arts undergraduate at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities by day, an art theory amateur and glossophile by night, he devotes his days to pursue linguistic, philosophical and global studies and to analyze or scribble poetry or publicist reections When not working or writing, he can be found fawning over Italian dubbings and lm scores, studying Arabic and Japanese or exploring the newest works of Asian literature.

Mahdi Khamseh is a future electrical engineer, physicist, and current poet from Minnesota. He enjoys writing poems, writing songs on his guitar, watching French New Wave lms, dancing to Frank Sinatra in his bathrobe, and occasionally baking (assuming he doesn't burn his house down)

Anny Chia uses poetry to capture her emotions To her, poetry is the ultimate free form expression and the purest It's honest, brutal, beautiful, and full of love; self reection but also exploration Originally from Taiwan, Anny currently resides in Vancouver, Canada.

Mateo Torres is an Argentine poet looking to capture the rawness of human emotion at unconventional times. He also enjoys biking and traveling whenever his wife permits

C o n t e n t s

e Last Banana, Odin Halvorson 11

Death Becomes Her, Odin Halvorson. 12

e Crossword Journal Entry, Lili Rojas 13

Expectations Derailed Me, Luke Obregon 14


In Case You Were Wondering, Milda De Voe 16

e Swan Journal Entry, Lili Rojas 17 untitled jazz poem, phinexso 18 Minneapolis Marble Maidens, Kendall Gabos 19

e Toothy Mirror Guy Journal Entry, Lili Rojas 20 Bloom, young ower, Cailey Terriane 21-22

e Death of a Forest, Mahdi Khamseh 23

Summer Sweat, Anny Chia 24 Relishing Autumn, Dayna Lellis 25 Pumpkin Spice, Dayna Lellis 26 Autumn Libations, Dayna Lellis 27 A Cozy Day, Dayna Lellis 28 When Autumn Arrives, Dayna Lellis 29 Snow Cherry, Mahdi Khamseh 30

Unreuited, Jaci Jamison 31 32 Chelsea, Mateo Torres 33

10/18 6:12 AM, Lili Rojas 34 meeting you, Lili Rojas 35 Preface on the Trinity of Month, Anno Domini, Dante Rocío 36 Lurca, Mahdi Khamseh 37 38

Only e Way You Want It, Mateo Torres 39 40

Foreigner, Mateo Torres 41 Untitled, Mateo Torres 42

Surgery will be taken strictly intercontinental, Dante Rocío 43 Letter to Dana, Homeless Without A Cause 44

e Story Doesn't Take Place. Long Ago, Liam Nekich 45 49

Ever Dream, Homeless Without A Cause 50-51 "Enjoy e Weather While You Can", Lili Rojas 52 e Water Change, Micheal J. Corey. 53 57 Revolutionary Boys, Helen Weil 58-61 Inner Child, Lili Rojas 62

Acknowledgment 63


I refuse to let go of the banana I know my face is red (I must look quite the sight), hair fuzzed, shirt buttons half undone. But this, this is the last banana. Clearly, the pudgy woman, my mortal foe, is thinking the same thing. She grips the other half of the banana with a grasp like a vice Neither of us are going to give it up

“Get those instead!” she bellows. I glance over “Those are plantains!”

“Well, this is mine!”

"I saw it first!”

“Go to hell!”

Then it happens. One of us squeezes too hard

O D I N H A L V O R S O N 11


There were times I questioned myself; after all, she was dead Could a computer change that?

Himi passed away under medical sedation seven days before her birthday I wasn’t there to hold her hand because the traffic on the Nine was a nightmare

They say computers can’t become real, that Turing was wrong You need an organic process to create organic thought

I stared at the billions of lines of code, self replicating atop a positronic network fed on everything Himi had ever said or known

“Darling?” I typed. “Are you there?”

And after a moment, one word “No.”

O D I N H A L V O R S O N 12


L I L I R O J A S 13


I went to Chicago, because that’s how my interpretation of success had always been defined, spent the next 10 months confined with rats and roaches, and almost lost my mind when I finally escaped. I was back in the same old room at my parents’, feeling worthless, unaligned, staring at the ceiling asking, “God, why am I alive?”

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t force myself to find fulfillment from my “real world” job. I guess I never felt arrived, driving around at night just to feel alive, but the feeling never came so I collapsed in the front seat feeling defeated until the tears came rushing from my eyes and the frustration festering inside my chest left me heaving and gasping for anything resembling a breath.

“You can only cry until your tears run dry”, so I left it all behind and flew to Oregon to find myself amongst the pines Then I drove to California to remind myself the only control in this life I have is mine,

L U K E O B R E G O N 14

and I’m not really sure if what I came back with is “clarity” or if I finally lost my mind, but I’m left with this compulsion to write almost all the time and if I die tomorrow, at least I finally lived my life.

L U K E O B R E G O N 15


I already took out the trash and cleaned up the bottles that you and dad drank last night and dusted and swept and I would have weeded but I didn’t want to be outside when the phone rang in case you didn’t pay the bill again and I was off WiFi and couldn’t pick up so instead I organized the books from tallest to smallest and then arranged them in alphabetical order again and several more are missing so I wondered if that was because you’re lending them out or losing them or selling them or what But no one’s gonna answer that question are they and Lily was meowing for food and after half opening a can of something, there was a dark flash past the window and when I went over to check, there was nothing but the stupid trees and sky and I noticed the grass is growing over the lawnmower now and that’s kind of funny right? Like the grass won? And that’s when the phone rang so the cat followed me to the office and I put the half opened cat food down and she nearly cut her nose before I noticed and swooped it up out of her reach and she yowled probably more because she thought I was teasing than from actual hunger but I couldn’t open the rest of the can while also answering the phone and I couldn’t put it down but Lily wouldn’t stop attacking my arm so I just answered and could hardly hear what you told me, and then there was that sound like something heavy fell

M I L D A D E V O E 16



untitled jazz poem

we slam old keys into doors and press our ears to older walls: an old jazz club burns with the static of old FM radio, heard through neighbor and roommates’ walls to the tune of “ive never heard it this loud before ” well, it’s an old jazz tradition, a figure of speech, an old improvised idiom, [you wouldn’t understand]. but it sounds sane, a curling mane of fire, a broken beat split-note-flair, bombast and booming fast, contrast to brass, from piano, through horns of Jericho and bassoons of destruction / [i heard this on a santuri once just before i dropped it down the stairs] / and neon sounds sound steady, saturating spinning background with hums loud as a main act: a tune in time to kick to, to scream to, to sprint to, to stall, to stop a dimension of sound, of color, of light, of feel; feel reverberations in your chest and [you’ve got to mind the roadmap, man] just swim, with no orientation; so much so that it drinks your heartbeat and tricks it, reverberating it into the floor where the floor then rises to risers to come down and crash over curtain topped top of you again, pushing out, pushing down, down and out and leaving, out out and out into sweating and screaming and sweltering and humid hungry night.

and there, breathing in it and breathing it in, we know the night must continue on after this but we don’t fully believe that it ever possibly could

P H I N E X S O 18


The floor was colder than I thought it would be, your voice louder, harsher

The tapping and whirring of the shower didn’t mask the sobs that slipped Between my fingers, clamped over my mouth. Tears carved through the face wash, slathered on my face, sudds surrounded my swollen hazel eyes.

My eyes, drowning, held my reflection’s gaze, lip quivering, heart palpitations in my chest tightened their hold on my brimming tears.

The steam filled the mirror once more. My reflection was lost, my moment of anguish erased from existence, time, But my left-hand gripped the slick white marble counter, while my right hand gripped the plum colored towel. The floor was colder than I thought it would be The clock strikes midnight, and I am still Dripping from my head, toes, and eyes. I can’t look into those brown eyes again. Footsteps sound against the uneven wood floors, my palm, again, slides to my mouth I am gasping for air, for a release, some sense of comfort I am alone, completely stripped bare, body and soul Heart hanging, dangling from my chest, eyes clenched as tears leak through the iron clad walled windows to my soul.

Hair dripping water and I am melting, falling, falling, falling, And even after a scorching shower, the floor is still colder than I thought it would be

K E N D A L L G A B O S 19




Dear soil, bless her Sunlight, kiss her hair.

Golden, shine upon the grown-up petals. Daffodils, dance in the wind blown away by wishes

Bloom in spring [Do not wilt, do not sweat, you can take the heat].

Bloom in winter [Do not take the chill to heart, overcome the weather with the warmth of compassion]

Bloom in summer [Do not let those who diss you pluck you out, stay unswayed in your roots, be watered by my joy].

Bloom in autumn [Do not let the leaves put redness from shame in your face]

Your own stem will try to bite you


[Be watered well]

Those who have troubles that stick in your hair, avoid them My only wish to the sun: be mess free, be loved. I love you like the sun, from afar

C A I L E Y T E R R I A N E 22




Your drip on my body soaking my thigh What a delight

You on top of me pressuring my pleasure rhythm so fine I’m about to come undone

I feel the heat in the air Waves of ecstasy crashing in again and again until climax

I inhale

As the momentum intensifies I hold my breath squeezing tight

At once, I let go and collapse worn out with warmth in my heart

A N N Y C H I A 24
Illustration Credit to A Summer's End Hong Kong 1986 (illustrated by Tida Kietsungen)


Orange canopies of seasoned trees, gazelle-like leaps into piles of leaves, cornucopias of nature’s sweet offerings, contented souls laughing heartily, relishing this time of year

D A Y N A L E L L I S 25


Pumpkin spice likes to entice when autumn arrives with its red and gold glow.

D A Y N A L E L L I S 26


Steaming mugs of autumn libations soothe the chills that afflict our bodies and souls

D A Y N A L E L L I S 27


I crave a cozy day.

One where the background music harmonizes with the voices of loved ones

One where a crackling fireplace emits both warmth and wonder. One where a picturesque kitchen creates the most heavenly aromas.

D A Y N A L E L L I S 28


Colorful leaves dance across streets. Pumpkins and gourds adorn our front doors We feast, with delight, on casseroles and pies. My heart is light when autumn arrives.

L I S 29



M 30


Rainbow pinpoints light years away, as close as my fingertips

I ache to touch, to feel their warmth Cold brilliance from a distance, calling to me, luring me. My heart twists with every turn, I long to join in their dance

I hear music in their shining iridescence, pirouette and spin until I’m dizzy.

It brings them no closer I fall to the ground crying for their cruel beauty

Do they know I see them? Do they preen in the light of my obsession? Do they shine with conceit? Or shimmer in mutual longing?

I would fly to you if you would call me. I would bathe in your light and never leave, fall into the sky, lose myself to

Infinity [for the chance ]

J A C I J A M I S O N 31

I’ll be lost before you hear my cry But I would stay for you for eternity if I could...

J A C I J A M I S O N 32



M A T E O 33

intersection lullaby dream a little dream of me i’m not asking for a love like that just not like this hail mary full of grace could i have a light left your apartment at 5:40 in the morning because i felt like an old married couple that doesn’t fuck anymore i am a selfish person and i’m sorry for that i don’t even intend to be i am unwell and without a mother i’m sorry for tricking myself into thinking that i was capable (you ended up doing the same so it never even mattered anyways) i can’t do this anymore i need to sleep alone for a while i’m not your prize winning horse i’m not anything at all i’m tired

L I L I R O J A S 34
6:12 AM

meeting you

for the first time and what feels like the hundredth time except this time it’s not so far it happened to me i shed a long-time-coming tear i introduce myself the island changes shape but we remain the same always there our footprints permanent in the sand our fingerprints engrained on the moss of the trees your grip on my shoulder in the form of a bruise i mistook your clay hands for love after all i had known was hunger your clay hands were no match for me after a while they weren’t soft anymore just dirty

L I L I R O J A S 35


Yes A consolation, a piece of stone hanging just right, halted up above in a diode pattern, almost a father I could maybe touch and buy, and that is the date you leave always in notes with paper and chalk, though still looking up to it; when your journal log baptizes the rubber scrubs you’ve spent and the unwilling anchor to the world it is.

Just scrambling into a project where dandelions made a wish of me, I only thought of supposedness when the Earth and Sky project suddenly were to mean a mechanical (back then still daisy like) affirmation that once you’re in there’s no going back but signing the contract on letting the hangar of your chest be hauled open and called from now on a monthly long promise to keep up a manufacture Many might have minded, many might have agreed, but I instead shut the business and resorted to the skin’s sand to find what I’d almost lost. What would have been lost instead if an editor saw my craft has become a prostitute

One, two, four and finally six clasps, this April, I can officially state, will be for mourning and retracing, facing submission and prostration we’ve committed before journals. A Saxon tale, in a state of striking a starvation that taking out plans onto the concrete at Lent entails to be saved, this writing will not call upon coffee, police officers or most of other cigarette themes which the modern way of bringing poetry back to earth, back for the word, has been. I show intercourse without a body to hold in an arousal, scarification from replacing psyche with the language itself, and that exact existence of being a series of symbols rather than a human

Ah, almost forgotten: And mocking the supremacy our brain has gained by ravishing then gurgling out its cardiac socket.

About that, they actually think they will get over. As if, rather over their own dead body, And that might even do, so we just proceed with another page running

D A N T E R O C Í O 36


I miss the depth to which your fingers would dig within my earth and gather all those sunken roots I miss your hair and the wild pumas that would roam between its vines and the hyenas and the wolves and the clouds and the Sun’s hefty sail that would only swim in your waters. I miss your mouth Oh, my oasis of spring! (my o/a/sis, the end of many things appear restless restless restless like a chain of, a chain of, like a chain, of: a soggy chain of eyes THAT I MOP; I MOP yourimageisrottinginmyretina) I miss the taste of your mouth, the way it would shiver like an old pendulum on a wheelchair as mine would approach and


M 37

inspect it, grab it in fistfuls and eat the cream of life from it, vacuuming your breath like dust from a feeble bookshelf, climbing up your tongue as if it were a mountain of some sort, a peak at its very end (a land to be conquered, perhaps), as if the sound of my wilting boots belonged on its tile; as if your cold was the only cold that could make me shiver.


M A H D I 38


Your mere touch bastes my body of cold pork, the ribbons of your fingers dig within me, their shovels and piles of snow

graft my hips into you like a bronze necklace, (the hum of) your lips shakes me in its two-fingered grip (awaken, baby, awaken!), your tired tongue and its sweat of burned honey sticks within the walls of my mouth like dried clay. (like a hieroglyph you feel ancient to me, or maybe you have aged me as well) The stethoscope of your whispers, weeds me from crumbled soil Oh, my lungs fill

S 39

with your pom/egra/nate molasses! (our pomegranate molasses), its sugar we constructed, its milk we stuffed into a carton, its color we sewed with spare needles and a yarn that still drags me further into your skin as if you’ve magnetized my drools, kept my teeth shivering on your plum like breasts (let me peel you open, open, o-p-e-n, and feed on my reflection) in your flat mirror ( your reflection feels more like myself than mine)

Baby, how does it feel? Close your eyes, let me lay in your dreams and brush your eyelids the way you want it: (only the way you want it)

M A T E O T O R R E S 40


Your body trembles under my chin like an overflowed river (the gusts of wind stomp over my lungs)

An obituary, perhaps? The steam of the room goes cold. My hands grow tired [gloves] over your body: like white hair on a forgotten vase. [Even my penis feels lonely inside of you]



Your throat [flutters] in my gutters, all the WIND’s leaves gather and the levee breaks [POLLUTION dripping intoME, intoME], soaking, I push deeper [OH GOD], and deeper, and your fingers [THose HEAVENLY BODIES!] grasp onto my back cracking me like the neck of a coconut [the dust of yourCRATER is burning inmyEYES], your eyes SHIVERunder mine [their legs wrap around my RE-TIN-A], only my breath remains, limping limping, into your mouth [it’s cane melts under your tongue swallow me whole, darling ]

M A T E O T O R R E S 42


For my beloved, to be a return, for my beloved a bloom, despair and burn, To chances, to be the crust, though still withhold the word of a farer, Abyss reprocedure, to be in rocker saline to my bearer, to weave pearls sodo e crudo from all her hail images.

Fine chrysalis, fine measures, fine lands, fine fees, fine cloisters, reposture cleaning, the conveyor officer starts taking paint off me and last Diwali skins to get me to Madonna’s clearing by metal and last eye tearing.

Espero ser el futuro del pueblo Spero non tirarmi fuori come qualunque cosa che differisce da pioggia. Turn glass from all the mirrors to all who called me friend, be glazer for those beating

Be Scotland to your father Be Dalí’s doors to your brother.

For myself, I ask to be my own fowl, water, and husband

D A N T E R O C Í O 43


He saw her again when he least expected it.

There she was, sitting by a fountain absently staring at a spot in the distance, looking as radiant as he has always remembered He was still in shock, completely unaware that his breath was stuck in his throat, when they locked eyes for a single moment.

She quickly averted her eyes, but that moment of recognition was more than enough for him to confirm what he had known for years: the girl he had fallen in love with was not there anymore. And even if she was, she was like a needle lost in a haystack.

He has lost her to the mundane world of the sane and the sober, to the world of lunch dates and small talk A world where “how are you?” had turned from a legitimate question to a social convention without meaning or purpose, a world where free thought was dead and buried under layers upon layers of celebrity scandals, social media trends, makeup tutorials and reality shows He has lost her to the blind unshaven beast called “reality”

He had thought about this moment millions of times He thought about what he would do if he were to see her again. However, nothing had prepared him for the anguish that he felt. He knew what he wanted to do, the letter was in his wallet: a letter he had carried with him for the past three years hoping for exactly this moment, a letter that was written on the day he found out that he had lost her forever - one out of hundreds he had started, but the only one he was capable of finishing.

Grow up, he thought to himself, the girl you are looking for is dead, and a few pages written by a drunk lunatic half-crazed with grief are not going to bring her back It was a reasonable thought, one he would have considered had the situation involved anyone else, but reason was never part of the equation when it came to her.

Thoughts were flying through his head He had no idea how to start that conversation, he was not even sure that he would be able to go through with it He felt the panic rising to his throat, but none of it mattered. If there was even the slightest chance that the needle was still there, he was damned if he didn’t try to find it

And so, he took a deep breath, and started walking towards her.




The Knight upon a hill bluffed by the bluffs, sat Penelicus Princh, a wisely grouted grinch by the look of the huff of his snuff. He picked at them and flicked at them too where they gobble gobby goo would brew in the carpeted flooring. Sit o you o you frivolous fish, said o said o (Penelicus Princh) Write and write to you filthy frampling weezesnobs Snobs like the gooble gobby goo gough gah that falls from the cut ear of your nose’s hoo-hah? a jape by the wise Nataline the princess, towered and painted in swathes of teal upon the tower of her rest. And I Went the prince the sworn and savior stab the Princh from perched he was to was to went from hill and bluffs between the bluffs upon the hill the Princh he huffs and snuffs Penelicus Princh you devious o devious bitch exactly what I needed to save thine prisoner oh princess thee thine bearing Nataline Tintch and save her I will and her little prince printh princess or princesseses or too, throw it or chuck it she thinks maybe but beside her I do (through and through? and through for through) I plucked it much like the belly of your early creature and flicked it like you will do soon, speak of my goobers again, you pregnant and swollen should be beaten goon, said Princh. Excuse me all, I began to cant as the heroic knight I am, is it true the cuckoldry of your wife that’s caught her up in strife was the doing of the one-party donkeyphants prance without her consultance and done with noadvance and in secret recall your life when you flew far to France: wherein the whores you did you wear intoed? them all popped out fish surely much like us you patheticus Princh and yet where do the fish go did they swam to an egg in far away France? certainly not buffoon you swiveling SNOB gobs that fall flicked from thine nose march on and on… o Nataline Tintch Nataline I love o love for you!!!! The hero fell to his knea and gazed into the see where beeched furrow boroughs burrowed in deap The eyes up on here, Nataline preeched from the outofreech gunrest and eyes from boroughs of deap sean accidentally by withering me and then eyes upon eyes upon eye eye eye eye how sweater it be though how high up you seam. Nataline Tintch I am Went I am thine prince, said I Went the I am thine prince, from tower you down and upon your body surely a gown would need loop on finger o finger o first but I prince betrayer and enemy of Princh slayer shall save thee o save thee if needeth a quickly adverbded purpose o purpose for you and your eating for too! She blushed then and then Princh how he prinched by ear and drag he angrily morbidly adverbidly pinched though dungeon and gated and freighted linoli hall um, flooring? and to the door of Attic-living Finch!! This one spoke loudly, said Penelecius o Penelecius Princh, the devious o devious o devious prick wrambled wrung poarse honing course bunny shit from the lips they sprang the lips o his lips from secrets he told to the quippers, he quipped True it was the Penelicous Princh had run out of steem at that moment as he stood before the lawyerous princeinipolis, and swallowed he did the gulpair.

L I A M N E K I C H 45

The bird craned towards eye, scouting for gems or pickles to be sure but then the raven no robin no finch poemed bird twinky stare and asked if Poe did the interior decorium wherein (the horse in France)? Tuberculosis, I said, his wife, strucketh ith maketh I soundeth the words on the lipth, coughed roses and posies and pockets and ashes and made like the one party donkephant trunkered asses he did I quipped I did said this before the princess for I was the prince the savior from drum dawn I drummed quixote towards tower she in from with wherein I spilled the beans of hoarse boney pony where ins (where ins) sir I fixed for service and from life away gunrest I promised the damsel and loop and gown two! Crowed did the ravenous Croaker: speak ever nomore, caste down you four, shudras, then five down to sin! Burning comedic and burning divine stay alive you will and still the Germans, the Dantes, the Spillers surmises you shall climb the nein floors and sizzle your pours too!

The Knight’s End: Mobius Inferno

ouroboros I am eating my own drinking my own pishit and how the oro did borough like under the sea and the beach it hadid in the nine layers of hell Eight and sideways laying upon broken shattered deadly schemes, the nine the pillars of redemption and steem pierce upwards like a hand in the sky nine fingered hand fingered it fingered at the Attic living Finch and the Penelicus Princh beyond them towards the wide I of man and creationist Sam eye winced at light so bright and green eggs and godly might (for you a smite begin your hike: nine fingers yes fingers be true to height). So climbed them I had and climb them I do because I was folded beneath the cavern of brimstone and of all sorts of waiving wave away blinding demonic headaches that never really ever really goes away because I hath sinned in the eyes of the crow and how love was love was never to go so equipped with Poe the Princh he blows tuberculosis snows at his fishes still masking the spray of that red death with kleenex stained rose and the knight o knight me has bitten his own tail the prophecy failed in failing the prophet you’re now satanical puppet squidgy the walls down here where water never falls weegee me back and away from being the

The Squier Blonded by hair was the man with hair fair and in his snare he’d caught a hare bunny and poarse honing shit it hadid onto the shavings timber in its little cage It was Princh’s pet, and after the peculiar proposal given by Went (to the oneandahalf girl leaned upon the gunrest), the

L I A M N E K I C H 46

Sure Lee had spoken about Boros’ birthday bash, surely invited was I not? If Boros did not invite me surely I tap his boroughs and (accidentally stick) glands with a pencil I knead sharp in the maw of the sharpener. Yes, ask Lee and see about the plans. The fair haired man had set off then away from his yarntied earflopped and hop mopped friend, through the labyrinth of deskfolk in regular desks and mini cracks filled by tar food rations and boots fashionable that suited them best. But a crack that crevassed deeper than the rest had sunk its teeth into the boot of his breast (a trap by the perceptuous Princh o that wreck!). Fell to knee the man hadid below the rest of the desk of the pregnant (socalledwench) and looked and accident he did he gaze upon the rest of her rest her Apologies, Nataline, for glance I did not meant, had said the fair hair also named Went. Nataline whispered to stomach Nataline bent and picked up a letter from beneath her dress. Went went and grabbed the letter from Nataline and when Went went and did that Went went and sat where Went went to next and stayed where Went went Went hadid then. Wax seal not found there it is crimson and sticking the flap at both ends together keeping letter tucked alongside the content whereins (Went had mentioned before the warts in France?) Sealed disk snapped in twogether they part ways and flip the lips on the vlope of the letter her writing’s scribbled in pen curly sloping righting of the hand had said:

Whichever Went,

Went my love for you is just as strong too, unless it’s Went reading this letter and not the lovely Went to whom to this I sent (haven’t decided who is whom yet within my head) though I may have sent this to the wrong Went so hopefully this reaches the hands of the Went that went and kneed his body to the side of my desk bent when down I did hopefully then and plucked this parchment from my dress. Went you are brave and do not fear about the timespent accidentally glancing at not my eyes. You fell to knee for purpose indeed. Went it is Boros o Boros that said to you his party he's allowing you to rent a reservation at if the preservation of that love you felt for me upon thine knee needs reciprocating see me then. Unless this is Went reading this inwhichcase Boros had laboriously said that being there would lead to your immediate death (bear they do the sharpened swords of pencils and pens be wary Went for if you choose to went there your time on earth may be prematurely spent).

With love or hatred to whichever Went had read this yes the Went that read this good day and take deep breaths (like a square I heard though that shrink was a bitch) or if wrong Went read this don’t breathe again, Love love love and hearts of gold and pink (or black if the other Went hath read this you spineless hack!), Nataline Tintch

L I A M N E K I C H 47

Went set down the letter and felt relent Then fear Then Went went and read the letter’s contents again He realized he didn’t know which Went Nataline Tintch had meant For both he and the other had kneed the flooring where the halves of leg bent and gazed upon two gorgeous eyes above the gunrest parapet ledge of her desk. It was quite much a lot to handle, Went had said To whom you speaketh? Lee and pried and preed then Ah yes, ask Lee about Boros’ birthing event. Lee does the reservation sheet of Boros’ function in the tent involve me o me o lonesome o Went? Went had questioned and tagged his words with a word better left unsaid Lee had scoffed then and Lee swiftly riddled Went’s head: Upon the list a Went, yes, though not sure which one you or the one principus cast to the fiery depths They did that o did they? I curiously pepped, Went went down and is burning in loops in beds of red hot not tomato soup eating his own pishit and oop the hero he was and went and that Went is now eternally not entirely dead? May be the one Boros had meant, Lee o he Lee revved, but see Went you may wish to bring an offering to Boros maybe a wench. Went figured for few moments then in his mind a lauded thought sang a song. The rabbit from earlier: Lee you bawdy laude I now have an idea sprunging from my head, Went had I had said then

-The Squier’s End: Blooming RosebedBlonded by hair. Fair man, me lies cold on the growing roses. Ruby fingers, satin snakes, go on then, seek for the afterlife that is not there for me. Glitter lifesblood of mine in the blue and cold moonlight Soak into the carpet at Boros’ event The Princh’s rabbit was not gift enough to save me. Wrong Went, wrung now on the flore. The vehicular domesticated surface beneath me, Went too. To where? To beyond. The mortal shell unbecoming of me. Slough my flesh and skinsuit and relax mine form for death. The blonde squire winced at the sharpened pens and pencils jutting from his stomach The wrong Went I was indeed. Did not heed the warning from Princess Nataline. Eye was blinded. Mehuas stabbed. Minattakers now gone.

Fleet faster fleeting time, this world I wish to leave soon Inck and number two you prune mibelly. Tummystickers. Warm floating, fading Grim is this reaper A cloaked ghost bent over the fair hair’s cadaver (he hardly knew her) and stole his remaining breath. Rest forever, other Went, the black wizard said.

Epilogue: The Damsel

Them two Wents Fools Thinking me thinking I some sort of damsel in distress?! The letter should spin their heads whomever I gave it to, which one was that? One of the Wents surely Mmm silverglass, painting my face. BLOOD!!! On my face, put the stick to my lips. Cherry smear… smoochglass. The mirror has been branded a kiss. About my way now. Nataline set on.

L I A M N E K I C H 48

Went spending forever in that fiery pit? Princh and the Atticus Living Finch did that boy really in And the baby in my stomach, a funny accidental tummybrew The Went boy one on his knee, he looked for moments, found eyes of me. Declarred a marriage loop on finger and food for me and my eating for too? To keep it? My body autonomy and my future say no. Princh was wrecked, that nose-picker, haggard square Dry man, cookie-cutter real dolled up him. Asshole real pretentious prick. Glad for him his infamy bit his bum, the whores in france he cheated his wife on her a sad muck an indirect cuck. Poor woman. Pathetic man. Spending Went to the nine layers of the cutflesh of heaven, stuff to rot in hot fire, too imperfect for the white gates Other Went too, the whom I gave my letter to Silly fowler, him with the blondish cowlick. Bullshit him spitting tongues onto me apologies he probably made up. Hope that letter ties him up. Like that poor little rabbit, in the red yarn. Prinches hare. All caught up in a snare The Boros event to which I know longer wish to go How long the hope I have I dew knot no. Grass sweat… yes. Overcast weather two I wonder. Rain becomes this land, will role east. Bread loops, like upon my finger. If not hadn’t been the Princh who pitched my prince to hell Eh to what the prince was to me, not much, yes not much indeed Need him not I believe Idiot him Should have shut his mouth Zipeth the lipeth No spouting of cuckoldry or the teacher’s spouse. Who cares much, for me upstairs my bed awaits. The made up stuff upon my face will bake into my skin turn my face clay and tomorrow I’ll be pimped up Scarlet bumps white headed stumps Appletree face of mine tomorrow will my complexion be rough Bed you are here you are let me lay. Mmmmmmmmmm. Bodysnugger, cradling my relaxed form. For you, I wish to rest good knight. Fleeting thoughts, slipping from my fingers, cannot hold. Lalalamps Flickering steeds Needlesoups Trumpet fun sluts Awadledoo Awhoogahoo Damsel me dee sleep befalls me darkness finds me to sweep me forwards to my dreams it was all a dream to dream of my princes: Went and Went: my memememes Princh will play because today and all began awaning waning painting reeling, yes: the story was all my dream: play repeat: save me: I am no damsel: play on for repeat: does the story take place? Fragmented and brokenrepea.t re.peat. Repeat. Does it make much sense? No, but still you feel the rhythm and the beat. Pure pure pure absurdity, pretentious… and mostly incomplete. Goodbye and farewells, tallyho Dedicated to Benjamin (his very first mention): The Story doesn't take place Long ago

L I A M N E K I C H 49


He could still hear those soft piano notes, they’ve been following him around the whole day. The melody was familiar, he was sure there was more to the music than those notes.

But try as he may, he could not remember the rest of it And still the music went on

He joined the line. What a strange sight we must make, he thought. They were all lined up in front of a small window, behind which sat a young man in a white coat handing out small cups filled with pills Unlike the others around him, he could still walk up straight and he didn’t need to wear glasses; he was in pretty good shape for his age. But, how old am I? he thought.

Try as he may, he could not remember And still the music went on

It was almost his turn now, a woman at the front of the queue was complaining about something she had lost

“I’m telling you kid, my mirror was stolen. They’re all jealous of me, it was a gift from my son, all the way from India.”

“It’s always the same story with her, she forgot that she broke it,” someone outside the line was telling another man in a white coat

It was finally his turn, the young man behind the window flashed him a warm smile, “Good evening, Thomas, how are you doing tonight? Any headaches?” Thomas? Is that my name? he thought, deciding to hide his confusion and smiling back, “I’m quite well, thank you.”

He took the cup, it contained three pills: two yellow, and one blue. It felt like a familiar sight

As he brought the cup to his mouth, he sensed a sudden change. The music slowed down, the notes were now higher It had remained the same the whole day, what made it change now? He took the pills hiding them under his tongue; he didn’t swallow them He sat down at a quiet side of the common room and closed his eyes. He let the music fill him up, desperately trying to catch onto the rest of the melody. Unconsciously, his fingers moved along an imaginary piano, knowing exactly which keys to press

But, try as he may, he could not remember. And still the music went on.

U S E 50

It was time for bed, he had his own room, and the people in the white coats treated him very well compared to the others; he didn’t know why, though His room was filled with books and notebooks. He was hoping he’d find a piano there; he wanted to try to play that melody. Was there a piano here last time? When was the last time I was here?

Try as he may, he could not remember. And still the music went on.

One of the notebooks was open, filled with a strange drawing repeated over and over Not any drawing, though: it was music! He didn’t know how he knew that, but he knew it was the same melody that was on his mind the whole day. Suddenly, hints of faces flashed into his mind, faces he could not recognize. One of them repeated more than the others. “Elena,” he spoke to no one, his heart suddenly heavy with emotion He laid down, humming the melody When he woke up the next morning, he looked around confused. Where am I? He had a strange headache, and there was a strange sound following him wherever he went, soft piano music, precisely The melody was familiar, he was sure there was more to the music than those notes

But try as he may, he could not remember. And still the music went on.



L I L I R O J A S 52


The images arrived in September

An eagle over a barren peak, a railway dividing a forest, a woman with sunglasses and a white dog.

A city view from a roof garden A pika in a wild meadow A pane of stained glass with a martyr’s face

Each time, Elaine lifted her gaze from her meaningless lecture notes as the scenes flooded her vision. They came in sets of three. Like intense dreams, the images impelled her. Warned her Things were ending, yet without grief The earth approached symmetry Her phone rattled on the rosewood desktop. She pressed the green circle.

Why haven’t you called? Andrew asked.

Why? She didn’t know Because I’m waiting, she said For what? he said I don’t know.

Can we get together?

I’d like that

But why haven’t you called? It’s been a week. Because you ask me to explain things, she said. Is that wrong?

I no longer believe in creation, she said What does that mean?

You see? she said. You keep asking me.

May I see you this evening? She sighed.


She pressed the red circle What did explanation have to do with creation? By specifying the nature of a thing, we destroy the alternatives Each image annihilated all the images that might have been.

She began to understand This was the purpose

The secretary called from the dean’s office “Dean Winters wants to know whether you’ll be teaching next semester. Has that been cleared up?”

I’m not quitting, she said. She’d be telling twenty year olds with pins through their eyebrows about the history of thought Did thought have a history? Was it needed, to grasp Ptolemy before Copernicus, Aristotle before Newton? A prison, a rose, a square-rigged man-owar with the captain in a blue tricorn hat.

She taught a class almost without awareness until a girl with blonde hair dangling around her eyes asked, “Will this be on the test?”

No, she said. There will be no test.

M I C H E A L J . C O R E Y 53

The students chattered loudly, their hands lifting in bewilderment Should she test whether they could think about thinking? Whether they could remember what someone had thought before the Saturn V, the microchip, DNA? Could she pass her own test?

Alexander came in the evening. For the first time in months, she felt no restraint. She embraced him

How are your children? he said.

I can’t answer questions like that, she said. Why not?

Because of the images

What images?

She took a deep breath. A narwhal, a hydroelectric dam, the constellation Orion. I see them in perfect color, every line, every point so distinct I could expand it a thousand-fold, a million-fold, to the individual molecules.

She expected another question. Instead, he looked thoughtful His brow creased I saw something strange this morning, he said

Tell me.

Kathy Wright was watching cryomonads on a slide and Protozoa? she asked

Right, he said. They were all swimming the same direction. East, she said.

He looked up at her, his gaze showing wonder Yes, he said Toward the windows Why east?

She smiled. Once, she said, a physics student was taking a history exam. He had to give two causes of the First World War. His answer was (1) The universal wave function, and (2) The boundary conditions of the cosmos

Alexander laughed silently. There’s no better answer, he said.

I know, she said. That’s why I love you.


The same answer, she said He looked away. The cryomonads frightened me, he said. Do the images frighten you? No, she said I feel boundless joy, without a cause

There was something strange in the news, he said Four biologists disappeared in the rain forest of Surinam.

Her mouth opened, but the connection faded like a shadow. Disappeared? she said. They left their clothes behind, he said Everything except their bodies

Her phone buzzed. She answered, Yes?

“Hello, Professor Hendrickson?”


“This is Ian Petersall. I was wondering if you could write me a recommendation for Columbia.”

M I C H E A L J . C O R E Y 54

It doesn’t matter, she said “What?”

I’m sorry. It was a strange thing to say. Yes, I’ll write it for you. The call ended.

Waves crashing on the basalt of the Maine coast A stag in a meadow Four workers in a marble quarry.

Something’s happening to you, Alexander said. Not just to me, she said They slept

How are your children? she asked him in the morning.

I’m worried, he said. Abraham is so angry. He’s talking about fighting the government; he mentioned sarin Sarin, the nerve gas? she said. Yes.

She glanced across the table at him There was no better biologist at the University But her love didn’t spring from that It doesn’t matter, she said. Nerve gas doesn’t matter? No

Killing people doesn’t matter?

Once it did, she said. No one can be killed now. We should travel. Travel?


I suppose you’ll tell me it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t, she said. But let’s travel.

There was a cruise ship coming back from Tahiti, Alexander said as he read his phone screen. The passengers refused to disembark. They were clutching each other, forming an immovable mass. Yes, she said Should she tell him? They would have been making love until there was no fluid left in them.

She would not tell him What’s your oldest memory? she asked He thought. I was about three. I was walking across the living room and my mother was doing something with her hands. Knitting, maybe. No, much older, she said The memories of your bones You have atoms What do they remember?

He laughed. I’ve forgotten how to remember, he said. That would be just like me. Shall I tell you what I see? Please

A hummingbird approaching a honeysuckle blossom. A young boy half shadowed by Venetian blinds. A glacier in the Antarctic. The first image is bluish. Bluish? he asked

M I C H E A L J . C O R E Y 55

Your time has passed, she said You are great, and your time has passed Our plane leaves in four hours

On the plane he was frightened. She’d never seen him this way. That girl, he said. Her face

Not just a girl, she said

He looked away. When she turned from her own mind, she thought perhaps it was strange, all the airplanes going east, none west. Packed flights. It was of little concern. A chunk of rose quartz on a velvet pillow A blue toad An ink jet printer She became aware of her body again Her pulse was over two hundred There was no discomfort When the stewardess served a meal with an orchid as a decoration, she didn’t touch the blossom. It was too soon.

A hybrid, he said, following the news on one of the plane’s channels Between a hyena and a tapir. Impossible. Is it? she said.

He shook his head Since the time of the mammalian genetic radiation over sixty million years ago, he said, there’ve been Radiation, she said. Sounds dangerous.

He laughed, but she’d spoken to quiet him

On the ground, a force moved them eastward They walked I’m afraid, he said.

Don’t be, she said. A rusted bolt under a pier. An index card with the information erased A greenish canary Do you see?

They were moved by the force, drawn over the desert toward the southeast. At first they walked, then stumbled. Then flew. They were in a throng of thousands of people, millions, yet they heard only their own voices. Then the sky filled with birds and they heard the wind.

They’re coming, he said, pointing across the deathly plain; but a river divided the plain Of course, she said. All of us are coming.

She saw Jennifer sweeping over the sand. Then Freddy. Her children would be with her. There was no greeting, no wave The moment was venerated Final

I know this place, Alexander said. Is it the Nile?

East of Heliopolis, she said You knew it sixty million years ago

The force was within, whirling her atoms, yielding a numbness like a dentist’s injection, lifting her desire for the river. Her mind changed beyond gratitude and pain and memory. Here the giraffe, the beetle, and their forms merged. Or was it heat rising from the sand? What of the plants? They clustered in the river Asparagus, cedars A jaguarundi!

She laughed. Her blood coursed like that of a sprinter dashing to a win. In silence, the multitude moved as planets orbit. A beetle joined a coelacanth. Condors. Cetaceans.

The girl on the airplane? he asked A girl, and a hyacinth, she said Why blue? he asked.

M I C H E A L J . C O R E Y 56

She saw that his fear was dying away

There are three colors, she said And the lotus is blue

Each entity melted, entwined, coalesced, as flutes whistled. Though twilight merged into darkness, vision was unchanged. Others joined them, and others.

She watched him in ecstasy, not needing eyes Now, she said, we shall embrace until the sun is cold.

Its children within its petals, the lotus sank into the river beneath the orb of night.

M I C H E A L J . C O R E Y 57


We were young when we became revolutionaries. I was nine, my brother Cameron was thirteen He led me out to the woods and stopped at the bend of a shallow creek where two trees, maple and hickory, stood entwined He placed his dirty sneaker on a knot in the roots and hooked his arm through a low branch. With his other hand raised in a righteous fist, he declared this little part of the woods to be our own country. He stumbled over the word independence; I didn’t even know what it meant But when he said that nothing could hurt us there, I believed him.

We went out to the woods every afternoon that summer and didn’t come back until the sky was turning red and our legs were mottled the same angry shade from mosquito bites First, we drew boundary lines using a fallen branch and placed down stones from the creek, imagining tall walls stretching overhead that would keep out bad guys and the creepy things that lived deeper in the woods.

Cameron found a wood pallet from an alley that was on his route home from middle school, and we needed to borrowed our neighbor’s wagon to drag it out to our country. The kind lady who lived in the house next door had children, but they were all grown up, so she was alone a lot and started coming around to watch my brother and I after our mom got sick The wagon we asked for was given to us, along with two glasses of lemonade made from powder and a few fresh, warm cookies which we ate on her front porch while she asked us about school and friends and our parents. Cameron did most of the talking; he was better with words than I was

The wagon was old and rusted, and it squeaked every time the wheels turned. We did more dragging than pulling over the forest floor. I was so excited that I kept running ahead and had to double back to help Cameron By the time we got the pallet out of the wagon and pushed it under the twin trees, it was nearly time to go home We came back the next day with pebbles and sea glass and marbles to decorate it and an old beach umbrella Cameron took from the coat closet to be a roof over our heads The pallet became our home and our base of operations We made plans there, gave speeches, held votes.

Over a year earlier, Mom had planned to grow a garden in the backyard. I went with her to the nursery, and we bought packets of seeds for everything from carrots to strawberries to irises. As we walked the aisles, smelling flowers and rubbing velvet-soft leaves between our thumbs and pointer fingers, she taught me everything she knew about gardening how to plant, how to water, how to make plants flourish But she got sick soon after and spent more days in bed than not, and the seed packets gathered dust in the shed in our backyard.

H E L E N W E I L 58
[an excerpt from Revolutionary Boys]

I didn’t feel bad about taking them one sunny afternoon. A stained tomato sauce can I fished out of the recycling bin became my watering can, and I used a plastic spoon as a spade. Cameron helped me clear the undergrowth from a patch of land across the creek from the trees, where a break in the canopy acted as a spotlight. When the ground was bare, I clumsily dug the spoon into the soft, clay like dirt, making sure every hole went down two inches with my thumb before I dropped a couple seeds in, just the way Mom explained it. I made sure there were still seeds in each packet in case Mom ever got well enough to start her own garden Cameron watched me fold the packets up as carefully as my nine-year-old fingers let me and didn’t say a word

My plants grew fast. Some leaves were chewed up by caterpillars and some unripe strawberries were taken off the vine, but we still had enough to eat. We held a festival for the harvest, just the two of us, sharing the food I had grown I picked the few irises that had bloomed and put them in a vase beside Mom’s bed. Cameron threw them out two weeks later when the smell of rotting flowers began to fill the room.

It rained the day we drafted the Decliration of Indapendince. We sat side by side on the pallet and Cameron explained what his history teacher had taught him about the American Revolutionary War

“It’s how we tell everyone we’re our own country,” he said “We already have the border ” he pointed to the line of rocks circling us “and a capitol ” he tapped the pallet “and resources ” he gestured to the creek and my garden next to it “ so now we need to make it official ”

Rain drummed on the canopy far above us. The raindrops that slipped through created a gentle rhythm on our umbrella. Heavy fog threaded through the trees. The stifling afternoon heat had been made cool, and my arms prickled with goosebumps I pulled Cameron’s arm over my head and pressed myself into his side for warmth. “What’s a capitol?” I asked. “It’s where everything important happens People go there to make decisions and stuff ” “Oh,” I said “Like how when Mom and Dad don’t agree on things, they always say they’re gonna talk about it later in their room?”

Cameron looked at me with his dark brown eyes, so close to black it was like looking at the night sky “Yeah,” he said “Kinda like that ”

Cameron did all the writing and most of the talking “We, the the independent nation of…” he mumbled to himself, pacing along the border of our small nation. “What’s our country called?”

“Banana Land!” I said, because I knew it would make him smile, which it did “No,” he said, shaking his head but still smiling. “It has to be something cool.” He began pacing again. “Well, we’re the Bradfords, so Bradland? Fordville?”

H E L E N W E I L 59

I gave him a thumbs down “New Bradford?”

Thumbs up.

He sat back down on the pallet, and I tucked in close to watch him write. “We, President Cameron and Vice President Ollie, declare this land the independent nation of New Bradford ” He put down his pen and looked to me. “Now we need rules.”

Thumbs down. “I don’t like rules,” I said.

“Well, we get to pick them, so we’ll make good rules,” he said “We’ll still get to do whatever we want ”

Our rules went something like this:

1. President Cameron makes decisions. Vice President Ollie can veto them.

2 Don’t take fruit or vegetables out of the garden before they’re ripe

3. No parents allowed.

I tried to veto that last one (after Cameron explained to me what vetoing was). He told me that it wasn’t something I could change I told him that wasn’t fair, and he pulled the big brother card on me, so I pushed him off the pallet For a moment, I was king of the castle Cameron sat in the dirt, his knees grass stained and hands muddied, and for once, he looked up to me Then he got up and pushed me right back

We had fought many times before this, and we would fight many times after I was at a disadvantage since my head only came up to his shoulder and he was stronger, so I had learned quickly that I had to fight strategically. It also helped to bring him down to my level. A fight on the ground was easier for me to win

I shoved him as hard as I could and he landed on decaying leaves and clay-soft dirt. I pushed and he kicked and we rolled. Cameron was always as gentle as he could be, always aware of how much harder his hits would land. And besides, we didn’t want to hurt each other, not really, we just both wanted to put the other in their place Maybe rub a little dirt on shiny pride.

We were at a stalemate, until Cameron got tired of it and shoved me off of him. My hand scraped against a sharp stone, and the raw skin of my palm started to bleed I glared up at Cameron with watery eyes, causing his anger to melt into guilt

“Ollie ” he started to say, but I picked myself up and ran down the trail that leads back home Cameron came home a little later and found me curled up in the corner of my bedroom He led me to the bathroom and had me sit on the edge of the bathtub With a wet towel, he wiped the mud and dried blood from my hand, then covered the scrape with a Spider Man band aid.

The rule stayed. I knew better than to ask again.

H E L E N W E I L 60

Summer days grew longer, then shorter We went out to the woods every chance we could get I noticed that the few times Cameron had friends over that summer, he never took them out to the woods. When I asked him why, he told me that our country was just for us.

“Is it a secret?” I asked.

“No,” he said “It’s just special You have to be careful who you share special things with ” One Saturday afternoon, Dad forgot to take us to the movies. There was a new superhero movie Cam had been begging Dad to take him to see, and where Cam went, I went. But Dad wasn’t home when we woke up Saturday morning Cam poured us both cereal and we watched Animal Planet while we waited “He’s probably at the grocery store,” Cam said “He’ll be back soon.”

We watched one episode. Then two, then three. Then Cam got up and stomped up the stairs I heard him knock gently on a door, and call out, “Mom?'' A door creaked open and closed.

I turned off the tv and brought our cereal bowls to the kitchen like Dad taught me to. I crept upstairs and reached the landing just as Cameron was leaving Mom’s room “Dad’s at work,” he said, all storm clouds and thunder

We were quiet for a minute. “Can we go to the forest?” I asked Cam nodded vigorously, shaking his messy bedhead “Go get dressed,” he told me Then we went out to the forest and became the President and Vice President of New Bradford. Cam stood tall on the wood pallet and gave a speech to me and the insects and birds about a coming war We climbed the tangled maple and hickory trees and surveyed the land for approaching enemies.

“There!” Cam shouted, pointing to two wide pine trees. We fashioned swords out of fallen twigs and Cam led the army of two to the trees.

“For New Bradford!” Cam yelled We hit and struck and stabbed until our swords broke and then we collapsed, breathless, onto the soft bed of pine needles.

“We did it,” he said, gasping. “We won the fight.”

I reached over and smacked him in the stomach with my broken sword

Our country was special

H E L E N W E I L 61


L I L I R O J A S 62

“The clouds were disappearing rapidly, leaving the stars to die. The night dried up.”

André Breton and Philippe Soupault, Les Champs magnétiques
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