EDITION 73, VOLUME 1 UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA, RENO FALL 2020
EDITOR’S NOTE If at any point during this past year, you looked up and were suddenly seized with the surreal and unsettling sensation that the sky overhead might quite literally collapse in on you, one thing is certain—you are not alone. In times of tradegy, loss, and drastic change, the weight of the world often comes crashing down so hard that it can shatter the sense of normalcy, stability, or security that each of us learns to associate with reality. Under such circumstances, we are forced to confront the fractured and trembling foundations which exist all around us — in our insitutions and our communities; our relationships with the natural world and our relationships with loved ones. And as a response, we often feel the terrible shudder of the crumbling fixtures which we have constructed within ourselves, whether knowingly or unknowingly, on the hope that we might hold ourselves together, through times of trouble and times of peace. That being said, as scary as it is to feel our sense of reality come apart at the seams, this dream-like state of disorientation and existential crisis is not all bad or hopeless. In fact, it carries with it the necessary hope and the necessary work of reinvention. It breaks us from our routines and exposes the places where we must re-evaluate and redefine our most basic perceptions about the world and about ourselves — that way we may reimagine, or else revitalize, what is truly worthwhile in our lives. It leaves room for us to rethink what we consider to be beautiful, just, and good; to improve who we are; to decide what we stand for; to re-envision what kind of world we want to live in and make together. Overall, that’s all this journal has ever really been about — creating a space where we can broaden our perceptions of reality, so that we may find compassion, strength and beauty in life. It is a celebration of the fact that good and beautiful things are there to be found, even while fires burn and flowers bloom. Nick Huffman, Editor-in-Chief
Image by Bonnie Blair
Image by Cesar Piedra
TABLE OFOF CONTENTS TABLE CONTENTS
Richard Rauch Terry Portillo Sushma Singh Sean Johnson Corbec Media Suzanne O’Connell Bert Barry Rochelle Shapiro Benjamin Harnett Jai Bashir Sharon Whitehall Diane Sahms-Guarnieri Sean Johnson Delaney Uronen Rachel Tramonte Suzanne O’Connell Jake Sheff Michael Estabrook Jordyn Becker Richard Rauch
POETRY 8 11 12 15 16 18 24 26 29 35 38 39 43 44 47 48 52 55 57 58
Journey to the End Of Dreams Border Crossings Two Geographies Ado In Gomorrah Post Katrina—My House Speaks Beautiful Dangerous Summons of the Saint Steppingstone Park on the Long Island Sound The Coins in the Grave Of King Childeric Still, Life With Fruit Snakebites Directional Flow Suddenly Naked Rituals of Surface Call This Research Wedding Dress, Nearly New Human Nature’s Telegram to Russian Bots Alaska (Abridged) And the World Goes On Life’s A LOL
PROSE Lila Tzonia Rob Granader AN Grace
21 30 49
In October When He Gave You a Red Maple Leaf A Parking Lot In The Q Monster
VISUAL ART & PHOTOGRAPHY Bonnie Blair Sarah Cryan Marina Nikolau Neil Berkowitz Benjamin McOmber Cesar Piedra Fabrice Poussin Olivia Costin Neil Berkowitz Ivana Lang Sarah Cryan Bill Wolak Sam Jones Ivana Lang Sarah Cryan Bill Wolak Marina Nikolaou Sofia Lombardo Mario Loprete Sofia Lombardo Ben Stevens Bridget Conway Olivia Costin Bridget Conway Tyler Ewing
5 6 8 10 13 14 17 19 20 24 27 28 33 34 37 41 42 45 46 48 49 51 54 57 59
Reno Sea Foam She Don’t Lie, She Don’t Lie, She Don’t Lie Where Once Was Refuge Snow and Running The Beautiful Game Milky Dreams, Her Soul, and Hope Mush Skate Sunset 30th Ave NE Seattle My Farewell Journey Kite Surfers The Standstill of Uncertainty Summer Dragonfruit China Doll Apple Hill Tormented by Doubt I Can’t Stop Looking for You 6 A Study of Femininity In Cemento Veritas Kitchen Sink Hell Is Chrome 2 and 3 F Is For Spooky Spaceman An Earnest Solution to an Unrelated Problem Skater
JOURNEY TO THE END OF DREAMS by Richard Rauch This dream will surely end: as sure as an old watch lost in a drawer winds down, losing its tick, hands stilled, losing its tock, chockablock, amidst the forgotten thises and thats, loose change, and misremembered souvenirs; as sure as wailing turns to whimpering, choking to gurgling murmurs. There were those moments of surprise: the scattering of geese panicked over splashes in a still pond, giving chase, hands outstretched, drawn to the whoosh of wings, their calls echoing, still savoring the ripples, flat stones skipping away, ripples etched in silt, dried to dust in a lifetime, a desert’s vast expanse, its promise—a garden, a farm, a wasteland—gone, gone in a final flight, away. Aweigh! Away.
9 Image by Marina Nikolaou
Image by Neil Berkowitz
BORDER CROSSINGS by Terry Portillo There are borders which can only be crossed at night. Borders lit only by the tips of cigarettes and the eyes of a jaguar guarding her kill. There are borders which require you to leave your passport behind, to redesign and redefine your identity. There are borders you will not find on Google Maps or GPS. There are borders patrolled by capybara rodents the size of dogs, howler monkeys, and fluorescent frogs. There are borders beyond which everything you knew, or thought you knew, turns out to be wrong. There are borders beyond which time zones do not change, but the hours rearrange themselves in an impenetrable maze in a haze of days which will paralyze your thoughts. There are borders Banksy has yet to depict or outwit. Borders which go unmentioned in the most adventurous of travel blogs. There are borders which have never been filmed by Fox or CNN. Borders where Anderson Cooper has never trod. There are borders where nothing is gained, but all is lost. There are borders only abandoned women can cross.
TWO GEOGRAPHIES by Sushma Singh
When he left the mountains for sparse meadows my dad carved valleys in hot asphalt, holding close all he had grown up in. Wealth of a forest reposed on his eyelids; Sweet dew jewelled his skin like a royal robe . The first summer noon flashed an intense sky overhead; the sun, a swollen apricot , its spittle, splintered fire, light in his breath like stars flecked with sawdust, the way filigreed shell of a leaf blade fills a page.
Images by Benjamin McOmber
Image by Cesar Piedra
ADO IN GOMORRAH by Sean Johnson I never knew the other side of Jordan, only the salt life in Sodom. Between the knees of rocks and hard places I was living— waiting to be gathered for trade. Lot tried to preserve me, open my mouth and brush my teeth with right judgments, laws, and good things to abide by. He’d coat my cries in grain offerings and words like covenant, bring me pits and water from someplace far way. Taken with the destruction of things, I’d ask What are you saving me for, before using his gifts to declare war on the ground. Then I’d present to him the first fruits of my garden, but they were tinged with conflict and lust. Lot grieved, refused to eat short term pleasures when he had memories of milk and honey. My sleeves were stained with ram’s blood, but when held to the light, my fingertips exposed the cloak-and-dagger covenant I’d made with the devil. Oh Lot, now you wanna leave? After we’ve made a home? After I’ve become accustomed to delicious depravity, camel lined coats, and shiny things that glisten like dead seas? If you would have bothered to ask if I preferred to stay or flee, I’d have told you—Some of us would rather a deranged life over a plain life. But as with all men, you were taught you rule and choose what you will sacrifice on the altar. So I took atonement into my own hands. Looking back, I offered myself.
POST KATRINAâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;MY HOUSE SPEAKS by Corbec Media The wind shook my foundation as the flood water washed away decades of memories Walls that once held love and tradition holiday dinners with deep-fried turkeys football gatherings and crawfish boils now are silent witnesses to the waterline marking fate My floors will no longer host the disco dance the ball instead reflecting a kaleidoscope of mold White mold in the bathtub grows larger than the neighborâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s cat as blue and green blends match the tiny roses on my wallpaper orange mold lines the wooden windowsills the carpet, once beige is black as death My kitchen was a hub for conversation morning coffee with measured spoons of sugar once pregnant with possibilities now barren
The refrigerator floats on its back photos cling to magnets on its surface to keep from drowning as the odor of rotting food seeps through the seals The garden once proud of its pink impatiens, purple petunias, tropical white ginger and red hibiscus is now void of color a smelly gray mud mixed with oils, waste, and toxins blankets all No sound remains of laughter, joy, or pain only the promise of a new day the smell of fresh rain instead of death and decay a sighting of community instead of abandon a life returned with solid levees in place to hold back storm surge and man-made mistakes
Images by Fabrice Poussin
BEAUTIFUL DANGEROUS by Suzanne O’Connell If I’m going to die, why not lie down first? I was in a Florida hotel room watching a Category 4 hurricane have its way with the outside world. The window glass shimmered. Rain blasted in two directions at once. Wind knocked the trees sideways; they shrugged, confused, not knowing which way to blow. I’ve never seen anything more beautiful. I’ve watched videos of the Indonesian tsunami. So majestic! The water like a blue blanket, rolled back, uncovering the sleeping fish. Then a calm incoming, the wave growing to the size of dreams, wiping out everything. It was no longer beautiful when my friend described climbing a tree to survive.
And I love the smell of house fires! The acrid wood smoke, mistaken at first for an outdoor grill or a cozy fire by someone’s couch. So sweet, like the bear wearing slippers on the box of Sleepytime tea. Under the microscope, it looks like a scoop of cream cheese adorned with red flowers. But it’s that deadly virus, waiting to attack old people like me. Isn’t that how nature plays? So beautiful, but so dangerous. I remember the two-foot icicles, hanging from the roof of the nursing home where my mother-in-law was dying. The ice, all colors, but especially blue. I reached my cold fingers up to feel its smoothness. If it fell, I knew, it would be sharp enough to penetrate my heart.
Image by Olivia Costin
Image by Neil Berkowitz
IN OCTOBER WHEN HE GAVE YOU A RED MAPLE LEAF by Lila Tzonia In October when he gave you a red maple leaf. It had fallen from the tree, fallen to the ground, and he picked it up, handed it to you like a gift. You held it gingerly, like it was fragile, and tucked it away in your bag, to be found unexpectedly in a hurry, overstuffing the canvas, going to be late, and there it is. Edges crinkled, torn, perhaps, but still discernible as the very red maple leaf from that October afternoon. Blood red, it was noted, perhaps jokingly, much later. By then the red had lost its blush, lost its red, and was barely recognizable. Old and decaying, resting in your open hand, watching the world as the world watched it, both decaying slowly before your eyes. What did it see? What did it see as autumn turned to winter and its fallen brethren were swept away, to be incinerated or stacked into mountains with secrets hidden inside? How you must have loved the changing seasons as a child, as all children do. Adults lose their taste for time, with so much of it. The revolution of the planet stops being miraculous when it happens all the time. And a red, blood red, maple leaf lying lonely, lying flat on a sidewalk is something to look at, but nothing more. It is something to make sense of everything. I need to make sense of everything. In October when he gave you a red maple leaf. I watched it happen from my window. Footsteps on concrete carry like thunder through an old building, and I heard you exit without trying to. Autumn has always been my favorite season. Yours, too. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s why he gave you the leaf. You must have mentioned it, perhaps while walking along the river, leaning against the bridge with his arm around you. You pulled your jacket tighter, not because of the cold but as a statement, an action paired with words to emphasize your awareness of the changing weather. It is an unconscious movement he picked up on, he must have, because he gave you the leaf. Maybe when you were little, your father used to braid your hair and decorate the plait with the orange and red flowers of fall. I want to know why. Or maybe not. Maybe he just thought it was pretty, and thought you were pretty, and made the comparison in a way characteristic of him. Images, not sound, traveled through the glass that day. Images, not thought, reached me as I sat facing the sky. I knew him only briefly, you not at all. He was odd, though only in hindsight. He was odd then, only no one noticed. I knew him as the sociology professor, not even on a last name basis. I knew not even his face. Just his existence I was aware of. And a blood red leaf. Did he hold your hand in the park, sit on the black metal bench with his arms around you like blankets? Or was he afraid to be seen? Did he call his wife from your bed, tell her he had to grade papers? She must have suspected. I saw a woman on a streetcar last month. Her legs were crossed, her head against the window, staring into space and into nothing and into the eyes of college-aged girls who passed with textbooks under their arms. I suddenly pictured his wife on this same streetcar, looking for you in the crowd. She must have known. Maybe not what you looked like, but, like a desperate and distraught soul, believed she could spot you by the guilt in your step. But you werenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t guilty. She knows that, now if not then. I watched her watch others, was she wishing she was one of them or was she wishing you were one of them? Was she wishing to be young again, or was she hoping to catch a glimpse of you? Or maybe she was just looking out, praying for happy endings to the lives 21
22 she snatched a snippet of through the smudged glass. I wanted to ask her the question, but the sad downward tilt of her high-heeled foot told me she had no answers. In October when he gave you a red maple leaf. Was it the same one? Some reporter, some bespectacled protege with a penchant for press and an eye for his own self-interest, or some ambitious amateur with an expensive ballpoint pen gobbled that detail up, savored it, and spit it back up upon the story to make a handsome book, not realizing or caring or knowing that this was a life he was discussing. We all want to make our mark on the world. That’s why you came to this university. You took a sociology course, I don’t know which one. Maybe you wanted that to be your mark. You wanted to understand humanity so you could save it. But maybe it was required. Maybe your passion was something else. But you had passion. We all do. There must have been something you were passionate about, something you cared about, something you wanted to be known for, recognized for. We all want that. That’s why you came to this university. To be known, somehow, for something. I never knew your name, then suddenly it was all I knew. Everywhere I looked, there it was. Your eyes followed me. I didn’t know, wasn’t sure it was you until the story in the news, then I knew. The journalist thought it was pretty prose, I knew better. Thought it was a metaphor for the meaning in the acts, I knew there was no meaning, could not be any meaning, because if there was a meaning then it would make sense and this sort of thing should never, ever make sense. What did your dorm room look like? Were there piles of empty cardboard boxes, once holding pizza, now nothing, were you too lazy to take them down the hall to the recycling bin, did your blankets stay tucked in or did you pull them up and wrap them around your feet so they wouldn’t get cold as you slept, never thinking to just put on socks? Where did you cry, when you had to cry, where did you sit and let it pour, on your bed, under the covers, at your desk, head in your hands, in the shower so you could pretend nothing was wrong and the water on your cheeks was from the showerhead above you, what did you cry about? I suppose I can’t blame the reporter. We all want to be known for something. Is that why he did it? Is that why we do everything? Can it be that all other motives and reasons are secondary to this universal human desire to be somebody? I just don’t want my grave to sit abandoned in a graveyard, crumbling from lack of care. No one wants to be nobody, to be unknown, unimportant to everyone, we all want someone to see us as stretching rays of the rising sun hitting the petals of the lone sunflower taller than the rest. But even alone, it is not. Sunflowers grow in groups. Most people have their mothers, at least, who are obligated to love them. Does she visit you, daily, weekly, ever? If I look, will I see footprints belonging to her? Will I see footprints at all? Can you feel distance between you and us, stretch out your hand and pat the ground, feel your way back? Do you sense the feet, can you count them by looking, one, two, three, four, count if you can, do we feel so far away? Come a little closer, count from here, one, two, three, four, five, six, please come closer but you’re only getting further, can you feel how far away you are, do you feel me close? I am close. If you look, you will at least see one set of footprints. I went to visit the other day. I could not tell if you were there, and if you were, where you were, so I walked in all directions looking. Something clouded my eyes, stinging like salt water, and my arms, my legs felt oh-
so heavy, trudging through the snow, leaving troughs like a war zone in my wake, leaving a war zone in my wake, he left a war zone in his wake, maybe we all do. Maybe you were so covered in that blanket I couldn’t see you. Interesting how something so soft can be made of ice. I would sleep on a pillow of snow and wake up bleeding from stab wounds, the sharp points of icicles buried in my chest. There was no snow in December. In October when he gave you a red maple leaf. I feel the same pains that you did. Sometimes it feels overpowering. Did you count the stars, to focus your mind, distract your mind? I look out the window and try to count the stars, but I cannot tell if they’re the same ones you were able to see, what does it really matter anyway if you can count all those stars and still be forgotten, what does it matter if you can count the stars and not even matter to anyone? I saw his wife exiting his office, eyes down, carrying a box of things that were not marked as evidence. I saw her, she didn’t see me, I wanted to say something, but what would I say? I never took his class, I never knew you. What could I say? I’m sorry. I could’ve said I’m sorry. But I didn’t. Because she’s sorry too, and we can’t both be sorry, and we all have to live with our lives and there is no use apologizing for what simply happens. You never had a chance to be known for something. In October when he gave you a red maple leaf. In December when they arrested him in front of an entire classroom. In December when it was winter break and we all went home, our minds stuck at school, our thoughts stuck in those woods that your thoughts are stuck in, our words stuck in our throats, unable to reply to a chorus of questions and greetings from family members and neighbors and old friends and when the doors are closed, we’d whisper the truth to ourselves, and everyone seemed to know anyway but they didn’t talk about it like they actually knew, they talked about it the way you talk about a tragedy when you’re removed from it. They asked me if I knew you, I didn’t, and then the conversation dropped because if I hadn’t known you I couldn’t possibly be sad but can’t we mourn an idea the same as a person? Can’t one mourn a tragedy without being in it? Why do we cry over fiction but not a nameless girl lying cold on a forest floor, left there not by the hands of fate but the hands of a man? Where did you cry? Why did you keep the leaf? Did you keep the leaf? Was it the same leaf found in your hand, or one you grabbed from the ground as you lay there counting the stars. In October he gave you a red maple leaf. In November his wife found out about you and in December he murdered you in the woods and left you there. And now what will you be known for? Dying in the woods, dying alone and cold and slowly, bleeding out for long enough that you could have counted all the stars in the sky. We all want to be known for something. You will not be known for your accomplishments, but for him. He took that from you, he took your potential and made your life a chapter in his, he took you and all that you could have done and made it a footnote in his supposed success story. You were the climax of his novel, but he burned your story before it could be finished. You will never be known for anything besides dying. Who will visit your grave? When your parents are dead and gone, and anyone who knew you in life is gone, who will tell your story? You will fade out of history, be unknown, unimportant, not even a maple leaf in the eyes of the world. 23
SUMMONS OF THE SAINT by Bert Barry A collocation of relics rusting in the flow of melting snow â&#x20AC;&#x201C; ice rain when winter no longer reigns. The sculptor collected these fragments then formed them into an intimate portrait of the saint who would embrace this steady dissolution return to the origin. Today great scallops of ice hang from each edge slowly melting sending thin streams across every surface water splashing upon the flagstones inviting the beholders not merely to see this sculpture but to join the great process of re-union.
25 Image by Ivana Lang
STEPPINGSTONE PARK ON THE LONG ISLAND SOUND (GREAT NECK, JULY 19, 2020) by Rochelle Shapiro It’s not the flushing toilet simulation of the white noise machine I run in my apartment to soothe me through insomnia, but the real slap of wavelets against pilings and hulls. When no one is near us, we take off our masks. My husband, 75, a boy again, skips shells. I gather translucent jingle shells, slipper shells, blue-black mussels, fluted scallops, pale purple-brown moon snails, whorled whelks, opalescent oyster shells, carry them in the makeshift basket of my skirt. Walking back, I feel the grass flatten beneath my soles and tuft between my toes. Cotton whites and monarchs light on daylilies, astilbe, coneflowers, phlox, black-eyed Susans, lantanas, and blazing stars. I lean in to smell the flowers. My husband, laughing, takes my picture. My nose is yellow with pollen. Will we have to shelter-in again?
Image by Sarah Cryan
Image by Bill Wolak
THE COINS IN THE GRAVE OF KING CHILDERIC by Benjamin Harnett There are some new birds in the yard. Among them a pair of goldfinches. Yellow as flowers or as precious gems. They land on the catnip: It nods as they do. Are they eating the seed? We have attributed it, jokingly—this new avian opulence— to “the plague.” I work from home now. Instead of going out, I study. In the pile a monograph, “The Coins in the Grave of King Childeric,” what was it, friend, just an oval in the ground, cocooned by stone: richness, alone—bones, arched ribs, grinning skull, some diadem, a crown. He looks dopey in the image from his signet ring, big eyes up, yeah, that’s right, to God! Isn’t history odd? But no, it was stunning, what was found: all gold coins, garnet, and the bones wrapped in a cloak, three hundred winged insects fashioned in gold; King Childeric’s bees. They buzz through the catnip flowers, on our Russian sage. Insects of memory, birds, and age.
A PARKING LOT IN THE Q by Rob Granader “Everyone has three lives: a public life, a private life, and a secret life.” –G.G. Márquez
The cars have people in them. It takes me awhile to realize this, but after a few weeks in the Q, as the kids call it, I notice everything. Everything I used to miss. The people who live in this neighborhood of mine, a place that had been the equivalent of flyover country. The places you don’t notice because they are in-between destinations. But the people in these parked cars don’t notice me—on purpose, I presume. Why are they filling up the lot of this deserted school? Their eyes are plugged into their phones or staring at a tree off in the distance. Their cars are shut, the engines running. The parking lot is near my house, just behind a school. The school has a normal name, not a religious one, yet Mother Mary and Jesus hang from its walls. Maybe they are here to pray? I used to walk this path after dinner with my wife, just us and the two yappy dogs. We would talk about our day. That was before the Q, when we’d spend our free time together. Now we are both home, and I feel the need to leave. I don’t think she notices. Early in the morning when the sun is just coming up, I leave with the dogs and walk the lot. As the Q lingers, I find myself getting out no matter the weather. At night, we take the same path. But at night it is quiet, just other dog walkers, barkers, and droopy-faced pups, people with masks, a tennis ball ping-ponging off a racket in the distance, cars going the speed limit. Everything is slower and the lot is clean of cars. But during the day when I am alone, the parking lot is ablaze, buzzing with muted activity within hermetically sealed cars. Lots of them, some slotted in their spots, some parked askew as if to say, “just visiting,” parked like they are curbside waiting for a pizza pickup. On other days, they are parked one space apart, like men at a row of urinals. There are the regulars, and I have private nicknames for them all: —Folgers Man rests his steaming coffee cup on the back of his flatbed, staring out at the empty soccer field as if he were being filmed for a Folgers’ ad. —The Grunter grunts a few cars down three times a week. A woman parks her car between two white lines; a yoga mat and weights fill up the other spot as she squats and stretches, pushes and pulls, oblivious to the dog-walker. —Mad Man sits in his two-seat convertible, reads a newspaper while sucking on a cigarette. —White vans with ladders on top, waiting for jobs. —The Company Man paces in a blue vest with a company logo on the breast. On calls every day, just pacing, pacing, pacing. —Uber-looking cars waiting for food orders. In between these pods, the dog-walkers stroll, the bike-riders slalom, a man pulls two kids in a red plastic Radio Flyer, and parents grab their children as engines fire up.
To me, they are just silhouettes—quiet, unemotional, and distant. But as the quarantine lingers, so do they. They settle in and turn off their cars, their windows come down, and their world opens up, to me. Their voices echo off the doors in the morning stillness; their stories become clearer as I hear one, then another and another. The conversations are not a crowd-like mush of white noise, but more distinct. It’s a large dinner table with new friends, where you can hear whomever you focus on. With each step, I hear pieces of confessions, pleas, and cries. “I can talk,” I hear someone say, his tone sympathetic. I want to stop and hear the rest of the story, but I feel compelled to act like I can’t hear him. Like I’m not eavesdropping. So I keep walking. I am embarrassed, not for me, but for them. Why don’t I want to be seen? I’m the one just walking; they are the ones doing something in whispered tones. So I tiptoe through the lot, looking at my dogs, adjusting my phone to appear busy by scrolling. I try to puzzle it together, but I hear only secrets that don’t fit. “I am listening,” a woman says in a way that makes me think she means it, but that the person on the other end thinks she doesn’t. “I just had to get out.” “It’s gonna be okay.” “Does it make you happy?” “I can’t take much more of this.” They are mask-less in their cars, yet I don’t recognize anybody, except a man in the black BMW. There is a familiarity to him. I think it’s the same car I once drove? I walk past and try to look through the glare of his windshield, but I only hear fragments from his phone. “He just left,” a woman says. Her voice is familiar; it sounds like so many voices I’ve heard on speaker phones. The words echo in a tinny vibration. When she finishes, he quickly drives off. If everyone has three lives, as Márquez said, then these are their secret lives. They are here for the relationships now relegated to phone calls, the conversations they hope vanish into the ether, the release they cannot get in a house full of unattended kids. I see a man swallow Cheez Whiz straight from the can; a drunk woman swigs Coca-Cola out of the bottle. A woman eats ice cream from the carton without taking it out of the plastic grocery bag, and a man drinks small bottles of alcohol that he tosses into the woods when he thinks no one is looking. At night when we walk the same steps through the empty lot, I don’t tell Katie about what I’ve found during the day, this waiting room to somewhere. I don’t share with her the fragments of the lives of our neighbors who are killing time or taking meetings or making deals with themselves about the time they need, validating this world they created. Maybe it’s not so different. Before the pandemic, we talked about our day, but did I tell her everything? Did she tell me all the times she thought about something I would want to know? 31
32 I don’t tell her how the parking lot near our home has become a soccer field, a bicycle track, a workout room, a coffee house, a diner, a back porch, a dog park, a phone booth, a bar, a rec room, an office park, a confessional, a synagogue, a hotel room, a movie theater, a lunch counter, a drive-in. It’s a place where people act like no one is watching. She would think it’s weird that I’ve created this place. But I would argue I’ve only discovered it. Others likely walk through the lot or toward the soccer field and never notice the people inside these cars. The ones I’ve become so curious about. The ones who keep me up at night wondering whether everyone has a secret life, and what do they do about it? I feel like the man in the BMW recognizes me too. I’m not good with names. I must know him; I just can’t place him. In all the weeks of walking, I only ever spoke with one person—or rather, he spoke to me. I’d seen him before, the hood-leaner. He was never in his car, always on a call, resting his elbows on the hood and smiling. Not a crazy smile, but a welcoming one; he was trying to make eye contact. I could feel it the way you can tell with some people that they are trying to interact. “You must live around here,” he said in a friendly tone, pulling a pod from his ear. “You like my office?” No one had even made eye contact, let alone spoken to me in all these months and all these laps. I felt oddly safe behind my mask. Startled, I pulled out my own earpiece. “Yeah, I live just a few blocks away.” It was reflexive; I have no idea why I told him anything. I stopped to let the dogs sniff his flip-flops. “I can’t work at home,” he told me without prompting. I said nothing, unable to get my bearings with this guy. “I go out to the field with some golf balls and work on my chipping in between calls,” he said. I nodded and yanked at the dog’s leash. We never speak again. After weeks of seeing the same people, I am now convinced I know them, wondering anew if I know them from someplace else. Like Black BMW. But I don’t reach out to him or any of them. It’s their time to stare into a bank of trees or the brick wall that surely makes up one side of the empty school gym. I don’t want them telling me their stories; I want to hear them, without editorial. They are here to live the life they can’t live anywhere else. All the things they did before the quarantine when the kids were at school, when they had a private office, when they had to commute. Their public lives are filtered through Zoom. Their private lives are confined within the walls of their homes. But their secret lives are the ones that have been edited out by the quarantine. There are still secrets; they are just housed in a parking lot outside a school. I want to know how their stories end. Where do they go next? What lie are they telling someone when they come home? As the reins of the pandemic loosen, I venture outside my neighborhood, and I search the crowds for my people from the lot. The relationship is one-sided; I hide behind a Image by Sam Jones
mask, and they sit behind a windshield. All these people live within a football field of my house, and yet there’s not a hint of recognition? As hard as I try to place them, my only real memories are from the lot. “Aren’t you going?” Katie asked me one morning from the other side of the bed. “Going where?” “The dogs. The vet?” she reminded me. I was tired, but she was right. “Looks like rain,” I said as I shuffled to the bathroom to brush my teeth. The dogs started jumping at the sight of their leashes. I tried in vain to explain to them that we weren’t going for a walk. But we went outside to the car, and they pulled me toward the park. There was still time and, besides, it was Tuesday and I wanted to see the Grunter and her yoga mat. We began the usual route, and one of the dogs pulled me toward the lot, but the other wanted to head home, perhaps sensing the rain that was sure to come. As the first drops hit the back of my neck, my head swiveled as the black BMW pulled past me. I hurried the dogs along as the rain began to fall. As I rounded the corner of my street, I could see my wife on the front porch, waving the black BMW up the driveway. The man emerged from his car, pulling up his jacket to hide from the rain as my wife ushered him inside. THE END
Image by Ivana Lang
STILL, LIFE WITH FRUIT by Jai Bashir
Encounter with phonelines of sun-spillage from the center star. Ringing and calls with slips of leather skin and ledgers of the stone mantle a mango.
Bats mirror figs. hanging in lines, cradled in themselves. drape from the roof.
If only the pin of every grenade was just a thick star of the pomegranate it was named for.
Biting down a shiver of blade to coin the body in between syllables. Gajar ka halwa chewed in Eid mouths on a hot day with falooda-stained teeth.
The word for banana in Hindi is in such proximity for the word for loneliness. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve shared a twinned loneliness with many â&#x20AC;&#x201D; unfolding the stringy veil of our richness.
In Manhattan, I carried a bouquet of radishes. Earth buds in yolk of spiced white and tectonic of pink. Roots tickled with loam and sunlight appeared as a ligature and hemmed letters between now and then.
feral, swinging garden Feline faced anti-angels Hugged in wings.
Sweet halves in shapes of ears part to answer dormant sweetness. Holding two in my hand: A pair is not a pear and so goes on their existence in rules of three in a still life.
American alphabet books start with apples, so does The Bible. After salaat, Papa starts his day with making ringlets, in the form of rosettes of discarded skin from desert reptiles. Slices of c-shaped saape.
Sooraj: Con La Serpiente
Each living thing The Sun is Citrus. has a sun in it. Sol. Snake printing lazy crawls in sunglow sand, leaving behind a private alphabet. Even the snake prowling under shadow of Southwest red rock tilling with its body â&#x20AC;&#x201D;temple from temple.
Image by Sarah Cryan
SNAKEBITES by Sharon Whitehill The beautiful yellow python unexpectedly heavy and warm undulated between my hands and over my shoulders. Later that day, trust established, I reached for her again, offering my hand as if to a dog. BAM! A strike so swift it was already over before my reflexive jump back “She saw the motion,” her rueful owner explained, “snatched at what she thought was a rat but immediately knew her mistake.” There once was a man who handled me deftly as if he had come from the gods, his word-music working its spell in the guise of a charmer. Until he hissed a rebuff that stupefied me. The hot shock of it like a pinched nerve up the back of the neck. Or the bite of a snake.
DIRECTIONAL FLOW by Diane Sahms-Guarnieri In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. —Albert Camus
Sycamore in moonlight Just after torn & scattered sunset smoky clouds billow around & over pieces of January’s protective moon lacing through Sycamore dreams. Still tied to & hanging from thinnest threads, brown-seed-balls dangle like the leftover spirit of Christmas swaying canopy; and I am Bethlehem arriving, believing. Naked limbs, resilient trunk’s silhouette have awakened connective natural pattern within, yet from another angle, snow lingers as I wrestle cold & bitterness, dead days of loss, loitering memories. I am Jacob. Sycamore at master bedroom window We watched each other dress and undress, since I moved here decades ago in a different season’s climate. Sycamore in summer emeralds, 1986, welcoming limbs spread, fanning hands’ applause. I, two-year-newlywed, was dressed in new-home-hope, six-month-old son in tow. After twenty-two-long and desolate winters, two more children—Divorced. Then a dozen more years of Time’s pebbles rippling through tidal pools of ever-changing presence—Sycamore’s guiding spirit still, there. Older, wiser, dressed in peace after witness to horrific storms. 39
Sycamore Speaks When I branched over into silence when snow laden patience burned fiery spirit within when soldering iron pen’s wood burning tip transferred image when I allowed deep-spirited-roots to hold when shafted ends reached praise when newly formed humility shed the old bark of self— Sycamore became audible: Some deserve the drought God brings; the against winds blowing. Arrow-twig-weathervane pointed toward Bethlehem & Moab, straight into Naomi’s heartwood / Ruth’s story. Journey toward muscular labor of famished fields— devastated mother’s despair. Toward muted faith. Clouds Brave strength of silver-cloud-chords slide me under harmony, not questioning reason of antiquated ages or directional flow. Famine Though my sons died— not physical deaths from fields of famine— their living-disappearance is none other than death to me. Tinsel starlight’s silent promise, I lift my eyes to see. Another window From behind heart’s window, eyes paint morning. Cloud filled essence spilling, as I realize everything holds its own dimension in time & space like this daybreak, where I cannot decide if shades of blue are behind, or around, or in front of Sycamore. Upper canopy ever so slightly swaying,
as sky’s peeking blues keep changing intensity of hues. Crowned wisdom of loved creator— To trust God as Naomi trusted. Toward Naomi Aged spirit, wanderer, whole heartedly gazing into fragile pane’s reflections— hear Sycamore’s winter song silently singing beyond all senses—see into depths of being. Aged spirit, wandering barley & wheat fields, thrashing unspooling thoughts toward inner furrows, share in heart’s bound breaking. Step inside fields & passageways as God, himself, takes many shape-shifter forms. Resident death within constraints of familial recovery such unhealable & incurable sufferings for those spiritually lost, while still alive. By mercy, by grace bring golden-wheat-harvest.
Image by Bill Wolak
SUDDENLY NAKED by Sean Johnson Somewhere in her ribs she sensed there was more to life than just naming flowers in a garden as a tame tiger tickled the tips of her fingers with its tongue. Too much peace is never a good thing. Don’t they say paradise is the devil’s workshop? But what could she do being just a woman and newly cut from the cloth of a beautiful man with a body as new as those first six days were long?
Image by Marina Nikolaou
Certainly she couldn’t complain when each morn shimmering trees broke though orphan soil just to provide a place for her birds to balance their wings and warble together in perfect pitch. She grinned and bore it until light and darkness fell, but when they intermingled in the dark, the unnamed vastness became too tangible. Stupidity, daringness, a lack of gratitude—call it what you wish. But what an invigorating liberation to be wooed by another serpent, to feel a weight lifted as she plucked it and let it fall into her palm. And after, to be suddenly naked and free of the stark raving heaviness of Eden. 43
RITUALS OF SURFACE by Delaney Uronen No, I don’t want to know how much it cost: the sugar scrubs, the polish the shampoos and conditioner, the skimpy little silk— well, satin— pajama sets and panties I spin for three-way critiques, the rows of endless oils and lotions ready at my vanity for rituals of surface. Nor do I wish to know the time spent on self-care, uprooting and razing the insolent weeds of my body, stroking Better Than Sex Mascara onto curled lashes, coaxing Hello Happy Flawless Foundation into facade, trying to train my abs to lie flat, or else pulling heel towards head, face and spine cocked to one side, pumice in hand sloughing heel, hard, buffing out my last edges until I can slip through his callous hands like some expensive pearl string broken across taut cotton sheets all so that when he finally slides the cold slip over my stomach in the split second before he sends it slinking from the mattress I just may get to hear him say: Oh. This is sexy.
Image by Sofia Lombardo
Image by Mario Loprete
CALL THIS RESEARCH by Rachel Tramonte When your mother is depressed you will be depressed. When you are depressed your mother will be depressed. Your daughter will be depressed because you and your mother May be or have been depressed. Aunt Tilly Was depressed. Aunt Candice was electrified. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s inherited, Intergenerational. Old minds are housed in living bodies. There are a few things you can do. Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t read too many numbers. Watch the orange-red flames climb bleached stalks Of smudge sticks while the wind carries The scent of eucalyptus burning, wildly away.
WEDDING DRESS, NEARLY NEW by Suzanne O’Connell It hung in the thrift shop, a puffy white butterfly. The note, attached by safety pin, said: “Wedding Dress Nearly New. Worn just once. Worn through the minister’s words, the ring on my finger, the kiss, the introduction of the new couple, the chicken, rice, and salad. Worn through the cutting of the cake. Worn during the first dance. I felt like a queen as I twirled. Under the skirt, embroidered by my mother, you’ll notice two entwined blue hearts. My something blue. On the hem are a few dark spots of blood. With the proper love and care, I’m sure they can be removed.”
Image by Sofia Lombardo
Images by Ben Stevens
MONSTER by AN Grace At one point, East had run away, the loose energy inside too much to contain, sated only by air and dust and escape. East had gone south on the seduction that North would go west. Sydney to Canberra to Albany and on. The road worked, at least until the destination was in sight, but when the race had been run, when the feet moved like an automaton as they waded out into the deep water at Coral Bay—North found East. Two years later, when everything that was meant to change remained the same, the divine intervention fell upon them. The day began like any other. It was hot, blue skies to nowhere and everywhere. North wanted to go to the beach. East hated the beach. They went to the beach. The headline in the next day’s Sydney Morning Herald read: Swimmer Killed Off Manly Beach, Eaten by Monster White Pointer. The story was full of turned down excitement, a double-page spread of filler and suppressed gore designed to titillate readers with that tingling fizz of fear as they remember that nature may have been conquered, but in the sea, exposed, frolicking, not conquering—all bets are off. East kept only page two as a trophy, tailoring its truncated, far more satisfying headline: Eaten by Monster. Keenly aware of the glaring contradiction of a pacifist welcoming the breach of someone’s peace, East came to an understanding that perhaps victims are not the best judges of the punishment deserved, and with surprisingly little internal conflict, it was decided. Justice had been done. An aligning of chance, not purpose. A death sentence to commute a life sentence. *** From the beginning, East felt strange and estranged, with friends at arm’s length, and an extended family that could not be kept at arm’s length. Being an outsider in Sydney was unremarkable, and yet it lent itself to a kind of isolation in proximity, a barrier to worldly things like freedom to breathe. The rebellion was subtle. “Anyone can be a surgeon, mother, it takes someone special to become a 49 pathologist.”
50 Mother grimaced before she managed a smile. A few years later when East was working on secondment at the Centre for Forensic Science, mother and father got their revenge. Years had been spent batting away questions about marriage and children and everything else there was no time for, until a silent truce appeared to have been negotiated. When mother mentioned Sunday lunch, the request was not out of the ordinary, but on arrival, through the battered red front door, past the bedroom that remained a child’s in perpetuity, there was an atmosphere. “Come in, come in!” Father boomed as he stood under the cross at the living room doorway, turning slowly to reveal North, sitting smiling on the sofa still covered in plastic. “The best surgeon in Sydney,” said mother after they’d sat down, unable to contain the glee in her voice, “just ask Uncle Peter.” And just like that, East fell into the trap. Not right away, not completely lacking in free will, but slowly and quietly drifting into North’s shadow. *** After North was consumed, not simply killed, East was in a state of excited, numbing loss, but soon found out that a life led is unable to be undone with any real immediacy. It was only a few months later, when the inquest began at the New South Wales Coroner’s Court, that East was blackley revitalised. The inquest heard the sea had been eerily calm, the lack of wind amplifying the heat, encouraging human frailty into the water. The lifeguards estimated only around 30 percent visibility, after a storm the day before had churned up the sand and enlivened the plankton. They noted that the attack took place at 9.17 A.M., and East noted that—had they got there a few hours later—North would have been afforded safety in numbers. The lungs had signs of water, but a drowning this was not. The first bite didn’t kill immediately either. East had known that anyway, because North had screamed, the shocked kind of scream that’s reserved only as a final, last resort. The wounds bore all the hallmarks of an attack from below. The lower right leg and most of the left leg had been removed completely. Eaten just like that. The right thigh bore characteristic teeth marks, with extensive soft tissue trauma, and incised wounds of the femoral artery. It was apparent that in the ensuing struggle, hands had likely been stuck out to fend the shark off. There were incised wounds to the left wrist and extensive soft tissue trauma, with transection of the radial artery and vein. The right wrist and lower forearm were gone, as if it had been their wish also to vanish completely. The shark had drained North of blood, of life, just as North had drained East. Big Bertha was her name. East knew this because she’d been tagged by researchers from Sydney University’s Marine Studies Institute. Less than six hours after she’d done her work, she was dead too, caught by one of the 42 amateur fishing vessels eagerly hunting a monster. She was eleven years old, a huge pregnant beast sixteen feet long and almost as round, covered with scars from the fight that had apparently drawn her to the shallows. *** The day after the inquest finished, at precisely 9.17 A.M., Manly Beach was quiet, the lifeguard station empty. Toes dug nervously into warm dry sand, until feet full of life spirited them forwards, to wet sand and beyond into the frothing surf, until they lost touch with the ground—until they were swimming for their life.
Image by Bridget Conway
HUMAN NATURE’S TELEGRAM TO RUSSIAN BOTS by Jake Sheff “For legends attract the very best in our times, just as ideologies attract the average, and the whispered tales of gruesome secret powers behind the scenes attract the very worst.” —Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism “He was ruled by those he ruled. Putting favorites first, he lost favor…” —Luís Vaz de Camões, The Lusiads Dying of exposure, just like a finished Product, π is changing its value, sir STOP Pain and difficulty are quiet people; How can that be, sir STOP I-thou relations, with hypospadias, Correspond to music and treason, sir STOP You know everything, sir STOP Future novel Titles and memories Are at home in dreams, but profound creation Craves destructive sadness, sir STOP The purple Ocean spray gets richer, according to my Sources, sir STOP Your
Voice’s furniture; when you sing, they come to Life, sir STOP Your lips are my hospital, their Words are more like daggers than scalpels, sir STOP Weather permitting, Ridicule means laughing like bullets, flannel Hills and heads too full of paintbrushes, sir STOP Fear’s had one too many sex-crazed tertulias, Almost subjective To the point of madness, sir STOP This piss-test Is a puff-piece, sir STOP You heard it here first: Man’s ambition, Waltzing Matilda on crop Circles in fields of Mental oats, sir STOP Your permission’s purple Skies and prejudice are slow going, sir STOP Faith is non-binary in sentences by Henry James, sir STOP 1/18/20
Image by Olivia Costin
ALASKA (ABRIDGED) by Michael Estabrook feels like I’m flying to Alaska nope Alaska Airlines Boston to San Fran should be called something else like — Coast-to-Coast Airlines of course I don’t trust technology, I’m an old-fashioned guy Technophobia—Fear of Technology Finally paid the $149 watched the two young whippersnappers from Geek Squad fiddle around with our giant new TV for two minutes and that was that “All set, Sir.” but you’re flying in a 70-ton metal tube 34,000 feet above the Earth Aviophobia—Fear of Flying When you’re 34,000 feet up plowing into a 185 mph headwind, jiggling like mad the last thing you think about is the flower garden you’ll be planting in the spring. In the primordial beginning 4.5 billion years ago the moon was ejected from planet Earth into its own orbit after a collision with a Mars-sized planet (Theia). If I were an astronomer I’d be searching for signs of life on Alpha Centuri or in the stars along Orion’s Belt. The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men often go awry. Robert Burns (17591796) Dad was techno-savvy, used to buy a vacuum tube at Rickles for a buck 10 fix the TV himself. dark skin long dark hair Cleopatra eyes Different than Dante’s Beatrice of course. She was angelic, ethereal, untouchable, his lifelong muse and the inspiration for The Divine Comedy 55 his poetic masterpiece.
Astrophilia—Love of Stars and Outer Space Lying in the grass amazed looking up at the magnificent splendor of the constellations. More amazed when my girl lies down alongside me. Up again at 3 AM fumbling for my pad and pen, the Muse nudging me, hissing in my ear “Come on man move it I got things to say.” what to do on an airplane to keep busy for 6 1/2 hours can’t simply stare at the Cleopatra stewardess the entire time try reading Ulysses or Finnegan’s Wake if you need a challenge or Shakespeare’s Richard III A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse! Talk about technology, we went through two new keyless entry locks in a week: buzz – pfffst – buzz – pfffst – stuck. Stupid technology! When I was young, I loved Astronomy learned all the constellations, memorized the major stars in the sky: Sirius, Polaris, Betelgeuse, Rigel, Vega, Antares, Arcturus, Canopus, Capella, the Pleiades . . . Now I look up when I hear a plane overhead and sometimes not even then. dark nylons too and shiny black stilettos Dante suffered with this unrequited love for Beatrice his entire life, a fate that surely would’ve befallen me had my girl not agreed to be my girl from the get-go. of course my life was dominated by jealousy and possessiveness I knew she could do better than me they can always do better than you smirks the Devil
AND THE WORLD GOES ON by Jordyn Becker There’s a pink sunset reflected onto a lake surrounded by pines, a yellow passenger plane flying overhead named Ellie, a flock of Canadian geese traveling south for the winter. There’s a wooden canoe floating on the placid lake, a pair of mallards paddling next to the canoe, a man lying in the canoe beside an upright fishing pole. There’s a blackened bullet hole on the man’s right temple, a mosquito sucking what blood remains from the man’s bare calf, and the hook on the end of the fishing line has long lost its worm.
Image by Bridget Conway
LIFEâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S A LOL by Richard Rauch a lark, a lollygag, a long-eyed, languid look, rolling along a loose-limp latticework, lacing cellophane planes of love, labor, loss, all liquid and lush, laid out in loud, loopy, lugubrious lines layered in glutinous similes dangling in tangles like limp balloons, all lark and no lading, alit to flit in the light of longing, yet angling to lampoon, while all the while locked in a labyrinth of languor, leering and lost. Let us laud and lament, leave laurels to laughter. Alas, life is a lot like that.
59 Image by Tyler Ewing
Nick Huffman Editor-In-Chief
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Ana Perez-McKay Visual Arts Director
Kayla Quintana Zine Editor
Sarah Strang Audiobook Producer
Adia Monzon PR Manager
Special thanks to our volunteers Harley Deguzman and KlĂŠ Boyd
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 MEDIUM is used for the headline text. Greenerprinter printed this FSC-certified, 8.5 x 5.5-inch book on 100% recycled 100-pound paper with soy-based ink. As a UNR organization, we also strive to be a 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 and world. 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 honorable mention for the 2017 Pinnacle Awards.
WANT TO HAVE YOUR WORK PUBLISHED? Brushfire publishes biannually. 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 2020 Brushfire and its individual contributors. All rights reserved by the respective artists. Original work is used with the express permission of the artists. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher. The opinions expressed in this publication and its associated website and social media are not necessarily those of the University of Nevada, Reno, or the student body. Brushfire is funded by The Associated Students of the University of Nevada.
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