Cover and layout by Lily Rex Blotterature Literary Magazine, Volume 4 Issue 1: PROP! Copyright ÂŠ 2018
All rights revert back to the individual authors upon publication. For more information on Blotterature, visit our website at Blotterature.com. Find us on Facebook and Twitter.
Blotterature Literary Magazine Volume 4 Issue 1
Dear Readers, First off, I’d like to thank all those who have supported Blotterature in the past and continue to support us—readers, submitters, contributors, the social media lurkers, the people who never miss our public events—thank you immensely for your support. Another thank you, to our readers: Siobhain McGuinness, Kristen Flippo, and Sarah E. White. They juggled masters theses, attention-hungry chihuahuas, teaching, and working on other lit mags to select the best pieces for this issue. I’d also like to thank Julie Larson, for bringing us Blotterature, and the community it has created, for allowing me to take over her creation, and her advice in operating a lit mag. Thank you also to my love, Melissa Fitzgerald, for supporting me and still thinking I’m cool even though she has to put up with the behind the scenes IT struggles and Mountain Dew addiction that come with me running a lit mag. The poetry and fiction we’ve selected for this issue represent what it means to deceive, and what it is to be deceived by propaganda in all its forms. I think each of these pieces is brilliant and they each genuinely move me— to anger, fear, awe of wit and skill, or sadness. Let us always work together to make sure that art holds people accountable and upsets and inspires the right people. Creation is subversion. “For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.” -Audre Lorde Enjoy our Winter 2018 issue! Lily Rex Managing Editor
CONTENTS Poetry Kurt Vonnegut’s Cigarettes The Subway Preacher Says My Problem Is Meting Out Justification: A Military Judge’s Testimony I am Guilty of Murder The Unanswered Questions Haunting American History
Sean Murphy Charles Theonia Joy Arbor Jill Roberts Georg Koszulinski
American Dream Metric Dirty Energy When the Intergalactic Police Arrived
David Southward Scott Starbuck
Sea Change Blind Mute Dog
Fiction Fireside Preachin’ Building
Jesse Waylon Miller John G. Sarmiento
Flash Square Mile Stale
Jon Kemsley Clark Mercedes Lawry
Escape Route Art F-ing Ineffable Alulim
Gerard Sarnat Stefano Grilli
KURT VONNEGUT’S CIGARETTES Sean Murphy So it goes: there’s only one thing you can rely on, but don’t think about that Hocus Pocus, the artistry of our inhumanity. And our absurd genius at inventing novel ways to slaughter, or worse still, erase all evidence of everyone not born with ways and means inherited, cultivated by History that renders errors invisible by magic, acts required so that otherwise silly people are taken seriously, or else: It’s back to the drawing board, where epitaphs are immortalized amongst the rubble, after solutions are finalized, silenced witnesses smoked out by the one Deity everyone must obey: Death. What is it about smoke and death, anyway? Remember the way they sold us things, like crusades and cigarettes or stakes made to cleanse and clarify brutal truths, rare and bloody, marinated in words every minister or mother knows by heart: This hurts me more than it hurts you, no matter what Your eyes tell you, adjourn judgment and go with your gut, the capacity to discard childish things, like Love over Loyalty. God wrote a book of His own, you see: the writing on the walls of every cemetery and formal institution. Ask no questions and it will all make sense if you make it to eternity, all the injustice And contradiction that bedevil the ones caught in the crossfire— Which is everyone, you’ve seen. So? If you still can’t comply how about going to sleep in your garage, or else try something a bit more brazen: a belt tightened around your Adam’s apple? Or eat a bullet, the Breakfast of Champions, or belly flop off a bridge? Or admit you’re not man enough to be a man of action, they whom appall those who think thinking is salvation. No, you know, despite all the unspeakable things you’ve described, there’s only one alternative: practice what you preach, soldier on, pretending paradise isn’t lost if enough of us say Enough. And pray that Truth sticks to us like Time, that’s there’s not Nothing after the ending of every story ever told, every illusion entertained, every entreaty unanswered, a snuffed-out pile of Pall Malls—those friends who always tell you straight: you’re dying so why not enjoy it?
FIRESIDE PREACHIN’ Jesse Waylon Miller
Percy called it ‘fireside preachin'’. Revival preaching that is. He never cared for it much, unless offered in the smallest of doses. “It’s alright when you need it, but a fire ain’t good to sit next to in summer and that Revival preachin ain’t no good ‘cept when ya soul cold. And no matter how much that preacher fella want to tell me my soul is rotten, it ain’t damn cold. I can sure him of that!’ Ole’ Percy held his religion in a high regard. He churched regular and generally agreed with the message given. But when a revival came around he would visit a night or so and leave off at that. When the big preacher from Waycross came in for our Southern Baptist church’s revival, he didn’t change his take on the matter. That preacher was built like a barrel that had sorted of melted out of shape. He was a shimmer of pale sweat. His bald head gleamed under the pulpit lights. His style of preaching was as if he was at full choke. Red faced and spitting, his words chopped out from his heft like delicate jewels recklessly tossed about until nothing was left but broken brimstone. He depended on a sinner’s heart and a sinner’s heart most folks must have had for our congregation fed off that preacher. ‘Amen’ from start to finish. Like pure ecstasy by Southern Baptist standards. Percy didn’t mind stern preaching but what he had a problem with was hypocrite preaching. ‘I don’t like no bully Lil’man’ he said to me after that first night. ‘Specially don’t care for nobody bully’ n me with the word of God and his deadly sins. Nah sir. Don’t like no bully. I got ears and eyes both and don’t need no heifer-waisted preacher tellin’ me nothing about how I be livin’. I will take that right up with the big man himself. By God.’ ‘Man takes on a high place to preach the word. I ain’t listen to no blabber mouth don’t know nothing other than yell, yell, yell crazy and all hell. He ain’t gots to be educated but he need to know what the hell the bible say if he gonna preach. Much less yell it. All of what it say. God help himself the day he got to raise that preacher home. I hope heaven got a wench.’ Percy slapped his knee with laughter. Deadly sins. That’s what the preacher ranted over. Deadly sins I reckon, but when he got to lust, pornography seemed to be the real stick in his side. I bet damn near half of our church was over 70. Can you imagine that sanctuary with majority seniors being yelled at about pornography? That preacher wobbled all over that pulpit screaming its evil, how the church had to destroy it. And damn if all of those old folks started agreeing with him with a ‘Mmm Hmm’ preacher, ‘Amen’ preacher, every other breath. It was senseless as all get out but by Wednesday night he had set up a damn community wide
witch hunt of every porn mag in the county. They were seven gas stations selling dirty books in Jeff Davis county. The church was to raid them all. Typically, at our revival’s end the church would pass the offering plate to collect money for the guest preacher. But this preacher didn’t wait on that. Halfway through his Thursday sermon he yelled for the deacons to get the plates and start collecting money. He was going to use the money to buy up every girly mag in the county and hold a damn bonfire that Saturday night. Truth of the matter. When I told Percy that he just dropped his head and laughed a sad laugh. He went back up to the church Friday night and tried to talk the preacher out of it. “Preacher, that’s people hard earned money now, don’t go spending it like that. What good that gonna do anybody?” “It will eradicate evil lust from this county. I advise you to join our cause.” “Eradicate? All’s you gonna do is make them station owners a little more money. Ain’t gonna do nothing but waste everybody money." “You, boy haven’t the stamina and moral fiber to sit through our service yet you lecture me against doing this congregation’s will. I heed no advice from you. I mind you to watch your tone and your intention toward me, a servant of our lord.” Says the preacher. Percy shook his head and walked away. “Well I’ll be damned then preach. I’ll go ahead and be right damned.” I asked him later why he backed down from the preacher. “Backing down and letting' be ain't the same thing. Everybody gets stuck in the honey. Some don't want out.” Saturday rolled around and the preacher and several other men from the church took nearly two thousand raised in offering to buy up every porn mag in the county. And they did too. Every clerk that sold them was grinning from ear to ear and had the shelves restocked by the next week. Turned out a real boom business for them. The bonfire went down Saturday night as planned and I swear that pile looked smaller than what a couple of thousand worth of dirty books should look like but who’s to say. Anyway they burned them. Took all that money from the church folk and gave it to the so called sinners and then burned it all up. Religion was good for our economy in those days. Sunday was the end of the revival so Percy showed up for that last sermon. The preacher praised God for his guidance eradicating evil. For help in destroying Lust in Jeff Davis County. He thanked the congregation in their efforts in carrying out the task. He went on to preach about the all of the deadly sins. Greed. Envy. Pride. Wrath. Sloth. The preacher wore them all out thoroughly. When the sermon was over the crowd left the church and hugged and shook the preachers hand. They all gathered 9
around chattering about the week and the lord and what good had been done. Percy was the last one out and met the preacher eye to eye. He looked the preacher up and down and smiled. The crowd had quieted and was watching the two men stare at each other. The preacher reddened, and Percy smiled wider. “What are you smiling at?!” he said, nervous as a Baptist buying beer. “Oh, I’s just going to remind you for you left out to you next church.” Percy patted the preacher on his big ole belly. “You forgot about one of them deadly sins.”
THE SUBWAY PREACHER SAYS MY PROBLEM IS Charles Theonia I don't read, how else could I not know gorillas grow out of their homosexuality He did a project on it in college The guy next to me whispers You're not gonna win this one We are stuck in the tunnel There is train traffic ahead I am reduced to audible groans The preacher asks me What were you born as The train car agrees that we make our own genders but they only go so far We on the train are in consensus that the world is going downhill and fast but we each have our own reasons for believing this
METING OUT JUSTIFICATION: A MILITARY JUDGE’S TESTIMONY a found poem from the documentary The Law in These Parts Joy Arbor To begin with, I believe the agent of the authorities because his job is to protect me. When a detainee tells me what they did to him, I’m pretty suspicious because he has interests. Detainees are not given the evidence against them. The prisoner is only given a paraphrase. The world that is is a gray world where there are people whose job it is to protect you and you don’t always know what they do and how. So you can sit across from me now and go to a movie tonight and not get blown up or killed or shot at in the street. The question is, how do you conduct yourself? How does this affect your decisions?
I AM GUILTY OF MURDER Jill Roberts There’s a dead man/boy/on the screen/my body/his body/our bodies/children/dead on the ground/something breaks in my kitchen/help me father/where am i/sixteen/i’m crying because/i feel alone/across the world/a mother cries/her child is dead/sixteen/i’m guilty/are they not innocent/our crimes/do not imprison us/they die/we’re free/privileged white girl/impoverished underprivileged girl in a war torn country/she dies/i live/the screen shatters/i can’t see/mother tell me/i think i killed her/the girl/i live/she dies/more bodies on the screen/murderers and angels/parents in empty houses/no beds only coffins/how to be an ally/for dummies/but/how can i help/their screams/echoing in the hallway of a/house i never earned/in a life i don’t deserve/ dead children/their cold faces/only visible in polls/and a growing tally/of the kids you’re guilty of murdering/by existing.
THE UNANSWERED QUESTIONS HAUNTING AMERICAN HISTORY Georg Koszulinski gunmen on grassy knolls gunmen on grassy knolls gunmen on grassy knolls gunmen on grassy knolls America your genocides are folded neatly into twenty-dollar bills. America the tee vee haunted your dreams like a late-night poltergeist. America where were you when we called? America we regret to inform: Ellis Island died of cancer and chose to be cremated, played Taps on tape recorder (this is true). America even your ghosts are afraid to go out at night. America the homeless man waves a stick. America your best friend is going to murder you with a handgun. America the firetrucks are all at the bottom of the sea. America God does not give you permission but he’s willing to look the other way. America the children found your headless body by the driver’s wheel. America this poem is an operation manual for dismantling yourself. America on the balcony of Ford’s Theatre. America on the top story of 9/11. America floating like a specter above the Berlin Wall. America, your cruise ships transform the idea of being in the world. America I wrote this poem in the rain behind the wheel intoxicated while holding your child on my lap. America it’s beneath even you— your slaughter of pigs 14
and now your tombstones all say the same thing: “racist rapist.” America we wrote postmodern but meant to say postmortem. America your slaveships became ideological apparatuses— many more died, willingly. America your settler colony could have been a theme park. America your right wing tastes like dust and your left wing is a gutless coward. America we need more M-16s more F-16s and some B-52s for the period pieces. America we love every movie you ever made. America go to North Korea and KILL THEM ALL. America would your cops stop killing black men if we asked nicely? America could you have tripled the body count in Vietnam to nine million? America did you get the letters we sent and did you read Hillary’s emails (were they as sordid as we imagined)? America we received 22,000 applicants for twenty-five openings; should we feed the surplus people to the nuclear wolves? America your longshoremen are living on pet food and your John Waynes were all closet homosexuals. Points finger like a pistol and fires.
AMERICAN DREAM METRIC Georg Koszulinski Take the amount you pay for rent or mortgage. Divide by the number of days in the month. What youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re left with is the amount you pay to sleep in a bed at night.
F-ING INEFFABLE by Gerard Sarnat
DIRTY ENERGY David Southward
Can you feel it? A burning, particulate mist in the sinus; vented plumes of benzene, pyridine, combustible hothouse percolations blanketing the biosphere; stray skeins of rainbow coagula speckling the backwash of hydraulic fractures; raw tissue—flensed from panting gills, lungs. The landscape’s changed. Wildlife’s engulfed in a seismic typhoon of offshore drills, rash hopscotch of shale beds—stripped by tar-sand cartels, methane billowing from caulked spiracles. The mixture’s powerful: chemical broths flushed through porous bitumen; embankments giving way; toxin detectors ticking; temperatures higher. Doesn’t it almost exhilarate? That fizz of carbonated rain— of water from your faucet catching fire?
WHEN THE INTERGALACTIC POLICE ARRIVED Scott Starbuck Earth was limp and curled in fetal position. A man was ranting inconsolable gibberish at people who were and werenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t there. When the police arrived he was still arguing with her dead body.
SEA CHANGE Scott Starbuck What if, glacially-speaking, you discovered all maps on Earth were wrong? Walking among fireflies and shining dead stars what else would you question?
BLIND MUTE DOG Charlotte Begg Before my mother’s emergency hysterectomy I remember seeing sanitary pads concertinaed and stuffed away wondering if bletting her stomach or remembering the things he’d bit from her tongue or (and this is the one I believed in most aged 12 from reading my official The Girl Guide’s book for Girls) when you have his baby and the world has crashed leaving it mackled with wrong survivors do you bleed and bleed and bleed until doctors finish their tea break intervene say ‘there’s nothing more we can do.’ Do they pad your leaking parts the best they can and send you home to bleed and bleed and bleed into an eternity of trickling heat between your thighs to remind you of marcid bee’s hives dripping never waiting for the smoke gun.
Maybe thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s why she hates me why she scrubs my skin so hard while facing the ceiling trying to find something I still donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t understand.
SQUARE MILE Jon Kemsley Clark
Five days in the same shirt, a catalogue of coffee breaks and crumpled like a piece of paper rescued from a game of paper toss. Everything’s a game up here. Pass the buck. Pin the blame on the donkey. And listen to the chorus of braying laughter as some poor sap is led away in tears because he screwed it all up again. It wasn’t me. The system threw me out. I lost everything. And now there’s paperwork stacked around me as high as the trees it was pulped from. Chalk it up as a lesser crime. We deal only in numbers, in acronyms, in abstractions. Most of us can barely string a sentence together. Some of us can barely tie our own shoelaces. But all of us take the money and so we are all complicit. We write to advise you. We write to inform you. Please find enclosed. Please note the following. We should be swinging in the stairwell from the end of our own neckties or lying face down at the foot of this hideous building. Continue to save. Stop making payments. If you’ve any sense, you’ll take the money and run. We do. In a big suitcase with big wheels and the tags of a dozen airlines hanging from the handles. Only somewhere along the way the logic gets fuzzy and the truth becomes a luxury. This is a holding pattern. This is a short haul. Frankly, it’s whatever we say it is. Rarefied reasoning for the analysts and the stockbrokers. Go about your business, little people. Your entitlement has been extinguished. Your payment has been discharged. No further instalments. No liability. And count yourself lucky you’ve escaped the pull of this particular black hole. But keep on paying, pay for everything, for the mistakes made on your behalf, the mistakes made in good faith, authentic mistakes. Pull the wallet from your pocket and watch the notes get snatched from your hand by every passing stranger, the coins rolling into the gutter, credit cards melting onto your fingers, and seemingly no end to it. Until you're broke and broken, a shell of a man, a ghost, a cypher. Maybe we all get the life we deserve. I’m alright, Jack, I’ve got mine right here, dug in securely between the trading hours of the Far East and North America. Welcome to Cloud Cuckoo Land. Welcome to the Square Mile.
EN-MEN-GAL-ANA from LARES by Stefano Grilli 24
ALULIM from LARES by Stefano Grilli 25
BUILDING John G. Sarmiento The high school was long abandoned. Desks with twisted legs lay scattered in haunting classrooms. The students probably ran before the bombs exploded. Bombs must have exploded. Louvers dangled from their frames like wind chimes, and black sheets of ceiling floated in puddles, the moisture mold needed to thrive. The walls, patches of liquefied paint, were shades darker than the chalkboards. Years ago, the students of John F. Kennedy High School fled catastrophe and never returned. The residents of nearby houses and condos waited for a familiar rumble in the ground: machines growling, eating the old school. In homes that housed stacks of Egyptian cotton and toilet paper, people waged: whatever grew or died on that lot—a charter school, hotel, or mall—would fertilize or poison the area’s property value. The Oro Verde Estates (ORVE) were already three years old, but the condemned school remained, remains of a time before gluten-free bakeries, gelato shops, coffee shops, gastropubs, mixology bars, yoga, bike lanes, Whole Foods, and brunch. “Something’s wrong here.” Cyrus shook his head. The blue paint he had mixed and applied was too light. “No, no, no.” He tapped his forehead with his palm. “Paint darkens when it dries. Calm down. Peace is home. Home is peace.” For three years Cyrus had lived in a hole, where he imagined, committed to memory, building every stick and nail, every inch and shade of his house. Now his house was finished. He had built the finest house in the neighborhood, definitely not a gutted Victorian or a new house made to look old. For three years Cyrus measured plywood and clipped rebar. He mixed sand and cement to fill stacks of cinder blocks. He spackled walls and floors and dealt tiles like cards until his fingers were swollen. He cut glass framed by rails and bricks. He piled three years of imagination into his house, and it was the finest house in the neighborhood. The house stood tall and wide, with windows for walls, like an aquarium. Now, in the afternoon light, the few walls that stood were lighter than swimming pools and gentler than the sky. Bjarke Ingles would be impressed. “Your lawn needs mowing, Cyrus.” Cyrus turned and smiled at the swaying grass. Glen, the little boy from next door, was right. “Ever notice how alive the grass is?” Glen raised his arms, jumped, knelt, and stared at the grass in his shadow. “One time, I was in a plane. I knew it was landing. My stomach jumped. Too much airplane food, my mom said. Put your seatbelt on.” Glen clapped. “I really wanted to see the ground, so I climbed over sleeping strangers, and I looked out the window. The clouds were pink and blue cotton candy. It was so cold in the plane. But I saw the ground, warm and neat and alive.” Glen dusted his jeans and pocketed his hands. “Must be what gardeners see. A world of lawns.” He squinted at Cyrus. “The stuff people made, toys left out. Little houses and cars and people. People as small as these.” He pointed at a blade of grass. In two by two, ants marched on the blade. Glen smiled. “Ever ride a plane?” “Flew some.” “Wow.” “Faster than the one you rode.” 26
“Really? Cool.” “People kept trying to take me out of them,” Cyrus chuckled. “My mom had to drag me out of mine.” The front door of Glen’s house slammed shut, startling Cyrus. Glen’s mother, Sonya, yelled, “What’re you doing there again? Come here.” Sonya stomped through the lawn. “I better go there before she gets here.” “Too late.” “Come here.” “Coming.” Grasshoppers leapt away from Glen’s shoes. He imagined insects scattering the way people fled streets in monster movies. Sonya glared at Cyrus. “Get out of here.” She pointed at Glen. “Home.” Glen started to run but stopped. “Cyrus, we’re having lasagna tonight. I’ll bring—” “No. You won’t. I thought I told you—” “Thanks anyway, Glen. Cool of you to offer.” “Go.” Glen turned, grumbled at his shoes, and ran. “Tie your laces!” Sonya folded her arms. “I would appreciate it if you stopped talking to my son.” Cyrus looked older up close. His face was dirty. His shirt, soggy. Blue smears for pants. He smelled like the full bin in her kitchen. Sonya measured the distance between them. “I said I would appreciate it if you stopped talking to my son.” “I heard you.” Cyrus sighed. “We already had this conversation.” “Excuse me?” “I saw you practicing this.” Sonya wanted to ask, “What the fuck did you say? Who the hell do you think you are?” Instead she steadied her breathing like in hot yoga. “It doesn’t have to be this way.” “None of it does.” Most mornings, Sonya watched the homeless man through her kitchen window. Beyond her coffee mug, he would pace the yard frequently laughing at his feet and yelling at his hands. Until two days ago, she didn’t know his name or how he ate. She had caught Glen packing left-over pork chops in strips of foil. “For Cyrus,” Glen had said. Where did he sleep or use the restroom? “Look, just stop.” Under the trees, Sonya noticed a pile of blankets and a shopping cart. “Stop talking to him.” A row of trees stood in the corner of the yard, the last patch of wilderness, on the last empty lot, in the corner of the neighborhood. She spotted flies swarming above the bushes. “Or I’ll call the police.” “It would be rude not to respond when he talks to me.” “You can tell him to go home.” “Glen’s always welcome at my home.” “Your home? My son won’t be coming here anymore.” “If you say so.” “I just did.” Let him be dangerous. “I’m finished.” “I’m glad.” “My palace is complete.” Cyrus grinned and pointed at his aquarium. 27
Sonya squinted. “You’re insane.” “We all are.” “It’s all in your head.” “All of it. Manifested. All the same.” Cyrus tapped his forehead. Tears traced Sonya’s cheeks. She often wept for the kids on television, the ones whose faces housed flies. Sometimes she sent them money. Pity filled and stung her eyes like the sulfur from onions, but she remembered the lasagna in the oven. “Kindly send him home if he comes here. Please.” “Okay.” Sonya turned to leave. “Can’t you see?” Cyrus clapped and tapped his foot. “Houses, roads, walls and roofs beyond. All of it. Your son knows. Someday he’ll grow to know he knows.” “What?” “He helped me build my house.” Cyrus cackled. Sonya repeated the conversation in her mind. She washed dishes and watched the news. All the while she thought of Cyrus. She dried her hands. Behind her, the television in the living room flashed images of another oil spill. Glen hauled toys and piled them in the living room. He sorted and tossed the toys into boxes. Three boxes were already filled with aliens, robots, and superheroes. Glen pushed those beside the television. Then he returned to the large pile. He knelt and plucked a few more toys: A bulldozer and tractor flew in front of the television and into an empty box. “I’m big now.” Sonya leaned against the wall. “You sure?” On the television behind Glen, black clouds billowed from burning buildings. Ships dumped trash into the ocean. “If you’re sure, you’re sure.” She knew he would unseal the boxes before the week was over. “But don’t throw them away, yet.” He stood and tossed two tanks and a boat into another box. Sonya’s head bobbed. “I’ll keep them forever. It’s summer. You’ll have lots of time on your hands. Lots of time to decide. Don’t grow up too fast.” “Okay, Mom.” “You full?” “I’m full.” “Dessert?” On the television, children marched across a desert, swinging machetes and touting AK-47s. “I’m good.” He tossed handfuls of green soldiers into the box and knelt for yellow and orange water guns. “I know.” The children mounted pickup trucks. “Go check if the doors are locked.” “Okay.” Sonya couldn’t believe the news. A twisting, spiraling world. She turned and peered through the kitchen window but was startled by the children firing AK-47s at the sky. The rifles sounded like hammers pounding nails into concrete. Outside was twilight, and by a trick of the setting sun, something glimmered beyond the yard. For a moment, Sonya saw a house. Cyrus was walking towards the trees, and Sonya raised her hand. She considered waving at him, opening the window and yelling for him, inviting him to some food and beer. When Cyrus turned and saw her opening palm, he smiled and nodded. Sonya frowned and tapped the window’s latch. 28
“They’re locked, Mom. Nobody in—” “Or out.” She scanned for Cyrus in the trees. “Check the windows too.” One second ago she had decided to buy a gun.
STALE Mercedes Lawry Jeanne is hungry. She knows there are crackers in the cupboard. There might be a scoop of peanut butter left, too. But Meals on Wheels is supposed to come in a couple of hours. She’d better save the crackers for a day they don’t come. She gets a glass of water, scuffing across the floor with her walker. Mind over matter, she tells herself. It’s what her Grandfather used to say – as if you can think away hunger or cold or any other suffering. She’s had it pretty good till now. A kind husband who died too young, though. No kids but her nephew Simon used to check on her. He lives in Dubai now which she thinks of as a made-up place for the obscenely wealthy. Simon’s not wealthy – he works there – but he might be in several years. If she did the Internet thing she’d know what he was up to but she doesn’t. Can’t afford it and besides, she has no interest in learning. No one writes letters anymore, though Simon sends a card at Christmas. He doesn’t know how tough it is for her now that the money’s dribbled away to nothing. I’d always thought I’d have the guts to jump off a bridge if things got bad, she thinks. But here I am, salivating at the idea of mac ‘n cheese with the Meals on Wheels lady. Our bodies want to survive even when our hearts no longer care. Jeanne used to love to cook, loved to have a bunch of people over for a big dinner. She volunteered at the foodbank for a while and when she saw the food they handed out, not awful, sometimes even donated by the fancy stores, but mostly processed, she insisted on bringing homemade dishes – vegetable soup, poppy seed muffins, baked bean casseroles – whatever she was in the mood to make. She’d package the food in various portions and put a nice label on. She did it until she couldn’t – one, two, three health problems and that was that. Jeanne turned on the TV to fill the time before her food arrived. She liked the old movie channel best. When five o’clock rolled around she started listening for a car in the driveway – 5:15...5:30...They were never more than a half hour late. Then she remembered something she heard on the news – how they might cut money for Meals on Wheels. Stupid politicians who didn’t have a clue. Had it happened? Would they even tell people if it did? Maybe they just up and fired everyone and sent the volunteers on their way. Would they do that? Her heart was racing. Sure they would. You got old and if you didn’t have money, they pretty much said Fuck You. Jeanne hoisted herself up and headed for the kitchen, hoping the crackers weren’t too stale. That was the problem when you saved things for an emergency. When you needed them, they were not any good.
ESCAPE ROUTE Mercedes Lawry Jessie’s in the closet, as far back as she can get, among the shoes. Fear lives in her house, in every room, like a foul stink. Curtains are drawn all day, making the sunlight a weak fuzz. Someone is coming, this, Jessie knows. Not a hairy, fanged night-creature. Not a wispy, howling ghost. The ICE men. She pictures them sparkling, tall and unafraid. They never melt. They have dead eyes, gleaming blue splinters. They carry guns, not made of ice but real, like the one that killed Paulette in the middle of her birthday party. She hadn’t even blown out the candles. Jessie says a Hail Mary for her friend every morning. She wasn’t at the party because she was sick. Did she use up all her luck that day? ICE comes and takes people – a mother, a father, a grandfather, a cousin – whoever they want. Everyone she knows is afraid. They talk in whispers, but she hears, she knows. Jessie pushes on the wall at the back, runs her hand up and down. There’s a story about a door at the back of a closet that opens up to another world. Luisa told her. If she can find it, they could all escape. She doesn’t know the White Witch is waiting, ice in her pearly veins.
CONTRIBUTOR NOTES Charles Theonia is a poet and teacher from Brooklyn. They are the author of the poetry collection Which One Is the Bridge (Topside Press, 2015) and coeditor of Femmescapes, a zine of queer and trans affinities with femmeness. They teach literacy skills and encourage critical analysis of police violence and mass incarceration at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. They have a website: charlestheonia.com Jill Roberts is located in San Francisco and is currently a high school junior at the Branson School. She is a passionate reader and writer and loves adventuring around the bay area to find inspiration for her work. Mercedes Lawry has published short fiction in several journals including, Gravel, Cleaver, Garbanzo, and Blotterature and was a semi-finalist in The Best Small Fictions 2016. She’s published poetry in journals such as Poetry, Nimrod, and Prairie Schooner and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize three times. She has a book forthcoming from Twelve Winters Press in 2018. Additionally, she’s published stories and poems for children. She lives in Seattle. Charlotte Begg is a poet and artist from the Isle of Wight, UK. She is a mature student studying English literature with Open University and has been writing poetry for the last four years. She has been published in various journals, including The Interpreter's House, Paper Swan Press and Here Comes Everyone Press. Charlotte also edits Eye Flash Poetry Journal in between drinking weak coffee, being a mother and keeping her house plants alive. Jesse Waylon Miller was born and raised in the sweat of South Georgia during the denouement of last century. His stories focus on the characters and lore found between the lines of heritage and hate of that time and region. Insurance agent by day, he tells his stories by night, long after his motivation is fast asleep in dreams he wishes he could write. He tells the stories of a south in the middle, neither as bad or as good as we want to believe. Gerard Sarnat MD won the Poetry in the Arts First Place Award, plus the Dorfman Prize, and has been nominated for Pushcarts. He authored Homeless Chronicles, Disputes, 17s, Melting The Ice King (2016) and has been published in Gargoyle, Margie, OCHO, New Delta Review, New Verse News and Main St. Rag. Mount Analogue selected KADDISH FOR THE COUNTRY for pamphlet distribution on Inauguration Day nationwide Women’s Marches. For HuffPo/other reviews, visit GerardSarnat.com. Gerry’s worked in jails, built/staffed clinics for the marginalized, and been a healthcare CEO and Stanford professor.
John G. Sarmiento is fascinated by nomads. Recently, he opened an alley door in Guam and found himself in downtown Denver. He searches for a sunrise better than the one he tripped over at the top of Mount Fuji, and a rainy morning better than the fierce ambush in the Ubud Monkey Forest. His stories appeared in the Guam International Film Festival, Marianas Variety, Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel, Eclectica Magazine, and The Write Launch. Stefano Grilli was born in Montecchio Emilia on 1983. Lives and works in Parma. After the Institute of Art, Paolo Toschi attended the local artistic environment by shaking collaborations with painters, poet, photographers and musicians. He mainly produces videos but also dedicates himself to music and drawings. The granddaughter of a captain in Israel’s War for Independence, Joy Arbor grew up in Los Angeles, listening to stories of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To listen to people from different perspectives, she joined the Compassionate Listening Project’s citizen delegation to Israel and the West Bank. Poems about her experiences have appeared or are forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, Jewish Currents, and Scoundrel Time. She is also the author of the chapbook, Where Are You From, Originally? (Finishing Line Press, 2016). She works at Kettering University and lives with her husband and son in Columbiaville, Michigan. Her website is: https://joyarbor.net/. David Southward grew up in southwest Florida and earned degrees in English from Northwestern and Yale. He currently teaches in the Honors College at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. David’s poems have appeared most recently in Measure, Light, POEM, Stoneboat, and Verse-Virtual. In 2017, he was awarded the Lorine Niedecker Prize from the Council for Wisconsin Writers and the Muse Prize from the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets. Jon Kemsley Clark has recently been published in New World Writing, the Fiction Pool, Ghost Parachute, Storgy and Neon and he's been nominated for one of this year’s Forward poetry prizes. He works in finance, which is odd seeing as he trained in science and he likes to mess about with guitars and record decks. He lives and works on the south coast of England. Georg Koszulinski has been making films since 1999. His award-winning works have been presented at hundreds of universities and film festivals around the world, most recently at the Atlanta Film Festival, San Francisco DocFest, and Experiments in Cinema. Many of his documentaries and experimental essay films are also available through Fandor. His nonfiction and poetry have recently been published in the Gold Man Review and Blue Collar Review. His current documentary project, White Ravens: A Legacy of Resistance (forthcoming) focuses on the Haida Nation. Georg is an Assistant Professor of Film Studies at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
Sean Murphy has been publishing fiction, poetry, and essays on the technology industry for almost twenty years. He has appeared on NPR's "All Things Considered" and been quoted in USA Today, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Forbes and AdAge. He writes regularly for PopMatters, and his work has also appeared in Salon, The Village Voice, The New York Post, The Good Men Project, AlterNet, Elephant Journal, 805 Lit + Art and Northern Virginia Magazine. He is currently the writer-in-residence at Noepe Center for Literary Arts at Martha's Vineyard. To learn more, please visit seanmurphy.net/. Scott T. Starbuck’s book of climate change poems, Hawk on Wire, was selected by Newpages.com as a July 12, 2017 "Editor's Pick” and was featured in Yale Climate Connections. YouTube has a 24-minute video of his book launch sponsored by La Jolla Historical Society's WEATHER ON STEROIDS EXHIBIT. He has been a climate change poetry resident at PLAYA, and a Friends of William Stafford Scholar at the 2014 “Speak Truth to Power” FOR Seabeck Conference. His "Manifesto from Poet on a Dying Planet" is at Split Rock Review, and his ecoblog, “Trees, Fish, and Dreams,” is at riverseek.blogspot.com