Issue #22, November 2011
Tender Attachments by MichĂ¨le Larocque
In This Issue... Letter from the Editors Pianta
4 Off the Coast
Art by Sheri L. Wright
Of Telemarketers, Cleaning Ladies
Art by Sheri L. Wright Amy Watkins
17 Kill Jar
Art by Michèle Larocque
Darren C. Demaree
The Mouth as the Source and the Center
Michael P. McManus
Call Girl Aubade
Tierra de Gringo
Art by Sheri L. Wright
---Of Broken Eggs and Solar Flares
Upon Discovering My Daughter’s Tattoo
Of a Summer Three Years Later
Art by MichĂ¨le Larocque
Jason David Peterson
An Open Letter to the Ancestors
Fun with Dick and Jane (Haikus)
Art by Sheri L. Wright Mark Heinlein
42 mondays I watch the ballgames at the pizza joint
opening the curtains
The Elizabethan World Picture
Why I Overuse Superlatives
To the Space Beneath My Breasts
Art by MichĂ¨le Larocque Diane Thomas
60 review of Drawing the Line, by Susan Gardner
Interview with Honest Publishing (UK) and author Ryder Collins
What You Need to Know About BL #22: A Top Ten 10. Should be read after voting (today) and between occupying public places. Do not swim immediately after reading. 9. Art within should be the object of appreciative gazes lasting no less than four minutes each, or until you spill macchiato on your skinnies because even your peripheral vision wants to see… 8. This is our 22nd issue! We know you know, just wanted to geek about that for a sec. 7. There is a series of haiku here written by a 16 year-old. And it‘s stellar. 6. Hope you like ghosts, and not in the Halloween/Day of the Dead/Samhain sense (happy belated that, though). The poems and stories in this issue are infused with the spirits of those who came before, be they ancestors or the wisp of a call girl out the door as the sun rises. 5. Our first review of a non-BL author‘s book! Which means we done good by starting to publish reviews of the stuff you done good. Or something. 4. So now we need more nonfiction and/or editorial content. How about an interview with UK small press Honest Publishing, which recently released the debut novel by former BL contributor Ryder Collins? Done. Incidentally, does your press refuse to charge reading or contest entry fees? If not, do you at least provide a copy of the winning manuscript for entrants? Do you respond to your prospective authors in as timely a fashion as possible? Do you believe even indie publishing isn‘t quite indie anymore? Sweet, we should talk, email us and we‘ll interview you for an upcoming issue of BL. 3. Three fiction pieces that will make you feel sticky, then think that you‘re smelling weed, then wonder why can‘t smell anything at all… 2. The poems. Oh, the poems. Thank the universe you all write poems… 1. We love what we do as much as the day we started nearly 6 years ago. Thanks for continuing to support our little mag with your submissions, readership, and friendship. Sincerely, The Editors
Pianta OFF THE COAST delphinus delphi
they have larger brains than humans but it‘s not so much the brain but their hearts I wonder about the way they swim along whales surrounded by a watery aquamarine so different from the soft dust their predecessors dragged their bellies on this is a cold city, I think, as I drive the freeway paths the organs of my body plated with the grief of occasions I choose not to talk about once in mourning I couldn‘t stop on the freeway and like a sterling jewelry box careening down a fatal staircase I held my thoughts inside and headed toward the coast my heart‘s not big enough to exist as they do free to let their limbs move in the lovely pressure of water my brain sits cradled on shoulders burdened by all the things I don‘t know and worse, by things I don‘t care about not caring is another death another step taken away from the water on the way home, I look outward the sky has lit up streetlights are flying fish moving across a thick plate of glass
Birth of a Reef by Sheri L. Wright
Julia Esacove MALAGUEÑA Such sorrow, this leisurely suicide interrupted by the trio‘s fadeout, a collective seizure of pocketbooks and coats as Monk‘s last note just hangs there, a low bough in a room obscured with cigarette smoke. Half past two and soon El Chapultapec bar will boot us into plumes of steam from Denver‘s last train, genuflecting in December wind that chased continents to find me: a nice girl nailed to a barstool, transfixed by the opal stars of ice melting in my scotch as the jazzman opens his throat to lick the last bead of song spangling the club‘s black ceiling. I think of you, dad, years ago in Mexico—drunk, singing on the tabletop with the mariachis in some fiesta restaurant— as if nothing could sever you from song. You hit the highest note of Malagueña, sustaining it savagely, endeavoring to the brink where you almost ceased being yourself. So dark and strange was your joy. The train tracks are frozen. The snow makes noise. I miss you in these moments when all I possess is this jonesing to transcend the bones of my body. I miss you in these moments, lonely for the sharp chirp of razor as it slits the brief blonde of your beard in a long-ago bathroom when I was a hummingbird, when you hit the highest note of that cancion. Even though you were not even singing.
Oliver Rice OF TELEMARKETERS, CLEANING LADIES Call it the ethos of the city, riding with linemen, realtors, councilmen, local events reporters, epitome of the bewildered, snobs, the entrepreneurial, the technoid, gazing upon itself, here, here, here, at once, enigmatically impelled, adrift, fanciful. Call it the ethos of the dwellers, cruising the suburbs, the old town with mailmen, young blood, assessors, an averaging of the venal, loners, the once beautiful, the established, a vast, a dubious ritual without hindsight, foresight, groping among a detritus of myth, contrivances of the dead. Call it the animation of the ethos, gazing from the windows of highrises with telemarketers, cleaning ladies, an amalgamation of the pious, users, the paranoid, the unaccommodated, a grave coincidence, formative, amorphous, silent, remote as a shrug, utterly real.
Teresa Milbrodt STUCK Ernest finds the five toy cars on the kitchen counter before breakfast, while I‘m still in the shower, and swallows them all. He‘s reading yesterday‘s paper and looking innocent when I come out in my bathrobe. ―Where did they go?‖ I say, hands on my hips. ―You‘re not getting them back until you tell me what you paid for them,‖ says Ernest. ―Ten damn years of my life,‖ I mutter. Through the thin trailer walls we hear the clank of the ride operators testing the Ferris wheel and the tilt-a-whirl and the merry-go-round, sounds we‘ve heard almost every morning for the past several years and will keep hearing for twenty more, like it or not. ―Don‘t steal toys for our kid,‖ he says. ―The metal is going to give you a stomachache,‖ I say. ―Spit the cars back up.‖ ―Then you‘re going to wash them off and I‘m going to walk with you back to wherever you got them from.‖ ―Where‘s all the extra money you‘re bringing in to buy something for Bryce?‖ I say. Doing the county fair circuit with other food vendors was his idea, but people seem more tight-fisted here than when we‘re traveling with a carnival and a bunch of sideshow acts like his. ―Kids have more fun with cardboard boxes anyway,‖ he says. ―You didn‘t see Bryce last night,‖ I say. ―I took him to the display with all the toy collections. Trains and plastic dinosaurs and stuffed animals and metal soldiers. They‘re judged, you know. Kids win blue and red and white ribbons for all that junk. Bryce was drooling.‖ ―You shouldn‘t have gone,‖ Ernest sighs. ―Why the fuck does any little kid need seventy-nine cars anyway? How do they ever play with them all?‖ Ernest doesn‘t say anything, just starts bringing the cars up one by one, spitting them into his cupped hands. He takes them to the sink and rinses them off. ―Become a hairstylist then,‖ he says. ―Learn how to do medical transcription. Something useful.‖ ―And you‘ll do what?‖ I say. ―Be a door to door showman? Walk around and swallow coins for housewives?‖ He knows that we can‘t leave the circuit, have to pay off the trailers, can‘t go further into debt when we don‘t even own what we have. I hear Bryce singing, it‘s what he does when he wakes up, so I leave my husband washing spit off toy cars to get my kid out of bed. Bryce is four. I think he‘s kind of small for his age, but there aren‘t many other vendors who
Teresa Milbrodt have children, so I don‘t have anyone to compare him to. Bryce grins at me when I walk into his room, holds out his arms. ―Hi Mama,‖ he says. ―Up, please.‖ When I touch his hands they feel a bit sticky, but little kids are usually a bit sticky, and I‘m often a bit sticky since I‘m coating apples and bananas and popcorn with caramel all day. His room is a closet, just enough space for his cot. His clothes and a few books and toys I got at a flea market are on a shelf above the cot. I want him to have something nice. Something new. Dammit. Ernest and I love traveling, what stinks is the bare bones budget. We worry, too, about raising a kid on the road, but tell each other he‘ll learn more and see more than if we bought a dinky little house and got domestic. This is, of course, ignoring the fact that we don‘t have money for a house. Sometimes we like to pretend that we have options. Right now there‘s only life on the circuit. Ernest has been practicing the art of regurgitation, strengthening the muscles in his throat and esophagus, for years. I bought my little confections trailer with money from my grandmother that was supposed to fund my first year of college. I carry Bryce as far as the end of the hallway then set him down, let him toddle into the kitchen. Ernest has hidden the cars and put a napkin and a powdered sugar donut at Bryce‘s place at the table. He tousles Bryce‘s hair after he climbs up on the chair. I grab a donut from the box and bite in. Too dry. After breakfast we walk fifty feet to the midway, the little trailer where I make caramel apples and caramel bananas and caramel corn. The other vendors are heating oil for French fries and corn dogs and funnel cakes, but after ten years of carnival life I don‘t smell the odor of fried foods anymore, only notice it when it‘s gone. My booth is a little way down from Ernest‘s show tent. He sits in the back of my trailer and pours a little antibacterial mouthwash on a cloth, uses it to clean the coins and pocket watch and large glass marbles he swallows and regurgitates in his act. He keeps each object down for thirty seconds before bringing it back up. For his finale he asks members of the audience if they have anything they want him to swallow for an extra charge. I can‘t watch his show anymore because he won‘t refuse anything smaller than a cue ball, and it makes me ill to see him. ―You didn‘t hurt yourself this morning,‖ I say quietly while poking Popsicle sticks through the bottoms of apples and watching the pot of melted caramel on my little stove to make sure it doesn‘t burn. ―I‘m fine,‖ he says. ―The cars didn‘t have sharp edges?‖ I say. ―I‘m fine,‖ he says again. ―I worry,‖ I say.
Teresa Milbrodt ―You shouldn‘t,‖ he says, but I don‘t trust his judgment. I know that sometimes he‘s gotten little wounds inside his esophagus and had to take a few days off because of the resulting sore throat. ―You need to wash his hands,‖ Ernest says when he hugs Bryce before he leaves. ―He‘s sticky.‖ I wipe off Bryce again and sit him at his little plastic table in the corner with some crayons and a coloring book. I stand at the counter beside him, peel bananas and poke wooden sticks in them. The caramel I use for the apples is thick, the stuff for the bananas and the popcorn is a bit thinner, but involves the same ingredients. My grandmother‘s recipe. She‘s the one who gave me the money for college, the one who was upset when Ernest suggested it would be better for me to have a mobile candy store in a carnival rather than own one in town, but I wasn‘t that hard to convince. When we graduated from high school we wanted to travel, get the hell out of rural Ohio, have our own businesses. He‘d been performing at talent shows for a couple years. I‘d taken prizes in 4-H for confections and was in advanced math classes in school, so I figured I was set to handle our finances. For six years we did okay with just the two of us, lived cheap and saw a lot more of the country than we‘d expected, even though I didn‘t always like the long hours and the flies and the heat. But then Bryce came and two months after that we needed a new Airstream, so we were up to our eyeballs in debt before we knew what hit us. We travel from one coast to the other, need to keep working, paying everything off. The resale value on the trailers is too low to consider selling them. Sometimes Ernest talks about us disappearing – from the circuit, the creditors, everything – but that scares me. It seems like you couldn‘t go back after that. Business in the morning is slow. People want sweets after lunch and in the evening, so I dip apples and bananas, pop corn and form it into balls. I like the process, laying out the neat rows of apples and bananas and plasticwrapped popcorn balls. On a good day I‘ll make a hundred or a hundred fifty dollars profit. On a bad day I‘ll break even. On a really bad day I won‘t even do that, and Bryce and Ernest and I will eat popcorn and bananas and apples for dinner. I can‘t stomach the caramel anymore, have to scrape it off. I give Bryce a banana when he‘s hungry. His hands still feel sticky, but I‘m too tired to wipe them off. ―Caramel, please,‖ he says, but I shake my head. He gets enough sweets from the ladies who run the funnel cake and cotton candy booths. They can‘t tell him no. Ernest takes a break around one in the afternoon for lunch. We sit in the back of my trailer and eat hot dogs rolled in bread. I have to stand up from time to time when a customer wants a popcorn ball or caramel apple. ―I‘ll watch the booth for a little while and you can go return those cars,‖ Ernest says to me. He has to wait at least an hour after eating to resume his act, or else unwanted things come back up along with the objects he swallowed.
Teresa Milbrodt ―How much did you make this morning?‖ I say. ―Fifty,‖ he says. ―We‘re going to need a lot more to make the payment on the trailer this month,‖ I say. ―Not to mention pay for gas. The price is going up. I don‘t know how we‘re going to afford to haul the booth and the trailer around.‖ ―So I‘ll watch the booth while you give back the cars,‖ he says. ―Not until evening,‖ I say. ―Cars?‖ says Bryce. ―Where?‖ ―Why not now?‖ says Ernest. ―I have to figure out what to say,‖ I say. ―How about ‗I stole these and it was wrong and I‘m giving them back.‘‖ says Ernest. ―Just give me the damn cars,‖ I say. Ernest pulls the cars out of his pocket and drops them in my cupped hands. They‘re little cars, as long as my ring finger, but nice ones with detailed paint jobs, racing stripes and flames along the sides. I‘m pleased to see they weren‘t damaged by being swallowed. ―Here,‖ I say, handing one to Bryce who takes it in his small fingers. ―Cars,‖ says Bryce. ―What are you doing?‖ says Ernest, trying to get the car back from Bryce who holds it tightly. He has the best grip of any little kid I‘ve ever met. ―Letting him play with it for a moment,‖ I say. ―What harm can that do?‖ ―I don‘t believe you,‖ says Ernest, wresting the car away from Bryce. ―I want the car,‖ says Bryce. He starts crying like I hoped he would. ―It‘s sticky now,‖ says Ernest. ―I‘ll wipe it off,‖ I grumble. ―Just give them back,‖ sighs Ernest. ―Please. Before whatever little kid who owns that collection starts crying, too.‖ And I know he kind of has a point, so I rinse the car off in my tiny sink, dry it on a hand towel, and walk back to the white barn with the toy collections display. There aren‘t too many people milling around, so it‘s not hard to open up the back of the display case like I did last night and slip the cars in. They really should lock those things. I look at the case again and shake my head, wonder if the kid who owns the collection would have realized those five cars were gone. Meanwhile my husband figures our kid should be fine with cardboard boxes. ―Have you been feeding him straight caramel?‖ says Ernest when I get back to my booth. ―I can‘t get his hands clean.‖ ―I‘m sticky,‖ says Bryce. ―I‘ll wipe him off again,‖ I say, grabbing Bryce‘s hands and scrubbing them with a damp cloth until he starts whining to get back to his coloring book. He really likes coloring and he‘s good for a four-year-old, usually manages to stay in the lines. I keep one eye on him and one on the counter, wish there were a few more kids around for him to play with.
Teresa Milbrodt The afternoon is busy, which makes me pleased, but it‘s a Saturday and they‘re usually profitable. I give Bryce macaroni and cheese for dinner, only have time for a few bites myself until I close the booth at nine. Ernest and I eat cold macaroni while Bryce keeps coloring. ―Sticky again,‖ says Bryce when I try to take the crayons out of his hand. His palms feel like they‘ve been smeared with honey, but the paper around the crayon is perfectly smooth. ―You need a bath,‖ I say, carrying him to the trailer while Ernest locks my booth for the night. I draw the water in the tub while Bryce tries to undress himself, but he has a problem getting his shirt off and I have to pull it over his head. ―What did you do?‖ I say to him. ―Too sticky,‖ says Bryce. His shirt doesn‘t feel sticky, though, so I toss it on the floor, soap Bryce up with a sponge, wash his arms and legs and stomach, then rinse him off. When he gets out of the tub and I dry him off, the towel still wants to stick, so I plop him back in the water and start washing again. This time I scrub harder, until his skin shines pink and he starts to wince. ―You‘re hurting me,‖ he says. ―I‘m sorry, honey,‖ I say, lifting him out of the tub again, but the second washing doesn‘t seem to have done any good. It‘s like his skin is made of glue or tape. I call Ernest to the bathroom and show him how the towel clings to Bryce and I have to pull it off. ―Not clean enough,‖ says Ernest. ―I washed him twice,‖ I say. ―It hurt,‖ says Bryce, rubbing his arms. Ernest bends down, touches Bryce‘s hand. ―Let‘s go to bed,‖ he says, ―then we‘ll take another bath in the morning.‖ When I tuck Bryce in, he hugs me around my neck. Pulling him off requires effort. ―He‘s been like that all day,‖ I tell Ernest when I walk back to the living room. ―Not much we can do at ten at night,‖ he says. ―Maybe it‘ll have worn off by morning.‖ When I wake Bryce at nine, he‘s cocooned tightly in his sheets and I can barely get his pajamas off. ―He‘s still sticking to things,‖ I yell to Ernest. In a minute he appears in Bryce‘s door, helps me wrestle Bryce into shorts and a t-shirt. I‘m afraid to touch Bryce for the rest of the morning. He doesn‘t seem to have a hard time eating breakfast, walks beside me to the caramel apple booth, but I have to pry the crayons out of his hand when it‘s time to eat lunch. The tugging doesn‘t seem to hurt his skin, makes me think more of magnets than glue. Ernest and I don‘t talk at lunch, just watch Bryce eat. I give him a caramel covered banana, which makes him happy.
Teresa Milbrodt In the evening when it‘s time to walk back to the trailer, I think Bryce has problems standing up, like his rear is stuck to his little plastic chair. I pick him up and carry him out of the food booth, but once we‘re in the kitchen I can barely get him out of my arms. I give him another bath. The washcloth doesn‘t stick, but the towel tries to mummify him. ―We have to take him to a doctor or something,‖ says Ernest once Bryce is in bed. ―What can a doctor tell us?‖ I say. ―That our kid is sweating sugar? We‘d get to see him once a week from behind a pane of glass.‖ We can‘t think of anything to do, go to bed rubbing our fingers together and wondering if somehow they‘ll start sticking together too. The next day with Bryce is even more of a trial, wrangling him from bed and out of his pajamas. He walks to the kitchen easy enough, but starts crying when he can‘t get up off his chair. Ernest grabs the chair and I grab Bryce‘s hands and we pull him free. It‘s a Monday and business is awful and I mope around my booth because we owe too much money to the bank and to my parents back home. The latter is worse since I‘m more afraid of my mother than any accountant. She says I could have done better than Ernest. Sometimes I think we should have let my folks take care of Bryce for a while, but I didn‘t want to. Still don‘t want to. Instead we‘ll be at this fairgrounds with the rest of the vendors through the middle of the week before we pack up and head to Georgia. I hate traveling in the south. Too humid. Bryce is teary all day. Cries when he can‘t get crayons out of his hand, so I have to help him switch colors. Cries after lunch when he can‘t get the spoon out of his hand to start crayoning again. Cries when he can‘t get out of his chair because he has to pee. I sell the occasional popcorn ball and try to comfort him, but when I smooth his hair my hand sticks to his head. I can‘t concentrate on what I‘m doing, burn two batches of caramel. My poor son is crying so hard that Ruby from the cotton candy booth and Erma from funnel cake booth leave their husbands in charge and walk over to see what‘s the matter. Both of them have grandkids in far-away states, work the fair circuit during the summer so they can travel during their retirement years. They love doting over Bryce. I let them in through the back door and try to keep one eye on the caramel I have on the stove. Bryce whimpers at his table and holds his arms up to Ruby, who picks him up but is surprised when the chair stays on his rear. Erma pulls it off. Both of the ladies wrinkle their noses at him and then at me. ―He‘s really sticky,‖ says Ruby. ―Didn‘t he get a bath last night?‖ ―I almost got two again,‖ says Bryce. ―He spilled some sugar earlier today,‖ I say, ―and it mixed with the orange juice he dripped on his chair. I haven‘t had time to go home, but when Ernest comes back I‘m sure he can clean Bryce up.‖
Teresa Milbrodt ―I wouldn‘t mind giving him a bath, honey,‖ says Ruby. ―Since you‘re so busy.‖ ―No, no,‖ I say perhaps too quickly. ―Bryce is already a bit modest, even around me. He‘s just a little sticky. Happens quite a bit.‖ The ladies tilt their heads at me. ―And he was fussy last night and didn‘t want to go to bed,‖ I say, ―so of course he‘s cranky today. Didn‘t get enough sleep.‖ ―Too sticky,‖ says Bryce. ―Okay, hon,‖ says Ruby, bouncing Bryce on her hip. ―We‘re just across the way, so call if you need help.‖ ―Thanks,‖ I say, trying to extract Bryce from her arms without tugging too hard. He touched a curl of Ruby‘s hair and it comes with his hand so I have to give an extra yank to wrench the curl free. The ladies tell me to have a pleasant afternoon, but even when they‘ve returned to their booths I see them talking over their shoulders to their husbands, looking across the way at me every once in a while. I know they will return tomorrow to see if Bryce is clean and cheery. Dammit. I like those ladies, don‘t want them to think Ernest and I are bad parents, don‘t want anyone to try and take him to the hospital. By the time Ernest has finished performing for the day I‘m about ready to cry myself. He‘s not in a good mood, didn‘t sell very many tickets, and jokes ruefully about making Bryce into an attraction as the Incredible Glue Boy. ―We‘re not going to put our kid on display,‖ I say. ―I‘m not serious,‖ says Ernest. He takes a little toy car out of his pocket and give it to Bryce to play with. It‘s cheap and plastic and I think he got it from one of the guys who runs the rigged games, the ones where you have to toss a ring around the neck of a bottle or knock down a bottle pyramid with a baseball. Bryce is happy, starts playing with the car, running it back and forth across his little plastic table, but then he can‘t put it down. We haul him back home and I sit him on my lap, but I‘m too tired to try and pull him off when it‘s time to go to bed. ―We have to take him to someone,‖ says Ernest. ―A medical professional. There must be some biological reason for this.‖ But all I can picture is my poor kid wrapped in sterile white sheets that I won‘t be able to pry off. ―Let me help you,‖ says Ernest. He tries to remove my arms from around Bryce who whines and clutches at my shirt. ―Stop,‖ I say. ―Just let us sit here a bit longer.‖ Around eleven Ernest goes to bed, leaving me and Bryce in the chair. Outside I hear the clanking and yelling of the vendors and the ride operators closing for the night, the warbling calls of those who are already tipsy with booze. Bryce‘s fist full of my hair. My legs losing sensation because of his weight. We‘re both too weak and tired to move. He curls his body into mine. For a couple moments I can forget we‘re stuck together. Relax. Tell myself in the morning we can give
Teresa Milbrodt him mittens. Something to put over his sticky hands. In the morning we can deal with it.
Death of a Star
by Sheri L. Wright
Amy Watkins KILL JAR We took turns sniffing the ether-soaked cotton balls (step one in entomology: a portable gas chamber), seeing who would make himself dizzy by inhaling deeply. I say ―himself‖ intentionally, for it was always a boy. How much we learned. Even the bad kids said hymenoptera, spun their nets, crowded the genus specie onto tiny squares of mounting paper, ran across the softball field, arms aloft, trailing nets like horses‘ tails or wings. With my boyfriend in a secluded field, I chased anything that fluttered and lay down boldly in the backseat. So typical, I thought: the risk, the sting. I remember the odor of the kill jars, their insides dusted with a fine shimmer of butterfly scales.
Amy Watkins EVE after Eric Fischlâ€˜s The Dancers, 1994
And she is shaking off the shoulder hunch weight of wings too heavy for soaring. And she is twisting her body, moving her hips. And she has never seen a serpent. And she does not fear darkness. And she does not fear spotlight. And she believes the small gesture is everything (she wants him, but she doesnâ€˜t need him). And she loves her long body. And she is dropping her wings.
Jess Provencio FIRST NIGHT
it was hir first night as a boy stiff new leather shoes creaked suit just out of the bag soft wool with shiny liner tie knot that ze‘d practiced so hard now crafted on fine silk starched collar stood tall grandpa‘s cuff links shiny in ze‘s cuffs hir steps changed gained confidence shoulders grew straighter walked into a lesbian bar to find a woman woman‘s features in disguise curves bound into flatness the lines of gender redefined invited by an older woman to slip in early on a vip pass ze sipped scotch on the rocks tried to escape the new benefactor find hir type without being sure of specifics searched for a vague idea that whispered foreign tongues in bed dark shadows and curves soft hands not found there because you can‘t make wives from american women they are crazy and fun for a night but not the kind that ze runs to and ze can‘t hide from the world in their arms they are too wild to feel safe so ze keeps on searching
Suspended by MichĂ¨le Larocque
Darren C. Demaree LATE LIGHT So close to the lake, you would think violets would have a real chance to shimmy through the old, cracked parking lot, where Municipal Stadium used to groan, used to create ghosts of painful result. I was there when they tore up the bleachers, tore whole, frozen rows of green & tried to get past the police with them, as if their blood alcohol level was a password. Layered as I was, too young, too cold to understand why they fell down without being pushed, I knew the cops would never stop a boy with one plank, one little bit of sport, to be found one evening while my own daughter slept. Cracked in two, I still recognized the peeling paint, could still hear the wooden snap my thin arms leveraged, still felt those shuffling, disappointed bodies leave that place, never again to push the brown & orange towards the fresh, unpredictable water.
Kimberly Lojewski THE MOUTH AS THE SOURCE AND THE CENTER Under the water is where I taste things: colors, shadows, shifting currents, slices of light, ripples, cold bubbles, blues, greens, golds, incandescent clouds of silt, silky pressure from all sides, hair snaking feathery pirouettes across my shoulders, sensation zinging along the entire surface of my skin. It is sense in multiple dimensions. The water becomes melted sorbet or sparkling cream soda, sometimes roasted parsnips or buttery crepes. In shallow tide pools that are a little bit crisp, I turn somersaults to the flavor of ripe honeydew. And there is a way that the sun has, of hitting the tips of small waves just so, that sends warm, rolling shivers across me, and I am sure I have just breaststroked through banana soufflés and butterscotch syrup. I imagine heaven in these things. Every weekend, Cal takes me swimming, searching out new flavors of water. He plans, charts, and records these swimming trips with a singleminded dedication that touches me. Over the past year we have worked our way through most of southern Florida. We have sampled the warm, cornpudding currents of the Gulf of Mexico, the black licorice tar-water of the Everglades, and the peppermint-sprout sinkholes of Appalachicola. Today we are in the central bit of the state, in a series of springs set back in a thick forest, run by Sargasso eels and laughing otter. I practice my strokes. I savor my element. My stomach butterflies a little in anticipation. The cicadas are loud against the still of the morning. I dive in with eyes closed first, and then open. The water rushes in around me, blotting out the empty spaces. I nearly feel like a completed person. Cal likes to watch me test the water and tell him what I think. Aside from my family, he is the only one who knows my secrets, and this is because he is my dentist. I felt as if I owed him some kind of explanation. He came up with this idea as a kind of therapy. I don‘t think he ever meant it to turn into the ritual that it has become. It is a thing that strings us together. At the beginning, he told me that he never got personally involved with patients. Knowing Cal the way I do now, I believe him. ―How is it?‖ he asks, as I surface and the water drains out of my nose and ears, leaving me wet and empty. The air is cool and blank. It is chilly out and the water cold, spring fed and clear. The sandy bottom fizzes against my feet. I watch a butterfly paint color across a flavorless breeze. ―Sweet,‖ I tell him with absolute certainty and he marks it down in his notebook looking pleased. He is sitting beneath a giant palmetto frond that keeps slapping at the sky in a drunken manner, wearing pressed khakis even out here in the middle of nowhere. Cal is the only person I know who can make a pair of jeans look uncomfortable. He is a man meant for trousers. ―We‘re not too far off, then. More specifics please, Alison. Describe.‖
Kimberly Lojewski I dive back under for another taste, to be sure, and when I come back up I have it. ―Mint julep and pineapples.‖ This baffles him for a moment. I watch him dip a finger into the water and swirl it around. Sometimes he swims with me in the warmer weather. On days like today, he is more comfortable sitting on the side with the sun resting on his shoulders, taking notes and trying to figure things out. We have been on this hunt for nearly a year now. It has taken him almost as long to finish my teeth. Not because he is slow, but because I prefer to drag it out. I have an irrational fear that when he finishes them he will be done with me. He claims this is a good thing, that maybe it will lend a layer of normalcy to our relationship. I don‘t have a lot of hope for that. Normal relationships have never been my strength and Cal knows far too much about me to pretend I am any different. He has an alphabetized list of my disorders in the front of his notebook. Beneath each entry is a description, beginning with A for Ageusia and Anosmia, B for Bulimia, D for Depression, and so on. It helps him understand. Though they are all linked to each other, the A‘s are the root of it all. I have been ageusic and anosmic my entire life, born with no sense of taste or smell. It has given me a certain obsession over the taste of things, and has caused me to spend a lot of time wondering about food. The bulimia, it stems from that. I have an unquenchable desire to pass food down my throat and try to get a sense of what it might taste like. It is self-defeating, and hell on my teeth, but the burning and contracting as it comes back up is a sensation that makes me feel as if I am close to discovering something. The autumn breeze skips past, drops of water ringing out across my skin. Since we have begun doing this, I have been better. In between trips to new swimming holes I work on my own records of our experiences, although mine look less like organized series of notes and more like bedazzled pirate maps. I use colors and textures, thick paints, pots of glitter, big X‘s to mark the spots that feel the closest. It is a particular taste that we are searching for. It is the taste of moon pies and star fruit. They are the holy grail of our quest. Sometimes I paint entire canvases with my impressions of extraordinarily wonderful swims, but they are not completely honest. Usually I cannot help adding in the things that I so desperately want to be there. Cal is concentrating, flipping back through the pages of the notebook. Trying to form a pattern out of all the different places where we have been swimming. He can now identify which temperatures, densities, and colors I imagine to be sweet and salty. It is the science of studying me. He is determined to crack the code to unlock the thing that will make me happy. He feels as if we are getting close. ―I think it might be farther north,‖ he says, closing the book and smiling at me, handing me a piece of gum. I have stopped chewing bottle caps and ice in front of him. It drives him crazy to see me wreck the work he‘s done already.
Kimberly Lojewski On my first visit to his office I told him about my desire to taste things. He watched and listened quietly, his face inexpressive, even through my tears. On my second visit to his office, we talked about root canals and crowns, how we would address the issue of the mouth I was destroying, and what I could do to be better. He asked me where I was trying to get to. He meant in terms of my teeth, I think, but I misunderstood and answered moon pies and star fruit. It has always been star fruit for me, which he seems to find surprising. They are not pretty, no, but misshapen and unique, and there is something to the crisp texture and juicy insides that I think must be perfection. Or nearly so. The moon pies, I suspect, are because I am a romantic sort. The texture of them does not amaze me so much as the promise in the name. I imagine that true perfection lies in a combination of the taste of these two things. Cal is set on finding it. Somewhere around visit five or six, I told him that swimming is the closest I come to experiencing taste. It gives me a heightened awareness that makes me feel something. My skin comes alive and all of my senses mix together to create a new one. Cal got the idea to try and make flavors out of it. By this time I had logged over a dozen appointments and we had begun meeting for coffee in the little café with the cracked floors beside the railroad tracks. ―Best coffee in town,‖ the waitress said, and I have always believed her. He outlined his plan to me, his pale face serious, eyebrows crunched together as if waiting for me to laugh. I think then I was still trying to get used to looking at him across a table, matching the whole face up to the eyes that I knew. ―There are five tastes,‖ he said, showing me the notebook for the first time, where he had drawn me a diagram. ―Salty, sour, bitter, sweet, and umami. It is the different combinations of these that make flavors.‖ He thinks like a scientist. Very rational, all lines and angles. ―There must be a system to the way you imagine things. If we figure out what it is, you could find any flavor you want under water.‖ Cal has his problems too. He told me after I had stopped counting our visits and began counting whole evenings together, and mornings also. He cannot kiss anyone. His second year in dental school he began thinking of all that bacteria building up and hanging around in warm pockets of mouth, and a few weeks later he broke it off with his fiancé. He has had a hard time dating anyone since. Together we make an imperfect pair with the mouth being the source and the center. My parents love him, he‘s a huge hit at family events, and he offers relief to their worry. My dad thinks he would make a fine soldier, this being the highest of praise, and my mom is delighted to have someone she can finally tell stories to. Cal‘s favorite is about how the neighbors thought I was developmentally challenged because I was always eating dirt and flowers. He doesn‘t laugh often, but this gets him every time. It is the credibility that he
Kimberly Lojewski lends to my life that makes these stories funny. The men I dated before were uninterested, raggedy sorts who were not clever enough to detect all of my defects. Cal stops me from drinking spoiled milk and eating rotten leftovers as if it is something he was born to do. I donâ€˜t tell him this, but I also spend a lot of time imagining the way that he smells. Scents are not the burning obsession for me in the way that tastes are, but they pique my interest just the same. I would like to know them. At first I imagined he smelled like terrible things, fear and needles, the whine of dental drills, screech of latex, bright lights, and frigid air conditioning. After a while, it became oak trees, strong coffee, thick books with tattered bindingsâ€”a sturdy and smart kind of smell, with solid, comforting tones. Lately this has changed. Sometimes at night now, with the light hitting his face so that the shadows scatter and rearrange themselves in cadence with his sleeping breath, I imagine a new scent clinging to him. It is a funny place to find it, and the last place that I might have looked, but it is the pure, bubbling, sweetness of shimmery-silvers and warm-golds, that I am certain is the smell of moon pies and star fruit. I usually drift to sleep debating over whether or not to share this information. I should tell him. I know I should, but I have a lot of new tastes to discover still. Since I have come to love our swimming trips, and I would hate to spoil all his efforts, I think I will just savor it on my own for a while.
Michael P. McManus CALL GIRL AUBADE I wake up naked and sticky with loneliness. Next to me in bed your impression is still warm. I could pour hot wax into it to bring your assets back from the dead. But momma warned me about Necrophilia. I could glue a vision of you to my pupils if it didn‘t require a dazed kinship to our dream as it flies comet-like to your pimp, who named you America for that time in spring when cherry trees cry their white blossoms to the world. I take a shower. Afterwards I find your lacey bra on the floor, the cups crumpled but ascendant. It requires a kind of gravitas to see this. I see the first light telling me it‘s okay to reinvent the inventions. So watch me set fire to the painting and start again from ash. I pick up your bra and fumble putting it on. First one strap and then the other over my shoulders, finally fingering the front clasp close across my chest. It fits. My mind. I study the reflection in the mirror. It resembles Alice B. Tolklas except for the moustache. One day I will grow one. One day I will find truth in fiction and fiction in truth. Just like the cardinal, that red-winged voyeur. After it smashes into the window, like a dying tongue it licks a red streak down the glass for a final time. I check my cell phone. Not a single message, which is not the intoxication I wished for inside the circuitry. Remember me. Remember you. Remember the hammer that‘s responsible for bruising our past into consciousness, or should we deny it as nothingness? I, too, could live life by slapping the sunrise silly, my feet wet upon the crushed flowers in the dewy grass,
Michael P. McManus after leaving another fee-based emperor behind. America, it is spring again. The limbs, no longer bare, are bright with blooms. Please, never forget my desire. It is a roach / hidden in the dark / its nipples hard / waiting for the bedroom lights to go out. This is religion. This is god and its almighty erection. This is the empty shoe / shoes / bedside. Gone. This time. America, Must I come and find you, again? Is this what you want? Fine. But if it ever falls to me to sing to you, some things are meant to be lost.
Jermaine Harmon TIERRA DE GRINGO For Frida Kahlo
On our first date you pulled the stars closer, & made me smile. This began your propaganda. Don‘t feed me rice from your parent‘s wedding. I want my own rice. It‘s not about religion. Rice has no religion. It explodes the nosey birds. There will be no red tape, the tierra de gringo has that covered. Don‘t ask don‘t tell don‘t live don‘t throw their rice don‘t tell me your family can‘t come on Wednesday night. I don‘t want elephants or donkeys in my petting zoo @ cocktail hour. We grew older like a frozen guest list gumbo; mixed with vintage dusk and Sunday‘s sunrise. Stored frozen in metaphysical iceboxes keeping out the new like frostbite.
by Sheri L. Wright
Deana Prock --- OF BROKEN EGGS AND SOLAR FLARES The old woman hawks her eggs across the breakfast table, sunny-side shattered and mixed with something deeper… more full of spite. She smiles wide with toothless cowboy glee… six-shooter meets spittoon… and carves fork-tined grooves into a table that one might say has seen better days, but really hasn‘t. Her daughter sits quietly, taking it all in with her morning coffee and rye toast. She watches the old woman‘s cataracts float through her field of vision… soul windows carved from rippled leaded glass. She watches as the old woman‘s gnarled fingers, twisted and brown like peach-tree switches, shift restlessly over the buttons of her faded housecoat. She remembers the day her mother slapped her round, baby-fat face, in front of fifty isolationist-theory sardines on the crosstown bus. Before that day, she had never known it was possible for so many sardines to go…as one must presume they had… involuntarily… simultaneously… blind. With one quick flick of her mother‘s wrist one hundred eyes shifted out of focus all at once- an unprecedented spontaneous combustion of rods and cones that taught her how comforting the sight of one‘s own shoes can be after staring directly into the Sun. She touches her cheek, stoking the shameful fire that refuses to die. Some days, she stills sees her mother‘s handprint clinging to her mirrora warning for any smart-mouth little bitches that might think they know something. Some days, she just sees her mother.
John Abbott COMMUTING He said the commute helped him unwind the oldies station and cheap cigars his way of dealing with stressful clients and impenetrable defense attorneys. I rode with him once to help research case laws, sat with my face in books smelling of new ink. It was the kind of work where time passes unnoticed; Him telling me to close up the books came as a surprise. The drive home consisted of blasting A/C and cigar smoke rising and falling then settling into upholstery. Halfway home I looked over to see Dad's eyes closed or perhaps nearly shut, I couldn't tell, and I couldn't bring myself to say anything either since I was in his space. So I watched the road instead, taking note of how the Buick stayed in the proper lane and moved with the subtle bends highways have to keep people awake.
Neil Carpathios UPON DISCOVERING MY DAUGHTER‘S TATTOO Some sort of Indian flower, she will explain, on her right hip above the globe where ass flattens into spine, but I am still in the gap between the second I spot it as she leans forward on the futon and her shirt rises and the second I will say, ―So, you got one,‖ pointing. In the millisecond I press pause on the remote in my chest freezing my daughter as she reaches for the fallen potato chip so I can examine the tattoo more closely and how I feel without rushing. I zoom in, my face almost touching her skin, eyeballing ornate petals and the stem she will tell me is a Hindu umbilical cord connecting the beautiful blossom to earth it sprung from, and the thought that I am that soil and she is that flower and the stem that connects us is all the moments between when she popped into the world and right now will rise in my skull, but not yet. I get up, walk around, look into her dazzling mocha eyes, unblinking, her mouth in mid-smile, the teeth straight and white, her slender arm extended, the fingers of her hand reaching for the chip on the floor. I stroke her silky hair and place
Neil Carpathios a strand that flung itself over her eyes as she lurched behind her ear. I whisper you will always be my little blossom no matter what you do to the canvass of your body, or where you go and with or without whom, that ancient father rebel cry of love. I sit back on the futon, almost ready, wondering it sheâ€˜ll notice her hair magically readjusted as she scoops the chip. I breathe in deep, look at the flower, quite delicate, one more time, exhale, press play on my remote.
Brenna York SOLDIER MOUTH Forty-days left, watch the black leaves pour off the roof and hide in the gums feeling roots of your teeth thinking of being green again the symbol for Spring came when there was rain to notice. If you're leaving and have signed papers then you're going for good and shouldn't leave your clothes on the floor
Rewa Zeinati OF A SUMMER THREE YEARS LATER (Beirut, 2009)
Bodies all around me, sunbathing beneath the shadow of a passing aircraft. Bits of sky melt into skin. Here, bare backs of women/ canvasses for the sun. Beer bottles sucking at the lips of men, their cigarettes uninterrupted rifles, their flames, a permanent Julyâ€”
by MichĂ¨le Larocque
Jason David Peterson HEIRLOOM My father‘s watch goes off at midnight like a gun, forcing him to bed, bullhorn of a borrowed name. His father used to wear it tight against his skin, never took it off, never took his hat off, never undressed his sin, kept it wrapped tight against his chest like a pacemaker, forcing in the heart a routine. My father sleeps like a submarine, and in the murky sun of dawn, surfaces cold and steel-like from the deep, the watch fastened tight against his skin, he dresses without distraction, forces breakfast down his throat, bears his coat and hauls out to the car, it is mechanic, like a trigger to the hammer to the shot. His father‘s memory is never taken off, he keeps it wrapped against his chest like a bandage, so tight the heart cannot explode. My father settles like a snare drum, and every night awakens to the shot—his father walks to the car in the pounding sun, puts the gun to his ear like a watch that isn‘t working, the barrel tight against his skin, forcing the fear down his throat, it is mechanic, he undresses his body like a bandage. My father‘s heart goes off at midnight.
Fraser Brown AN OPEN LETTER TO THE ANCESTORS Muerte, we studied Sand Creek and the Battle of Pease River. We saw so many photographs we thought the 1880s were all sepia. The sky stretched out like tanning hide, Like clay dirt and grass and random pyres, Like stories always go: ―Muerte, in the beginning, there was just A rock that no one lived on.‖ I‘m here because people killed people And other ones had kids. No Big Lord set me down with a great kiss Or missing rib, with instructions on whatnot and what to eat. I‘ve felt the scream of a codfish cooking burn, Muerte, I‘ve seen blood run down My fingers after catching hangnails on a rug. I‘ve cut my shins on bike pedals. Muerte (addressing the collective)— You might‘ve been slaughtered or a slaughteree At some point; my Aunt (not yet deceased) paid genealogy.com, she cc‘d the news but I lost track. (My head is more a loose-weave Basket than an inbox). So I know that part of you drove tanks in WWII, And that part was blown from one. That part of you was three kinds of engineer. Otherwise I just assume you felt the same heart-wrenching Pain of a pug dog gone before its time and smiled When you found a hiding roll of paper towels.
Kathleen Radigan FUN WITH DICK AND JANE (HAIKUS) Jane is like, ―It‘s shit.‖ her stockings are ripped and she swears without speaking. I‘d like to ask her what do you wonder about? I wonder about you. But I figure she‘d snap. Cigarettes are lit and I‘m a bit drunk. I slur ―What is this?‖ ―Why are you always far off.‖ Jane is just like, ―Huh?‖ ―I mean, where do you go? Why do you always look so pissed? Is it me?‖ Jane just shakes her head she isn‘t buzzed yet and she‘s tired of cities. But no, this time she‘s tired of me. All I want is the rips in her tights and Jane‘s hands, and the stupid look on her face like ―I‘m so sick of this.‖ the kitchen table spins, I taste the rims of things and Jane‘s still quiet. Then randomly, she crumples like candlewax, ―God damn I wish the world was nice.‖ I get up
Kathleen Radigan and my chair makes a scrape sound As I hold her, Jane says ―All my life I‘ve wanted one kiss that could make me feel like a kid.‖ ―oh Jane. oh, Jane oh my Jane‖ I say, or at least I try to say. But anyway, I kiss her. Jane‘s face is all wet. We spin the kitchen.
Ready, Set, Go!
by Sheri L. Wright
Mark Heinlein MONDAYS I WATCH THE BALLGAMES AT THE PIZZA JOINT
i go to work every day of the year that i‘m not ill and do the job like i‘m supposed to do the job. i‘ve never put money in the 401K and everyone calls me crazy for it. i suppose i am a little crazy, mostly i‘m scared to continue doing what i‘m doing. i take the xanax and noise (which is all this constant worrying) quiets a little, so i can get through the day easier. life‘s still life, but this gives me a chance i don‘t know i‘ve ever had. i can‘t remember a day in my life that i didn‘t dread. in the morning someone will ask me how i‘m doing and i‘ll answer, you know. i‘m losing my hair. sometimes, when i‘m typing letters or eating cereal, i discover a strand on my placemat or keyboard. father lost his hair when he was twenty-eight, started combing forward, carefully working it so. my brother and i laughed when the wind blew it out of place. i‘m thirty-seven, have lots of hair, but i always look in the mirror or car window to see what‘s disappeared. i admit it, if i made more money, i‘d use rogaine. another tough day, but this time i‘ve decided not to tell anyone about it. keep it to myself, you know, not say a boring thing. i work at the grocery, take night school so i can teach english and coach high school football. mondays i watch ballgames at the pizza joint, have a pitcher with the boys, hands scabbed from throwing the dairy load. i know it could be worse than this: half a world away someone‘s dying for oil, or religion, for nothing, when i think about having to kill someone, really kill someone, i nearly weep.
Mark Heinlein OPENING THE CURTAINS
i ignore pains under my arm, my bleeding gums, my heart racing as i walk up the staircase after taking out the garbage under the sink a week. sometimes, i ignore sunshine, ignore i've the curtains closed most of the time, because if they're open, i know neighbors peer in. it doesn‘t matter what they see. i go on shaving, saving aluminum cans for cents. every now and then, i scour through the dumpster in case some got tossed in. still, how am i supposed to tell neighbors about poems i keep in my notebook which talk about me, hell, constantly, talk about them? would they understand? if i told them, sometimes bumping into them on the stoop, or lifting a sprite can from the dumpster they‘d just tossed in, that nothing and everything here happened and never happened just the same? that‘s why i‘m always closing the curtains and (perhaps) that‘s why they‘re always looking in. but i don‘t bother with that. i keep writing poems, keep looking through garbage, keep grabbing for something to make sense. i keep holding my wife when she‘s tired and desperate, drawing the curtains closed, opening the curtains, living our lives as best we can.
Andrew Whitmer THE ELIZABETHAN WORLD PICTURE Elizabeth Zeek‘s eyebrows ran up her forehead. The television became a green blur through which she stared and dreamed. Elsewhere, heads were going to roll. Dictators in military uniforms were scheming to outwit peace-loving wearers of fine suits—those determined to thwart their nuclear interests, their interests in holding a life-supporting ball of dirt and water at gunpoint. All for power, Elizabeth decided, all for chaos, all for money. These thoughts raced across her mind quite randomly. She pondered the world‘s imminent destruction. She constructed it in her mind and built its clarity with her fingertips, grazing the buttons on her friend‘s remote control in odd, sequential pantomimes. All over the world, the news assured her, people she‘d never met wished to do her harm. Debts were to be settled over her own spilled blood. ―Do you know the difference,‖ the television suddenly asked her, ―between a tortilla chip, and a tortilla chip?‖ She blinked at the question. Marijuana stink rose from the carpet. Elizabeth shifted uncomfortably on Joey‘s couch. She was a horizontal mess of potential energy, squirming around and juggling her big thoughts with little presentations of cable advertisement. She was irritated by the late-night ads glowing from across the room. The television promised there was money to be made, that it was free, and that these two blondes, these big-breasted twins, were living proof that this was certain. The author‘s book was called Free Money. The blondes, as far as the television was willing to communicate, did not have names. ―Oh, my country,‖ Elizabeth quietly breathed, ―what have you done to your girls?‖ ―They‘re sexy,‖ Joey said from the floor. Benjamin, Joey‘s good friend, aggressively asked him, in a barrage of vulgar language, to speak no more. ―Go to hell, Ben,‖ Joey replied. Their words were lazy and quiet and hurtful. Such was the give and take of stoned adolescent male posturing. Outside, Austintown, Ohio popped and cracked with the noises of winter. The man on the television screen gestured wildly, battling for attention with the moon, which shone valiantly through the living room window. Its light brightened the faces of Elizabeth‘s friends—her boys, the brethren, Ben, Joey, Brett, and Mike, the island of misfit toys littered across the carpet like a kennel of disinterested puppies. They panted at the Free Money Twins. Free money, Elizabeth thought, free money and girls with large breasts— here I am, Lord, here I am. She shifted again, grunting at the familiarity of the situation in Joey‘s living room. This was where she and the boys spent their nights. Elizabeth was never thrilled to be there, but it was expected that she attend. She was needed, though this was never admitted directly. The group slurped away at large cans
Andrew Whitmer of cheap-label beer, watched television, and made fun of each other. They smoked weed. ―To see the world as it is,‖ Joey had earlier explained, ―wait, wait.‖ The group waited. ―To see the world as it is,‖ Joey‘s hands motioned in front of him. ―To see the world as it is, we must first see the world as it most definitely is not.‖ The group breathed in deeply. Then, in a barrage of insults and demonstrative gesturing, they demanded that he discontinue his thought. Selfexpression was not met kindly, not here, not anywhere. It was bullshit. Elizabeth, however, had followed her reactionary dismissal of Joey‘s bullshit with the disquieting realization that her friends were perhaps representative of what Joey had called ―the world as it most definitely was not.‖ She wondered, there inside her goofy little head, if this made any sense at all. But things were quiet now. Elizabeth Zeek held the remote in her right hand, a hand that, as it happened, had once held a very large and very heavy nickel-plated pistol. She had fired it at paper targets with circles all over it, then retrieved it, and had found herself alive with the fire-crazy thrill of exploding sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate. This was on a daddydaughter date. She was an accurate little girl, her father‘s pride and joy. That night, her father made a fire in the backyard and blackened slabs of precooked ham over its embers. Elizabeth helped. She was fifteen then, nineteen now, and the years in between had simply blown through her hair, made it longer, its colors richer, and left her to deal with a more demanding and less elaborate here and now—a fatherless here and now, thanks to cancer. There were no more fires to put out. Elizabeth instead found herself chained to the rocks of Joey‘s living room, re-growing her liver over day-time re-runs of The Andy Griffith Show. At night, her liver was devoured by the company she kept, the flock of dodo birds writhing around the living room floor squawking at each other. No, there were no more fires to put out. There were only channels in need of changing. And so that‘s what she did. The boys shifted around thankfully, settling into an infomercial. ―This is the best shape my legs have ever been in,‖ a woman in a purple leotard explained. ―You know, I had a baby five months ago, and my body is already a calorie burning inferno.‖ Elizabeth grunted, stuck on the word inferno. She thought of fireworks, of yet another wild happenstance of the past. She grieved for old Independence Days, of sparklers that had run their course, of old excitements found and then lost. This forced her into examination of the woefully boring truth about the present, which, with a light grip, slowly coursed through her hands. Her grip tightened as she thought of something to say. ―Let‘s go to the Hamburger Graveyard,‖ she said. The Hamburger Graveyard was a small old cemetery hidden behind tall wooden fences and oddly located in the side-yard of a Wendy‘s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers Restaurant. Elizabeth had named it the Hamburger Graveyard to
Andrew Whitmer the interest of nobody but her, and had plainly done so for the simple reason that it had no name. This wooden labyrinth was labeled, simply put, CEMETERY. Elizabeth had often suggested that the group should investigate. She was desperate to make Austintown more than it was, to make it a place worth calling home—a point of unending interest. The boys grunted from underneath their flat-brimmed hats. ―Maybe,‖ said Brett. Elizabeth had once been to Chicago. She entered the city by train and set off with her father to casually peruse its framework. Her eyes were big and wide that day, lit with imaginations of pulling the buildings up by their roots and carrying them around like firewood, squashing Lilliputian Cubs fans as she did. If only she were Gulliver, she thought. If only she had travels. The thought passed over her casually and she changed the channel. Elizabeth was bored. Her eyes rolled way back and she traced the pattern of Joey‘s living room ceiling. She was the world‘s resident grumbler, an exasperated heap of teenage girl bemoaning the swarming indifferences of stale friendship and faded amusements. Her dilemma, her taste for pyromania offset by the things she must literally ingest, rolled around her head in a wheelchair. She was an old woman‘s girlish proxy, made weak by her hourly forfeitures of youth. ―Fuck it,‖ she often said. ―Fuck it.‖ Elizabeth shook herself free, allowing her eyes to re-shift focus at the glowing television set. ―You know, my thing is about these lasers,‖ the television news man said. He looked like a politician. The comment held Elizabeth‘s thumb in place. ―If China launches a rocket,‖ the man said, ―are we just supposed to shoot another rocket? The practical thing, and I know the Chinese have this, is a laser—to disintegrate the rocket. That‘s my thing,‖ the man concluded. ―We‘ve got to put more money into these lasers.‖ Mike suddenly twitched from where he‘d been sleeping for the past hour. ―Lasers?‖ he asked. ―Yeah,‖ Joey said, ―Lasers.‖ ―Oh,‖ Mike replied, weakly, almost at a whisper. Elizabeth changed the channel. Her focus wandered to hunger, which made itself known in a rush of blurps and gurgles. Her gooey machinery was in need of things to devour, to slosh around and divide into treasure and waste. Elizabeth often stared blankly in crowded rooms, trying to imagine the madness sliding around inside her. These were disgusting but fascinating images. ―Elizabeth,‖ Joey broke her concentration. ―What?‖ ―Change the channel.‖ Elizabeth went to the kitchen in search of something to eat. Joey‘s apartment was beige. It was a temple of normalcy. In the kitchen, milk went bad and small, artificial plants hugged the corners. The plants asked for
Andrew Whitmer nothing but a light recognition of existence. Elizabeth, her arms crossed, studied the plants. She remembered textbook photographs of giant redwoods. Pushing her brown hair behind her ears, she glided without purpose to the center of the kitchen. Her boredom was again superseding her hunger, the latest lead-change in the apathetic horse race of her simple wants and needs. ―What are you doing?‖ Mike had followed her. His eyes were wide and still adjusting from his nap. ―Nothing,‖ she said. Mike nodded, leaning on Joey‘s counter. ―Am I coming over tonight?‖ she asked him. She tilted her head, frowning. Mike sniffled indifferently, placing his hands on top of his head. ―I don‘t know.‖ He yawned. Mike was a tall young man—a blank face, more or less—who had a pace about him, a slowness with which he lived and breathed. He scratched the back of his head and went back into the living room, having given Elizabeth only the light, artificial plant-recognition she had asked for, an acknowledgment of shared aliveness. ―What do you mean you don‘t know?‖ she asked. Her question bounced off the place where Mike had stood and came floating back to its point of origin. Elizabeth had once French-kissed her school‘s foreign-exchange student. He was a German named Gregory. She took quiet satisfaction in romances the boys didn‘t know about. She walked slowly back into the living room, her arms once again crossed and her hair falling over her eyes. Between the strands, she looked over them—the flock of dodo birds, the kennel of disinterested puppies. She didn‘t think much as she stood there taking in the scents of old carpet and cheap marijuana. She only blinked between long uneventful breaths. ―I think I‘m going for a walk,‖ she said. They rolled over, slowly, one by one. They examined Elizabeth, then glanced out the window at the snow falling quietly over the asphalt of the apartment complex parking lot. ―Now?‖ one asked. Elizabeth smiled and walked away. The required patience of explaining herself eluded her. She had foreseen the next five minutes, the one-way street of a conversation that would have surely followed. She chose to skate around the possibility of being talked out of this proactive decision. She would put on a coat, leave the apartment, and put one foot in front of the other for an extended period of time. This was praxis, and she needed it, a simple realization of her own mildly interesting idea to get to the bottom of what that cemetery was about. Get to the bottom of a cemetery, she thought. She left the apartment shaking her head. She was amused. She was moving, and the smooth power of a female in motion must never be underestimated. Her father had taught her that. He told her to believe in it strongly.
Andrew Whitmer In the living room, the boys upgraded themselves from totally indifferent to curious and confused. Upon hearing the door close, they made noises at each other, like a gaggle of dinosaurs missing an egg. ―This is so much better,‖ Elizabeth said. A swirling gust of wind assured her that someone was listening. Now upright, Elizabeth was strong and attractive. Her brown hair flew in messy directions while she tried to corral it inside her stocking cap. She was a young woman of black clothes, black boots, and American denim. Patton, she imagined, had left his tent. The enemy, she imagined, was out here somewhere. They would hear her footsteps, rise up on their piss-soaked hind legs, and howl, “Jesus Christ! It’s the Third Army again and that son-of-a-bitch Elizabeth Zeek!” Elizabeth put both hands inside her pockets and lengthened her stride, quite pleased with the new state of things. More thoughts came to her. She tried to believe she could hold up the sky with her own two hands. She shook her head and pushed onward. Mahoning Avenue was one long river of slush—a hilly mix of dirty snow and blotches of surfaced asphalt. Elizabeth paced the sidewalks, watching the cars slide around near each other, risking contact, but scooting away without touching. Elizabeth often considered other motorists, taking their faces in a glance, imagining the places they‘d been and the troubles they must currently endure. What had they seen? She wanted to know. At a stop light, Elizabeth walked past an old woman driving a small truck. The body of the truck was rusted throughout, marked by time and chemical reaction. The woman‘s face had similar marks. At first glance, Elizabeth decided she was just tired. At second glance, she realized the woman was sad. At a third glance, Elizabeth wondered if the woman was considering sucking on her tailpipe and ending her pain in big swallows of black fuel exhaust. When Elizabeth was seven, she had gotten exactly what she wanted for Christmas. Her parents had bought her a puppy. As the woman drove away, Elizabeth quickly prayed that someone might buy the woman in the truck a puppy, a companion for the passenger seat of that rusting failure of a vehicle. Elizabeth quickened her pace, trying to shake away the bummer that had just unfolded. She wiped her leaking nose and thought of her father. Counting her steps, Elizabeth Zeek kept her head down to combat the wind. She focused on the power of her leg muscles, which propelled her up the hill toward the Wendy‘s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers Restaurant. Noises came from up ahead, where a woman was chasing a man off her porch. The man carried a large black trash bag. He noticed Elizabeth, who again dropped her gaze to her feet, hoping to journey onward without interruption. He jogged to meet her at the sidewalk. His clothes were loose and fuzzy. ―Excuse me, Miss?‖ the man said, greeting her and asking for something all at once. Elizabeth knew he was talking to her. ―Can I interest you in some discount clothing? Miss?‖ Elizabeth was trying to veer away from the man as
Andrew Whitmer she passed. ―Miss, look at these jackets. I even have a few purses—ten dollars for the purses. Do you see these purses?‖ Elizabeth muttered ―No, I‘m sorry‖ and tried to keep moving. ―How about a dollar? Can you spare a dollar?‖ As she opened her mouth to reply, a young man on a bicycle pedaled toward the conversation. He rang his bell as he passed, creating a pause between Elizabeth and the beggar. His bike struggled through the slush. The pause lingered, though his bell kept ringing. ―Here,‖ Elizabeth said. She walked away from the old man‘s barrage of muffled thanks, shivering, annoyed, her eyes fixated on the glowing sign of the Wendy‘s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers Restaurant ahead. She tried to smile, realizing how close she was. Looking back, she saw the old man holding the dollar bill up to the moonlight, smiling. Elizabeth Zeek fancied herself an American nomad journeying to her nearest resource. Her smile faded, however, as she noticed the bicyclist pedaling toward the cemetery. Elizabeth watched as he parked his bicycle and entered the tall wooden fence. She felt horrible words rise from her stomach. ―Mike,‖ she said. She began chewing on the words she would unleash at him upon her arrival. Though outwardly angry, scattered fragments of her long-since-broken romantic spirit huddled together at the possibility that this was some sort of romantic gesture. Elizabeth, however, assumed that it wasn‘t. A gust of wind attempted to calm her down. As she approached the cemetery, her pupils dilated and swallowed the glowing sign above the Wendy‘s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers Restaurant. This was the allure that had made the Hamburger Graveyard Elizabeth‘s point of unending interest. Though upset with Mike, the dead now called to her. She was both wave and particle, physical body and everlasting spirit, one foot in front of the other en route to the go-between sanctum next to the Wendy‘s OldFashioned Hamburgers Restaurant. She stood back and looked up at the sign: CEMETERY. Following her father‘s death a year earlier, a sympathy card, ivory in color, told her this was where all travelers meet. Perhaps she was Gulliver—a big living person exploring a tiny world‘s graveyard. She entered slowly. ―Mike?‖ A burst of noise and movement knocked the bicycle from where it rested. ―JESUS—.‖ The young man fell into his bicycle. Startled, he scrambled to his feet, dusting snow from his winter coat. ―Yeah, I‘m alright. Thanks for asking. Who‘s Mike? I think I cut my face on the chain,‖ he said, pointing to the rusted bike chain. He touched his face, expecting blood. ―Who are you? Don‘t touch anything. Why are you here? Don‘t touch anything.‖ ―I didn‘t touch—‖
Andrew Whitmer ―Well, don‘t, it‘s all very old. The tombstones are all loose and very old. Who are you? These are heroes. Do you see these heroes? They‘re very old.‖ Elizabeth stepped forward. ―My name is—‖ ―This one‘s my great grandfather,‖ the young man said, pointing to a dirty bit of white, mangled rock. ―I could have sworn I cut my face. The tombstone‘s in bad shape, but I‘m sure my great grandfather is fine. He was a hero. You‘re the girl from the street, the girl with the old man. Why are you here? The old man‘s name is Gerome, by the way. Did you give him a buck? Gerome could use a buck.‖ ―Yeah, I gave—‖ ―That‘s good.‖ The young man clapped his mittens together, cutting through Elizabeth‘s words. ―Gerome could use a buck. I‘m glad you‘re here. Nobody comes here.‖ He clapped again. As he did, bright lights streaked across his face. Headlights from the Wendy‘s Old Fashioned Hamburgers Restaurant parking lot spliced the cemetery into stripes of light. Elizabeth noticed the young man‘s face had been mildly scratched, and that he was very handsome. ―I was curious,‖ she said. ―That‘s fun,‖ the young man replied. ―It‘s crazy, right? They make chicken sandwiches within pissing distance of this little place. It‘s a cold night. This is holy ground. These are heroes.‖ Elizabeth moved closer to the young man, who plopped down on an old bench hugging the tall wooden fencing. ―How do you know Gerome?‖ she asked. ―Oh, he spoke to me once. I learned things about him. We know each other now. Are you aware of this process?‖ ―I‘m doing it right now,‖ Elizabeth said, somewhat confidently, smiling for the first time in the conversation. The young man made room for Elizabeth on the bench. Though he was odd, he was not an idiot. A girl had just smiled in his direction. Elizabeth sat down beside him, close enough that their shoulders touched. The two conjoined muscular systems tightened at the alien invasion of their respective comfort zones. ―This place is great,‖ the young man said. ―It‘s quiet tonight. The cars can make it noisy. I‘m sorry, what is your name? Oh, did you see my great grandfather‘s headstone? Peter Wallazart. Do you see the inscriptions? Peter Wallazart. Read the inscriptions.‖ Elizabeth blinked and adjusted her head, struggling to keep up with the young man‘s conversational pace. She leaned forward to read the inscriptions. The first read: Think, mortal, what it is to die—Thomas Parnell. The second: Young people can do anything. They can be so brave—Mary Wallazart. ―Mary?‖ Elizabeth asked. ―My great, great grandmother,‖ the young man explained. ―That‘s heavy,‖ said Elizabeth. The young man‘s face was again lit with streaks of light cutting through the fence. His army-green winter jacket had holes and frayed stitching, but he was neatly shaven and the streaks of light
Andrew Whitmer highlighted his smile, which made Elizabeth‘s right foot twitch without her realizing. ―Heavy,‖ he said. ―That‘s an interesting way to put it. You‘re very interesting.‖ Elizabeth‘s mouth hung barely open. Slowly, she folded her hands in her lap and let out a deep breath. She tried to relax. ―How did he die?‖ she asked. ―They all died on their bicycles, I think,‖ the young man said, standing up and pointing across the graves. ―These were all bicycle infantrymen in World War I, all of them,‖ he said. ―All of these heroes, on their bicycles.‖ ―Their bicycles?‖ ―Their bicycles,‖ he breathed, ―They are heroes. Can you imagine? A bicycle cavalry. My great grandfather is a hero. He pedaled into battle. ‗Follow me!‘ That‘s what he yelled, what they all yelled. I want to be a hero, too. One more year, one more year and I‘ll be eighteen and I‘ll be a hero. People will follow me.‖ ―On your bicycle?‖ Elizabeth asked, smiling. ―Whatever it takes,‖ the young man breathed. Elizabeth‘s head raced happily. She was in the Hamburger Graveyard. The small cemetery in the side yard of the Wendy‘s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers Restaurant was filled with men who had pedaled bravely toward machine guns and were presumably killed promptly for having done so. Elizabeth was on an adventure, and it even had a tour guide. ―What‘s your name?‖ he asked. ―I am Peter Wallazart IV. We‘re proud, the Wallazarts. My dad, and his dad, and his dad, we take our name very seriously. We believe in our name. When I was a kid, my dad told me our family‘s war stories. I love those stories. I loved my family. They‘re gone now.‖ ―My father died last year,‖ Elizabeth explained. ―Death,‖ the young man shook his head. ―To think, it will all end in an instant. Somewhere, somebody has their finger on a button. We will zip into nothing, just like that, like an old television flickering off. This is why I want to be a hero.‖ Elizabeth shuddered at being compared to a television. The image crawled down her spine and caused discomfort in her tailbone. She stood up. ―My name is—‖ She suddenly stopped. She heard chattering from beyond the wooden fence. The faint sound of stupid giggling reached her ears. The thrill of her adventure began to shrink. The familiar, lazy squawking was growing louder through the wind. The thrill of her adventure was leaving her entirely. Peter said something as she walked toward the voices but she did not hear it. As she turned the corner, she saw what she expected. The dinosaurs had come to retrieve their wayward egg. Peter shrugged as Elizabeth drifted out of sight. He rocked back and forth on the bench, humming a tune. Elizabeth stuck her hands in her pockets as she approached the boys. ―What are you doing here?‖
Andrew Whitmer ―We‘re out of weed,‖ Joey, a real person with real problems, said importantly. Brett nodded, Ben stared at the Wendy‘s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers sign, and Mike acted disinterested. He made brief eye contact with Elizabeth. ―You‘re out of weed?‖ Elizabeth asked, irritated. ―And you think I have some? Why did you follow me?‖ ―Pancakes,‖ Brett answered. ―We thought you might be hungry,‖ Mike added. ―We‘re on our way to buy weed. Our new dealer is going to make us pancakes.‖ ―Pancakes,‖ Elizabeth said. ―Pancakes,‖ Mike replied. ―Come on.‖ The boys turned to walk away, confident Elizabeth would follow. She turned and found the sign again: CEMETERY. Her hands dug deeper inside her pockets and she toed the ground, marking the sidewalk with aimless lines in the snow. She looked back at the boys. Mike was walking backwards, smirking at Elizabeth. He yawned and turned away. Elizabeth was cold. Elizabeth was hungry. Her stomach growled, and she touched it for a moment, but shook her head in determined rejection. The wind blew at her face but she leaned into it. Elizabeth Zeek reached even deeper inside her pockets. She found a piece of flint to spark against the rock of her self-worth. ―Peter!‖ she yelled over the fence. ―Yes!‖ he replied, yelling from the dark. ―My name is Peter Wallazart IV!‖ Elizabeth felt snowflakes land on her eyelashes. They melted quickly, for her eyes were balls of fire. She was a calorie burning inferno. She looked at the fence, in the direction she assumed Peter was still sitting. Her eyes now shone brightly through the cracks in the fence sending streaks across Peter‘s face. ―My name is Elizabeth Zeek!‖ she yelled. A wide, thin smile spread across her face, drawn in pencil but cut with fire. More snowflakes landed on her eyelashes and turned to water. ―That‘s my name!‖ she yelled. ―My name is Elizabeth Zeek!‖ A long silence crept inside the invisible conversation. For a few lost moments both parties simply breathed and stared at the wooden fence. They saw each other‘s breath rise above the fencing. ―It‘s really nice to meet you, Eizabeth Zeek! Where are you from?!‖ The yelling made the moonlight follow the conversation back and forth like a spotlight. ―I am from Austintown, Ohio! This is where I grew up! This is where I‘m from!‖ Peter rolled his bicycle out from behind the wooden fence. He shot Elizabeth a quick smile, boarded the bike, and rang his bell. He began to struggle up the hill. ―Where are you going?‖ she asked him. ―To the future,‖ he said, ―where I am a hero, where we can all be heroes.‖
Andrew Whitmer Elizabeth walked backwards as she watched him climb the hill. He appeared as he had insisted he would: heroic. He was her Saturday night stranger, a small piece of machinery rotating far away from its mundane whole. Elizabeth breathed in the possibility that somehow, through his crazy power of will and uninhibited capacity for belief, that the young man had made all his aspirations a reality. He was a hero. A hero, she thought, an actual hero. The concept had seemed so lame, so illegal, and so impossible for so long that for a genuine hero to exist seemed to overcome hard science. She was on fire over this single little incident. Caves behind her eyes, dark and unlit for a year, were now starting to glow a tribal yellow, as rows of crackling torches began to light, one by one, along the anatomical pathways from her brown eyes to her American spirit. Heroes were real again, and so there was fire. She turned away, her face red and smiling. She moved with the smooth power of a female in motion. Smoke crawled out from underneath her stocking cap as the wind breathed “My daughter the inferno.” Looking up, she realized the boys were back. They were to her direct front. They had come back for her. They leaned on each other impatiently, greeting her with looks of tired demand. ―Come on,‖ Mike said. She breathed for a moment and then she moved. Elizabeth Zeek bullied her way through them and began to walk out in front. She didn‘t know where the new dealer lived. The brethren followed all the same, catching faint gusts of smoke still escaping from underneath their leader‘s cap. ―Something‘s burning,‖ Mike commented, sniffing the air, lost. The wind blew the fiery aroma of human spirit hard up his nose. He became uncomfortable. ―I am the infantry,‖ Elizabeth said. ―Follow me.‖
Quinn Rennerfeldt HE was there tying his boots, and then he was gone and gone is what he did best, disappear to Myanmar and limp back. The dead have written on the dead, when I return from this war, I will visit his grave, and graveside, the slivered bones lie. He was no stranger to Afghanistan and its dangers but how does one know a bomb's missed click, the pupil's desperate exhale before the kick, a body split on loosely sanded ground. He died doing what he loved if what he loved was to die.
Rich Ives WRONG I was thinking the moon was in the apple tree, but I was mistaken. I was thinking the church ought to be there. I was assembling a god from jumping ropes. I was going to church, but I didn't know then what church was. I was floating along with church, making up children for the collection box, and Josh swam by, a good friend to the end. I was expecting him to last longer. A little more Josh than that. Then an apple fell from the apple tree and I was mistaken again. But I was still hungry. Then Alex wrote a new song I didn't want to hear anymore. He was a judge. He worked at the Texaco. He said I was feeding a complicated goat complex and I was trembling. I was only partially mistaken. I was watching Alex trying to pick up two girls and the rump roast. The church was still not in the apple tree. The two girls did not believe they were assembling God. Alex was not a minister. And he didn't work at the drive-in. And I was terribly shaken and I was trembling and I was no longer certain of being mistaken. It was not the right time to stop making up children or searching for guidance in the apple tree‘s innocent hungers, nor was it time to lure Alex away from a steady income just to question the circumstances under which Josh had absconded with such a large portion of that particular church‘s appropriation of valuable children‘s rhymes and secular employment opportunities. It wouldn‘t have left us any more certain of his end than the cut rope swinging in the wind from the very same branch of the apple tree upon which the sleeping crow‘s silhouette had coincided with the moon‘s emergence from the passing cloud bank. I myself just wasn‘t important enough yet to be eclipsed in such an enigmatic fashion. I guess I was thinking the church ought to be there.
Fiona Chamness WHY I OVERUSE SUPERLATIVES I am going down to the ground to be nothing. I won't think anymore about my face. My face will wash itself clean, become the face, then stop becoming. Music will open no more categories in my gut. I am going to walk into a black field with no matches. There will be no word for black or matches. Nor for where my head branded itself into your neck, or how. It won't have happened, I can't talk about it. I think it's time I picked a last smell. You. You. Or dish detergent. Lemon sorrel ripped in the leaf channel. Yeast. You. Yeast. Bubbler, sugar eater, maker of air. Is it a waste to choose a last thing from the ground when the ground lasts? I won't. The color green will be impossible. Even if it becomes a sound or blood through the rocks I'm hooked to I will have no name. No mouth. Mouth. Ears it ate like flesh fruit, apricots. If I choose a last taste. A last sense, this one, before I'm shut from the this and what it is. If I say "please." If I tell you here was the best day, story, then unhinge another, call it best and nowhere lie, make it my constant project, if my highest degree of love is no match or shelf but a room of sparks and stacks I will step out of, one day, and forget how
Fiona Chamness to say "door"â€”then let me admit I love. I can't talk my way out of this. I can only talk my way in.
Fiona Chamness TO THE SPACE BENEATH MY BREASTS Once I wouldn't have called you that. I ran the whole brown plane through the house shirtless, two sliced bits of strawberry hull stuck flat on a cutting board. I stretched my arms, flexed you as though to roll the freckles off. Now you are the white shadows of fish. I miss you. You write to me in sweat. I read your code, spikes and dips of graphs along the edges of the bras I pull off after every heaving day. I remember the air on you, how light each piece of me was, my body full of pockets I had no idea would ever open or be filled. I have no choice but to carry everything with me. You have become the folded card table in the crawlspace of this house, granite bed in the river, crossbeam braced invisibly in the roofing I hold up. You were an open secret. I have watched you close. You are more mine now than you ever were. You are my favorite part of swimming naked: the vault of ribs apparent to its full length. Water sweeping you like a broom. Your skin the windowpane it always was, though only gilled, finned creatures can swim up here now to look through you in the dark.
By MichĂ¨le Larocque
Diane Thomas DRAWING THE LINE—IN ART AND LIFE A review of Drawing the Line, a memoir by Susan Gardner, Red Mountain Press, 2011) Drawing the Line is a book for that easy-to-reach shelf where it can be pulled down and visited time and again through the years. Each reading yields something new. It is, quite simply, the best self-examination of a life that I have read in a long time. The book‘s title is well chosen. In it, Gardner, a poet, photographer and internationally recognized artist living in Santa Fe, draws many lines. Primary, of course, is the line of her life, which she lays out, in this age of dishy celebrity spews, with quiet dignity. Of equal importance are the lines that figure prominently in her art, which is deeply influenced by calligraphy and Japanese sumi-e painting. Also to consider are the lines of her poetry. Gardner embeds a scattering of her poems throughout her memoir and echoes their spare, highly visual style in her prose. In this manner she creates yet more lines, both on the page and the implied lines she lays down for us to read between. A product of her time, and of a philandering father and a volatile mother who hated children, she finds herself in the mid-1960s trapped in an abusive marriage in a foreign country, with two small children, the painful memory of a third child dead of leukemia, and no means of supporting herself on her own. She does not, however, dwell on her misfortunes. The domestic abuse, for example, comes through mostly in occasional references to bruises, in such phrases as ―…our sexual tastes were not alike…,‖ and in the cold fact that she gave birth to a child with syphilis that she herself unknowingly had contracted from her husband. Instead, Gardner turns her attention to the world around her. And a rich world it is. Her husband, whom she calls Edwin (names have been changed— Gardner has a great respect for privacy), was in the Foreign Service, which meant postings in Korea, Japan and Mexico City, plus other travels. Always, wherever they were, she was drawn to art and the artists who created it. In Asia she not only learned Korean papermaking, calligraphy and sumie, but also tenets of Buddhism, including the concept of ―pointing,‖ directing your focused attention to what is directly in front of you. This practice is evident in Drawing the Line, and among other things makes Gardner an astute travel guide, with a knack for the telling detail that reveals much more than might at first appear. Her description of the ritual at the Korean temple of Haein-sa, in which a Buddhist monk strikes the largest of the temple gongs at midnight, is but one of countless such examples: At midnight, the largest gong, twenty feet tall and eight feet in diameter, is struck with a long, heavy log suspended with chains from a beam. The deep basso bell sends its
Diane Thomas vibration ahead of the sound itself. You can feel it on your skin before you hear it. The sound wave moves through the pine forest, unsettling the needles. They move a little and whisper as they brush against each other. Even the moonlight seems to tremble just a little.
She is equally adept at subtly skewering cultural phenomena. The Foreign Service, for example, comes in for its deserved share of knocks. In the 1960s and beyond, wives were not allowed to take paying jobs. Instead, at night they entertained lavishly on 24-hour notice from their husbands, and during the day they mastered the intricacies of initialing and turning down the proper corners of their calling cards when paying required 15-minute visits to the senior wives. (The only way to sidestep this newbie ritual was to be pregnant. Gardner writes of meeting a Foreign Service wife with eight children—one for each new post.) Through the years, she gradually gains confidence, in her art and her growing reputation as an artist, and in herself. When her two sons are nearly grown, she at last draws the line with Edwin and divorces him. Shortly thereafter, she meets the man she calls RD, a sculptor, architect and home remodeler, whom she marries six years later. Their life today she sees as rich in ―[l] imerence, an overwhelming, intimate joy….‖ Drawing the Line is a work to savor slowly, if you can—in places it‘s a true page-turner. Gardner calls it, in a modestly placed subhead, ―a passionate life,‖ and it is. It chronicles a remarkable passion for life, reflected in tranquility and imbued with the same vitality, restraint and dignity as a perfect line.
INTERVIEW with former BL contributor Ryder Collins, author of the new novel Homegirl!, and her editors at Honest Publishing (UK) BL: Tell us a little about the establishment and history of Honest, your staff, etc. “We don't just spill it on a page and then publish established voices like everyone else. We don't rely on recommendations from best friends or lovers. In other words, the reason for starting and continuing Honest is to show that it can be done. That work like this does have an output.” – editors, Honest Publishing
HONEST: Honest Publishing was formed in the back of a dirty pub in Putney circa February 2010. It was formed around high principles such as publishing unique, visionary voices, taking on fiction, non-fiction and poetry most don't have the guts/balls /ambition to publish. These are principles we still live with—just ask our sour-faced bank manager.
We are a triptych and Bogdan, Chris and Dan are the names we go by. Bogdan is the Romanian, Chris is the Mancunian and Dan hails from the mighty Fenlands of East Anglia. We have various skills we've picked up along the way, such as thick skin and yellowing teeth. A couple of volunteers help us out and they are Sophie and Betsy. And Bogdan's wife, Dana. And Dan's girlfriend, Ruth. And anybody else we can con into believing in us. Our establishment continues to pour out pints to willing punters. BL: There’s a lot of talk and buzz about small presses and literary publishing right now, pro and con. Would you please speak to any of that talk in light of your reasons for starting and continuing Honest Publishing? Perhaps in terms of what you mentioned about how some presses "don't have the guts/balls/ ambition to publish" the work you choose to promote? HONEST: Thanks for telling us about the buzz, we're glad it's finally happening! We were dreaming of reaching out to disenchanted readers and writers. We don't just spill it on a page and then publish established voices like everyone else. We don't rely on recommendations from best friends or lovers. In other words, the reason for starting and continuing Honest is to show that it can be done. That work like this does have an output. Take Paul Kavanagh's The Killing of a Bank Manager. It's an extraordinary book which doesn't fit snugly in any particular niche and doesn't want to either. But the writing is so vibrant and original it's a crime (pun intended) that it, alongside its author, hasn't had more exposure.
BL: Speaking of your esteemed authors, I blurbed Ryder Collins’ Homegirl!, your latest novel, so obviously I think it’s brilliant. I think it would help writers to hear from editors about why they’ve chosen certain brilliant manuscripts over certain other brilliant manuscripts (as a lit mag and chapbook press editor, having to turn down quality work seriously hurts my soul). What stood out to you as editors about Homegirl!, and/or the other titles you’ve published so far, including the aforementioned The Killing of a Bank Manager? How do those standout things that you look for define you as a press? HONEST: We're glad you loved Homegirl!; it goes without saying we feel the same. That book has wonderful spirit. I recall one of us saying Homegirl! had the best first page we ever read in a submission (and crucially, the other 210 pages keep it up). We're very closely guided by our philosophy. There can be no other way. Is it bold, uncompromising? Not holding anything back? In short, is it HONEST writing? Does it express ideas in a way we haven't seen before? For us, Homegirl! ticked all those. Like most editors, we've agonised over choices, but I think we've always chosen stuff that we love. If you don't, what's the point? BL: Ryder, tell us the story of this story—how you fleshed it out, how long it took to write, where chapters got published, and how/why you ultimately decided to send the ms to Honest. RC: Well, first I totally want to thank both you, Stacia, and the Honest Publishing eds—Bogdan, Chris, and Dan, for liking my book, yo. I'm not gonna play humble and be all like, oh, my book doesn't deserve praise, cos I don't believe in writing or sending anything out I don't believe in. Plus, mama hates the false humilities. Like Meta, I will get off my soapbox now... I started Homegirl! with an idea about writing about a character named Homegirl. I didn't really know anything about her except her name was Homegirl... Then I got this idea about a character named Meta who wants Homegirl but he's so meta he can't really interact with anyone except to comment on his own Facebook status updates. I wrote a little sketch about their uses of Facebook and saved it to my flash drive. The first real part of Homegirl! that I wrote is now Chapter 2 and was originally published in Sleep. Snort. Fuck. Chloe Caldwell, the ed, really seemed to like
the chapter, and then I got an email from one of the editors of The Meth Lab, Newamba Flamingo, saying that he'd read my piece on SSF and would like to publish something by me. That's when I came up with the character of Shadow, and the love and the smut got creepy and real. I wrote Homegirl! in four months. I like to think it's my Their Eyes Were Watching God... sans rabid dog + rabid Shadow... Chapters have also been published in Juked, Bastards and Whores, Fix It Broken, and in Freaky Fountain Press' Bad Romance anthology. Like SSF & The Meth Lab, they are all good peoples & you should read their lit mags even if you hate my shit. (That is not false humility; mama knows she cannot please everyone.) I sent Homegirl! to Honest Publishing cos I was looking for a small press with integrity. For reals. I know that seems kinda weird in our day of hipster irony, but that's who Honest Publishing is. They are honest. They do care. They care greatly about literature and writers. In fact, when I submitted to them their policy was that they would get back to everyone within 2 or 3 months (I don't remember the exact length, I just remember being impressed with their understanding of the writer's plight of waitingwaitingwaiting). Furthermore, I was even more impressed with their philosophy of wanting to publish the writings that are unique, different, threatening, subversive even. I felt like Homegirl! might find her home there... BL: Back to Honestâ€”tell us about your submission guidelines, your screening/editorial process, what you imbibe/wear/listen to while evaluating mss, etc. Letâ€™s get real. HONEST: The best guidelines for submissions are the books we have already published. Please note: we have not at present published anything vampirerelated (just a hint). We do look at most stuff that comes our way, although obviously if you've submitted something that doesn't tally with our ethos, you're less likely to be read past page 2. When we open for submissions, we bang them all in one spreadsheet and assign each to an editor. That's when the excitement/disappointment/ euphoria/stomach cramps/migraines begin. We drink a combination of tea, coffee, hard spirits and Sprite in that order, often wear smoker's jackets with no underwear and listen to BBC Radio 4. We don't really wear smoker's jackets. If anyone finds something that they genuinely like, that person sends out an emergency email, highlighting that manuscript to the other editors. The other editors then swiftly proceed to shoot that imbecile down in flames, pouring
scorn on their judgement, parenthood, and commitment to the company. And thus the journey continues ... until we find a book we like. BL: RC, what about your writing process? Whiskey/biker boots/Iron & Wine? Zima/nothing/screaming Auburn fans? Do they still make Zima? *shudder* If mama's lucky enough to have a free morning to write & not grade, it's coffee in a big fucking mug topped off with soy milk, cos real milk is kinda grotesque & scatological & reminds mama of her mammalian mortality way too early in the morning. At night, it's wine or manhattans. Never zima (which I have to confess to having drunk once, as well as Night Train and everyone I know went through a Boone's Country Farm kick at least once, yo). & neverever milk. As for music, a lot of Nick Cave and Iron & Wine (you guessed it) and anything else on my Pandora station. I'm looking forward to working on my next novel while listening to Agnes Obel's Philharmonics cos it's a beautiful & strange & complex album all at the same time, which is what I hope for from my writings... & boots boots always boots! BL: Fave other small presses/titles/writers? Why? HONEST: We like Salt. We like Chomu. We like what they stand for. And I hope they like us too. They better like us! Favourite writer? How about Dan Fante and his latest book, Fante? About as honest writing as you can get. Also, check out the work of David Rose. His novel Vault is punchy, precise and full of great writing. The man himself, apart from being a brilliant writer, is also a true gent. BL: Ryder, same question? RC: I am very much digging Barge Press; they're a new lit mag out of Pittsburgh/Chicago & I think they have a keen ear for exceptional writings. Really risky things. Not that staid traditional narrative arc shit that's so bourgeoisie and boring (and y'all know what I'm talking bout, yo)....They also give out the Barka award to two contributors; Paul Kavanagh (fellow Honest writer shout out!) just won one and deservedly so. I have to give a shout out too to Freaky Fountain Press up in Canada; they are down with the dark, freaky stuffs that makes mama sometimes blush. Front & Centre's another Canadian gem you should check out. I just ordered David Rose's Vault and can't wait to read it; he is, like Bogdan says, a true gent. & you cannot go wrong with Wigleaf. I also canâ€˜t forget to mention you, Stacia, and Blood Lotus and
Imaginary Friend Press, especially after you kept it real during the big BlazeVox controversy. I like presses and lit mags and writers that are really about building an artistic community & interacting with other artists; even artists that may not write in the same style or "genre" (whatever that means)... I'm thinking if you publish someone's work in your lit mag or by your press, you should also, if you're on Twitter, follow them and if you're on Facebook, friend them and vice versa cos it's a way to continue the conversation that began when the writer submitted their work and the work was accepted. Mama's not down with gatekeepers or gatekeeping; mama thinks the literary community is big enough to encompass everyone. For reals. BL: Whatâ€™s coming down the pipeline? HONEST: Down the pipeline, we have a collection of stories by underground legend Willie Smith. It will blow people away, blow them off the planet. Type Spider Fuck into Google for a taste of what's to come. We've also got a new book coming out by Paul Kavanagh, which is more than good enough to win any Booker Prize, whether literary, readable or bull. BL: RC, whatcha workin on? RC: In mid-November, I'll be reading at the first of the Hudson River Loft Reading Series with eleven other writers. I can't wait... First, cos it's the third stop on my sporadic (cos of the teachings that makes the $$) book tour for Homegirl! Plus, I get to meet, in person, a couple of writers, Chloe Caldwell and Sean H. Doyle, whose work I've been admiring and who I've been in convo with from afar... I then plan on doing some Midwest stops for the book tour in December-January. Long term, Mama's working on two things: a novel called The Hater's Winter and a fiction collection called Everything's broken but still we pretend. The collection is at chapbook length right now, and it contains stories about the apocalypse and balaclavaed babies who like to smash glass... BL: What one global change would you make to small press publishing, either in terms of a mentality or attitude you think is toxic, or to an actual business practice or policy? Say anything you want, however brief or long-winded, about literary publishing. No filter necessary. For real, we'll print it. HONEST: Do what you say you will and have the balls to hold your hand up if you make a mistake. I once sent a project that I worked on to a publisher. It was a colour poems project based on a book they had published; basically taking the idea of fusing poetry with colour a step further along. They wrote back saying they didn't publish stuff like that. I pointed out the book I'd based
“Publish what you believe in.” my project on was one THEY'D PUBLISHED. They got all touchy and said I was being offensive. Truth can be pretty offensive. Another example, I entered a competition for new writers. It was a national competition, a big deal, big prize money. The rules were that you were new. I didn't win but, far more upsetting, were the people who did. All experienced writers with books to their name. Promoting the promoted. In other words, we'll promote you if you're new and safe enough for us to risk nothing on. Which leads me to my next point. Publish what you believe in. If enough people did what they believed in, instead of biting their tongue and swallowing hard, then we wouldn't be in the situation we're in. BL: Heard. Thanks to both of you for being generous with your time. Readers, buy books from Honest Publishing, especially Ryder Collins’ Homegirl!
BL #22 Contributor Bios John Abbott is a writer, musician, and English instructor who lives with his wife and daughter in Kalamazoo, Michigan. His stories and poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Potomac Review, Georgetown Review, Arcadia, Atticus Review, upstreet, and Tipton Poetry Journal. He recently completed his first book of poems and is at work on his second. For more information about his writing, please visit www.johnabbottauthor.com Fraser Brown is a freshman at Stanford University. She's currently at work on a novel called Finding Facts about kids and graffiti in her hometown of Chicago. Neil Carpathios is the author of three full-length poetry collections: Playground of Flesh (Main Street Rag Press), At the Axis of Imponderables (winner of the Quercus Review Press Book Award), and Beyond the Bones (FutureCycle Press). He teaches and is Coordinator of Creative Writing at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio. Fiona Chamness is a writer, poet and performer from Ann Arbor, MI. She was part of the 2008 Ann Arbor Youth Poetry Slam team featured on HBO's Brave New Voices and is co-author (with Aimée Lê) of the poetry collection Feral Citizens, published in January 2011 by Red Beard Press. She has performed in Ann Arbor, Chicago, St. Louis, and Hanover, NH and in the semifinals of the National Poetry Slam in Boston the summer of 2011. She has a poem upcoming in PANK magazine. Darren C. Demaree's poems have appeared, or are scheduled to appear in numerous magazines/journals, including the South Carolina Review, Meridian, Grain, Cottonwood, The Tribeca Poetry Review, and Whiskey Island. Recently, Freshwater Poetry Journal nominated him for a Pushcart Prize. He is currently living and writing in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and daughter. Julia Esacove began writing at a young age upon first reading Philip Larkin‘s ―Aubade‖ and the works of Joan Didion. A native Californian, she obtained a BA in Anthropology from Pitzer College and studied under poets Robert Mezey and Maurya Simon at Pomona College and Scripps College, respectively. Julia has work forthcoming in the Cider Press Review and The Boston Review. She is finalizing her second chapbook of poetry—The Archangels of the Unremarkable—and is currently working on a memoir with the guidance and support of her mentor, author Joe Loya. Jermaine Harmon enjoys going to the dentist, loves mashed potatoes and supports gay marriage—everywhere. Harmon received two things while living in New York City 1) his MFA in creative writing from The New School, and 2) his
first real broken heart. He has poems published in Tableau, Sandstorm and most recently with CC&D. Jermaine teaches poetry in the Bronx for students age 8 to 13 years old living in a family shelter. Originally from a town built on football, oil and church (in that order), and currently lives in Brooklyn, NY. Mark Heinlein was awarded the 2009 American Academy of Poets/Virginia de Arujo Award, selected by Mark Doty and Kimiko Hahn and the Bonita M. Cox Award for creative nonfiction. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Tar River Poetry, Caesura, Full of Crow, Reed Magazine, and The Aztec Review. Born in Beech Grove, Indiana, he is a fishmonger and lives in Northern California. Rich Ives has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation and photography. His writing has appeared in Verse, North American Review, Massachusetts Review, Northwest Review, Quarterly West, Iowa Review, Poetry Northwest, Virginia Quarterly Review, Fiction Daily and many more. He is the 2009 winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander. An interview and18 hybrid works appear in the Spring 2011 issue of Bitter Oleander. In 2011, he has been nominated twice for Best of the Net. Michèle Larocque is a photographer, writer, and sometimes inspired cook. Her photography and writing are motivated by the need to look beyond surface appearances, to see what others pass by without noticing, to reveal the beauty and vulnerability that is too often rejected by modern society. A graduate of Dawson College School of Photography, in Montréal, Quebec, Ms. Larocque‘s images have been selected for the cover art of several books of poetry including The Slow Talk of Stones, The Courtship of Reason and Sharks Never Sleep by Sheri L Wright, as well as The Coming Fall by poet Georgia Wallace. Her work has appeared in the literary journals The Single Hound and The Glass Coin. Her writing can be found at her blog epreuve http://epreuve.wordpress.com/ and her photography at Imaginarium http://michelelarocque.aminus3.com/ Kimberly Lojewski is currently a MFA fiction candidate at UMass Amherst. She has an MA in English from Florida Gulf Coast University. Her stories have been published (or are forthcoming) in Mangrove Review, PANK, Aesthetica Creative Works, Gargoyle, and Toad. She is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Belletrist Coterie, a Literature, Arts, and Culture magazine with a focus on storytelling and narrative discourse through different artistic mediums. In her free time she works on her Captain's License on a whale watching boat out of Gloucester. Her favorite whale is the narwhal.
Michael P. McManus has received a Fellowship from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, The Virginia Award from The Lyric, and The Ocean‘s Prize from Sulphur Literary Review, as well as two Pushcart Prize nominations. He has published poetry in numerous publications including Epiphany, ONTHEBUS, Midwest Quarterly, Euphony, Wind Magazine, Louisiana Literature, Square Lake, Raintown Review, Poet Lore, Prism International, Atlanta Review, Louisiana Review, Rattle, Texas Review, West Wind Review, Adirondack Review, Reed, Soundings East, among others. His short stories and flash fiction have appeared in numerous journals including 3: AM, Lichen, Pittsburgh Quarterly, Dublin Quarterly, Louisiana Literature, Night Train, Contrary Magazine, The MacGuffin, Ashe, Steam Ticket, Houston Review, Pennsylvania Review. Teresa Milbrodt received her MFA in Creative Writing from Bowling Green State University and is the author of a short story collection, Bearded Women: Stories, published by Chizine Publications. Milbrodt's stories have appeared in Nimrod, North American Review, Crazyhorse, Natural Bridge, Indiana Review, The Cream City Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and New Orleans Review, among other literary journals. Several of her stories have also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado. Jason David Peterson is a psychoarchaeologist with a Jungian bent. He studied poetry aggressively at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire, and his work can be found (at one point or another) in the Rivers Meeting Project, Fire Ring Voices, the Cat Head Biscuit Review, the Canadian Fire and Light, and on permanent display in the University of Wisconsin Women's Studies department. Pianta teaches and writes in San Diego, California. Born and raised in Hawai'i, she still considers the islands her home. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Ekphrasis, Terrain.org, Bamboo Ridge Press, Istanbul Literary Review, Pyrta Journal and others. Deana Prock lives in Brooklyn, NY where she is currently working on her Master‘s Thesis at Mercy College. She shares her space with one man, two narcoleptic cats, and an abused laptop. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Breadcrumb Scabs, Red River Review, and Camroc Press Review. Jess Provencio graduated from CSULA in 2009 with her B. A. in Mexican American Studies. She works at a coffee shop and substitute teaches while continuing to take classes in creative writing. She is a cat person and prefers lined journals and nib pens. She does not like punctuation or capital letters. Kathleen Radigan is sixteen years old. She enjoys theatre, churros and writing furiously.
Quinn Rennerfeldt is many things: poet, advocate for change, desk jockey, wife. You might find her in an art museum, at the Y, or enjoying a beer at a local pub in Denver, Colorado. You will not find her at a football game or in an airplane (willingly.) She has been previously published in Cider Press Review, Bear Creek Haiku, and Willard and Maple. She would like to dedicate her poem ―He‖ to her uncle Helge. Oliver Rice‘s poems appear widely in journals and anthologies in the United States and abroad. Creekwalker released an interview with him in January, 2010. His book of poems, On Consenting to Be a Man, is published by Cyberwit and available on Amazon. His online chapbook, Afterthoughts, Siesta, and his recording of his Institute for Higher Study appeared in Mudlark in December, 2010. Diane Thomas is the author of the novel The Year the Music Changed (The Toby Press). She lives in Santa Fe, where she is completing her second novel. Amy Watkins is a terrible housekeeper and a pretty good cook. She makes ceramics and rides a pink bicycle. You can read more of her poems in Barely South Review, Generations: a journal of ideas & images, and MOTIF2: Come What May. Andrew Whitmer is a 2011 graduate of Youngstown State University and a veteran of the United States Army. His work has appeared in YSU's online literary magazine, Jenny, as well as the Three Rivers Review, a publication of the University of Pittsburgh. He currently resides in Youngstown, Ohio, where he was born and raised. Sheri L. Wright is the author of one full-length book of poetry, Nuns Shooting Guns, and four chapbooks. Her works of poetry also appear in New Southerner, Pegasus, Leo, Out of Line, Chiron Review, Clark Street Review, Darkling and Earth's Daughters, Crucible and Kentucky Monthly Magazine and many others. Ms. Wright also works as a freelance editor for a variety of books ranging from poetry to fiction, as a website ghostwriter, and is a graduate of Lee Kitt‘s Scholl of Acting. She has been a guest poet on Accents, at 88.1 on WRFL out of Lexington, KY, and on Janice Lee ―Featuring The Arts‖ on WSKV in Stanton, KY. She has won awards with Jesse Poets, Green River Writers and the Kentucky State Poetry Society, has taught poetry workshops for Women in Transition, the Kentucky Young Writer‘s Connection and The Kentucky State Poetry Society, and judged the poetry division in The Golden Nibs for the Virginia Writers Club, for Women Who Write, and for Green River Writers writing contest. She is a regional chair for the Kentucky State Poetry society and is cochair for their adult poetry contest for 2011. Ms. Wright currently is the host of From the Inkwell, a one hour radio show dedicated to all things literary on CHRadio 1650am, live-streaming at www.CrescentHillRadio.com. Please visit
her website at www.scribblingsandsuch.com. Her visual work can be seen in Blood Orange Review, The Single Hound and is forthcoming in THIS Literary Magazine, Prick of the Spindle and Subliminal Interiors. More examples of her work can be seen at http://www.flickr.com/photos/sherilwright/. Brenna York lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Rewa Zeinati's poems, essays and translations have been published in literary journals and anthologies in the United States and online. Such journals include Natural Bridge Journal, Mizna, AlJadid Journal, The Santa Clara Review, The Lamplighter Review, the anthology Common Boundary: Stories of Immigration, as well as the online forums, Every Day Poets, Poets against War, The English PEN Online World Atlas, and Atrium: A Journal of Academic Voices. She's also a conceptual writer, copywriter and editor who now lives in Dubai, where she enjoys the beach and flip-flops-friendly winters.