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ALIX AYOUB Editor in Chief

Creative Director EMILY RUFF Design Director HUNTER PRESTON Editorial Director SOPHIA KARTSONIS

Features Senior Editors

Senior Art Editor CHEALSEA TANKSLEY Senior Literature Editor ALICIA KLEMAN

Editors

Poetry Editor ANDREW PEĂ‘A Fiction Editor JEAN PAUL SENIOR Art Editors TIMOTHY COUGER - KYLIE JENKINS - LINDSAY NOLL - LAUREN SMITH

Art

Art Director EMILY RUFF Associate Arts Director HUNTER PRESTON AND FAITH GUTZMAN Photography Director PARKER DUDZIK

Special Event/Public Relations

Director of Special Events ALI GALBRAITH Social Media Marketing Manager ANGEL WILLIAMS

Contributing Staff

NICOLE HAGELSTEIN - BRITTNEY MENEFEE - NINA REHNER - NICHOLE VITCHNER Published at Columbus College of Art & Design, Columbus OH 43215 SUBSCRIPTION INQUIRIES: information@botticelli-magazine.com Address all editorial, business, and publication correspondence to Botticelli Magazine, 60 Cleveland Ave, Columbus OH 43215

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52 FIGURE DRAWING LAST NIGHT Kailey Rinder

23 BOXES AND POLAND 5 APRЀS MOI LE DÉLUGE R.S. Deeren

9 PEARLS Alissa Sallah

10 A TIGER LOITERS AT THE EDGE Peggy Aylsworth

11 BALM FOR A WORRIED MIND Peggy Aylsworth

12 SOME MUSCLES MORE DEVELOPED THAN OTHERS Peggy Aylsworth

Alix Ayoub

24 A RELATIONSHIP IN THREE ACTS Dorene O’Brien

33 NEFERTITI Juan Argil

35 PROXIMITY AND PRESENCE William C. Blome

53 MIDNIGHT MASS, SAINT MICHAEL’S ANGLICAN CHURCH (VANCOUVER ISLAND) Michelle Askin

54 SO MANY MORE (PIT STOP ON THE WAY TO A DISTANT COUSIN’S WEDDING) Michelle Askin

36 RED SPARKS

55 SIMON PERCHIK INTERVIEW

William C. Blome

Andrew Pena and Simon Perchik

37 MAIA THE WOLF

61 THE INNER STITCHES

Jessica Greving

John Gorman

38 LA FORTUNA

63 LOST SYLVIA

Stephanie Kartalopoulos

Jessica Greving

Peggy Aylsworth

39 FLUSH, WITH DOLL’S EYES

64 MISS AMERICA

14 TOO OLD FOR WAR

Stephanie Kartalopoulos

13 THE FAMILY I NEVER HAD

Frank Scozzari

19 I DON’T REALLY CARE ENOUGH TO CRY Kailey Rinder

20 WHEN THE QUEEN DIES Nina Rehner

21 GREEN, I SAY Andy Havens

24 THE ZOMBIE POEM, OR HOW TO SURVIVE A ZOMBIE MOVIE Alix Ayoub

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E. Martin Pedersen

40 ALABASTER

65 WAITING FOR THE BUS

Stephanie Kartalopoulos

E. Martin Pedersen

41 PULLED OVER

66 3 GRAY PLEASURES

46 FORWARDS TO CAMPUS POLICE

67 PAPER PLANES

Gretchen Johnson

Jack Gialanella

50 VOID OF COURSE Ryun Harrison

51 GREEN ALL AROUND ME Max West

Botticelli Literary and Art Magazine

E. Martin Pedersen

Qisha Kendy

68 CHEYENNE HOLIDAY INN Kevin McCoy

69 SPACEHEART Caitlin Quirk


70 THE MARIGOLD MOMENT Kevin McCoy

71 RAHWAY PRISON Kevin McCoy

72 KANSAS IN THE CORNER Kevin McCoy

73 I HOPE YOU DON’T MIND THAT I LIKE YOU Kailey Rinder

74 DECEMBER 24TH Timothy Hanson

77 HEADACHES Caitlin Quirk

78 HOW I CAME BACK FROM THE DEAD Rose Maria Woodson

79 NATURAL RESOURCES John Repp

80 RAPID John Repp

81 AUNT TESSIE, TOMATO FLATS, LATE MAY John Repp

82 NOTTAMUN John Repp

87 (SPILL-O’S PROPHESY READIES ITSELF) Colin Dodd

Erren Geraud Kelly

88 LET IT BE TOLD Riki Matsuda

107 BLACK MAN IN PARIS Erren Geraud Kelly

89 ELANA Juan Argil

90 OUTSIDE MY STOOP Riki Matsuda

91 THEMATIC DEVELOPMENT Julie Struck

94 MY FATHER IS A BARN Julie Struck

97 SMOKE KaileyRinder

98 THE RADIO TALK SHOW HOST’S EX-WIFE DONATES TO THE STATION DURING THE OCTOBER PLEDGE DRIVE Matthew Kosinski

99 CAN YOU EVEN WRITE A PASTORAL IN HARTFORD? Matthew Kosinski

100 BEFORE THE DINER, AND IN THE DINER, AND AFTER THE DINER Matthew Kosinski

83 CREATE AND DESTROY

101 IN THE YEAR OF HIS DEATH

85 (THE DEAD SPILL-O SCROLLS)

102 SPIDER CRAFT

Medeia Starfire

Colin Dodd

Medeia Starfire

86 (SPILL-O’S CAREER SOME QUESTIONS FOR THE BOSS)

103 LECTURE BUS DESK

Colin Dodd

106 BLING BLING MAKES WEBSTER’S DICTIONARY

Kailey Rinder

105 UNIQUE FORMS OF CONTINUITY IN SPACE Karl Elder

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APRЀS MOI LE DÉLUGE R.S. Deeren

It was the scratch of the weathered doorjamb, as always, that woke the young boy merely seconds before the massive profile grumbled Let’s go. He had learned to sleep facing the door and wake quickly. The boy undressed with all the speed of someone not in a hurry for themselves but for an other who had never become friendly with kiddy lollygaggings. He had thankfully remembered to lay his clothes out for himself the night before. We’re late. Get to the kitchen when you’re done was all he heard from his father. Alone, the boy sat down on the floor, mostly naked with the streak of light stabbing from above the sink in the kitchen. Beginning with unpracticed sloppiness, he layered the mix of acrylic and wool and cotton onto his pale body becoming more clothes than human by the time he peeked out of his room and down the hallway. He was scared this time, too. *** The father placed a mug, which had lost its handle on some idle afternoon years before the boy was born, on the kitchen table across from the boy’s mother who sat in old, plaid flannels. She had her legs tucked under her thighs as usual and sat huddled over her own billowing mug. Darn cold floor this time a year the boy heard her echoing through his memory of previous winter mornings. Hurry up. Drink the father’s rasped, staccato voice pushed the young boy 5

along to his seat. To his breakfast. Looking over his shoulder, the boy took in his father, half-masked in gray by the old, uneven lighting over the sink, the other half lighted; still gray. Drink was all he said. Silently, they had their coffee, the boy losing a fight to that bitter trickle in the back of his throat which was common to such elixirs as cherry Robitussin, cod liver oil, coffee, of course his mother would say, and especially those two shots of whiskey his father poured into him when he was five and broke his finger in the tractor’s plow lift. Hospital’ll charge one fifty t’ tell us it’s broken n’ fifty more fir what kin be found in whiskey he remembers his father telling his mother. *** Four. He had managed two more gulps than the previous day before his father rose with a quiet, soft strength and left the room. The boy caught the eyes of his mother from across the table. A face that, from what he saw in an old yearbook found one bored summer day in the attic had grown heavy, the skin falling from the lazy hold of the skull while her hair had chalked over at the roots. Light reflected off those eyes and he thought that for one moment, they were red this time from lack of sleep. It was early, of course, but We’re late was still commonplace in the family’s life. The first thing your ma told me when she learned ‘bout you his father had been inclined to say

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from time to time, mostly after a long day of reworking rotor line programs that were always two parts per minute slower than any other line at the plant. The boy rose with the same stifled hurriedness but was caught by his mother’s hand on his own. It held something warm. As if it had been tucked and guarded in a pocket for some time. Through the crinkled Saran wrap, he gathered it was a cheese of some sort with its warm oil bleeding into a slice of Hillbilly bread. Good luck she offered. *** The garage didn’t have heat which meant their overalls would be cold and offer only the prick of chill familiar with cold bed sheets and the sound of ice being scraped off a windshield. An early-morning chore the boy had added to the list of things he hated. Get your shit together. Shuddering into a faster gear with his father’s solemn encouragement, the boy stepped into the handmedown faded camo overalls. They were worn at the knees and bits of gnarled thread frayed away in any and all directions. It hadn’t been washed. Ever. Keeps their smell on ‘em his father had been told and told him. The idea of superstition hadn’t come to him in his lack of age but, as most things learned outside of books and worksheets, some things just sew themselves into a person without need of reason or justification and his father was a firm believer in explaining what


R.S. Deeren Aprѐs Moi le Déluge he didn’t know with what he thought he did. So, like his father, he never washed the mud or the shit or the blood from his overalls. Boots before coat. Tuck your pants in. He knew the mandated order of getting dressed but knew even more not to question or, heaven forbid, say I know for fear of sounding proud or arrogant. He was too inexperienced to know the difference. Straightening from over his boots, the boy, again with the agility of wearing his weight in clothing, reached for one of the myriad overcoats hanging from wooden pegs nailed into the wall by a rubber mallet. This time, however, he met with the firm, steel grip of his father’s hand. No. Here. Turning, he looked up at his father holding out something for him to take. The boy took it blindly, still staring into his father’s face. The jerried fluorescent fixture overhead showing the somber man’s clenched, stubbled jaw which the boy knew hid tighterclenched, yellowed teeth. Stop staring. Put it on. He turned, swearing incoherently, hunched over his boots. In his hands, the boy saw he held what appeared to be a new overcoat. Not unlike the one he had always worn but more crisp without years of stains and exposure, without the large tear in the back that let his body heat trade places with any slight breeze that happened by and took to coiling around his spine. The blaze orange of the material shined with help from the swaying fixture overhead and the boy wondered what act of generosity this was. So you finally stop makin’ noise shiverin’. Get it on. He quickly, as before,

wrapped himself inside the coat and, with only a few precious seconds wasted fiddling with the zipper, felt the new-dyed flannel exterior against his cheek. It reached a good two inches past the red tips of his fingers. *** Here. His father handed him the heavier of the two shotguns that had been kept out overnight in the garage, the one with the rifled barrel. He took it and tried not to let its weight show. Let’s go his father urged. The boy, weighted with wool and steel, hobbled after his father out the back door and into a sideways howl of frost and bluing darkness. That initial howl would never leave the boy even, and this was of course unknown to him at the time, when he was older and walking out that back door alone. He had become used to walking yards blinded before his eyes adjusted to the dark. Before his ears numbed to the slice of wind and his body to the tense weight of the cold. But he could never walk fast enough, his short and confined legs not allowing his feet to fully reach the path his father’s prints were making seconds before. He did keep in line behind, however. With no little effort, the boy caught his father at the edge of the small plot of woods behind the house. His father had waited for him, and for that the boy was grateful. Looking up at his father’s back, the boy took in the faint orange that was lighted by whatever early light had bled through the blanket of clouds. Here, silently, the young boy watched his father tower-

ing even when faced with the gaping maw of the forest trail. The orange of the man’s coat began to burn in what seemed like a pillar of silent rage and finality. The boy’s eyes sank away watching the father’s fire grow. The blaze branched away and reached around the trees in retching fits of flaring light which offered no illumination and no heat against the biting predawn which the boy hoped would protect him. Catching his eyes in his bare hands, the young boy rubbed away at the cold, pale skin which chilled his eyes with every blink and caught his father, turned slightly, looking over his shoulder back at him. What’s in your pocket? The boy shook his head knowing somehow that it would be seen by his father in the dark morning. The father held his steel frame motionless knowing that he need not turn completely. His son knew what was expected. Obediently, the boy shuffled through the gap of snow between himself and his father, pulling from his pocket the small wrapping of still warm cheese and handed it to his father. Loud plastic. If you can hear it, they can hear it was all the man said. Taking the package from the boy, he gently unwrapped it masking the noise with the wind, this trick of course being lost on the boy, and unhinged his clenched gray jaw over the paltry amount of food letting the plastic be taken away by the eastern wind. *** It was a small ground blind that the two made their way to in what seemed like hours for the

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R.S. Deeren Aprѐs Moi le Déluge boy but was actually only half of an hour, the rules of time being cruel to the young, making car trips dull treks, school days life terms and hunting trips lifelong odysseys. A small, makeshift lumping and weaving of plywood and pine boughs unfittingly nestled under three weary birch trees set off the trail a ways was to be their mask for the short foreseeable future. It was all the young boy knew. Inside were two old camp chairs which the boy had learned the previous year to not bother sitting in having received a scathing Shut up and a sternly methodic glare every time the fabric of the chair ribbed across his overalls. Instead, he found himself safer with an old ash log sat up on its end. Hard but quiet and it offered him a better view of the trail instead of the back of his father. There they sat in the dark, the father gazing out at dark lines of trees and even darker shadows of trees, the young boy fiddling at a piece of wood that had begun to peel off the log between his legs or at the red scars reaching around the birch Stop messin’. If you can see movement, they can see movement. *** He had forgotten his gloves. Maybe it was the minute excitement of the new coat, but it was more likely his youth that had forgotten them. There was always something being left behind. The oversized coat only worked to an extent, leaving his fingers unwrapped. However, the day was starting to think about getting brighter. Maybe some shred of sun would wan7

der into the blind and the boy could quietly warm himself like a lizard on a rock. This cold was still an unwelcomed stranger to the boy who would, years later, find himself alone in his blinds, stripped down to nothing. Letting the cold mud wash over his toes and the wind wrap through his thighs. A yellowed, toothy grin on his face. The father lit a cigar which was kept perpetually behind his ear, tucked under his hat or wrapped in the cuff of a shirt and puffed and sucked it to life letting the smoldering match fall into a shortlived sizzle-hiss in the snowy mud at their feet. Smell don’t bother ‘em none like clockwork. *** The young boy woke, not knowing he had nodded off, with a blunt, solid pain aching at the crux of his jaw. You slept last night was all he heard and the man lowered his hand. They waited. *** It came from a tangle only forty yards to the north of the blind along a muddied run which the young boy hadn’t noticed on their entrance hours earlier. Softly bending and twisting around and under branches, the brown and tan of the small deer blended and wrapped itself in with the bark and dirt around it. It truly was small with what could have been small buttons poking atop its head. Yours the father uttered. It would be years later before the boy ever felt the way he did that first time he brought the weight of

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the shotgun in line with his eye. His heartbeat was heavy in his throat and the coffee burned in his bladder as he followed the deer with the pin at the end of the barrel. It came to a wary stop between two bored barkless ashes and sniffed the now gentle breeze. The young boy watched and in that moment, the young deer turned its head and the two met. With a hunter’s eye watering from staring into the cold, the boy fell into the round black pits of the deer’s eyes. The wind came to a stop and the boy hid behind a flowering honeysuckle bush and watched as an aged buck climbed on top of a tan doe while other grinning bucks grunted in the early spring grass. Beyond the clearing, threaded through the thicket of deadwood and brush, his eyes focused through the warm, pollened haze onto the blank face of a young man. Familiar in face but distant in stance, he didn’t move but remained crouched in the thicket, hidden like the boy. With what seemed less like a nod than a slight cocking the head, the young man waited. The boy closed his eyes and in the distance, he heard a cold ringing pound of a single gunshot. *** Fuck grumbled the father. The boy opened his eyes to no returning stare. Only the residual sulfur in his nose and the chimes between his ears. Get up. Let’s go his father grunted. With a shove at his back, the boy rose to his feet and shuffled alongside his father to where the deer had been standing.


R.S. Deeren Aprѐs Moi le Déluge Amidst the broken twigs, the pebbled and smeared shit and the forked tracks, a mixed spill of red and green. You’ve made it suffer was all the man said. The boy stood sharing time between the foul stench of the blood and the hard gaze of his father. Load n’ get goin’ and the two set off with the boy being pushed forward by his father. *** He was tired and the frozen metal of the receiver reminded the young boy of his forgotten gloves. Stop walkin’ like a nigger. Pick your feet up. The young boy labored against the drifted snow as his father offered his only encouragement, following the thickening trail of green bile and bloodied corn and flesh and matted fur as it weaved through burr weeds and over logs. It’ll hear you scufflin’ n’ run somore. The young boy pressed on, tripping once as a snowed-in water vine snared his ankle. The shotgun fell to the ground muzzle first in silence. The father highstepped through the snow and scooped up the gun and began dusting off the grime and slush as the young boy lifted his whitewashed face and muddied body to its feet. While he attempted to rake the frigid mess from his face, his father knelt down to face him and in that almost moment between the two, as the breeze began again to rise and scatter the snow from countless boughs, the man snapped out a finger into the side the boy’s throat. He rose leaving the boy to well up behind the spreading sting and choke from his father. He didn’t dare cry.

The father held both guns and gazed ahead with his clenched jaw and wrought body holding firm against the gusts of winter. You’ll learn t’ clean ‘em, now. They continued. *** Its lungs rattled and its body writhed in the hollow of an uprooted cedar. Blood and bile pooled off the stained fur at the bottom of the pit as the two stood feet away and looked on, the boy shaking and the father perfectly still. The deer, crying out its breath, frenzied between trying to crawl free and staring despairingly back at the two. The father pulled a new Black & Mild from somewhere and lit it. Letting it burn in him more than letting himself enjoy it. The boy stared on, still shaking. The father nudged him with the stock of the grimy shotgun Here. Shifting his stare to his father, who had seemed to take in the cold wind around him making the woods still, he felt the weight of the gun fall into his arms once again, the black of the barrel reflecting the orange of their coats in one meshed and sustained flicker. The flame reached out from the cold metal and the boy saw it spread and latch around his neck and felt it crawl around the end of his chin. His coat grew tight and he felt his heartbeat return to his throat. The frantic pants of the deer drew the boy’s attentions and, nestling the stock to his shoulder, he balanced the barrel level and waited for some passing breath to ease him. Stop wasting time, he’s suffered enough.

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Alissa Sallah Pearls

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Peggy Aylsworth A Tiger Loiters at the Edge

A TIGER LOITERS AT THE LEDGE How beautiful it is and how easily it can be broken. . Tennessee Williams The center will not hold, with glaciers calving, crashing into the bay. Yet blue has a way of exposing beauty. A woman, heavy with shopping bags, runs for the bus, still trailed by yesterday’s fiery sunset. While others build bridges, leave nuclear waste, he follows unfortunates to charitable crossroads. Without the surround of architecture, there are only the stars, enough for Bette Davis, smoking her shared cigarette, but breakfast is a long way off. A thin-necked egret flies overhead. In the flash of white I feel the wind of Botticelli’s zephyr. Lurking in the nearby forest, Hieronymus Bosch crowds shadows with demons of distortion. You will not escape, cries Goya from his etched capriccios. In this short expanse, as though the come and go of sunlight measures time, I’ve loitered, chipping stones, as though the earth could not predict its end. Peggy Aylsworth

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Peggy Aylsworth Balm for a Worried Mind

BALM FOR A WORRIED MIND The bosomy hills, dazzling in their capes of yellow mustard, call us as the season’s ample rain aroused the deep-down dormancy. On this California day in April clouds keep their profile low on the horizon. We drive in the aura of the hills. It fills our need. What goes unnoticed cheats the soul. Did we stop and hear the virtuoso play his Stradivarius on the D.C. Metro platform? We and a thousand others passed him by. But now this reward, as attention must be paid. At the lakefront restaurant our table setting, thin-stemmed glasses, float on water, shimmer through the window. A tiny girl, no more than six, extends her hands to catch a wily duck as he waddles out of reach. Peggy Aylsworth

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Peggy Aylsworth Some Muscles More Developed Than Others

SOME MUSCLES MORE DEVELOPED THAN OTHERS Wind a man up and before you know it he’s pedaling around the world. Never mind his almost broken legs along the spin, taken for a spy in Egypt. Anyone who could spend a hundred and eleven days in a pedal boat crossing the Atlantic, could have read every page-long line Henry James had written as his feet pushed round and round the globe in thirteen years. What extra-curricular things have I accomplished sitting on my duff, hanging out my shingle, preaching Krishnamurti or some other know-it-all to the shivering, clueless, emotionally under-nourished sisterfellow humans consulting me and hoping I might be Mother Teresa, saving them from the fires of their own hell? I never circumnavigated anything more than the ides of March for ninety-one years. That won’t make the Guinness Book. When the telephone rings it won’t be Sweden calling. Peggy Aylsworth

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Peggy Aylsworth The Family I Never Had

THE FAMILY I NEVER HAD One sister, call her Clara, plucked the wings from my canary, gave me pomegranate seeds to remind me I would never be a man. A brother, call him Basil, locked us in the bathroom, gave me evidence that convinced me. Should I thank her? Another sister, call her Edna, squeezed the portent from my secret, brought me cut-out hearts, said they were a kindness. My father forgot to teach me basic botany. I never understood‌Was it photosynthesis that made me grow so tall? My mother told me Basil Bunting might have been my brother. No wonder I’m forever looking for the avant garde. Peggy Aylsworth

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TOO OLD FOR WAR Frank Scozzari

Old Makatiku looked wearily upon young Katanuku. A pillar of youth he was, standing more than two meters in height with broad shoulders, a head full of shiny black hair, skin that was taunt and clear, and muscles that rippled like the palms in a tree. His shadow stretched out on the African earth like that of a giraffe. And from his position below, seated in his thatched throne, Makatiku knew he looked old and weak and worn from a life lived fully. It was me, Makatiku thought, staring up at the young shujaa warrior, forty years past. But I was taller, and even stronger, and I did not have this look of pity in my eyes. “You must answer,” demanded Kantaku. The council sat anxiously waiting. Makatiku glanced over at them. Among them were the elders and friends, and many brave warriors he had fought along side of in the internecine wars, all in their colorful, ceremonial tunics. If only there was a way out, gracefully, Makatiku thought. He glanced back at the towering young Kantaku. But there was none. Every spear has two edges and each side cuts with equal depth, he thought. If he agreed to the challenge, he would face a humiliating defeat. He was no match for a man one third his age. Is this a fit way to end it? Doesn’t a good life deserve an honorable end? After all the wonderful years of ruling with dignity and benevolence, having

his face rubbed in the dirt now was something he could not bear. The thought of it offended his soul. Yet if he refused, he would have to advocate the throne. It was law. But Kantaku stood waiting. And behind him was his entourage of young Maasai warriors. “Are you sleeping?” Kantaku asked impatiently. “I am thinking.” And when Makatiku finally did speak, everyone seemed a bit mystified by his confident tone, and by the small grin that formed on his face, and by the cleverness in his eye. “I accept the challenge,” he spoke loudly. “It is a great tradition and it is the people’s right to see the challenge answered, although I doubt that you are up to the task. I doubt that you, or any of your young followers, have the strength, nor the will, nor the intelligence to win such a match.” A sigh came from the council, as did all the villagers who were gathered around. Kantaku too seemed a bit surprised by Makatiku’s willingness to accept his challenge but welcomed his words nonetheless, and the chance to move the event along. “Okay then, let’s get on with it.” “There is one condition, however,” Makatiku added. “Yes?” “I would like to choose my own weapon.” “Weapon?” Kantaku asked. The young Maasai warriors standing behind Kantaku exchanged curious glances. “Yes, I ask that I be allowed to

choose my own weapon in this case.” Kantaku looked over at the council. It had been more that fifty years since a challenge for the throne had been decided by a fight with weapons, a fight to the death. The Kenyon and Tanzanian governments had long since outlawed the practice and tribal leaders throughout the Maasai Mara had come to accept the notion of a bloodless succession. “Do you accept my request?” Makatiku asked. “A request for weapons is evidence of your antiquity. You are an old man stuck in old ways.” “Nevertheless,” Makatiku said calmly. “It is in the book of laws, and has never been distorted. Though foreign governments have tried to rid us of our ways, the rules have never changed. It is the challenger’s choice of weapons. But in this case, I ask that I be allowed to choose my own weapon.” Kantaku glanced over at the council again as though expecting some form of intervention from them, but there was none. “I know tradition,” he replied. “It is the warrior who chooses peace over war,” Makatiku said, “but also the warrior who chooses bloodshed over defeat and humiliation.” Kantaku then ran his eyes through the crowd of villagers and raised his chest high, presenting himself tall and confident. “I accept old man!” he said. Makatiku nodded his head pleasingly.

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Frank Scozzari Too Old for War And then there was the issue of an aged body? he thought. What an abomination it would be if no animal seeked his meat! In all his years, he had seen it less than a dozen times. And the remembrance of Old Nampushi, who had died of some terrible, western disease and had been left in the sun for the buzzards, but no buzzards came. And how a spotted hyena came by and sniffed his dead body and walked past it without even taking a simple bite. This will never do. A corpse rejected by scavengers was seen as having something wrong with it and was cause for great social disgrace. Makatiku’s eyes dropped down to the red dirt beneath him. Nor was burial and option, he knew. It was harmful to the earth. To place a rotting corpse in the ground was to defile the earth! “Also,” he then spoke, “I will need five kilos of ox fat and blood, placed in the care of my good friend Jakaya.” Makatiku turned and looked over at his old friend who sat with the other elders on the high council. Jakaya nodded his head. Kantaku looked at him curiously. “It is not for me,” Makatiku said. Kantaku chuckled. “We will see who it is for, old man. Anything else?” “Nothing.” Kantaku signaled two young boys who hurried away to the butchery to gather the kilos of fat and blood. “And the weapon you will choose?” Kantaku asked, his voice now revealing a tone of disgust. “I would like to know the weap15

on you choose first? If that’s permitted?” Kantaku looked around at all the villagers, knowing anticipation was building. “Okay, if it is your wish. A long spear,” he said boldly. The young warriors behind him exchanged spirited words, voicing their pleasure of his choice. A long spear was the ideal weapon for mortal combat between two men. Its long shaft enabled a thrust from a great distance. Its barbed headpiece, once in, could not be retrieved, at least not without causing substantial additional damage. And when thrown properly, it could pierce the stretched cowhide of a Maasai shield. “And you?” “A simi.” “A simi?” “Yes, a simi,” Makatiku said firmly. A lively discussion erupted, not only among the young warriors, but among the council members as well. A simi was not a weapon designed for warfare. It was a simple tribal knife with a blade not more than fifteen inches, used ritualistically or for skinning animals. “This is silliness,” Kantaku said. “It is the weapon I choose,” Makatiku replied. Kantaku looked back at the warriors behind him. Then he glanced over at the council members. What form of trickery is this? All his life he had been taught to be suspicious of gifts from adversaries, and he was weary of Makatiku now, of his deception and cunning. Weapon, a simi was not; yet skillful Makatiku was, in the art of combat

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and killing. Kantaku’s father had told him all the stories, of how Makatiku had overcome a group of five Kaputiei warriors by hiding in the dead, rotting corpse of a water buffalo, and how he sprung from the corpse with bow and arrows and had killed all of them. And how he had been chased once into a steep canyon by a heard of crazed elephants, only to start an avalanche that crushed and killed most of them. His feats of bravery were legendary and his acts of cunning, something to be weary of. For Makatiku to choose a simi now, Kantaku thought, in a fight that would determine the end of his reign and perhaps the end of his life, surely there was some form of trickery behind it. And he could throw a knife further, Kantaku thought, than the length of any long spear. And the two-sided blade of a simi was perfect for finding a place to stick after sailing end over end threw the air. Makatiku sat quietly in his rickety throne, waiting. “And I will take a tall shield,” Kantaku said unflinchingly, “along with my long spear.” Again the warriors behind him nodded their heads and whispered cheerfully to one another. Everyone knew the protective capabilities of a tall shield. Twothirds the length of one’s body, it was capable of deflecting a barrage of arrows. It could easily deflect a single, hand-thrown knife. “It is a wise choice,” was all Makatiku said. Despite his arrogance, that which comes along with youth, Makatiku was fond of Kantaku


Frank Scozzari Too Old for War and tolerated his youthful ambitions. Of this new generation of warriors, a generation that Makatiku did not like or understand, with cell phones and a desire to live in cities, Kantaku stood apart. It was he who most cherished the traditional ways. And he was most clever. The others were merely ‘warriors’ in name and appearance, Makatiku thought, who posed for photographs and dressed the part only to satisfy the expectations of the safari lodges. It is not an easy thing, to make way for a new generation of warriors, some of whom had exchanged their spears for cricket bats and text books. It was to accept a contradiction of all he was, and all he knew, and of all that his father and grandfathers were and all that they knew. But this one, perhaps, had a chance, Makatiku thought, watching Kantaku’s eyes, if he was forced to eat hyena. He noticed a digital watch on the wrist of one of the warriors. Ah! The New World! he thought. It is a pity that life must evolve, and change, and end. And standing way in the back was another young warrior wearing a New York Yankees baseball cap, no doubt given to him by one of the safari tourist. He quickly removed the cap when he caught Makatiku’s eyes upon him. Yes, too many changes had passed, Makatiku thought. He had seen it all, the erosion of customs over many years, from one governmental program to another, each designed to strip his people of their traditional ways. And the unstoppable inflow of technology, like a gi-

ant dust storm of locus that he could not keep out. Commercial cotton and the synthetic clothing had long since replaced the traditional calf hide and sheep skin, and beadwork, no longer of stone or wood or ivory, was now made of glass or plastic. He glanced down at the feet of the warriors and realized that half of them wore sandals soled with pieces of motorcycle tires, and one even wore a beat-up, old pair of Nikes basketball shoes. And too came the digital age. It was all too much, this new world that invaded his land and sweep through his people like a foreign disease. He recalled the electric pumps brought in by the new government to filter their water, and what happened when they broke and they had no water for three days because the unfiltered water now made them sick. And how the doctors poisoned their children with injected medicines, making them ill for one week when they were otherwise well; and how lion hunting was now banned by the Kenyan government. What kind of obscenity is that! And yet he had heard about the recent events in northern Tanzania, tribes of his flesh evicted in favor of fee-paying trophy hunters under a new government plan to create a ‘wildlife corridor.’ We cannot kill lions to protect our herds, yet foreigners can hunt them for trophies? The government had gone so far as to denounce warriorhood, declaring it illegal. It was not a world that Makatiku liked, or wanted to be in. “Bring two tall shields,” Kantaku said confidently to a junior warrior. The young warrior, a

boy not more than fifteen years old, went off to gather the weapons. “Wait,” Makatiku said, and the young warrior stopped in his tracks. “It is not what I desire.” Kantaku looked on, waiting. “I would like a short shield,” Makatiku said. The sound of snickering came from the villagers. Again he mocks me! Kantaku thought. He ran his eyes through the crowd and tightened his upper lip. “Follow his wishes,” he said angrily. The boy hurried off to gather the weapons and shields. “Anything else?” “No. It is quite enough.” Nothing more was said, and the boy returned quickly with the simi, the long spear, and the two shields. And now it was time for Makatiku to rise from his thatched throne and face his young challenger. And he did so slowly, feeling the pains of his arthritic joints, but gloriously, rising to a height equal to that of Kantaku. Despite his age of nearly sixty-two years, his broad shoulders and lean muscles were still well-pronounced. His kunga, of red and blue, and pink cotton, wrapped loosely around his trim waist and angled down over one shoulder and across his protruding chest. Everything about him symbolized tradition, and the customs of old, and the seniority of his rank, and the success of his reign; from his graying, long hair, that was woven in thinly braided strands and fell to the middle of his back, to his brightly colored anklets. His earlobes were pierced and stretched in a manner reserved only for roy-

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Frank Scozzari Too Old for War alty, and there was the symbolic beadwork that embellished his body and told of his meritorious past; of a life lived long and fully. The boy handed Makatiku the short knife and the small shield. Makatiku examined the knife, running his finger along the edge of it. It had a finely honed metal blade and a wooden handle with cowhide for a grip. Then he studied the small shield, flipping it over and looking at the face of it. It is correct, he thought. It bared the sirata of a red badge that signified great bravery in battle and was only permitted to be painted on the shields of the highest of chiefs. Still, it was a decorative piece at best with a diameter less than twenty inches, not truly designed for combat. The boy then gave the long spear to Kantaku, and the tall shield. The shield, made of stretched and hardened buffalo hide sewn to a wooden frame, nearly cloaked his entire body. The spear, made of the finest dark ebony wood, held upright in his hand, rose more than a meter above his head. There was laughter among the villagers, and Kantaku realized how ridiculous it must have looked. Makatiku smiled broadly and ran his eyes through the crowd. His considerable stature dwarfed the small shield and simi in scale, even more so than their actual size. He glanced over at the council members and nodded his head appreciatively. Then he raised the shield and knife high above his head to the applause of the villagers. Kantaku waited for the applause 17

to die down. “Now you must answer,” he spoke brazenly. Makatiku stared at him, long and deliberately. Could young arrogance be so foolish? Then, seeing the muscles on Kantaku’s chest and shoulders tighten, Makatiku’s face became gaunt and serious. It is time! he thought. He quickly squatted down into a combat stance, holding his small shield firmly in front of his chest and the short knife high and aggressively in his right hand. Kantaku likewise firmed his stance, ducking low behind his large shield and raising the spear in a throwing position. The two men stood there momentarily, opposite one another on a small mound of earth, the old and the new. The time for talk had ended. The differences between the traditional and modern were past them now, and Kantaku did not wait. He was certain Makatiku had a plan and would spring it upon him quickly if he gave him the chance. He wielded his spear way back, holding it cocked high to the side of his head, and with perfect aim, not wanting to give Makatiku time to strike first, he thrust it forward with all his might. At the same moment Kantaku released it, Makatiku dropped his shield and short knife to his side and pushed his chest forward. He stood there poised and relaxed with his chest exposed as if it were impenetrable to the spear. The blade of the barred spearhead flashed in the morning sunlight. All the villagers looked

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on in wonderment as the spear hit him squarely in the chest, slicing through his flesh and bone and coming out his back. For a perceptible instant, Makatiku remained upright, impaled by the spear. It was as though his body defied gravity, held high by the soul and the pride of a great chief. Then he dropped to the ground, dead. The dazed villagers looked on in disbelief, as did Kantaku. The suddenness of it was shocking. Their great king, the fierce warrior who had fought and won so many battles, had not even lifted a finger to fight. His natural ability to dodge and deflect, and to strike back, failed to invoke at the time he needed it most. Though he had out-witted many opponents in the past, he had left them now without a strategically plan; without the tactical display of brilliance they had all come to expect. Jakaya summoned the young warriors. “Mnakamata!” he said.“Take him.” The spearhead was quickly removed. The shaft of it snapped when Makatiku fell to the ground making it easy to extract. The entourage of warriors gathered him up, and upon Jakaya’s directions, carried him to a place outside the village, down near where the river flowed out onto the savannah. The five kilos of ox fat and blood was also brought down and set beside the chief’s body. “Enda!” Jakaya shouted to the young warriors. “Go! Go away!” And they did so, solemnly, without looking back. Jakaya knelt down and took a moment to look over his fallen


Frank Scozzari Too Old for War friend. His face was sullen and old, and had the dark lines that come from oldness. His face was pale and gray with all the signs of death but his expression still revealed a regal presence. He was king, once more, Jakaya thought. And now was cut the umbilical cord between heaven and Earth. With a wooden ladle, Jakaya covered Makatiku’s body with the ox fat and blood. He covered every inch of it, making sure no place was left exposed. Then he sprinkled the body with beads of black, green, red, yellow and white, which mimicked the colour sequence seen in the animal life cycle. He added more white for the decade of peace he had brought to his tribe; and blue for the water colors, which ran clean and fresh until the machines of government destroyed it; and more red for the warrior’s blood and bravery. “Come feast little Oln’gojine,” Jakaya said. “Come taste the meat of a great warrior.” Jakaya left, back to the village, to the cluster of mud houses where he hung Makatiku’s small, red shield, and his simi, outside his inkajijik. Then he went to join the others in the celebration of the new chief. Though Katanuku sat in the thatched throne in full ceremonial dress, he found no joy in his heart. He had achieved the throne, but had not won a victory. Even in death, Makatiku mocked him. He laughs now, he thought. There, down by the river of life, he revels in laughter! The coronation was quite subdued. Though all the villagers gathered for the festival, it was

not full of song and dance like the great celebrations of the past. “It was Makatiku who threw the spear,” one of the villagers said. Katanuku looked down at him and quietly hung his head. “Makatiku is still King,” another villager said. Down by the river Makatiku’s body laid in the hot African sun. All day it lay there and by late afternoon the tsetse flies had gathered and the smell of the fermenting ox blood rose across the savannah. Before the sun had completely set, three spotted hyenas came across him. They encircled him and sniffed the earth around him, and the kunga that wrapped him. Their nostrils filled with the scent of human, but there was also the smell of the ox blood and fat, and when they tasted the meat, they found it to be unique and flavorsome. On through the night they feasted, gnawing down on the bone and flesh and stealing chunks from one another. By morning when the villagers returned, nothing remained of Makatiku but a stain on the earth.

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Kailey Rinder I Don’t Really Care Enough To Cry

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Nina Rehner When the Queen Dies

WHEN THE QUEEN DIES I imagine I’ll be sitting at home, lounging, and having the dessert to my dinner. It will come up on the news, a flashing banner at the bottom of my favorite televised program. Ill drop my fork and tiny carrot cake crumbs will fall into the cracks of the floor. Ill gasp, and hold my napkin to my mouth as I swallow my sticky bite of cake. So shocked and too upset, ill ask the other person in the room to find the news. While I close my eyes and point to the location of the remote. They’ll pull find it, and the new castor will say, “God save the Queen, and God rest her soul.” She died alone and in her luxury sheets, in her own private quarters, wearing every piece of fur and jewelry she owned. Her last words were to her maid “Do you mind drawing me a hot bath, and then you may leave, ill dress myself after.” That maid was her favorite; every year she gave her something extra in their Christmas envelope. Her last breakfast was creamed wheat with dignity, and steeped chamomile tea. The Queen took a light walk that afternoon, and her bunions hurt so she went back in, and did some planning for next years spring gala. She had an early simple dinner of salmon with basil leaves...but she couldn’t finish it. She politely asked for some warm milk, and then retracted and said “I’ll do it myself.” But she won’t, she heads up stairs instead, and her maid faithfully follows. I hope to be a homeowner by the time our queen passes, and sitting on an expensive designer couch, a 3,000-dollar couch. After about 25 minutes of watching the news it’ll get repetitive and when they start making princess Diana references ill turn the volume all the way down, but not off, walk upstairs and recover my Queen issue of time magazine, and all the Canadian money stashed in my junk drawer. I’ll blare the sex pistols and look out my windows, and think about the death of the last real queen, a way of life, a presence. I love the pomp and circumstance but I’m too sentimental, and I’ll think about that also. Nina Rehner

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Andy Havens Green, I Say

GREEN, I SAY (from a friend’s dare/challenge to write a poem about M&Ms) nothing so shallow, nothing so thin as candy crunch color micrometer skin no peanut no licorice whipped red or black no nothing with actual taste to its tack or rasp on its back is shallow as candy crunch color skin that spills rainbowy slippery elbow deep seeds all chocolate inside but we pick out the greens (you never did hear what the others are for? listen, then, child) aphrodisiac’s safe compared to the rest of the prism of taste yellows are seeds for the Soldiers of Light plant them near holly, they blossom at night and scalp neighbors’ kids who have taunted or teased the brown ones, when juggled, cause mad cow disease the ferryman Charon takes payment in red put two in your mouth (they won’t melt when you’re dead) a trail of bright orange leads men to your wife every blue one you eat takes two months off your life the green makes you horny? well, here, take a few they don’t look quite right? well… I’ve peeled them for you Andy Havens

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Alix Ayoub The Zombie Poem, or How to Survive a Zombie Movie THE ZOMBIE POEM, OR HOW TO SURVIVE A ZOMBIE MOVIE. — Keep moving. Aim for the head. Make sure they shamble. They run, you dead. Keep moving. Forget about social cues, rivals, celebrations. Forget about music, loud noises, happiness— survival’s as good as it gets. Don’t eat only sugar— it fuels you up but it’ll leave you hanging dry fifty heads above the next biter. And the next, and the next, and the next. Keep moving. All of that start because of a satellite. All of that start because of someone not in love. All of that start because people can’t leave the things they should leave alone alone. Keep moving. Killing’s not easy —remember they’re not humans, they’re no longer human— until it is. Keep moving. Don’t make mistakes. One bite will do you in. One bite and it’s a bullet wasted. Don’t trap yourself —there’s more of them outside, always. Avoid highways, cities, population centers, malls, downtown areas, hospitals, graveyards, airports, train stations, subways, villages, pubs, decaying buildings. Keep moving. Choose your companions carefully, if choosing is possible, if there’s enough left, if you’re not running on your own, if you haven’t become a legend. Knowing a voodoo priest won’t hurt, in the right context. Same of a scientist or fifteen. Knowing a guy with weapons, with training, with a vehicle, with a plan, won’t hurt, in any context. Army, yeah, maybe —you better be a man, better be ruthless, better be unable to return to normal, for whatever degree of normalcy normal was, if normal is ever in the cards again, after all that. A leader’s good and well until they go bonkers. It won’t take long. Keep moving. Beware the quiet ones. Forget you’re human. Survive. Keep moving. — Console yourself with the fact that you are probably only part of a clever commentary of today’s society. Alix Ayoub Botticelli Literary and Art Magazine

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Alix Ayoub Boxes and Poland

BOXES It’s box after boxes, and you don’t tell me what they are for. I don’t ask. You’re gone, in the morning, and I wonder when is the next time I’ll see my sister. Alix Ayoub

POLAND Dobrej nocy, dobrej nocy There are books, with corned pages, And tapes, for the car he had; A proof, a piece, That he wasn’t there for four years. He tried to speak, he says, dziękuję, but it’s your mother’s words, From a world before you, before what you know, There were two worlds and us in the middle, And there was this place called Poland. Na zdrowie to the memories, Na zdrowie to the tears. There was this place called Poland. Alix Ayoub

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A RELATIONSHIP IN THREE ACTS Dorene O’Brien

I Miles Beauregard was inconceivably thin. He had curly black hair, pretty hair, straight white teeth and blue eyes that he covered with yellowtinted horn-rimmed glasses. He wore sweatshirts and canvas shoes and hung out at coffee shops, dark bars and the union at Georgetown University, where as a graduate student he was making a career of alternating concentrations between poetry and classical mythology. Miles was in love with Professor Buckminster, his Modern Poetry and Visual Technologies teacher, and he wrote poems about seducing her on the Greek island of Delos as she projected images of Apollinaire’s concrete poetry across the ceiling of 225A: Come to me, bright Leto Blanket me in your silken curls Golden chains that bind my lips to your breast, That entwine us on this barren land Until that certain day that I Push aside those pillars of restraint And coax from between your thighs The immortality of Artemis and Apollo. Miles Beauregard was not a good poet. But, as a good poet once said, hope springs eternal. He walked around campus with a spiral-bound notebook and two mechanical pencils, and he allowed the slightest breeze or faintest bird song to stir him into a writing reverie that most often ended with a poem much worse than the one quoted above. In short, he was a romantic. Like most romantics, his life was filled with self-generated angst and heartbreak, passionate moments of self-induced tears and hysteria, dark days during which he refused to consume anything but a whole-wheat bagel and an Evian. It was on a particularly loathsome day— Professor Buckminster had verbally castrated him for mispronouncing Don Juan and he had broken one of his mechanical pencils during a flash of inspiration—that Miles wandered into the Terrace and slid into a dark corner booth feeling disconsolate. Certainly he’d been there before, and certainly he knew that he was not liked by the bar’s

waitstaff, which was, of course, why he went. A surly blonde waitress in a halter top and blue jean cut-offs approached and threw a napkin onto the table. “Don’t order mead or nectar today,” she said. “I’m in no mood.” “Hemlock,” said Miles. “You know,” said the waitress, bending so that her face was level with his, “I’d really like to.” Couldn’t she see that he was suicidal? All she cared about was making money to buy tacky clothes and hair bleach. “Give me an Absinthe Suissesse,” he said, and spelled it out for her. The waitress looked doubtful. “I will not bear another tragedy today,” Miles snapped as he threw open his notebook and began scrawling. He’d written three poems before she returned with his drink. “He used water and anisette,” she nodded toward the bartender and set the glass squarely onto the cocktail napkin. Miles did not try to hide his disdain. “Amateurs!” he shouted, but he would not allow the waitress to retrieve the substandard drink as its removal would impinge upon his suffering. “Leave it,” he ordered. “And bring another one just to make my pain absolute.” Fie, fie, intractable wench! O voluptuous maid with fried locks And tattered garments You will be flogged by the Furies For serving poison to the gods! He had considered leaving this for the waitress in lieu of a tip as he scrawled it across the back of the cocktail napkin, but after his second pseudo-Absinthe Suissesse had decided it was too good to leave behind and tucked it into the flap of his notebook before launching into his next opus. “I saw you staring at me.” Miles looked up from his notebook, pencil still poised over the k in slaked, to see a dark, veiled woman slide into the booth opposite him. “I saw you staring at me,” she repeated. “Of course I was,” said Miles. “You are the Princess of Aaru.” “I am no such thing,” she said. “But if you Botticelli Literary and Art Magazine

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Dorene O’Brien A Relationship in Three Acts buy me one of those”—here she nodded at his drink—“I will tell you who I am since you appear so interested.” Miles immediately snapped his fingers at the waitress, who ignored him. “The proletariat,” he mused, “has refused to work since the French Revolution.” “Go to the bar and get it yourself,” said the mysterious woman. “Don’t draw any attention here.” Miles fetched two more pseudo-Absinthes Suissesses, but when he returned to the table the woman was gone. “Princess!” he shouted. “My zephyr of the Aegean, have you drifted off into the sultry night, my heart bouncing along on your turbulent drifts?” “Shh,” said the woman as she climbed out from under the table sans the veil, which had snagged on a clump of gum during her ascent. “Sit down! And don’t look around. I think they’re here. As a matter of fact,” she added suspiciously, “I think you may be one of them.” “If you are referring to slaves to your every whim,” he said, “I am indeed one of them. What do you wish? Anything.” “I wish you’d be quiet,” said the woman, scrunching her nose at the drink before her. “This smells funny,” she said. “What is it?” “It may as well be poison the way they make it.” “Never mind,” she said. “Do you see that man over there?” Miles glanced toward the pool tables where the woman had nodded. “Don’t look!” she snapped. “Who is he?” Miles asked, even though he hadn’t seen anyone. “Your boyfriend?” The woman smirked. “I have no boyfriend.” “You do now,” Miles said emphatically. “Who is it that quickens your blood? Who is it that terrorizes you? I will manhandle him until he can’t see straight.” The woman sighed. “There are many,” she said. “You don’t understand.” She looked to be in her early twenties with dark skin, ink black hair pulled into a tight ponytail, big brown eyes and a large nose with a bump at the top, not entirely unattractive. She had full 25

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red lips and her teeth needed work. “So then,” said Miles, “you’re Lebanese. You’ve stolen away from home, uncertain why but following an irresistible path that brought you to me—” “I’m Iranian,” said the woman. “I’ll say no more.” “But you promised to tell me who you are if I bought you a drink.” “All right,” she whispered. “My name is Afsoon, and I was held prisoner until exactly four days ago.” “Held prisoner! By whom?” “By whom,” she huffed. “As if you don’t know.” “Oh, but my Persian dove has me confused with someone else. I can assure you that I know nothing. I imagine I can get quite a few people to attest to that,” he added, but the humor seemed lost on her. “Let’s just say it’s political.” Here she narrowed her eyes and patted a black bag on the bench beside her. “Maybe I have something they want and they are determined to get it back.” “Give it to them,” cried Miles, “and begin a new life with me. We’ll be quite rich. I’m a poet.” “You want me to abandon the movement?” “Movement?” “There is a plot underfoot,” she whispered, “but if I speak of it you will be in great danger.” “What if they’ve seen you with me?” “They will torture you, no doubt. But at least you won’t be able to tell them anything.” “Don’t worry,” Miles reassured her, “I can faint on demand.” “Do you see that man over there?” she pointed to a Jimmy Buffett look-alike in a Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts. “He’s been following me since Tehran.” “A wonderful disguise,” Miles nodded, “but not clever enough to fool my cunning flower of Shiraz.” “And that one there,” she nodded. “How many are there?” he asked, both piqued and frightened by the challenge. “Who knows,” said the woman. “Certainly enough to capture me and take me back.” “But they can’t touch you here,” Miles pounded the table for effect, then shook his hand to relieve the pain. “We’ll seek immunity.”


Dorene O’Brien A Relationship in Three Acts “Don’t you think that’s just where they’re waiting for me? Outside the consulate?” “Ah, my Tehranian tulip has thought of everything!” “Yes, well.” Her stomach emitted a loud groan and she caressed it dramatically. “I’m starving.” “Of course!” said Miles. “You’re on the lam. I’ll go to the bar forthwith and demand a kebob. He returned several minutes later with a bag of Fritos. “Bigots,” he announced, tossing the bag onto the table. “Shh,” said the woman. “Sit down. My God, you’re difficult.” She ripped open the bag and began devouring. “What about your family?” asked Miles. “Hmm?” The Fritos had proven a keen rival for her attention. “Aren’t you worried they’ll stretch your father on the rack, force your mother into indentured servitude, pillage the virgin territory of your sisters’ bodies if you don’t return with them?” “I am an only child. And my parents are dead.” “Not…” Miles nodded toward Jimmy Buffett. “No, no,” she said. “A freak camel incident in Kashmir.” “No!” Miles gasped. “My goodness, you’re making such a fuss,” the woman scolded, “people are staring.” Miles looked up to survey the bar. No one was looking. The woman crushed the empty Fritos bag into a ball with her bejeweled fingers and tossed it onto the table between them. “This is my chance,” she suddenly stood. “I must run or die.” “I’ll run with you,” Miles cried, but his intentions, as usual, were stronger than his ability. She disappeared into a crowd of coeds arguing the medical benefits of beer, and by the time he’d mustered the energy to consider chasing her, his head was spinning from drink and his heart breaking from desire. He looked for Jimmy Buffet but he, too, was gone. “Godspeed, my love!” he cried. * * * That night he crawled into the cot in his Village A apartment on campus—he did not share his apartment with anyone since he preferred ab-

solute silence to write and since his father was wealthy enough to provide that silence—and he would be surprised to learn that he preferred a cot to a bed since it was much more uncomfortable. He thought only of Afsoon. Oh, how he loved her, his darling, daring little fugitive! He yanked open his notebook. Caspian goddess, Shah of my heart! Chased into my arms by the evil schemes of men How far from the desert you wander! How far from the Gulf! Your suffering begets my salvation (cruelest and most ironic of circumstances!) In the midst of your pain I, too, am imbued with desires. I long to fall into the tunnels of your eyes And burrow into your delectable mountains Am I not as sinister a pursuer as those that forced you from the bosom of the Caucasus? Miles Beauregard, who was not a good poet, often exploited his ken for geography in poetry. He fell asleep that evening with the notebook clutched to his chest, his face wet with tears. Here, indeed, was an opportunity for angst. He skipped the next two meetings of Professor Buckminster’s class; let her suffer. It didn’t matter anymore, for he was utterly devoted to Afsoon. Now if only he could find her. Evenings he spent at the Terrace in their booth waiting patiently while sipping gin and pomegranate juice. After a week of drinking quietly alone the waitress became suspicious. “Hey, you in that hemlock mood again?” she asked. Miles, too despondent to argue with a woman whose fate he had recently cast most violently in lyric, closed his eyes and sighed deeply. “How could I expect you to understand?” he said. “You whose most recent concerns likely involve hair dye and breast augmentation?” Miles did not realize that she had trotted off to deliver two Labatts and a Gin Rickey to more festive consumers before he’d even uttered the word “dye.” During his fourth consecutive night at the Terrace, Miles spotted Jimmy Buffett wearing a camouflage tee shirt and matching bandanna. He forced down three Brave Bulls and sprang from the Botticelli Literary and Art Magazine

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Dorene O’Brien A Relationship in Three Acts dark shadows of the bar into the lighted arena of pool tables; Miles Horninger was not a large man and, dizzy from tequila, actually fell into Jimmy Buffett, who spontaneously embraced him. Miles seized the opportunity to frisk him for weapons. “What the hell are you doing?” yelled Jimmy Buffett, pushing him off and brushing his waist and buttocks where Miles had groped him. Miles swayed from the balls to the heels of his feet but stared into his opponent’s steely eyes. “Where is she?” “Where is who?” said Jimmy, still rubbing the memory of Miles’ touch from his body. “What have you done with her?” Miles demanded. Jimmy Buffett stared. Miles nodded slowly. “I expected this,” he said. “Go sleep it off, man.” “Here,” Miles gave him a sheet of notebook paper containing his address. “She turns up here within two days, no questions asked,” he slurred. “She doesn’t, I call my boys at the CIA.” Miles winked and weaved out of the bar. When Miles showed up at Professor Buckminster’s class the following day, she acted like she hadn’t even missed him, but after class she summoned him. “Miles,” she said, “you were uncharacteristically distracted today, and it’s not like you to be absent.” He sighed and closed his eyes to stave off a headache. Wasn’t it just like a woman to come around when you no longer desired her? “I’ve had a lot going on,” he said. “I don’t know where to begin, but it all started—” “That’s all right, Miles,” she said. “That’s all right. I just need your assignment.” He opened his notebook, plucked out several pages and proffered them. “Is this enough?” he asked. “Yes,” she said, “it certainly is.” That evening Miles was blocked entry to the Terrace by two men, each the size of a small car. “Sorry, man,” said one of them. “Orders.” “Isn’t this overkill?” said Miles. “It can be,” said the other one. “That’s up to you.” Miles sat on a curb in front of the bar and succumbed to inspiration, scribbling wildly in his 27

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notebook until the sun dropped lazily into the Potomac. II He slept until noon the next day, and he barely had the energy to drag himself across campus to the Sandwich Nook, where he forced down an egg salad on croissant, two orange-cranberry scones and a hazelnut cappuccino. Contrary to his mood, the sun shot warm lasers across the commons when he exited the restaurant, and he took shelter on a circular cement ledge surrounding a poorly landscaped micro-jungle of junipers and dwarf pines. Refusing to leave until the sun relented and forgetting just how stubborn the sun can be, he fell asleep on the ledge, which was not entirely unlike his cot back at Village A. Even nature was against him, he realized, as he underwent an aerial bombardment—leaves, berries, insects. He swatted aimlessly with his notebook, eyes closed, until something larger, heavier and more painful, like a mid-sized rock, grazed his left shoulder. Bolting upright, his notebook slipping into the compost, he found himself staring at a distant figure outlined by the sun, holy and magnificent. “I thought you were dead,” yelled Afsoon, outfitted in dark glasses, a trench coat and a purple fedora. “Here.” The note she had wrapped in a larger rock landed somewhere in the dirt behind Miles—his heart murmur had precluded him from playing sports as a child—and by the time he fished it out she had disappeared. His breath quickened and his hands shook as he pried the paper loose and read: There is a flower stand at the corner of 35th and Reservoir. Miles shook the dirt from his notebook, shoved the paper into his pocket and glanced around; he could not risk being followed. He headed up P Street toward 35th, but between the sun’s heat and the psychological scars he retained from being lost for several hours during an Outward Bound camping trip with his father, he grew disoriented. “Pssst,” a laurel bush hissed at him sharply. “Where are you going!” “I’m lost without you!” Miles pleaded with the leaves as passersby stared. “Be quiet!” snapped the bush. “My God,


Dorene O’Brien A Relationship in Three Acts you’re difficult. Just meet me at the Coffee Grind at fifteen hundred hours. Can you find your way?” “I-I-I think so, my beloved product of photosynthesis.” “All right then.” “One more thing, my veiled vixen of vinery,” he whispered, “what time is that?” The bush sighed and said, “Three o’clock.” At fifteen hundred hours Miles found himself seated at a small corner table he had paid two students ten dollars each to abandon, and he stared at two pieces of baklava on the plates before him. He would not eat until she arrived; in fact, he would go on a hunger strike until he saw her again. Her entrance at fifteen hundred fifty hours was bittersweet; Miles was overjoyed at the appearance of the hideous fedora yet unconsciously understood that a dark period of artistic expression was forever lost upon its appearance. “Darling,” said Miles, “allow me to kiss the hand of your choice at once.” “What’s this?” She stared at the pastry. “A simulacrum, I’m afraid.” “A what?” “Certainly not what you’re accustomed to, but this country’s best attempt at pistachio baklava. I’ll take it back.” She grabbed his wrist lightly when he reached for her plate and he let out a small cry. “Leave it,” she said as she slipped off her sunglasses and attacked the cake. “There’s something you should know.” She pulled the hat flap over her face and, peeking around it, surveyed the coffee shop. “Things are not always what they seem.” “What do you mean, my little falafel?” “I’m not really Iranian.” “No wonder you didn’t recognize the pastry.” “I wasn’t a political prisoner, either.” “That follows.” “My real name is Ramona, and I’m in serious trouble.” “Any idiot could see that,” he said, reaching for her hand only to have his slapped away. She scraped the dregs of phyllo from her plate. “Can I trust you?” she asked. Miles suddenly recalled Jimmy Buffett’s steely eyes, his long vigils at the bar. “Can you trust me? I waited for you night after night at the Terrace, even attacked the man you said was fol-

lowing you.” “Attacked him?” “Well, in a manner of speaking.” “Never mind. I have no choice but to trust you. If you turn me in, so be it.” “I’m not hearing this!” Miles cried. “I’ve been nothing but a most loyal follower, although I had a few problems with the following part. Nevertheless—” “Pipe down!” said Ramona, pulling her hat brim forward to conceal her face. “Do you recall the incident at the animal lab?” “Which one?” She narrowed her eyes as if just then realizing the obvious. “I can’t be more specific than that until I know you’re not wired.” “Would you like to frisk me? I wouldn’t mind.” “I don’t think so.” “What if I talk and you just nod?” Ramona winked, and it was then that he noticed the large birthmark at the crease of her left eye. He’d forgotten how pretty she was, front teeth notwithstanding. “Last month most of the animals were released or stolen,” he said. “The lab was trashed and Professor Nettles was bitten on the left testicle by an escaped rodent who had been sleeping on his chair.” “He was?” “That’s not public knowledge. My father’s a friend of his.” “I see where your loyalties lie,” Ramona stiffened. “No, no, my heroine of the downtrodden. That rodent could have bitten off both testicles and I wouldn’t turn you in. Professor Nettles has already propagated, and none too happily.” “Created more meat-eating elitist brats born with silver spoons in their mouths, no doubt.” Miles took exception to this since it described him precisely but for the meat-eating part—he had been unable to get a good steak since leaving Scarsdale to attend Georgetown U and so, in a textbook deprivation move, became a vegetarian. “Only two brats, my darling,” he assured her. “I’m thirsty. This pastry.” She then enBotticelli Literary and Art Magazine

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Dorene O’Brien A Relationship in Three Acts tered into a coughing jag that had every occupant of the shop either staring or offering assistance. “A double mocha latte with whipped cream and caramel,” she managed. “Grande.” Miles fetched the drink and the fit ceased shortly after she raised the steaming cup to her lips. When she dabbed her watering eyes with a napkin printed with antique coffee grinders, Miles noticed that the birthmark was gone. “Listen,” she whispered, “it’s not only campus security on the case. They’ve called in the police, the Secret Service, even Scotland Yard.” “Scotland Yard?” he said with disgust. “Europeans want to get in on everything.” “We aren’t supposed to know. Some guy there’s a specialist in subduing animal rights activists.” Miles realized then what he’d dreaded realizing all along. “We?” he asked. Ramona slapped her hand to her mouth as if to recapture the words that had escaped only moments before. “Just tell me that you think of me when your hand grazes that of the man who unlocks cages beside you, that as you look up from the blueprints of the Leavey Center it’s my eyes and not his that you see.” “Sure,” she said. “Okay.” “Say...did you have anything to do with Gandhi?” he asked, recalling the life-size fiberglass cow painted like a butcher’s shop poster and covered with vegetarian slogans linking beef consumption to heart attacks, cancer and impotence. It had been bound with barbed wire and duct tape to the food counter in the main cafeteria the week before, and the cafeteria was closed until a SWAT team confirmed that it had not been rigged with explosives. Students had affectionately named the anti-carnivore cow after the slain Hindu passive resistance icon, but the dean was irate and threatened immediate expulsion to the perpetrators for not only breaking into the cafeteria but for their seditious response to the school’s menu selections. At first Ramona looked confused, but then nodded knowingly. “Yes,” she whispered, nodding slowly. “Why, my love is a master of bovine design!” “Well, I don’t know about that,” she smiled, 29

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gazing about absently until her eye caught something just beyond Miles’s right ear. She gulped down the remainder of her coffee and rushed into the restroom. When Miles glanced behind him, he noticed two campus security guards staring through the café window. After waiting several minutes, heart pounding, wondering why they had neither entered nor left, he asked a woman newly seated at a neighboring table to check the ladies’ room for a short dark woman with a crooked nose wearing a trench coat, black sunglasses and a purple fedora. The woman collected her espresso and moved to a distant sofa. One was always alone in these matters. Miles knocked quietly at the women’s restroom door and cursed himself for not creating code names and passwords. “Ramona,” he whispered, but heard nothing. He opened the door slowly and stepped inside. The light rustle of toilet paper escaped from the only occupied stall, and he immediately entered the one beside it. “They’re still out there,” he whispered, “but don’t worry, I have a plan. We’ll switch clothes, then you can escape while they’re apprehending me. Stand on the toilet and look over—you’ll see that I’m not wired.” “I don’t think so.” Just as Miles flung his John Coltrane sweatshirt and Land’s End Dockers on the wall between them, he heard her door click open. “Wait,” he cried, stepping out of the stall in his underwear and sneakers. “I need your clothes.” Standing before him was Professor Buckminster, who had stopped in to relieve herself after a three-hour Poetry and Ethics seminar. When Miles reached up to retrieve his pants, he noticed that the window above the sink hung wildly askew. “I thought you were someone else,” he said while slipping his pants over his Converse All Stars, Professor Buckminster standing before him, mouth agape. In his rooftop apartment that evening Miles stared at the Potomac and considered throwing himself in. Damn his father for teaching him to swim, although not very well. He imagined himself impaled on the Washington Monument, then turned his attention to the Lincoln Memorial. He flipped open his notebook.


Dorene O’Brien A Relationship in Three Acts How I long to sit in your safe and secure (yet cold) lap High on your pedestal. How I envy you your stone heart, Your panoramic view You’ve seen her, perhaps you watch her even now But that will forever be your secret Damn those marble lips! O Captain, my Captain! Part them just once for me! Miles Beauregard, a bad poet who had trouble enlisting human allies, often invoked the aid of inanimate objects. He secured his notebook to a loop of his Dockers with a rubber band and haunted the connecting catwalks of the apartment complex. Maybe she was looking for him; it wasn’t impossible. He threaded through crowds on several of the public decks, finally giving up and sulking back to his apartment, where an urgent telephone message from his father awaited him. It wasn’t until he returned the call and his father relayed in minute detail his conversation with Professor Buckminster that he realized what an opportunity had been lost with his old flame that very afternoon in the women’s restroom at the Coffee Grind. Imagine if Ramona had not slipped through the window—the three of them together—it was too much. “I made a mistake, Dad. Those symbols on the doors look an awful lot alike.” “Of course,” said his father, “your astigmatism. But that doesn’t explain your requesting her clothes. Son, are you a cross-dresser? It’s perfectly all right if you are, you can tell me.” “No!” Miles yelled into the receiver. “I was helping a friend, but I can’t tell you more. My line may be bugged.” “Why would your line be bugged?” “This is Washington, Dad.” “Do you want me to come down?” “Maybe after finals. I’m under a lot of pressure right now.” “I understand. That’s what I told your professor. I convinced her not to go to the administration with this.” Miles grinned. So Buckminster did have a thing for him. Miles did not see his beloved for fifteen days, dur-

ing which he wavered between creating a new obsession and devoting the rest of his life to her memory. If he began to admire Professor Buckminster’s calves or entertain doubt concerning Ramona’s role as a subversive, he quickly contemplated and then wrote about her limpid eyes, her snaggle-toothed smile, her chocolate birthmark. Her close brush with Scotland Yard—even the story about being a political prisoner could be true—made him realize his amour was living the kind of life about which he only dreamed. III He stayed in bed until three o’clock on the sixteenth day of Ramona’s absence, and that evening threw on his Latin quotations sweatshirt, cargo pants and boat shoes before heading toward the union, where through the window he glimpsed her sporting a blonde wig and a red and white checked sundress. She was playing pool with several men, and when she drew her body across the table to attempt a long shot, he lost his breath— maybe it was his asthma, but certainly the picture of her draped seductively across the felt had at least triggered it. His heart leaped and his energy returned; he nearly opened the thick glass door with one hand before bounding toward her and without preliminaries kneeling down to kiss her left pinkie as she’d slithered from the table. “My love,” he exclaimed. “Mah gracious,” she said, her right hand fanned across her chest. Miles detected a bad Southern accent. “Who’s that?” asked one of her longhaired, beer-drinking cohorts. “We must go,” she said, casting her pool cue to the floor. When they exited the union, Miles seized her hand and cried, “Ramona! How I’ve—” “Actually,” she drawled, “mah name is Kits.” Miles was immediately deflated; sixteen long days of pining after a woman who within seconds after reunion becomes someone else! “Really?” said Miles, dropping her hand as if it were infested. “I suppose you’re going to tell me you’re running from the Polynesian police for performing the hula without a license, or that you’re a visitor from the planet Zoron on a Botticelli Literary and Art Magazine

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Dorene O’Brien A Relationship in Three Acts mission to colonize the Earth, or that you masterminded the imminent downfall of Microsoft.” Kits collapsed onto a decorative bench in front of the campus bookstore before pulling an embroidered handkerchief from her checkered clutch and dabbing the corner of her eye where the birthmark had once been. “Mahles, sweet Mahles,” she cried. “I know A’ve been dishonest, but you must believe Ah had a good reason. Can you eva forgive me?” When she touched his face, Miles extracted his inhaler and took several puffs. “I suppose,” he said, “just promise me one thing.” “Enna-thing.” “Lose the accent.” She glanced around. “All right. I needed it to fool the Secret Service,” she explained. “I told them I’m from Georgia.” “Why did you do that?” She sighed deeply. “So they wouldn’t think I’m from Georgia.” “Ah.” After several moments of awkward silence, Miles became desperate that she, growing bored or nervous, would attempt another escape only to return as someone else, so he launched into a desperate interview. “So you’re from Georgia,” he said, “the Peach State. Have you seen Flannery O’Connor’s personal collection at Georgia College? How about Charlemagne’s Kingdom in Helen—” “Are you testing me?” Miles bolted upright. “Of course not, my beloved chameleon!” “Well, I’ve been testing you,” she said, “with the political prisoner and animal activist stories, to see if I could trust you. Listen.” She glanced around cautiously, sidled up to Miles and pressed her lips to his left ear. His wheezing grew so rapid and erratic that he wasn’t certain he had heard her correctly when she said: “The Secret Service suspects I’m about the blow the lid off the White House, and they’re right.” “Explosives?” he ventured. “Not literally.” “Oh.” She sighed deeply. “Do you know who your father is?” “Of course I do,” said Miles. “A balding 31

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neurosurgeon with bad taste in clothes.” “No, no, do you really know? I mean, do you have a relationship?” Miles resurrected harrowing memories of learning to swim, the Outward Bound trip. “Yeah, I guess.” “Well, what would you say if I told you that you know my father as well as I do? That the whole country knows my father as well as I do?” Here she began to sob uncontrollably, and Miles thought her wise to forego facial ornamentation in light of her distress. He put his arm around her shoulder. “Watch the dress,” she snapped. “It’s not mine.” He studied the ebb and flow of her delectable mountains when she resumed sobbing. “My darling,” he said, “allow me to comfort them, uh, you.” She let him caress her shoulder with his left hand as he sucked on the inhaler in his right. When he regained his breath, he asked about her father. “Let’s just say he was a highly elected political official.” “Not Bill?” She waved her handkerchief. “That would be a cliché.” “Then who?” “Let’s just say it’s someone who seduced my young and impressionable mother on a threadbare mattress in a cheap motel in the red light district of Atlanta.” “Is it Tom Delay?” he asked. “He seems like someone who would do that.” “Don’t look,” said Kits, jumping from the bench and embarking on a brisk walk. “They’re behind us.” “The Secret Service?” said Miles, fumbling with his inhaler as he strove to keep up. “Bingo.” “Listen,” he suggested, “we need a plan. A place to meet after the enemy scatters us. How about my apartment?” “Are you crazy?” she said, moving her lips like an amateur ventriloquist. “They’ve followed you for sure. I’m amazed you’re not bound and gagged in a dank basement with electrodes stuck to your privates.” “Then where?” said Miles, panting from


Dorene O’Brien A Relationship in Three Acts the exertion of the block-long trot. “The juice bar in the Quad.” “That place is always packed!” “It’s easy to get lost in a crowd,” she winked and bolted across 37th, leaving him to the mercy of the Feds. When Miles turned around to give himself up, arms raised to expose the perspiration stains on his favorite sweatshirt, no one was there. He resumed his trek, stopping several times to puff on his inhaler, and when he finally found his way to the juice bar it was closed. He stared at the back lit menu board and sighed. He then fumbled for several long minutes with the rubber band on his belt loop before finally snapping it—his thumb would later require medical attention, he knew—to free his notebook before all inspiration was lost. Afsoon, Ramona, Kits! Les belles dames sans merci! My three ravenous fates, How you consume my heart, a pulsating potsticker How you weave the strands of my existence --not to mention my stomach-into a chaotic bundle of knots! Return to me, one and all And I will drink you in like a multi-grain, protein-rich Fruity-Tofutti.

alizing belatedly what their short-sighted encouragement of their daughter’s melodramatic childhood performances would reap, questioning after it was too late the Montessori mission and the Dr. Spock approach. They would encourage her no more and vowed never to attend a performance, although because she lived at home they were forced to witness her transformations into the character du jour, their secret, disparaging term for their daughter’s homework. Miles, who could not gather sufficient strength to embark on a personal search for Kits, hired a private investigator instead. When he learned only three days after submitting a $300 retainer that Gladys Thornsby was a college student at Georgetown U who disrespected her parents and who persistently engaged in melodramatic and ludicrous flights of fancy, he was filled with both pity and revulsion. He quickly opened his notebook and wrote a poem comparing Professor Buckminster’s hands to twin octopi that first embraced, then caressed, and finally ravaged him in the floating, milk-filled lake of Ardvisura.

Miles Beauregard, a struggling poet who unwittingly usurped and subsequently destroyed good poetry, spent the next week lulling about the juice bar, drinking carrot-mango spritzes and lemon-pea pod smoothies and writing bad poetry. The health drinks were energizing, and since they precluded him from generating the type of depression he deemed indispensable to clear thinking, he abandoned the juice bar for his cot back at Village A, where a search plan emerged in its entirety within seventy-two hours. • • • Kits, a.k.a. Ramona, a.k.a. Afsoon, was actually Gladys Thornsby, a drama major at Georgetown U whose father was a senior chemist at Dow and whose mother was an organ donor coordinator at Walter Reed. Both were disappointed in their only child’s avocation, blaming themselves for reBotticelli Literary and Art Magazine

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Juan Argil Nefertiti

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William C. Blome Proximity and Presence

PROXIMITY AND PRESENCE When you straddle me just that way, I have to think people are crazy to believe if mankind gets rid of the sun, we’ll all die like yesterday’s fruit. And what whip can winter ever hold that will flog the backs of lovers or crack their eardrums during a snowstorm outside this heated chamber? O proximity and presence are everything that is, including spheres turning on a star, apples falling from a tree, whips lashing against two kissing heads, and my waving sex closing in on the paradise that’s here and there. William C. Blome

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William C. Blome Red Sparks

RED SPARKS Walking inside a windowed concourse, moving from boardwalk to sea and above the ocean at dusk, I look out and down and spot my neighbor of six years ago framing my ex-wife for a photo before November surf. She’s still got those jumbo tits, though the value of her rubies is absolutely higher today than it was then; red sparks (seen now by a few folks other than me) play in and around the broken shells on the sand just to the left of where Great Headlights postures and poses for another picture. As the day keeps getting darker, I know everyone will see her sparks, and no one will be able to credibly say “I missed them,” or “They weren’t there when I just looked, and I looked hard as hell for a full five minutes.” William C. Blome

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Jessica Greving Maia the Wolf

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Stephanie Kartalopoulos La Fortuna

LA FORTUNA for my grandmother Not a quarter in your left hand, nor any Saturday standing in front of the fortune-telling machine. Not a poultice of warm spices soaking in the bath tub. And not a medallion etched with twigs and crows’ feet. I was still born the girl with the inward curve above my lip, eggshells lacing the edges of my fingers, a steady force toward uncertainty. And you are still folded in a hospital bed, your mouth opened like an over-ripe quince, and eyes searching for the nurse who dabs your ears with fresh perfume. No luck, no prayers, no lit candles on your feast day. Not even if I pour salts over your dearest forehead. Not even if I roll a handful of peas inside a sieve can I change this course. Stephanie Kartalopoulos

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Stephanie Kartalopoulos Flush, with Doll’s Eyes

FLUSH, WITH DOLL’S EYE

After Liam Rector

Against the flat of an Amish night. My low-ground too hard to absorb the burnt ammonia that presses my window against. Too armed against white noise aching the air. I am set against a till of yellow that’s been set against. And I am milk-toothed in this, and filled against my brim. In this, I am not even lean-to. But searching for a single note in the chemical middle: a medicine. A slithering against. My own approximate proof of intercession. Listless and against. I am alight against my fear of you. Star anise against a woolen voice, and locked in a mandolin case. A slippery parse to tell me that tonight, the space against my feet will become clover water. That I will stay here, as if too tacky and perfect to be up against. As if too steady for even a demonic spin to rip apart. Stephanie Kartalopoulos

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Stephanie Kartalopoulos Alabaster

ALABASTER The sky is like the kids’ dance, uneven and heavy, and the snow like their confetti, tossed without skill. There are no good movies and a string of nights too cold to do much else. I have fallen into this headwind and landed square in a dirty snow, my eyes witness to the unholy cold of another January. My apartment rings somber and empty, my body locked into uncertain hibernation. The tree beyond my bedroom knocks its graying arms, begs to come inside. Stephanie Kartalopoulos

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PULLED OVER Gretchen Johnson

With the radio tuned in to the hip hop station and the dial turned up, Haley Cole drove home from another late night with friends at Bayou City Café. Leaving the coffee shop after midnight, driving the fifteen miles home to Lumberton, and sneaking into the house without waking her parents was happening more and more frequently. She had become so used to the drive home that she usually started braking even before the Reduced Speed Ahead sign came into view, so on the night when she heard the siren and saw the red lights approaching her car, she had no idea why she was being pulled over. Gary Stockdale walked up to Haley’s car, knocked on the window, and made the standard roll down the window, please motion with his hand. Haley turned off the music, rolled down her window, and tried to remember how much her friend Carmen had paid when she got a speeding ticket the month before. “Do you know how fast you were going?” he asked. “I thought I was going the speed limit,” she said. Gary leaned in so close that Haley caught a hint of his breath, that unappealing mint and smoke combo that was common with smokers who habitually tried to cover up their bad habit. “Do you know what the posted speed limit is here?” he asked. “Yeah, fifty-five,” she said while avoiding eye contact with the eyes that were only a few inches from her own. “Yes, and I clocked you at fifty41

eight,” he said with an air of authority in his low voice. “Okay . . .” she started, seemingly confused about the situation. “So you were clearly going over the speed limit,” he said while Haley dug her fingernails into her palm to avoid saying something stupid. “Look, I’m not out to ruin anyone’s night, but we got to keep the streets safe here. That’s the whole reason for the speed limits.” He looked back at his squad car, scratched the hair just above his brow, and said, “I’m going to let you go on a warning this time, but I need to run your license quick.” Haley felt a wave of relief wash over her as she handed him the license. She couldn’t afford to pay a speeding ticket when she had just charged another pair of heels and still needed to buy a wedding gift for her cousin. After a few minutes, he was back, but instead of passing the license to her through the open window, he approached the car from the passenger side, opened the door, and got in. This confused her, but she knew she couldn’t say anything about this confusion to a police officer. “I just have a few more questions, and then I’ll send you on your way.” “Okay,” she said nervously. “What are you doing out at one a.m. on a Tuesday?” “I’m just heading home from a coffee shop.” “This late?” “Yeah, I have a test tomorrow, and I was studying with some friends.” “A test? You’re in school?”

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Haley wondered why these questions were relevant to a speeding-just-three-milesover-the-limit pull-over, but she felt like she had to answer. “Yeah, I go to Lamar,” she said. “And what are you studying?” “Political Science.” “Interesting. That’s what my wife did before she dropped out. She used to say she wanted to be a lawyer, but we got married during her sophomore year, and when she got pregnant with our first, she decided to put school on the back burner. Hell, I think she still blames me for that,” he said and chuckled. Haley didn’t know what to say. She certainly didn’t want to add much to the conversation and encourage its continuance, but she was stuck. Next to her sat a man who could charge her a lot of money if he decided to, and just like Haley had often exchanged unnecessary pleasantries with difficult professors, she knew she would have to talk to this officer. “Is it common for you to stay out this late?” he asked. “I guess so. I usually work and then study and then head home.” “The reason I ask is because most crimes occur between the hours of midnight and three a.m. Were you aware of that?” “Yeah, I guess so,” she said. “I realize you’re over eighteen, but being older doesn’t make you less susceptible to criminal activity. Criminals don’t card their victims before committing a crime. You know what I mean?” he asked and leaned in


Gretchen Johnson Pulled Over a little, seemingly trying to force eye contact. “Yeah,” she said. “Of course it’s your decision . . . if you want to stay out this late . . . if you want to form these kinds of habits . . . but it’s my job to ensure that you’re aware of the risks involved.” “Okay. I understand,” she said. “And you may think that driving just a few miles over the speed limit isn’t a big deal, but did you know that every mile-per-hour faster you drive ups your risk of being involved in a fatal accident? If you get into a head-on collision, even a couple of miles could be the difference between life and death. Have you ever considered that?” he asked and stared straight at her. Keeping her eyes straight ahead, Haley said, “I guess I never really thought about it, but I will now.” “What I’m saying is that the speed limits are a direct result of a lot of studies, and countless factors are taken into consideration when determining how fast a vehicle should be allowed to go on a particular stretch of road.” “I understand.” “This is just standard procedure when an officer, like myself, gives out a warning. We have to be sure that the driver is aware of the consequences of speeding, and I have to be confident that this is a one-time offense.” “It is. I promise.” “Good, good. Well, now that we’ve gotten all that un-fun stuff out of the way, let me change the subject. I don’t need to harp on the negative all night,” he said and chuckled again. All night? She wondered what

this officer meant. “So where do you work?” “Huh?” “You said you work before studying.” “Oh, yeah. I work at . . .” She briefly considered lying but thought it was possible that police officers had access to employment records, so she told the truth. “Dairy Queen.” “Oh man, I bet you have lots of fans. Who doesn’t like a cute girl with ice cream, right?” She shifted uneasily in her seat. “So is there any paperwork I have to fill out or anything before I’m on my way?” she asked. “Nope. You’re all good,” he said and smiled at her. “Okay, great.” “So does the Dairy Queen get pretty crazy in the summertime?” What was happening? Why was he extending the conversation? Haley worried that her parents’ car was starting to soak in the scent of smoke from this officer, but there was nothing she could really do. She was sitting in the driver’s seat, but he was in control. “Yeah, sometimes it does.” “I bet it does,” he said with a little too much enthusiasm in his voice for the topic of conversation. Haley looked over at him for the first time. She guessed he was in his thirties, but it was hard to tell in the dimly lit confines of the car. His face was almost attractive, but the badly trimmed goatee and the swollen skin under his eyes held him back. “So what’s your favorite thing there, or is it one of those situations where you can’t eat there anymore because you work there, and you know too much? If that’s the case, I don’t

want to know,” he said and smiled. “Oh no, it’s nothing like that. I eat there occasionally, but mostly I avoid it, not because it’s gross but because I try to be healthy.” “Right, right, here I am lecturing you about driving too fast, and then, in the next breath, I’m promoting unhealthy eating habits. I guess that’s someone else’s territory, though, right? That donut stereotype didn’t come from nowhere,” he said and chuckled. “So what do you like to eat there? I’m always up for recommendations.” “I guess I usually like dipped cones.” “Nice and simple. I like that. I like that,” he said and nodded. “Well, it’s getting really late and—” “So do your parents visit you there a lot?” he said, cutting her off. “Once in a while.” “Are they still married, your parents?” he asked. Haley picked at the skin around her fingernails nervously and momentarily considered an attempt at escape. Where would she go, though? It was one a.m., and her car was parked on the side of Highway 69. “Yeah, they’re still married,” she said. “Well, that’s good. Sometimes I think the only reason my marriage has survived is because we have children. They can be a good distraction, you know?” he said and laughed again. “Oh, not to say that your parents aren’t happy. I’m sure there are plenty of happily married couples . . . not that I really know any. The problem with Shelly . . . my wife . . . is that she doesn’t under-

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Gretchen Johnson Pulled Over stand the difference between getting married and being married,” he said. “You know what I mean?” Of course Haley did not know what he meant. She was not married, was not a man, and was not a person who used his position to trap an innocent bystander into talking to him. “Not really,” she said and instantly regretted her response, realizing it would only widen the already lengthy conversation between them. “The thing about marriage is that it quickly becomes a huge cluster-fuck . . . sorry about the language . . . of disappointments.” Haley didn’t mind the f-word. She was a nineteenyear-old with nineteen-yearold friends and access to cable television. What he should have apologized for was holding her hostage in her own car, but instead he elaborated on these marriage issues. “For example, she wanted a dog, so I got her Clarence for her birthday, but apparently when she told me she wanted a dog she didn’t mean that she wanted me to get her a dog for a birthday present. No, what she wanted was to pick out her own damn dog. Like always, the dog I chose wasn’t good enough. She had her own specifications, of which she kept from me, so I was doomed from the start. Do you see the problem?” “Yeah.” “So I got her a pug, but she wanted a golden retriever, and I swear she takes her disappointment out on the poor fucking dog,” he said. Haley wished she had something to take her current disappointment out on. 43

“That’s too bad.” “Damn right it is, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I could tell you stories all day long about the crap I have to deal with. Let’s not even get started on my sex life . . . or lack there of.” Haley laughed nervously and said, “I think you’re right. Marriage is hard for everyone.” “And that’s the understatement of the night,” he said. “By the way, I’m Gary, Gary Stockdale. Since we’re getting so personal, it feels weird to not be on a first-name basis.” He held out his hand, and Haley reluctantly shook it. His skin was rough and seemed too warm on that chilly January night. “Your hand reminds me of my wife. That woman is always freezing. It took years of marriage before I trained her to not put her ice cold feet on my legs in the middle of the night. Nothing will shock you awake like that. It’s fucking horrible. The woman refuses to wear socks . . . some bull shit about feeling trapped . . . but I’m the one who pays for it. That’s marriage for you.” “Hmmm.” “Just think long and hard before you take the plunge. The pool is not as refreshing as you’d think.” “Speaking of married people, my parents are probably getting worried about me.” “Oh, right, right. I won’t keep you. Make sure you drive safe, and pay attention to the posted speed limits. I know kids like you sometimes forget this, but the rules are there for your own protection.” “I know. I’ll be more careful in the future,” she said and watched Officer Stockdale exit

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the car. She turned the car on, and, as soon as she could see the officer in her rearview mirror, she shifted the car into drive and headed home. * The next night, Gary Stockdale zipped up and down the two mile stretch of Highway 69 that separated Beaumont and Lumberton. Traffic was slow, and the steady hum of the highway under his wheels forced Gary to speak aloud to himself in order to stay awake. He turned off at the exit right before Beaumont, did the turn-around, and reentered the highway traveling north toward Lumberton. Since speeding kept his adrenaline high, he accelerated from sixty to seventy and then to eighty and ninety. He felt powerful, and he often wished that Shelly could view footage of him in his element, that she could see him racing down the highway, confiscating drugs from criminals, doling out DUIs, and contributing to in-depth investigations. Maybe then she would stop yelling at him when he came home ten minutes late or forgot to put the towels in the dryer. Right before Highway 96 intersected with 69, Gary spotted a maroon Honda with a white rear bumper, pulled up right behind it, and checked the license numbers. He turned on the lights and siren and waited for her to pull to the side. As he approached the car, Gary wondered what he would say when she rolled down her window. “Hey, Haley,” he said, trying to stall for a minute. “Was I speeding again? I thought I was under fifty.” “Are you aware that your tail


Gretchen Johnson Pulled Over light is out?” he asked. “Oh, gosh. No. I had no idea. I’ll get it fixed tomorrow. I swear.” “Good, good. If you just want to step out of the car for a minute, I can show you.” What was he doing? What would he say when she saw that the tail lights were just fine? He tried to stand tall and make his back straight, but after spending so much time in the car, he couldn’t command his muscles not to slouch a little. Haley unbuckled her seatbelt, resentfully got out of the car, and followed him to the back. “Oh, wow. You must have a flickering light. It appears to be just fine now. That happens sometimes. The strain on the vehicle when it’s in drive can sometimes make the lights flicker a bit.” “Oh, gotcha. Well, I’ll still make sure to change it tomorrow, just to be sure,” she said and started walking back to the car. How could he get her to stay and talk a little? He still had five hours left on his shift, and these midweek night shifts were growing increasingly tedious. “So you’ll never guess what Shelly did this morning.” Haley stopped just short of the door, turned around, and said, “What’s that?” “She criticized my bedroom skills and right in front of our seven-year-old. Of course, he was probably too involved in his video game to notice or care, but it was still pretty awful.” Why had he told this girl that? It’s true that his day had started that way, but Haley clearly didn’t care, and he looked desperate trying to make her care. Still, it was nice to talk to someone about these things. A guy doesn’t have an outlet for

these kinds of conversations. If he talks to his guy friends, he is mocked endlessly. If he tells a female friend, he is engaging in what women refer to as an emotional affair. If he talks to a family member, he is whiner who needs to be a man and keep marriage problems within the marriage, and if he talks to his wife, she will just remind him that it’s his fault anyway. Gary had managed to find a loophole, though. He could talk to Haley, and no one in his real life had to know the conversation ever occurred. “Wow, that is pretty awful.” “I know, right? She always says I’m not into it enough. Whatever that means . . . The problem is that she always wants to do it right after I get home from work when I’m exhausted and ready for food and sleep. Don’t get me wrong, I can get the job done, but this woman has seen too many unrealistic movies. I swear she expects candles and rose petals and shit like that.” Haley nodded, and Gary noticed that her hand was on the door handle, ready to pull it open and get away at the earliest possible opportunity. “I mean, what is it that women want, if you don’t mind me asking?” Haley hesitated and then said, “I guess she probably wants to feel beautiful.” “I tell her she is.” “Well, maybe that’s not good enough. Maybe she wants you to really go out of your way and show her.” “How would I do that?” “I really don’t know. It’s different for different women.” “Yeah, that’s the problem with

women. I’ve been married to Shelly for almost fourteen years, and I still don’t know what the damn woman wants. It’s just all so complicated,” he said and pulled a package out of his breast pocket. “Want some?” he asked, holding out the package. “Is that chewing tobacco?” “Nope, Big League Chew,” he said and placed a wad of it in his mouth. “That’s okay. No thanks.” “You’re missin’ out. It’s the best,” he said and smiled. “So . . . how would a guy make you feel beautiful?” He looked at her, studied her young face with its petite lips, blue eyes, and delicate nose, but he wasn’t really attracted to Haley’s simplistic beauty because he knew the nineteen-year-old version of himself wouldn’t be. He would never have noticed a girl with small breasts and short blonde hair. He had always preferred girls with more exaggerated features, girls like Shelly, and even fourteen years into marriage, Shelly’s unusually large eyes and voluptuous figure excited him sometimes. “I really don’t know. I don’t even have a boyfriend,” she said. “But you’re a woman. Hell, you’re only a little younger than Shelly was when we got married. She used to like it when I wore my uniform to bed, but now it just seems to irritate her, and she makes me shower before coming to bed so I don’t get the sheets dirty.” “I guess that’s just how life works. What’s exciting and new when you’re younger becomes annoying later,” Haley said. It kind of rubbed him the wrong way that this nineteen-year-old

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Gretchen Johnson Pulled Over was giving him advice about marriage. After all, what did she know? “So do you think there is a new set of exciting things that could happen after a marriage has been worn-in?” “I really don’t know.” “What if I did do those romance movie things? Would she even react, or would I be wasting my money?” “I’m sorry, sir. I don’t know your wife. I think it’s worth a shot, though.” Gary knew that Haley was employing the art of conversational disengagement, but he was determined, so he lumbered on. “I have a friend who watches porn with his wife, but I don’t think Shelly would go for that, and, to be honest, the idea kind of creeps me out.” Why had he brought that up? He casually kicked at pebbles with his boot, but one of them ricocheted off the side of Haley’s car, leaving him a little embarrassed. “Yeah, don’t suggest that,” she said. “So what does she mean when she says I’m not into it? My body works just fine in that department, if you know what I mean?” Yes, she knew what he meant, but she didn’t want to. She wondered if this officer thought they were friends, and she couldn’t figure out why this conversation was happening to her. “She probably wants you to be more emotionally present.” What the hell did that mean? Gary suddenly remembered Shelly saying something like that once, but he had brushed it off as another one of her insane pre-menstrual rants. “I think I know what you mean,” he 45

said, paused for a moment, and asked, “So how do I do that?” “I really don’t know.” “Can you just try?” He felt pathetic. He knew Haley wanted desperately to pull the door handle, get in, and get away, and he would let her go soon enough, but he needed these answers and didn’t know where else to get them. “Just think about what you would want. How would you want your husband to be more emotional?” “I guess you could just tell her how you’re feeling and be specific.” “I do that all the time. I tell her everything . . . like how the stupid compost pile in the backyard bugs the shit out of me. She thinks we’re being environmental, but our yard smells like crap. Seriously, you’d think banana peels and old coffee grounds and that kind of shit wouldn’t smell that bad, but it’s fucking horrible. I think the only reason the neighbors haven’t said anything is because I’m an officer.” Haley knew the feeling. “That’s really not what I had in mind. I mean you should tell her how you feel about her.” “That is how I feel about her.” “I mean the good stuff.” “Oh.” “Like why you love her, stuff like that.” “Oh.” “That’s what women want to hear.” “Like what? What would I say specifically?” “I don’t think I can help you with that. I don’t know your wife. Don’t you know why you love her?” Of course he knew why he loved her. Why did women always

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make things so damn complicated? He loved her because he did. There was really nothing more to say. “Of course,” he replied, and suddenly he wanted to be alone in his car again. He could continue this conversation with Haley on another night when they could start fresh with a new topic. “Well, young lady, drive safe, and be sure to get that light fixed,” he said and nodded to her. “Will do,” Haley said. * The next night, Haley pulled out of Bayou City Café’s parking lot around midnight, flipped the blinker on to enter Highway 69, and then changed her mind. She knew there was only one other way to get home and that it would add thirty miles to the trip, but, as Haley turned left onto the less traveled Highway 105, she felt a rush of freedom race through her. Five miles out of Beaumont, she opened the windows, turned the radio up, watched as the speedometer moved a few points beyond its legal limit, and delighted deeply in the pleasure of an empty country road.


FORWARDS TO CAMPUS POLICE Jack Gialanella

Sent: August 27th, 2013 2:48 PM Another message to the entire student body, …and, I’d like to add that this professor is no unicorn. He won’t prance for his students, won’t feign innocence while he wears a phallus upon his brow. He is the stallion-god, Pegasus. He tramples bad prose like it was a Gorgon. Each lecture is a Hippocrene draught. If, in the classroom, he were to stretch his wings to their full size, the casualties would be graphic as war. Rate- My- Professors flagged this message’s phallus; they’ve banned me from the site. I’ve performed the necessary phallectomy to please them. Perhaps, they’ll see fit to accept this sacrifice and lift my sentence of exile. Please believe me when I say: Ware! This professor is the Tyrannosaurus Rex of instructors. Streamlined, direct, he’s an apex editor; he bites right to the bone. Prima facie, his informal style will cause you worry, worry that his class won’t meet your expectations, the same way T-Rex’s stubby arms look unthreatening and leave you underwhelmed. Though, as he crashes through the broad, deciduous leaves of your error laden prose, you’ll soon realize that each of his stunted limbs can curl 400 editorial pounds without so much as a grimace. P.S. To this message, I’ve attached his name so you may view his contact information. I’ve included a link to a You Tube video so you may observe the gait of genius as he walks from his office to the bus stop. See him, the way I see him-- up close through a zoom lens as he sits at his living room window writing what can only be a masterpiece. Sincerely A dedicated student.

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Jack Gialanella Forwards to Campus Police

Sent: August, 29th, 2013 1:07 AM Hello, I was happy to see you this Saturday at the Buffalo Bill Days celebration. In your cascading (yet revealing) dress, you made a striking madam of the brothel. Your beard hardly poked through. Where did you learn to do make-up like that? I am sorry that I persisted so long in calling you Professor while you were in character. Thank you for correcting me. I know it was awkward.    I understand; you prefer to keep your stage life separate from your academic life. I admire the integrity with which you do so; I still have a welt from the slap you gave me—not that I didn’t deserve it. I admit that it surprised me; I remembered your hand being bigger. Anyway, you’re right; I should really learn to keep my hands to myself. I just got caught up in the moment. The way I tickled your chin probably drew the crowd’s attention in the wrong direction. I caught the tail-end of your can-can from the police cruiser. The handcuffs prevented me from waving. Even from that vantage I can tell that your flexibility is astounding.  I didn’t know the Police of Golden were permitted to participate in interactive theatre, but they put me in real metal hand cuffs. They didn’t even crack a smile when I told them my posse would be by to break me out. The next morning, they even gave me a souvenir citation with my name and a court date on it- you’d be amazed at how genuine it looks. Anyway, I meant to tell you all of this in person, but you must have missed the meeting requests I sent. On the way to your office, I saw you in the hallway. I waved. I thought you saw me too, but I must have been mistaken because you hurried off. I ran to catch up. I could have sworn you entered the restroom, and that makes sense. I followed you in but, when I looked for feet under the stall doors, they were all empty.

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Jack Gialanella Forwards to Campus Police

Sent: September, 3rd, 3:06 AM Dear Professor, I enjoyed your lecture today about violence in literature. Tonight, I find myself adrift in the humanities; A survivor from the shipwreck of the enlightenment. The sharks of progress swim just under the surface of this digital sea. As the tide shifts, it lays my denial bare; indeed the future will be a wave. I hope it was worth it, those lost in the mining, in the columbite-tantalite trade. Their sacrifice brought Noam Chomsky to our screens this year, and perhaps his message will muzzle the guns of revolution and keep blood in bodies, in its logical place, and off the ground—an equitable trade. I know not of worker conditions in early paper mills, nor of the violence of how ink was made, though I’ve heard rumors—squid, burnt bones, blubber, and animalglue. The pulped trees, were they a sacred site for the natives we’ve reserved? Did I write my first draft on a temple, a god, a relic sliced thin? Will what I say be worthy enough for it to lend me its magic? I now write on an African’s severed limb. New ink is blood; is slave sweat punched through a key. Those before me carved prose into flesh, into animal skin. A byproduct at first, nothing new, but what matter of time until it became profitable to just harvest the vellum? The way charity (to give away free smallpox blankets, to leave a feast of skinned buffalo on the plains) is sometimes profitable. Species were battered through the far gate of extinction just to give me a place to put a thought. No wonder it is so much pressure to look at a blank page.

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Jack Gialanella Forwards to Campus Police

Sent: September 5th, 2013 8:31 AM Hello, The morning commute depressed me. I calculated my average speed (no small feat as I switched lanes, mouthed silent curses, and gesticulated in stop and go traffic) in order to predict the time it would take to traverse the next mile. By the time I completed my double check of the math, I was on the exit ramp and filled with dread. Every thought I’d had in the past 10 minutes depended on a sound theory of optics, accurate navigational equipment, and an inductive leap that my equipment and the measurements displayed on each silly dial represented some reality in the physical world. All that precise math yielded mere approximation. My definitions, I realized, were relative and meaningless outside of a coordinate system. What had I been doing with my life? My own death made eyecontact from across time. “Traffic”, it said. “The human condition is reproduced without distortion in traffic.” “No wonder we drive like assholes.” I replied and looked away. Reduced to a mere function—after all, what else could an asshole be?—a malaise set in. Crushed by Humean uncertainty and Kantian noumenality, I hunched, compartmentalized in my vehicle and boxed in by my subjectivity. I prayed to the gods of caffeine, open-roads, and even to Hegel to deliver me. My call, they said, would be taken in the order in which it was received. Unlike the freeway, the path to salvation is a razor’s edge with a single file line. I had time to kill so I stopped by your office. You door was closed. I sensed the emptiness behind it, so I didn’t knock. Later, on the bench-seat downstairs I practiced my Om. I lay splay- legged and I free-associated at a modest but energetic volume.  The girls scooted away—I was sad to see them go—and, the boys followed, as they often do. Finally, an officer arrived. “I love a man in uniform,” I said. It was the first thing that came to mind. Sincerely

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Ryun Harrison Void of Course VOID OF COURSE Sphere in void. Form the mournful pallid Crescent of scythes and sickles. Diane--Hecate, What awaits in those gardens, Weighted by poisoned fronds? A gesture Illustrated and known, crowned man To virgin boy Of secrets one mustn’t utter, White clad In pure tainted Linens-Sacrificial saccharine stains, Cream. Imprinting minds Thralled toward him-Wild tongues and hair, Tamed from rough practice. Blush Ridden cheeks, the groom caresses-Learned repetition, repeating old verses. Opposite sex to opposite sex, Dance to sun cycles; the warmth of history. A priest’s imposing proposal Burns on naked skin. They are New in make and model, These two carrions that leach, Or so they say To blind soiled Sheep, the origin of modern mystics. Ryun Harrison

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Max West Green All Around Me

GREEN ALL AROUND ME Green is falling All around me Bright green sun Breaking through The rain Spring is coming Today Green breathing Of grass wind And the smell Of drinking leaves Green I’m falling In too Max West

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Kailey Rinder Figure Drawing Last Night

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Michelle Askin Midnight Mass, Saint Michael’s Anglican Church (Vancouver Island)

MIDNIGHT MASS, SAINT MICHAEL’S ANGLICAN CHURCH (VANCOUVER ISLAND) The priest anoints you with oil, says in Swedish, Go on with calling of the Lord. But you hear nothing in your lonely walk back through fleshy snow. The plow truck’s light illuminates the teal mountains. Someone’s sad story will begin tonight: kerosene spills on the gas lantern. Almost all the farm house wrecked. A year later, you’ll meet the woman, who will tell you the story of those hazel burn scars below her sexy eyes as you both wait in the church hall for fish and potato packages. You’ll have no story to return, where God took something away. You only broke your own home and your now ugly body, but that will be later. Tonight you sleep in the white crust—ribs hurting. Distant ashes and fiery coal warming.

Michelle Askin

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Michelle Askin So Many More (Pit Stop on the Way to a Distant Cousin’s Wedding)

SO MANY MORE (PIT STOP ON THE WAY TO A DISTANT COUSIN’S WEDDING) We stopped in a McDonalds thirty miles north of Toledo for milkshakes and burgers. That’s Willing, the woman corrected my sarcastic enthusiam when I asked my depressed younger brother about the football player five foot cut out: Who’s that? And how can someone be that much of a bug deal to earn the glamour of a hard body to loiter peacefully as the minimum wage workers inhale bleach and exhaustion on those yellow urine floors with the speaker’s muffled, faint sorrow of Roy Orbison and Elvis? I can’t remember anything from her, but that he dies. Underneath his cleats, in bold, Killed by a drunk driver. I felt sorry for her -- the sadness she seemed to be reliving, sorry for myself and the embarrassment, not really the boy. I did not know the boy. But that drunk driver who could walk in there any day and be met with guilt dressed up in a purple jersey and populat girl -- pep rally glitter, I felt sorry for whoever that was. Though i wanted it to be for the boy, I only knew what it was to crash and hurt. To be shut away. Later we would drive into Bay Mills, Michigan and into the smell of salt water and reservation’s church incense and lit firework sparks on display at a grocery mart’s tent. My brother, at nineteen, still looked like a child sleeping against car glass and warm drizzle. And there are too many places to drive through, too much softness and harm to inhale all at once in the month. Michelle Askin

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SIMON PERCHIK INTERVIEW Simon Perchik and Andrew Peña Andrew: I read that a lot of your inspiration comes from photography, are there other forms of imagery that inspire you such as film or paintings?

Simon: For better or worse I stay with photographs. But I am selective, trying to get the best photographers. Started with Larry Shustak and continued with MoMA’s Family of Man, and great photographers afterward. Andrew: Have you written any poetry inspired by more contemporary images?

Simon: Yes, most of my poems are from relatively modern scenes. Was inspired by Time Magazines Photography Collection (Documentary Series) which was a collection of photos from recent various issues. Andrew: Have you combined your history in law with your poetry?

Simon: As a lawyer I was trained to detect and resolve differences, to reconcile irreconcilable situations. That’s exactly what a metaphor does for a living. (I discuss this more fully in an essay Magic, Illusion and other Realities which can be found at www.simonperchik.com .) Andrew: You have many published poems, were you met with rejections? If so, did it change the way you approached poetry?

Simon: Rejections are a way of life. I don’t get emotionally involved with that end of the business. I treat sending out a

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ministerial act, giving no thought to what the editor says he/she wants and treat the rejections as if they were expected. I just send them out again. Of course I like acceptances better than rejections but I don’t let rejections interfere with the submissions or the writing. Andrew: What, in your opinion, makes for successful poetry?

Simon: A poem that moves you though you don’t know why is a successful poem. This is also something I discuss in the above mentioned essay If you will accept as a definition of poetry “Words that inform the reader of what cannot be articulated” then you look for a poem that makes you react though there is nothing on the page you can point to as the source of your reaction. Andrew: Who do you think your readers are?

Simon: Not sure I have any readers except for possibly the editors. Andrew: What do you think contemporary poetry’s relationship is to emotional response? How does this relate to the concrete narrative?

Simon: I think that by getting rid of rhyme we allowed the poets to be more emotional and not to be tied down with structure. Writing in the vernacular also allows the poet to reach the reader more closely and that honesty rather than craft should dominate. My own work has little or no narrative but I like to think that the

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reader is following my thoughts somehow. And if the reader can’t say what he/she understands was said, that’s perfect with me. But only if the poem did its job: move the reader. I feel the poet has a duty to heal the reader. If the reader feels better after reading the poem, what difference does it make if he/she can not point to the reason for the change. Andrew: How do you think social media has impacted today’s writers?

Simon: As for me, when someone wants to be my friend on facebook my first thought is, What cell block are they in. Andrew: What’s your opinion on print vs. digital and the effects of having access to everything at any time?

Simon: I favor digital. Print has so limited a readership and even less of a life span. Andrew: What do you think the greatest myth about your work has been? Do you find it characterized in ways that seem inaccurate?

Simon: This is a question I never dreamed I would be asked. Maybe if you told be more I could answer better. Am sure all these answers could be better and more expansive.


Simon Perchik

* With no ink and the nib learning to dry as shadows and a dark room –what you stroke are the words before they turn black then emptiness, then yet her name is not something you dig for a wooden handle squeezed tight –drop by drop swallowed the world.then row by row so this page on each side stays damp from dirt covered with fingers –you almost point though nothing moves not these walls, not what would reach around hid from your arms –this pen and in the margin Simon Perchik

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Simon Perchik

* These piles hold back :each finger embraced the way darkness covers a sky no longer needed and what you breathe out stays black till it cools closes and overhead the dirt shades you though clouds left in the open are useless now pulled along behind these bars used to hands growing huge in sunlight, in this makeshift prison filling with mist and shovels. Simon Perchik

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Simon Perchik

* These blades changing course veer the way all tears cut off, half scrap, half make it back as glass –don’t let the rain fool you or look for the edge by coming against another so no one can see the reeking from engine oil and faces wiped from between your fingers though every breeze calls out for caress, keeps dry as if by itself it could park this car tighter and tighter and when you touch it’s the silence that seems familiar a curvature made from nothing’s there, nothing’s working. Simon Perchik

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Simon Perchik

* These dead still need pills though the one rock you leave no longer reaches star to star –what they swallow is mist :a sea with its arch dissolved in this black dust brought back for silence and them –it could be done, already these graves are monstrous, all mouth, all lung and arm in arm begin to flower overflow the trees, the fruit, the dew with one more stone to weigh down the so much coughing –it’s how they breathe :a tiny flower with just enough force undone for thirst and their eyelids. Simon Perchik

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Simon Perchik

* Your eyes are covered with grass with paths living inside my bones as waterfalls and distances though everything I say you mistake for gestures or when you walk slowly –it’s been too long! What you see has no snow, no between us you can grip as if it was yours buried with me the way each path is fed the narrowness beneath and overflows, trading places even now, even when you leave holding on to shadows and your arms become an open sore. Simon Perchik

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THE INNER STITCHES John Gorman

Welcome to Mamajuana City. Bask in the belching fumes, tiny smog monsters, as cars shoehorn through lanes and the constant, horn-blare suggest the sound of vuvuzela marking the rush hour. By Avenida Lijares, crusty-nailed men whisk off orange vests and cruddy helmets. Stray dogs prowl the rubble-ridden streets. At the foothills, they make the finest furniture: solid pine dressers, bookcases, and wicker chairs. The hills behind are dotted with mountain people trying to stitch a better life. They weave scarves and blankets then return to their squalor in the hills. They’re happy. In the open market, a young mother slumps on a stool, breastfeeding her baby while shoppers buy mangoes and frijolitos. Scattered on the floor is a rainbow of fruit and nuts. Chunky women weigh bags of grain and rice. Flies buzz in harmony. This brings us to the sun-baked boy, stitching soccer balls. He sits Buddha-still on the dirt with bloodshot eyes, zeroing in on his rubber meal ticket, whisking tight loops with his needle through the ball between his knees. He’s got surgical precision. His lithe fingers belong to a gifted pianist, but his raw knuckles are crooked, two nails spliced. Shattered huts, trash, and the stench of decay stretch languorously. While the boy takes a moment to rub his eyes, some punk snatches the ball, tucks it underarm and blazes off. He heads toward the hills. The boy jumps up, stutters two steps and slips on a mango rind— #%@*#. He wipes his soiled hand on his shirt, leaving behind smudge. Then he grabs a few more strips of rubber and stitches anew. Across the street, spindly boys kick a tattered ball back and forth. They bully each other, their hardened eyes and bruised cheeks have the deft touch of fine patina. Blur of dirt, and dreams so near, make them squint and scramble. They push, shove, kick and cajole. They carry on until a purple wound splits the ashen sky. Rain pelts the earth with unbridled malice. Two intrepid boys stay put while the rest rush for cover. A frazzled mother, clutching a tin frying pan, shouts indignantly from her unguarded window. She seizes a dishrag and wipes wet bangs from her hair. Her boy refuses to come home. 61

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“Chucho,” the small boy screams. Chucho turns. “Chucho,” the small one shouts again. The ragamuffins, who haven’t had the chance to escape, loiter by the street and watch the showdown about to unfold. “I got you Manito,” Chucho says, bouncing on his chicken legs, future warrior. “Spread out,” Manito says to his invisible teammates. Chucho crackles his knuckles and Manito pumps his legs, waist level. Chucho leaps, bringing his knees, kangaroo-high to his chest. They spit, snort, and kick dirt. “You shoot first,” Manito says. “No, you go,” Chucho rebukes. And they size each other up, two dripping boys fringed with pride. Manito guards the goal, lets Chucho take the first crack. Chucho kicks the ball a yard over the goal line, scrawled in marker blue on the wall. Then he nails the second one into the right corner. Manito dives, cannot get a finger on it and the boys, huddled underneath the tree, cheer. Chucho pumps his fist and Manito staggers, punch-drunk. Manito wipes his chin and rubs his heartache. Manito blocks the next kick, but misses the fourth, right between the legs and the kids howl, shattering the goalkeeper’s dignity. His blinking eyes, crackling into myriad pieces. He slaps his own cheek. Chucho teases, dribbling the ball between his mud-crusty inseams. The crouching Manito stumbles on the slick street. Chucho races to the ball, takes a wicked roundhouse kick. Manito stops the ball with the filthy tip of his toe, stares in wonder. They laugh it off, slapping hands. They blow raspberries at each other. Then Manito switches positions with his pal. Chucho takes over as goalie. He bends down as if ready to embark in strenuous prayer then leaps up. He wipes his soiled cheeks and chin, pulls snot from his nose and flicks at his jittery pal. Manito flinches each time Chucho snaps a flake of snot even though it merely melts into his fingernails. Manito dances around until he’s good and ready. He has more meat on his calves and hamstrings than his chicken-legged chum. There’s a vicious cut below his right knee,


John Gorman The Inner Stitches the sloshing rainwater makes it look like fruit punch. He peers over at the tree where his cowering compadres huddle, protected from the pour. Manito grits his teeth, flaunting his bottom canines, shark tips. He fires the first shot for a goal then follows it up with another. To celebrate, he does a whirly dance, nearly breaks his neck. When he finds his balance, he wipes his dripping wet hands on his waterlogged shirt and shakes the rain from his floppy hair. Manito scores a fourth in a row and Chucho slumps off, rubbing blotchy eyes, but Manito yells, “Send it back.” He fires again. Five goals. Chucho slinks off, head hanging, and Manito blasts into the unguarded goal. The kids stare in disbelief and horror. Manito goes into a frenzied spree and makes an obscene, loopy dance each time he pummels the wall. The wet thud of the ball, caroming off the wall makes a tortured plea. The stitches sheer and air slowly fizzles out. Manito keeps firing. With each shot that smites off the wall instead of smashing through the bricks, Manito seems heartbroken. He kicks with fury, hard enough to cleanse his soul of whatever sin his pint-sized body may’ve committed. His sharp eyes narrow in reckless ardor and his mouth shrinks into a slimy rictus, not a speck of joy. He winds himself tighter and tighter until he snaps his last stitch, tumbling over as a deflated ball. The sky sighs with relief, but seems to keep drizzling for the hell of it. Botticelli Literary and Art Magazine

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Jessica Greving Lost Sylvia

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E. Martin Pedersen Miss America

MISS AMERICA If you can’t read You could miss America You might drive right by If it really is as the billboards say, there’s a good excuse for a sale today drive-in, suck-’em in sale happy meal—happy price recliner sale sit back relax and buy buy baby goodbye convertible sale software overshoes the Bahamas When all goes well Babies are safe From harms Alarms In arms My God, how the money rolls in But then you die open your fist don’t be surprised to find lilies 4.79$ a dozen and a brochure on the family plan at the Happy Valley Cemetery: kids fly free. E. Martin Pedersen

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E. Martin Pedersen Waiting for the Bus WAITING FOR THE BUS Why don’t poets talk about the bus? The people on the bus The bus breaking down Looking out the window of the bus Waiting for the bus? that never will come We stood, it wasn’t right they’d switched the lines they’re always switching lines and told no one you just had to know, We didn’t so we waited watching the trees and tourists gum on the concrete sidewalk felt our sore feet didn’t speak the ignorant ones those left behind losers How can that chain-smoking man still be alive? or the ugly scowling woman, sister stole her man that pissed-off kid who can’t speak the language correctly, By what right? out of six billion cogs chipping on the really big wheel The prostitute’s well-dressed clients, for instance her only friends guests at her wedding to the priest’s bastard son, the blue-eyed bus driver; I look them over, their greasy hair honestly, I want them all dead Samson, bring down the house Hulk, crush the crowded bus Steamroller, clear the street, comin’ through. Otherwise what fun I’m missing, I could almost kill myself here waiting for the bus never came We never got on never went home never got out of the cold never had supper and a soft bed a human touch ever. E. Martin Pedersen

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E. Martin Pedersen 3 Gray Pleasures

3 GRAY PLEASURES I The sad joy of a curb the graded boundary, the sloped verge a smooth gray concrete suburban curb in California after so long so far away a mighty swim at that the trial and the prize a glimpse one last clean American curb. II A strong librarian’s lovely gray hair could teach about the stars and how they pull strict lessons with do-overs it isn’t real but, oh, To live in that hair. III I dropped my key To the bottom of the porta pot Reach down into the dung Years of build-up push past offenses and paper scraps Stiffening my arm Turning my head Holding my breath Pressing cautiously into the sinister unfamiliar dense wet lifesource to pluck out: a soft gray bone. E. Martin Pedersen

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Qisha Kendy Paper Planes

PAPER PLANES Never so many miles in this cosmic space Accidentally catapulted into the starred distance Living the dream of man’s history To see the heavens and so much more In an impressive bird We soar across blues and greens Alongside nature’s own airplanes Born to watch us from the skies Who inspired the first man that reached the sun The flapping ornithopter and the brothers of 1903 Our torpedo-like capsule holds steady Suspended between mountainous balloons Qisha Kendy

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Kevin McCoy Cheyenne Holiday Inn

CHEYENNE HOLIDAY INN A whole world inside the welcome basket Left at the front desk Of the Cheyenne Holiday Inn It’s stuffed with memos and mementos From the old days Before the storms A place to rest What an odd concept How much sleep will I really get? There is cable TV But what’s left to watch? Its glow no longer inviting Silent static snowing The thuds of work boots on the roof Something just ain’t right The cowboy next door pounding his head with his fists screaming Take me – I’m the one you’re looking for Kevin McCoy

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Caitlin Quirk Spaceheart

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Kevin McCoy The Marigold Moment THE MARIGOLD MOMENT a busy halo moistens a memory with a celestial smear of lights green & red & blue across the city night the marigold moment smiling smoking stained spoon cup & no saucer empty packs of fake sugar like discarded promises she says there’s always love & death – like shakespeare on a good day she hums lida rose & offers a hand & i refuse everything except her mouth wet & waiting aint but two things on my mind & she can’t guess the second i say – isn’t there any more? she says – don’t get cute i can see through your mask & she molds a mountain of spilled white stuff with a delicate pinky she takes what she wants her breasts proud towers protection from the likes of me she reads patti smith & the rastafarians nod in agreement we share a magic marlboro lips & smoke groping we inhale & exhale she asks for mine i give her mine my words poetry of crushing minutes your image is strong but your meaning is unclear i am smothered in eyes & i walk & sing & kiss her trembling always Kevin McCoy

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Kevin McCoy Rahway Prison

RAHWAY PRISON Fire belching dome broods In the summer’s soupy carpet That lays bare with bugs And beasts buzzing in the swampy breath Day light dies in a violent tongue of orange New darkness usurps its seat In the quaking fearful flesh Pitch fork shadows Punish those in the pit Screeching eyes The devil himself runs the show Stoking the inferno with souls Condemned to suffer To be impaled upon the spike Young eyes in the old car Speeding by Listen Torment And he sinks in the seat Trying not to look Kevin McCoy

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Kevin McCoy Kansas in the Corner

KANSAS IN THE CORNER look at old kansas in the corner everyone laughs they always do stared into the sun for too long went blind went crazy went way too fast on icy roads and drinks to dowse a burning mistake he says i remember the black and white days back in goodland the spencer girls in tight cotton dresses walking back from church in the sweet heat of summer shutters slapping the old henderson house most nights i could hear them before you were born the sky was sepia you’re hearing ghosts - old kansas in the corner he sits slouching with a bible and a bell the old man knocks one back and spins faster in the world of whiskey he says – i dug the earth for fifty years i’m a fifth generation to plow these fields but the crop is thin these days the red plains yawn under the new sun like beasts yoked for labor Kevin McCoy

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Kailey Rinder I Hope You Don’t Mind That I Like You

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DECEMBER 24TH Timothy Hanson

“All right, folks,” Mrs. Johnson said, clapping her hands together. “Who wants to sing Christmas carols?” For the residents of Westwood Retirement Home, this was the highlight of their year. As quickly as their weathered joints would allow, they rose from their chairs and formed a circle around the young nurse. Some laughed, while others babbled about Christmases past, their voices swaying between joy and sorrow. “Is this everyone?” Mrs. Johnson asked, her smile impossibly wide. “Okay, then let’s begin!” She led them with the delicacy of a kindergarten teacher, not correcting those who got the words wrong or sang their own songs. Halfway through “White Christmas,” though, she spotted an old man sitting by himself at the far end of the room, his face contorted into a painful grimace. Motioning for a nurse to take her place, she removed herself from the group and approached the huddled figure. “George?” she said, bending down to his level. “Aren’t you going to join us?” “…a fake one…,” he mumbled, shaking his head. Her smile faltered. “What?” “That damned tree over there,” the old man barked, waving his hand toward the Christmas tree in the corner. “Why’d you buy a fake one?” Stifling a chuckle, a talent one develops quickly when surrounded by such absurdity, she patted his shoulder and an-

swered in a tone reserved for the young and the senile. “I’m sorry you don’t like the tree, George, but we don’t want needles and sap getting all over the place, do we?” “I don’t care,” the old man said. “It’s a disgrace.” “George, don’t you want to sing with your friends?” “No.” “But it’s Christmas.” “I don’t care. Bunch of babbling, old fools. I want nothing to do with ‘em.” He folded his arms across his chest, never once allowing his eyes to meet her. “So you just leave me alone.” Knowing anything else she said would be met with the same reaction, Mrs. Johnson backed away and rejoined the others, their bright smiles a welcomed contrast to the brooding George Pedersen. All the while, the old man remained in his chair, staring at ------------------------------------the fake tree with its stupid star that wasn’t an angel and all the stupid red and green and blue lights that should have been white. “Georgie?” his mother called from the kitchen. “Georgie, could you hand out cookies to everyone?” George mumbled an excuse, his eyes never straying from the tree. “Of course he will,” Uncle Bill said—who would be ‘father’ after the wedding that spring—and patted the boy’s shoulder. “This little guy’s got some muscles! He could pass out a hundred cookies with

those arms!” Everyone laughed, except George, who remained anchored in place. Finally, after a soft push from Bill, he headed into the kitchen and grabbed the tray. When he walked back into the living room, he suddenly realized how few of the guests he actually knew. He was a stranger in his own house. “It’s so wonderful that everyone’s here for Christmas,” Bill’s mother said, grabbing a cookie, and although she was smiling, she looked three days past dead. “So wonderful with new family here, too.” How can she act so happy? She has to know this is probably her last Christmas. George knew these were not the thoughts of a typical elevenyear-old, but three years ago, his outlook had changed after the death of his ------------------------------------father, once so young and handsome, now looked fifty years older, his body ravaged by the merciless cancer, a predator the boy could neither see nor understand. Outside his hospital room, the wind screamed, making the frail man jump, but George paid it no attention; instead, he kept his eyes trained on his father, who would be dead within a week. “Dad?” George whispered. He didn’t really have anything to say; he just wanted to hear his father respond. “Yeah, champ?” The boy said nothing at first. Finally, he managed: “Will you be okay?”

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Timothy Hanson December 24th His father smiled. “Of course, champ. Your dad’s a strong guy.” Even then, George knew he was lying, that his smile was ------------------------------------fake.” George’s stare shifted from the ornament to his son. “What?” “Why do we keep getting real trees? I like ‘em better when they’re fake. Then you don’t have needles and sap all over the place,” the eleven-yearold said, staring indignantly at the needles littering the floor. George considered the boy’s point, shifted his gaze back to the ornament in his hand, and hung it toward the top, where a string of white lights shun brightly below a glowing angel. “I hate fake trees.” The boy sighed. “Why?” He didn’t answer him right away. Instead, he fetched another bulb and sought its resting place on the tree. “I don’t know how to say it,” he said at last. “It’s like pretending something’s real when it’s not. My dad used to say ------------------------------------“There’s something about the weight of the tree. The way it smells. The way it feels. It’s something that can’t be replicated. A fake tree might look real, but it’ll never be real.” This made sense to George, who had only asked the question because his kindergarten teacher had set up an artificial tree the day before and it had looked strangely out of place. “I get it,” the boy said, smiling. “It’s like when mommy gets a headache and says she’s okay but she’s really not.” 75

His father smiled back, that beautiful, beaming smile the cancer would steal three years later. “Yeah, kind of like that. It takes something away from Christmas, I think.” The boy’s smile brightened. “Daddy, I ------------------------------------love you,” Mother whispered in Bill’s ear, and a ravenous smile crept along his lips. The boy shuddered, thinking of their rendezvous behind locked doors, after which they’d remove themselves from the messed bed and carry his gifts downstairs, under the illusion that Santa had visited once more. George watched all this from beside the tree, which smelled nothing like the real thing. “Thank you, young man,” Bill’s mother said and took another cookie from the tray. “I still don’t understand why you people open gifts on Christmas Eve, though.” “My dad liked it that way,” the boy mumbled, the tray of cookies shaking in his trembling hands. But the old woman wouldn’t let it go. Speaking with a mouthful of mush, she continued: “Should be at mass on Christmas Eve, not having dinner and opening presents.” “Let me have this one thing,” George mumbled and walked back into kitchen. Slamming the tray onto the counter and startling the middle-aged couple in love, he thought, Let me have one thing that’s still real. Christmas Eve ------------------------------------isn’t Christmas Day,” his fatherin-law said. Meanwhile, his wife spoke with her sister in the

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kitchen, his son and daughter played with their new gifts around the tree, and his mother and stepfather sat silently on the couch, anxious to get home. Bill hadn’t said much that evening, other than agreeing with his grandson that real trees made a real mess, then looking at George and speaking with his eyes what his mouth wouldn’t mention: the Christmas Eve incident when George was eleven, their first Christmas shared together as a ‘family.’ “Because,” George said, “this is when my dad celebrated it. So this is when we celebrate it.” His father-in-law furrowed his brow. “But Bill said he didn’t like it, either—” “Bill’s not my father.” They said nothing more. In the living room, George’s son spotted a handful of fallen needles and brushed them away, as “White Christmas” ------------------------------------played softly in the background. Although the boy didn’t know it, this was his father’s last Christmas Eve at home. “Tomorrow is Christmas,” Dad said with George sitting on his knee. “Tonight is something special, the night when we can anticipate tomorrow, when we can gather around and usher in Christmas together.” The boy smiled, and his mother rolled her eyes. “Always the mystic,” she said, poking her husband. “You’re so corny.” They laughed and kissed sweetly. George rose from his father’s knee, ran to the tree, and stared at the spot where his gifts would soon reside, waiting


Timothy Hanson December 24th to be unopened, waiting to be experienced, waiting to see ------------------------------------the smashed bulbs, the broken lights, and the crooked star strewn around the tree. For a moment, there was silence, blissful silence, until the footsteps echoed up the stairwell. Soon, they’d be upon him, asking their questions, asking why he did it. The boy could’ve run, could’ve avoided their assault—but he didn’t. Instead, he stood by the wreckage, staring at the fallen tree, lying precariously upon the hearth, just inches from the roaring fire. Bill was the first to emerge from the basement, where the ‘family’ had gone to sing carols and drink coffee. His face—first alarmed, then angry—spoke the tale of the years to come, the distrust that fell between them, the chasm that never closed. “What happened?” It wasn’t so much a question but an accusation, one the boy was happy to address. The words had been on the tip of his tongue all night, and he was ready to let them spill—that is, until the herd joined the leader, and now standing behind Bill was his mother and a pack of strangers. All at once, everything he had wanted to say, everything about fake smiles and fake trees hiding the truth, fell away. His mother was the first to step forward. “George! Why did you do that?” Tears filled his eyes, but not one face gave way to sympathy. “I hate fake trees,” he whispered. “So I knocked it over.” The boy would regret

saying this the rest of his life, wishing he’d said something more profound, something like ------------------------------------“You’re masking tragedy with glee!” The old timers stared at the fallen tree. Some of them shouted threats, while others sobbed uncontrollably, a floodgate for tears accumulated over a lifetime finally breaking down. However, despite the outcry, the old man did not waver from his position. He stood indignantly amongst the shards of broken glass and the crushed, plastic star, glaring at each of them. “George!” Mrs. Johnson hissed, stepping forward from the masses. “Why did you do that?” Like before, the old man found himself speechless. He tried repeating what he had said following the crash, but couldn’t. Instead, he fell back onto old habits, mumbling tired excuses. “I hate fake trees,” he whispered, and folded his arms across his chest. “I told you that before.” “George,” Mrs. Johnson said again, any sign of her once pleasant façade now gone. “Answer me. Why did you do this?” And although he tried willing them away, the tears came, coursing through canyons of aged flesh. “I did,” he said at last. “We act like everything’s okay, like nothing’s changed. But it has. Everything’s changed.” His hands formed trembling fists. “And all we do is stand around, singing songs, pretending we’re not going to die, when most of us will be dead by next Christmas.” Mrs. Johnson gasped,

and several new voices joined the chorus of sobs. The old man found gratification in this, but still, it did not stop his own tears from spilling. “I told you,” he growled, glaring at Mrs. Johnson, “I hate fake trees.”

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Caitlin Quirk Headaches

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Rose Maria Woodson How I Came Back From the Dead

HOW I CAME BACK FROM THE DEAD Breaking symmetrical quatrains & spider webs. Asymmetrical. A rusty moon strained through a bare branched sieve. That Mars-Red churning beneath my cool white dress. Rose Maria Woodson

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John Repp Natural Resources

NATURAL RESOURCES Every day, I cheer the grey light whether rain or no. No longer many things & phenomena. Skinny shirts dominate hearths across the land. And the ridiculous hats now! Not to belabor the need for depth, but it’s not enough not to invest in Brazil. They drill deep wells in Madagascar, or will till the fragile primates drop from the trees. We danced wet & red every Thursday in Bethlehem. Joanne once said the band would never let us go. How could she know losing her lighter would last so long? John Repp

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John Repp Rapid

RAPID We love rose petals, rapid telescopes (Jupiter! Neptune! The Sea of Tranquility!) & skunks that free-fall into jasmine echoes. We’ve heard pine trees damp from a downpour of brown sugar scream Be kind to cactus! That rattle? The loose wing nut of pain. Remember: To junk terrified German Shepherd fur, don’t wade in hatred—spread daffodil deodorant because the smoke of justice will never make the cruel tender nor the innocent free. John Repp

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John Repp Aunt Tessie, Tomato Flats, Late May

AUNT TESSIE, TOMATO FLATS, LATE MAY Snake-fingered, scaly-palmed, she wields a trowel on the red clay, her mother’s blue kerchief tied under her chin. Black as bitter chocolate, Cuyahoga mud gleams in her mind. I say Why buy topsoil? The creek’s here. Why don’t I dig some mud? You’re the dud she says. I’m the one having fun. John Repp

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John Repp Nottamun

NOTTAMUN Up there, the ceiling. Down there, the crooked second toe. Nearby, a photograph half burned away. A list of imaginary baseball players. Wherefore tears? Wherefore laughter? What place is this?

John Repp

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Napier Create and Destroy

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Colin Dodd (The Dead Spill-O Scrolls)

(THE DEAD SPILL-O SCROLLS) So, why does Spill-O marginalize himself thus? Because you can’t tell secrets in paragraphs— when everyone is listening. He’s at it again, compiling a manuscript deep in the desert of the world’s concern, so when they find his hairy glacier of a corpse, there will be something for his stiff finger to point to. He used to owe his debts to silence But then began a ringing, a singing with a science. He was dizzy through the night and into day And now it seems he has bells to pay. Spill-O remains convinced that rhyme will awe the animals. And he calls late at night to swear that he wasn’t just being an asshole poet this time. The sign on 34th Street really read 99-Cent Dreams, and that someday, all those bounced checks are going to be worth something. Colin Dodd

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Colin Dodd (Spill-O’s Career - Some Questions for the Boss)

(SPILL-O’S CAREER—SOME QUESTIONS FOR THE BOSS) Twenty years of self-portraits. Three point two million memos to self. Spill-O stands all the way back. He looks at Standing back. He looks at looking at things. Something more drastic may be needed. The sky shows no cracks. And he cannot conjure even a phony fervor. Spill-O’s usually on his own side. But tonight, he has some questions for the boss. Colin Dodd

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Colin Dodd (Spill-O’s Prophesy Readies Itself)

(SPILL-O’S PROPHESY READIES ITSELF) A voice told Spill-O that there is a New York City in all eleven dimensions That there is a real reason they called it the Manhattan Project And the eleven dimensions, the 128 senses— there is a natural passage to these places They kept coming, insights with the rank whiff of real mental illness about them Tied to his noble work with a dirty string Spill-O stepped out onto Twin Cheeseburger Plaza and wondered what would be asked of him Colin Dodd

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Riki Matsuda Let it be Told

LET IT BE TOLD Let it be told again that she survived a beauty dressed in taupe and teeth under a choked collar that tightened with age which always made her think that she breathed too loudly disturbing the next room even though all was quiet and they moved years ago to a different hole where they forgot about the girl who cried too hard. and maybe this one? but I don’t know how this works. Riki Matsuda

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Juan Argil, Elana

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Riki Matsuda Outside my Stoop

OUTSIDE MY STOOP If you were swallowing The world whole I couldn’t have stopped you. Even if I knew you’d drown, I would keep my tongue wrapped Up and watch The speckles eat you alive. And even after I had let you Die, I would play my role as a coward And stand idly by Because I don’t know how To do right even if I know what right is Even though you’ve never asked the World of me. I give you words and you give me Less and less time To apologize for not being Alone when you were, For feeling less and less for you The more you searched for me. I am a half person. thank god you left before becoming me Riki Matsuda

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THEMATIC DEVELOPMENT Julie Struck

My first lessons in everything, including art, are learned from my mother. She teaches me that the best art is of things that are real, and that the job of an artist is to make those things look perfect. This somehow makes them better, but incredibly hard to believe, at least for me. Because of my mother I also grow up believing that the best artists are men with foreign names like Michelangelo and Leonardo. There is also an American named Norman Rockwell who paints sentimental scenes I never once witnessed in my childhood – like a loving family gathered peacefully around a Thanksgiving table, children who humorously submit to the attentions of those who hurt them on a regular basis, like doctors, dentists – and fathers – and little girls who are able to sit in front of mirrors, in their underwear, unmolested. I do not learn the value of art that is non-representational until I am well into my twenties and taking my first college art course, Basic Design, held at a local community college and with classmates who are at least seven years younger yet much more knowledgeable about art than I – which is why my intimidating instructor has me alone enthralled with projected slides of artworks consisting solely of splashes or unrelieved expanses of color, pieces I know my mother would instantly dismiss as mediocre if we still talked about art, which we haven’t since I chose to enroll in college art classes. 91

Abstraction is hard, my instructor states, because all you have to work with are formal elements such as color, texture, value and shape. And viewers of art have a difficult time with abstraction, he goes on, because there is nothing real there to tell them what to think and feel. And that is precisely why I admire abstraction forever afterward. In order to appreciate it I must rely on perceptions and instincts alone, which teaches me to begin trusting myself – at least in terms of art. I gratefully accept the B I earn in the intimidating art instructor’s Basic Design class, and do not summon up the courage to take another course with him until Painting 2, several semesters later. But on day one my stomach drops and heart sinks when he announces we must choose a theme on which to focus. The word instantly zings me a decade backwards to those eyeball meltingly boring first paragraphs I agonized over in high school, on essays which earned many Ds. Desperately, I remind myself that theme, in art, means anything that visually or conceptually ties a series of works together. All I have to do is find something that has already made a significant visual impact on me, so I take a deep breath, anxiously examine my thoughts, my memory, my heart – and an inner voice whispers barns. I have been passing them en route to the community college, semester after semester, yet they never cease to fasci-

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nate. They stand isolated and alone, unused and uncared for, but somehow remain intact. As I rush by I imagine the busy, prosperous places they once were, what the property around them once was, what happened to the people who once worked and lived in and around them. I also shiver with a strange sense of recognition. So the next class period, while stretching my first canvas, I casually mention the theme I am considering idea to the painting instructor. But before I can get another descriptive word in after barns he taunts oh, ones covered in snow with little red cardinals perched on top? So, a few days later, just after Painting 2 meets I am in a car out in the middle of nowhere with Mr. Z, my slightly more approachable life drawing instructor who thinks he knows what I am talking about, and who wants to see one of the barns. I point at one looming ahead on the right, and he crunches his car to a stop alongside a huge decrepit structure in which empty doorways and windows gape. Adjacent, half-collapsed outbuildings cast long shadows on it that are dark enough to make anything disappear. And Mr. Z breathes Yes. It’s the contrast, isn’t it, and the shape and color of those shadows. Come back early in the morning or late in the evening when the sun is coming up, and shoot a few photographs to refer to and I feel my whole body relax with relief. On the way back to the college


Julie Struck Thematic Development we talk about the infinitesimal progress I am making on an associates degree in art, and impossible to even consider plans to transfer to a university upon graduation. Then Mr. Z ends a long, thoughtful silence with Why choose art when you are good at so many other subjects? And I surprise both of us by firmly and automatically replying: Because I have to. A title for those barn paintings doesn’t come to me until late that semester, in 20th Century American Literature, and while reading Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and the chapter in which poor Vardaman chants my mother is a fish. That new, sure inner voice responds with a resounding And my father is a barn – and all breath leaves my body, as if an invisible fist just knocked me flat. The day after Painting 2 ends, the instructor of it seduces me in the half-packed apartment he is leaving for more commodious, conjugal accommodations with a former student whom he marries in a few short months. Afterward, instead of the few words of endearment I expect he quips: So, do you do this often? No, I irritably reply, and roll off of him. Then he leaves me momentarily, pondering what I have just done as I turn towards his open bedroom window, notice the houses that surround his three-flat and wonder whether it is time to switch subject matter as I take in the cold, empty windows and abandoned entranceways– and

whisper look Mom, watch. My curse is remembering, despite the black hole of memory of anything that happens at home in the late 1960s. In fact, that Big Blank explain my exceptional recall of many events that happened both before and after it, including every familial tidbit of information I ever heard about how my parents met and why two such incompatible, immature, incapable of love individuals marry and stay miserably married for thirtyseven years. My parents were born and raised in Chicago, and attended Carl Schurz High School in the early 1950s. But they do not meet until the summer after graduation, at a party. They begin to date regularly thereafter and even though my mother’s parents vehemently oppose the relationship because my father is a Polish/German Catholic bohunk, and my mother comes from a Swedish/Norwegian Protestant family with illusions of grandeur. They fall in love. Well, at least my mother clearly does, as evidenced in a few photographs of her vulnerable teenage self looking up adoringly at my blankfaced father. Neither of them attend college the following fall. But before and shortly after they marry in 1956, my father is in the Army and stationed in Maryland, which sounds like heaven to me as a little girl. Thirty years later my father sits in a backyard swing with a beer and tells everyone assembled, including significantly underage grandchildren, that premarital sex was the primary reason he

married my mother. However, my mother always gives me the distinct impression that she marries my father out of desperation and competition when her sixteen-year-old sister becomes engaged before she does. I never hear either of my parents mention love, respect, or admiration for each other as an impetus for their marriage. I also never see my parents embrace with fondness. What I witness throughout my childhood is my father treating my mother like a worthless possession and with an overt sexuality that has nothing whatsoever to do with love. My father’s vocation, like his father and brothers, is working at The Phone Company, also known as Ma Bell, where he unhappily stagnates until he is offered and accepts an early retirement incentive package at age fifty-five. But my mother once told me my father had a dream of becoming a golf pro. He certainly watched enough golf games on television throughout my childhood, a singularly boring activity, it seemed to me. I was also vaguely aware that my father “wrote” because my mother once showed me a stack of paper representing a short story that my father began and never finished. But instead of making millions on the professional golf circuit, or getting his writing published, my father works his way from the bottom up at Ma Bell, first by climbing telephone poles and fixing things associated with them that broke during storms. By the time I am four or five he works in an office that has something to do with trunk lines (which I imagine as

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Julie Struck Thematic Development wires packed in old-fashioned steamer trunks). I know this is true because I remember going to work with him once, and the ecstasy and terror I felt perched precariously on his shoulders while walking past narrow aisles of tall metal walls intricately woven with colorful wires. I also have a copy of a rare photograph of my father at age thirtytwo, posing behind a metal desk with a Bell Telephone to his ear and one of those walls of wires behind him. He is blond, blue eyed, and still very handsome. Any little girl would adore a father who looked like that. But by the time I hit high school every evening begins with dinner table rants about college brats getting promoted over my father’s head, and vicious references to his arrogant older brother who completes a college degree at night school, which earns him a better paying job than my father’s at Ma Bell. I sit, trapped at our crowded kitchen table, feeling verbally beat up for being born and therefore making it impossible for my father to follow his dreams. I also feel absolutely furious. My father is an adult. He is in charge of his life, unlike me. My fists, hidden in my lap under the table, clench like my stomach does. Why doesn’t he do something about the things that make him so angry? I wonder for the hundredth time. And then my father does. I cannot pinpoint exactly when my father ceases to be someone I trust and love, and becomes someone I hate and fear. But it coincides with my Big Blank, and is connected to a rare con93

crete memory that happens in the middle of it. I am wearing a favorite blue plaid dress, with a little string bow that ties just under the stylish, high waist. But I don’t feel good about it, myself or anything else that is happening. In fact I am terrified and trying to embed myself as far backwards into a living room chair as I can, pushed there by my father’s murderous stare piercing me from the other side of the room. My mother is somewhere in the house, and so are many brothers and sisters, but everyone is ignoring us. Then, quite suddenly, my stomach heaves and I am sick all over that chair, and myself. This makes my father even angrier, but at least his Jesus Christ, why did you just sit there puking makes some sense. So do my tears and sobs, and so does my mother’s intervention and weak Now leave her be, she is sick for heaven’s sake. After she helps me clean up, I curl up on a round pink rug on the floor of my parents’ bedroom, making my slight body perfectly fit its curve, and cry myself senseless. It seems like from that moment on, my father commits acts of violence against every one of his children and until each of us leaves his house in our late teens – and never to attend college. Some of us are his special targets, including me, my brother John David, and my sister Mary. But I never see my father hit my mother. I hear and often watch him belittle her, demean her, yet he never raises a hand to her until he has worked over all nine of us while my mother

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chews a fingernail and disappears like a proficient magician, making what she does not see never happen. Now, twenty years after they finally divorce, my father claims to live a happy and satisfied life. After he takes a generous early retirement from AT&T (and in spite of vows that he will never remarry because it would be a sin) he becomes involved with a very nice barfly only ten years older than I am, and marries her in the late 1990s. Then he buys a house in Florida, invests in a racehorse, takes up gardening and plays golf to his hearts content. The last time I see my father is in 2008, at the last family party I ever attend that includes my parents. I sit in a cushioned lounge on my brother Richard’s porch and ask my father who sits in lawn chair opposite me Why on earth did you ever have nine children? When he sees the look on my face in response to his lame The Catholic Church, you know, and your mother always wanted a large family…He says something that is as close as I will ever get to an acknowledgment and apology for an appalling childhood. I have a lot to answer for. We never discuss the sexual abuse accusation I level at him in 1988. In fact, my father insists to everyone but me, to this day, that he doesn’t remember doing anything inappropriate with me or anyone else in our house. But I clearly remember a night when my father calls Julie, then lilts Juuuulaaaay, come heee-ere just as I am climbing into bed. My seven brothers


Julie Struck Thematic Development and My Father is a Barn and sisters are already tucked into theirs, including three-year old Joan who shares a room with me. My mother is once again nowhere to be found, even though she does not drive a car, nor has she ever had a job outside our house. I know that my father will not stop calling me until I come. I also know that ignoring him could be dangerous to both me and others in the house for whom I feel utterly responsible. So I slide back out of bed, my body rigid as a board. What, I cautiously reply over the upstairs railing and to my father who is stretched out on the living room couch, in the dark, in front of the flickering television. Just come here, he says. My tension dissolves into disgust as I stand before my father in a thin nightgown, knowing that the light from the TV must shine right through the flimsy fabric, outlining me as if I wear nothing at all. Change the channel for me he sneers, and I have no choice but to expose myself

further by doing exactly what he asks. But as I finish turning the knob and straighten up to return to my bedroom I refuse to look where his hand has just disappeared, or at his slackening face. It is the one thing that he wants that I have control over, and that I absolutely do not have to give him. But my father’s satisfied, sarcastic goodnight Juuulllaaaay follows me upstairs and into the bedroom where I lie awake for hours, vigilant and filled with impotent rage. Decades later, while trying to once again come to terms with and put my past to rest, I flip through several three ring binders filled with slides documenting every artwork I ever made until cameras went digital sometime in the early 2000s. Many of them were taken by that seductive art instructor, who also taught me how to label them using a specific kind of thin black marker and in precise printing that looks almost exactly like his. Then, quite suddenly and while

holding pages of slides up to the south facing window in the room where I write, I realize I am seeing the tragic story of my childhood captured one artwork at a time, each piece a fragment of the whole. The narrative is often out of sequence, and a good many meanings are purposefully obscured, but that is the way my broken memory works. But it is the truth – until I get to the end of my slides and the early 2000s when I switched to digital documentation, tried to reconnect with my parents, and my older brother Michael died suddenly and tragically. When I pull those images up on my computer I see myself going backwards, gradually obscuring my story all over again. And my once accomplished artwork suffers; it becomes technically perfect, sheer chaos as my voice, and the truth, is ever more overwhelmed by my mother’s. My mother hated her childhood, and her mother specifically, with a passion. I hear about this constantly and see it play out right before my eyes throughout my troubled girlhood. But my maternal grandparents nurtured and supported my mother’s talents in ways that mine, and those of most of my siblings, never were. For example, my mother sang in a Lutheran church choir, became an accomplished pianist, skipped grades and took special high school art classes that furthered her artistic skills – even though she put art aside to be come a mother of nine, seven of them born by the time I was seven years old. I have solid proof of many of these facts in photographs, as

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Julie Struck Thematic Development well as the one or two unusually honest conversations that take place between my mother and I once I become a miserable mother myself. While she watches me tending to a crabby toddler and fussy infant at the same time, she confesses that having two babies in a single year was almost too much for her. Later, during a rare phone conversation about one of my first community college art classes, she abruptly blurts you have always been much stronger than I am. But my mother’s stories of motherhood, among other things, begin transforming during the late 1980s, concurrent with the disintegration of her thirty-seven year marriage to my father. For example, in 1995, after a long silence, I send my mother a short letter in which I ask for her story so I that can begin to understand and reconcile with her. Her response is I don’t think that is what you really want. She also politely corrects my observation that she was a miserable mother, noting that I am probably projecting my own unhappiness on her. And when I describe the jealousy I always felt emanating from her and that paralyzed me in so many ways, she responds with a question only she could answer – and never does. How could I ever be jealous of my own children? Very early in my girlhood, my mother tells me a dramatic story about how she has to convert to Catholicism to marry my father, and that it makes her father perpetually angry. I know this is true too, because I never see my 95

maternal grandfather treat my father with anything but cold disdain – and my mother rabidly embrace everything about the religion like many Catholic converts do, I learn many years later. This also explains her submission to my father in all things, including the sex that results in the excessive amount of children they produce. But that is not the only reason my mother has nine children, I deduce when I am quite young. Except for her piano (a gift from her father), children are the only possessions my mother has, and can use as leverage against as well as barrier from my father. A handful of photographs prove that my mother was very stressed just prior to her 1956 marriage. At a bridal shower she has dark hollows that further accentuate her high cheekbones, and her collarbone juts sharply out above the bodice of a tightly corseted dress. At the wedding a few weeks later, however, my mother radiates happiness, like a sparkly white star while my father stands beside her, looking stunned. After having a baby almost every year between 1957 and 1965, two gaps yawn. Perhaps it was waning fertility, or the affairs my father had between 1965 and 1973. When my mother discovers the last one, our entire household watches her deal with it by hatefully creating a resplendent dinner complete with all my father’s favorite foods. Then she waits until he is seated and in the middle of a tasty mouthful before confronting him. Several angry, conflictual, babyless years pass, until I am

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about to turn sixteen and see my mother emerging from the family station wagon with her face aglow – and my father slamming the driver’s side door with disgust. Within a week my Michael takes me aside and whispers there’s prenatal vitamins in the medicine cabinet. That embarrassing ninth pregnancy does nothing to improve my parents’ marriage or life within the Struck household, however. My father is never home, and when he is he is angry and abusive. And so is my mother. Her favorite implement of punishment is a wooden spoon that leaves odd oval bruises on my thighs that other girls eye while we change in the high school locker rooms. More than once I insist I got them by walking into extraordinarily low door handles. My mother never works at a paid job, although there was a brief stint as The Art Lady at the Catholic school I once attended. She never drives a car, and doesn’t have a checking account or any control over household expenses until her divorce at age fifty-eight, when she is designated a Displaced Homemaker and entitled to the house and alimony. Since the divorce my mother has lived alone in the increasingly shabby house my father purchased in 1962, subsisting on what my father deigns to give her. At Christmas 2004, the last time I ever enter my mother’s house, I note that she sleeps in a twin bed that once belonged to one of my many brothers, covered with a virginal white bedspread. She also periodically bitches about my father during


Julie Struck Thematic Development that festive party, who she insists she has forgiven, and every other useless and needy man of her generation who attempts to have anything but a nodding acquaintance with her. The last time I see my mother is also in 2008, at the same party my father attends and from a distance. I stand in the shadow of a tree on my brother Richard’s property and watch her brightly interacting with my significant other while wondering once again why I still cannot forgive and comfortably reconnect with my parents after trying to for over a decade. She looks like the epitome of a proud, loving matriarch. She smiles expansively, and hugs people effusively – even though she never once touched me with love when I was a girl. She dotes on her many progeny, especially those belonging to my youngest brother, that baby born in 1975, the same year I give birth to a daughter at the age of seventeen in a last ditch effort to separate myself from parents who keep me trapped in the middle of a perpetual tug of war that I still feel, in my fifties. So I linger in the protective shade of that tree as long as humanly possible. But eventually I must make my reluctant way towards the patio where my mother holds court as my stomach churns, my neck stiffens, my fists clench, and I rearrange my face into a non-committal mask because I know that the only things I ever really learn from my mother are that there is no arguing with her – and that I cannot believe a single thing she says. Botticelli Literary and Art Magazine

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KaileyRinder Smoke

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Matthew Kosinski The Radio Talk Show Host’s Ex-Wife Donates to the Station During the October Pledge Drive

THE RADIO TALK SHOW HOST’S EX-WIFE DONATES TO THE STATION DURING THE OCTOBER PLEDGE DRIVE because she wants to show her appreciation for public media, and probably this is true. But true in the way most things are true e.g., in a lot of different ways at once. It is not a total accident that she called during his shift. She’s thinking about the in-ground pool and nine or ten real good cigars (maybe Cuban?) wrapped in their cellophane and floating, floating. So buried in her recurring gift of eight dollars a month is an apology: a screwdriver baked into a cake, because forgiveness is a kind of jailbreak, the human heart not designed for such emptying. (See: the prevalence of heart attacks due to blockages.) He says her name aloud on air, and he thanks her, and he mentions that she is his ex-wife. He assumes this is one of those small cruelties at which we are all of us so good, she herself not a particular witch, just someone with a working hurt reflex. Once hurt, we hurt: a rubber-hammered knee swings outward in kick configuration. He’ll have a vision at the end of his shift: the two of them at a rough wooden table in the dark, eating sewing needles out of large bowls, not looking at each other. He’ll notice she has fewer needles in her bowl. He won’t know what to make of that. Matthew Kosinski

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Matthew Kosinski Can You Even Write a Pastoral in Hartford? CAN YOU EVEN WRITE A PASTORAL IN HARTFORD? I. The shower runs entirely too long. I masturbate furtively. Smuggled in a laptop under cover of bath towel, with the headphones jacked-in. Pirate cam sites, a bundle of unfinished poems running in the background, each one named after a woman whose tits I’ve seen. Not naïve enough to be love letters. Also, too concerned with self-preservation to be confessional. Simply declarative: I have seen you naked, and thank you for that. Note the guilt: I don’t pay for my porn. Maybe once I’ve paid off my student loans. II. I think naming storms is one of the more selfless things we’ve done. Like taking a bullet: we’ll shoulder, or stomach, the world’s violence. Let nature be mistaken for the human stain. So when someone dies, we get to say, Car accident; Hercules left inches of ice on the roads. It has tremendous grief potential, too: I’m gonna feel less like a lunatic cursing Hercules than I will yelling at snowstorms. Prayer is easy when there’s a kindly white beard or a blond virgin saying, yes, yes, I feel you. Grief’s like that; grief’s like a prayer to the bad ones. III. The stolen porn, on the other hand: that’s a bad habit we’ve all got to kick. Someone’s trying to buy bread with the money we’re not paying. The inside of her thigh made me cum instantly and without thought of what her Christmas cards might look like or report. IV. Hercules killed “at least 15”. Source: The Weather Channel. Given its size, that’s not so bad. Smaller things have done worse. When I look out at the unplowed street, I am amazed: the snow is white and catches sun like a baseball. Perhaps because it is Saturday, and the rough parts are over: we’re getting back to the good bright work of the earth. Matthew Kosinski

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Matthew Kosinski Before the Diner, And in the Diner, and After the Diner

BEFORE THE DINER, AND IN THE DINER, AND AFTER THE DINER Brush your teeth after breakfast. The waitress will not stick her face into your mouth. (Worst case scenario.) You’re like one of those theater kids crashing into the community playhouse after graduating with a BFA, thinking the whole world burns in their wake. I say, “I’m sharpening the critical eye,” and I am watching loose ribbons of unmixed cream in the black coffee until they dissipate. “This is called Pinterest,” someone’s mother says, as if correcting her computer, which has a better grip on what’s called what than we have. Binary is a luxury, like the chocolate chips in your leftover pancakes, chilled into semi-precious stones by the singular action of the refrigerator. Microwave what gets cold. The last two truffles look like pinched chocolate testicles, cocoa-dusted in their small glass cereal bowl. I tilt them out into the garbage. Matthew Kosinski

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Medeia Starfire In the Year of His Death

IN THE YEAR OF HIS DEATH Every quarter hour, PaPa chimed up from the corner. The trial interrupted, his mind changed as the sun dropped. He tugged the golden chains inside his chest but Gram had to pull it for him when he couldn’t manage. She didn’t like it; sometimes she would forget. He cupped the weights in his hands, held still against the wall. There were nights I woke and heard the Westminster bells ring twenty times, as if he intended to shake everyone out of their beds. As if he planned to rattle his god down from heaven. Medeia Starfire

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Medeia Starfire Spider Craft

SPIDER CRAFT The old hag presses your chest while you sleep with eight eyes. She stays motionless for days, counts the times you ash, hiccup, watches you drink long into the night. She could stew forever. Her dark arches and crooked neck, rings of skin that come off in strings. She’s an argument that itches, knows you’re the type to hang on. Oh hush! Throws words to the corner that hatch, become moans. Saw you walk through two of her homes and destroy them. It’s time she wrapped you up. Medeia Starfire

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Kailey Rinder Lecture Bus Desk

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Karl Elder Unique Forms of Continuity in Space

UNIQUE FORMS OF CONTINUITY IN SPACE Undeterred, unencumbered, unholy mold of moiling metal, mass of golden bronze in midst of swift stasis as it wades ever deeper the invisible stream recurrent as the future if space were time, as if the engine to this stopped train of genius locked—gone bold from bipedal. Bold in the sense of a demon bolting out of the ethereal and into consciousness is bold. O in span of one century, see at what becoming you’ve indeed become, needing not hands nor arms on your foredoomed stretch to here and beyond, new cause for torque in your torso, for your indignation, for your great, grave swagger. Karl Elder

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Erren Geraud Kelly Bling Bling Makes Webster’s Dictionary

BLING BLING MAKES WEBSTER’S DICTIONARY She was surprised when I told her I’d been to Europe   “why’d you get so excited about    going there?”  she said   I told her I wanted to be somewhere Where I didn’t   feel American She claimed she listened to Hip hop   But long skirts told me She belonged to god She screwed up her face When I said money  and material things  Weren’t my gods   It’s been three weeks since I’ve Seen her at the coffeehouse I shouldn’t have told her I had a b.a. I think she would’ve like me If I were more street Erren Geraud Kelly

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Erren Geraud Kelly Black Man in Paris

BLACK MAN IN PARIS Riding the rer Watching the grafitti scream From ghetto buildings As I enter paris A deaf mute running  A hustle Gets no sympathy from The passengers Watching blacks speak French And wondering can color link Us into kinship? Eating a baguette at Gare De Lyon As beggars wear their hunger On their faces Smoking Gauloises and drinking  Café au laits At Porte De Bagnolet Watching a black and white couple On the Metro kissing shamelessly Heading to the Eiffel tower To be dwarfed by its phallic Shadow Wondering will I always be Alone? Erren Geraud Kelly

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Botticelli Magazine Number 5  

Literature & Art