FLARE the flagler review
Volume 26 Issue 2
ÂŠ 2016, FLARE: The Flagler Review, a publication of Flagler College. Visit www.theflaglerreview.com for subscription information and submission guidelines.
Volume 26, Issue 2 Spring 2016
Stephanie Austin Drake Stevens
Managing Editor Arialexya PiJuan
Art and Design Editor Matt Quann
Susannah Hayward Elliott Won
Poetry Editors Rhiannon Alter Blake Stephens
Editors’ Note Stephanie Austin & Drake Stevens
hen selecting the work featured within this edition, the FLARE: The Flagler Review staff was not considering any particular thematic subject. However, we realized
after the selection process that this edition portrays a balance between fantasy and realism, maintaining the relationship between both realms as they bleed together in our lives, as shown in this edition’s art and writing.
The artwork will allow you to reminisce upon familiar fantastic
figures in literature, whose stories reinforce these new portrayals while perpetuating their cultural influences. The photography will remind you of the complexity of life while each manifestation maintains a particular simplicity. The featured poetic voices beckon toward the whimsical elements of nature, religion, art, and myth. The fiction and nonfiction reveal that when facing the realities of life, cultural elements from childhood shape aspects of each individual’s identity and resurface in crucial moments of their lives.
We create art and compose literature as a way to enrich
our culture and experience in life, mimetically expressing our conscious and unconscious concerns. As you read, we invite you to consider the effects of the fantastic elements of culture and how they influence our realities. Perhaps it will then be more apparent how crucial the imagination is to our humanity, and how its power reinforces our experiences.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Fiction Food for the Gods Lucky Days
13 Joanne Sills
Poetry My Wife Plants Trees for the Dead 33 Steve Cushman The Sea People 34 Carl Boon St. Claude Avenue 35 Carl Boon At the Clown Bar 36 Carl Boon Gertrude Stein Lighthouse Sonnet
Sean Thomas Dougherty
Parishioner 38 Jan Ball The Myth of Susiya 39 Mary O’Melveny
Non-Fiction break 43 Hanna Bourdon Robin’s Egg Blue 49 Rosalie Petrouske
Art Good Morning Medea
27 Michael Ezzell
Blanche 28 Michael Ezzell Cinderella 29 Michael Ezzell The Winning of Atlanta 30 Michael Ezzell Cuckoo 32 Christian Roy Dinner Please 42 Martha Clarkson
FIC T ION
Good Morning Martha Clarkson Photography
Food for the Gods
riday night, and Martha is nearly alone in this decorous grocery store in Knoxville. The place is called “Food for the Gods,” and it is where the rich and worry-free come for
organic produce and sumptuous coffees from other worlds. The employees are all young, free-love types smelling of patchouli and glorious ignorance. A young woman with a long switch of black hair stops stacking cans of butternut squash soup to smile at Martha, or rather, at Martha’s enormous belly. There was a time when this kind of thing annoyed Martha—the way people would see her pregnancy first, then Martha second, like the baby was a lunar eclipse and Martha a body that ironically was only interesting when obscured.
This morning, her obstetrician told her, Don’t even think of
blaming yourself. It’s what people do; I’ve seen it a thousand times. Don’t you do it. Still, Martha can’t help but wonder if that annoyance she’d felt from time to time played some role in what happened. Or maybe it was something else. Her son had been the result of her husband Wyatt’s brief furlough, before his second tour overseas with the Marines, from which he will not be returning. They knocked on her door when she was five months pregnant to tell Martha he’d been killed in action. Surely grief could have passed through the walls of her tissue and wrapped itself around her child, slowly choking him as it had choked her. Or maybe it happened later, when Martha’s savage need for the child must have conveyed itself somehow; had her body clenched around him, holding him too tightly, out of that mad loneliness?
She spent the last four months of her pregnancy building her
future around her son. Imagining an end to the silence of living 1
alone. Hoping he’d be colicky, the type to howl all night, to grow into a toddler neighbors nicknamed “The Menace.” She wanted baseballs crashing through windows and small kitchen fires and boys digging trenches in the backyard to reenact World War II battles.
Produce is piled and stacked here in an almost obscene
abundance, like treasure in a dragon’s cave. Silver platters proffer oily blocks of sample cheeses with names she doesn’t know and odd-textured crackers thick with seeds and herbs alongside ramekins of hummus. She passes a hanging wicker basket full of starfruit, each one translucent and cloying as peridot, and glass bins of crisp nuts and foreign grains. Mango-bright salmon are laid out on pearly beds of ice, glittering under soft light; pastries are nestled on parchment paper fragrant with cacao and almond extract. She thinks of the food her mountain-born parents used to prepare for her—always heavy, fried meat and eggs cooked in grease, bread soaked in butter—and wonders if she’s making a mistake, preparing a last meal to share with her son from such princely and exotic ingredients. But no. That’s the point. She wants it to be special, something to remember.
They told her the baby had been dead for at least two days. It
was a freak occurrence and they couldn’t even tell Martha how it had happened. They wouldn’t really understand, they said, until Martha delivered. Delivered? She’d stared at them, blank and uncomprehending, as they explained that they wanted to induce, have her deliver the baby normally. It was the only way to know what had gone wrong, and whether it could happen again. Happen again? She could only echo their words back to them. As if she cared about it happening again. As if that were even possible. She was thirty-six years old. She wasn’t going to get married again or get pregnant again. She said this, and one of the nurses tried to pat her shoulder. Martha jerked away. 2 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
“When?” she wanted to know. “When am I—” She couldn’t say,
“giving birth.” She said, “Delivering?” Tomorrow.
Then they explained to her that she could have a day to rest.
Today, tonight. She could leave the hospital, do as she liked. She’d been through some hideous tests, had been poked and prodded for hours and had undergone tremendous stress. She should rest and return for the delivery tomorrow. Bring someone with her, a family member, for support. Surely there was someone. Martha shook her head no. Wyatt had been her family. But that wasn’t what was on her mind. What Martha wanted to know was, did this happen to other women? Were there women walking around carrying dead babies inside of them? Going out to eat, making calls, cleaning the house? Shopping and going to the movies? This was one question she did not ask out loud, but it followed her out of the hospital. She drove with one hand over her still belly and watched other women in their cars.
Somewhere on the road between the hospital and her
apartment, Martha realized that a part of her didn’t quite believe that her son was dead. No, she knew that he was dead, that his heart had stopped and that he hadn’t moved in days. But he was still within her, amniotic fluid rocking him, the rhythms of her blood still pounding around him. It seemed to Martha that there was a gray area here, a metaphysical space only a fetus could inhabit, something an outsider could not understand in this world of 911 calls and CPR and terms like “dead on arrival.” She was a nurse; she knew too much about all that. The spirit of what was physically inside of her might very well still be with her. Lingering until its release. She thought of her father, back on her family’s farm when she was a little girl, cupping a hummingbird they’d found lying still on the back porch. Don’t be fooled, he’d told her, bending low over the vibrantly colored little body. He ain’t really gone. He’d taken 3
an eyedropper from Martha’s mother’s medicine cabinet and put a few beads of sugar water on the bird’s beak. It a moment, it roused itself, drinking. It had died later that night, but it flew a little, once, before going still again.
As Martha pushed her cart through the aisles, one hand
reflexively holding the small of her back, she decides to take no chances. Her son is not going to turn over inside her, take a sudden breath. But he might remember this night. They’ll eat a beautiful meal and she’ll play the music she loves most. She’ll take him for a walk in the moonlight in Cades Cove. It feels like they are both on Death Row now, with nothing waiting for them after tomorrow, and Martha is determined to make this night count.
“Can I help you, ma’am?” Another store employee, a college-
aged kid, hovers near her. Martha realizes she’s been standing in front of a display of chocolates, unmoving, for at least a minute.
“I’m not sure what I need,” she says, taking a breath. “I’m making
a special dinner for someone. I want it to be simple, but—” It comes to her, unbidden, from the depths of her memory: a picture in her mother’s illustrated Bible, of Christ feeding the hundreds. “I want to make fish, and I need good bread. Something thick and heavy.”
“We have tilapia just in,” the young man tells her. He’s
enthusiastic. “And sea bass. Everything wild-caught. Would you like to take a look?”
She follows him to the glass case she passed earlier, where
he points to different cuts of fish. Martha disappoints him by choosing trout. It seems right to her, though, and she nods when he hands her the neatly-wrapped package with its bit of string. She thanks him and then finds the bakery section. A wooden shelf bears glistening loaves of French bread and she chooses a hefty baguette with a braided, buttery crust and nestles it in her cart.
“The loaves and the fish,” she mutters, and then wonders why
on earth she would choose this. 4 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
She and her mother fought all her life about God. It wasn’t that
Martha didn’t believe. She just didn’t see God as her mother did: as a benevolent, just force, warm with open arms. She hated her mother’s platitudes, particularly the ones about God having his reasons. “A balance is always restored,” her mother used to tell her when things went wrong. “Think of scales leveling out. One man loses, but in the loss, a gain travels to another.” It was what she told Martha when one of Martha’s high school girlfriends was killed in a car accident, and then later, when Martha’s father died young of lung cancer. She wasn’t around to provide the same sour grapes comfort when Martha’s husband died overseas, having died a year earlier, and Martha was grateful for that.
She reached down into the cart, thinking to take the fish back,
and return the baguette to its shelf. She would make something else. But the bizarre sense that her son chose the meal stays her hand. She begins to argue with him. It’s only something from my memory you’ve latched on to. You don’t understand.
I do, though.
He’s not what you think he is, Martha tells her son about God.
Don’t leave this place with the wrong idea. He had no good reason for stopping your heart. No plan. She looks down at her belly, waiting for a response, and a wave of nausea moves through her. The weight of him is tremendous. Noticeably heavier than it was a week ago. Dead weight.
And so as she pushes her cart through the frozen food aisles,
just to keep moving, she redirects her argument, thinking at God because she doesn’t know how to talk directly to him. Prayer has always spooked her. She wants to know how many mistakes like this he has made. A galaxy has stopped turning inside of her; how many other worlds did the good Creator spin into life before reaching out to halt the spiral of the top? This was where her earliest doubts began: with the ancient world. Dinosaurs roaming 5
senselessly across the earth, bodies of water holding eyeless monsters in the deep. Was it all a rough draft? Or did he just get bored with wordless animal conflicts, the guileless battles for food and territory, and find himself hungering for more sentient beings to play with, humans who could regret and pine and suffer aloneness? Or did he wipe out that earlier world as a kind of sacrifice to himself, since there were no people yet to pile gifts on altars and waft the ashes toward the heavens?
Martha strongly suspects that this is it. It’s all a game, a pagan
game like something the Aztecs played. Virgins and children sacrificed because the gods wanted them. No balance was restored, ever. It was a question of satisfying divine appetites.
“I’m not playing,” she says aloud. Thankfully, there is no one
in the aisle with her. She looks left and sees in a freezer case an expensive package of miniature pie crusts. She opens the case and removes the box. She’ll make a luxurious dessert for the two of them: vanilla cream tarts heaped with fresh fruit. Blood-red berries, color of life. Forget the loaves and the fishes. It was only a story, and in real life, when nourishment ran out, people died. She’ll give her son a taste of something unattached to any ludicrous myth. The tarts are a story of her own. She made them for Wyatt on their first date, and twice during their marriage, the last nights she had with him before he left for his first and second tour.
She finds vanilla extract, sugar, milk, eggs. As she selects the
eggs, a young woman rises on tiptoe beside her for a carton on the top shelf. She seems to have materialized out of thin air. “Top shelf ones are never broken,” the woman says, grinning sidelong at Martha.
“There are always broken ones,” Martha retorts. “It doesn’t
matter where you get them from.”
Startled, the woman takes a step back. From this angle Martha
can see a long scar, painful to look at, running along her left cheek, 6 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
and suddenly the woman appears much older.
“I’m sorry,” Martha says. “I didn’t mean to snap at you.”
“It’s okay. I get it. I was a total jerk to my husband when I was
as pregnant as you are.” She gestures at Martha’s belly. “Eight months? Nine?”
“May I?” The woman, possessing a confidence that baffles
Martha, reaches toward Martha’s belly and stops with her hand hovering just an inch away, delicate as a butterfly.
“Sure,” Martha gets out.
The woman’s hand descends lightly on the drum of Martha’s
belly and settles there. The woman closes her eyes and seems to be waiting.
Martha’s mother had an old trick when she wanted to keep
from crying—she’d lift her chin high and stare at the ceiling. Feeling her sinuses swelling, Martha does this now. She opens her mouth to say everything—that there won’t be any kicks, that this is all a charade—but she can’t get the words out.
The woman opens her eyes, taking her hand away. “I didn’t feel
any kicks,” she says. “He must be fast asleep in there. You’re lucky— maybe he’ll be the quiet type. Mine were like kung fu warriors in the womb.”
The need to defend her son is automatic: “He was, too, for
awhile there. A little Jedi Knight.”
The other woman laughs and then nods her head at the cartons
lined up in front of them. “My youngest was the most violent, but he turned out to be something else entirely. He won’t eat eggs right now because he can’t get it out of his head that they could still be chickens. There was this terrible smell coming out of his room last week and I found an egg hidden under his bed, in a nest of T-shirts,” She laughs. “I’m just hoping he doesn’t find a bird egg and try the same thing. That’s all we need in our house—avian flu.” 7
Martha forces a smile. “You can’t blame them, though. I think
kids see things like eggs a little differently than we do.”
There is a flicker of confusion on the woman’s face, followed
by the same social smile. “Yeah. Well, have a great night. And congratulations.” She wanders off, her red basket swinging from her arm, and Martha wonders where she got the scar. Maybe God was bothered by the woman’s beauty, had to mar it somehow. Restoring balance. Martha snorts and wheels away from the shelves of eggs.
Would her son have hidden an egg under his bed? Or broken
down over a snail found dead in the garden, as she had as a little girl? It was hard for a child to accept the impossibility of resurrection. Insects suspended in amber that would not be unlocked from their glittering cells. Stony starfish brought by an aunt after a trip to the sea, the tentacles like the face of the moon, turning to a sicklysmelling mush when placed in water. Her son would have rocked it in the bath, knowing instinctively the tides that had once propelled life in and out of the creature’s body.
“Ma’am? Did you find everything for your husband’s dinner?”
It’s the same college kid who helped her with the fish, now
carrying a crate of mangoes. “We’re closing soon,” he explains. “I just wanted to make sure you had what you needed.”
Martha looks down at her hands; she still wears her wedding
ring, and she forgives the kid his mistake. “Yes. I think so. No. I still need some berries—have to go back to the produce section.”
“Don’t worry, you still have ten minutes,” He grins at her.
“Nobody’s going to lock you in.”
His friendliness weakens her. Would her son have been this
way, at nineteen or twenty? Kind to strangers, patient in a way young people rarely were? Burying his nose in a crate to breathe in the smell of fruit the way a poet would? She watches him go. Part of her wants to explain to him that she is a widow, and that by 8 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
tomorrow night, she’ll be something else—what is the word for it? Why isn’t there a word for a woman who has lost a child? A person can be a widow, widower, orphan. What will she be?
Just Martha. Martha the nurse, tenant, payer of bills, driver
of a sedan. Worker of double shifts and occupant of an empty bed. Taker of third shifts because she dreads the solitude of her apartment and the static of the radio, the mindless channels on the TV. Avoider of alcohol aisles because she fears what’s next: the solace of addiction, the route so many take when all others are gated. Even now, she glances at those shelves, sees the glimmer of high-end wines and imported beers, just a few yards away from the fruit. Tomorrow night, when her son is taken from her, when she’s held a blue-skinned elfin child in her arms and then had him wrenched away by women in white, what will she do then?
She leans heavily over the cart and closes her eyes. She
apologizes to her baby. I’m selfish. I’m not even thinking of you now, of our last night together. I’m thinking of me. Of what’s to become of me. Some of us just weren’t meant to do it alone.
She hears a cart moving slowly somewhere in front of her,
and irritation boils over in her; she thinks it’s the same employee who has now spoken to her twice. She wants out of this place. But when she opens her eyes, it’s not the employee; it’s a little boy, pushing a cart very slowly along the display of cheeses. In his cart is a single item—a package of expensive coffee. She watches as he reaches out for a block of cheese, looks around, and then reaches instead into one of the sample trays. He pulls out a fistful of cubes and quickly crams them into his mouth. Chewing, he pushes the cart forward, to a shelf of gluten-free cookies and crackers. He picks up a package and turns it over in his hand, frowning slightly as if displeased by something on the ingredients list. He replaces the package and continues his slow progress toward the nuts. He studies a jar of freshly-ground almond butter, puts it down, and 9
then reaches into a plastic bowl bearing a heap of sample trail mix. He stuffs the handful in his mouth and wipes his hand on his shorts.
He’s in shorts in February. Forgetting her cart, Martha takes a
step closer, half-concealed by the stand of pears and berries she’s stopped at. She studies the child. His dark blond hair is plastered to his scalp, unwashed, and his T-shirt is too long, a man’s shirt bearing the name of some band Martha has never heard of. His legs are thin, tapering down to skinny ankles that are lost in a soiled pair of crew socks and Velcro sneakers. When Martha understands what is going on, she lifts her chin to stare hard at the ceiling again.
“He’s here a lot,” someone says very softly from her side. It’s
that damned employee again, but Martha turns her full attention to him now. “Alone?”
“Yeah. He always puts one thing in a cart. Pushes it around for
awhile, eats all the samples. He only comes in at night. We don’t mind. We throw all the leftovers away anyway.”
“You mean he comes here for his dinner?”
“We think so.”
“What does he do, walk all the way here? There aren’t houses
for miles around this mall.” Martha is frustrated by the absence of outrage, or avid concern, in the kid’s face.
He shrugs again. “I have no idea. Like I said, we let him. There’s
no harm in it.”
“Of course there isn’t.”
He moves away from her, toward the checkout line, and calls
over his shoulder, “Five minutes to close, just so you know.”
Martha isn’t listening. She’s watching as the boy, who can’t
be more than eight years old, wanders over to the vegetables. She wills him to just pick up a fat yellow apple and eat it, right off the shelf, but he only peers at everything, like an old lady, and 10 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
then takes a stealthy fistful of soggy orange slices off another sample tray.
She is at his side before she really knows what she’s doing. “Are
the oranges any good?” she asks.
He swallows. “They’re okay.”
“Maybe I’ll get some.” With a shaking hand, Martha reaches for
a bag of them in their bright red netting. “Are you a coffee drinker? I can’t stand the stuff.”
The boy looks confused, then catches himself. “Sometimes.”
“You seem to have good taste. This is my first time in here. I
was noticing what you were sampling, and I think I might buy some of those cheeses,” Martha goes on. “I’m all new to this kind of food. Fancy food.”
“The Swiss is the best. But they almost never put it out.”
“I like Swiss, too.” Martha clears her throat. “Listen, would you
like a, a ride home? I bet I live not too far from you. I could help you get some groceries and take them home to your parents.”
A child with good parents, with living parents, would know to
run at the suggestion of a ride from a total stranger. The boy only squints at her. “It’s just my older brother there. I live with him.”
“Oh.” She’s afraid to ask him more, to scare him off. “If we
bought some groceries for you and your brother, would you let me drive you home?”
“I don’t think you would like that.” His answer surprises her,
shakes her with its maturity. Martha looks closely at him. Bits of sleep are curdled in his eyes and he needs a shower badly. She can smell smoke on him. With a jolt, she notices a deep mottled bruise emerging from the collar of his T-shirt, she can’t help but imagine the worst.
She tries again: “But you don’t have a way to carry your food
home. You don’t have a backpack or anything, and they won’t let you use a cart. We can haul it back in my car and unload it on your 11
porch. Or front steps. I won’t come in.”
“I’m not buying any food.” He says this with the finality of a
“I meant me. I’ll buy it. I have—I have a gift card. This huge gift
card. I have to use it or it’ll hurt my friend’s feelings. Truth is I don’t really like this kind of food. I was raised on different stuff. This card will just go to waste. Will you help me spend it?”
As the boy opens his mouth to respond, an announcement
blares out of hidden speakers in the walls: “The store is closing in two minutes. Please bring all purchases to the checkout line.”
Martha reaches for a second bag of oranges, drops it in her cart.
The boy follows them with his eyes and then looks up at her, assenting. Her heart soars. She wheels the cart back toward the cheeses, forgetting her berries, and the boy comes with her. He points and she reaches. They move down the aisles, ignoring the voice issuing from the speakers. The cart fills. When at last they make it to the checkout line, the boy helps Martha load everything onto the black conveyor belt. It is the best of what the store has, from pastrami to marzipan, all of it shimmering under the store’s warm lights. The boy stands eagerly ahead of her, helping to bag everything, and eyeing each item like he’s trying to decide what to eat first.
It is night beyond the sliding glass doors, and Martha has no
idea what will happen next. But the boy seizes the baguette of all things once it’s gone through the scanner, and when he bites into it, she can only stare. She’d forgotten she even had it.
12 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
Lucky Day Joanne Sills
mma June dragged a step behind her mother as if she was being lead to a firing squad or the guillotine of her books. She imagined herself back then as a nine-year-old heroine
in protest but she played to an empty street. There was no sign of the children who swarmed from the brick homes and filled the streets and elementary school that she would pass by today for a bus stop. It was so early, Miss Kelly was just getting to her garden and the bread truck had not yet come. “Good morning, Emma,” she said, the Irish still on her words. “Up and out before Dugan’s?” The old woman smiled, trowel in hand, but Emma barely acknowledged her. Her mother would have normally scolded her for being rude, especially to Miss Kelly who stayed behind when the rest of her family left the changing neighborhood. But today she just paused and patted her daughter’s fresh hot-combed hair. “Good morning to you too, Miss Kelly,” she said, took Emma’s hand and walked on. Emma looked up at her mother quite puzzled because Katie June always insisted common social decency was one of the things that separated the animal and human kingdoms. But she was spared that first day. As they passed familiar doors and windows, Emma was sure her friends were in there dawdling over their Cream of Wheat or maybe even still in bed.
They turned the corner onto the avenue, a narrow street that
was no wider than the collection of dead-ends in Libertyville it connected to the larger world. The city bus barely maneuvered the maze and it was decided the school bus stop would be clear on the other side of the school. The bread truck, jangling with milk bottles, passed them as Mr. Taylor leaned out the window to wave. Soon they were crossing the schoolyard. Emma looked down 13
at faded chalk lines of a hop-scotch board remembering final dismissal for the summer and running home with the rowdy horde. The field was bursting with wild flowers then; now it was going brown and beyond it, her house among the cluster of three-story homes stirred in her a longing to go back in time. They passed below the second floor window where she was supposed to be in Miss Jones’ class and when she closed her eyes she could smell the lovely musty scent of thick adventure books in the library. She was going to miss that and following behind her older sister who was in sixth grade and going to graduate. She would not take her little sister to kindergarten, either and show her the ropes. None of that now but a deserted schoolyard, a stiff new plaid dress, a hot white sweater and butterfly barrettes, one of which she had to keep tucking behind her ear. She moved along behind her mother to the far side of the school were they crossed over to the corner.
Shift workers from the water company were heading home and
gathered at the city bus stop, newspapers tucked under their arms, puffing at cigarettes. They exchanged morning greetings with the men, some of their eyes lingering over the graceful woman stepping by with a pouting child in tow. A man leaned forward. “And where could this lovely young lady be heading so early in the morning?” Emma looked at her mother to make sure she could speak. ”I gotta go to a new school,” she said flatly. The man looked at Katie June as Emma continued. “It’s so far away, I have to take a school bus.” The man snapped his fingers and pulled out his newspaper, showed Emma the headline. She read it: “Schools begin busing.” He smiled at her flashing a gold front tooth and reached in his pocket. “It’s your lucky day, young lady,” he said, producing a quarter with a wrist flourish as if he was a magician. “You show them white folks what’s what.” 2
The week before Cora had come to her room and asked what
14 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
she knew about busing. “Nothing,” Emma said as she stuck her nose inside a new book bag, inhaling the leather scent. “It means you’ll be going to a new school far away,” Cora sat cross-legged on the floor and leaned in close. “If they call you names, like nigger, you call them yellow belly gray whitey,” she grabbed the leather bag. “Emma, you hear me?’ She looked at her oldest sister and wondered what prank she was pulling now. “Well, first, mama don’t like name calling and, second, I’m going to the same school as everybody else. I have Miss Jones. It says so on my report card.” It was later that night when her father got home from the elevator company that he woke her and she stumbled behind him to the bedroom down the hall. Emma would be able to recall every detail of that night, beginning with the window fan on high because even though it was September, it was a sticky night.
Her mother had not yet put rollers in her hair which hung down
around shoulders in loose brown curls over her dressing gown. She smiled and patted the floral bedspread. “Emma we have news for you,” she said, drawing her daughter close. “We hope you’ll be happy as we are about this new opportunity.” She talked about a new school on the other side of Queens that had a name like those in stories of faraway lands. “Sunny Meadows, doesn’t that sound nice?” Emma shook her head as she did when she was trying to wake up. A school on the other side of Queens. Her mother talked about the drawings she did for Miss Jones and the people who came to her school. She remembered how they had pulled her out of her third-grade class and she thought it was about the graham crackers she was eating up before she dispensed them as snack monitor. But no, it was about some kind of test. She was feeling the same dread now, sitting next to her mother like she was coming to the surface of something awful. Some kind of punishment, she figured, and scanned her days for new transgressions. She beat up Elijah for swinging a dead cat at her and broke her mother’s lipstick 15
trying it on. But it wasn’t that. “Remember the garden they asked you to draw? Well, most children your age draw trees with little balls on top, but your tree,” her mother looked at her father with a smile, “your tree had limbs and leaves that spread out beyond the edges of the paper,” her mother opened her long arms. “Remember the poem they gave you to memorize? You were the only child to get it right, and so fast. Tell her what else the people said, Royal.”
He was leaning against the highboy watching Emma take in this
news. She wished her father would say something that made sense. They had their own meadow, why was she going to someone else’s? He did explain, but not until much later when he was struggling to understand why she was so hard to know: They thought it would be good for her. Katie June graduated with honors from a white high school in Pittsburgh and she sat down with Miss Jones and agreed to this. People were sending their children across the color line all over and who were they to hold back in the relative safety and protection of the law in New York? Emma was the right age and smart enough to make an impression, didn’t he agree? This they presented to him one evening and he had not even gotten out of his jacket. He would tell her it was like being swept up at a church revival. “The school people said you did the best out of all the children and they really wanted to send you to a better place,” he said, sitting down on the bed. He hugged Emma and she could hear his heart beat, smell the pipe tobacco on his breath. And on the first day it would be the scent of Georgia Peach filling her breaths when the bus pulled up to the new school. 3
Yellow belly gray whitey, she whispered to herself still a step
behind her mother. Cora had made her memorize it when she came back to the room. They talked in hushed voices so as not to wake Robbie asleep in the top bunk after spinning herself sick with joy about starting kindergarten. Emma looked at her mother 16 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
and the red lipstick she put on when she dressed up; at her hair pulled back in a bun and set chin. At this time in the morning her mother was usually down in the kitchen having her alone time. Emma knew never to disturb her but would spy on her from the top of the staircase. Her mother drank coffee and worked in her book of drawings, sometimes danced to the radio. But now she was looking down the block for the bus. “Mama?” Emma’s voice sounded feeble even to her ears but she had to make one last plea to go to school with her sisters and friends. She had enlisted Cora, who her mother first told the news, to say how great Miss Jones was as a teacher, though they were certain their mother knew that. Next, Emma rehearsed five-year-old Robbie to describe how Emma would beat up the people who bothered her. And finally, she gave Elijah one of her Peanut Chews to say how she helped him with reading. “We have our own very good meadow,” she said convinced it was the last good argument. Her mother looked at her and for a moment her eyes seemed to soften. Most people saw her in Emma, the dark brown skin and long arms and legs, the large, deep set eyes and long tightly curled hair. Emma was also not a girl to cry and in that way was like her mother inside too. They were stubborn people but understood each other in a way that often made Royal June feel left out.
She looked again at the elementary school that seemed
indifferent to her suffering like her absence would be a hole easily filled by another fourth-grader in Miss Jones’ class. “Emma I think that’s the school bus now,” her mother said, bending down to kiss her. “I want you to be very brave today at the new school.” In that moment she heard the heavy grind of an engine and she looked past her mother to the bus paused at the stop sign. The doors swung open to reveal a young black driver behind the wheel. He got out of his seat to help her up the steps. “Rodney at your service,” he said escorting Emma on the seat across from him. “You’re my first stop 17
and I could not have picked a brighter flower.” His big voice filled the empty bus and it matched his body that was taller and wider than her father or any of the men she knew. His round face softened the threat of his size, warmed it seemed by a personal bronze sun. She wanted to smile back but didn’t. He shrugged and reached for a clipboard. “Okay, Emma June. I check you off. Wave good-bye to mama, we got a schedule.” He waited until Emma slowly lifted her hand. “And don’t you worry, mama” he climbed back into the driver’s seat, “this day gonna be fine.” And with that, Rodney pulled closed the doors and they moved off, WWRL playing soul music on the transistor wired to the dashboard.
Katie June stayed there, looking to where the bus disappeared
beyond the Jamaica water tower. 4
Rodney Gomez was a Puerto Rican from Corona and the
youngest in a family of school bus and truck mechanics. He had a trace of a Spanish accent, more when he was annoyed, and talked loud to be heard over the radio. He was just out of high school but must have been born shifting gears, handling the bus as easy as you roll a toy over the floor. They crossed Merrick Boulevard, a street Emma knew for the A&P that had not yet opened. “We looking for a Thurman Ellsworth,” Rodney read off the clipboard as he slowed the bus in territory unknown to Emma. They rolled on a few blocks and there, partly camouflaged by large bushes and tall weeds, was a boy in a green sweater vest raising his hand like he was hailing a cab. He was all by himself but not looking at all forlorn, in fact he smiled as he scrambled up the bus steps. He shook hands with Rodney and seated himself next to Emma. “Nice to meet you,” he said.
He smelled like peppermint and was crisp all over, looking
like the end product of an assembly line of mothers who starched his shirts and put creases in his pants, greased and combed his 18 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
hair back, checked his ears and set him out on the street. Emma would learn it was the work of Thurman himself and one frail grandmother, a sharecropper from Louisiana sugar country who never learned to read. “Nice to meet you too,” Emma said sizing him up. He was in fourth grade too, but she was bigger. He was light brown and had the serious dark eyes of old folks hung in his baby face. “We almost didn’t see you,” she whispered. “It was good you stuck your arm out.” Thurman laughed. “Gram mon put me out there extra early. She said ‘go on and study with white folks no matter what cuz they got the best,’ I like science. I hope they got … I mean have a lab-or-a-tory.” Emma look at him, his eyes happily darting around the bus. She hadn’t thought about what her mother said the new school offered and allowed herself to wonder what might be there. She looked out the window again at all the things along this road to someplace else. Thurman hummed to a song on the radio.
They made stops in all kinds of places, projects and row homes,
bungalows and multi-family houses. Sometimes kids were waiting with their parents. Sometimes lots of kids were alone. Sometimes the bus stopped and everyone looked out the windows but no one was there. Rodney read off names and the seats filled behind Emma and Thurman but at the last stop the bus was only half full. Rodney checked the list again, shrugged and said maybe people were keeping their kids home. “They tell black parents not to bring their kids to the school,” he said, opening his map to a new section. “Put them on the bus and stay away. Maybe some people think to wait and see what the first day goes like.” Satisfied he knew his direction, he moved on, bobbing his head to Aretha while Thurman sang along. Emma was thinking that if she had to go to a new school she hoped there’d be a newspaper. Miss Jones was going to start one this year at Roosevelt and had asked her to write a poem.
Now Rodney was driving down a long, wide street with fine
little stone and clapboard houses, neatly trimmed with grass that looked like carpets. There were flower pots lining steps and hanging from poles. White people walked along the neat street turning every now and then to look at the bus. One woman, walking a tiny dog stopped and put her hands on her hips. They passed a group of house cleaning ladies getting off the bus. They waved, then clapped when Rodney softly hit the horn. As he navigated the bus through mum-lined traffic circles, more white people were walking, some carrying large white boards. Emma noticed girls about her age with sweaters over their dresses and barrettes in their hair. And in fact it wasn’t too hot for a sweater and she touched her butterflies to make sure they were correct, glad her mother had insisted on them. Thurman strained to look beyond her out the window and when he caught her eye they smiled at each other. “Mr. Rodney,” Thurman sat up some in his seat. “How much longer?” The kids behind him mimicked him, laughing. “It’s right up there but looks like something holding up traffic,” Rodney turned off the music.
They could hear voices ahead as they passed a “Welcome to
Sunny Meadows” sign. The low chatter in the back of the bus trailed off. A boy, another fourth-grader walked up to look out ahead. “You gotta stand behind that line,” Rodney told him, glancing up. “Hugo, right?” The boy nodded and took an empty seat behind Thurman and leaned in the aisle. ”All I know is that they better not think they gonna spit on me,” he slapped five with another boy. “My daddy don’t play that. He be up here in a minute.” Hugo went into detail about what his father would do and slapping five, but he kept looking out the front window as the bus rolled along. Emma thought of her father, rural Georgia born, who turned from the television news when police hosed people and put dogs on them 20 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
down south. I’m right here with you, Emma, she heard him say clear as if he was sitting next to her.
The shouting was clear too as the school came in sight. “Go
back home. Go back home. Go back home.” Rodney edged forward, glancing in the rear view mirror. He radioed for dispatch but his request for instructions went unanswered. Emma started when a policeman appeared in the middle of the street quickly walking towards the bus. But he wasn’t holding a water hose, didn’t have a dog. Rodney opened the door. The cop took a long look at him and smirked. “How long you been driving, kid?” He walked up the steps and looked around the bus. He stood next to Thurman who leaned against Emma trying to see the policeman’s face. She looked at the gleaming badge on his chest and the brass buttons down his front. Under his hat pulled low on his brow, beneath the broad visor his eyes lingered over the children and came to settle on Hugo. “Just today,” Rodney said. “My first day. I usually deliver the bus only but this morning white drivers called out.” The cop looked down at Rodney and laughed. “Well, ain’t this your lucky day,” and he stepped off the bus. “Keep driving down to the front doors. Make them kids close those windows and don’t open the doors ‘till I tell you to.” Thurman helped Emma close the window and she watched the policeman walk away, making a path through a crowd of people heading their way. “Close those windows!” Rodney shouted, pushing forward. “Close ‘em and sit down.”
A new kind of quiet settled over their rumbling sanctuary. The
kind that happens when the preacher steps to the pulpit for the sermon and your mother puts a finger to her lips; outside it hailed. Outside policemen ran up to wave people away. Outside contorted faces with angry mouths. Signs bobbed in the air. Go back Negroes. Fix your own schools. A woman in a red checkered dress pushing a stroller spit at the bus. A teenager hurled a rock that passed in front of the windshield but as he angled himself for a better shot, 21
a cop grabbed his arm. The bus rolled on until the policeman who had boarded appeared again clearing the street in front of the school. Rodney stopped, pulling the parking brake hard. Emma had never seen so many people except maybe at a parade. They were across the street and thick in front of the school’s main door they shouted. There were cameras too and people with pads taking notes. She smelled Georgia Peach in the warming air, so thin at first she thought she was mistaken.
The white people came forward in waves, crashing against
the bus, rising against the doors. One of the little kids in the back began crying. The voice of a dispatcher finally sounded from the bus radio: Rodney was not to move the bus without discharging the passengers. Emma twisted her hands. She turned away from the window but couldn’t block out the voices. Inside the sealed bus she tugged at the top of her sweater. Then her father’s sweet smelling tobacco began floating up her nose and ballooned inside her chest, lifted her feet. She felt as if she could rise like Jesus and float above the churn. Her hands fell apart, rested in her lap. She calmly turned back to the window. A man appeared pushing his way slowly out of the high double doors and down the few steps, vanishing in the virulent tide, resurfacing at the bus doors. Police pushed the protesters back again clearing a space wide enough to allow the doors to open. The man stepped in as if part of a dream. He was tall and slender with a pale, gray face. He wiped his brow with a pocket square and passed it over his balding head. “You back there,” he said in a voice that was tiny and distant to her, the cloth waving slowly at the boy. “Stop that. You will be okay. As soon as the policemen make a corridor, you will line up in an orderly fashion and come into the school behind me.” He lingered a moment, his eyes meeting Emma’s, before turning towards the steps. “I’m the principal, Mr. Gorski,” he shouted over the calamity. “You will have to be patient and let this all die down ... in a few 22 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
days.” From the edges of her self Emma was coming back to the seat on the school bus, she felt the vinyl behind her knees sticky with sweat. She heard Thurman making squeaking sounds and saw he was having hiccups and put her arm around his shoulder. She wondered if he could smell the Georgia Peach. 6
In the brilliant heat of that morning, police made a double line
of blue and glinting brass. Mr. Gorski asked the students to get ready and Rodney crossed himself. “You must line up now and I will be right behind you,” he said, whispered in Spanish and lifted a gold crucifix to his lips. “Single file, single file.” No one wanted to be first, not even Hugo, so Emma slid past Thurman who stood up behind her. Rodney flung open the doors and they followed the principal into the turbulence. Emma dropped her head and leaned forward as she quickly walked. She glanced behind to make sure Thurman was there and saw Hugo hustling along, too. Someone threw dirt on her sweater and she heard a close voice shout “nigger.” She saw the black shoes of the officers twisting back, as the force of the crowd threatened to close off the path to the doors. Yellow belly gray whitey, she whispered and saw Cora’s lips. She held the new book bag over her head just as a downpour of rocks hit the leather surface; she almost stepped on Mr. Gorski’s heels getting through the doors. As soon as Rodney was in with the last of the kids, two women in hair nets shoved the doors closed. “Okay,” Mr. Gorski said, breathing hard. “Let’s go the auditorium. This way, please.”
Only half the white students were in school that day and the
bright auditorium with its soaring ceilings and chandelier seemed particularly desolate. It would be one of Emma’s favorite rooms there, and in her memories of this world, where she could shed her outsider self in the music of the school orchestra and choruses. But her first day she only inspected it in a grim comparison to Roosevelt’s old wooden seating and gray paint. Cuz white people 23
got the best. She told Thurman to hold still and knocked dirt out of his hair. “You lost a barrette,” he pointed to one of her braids. But she knew it was gone after someone reached past the cops and yanked her hair. “That’s okay. I’m not coming back tomorrow. My mother listens to the radio all day and when my father hears …”, she stopped when she saw Hugo sitting off by himself with his head down. She looked at the other kids from the bus brushing off dirt or straightening ties and blouses. On the other side, white kids looked on quizzically or angrily because their parents made them come. Mr. Gorski announced the classes and room numbers to which students were assigned. Emma went one way and Thurman another. Hugo and the others went up the stairwell.
At lunch they gathered back around a few tables near the long
windows that looked out on the empty yard and tennis courts. Thurman had already asked about experiments and his teacher showed him the science room. Hugo asked about music because he played a saxophone like his father. Emma remained quiet, nibbling on the bologna sandwich her father made because her teacher was cold to her questions and seemed loathe to recognize her hand in the air. And Emma didn’t care about Mrs. Whateverher-name because she’d be back at her old school tomorrow. She almost jumped out of her seat when she heard the dismissal bell and found Rodney there with the bus doors open, his bronze sun blazing. This time police managed keep a wider corridor because fewer protesters returned with their signs and chants. “Go back. Go back. Go back to your school.” Emma wasn’t first this time and didn’t run either. She took her front seat beside Thurman but said very little. She dug down in her book bag, underneath the new books no one had read before or tore out pages, and found the quarter the man gave her. She thought about all the candy she could buy with it at Charlie’s, treat her sisters and friends but it didn’t seem right. She put it back in her pencil case where, some 24 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
thirty years later, her son would find it rummaging through his grandparent’s basement.
All along the ride home she searched her memory trying to
gather the words her parents said about the new school. In her search, she came across images of children like her but far away in the place her father came from. Crying children, children walking forward, hand-in-hand into a howling mouth of hate. Little girls in plaid dresses and barrettes hoping to be the lucky ones. When it came to Thurman’s stop her head cleared and she saw a woman with silver hair piled atop her head on the porch fanning herself. The woman looked at Emma and slowly nodded. “Hope you change your mind and I’ll see you tomorrow,” Thurman said, collecting his books. “Mr. Gorski promised it will get a little better each day.” He extended his hand but Emma only weakly shook it.
“Even if I wanted to, my parents wouldn’t let me,” she said
looking away from his old people eyes knowing he’d see the lie. “They didn’t know it would be like that.”
FEATURED ARTIST Michael Ezzell
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Medea Michael Ezzell Mixed Media 27
Blanche Michael Ezzell Mixed Media 28 â&#x20AC;˘ FLARE: The Flagler Review
Cinderella Michael Ezzell Mixed Media 29
The Winning of Atalanta Michael Ezzell Mixed Media 30 â&#x20AC;˘ FLARE: The Flagler Review
Artist Interview Michael Ezzell
Who or what inspires your particular style of art? Why? A. Ever since elementary school, I’ve been fascinated and
influenced by mythology and fairy tales. I studied Greek myths in sixth grade, and I believe it was the imaginative imagery and metaphors that stuck with me. There is so much power in storytelling, and I feel an energy from the words, even today. Q. Why do you choose to recreate characters with such backstories? A. When I read through books or watch movies, the author or director is illustrating their concept of someone or something. To me, when I create images of queens or goddesses, I am creating my interpretation. And it’s funny, because I find that I rehash these similar—if not the same— ideas and concepts over and over, as if I’m trying to find that perfect likeness. Q. Why do you choose to feature primarily female illustrations? A. When I do draw men, and get really into it, the response I get to it is, “She’s so pretty, but she’s so masculine…” I think women are so powerful. The women I create are sassy, strong, and beautiful. I think in literature, their characters are the most interesting, because there is a vulnerability in their strength. There is also an aesthetic to them. Historically, women had the most fanciful costumes, jewelry, and hair—a whimsicality. Q. What male illustrations would you like to recreate? A. Men can be interesting, with the right interpretation. I’ve clearly been delving into an androgyny with the few men that I have created. But, I would enjoy portraying men of beauty like Narcissus, Endymion, Hyacinth. I’m drawn to those boys who are so loved by the gods that they end up dead or a flower. 31
Cuckoo Christian Roy Three Dimensional Illustration
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My Wife Plants Trees for the Dead Steve Cushman
There’s the saucer magnolia for her father the cherry tree for her grandmother and another one for our neighbor Linda a camellia for her Aunt Glennis. In the back corner is a pin oak for my father, a man she never met. I ask her what she’ll plant for me when I die and she says probably a tulip or something small. But that’s not a tree, I say, is it because I’m special to you and she laughs says, no, it’s so I won’t have to look at you all year long. I’d like to think she was joking.
The Sea People Carl Boon Sometime in May, the sea people rise from the sand along the shore at Five Houses. They wave for tea and tell us they never left last fall. One can’t tell their skin from sand, and the coffee-colored mussel shells— those butterflies—fall in a shower as the sea people rise. Sea plants drag against their ankles like bracelets, and when they move they seem to move the sun. And so it is, and soon enough they sit again in rented plastic chairs to watch us, we who carry crosswords and Thermoses, and for our children rings that inflate. I suppose they think us strange, we who winter in the city far away with wool instead of sand and summerthoughts. When the nightwind comes, and the oleander, pink and white, flutter their poisonous petals, they eat and stay well, and whole, and wonder why we’ve escaped again the sweet air, the dear sea, them, who are memory-fathoms deep.
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St. Claude Avenue Carl Boon Past Canal, one still can feel the sea on St. Claude Avenue. Its ascent showed us who we were, a people performed upon, a people who said it won’t happen to us. Mrs. Tangier pulls a photo from her purse: a spray-painted X was her second-floor terrace. The rest was gone, the house, the terrier, the children in their motel room in Mobile who decided never to come back. After mass at St. David’s, she cries in the missing of her grandkids. Jeremy starts kindergarten this September. He knows little of the flood, nothing of his grandfather who drowned to save his medicine. Mrs. Tangier kisses my cheek. She asks me for dinner, but I see clouds over Saint Charles Parish, and her TV flickers. Teenagers born before the storm bicycle and laugh. Their mothers tremble.
At the Clown Bar Carl Boon Across the country, bombs go off. Kurds dead. Turks dead, but I don’t know the difference. I’m at the Clown Bar off Taksim Square drinking afternoon pints with Andrew. We are tipsy, talking of tear gas, girls with purple hair, and how it is to be foreign. As the bartender goes across the street for change, a woman comes to us with raised hands. She says brother, brother, two coins for the dead, for my mother’s grave. She’s a pitiful face, henna smeared on her hands, hairs tumbling from her scarf. I want to tell her I have nothing but the fear of being dead, that all of us are begging. If she knew English, we’d drink tea at the White Rose Cafe up the hill and talk frankly of our children, our aunts dead of cancer, our fathers whose voices we can’t remember. 36 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
Gertrude Stein Lighthouse Sonnet Sean Thomas Dougherty
To kiss darkly in the dark parkâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s parking lot is to kiss the dark sparks leaping from our lighthouse lips along the great lakeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s cliffs, warning the night boats casting their dark lures, down to where even the light does not reach, where the bones of ancient freighters rest below the giant bass whose great mouths O as they pull against the glint of the hook, and rise grand and glistening on the barbs of moonlight
Parishioner Jan Ball He sits behind the nuns each Sunday Mass at St. Benedict’s so he recognizes the shape of the back of her head through the thin black veil and watches her movements avidly as she returns from Holy Communion, rosary beads swaying rhythmically from her waist, eyes cast demurely down in devotion, her square-tipped fingers folded across the crucifix that hangs on her chest signifying A Bride of Christ. Sunday night, after he and his wife have been invited to another parishioner’s house for barbecued ribs with Sister Florence Marie, he drives his wife home first to pay the babysitter then takes Sister back to the convent on Wickham Road, his hands sweating on the cool Subaru steering wheel as he makes small talk about the Bears and Blackhawks. At the door, under the carport, he kisses her goodnight full on the lips, then asks, “Where did you learn to kiss like that?”
38 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
The Myth of Susiya Mary Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Melveny
This could be a story of faith. Or, just as well, its pure opposite. The old grandfathers have lived in this dusty valley, framed by olive trees, far longer than the State of Israel, carried there in the arms of their fathers. They hold on tightly to faded documents, deeds to once vibrant South Hebron hillsides issued long ago by some weathered Ottoman clerk, charting ancient acreage in the hundreds of Dunams. Their rocky farmlands and orchards, like themselves, withered and shrinking. One family of fourteen has moved three times from homes to caves to tents and back, each time hoping for more solid ground, yet fearing anew the inevitable sight of greedy bulldozers grinding up the few solid pieces of their tentative life. At last count, three hundred forty villagers
have been displaced again and again. They have slept in the wildness of the land, their crops dislodged, livestock dead, cisterns smashed or filled with cement. Yet they will come again to these elusive homes. This is “Area C,” they were told when they filed their re-building papers — “archeological sites, deep historical connections” – as if they had none of these, as if their crops and ancestral dreamlines had gone up overnight while others slept soundly. For today, thirteen families subsist on nerves. They are buoyed briefly by the internationals who donated solar panels and wind turbines. These visitors will briefly pitch their tents on the little village pathways, ready to bear witness to new outrages. But the next expulsion appears inevitable, court rulings have been issued, papers served, opinions read aloud, their own complaints and legal pleas dismissed or ignored, permits denied, and denied again. Yet still they stay put.
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As the inherited lands thin down, cattle bumping against cattle, water sources drying up like fish in the sun, a certainty emerges, an energy even — “We will be a fishbone in their throat” — one woman shouts into the arid air. These are their fields and pasturelands after all is said and after all is done — homes crushed, caves blown apart, tents ripped and solar panels smashed — they will not be dispossessed, will not wander peaceably, forlornly away. Is this the hopeless cause it seems as they return and return again? Rising up like weeds from each razed, brutal patch of ground, grimly gathering the tattered tribes together? As they begin, once more, the search for restoration, perhaps true exit is simply not possible. Will never be.
NON-FIC T ION
Dinner, Please Martha Clarkson Photography
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break Hanna Bourdon
i. aptism in the Amish church doesn’t take place until the child is about fifteen years old. Around the fifteenth birthday, a practice known as “Rumspringa” begins. Children are
then allowed to leave their homes, experience a world other than the community they have grown up in. In German, “Rumspringa” literally means, “running around.” Moving your bones, running from home, experiencing something new and different. It isn’t until you make the decision to stay, after experiencing the “English” world that you are allowed to be baptized and become a permanent member of the Amish church. Of all the Amish teenagers who leave the community, about 90% of them return to be baptized. A vast majority of people who have chosen their families, their friends and an old, familiar lifestyle. However, the 10% that choose to leave for the modern world, they are shunned. They are not allowed to come back to the community. If they attend an Amish wedding or funeral, they are not allowed to sit with those who were baptized. A distinct segregation between those who chose the Amish life and those who left it behind.
Leaving the community calls for a clean break. There is no
gray area when it comes to leaving; you either leave or you stay. It calls for a recreation of the self; the person who existed within the confines of the Amish religion is left behind. The process of starting fresh begins; he or she is forced to create an identity separate from that of their families and everything that surrounded them throughout their lives. This is a terrifying proposition because 43
choosing to leave is permanent.1 Children are faced with the decision of whether or not they want to live in the “English” world, ultimately, leaving their families behind.2 Leaving expands past the family; the Amish community is based in fellowship, religion, a sense of simplicity. All of these characteristics, they believe, are not upheld in the modern world. They are not taken as seriously. Being Amish is a constant decision to defy modern advancements, foster a sense of community, and focus on building strong, religious families. In their eyes, choosing to leave the community is a show of opposition towards everything the Amish have created. Leaving has to be one of the loneliest feelings in the world. ii.
She left Pennsylvania without ceremony. She didn’t tell her
friends, many of them still aren’t fully aware where exactly it is that she goes to school. It could be said that she had the smalltown blues, ideas too liberal for a town of such conservative values. However, if you were to ask her, she doesn’t have a reason, it just felt right.3 She had a feeling that maybe leaving would be a good thing. Good things come from throwing yourself off the ledge, into the great unknown. At least, she thinks this is true. She is pretty sure she read it somewhere. Maybe not. So is choosing to recreate oneself. The person they would ultimately become, and live their life out as, is not welcome in their childhood home. This is a permanent choice, a heavy decision. 2 She doesn’t know if she could ever make a decision like this. She can’t imagine making a decision so permanent. Something that, ten years from now, people would still remember, expect her to uphold. She doesn’t know how a child could ever choose to leave, even if, in their gut, they knew the Amish way of life was not for them. She doesn’t think she could ever be brave enough to make a decision like this. 3 The fact of the matter is she probably has a lot of reasons. But she still is not sure what they are, how to classify these reasons. So, when people ask her why it is that she moved so far from home, she has various responses, the most honest being, “I don’t know.” 1
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She chose her school at random. She had toured dozens, tried
her best to make what she thought would be the “right” choice. Yet, campus after campus was toured and she hated them all, couldn’t see herself amongst the excitement and noise of college life. She avoided school after her high school graduation, took time off, worked. She felt that in her job, her job rolling burritos, she had found a home, found somewhere she fit in.4 Her parents did not love her job as much as she did; they poked and prodded and finally, when she came loose, she applied to a school that seemed different and new. She chose a school in a city she had only been to once before, as a little girl, when college was not even in her realm of thinking. This school would be her out.5 The problem was, she developed the thinking that, by leaving, she would change. Her insecurities and anxieties, they would dissipate and she would be allowed to be a better, more-refined version of herself. Leaving would be a new start, she could shed her old skin and pull forward, free and uninhibited. But when the final boxes were moved into her new home and she said her goodbyes to her family, she was no longer as sure.6
She writes about her hometown more often than not. She
writes about it without thinking; it sneaks itself into almost any topic, any theme. It weasels and elbows its way into all aspects This concept of “fitting in” is very important to her. A long time ago she read the words, “a soft place to land.” She doesn’t remember where she read it or what it came from, but she carries these words with her in her back pocket, wherever she goes. She didn’t have many friends in high school, and those she had, she felt she was constantly trying to please. With college in her future, she only had the goal of finding “a soft place to land.” She didn’t know what this meant, exactly; she just knew she wanted it desperately. 5 An important thing to know is that she wasn’t looking for an “escape.” She hates that phrase; it’s cliché and implies that she doesn’t love her life. She does. With every part of her being, she loves her family, she loved her job. But the town, it left her mouth tasting like sandpaper. When she developed thoughts and ideas, she realized none of her beliefs aligned with the morals of the town. She no longer felt comfortable voicing her opinions with friends, she couldn’t be sure what they were thinking. 4
of her new life. She thinks of her family more than anyone. She worries about her brother and her sister and hopes that they don’t feel like she left them behind.7 And while, when she writes about her home, it all sounds like flowers and meadows and rolling hills, she doesn’t tell anyone that, nowadays, she can’t think of mountains without thinking of rearview mirrors and backwash and backwards glances. She can’t think of mountains without a voice in her head saying, “You left us here, I hope you are happy.” She wants to tell her state, her town, more importantly, her family that she didn’t “leave” them. That is too strong a word, it has too many negative implications. She just had to go. She can’t promise that she will come back. iii.
My sister is my greatest responsibility. She tore me from the
life of an only child. My parents made me promise that I would take care of her, watch out for her because that is what sisters do.8
She called me to tell me she is going to go to school in Maryland
and that, if you account for traffic, we will be about eighteen hours away. My heart clogs my throat when I think about this. I was not given the tools to handle the fact that no time in the near future Gone were the worries of never being enough. Gone were the worries of not fitting in and the difficulties of making friends. In their place, an aching persisted. While, yes, it can be said that she changed, it is more accurate to say that she merely traded old fears and worries for new ones. She was still the anxious little girl that she thought she could leave behind. 7 This is her greatest worry. She knows they understand that she had to go. But, at the end of the day, she is the oldest; she will never be able to shed the responsibility and protectiveness that comes with that. She can’t protect them from states away. This breaks her heart. 8 I never knew how seriously I would take this promise. Because years later and hundreds of miles between us, I still feel the gentle tug in my belly, the promise to keep my baby sister safe. I worry about her, worry for her. 9 My sister and I had a plan, not that long ago, right before I left for college. We 6
46 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
will we be living near each other again.9 This is my sister, the one I swore to protect, to watch out for, nowhere near me. At least, knowing that she was home, with my parents, with our brother, I knew she was safe, that her quiet nature would be protected. Our family understands her; no one else does. My mother knows her quirks, my dad knows how to make her laugh, my brother is her best friend. I don’t worry for her when I know she is home. But the idea that she is leaving is something I don’t know how to conceptualize. That she will go away, she will meet people who do not love her with the love my family and I have for her. I am having more trouble handling my sister’s leaving home, than I did my own.
When my sister and I were younger, we would play “Social
Worker.” It was a bizarre, most likely disturbing game for two little girls to be playing. In this game, my sister would pretend to be the abused orphan and I would be the social worker who would come to save her. We would create elaborate scenes of abandonment, poverty, and abuse. We created awful scenarios, yet, no matter how bad they would be, in the end, the social worker would always come in and save the day. She would barge into the room, rescuing the child, bringing her somewhere safe, somewhere she would be loved.10 We would play this game day after day, constantly coming up with a new horror story, a new plot line. I am now fully aware were going to buy an RV. We were going to live in the RV together, buy a dog and travel the country. I didn’t like the idea of college and my sister said that we would just figure something out together. We figured things out together; we have been extensions of each other ever since she was born. I am the creative, emotional side, my sister, the practical, tough one. We complete each other, we make a good team. We were going to travel the country in an RV. 10 I am sure the games we played as little girls indicate a deeper, subliminal problem. I’m not sure if it was the result of having too good a life or just what happens when your parents tell you the woes of the world at a young age. Our parents believed in talking to their children like adults; it resulted in their little girls throwing princess games out the window and settling for, what we believed to be, the recreation of the raw and the angry.
that playing a game like this only shows the fortunate home we were brought up in. That we would play these games, and games would be all they were. And then, when we got hungry or bored, we would stop and go back to being the immensely loved daughters of a normal, middle class family in rural Pennsylvania.
When I was younger and playing “Social Worker” with my
little sister, there was never a moment where I would have ever conceived we wouldn’t always have each other. That, even though it was just a game, I never would have guessed there would ever be a time where I wouldn’t be there to save her from whatever evil the world would try to throw at her. A large part of who I am has been defined by my sister. It has been defined by my protectiveness, my ability to be there and stand up for her. When I left home, I knew I was leaving my sister in good hands; I call daily, check in. But now she is leaving and with that, she takes my ability to watch out for her. And I have yet to figure out what to do.
48 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
Robin’s Egg Blue
Rosalie Petrouske verything smelled different that summer. The rain in June stirred up the soil, creating a loamy warm steam. In the field behind my grandmother’s house, I lay on my back
amongst the raggedy fiddlehead ferns for hours, breathing in the fragrance of a thousand wildflowers. When I finally stood up, I grew dizzy from gulping so much sweet air. ****
On Tuesday, the day after Mother took my father to the hospital,
I sat under the spruce in the northwest corner of Grandmother’s yard with a box of old Valentines. They once belonged to my mother and Aunt Eva, given to them by their childhood friends. Flipping the cards open and slowly reading their messages usually entertained me for hours, but today I pushed the box away to stare up through the long, lacy branches of the spruce high above my head. Eleven years old and tall for my age, I liked how slender and tanned my legs appeared, stretching from beneath the cuffs of my denim shorts. My feet were bare, too, with dirt embedded under the white moons of each toenail. I thought my hands were tiny like my mother’s, except my fingernails grow straight across; they do not curve into her perfect ovals. Finally, bored with these observations, I put a finger into my mouth and chewed at a hangnail until it broke off.
Mother and Grandmother’s voices drifted through the screen
I listened hard to pick up their words, but the bright
chirp of sparrows in the rafters above the porch drowned out distinct syllables, so all I could hear were intonations and a name occasionally spoken. I recognized my own. Then they moved farther into the kitchen and their voices became a faint murmur. 49
I ran my hands from shoulders to knuckles, feeling the shape of the bones beneath my skin. Last winter, there was a girl at school, Linda Stein, who always wrapped her chubby hand around my wrist.
“Look at how skinny you are,” she said. “I can put my fingers all
the way ‘round and touch my index finger.”
She pressed my skin hard between her thumb and forefinger,
and pinched the pieces together until I cried, “Ow, you’re hurting me!” Even then, she didn’t let go until my skin turned red and bruised.
I hated thinking about school and never wanted summer to
end. The only thing I missed was being able to check out books at the library, like my favorite one about the girl with the blue willow plate. ****
Flopping onto my back in the grass, I examined the spruce
from a different angle. The prickly grass tickled through the thin fabric of my white blouse. It made me want to giggle, but after a few minutes, the scratchiness wasn’t so noticeable anymore. Staring straight up, all I saw were branches spiraling toward a blue sky. Somewhere near the top, tucked onto a crooked limb, I knew a robin had built a nest.
Last Tuesday, after Mother had washed my hair outdoors in a
basin of rainwater, dried and cut it, I saw the robin darting down from her perch near the top to gather the dark strands in her beak. The long streamers waved in the wind as she flew upwards. Mother loved to run her hands through my hair. Sometimes, she’d sit behind me, brushing it and sliding her fingers over its silky surface.
“You have such beautiful hair,” she often said.
It was the one time she touched me before washing dirt away
from the hollow between my shoulder blades, the spot I could 50 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
I had begged her to cut my hair short, unable to stand the
thought of another hot summer. The heaviness weighed down my neck until it felt as if I were carrying a huge watermelon from Grandmother’s garden on top of my head.
“I can braid it for you,” she said, “or put it in a ponytail.”
But the braids were thick and awkward. They felt like two
unwieldy ropes, and after wearing a ponytail all day, the back of my head grew sore where the rubber band pinched against the flat plane of my skull.
“No, cut it!” I whined, “Cut it. Now!”
Tight-lipped, she got a pair of scissors. When I heard the first
crunch as the scissors bit into the long piece she held between her thumb and forefinger, I almost changed my mind. There was a boy at school, Billy, who liked to touch my hair. At recess, when I hung upside down on the jungle gym, he came up behind me and grabbed two long strands between his hands. Once, when Mrs. Hansen turned off the lights so we could watch a movie about Mt. Rushmore, I felt his palm stroking the back of my head, sliding down my hair as if he were petting his border collie. My scalp tingled from his touch. When the lights came back on, he never spoke to me; he looked away, staring at Mrs. Hansen as if she were the most interesting person in the world.
Now my hair only reached my shoulders. It fell in a blunt cut,
light and airy. When I turned my head from side to side, it swirled around my face, the ends just brushing my chin. ****
My bedroom in the trailer where we lived had felt like a furnace
last night. All the jalousie windows were open, but not even a breath of air slid through. Sometime during the night, I pulled off my cotton gown and crawled on top of the light blanket wearing only my underpants. Out on the highway, a semi drove past, 51
shifting gears, headed for the bridge. There were other sounds I didn’t want to hear, my father moaning, almost crying as if he were in pain. Mother came into my room.
“Your father’s sick. Put on some clothes. We have to take him
to the hospital.”
“What’s wrong?” My voice sounded small and tinny in the
“We don’t know. Just hurry up!”
I pulled on some wrinkled shorts and a sleeveless blouse.
Mother took the wheel. She never drove in traffic, but at midnight the highway was empty. We only passed two other automobiles. My father sat hunched over in the front seat, moaning and clutching at his stomach, gasping and coughing into a white handkerchief. At the hospital when she opened the door to help Father out, the dome light came on. I could see the white handkerchief in his hand was covered with blood.
“Lock the doors and stay here,” she ordered.
She waited a moment until she heard the click before helping
my father up the sidewalk to the emergency room entrance. An orderly in green scrubs came out and took his other arm. The inside of the car grew stuffy with stale air, and a coppery smell permeated my nostrils. I realized it was my father’s blood drying into the leather where it had spilled onto the front seat.
I rolled down a window and finally fell asleep, curled into a
ball. When Mother came back, the first light of dawn was streaking across the Eastern sky, and the maple trees lining the walkway were alive with the chatter of birdsong. ****
Suddenly, a piercing screech from the top of the spruce
alarmed me, blocking out the disturbing images from yesterday. Hearing a flutter of wings, I sat up trying to see what was going on. A few twigs rained down from the upper branches, along with 52 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
a pinecone. The robin flew out and circled above in small, jerky movements. On the ground, not too far from my big toe, there was a flash of blue. When I looked closer, I saw a small, perfectly shaped robin’s egg. Tentatively, I picked it up, being careful not to squeeze too hard. The egg vibrated in my hand, still warm from the nest. It was the most amazing shade of blue. I carried it farther away from the tree and placed it carefully in the grass. The robin circled overhead.
“Look, here it is. Come and get it!” I called out.
Sliding farther under the sheltering branches of the spruce, I
sat as still as possible. While I waited, I thought about the vacation my father promised me.
“We’ll go somewhere next summer,” he had said last year.
We never went anywhere except to the park for Fourth of July
fireworks, and every August, Grandmother took me to the State Fair.
“Where will we go, Daddy? How about the Grand Canyon or
Yellowstone National Park? Can we go there? Please, oh, please! Pretty please!” I begged.
“We’ll see.” He laughed when I jumped up and down, flung my
arms around his neck, and squeezed. He always let me hug him.
For months I dreamed about our trip. Not about the fun we
would have, but about the first day of school when our teacher assigned her usual essay asking us to describe what we did over the summer. I’d finally have something to say and an album of pictures to pass around so everyone could see me standing in front of Old Faithful. How splendid, I thought, not having to sit through endless stories as Merritt told the class about the dinosaur exhibit at the Smithsonian, or Judy described her adventures visiting Disney World, or how Carol climbed Pike’s Peak.
“Your dad can’t afford to take us anywhere,” Mother finally said
to stop my endless questions. “He has to work all summer. You 53
“No! He said he’d take us. He promised.”
“If I had a dollar for every promise he’s made, we’d be rich.”
Slamming the door to my room as hard as I could, I flung myself
across the bed, kicking the headboard, screaming and crying, until my nose was so stuffed-up with snot, I thought I’d choke. ****
Above me the robin still circled, but she never swooped down
to get the egg. Finally, I picked it up and brought it to the house. Mother and Grandmother were sitting at the kitchen table.
“What’s that you’ve got?” Grandmother asked. I showed her.
“It fell out of a nest in the spruce. It’s a robin’s egg, but she
keeps flying around and won’t come and get it.”
“She’ll never get it now,” my mother said. “You’ve touched it. It
has your human scent on it. “
“You’re wrong,” I said. “She can’t just abandon it.”
“Of course she can. That’s just the way it is in nature. Mothers
often abandon their young.”
“No, she won’t.” I stomped back outside to place the robin’s egg
in the grass where I’d found it.
Later, Mother returned to the hospital. She didn’t come home
all night. I slept in the big bed with Grandmother. It was dark and cool in her room. I tried to pray about my father, prayers Grandmother taught me. ‘Our Father who art in Heaven,’ ‘Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.’ I couldn’t remember all the words, so I just said bits and pieces of the verses.
It rained during the night, and the next morning, the petals of
the iris were beaded with water. Steam rose up from apple trees and hollowed trunks of oaks cut down after last spring’s grassfire. They appeared like ghostly apparitions in the muted light.
I found the robin’s egg in the same place I’d left it. It felt hard
and icy cold cupped in the center of my hand. Angrily, I threw it 54 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
against the side of my grandmother’s house. It hit with a tiny splat and yellow matter ran out, clustering in a small blotch staining the white siding.
“Stupid mother,” I yelled. “Stupid, stupid bird.”
I didn’t even understand why I was crying.
Jan Ball started submitting poems for publication in 1998, and 203 of them have been published in journals such as: Atlanta Review, Calyx, Connecticut Review, Nimrod, Phoebe, and Verse Wisconsin. She has published two chapbooks: Accompanying Spouse (2011) and Chapter of Faults (2014) with Finishing Line Press. Carl Boon lives and works in Izmir, Turkey. His poems appear in dozens of magazines, most recently Neat, Jet Fuel Review, Blast Furnace, and The Kentucky Review. Hanna Bourdon is originally from Pennsylvania, but currently lives in Chicago, IL, where she is pursuing her BA in Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago. Hanna is the NonFiction Editor for Habitat Magazine and an Assistant Editor for Punctuate. A Nonfiction Magazine. Martha Clarkson manages corporate workplace design in Seattle. Her poetry, photography, and fiction can be found in Monkeybicycle, Clackamas Literary Review, Seattle Review, Alimentum, and elimae. She is a recipient of a Washington State Poets William Stafford prize, a Pushcart Nomination, and is listed under “Notable Stories” in Best American Non-Required Reading for 2007 and 2009. She is recipient of best short story, Anderbo/Open City prize, for “Her Voices, Her Room.” Steve Cushman received an MFA from UNC-Greensboro and 56 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
currently works at Moses Cone Memorial Hospital. His debut novel, Portisville, was the winner of the 2004 Novello Literary Award. He’s since published another novel, Heart With Joy, as well as two poetry chapbooks, Hospital Work and Midnight Stroll. His third novel, Hopscotch, will be released in the fall of 2016. Sean Thomas Dougherty is the author or editor of 15 books including the forthcoming The Second O of Sorrow (2018 BOA Editions), and All You Ask for Is Longing: Poems 1994- 2014 (2014 BOA Editions). Recent poems have been published in North American Review and Best American Poetry 2014. His website is seanthomasdoughertypoet.com. He works in a pool hall in Erie, PA. Michael Ezzell is an illustrator and printmaker from Elkhart, IN. He graduated with a BFA from the Savannah College of Art & Design, and currently resides in Savannah, GA. He strives to bring to paper all the characters and fantasies of his imagination, combining humor, nonsense, and attitude with fashion and beauty. Elizabeth Genovise is a graduate of the MFA program at McNeese State University in Louisiana. Her fiction has appeared in The Southern Review, Cimarron Review, Pembroke Magazine, Southern Indiana Review, and many other journals, and she has published two collections of short stories, A Different Harbor and Where There Are Two or More. Mary K O’Melveny is a recently retired labor rights attorney. She lives in Washington, D.C., and Woodstock, NY. She writes poetry for personal pleasure and is pleased to have more time to devote to the craft. She appreciates that poetry lets us make sense of our chaotic world and examine its natural wonders. She is working on two chapbooks, Memories and Memorials and Goats 57
in Brooklyn and Other Natural Wonders. She volunteers to fight human trafficking, developing accommodations for people with disabilities, and creating legal education programs in the field of labor and employment law. Rosalie Sanara Petrouske received her MA in English and Writing from Northern Michigan University. She is an Adjunct Professor in the English Department at Lansing Community College, where she currently teaches Freshman Composition and Creative Writing classes. She has had poetry and essays published in many literary journals and anthologies including Passages North, The Seattle Review, Red Rock Review, Third Wednesday, American Nature Writing, Lunch Ticket, and M others Always Write. She served as artist-in-residence in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness state park in 2008 and 2014. Christian Roy is an illustrator and textile designer from Ft. Lauderdale, FL. He continues his artistic journey through an array of mediums including three dimensional illustration, weaving, and collage, framing his creations against pivotal moments in his life, which add a unique style to his conceptual ideas and subtle designs. He works in editorial/advertising illustration and the fine art industry. Client commissions span from SCAD to private patrons. He will receive his BFA in Illustration from SCAD in spring 2016. He currently resides in Savannah, GA, with his dog, Charlie. Joanne Sills earned an MFA in fiction from Rutgers UniversityNewark after two decades in the newspaper business as a reporter and editor. Lucky Day is part of a collection in progress about the trials and triumphs of people living in Libertyville, a fictional neighborhood in Queens, over three generations. After many years away, she returned to New York City and teaches English 58 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
composition and other writing courses at Queens College and Rutgers University.
To Our Supporters and Benefactors, This issue of FLARE: The Flagler Review would not have been possible without the generous support of the following Flagler College departments, organizations, and individuals. Thanks for your ongoing assistance. President William T. Abare, Jr. Dean Alan Woolfolk Judith Burdan Darien Andreu Lisa Baird Kim Bradley Liz Robbins Connie St. Clair-Andrews Jay Szczepanski Department of English Department of Art & Design Sigma Tau Delta English Honors Society
A special thank-you to Laura Smith, Jim Wilson, Carl Horner, and all those who have directed The Flagler Review in years past.
60 â&#x20AC;˘ FLARE: The Flagler Review
Jan Ball Carl Boon Hanna Bourdon Martha Clarkson Steve Cushman Sean Thomas Dougherty Michael Ezzell Elizabeth Genovise Mary O’Melveny Rosalie Petrouske Lyle Roebuck Christian Roy Joanne Sills
Cover Art “Red Queen” Michael Ezzel