literary arts journal 63 vol. 2 editor Katie Oâ€™Neill
4-5 7 9 16 18-19 20-21 29 30 31 32 33 36 37 40-41 48-49 52 53 54-55 56 58 59 63 65 66 67 68-69 71 76-77 79 81 84-85 87 88-89 90-91 93
Kelly Peyton Zac Bryson Kaitlin Bryson Geoff Roseborough Christopher Stehman Alex Lemus Geoff Roseborough Daniel Hanson Katlin Bryson Kelly Peyton Meri Coury Chase McMullen Alex Lemus Kelly Peyton Michael Gjurich Kristen Cupp Kristen Cupp Kaitlin Bryson & Kelly Peyton Brian Krueger Kaitlin Bryson Ashley Clark Jason Ricketts Zac Bryson Jason Ricketts Jason Ricketts Joanne Mallari Kelly Peyton Allison Young Kristen Cupp Kaitlin Bryson Annie Hooker Ashley Robison Kristen Cupp Brian Krueger Zac Bryson
Ambiguous Go Exploration Untitled Bloops Megan and Kristy Untitled Profile of My Father Vomit Mother Gnarly Tree Skate City Artie Kinetic Broken Bulb Series Hollow Proper Channels Mountains Sky Fall Julia Drain Dweller Patrick Urban Fungi Banhart Tom Waits Crochet Barbie Series Roots Etch-A-Sketch Whisper 4 Hands Neon Signs La Bici Dancing City Make Time For Tom IV Stop
Prose 10-15 24-28 35 40-47 61-62 70 72-75 78 82 83
Tawny Smith Desiree Felker Thomas Buqo Jenna Talbott Megan Padilla Carolyn LaBuda Marvin Gonzalez Ashley Hennefer Angela Spires Fil Corbitt
Emilyâ€™s House A Flower in the Desert I Grow Tired... The Curse of the People of the Valley The Most Hateful Dog Watching the Desert Labor Somnia Vincit The Clown Soon Jaw Screws
Poetry 8 17 22-23 34 34 50 51 51 57 57 60 64 65 76 79 80-81 86-87 88 89 92 93
Marvin Gonzalez The Innocent Concupiscent Michael Williams Arse Poetica Rachelanne Williams Lady Warpaint S.M. McLean The Photo of Me I Like Most is Typed Joanne Mallari Illegal in the State of Stoic Caitlin Thomas Making Love Minus the Love (Un-Expecting) Michael Williams Ring Low Sweet Motorola Jake Carey Vast S.M. McLean Tinnitus Eleni Sexton Single White Female Aaron Benedetti Black Pudding at Christmastime Michael Williams From Low-Rent London with Love S.M. McLean Gnat Haiku Jeanie Pratt Death Grip Joe Hunt Shoot-Out in the Ghost-Town of Poetry Janet Lee Slide Rachelanne Williams I know You Want to Have Sex With That Poet Eleni Sexton I, Esperanza, All-Seeing Joanne Mallari Do not Resuscitate Ileah Kirchoff Humanity Katja Lektorich It Ended There
by uous Ambig ll y Ke
on Pe rker yton, ink and ma
You are about to enter the vivid and beautiful world of Brushfire 63 vol. 2. After reviewing hundreds of submissions and seeing the immense passion and talent that all of our contributors possess, I couldn’t help but be transported to the world of director Fritz Lang and his 1931 silent masterpiece, Metropolis. No quote sums up both the film and this issue more succinctly than, “There can be no understanding between the hand and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator.” No creative trinity can exist without all three and for this edition, Brushfire acts as a surrogate heart, a mediator between creative minds and artful hands. In this edition of Brushfire you will see the fruit of masterful artists, poets, and authors’ talent and hard work. It will become evident that art is a constantly evolving, malleable force to be pushed, shaped, and redefined. You’re gonna love it.
Go by Zac Bryson, digital photograph
The Innocent Concupiscent Marvin Gonzalez
Id-ridden kid sits amid The vivid propagation Of cupidity.
Exploration by Kaitlin Bryson, intaglio print with graphite
“It’s not a difficult job,” Jim said to Emily. He stood in their doorway, one hand pressed against the frame, the other clutching an assortment of papers and his keys. He had just arrived home from the last of many job interviews, finally securing a positive answer. “Was this the one at the base?” Emily asked. She stood in the space between their kitchen and living room, directly across from Jim. She was holding a dripping wooden spoon. Meat sizzled behind her on the stove. “That military study?” “Yes. I’ll be an assistant to the government.” He paused, still hovering in the doorway. Behind him was the small courtyard of their apartment complex. Grass curled around the cracked sidewalk that led to the parking lot. “I’ll get to wear a lab coat.” Emily smiled at Jim and brushed her dark hair back without looking at the world behind him. She liked the idea of Jim in a lab coat, like he had a real job. She walked to the meat behind her and stirred it. “What exactly do they want you to do?” Jim eyed the doorway, as though he just realized he hadn’t fully entered their apartment. He stepped through it, closing the door on the outside. “It’s very important,” he said, setting the papers on their coffee table in a clean stack. “They need someone to transfer the research material from one lab to the next.” He put his keys in his pocket. “They’ll give me a car to drive.” “So you have to drive test tubes and beakers around?” Emily asked, pressing the wooden spoon into the meat so its juices pooled up. “Not exactly.” Jim walked behind her. He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her to him. “Okay. What exactly is the research material?” “This specific study involves cadavers.” Jim untangled one arm to reach up and smooth Emily’s hair down. “Cadavers? You mean dead bodies?” She twisted around in his arm and looked up at him. “Yes,” said Jim. “You have to drive dead bodies around?” “Yes.” Emily shivered. “That’s why they give you a car.” “Yes, it would be hard to drive a cadaver across the state in my car.” It was a poor joke, and Emily missed it. “You have to drive them across the state?” “Sometimes. I’m a delivery driver. Like pizza.” Emily turned back to the meat, watching the pink turn to brown. She wished she’d made a salad, or even a bowl of pasta. “When do you start?” “A week,” Jim said, dropping his arms. He walked to the cupboard and pulled out a glass. He liked it when Emily kept them stacked upside down, the proper way. “There’s more to it,” he said, rotating the glass in his hands. “You don’t have to touch the bodies, do you?” Without looking, Emily dumped the pan of meat onto a plate and switched off the stove burner. “Not exactly. All the pieces are covered.” Emily gulped. “I don’t like the sound of that.” “It’s no big deal,” he said, turning on the sink. He held his glass under the water. “They keep the bodies in several pieces, but everything is properly stored in miniature refrigerators.” “Pieces? Why?” she asked, crossing her arms. “It’s top secret, so they can’t tell me everything. Some of the trips will take a full day,” Jim
“My first assignment,” Jim said, patting six silver boxes next to him. Each box was made of steel, with a heavy looking lid that was locked tightly shut and a battery pack on the side. A small slot was on the front, with an index card shoved into it. Emily squinted from across the room at the card, but couldn’t read the writing. “They’re labels,” Jim said, noticing her. “Which one is the head?” Jim pointed to the smallest of the six refrigerators. Next to its label was a bright orange warning sticker. “They’re all battery operated, so I don’t even have to worry about anything thawing,” he said. Emily walked into the bedroom and crawled under the covers. It was wrong, she thought. A dead person didn’t belong in her house. It wasn’t a cadaver, which sounded as meaningless and innocent as a telescope or metric scale. It was a person, a person who had died, who was someone’s father or sister. He had once dressed himself, or she had fed herself and washed her own hair. Perhaps he or she washed a child’s hair, or buckled a baby into a car seat. Perhaps the child was still alive, grown now, and had no idea that this person was cut up into pieces, in her house. Emily’s house. Emily sat up, pushed the covers back, and ran into her bathroom. She neatly threw up into the toilet, and when she was done, she wiped the bowl down with a towel. She rinsed her mouth out, and when she glanced up, Jim was in the doorway with the smallest silver refrigerator under his arm. “You okay, honey?” he asked. “Yes,” she said. “I was thinking too much.” “I hate when that happens,” he said, smiling. “It’s going to be okay. I’ll find another job some day.” Emily nodded. “Yes,” she said, again. “I want to go to sleep now.” Jim followed her into the bedroom. He cleared a spot on the nightstand and placed the box on it. He bumped it a little when he reached for the light, and Emily jumped. “Good night,” he said, rolling to her and kissing her neck. She let him continue for a few minutes, but when his hands ran down her body, she pushed him away. It didn’t feel right with someone in the room.
said, carefully shutting the water off. He drank the entire glass, and when it was empty, he set it in the sink. “For those specific trips, they want me to leave early in the morning, so I’m in charge of the body starting the night before.” “I don’t follow.” Jim sighed. “I’ve been given permission to store the bodies here. Overnight.” Emily stared at Jim, blinking a few times. “Will they be sharing our bed with us?” She turned to the meat and blotted it with a paper towel to soak up some of the juices. “No,” Jim said. “But I have to keep the head—in its refrigerator of course—in the room with me at all times.” “No,” Emily said. “No. I won’t allow it.” “I have to,” Jim said, walking to her. “I’ve already signed the papers. Let’s give it a chance.” Emily wrapped her arms around his waist and buried her head into his neck. “Why do we have to keep it with us?” “Liability issues,” he said. “They’re more worried about what would happen if I lost that part of the body instead of an arm or something. It pays well. We’ll be able to finally get out of here.” “I’m not hungry anymore,” Emily turned away. She didn’t want to leave. “But, I made meat.” She walked into the bedroom and shut the door.
Jim’s next assignment arrived almost a week after the first. Once again, he stacked the steel boxes inside the house, this time placing them in front of the coffee table. He kept his lab coat on, even while he was at home. It billowed around him as he sat on the couch, scanning the paper’s headlines. He rested his elbow on the smallest box, which sat next to him, its battery-pack protruding like a growth out the side. Emily sighed when she saw the box on the couch. She scurried around the other five boxes, the way she did when a spider crept into the house. Emily hated spiders. Instead of joining Jim, she leaned against the front window, watching a few leaves fall in the courtyard out front. Several birds darted through the falling leaves and drank from a small puddle in the grass. “Do you think birds mind the taste of dirty water?” she asked, peering through the glass. “Emily, birds eat worms and bugs.” Jim laughed and stood up. “I don’t think they mind.” He walked into the kitchen, and Emily heard the metal box clunk on the counter as he set it down. When he came back, he held the box in both hands, with a glass balanced on top of its flat surface. Emily wondered if they made stronger dish soap than what she was buying. “I couldn’t be a bird,” she said, turning from the window. She flattened herself against the wall as she walked back around the boxes. “Wouldn’t you want to fly away?” Jim asked, flipping through his paper. The metal box was still next to him, and like a ridiculous coaster, it held his drink. “Where would I go?” Emily replied. She washed her hands, then went into the bathroom to prepare for the night. She walked past their bureau as she climbed into their bed. On top
The next morning, Emily stayed in bed until Jim was gone. She waited several minutes, then peeked into the living room, making sure he had taken all of the boxes. Only the imprints of the corners remained, leaving perfect lines in her carpet. She carefully walked through the living room and peered out the window without touching the glass. A neighbor walked by, but Emily backed into the room before they had a chance to see her. She turned and looked at the four walls around her, then squinted at the boxes’ imprints. She pulled out the vacuum and went especially slow over the lines until they disappeared under the suction. When she was done, she decided to wash the rest of the room. Jim liked a clean house. The day progressed, and by the time evening rolled around, Emily was exhausted. She opened her refrigerator and pulled out the uneaten meat from the night before. It was chilly and slightly damp on the plate, so she heated it up and left a note next to it, explaining to Jim that it was for him. After placing it on the counter with an empty glass so he would remember to get a drink, Emily surveyed their apartment. She always kept it especially clean, so it didn’t look much different than the day before. She never left, so she was always ready to pick up a mess. Emily washed her face in the bathroom sink, scrubbing her skin more roughly than usual, the way she cleaned the walls and counter tops. She pushed hard on her closed eyeballs, and when she dried her face, she paused a moment, enjoying the clean towel. After she was completely ready for bed, Emily climbed under her sheets and pulled them over her head. She breathed deeply until the weight of her blankets prevented any more air from reaching her and she had to push them down below her face. It was stuffy under the covers, but she kept them on. She could feel the heat, and she thought about the dead that were surrounded by cold, but unable to feel it. Their skin was cold, but they didn’t know, nor would they ever. She remembered when she had a tooth removed, and the doctor numbed the side of her face. Later that day, she had been drinking water, and couldn’t feel the icy glass against her cheek. She wondered if it was similar to what the dead didn’t feel.
When Jim and Emily were newlyweds, Jim worked at a factory that made lamps. Each night, when he came home, he would recite to Emily his various duties. For the first two months, he simply had to screw two pieces together, over and over until his shift was over. After that, the foreman thought he was advanced enough to try something more complicated, so he had the job of packing the lamp parts into their box. “Open, shove, turn, shift, tuck, fold, close,” he’d say to Emily, miming the hand movements that went with each word. He’d tell her about various times when he forgot to fold or turn, and how the entire line had been backed up as they waited for him to correct his mistake. After eight months of packing, Jim’s foreman had promoted him and given him a raise. His new job was to solely fold the boxes that the lamps were packed into. The foreman explained how difficult the job was, because it involved more speed than his previous assignments, but it had to be done perfect each time. “On occasion, a worker might forget to include the cord or lampshade,” the foreman explained. “Worst case scenario, the customer returns the lamp and is given another one with all its parts. When you fold the box wrong, that’s when trouble starts. See, if a box is folded incorrectly, when it gets packed, the entire lamp falls out. That costs money, and we can’t have that.” Jim missed his old assignment and struggled through folding boxes. He’d constantly cut his fingers on the cardboard edges. “The rhythm’s all off,” he’d said at night, lying next to Emily. “Its fold, fold, tuck, bend, tuck. It doesn’t flow.” He was laid off after eight months when he broke his fifth lamp. “It was too difficult,” he’d explained as he came home from his last day. “Don’t worry,” Emily said. “We’ll find another job.” As the nights passed, Emily grew tired of waiting on the couch for Jim to return. Each answer was the same, and the few times he managed to get a job, it only lasted a few months. They moved to a smaller apartment and she saw his resentment as he came home. Once he snapped at her when she let him see her frustration at another negative answer. “I don’t see you out working,” he’d said. She retreated farther into her room after that. She learned to keep herself busy with reading or cleaning—once she even sewed a new pair of curtains for the front window. Later, when a long time had passed, Emily became so involved with her tasks, she hardly noticed Jim walking through the door each night. She hadn’t minded the four walls around her until Jim brought home the boxes with their heavy locks and battery packs.
of the bureau sat several picture frames and perfume bottles. One picture—Emily’s favorite—stood in the center, next to the perfume and lotion gift set Jim had given her. In the picture, Emily and Jim stood together, embracing and smiling happily into the camera. It had been taken several years back, around their year anniversary. Jim was wearing a t-shirt from the factory where he worked, and Emily’s hair was longer then, pulled into a messy ponytail. Emily liked the picture because the sun shone from behind them. It peeped fuzzily around Jim’s shoulders, and Emily imagined that Heaven would look that way, with all its inhabitants warm and fuzzy looking. The picture was taken outside, before they had moved, when Emily still left the house. As Emily climbed into bed, she wondered about the person in her living room. She hoped some part of them had made it to Heaven, and she wondered if the other parts that got left behind knew. If they could talk, she would ask if it was fuzzy there, or if any birds had flown high enough to reach it.
Emily began taking baths each night as Jim ate dinner alone. She left the hair that collected in the drain, and after several days, woke up to Jim yelling in disgust and surprise the next morning. Emily didn’t mind. Perhaps even the drain led to somewhere exciting. Jim started going to sleep while Emily was still in the tub, and one night, as she stumbled through the darkness, she tripped over a hard object. Jim switched on the light when he heard her fall, and found her sprawled across the floor, her towel flung up around her face. “What’s wrong, Emily,” he asked through his sleep. “I tripped,” she said, sitting up and pulling the towel off her face. “What did I trip on?” She looked down at the floor next to their bed and screamed. The six silver boxes were laid out in the crude imitation of a body. The smallest box lay at the top, with a bigger box that must have held the torso underneath it. Two thin boxes—arms, Emily guessed—stuck out to the side, and two more lay side by side at the bottom. “What have you done?” she asked, pulling her legs close to her body as she looked up at Jim on the bed. “I hope I got the left arm and leg on the left side,” he said. “I had to guess.” Emily started crying as she walked to the bureau. She didn’t look at the pictures on top,
As the weeks went by, Jim became very comfortable with his new job. He wore the lab coat until he went to sleep, simply because he felt it was necessary as he watched over the important refrigerators. He stacked them in the hallway between the living room and kitchen, until one night, Emily walked into the bedroom and found them stacked against the wall, next to her closet. “Jim?” she asked in a high voice, running to him in the kitchen. “What are they doing in the bedroom?” Jim turned to her, swallowing his food before answering. He was eating dinner alone, and instead of using the table, his plate and cup were balanced on top of the smallest silver box. His napkin was tucked into the battery pack. “I feel like they’re safer,” he said. “Out in the living room, anyone can walk by and see them.” “So?” Emily asked. “So what? They don’t know what’s in them.” “I feel like I’m doing a better job if I keep them safer.” Emily stared at Jim in the white kitchen. His lab coat was neatly buttoned up, and he had secured a name badge over the breast pocket. If she squinted, she could see his slanted handwriting, and she knew he’d made the badge himself. “I want you to take them back,” she said. “Excuse me?” “There are other jobs,” she said, remembering months before when Jim had said the same thing. “You can’t do this anymore.” “Emily,” he said. “I’m good at this job. Why would you want me to stop it?” “There are other jobs,” she repeated, crossing her arms. “This is not the right place to store dead bodies. I can’t do it.” “What are you talking about?” Jim asked. “This is perfect.” He gestured across the white kitchen. The months of Emily’s constant care and Jim’s need for order had left the countertops shining in the surgically white light. “It’s like a doctor’s office in here. These boxes feel at home.” Emily swallowed. “I’m going to take a bath.” She needed to. The silver box couldn’t clean itself, and she felt sick. She started at it, imagining the inches inside that held the head. She wondered if the battery pack would ever go out, or if the head even wanted out. When she climbed in the tub, she dropped her dirty clothes on the floor, instead of in the hamper, where Jim liked them.
but pulled out a pajama set from one of the drawers. “I’ll be sleeping on the couch tonight,” she said. The silver boxes hadn’t been in the living room for more than a few minutes as Jim unloaded them over the past few weeks. It was the furthest she could get from them. When she woke up the next morning, Jim and the boxes were gone. She sat up on the couch and looked out the window. Jim must have opened the blinds as he left, she thought. New grass poked through the dirt outside, its velvety blades heavy with dew. The parking lot beyond the grass shimmered in the light, and above it, the wide sky gaped at her. Emily spent the day at the window. She breathed softly on the glass, then traced her finger through the steam. Instead of cleaning it, she left the smudge there, for Jim to find. He could clean it, she thought, and she imagined pushing through the glass until it broke, fragile as if it were sugar. The thought of foreign air frightened her, and instead of thinking any further, she crawled into her bathtub. She stayed there until Jim returned home and took the boxes to bed. The next day was the same. Emily stroked the window, until the moisture from her fingers made them squeak on the glass. She smiled as she watched several birds fret over a juicy worm and then fly into the sky until they were too small to see. She looked at the sky until her ears felt as though they might pop and she backed safely into her small box. Emily stared at the doorknob and bit her lip with a grin. She imagined the resistance it would give when turned and thought perhaps she and Jim could go back to normal. Jim came home while Emily was in the bath. She was imagining the life of whomever he’d bring home that night. While she wondered if the person had once liked the outside, she heard Jim unloading the boxes through her bath water. When she climbed out, she made sure to drip on the floor and imagined Jim’s disgust. She put on her dirty clothes and headed to the living room. The couch was vacant, so Emily stepped into the kitchen. He wasn’t there. Emily switched the light off and walked through the hallway to the bedroom. She saw him, lying on the bed, and her heart sank when she saw he wasn’t alone. “Hello, Emily,” He said, calmly. The calmness in his voice confused her, and she switched on the light. He was alone, but Emily wasn’t relieved. In fact, for a small second, she wished he’d been with another woman. She thought she’d be able to look past another woman, or even a man, if it came down to it. Instead, the six silver boxes lay next to Jim, in their crude imitation of the shape of a body. “It felt right,” he said in explanation. “They belong here.” Emily backed away from the room and its walls, reflected in the silver surface of the refrigerators. She turned and ran to the front door, flinging it open without hesitation. She stopped when one foot was out of the door. The moonlight filled the space around her, and a thin evening breeze pushed itself through her hair. She looked at the new grass, even greener without her window in the way, and smiled at the moon as it shone down on her. She stood and laughed, surprising the birds around her, as she enjoyed the outside and life that accompanied it.
Geoff Roseborough, digital photograph
I do not know what makes _____________ poetry. Adjective Language is important, but specific _______________ may not be essential to the art form. Plural noun
Heresy! ______________! Exclamation
That the best part of a poem may be the space between here....
merely to play on the page and in the ear
an ad-lib toward ____________________. state of being
Bloops by Christopher Stehman, acrylic on canvas
Megan and Kristy by Alex Lemus, digital photograph
“…I watched black ropes and tears ramble down your face. Lady war paint.” –Derrick C. Brown
I’m crisply folding the clothes she should be wearing Instead she yearns for sleep, refusing to hear my bedtime story. The morning is the easiest time to find her mourning The lack of a man next to her, Stirring from slumber in the dark When she wakes him up to go to work together Because she no longer has the strength to go alone, And she no longer has the will to put on her blue uniform.
I stutter, stating all the simple clichés I know Because daughters were not created to consciously comfort mothers, With mascara moving down her face like lady war paint I want to wash it off but I’ll need the soap without the opera So instead I silently fold her work clothes at three AM And make my way downstairs and outside into the snow, shivering I’m barefoot on the freshly shoveled driveway and into the warm car. I sit in the driver’s seat, staring ahead into the windshield, A solid white wall, the texture of sandpaper backlit with moonlight My eyes blur and the glass becomes a solid gray
I sit, wishing she would hear me when I say I’m here, telling her Not to drink his vile potions that make her want to squeeze her shape to fit In cookie cutter hips, and I wonder why can’t she shut her ears To the men who shut their doors, Their cruel wording sounds Like trusted speeches of lovers and forgotten mothers Softly falling the clouds are raining drops frozen by sorrow And loneliness that can’t be melted away by all my sorry’s. So I turn the key, and instead of driving away from all the frozen fires I avoid the damages an emotional car chase would cause I wipe my eyes and shut off the car I had warmed for her, After all this dramatic Can I just go back to Irony? Inside, I find mom rushing down the stairs, wearing her uniform Pulling her hair back she gives me a look, and takes the keys from my hand She rushes out the door; I guess she didn’t need my help after all.
Even the snow is tired and quiet But even so it will never be silent again With the burning memory of chaos ringing in my ears Like an old bell smoking and cracking in the heat Leaving only charred loneliness and smoldering silence of morning.
A Flower in the Desert
A sandstorm had just finished terrorizing our base the night I met Sergeant Wolf. Before, I had been hiding in my can, listening as the wind beat sand against my door, feeling the violence of it shake my quarters and foil my plans of getting any sleep. I prayed it would stop before I had to leave for work, and for once, my prayers were answered. As I walked I watched the sun sink behind the dusty, Iraq horizon, and by the time I made it to the office it had made its final descent. We had been warned about Sergeant Wolf; not warned, exactly, but told that night shift would be getting a new sergeant, one who had been a grunt prior to changing to our job. This scared some of us—okay, it scared me—but it excited the male Marines. We had been assigned to an airfield and were not allowed off base, which meant no convoys, no combat, no nothing. For a group of testosterone-laden, blood-hungry Marines on their very first deployment, it was a rough spot to be in. The first thing I noticed was his scar; a rough, purple line running the length of his jaw. I couldn’t take my eyes off it, and I found myself wondering how he got it. Was it shrapnel? Did he get blown up in a convoy? I wasn’t about to ask. My gaze wandered to the strength of his jaw line, the thick neck spilling into muscled shoulders, the soft blue of his eyes. Most girls would have thought Sergeant Wolf was gorgeous, but I wasn’t like most girls. He introduced himself, keeping it short and simple, but the other Marines had already heard the rumors about him, and they wanted to know if they were true. Days before I had listened to a couple of them gossiping: “I heard he got a purple heart in his last tour.” “I heard he fought a group of terrorists with just his bayonet, got all fucked up, but still managed to kill them all. That’s where the scar on his face is from.” “Someone else told me he got that in a car accident when he was younger.” “No way! Did you see the guy? He’s a living GI Joe. He’s Chuck Norris. There is no way he got that wicked scar from something lame, like a car accident. There is definitely a story behind it.” That day they were feeling less brave, I think, and only Lance Corporal Reeves had the balls to ask anything: “Is it true, Sergeant, that you did two tours as a grunt?” Sergeant Wolf nodded his head, and spoke in a low, gravely voice. “Yep.” The room filled with the sound of curious and impressed murmurs. “What was that like?” asked another Marine. Sergeant Wolf stood still, his feet firmly planted on the crummy wood floor below. His eyes flickered to the ceiling, and he smiled slightly. “Loud.” The others may have worshipped him right away, but I wasn’t so keen on Sergeant Wolf. I wasn’t like the other Marines in my platoon. I wore the same uniform, performed the same menial tasks with a sergeant screaming over me, and I shared their masochistic love of running till someone puked. But that was where the similarities stopped. I think most of them grew up dreaming of becoming war heroes; they joined high school ROTC, went hunting with their fathers, played Call of Duty until three in the morning. And then one day they turned eighteen and joined a group that paid them to do all of that stuff. Except instead of getting deployed as warriors they got deployed as logisticians. Me? I joined because I needed money for college, and the Marine recruiter got to me before the Air Force one. The only dream I ever had was of becoming a doctor. I wanted to
ease pain, to heal, to put the wounded back together. Marines like Sergeant Wolf, who smiled as they spoke of war, scared me. The next day Sergeant Wolf ordered us all to clean our rifles, declaring he would be administering a white-glove inspection upon completion. Not a single one of us had shot anything since we’d arrived in Iraq, not a target or a camel or nothing, and the task felt pointless and frustrating. Reeves had already quit, and was now reading girly magazines in the seat next to me. “You kind of look like her. You have an outfit like that?” he said, holding a picture up to me. The girl was young, blonde, and large-breasted, the outfit in question a strategicallyplaced guitar. I shrugged. “I only play the drums.” “I don’t know. I think if we got a guitar and tested this out, the two of you could be twins.” “Shut up, Reeves,” Lance Corporal Cruz said. I smiled faintly at him in thanks. Reeves huffed and turned away, setting the magazine down and going back to his rifle. He began scrubbing dust off the trigger, then stopped, staring at it. “I don’t ever wanna clean this again, unless there’s blood all over it.” “I doubt that would be any more fun than cleaning sand off of it,” I said. “Of course it would.” He began to put the pieces of his bolt back together. “I can just imagine it; catching some dirty Haji in my sights, pulling the trigger back, and bam!” He licked his lips and shook his head. “I can practically taste it.” Right then, Sergeant Wolf walked through the door. “What do you think, Sergeant?” Reeves held out his rifle, and Wolf accepted it. “Wouldn’t some Haji blood taste good right now?” “I’m more in the mood for some beer and steak,” he replied as he checked the bolt for carbon. “And a good fuck-” he stopped, glancing over at me. “Sorry.” The room erupted in laughter. I responded with another shrug and turned my attention to putting my own rifle back together. “Your bolt’s filthy,” I heard Sergeant Wolf say to Reeves. “Don’t bring it back to me till it’s perfect --What the fuck?” Before I could even look, Sergeant Wolf had ripped the weapon from my hand. The speed and force of his actions scared me into silence and I stared up at his angry face, looming directly over my frozen, seated form. “What the fuck is wrong with you?” An uncomfortable heat flashed through me, and I could feel my face quickly turning crimson. “I…I don’t—“ “Stand up when you’re talking to me.” I did as I was told, clasping my hands behind my back and giving him my full attention. His face was now inches from mine, and I could see a vein working its way across his inflamed forehead, like a road leading to his scar. “You were flagging me and Reeves. Your weapon was pointed straight at my face,” he snarled, pointing for emphasis. I felt like an idiot. Our platoon as a whole had gotten complacent over the months about a lot of things, but pointing a weapon at someone was one of those mistakes no one had made since boot camp. “I’m sorry, Sergeant.” “No, you’ll be sorry when you get someone killed for being stupid and careless.” He held his fierce glare, piercing my eyes with his own, then shoved the weapon back into my hands before turning away.
“Got any good stories from your last tours, Sergeant?” asked Reeves one night, while we were waiting for a flight to come in. “Yep,” Sergeant Wolf said, his attention still on his fitness magazine. I rolled my eyes. I had started to notice how his terse, nonchalant replies were the perfect bait to his ardent followers, inviting them to ask further, and I thought this was a lame act of his. It was possible, of course, that I was still sore at him about the earlier incident. Once he had cooled down about me flagging him with my weapon, he ordered me to fill a hundred sandbags. It took me three days, and when I showed him the finished product, he instructed me to dump every single one out and to stack the empty bags neatly in storage. “Tell us one,” Cruz said. “No.” “Come on, just tell us one good story, Sergeant,” Reeves pleaded. Sergeant Wolf sighed, and slowly put down his magazine. “Well…” He cleared his throat. “There was this one time on my first tour…” “What? What happened?” “Well, it was 04’, and we were staying on a shitty temporary base outside Baghdad. One of the guys in my unit wakes me up, and he’s telling me they spotted the enemy a mile away from our base, and our fire watch doesn’t have anyone to back them up. So I slip on my shower shoes, because they were the first things I saw, and I grab my M16 and throw a belt of ammo across my torso.” He chuckled, and shook his head. “I don’t know why I did that, because the ammo was for a machine gun, obviously, not a rifle. Oh, and I was so full of adrenaline that I forgot to put pants on, so I ran out in my skivvies and combat boots.” Despite my attempts to remain straight-faced, I found myself laughing along with the rest of the room. Sergeant Wolf waited patiently for it to quiet down, and he began again. “So here we are, running through the desert, two half-naked guys breaking every rule you’ve ever been taught about combat. Finally, we spot this one guy, but he sees us too. And I guess he was out of ammo, because he bolts in the other direction and we go after him.” Sergeant Wolf lost his composure and began to crack up, laughing like I had never seen him before. “And so this guy,” he continued, through fits of laughter, “starts taking off all of his clothes. I don’t know why, maybe he thought we wouldn’t shoot him if he was butt naked. But he was wrong, and...” A loud noise interrupted his story and caught our attention, and we all turned to see the source. A large dog had crashed through our swinging door and was rushing straight toward me. It was a military police dog, likely belonging to a Marine awaiting one of the flights, and I greeted it with happy arms. “What the…” Sergeant Wolf stood, his head cocked, staring at me and my new pet. I scratched the dog behind its ears and reached an arm around its back as I petted it. “Who the hell’s dog is that?” Sergeant Wolf said, his voice booming over me. “He must have just gotten away from one of the passengers,” I answered, not looking up. “Well someone better get it out of here before I beat it to death and barbeque it.” I looked up at him, and no one else moved.
“Roger that, Sergeant.” Desperate for something to distract me, I began to scrub the butt stock of my weapon with a wire brush. It was already spotless, and all the wire brush did was make permanent scratches on it. I looked up once more at Sergeant Wolf, to see if he was still shooting fervently hateful looks in my direction. He was, but it was different now; an anxious crease had found its way in between his eyebrows, and at the time, I couldn‘t figure out what it meant.
I pondered over Sergeant Wolf ’s war story for weeks. The other Marines had been bothering him for more and more stories, but none of them so far could top that first one. A part of me suspected he was holding back, but I couldn’t figure out why. Like the boys, I had my own questions for him, and one day, when the office was cleared out and it was just the two of us, I asked him. “Sergeant?” He looked up from his magazine, a fishing one this time. “Uh huh?” “That first story you told us…” He sighed. “What about it?” I breathed in deeply, feeling scared and wondering if I should just keep my mouth shut. “Were you ever afraid of dying?” He snorted and looked back down at his magazine. “Nah. No. I’m not afraid of dying. We die when it’s our time, when it’s meant to be.” I fought the urge to roll my eyes. “Well yeah, but--” “Not afraid at all,“ he cut me off. “And when I die, I’m going to hell, to kill the devil.” He started casually flipping through the pages. “I believe that is my destiny.” I stared at him, frustrated at his refusal to seriously answer my question. I sighed and sat back in my chair, fiddling with the sleeve of my uniform, thinking. “Well,” I said after a minute, feeling more daring, “how does being a killer make you feel?” He continued to flip through the magazine, starting over from the first page now. He brought his face up and caught my gaze, the blue in his eyes looking more like steel. “Like a god.” We had slacked off on our cleaning two days in a row, and Sergeant Wolf ’s punishment for us was to police call the entire airfield, and I had been assigned a vast lot filled with pallets of cargo, candy wrappers, and cigarette butts. I shined my flashlight at the ground beneath me, noting the terrified camel spiders, desperately trying to hide from the unexpected ray of light. I began to search for more trash, grudgingly picking up each sticky, curious, and otherwise disgusting piece I found. Within an hour my bag was nearly full, and I took this as a sign that I was done. I walked to the nearest trash can and dropped my bag in. When I turned around, however, a large figure was standing over me, holding another in his outstretched hand. I gasped, surprised at Wolf ’s ninja-like appearance. He laughed. “Don’t think you’re done yet.” I reluctantly accepted it. “Thanks, Sergeant,” I said dryly, and turned back to my assigned area. I stopped mid-step, drawing my combat boot back as I noticed the flower. There it was, in the middle of the desert, where nothing else existed but sand and rocks and trash. In any other setting, it wouldn’t have been anything special; it was a scrawny little thing, white petals, weak stem. Nonetheless, it was the first flower I had seen in five months, and I thought it was beautiful. I don’t know why I did it, but I grasped the flower at its base, and ripped it out, roots and all. I
“That’s it, I’m having me some dog!” he said moving towards us. “No!” I knew he was joking; still, I couldn’t help but to wrap my arms tighter around it. “I’ll go find its owner.” He rolled his eyes. “You need to stop being so damn sensitive. You’re a Marine, remember.” He shook his head and walked back to his seat. “You need to kill something before you leave here. Preferably something cute and fuzzy.” “I may be a Marine, but I’m not a killer.” As I said this, the room was still laughing over Wolf ’s “cute and fuzzy” comment, and my words went unnoticed, drifting off like grains of sand in the burning night air.
stared at it, lost in thought until Sergeant Wolf ’s voice broke me out of it. “Did you really just pick a flower?” I looked over at him, and smiled. “No. I ripped it from its life source.” I handed it to him. “Am I a killer now?” His face registered surprise, and he accepted the flower from me, slowly. He gazed at it, then laughed a little. “No…” He plopped down on a pallet behind us, staring at the flower, twirling it around in his fingers. “I’m jealous of you.” I squinted at him through the darkness, doubting I’d heard him right. “Why?” “Because you’ve never killed anything before. You’ve never had to.” An uncomfortable silence filled the warm air between us. Not knowing what else to do, I watched his face. His mouth was a straight line, his eyebrows were furrowed, and his eyes were in another place entirely. No, not another place--another time, reliving a not-so-distant memory. “The last convoy on my first tour…This little car sped up to us, and kept getting into our convoy. We did everything we were supposed to…I fired a warning shot, even, and they still wouldn’t go away. So I had to make a decision, if they were a threat or not, and so I fired at them.” He paused, continuing to twirl the flower in his fingers. “I was the gunner. I had only been in the Marine Corps for a year,” he laughed a little, “Hell, I had only been out of high school for a year, and here I was, in charge of this machine gun. In charge of deciding if someone should die or not.” He shook his head from side to side slowly, as if he didn’t understand his own words. “I don’t know…I just aimed, and I fired.” The air became thicker around us, and I could feel his words getting hotter and sicker. “It was a little girl. I shot a little girl.” He gave an awful, bitter laugh, and continued. “We had to pull over and do a report, and I got to see what I did. Her dad was screaming, hysterical. “I killed a little girl.” Through the laugh his voice broke, just for a split second, but for long enough to let me see through the cracks to someone shattered and scarred. He must have realized this as well, and just like that, his trance ended. The pieces of his rockhard persona shifted back into place, and the Sergeant Wolf I had grown to misunderstand stood tall before me again. He cleared his throat. “You’ve never killed anyone, and you should keep it that way,” he said crisply before turning away and continuing down the walkway. I stood there, feeling shaky, watching after him. Shame burned through me, and I couldn’t tell if it was the hot air or regret that was making me feel ill. I began to run. My boots thumped against the uneven, broken ground, sand flying each time a foot hit. I caught up to him, and slowed to his pace, walking alongside. “How’d you get your scar?” I asked, breathing hard. He laughed, and gave me a crooked smile. “Car accident when I was eight.” I frowned. “Oh…” He laughed again. “Yeah, not what you were expecting, huh?” “I guess not,” I replied, staring at the scar. Not what I had expected at all.
Geoff Roseborough, digital photograph
Profile of My Father by Daniel Hanson, soft pastel and charcoal
Vomit by Kaitlin Bryson, oil on canvas
er b y Ke
lly P eyto n, a cryl ic
ll u be I
ri Coury, y Me b e Tre
a halftone of black & white periods punctuating the sentences that compose meâ€” typeface, body & soul.
Illegal in the State of Stoic Joanne Mallari
Ink flows with the steady traffic of words channeled into the pen, a vehicle of verse.
The officer on patrol runs a routine check, peering behind and beneath the seats where I might stow a refugee-a piece of fruit, forbidden, smuggled from the Garden of Sentiment.
The aroma of ripened rage and raw remorse gives away the illegal produce I harbor. I am stripped of them. Yet, they cross the border every so often, yielding an organic harvest on paper.
The Photo of Me I Like the Most is Typed
“You’re losing your edge.”
My publisher dropped this bomb, this offensive slight, as though he was casually remarking on a new tie. To be fair, he had to do that with something: he hadn’t noticed my new red power tie. The office even had a massive window in the back, so lack of light was not an issue. Taking a deep breath, I inquired, “What do you mean?” “You used to be… edgy. Controversial. Your wrote about the darkest, seamiest side of life. You wrote about stuff most people could never imagine. And this novel… it’s…” “Relatable?” I asked with a hint of sarcasm in my voice. “People could actually identify with the main character instead of wondering what in the name of God was wrong with him? Yeah, I’ve been working more in that direction.” “But why? Why this sudden change of pace?” I thought for a moment about how to phrase it, before articulating slowly, “I’ve written all I can about those things. Drugs and fucked up relationships are done. I can only write so many stories about guys who are heroin addicts and girls who smoke cigarettes because it reminds them of their boyfriend, but they never do it right because they never inhale.” “A little harsh,” he murmured softly. “I mean, your work was good. Yeah, the topics overlapped a lot. So what? What you were writing was fantastic. Don’t get me wrong, this novel’s good, but it’s lost its oomph, its pizzazz. I mean, no one wants to read about a guy ending his engagement... especially not your fan base. They want murder, debauchery, and rampant drug use.” “The fuck is a fan base?” I asked, fangs injected sarcasm into the veins of the conversation. “These are people who’ve enjoyed my writing. This is my writing now. If they don’t like it, they can fuck themselves. What do you think this is? I’m not a goddamn haberdasher.” “I’m sorry, what? Do you even know what a haberdasher is?” “Someone who engages in haberdashery, obviously. But seriously, haberdashers are people who sell little sowing accessories. Y’know, buttons and zippers and shit like that.” The already present look of bewilderment grew into the most puzzled look I’ve ever seen my editor make. “I’m sorry…” he apologized thoughtfully before asking. “But how does this relate to your fan base?” “Absurdity, my dear Watson,” I answered matter-of-factly. “A fan base is as absurd as me comparing being an author to haberdashery. Not that their profession is any joke. Their job is as important as millinery experts or drapers.” “I’m sorry, but the references to obscure obsolete trades is kind of grating. Are you going to write something about drugs and crazy chicks or not?” “Probably never again,” I guessed, trying to use every ounce of foresight I had. “I’ve said all that needs to be said.”
I Grow Tired of Writing the Same Stories With Different Endings
M by Chase
l igita en, d
rap tog pho
Artie by Alex Lemus, digital photograph
Kinetic by Kelly Peyton, oil on panel
The Curse of the People of the Valley
[The stage is split into two sets. Only one side or set will be lit up at a time. One half is the “dream world”—a colorful, bright, jungle-looking space with a little shack structure. The other half is the “waking world”—a black, white and gray village space with a movable teepee and fire pit. The “cave” set moves on and off in front of the village set. In between the “dream world” and the “waking world” cave is a pop-up tunnel piece, which the main character, Kinsha, travels through. As she crosses from one “world” to the other, the drum circle plays and the lights shift, following her.] **Characters: [waking world / dream world] In order of appearance** 1. Sun [the Chief ’s Son] / Bluden [the gardener] 2. Chief Yingnano / Zycra [the gnome] 3. Likas [a woman] / Naya [the fortune teller] 4. Oyat [a man] / the Dr. [the medicine man] 5. Yocote [a little boy] / Emur [the coyote] 6. Shyla [a little girl] / Amara [ the unicorn] 7. Flower [a little girl] / Hippa [the hippo] 8. Kinsha: The “orphan wolf girl” 9. Lightning Bolt [the wolf] / the Beast 10. Royanda [the storyteller] / Zahkin [the fairy] *The wolf does not speak, only makes wolf-like noises. These are cued by “[wolf]“ breaks ACT ONE SCENE ONE 1.1 [village] [the Chief is lying down, his son is fanning him. Two kids sit “playing” upstage and two adults enter with field tools and approach the Chief.] Son: [greets them] Likas. Oyat. [they nod] Likas: Chief Yingnano, we are working the fields but still there’s no rain. Oyat: Nothing will grow. Chief: Yes—it is the curse. Son: [rolls his eyes] Here we go again… Chief: We are doomed. Doomed to work and struggle and suffer. Likas: There must be something we can do. Oyat: There’s been talk of a rain dance. To summon the Spirit of the Storm? Son: Yes, Oyat! A rain dance! Chief: No—the Spirit of the Storm won’t hear us. We are cursed. We are powerless. [Likas and Oyat go to leave, the son chases after them] Son: I am truly sorry. He means well.
Likas: No, he’s right. The curse is heavy upon us. Oyat: We are doomed. Likas: Let’s get back… Oyat: back to work. [they exit, son sighs] Chief: One day you will carry the curse of the People of the Valley, my son. Then you will understand. [they exit and the kids continue to play] Yocote: And pretend… pretend I have a backache. Shyla: [sighs] Yocote, I’m bored. [Kinsha and wolf enter excitedly, in a rush] Kinsha: Oh, this one is going to be my new favorite painting! I can feel it! [wolf howls in excitement] Yocote: Here comes that strange orphan wolf girl. Shyla: [jumps up] Hey Kinsha! Where are you going? Kinsha: [looks around nervously] Somewhere special… I have an idea I want to play with! Yocote: [rising to stand by Shyla] We don’t
“The Curse of the People of the Valley” is a play written from the dreams, visions, characters, and ideas of ten homeschool children, ages 6-10. Written and produced by Jenna Talbott
ACT ONE SCENE TWO 1.2 [cave] Kinsha: [holds up a painting, looking at it] What do you think? [Wolf] Ya, needs more pink. What a wonderful world this one is! Full of adventure and magic! [Wolf] Kinsha: Ya, you’re right. That little girl did want to play, huh? I’ll add her in. I’ll paint her as a… [Wolf] Kinsha: A what? A unicorn? Ya, that’s fun! She’d like that. She’d make a great unicorn. [after a minute of painting] I’m getting sleepy. [Wolf howls and runs around excitedly] Kinsha: You go play with the moon, Lightning Bolt. I’m going to rest here and finish this painting. Have fun! [wolf exits] Kinsha: [yawns] I’m so sleepy… maybe I’ll just sleep here tonight. [lies down] Nobody… nobody will notice. DREAM TUNNEL: crossing to dream world [drummers play and lights change] Kinsha: [comes out looking at her hands, turning them over ] Woah—I feel so light. I thought I was asleep? [looks around] Is this a… it’s a dream! This is what a dream is! I’m dreaming! What is this place? [She walks around] It’s magical… it’s beautiful. Is there anyone here? Hello? Hello?
[Rooster crows, and she walks back towards the tunnel, peering inside] Kinsha: Hello? Is someone there? That rooster sounded like it was coming from here. [goes through tunnel] Hello? DREAM TUNNEL: crossing to waking world [drummers play and lights change] Kinsha: [wakes up, yawning, stretching] A dream! Wow—Lightning Bolt! I had a dream! I want to tell you all about it. And the others! They’ll be so excited! ACT ONE SCENE THREE 1.3 [village] [all are working with field tools, the children play “work” with garden tools] [Kinsha and wolf enter] Likas: Here comes that strange orphan wolf girl. Oyat: Most strange. Son: [greeting her] Kinsha. Kinsha: [Nervously] Everyone. I have some exciting news! [all look curious] Chief: Nothing excites us. We’re cursed. [all sigh and go back to work] Son: Sorry, Kinsha. What is it? Kinsha: I’ve had a dream. [all gasp, exchange nervous and excited glances] Kinsha: Last night. I fell asleep painting and I found myself in a magical place. Shyla: Magical? What was it like? Kinsha: It was green and smelled like rain. Flowers blossomed and all kinds of things were growing. Son: What kinds of things? Shyla: Pretty things? Kinsha: Yes! Yocote: Tastey things? Kinsha: Yes! Oyat: Medicinal things? Kinsha: Yes! Likas: I have a strange feeling about this… Oyat: I wonder if she’s sick? Chief: Enough! Kinsha. You will not talk of such things. We are a cursed people—we cannot grow the things you speak of or make magic happen. Do you wish to remind us of
play with ideas. We play with reality and ours is cursed. Shyla: [to Kinsha] Can I come with you? Yocote: What? Shyla… Kinsha: Nobody’s ever come… I suppose… you really want to? Shyla: Ya! I want to play with you. Yocote: Come on, Shyla! You know it’s not allowed. [he tries to pull her away] Kinsha: [saddens] Maybe it’s not a good idea. Yocote: Come on, Shyla! [pulls her away and they exit] Kinsha: I would love a friend. [wolf pouts] Kinsha: Lightning Bolt, you’re the best friend a girl could have! I just meant a human friend. [She pets him] [wolf] Kinsha: Let’s go.
ACT ONE SCENE FOUR 1.4 [cave] [Kinsha is sitting, wolf is comforting her] Kinsha: I’m so confused. I don’t understand his problem. [Wolf] Kinsha: Ya ya—“the curse.” [rolls her eyes] But… the dream world is just an idea, right? Like a painting you can play in. How can that be dangerous? I’m so curious. I just wonder if I could do it again… [wolf] Kinsha: Well I just want to know… [wolf] Kinsha: And I’m too sleepy to walk home. [she lies down] I may just drift right off… [wolf sighs lovingly and shakes his head] DREAM TUNNEL: crossing to dream world [drummers play and the lights change] [Kinsha comes out to two colorful characters doing acrobatics] Kinsha: [checks her hands again] Here I am again! Hello? Hello! Who are you? Naya: Well, hello! I’m Naya! Dr.: I’m the Dr.! Both: We’ve been waiting for you! Kinsha: What are you doing? Naya: Having fun. You should try. Kinsha: I’m having fun just being here. You guys are in my dream! Dr.: Well thanks for having one. [Naya and Dr. lead her over to their little house] Naya: Yes, indeed! What can we do for you in
return? Kinsha: Well—I don’t know. I really don’t want or need anything. Dr.: [mixing potions] Well that’s boring. No offense, you just look like more fun than that. Kinsha: Well—there is something… Naya: You want to help the People of the Valley? Kinsha: How did you know? Dr.: She’s a psychic. She knows the future. Kinsha: Can you help me? Naya: I don’t make the future—you do. I just tell it. Kinsha: I do? Dr.: Sure. Kinsha: Our Chief says we can’t make anything. Naya: I can tell you how you’ll make the future so you can see that it’s true. Dr.: Here, take this medicine. It will heal you. [he hands her something and she takes it.] Naya: [gets her crystal ball] Ah—yes, I see. Hmm. Interesting. It looks like you’ll bring someone new into your life. Ah—so that’s what you want. Ok, I see. Kinsha: What? Naya: A stranger will come tomorrow, bringing a new seed. [Rooster crows] Dr.: Op! Time for you to go. Kinsha: What? Naya: When the rooster crows—it means it’s morning. Dr.: Time for you to wake up! Kinsha: Can I come back? Both: Of course! Kinsha: Will you be here? Both: If you want us to be. Kinsha: I do! Ok—I’ll be back. We’ll play again. DREAM TUNNEL: crossing to waking world [drummers play and lights change] [wolf licks her awake] Kinsha: Oh, Lightning Bolt! I dreamt again! And it was wonderful. I don’t care what the Chief says—I’m not afraid! [Wolf] ACT ONE SCENE FIVE 1.5 [village] [All are sitting around the fire]
our pain? Kinsha: No, I just thought maybe… Chief: You thought you would put wild ideas and false dreams in our heads? We do not dream, we are cursed—when we walk and when we sleep. Dreaming, for us, is dangerous and we have enough to worry about! Kinsha: Dangerous? How can a dream be dangerous? Chief: I forbid it! You will not dream again. Son: Father— Chief: We must protect the People of the Valley, my son. No more! Back to work. Son: [to Kinsha] I’m sorry. [Kinsha and wolf exit]
[Drummers play over Raunel acting out the telling of a story. As she finishes and sits, the drums fade] Oyat: Thank you, Raunel. That made me feel nice. All [except Chief]: Yes / Thank you! / That was wonderful! Raunel: No, thank you all. I have something for everyone before bed. They come from a far away land. [she places something in each of the palms of their hands] Kinsha: They’re seeds! Chief: Don’t bother—we are a cursed people. We cannot make anything grow. [he exits, others begin to follow] Raunel: I see. Son: I’m sorry. We appreciate your gift. Kinsha: Yes… Thank you! [the son and Raunel exit] Kinsha: [to the wolf] Lightning Bolt! Naya was right! Look! A new seed! ACT ONE SCENE SIX 1.6 [cave] Kinsha: Oh, Lightning Bolt! I’m so excited. [wolf] Kinsha: I know. I’m going to have to calm down to go to sleep!
[wolf] You’ll keep guard outside? No need, dear friend. Go have fun! [wolf] Yes, tell you all about it in the morning! [wolf howls and exits] DREAM TUNNEL: crossing into the dream world [drummers play and lights change] [Kinsha enters. Amara, a unicorn, Zahkin, a fairy, and Emur, a coyote, are playing hide and seek. Kinsha checks her hands then looks around] Amara: Where are you… [spots the coyote] Oh oh! Emur, I found you! [Emur howls] Amara: [keeps looking] Zahkin! Where are you? …She always wins. Kinsha: Hello? [Emur yips, surprised] Amara: Oh, hello! Would you like to play with us? We’re playing hide and seek! Kinsha: I would love to! Amara: Help me find Zahkin. She’s a sneaky fairy. Kinsha: Ok! [looks around, finds the fairy hidden] Oh, hello! Found you! Zahkin: [comes out from hiding] Oh you’re good. Kinsha: Now will you all help me find someone? Amara: Sure. Who? Kinsha: Hmm… the psychic and the medicine man? Zahkin: Yes! Naya and the Dr. [Coyote howls and leads Kinsha to the shed. Naya and the Dr. pop out. The original three keep on playing] Kinsha: Naya! Oyat! I’m back! Naya: Yes, I knew you’d come. Today you will meet your dream teacher. Dr: [clinking bottles and potions] Yes, it is time. Kinsha: My dream teacher? Dr.: Yes, every dreamer has one. Naya: You are going to think he’s is very… Dr. and Naya: …interesting. Kinsha: Can I meet him? Naya: Yes. Zycra will be here any second. [at the mention of this name, all those playing freeze, whisper, then run off stage]
Yocote: [enters] Chief Yingnano, I found a wanderer down by the waterfall. She says she’s a storyteller and needs food and shelter. Chief: Very well, bring her here. We can’t turn a wanderer away—but she must know we have little to give. [Yocote exits] Shyla: How wonderful! I love stories. Kinsha: Me too! [Oyat gives Kinsha a strange look and gets up and exits] Likas: I have a funny feeling about this… [Yocote enters with Raunel] Raunel: Hello People of the Valley. I have come a long way. Please let me sit by your fire. Son: Come, sit. Raunel: My name is Raunel. Chief: Where do you come from? Raunel: A long line of storytellers. I have one for you all if you’d like. [Oyat brings in a bowl of soup and gives it to Raunel] Raunel: Thank you. This one is about Coyote.
DREAM TUNNEL: crossing to the waking world [drums sound and lights change] Kinsha: [waking up] Mmm…. I feel so alive! Lightning Bolt, guess what?! INTERMISSION: drum circle performance ACT TWO SCENE ONE 2.1. [village] [Yocote and Shyla sit, “playing”] Yocote: And pretend… pretend I’m really thirsty… Shyla: [sighs] I want to hear a story. Where’s Raunel? [enter Kinsha and wolf] Yocote: Op. There’s that strange orphan wolf girl. Shyla: Kinsha! [shyly] Hiiiii. Kinsha: Hi Shyla! Good morning! What a
beautiful day! [grabs her and spins her around] I think you might find Raunel down by the river. Hi Yocote, how are you? What are you guys playing? Yocote: Nothing. Shyla: You want to play with us? Yocote: Shyla… Kinsha: Sure! Do you guys want to play hide and seek? Both: [Yocote skeptical and Shyla eagerly] What’s that? Kinsha: I’ll show you. I learned it in my dream last night… [Yocote gasps] Shyla: Go on! [Yocote runs off stage, and Shyla and Kinsha whisper and giggle] [Enter Yocote with the Chief, all following him, his son trying to hold him back] Chief: Kinsha! Son: [to Kinsha] I’m sorry… Kinsha: [Bravely] Yes, Chief Yingnano? [Shyla hides behind Likas] Chief: You are hereby… CUT OFF! [all gasp, wolf growls and guards Kinsha] Kinsha: But, why? Chief: For your carelessness and lies! You put us all in danger! Kinsha: What? But I’m not lying! And I believe our dreams can help us. Chief: Help us? Kinsha: Yes—help us lift the curse! Chief: That’s it! You strengthen the curse with talk like this! [to others] Kinsha and her wolf are cut off! Do you all understand? No one will speak to them, feed them, or shelter them. Not until she comes to her senses. [all silent] Chief: Tell me you understand. All: Yes, Chief Yingnano. [all begin to exit, the son mouths “im sorry” to Kinsha] Likas: I have a feeling she could be right… Oyat: How will she survive on her own? Wish we could help her. [all exit] ACT TWO SCENE TWO 2.2 [cave] [Kinsha is crying, the wolf is comforting her] Kinsha: Oh, Lightning Bolt! You’re the only one who understands! You’re the only one who’s ever loved me! I hate being human! I
Kinsha: Where’d everybody go? [enter a gnome, wildly, knocking things over, being chased by a gardener] Gardener: Hey you! Get back here! No! No! Don’t… [to others] Sorry… Dr.: Kinsha, meet your dream teacher. Kinsha: [goes to shake the gardener’s hand] Nice to meet you. I look forward to learning whatever it is you have to teach me, no matter how difficult. [Dr. and Naya exchange glances] Naya: No, dear… that is Zycra. [she points at the gnome] Kinsha: [shocked, jaw dropped] Zycra! Nice to meet you… [Zycra bites her hand] Gardener: Zycra! [to Kinsha] I’m so sorry… Kinsha: [bravely, to the gnome] I look forward to learning whatever it is you have to teach me, no matter how difficult. [Zycra stops and freezes, staring at her shocked. Then goes on being crazy. The others exchange impressed and proud glances] Gardener: Zycra! [to others] Sorry… [Rooster crows] Kinsha: Well, goodbye all! Oyat: Goodbye Kinsha! All: Bye! Naya: Don’t’ lose your faith in humanity— stay strong! Kinsha: I will! See you soon.
DREAM TUNNEL: crossing to dream world [drummers play and lights change] [All are playing jump rope, Kinsha looks at her hands] Amara: Kinsha! [coyote] Kinsha: [sadly] Hello everyone. All: What’s wrong, Kinsha? / Talk to us. / Can we help? [coyote] Kinsha: Oh you’re all so kind! I wish the waking world were like this. All: What’s it like? Kinsha: Everyone is so afraid! All they do is work to stay alive, but they don’t really live! We can’t grow anything and the Chief says we’re cursed. It’s dark and gloomy! [Zycra, the gnome, comes running on, the gardener chases him] Gardener: Zycra! [to others] Sorry… Naya: You can lift the curse, Kinsha. Kinsha: But how? Can’t you tell me how? Naya: With your medicine. Kinsha: Dr., can’t you just give me some of yours? Dr: My medicine is only magical because of the work and love I put into it. If I gave it to you, you would never make your own magic. Kinsha: [after a moment] Alright. I want to make magic. What do I do? Naya: You must ask your dream teacher. Dr: Good luck!
[All exit, except the gardener and the gnome. Zahkin hides] Kinsha: [looks at the gnome, and bravely approaches him] Zycra. Zycra: Eeeeeeee! [runs around her pushing her from all directions, then runs off stage] The Gardener: [exiting after him] Sorry… Kinsha: Ugh! He is so frustrating! He won’t listen and he won’t try! And he calls himself a teacher?! [Zahkin comes out] Zahkin: Pst! Kinsha! I’m not supposed to give you this, but I think it may help you. Kisha: I don’t want to cheat myself, Zahkin. I must make my own magic. Zahkin: You will! This will just help someone find you in the waking world. It is a gift. Please accept it, dear Kinsha. Kinsha: Ok, what is it? [she puts out her hand to receive] [Zahkin pulls out a snake and it bites Kinsha on the hand] Kinsha: Ahhouch! Zahkin! Why would you—? Zahkin: It’s not what it seems! It only hurts if you think it does. Kinsha: [relaxes] Wow. [She looks at her hand] I feel like I’m glowing! [Rooster crows] Kinsha: Bye Zahkin! Thank you for your help. DREAM TUNNEL: crossing to the waking world [drummers play, lights change] Kinsha: [jumps awake] I feel so strong! [slouches] But so lost. [Bravely] Come on, Lightning Bolt, let’s face the day. ACT TWO SCENE THREE 2.3 [village, minus the teepees] [Kinsha and wolf are by a fire. Raunel enters, sneakily] Raunel: Pst! Kinsha! I’m not supposed to talk to you, but I have something you need to hear. I want to help you. Kinsha: How did you find us? Raunel: I don’t know, it was so strange… I just did. Kinsha: I don’t want you to get into trouble for us, Raunel. We must make our own way. Raunel: You will! This will help you. It is a
hate it! [she sobs] [wolf] Kinsha: [sniffles] That’s what Naya said—not to lose faith. But it’s so hard, Lightning Bolt! Chief Yingnano is just so frustrating! He won’t listen and he won’t try! He’s so afraid and controlling! And he calls himself a leader? I could just… just… [wolf] Kinsha: [sighs and giggles] You’re right. I’m sorry. We still have each other. And this place! And painting! [wolf] Kinsha: And dreams? You’re right! I have to go back. [wolf] Kinsha: Ok, see you in the morning, Lightning Bolt. I love you! Thanks for being such a great friend!
ACT TWO SCENE FOUR 2.4 [cave] [wolf: “be strong”] Kinsha: Thank you, Lightning Bolt. I know what I have to do. [wolf] Kinsha: Your friendship has made me who I am. I carry you in my heart. [wolf] Kinsha: See you in the morning! I go without fear! DREAM TUNNEL: crossing to the dream
world [drummers play and lights change] [Kinsha comes out, checking her hands. All are there, the gnome is being chased by the gardener] Kinsha: [Loudly] Hello all. [Coyote howls playfully] Amara: Kinsha! Do you want to play? Kinsha: Not this time, Amara. I have something I need to do. Naya: Time to face your fear? Dr.: Time to make magic? Kinsha: Yes. [marches up to Zycra] Zycra. You are my dream teacher. I will wait patiently until you show me what I need to see. Zycra: [stares] Eeeee! [Bites her] [As he’s biting her and kicking and screaming, she sits comfortably without budging] Zycra: [surprised, let’s go] Oh no! Oh no! Teacher must let Kinsha meet her greatest fear! Kinsha: My greatest fear? What is it, Zycra? Zycra: No! No! Eeee! Kinsha: Please, Zycra. Zycra: [stops] Ok. [cries] I show you. [somehow summons the beast, trembling] [Beast enters] Beast: Raw! All: [gasp/scream step back] Kinsha: [terrified at first, then gets brave] Let’s do this. Gardener: [gives Kinsha a slingshot] Kinsha! Here! [Kinsha and the Beast circle each other ready to battle] Amara: Be careful, Kinsha! [Coyote howls] Zahkin: Come on, Kinsha! Naya: You can do it! Dr.: Be strong! [gnome trembles and hides] Beast: I will destroy you! You are all alone! You have nothing! Kinsha: No you won’t! No I’m not! That’s not true! Beast: Raw! You have no one! Kinsha: That’s not true! I have… I have… [looks at beast closely] wait a minute… I have you! Lightning Bolt? Beast: [changes from hostile to cute] Hiiiiiiiiiii. Kinsha: Lightning Bolt! I know you, I carry you in my heart! Beast: [tackles her and they play wrestle,
gift. Please listen, dear Kinsha. Kinsha. Ok, what is it? Raunel: This story has been passed on to me through the generations. This story is true. This story is about you two. [Kinsha gasps and the wolf squeals] Raunel: Many moons ago, Chief Yingnano’s great grandfather led the People of the Valley. They were dreamers, and used ancient magic for good. But one night, the Chief had a frightening nightmare. Instead of facing his fear, he ran from the dream, and his fear followed him into the waking world. This fear became his curse—and he spread it to the People of the Valley. It has been passed on through the generations, and still haunts your Chief today. Kinsha: That’s why he is so afraid of dreams! Raunel: The Chief does not know this story—he only feels the fear and calls it a curse. Kinsha: That’s terrible! Poor Chief Yingnano. Raunel: But the story goes on. It is the destiny of every curse to be broken, eventually. The legend says this curse will be broken by the magic of a young princess. Kinsha: [looks at wolf, who shrugs] What does that have to do with us? I’m not a princess. Neither is Lightning Bolt! [she giggles] Raunel: Well, not yet. The princess is said to be an orphan, sister to the wolf. [wolf] Kinsha: [gasps] That’s a lot of responsibility! Why me? Why us? Raunel: It’s not what it seems. It’s only a burden if you think it is. Kinsha: [she and wolf look to each other, and relax after a minute] Wow. We are honored. Raunel: I have to go now! Good luck, Kinsha. Kinsha: Thank you! [Raunel nods and exits]
DREAM TUNNEL: crossing to the waking world [drummers play and lights change] Kinsha: [wakes up excitedly] I did it! I did it! I must find Lightning Bolt! ACT TWO SCENE FIVE 2.5 [village] [all are sitting around a campfire. Kinsha and Lightning Bolt enter] Kinsha: Chief Yingnano. People of the Valley. [all awkwardly try to ignore her] Kinsha: I have come to break the curse. [Everyone gasps] Chief: We will not hear her. Kinsha: I will wait patiently until I am heard. Chief: We will not speak to her. Kinsha: Chief, please. Chief: [rises angrily] I have had just about enough of your—! Kinsha: [yelling back] What is your issue? What are you so afraid of ? [they circle each other, as if ready to battle] Son: Father! No! Chief: [ignoring his son] You’re just a little girl! You are all alone! What are you going to do about it? [wolf growls at Kinsha’s side] Kinsha: Well somebody needs to do something about it! Chief: You know nothing! Kinsha: I know some things! I know that alone we can do little, together we can do so much! I know that dreams are magic! I know
that magic is real! I know… I know…. [she looks at him closely] …you. I know you! Zycra? All: What? / Huh? Kinsha: [to wolf] Oh, I get it! [to all] I know that love overcomes fear! Chief Yingnano—I honor you. I know you feel small, but you are a great Chief. There is nothing to fear! There is nothing to fear. [all rise and gather behind Kinsha] Likas: There is nothing to fear. Oyat: We are not afraid. Shyla: We want to dream with you, Chief Yingnano! Son: Please, Father. Yocote: Please? Raunel: The People of the Valley love you, Chief Yingnano. Their love is strong. They are powerful. Chief: [looks confused, then angry, then frightened, then sad, then happy. After a moment he sighs] Kinsha… You’re right. All: Yay! / We are free! / Let’s play! / Let’s pray! [all cheer and hug and celebrate] Oyat: Chief… a rain dance? Son: [hopeful] Father? Chief: Well… what are we waiting for?! Likas: There will be rain—I can feel it! [All run around excitedly, grabbing drums and instruments from backstage] RAIN DANCE/STORM [drum circle plays and footage of a desert storm is projected up onto the backdrop of the stage. Everyone is dancing and playing in front of it. Raunel brings plants over from the dream world side of the stage. As the rain falls, the drums fade into silence and everyone stands looking up into the sky] Chief: Kinsha. I’m sorry. You were right. Thank you for your strength and for not losing faith in us. You will now be known as, Princess Kinsha. [he places a headdress on her head] [wolf howls] [All cheer] Son: People of the Valley. Tonight we will dream! Tomorrow we will live.
Kinsha giggles] All: [cheer] Yay! You did it Kinsha! [they come and hug her and congratulate her and the gnome is cheerful] [rooster crows] Kinsha: I must go now. Thank you for everything. I wish I could take you all with me. Naya: Oh, you will. Dr.: Look for us. [coyote howls] Amara: We’re there! Zahkin: See you, Kinsha! [everybody says goodbye and Kinsha hugs Zycra last] Kinsha: Thank you Zycra! For… for… [she shakes her head and laughs] …everything!
Broken Bulb Series by Michael Gjurich digital photograohs
“Making Love, Minus the Love (Un-expecting)”
We wake to mirrors that crack easily And sleep on a burden of bitterness.
We lived in the same room for 9 weeks, Knowing each other’s shadow, Having each other’s back, And kissing like couples do, The kind that commit With half of their hearts.
Our forecast was predicted and confirmed, And I built a foolish garden to prepare for rain. But I wasn’t prepared.
When we began making love, Minus the love, We exchanged regular conversations of our pasts. You gave me literature And I gifted back your first child. But the ribbons ran through my veins, And the wrapping was making my skin crawl. So, the doctor told me to make a fist, Like I was going to a fight. And they instructed me to count back… So I counted back 3…2…1 And then the butterflies in my stomach died. And I was un-expecting Her pushes and rebelling against my lower abdomen.
And then three became two and then one again. And we stopped making love, minus the love.
Ring Low Sweet Motorola May your days be those with the cell phoneâ€™s ringer low
with time enough for coffee and rest enough for decaf
to have thoughts worth thinking and to get out of their way nights full of fantasies and days in their pursuit the difference ever waning
Jake Carey Stretching from point A to B Vegas to Reno eight hours of desert landscape you learn every shade of brown dotted with towns smaller than the high school I went to
Sun setting behind mountains, rocky silhouettes smoldering, sky a contrast of black night, taking over the last of days light from left to right
Cars rushing towards me gliding by like ground-lit stars. destination undoubtedly the devilâ€™s playground Fewer and fewer as darkness creeps so does the quiet and loneliness of nowhere.
Hollow by Kristen Cupp, digital photograph
Proper Channels by Kristen Cupp, digital photograph
Mountains by Kaitlin Bryson and Kelly Peyton, collaborative mural acrylic on panel
Sky Fall Drawing by Brian Krueger, ballpoint pen on paper
When it’s quiet, my heart takes a walk in the soft snow; you can hear the crystals cozying together to fit in the frame of each new print, one after the other, and the wind fluttering the shiny down coat wrapped round it, warm like loving arms, in such a way its rustle sounds both off in the distance and close, a whisper through earmuffs. But when I stir it stops to listen, hushing its jacket’s unguarded collar with a gently tightened clutch, and looks up at the crisp moon in its pure night sky— lighting the locked fingers of willow charcoal trees holding hands, outstretched and intertwined— taking in the stars with my slow deep breaths until I drift, and my heart along with me.
Single White Female Eleni Sexton
Seeks fellow adventurer prone to comfortable silences, with an affection for cribbage. Must enjoy emotional excess, wine, and realize that what lacks in stability is made up in vocabulary. Someone who is right in all the good ways, as well as right in all the bad ways. For example: Though fit and exotic he may be able to whisk the SWF to climb the jungle volcano, pluck a loud hibiscus to put behind her left ear. Then lead her to feel, for the first time, the rain – how its hard touch can be missed with open eyes – pour out professions of loyalty and hot desire in the dark pools that hold scattered light of click bettles. He should know, all that is really necessary is a healthy enthusiasm for airborne copulation, and the ability to jest in the wake of commonplace tragedies. Those who think that chocolate, roses, or Porsches soothe an unendurable absence need not inquire further.
Julia by Kaitlin Bryson, mixed media oil on canvas collage
Drain Dweller by Ashlea Clark, silk screen with markker
Black Pudding at Christmastime Aaron Benedetti
When that they are dead, Let me go grind their bones to powder small, And with this hateful liquor temper it, And in that paste let their vile heads be baked. â€” Titus Andronicus, 5.3
Garnish it with old onions, green garlic, the sundry bits buried in the iceboxâ€”this is my motherâ€™s favorite recipe for holidays, guests, family especially. Red wine tempers its bitterness, its aroma seduces olfactory glands like knife and pang on eardrums, raw, red in the center. Painted platter and trident fork, my mother serves it smilingly, each slice consumed politely, laughs Let them eat pudding! a bloody Mary in her hand.
The Most Hateful Dog
Hateful is what Grandma called me when I was little: when I refused to come into her frail arms, weary of the cold skin that fell loosely and smelled like menthol, or when I hid from her in the linen closet under the cover of floral sheets. When I was ungrateful. “What a hateful child,” she’d say, frowning with a face that never seemed to not be frowning, permanent lines scoring into the skin around her mouth. I took it lightly then—Grandma said a lot of things—but it’s something that stuck with me. I know this because I tell people I have the most hateful dog in the world. It reminds me of karma or poetic justice—how fitting such a hateful child would grow up to be the mother of a hateful dog. He doesn’t much like to be touched; it is un-dog-like of him, the way he leans away from my hand, sidestepping. He squeezes his eyes shut when I kiss his face. Every time I speak to him he responds with the same blank stare, his tail hanging limp between his hind legs. I try to give him the benefit of the doubt—maybe he is depressed. Maybe he is just a chronic worrier. He sighs so heavily sometimes it seems as though he thinks that his life is altogether unbearable. “It’s OK,” I tell him. We are sitting at the kitchen table in our respective places watching each other. My propped elbow holds up the weight of my head as I sigh back to him. “Whatever it is, it can’t be so bad,” I say, but this doesn’t seem to comfort him—my sad, worried dog. So we just stare at one another, and his eyes are so dark and round they remind me of the black buttons sewn onto the stuffed bear I got him for Christmas—the one item in his toy box he hasn’t disemboweled yet. He is comprised of entirely too many dogs at once—my golden boy. His honey blonde coat, cream-dipped face, and dark eye-liner with his antelope legs and Lipizzaner-gait—they are all part of his mystery. I ask him, sometimes, when we’re alone and the silence has stretched on for too long: “How did you get to be so good-looking?” He doesn’t know. I suspect he gets it from his parents, though I have never met them. His ambiguity is slightly annoying; because we cannot figure out what he is, I make up breeds for him to be. His air demands the sophistication of a purebred, so I tell people he’s a Norwegian Fox Collie and a lot of them believe me. One day I am thinking of this when I have a sudden epiphany that makes me snort out loud a little, and my dog looks up at me in surprise. “I’ve figured you out,” I tell him, drawing out a long pause to build anticipation. “You’re a Melon Collie.” I can’t help but snort again at my own cleverness. “Get it? Melancholy?” But my dog doesn’t seem to find this as amusing as I do. He rests his chin his forearm with a yawn. He doesn’t have much of a sense of humor these days. I have been thinking lately, as hateful as he is, I want to keep him when he goes—have his body preserved so I don’t have to slowly forget his downy ears, or the frizzy hair on his tail that I like to straighten with my flatiron, elongating each strand. I don’t want to forget the way his paws smell like mud and corn chips, or the tufts of white fur that grow between his toes and collect foxtails. When I tell him that I will keep him on his bed in the corner of my room and snuggle with him when I have the urge, he flashes me an empty glare. “Oh you just wait and see,” I say and teasingly pinch the loose folds of his cheek as if he were a child.
He is lying in the dirt looking up at the stars when I go into the backyard to get him. His lids are lowered as if the glow of the moon is too bright, or maybe it’s just the dreamy feel of the night breeze against his fur. “I’m sorry,” I tell him sitting cross-legged on the ground and reaching for one of his dusty paws. Wrapping my hand around his, I stoke my thumb over the fur, strumming his delicate finger-bones like guitar strings, and wonder what I am sorry about. Sorry for the cancer? For the empty bowl? For not loving him enough? Then I have no more thoughts. So I look at my dog; I stare right into his unblinking dog-eyes. I hold his head in my hands letting his chin rest heavily on my two palms and I forget, for a moment, his oblong skull and jutting snout. He sighs. I wonder if that is something he learned from listening to me, or if it belonged to him all along.
When the veterinarian says cancer I don’t think of taxidermy though. All I think is that I have a five thousand dollar limit on my credit card; I will do whatever it takes. During the car ride home, his smug silence stings my eyes and throat. When we get home I yell. “Stupid, silly thoughts, I was only kidding—I was messing around!” I throw his food bowl against the wall and kibble assaults the laminate flooring like a downpour of hailstones. My dog balks at me, eyes wide like livestock, then he sulks away and I can hear his dog-door swinging on its hinges. He’s so fucking sensitive. That’s when I start to cry. I didn’t even cry when Grandma died, but I cry over my hateful dog. This is when I think maybe Grandma was right.
Patrick by Jason Ricketts, charcoal
Our beloved English promenades proudly yet with a nearly indistinguishable limp there ought be a word for a walk: as a captiveâ€™s to the gallows and many tales might be the better for a word that describes harrumph
Included in the finer things which keep me here a well-made cup of green tea, Bachata, music
Urban Fungi by Zac Bryson, digital photograph
Gnat Haiku or
Despite Your Life Cycle Probably Being Only a Matter of Weeks S.M. McLean
suicidal gnat beneath my keys, I donâ€™t type obituaries.
Banhart by Jason Ricketts, charcoal
Tom Waits by Jason Ricketts, charcoal
Here at Brushfire Literary Arts Journal we encourage contributors to evolve, expand, and redefine art as we know it. You see before you on these pages the intricate and painstaking crochet work of a masterful weaver. Using Barbies as her models, Joanne Mallari has truly made unique and impressive art. Plus, we dare you to make a mermaid outfit for an eleven inch doll with immovable joints.
Note from the editor:
Barbie Series by Joanne Mallari, crochet
Watching the Desert Carolyn Labuda
I love looking at the colors here, especially after the sun drips away. The light lingers even after the sun abandons the landscape. Moth-colored darkness bleeds in from the east; night comes like a paintbrush to damp paper. Watching the shadows take over the sky helps me to think: it calms me and makes me breathe. Storm clouds cover the mountains: I can’t see them through the night, but their yellow scent wraps around me. My grandfather died when I was eight, and I should have memories of him, but I don’t. When it rains, I can almost feel giant hands picking me up and twirling me around; but I’m facing the sky, watching the clouds spin, and I’m not watching the man spinning me. The rain doesn’t come often out here: I am always surprised at the memory and the smell of the clouds and the way that the pavement stays warm from the sun during the coldest of summer storms. I don’t know much about him—my grandfather. My grandmother tells me that I am like him: he disappeared into the desert nights for hours; he watched the sun drip away; he came alive at night and talked slowly during the day of the coyotes and lizards and rabbits. In the pictures, he looks like Zorro—Guy Williams, not Antonio Banderas. The pictures have no color: it’s eerie to know someone only in black-and-white. And gold. I own his pocket watch. I’m told he never wore it, but he owned it. The checkerboard pattern etched into the gold metal covers the yellowed face behind the paper-thin hands. Under the clouds, the mountain wears the city like a necklace. I love how it shimmers against the mountain’s throat; I turn away from its brightness, and I look up. It seems like there are more lights than stars: the glow of electricity makes it hard to see anything in the night. My mother tells me that my grandfather didn’t like the lights, and that’s why he bought a house so far away from the city. I think that maybe she is wrong, and maybe he would come out and watch the lights shiver in the heat: why else would he buy a house so close? I turn away from the mountain, and when my sight adjusts to the darkness again, I make sure to keep my eyes open. The desert comes alive at night. The jackrabbits venture out of the cacti: cautious, halting, slow. Their ears swivel back and forth, searching for the coyotes and hawks and owls in the darkness. Owls sit at the very tops of trees, and despite how unnatural their bulk looks on a leafless branch, I never notice them until they flap their wings. The stillness of an owl deafens me. I have never seen any animal larger than an owl. Once, I saw the tail of a coyote as it slunk away from my front yard, but they are shy and smart. And fast. I have never seen a cougar, but my grandmother says that they see me. She says that if I ever spot one, it’s because the cougar wants me to see it. I sit in the dark of the desert, waiting for the sun to rise. Lizards rush from sagebrush to sagebrush and as rabbits nibble on the coarse grasses, holding their ears at attention. As the shadows darken and the stars pull on their cloudy blanket and the rain starts to dust the earth in moisture, I take out the cold metal watch and twist the little knob on the top and listen to the hands spin out the seconds.
Roots by Kelly Peyton, Watercolor and pen on paper
Labor Somnia Vincit
He was about halfway through a sixty-day hitch on a diamond core drill rig when it dawned on him that the hours he was devoting to sleep were serving him no purpose. Perhaps, it had been about a week now that he was emerging, as if in a flash, from a deep, near catatonic rest as fatigued and physically pained as he had entered. Every afternoon he bore the residual effects of a reoccurring dream, which in the beginning he recalled as simply an impression, of an intense labor that was being directed by the forceful voice of an unseen foreman. A clear memory of the dream only came to him one night as he stood atop the mud tank next to the drill, whose admixture he was pumping thousands of feet underground to lubricate the diamond-impregnated drill bit, and he caught a rare moment of relief between runs. The brisk and regenerative early morning air swept up from the valley below, and momentarily awaked his slumbering eyes, when he noticed a star moving in a circle. He initially attributed this phenomenon to the intense reverberations that were emanating from the clumsy centripetal dance between the drill rig and the earth. But, as he held onto the rail of the mud tank, and took pains to remain as still as possible, the wavering star remained in motion, while her peers were frozen in their position. Suddenly, a very lucid and vivid remembrance emerged; that of a vortex swirling in a mutable sky which hung like a canopy over a barren landscape populated by a single tower of impossible architecture. For a moment he was in the dream again, a laborer amid an army of indistinguishable laborers pulling a large stone from a quarry toward the tower. But, the memory quickly faded, as he returned to his duties on the rig. As they drove back to the motel that morning, however, and he stared out the passenger-side window of the work truck, he searched the catacombs of his mind for anything that could bring the dream into context. The dream, of course, remained as muted and indistinct as the high desert scenery that flashed by, and eventually, mesmerized by the transient myopia of the passing sagebrush, he fell asleep with his forehead pressed against the rattling window. That morning he was quick to bed, ached and pained as he was by the nightâ€™s toil. He scarcely had the energy to take off his clothes, and though normally he took a shower before he lied down to rest, on this particular morning fatigue fell him before he could remove his stained t-shirt and left sock, and he was asleep before his torpid body hit the bed. Of course, this was not followed by a moment of rest. And, no sooner had his matted, greasy hair graced the stiff Best Western pillow did he find himself in sandals and a loin cloth surrounded by unfathomly repugnant men. The stench was unbearable, but this was nothing compared to the pints of sweat that seeped into his open sores and wounds. To make matters worse, he was in such close quarters to these sordid creatures, that their blood and sweat was distributed unto him, as were his own secretions unto his peers. There was a figure eight brace, which appeared to be constructed of burlap and leather, wrapped around his chest. On the back of the brace there was a metal ring with a thick hemp rope attached. He looked down and realized that his arms were interlocked with the men next to him, who panted and sputtered like overworked horses, and they all seemed to be mutually hauling an extreme weight. There were rows and rows of just such men, of which he was seemingly an insignificant part, and the rope attached to the back of the man in front of him passed over his right shoulder, tenderizing his trapezius and neck with each collective step they took. He could see blood from this wound dripping down his chest, and it was starting to soak into the figure eight brace. A voice vociferated from somewhere above telling them to take a step, which they all obeyed, and thus they slowly approached the tower whose hazy presence came sluggishly into focus as the morning wore on.
Despite the physical extremes to which these wretched men were subjugated, he heard not one protestation from the group. In fact, the collective remained eerily silent, save the occasional hiss or physical release, and what can only be described as an over-taxed yelp, not dissimilar to the high-pitched moan of an aggrieved bull. What struck him as most odd was his own inability to voice his frustration, and the lack of this faculty struck him as so out of place, that he realized that he was not, in point of fact, actually here, but that these images were the result of the release of certain chemicals in his brain, which remained housed within his filthy, greasy head that uncomfortably weighed down on the stiff Best Western pillow the way planets impress upon space-time. This realization seemed to have ripped a hole in the membrane of his current physical plane, for as he looked up at the sky he could see a vortex taking shape that soon revealed an image. Through the vortex he could see himself standing on the mud tank the night before, staring up at the moving star. There was no doubt that what he was staring at was a tear in the fabric of space-time, and that if he tried hard enough to reach it, he could free himself of this excruciating bondage. Distracted as he was then, he lent a deaf ear to the omnipresent voice, which had instructed the collective to take a step forward. Because he had not moved forward, the hideous men to his side moved on without him. But, this also impeded the movement of the men directly behind him. He turned around and was mesmerized by the chaos that he had caused. The grotesque creatures behind him were walking in place, and because they couldnâ€™t move forward, but were still being pressed to move by the laborers behind them, some of them began to topple over, which caused those in adjacent rows who were still trudging forward to trip and fall; the whole left side of the group quickly fell into disarray. The burden, therefore, of this great weight landed squarely on the shoulders of the laborers still standing, but it was too much for them to bear alone, and all at once the hemp ropes that bound them to the great boulder began to snap. They were on a slight incline, and because the giant boulder was being rolled along by a series of massive logs, having nothing to combat the pull of gravity, the great rock and the splintered logs began to tumble backward crushing many of the ornately attired men on horseback who were leading the drive. He suddenly found himself in the midst of a bazaar situated at the feet of the surreal tower. In the distance he could see dust rising from the chaotic event that moments earlier he had been a part of. He searched the sky for the vortex, but it had disappeared. He made his way through the busy market, pushing past the vendors and destitute panhandlers. But, he was still injured and bleeding profusely, and it was as if his legs had been depleted of energy. Eventually, he found himself on the ground spitting sand from his mouth, when a toothless woman wrapped a robe around him and brought a clay pitcher of water to his mouth. She picked him up, and as she walked him through the hoards of consumers she rattled off a series of phrases in a language that he could make no sense of. He drank the contents of the pitcher down desperately letting the clear liquid fill his mouth to the brim, and subsequently spill onto his chin and sun-beaten chest. As he slurped the last of the contents from the pitcher the toothless woman let him go, and he found himself inadvertently following a group of men attired in plain robes just like the one that he had on. They walked to the tower with lowered heads, clasping a string of beads in both hands, which they held to their mouths. They entered an ornately decorated hall, which glittered so brilliantly that it was almost impossible to keep oneâ€™s eyes open. Along the sides of the hall were lines of gold sculptures of saintly idols who all had a golden stick in their left hand and a rather large metal bowl at their feet, which were burning with incense. Each member of the group knelt before their respective idol, and then disrobed. In unison they got on all fours and kissed the feet of their god. Then they chanted something incomprehensible, and stood up. It was then that he noticed that their bodies were littered with wounds; lacerations and bruis-
es much like the ones that covered his own body. Again in unison they dropped a wrapped bundle of sage into the bowls and let the smoke envelope their bodies. The smoke filled the room, but he could still see their silhouettes. The worshipers had all taken the thin stick out of the hands of the idols, and they began to whip their respective idol, causing what sounded like a symphony of bells to echo through the chambers of the pantheon. Eventually, the smoke cleared, and the worshipers stopped whipping the idols, placing the thin stick back in their respective idolsâ€™ hands. As they were putting their robes back on he noticed that their wounds had disappeared, and while the statues were now damaged, their bodies were immaculate. They picked up their beads, once again got in line and then marched out chanting. He was perplexed, but something told him to move forward, and so he walked through the pantheon until he reached an idol that struck him as curious. He stood before the statue, which bore no countenance at all, but merely a smooth egg-shaped head. The gold was polished and brilliant, and he could see his own grotesque reflection where the face of the idol should have been. He stared at it until he was overwhelmed with an internal combustion that seemed to originate from his bone marrow. He fell to his knees and kissed the feet of this hideous idol, and as he did his tears poured over its toes. He searched the pockets of the robe, and found the bundle of sage. The robe was so soaked with blood that he had to literally peel it off, which in doing so reopened many of his wounds. The pain was excruciating, but he found the strength to stand and toss the bundle of sage into the embers of the bowl. It burst into flames emitting a smoke that quickly blanketed him, and he began to lash the statue with its own golden stick. When the smoke cleared and the reverberations had subsisted he felt reinvigorated, and could see that his wounds were no longer present. The idol too was disappeared, and as he turned around he realized that all of the gods had vanished. The hall had narrowed, and now led to a wooden door, which he walked through. The doorway led him to a 6X6 foot ledge near the top of the tower. There was nothing on this ledge except for a plain mat in the middle and small glass bowl placed in front of it. He sat down on the mat, crossed his legs, and then stared out into the distance. He sat in place meditatively and watched the day turn into night. After the second day he realized that the tower moved in accordance to the celestial bodies. Each morning the ledge faced east, and he welcomed the sun. At sunset he faced west bidding the day good bye. Each morning the light of the sun would creep over the ledge upon which he sat, eventually making its way into the bowl, and as it did a large crystal of salt would materialize. At midnight the light of the moon would dissolve the salt, and the bowl would fill with water. He would lift the bowl to his mouth and drink the salt water within, and that alone sustained him through the next day. The muscle he had amassed from countless hours of labor dwindled away. The sun glazed his skin. At night this glaze would crack. Eventually his skin became like leather stretched over a skeleton. His appearance was that of a mummy; a destitute man somehow preserved in time. He forgot how to walk, and eventually the sound of his own voice became a mystery. Even his thoughts began to fade into obscurity. He tried to clear his mind of distraction, but each day he could hear the moans and grunts of the workers down below, and each night he saw their dreams projected onto the sky like a Morphean Aurora Borealis. He began to construct bricks with power of his mind. Each night he constructed a new brick and laid down the mortar. Each day he let the sunâ€™s heat bake the brick and seal the mortar. His aim was to enclose himself from the world. And, free himself of distraction. Eventually, enough days passed that heâ€™d constructed a six foot brick cube around himself. In the center of the ceiling he left a circular hole. With his mind he flipped the bowl over and placed it in the hole so that it was like a lamp at the top of his enclosure. At noon a salt crystal fell from the bowl and dropped onto him. At midnight a bowlful of water sprayed down. After innumerable daily cycles the enclosure filled with
salt water, and he was finally able to free himself of any weight and strain of the world. His body remained floating, until after an incalculable amount of time he suddenly opened his eyes and peered through the inverted glass bowl. He watched the sky change in appearance. Not through natural forces, but by means of his own whimsy. One day he was struck with an idea, he moved the tower so that his enclosure faced due south toward the quarry. On the eastern horizon he brought up the sun so that its rays scantily shone over the mountains. On the western horizon he brought up the full moon much the same. It was neither day nor night; neither light nor dark. He knew this to be the way that the laborers would never be put to work again. He knew this to be a suspension of time. There was a pitfall to his plan, however, for enough sun light trickled in through the bowl to allow a new crystal of salt to produce, and likewise the there was enough moonlight that bowlfuls of water also poured in. The pressure in the enclosure eventually became too great, and the integrity of the mortar began to compromise. He felt that his creation would destroy at any moment. He knew that once it did, he would tumble toward a certain death, and his brain would not allow him to hit the ground. He knew that once his mind realized he was falling, that it would wake his sleeping self up. While these realizations dawned on him his sanctuary exploded. Bricks and mortar separated into chards and projectiles. The salt water swirled around him. He screamed violently, and his body separated into spiraling fractals then reorganized. The white sand raced toward him. It was brilliant. All he could see was a blaze of whiteness. Just plain white. Perhaps, it was the ceiling at the Best Western. Perhaps, it was his pillow.
Death hangs about the kitchen Taking here and there a nip First a kidney from father Then a bone from Grandmaâ€™s hip.
He eats with a clear conscience, Knowing neither guilt nor shame. Like we play with our pasta, He turns food into a game. Night and day he throws parties, Reveling while his captives pray They have the time and money Life demands his victims pay. We each serve as a target, Full of many tasty bites. Death acts like weâ€™re provided Just to feed his appetites.
He has no real preference Stalking infants, teens, the sage. Death cannot act with mercy, Even though he hears us rage.
Each bite he calls a dainty. Human flesh and blood he craves. Never filled, always famished, Daily, he digs countless graves.
Etch-A-Sketch by Allison Young, Digital Photograph
In this archetypal society it’s not always that hard to identify the characters. Upon whom do we stumble within these towns and cities? Girls locked in sky rises like princesses, in gardens like witches, in beds like tricksters. Boys scorned as antiheros, as kings. It’s easy to identify ourselves as sacrificial and wise. But rarely are we the protagonists even within our own stories. Beyond royalty and myth there are the cobblers, pirates and merchants at sea, soldiers and alchemists. Perhaps the glamour is lessened but someone needs to craft our shoes and fight our wars. Within us all a primal urge to discover the secrets of this cyclical history. But sometimes we fail, and not even the most beautiful of spell casters is distanced from the luxury of violence. As evening falls, this little mountain city looks clean. The aura of the sunset, ignited by blood, covers all tarnish and distortion in a blanket of brilliant color. It’s a beautiful autumn evening. The last of the summer clings to the clouds. This week the temperature is supposed to drop. Rotting bodies don’t smell as pungent in the cold. From my balcony I see the chaos below. My sandal dangles off my toes and I am madly tempted to toss it into the scene, flick my cigarette onto the stretcher as they carry his body. The police lights are hard to see in the glare but I can hear the sirens. I heard them breaking down the door just after noon. I suppose I could have reported the twitchy dealers lingering outside his apartment for days. My phone vibrates with a message. “Suicide. Sick joke,” it reads. “He was always a little crass,” I respond. Just last week that man’s broken body filled the stage, his presence illuminated under stage lights. He gave audience laughter and some dialogue to circle the internet until the wit wore thin. Tomorrow the newspapers will lament his death. I was never one for blatant humor; I prefer situational dark comedy. It’s easier to relate. Our only interaction occurred yesterday. Perhaps I was an omen, like a crack in a ceiling or road kill. He held the elevator door as I ran in from the rain, laden with groceries. When our eyes locked I saw the bruises under the lids. I smelled the scotch and a hint of basil. I saw the tiny bag in his hand. He saw that I saw. He didn’t crack a witty comment, didn’t smile. I didn’t say hi, didn’t stop him or invite him over for a joint. I’m surprised they found him so quickly but he’s famous enough. I’m surprised his suicide wasn’t more dramatic. So many celebrities prefer flash over function. I know I was the last person to offer him a way out. Maybe I could have flirted, made him feel good, like a man. Maybe that’s all he needed. Perhaps he was waiting on me to give him a sign. I knew what he wanted. He looked so sad. I guess it’s no secret that clowns are the saddest creatures.
SHOOT-OUT IN THE GHOST – TOWN OF POETRY Joe Hunt
Them is fighting words—but I could never hurt her (and behind every lie is an inkling of truth). So I take it out on him. I shoot him on sight.
Eliot starts wearing sheriff’s stars to hide the bullet-holes. I can’t kill him, because he’s a ghost— but it’s good target practice. You can almost make out the Big Dipper, from his face to his foot. As I shoot, I think “Sylvia’s wrong. It’s not professional jealousy. This isn’t business—it’s pleasure.”
Whisper by Kristen Cupp, digital photograph
And he thinks he’s so smart—his footnotes for “The Wasteland” are in iambic pentameter. It makes me sick. Sylvia says “It’s professional jealousy.”
This town isn’t big enough for me and T.S. Eliot (or his cats). You can’t set foot in this town without stepping on one of his cats.
He doesn’t need to prove to me the existence of other dimensions The line racing mine Weaving all celestial bodies almost close enough to touch Like lovers folding into each other a hair’s breadth Away from knowing the other For I can feel her sometimes, The girl I left behind, When the city became too much to handle. Right now she is walking a sidewalk in Manhattan In black alligator stilettos The teeth of the heels breaking shiny rocks in the pavement. The air is soft with rain It is here she may sense my presence As I sit on a too-hard mattress watching snow fill the mountains. She has run a line in her nylons again A drawer full of them, black Like a boiling soot cloud. The wind still damp at 10 a.m. reveals a face. He was my grocer, and hers still, on the corner of 72nd and 3rd He might remember how much I miss peppermint jelly, For at this moment a figure with a striking resemblance, And fingers stained with India ink Grips the neck of a petite syrah, then, Raises lids encased in charcoal My eyes, those eyes, are mine “It’s lovely to see you again,” he says. It has been a long time. I feel the desert air warm the glass at my side Knowing that the wine in her glass is more expensive than mine. Perpetually breathless atop tar-laid roofs Sometimes fifty stories high and from there she is A goddess with a glittering map a world below So I look up pleased to see the sky She cannot find Orion’s belt against the spotlights while I pull him to me close with the crook of my finger. Oh what oh what did she try to express Spinning in a black box Between the electric tape to Nina Simone So the sun sets in the mirrors And her toe shoes scratch the floor Wild, wild the wind so wild on the 52nd floor and so beautiful Simone I keep dancing on all fours. Do you remember the man that you left for this?
4 Hands by Kaitlin Bryson, acryllic paint on wood
Her back curls back making love to heartbreak The piano climbs the moon yet to arrive. The purple air finds me at closing time Feeling something within me writhe: â€œShe must be airborneâ€? In contact with the floor Coiling Breathing Wrapping around an infection Lingering deep in my mind I walk home in-step with her erratic inhalations As the walls around spin faster and she Psychotically weeps, a cartridge Of positive and negative charges sacrificial Irreconcilable. Restless. The dimension is magnetic And always remembering even as I forget.
Maggie unbuttons the last button of her blouse and hangs it on a hanger in her perfectly organized closet—the one piece of life that has any order or makes any sense to her. She walks out of the closet with a slight limp and winces as she tries to straighten her back. She looks into the mirror above her vanity and then slides the spaghetti strap of her silk camisole off her shoulder with her left hand. A scar cuts down her collarbone and across the left side of her chest, interrupting her smooth skin like a ripple on a lake. She runs her finger along it, stopping with her left hand over her chest, like a backwards pledge of allegiance. Then she touches her reflection in the mirror and looks for the face that used to look like hers. Each day she finds it harder to see herself or her sister in the mirror. The inside of a birthday card is taped to the lower corner of the mirror. The brilliant red has faded in places and marred with water spots and discolored stains. A handwritten note is sprawled across the bottom: Can’t wait to pick you up for our party, see you soon, love you, Michelle. She glides her fingers across the card, pauses at her sister’s name, as if by touching it, she can feel her sister. Closing her eyes, she inhales deeply, then exhales. Her sister’s smile on the driver’s side of the car is the most vivid image, followed by the grill of a truck out of the driver’s side window. Smash. Then blackness. When Maggie woke in the hospital bed she grabbed her chest as it burned with pain, not from the surgery, but for the loss she knew before anyone had told her. A yearly calendar hangs to the right of the sink, days circled, then marked off with X’s, leading up to today’s date, the sixteenth of June. Two previous years of calendars lay on her dresser. Maggie removes her camisole, and changes into her pajamas. She scoops ice into a tumbler before setting it on her nightstand. Then she crawls into bed, sitting upright against headboard. Next to her, a large, gray stuffed bear is lying on the bed. It’s ratty with the nose almost worn off. On her nightstand, six prescription bottles surround her alarm clock: Alprazolam 2mg, Diazapam 10mg, Ambien 10mg, Zoloft 100mg, Seroquel 200mg, Dilaudid 4mg. She slides open the dresser drawer and pulls out a fifth of Absolut Vodka; pours it into the tumbler, filling it two-thirds full. She lifts it to her mouth and sips. She pulls out a framed photo: her sister and her on their twenty-second birthday in Las Vegas, smiling, holding up foot-tall daiquiris. She holds it in her left hand, strumming the side with her thumb as she drinks down the glass until there is only a shot left. She lays the picture on the bed. She looks over at the pill bottles. Then picks two of them up: Dilaudid and Diazapam. She empties their contents into her left palm—almost thirty pills. She picks up her vodka glass in her other hand. She swallows the dry lump in her throat, then, slowly pulls her palm toward her mouth. Her left hand shakes so violently pills drop off the side and onto the bed. She picks them up, and puts them back into her hand. She tries again. Hand still shaking, she touches her palm to her chin, the pills resting against the bottom of her mouth. Her lip quivers. She lowers her hand again. She closes her eyes. Inhales deeply: her sister’s smile. Exhales: the crash of metal. Inhales: her sister’s smile. Exhales: blackness. She opens her eyes, moist with tears. She pours the pills back into one of the bottles, not bothering to separate them, and snaps on the cap. She sucks in a deep breath and throws the pill bottle against the wall. The lid pops off and the pills spill out onto the floor. She lowers her head into her hand and sees Michelle’s smiling face in the picture next to her. Maggie opens her Ambien, takes out two, and swallows them with the last of her drink. She turns out the light, grabs the gray bear—that she and her sister had fought over as children—and pulls it tight into her chest. She sobs into its fur, until her body gives way to sleep. In the morning she picks up the pills, sorts them back into their proper bottles, and returns them to their spot on her night stand. She walks over to the calendar and puts an X through yesterday and circles today. She stares into the mirror. For a second she thinks she can see her there—a glimpse of her sister, or a possibly a glimpse of who Maggie once was—behind the glass, looking back at her. But then, the image is once more unrecognizable. She rubs her fingers across the birthday card. The words ingrained in her mind. She stops at the word “soon.” She closes her eyes. She whispers to the empty room, “not soon enough.”
Jaw Screws Fil Corbitt
The blinds are open and cars awkwardly navigate the roundabout below. I sit in the chair and hold a que-tip between my top lip and front left tooth. It’s covered with a numbing agent that tastes like super glue. It slightly numbs the surface, and a needle pushes diagonally into my gums, above one of my toothless gaps. The needle goes in a second and third time, and I can feel the pressure of the liquid push hard into my veins. The chair lays back and the needle enters three more times through the roof of my mouth. I can feel the same pressure and I tense up. My feet are crossed and flexed, my hands are clenched around my belt buckle, eyes closed, mouth open. I glance to see the latex glove hold a blade and insert it into my face at the spot in which I held the que-tip. It feels like the gums slice open and fold to expose jaw. I of course cannot see my teeth, but the remainder of my working nerve endings report a metal scrape on my bone. It feels like a file. I can feel warm blood run across the roof of my mouth and pool were my tongue seals my throat. A long time passes while metal hand tools jerk on my upper jaw bone. I eventually relax, and let my head be pulled back and forth. My headphones are in, and the din of the mouth pump is accompanied by instrumental bluegrass. A metal retainer pops into place and I see a drill pass over head. It looks like a dremmel tool. It slides into a small guide hole on the retainer and I feel it drill far into my jaw like a screw in wood. It slides out, and pliers tighten the screw into my bone. I feel the twisting, again like metal in wood. I can hear talk of the screw, and it sounds like it didn’t take right. I try to lick the corners of my mouth to keep them from splitting open. My jaw is exhausted, and the numbness is fading. I vocalize this, and two more needles enter the roof of my mouth. I can feel it spread above my left cheek to the spot under my eye. Work continues. I smell burning skin, and watch a tool I hadn’t seen before. I’m warned of it’s function, and it bangs against my jaw, squeezing my head between it and the chair. It’s a staple gun of sorts, and pins a plastic membrane to my gums with a metal tack. I feel it snap a second a third time, cracking my head backwards with each staple. The numbing agent wears again, but I don’t mention it. I feel a needle enter the gums, and open my eyes to see an arm pulling the thread away from my body. The string slides across my eyelashes before it fastens my gums together. I can feel the stitches tighten. A set of clippers snip the string, and I sit up. My head spins, and my gut hurts. The blinds are still open, but the roundabout is empty. The room sways violently, and my numb face throbs.
Neon Signs by Annie Hooker, oil on canvas
I Know You Want to Have Sex with That Poet
For those of you who have a love of cliché words, The word of the day is love: And I think I have discovered, (Written in the air like a diary entry From the one who loves to love us) What it is about the words of this stranger, the one that you hear Calling from the empty space, you listened for the sound in the seashell you Once upon a sign put to your ear, Imagining that you heard the ocean at a poetry slam Calling you out, of your shell, And towards that god of a poet who speaks to you most… He said— Do not deny yourself the library you admit to craving-The one shelved only with the words that pour out of his lips Like Tang, into the thirsty astronauts of the Ploh Plew Plah Planet, the Mwo Mah Meh Moon, and the Stoh Stah Star. But you know when uncontrollably unfaithful eyes stare at his flushed lips, Passionate like flamingos trying to speak Not knowing they have only a beak, But, he, he has, but he has lips, He bites He has scars from pondering too closely the books on lost library shelves, hidden from the readers, He kisses He has dried whiteness like lovemaking with words too busy to wipe their caked on selves, a virgin spittle, He licks He has a deadly need to know the taste of bodies that live like you spend life, imagining beautiful death, He frowns He has seen the scars on your arms that are the personal history books you yourself filed in the drama section, He speaks He has never been selfish enough to have heard his own voice, auto tuned to Gods own unknown pitch, Holy waves crashing from the shores of unknown answers, Locked away, until they bounce off all of the cliché, and Ringing like endless wells—word music, locked as deep as earth sized bells Make their way to your seismograph ears, registering as sound waves, On the holy scale that goes A B C D E F G I N F I N I T Y But all of these pronounced waves in the seemingly empty space are translated, From whatever god wrote in the air, his diary of earthly love, To the lip-loved explorer of space, his found poetry like cool Tang, From his answer speaking lips, to your unprepared ears. From his lips you cannot struggle, struggle from hearing, struggle for listening, His lips, the ones you stare at, (The pink flamingos that say the awful name--
La Bici by Ashley Robison, digital photograph
The one you would have never chosen for yourself) Because library lips learn only secondhand facts; But, he, he has, but he has lips, And speaking the words for the first time Is somehow clean, alluring; However, The wordy smell of fresh pressed paper and binding glue Is somehow grasped by his beard The one you love; to sniff. The crisp, uncleanly cut, thick papyrus of history Is somehow found in his touch The one you love; to feel. The bright white tree flesh, exoskeleton of black ink Is somehow read in his eye The one you love; to blind. Because library lips learn only secondhand facts And speaking those words (The sense-making syllables he found in space Written on the air like poems for the blind deaf and thirsty) Because listening to this creation music for the first time From his lips to your ears-Is somehow clean, alluring, like him The one you love; to love.
I, Esperanza All-Seeing
The week last, Akil was stabbed in West Oakland. Today, arms crossed he counts guests proud to stand at work – in the St. Vincent de Paul Dining Room – no longer a soup kitchen, that name was gone with the Second Great War.
Roy the Ragman’s tics with Rottweiler barks aimed at some stranger only he can see. He takes his tray and shifts his eyes from those that get too close, and when their gazes run away he grabs their bread, fills his pockets. Across from the steam trays lined with friend faces, Lady Tree serves the tea. She shakes, her body all nerves, the axons visible between track marks, her red hair clumps or braids. Never enough Equal to sweeten her up.
And here I sway somewhere between the street and the closets, at the end of a journey that began far below Mexico, where the mango trees grow like weeds. And the shadows of my brothers and I still cling to that of our mother, who pedaled us four around, on a Huffy ten-speed. Between the tables that smell like border patrol, the aisles are lined with broken-backed spirits. Some are born in the huge shadows of the Bay Bridge from the East Side, those cargo cranes.
Do Not Resuscitate Joanne Mallari
if it comes to the point that we rely on machines to pump artificial feelings into our conversation, emoticons flashing across the monitor to keep track of vital sentiments, are only able to communicate through text messages,
or exist for each other on Facebook, waiting for visits that are few and far in between, why donâ€™t we pull the plug?
Dancing City by Kristen Cupp, digital photograph
I donâ€™t want to keep this friendship alive by extraordinary means:
Make Time For Tom IV by Brian Kreuger, ballpoint pen on paper
Just one of those days when I feel like professing a love I don’t feel and don’t believe in to anybody who will listen. Love: I lust after it, longing wholeheartedly for that phantasmic normality that I’m told to want, but that nobody will give me. Rewarding the listening stranger with my unreliable, undying adoration: complete with cheesy pick up line, tender break up letter, and all the juicy innards. Now yours for the low, low price of: months of wasted time, gallons of wasted tears, a handful of wasted nights lying awake, plus the unmentionable cuts carving up your arms. Reasonable?
No. But nothing truly good in this world is considered reasonable. Reason is not present in want, and to want is to live. To want mutual vulnerability turned to comfort through proximity. To want to live happily ever after, riding away on horseback with prince charming. To want to truly want prince charming, instead of harboring a hidden desire that’s far less tasteful. To want a full stomach. A full mind. A full heart. A full house, instead of living alone and empty, despite the surrounding people. And this is where the true nature of want begins to appear. For want is utterly perpetual. No human is ever satiated, for to be truly appeased would be to die, though alive. Reasonable? As reasonable as the constant search for perfection. Humans: the only creatures who mate for semi-life. Pulled together by chemicals and pulled apart by logic, dictating that there must be something or someone better. Using reason to assess irrational emotion and, therefore, proving it false. Trying out both the animalistic and humanistic approaches, searching for fulfillment and finding only confusion until exhaustion finally permits an end.
It Ended There
In that slow moment She lifted her hand From tired hip to hanging brow, Cast her eyes, angled Past avoidance to ambivalence For the resident space Between them, widened As silences billowed Truths about scars, How they come to be Rumpled and silken. How their permanence is tissue and things left undone.
Stop by Zac Bryson, digital photograph
Editor, Katie Oâ€™Neill This is my senior semester at UNR and, after the wealth of knowledge I have accrued from the hundreds of hours of lectures, studying, and tests, nowhere have I learned more than being editor for brushfire. I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to have been able to contribute two editions of the publication and look forward to continuing editing beyond the university. When Iâ€™m not working on Brushfire, I can be found reading, gardening, dancing, and making stuff. I also enjoy film noir, zombies, and finding bones in the desert.
page Assistant Editor, Hannah Behmaram Hey, I’m new to the Brushfire as one of the assistant editors and so excited about it! A few facts about me: I’ve always loved writing, as is obvious by the mounds of notebooks I have stashed in my room, and it’s something I’ve been doing since the third grade. There’s nothing I like more than singing in the shower, cozying up with a good book, or watching Gilmore girls re-runs for the twenty seventh time. I’m currently an English Literature major, but if that gets boring I plan on becoming a beauty school drop-out and playing with hair all day. I love semi-colons. If possible, I have music playing every second of every day and someday hope to re-learn piano in order to fulfill my dream of becoming the next Norah Jones. Who knows, it could happen. Hope you enjoy the issue!
Digital Librarian, Madison Jackson My mission in life is to figure out what my mission is. Currently, it looks as though I will never leave the comforting bosom of academia. I’m a senior by credit at UNR, and hope to go on to grad school. I enjoy writing, but have no illusions that words make bank. I enjoy odd paraphernalia. My purse is a rubber chicken and my winter hat is a narwhal. I am not a vegetarian - chicken is delicious. I enjoy playing scary video games at night without any lights on, because I’m fearless like that. I find killing zombies by the moonlight to be very romantic, and am prepared for the zombie apocalypse when it inevitably occurs. I have wasted far too much of my life playing Tetris. Occasionally, I take on different identities and pretend to be someone I’m not on a stage. I enjoy good food, good people, and traveling. My favorite part of Paris was the catacombs.
Webmaster, Andrew Warren I am a senior in mechanical engineering, a podcaster, a web designer, graphic artist, poet, musician, car customizer, geek, gamer, and traveler. In my life I try to balance my love for art and passion for engineering. Visit my website at www.kineticconcept.com
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This edition of Brushfire is dedicated to Dennis O’Neill and Walter Warren, we love and miss you. Published by the Associated Students of the University of Nevada, Reno
Copyright 2011 Brushfire and the individual contributors. All rights reserved by the respective authors and artists. Original work is used with expressed permission of the artists. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher. The opinions expressed in this publication and its associated website are not necessarily those of the University of Nevada, Reno or the student body.
Front and back cover designs by Brian Krueger “Cartoon Man” and “The Day Talk Shows,” Ballpoint pen on copy paper (respectively) Title page by Kelly Peyton “Growing,” acrylic on panel
Book Layout by Katie O’Neill
Printed by Allegra Print & Imaging
Editor: Katie O’Neill Assistant Editor: Hannah Behmaram Webmaster: Andrew Warren Digital Librarian: Madison Jackson
The Brushfire staff would like to thank ASUN, Amy Koeckes for all your help and guidance, our editorial board: Arian Katsimbras, Estefania Cervantes, Ashley Hennefer, Angela Spires, Caitlin Thomas, Joe Hunt; and our invaluable advisors and mentors for all the help and insight they provided for this edition. The staff would also like to thank all of our contributors, supporters, and all the people who inspire us.