Literature & Arts Literature & Arts
Literature & Arts Edition 67 Volume 1
Copyright 2014 Brushfire and the individual contributors. All rights reserved by the respective artists. Original work is used with the express permission of the artists. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher. Brushfire would like to thank the judging panel for their time and participation as well as the volunteers for their undying dedication. The opinions expressed in this publication and its associated website and social medias are not necessarily those of the University of Nevada, Reno or of the student body. Front & back cover by Zoe Durant Front, “Rolling Hills” Back, “Ring” Book Layout by Brushfire Team Printed by A. Carlisle Brushfire Staff Editor-in-Chief: Leona Novio Literary Director: Dylan Smith Art Diector: Nathaniel Benjamin Zine Editor:Clarisa Depari Zine Consultant: Sean Bassney Webmaster: Marcus Casey
Published by the Associated Students of the University of Nevada, Reno
To occupy a restless world that is in constant demand of production and cooperation, I often have to ask myself, “Where does that leave me?” I could spend my life contributing and maintaining systems and philosophies that I neither chose nor created. Instead, I have decided invoke a movement, to change the minds of the unbelievers, to struggle against the apathetic, and to challenge the desensitized. Supplied here is the visual pleasure for your intellectual beckoning and the marks of a long processed journey in which the heart and ache of myself and the staff can be seen. This being the first edition in which I have placed my efforts, I present to you the pains of labor and the joys of creation. From here, the responsibility lies in you, the viewer, to not let the movement begin and end between the folds of these pages, but rather to let it come to fruition in the arms of your actions. Leona Novio EIC, Brushfire
Table of Contents Artwork
6 Jacob Sax Look Honey, a Communist 8 Zoe Durant Little Lake 13 Zoe Durant Form 18 Leona Novio Piano Hands 19 Basil Finnegan Eve 31 Nathaniel Benjamin Francesca Making Plans 35 Chace Calvert A Sunrise in Star Light 37 Nathaniel Benjamin Distance 60 Zoe Durant Headache 61 Zoe Durant Vomit 66 Leona Novio Resting Stare 67 Nathaniel Benjamin Mikey Finding Logics 68 Leona Novio Lined 79 Jacob Sax Untitled
1 Nate Eng Crate Digging 3 Nate Eng Dome 12 Lucia Segura Big Sur 23 Estefania Cervantes Rebirth 27 Lucia Segura New York City 29 Estefania Cervantes Golden Valley 51 Lucia Segura Potomac River 53 Nate Eng Staring Into the Sun 57 Estefania Cervantes Ecstasy, Self-Portrait 70 Estefania Cervantes Mexican Sky 71 Berkley Bragg Isolation 75 Estefania Cervantes Aussie Conner on the Melodica on the Tramp 76 Estefania Cervantes Burning Man 82 Haley Carroll Goldfield 85 Nate Eng Searching For the Sound
7 Griffin Peralta Warm Trees 17 Michelle Forman Sinister Secrets 31 Bailey Gamberg Kind of Nothing 38 Brandon Fischmann 39 63 Griffin Peralta The Ideal Time to Relax 73 Gabriella Murata Things I Am Not Ready To Put Away
4 Daniel Putney Babel 5 Matthew Karr Camping Trip 9 Andrew Sherbondy A Wake in St.Gorgeous 11 Jonathan Vivet No Rainbows Here 11 Joanne Mallari Her Eyes 14 Nikki Raffail Puke 15 Daniel Putney Picasso Bleeds 16 Hailey Brubaker Diverge 20 Ally Messer Untitled 21 Samantha Buckley Palm Seeds 24 Sunny Mok Unfortunately, Circumstnaces 25 David Tilley #070020 29 Matthew Karr Morning Routine 30 Michael Blane Papaya 51 Sunny Mok Sunflowers 54 Joey Thyne Sprinting Through an Infinite Desert 55 Samantha Buckley And the Meek Shall Inherit the Earth 58 Joanne Mallari Hesitation 59 Dylan Smith Softcore Nightmare 61 Joanne Mallari In Between 62 Tiffany Javier Las Vagueness 69 Matthew Karr The Results of Your Placement Exam 72 Vincent Eenhuis Shame On Me 78 Daniel Putney Brave New World 80 Matthew Karr Friday Night, A Few Lives Ago 81 Nikki Raffail Compression 83 Daniel Putney Thank You
Crate Digging by Nate Eng
By Daniel Putney I’ve been thinking of a tower that reaches all the way to Heaven. Babel’s fall comes to mind, a reminder of what shouldn’t be. Yet the hellish landscape encourages these forbidden dreams. I envision a stairway to Heaven built of beautiful marble slab. My heart palpitates at the image of St. Peter’s lovely countenance. I ask, “Why would God punish the troubled souls searching for solace? Does He not see our tear-stained cheeks and trembling hands?” So we become amateur architects in our sleep, crafting an ascent into the light. Do not be surprised to find me with closed eyes on cotton sheets. For I am putting the final touches on my Babel blueprints.
Dome by Nate Eng
Camping Trip By Matthew Karr
I remember masturbating on that mountaintop, battered Nietzsche returned to dirt, and how I came silently, the slightest sound would echo below. So, from my horizon quiet celebration of spilt cum and solitude, though the ants did traverse me, I knew they would eventually bring company. And descending, the path lost in moment of journey, all rock faces being the same as I am the same, and unable to continue by crevasses and treesap. “Sing to me now, I am far and held with handsome questions, who bubble continuous resolve on my hands’ words.” No melody came and the birds did not carry and the stones vibrated with adrenaline comedowns, my legs marked by bloodlines.
Opposite: Look Honey, a Communist by Jacob Sax
Warm Trees By Griffin Peralta
According to “egg drop” theory, there are an infinite number of moments between any time of day and another. This is mostly a mathematical semantic. Since you can denote time in milliseconds, or nanoseconds, with fractions and decimals, there are literally any amount of numbers between 1&2. This is what I thought about the first time I kissed you. I thought about how waiting for it to happen, and how the act itself had both felt like they went on forever…
Fifth… I thought of how if you look closely at the lines in a sandstone, you can see clearly the way that a river once laid down sediment to form thick lines across centuries. So. If time is a river, then the currents are love. These seconds are infinite… And I pray that the stone that forms around me… Is YOU.
Second, I thought about how the taste of your lemonade had lingered on your lips, and how I would associate you with lemon from that moment on, and how you had said I smelled like warm trees, and how I wished crushed clove and cedar wood would remind you of me forever… Third, I thought of the irony of a first kiss at an airport as I said goodbye, and considered the following; Every atom in our bodies was once part of a star. So, if we’re together now, and if we’ve been looking for each other all along, it’s much less like we finally found each other and… much more like we just… came home. Fourth, how I have often considered people to be like stained glass windows. We’re all made up of little pieces; decisions, memories, events. We’re giving and taking from each other the times of our lives and they form up to make something cohesive, beautiful. And since this is true, I can’t help but think of how the more time we spend together, the more of me will be rose colored glass, and how someday, I’ll get to see myself the way you do. Little Lake by Zoe Durant
A Wake In St. Gorgeous By Andrew Sherbondy
Before long, I’ll need you to know about the finches, and how they tore each other apart between the blue-placard lines of the mortuary.
This afternoon feels as an abandoned wheelchair might; artless, when someone decides to stand and wander off
We’ll have to talk in a way sons and fathers often don’t, about how it feels to witness tangerine talons, grinding like hinged millstones across the blacktop, and the pallid trails left behind—
without warning, and the rubber grips have archived all the damp handprints they can, before growing dry and fed-up, peeling away as things often do,
drawn, so the one who survives can trace the history of the other, to know that the arbitrary fear and regret was shared. I’d like to think there was something in common after all, and a solace found in leaving the carcass to bake in the parking lot of a place like that. I can try to explain why they deserved an audience better than me, how underdressed I felt, and how odd people become in grieving, but it’s most important you know, right now, that I don’t believe— nothing has really changed— I woke this morning just as the day before, in a deep chill unique to the empty husk of an air mattress.
though always within reach of being toppled over, and re-envisioned as Ferris wheels in tandem, mincing daylight through wire spokes, saving from the realities of a zip-tied bag, found through transcending the brass urn: no longer a woman, only a lava field and my ill-suited footwear coupled with your acrophobic sister, and twenty minutes to remove the clasp that so often moonlights as restraints for the overly passionate. For now, I can ignore the irony of a sunburned nose that’s been gifted at a wake planned over years of exposure— we can talk about the grandchild she called her bee, the one who thinks too damn much for his own good, like me.
No Rainbows Here By Jonathan Vivet
I’ve had this thunderstorm in my eyes for quite sometime. Not the gentle, loving type of kind. The summer kind. The whip up from nowhere uninvited kind. The ones that uproot all that you love, flooding the yard you played in as a child kind. The weatherman didn’t see this one coming. It was a picnic sort of day, he said. A light breeze at most. But the wind filled up the space where dreams once lurked and the rain took over again.
By Joanne Mallari are like water reflecting my own questions— questions neither one of us has the answer to. But I am good at the wait, good at stalling over the precipice, and that feeling in my gut remains—that feeling of about-to-fall happening again and again.
Opposite: Big Sur by Lucia Segura
Form by Zoe Durant
By Nikki Raffail I puked on the side of Mt. Rose highway once. Beach-clad, heart-shaped sunglasses spewing the oatmeal that was supposed to soak up the acidity from four shots of something fiery the night before. I didn’t want to. They all stared. Even the cars, they stared too. From the corner of my eye I could imagine Beach-clad drivers pointing at the girl with the heart-shaped sunglasses. I could feel daggers of uncomfortable energy emulating from the eyes of the passengers surrounding me waiting for the something, anything else. I can’t say I didn’t feel sorry for them. But I felt more sorry that I ruined my schedule, my pattern. Subconsciously trying to recreate the themes and the roles I played three and a half years earlier in northern buildings cohabited by young adults spending daddy’s money.
When I found myself staring into a pile of breakfast on Mt. Rose Highway I realized I am not 18 anymore— I am a college graduate.
By Hailey Brubaker
Picasso Bleeds By Daniel Putney
You spoke of me with Rowdin on your tongue, thinking, thinking, thinking, chiseling me in the ventricles of your mind, erecting a nouveau David that Raphael would be proud of, reborn as Venus in the Sistine Chapel, forgotten in limestone buried in the Renaissance; but my bones breathe melting clocks and starry nights and atmospheric skulls that feed calcium to the osteoblasts of my bodyâ€™s impression, found in the abandoned quarry of your cerebrum; and I am lost in the descending staircase of your friend Duchamp, praying for the war to end on the blue canvas of my skin
I am sick of molding myself to fit into every single space you have so condescendingly offered me. I refuse to fit into you. Every ghost that has passed through my bedroom door will never haunt me like yours does. Iâ€™m in deep enough for the both of us. I left so much behind in the hollows of your cheekbones, my will to exist tucked away in your back pocket. I look for my own voice in your laugh. I was attached to you. No matter how hard I try, and try, and try, my favorite accident is on permanent repeat. No mercy in the way your stare can pin me in place, insect to corkboard. Your fingertips trace empty, long forgotten patterns over the road maps of my skin, mountains and valleys, dips and scars. I will give myself to you once more, until the cycle eradicates me.
Sinister Secrets By Michelle Forman
The mask falls to the ground, black and white dancing across hard wood floors. The audience stares, mouths left gaping for the words their minds cannot create for them to speak. The performer tips his hat and gives them a low bow. His bright eyes mask dark thoughts as his gaze sweeps over row after row of blurred, faceless sacks pining for amusement in the dim lighted hell of sweat and laughter. The bright feathers on his hat brush the floor as his arm sweeps wide. For a moment the grin is gone, for a moment he is alone, left to stare at the scratch he had neglected to polish on the toe of his left boot. Then he straightens and dons his true mask with the reappearance of the roughish grin and laughter-filled eyes. The mask is placed over his head and down across his eyes before being hidden behind a raised finger. It is silence he beckons for and silence which they give him. â€œSpeak of this to no one,â€? the performer says to the audience in a voice as dark as the satin and polished costume he wears. His boots slide dance-like across the floor, heavy heels grinding against the surface of his prison. Stomping down against the surface as though the audience themselves are beneath his feet. Then he stops and the audience applauds, giddy with the forbidden truth of the fallen mask. The performerâ€™s error will circulate in hushed tones until everyone knows without knowing everyone else has already become privy to such knowledge as well. The worst, well-kept secret. The best kind of secret.
Piano Hands by Leona Novio
By Ally Messer
Eve by Basil Finnegan
Because of you I’m constantly applying clumpy mascara. Starting every day afraid of my own damn sexuality and remembering that I am but the crumpled shell of a second grader. Invisible scars lie below my tweetie bird belt buckle. They sting when I touch them. Tears of blackened innocence carve trenches in my cheeks. I can’t remember your face, but I remember the underside of your chin and the grip of your iron hands on my boyish hips. Sometimes I crush myself into a ball and try to be small and fragile, like I used to be. Crawling into the coffin of my childhood, I open my eyes and try to see the world like I used to but I can’t.
By Samantha Buckley If plants are family, Then palm trees and dandelions must be Fraternal twins, connected by The shared practice of Traveling seeds. How far they have grown apart Since then. Since the palm trees rested on shores Worlds away, only to send out their brothers. They floated their seeds across oceans So their kin could rest on the other side, Bridging the underground wall of black and blue, Manifesting that Destiny. They were like dandelion seeds, Those parachute bundles held together In a fuzzy ball atop the pock-marketed stem heads, Waiting for some mouth to open and Breathe out. Breath like a plea, Uprooting seeds like messengers, Cascading them out To look for someplace to settle, Someplace to grow a whispered wish-Like palm trees, Before they began to withhold themselves.
Now those treesâ€™ v-ed bark, laid one over the other, Is a suit of armor that no longer spans the Young boy running off to war, but covers The lined man who walks back; The one who carves his eyes into a tunnel Where he leads each felled friend. The bark that can be made into masks For some strange creature to watch us from. Painted eyes on stale death follow us As we take their brothers from Shores of familial correspondence And into landlocked deserts; As we plant them between hard, hot asphalt, Those trees that watched have decided. No matter how hard the wind wishes The seeds will remain attached, The messengers unmoved, And scorpions will nest in the parachute canopy, Ready to sting the hand grasping for a wish of its own. And now, How far apart these fraternal twins have grown: From when the palm trees used to move like dandelions, Flexing with the easy push and pull of the wind, Like a fatherâ€™s light tug on the taunt chain of a playground swing; From when they used to wish their brothers away from Home.
Unfortunately, Circumstances By Sunny Mok
the pools of plans we built leaked because circumstances poked holes
Rebirth by Estefania Cervantes
By David Tilley Dark blue. Past navy. Moving into that place on the far side of midnight, just before the dawn breaks. Stretching further, making my vision past-tense as the dim light in the center grows harder and harder to see how you took my breath away. I’ve got it back, nowBut that won’t keep me from waxing poetic about you. About your skin. I’d write “brushing it is like touching a live wire” even though it’s really it’s more like carpet-static but poetry in person is flat and we didn’t pass cut-out sonnets in English class for laughs.
I’d like to think that paper is still worth something, even if I was too afraid to spend it. I know that I’m a sinner. I never needed God’s permission not to believe in Him, and I didn’t need His permission to turn positive impulse into ugliness. I didn’t need Him to make me hate myself for what I couldn’t do to you. You didn’t need Him to enable the worst parts of me. We didn’t need Him to stop calling each other.
New York City by Lucia Segura
By Matthew Karr The heat of endless mornings spent in caffeine ablutions and forging of glass When I was a child I ate sand— my parents wouldn’t let me swim— and I was not an oyster. No pearls formed from alchemy patient as the tide, but earth and grit scraping intestines, skinned knees on the ground of being. No thick shell opening, closing; Just teeth to grind and lips to soft upon softness interminably, part, crack, close
By Michael Blane Because of the drought out here we should hold onto the papaya and instead sit, breathing in and in, and wait for god to put away the magnifying glass. I’d never had a burn deeper than the dead skin until I decided not to lie about whether or not I’m tired, and even after 8 good hours until I climb up and over to the bowl of fruit.
and subterranean the knowledge that we will finish studying treatises on breathing, notice the shadows have shortened, and clean the dirt from our wounds.
Golden Valley by Estefania Cervantes 29
Kind Of Nothing By Bailey Gamberg
Sometimes, I actually begin to question whether I exist or not. Whether I’m just some mental fabrication or an ethereal spirit, floating slowly and continuously into abyss. Sometimes, I actually begin to think that I wouldn’t mind that. Maybe it’d be peaceful, just perching languidly wherever I so pleased. It’d be kind of neat if absolutely no one noticed me. I could eavesdrop on particular conversations, ditch Biology class, watch baseball on Dad’s flat screen. But that’s an ill-fated dream. Eavesdropping only leads to name-calling, ditching only leads to a trip to the dean’s, and watching the game only leads to yelling.
Francesca Making Plans by Nathaniel Benjamin
I’m stuck in the place in between, where I am not quite invisible, but I’m not always present either. I’m sort of translucent, kind of fuzzy around the edges. There’s a chance that if you run into me, you’ll pass right through, or we might crash headlong into one another. It always seems to be that whichever option I want to happen never does. As sort of a little experiment for myself, I ditched Biology today. Our teacher, Mrs. Herman, could drone on and on about the inner-workings of plant cells for the rest of her life so I just asked to go to the bathroom and snatched my bag on the way out. The hall monitor I passed in the courtyard looked right at me, his grey dingy eyes narrowing, but he didn’t say a word. I think that was a moment where I was just a mirage. So I left, and because I wasn’t really sure what else to do I went to the nifty diner down the street and when the cashier took my order and my money with a pleasant smile I assured myself that I was alive. And when I could taste the saltiness of the fries and the juices of the burger I felt alright again. I went home after that, figuring I could get a head start on homework or something to try and ease the guilt weighing in my heart for skipping class. I’d probably never do that again. It was mostly still in the house. Dad was at work, but he’d left a window open so I could hear the leaves rustling outside and the television on so I could hear the low hum of Judge Judy. He’d be back around three with the little ones, all scrambling for an after school snack and his attention. I gave up on both of those awhile ago. But the door creaked open sooner than I’d thought, a little before two, and I heard the all too familiar sound of his boots on the hardwood floor and the plunk of his keys on the sofa. I always had to dig them out of the cracks in the cushions so he wouldn’t throw a fit about it later. 32
“You’re home,” I commented as he brushed past me, and he headed straight towards the fridge and combed his fingers through the leftovers. “Why are you home early?” I made it a question. He grunted, “I got off early. What else do you think it’d be?” “I dunno. A doctor’s appointment or something?” Dad decided on pizza from last weekend and yanked open the microwave door. “You still picking up the kids?” “Quit asking me questions,” he grumbled, gazing at yesterday’s newspaper on the counter, “You know I’ll pick them up. I always pick them up.” “Sometimes you forget,” I murmured. “Shut up.” So I shut up, and as he went about his business he kind of forgot I existed. I busied myself with my work, drowning in algebra equations and vocabulary words and historical dates. I don’t mind the drowning really. You get used to it, like anything else. I was yanked from my submerging with the sound of tiny stampeding feet and snappy, high-pitched voices. “Dad you’ll never guess what I did in school today!” “Quiet Tyler, I want to show Dad my drawing first.” “Dad can you make me some Mac and cheese?” Each request denied, ignored, rejected. I listened to what Tyler did in school, saw what my sister drew in art class, made a box of Mac and cheese to calm their rumbling bellies. Dad sat and watched television on his flat screen. I packed my books back into my bag, scraping my finger along the edge of a crumbled corner. I hissed at the pain, sucking my fingertip for a moment in case it drew blood, and pulled the wretched paper out. It
was last quarter’s 4.0 report card, and I left it sitting on the kitchen counter to be used as a coaster for later. In the retreat to my bedroom, I paused and looked at a picture in the hallway of Dad. It was before all the little rascals were born, before Mom left. It was just us three: Mom, Dad, and me. I’m wearing his baseball cap, and its brim falls down so low you can barely see the happy glint in my eyes. But you can see it in the glow in my cheeks, in the crinkles of my smile. Mom’s holding me under the armpits like you do with toddlers, and her vibrant curls are cascading down her face and framing her laughter. Dad is kneeled beside us, looking not quite as gleeful, but undoubtedly the happiest this lifetime has ever seen him. I fall back into my bed and wonder what happened. I wonder why destiny or God or whatever you believe in pulls happiness away from us. I wonder why they dangle it right in our faces, perhaps allowing us a touch before yanking it back again. Why do you have to work for your happiness? Why can’t it just be gifted to us, like a present on Christmas? Why does it have to be like a paycheck? And why, are so many of us unemployed? I drown in my blankets of thoughts. I swim in them for awhile, treading the water, and eventually I grow tired. I close my eyes and let the waves wash over me. I feel the water fill up my lungs, course through my bloodstream. I feel my head go dizzy and my arms go weak. I feel weightless. I feel nothing.
A Sunrise in Starlight by Chace Calvert
By Brandon Fischmann The Curator carefully placed his index finger inside the security lock and then felt the quick, hungry bite of a needle and the tug of his blood. He held his breath, eyes fixed on the interface. *Scanning for Curator* The lock confirmed his DNA, pulling up a ACSII interface profiling of his genetic makeup, emotional inclinations, and major life events. He swept the information aside with his other index finger before he had the chance to be reminded. Gears racked and turned somewhere inside the walls and the massive steel vault doors slid open. As opposed to the plastic furnishing of the laboratories, the floors and walls inside the vault were concrete cracked by the occasional earthquake, but blanketed on the outside with a metal layer three feet thick. This had been included to hold back the toxic summer flash floods of the Mississippi as they seeped into the mud banks. The vault air was cool, but humid. With the exception of the occasional invasive bacteria, the humidity was produced by the emissions of only one species; human exhalations eating at the walls like one century-long, attempted prison escape. The discovery of invasive pathogens in these laboratories was a particularly rare event; the last documented discovery had been in a human mouth twenty six years prior. The foreign life form and its vessel were promptly disposed of in the cleansing furnace that occupied 3,000 square feet in the center floor of the Grand Atrium. It beckoned to the weak and empty like a behemoth buried to the lips for his sins, an artist forever doomed to stain the roofâ€™s glass panes the color of dehydrated urine. Having read the mythologies of the past, the Curator considered the irony of this. Heaven was now buried within the Earth and Hell was the atmosphere that hung above it like a doctor hovering over a terminal patient. 37
Distance by Nathaniel Benjamin
Knowing the path better than the path of the veins on the back of his aging hands, he strolled down Lane 0111 and matched his pace with the wavelike rhythm of the turbine engines maintaining the homeostasis of the vaults. Its contents were unspeakably delicate and even the slightest change in air pressure could destroy them. The cavernous roof rose several hundred feet above him and on either side he was flanked by solid steel walls that rose half as high. Black computer screens were evenly spaced across the divider walls as far as visible and the lift rested where he’d long since left it. He climbed inside and let its preprogrammed commands play out as it began to adjust and elevate. When it stopped at its apex, he reached out to the shimmering wall of LCDs and poked at the black screen before him. It lit up. *Welcome Curator* *Proceed with file: Y / N ?* *Accessing archives* Familiar information filled the screen as his gut began to fill with a cold burn. He saw the memories behind his eyes before the screen produced them: her poking her head down from the top bunk of their wall-mounted beds, hair hanging around her smile like a wild animal. He watched the shadows from the dormitory’s hanging globe lights play skittish across her features until the darkness devoured them. What role does nostalgia play in survival? None he could account for. He smelled the sweet smell of iodine and hair sweat as they wrestled on the padded library floor before being pulled apart and chastised for their childishness. His memories only served to whittle years off of his life. This is why we are not beings perfectly fit for survival. We cannot always let go when it is best for us to. We commit ourselves to suffer beyond our own trials. He felt her hand touch his cheek, cold and musical, like a dozen needles filled with morphine. We are self-condemned to be tethered to the fates of others. Centuries before, in a softer world than this, someone might have written a book and called this love, but this was not a soft world, this 39
was a toxic one, and he had no desire to see himself in a story anymore. The world outside was toxic, but not unlivable. 2.5 million people still populated the banks of the Mississippi River in industrial St. Louis. Its skyline was connected by an endless knot of monorail tracks that weaved in and out of skyscrapers like titanium tentacles. They were built to keep its inhabitants from ever having to travel outside, but no amount of engineering could keep the outside from slowly coming in. They could only keep the air quality indoors clean for so many years. Equipment malfunctioned and the pollution crept its way into the polished corridors of these vertical factories. The average lifespan of surface dwellers dropped a few more years every decade. Organs needed to be replaced and body fluids supplemented after enough exposure to pollutants. It could be argued that humanity had the technology to stop the pollution, and they did, but it didn’t matter. There was a pollutant so rampant that no amount of technology could diminish it and it was called “apathy.” So the infamous marketing mantra of a previously unknown pharmaceutical company was born: If We Cannot Survive Without a Healthy World, We Will Harvest From One! Light burst from a thin slot above the screen, generating a hologram of the file behind the Curator. This was the file of #46. This number didn’t imply his rank in time or arrival, as there were only one hundred “honey pots”—as the overseers called them—active at a time, with new generations constantly taking the numbers of the old. This was a human farm on its 11th generation of humans, grown in Petri dishes and raised to donate every fluid they could reasonably spare. They lived healthy, isolated lives beneath the technological chaos of the upper world and operated on strict regimens of exercise, consumption, harvesting, and meditation. When those with loaded wallets had need, the entire conscious experience of the appropriate honey pot was backed up on a hard drive in the vaults—every thought, dream, personality quirk, 40
experienced sensation, genetic oddity. Their organs were then harvested and their bodies were thrown to the fire. Often the harvest exceeded the number of loaded wallets and not every honey pot was taken to the fire. This became more common over the years. When a honey pot passed the age of 35 without being chosen, they would graduate. They were removed from the program and replaced as if they had been burned. Why were some chosen over others? The obvious answer is that their bodies matched the needs of the buyer closest, but the Curator wanted it to mean something more. After graduating, the former honey pot was trained as an overseer. If they could not have the honor of donation, they would have the honor of mentoring and harvesting the future generations. It was now his duty to teach the young why they were someday meant to give themselves away. His hand hovered over a selection on the screen titled MEMORY: #7. This was #46’s documentation of honey pot #7—her soul now nothing more than a folder full of memory files sleeping behind an LCD screen. The curator pressed a short sequence of commands, and then turned to watch as a hologram took form, the alltoo-familiar voice of a youth crackling out of hidden speakers like a lo-fi spirit. o This is the part of me that wishes I hadn’t dared. Sleep is such a comfort when you can’t dream, letting your sore limbs be caressed by the comfort of cushions; waking a time-traveler with his strength returned in full. The yellow light that yawned over the atrium during morning meditations used to sing to us like a lullaby sung by the mothers we only knew in reading, and sometimes, when I was feeling a little strange, I’d sing with it. I’d sing the song I thought every forty-six before me would have thought of—word for word—in the moments their thoughts were woven lightest. I would watch the bottles at our rights fill red and the ones at our lefts empty white and feel an unidentified joy, closing my eyes to imagine that I 41
was the cell swimming through the veins of the surface dweller I would save. Brave as he may have been, he was sick on pollutants his genes could not compensate for, while I slept beneath the ground- quiet, clean and ready to be carried to him, buried in ice and wrapped in cellophane, arms crossed my over chest like a fallen king. Even the fires in the atrium made me swell with pride. You called it the furnace, we called it autumn. We’d learned in our readings that in a cleaner time, the earth changed according to four parts of an endless cycle. Organisms called “trees” would change the colors of their appendages to be like fire and then shake them off until they were naked, but they would not die. They would dig their legs deep into the earth and sleep safe as the world around them froze and withered. Before we entered the fire, we shed our clothes and slept, only to wake as smoke ready to fly up through the stacks and pierce through the clouds, reminding the stars that we were still down here. We were alive. o Seven paced around the room, face buried in a copy of The Count of Monte Cristo. We shared the same interest in literature. We liked the ones that made us feel adventurous and wild, but these were also the stories that hurt. All of the adventures we read—all of the beautiful drawings we were allowed to see—took place in a world that no longer existed. And in all of them, without fail, our heroes were forced to suffer misery before they ever found freedom. For us though, this freedom was contaminated. Hope was an empty utterance, and so in response, we gave our hearts wholly to fantasy like flesh to the furnace. We didn’t read to escape. We thought there was nothing to escape to. We read because it made us happy. Nothing more, nothing less. “We’re sort of like the characters in this story, you know.” She said, peering over the book at me. I looked up from sharpie drawing hypercubes on a subway map of old New York City. “Go on.” 42
“Well, I can be Mercédès, and you can be Dantès!” “Does that mean that we’re in love?” “We were. But you feel betrayed and I don’t recognize you anymore. I won’t realize until chapter 23.” Seeing her smiling at me made my thoughts fly how I once read that seagulls do. We both thought for a minute before I spoke again. “Seven, do you think it’s possible? Do you think there’s a way to make the world like it was before, so that we could really be like those characters? We could go live by the ocean, and fight with swords, and meet pirates? Do you think it’s possible to bring it back?” “Of course I think it’s possible, but that’s not what’s going to happen for us. You know that’s not how our story goes.” I wondered how she said so lightly something that felt so heavy. She returned to her reading and pacing. I said nothing more after that because sometimes she seemed so right that I felt silly even wondering. o Seven’s voice broke through my imagination like light through the crack under a door. This was always the case, and I could never ignore it. It wasn’t common for her to speak to me, so when she did, I always trusted what she said. She liked to watch and make faces at the things she saw, but my exploration was done behind my eyelids, as often as I could afford to close them. I liked to think that though she had eyes much like any of the rest of us, they were only decoys; her true eyes were the size of dinner bowls and her sight could slip undetected through microscopic cracks in the concrete, slip between molecules in the steel and fish the outside world for new wonders. Maybe she just read more than I did. That was, after all, our only escape. “Forty-Six, I found something.” I pulled slack the dozen wires hooked up to my right side and turned over to look at her. She was al43
ready staring at me, fully-colored smile pasted onto a pale face. “Like a new book I’d like?” “No, it’s a place, a new place.” The word swelled through her lips like a drop of blood from a fresh needle. “I don’t know what you mean.” “You will. Relax, and I’ll show you after we’re done.” She turned back onto her back and pretended to fall asleep as an overseer approached her bed to harvest more fluids. o This is the part of me that is happy that I tried. When Seven winked at me and moved to climb behind a water-heating tank in the lounging area of the atrium, I had a dictionary of reasons not to go. When she took my hand and led me through the dark, placing my hands on the ribbed rings of a fire escape ladder, I still had a whole letter listing. When we climbed off the ladder onto a loft and ducked behind a desk in an office overlooking the atrium, when she grabbed my hand and squeezed it so tight I felt the blood flee for refuge in my forearm, even when the overseer had passed only feet away from us unknowing and we knew we must be ghosts, I still had a full definition of the reason why I shouldn’t continue, every synonym and conjugation ringing louder than her voice as she said: “It’s okay. It’ll be worth it,” or when she asked, “Should we keep going?” But I knew it wasn’t really a question. The hallways grew darker and less polished. The overseers grew less frequent as we ran crouched through enough turns that I lost count, though to be truthful, the only thing I was trying to count was my quickening pulse as I began to suspect the weight of Seven’s discovery. We entered an unmarked stairwell and climbed. She looked back and said, “Do you know what I mean now?” And her voice sounded like menthol feels on skin. 44
The House on First Street Looks Greener in Winter by Michelle Lassaline
Beyond her was a door with a small, fishbowl window situated in its center, like one I’d seen in a picture of an airplane cabin, just wide enough for our two heads to stare in awe at the outside. “How many times have you been here before?” “Just once. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? I mean for being so filthy, it’s beautiful.” And it was. It was the most disgusting abomination of humanity I had ever seen and I had to empty my lung of sighs because of its beauty. Our window looked out across a small muddy bank, past a few scattered buildings, past the gnarled skeletons of trees and the Mississippi slithering into the distance like a giant python of excrement. Hovering over it like a tired shadow were the skyscrapers, monorails, flickering neon lights and smoke stacks of St. Louis cluttered into the horizon like the teeth of infinity. And the sky—it looked sick, wrinkled and calloused like gangrene on elephant skin, but somewhere beyond the sickness a soft yellow hue was calmly petitioning for permission to pass and I knew the sun had yet to give up on us. o This is the part of me that isn’t sure which part to believe. I cannot tell if the problem was that something happened or that nothing did. We went home after that moment at the window in the door. We spoke much less after that, if at all. We were different. We returned to the window once a week, telling ourselves we were only satisfying our curiosity. We wanted to be reminded of the beauty. We were never seen or if seen we were being neglected, but each time the thrill was a little more faint, our hands were chilled. Each time the question became louder: Why? Why look out a window you’ll never pass through? It became a silent ritual, a prayer to an untitled god. Each time we looked less at what lay beyond the window and more at the glass. Given time, we looked less at the glass and more at the reflections in it. Sometimes we looked at one another, but only for a few seconds and always looking for answers to unmarked questions. 45
We would look down at our shoes, but never to our legs; we couldn’t bear to see them shaking. We would shake, but never let our teeth chatter. I don’t remember if we tried the door. We must have: it must have been locked. How could we not? I know for certain that I touched the handle once, and the metal hummed cold in my grip like a limb that had fallen asleep. Seven grew sadder. Her face lost so much color, she looked like she’d escaped an old photograph. Her body lost more weight. Her lips lost more words. I couldn’t see the burden she carried on her back, but I could see its echo in her steps. I wanted to understand. I wanted to know what it was that ate at her like the chemical waste eating at the rocky riverbanks, but it didn’t matter what I knew. She was sick and she needed a remedy, but we’d arrived at a fatal flaw. She needed to escape and I needed to go home. I didn’t know it then, but I know it now. We must have never tried the door. Seven needed to try the door. She needed to see, but she couldn’t do it alone. And yet, she knew I never would. She knew I belonged in this place. I was the burden that slowed her footsteps. Four days after we had last spoke she coughed lightly and I pretended not to hear it. She coughed again with full force and it bounced off the walls of the atrium like a cosmic pinball. Everyone grew silent, and before I could speak her body was covered with the gloved hands of overseers. They carried her away. She never stopped staring until she was tied down to a stretcher and couldn’t move her head, and I stared at where she’d been for a while after. I knew what this meant for her, but it was not the last time I saw her. The last time I saw was her was a couple days later. I was sitting in my harvesting chair watching her float up among autumn’s smoke like the Patron Saint of Particles and then I was closing my eyes to imagine her abandoning the atmosphere in quiet, cold triumph. This is the part of me that wishes I were the vacuum of space. 46
o The voice was replaced by static and the hologram looked directly at the curator—a targeted violence in his eyes—before he flickered away, leaving the old man staring off into the vault’s dim-lit expanses. He turned around and closed his eyes, leaning against the lift’s railing with more weight than he ought to. This was the last time he would review that file. He loved this laboratory. He loved what it did for this world and he could not afford to go back again. Forty-Six and Seven were not brought together by fate, unless fate is just another word for circumstance. Forty-six had been sufficient in several amino acids in which Seven had been deficient, Seven had had a rare blood type that Forty-Six might have someday needed, so on their twelfth year, when they were considered ready, they were assigned the same harvesting regiment. This meant nothing except that they spent all of their time together, which turns out to have meant everything. Yes, they read and that meant something too, but they only filled their heads with the words their mentors wanted in them. After graduating, the Curator had discovered from other overseers that the books in the laboratory library were altered by an unknown editor, passages simplified and eliminated until most of the author’s original intent was rendered benign. Many were not even the same book, only pharmaceutical propaganda shoved between beautiful hand drawn covers. At one time the Curator would have cared greatly about this. He might have done something about it. Even now he could feel Seven’s anger, see her throwing the books she adored to the fire. But he didn’t have the will to care anymore—he had found and read one book unaltered, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, and the fate of humanity foretold within was so grim and so akin to reality that he wondered if it hadn’t been altered too. Honorable as his position as Curator of the Memory Vaults and mentor of generations of donors to come, he regretted his survival. He regretted because 47
to survive meant to suffer—not at the hands of others, not of oneself or of one’s memories, but at the hands of more empty questions. It had long since become clear to him. He would not become the smoke that fled the tooting stacks like an answer to the sky. He had lived too long and breathed too much. He was too old, his parts too worn, his veins too frail. Now he was fated to be the orchestrator of his own loss. He was the Curator of the memory vaults, assigned to live out his days He felt the emblem on the back of his lab coat like a chemical burn: HiveTech Harvesting Labs Saint Louis, MW, U.B.S.A. CURATOR, GEN 1001.46 He began to leave the vault, but he turned at the door to look back. He wanted nothing more in that moment than to become a pillar of salt, but he became nothing he had wished for and he knew it was because wishes were an empty ritual, an affirmation of hopelessness. The lazy wore their wishes like hocked jewelry and the sad prayed on their knees to them, receiving nothing in return but bruised knees and silence. He didn’t have to return to the vault after graduating. Once part of the facilitating staff, he had the right to leave. And he did. He traveled far. He damaged his lungs. He let the noxious air burn his skin. He smelt the acid rainfall on four of the seven continents, but he still came back. Even now he wondered why. What did he hope to find here? He knew that he owed something to someone he had loved and lost. He didn’t know what it was, but he would live out the rest of his days among this plastic paradise if it meant he’d have the chance to find it. He reappeared on a loft overlooking the atrium, then sat down on the edge with his wrinkled legs hanging over the side and watched as overseers in heatresistant suits carried dozens of empty bodies into autumn—flames reaching out quick, acute and wild like a child’s laughter. He imagined their souls as they slept inside the endless knot of hardware circuits. He 48
closed his eyes. He had lived to see much of the outside world, but he didnâ€™t dream of any of that then. He had been to places far enough from the stains of humanity where a few stars could still be seen, but he saw no speckles of light behind his lids now. When he closed his eyes he saw the round little window in the door at the top of the unmarked stairwell and its tiny, fishbowl-warped glimpse of the St. Louis skyline. He saw his shoes. He saw his reflection in the glass. He saw Seven huddled next to him, her hands pressed against the door and the curve of her mouth ready to smile like a chambered gun that was never fired.
Sunflowers By Sunny Mok
i liked the way your ocean eyes dripped over bright sunflower dimples
Potomac River by Lucia Segura
Sprinting through an Infinite Desert By Joey Thyne
Sprinting through an infinite desert High off of cocaine and majesty Beads of misspent youth Roll down our foreheads And her With glazed eyes And a muted, restless soul And me With distrustful ambivalences That muddle my mind We stare out to the barren sunset Captivated by All our past experiences And all our unimaginable Future opportunity
Staring Into the Sun by Nate Eng
And The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth By Samantha Buckley
You spit hellfire, Laving it on others’ skin, Calling it baptismal, And I stand there flaming. You say I am flaming But your mouth is on fire. You drop words on me, Carving them in For some plague of sin. They fall out of your mouth, Crawl up our throat: Belched out frogs To drag slime trails to my door For you to find later. These are new F words you shout, New D words. Are you even cursing anymore? But maybe they are the old curses, Preceding smite and burn; From an older time, When people employed a god to curse So they could wave clean fingers And call it innocence.
Those roots that you lay across your shoulders As you try to imitate the Man in the black robe, He who says, “One-way,” means Only love everybody, Because the grand He is Watching you. Watching Your lips form the word “sinner” While you stare at me. But I think the devil is in you: Frothing at your mouth like a hellhound, Resembling an escaped soul of purgatory— With clawed hands and sticks, and Flames lighting up the dead caves Behind your pupils. You kiss brimstone Good Morning, And your mouth is on fire Before you even try to drag me under With you.
Now, you pick up these dusty curses and Call them traditional. You lift them off of paper, From an old book that ties you down To an earth of One-way, And call it roots.
The Hesitation By Joanne Mallari
Her body pulses,
to name what pins her legs together, keeps her from walking a free woman. That long, hard exhaleâ€” I have heard it before, rushing through my own lips. Opposite: Ecstasy, Self-Portrait by Estefania Cervantes
Softcore Nightmare By Dylan Smith
I feel more comfortable now that the snapping turtle of my soft-core nightmare has gone, but it left the distinct smell of poetic insecurity lingering in the patches of pubic grass behind your house. I’m well aware that I’ve been making too many asses out of you – out of me – out of we, but it has to be as bad as she imagined in the Rotunda’s orange fleshlight, him snapping pretentions at her words and posturing pretexts at mine. The snapping turtle is Sophomoric Law, Pubescent Justice sewn into the baseball caps and bloody aprons of my childhood. Justice that has unraveled over time, like the wave-worn stones in oceans of semen under my teenage bed. It continues to unravel in manic bottles and sleepless dawns, but there is still the smell of stale inspiration lingerie-ing in my closet.
Headache by Zoe Durant
By Joanne Mallari Scrubbing away at stains on the walls, she cleans when there are no thoughts to be written, no papers to file, no calls to make, no clothes to fold. Imagines bare tile, naked under cover of an absent table, and nowhere to sit. Only this.
Las Vagueness By Tiffany Javier
You do not need to be from this city To know of its own sinfulness Suffering from the kind of drought That runs deeper than water Corruption seeping into the cracks of our souls As easily as liquor into our bloodstreams Flooded streets and flooded lungs Drowning in drunken promises and sobered intentions Stumbling onto the right side of the wrong bed Damned to gamble or be gambled With the chipped hearts of others or ourselves Pulling levers for three lucky sevens And ending up with the deadly ones There must be a reason Why immoral and immortal are only a letter apart
Vomit by Zoe Durant
The Ideal Time to Relax By Griffin Peralta
There was a single plant in the garden box, which had four buds. Although the plant was bright and green, all of the buds were withered and had taken on the color of spoiled milk. My girlfriend and I stood silently in the botanical gardens, sweating in the direct path of a summer sunrise intensified by greenhouse glass. There was no one else in the greenhouse. There had been no one else anywhere in the gardens as near as I could tell, and still we had proceeded through with hopes of catching a look at the Kadupul flowers in bloom. The botanical gardens were on the campus of our university, and there had been several announcements of the upcoming blooming of the rare flower in emails and campus publications. The Kadupul flower is extremely rare, blooms even more rarely, and even then, only at night. The flower holds some spiritual significance to Buddhists, as it is fabled to open only when Naga descend from the heavens; it intrigued us. My girlfriend and I had made a pact to cancel out whatever our evening plans might be when the flower bloomed so that we could see it. The phrase “once in a lifetime” was used more than once. We had a month’s warning and we’d been waiting on it with little patience, but we didn’t manage to make it. I had needed to run a critical errand for work, she had needed to fill a prescription before the pharmacy closed. We spent entirely too much time deciding how we would get there: “I’ll pick you up.” “No, I’ll pick you up, you’re on my way.” “We’re crunched for time, let’s meet there.” “I’m halfway to your place but… okay.” On top of that, an accident on the freeway delayed us even more. Despite my disappointment in arriving late, standing in front of the withered bloom the following morning, trying 63
not to be resentful of my circumstances, I thought to myself “whoever was in that accident was having a worse day than I am…” and that’s how we missed the bloom. Our priorities just couldn’t give in; sometimes plans fall apart like that. It’s scary how the whole evening had rushed by. That morning, thinking about seeing the bloom later that evening, there had seemed to be plenty of time between the end of my work shift and sundown. Sometimes three hours feels like enough time to build an empire, but more often, it feels like no time to at all. It was only when I finally got to campus and noticed I no longer needed to pay for parking in the metered sections that I realized how late it had gotten. Standing at the closed gardens that evening, coming off the adrenaline of the desperate scramble to the viewing, it would have been the ideal time to relax and look at flowers. “whoever was in that accident was having a worse day than I am…” and that’s how we missed the bloom. Our priorities just couldn’t give in; sometimes plans fall apart like that. It’s scary how the whole evening had rushed by. That morning, thinking about seeing the bloom later that evening, there had seemed to be plenty of time between the end of my work shift and sundown. Sometimes three hours feels like enough time to build an empire, but more often, it feels like no time to at all. It was only when I finally got to campus and noticed I no longer needed to pay for parking in the metered sections that I realized how late it had gotten. Standing at the closed gardens that evening, coming off the adrenaline of the desperate scramble to the viewing, it would have been the ideal time to relax and look at flowers. So we missed the evening viewing and got up very early the next morning in hopes of catching a glimpse of the Kadupul before it withered. We woke up at five, showered together, fed the dog, and ate breakfast cereal from solo cups as we drove back to campus. “I certainly hope that it is.” 64
“The Kadupul is supposed to give up on life right at sunset,” she said. “That’s half its mystery.” “The anticipation and intrigue of this early morning expedition is half the fun of seeing it,” I teased. “Have you ever seen one before?” “Not even once, but I read about them in a Kingsolver book, once.” “Do you think we’ll see another if we missed this one?” “Almost certainly not, which is why I’m all stressed about this, but at the worst, we’ll still have this story…” I had known as we drove that the flower would be finished blooming. Knew as we parked (after paying the meter, this time) and half ran to the gardens. Sure enough, there was a single plant in the garden box, which had four buds. Although the plant was bright and green, all of the buds were withered and had taken on the color of spoiled milk. The nascent buds held the shape of dead spiders. We had missed the bloom. “I’m sorry we missed it, dearest heart” I said. “Me too.” Her tone implied no fault. We walked to the campus shops, bought coffees at the café, and chatted idly through most of the morning. We had both begged out of our work days, and so we decided to go downtown and take a long walk along the river which flows through town. We surprised ourselves by stripping down and swimming in the clear and cold waters, enjoying the cool of the early morning. When the novelty faded and our bodies grow weary, we dressed slowly and embraced for a long time. After our swim we lay in the grass of the banks for hours, holding each other close, moving very little and saying even less. . .
Resting Stare by Leona Novio
el by Austin Rud n Mod d Ur ba
Mikey Finding Logics by Nathaniel Benjamin
Lined by Leona Novio
The Results of Your Placement Exam By Matthew Karr
Do not fall, in your tightrope days, do not even think of the air supporting your steps. You will string dental floss between peaks, weave the nation a story in tenuousness, balance; you will rediscover the meaning of softness. You will walk your web as if for the first time, briefcase, umbrella, watch, a new haircut, walking to an interview. The cities gather in the streets, heads upturned at the man who lives their lives hundreds of feet above, and you look up too, wondering the weather. And the nation will collectively look down while they walk without a word to themselves, planned obsolescence of our secrets met, as you look down, see the collection of kitchen chairs you never sat in, (mountain untouched by your web), and descendâ€” in your pocket a thought perfected in years of rarefied atmosphere.
Mexican Sky by Estefania Cervantes
Shame On Me By Vincent Eenhuis
Clumsy hearts were worn on sleeves; Two folks with similar fashion sense Were holding hands on summer’s eve, in desperate search of recompense. Not broken hearts, but puzzles pieced. He hoped to make them whole again – They took shelter beneath silk sheets, And built a fort; a dark, warm den. Cast from lamps; sick yellow light, Shines through fickle attempts for lust – They came through with lanterns that night – So fight their fears; so search for trust. her coffee mug with cracks and chips – blood was spilled; nostalgic sips –
Above & Below: Isolation by Berkley Bragg
Things I Am Not Ready To Put Away By Gabriella Murata
If you ask me about my love life, I will open the door to my room and explain That there is more than unfolded laundry and hangers scattered across my floor. There is a sundress near my closet that reminds me of cheap beer, crooked stairs And a boy who told me I was the prettiest girl he had ever kissed. I know people change their minds but whenever I see him, I sometimes wish he didn’t change his. I wish I could understand that I am pretty, even if he doesn’t think so anymore. I have jeans at the bottom of my hamper I’ve been meaning to throw away, But I hating touching them and being reminded how stupid I was for thinking people like you Could ever care about people like me and maybe if I let you win, you would still be here, But I know I would be as worthless then as I am now to you. How naïve am I to think I am somebody to love and not something to conquer? I tried washing them, but useless and ugly are words that do not fade easily When they are what keep yourself and the denim from falling apart at the seams. There are clothes that don’t fit anymore after all the shrinking I did.
I shrank myself quiet, thin, reckless. I shrank myself away. I wanted him to have room so he would stay. I tried doing everything so he would stay. Now I find myself making excuses to avoid cleaning my room because If it’s clean, someone can come in and as much as I would love that, The thought of having someone’s scent on my bed sheets terrifies me, And I don’t know how else to rearrange the furniture for them so they feel at home. It’s been two years and everyone tells me I need to get rid of those clothes, That I deserve better than the tornados that hit my room. I know I deserve better than the messes that cover my floor, But don’t know what to do with those clothes I don’t know who I am without them. Maybe if I spent as much time throwing away clothes as I do throwing up guilt I could clean the messes I let take over my room. Maybe I could clean the messes I let over my heart. If ever I open the door to my room for you, please do not say I should clean it. Those are not just clothes on my floor, they are things I am not ready to put away yet.
Above: Burning Man Opposite: Aussie Conner on the Melodica on the Tramp by Estefania Cervantes
Brave New World By Daniel Putney For Cody
I know that your words are a recent addition to my lexicon,
like eternity, my companion in this brave new world.
but I am already memorizing every definition like how a diabetic
I envision your hand in mine as we watch
relies on insulin. You summoned a ghost I forgot
the flames engulf us. It would be an honor to
existed, trapped behind a frown that lined my lips
die with you, for I want to drown in the
for what seems like an eternity. I think of you
ocean of your eyes forevermore, lungs full of salt.
Friday Night, A Few Lives Ago By Matthew Karr “...and is not the bard’s subject the bared skin, the prisoner’s wrists unfettered, a man’s the fate which awaits him, and so on, and so forth to your leisure?” His question mark lingered in his spittle, the crotch of his lips filled by the remains of all he’d said; he tested the flavor of her gaze. Her eyes smiled as wide as she didn’t, and she leaned her head slightly to one side, saying, “If all the world’s a stage, and all play their parts, and a dusty pace to the last syllables, the where is the program, the script? Where is the carpeted intermission? And my role, subject to what director?” Her eyes stopped smiling. She grinned to show her sincerity: “If you held one word’s worth in your pocket as you meandered the dirty streets of your library, littered with footnotes unpasted into tomes, unwritten in the lining of your shoes, what then would you say? When the dry wind wipes the dust, and dances it over the last pages of your brow’s—” He rose, folding as a flower, closing his hand in the pocket. At length he widened his two lips, “Treasure maps are famous for the location, and infamous for their lack of depth, but you never cared for cartography.” And he poured a glass as the ground stayed exactly where it was, or an inch to the side.
Opposite: Untitled by Jacob Sax
Compression By Nikki Raffail
Burnt out, blissfully bleary-eyed, Cigarette smoke, singing softly, swaying slightly. Last nightâ€™s explosions, replaying lightly, Pressing against the back of your eyelids, ever so tightly. Fungus-induced people-watching. Smeared smiles littered downtown. I didnâ€™t realize we were all the same; Not until the sunset came, crept upon us, replaced by flames
Opposite: Goldfield by Haley Carroll
Culture by Estefania Cervantes
By Daniel Putney My love, when you are on your deathbed, squeezing my hand tightly, forcing a smile through broken lips, I will not tell you to hold on or that it will be okay; I will merely say, “Thank you”; thank you for your morning breath and coffee breath and garlic breath and every breath you breathed into my lungs, every breath that pulsed through my veins like nicotine, because you were better than any cigarette that ever touched my lips; thank you for your calloused palms and chin stubble and chapped lips that spelunked over my body’s various caves, etching memories of you into my skin, for my nerves were shot before the panacea of your touch; thank you for letting me into your fucked-up life, for letting me hold you while you were shaking in pain, for letting me kiss away every last teardrop, because these were my lessons in humanity, and you ripped out my metallic heart and shared the warmth of yours; thank you for every coffee stain and misplaced
T-shirt and dirty dish that I teased you about, for the beautiful chaos you brought into my life, a thermodynamic paradox we were, our love transcending the laws of nature, and it was this love that allowed me to see the roses once more; thank you for taking up arms with me in the godforsaken war, gunshots and explosions producing a cacophonous fugue played in the background of our lives, manifested in pill bottles and razors and blood-stained bathroom sinks, for you were the angel on the battlefield who chose to save me; thank you for every stupid argument we had, words catapulted over the citadel of reason, each soldier boasting a powerful trebuchet, neither raising the white flag of surrender, because these moments were a crash course in you, teaching me your ins and outs, and I swear I could’ve studied you for hours; so, my love, with one final chaste kiss on your broken lips, with your hand squeezing mine so tightly, I say, “Thank you”
Searching For the Sound by Nate Eng
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