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BRUSHFIRE literary arts journal

63 vol. 1 editor Katie O’Neill




Carolyn LaBuda Josh Berry Caitlin Thomas Angela Spires Cassandra Clark

The Autumn Mermaid Demons Tallulah A Good Wife Tick Tock Tick Tock

10 46 60 74 86

S.M. McLean Hank Sosnowski Hank Sosnowski Eleni Sexton Mary Nork Aaron Benedetti S.M. McLean Joe Crowley Matt Sherer Nathan Slinker Gabriel Traverso Ted Varney Nathan Slinker Ashley Noel Hennefer Matt Sherer Joanne Mallari Mary Nork Mary Nork Jeff Chapman

Cloud Burst So Close Reno Tradition Since 1931 My Grandpa, Dementia Soaked Mandlebrot Sets Google Search: Poem Twenty Thouand Pounds Fifty Clothing Catalogs Your Raymond Carver Storie Watching the Street Runaway My Story Jabal Sinjar The Sweat Satyr A Lifetime Later Matter of the Heart Winter Gig In a World That Spins By Laws Arachnophobia

7 9 9 20 22 23 28 31 32 34 38 40 41 56 67 73 75 78 80

Meri Coury Kate Cotter Kate Cotter Ashley Marie Peck Ashley Marie Peck Patricia Goss Megan Berner Tony Medellin Ashley Marie Peck

Nite on the Legacy Bud Sailboat Truth Bravery Grandmother Explorer Series Untitled Fortitude



4 8 8 18 19 21 24-27 29 30

Untitled Figure Beggar Series Pyramid Star Trail Homeless Veteran’s Series Mrs. Rose Last Breath Virgin Mary Skateboard Untitled Me China Loca Koi Fish Estefania Cervantes Aviles Liscence Craze Geoff Roseborough Lightning Eunice choi Map of its Story Nick Noyes Julius Gonz Untitled Christopher Stehman Bloop Series Ted Varney Gay Pride Mike Curatello Traditional Tattooed Girl Ivy Antonowitsch Untitled Emily Rogers Comfortable Jesse Rodrigue Red Rock Fire Jesse Rodrigue Smokey Eunice Choi Childhood Brandon Collins Equestrian Brandon Collins Slingblade Ivy Antonowitsch Untitled Ivy Antonowitsch Untitled Ashley Robison Sister’s Smile Suzanne Roberts Gobi Woman Mike Curatello Wolfman Mike Curatello Zombie Mike Curatello Samurai Brian Krueger Collage Series Meri Coury Infrared Night Michael Gjurich Dry Skin Pan 10 Wrong Ways Editorial Staff Notes

33 35 36-37 39 42-45 50 51 52 52 53 53 54 55 57 58 61 62-63 64 65 66 66 68 68 69 70 71 72 75 77 79 81 82 83 84-85 87 88 89-93 94


Ivy Antonowitsch Brian Krueger Ivy Antonowitsch Geoff Roseborough Ted Varney Eunice Choi Joel Wilson Mike Curatello Brandon Collins Able Press Able Press



2010 five

cy by Meri Coury, Lega Digi e tal th on Pho e tog it ra N d ph


Editor’s Note

Welcome to Brushfire 63 Vol. 1! Beyond this page you will find some of the best art, poetry, and prose you’ve ever seen and these artists are all from Reno, Nevada. Surprised? I’m not! Reno is a veritable gold mine (or silver mine) of talent and I am very grateful these artists are allowing me the opportunity to showcase their original work in this publication. Every edition of Brushfire receives submissions that shape its form and content and the submissions for this fall edition are particularly interesting. In this issue you will find artwork, poetry, and prose centered around people—people at the bottom, people at the top, children, grandparents, people who have become monsters on the outside, people who have become monsters on the inside, explorers, masqueraders, observers, figments of the imagination, and people who shred. I feel the pieces in this edition intricately explore human feeling, the human psyche, and human creativity with no limits. The spectrum of this edition is bound to chill you, thrill you, and fulfill you. I hope you enjoy the depth and range of works in this book as much as I do. Take a moment, have a seat, and behold the talent within these pages. This one is gonna be rad. Your faithful editor, Katie O’Neill

Tapping across the terracotta keys of our tiled rental roof, the rain writes life in pooling paragraphs leaking in seeping through our so saturated spackled page ceiling

dripping rhythmic thoughts into safe-keeping drop-collecting pots, glasses, vases, bowls

leaving visions in the Rorschach water spots above our bed where all else is stripped to immerse in the solitary sound of our rainstorm.


Cloud Burst S.M. McLean

Sailboat by Kate Cotter, Acrylic on Canvas

Bud by Kate Cotter, Digital Photograph


So Close

Hank Sosnowski


Razor thin moon slices the sky above our kissless “Goodnight.� Hope comes in two flavors false and no.

Reno Tradition Since 1931 Hank Sosnowski

Haunted cottage bed in satin whips in drawers Cuban cigars in humidor German beer on ice votive candles scattered memory shadows cast about to be abandoned but never exorcised

The Autumn Mermaid


Carolyn LaBuda

Ricky poked it with a stick. “It doesn’t look like a mermaid.” “What else would it be?” Rachel swatted the stick away before he could poke it a second time. “Don’t mermaids have hair and skin and, you know, a human half ?” Rachel frowned. “Not this one: look at it.” The two children looked at the mermaid. It was as big as any other fish they had ever seen, about a foot long, but it looked far different from the trout and blue-gill that normally swam near the pier. Thin, green skin couldn’t hide the veins spidering under its body’s surface. Black beetles of eyes bulged out of its face. Below, a cave of a mouth retreated into the dark abyss of a throat; its lips were fleshy and the color of toothpaste. The mermaid’s tail ended in hinted fins, clear and wispy, and the flippers on either side of its swollen belly were fans of veins; the creature’s flapping gills gasped for water. It rolled onto its back and burped a sour, yellow note. “I want to keep it.” Rachel cautiously picked it up, holding the wriggling mermaid in two hands as far away from her face as possible. Slowly, with her nose crinkled up, she pulled it into her arms and held it like a baby. It opened its fleshy lips and a gargled powdery green noise dripped from its mouth; the girl’s nose smoothed with a smile. “Where do you want to keep it?” “We can put it in the bathtub.” The slime and mud covering the creature climbed onto the girl’s sweater. Ricky laughed. “You think Mom’s gonna let you put that thing in the tub? It looks like a slug.” Rachel crumpled her face into a frown. “It does not!” The mermaid burped again, this time letting the powdery green and the sickly, yellow mix into sound. Ricky looked around, his eyes touching the bait cage at the end of the pier and brushing the tiny bucket that Rachel used for making mud castles. Then he saw the garage; he thought for a moment. “We can put it in Shadow’s old cage.” “You can’t put water in a rabbit cage.” “We can just put it in the lake. We’ll put it so that the door is on top, so we can get that thing in and out of the cage easier. Plus the holes are big enough for minnows to swim through. I don’t know what this thing eats, but it should be able to get food in the cage.” Ricky looked at the mermaid: it was swaying back and forth on its back. Its round belly caught the light, showing off veins the color of bruises. “You just splash water on it until I get back with the cage.” The little boy trudged through the dying November grass to the garage. The leaves were already gone from the trees: the world was dead, waiting for the snow to bury it. He searched through the garage, and when he found the wire rabbit cage, he turned to bring it back to the shallow lake seeping into the backyard. He could still see Rachel marching from the water to the mud with sand-castle buckets of water. Ricky carried the cage back with both hands, toting it awkwardly in front of him. His knees hit the wire cage with every step, no matter where he tried to shift his load. When he set it in the water, he had to walk halfway down the pier to get to water deep enough so that only the very top of the cage was still in the air. Rachel picked up the squirming mermaid and walked into the chilly water; she set the creature into the


cage. It sunk out of sight into the muddy water for a minute before floating back up to the top of the cage. “What should we name it?” Rachel asked. “Max.” Ricky squinted at it. “Steven has a dog named Max, and it’s awesome.” “It’s a mermaid.” When Ricky just looked blankly back at her, Rachel crossed her arms. “That means it’s a girl. Duh.” “It’s in Shadow’s cage. Let’s just call it Shadow.” “Shadow died, Ricky. I don’t want the mermaid to die.” Ricky splashed a handful of muddy water at his little sister. “Fine. What do you want to name it?” Rachel smiled, her teeth starting to chatter with the cold. “Let’s call it Rainbow Diamonds.” The water came up to her stomach and was slowly creeping up her sweater. “Forget it. It doesn’t get a name. It’s a slug.” Ricky noticed the goose bumps forming on his skin, and he looked over at his sister and saw she was shivering. “Let’s go inside.” The two of them gave the mermaid one last look. It blinked twice at them, and then belched out a sound that had turned a darker, healthier shade of green. “I thought I told you not to play near the water without telling me?” Ricky opened his mouth to speak, but Mom shook her head. Mom believed in cleaned plates, made beds, brushed teeth, and rules. “You want me to ground you? I’ll make you stay inside with me all day and not let you go outside. Is that what you want?” “Mom—” Mom’s anger cut through Ricky’s sentence. “Is it?” “No.” “What are the rules?” Rachel looked up. “Don’t go by the water. Don’t go in the street. Don’t talk to strangers.” Ricky’s face hardened as he looked at his sister; then he turned to face his mother. “I’m eight years old, Mom, I’m not gonna drown in the shallow water.” If his voice were a person, it would have rolled its eyes. Ricky, however, did not roll his eyes, because his mother was looking at him. He looked down at his feet. “Dad lets us go by the river when we’re at his house.” “Do I look like your dad?” Ricky didn’t answer. Mom took a deep breath. “Why do you two want to go down there anyway?” Rachel smiled. “Mom! We found a—” The boy glared at his sister. “—a really cool fish. We just want to look at the fish in the water. We won’t go out to the end of the pier. And if anything happens to Rachel, I can run to the house in six Mississippi-seconds.” When his mother didn’t say anything, he looked up at her. “You can time me if you want.” Mom sighed and sat down on the couch between her children. “When you want to play by the water, I want you to come and get me.” “We can’t play with you watching,” Rachel told her. The girl started to pick at the two little warts on her left thumb, but her mother grabbed her hand. “I’ll work on the back porch. I just want to be outside in case anything happens. And you can go halfway out onto the pier to look for fish: I don’t want you two in the water up to your waists when it’s this cold out. Once it starts snowing, you’re not


allowed out there at all anymore, clear? Water with ice is dangerous, even if you’re eight years old.” Ricky threw popcorn into the mermaid’s mouth. The toothpaste lips floated on the surface, while the rest of the head was hidden under water. He could just make out the beetle-black eyes under the surface. A puffy, cooked kernel floated, bobbing up and down over the ripples for a few seconds, before the creature found the treat and sucked it into the black abyss of its throat. Ricky threw in another piece. “Give me a turn!” Rachel snatched a handful of popcorn and threw it at the mermaid. The creature ate all of the buttery snacks and then bobbed its head above the surface. It pressed its fleshy lips together and made a throaty burble that colored the air dark purple. “I dare you to touch it,” Ricky told his sister. “I held it yesterday.” “But it wasn’t in the water: now it’s all slimy and muddy and slippery and gross.” Rachel stuck out her bottom lip. “I don’t want to touch it.” “I double dare you.” “You’re a meanie-head.” “I triple dare you.” Rachel looked at the mermaid, who was still burbling out purple noises through a fishy smile. Rachel shook her head. “I chicken out.” “I triple-dog dare you.” Ricky smiled. “I already chickened out!” “You can’t chicken out of a triple-dog dare.” “You’re stupid,” she pouted, but she was already getting onto her stomach so that she could lean over the pier without falling into the water. She stuck her little fingers into the water, and the black abyss of the mouth immediately tried to eat them. Rachel’s voice jumped out of her throat; and her finger leapt out of the water. Then she giggled, and her fingers decided to get back into the chilly water. “It tickles.” Ricky stuck his fingers in the water, and the mermaid started biting him with its toothless, tongueless mouth. And it did tickle. Rachel stuck her thumb in the water. “I wish it would eat my warts. Mom puts medicine on them, and it burns.” She pulled her fingers out of the water and showed Ricky her left thumb with its two raindrop-sized warts, as if he had never seen them before. She stuck her thumb back in the water. Ricky threw the rest of the popcorn into the water, and the mermaid quickly abandoned the girl’s thumb. He watched the creature vacuum up the yellow puffs of food. “We fed it,” said the boy. “Can we go inside now? It’s too cold.” “It’s not too cold: it’s not even snowing yet.” Ricky sat at the end of the driveway waiting for the bus, while Rachel stood by the mailbox. They were statues with blinking eyes and breathing lungs and shivering skin. They didn’t talk, and there was no sound except for the cold November wind. The clouds blanketed the sky with wrinkled, gray fabric. Rachel’s eyes ran towards Ricky and then retreated to the snow at her feet every few seconds. Finally, he sighed. “What, Rachel?” “Nothing.” The girl’s eyes went back to their relay race. “What?”

“Look! It’s snowing! It’s snowing!” Ricky woke up to his sister’s face hanging down from the top bunk. He sat up and looked out the window. “Maybe we’ll get a snow day, Ricky!” He smiled at that thought. It wouldn’t be cold if he could just stay inside and not spend the snowy morning waiting for the bus. “I told you the mermaid was magic! It made snow!” The little girl’s head had disappeared, and the bed shook with her excited bounces. “I wished for snow, and I got snow – it’s like a genie!” “Except it looks like a booger, and it burps. And it doesn’t grant wishes; it snowed because it was cold.” Ricky looked out at the white powder burying the backyard. “What about my warts?” Ricky got out of bed and yawned. “Mom put medicine on them, and they went away.” “The mermaid got rid of them.” Footsteps on the stairs caught their attention, and Mom walked in a second


The girl took a deep breath. “I think the mermaid is magic.” “Why?” He picked the withered blades of the November grass at his feet. The girl shoved her thumb in front of her face. Ricky pushed it away. “What?” “Look!” “It’s a thumb.” Ricky put the grass he had picked in a pile. “My warts!” “They’re gross.” But Ricky looked closer at his sister’s thumb. It was smooth, save for the peachy ripples of the girl’s fingerprint. “They’re gone.” She smiled. “I wished for it, and the mermaid ate my warts.” Ricky looked back at the grass. “You’re stupid.” “I am not!” “Stupid dum-dum.” The bus pulled up, and the two children sat as far away from each other as they could. “Then Kasey told me that my coat was ugly, and Bobby F. told him that he was being mean, and then Kasey told him that he wouldn’t share his Pringles at lunch, and Bobby F. told him that he wouldn’t share his fruit roll-ups, and then Miss Stuart told them to stop being mean to each other, and then they told her that I started it! And then…” Ricky willed his ears to close up and drown out the sounds of his little sister. He was feeding the mermaid again, watching it bob up and down and make throaty noises that sounded so colorful. They were streaks of green and blue and muddy hazel against the gray background of the dying, autumn world. “It’s too cold out here. I hate the cold.” “I love it,” said his sister, stopping mid-sentence in her explanation of what she’d told Miss Stuart. “I want to go inside. Maybe Mom will make hot chocolate for us.” “I wish it would snow.” “I wish your face would snow.” He paused and stuck his tongue out at his sister. “If it snows, what are we going to do with the mermaid?” “Maybe Mom will buy us a tank. We can put it in my room and feed it popcorn.” “She wouldn’t do that. It’s too ugly. Come on, let’s go inside.”


later with cups of hot cocoa. When she saw them looking at the snow, she smiled sympathetically. “The snow plows came through this morning. Get ready for school, kidlets.” She handed them the warm mugs. They drank their hot chocolate, and when they were finished, their mother handed them hats and coats and scarves and mittens and boots and snow pants. When they were suitably dressed for the icy weather, the children left the house early and walked down to the little lake that spilled into their backyard. Ricky thought it looked like a melting root-beer slush poured into a bowl: the murky, brown water covered the mud and reeds of the area; flakes of ice floated on the surface. Rachel watched from the shore, water slowly seeping through her shoes, as Ricky filled a fishing bucket with water from the lake. He took his gloves off and reached into the mermaid’s cage, feeling the slimy, squirmy body wiggle in his hands. As he pulled the beetle-eyed creature out of the water, it gargled a red note, high and uncomfortable. Ricky set it in the fishing bucket, and then he and Rachel hauled the bucket into the garage. “It’ll be safe in here.” Ricky put the bucket next to the water-heater. “It’ll keep it warm.” “But not too warm, right?” Rachel stood next to the bucket and tried to feel the air. “It’ll be fine. Come on, we’re gonna miss the bus.” The mermaid bounced up and down in the water, and its red gargle tugged at their ears. After school, Ricky got on the bus to go home and put his backpack on the seat to save it for his sister. When she came on the bus with the lines of third-graders, she looked tired, pale; her eyes were searching around as if she didn’t know where she was. Ricky moved his backpack and let her sit down next to him. “Are you okay?” She nodded, but before the bus even started to move, she was asleep on his shoulder. When the bus stopped at their house, Ricky woke his sister up, and they walked back down the long driveway. Rachel stopped to cough, a thick, phlegm-filled thing. When they got to the door, Rachel took off her coat and snow-pants and ran to her mother, hugging the woman around the knees. Mom looked down at her. “What’s wrong, sweetie? You have a bad day at school?” Rachel just hugged her mother. Mom knelt down and picked up the little girl. “What’s wrong?” Her hand pressed against the girl’s pale face; Mom frowned. “You might have a little fever, Honey. Go put on your pajamas; Ricky will put in a movie for you.” Ricky walked down stairs and looked through the movies lined up on the floor. He pulled out Snow White; he thought Rachel would like it. He waited for the tape to rewind and then pressed play. Rachel came down during the previews and sat down on the couch. She usually sang along with the songs, but she was asleep by the time before she even got to see a wicked queen. Ricky went into the garage and looked at the mermaid. It burped and gargled and belched in ever redder shades between eating the slices of salami that Ricky threw into the water. “Rachel isn’t acting normal. She’s sleeping through her favorite movie. She didn’t even come check on you.” The mermaid blinked its beetle eyes. Its thin skin didn’t blot out the black eyes completely, and Ricky got the feeling that it could see him through its eyelids. Ricky threw the rest of the salami into the bucket, and then walked back to his sister. Mom


was on the phone talking to someone about numbers. “One-oh-three. Two hours, maybe longer, at least since she got home from school. I’ll bring her in now, then. Dr. Baker, if he’s available. Thank you.” Ricky sat on the couch near Rachel’s feet and looked at her face. Her face was littered with pale snowflakes of color. “Skin as white as snow,” the magic mirror on the television droned. The words echoed and mutated through his head. “I wish your face would snow,” he had said, and now the words were true. “I wish your face would snow.” Ricky ran back into the basement. “You stupid slug.” He looked down at the floating, fishy creature with his arms crossed. “This is your fault.” The creature burped a long, red noise that trickled out of its mouth like blood. Ricky kicked the bucket and watched the creature glide onto the basement floor. He hesitated for a moment; he almost picked the mermaid up and put it back into the bucket; he almost hurried out to the lake to get more water. But his mother called to him, “Ricky, put your coat on. We’re taking Rachel to the doctor.” Ricky gave the creature one more look before running upstairs and putting on his coat. The doctor’s office was boring. Dr. Baker blew up a glove like a balloon so that Ricky would have something to keep him occupied while Rachel went into a different room and got an x-ray of her chest. Ricky didn’t pay attention to the words his mother and the doctor tossed back and forth. The glove balloon was almost the color of the veined tummy of the mermaid: pale and yellowy green. Ricky imagined walking into the garage when he got home and looking at the creature. It had probably died. Its red sounds had probably withered into a rust-brown. Its eyes had probably closed, or worse, frozen open. When Rachel walked back into the room, Ricky had a sudden vision of his pale little sister entering the garage and seeing the sight of the dead mermaid. His heart started pounding. He didn’t know what to tell her. She would cry, and he would tell her that the mermaid made her sick, and she wouldn’t understand, and she would cry, and she would pick the creature up in her arms and hold it like a baby, and he would try to explain that he’d wished for this, and she would think that it was he – not the mermaid – that made her sick, and she would think that he killed the mermaid for no reason. And then she would never talk to him again. Ricky waited impatiently for his mother to finish talking to the doctor; Rachel coughed softly in the background. When Dr. Baker signed some papers, Ricky thought they would go home, but they stopped at a store to pick up some medicine for Rachel. Ricky waited impatiently, worriedly, anxiously, for the woman behind the counter to give his mother the medicine and explain how to use it; then he hurried his mother and sister back to the car. On the way home he watched the snow fall on the flat farmland. He looked out the window and not at his sister. He couldn’t face her; he couldn’t look at her knowing that he was the one who made her sick and the one who killed her mermaid. When the car pulled into the driveway, he started planning what to do. There was a chance that the mermaid wasn’t dead: he had to try to save it. When the car stopped, he ran up to the door, down the stairs, into the garage and grabbed the mermaid’s bucket without looking at it. Then he ran out the side door,


through the snow, and down to the lake. The bucket hit his side every few steps and bounced against the snowy ground. He reached the pier and plunged the bucket into the slushy water; then he walked back to the garage, hauling the bucket as best he could. He set it next to the water heater and looked at the mermaid. It wasn’t moving. Ricky picked it up and set it in the water, flinching when he felt how cold it was. It sank a little, not hitting the bottom, but not floating above the water either. He watched it for a few moments, thinking that it looked awfully dead. It didn’t move; it just hovered in the middle of the bucket. When minutes had passed and nothing happened, Ricky decided that it had to tell his sister. She’d never talk to him again, but he had to do it. He walked inside and approached Rachel. She was on the couch with her eyes closed and her body covered by a thick blanket. Ricky shook her. Nothing happened. He shook her again. “Rachel, wake up.” She didn’t. Ricky started to cry. “I wish your face would snow,” he’d said. The words echoed in his head. Her skin was white, like snow, and she wasn’t moving. He walked back and forth a few times, unsure of what to do or where to go. Thoughts of magic started buzzing around his head like flies. He went through the wishes that the mermaid had granted: the warts, the snow, the snowing face. He wondered if the mermaid could only grant three wishes. He wondered if the water heater could bring it back to life. He wondered if it could grant wishes if it was dead. He did not wonder if it was magic. He did not wonder if it was a mermaid. He needed it to be both. Ricky walked back into the garage and knelt down on the floor next to the mermaid’s bucket. He could feel the old, cold water soaking through the knees of his pants, but he didn’t care. “I wish Rachel is okay. I know I killed you, and I know that it was my wish that made Rachel sick, but I didn’t mean it. I wish she gets better. I wish she’s not dead.” He whispered his wishes to the unmoving mermaid. His eyes started leaking salty water. Its slug body had started to thaw in the warm water and became limp and floppy. “I wish Rachel is okay.” The mermaid didn’t move. It looked like the worms on the sidewalk after it rained: cold, shapeless, obviously dead. Ricky squinted at it through his wet eyes. “I wish Rachel isn’t dead.” He sat there for a long time staring at the mermaid and whispering his wishes to the water. He didn’t hear Mom until she opened the garage door. “Rick—,” she started, but she lowered her voice when she saw him. “There you are! You scared me: I didn’t know where you were.” She walked over to him. “What are you doing out here?” Ricky stood up and hugged her leg, pressing his face against her thigh. “What’s wrong, Sweetie?” Mom moved slightly to look into the bucket. “The mermaid made Rachel sick, and so I killed it, and then it killed Rachel, and now they’re both dead. I didn’t mean to.” He felt the tears run out of him and his lungs scream for air and his mother’s arms wrapping around him. “Rachel’s not dead, Honey.” “She won’t wake up. I t-t-tried.” “She’s just sleeping: the doctor gave her some medicine that makes her very, very sleepy. She’ll wake up in a few hours.” Mom paused for a moment. “Is this the mermaid?” She motioned to the bucket. Ricky nodded. Mom crouched down and looked into the bucket. “Well, it’s not floating: that’s a good sign.” Ricky looked at his mother’s face. He almost asked her if it was really a mermaid,

It flopped over onto its back and let out a small, pinkish burp.


but he stopped himself. “Will it wake up?” “I don’t know. Why don’t we take it inside so the water warms up.” His mother picked up the bucket and carried it up to the bathroom, setting it on an old towel. Then she knelt down and looked at Ricky. “Are you feeling a little better?” Ricky nodded. “Now, even if it doesn’t wake up, you know that we did everything we could to save it, okay? Give me a smile.” Ricky hugged Mom and went down to sit by Rachel. He let his hand hover over her nose and mouth to feel the air, the evidence of life, coming out of her. She didn’t wake up, but he didn’t shake her again. He wanted to wake her up and tell her about the mermaid, but Mom told him not to. He walked back to the bathroom and looked down at the mermaid. For a long while, he didn’t speak: he just looked down at it. Then he started to whisper. “I know you’re a mermaid. You’re not a slug. Rachel wouldn’t love a slug. Mom wouldn’t let us put a slug in the bathroom. I don’t think you’re a slug: I wouldn’t get sad over a slug.” “What are you doing?” Rachel’s voice sounded thin and lacy, but when she spoke, Ricky let out a breath that he didn’t know he’d been holding. He turned around and faced his sister, who was standing in the doorway wrapped in a blanket. She came to stand next to him, and the two children looked down at the mermaid in the bucket. The mermaid’s eyes opened as slow as centuries. Ricky smiled. “Thank you.”


Truth by Ashley Marie Peck, Charcoal


Bravery by Ashley Marie Peck Charcoal


My Grandpa, Dementia-Soaked at Dusk Eleni Sexton

A pretty stranger traps me lightning bugs in a jar… When did my hands become too old to cast a shadow, like those thin transluscent fish that swim in the deep sea? I can still recall V-E Day and how to play the Moonlight Sonata. When did my hands become too old to cast a shadow? What is this space we live and move through called again? I know, I can still recall V-E Day and how to play the Moonlight Sonata. My skin sometimes falls into snowflakes when I scratch my head, What is this space we live and move through called again? The woods? The township? Connecticut? Some green continent? My skin sometimes falls into snowflakes when I scratch my head, it seems I have forgotten my way to go home -

through the woods, the township, Connecticut, a whole green continent. Isn’t it true someone gives you something to eat and drink before you can die? It seems I have forgotten my way to go home… a pretty stranger traps me lightning bugs in a jar.

twenty one

Grandmother by Patricia Goss, Oil on Canvas

twenty two

Mandelbrot Sets Mary Nork

Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line. Benoit Mandelbrot, The Fractal Geometry of Nature, p. 1

The mathematician descends the rugged coast of Eleventh Street slowed by consideration of surface spreads of asphalt drip their seahorse-shapes toward the curb in spirals of spokes and valleys of swirls— identical microscopic iterations. And years.

From his home to his office- port in the University Library, past the grape vines at his left, with their endless repetition of order beneath the chaos of green shapes, beside the elm trees with their ridges of bark. Computed and graphed on a complex plane, the morning walk morphs into his private collection of bounded quadratic polynomials at imminent risk of veering off toward infinity.

Aaon Benedetti

About 82,300,000 results (0.13 seconds) —conducted October 8, 2010

Your options are virtually unlimited—click the link that suits your fancy and you’ll unearth an entire literary history already catalogued. Which poems do you prefer: romantic? lyric? classic? elegiac? You’re sure to find the best of the last few millennia (Homer, Shakespeare, Milton, Lorca, Whitman, et al.). Follow the proper links or refine your search by verse form. A villanelle has two refrains. Examples of ballads are Emily Dickinson’s poems and the theme from Gilligan’s Island. Click to read a summary and analysis of “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” Your options are unlimited, but don’t feel overwhelmed—ten results per page, ordered by relevance and available on-demand.

twenty three

Google Search: Poem

twenty four Eplorerer’s Series Antarctica (Pages 24 and 26) Great Plains (Pages 25 and 27) by Megan Berner digital photographs

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twenty six

twenty seven

twenty eight

Twenty Thousand Pounds S.M. McLean

A car alarm sirens and she gazes out the window past him; I can see it conform to her fisheye, misshapen and globous, the elephant sitting, cracking the sidewalk, trying to twiddle its thumb-less, pancake hands. Now as if praying for her far-sightedness, the pachyderm is petrified at possibly being spotted, and pulls a Mammoth, curb-grass still churning in its gut. The pound of its swollen heart shivers across its plus-sized diaphragm as if to a great unbalanced spin cycle that could knock the bleach from the shelf and into the wash. Its warm colour suddenly pales to grey sky, vibrating catgut heartstrings snapping to the blade truth in its Van Eyck mirror: The elephant, in her eyes, is white.

twenty nine

Untitled by Tony Medellin Watercolor


Fortitude by Ashley Marie Peck, Charcoal

thirty one

Five Clothing Catalogs, Fifty Shades of Blue Joe Crowley

including storm, stone, admiral, ice, true. And many tones of red, white, purple, grey, new tints of brown, green, yellow, orange, add hues to painters’ palettes, poets’ stock in trade: The summer’s sweet pea, kiwi leaves retreat before the butter, merlot march of fall. Flint winter limbs, cement skies, wait to greet paprika, beeswax, plumgrape springtime sprawl. A dawn persimmon sun’s baked-clay rays breach thistle clouds, move the day at steady pace to camel, chamois sands of western beach. At ocean’s end, bright navy waves embrace a setting cayenne sun’s papaya lights. Then on to oatmeal moon, black coffee night.

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Your Raymond Carver Stories Matt Sherer

I did, I read some… I’m not sure I get ‘em, not like Spillane. Sure, as a boy, I killed a few things too, and luck learned me to drink Carver’s way. But, I have to tell you, the truth is that Tammy was out, somewhere, to bunko or bridge or book club. Around the story about the door-to-door salesman, or the cardigan guy, that sorry guy, I’d nearly polished a fifth of Maker’s and your book fell between me and the dregs of an empty stomach. And it lay splayed on the porch to dry in this morning’s sun, so that I might remember? Tammy must have found it, rinsed it ‘cause I had a blanket— good woman—and a cup of water. Always on top of the water and a chewable vitamin C to take the bite from the next day, from the days when the she loved her vodka, the crock-pot concoctions, watching the Wheel, before she quit with her sister, knocked up by some random chump. If only he knew what he set in motion.

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Digital Photograph by Ivy Antonowitsch


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Nathan Slinker

A few things keep coming back: a girl in blue, the rags of creation, an old hatchet embedded in the cusp of a lotus blossom, or elsewhere.

The difference between ‘a muse’ and ‘amuse’ is merely a matter of space. And yet, planets, with their hilarious attraction to dense matter, do not seem to fit here. Children I discovered in dusty school desks suddenly understand the infinitive ‘to run’ and I am left alone, pronouncing electricity to the untrained ear of the sky.

‘New boots won’t make feet better keepers of secrets,’ said the old man, busy building a tree house of suicide letters and sycamore leaves.

Thatch: an impossible word without both the hatchet and what grows despite its blade. Certainly the old man may have both the rags and the cut flower, but where does the girl belong? She is not his. South of Santa Monica, standing on a cliff in Ireland, the girl waves her shawl of sky at seabirds. She is always present. Or at least close by…

We were sitting around a campfire (I know) and had talked for hours when someone said, ‘All this time and we have not even started to talk about music.’

A flame of realization then: communication sin fin; and then a second point when you realize that what you are ‘talking about’ is mortality, and how trite the drugs we took would seem to someone else.

An owl says ‘dirge’ and the boy in the poncho reaches enlightenment. But the rest of us were babbling and didn’t hear the owl. Professor, is this a lyric poem? A lyre poem? A lick poem? If nothing else, it’s certainly a lie. One man wears the rags of creation, another prefers a poncho, but ‘the poncho of creation’ is not a good phrase to use in a poem. Fear of failure, fear of ungainliness. See how they come of themselves? Nothing so ungainly as the word itself— not even ‘communication’ or ‘enlightenment.’

Retreat, army of kelp, to whatever current bed you keep. Take from me my equipment of quip. And just yesterday, skimming the classifieds in The Bulletin, I come across this: Lost: blue girl, rags, hatchet. If found, please return.

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Figure by Brian Krueger Gouache on Paper

Digital Photographs by Ivy Antonowitsch

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My Song

Gabriel Traverso Ferns and elephant ears, they take patience. They take a long time to grow, to recover.

Today I got a shot in the arm. My daughter watched intently. She wanted to know if it hurt. She leaned over to see the needle go in. She was cute.

Later we dipped our feet in the river. She walked out to a rock, slipped, fell. Her dress got wet. Already stained from her push-pop. Ferns and elephant ears, they take patience. I stagger down the hall and wonder: how long do I wait before the angels ring me up? Before it’s time for my song?

Digital Photograph by Geoff Roseborough

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Jabal Sinjar forty

Ted Varney

The ‘terp and I watch the sky open The rain starts Lightning licks the wounds of the Battlefield below We stare open-mouthed into The biblical dark Heavy rain rolls off my face Onto the limestone Into the blood-stained streets of Sinjar Baij Tel Afar Mosul Sinuuni

The ‘terp tells me this is God’s storm— The “Author of Light” I remind him Of other books he has written

Soon the rain stops The light returns The water vanishes The monument that adorns the mountaintop Like a dull grey crown Shines brilliant white I ask him about it He says it is older than Islam Older than Christ It is from when men Still killed men For better reasons Than God.

The Sweat

Nathan Slinker

The sweat the men have built beside the river is plastic pipe, blankets, tarpaulin, dirt. Its door is hanging words on water’s hook. Celestial outlines glint like scales of fish parading bright through heaven’s steady current. The stones begin to glow—embodied burn— so six are snatched back from fire to pail. These gizzarded gems will heat the children’s sweat. To stone and fire the curious kids come running. The girl has brought the water jug inside so Jan unblankets the door, so Charlie leads. The breathing is slow and real, a rhythm of hot, the healing pain of huffing steam. They dash the stones again… again with water. Thick and red, the topmost stone glows like a human heart held in steel hands. Their hands become the hands of other children, each lung the hissing lung of summer. Sweat… sweat… the sweat renouncing skin for air forever until the small and silent girl abandons the makeshift lodge and strides the sand. In the time of a single gasped breath she’s diving into cold like a blade the smithy plunges down. The girl is born as snow and she is river. She surfaces to breathe and the water on skin is streams of naked glisten. The wet is flesh, is cold as blood. And this is how she learns that the sky of her slender body is largely cloud and fire but an ancient gift to honor her storm.

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Stones the size of organs roost in fire. A pot of coffee steams, though beer is choice this hour. As Charlie rolls some bratwurst, Jan, his wife, can hear their child in open flame. Sons and daughters pull each other through a game of trees, their freeze tag branches still, but one girl, their girl, quiet like the stones, captures river in a jug for Charlie and sees the dusk float by in a salmon corpse: a pink of spawning swept on darkened skin.

forty two Homeless Veteran Series by Ted Varney, Digital Photographs

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Josh Berry Jack stood with the barrel of his pistol resting upon the bone of the man’s forehead. He clenched the hammer back and paused. “Ya ain’t shakin,” he spoke softly, surveying the man. “Pardon?” the man’s eyes winced confusion as Jack removed the barrel slightly. “Ya ain’t shakin,” Jack repeated slower but louder. The gawky man before him searched the room for an answer, the bone of his knee grinding the hard planks of the floor. “I’d of figured a man, such as yerself,” Jack gestured the gun towards the man’s chest, “must be scared, considering circumstances.” Jack replaced the barrel to the skull of the man, as suspicion rose within his face. “But ya ain’t shakin.” The muscles in Jack’s jaw tightened as the man’s bottom lip quivered, fear welling up in the pits of his eyes. The cold steel of Jack’s gun began to rattle just slightly on the man’s forehead as he began whimpering. Jack had never considered leaving this man alive. He had never pondered the likelihood that this man had a family, though if he had, he would have preferred it. A single man’s pain couldn’t even serve a crack to the wall of vengeance Jack had built in his heart. Brick by brick he’d carefully built his hatred, higher each day, each minute. The breath through Jack’s nose grew louder as his teeth clenched tighter. The sharp eyes of weathered man garnered a craze and he pulled the trigger. A quick shift of bodyweight sent the man back onto his heels before he toppled over sideways onto the cold wood floor of the bank, his skull slapping loudly and lastly. Jack held his squeezed trigger finger in its place, exhaling loudly over and again. An empty stare held Jack’s body motionless, his gaze still toward the positioning the limp body once held. The insides of the man’s skull now came into view on the lower part of the back wall as Jack’s focus returned. He quickly returned his pistol to its holster and admired the gradually growing puddle of blood beneath the man’s head. He reached for the single chair in the room, dragging it behind him as he walked closer to the body. As Jack sat down, he pulled out a cigar from his breast pocket and lit it. Tobacco smoke curled from Jack’s lips, snarling with that that lingered above the man’s hollowed head. The rough floor boards had caught the chin of the man, his tongue exposed through his gaping open mouth. The cigar rested similarly at the side of Jack’s own mouth as he reached down to remove his boots. I often have dreams...dreams that I’m riding through a field...a wheat field, just a piece up the road. It’s just before the day begins and there’s no sound ‘cept from the beating of my heart...the breathin of my horse...slow, steady. He’s walking backwards though and I keep driftin’ in and out of sleep. Kinda fall asleep in a dream. Though that’s only the case sometimes, the sleeping part. “Hey Jack, look at there. They got ya in the paper again.” Bob held the single sheet from his face as he looked it over. The fire crackled as the previous pages burned in front of Bob, the sound filling the void of Jack’s response. “And I quote, Jack Berry, aka ‘Gorgeous Jack’, murderer and bank robber, has attacked yet again,” Bob’s eyes widened with each word as his head bobbled. He shot a glance towards Jack who sat across the room in a rocking chair by the window, staring out through the space between the fogged glass. “Stealing an estimated $73,000 dollars, Gorgeous Jack robbed the Casedena West Bank, accompanied by his remaining gang of four.” It was obvious Bob had many a time considered the last few members of the his brother-in-law’s gang. His eyes dawdled on the number. “Berry shot and killed two men in the robbery, that to be including Deputy Marshal Dan Jacobs,’” Bob stopped, mumbling the name again to himself. “Look Jack! They even

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gots a picture of ya. A..a..pencil drawin’. Look at there.” Bob stood up and walked across the room. He slid the open paper across the table toward Jack, index finger upon the drawing. Jack was leaning back in the rocking chair, hands folded upon his chest as his boot heels rested on the table. His bottom lip tucked away as he gazed out the window. Bob looked back toward the paper. “Jack...” he beckoned again, perturbing Jack from his thoughts. He glanced down only a moment at the drawing. “Strikin’ resemblance,” he shifted his weight and assumed his pondering. “Oh hey look at that there, they got a reward of sorts for yer head Jack,” Bob nervously pointed out then continued reading to himself, murmuring slightly. He returned to his chair before the fire. A beeline of footprints disturbed the smooth blanket of snow that covered the prairie outside the cabin window. Bob had insisted a fire be made before Jack succumbed to the bitter sickness that winter often brought him. Jack had stood in the doorway smoking a cigar while Bob searched for dry wood just at the edge of the tree line. He never had trusted a man alone in his company, and Bob was no different. Besides, he liked the sound the snow made as it packed underneath Bob’s boots. “It says here they got some inside sources on yer whereabouts Jack,” Bob voiced concern as he ran his fingers through his greasy hair. Jack now was paying attention as he halted from rocking. “Is that so?” Jack turned his head slightly, waiting on Bob through the corners of his eyes. Bob was staring down at the paper still though. You could tell by his eyes that he wasn’t reading. The sides of the paper began to feather slightly but ceased when Bob crumpled the last piece and quickly tossed it into the fire, flame growing slightly, illuminating the troubled look on Bob’s face. “Go on then Bobby,” Jack edged towards the worrying man and removed his feet from the table, loudly stomping to the cabin floor. The sudden life in Jack startled Bob. He took a deep breath and smiled, half-heartedly. “Shoot I don’t know. You know me Jack. Always getting my words jumbled in a mess,” Bob pulled at the pants over his bent knees before dusting off the surfaces intently. “I can’t ever seem to get the meanin’ of them articles,” he chuckled. Jack’s crooked stare continued at Bob. He was still waiting for a real answer. He watched Bob choke down air as the smile fell softly from his face. Quickly Bob began again, “Did you ever know the youngest Garrison boy? Man, old Mrs. Mars’d have him read from the blackboard and he couldn’t get past the second word before he’d forgot what the first was,” Bob laughed loudly and slapped his knee, shaking his head. “Yer acting queer,” Jack’s mouth hung open as he twirled a box of matches between his fingers. “Nah, it’s true as the day is long Jack, I tell ya,” Bob licked his lips nervously as silence fell again over the room, fire crackling. He stared back to his knees again, hands rubbing the warmth into his legs as the cold bit the knuckles of his fingers. Jack leaned back into his chair and repositioned himself. He lifted his hat just slightly and laid it slanting over his closed eyes. He breathed out hoarsely and laced his fingers, resting them on his lap. A moment passed and Bob spoke softly from his chair next to the fire place, smiling awkwardly again. “Oh I reckon I just, I just can’t stop once I start goin’...You know me Jack,” the smile again left his face as he swallowed and continued to play with his pant leg. “And what’s that yer startin’ on Bob?” Jack casually questioned from beneath the brim of his cowboy hat. Bob dazed into the flame, a stagnant stare billowing over his face. Suddenly Jack shot from his resting, slapping the box of matches on the table. His grey eyes now burrowed tightly under his brow. “I...I was just, just thinkin’ maybe our lucks bellied up, ya know Jack?” he fidgeted.

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“But that’s all willy worries. Got that sense from my ma’s side,” Bob waited a moment before looking towards Jack hopeful. Jack’s stone cheeks rested as he hunched over in the front of his chair. Leaning forward he rested his elbows on his knees, hands dangling together. It was apparent he was contemplating Bob’s candor. Bob hadn’t any need to tell Jack what he’d done. It was clear as crystal to both of them. Jack’s eyes fell upon his boots underneath him. His feet were particularly smaller than most men’s; a well known fact. He recalled a memory from his childhood. As a small boy he ran around the same cabin, dawning his father’s boots and hat, shooting a make-believe gun into the air. He had fallen over on account of the boots and his father had quickly swooped him from the hard floor. “Boots are too big, Papa,” little Jack spoke through soft tears. “You may never grow into those boots Jackie,” his mother called from the kitchen. Jack pulled his pistol from its holster on the back of his chair and placed it atop the table. Bob scooted back in his chair and swallowed hard. “I mean they couldn’t catch you Jack. Shoot, they’ll never catch Gorgeous Jack!” Bob attempted a laugh, waiting for Jack to reclaim his pistol. Jack pushed his chair back, the weight rolling on its runners, and stretched his chin toward the ceiling, scratching his beard. “I can’t impress upon ya enough how my heart aches brother,” he insisted , now combing the hair of his mustache with the palm of his hand. “I can’t imagine. Got them demons. I see em, hell I see em. We all gots a few pickin at us,” Bob began shaking his head in agreement, then straightened up in his seat and scratched his eyebrow. “But I don’t believe I’m really followin yer whole meanin there, Jack,” Bob relayed confusion and anxiety, his fingers now clenched around the better part of his knees. Jack effortlessly retrieved his pistol and cocked back the hammer. “I forgive ya Bob,” the gun fired out a bullet through Bob’s head. The close range of the shot forced Bob onto the hind legs of his chair, his body suspended in the cold air, arms hanging, palms facing upward. Jack thought he heard Bob speak before his lifeless corpse toppled backwards, his left arm flopping slightly into the fire. Jack set the pistol back onto the table and placed his thumbs inside his pant pockets. Jack lingered a moment longer in his reflection before removing his boots. He placed both side by side next to his chair, his feet hot on hardwood of the planks of the floor. He stood and walked over to Bob’s body, looking down on the traitor. He surveyed the man from the burning flesh of his hand down to his feet, toes pointing in opposite directions . Jack knew he could fit. He most always could fit into a man’s pair of boots, given he had such irregularly small feet. It was especially the case currently, as Bob’s feet were quite the opposite of his own. Jack’s leathered hand extended, picking up the knocked over chair Bob had sat skittishly in. He removed his jacket and placed it neatly upon the back. As he walked to the bottom of Bob’s body, his toes kissed the pool of blood descending from Bob’s head, pouring out quickly over the floorboards. Jack stopped and lifted his foot, inspecting the wet print only a moment before wiping it off on Bob’s vest. Bob’s boots were more difficult to remove than they would normally have been. He had worn three pairs of socks to save his toes from frostbite. The extra padding had made Bob’s feet sweat, the socks sticking to the inside of his boot. Jack took off each one, setting them neatly side by side at the bottom of the chair. He sat down to proceed in his ritual but halted, his attention caught by the edge of a photograph protruding from inside Bob’s jacket pocket. His eyes narrowed as he placed the portion of the image he recognized. His breathing escalated, heavy from his nostrils. Jack swallowed and leaned toward the photograph, reaching out to clasp the exposed portion between his two fingers. Slowly he pulled the worn picture from its safety, uncovering its entirety as he’d reckoned. His fingers trembled slightly. The soft pale skin smoothed around the

timid smile of a seventeen-year-old girl, her blonde hair tidily up in a bun, leaving her powder blue eyes free to gape at Jack in admiration as they often did.

He began to shake, the picture of Joanne falling back to Bob’s body as Jack stood up. His eyes began to dart among the dead body of his brother-in-law, the body of his dead sister’s husband. Jack felt wrought up, disbanded. His trembling hand shot to his mouth to conceal his moan of anguish as he began to weep. “Bob. Aw Bob!” Jack squatted, pulling his head between his knees, yelling. “Why Bob! Why?” the shrill echoing within Jack’s hovered body. He returned upright, wiping the hot tears from his face with the sleeve of his coat. “No Bob! No!” Jack scolded in anger at the dead before him. He squeezed his head between each of his hands and continued to mewl. Suddenly Jack jumped over the body and pulled Bob’s pistol from its holster atop the sink shelf. Pulling the hammer back, Jack fired into Bob’s chest. And again. And again. And again, the chamber clicking in absence of bullets three times following. Barefoot, Jack stood above the body, gun resting in his hand now at his side. The fire thundered as Bob’s jacket caught on fire, his dead hand already charred. The casting glow of light reflected in Jack’s fervid eyes as he watched the mass take flame. Motionlessly Jack hankered at the photograph, at the powder blue eyes of Joanne, the edges now curling in on themselves as the fire descended. Jack slammed another piece atop his wall, and another, brick by brick. I often have dreams, dreams that I’m riding through a field of wheat, just a piece up the road, just before the day begins.

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“Where’s Jack darlin’? Where the fuck is he?” the man grabbed Joanne by the arm and swung her body to the ground, her cries alerting Jack who was in the barn preparing his horse. “He’s not here!” she bawled. “You ‘spect me to believe he’d just leave his kid sister unaccounted fer and alone?” the man laughed, chewing tobacco hanging from his lips and teeth. He spit on her and lunged for her once more, clutching both arms this time. “Let her go!” Jack stood at the doorway, a shotgun aimed at the man’s chest. “Jackie!” The man dropped Joanne back to the floor and stood up, dusting his vest. “We didn’t know if you was home...but it’s mighty unfortunate you are. I was gearin’ to show the youngin’ here just how...” “You’ll get the fuck out of my daddy’s house and hell off my land if you know what’s good for ya,” Jack stepped through the doorway. “Oh I know a lot Jackie. Matter of fact, I just might know too much,” the man smiled and ran his hands through his disheveled hair, slicking it back into place. “Ya see, this here ain’t you or your daddy’s land. Long as you takin’ my money, safe to say you owe me.” Jack fired a shot to the side, the spray of buckshot splattering the wood burner. “Easy feller, easy does it,” the man held his hands up in submission, still smiling. “Get out. Now.” “What ya say we consider my little visit here a warning? And I’ll just forget you done pulled a gun on the Sheriff,” Jack stepped away from the doorway as the man edged near, carefully working towards the door. “And when ya bring my money back into town, you just ask fer Dan,” the man winked and disappeared through the doorway. Jack held the gun aimed as he left, waiting a second longer to rest it by his side. He looked over to Joanne. Her blue eyes haunted by a film of grey, her mouth open. Blood seeped from the pale skin of her neck, flowing down her dress. Ricochetted buckshot littered the side of her head.


Mrs. Rose by Eunice Choi Digital Photograph

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Last Breath by Joel Wilson Wire Sculpture

Untitled by Brandon Collins Watercolor on Skateboard

fifty two Virgin Mary Skateboard by Mike Curatello Acrylic on Skateboard

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Me China Loca by Abel Press,Acrylic on Skateboard

Koi Fish by Abel Press, Acrylic on Skateboard

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tograph tal Pho i g i D , s Avile antes v r e C efania y Est b e z a ce Cr Liscen

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Ashley Noel Hennefer Push your fingers on the keys, wet with rain, slick like teeth – teeth that bite. Pull from the wound the song of my blood. It calls to you, strong, salty like the sea, a sea stained red and parted with a prophet’s hand. He who knows the lyrics of your finger tips and what they mean.

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Map of its Story by Eunice Choi, Digital Photograph

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Caitlin Thomas Her eyes were tough and hard. They couldn’t be followed, and they were never meant to be starred into. Her pupils held the sole purpose of distress and dilation. Fall finally came crashing out of the sky with enough reassurance to persuade a client to plead guilty. Tallulah was always guilty. But something felt unnatural about this process. She hung her white coat in the living room closet, and joined the ghosts in her bedroom. She slid the boots of her 7.5 size foot, the heel dripping with sweat as she forgot to wear socks. Again. Tallulah poured herself a glass of white. She toasted herself and sank a vicodin with it. She didn’t have a death-wish, though she enjoyed the way the pill sprinted down her throat, the bitter taste fighting her gag-reflex. This could end any form of potential pain, whether it be flooding her green eyes, or burning down her legs. She was going on her 24th year of living. She was fine with it, as she secretly wanted to be thirty years old anyways, that was the fantasy; living in New York or San Fran. Success. Rebellion. Her ink black hair hung over the edge of her beige couch. Her hair was longer than ever, just as she’d always wanted since age six. An authentic-drugged Rapunzel. Fairy tale princess, too many vices. Tallulah’s forehead was sweating. Her bangs annoyed her, moist and sticking in opposite directions, unflattering. Her whole body was sweating now, all 100 pounds. Everyone had noticed the weight loss, everyone talked about it. Her life was now a tabloid trigger, a real subject of interest. If she couldn’t be famous, she thought, this was the next step down. She lit one of her long-stem white candles with a match and thought about her wishes. Yet she quickly dismissed the idea due to the realization she was starting to get everything she wanted. Spoiled, spanked by society with a golden whip, she shuffled for her American Spirits and lit another match. The thought of fire aroused her. And ambition, obsession and candles. Maybe it all meant something. She sighed the smoke and focused on her wine. The haziness of the hydrocodone began. The process of painkillers was usually a triumphant one, nailing any worry to a coffin of unconsciousness.

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by Gonz Watercolor

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Bloop Series by Christopher Stehman Acrylic on Canvas

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Digital Photograph by Ted Varney

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Traditional Tattooed Girl by Mike Curatello Watercolor

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A Lifetime Later Matt Sherer

Through the metal slats of his mini-blinds he watches the day’s first light failing to cast her as much more than a silhouette, the rays diffused in the dew of the neighbor’s maple and the blossoming sinew of smoke stemming from the cherried end, of say, on Old Gold. As he slips on a pre-tied tie, she crouches on her front stoop, her weight settling down her back through broadening hips to heels and then to the balls of her bare feet. As he waits for his coffee to complete its perc he imagines a twitch in her calf tickling, familiarly, a faint sensation of once lean legs taut on the track and field, thinking, an instinct’s still there. In her squat she pulls long and hard off her cigarette, then exhales, relaxes. He stiffens, mouth moving as if to summon: this is where we are.

Facing Page Top: Digital Photograph by Ivy Antonowitsch Bottom: Comfortable by Emily Rogers, Digital Photograph

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Red Rock Fire by Jesse Rodrigue, Digital Photograph

Smokey by Jesse Rodrigue, Digital Photograph

Childhood By Eunice Choi, Digital Photograph

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Digital Photograph by Ivy Antonowitsch

Joanne Mallari

Humans bear resemblance to the unyielding solids and carry a trace of the fickle gases, but, primarily, take after a state of liquid. Thus, punching fists into our core is no more effective than dealing blows to a pond and expecting the dent to stay in place— the molecules assume the complacency of still waters on an unbroken surface. I don’t have the energy to evolve into the next phase of matter, nor the resolve to be tightly packed as the atoms of a plastered wall. Your words are but a blow to the water, enough to open a hole for just so long.

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Matter of the Heart

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A Good Wife Angela Spires

I watch her now, from the end of her bed: her soft breathing, in and out, to the sweet rhythm of sleep. It would almost be a pity to wake her. I watch her daily. Not like this. But from afar. I watch how she carries in her groceries: apples, spinach leaves, avocados, milk (a gallon a week), cereal, and tomatoes. I watch her do her laundry through the open living room window. There are no blinds there. It opened into the kitchen. I see her fold her socks neatly together, not rolling the tops like most people, but stacking them in pairs. The same with her underwear, mostly cotton and boldly colored, stacked flat on the couch as she watches television while she folds.

Once a week she does laundry, on Thursday nights. It corresponds with her favorite shows, the only night she consistently watches television. I know she thinks about me at those times: thinks of what it will be like when she meets me, what our lives will be together. I can see it on her face. Through my binocular lens, her beautiful face comes into such sharp focus; I can see her ever longing for me each night. Soon, my love, I will be there. Her house is outside of town—lots of forest: few neighbors. The brush within the trees was my home in the evening. She seldom locks the dead bolt. Her house is forty years old; it takes Mastercard. Every day I enter I find new reasons why we are meant to be together. She reads Martha Stewart Living magazine; she will be a good wife. Our home will be beautiful, as is the inside of her home. Nothing inside is new, but it is all organized, well kept. Books, food, clothes—they all have their place. The house smells of lavender. It is mostly clean, with a slight hint of dust around the ceiling fan and the vents. We can work on that. I wait until the time is right. That time is now. In her closet I watch her slip into her tank top. Her beautiful skin looks softer than I had imagined it. Soon I will know how she feels. I will take her away to a better life. The life she longs for, with me. I move closer to her. I walk to the side of the bed, looking at her angelic form. She is perfect. I take off the glove on my right hand, and touch her arm. Her eyes shoot open. I cover her mouth. She looks at me with such longing, such a wish to escape this place. I will comply. I slid my body on top of her, one hand holding her mouth, the other drawing in her warmth. She squirms underneath me. Her desire is smoldering. I will comply. But not yet. Not now. We need our special place; the place I made for us. I know she feels it too. I sit up, holding her body beneath me, reach into my pocket and pull out the syringe. Shhhh. I tell her we will be together soon. Her eyes widened in excitement. I stick the needle gently into her arm, pressing the tip until she is submissive. Like it should be. Yes, she is going to make a good wife. For now.

Mary Nork

In the biting wind, birches tune to G below middle C and finches pipe an octave higher for thistle sooty on new snow. Cat purrs a capella from the shoulder of the couch lusting for the snap of feathers.

Digital Photograph by Ivy Antonowitsch

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Winter Gig

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Digital Photographs by Ivy Antonowitsch

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Sister’s Smile by Ashley Robison, Digital Photographs

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In a World That Spins by Laws Unwritten and Untamed Mary Nork

hooded, faceless others silhouette against the daylight hunched (the way bushes sometimes bend under frost) hungry for heat to rise from the fire pit and coffee, waiting for coffee to steam by the pavilion at the park across the road from where I live. They scatter pocket-linted cornmeal until pigeons cluster on the thin grass.

When the moment comes, those others, practiced, skilled in their need, take up the corners of a plastic tarp stiff and sharp from cold, drop it over the birds (most escape) and seal the sides with feet and hands spread wide. From underneath they pull warm lumps. A twist, a break—one, two, three-a cut, a line of entrails, heads, too, on that thin grass.

In the flames dun feathers burst orange, red, and quickly blacken. Within their separate world under the pavilion across the road far from where I live, those others pick the tiny bones. Blue jays snatch the leavings. From my window I watch.

Then the rest, those other others, pigeons untouched, line branches. On a signal unheard and unseen they soar into the open sky stretching their cloudy wings until silver underfeathers catch the morning sun.

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Gobi Woman by Suzanne Roberts, Digital Photograph


Arachnophobia (for Ewa) Jeff Chapman

You dance just like the spider that you fear, Both palms thrown back and searching up the walls, While waiting for the spider to appear From out the purple ballast where she crawls; Afraid that if she clasps you to her chest, You’ll wear the onyx armor that she wears, And when she sinks her fangs into your flesh, You’ll bear the crimson hour glass she bears; But know her glass and armor have no chance Against your flute of wine and evening dress Because she’s scared to see your finest dance: Your warm embrace and slow narcotic kiss. Keep dancing like the spider that you fear, And terrify her if she dares come near.

eighty one

Wolfman by Mike Curatello, Acrylic on Canvas

Zombie by Mike Curatello

Acrylic on Plywood

eighty two

eighty three

Samurai by Mike Curatello Watercolor

Collage, Polaroid transfers on paper with acrylic All Pieces by Brian Krueger

eighty four

The Other White Meat

Skull Crusher Octopod

The Tin Man

eighty five

Cyclops Pea

The Brain

eighty six

tick tock tick tock Cassandra Clark They told me it was okay. They told me I was okay. They didn’t mean it.

The house makes noises at night. Little pops and grunts that are impossible to ignore. Sometimes, if I listen really close, I can hear my parents walking to their bathroom late at night, little padding footsteps followed by the deafening clank of the toilet seat and a silent curse from my mother. We have cats, too. They jump from the couch to the floor, the floor to the cat tree. They knock bowls off the counters. They pull the clothes on my floor around the room. Sometimes, late at night when the noises are more noticeable, I’ll pull one of them onto my bed and fall asleep to its steady purring.

It makes me feel less alone if something else is there. It makes me think that maybe, just maybe, I’m not the only one who notices the pops and grunts. tick tock tick tock

My Dad, he collects clocks. Old clocks, new clocks, restored clocks. We have around ten scattered about our living and dining rooms.

What is so funny about these clocks is that none of them seem to be in sync. They all tick at separate times. They all tock at separate times. They’re like a symphony. More like a cacophony. They make my brain fuzzy. My parents look at me funny. I like the clocks, because they give me an excuse when I hear a particularly loud noise at two a.m. It was just the springs snapping. It was just the hands shifting.

I like excuses more than anything. Excuses for the things I hear. Excuses for my actions. Excuses to not roll out of bed in the morning. I like excuses, they explain me. tick tock tick tock

Every now and then, when the house rises up against me, I’ll wander into the living room and watch. I’ll watch the hands on our clocks move. I’ll watch the cats chase the shadows created by passing cars. I’ll wander out and watch, just to know exactly what makes each and every noise. What really scares me is when the clocks wind down, when the cats fall asleep. When everything is still, I don’t have any excuses. I can’t explain the pops and grunts. I can’t explain the crashing of bowls. I can’t explain anything.

More often than not, I wonder why. Why do I hear everything? Why does everyone else hear nothing? Why do my parents stare when I cover my ears,

tick tock tick tock

It’s really quiet here. This room doesn’t make any noises. This room doesn’t pop. This room doesn’t grunt. There are no cats to knock bowls off the counters. There are no clocks. No clocks.

There’s only the comfortable white walls. There’s only my mother, quietly talking to me through the little slit of light. “There were never any cats dear.” tick tock tick tock

Infrared Night by Meri Coury, Digital Photograph

eighty seven

drowning out the clocks?

eighty eight Dry Skin by Michael Gjurich, Digital Photograph

eighty nine

by Pan


ninety one

ninety two

ninety three

ninety four

Fall 2010 Brushfire Staff

Editor, Katie O’Neill In the interest of keeping your attention, here are the Cliff’s Notes of my life: I am 21 years old and majoring in English literature and minoring in psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno. I enjoy reading, gardening, surfing, and making stuff in my free time. This edition of Brushfire is my editorial debut and I hope to continue editing and publishing after I graduate in May 2011. My favorite authors include Chuck Palahniuk, Cormac McCarthy, Kurt Vonnegut, and Jack Kerouac.

ninety five Assistant Editor, Arian Katsimbras Major: English Writing with and emphasis on creative writing and Philosophy dual Major This is an abridged autobiography. It is slightly scaled down and some things have been omitted for the sake of being radical. Not like fundamentalists but rather like Ninja Turtles. I’m a child of the 80’s that, perhaps like you dear reader, ate big bowls of cereal with even bigger spoons on Saturday mornings, rode a bike and wore no helmet, told time by the streetlights, had a metal lunchbox adorned with Transformers and Voltron, had a phone with a cord, rocked tapes, mixed tapes, measured height in fists after school by a flagpole, measured those fights by the strength of hugs after, and galloped terribly against the hills of a valley that baptizes its youth in dirt, sagebrush, noise, and that space in-between.

ninety six

Editor Intern, Jake Carey Major/Minor: English Writing / Philosophy I’ve been into art since I was little and I have Always doodled and sketched. It’s something that has been a significant part of my life and I’ve had an appreciation for it since my childhood. In high school, I got into writing and started out with fiction, then tried my hand at poetry. I must say I enjoy poetry more; I find it both engaging to read and also to write. This passion and interest for the various arts is what led me to work for the Brushfire. When I heard about it, I was immediately drawn to the idea of becoming involved and interested in helping to reveal the wonderful art from the Reno community and its surrounding areas and To showcase the talent that UNR has.

Webmaster, Chris Stanton Currently I’m a junior here at UNR pursuing a degree in Marketing in the College of Business. I’m 21 and spend a lot of my time on creative things like design, computers and recording, and my band Wayward (www.WeAreWayward. com). I also have a design company called inMotion Design (search for my page on Facebook!) where I do custom designs for shirts, logos, and pretty much anything clients come to me with. I’m new to the Brushfire but I love new opportunities to make an impact and can’t wait to see where the publication goes in the future.


Question? Feedback? Email us at

: Brushfire Literary and Arts Journal : Brushfire Literary Arts Journal : @UNRBrushfire : unrbrushfire : BrushfireArtLit : Brushfire Literary Arts Journal


You can also check us out at our various social networking hubs.

Visit our website to learn more about the artists featured in this edition, see our guidelines and requirements for future submissions, and discover what you can do to help out the publication!

The Brushfire staff would like to thank ASUN, Amy Koeckes, our editorial board: Thomas Buqo, Emilee Guido, Angela Spires, Matt Sherer, Mary Nork, Aaron Benedetti, Kristi Fletcher; and our invaluable advisors and mentors for all the help and insight they provided for this edition. The staff would also like to thank all of our contributors, supporters, and all the people who inspire us. Published by the Associated Students of the University of Nevada, Reno Copyright 2010 Brushfire and the individual contributors. All rights reserved by the respective authors and artists. Original work is used with expressed permission of the artists. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher. The opinions expressed in this publication and its associated website are not necessarily those of the University of Nevada, Reno or the student body. Front and back cover designs by Brian Krueger “The Aqua Intellectual” and “Bulgy Bellow,” Ballpoint pen on copy paper (respectively)

Book Layout by Katie O’Neill

Printed by Registered Ink Printing Co. Reno, NV

Editor: Katie O’Neill Assistant Editor: Arian Katsimbras Webmaster: Chris Stanton Editor Intern: Jake Carey

Profile for Brushfire Literature & Arts

Edition 63 Volume 1  

Fall 2010. Brushfire is UNR's oldest literature & arts journal. Brushfire publishes biannually, check out our website for more info! unrbrus...

Edition 63 Volume 1  

Fall 2010. Brushfire is UNR's oldest literature & arts journal. Brushfire publishes biannually, check out our website for more info! unrbrus...

Profile for brushfire