edition 70 volume 1
university of nevada, reno
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: Brushfire staff : Untitled : sophia harrigan
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
visual things in life
fuyu no onsen
looking for a symmetry
an unbalanced bear
everything i am
everything i wanted
poetry after reading an article on particle physics
i dreamed that
paul macadamia: basement sessions
the storms in other countries
AFTER READING AN ARTICLE ON PARTICLE PHYSICS melanie perish
Smaller than the piece of lint she watched him brush off his shoulder, or the piece of grit he took out of her eye with the point of his linen handkerchief, or the single grains of superfine sugar spilled next to the Gold Medal Flour in the Hoosier cupboard they saved up to buy. Smaller than a hadron and its electromagnetic charge, or the quarks racing their infinitesimal colors inside it. Quarks canâ€™t be seen by the most powerful microscope; they can only be seen in motion. This is the moment that love starts and desire.
I DREAMED THAT alec brown I was a giant, on my knees, chipping away at Antarctica. A planetary neurosurgeon, opening the globe’s cranium, poking at its bulby pink wrinkles. I stepped into the sky, where atmospheres ran clear and starry when a face appeared in my view: bald, crows feet clawing at egg-white eyes. He held me close, and confided a dire secret: “We used the sun to forge Souls” We were suspended in nothingness. I glanced beneath: I saw Planets spinning against pinhole stars. Great, round, infinite bodies, stained with sapphires and grasses and wind. And around me, coins of moons, Clouds drifting through valleys And on the shoulders of mountains. Above me, great whales spouting geysers of sunshine. The rain tasted like iron and citrus. In front of me, embracing them all was a sun, a burning heart, cradling its children I saw their lives, heard their laughter. Suspended on crystalline strings, holding onto each other. They sang into the void, they cheered into that nothingness. Singing out, Screaming their existence, For what else is there? 9
FOREVER SHE fabrice poussin
A flash of light in the moonlight not unlike a ghostly view at midnight seemingly made of misty membranes she is the silk she wears in her dreams. Silvery streaks a melody from above tracing soft gusts of a gentle breeze they are sheets of white satin in the rain she is the soul searching for a form. In the young morning of a newborn winter a tender powder slowly swims to her feet swirls of the air appear as arms chasing a birth she is the babe napping in the midst of snowy flakes Looking for a hint of a warmer clime particles of a sandy shore appeal to her essence building castles in rays of a nourishing star she lies in the curvy lines of voluptuous dunes. Mirage above a Sahara, a cloud in a dry sphere the sterile land does not welcome the explorer in a quest for a bed of fresh green and flowers she will shape the oasis her final refuge. Perpetual motion in the waves of life and death oceans filled with the mysteries of all origins belonging to these deep waters so icy she becomes everything in the cosmic shroud Winds may roar attacking the ever-young flesh hurricanes, typhoons, twisters present no match to the one who endlessly finds a new beginning for she is the alpha of the universal elements.
FUYU NO ONSEN
PAUL MACADAMIA: BASEMENT SESSIONS larry narron
Burnt sunshine wails like a scatterbrained radio preacher alphabetizing the Psalms, Scotch taping verses to cover the studio walls Paul Macadamia runs through scales with his eyes closed, stretches the strings so far between frets so they bend but donâ€™t break In Paulâ€™s favorite song, a blind man has fallen asleep while the snow falls in the black trees guarding his house A glacier slides through a dream about horses without waking him
PUMPKIN SEEDS michael alvarado 13
SELF SELF marian kilcoyne
Can we undo damage that sits in the marrow burgeoning? Bodies become sick turning chaser on themselves, their cells replicating, promiscuity their very ethic. There are plans afoot for you and they are not nebulous. Can I tell you what you can do to thwart self self? You can lay inky violets on a lichened gravestone knowing there are many layers between you and themâ€”the ancestors, or the ones not concerned with your vacant howls. Can I tell you what they might say to you, if they even cared? Look to the clay, lay down in it. There it is, after all, where you will coalesce. Always recognize the bad as busily we all donate to build that empty vessel. Assent to your wounds like a salty flush heroine, then paint your scar tissue with mercury. Dull lazy silverâ€”the opposite of the moon.
OFF TOP samantha hemphill
CRANE kandace james
It is a Sunday night. He is sitting on a three-legged stool. One of the legs has a crack in it from being thrown into the wall last week. It is late. They always eat late. A fork pierces the brown mass that sits on the plate. Blood oozes out. “What is this?” Crane asks in repulse. “It’s meatloaf.” His uncle Tuck chuckles adding, “It’s really not that bad once you get through the first bite.” Placing the fork back on the paper plate, Crane mumbles, “I’m not that hungry.” “I made it for you, so eat it.” Tuck speaks these words with a smirk. It makes Crane’s stomach churn. Crane picks up the clump and swallows it. Tuck eyes the fork as it hits Cranes lips. With every bite, Crane grows sicker. He can’t tell if the cause was the food or his uncle’s locked eyes. “How is it?” “It’s good.” Crane mutters. He looks up to see Tuck grinning at him. Tuck rubs his lanky fingers into his greasy, brown hair. Everything about him seems greasy. Wetting his thin pink lips with his tongue, Tuck asks, “So you like the taste of meat, huh?” Crane clinches his teeth. “Answer me.” A lump in Crane’s throat forms. “No, I don’t like it.” Tuck fidgets with his belt; his glossy eyes stare into Crane’s. “Don’t lie. I can prove you like it…come here.” Crane’s body stiffens. “You promised,” his voice begins to crack, “you promised that night was the last night. You said you were sorry; you said—” “That was last week! Today is a new day.” “This is a sin! What you’re doing is a sin!”
“Look at you. You go to church two times in a row, and you think you’ve found heaven. I’ll tell you what: once I’m finished, I’ll make sure to repent. Now get over here.” Crane fights back the tears that are arising, lifts up from the splintered stool and walks towards his uncle. His eyes are frozen to the floor. He makes his way to his uncle’s bare feet “You should know what to do by now.” Crane peels off his shirt, showing his pale chest. Tuck lies back in the armchair as Crane unzips his uncle’s blue jeans. Finally, the tears escape and roll down his flushed cheeks. Tuck is right: Crane knows exactly what to do. It is no longer Sunday. It is 12:00am, two hours since the incident. Crane is in his bed. He cannot sleep. He can still taste Tuck. He wants to go to the bathroom to wash him out, but that means he would have to walk passed Tuck’s room. He opens his bedroom window. The bleached moon gazes at him. He hears the frogs and the crickets chatting, like some sort of story is being told. The night air is loud. A train whines in the distance, slowly slipping away into the murky air. He feels safe in this moment. He lies back in the bed and submerges himself in his sheets. Tomorrow is a new day. Crane wakes up early. He leaves the house at 6:00am, just missing the awakening of his uncle. He doesn’t feel like going to school today. He feels too unclean to be around so many people—like they could smell it on him. There’s something sacred about getting up this early while the earth is still waking up. The relaxed soil seems to yawn under his boots. As he makes his way to the church, a thirty-minute walk, he marvels at the sky. To him, it looks like the air is painted with a mixture of pink lemonade and orange juice, like God spilled His morning cup. This is the first time he has ever seen the moon and sun in the sky at the same time. It reminds him of two eyes peering down at him. This makes him nervous. It’s 6:32. A wooden cross rests on top of the building. Crane’s coal colored eyes scan the empty parking lot. He makes it to the door of the church. It is locked. Crane sits on the curb. He doesn’t know why he is here. If God wanted to help him, He would’ve done it already.
“God, I’m beginning to think Tuck was right. I just hope you’re real—that I’m not just talking to myself; that I’m not going crazy. I mean, I think you are but—why did you take my parents, and why did you put me here? I was doing fine before... If you really loved me… I think I’m getting comfortable with who I’m becoming. I just want out.” He hears nothing. It is 6:43 now. Crane blinks his eyes open. He gets up from the curb and starts to walk back home. The streets are vacant, just several birds sitting in the nearby tree. One takes flight and weaves through the ripples in the sky. There is no moon, only sun. Now the sky has one eye visible as if it is winking at him. Feeling bothered by this, he begins to run home, even though he knows that he cannot run from the sky. He makes it home in less than twenty minutes. He hopes that Tuck will be at work at this time. Crane opens the door. “Where were you?” Tuck’s raspy voice yells. “I was taking a walk.” “At six in the morning? And are you ever going to go to school anymore?”
LOOKING FOR A SYMMETRY
“Stop acting like you care.” “I do care.” Crane’s face grows red. “You’re a freak you know that right? It’s like you’re two different people!” “Hey! You don’t think I know that?” “You need help!” “I know that too, and I’m sorry about last night. I’ve been trying to stop. You know that.” “I don’t care if you’re sorry, because that man last night is not.” Tuck bites his bottom lip, “We all got problems, Crane, so don’t make me out to be your personal horror story. I am not a monster.” “You sure about that?” Tuck slaps his hand on his forehead. “Crane, I’m already running late for work.” Peeling his hand from his forehead, Tuck walks out of the house. Now alone again, Crane realizes that the house is in disarray. The armchair is on its side, the TV is shattered, and there is raw hamburger meat and mashed potatoes spattered on the carpet. The toaster found its way out of the kitchen and is now lying on the floor in the living room, and the three-legged stool now has only one leg. “Great, now where am I going to sit?” Crane steps over the mess and picks up the stool. He takes three minutes searching for the other two legs, finding one underneath the carnage of glass and the other in between the armchair and table. He makes his way up to his room. Sitting on the floor, he assembles the broken legs. Crane tries to fit a leg into the hole of the seat. The legs are smashed in; there is no way to fix it now. In frustration, Crane starts to beat the chair on the floor. The third leg breaks off. He picks up the four pieces of wood and, one-by-one, throws them into the wall. He swings the window open. The air is quiet. The sky is still winking at him. He hears nothing. He picks up the fragmented stool. He heaves the seat out the window. He heaves a leg out the window. He heaves a leg out the window. He heaves a leg out the window. He heaves—out the window.
THE STORMS IN OTHER COUNTRIES louise ortiz We had never imagined it would be quite like this, unable to leave our rooms bathtubs filled to the brim with water. A/C blowing, and finally understanding why the doors and windows are only ever made of metal. Tropical skies turned turbulent and grey wind slapping at our balcony doors rainwater bubbling inside from under the sill. Your skin fresh but I could tell you hadn’t washed your hair in a few days, your cool heel teasing my calf. Once again you’re amazed by the steel protruding from my nipples, you trace the bar with a curious finger tip. I was so scared that if the electricity and gas went out we wouldn’t be able to cook or shower with warm water, that the refrigerated food would spoil, but you laughed, promised me bread and bechamel. You hiked up your leg, pulled me in like a hook. Pelvic bone sharp, churned like batter on my thigh. Arms deep in my back like roots Your red hair curled around my tongue. You come back to me smiling, laughing at me and the storm that maybe only the locals know how to fear and belittle. 21
Sloths Not enough in poetry, Not enough in art, Underappreciated.
Noses I just wanted you to know, Your nose is pretty, Iâ€™ve said too much already.
Broken Roses Roses are prettiest when A little broken, You are beautiful also.
AN UNBALANCED BEAR
EVERYTHING I AM
STEN MOVES shelby grauberger
White pawn to E4. “I’m going to go get my coffee. You can move if you want.” Black pawn to E5. I’ve done this a hundred times; it feels almost scripted. Tim returns slowly cradling his mug. He sets it on the table and sits. His eyes pass over the board quickly. It takes only a moment for him to decide on his next move. White knight to F3. Tim and I wake up early on Sundays to go play chess at a nearby coffee shop. Our habits seem more fitting for retired folk than for a couple of twenty-somethings who attend the university across the street, but we’ve never desired much more than having some time to kick-back and relax. I don’t know why we prefer this early morning chess-time over sleeping-in, but then again Sundays have never been marked as a day of rest for us. As kids, we were up early for church and then spent the rest of the day participating in what was affectionately called “family day.” It was during those times that Tim spent countless hours learning to play chess with my father. I sat by and watched, trying to understand the reasons for their movements, but it wasn’t until I started babysitting that a kid explained the game and started teaching me strategies that I eventually learned enough to play against anyone over the age of 12. Sunday mornings playing chess typically consist of being swiftly defeated by my brother Tim, his desire to play again because it “ended too fast,” and then losing once again. I have tough skin, but one would think that I would stop trying or that he would get tired of beating me. My constant defeat could be explained by the extra years of experience he had playing as a kid, but the reality is that I move my pawns on impulse; he considers the fate of each and every piece he touches before releasing his grip from their wooden form. 25
It’s snowing. Tim’s eyes shift to the window, and he seems to get lost watching each flake glide toward the asphalt. Black knight to C6. I lift my mug and sip the coffee. It is bold—so similar to how I remember the taste of my mother’s coffee growing up. It was always too bold and too bitter; I much preferred sweet black tea back then. We didn’t used to have much in common, but with age I have noticed an increasing number of shared interests between us. It’s strange how in time you grow to love what you used to hate and grow more like the people around you. I never would have predicted that I would rather enjoy the flavor of coffee one day. I never thought I would be anything like her. White knight to C3. A lot has changed. Black knight to F6. “Did Mom and Dad call you last night?” Tim nods in response, his gaze steady on the board below. My brother knows the exact series of moves he will make in any situation. He watches the board and sees all the pros and cons of the various options. He taught me once that “a chess player should always be looking ahead to see how a present move will affect a future one,” but I don’t know how he keeps track. He processes things in a way that makes me feel like a slug. I fumble with the zipper on my coat; it’s warm in here. White pawn to A3. Black pawn to D5. “Yeah, well Mom called me I think right after calling you. She asked how you were.” The skin on his forehead creases as he glances up. He has to know that we are never both let in on the same amount of information. Every family has its ways of spreading news, I guess. White pawn to D5. Capture. “She just called me to say there is money in the account to help with tuition,” I mention. “She sounded like she wasn’t feeling well. I talked to Dad when he took the dog on a walk a few minutes later. He said that she’s in something of a funk. He stayed on the line a bit longer to tell me about some clients he met yesterday morning.” “Mhm, sounds like Dad,” he mused. Black knight to D5. Capture. “Anyway, she mentioned that she didn’t go to the birthday thing with the family the other night, and you know how Grandma gets about missing those. I still get her emails reminding me to the keep the evening open, and it’s been, what, two years since we moved away? I do miss them though…”
White bishop to E2. “I got to talk to her for quite a while, but Dad said he’d call me back when he got another call. He must have fallen asleep.” Tim and I have always had different relationships with Mom. That’s something I’ve only recently come to accept. I look intently at the brick wall behind Tim. Each piece is a slightly different shade of red and has some kind of imperfect quality. They’re all pieced together with crumbling grey concrete. I am reminded of all the long nights spent reading with my back scraping against that wall and legs up on the chair just a couple feet away. Every time I find myself considering moving back, the thought drops away with the realization that my hometown has no coffee shop that feels like home…or really a home that feels like home. “Your move.” I snap back to seeing Tim impatiently looking at the board and outlining his beard with his thumb. Black pawn to E4.
EVERYTHING I WANTED
“Hmm,” he falls silent again. I reach down and take a sip of lukewarm coffee. “I’m going to go refill this a bit. Don’t cheat.” Tim chuckles to himself. He knows just as well as I that he has no need for cheating as I am hardly paying attention to begin with. “Okay, whatever, I’m taking your pawn though silly.” White knight to E4. Capture. “You’re killing me with this game right now. I might as well be playing against a toddler.” I shrug and head to the front. The wood floors creak softly beneath my feet. In the front room, a few young students sit behind wobbly tables covered with textbooks and computers. A professor I had a semester or two back sits behind his laptop glancing back and forth between his screen and an open book. I’ve seen him here almost every day annotating and giving the words on the page his best scholarly brow. I’m pretty sure his face will get stuck like that one of these days. I smile back when he glances up from his page. Refilling my mug, I recall my own furrowed brows in tagged photos at family events, and another thought creeps up: maybe mine will get stuck like that one day too…
IT’S STRANGE HOW IN TIME YOU GROW TO LOVE WHAT YOU USED TO HATE AND GROW MORE LIKE THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU.
I sit across from Tim and take note of the missing pawn. That’s okay. Black knight to F4. “Did Mom say anything to you about not feeling well,” I continue, “or was that pretty much it?” He yawns for a few moments. White castle kingside. “Nah, not really. We got to talking about a book I was reading the other day and a little bit about Camille’s upcoming interview.” He’s so nonchalant. I sometimes wonder if he has any idea how serious it is when Mom’s in a bad way. Maybe his ability to overlook those aspects of her is how they’ve managed to spend any significant amount of time together or
chat for longer than a minute or two on the phone. Right around the two-minute mark in any conversation between my mother and me, it tends to get uncomfortable and ends abruptly. Black knight to E2. Check. I start thinking of the conversation I had with Dad the night before when he was walking the dog. I called him a few minutes after hanging up with my mother because I thought it strange that she mentioned having a few days off of work. “I was just calling because I noticed that Mom said that she had a few days off?” Dad sighed on the other line. “Honey, I’m going to take the dog for a walk. Be back in a few minutes.” I heard the screen shut and the dog’s collar jingle as he trotted along. “You don’t need to worry. The other day she went through a particularly rough patch, and she decided to play it safe by checking herself in. The doctors made her stay overnight and then allowed her to decide if she’d like to go home or not. She stayed and ended up missing work while she was there.” He paused a moment to find the right words. “I guess something was off with her medication; it happens from time to time, but it should be fixed for now.” “Okay.” There was nothing more to say. At least she can recognize when things get beyond her control. I don’t think Tim knows; I imagine his face would be more tense if he did, wrinkles growing deeper on his skin from too much time spent thinking about what could have happened. It actually makes sense that he wouldn’t know about any overnighters in an institution since she never subtly mentions to him that they are really quite similar. That’s just me. I get to know more because I very well could grow into similar mental instability, and this is some sort of preparation for when that time comes. White queen to E2. Capture. “Well shit,” I mumble quietly. The game’s coming to a close. My hands always feel out of place; I cross my arms while I start to look for ways to fix the fact that I had literally let the entire game slip through my fingers without paying attention to it. Black bishop to G4. “So she didn’t mention having taken any time off?” “Oh, no, she didn’t say anything about that. Was it a holiday or something? That must have been a nice break for her.” White knight to F6. Checkmate.
“Ok.” I said. I stretched out my arm, and he took the wallet, glanced inside it briefly, and put it in the pocket of his jacket. I noticed that on the wall to our left, our shadows, whose limbs were comically long, were playing out a farcical version of the same scene. The man glanced around him. Even the rumble of distant traffic seemed to have been lost in the fog. My face was raw from the cold. I envied the man and his beanie and his jacket.
...HE WAS YOUNGER THAN I HAD THOUGHT. HE TAPPED AT THE SCREEN, KEEPING THE KNIFE FLOATING BETWEEN US.
“And your phone.” said the man. My phone was new, white, and felt somehow both light and heavy in my hand. When I woke up in my bed, it would be there, nestled like a precious egg. “I don’t have a phone,” I said. “I lost it. I was at a festival, in the toilet, those portable toilets they have at festivals. Someone hammered on the door. It was so loud. Deafening. I stood up really quickly and my phone fell out, and slid down the toilet into the tank. I watched it go under like a drowning man. There’s no way I was going in there, and no way that it survived. I don’t have a phone now.” “Bullshit.” said the man. “Everyone has a phone. You better not be lying to me. You see this?” He waved the knife again. To our left, his long limbed shadow mimicked him. There was a pause. “Yes.” I said. “Yes what?” he demanded. “Yes. Your, uh, knife. I can see your knife.” “Right.” There was a pause. I was overcome with the sensation that we were both actors who had deviated from our scripts, and were now floundering to get back on track.
“Everyone has a phone,” repeated the man, like a mantra. “Turn out your pockets. Be quick. Don’t bother trying to hide anything.” The phone was in my left front pocket. I slid it out and gave it to him. The man looked at it, and pressed a button, and his face was illuminated by the light. I realized that he was younger than I had thought. He tapped at the screen, keeping the knife floating between us. “You have to swipe it.” I explained. “I know how to fuking swipe it.” “OK.” I said. “You got anything else?” asked the man. “Like what?” “Valuable stuff.” I considered for a second. “Not now.” I replied. He nodded. “Where are you going to?” “Home.” I said. “Where’s that? You’re not coming this way. Turn around and fuck off for a bit.” “OK.” Neither of us moved nor spoke. The man put the phone in another pocket. He seemed to be staring over my left shoulder. In the distance, the sound of a siren grew louder. I was pretty sure it was an ambulance. It rose to a crescendo, and then faded away again. Another beat passed. “Sorry about this.” said the man. He had lowered the knife a bit. His wrists were illuminated by the streetlight, and under his big jacket, they were as skinny, pale, with the same wispy hairs as his face. “Alright.” I said and suppressed an urge to say, see you later, or cheers, or even to apologize back. Instead I kept silent and walked backwards. I heard his vanish in the fog, but I kept going. It felt strange to walk without the familiar weight and pressure of my phone and wallet. I sat down on the pavement and started to count to a hundred, like hostages do in films when they are left alone. I realized that my heart was hammering in my chest and ears. I hadn’t felt scared. I hadn’t felt much of anything. I counted all the way to forty-five before I got bored, then picked myself up, shivering, and began to walk home, the silence ringing in my ears.
AD LIBITUM tom sanders I got off the bus, buttoned my coat, and started walking. I turned right and then left, then left again. As I walked, I squinted up at the windows around me—searching for the orange glow of lights, or the electric blue of a television screen. It was almost six in the morning, not yet light. I was still looking when I rounded the corner that led to my street, and a man stepped out in front of me, holding a knife in his right hand. It was the beginning of autumn in London, and that night had brought not only the cold, but new crisp smells of leaves and frost. At some point in the night, while I was still inside the hospital, a thick blanket of fog had settled over the city. The man in front of me seemed to be shaking, or perhaps just shivering, because the knife’s blade was dancing in his hand, as though he was trying to cut slices out from the fog. “Give me your wallet,” said the man. He was wearing a black beanie and a jacket with fur around the collar. The jacket was green and looked warm. The fur made his shoulders seem larger. The man’s forehead was furrowed into black lines, which made his face look like an unfinished letter. Thin, wispy hairs had sprouted on his lip and chin. “Ok,” I said. I pulled my wallet out of my pocket. A single twenty pound note was poking out of the top. I looked up at the man. “Do you think I could keep my oyster card?” I asked. “What?” said the man with the knife. “No.” “I have a monthly travel card,” I explained. “I’m going to cancel it when I get home, either way. It’s not worth anything to you. It costs ten pounds to apply for a new one. You need a special number for that, and I wrote it down somewhere and can’t find it now. It’s 16 digits long.” “Shut up.” said the man. 27 35
useless worthless useless worthless
feel it trickle down your arms, slither up your spine, neckâ€” into your ears, it whispers the familiar incantation:
it starts in the small of your back then seeps into your hips, creeps up your shoulders
it claws its way to your throat, chokes out tears, doubts, fearsâ€” bitter cold hands strangle your fading senses until your white-bitten knuckles feel nothing in the frosted moonlight
the chill shoots into your skin, numb fingertips prick at your wrists, dig into your skull, root in the back of your mind, buried under suffocating covers
WORKDAY CONCESSION louise ortiz
The call comes maybe once a month, to my mom’s puckered hesitation, from my grandfather’s side, my Tia calls to say: she had one breast removed, and that her rich sister in the capital finally passed away from a cancer she denied til the end. Marcella is in University, she wants to be a Lawyer and she insists they eat tacos for Christmas, even though they’re not Mexican. The sister that died from cancer left two sons. One was in high school, but dropped out when he got a girlfriend, and spends all day in bed with her in the room he shares with his brother. The other brother wants an iPhone, but Tia tells us not to listen. She’s tired, worked all day como burra, came back to creaks from the brothers’ room, no food on the table, beer bottles huddled in the corners of rooms. She’ll clean them up later. Did we know? That the neighbor’s daughter is being held hostage, their family in Estados Unidos kept sending boxes full of VCRs, TVs, and the mara noticed. She thinks the girl is dead. Tia tells us not to send the iPhone.
Like how I love you. Whatever you need, you always know you can come to me. I always came to you. Ruth is thinking about getting rid of the baby. I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’ll talk to her about it. I like the idea of having a kid. But fuck, man, we’re not even married or anything. Don’t want a kid going through some weird shit. Anyway, I’ll be over at your folks house soon. Love you Breece. *beeeeep* Breece, it’s your dad... I don’t know what to do. I felt the cold of her body before she went. I would have given her mine if I could have. At least she stays an angel now. I’m sorry you saw her go. At least you held her as she left. Come over to the house tonight. We stay together now. Love you Breece. *beeeeep* I still feel her hand on my face. She held me. I said I was so regretful. She said,“Monkey, you were always with me. I could never be mad at you. You found your own way. You came back. That’s what I waited for. I’m so happy you’re back.” I’m so shit Breece. What did she feel like? To hold her as she slipped out? Was she warm? Just before? Even her hand felt cozy. I wanted her to take me with her. So I could be with her. To talk about everything she missed with me. My life. Her life. Dad’s life. Your life. Thanks for crying with me. It hurt to be there. It felt good to be part of a family again. Thank you. Dad wants us to stay at the house. I think it’s a good idea. Gonna feel lonely there. Love you Breece. *beeeeep* Hey it’s Bree— *beeeeep* You have one old message. Hi honey boy. I’m so glad to see you this often. I wish it was under better conditions. It reminds me of when I use to take you with me everywhere. Jaime got older and ran off to do what boys do. But you were always by my side. Even now. I’m so proud to have you with me, Breece. You give my body new life every moment you’re in the room. I don’t know what happens next, but you being there
brings me comfort. Whatever happens, know that I love you honey boy. You’re my one and only. I love you baby. I always will. I’ll see you. *beeeeep* Hey it’s— *beeeeep* You have one old message. Hi honey boy. I’m so glad to see you this often. I wish it was under better conditions. It reminds me of when I use to take you with me everywhere. Jaime got older and ran off to do what boys do. But you were always by my side. Even now. I’m so proud to have you with me, Breece. You give my body new life every moment you’re in the room. I don’t know what happens next, but you being there brings me comfort. Whatever happens, know that I love you honey boy. You’re my one and only. I love you baby. I always will. I’ll see you. *beeeeep* Hey i— *beeeep* You have one old message. Hi honey boy— *beeeeep* Hey— *beeeep* No new messages. *beeeep*
Hey. It’s Ruth. I don’t know how to say this. I’m late. I need you to call me. Now. *beeeeep* My dude, it’s Kip. I don’t know what’s with Ruth. She’s been acting weird. She seems scared or something. I try to talk to her but she shuts me out. Probably that time. Y’know what I mean. Haha. Anyway, let’s go watch the Colts game. I’ll shoot you a line sometime. See ya. *beeeeep* Hey it’s Breece, I’m sorry I can’t be here— *beeeeep* You have one new message *beeeeep* Fucking doctors! Don’t know what the fuck they’re doin’! They look at me in the fucking eye and tell me they don’t know what’s happening to your mother. They said it might be malaria, yellow fever, who the fuck knows. Asked me if I know if she got her shots. He should fucking know! He gave them to her. What a fucking moron. If anything happens to her, I’m gonna hang that doctor by his fucking stethoscope out of a fucking window! Fucking can’t believe this! *beeeep* Hey it’s Breece, I’m sorry I can’t be here— *beeeeep* You have four new messages. *beeeeep* Breece, it’s Dad. Thanks for coming yesterday, Son. I know it must have been hard to see your mom like that. They think she got it in Africa. They say they don’t know what it is yet. I’ll call you again if anything changes. Love you, Son. *beeeeep* Hey Breece. It’s Ruth. I want you to know you don’t have to worry about anything. I’ll take care of it. It’s funny how things happen. No one gets out clean. Anyway, I’ll see you. *beeeeep*
Dude! Did you hear! Ruth is pregnant! Fuck! I don’t know what I’m gonna do! Fuck! *beeeeep* Breece, it’s Jaime. It was good to see you yesterday, even if it was under bad circumstances. Well, it’s more than bad. I can’t believe what’s happening to Mom. I just keep remembering when she use to go with us to the movies on the weekends. When Dad would be out of town for work? Those memories don’t warm me like they should. It feels like they’re blocking something. Fuck, I don’t know what to do. I want to still talk to you man. I know you don’t like looking at me anymore. But we got to be ok. This is a shit time. We need family. I need you. Call me back. Please. Love you, Breece. *beeeep* Hey it’s Breece, I’m sorry— *beeeep* You have one new message. *beeeep* Hi honey boy. I’m so glad I get to see you this often. I wish it was under better conditions. It reminds me of when I use to take you everywhere. Jaime got older and ran off to do what boys do. But you were always by my side. Even now. I’m so proud to have you with me, Breece. You give my body new life every moment you’re in the room. I don’t know what happens next, but you being there brings me comfort. Whatever happens, know that I love you honey boy. You’re my one and only. I love you baby. I always will. I’ll see you. *beeeeep* Hey it’s Breece, I’m sorry— *beeeeep* You have three new messages. *beeeeep* Your mom was this shining light in my life, Breece. I know you know why I spent day after day at your house. I didn’t have a mom like yours. I wasn’t lucky. Your mom knew that. She never said anything about it. She smiled, gave me a hug, and asked if I was staying for dinner. She made me family. I love her, Breece.
Hi Scruff Mcbuff! It’s Ruth! Last night was a lot of fun! That pizza place was crazy good! What was it called? Croonies? Whatever it was, it was great. I’m always in a good place with you. Ya know, I feel really bad about seeing you like this. And when I look at you, I know you have that same feeling. I’m glad we decided to stop seeing each other. For a while. I don’t want to hurt Kip. And neither do you. Wish I met you first. Wish I didn’t meet Kip at all. Well, I’ll see you when I see you. Byyyyyeeeee! *beeeeep* Hey, Son, it’s Dad. Your mom’s a bit sick at the moment. Might be something she ate. Fucking Italian restaurant. Tuna paste in a salad. Fucking idiots. Why can’t they just give me some ranch? Anyway, just wanted to check in to see how your gut is holding up. Mine’s good. But we’ll see. Love ya. *beeeeep* What up my guy, it’s Kip. Wanted to see if you’re free tonight. You’re a busy dude. You keep ducking me. Hopefully everything is cool. Let’s hang. Later. *beeeep* Hey it’s Breece. I’m sorry I can’t be here— *beeeep* You have four new messages. *beeeep* Breece, it’s Dad. You’re mom’s been getting worse day after day. We’re at the hospital. I’ll keep you updated. *beeeep* It’s Jaime. I’m sorry we got into that argument. I know it’s been a year or two since I talked to you. I was just trying to figure my shit out. And I have. I don’t know why you’re always on me still. Mom and Dad understand why I had to leave. You’re not some golden boy. Fuck, I didn’t mean that. I just want us to be cool, Breece. Like we always were. I’m sorry. Let me apologize. In person. Please. It’s been a week. Call me. *beeeep*
ANSWERS michael guerra
Hey it’s Breece. Sorry I can’t be here to take your call. I’ll hit you back when I can. Leave it after the beep. *beeeep* You have four new messages. *beeeep* What up dude, it’s Kip. Was wondering if you had seen Ruth lately. I’ve been trying to get a hold of her. Nothing. I know you saw her yesterday. Let me know. Call me back. *beeeep* Heeeeeeeeeeey! Breece! It’s Ruth! I can’t wait to see you tonight! I’ll be over around seven. Hopefully earlier. Byyyyyyeeeeee! *beeeep* Hello my honey boy! It’s Mama here. I just wanted to call to let you know I’ll be back on American soil tonight! I can’t wait to tell you all about Africa. Did you know the locals are so handy? They make the most beautiful jewelry! I just love these missions. Can’t wait to see you honey! I love you with all my being! Mwah! *beeeep* Breece. It’s your dad. I’m picking your mom up from the airport tomorrow. Her flight arrives around eight in the morning. We should all go for dinner. Around seven or so. Alright. Love ya. Oh by the way, Jaime is in town. He’s coming with us. Nice to see his mug again. Be nice to him, Breece. He’s your brother. Don’t forget that. Love ya. *beeeep*
Hey it’s Breece. Sorry I can’t be here to take your call. I’ll hit you back— *beeeep* You have four new messages. *beeeep* What up Breece? It’s Kip. I finally got a hold of Ruth. Said she’s been busy hanging out with some news friends. Sounds like shit right? Let’s grab a beer. Shoot the breeze a bit. Call me back. *beeeep* Heeeeeeeeeeey Breece! I get why you cancelled. Your mom is back in town. Totally get it. Let’s try again tonight? I really want to see you. I miss your scruffy whiskers, and your little dimples, and, well, you! Call me back! Byyyyyyeeeeee! *beeeep* My baby! I was so happy to see you yesterday. You seem so bulky now! Someone has been lifting the iron! You look so gruff though. I miss my smooth-skinned baby. But I guess you’re all grown up now, huh? I hope you liked the bracelet I brought back. I made it with some of the gals I met. They were such a wonderful people, Breece. So welcoming and kind. I hope you come with me next time. It really brought perspective to what was important: my family. You, dad, and Jaime. I can’t wait to see you again baby! I love you! Mwah! *beeeep* Hey. Breece. It’s Jaime. It was cool to see you yesterday. Don’t see you come around too often after you got that job in Indy. You’re a promoter right? I don’t even know. Anyway, we should catch up soon. I know I saw you last night but we didn’t talk much. Call me back. I want to know what you’re up to. Later. *beeeeep* Hey it’s Breece. I’m sorry I can’t be here to take your— *beeeeep* You have three new messages. *beeeeep*
YELLOW-BLUE MIGRAINE daniel putney
I. I am a mariner praying for light or death; the storm’s timbre claws the atmosphere until rain pierces my frozen pores; my ship rattles with each breath the ocean takes: in, out, in, out; closing my eyes, I can see the light of the archangels, hear Gabriel’s sweet serenade II. Open: my eyes cannot process what they see; a tiny light, blinking intermittently, signals the shoreline— my temples throb at the sight; a man stands stalwart, beckoning my scars and used-up flesh, bringing a tear down my frostbitten cheek; does he know salvation only comes in waves?
BREAKING DOWN THE WALLS: MENTAL HEALTH
BREAKFAST ON BEECHWOOD joan presley
My father ate breakfast dressed in a white shirt and tie, ready for his office job at the cookie factory. He sat at the far end of the table, half-hidden by cereal boxes and a jug of whole milk. He liked pink sugared grapefruit, drank coffee with a slurp, always Yuban, always black. His job involved numbers. Debit, credit, broken cookie, he’d say before he vanished weekday mornings. He’d rematerialize at twilight, beneath the Beechwood Avenue sign, a brown paper bag of factory rejects, tucked under his left arm. My mother preferred Sunnyside eggs barely cooked, toast thick with strawberry jam, not homemade. She sat near the kitchen just in case, last night’s mascara clumped in her lashes, rumpled cotton nightgown, pink like her lipstick and pin-curls, always pin-curls until the housework was done. She would shower then change into heels, girdle, hose, sit on the porch, read Ladies Home Journal, or just wait for our father, threaten to tell him things we counted on her to forget after the Jim Beam, the salted peanuts, the half-burnt dinner.
YELLOW MELLOW tyler ewing 51 11
THE UNINVITED ONE mick ó seasnáin
Ruby faced, his feet clomped in glossy moon boots, flaxen uni-brow furrowed like a ‘V’ for Voltron. He held a can of Coca-Cola, his white tipped fingers squeezing the red aluminum as if trying to crush it. I don’t remember why we stood in the driveway by the turn-around, closest to his yard. I could guess as to why we didn’t invite him. Everyone hated him, the bruises he would leave on your arm, his tendency to set fires in the park.
My mother pointed at him, yelling, â€œNo, no, no!â€? like he was the dog squatting on the rug. Maybe that triggered his decision to go through with it, when he stepped hard, chucking the can at us. I will always remember the unopened can sailing through the air, colliding with Miguel Rojorisco buckling him like a spaghetti noodle. On the ground, Mig puffed holding his stomach in agony while the can rolled, unopened as if nothing happened to it. Parents crowded around the writhing child while the uninvited one smiled and returned home.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
visual contemplating the divine
breaking down the walls: mental health
poetry the uninvited one
mick รณ seasnรกin
breakfast on beechwood
The Brushfire is the oldest literature and arts journal at the University of Nevada, Reno. Established in 1950, this nationally recognized, biannual publication provides an opportunity for emerging artists and writers to publish and share their work. With each iteration of the Brushfire, we strive to represent the diversity, originality, and interests of our community. Athelas is the body copy throughout the book. avenir book and avenir rome are used for the headline text. A. Carlisle & Company of Nevada printed this FSC-certified, 8.5 x 5.5-inch book on 100-pound paper. As a UNR organization, we also strive to be the creative outlet for our student body. Our priority is to connect with the various art communities throughout Reno. However, anyone may submit to Brushfire. While we focus primarily on student and Reno-based work, we continually receive and publish art from across the country. To all of our submitters: we greatly appreciate your creativity, dedication, and love for the arts and freedom of expression. You are what makes Brushfire unique. Thank you. Brushfire recieved the 2016 ACP Best-0f-Show Award for Literary Magazine, and recieved an honerable mention for the 2017 Pinnacle Awards.
Editor’s Note: If you picked up this journal and tried to read it sequentially the whole way, then most likely you ran into some problems. We’ve split the journal in half to emulate the dichotomous nature of the cover art. But the cover art also suggests a subtle defiance of the black and white binary: little bubbles cross the divide, carrying in themselves reflections of the larger piece. The art in this journal represents that defiance, that although they are made of the same material (ink and paper), they are not the same. Each artwork is unique (in idea and execution) yet, by being published, represents the goal of this journal: the spread of art. This is the last journal I work on as Editor and Chief designer. Over the course of my tenure, I’ve tried my best to bring to this publication diversity, professionalism, ambition and a modern design. I’ve learned so much from Brushfire, perhaps most importantly that no one can make it alone. The best projects are collaborative. So, I must thank all my staff, all my friends and all my family. Especially Reyna Garcia: tu eres la persona más responsable por mi éxito. Te quiero. I hope this organization continues to grow and becomes much more than what it is now. I have been with this publication all four years of my college life, and despite all that I’ve done, I know there is still so much potential. Brushfire’s been around since 1950, and I am tremendously grateful to have been one of its Editors. I hope the future Editors continue to fuel this publication with excitment and innovation. —edgar garcia, EIC
edition 70 volume 1
university of nevada, reno
Brushfire is UNR's oldest literature & arts journal. Brushfire publishes biannually, check out our website for more info! unrbrushfire.org
Published on Dec 7, 2017
Brushfire is UNR's oldest literature & arts journal. Brushfire publishes biannually, check out our website for more info! unrbrushfire.org