BRUSHFIR E literature & arts journal
university of nevada, reno edition 69 volume 2
Sometime after midnight I think of everything I told you when I was too drunk to drive. Truths oozed out of me like syrup, slurred words, fluid as the honey you spread on your toast, but much less sweet. ––shelby grauberger
Reader, This edition visits three existential concerns most humans must deal with throughout their lives (or even throughout the day)â€”uncertainty, death and sex. If you havenâ€™t recently thought about all three of these (or if you have and would like to know more), please take the time to peruse this little book. You will not likely encounter the kind of honesty and love printed on these pages at work, on social media or in the news. Time is valuable, and few activities make better use of your time than listening to others and learning to harmonize your own dissonance. You might find something like peace of mind in this tumultuous time of ours, who knows? Enjoy, edgar garcia, eic
T A B L E O F C O N T E N T S
P OE T
tanning never works the way you want it to
alive and well
thomas locicero nicholas ruggieri nicholas ruggieri courtney cliften
all dogs go to heaven
an occurrence in which something burns
lessons in sculpture
she sells bullet shells by the seashore
the hazard of fig trees (arranged according to the laws of chance)
beneath your heel
what happened to your lungs
california state route 139
observations of an er at midnight
when consuming you with my eyes is no longer enough
daniel putney nicholas ruggieri alexander hawkins-lerch marie sophia sevier dyer rommelyn macatlang maya claiborne marie sophia sevier dyer angela lujan marina drab griffin peralta dominique kent daniel putney marie sophia sevier dyer
P RY O SUAL E untitled #1
before you cross the street
lines of my inner-mind
presence gives way to absence
an apple a day
abstraction of sex
angela lujan laura gracia 31 chloe williamson 45 audrey broughton 15
do not eat. throw away.
reno youth, iii
untitled part ii
mornings with george
emily jiang emily jiang deanna haghighi amanda kachadoorian nathaniel benjamin james edwards kimberly li nicole bracco nate eng reena spansail jordan brush salome manska e. phelan ally messer naomi devore emily duke yuan zhuang amanda kachadoorian maya claiborne
tanning never works the way you want it to nicholas ruggieri
I went outside to tan, but accidentally fell asleep, and absorbed the entirety of the sun. I called a friend, asked if he could come over, and hoped he’d spend the night. When he knocked on my door, I opened it, and handed him a knife. “You have to sleepover,” I pleaded, and explained to him my predicament. “So when you’re ready for morning, just split me down the middle.” I slept for years, maybe, until a hand on my chest woke me up. “Will you haunt me?” he asked, raising the knife above his head. I told him I wouldn’t, but the sun might.
thirsty girl thomas locicero
Wide-eyed, we watched the wild mustangs gallop past us on a nameless Alaskan road that summer when I needed to shake from my soul the death of a young boy and you came with me for the ride, though the ride was yours. I lifted high the bag of oats and shook it, catching the eye of one, which, when he turned, managed to pivot the whole herd our wayâ€”who but you carries oats in her car?â€”and we were caught in their scrum as they fought for our hands, and somehow we were not crushed. But when the girl asked for water, we did not have any, and the only thing harder than not having had any was her not believing us. Who has oats but no water? The horses would have continued their run had we not had any oats, but the girl will stay with us, parched and suspicious, with a story to tell, whenever we drink for the rest of our lives.
before you cross the street
F I C T I O N
As Henrietta sat at the dining table, she noticed that it still wobbled. She looked across the shabby thing to her husband and pushed down on the table, causing his coffee to spill a bit. He continued to read his book. She hadn’t expected him to notice. Through the years he had never taken notice of her hints, whether they were little, as with the coffee, or more angela lujan substantial, as with her disposal of his more hideous shirts. He seemed to simply accept the state of things unquestioningly and with no connection to their past state. “Are you aware, George, that your coffee has spilled?” George looked down at his drink, which had reached the edge of the table and was beginning to drip on his clothes. “Huh. I suppose it has.” He grabbed his napkin and patted his pants and then the table before he resumed his reading. Henrietta took note of the fact that he was once more reading his dog-eared novel, The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He had read that book a thousand times since she met him. In the early days of their relationship, she had thought it was charming. She thought that with every reading he must have found some new meaning. The idea had inspired her to read the book as well. Henrietta had thought it was delightful, and she had a lively conversation with George about the adventures of Edward Malone afterward. She was amused when through their talks, it was revealed that each of them would like to meet someone like Professor Challenger. With that discussion she felt close to George, as if she too had shared in his understanding of the book. She had thought they might read other novels together and discuss those as well. And then the next day he was rereading the book, and the next month and the next and he never ceased, and then the table began to wobble, and it had never ceased either. Perhaps, she thought, with each reading he makes no connection to his past readings. I have married a man who cannot imagine things as they once were, she thought. He has taken the idea of object permanence and bashed it to pieces before throwing it out the window
and forgetting it ever existed. alive and well “George, are you aware that the table is wobbly?” she asked. George When they say you’re never more looked up from his book and down to than 6 feet away from a spider, the table, which he nudged causing his do they mean the same spider? coffee to spill. —nicholas ruggieri “Why yes, I suppose it is. And I seem to have spilled my coffee.” He grabbed his napkin again, and once more cleaned his pants and the table. “Are you aware, George, that previously, this table did not wobble?” “Yes, dear, I do seem to recall that this table used to be rather still.” “Did you know that I preferred the table in that state?” “Still?” “Yes, I preferred when the table was still.” “You know, it was better when it didn’t wobble. I didn’t spill my coffee so much,” George said, before looking back to his book. Henrietta sat for a moment, looking at George look at his book. I am amazed, she thought, that this man can even read. Perhaps he can’t. Perhaps he cannot read and he is simply looking at the letters and punctuation on the page as uncomprehendingly as a dog would. Perhaps someone told him the story once and ever since he has looked at the pages, stupefied, wondering to himself how those symbols could possibly be understood. “How many times have you read that book, George?” “What was that, dear?” “That book. You are aware that you’ve reread that book many, many times?” “Why yes, I believe you’re right.” “Why?” “Well, it’s a good book.” “Yes, I know. But you’ve already read it.” “Indeed, I have.” He stared at her as if confused. “So why do you continue to read it?” “Well, it continues to be a good book.” He glanced at his book for a moment. “Was that all then, dear?” Henrietta stared at George for a moment in silence. I am not quite sure, she thought, how it is that I have ever successfully communicated with this man. 6
“George,” she leaned in close, budging the table and spilling his coffee, “I find it odd that you keep reading the book. What can possibly be gained from rereading it so many times?” He looked up to her once more, inhaled deeply as if the explanation would take some time and said, “It’s a good book every time I read it, dear. Why don’t you reread it?” Henrietta sat back in her chair, easing off the table and spilling George’s coffee from his cup once more. She glanced at it and thought that it must be bewitched as no normal cup could possibly contain that much coffee. She looked to George, pondered his question for exactly three breaths, as she found that that was the amount of time it took to cool down when speaking with George and then, “There is nothing to be gained from it,” she said with finality. abstract giraffes
“I disagree.” all dogs “Alright.” She took three breaths. “Why?” go to heaven He looked around the room and then down but probably none of them actually want to go. and at his cup. “It’s like —nicholas ruggieri coffee, dear. I tried it once and I liked it. I had it the next day and I still liked it, and I’ve had coffee every day since.” “Huh.” “Huh?” He repeated back. “Good ‘huh’ or bad ‘huh’?” “I’m not sure.” “What do you mean, dear?” “I mean that that explanation makes a certain amount of sense, but I’m not sure that I agree. I suppose, I think that books are meant to be new experiences.” “Ah, see, there you go. I don’t think that.” He smiled as if that resolved everything and looked back at his book. Henrietta stared at George as he sat with his coffee, which he drank every morning. She looked at the spillage on the table, which was back every morning, and then she looked at the book, which he read every day. Perhaps, she thought, I am the same as George. I sit at this wobbly table every day, looking at this man look at his book and spill his coffee every day. I relive this morning as he relives that book. I always attempt to speak with him, usually to no avail. On days like this, she thought, it seems as if there is some hope for real communication, but it is always temporary. Somehow, I always think that if I just hint at something enough, he will finally understand. I always think that someday he will realize that I don’t want to sit at this wobbly table every day. He’ll realize that I don’t want to reread the damn book; I want new experiences. I really do want to meet someone like Professor Challenger. I want to go on adventures like those of Edward Malone. But every morning is the same. I am always the same. Isn’t that the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. Of the two of us, she thought, I am the only one who expects a different result. “George,” she said, “I believe I may be crazy.” “Why do you say that, dear?” he said, without looking up. “I expect a different result and you do not. You are definitely something, George, but not crazy. I am crazy.” 8
“I suppose anything is possible, dear.” Henrietta laughed and said, “Yes, anything is.” And this is how I spend my days, she thought. Anything. Anything is possible and I choose to sit here, going crazy, apparently. “George, please move your coffee.” “Sure, dear.” He picked up his cup and moved to the living room, sat down and continued to read. I am not going to go any crazier than I already may have, Henrietta thought. She got up, went to George’s bookcase and grabbed One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and shoved it under the shortest leg of the table. It was not The Lost World, and therefore George would never notice it was missing. “Ah, you fixed the table,” George said from the other room. “No, dear. It is only temporary.” “I suppose it is. Do you plan to fix it?” “Fix it? No. This table has driven me crazy, George. Day after day, it just wobbled. Just wobbled, spilling your coffee every damn day. For how long? How long, George? How many days, and weeks and years? Years, George! For years, this table wobbled and spilled coffee on your pants and you never notice because of your damn book, which you read over and over. So no, I can not fix it, George. I can not reread the same book a thousand times. I can not do the same thing over and over for the rest of my life, like you, George. I expect different results. I want new books. I want new experiences. And frankly, I do not understand how you can be so content to reread that damn book day after day. But you are. You are content. So you’re not crazy.” Henrietta tried to catch her breath as she leaned on the table, which did not wobble. “But I am.” George looked a bit distressed. He stared at Henrietta for a moment and then the table and said, “I think you could fix it with a rubber cap, dear.” Three breaths later, Henrietta replied, “No, George. I think I need a new table.”
lines of my inner - mind
an occurrence in which something burns courtney cliften
Sometimes I like to think about how people look and sound standing around a bonfire, which is the definition of what it is to be human and evolved and intelligent, but different from humans before— cavemen, I mean, because our brains have tripled in size since then, apparently to make room for how to wear shoes, and how to cook in a microwave, and how to delete spam mail for a larger penis, because it seems that penises didn’t get the evolutionary memo that bigger is better, but even bigger brains don’t notice the short pause between seeing and hearing, even though we can look it up on the internet because bigger brains means having the internet, and knowing that, if we’re talking vacuums, light travels about 900,000 times faster than sound. That is to say, as long as someone didn’t fuck with the Wikipedia page.
lessons in sculpture daniel putney His shoulder blades shift against a taut cotton T-shirt to create a subtle concavity leading toward the small of his broad back. Cargo shorts exhibit rugged legs, a gleam coruscating from his calvesâ€” he must be a hiker or a bicyclist or maybe a soccer all-star. His arms rest evenly at his sides, each forming a void between torso and forearm. The window frames of shoulder to thumb highlight his virility, outlining each finger, knuckle, wrist, and elbow against the Nevada sun. I see pieces of boyish adventure in the trail of blond hairs that descend his neck. I think of his Western childhood: pillow forts, treehouses, and desert expeditions. His mother must be proud of him, her little rabble-rouser. She must have his wife already picked out.
untitled part ii
F I C T I O N
She sighed then, gazing at the city line in front of us, and simply said, “You know that time of day, or maybe technically night, where the sun hasn’t gone down fully, but just far enough that the horizon is a fiery kind of laura gracia blazing reddish orange?” I sort of shrugged my shoulders and nodded, before she continued, “The kind of orange that threatens to burn into your eyes permanently.” She was still contemplating the skyline as if she thought, if she were intent enough, she would be able to make me understand what she meant. “Yeah, like you still have the imprint of it when you close your eyes?” I questioned, hoping I was on the same page. “Yes, exactly!” Audrey exclaimed before continuing in her calm and collected voice. “There’s something about that time that makes me want to do something just stupidly and inherently young and childish, you know? Like, I don’t know, jumping a fence, or climbing a tree, or walking somewhere with your friends, thinking it was so grown up to be out on your own in the dark.” Her voice getting more excited as she started talking faster and faster, articulating her points with wild hand gestures, spitting out these ideas that so perfectly embodied my youth, “And buying ice cream! Or maybe sitting on the hood of some car looking at the city you grew up in.” She looked over at me then, entrancing me with those stupid blue eyes. As she was talking I found myself becoming more and more obsessed with the idea of this girl. The idea of her in my life, making these grand statements about life and youth and constantly making me feel like I deserve more from every moment, more than I’d ever asked for. The idea of her, sure, would fit perfectly into my future, but I knew better than to expect that this specific girl would ever be more than a flash in the pan. Surely she would soon realize how static I am, how I was destined to be a side character in every story but my own, how there is nothing interesting enough to justify keeping me around. Nothing I had going for me would be worthy of this girl, with her big blue eyes and the way she only saw big blue skies. “Don’t you agree?” My spiraling thoughts were interrupted by
Audrey’s fingers waving in front of my eyes. “Connor? I know I’m pretty deep but I don’t think the question required that much thought,” she smiled then, and I knew she didn’t mind my zoning off. How do I That was one of the things I would never get over, externalize my sadness how she could blatantly make fun of you and then without compromising still make you feel great about it. Audrey often the validity made you feel embarrassed but never made you of my internal, blame her for it. That’s just how she was, in a conexperienced stant state of joking. sadness? “Sorry,” I laughed and bit my lip apologet—nicholas ruggieri ically, “I guess I just got caught up in the beauty of life or something,” I quipped, trying to match the tone set by her raised eyebrow. “I see you haven’t lost your cynical charm then,” Audrey said a little quieter than normal, which made me wonder if it was a compliment or a put down. Whichever it was, it felt very sincere and significant, like it meant much more than her usual jokes. “Don’t hate on my childlike appreciation of the sunset just because you have lost the capacity to be inspired.” She gave me a one sided smile as if to signal my turn to joke back, but I couldn’t think of anything besides how true her words were. That was the problem, why I knew I would never be who she wanted, because I was not able to express myself in the same manner as she effortlessly seemed to do. I would always seem cold and unfeeling to her. I’d had girlfriends in the past who told me I didn’t express myself well enough, of course they meant that I didn’t say ‘I love you’ often enough or passionately enough. With them it was different though; I didn’t say much because I didn’t feel much. It wasn’t always like that though. A lot of the time I was worried that I felt too much. That people wouldn’t understand all of the crazy thoughts and feelings in my head. Audrey wasn’t like that at all. She said what she was feeling and thinking, no matter how dramatic or random, and I really respected her for it. She made me want to open up about everything from my love of the stars to my family problems, but I didn’t know if I could, and that is why I would never be worthy of this girl. She deserved someone who could open themselves up to her as completely as she opened herself to the world. Apparently I had been quietly contemplating my lack of emotional availability for too long, because Audrey shifted on the hood uncomfortably and said, “Anyway, um, what do you want to do?”
I don’t know why I said it. Maybe I just didn’t want Audrey to know me as the guy who had ‘lost the capacity to be inspired.’ But without really thinking about anything first, I turned to her and said, “Let’s do it. Let’s break into the Hunts.”
kimberly li 17
earth â€™ s captors
recollecting alexander hawkins-lerch
I struggle with immensity I was sitting on a bus the when I first saw God. She was in a pool hall wearing a black tank top. Her arms looked strong. ‘Damn,’ Moriah said. ‘That woman is God.’ I was looking through a window when I first saw God. She was in a pool hall wearing black. She looked strong. There were two windows separating us. It was night the first time I saw God. She was in a pool hall. It was dark. I can’t seem to recall. I struggle with immensity
presence gives way to absence
alpine marie sophia sevier dyer
That night she arched her back as if the moon herself strung her chest with red strings wound up around her fingers, Pulling her closer like she was the tidal wave She had been waiting for, A full on tide of crash and burn, The zenith of hallucinations before the fever breaks Her sweat dripping down the slopes of her breasts, Glistening on the surface of her cheekbones Like moonlight prancing on small creeks and river water Bear claws hinged on the small of her back With tongue digging for honey Lips parted only to let the gasping for God escape in between her devilish moans One hand gripping silk and the other grazing the black forrest of her hair Fingers running through raven vines down to the nape of her neck Knees trembling, and jaw hanging on the boarder line of clenched and unclenched as if Persephone herself is about to crack open the earth With Hades at her side, drunk of velvet lust Like the way she parts with him does nothing but feed the embers in his fire, The same way her coming does nothing but smother every ounce of immaculate love trickling down her leg, Her body tracing the silhouette of alpine mountains The batting of her lashes fanning the monsoon winds, blowing farther and farther Till finally in one breathless sigh The clouds part and the sun sits Whispering hereâ€™s to reaching the summit.
she sells bullet shells by the
seashore rommelyn macatlang
We will rise above the pile of bodies they’ve shot dead, the endless list of names mothers cry in night long vigils, the Everest of bills we’ve been sliding under Congress doors We will rise above their disinterest, their political tactic of ignorance, their fingers pointing to who is destroying this nation, The youths they’ve reduced to lazy and entitled after they voted for the promise of early retirement while we are surviving on Top Ramen and empty pockets The sleep deprivation painted black under our eyes, when sleep no longer makes us feel safe knowing our neighbor holds hands with a metal piece under his pillow, fearing this time tomorrow we’ll be etching another notch on the back boards of church pews How can we dream when they hold nothing but nightmares, strapped to their holsters, Their fingers one black-hoodie away from pulling the trigger? Our hands clawing their way down six feet deep into the ground, looking for a place to hide, wondering: is this what it takes to find peace, even after the cross has become too heavy to carry and our hearts are heavy with burden? Still, we will rise above this sea of fuckery, we will sail to shore and collect bullet shells and remember this is not how our sons die, No—this is how monsters are born and clothed in the uniform that represents an office of brutality, red with the fear.
selflove maya claiborne
I am a body outside of my own my actions drawn by strings Words flowing in guttural repetitionâ€” I forget all that I have been I scorn all that I want/ed to be/come I am fighting a civil war within the borders of my own skin Is it possible to secede from yourself? Would it feel like the beating of drums in euphony? I ache to be free of the flesh I havenâ€™t made myself at home in... A constant battle between parasite and host Why is surrender symbolized under a white flag.
(arranged of chance)
you muck: me a dead stink null, sucking, essence swollen leeching creature made of dry fig. life over flesh, the bared fig, fucking parasite tree inside seeping into me. stealing, essence rutted, and you, pointed root, in the guise, glutted weight-heavy rucked, anointed of me. me, heavy into root. lessened tree stolen to weight and bleeding. my life-stink swollen, groaning flesh muck-root-buck-youth-yardcreature seeping in to breach my fermenting fig, your youth, my branches preyed gleaming. stink-made life, life begging. the groaning, bleeding sun-fruit life leeching forsaken blight, coming deadly. you heavy sun-fruit
marie sophia sevier dyer
according to the laws
the hazards of fig trees
rutted inside the muck of my yard. tree fermenting, rucked among life. youth seeping away, the way reaping. you, my fig, unsleeping. you heavy, swollen parasite fucking over me. you, the king, are a life tucking away. steaming life and thighs and suck. stolen, flies in the tree - sun-thighs opaque, mistaken, breaching my creature. sated-sucking tree made the buck a rooted parasite in me. wait, tree. the fate a creature - buck over root over root - bared dry, blooding consenting thighs a rutted fig. chance with flies you, heady with scent, are laid in with the leeching. you are the fig tree taken root in my yard, leeching the muck and essence swollen full with stolen life a heavy pointed buck gleaming branches groaning the weight of fruit seeping stink of fermenting chance sucking dry the flesh of my thighs parasite rutted in me rooted flies in-inside stealing youth-life fucking your way to the sun you are the fig tree taken root ally messer
an apple a day
F I C T I O N
Sarah winced. “Shit, I have to pee again.” “Are you serious?” “Look, the baby wants what it wants.” She ran a finger across her six-months-pregnant stomach absentmindedly. Dan sighed. “I don’t even know if there’s a chloe williamson place to stop out here.” They looked out the windows scouting for some signs of life among the flat plains and brittle yellow grass. The drunken colors of their New Orleans neighborhood were a distant memory and Albuquerque—the location of their hotel for the night on this long trip to Las Vegas—seemed impossibly far away, somewhere beyond the horizon. “I swear, we’re never going to make it to your dad’s party if we keep having to stop every twenty minutes.” They continued on in silence for the next few miles, except for the low hum of the car’s air conditioning system. “Have you ever seen so many fucking tumbleweeds?” he asked, trying to lighten the mood. Tumbleweeds gathered in thick knots along the fences that bordered the road. Occasionally one or two skittered across the road, and the rare cars traveling in the opposite direction carried pieces of small broken twigs in their grills, like remnants of road kill. “I kind of thought tumbleweeds were an urban legend or something. You know, one of those, like, comic book cowboy things.” Finally, one of the signs lining the highway promised restaurants and gas stations up ahead. Dan elbowed Sarah, who had started to fall asleep with her head against the glass of the passenger’s side window. “Babe, ten miles. They’ve got a McDonald’s.” “Hmm?” “Ten miles, can you hold it?” “I’m sure as hell not peeing on the side of the road.” Dan switched the car out of cruise control and accelerated. The road extended over a ripple of low hills. It wasn’t long before a
water tower and the cluster of small buildings appeared on the horizon. As they neared the town, Sarah fell asleep again. When he pulled off the highway and onto the uneven local roads, her head bumped lightly against the window as the whole car jittered. The town looked small and dead to her—a smattering of squat buildings, faded by the sun and eroded by sand. The first light off the highway was red—the stoplights here were fixed horizontally to poles rather than hanging vertically—and Dan fidgeted with the GPS, searching for the nearest gas station. In a town of this size it couldn’t be too hard to find. Sarah groaned and sat up, rubbing her neck. “Are we there?” “Almost. Gas station,” he paused and tapped a knuckle against the screen of the GPS. “A quarter mile away.” As they drew closer into the center of town, the traffic thickened as they hit what Dan assumed must be the “main drag,” since it featured a three-story courthouse (the tallest building he had spotted) and a square of dreary tan restaurants and consignment shops. Sarah gestured to the line of idling vehicles, predominantly weather-beaten trucks. “Where could they all be going? It’s a Thursday.” Dan grumbled, and cranked the air conditioning in the car higher. As soon as they slowed to a standstill, the sun had begun beating down through the slanted glass of the windshield, and he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was slowly baking. They stared out the window in silence, inching forward in little bursts, following the vehicle in front of them—a faded red truck. And then, when they had turned the third corner around the courthouse, and the gas station sat at the far end of Main Street, Sarah saw the reason for the traffic. The hearse was deep black and glossy—clearly less worn than the other nearby vehicles—it paused and then shifted back into motion at a stop sign. The line of cars followed it jerkily, all pausing at the sign before resuming motion. The gas station was just past and across the street from the modest red brick Baptist church. By the time they managed to pull into the station the hearse had already disappeared behind the church. The parking lot had begun to teem with families in black. “Can you believe how many of them are actually wearing cowboy hats? I mean talk about comic book shit.” Sarah looked up at Dan, and then past him at the church. 32
“I think I want to have her baptized.” “Who?” Dan parked the car next to the gas your heel pump. Across the street, mourners greeted each other. Sarah saw a flash of electric blue Beneath your heel as a small boy waved a plastic toy airplane. A squeal “Her.” Sarah nodded at her stomach. “Oh.” He rubbed a hand across his You push and turn forehead. “You don’t really go to church any into the dirt more, though. Unless you’ve been going without me.” Beneath your heel She looked away. “I’m going to see if pushing turning they have a bathroom inside.” cracking crushing The convenience store attached to the gas station had three rows of shelves stuffed dying hushing mostly with a bright and plasticized array Not me of snack foods. Laundry detergent and soap and tampons took residence at the end of —angela lujan one aisle, and in the corner of the back wall a glossy case of liquor bottles featured an open padlock. no alcohol sale on sundays, the sign on the case read in large, handwritten letters. She found the small bathroom at the back of the store and slipped in as discreetly as she could manage with her swollen body making every movement slower and more awkward. Afterwards, she thought she should browse through the aisles to find something to buy as payment. The thought of peppermint gum turned her stomach. She saw the fat pickles floating in a jar of their own juice, next to the cash register, but then she imagined the pimply cashier reaching into the jar with the cheap plastic tongs that sat on the counter nearby, and that turned her stomach too. In the back aisle, next to the tampons, tall candles in glass cases emblazoned with colorful images of saints stood in orderly rows. She looked at them, each one with a small picture of a different saint on the front and prayers printed on the opposite side. She had grown up very loosely Episcopal, and had never seen anything like these in her childhood church. Most were a series of similar, but technically distinguishable, men. She bent over slightly to read their names: Saint Michael, Saint Francis, Saint Anthony. The men were all dressed in stark primary colors, or long white robes accented with red or blue. Then, at the end of the row she saw a lone female figure, her entire body surrounded by a halo of golden light.
The bilingual inscription below the picture read nuestra virgen The woman, Mary, was beautiful, with light brown skin and thick black hair. Sarah thought her face looked kind. Eyes slightly downturned, she was wrapped in a deep turquoise cloak trimmed with gold and dotted with stars. Under the cloak she wore a red dress. Sarah looked down at her own stomach and then at Mary’s broad torso. She ran a fingertip across Mary’s stomach, and her finger came away thickly coated in dust. Mary’s head was topped with a gold crown, and beneath her bare feet a young boy—or perhaps a cherub? She wasn’t sure—held up the crescent moon she stood on. Sarah picked up the candle and gently sniffed at the white wax, wondering what scent accompanied the Virgin. The candle was unscented, and the dust threatened to make her sneeze. She hesitated. She knew what Dan would say—something about superstitious bullshit. She made a move to put the candle back on the shelf, but the thought of leaving Mary all alone, surrounded by men, made her want to cry, so she took it with her to the front of the store instead. The cashier was a tall boy with short hair and a black teenage mustache. His cheeks were covered in painful-looking acne and a layer of uneven stubble. “Did you find everything okay?” She nodded and then gestured across the street to the church, “Do you know what’s happening over there?” “It’s a funeral,” he answered slowly, like he thought she might be unfamiliar with the concept. “No, I, what I meant was I guess, did you know the person?” His eyes widened slightly. “That’ll be four dollars and seventytwo cents.” “Right.” She dug for her wallet in her purse. By the time she had found it and extracted the necessary cash, she felt sweaty and suddenly anxious. He gave her the change. “My mom was friends with her mom. She was like eight years ahead of me in school—so I didn’t really…” He shrugged and let the sentence fade off as he scratched at a peeling spot in the countertop. “I’m sorry.” “Do you want a bag for that?” She looked down at the candle on the counter between them, then glanced quickly out at Dan, now sitting in the car checking his phone. “Um, yes actually.”
de guadalupe—our lady of guadalupe.
As she left, the bell on the door sounded sharply, and Sarah had to fight the urge to jump. When he saw her coming, Dan looked up and smiled. Sarah put the candle, wrapped in a plastic bag, on the floor of the car. “I felt like I had to buy something, so I got us a souvenir.” “Listen, if you really want to baptize her, that’s fine.” “I don’t know, I just, we should talk about it, don’t you think? My parents will probably want to know.” It was a small, but plausible, lie—her parents hadn’t attended church in years, now that she had moved away and they no longer felt the need to keep up appearances. The girl across the street in that casket couldn’t have been very old, Sarah thought, maybe twenty-three or twenty-four. She felt her chest and spine go cold with the thought of the girl’s mother. “I just don’t want to raise her with any fairytales. It seems hypocritical when neither of us does any of that stuff.” “Right,” Sarah nodded again, “No, yeah, you’re right of course.” Dan pulled back onto Main Street and they began making their way back towards the highway, this time much faster on almostdeserted roads. Sarah felt a superstitious need to remember where she had gotten the candle, and so she tried to commit the town to memory, and fix the image of it in her mind like a photograph. She stared hard at the faded blue water tower and the torn American flag that whipped in tatters in front of the low-slung elementary school. She considered jotting down the highway exit number. Despite Sarah’s efforts, the next evening when they arrived in Las Vegas and her mother and father welcomed them with casserole and intricately-wrapped babywear, the specifics had faded entirely. Still, after her husband and parents had fallen asleep, she snuck into the kitchen for matches and lit the candle. She copied Mary’s prayerful pose for a moment and looked down at it. The flickering of the flame in the dark kitchen turned the appliances and slowly drying plates into frightening shadows, but looking at Mary, lit from above by the glow of the candle, she felt safe.
what happened to your lungs marina drab You were iridescent, there were moments where I found myself breathless, speechless, dumbfounded by your presence. And now I have come to a point where your absence leaves me feeling the same way.
do not eat . throw away .
I was five hundred miles from the epicenter of the worst news I ever gotâ€Ś But the news was not five hundred miles from me. Instead, Something very much like me was growing inside of someone five hundred miles away and I was suddenly realizing how very much unlike me that person was. So I drove, Yellow lines skidding by like old scars, slower than my heartbeat, which kept no distinct tempo behind my ribs, crashing like a punk rock garage band, while I rehearsed all the ways I might convince you against the sacred or the right to life and it hit me; a full grown elk, elegant rack of antlers breaking in all the glass on my passenger (side), neck snapping like my nerves with a sound reminiscent of ripping the heart from a healthy tree, hands dripping with wet sap. I lay there on the road for hours, mingling my vomit and tears with the blood of my victim, chest pressed against his hide until I finally stopped shaking. And I knew that no way, no how, could this murder be anything like her not having my child.
california state route 139
observations of an er at midnight dominique kent
Itâ€™s as though no one lives here. No one walks these empty halls, treads the silicon floors, wastes away under antiseptic lights. No oneâ€™s bare feet pad by rooms filled with empty beds and useless curtains fluttering in the silence like ghosts striving to add liveliness to a place that is both nursery and crypt. A hum permeates the place, lonely with the sound of machines lacking patients to watch over with silent approval as they wheeze their last breath. Breath: Part of a language with no place in this world. Was I breathing when I came in? Am I breathing now? No one lives here.
scrapyard affair daniel putney
My hand grazes the rusted rims settled along a slim scrapyard fence. I can feel the iron-oxide goosebumps of their flesh, the metal flushed at the caress of my fingertips. I kneel beside them and inhale their scentâ€”dirt and sweat and every highway in between. I explore one rimâ€™s spokes, my finger slipping into a round valve along its outer lips. I dust off my knees and saunter away, smiling at my encounter with these used-up tire rims.
abstraction of sex
when consuming you with my eyes is no longer enough marie sophia sevier dyer
My dearest, I’ve imagined eating you, sinking my teeth into your skin, skin warm and fresh and raw and singing in the sting of new air. I think my tongue would separate and slither between the cords of your muscles—right there—where last night I bit a bruise into your shoulder when you pushed yourself into me. Your bruised flesh would be as sweet as oysters and as slick, wriggling further into me than your tongue-fingers-cock have ever been. I will follow your blood with my tongue: dip into your armpit, lave the hollow of your throat, feel your pulse flutter against my mouth, trace the rivulets, lick the sweetness from your abdomen, taste your mettle. The skin of your hip would shred under the pinch of my teeth, blood feathering the edges, trickling away while I worm teeth and tongue inside of you, nuzzle inside of your warmth, seek the milk of you, seize a rope of muscle in my teeth, and pull until the sinew separates from bone. The meat of your thighs, the deep flesh of your pelvis are as veal, soft with fat and disuse, velvet between my fingers. I would like to gorge myself on you, until my stomach is round and straining, splitting open with you, until all I can feel is the wriggle and bulge of you full in my throat and deeper, spilling onto my skin, helpless like every time we make love. But because I am afraid and ashamed, I will choke myself on your cock, swallow it into my throat, feel you throb against my lips, inhale the mushroom-dirt-copper scent of your sex. I will rub your come into my skin, my thighs, make you part of me.
2:53 a.m. greets with a warm, menacing smile and pangs of hunger. Foreign arms and legs lead into the kitchen to stand barefoot on the cold, tile floor. The microwaveâ€™s analog clock casts a cool, blue light on counters that are bestrewn with pastry crumbs and sticky, unknown liquids. A wealth of dirty dishes hibernate audrey broughton in the kitchen sink, and the garbage can conceals a collection of plastic bags, food wrappers, and compost. A ghostly image reflects off of a tall, metal refrigerator, but disappears as raw and icy fingers grasp the handle and open the double doors. Dreary dark chocolate eyes take in the insides of the fridge, analyzing the bright, seductive boxes that sit neatly on each shelf. Minutes go by as sharp fingernails aggressively meet the upper armâ€™s fleshy skin; eventually, hands moving of their own accord reach in and clasp the cool metal rim that is home to half of a pumpkin pie. Upon miraculously locating a clean fork, pumpkin pie begins to coax its way past a set of chapped and reluctant lips; the sweet flavors of molasses and cinnamon are greeted with
a salivating mouth and are eagerly swallowed. Hesitation disappears as hysteria takes hold; forkful after forkful makes its way into a now impatient and greedy mouth until the entire rest of the pie has been devoured. Two cold slices of leftover margherita pizza, the remnants of a chocolate milk carton, half a box of birthday cake oreos, and a half a pint of vanilla bean ice cream all make their way past the caveats of a now painfully gorged stomach. Leaving behind the traces of the early morning banquet, hands hastily glide over the familiar yet uneven nicks and increments that line the hallway until reaching the crisp, smooth metal of the bathroom door. In a flurry, the light is suddenly on, toilet seat is up, and frail strands of mousy, brown hair are fastened by a black scrunchie. Finally, pointer and middle fingers find their way to the back of the throat, inducing a serene release that only finishes once the warm, rusted tones of regurgitated pumpkin pie make their way up. With knees pulled into chest and cheek kissing the brisk bathroom wall, I sit bathing in the tranquility of emptiness. Eventually, you come in and gently stoop down next to me with fingers like feathers stroking the spine of my back. You look at me with pleasant hazel eyes and tell me, “You can’t keep doing this to yourself.” But it wasn’t me who started this in the first place.
visual arts editor
cecilia cervantes 47
colophon The Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal is the oldest literature & arts journal at the University of Nevada, Reno. Established in 1950, this 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. The font Athelas is the body copy throughout the book. shree devanagari 714 is used for the headline text. A. Carlisle & Company of Nevada printed this FSC-certified, 8.5 x 6.5-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. We continually receive and publish art from across the country. So while Brushfire is centered around locality, we strive for inclusivity and do not reject art based on the location of artists. A special thanks to all of our volunteers for helping with workshops and all Brushfire events. And 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.
WANT TO HAVE YOUR WORK PUBLISHED IN THE BRUSHFIRE? Brushfire publishes bianually. We accept all printable forms of art. Our deadlines for the spring and fall semesters can be found online. To learn more about submitting, visit us at unrbrushfire.org. Have beef with the journal? Let us know! firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright ÂŠ 2017 Brushfire and its individual contributors. All rights reserved by the respective artists. Original work is used with the expressed permission of the artists. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher. The opinions expressed in this publication and its associated website and social media are not necessarily those of the University of Nevada, Reno, or of the student body. Brushfire is funded by the Assoicated Students of the University of Nevada. journal design cover art artist frontmatter poem author
: brushfire staff : untitled : emily duke : honey : shelby grauberger
Commercial print: A. Carlisle & Company of Nevada
Brushfire is UNR's oldest literature & arts journal. Brushfire publishes biannually, check out our website for more info! unrbrushfire.org
Published on May 5, 2017
Brushfire is UNR's oldest literature & arts journal. Brushfire publishes biannually, check out our website for more info! unrbrushfire.org