Letter From the Editor Careless Magazine is a forum for the Claremont Colleges community to share thoughts, experiences, and feelings through art. We began in mid-2018, intending to create a magazine that represents voices from each of the five colleges in both its editorial board and contributors. This, our inaugural edition, is the product of that mission. Careless would have been a shadow of itself without the dedicated work of our managing board and our teams of designers and editors. Meeting each week—and often several times per week—these teams have worked hard to put together a project that we are proud of. We are grateful for the interest and support of the Claremont Colleges faculty, as well as the staggering quantity of student submissions and generous financial support from the Colleges. I should also direct thanks to 5C Wordsmiths for being a hub, a resource, and a nurturing family. We at Careless believe that art has the power to inspire conversations, to incite change, and to nudge us toward a better world by confronting the past, present, and future honestly and critically. Careless’ project is to share what makes us vulnerable and what makes us human, so that we can become a more understanding, more critical, and more deeply connected community. We hope you’ll enjoy the first edition of Careless Magazine. Blake Plante, Pomona ‘19 Editor-In-Chief
About Careless is a Claremont Colleges literary magazine that publishes a print edition twice a year, and electronically throughout the year. Our mission is to serve as a literary forum written, created, and managed by students across the five colleges. The submission deadline for our second print edition is March 22, 2019. Please direct submissions and inquiries to carelessmagazine@ gmail.com, and visit www.carelessmagazine.com/submit to view our submission guidelines. Careless is a branch of 5C Wordsmiths, which aims to be the home base for the creative writing community at the Claremont Colleges. To learn more, please visit www.5CWordsmiths.com.
Staff Editor-In-Chief Blake Plante, Pomona ‘19 Senior Managing Editor Nama Rosas, Claremont McKenna ‘19
Junior Managing Editor Suh Won Chang, Claremont McKenna‘21 5C Wordsmiths Consultant Alessandra Yu, Pomona ‘19 Outreach Coordinator Selena Spier, Pitzer ‘19 Layout Editor Grace Ozonoff-Richey, Scripps ‘19 Cover Design Alessandra Yu, Pomona ‘19, and Antonio Yu Designers Aditya Gandhi, Pomona ‘22 Alessandra Yu, Pomona ‘19 Angela Yeh, Pomona ‘22 Cameron Tipton, Pomona ‘20 Lianna Huang, Pomona ‘22 Suh Won Chang, CMC ‘21 Trinity Chapa, Pomona,‘21 Contributing Editors Andrea Medina, CMC ‘21 Natalie Kearney, Pitzer ‘21 Sarah Ceja, CMC ‘21 Timothy Song, CMC ‘19 Vivienne Shi, Pomona ‘19
Editors Aditya Gandhi, Pomona ‘22 Angela Yeh, Pomona ‘22 Ashley Sun, Pomona ‘22 Becky Zhang, Pomona ‘22 Cameron Tipton, Pomona ‘20 Justin Weltz, Pomona ‘19 Kerem Oktar, Pomona ‘19 Kerry Taylor, Scripps ‘21 Lianna Huang, Pomona ‘22 Mady Colantes, Pomona ‘22 Maria Heeter, Scripps ‘22 Selena Spier, Pitzer ‘19 Trinity Chapa, Pomona ‘21
Contents Way of Words
Cherry Blossom Season
The wood shed
“@” lymnal #2
Thinking on a Summer Day
Smallness or starness Don’t speak to me of iridescence animating the corpus Fragrance The Mind of a Writer
Untitled House Dress Day Tumbling blues Blue Birds Humans in the Forest The Orange Tree
By the Sea My Father’s Bones
emergencies The City
Milk Teeth and Dentures
front seat kiss
This is My Body Which Will be Given Up for You
In a bowl of seize yeux
The Sound of a Miracle
Hometown The Eye Fairy
The Odyssey The Morning After
A Generation Elegy One Year Later Burnout
Way of Words ALESSANDRA YU
Careless Magazine â€¢ 9
smallness or starness .JHH
coming out of a part of my own life like taking off a tight shirt: too happy breathing to lament it. a different kind of life splashed into my canoe this year. dark nights, mostly. solitude, silence. roaming. reading poetry, dostoevsky. ecstatic insomnia, intoxication. trances or fixes. smallness or starness, cold, warm, crying.
10 â€˘ Fall 2018
Don’t speak to me of iridescence COOPER RAIN
Don’t speak to me of iridescence When talking of the sea You and I both know it’s not The word to– Cadence, rhythm, how at ease! Am I to mold your ways? But words, they can hardly be The right— Don’t speak to me of burning ochres When talking of the sun —
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animating the corpus TRINITY CHAPA
the meat of my heart says no. but you shook me from quiet and my sexuality is only viable in a vacuum. fearsome shy & somehow depraved enough to believe. skirtin round the dirt animating the corpus— you ate my of now i am free / / possession’s no thing in the land of thee! i give you this coin “legal” “tender” a very bad girl says she loves you. chèvre of the very bad girl. a kiss only works if you close your eyes. i will tell a story you like. it will be about the first time i skinned an animal. how still i remember the jewel of blood my fingers and their shaking a body’s hum. 12 • Fall 2018
Fragrance VIVIENNE SHI
The night sky imitated coke ink invading iris blue: the boldest palette I had ever made. How could it be bleached into tonguelessness, which characterized this woman’s debut? As I was about to kneel down, he sighed and said: “Don’t.” Among his honored guests, their vapor, drunk talks and cigarette smoke, he sat still. Tonguelessness, which characterized this man’s debut, tricked me into hallucinations: a fragrance started to cloud us in the deep mountains, front-and-back.
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The Mind of a Writer ALICE GIUFFREDI
Devotion. From the early 13th century, old French Devocion, meaning “devotion, piety.” Originated from Latin Devotionem (nominative of devotio), as the noun of action from dedovere: dedicate by a vow, sacrifice oneself, promise solemnly. Returned in the 16th century passing through Italy and Spain, sung in Churches: Devozione. Loyalty, fealty, allegiance to God. He thinks about how one word has the power to travel the world. Even more than the reddish-purple rays that infiltrate every window in the break of dawn, and illuminate everything they find with the elegance of a lost nostalgia. Nice imagery. Write it down. He thinks about his work. A Parmenidean world of opposing poles: Light and dark, Hot and cold, To be or not to be. His work in black-and-white, in which he, unbelievably, is the hero: the lifter of metaphysical weights. The moment he decided to pursue a career in an ancient field, to indulge in his selfish love of literature, devotion became his destiny, or maybe his curse. 14 • Fall 2018
And then he was overcome by the aroma of an unknown happiness, a magnetism he found in a bitter melancholy. It reminded him of her: the incarnation of absolute casualty. He remembered her, attempting to see herself through her image of her body, because looking at herself in the mirror was her own secret sin, her illegal crime. And it wasnâ€™t for vanity, he knew that. She forgot that she was looking at the picture of biological mechanisms; because she believed, she really did, that her soul would be revealed by the markings on her face. If he discovered that, in the depth of his spirit, he was unable to love, his hysteria would drive him to feign a feeling of Lufu. Old English, of Germanic Origin from an Indo-European root: Lubhyati, desire. It destroyed himâ€” knowing that he would be wondering his entire life, if it was hysteria or love. And that scared him, so he just wrote, and he made a living off of admitting to his fears. Careless Magazine â€˘ 15
vivienne shi art
Cherry Blossom Season VIVIENNE SHI
16 â€¢ Fall 2018
This is what I have to give you: two blistered hands and a garden undone. Japanese beetles with soft blue shells scuttling across leaves of azalea, and aphids that feast on the foxglove and tickseed you planted three summers ago. Each Sunday, I fill my boots with soil that I carry from your house to mine. (I’m trying to learn how to bear weight that’s not my own). I sink my fingers into the earth and kneel among the seedlings for hours, try hardier perennials and start over a seventh time. One would think a green thumb is passed down through generations but I fail to sustain the most basic succulent. I admit I don’t know much, still I imagine it began like this: you plucking out yarrow, roots over your shoulder, for there’d be no flower deaths only irises come morning. I never saw you leave the rows. Then, one day, we both were old; each in our own ways. All I remembered was a tarp, a trowel, a green gate, slowly closing. You on one side, me on the other and a muffled sound, like earthworms digging channels through the soil. Careless Magazine • 17
18 â€¢ Fall 2018
House Dress Day ANNA MITCHELL
I call it House Dress Day because today I wear a house dress and I think of all the hundreds and thousands and millions of voices phantoms of roses, peonies, hydrangea, etc. caged in the infinitesimal openings between its cotton threads (dyed sage, aqua and crisp faded lavender) and when I wear it alone my nipples chafing slightly on the coarseness of its inside I listen to the voices weep tears of dish soap/milk/tomato sauce, and other liquids which darken the folds at the cruxes of my arms and the stiff collar around my neck.
Careless Magazine â€˘ 19
tumbling blues .JHH
two blue birds tumbled through the bright sun-thickened breeze. (i imagined us) they were aching blue that ensnared the eyes and heart. (your piercing iris) they moved together, spiraling upon themselves. (your wings around me) they traversed my view, a wave curled to tomorrow. (our blue adventures) gone amidst the sky, their blues blended together. (i imagined us)
20 â€˘ Fall 2018
ALESSANDRA YU Careless Magazine â€¢ 21
Humans in the Forest KRISTINE CHO
22 â€¢ Fall 2018
The Orange Tree MALCOLM YEARY
A feeling of knowing, without knowing why, Drops down from flowers And hangs from fragrant skies Upon buzzed excitement of unfrozen hours Dangling nectar of delicious fruit Ripens and waits for the mad pursuit Of ravenous bees, the true creators, Snatched from God’s fingers into Darwin’s craters Sweet buds to be, keep ravishing me. So, I loiter the petals of that seductive tree And lick at the lovely pleasure Of long withheld sumptuous treasure.
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the wood shed ELLA BOYD
beyond the cross nailed through the doorframe he kneels, moldy wood piles and damp dirt beneath his heavy feet, baptises the new day with each stroke of his axe shell of bark and dream fragments falling away with each raised hand, sharp cut, no blood, white mouse disappears between stacks as fast as it came into the open. for a minute, he thinks, this is it, the start of a conversation with God, or something, the symbol for a new life, or beginning of one, and he remembers how cold the heavy floors are inside, so he raises the axe again, and does not think about the mouse, or God, just lets the colors of the sunrise pool between the holes in the fence of the wood shed, like the pottery glazes of the earth, before they thin out and dull again.
24 â€˘ Fall 2018
“@” (lymnal #2) .JHH
“isn’t this pretty & calming & relaxing” mother asks father & 2 girls don’t hear younger girl throws stick @ stream “WHAT DID I TELL YOU” clenched teeth demand mother jerks girl away from water father & girls look @ stream stream looks back @ father & girls silence laps @ their ankles mother takes phone from holster mother aims @ father & girls “daddy turn around & smile” stream looks @ mother already back in car
Careless Magazine • 25
By the Sea
26 â€¢ Fall 2018
My Father’s Bones DANIELLE DOMINGUEZ
I wonder why my mother named me Immaculada. On lazy Florida nights when cicadas sing in the trees and when melancholy gets the better of me, I am overwhelmed by half-forgotten memories. In these moments, I find myself daydreaming about my name and my Cuba. I dream about the island of my soul, the only place I had ever felt real. It is a coincidence that my mother is in many of these dreams. I sometimes imagine she was an optimist, naming me Immaculate, or maybe she was delusional and believed she conceived me à la the Virgin Mary. My sister’s name was, in fact, Concepción. Together we were the ‘Immaculate Conception.’ On the days my mother was home, she’d sit on the porch swing in front of our garish pink house and smoke her cheap cigarettes. She’d return home after week-long romances with the tourist men who’d wanted a taste of island life. She believed they’d stay, but they’d go. She wanted them to take her away from this place, but they never did. Was she an optimist or delusional? Again, I never knew. While rocking herself back and forth, back and forth, she’d lament that she could buy a hundred cigarettes for the price of a bottle of leche. Cigarettes calmed her nerves, but milk nourished her daughters. Whether she’d choose to buy milk or cigarettes when we had money, I never could predict. It wasn’t until I came to the United States that I learned that leche could be found at every corner store and was even cheaper than cigarettes. I once bought a gallon from a worn-down mercado in Miami and poured it down the drain. As I watched the opaque, white liquid escape down the pipes, I’d felt a wave of despair that I couldn’t describe. I still can’t describe it. Shaking off these unwanted thoughts, I take stock of the world around me. It’s a lethargic summer night on the outskirts of Miami, I’m no longer that little girl, and I’m drinking mojitos in a grungy bar called “La Mierda.” My life is mierda. This sloppy mojito tastes like mierda. My fiancé claims that I only drink mojitos when I ‘want to feel sorry for myself.’ I’d say that gringo’s opinion is mierda. I drink mojitos in memory of my father. I don’t know why. For all I know, he’d hated mojitos and thought that people who drank alone in bars called “The Shit” were pathetic. I don’t even know his name. Of my father, my mother once generously told me, “His boat sank
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on the way to A-meri-ca. I cursed him for leaving me and going off to chase his dreams. That ratón died. That’s what happens when you abandon people, mija, you die.” I look down at my mojito, at the bead of water running down its side. My father is trapped inside that droplet of water. No air, just water on all sides, his lungs constricting, his eyes bulging, and his lips opening and closing like a dying fish left on the sand. I touch the drop of water and it collapses; my father dies. Four mojitos later, the bartender cuts me off with a firm shake of his head and a sad smile. I want to tell him he is being unreasonable, but I don’t want to sound like an alcoholic. Instead, I snatch my purse dangling on the chair, wobble off my stool, and stand. I straighten my leopard print dress, fluff my hair, and pay my tab in cash. What a loser. My mother once told me, “Cariña, if you dress in leopard spots no man can resist you. El le dan todo.” Clearly, she’d never met this bartender. Or, he was immune to the charm of leopard print. I haven’t seen my mother in five years and as I glance around the bar, I am hit with a horrible wave of knowing. She is right now in some no-name bar in Miami, wearing her leopard spots, and hunting down her prey. The thought makes me want more rum. Instead, I pull out the heavy mobile my fiancé bought me out of my purse. He’d told me when he gifted it to me, “It’s 1989 baby, and no woman of mine is going to be without the latest.” I dial his number. Once. No answer. Twice. No answer. One final time. He picks up. Guess it’s my lucky night. He says he will pick me up outside the bar in an hour but that I better not pick a bar so far from home next time. He might not pick me up. Sixty minutes of freedom before I am back in our glass house on the beach. Sometimes, I fantasize about pounding on those walls until my fists bleed. I want to watch spider cracks form on those windows that look out at the sea; the windows that separate me from Cuba. I want to see his white carpet stained with my blood. Mi sangre. I want this not because I hate my fiancé or fear him. No, no, I love him. I really do. I desire the pain because I am being consumed from the inside out, and I am terrified. I am filled with this rage that I do not understand. I am filled with these hungry screams that are eating my organs and gnawing at my bones. I glance around the bar. Seated at that cheap, plastic table in the corner is a girl. She is wearing a tiger print dress and drinking a gin and tonic. Poor girl is probably an alcoholic; those people love gin. I 28 • Fall 2018
make my way over to her. I’m curious enough and drunk enough to break my rule of not interacting with anyone when I’m drinking solo. She looks up at me with a confused expression on her face as I stand over her table. “Mind if I join you?” I purr as I take a seat across from her. My boldness must prick her curiosity because she just gives me a wide, toothy smile as I adjust my body in my seat and scoot my chair closer to the table. I take in her appearance. I notice she has bright red lipstick painted across her lush lips. She definitely wants a nameless lay tonight, someone who will notice her siren red lips and want her. Her bangles jangle and clang as she reaches up to adjust her curly brown hair. She clearly wants to be heard by the world but has nothing of value to say; she just wants to make noise. Finally, I look into her eyes and gaze into hypnotic pools that ask you to let her in on your secrets. Her eyes compel you to share your most depraved desires with her. In her eyes, I see the darkness of the ocean. I know my father is down there, his bones clasped in the deep sea’s tight embrace. Does she see him too? Does she hear his screams? Tilting her head to the side, she tells me I can call her Star and she will call me Sky. “Together, we are infinite.” She amuses me. Sipping her gin, she asks what a pretty girl like me is doing in a shack like this. Again, I am amused. I imagine outside of these walls she is one of those girls. You know the ones I am talking about. The ones who listen to The Ramones and The Smiths and sing at the top of their lungs, “I am human, and I need to be loved…” She probably hates Madonna and thinks MTV is the death of real music. But right now, she is Star and I am Sky. For an hour, I can be everything that isn’t immaculate. I tell her that I am here to get away from it all. Just to drink and relax. She decides to comment on my accent. “Where are you from?” she asks while tilting her head to the side. I want to tell her that the fragile bones in her neck will snap if she tilts it any further. “I am from Cuba. Matanzas to be exact.” “Oooh. You are so exotic!” she enthusiastically comments. I want to tell her that Cuba is an hour away by plane. I want to ask her what’s so exotic about a girl who lives less than an hour away? She begins to regale me with her thoughts on communism and asks if I came here on a raft. I am not drunk enough for this conversation. Clearly, she isn’t either. I tell her she should refresh her glass of gin. She obeys. Huh, no wonder my fiancé likes making suggestions that are not really suggestions. It is powerful. I am Castro and
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she is my Cuba. One obeys the other. In the middle of nattering about cigars and how much she loves a good Cuban, she stops and shouts, “I love this song!” The other patrons of this fine establishment give her quick, dirty looks. I understand. They come here to be alone and their isolation is being interrupted by a noisy drunk. She begins to croon, “Don’t touch me please, I cannot stand the way you teaseeee.” Hmm…Tainted Love. I am never wrong. She is one of those girls. She jumps up and says she wants to dance. She pulls my arm and tells me that a Star wants to dance with her Sky. Together we sway our hips and move to the beat. The singer croons, “I love you though you hurt me so. Now I’m going to pack my things and go.” Star lights up the room and I feel eyes watching our every move. Even that unreasonable bartender is entranced. We are like those carrion flowers that smell like rotting flesh to attract their prey. These bar flies that sit mesmerized better watch out or they just might get eaten. I’m ravenous. Star continues to sing along and move her hips to the beat. Memory assaults me. I remember on those rare good days, when my mother’s smile was real, and she’d dance with me for hours in our tiny living room. In this moment, I grin as I remember the silliness of a mother who’d dance with her daughter until her feet hurt. Who’d dance and dance just to hear that daughter laugh. I began to joyfully sing, “Que La Habana no aguante más!” and continue to sing my own song. Star’s steps falter and she looks at me like I’m some strange thing she can’t quite understand. “Skyyyyyyy,” she teases. “Those aren’t the lyrics. If you can’t sing in English, don’t. Just dance. They’re all obsessed with your Latin curves anyway.” The next song begins to play, and Star continues to dance. For a moment, I stop dancing and just watch Star flitting around the makeshift dance floor like a butterfly without wings. Star begins to whisper lyrics in my ear, “The world is on fire and no one could save me but you…” I pull her closer and inhale her scent. She smells like Calvin Klein Obsession. My favorite perfume. Star is me. I am Star. My partner continues to whisper sweet nothings in my ear. It is like we are trapped together in a snow globe. Two statues embracing each other, forever. But I of all people should remember that snow globes are fragile things. One fall and they shatter into thousands of pieces. She asks me if I’m an Aquarius and tells me she’s a Leo. She claims that we are electric, that we are magic. That together 30 • Fall 2018
the world is ours and that she has been waiting for someone like me to wake her up. Chris Issak continues to sing in the background. He tells me, “This girl is only going to break your heart.” I smile at this American girl. So certain of her dreams, so willing to believe in the stars, and the sky. I want to ask her if she’s ever been so hungry that she’s eaten rotten scraps from the neighbor’s dog food bowl. To remind her that when the neighbor’s dog got intestinal worms, so did you. I want to ask her if she knows what it is like to have worms crawling around your gut and feasting on your meat. To ask if she remembers the tears that you cried when you realized that your mother would not abandon her German lover who called her his “Maus” to take care of you. This American knows nothing of pain. Knows nothing of survival. The Cuban does. The Cuban is a survivor. I whisper in Star’s ear. I call her mi alma. Blood rushes to her cheeks and I can see pleasure in her eyes. I doubt she understands what I am telling her, but she must know it’s something sweet. It is. I call her my soul, because she is. She is a part of me. A weak part of me, but a part of me nonetheless. “Sky,” she sighs on a heavy breath. I know what she wants. Star wants to be closer to her Sky. La Merde might be a seedy bar, but it sits right on an immaculate stretch of Miami beach. This bar is a blight on the land but, right now, I am grateful for its location. I tell Star that we are going to dance under the moonlit sky with the ocean and all her inhabitants watching. I know our father will watch over us. Her eyes light up. She obeys. I could get used to this obedience. As we walk out onto the beach, we remove our heels. Instruments of torture are a better name for them. Hers are as thin as ice picks and I wonder how she managed to dance with me in them. Those heels look killer. I take her soft, warm hand in mine and guide her towards the surf. She tries to be coy and claim she can’t swim. I give my American girl a sultry look. I tell her “el mar is nuestra casa.” At her puzzled look, I huff and tell her she is with me and I’d never let her fall. She smiles. The smell of salt fills my nostrils and I part my lips to taste the sea. My first step into the warm water is an awakening. I can hear my father calling me to join him. I do. When I was younger, I was afraid of the ocean. Surrounded by it on all sides I was terrified of the vastness of it all. My mother had harrumphed when I expressed my terror. She told me, “Oye, chica!
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Tu eres cubana. No daughter of mine will be afraid of the ocean.” With my sister silently watching, my mother dragged me into the ocean while I flailed and cried out like a seal trapped in a fisherman’s net. She submerged me for the longest twenty seconds of my life. Those twenty seconds in which I’d thought fear would swallow me whole, in which I believed terror would consume me until I was a small speck that wasn’t enough to feed a fish. I didn’t blame my mother for this. I blamed my sister. She stood by and did nothing. Ahh. Concepción. Mi hermana. She’s been living with my father for a while now. I told her I’d keep her secrets and not tell nuestra madre. Our mom thinks she ran away with some Italian, but Concepción wanted to be with our papá. I wonder if he told her his name. The thought makes me angry. Why should she know our father’s name and not me? Star’s shrill shrieks as the water hits her for the first time jar me from my jealous thoughts. My hand clamps on her arm like a manacle. I don’t want her tip toeing in and out of the water like a child. It won’t be long until mi prometido arrives to take me home. We have to be quick. I take us deeper and deeper. The water laps around us and caresses us like a long-lost lover eager to reunite. The embrace of the ocean warms me up from the inside and desire flows through my veins like liquid honey. My blood is lethargic, my mind dreamy, and my body slick from the ocean. Star’s dress clings to her body like a second skin. We are deep enough that her hair is wet, and her mascara runs down her eyes. The lines of black look like dark tears spilling down her cheeks. She has never looked more beautiful. I lean in closer and we kiss. Star is eager and so am I. Her lips meet mine and I taste salt, gin, and jasmine. She tastes like a flower that only blooms under moonlight. Star blooms for me. For her Sky, Star shines brightly. Do you think I’m cheating on my fiancé? Naughty. Naughty. No, I could never cheat. I don’t have that in me. My soul is hungry for its mate and I need to feed. Honestly, Star is me. I cannot cheat with myself. Without breaking our kiss, I go deeper into the sea. My toes no longer touch the bottom. Star doesn’t break this kiss. This American girl kisses me like I am her next breath. She is intoxicating, and I swear under the moonlight, we light up the world. Two united as one. I twine my arms tightly around her neck and we submerge into the sea wrapped in each other. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. “I can’t live with or without you.” Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. Eleven. “Every breath you take. I’ll be 32 • Fall 2018
watching you.” Twelve. Thirteen. Fourteen. Fifteen. Sixteen. “Some of them want to abuse you. Some of them want to be abused.” Seventeen. Eighteen. Nineteen. Twenty. Twenty-One. “Oh, daddy dear you know you’re still number one. But girls they want to have fun.” I am finished. I lasted one more second. I rise. I inhale salty air. Once. Twice. Once more. This is my baptism. I have been purified by the sea. This is what Jesus must have felt when he was baptized in the Jordan River. The sins sloughed off like a second skin. Born anew. I know my Bible, I am a good Catholic. In this moment, I am holy. I am Immaculada. I look down at myself. I look down at the American girl. That poor, weak part of me that couldn’t even survive twenty seconds underwater. That part of me that wanted to be so hip, so America, so loved. I feel sadness. The hunger inside me is the girl who never forgot her mama’s harsh lessons, and she wants to dance, sing, and rejoice in victory. She wants to yell, “Yo soy Cubana!” Instead, I lean down and close those eyes that are no longer so secretive. “I know your secrets,” I want to whisper in her ear. But I won’t. I know talking to a dead body is just plain crazy. Instead I look out at the roiling sea and tell my father to take care of la Americana. To embrace that weak part of me like he embraced my sister. I wonder if our bones will mix and be buried together in the sand. I’d love for all of us to be entwined together for eternity. We’d be a real family. I wonder if he will finally tell me his name. I hear a horn honking in the distance. One loud beep after another. My fiancé. Right on time. I grab my shoes and bag I had left on the shore and make my way toward my fiancé’s Pontiac Firebird without passing through the bar again. That loser bartender would probably try and hit on me. Pedazo de mierda. Mi amado groans when he sees how soaked I am and complains I’m ruining his leather seats. His complaints stop when I take his lips in a rough kiss and deliver hot, sharp bites to his neck. I want to taste his blood in my mouth. Instead, I begin whispering sweet affections like mi querido and mi corazón in his ear. I know my Spanish nothings will make him hot. I love this man, I really do. “Oh baby,” he groans. “You know I love it when you speak Cuban.” I lean back in my seat and look into his eyes. I’ve never noticed before that they are the color of stormy seas. I want to devour all his secrets. I tell him, “I am your Cuban.”
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Thinking on a Summer Day PASKALINA BOURBON
The sun reaches down an arm of light— an octopus beating the earth from its celestial cave, reverberations like pulsing feet, its dance, an unasked unanswerable question. Drumming a caress, the tentacles flit— a leaf becomes stained glass a face, geometric shadow. I lose my eyes in my vision, myself in my seeing. I am the face of a timpani, swimming in a rhythm of light, frozen in a fingerless hand, its embrace a suction of overdetermined color, its grasp a prison of underdetermined shape.
34 • Fall 2018
Careless Magazine • 35
emergencies JAY SCOTT
maybe black baby skin at age ten becomes ripe enough for bullet holes 9-1-1 calls empty the street empty the house fill it with people scared to live in it kiss the cement on your way down bodies rot bodies shot bodies caught between “Running” bodies surrendered bodies without options bodies stacked into the new luxury condos on Ralph Street
36 • Fall 2018
All the good boys carry empty little coffins As they walk across the town They place the goods of the corner store into the coffins without care for the coffins are deeper than they look They stop at the clinic and smile as they pack up the anesthetic, the scalpel the operating chair They take the books from the classroom the bricks from the old warehouse walls the knives from the meatpacking plant. They untie the tennis net, rolling and forcing the air out to make it fit They unscrew the basketball hoop and fold in the state football banner They leave the bibles in their pews their overalls and oversized flannels in their drawers. Their fathers’ tools don’t fit in the coffins And have to stay They walk past the medicine cabinet The city will be their drug Guns stay too because what is there to hunt between skyscrapers They end with a walk in the fields from which they came before balancing out the coffins with clods of soil Then they pile all the little coffins on their shoulders and with a wave and a nod leave for the city
Careless Magazine • 37
Milk Teeth and Dentures VIBHA ROHILLA
It popped out of my mouth like a jagged pearl from an oyster, into the palm of my hand. Shredder of things once alive, now dead, now once alive, now dead. All that chow ate away at its roots. Ow-th. I remember gnawing at ice when it tore through the flesh of my gums, surging out like a fresh spring sprout. Emerging, it was attacked by sweet, tart, candies, dotting it with holes and cavities. Bubblegum flavored fillings on flint. Waking up, finding a dollar bill under my pillow from the Tooth Fairy gave me a sinking feeling. Bury it in the Earth instead of losing a piece of yourself to green paper, I wouldn’t ceasey to remind myself. Have good will. I ran my tongue over the gaping hole left by it, the loss of fleeting childhood, slowly fading away for good. The deception of strong milk teeth, and the new permanent ones beneath. My wide smile begins to shine as whole. Now, I can’t remember if I ever loved all those times I ate, chewing and not stewing over the moment’s thoughts. I miss biting into celery with a crunch eating pita chips and crisp apples for lunch munching on granola bars, toasted.
38 • Fall 2018
Iâ€™ve clenched it in my fist to stop the memories from flying away as I begin to decay. Lying in a full glass on my bed stand are dentures waiting to land on the roof of my mouth as an assist. I can feel my jaw moving but when I run my tongue over the plastic, metal, an unnatural sensation? Iâ€™ll settle, for now. Return it back to the ground, where soon all of me will be found. It all started starting and ending, began with that first tooth in my palm.
Careless Magazine â€˘ 39
front seat kiss ANNA MITCHELL
It was a time-shattering, bone-splitting, baby-making kiss that drove them to their fate that October night, beneath an aging/yellowing/crimsoning New England sky. Despair, once a neglected island, became well-populated by the lovers’ families, who were not unaccustomed to this sort of proximity to one another, as they had vacationed as a unit for decades, since the oldest kids - Jen and Earl - were two. But grief was different. They couldn’t share it like mashed potatoes or leafy salad. They couldn’t deny it like the fact that the dog, Rudy, ate Jessica’s birthday cake at the tender brink of four years old (they claimed it had fallen and absorbed bacteria from the floor, which would cause sickness and possibly death, at the very least bloating, diarrhea, vomiting etc.) Thus the unanimous agreement was silence. Of the death of their beloveds, they would make not a sound.
40 • Fall 2018
Dear Hometown, I started writing this With a dying pen And doesn’t that say it all? Please don’t run from me Like I ran from you Look I know we’ve both moved on It’s just Questions keep dripping from my mouth Like a leaky faucet And I need to quell The fire on my tongue I’m just wondering: How can you be so green When I know for a fact Nothing grows here? Do you have a fine assortment of paints And an artist’s hand? Blending colorful swirls Into the autumn leaves Adorning the summer sunset With a pink blush Creating a vibrancy too shocking to be real Yet so excitingly lifelike Do you realize how much of you is empty? Your houses, like gapey-toothed smiles Are lined purposefully far apart From one another Because you are so fixated on Maintaining appropriate distances That children hold their breath
Careless Magazine • 41
Transfixed by the Quiet hum of absence And nobody plays Has anyone ever told you You remind them of wintertime Dressed in white? If so They see through you Straight to your hollowness To the dustiness of your dying roots Languishing In some far off sense of purpose That tastes like history standing still Do you know your trees are starving? Stripped to the bone Their willowy fingers shake Overwhelmed by your frigidness They are subject to the feeble roots You exalt like a deity They bask in the godlessness Of worship without reason Do you feel ghostly? As if the spirit of something alive Runs through you Like a broken promise You stretch into a world That feels endless And yet When I look upon the gravestones of teenagers I see the end right in front of me And I realize three crucial facts: 1. You paint the autumn leaves with blood 2. You feel like a sunken footprint 3. I am walking in a memory 42 â€˘ Fall 2018
So when you ask me Why Iâ€™ve never felt complete Just remember I come from the land of empty spaces And painted places You know better than anyone That I learned Beauty in lieu of sincerity Color in lieu of warmth I watched you trace my figure Until I became a jumbled Collection of disjointed shapes And now I know How the sun makes shadows So every day I find myself Making art In the parts of me you stole And every day I must remind myself It takes more than paint To be whole.
Careless Magazine â€˘ 43
The Eye Fairy
Kat was excited because she had a loose eye, and, according to Western mythology, that just about guaranteed a visit from the Eye Fairy. Her first-grade teacher, Ms. Witherstone, was the first to notice. “Everyone, everyone, gather around Kat’s desk. It’s time for a very special lesson,” Ms. Witherstone said. “Kat may be getting a visit from a very fun and magical stranger soon. Who knows about the Eye Fairy?” Beth was the first to respond: “My daddy told me the Eye Fairy isn’t real.” “What’s the Eye Fairy?” asked Nick, betraying the fact that he had been raised by neither his parents nor by television. “Ewwww!” said Tommy, who would spend the rest of the lesson poking at his own eye, and, to his disappointment, feeling it push back against his finger. “Class, class, it’s okay if you don’t know who the Eye Fairy is. And4, yes, he is real. And, Tommy, losing your eyes is not gross. It’s natural. You see, when babies are born, they are born with baby eyes. Because eyes are so special and have so many different and unique parts, they can’t get bigger. The rest of your body—your arms and legs and toes and nose—do get bigger…and bigger…and bigger! In fact, you keep growing until you’re too big for your baby eyes. That’s when they fall out—or, are plucked out.” Ms. Witherstone then made a beak by putting her thumb under her other fingers, which she used to skillfully pluck a mimed eye out of the air. Her class applauded. *** The Eye Fairy woke up and rubbed his peepers (the ones he took from children and kept in glass jars). The Eye Fairy—more precisely, the one named Boris who services the families of Glendale, CA—applied, as part of his daily ritual, lotion to his body. His skin was rough like the leather that coats the flesh of cows. His profile, however, closely resembled that of a tripedal mannequin. The lotion did little to make the Eye Fairy’s face any more normal or less ghastly to any humans who might accidently see it. But the Eye Fairy was nothing if not self-conscious, and mostly worked at night. Mostly. That Monday, Boris watched Kat from a tree during recess. She was a sweet kid: humble and not at all a bragger. She had a few playmates but no close friends, though this was usual for her age. Boris rooted silently for Kat as she played round after round of doubles tether ball. He consumed a box of salty crackers. 44 • Fall 2018
*** Fourth and fifth periods were always the longest, and today was no exception. Everything reminded Kat of her loose eyes. Grapes— eyes. Subtraction—eyes. Ms. Witherstone’s face—eyes. Kat sat on her fingers every chance she could, terrified that if she lifted the pressure even for a second her own hands would somehow dig into her skull and out would pop her eye. She’d have to use a plastic bottle to suck it up off the floor, but it would already be covered in floor hairs. She would ask her parents to take her to the eye doctor so she could put it back, but Kat knew they would say no. She said a quick prayer, and hoped the Eye Fairy was listening. *** “How was your day, sweetie?” asked Kat’s dad while driving her home. He looked at her via the rear-view mirror as he talked. Kat was quiet. “Okay. Well what did you learn today?” “Nothing,” she said. “Nothing? Nothing is what I learned in grade school! I heard you learn things now. Math and stuff—or so I’m told.” “We did subtraction.” “Oh? What’s…uh…two minus…uh…one?” Kat burst into tears, which quickly began to fill the space between her eye and its socket. She told her dad she wasn’t ready for adult eyes and was scared it would hurt when the string that kept her eye in would break. She knew it needed to happen so her new eye could grow in and that it wouldn’t even hurt, but even so, she was scared. Now, Kat’s father didn’t have the best loose-eye stories. He had five older brothers, and his father was an optometrist, so his brothers had both tools to experiment with and a subject to experiment on. The first time Kat’s father lost an eye was in the third grade. His brothers thought it was funny that he was so old and still had his baby eyes so they brought him to the roof, tied a toaster to his optical nerve, and threw the toaster off the roof. The second time he lost an eye was a week after his oldest brother had left the house to attend (against his family’s wishes) culinary school. He left behind his set of knives, which, combined with Kat’s grandfather’s collection of local anesthetics and surgical lights, provided Kat’s uncles with many hours of entertainment. “When I lost my first baby eye, I put it in a plastic bag filled with glitter and salt water, and hid the bag in my closet,” said Kat’s dad.
Careless Magazine • 45
“The next day, I opened my closet door, and my eye was gone, but, in its place, was a card with a pack of wizard stickers!” *** Kat was playing with her eye in bed. She decided she was going to keep her baby eyes. She might need glasses. She might need to get her eye sockets filled. She might even go blind. But she wasn’t going to let anybody take her eyes. Then, her mom walked in. “Your father told me that somebody has a loose eye,” she said. Kat was petrified. She thought about hiding, but that wouldn’t make any sense. Her mother was looking right at her. “We’re leaving tomorrow, Kat, to visit your father parents out East. How’s your eye doing? It’s probably very wiggly, isn’t it?” Kat’s mom approached her bed. “Do you mind if I give it a little tug?” “No,” Kat said. “Kat, I promise: I’m just going to give it a wiggle.” “No.” “Have I ever broken a promise to you?” asked Kat’s mom. She hadn’t. Kat was staring at her mother’s fingers. Her nails were long, yellow, and had dirt underneath. Because Kat’s depth perception was off, she was unable to gauge how far away her mother’s hands were. “Just a tiny, little, itsy-bitsy wiggle, okay? It’d very bad if they fell out while on the plane tomorrow, or at the airport—imagine how bad that would be. What’s wrong, my little kitten?” Kat tried to move her covers, but her mother grabbed her wrist. There was no point in struggling. The room shrank and pulsed. The fingers came, though Kat could hardly see. They closed around her loose eye, popping it gently out of its socket. That’s when Kat noticed the scissors in her mom’s pocket. “Just a test wiggle?” Kat struggled to ask. “Of course,” her mom said, slowly reaching for the scissors. What happened next was, strictly speaking, a moment. But not for Kat. Her mother lunged with the scissors and Kat turned away. The scissors landed square in her left eye, obliterating it like a hammer would a kiwi. “It’s so fortunate that your little fitzy futz didn’t cause me to hit your good eye!” Kat’s mother would tell her for years to come. Boris sat in frustration outside Kat’s window. He did not enter that night. Nor the night after that or the night after that. He watched, grinding his teeth, as Kat did not sleep for three days. 46 • Fall 2018
Untitled MEI GE
Careless Magazine â€˘ 47
I grew up counting sheep, losing sleep, forgetting to eat, too young to find words for my childish miseries shifting in my bed, resting head on mother’s breast, staring at the door. trotting up the stairs on all fours, tucking underneath my father’s stubbled chin, every so often peeking out, seeking morning sunlight. I grew up like mother’s doilies, fraying over time, sweet potato smudges and faded stains of wine. spills of emotion shrouded the lace of dresses hiked up by boys with immemorable faces. sigh. father called it the “sunday afternoon blues,” assuring me that sometimes it stays far past monday, tuesday too. I grew up with ambitions like a hearty meal, filling up my plate, open to some silly, frivolous kind of fate. agnosticism turned to indifference. there was no canoodling, no flirting with the idea of divine, the sun set again tonight, I didn’t care to ask why. “Grow up!” shouted those who grew up sleeping soundly, so I didn’t. I’m still struggling to sleep. seventeen thousand six hundred and thirty-four sheep.
48 • Fall 2018
America ELLA BOYD
Our malls scream we sell heaven--cutting edge, as new and expensive as your last body, and it’s your turn to try this oasis, spin. We gamble our souls away like red chips and when we’re drunk we pawn our love, too, and we never get a good deal ‘cause love is slimy and love ends up between the couch cushions and love only sells for three dollars and ninety-five cents. Over-the-counter reads epidemic but prescription reads crisis and mom, I’m an ambulance carrying something dead inside. I feel good I feel good but good costs $5 when okay costs $2, and feeling sick doesn’t make you money; you have two eyes and you see the three legged dogs rummaging, sick and skeletal, in the trash cans. They have hair like wheat and twigs and their bones are as old as America and their cheeks are as new as they can afford. For a minute, I think I see someone standing roadside, trying to hitch a ride anywhere. Windshield blue flash tricked my eyes and I look again into the rearview mirror. Every gas station has a shallow unblinking light competing only with those who drive alone and through all seasons.
Careless Magazine • 49
[content warning: suicide]
For Luke. He must have felt like a flower in a forest of clothes, surrounded by peacoats, jackets, ties, belts. There, smothered by shadow, forgotten by the sun. I imagine a black belt with a tired luster came down from the shelf—its buckle sang as it scraped across the wood, ready to pluck a flower from his roots. Tight around his throat-tight neck, the belt had an unexpected sharpness to it, a fact accentuated by each hard, blood-banked thud. The leather groaned as a tired tree in a storm. The wilted garment rod creaked. His long amber hair sagged as tired petals do. I read your note two weeks later. Your mom gave me it. It was wordshit. You spelled ‘disappointment’ wrong. Idiot.
*National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-8255 50 • Fall 2018
my quiet confidence, has turned into a quiet sense of apathy and consequence. opting for the latter, when the option first presented, (by this ostracizing populace) for optimism, shattered any chance we had at stopping him. u light a candle for our fallen angels. take our music and our culture, but u’ll never have this conversation, cuz u don’t think ur racist. and if im coming off as angry and jaded— its cause i am— and this is how u made it. cuz ur perspective is a privilege that i can’t afford. peace and love in politics is corny, fuxk u take me for?? —happy as a clam? don’t u tell us folk to lend a hand— and give a chance— to politicians funded by the fuxking klan. but let me bring it back. because the topic is my shattered disposition, not the chatter of aveli-mach. cuz now im fixated on rising up and out the ash, witness my survival: its the odyssey of living black.
Careless Magazine • 51
[content warning: sexual assault]
The Morning After ANONYMOUS
It is 4:32 A.M., and it is the morning after She takes inventory Her neck has been littered with mottled roses Her thighs have been painted with dried shame Her eyes have been tattooed with the memory of Hands It is the morning after And she wonders how much soap it will take To wash away his hands Yanking on her hair, forcing her to swallow How much water it will take To wash away his hands Pushing down her hips, forcing her to open How many hours of standing, naked, in the shower, it will take To wash away his hands Clawing at her lips, forcing her to say yes She said no But no did not mean no to him And he forced her to say yes and She hates herself for it She wonders how much Goddammit who is she kidding? The answer is No The answer is There are not enough The answer is There will never be enough Because there will never be enough soap There will never be enough water There will never be enough to wash away his hands and The answer is no 52 â€˘ Fall 2018
Because he asked, and her answer was no and He stopped asking. It is the morning after And a young woman has been fucked into a girl again. Close your eyes. If you have ever heard the words “This will be our little secret” Open your eyes If you have ever heard the words “Don’t pretend you didn’t want it” Open your eyes If you have ever heard the words “No one will ever love you like I do” Open your eyes If your eyes are still closed Then you haven’t been listening Because you have heard these words before You have heard these words crooned to those who in another life Were your mother, your father Your sister, your brother Your son, your daughter You have heard these words whispered to those who in another life Were you. When did it it become normal? To simply turn away as women become warm bodies used at night? It is the morning after And it will be the morning after tomorrow And the day after tomorrow And the day after the day after tomorrow It will always be the morning after And there will never be enough soap And there will never be enough water And there will never be enough To wash away the morning after. Careless Magazine • 53
my momma warned me about this told me to quit the nicotine boys never let them rot my godly lungs scent of their sin sticking to my skin stealing precious years of mine to paint precipitous futures of their own she told me to learn from her mistakes and every time i see you past midnight eyes red, lips bloody, shirt stained i wanna call you my greatest mistake love the bitterest pill to swallow as your head hangs against the toilet all the bottles you emptied returning mary j, favorite mistress, a thick perfume fifth night in a row i can barely say i know you then your ever-cold hands reach for me beg forgiveness, plead for some safety i can hear the child trapped in your throat you could never drown or smoke him out and i wish you would let me touch him give him whatever you were missing complete the picture of my troubled boy you know this is the beginning and end for me promise you’ll do better next time for me i sing to you until you fall asleep don’t know if you’ve ever noticed your hum is my grammy’s lullaby, passed down generations every time i see you i leave these pieces of me fold you into the fragile image of my being ask if i can keep you here through will alone you never have to know my sacred truths just look at me like you did when you were dying when i was guardian, and lover, and hope keep me as a mirror image of yourself 54 • Fall 2018
all the things i pretend to be and be well if you would smile, that would be enough you are nothing to the non-believers yet i pray at your altars, run rosaries in sleep my momma told me not to build gods but you have always been this way and gods can be cruel and mistaken and lost you aren’t the first one i’ve watched die but you’re the first i’ve grieved in such a long time i am more me when i am with you laurel woven through my hair, every tear a baptism to love you is to be holy and hated to love you is to be delighted and damned we spend the night almost too close burned by your skin yet still silent learn to love the quiet as well as your voice so often we lose the words we need to say let bon iver play us out to obscure the sobs pretend you can’t feel my throat shut ask me if i have ever fallen in love stare at the ceiling, imagine a kaleidoscope of stars answer: i’ve been falling so long i forgot the ground it’s much softer than i remembered
Careless Magazine • 55
Lazy relentless chaos flows from the origin. Their mysterious beginnings release, Rising rivers from falling bits of time. Against dark, it carries information For life; against light it exists only in Past and future. All of its beauty is lost in a wave. Locking eyes with the river travelling Downstream, distracts awareness from whirling Patterns of water. Soft shifts upstream arrive At the hole in the Earth where question marks Let their toes sit in the sun. We walk by Mistaking the inquisitive for the indubitable. At the “still point of the turning world”, The most magnificent movement fades fast Into the spaced nothing of expansion. Stretching back into stability, it Pushes friends into the spotlight of a Midnight spin.
56 • Fall 2018
This is My Body Which Will be Given Up for You ABIGAIL TULENKO
Careless Magazine â€¢ 57
In a bowl of seize yeux TRINITY CHAPA
I encounter a militia of cynics who hate my song. They grin against me— men who do not know belonging to these nights. Blow my word through dear time. Music flies constant. constant. I sing to forget my name. I write to prove my “self” wrong. In a spring of sorrow ducked a halting chord. Who will bend my body back? Music abandoned me, though I sang. What exists beside us begs only our patience. I start again. Creation was and then wasn’t. Disaster is the collision of two awe-full bodies. Breaking bones, bruises. My body speaks of you. Joy comes from a brief lapse in the machine. And still, it stuttered. 58 • Fall 2018
My mother cried. Mother senses I’ll say goodbye. goodbye. Seize what’s worse— pliance of a ribbon or rigidity of a cock? What moves through me is grace. Ruby-cheeked fools— be my guides. Let me be unafraid of the idiocy of truth. Mother— I have only this song, some string, feathers but you have to trust my stomach its soft-ness.
Careless Magazine • 59
The Sound of A Miracle SAMANTHA RESNICK
Rachel Rosencrantz, daughter of Sarah Rosencrantz, champion challah braider, and Ruben Rosencrantz, esteemed rabbi, learned one irrefutable fact about herself two hours into her Bat Mitzvah: She was a bad Jew. Rachel had long harbored a lingering suspicion, a whisper in her blood, let’s say, that perhaps she was failing in some way in her duties as the faithful and obedient child of the Rosencrantzes of New York, Iowa (not to be mistaken with the uppity Rosencrantzes of New York, New York, nor the garish ones of New York, Florida). But whenever these feelings caught in her throat, she would cough them out like a cold she could recover from, if only she had a few days rest or some medicine. By all appearances, Rachel was an excellent Jew. Her nose curved towards Israel, like any budding Zionist. Her thick, black hair sprung straight from her skull, towards God. Not that anyone saw her hair, since her mother braided it into two challah loaves every morning so tightly that her hairline, at age seven, began to recede. Much later in life, when Rachel had a daughter of her own, she would tell her that she didn’t know how to braid. She considered this a kindness. Every Saturday morning at nine, Rachel attended Rabbi Moshe’s “Hebrew School for Distinguished Young Women.” There, she chatted in Yiddish with the other Jewish girls of New York, Iowa, of which there were eight, the uvular ch sounds flowing from her throat like honey. She learned to make Gefilte fish, grinding the white flesh into hundreds of small, grey balls that she proudly took home for Shabbat every Friday. And she prayed. She prayed in the morning, while she was brushing her teeth, the toothpaste bubbling out of her mouth she was praying so hard. She prayed in the afternoon, on her way home from school, when the flatlands she wandered felt like desert sands. And at night, softly, from the warmth of her comforter. But the moment Rachel stepped up to the bimah to read from the ancient script, the most holy of rituals in the Bat Mitzvah ceremony, she knew she was lost. Her mother and father smiled at her from the front section of the synagogue. Behind them sat various Rosencrantzes, relatives Rachel had only ever met on the occasion of her birth and thus only recognized from photos. And behind them, with backs straight, sat the girls from her Hebrew class, all of them paying 60 • Fall 2018
close attention, for Rachel, the oldest, was the first of them to have a Bat Mitzvah. Rachel stared at all of these people, gathered here, today, for her, and she couldn’t speak. After a couple of minutes, the Rabbi cleared his throat and whispered to her from the side of his mouth. “Rachel? Are you alright?” Not even to this simple question could Rachel respond. It wasn’t that she couldn’t read the Hebrew on the scroll. She could. Nor was she frightened of performing. Rachel was a loud child and a louder teenager—she was not scared of having an audience. No, the problem was that Rachel has been struck by a sudden, fervent desire to laugh. She clenched her cheeks so hard that her jaw muscles started to burn, her face collapsing into concavity like a skeleton. She desperately tried to distract herself. She thought of last winter, when she was hospitalized for all eight days of Chanukah with the flu. She missed the party at the Finkel’s, missed the dreidel playing and the sizzling latkes and the gift-giving, the big reveal of who had whom for their annual game of Mysterious Moses. Still, Rachel could feel the laughter expand more and more in the moist heat of her panicking mouth. It ballooned in her cheeks so that in this very moment, the most important moment in a young Jewish girl’s life (besides her wedding, of course), Rachel Rosencrantz resembled a chipmunk who had bitten off more than she could chew. The laughter bubbled up from somewhere deep and traitorous within her, an appendix perhaps. Or her coccyx. Somewhere evolution had forgotten until right now, when Rachel’s own body rallied in rebellion. She tried to raise her hands to cover her mouth, as if she was about to collapse into an attack of coughing, but still, the laughter rose. To the devout in the audience, of which there were many, it looked as if Rachel was trembling at the bimah under the weight of some unseen power, her veins throbbing, her eyes raised towards the heavens. The laughter filled her mouth until the pressure popped her lips open and pushed her hands away, and as it poured out unending, all Rachel could do was watch—horrified and a little bit relieved but above all carried away. In the third row of the audience sat a confused and deaf elderly man, who had wandered into the synagogue thinking it was a church, and upon realizing it wasn’t, decided to stay anyway because the seat Careless Magazine • 61
was comfortable. In that moment, he decided that the Jews must be the chosen people, the most devout people, if they prayed with the force that this child was praying with, her face red, her pores dripping, her eyes fevered. The laughter continued, independent of Rachel now, no longer contained even by the synagogue walls. Two miles away, it woke a nest of bats from their diurnal slumber. They dropped to the floor of their nest together, disturbed. In New York, New York, a man was walking back from the groomer’s when suddenly, his poodle started to whine. Still, the laughter hadn’t stopped. It grew and it grew, until halfway across the world in the University of Nairobi, a small, porcelain porcupine was knocked off the desk of a student studying an anatomy textbook. The lights started to flicker in his closet as well, and he will use this later as evidence of his grandmother’s ghost. And there, in a small synagogue in New York, Iowa, a young Jewish girl prepared to be banished from her cherished community forever, forced to live in disgrace, exiled somewhere far, far away like New York, Florida. The last echoes of laughter had bounced their final bounce off the walls of the synagogue, and they finally quieted down, out of respect. By now, tears were streaming down Rachel’s face—it was too much, too much for this girl—and her mouth had deflated in its emptiness, wet and gasping. A silence settled into the synagogue so profound Rachel could hear the rattling of shaky lungs as everyone sat, breathing but not breaking. Suddenly, a woman in the fifth row—her aunt? Her second cousin?—leapt up from her seat. “Is it a miracle?” The man next to her repeated: “A miracle?” And the Rabbi, broken out of his reverie, responded, “Yes! It must be! A miracle!” He raised his hands in the air, fingers spread and reaching, before turning towards Rachel, who has remained frozen behind the Torah. He wrapped a prayer shawl around her shoulders. He touched her hair, reverent; he muttered in Hebrew, he closed his eyes and he beat his breast. One-by-one, the spectators in the synagogue, enraptured with this turn of events so unexpected amongst the routine of Bat Mitzvah season, began to chatter in excitement. Some started to chant blessings as well; others merely continued to stare. The Rabbi, who appeared to be possessed himself now, kept speaking. 62 • Fall 2018
“Moses, Abraham, Adonai—child, you are a miracle! Oh, holy, holy day. You have been chosen.” He bowed to Rachel, who bowed back, reflexively. “Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu, melekh ha`olam.” And with that, Rachel had completed her Bat Mitzvah. She was now bound to follow the commandments. She was now a Jewish woman. *** Outside of the synagogue sanctuary, there was a mountain of bagels. Ruben Rosencrantz, who was left in charge of the food for this auspicious day, employed all of the bakers of all the delis in New York. Three months before the Bat Mitzvah ceremony, he sent out a survey to the attending parties, asking for their flavor preferences. Now, the results were in: forty-five onion bagels sat in a perfectly stacked tower on a silver Shabbat platter on a creamy tablecloth. Three chocolate chip bagels formed the top layer, and at the apex sat a solitary sesame bagel. To the right were four saucers of creamcheese, and two plates of smoked salmon, the pink flesh folded over itself in neat rows. The sounds of thirty people popping lactaid pills at once filled the reception area as the congregation rushed out, eager to reach the food first, for miracles were hungry work. Rachel quietly slinked away, momentarily forgotten. She looked for her parents, she needed someone solid, someone who could help her understand. But they didn’t appear to be anywhere in the room. Maybe they were in the bathroom? Or in the kitchens, getting more food? It had been five minutes, and the cream cheese was already running low. Briefly, she wondered if that was now her responsibility, but she was quickly distracted by two women talking at the coffee station behind her. “I don’t believe it,” said the older of the two. Rachel, out of the corner of her eye, could just make out two clips in the shape of butterflies pinned above the woman’s right ear. “I know—the way she shook at the stand. I’ve never seen anything like it, not in all the Bat Mitzvahs I’ve attended, not even at those reform synagogues down the river,” the other woman responded. She wore a red dress unusually low-cut for a religious ceremony but artfully covered with a sheer shimmery shawl. “No, really, I don’t believe it.” The woman in the red dress leaned closer, exposing the top lace of her bra. “You can’t possibly think—” “Didn’t you hear about that awful Jewish family in the news? They Careless Magazine • 63
were kicked out of their synagogue because the father paid a gardener to light a tree on fire during his son’s prayer section. Like an offbrand remake of Moses and the burning bush.” The women tsked and tittered. “You know, that Sarah Rosencrantz, I always thought there were something strange about her. I swear she cheated in the challah contest.” “Bad blood runs in the family, then. One of their ancestors must have been a convert or something,” She sniffed. “There’s no way they’re pure Jews. And I didn’t even recognize the woman who first started shouting miracle. They probably paid her.” “Well, they have the Rabbi fooled. The poor man, he’s too trusting.” The women sidled away, towards the bagel line. Rachel exhaled. She knew, she knew what the women said wasn’t true. Still, she couldn’t help but feel sticky and queasy. What exactly had happened in the synagogue? She started to move towards the bathroom, but again, she was interrupted. This time, by a purposeful-looking woman dragging a young child behind her. “How did you do it?” She demanded. “I-I don’t know what you mean,” Rachel said. “How did you do it? How did you reach Adonai? Tell me,” the woman said, angry now. “I’ve been taking Ava,” she pushed the child forward, who whined at this interruption to her iPhone game, “—to every Hebrew class, every Torah reader, but still, nothing.” “It was just a feeling, I wanted to laugh, and it came over me,” Rachel said. “Why won’t you tell me?” The woman raised her voice. “I’m sorry, I don’t-I don’t know what to say.” “You must think you’re so special, some miracle girl. Just you wait until Ava has her Bat Mitzvah.” At the sound of her name, Ava looked up from her phone. “She’s going to make the whole audience laugh.” Rachel didn’t respond. How could she? Instead, she backed away towards the bagel line. She hated onion bagels, and the chocolate chip and sesame were all gone. Among the bustling and bumbling of Bat Mitzvah planning, it seemed Ruben Rosencrantz forgot to buy his own daughter’s favorite type: plain. The cream cheese was, by this point, completely gone as well. Rachel looked up from the saucer, disappointed, to see her parents forging a path through the crowd towards her, with a line of relatives 64 • Fall 2018
behind them like ducklings. “There’s our beautiful blessing!” Her father’s voice boomed amongst the perfect acoustics of the synagogue, which had been recently renovated thanks to a sympathetic local potato chip company. He turned towards her mother. “What did I tell you, Sarah? Didn’t I always tell you our girl is special?” Oh no, Rachel thought. It wasn’t me, I was just laughing. It wasn’t funny. I don’t know what happened— but it wasn’t funny. Rachel backed away, bumping into the lady behind her. Maybe it was a miracle, but if that was God, then I don’t understand. “Rachel, honey?” Her mother stared at her, confused. “We need more cream cheese,” She responded. And with that, Rachel was gone. Out of the reception area, down the stairs, and into the kitchen before anyone could stop her. She tried to look purposeful, like she wasn’t running away, but the truth was that Rachel Rosencrantz, for the first time in her life, wanted to be truly, truly alone. She opened the fridge, hoping there was cream cheese, or anything she could bring back up upstairs. Instead, sitting on a solitary silver tray, was a lump of dough leftover from yesterday’s Shabbat dinner. Rachel made a decision, then. She took off her prayer shawl and folded it neatly on the counter. She rolled up the sleeves of her dress. Soon, there was flour everywhere—salting her hair, a halo around her face. The particles hung in the air, suspended. Her hands turned ghostly with it as she separated the dough into three long lines that snaked across the counter. This she knew. This was what she was sure of. Over and under, over and under, she wove the endless dough, until her fingers moved on their own, until her fingers became her mother’s fingers, her mother’s mother’s fingers, and it almost—almost—felt like a prayer.
Careless Magazine • 65
psyche’s singularity ALESSANDRA YU
66 • Fall 2018
The Improvisers JEFF FRIEDMAN
I had to miss sixth and seventh periods for therapy twice a week after the incident. Once a week would no longer suffice. I knew it was necessary—I had no strong aversion to psychiatrists. But once I met Mark Rader, I despised the therapeutic label. Therapy was predictable. It made me sick to my stomach. It was my sophomore year of high school at the September club fair. He put out a casting call for the group—they lost one member. “We are the Improvisers,” Rader boomed with no mic. “All we need to get started is a one-word suggestion of anything at all.” Metallic gym benches chilled my rear. “Lights!” someone yelled. “Zebra!” howled another. “Rope!” “I heard zebra!” he replied. He stepped back in line, now shoulder-to-shoulder with the other four Improvisers. They were a team. It’s important that I tell you about Mark Rader before I say more about therapy or the incident. His eyes were hazel-green, stuck behind a bird-like nose. He was tall and lanky in a high-school-senior kind of way. He rarely spoke in eighth-period BC calculus, but now, he swooped around the stage with grandiosity. His lips rested on the verge of a “puh” sound. He pulled one girl off the back wall to join him. “Can you help me out? I’m having trouble breathing!” he panted. “As your best zebra-friend, I know you’re just freaking out cause we’re in a blimp!” she said. The crowd, teachers included, sprayed spit into the pale-brown gymnasium. She mimed the zebra—full tail, four legs, the whole works. Which is why I had an epiphany that I needed to be on stage. Don’t get me wrong, knots of nothingness still cinched my gut. But the distraction helped. I knew now—I’d lost touch with the make-believe, and I was sure it could help me. I just needed a way into it, an excuse to become a zebra. That’s the other thing—I could be funny when I wanted to. In the psychiatrist’s office that afternoon, I debated slipping the Prozac prescription into my front-right pocket, but decided it would be safer in the front-left for various reasons. For instance, because I kept objects in each of the other jean pockets, I would risk removing the script along with house keys or a bouncy ball from any other pocket. These are the worthless ideas I had on her couch once a week. At the time, I didn’t mind it. But I’ve taken college-level psychology Careless Magazine • 67
now, and I know these sessions did nothing for me. My cousin Judd was smarter than this disgrace to the PhD. The office smelled of semi-new carpet and tasteful modernity. The bookshelf over her right shoulder housed such self-published works as Nipping it in the Bud: A Guidebook to Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Fight the Fear: Reclaim Your Life. At the end of each session, I thought she’d try to sell me a mortgage even though I was fourteen. I skipped kindergarten. My therapist would probably consider it rude or blasphemous to have these thoughts in her office. No matter what I thought, I should take the pill every morning with breakfast and hope for results. Good results. And no side effects. At least side effects less prominent than the good results. “Medication in conjunction with therapy is the most promising path to success,” she said. I wondered if she felt her own robotic-ness, if people who sound like broken cassette tapes suggest I am sick and tired of being this way and, perhaps, please help me. She parted gray bangs that belonged to the sixties. I wondered if she knew that, too. “Just take that script to your pharmacist right away,” she said. “And one more thing.” She rolled back on her hip joints and pinched fingers toward a stack of sheets, skinning one off the top. “I want you to be comfortable with me, Aidan. Fill this out for next time. Whatever you don’t feel you can say in here—write it down for me.” She jabbed under my nose a survey titled “What Jennifer Needs to Know, But I Won’t Say.” I left to see my calculus tutor. In class the next day, I watched Rader scratch his notebook. He drew something martial-arts related, two men sparring with swords of some kind. I could see his figure circle the stage laugh after laugh, commanding the space like an expert fighter. His eyes traced the tip of his pen as his tongue traced the inside of his lips. It was at this time I also discovered something strange. I took solace in hand dryers. Not the crumby, shit-of-the-Earth ones with crusty metal buttons in frail porcelain. The new, slick, “Jet Towel” ones that say “MITSUBISHI ELECTRIC” and sweep every last drop. So after I woke up with insoluble nausea and diarrhea, I would use them for comfort during the early periods at school. I endured knowing my palms could bathe in warm air. “Hey man, are you here for the auditions?” Rader asked. I found myself in the tucked-away theatre wing after eighth period that day. My vocal chords lulled. 68 • Fall 2018
“Only if you are!” I said. No response. “What’s your name?” he asked. “Aidan.” “Aidan,” he said. I knew if I had a way to make people laugh, I could quit my timeand money-wasting therapy. Rader’s nose carved at the air between us. A green, graph-paper button-down hugged his small neck. He always tucked it in, which I respected. Everything he said was ready for the camera—his features were cool, his tone limber and adaptable. He looked like Daniel Day-Lewis’s son. “Great,” he said. He gave me a form and pointed toward a row of chairs. I took small steps toward the row. My hands were clammy. I could feel the clenching now in the left portion of my chest—pain swelled from the insides of my elbows. I tried to calm myself with the familiar off-white floor pattern, black veins bridging adjacent tiles. “All right,” Rader said. He looked down at the row of chairs—five others sat with me. “Thanks for coming, everyone. We’re excited to have you. We wish we could take you all into the group, but unfortunately, we only have room for one. Remember—we’re just social rejects looking to have a little fun.” “Sorry I’m late,” rushed Emily Lovitz, Rader’s much-too-serious co-president. “Lab went long.” Her condescending voice dipped in pitch at the end of each precious phrase. Dirty-blond strands nestled the natural curves of her neck. She always had a reason to be later or more important. She dropped her brick-filled backpack. “Anyway, let’s get right into it,” Rader said. We would go without a warmup, straight into standard two-person scenes. He asked us to stand up and form a backline. “Also, just some basic rules of improv: always say yes, establish a clear who/what/where in each scene, and never ask questions.” I stood second from the left, my right knee quivering every three to four seconds. Emily and Rader took two center seats in the row. I wanted to melt the clear rims of her glasses. I noticed the girl to my left patting her right foot. An old air conditioning vent overcompensated for the fall heat. Then, foot girl darted center-stage. No one went out with her, so I figured I might as well—if I didn’t now, I never would. I’d read somewhere that it was actually okay to ask questions in improv scenes, that the “no questions” rule was an oversimplification. Careless Magazine • 69
It just depends on the circumstances. When you’re trying to figure out specifics at the top of the scene, you wouldn’t want to ask your scene partner questions cause it pressures them to make all the decisions. But questions can be central to the “why” of a scene—can even be the “game” of the scene (the odd pattern that makes a scene funny)— when the improvisers use them right. “Dad, please stop asking me to fight off the raccoons in our backyard!” she said. “It makes me really nervous!” My lungs constricted. My hands ached for snug air. Why couldn’t I be her father? I looked for comforting visuals—a chair, the familiar tile, Rader’s hazel eyes—but nothing could free me from this noose. An image of myself with the therapist entered my mind. I saw myself clearly, too clearly. I wanted a way out of observing myself—being in my body was fine, I just didn’t want to see it. “Well, you’re gonna have to do it!” I managed. Neither one of us could speak. Rader tapped his foot through the silence, then cut it off: “And, scene!” he called. I stumbled back in line. The rest of the scenes were better but not great. I had a hard time listening. “Now, we’re gonna play a game called ‘Back in My Day,’” Rader said. He crossed his legs like a Hollywood director. “You get an object suggestion of anything at all, and come up with reasons why you wouldn’t have needed it a long time ago.” Some people looked confused. “Can we get an object? Anything at all,” he said. “Deodorant!” someone yelled. “Okay.” Rader beamed. “Deodorant. Take it away, guys.” I sort of gave up for the rest of the audition, which made me perform a little better, I think. I stopped paying close attention. But I do remember one thing. A few minutes into this game, I made everyone laugh: “Back in my day, we didn’t need deodorant because those damn Millennials invented armpits!” I roared from somewhere outside myself. It was one of the only laughs I got, but it shot into me like a drug. Emily never showed a reaction to anything, but I remember Rader’s impressed green eyes. That’s why I was so devastated when I found out I didn’t get the spot. “I thought you were really talented, man,” Rader said. I approached him after calculus the next day, demanding an answer. He checked our surroundings. “I was fighting for you. But Emily wouldn’t have it. She was obsessing over you not being ‘big’ enough on stage. And she kept talking about that one hiccup you had at the beginning. I thought you were great though, man. You seem like a natural.” 70 • Fall 2018
And they thought they were the fucking rejects. “Thanks anyway,” I told him. That night, my father greeted me as usual: “How was Ridgemont today, Aidan?” It still made me furious. I was a student at Boyd High School. I cared none for movies I’d liked in middle school. I went outside for a walk. I worried I would turn out like my father. He wore the same tie for two weeks at a time, and laughed at the television like it was the only being ever to touch his soul. Not to mention, he married a woman who died drunk driving when I was two. *** “Hey,” Emily squealed. She caught me outside the first-floor bathroom after my hand drying the next morning. “I thought you were really good. I just wish we had more than one spot.” She lisped in a preventable way, and her administrative tone made me gag. In the hallway sunlight, her scrunchy face looked like a half-deflated balloon. “No worries!” I managed. She looked around, as if she owed me something. It was the first time I saw her question herself. Then, she resorted to what she knew best. “Don’t worry, little bro!” she said. She punched my shoulder. “If the kids at school don’t like you, it’s their loss!” “Thanks, sis!” I almost ran back to the toilet. But I was still a Mark Rader fan. They had open rehearsals in the assembly hall every Wednesday after school, so I usually stopped by and sat in the back. Each laugh hurt, but I liked watching him. He was a craftsman, and I appreciated all kinds of art. One day, after rehearsal, he walked up to me. “Hey there,” he said. I nodded. He looked to his left and took another step toward me, as if he had a secret. “I notice you here,” he continued. “I respect your dedication to improv. It’s not something too many people appreciate.” “I think it’s a great form,” I said. “What do you say we hang out and talk about it?” I checked my watch. “Right now?” “Why not?” I had no reason not to, so we got into his white Acura and left the main campus circle. He shifted gears tightly, navigating the roads like a young father. We sat in silence for a few minutes. He turned onto an uphill. Then, he told me about his passion for martial arts—Kendo, to be specific. He said they used the shinai in practice to replace the Careless Magazine • 71
sword, but his cousin gave him a real, 18-inch sword for his last birthday. I said I’d love to see it some time. “Are you happy?” he asked. I had no idea where we were going. “I think so.” I tried to give him a straight answer. I respect a straight question. We drove alongside yellow-green hills I did not recognize. The sky began to fold into the hilltops. A couple of kids played with hula-hoops, but most of the time, we were the only people in sight. We were comfortable in the silence. It dripped between us like honey. “Someone I know saw you with a Prozac prescription. Are you depressed?” I stayed quiet for a while. “I might be,” I said. “Well, good,” he said. “Good that you recognize it. Depression runs in my family. I’ve taken Zoloft for the past three years. My older brother died from a heroin overdose. So I’m glad you’re doing something about it.” All of a sudden, I wanted to propel out the door. Or become an engine piston. We were at the top of a hill. In front of us spread endless paths and power lines—it must have been the highest point in suburban Cincinnati. He said it was his favorite spot in the world. “So doc, can you help me figure out why I’m feeling this way?” he said. He hugged himself on the hood of his car, rocking at the waist in the fading light. I watched the sun set over the hills. That night, my body kept me awake. I often had trouble sleeping. In fact, I usually did. But my tense calves strung me along for hours, and eventually, I didn’t care about wasting the time. I made shadow figures on the wall from the light of my alarm clock. I thought it might be funny if a doctor had OCD. I’m sorry, I’m really sorry, I need to double-check to make sure I did your blood work correctly. My hand shadows played with each other. I’d begun to lose interest in my classes. Not that I’d ever been really interested in them, but now I definitely wasn’t. Sometimes I didn’t think I was interested in anything but Mark Rader. His success fascinated me. I imagined us branching off and creating our own improv group. We would practice seven days a week (four more than the Improvisers), and our group mind would sharpen till weapon-like. We even became friends. Rader and I started eating lunch together every day, sitting and talking through the whole forty-eight-minute 72 • Fall 2018
period. We talked about books, art, improv, culture, and high art. One day, some of the other Improvisers approached our table. “Heya, boys,” Emily said. “Are we intruding?” Three faces hovered behind her. One was the girl I tanked the scene with in the audition. “Please, join us,” Rader said. The group slapped trays down in unison. They enveloped our table. They acted like they’d been together all morning, which was probably true. “Jason, can you pass me that salt shaker?” said one of the girls. “Not until you start being nice to your step-mother, Alice,” Jason said. A few of them laughed, and he passed the shaker. “So, Aidan, are you having a good day?” Emily asked without looking up from her lettuce. I said I was. “Are your classes going well?” “As well as they can be in Cincinnati,” I said. No one laughed. “I can’t even remember what it’s like to be in classes,” she said in a grown-up, New York accent. A few of them laughed again, but I didn’t. “Be nice to your step-mother, Aidan!” Jason shouted. Now, the table roared. “She cares about you, boy! Be nice to her!” His words swept me onto my back. I entered a world in which nothing was funny, the most hilarious punchlines tragically unfunny, and the most skillful improvisation useless. Then, I remembered something else I’d read. The attempt to be funny in improv is a dangerous thing. While it’s important for the improviser to admit he or she has the desire to be funny, there must be no manifestation of this attempt on stage. Any visible attempt could be fatal. Audiences can detect with precision the improviser’s desire to be funny. One slip could ruin the whole show. “Are you okay, man?” Rader’s face hovered close to mine. I had fallen straight out of my chair. The Improvisers left for afternoon class. After school, I went down the street to my therapist. “Is the medication helping yet?” she asked. “If you’re trying to help my wiener stay soft, then yeah, the medication’s working great.” I couldn’t believe I said this. She stayed silent for a while. I didn’t laugh at my joke. “Has the progressive muscle relaxation helped your sleep?” “A little.” I lied. “But could we maybe talk about some other ways to help with sleep?” She nodded. “And this Mark Rader guy you mentioned on your sheet? Who’s he?” She cradled her self-made worksheet like its paper parents paid Careless Magazine • 73
her $185 an hour and I was a sack of shit. “He’s just a friend I’ve recently gotten used to being around,” I said. “Good.” “Yeah.” I supposed it was good. “Do you get along with him well?” “We have similar interests.” She had one of those things on top of her bookshelf that stood balanced on a metal cylinder. These devices always fascinated me. A tiny metal human with points for feet clutches an indescribable arc that balances him completely. It raised questions. Why was he holding it? Did he know that he would fall, obliterate his entire existence, if he let go? In object work, improvisers should never make their hands look like mimed objects themselves. This improper practice is most common with the miming of two objects: telephones and guns. A telephone is not a fist with the thumb and pinky extended. To mime a telephone, the improviser simply imagines an actual phone in hand. Likewise, a gun is not a fist with the thumb and forefinger extended. “Aidan,” she said. “Yeah?” “Time’s up.” I noticed that one of her lower eyelids was bigger than the other. Now, I laughed. I laughed the entire walk home. I stopped going to their practices on Wednesdays because I couldn’t stand the sight of Emily. Also, I stopped taking the pills. My father begged me to. He even offered to pay me five dollars each time I gulped. I kept going to therapy as a compromise, but I’d found what could make me happy, and the pills didn’t help anyway. Improv was my antidepressant. So I started immersing myself in the literature during the week. At lunch, under the orange light of my bedroom lamp, in the bathroom stalls at school. The time they spent rehearsing onstage I spent working through hypothetical scenes and characters in my head. A brain surgeon with crippling OCD, a freelance costume artist who attends funerals to comfort the bereaved, a hunchback head of PR who works as the publicity rep for evil people. I would picture all my characters in Rader’s body. You would be surprised how much you can read about improv. It’s funny. As “unplanned” as the whole thing is. Then, after studying improv for the week, I’d see Rader over the weekends. One Saturday, he took me to his house. I met his parents on a stout floral couch—she knitted while he read the paper. Their living 74 • Fall 2018
room had a cabin-in-the-woods feel to it, but it sat in a damp neighborhood behind the gas station. The coffee table, floor lamp, even the wooden chair in the corner were too short for Rader’s build. “Mark speaks very highly of you,” his mother said from behind semi-circle lenses. It was strange. I’d never heard anyone call him “Mark.” He took me upstairs to show me the sword he’d been bragging about for weeks. “He’s a shiner,” he said over the blade’s slick whisper. I saw the reflection of his lower lip in the triangular steel. He caressed the holster, a Hershey-brown piece of smoothness. “Wanna see me use it?” “Be careful,” I said. He waltzed around the room. I closed my eyes. The floor boards creaked under his golden-toed socks. Maybe he learned self-defense for the same reason he did improv. “I want to kill Emily,” I said. We sat down on his bed. He told me that he, too, wanted to lash out at people sometimes. To make spaghetti from their throat tubes, or knead their organs into bread. The next Saturday, Emily invited me to her house for Cards Against Humanity. I guess I was Rader’s plus one. He said he had to go, so I figured I would. I couldn’t have her take away our weekend time. We hiked up the front steps to her mansion. The Cincinnati chill slapped our skin. The door was a rich green—the house could’ve belonged to the Addams Family. I bet her parents were the happiest in the world. She opened the door wearing a low-cut V-neck. “Ew, who invited you?” she said. She giggled at herself, but her lips avoided smiling. I should’ve seen it coming. Inside the living room, she’d set out a bowl of Fritos and Sprite Zero. Rader looked ready to vomit. We sat there in the firelight and listened to her talk about her day. Something about her renewed driver license not coming in time. It surprised me. Listening to her talk was actually kind of relaxing. There was a lull, so I took a turn speaking: “The waiter hasn’t come by in ages!” I said, gesturing toward the kitchen. Nothing. “I have to be going.” Rader flung from his couch cushion. “My mom needs me right away.” He strung along the black tile through the front door without another word. Emily looked confused. “So,” she said through the side of her mouth. “Should we get started?”
This piece has been excerpted for size. The full story is available at www.carelessmagazine.com/the-improvisers. Careless Magazine • 75
A Generation VIVIENNE SHI
A carpenter builds scaffoldings around A piece of handwriting. He waits patiently Until rosemary, lavender and garlic sprout In her child garden, then starts Driving down south, thinking of a daughter.
76 â€˘ Fall 2018
Father, tell me about the taste of sweet corn. Tell me about the sky in 1999, on the pier, at the lake. Tell me about the tatters of a half constructed poem. Tell me about riding no-handed and Tell me of the brothers, in the dark, with their cigars. Tell me about the summer the cicadas came out of the earth. Tell me about the perfect sentence. It was late afternoon, there had just been lightning, and everyone for a moment had lost their sadness.
Careless Magazine â€˘ 77
One Year Later AYA BURTON
Even after forgetting their names she can peel a plum with a paring knife and sit on the little circle rug, tracing its checkered pattern. Or slide the door of the freezer open and close it again and again; tilt her ear toward the hum of the fridge as it draws its heavy breaths. Listening is the purest thing she knows. Whistle of the kettle, scraping of stools, slippers tapping to radio tunes as she stands before the sink – names, she doesn’t need. A spoon is the sound of a silver key striking the tiled ground. The cracking of ice is the break of a bone, the faucet, a drawn-out storm.
78 • Fall 2018
Burnout NHI PHAN
a candle and i feverish, mad flames flicking atop as the fire of our ire burns burns us to our final drop oh flames of mine, will you not for once temper yourself down for all the poor bastards caught in your wake? “no,” it cries, “we shall all together drown”
Careless Magazine • 79
Contributors Alessandra Yu, Pomona ‘19 Alice Giuffredi, Scripps ‘22 Alissa Martinez, Pomona ‘22 Anna Mitchell, Scripps ‘22 Aya Burton, Scripps ‘22 Carmin Sherlock, Scripps ‘21 Casey Goodwin, Pomona ‘19 Colin Adams, Harvey Mudd ‘19 copper rain Danielle Dominguez, Claremont McKenna ‘19 Emmanuel Feleke, Claremont McKenna ‘19 Ella Boyd, Scripps ‘22 Jay Scott, Pomona ‘22 Jeanne Rasmussen, Pomona ‘21 Jeff Friedman, Pomona ‘19 .jhh Jinyoung Lee, Claremont McKenna ‘20 Katherine Snell, Claremont McKenna ‘20 Kristine Cho, Pomona ‘20 Madison Yardumian, Scripps ‘21 Malcolm Yeary, Pomona ‘20 Nhi Phan, Claremont McKenna ‘21 Paskalina Bourbon, Pomona ‘19 Samantha Resnick, Pomona ‘19 Sei-Kashe M’Pfunya, Pomona ‘21 Tommy Schneider, Harvey Mudd ‘19 Trinity Chapa, Pomona ‘21 Vibha Rohilla, Harvey Mudd ‘22 Vivienne Shi, Pomona ‘19
80 • Fall 2018
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