Cabildo Quarterly. Lucky Thirteen. Summah 2019. Cape Cod; Bangor ME. We need more parties in the USA. To Dive Inside by Margarita Serafimova
To dive inside one another there, where our bodies are liquid. A stone of sadness is weightless inside me.
Margarita Serafimova was nominated for Best of the Net 2018. She has published three collections in Bulgarian. Nick by Luke Kuzmish
Nick's bedroom was less than a football field's length away from the train tracks he let me read his journal when we were just kids
he found trouble keeping sleep with the regular interruptions
the rush of the locomotive's body, rocks being kicked, train whistle screaming, dinging railway crossing lights and bells he lived there long after that journal entry eventually, soundly he slept
it all just kind of became a part of him and his dreams were never stopped or divided by things great or small
Luke Kuzmish is a new father, recovering addict, software developer, and writer. His first full-length collection, Little Hollywood, was published by Alien Buddha Press in 2018. Donkey Breast by Ama Birch
Marfa, Texas is a land on the brink. It is on the brink of the desert. It is on the brink of nothing. It is the land of the unknown and the unknowing. It is where the desert meets the asphalt. The cactus and aloe meet the eye. The grass meets the wind. The color is straw. The sand is loose, and the people are tough, tan and leathery. Living in mint and periwinkle mobile homes on the side of the road and next to the dried river bed where they can gaze out at a road that leads to nowhere and nothing except the sound of wolves and braying animals in the night with cylindrical mountains coming out of the ground. I sat on the porch with the weathered slats of wood beneath my bare feet. I rubbed my feet on the smooth wooden planks with the slight shimmer. The pitch spaces between gray slabs are imperfect and the rows are dusted with sandy colored dirt. The yellow dirt swathes over the planks like a slow rough sandpaper leaving the surface between a dull and a shiny gray. The wind chime makes a tinkling sound of glasses toasting. The stairs are butting against colorful tiles; the perfect squares of the maroon, beige, and orange terra-cotta walkway leading up to the dirt parking lot in front of the humble shack that we slept at last night. The morning light strikes the wind chime on the porch. Tickling the light of the air as the multicolored glass rods strike each other gently creating a single a trickle of sound. The light passes through them forming circular rainbows on the porch. I sip my coffee and take a bite of my thick toast covered in fig jam. I take a bite of the watermelon next to me and put the pink slice in my mouth. It is tasty. The juices run down my cheek. Then you say to me it is time to hit the road. “Into the nothingness,” you say. “The car is packed, and all we need, all I need is you.” The tinkling of the glass with grains of sand and light hitting the windshield speeds up this moment. Then it slows down when we close the doors. There is peace as you turn the ignition key to the 1976 blue Nova. The sun beats down on the car and a layer of sweat forms between my legs and the leather seat. We roll down the windows. As the car accelerates, the crumble of the ground is heard, and the wind blows through our hair as the car hits the asphalt and the ride becomes smooth. It is so smooth it feels like we were sliding on black ice. The rainbows in the asphalt shimmer. The glitter is dazzling. “Can you give me my sunglasses?” you ask. “Sure thing,” I say. The buildings are like boxes lining the road. Boxes upon boxes that are stacked on boxes with vast amounts of space and desert between and behind them. Floating boxes with square color
tinted windows. The windows emit light in a brilliant array of transparent hues. The lights are light pinks, light yellows, and light blues. The sun’s rays pierce the glass and come to an abrupt stop as they shade the ground with color. The buildings stop and cacti emerge from the ground on both sides with short grass that is green, yellow, and brown coming up from the sandy earth. Mountains made up of thin tubes are seen in the distant. Aloe shrubs appear here and there. Dusk is coming. The light begins to change as the sun begins to move towards the horizon. The time floats like a ship in the middle of the ocean. I see it: An apparition or a dinosaur or a cowboy; a real life floating mirage in the middle of the desert— in the middle of this road to nowhere. It can’t be. How can it be? What can it be? An alien? You slowed down. “Why?” I ask. You don’t speak. It is like you know. You do know. You don’t want to know. How can you know? How can we know? We slowed down. We are gliding on the asphalt. We are skiing along the road. Some tumbleweed drifts past us. The cowboy gets bigger as we move forward. I drink some water. I am thirsty. I am so thirsty at this moment. Parched, dry mouth. I cough. What to say? As if I can speak if I want to. I cough. A rainbow light reflects off your dark green tinted sunglasses. We look at each other. We know. It is time. The cowboy is getting bigger. I keep drinking water. I am so thirsty. The horse is so small. The person is so big. We get closer. I say, “That is no cowboy.” You say, “That’s a donkey.” I say, “That’s a woman.” She says, “Vamonos, Vamos a ir hermosa criatura!” The cowgirl strokes the side of the donkey and then whispers in its ear gently stroking its side. There are multi-colored glass bottles hanging from the cowgirl’s waist. Her face is an orange-brown tan color, and its texture is like leather. It is shiny, but she is not sweating. The donkey is under her weight. The donkey is strong. She has bundles attached to the donkey’s hindquarters. The glass makes a clanging sound as the donkey moves forward at a slow pace. We keep driving. We don’t really stop gliding. She raises her head and looks at us as we drive pass very slow. She smiles. Her smile is blinding. She nods, and then she slides her hand over her donkey's mane. “Me llevara a la luz de la luna!” she says. The spiky hairs on top of the donkey’s head blow in the wind as we pass her. She whispers in the donkey’s ear, “Jenny.” I am so thirsty. You are sweating. The sun is setting and the sky is a mixture of magenta, blue, and white. There is no one else around. I see a teepee off in the distance. The tink-and-twank of glass bottles hitting each other is heard as we move towards another point in the far distance that we couldn’t see from here. When night falls, the moon becomes big and bright in the sky. The shadow of the mountain can be seen in the distance. We pull our Nova to the side of the road and wrap ourselves in blankets. The Nova is the same color as the sky. We sleep in the backseat of the car. In the middle of the night, I hear a wolf howling. I pull you closer to me. You kiss me gently. We rub noses. We caress each other under the stars in the dark. You grab my breast. I hear the tinkling of glass. The cowgirl on the donkey passes us traveling in the moonlight. Her shadow is in front of us again. I hear the sound of the tinkling glass bottles and their greens and blues glow in the moonlight. I feel the donkey’s heavy burden as the donkey stands strong. The cowgirl is playing a trumpet. A solo to end all solos plays in the wind. A piercing cry in melody with the howl of a wolf. I am so thirsty. You kiss me again, and we drift off to sleep under the white light of the moon wrapped in blankets and dreaming of beds made of straw next to lakes that reflect the moonlight. You cry a tear, and it glistens in the night. I am so thirsty. Bray. Cough. Bray. Cough. Bray. Ama Birch has been published by Autonomedia, A Gathering of the Tribes, Vail/Vale, Les Figues Press, Ali Liebegott, Vitrine, Insert Blanc Press, CalArts Creative Writing Program, and the State University of New York Press. She lives in New York City. Zen Flesh, Zen Bones by Ben Stein
On my palm a soft white stone carried home from Lake Ontario. Henry barks at the sharp edge of twilight behind the garage.
Ben Stein's work has appeared in Cabildo Quarterly issues 2 & 8. His chapbook, Springtime and Important Things to Remember is available from Red Flag Poetry. He is a member of the notorious Bass River Snakes, and he sometimes writes about public policy for Policy Matters Ohio. He lives in Cleveland. Lucky by Katherine Sinback
Senior year. My friend Liz and I bubbled with the excitement of an all-night parent-free party at our friend Jerry’s house, complete with a keg on the back patio. I met Jerry through a series of small-town alternative-kid connections when my fellow senior friend Liz and I decided that we were too cool for high school. We preferred the company of our elders, the barely adults who had graduated high school the previous year and were stuck in our redneck suburb of Washington D.C. They meandered through service industry jobs, were taking a gap year, or upping their GPA in community college so
they could transfer to a real school, preferably one far from home. Liz and I were already applying to college, planning to be roommates if we both got into our first-choice, U.V.A., but we didn’t mention our plans to Jerry. He was forever trying to convince us to stay in our hometown with him. “I like it here. It’s cool.” Jerry lived with his parents out in the country on a winding road that snaked from the cookie cutter subdivisions in town. His dad, a police officer, granted permission for the party on the condition that nobody drive drunk and the festivities remain in the basement where Jerry had a bedroom and a den all to himself. The party fell on the night before Thanksgiving so the friends of Jerry’s who had gone away to college were invited to mingle with us, the young and the restless. An early snow started to fall and my friend, Liz rejoiced that she wouldn’t have to drive us home in the snow. Even better she wouldn’t have to monitor her alcohol consumption. I, the perpetual shotgun rider, guzzled beer with my usual abandon, even more so because I felt intimidated by the college kids. When Liz and I hung out with Jerry he joked about us still being so young. Children. Babies. But Liz, Jerry, and I were united in our underagehood. His dad had been the one to actually procure the keg. Strangers, or the more we pumped the keg and watched beer froth into red solo cups, merely friends we hadn’t met, streamed through Jerry’s front door. The new friends stomped down the stairs into the basement. One guy caught my eye. “Hey, he looks like an evil Ryan MacDougal,” I said to Liz. “Oh yeah, totally,” she said to me then yelled across the party, “Hey, Evil Ryan MacDougal!” Liz was already in what Jerry called her Joan Rivers phase of inebriation. Her voice, loud and grating and her filter nonexistent. Ryan MacDougal was a classmate of ours, the nice-guy popular boy with swirls of blond hair always perfectly mussed for optimum dreamy-ness. His brown-haired doppleganger at the party, wore a Bauhaus t-shirt and a coy smile. Evil Ryan MacDougal heard Liz’s yell and came over to introduce himself. “Hey,” he said. “Hey.” A few hours later Liz, Evil Ryan MacDougal, a small group of revelers, and I relocated to Jerry’s room to listen to The Church album. I wasn’t yet so drunk that I couldn’t stand, but as we listened, and laughed and Evil Ryan MacDougal refilled my cup, I started to feel the unmistakable droop of heavy eyelids, my limbs turning leaden. Too many cups of beer too soon. Only ten o’clock and already I was feeling the pull of the corner of Jerry’s room, which I had staked out as my spot to crash once the party wound down. Slowly I slid to the floor. I sprawled onto my stomach, nestling my cheek into the scratchy tan shag carpet. Liz poked my shoulder. “Get up! Get up!” “Just resting my eyes,” I slurred as my eyes fluttered shut. The voices in the room were a pleasant background chatter. I would rejoin them as soon as I’d slept off some of the beer, I assured myself. I had slept off a too-fast intoxication a few times in the last three months since I had discovered the pleasures of alcohol. The world of drinking had opened to me thanks to my other friend Mary’s twenty-one-year-old boyfriend who kept us stocked with Wild Turkey and Milwaukee’s Best. I had a brief dalliance with Jeff, the twenty-five-year-old roommate of Mary’s boyfriend. It was a relationship born of proximity, Jeff ’s lack of a driver’s license due to too many DUIs, and Mary’s need to have a friend join her so that she could make out with her boyfriend in the dumpy, spare townhouse he shared with Jeff. Having an older not-quite-boyfriend did have benefits. In a pinch Jeff picked up a six-pack for Liz and me with a pointed joke, “You’re just using me for my I.D.” “You’re just using me for my body,” I shot back, trying on a smart, sexy personae that was so far away from my true self that even he laughed. “Yeah right.” Or maybe he laughed because I had never let our makeout sessions go beyond the heavy petting stage, never let his hand wander inside the waistband of my jeans. I hadn’t yet made the leap into the world of adult sex. And Jeff, the Jheri-curled lead singer of a heavy metal cover band had surely ventured there and beyond. He didn’t pressure me. He broke off our very casual hook-up-based relationship shortly after he learned my true age. Seventeen. When I admitted I was a virgin, he grew cold. Our final night together, he rejected my advances and advised me to wait until I met someone special to “go all the way,” as he delicately labeled sex for my virginal ears. Sometimes good guys don’t wear white. They wear black Iron Maiden sweatshirts with ripped sleeves and saggy faded Levi’s. They sing Bon Jovi songs and give good advice while waving off what would have surely been one of the most half-assed blow jobs in the history of oral sex. In Jerry’s bedroom, the swirl of voices grew quiet. I drifted off. I sunk into the scratchy weave of the carpet. I was tugged back to consciousness by the press of hands. Hands rolling me over from my stomach to my back, hands on my hips, fingers pulling at the neck of my sweater then moving to the crotch of my jeans, rubbing, fingertips fumbling with the button on my jeans. My eyes blinked open. The room was empty except for Evil Ryan MacDougal. The Church played on the stereo, eerie jangly music: Sometimes when this place gets kind of empty/Sound of their breath fades with the light/I think about the loveless fascination/Under the Milky Way Tonight. “What?” I said, my mouth still slack with sleep. He didn’t answer. His face was pointed in concentration. My jeans were a little tight, his fingers slippery and the button unyielding. The door pushed open and a giggling couple spilled in. I was too stuck in a fog to speak. I was drunk. I thought he was kind of cute. We had been flirting. I liked making out with boys, enjoyed the dance of flirtation as beers loosened our tongues and we led each other to hidden nooks of our parents’ suburban houses to make out. Since Jeff, the twenty-five-year-old, had dumped
me, I had made out with a few of the boys in the group of high school post-graduates, laughing about it with Liz later. “Can you believe I kissed Gary? Yikes!” But then Gary and I saw each other the next weekend, ribbed each other about beer breath and moved on to the next make-out session. Sometimes a boob or butt was groped in the process, but it was all clumsy and fun. During our drives around town smoking cigarettes, Liz and I joked about finally losing our virginity like it was a skin we were ready to shed and leave on our bedroom floor along with the frilly bedspreads and discarded Barbie dolls. We talked big in the front seat of her white Mustang. “God, I just want to get the whole thing over with,” I opined. But when the road hit the rubber, I did not let boy hands venture below my belt. The couple hovered by the doorway to Jerry’s room. They saw me sprawled on the floor. “Oh sorry,” they said then backed out of the room. What did they think? That we were in the middle of a make-out session? Or did they not want to believe their eyes? I get it now. I didn’t want to believe it myself. In fact, I couldn’t believe it. That someone I hadn’t kissed would be tangling with my pants. I had no compartment for this moment so I entered a fugue of paralysis and negotiation with myself. Maybe we had been kissing and I forgot. Maybe I just needed to come back to myself and push his hand away. Just tell him no. Nothing below the belt. Nothing below the belt. Evil Ryan MacDougal abandoned the project of my button for a moment to slam the door shut then turned the lock. “Uh, I don’t think—” I said. “It’s okay,” he said and went back to work on my pants. The button popped open. My stomach felt a brush of cold air. My black underpants, cotton jockeys exposed. I tried to block his hand with mine, but he easily cleared it away. My voice was stuck in my throat. I didn’t want to make trouble. I didn’t want to ruin the party. I didn’t want to be banished from this new group of friends. This was my fault, this was my fault, I had led him on even if I didn’t remember it. Wish I knew what you were looking for/Might have known what you would find. There were more knocks on the door. More turns of the locked door knob. On the other side of the door my friend Peter, who had been among the revelers in the room before I passed out, refused to go away. Unlike the rest of us, Peter didn’t get drunk. He had grown up with parents who subscribed to a more European philosophy of drinking. They let him have a beer when he wanted one so that he wouldn’t go into a frenzy when he was finally offered a drink. Peter was also wary around other boys. He’d gone more than a few rounds with bullies who labeled him weak or gay because he was a talented artist and preferred the company of girls. He had also apparently seen something in Evil Ryan MacDougal that I was too drunk to see. Peter didn’t give up knocking on the door to Jerry’s bedroom until Evil Ryan MacDougal relented. “Hey man, what’s up?” He said as he opened the door. Peter saw me on the floor. “What’s going on?” Evil Ryan MacDougal, his face red, ran his hand through his hair. “Nothing, man,” he said. “Just hanging out.” “Yeah,” I echoed. “Just hanging out.” I didn’t leap up and make a mad dash from the room, from this stranger who had been trying to strip me. I felt embarrassed. Weak. I had let myself get stuck in this situation, been stupid enough to get pass-out drunk. Maybe I was getting what I deserved. Peter came over and stuck out his hand. “You okay?” Quickly I pulled my pants closed and refastened the button. I pulled my t-shirt down as far as it would go. I nodded. I reached for Peter’s hand. He pulled me up from the floor. My legs were shaking, but I could stand. I could stand and walk away from Evil Ryan MacDougal. “What was happening in there?” Peter asked. “Oh nothing,” I said trying to laugh it off. We wound our way through the clumps of people. “That guy’s weird,” he said. “Yeah. Really.” “You okay?” “Fine. Fine. No big deal. I’m fine.” “Are you sure?” He pressed. “Fine!” I chirped. I rejoined the party. The moment was only the first in the night’s dramas: Sigrid and Steve had a fight and she threw his car keys into the snow! Jerry kissed the cute girl from his art class! Liz and I took a hit from a joint but didn’t feel anything! I let myself get lost in the little eruptions, welcomed the distraction from the moment in Jerry’s bedroom. Peter didn’t venture far from me even as I brushed him off and pretended nothing had happened. Eventually the party died down. Evil Ryan MacDougal hovered at the edge of the party, not crossing into my cluster of friends. He left without saying good-bye. In the wee hours of the night, I curled into the same corner of Jerry’s room where I had passed out, only this time with Liz snoring beside me and Jerry and the cute girl from his art class sacked out on his bed. I stayed awake until I could see the slowly purpling sky through the strip below the shade of Jerry’s window, listening to the same Church album on repeat and convincing myself that Evil Ryan MacDougal would have stopped. I could have reasoned with him. It wasn’t a big deal. I was lucky. The moment became a footnote, a cautionary tale. Don’t get too drunk. Don’t get caught alone in a room with a boy even if you want to make out with him. You’re not as strong as you think. In college, I shared my story of that night when my friends list ed their brushes with sexual assault. Stories as common as pierced ears. One friend woke to being entered by her thenboyfriend after saying she didn’t want to have sex. Another was raped by her boyfriend who intentionally infected her with Herpes. There were assaults at parties. Gropings. Fingers jammed into underpants. Breasts grabbed on the street. Men cornering women, treating us like prey. More sport than desire. “I was lucky. My friend stopped it.” I said.
I was lucky. I was lucky. I was lucky. I wasn’t raped. Everything’s okay. I’ll forget about it. Over thirty years later, and I still feel my breath catch when I think of that moment when the stranger’s hands tugged at the elastic of my underwear. I was lucky, I was lucky. I still shiver when I think of what could have happened if my friend Peter had not had his eye on me, if he hadn’t persisted in knocking on Jerry’s door. What would my trajectory be if Evil Ryan MacDougal had gotten his way, had continued his unpeeling of me until I was bare on the shag carpet, too in shock to fend him off ? I like to think I would have screamed, would have come back into my body and fought him with all my strength. But it is a question I cannot answer. I wanted to please. I wanted to please boys. I said I wanted to have sex so why didn’t I do what I said? The emergence of allegations against Brett Kavanaugh reawakened this moment. The fear of his accuser as she tries to scream with his hand covering her mouth, the music turned louder covering her cries. The boys’ hands touching her body like she is a thing, an object for the taking, for their taking. She was lucky. I was lucky. Who would I be now if I had been raped that night? This moment remains a living, breathing thing to me. I think about my daughter being caught in a similar moment and all the other moments that hover in the ether. Past and future assaults, men waiting for the right moment to dominate, or men never premeditating rape but living in a world where this framework, this feeling of a right to female bodies is instilled into them. Ticking time bombs. I don’t know what goes through a man’s mind moments before a rape, if there’s an internal argument with their own impulses or if they sail into the moment assured of their right to another person’s body. I’ve known enough good men and boys to know that touching a girl’s body, invading a woman when she’s drunk is not a default male setting. Dominating a woman is not inevitable. The narrative that has emerged, that men are barely controlled monsters is almost as insulting to men as it is harmful to women. Why are teenage boys given a pass to indulge base impulses? And if they are monsters, why do we adjust the lives and well-being of over half of the population to accommodate their worst impulses? In college a friend of mine confided that Mike, a boy visiting our campus, a boy I had known in high school, had assaulted her. They had drifted away from a party. She was drunk. They had been flirting all night and while she may have invited a kiss, she didn’t want to go any further. She was able to escape him, but the memory lingered. She told me the story at another party after she had enough drinks to knock the memory loose enough to share. Tears bubbled in her eyes. “At least he doesn’t go here,” I said. “I hope he knows he shouldn’t come back.” But Mike didn’t know. A month later, she and I walked into a party and there he was joking with his friends, my friends who he was visiting, at the keg. She turned and walked around the side of the house to join our friends in the yard. I wasn’t the only one she had told. “That’s the guy,” I said to our friend, Jay. I avoided Mike as much as I could, throwing him dirty looks and then looking away when he tried to meet my eye. What was I supposed to do? As I poured myself another beer, he tapped me on the shoulder. “Hey, what’s up?” “Hey,” I said then looked back to my cup. “Is something wrong? I feel like you’re pissed at me or something.” He laughed and turned to his friends for back-up. “Just leave me and my friends alone,” I said. He followed me. “No, man. What’s wrong? We’re cool, right?” He went through a litany of his bonafides, how he always thought I was cool back in high school. In reality, he was one of the drug-tinged popular kids. He supplied the elite with weed and cocaine and got to ride their coattails. He was a joker, a clown. And now he was the post-high-school loser still stuck in our hometown, likely cultivating a fresh coterie of high school girl seniors. “No, we’re not cool.” I said. Not for high school. And definitely not for my friend, but I didn’t feel like it was my place to fight her battle. Or should I? A hundred thoughts and impulses raced through me at that moment, curling my free hand into a fist. But he wouldn’t let up. “Come on, man. What did I do? I wanna know. I wanna make it right,” he whined. My friend Jay stepped in. “Hey man, I think you should leave.” “I don’t know you, man. What’s the problem?” The added whiff of machismo puffed out Mike’s chest. The party around us quieted. A voice from inside of me rose and burst through my beer-soaked throat. “I know what you did to my friend,” I said. “Now get the fuck out.” “What? What did I do?” He was practically begging now as a circle of friends formed around us. “You know what you fucking did,” I growled. “I don’t,” he said. His voice now edged in annoyance. I was ruining his good time. I crossed a line when I didn’t immediately succumb to his performance of supplication. “Just leave.” Jay said. The chorus grew. “Just leave, man. Just go.” My college friends stood behind me as my friend who Mike had assaulted watched from outside the window. After a few tense moments, the guy Mike was visiting at my college guided him away from the kitchen and out the door. Later I found out that he told Mike he wasn’t welcome here anymore. We stood up for our own. One moment of confronting assault and a man who perpetrated it did not save us from the rest of our college years, from our lives. Women know: the threat walks among us. The call is coming from inside the house. Friends who show a different face when away from the light of public. Men whose wheedling does not end when we say “no.” Supreme Court nominees who skate their whole
way through life, confident that their moment of assaulting a woman will either be forgotten or that the secret will be kept because no woman wants to relive a moment of powerlessness, a moment she will inevitably be blamed for because she was drinking underage, because she should have known better, because it is always her fault. Or it will be forgiven because he was only a boy. When will we stop accommodating the worst impulses of boys and men? When will we remake the world into a place that is not the natural habitat of monsters, where masculinity is no longer toxic, where boys are not trained to dominate and girls to fear? Almost thirty years after I awoke to a stranger fumbling with my pants, I still feel the words caught in my throat. No. Stop. Enough.
Katherine Sinback’s work has appeared in The Rumpus, daCunha, Gravel, Foliate Oak, Clackamas Literary Review, The Hunger Journal, and Oyster River Pages. Born and raised in Virginia, Katherine lives in Portland, Oregon with her family. She can be found on Twitter @kt_sinback. Forget Me Not by Bruce McRae
According to statistics one of us is mad, two of us are murderers, three of us have gone the way of the mail order catalogue – we are unnecessary and old, like shoes out of fashion, like sedans at the auto wreckers, like the ones you loved so long ago you can’t remember their names or faces. You chew the rag of memory and can’t remember.
Bruce McRae, a Canadian musician currently residing on Salt Spring Island BC, is a multiple Pushcart nominee with over 1,400 poems published internationally. For Dear Life by Jude Vachon
More and more I think I should be hanging on to the sky for dear life. I have been making an effort for a few years now to look up, to look at the sky and get a sense of it. Ideally every day, at least once. Firstly because it’s very strange and I think sad and unhealthy to ignore something that huge and always there. Not that long ago I realized that I was also ignoring small things that were always there. I knew what robins looked like but I wasn’t totally sure what their call sounded like. No, song is what I mean, songs are different than calls and I mean song. I learned that also not that long ago and had forgotten. Robins’ song sounds like cheerio cheer up cheerio.. Also something I could hold on to for dear life. I let myself, if I can, be cheered up when I hear it. I'm serious. I am ashamed to say that I didn’t really see the swallows most of my life. Now I look like an idiot, standing on the sidewalk, looking up and grinning at their acrobatics. I didn’t even really know what a sparrow looked like. I was pretty sure but not completely confident. If someone had said - no, those aren’t sparrows - I might have believed them. For shame. I care much more about kindness and justice than politeness but not knowing with certainty what a sparrow is nonetheless occurs to me as being SO RUDE. We’re talking about 45 decades of not showing real interest in some being regularly in the same space as me, sometimes just the two of us. Wait, there are exceptions. 9/11/2001. I left work after the towers went down though most people stayed because I thought business as usual was insane and insensitive. It wasn’t about me being patriotic. I was deeply upset about human suffering caused by ideologies. I bought a bike at the thrift store and rode home so I wouldn’t have to risk hearing anything islamophobic on the bus. I didn't feel like I could handle that. I stopped somewhere and sat outside and had a beer. I ended up staring at sparrows on the sidewalk for hours. I thought they were sparrows then and now I’m confident that they were. I fed them my bread from my lunch. It really helped me. They were still doing sweet sparrow things. That’s the second reason - the sky will keep doing sweet sky things. I can feel the changes. We’ve had so much snow this winter and then so much rain and so many storms this spring and summer. Floods, hurricanes, tornados, torrents. For a while I was carrying rain gear with me all the time like it was monsoon season or Seattle but I live in Pittsburgh. There have been so many grey skies, more than ever though grey is something that Pittsburgh already does too well. The grey is very hard for me. Sometimes I would have to sit right under lamps or try to sit right in the window of a cafe if I could, hang on to the light. I think the grey will be here more and more. I think my real chance is to connect with the earth before we go. That will mean connecting with it as it rages and sulks. My how we deserve it. The nonbreeding male sparrow and the female sparrow are both subtle in coloring and their differences are subtle. The different sky greys are subtle and yet clearly interesting, you can’t really say with any seriousness that grey skies have no beauty if you’ve put in some time with them. I don’t want to go I don’t want beings and the earth to suffer but we are blowing it. I feel immense anger and love and disappointment and still joy. Still love still joy may I still love still joy.
Jude Vachon is a German teacher and translator who lives in Pittsburgh with various animals and people.
Cabildo Quarterly #13. First press of 1000 copies, 6/1/2019 @ RZC HQ. (This quarter: right on track at ten months.) Michael T. Fournier: hustle; Lisa Panepinto: bustle. Pull quote swiped from thee Jonathan Richman. Hell yeah we love to accept submissions: send your 3000-5000 word fiction to firstname.lastname@example.org, and/or your 3-5 poems to email@example.com.Include a 20 or so word bio.Simultaneous are okay. We’re slow in print but we’re always updating our page with new writing: cabildoquarterly.tumblr.com. There’s plenty of print back issues lying around: paypal a buck to firstname.lastname@example.org for one, or five bucks for a big stack (or ten bucks for a wicked big stack). Not much going on this summer in terms of touring, alas. What can you do, right? Since the last issue things have been pretty crazy, what with house buying and working and trying to weed the garden. You know, life stuff. Until next time, keep doing what you’re doing: the most important thing right now is to be doing something,, you know? Keep on creating. Keep putting it outthere.We can do this. Thanks, as always, to Ryan and to Bec for putting up with all this. And you know it: LISTEN TO DEAD TREND!