BRUSHFIRE Literature & Arts Journal
BRUSHFIRE LITERATURE AND ARTS JOURNAL EDITION 71, VOLUME 2
UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA, RENO
Dear Reader, The journal you hold before you now will probably feel as familiar as it does strange, as humorous as it does heart-rending, and as comforting as it does unsettling. That’s because, pound for pound, we hoped to make the artwork featured on these pages as similar and relatable to one another in their placement as they are different and diverse in their images, perspectives, and ideas. In a general way, we wanted to capture a simple yet mind-boggling aspect about life to share with you in solidarity: how each of us must strive to achieve some spark of excitement and meaning in our life by sharing in the lives of those around us; and yet, how each of us must also strive to understand that no one among us has an inner life which comes fully recognizable and navigable to everyone else. Whether it’s for better or for worse, our experiences are wed to this conflict, and it is our struggle and our opportunity to learn from it from womb to tomb. That being said, you may notice that this journal does something interesting with the sequential order of its pages: it builds a narrative that spans the time and development of one full human life. In doing so, it contemplates the thresholds we must cross as we step forward into the light each day—from childhood into adulthood; from one culture into another culture; from life itself into death (and I suppose, often times, back again). In this way, the journal questions whether the lines we draw between such stages and times in our life are as rigid as they seem. It draws attention to how childhood itself is a state of youth shaped by the impending dilemmas of adulthood, and how adulthood is itself a state influenced by childhood experiences moving forward. It drives at the heart of how one way of life we’ve known is shaped by the experiences of the life we endure at present and endure for the future—how the life we have yet to endure stands to shape who we are, as we are now, and as we remember ourselves before. These are the lines of thought upon which this journal is built, and I leave them to you here as tools with the hope that you may make something beautiful with them. Thanks for reading, —Nick Huffman, EIC
A Miner’s Task A Three-Year-Old Drinking Water Bedtime for Antonio Ode to Hormonal Acne From the Bugs Pipeline Elocution Life at 120th Street Dollhouse A Bullfighter Do Not Burn Your Bones Immigrant White People Can’t Dance so that the Right People Know Who to Trust in the Darkness She Turns 91 in April and Still Dreams of Her Mother If Dementia Were a Worm Butchering Valentine’s If Centuries Were Miles Miles We’d Be Light-Years from Done
9 10 12 17 18 25 26 28 30 33 34 37
45 46 54
Jordyn Becker Frederick Bassett Kabriel Hoover
Matthew Friday Dorsía Smith Silva Grace Pickard Ken Greenley Robert Weibezahl Laura Handley Dorsía Smith Silva Dani Putney Aurelio Cortes Rivera Dani Putney Aurelio Cortes Rivera
Seaweed Sister A Sixth-Grader’s Diary After the Fact
13 21 49
Louise Lannink Viviane Ugalde Philip Gallos
Nest Wind Visits the Aetherium Rising Carrara Marble #10 Learning More Each Day #14 Fence Construction Net Bent Over Back Blue Fold Tainted III Alixx im Wunderkammer Fire, Air and Water Learning More Each Day #8 Look for Getting Through #12 Multi-faceted Look for Getting Through #1 Sleepy Hollow Rectangular Zebra Antique Greens Glimpse Roses Glean Night Moves
8 11 15 16 19
20 24 27 29 31 32 35
Brian Cohen Karen Fitzgerald Jan Price Anne Cecile Surga Sara Thacker Lesley Wamsley Lesley Wamsley Eli Goldstone Jean Wolff Sunny J Sunny J Marsha Solomon
44 47 48 53 55 56 59
Jillian Briare Beth Rhodes Trine Bumiller Yasuaki Oka Sarah Cryan Judith Skillman Anita Savell David Rubenstein Robert Richter
Brian Cohen 8
A Minerâ€™s Task Cassondra Windwalker
I watch the dark as she chisels out the stars, and I think how long and thankless is her workâ€”we fickle mortals, who hang on light as spiders must dangle from their silks, imagine she our enemy, when hers alone is the patient and weary hand that lifts the hammer again and again, driving herself deeper into the night till prismâ€™d splendor pours unbroken out.
A Three-Year-Old Drinking Water Matthew Friday
With adult care she decants the full glass of fizzy water, into her glass, lemon slice swirling on the half-silver surface. Two hands holding. She repeats twice, studying her efforts, mistakes pooling under the glass. She takes hold of her glass and test-sips. No. More water needed. Steadily, she tops-up her glass. Sips so little you wonder if it’s worth it. Yes. The worth is in sudden exploration. She moves the glass aside to reveal the pool of water. She gives the table an exploratory lick. Back to sipping her glass. No, a new decision now. She gently lays her hands in the pool, feeling the water, clapping the table, smearing the water into angel wings. Mother arrives with questions, wanting an explanation. Reply: “I’m making a mess.”
DorsĂa Smith Silva
So this is immunity? Watching you sleep I wonder, what it must be like to feel such peace, impenetrable by desperate fears. How do you keep the beasts away? There must be a secret, a back door quieting harm, cloaking danger. Is it your innocence, a byproduct of being only five? Looking at your face, what is understood is how beautiful your breath looks when it comes in a childâ€™s name.
Seaweed Sister Louise Lannink
A boundary line. I touch it with my toes. Push it into the sand. It’s a length of seaweed: green like paddocks, green like gumnuts, unripe berries, limes and aphids. All that green, plaited together, and strewn across the shore. As I play, it’s my jelly fish without a head. It’s my mermaid’s tail; it’s my hair, and like Medusa, I stare and stare. Don’t go any further than that seaweed! Dad said. But Dad went further. He’s showing my new sister how hands shape sand. Showing her what salt water feels like. Splashing it into her face. Ducking in and out of the waves, their heads afloat like boats adrift. But there’s nothing new about her; older than I, she’s new in the way Mum promised my second-hand boots were, and this new smells of another’s sweat, another’s failure to maintain the soles. A first step, and then a second. The seaweed trails behind me like a tether and the waves are warm—warmed with their fun. Their joy is sunscreen-slick on the surface and I try not to touch it. When I’m knee deep the seaweed rouses, twirling about my ankles then snaking away towards the rocks; it tugs me forward. “Jess!” Was that my name? The seaweed calls me sister. It’s a promise. I press my palms together like when I pray to Mum, when I think she’s closest, pressing her cheek to my cheek. And then I dive.
Months have passed; grey months blinking like moth wings, which bring me further, bring me on. It’s night when I resurface; the waves are calm, they are emerald, midnight and the fish are darting stars. Brothers, sisters, break the surface around me. They rise as moons do 13
from dark, wet storm clouds; their pale green faces turn toward land. I follow their gaze. “Jess!” My pointed ears flick forward and I squint at the shore. The seaweed of my hair is pulled back as a brother whispers in my ear, the fishermen; we’re here to swallow their bait, steal their hooks, and tangle their lines. My tail twitches. I’ve enough hooks curled through my cheeks. But that name is a hook of another kind. Brothers, sisters, continue east toward the shore and I hear their laughter over the waves like rain. But there’s still that name. As I swim the shallows from where it was spoken, it sounds again from two shadows crouched on the sand. “Jess!” “What about my daughter? She even looks up to you—she could be your world, you know.” “And Jess? Should I leave her to rot in the ocean?” “Jess went too far—but your step-daughter, she could be something to you.” “Jess is my daughter.” “She was her mother’s daughter, love.” “Jess!” Strange. That name floats over the water’s surface like a mosquito; my webbed-hands cuff it back toward the shore. I squirm, uncomfortable in the warm shallows. It’s a little stifling, a little thick, but then I’ve swum so long in deeper currents and I’ve no longer legs to manage sand, and rock, and stone. Best that hook be left alone. Brothers, sisters laugh again over the swearing of a fisherman. The two shadows on the sand watch his fishing pole float tranquil out to sea. My tail twitches. I shiver and feel giddy; I laugh this time too as I cut through the waves and join brothers, sisters, as I rejoice in the pull of the currents and we continue to swim and tease the boundary of the shore and sea.
Rising Jan Price
Sweet firm skinned peach With a core of blood, the lifeline of me. White veiled whore-moan-all rage. Picasso’s rose period in pus on the mirror. The constellations you left; The Big Dipper on my face. Glory is shining in the dark: When I push you out of pores your joyous sunned self begs to be examined. You aren’t vein, But you love needles. They’ll forge your name in history. Take real estate on my chin, Cheek and forehead. Hail acne, full of Grace!
A piece of bark flew off the log I was chopping. I looked inside it and saw a huge network of squiggly lines; What are these little scribbles etched in the bark? Maybe it’s a secret message from the bugs, a little hello from the insect realm, in their own special language? I was thinking of burning this piece of bark right away but now I have doubts; What is that written there in those curved, carved lines— in those mysterious hieroglyphs carved into the living bark, this garbled, scribbled message? What if it’s a masterpiece? What if the bug who wrote it was the Shakespeare of the insect world? It could be the bug Bible, or the Magna Carta of the insect kingdom or an epic literary work. Might be a hot love letter or a Dear John. Could be bug blackmail. Maybe it’s just an advertisement, or bug classifieds. Might be it could be hate speech, or a bug Mein Kampf. It could be a message that sings to the world or seeks to destroy it. It could be a call to arms for a bug revolution—watch out!
Maybe it means nothing. I don’t think so. This wasn’t accidental. These seemingly meaningless squiggles appear like they make some kind of sense. It’s done with too much care not to Look—it even has fine print There’s text and subtext; You trying to tell me it’s just forward munching that created this? I don’t believe it. It’s too intricate; it means something. I don’t care what anyone says.
A Sixth-Grader’s Diary Viviane Ugalde
April 30, 2009 Today, You became a convict. You broke every law known to man and sixth-graders alike. The day started as normal, waking up at 6:30, putting on your Wrangler jeans and floral short sleeve shirt, because Mom still shopped for you and tried her best. You left with her at 7:30 a.m., driving twenty minutes to school to wait until 8:15 for your day to begin. Your vocational class this week was P.E. The teacher, with her headset mic and golf shorts, met you all outside on that one-hoop basketball court where most girls gossiped, and most boys picked their nose. She’s holding two mesh drawstring bags that are lumpy. Today was the day: Dodgeball. The one game you could survive without having to be athletic in any sense of the word. Your P.E. teacher, who you’ve had since kindergarten, relays the rules for the sixteen-trillionth time in the form of a monologue so lengthy, even a Shakespearean actor could never memorize it. You’ve been split into the team with the twin football kids, so there was a chance for your survival. Except today, you were the hero. You had control. You had accuracy. You were at the top of the team, and you were killing it. And then, disaster. The game was paused, and P.E. Teacher had to re-explain that headshots were not allowed under any circumstances, but you didn’t hear that. Instead you stared at your target. The tall skinny kid you never really talked to, except for the times you were on the bus together, and wanted to use his flip phone to play the Guitar Hero tutorial continuously. He was egging you on, thinking you weren’t ready, but you were 21
ready for this from the moment you woke up this morning. P.E. Teacher finished her speech with a hearty yell of, “Game On!” That’s all you needed to hear. Your machine of a body took charge, winding up and chucking the four-inch diameter foam ball right at Tall Skinny Kid’s chest. You released the ball, waiting for the glorious joining of dodgeball to Tall Skinny Kid, but you forgot one detail. You forgot to let P.E. Teacher leave the battlefield. She was in the crossfire, and it wasn’t looking good. You watch in slow motion as the ball, which would have met your target impeccably, meets the face of P.E. Teacher. The entire world stops. You, a sixth-grader, hit a grown-up in the face. You’re finished. You’re done. You’ve lost. You are dead. Everyone rushes to P.E. Teacher. Waiting to see any bloodshed or out of place bones. You stand, frozen. Extra artillery in your left hand falls to the floor. You stare, and wonder, How will they kill me for this? P.E. Teacher is hunched over, her hands clasping her cheek. The sixth-graders ask: “Are you okay?” P.E. Teacher responds, “I’m fine.” She wasn’t fine. She rises again, removing her hand from her face, letting her sunglasses fall, having broken from the impact. The class is over, and so is your life. As long as everyone else just kept this on the down-low, no one would know, and it would be fine. We all funneled back into the door, and not one second went by before someone blabbed. “Mr. Parsons! Guess what Viviane just did! She almost killed the P.E. teacher!” There was no turning back. It was time to take the plunge, accept your fate, and walk the plank. But you have someone there who is going to protect you, and about to induct you into their group. The president of the cool kids and his two associates approach you, looking like the heads of a mafia family. They looked and nodded, saying one sentence that turned the whole day around. They gave you their stamp of approval. “Hey, that was pretty cool, we never liked her anyway.” You have peaked. Yes it’s sixth grade, and yes it was one of the least important years of your education, but this is your shining moment. You are the king of the castle and now in with the cool kids. This means you are open for a higher trade status at lunch time, and a better spot in the recess snack line. There was no going back. The least you could do was buy P.E. Teacher a new pair of sunglasses, 22
and now with your new high status you had to make an impression. Mom spent her hard-earned income to buy a pair of white seven dollar sunglasses from the small kiosk in the far back corner of the local Raley’s. You returned to school on Monday, new sunglasses in hand. You walk to class acting the same and awkward as usual. Vocational class comes around again, and everyone is herded outside once again. For the first time in a while, you decided to run, by choice. To P.E. Teacher, you flail while you jog and present the sunglasses to her like a gift for royalty. She does not accept them. You did not plan for this. The plan was to give her the glasses, and get out, but she declines. You attempt again and again, but she still declines. You have to keep trying. Your new coolness is at stake, but she still says no. Now you are left with new sunglasses, and a bruised ego.
A month has gone, and you have returned to your middle class social status. It is your last day of sixth grade, and P.E. Teacher decides to have a powwow of togetherness and sharing, also known as “community circle.” You and twenty-nine other sixth graders sit and share their favorite moment from their seasoned years of elementary school. You and the first few share moments of great tetherball tournaments and foursquare showdowns, until your friend, your compadre, your “amigo”changes the topic. She retells the war story of your dodgeball shot. From then on the remaining twenty students shared the same memory, and you were back on the top. The memory will always be there for you, but only you will remember that month of time you had. Now, you pay for car insurance, and electricity, and are still in the middle of the proverbial heap.
The route home was as familiar as the neighbor’s dog who shat on the lawn, enraging, well, annoying, my father— the full length of Grand then a jig past three houses on Lee until the vacant lot that cut to our yard. We called it the pipeline, that lot, a no man’s land between the houses, an unclaimed windfall where pick-up games with makeshift bases and ragged balls were played amid dirt and stones and shards from shattered soda bottles and more of that roving dog’s leavings. The next block over, sweet peas raged wild in early summer planted once by who knows who guarded by crumbling concrete posts and rusted cable installed by—whom? Pipeline for what? To where? It was our kingdom, and we did not care to know.
Elocution Laura Handley
They told us that the way we speak was wrong, the music in our voices an error. With all they have to show: guns, boats, cars, gold, steel, semiconductors, and the fatal stress of formality, how can they not be right? Flat and colorless is the ideal, straightforward speech that shares nothing of the nature of the speaker, and stays out of the way of business. So we have bleached and flattened, taken to gray box-houses and stiff black suits but they still cannot accept us, not quite yet, for every so often, a songbird in flight, shedding rainbow plumes bursts forth from our mouths. Until we fix this flaw, they say, success will elude us.
Bent Over Back
Dorsía Smith Silva
“Mister, do you have some spare change?” I ask him. He stares at my face, and disgust rises within him like steam after summer rain. He runs his dissecting eyes over my watermelon stomach— pity, like that flattened pigeon over on Houston Street. “Ma’am, can you give me…” She glimpses at my secondhand hat and threadbare jeans— her voice comes in vacillating waves. “Lawd! Help that child. Just look at those jeans! By the devil, they’ve gone to war and have lost!” Yes, they have gone to war. My personal war of hand to mouth flesh to bone human to beggar. Do you think I really want to ask you for money?
I’d much rather be in class at Lincoln High, listen to Ellington at West End Café, visit Mama at City Hospital, hang out at Washington Square Park, and feed the pigeons—even. So when I ask for money, do not claim to be deaf do not cross the street do not look away do not pity me. Just drop some change in my flat open hand.
Dollhouse Daniel Putney
He called me his “little bird” and patted my head every time I argued, I want to see you more than every other weekend. He clenched his jaw yelling into the phone every time coworkers were “imbeciles” and interrupted his weekends with me. He said he loved me after sex and a cigarette, but every time we fucked he looked at himself in the mirror, never embraced me. He showed me pictures of his dog, a golden retriever. Every time I asked to see his family, he growled, “Stop asking.” He told his friends I was his cousin every time he brought me in public. I thought, never said, It’s not normal to fuck your cousin. He left me the day his wife got pregnant. Every time he makes love to her, does he look in the mirror?
Tainted III Sunny J
Alixx Sunny J
A Bull Fighter Aurelio Cortes Rivera
Tonight a bull kissed me crawled out my throat with such a roar my chest became two and all I felt was the anger in my veins whisper to my fists about the power of pain and how much I wanted it to touch you. So, when you snuck into my room with my name on your lips and lust between your legs the bull ripped out of me with a rage so loud the house was torn from all the screams coming from me from you from her. Mommy finally learned the things daddy would do.
Do Not Burn Your Bones Daniel Putney
Within this apocalyptic commons, the tragedy is not in the blood you lose but in the ghosts that penetrate your heart. Survival must be your songbird as you fix your gaze upon the horizon, unflinching, unblinking. The whispers of afterlife taste like honeyâ€” ignore their sweetness, trust your scarred skin, chapped lips, tired bones. This body is yours to keep.
Aurelio Cortes Rivera
you ripped off my skin putting it on as a disguise, going around town shooting people just for fun. Who did it? The country asked He did it! You said, pinching my skin in the air waving it like a sign. They did it. They did it. The monsters from a different land. â€”immigrant
Getting Through #12 Beth Rhodes
White People Can’t Dance so that the Right People Know Who to Trust in the Darkness Griffin Peralta
When I ask my father why he does not speak Spanish, why I do not speak Spanish, He tells me that his mother watched her mother get murdered by Pancho Villa. He tells me she carried that fear over the border like a coyote gnawing her heartstrings. He tells me that she told him he must never speak Spanish. That she told him time and again that the family was American now. “Americans speak English,” she’d say. When I was 14, I bought a ticket to my first school dance. When I asked my mother how to dance with my first girlfriend, she taught me the square steps of a ballroom waltz. Years later, when I ask a white girl friend of mine why she has painted her face like a sugar skull for Halloween, she tells me she spent two years in Mexico with the peace corps. She tells me she learned to love the culture there, that she “lives it authentically” that she “even knows the dances.” I ask her to teach me, but I am a poor student. I wonder if that means she is more Mexican than I am. If I cannot move my hips the right way, am I white passing? Is this what my Grandmother wanted? That no one would ever ask me to Cha Cha?
If I can learn the steps, can I have my ancestry back? If I place my grandmother’s portrait on my mantle next October, will she pass through and see that I am American now? If I put my great Grandmother’s portrait on my mantle, will she come to me with Marigolds from her unmarked grave on the outskirts of a town in Mexico whose name is now a family secret carried to the next life? Will she teach me to dance? Could we dance away Pancho’s violence? Could we dance away her daughter’s shame? If I can learn to move my hips just so, could we shake down the border wall? Could I learn the language my grandfathers learned to love in? Could I read Zapato and feel pride? There is a cognate I know… It means the same in English and in Spanish… So. If any one of my ancestors asks me if I am different from the colonizer… I can say… No.
She Turns 91 in April and Still Dreams of Her Mother Rachel McGuinness
She was living with her sister Ida, on Franklin street, beneath the shade of a peach tree, her motherâ€™s rosary sparkling in the window, roses laid at the feet of the statue of the Virgin Mary. Ida buys a fur coat that afternoon, haggling with the merchant in Italian because she refuses to speak English in public, bills crisply creased in the sleeve of her pocketbook. Milk jugs sit on the front porch next to the rumpled copy of the daily newspaper listing the births, deaths, and church schedules next to advertisements for toothpaste. She is always a child in her dreams, wearing her best pink dress with the bow on the front, embroidered flowers branching down the sleeves. Her mother stands in the garden, carrying a suitcase and a loaf of bread, coat folding into the dirt. She starts to run, windows and walls falling away, reaching for her arms, still strong after all this time.
Getting Through #1 Beth Rhodes
If Dementia Were Jordyn Becker
It would wiggle its way down your auditory canal, passing through an ivory layer, searching for the hippocampus that holds the memories you have molded, shaped, and trained your entire life. Here, the worm begins to nibble. Sounds, final words from loved ones, tastes of old salt on your tongue, sights of familiar faces, textures, hands come to hold yours, pressures on your forearm, barely felt, smells of lilies and familiar perfumes would inch forward, struggle to run the electrical track of nerves from wrinkled and freckled ear to lobes enclosed in honeyed yellow plaque, before they are devoured eagerly by the greedy mouth of a worm that lives in your head. If dementia were a worm, plump and pink, no one could deny the glutinous grey goo that oozed and dribbled from both your ears as the monitors ran flat, because the worm didnâ€™t bother to wipe the sides of its mouth.
Butchering Frederick Bassett
I’d long retired my shotgun to the closet, but I still argued with my philosophy students that hunting for food was no different than killing cattle for the same purpose. And I claimed with absolute certitude that the hands of every non-butchering meat-eating person were just as bloody as those of any slaughterhouse worker. Once a student responded with this confession: I can’t eat steak ...reminds me of a cow, but a hamburger is totally different. It’s just ground stuff...could be soybeans. Ah, the workings of the human mind.
Rectangular Zebra Yasuaki Oka
I got the gator in Galveston. A guy had it in the back of an old Dodge van with Louisiana plates. I was talkin’ to the guy because my ride had died, and I was lookin’ for a new one...or as new as I could afford. Don’t ask me what I was doin’ in Galveston. It’s not worth the telling. I was done with the place. Too liberal for my blood. The first time I saw the van, it was in the parking lot of the Walmart. It had a “for sale” sign in the window with a phone number on it. I called the number. The guy answered. He says meet him in two hours at Dockside Marine up in Bayou Vista. That worked for me. Gave me time to get back to the room and grab some cash. The next time I saw the van, the guy was standin’ next to it. He’s some kinda mixed breed type, skinny as spit. I looked the thing over pretty good. The paint was burnt, but it seemed solid enough. I didn’t take it on any test drive. The guy said it ran great. He said it was good to go wherever. It didn’t seem to be leakin’ anything, so I took his word for it. If you can’t trust a guy from Louisiana, who can you trust? When I went to open one of the doors, he stopped me. He said, “Do it real easy. Gator don’t like no sudden moves.” I figured it was his dog and he’d named it Gator, but no. When I opened the door, there he was, ten feet if he was an inch and with a maw that could swallow a horse’s head. The guy said, “He won’t bite you if you don’t let him get hungry.” I say, “What’s his name?” He says, “Gator.” I’m thinkin’, Enough with the niceties. Time for business. I offered him twelve hundred. He says he wants two thousand. I
come up a couple hundred; he comes down a couple hundred, but he gets stuck on eighteen. I say, “Does that include the gator?” He says, “No.” I come up to sixteen. Still no. Okay, last offer: eighteen hundred and I take the critter, too. We shook on it, and I gave him the money. I took care of the paperwork and put on the Texas tags. It was ready to roll. Went and got a half-dozen steaks and a twelve-pack. I threw the beef to the gator, put the beer where I could reach it, and headed west. The guy didn’t lie. The van drove like a dream, and I made it back to Mendocino in three days. What a bargain...a good ride and a gator to boot. I figured I’d put him to work guarding my grow. Did I tell you about my wife? Named herself Moonlight. I shoulda known better’n to get myself involved with a hippie chick with all her free love and everything. She was such a hot number, I couldn’t resist her. Told me later she took me on as a project. Thought she’d convert me. Always tearin’ up all my gun magazines and my NRA newsletters before I had a chance to read ‘em. But it didn’t work. Just turned me against liberals for forever. Well, that’s all in the past, ancient history. We split up after a year. She got her own place in town, little cabin on Calpella Street not far west of Kasten, and I kept the place in the hills. But we never got a divorce. She’s still my wife. Yeah, she’s hot, alright—too hot for her own good, sidling up to these slick city boys and gettin’ ‘em to drool, especially that Granville Watkins...Granville Rogers Watkins. G.R. everybody called him. He liked it pronounced “Grrr”, but I always called him Granville just to tick him off. I’d been hearin’ whispers about him and Moonlight the whole fifteen years Moonlight and me been separated. Big show-off with all his money from his grandpa’s vineyard that he inherited and then sold...and his platinum pinky ring with the ruby in it the size of a damn grape. Musta weighed more than the finger it was attached to. Had his initials in it. I found that out later. Considered himself a local, but he was still from Santa Rosa as far as I’m concerned. Okay, back to the story. It was summertime, and Gator was acting out of sorts. Just layin’ around, not eatin’ much. I asked my friend Faulkner—who’s from Mississippi, so he should know—what he thought was wrong. He says, “Why that lizard’s dried out. You got to get ‘im in water.”
I says, “Shit, Faulkner, I need ‘im in tip-top shape by September when the harvest starts. He’s gotta be lean and mean.” Faulkner says, “Bring ‘im down to my place. You can put ‘im in my pond.” And then I got this idea. I says, “Yeah, but before we do that, let’s take ‘im down to the Kelley House Museum and put ‘im in the pond there. Give the tourists something to talk about.” So that’s what we did. Gator was pretty docile, not feeling too good, as I said. We wrapped him in a tarp. Got ‘im in the van. Drove to town. Parked on Albion Street. Half carried half dragged ‘im down to Kelley House Pond. Thought I’d bust a gut gettin’ ‘im over the fence. Faulkner was gruntin’ something fierce, but we did it. Then we rolled ‘im in. He seemed to perk up right away. I thought this’s got to be the sweetest trick there ever was—a live alligator smack in the middle of Mendo-town. So I say, “Let’s go to Dick’s Place and celebrate.” Faulkner says, “No.” He’s gonna go visit a lady friend he knows for a quickie. He’ll meet me back at the van in an hour. I say, “Okay.” He heads off toward Kasten Street, and I go on down to Main. I walk in to Dick’s, and who do you think is there? Yeah, that’s right, Granville Watkins. He starts pesterin’ me, tellin’ me what he’s done with Moonlight, how good she is in bed. I tell him, “Leave me alone.” But he keeps ridin’ me. I knock back a couple of beers, and he’s makin’ these panting and slurping sounds and then holding his crotch and callin’ out her name. Some of the folks in the place are smirking. Some others are real quiet, maybe embarrassed for me, maybe waitin’ to see what I was gonna do. But I don’t want trouble. I turn to him and I say, “Grow the fuck up.” Then I walk out. Did I tell you about my hunting knife? God, it’s a beauty. Had it custom made for me. Eight-inch blade. Just picked it up from the sharpener that afternoon. That’s why I had it with me in its sheath hangin’ from my belt. Probably coulda split a hair six ways from Sunday. Anyway, after I left Dick’s, I walked back up the Kelley House path to get to my van, and I stopped at the pond to see how Gator was doin’, but he’d moved from where we’d put ‘im in. I had to go up to the rose garden where I could look down on the pond to spot ‘im, and he was doin’ just fine. If it hadn’t been for the full moon, I’d of never found ‘im. All I could see of him were his big ol’ nostrils above the water...rest of ‘im submerged. He was waitin’ for something to eat.
That’s when I hear the footsteps comin’ up from Main Street. And guess who it is. Yup, goddamn Granville Watkins. He gets right up to me and puts his face in mine and says, “I’m goin’ up to Calpella Street and satisfy your wife. I’m gonna give it to her so good and so hard and so long she’s gonna pass out from the pleasure; and, when she wakes up I’m gonna give it to her again.” And he grabs his crotch like he did in the bar and licks his lips. I don’t know what happened to me then. I just sorta popped. Next thing I know I got the knife in my hand. I don’t even remember unsnapping the strap that holds it in the sheath. And Granville Watkins has got his mouth open, but he’s not sayin’ anything. I musta stuck ‘im fifteen times before he hit the ground. Then I threw my knife in the drink. I wasn’t too happy about that. Knife cost me a bundle. I guess I was pretty panicked. Oh, well, I figured that was the least of my worries. I mean, there I was with the guy everybody’d seen ridin’ me layin’ down dead at my feet. What was I gonna do? I couldn’t leave ‘im there. They’d all suspect me. I thought I’d drag him up to the van, but what would I tell Faulkner? So I hauled him to the pond, got ‘im over the fence somehow, and dumped ‘im in. It took Gator about five seconds to react. Before I was halfway up to Albion Street, he already had Granville Watkins under the water. When I got to the van, Faulkner was standing there smokin’ a doobie. I said, “That didn’t take long.” He said, “Oh, man, I had to leave early. She was expecting somebody else.” Long story short, Gator did a damn good job disposing of Granville Watkins. Unfortunately, he never got to come home with me to help me guard the crop. One of those gallery owners made a big stink about him being in the pond, not to mention the Kelley House folks; and Fish and Game came and took him away. Then things got worse. Somebody called the Sheriff because they didn’t like the look of the blood stains on the path pavers, which I didn’t think anybody would notice because the pavers are red anyway. And, to top it off, Moonlight reported Granville Watkins missing. The Sheriff put it all together and says it looks like Granville Watkins was the victim of foul play. You know how they say, “It don’t rain but it pours?” Guess what happens next. For some damn reason that’s a mystery to me, they go and drain the pond! Can you believe it? Well, like I said, Gator done a real good job cleaning up the mess I
made, but he missed one thing. When they got all the water out, they found Granville Watkins’ little finger...and with the ring still on it. Guess Gator didn’t care much for grapes. And wouldn’t you know, they found my knife, too? Did I tell you that when I got that knife I carved my name in the handle? So now I’m sittin’ in a cage in Ukiah waitin’ to meet the lawyer Moonlight got for me, Barry Something-or-other. To hear her tell it, he’s some kinda legal magician. Hope he can get me a good plea bargain. I don’t think a jury would understand. I mean, yeah, I killed Granville Watkins; but I ain’t no criminal.
Valentine’s Kabriel Hoover
He was young and full of potential, She was older than her age dictated; He loved his family and they, him, She loved the idea of leaving them all behind; He drank the life of the party, She drank to have the party end— Either way, the two had never met. He saw her organizing records among CDs, She kissed him, mocking Valentines; He pulled out the ring, She gave birth to his boy; He made her his first, She made herself his last— Either way, things just happened so fast. He drowned in a sea of aluminum, She went out to sea, never staying still; He looks for honesty but cannot find himself, She searches for her face underneath her mask; He sees the worst of the world, She’s forced to make up what she sees— Either way, the world has never been easy. He never fell in love again, She can’t help but fall; He wields wrath like a rusty hammer, She, grief like a loaded gun; He still is a child at heart, She shot the child at youth— Either way, they run from the truth.
In the end, all he does is drink… At the end, drink is preferable. He believes himself a failure, She flatters herself a success; He approaches his forties and lives in the past, She lives nowhere, loves nothing, lost in her head— Either way, the heart of the matter didn’t matter in the end.
Anita Savell 55
If Centuries Were Miles Weâ€™d Be Light-Years from Done Griffin Peralta
1000 years from now, All that is left of us will be bones, An archaeologist will make a dig of us, Because my skeletal arms will be around you still, Our parts will be indistinguishable. They will build an exhibit to us, The snuggling skeletons, assembled from parts of each other, so that everyone will look on and see that you have become a part of me. 500 years from now, The tree I planted on our 50th anniversary will be marked to be cut down. When the lumberjane raises her axe, She will remember the time I cut a rose every day we were apart, she will know the way the oldest rose wilted and browned as did my heart and she will say NO This one stays! Like the time, 60 years from now, when your casket closes, and no one can get me to leave. No! I will say, as the cops drag me from the cemetery, This one stays! and I will tell them about the time, 20 years from now, when I pulled out my heart strings so that you could replace the laces on your favorite shoes. 50 years from now, when the hologram is finally invented, I will be the first to use the new technology to make you see all the ways you make me feel: A minerâ€™s pick striking a gemstone, each tiny fragment a cosmos of brilliant dust, hanging like galaxies in their splendor for just a moment...
The soil in Death Valley when spring sprouts burst through it just after the first rain in a hundred years... The ant with a massive grain of sugar he gets to lay before his queen... The late bird, who missed the worm, but kept the eggs warm while you were away... The long awaited Alaskan dawn, when the darkness ends on the 31st day. 10,000 years from now, an evergreen will have grown from our ashes, and dropped so many pine cones, that an entire forest will be blooming in which there are no birds of prey. The mice there sleep peacefully in the ancient shadows of our love. 1 million years from now, our yellow star will go supernova, and as the atoms which were once us dissolve, theyâ€™ll feel an overwhelming nostalgia Ah, yes. This. Was exactly how our love felt...
Robert Richter 59
Visual Arts Director Ivana Lang
Editor-inChief Nick Huffman
The Brushfire would like to express our sincerest gratitude to all the artists and student organizations whose efforts furnished this journal with thoughful content, and whose craft inspired us to think of the journal as its own experimental work of art. In particular, we would like to thank the UNRtists, the Creative Writing Club, and the UNR Wolf Speaks team for inviting us to collaborate with them and for encouraging the local artists within their midsts to share their work with us. On a final note, we would like to express our deepest thanks to Derik Knak, Harley Deguzman, Celeste Cervantes, and Sherina Devine for coming together to form the most reliable, diligent, and open-minded team of volunteers that the Brushfire has had the pleasure of working with. As a team, you all reviewed over half of the total number of artworks submitted for this edition of the journal, and your ideas and feedback largely influenced the design and themes of the journal itself. Thank you for showing up to every meeting, for contributing your own perspectives, and for bringing your undying appreciation of the arts to the office this semester. This journal was not possible without you.
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 used for the body text and Shree Davanagari 71 is used for the headline text throughout the journal. 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 2018 ACP Magazine Pacemaker Award, 2016 ACP First Place Best-0f-Show Award for Literary Magazine, 2017 ACP Third Place for Best of Show Award for Literary Magazine, and 2017 Pinnacle Awards honerable mention.
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 the Editor know! firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright ÂŠ 2019 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 Associated Students of the University of Nevada.
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brushfire staff learning more each day sara thacker