Issue #21, August 2011
Ben and Jewel's Triptych (Gouache on Paper) by Sandra Gail Teichmann-Hillesheim
In This Issue... Letter from the Editors
Art by Sandra Gail Teichmann-Hillesheim
Thursday, 2:17 AM
Thank You, Letter
No Child Left Behind
Art by Sandra Gail Teichmann-Hillesheim Monica Koenig
21 A Definitive Collection of Intimacy (27.)
With Urgencies False and Otherwise
Thomas Michael Duncan
Review of Stephanie Dickinson‟s Half Girl 24
What Brought Us Here
A Universe Shaped Like the Heart
Wolf Down Pizza
Ryan Rodriguez Art by Sandra Gail Teichmann-Hillesheim
Melva Sue Priddy
Windworks 4—Afternoon Drinking on Tax Day
Instructions for Drama Queens Who Want to Be on TV
Post-Performance (A Sestina)
Jason Lee Miller Karlanna Lewis
Cheryl and Janet Snell
Artist with Worried Sister
Double Portrait with Held Breath
Review of Brian Fanelli‟s Front Man
Self-Portrait at 23
Isaac James Baker
They’re Hypnotic, But…
Mary Stone Dockery
Daughter, Lace Your Fingers to the Sky
Art by Sandra Gail Teichmann-Hillesheim
Apology to Pluto, and Congratulations
Letter to the Only Girl in JROTC
The Fight We Never Had
Dear readers, Our 21st issue. Here, you‟ll find people like animals, and animals like people. Here, you‟ll find death, and the stain of it on a bathroom floor. Here, there is hunger. We have art, oh so much art for you to gaze at adoringly, the way we did, including collaborative images and poems by two sisters. We found several new books we can‟t wait to read (see reviews of books by previous BL contributors Brian Fanelli and Stephanie Dickinson). We found poems in lovely sentences, and sentences that make lovely poems. Inspired to add to the loveliness, we lovingly created a found poem for you. One line from each piece here. Your appetizer before the main meal. Here. Enjoy. Sincerely, The Editors
[LOST AND] FOUND POEM And somewhere in my DNA, the voyeuristic tendency is encoded: I watched the curtains move and mistook your breathing for the baseball game still on in the next room. If we had known the flower-light crush of lungs, wind that steals our small voices and plumbs the depths of our throats… what you don‟t know could fill an ocean. Some mornings have broken like the very first, transparent with buttercup hope that this time will be different. You are the next big thing, the rooster, the home town hero back from war. Lots of things don‟t need to be put in words in a barn like that. “That’s when I need to be more human,” he thinks, shifting gears, “when it’s the hardest not to be.” All you gotta do is learn how to balance on the absolute opposite end of every little thing. There was the car we left broken down like a misspelled word, an ellipsis of muddy footprints along the linoleum, and for me, that is where it always begins. The thought of you a lion in bed, a snake under the outhouse, a rabid fruitbat caught in my hair… We‟d cudgel our bones and pass measuring cups of broken teeth and arrowheads back and forth. Was that just when he, she? Oh, he did. Into her. She did. Done. In the Midwest, carbohydrates are always in season— you ate green and soy so she would grow. For such a small girl, Violet, you did leave a lot of blood. The water swells, taunting me with a Pisces surf— the reduction of an ocean to a bathtub. If no one is dancing, then why all this music? Did you welcome a life that is not mine, not his, but one of sea shells, tambourines, and bath salts? She has not room for the rubber duck, you none for the shore-bound duck boy— bangs hang from his head like the congealed locks of a dead animal in the road, full of salt wound in sheeting now in shreds. I have fantasized about dying in a plane crash but never about owning my own private jet. My wrist now says: vive la liberté.
Stained Musings I, II, and III (ink on paper) by Sandra Gail Teichmann-Hillesheim
Adam Zahller THURSDAY, 2:17 AM Some days like music without melodies. Some nights slept by only one hemisphere. Some mornings broken like the very first. There will be more pancakes. They will keep making them in every kind of home. Some of us might taste them. And men will carry sticks: small ones to write with; big ones, with knots; pointed ones; dull ones. Sticks. Some days, like pieces of music where the score has been cut to bits, the melody obliterated, and the texture as homogenous as plexiglass, there will be stacks of buckwheat and blueberry hot-cakes and men will carry tall, knotted sticks. Some Some Some Some Some
men men men men men
have have have have have
had lives without melodies and not known. known days without melodies and cried. eaten pancakes. carried sticks. eaten pancakes and carried sticks.
Some mornings have broken like the very first. Some men have known this and cried. Only half of the body sleeps, some nights, because only half of the brain does so. It is the opposite bodily half than brain half. Some mornings broken like the very first.
Adam Zahller Some nights slept by only one hemisphere. Some days like music without melodies. Some melodies completed by hemorrhage. Some melodies slurred-sung by limping tongues. Some mornings broken like the very first.
Emmalea Russo THANK YOU, LETTER for these figs that pour from eye corners and make sweet the floor. The man who wrote you is a jug of sour milk but also beautiful. And when he wrote you was there protest? Or did you sigh? Did you welcome a life that is not mine, not his but one of sea shells, tambourines, and bath salts? Thrash against his words and send your own beauty to me, did you? Tell me, letter. Donâ€&#x;t cry the three of us are in this together, letter. Now I need some reassuring so sleep with me, letter and read yourself over and over again. Start at my feet then make your way up to my ears, letter. Bare all, letter because this is it, letter. And have I said thank you? For the harsh travel so that I might tear you open, lustful and greedy and eye you. Crinkled off, letter and there you are, letter. Skinny as I finger you open.
Kristyn Taylor DEAR VIOLET, I stopped by your house this afternoon and it was freezing. As I let myself in through the busted kitchen window, it occurred to me that there had been no room at the morgue and they‟d had to keep you, instead, laid out on the couch in your polka dot pajama pants. I knew this was silly, but I kept looking for you. Tomorrow afternoon I have to meet your mother there, Violet, at your old airy, dusty house to help her haul away books and bags of clothes and the stuffed animals from the top of your closet. Before I left today I turned up the air conditioner so she won‟t freeze and threw away the ashtrays so she won‟t lecture your gravesite. It may not be enough. Will you notice? The bathroom smelled like bleach and there wasn‟t a red blotch anywhere. You would have been proud of how well your little sister erased the signs. For such a small girl, Violet, you did leave a lot of blood. I threw out the shoes I was wearing when I found you; it was easier that way. Your mother wants me to help her because she knows it‟s my fault. She‟s going to punish me with those silent stares you used to laugh at. I‟ll never forgive you for this, Violet. As long as I live. Love, Bradley
Larkin Weyand NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND 1 At the beginning of the school year, Mr. Fantasma announces that there will be a class valedictorian for each of his classes at McKeesport Academy. The winners of this honor will be determined based upon academic excellence, behavior, and curiosity. Mr. Fantasma asks each of his students to write down what prize they would like to receive if they are fortunate enough—dedicated enough—to be the class valedictorian. Rudy, a precocious sophomore, doesn‟t even have to think about it. His fussy attention to academic obligations and extra credit has earned him the admiration of his teachers and the scorn of his classmates, a dislike that is only furthered when Mr. F. starts hinting—in January—that this year‟s class valedictorian will likely be receiving a mint condition Acorn Gumball Machine. This is the prize that Rudy had written down. It‟s an indulgence Rudy has dreamt of for years. The Acorn costs nearly three hundred dollars for just the dispenser and another fifty dollars for the stand. It holds six pounds of candy, no problem. It can hold two thousand pennies. It comes plated in copper, chrome, or twenty-four karat gold. Mr. F. suggests that the class valedictorian will be worthy of a gold one. As Mr. F. puts it, “A top of the line reward for the top student.” On the morning of what is later known only as the McKeesport Tragedy, Rudy visits with Mr. Fantasma for a good hour before the other kids even arrive. Rudy has a question. “If I‟m the class valedictorian, how are you going to pay for the Acorn?” “I have my ways, young man.” Rudy listens in awe as Mr. Fantasma explains how, last night, he drove up the price on his own item for sale on eBay. He established a second account in another name, another email. It had actually worked. Mr. F‟s excessively high bids on his 1974 Pele New York Cosmos lunch box, to his dumbfounded amazement, were countered over and over by a buyer named puppyblender14. “Sometimes you just get lucky. I found that lunch box for a quarter at a garage sale.” He laughs with such a wide open mouth that Rudy sees all of his teeth. No fillings. No yellowing. No crooked incisors or receded gums. Mr. F. has the perfect teeth of a toothpaste commercial. In fact, to Rudy, Mr. F, as a physical specimen, is the most perfect human he‟s ever known, never mind among teachers. It doesn‟t even matter that he‟s old. He is completely symmetrical— even his face is when he smiles and wrinkles things up a bit. His skin looks washed clean; it‟s almost as if he‟s never been bruised or scraped or cut. His skin pulsates like a full moon on a clear night. Mr. F. pats Rudy on the back. “Hey Rudy, can you do me a favor?” “Absolutely.”
Larkin Weyand From his desk, Mr. F. pulls out a stack of about fifteen blank postcards, pre-printed with the proper postage. Rudy waits to hear the needed favor while Mr. F. silently reaches into his desk and pulls out a new pencil, sheathed in a black case. This is strange to Rudy since the pencil looks just like a normal yellow #2. Mr. F. picks up the first postcard from the stack and writes a message in the proper column. Rudy can hear the scribble of the pencil, the familiar scratch of graphite against heavy paper, but he sees no letters. It must be the light: a glare off the paper maybe. Rudy scoots forward in his chair, but still he can see no letters. He leans left and right and then at a multitude of angles. Still nothing. As Mr. F. moves the special pencil over each card, the scratching assumes a type of musical rhythm: scratch, scratch, scratch, dot an i, cross a t, stab a period. After a few blank cards, Rudy begins to bob his neck on the scratches, sways his hips on the dotting and crossing, and bangs his head on the periods. When Mr. F. completes the last postcard, he gathers them all up, taps them into a nice orderly pile and hands them to Rudy. His expression is grave, almost foreboding. “Rudy, will you drop those into a post-office box? They need to be mailed today.” “Sure.” If Rudy thinks this request odd, he makes no comment. He is happy to be of service for his friend. Rudy doesn‟t want to appear nosy, but he can‟t help glancing at the top postcard as it leaves Mr. F‟s hand and enters his own. There are still no marks of any kind. “Okay then?” says Mr. F, smiling. “But these are blank.” “I know. Someday you‟ll understand. You‟ll mail them?” “Right after school,” says Rudy. He puts the cards on top of some books in his backpack, refusing the urge to examine every card in the stack. The first bell sounds. Class will begin in a few minutes. Mr. F. props his door open against the wall by kicking a wedge of wood underneath. He greets the students that gather along the walls like condensation every morning waiting for Mr. F. and Rudy to stop using words like hubris and garish while discussing the merits of their collections of WWII model airplanes or vintage soda cans or extinct candy bars. “And Rudy,” says Mr. F, “Don‟t tell anyone about the postcards, okay? They‟re our secret.” Rudy agrees. Not like he has anyone to tell. Until he starts letting kids copy off of his work, that isn‟t likely to change. It doesn‟t matter. He has Mr. Fantasma. With the blank postcards, he disappears into the waves of bodies coming and going. 2 Three hours later, Rudy returns for Mr. F‟s class. Rudy‟s favorite teacher isn‟t in the room yet. It‟s complete chaos, as usual. Mr. F. is an old man but a young
Larkin Weyand teacher. Classroom management has never been one of his strengths. It doesn‟t matter today that Principal Ovitsky sits in the back, busily scrawling notes onto a paper tucked into a manila folder. He‟s just another old fart authority figure with no authority. Rudy faces front. He tries not to watch his classmates‟ disregard for the bell, but it‟s a tall order: Sarah Helton preps a row of girls for manicures. JJ Johnson feeds a CD into Mr. F‟s stereo (in permanent residence in the corner), listening to the first few seconds of several songs before making the selection— “I‟m Too Sexy”—that Sarah Helton‟s group cheers. JJ accepts a boisterous embrace from one of the girls and agrees to an impromptu painting of his finger nails in Raven Black. Randi and Terri Page, twins, snort involuntarily after reading the same text message. They workshop several possible responses. Randi Page isn‟t even on the roll but attends more frequently than many whose names are listed. Larvas Childs who actually is supposed to be getting dressed for his Weights class plays Mario Cart on his individual game player as his soon-to-be competitors groan at the growing enormity of their upcoming tasks. A group of students unload food and plates from plastic grocery sacks. On the counter, under the pencil sharpener, they set up their offerings buffet-style. Big Jesse Volk covers a Styrofoam plate with tortilla chips and scoops a pile of seven-layer bean dip with a large silver spoon that clinks. A few boys toss an oversized yellow kickball over everyone‟s heads, stopping only to offer their form-letter apology, “Sorry. That was an accident,” when the impact is especially egregious. They keep throwing, this time hitting a bite-sized Snicker out of Trudy Wagstaff‟s fingers. They offer her no apology. Mindy Hobson and Katie Blacker push their desks together for their daily game of chess. A girl named Brooklyn spills a Cream of Weber Chocolate Chug. A different girl, Jocelyn, steps on her dropped Cheetos. Roy Avondet and Marilyn Pratt, voted the school‟s cutest couple at last week‟s assembly write notes to each other in pen on Roy‟s desk top. Jeremy Blanch and his friends, football players, see who can get the farthest in belching the ABC‟s. Rudy should get up and yell at them. The thought quickens his blood and his pulse but steals his breath. They must not have heard the bell, he thinks. They must not have seen Mr. Ovitsky, the principal, for goodness sake. They must not see Mr. F. walking through the door right now holding his palm up as for a high-five. They must not see him looking at his watch counting the minutes wasted, threatening them with the time they‟ll make up during their lunches. They must neither see Mr. F. turn his rain stick upside down over and over nor hear its sound of rain, the sound meaning it‟s time to start. But they do. Of course they do. They just don‟t care. What could Mr. Fantasma, a man that has never enforced any consequence in the past, possibly do to them now? Rudy steals a glance at the principal. He is kind of half-standing in a desk a body of his size was never meant to occupy. He burps painfully. He punches his chest just over his heart to calm an apparent case of dyspepsia.
Larkin Weyand Rudy wonders if he is going to intervene for Mr. F. but, to Ovitsky‟s credit, he hunkers back down as best as he can and covers his flatulent mouth. The football players, clad in their jerseys for tonight‟s big rivalry game, are telling their quarterback, Jeremy Blanch, that they‟re going to kill him. “If coach sees your shirt not-tucked-in, we‟ll all have to run ten extra Suicides.” “Okay, okay.” Jeremy retreats to a corner of the room as the class watches. Mr. F. is still counting off time on his watch. Mr. Ovitsky, bemused, watches Jeremy out the corner of his eye. The only sound is Mr. F.‟s rain-stick. In the corner, Jeremy pulls up his shirttail and tugs it tightly against his tan, muscled back. He‟s fiddling with his belt buckle. Suddenly his dark jeans drop to his ankles. Sarah Helton spills a vial of nail polish and splays herself on her desktop, overcome with passion. JJ Johnson, giggling the words, “I‟m too sexy” feeds a new CD into the stereo. Jeremy tucks his jersey into his gray athletic briefs. The football players applaud. Mr. Ovitsky decides it‟s time to intervene. He detaches himself from the desk and walks toward Jeremy, but on his way, Mr. F. stops him. “I‟ve got this, Jack.” Mr. F. tucks his rain-stick in an armpit. From the pocket of his suit pants, he pulls out a whistle. Jeremy smiles at the whistle, but then Mr. F. blows it in Jeremy‟s face. The kids cover their ears at the shrill sound. Mr. F. keeps blowing. When Jeremy makes to snatch it out of Mr. F.‟s mouth, Mr. F. seizes Jeremy‟s arm and squeezes. Mr. Ovitsky stands upright, saying, “Fantasma.” Mr. F. lets go. “Sit down,” he says, and Jeremy does so. No one moves now. “You have exhausted ten minutes of class time already. That time will be made up during your lunch today.” As the kids whine at this declaration, Mr. F. shuts them up by yelling, “Things are going to change, starting right now. You don‟t listen, you don‟t eat. You are here for an education. Jeremy, stay in your seat.” Jeremy does so. “At the bell, all of you will remain seated, except for Rudy who has never been a problem.” Rudy feels the glances of hatred stack up like blocks on his reddening face and down his teetering spine. Mr. F. picks up a spiral bound notebook from his desk. “This is a Disruption Notebook. Each of you will sign it, beginning with you, Mr. Blanch.” As Mr. F. scribbles in the notebook, he reads aloud what he is writing, “Jeremy pulled down his pants in front of his class. He exposed his underwear and tucked his football jersey into his underwear.” Mr. F. stabs a period onto the page. “Now sign it.” Jeremy considers the notebook and pen held before him. “Who are you going to show this to?” “Whoever I have to. Your mom, your dad . . . your coach. Your concern shouldn‟t be who I might show it to. Your concern should be to behave so that I don‟t have to show it to anyone.”
Larkin Weyand Jeremy lets out a heavy, exasperated sigh. He takes the pen and signs his name. Mr. F. walks around the room gathering signatures under every student‟s list of offenses. The only one who doesn‟t sign his name to anything is Rudy. “Now, I don‟t want any more problems. Open your books to chapter three.” Thirty minutes later, at the bell, Rudy leaves for lunch, alone. McKeesport Academy is currently housed in a large residence. The exterior of the retired home was designed after the Palace of Versailles. Inside, the central focus is what used to be a living room but is now the commons. This gathering place sits on the first floor, but enjoys a vaulted ceiling rising to nearly forty feet. The bedrooms, now refurbished into classrooms with glass doors, border the walk around balcony of the second floor. When Rudy sits down alone with his lunch tray at a table in the commons, he chooses a seat that affords him a glimpse into the glass door of Mr. F.‟s classroom upstairs. Rudy is not hungry. He mostly just moves his tater tots and watery applesauce from side to side. A fly lands on his portion of the school‟s latest culinary creation, a pizza burger, so he doesn‟t touch that. He stands up to get a better view of the classroom but can see nothing through the glare on the glass. After twenty minutes, he expects his classmates to come out hungry, chastised and using more than their looks to euthanize him. Rudy guzzles his milk so he can leave quickly if need be. Instead, the door opens, and Mr. F. and Mr. Ovitsky step out into the hall. It sounds like Mr. Ovitsky is saying, “If you don‟t get a better percentage of these kids to pass the state test, it will be your job.” “None of those kids except one passed the test last year.” “This is the year that counts, Mr. Fantasma. Your job is to find a solution.” 3 Thirty minutes later, the class still hasn‟t come out for their lunch. Through the glass window, Rudy catches a glimpse . . . of Mr. F. smoking a cigarette? The school is full of NO SMOKING signs. Rudy swears to himself that‟s what he saw, but he can‟t believe it and looks for confirmation. Fantasma wouldn’t do that. Finally, the post-lunch bell rings and Rudy heads off to his last class. He isn‟t there long before Mr. Ovitsky, breathless, comes over the PA system and says, “Teachers, we have an emergency. Please take your classes out to your fire drill locations—immediately.” The teachers lead the students out. The central focus of the grounds at the front of the school is a large fountain that shoots a stream twenty feet high. Around the fountain sit ten-foot manmade moguls of lawn. Rudy and his class sit on the top of one of these. Some of his classmates congratulate themselves on their good fortune. Some of
Larkin Weyand the boys engage in roughhousing wrestling matches. The girls trade gossip. Rudy‟s teacher takes the roll. The school‟s secretary, seemingly dragging other teachers along like thistles in her socks, walks to Rudy‟s teacher and pulls her aside. Rudy keeps low to the ground and follows them, staying hidden behind one of the moguls. Almost inaudibly, the secretary says, “Mr. Fantasma‟s class. They‟re all dead. Murdered. All their throats were slit.” She pauses before this next part. Her forehead twists and churns as if inhabited by scurrying ant-sized rodents. “No one can find Mr. Fantasma.” Rudy opens his backpack and examines the postcards once again. They‟re still blank. He thinks he should hand them over to someone, maybe the police who are arriving with their sirens spinning and blaring. You made a promise, he thinks, so he zips the cards up in his bag and waits. It is thirty minutes before his mother finds him in the throng of bodies. She is crying when she hugs him and asks, “Are you okay?” 4 It‟s late that night at Rudy‟s house. He can‟t sleep. The lock on his bedroom door has never worked. He needs to make sure no one barges in on him, so he grabs his backpack, his headphones, and a small flashlight; then he tiptoes to the downstairs bathroom, the one with the working lock. He lies down in the tub. Placing a notepad against his knees, holding the flashlight in his teeth, he does what he couldn‟t will himself to do all afternoon and evening: he pulls the postcards from the backpack. His breath catches in his throat. How could this be? The cards are no longer blank. Am I going insane, he thinks. Robust letters, a type of calligraphy, fills the cards. In the dim globe of yellowish light, he jots down the basic message written on the top card: “A true education has no time for remediation. Mercy is a chore that we are no longer paid to perform. Please know that your child was seated in his desk when I taught him his final lesson.” It was signed, “A Teacher.” Following this rote message on each card are the words that each student had been inclined to sign their names to in the Disruption Notebook. Upon reading “Jeremy pulled down his pants in front of his class. He exposed his underwear and tucked his football jersey into his underwear,” followed by Jeremy‟s loopy signature, Rudy, overcome, runs to his parents‟ bedroom to show them. “Look, look,” he implores them. Bleary-eyed but concerned for their son, they palm the postcard. Up and down, they look at it. They flip it over. “Rudy,” says his father. “It‟s blank.”
Larkin Weyand “No it‟s not!” Rudy tears it from their hands. The message, as well as the address of Jeremy Blanch is there plain as day. Rudy reads it to them. “It‟s addressed to Jeremy. He‟s popular.” Rudy‟s eyes are thunderstruck coals. “You‟ve had a difficult day,” says his father. “Where did you get these postcards?” The eyes of his parents are wet with tears, their faces full of concern. Rudy snatches the cards back and buries them in his backpack. “Nowhere,” he says. He returns to his bedroom, turns out the light and pretends to sleep for an hour. Then he puts on his shoes, grabs his backpack and stumbles through the night to the post-office where he mails the blank cards. His parents speak nothing of this night until a year or two later when a soft-spoken psychiatrist says, “I know it‟s hard, but I need you to tell me exactly what Rudy told you when he showed you the postcards.” 5 Three years later, Rudy is a senior at a public high school called East. No one has seen his eyes since his last day at McKeesport Academy. Bangs hang from his head like the congealed locks of a dead animal in the road. Those who claim to have caught vague glimpses of his eyes call them dark like pumice, explosive like a volcano, and alert like those of a cat. Petty crime after petty crime leads Rudy to the judge who finds him in contempt for refusing to show his eyes. Rudy‟s mother often stays up late with old photo albums in her lap, looking at her son‟s eyes. On the first day of school, Rudy surprises himself by attending his afterlunch English class. His teacher is an old man named Mr. Fisico. He‟s dressed in a button-up shirt, dress slacks, white socks, and tennis shoes. The skin between his mouth and nose is ample but compact like the curved meaty wafer of a pug‟s upper lip. He walks with his shoulders stooped over as if his torso is the mortar and his shoulders are the pestle. His wrinkles and his smile aren‟t a flattering combination given the refraction of his eyeglasses which only serve to magnify the delta fan of hair bristling from his nostrils. He tells the class they will introduce themselves. “Son,” he says when it‟s Rudy‟s turn, “What‟s your mother‟s name?” It‟s supposed to be a funny question to help win over the class, but the words sound strained, as if the man has to peel his tongue from a suction cup in order to create each syllable. “Do you have fake teeth?” says Rudy. “They‟re clicking.” Kids that had been whispering stop their muted talking to laugh loudly. “What‟s her name?” The old man‟s teeth slide forward like the cover on a calculator. The old man sucks them back into place with a practiced slurp. “Leanne,” says Rudy. His long bangs waver as he laughs. The class laughs nervously. So does the teacher. It‟s unclear if the old man is laughing at his question or like everyone else, at his fake teeth. He sits
Larkin Weyand down on his desk and crosses his arms. “Leanne,” he repeats. “Do you like your mother?” “No,” says Rudy forcefully. His response leaves no doubt about his true feelings. “C‟mon Rudy. This is the woman who gave you life. She wiped your bottom. She has fed you and clothed you and made many sacrifices I‟m sure.” Mr. Fisico half-smiles at Rudy. His nose twitches slightly as he strives to find Rudy‟s eyes. “Rudy, how many kids would you have to have before you named one of them Leanne?” “A million and one.” From that day on, Rudy gives into this teacher‟s mild interest in him. Two weeks into school, he continues to attend English despite his boredom with the writings of Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, William Bradford, and Jonathan Edwards. He has already failed a test and forgotten to do two assignments, but in the class‟s reading of The Crucible, he‟s John Proctor, the sweaty stallion. He‟s holding out for another Leanne joke. 6 Rudy walks into his English class. The room is empty. Rudy thinks about how he used to be the first one in class back in the Mr. Fantasma days and now, here again, he‟s first. “Sit down, Rudy,” says Mr. Fisico. He pokes one of his freakishly long finger nails into a nostril, parts the hair, and rubs at something. “You are failing my class, Rudy. Your presence is penalizing your school. We do not have time for you, and I am respectfully asking you to drop out.” Rudy feels hurt by this, so he says nothing. The room fills with students and the bell rings. Rudy stands to leave but at the door, Bobby Humphrey enters and says something about the girl Rudy‟s sweet on. Then Sally Tomlinson, the very girl, enters, sits down and says, “Mr. Fisico just farted. It‟s making me sick.” “Watch your mouth, young lady.” Mr. Fisico starts to say something more, but then his teeth, looking very much like the ceramic teeth a dentist uses to demonstrate proper brushing, fall out. The bell rings. Rudy, very much out of his seat, skips across the linoleum and kicks the teeth through the many goalposts of the desk legs. “Why don‟t you watch your mouth,” he says. Sally slides on her side to keep the teeth from going under her desk. “Ha! Saved it.” Rudy tells Bobby and Sally of Mr. Fisico‟s invitation to drop out. Sally, a worse student than Rudy, kicks the teeth back in Bobby‟s direction. “He asked me the same thing,” she says. The game is on—all the failing kids, now enraged, split into teams. Definite goals are established. Just as they are about to kick off, Haven
Larkin Weyand Murdoch, an honor roll student, walks through the fray, picks up the slightly wet, slightly dirtied dentures, and takes them to Mr. Fisico. After delivering the soiled teeth to the man, she turns and says, “He‟s our teacher. Let‟s do what he says.” “Okay, Mom,” says Rudy. The old man holds up a hand. The kids are silent for the time being. There are the mocking smiles, but it is mostly quiet. Mr. Fisico apparently cannot speak without his fake teeth—he grabs a marker, struggles with the lid but pries it loose. He writes in big bony letters, “I need to go clean my teeth. Be right back. Please await instructions.” When the closing door smacks him on his way out, laughter explodes. Rudy rolls his socks up into a ball and that‟s what they use for a soccer ball. He and his friends vow to play soccer the entire period, no matter what the old fart says. A couple minutes later, however, Mr. Fisico returns, accompanied by the principal, a man named Cole Dillinger. He makes to deliver a verbal lashing through the glass but Mr. Fisico stops him. “I‟ve got this Cole.” His voice carries a new potency. Mr. Dillinger takes a seat in the back. Mr. Fisico walks over to Haven‟s desk and places a stack of postcards gathered in a rubber band on her desk. “Haven, can you do me a favor and mail these today?” “But they‟re blank.” Mr. Fisico stares at Rudy. “Don‟t be fooled by appearances.” “Haven, you may leave, if you wish. I will be spending the rest of the day catching up the failing students.” At this, the principal gets up. He waves a silent wave of admiration toward Mr. Fisico. Then, followed by Haven, the postcards under her arm, he leaves. The door clicks shut. Mr. Fisico picks up a spiral bound notebook from his desk. “This is a Disruption Notebook. Each of you will sign it, beginning with you, Rudy.” As the old man scribbles in the notebook, he reads what he is writing, “Rudy kicked the dentures of an old man across the floor. Rudy currently has an F in this class.” He places the notebook on Rudy‟s desk. “Now sign it.” Mr. Fisico pulls a slender black pencil case out from his sleeve. He removes the normal looking #2 yellow pencil. He hands it to Rudy. He bolts for the door. He shakes it; he kicks it; he swears at it. It doesn‟t budge. “Sit down,” demands Mr. Fisico and despite his best intentions to fight, his mind fills with the memories of the McKeesport Academy Tragedy. Today the tragedy will be named East. His classmates are already in their desks, facing front. Rudy uses all of his fingers to push his bangs from his eyes. He can‟t even hear himself when he says, “Mr. Fantasma?” “That‟s right, Rudy.” “Wait,” says Rudy. “Let me do what you do. Let me be a teacher.”
Larkin Weyand “Yes,” says Mr. F. “It‟s a pity. I was recruited in much the same way you were. You might have been a good one, but you didn‟t pass the test, Rudy. You have betrayed the system. A true education has no time for remediation. Mercy is a chore we are no longer paid to perform.” He holds out the pencil. “Rudy. What you write here will show up there. This is your chance to say good-bye.” Rudy takes the pencil. Before signing his name, he writes a final message to his parents—words of love and regret that will make his mother cry over how things once were when Rudy was the best student in his class.
Seven and More (watercolour on paper) by Sandra Gail Teichmann-Hillesheim
Monica Koenig A DEFINITIVE COLLECTION OF INTIMACY (27.) i watched the curtains move and mistook your breathing for the baseball game still on in the next room. and when your fingers came and your mouth and your skin there was no darkness and the light between the curtains fell. after, we sit, imagining we know the skin bare besides us. i see the curtains and their night and know in homes, wife things need done, like laundry, and dishes, and sucking. i settle as a stranger, and he too, and the spaces we occupy, our bodies at rest or in violence. i know the bedroom light is consistent of mornings and the wife eyes illuminating the haunted unoccupied places.
Monica Koenig WITH URGENCIES FALSE AND OTHERWISE At lilac evening I walked with every muscle aching so sad so lonely blooming. I came to a place where all light is silent, that groans. A woman examines a field where her neighbors are absent. All cravings in her leanness. The sun is there, the slender trees, the lemon houses. I'll wait for her somewhere forever. Must come back. Murderers do. Will I? Was that just when he, she? Oh, he did. Into her. She did. Done. Then he moved and I followed after him. What was he knowing? As in autumn the leaves remove themselves one after the other, until the branch sees all its dress on the ground.
Thomas Michael Duncan STEPHANIE DICKINSON‟S HALF GIRL (SPUYTEN DUYVIL, 2008) Half Girl is Stephanie Dickinson‟s debut novel and winner of the 2002 Hackney Literary Award for best unpublished novel of the year. It tells the story of Angelique, an Iowa farm girl who gets caught up in the hurricane that is Easton, a misfit youth from North Carolina. The rebellious young man convinces Angelique to run away from home and introduces her to his lifestyle of drinking, partying, and drug dealing. The constant substance abuse, hectic environment, and shifty friends stress and warp the developing relationship between Easton and Angelique, until she finally meets tragedy in the form of a close-range shotgun blast to her face. She barely survives the ordeal but is an entirely different person afterwards—both physically and psychologically. Half Girl is gritty, honest, and truly satisfying, but certainly not light summer reading. Dickinson never fails to include graphic, gruesome details, be it the hanging pig fetuses Angelique likens to “tiny sailors,” or the teeth and pieces of Angelique‟s jaw that end up on a bathroom floor; readers will feel Angelique‟s pain during her first uncomfortable sexual encounters. Angelique is an easy protagonist to root for; she will win readers over very early on, even with little rebellions like her “first taste of stolen money.” All the forces in her life seem to be against her, from her mother who doesn‟t “believe in praise,” to the policemen who don‟t believe that she is telling the truth when she reports an attempted rape. Angelique‟s prime flaw is her loyalty and devotion to Easton despite his wavering respect for her. It is a flaw only cured by buckshot lodged in her jaw. Dickinson takes her protagonist‟s narrative to a place other writers would avoid like the plague: a vegetative state. After being shot, Angelique narrates the novel from a hospital bed. Although she is perfectly aware and relates the story to the reader, she is immobile and silent to the world around her for over one hundred pages. This is a jarring stylistic shift for the novel; until that point, she had been a talkative and outspoken narrator. This section of the novel proved to be the most powerful. It is filled with quirky characters in the form of hospital orderlies, and fights between the guests who come to see Angelique. She flirts with death more than once. Most importantly, this section provides a perspective that most people will never experience first-hand. Angelique becomes a helpless spectator; she is talked about as if she is dead, jostled around, operated on, and nearly murdered. Throughout all of this, she is unable to speak a single word; she is completely silenced. Except to the reader. To the reader she can say everything, and she does. Angelique‟s inability to communicate with the other characters does lead to a bit of frustration. At times I almost shouted at the page, “Wake up and say something!” When she finally speaks again, it is refreshing, but it is also clear that a new Angelique is speaking. A new Angelique is born.
Thomas Michael Duncan Many people will tell you that the sign of a good book is that you don‟t want to stop reading, that you can‟t wait to finish. With Half Girl, I wanted to read slowly. I wanted to appreciate each chapter and each line. I wanted to stop and think about it. There are little gems on every page, like these lines expressing how Angelique feels during her hospital stay: “I didn‟t have a body. I had a burning.” There is no burning question to this novel. The plot is almost predictable (it‟s pretty clear that Angelique is going to get hurt in some way). But that doesn‟t make it a bad story. As is the case with most good reads, it is not just about the story, but the way that the story is told. Easton claims to be writing a novel. He titles it “Pure Crud.” Half Girl is anything but.
Andrew Rihn WHAT BROUGHT US HERE There were French bread pizzas burning in the oven. There was my tee shirt melting off the overhang of your shoulders. I mouthed the word please. You only used your lips for kissing. There was the car we left broken down like a misspelled word, an ellipsis of muddy footprints along the linoleum. Please, I said, use those lips one more time. Or donâ€&#x;t use them. I canâ€&#x;t remember.
Andrew Rihn A UNIVERSE SHAPED LIKE THE HEART I want this to be a love poem to Carl Sagan and Karl Marx, but it wonâ€&#x;t be. Sure, there will be astrophysics and political economy but can poetry ripen along such heavy branches? In the Midwest, carbohydrates are always in season.
Ryan Rodriguez WOLF DOWN PIZZA Eugene Lupinsky resists the automatic slicer. He‟s cutting pepperoni freehand because he likes a well-balanced knife and because he hasn‟t found a way to justify the cost of a new disc blade. He glances up from the cutting board at the recent hire, Chucky, and resists telling him for the umpteenth time to not reach across the glowing oven mouth. Eugene inhales the smell of tomato, meat, garlic, dough. When he hears the hiss of Chucky‟s skin singeing on hot metal, his surprised yelp, Eugene turns to the gangly teenager and resists the urge to say I told you so. Look at Chucky. His first job is three days young and the soft skin of his inner forearm is suddenly a bubbling mess. He stands dumb in front of the oven before Eugene rushes to the spigot and growls, “Put it under.” Abigail, the shop‟s veteran teenager, comes into the kitchen and whistles like a boy eyeing a muscle car as Eugene runs cold water over the loose flesh and Chucky‟s outside leg dances. Chucky wipes his eyes and tries to smile. Eugene tells Abigail to stop any new orders and start closing. She nods but Eugene can tell she‟s nervous. She‟s never closed alone. He turns the faucet and reaches for a towel. He trusts her. In the hospital waiting room Eugene can‟t stop obsessing about the money he‟s losing so he thinks about his wife. After Sunday mass at St. Rita‟s they always have sex in the out-of-doors. He imagines summer months along Lake Erie, nuzzling her ear on glacial beach stones, nipping her stomach in the forest shade. He can almost smell the pine needles, oozing sap, see his wife‟s small belly hairs after a slight breeze. When his pants begins to bulge he glances around at sickly people and the bedbug prevention poster and thinks about the mundane life in their small apartment . . . hearing a toilet flush upstairs during dinner, cackling neighbors through the walls, erratic traffic noises, screeching children, buzzing from electrical lines, jetliners and low flying medical helicopters as he tries to sleep . . . He glances at Chucky who fingers the edges of his tender skin. Eugene wants out of their crowded apartment. He dreams of a larger garden, apple trees, the tart taste of rhubarb, his own house in the country. He wants to raise chickens, slaughter free-range hogs for prosciutto, hear the cry of a red tail hawk. He wants to be with Helen naked under the stars, see her pearshaped hips, cream skin with red bug bites in the morning light as she hangs laundry to dry and he cures meat in the smokehouse . . . Chucky tries not to cry but Eugene can tell it hurts. He looks away when the nurse bursts the blisters, scrubs the open wound. Chucky had phoned his parents but they decided to stay home. “Just tell them to put some butter on it!” Chucky‟s dad yelled. “And don‟t let that wolfboss of yours get too close to the blood. He might get excited.”
Ryan Rodriguez “Come on, dad,” Chucky whispered, hoping Eugene hadn‟t heard, “He‟s normal just like anyone else.” Eugene smiled from his chair when they met eyes, playing dumb. He‟d heard the conversation quite clearly. x On the drive back they pass an advertisement for Delucci‟s Italian Eatery on the side of a bus. Mr. Delucci is pictured spinning pizza with a toothy grin on his face. Eugene worked his first (and only) job for Mr. Delucci, showing up at the kitchen door at age eleven and begging for work. He misses his old mentor, his large belly, how he makes everything in the world black and white, right and wrong. To Mr. Delucci, you worked hard or you didn‟t. You lied or you didn‟t. Food was prepared well or it wasn‟t. No gray area. Eugene respects Mr. Delucci, considers his approach to the world efficient, noble, American. When Eugene told Mr. Delucci he wanted to start his own business he simply squeezed his arm (a little too hard) and said, “You‟ll make tough competition.” Eugene opened his shop an hour‟s drive away, in a suburb west of Cleveland. As they approach the pizza shop, Eugene notices the cop car at the row of run-down houses across the street again. To Eugene, the rental properties present an eyesore. The roofs and porches are sunken in places and the grass is patchy. The yards are always littered with candy wrappers and smudgefaced children run and yell in the street without supervision. This evening, however, the police aren‟t calling on the houses across the street. Abigail isn‟t crying but she has a distant look in her eyes, as if the gumchewing officer standing over her isn‟t there, as if his partner isn‟t leaning nonchalantly against the Duck Hunt video game, as if she is envisioning events only she can see. Eugene opens his thick hairy arms to embrace her and she shies away on her stool, hiding behind her long blond hair, shrinking into herself. Eugene steps back. “I‟m sorry. I shouldn‟t have left you.” “I gave him all the money in the register but he wouldn‟t leave. He kept asking for money from the back. I know you said just give them what they want if this ever happened, but I didn‟t know what else to give.” “You did fine.” Eugene wants to hold her. He shifts his weight from footto-foot and begins pacing in front of the counter, wiping his clammy hands on his t-shirt. He glances around instinctually for his apron. He wants to squeeze something, crush something. He flexes his meaty hands. The police officer standing closest to Abigail puts pen to pad, “You‟re the owner right? The wolf man?” “My name is Eugene.” “So you‟re not illegal?” “I own this shop, don‟t I? I‟m a citizen just like anyone else.”
Ryan Rodriguez The officer gives Eugene a blank face before turning to Abigail. “Maybe you should start from the beginning.” “I heard the bell and thought he was any old customer and then I noticed the nylon on his face. He told me to get the money from the register and then he asked me where the safe was. I told him I didn‟t know so he came around and shoved his gun to my temple and forced me to the ground. He went in back and I stayed down and I heard shuffling and he came back and shoved my head down and told me to count to a hundred. Fucking bastard.” Chucky smiles. “What did he look like?” Eugene asks. “Let her finish.” Eugene glares at the office. Abigail looks at her lap. “I forgot to lock the door Mr. Lupine. I‟m sorry. It‟s my fault.” “It wasn‟t your fault, dear. Do you want something to drink? He pours a cola from the fountain and two diets for the police officers. Chucky just wants to hear more about the robbery. “Can you remember any other details about him? “He was as tall as Chucky but twice his size. He was wearing baggy dark blue jeans and a gray sweatshirt. A gold chain popped out when he jumped the counter. He was black but with light skin, light-skinned-black but not like olive light-skinned.” “Did you notice anything else?” “He had big white teeth, almost like buck teeth. I saw them when he smiled behind the stocking. His face was shaped funny, like his cheekbones were sunken in or something, but I couldn‟t see very well.” “Did you see the gun?” The officer asks. “It was black with a square barrel.” “Anything else?” “He kept wiping at his nose with his gun, with his forearm of the hand that held the gun. I remember because every time he did it I thought it was going to go off.” “Summer allergies,” the shorter cop says. “Or hopped up,” the bored cop says. Eugene conjures a face in his mind, a young black face with caramel skin and a buck toothed smile. Eugene insists on following Abigail home. Abigail‟s mother is reasonable about the whole business and simply gives her daughter a big hug and kisses the top of her head before nodding to Eugene. It is nearly ten o‟clock when he finally drops Chucky. “Do you think I can work tomorrow?” Chucky asks, puberty causing his young voice to crack. “It might take a few weeks for that to heal, old boy.” Eugene smiles and lowers his gaze to Chucky‟s arm. “But come down next Monday and we‟ll find something you can do.”
Ryan Rodriguez “Thanks, Mr. Lupine.” Chucky pauses before closing the car door. “You‟re part wolf, right? That‟s where the pizza shop got its name?” “A little bit, yes, but not a whole lot, three percent, still human.” “Do you feel different?” “No, Chucky. I‟m just the same as you or anyone else. Maybe my blood pressure gets a bit high when I‟m excited.” Eugene turns his head from the driver‟s seat and grins at the boy. Chucky grins right back. “Can you do anything weird?” “No, I just got stuck with this.” Eugene pulls on his curly arm hair, “But I‟m also half Italian so that may account for the hair. Now, go on in the house. I bet your parents are worried.” “OK. Just checking. I know a few mutants and they have differences. I just didn‟t know if . . . you know . . . you were different in some ways.” “It‟s just me, Chucky.” Eugene takes a deep breath as the boy walks away. He feels lucky, grateful for his life, his wife, grateful that he can help kids like Chucky. He thinks about his differences, his sharp sense of smell, his strong, sinewy muscles, better-than-average depth perception and hand-eye coordination. With both kids safe he feels his shoulders loosen and he takes another deep breath. He wonders if his genetic changes affect his instincts, his mind. He often wonders this, especially when feeling stressed. “That‟s when I need to be more human,” he thinks, shifting gears, “when it‟s the hardest not to be.” As Eugene presses the accelerator his rationale mind begins to dissolve like a drop of blood on a sugar cube. His body begins to shake. He clenches the steering wheel and tugs the collar of his shirt. The robber enters his head. A voice he doesn‟t recognize begins to speak. . . no, no it was just money . . . everyone is safe . . . you don’t need to . . . and then Eugene slams the brake, screeching tires. The stop sign is for stopping, he thinks. He looks around, panting, watching the steady red flash of the stop sign light. His brain fills with violent thoughts and images, smashing the intruder‟s teeth through nylon, squeezing his neck to bone, tearing at his skin. Eugene is uncomfortable with the terrible images in his brain. He wonders if he is going crazy and feels, for the first time with such power and clarity, vulnerable to the world, helpless and weak. He is afraid of how he feels. He tries to take a deep breath but he keeps going back to the masked face of the intruder, finding new ways to smash the image as soon as it forms in his mind. Eugene peels his hands from the wheel and places his hand on his temples and feels the thump, thump, thump of his surging blood. Eugene takes a deep breath . . .another. “People have been violent since people have been people,” he whispers, “You are just thinking about hurting him, Eugene. This guy robbed you!” And although his breathing begins to slow and the images in his mind dissipate, he thinks how strange it is that he has just spoken out loud, calling himself by his own name.
Ryan Rodriguez Burnt leaf ash, pumpkin, and wet autumn decay mix in Eugene‟s nasal cavity and tickle his keen perceptive cilia as he gets out of his car, three months after the first robbery. He doesn‟t, however, dwell on the signals coming from his olfactory nerves as he steps to his apartment door. His brain is busy with emotions not served by scent-induced nostalgia. He opens the screen and pauses, looking back at the jack-o-lantern glowing on the cement steps. He picks it up and launches it skyward. The orange face explodes on the sidewalk leaving the bottom stem holding a few jagged pumpkin teeth. The simple destruction brings Eugene little satisfaction. He begins his rant as soon as he hears Helen in the kitchen so she closes the refrigerator door and puts her hand down his pants. He begins ranting again before his pants are pulled up from his ankles. Helen sighs. “Chucky just wouldn‟t shut up about it. God I want to strangle that kid sometimes. Not that it was his fault but I just . . .” “What happened?” “We got robbed again. What do you think?” “Eugene Lupinsky, don‟t you speak to me that way . . . What happened?” Eugene buttons his pants and Helen picks up the salt-and-pepper shaker from the floor. “Well, Chucky was delivering to a dentists‟ convention in that rusty Chevette his mom lets him use. A big order, couple hundred bucks. When he got back to the shop he parked in back. Guy came up to the window and put a gun to his head. Chucky lied at first, stupid kid, told him he only had tips.” “Is he OK?” “Yeah, as I said, he wouldn‟t shut up about it. He comes running and yells how that „bastard got us again‟ and then he tells every little detail over and over.” “So it was the same guy?” “Chucky thinks so. Same type of mask. Same square black gun barrel. Told him to put his head on the wheel after getting the moneybag and tips. Told him to count to a hundred. Chucky said he got to thirty-five and said fuck it.” “Eugene!” “I‟m just telling you what happened.” Helen turns to the freezer and grabs a quart of chocolate ice cream. “I mean what kind of punk keeps coming back to the same spot? I know it‟s the same kid. Chucky thinks so and it makes sense. But, who does he think we are? Some kind of pushover? I‟ve worked too hard. . .” Helen glances at Eugene over the ice cream scooper. “We‟ve worked too hard to let some punk kid take all our profits. We‟re that close to having enough for our down payment.” A toilet flushes upstairs.
Ryan Rodriguez “Do you know how tired I am . . .” Eugene closes his eyes. “I just want us to have our own place away from everyone.” He moves closer to Helen who is intent on the frozen dairy. He pulls her close but she stands stiff, annoyed. “I just want us to be happy. I get so angry when I think about this kid taking our money and he didn‟t do anything but hold a gun to someone‟s head. We work hard and he is just taking our dream away.” Eugene releases his wife‟s curved waist and walks to the counter. He picks a knife from the block and holds it up, viewing his own reflection. “It‟s obvious to me that since you‟ve been robbed, you haven‟t been happy. You are going to have to change, learn how to deal with whatever is eating at you.” Eugene watches Helen‟s reflection put the quart of ice cream away and walk towards him. He feels her press her long, soft frame against his back. Her fingers touch his forearm. He opens his fingers, releasing the knife on the counter. “Slow down. You‟ll get your dream house but don‟t forget that we are here now. I‟m here now. I don‟t need kids, don‟t need millions of dollars, but I need you to be you.” Eugene feels her chin on his shoulder, her breath on his cheek. “Are you ready for bed?” As he trails his wife, holding her hand, he looks back at the knife and he thinks about how some cultures cut thieves at the wrist. Eugene loves closing his pizza shop on snowy days, hanging evergreen boughs on the front door, bundling into bed with steaming hot chocolate, with Helen and her green poinsettia underpants. He loves Helen performing in the church bell choir, loves standing in the grassy nativity manger and smelling hay bales, pretending to be a “real wise man” for a two-hour shift. He loves driving the neighborhoods lit with candles or colored lights, squeezing his eyes almost shut to view the holiday lights like a kaleidoscope, pretending the world is all a soft blur. He loves how the bitter cold makes his blood rise to his skin like a lake wave slapping against an icy break wall. In his fifth year at the pizza shop he decided it wasn‟t enough to decorate just for Christmas. So in addition to crosses, ceramic Santa‟s, and plastic reindeer, he added a menorah and dreidel, a Kwanza kinara and unity cup. He liked to show appreciation for regular customers, but he knew it was good for business. “Open kitchen, open arms,” Mr. Dellucci used to say. “Bring in the people; the money will follow. Love people first, food second . . .” and Mr. Delucci would lean in and wink, whispering loudly, “And the money last, always love the money last, or it will take over everything else that you love.” Eugene watches Chucky glue a googly-eye to his Santa Claus cut from a life and leisure magazine. Abigail, home from her first semester at the State
Ryan Rodriguez College in Bowling Green, decorates another “holiday” box. Making and giving away the holiday boxes had become tradition. Each box is decorated by hand and if you order a pizza and it comes in a painted, pasted, or collaged holiday box, the pizza is free. Many customers only buy pizzas during the holiday season so decorating demand is high. Helen is on her way over to help with a friend from the church, Thelma. When Eugene hears the door knock, Chucky is holding up his Santa Claus box to Abigail and shaking his crazy-eyed invention. Instead of his wife, Eugene opens the door to someone hunched over in the cold, nose tucked to the breeze. A gun appears from inside a large winter coat. The square barrel points at Eugene‟s face. “Back up. Hands where I can see them. It‟s the holidays and I don‟t mean to hurt nobody. I just need to take care of mine.” Eugene turns and sees Chucky freeze, pizza box held up in the air. Santa‟s wobbly-eye jiggles. Abigail chomps her gum before whispering, “Not again.” “And we don‟t need to take care of our own?” Eugene growls. “I gotta get mine, Mr. pizza man. Relax.” He gestures with the gun. “Now, let‟s get the haul. I know you had a pretty good take. From your pockets first.” Chucky and Abigail pull out their crumpled cash. Eugene stands, staring. The robber sees, feels his anger growing, his stillness become more and more pronounced. “Stay down, wolf man. You!” He points the gun at Chucky. “Go get the money from the back.” “Get the money from the desk, Chucky. You know where we keep it.” Eugene‟s head doesn‟t turn in the slightest. He just looks at the robber, eyes going up and down, probing for weakness. The robber smiles with his buckteeth framed by the O of the orange ski mask. “Girl, put your money on the counter. Don‟t be stupid.” “You were here before. I know you,” Abigail says. “Yeah, it‟s the same guy for sure. His voice sounds the same.” Chucky walks into the room with the metal cashbox. “You don‟t know shit. Put the money on the counter. Step back. Shut the fuck up.” “You probably just need money for crack or meth, pretending to be some urban Robin Hood,” Abigail says. “Why don‟t you fulfill a stereotype somewhere else?” “You don‟t know me. You don‟t know shit, college girl. Read a few books and think you‟re something. Keep your mouth shut.” Eugene flares his nostrils. “Pimple face. You put all that cash in the fancy pizza box there. Girl, you check the register. Wolfman, stay put.” “I emptied it already,” Eugene says.
Ryan Rodriguez “Don‟t lie to me. Hurry up!” Abigail opens the register and silver clinks. “Put that with the other money.” Abigail fills the holiday box. Eugene thinks of his wife and Thelma, due to arrive any minute. He widens his stance. “You need anything else?” “Put your hands up.” Abigail and Chucky raise their arms. Eugene walks towards the counter, towards the money. “I‟m just going to collect this box for you. We wouldn‟t want anyone getting hurt.” Eugene closes the pizza box, neatly and efficiently tucking in the corners like he has done thousands of times before. “Is there anything else I can get you?” “Proper service?” The thief grabs the box with his left hand and backs towards the exit. “You don‟t know me. You don‟t know shit.” Eugene finds Thelma‟s white cap lying next to her on the sidewalk. She slipped as the robber ran by, fracturing her left elbow, banging the back of her gray bun causing a thimble of hard blood to swell up on her scalp. At the hospital, Eugene tells Helen the details and then they go silent, waiting for Thelma‟s son to show. When they finally get into bed it is Helen who can‟t stop talking: “It must be the same guy then? Three times? What are we going to do? Did you see any jewelry? A tag on his jacket? Did Chucky say what kind of shoes he had in the second robbery? So he knew Abigail was in college? He said the pizza was good? He must be a customer? Local? If Thelma broke her arm then that‟s assault? I mean he is the reason she fell, right? Aren‟t you angry? It was our money, right? How much? How much from all three times?” “Enough.” “Enough? That‟s our money!” “That was our money.” A toilet flushes upstairs. Helen glares at Eugene who stares at the ceiling with his hands crossed on his hairy chest. He concentrates on breathing. He sees, feels Helen as she turns to him, wrapping herself in the covers like a cocoon. She reaches for the desk lamp, switching it off. “You‟ll have to kill him then.” Eugene, on his back, slants his eyes towards his wife. “I‟m glad Thelma‟s going to be all right,” Helen says, concern in her voice. “My brother has guns. He‟ll tell us what to buy. You‟ll keep it at the shop because I don‟t want a gun in the house and plus that‟s where you‟ll need it. Maybe you could shoot with my brother. I‟m sure you won‟t have any problems. I‟m tired. It‟s been a long night.”
Ryan Rodriguez And Helen, unrolling herself from the blankets, leans over and pecks Eugene on the cheek. He doesn‟t see the expression on her face. He only feels her warmth, hears her cozy bed noises as she begins to fall sleep, and he wonders if she smiles even slightly as she drifts off, or if she can feel his wide grin reflecting the glow of the plaster ceiling, keeping him awake. The winter is so cold Helen won‟t have sex outside. A frosty silence settles between their different understandings on the inside. When they come together physically, verbally, it is like lower mammals, not like love, not like their lovemaking from before. For the first time the whole festive season annoys Eugene. Abigail informs him she won‟t return to work at the pizza shop on college breaks. Chucky just complains about bad tips and potholes. Helen retreats to her room every night. Eugene, most evenings, passes out on the couch watching spaghetti westerns. Helen‟s brother, Peter, says the best handgun for Wolf Down Pizza‟s security is something small. Eugene buys a .357 Magnum. He loves Clint Eastwood and he‟ll be damned if he‟ll settle for less. The first time he shoots the gun he feels a tickle in his genitals. The loud boom impresses his sensitive ears, as does the echo of his first shot ringing with its shrill certainty. He has no clue where the bullet lands. He goes to the range and watches the best marksmen, their balance, breathing, how they steady their eyes like hawks peering over a frozen cornfield. He imagines the face with the nylon mask is the exploding target. Eugene imagines the face a lot. He imagines just hands around his neck and the breaking of small, tender bones. Eugene knows meat, having traveled with Mr. Delucci to the local butchers and the slaughterhouses in Cleveland that have the freshest veal. He feels bad about shooting him in the face so many times so he considers different parts of the robber that he can shoot without killing him; exploding a knee, tearing a shoulder blade, creating a hole in a palm that holds a square black gun, making buckteeth disappear. At first the violent thoughts bother him, but he knows they aren‟t unnatural. Violence, he begins to understand, is part of human nature. He prays about his violent thoughts. He asks God to cleanse his mind, lead his actions, help his marriage return to love. He grows more and more comfortable with the silence between him and Helen. He stops asking God to make the silences go away, realizing that his inner dialogue, which he always just spilled forth to his wife, was filled with words he‟d rather not share. After closing, Eugene waits for the thief with his money neatly stacked in front of him, sipping hot cider and chewing pepperoni nubs. He considers the boy‟s life and how it shouldn‟t be ended over robbery, how this doesn‟t fit the crime. But he respects what every American knows, that if you trespass, steal, pick up a gun and point it at someone, you could end up dead. Eugene
Ryan Rodriguez wonders whether he would trade his dreams, his American rights, for the life of someone he only knows as a thief. Helen‟s brother Peter is a portly corporate electrician with thin, sandy hair and a stress belly. He sets targets on the wooden fence behind the farmhouse and they shoot towards a field strewn with hawthorns. “So, if he comes in again are you going for a kill shot, a termination?” Peter asks, aiming his .22 rifle at a green Mountain Dew can. “What would you do?” Peter shoots and misses. “Damn! He‟s black, right? Black kid robs a white business, even if you are a little altered.” He winks. “Cops and community do a quiet nod and move on. No worries. Sounds like a free shot.” Peter hands the rifle to Eugene. “Free shot? From a citizen like me?” “See if you can do better than I did. You‟ve been mostly shooting with that behemoth handgun. That puppy pulls slightly left.” Eugene takes the rifle and settles it on his shoulder. He lines up the neon green can in the crosshairs. The bullet makes a shrill ping when it passes through the aluminum. “Beginners‟ luck.” Eugene eyes the can, slightly visible on the ground behind the wooden fence post. He feels the crunch of frozen grass under his feet. He notices a cluster of crystals on the can‟s surface. He stills himself and squeezes the trigger. The can leaps. “Hope you shoot that way with the magnum.” Eugene opens his case. “I was surprised when Helen phoned. I never saw you for the type . . . not the shooting of guns but the shooting of a gun, if you take my meaning. I wouldn‟t kill a rabbit unless starving and the store was closed. I know some older fellas who got into the terminations though. They still like to shoot animals, like to kill. I only know if someone came in with a gun to steal from my business? I don‟t know many people would have a problem with that, regardless of genetics.” “I‟m a citizen, just like anybody else!” Eugene barks, placing the last bullet in the six-shooter. “I‟m not saying otherwise. But when did the government ever treat all its citizens the same?” Eugene clicks the cylinder. “Let me try that canon.” All winter Eugene takes acorn squash and rotten pumpkins and once a honeydew melon to explode on the fence, examining exit holes on the frozen grass. Peter, like Chucky and most of the pizza shop‟s loyal customers, thinks the thief will not return. Chucky swears he won‟t tell anyone about the gun under the register, but Eugene doesn‟t care. The more people that know, he figures the less likely they will be to try anything. Helen is silent on the matter,
Ryan Rodriguez but it is clear to Eugene that she is waiting. He thinks she might eventually be convinced the thief won‟t return, but he doesn‟t know how to show her. He does know how long it can take to turn hope into truth. x Eugene is wrapping pepperoni and thinking about how he needs to embrace his control of the world or he‟ll never be the man he wants to be when he hears the doorbell ring and Chucky squeak, “Back again?” Eugene wipes his hands on his apron and moves toward the front of the shop. He pulls his apron off and places it next to the register. The thief smiles through his nylon stocking, gun in hand. “Yeah, he‟s back,” says Chucky. “Go get that cash from the back. I know it‟s just you two tonight. Hurry up!” Chucky scoffs under his breath and Eugene nods. As he walks behind the counter, Eugene places a hand on his shoulder. “It‟ll be all right. I put the cash in the safe. You know the combination, right? Chucky looks up at Eugene‟s blank face. “It may take a couple tries but you‟ll get it. Two right. One left and back left to six.” “A lot of good a safe did for you,” the thief smirks. “How much did that thing cost?” “Only fifty. Got it at the police auction.” “Why don‟t you get the register money while we wait.” He points the gun for emphasis. Eugene doesn‟t look down. He stares at the gun in his face. Should I shoot him? In the arm? What if I miss? I could hit his knee? His shoulder? How do I distract him enough to get the gun? Four-five-six. Safety off. Cock. Aim. Breathe. Squeeze the trigger. It‟s time to stop him. Kill him. Do I want to kill him? I don‟t have much time while Chucky‟s out back. “So you settled on this as a career?” Eugene asks. “You might consider other options, but that‟s just my opinion. Obviously I have some bias.” “Fuck you, Pizza man. I‟m not in the mood for your shit.” Eugene wiggles the key in the top of the register, pulls the key back out and holds it up to the light, examining it. He drops it to the ground. As he bends, he presses the numbers on the lock box, scuffing his shoe to mask the sound, just like he‟d practiced over and over waiting alone in the store. “The combination is eleven-seven-fourteen, right?” Chucky asks. “Eleven-seven-sixteen.” “Gotcha. I‟ll be right back.” “Hurry the fuck up!”
Ryan Rodriguez “I‟m trying. I‟m not the one that usually opens it.” Eugene wants to hug the boy for trying to leave an opening, but he doesn‟t want the boy around if anyone shoots. Eugene can feel Chucky‟s eyes on his back, waiting for a sign. “Well, go get it you goofy fuck.” Chucky pauses. “Don‟t be stupid. Get the money.” Chucky shuffles back to the office, grumbling. Eugene stares at the thief who stares right back with the gun. “Well?” “Would you like your cash in a pizza box again?” “Sure. Make it a large.” Eugene knows all he needs to do is grab the gun as he bends down to get the box. He stops his motion as he reaches under the counter. “So you say this is a career then?” “Pizza man, I‟m getting tired of your shit. I‟m just gettin‟ mine.” Eugene considers this, how both of them really just want the same thing. “But what do you need the money for?” “What the fuck do you care?” “You‟d be surprised how much I care about where my money goes after its stolen. You‟d be surprised how much I‟ve thought about smashing your fingers in a door jam or busting your teeth out.” “Keep dreaming. You‟re not the type. You treat people too well. Not much of a wolf.” “I‟m just saying that if I know you are doing something useful with the money, not just buying crack, or dope, or rims for your car, I might not think you were as big an asshole as it seems.” “What can I say? I‟m living the American dream.” Eugene smiles. He looks down the worn spot on the cash button, the clean edges on the gun grip. He won‟t shoot this boy. He can‟t shoot this boy. He will just give him the money again. He isn‟t Clint Eastwood, isn‟t sure he wants to be. He just wants his life to be like it was before, like what it is supposed to become. Not this. He doesn‟t want to live with this, doesn‟t want to go to church and feel like more of an imposter than he already feels. People already look at me different, he thinks. They know what I am, what I almost am. Eugene looks at his wife‟s face, distorted through the glass, peering in the front window. She often did this when she came to the shop, watched him work. Eugene glances quickly away so the robber won‟t notice him staring. He brings his hands up, palms out, so that Helen will know about the gun. When he looks over her eyes widen. It has been so hard since this distance has come between them. All he wants is to save a little money and move to the country. All he wants is to argue with his wife like they used to, make love like they
Ryan Rodriguez used to, dig in their twin gardens. But this boy has changed him, made him quiet, pensive, moody, made him become something he doesn‟t like, made him crave violence. But, Eugene thinks, maybe this is what it means to be American, to have the right to bear arms, to be responsible for your own property. This is the price we must pay, this violence. But Eugene still doesn‟t want to do it, even after all his dark dreams. “You done yet?” the thief yells. “Almost got it,” Chucky yells back. Eugene sees Helen clearly through the glass. She nods her head slightly and smiles. He hasn‟t seen her smile in a long time and he feels himself smile back. They know what this smile means. The robber looks to the sound of Chucky‟s footsteps returning. Eugene reaches for the Magnum and brings it up to fire in one motion. He squeezes the trigger as the gun comes level and it strikes the robber in the chest. The sound explodes in the small pizza shop. The thief, thrown against the front door, holds the gun out like it is broken. He looks down at his chest, surprised. “You shot me?” The thief puts his left hand to the wound and his fingers come back red. He lifts the gun with his right hand. Eugene shoots him in the chest. The thief thuds back against the door. He hunches slightly, turning to his right. “You shot me.” The thief struggles to maintain balance. The shots have blown him against the wall. Chucky stands in the kitchen doorway turning pale. He brings his hands up to cover his mouth. “I just . . . I just wanted the money to . . .” The thief looks up, his buckteeth slightly apart. He glances at the gun hanging on his fingertips. He bends slightly at the waist, wiggling his hand, and the gun clatters to the floor. Eugene can smell gunpowder. He feels his hand shaking slightly. He watches the thief suddenly stumble out in one jerky motion. He gathers himself in the doorframe and weaves precariously to the street. Eugene follows, amazed the boy is moving at all. He passes Helen on the sidewalk and waits for the boy to fall. It is an icy night with a sliver of crescent moon. Eugene and Helen stand shoulder to shoulder and she reaches for his empty left hand. Eugene squeezes and watches the thief stumble across the street, fall over the curb on his way to the row of houses with the run-down lawns and ratty kids. The thief gets up to his knees and crawls halfway up the front porch steps of the house with the yellow siding peeling away. A woman rushes from inside. She is large and wears a baggy gold sweat suit. The neighbors‟ porch lights, lights that weren‟t already lit from the gunfire, begin to flick on. He is lying in a heap on the stairs. She starts howling, “My baby! My baby!” She jerks his nylon mask off to reveal his buckteeth framed by a thin, surprised face.
Ryan Rodriguez Eugene hears Chucky open the door, smells the rush of gunpowder, feels his wife lean into his ear and whisper, “You‟re my baby, my baby.” Eugene doesn‟t see the kiss from his wife and it never makes its destination. He rushes across the street, stopping halfway when he realizes he still holds the gun. He runs back and places it on the curb and then turns back across the street. The woman stands and shrieks at him. He goes to the body. He sees right away that the buckteeth, the shallow, sunken cheeks are not all human. The thief looks thin, scared, and his brown eyes stare up with disbelief, an animal caught dying in a trap. Eugene knows then that he has killed someone different, different just like himself. He presses on the chest wounds with both hands, trying to stop the bleeding as its warmth gushes between his fingers. He presses harder, feeling breath leave lungs. Eugene looks up, desperate, sees only a broken porch swing dangling free, street lights reflecting off the trail of blood on the asphalt, stunned faces gathering in a loose crowd. He looks at the black sky and the sliver of moon and feels a great rush of adrenalin pulse within him. He sniffs the night, considers himself sniffing the night. He breathes, breathes again to control himself like a human. He considers the fine jaw line and soft neck of the body below him. He should have killed him with his hands, he thinks, crushed his throat with his hands. Not because it would make things right, because somehow it would make things better. He stops pressing on his chest and opens his palms to the wounds as if he might heal them with some unknown power. It isn‟t appropriate to howl, to howl at this moon, he thinks, not in front of all these people. After a few thin breaths he feels the warmth of the moonlight on his cheeks. A single ice crystal hovers in the night air, glistening in front of his face. He wonders if this light, this warm moon glow he feels on his cheek is from being part wolf, or if everyone feels the moon this way sometimes. Eugene returns attention to the body below him and keeps pressure on his chest until he dies.
Inside I, II, and III (mixed media) by Sandra Gail Teichmann-Hillesheim
Melva Sue Priddy UNWILLING We had trouble breaking in fresh heifers, young and small in stature as we were, their first time into the milking stalls after weaning their calves from nursing; the tight quarters, steps, turns, and narrow stalls. The older cows knew the drill and stood still. Some young instinctively stood for dad, his face above flank level; some kicked and balked when he walked out the door. But there was one heifer who never left the barn. She would not stand and dad would not give in— he beat her about the head with a 2 by 4 then quickly cut her throat to bleed, saved the meat as three of us watched, did as told, opened the doors releasing the other cows, washed out the blood; finished milking and cleaning up once he‟d loaded her carcass to take to the slaughter house. Not long after, another heifer fixed with mechanical kickers managed to startle the other cows so much they broke the door and fled the barn. She bucked across the field until she broke the kickers. We chased her, wild-eyed, back in and dad tied her in the stall to a tall metal post, resorted to a 2 by 4 until she fell and hung herself —all because she wouldn‟t be still. He was mad that we needed him to help, then mad that she‟d broken the kickers, mad that she‟d wasted our time running around and god knows a cow won‟t give down milk after running around. And then to fight and hang herself—the meat poor because of her recent calving. Lots of things don‟t need to be put into words in a barn like that.
Eron Rauch WINDWORKS 4â€”AFTERNOON DRINKING ON TAX DAY Is smaller really cuter? What of the ocean? I suppose it's not that cute in the first place, but how about the night sky's flattery, it's flugelhorn solo fallen to the tundra carpet? Is lust cuter when it's smaller? Oh lust, that circuit of heaven stolen and bootlegged all across the hidden walls of the Milky Way. Oh lust, so visible while the hens snore from dirty edge to rotting edge of this humid rock containing civilization. Is smaller cuter in our bank accounts? Are the morning sun's raking shadows passing the threshold of the mini-blinds cuter in a smaller apartment, with the interior arpeggiated in various smaller scopes of 'off-white' and 'eggshell' pallets? Is a smaller headache cuter pushing on my eyelids at these questions? Or maybe it's just the smaller pressure change swirling and the barometer's cute, sweaty fingers clutching my temples as the storm rolls off the ocean. Rolls over our questions, scouring former ranch land turned to after-hours drive-thru's, liquor store markups and vacant copy shops. Wind that steals our small voices and plumbs the depths of our throats. Ravenous wind sweeping down the dozing streets. Wind that is the lone file clerk still attending the furrowed memory of all these small questions;
Eron Rauch of the small persistent moaning of the beckoning broken perspective; of an amorphous shape intoned in answer to the tempest's larger inquisition.
Jason Lee Miller INSTRUCTIONS FOR DRAMA QUEENS WHO WANT TO BE ON TV If you want attention— Big time network TV attention To be relevant— Big time relevant, like Ann Coulter All you gotta do is learn how to balance on the absolute opposite end of every little thing and pirouette as ungracefully as you can tip-toeing the last nerve in shrill staccato Just hang there in the spotlight, dancer, and they‟ll think you really mean it And hold it! Hold it now! Then bow to the lowest common denominator Wait for it to ripen, and when the applause go down Exhale and ride that last train of unconscionable thought and they‟ll meet you at the station with sadomasochistic bells on—more sado than maso, though it won‟t matter as much as building up a hot enough kitsch To swallow Salt to taste, mix your metaphors just right and With enough additives —mono invective intimidate, hydrogenated indignant sarcasm oil, high obtuse porn syrup, dried vaguely fascist tea leaves, obligatory unparallel Nazi comparison substitute, partially androgrynated Adam‟s Apple™ fartoo-simple syrup (for flavor), fear-and-loathing affect juice (not from concentrate), xenophobia gum (as a preservative), coulterized quasifactual misappropriation seeds, Founding Father Emotional Fallacy™ baking soda, modified historical corn starch, Corporate Welfare™ magic whitewash powder, and blonde dye #5— They might even think it‟s good for them
Jason Lee Miller Whatever you gotta do to keep their eyes off other people Heck, be a rapper, MC Huff-and-Stuff, and remember to naysay and gainsay everything they say So when they say fascism you say socialism Fascism! (Socialism!) Fascism! (Socialism!) When they say regulate you say segregate Regulate! (Segregate!) Regulate! (Segregate!) When they say poor you say more Poor! (More!) Poor! (More!) See, itâ€&#x;s easy, like candy from a baby and applies to all but one percent of everybody All you gotta do is lean back on the talking points So far back you go back in time So far back you become a counterweight So far back your perfect darkness will balance the light
Karlanna Lewis POST-PERFORMANCE (A SESTINA) You‟ve hinged in half. Humans don‟t fly, so how can you? Your dance pulse is weak; sores are colossal tonight. And this is your dream: to dance, you remind yourself. You say “These sequins, sautés, scabs, are all I want,” but at night you have secrets. Projected onstage you rip hearts, hatch love—it‟s no secret. And there is no tinted magic as a fly settles on your calluses and you want a fresh body. You half-heartedly slap balms, anoint sores. But the stagehand is calling, “They say please repeat the performance. It was a dream.” Are the red vessels in your eyes a dream? You want more moonlit glissades. You want the secret that is beneath gossamer wrap skirts and tights. You say “What do I have to do everyday?” Make the body fly, is the answer, and everything will soar. You will leap into God‟s arms like you want and waltz with him. He knows how. “I want this dance,” he will command and not ask. In the dream he does not have a face, but who knows? The sore comes when a boy whines and you don‟t hear. It‟s no secret you‟re whirling light-years away. But your eyes fly back to your dream—you spin twenty times. Witnesses say “That was silk ribbon dangling from a kite. Who can say there was ever anything better? But doesn‟t she want to use her brain, to stop relevéing up and down, a fly pretending to rise like the sun?” It‟s your dream and you know you are the Russian princess‟ secret. Anastasia is still alive, taking bubble baths to dull the sore. She has no room for the rubber duck, you none for a shorebound duck boy. Choreographers direct, “Say everything with your limbs but keep your head secret so the audience will wonder and want and pay, like they were paying for the dream of a world they vandalized.” A boy in the bathroom zips his fly
Karlanna Lewis after the show. Backstage on sores, you tiptoe out. You want powdered faces to say lives changed. You go to dream in secret you are a real dancer, one of the birds that can fly.
Cheryl Snell ARTIST WITH WORRIED SISTER she stands up among her broken people counting time on fingers bent with it her plane was a bed contrived of shadows full of salt wound in sheeting now in shreds like all ends of things orange energy lifting her into urgencies clanging yellow hurrying her forward away from the sister who was always one step behind
Artist with Worried Sister by Janet Snell
Cheryl Snell DUSK There‟s the daylight in ruins, and you here willing to be ruined too, willing night to crawl across a city full of men wanting to ruin you. Here comes one now, ripe with appetite and impulse, without a clue of what it will take to pull you out of these details drowning in orange and blue, and into his own picture— but you‟re clear on that too, transparent with buttercup hope that this time will be different, that this one will know how to see you.
Dusk by Janet Snell
Cheryl Snell DOUBLE PORTRAIT WITH HELD BREATH Water here. There the plunge. Everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned. Yes, almost, but not here, now, at the vanishing point. The shadows were her home. Now blue sparks from her, warmth rises in wreaths of rose above the violet violins. Steady; this baton has never beaten anything but time, and sound echoes like the present full of a past with no future. Above swinging brass fish, she just has to ask: if no one is dancing then why all this music?
Double Portrait with Held Breath by Janet Snell
Kacy Muir Front Man Book Review Fast and loud the words are amplified through the stereo as the crowd, drenched in sweat and blood, jump, kick and punch and slam to the ones upfront: Try to stop us. It’s no use. We’re gonna rise above, rise above. It is that exact sentiment that poet Brian Fanelli brings forth in his debut chapbook Front Man. At first, it may seem that punk music, anti-establishment, and the do-ityourself philosophy are the overarching themes throughout the chapbook. However, such themes are merely the outermost layers, peeling away to make visible something much more evocative. Certainly, the chapbook does not go without mention of The Ramones, The Clash, Dead Kennedys, and Black Flag. Yet, one of the principal thematic elements throughout the book seems to be acceptance of yourself, no matter what the risk. “The Slam Dance” is a great example of how Fanelli uses imagery to not only portray the environment for his readers, but also make them feel as though every sense of their own body is there with him, propelled forward in the next calamity of events. I bounced against tattooed bodies crashed to the floor until she pulled me up held my hand until I found rhythm and danced until the music slowed to a slur greasy rags slid over bar tops.
In particular, one of main elements seems to be the tension throughout the pieces— something that eventually comes to a head. Apprehension towards the alienated narrator continues to build, especially with regard to the relationship with his father. The theme seems to be the major driving force for much of the book, serving as the reason why the narrator first becomes engrossed in music, but also later, driven away. “In Never Going Home,” Fanelli writes, “I dumpster dive, sleep on beer bottle-littered floors / refuse the alarm clock the mirror where father appears / tying a tie, straightening his collar.” Much of the observations presented in the poems confer about the lives of the blue-collared, the divided, and those who never cared to label themselves. The narrator, however, undergoes a sudden transformation following loss. “Waiting Room” is the point where loss is most poignant. It is a turning point in the chapbook when the reader can begin to see the narrator changing from his dumpster-diving, hand-clenching identity to someone so much more than that. We find that identity is not so much about what we wear, listen to,
Kacy Muir or look like to the rest of the world but rather, the person that we become at the end of it. Fanelliâ€&#x;s debut chapbook is a vivid journey of emotion through rebellion, broken windows and dirty floors, love, sex, loss, and rebirth. Front Man is currently available online through Big Table Publishing and Fanelliâ€&#x;s website at http://www.brianfanelli.com/.
Ryan Radner SELF-PORTRAIT AT 23 I have fantasized about dying in a plane crash but never about owning my own private jet. I haven‟t seen my blood in a few years so I assume that means I have thick skin. The television makes half of my decisions. I turn off my brain when I walk into work and it takes me twenty minutes just to get there. My dance moves look like Charles Barkley‟s golf swing. I do it often, in public, for no reason. I rarely get upset when I forget my umbrella. I couldn‟t even marry a man if I wanted to, but I could become a cop and kill myself. I passed a robin floating in a stone birdbath and when he flapped his wet wings, I fell in love with the world all over again. Five minutes later I got stung by a bee.
Isaac James Baker TATTOOS a bright blue celtic cross tattooed on my forearm the first one, a dare proud green vines and grapes etched into my leg i thought i was finished i fell down again, ended up with a deck of cards on my hip a salute to the will of chance i almost lost my life, wound up with nothing but a body my wrist now says: vive la libertĂŠ a broken bone stretches across my arm, that one just looked really cool
M.P. Powers GAZE My German grandmother loved to stare. She didn't care if you caught her in the act. She'd go right on staring at you, thinking God knows what? I always thought this was just one of her idiosyncrasies, but now that I live in Berlin, I have found staring is a trait shared by the whole Teutonic tribe. I've heard others talk much about it too. The intense German gaze. I've witnessed it in cafes, restaurants, on the U-Bahn. And in the streets, when a German approaches, he will often get an eyeful of you from afar, look down, but then just before passing, steal one more glance. Are Germans just more curious than most? Are they more honest? More strange? Wondering if they're being looked at? I really don't know what it is. But I know I too am German. And somewhere in my DNA, the voyeuristic tendency is heavily encoded. It's there when I meander around the city. And at night, in my apartment, I often find myself at the peephole. Or at the window overlooking the little courtyard below. There's not much down there. Just a few trash cans and the back door of an Italian restaurant. Twelve windows face it. Some are above mine, some below, some across. Last night, the cook was out there talking to the waiter. I could hear them laughing. I could smell cigarette smoke wafting up. I turned off the lights, so as not to be seen, parted the curtains and gazed down. Just then, the cook stubbed out his butt and went inside. The waiter followed. I looked at the window across from me. The light was off, but in it, I could see the reflection of the window just above mine. There was a hanging plant, and a shadowy figure peering out. I looked at the window down and to the left. Another shadowy figure. The three of us, with the lights out, observing. We had a right.
Jason Bradford THEY‟RE HYPNOTIC, BUT… Sometimes I get depressed by jellyfish floating in aquariums, carelessly drifting, no brain, bodies like balloons, strings dangling about, feeling out their niche; stinging handlers; like siblings, they caress the curves of their cylendrical casings. The situation doesn‟t confuse me, the reduction of an ocean to a bathtub, tracing the parameters, hopelessly expecting change with every glancing touch. Maybe the pang beneath my ribcage is connection. What if they had hearts? What if space was bred into their bodies, but they can‟t grasp why the reflection hurts?
Mary Stone Dockery PISCES ELEGY It‟s as if the drums have always been there on lonely sidewalks, each step a vibration, a tremble. The drums follow me into the bedroom, where you examine a room in seizure: sheets shiver, the walls throb. In the morning, you tell me how the rhythm keeps changing— are we inside each other now? Can you hear steel breaking under water? Thumps, bangs, currents in your pitched voice. Listen for the sound of brass bursting against docks, and I follow it, find your scaled skin lying crumpled in the grass, streaks that pulse and change beneath sunlight, black flashes, red veins, herring bands and lines. Rays spill across, leading me to waves where the water swells, taunting me with a Pisces surf, pretending it has never seen you. You ask me to surface from the black cave I sit in, limbs dry as matchsticks, you call, a swimming drum, and splashes of doubt push into us. But I know better—I know water zips open and swallows. At night, the drums arise in encore, and from beneath, muddled sounds are your vocal chords, angled again, finned words, hooks, corruptions finally rippling the edges of black sands. You eat other fish, swim alone, push against the sea‟s wet breath. It‟s what you have always wanted. Your fins scrape the water as if you claw long, wet walls. When we find one another in the same bed,
Mary Stone Dockery our feet are no longer finned apart, but propellers beneath gushing silk, and we sprain and curve into each other arcs of hydration. Our lips part engaging the waters before us, and the drumming bourgeons.
Jennifer Givhan DAUGHTER, LACE YOUR FINGERS TO THE SKY Rhythm banjos her skirts. Petticoats ablaze, your girl twirls, focused on the wall fleck, the spot she will spin to, to keep from dizzying, from flying off bridges or backs of chairs for pirouettes with a boy who pumps her blood with red the girls will shun. Eat your carrots. Don‟t blame the mother. Your baby girl swung in the bassinet across the stiff tulle tutu strung from the window sill along with your hopes. She slept beside you in the bed that smelled of breastmilk, your life in her mouth. You ate green and soy so she would grow. Still you could not keep her From the dance our bodies dance when we let the boys take us out into the country and oh the moon may have been full and oh the hay may have smelled sweet as lighted sky and sweetened earth silhouette backseats. Even through black veils, we can kiss and skin pierces fabric. She let the girls in the stalls and the jeers in the halls and the “slut” on the walls twine her neck bones, string her atop a chair. But her dog didn‟t bark and no one knocked and God didn‟t send an angel. And you, mother, found her swinging from the doorframe, and the moments flown away
Jennifer Givhan of swinging in the park up into the sky and quiet on the breast, milking life like the moment of her birth when red shone bright around her.
Gingko Biloba I, II, and III (mixed media) by Sandra Gail Teichmann-Hillesheim
Jonathan Scott APOLOGY TO PLUTO, AND CONGRATULATIONS I heard the news, they say you are not a planet. You are too small, too far away for us to count You a brother. You must believe . . . I did not have a vote. But just think . . . beyond the bounds of Neptune You are the next big thing, the rooster, the home Town hero back from war. From war with usâ€”despots and patriots all.
Rachel Bunting LETTER TO THE ONLY GIRL IN JROTC Look: for you it is summer the world over, fireworks in every corner of your life. If I could I would tell you it‟s ok to be afraid. Someone once said to me the most likely injury is the most unlikely, the grenade ripping through your hand at breakfast. You love your chosen brothers for their quick limbs and dime-bright smiles. It may be years before you love them for their failure to question your sex. Your sexlessness. Every day some distant person dies for looking just the way you look. For reasons even less. If I could, I would tell you stop. Now. You don‟t know my soldier friend; war has changed him. He recalls the sawdust. The sirens and sandstorms. Blood turning black in the desert heat. What you don‟t know could fill an ocean. In the meantime you are playing a simple game of chicken with a bullet you haven‟t met yet. It is small and black, dense with promise. It shouts your name. If I could, I would tell you to run.
Rachel Bunting DEAR CRUX If we had known about weakness. If we had known about nails pushed through the heel bone. If we had known about splintering nerves. If we had known the flower-light crush of lungs. If we had known the way we do not suffocate beneath the weight of our own bodies. What cruel, what inordinate jest. If we had known about the wait, the long and dusty wait. About the darkness that followed. The darkness and sudden light. The sky tearing itself in two. If only we had known. If we had, what then? Would we still have laid you open among the rocks with a whip? Would we have cried? The dark cave of your mouth always open, inviting us in. The fire of your hands on our faces. We see clearly now what we missed before. If we could, we would tell you Kiss us on the cheek, gently. We would kiss you back. We would say oh bread and wine oh precious body and blood. You can not satisfy our hunger.
Scott Horn THE FIGHT WE NEVER HAD It would start with the kindling, reclaiming all the bottled sodas I‟d ever bought you and undrinking the designer teas you brewed and brought into work, then leaving the mug it came with in the drying tray above the office dishwasher, sitting in limbo with the cutlery by 5:00. Then the trips to the drug store, I‟d want those back, too—standing in line to pick up the pills for your yeast infection and some condoms, too, because, at this point, with the prescription in my hand by the scruff of the paper, why not? All the human tissue would be scraped away, and not even a birthday or a handwritten note would be left to shiver in the clearing, and then—THEN the fight could start. We‟d cudgel our bones and pass measuring cups of broken teeth and arrowheads back and forth until I‟m yelling that your breasts are poached eggs, and you‟re yelling that you feng shuied the bedroom into giving my future girlfriends herpes. But there was no violent “pop” when our thing ended, yet on nights when the A/C‟s dead and sleep won‟t take me, I wrap my knuckles with sweat and the unspent words and box with my empty bed— our crooked ghosts—wishing there were some cataclysm to burn us clean, anything other than scrubbing the same cups and saucers in the sink until the lacquer washed away; or laying with the silence that stretched out between our backs and unhinging its mouth as we slept; or when you were out filing your taxes, and I stayed at the house, picking your beloved jar of peanut butter from the pantry— your jar, your Jiff—and hurling it against the wall only to watch it bounce off unblemished and trundle back to me like a cocker spaniel across the tiled floor.
Bruce McRae STRIKING FLINT If I think too much about you I get an ice-cream headache. The songbird in my mind flings itself against a skyscraper. My ribs need rewiring. Thinking about you is like chewing on unmined cobalt or piss on a blanket. I need to lie down beside the road into Jerusalem. I feel like I‟m being force-fed warm gravel. I keep my mind busy and hands occupied. I exercise nightly, the thought of you a lion in the bed, a snake under the outhouse, a rabid fruitbat caught in my hair. You‟re the spark to my heart of tinder, lightning in the hills, a matchstick thrown out a car‟s window. Godspeed, darling cosmonaut. Fare thee well Odysseus— because I‟m thinking about you on your lightless journey, about your lifelong suicide pact and cupid‟s-bow mouth. There‟s a city in my head with only you in it. There‟s a planet named after you. We share a foxhole and last dram of army-issued brandy. This cigarette, it‟s our first kiss.
C.B. Forrest PINKY PROMISE It ends with a man so deranged by love that he taints the soup at the wedding of his formerly betrothed. The soup, of course, was traditional Italian Wedding Soup. The sentence was eighteen months. The death count was zero, but a majority of the guests were stricken with a never heretofore experienced intestinal violence that attacked in salvos from the depths of hell. A front page article in the local newspaper, The Star, referenced an investigation by the Department of Health, as must be standard in suspected cases of mass food poisoning. „A man of medium height and slender build, a baseball cap pulled down over dark curly hair, was spotted skulking in the kitchen of the River View Holiday Inn ...’ That was me. I‟m the man of medium height and slender build with the baseball cap, the collar of my jacket turned high like some hayseed ready to rob a Shell station. Of course now, these months later, I find it difficult to align my current self with that lost soul driven to such an expression of frustration. But Shakespeare and operas and daytime soaps are chock full of people poisoning themselves, poisoning other people, all in the name of love. We‟ve been doing this, it seems, for long centuries. It is the opinion of certain people around town that the Judge was overly harsh in sentencing the culprit in question, the so-called „Wedding Soup Poisoner‟ as The Star named him for posterity. It was understood, by and large, that the so-called Wedding Soup Poisoner wasn‟t born a wedding soup poisoner. Something—or more likely someone—had happened to this guy. Regardless, I freely admit my guilt. I did the crime and I did the time, as they say. This very letter makes final the course of my penance. Eighteen months in a regional detention centre is no picnic, let me tell you. This place holds the reprobates and degenerates too obtuse or lazy to even aspire to full-fledged penitentiary. Each day here feels like a convention of all the losers drawn from every high school within a hundred mile radius, but instead of wearing „Hi My Name Is ______‟ stickers on our suit coats, we parade around in matching Day-Glo orange jump suits with the word „JAIL‟ emblazoned on the back—as though without this clarification a good citizen might accidentally mistake us for a gaggle of kindergarten teachers should we somehow manage to escape. On my first day „inside‟, I took a good look around at the faces that made up my new community. Darwin’s babies, I thought. A public service announcement for judicially imposed fertility planning. Chronic underachiever, to a man. There was not a single criminal mastermind in sight. No, these were the perpetual drunk drivers, town nut jobs, parking ticket miscreants, cigarette
C.B. Forrest smugglers with bad tattoos and five o‟clock shadows, those compelled to expose themselves in public. Yes, I was high-profile and hardcore compared with these knuckleheads. My name had appeared on the front page of the local newspaper, something my brethren could only dream about. Some of the cons asked me how I had done it. Not the „why‟, just the „how.‟ We North Americans are fascinated with the mechanics of crime. True crime books, crime TV, made-for-TV-Sunday-night-movies that recount in graphic detail precisely how some angst-ridden husband in Flint, Michigan, came to disassemble his housewife with a reciprocating saw bought on credit at The Home Depot. As for me, I was never interested in glorifying the details, in re-living the physical and emotional anguish of those darkest days. But I obliged in most cases, if for no other reason than to hear the sound of my own voice in place of the garbled grammar that assaulted my ears like constant white noise. At any rate, it was easy enough to get into the hotel kitchen. Almost anything can be accomplished if you really put your mind to it. Attitude is half the battle, I say. I stood outside the service door of the Banquet and Special Events area, pretending to smoke with one of the recently paroled ex-convict dishwashers. His name was Pete and he was from some town in Northern Ontario that never makes The Weather Channel. We shot the breeze about hockey, and while we talked I slowly, very subtly moved a small stone against the bottom of the door jamb with the toe of my shoe. When Pete the dishwasher thanked me for the cigarette and ducked back inside, the door closed but just not quite. A trick I‟ll admit to having picked up from a late night detective show. I waited a few beats and then knelt and jimmied the door from the bottom with the pads of my fingers until I got purchase and was able to swing it wide open. Like jumping into the crazy arms of love itself, I slipped inside with a sense of exhilaration and mild trepidation. My heart was racing, I tell you. I strolled by the salad maker who I instantly recognized as a former neighbor of mine. Richie Mullins was ripping the living crap out of heads of Romaine lettuce, his big swollen-knuckled hands working like machines, and I saw in his serious concentration the face of Richie as a boy walking around with his mouth open all the time, one shoe untied. I always believed he was marginally functional; he was the first kid I knew who wore a retainer, one of the mid-1970s jobs with enough metal and wiring to double as an AM radio receiver. Sure, he was the loser, but now here was I trespassing with the intent to cause serious bowel upset to an entire family—two families, to be exact—that just happened to have the misfortune to be related to my once betrothed. Life is crazy sometimes. Everything is fate and timing, and the stars swirling overhead in some sort of pre-ordained symphony. Anyway, I got in. And I did it. That‟s the long and the short of it. I felt for those people. I know very few of you will believe mine to be a genuine empathy. And in truth, I did not give it much thought from the first moment the idea was conceived, to the moment when, sitting in the front lobby
C.B. Forrest of the River View Holiday Inn, I witnessed that initial wave of tuxedo-clad men stumbling around ashen-faced, a sheen of sickly sweat glistening on their faces. All I can say is there was a moment in there—a fraction of a second— where I believe I may have come to the very core of myself. You know, one of those rare flashes of instant illumination across the dark landscape of your life. You see everything about who you are—where you‟ve been, where you‟re headed, and all the junk you‟ve seen in between—and there is truly no fooling yourself in this light. Like a pathetic pyromaniac, I lingered at the scene too long. That was my downfall. I sat there in the lobby unable to move. I was transfixed. My eyes were riveted to the strange ballet of wedding guests sliding, side stepping, stooped at the waist on their scramble out through the double glass doors. It may sound disturbing, but there was something beautiful about the scene. I saw that unexpected illness had ruined the wedding, but they were all still together, united in the shared experience of this gastrointestinal sabotage. Suddenly I was overwhelmed with the desire to be with them, to be of them. Oh the simple joy I imagined would accompany my newfound acceptance into their close-knit clan. I never really had much of a family of my own. She spotted me is how it happened. The bride of the day—stunning in her dress of shimmering white with her hair tied back—locked eyes with me, and in that fleeting perfect moment, I believe she knew the deepest secrets of my heart. She paused mid-stride, a little bent at the waist, and her face twisted into a physiological question mark. A look that said, „why are you here?‟. What could I do but turn and run? I was out of there like a teenage shoplifter, all speed and agility. I understand in my haste I knocked over one of the bridegroom‟s great-aunts who was shuffling her way down the hallway like an old Chrysler Cordoba, the left blinker light flashing, flashing. Questions were raised, video footage was analyzed, and so I was caught red-handed sitting on a stool at The Dead Duck Pub with the empty vial in my pants pocket. To this day I will not expose the source of the noxious substance; I am stoic if not brave. The cops tried every trick in the book. My connection— let‟s call him „Earl‟—has a steady job in the basement lab of a respected hospital. Earl supports four children, as well as a wife who works part-time as a bingo caller and full-time in support of The Home Shopping Channel. Earl is a decent man, and it is for this reason that it took much more money than I had originally budgeted in order to convince him to slip me the vial. We met at the Rock n‟ Bowl, did the exchange beside a machine that shines balls for a loonie. Earl was not proud of himself that day, and I assume he has secondguessed his motives many times since. As for myself, I have come to understand that peace in this life rests in that vague space between the things we can live with and those which we cannot. Curiosity gets the better of people, and I suppose in the end it overrides our desire for a semblance of dignity. So it was that four months and sixteen
C.B. Forrest days into my sentence, the bride visited me at the regional detention centre. She came to ask a single question. She stared at me through the scratched Plexiglass window, holding the greasy black telephone receiver as though it were a Conch. The visiting room was filled with children with teething rashes splotched on their cheeks and their mothers who invariably wore the same look of exasperation. The newlywed appeared much healthier than the last time I had spotted her bending over a trash container, but I opted against saying as much. She was nervous, I could tell, and she said simply, “Why?” A good question. The only one I could answer, in fact. I was unable to hold her glare and so my eyes dropped to the cheap set of state-provided running shoes with the Velcro fasteners in place of the laces that we might use to end our miserable lives. “Afternoon recess,“ I said. “June sixteenth, 1987.” She blinked. “Behind the brown portables,” I clarified. She squinted, and said, “What are you talking about, Jerry?” I drew a long breath, closed my eyes, and for the millionth time summoned forth the memory of that day. The smell of her recently applied watermelon lip gloss, the anticipation of summer, smells of wild flowers and freshly cut grass, the whole rest of our lives spread before us like an all-youcan-eat buffet. “The second last day of school,” I went on. “We promised each other we‟d get married. Does that ring any bells?” Her grip tightened on the phone. Her knuckles blanched. “It was sixth grade, Jerry,” she said. “We were eleven, okay? And anyway, you moved away that summer when your dad got transferred.” “A promise is a promise,” I said with a shrug. Her eyes searched me. “You never wrote,” she said, as though it explained everything. “We didn‟t even stay in touch.” “I did for a little while. Your mother probably threw my letters away. She never liked me. Anyway, I assumed after college I would come back and we‟d get married. Like we promised. And then I did come back, you know, and I found out you were already engaged. It broke my heart, to be honest.” She shook her head. She said, “My mother always said you were so intense.” “I‟m a man of my word. In today‟s flip-flop world, that has to be worth something.” She sighed. “You ruined my wedding day because of a promise I made when I was eleven?” It wasn‟t a question so much as a statement of the facts. The anger and confusion seemed to have been replaced in that moment by something else entirely. I could see that she was recalling those long ago days when we were
C.B. Forrest young and everything was so simple. The days of drive-in movies and spin-thebottle in somebody‟s wood-panelled basement. It took her back, perhaps, to those early summer evenings when we sat on the bleachers at the ball diamond and got butterflies in our stomachs just from holding hands. “Jerry,” she said softly. And here I closed my eyes in anticipation of the well-earned admonishment to come. But she said only, “I hope you get some help.” She went to hang up the receiver. I saw the door closing on my last chance to make things right with this girl, indeed this woman I so deeply loved. I motioned for her to bring the receiver once again to her ear, pleading with my eyes, and she did so with reluctance. “Yes Jerry?” she said. I cleared my throat. I looked to my right to a slab-sized biker making obscene gestures to his lover through the screen. And then I looked into her clear green eyes, orbs of pure goodness which had haunted me all those sleepless nights between the ball diamond and the soup station at the River View Holiday Inn. “You‟re married now,” I said. “I‟ll never bother you again.” And it was true. I had gone as far for love as I was willing to go. “Pinky promise,” I said, like we used to, and I moved the little finger of my right hand to the Plexiglass. There was a long moment there where I could see her thinking about it. The pad of my little finger remained pressed to the screen like a pink buttock squashed against a school bus window. Finally I saw the release in her eyes, surrender to the harmlessness of those lost days. She moved her hand slowly towards the glass, and without looking at me she pressed her pinky to mine. “Pinky promise,” she whispered. I returned to my cell and stretched out on the lower bunk, hands behind my head. I closed my eyes until the only sound was the rush of blood in my ears, a lingering scent of watermelon lip gloss in the air. And for me that is where it always begins.
#21 Contributors Isaac James Baker is working on a master‟s degree in fiction writing from Johns Hopkins University. His short stories, poetry, essays and reporting have appeared in a wide array of publications. His first novel, Broken Bones, based on his stay in an eating disorder psychiatric ward, comes out this summer. For more information, visit www.isaacjamesbaker.com or follow his blog at http://isaacjamesbaker.blogspot.com. Jason Bradford received the Edna Meudt Memorial Award from the NFSPS for his chapbook, Remembering the Future. His poems have appeared in Burner Magazine, The Coe Review, Colere, and Psychic Meatloaf. Rachel Bunting lives and writes in Southern New Jersey, the beautiful half of a maligned state. Her poems are published or forthcoming in PANK, Toad, Tuesday: An Art Journal, Weave Magazine, and Muzzle Magazine. She is currently at work on a full-length manuscript. In June 2011, she began Reflex, a new collaboration project featuring a sketchbook that travels among 3 poets and 2 visual artists (http://reflexthenoun.wordpress.com). She blogs at www.rachelbunting.com/blog. Thomas Michael Duncan is young writer living in central New York. He can be found online at http://tmdwrites.tumblr.com. C.B. Forrest's crime novels, The Weight of Stones and Slow Recoil, have both been short-listed for the Arthur Ellis Award, and his writing has been called “eloquent and precise” by Booker-nominated author Joan Barfoot. His third novel, The Devil's Dust, will be released by Dundurn Press in Spring 2012. He can be visited online at: www.cbforrest.com Jennifer Givhan is a Mexican-American poet who grew up in the Imperial Valley, a small border community in the Southern California desert, and she earned her M.A. in English at CSUF. Her poems have appeared in Verdad, Dash, Caesura, Mom Writer's Lit Magazine, Third Wednesday, Cutthroat, Pinyon, Earth's Daughters, Rockhurst Review, Palabra, Prick of the Spindle, Mothering Magazine, Autumn Sky Poetry, Xenith, Write This, The Shine Journal, River Poets Journal, Poetry Quarterly, and are forthcoming in The Los Angeles Review and The Southwestern Review. She was the 2010 recipient of the Emerging Voices Fellowship in Poetry through PEN Center USA and the November poet of the
month at Moontide Press. Her work focuses on issues of feminism, motherhood, infertility, and adoption, and you can visit her poetry on the web at http://jennifergivhan.com/. She now teaches composition in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she lives with her family. Scott Horn was born in Scottsdale, Arizona, and attended Florida State University for creative writing. Recent and forthcoming poems can be found in The Kudzu Review, Juked, and Espresso Ink. He begins graduate coursework at the University of Arizona in August. Monica Koenig lives in Boulder and will begin pursuing her MFA at the University of Colorado in the fall. Her work has appeared in Illiterate Magazine, Palimpsest, The Rat Tail Detail, and the Tulane Review. Some lines from “With Urgencies False and Otherwise” are borrowed from Jack Kerouac‟s On the Road, Dante Alighieri‟s Inferno, and James Joyce‟s Ulysses. Karlanna Lewis has recently completed her honors B.A. at Florida State University in Russian and Creative Writing, with an honors thesis in poetry. Her writing has also been published in numerous journals and received various awards including winning the 2011 Phi Kappa Phi Forum Poetry Contest. She has also been writer-in-residence at artist studios such as Elsewhere Studios in Colorado, and has been offered a writer-in-residence position at Camac Art Center in France in 2012. In addition, she dances with a small Tallahassee company, Pas de Vie Ballet, and hopes to work in the field of the arts all her life. Canadian Bruce McRae has had almost 600 publications in the past 12 years. Originally from Niagara Falls, he has moved extensively, living in London for 18 years and currently residing on Salt Spring Island, BC. A musician, who has recorded and toured, many of his poems have been set to music receiving airplay in the UK, U.S., Canada and Australia. His first collection, The SoCalled Sonnets, published by Silenced Press of Ohio, is available now. www.bpmcrae.com Jason Lee Miller, MFA, is a technical editor and curriculum developer for the Rural Domestic Preparedness Consortium at Eastern Kentucky University and an adjunct English composition instructor at EKU and Bluegrass Community and Technical College. Recently nominated for EKU‟s “Critical-Thinking Teacher of the Year,” his creative work in short fiction and poetry have appeared or will appear in The Accolade, Blood Lotus, Dew on the Kudzu, The
Copperfield Review, and State of Imagination. Formerly an ecommerce web journalist for WebProNews.com, Mr. Miller‟s articles and editorials have appeared in, been featured by, cited by, and/or linked to by The New York Times, The Huffington Post,CnetNews.com, CharlieRose.com, The Yale Journal of Law and Technology, TechCrunch, PC World, The Eurasia Critic, and numerous text books published in the US and Canada. Shortly after launching his new blog, Off Topic—a blog about the writing life—in April 2011, Mr. Miller accepted an invitation to be a book reviewer for the literary e-zine Gloom Cupboard. When Kacy Muir is not practicing legal jargon, she can be found engrossed in her freelance and creative writing. Based in Brooklyn, NY, her interests include post-apocalyptic zombie survival plans, music, traveling, entomology, and New Orleans. http://songsofsirens.wordpress.com/ M.P. Powers lives in Berlin, Germany. His poems have been published in The New York Quarterly, Rosebud, Existere, Main Street Rag, Third Wednesday, A Cappella Zoo and many other fine places. Melva Sue Priddy lives near Lexington, Kentucky, with her husband, a spacious garden, & lots of books. She taught English & Creative Writing in secondary education, then went back to school to earn an MFA from Spalding University's Writing Program. Ryan J. Rader is a graduate of Ball State University with a degree in creative writing. He has been published in Robot Melon, Everyday Genius, and has forthcoming poetry in Stoked! Magazine and Specter Magazine. Eron Rauch is an artist living in Los Angeles. He received his MFA from the California Institute of the Arts in photography, but managed to sneak in to an unnecessarily large number of writing workshops while there. Combining documentary photography, writing and installation elements his work explores the lonely landscapes and fraught histories of American popular culture. His writings and photographs about anime fans and costuming have appeared in issues of the academic journal Mechademia. For more information and portfolios please visit www.eronrauch.com Andrew Rihn was born and raised in Canton, OH. He is the author of several chapbooks of poetry and currently works in a small artisan bakery where he
sells fresh baked bread every morning. In the evenings, he drinks cold beer and dreams of Neruda. Ryan Rodriguez lives in Cleveland Heights, OH and is surrounded by a community dotted with great fiction writers. Wolf Down Pizza is part of a working collection of linked stories titled Birthmark(s). He would like to send along the following note to agents/editors that like his story: I don‟t have an agent/editor. I‟d like one. Emmalea Russo was born in Maryland. She grew up in Eastern Pennsylvania and has lived in New York City and Los Angeles. Currently, she lives and writes in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and is pursuing an MFA in Poetry at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her work is forthcoming in the Bicycle Review. Jonathan H. Scott‟s poetry and short-stories have been published (or are upcoming) in The Able Muse, Blood and Thunder, Caesura, Hospital Drive, Measure, Muse and Stone, THEMA, and others. He lives in Birmingham, Alabama. Cheryl Snell's books include fiction and poetry. Published widely online and in print, she and her sister Janet won the Lopside Press competition for “Prisoner's Dilemma,” poetry and drawing inspired by game theory. A multiple Pushcart Prize nominee, Cheryl has had work included in the Best of the Net Anthology, and in addition to her traditionally published titles, collaborates with her sister on projects for their Scattered Light Library. Janet Snell is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art and has shown her work in venues such as NYC‟s The Drawing Center, Strathmore Hall in Washington DC, and Spaces in Cleveland. She was one of the winners in a Cleveland University Poetry Center‟s first book competition, with Flytrap, a volume of drawings and poetic commentary. She paints expressionistic portraits on commission and keeps a blog with her sister called Scattered Light. Mary Stone Dockery's poetry and prose is forthcoming in Gargoyle, Foundling Review, and Breadcrumb Scabs, and has appeared in many other fine journals. She is the 2011 recipient of the Langston Hughes Award in Poetry. Currently, she teaches and writes in Lawrence, KS, where she also co-edits the Blue Island Review and Stone Highway Review.
Kristyn Taylor is a 31 year old Mississippi native who was once the associate editor of The Angry Poet and likes cats a little too much. Sandra Gail Teichmann-Hillesheim's books include Slow Mud, Killing Daddy, and Woman of the Plains. She is also a playwright with Mockernut Street, Corinne, and Not Laughing produced. Her paints, poetry, fiction, and essays have been published in numerous literary journals and anthologies including Blue Earth Review, Short Story, Brooklyn Review. Writer's Forum, The Lowell Review, Borderlands Review, Rockhurst Review, Sirena: Poesia, Arte y Critica, Cimarron Review, Architrave, Puerto del Sol, West Branch, The Hollins Critic, and Mad River. Sandra Gail exhibits her art work in various venues. In both painting and writing, Sandra Gail's purpose is to take joy in the moment, merge with the medium while knowing each piece holds the past as well as possibility for yet another beginning, all an intricate and delicate dance . . . Larkin Weyand, a man, has a secret diary hidden behind the “Elvis is a Mormon” rock in the graffiti wall surrounding Graceland. Find your way to Memphis, Tennessee right now because this secret diary contains details about Mr. Weyand‟s first kiss, his inability to grow facial hair, his wife‟s hopes to keep her freckles after the Resurrection, his three daughters who have saved $59 for the purpose of buying a $9000 camping trailer, his only son who shed tears because his father wouldn‟t let him wear a dress to church and the reasons why Mr. Weyand‟s two novels—Back to Creation and Protection—haven‟t been published yet. All of these details can be combined in various orders to fight off both boredom and the blues. The diary doesn‟t contain boring details like the following: 1) Mr. Weyand‟s wish to thank the judges of the Friends of the American Fork Library‟s annual Scary Story Contest. 2) Mr. Weyand‟s possession of an MFA from the University of Maryland (2003). 3) Mr. Weyand‟s career as a teacher of English and Art at a high school 4) Mr. Weyand‟s home near the freeway. 5) Mr. Weyand‟s lack of compensation (except a warm feeling) for publishing in the following magazines: Inscape, Verdad, Touchstones, The Tonopah Review, The Blinking Cursor and The Rio Grande Review. Adam Zahller is a Midwestern-born composer and poet. His works in both words and sound balance complex formal ideas with deep personal reflection, wrought in an ever-evolving yet distinctive personal language. He holds a bachelor‟s degree in Music Composition from the Chapman Conservatory of Music in Orange, CA, and is currently working toward an M.A. in composition at the University of Minnesota.
issue #21 of Blood Lotus