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WRITING IS NOT NECESSARILY SOMETHING TO BE ASHAMED OF, BUT DO IT IN PRIVATE AND WASH YOUR HANDS AFTERWARDS. - ROBERT H EINLEIN I HATE QUOTATIONS. TELL ME WHAT YOU KNOW. - R ALPH WALDO EMERSON -

11th Edition

F

Spring 2006


EDITOR Molly Sutherland P RODUCTION M ANAGER Ivy Page L AYOUT E DITORS Molly Sutherland Lee Webster A DV ISORY E DITORS Dr. Liz Ahl Scott Coykendall Dr. Paul Rogalus A SSOCIATE E DITORS Nicole Bailey Diane Blaisdell Heather Klotz Stephanie Maloof Adam Skawinski Cassie Stone A SSISTANT E DITORS Ivy Page Miranda Perry Craig Rebele Nora Toomey B USINESS M ANAGER Ivy Page Molly Sutherland C OV ER A RT Molly Sutherland

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 should be no more than 2,500 words per piece; poetry (up to 4 pieces) may be any length, any style. Micro-Fiction should be 500 words or less. Submissions should be e-mailed as attachments to poetswriters@mail.plymouth.edu. 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, Biederman’s Deli, Rodney Eckstrom, Scott Coykendall, Dr. Paul Rogalus, and the PSU English Department. We would especially like to thank Dr. Liz Ahl, our advisor, without whom this would not have been possible.

Poets and Writers 19 Highland Ave. Suite A14 Plymouth, NH 03264 (603) 535-2236 poetswriters@mail.plymouth.edu


CONTENTS 1 1th E d i t i o n

Two Young Women Singing in Church Explaining the Accident to Richard South Main Ice Cream Shoot From The Hip Some Bad Bad-Ass Woman I Have Seen Lately The Gentles 9 Angela Ricciardi 11 Michael “Warrior” Bonds My Last Poem A Course Through Literature 13 Madeleine Muska Bury Me with Wildflowers 14 Lisa Busch Nana Loco The Morning of the Death of Julio 17 Tim Sacco Arcadia Last Blues 23 Mary Chivers Portrait Whaikiti 27 Molly Sutherland Soccer Mom 28 Krystina Hajduczek Twitter-Jawed 36 Chrissy Brown Bird Song Bloom Untitled 40 Krystina Hajduczek Stop My Heart 46 Megan Wichland Stage Two: Anger 48 Nora Toomey Revised Burial 50 Jordan Davis Before Columbine, after Robin Hood, 53 Ryan McLellan long after Lincoln Street Elementary silent (belief) 56 Miranda Perry Memento Wedded Nights 58 Jodi Van Praet Fear 1 3 5

Don Wharton Scott Coykendall Kelli Thompson


DEDICATED TO DON WHARTON PRESIDENT OF PLYMOUTH STATE UNIVERSITY

It is with heavy hearts that we at Centripetal bid farewell to President Don Wharton. For thirteen years he has been an active, guiding voice on our campus and his support of this publication has been greatly appreciated. President Wharton, we wish you the best and hope that you and your wife, Carol, journey forward with good health, high spirits and open minds. Thank you for spending the last years of your accomplished career here at Plymouth State University. You will be sorely missed... but never forgotten.


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TWO YOUNG WOMEN SINGING IN CHURCH DON WHARTON Vermeer. A scene for Old Masters. Who understood flesh and light, How youth fructifies: Who were young, stylishly arrayed, The long hair curled from bright brows, Their bodies slim but round, round In plaid blouses. They sat close. Were they, I thought, sisters? Lovers? They shared a hymnal, sang Their faces inclined to each, mouths Like young birds who hunger, Their Alleluia a perfect, sensual round. Under shining panes I search for forms. Here & now have no warm wings That brood, no hope Of paradise, no loss of Eden. Beauty, grace descend From the pear tree, rise In the flowering haw. Color springs to shape from human hands In touch, in growth, mouths a body’s song To dust, to death, the longing spirit Confessed of life, the flesh Consumed in celebration of our Selves, beauty, Our singular grave. The loveliest of earth endures As Christ endures in dogwood,

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The dove flaming in the arms of lovers Who war for breath and blood. The music ends, the singers disappear. Who gave a Eucharist of days Wheel in the memory White wings Sudden Against a mountain’s green.


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EXPLAINING THE ACCIDENT TO R ICHARD SCOTT COYKENDALL All day long, falling then rising, my hands describe the motion of his death: the way my brother’s teeth ground against the lake, his jaws gripping at air already spent. Drop by drop, I need to tell my friends about the promises a dying man believes to the end, of hands not seen, the night only a kick or two away. In this, I am like my brother: something final moves through my hair, beneath my arms, down my shoulders and down. And I do not believe any of this. As I row into the story, Richard knows, by now, that someone will stand to pull the anchor, the boat will flip, my brother and my friend will be down there for hours. From the banks of his sofa, Richard leans forward like slough grass into the parable. A woman’s son was bitten by a viper, he says, and strikes a match for his cigarette. She asked the Buddha to bring back his little life. The Buddha said he needed just a mustard seed, “Only, be certain that it comes from a household free from grief.” For a while, we walk the valleys and the towns, leaf shadows lap apartment walls and each time the story is the same. For your son, I would give even my last mustard seed but there was

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our daughter...our father...our sister who never woke for the harvest. In time, Richard rises from the couch and in his story, the woman and the Buddha cry together. He knows that what the heart releases, the body cannot stop reaching for. For my hands, he offers a beer, a book, a cigarette. They are still open, still ready to pull the bodies into the air. If I had such a seed, he says.


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SOUTH M AIN ICE CREAM K ELLI THOMPSON 12 year olds wearing short shorts Brittney Spears inspired tops braless babies show flat bellies on Main Street, lick sweet chocolate cream pose with hands on stick-straight hips waving at pick-ups pumping arms up/down A garbage truck passes HONK HONK Hairy chested men ride on running boards frayed baseball caps soft belly skin flaps over belt buckles mirrored sunglasses ogle out the window reflecting girls’ smiles smoke stained teeth suck cigarettes— grin with satisfaction

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SLAP SLAP High fives and giggles cheerleading jumps Yes! Yes! Yes! Sweet cream slips out of the cone falls to the sidewalk


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SHOOT FROM THE HIP K ELLI THOMPSON I need to say Thank-you to The girl with long blonde hair For showing you to me. Last New Year’s Eve Sitting alone in an armless chair Feeling like a mute at Mardi Gras Facing the two of you laughing On a blue velvet couch Her perfect white teeth flashing On and off, like a cheap motel sign And you, the one man show Gesticulating like a comedian on crack Ice crashes in my vodka glass Laughter explodes from the kitchen A record needle scrapes across vinyl, I cross the room Reaching for a Rick James record Super Freak Super Freak She’s Super Freaky Dancing alone I create a small bonfire with my hips The glow catches your eyes, And quick as a tom cat down a greased poll You’re up off that couch Shaking ALL over the room Straight towards me

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SOME BAD BAD-ASS WOMAN I HAVE SEEN L ATELY K ELLI THOMPSON Cropped silver curls Tinted owl glasses Pixie pretty face— An apple pie warm smile She carries a pink purse With a monogrammed “F” And she’ll tell anyone who asks It stands for “Fuck you, George Bush” Handcuffed in Senator Gregg’s office For protesting the death Of 25,000 Iraqis Every Saturday morning she holds A peace vigil in Plymouth In rain, frost, or sun Faith in the force of one


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THE GENTLES A NGELA R ICCIARDI I pointed and asked, “What’s this?” I thought he said “Gentles: Those are your gentles.” Had my father not embraced my interpretation, I probably would have called them my privates Or my front bum or something even less evocative of what really lived between my little legs. He let “gentles” represent what he might have seen as my most delicate treasures. Maybe he wanted me to see myself that way so I’d never let anyone hurt me there or anywhere else on my baby pink flesh, the very flesh that he shuddered to imagine in the hands of clumsy boys in the years that would follow.

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Maybe he wanted me to think of my body like that— like it should be handled gently. Maybe he imagined, all too well, a day when someone else might not.


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MY L AST POEM MICHAEL “WARRIOR” BONDS I want to dance like I once did in talent shows when I was 12 years old, I want to get on and spit on every open mic as if this is my last poem. I want to kiss as if my tongue was a convict in a life or death struggle to escape, I want to make love like a gourmet chef preparing a blue ribbon birthday cake. I want Whitney to surrender and sing the song of her life I want Mr. Brown to continue to support his wife I want her next album to go platinum I want the title to be Houston We Have A Problem I want to eat with Jesus at the last supper because my soul is starving. I want Bobby Brown to continue being a reality show I want to make love in fresh snow But first things first I want the last to last long enough to finish first, I want to be the executor of the will to assure the meek will indeed inherit this earth. I want everyday of my life to be a new beginning, And in the beginning I want to find just the right words to articulate my position. I want every poet to be proud of what they have written, I want the band to play on without an intermission I want the audience to listen to every spoken word, I’m a poet, damn it, I just want to be heard.

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I want to spit as if I drank a mixture of Tabasco, jalapeùos, Alka Seltzer and battery acid, I want to adopt and be the father figure of every little black bastard. I want to own my own and master 179 slave mentalities, In my official capacity I want to impregnate these open minds and breed 180 intellectual offspring. I want to pen a proclamation to emancipate my whole cipher of 360, I want them all to free me. I want my daughter to marry a Steve Urkel type with a pocket protector I want her to be happy, I want him to protect her. I want to breathe carbon dioxide, I want to exhale oxygen, I want to plant a seed in a liar’s earth, Then watch the truth grow in sin. I want to go home, I want this to be my very last poem. Yeah, right!


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A COURSE THROUGH LITERATURE M ADELEINE MUSKA Holden Caulfield called Said he fucked up again The God damn prep schools Only made for characters that have A Separate Peace of mind New England is great like that Producing educated profanity artists That never learned From looking at the Picture of Dorian Grey Carl Marx could swear we’d rise above In this Brave New World But thanks to the year 1984 We saw that we failed We’re all just kids Trying to protect kids in rye fields

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BURY ME WITH WILDFLOWERS LISA BUSCH Not in a row of stone with my name and dates. Don’t make me another headstone. Harold and Maude sit on graying bones buried beneath pearly marble, but they will not be mine. Bury me beneath the sunflowers and daisies, where I can lie, unbothered, unmarked, unnoticed. Remember me in memories, photographs on the mantel of minds. Don’t give me a grave, a plot, a cement block of “loving mother and grandmother.” Bury me with wildflowers and let my soul fly with golden petals on a godly wind past lovers and children, into the arms of whatever awaits me.


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NANA LOCO LISA BUSCH I. I was 10 when I first asked my mother about the crazy, colorful, strange woman who sat on the windowsill across the street from the local diner. They called her Nana Loco with cigar smoke billowing around her frayed shoelaces, long lengths of beads dangling down the rough skin on her neck. She spent her days whispering memories to the ageless air, calming the cold stones of her windowsill with her rickety voice. No matter if the ground froze over beneath her feet or if the rain splattered across her eyeglasses in swirled patterns of wet she was always there. II. I was 14 when I first stopped to listen to her milky speech and everyday she would tell me about love, friendship, fun, life. Nana Loco would tell her stories as if they had happened to her yesterday and she would call me “Ma cherie� in a fake French accent. I imagined Nana Loco dressed up in gold getting offered drinks in Paris, flirting with the British guard and trying to make them smile,

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pedaling a bicycle through the crowded streets of Beijing, singing in a glitzy piano bar in New York City. Nana Loco was timeless and whether her stories were true or not, I looked up to this raggedy and withered lady, this woman who refused to grow old, who lived in the recesses of her mind, where she could be 20 forever. III. I was 19 when she disappeared. Some said she froze to death, others claimed they just woke up and she was gone. I believed that Nana Loco had become her stories that she loved to tell, she had simply weaved her way back to Milan and London. Her windowsill was vacant except for a few cigar butts and her yellow-tinted glasses. I picked them up, placed them over my grown-up eyes, and saw Nana Loco, her world, and for the first time ever, I saw life.


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THE MORNING OF THE DEATH OF JULIO A RCADIA TIM SACCO And into the dark endless depths of the sea that was harnessed and contained inside of Julio Arcadia’s baby blue coffee cup, he poured a splash of cane liquor from a tipped bottle held above the steaming abyss, sweetening the black coffee he had made himself to start off this average Tuesday morning. It was mid-May, and as he acknowledged the beautiful day that rested on the other side of the door he scrunched his upper lip, scratching the tip of his nose with his grey charcoaled moustache that was a little more aged and faded than the hair resting above his head. Spreading butter churned from goat’s milk onto a fresh piece of banana bread with one hand, he casually unfolded the newspaper with the other, looking at the news headlines, reading the dregs of humanity and society that made him question the existence of purpose in this melancholy life that he lived. Through an open window above the kitchen sink, he could feel the wind. It had come off of the Pacific Ocean, passing through the harbor. The salt water breeze then made its way through the center of town, down a desolate street or two that smelled like garbage or rotting flesh. It looked at the boarded up windows of the sugar-cane refineries and the drunkards passed out, face down, on the curb from the night before, singing in their sleep. It blew past the edge of industrialization and into the long, knee-high, unkempt grass of Columbia’s fields, and continued through the growing cane and underneath the wings of weightless butterflies. From there it blew up the hills, around the weak frames

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of the bitter almond trees and through the pink and white flowers on their branches. It finally reached the top of the hill, gracefully carrying itself through Julio Arcadia’s window. But the best thing about this more than typical Tuesday in May was that it would be a beautiful day to die on. And when Julio Arcadia looked back tomorrow from the afterlife, he would thank the saints that it wasn’t raining. Finishing his banana bread and coffee, he put his cup down on a saucer next to a pink ashtray one of his daughters had made him many years ago. Julio Arcadia just stared at the mug, running his index finger around the smooth rounded edge and the white indent where the ceramic had chipped away. Motivating himself, he let out a deep groan as he stood up from his chair and walked across the small kitchen, feeling the old hardwood floor creak and shift beneath his heavy body. Mentally battling a hangover from the night before, he entered the washroom, feeling 90 some-odd pesos dancing and singing in his pocket. He stood in front of the sink, and after mixing the shaving cream, he spread it across both his cheeks, under his neck, and on his chin. Today he was determined to look nice because today he was planning on taking his grandson out to a cockfight for his 8th birthday. He would never make it there. Looking at himself in the mirror, Julio Arcadia could not see that he would drop dead in the middle of the sidewalk, in front of the butcher’s shop, from a heart attack, just eight or nine minutes after leaving his home. He didn’t


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know that his skull would split open on the curb because his thinning grey hair would be unable to cushion his fall. The scent of freshly slaughtered swine would mask the sea-breeze of the morning’s air, and the sound of knives made for slaughter being sharpened on whet stone would drown out the screaming crowd, that would rush over from all edges of town, trying all they could to resuscitate the dying alcoholic. Julio Arcadia could not read the future by looking into his reflection. He just looked into the mirror, into his own eyes, hazel, hidden beneath his olive skin. He just looked, trying to grasp any possible sign of youth, but found none. Without looking down, his hand found the strait razor on the sink. He brought it up and began shaving away the rough shadow from his face. So carefully, yet so casually, just like every morning, sliding the long blade across his cheeks and under his chin, the same routine. But there was something different about Julio Arcadia’s routine today, something he hadn’t experienced in a very long time: pain. “Shit!” he swore at himself and at his aging hands and at his dying eyes in the mirror as a fine stream of blood trickled from a cut on his chin, down the aged lines in his neck and getting lost in the graying hair on his chest. Leaning over the sink and cupping his hand, he took water running from the faucet and splashed it onto his chin. He watched it drip, the watery blood, landing on the plain of white porcelain, circling around in the flowing water and down the sink, into the labyrinth of pipes that tunneled deep

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beneath his house. Still, the open wound bled. He grabbed a somber black cloth from a bar next to the sink and wiped up the life that was slowly seeping out of his wound. Walking into the kitchen, he opened the cupboard and grabbed a bottle of rum. Pulling the cork out of it, he took a quick swig, and feeling the burn spread down his throat, he poured some onto the cloth and began gently and soothingly rubbing it onto the cut in a circular motion, wincing at the alcohol’s sting. It traveled up his face and past his forehead, like being struck by a blunt object atop his skull, leaving him with a headache that felt like he was hemorrhaging deep inside his brain. He took another big swig from the bottle and placed it back in the cupboard, right next to his worn Bible, a more-than-half empty bottle of Sangria, a couple candlesticks that had only been used once (on the day of his wedding), and his revolver from the great civil war (which was fought by his father’s generation) that was so old and used, Julio Arcadia doubted it would ever fire again. He went and finished shaving and washing and then walked back across his small kitchen and into his even smaller bedroom, saying good morning to a picture of his deceased wife hanging above the head of the lonely queen size unmade bed. He thought of the day she died, 24 years ago, while giving birth to their last child, who also did not survive long after her birth. It had been raining that day; the raindrops had slanted into the small door of the house


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as Julio Arcadia had run outside in a frenzied tempest of emotions and fainted from shock, face down in mud and dead leaves that had fallen with the season beneath the quivering frame of the almond tree in the front yard. From off the bedroom floor, he picked up a wrinkled white collared shirt, still stained with wine from the night before, and possibly the night before that (he could not remember), and slowly Julio Arcadia buttoned it over his rapidly failing chest, covering his decaying heart cavity, and then tucked it into the wrinkled khaki pants he had been wearing when he awoke this morning. Looking into a mirror over his dresser, he ran a comb through his ghostly thinning hair atop his head and gave his sloppy dress his own halfassed approval, pretending not to notice the dark wine stains on his shirt and not caring that one of his socks was blue and the other one grey. He walked out of his room and looked at the towering monolith of a clock at the end of the hall, ticking unpredictably as its arm swung like a pendulum and the rusty gears inside grinded against one another. He cursed the name of God as he realized that he was running late. He quickly grabbed his tweed coat off of the coat hanger, checked for the essentials: house keys in his left pocket, cigarette case and matchbook in his right, and a half empty flask in the inside pocket by his chest (his chest that would, in the end, fail, leaving him dead in the middle of the sidewalk, bleeding profusely from his frail skull and the cut still fresh on his

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chin from shaving, and all before he got to wish his grandson a happy birthday). He slipped his feet into a fatigued pair of dress shoes that he had bought for his wife’s funeral. He had continued wearing them, ever since, for leisure. Finally, he opened the door and a golden white light beamed from the sky, as the blistering Columbian sun began foretelling his death to come. He took a big gasp of ocean air and, without recognizing that the air in his lungs had been dead for a very long time, he let out a lifeless breath and exclaimed to himself, “What a beautiful day!” And with that, Julio Arcadia, while humming a hymn of liberation that he had learned in his childhood, shut the door and began the eternal walk to his grandson’s house. And now, the house is silent, people go about their Tuesday as if it were last Tuesday or next Tuesday, ignoring the rising and setting sun, and the dust sings songs of grace as it starts to gather on Julio Arcadia’s belongings.


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L AST BLUES M ARY CHIVERS It’s fall again in the blueberry field. Rusty leaves cling to low bushes where I fill my bucket for the last time this season, my motions repetitive, remembering, as I always do, my neighbor, Florence. She spent her whole life on this hill, taught me everything I know about picking clean and watching mountains from the front door. She avoided trips to town, even for a movie. What do I need to see that for? I have plenty to look at right here. I keep two photos of her: one from a newspaper taken during the first world war of two little girls, Florence and her sister, in pinafores, lard buckets hung over their arms. The article explains they picked three hundred gallons of blueberries to buy war bonds for the troops.

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The other shows her smiling up from our field in her eighties her bucket full of blue. Here’s your Ma at eighty-five she wrote her children still so glad to be alive. Late one night in August my husband and I watched from the darkened attic as the sky exploded, nearly blinding us, then flickered like a black and white movie as thunder pounded us with shocks so close they rocked the house. The storm circled our hilltop for nearly an hour. One bolt struck the well. The next day I learned she died during the storm. It was as if the earth knew, responding with a passionate greeting and farewell.


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PORTRAIT M ARY CHIVERS Fred arrived, a fat, black sausage, when Peter was six. They learned to swim that summer charging after sticks or diving under the brown river for the silver discs of aluminum cans. His names mutated rapidly: Frud, Bubba, Fubbus, Foobie, Fubba. A farter, cocklicker, lumber underfoot, a fawner, his breath so bad near the end we had to pull him away from strangers. Food almost did him in more than once. As a pup he pushed into another dog’s bowl. She clamped his whole head in her jaws and shook him like a rat arcing blood from ceiling to floor. The vet said he was lucky She’d missed his eye, though his breathing took on a new flutter that turned to a chug when he swam, his head seal-like, velvet, his tail still wagging behind.

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He’d eat almost anything. Nearly died from a poison frog. Loved rolling in putrid flesh. Would follow me into the fields and snuffle up blueberries like a bear. At last he seldom kept anything down. His ribcage emerged rippling the black hide and his hind legs went separate ways. Every night we half carried him upstairs. Still, come morning, tail aloft he licked and relicked the bowl his collar clicking. It seems to me now we swam through all those summers the taste of New Hampshire water sweet on our tongues while his tail flung rainbow drops in perfect figure eights that hung for a moment in the bright air.


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WHAIKITI MOLLY SUTHERLAND dialog and the narrow construction of what resembles a bridge hours of you hurting and silently wailing beneath your words palm trees bending, nearly bowing take ear and discover you eloquent in some sigh they emit together

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SOCCER MOM K RYSTINA HAJDUCZEK Today is not one of those days that I feel like a man. Baby under one arm, baby bag under the other, I stand at my sister’s soccer game surrounded by women. Women, or rather, soccer moms. The woman next to me screams at decimal ten. “Susie! Defense!” I try to close the ear closest to her. “Big D, Susie, c’mon!” I pull my baby sister closer to me. “Is that your daughter?” What a mistake. “She’s fabulous isn’t she?” I don’t think that this is a question I really have a choice with. “Susie’s so excited about being halfback. Practices all the time. Loves it.” Yeah, and I’m sure she’ll love the therapy years later. “Good for her.” I try to beam, as I’ve seen the other mothers do. It probably makes me look creepy. “Which one is yours?” “Molly Ensign. Ponytail, tall—” “I know Molly. She’s—“ and for the next few moments I stand there and nod, still beaming as I hear how much Molly has improved, what a great team player she is, not caring if she’s benched so another snot-nosed kid can run around. It’s so boring I think I would have traded my baby sister, Mary, for a plasma screen TV. Even just a little one. All around are mothers who consider screaming at their uncoordinated kid ‘quality time’. Mostly it’s women who have no lives, except for the one they’ve imagined for their


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kids. My mother would never have been that selfish… Across the field I see Treena Halter standing by the refreshment stand. Not a mother herself, she baby-sits for the Laurences. Her charge, Leon, is playing foward, streaking up the field. Treena watches him with calm appraisal, cheering only when necessary and not to just live her own soccer dreams. Medium height, nice hips, eyebrow ring, curly blue hair…she stands out from the middle aged women. I’ve always liked Treena, with her calm attitude and odd looks. She has a sharp, pretty enough face. Her eyes bug me, she never seems to look right at someone, and then, bam, she locks onto their gaze. As soon as she looks you in the eye, you notice the eyebrow ring. Then it boils down to an ADD test as the ‘shiny thing’ dances at the corner of your vision. Threading my way around the field is difficult work. The baby and bag are weighing me down, making it feel like football practice again. I imagine pushing through the soccer moms like a lineman. It gives me a sort of grim satisfaction. Under my arm Mary lets out a gurgle. I hold her tighter, hoping it’s the right thing to do. Up ahead, Treena stands, arms crossed, cheering now and again. She shivers a bit and reaches into her pocket for her gloves. One flutters to the ground and I fall a little more in love with her as she bends over to get it. “Treena?” She straightens up, confused. Maybe it’s my voice, so different than the feminine yelling. Or maybe it’s the fact the

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last time I saw her it was at a party…and I was drunk…and I kept calling her ‘Trisha’. “Yes?” I realize with a sense of panic that I should shake her hand. With the baby and baby bag, I have no free hand. I know that dropping the baby is out of the picture. With a finesse that surprises me, I wrap my arm tighter around Mary and switch the bag into the hand. “Joe, we’ve met before. At a, well, get together.” Treena nods, shaking my hand, but focusing her eyes elsewhere. “I remember.” I was afraid of that. “Yep, well, so,” I try to ignore the fact that she probably thinks I’m an idiot, “How have you been?” “Alright.” “Tough classes?” Aware that I sound like a guidance counselor, I blush. I motion to the concession worker for a cocoa. The crowd lets out a yell, and we both turn to make sure that our respective charges haven’t died. Well, Treena does, and I more follow her gaze. She sighs, relieved. “A lot of papers.” I shake my head. “So much writing.” “I love it.” “Me, too.” Even Mary knows I’m lying. Treena smiles, eyes still on the game. For some reason I feel like I’m making headway. “What are you going to school for again?” We both


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go to the same state college, Treena from two states over. Me, I never left, the college is just up the road from my high school and twenty minutes from the elementary school. “Childhood studies. Hopefully to be a nanny someday.” “Really? You don’t seem the type.” “Why? People with blue hair can’t like kids?” The eyes are focused on me. They match her hair. “No, no, I mean—” “Isn’t that your sister?” I turn around just in time to see Molly take a soccer ball to the face. She flips backwards like something out of The Matrix. The crowd gasps. “I’ll be right back.” I slam change down on the counter, leave the cocoa and sprint onto the field. Mary forgoes the gurgles and lets out a howl. For a split second, I consider dropping her and the bag, less weight to slow me down. Five minutes later, Molly’s back in the game, proud owner of a shiner the size of a golf ball. Treena’s back in the crowd, her blue hair merging with the LL Bean coats. I don’t hesitate; I walk right up to her. “Molly’s fine.” Treena who, along with the rest of the crowd, has just watched me take care of my sister, nods. She remains distant. The focused eyes, the lips, waiting to curve up, for one moment when the world seems to freeze, she reminds me of my mother. Well, the woman who we used to consider our mother.

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I was the first, the golden boy. There’s this photo of my mother, and me, as a baby, against her hip. She’s standing, other hip thrust out, proud smile, looking radiant, but every time I look at it, I can’t help thinking this is where it all started to go wrong. My mother stands, smiling into the camera, confident in the power of her birth control, confident that accidents don’t happen. Confident that I would be her first and only child. Molly was an accident. My parents never planned on her. For my mother who traveled around the world, and found herself and a man she adored, Molly was another reminder that she was getting old. My mother was beginning to feel the pressure to be a mother, to be woman whose domain consisted of the kitchen and a mini-van. Mary, three years later was the last straw. My mother still sends us these postcards from wherever she goes. We all read them, but it’s my father who saves them. He works more now. Three kids, one in college, two to save for, is a lot for a man who works as a clerk in the township office. All this goes through my mind, in quick flashes, as I look at Treena. She wants me to go away. I refuse. She’s just as lost as the rest of them. She’s sucked in. Nannies can become soccer moms too. “Sad, isn’t it?” “What is?” The fact that she’s still talking to me is a good sign. “The soccer moms.” Mary drools into my shoulder.


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“What’s so sad is that they’re all the same. Nowadays, nobody wants to be different.” “You seem so sure.” “Joe—Joe, not Joseph or Jose, no, Joe. Just Joe.” “What does my name have to do with it?” “You can’t even be different and be Joseph. It has to be shortened, hiding you in the masses.” I hoist the baby up again. “What’s next? You going to burn some bras?” “Gloria Steinem, I am not.” She turns back to the game. “But aware of our society’s problems—” “You are.” “I am.” “No.” She doesn’t turn to face me, shock value accounting for nothing with this girl. “You are the problem.” “Really?” There is the locked gaze. “You want to be so different, so you pierce your eyebrow, you dye your hair, you isolate yourself from society by placing yourself, all weirded out in the middle of it and dare people not to look.” “You done?” “Almost.” I look down at her, smiling a bit at the tilt of her chin. “Are you a soccer mom, Treena?” “Well, considering that I don’t have a kid—” “That’s not what I mean. Are you one of them?” We glance around at the moms living their dreams through kids too young to tell them that they have dreams

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of their own. Each one is just like the other. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had an issue number tattooed on their asses from the socio/economic mold that produced them. Treena draws her coat closer around her. “I guess it’s possible that I could be one…” She seems unsure, scared. “I don’t want to be though.” I smile and nod. We turn back to the game. The kids, too young to be separated by gender run up and down the field. They push, dodge, run their hearts out, unaware that some will grow up to be fat, middle class, boring. Will Molly ever be a soccer mom, or Mary? Was my mom ever one? “What about you, Joe? Will you ever be like them?” Treena is watching the game, but I know she’s focused on me. It warms me to the tips of my toes. I think back to Molly, flying through the air. My heart racing, her in my mind, pushing out everything, everyone, pushing out Treena. That is love. Becoming a soccer mom is not love, it’s an attempt at reclaiming something, something lost. I feel lost. I feel like the person who slid into my mother’s place after she left, after she declined custody. “Sometimes, I think I already am.” Treena holds my gaze. I see her face melt a bit, fall into a softer form. “No you’re not, Joe.” “Really?” I pat Mary’s head, feeling the warmth that she gives off. “No, you’re not fake.” Treena returns the smile and we watch the children


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run, and the soccer moms cheer and I think of Treena, years down the line, normal hair, kids in tow. She’ll be like all the rest, but never mean. Just like my mom used to be.

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TWITTER-JAWED CHRISSY BROWN On my bed I lie stretched like linen, my arms butterflied, split my ears wonder about the slow whoosh of cars breaking like waves. And I am a single wheat blade reaching towards gold, I am a bird twitter-jawed on a buzzing telephone wire. There are clouds above my head, pulled cotton filaments Shrieking “stay!” or, “do not fly!” On my bed my wings are flapping. Beating off God beating off love beating off the responsibilities and the hushed waiting of a cold and lonely March night. Is it really hard to understand? I feed my body with


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a slow steady song and wait until the shell of this tight bud bursts, gasping. Then I bloom. I bloom. I bloom.

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BIRD SONG CHRISSY BROWN There is a robin inside me. His red belly is pressed against my heart. His wings beat furiously when I try to quiet him. Sometimes when I feel it well up deep inside my gut, I open my mouth to let loose his song. His little peanut bird brain screams for spring and I feel his small toed feet hop restlessly up and down my spine. He is pesky impatient sad and beautiful. His voice is slow honeyed sunshine dripping heavy from my fingers. There is a robin inside me. And we are stuck together in our own sorry cages for the long haul.


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BLOOM CHRISSY BROWN Some nights I have to dogshake sadness off my shoulders as it climbs to curl and nestle itself in my brain. I like to say it is enough: this body, these organs, the thin layer of clay cracking and splitting on my fingertips. What do I know anyhow? Roses wait longer than I, packed shut. While the fan blades keep on spinning.

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UNTITLED K RYSTINA HAJDUCZEK The man said to write it down, so I did. He said, “They’ll be no time later for talking to others, only for them prayers.” He’s right. So I wrote. They come by now and again, wanting to know what’s happened, what part I’m at, but I don’t budge. I always says, “You got to start at the beginning, not in the middle. What damn fool kinda story starts in the middle?” And them guards always says, “So give me the beginning.” So I does. They say that people born on rainy days never leave the clouds behind. Kind serious stuff. I was born during lightning storm, a terrible one that flooded rivers, a tree killer of a one. My dad said it was the worst day the county’s ever seen; he weren’t far off. My dad never were. He always knew. I grew up under his shadow, afraid, cowering, the kinda boy you just knew hid rather than take a thrashing for a bad deed. My first real memory was at ten. I’d chased the chickens, getting the fattest for dad to kill. I held its neck, all slim, and feathers. I could feel it swallow. The bird kicked out at me, but I held on, and delivered it all proud to dad. He said I might want to look away, but I didn’t. He done killed the bird right there, right in front of me. “You okay?” I remember the little splatters of blood on his forearm. I nodded, proud I was strong enough, proud of my hair, thin, blond, shining just like his. Dad wrinkled up his face, until every corner was squeezed together. “You rotten, all through.”


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I knew what rotten meant. I’d seen the apples, all red and waiting. I’d seen the farm hands, muscles and sweat, bite down, teeth cutting to the core, spit out the apple. Grown men afraid of an apple, brown and wormy. Repulsed, weakened by it. That was power. Power to bring down stronger men. I got a job in the factories at fifteen. Back home, the farm was failing. Mom was already buried. Not much to miss, but still, it done made the place lonely. Mortgages, debts, I didn’t need none of that, so I cleared out my stuff and left. Felt kinda bad about that, but I got over it fast. Heard, a couple months later dad strung himself up in the barn, jumped off a cow fence and snapped his neck. Power. I’d done that. He’d be alive if I hadn’t upped and left him all alone. Felt good. The factory was honest work, the kinda of work a man needs to be a man. I worked hard, I be proud to say that I done a good job at that labor. I let no one tell me I’d done a bad job, or slack off. I might be a lot of things, but not lazy. These were the happiest years I might ever say I lived. All work, and pay and nothing to worry about but my own skin. Dirty, clean, dirty clean, I washed and scrubbed and lived as the other men did. We all lived in boarding house of a place, little rent, food twice a day and enough coal in the winter to keep us living. The men taught me things, how to survive, how to skin animals, how to live outside, without roof or hearth. They told me stories, some sweet, some

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horrible. I liked those best. Especially the ones of their most feared way to die. I’d like to say I finished my schooling there, but nothing in lessons ever prepares for life. They never taught me how to wash blood out of a shirt, so the stain don’t sit there, waiting for the eye. They never taught me a man is done hard to fold up into a grave when he’s been dead a day. Little things, things a man ought to know if he’s ever going to succeed in this world. I thought about throats a lot during my time at the factory. The noise, so loud it made a man want to run away and forget he’d ever been there. You couldn’t hear nothing and watching the men talk to one another, you just saw the throat working, pushing air in and out, like them bellows. I used to imagine that if you cut across a man’s throat, it would be a hiss of steam escaping, like from a teakettle. Puffs and puffs of it. I worked at the factory too long. You could tell. The way I stood, moved, talked, too much was like the men of the factory that would be there until they died. I left just shy of my twentieth year. I traveled here and there, hearing more stories, collecting bits of people’s lives passed in tales. I enjoyed their secrets. Secrets were power, and I horded them all. Not that I didn’t have secrets of my own. Oh no, I kept my secrets, too, safe away inside where none could get at them. My secrets were important, terrible big ones. I kept


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all quiet about them, never done told a soul. There ain’t much time left though, not enough to make keeping secret important any more. I wandered around this town once, nice place, good for children. This town, all peaceful, had a river that ran along one edge. It done drew me like a fly to honey. The river was blocked in by a nice enough forest. I never liked forests, too many trees, who knew what was hiding out in them. I came out of that forest, almost falling in the river. It was a shallow affair, but fast running. Sitting along the bank was a young man. He sat all calm and quiet, fishing, like he was born to nothing but it. Honest work still, couldn’t find fault with that. “Hello, friend,” I sat next to him on the bank. “Mornin’” “Caught anything?” “A few, don’t like to talk about it. Jinx me, scare the fish, too.” He winked, too young for such a secret gesture. I watched him fish, quiet too, careful to respect the man’s wish for peace. I thought he was quite a nice fellow, should be working a bit more but who was I to judge. I remember seeing the fishing pole bobble, dragging down. The man pulled up on it, bringing a fish onto the river bank. Such a miracle of a thing. I was done impressed with mother nature’s craftsmanship. She knew her trade, not a doubt. The man didn’t pause, didn’t stop and respect the creature. He picked it up and began to gut it, still alive. That

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fish flopped and flopped and I thought it’d never die. The man didn’t care, just sliced away and when he was done, shoved that dead creature into his pack with the rest of them. I was horrified. What sort monster would do this? Not a man to stand for such things, I decided to teach the man a lesson. I’d never seen a human body all opened up, and to be all honest, it was fascinatin’. Until the man died, I watched his lungs pump, his blood push out, like the water around a rock. I done gutted him right there on the riverbank, so he’d know how them fish felt. His body bobbed out of sight, down that river, but I ain’t stupid. I was a living man, and that dead one had a whole basket of fish, just waiting to be fried. I took the fish, and went on my way. I don’t remember how many died, killed for their awful deeds, but I do know that the world is not at a loss for their deaths. I done the world a favor. They caught me years later, after I’d had time to gather many secrets. Doctors came to talk to me, ask me if I was angry. Ask why I done it. I wasn’t angry I told them, why should I be, I’d done good honest work, all throughout my life. Why’d I done it? Well, someone had to. Built on the backs of the dead. I heard that once, and liked it, kept it, locked it away. I think about the backs of dead people. The curve, the valley, no longer bending. I think about my back after they’ll be done with me. Next week, they


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say it’ll be time. Gas chamber. Newer sort of execution. I don’t know all the fact, but I guess I inhale the gasses and the guards drop poison into it. I’ve heard stories. They say you turn purple, choke, your eyes pop, heart beating like a rabbit’s. It’s mad. To think, them guards see no reason not to gas someone, but what I done is a crime? The world is a sad place.

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STOP MY HEART MEGAN WICHLAND I think of her in the thirsty patches of the night, where loneliness smolders and the darkness seems to choke. I think of that day, when the sun only rose to tease us, its tangerine light slipping through the cracks of the sky. We slumped on the floor, I sat next to her bag of a body, the one she liked to engrave, and starve. She wore no shoes or socks, her bony feet already looking dead with dark, waxy scars crisscrossing, marking the thin place in time between life and death. “I can’t stay here any longer,” she croaked, “I’m going away, and I’m not coming back.”


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I think of my sisters, begging her to stay, their pink faces twisted, channeling rivers of tears. I think of our swollen cheeks, our scarlet eyes, as we unwillingly, defeated, piled into my father’s car. I think of the weeks after that day, the thin place in time between life and death, and how every time the phone rang, my heart stopped, mimicking hers.

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STAGE TWO: A NGER NORA TOOMEY Cancer stole religion out of the hands of my father. Instead of catechism, he’d drive to family hiking spots so we could spend our Sundays picking up stones. Woods are cold in the morning. So we’d race through the cut and green of a pine cove until a deep breath tasted like blood. By the river, we’d eat grapes and cheese. While in our hometown, a dry and brittle body sat broken in the mouths of our friends. It isn’t that my father lost faith; I’d catch him sometimes after dinner, missing my mother, listening to Sunday night prayers, singing along in Latin, his secret. What he didn’t know,


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Was that every time I’d take a bike ride I’d end up at St. Bridgetts. I needed to slip into the worn pews and smell the gold rimmed pages of the song books. I needed to pray as hard as I had run through the forest, I needed to forgive.

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R EVISED BURIAL JORDAN DAVIS The snowfall seems to increase when Forrest and I pull to a stop in the back of Poe Cemetery. After scanning the area for a few seconds, I spot it. I point it out to Forrest and he nods. “Okay,” he says. “Get out and signal me back until the truck is a few feet from the hole.” I want to tell Forrest that it’s a grave, not a hole, but then I realize it makes no difference anyway. I hop down from the dump truck and walk to the grave where the casket rests deep within the frozen ground. Mary is down there. She was put there earlier today after the funeral had ended. Forrest and I are here because the town refuses to bury people in the winter. Naturally, Mary’s husband didn’t want his wife in a morgue all winter so, having been good friends of their family, Forrest and I used his excavator to dig the grave and kept the dirt in the dump truck. That was three days ago. Tonight, we’re back here to complete the process. I signal Forrest back and motion for him to stop when the dump truck is close. He stops. Then the wind picks up. I feel my body start to go numb. With the bed of the dump truck full of dirt, Forrest pulls a lever and the bed of the truck rises. Nothing happens. Forrest raises the bed again and still, nothing happens. Then, on the third try, I hear ice cracking. As the bed ascends, I realize why none of the dirt has fallen out yet. The dirt is frozen. I yell to Forrest, but it’s too late.


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Standing there by the grave, I see a boulder-sized piece of earth roll out of the dump truck and freefall into Mary’s grave. I hear a deep crashing sound. I’m frozen by what I see in the grave. Mary’s head and shoulders are completely exposed. Her head is craned unnaturally to her right, as if her neck didn’t exist. Her skin is a mix of stale yellow and suffocating blue. I want to look away. I want anything but this image. But I can’t not look. I stand transfixed in cold stillness, surrounded by an infinite silence. Then I feel something digging into my back. “Come on,” Forrest says, handing me a shovel from the bed of the dump truck. Quickly, I grab the shovel and join him. We break up the frozen dirt and hurl shovelful by shovelful into Mary’s grave. I hate the first few shovelfuls—seeing this once conscious human being lying motionless as dirt fills her eyes, her mouth, her ears: all of her. And Jesus, the sound of it. The suffocating muffling sounds of dirt on skin and dirt on dirt. But, we keep shoveling. When the wind picks up and our hands are numb, we are still shoveling. When all warmth is extinguished, we continue to shovel. And then it’s done. “Alright,” Forrest says, stabbing his shovel into the remaining dirt in the dump truck. “No one can ever know what happened tonight. This is between us. We have to keep this a secret. Forever.” I agree, realizing for the first time that the word secret has a lot in common with the word burden.

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Then, on our way out of the cemetery, I can’t help but think that something else already knows what happened. It’s like the cemetery—the bare and ragged trees, the weathered headstones, the black sky—want me to know that it has seen everything. It knows. And if the cemetery knows, does Mary know? Mary’s husband is waiting for us at the house when we get back. Forrest assures him that everything went fine. Mary’s husband’s voice cracks and quivers as he thanks us. I shake his hand, but avoid his eyes, hoping to never see him again. Then he leaves. That night, the snowfall increases. And no matter what I do, I can’t get rid of the dirt-like taste in my mouth.


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BEFORE COLUMBINE, AFTER ROBIN HOOD, LONG AFTER LINCOLN STREET ELEMENTARY RYAN MCLELLAN It must have been during elementary school, before the cliques had formed and before the lines were drawn between us naive kids, that I began fantasizing about being killed in the middle of my classes— In elementary school, there was this girl named Mandy Baughman; valedictorian of my high school senior class, voted most likely to succeed. God knows what prestigious school she’s at now. Well, she was my girlfriend in third or fourth grade, and we were an elementary school power couple In school, when you’re young, There’s always a couple couples

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that are the envy of many lonely boys and girls, and at Lincoln Street School in ’93-94, there was Mike Dulaney and Erin Maher, and me and Mandy Baugman— We’d strut through the playground, HOLDING HANDS but then Maher and Dulaney FRENCH KISSED next to the gym on a bet, and we were fucked— Mandy— now probably known as Amanda or Ms. Baughman or Mrs. Baughman, kissed me on the bus once, and only once, and then she went off to most likely succeed and left me to most likely become a romantic poet.


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But back then, at Lincoln Street School, I’d go to bed at night imagining a situation in which some unknown, unidentified, unseen, unappreciated person would fill our third or fourth grade classroom with bullets, and I’d be the only one who got hit— And afterwards, when it all stopped, I’d be left bleeding and choking confessing my love to Mandy, listening to her weep over my body before I kicked off, looking at my classmates gathered around me for once, FOREVER, and just imagine the most romantic sentiments from a terrible movie that a Lincoln Street School elementary student could say, and you’ll have an idea of what we said then

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MIRANDA PERRY waterstains: { i believe in this silence spreading outward from your lips to mine } and wildflowers: { i believe in this silence |pressed|between| your indifference and mine }


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MEMENTO MIRANDA PERRY Still sticky with sap, the heart’s wood lies quartered, placed gently inside the reliquary of we. The bed holds warmth between white sheets as a bookmark remembering flesh. Rooms full of found objects, relics of family I don’t recognize, each murmuring, “Shhhh…”

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WEDDED NIGHTS JODI VAN PRAET I trip on your shoes and bump my head on the cabinet I left open. The pain in my head and the rage in my chest battle. The pain wants me. The anger wants you. I throw a shoe at the cabinet. You walk in, shaking your head at my clumsiness. Gently you lead me to the couch, kiss my forehead, watch me cry. You open your mouth to speak—I think If you tell me it’s PMS, I will kill you.


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FEAR JODI VAN PRAET Somewhere, there is a woman whose ovaries failed her. She can never have a child so she thinks it’s okay to take mine. Some guy, finds power, pleasure, release, in acts that define perversion. Children aren’t sexy, but they are to him. He kills them when he’s done, even though, their mothers want them back, no matter how much he’s broken them. Sometimes, a cough turns to bronchitis, pneumonia, respiratory distress, then failure. And the only sounds left are the steady monotone of a monitor and the screams of a mother. Some drivers, are distracted by the phone, or lipstick, or a spilled cup of coffee. They don’t notice the car drifting until it goes over the curb, through the fence, into a playground.

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Coming to rest in the sandbox, where a princess was building a castle.

This is why some nights I can’t get to sleep.


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