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Cedar Valley Divide Kirkwood Community College’s Art and Literary Magazine
Dear Reader, When we first met as a staff, we could not foresee that a global pandemic would drastically alter dayto-day living and present us with a unique set of challenges. In addition to the difficult task of analyzing and choosing pieces from a large pool of talent, we also had to navigate how to work as a team online and face a quandary unknown to the Cedar Valley Divide until now. Publish online or print? Our goal was to make the Cedar Valley Divide both accessible and satisfactory. Ultimately, we decided to do both. It is a strange time. Kirkwood’s halls are empty. The New York Times is publishing tutorials on how to sew face masks. Toilet paper is missing from store shelves, and grocery store clerks and medical personnel have emerged as the heroes of the day. Due to self-containment, the absence of the frantic day-to-day activities that mark so many of our lives have given way to reflection. It is fitting, then, that so many of our pieces reflect the theme of contemplation. In “The Residual Effects of Slavery,” you will hear a reflection on what it means to be an African-American woman fighting the beauty standards imposed by a white majority. The poem “¡Naci Rechazada!” reflects on the agony of having family from two different cultural groups and not belonging to either. Trying to Make Order Out of Chaos and Beautiful Chaos are two pieces of artwork that reflect differing perspectives on disorder. As we wait out COVID-19 and the uncertainty that permeates the globe, we invite you to escape into a world of color found behind these pages, connect to the stories, and remember we are not alone. We would like to thank our adviser Lisa Angelella for her guidance and insight, and the many individuals who shared their talent with us and whose contributions have been a source of inspiration. As you read through the 2020 edition of The Cedar Valley Divide and become acquainted with the talent behind these pages, we challenge you to contemplate the beauty, agony, and whimsy sprouting from day-to-day life and reflected here. Sincerely, The Cedar Valley Divide Editors: Annie Barkalow, Megan Brown, Megan Dobson, Em Doll, McKenzie Moughler, Suzanne Rodriquez and Sydney Vaassen
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Table of Contents Poetry What Do You See? III Mortuary ยกNazi Rechazada! Little Anatomy of a Real Girl ghost Honored Robin Forever Not Me Fear and Loathing A Temple in Ruins
Carmen D. Harrington Stefan Crowl Stefan Crowl Carmen D. Harrington L.A. Felleman Hayley Anderson Meghan Rickels Lars Townsend Makennah Crawford Brandon Feighner Stefan Crowl Hayley Anderson
p. 6 p. 8 p. 27 p. 29 p. 31 p. 42 p. 45 p. 46 p. 53 p. 55 p. 57 p. 62
Dennis Green Brandon Feighner Madison Voss Max Derby Madison Voss
p. 12 p. 25 p. 34 p. 58 p. 65
Fiction House Band Fishing Retail Nightmare The Drowning Inundation
Non-fiction Experiences with the Residual Effects of Slavery Isabella Lake: A Place of Firsts 4 Cedar Valley Divide
Art Victoria Oranges Melancholy of the Rain Melancholy Anaphase 22-Caliber Tea Set Beautiful Chaos Waves Trying to Make Order Out of Chaos The Gift Father and Son Connection Irobot Ghostmetal Resonance Kaleidoscope Persian Motherâ€™s Greatest Lesson Self-Portrait Toucan King Vibinâ€™ on a Tuesday Self-Portrait Libra Mountain Village
Anastassiya Radionova Gabbie Herzberg Kaitlen Dawnielle Sothman Mina Epley Ella Ostedgaard Anissa White Emily Heinick Lisa Olson Lisa Olson
cover p. 7 p. 10 p. 11 p. 18 p. 23 p. 24 p. 26 p. 28
Charissa Swanson Diana Cruz Lisa Olson Feza Matiyabo Charisa Swanson Ella Ostedgaard Shelby Blazek Suzanne Rodriguez Amanda May Bollig Gabbie Herzberg Kalon Thompson Gabbie Herzberg Amanda May Bollig Terri Carter
p. 30 p. 33 p. 41 p. 43 p. 44 p. 47 p. 52 p. 54 p. 56 p. 59 p. 60 p. 61 p. 64 p. 73
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What Do You See?
Carmen D. Harrington
What do you see when you look at me? Frightening ferocity, and cleverness, or calamity, for sparrows, doves, and chickadees? Do you see a travesty, savagery, ignominy, or do you pity a once dignified bird of prey? Take another look, what do you see? Soaring supremacy or conquered catastrophe for a previously proud predator soberly surveying his dwindling domain?
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the vines were strawberry vines. The dusty, unimpressive root ball was all I had cared for that year Among the bramble and chaos of my mother’s backyard. I was married to their success, those strawberries, But my grandmother shook her head the way grandmothers do so well. “Those don’t look like strawberry vines,” she said, knowing. “Of course they are strawberry vines, Grandma,” the quip of an indignant grandson. Of course, they weren’t strawberry vines. I labored over that weed all summer long And never saw a single blossom Or tasted a single fruit. That was the year I realized that not all noble efforts bear fruit. I learned from my mistakes. In another life, I planted six persimmon trees, five olive trees, four cypress, three mulberries, a vineyard, an orchard, a pomegranate, an apricot, and so on, but I didn’t own a drop of water to keep them, so I broke into the community garden. In broad daylight, I hopped the aching barbed wire Into the overgrowth, and I stole six water barrels, five shovels, four ceramic pots, three coils of irrigation, a wheel barrel, a lawn mower, pomegranates, apricots, 8 Cedar Valley Divide
and so on. That was the year I learned that not all fruits are born of noble efforts. The following spring, I took a hacksaw to my family tree. It needed pruning, had grown too close to the power lines. I should have known, God, had I known where to collide? But I cut the twigs, the branches, the trunk, and so on, And when my family tree refused to sprout leaves that year So did I. That was the year I realized that I never was a sower of seeds, but a sower of stumps.
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Melancholy of the Rain Kaitlen Dawnielle Sothman
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Melancholy Mina Epley
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The hero leaned on his staff. Eyes the color of smoke, red-rimmed and weary, met mine. There was a bruise under the left one that was three different shades of green. “What do I owe you?” He reached for his wallet with the arm that was not in a sling. I watched him twist around for a minute before waving him off. “Forget it,” I said. “I’ll put it on your tab.” “Odds are I’m not going to make it through the night. And I’m not exactly a great credit risk in the first place.” I waved my hand to the quartet setting up on the bar’s tiny stage. “If I was in this for the money, I’d quit bringing in jazz bands.” “Good point.” One of the musicians opened a road case. He flipped microphones to the others, hardly giving them time to slide the mics into their stands before he followed with cables. The hero watched this show of precision. “Nice to be part of a team,” I murmured. When he didn’t reply, I tried again. “You always work alone?” “Not always. Just now.” “I don’t think so.” His gaze snapped back to me. “What do you mean by that?” I inclined my head toward the door. The bar grew suddenly silent as a trio of figures filled the doorway. And I do mean filled. One was huge, nearly seven feet tall, and hairy as an ape. He scanned the bar, his unibrow wrinkled and his nostrils flared, almost as if he were hunting by scent. He locked on the hero and nudged one of his companions. She was a petite blonde, very young. At first glance, you’d think she belonged not in my place, but in a dance club, doing Jello shots with a crowd of coeds. Until you looked in her eyes. There was something very, very hard in there. Or maybe it was the twin Desert Eagles holstered on either hip. The third member of the odd party, a ridiculously handsome man dressed all in black, looked at the 12 Cedar Valley Divide
hero with an annoyed expression and said, “Well? Are we going to do this or what?” “How did they find me?” the hero demanded. I shrugged. “I can’t risk their lives.” “Their choice, not yours.” He stared past me, chewing on his lip. The handsome man tapped his wrist. “Tick tock.” Shaking his head, the hero heaved himself to his feet. As he did, the lower portion of the giant’s beard detached itself and launched into the air. A grin cracked the hero’s face as he held out his arm. The monkey landed on it like a falcon. It scolded him with a rapid fire explosion of chittering and clambered onto his shoulder. “Hey!” I called. Five heads swung in my direction. “Don’t forget this.” I picked up the floppy leather hat lying on the bar and tossed it like a Frisbee. The monkey caught it and plopped it on the hero’s head. The group broke into laughter as music swelled in a glorious crescendo. And abruptly ended in a squeal of feedback. “Shit!” The drummer frantically twisted knobs on the amp. “Sorry.” Down the bar, a fellow waggled his glass. I filled him up as he watched the strange posse leave. The hero was last out. He gently pushed the monkey’s arms out of the way and straightened the hat to a less cockeyed angle. Just before the darkness swallowed him, he looked back over his shoulder and gave me a two-fingered salute. I nodded back as the hero slipped into the night to meet his destiny. “What was that all about?” the fellow asked as he accepted his pint. “Rogue demigod trying to open up a portal to Hell, or something like that.” “That happen a lot?” “More often than you’d think.” “Should I be worried?” I shook my head. “They’ve got it.” He took a sip of his beer. He opened his mouth to ask me something else, but there was a noise further on down the bar. A bearded wizard straight out of Central Casting, right down to the robe and peaked cap, snapped Cedar Valley Divide 13
his fingers in front of a corncob pipe clenched between his teeth. I pulled a lighter from my pocket and held it out to him. He stared at me with a confused frown. I flicked it to life. He leapt back, cursing in Etruscan. In the same language, I told him to cool it, and showed him how the lighter worked. Delighted, he snatched it from me and cackled happily as he flipped it on and off. I walked back toward the man I’d been talking to. “Sometimes they forget magic doesn’t work in here,” I explained. “Magic?” He looked around, noticing our clientele for the first time. Next to the wizard, two dwarfs matched each other drink for drink. Further down, a table full of vampires celebrated a birthday, if the cake with something in the neighborhood of two hundred candles was any indication. And the band, of course. The man’s eyes grew wide as he realized the slow, shambling gait of the musicians was not from the previous night’s after-hours partying. “Wait,” he said, “Are they…?” “You know what they say. All the great jazz players are dead.” If I was expecting a laugh, it didn’t come. He was studying his glass and didn’t appear to have heard. “Vampires, wizards, zombies,” he mused. “Why am I buying this just like it’s normal?” He looked up at me. “Am I crazy?” I smiled, and slid a bowl of snack mix in front of him. My snack mix is pretty awesome. I don’t skimp on the peanuts like most places do. “You’re not crazy. While you’re in my place, having a drink with a wizard or listening to zombies play jazz seems quite normal.” “They won’t attack us or anything?” “You mean…” I dropped my jaw and rolled my eyes toward the back of my head. “Brrraaaaiiinnnsss… That’s a myth.” “But…how can you have a band made up of zombies?” I shrugged. “I promised these guys once I’d always let them play here.” “And that applies even after they die?” “Well, the union would prefer I hire from the roster, but a promise is a promise.” The dwarfs signaled for another round. The man watched as I loaded Natalie up with six more pitchers. “So what happens when I leave?” he asked. “You’ll remember sitting next to a weird but harmless old guy, hearing a good band, and buying drinks from a delightful and erudite barkeep.” “Barkeep, huh? That’s not a term you hear much these days.” “I’m an old-fashioned guy.” By now his glass was empty, and I refilled him. 14 Cedar Valley Divide
“What brings you out tonight?” I asked. He frowned. “Why should something have brought me out? I stopped in for a drink. Is that unusual?” “Of course not.” This was the tricky part. Choosing my words carefully, I continued, “This is your first time here, right?” “I guess.” “Why’d you pick this place?” “Because I’d been here…” His voice trailed off and his face clouded in confusion. “No. Because… Well, I…” “You’re troubled, and a drink seemed like a good way to clear your head, right?” He frowned. “What is this place?” he said sharply. “Who are you?” “Just a guy serving drinks,” I said mildly. “Relax.” “Relax?” He jumped off the barstool. “I think I’ve had enough. Are you using some kind of hocuspocus to keep me here? I shook my head. “Don’t be ridiculous. You can leave anytime you want.” “I want.” “Sure. Let me just ring you up.” I turned toward the cash register, continuing with my back to him. “Of course, if you do, you’ll never find what you’re looking for.” I busied myself at the cash drawer while he digested this and returned with his bill. He ignored it, staring at me intently. “What makes you think I’m looking for something?” “You’re here.” “And what does that mean?” “People find this place because they need to.” I inclined my head to the wizard. “He needs a break from people demanding he lead their quests.” “What about that guy with the rogue demigod?” “He needed to be someplace where his friends would find him.” “Why?” “So he didn’t end up a bloody smear.” “He didn’t know that?” “At some level, we always know what we need to do. Doesn’t mean we’re prepared to do it.” He didn’t reply for a long time. “That’s me, I guess,” he finally said. Cedar Valley Divide 15
“You know what you should do?” He nodded. “But I don’t know if I can do it.” I didn’t answer, just waited for him to continue. “If I’m wrong, I’ll get fired,” he finally said. “And black-balled. Probably never work again.” “And if you’re right?” “A bunch of people will go to jail.” “What happens to you?” “Nobody likes a whistle-blower. I’ll get fired. And black-balled. Probably never work again.” “Nice. What’s your gut tell you?” “That a bunch of people need to go to jail.” I nodded again and poured him a drink. He looked at it and frowned. “I just cashed out.” “That one’s on the house.” I poured myself one as well, and we touched glasses. He studied me again as we each took another drink. “You never answered my question.” “I forgot what it was.” “What is this place?” “It’s where you go to get up the courage to go back out there.” I jerked a thumb toward the door. “And fight a rogue demigod.” “Or the system.” He stared into his glass for a long moment. “What are your boy’s chances?” he finally asked. “I mean, if the world’s going to end, breach of fiduciary conduct becomes kind of a moot point, right?” “I don’t think you can count on that. He’s used to fighting out of his weight class.” “Just my luck.” The band had moved on to “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” and he bobbed his head in time with the music. When the tune ended, he tossed off the rest of his drink. “Want another?” He shook his head. “That would just be putting it off. I know what I need to do.” “Yeah?” “Fight out of my weight class.” Heaving himself to his feet, he shrugged into his coat, settled a stocking cap on his head, and strode to the door. Just before the darkness swallowed him, he looked back over his shoulder and gave me a twofingered salute. I nodded back as the hero slipped into the night to meet his destiny. 16 Cedar Valley Divide
“Got any duct tape?” called a voice. The sax player leaned against the end of the bar. “What happened?” I asked. “Chet lost a finger.” “Again?” I tossed him the roll I keep behind the bar for just such an emergency. Some of us go out and wage war against injustice. Others just try to keep the band together.
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Experiences with the Residual Effects of Slavery Alima Sula
As a black woman on my journey through life, I have experienced some very important events that have helped make me who I am today. Black women in American have unique yet shared experiences. I grew up in a predominantly white town and school district. Not having any black model figures throughout school was hard. The road to self-love isn’t easy and I don’t think other women need to love themselves solely because of their race like black women need to. I’ve questioned my blackness on many occasions and have had harsh realizations growing up. Colorism has been a topic more widely discussed on social media recently, and I’m glad we as a community are discussing it. Colorism is one of many direct results of slavery. Colorism is defined as people of the same ethnic group preferring those of light skin over darker skin. Women get the brute force of colorism because it enforces beauty standards that black women need to follow. Lighter-skinned African Americans (AAs) have an advantage in life that dark skinned AAs don’t have. Colorism is directly tied to beauty standards. Striving for Euro-centric beauty standards has been instilled into AAs, something that we cannot or will never be able to attain unless it’s surgical or genetic. I specifically remember my grandma complaining about how my siblings and I got “burnt” in the sun. Every summer when I was little, I remember her berating. She would always yell at us if we didn’t wait the allocated 15 minutes for the sunscreen to kick in. This was where my fear of getting dark started. Not from an outside source, but from my own grandma. It was a fear that I had difficulty overcoming. In the summer, when I noticed I got darker, I would feel so ugly. Coming back home from the water park or a long day outside then looking in the mirror and seeing a tan line would mortify me. To me and to many other young girls of all races, dark was ugly. In middle school I looked down on darker-skinned black girls to some extent. There was only a couple in my predominantly white school. I remember being glad I wasn’t as dark when I saw them. I went to majority white schools my whole life, so I was usually one of the only black girls in all my classes. One of my middle school friends was dark-skinned, and whenever she would argue with another black boy in our grade (who was close to her skin color), he would always make the point that she was dark-skinned and ugly, but according to his logic these same things didn’t apply to him because he wasn’t a girl. Many black female celebrities got nose jobs that I didn’t know about. Their procedures were when they were upand-coming. Only yearbook pictures could prove it. Tyra Banks, Oprah, Halle Berry, Teyana Taylor, and the list goes on. When I found out, I was disappointed because it made me feel like there was something wrong with my nose. That my nose was too big. I looked up to these women, so, if they got a nose job, isn’t that saying something about mine? It made me feel lied to. The issue was deeper than these women deciding to get a nose job because they were insecure. In these types of industries where you’re judged on your looks, it’s important to be more appealing and have more Euro-centric Cedar Valley Divide 19
features; otherwise, it could impact your career and make it harder to succeed. I looked up to Tyra and America’s Next Top Model. I watched it all the time as a kid. Lil’ Kim is someone whose transformation is obvious and documented. Lil’ Kim once said, “Guys always cheated on me with women who were European-looking. You know, the long-hair type. Really beautiful women that left me thinking, ‘How can I compete with that?' Being a regular black girl wasn’t good enough.” She changed her look to raise her level of attractiveness to men. The patriarchy and white supremacy have made the modern-day AA woman resent her natural-born self. I used to feel like I wasn’t attractive because I was a “regular black girl.” Lil’ Kim, in addition to lightening her skin, has also changed her eye color, with contact lenses. Lil’ Kim has had surgeries to alter her body to be extremely curvy. Her body in her prime was nothing like it is today; she was more petite with a smaller frame and fewer curves. Some of her nose jobs were to fix underlying issues from it being broken numerous times. During puberty I thought my nose was always too big. I had to grow into my nose and resolve my inner self-hate with having Afro-centric features. I hated it. I’ve done a lot of self-reflection, and I like my nose, but there are some things I would like to change. I want my nostrils to be more defined, still a lingering trace of my insecurity. Personally, I don’t blame any AA women for changing their facial features because I know it’s not our fault we feel this way. Skin bleaching is prevalent in the AA community although it’s not talked about. Here in America skin bleaching is something that’s not obvious at all, but still prevalent. Travel to other countries, and it’s openly advertised and sold as bleaching cream. This is not a good way to advertise it in America, so it’s called “lightening cream,” “hyperpigmentation cream,” and “brightening cream.” These sound a lot more appetizing than “bleaching cream.” Black celebrities like Sammy Sosa and Lil’ Kim have bleached. Before Sammy Sosa bleached his skin he had a nice sun-kissed caramel color; today, however, he looks completely different. His skin is that of used bubble gum, ghastly and an unnatural skin tone. Skin bleaching is cancerous and very unhealthy. I’m sure anyone can see how unhealthy it is when looking at before and after pictures on Google. Despite the health risk, skin bleaching sales still grow. By 2024, it’s projected that global profits will reach $31.2 billion. My dad is African and from the Democratic Republic of Congo, so most of my older siblings grew up in Africa. When visiting one of my older sisters and family, I saw bleaching cream in her bathroom, and I was shocked. This was during middle school, and I asked my niece (who is my age) why my sister had bleaching cream. She calmly said, “She wants to be lighter,” and explained how many of our female family members bleached their skin. The knowledge that my family members were bleaching made me feel like it wasn’t a bad thing. It was just something you didn’t tell people you did. After that visit I really started to look online at bleaching creams and bought one. I was bleaching my skin in 8th grade during the winter months, and I didn’t realize how light it made me until I looked back on pictures. The sister who was bleaching her skin accused me of bleaching when she saw how much my skin had changed. I denied it, and my response was, “I always get lighter in the winter.” That same niece chimed in to back me up. She looked at me like she knew I was lying but wasn’t going to press the topic any further. I stopped bleaching after that because I was having allergic reactions to it, and I realized how bad it really was. There are many activists speaking out on the issue of skin bleaching globally, but it falls on deaf ears for the most part in America because we are under the assumption that it simply doesn’t happen here. 20 Cedar Valley Divide
I’ve been in situations where I’ve been degraded not only by white boys but my black male peers. In 10th grade at the library, I was sitting by myself. The black boys from my grade decided to call me over to sit by them, and they started talking about how much they disliked black girls. The topic arose from a viral video that was circulating on the internet of a student going around his school and asking AA boys what they thought of black girls. The video was incredibly negative, and the things they said were degrading and spewed self-hate. It was very disheartening knowing that’s how they viewed me. It was like I had to deal with racism, sexism, their self-hate projected onto me. It’s always exhausting seeing a black man put down AA women, only to uplift other women. When I brought up that they were AA and they have black mothers, sisters, aunts, etc, the topic changed to “I don’t look at them like that.” So, when they brought up how gross our bodies looked, how dark our nipples were and other anatomy, I mentioned that their anatomy, was also dark, but that was okay because they were boys. I mentioned they came out of a black woman, so everything they were saying about black women they were just spewing self-hate. The answer was “No, I’m not. I love myself.” I didn’t use the term “self-hate” because I wasn’t aware of it, so I said they were being racist towards their own race. This has showed me at least at the time that black men saw themselves as separate from black women. Since then, one of them gone on to be a teen parent with a black girl, so I hope his mentality has changed. Otherwise he will be raising a self-hating daughter. How blacks are viewed by the world holds up a cracked mirror to them. Self-hate and low racial esteem is a mental obstacle we need to tackle. In middle school I remember talking with my black friend and my mixed friend, and they were going on and on about how much they wanted to have “white hair” and how much more superior it was to our hair. They also talked about how bad they wanted to look white. I stayed silent. This was the first time I can remember wondering why there was something wrong with me just because I was black and why my black friends were putting themselves down and wanted to be white. Self-hate is very deeply ingrained in the AA psyche. Slaves were conditioned to see themselves and Afrocentric features as inferior. Scientists and doctors rationalized and proclaimed the factual inferiority of blacks and other races in contrast to white people. These problems we face are psychological warfare. The American society is a white supremacist one, and everyone is subjected to this subliminal brainwashing from birth. CNN came out with a special on children and racial bias, and the findings were not surprising. Children had more positive bias towards white skin. The findings saw that on a cartoon color scale of kids, the lighter/white kids were valued, and the darker kids were bad and unwanted. We are fully aware from an early age that we are black. I knew I was black and to this day my race is always in the back of my mind. I don’t get the luxury to not think “I’m black” almost everywhere I go. An exception is tourist places and spaces where there’s a lot of diversity. Traveling to Miami, New York and Atlanta, I never felt like I was an outcast because I was black. These issues I speak of are from a young black woman’s perspective. Feelings of being an outcast in white spaces, unattractive and unwanted, are rampant. Some of the problems are social and psychological. We have colorism that makes it even harder for dark skin girls in our community. Self-hate that manifests itself in projecting these negative stereotypes onto us. We feel pressure to change our appearance and assimilate to better our lives and careers. Skin bleaching can be tied to colorism and self-hate, as we strive to better ourselves by lightening our skin color. Cedar Valley Divide 21
I think it’s very important to know we are beautiful because we are black. Every day we are told we’re not. That our features are attractive but not on us. There are so many obstacles on the road to self-love a black girl has. Being taught self-love and value from an early age is very beneficial to both black boys and girls. The AA community should strive to eradicate these issues, so the negative impacts will not continue to hold us back mentally. Self-love is an ever-changing journey. I’m content with myself and truly proud of my great lineage. Now that I am older, I have realized that I’m grateful for my features. They are desired and, unlike others, I don’t have to pay for what I have naturally.
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22-Caliber Tea Set Anissa White
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Beautiful Chaos Emily Heinick
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On a warm summer day, a young boy about the age of six or seven went on a camping trip with his family. The boy was excited and anxious about his first time camping. The young’un was especially eager about getting up early and spending time fishing with his dad. The little guy was coached how to bait the hook, but he was uneasy about hurting the worms, so instead of hurting the worms, they used plastic jigs. Whenever the boy caught a fish, he was ecstatic and was very careful not to hurt the fish when taking the hook out, When the boy put the fish back in the lake, the dad had showed him how to be gentle when taking the hook out. The youngster was even taught how to splash his hand down into the water to scare the fish, making sure it was well enough to swim away. That day, the boy was well-educated on how to catch and release when he went fishing. Later that afternoon, when the fish stopped biting, the boy and dad went back to camp and the family decided to go swimming. The loved ones went swimming when suddenly the boy began splashing frantically back to his father. With a long face, the son asked his father, very confused, “Dad, if I pee in the lake will the fish die?” Laughing at the innocence of the question, the dad said “no,” with a chuckle and a grin. Just then the boy said, “phew, good,” with a chuckle and the same grin. As the dad sat down, replaying the day over and over again in his head, he wished that his own dad had taken the time to teach him the same lessons of empathy, snippets of eternity that get us through hard time. Then maybe he wouldn’t be dwelling on what happened so many years ago, as he escapes from his 10 x 10 cell—still wondering.
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I grew up in a great big house where my father threw parties all the time. I never was invited; I was banished to the attic with my brothers where I wondered why the people left crying.
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Trying to Make Order out of Chaos Lisa Olson
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¡Naci rechazada! Carmen D. Harrington
Rechazada. ¡Nací rechazada! por la que me pario una mujer descarada.
¡Rejected! I was born rejected by the woman who bore me, a home-wrecking hussy.
Rechazada, por mi familia, por mi sangre mezclada, no pura latina ni india americana.
Rejected, by my family, for my mixed blood, not pure Latina nor Native Americana.
Rechazada, por mis compañeros de clase por mi timidez y rostro de pobreza.
Rejected, by my classmates, for my timidity and air of poverty.
Rechazada, por una Raza prejuiciada, por mi piel clara y mi ingles perfecto.
Rejected, by a jaded race, for my light skin and perfect English.
Rechazada, por gente blanca por mi crianza hispana y mi trenza larga.
Rejected, by bigoted whites, for my Hispanic upbringing and long dark braided tresses.
Rechazada, por mi parentesco a una maldita gringa amante privilegiada.
Rejected, for my kinship to a damn gringa— a privileged—lover.
¡Rechazada! por mi sangre, maltratada.
Rejected! for my blood, disparaged.
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Take this granola bar given for you Take this juice box also given for you discreetly housed in my little pantry which is next to my little library both built by my Boy Scout troop and then erected near my parking lot placed here for you
who have been discarded
due to compulsion, or maybe combat or possibly from over-crowdedness of interior spaces walled or without Whatever your reasoning take, eat, drink Do this in remembrance of Pat and Joyce who read of your wants in my monthly newsletter that bars and boxes were going fast as well as toothbrushes and toothpaste which had not occurred to them but which made sense Now Joyce picks up Pat in her Cadillac Ron had insisted on American and substantial because you never know Cedar Valley Divide 31
when those crazies, probably unlicensed, would recklessly cross lines into your lane, which is why Joyce maintains his policy Things like that were always under his care they were his share of their economy Joyce and Pat drive to my Bible Study They stop at Russ IGA along the way buying Sunshine-brand peanut butter bars, a good source of protein, Joyce noted, as well as boxes of apple juice Pat is a firm one-a-day believer They park in one of my handicap stalls Joyce is still pained after knee replacement They walk over to my little pantry and remark over Dorisâ€™s new sign which she felt it was her duty to adhere after she saw them with her own two eyes, several definitely not-in-want students she could tell by the way they looked who did not even have the shame to be decent once she gave them her sternest eyebrow lift and volunteered said sign that very night as they studied Jesus calming the storm They place their offering inside on secure Boy-Scout constructed shelving. So, drink this juice box, eat this protein bar, you shelterless for the aforementioned, partake of this feast with uplifted hearts and give thanks for my little food pantry
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Father and Son Diana Cruz
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When Liz O’Rourke arrived to work, she chose the last spot in the uninviting parking lot. It was lit only by a few sad street lights and the ominous red CUPPY’S CRAFTS lettering across the building. Liz put the car in park, turned off her headlights, popped in her headphones, and queued up a motivational podcast. She wore what she wore most days: a red Cuppy’s team member shirt, jeans, dirty white New Balances, a white watch, and her salt-and-pepper deflated perm pulled into a half-ponytail. A short time later two other cars joined, and they all waited for the clock to strike 5:00 a.m. Once it did, Liz rolled her eyes while she collected her things and hopped out of the car. She couldn’t get into the building until Trevor decided to show up, but it was surprisingly nice out, and if she had to be up that early unpaid she wanted to at least enjoy what could be the final day of second summer. The other drivers followed suit, and they all walked toward the bench by the front door of the store. “Hey Liz! It’s good to see you, how are you doing?” Liz responded with a polite smile, “Holding up, thanks for asking.” “Sorry I didn’t make it to the funeral. I loved working with Frank.” Liz didn’t miss a beat, “Oh that’s no problem at all,” she said. When they reached the sidewalk that went under the overhang of Cuppy’s, Liz and Reagan sat on the bench while the third person stood on the curb facing them. Liz turned to him, “What’s your name?” “Conner,” he replied. “Nice to meet you. I’m Liz.” She leaned over and shook his hand. “Reagan. Have you worked in retail before?” “Nah, this is my first job, actually!” “I see,” Liz nodded. “Well, there are a few things you need to know.” She paused trying to figure out the right way to put it. “First off, everyone in retail hates their job.. and you will too.” Conner’s nervous smile faded into a grimace of terrified confusion. Reagan chipped in, “It’s not too complicated or high-stakes, though, and glitter is fun, so don’t get too worked up about it. The people here are usually pretty easy to get along with, too, so that helps.” “Conner, do you have any brothers and sisters?” “Yeah.” “Okay, well, did you guys have chores when you were younger?” “Sort of.” 34 Cedar Valley Divide
Liz paused in a wax smile before moving on. “Have you ever felt like you were working on a group project, and you were the only one doing any work?” “Oh yeah, definitely.” “After you and Cuppy’s get acquainted, this job will be kind of like that because you’re going to be a hard worker while you’re here, I’m just sure of it. Sometimes it’s going to seem like you’re the only one doing anything of use. And if you’re working with some people that’ll probably be true, but most of us pull our weight. Also, keep in mind that there are a lot of moving parts going on to keep these obnoxious red letters on. You don’t always know what someone else is working on. That being said, don’t be a jerk. Your coworkers are the only things that prevent this pom pom stand from unraveling into a complete nightmare. Yes, some of them suck, and, no, you won’t like everyone all the time, but they’re the only ones who even begin to understand.” Conner just stared at her. Reagan added another two cents. “You’ll be fine, I promise. You made it to a 5 a.m. truck shift on time, and that’s more than the last four new hires, so I’m not worried about you.” “Oh, I don’t mind the early hours. I’m mostly nervous about the customers.” “Psh, customers are easy. Just remember, the customer is usually wrong, but we let them win anyway, because it’s less work for us.” Liz smiled. “Don’t you get some really nasty ones in here, though? My sister works at Walmart, and you wouldn’t believe the stories I’ve heard.” “Oh, I’d believe them, but I don’t see the customers as the worst part. I’ve had some pretty terrible ones, sure, but, more than anything, they just end up being something to snicker about in the breakroom. To me, the worst part about this job, the part that will really wear you down over time, is the pointlessness of it. The only thing we do is make rich people even richer by filling up landfills.” “What do you mean?” “Everything you’re going to handle here: the boxes, the tape, the styrofoam, the plastic wrap, even the products, for Christ’s sake. ALL of it. It all gets thrown away.” Liz explained. “But people want the products we sell. Otherwise there wouldn’t be a business.” “Yeah, people buy the products. Heck, even I buy the products, but, at the end of the day, they’re still cheap plastic and cheap paint. I’m not saying this company is evil, they’ve been alright to me—some days I even say good, but we don’t work with lifetime products here at Cuppy’s. It’s not necessarily anyone’s fault in particular, but something about what we’re doing seems wrong.” “May I ask you a personal question?” “Go for it, I’m an open book.” Liz held her arms out. “Why are you here, then?” Liz looked at the ground and tried to think of a genuine answer. “In a year or so, you’ll ask yourself the same question, and then you’ll either leave to find whatever it is you’re looking for, or you’ll stay and kill yourself for a cause Cedar Valley Divide 35
you don’t believe in because you’re comfortable. And that’s just all there is to it.” Reagan bit her cheek. She was in her third year at Cuppy’s, and Liz had been watching her determination grow as she struggled to figure something else out before that number got any higher. Another car pulled into the parking lot much faster than the others. It whipped to a stop in the third row, and out popped a man named Trevor; he was newly middle-aged and wearing black, thick-rimmed glasses and a pair of dress shoes. Trevor sauntered to the front door, and Liz checked the time on her watch: 5:09. “Nice of you to join us.” She directed her annoyance where it was due. “Welcome back.” He responded without so much as glancing in her direction as he unlocked the sliding glass doors. The crew made their way into the dark, empty store, and Trevor disabled the alarm. The registers caught her eye, and Liz had to stand still for a moment. Then they walked to the back of the store, clocked in, and headed to the back room. Before they even pushed past the flappy plastic swing doors, they could hear the hot-headed truck driver pounding away at the back door and cursing up a storm. Trevor went up to it and looked out of the giant peephole. It wasn’t like a residential one; this peephole almost looked like a screen. It gave an extremely wide view, so you could be extremely sure of who it was knocking. The only thing he could see was a very angry looking eye and the surrounding equally angry face. While Trevor dealt with the driver, opened the loading door, and set up the rollers, the rest of the crew got busy clearing the back room. Reagan showed Conner how to maneuver the U-boat carts, and they drug the full ones to the sales floor where they stacked the boxed merchandise on the ground to be put away later and then returned the empty U-boat to be filled with the freight of this truck. Liz started making signs to label the U-boats with the seasonal boxes they were supposed to be receiving today: DIY Ornaments, Christmas Paint Sets, Nutcracker Displays, Hanukkah Sets, and Christmas Kids Crafts. Once the back room was ready for the cardboard hurricane, Trevor went inside the truck and began chipping away at the mountain of boxes before him. He tossed each box on the rollers where they slid into the back room and piled up in a line waiting to be sorted. Liz showed Conner how to read the labels and sort the boxes. “The top right number is the aisle, or if it says DA it’s one of the displays in the middle of the main aisles. The phrase under here is the section, so go off that and then put the box on the U-boat with the matching phrase.” “That’s not too hard!” “No, it’s pretty easy, just annoying. Sometimes labels look weird, though, so don’t be afraid to ask questions if you have any!” Liz added, “Oh, feel free to pop in an earbud if you want to listen to something, just make sure one of your ears isn’t blocked so you can still hear us,” as she popped in her own earbud and joined Reagan sorting boxes. It looked something like: Grab a box off the roller. Look at its label. Scan the U-boat signs. Determine its destination. Speed walk to the appropriate cart. Snake back to the roller empty-handed. Grab a box off the roller. Look at its label. Scan the U-boat signs. Determine its destination. Speed walk to the appropriate cart. Snake back to the roller empty-handed. Grab a box off the roller. Look at its label. Scan the U-boat signs. Determine its destination. Speed walk 36 Cedar Valley Divide
to the appropriate cart. Snake back to the roller empty-handed. “Hey, Liz, how far back does this trailer go?” Conner asked. He hadn’t brought any headphones. Liz left her ear bud in and shifted her box to one hand, so she could point with the other. “See those three panels?” “Yeah.” “There are twelve of them in one truck.” Conner’s eyes widened in some combination of disgust and shock. Liz smiled, checked the time again, 5:45, and turned back to what she was doing. Grab a box off the roller. Look at its label -- DIY Ornaments. Remember how many Christmas ornaments Frank had made for friends and family with the same materials snuggled up in bubble wrap underneath the cardboard she was holding. Look at the U-boat signs. Determine its destination. Head to the appropriate cart. Remember the boxes of Frank’s Christmas ornaments that were lost in various moves. Remember the ornaments broken in the bustle of decorating for the season. Remember the ones that were broken on purpose. Remember the fights. Remember the yelling. Remember the passion. Remember the apologies. Remember that most of those ornaments were not broken, but rather are still packed away in her attic. Think back to how they’re snuggled up in a box just like the raw materials you're holding. Head back to the roller empty-handed. Frank was a mop-headed twig when they met, but over their life together he had both thinned and rounded out. The version of him Liz clung to was somewhere in the middle, when his dark hair was slicked back and he had a mustache. Frank had been living in the attic apartment above his family’s restaurant when they tied the knot. He had been picking up cashiering shifts at the neighborhood chain craft store to save up for a house, and Liz had dropped by to fill out an application. The day she finished up her two weeks at Walmart was the same day she started at Cuppy’s. In the two hours between her shifts, Liz Samuels became Liz O’Rourke at the office of the county clerk when she kissed her best friend and the love of her life. That apartment was livable, but the ceiling slanted so much the bed had to lie on the floor and was so small its only reasonable location was right next to the front door. Everything always seemed dirty, no matter how hard you scrubbed, and there was something stored in every possible spot, causing a cluttered look Liz couldn’t stand. However, it also was the coziest place Liz had ever lived. It was the first place she lived where someone wanted her input on the decorating. Upon her request, Frank made sure there were Christmas lights wrapping the kitchen/bed/living room in a soft yellow light all year round. The best part about that apartment, however, was that when the stars aligned (aligning their schedules) and they were home hamming it up together, they were always within earshot of one another. “Hey Liz, what do I do with this one?” Conner held up a basketball-sized box. “What does the label say?” “It doesn’t have a label.” “We got a nudist!” shouted Reagan. Liz chuckled. “Let’s open her up!” Cedar Valley Divide 37
She grabbed a box cutter from the bin and joined Conner and Reagan over by the box. She sliced the tape with speedy precision and pulled the flaps open. Inside was a bit of bubble wrap and awkwardly shaped canvas. “Oh, art cart!” Conner exclaimed. “Exactly.” Liz smiled and went to turn back to what she was doing. However, before she even made it back to the roller, she was overcome by a shooting pain in her neck. Her chest tightened around her lungs, giving them little hope of expanding. She began to sweat and feel off-balance. Her vision speckled and then was engulfed by darkness. When Liz O’Rourke woke up for the second time that day, she couldn’t quite tell what she was looking at. At first, it looked like a kaleidoscope of skin with two overlapping green ovals outlined harshly in black. Then it stopped spinning so much, and it resembled some type of flesh-toned humanoid. When that image solidified in Liz’s brain, her nerves clicked on, and she became painfully aware of the soft, wet suction cup around her lips. Trevor and his glasses came into focus as Liz shoved him up and off of her. “What the fuck?!” she screamed. “Whoa, you stopped breathing!” Trevor responded scooting away from her like a crab. “Well, I’m breathing fine now. Jesus!” And she wasn’t lying. Her lungs were expanding at an even pace, gliding with a grace and ease she thought had been lost in the sea of tobacco smoke that filled her twenties. Then an urge filled her bones. A pull, a guiding hand. Liz hopped to her feet and went right back to sorting boxes. No one else moved. “Uh, Liz.. Do you want us to take you to the hospital?” Reagan asked. Conner was frozen with his finger hovering over the call button, 9-1-1 already typed on the screen. “Don’t be ridiculous. I feel fine. Let’s get this truck done, so we can all go home!” They stood and watched as Liz ran back and forth between the rollers and the U-boats with a mechanical speed. She cleared the line. “Well, are you going to toss more down or what?” Trevor crept back into the truck and resumed his box throwing; Liz rolled her eyes, because he looked completely unsure of that decision. Reagan and Conner slowly rejoined Liz in the box hustle, appearing to share Trevor’s same apprehensions. Liz checked her watch during the empty-handed commute back over to the rollers, and it read 6:05. She glanced in the truck and rolled her eyes again at the four visible panels. Boxes then descended down the rollers, and Liz got back to her sorting. Using the volume buttons on her ear bud string, she resumed the motivational podcast and turned it up to drown out any thought that dared to enter her brain. Grab a box off the roller. Speed walk to the appropriate cart. Run back to the roller empty-handed. Grab a box off the roller. Speed walk to the appropriate cart. Run back to the roller empty-handed. Grab a box off the roller. Speed walk to the appropriate cart. Run back to the roller empty-handed. At first her thoughts pulsed in time with the soothing monotone voice pulsating positive vibes. Then her thoughts began to disintegrate and melt neatly into their usual mold around Frank. She thought of his smile this time, or different smiles, rather. There was one smile he had where his cheeks, stained by laughter-induced tears, rose up around 38 Cedar Valley Divide
his eyes. That was her favorite one. She tried to stay on that thought for as long as she could, but it too faded around her into a jumbled mess of grief and terror. She wondered where Frank was right now. Was he happy? Was he calm? Was he in a place? Or more of a nonplace? Or even still here? Her thoughts weaved in and out of images of her Catholic-upbringing-styled heaven with its bright white clouds so fluffy you’d fall asleep instantly at their very touch. Then they weaved through renditions of the Catholic hell, thick with fumes of burning sulfur. Frank was a good man. He deserved to have peace if nothing else. But then an even more sickening thought dropped ice cubes into her stomach. Absolutely anything was possible. Her mind raced through the possibilities. She imagined him with his mother and father around the brightly decorated tree drinking eggnog and exchanging gifts. The tree began to lose its color, and her family began to lose their shape as the Christmas heaven morphed into a wasteland. Grab a box off the roller. Liz balanced the box in one hand and checked her watch. The moment she saw the time, that growing ache in her stomach seemed to all at once become unbearable. Liz felt itchy. She felt cold. But also sweaty. Her neck twitched, and her eyes dried out. The time read 6:05. It had to be wrong; maybe it died? With her one free hand, Liz searched the back of her pants for a sign of her phone, but the pockets were flat. It wasn’t on the ground. She felt for her earbud. Liz dropped the box she was holding, and it slid across the floor. “Are you okay?” Reagan leaned her face close to Liz’s face. “Have you seen my phone?” “What?” “I can’t find my phone.” “Um, did you bring it in here?” Conner asked, looking around for Liz’s device. “..I thought so... I usually do.” Liz would have bet her life that she brought her phone in with her. “Hey, hey, don’t cry.” Reagan pulled her in for a hug, “Are you sure you’re feeling alright?” Reagan continued, “Let’s get you some water.” She grabbed Liz’s arm with gentle sturdiness and guided her toward the flappy plastic doors that lead to the sales floor. "We’ll sit in the break room for a bit.” When they reached the door, Liz raised her free hand to guide the lightweight barrier open, but it resisted as if it were made of oak and sealed with a latch. This caused her to run straight into it. Her face scrunched up as she took a step back. There’s not even a way to close these doors; they’re flaps of plastic dangling on hinges. The thought of the solid structure they’d become felt like a hot coal in her throat. When she opened her watery eyes and slowly began to make sense of the world around her once again, she searched for the comfort of her crew, but she was alone. She felt the hand guiding her back up to the rollers, but she darted for the back door instead. Locked. She bent slightly and looked out the giant peep hole. What Liz expected to see was the back alley, paved in black top and empty because the truck was backed up to the loading door around the corner. What Liz saw, however, was the back room. It was as if she was standing in the alley looking in. After a moment to process, she looked in on the scene unfolding in front of her. There were people over by the Cedar Valley Divide 39
roller all crowding around. At first they morphed together and didn’t look like anyone, but the longer she looked through the peephole, the clearer they became. She was looking at herself lying in the middle of the ground with Trevor doing CPR, Conner standing nearby talking to someone on the phone, and Reagan barely holding it together. An ambulance bed burst through the doors, being led by two paramedics. Trevor jumped up, and they took over with a defibrillator. After the bed was wheeled back out of the room without much urgency, the crew just stood there for a moment. Reagan asked Trevor a question. Trevor shook his head no. They all just stood there for a moment. Connor left first, then Reagan. Trevor made a phone call and went back inside the truck. A rattling sound caused Liz to turn around, and when she did, she saw a box rolling down the rollers into the back room. It crashed to a stop against the few boxes sitting at the end. A few moments later another box came down. And then another. Liz began to feel the pull of the guiding hand again. She walked across the room and proceeded to grab a box off the roller. Imagine Frank being buried alive under the mountains of trash he accumulated in his lifetime. Speed walk to the appropriate cart. Imagine Frank carefully securing diamonds on the wings of his famous ornaments. Run back to the roller empty-handed. Imagine Frank drowning in a tar pit while Mr. Cuppy fishes him out for fun. Grab a box off the roller. Imagine Frank drinking a pint out of a gold mug across a gold-plated table from the Nazarine Himself. Speed walk to the appropriate cart. Imagine Frank being shrunk down to the size of a coffee ground and drowning in that same gaudy mug of beer. Run back to the roller empty-handed. A familiar voice came over the intercom, cutting through the swirling black swamp in Liz’s mind, asking for a back-up cashier. She ran to the plastic flap doors that were supposed to lead her to the floor, but they still wouldn’t budge. While boxes kept piling up on the roller, Liz pounded on the doors. She screamed and cried until her voice abandoned her, and the guiding hand grew stern. Grab a box off the roller. Be aware that out of those sealed flappy doors and onto the sales floor, up the knitting aisle, then up the main aisle, all the way in the front are the registers; Frank will be standing at the one with its red light continuously blinking. Speed walk to the appropriate cart. Be aware that he’ll place the phone back on the receiver, feeling stupid for even picking it up because no one will be coming to help him. Run back to the roller empty-handed. Be aware that his eyes will be bloodshot and tired, his knees will ache, and his mouth will be continually dry; there will be a line of customers, half with full carts to purchase, half will full carts to return, and not one of them will look pleased. Grab a box off the roller.
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Connection Lisa Olson
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The Anatomy of a Real Girl Hayley Anderson
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why do you still haunt my dreams and strangers’ faces? why is it that this city you’ve never even touched reminds me of you? i want to be done with ghosts, darling. let me be—let me be at peace, instead of in a dozen pieces. stay away from me with those catacomb eyes of yours. let me be happy again, let me live as though i haven’t loved, and lost a soul mate. just let me simply live again, darling, i beg you.
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Honored Robin Lars Townsend
We don’t watch the Honored robin’s newspeak address the silent worm legislature on C-SPAN or CNN every week. Raccoons, skunks, snails and bears, I’d wager, don’t congress to Robert’s Rules of Order, yet are not their debates bloodthirsty exchanges between taxonomic order? It’s with the silence of controversy that I walk through this colonized wood, my presence normalizing, but echoes of insurrection chirp and howl in the hood. If tomorrow the world were this meadow, and human politics were in recess, would a new democracy coalesce?
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Resonance Ella Ostedgaard
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Isabella Lake: A Place of Firsts Richard Winemiller
Isabella Lake, or as most people used to frequenting it call it, Lake Isabella, is a place that my family spent a lot of time at when I was growing up. If ever I have a “bucket list” place to visit, this is that very place. The city of Bakersfield is situated north and west of the area. You may recall that in the 1950’s through the 1970’s Bakersfield was a “Country Music Capital,” producing its own style of music (real country music) thanks to the likes of Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash. This city was surrounded by a flat plain that held cotton and artichoke and lettuce and cabbage fields to the south, north and west, with ranches and small farms dotting the area, as did many small oil fields. Because of this blend of peoples, the nightlife of Bakersfield was rough; farmers, ranchers, oil field workers, migrants and too many taverns spell “TROUBLE” in any language. A canyon road that is called the Ridge Route, because it hangs on the mountain as a small ridge running its entire length, separates the plain and the lake. Twentysix miles of twists, turns and switchbacks on an old blacktop road too narrow for two semi-trucks to pass at once. One side steep up the boulder-strewn canyon wall; the other side down a steep, boulder-strewn canyon wall. Mistakes are not forgiven on this road. Growing up, I was blessed by a family that loved to camp, and this was one of our favorite places. I would say that we spent more weekends and holidays here, or a place like it, than at home. During these formative years I was allowed, no, encouraged, to run half-wild throughout the area, which I always found odd because home life in the city was a stark contrast, with its strict rules and regulations and chores around the house that must be completed and were often reinforced with violence. Therefore, when I was unshackled, I took full advantage of it. Mini bikes and, later, dirt bikes were the mode of transportation, used until I was away from people. The quiet of forest to north and the desert to the south was sacred to me, so much so that to spoil it with the sounds of motors was as near “sin-like” as I then understood. The lake was formed when the Kern River was dammed up, thus flooding over the valley and the old abandoned mining town called Whiskey Flats. Bottom fishing in the area where the town once stood could just as likely bring up things such as antique barbed-wire pieces of old planks as it would a channel cat. When the level of the lake fell due to drought, the old slough and pieces of the town's buildings were visible. Uniquely situated to the north of the lake is the Angeles Forest with places where the trees come down to the lake’s shore. The river above and below the lake is strewn with boulders, and it is possible to travel miles in either direction without ever having to use anything but those boulders as your highway. The campgrounds on the north side are situated within stands of various pines and hardwoods. Because of the 48 Cedar Valley Divide
placement of Lake Isabella, with the merging of the cooler mountain air with the hot desert air, the wind can be a factor, but to those who have been called to hear the beauty of the wind through these trees, every day the wind is something hoped for. The “Wwooosssh” of the wind as it makes its way around branch, needle and cones, the crinkle of the pine needles, the leaves of hardwood trees brushing against each other, and the crackle of branches rapping each other as the rhythmic sway of trees dancing can lull you into a sense of divine peace. These coupled with the wafting smell of wood-smoke and the quiet gurgling of the creek which runs next to the campsite were, for me, what Heaven must be like. To the north of the lake are rock-strewn areas of lush forest where the slopes of some of these surrounding mountains can tax even the most experienced hikers. Creeks and streams crisscross the entire area, and in them are the famous rainbow trout. Further to the north of the lake, following the Kern River, you will find the rare golden trout in the more isolated areas. I caught my first golden trout when I was twelve. Its shimmering gold color was so vibrant and beautiful that I had to let it go. Never again did I try to catch one. To the south of lake lies the Mojave Desert. Some will tell you, “Mile after mile of nothing but scrub plants, sand, rock, and not much else.” However, to those of us who know better, it is an oasis of life in its own wondrous diversity. Mostly those who see nothing special in the desert have never seen it a few days after a rain. There can be a virtual carpet of greens, purples, golds and reds that can stretch for miles. Not to mention those areas that have the California golden poppy. In some areas, the gold of this poppy is so abundant and vibrant, it can hurt your eyes to look at it. The prickly pear cactus will swell until almost bursting and then bear its small pear-shaped fruit that is as sweet as any honey. (It makes an excellent jelly or preserve.) The wildlife will be out in abundance feasting and drinking in the time of plenty. Something else that most never know about this desert is that for every hundred square yards there will be at least two Mojave diamondback rattlesnakes, the most deadly pit vipers in the United States. This is why it is always necessary to have a good walking stick when hiking here and also a small mirror. The mirror can be used to shine a reflective light under the bushes. This is where the snakes lie during the day, and if you are not careful, not knowing the right place to stop, a water break, rest, or picnic can turn into a not-so-good time. This entire area was a place of firsts for me. In honor of the demise of Whiskey Flats, a nearby town, Kernville, celebrated “Whiskey Flats Days.” People would dress the part of the Gold Rush days and the cultures that flooded into California during the migration west during the Dust Bowl years. Think of the era portrayed in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. During one of the Whiskey Flats Days, I won my first trophy in the Greased Pig Contest. Winning this trophy brought another first—of being competitive and of assessing what I should compete in. I had a slight edge over the locals and kids from the L.A. area, as Dad grew up on a farm in Illinois and told me just how to catch a greased pig. “What’s that, you want to know how? OK. First of all, just before they let loose piglets into the ring, you reach down and grab a handful of dirt in each hand. This dirt will Cedar Valley Divide 49
help to produce a little bit of absorption and friction through the grease. Then you have to corner the piglet in the pen they are loosed into. Most people will try to grab them around the middle as you would a dog or cat. Big mistake! You have to grab their hind legs just below their knees, and, walking backwards, drag them where you need them to be. They will certainly squeal as if the world is coming to an end, but they are not harmed. Another first I had on this same day was the thought, “Perhaps my dad did know what he was talking about when he was trying to teach me something new.” I was a fierce loner growing up and disliked anyone telling me anything, least of all, how to do something. During this time in my life if I could not figure something out, then I would ask, but I needed to exhaust my understanding and know-how before I wanted anyone’s assistance. Yes, I was stubborn. There is a first I had not thought of for years, even decades, until one evening while I watched Tom Hanks in Castaway. The scene is when he heard thumps in the woods behind him. His fear and paranoia almost got the best of him until he understood the loud thumps to be ripe coconuts falling to the ground. This is a first of independence, when I was allowed to sleep outside, alone, for the first time. Before that night, I always had to sleep in the camper with Mom and Dad and my two sisters. On that particular evening, I spent considerable time using split firewood to make a “bed” that kept me off of the ground and unrolled a sleeping bag that was much too big for my seven-year-old frame. That night, I lay upon my right side and watched the flames of the campfire ebb into a bed of coals that shimmered with the breeze. Its warmth and the smell of wood smoke comforted me. Then I would turn over to my left and peer out into the dark forest and listen to the gurgling sounds of Tilly Creek as the water flowed to the lake. On that night, bullfrogs croaked back and forth, and the cricket’s chirps tried to drown them out. As you might imagine, the mind of a seven-year-old can be very active on a momentous night such as this. The night was cool, and the wind was blowing rather hard, and I burrowed deep into the foot of the sleeping bag for warmth and protection from anything that may be lurking in the forest. Sometime late in the night, I was startled awake by a sound. As I lay there wondering what it was that awakened me, a loud thud startled me again. “What is it?” I asked myself. “Who is it?” I lifted the end of the sleeping bag just an inch or two to find the fire still had a faint glow of red, and the darkness still reigned. Again, “Thud”’ “Thud!” I lowered the end of the sleeping bag and inched my way down into its bottom. Again, “Thud, crack.” Whatever it was, it was getting closer. Fritz began to bark. He was the family dog, a wiener dog. I began quietly calling Fritz, and after a couple of minutes, he was making his way into the sleeping bag with me. Feeling safer with Fritz by my side, I was at that place between awake and asleep when something kicked my feet. I screamed loudly! I was kicked again, and I screamed, and Fritz was growling when my dad said, “Get up! Half the days gone!” It was then that I smelled the bacon being cooked on the fire. Fritz and I crawled nervously out of the sleeping bag and not two feet in front of us a large pine cone dropped, “THUD” Those pine cones are not like the little ones that can be found here in the Midwest; these are 12 to 16 inches in length and can be 10 inches or more around. The one that almost hit Fritz and I went directly into the fire. There is nothing 50 Cedar Valley Divide
like the scent of a fresh pine cone or two upon the fire. (Pine needles, too.) I used to love standing in the smoke so that the scent would collect upon my t-shirt, and I could smell it for hours afterward. A third first taught me to always try to discern what is really valuable in this life (a lesson I obviously forgot to adhere to a time or two.) Sometimes I would put one of my fishing poles on the handlebars of my mini-bike and go to the river and fish. I loved the river, strewn with boulders, some as big as a small house. I could run up and down the river, leaping from boulder to boulder, hearing the rushing whitewater that could be deafening at places, and then coming to small, calm pools. On this particular day, I was fishing with a lure that my great grandfather John made the previous summer, when it snagged upon a submerged log. When I could not pull it out, I set the pole down, held onto the line and followed it to the log. The current was very swift, but I made it to the log safely. I unhooked the lure, and the next thing I knew I was underwater, being pulled downstream, crashing against the boulders that littered the length of the river, being pulled under, only to be thrust upward for a quick breath of air and back down again. After what seemed like an eternity, I felt my back hit sand. As I felt the current tugging at my legs, I somehow mustered the strength to crawl a little ways up and out of the water. I lay there shivering, gasping, muscles burning and spent. I did not really know that I was safe until a break in the clouds allowed the sun to warm my face. To this day, when I feel the sun’s warmth upon my face, I remember that day; God must have been watching out for me. Thank you. The fishing line was broke and the pole was lost during the trek downstream, but I still had the lure Grandpa John made for me in my hand. As I lay there, I thought how foolish I was to risk so much for a lure that I never caught a single fish with. It was sometime later when I realized that it wasn’t the lure I was worried about losing; it was the memories of Grandpa John and me making them and all those memories of us going fishing with the stories he would tell of “the old days.” The day before I was arrested (1985), I was using that same lure. Still, I never did catch a single fish with it, and I never forgot Grandpa John and his stories.
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Kaleidoscope Persian Shelby Blazek
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Makennah Crawford Goodbyes are forever; You think you know it when you make that choice. The choice to drown. The choice to scream. The choice to bleed. But do you know forever? Beyond the now, do you know forever?
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Motherâ€™s Greatest Lesson Suzanne Rodriguez
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□ Who ate the chocolate cake □ Who needs a nap □ Who got in the piggy bank □ Who keeps jumping on the bed □ Who needs a bath □ Who keeps screaming □ Who colored on the walls □ Who cannot keep their hands off each other □ Who left the TV on □ Who keeps running in the house □ Who clogged the toilet □ Who spilt the milk □ Who walked through the house with their muddy shoes on □ Who broke the window □ Who is bleeding □ Who drank the last pop □ Who left the lights on □ Who ate the chips and put the empty bag back □ Who needs help with their homework □ Who is home to see you grow up
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Amanda May Bollig
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Fear and Loathing Stefan Crowl
The bats are back again Filling up this empty house Which never made provision for Or found a way to keep them out.
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The Drowning Max Derby
A glacial wind wrapped around me, embracing me in a feverish clutch, filling me with a dreadful fright. For I knew that this calamitous grip would lead me to my doom. As the mounds of flesh crushed at my raisin-black crumbling shell, I felt my white filling squeeze out from my sides, making me feel as if I were going to explode from the enticing pressure. “Dip.” I felt a cold white liquid bubble around me, as I regrettably mutated into the dreaded vocable. Mushy. I felt as if I were floating in my own remains, my own encaving coffin that was consuming me. As the cow juices absorbed into my nakedness, the beast’s flesh mounds wrapped around me, revealing me once again to the unforgiving air. “Drip, drip, drip.” Quite the embarrassing sound as the revolting liquid dripped and oozed from my dampened skin. The flesh mounds, still gripping me in an inescapable grip, inched me closer, closer and even closer to my inevitable demise. The pink lips that aligned the beast’s jaws opened, revealing millions of ghastly white fangs that would soon absorb its meal. Me. I could feel the unsightly brute’s saliva develop me, breaking apart my slushed armor. I tried to scream, to allow my agonies to escape into the merciless void, but, alas, ‘twas an impossible task, as I was only a mere cookie. “Munch, munch, munch.” The bony fangs felt like razor blades tearing me apart, destroying the last of my pride as I met such a shameful end. Then I knew ‘twas time for me to meet my end. “Gulp.”
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Vibinâ€™ on a Tuesday Kalon Thompson
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A Temple in Ruins Hayley
Your body is a temple, they say, but I still do not nourish it It is a temple I do not pray to, where my insides pray for food Ignore it It is a temple adorned with bruises, brittle hair, blue fingertips Testaments to your hard work Built with weak walls on the verge of caving in, it is made of paper-thin skin, littered with lanugo Your body is fighting you It is cold and hollow, like the caverns where rosy cheeks once were, its beams inevitably collapsing Beautiful bones As my temple deteriorates, I will not nourish it in fear of it growing, destroying every last tree Just a few more inches Making oxygen scarce, factories pump thick black smog within me Pollution is heavy Not as heavy as you I feel it gushing through my veins, poisoning my thoughts Weâ€™re in this together 62 Cedar Valley Divide
Growing with every breath I take, but I am just noticing now how hard it has become to breathe
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Amanda May Bollig
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Inundation Madison Voss During my childhood, I saw a reasonable amount of dead bodies. My parents didn’t have me until a little later in life, so by the time I graduated high school, a number of distant cousins had passed in addition to all of my grandparents. Each funeral I attended included an un-ignorable fixture being prominently displayed, known as the “open casket.” It would always be at the far end of a window-less, colonial-styled room. The walls were always aggressively cream, outlined in deep oak, and accented with precisely placed paintings. The carpet was always crimson and ornately patterned with cream, black, and bits of green. The entire room seemed to be screaming. I spent most of my time in the back room, which was full of natural light and food for the grieving family. Each time I re-entered the service area, my eyes would be drawn uncontrollably to the body at the front of the room. The one that stands strongest in my memory is my last grandparent who passed, Grandma Rose. Her casket was a slightly purple metal, picked out because it complimented her final outfit, which was a purple dress adorned with roses, her favorite crystal earrings, and a bright white Easter hat. Unlike the rest of them, she honestly almost looked the same as she did when she was alive. Her hair was still a reddish brown, cropped short like a pixie, and she still had the soft smile I was so used to seeing her wear. She looked exactly as she would have liked to look: a bright light contrasting the morbidity of death and the dark events that brought her to it. You see, I was seventeen when I got a call from my dad on a thunder-storming November night. He had just gotten off the phone with his sister who had been watching the 9 o’clock news when a report was aired about my Grandma Rose’s car being stuck in a cornfield located forty-five minutes away from where she lived. She wasn’t in the car, and no foul play was suspected; two days later, her body was found in a nearby creek. Later, we’d find out about how she drowned, about how her own muddy footprints ended up in and around the car, and about how her purse was found by the back passenger side wheel with everything important still in it. A urinary tract infection. That’s what we think caused her the temporary bouts of dementia people had witnessed in the weeks leading up to her death. One instance was how she left a lunch with friends only to follow one of them to the gas station instead of parting ways and heading home or to whatever she had planned next. Another thing she started doing was calling me all the time. She would ramble on and on about needing to plant the roses outside, but then she’d also ramble about how her garden was blooming beautifully. Neither made sense; it was late fall, and the garden had already been sealed for the winter. Though I know there were more, the only other specific instance I remember hearing about was that during a bridge match she had expressed plans to go home after the game, but when she backed out of the driveway, she went right instead of left. That was the last time she was seen alive. Grandma Rose didn’t know how to swim. She died cold, wet, and terrified. After the wake for each one, I would make my way to view their body up close when the crowd started to disperse; the empty shell would come into focus, eyes closed and hands always folded neatly in front of them as if being forced into an eternity of prayer. I’d look at my loved one trying to connect the statue in unfamiliar makeup to the person I’d spent so much time with. After a moment, I’d kneel down and reach my hands into the casket, bowing my head to pray, though unsure of what I was supposed to be praying for. At first the marble hands just feel cold, but Cedar Valley Divide 65
after a moment it’s like your nerves suddenly remember that you’re touching skin. The shriveled pores, unevenness, and imperfections that you recognize distinctly as the touch of another human being, one that you have felt countless times before, except it’s cold and hard. Grandma Rose was the last wake body I touched. Six months after her funeral, my mom got really sick, and I couldn’t stand watching her slowly disintegrate into nothing but bone cancer, so in a selfish act, the second I turned 18, I moved out of my small forgotten hometown, two hours away to the forgotten outskirts of this small forgotten city. Now, when I woke up a week or so ago, I wasn’t planning on inhaling drugs from a customer in exchange for a breakfast sandwich, but what can you do? “You can just have a sandwich, I don’t need any weed, dude,” I told him. “Nah, man, I insist. It’s good shit!” I could have been more stern with my refusal, I suppose; maybe I should have threatened to call the police, but there are times I find myself making intentionally dumb decisions just to see what will happen next. It’s like playing Russian roulette without muddying my anti-gun stance. Plus, he wasn’t a total stranger. I’ve seen him in there a few times, and I’m pretty sure he’s my co-worker Keasha’s regular drug dealer. She’s smoked in this area for over 15 years, and you don’t fuck with someone for that long if they have unreliable product. So, I stepped outside with him and left the store completely vacant. “What is it?”’ I asked as we made our way around the corner to where his car was parked next to my own. He just shrugged. “It tastes like blueberries.” He inhaled and passed me the pen. It hit my lungs hard and fast and it tasted like THC oil. Or I guess what I imagine THC oil probably tastes like. I usually stick to the actual flower. He just stared at me until he finally uttered, “So?” “Yeah,” I shrugged and handed him back the pen. He took another hit and passed it right back. “Dope. I gotta piss” He jumped out of the car and went around the side of the building. I didn’t feel too high for my comfort level, so I took another hit. If you ever don’t think you’re high yet, try walking around. By the time I made it back behind the counter, I was underwater. Everything was muffled and slow around me, and every action I tried to take was met with waved resistance. I stood there stiff as a board and stared out of the floor-to-ceiling windows that make up the front of the building. The store is set up with the counter as an island in the middle, with the hot food to the left of it, the coolers and aisles to the right, front door directly in front, and back room directly behind. It’s dirty, sure, but not disgusting. I don’t like it there, but I also don’t hate it. What I do like, though, is being high. It releases my mind from the chains of self-realization and allows it to wander freely. Hippie bullshit is only hippie bullshit until you allow your addictive personality the chance to really experience it. Sometimes I forget the past entirely. Those are the times I wish for; the rest force me into an office chair and spin me in circles of memory. The dice rolled, and my thoughts raced backward in time landing on my childhood bedroom. It was just after Halloween of my junior year, and I was lying on the bed reading the only Steven King novel I ever finished when my phone started vibrating. Grandma Rose glowed across the screen. I grabbed it from the nightstand 66 Cedar Valley Divide
and my finger muscles twitched to decline it, but I didn't. I stared at it, trying to decide whether I wanted to answer or not, when the screen cut back to the generic beach photo of my lock screen. I laid the phone back down and attempted to return to my book, but it vibrated again with a voicemail. I played the message. “Hey sweetie, it’s just your grammie calling to see how you’re doing and tell you the garden is finally blooming! Come get some roses; there’s a sea of them back here! You could borrow one of my crystal vases if you want to put some in your room! Well, I’m going to head to bridge. Just drop by whenever you have time, Pumpkin. Love you!” I put the phone back down and picked up the tented book from my chest. I hadn’t a clue what she was talking about, but I really had intended to call her back later. My mind was snapped back to the present by the bell on the front door. It was an old man named Dirks. I’ve worked there for over a year, and it’s rare a completely unfamiliar face makes an appearance. Out-of-towners tend to stick closer to the city, so really the only people I serve are the people from the factories, the trailer park, the trucking company, and then also the construction crews in the summertime. I don’t necessarily know their names, but I sure as hell know what they drink and what they smoke. There’s an old man who doesn’t smoke but comes in every day more than clearly hammered and leaves with a six-pack of Steel Reserve. There’s a female welder with long red hair who smokes orange Pall Malls and always gets a hamburger lunch. And there’s a kid, maybe 18, who’s already had all of his teeth removed, but still comes in a couple times a week for his Camel Crush Blues. One name I do know is Dirks. He comes in every day at least twice, sometimes for a soda, sometimes for Pall Mall Reds (but only if they’re on sale), sometimes to buy a hot dog, sometimes to try and get an old hot dog for free, and sometimes just to be annoying. I saw his driver’s license once when he was laying on his pervy grandpa vibe. I was flirting back, partly because I was bored and partly to avoid any potential conflict, so I asked to see his ID for the cigarettes. That government-issued piece of plastic wasn’t even eight years old, but he looked thirty years younger in the picture. “Hey sweet thing, how are you doing this fine morning?” he said as he sauntered over to the counter with a toothpick hanging out of his mouth. “Oh, you know, I’m here.” ‘“But so am I.” He held out his arms and raised his eyebrows like that was supposed to mean something for me. “That’s true.” “I had one hell of a dream last night.” “Oh yeah?” I raised an eyebrow. “Yeah.” He leaned his body over the counter like he had some deeply confidential information to tell me. “You ever been to True Value?” “The one over by the storage place? Yeah.” “Well there’s a real fine piece of ass who works there. Tits like you wouldn’t believe.” He cupped his hands in front of his chest to show me what he meant. “And in my dream I walk through her line, but I don’t have enough money for the meat I’m trying to buy. So, she leans over the counter, brushes my hair behind my ear with her soft hands, then she gets so close that her breath tickles my neck as she says, ‘I can arrange a different form of payment.’ The next thing I know, I’m in the back room and her pretty pink lips are wrapped around my cock.” “So you owed her money, but instead of making you pay, she gave you a blow job?” “She’s always been sweet on me.” Cedar Valley Divide 67
“I’m sure.” I picked up a rag and wiped down the already clean counter. “Do you ever have sexy dreams like that?” I shrugged. “I don’t really dream at all anymore, to be honest, ‘a bowl before bed means nothin’ in the head’ and that’s the way I like it.” He frowned, “You’re no fun." He went to the cooler and pulled out a Pepsi. After he paid, he asked me to blow him a kiss. I obliged by sending it to him with my middle finger. He licked his lips, tossed me a quarter, and said “God you’re feisty,” as he went out the front door. I went to put the quarter in my pocket and discovered the pen from the breakfast sandwich guy still in there. I pulled it out but decided to keep it warm for now and give it back whenever he came in next. I figured he wouldn’t mind,, and if he ended up minding, I figured I’d give him a free breakfast sandwich. I inhaled as I walked behind the island counter to the emergency exit door next to the back room, and I exhaled into the wall of humidity on the other side of it. I popped back in, slid the pen in my pocket, and headed into the back room to handwash the dishes since that chore somehow seemed less annoying now. After the dishes, I made my way down the daily cleaning duties, being interrupted occasionally by my usual customers. During one of my longer breaks between customers, I went back outside and took a few more hits. After that, I started on the cappuccino machine deep clean, and my mind wandered once again. This time I didn’t get projected into the past, but rather my present was distorted in the fictional blur of a daydream. At first, I was just thinking about coffee, but that evolved, or devolved, rather quickly. I swirled my brain around the image of a beautiful purple mug spotted with rose buds and filled to the brim with steaming black coffee. It tossed and turned as I tried to remember who that mug belonged to, and with every guess dismissed, scalding liquid spilled. I felt it on my arms. The skin was bubbling and then melting to the bone before growing back, only to be burned away again by more hot coffee. My mind was shocked awake by the actual scalding water that overflowed the cup I was holding under the cappuccino machine and lit my hands on fire. I released the button I hadn’t realized I was holding, dumped the water, and ran back behind the counter. As I dressed my wounds, my eye caught the time on the register. It was 10:36 a.m., and Keasha was supposed to be there at 10:30. I grabbed my phone out of my back pocket to call her as two cars pull up to the building and three up for gas. Shoulder-to-ear, I popped into the freezer and brought out the tubs of frozen hamburger patties, chicken breasts, and riblet things. When I returned, there was a line of three people and a generic voicemail greeting singing in my ear. “Fuck.” I set down my phone. The regular at the counter was plucking one coin at a time from his pocket to pay for the six-pack of Steel Reserve sitting on the counter. I laid out some wax paper, untied the bread tie, and started laying out buns. After I got the patties in the countertop oven, Steel Reserve was still plucking away, so I slid the coins he had out into my hand and counted them. 6 quarters. 7 dimes. 3 nickels. 14 pennies. I looked up as he stared at me with drunk old-man puppy-dog eyes. “That’s all I got.” His words puffed out gummy and slurred. “There’s only $2.49 here. You know a six-pack of Reserve is $5.47.” He just smiled and cocked his head. “I’ll bring the rest later!” 68 Cedar Valley Divide
“What? No. They’re cracking down on the alcohol and tobacco audits.” He stared back at me wide-eyed and bashful. “You need to buy something else, or just leave, man. I need to keep the line moving.” His face dropped, and he reached his hand out for the coins, which I released. Then he looped his fingers in the plastic ring and scooped the beer off the counter. “Um, those aren’t yours.” He started to do what I imagine he thought was running, but in reality his speed didn’t really change, so I ducked out from behind the counter and beat him to the door. I held out my hand; he hesitated for a moment, clinging the beer to his chest before giving up with a grunt and handing it back to me. “Get the fuck out of here. And don’t fucking come back.” I shoved open the door, and he left. My boiling blood began to cool as I walked back to the island, laid the Steel Reserve on the counter, and called over the next customer. “Two or one?” “Just one today,” he responded, and I handed him a single Jazz Black and Mild. I got through the line and called Aaron, my boss, holding the phone up to my ear while I finished lunch. He answered and told me to call him back in thirty minutes if she still wasn’t there. Aaron never sounds very confident in his decisions, but he always wants to do well by the people who keep his borrowed business operating, and I respect that, so I accepted his very annoying answer. Seven more cars came and left before Keasha’s car made it into her usual spot on the right side of the building. She always shows up, but sometimes she’s a few hours late, and I was just not in the mood for it that day. I was at the fatigued end of my high, people were pissing me off, and I had to get to the bank before it closed at noon for the rest of Memorial Day weekend. “Hey, girl,” Keasha said with a giant wad of bubble gum in her mouth as she walked through the side door. “Hey! Jump back here; I need to go to the bank.” “I know, that’s why I made sure I was here before noon,” she responded, making her way behind the counter and setting her purse next to the now room-temperature beer. I grabbed my bag from the back room, then the deposit and change order from the safe. “I’ll be back!” I shouted as I scurried out of the door. I made it to the bank with three minutes to spare. My mom called as I was pulling out of the parking lot at work, but I didn’t answer since I was technically still on the clock. By the time I pulled back into that lot next to Keasha’s car, Dirks was also back, looking to purchase a hotdog and get the latest gossip. I talked with them for a bit, spent a half hour messing around in the office, and then I clocked out. “See ya later,” I said to Keasha as I headed out of the door again. “Bye, girl.” I drove the two minutes to my attic apartment, which was forced against its will to sort of be a two-bedroom, but my roommate’s car wasn’t parked out front. He has a girlfriend now, so I don’t see him much anymore, which is fine. He’s a cool dude, but we’re not close or anything. I took the pen out of my pocket and tossed it on the passenger seat after I killed the engine. I double-clicked my car locked, ran up the outdoor stairs, and unlocked my front door at the top. I immediately headed to the shower to wash that place from me. The rest of my night consisted of a freshly packed bowl, a different bowl packed with instant ramen, and a stab at getting some homework done for the classes I was in at the community college downtown. I worked from the couch that sits part way in the kitchen sinking deeper with every hit. I worked underwater, but at 7:30 p.m. I cashed the bowl, tossed the other bowl in sink to join its brothers, and then I swam to the bathroom to brush my teeth. I opened my eyes at 3:15 a.m. to the sound of the “Imperial March” blasting from beside me on the bed. I slapped my phone into snooze. I expected the music to resume a few moments later, but instead I was shaken awake by Cedar Valley Divide 69
a crack of lightning and burst of thunder. I tried to ignore it until the music finally did return and I forced myself up. It was 3:52 when I pulled into my spot at the dark store. A few street lights radiated light in contrasting directions, creating pockets of shadow between them. I killed the engine and headed back out into the slightly chilly air. It had cooled down a lot since the afternoon before with all of the on-again, off-again storms. I slid the key into the front door, turned it until it clicked, and then I pushed the door open. I turned on the lights, took my bag to the back, and started making the breakfast sandwiches. While the meat cooked, I took the six-pack of Steel Reserve back to the cooler. Then I unlocked the doors and flipped the sign at 5 a.m., but it wasn’t until the sun peeked over the horizon that the first car came flying into the parking lot. It was a rusted, peeling, red Saturn: Dirks. He screeched to a stop, jumped out, and ran behind the building. This unusual route made me uncomfortable. A few moments later he came back around and burst through the front door. “Nate’s cold, call the police!” “What?” “Phone! Now! Come on!” I tossed Dirks the store phone and ran outside with him. We sprinted behind the building and around the dumpster when a wall of putrid stench hit me in the face. It was a familiar unwelcome smell, one that I’ve experienced every time I’ve decided to drink bottom shelf vodka all night. I covered my nose as I started to register what I was looking at. Steel Reserve was laying belly up on the concrete, eyes wide open, mouth full of vomit. I stopped in my tracks as Dirks talked to the 911 operator. I stared at the body for a second before I knelt down. The soaked tan baseball cap and black-rimmed glasses outlining his glossy eyes burned into my memory forever. I reached my hand over to his neck to check for a pulse. My fingertips lightly pressed his rough, cold skin, and I knew he was gone before I even began to check for movement. The ambulance came flashing red and white, but when it pulled back out of the parking lot, the lights were off. Two officers remained for a bit trying their best to seem like they were beginning an investigation. After they finally left, too, I unlocked my car and grabbed the pen. Five long drags in a row each released in a giant cloud of vapor. I tossed it back on my seat, locked the car again, and swam back inside. Dirks was already leaning against his side of the counter, ready to dissect the decades worth of gossip that just came to a head. I nodded along for a while, but then I think I called Aaron because the next thing I really remember was lying on my back on my unmade bed, letting out a cloud of vapor. I don’t exactly remember the drive home or how many hits I took, but I ended up asleep at the bottom of the ocean, caught in the waves of blissful nothingness. I felt a vibration, so I pulled my phone out of my pocket. Grandma Rose was glowing across the screen, but I declined the call and helped the next customer in line. “That’s all I got.” His words puffed out gummy and slurred. He was standing there with his thick rimmed glasses and dirty baseball cap holding a six pack of Steel Reserve. I felt the coins in my hand. “There’s only $2.49 here. You know a six pack of reserve is $5.47.” I heard myself say. “I’ll bring the rest later!” “What? No. They’re cracking down on the alcohol and tobacco audits.” He stared back at me wide-eyed and bashful. “You need to buy something else or just leave, man, I need to keep the line moving.” My eye was drawn to another pack of Steel Reserve sitting on the counter. 70 Cedar Valley Divide
“What’s my name, little girl?” he asked with a gentle voice. I felt like he was smiling, but my eyes were still glued to the warm pack of beer. “I’m sorry, what?” “What is my name?” he asked again. I pried my sight off the pack as I turn back to face him. “Uh...” His face melted into rage. “WHAT’S MY FUCKING NAME?” My mind was void except for a neon red sign flashing across, spelling out Steel Reserve. “I, uh...” Before I could conjure any other word into existence, he leapt onto the counter with an animalistic scream and wrapped his wrinkled ice-cold hands around my neck. I tried to call for help, I tried to fight, I tried to breathe, but I did nothing. I was drowning. My eyes locked on his dead ones as his face twisted into someone else. My limbs turned to liquid, and my eyes began to roll into the back of my head as my vision faded first around Grandma Rose and then my mom. I was drenched in sweat, clutching the pen when my eyes shot open and registered the sight of my ceiling fan. My deflated lungs vacuumed in the air from my bedroom one giant gasp at a time. When my breathing slowed down and my nose switched on, I realized it might not just be sweat. I was lying in an actual puddle that reeked of beer, the cheap kind that almost smells like it’s laced in gasoline. I sat up straight and slid off the bed, but instead of finding my floor, I found needles being shoved into the bottom of my feet; there were roses covering the ground. I thought I was losing my fucking mind. I figured I was still high. So, I danced around the thorns, left my room, and closed the door. I took a shower to get the pungent beer out of hair and off my skin, but mostly so I could sober the fuck up. After I got out, I made myself a cup of coffee, did my version of a workout, tried my best to sleep on the couch for a couple hours, and then, when I knew I was sober, I went back to my bedroom door. I held the handle for a moment, and then I opened it just a crack to find that same stench of gasoline beer tickling my nose. Nothing had changed. There was still a puddle of beer sitting neatly in the center of my bed. There were still roses all over the fucking ground, the only difference being that they were maybe a little more wilted. My stomach tied itself in a knot so tight I feared the pressure would cause me to spontaneously combust. If ever there was a time I felt inadequately prepared for life, it was most surely that moment. I don’t really remember the details of the next bit. I do know I smoked a lot of weed. I also stuffed a very large comforter into a very small washing machine at one point. But other than that, I just kept smoking, I guess. Tried to just remain underwater at all times and at all costs. Today, however, I’m mostly sober. A few days ago I ran out of flower, and Charlie asked for his pen back this morning, so I slowly resurfaced, and now I’m just staring at the clock. Keasha’s car pulls up a half an hour after I was supposed to leave. I pull up to my apartment and run up the stairs. The plastic necklace holding together what’s left of a six-pack of Steel Reserve indents my fingers. I walk into the room, and the sun glares off a crystal vase in the window containing a bouquet of wilted roses and blinds me for a second. I stop and think about everything all at once for a second. My eyes give the feeling of tears welling up, but no physical tears are actually produced; really, if anything, my eyes feel at the same time much drier than usual. I sit on the bed and just think about the world again for a minute. I reach over and release another can of Steel Reserve, cracking it open and reaching it into the sky. This one is for Nate. I Cedar Valley Divide 71
clink the beer gently against the crystal. And also for Grandma Rose. I chug it all, and I donâ€™t even chug water. I feel my phone vibrate in my pocket, and I slide it out of my jeans to see Mom glow across the screen. I hold it for a moment. Then I silence it and lay it face-down on the bed until it stops; when I pick it back up again, I send a chat to my usual dealer, just asking if he has any bud.
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Mountain Village Terri Carter
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Contributor Notes Hayley Anderson studies at the University of Iowa, where she majors in studio art and marketing. Her primary medium is photography, though she also enjoys poetry. Anderson says “The Anatomy of a Real Girl” is "a collage poem using clippings from vintage magazine advertisements that essentially shamed women into buying their products." The second poem in this issue, “Temple in Ruins,” is a reflection on her personal experience with anorexia and was inspired by the phrase “your body is a temple." She says that, at the time of her eating disorder, she often convinced herself she was treating her body as a temple through "clean eating" (restricted eating) and lots of exercise, but "the reality of [the] situation was much more grim, as conveyed by the imagery in the poem." When Anderson graduates, she hopes to work in the entertainment industry or do something with creative marketing. Shelby Blazek, the artist behind Kaleidoscope Persian, is an industrial maintenance technology major who plans to be an electrician. She is also an art fanatic, especially with watercolor paintings, of which she says, “how the colors blend and dry is sometimes a mystery, so you never know what you can create!” Amanda May Bollig’s dream is to become a tattoo artist, and her art draws from “the pop art style and defined lines typically seen in tattoos.” Her Self-Portrait is inspired by smoke animals she saw online. Libra is an acrylic piece that represents the Libra sign from the zodiac and is one of twelve pieces she made representing the astrological signs. Terri Carter, a non-traditional student, says her piece Mountain Village was inspired by a village where her son’s family lives in Eastern Europe. She says she “recreated the image in glass using a variety of fusing techniques (cut glass, frit, stringers, glass paint, slumping).” Makennah Crawford says that “poetry has a special place in my heart” and that “whatever I write is true for me." In writing "Forever," she was inspired by how eternity “seems constant and terrifying, but [is] somehow comforting.” She wonders, “We tend to live in tenses: past, present, or future. Would it change your decision to consider all of them at once? To see all the good and bad that has ever happened to you, the people you know and love, the potential for good in your future?” Crawford hopes to major in English and/or creative writing. Stefan Crowl, who is a returning contributor to the Cedar Valley Divide, works as a carpenter and writes in his free time. He says he uses "a combination of Gothic imagery and Old Testament grandeur to convey a simplistic yet compelling 74 Cedar Valley Divide
image" and that his “Fear and Loathing," “Mortuary,” and “III," an be “likened to the works of Hemingway (if Hemingway were much less cunning and impressive).” Diana Cruz, the artist behind Father and Son, sees art as a fun hobby and found her inspiration from documentaries about indigenous people that live in Siberia. She says, “It’s very interesting to learn about their open lifestyle.” Max Derby has been writing “almost as long as [he’s] been walking.” He has “always loved writing stories that include dark forms of personification,” as shown in his piece “The Drowning.” His life-long goal is to publish a book. Mina Epley is pursuing an A.A. degree and para-educator certification. Her inspiration for the self-portrait Melancholy comes from her own mental health experiences. She writes that “even though I struggle to do so at times, I can turn away from that darkness and reach out for the light.” Brandon Feighner learned to write poetry from University of Iowa classes at Oakdale Correctional Center. Of “Not Me,” he says, “My kids inspire me. Writing helps me express my pain of not being there for them.” He is also the author of “Fishing” in this issue. L.A Fellemen is an accountant at the University of Iowa who previously worked as a seminary professor and a pastor. In 2016 she moved to Iowa City with her husband. To hone her writing skills, she attends the Free Generative Writing Workshops and organizes a writer’s open mic held at the local library. Of her poem “Little,” she writes, “I had mixed feelings after noticing two elderly women place plastic grocery bags inside a little local food pantry. I was touched by their compassion but also saddened that this charity would never solve the root causes of food insecurity.” Dennis Green works as the director of KCCK, Kirkwood’s jazz radio station. He also enjoys writing fiction and published his first novel Traveler in 2013. He says that his story “House Band” “is the first in a series of short stories set in a bar that is somehow every tavern that has ever been, or ever will be; powered by the helpful but mysterious Barkeep, who also may not be exactly what he seems.” Carmen D. Harrington, the poet behind “What Do You See?” and “¡Nazi Rechazada!,” is a U.S. Navy veteran and retired officer’s wife, mother of two, and grandmother of three. She began writing in earnest in her late 40’s, while taking creative writing courses at Mount Mercy University, where she studied for her B.A. in English. She obtained her masters in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from the University of Northern Iowa in 2017 and now works as a Spanish/English interpreter as well as an adult ESL teacher at Kirkwood. Her work has been published in the Inner Weather and various editions of the Paha Review, and Mercy Creative Review. Cedar Valley Divide 75
Emily Heinick currently resides in Anamosa with spouse Joe, daughter Sophia, and two black labs. She says her daughter has taught her to slow down and embrace the chaos. Her photograph Beautiful Chaos was created when “a simple afternoon of cookies was transformed into beautiful chaos with flour dropping to the floor like the first snow.” She also writes, “I’d like to thank my biggest support system and fan, my Joseph. I couldn’t have done this without you.” More work by Heinick appears in last year’s edition of the Cedar Valley Divide. Gabbie Herzberg, the artist behind Oranges, Toucan King and Self-Portrait, says, “Art is my way to escape from the real world and live in my imagination.” She draws and paints any chance she gets, often aiming for surreal images, though she challenged herself to realism in Oranges and is publishing her first self-portrait on our pages. Feza Matiyabo is an artist, musician, and writer of songs, poems, and comics. Irobot was inspired by the Jon Bellion song of the same name. Lisa Olson spent her early childhood years as a resident of Cedar Rapids. She moved around six times, obtained her B.F.A. degree, raised a family and co-owned a healthcare practice before finally making her way to Kirkwood, where she now takes continuing education classes in kiln-formed glass. Her piece Waves was “an experiment with the ability of glass to flow across, down, and into the sculpted relief form during high-process temperatures." She also writes that it was “inspired by a photo of my childhood family that was taken at a time when all was well, before powerful waves of illness and loss would affect us.” Her piece Connection, she says, is a depiction of earth, sea, sky and heaven, with a stairway that connects them, like Jesus connects the mortal and divine. And of her third piece, Trying to Make Order Out of Chaos, she states that an “ongoing story of my life seems to be that in one way or another I’m trying to make order out of chaos.” Ella Ostedgaard, the artist behind Resonance and Anaphase, attended an independent art school in Iceland and is now an organic farmer in Iowa City. She works across many mediums, “searching for ways to observe and create the intricate patterns found in nature and explore the complexities of human emotions.” Ostedgaard tries to express “the chaotic order of our world through abstract and intuitive patterns.” Meghan Rickels, whose “ghost” appears on these pages, says her inspiration largely comes from the time she spent in Chicago, where she studied library science. She enjoys hiking, road trips, and going to her friends’ shows. Anastassiya Radionova, the photographer behind our cover image, Victoria, grew up in Kazakhstan, Russia, and moved to the United States in 2012. At Kirkwood, she studies accounting and also photography, where she realized her true passion lies She writes,“I have always looked at the world as if through a camera lens, capturing moments and visualizing the beauty hiding in pictures.” Of her model, Victoria K., Radionova says, “she is very talented in art 76 Cedar Valley Divide
and modeling and, like me, an immigrant and student of Kirkwood." Radionova further notes, “This photograph was created at the Kirkwood photography studio before my final exam for our lighting class. Portraits are one of my favorite elements of photography, and I am driven to continue working on my skills as a portrait photographer.” Suzanne Rodriguez studies Liberal Arts at Kirkwood, and her passion lies in writing poetry and taking photographs. She was born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas, and later moved to Monticello, Iowa. Of her photograph Mother’s Greatest Lesson, she says, “My mother had a very green thumb and could plant anything on a whim . . . like she did with these poinsettias. She was so happy about them and told me she couldn’t wait for them to turn red...unfortunately, my mother didn’t get a chance to see them turn, and I visited the house one day to check up on them and noticed a slight change in them ... I took a picture of it to remind me not to be afraid of change and that we all transition, be it in life or in death." Kaitlen Dawnielle Sothman is working towards a degree in human services. In her free time, she likes to hang out with friends, cook, and take photographs. In her photograph Melancholy of the Rain, she says she was “mesmerized by the rain, particularly by drops of rain on window panes.” Her hope when others are viewing her photography is that “they too can appreciate the simple beauty in rain drops.” She also has work in Cedar Valley Divide 2019. Charissa Swanson is drawn to “the strange, the dark, the surreal, and the weird” in her writing and illustrating. She is currently majoring in graphic design. She says her piece The Gift is “in a way about the duality of perception. It is about how something that appears horrifying can be gentle. Throughout our lives, we find help in places we do not expect.” Ghostmetal is “an illustrated world-building element” of one of her projects. Alima Sula loves art and travel and grew up in Cedar Falls with an African dad and Black mom. She says her essay “The Residual Effects of Slavery” was a revision of “a research paper for my Comp 1 class. In the research paper, I delved into some toxic aspects of Black culture and tried my best to get to the root of the issues by going back in history, the ultimate cause being slavery. Sandra Bolton really believed in my work and pushed me to turn it into something more personal, which I loved doing.” Kalon Thompson studies industrial design at Kirkwood, and his dream is to become a sneaker designer for Adidas. Of his piece Vibin’ on a Tuesday, he says, “For our final project in our Drawing I class, we had to draw a self-portrait of ourselves. Rather than having a traditional look, I decided to use a more casual tone with my overall posture and attitude to be able to represent my laid-back nature." He also used the bubble gum, attire, light values and title to convey this tone. Lars Townsend describes himself as a “mature student” at Kirkwood. He grew up in Toronto, Canada, and enjoys reading. Cedar Valley Divide 77
Madison Voss is a theatre major at the University of Iowa who is also taking paralegal classes at Kirkwood and hopes to eventually earn a master’s in creative writing. She was aiming to write “something spooky” in “Inundation” and notes that, though it is fiction, it is “rooted in a lot of truth.” Of “A Retail Nightmare,” she says, “This piece came to me during a particularly long truck unload at Michael’s, where I work. I joked that maybe we all died, and hell is just us continuing to unload the truck, but never getting anywhere with it. That joke freaked everyone out, and I knew I had a story concept on my hands.” She first learned about the Cedar Valley Divide when she found a copy from the 80s in her grandmother’s basement. Anissa White is a glass and ceramic artist. Her love for ceramics and glass blowing was discovered at the Hartford Art School in Connecticut where she received her B.F.A. After graduation, White shared her passion for art by teaching glass blowing and ceramics classes in Florida, and she now works as a studio assistant at Kirkwood. Of her piece, Twenty-Two Caliber Tea Set, she says, “Gun violence in mainstream news and entertainment media has become normal in America. The brutality surrounding weapons is augmented and romanticized while we observe from relative safety.... attraction to power, militarization of weapons, and the media’s portrayal of gun culture led me to create sculptural works exploring these ideas. Shooting utilitarian vessels represents the fissures in households and communities affected by gun crimes.” Richard Winemiller’s essay “Isabella Lake: A Place of Firsts” was written in response to a prompt provided by Dr. Gina Hausknecht from Coe College in a recent Understanding the Graphic Narrative course he took at Oakdale Correctional Center. He says, “Isabella Lake is a real place, and these incidents really happened.” He reflects, “I find writing a good way to relax. I write short stories and poetry most of the time. However, for the past 2-3 years, I have been using writing as a way to explore and understand social issues and concerns. All of this has kept me not only aware of the world and what is going on, but informs me of a way I can contribute, in my limited way.”
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Submit to next yearâ€™s magazine: www.kirkwood/cedarvalley.edu Deadline: December 15, 2020
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Kirkwood Community College's student art and literary magazine