IS MORE TO BE PITIED, A WRITER
BOUND AND GAGGED BY POLICEMAN, OR
ONE LIVING IN PERFECT FREEDOM WHO HAS NOTHING MORE TO SAY?
-KURT VONNEGUT JR.
LET’S HAVE SOME NEW CLICHES -SAMUAL GOLDWYN 10th Edition F Fall 2005
EDITORS Molly Sutherland Alex Crangle P RODUCTION M ANAGER Martha Meacham L AYOUT EDITOR Alex Crangle A DVISORY EDITORS Dr. Paul Rogalus Dr. Liz Ahl A SSOCIATE EDITORS Rachel Kirkpatrick Meagan Henderson Ivy Page Adam Skawinsky Monica Dean Nora Toomey Jack Fahey A SSISTANT EDITORS Leah Rearick Ryan McLellan Hiedi Therrien Lydia Perry Nicole Baily Miranda Perry Eric Agosta BUSINESS M ANAGER Martha Meacham COVER A RT Annette Mitchell
CENTRIPETAL IS PRINTED BY K ASE P RINTING, I NC. 13 H AMPSHIRE DRIVE, UNIT 18 HUDSON, NH (603) 883-9223
SUBMISSION GUIDELINES: Submissions are open to students, alumni, faculty, and friends of Centripetal. All submissions must be typed. No hand-written submissions will be accepted. Fiction (up to 2 stories) should be no more than 2,500 words per piece; poetry (up to 4 pieces) may be any length, any style. Submissions should be e-mailed as attachments to firstname.lastname@example.org. All submissions must contain name and contact information for the poet/author, as well as a brief note on the contributor. Centripetal accepts one time North American Rights for print and online publication. All rights revert to the authors upon publication. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Plymouth State Poets & Writers would like to thank the following for their support of this issue of Centripetal: all of the contributors, with special thanks to the Plymouth State University, the Hartman Union Building Staff, Bruce Campbell for his divine inspiration, Biederman’s Deli, Rodney Eckstrom, Dr. Liz Ahl, and the PSU English Department. We would especially like to thank Dr. Paul Rogalus, our advisor, without whom this would not have been possible.
19 HIGHLAND AVE F SUITE A14 PLYMOUTH, NH 03264 F (603) 535−2236 email@example.com oz.plymouth.edu/~poetswriters
CONTENTS 1 0 th E d i t i o n
F Fall 20 05
5 PAUL AUGER
Eye Dwelling, Paul’s 115 Day Dream
7 RYAN MCLELLAN
Epiphanies After Driving Past A Dead Man
10 IVY PAGE
11 M IRANDA P ERRY
Contained in Frames 17-23, Rakkasah
13 CASEY M ARTIN
14 JACK FAHEY
16 SEAN ROBINSON
Mariposa, Soliloquy For the World
22 A NGELA R ICCIARDI
24 JORDAN DAVIS
26 LEAH R EARICK
Merry Christmas, Rusty’s
29 K AYLA SMITH-TARBOX
Lost and Found
30 CHRISTIAN WYATT
The Revolution of the Id, American Geography
33 A DAM SKAWINSKI
Energy Examination, Too Far to Touch
35 ALYSIA M AY P ROKO
Heaven For Justin
36 ROBBIE BINNETTE
On Monday Morning
38 NICOLE M ARIE LEVESQUE
41 M IKE RUTKOWSKI
The Demons and Angels of the Day
42 LYDIA P ERRY
Tying Up Loose Ends
43 JEN H ILL
44 MOLLY SUTHERLAND
Ripened; Dying, Great Stanchion Gap
46 ATTICUS STEVENS
48 NATHAN WADE H ICKS
Behind Closed Doors
52 NORA TOOMEY
For Sara, Marilyn: On Reading After The Fall
55 JESSICA DUNN
A Trip Worth Taking, A Day Gone By
57 ERIC AGOSTA
Untitled, Keeping Up Appearences
60 TRISHA GAISSON
61 D UDLEY L AUFMAN
62 JACQUELINE L AUFMAN
Empowered Poets Self Publish
64 MONICA L OUISE D EAN
65 M EGAN WICHLAND
66 GREGORY K ELLEY
70 K AYTE ELLSWORTH
Los Flip Flops, Another Lovesick Poem
72 LYNN RUDMIN
Enduring, Grandson Late November 2004; looks
74 NATALIE FARRES
75 K RYSTINA JUDITH H AJDUCZAK
76 RUSSELL ROWLAND
Rabid Fox Day
77 A LEX CRANGLE
My Life In Rearview Mirrors
EYE D W ELLING
green like grass shadows, not a blatant Crayola color. respectable, subtle, liquid pools of mineral water forgotten in the caverns of your eyes which have remained undiscovered for mine to find. imagine the shifting light of earth water trapped in a slow burning place, light from a surface world where mighty rivers of it flow from stars and moons. small meandering forces Iâ€™ll never know guide it down to your crystal haven where it is trapped by mysteries and possessed by invisible forces like fireflies caught in a jar. luminescent against translucent morals, dying in the darkness of each otherâ€™s dim glowing struggle. this awful beauty existing in secret beckons me through imperfect song flawed sirens calling me to an uncertain shore.
PAULâ€™S 115 TH
Late one night in a shopping cart, I rode alone into the frozen forest, looking for a place to camp. When I reached a circled clearing, protected by brilliant white birch wood. A strong Brazilian woman welcomed me, and offered me various fruits to satisfy my urges. I took one of her pomegranates. She flashed me a look as I ate gratefully. Around her sunken neck, she wore a necklace of animal bone. Tribal. Perhaps. Or stolen from a lost Northerner. I wanted to ask her many questions. The bones contained stories. I thought it better to say nothing though, and leave her, before the sun returned.
RYAN MCL ELLAN
E PIPHANIES A FTER S EEING A D EAD M AN
He was on the side of the road, lying there splayed out like someone trying to take up their entire bed – his head not visible, either gone or just down the hill out of my sight – Black t-shirt, black boots, green cargo pants with the crotch torn away, his cock and balls pointing towards me as I slowly drove past, flanked on both sides by police cruisers – It must have been relatively soon after the accident that I stumbled upon the scene while I drove into Manchester that night, because the meat wagon hadn’t arrived and the body wasn’t covered and it was obvious that he was dead because none of the cops were near him, they simply stood next to their cars with the blinding blue lights blasting in the early summer evening – I slowly slunk past the cops, trying to get to my exit (which was the next one), and trying desperately to not look, 7
but I did I looked, and I’ve already told you what I saw – I became a part of the masses, of the mob, I became a gawker, a foolish on-looker, I became a barbarian, a cannibal and uncivilized wretch who couldn’t help but look at this poor man: cock exposed head not in sight maybe daughters or a wife at home? After passing the scene, and after doing that thing I said I’d never do, I took my exit and I saw his motorcycle on its side in the middle of the bridge I was now on that passed over the slowly growing chaos below – Did he go over the fence on the side? Or through it, somehow? Or under it? Or something worse? Did he get a chance to think about those he loved? Did he see his life before his eyes? Or did he simply shout “Oh, SHIT!” As whatever happened, happened and that was it? Cars were lined up along the bridge, hazard lights blinking and people gathered and looked down upon the scene – They looked down at him they stood with hands over their mouths they stood with arms around loved ones – MCLELLAN
I wasn’t my normal self for the rest of the night – I had too many things flying around in my head, too many images of death and balls and gawkers and cops and me, right there in the middle of it – I knew I had to write about it, I had to channel the confusion pulsing in my temples and my heart and my mind and my guts and holding my eyelids open when I tried to sleep – I knew that something was trying to get through to me – A youthful and indestructible man gets tired sometimes, and I finally fell asleep thinking about what I would write about the following day, what I could possibly say to try to capture the cold and unwanted feelings all over my skin, and I woke up twice with cold sweat and heavy breathing – It was the next day that I saw another specter of death calling to me – Leaving Manchester this time, I pulled out of an alleyway and saw a swarm of siren blasting fire engines and ambulances two blocks down, attending to something awful, 9
and I had another vision – Death stalking me, creeping after me, inching closer and closer, sometimes a block away and sometimes an inch away, making himself known by tearing crotches out of pants and throwing men off bridges and laughing when no “GOD” chose to intervene – Death telling me that it’s time to figure things out time to get things in order time to clean up the ‘ol act, because tomorrow I could be a headless mess of a former living breathing loving man on the side of the highway.
S CHIZOPHRENIA “Just hang up the phone,” Sarah told Matt. She lay her head on his shoulder in their bed. It was four in the morning and she could just make out the sound of her brother-in-law speaking nonsense in three different, yet distinct voices. Matt had been on the phone for over five hours. She longed for him to hang up the phone; she wanted Samuel to stop talking. She wanted to comfort her husband, to relieve his torment. This had been coming for a long time. For seven years she and Matt had known that the illness was taking Samuel. It was a constant challenge for the doctors to battle Samuel’s mother, who refused to believe that her brilliant son could be losing his mind. She knew it would soon be their turn to take Samuel on, and get him help. Matt dragged his fingers through his hair. “Samuel, are you in there? I want to talk to Samuel, now!” Silence “I’m hanging up!” Matt was shaking his head in M C L E L L A N - PA G E
defeat as he spoke. In the distance of telephone wires that travel beneath the ocean, Sarah could hear the impish dark voice whisper, “No, oh nooo.” There had been a small panic, perhaps desperation in the tone of Samuel’s last statement. Matt repeated his threat and the bright clear voice of Samuel broke through, “I’m here Matt, it’s Sam.” Silence “Put Mom on the phone now, Samuel.” Sarah wiped a tear from the corner of Matt’s eye. But Matt had lost him again in the moment of thundering silence.
M IRANDA P ERRY R AKKASAH
Waiting is awkward outside, conversation a fight between pacifists; none willing to throw the first strike. A room pregnant with women and I become graceless. Exotic rhythms roll through hips; inhibitions sloughed by those comfortable in their own skin. A room full of mirrors and I avoid my own eye. 11
PA G E - P E R R Y
C ONTAINED I N F R AMES 17-23
All I will be giving is ground slowly as fingers twist, these hands before me an offering of flesh tangled around bones. I Niagara fall down the avenue, beaten to solidity by the press of former feet. The roaring in my head drowning out sounds of industry. The lens pans my progress as I knife the flesh of a crowd parting from itself. Wary of my run to their rush. Along the path I have cleared, heads turn, seeking what has set me alight. Finding nothing, eyes burn corona borealis scars into my back.
C ASEY M ARTIN AJAC
I have experienced a week Of innocence and intrigue That led us to the most extravagant adventure I have found a beautiful place It is on a hilltop In a small, serene town Where every stroke of a paintbrush symbolized a memory The many colors that splashed your template stood for all of the laughter And the sporadic placement of different shades were a blueprint of a maze That we would someday make our way through I have seen beautiful things They are an exotic shade of blue They look like porcelain and are unlike anything I have ever seen They hold your secrets and your fears And reflect the setting sun as the ocean swallows it whole They speak of a future, whether near or far, it matters not As long as we are both in it I have felt two becoming one Physically, mentally and emotionally Yours is the only hand I could think of reaching for In my darkest of hours and most troubling times Your compassionate disposition has reignited a passion in me I have seen a dark place Where accusations play the leading role Jealousy dances in and out of my head Where trust is questioned and doubt conquers all other thought I have questioned wandering eyes But all I need is those lips to cause me to forget 13
My worries Memories flicker off and on in my mind I could not live without your presence Sand between toes, hand in hand, the imminent danger of the rising tide I hope we can avoid the danger By finding enjoyment watching the waves splash on the shoreline There is a picture resting on the horizon Speaking of so much more to come
JACK FAHEY WHITE G IRL
She walks into a room with the casual stride of one perpetually aware of all the ravenous eyes that follow her wherever she goes. A peripheral grin hides in the corners of eyelids and sly lips as she enters aloof and alone. Floating past, aloft and effortless, she rides a cushion of confidence just like a distant plane soaring high above dropping napalm. She awakens, a closed flower curled tight against the cold dawn. M A R T I N - FA H E Y
Somewhere inside her a perennial pulse beats malignant. Slender tendrils drift insistant amid her ribcage and along membranes searching for a place to take root. She walks out of the room in a paper smock adrift and ashen, the dreaded prognosis a heavy yoke strapped on her china doll shoulders. The flower has bloomed, its petals spread wide and its hooks sunk deep in her fortitude. She feigns sleep and the knife falls. She awakens, a frail flower pressed in a book of clumsy cliché. She walks into a room with the broken composure of a love-torn daisy that finally concedes: “He loves me not.” Wrapped in resignation, she blows tumbling and aimless across the room on an autumn breeze. 15
FA H E Y
SEAN ROBINSON M ARIPOSA
Mariposa: creature of dreams. a glaziers’ obsession; made from plate-glass imaginings, held in place by a baby’s first word, given life by a lover’s kiss, twirled and weaved by the hopes of man, and set flight by the last rising dawn of the world. All this, captured within your tiny wings-set sail as our future, out onto the horizon. Our beloved-Fly well
S OLILOQUY F OR THE WORLD A lone spire rises from the rolling hills of the land: an obelisk that cries up to heaven. It has been a sanctuary for the persecuted, safe haven for the damned, the final resting place of all those for whom magic sang in their blood. Now screams erupted from the citizens as they left the world. Thousands fled down the Tower’s cobblestone paths carrying what little they could. They left behind them memories, childhoods, keepsakes, and loved ones. The Elders passed from the world on their own accord; choosing to end their lives than burden the few survivors with their convalescence and age. The world was dying, and only a few would be able to escape the cataclysm that would befall the lands that they had once called home. One by one the mages call to the gods for a final ROBINSON
spell—a spell of salvation. Thunder erupts from emerald plain as the world is split asunder by the birth of glowing vortexes. These were gateways: passageways that would lead all who crossed to salvation. Cries erupt from the mass and it surges forward in a great wave of flesh and terror. One by one they flee as the sun begins to slip into the colors of bruised pink and faded indigo. I stand at the window, watching the blazing sun inch lower in the sky. I sigh and turn to face my latest—my last— creation. It sits on the low pedestal in a bed of discarded gems. A slow smile creeps up my face as another bit of glowing gem slides next to her sisters. It’s almost done. Almost… “It’s time to go,” he says as he slips into the room carrying his tired pack over his shoulder. I smile at him and think about all the adventures that pack of his had been through. He was always the adventurer. For the hundredth time I wonder why he had chosen me of anyone to spend his life with. Me: the bookworm, the artificer. The one who could get lost going to the kitchen let alone up a mountain or crawling through an ancient labyrinth. “Let’s go,” he says again. “Most everyone’s gone through the portals. If we don’t hurry there won’t be any left open.” I curl my hands in the air above my creation and a fine dust of crystal shards billows into a tendril before sliding in across the bindings and sealing the gaps my fallible human hands had left. My eyes bulge in awe as I look at it: done. Finished at long last. No. Almost finished. I look out the window and see the stars starting to shine as the faded indigo gives way to purple. I have enough time. “Did you hear me? We have to go! Now,” he says again and steps between the glowing mass of jewels and 17
silver and me. “C’mon. I’ve got everything packed, we just need to get to one of the portals.” His eyes look into mine and I smile. His are the color of rubies in the summer light. I remembered the first time I’d ever stopped to look into those eyes. He had been a prodigy in spell craft. I had been the idiot who sent my pet raven to shit on his head as he showed off his magic skills. God how I loved him. A tear slides down my face. “I’m not going with you.” I brush past him and look at the creature again. Its tiny body of twisted silver attached to wings of amber, amethyst, ruby, and jade waits for my final attentions. It is my obsession, my last gift to this doomed world. That—and my life. A crack of thunder rolls through the Tower’s stone. Another group of tears slip down the sides of my face. “What?” he screams and turns to face me. “You can’t stay here. It’s ending! The moment the last rays of that sun slip over that horizon, this world ends, beloved. Anyone who remains will die with the world.” “I can’t leave,” I say at last and wrap my arms around him. “This has to be finished.” His hands reached out to me and I feel them curl around my shoulders. “C’mon.” I turn and run the back of my hand against his tearstreaked face. “I love you.” His fingers curled around mine and he pressed his cheek against my hand. “Don’t leave me.” I try to smile and look out the window again. There’s no time left. “I’ll never leave you, my love. I will be with you for this life and the next. You and I are one. Heart and soul. Nothing will ever take that from us. But you must go.” Inside me the magic flows like a great tempest, moving with the will of my mind and the strength of my heart. My fingers curl into claws and a word escapes my lips. A swirl of blue appears where a bookshelf once stood: a portal away from the Armageddon and death. “Take my love with you,” I say and look back onto ROBINSON
the creation, refusing to look at the one whose heart beat in time with mine. If I were to watch him take safety, I would be undone. Instead I think of the past. I remember the feeling of his lips against mine, the way he spoke my name for the first time. I call it from my memory and call the storm inside me to the surface. The spell begins to take form. Inside, I remember watching the sunrise in his arms, I watch him running through an evergreen forest. I remember our son: our beloved son. He’s safe though, safe from the darkness that will envelop the world. A tendril of fear slips into my mind and I purge it away. I remember my son’s first word. “Papa.” My heart aches to hold him again. To hold both of them. To see both their smiles. Words erupt from my lips and I call upon everything within me. I weave the spell with my heart and my power. I call to mind the memories of my friends, their faces, their hopes, and dreams. I call all into me and prepare the last great spell of my life. Inside my left hand it begins to coalesce: an elixir of dreams to give to the artifact standing before me. It’s a glowing pool that slowly drips from my slender fingers. A drop at a time splatters across the jewel wings. Drip. Drip. Only a little more. Inside I’m being driven faster and faster. I fly through my mind to make sure I’ve not forgotten a step. A single word not spoken or a smell not laid and all this work would be for naught. My life would be for naught. Creating the creature. Sealing it with magic. Infusing it with the dreams. Only another couple of drops and it will be done. The last of the magic splatters along its wings and my work is done. The tiny creature shivers for a moment and its wings begin to move on their own. The jewels glow in the fading light. 19
It is a creature made from the dreams of this world. This butterfly of mine. “It’s beautiful,” I hear his voice say behind me. What? I turn to face the other half of my soul. The man that I’d thought I’d sent away. No, why was he still standing here? Why hadn’t he.. “Damn you!” I whisper and a new set of tears flooded my face. “Why didn’t you go? I can’t…I searched inside of me. I don’t have enough power left…I can’t…I can’t send you!” His smile never falters as he closes the distance between us and wraps his arms around me, pressing my face into his shoulder as my arms curl around his waist. How many times had he held me like this? When I couldn’t fight another day? When it felt like my life was all for naught? How many times had I held him. “We are one,” he whispers quietly into my ear. “How could I leave you to face this alone?” “But…” He silences me by pressing his lips to mine. As we part I looked once more out the window and onto the green field. The sky is littered with stars and only a touch of crimson dances along the edges of the clouded sky. “No time…” I curse and pull away. Three steps and I stand before the pedestal with the creature still fanning its jeweled wings. With each tentative flap they glowed with the memories of all the lives that had been lost in the world. All the lives that had left this place and moved onto a better one. I watch in awe as another wing beat brings the creation into the air and it settles its tiny silver legs upon my shoulder. Even with the time passing, moment by moment, I can feel the tiny gusts of wind the wings make slip against my skin. No time. I reach for his hand then, holding it as another word ROBINSON
slips from my mind and from my mouth. This time the magic answers in a desperate heave. A heave that takes we three: he, the creature, and I to the edge of the realm. One moment we stand in the chambers we had shared for over a decade. Where we had loved and been loved in return, where our son had taken his first step, and spoken his first word. Then we are on the edge of the ocean. Another step forward and we would have walked into the churning mass of the ocean. Waves beat at the shore with fervor, as though it knows it only has a handful more waves to crash before the end. The end… My fingers grasp his more firmly than ever. He hadn’t left me. He’d stayed by my side when he could have walked away from his own death. He’d stayed to be with me. I loved him more than I ever had, if that were possible. With my right hand I pull my obsession free. I look once to it and then once to the tiny sliver of red sun that hasn’t passed beyond the edge of the world yet. I look at it and release the butterfly, the Mariposa. I let it fly. Its wings beat the air frantically for a moment or two before fluttering up into the air above the surf. We two stand atop the last edge of the world and I look into his eyes. A smile still shines on his face. I smile at him then and we kiss as the last ray of sunlight slips over the horizon.
A NGELA R ICCIARDI G RIEF
I think about it all the time: when I see a little girl on the street in a dress that looks recently pressed with her hair in french braids; when I see some home maker mom on TV in a kitchen or bathroom, cleaning things or cooking things like turkeys and toilets; or like when my mother is dead I have to make a bed or try to fold a fitted sheet and remember that I donâ€™t know how because no one ever taught me; or like every time my mother is dead I have to dress up for weddings or funerals. Itâ€™s there, in the back of my mind, the fact whispering my mother is dead to me in some grotesque narrative. my mother is dead and nothing makes it go away; no amount of talking about it with family and friends and even my mother is dead once a therapist, makes this go away. Wishes and wet cheeks RICCIARDI
cannot convince the laws of nature my mother is dead to let up, just this once: no matter how much I wish, my mother is dead or how much I pray; my mother is dead no matter how many times I have to leave the room during a sad movie because my mother is dead I can’t stop the choking sobs; no matter how much I cry when I hear my mother is dead stupid sappy songs about angels or regrets or broken promises while my mother is dead I’m driving and alone and the people in the cars around me have no idea why I’m crying or that my mother is dead.
JORDAN DAVIS THE A RTIST
dark light: too late for moon, too early for sun you lie in bed, abstract eyes noting how breathing is a subconscious scheme how we never try to breathe; we just do but when your thought makes it conscious every breath becomes a task, a clash like god, so hard to sustain once it’s made conscious sleep impossible; dissonance dispersed can’t blink, can’t swallow, can’t even walk all of it: simple in ignorance, reckoning in realization when the basic is unfathomable the elusive infests your trembling heart you’re an artist feeling a power no one else can feel using it to show us your gift thinking that out of all the life that bleeds, art must matter god or no god, there must be some purpose for all of this but truth is a dredged body in the lake of your mind black and white behind The Color forcing the blood and bodily fluid that comes seeping through to somewhere deep inside you now you’re dreaming awake, transposed to unreality creativity—the giver and the taker a cyclical recurrence, severing left ears; painting soup cans knowing you should aspire for more, to stray even from the strayed to leave the mistakes of failed predecessors behind and find a circle below the one you’re on to ride The Spiral DAV I S
but the dream ends where the spiral begins back in bed you’re all used up like religion and science separating after sex one is two, and you get back to the beginning of the end returning to subconscious equilibrium forgetting to remember, thankful that it’s over safe now; free to envision the masterpieces you have yet to create fallacious fantasies about the world you will someday change through your art the life for all of us you will improve— the life that dies as you drift into sleep
DAV I S
L EAH R EARICK
M ERRY C HRISTMAS
My left eye opens just wide enough to see the nurses, all wearing Santa hats, ornament earrings and red shirts. Some have strings of green and red beads dangling from their flawless necks. Bruises cover my neck and body like a warm winter shawl. My boyfriend’s handprints, a reminder of why I wasn’t supposed to leave the Christmas lights on. It was a waste of his money. My broken arm, proof there is no Santa Claus. Puffy, exposed, swollen eyes beg the question, “Where’s dinner?” A fractured rib tells the whole story of where our jar, marked “Christmas Fund” went, and a spilt lip says, “I’m sorry”. These crisp, cool, white sheets hide a cast, your first gift to me for Christmas. It was the answer to the question, “Can my mom come for dinner?” A plump, red-cheeked nurse visits. She checks my vitals, all the tubes, and bandages. With a hearty laugh her belly jiggles. She says “He had it coming”. I’ve been told in a few weeks this will all be over, and I should be able to go home. I’ll leave the Christmas lights on until March.
R UST Y ’S Rusty’s is the name. A dark, smoky bar where the clock ticks loudly over the wave-like roar of a football audience crowded around a thirteen inch TV screen with a yellowy film over it. I choose a high stool at the bar. Someone close reeks of bleach and a bucket of raspberries, or maybe peaches. Either way it was a fruity stench over the thick cigar smoke puffing in clouds from Leroy’s nostrils. Leroy; the town drunk smells like fish, but he’s a good guy. He runs the Alcoholic’s Anonymous meetings at Rusty’s on Thursdays at eight. There’s nothing but small town people here in Necessity. I ask for my usual from the bartender, whose beard must feel like scissors slicing through his face in patches. He makes me a Jack & Coke, without the Coke. He knows I’ve had a hard, rough and tumble sort of day. I can almost taste it as the bartender slides it my way, but I spy a girl spying me from a stool at the other end of the bar. I wonder if I should journey over there. Maybe introduce myself to the girl with the prominent lazy eye or a glass eye. Not uncommon for this town. She smiles a snaggletooth smile, and that seals the deal . I’m out of my seat, feet flat on this barnacle-like floor. My feet trudge across the slime and greasy feel of the linoleum, making my way to Ol’ Lazy Eye. She’s got a bird’s nest of hair atop a rather solemn face. I 27
can taste the air, salty, like sweat and sea-water. It floods my senses and clouds my mind. Leroy swings his cane around nearly cutting me off at the knees. He gropes in the air for something to hold onto. Put a few too many away, I reckon. I continue toward her, sliding my hand along the bar top, which feels like itâ€™s been massaged with chicken fat. I weave between stools and tables like an eel until I notice the ticking of the clock has stopped. I glance to find it seven past midnight, and look back to find my bar bride has vanished, my Cyclops Cinderella had disappeared into the night. And thus my journey came to an end.
K AYLA SMITH -TARBOX L OST A ND F OUND
Let’s open the worn map, Coffee stained and wrinkled , From the unfolding and folding of dreams and destinations, and pick a spot: The town of Strong, Sucker River, Or Little Two Hearted Lake, It doesn’t matter just as long as we’re alone. Come crawl across the dotted lines of time zones, borders, and boundaries, Feel the grit of the dirt of the earth in our hands and let the bullets whiz by our heads. Maybe the chaos of smelling hot gun metal will feel soft like heaven. We’ll steal a simple moment In the frenzy of being born. Allow me to take you someplace new, I’ll carry your slippery heart because my hand is warmI’ll pull apart the layers until we find some serenity. The warrior standing proud in you tells me to turn around. But further down is an illuminating glow And I’ll follow until I find home, Nestled, centered in your chest, Expecting to lie in the sun but instead hangs the moon, It’s silver and silentAnd you and I are breathing and living. We kiss for the first and last time, until it ripples out like the waves of the soft sounds of the Russian language. 29
S M I T H -TA R B OX
C HRISTIAN WYATT
THE R EVOLUTION O F THE I D
There’s some little man in this head of mine pushing buttons He’s pulling levers now and my eyes blink twice And my nerves are power lines There’s some little devil in this heart of mine poking it He’s stabbing my aorta with his pitchfork And my veins are aqueducts That little man in my head wants out so he’s kicking and screaming And at the dinner table I do the same, pointing my shaking finger Towards the spackled ceiling and gunning this broken voice box That’s almost as cold as the mashed potatoes on my plate And as unused as my napkin. But I scream about nothing for all its worth (which is still nothing) Smashing an innocent plate, then dam up tears punching the wall that will never feel pain There’s some little man in this head of mine pushing buttons He’s pulling levers now and my mouth drops And my tongue is a beast that lashes out at you. It cradles you, lapping at that sweat that nestles Between your breasts, which oddly tastes like Someone else.
A MERICAN G EOGR APHY
All these feelings you’re feeling, tiny chemical reactions. All these thoughts you are thinking, tiny chemical reactions. Add a catalyst, your brain just boils and toils All that excitement you see, tiny chemical reactions. Sitting on some rickety bus in the station Fiddling over ticket stubs, Crumpling paper and churning up old conversations. Sipping coffee over Jack Kerouac, Pausing in every moment to see What new people had passed Who did I miss, who else exists? In this cauldron of humidity, the water pours from my pores Relentlessly. Endlessly Bathing my skin in rivers of glistening saline. Jack says, ‘some of the most beautiful girls live in Des Moines’. So that’s where I am headed. Over the windswept plains of the middle west, Past monolithic prairie cities that Sprang up next to some tired old creek bed. All those colors you see, tiny chemical reactions. Amber waves of grain—tiny chemical reactions. I pull a tattered piece of paper from my lint filled pocket Placing my feet on the floor, scribbling out
Different formulas as I suck on a stale cigarette Calling upon my callused cortex, to consume Then continue. All those feelings I was feeling, now fleeting All those thoughts I was thinking, now as stale as this smoke. I choke on the lump in my throat, and cough As I try to evoke some passionate proverb To vindicate my sleepless psyche, I write: “Some men think they are prophets, and some men are prophets for profit. From the altar they preach like a hostile apostle. Faces red, with arms raised high, singing ‘great glory hallelujah, Lord I am so afraid to die’…” Glancing out on the subtle hills, I am touched I am refilled with the same familiar fabric of space And time so alien, yet so sublime And I remember All those warm summer nights, once real A small, smiling wide-eyed child That played in the tall grasses That swayed like empty swing sets in the western wind.
A DAM SKAWINSKI
E NERGY E XAMINATION ( INSTRUCTIONS TO SEIZE THE DAY ) Wishing for exemption from energy examinations, (flipping through the pages of the day’s aggressively arranged agenda), lift side slanted head from pillowed bed and squint towards the skylight of rain soaked days, shift gaze upon dust stricken bookshelf, cough and spy particles tower towards transition, only to fall again, failing in their missionfleeting and defeating like judgment’s patience“Are you going?” “No. Well, perhaps. I’m not there?” Drag lagging, weighted corpses from blended patchwork blanket warmth, assume the posture of the bell tower creature the one perched high in the Cathedral, and stagger towards a distant destination, within a glimpse of your former station, and monitor the ginger sway ‘cross coarse-knit carpet“Are you there?” “No. Well, perhaps. Should I stay?” Stubbing toe, throw open mouth let vocal chords slur slander out, and ponder what direction 33
SK AW I NSK I
affections route can propel you towardssleep, relief? Walk back in time, rhythm now refined and fall accordingly when legs cut out“Are you staying?” “No. Well, perhaps. Where was it I was going?”
TOO FAR TO TOUCH I swear there’s a hypnotist on the fingertip of the hand that points westward when the sun starts to bid goodnight. The fading rays of today fall quiet, while a hammer strikes to crumble the brick walled barriers of stress and strain. All the shapes we’ve come to know evaporate into elastic stretched silhouettes spiraling into the distant doorway where the requiem for reality is being held. Mere minutes move so fast, fleeting forward till darkness devours the last bit of bouncing light. In the distance a crow howls for the moon to drop.
SK AW I NSK I
A LYSIA M AY P ROKO H EAVEN F OR JUSTIN
Cold, clammy, his hands Are snow white with ice Blue blood flooding veins. Open olive eyes Stare up to their soul; Black holes for pupils. Electric music Pulses through the head As cocaine and pills Fill his mind and stop Quick his beating heart. And still some small smirk Lingers on his lips; I believe, my friend, It is post coital. The death, as much fun As the living. Bliss! More bliss for Justin. I smirk a little too, Warmhearted, as I turn Away to go find help.
O N M ONDAY M ORNING
On Monday morning, I woke up with a heavy head. No light in my sky, I fell from my bed. Papa’s in the next room coughing, quit smoking, now he’s got the dread. On Monday morning when the world submits. Her memory is still plaguing me: her blonde hair blowing in the breeze, a smile so sweet. Nothing more than a memory now and always having to say we’re sorry. I never said it would be easy. I never said that we would get along. It’s like that feeling never leaves you alone completely, and in that moment surprisingly when anger takes hold, we lose it all. You make the decision to punch a hole through that wall. Marriage is like slavery under toenails and sounds like a bullet hitting a white wall, leading up to your greatest downfall: love, expectation of or lack there fore of. You don’t write much anymore, I’m sure you don’t even want to know. I’ve lost all conventional concern in myself now. I was once a walk in the park or a bird on a bench, but now all I am is worn out, shot up, and left for dead. I haven’t shaved or bathed in weeks it seems, it’s the filth, the dirt, the decay that keeps me on my knees. When you have all the reasons in the world to resurrect BINNETTE
yourself and become anew. You’re just better off dead cause no one loves you. On Monday morning, you’re just better off in bed cause she’s gone and you’re too depressed to get out of bed. On Monday morning, I heard the bed creak and the old man wheeze. It doesn’t creak anymore but maybe it’s just me. Love was once here in these sheets, all warm and toasty. I hid there all night until dawn, but I fucked it up and now it’s gone.
NICOLE M ARIE L EVESQUE TANZANIAN SAFARI
Earlier that morning we had descended into Ngorongoro Crater as the sun ascended into a cloudless periwinkle sky. We were told by our Tanzanian driver that the crater had originally been formed by volcanoes and as we whizzed through hairpin turns, our jaws rattling and our belongings tossed about, it was hard to imagine the molten lava that must have gushed down the same hills we passed. Now it was lush with thick greenery and a dense canopy of emerald leaves provided shade and hopefully muffled the sound of our small safari van from the animals we hoped to see. Once we reached the crater the scenery was like a movie back-drop, it was perfect. Herds of cape buffalo, ostriches flapping their wings in hope of flight while their long slender legs carried them over the plains surrounding us. Zebra galloped in front of our path, pausing to stare at us curiously, their white stripes slightly brown from rolling on the dusty ground. One small zebra leaned against his mother’s haunches, peering under her belly at us, the strangers rattling past. Our own white skin became dingy brown throughout the day as we rattled along dusty trails, jolted by our van’s inability to cope with the ruts of an unpaved road. Everything became dusty. Our packs became permanently grimy, unpleasant to touch, gritty with the accumulation of a few days dirt while stored in the back of our van. When arriving at our accommodations for the evening, we were greeted with wet wash clothes that bore dark smudges of our day’s travel after we wiped our faces to reveal the pinky peach of our skin we had forgotten existed. Dirt wedged itself under the nails, in the nostrils and the corners of the mouth, inside the curves of ears. Days later I would still discover dirt creased into my clothes, specks lodged in the crook of my elbow. LEVESQUE
The dust didn’t bother me though, in light of the comparative coolness the country offered. Upon arrival in Dar es Salaam a few days beforehand, I had been blasted by inescapable heat. It was in our broken down bus on the side of the road, it climbed to thirty-nine degrees celsius. The heat was stagnant, wet, palpable. In the crater now, with our dingy windows cracked open and the roof of our van elevated for game viewing, the breeze was cool coming over the thick forested edges of cliffs and over the stretches of pond dotted with a hippo’s back or gaping mouth. Flocks of white birds migrated from one land mass to another, an occasional rippling curtain flapping through the air as they looked for new resting places. A lion cub, almost indistinguishable from the long grass burnt brown by the sun, tripped to his father’s side while his mother dined on the nearby carcass of a buffalo. The fallen animal’s dark fur was matted with dried blood, inside organs exposed and red. The lioness dipped her head to the wound, flashing white teeth as she gripped it in her mouth. When she lifted her head the buffalo seemed to rise, then collapse back to the ground creating a little cloud of dust as the flesh separated from the bone. She turned her head to us and the blood smeared across the tan fur of her face glistened wetly in the sunlight. Catching sight of a cat-eared fox and a hyena lurking in the vicinity waiting for leftovers she let out a low moaning growl, enough warning to make the predators scatter and look for dinner elsewhere. We drove on across the Serengeti trailing a cloud of dust that hung in the air behind us as far back as I could see. The plains were covered in hulking wildebeest and our driver, Aven, told us that there were approximately ten million of them stretched out from horizon to horizon around us and that they were currently in the middle of their migration period. Wildebeest were sleeping, eating, mating and staring silently in every direction till they faded away to dark blurry blotches in the distance. There was a grey mass hovering in the sky far off to our right. Though lumpy on top 39
it seemed to extend down to the plains with definitive vertical edges. As our potholed dusty trail led us closer, I stared at the greyness, wondered at its edges, its purpose. At some point we drove into the mass and the arm I dangled out of my window started to become wet as fat drops of rain began to fall. They made resounding smacks against the roof of our van, the windows began to streak dusty trails and we could hear the white noise of rushing as they fell on and below and over and around us. We were engulfed and soon the liquid pellets became a torrent. The windshield wipers would never be able to keep up with. The dirt and rock strewn road became puddle-ridden and perhaps even more treacherous than before. The animals sat unperturbed, the rain could come and go and they would still be there, slowly but surely migrating. And we were out of the rain, on the other side. The ground was dewy fresh and the air crisp. The sun had already begun to dry the plains out again, but there was a brief period of balance. An hour or so later the sun was setting, pinky orange streaked the sky. A few wispy clouds hung low on the opposite horizon, a half moon already rising in the twilight. Silhouetted against the clear colorful backdrop was a group of rocks reaching into the sky, a looming blip in an otherwise flat landscape. On the highest rock sat an ape, his chin resting against the palm of his hand, his elbow propped over his knee, his face turned to the same sunset I observed. Our van slowed in the mucky road and the only sounds were the splashing of wheels in puddles, the occasional stamping of hooves, a bird calling in the distance.
M IKE RUTKOWSKI
THE D EMONS A ND A NGELS O F THE DAY
Through the smoke of the imagination Spinning down towards reality Living in the clouds Finally wipe the tears away Rip this skin right off It just doesnâ€™t fit the soul Barely breathing to share the day With your pretty face saying The words I crave more So now here I am Pity ran low All I want Is a simple distraction But it only feels misdirected Now take my soul away Fiery damnation comes quick with simple words My stolen heart bleeds no more Could I touch this glory all over again? All I want was what I gave to you Cold air feels like the correct answer Dead branches create shadows to find warmth Maybe with a true smile Echoing of color across a painted sky Will say Carpe Diem
LYDIA P ERRY
TYING UP L OOSE E NDS
yesterday morning, over coffee, i found a loose hair of yours in a book you had lent me and I had failed to return. i studied the strand for a few moments – rolled it between my thumb & index finger – and thought about how, when, & where it might have fallen from your head, like Icarus to the sea – wondered how long your hair would go on before turning grey, if by that point we would have made amends, met for coffee, showed you the pictures of my kids, fathered by the husband that was not you, & spoke of our respective professions respective lives that stretched on cat-like in the absence of one another over the years. still I clutched the strand over my third cup of coffee but then found that i could not, i would not entertain those thoughts much longer, PERRY
so I threw out the single remaining thread of you and made plans to sell the book.
JEN H ILL
C INDERELLA M OMENT
I’m STRIPPED of all that make-up All those clothes that make me think I’m Beautiful There is NO cover-up, push-ups or false eyelashes Never again will I wear black eyeliner or eye shadow I hate getting up at five am just to blow-dry my hair Going to the Gym just isn’t my thing I’m no longer hungry And now I wear a size five And I actually like myself One morning I just woke up and said screw it I’m going back to bed And there he was He thought I looked beautiful And I had just gotten out of bed
PERRY - HILL
MOLLY SUTHERLAND R IPENED, D YING
In the blue-black pre morning her body ripens before me turns quickly into something dying like the way you can tell when to make bread from the freckling bananas her denial suffocates any realism this moment cups and she leaves me swallowing my curiosity because when it swells it is too overwhelming to expel in the blue-black pre morning her guilt and her fear and her nightmares become todayâ€™s reality pacing, her soldiering feet beat thick sickness into my chest I wonder what rituals the millions of women performed, how anxiously they paced when their only option was a coat hanger? (how lucky now we women be)
in the blue-black pre morning her body ripens before me turns quickly into something dying
G REAT S TANCHION G AP S OMEW HERE S OUTH OF THE M ASON -D IXON along the sternum of heaving breasted mountains ripe with violet candor there are rivers long and wide where forgotten prayers pile olive drabness of muddy waters flanked by riverbanks where the willow trees weep in rapture with the babbling chortles of the waterâ€™s winking lament there are rivers here long and wide slinking slowly along the sinuous underbelly of rusted-over rail bridges where millions of years of earth have shed their skin scaly and grainy migrating amongst the currents of gravity and tidal whispers. there are rivers here long and wide where forgotten prayers pile miles high where the blades of grass 45
touch the fingertips of the willow trees remembering what it is to feel anotherâ€™s liveness â€“ the only witnesses to the revision of violet breasted mountains ground down to slow and sinuous riverbeds
ATTICUS STEVENS C ONFLICTION
Exit this purple behavior Seeing sin calling you in for a bite Outside gazing farther Taste what loneliness has for a dying sanity Die right here on the fucking floor Smiling unforgettably We have won this endless war Not yet, but it is to be Brave unnecessary depression Shines down like a red blaze It tastes like burning Laugh You smile to embrace the flames Knowing that it only consumes Eye contact through a mirror points the blame Self-destructive suicide; (applause) Grab a tear You know you want this to last Why, you might say There was no fear A simple satisfaction SUTHERLAND - STEVENS
You reach for that soul that waves goodbye Too late to taste the kiss Taken for granted was only everything But he will be missed; (applause) Breathlessly dancing across time Twisting away existence With a glaze to fight the music Rhythm begins to intertwine with life across seas No longer to fear the flesh Goodbye demons across a cloud With no heaven to comfort Only a sound Enter perfection through a lie You remember this now No man but himself shall die Echoing wings from freedom which once created Melting into a burning sky Passed by the wind’s rage For this final goodbye Blind to the rain’s condolences Exit this home to be always forgotten Cold signs of snow, a mother’s blanket I’m still laughing Wondering what happened
NATHAN WADE H ICKS B EHIND C LOSED D OORS
I turned away from my roommates, deliberately pulling my shirt over my head as fast as I could. I was still uncomfortable around them. Strategically, I moved beneath the dim glow of the television and computer, trying to conceal my chest and stomach and the fat that had begun to accumulate there. Where was my towel again? It was still a little unnerving having to root through a series of unpacked boxes and bags. I found it though, my saving grace; I draped it over my shoulders and let it cover my chest, hanging down to unfold around the edges of my stomach. Comfort at last… “Could you move? I’m trying to watch the game,” my roommate said in slurred speech. At least that’s what I thought he said. I looked back at him quickly, his body, too long for the bed, was draped in a leopard print blanket, and his legs dangled awkwardly out from underneath and over the edge of the bed. The other one, more moderately sized, sat cross-legged in a state of near undress, his glasses falling into his lap every once in a while as he swayed back and forth, teetering on the edge of bed, like a blow-up clown. I shook my head openly and moved out of the way, catching a whiff across the room as I did so; stale beer and old vomit burning the inside of my nose. Twelve o’clock in the morning after the first day and the assholes are already piss-ass drunk: this is going to be one hell of a college experience. I tripped over a beer bottle. Fuck-heads, can’t even clean up their own shit. I pushed it to the side; a shower would make me feel better. My first shower. I shivered, I’d heard the stories. My attire resembled nothing of one dressed to bathe. I’m dressed to kill. Cheap, thick, rubber sandals adorned my feet, set so small that every time I moved you could hear the bones rubbing against one another. And around my wrist HICKS
was a bar of soap encased in plastic, a rope drawn about it so I wouldn’t drop it; don’t touch the walls they say. There was a shower cap in my bag and pair of rubber gloves in a box somewhere, but I decided to save myself the hassle. You have to take risks every once in awhile. One of my roommates coughed behind me and I heard a splatter. I’ll probably have to clean that up too. Fuck that, I’m taking my shower. I slammed the door behind me and heard the laughing. It was more like giggling and it wasn’t with one another, it was at one another. If the one with the leopard fetish doesn’t come out of the closet soon I’m dragging him out. I’m not against homosexuals; I just don’t do leopard print. And the other one…well, he’s just close behind. I closed my eyes, for the first time all day. I tried to stop thinking about them. The halls were deserted; it was like walking through a nightmare. I had to pinch myself to make sure I really wasn’t dreaming. Ouch. The doors each evenly distributed, I counted the steps in between them. One step, first door, two steps, second door; I can’t believe college is this fascinating. Moving closer to the right wall, I wondered what would happen if I opened one; one door to destiny, one desire…another agony, death, and denial…I love poetry. I pointed a finger towards the back of my throat; sometimes I think too much. I pushed open the door to the lounge, fresh air filling my lungs, removing the filth that the heat had boiled into me. The chairs looked comfortable; I contemplated sleeping there and decided against it. I needed cleaner surroundings to sleep in: I had seen what they had been doing there earlier. I hate college. The bathroom door loomed ahead of me, its mouth extending to meet me, its tongue lapping at my flesh until I prickled with disgust. It will be okay, you can do this. The door gave to my touch and I stepped in, sandals clapping against the…cement? It wasn’t as bad as I had imagined…at first… I really hope that’s water on the floor. I leapt over the puddle and prayed that its color came from a reflection off 49
the walls. There’s nothing yellow in here though. I tried not to think too much about it and headed towards the stalls. The bathroom door had been hard enough, the stalls screamed at me, an unknown audience shouting in my head; door number one…not one, pick two…four, pick me…I shut the voices out and went for the third stall; the first and second were taken. So I set down my belongings…my gear… and pulled the curtain closed. This is a claustrophobic’s dream, I joked to myself, finding the hook for the towel before reaching for my shampoo to set in the shower. Fuck. Realizing I had left it back in the room I knew I would have to go back for it and quickly considered bringing everything back with me…I have trust issues, so what? I looked down at everything and shrugged, ‘what are you more worried about losing, your pink towel or your lavender shampoo?’ I pushed the curtain aside, only pausing in sliding it back at a series of sounds coming from the first stall. For a moment it sounded like a squeak and then a set of whispers. I stopped and listened until it turned into a soft drumming sound against the side of plastic stalls, at which point I realized what I was doing; you really pick the weirdest times to eavesdrop…some people just like music while they shower. There was a splash, a warm splash, before I threw open the door and began to run down the hallway. I was taking a risk in leaving my towel behind but I figured the faster I went the less chance I had of running into anyone. Looking about as I went, it was almost like watching a dream in reverse. Was I not so worried about what had splashed up and was slowly running down my leg, I would have thought the surroundings near serene in their silence…I didn’t really need those feet. The door creaked as I opened it and I froze halfway across the doorway, light illuminating the room. My roommate, the one with the leopard fetish, was on the other’s bed; was on the other roommate, his legs locked around him chest like a vice. Meanwhile the two of them each holding a pillow (leopard print pillows, of course) were playfully HICKS
hitting each other with them. That wasn’t what my eyes were focused on though. Why are his legs like that? I shook my head and grabbed the shampoo …idiot, don’t ask. Just don’t ask. The door slammed behind me. Like a whirlwind I careened across and through the hallways. I dropped the shampoo twice and my swearing probably woke everyone up, but I didn’t care. Didn’t I read about those things that erase your memory? I couldn’t get the image out of my head as hard as I tried and didn’t hear the laughter from within until I had already stepped into the bathroom. I looked up, and dropped the shampoo again. Okay, a guy in his boxers, nothing big …ok, now a girl in a towel…and…another guy…in a towel. “You’re not going to say anything right?” I heard his question, and there was a long, awkward pause, the four of us standing there silently staring at one another. It was the longest few seconds of my life. I noticed something wrong with the girl, her eyes, a shade of crystalline blue held a very obvious glaze…of what? Drugs? Alcohol? Pleasure? I shook my head. One of the guys, the shorter of the two, must have seen my response because he smiled and put his arm around the girl’s waist. The other one, big enough that I was surprised he fit in the stall by himself let alone with two others, pushed me to the side and stepped past me with the other two in tow. “Fuck you, you better not tell anyone.” I picked up the shampoo and gave them a toothy smile, “Fuck you, too.” I drew the curtain closed behind me again and began fumbling through my bag. My hand brushed against a folded piece of plastic and I brought forth the shower cap smiling. No more risks tonight. I ran the water until steam poured out in clouds. There was a loud clap as my feet, guarded by the thick layer of rubber, hit the pool at the bottom of the stall where the water didn’t drain right. I sighed again and smiled. A shower will make everything better.
NORA TOOMEY F OR SAR A
Man You are You are everything You are everything in between first thought and light Man, You are You are waking You are waking up at fifteen and feeling the pulse of a secret, man You are You are hungry You are fill me up ‘til Sunday crooked feet and lovely suffocate then shove me You are language birthed then smashed Man You are something You are “something in the way she moves”
TO O M E Y
man You are holding You are holding on like water to every card you’ve played then passed
M ARILYN : O N R EADING A FTER THE FALL “Like any number of male intellectuals, Arthur Miller is not always wise when the subject turns to women” - Deborah Solomon I don’t even like the name, Maggie. It reminds me of a tramp or a little girl whining, pulling on the pockets of her father’s suit coat, dancing on his shined shoes at a birthday party. I never even had a father. And I’m no tramp. People say I gave you writer’s block. But you wrote me a climax, and in the dark of our room, I’d sing to you sunrise, while you’d carve on the white of my skin, stage directions. Maggie says things “with open longing and self loss.” I never lost myself, I only got misplaced in the shuffle of mental breakdowns and Hollywood 53
TO O M E Y
blacklists. Have you even asked her to pronounced, ‘communist’? I’m sure her lips would curl on the u and she’d push the ‘kha’ too hard. You used to beg me to say it, with just enough ‘hiss.’ People say I speak too softly. Maggie belts show tunes and invites men to take off their shoes, after just one drink. A pill popping booze hound, she infests my light with whiskey and ‘burn your manuscript’ tantrums. I never asked for your sympathy, your days off, your brilliance. I never took more lines than I should take, never walked ahead or behind, and you, you never felt a dark I could not warm light to.
TO O M E Y
JESSICA D UNN
A TRIP WORTH TAKING
Start at a careful thought, Something sweet like “let’s spend some time together.” Turn left, always left, and stop Where one blue-green eye meets another. Stroll across the bridge, ever so slowly meet at the lips. Pick your way down the graceful slope of the neck and shoulders. Turn left Until you are in the middle of an asphalt stomach. Now find your way through hills and valleys Making sure to touch and caress everything you pass. Now run! It’s thirty city blocks down the legs and they are Tougher Stronger Faster Than you and… They’ll leave you begging to make the trip again And again Mmmm… And again.
A DAY G ONE B Y Inflation. Overspending, under budgeting. Consuming everything. Laughing in spite of someone else. Scratching fingernails on a blackboard Of history repeated and People long passed. Where is the friend who was here yesterday? What happened to the girl next door? Terrorism. Bombs on children. Where are the heroes? Kids with guns. Look, a riot in L.A. See that? The Unabomber strikes again. Oh my, A mob forms outside of the White House. Soldiers invade Iraq. People who are different suffer. Another war, another day.
E RIC AGOSTA I only know her because I hear her cries The tears of a musician who lives alone next door as they shed the sound like the sound of the silence in our apartment building. And her song splinters through my bedroom wall, The same song night after night. It’s called “Champagne for Pleasure” And it sounds like the sound of— 10 glasswork fingers scratching 88 broken ivory keys— and her breath carries the smell of alcohol and vomit, disguised as seventh chords and decrescendos to my ears pressed against the shadows on my side of the wall. And I can tell her voice is gone It sounds like empty raindrops hitting empty raindrops hitting alcohol and vomit. But still, I wait and wait and wait for her fingers to flutter back to sober notes, before I ever think of singing along. Because she needs someone to just listen. So on most nights I don’t sing and instead, on most nights she’s interrupted by a knock on her door by a man who is now a silhouette of low frequencies. His face is a shadow, his skin is a shadow. His heart is a shadow. He carries with the shadow of where his arms used to be boxes of condoms, cartons of cigarettes, and occasionally he has cheap flowers. 57
His frequencies are so low he can only sing bass notes that sound like raindrops hitting raindrops Hitting shadows. And the tone of his voice sounds a helluva lot like someone I used to know. He is there because he needs her body because he is only a shadow and every shadow needs a form to follow. and she stops playing and stumbles over rotting floor-tiles to hold him like a poverty stricken baby first learning to walk towards the closest set of hands. But they are not hands, they are only shadows of hands. And she cannot hold him, because he is only a shadow. All she can do, is cry. And she slurs her words when she sings, asking him why he cant just be there Why he can’t undo this thing he’s left to her Why he can’t just be there for her. And his replies are silent like the city streets outside her window Like the space inside his shadow that goes deeper and deeper Closer to God. And in silence he tells her that he loves her but cannot see her Because his eyes are just mere shadows on a wall And she cannot hear him because his voice still lay on the other side waiting and listening for her fingers to flutter back to sober notes before he sings along. So on nights like this, When she’s all alone inside and crying her song I hold my ear close to the wall AGOSTA
And hear the whimper of staccato insults, The sad screams and threats of broken promises, The sirens of the silent city under the shadow of the nightâ€Ś And when her song is finished And silence swallows her Soul as half rests I hear her heart as it beats, beats, beats through the wall like her bruised knuckles that flail at the shadows only to find that they were never there at all. And I wait to hear one more syllable fall from her quivering bottom lip that smells of alcohol and vomit. Tonight is a night for improvisation, And she is the maestra of pain.
K EEPING UP A PPEAR ANCES if only words looked like you they would stop looking like this.
TRISHA G AISSON C OMATOSE
Like memories of home ancient forest overgrown in my head, alone. Rain drop a child is born like pollen in summer sky precious little time. Cycle The sun, gone away The moon rises in the sky: Old mountain smiles.
D UDLEY L AUFMAN D INNER PART Y
Jeff and Pete been invited for dinner in the house Pete’s father built years ago ‘n Pete had helped. Wealthy folks had bought it big spenders from the east. Yas says Pete, We hauled the lumber up from Marlbro that old truck… Pete drones on while all the time he has his eye on the girl next to him. He leans back so’s he’s a bit behind her, she can’t see him but Jeff can. Pete nips at her ‘n Jeff ‘most busts a gut. Pete says What in the world ails you Jeff… Yas, yas, well we got the stones for the fireplace out’n the brook….. ‘n then he’s nipping again ‘n Jeff’s having a conniption. This goes on for some time and between nips they build the whole house over again, fireplace stone for stone. Then they’re in the living room cigars and brandy. Pete’s got the girl cornered, asks You like Hemingway? ‘n she shakes her head No, so he asks, ‘Want I should take you home?’ She says I’m staying here so Pete asks, ‘You like movies they’s a good show in Keene?’ She says I’ve seen it. 61
So Pete asks Sure you don’t need a ride home? I live here thank you very much. Pete keeps at it. You like plays, they’s a good one in Boston now? ‘n she says not really, besides I’m from New York. Oh too bad. Love to bring you home. Oh no thank you, I am home now. So Pete says Per chance would you like to fuck?
JACQUELINE L AUFMAN
E MPOW ERED POETS S ELF P UBLISH Do you see Maple Trees languishing for a publisher To produce their blazing airy creations? No…On their own authority, colors glow. Naturally. Do Ocean Waves ask for which coast to aim, Should it be rock or sand or cliff? No…They roar in and out as they please. Unendingly. Must Rainbows ask the sun and water Before blending an arched knot of magnificence? Ha…they can’t help themselves. Thankfully. Is whale & dolphin more real because Random House Placed its photo in texts for school children? “See, it’s not real cause it doesn’t look like the one in my book!” Really. LAUFMAN
Is Poem Writer less real because Alfred Knopf Returns them unopened … unread? “Non-academic degree writers need not apply.” Sadly. NO! … Now the non-degree’er emerges more real, No more tepid ticky-tacky images lacking real life. On their own paper they impress from the Universe. Proudly.
MONICA L OUISE D EAN M AD S CIENTIST
September 21, 2000 My wife is filing for a divorce. On the plus side I have managed to become a member of the National Honor Society in the field of cow autopsies. This studies the reaction of people when they realize they have just walked into a cow autopsy room by accident because no one would want to go in a cow autopsy room on purpose. The study shows that most people were horrified and tried to leave the room, but we managed to seal all the doors so that people can only go in and not be able to exit. In other research labs we have found cures for diseases such as leprosy, diabetes, all types of cancer, HIV, and AIDS, etc., but what we found to be most helpful was the cure for schizophrenia. Even though we were still trying to find cures for other diseases such as autism and the common cold, we stopped all those studies because we were satisfied with, as we like to call it, “The Schizo’s Frenia.” During studies we were attacked by the many animal rights activists because we were testing on helpless baby seals, which we then, after their deaths used the nice fluffy skin as coats for out court hearing with the animal rights activists. Unfortunately, we lost the case. We were 63
LAUFMAN - DEAN
almost sure we were going to win because our attorney was the one who defended O. J. Simpson, so we thought we had a good chance, but I guess we lost having something to do with our clothing. I guess we should have gone with the black suits instead of the blue ones. So now our company is not allowed to do any animal testing at all. So we have decided to use humans. Most of our “patients” are homeless people we found on the streets of New York City with the help of one of our scientists who just happens to be homeless himself, so he knew quite a few hobos including his own family, may they rest in peace. That scientist is one of our junior executives. He is the head of the schizophrenia labs. Our studies have proven that a little health shake we made for the schizos is the perfect antidote for any type of schizophrenia. We like to call the shake “Schizo Be Gone.” It is a mix of vitamins, minerals, sulfur, chlorophyll, some peroxide, a touch of pure gold, and is 50% liquid nitrogen. It is very tasty, sort of a strawberry raspberry mix, thanks to our artificial flavoring. Without the flavor we would be lost. See, the first 286 times we tried it, it was on rare bottle nosed dolphins. It didn’t work until we added the flavoring. They lived healthy for 30 days, then all of a sudden died and started to glow. Still it didn’t work. Then we realized that dolphins did not have schizophrenia anyway, so we tried it on a helpless animal that can be diagnosed with schizophrenia, the seal. We couldn’t find any seals with our disease so we grabbed some healthy ones and scared the crap out of them until they suddenly started having unexpected random seizures and died. We got some more and gave them shots with non-sterile needles that had just given some schizos some valium. The seals were showing symptoms within a week. The flavor did, in fact, prove to work. The seals died within 40 days and they showed no signs of glowing until 4 days after their deaths. The vaccine works on humans as well, but they do not die. Our studies must be more accurate next time or someone could get hurt. September 22, 2000 I love chocolate chip ice cream. DEAN
M EGAN WICHLAND C LEAN
I know a boy, his name is Todd. He’s black, midnight, ebony, charcoal black. In the summer, when sweat glistens off his body, you feel like you could run your fingers down his wet arm and his blackness would come off. Revealing naked pink, and transparent white. Sometimes I think that if I rubbed sandpaper on his back the blackness would fall in flakes, like stain from an old wood floor, like splinters from a doorway. Todd doesn’t mind it, being black. But every once and while, when the white children take they’re dirty, sticky fingers and try and smear his blackness off, you can tell it’s not him who needs to be wiped clean.
GREGORY K ELLEY TREE D IAGR AM
Carl slowly counted silently as he passed another coffee shop in the suburbs of Minneapolis. His clenched fists were beginning to quiver in his pockets as he searched the front doors for number fifty-seven. He wasn’t going to let himself get excited, and he probably wouldn’t be overwhelmed with fear, anger and disappointment for at least forty-five minutes. Right after passing a pawnshop, number fifty-seven halted him like a stop sign. He entered the lobby and scrolled the directory. Room H. He stomped up the spiral staircase to the next floor and pulled open a double glass door to enter Room H. He strolled across the freshly vacuumed carpet and up to the secretary. “Carl Eriksson here to see Dr. Heindershuq.” “Okay Mr. Eriksson, Dr. Heindershuq will be with you in a few minutes. You can have a seat right over there.” Carl nodded and walked over to a seat two spaces from another patient and sat down. He doubted these guys could tell him anything about the last five years. But it would happen again, and he know it, and if he didn’t get help, he would end up in an institution. Carl tried to think of different ways to explain his situation that would make more sense, but it was like searching for a car mechanic who won’t rip you off…on Jupiter. “Mr. Eriksson?” called a recent college graduate wearing aqua scrubs. “Right here,” said Carl, as he tossed a People magazine back to a coffee table. The young woman led him a few steps down the hall and into an office. “Carl Eriksson?” asked the psychologist, his right hand welcoming a handshake. “Hi, how are you?” asked Carl, grasping the flaky hand. “I’m great. But the question is, how are you?” laughed KELLEY
Dr. Heindershuq. “Have a seat on that table.” Carl heard the awkward crinkling sound of the table cover as he hoisted himself onto the examination table. “All right…still on the same insurance?” began Dr. Heindershuq, moving his pen down the clipboard and checking off the standard questions. Carl fed back answers and glanced at Dr. Heindershuq’s family pictures of their various trips to Germany. Smiling strangers posing in front of places that were probably tourist attractions Carl had never heard of. He was trying to sound out the name of a bar an elderly woman was pointing at when Dr. Heindershuq’s voice startled him. “All right. So why don’t you tell me about the thoughts you’ve been having lately.” “Well it’s been going on for about a month and a half now, and it just came out of nowhere,” began Carl. “I know this isn’t gonna make any sense, but I’m terrified of...” Carl lowered his eyes, “...tree diagrams.” “What…I don’t think I understand exactly what you’re saying,” said the psychologist. “I know. It makes no sense at all. I’m just horrified of seeing a diagram of a tree. I don’t even like talking about it. This, right now, is hard for me.” “What is a tree diagram?” asked Dr. Heindershuq. “It’s exactly what it sounds like,” sighed Carl. “If I, you know, see a drawing or a picture of a tree with its trunk and leaves and stuff labeled, I just lose it. I feel like my body temperature goes up thirty degrees and I start sweating all over. I have to get away from it as fast as possible and I can’t even go back in the room where I saw it alone for several days.” “Can you describe a situation where this has happened to you, Carl?” asked Dr. Heindershuq. “Yeah.” Carl took a deep breath. “I was at my job the first time. I’m an architect. One of my coworkers brought something she printed off the computer. It was a brochure that showed how another company designed a patio around 67
a willow tree, and how the building had to be built around the tree. I don’t know if you can picture what I mean, but anyway, the tree was all labeled and I started freaking out.” Dr. Heindershuq chuckled for a second then disguised it with a cough. “Well,” he began. “I’ve never seen anything quite like this…” Carl had heard that before. If he’s anything like the others, Carl thought, he’ll ask me the same questions over again for the next twenty minutes and then give a prescription for an anti-depressant. Sure enough, Carl moped out of the front door with a referral to a pharmacy. He pushed the different, yet probably still useless, piece of paper into his pocket. This is ridiculous. At least they didn’t just institutionalize me, he thought. Maybe that’s what I need. Carl curiously eyed the sign at a nightclub across the street. He looked at his watch. 5:36. Shouldn’t be too crowded. He took a seat next to a woman who looked his age, late thirties to early forties. “Can I buy you a drink?” he inquired. “I think I’ve already had enough,” she said between puffs at her cigarette. “How ‘bout just a Coke?” “Sure.” Carl ordered himself a bottle of O’Doul’s Amber. After a minute of casual sipping, Carl turned to the woman. “I know a place, if it’s still open, that’s better than this.” “You lead the way,” she said. “I’m Carl,” he said as he held the bar door open for her. “Meagan,” she replied. “So where are we headed?” “Right here!” Carl smiled, once again holding a door for her. Meagan followed Carl into a pawnshop. “What are we doing here? I thought you said…” “Just look at it! I’ve never been in here before. How did we really know what it would be like? Sure, it said pawnshop on the outside, but what does that mean? It could KELLEY
be ballroom dancing for all we knew!” Meagan turned around and briskly escaped the pawnshop. “This ain’t April Fool’s Day, ya know?” said the pawnbroker. “How much does this cost?” asked Carl, ignoring the comment and holing up a tripod. “That’s fifteen bucks,” said the Pawnbroker with a nervous grin. Carl flicked a twenty-dollar bill out of his wallet onto the counter and ran out of the shop before the broker could give him any change. He broke into a sprint, the tripod swinging back and fourth in his right hand. He kept running until he reached the parking garage he had left his car in. A grin spread across his face as he approached the parking attendant. “I want you to have this,” he said, extending the tripod to the attendant. “What?” said the confused woman. “I think I’m all set, I don’t need that.” Carl broke into a sprint again, this time out of the parking garage. He jumped a five set of stairs and stumbled to the sidewalk outside. Laughing furiously, he raised the tripod above his head and swung it to the curb with all his strength. A crack, a snap and a shatter later, the tripod was reduced to a pod, and Carl kept on laughing and smashing. Pigeons fluttered away to telephone wires. An elderly couple crossed to the other side of the street. When nothing except one third of a tripod leg was left trembling in Carl’s hand, his eyes darted about his surroundings. He saw a sewer drainage grid and dashed to it. He fell to his knees and shoved the broken piece of plastic between the crisscrossing metal, trying to make it fall into the sewer abyss. Finally it fell and a “plop!” echoed from the mysterious below. “I’ve accomplished everything I wanted today…I think,” said Carl with a grin.
K AYTE ELLSWORTH L OS F LIP -F LOPS
The four of us spent our first night in Spain shifting on sunburned skin, the lines on our flip-flopped feet traced with sweat and grime from the streets of Barcelona. This was before we knew the flip-flop is the universal sign of the American tourist. It says: I am American. I probably donâ€™t speak your language, and will never bother to learn it. Please harass me. Tell me you want to sleep with me and my friends. I will take it as a compliment, and continue to be flattered as you pick my pockets. In Granada, I was the first to ditch the flops, embarrassed to be so obvious. Two more pairs were abandoned on the Costa del Sol, and we stopped being asked if we liked country music. The transformation of our group would have been complete, if not for the fourth traveler. Erin, a blue-eyed blonde held out â€˜til the end, while blisters sprouted between her toes, her arches strained beneath the weight of her ELLSWORTH
backpack and the smell of dog shit wafted in her path as she hobbled through the alleys of Seville. Each afternoon over sangria and tapas she would proudly flaunt the developing contrast of red and white stripes on the tops of her feet, clearly tickled to be the most patriotic of us all.
A NOTHER L OVESICK POEM ( JR . HIGH LOVE AFFAIR ) When we were 6 inches shorter and 40 pounds lighter I liked your bowl cut skate board wallet chain. You liked my blonde high lights blue finger nails sock stuffed breasts. You didn’t know they weren’t real because I never told you. We made out in a stairwell once after school. At 21, the thought of your slug tongue jabbing into my mouth turns my stomach. At 12, it stirred up butterflies. 71
When you stopped calling me, I swore: I will never write you another lovesick poem. Ever. Eventually my acne cleared up and the braces came off. Still, every so often my face breaks out, my teeth shift and I get the urge.
LYNN RUDMIN E NDURING
It’s not bad, aging And losing my hearing, admits Ann I swear I heard on the radio A university offered a major Called Humanities and Poultry It’s pretty entertaining, aging I tell her this morning My yoga teacher misspoke. I heard her say Put all your weight on your fate My arms were up over my head Index fingers pointing upward Like that old ‘here’s the church; here’s the steeple’ Game when I thought of my fate ELLSWORTH - RUDMIN
Under me, no longer before me I nearly lurched In a shop’s sunny window Sit we two, past fifty in our lives Sipping mint tea And having one hundred and Eleven years between us And all we still don’t know…
G R ANDSON, L ATE NOVEMBER 2004; L OOKS at just-unwrapped jockey underpants with red waistband looks at the other with blue waistband – chooses blue gets help pulling them on over his pajamas already pulled on over his diapers runs through his evening with Superman-look powerful and ready to protect Metropolis though he lives in D.C. and sirens racket the street all night though he lives in D.C. and neighborhood playgrounds are cemented to so dangerous ground though he lives in D.C., and political signs peel from light poles, darkness prevailing though he lives in D.C. but the president, in wartime, sleeps at Camp David, safer 73
NATALIE FARRES A MPHITRITE
It was stormy that day. The damp June wind Tore along the shore, Whipping my hair into my face. My eyes stung slightly from the Salt lodged in the breeze. Smiling, you grasped my hand and Led me down the beach, the Waves grabbing at our feet, Struggling to tickle our bare toes. Just out of the waterâ€™s reach, We danced. Thunder rumbled in the distance. The wet sand Squished between our toes. The fading sun sank Beneath the endless Line of cresting waves. The sky darkened to the Color of a bruised apple.
FA R R E S
K RYSTINA JUDITH H AJDUCZAK S UMMER C AMP
Hold your breath And don’t Drown too deep. “Trojan Woman,” In her yellow swim cap. Slicking down hair. Sweat. One missing Lost swimmer Her number left hanging, My mouth left dry. Seaweed hair Floating up, Before the body. There’s a reason we run. There’s a reason we sing. There’s a reason we can’t breathe water.
RUSSELL ROWLAND R ABID F OX DAY
Hydrophobia is borne from our garage, At the fullest extent of Animal Control’s Noose-ended pole, auburn legs splayed In rehearsal to be a pelt. The fox is now Chauffeured to the autopsy that kills him. Our fortunate tom remains out of sight Until hyperactivity of blue strobes Has receded. In five house, we are told, And feral saliva remaining on the boards Will dry; microscopic convulsing spores Of our demise, and the tom’s, flicker out Like a last cinder down from stars After July firework’s sulfurous finale. My attachment to this unsafe haven increases, Each time the hearse drives away without us.
A LEX C RANGLE
MY L IFE I N R EARVIEW M IRRORS
I am pulled from all sides at once, or no sides at all. Either seems to have left me balancing on a singularity; on the center of a firm and transparent hole. In the day it rains, and some nights it snows. Radio signals from space, hats in a Gus Van Sant movie; mistakes broadcast toward us. The girl behind me waves at a police car that passes on Texas Street I step outside myself too far and the controls evaporate and as the car rolls over into the warm southern night, I find that I am a stranger, strangely being acted upon. I rented the house outside town about a month ago from an unmarried couple who lived next door. It was the beginning of the fall and I had been doing security work for a traveling music festival up and down the east coast. We’d spent a few late hours soaking up drinks at an Irish pub in Roanoke, Virginia. Soon, I found myself getting a ride through downtown at three in the morning with no money and no left hand, my left leg soaked in blood. An off duty cab picked me up and I remember two fuzzy red dice bouncing and dangling on golden string from the rearview mirror as I stumbled inside. It was a Cake lyric: oddly rhymed testicles dangling above blue vinyl bench seats. I coughed and the cab sped away. The driver’s little silver phone rang and he answered quietly in a language I didn’t understand. He dropped me off at the hospital like it was a common and understood part of his service. I felt his gloved hands on my collar as he dragged me to a blue chair where my face pressed against a thin metal arm providing no rest. I heard Neil Young above the muddled intercom and other hospital beeps and buzzes …thinking about what a friend had said, I was hopin’ it was a lie… the driver spoke quietly on his phone. Hearing almost nothing past Neil Young and a piano, they bandaged my arm. 77
I couldn’t have paid him. They never found my hand. It fell from the crash like a needle knocked off a table into the thick knit of a rug. My friend Andy picked me up at the hospital with a gin and tonic in his hand. He had been selling grilled sandwiches and Jagermister in the new hippie fashion at a harvest festival. My car was totaled so Andy drove me all the way back to Vermont. I stayed at Julie and Sean’s for two weeks while I looked for a place and tried to relearn Tetris until the joints in my hand popped and ached. My stump was no use. I soon found the blue-gray house, recently available on the corner of a tight residential loop. The landlord handed me the keys with a slight reluctance that confused me. I moved off Julie’s couch in a smell of baking bread that filled me for a second and was gone. The house had been built in the early eighteen hundreds and had been renovated too many times. The cheaply framed doors and windows were painted the same green of every wall. The scarcely mounted lights stuck out at neck level with bare bulbs that I soon removed. The ceiling on the second floor was only a few inches from the top of my head and one of the rooms was too big to be a closet but too small to be a bedroom. I wanted to bolt furniture to the ceiling and paint it dark purple; I’d make an anti-sitting room. “No dude. Tilt it to the left. To the left!” Devlin is struggling with the heavy end of a blue lazy boy recliner. I’m pulling from above the steps and I notice how warn and cracked the leather has become. Entire hand-sized strips and patches were barely hanging on. It had been my dad’s chair for as long as I can remember and was now handed down to me; a tattered leather heirloom. It had stopped raining for a day but started again last night. Today was the last day of the lease for my storage unit in town so the chair had to be moved. During the ten-minute drive with it tied to the roof of my Volkswagen, the sewed-on CRANGLE
cushions soaked up gallons of water, and Devlin, to spite my directions, can’t seem to fit it through the front door. “Put it down, man. Put it down.” Devlin drops the chair onto the wooden back legs and I hear one crack under the weight as he takes a loud breath. “I can’t handle this shit. I’m stuck out here in the cold never-fucking-ending rain and look, this shit went out.” A drop of rain had extinguished the burning end of the joint hanging from his mouth. He tucks it with damp hands into his flannel shirt pocket and takes another deep breath. I tell him he shouldn’t be smoking out here and he slouches under the pressure of the rain. I tell him that if we roll the chair onto its side it’ll fit through the door but suddenly he drags it off the stoop and throws it into the lawn where it makes a dull muddy splash. Devlin’s checkered flannel is completely soaked as he looks at the chair soiled in the grass. He looks at me, still slouching, and says, “Fuck it. That chair was fucked anyway. We’ll go to Goodwill for a better one when the rain stops. It’s gotta break soon. We can just leave this piece of shit out here.” He walks by me into the house, removing the joint from his pocket and with wet fingers flicking a wet lighter. He gets frustrated too soon and throws the lighter across the room. It makes a dull, cracking sound and I hope fuel isn’t leaking too close to a heating unit, or a sparking outlet. This house feels like it might burn at any second. I once had a nightmare about a fire at a gas station. A shiny new Beetle became completely engulfed in flames at the sound of a cell phone ring. The driver was some anonymous middle-aged woman getting a call from her daughter. “Hi Mommy,” and static electricity ignites leaking fumes from a weak grip on the nozzle and she is shrouded in a mantle of flames, then trapped inside a thick plastic dome that falls from above. In the kiosk, I see the gas attendant’s hand hovering over a big red button before he goes back to his egg salad sandwich, indifferent. When I look up, there’s a dome over my head too. 79
I follow Devlin inside and hear him moving upstairs. My breath clouds and condenses as I look out the window at the chair drowning on the lawn. Memories bubble to the surface. When I was nine or ten, I was sitting in my dad’s lap watching Star Trek reruns and I had a foot dangling near the reclining gears. He got up suddenly and two pieces of greasy metal closed around the end of my big toe like a pair of pruning shears around the neck of a sapling. They found it and sewed it back on. I remember a thousand midday naps curled up with a small blanket. I remember having sex in that chair one night in high school when my parents were gone. The retractable ottoman swung out in front and broke in half, tearing out screws on either side, exploding the cheap fiberboard it was made of. We rolled over the remains and onto the floor. I hear something else in the house crack and grumble and I hear the rain through the window beating on the taut wet skin of the chair and I remember that I sold my guitar to help pay the deposit on the house. I’d never play again and needed the money. I watch the chair die a watery death, knowing that it’s only a chair, and this is how they die. We blame the acid rain on the automotive industry and its geographic location, loading the barrel of the jet stream with acidic chemical rounds that empty over New England and Quebec. Soon after the beginning of the rain, I read about a woman who learned of the rising acidity of rain and refused to go outside. It had been raining for thirty-six days when they found her one morning, her body blocking her own front door. In the fall, her head had smashed a mosaic of framed family photographs from church steps and Bermudan beaches. They found massive keytones in her urine which means her body had begun eating away its own muscle and organs; she was starving. A car had knocked out a telephone poll in front of the house and there was a mistake during the repair that CRANGLE
rendered her phone dead. They believe she waited by the front door until she passed out or fell into the photographs lodging pyramid shards of glass into her brain. They found later that she had chewed at the antennae and telephone wires for some reason. She had eaten her cat with Big Billy’s Old Time BBQ sauce and had multi-colored specks of wire sheathing stuck in her teeth. I moved into her house a month later with only minor changes to the furnishings and decorations. The woman, whose name I learned was Darla, had lived in this house for thirty years. Her son (my landlord) and his girlfriend live in the blue house next door. Darla had, in fact, mothered three children in this house, and though not convicted, poisoned one husband. Her preset channels are still programmed into the vintage antenna receiver. Darla had an affinity for a shade of avocado green. The shade of green on the phone matched the cotton stuffed vinyl toilet seat cover matched her shoes with the little silver buckles. They had taken all of her personal effects away, but I found the shoes in a closet under the stairs that no one seemed to know about. There was a shoebox of photos. Some family photos, some of her husband in WWII or Korea, most had just faded into an indiscernible coffee brown sepia-stain of age and none were of Darla herself. After finding the box of photos and the shoes with the silver buckles, I had a dream about Darla. In it, somehow, I knew how she would look. In a matching shade of green with black and white trim, she wears the suit of a flight attendant. Her bulky brown curls break up the horizontal arcs of light that come through the window behind her. Her face is dark and I notice that she’s crying, holding a copy of the weather report in one hand and in the other, the vinyl jacket for Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, which crackles and plays in the next room. I ask but Darla won’t come outside. Devlin put his hand on my shoulder and apologized for the chair. He looks out the window but doesn’t know or 81
see its long life and death, but I tell him not to mention it. I think maybe I can get him to buy me a new one, but then I forget about it and take a long drag from the soggy joint he hands me. We both look out at a street and a chair and a world that seems to be melting away with the rain, making the glass pane bleed transparent blood. The riverbanks and mountainsides are eroding into the rivers, into the ocean, a tempered chocolate landscape melting over a gasoline fire, Lindt balls of dark chocolate napalm fly in an arch toward us, but are realized only to explode over small Japanese fishing villages. I drop the white venetian blind, maybe the only thing in the house not painted a shade of avocado green, and maybe the dump truck will pick up the chair sometime this week. Julie and Sean invited me over for breakfast because in the six weeks since I moved off their couch I‘ve seen them only once, at a party I barely remember. Julie is wearing red socks that bunch at her ankles in a way that matches the color and bunch of Sean’s turtleneck. When I lived with them I noticed that everything in their relationship seemed to match in the odd way of socks and turtlenecks. They would drink mimosas with their morning eggs. Sean from a tall, thin, champagne flute and Julie, a little at a time like whiskey in a snifter that Sean refills until the ice can just barely float. It makes me want to float like ice in orange juice in September. After the car accident, I tell them, I was never able to find the girl from the backseat. I had picked her up a few miles down the road. She jumped out of the bushes at a stop sign and into my back seat. She told me I had no choice but to give her a ride. In a dream, she sells shoes at a country club and I’m seventeen again. She urges me not to buy the black golf glove in my hand. I don’t say anything but she knows my question, and tells me she just doesn’t know. I buy the glove anyway and walk out the door towards the green plateau of the tee. CRANGLE
On my way off the road there was a solitude where I seemed to grow only more profound. Touch and sight became dilute and distant; I relinquished a search. The inertia in the car doubled over into the humid southern night and I woke up, feeling a palm and fingers that weren’t there. It was an emotionless moment that exploded and quickly distilled into a false, placating catharsis; a self-recognizing and selfdestroying tranquility. I walk home from Julie and Sean’s around eleventhirty and prop open the top of Darla’s record player, which has the turntable sunken inside a giant wooden chest, speakers built into panels on either side. I put on The Velvet Underground, White Light, White Heat and fall into the black beanbag Devlin donated to replace my crucified chair. He tried to explain that the chair had really been destroyed by the sins of my life and not by his foot or its stubborn bitterness. He probably scraped this beanbag off some dark corner of his apartment. I can’t believe I’m sitting in it. But, I feel a strange need to cover Darla’s couch with a sheet before I settle into it. Maybe I’ll buy one tomorrow. I drift off to a cathode ray tube hum and the hypnotic rhythm of the rain on the tin roof and soon, I see my father, still boasting and joking about my golf game at holiday parties. Over melted ice gin I shoot a seventy-three on a bad day but can only masturbate with my right hand.
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NeverA Slow News Day. 87
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Published on Feb 28, 2013