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CEN T R I PETAL

6th Edition F Fall 2003


CENTRIPETAL

EDITOR Paris Landry MANAGING EDITOR Crystal A. Lavoie SENIOR LAYOUT EDITOR Tracey L. Smith ADVISORY EDITOR Paul Rogalus ASSOCIATE EDITORS Dave Commins Sarah Lewis Jennifer M. O’Donnell Jason McKenzie ASSISTANT EDITORS Robert Binette Nathan Bieniek Diane Blaisdell Marianne Bradley Josh Breault Jack Bronn Anna Draves Ed Dugas Nikole Snover Meredith Vickery COPYEDITORS Stephen Landry Cara Cristina Losier Robert M. Masse Andrew F. Mannone D. James McLaughlin BUSINESS MANAGER Justine Handler

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 3 stories) should be no more than 750 words per piece; poetry (up to 6 pieces) may be any length, any style. Submissions should be e-mailed as an attachment 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 Student Senate, the Hartman Union Building Staff, the English Department and Ed Dugas, for his patience with the misspelling of his name in the fifth edition. We would especially like to thank Dr. Paul Rogalus, our advisor, without whom this would not have been possible.

COVER EDITOR Benjamin Aufill GRAPHICS MANAGER Rick Schlott GRAPHICS ASSISTANT Cindy Rizza ONLINE EDITOR & WEBMASTER Josh Breault

Cover art based on photograph: “Untitled” by Jake Robertson, Fall 2002

19 HIGHLAND ST F SUITE A14 PLYMOUTH, NH 03264 F (603) 535−2236 poetswriters@mail.plymouth.edu oz.plymouth.edu/~poetswriters


C ONTENTS 6th Edition F Fall 2003 5

CARA CRISTINA LOSIER

F

Escape,

7

DANIEL SINGER

F

Type

8

KRYSTINA HAJDUCZEK

F

Untitled

10

JENNIFER M. O’DONNELL

F

In

The Pupil

Linear AB

the Honesty of a

Childhood Past 11

SARAH LEWIS

F

Secret

12

ANGELA RICCIARDI

F

Free

13

DIANE T. PADILLA

F

Afterthought

14

ERIN PLUMMER

F

I

16

TRACEY L. SMITH

F

The

18

NICKY ROSS

F

Untitled,

19

STEVEN SPRAGUE

F

Act

of God

20

PAUL ROGALUS

F

The

Weird One

22

CRYSTAL A. LAVOIE

F

ski

day, grandpa’s guns

24

DUDLEY LAUFMAN

F

St.

Samuel’s Island

26

ROBERT M. MASSE

F

She

Ain’t Comin’

27

SETH OWEN PERDUE

F

The

First Brewed Cup Takes

28

DARYL BROWNE

F

Untitled

29

AARON KENDRICK

F

Untitled

30

CHIP SCANLAN

F

The

32

JACK BRONN

F

Clarity

34

SCOTT COYKENDALL

F

Penny

35

KAREN CURRIER

F

Road

Songs

America

Am Order of Things, Lusting Untitled

Me

Boy In the Water

Trip to Exeter with my

Dad, Cancelled 36

SGT. THEODORE C. MERRITT

F

September

40

PARIS LANDRY

F

To

43

JESSICA DUNN

F

On

44

JULIE PASSETTO

F

Driving

46

TYLER MUSTY

F

Firewood

21, 1943

Hold a Man, A Writer’s

Revenge the Edge Mind and Broken Nose


48 49

LYNN RUDMIN

F

Spectacle

KATE DONAHUE

F

A

CINDY RIZZA

F

Docks

of Rain

Returning

KAITLIN O’CONNOR

F

Untitled

50

AMANDA PORTER

F

Lessons

51

DARCY WINWARD

F

Untitled

52

CYNTHIA HUNTINGTON

F

Lighthouse,

55

PATRICK ARMSTRONG

F

Ellen

56

MARIAH KENDRICK

F

58

BOB GARLITZ

F

Back

61

RUSSELL ROWLAND

F

Recognition

Through a Burn In March Woods

What Lola Wants and Forth

JOHN GUARNIERI, JR.

F

A

62

MATTHEW B. HOWES

F

Sweet

64

JASON MCKENZIE

F

I

66

LIZ AHL

F

ABBA

68

JON LINK

F

Complicated

Scene

Note to My Wife and Low, The Pride of

Gaunt Tree Want Whores, Listen,

Sister Memoir, Broken Scenery is

Listed by Miss July 1978 As a Turn-off 70

NATHAN GRAZIANO

F

An

71

JED HOWARD

F

You’re

72

ELIZABETH THOMAS

F

Untitled

76

NOTES ON THE CONTRIBUTORS

87

CONTRIBUTIONS

Allegory to Explain

Modern America Just Jealous


CENTRIPETAL

C ARA C RISTINA L OSIER ESCAPE Autumn is at her heels now, rolling up the fraying remnants of past summer days. She clings to this time of transition. Unwilling to relinquish her grip on the sanity of happiness, she lies awake in the elbow of night to be aware of each second’s death. Etched in smiles and tears are midnight rides and the swiveled hips of dance— Clandestine kisses beneath blue and red lights. And still these moments slip like wet sand through her fingers and the witches’ castles that they leave behind are sadly lacking in tenants.

5

LOSIER


CENTRIPETAL

THE P UPIL I gathered strength at the tips of well-forested mountains, ere I descended to the town tucked in beneath them. I sat on my porch railing— my porch— (I could hear the sound of industrious termites lunching on its aged cross-beams) drinking in the cider-scented autumn air. I walked up the stairs worn slick by generations of poor and earnest students and my naked footprints were unnoticed in the ebb and flow of so many steps. I found my room’s door slightly gaped, barely kissing its enveloping frame. Through the oblong window, I caught sight of them, assembled there in front of the professor. I pushed the door swiftly open and stood, moved, yet unsure of my intent. Let me, I thought. I know the secrets of the mark of the horizon. Let me. The professor didn’t deign to look up as she abruptly slammed the door, this time catching the latch, melding door with frame. Defeated, I thought, and yet one girl stared. Through death, she stared, and I almost thought she saw me there. Attentiveness never faltering, she penned her notes and nodded— and yet she stared, and I am quite certain that she saw me there. LOSIER

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CENTRIPETAL

DANIEL SINGER TYPE LINEAR AB* Transfuse me stone syntax for I am the proletariat Marmaduke®. I am the masthead am the ProtoIndo-European I-Ching lapse. I am a listless tick. I am the Gypsy jump roper am the Jell-o® geode was baptized a bebop bulletin. I am read in a centrifugal scream— one shared by cinnamon traders. I am molasses with Mao Ze Tung am the drum-bottomed jade drawler. Legere ® will be my insurance carrier in linguistic hospitals where no wine is permitted beyond the blessing: Baruch atau Adonai, elochanu meloch haolum, boray pri hagofan. I am the erudite Rosetta Stone® am the claustic prepositional superlative riot which reads®: Je suis le frommage de la vache qui rit. I am haiku®-busted.

*Linear A is a distant linear predecessor of Ancient Greek and a less distant predecessor to its decipherable brother, Linear B. Unlike its sibling, Linear A has never been translated. It is a highly developed language system that is now wholly without meaning.

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SINGER


CENTRIPETAL

K RYSTINA H AJDUCZEK UNTITLED I play with colors, While skeleton feet Dance. Bands of blue Starting point for The killer Of Time 03, 23, 73, 9 Hours, minutes, verbs And vowels. I measure everything. It’s like a nervous tic. You want to know The distance from me To you? It’s an eternity. See, I’m in Rome, Kneeling to the Vatican And you’re back home Forming the idea, the band To take over the world. To take it back from People like me, who Kneel In submission to Another man’s vision of God. I don’t see straight All the time. I see crooked gin And wavy vodka And my pillow blacked Out by another night of, “I’m not going to drink a lot.” HAJDUCZEK

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CENTRIPETAL

See, I’m a runner A shunner, a turner From faces. I veil my face and actions. Keeping secret My secrets, No whispering betrayals. Holding fast To the anger That should have drowned Long ago. The dead still walk, And talk, And dance my steps.

9

HAJDUCZEK


CENTRIPETAL

JENNIFER M. O’D ONNELL I N THE HONESTY OF A CHILDHOOD PAST Pulling down the pants on the boys on the playground, behind the toy box, who would blush with reluctant thumbs— not quite ready to disobey mother’s rules. Young soldiers shaken awake beneath the flat mats at nap time. Odd suggestions go unnoticed: What’s t h a t ? And Will you k i s s mine? One careless afternoon, I caught Skin-handed. Frozen— Exposed in kinder-fluorescence. Ms.-Get-Your-Ass-in-the-Other-Room fought a smile, forced stern eyes. I lead my rainbow blanket guilty frown-head down into a full room of lit ladies— Following the direction in which her finger pointed. I rested elbows high on extra-large tables while glassy eyes taught me how to shuffle— how to: Leaf flips into a backward bend. They told me: Boys cause nothing but trouble. Not knowing what had been excepted, I positioned thin rectangles into undersized palms and think maybe I should take up cards and keep my wandering hands to myself.

O’DONNELL

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CENTRIPETAL

SARAH L EWIS SECRET SONGS We always played together in springtime, our bare feet splashing beneath us in cool blue lake water. You used to whisper songs to me in our secret language as the sun flooded my dress with warm light and the wind sang a song of its own. These special serenades were my springtime melody, until summer’s white music whispered through the trees.

11

LEWIS


CENTRIPETAL

A NGELA R ICCIARDI FREE A MERICA Mid-air 6 hour flight Boston to San Francisco Gigantic mountains Motion sickness Under control, drug free. Below, Land formations At first, old squares New England ceramic tiles, Cornered and pointy, MINE! they scream. Then, America, all circles Little pie charts of property Now, the mountains claim everything, Scraping the bottom of the plane In the cabin, Television, Programs and movies and news To listen, pay $5.99 But out the small plexi window A better show, And it was free.

RICCIARDI

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CENTRIPETAL

D IANE T. PADILLA A FTERTHOUGHT I am not an afterthought Dancing to the tunes of A silver starfish Beached on the shores Of a fractured life. Tides of emotions Roll in with gifts of smiles Then the rapid retreat When an outstretched hand Takes the bait. Only once were the waters Stilled long enough to gaze Into the blue deep Currents of confusion The Marianna Shelf of Hidden Passions. Sudden swirlings Tossed up churned pulled under— No more will I fish in these waters Dark and stormy. I fought my way out of the riptide And stand on solid ground where I pass a starfish Bleached white by The sun of my indifference.

13

PA D I L L A


CENTRIPETAL

E RIN P LUMMER I AM I am I am identifiable by the longtime Long-term struggle of my sisters All over the globe. Of all their triumphs and tragedies That beat them, take them Yet they themselves beat and take As their own victories From Kabul to Seneca Falls To my own checking account, education, Possessions and freedom to walk alone Down Random Street, USA and not be Covered by a gentleman’s cape shielding me From my own planet. I am anything and everything Jeered and feared by Sigmund Freud, His predecessors and his lackeys, The chivalric order, and any form of Politics and political religion. I am a threat to society and order. I am a wanton temptress that sucks The ignorant into my web of truth. I am the embodiment of evil. I am the embodiment of virtue, I will never be the perfect model of Submissive womanhood because I can’t help the fact that I talk a little Too loud and stamp my feet a little When I want something like Respect and equality instead of Simple sameness that takes the shape Of a thrown bone that is still Covered with the hair and dirt Of ancient deceptions of ancient institutions Built over the bones of my sisters: The Maenads, the Amazons, the Furies, PLUMMER

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CENTRIPETAL

And every other female who bared their Fangs with spear in hand And proved themselves As warriors and weavers of fate. For I am they and I am every woman Who defies the order of simple things That should be: I am Lilith, I am Kali I am Joan of Arc I am Venus, I am Mary I am Maiden, Mother, Crone I am fury, I am virtue I am light, I am dark I am the statue on the pedestal engraved: “One of several billion Who share this Earth.� I am woman. Hear me at least once.

15

PLUMMER


CENTRIPETAL

TRACEY L. SMITH THE ORDER

OF

THINGS

I want a lucrative job with six figures, something that will get me out of dodge and into the arms of a big gray company with tiny gray cubicles and people in gray suits and skirts. I want to be gray and blend in with the rest of the world. I want to be unnoticed, except to him. I want to have a big wedding, with pink and red roses and hundreds of guests on a beautiful lush green hillside, with a beautiful white gown that complements my lack of figure. I want to own a house and have a picket fence to paint and a kitchen to clean and wallpaper to pick out for a child’s room. I want to have children, a boy and a girl, and watch them go to school, pack their lunches, and help them with their homework. I want to go to parent-teacher conferences. I want to brag about their accomplishments to my friends and forget about the ones I never made. I want to watch them grow up. And maybe, when my daughter is old enough, and prettier than her mother, I can tell her that she may never have what she wants either. SMITH

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CENTRIPETAL

LUSTING you…

are in my blood: a poison. are sunburned on my skin: a cancer. ravage my thoughts: a virus.

and i want no antidote. your face blurs that of my lover’s; his hands, lips, tongue, metamorphose to yours and for a moment, in moaning, rocking, thrusting, grasping coitus, i ask for you to come to me. but you never do. it may be masochistic to incessantly dote, worship the shrine i’ve created for you in my heart. i’ve always liked pain: pain means feeling. feeling means i’m alive. but i’ve been waiting for so long to feel alive to someone else. every time i fill the void of you, every time I call for him, every time you hear that song, i hope you scream.

17

SMITH


CENTRIPETAL

NICKY ROSS UNTITLED as I crawl across your scroll I make my mark in the little places nothing stages carving out the basics till so raw & hungry you flip me strip the pretty fall like a vulture wrack my carcass & suffer my spine

UNTITLED like a sinner praying for sainthood I sly away from confession & concentrate on concession yes, yielding soft with contact’s brutal impact I am a force that breaks sincerity from submission

ROSS

18


CENTRIPETAL

STEVEN SPRAGUE ACT OF GOD Sunday morning smelled like stew. Chicken scent crept into my slumbering senses. Chaka-Khan played from the kitchen. Get ready for church! Mother noticed the floorboards creak above her where I sleep. The crock pot simmered. Mother chopped and sliced swaying slightly to the music. Abruptly the earth shook. The whole block crack-rattled. Broke the house’s back down to its foundation. The walls crunched, the linoleum crumbled underneath her feet. Mother huddled over protecting her chicken stew like a quarterback. My muscles went taut from shock until the quaking subsided. Are you okay? The floorboards had ceased to creak above her. Shook up but okay. Get ready for church! The floorboards creaked. See what God does when you sleep in on a Sunday?

19

SPRAGUE


CENTRIPETAL

PAUL ROGALUS THE WEIRD ONE

M

y roommate Gerard was a shy, moody, really homely guy— he was an artist. He was 21, but he looked a lot older. He had a small, melon-shaped head, a dark, close-cropped beard which covered most of his face and neck like a fungus, and he was going bald on top. He wore thick, round eyeglasses which made his eyes look enormous. My other roommate Jeff called him “the human fly”; I usually just referred to him as “the weird one”— when he wasn’t around. My hippie friend Molly was really drunk when she first met Gerard in a local bar. I said, “Molly, this is my roommate Gerard.” “Your roommate,” Molly blurted out, “so this must be ‘the human fly’— the one you call ‘the weird one.’” Gerard was crushed. I panicked and tried to lie. “No Molly, you drunken thug, you’re getting things mixed up. I’m the human fly. The Fly is one of my favorite movies— you know— ‘Help me! Heeeeeeelllp meeeeeeee!” (doing my best human fly imitation). Gerard didn’t buy it. His face was red; his enormous eyes were locked into mine. “The weird one?” he asked me quietly. I just shrugged; there was no way out. Gerard moved off to a table by himself in the back of the bar and started throwing down shots of tequila. After a while, Jeff and I went back and sat with him. Gerard’s face tightened. “Am I really the weird one, Paul?” he asked. “Well, yeah, you really are pretty weird, when you get down to it. So what? So am I. So is Jeff. Jeff is exceptionally weird. What’s the big deal?” “Then why am I the weird one, and not you or Jeff?” “Jesus, I don’t know, Gerard. That’s just the way Molly put it. Forget it, all right?” Still staring deep into me, Gerard slowly, deliberately picked up two empty beer bottles and dropped his hands beneath the table. He curled his mouth into a sinister smile. Then there was an explosion of glass underneath the table. Gerard raised his ROGALUS

20


CENTRIPETAL

fists and put them onto the table, each one tightly squeezing a triangular shard of brown glass and trickling blots of blood onto the table. “Hey, what the hell happened over there?” the bartender called. I just stammered like an idiot, “He, uh . . . he’s, um . . .” “He dropped a bottle,” Jeff said matter-of-factly. The bartender said, “Oh, O.K.,” and he brought us a towel. We hustled Gerard home. A few days later I went into Gerard’s room to get a book I’d lent him. The room was gross. Partially filled moldy ceramic coffee cups, shabby sweaters of various shades of brown, crumpled up Kleenex, partially painted canvases, and large, torn-up sketch pads. The charcoal sketch on top of the pile caught my eye. It was a dark, smudged sketch of the crucifixion— from an overhead perspective. The body was thin and scrawny; the face was gaunt and homely, with a close-cropped beard, a bald spot, and thick, round eyeglasses. Evidently Jesus had looked exactly like my roommate Gerard, “the weird one.” I got out of Gerard’s room quick— because I just figured that somewhere in that shabby pile of sketches was a drawing of Satan that looked something like me.

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ROGALUS


CENTRIPETAL

C RYSTAL A. L AVOIE SKI DAY

in sixth grade howard and i skied together every thursday until one thursday on our way up the slope i almost peed my pants but i held it until halfway down i couldn’t hold it in anymore and later when my mother asked me why my snowsuit smelled funny i pretended i was asleep.

L AVO I E

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CENTRIPETAL

GRANDPA’S GUNS

grandpa had this goat she thought she was a dog and always tried to come into the house grandpa let her into the house but he would never let my boyfriends in he would shoot his gun off from the doorstep everytime i drove up the driveway with a boy in the car this one time ryan brought me home late and my grandfather came out onto the doorstep and shot his gun off but he missed ryan and killed one of his guinea hens instead.

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L AVO I E


CENTRIPETAL

D UDLEY L AUFMAN ST. SAMUEL’S ISLAND sets out there in the bay quite a ways out beyond sight of United States. They has only one road runs east and west probably 8 miles altogether village more or less in the middle Sign at one end on the bluff, ‘n shot full of bullet holes reads End Of Road. Sign at the other end reads Other End Of Road, also peppered with shot. Only two cars on island, Sam, (he wan’t no saint) owned one, a beat up old chevy. Gerry, (he wan’t no saint neither) owned the other, a Model A. One time he come back from the US, left his beer on the ferry. He was half way down the island when he remembered. Did a quick ui, headed back up island fast as his little car would go, took the turn at Doc’s on two wheels, rolling over out onto the lawn where Doc was farting around with his blueberries. Climbing out through a broken window, Gerry said, Help me right ‘er up Doc, got to catch that boat ‘fore she leaves, get my beer.

LAUFMAN

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CENTRIPETAL

Yeah, that’s the island where they left that man plays the melodeon for a few days to do concerts, work with the school kids. Woman comes up to him says, I just love that record of yours, ‘n he says, That’s where that other copy went, me mum has one an’ you got the other, they only printed the two you know. So theys only two cars out there, Sam’s and Gerry’s. Rest of the guys got boats. Anyway, don’t know how they did it, but they had a head on collision one night late mid island, totaled both vehicles.

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LAUFMAN


CENTRIPETAL

ROBERT M ASSE SHE A IN ’T COMIN ’

“U

sed to be a restaurant. Hottest place in town. This here the dining room; over there was the stage. The bar still in the same place.” Isaac sipped his gin. The three ball sank into a side pocket. Trey looked at his watch again. “Hell, I thought dis place’d be open forever. We had all the big ones: Satchmo, Franky, Duke, Dizzy…all the big stars. Even Ike used to come in and sit at that table over there. Said it was his favorite place. Nuthin’ put us down; not the wars, not them hippies, not even them big money folk. Hottest place in town.” A new song came on the juke box in the corner. Trey switched glances from his watch, to the door, and back again. He paced, watching the balls on the table, looking for a shot to line up. He let out a breathy, impatient sigh and leaned over the table with his cue. “She ain’t comin’, ya know,” Isaac sat in a chair near a television. “What?” “That girl you waitin’ for, she ain’t comin’.” “What do you know about it, Old Man?” Isaac sipped his gin again. “Oh, I know. I seen that look you had right when you walked in here, like nuthin’ gonna bring you down. I seen that look plenty. I had that look some time ago. Ain’t your fault, she just ain’t comin’. Probably an hour late already.” “How do you…?” “Look, sometime it work out, sometime it don’t. Girls is girls; only thing different about ‘em is they way they smell. You can tell a lot about ‘em by the way they smell. If their perfume smell sexy, you best move on. If it smell like home, that’s where you take ‘em. What kind did your girl smell like?” “Sexy.” He moved away from his shot. “Yeah, I oughtta figured. She ask you to meet her here?” Trey nodded. “See, girls like that just don’t come here, not any more. Probably for the best though. Guy like you, waitin’ around for an hour, and a girl like that who never show up, that ain’t never gonna work.” Isaac swirled his last ice cube around the glass and finished his drink. Trey leaned his cue against the table grabbed his jacket and moved toward the door. “Thanks for the game. I should get going.” “Oh I figured as much. Too bad things didn’t work out, but they will some time.” Isaac put the cues back on the wall rack and collected all the balls, moving slowly. “Hey, Old Man, whatever happened to this place anyway?” Isaac look up and thought for a second. “I still don’t know.” MASSE

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CENTRIPETAL

SETH O WEN P ERDUE THE FIRST BREWED CUP TAKES ME from slumber to alert in 60.4 seconds, the grounds smell of how I imagine that of Columbia, or Argentina. Hot sides reflecting the native heat. It dances within the paper cup as I walk and I have an extra bounce with that South American rhythm. I take tentative sips, allowing the hot, get-up-and-go juice to burn my lips and down to my belly as I start to feel. My head reels back and I laugh at the paboomba, paboomba of native drums after the harvest and I become savage, snarling at the sun for the interruption of my nightly siesta. Women in brightly colored dresses dance around the fire in my head, the beat and heat making me sweat. I need the jolt, that bolt of dewtime verve to give me the nerve to find my poise. I drink it up, to the dregs of the cup and for a moment I ponder what it would mean to lean in to tongue the bottom.

27

PERDUE


CENTRIPETAL

DARYL BROWNE UNTITLED jay 1 “I am telling you this because I am telling you this. My heart has been broken a thousand times...one thousand times. It is remarkable. One thousand pieces it must be in by now. But I keep on loving. Because it is all I can do. Do you understand me? This?”

jay 2 “I so rudely stopped in the middle of a very important conversation. My life before that stopped and another time began. He was finally looking at my work, I thought. It turned out he was checking his tie in the reflection in the glass. But the feeling that he was finally looking was something, something.”

BROWNE

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CENTRIPETAL

A ARON K ENDRICK UNTITLED My mug holds three cups of coffee— I hold the mug in my icy hands. [An open mouthed tortoise textured on brown envies the flying sea turtles laughing on blue.] I sit outside; red, yellow, and orange leaves fall like confetti— covering the dying grass. The cold shocks me from sleepiness, and the warmth woos me into action. I tip the mug opening down over the frosted grass, draining what I couldn’t drink— each drop thaws the blade it hits… and I notice where the artist scratched his name illegibly— to be remembered, but I can’t read it.

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KENDRICK


CENTRIPETAL

C HIP S CANLAN THE BOY

IN THE

WATER

I told him. I told him, “Take your suit!” But he was already gone, snowy powder from his doughnut trailing to the kitchen tile. “What was he wearing?” the fire chief asked. On the lake the boat moves back and forth The firemen wear blue tee-shirts His friends are afraid to look at me. Their hair is wet, their eyes are wet. “He was there with us,” they tell the policeman. “He was laughing, then we looked and he was gone.” Their eyes are full of shame and I know what they want me to say: “It’s all right. You did everything you could.”

SCANLAN

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CENTRIPETAL

“You can’t swim in blue jeans,” the fire chief tells the ambulance driver. “It’s like strapping on weights.” The boat stops. A masked diver surfaces. My boy shoots through the skin of the water, the same way he entered the world: quiet, still, beautiful marble, gleaming wet With a spank the doctor woke him. I want to spank him now “Bad boy, bad, bad, bad boy.” And when he has caught the hint of my fear and begins to cry, I would crush him to my breast and murmur, “Shhh, shhh, shhh. Good boy.” I told him. I told him, “Take your suit!” But he was gone.

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SCANLAN


CENTRIPETAL

JACK BRONN CLARITY

A

lan’s suicide was messy. I covered up the blood and bone and meat with an old blanket and tried to adjust the curtains to cover the spatter on the wall. Beth, Alan’s daughter and my wife, was waiting just outside the door. It was her twenty-fourth birthday. The gun was gone. The police always take the gun. “The victim’s loved ones often experience trauma when they see the suicide weapon,” the officer explained over the telephone the previous afternoon, “So we remove it.” They take the gun. They leave the blood. “If you really want it, you can come down to the station and pick it up. It looks brand new,” he said. I told him I’d think about it. “There’s one other thing, “ he said, “There was no note.” “Note?” “Yeah… you know… suicide note,” he said. “Oh.” “It’s just a little unusual.” I thanked him and hung up. A year before, Alan had been diagnosed with cancer. Beth and I hadn’t heard from him since he was a no-show at our wedding— the date we picked was inconvenient for his sister so, in protest, he refused to walk his daughter down the aisle— but, when he called with the news, Beth ran to his aid. I didn’t see much of Beth during Alan’s ordeal. She had to make the two-hour drive to his house so she could do his grocery shopping, or she had to pay his bills and balance his checkbook, or she had to fill his prescriptions; there was always something. It was difficult for her, and for us. She was exhausted. I was angry. Our finances were in shambles due to all the time off of work she’d been taking and our marriage was suffering from too much time apart. Near the end of his treatments Alan had a mental breakdown and tried to kill himself with pills. “It’s not unusual,” his psychiatrist told us, “The pain, the fear, the constant medical bills… it all takes a toll. It would be best if he stayed in the hospital for a while, until he’s better prepared to deal with it all again.” He stayed in until his insurance ran out. BRONN

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Nine months after his first cancer treatment, and two months after he left the hospital, Alan was told that his cancer was retreating. To celebrate, he went to Chicago to visit his mother and sister. He had a very nice time and his family was happy to see him again after so long. When he returned, Beth and I picked him up at the airport. He immediately began to tell Beth what he needed her to do when they got back to his house, as though he were still incapable of taking care of himself. I snapped. I told him off, right there in the airport. Who did he think he was? Didn’t he understand the sacrifices Beth had made? Did he intend to be a burden on her for the rest of his life? We drove to his house in silence, dropped him off, and drove home. A few months of relative quiet passed. Beth went to see her father occasionally, but the pressure of the previous months subsided. I was pleased that my outburst had made an impression. One bright Friday morning, I received a telephone call at work. It was Beth, hysterical. The police had called. Her father, that selfish son of a bitch, had killed himself two days before her birthday. After I covered the gore, I opened the door and told Beth she could come inside. She’d been crying for hours, as much from rage as from sorrow. She walked in. I held the door for her, hoping for a breath of fresh air. “You ok?” I asked. “Yeah,” she said. We got to work putting papers into boxes and loading the car. We didn’t have time to sort out everything; we were flying to Chicago the next day for the funeral, but the police told us to get the valuables out as soon as we could. Thieves keep an eye out for single dead people. As we were about to leave, Beth decided to tackle the cluttered coffee table in front of the couch where Alan had shot himself. It wasn’t long before she found the envelope with her name scrawled on its front. “What’s this?” she asked, ripping open the envelope. Inside was a birthday card signed: love, Dad, and the receipt for the gun.

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S COTT C OYKENDALL P ENNY Years later, I remember the anti-sound from across the kitchen. Music, dish clatter, and the bellow of the vacuum cleaner sucked into my daughter’s dark face. It was silence enough to turn my head. After that, the three long steps and my left hand sweeping her ankles. Three savage blows to the diaper from my right: Love! Love! Live! Just like that, The End lay wet and winking on the floor and my little girl, wailing her fear of me, fled to her anxious mother and would not look at me. Alone, I pushed my knees into the floor. My stomach shivered and slithered into my mouth. My fists, palsied, still ached to keep the life in her.

COYKENDALL

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K AREN CURRIER ROAD TRIP

TO

E XETER WITH MY DAD, C ANCELLED

You find out very quickly how much eyes can talk when you stand there next to your father’s bed, as the B-Pap machine hums, and pumps his chest, his mouth an eternal “O” around a plastic tube, unable to articulate his thoughts, (tell me what you are thinking, Dad) his questions, (Oh, Dad, I wish I had answers— good answers.) through the plastic mask secured with barely fraying white hospital tape over the ample ridge of his nose. Johnny Cash infuses rather politely from the CD speakers across the room; through the window, the waters of the Charles shift under the golden slant of late day sun, small dimples of light playing on the lap of the towering brick Boston milieu; “That train keeps rollin’...”* competing fairly with the hiss and whir of my father’s every machinated breath.

*Lyrics from Johnny Cash, “Folsom Prison Blues.”

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S GT. THEODORE M ERRITT SEPTEMBER 21, 1943 Back in the year of ’43, I joined the Army, I wanted to ski. It was a new kind of group the Army created, They wanted men with ability was how they rated. Skiing and mountain climbing were their required specialties, All were volunteers, there were no draftees. They required three letters of recommendation, You were thrilled if you got an invitation. Your recommendation confirmed your quality as an athletic man, That could soldier in mountain territory, for they had a plan. Their plan was to use us in Italy to reclaim Mt. Belvidere, Training started in the state of Washington on Mount Ranier. A new camp was erected in Colorado at 9,000 feet, For us to train as a mountain group so “to Germans beat.” Training meant in mountain climbing and skiing we had regular classes, Because in Italy the Germans held all the mountains and passes. When our training was finished they decided to try Holding maneuvers at 30 degrees below zero, to see if the Team would survive. When they felt we were ready, to see how we would do, We crossed the North Atlantic on the ocean blue. Calling the ocean blue gave a disarming and romantic scene, But the Atlantic in February was wild and rough, most everyone turned green. For 10 days at sea with no escort, Most everyone got sick until we finally made port. We were then moved North in old box cars, With the doors wide open we could look at the stars. MERRITT

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The trains moved slowly, kids ran along side, Begging for chocolate was what they tried. When we finally got to Piza it was the end of the line. We were all geared up for an exciting time. I’m proud to say there appeared no fear, Our objective was reclaiming Mt. Belvidere. Other troops had tried, the mountain was scattered with dead, The Germans controlled the mountain top spraying all attempts with lead. The back of Belvidere was sheer rock the Germans thought too steep. The 85th rock climbers went up the back, they caught the enemy asleep, Which allowed the 87th to go up the face of Belvidere. The going was slow, of course there was the fear We dug fox holes on top to secure our position, Shells from both sides hit us all night and hurt our condition. There were many direct hits on some of our holes, Causing death or severe casualties on many poor souls. But the following day our position was secure, The 10th had captured Belvidere, that was for sure. Then flushed with success, we headed toward the Valley Poe, But the resistance was heavy, we had to move slow. Our casualties mounted, it was no easy time. Some of our best men were killed. It was a terrible crime. Once out of the mountains we moved very fast, The resistance was spotty, the Poe Valley was vast. A terrible tragedy happened the first day in the Poe. A captured American plane flew over our column very low. Not knowing it was flown by a “Hun,” We waved a cheery Hello in the fading sun. 37

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Then he circled and flew over our column very low, Dropping bombs on our column, ‘twas a terrible blow. My Company’s commander vehicle took a direct hit, Killing Lt. Floyd, blowing him to bits. A wonderful guy, it was a horrible loss, A Dartmouth man, a wonderful boss. September 21st was a terrible and difficult day. We had chased the Germans a very long way. We had pursued them since 6 AM, They stopped to fight back about 11 PM. At that hour we approached a town, They were laying for us, there wasn’t a sound. The night was extremely dark (pitch black). We entered, they were ready to fight back. We were going down a street with buildings on both sides, Then came enemy fire power, there was no place to hide. We laid in the gutters and flat on the street, We were pinned down but didn’t retreat. Bazookas and machine guns fired over our heads, The air was full of flying lead. I found myself in the street next to the battalion commander. He begged for volunteers with no thought of surrender. Volunteers were needed to crawl to the enemy’s flank. They had fired a bazooka at our lead tank. As the men tried to climb out they were shot dead, By a machine gun firing a hail of lead. No one responded to the battalion commander’s plea, Laying next to him, my conscience got to me. MERRITT

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After me, two others agreed to go. We crawled to their flank, kneeling low. Since I was a staff sergeant I took command, We crawled real flat, hugging the land. We started to fire in front of a building’s stone wall. We drew their fire, a bazooka shell made the wall fall. But it allowed our troop to move ahead. It was a miracle that we weren’t dead. After the column moved ahead, we were found, Covered with big rocks, we were laid on the ground. The medics were applying us with First-aid And thanks to God we made the grade. We all had shrapnel wounds from that fight. To put it plainly, it was a hell of a night. We later came home on a hospital ship. My bed was on mid-deck, it was a wonderful trip. The two guys that joined me that terrible night. Turned out to be Lieutenants, when it was daylight. They had just come to “fill the shoes” of the dead, And listening to me, they got full of lead. Thanks to the ability of our medical men, If the war had continued, we would have been ready again. But the war was over and I came back to see, My beautiful wife who was waiting for me.

39

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PARIS L ANDRY TO HOLD

A

M AN

To hold a man dying is to hold the hand at the end of a bruised arm with skin drooping on bone, too atrophied to hold itself. To hold a man dying is to run your fingers through the slick hair without minding a brow pooled with delirium tremors. To hold a man dying is to kiss the two spots on the cheek bone exposed through breathing and feeding tubes. To hold a man dying is to wait while he screams for his brandy and swears that he knows exactly what he is saying. To hold a man dying is to say Good Bye not ever thinking it was the last time.

LANDRY

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A WRITER’S R EVENGE

“T

his ending is contrived and unbelievable,” one of the students said with a snapped diction, “I just don’t buy that she didn’t tell anyone about the rape. I mean rape, in general, is an overplayed plot, but to add to it a stoic victim that is internally tormented by the view that it’s her fault...come on. That’s like every LifeTime movie I’ve ever seen.” “Yeah, to have the rapist be the captain of the football team, give me a break. It also jumps tense like nobody’s business,” another said. “I’m having a hard time knowing whether the dialogue is in the narrator’s head, or if she’s really saying it; it’s confusing.” Another student spoke up. “Yeah, I don’t really know what this story is about. I mean, I get that it’s about a rape, but there’s no resolution. It doesn’t talk about what happens to the girl, or the criminal, or anything. It just sort of stops. I don’t think it’s finished the way it is.” Angela sat quietly with her eyes averted. She knew that this would secretly betray her as the author of the story, but she would lose much more if she were to actually look at anyone. In this class the authors were not permitted to speak during their evaluations. There was no way for her to defend herself. She wasn’t able to tell them that it was believable. She wasn’t able to tell them that her fictional piece was true. They would never know that they already knew the end of the story. She left class without talking to anyone; and why should she? She had tried to talk about it and they called her a liar. They didn’t know how much she cried when she finally remembered the whole night; how she felt when she was finally alone in her room. “Those arrogant fucks, what the hell do they know about it. An unbelievable ending. I’ll give them an unbelievable ending.” She ground her teeth and bounced a leg to the rhythm of her keystrokes. “They won’t have anything bad to say about this one. They won’t have anything to say about this one.” She didn’t hit the print button until dawn. “It’s done. It’s done. They’ll like this one. They’ll like this.” She was now rocking to the rhythm of her leg. “And I’ll make cookies. Cookies for class. They’ll like that. They’ll like this one.” She ran to her kitchen and with an unrestrained jerk, tore open 41

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a package of instant cookie mix. She only managed to get threequarters of it into a dirty mixing bowl that was sitting on the stove. She smashed open a couple of eggs and tossed them, a half-cup of vegetable oil and a few other necessary ingredients into the bowl. Then, with the mixer on high, she beat the shit out of the batter, and with forced control dropped the cookies onto a sheet and slammed them in the oven. She showed up to class early that day, clenching her teeth and giggling to herself. The teacher smiled at her. He knew that she was upset and had e-mailed the entire class warning them to take it easy. He knew work shopping was rough; he’d had a lot of kids break down and run out class. But, maybe he was wrong, maybe she was okay. The fact that she came back, not to mention brought in cookies, had to be a good sign— right? She passed around her plate of cookies. Having received the e-mail the previous night, everyone, including the professor, took a cookie. No one dared not to. She pulled out ten copies of her most recent story, A Writer’s Revenge. She walked around the room and gently slid a copy under each of her classmate’s heads, which were now resting on their desks. Completely still. Peaceful. She went to the front of the room and tipped the professor back in his chair, sat on his desk and ate the last two cookies.

LANDRY

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JESSICA D UNN ON

THE

EDGE

It looked like such a long way down, but he said it wouldn’t hurt as much at the bottom. I had been there before. The last time I chose to pick my way carefully down, testing footholds and moving slowly. I was afraid to fall to the bottom too fast. Months later I reached the bottom, and it hurt, but only after I had decided to stay. Over the last few years I have made my way back to the top only to find myself on the edge again. But this time I won’t be so cautious, so careful to climb down. this time I’ll jump… Funny how much faster it is to jump how much less it hurts.

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JULIE PASSETTO DRIVING M IND 2:30 A.M. Ghost-town roads Darkening in their silence. I’m alone— Driving two cities away From where my nightmares dance Slinkily inside locked doors. Blood-shot eyes paint Roads colorlessly, Swerving into lanes Of imaginary traffic. No, It’s only me lighting up The night with my ‘94 green Dodge Spirit—quietly Begging people to wake up, So I won’t be forced to dwell Inside my mind’s countless parade Of charades. Still, Blackened windows glare Unresponsively; Cold. Going home to overly-quiet hallways Allows room for voices Only I can hear— Solitude slashes sleep That way.

PA S S E T T O

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Instead, I swerve into the hospital Emergency entrance— After all, An unsoothed, racing mind Is an emergency— At least, The night workers on duty Think so, Injecting me with dreamless Syrupy sedatives So I can finally sleep.

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TYLER MUSTY FIREWOOD AND BROKEN NOSE

O

n the night of the day he almost killed his father, Olin couldn’t sleep. When the headlights of his mother’s car curved across his bedroom— at once inflating and shrinking jagged shadows— he crept out of bed to the head of the stairs, taking care to stay on light toes along the railing so the floorboards wouldn’t squeak. His parents spoke in the kitchen, set off to the right at the bottom of the stairs, the only source of light he could sense from his perch. The smell of reheated shepard’s pie hung loose in the air, stretched from the kitchen microwave. “Holy shit, Malcolm,” his mother said. “What happened?” “Calm down, babe,” he said. “We just had…an accident today… while moving the firewood.” His nose, it had been a disfigured purple mound, twice its normal size when Olin went to bed, and a decidedly large lump adorned the back of his skull. A soft crunch, like someone biting a mouth full of cereal with their lips open was all it took, and that didn’t seem like enough to Olin. “Tell me…Malcolm?…Tell me what happened.” “I had the truck backed up to the garage roof, you know, to the hole we throw firewood through so we can stack it—” “I know, I know. How’d this happen?” “Well…you get carried away up there, going as fast as you can— you know— to get the job done. He just wasn’t looking where—” “Olin did this to you?” “Babe, it was an accident. A piece got away from him because he was going so fast. I’m actually pretty lucky. It could’ve killed me if it’d hit my temple.” “My God, Malcolm, it looks so bad…” “He said it put me out a few seconds…you know…I’ll live.” “Olin knocked you out? Out cold?” “You should’ve seen his face. He said he thought I was dead…after only a few seconds. I must have hit my head when I fell because that wood only hit my nose…came right across my face and caught my nose. I wasn’t even looking.” Olin could still see him lying crooked atop the sharp edges of the uneven firewood in the bed of the old brown Mazda pickup truck. Slow, even breaths curved his chest in and out, but he looked dead to his son. MUSTY

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“Dead?” she said. “He shouldn’t think about something like that… so young?” “Don’t think about it, babe.” “I mean…what would we do without you?” “Don’t think about it.” “That couldn’t happen…I mean…you said it could’ve killed you if only a few inches—” And she started to cry. “It didn’t happen. Olin, he…we…” Olin’s mother cried for a while, his father soothing her, using the same words he used on Olin when he fell out of a tree and broke his thumb. Funny, Olin thought, how they sounded the same. “You don’t think…” Olin’s mother said, “he could have done it on purpose—” “Why would you think that?” “I wasn’t there…” “No. Don’t think that.” They didn’t say much for a time, and Olin started growing sleepy at the top of the stairs, wearing just his flannel boxer shorts. “Why don’t you go to bed,” Olin’s father said. “You’ve had a long trip.” “You’re right,” his mother said. “You’re sure you’re okay?” “Yeah. I’m just going to wait for this ice to melt away, you know, try to keep the swelling down.” “All right. I’ll wait for you to come to bed.” “Okay.” Olin scurried to his room, to his bed, but he still couldn’t sleep. All night he pictured his father laying there on the wood— its only reason for existence to be burned. As dark blood oozed from his nostrils, dripping and forming pools on various pieces of chopped-out pine and birch, Olin thought each slow breath would be his last. It wasn’t seconds like Olin told his father, but minutes that he was out, time Olin took to stare, confused at the sight before him. The autumn air shuffled around him, whispering what he thought was his father’s death song. Olin had heard the word death before, and seeing it that day, positive it was the real thing, the empty look of his father’s face didn’t look so bad. Before he fell asleep, early while the sun was beginning to threaten the silent dark, Olin thought about the wind again, thought that it never sings a song. It’s only the wind. 47

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LYNN RUDMIN SPECTACLE

OF

R AIN

He is in droopy drawers she, her filmy nightie with thin straps standing in their door. No plans for each other. Just the storm’s welcome rain on their knees, on their smiling faces, their lifted arms. This night never should repeat, as the ocean never should repeat, so on out into the universe where our theories never should...

K ATE D ONAHUE A R ETURNING My fingertips open the lake and, like hands reaching through sleeves, mine slide and pull, slide and pull into the cuff of morning. I slip her silver skin over my arms, my head, my back, and stroke the waves shivering in the wind. My face gathers her wet kiss from that cool breath of mist lifting out of her body as my own swims further into her.

RU DM I N/D O NA H U E

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C INDY R IZZA DOCKS Weathered Docks, your wood is graying cracks show your age sea grass sways to the left and right they tickle your slippery posts barnacles are caked on your stairs seaweed hangs like wet cobwebs your boats float comfortably lapped only by gentle waves Weathered Docks, when my wood is gray and cracked, can I join you?

K AITLIN O’C ONNOR UNTITLED there are ways to disappear “my spinal cord is shriveling” i weakly mouthed to you as i stepped my white flesh upstairs there are ways to disappear but i think you didn’t hear

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A MANDA PORTER LESSONS THROUGH

A

BURN

Shadows lie, now fallen. What once was golden now lies torn. Laughter only echoes, Edges finally grown to worn. Early morning silence Only lengthens the distance more. Wanting another chance to begin, Add the ashes to the corner, just like the times before. Hoping this time would be different, Was this a sacred path we trod? Forgiveness like rivers run rampant, Once more, add a pleasant faรงade Wondering what turned so sour, Assuming all was just fun and games. A lesson now learned, all the wiser, Wandered too close to the flame.

PORTER

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DARCY WINWARD UNTITLED The Mountains overlook this valley of dust this small place of nothingness Lies and so much more this secluded world knows nothing of reality This dismal scene never fails to stay the same a new generation of wannabees a new world of lonely hearts souls searching for a break this routine way too familiar

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CYNTHIA HUNTINGTON LIGHTHOUSE I stood so still my shadow fell away and sank into the earth. I was so quiet a gull’s wing brushed me, flying past. In the heat of summer afternoon, I felt winter hiss at my spine. All the languages lay scattered on the sand, in fragments visible and clear. I turned without disturbing the arrangement of a grain of sand. I breathed so lightly wind replaced each dark cell buried inside my flesh.

HUNTINGTON

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I N M ARCH WOODS The sky was the blue of melting ice Every few yards was another marker 28 paces, counted in my industrial boots shiny even when they aren’t wet a crow and a chainsaw arguing, and what looked like, but could not be, a human turd, hairy and grey in the path I am approaching a clearing, a little house with green shutters I wanted to find the path’s ending, and now I am sorry to come out of the wood, to know where I am though I don’t know where I am I am simply back on the road her letters to him I threw them away because they hurt me now I try to remember— was it here? the house with green shutters?

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a fair wind at the end of winter: blown away don’t marry the memory the rock that lies at the crossroads though it seems to tell you everything red ivy— small leaves along the ground they are telling you everything you are not listening anymore bare trees, and pine trees dark and light I let my mind wander— I would say I am out of the woods but I am just passing through a clearing trees all around and the remains of trees on brown grass a stone bird bath no it is a sundial saying nothing filament of rain

HUNTINGTON

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PATRICK A RMSTRONG ELLEN She collected little things: flowers and shells, moth wings, feathers. She read slender books of foreign poems. She liked to laugh and kept company with young men and drank so much she slurred her goodnights or woke and dressed in unfamiliar rooms. When she was at work, her mouth tightened, and her green eyes narrowed like a predator’s. When she slept, no sound could wake her and her face smoothed to marble, and her lips pursed as if to kiss. Late at night, she danced like slow water, like flickering fire, like she was holding a trembling everything in her arms. But only once, visiting the ocean, did she let herself go, drifting down among the green shadows, her heart slowing to the sea-pulse. They asked for her on Friday night. Her telephone rang and rang. The sun rose on her little lawn, and her garden withered to stalks.

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M ARIAH K ENDRICK WHAT LOLA WANTS Lola, she tells me, is an Indian name. She saw it on a canoe in a museum at age ten. And there was a song too; she hated it, but her husband sang: “What Lola wants, Lola gets…” until she laughed. “I still think about him,” she says with sad eyes and a look that wants to convince me it’s all right to hold on, “he’s been gone five years, but it’s still good memories…” She strokes the table with her fingers as if searching for something she’s misplaced but it’s just out of reach. I have known her for half an hour; already I’ve heard how her daughter died of lung cancer nearly eight years ago; they were close. She tells me of a Christmas they were too poor to buy decorations; they made their own of styrofoam, paint, and glue. …how her son was in the army and “didn’t die natural. He drown in a lake in Germany. I didn’t think there was any lakes in Germany, but the military only tells you what they want to…” KENDRICK

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…and how her husband was in the hospital nearly a year, “he didn’t watch those little TVs with headphones,” she said “he was too sick…” “but he died how he wanted: of a stroke in his sleep. I cremated him and buried him beside our son.” They used to go for car rides in the country, but now Lola is nearly blind and she stumbles through her memories alone in the dark. Her chin trembles and her eyes droop, but she smiles. She tells me a sense of humor is the most important thing to keep, and I can picture her at twenty five— her husband singing: “what Lola wants, Lola gets…” and even though she hates the song she laughs.

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B OB G ARLITZ BACK AND FORTH

H

otels rooms give me respite from home. Home gives me retreat from hotels. For the past five months I have been going back and forth. I could not tell where I was comfortable, where I could really rest, where I was home. I might have been most comfortable while driving back and forth. Once in the hotel room, I would spread my things around and study the view out the window. When I got back home, I would study the piles of papers and books, sort through the mail, do laundry, vege out on the sofa and watch part of some movie. Then I would wish I could read something for ten hours straight. Better would be to write for three or four hours. But it didn’t happen, those two last wishes. Instead the house would remind me of so much and I would try to avoid being reminded, or try to put a good veneer of obliviousness over everything. In the hotel rooms I would welcome the anonymous emptiness, savor it in a way, and then go out for a long walk and look for a movie. After the movie I would grab a bite and come back to the room and look for a decent movie on tv. I might read instead. The noises that came through the walls were welcome and entirely different from any noises you could hear in the silences at home. The same was true, of course, of home. The noises there you could never hear in the silences of hotel rooms. It became the only comfort I could find, to move back and forth between home and hotel. The car came to feel like a separate reality altogether, a merging of the comforts of both home and hotel. Moving landscape gives both places an extra feature, an attractiveness no single place could offer. I looked forward, of course, to the small but adequate bars of soap and the little bottles of shampoo. My head is shaved now so I felt bad that I couldn’t make proper use of the conditioners. Back home I tried to use up one of these bottles by assuming it would work just as well as a bath gel. It didn’t. At home, too, I would line up the collected bars of complimentary hotel soaps and try to decide which one to use. They never disappeared fast enough and began to pile up. For the next few hotel visits I would be sure not to bring home any soaps or shower gels. At home I tried to look at the bathroom as though it were a hotel bathroom. It didn’t work. Nor could any of the rooms be imagined as hotel rooms. The familiar GARLITZ

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depths of home rooms felt bottomless. The walls, the furniture, the nicks and scratches and blotches, every detail of home felt like time absorbing my whole life energy into each nook and cranny it could invent. In hotel rooms time seemed to be happy to offer the smooth, designed surfaces of the suitably coordinated colors, schemes, motifs and patterns. The sheets felt cooler and smoother than home’s. The chairs were at once heftier and cheaper but disguised well to seem better and more luxurious. Luxury is not an issue at home. The illusion of it is not either. Being haunted is not an issue in hotel rooms. Oh, you might think of the hundreds or thousands who have been there before. But they do not haunt you the way the roughed over surfaces of home do, with their aromatic rubbings of everything in your life that has happened there. Hotel rooms might conjure things in your imagination, but they do not haunt. Hotel rooms offer the marvelous sensuousness of the right amount of comfort but not too much more. They are masterworks of minimal comfort that dare never be named as such. They know they can never match the comforts of home, nor the hauntings. So hotel rooms give off lights and textures, aromas and arrangements, that you can easily bask in without risk. If you are there a few days and put your clothes in the dresser drawers and shirts and trousers on hangers in the closet and close the doors, it never feels like doing the laundry and putting it away as it should be done. On the other hand in a hotel you can never have the unspeakable pleasure of bringing in the mail. The matted and framed prints on hotel room walls belongs to a special genre of art, one we have created and perfected since 1950. In better hotels these works are done by accomplished artists. They have the ring of the studio of a first-rate art school. Or at least a superb third-rate art education. At home, for most of us, the art on the walls is hit-or-miss. Even if we have been willed a Matisse etching or some authentic Larry Rivers lithographs, everything else we manage to hang and arrange falls short, much shorter than the few good Ersatz works in hotel rooms. These are placed just so and they have been commissioned often to go really really well with the decor designeries of the hotel room. The imperfections of hotel rooms add to their pleasure, especially when they are so nearly perfectly designed. One room I stayed in at a fine boutique hotel in Boston had large valences at the top of the curtains on the 59

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two windows. After a day I noticed that the valences, padded and covered, and the same size, were in fact three or four inches off kilter with each other. One had been hung higher than its neighbor. In the same room, one of the excellent almost-Audobon prints had been hung strangely on the wall beside the rich mahogoney TV armoir. It was effectively blocked from being seen very well. At home the imperfections are ten-fold more numerous and yet not the same sort of fun. At home these flaws go unremarked because they had been noticed some years earlier by someone and now no one could be bothered to bring them up. At home living tissue forms between the inhabitants and the decor. Between I’ve gotten quite good at being in between, back and forth, over the years but this recent illness has shown me what good places hospitals are for extending that practice in new and exciting ways. I’ve developed a good deal of finesse at hotel rooms, cafes, wandering the streets of strange cities, where I both knew the language and knew not a word of the language, at reading books in all sorts of transitional places in addition to cafes, park benches, and cathedrals that happened to have at least one spot in the stained windows that allowed enough light in to read by.

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RUSSELL ROWLAND R ECOGNITION SCENE Elinor shares a room at the nursing home with two prostrate ladies. The second time in minutes she goes on about a previous roommate who died, I check my watch. Her chin quivers. Was that a fart, or just a motorcycle outside the window? Next, she tells about that dog who visited, jumped right up on her bed, the very same dog that jumped up at the beginning of our conversation. It was a fart. I make some tentative departing feints. “I pray, says Elinor, “but it’s like God’s not there.” “Maybe you’ve been catching Him away from His desk,” I suggest, straight-faced. A faucet drips beyond a door. Her eyes open, as if seeing me for the first time.

JOHN GUARNIERI, JR . A NOTE TO MY WIFE I ordered you two donuts And they only put in one. Then I fell and landed on your donut, So it’s a little squished. Enjoy anyway.

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M ATTHEW B. HOWES SWEET

AND

LOW

We begged them— first one, then the other— We begged with wild whetted mouth and elongated eyes We begged: “Honey, disperse the mists of ambiguity with your sharpened sight. You say you’ve sipped the ethereal molasses, now conjure images of the other.” But they just rationed our hope into daily structures And molded our tremors into more aesthetically pleasing patterns. They just stimulated our bowels with fork-tongued cattle prods And fastened our appetites to the head of speeding apparitions. To them and their [hidden] crutch spiritual postures. We’ve worshipped behind their shadow’s shadow And only recently come to taste their artificial sweeteners. And yet, still, we thank them for every non-nutritious grain. Now they defuse our pillars with bitter subtext And filter our frailty into the cask of children’s broken dreams. And now they disfigure our hunger behind sugared surface And sweep our shivers from the corners of their egocentrically enhanced perception. But they don’t know we’ve risen above To look below To see their empty caldrons. And they don’t know we’ve pinned them to the floor And seen where their wings should be. Now their swollen feet touch level ground with our coarse face. And now we sit in silence, Fasting… But our appetite nags, And achievement sags, And we long for another cheap spell casting.

HOWES

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THE P RIDE

OF

GAUNT TREE

Stomach turns As coiled snakes wink at lucky rolls Hunger burns As lovely women hold forth empty bowls Fingers claw Down the back of self-castration Teeth gnaw The gape the thighs of enervation To eat the fruits to harm the tree The balk of death is ecstasy Long ago in The Dawn of When Eve once said small tree You can be your own best friend Or your own worst enemy Trace the path that’s followed since To see which path’s been chosen The halting limp of staggered limbs Speak of a mouth forever closing She has Adam The tree its pain So live well our precious kin Dry tree is strong through lack of rain Gaunt tree is proud of dry roots too thin

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JASON MC K ENZIE I WANT WHORES I want to save every one; convince them men stink worse than shit, kiss them for hours with my palms along the contours of their jaw lines, prove love does not need to descend the waistline, & never does on a first date I want to teach them the difference between Consolation & Accepting Abuse, how to conquer mirrors, & how to make wise investments in the market of emotional commodities I want them to stop! using their vaginas as strategic game pieces, & know how good it feels to fuck your favorite person I want each of these things for every whore because I know what it’s like— to give yourself away to anyone who asks with the dire hope that someone will have the heart to give a piece of you back.

MCKENZIE

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LISTEN, SISTER Keep an eye peeled for Mr. Slick with the switchblade tongue who was born cutting out of a slipknot & whittles the truth from a hunk of day Pay damn good mind you better don’t slide down his frictionless nature, into his dark pit of a snake charm If you look in his eyes like five o’clock shadows then you’ll believe when he sells you the sunset Believe you me, beneath the part of his hair lies a predator Sure he sparks a mean wick thru midnight, but the day will break when the light could find you put back in the soot & black ash of a burn that will remind you.

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L IZ A HL ABBA MEMOIR I crank up “Dancing Queen” on my turntable and I’m twelve again, posing in front of my mirror, flanked by Donna and Beverly. We lip-synch into our hairbrush-microphones, our shoulders bunch up and roll with emotion. It doesn’t matter that there were actually only two girls in ABBA. We enact generosity— share songs and spotlights. It doesn’t matter that we’re flat-chested, knock-kneed— in the mirror we see grace and spangles. Doesn’t matter that we skip over the songs Bjorn and Benny led— no boy would understand this need. We take turns on melodramatic disco solos: If you change your mind, I’m the first in line Honey I’m still free Take a chance on me* We feel empathy, somehow, invent lost loves to sing to. We dip, sway, spin in unison, never uttering a sound. Only later, truly solo, alone in the shower, will I actually sing, in squeaky, pre-pubescent soprano. They never really even knew English— just the words. More proof that disco is the universal language. From ABBA, I learned to be queen of gestures. From ABBA, I learned something about poetry.

*From ABBA’s “Take a Chance.”

AHL

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BROKEN Computer disks give up the ghost, scrambling language into code or vanishing it all together. The sink’s stuck because of ice somewhere downstream, downstairs where the water’s supposed to go out and away. The camera’s gone blind, forgotten what light means. Time itself seems to be cracked open— I lost an hour some long while ago, and still can’t find it. Even the simple things I thought I could trust are slipping. By some miracle, I’m walking home at night, not breaking my ankles on the slick spots. The moon’s low and foggy, a dark chalk drawing sloppily half-erased. Snow on lawns and in lots sinks into itself, loses water to air in damp exhalations, sinks itself down like something rotting. Later, while I sleep, the snowpack on the roof will shudder and creak, will break away and fall. In the morning, all of it will be gone. I want you here and know I can’t have you here, it’s the plainest thing of all, the thing that could send me to my knees. I imagine you are in the stars trying to send me a sign, and I curse the clouds that smudge the sky. I’m so tired I believe I could will you down, you could be my invisible friend, protector and confidant, impossibly generous and infinitely wiser now in matters of my heart. The porchlight kicks on to greet me and in the shrubs something moves— the size of a large cat— but its tale tells all: the biggest possum I’ve ever seen lumbering slow and close to the house taking her time even as I stare openly, she’s out and about, nudging the dead shrubbery, only half-roused from winter stupor. I feel so broken, like the snow ambushed by sudden thaw— everything’s pulling apart, sinking down, melting away. I feel like the sluggish possum who wants only to be a possum, not an omen, who cannot run from the bright light or the astonished stare of a stranger. 67

AHL


CENTRIPETAL

JON L INK COMPLICATED SCENERY IS LISTED BY M ISS JULY 1978 A S A TURN- OFF miss july, the ice you have offered me is red as a carpet, i have tried not to be honest so that tonight we can call your breasts a grave thing without listening to the promise that a race horse without a shadow forgets its heritage and begins dreaming of the secret lives of narrow fish. and even if you can’t explain the simply diplomacy of pack mule i know when you write your diary it will begin as a letter addressed to every news anchor that wants to see me as dead as the summer’s mouth and see you in a tight shirt.

when i asked you why the breeze that stoked the mossy side of our engines wouldn’t deteriorate it wasn’t because i was picturing you dancing beneath a beehive it was because everything i have seen before becomes empty in the oculus of time, and since you ask it’s the nude self-portraits of coupon archivists that are my main source of inspiration.

my favorite mailman will read that: today i was told that the ice i have used for years to cool my drinks is only a combination of water and coldness. i will be surprised.

LINK

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miss july i fell in love with you while we pretended to understand the erotic way heat danced across your shoulder and you asked me tell me that anyway your forearm extends is a perfect example of the trees stealing the skyline their branches stabbing my eyes like the biography of weekend works, and i wonder if this is the right time to admit to you that while you spoke for the mean rumors of tarantulas knitting in the medicine cabinet i was hoping you would just pick a word that wouldn’t make me look more serious than the ideal proportions of the night’s sky. miss july you know that i am making my own ice when i ask you for nothing but a ticket on a twin engine plane traveling to the belly of alaska.

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NATHAN GRAZIANO A N ALLEGORY TO E XPLAIN MODERN A MERICA My cat watched a bug descend from the ceiling. The only thing I ask of this animal that my paycheck feeds and my kindness cleans its litter box is that he kill any insect or vermin in a visible area of the house. So my cat stalked the bug, sitting on his hind legs, his ears drawn back for battle. Then the bug stopped crawling. My cat, somehow knowing that it would take too long for the insect to come down, decided to prowl the porch for an easier victim. And I threw up my arms.

GRAZIANO

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JED HOWARD YOU ’RE JUST JEALOUS

“D

on’t look at me like that,” said the accuser to the perpetrator. “What is your problem? You know, it’s people like you that make this a dog eat dog world. I’d rather eat chicken. In fact, that’s what I’m having for dinner tonight. What are you having, lambchops, escargot? Oh, that’s right, escargot is just the opener to a disgusting display of how you can drop a couple hundred on a few glasses of wine and eat tasteless food for the benefit of your appearance. “Well, let me tell you something. You look down on me, but I’m taller. You dye your hair, but I know it’s grey, your roots are poking through. I may never go grey, my grandfather didn’t. “And that girl by your side, is that your daughter? I guess not, I see that you’ve got matching wedding bands. She’ll barely have a wrinkle when you die. I’ll bet when she goes out with her friends she doesn’t wear that ring. Oh well, I don’t care, my girlfriend’s prettier anyway. “Say, that’s a shiny new Porsche. I’ll bet it’s an automatic though. I’m sure I could drive my Civic better than you can handle that thing. But who’s racing anyway, I can appreciate scenic beauty when I drive. “I’ll bet that car is going to roll up a cobblestone drive and park in one of the four or five bays in your garage. And then you’ll step into a hollow home with high ceilings and painting of people and places you don’t even know. It has to get cold in that huge stone cave. I’m sure my apartment heats up a lot faster and stays warm longer. “So take that child home, drunk on sour wine, and tell her how you’re going to make her life so good. And keep telling yourself that your life is complete.” The accuser looked the perpetrator up and down. The perpetrator, looking at the valet rolling in with his car, glanced at the accuser and noticed he was being stared at. “Hello young man. Can I help you with something?” “No, you’re just jealous.”

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ELIZABETH THOMAS UNTITLED In memory of Dave van Ronk

Mourn your dead land of the free if you want to see a hero follow me*.

It starts as it always does in my family— over food, a holiday feast, Sunday dinner. In this case my older brother’s 50th birthday. A veteran of the Vietnam “conflict,” he says to our father, “So Dad, how about the job President Bush is doing in Iraq?” Our father, silenced by bad luck and a stroke, nods his head and smiles crookedly. Needing to strike, my brother turns to me, “We kicked ass and hardly lost a man.” “That is,” I say, “if you don’t include guerilla warfare and all the civilians that have died.” “Damn liberals! Give you a gun, you’d blow your own ass off! Those kids are heroes.” But they’re my kids too and since when does carrying a gun or taking a wrong turn make anyone a hero? I look the word ‘hero’ up in the dictionary and read— ‘shows great courage, self-sacrifice’ And that week I am teaching poetry to a group of 6th graders and ask, “Who are your heroes?” Yo Miss, 50 Cent. He my hero. Bart Simpson, Miss. Eminem. Charlie’s Angels. Sammy Sosa. THOM A S

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And I am sad but not surprised considering whose faces sell our children running shoes and happy meals. “What about Gandhi?” I ask. “Or Rosa Parks (She’s the bus lady, right?), Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa (That your Mama? What she do?), Christie McCauliffe, the police and firefighters who ran back in... If you want to see a hero follow me.* Or Jesus he said, Follow me.* And then there’s my brother— another arm chair warrior, embedded at my dinner table. A former Green Beret he was proud to wear that uniform. Just a kid... he couldn’t wait to enlist, to salute, to sew those airborne wings on his chest. So, where were the flag-wavers when he finally returned home to these bloody fields of grain along with 58,000 bags of boy... and wounds that will never heal. Where was his parade? The peace he fought for? It’s time we stop, hey what’s that sound everyone look what’s going down.* So there he sits— fork exclaiming neck veins bulging telling me I am un-American because I am American enough to disagree. 73

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CENTRIPETAL

Still...I say, “Hey Bro, it’s your birthday. Make a wish.” And for the first time all evening his words leave me with nothing to say. “I wish I could do it again.” Now I’m a fucking hero.*

*Lyrics from Dave van Ronk and Buffalo Springfield.

THOM A S

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NOTES ON THE CONTRIBUTORS

L IZ A HL teaches creative writing and other English courses at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in The Women’s Review of Books, Crab Orchard Review, The Formalist, Southern Poetry Review, and many other journals. PATRICK ARMSTRONG teaches writing and literature for Plymouth State and for the College for Lifelong Learning. His poems have appeared in Quarterly West, The Providence Journal Bulletin, Yemassee, Faultline, Stride and other places. One of his poems was selected by James Dickey for inclusion in One for One, a book of Dickey’s fifty favorite poems. An essay of his will appear in the upcoming HarperCollins Introduction to Literature anthology. JACK BRONN, a senior English major at Plymouth State University, is from Clearwater, FL. His work has appeared in several small college publications. DARYL BROWNE received his BA from Harvard University in Bio-Anthropology. His poems have appeared on Makeitplain.com, Poetry.com, and in the Ashland Village Artists Collective Gallery. SCOTT COYKENDALL teaches Professional Writing at Plymouth State University. He received his MFA in Poetry from Bowling Green State University. His poems have appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Quarterly West, Calliope, Poet’s On, and Centripetal. K AREN CURRIER is a fifth-grade teacher at Plymouth Elementary in NH. K ATE DONAHUE is a poet and a creative writing teacher at Plymouth Regional High School. She has been published in the Midwest Poetry Review, Compass Rose, The Plymouth Writer’s Group anthologies, and has self-published a book of poetry. She is an active member of a women’s writing group, Women of Words, and is the state codirector of the New Hampshire Young Writers’ Conference. JESSICA DUNN is an English major from North Sandwich, NH. BOB GARLITZ grew up along the banks of the Potomac River across from Ridgeley, West Virginia. He spoke Southern Mountain Dialect according to the linguistics professor at the university. His Dad was a butcher. His mother was a Catholic. He published his first poem in Decatur, Illinois. NATHAN GRAZIANO lives in Manchester, NH. He’s the author of Frostbite, a collection of short stories, and Not So Profound: New and Selected poems. His work has appeared internationally in numerous small journals, such as The Chiron Review, The Owen Wister Review, Main Street Rag, and Bathtub Gin. He aspires to someday become a rock star. JOHN GUARNIERI, JR. graduated from Unity College with his BS in Park Management. He currently works for Plymouth State University Physical Plants as a grounds worker on the athletic fields. K RYSTINA H AJDUCZEK , from Sheffield, VT, is a Medieval Studies major at Plymouth State University. Her work has appeared in Janus, Plymouth Magazine, and Centripetal.

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JED HOWARD was born in Wolfeboro, NH, attended Kingswood Regional High School, and is now a senior at Plymouth State University, majoring in English with a focus on writing. M ATTHEW B. HOWES is a third-year English major at Plymouth State University. Originally from Middleborough, MA, he has been published in Centripetal, The Clock, and The Comp Journal. CYNTHIA HUNTINGTON is the author of three collections of poetry. Her newest book, The Radiant, appeared in April 2003 from Four Way Books. She directs the program in creative writing at Dartmouth College. A ARON KENDRICK is a fifth-year senior sudying English/Writing at Plymouth State University. He currently lives in Andover, NH in a twenty-seven foot camper with his wife Mariah. M ARIAH KENDRICK has nothing to say, but wishes you to read her poem and like it. PARIS LANDRY studies, writes and philosophizes in Plymouth, NH. She dedicates her poem to Lisa LaRoche and Michaeline Rose for their deeper understanding. DUDLEY LAUFMAN lives in Canterbury, NH with his partner Jacqueline. They earn their money playing fiddles. He has been published in Centripetal, Hanging Loose, and Longhouse, to name a few. CRYSTAL A. LAVOIE is from Tamworth, NH and is a senior English/Writing major. Her turn-ons: monkeys. Her turn-offs: robots. She has previously been published in Centripetal, The Clock, and Babel Magazine. SARAH LEWIS is a senior English major at Plymouth State University. Her work has appeared in The Clock and Centripetal. JON LINK once caught the Incredible Hulk, but felt bad for him and let him go. CARA CRISTINA LOSIER is a third-year English major and has been published in Centripetal, The Berlin Daily Sun, and online at Poetry.com. ROBERT M. M ASSE is a Plymouth State University alumnus and has been published in The Clock, Centripetal, Plymouth Magazine, Plymouth Week and on New Hampshire Public Radio. He is currently working on one novel and one nonfiction book. SGT. THEODORE C. MERRITT served as a Staff Sergeant in the United States Army. JASON MC K ENZIE remembers everything since the womb. He has journeyed to all eight continents, including the secret one. His accounts can be found in Centripetal, and Yolk Logic. TYLER MUSTY is a senior English major at Plymouth State University from Piermont, NH. His previous work has appeared in The Comp Journal.

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K AITLIN O’CONNOR wrote about cats and fairy tales as a small child, which ended with the saving of humanity and the reward of food. Since that first literary phase, she has been published in other literary magazines as well as an educational catalogue. JENNIFER M. O’DONNELL is a lady. DIANE T. PADILLA, from Weare, NH, is a graduate of UNH-Manchester. She has been published in Centripetal, Concord Monitor, NH Premier Magazine and The Weare Register. She was editorial assistant for Business NH Magazine and now publishes Sonbae, a martial arts newsletter. JULIE PASSETTO has been previously published in The Centripetal, Ruby Bayo and Berkshire Eagle. ERIN PLUMMER is a Plymouth State University alumnus. SETH OWEN PERDUE is a senior English major at Plymouth State University. He has been published in The Clock and is currently Editor-in-Chief of said publication. AMANDA PORTER , originally from Springfield, MA, is a sophomore and Environmental Planning major at Plymouth State University. She has been published in three high school literary magazines, Centripetal, and currently writes for The Clock. A NGELA R ICCIARDI is a lecturer for the English Department at Plymouth State University. Her poetry and short stories have appeared in several small literary publications. CINDY R IZZA , from Winterport, ME, is a freshman and a Studio Art major at Plymouth State University. She draws, paints, and writes obsessively in her spare time. PAUL ROGALUS teaches English at Plymouth State University. His full-length play Crawling From the Wreckage was produced in New York City in February 2002 by the American Theatre of Actors; three of his one-act plays have been staged in NYC as well. Green Bean Press has published a chapbook of his micro-stories entitled Meat Sculptures. RUSSELL ROWLAND lives and works in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region. He is a 2001 Pushcart Prize nominee, with poems published in over forty journals, including Poem, Rattle, The Chaffin Journal, South Dakota Review, The Cape Rock and Xavier Review. NICKY ROSS is a poet and journalist from Merrimack, NH. An alum of Plymouth State University, and former co-editor of Centripetal, her work can be found in The Wordsworth, Centripetal, and other publications. LYNN RUDMIN teaches at Plymouth State University and finds students to be a gritty connection to our challenged planet. Her work has appeared in Centripetal, Poetry, New American Review #21.

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CHRISTOPHER “CHIP ” SCANLAN directs the National Writers Workshop at The Poynter Institute, a school for journalists in St. Petersburg, Florida. He spent two decades reporting for newspapers in New England, Delaware and Washington, D.C. His work has appeared in Redbook, The American Scholar and The Mississippi Review Web. His writing advice column, “Chip on Your Shoulder,” is available at http://poynter.org DANIEL SINGER is a Plymouth State alum, former Editor of Centripetal, and founding editor of The Way of Things Beneath the Snow and The Wordsworth. His work has appeared in Centripetal, The Clock, Eagle, and Business NH Magazine. TRACEY L. SMITH is a Nashua, NH native and a senior English major at Plymouth State University. She enjoys her painstaking addiction to orange juice and hopes to one day meet Neil Gaiman and shake his hand. STEVEN SPRAGUE is from Claremont, NH. He is a junior, majoring in English Literature. ELIZABETH THOMAS is a published poet who designs and teaches writing programs to promote literacy for schools and organizations throughout the U.S. An advocate of youth in the arts, she is the founder of UpWords Poetry - a company dedicated to promoting programs for young writers. She hosts a website at www.upwordspoetry.com. DARCY WINWARD, from Atkinson, NH is a senior at Plymouth State University. She is an English major with a Women’s Studies minor and enjoys writing whenever she gets the chance.

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