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LITER brushfire literature & ar ts

edition 68

vol 1


TABLE OF CONTENT

TABLE OF CONTENT

POETRY

Garcia, Edgar Skipping Stones (42) Guy, Julian Chainsmoking On the Hood of the Past (39) Grauberger, Shelby Delicate (18) Javier, Tiffany Shane’s LED Speakers (49) Somewhere Outside of Tonopah (65) Karr, Matthew Seventh Street (8) Roadside Attraction (64) They Sit There Still (82) Amateur Repairman’s Manual (88) Lachner, Nathan Mouths (10) Lost Wisdom (77) People Are Rocks (81) Messer, Ally Toothpick (7) Caroline (36) Peralta, Griffin Arcane Arithmetic (32) Hands For Shaking (86) Perish, Melanie Sante Fe: The City Different (52) Putney, Daniel A Token Isn’t Worth Anything (41) Pearls (47) Ortiz, Louise The Places We Meet (14) Raffail, Nikki Feels (12) Fourth Eye (42) Ruggieri, Nicholas Rough Night (6) How I Met Your Mother (23) Carbon (38) A Good Feeling (46) A Girl So Gloomy Even Her Words Have Shadows (74) Complicated Human (84) Tilley, David Rat King (34) Torres, Diana The Notebook (20) Vivet, Jonathan Belladonna (17) Poem For Myself (57) Whitlock, McKenna Father (An Oversimplification) (22)

ARTWORK Ackerman, Courtney Eternal Spring (16) Alvarado, Michael Whale Bones (4) Mistakes and Regrets (24) Gold (37) Interstate Sex (66) The Eraser (90) Brush, Jordan No Longer (9) Metro Gas (83) Benjamin, Nathaniel Looking for Light (85) Standing Tall in the Face of Fear (33) Depari, Clarisa Looking Right (19) Diaz, Victor Dream The Dream That The Dreamers Dream (76) Dickson, Rachel Home Means NV (62) Ghazianzad, Mahsan Hold On There (58) Haley, Zac Liquid Cat (80) Johnson, Edwin Pacific Island (54) MacDiarmid, Henry Space (89) Orr, Summer Free The Nipple (13) You Can’t Have My Light (73) Ozbek, Aydin I Never Liked Having Neighbors (30) Rudd, Austin Depression (40) The Long Walk (44) Simon, Casey Iceland (50)

PROSE

Matzek, Stewart We (68) Olin, Marlene Regret (26) Perish, Melanie At Work and Not - Seven Days After the Oral Surgery (60) Thyne, Joey Loose (56)


Rough Night

Nicholas Ruggieri

When my garbage disposal has had a particularly rough night, I’ll feed it a mint, and hope it feels better in the morning. When I have a particularly rough night, it’s usually because I’ve been forced

Toothpick Ally Messer

On our first date I gave you a jar full of my baby teeth. You smiled politely with wide eyes trying to feel the words that came from my infantile mouth you held in your hands.

to use the garbage disposal more than I’m willing to admit.

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Seventh Street Matthew Karr

Slow days on seventh street, And I can hear something moving. Clouds are shielding the east From this storm; the heart lumbers From room to room flicking switches— On the rim of glasses, a finger, Testing for a crystal note. Slow days on seventh street When I know what a fool is: Outside, the cars continue crawling Towards goals they cannot see, and a man Sits on a bench like a question mark Waiting for an answer to wander By his tapping feet. It should have been like a bus, Which, in gathering passengers like eggs, Gives purpose not to what is dead, But not yet born. Seventh street, How can you hold me with such a small smile?

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No Longer

(Jordan Brush)

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Mouths Nathan Lachner

Hunched on a bus stop bench, there is an inch of space between the nameless body beside me, and my own. This strange man and I: We don’t touch. We don’t speak. His mouth stays sealed, as he uses his thumb to scroll through the display on his blackberry and I pretend to look off at something close by, like, a grey tree without leaves. It’s funny to imagine our mouths as if they were the openings of caves, and that someone could walk in and get lost in our grid of tunnels; that we could see stalactites of memory dripping carbonite water into the pools of our grief, or whatever other emotion. But, I always feel like a trespasser; I feel like I’ll get shot for walking in. I look over at this man beside me. His white mustache glows above his stern lips, and then I direct my gaze back to the tree, when he notices I’m staring, of course.

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I squint and scrunch my face, as light echoes from the white trash bags hanging from the trees. These bags shiver like phantoms, or, the tips of fingers reaching out to touch a body for the first time in the dim interior of a warm idling car parked on the street at night— I look down at the back of my hand. It’s still stained from when I tried to wipe your lipstick off. And the image looks improbable in this boring place, like a movie prop painted on my hand. A symbol of a brief moment of the type of pleasure that simply can’t exist right now, or here. I become fixated on the rosy streak of your lipstick smudged on my skin. It brings to mind sound of a leather seat crunching in anticipation, when you leaned in, over the center console of my car: red mouth opened.

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Feels

Nikki Raffail

My aura feels like a fleeting of feelings and musky vibrations and twitching and unexpected mood swings in the form of little raindrops from my dripping lashes. I expected this. Just like you expected this. I guess I’ll embrace it and find pleasure in the pain instead of wincing at the lashes. And I’ll be able to make some sort of positive experience out of genuinely feeling fleeting. Feeling fury fucking flinching faithfully fucking funky feelings.

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Free the Nipple Summer Orr

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The Places We Meet Louise Ortiz

When I was nine she came stumbling down the driveway yelling, “Call the cops! Now!” with red smeared across her brown neck, her eyes swollen behind her glasses, and her tears, having left white salty stains, made me stumble when the operator asks, “What’s your emergency?” I answer, “I don’t know, I think my Tia is hurt.” At twenty-three my mom drives me home from the airport and says, “She’s pregnant again.” My hips ache from sitting too long. “Is she happy about it? Is the guy good?” My mom reaches for spicy peanuts to help her stay awake. “She likes him, but he’s married. He said he was going to leave his wife for her.” I peer out the window. “I guess we’ll see what happens.” At thirteen we’re in her car in the church parking lot. Tia has dressed up and she’s putting on makeup in the small mirror of her sun visor, stretching one eye and then the other, she says, “Talk to me, the radio doesn’t work.” We step into our heels and sashay up the church aisle, I see my mom wave. There’s a man leaning over the pew talking to Tia’s mom. He’s one of the priest’s older aids. Tia’s heels click behind me and he looks up. I see his faith quiver. Before I was even born Tia lost her virginity on the roof of the building where her mother was cleaning up after other people’s children. She was thirteen years old, and she didn’t come.

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At seventeen Tia says, “Do you remember George?” I nod. “Do you remember when we lived on Menlow and I told you to call the police?” I say yes. “I didn’t think he would do that. I loved him.” I lower the volume of the car stereo and look into her face. “He was abusing me.” At twenty Tia takes off her nude Victoria Secret bra and her heavy breasts fall to their natural position. She scratches at the red bra lines under her right breast. Her brown nipples tremble, sway. I decide that she must have been the reason I could never take boys seriously. At sixteen Tia is getting ready to go out. I’ve fled to the living room because Dani wants to go with his mother and is throwing a tantrum. Tia’s mom says to my mother confidentially, “Do you remember that boy from La Placita, the one that left to become a priest? They became friends you know, and he came back a few weeks ago. He called her yesterday to go out for dinner. But he asked Father Kennedy to come with him. He doesn’t trust himself alone with her.” At eighteen Tia and I are watching a crime drama on low volume tired after having struggled to get Dani to go to sleep. She uses my thigh as a cushion, I run my fingers through her thick hair. She asks, “Do you think I’m pretty?”

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Belladonna Jonathan Vivet

Wildflowers spring, White, yellows, purples, reds, scarlets, golds, and aching blues. Royalty with heads upturned. Begging, forlornly begging. Grass caressing the earth beneath, with a love unrequited. Even the young Sequoias pierce their mother’s womb, claws set deep into the soil below. Pines, Firs, Redwoods soar, fueled by the flame that took their forbearers Crowded, the rift grows. Mountains beneath struggle to be called grandiose. Splitting, shredding the soul, into tattered dandelion seeds floating on a breeze.

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Eternal Spring

Courtney Ackerman

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Delicate Shelby Grauberger

They shake me, looking at the snow fall then quickly shove me back on the shelf. Kids in a gift shop, beckoned by their mother’s call to “Put that down! It’s fragile, you know!” I hear that routine line: “Break it, you buy it.” Well, no you don’t.

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Looking Right Clarisa Depari

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The Notebook Diana Torres

I was naked Until you dressed me with your thoughts Even if they were scanty and fragmented You filled me up with special curiosities And told me everything From the psychology of a borderline To the mathematics of you and me And I had content

Spirals link together our memories like the binding of a notebook except now there’s nothing to hold together because the schema is broken and I’m empty Volta? There is no turn around I’m just going in circles Until I hit the jagged edge that snags onto the cloth of yesteryear when I was better Brand New Empty My spine is now broken Am I no longer functional?

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Father (An Oversimplification) McKenna Whitlock

How I Met Your Mother

Nicholas Ruggieri

The fingernails on his right hand looked like tree bark from an accident with a chemical I can’t remember the name of. He told me it’s embarrassing, that the stuff got into his system and made them grow like that. His teeth are barely crooked, a packed house where shoulders just start to overlap. When he smiles the light reveals their earned nicotine sheen. He wears all black to work by choice, rides a 300-pound dirt bike six miles through the strip of desert from living house to warehouse with Dream Theater playing in his head. He works as a mechanic- he fixes things he can see, touch, finds solace in a machine’s cold tangibility. At his worst he drank 18 beers a day to break even, 24 to feel good. These days he plants zucchini with his girl, watches Investigation Discovery on TV and plays drums for a lady who calls herself Canyon White. And most days I think he’s okay, albeit a little too comfortable.

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I was in a perpetual state of fever. It was some hemlock self-administered slowly. Tattooed my name on your nose. Shouted from the rooftop garden, “She will be my bird!”

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Regret Marlene Olin

Laughing, wheezing, plodding, the strangers on the bus worked their way up the forty-six foot hill. The park ranger’s hand swept the horizon. “In Miamah, we cawl this a mountain. The only ground that’s hahyer is the landfill.” Fifty faces huddled around the small stone tower that perched on top. Red-faced, they fanned themselves with brochures. Visit the Seaquarium! Come to Jungle Island! Watch the Miami Marlins! As always, the elderly woman watched from afar, blending with the crowd but not a part of it. “A rock quarry was deeded to the city,” said the Ranger. “Now it’s our lil Adirondack gem.” The memorized speech was recited over and over. It was the depression. Bused from up north, CCC workers built A-lined roofs and twelve-inch thick stone walls. Holes in the ground became lakes. Downed trees became a Hansel and Gretel boathouse. Perhaps the workers imagined snowstorms and Christmas trees sugared with ice. Instead a vast plain of Florida shrub crept like a jungle. “It’s unique,” said the Ranger. “It looks like another place... another time.” *** The first time Charlene came to the park was Javier’s idea. Graduation had been a week earlier. They were high school sweethearts, their futures ahead of them 26

like a clean open road. In September, Charlene was heading to the state school in Gainesville while Javier stayed home. Like most Cuban sons, he remained by his parents’ side. And when he graduated from the University of Miami, he was expected to join the family business. His father manufactured coffee and his father manufactured coffee. There was nothing Javier wanted more than to sit in his father’s seat when his turn came. That day they rented a canoe. An arch of oaks shaded them from the heat. “It’s so peaceful here,” said Charlene. Javier lay his head in her lap as they let the canoe glide. They watched raccoons scurry across branches. The sun sliced through the trees throwing shadows on their feet, their knees, their arms. “ Canoe or paddleboat?” asked the man. “Perhaps today you’ll want the canoe.” “You register for your classes yet?” asked Javier. “We register on the first day.” He prattled about his intro courses, the distribution requirements, his father’s insistence that he live at home his freshman year. He danced around the big stuff. If he pulled a low number in the draft lottery, Javier was determined to go to Viet Nam. He had just become a citizen. Fighting for one’s country was what citizens did. For Charlene, a college education was secondary to the adventure of being on her own. Shopping bags teeming with cold weather clothes littered her bedroom. She had no idea what she would major in or what her long term goals were. She only knew that college meant not here. Charlene loved her parents. Her mother’s lip quivered every time she mentioned leaving. But Charlene had decided that she didn’t need them anymore. For eighteen years they filled her head with do’s and don’ts. Now she was all packed up and ready to go. No more sitting on the shelf and watching her expiration date draw nearer. Whenever her parents spoke to her, she’d gaze into the distance, staring at a spot on the wall or a fly buzzing on a window screen. She was already halfway out the door. “Would you like a snow cone? We have orange red lemon blue.” Each trip to the park was a new adventure. One day they brought a whole watermelon in the trunk of Javier’s Impala. He hoisted it over his head, his roped arms thick, and smashed it onto the asphalt of the parking lot. Then they carried the pulpy mess to a nearby picnic table and scooped the insides with two spoons. It was cold and wet and dripped down their arms onto their clothes. And when they finished they threw a blanket on the ground and tasted the sweetness a second time. Birds rustled the branches. The woods smelled like old earth, fecund and rotting. A small lazy river meandered a few feet away. A sigh. A squawk. A splash. When December came, Charlene was parked in front of the television in her dorm lounge while Javier was surrounded by his family. Together they watched the lottery numbers being called. When it was over, hundreds of miles apart, they both exhaled. Javier ran into his room and sat down on his bed. His slippers were lined up at his feet just where he liked them. The curtain creases were crisp, the sheets tucked straightjacket tight. Breathing in and out, his palms outstretched on the bed, he gradually felt his pulse slow. His parents had met when they were ten. They spoke in their own private shorthand, a Morse code of head nods and protracted stares. Alone in their own private universe, the children orbited like small planets. Javier truly believed that each person had a kindred spirit and that he was lucky enough to meet his in twelfth grade. When he finally called Charlene, she was waiting by the phone. Relief and gratitude carried them like a current. “I love you I love you I love you,” he said. 27


Charlene’s nose was running and her cheeks were wet. For months they had gazed into the future and saw stop signs and detours. Now for some unfathomable reason they were given a reprieve. Whatever uncertainties plagued her, whatever her misgivings and fears, she savored the moment. A space opened. She unfolded like a bloom. “I love you I love you I love,” she replied. That night, the dorm in Gainesville was coupled with lovers celebrating their good fortune or mourning their destiny. It was surprisingly quiet. Liquor bottles clinked in metal wastebaskets. Moans were muffled under sheets. Charlene’s roommate invited her boyfriend to spend the night. Five feet away from Charlene, entwined in a twin bed, the two of them tousled. They burrowed like puppies in the mattress, groaning and giggling. Charlene pretended to be asleep and faced the wall. When it was over, when the dorm was quiet long into the night, Charlene remained awake. Then she turned over and stared at the two bodies across from her. Her roommate was from Ocala, horse country. This was her first time away from home and she grabbed each and every opportunity. She had gained ten pounds in four months and fucked every boy who asked for her phone number. This latest hookup had lasted longer than most. His name was Dick or Rick or Nick, Charlene couldn’t remember. And when her roommate turned towards the wall and took the quilt with her, he lay there like a Greek statue, on his back, an arm lifted gracefully above his head, his legs splayed. His penis rested on his thigh. Even though her heart had burst hours earlier, the only thing Charlene felt now was lust. She had never seen Javier naked. They had touched like blind people, running their fingers over their bodies, searching, taking stock, plumbing depths. But they never had intercourse. Not yet. And now when she looked at the boy sleeping across from her, all she thought about were other boys and other possibilities. “Watch your step,” said the ranger. “People misstep all the time.” Charlene had almost a month off for Christmas break and she and Javier spent every minute of it together. She looked at him differently, with the perspective that distance often gives. He was handsomer and better groomed than most of her classmates. While most college kids grew their hair over their ears and wore bellbottoms, Javier favored chinos and went to the barber every month. And he was clean. Impossibly clean. His neck smelled of soap and his fingernails were perfectly mooned. How organized he was! How in control of every move! Their last time at the park, Javier packed a picnic lunch for the two of them. Fried chicken, her favorite. A small chocolate cake. Two plastic glasses. A bottle of wine. With the cooler in one hand and hers in the other, they ran up the hill. On the top were a group of tourists. “Would you mind taking our picture?” he asked. They posed in front of the stone tower. Kissing. Laughing. Clowning. “Only the landfill in Goulds is higher,” said the Ranger. When the elderly woman made her way down the hill, he offered her his arm. Charlene remembered the day clearly. They took the stone path down and followed the spiral towards the base. A handful of children chose the grass, rolling on their sides, picking up speed as their neared the bottom. A little boy grazed his arm on a rock and started bleeding. His shirt was blue, Charlene was sure of it. Perhaps his hair was blond. Javier sprinted over, dusted the child off, and waited by his side. “Are you okay?” asked the ranger. “Perhaps you ought to rest.” A young mother holding a baby finally rushed over. Standing ten maybe fifteen yards away, Charlene watched. The woman grabbed Javier’s hand and thanked him. Then her hand lingered. Her face gazed at his, taking in the broad square shoulders, the hairs that curled at the base of his neck, his perfectly white teeth. 28

Gradually the mother inched closer, looking up, looking down, smiling. Her index finger made circles on her chest. Javier shuffled his feet. Then he glanced at Charlene and waved, the gesture a symbol, an announcement to the world that he was hers. No matter far apart, an invisible line tethered them together. Afterwards they walked to the boathouse. “Canoe or paddleboat?” asked the man. “Would you like a snow cone? We have red orange lemon blue.” He held her elbow as she stepped into the boat. When her feet lost their purchase and the boat shifted under her weight, Javier caught her. Charlene collapsed in his arms. She found it difficult to breathe. She knew and didn’t know what was going to happen next. They ate their lunch slowly, listening to the music of a nearby radio. Somewhere a child was crying while another child was laughing. Somewhere a dog barked. Somewhere a baseball bat cracked. They watched raccoons pilfer the garbage cans from the bottoms up. Overhead flew a heron. The pedals on a boat needed oil and creaked. “You know I love you,” he said. When he took the ring out of the black box, she pretended to be surprised. “I’ll take care of you,” he said. “I’ll make you happy.” If only she could have looked beyond that stretch of road. If only she could have imagined the potholes and the pitfalls and the wayward husbands her future had in store. But Charlene confused uncertainty with mystery and mistook risk for passion. She dropped the box into the pocket of his shirt and whispered Not now. Javier never spoke to her again. Instead he shoved the oar into the water and silently remapped the course of his life. With a few calibrations, everything fell into place. A wife. A secure job. A houseful of children. While he pulled into the dock, Charlene glanced behind her. The wake of the boat was barely a ripple. She squinted into the sun. *** “Hundreds of years ago, the Tequesta Indians traveled these rivers,” said the Ranger. He passed out booklets with the park’s history to each outstretched hand. Charlene took out her reading glasses and studied the pages one more time. Like an archeologist, she probed skeletons and foraged roots. Memories were unraveled and rewoven. The past had become her present, her yesterdays forever tangled, her tomorrows unknown.

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Arcane Arithmetic Griffin Peralta

We were caught in a need to talk. Like a long calculus equation which can only be solved with tedious synthetic division, Each of us merely waiting for the right thing to be said so we could walk away forever. I am Odin, the Gallow’s King, Lost because I have sent away Thought and Memory for fear of you. I cherish the day before we met. You are the Statue of Liberty, Many eyes have stretched to their nerve’s end to see you, But in the same ways as her you’ve lost sight of what you were erected of and for, your copper heart dull as moss, tarnished by all the times you said “I love you,” and meant it. It is important that we never meet. Especially not at night. Not even a hand shake at gunpoint. There’s a special chemistry to losing touch. Like a dark alchemy better left alone. We are its most eager scholars, writing good-byes to each other in the margins of all the books we carry from congruent libraries. But there will be defining thesis on the subject. Not a word. For even to mouth each other’s names would be to press our bleeding wounds together Like the Sky meets the sea at the horizon. Two similar but distinct blues. Infinitely far apart, despite their seeming closeness.

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Standing Tall in the Face of Fear Nathaniel Benjamin

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Rat King

David Tilley

Apocalypse Then:

and that laughing at the appropriate moments

grays and browns slowly seeping into the edge of frame

would make my smile reach the corners of my eyes again.

until the scuff marks and layers of dust and grit

but I just learned to lie more convincingly.

and the all-consuming sense of nothing getting better remind me–this has been going on for some time now.

I am the rusted parts in a 1987 Dodge Durango up on blocks behind a house

I never had a moment of catharsis

that no one lives in anymore.

when I self-consciously steered this plane into a nosedive and took aim for the wind-worn mountains

I am a cottonwood tree with withered roots

30,000 feet below.

slowly falling towards a dried-up streambed.

I hiked to the summit of a mountain, once. the next time I tried I realized past the halfway point

I am a tangled clump of string tying

that I could go no further

things that shouldn’t be together

gravity and bad choices and

into a crude approximation of

a slowly-building end-time scenario

what people look like.

were conspiring to keep me grounded. I am dressed in ill-fitting slacks and a crooked name-tag I’ve been in a gradual descent

holding the door for a woman who’s lived longer

into something less than what I wanted and

than I‘m going to

somewhere further than where I wanted to beand ground-level doesn’t have the stopping-power

“How’s your day been?” she asks.

that you’d think it would. “Just great”.

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I thought I could dry-mop a landfill

“I’m doing fine.”

and keep my bedroom smelling like lilacs.

“Can’t complain.” 35


Caroline

Ally Messer

She was the “canned flowers� I bought at Walmart for $5.89. roses and zinnias compressed and vacuum-sealed; marinating in sour preservatives. I served her with wine as thick as the mucus that hung onto her tonsils when she moaned.

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Chainsmoking On the Hood of the Past Julian Guy

Carbon

Nicholas Ruggieri

I want to talk about touching you, constantly, because the breath you just took has space in it, and the storm finally made you soft enough.

Addicts don’t care if they smell like smoke, only teenagers who love their mothers. And I’m frequenting this pack like the last time the National made sense on my stereo, or I dreamed of walking five states just to find you in an empty dive bar drinking to freedom the way patriotism wins wars, bitter and egotistical. I played lover to your vices after she left, nursed you in whiskey vapors and cough syrup kisses. You slept on stained carpets, left careless under stacked sweaters, unwashed since she last laughed in them. We skinny dipped in the cotton sheets of your dirty floor, amusing insecurities like chain-smoking on the hood of the past, or like librarians, trying to make sense of books, hidden in boxes, basemented in code and abandonment. All we saw were ceilings, sent cheek kisses to the stucco, stashed our feelings in our stomachs. Eye contact is unfitting for those who see memories before people. She smoked weed in Denver, and we made love with our eyes closed.

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A Token Isn’t Worth Anything Daniel Putney I fasten a blue elephant button onto my chest beside the HRC podium, and now I am trapped. My identity only exists in politics. Clumps of dirt rupture my taste buds like invective-filled torrents, gushing blood— word blood. Politicos savor my DNA in fine wine glasses, toasting to freedom. But queer isn’t “to be”; it’s “liberal hippie shit.” Kindness is a mythical fuel, powered by super PACs, poured into pseudo-Democrats’ mouths. I am their flag, brandished by hoary men who have never been touched by another man. They support with no foundation. Corporate walls crumble, exposing meandering zombies with rainbow-colored blinders. So take my flesh and guts. Tell me what they taste like.

Depression 40

Austin Rudd

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Skipping Stones Edgar Garcia

You might get a few good ones, find the one shaped just right. Optimal, at a certain angle, a certain speed. But it must sink. And each zealous buck only prolongs its grave deeper in numbing waters.

Would you gamble right now if you had the chance? Ohh yea haha. i would. i just dont have anything left.

His eyes ensnare mine and ask What was Descartes’s major contribution to modern philosophy? i think Therefore…

He says also Learn Latin. It’ll be useful for your future i tell him i speak spanish Oh Me too. Let me try it out His spit grazes my bottom lip, Dos serve-es-ass poor favor! ...i watch. Then leave.

The eyes that beheld mine before i the world repeat What do You plan on doing with that degree? i think An echo lingers to speak Why did You hit him? Because I! You were supposed to And who told You? Thats a good question

What are You doing today? Prolonging tomorrow. And then what? Thats a good question

The obligatory rain Do You ever want to be married? i dont think so But if You were how many kids? Like Fifty. All adopted. The sunken man slurs i used to have a girl back in college. i proposed but she didnt want me. You see all that, The man points to the McDonald’s sign and the bar next to it and the flickering billboard above Advertising legal services (Divorce taxes foreclosure in bold lettering) The subtle grin of a lawyer too young and sweaty in his chinless choking lurid portrait, and groans: i built all of it. Thats right.

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Pearls Daniel Putney

It happened after Mamma Mia! for the fifth time:

A Good Feeling Nicholas Ruggieri

Fuck me like infinity is a concept humanity can actually grasp. Or at least like you’ll still be there in the morning.

I placed my cock in my hand’s pinhole grasp and moved back and forth as the fluorescent bathroom lightbulbs let my eyes process brown skin on brown skin— I conjured D cups bursting from filigreed lingerie and red lipstick stains trailing down my belly, but all that came was Colin Firth dancing to ABBA in his wet, pearly shirt; I soon found myself cleaning a pool of semen on the laminate with too many plies of toilet paper

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Fourth Eye Nikki Raffail

Shane’s LED Speakers Tiffany Javier

From this day on, I declare my sexuality to align with the inner sense of feminist empowerment that burns parallel to my sense of wanderlust desire that beats inside of me like a growing fetus. From this day forward will the beauty of my perfect Virgin Mary-shaped vulva align with the beauty that is my own spirit. I come creativity, and creativity comes with me. My divine light shines out of my Fourth Eye. I get high on release, on a physical means to some emotional end. The light of my own divine empowerment shines like the blue bead on a candle wick that’s been burning all night, on a candle whose wax has officially lost its original shape.

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I remember staring at the ceiling And seeing an ocean form As light bent and broke into waves Lachrymation-inducing cerulean On a plastered white canvas My eyes having seen high tides before But never having felt them in their periphery Choking on bass and synthesizer Until I start to drown in your bed 60% cotton and 40% polyester I was counting to 800 when you found me Treading every last thread I must have found a lighthouse in your smile Reminded of how my heart learned how to swim Long before my legs ever did

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Sante Fe: The City Different

When you walk, Cheryl said,

Melanie Perish

look at the old casitas. There’s a row between

Returning to our casita, I see for the first time the small row of rectangular windows slants up – each window the size of a women’s shoe box. All four dusty panes angle toward pinion branches and no clouds. The outside sills slant down, the wood placed to lace whatever rain would run into the gutter. The drainspout nailed to the wall is no wider than two knuckles of my index finger, no longer than an eighteenth century woman resting on her bed.

the galleries on Canyon Road. I started with ours, paying attention to detail. Every time. Every single time I turn my head there is something intricate as a crocheted shawl, a loom-woven rug, bright or faded, textured as new adobe or smooth as the back of a Pueblo woman, a woman carrying water, her body elegant as any vessel that might catch a cloudburst or cradle the wish for rain.

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Loose Joey Thyne

Loose was the only establishment for miles and miles and miles. Sometimes people would stop in because their cars were about to run out of gas. We said we couldn’t help them. That always made me feel bad. The closest thing was a site of a supposed alien landing up the highway a ways. Families on road trips could stop and take photographs on disposable cameras. Then they would pass Loose. Mothers would glare with contempt through the station wagon window from the passenger seat. With their bobbed haircuts that all look the same, and their stainless highcollared blouses. Sometimes we would see them when we were outside smoking cigarettes. Sometimes we would glare back. But then they were gone. It was always just an instant. Everyone I knew I had known my whole life. From my town there were no strangers and no one ever left. I’m not sure why. I think it has something to do with the daunting mountains and the suffocating emptiness in between, which we are all supposed to fill with our ambiguous desires. It gives you a sense of hopelessness, a sense of no escape. Like myself, young girls would come to us with nowhere else to go. There is a vast separation between what is expected and what is reality. No glamor to be found. Any complimentary sensation of validation dissipates quickly. It’s just a job. A lot of work. A lot of sitting around. There is a look in a man’s eyes right before he releases. A look of agonizing devotion, a look I haven’t seen in any alternate setting. You would be astounded the things a man would say in a dark room in the middle of nowhere. And then they evaporate.

56

But he comes back. They all come back. A dope or booze habit is easy to kick. Forbidden fruit, not so much. Damn near impossible. A younger me once longed for a conventional romance, but that has since drifted away from the realm of possibility. I guess I’m okay with it. I know a lot of people who are married, and they aren’t particularly happy either. All I really want is for someone to make eye contact with me and care enough to ask what has been on my mind lately. I’ve met all types of men in my line of work. Truckers, junkies, the type who cry afterwards. Men whose wives would stare out at us in contempt from the passenger seat of the station wagon. Sometimes dorks would wander in just to see what it was all about. My favorite customer was Outlaw Jim. We called him an outlaw because he called himself an outlaw. I don’t think this damned state ever shook off the ideal of being an outlaw. Outlaw Jim would show up out of the blue and come and flirt with us. That always made us giggle. He wanted some service but he already spent all of his cash on liquor prior to arriving. But he never got too aggressive, as so many men do when they’re drunk and yearning. He always stayed playful, which is why I loved him. But then one day Outlaw Jim stopped showing up. They found him out in the desert. Everyone said that he was bitten by a rattlesnake in the dead of night as he was stumbling around, drunk. What really happened was that he shot himself in the middle of the day with a colt pistol. Everyone knew the truth, but no one said it outloud. It made us too sad.

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58

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At Work and Not - Seven Days After the Oral Surgery Melanie Perish

Restless. Resentful. I am in pain still seven days out from the oral surgery. I have a disease of perception – nothing clinical, nothing needing medication; constant prayer is my small wrench in the service of attitude adjustment. Just now, in the bathroom at work – no stalls, just toilet, sink, towel dispenser, sunlight through the glazed window – I look in the mirror after swilling salt water over my sutured gums and see the earrings you bought me weeks ago. Snowflakes, silver on silver wires, they are just smaller than a quarter; they flash below the hem of my grey and brown blunt cut. The day we found them, it was 75 degrees, California, east of Los Padres National Forest, foothills away from the Pacific Coast Highway. I read the map: Nuestra Senora de Soledad, Our Lady of Solitude, the smallest mission we’ve seen.

60

You could have been here as a gardener more than a century ago, the way you touched the rose trees. You talked with the volunteer about this January drought and it startled, but didn’t surprise me. For less than a minute I saw you see the shavings of the past: chafed necks and short shirt sleeves, men plowing; cracked hands, a long dress, a woman pumping water. It slops over the bucket’s rim; the mission cat splayed on her black back; the apron of grass; one paw bats at a butterfly trail. They worked from daylight to darkness, the dove grey twilights book-ending the day, the swallows building their mud nests in the eaves. Worker. Valley. Simple. Hard. These are the words you have always loved. Someone tries the locked handle of the bathroom. To stay longer steals time from my employer. Upstairs my computer, the ergonomic chair a wraparound desk of sturdy composite-something waits for me. Nuestra Senora de Soledad, I think. Nuestra Senora de Soledad bless you for returning. Today help me pay attention. Help me change what I can change in the small places, here and now with the light from the flash of an earring with the forgotten moments that cartwheel back and are remembered.

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62

Home Means NV (Rachel Dickson)

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Roadside Attraction

Somewhere Outside of Tonopah

Matthew Karr

Tiffany Javier

Like a small town, we punctuated our murmurings with fireworks—it’s not hard to find an excuse to look up every few months.

From the inside looking out The windshield seemed like a cyclorama So we reclined our bodies 45 degrees into the first quadrant

I saw you as a roadtripper disobeying “yield” signs and made my eyes a motel light flashing “vacancy”; maybe you were too tired to see the ghostly “no” waiting beneath.

Ill-fated insects and their insides Pollock across the glass In such a way that I find constellations Within their wings and between their legs

“This is how you drive a camper van with the door open!” But don’t throw that maybe out with the last stutter over speed bumps. We’d be too certain of the destination to drive out the demons.

The desert condensed into an hourglass As I pointed out the Bug Dipper to you Filled to the brim with the guts of its creators

Still, it takes a person staying through the credits to know the true meaning of exodus: I know who played which parts, but what watched and carried with it a small piece of light out of this dark and soiled hall? How can one make a fire for breakfast out of broken eggs and ash? How did you stop this stick-shift so it didn’t stall?

The freckles on your right cheek Illuminated by the center console My favorite constellation connected by a single dimple The fluorescence of hemolymph Made me realize that Death Valley Comes alive at night

I hear of roadmaps and imagine lightning illuminating its path the moment it’s already through, weaving through spent celebrations like sleep, ash falling on dirt roads.

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65


66

67


We Stewart Matzek

They called him the kaibo-man, for that was where he dwelled, and that was the essence of his being. “Kaibo” was the nonsense word the campers at Camp Emmett used to describe what was essentially a hollow concrete box sunk into the ground -- a toilet, though in the loosest sense of the word. On top of the hole stood an unfixed plastic seat, a couple feet tall, scratched and dirty, and the whole setup was housed in a small wooden shack with ribbed tin roofing. No light illuminated the kaibo except the sun, which broke in weak, unconvincing rays through narrow cracks in the walls. The inside of the kaibo itself was already dark, and the unmentionable hole within, pitch-black and who knew how deep, was a source of consistent mystery for campers. Any one kid could probably guess what was down there, but none of them had the gall to shine a flashlight in -- to do so would be to risk gazing upon the kaibo-man. To say that this contraption was rudimentary would be to misunderstand the kaibo, for the kaibo was the most primitive place any of the boys knew. More ancient than cave-drawings or wooly mammoths. For they were young, and soft, and familiar with the conveniences of the modern home, the shining porcelain and rugs under their feet. This was something altogether more primeval. Rough, jagged concrete underfoot, beset with rocks and twigs, and beneath that? They dare not explore. When a kid was in the kaibo, he ceased to exist in the rest of the natural world. Outside trees swayed in the wind and dropped their leaves, and the rivers and 68

streams whispered to one another, and the deep, green lake sat unperturbed but for small ripples made by even smaller creatures. The kaibo, though, found its home in the nebulous space between life and unlife. And who was the kaibo-man? The Boy Scout legend whispered around campfires or at the trading post was that he was a monster, a decrepit slave to the kaibo, some sort of living amalgamation of refuse. If one wasn’t vigilant, he’d reach one or two branchlike fingers up towards the light, the nails like treebark, and, without somuch as a warning, snatch you from your perch to never be heard from again. A few campers had already disappeared, though it was more likely that they just went home. But the campers didn’t know that -- the camp wasn’t prone to letting kids know why (or even when, exactly) a camper left. So it was -- the lives of campers were never safe from him, that being of pure filth. They knew he wasn’t real. Everyone did. But knowing he wasn’t real didn’t exactly make him unreal. The sensation was like flying on an airplane: everyone on the plane knows the plane is safe, despite the fact that each one of them is hurtling through the sky in a tin can. But once that fact is reckoned with, once the idea of a five hundred mile-an-hour aluminum tube with wings like cardstock is broached, that’s where the fear kicks in. So every day was an adventure there, every bathroom trip like being in a horror film. For who knew when he’d strike? No one knew his twisted motivation. Was he a pervert? Was he a boogieman, a poltergeist, a spook or a ghost from a bedtime story? Maybe he was lonely. Max Goldstein said that one. Someone told him to shut his trap right after. “You’re a dweeb. He’s evil. A bad dude.” “Maybe,” said Max. “Maybe he just wants to be talked to. He’s basically in prison. Toilet prison.” “It’s not a toilet. It’s a kaibo.” “Whatever. Kaibo. Wouldn’t you be lonely?” “I dunno, Max. I don’t live in a kaibo so I wouldn’t know. Do you live in a kaibo? Are you the kaibo-man’s brother?” Max fell silent. No, he didn’t live in a toilet, or a kaibo. Of course not. But he was afraid of reproach, so he didn’t speak. The words of kids stung like peroxide in an open cut. He kicked at the loose dirt around his feet, looking down. That was that -- the kaibo-man, whoever or whatever he was, golem of stink and slime, became a “bad dude”, perhaps the baddest of all dudes. He was the one who got kids where they were most vulnerable. And the question always came to pass, and stories told and altered and retold -- where’d he come from? Is he natural, or unnatural? Deep in Max’s mind he thought the kaibo-man came from deep in the Earth. For how could he not? Where he lived was full of nature, in a weird way. He probably just wanted everyone to leave. By snatching enough kids, he’d make the campers too scared to stay. They’d abandon the green around them, fold their plastic tents and poles, stop lighting fires and hooting and hollering, and drive back in loud automobiles to their electric homes so that he could be rid of the unnatural pests that plagued him. He was waiting for that moment to clamber from the recesses of his stained palace and come forth once more, eager to shed his ragged cloak and be free. Max thought of him as he and another boy, a rotund, squat fellow named Donald, walked down the path towards their campground. The way back was all dirt, packed tightly from innumerable boots and shoes, that gradually sloped on either side into a forest of tall trees. The canopy above them parted directly in the middle of the path, and in the space between the tips of the leaves warm sunlight shone in a narrow 69


strip for miles. As they walked in oversized hiking boots pebbles skittered here and there. Max’s bright yellow tee shirt was soaked through with sweat. Donald fared no better, despite the breeze. Kids from other troops walked past them all the time, tall or fat or short or lean, but no words were exchanged -- some glared, and older kids sometimes gave the finger, for there were fierce rivalries here. Max and Donald had been at the wooden cabin that served as the camp store, and in their world it was the coolest place to be. The cabin itself was smallish, and its walls resembled Lincoln Logs. Inside a counter and a cash register stood off in the corner, complete with a bored teenage worker. Aisles of snack food, medicine, and camp memorabilia filled most of the space. Off to one corner huddled three or four huge 55-gallon barrels, the ones like blue oil drums, filled to the brim with ice and water. Beneath that arctic boundary treasure lay in wait: soda pop, sweet chemical grape and orange and cherry. If you were brave enough to reach a hand into that freezing abyss and close a lucky hand around a can of off-brand cola, whatever hardships the day had brought mattered no longer. Sure, the pop was a dollar, a fortune to your average kid, but even that was a small price to pay for its sickly pleasure. Camp Emmett, in the summertime, was a sweaty, sticky place, and not lacking beetles, mosquitos, and other such skin-prone nuisances. The soda, though -- well, that made up for the watermelon bugs and earwigs. Cold as ice cream, twice as sweet. Perfect to the point of madness. Max saw Ricky O’Donnell, the six foot building of a boy from Troop 30, knock another boy’s lights out a few days prior after the offender tried to swipe a can of grape soda. The whole event was a blur; the purple can changed hands, and just as quickly, the thief found a fist to the eye socket. Thar she blows, timber. Dead as a doornail, he thought, until the boy got up with tears welling and a black eye that seemed to cover half his face. It was this sweet bounty that Max and his companion were now leaving with. Clutched tightly in Max’s right hand was a can of grape soda; he’d stashed two more in his backpack, and in his pocket was a wooden yo-yo, the manliest of all camp pastimes. That was what Sean Haywood practiced at the trading post, and he was possibly the raddest dude on the face of the planet. The girl counselors all seemed to think so, anyways. They fawned over him as he “Walked the Dog” or crept the spinning toy across the worn wooden floorboards of the cabin. Max wasn’t jealous, though -- he was awestricken. Sean’s skill was immaculate, his execution precise; when he looped that string around his finger, it was no longer a yo-yo but a living creature, something that did his bidding as if by magic. There it was, a blurred pendulum in a skyward arc, and here it was again! He’d shoot it out towards the crowd that gathered without fail, some of them flinching, others leaning closer, and then pop it back just before it grazed someone’s nose. The toy was his puppet, and the instrument of his popularity. Without the yo-yo, who was Sean Haywood? But without Sean Haywood, what was the yo-yo? The wizard must wear his cap, and the cap must fit. “Max.” Maybe he could get as good as Sean with the yo-yo. Learn a few tricks. Impress one of the girl counselors. Suzy, with hair like sweet corn, or Melissa, who had breasts like water balloons and who didn’t wear a bra under her unbuttoned navy polo shirt. Well, that’s what the older boys said. He didn’t know if it was true, or what significance that fact held, but part of him felt it was important. “Max, dude, come on. You’re walking so slow,” Donald said, droning. Max looked and saw he was at least ten feet behind Donald, and his mouth was wide open, too. He hurried to catch up, taking care not to shake his soda. 70

“Sorry.” “S’cool.” In Donald’s hand was a long piece of yellow cord where he had strung wide, green maple leaves, three pointed, with holes poked in them seemingly at random. Max had never seen these leaves before -- well, he’d seen the leaves, but not in this form. “What’s with the leaves?” “Kaibo-men.” “I thought the kaibo-man was the dude in the toilet.” “He is, I know. The kaibo. They aren’t him. They’re his spies.” “The kaibo-man has spies?” They’d just entered the campground, and a group of boys five or six years older were playing cards at a rusted steel picnic table, the kind with little diamond-shaped holes all throughout its rubberized top. “Yeah. We gotta burn ‘em. Can’t let him know what we’re doing.” Max nodded, serious, for he did know. He’d not yet felt the scrape of the kaibo-man’s twisted fingers, but he was sure his day was up very soon, and so any help he could get was welcome. And of course the kaibo-man wasn’t real, and of course these weren’t his spies -- they were leaves, and he could see that -- but who could take any chances? Max would not, at eleven years old, risk his life by disbelieving in Donald’s words. As though he read Max’s thoughts, Donald called out to one of the older boys at the table, a tall, built teenager with short, buzzed hair. “Hey, JJ. Kaibo-man spies, right?” he said, pointing at his leaves on the cord. JJ, without looking up, smiled and stuck his thumb at the sky. “You got it, Donald. Kaibo-man spies.” The other boys laughed. It was clear, then, that they were unafraid of the kaibo-man. He preferred younger ones, or they were old enough to fend him off. Max, scrawny in arm and leg, lacked that fighting confidence. “Alright, dude, I get it,” Max said, not wanting to make a fool of himself in front of the troop’s older members. “We burn the spies. But why are they all ripped up?” Donald handed the circled cord to Max, and upon closer inspection he saw faces poked into each leaf; some grimaced, frowning up at him with angry eyes and eyebrows, and others smiled in evil pleasure, as though they possessed some worthwhile information for their master. A few just looked sad, like they didn’t choose the life of a spy, and at the mention of incineration they seemed to droop even further. Max rubbed his eyes. “Ok. So let’s burn them,” he said, ready to be rid of the wicked scraps. “Naw, man. We gotta wait until it’s night.” And as the sun fell first behind trees and then behind soft mountain ranges, and as darkness slithered snakelike around and about the trunks of the trees around them, and as the hiss of propane stoves grew quiet and the clicks of lanterns sparked like false lightning bugs in the night, the time for the immolation of spies began. Donald stood solemn in front of a host of boys, holding aloft his cord of prisoners. He needed not say anything; each boy sitting around the bonfire now knew his purpose, and the quiet but for the crackling and popping of dead wood was absolute. With slow, calculated gestures, Donald unraveled the knot in the cord and tossed each spy into the fire one by one. When the green leaves touched the flame cacophony of pops and smacks erupted like tiny gunshots, the noises satisfying in the silence. With each evil smirk or brooding face that burnt Max grew more excited. One less danger out here in the woods. Each leaf that fell into the fire sent a shiver through the congregated boys. Something connected them, as physical as it was mental, as 71


though thick wires ran between them all, around the logs and camp chairs they sat on, and sent electricity up their spines at the burning of another spy. Max’s heart danced in his chest. He leaned forward in his chair, his eyes full of fire, the smoke in his hair and clothes and skin. His pores widened, desperate for more, drinking in savagery. Yet there was something too barbaric in this ritual, something violent and strange; for every vile face that the flames consumed there was one also as sad, and those cracking sounds weren’t satisfying but hollow. What were these leaves, really? The kaibo-man’s playthings? They might be slaves, just as he was a slave. Maybe what they didn’t want was a life of spying but a life of hanging, as leaves are wont to do -- to stick until they fall, and when they fall turn to mulch, and from the mulch grow. Max sat back in his chair and stared into the fire as one kaibo spy after the other perished with a crackling hiss and a spark. When the cord was empty Donald nodded, his face still serious in the campfire’s dim glow. From behind him another boy materialized, one of the older kids, with another cord full of leaves, one where you couldn’t even see the yellow of the cord. The leaves scarcely had any space between them. This was a true culling of spies, a real genocide. Max almost spoke. He almost stood up and said something. Can’t you see, he thought of saying. Don’t you get it? These aren’t bad dudes. The kaibo-man is, but these guys? In the same moment it was so childish of him to even care. They were leaves: unthinking, unfeeling. Foliage. Nature. Flora, fauna. What did it matter to him if they burned up? So he held his tongue, and merely sat and watched. The older boy unknotted his cord, his face stony, but instead of giving each spy his turn he took the lot of them and tossed them into the fire. An unceremonious passage. Each leaf cried out, spoke its piece and was silenced in an instant. The salvo of snaps and sputters assaulted Max, each singular fizzling driving him to further guilt. As quickly as they flared up, they were gone. The fire had swallowed them whole. Nothing but burnt corpses, each spy merely a remnant of its former self. Bits of incinerated maple leaf floated on the early evening breeze. One landed on Max’s denimed knee. He moved to brush it off, paused, and instead let it lie. Who was to blame, then? The boys, for their savagery? The kaibo-man, for his forcible slavery? If not him, then who? Max sat, chin in his hand, for a while after the boys had dispersed. He sat looking at the now-smoldering embers, the burnt and crumbling logs. It was all their fault, he decided. All of the campers, and the counselors, and the scout leaders, and the people who built the camp. Tomorrow the sun would rise, and campers would stir in sleeping bags like big, humanlike grubs, and Sean Haywood would do another yo-yo trick to please the crowd, and Suzy would comb her yellow hair, and the unrecognizable, disfigured spies, blown about in the night’s wind, would be forgotten. Nature would take them back, though not in the way it intended. The kaibo-man would reach up, bother a camper, snatch one. Leave his mark. But what meaning did the act hold? Was it malice, or something else? Spies, Max had called them. Burn ‘em all, throw ‘em in the fire. Bad dudes, baddest of all dudes. He tacitly accepted it all. You got it, Donald. Kaibo-man spies. But were they really? Reclamation, maybe, he thought. Get out of here, said the kaibo-man, leave this place. You aren’t meant for this world, for these trees and these leaves. Here are my minions, he says. Go, give them my message -- bid them farewell. And he waits, and waits, and in the meantime his filth grows. The scum multiplies. His rags fall apart, his skin decays. He scratches, he pokes, he grabs and takes. The leaves are gathered and burnt, and in the night their cries ring out and fall upon his decrepit ears, and his howls break on the night’s gale like thin ice upon concrete. 72

You Can’t Have My Light Summer Orr

73


A Girl So Gloomy Even Her Words Have Shadows Nicholas Ruggieri

She was not so long ago, but there is only ice now, and everything is slow in the cold. Soon you will forget how infinitely far she feels. Did you know that you were nothing before the moths? In the dark, there is the sound of an ancient sea, and the smell of flying, which all nightmare creatures make their home.

74

They took their rage and shaped a woman from it. She speaks in angry flutes, and they named every hurricane in the next century after her. A battlefield: the wasted trenches of her ribs, the death strip of her spine, the graveyard of butchered gods between her knees. All of which the man with the gleaming ax did not mean. He only wanted to carve out the cities from her center, and to love her bones.

75


Lost Wisdom Nathan Lachner

I Cellphone faces are, now constellations. Small lights eating stars. II Milky water drops cling to awnings then, fall on to my lens. III No one noticed I look like a bird. I cut off my ears with a knife. IV I still soar through one sided conversations like the hiss of feedback. V I burrow a hole; a soft nest made of bed sheets and hide from the sun. VI I feel the wind of God’s lungs splash rhythmically against my ear holes.

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VII

XIV

The mountain speaks out

I saw a man puke

loud, but she only speaks

over his shoulder mid stride,

dirt. I hear nothing.

he just kept walkin’.

VIII

XV

A certain longing beads

Saw a beautiful

up in the intestines.

wolf in the street. On a leash,

Waiting years for change.

with its balls cut off.

IX

XVI

Picture of a girl,

These pills make me im-

slipping in her finger. My

potent. Watch pigeons outside:

hand on dry paper.

hand on my sad dick.

X

XVII

I lay my head in

My face in the glass

the lap of God. And she

of a landscape painting. Head

combs my hair slowly.

in sky. Face in trees.

XI

XVIII

Waiting for my thoughts

My girlfriend is my

to thaw. The sheets are sopped in

only god. Low: send out a

sweat when the sun comes.

message—no reply.

XII

XIX

Man on the curb, with

Each day is the same.

cool sunglasses. His cheeks

I watch the gloom of a branch,

shine from smeared water.

yawn on a drab wall.

XIII A nice chat as I eat someone’s child. Not human, so it’s not that bad.

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79


People are Rocks Nathan Lachner

I saw torrents of faces gush past me on all sides, in the shafts of a mall as I strolled over linoleum: everything is gray, blue, and lifeless. Endless faces wash by; they are pale, smooth, stones without mind. I let them skip over the surface of my thoughts: They don’t sink and pound throughout the trenches in my stomach— Just small ripples. My eyelids sag. For once I feel tranquil, and unseen.

Liquid Cat 80

Zac Haley

81


They Sit There Still Matthew Karr

Of course, where would they be But a fire escape? The rusty staircase Stepping down from the stories the city tells itself— It must have been a tall tale To practice intimacy on exit signs. Sitting close under scarves like curtains, Mouths mimicking the sly smile of windows; From below, the buildings themselves Seem to touch near the top in expectation. Are they not standing over the street, Not housing many within who, in routine, Go from one to another like boarders, A trail of baggage too large to carry left sitting? Maybe the trick is that they pause, And sit, there, where it’s a long way down, And lean in over valleys With walls coarse as taste buds, Ready to whistle, wind through deserted streets.

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83


Complicated Human Nicholas Ruggieri

I walk everywhere I go. I sleep under tangled roots. I sharpen my teeth on moon rocks. I am not a human at all, but a molecule, coursing through blood, shouting, “I was here! I was here, and I felt it!�

Looking for Light 84

Nathaniel Benjamin

85


Hands For Shaking Griffin Peralta

This microphone is tense. Like a hundred thousand students all taking out a number two pencil and preparing to take the test of a life time at exactly the same moment… Every brow a little sweaty. Every answer written is life without parole. Remind me sometimes why I get on this stage. This is a room full of masterpieces, I could walk by any of you like a kid in the Smithsonian and never know why are we still going about life on rails? Ford assembly automatons pretending there’s nothing inside our chests? Why can I buy something for all 10 USB ports on my computer When I don’t need all ten fingers to count the friends I’ve made this year? I don’t wanna exist like that. So these, are my hands, they’re for shaking, And these, are my shoulders, they’re to cry on, Every moment, could be the moment you decide not to stay home with Netflix. This is the thrilling moment when the watched phone finally rings. Let’s go out tonight. This is forgetting the feeling when the phone never rings. When the world is dark. Like the mid winter black out that birthed the icicle which pierced your chest the first time someone told you they didn’t want to see you anymore. This. .. is knowing you’ll never have another lonely holiday.

86

This is the accidental act of poetry when you’re smiling because you just like someone so much. You’ll think; “I like the way the sun shines through you.” And dinner service for one will burn down inside you, spitting orange light which will boil out your eyes and twinkle like breaking glass, casting long shadows across the weeping willow which kept a solemn vigil inside you for so long. You will choke on the embers, You will vomit out sunlight, You will shine like headlights on an empty highway. As you put the pencil down and know you’ve passed , Sailing away on hundred mile legs across a thousand miles of green spring grass, like a ship made of feathers flying on a dust devil, like a dry, dry driftwood set out to sea, This is the great migration from solitude to community. It is the only upward mobility still afforded to us. And it’s true that all roads lead to Rome… But if you walk with me I’ll no longer care if we get there.

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Amateur Repairman’s Manual Matthew Karr

Is it true that our fragilest machines Only work with no task before them, Like those legendary chefs who, reckless Or in certitude, cut best blindfolded, trusting Hands that don’t know what another does? They have not malfunctioned enough, And this piece, rusting off, It may not last—(nor the growing Splotch of corrosion plating the case)— But many’s the man who loves Tools in their brokenness— Don’t your hands already line Themselves with folding? Eight times folded the heart, Which being paper’s impossible, Yet still you drag a bone Along loose creases and lick lips In anticipation of unborn callouses. We could lose fingers, And while you play tricks On schoolchildren, I’ll touch Touch’s implements, mechanically, Counting and recounting— Forget the missing digit uncarried, As a paper learns to be told And know its nature there, holding.

88

89


Complicated Human Nicholas Ruggieri

I walk everywhere I go. I sleep under tangled roots. I sharpen my teeth on moon rocks. I am not a human at all, but a molecule, coursing through blood, shouting, “I was here! I was here, and I felt it!�

90

91


Brushfire Staff

Leona Novio Editor-In-Chief

Edgar Garcia Assistant Editor

Julian Guy Literary Director

Henry MacDiarmid Visual Art Director

When sitting down to produce a journal, I tend to notice themes pop out, warranted or not. The couple that consistently reoccurred to me, in this journal, was idols and emptiness. This theme seems looming and inherent, though I may be projecting some reflection of my current disposition, the sudden change of the seasons and the impact of the recent crisis abroad. Idols, whether false or deserved, rise as symbols for which to strive, reach and protect. They stand as reminders and testaments to human ingenuity and persistence; the ultimate metaphor that causes us to live and keep living. And I don’t mean just taking up air, I mean feeling every leap and bound of pain that cuts you down and every stab and sorrow of joy that causes you to get back up again—especially in the face of global or personal tragedy. That brings me to emptiness. That ultimate figment of peace and loneliness seems, to the good hermit, one in the same. That piece of existence is within all of us whether we reckon with it or sonder in its presence. Emptiness is the animal that craves to define its inhabitance and shines by pushing out true individuality. Without the ache of true emptiness, there would be no recognition of satisfaction and fulfillment. There is no being that knows one duality without ever knowing the other half of it, and that is what makes us whole or holy. Here is an exercise. Do it with me, repeat “holy” until it no longer remains a word and becomes only a sound to fill the vowels of your mouth. That experience, to me, is true sacredness. “Go home. Or make a home. Or rest” - Neil Gaiman, Instructions I leave the remainder to you. Leona Novio, EIC, Brushfire

Clarisa Depari Zine Editor

Daniel Putney Assistant Zine Editor

Brian Williams Office Manager

Ally Messer Visual Assistant


Want to have your work published in the Brushfire? We are currently taking submissions for our Spring 2016 edition on www.unrbrushfire.org Contact us at: brushfire.staff@gmail.com Or find us online at: Facebook: Brushfire Literary Arts Journal Instagram: @unrbrushfire

Copyright 2015 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 and staff 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.

Cover Art: Emerging Breanna Inga Journal Layout Design: Brushfire Team Commercially Printed: A. Carlisle & Company of Nevada

published by the associated students of the university of nevada, reno


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ISSN: 04070-05048 First copy free, additional copies cost one soul each

Edition 68 Volume 1  

Brushfire is UNR's oldest literature & arts journal. Brushfire publishes biannually, check out our website for more info! unrbrushfire.org

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