A BIG LEATHER-BOUND VOLUME MAKES AN IDEAL RAZORSTRAP. A THIN BOOK IS USEFUL TO STICK UNDER A TABLE WITH A BROKEN CASTER TO STEADY IT. A LARGE , FLAT ATLAS CAN BE USED TO COVER A WINDOW WITH A BROKEN PANE . A ND A THICK , OLD -FASHIONED HEAVY BOOK WITH A CLASP IS THE FINEST THING IN THE WORLD TO THROW AT A NOISY CAT. --M ARK TWAIN--
Volume 10 ◆ Issue 1
C O -E DITORS Naomi Fosher Carrie Waldron M ANAGING E DITOR Nicole Bailey FICTION EDITOR Lauren Tiner POETRY EDITOR Alexandria Cappello L AYOUT Nicole Bailey Alexandria Cappello Naomi Fosher Carrie Waldron E DITOR IAL A DV ISORS Dr. Liz Ahl Dr. Paul Rogalus A SSOCIATE E DITORS Emily Cote Robert Feeny Abbie Morin Elizabeth Mosher Elizabeth Rice Michelle Stephens B USINESS M ANAGER Michael McClory C OV ER A RT Tonya White C OV ER DESIGN Nathan Gagne*
CENTRIPETAL IS PRINTED BY WHITMAN COMMUNICATIONS, I NC. 10 WATER STREET P.O. BOX 1156 LEBANON, NH 03766 (603) 448-2600
Submission Guidelines: Students, alumni, faculty, and friends are invited to submit up to four pieces of writing and/or four pieces of artwork. Prose should be no more than 4,000 words; micro-fiction should be no more than 4,000 words; micro-fiction should be no more than 500 words; poetry may be any length, any style. Graphic fiction, black and white art and black and white photography must be submitted as high-resolution (300-dpi) jpegs. Color art photography will be considered for the cover only. 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 Plymouth State University, the Hartman Union Building Staff, Mandarin Taste, Rodney Eckstrom, Dr. Liz Ahl, and the PSU English Department. We would especially like to thank Dr. Paul Rogalus, our advisor, without whom this would not have been possible.
Poets and Writers 19 Highland Ave. Suite A14 Plymouth, NH 03264 (603) 535-2236 firstname.lastname@example.org
CONTENTS Vo l u m e 1 0 ◆ I s s u e 1
Leaves in Late October
An Encounter on the Corner of Broadway and 42nd Street
No Chance of Fire
This Sweet Sin
Me, You and Everyone Else
Geeks, Freaks, and Prom Queens
One More Remains
The Days Are Colder Since You Took My Shit
we’ve got to stop
Morgan Kristy Reynolds
Morgan Kristy Reynolds
Girls’ Night Out
Lust’s Apricot Penny for Your Thoughts
Escapade of a Connoisseur of Guitar Players
A Bump In The Road
Anatomy of Anger
Love Is Like A Mosh Pit
To Be Taken
A Girl You Used To Know
How to Host a Dinner Party
CENTRIPETAL LEAVES IN LATE OCTOBER Robert Feeny Concrete and steel Powerful, enduring, unyielding Perfectly calculated, Lines upon lines Not subject to decay; To death, a stranger. Where, in this, is beauty? I wonder, Watching leaves Fall from trees, Fall to their death. Colors so vibrant Quickly fading to brown, Life extinguished; Turned to dirt. Where, in this, is beauty?
CENTRIPETAL BREAKDOWN Samantha Stephens Two hours of driving “There isn’t much time left.” Two hours of road rage “This isn’t fucking fair” Two hours replaying “I know honey. When can you come home?” This heartbreaking conversation Ten minutes to find parking “I’ll be home tomorrow” Ten minutes to stop crying “She’s been asking for you” Ten minutes denying “I have to go” Her sickness has grown Five minutes to find the words Nana… Five minutes to find my father I need you… Five minutes preparing I love you… To watch the strongest person I know let go. Eight floors up, two corridors down I’ll miss you every day Ten steps to become the strength I’ve admired “Wipe your eyes and remember the happy times” “She needs you to know it’s her time to go.” I’ll carry you with me… always.
CENTRIPETAL AN ENCOUNTER ON THE CORNER OF BROADWAY AND 42ND STREET Lisa Busch Old man in faded trench coat, stolen, from a dumpster on Canal Street. He sits, Old English peeking from a brown paper bag. Grey smoke from a holiday shopper’s Camel Light touches his bare tongue, and Macy’s bags slap his ankles. A Dixie cup in his shaking hand, taps the Manhattan concrete. Young woman, in Coach boots and a leather Prada jacket approaches with a penny, the best she can muster in her world of plastic American Express. Head’s up? he asks, then answered, Yes His surprising reply, Keep it, for good luck. Good luck, can be the difference between Upper East Side, and a Broadway corner.
CENTRIPETAL SUMMER MAGIC Lisa Busch My small hand in yours as you lead me over tendrils of sand, little girl laughter floating in thick salty air, beach air that makes my hair turn to puff, Waves tickle our barefeet while we carelessly run, running wild, wood nymphs with our shiny hair caressing our sunburned cheeks wild, with our eyes locked, never blinking, impish smiles breaking the face mold, molding our friendship in the wet clay, writing our names. They remain inscribed for a fleeting moment, then salty ocean carries them, Them, meaning us. We move with the water, keeping time with itâ€™s rhythm, like clockwork, we go away, then return, away, return, always to the same place, Placement in time, thatâ€™s all it is. Everything is still the same, the silky shells and the golden beach. This is our magic. Magical thing, our friendship is. We come back. We will always come back. Back again, but never the same. Not the same. Not the same this time.
CENTRIPETAL THINK Richard Simard When I was younger, the world was a much better place. True story. Nothing is the way it used to be. The morals and ideals of those who run the world today have swiftly changed from that of honor and dignity to greed and power. Thinking about such an inevitable truth disgusts me. I don’t understand where nobility went missing. Yet, no matter how curious I am about the matter or how much I may debate it amongst myself, things will never change. “Excuse me, how much is this?” a man asks as he gestures towards a cigar in the humidor. I run a small general store. It’s not exactly my first pick of occupation, but I wouldn’t say I’ve chosen much for myself during this life of mine. The store was handed down to me from my father. I let out a sigh, “You’ll have to be more specific than that. Which one?” “The uh… Romeo y Julieta?” “Four bucks.” “Do you smoke a lot of cigars?” “Not really.” That’s a lie. I’m somewhat of a cigar connoisseur, but taste and preference is something acquired by experience, not recommendation. I’m almost tempted to say, if you’re unsure, then don’t bother. “I see,” the man speculates with resolution. “I’ll try this one.” “Four bucks,” I repeat. “Do you take credit?” “No. Cash only.” That’s another lie. I do take credit, but not for something as small and trivial as a four dollar purchase. I’d end up paying an unreasonable amount of his purchase through service fees from the credit company. I’m not really interested in joining in on this guy’s questionable investment. It’s not that I’m stingy, it’s more a matter of spite. Hell, don’t come into my store waving your plastic around, a fool’s way of building credit so he can get a car loan or a house loan in the future. That’s not my problem. Besides, cash feels better—as a store owner, it’s more rewarding to receive. “Ah, that’s fine,” he confirms that he has cash. Why even suggest credit in the first place? He brings his purchase to the counter and the transaction is made. Now get out of my store! How I wish I could say that to him. If
CENTRIPETAL you ask me, I’ll tell you that I’m not a bad guy. I try to be honest, decent, and respectful—even though I’ve been bruised well by society and its jolly, over-productive advocates. See, American society works very similar to a feudal system, with the exception of a few distinct, intelligent individuals, most people tend to remain in the class they were born into. Classes are biologically nurtured, which means if you enter this world in the upper or middle class, you’ll probably end up just like the pompous, intolerable, hot-shot parents responsible for such a fluke. If you’re born lower-class, you’ll probably be riding that same lower-class wave throughout your life. Sure, you can work your way to the top if you want, but chances will have it that without proper nourishment of intelligence, you’re going nowhere—not to mention that most of the world’s pompous, intolerable hot-shots will try to keep you on that lowerclass wave, if not drown you in it. In essence, you’re born into a pile of shit, and it’s that same shit that sheets your bed when you die in it. I was born into an ocean of shit; I’m still in that ocean same ocean. I never drowned in it. I realized immediately that I either had to sink or swim. Sinking is too easy, so I chose the latter, and I’ve been treading ever since, which tells you that I’m one tough mother fucker, and tells me that I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. Another customer walks into the store and he heads directly for the coolers. This guy is a student. He’s well-dressed, though, wearing a full suit. I imagine he is returning from a class where he made some sort of presentation. College is unbelievable these days. It’s hard to determine which way it’s heading. On one hand, there’s the fact that almost all jobs currently require some sort of degree of their employees. On the other hand, I look at the sorts of kids that are being accepted into college and wonder what exactly that degree is worth. A college degree is so common to come across now that it might as well be tossed out the door as a requirement. I’ve met many dumb students in this store—students who have auras about them that reek of their unintelligence—people undeserving of furthering their career opportunities. In fact, I would venture as far as to say that half of today’s college students are only studying further than high school because they don’t know what else to do with their lives. That’s not this guy’s case as he meanders through the store. He has evidence of a better future than the norm—or maybe that’s just what I perceive or perhaps it’s simply because he’s wearing a suit. I have no idea what his future entails, but I imagine that no matter what, it’s a long, hard life like the rest of us. As I stand in contemplation, my vision blurs towards the remainder of the store. I can see the student as he looks enthusiastically
CENTRIPETAL about the coolers—distinctly at the beer. His gaze finally lands on a thirty-rack of Keystone Light, and he grabs the box by the handle, bringing it towards the register and, consequently, me. “How are you today?” I ask him, knowing the truth of my indifference. “Just finished classes for the day, so I’m gonna relax for the rest of it,” he replies. I wonder what ‘relaxing for the rest of it’ really denotes. I mean, it’s half-past noon. Is he going to pound these beers down his face until he drowns? I let out a slight chuckle, as if to acknowledge that I understand what he’s talking about. “Lucky you,” I say. “Oh, no it’s not like that—I owe these to a friend over a lost bet,” he tries to clarify to me. I laugh a bit harder and reassure him, “You don’t have to explain to me, buddy.” I think he’s going to drown himself. I don’t really know what his intentions are, but I can assure you they’re masked by the undeniable fact that he’s buying beer a half-hour after noon. Isn’t that the most important fact? He hands me a twenty-dollar bill and I exchange back to him his proper change. “Have fun drowning yourself.” “Thanks,” the guy responds, shaking his head in disapproval. I imagine if he were telling the truth, I just insulted him greatly. He’s a student; he’ll be over it soon enough. I have a tendency to say things that I shouldn’t. I remember one year, at a family gathering, I insulted one of my nieces quite badly, yet I didn’t recognize it at the time. As the story goes, or the best I can remember it, we were sitting down at the dining room table, just the two of us. Other people were standing around idly chatting with one another about the usual, dull family bullshit. I don’t have much in common with my relatives on account of not being very close to my immediate family. I hold a very distant relationship for reasons that I cannot describe. To put it simply, family is in fact a choice. As the relationship goes, my family chose me—I didn’t choose them. So here I am, chatting with my niece, Jocelyn, all while examining the many bars of metal woven into her face which I couldn’t seem to keep my eyes off of. Coincidentally, she was talking about her piercings: the age and the order that she got them in, how much they each cost and hurt. As she spoke, my interest grew less and less. What makes her think I give a damn about her piercings? She got them—shouldn’t they only be for her then? I asked her this… “So, did you get those piercings for personal reasons or for showing them off like you are to me?” I must admit, it was the only
CENTRIPETAL stimulus I could find on my part of the conversation. She didn’t take my question the way I intended it. It’s amazing what people take offense to. “Umm,” she began to reply, “I got them for myself.” She spoke as if I knew the answer already. If I had known, I wouldn’t have asked it. She excused herself after replying and left the room rather promptly. I didn’t see Jocelyn for another couple of hours—by which time I had my fill of family and was preparing to leave. I was giving my farewells when I first saw her again. Her eyes left evidence of tears in them and I wondered if I had contributed to that. I suppose I’ll never know for sure because my sister, her mother, Robyn, never talked to me about it. It’s probably one of those grudge situations in which I’ll have to work very hard to regain their respect again. Such childish games people play, even at an older age. I didn’t apologize, mostly because nobody brought it to my attention again. If it wasn’t worth pointing out, then it wasn’t worth apologizing over. That’s how I felt about it back then, anyhow. I don’t know if my feelings still hold true now. “Hello, sir!” a voice greets me. “H-hello,” I respond, startled as hell. “Do you have a bathroom in here?” “Not for public use,” I look him over briefly. He’s a short, elderly man perhaps twenty years older than me. His khaki trousers are pulled almost to his chest where his gray, short-sleeve shirt tucks into them. He’s wearing a pair of brown penny-loafers (with the penny in the tongue) and a baseball cap. The cap says ‘Think’ on it—an old IBM slogan. I wonder if he used to work for IBM. I don’t dare to ask him; I fear if I instigate conversation that it will never end. He looks like a talker. “However, if you’d like to use the toilet, it’s right through that door,” I point toward the rear of the store where the bathroom is. He thanks me briefly and slowly begins his elderly journey toward the back. I don’t mind being courteous occasionally. I think I’m generally a courteous person; I try not to intentionally irritate people, I know how it feels to be annoyed and thus, don’t wish these feelings onto others. I probably used to be indifferent to others’ feelings, but I haven’t thought about it long enough to know for sure. Think. The image of the old man’s hat is stuck in my head. “Thank you kindly,” the old man interrupts my thought process. I hadn’t even noticed that he returned from the back. How can it be that such an old man is so quiet? “Did you work for IBM?” I ask, gesturing towards his cap. “No, not me—my father did. Actually, he created this slogan. That was in the early thirties.”
CENTRIPETAL “Long time ago, eh? Is that an original hat?” “Yes it is. I’ve been wearing it since I was a child. I somehow managed to keep it in decent condition. Hard to believe!” he chuckles a bit as he speaks. This man is wise—I can tell. “That is quite impressive,” I admit. I’d like to ask him if he’s going to make a purchase, but instead I ask him if he will sell the hat to me. I really like it. “I don’t know if I can part with this hat,” he responds. “Ever since I was a kid, I felt that wearing this hat helps me be more aware of my thoughts. But, after wearing it for so long, I probably don’t need it anymore. Besides, I’m old and won’t be around for much longer.” I almost wanted to lend him a few words of encouragement to his health. However, in this case, the words he says aren’t as important as his intentions of saying them. He’s not fishing for sympathy or pity here. He’s searching for answers—answers that will help him conclude his lifelong journey. At least that’s the impression I get. “Well, you’ve made up my mind,” the old man concludes, “I’ll give this hat to you if you really want it.” I’m shocked that he is so ready to part with it. Before I can conjure up something of gratuity to say, the hat is already off his head and on the counter in front of me. He turns toward the door and, without looking back, says to me, “Take good care of it. I hope it will be as helpful to you as it was to me.” I don’t even have time to respond; he is gone. I look at the hat on the counter. Think. I pick it up and place it on my head. Nobody is in the store. I am alone. I grab the telephone’s receiver as Conscience dials my sister’s phone number.
CENTRIPETAL NO CHANCE OF FIRE Morgan Reynolds Six foot three and two hundred pounds of dead weight pressed against my five foot four frame. Six inch fingers just fire wood with a driftwood shaped face. Damp, drowned and damn useless even doused in kerosene; growing just moss now on the north side that the sun never sees. Riddled with tunnels that echo and mark all the paths of the women just insects who drank all his sap and left me with tree bark abrasive and thin his insides just hollow.
CENTRIPETAL THIS SWEET SIN Christie Haskell Planes mold--to curves convex, caressing, softly creeping, coming closer, curving in. Its tender touch sends tides of pleasure slowly trickling, ever tempting, upon her gilded skin. Smooth, whispering silk surrounding heat and strong, pure, primala multitude of sensations propagating deep within. Subtle scents surrounding, ever seeping within, sending heat to slowly shimmer like heat waves in the wind. Awareness amplifying outward ad infinitum and increasing to the bounds of human reason and beyond impassioned skin. Toes curl ecstatic at the thought of time extending outwards ever leaping prolonging this sweet sin.
CENTRIPETAL MY FATHER Brianna Kleckner My tiny hands grasp hold of yours, Desperate for your love. My face grazes the scruff of your beard; The sandpaper on your face brings comfort to me. The stale smell of Yukon Jack from your breath; The blue in your eyes fogged and stained with red I breathe you in. Your hands caked with dirt As you reach for your demise I watch as your lips kiss the rim of the bottle. My big green eyes are glued to you, Just you, My father. The sounds of your drunken slumber Become my lullaby, While the rage in your voice becomes my everlasting fear. The sour snap of your belt Pierce my ears like a gunshot. The whip you create slaps the small of my skin While the puddle of tears In my eyes Cloud the image of you turning your back to me, My father.
CENTRIPETAL GETTING LOST Alexandria Cappello What I said was, “It’s getting late. I should go.” What I meant to say was, “I love you more than anything.” I had known for weeks I was leaving him Monday morning to live a life he would never know about. I felt the words circle through my veins, my body, my limbs, and my heart. Words that I was never able to speak soaked through my fingertips and leaked through the creases. I wanted to tell him that I loved him before my scrambled words left my fingertips. Austin was a twenty-something with no dreams. His excuse was, “I don’t like to look too far into the future,” which in layman’s terms meant, Austin had no plans. His pockets were lined with moths and pot stems. He was missing his two front teeth, or was it three? “Fight,” he said. He didn’t like to talk about it. We took drives in my car, often talking over each other. We spoke about my fear of abandonment and his fear of heights. We spent my last night getting lost in towns we had been to previously, looking for landmarks and late night gas stations to smoke cigarettes. We drove back to his apartment and he asked if I would come in. I couldn’t say no. We stepped inside his apartment and I heard the door whine behind me. The television in the living room was drawn with dust finger lines across the screen, spelling, “CLEAN ME!” The steps were covered with shoes, mostly men’s, scattered everywhere. Someone was lying on the couch, his leg half off, snoring, the moonlight spilling window lines on his back. He held my hand as we walked up the stairs, my fingers bouncing on his as we intertwined. He turned to exchange a toothless, eye-squinting smile, and a short chuckle underneath his breath. We shut his bedroom door behind us, my sacred vow in my back pocket. Knowing I would tell him words that my fingers could say better than my own mouth, terrified me. I stared at his bed made with corners cut slick, making the sheets look like a display. His pillows lifted the tops of his sheets to unveil tan, geometrical shapes laden with dots and stripes. My mind got caught in the shapes, mesmerized by the lines, the circles especially. I watched how they seemed to only envelope themselves into more circles, never separated from the others. I saw lines that kept repeating, slightly moving my head in circles, my neck rotating in the waves of motion. His voice rang from the other side of the room, sounding of chimes and beats. I concentrated on the ba-ba thumps from my heart as he came closer. He asked me if I wanted to lie down. I said, “I thought
CENTRIPETAL you’d never ask”. We lay stroking each other’s faces, my fingers touching his skin. His were soft, mine had cuts along the finger tips from my nervous, skin biting habit. I wrapped my fingers in anticipation before I left the house, fearing the words would get to him before I did or I would chew them off before I spoke a word. These fingers, my fingers, that had touched faces before his cheeks and tender skin were whorish. Feelings never felt before this leaked through my skin, reaching towards his face, seeping out. My mouth was sneaking towards his ears until he lifted his shoulder to pull the light switch. I watched his body move away from my own, fearing his return and his absence. As he turned to lie back down his eyes matched my own, locking lips on his way back. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness of the room, I called his name. “Austin?” “Yes?” he replied. Calling his name took more time than his response to my question. My mind raced for the words I wanted to say to him. I sifted through my thoughts, searching faster, and quicker. What was I going to say? Wake up at 8 am; laundry is at the bottom of the steps near the staircase; feed the cat; plane leaves Logan at 8:35 am; arrives in Chicago at 10:45 am; Austin works at 10 am; Austin…Austin. His presence in my mind came closer and closer, remembering where I put those words I wanted him to hear. “Austin?” “Yes, baby?” “Um, it’s getting late. I should go.” I told him I was going on vacation. I was traveling. The truth was the truth wasn’t that. I couldn’t hurt him. I walked down the steps from his apartment with my head in my hands. I could feel the vomit start to come from my stomach and the saliva that tasted like metal fill the insides of my cheeks. I couldn’t look behind me for the fear that he was following me. Please don’t follow me. I shut the door behind me feeling the locks set after the door shut; I couldn’t turn back, not after this. I walked across the black ice of the driveway, hearing the creak in my legs, wondering why I didn’t slip. I must not have been human. I got into the car and turned the key to the ignition. I rushed to put the car into drive before it had even started. I watched Austin open the door and blow me a kiss goodbye. His smile haunted me as I turned onto the adjacent street. His eyes followed me until I was out of his sight and his door shut abruptly. I drove off looking at the remnants of memories he and I left in my car for the past month and half. Cigarette burned car seats and Coca-Cola cans decorating the floor of the back seat.
CENTRIPETAL Trips to secret getaways and midnight rendezvous had left recollections in my car, in my mind, and what I had hoped was my heart that kept my body moving. I remember so vividly how I met Austin, it had only been about a month before. I met him through Catherine, an old high school friend that had recently married. She was my age, mid-twenties, codependent, obnoxious, and obscenely fat. I could never figure out how she got married or how much she must have paid him. I myself could never get married. I had a massive fear of being trapped in complacency; I couldn’t settle down with one person. Why should I? My life was all about slide, never about settling. I was in the prime of my life. I spent nights coming home from the bars stumbling and contemplating. I envisioned places I had been and imagined places I would go. I lived an open book with no chapters. I had called her after having trouble with someone I was seeing at the time we were fighting. I met Mark in one of the low parts of my life; I was lonely and deprived of emotion. Mark wanted to marry, I wanted to travel. He walked out in a sissy, crying routine while I helped shut the door behind him. I’m not the crying type. “Come over and have a drink. I think you need it,” she said over the phone. “Do you have vodka?” I asked. “Yes, I…” Before she finished her sentence, I grabbed my car keys, lit a Camel Signature cigarette, and sped off. I entered her apartment taken aback by the lingering smell of cats. She couldn’t get pregnant, so she had cats. As I pulled away from her hug, my hair got caught in her fat rolls hanging from her arms. She was so much taller than me that my face got caught in her chest. As I wiped away her tit sweat from my cheek I glanced around the room. I saw a few people I had met before at her apartment. Her sister was in the corner drunk and flirting with a friend of mine from high school. She obviously had no idea he sucked dick. Her hand kept leaning against her mouth as she hid her smile when she laughed at his jokes. As her fingers bent against her lips her eyes rolled in a loud, belly popping laugh. He made the uncomfortable glance across the room, laughing underneath his breath while he searched the room for a new seat. Sipping my cranberry-vodka splash, my eyes locked with a new face. “Name’s Austin, nice to meet you,” he said. He was a slender, olive skinned guy with an ego that filled any room he entered. He stood tall which impressed me at first; I was sick of wimps. I didn’t reveal much of myself to him. He didn’t mind and neither did I. We told each other embarrassing tales about the past while sitting in the local Denny’s until the late hours of the morning. I had told
CENTRIPETAL him nothing yet he seemed to know me better than I knew myself. I was drawn to him, his mysteriousness. “So where are you from, Alex?” he asked. “No where special,” I replied, a routine response. “Wow, same here. We already have something in common.” I smiled. I was never questioned where I had been those nights, but I never offered to tell. I began to see him more and more each week. A call here and there, a text between lunch breaks. His smell lingered on my clothes after spending nights at his apartment, and his moans echoed through my ears hours after I had slept with him. I could still taste his sweat and his lips. I could still taste it now. For a minute there, I lost myself. I remembered where I was, driving away, driving away from the only person I loved. I drove far out of Austin’s sight as I entered my own town. After what had seemed like hours, the houses began to look familiar. The blue house on the left resembled that of a chateau. Bricks were laid next to blue siding and the pillars looked like they came out of a gruesome, roman architecture art exhibit. The lights inside the house were left on, chandeliers, candle sticks, resembling home. I could live here. I did live here. It wasn’t the same home I had left earlier that day. I felt like I no longer belonged. I pictured walking up to the doorstep, opening the French doors and walking in, greeting my Pomeranian. I wiggled my head in a nauseous, dizzy frenzy. Someone opened the door and left in a brisk hurry with a duffel bag draped across his shoulder. The weather was frigid with icicles lying across willow tree branches and old icicle lights from Christmas. He opened the door and threw the bag in the back seat, crushing the Coca-Cola cans scattered along the seats and floor. He sat in the passenger seat, where Austin had been, as the car wiggled with his weight shift. “You ready to leave?” “Yeah.” “What’s with the cans? You hate soda.”
CENTRIPETAL ME, YOU, AND EVERYONE ELSE Alexandria Cappello I see you standing there, With a spotlight stationed on your silhouette. I sit gazing at your curvature, Catching butterflies in a jar In my stomach. I look around to see if we Alone, we are not. I walk Up to you, drink still in hand. I begin to speak to you in curse words and explain Intimate situations of my life, with you. “So, I am a cheater, And I love fucking new Guys. Pussy, pussy, pussy.” I remember that we are not The only ones in the room. There are the others. This, our PRIVATE conversation, Not anyone else’s. Wait did I hear, a cough? I glare across the room to see, them. I see their onyx stone faces, with the whites of their Eyes, making our spotlight. They are still, like animal glares, waiting for my fall; to ravenously eat me alive. Their positions appear to be posed, Like stationed trees, still and quiet. They do not lift a finger, to exclaim stimulation.
CENTRIPETAL The others, the trees, the wolves, the crowd, Waits quietly for my demise. The cough in the back Has stopped ringing through my ears. I take another swig of my strong drink, Give a raised glass to the others, and walk away. There is always one stiff crowd in poetry.
CENTRIPETAL GEEKS, FREAKS, AND PROM QUEENS Jenna Coakley Bill Nye The whistling kettle of the beaker And the sweet smell of pheromones, emanating from the jar of pickled pigs fetuses. The boys who you once stood next to during the Scout oath, And the girls that you once confided in while sleeping in bags. The Elementary days are gone And to You, these boys and girls are nothings in your past But only until a test rears its ugly head and now these people are your friends. The Geeks, the Smart ones, the Outsiders; Those not afraid to be who they are. They have found their place within the scattered masses of cylinders And three hundred page biology text books covered with chemical mixtures. But You still laugh idiotically at them as if the elementary past never existed. IT You see us as a waste of space in Your precious High School Yearbook. You think we are the pot heads, the deviants, the ones who ditch class just to end up hanging out in the bathrooms. Do you know us? No! You have no idea. Our houses are silhouetted by high rises of clotheslines While strollers, matchbox cars and cigarette burnouts lie upon our exposed, dirt playground. Our mothers work sixty hours a week so we can go to school with clothes of our liking. And so what if you donâ€™t like my Goodwill brand, We have better things to spend money on than Abercrombie thread.
CENTRIPETAL So leave us to our bickering about your little “pretty” group And when we look your way or vice versa, [which will be the case] Keep your eyes to yourself. Because Freaks like us know were different, but thanks for the reminder! Carrie You are the one that pressured me to be thin Like the anorexic and toxic models that I see every day. I became ill with depression because of the person you became And the people you called your new friends. Life is not meant to be messed with And precious bodies are not meant to sustain... Anguish! To be fed little but expected to outrun the rest, from morning until night, the body will cave in. Then You will like me won’t you? Because that is all I have ever wanted is to be with you again. To confide in you and laugh with you, until the loathing of you subsides. My old friend, the new Prom Queen I wish you could see the you that I do in all of your mourning. You have grown from despair, from the father that walked out then selfishly took himself from everyone. You skipped your courses so you, too, could hide in the bathroom. Huddled in an abandoned stall with a scarring blade; Remembering it’s down the road, not across the street. You confided in Me and I told For the first time, The Prom Queen no longer stood on a pedestal, But flat on two feet and smiled. There is Beauty in the Breakdown!
CENTRIPETAL ONE MORE REMAINS Jenna Coakley The Fountains of His Youth Sprung a leak. The invading fortress of his heart No longer beats BOOM, BOOM, BOOM But were of ice and in cold blood, screaming! A single look to die for and kill he must, Any who scowl at his being. * * * The Maker makes his home. A wife so elegant, dainty, Fragile as if she could break at the neck. A family torn by secrets by the Maker Himself. Father, no accusing in his eyes, Only fear of His corporeal being. A smell of birth from the Makers’ hands Brings a mass of lingering, dense fog between the cottage and forest. * * * Night falls as the Makers watchmen deliver his bride to bed. His presence is near! The heart skips a beat, Only to retaliate with immense thumping behind the breast. The Makers eyes, Diligent. The fear of fatality looming overhead. A Scream! * * * “the deadly languor and coldness of the limbs told, … The murderous mark of the fiend’s grasp was on her neck, and the breath had ceased to issue from her lips.” * * *
CENTRIPETAL His deed was done, Her life was lost, But still, one more remains. * * * His lips gave way and parted up at the sides. No remorse, no compassion. Only a single grin and an eluded stare. With the point of a finger toward the bride, His corpse vanished “into the lake.”
Quotations from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
CENTRIPETAL HEAT RISES Jenna Rugh You draw me closer as the flames around us flicker like fireflies. I gaze past you and watch as wax slides down wax and forms a pool on the maple slowly hardening into tiny inedible candies. A bitter sweet taste haunts my lips; some concoction of sweat and gloss and Iâ€™m focused, now, on the touch of your hand as your calloused fingers graze my cheek. The candle light dims softly as a rush of air flows from beneath me as my back hits cold cottons and heat rises.
CENTRIPETAL SIESTA Jenna Rugh Your lashes braid together at the bottom of your eyes; their pale yellow tips bleached by the sunâ€™s rays. Half your nose lifts a little with a snuff of sound falling through, and a sigh of ease. Your mouth slightly open, a steady wind on my neck; I cough a tiny laugh at your charm. Iâ€™ll hum a song I wrote you-Breathe softly, passive dreamer; let the tone of my tune soothe your sleep.
CENTRIPETAL WAR Matthew Major I stood atop a rocky hill. I gained kingship over this land. Claiming this hill for my own, I kicked a small pebble. Without knowing, I had sent this pebble, On a mission down my hill. As it fell, It disrupted other stones and sand. I was taken aback in horror when I saw that, I had amassed an army. An army to follow my pebble. An army to complete my pebbleâ€™s mission Pebble after pebble dropped into the water. Their disappearance would only be seen in memory from then on I felt their pain as they fell further to the depths, That no one else ventured to.
CENTRIPETAL THE DAYS ARE COLDER SINCE YOU TOOK MY SHIT Michael McClory The chill hit me as I watched the geese fight each other in the park. It was a day often experienced during the New England seasonal segue way. Like someone getting acclimated to cold water, the sun was slowly dipping its form into the northern hemisphere for a little longer each day. Early spring is difficult for New Englanders; it is nearly impossible to accurately judge the correct amount of clothing necessary for outdoor activities. I sat on a park bench in front of the pond/goose boxing ring as a victim of this strange atmospheric illegibility. I shivered. My goose bumps seemed to push so violently from the interior of my body I feared I would soon be full of tiny holes. I was void of any appropriate attire. A winter jacket: too warm now. A tee shirt: clearly not enough to keep me comfortable. I was missing something. I started to walk back to my car, ready to admit defeat to the chill in the air when I noticed a young man around my age, sitting on a bench not far away, shivering. I watched as he rubbed and slapped his bare arms in an effort to bring warm blood to the surface of his skin. I saw his goose bumps and a stubborn, angry, almost hurt look in his eyes. I had to know. “Hey man, did they get yours too?” I asked in a sympathetic tone. “You’re goddamn right they did. Fucking vultures.” “Preaching to the choir my friend, believe me. It’s not fair though, you know? They feel like they have some inherent right to them or something.” “Yeah, what kills me is I was just trying to be nice. No good deed goes unpunished.” The guy was right. I felt victimized, used, humiliated even. These thoughts uprooted me from an apathetic melancholy to an angry revolutionary. My blood warmed, my goose bumps retreated, and I became hopeful. “Well, it’s just too goddamn bad we can’t do anything about it,” the man continued. “No, my friend, there is.” I stood up straight and looked him in the eye. “Are you cold?” “Well yeah but…” “Then we’re going to take back what belongs to us.”
CENTRIPETAL “Do you know where one is?” He asked. “I do. C’mon we’ll take my car.” On the ride into the city we started making plans. We were going to take them all back, one by one. I knew where I would find my first one. We made our way to a small convenience store in the heart of downtown. When we walked in I saw it immediately, my sweatshirt and the girl who stole it, working at the counter. I smiled and it’s almost as if the sweatshirt smiled back, like a dog, happy to be home.
CENTRIPETAL we’ve got to stop Carrie Waldron we’ve got to stop drinking Diet Coke. Coke Coke. Coke Zero—quit tanning, quit taking chances with birth control and having unprotected sex. No more playing with plutonium and radon and formaldehyde at the office; no more alcohol or salted fish (Chinese style) after hours. No more furniture, aluminum, shoes, or roofs, Chernobyl’s, Kalashnikov’s, bombs or mustard gas. No more candy laced with saccharin, no more furnaces burning bodies. ~ keep praying for a cure— quit everything and pray, but I think it’s God who’s causing all this cancer.
CENTRIPETAL DUKAN AL-DUKANNAT (The Store of All Stores) Carrie Waldron wide electric doors exhale metal sighs then swallow me and i feel like i’m somewhere sterile; everything looks washed out, too bright white. smiling blue vests shuffle, swerve, screech to a stop— stuck in traffic with squeaky-wheeled carts and carts of Kleenex, Clorox, Krispix, christmas cards carted back to the shelves, back for another chance. automatic check-out stations beep and wail in spanglish twang while grubby fists pound, and juice-stained, Chapstick-ed lips holler for Ring Pops and chocolate from germy cart prisons piled high with dog food, razors, lingerie, overflowing plastic bags with broken handles— and I find myself
CENTRIPETAL in the wrong aisle: fish oil, no, codliver chewables, Gummy Vitamins taste GREAT! with imaginary extracts for better digestion and greater financial security plus supplement your instant coffee with a new light fixture AS SEEN ON shelves of shinier! 10X the moisture colorlock formula one treatment will clean toilets, stovetops, car tires, computer screens. Develop film HERE buy a bra, Bible, bronzer, spaghettistrap tank top, stiletto heels taller than the skirt is long Ah, freedom.
CENTRIPETAL SMOKE Brendon Nelson “Lee’s dead,” I thought to myself, “he’s fucking dead.” I took another drag from the cigarette, the smoke stung my already burning eyes. The cold wind nipped at my neck as I sat and tried to piece together the information I had received a few hours before. It was an especially gloomy Monday night. I had just gotten back to my dorm from seeing Tom, an old manager and friend in the hospital. I was so broken over seeing my friend look like a forgotten bag of bones left to rot, that I just wanted to sleep. I got to my dorm and started finishing up homework to get my mind off of the old man losing the fight to cancer. As I sat there, I felt the quiet vibrations of my phone break the silence of my white walled prison. I saw a name of a girl that I hadn’t spoken to in months. I picked it up expecting to hear a drunken dial, to hear a comforting voice. I opened the phone and could tell by the tone of her voice that my night was going from bad to worst. I heard, “Brendon, did you hear about Lee from Tommy Hilfiger?” I knew exactly who she was talking about. I got scared that one of my friends had gotten into some sort of trouble. I told her of course I remembered Lee, and she got real quiet. Her almost silent voice ripped through my body as she told me, “Lee is dead, he killed himself last night.” My body went numb as I tried to comprehend the sentence she stated and I asked her if she was positive. She told me she was sure, and if she weren’t, then she wouldn’t be telling me. I found myself in a whirl of hate and denial. I couldn’t believe that someone I knew was gone so suddenly. We had planned for him to come visit me at college in November and party it up. I felt the cold hand of death brush upon me, almost as if to taunt me that he was no longer there. I felt the heat from the cigarette upon my fingers as I snapped out of my trance. I saw how serene everything was. The reflection of the moon glistening off the water calmed me briefly, until I remembered why I was out by myself. I felt lonelier after this realization and I snatched for my pack of cigarettes to try to escape for a few moments longer. As I lit one, I felt myself start to loosen up. I gave up on the hope that maybe it was a mistake and I started to turn it over in my head. I thought why would someone do this? How could he take his own life and leave the rest of us here? I asked myself these questions, but I already knew the answers. I knew about his disability, I knew how only a few years ago he weighed 250 pounds. I knew how everyone felt it was okay to make fun of him. I knew what it was like to have no one stand up for you.
CENTRIPETAL As I felt the salty tears run into my scorched mouth, I felt myself getting sick. I thought about the last time I saw Lee; I was in a Cumberland Farms store buying a cigar when I saw him walk through the door. I made small talk with him, but tried to make it short because I was in a hurry to go meet with friends. He told me about how he was going to college and how he finally quit work to move onto something else. I told him I was glad for him, but that I had to run, and if he needed me, to call me. I wish he had called me the night he died, I could have helped, I could have done something. As I sat on the cold sidewalk, I once again felt the rumble of my cell phone against my thigh. I looked to see that the girl who had broken the news was calling me again. I prayed that it was some form of good news or even details about the funeral and the wake. I picked up and asked her if she knew of anything new; she told me yes, but that she wasn’t sure I would want to hear it. I asked her what she meant and she told me that she knew how Lee did it. I told her I wanted to know, hoping that it was at least a quick and painless death, praying that he didn’t suffer. She told me that he had hung himself and I knew instantly that he struggled. I thought about being in that position and pictured the thick, rough rope around my own neck, scratching my throat as I stood ready to end everything. I stayed strong on the phone during the conversation, but as soon as it ended I threw up everything in my stomach. I couldn’t imagine doing that. The tears came flowing and I didn’t even try to hold them back. I started to scroll through my cell phone looking for someone to reach out to, anyone that was willing to listen. As I passed Lee’s name in my contacts, I found myself pressing the call button. The phone felt so heavy in my hands and I listened to every ring. Still my mind told me that maybe he would pick up. Maybe I’d hear his voice come on and he would be so excited that I had called. I imagined us sitting on the phone and reminiscing about all the hours we spent at work playing pointless games to help pass the time. I heard his voicemail come on and tell me he wasn’t around right now, and that he’d call me back if I left a message after the beep. In the message, I told him that he would never be forgotten. That I’d see him again one day, and when I saw him that we would do nothing but party. I told him that we would never have to work, because in heaven, everything’s free. I knew that I would never get a call back, and as I walked back to my dorm, I looked at my cigarettes and saw that I had two cigarettes left. I thought about all the times he leant me a cigarette for break at work, and I knew I owed him. I lit both cigarettes and let the other one burn as I inhaled mine. I did all the smoke tricks that I used to do for Lee to keep
CENTRIPETAL him entertained during work and I let it burn down to the filter. I silently got up and looked at the still lit cigarette across from me. I looked up at the sky and told him that I hoped he finally found a place where he was happy. As I stared at the sky, I saw the first rays of sun coming over the hills. I knew that finally, he was happy. I knew that I would never get another phone call from him, that I would never see him again, and that I would never be able to tell him how much he actually meant to me as a friend, but maybe I could tell everyone else how great he was.
CENTRIPETAL KILLING TIME Judi Dague I’m sitting next to you, in your brother’s apartment in Boston. Where the thick brick wall and the sunken green couch coincide. I collide the two and me and you and conjure up a fantasy better than any pre-meditated thought. I’m sitting still. Studying how your straight face glows against the window pane. You’re unaware of your own reflection that’s stripping me vulnerable from across the room. And I’m turned on by the light that streaks on the floor. Waiting like a spotlight for a circus act. Tumbling. Falling. Tangling.
CENTRIPETAL Our thoughts, our bodies and our perceptions of how we want to kill the next hour and a half.
CENTRIPETAL SOMETIMES Judi Dague I think of lovelike sitting and counting all the specks of sand on the beach and how it could go on forever, but no one can achieve “forever.” We give up when the sun goes down we say: ‘I tried real hard’ and label the rest of our efforts with a word that represents a feeling of immortality that none of us can comprehend. Sometimes I think of lovelike searching the sky after the rain. And all the while we’re standing on a reflection of colors in a puddle of gasoline. And we say:
CENTRIPETAL ‘I knew it was there all along’ We are so oblivious when we have our eyes open. Yet so righteous when we find something beautiful. Sometimes I think of lovelike a labyrinth making you mad. Every turn smacking you into a wall, running you into the same place over and over. And we say: ‘I don’t know how I got myself into this mess’ but one door always seems to open another. Sometimes I think of loveLike a gamble, And how your chances seem to improve on the weekends And we say: ‘I’m not looking for anyone’
CENTRIPETAL But… there was a boy and a smile… and maybe a drink… (or four) I think of love as a remedy so we don’t feel so much like a whore. Sometimes I think of lovelike a doctor’s appointment. And no matter how hard you try, nobody counts the yellow lights that you raced by. Trying your hardest to make it on time. But something will always keep you waiting, anticipating to hear your name called out loud. And why do we say: ‘I just need more time.’ When we already promised “Forever.”
HELMET, Morgan Kristy Reynolds
AVE M ARIA, Morgan Kristy Reynolds On a bridge in Venice, true beauty struck a chord and went unnoticed.
GIRLS’ NIGHT OUT, Heather Gauthier
PROCESSION, Tonya White
CENTRIPETAL LUSTâ€™S APRICOT PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS Naomi Fosher Lust came to the door at dusk, I knew it before I even heard her. The smell of hot fudge and rain on a summer day wafted through the crack under my door. Overly sweet, almost sickening. Then to hear her, Dave Matthews chiming with each step, Her theme song mixed with the revving of an Audi. The slinky shadow cast on the door, The low growl of the cat, I knew it was time. She greeted me with eyes, no sound flew from her lips, Dave envelops me pounding around in my head. Her orange silk gown flows to the floor She sets her Dr Pepper can on the coffee table, a resounding thud, But not enough to quiet Dave, her Dave, her music. I am here with her in this temple and I know it is my time. I stand there and let go, with a swig of Dr Pepper.
CENTRIPETAL ESCAPADE OF
CONNOISSEUR OF GUITAR PLAYERS Naomi Fosher
He holds his guitar like he would a woman. Caressing notes out of it, he runs his hands up and down the neck, picking and placing his hands with the ease of an experienced lover. He is swift and sensual with flitting hands efficiently covering a large amount of the surface in a short amount of time. Spontaneous and confident, he leans back, pressing the body of the guitar up against his stomach and pelvis. Leaning into his guitar, he is enveloped in the pleasure of the music and its vibrations. He and the guitar make love together and create a new musical being. God, he’s so sexy, I think to myself. It isn’t just his looks, the stereotypical tall, dark, and handsome, but his whole ambiance. The way he moves – the quick flick of his eyes as he surveys the crowd’s faces, the way he brushes his arm against his pant leg wiping the sweat away, how he leans back and sways with the music…but what really gets to me is the way all guitar players hold their guitars. He is no different from all of the others, but this one in particular seems to be extra special. He’s lucky number 16, I think to myself, I’m sure of it. His body is aching to have me, he just doesn’t realize it yet. I adjust my position, shifting my weight from one elbow to the other. The edge of the counter digs into by back as I sit balanced on my barstool. My legs are crossed in front of me and I sit partially sideways in order to see the band onstage. My feet dangling down a long way from the floor because I am so petite, I feel precariously balanced on the stool. I try to get comfortable again, shifting the weight of each butt cheek I am leaning on. Slightly irritated that I am being distracted from said sexy guitarist, I decide to order another glass of wine. The smoky air stings my eyes and goes down harshly into my lungs, but that is the compensation for being able to so actively watch live music in a bar. It’s all about balance and sometimes you have to give in to get something in return. What I am getting tonight is a moderately inexpensive visual date with the sexiest eye candy I have had the pleasure of observing. Smoke inhalation is a small expense to pay for the night. Digging around in my purse, I search for my lipstick. In the dark depths of my purse, everything looks the same. For some odd reason women always buy black purses and then black accessories: black combs, cases, containers, tubes, and we always wonder why we can’t find anything. Still unsuccessful at finding the lipstick, I dig around and see that my cell phone is flashing red, indicating a missed call. I grab at the phone, irritably, and see that Bianca has called.
CENTRIPETAL Struggling to push through the crowd, I make my way to the door. The air outside is humid and sticky, matching my mood. Hitting the talk button, I wait for Bianca to pick up. On the second ring she picks up. “Hey Hun, I saw I missed your call.” “Yeah I just wanted to call and say, hi. See how you are doing, it’s been awhile.” “Doing pretty good. I’m out right now on a business trip for the label. It’s this Oregon band, pretty good. The guitarist is absolutely fantastic.” “Wait… are you still working with South Bay Records? Because I heard a rumor that you had left.” “Yup, it’s true. I now work for Baja Records. It’s closer to my home anyways. I was sick of driving over an hour to work when I had to be at the office.” I stand there uncomfortably shifting my weight. Examining my fingernails, I pick at a hangnail absentmindedly. “I’m glad to hear that. Good for you. But are you still… you know… going on your escapades?” “Of course… just because I changed labels doesn’t mean I have to change my methods. No one knows anyway. And you know that I don’t tell the guitarists. They don’t even know that I’m from the label until after.” “And Rob still doesn’t know?” I can hear her tone rise considerably and picture her cute angular face with her eyebrows raised and her eyes wide. I laugh a little bit. “We’ve been married for four years now. He has no idea. You’re the only one who knows about my escapades. Besides, they only happen when I’m on business and it helps me make the best decision for the label.” “You know that would kill him if he found out about it. How many has it been now? I haven’t talked to you in awhile. Been busy with the baby. She’s getting so big.” “I’ll have to stop by and see her soon. Sorry I’ve been a stranger lately. But it’s been fifteen so far and I think I just met lucky number sixteen tonight.” “Well...just be careful, Sadie…God, this would devastate Rob if he ever found out…” I hear her voice trail off. I know she wants to say more and she has never agreed with my decision concerning my guitar player fetish, especially since I got married. “Bianca. Listen. I love Rob very much and you know that. But guitar players are my one weakness. More than anything else. And just consider this business only. It’s all part of my job.” “Well yeah, but you don’t have to sleep with all of them.”
CENTRIPETAL “You know I don’t! I am picky when it comes to my special ones. They have to be at least a 7.5 on the sexy scale for me to consider them worthy of my and the label’s time.” She sighs, “I know I’m not going to be able to talk you out of it.” “Yup. And technically Bianca, this is my job,” I remind her again. “Sure… Okay, Sadie.” “All right, chica, I gotta run. I promise I’ll stop by soon.” “Sounds great. And Sadie – please be careful. You don’t know what kind of sketchy people there are out in the world.” Becoming irritated with her incessant pleas and the stickiness of the air making my silk shirt cling to me, I say, “Okay, okay. Jeez. I’ll be fine. Okay. I’ll talk to you later.” “All right. Bye, hun.” “Bye.” Back at my seat I sit comfortably again, glad to be back in the smoky atmosphere. It clouds my thoughts and the pounding music makes it hard for me to think of anything else but the pulsing energy. Wine glass in hand, I take a sip, the savory liquid tangos along my taste buds, tantalizing each one, inviting them to indulge in the thrill of flavor. I feel pleasure shiver and crawl up my legs and caress my thighs, goose bumps from the wine, the atmosphere, and the music. The union of all of these elements plays sensual games with my mind and body. The shiver reminds me of Mr. Eye Candy and I turn my whole sophisticated being to watch him again, basking in the fact that I feel truly seductive and vixen-esque. I tell myself, Sadie May Phillips, you are one sexy woman. He is looking down at his guitar, his lover, taking in her curves as he plays her strings and caresses her frets. He is intense with his movements and all his fingers are a blur. I watch him intently, taking in his form and the fluidity of his movements. I bet he would be an amazing lover, I think to myself, slipping into a dream of want. I bet he’d like to be on top, like most of the others, asserting his masculinity on me. Making me want him and taking him inside me. His hands would be everywhere, playing my frets and my strings perfectly. He would be gentle, but strong and feisty. I would be able to feel his want and need from the tingling and warmth of his skin pressed up against mine. The tautness of his muscles, like that of the hide stretched across the head of a drum. I want to feel him pressed up against me; I want him to look at me like he looks at his guitar. To be worked under his expansive hands would create harmony, an unrelenting sweet
CENTRIPETAL melody. I want to be an instrument in his hands, molded and tuned to play sensual and heightened music of want. But the song suddenly calms and settles slowly, the breathless gasps become less erratic and we change time and key signatures. Our melodies slow as our bodies collapse side by side, touching at some curves, separate at others. Our song changes to solely to breaths and murmured whispers, reaching resolution we could have only found in a combined melody of our twin guitar bodies. He is exhausted, and I lay immersed in his breathing, his half diminished part lying in dissonance splendor, like that of a seventh chord. Our song reaches the final resolution of a five and a one chord, as we breathe in and sigh as one tone of intertwining timbres. The sensation of wetness on my thighs jerks me from my fantasy love song. This sensation, mixed with the final resounding chord of the song being played by Mr. Sexy Guitarist, is enough to completely disorient me. Apparently, I didn’t notice, but in the midst of the sensual vision I was having, I traded my wine glass temporarily for my water glass. Enthralled by the moment, I had managed to pour the rest of the contents onto my lap. I had been concerned that maybe I had been so turned on that I had saturated myself beyond imagination, but the sensation was far too soggy to be created by my own devices. Alas, I had, again, set myself up for another awkward situation. Admiring my lap and my handiwork of completely drenching myself, I excuse myself in front of no one in particular, and head to the bathroom. Making my way across a warm sea of bodies and liquor laden breath, I uncomfortably make my way holding my jacket in front of me, hiding my secret accident from the world. The shabby door, hanging precariously on loose hinges, was covered in nicks, the old wood seeing better days. The word “women” is carved in the top of the door, looming above me. Inside are two pitiful stalls, their yellow painted metal screams 1980 at me. The plumbing is reminiscent of that decade as well. But this glorious room contains exactly what I need: the infamous hand dryer. The kind that you need exactly 1.5 cycles to dry your hands fully and never any more or less – your only option being to suck it up and wipe your hands on your pants or waste electricity in the name of dry hands. But the dryer looks no less than splendid to me. Sizing up the height of the dryer, I am able to squat down and lean back to accommodate for my height and never-ending legs. With some form of ineptness and gawky movements, I manage to thrust my sopping pelvis under the hot blast of the dryer. I figure just 2.5 – 3 cycles should do it. Maneuvering and thrusting I’m able to obtain maximum heat to all areas of the spill.
CENTRIPETAL With just a half of a cycle left, the door swings open, and a middle aged woman blunders in. I jump back in surprise and fear of being caught in all of my thrusting glory. She gives me a look that clearly identifies that whatever I was doing falls under the “not good” category. The look consisted of wide eyes and arched eyebrows, a crossed hybrid of alarm and distaste. I give her an innocent look and say as openly as possible, “I spilled water on my jeans and was drying myself.” “Sure lady…whatever you say. That’s what they’re calling it nowa-days,” is the only response I receive. Well…that response coupled with her pushing past me, the slam of the door, and the slow trickle of her relieving herself which I take as my cue to exit. And I do so as quickly as possible. I take one for the team of me, myself, and I and my slightly damp and now chilly pants remind me of the absence of sophistication that I am composed of. Back out into the crowd of drunken humanity, I search out for the familiar sound of the band. But that sound is now replaced with generic hip-hop, and I realize it is slightly after midnight. The bands finish at midnight and a DJ takes over. Scanning the stage area I search for Mr. Object of My Fantasy Who Makes Me Wet My Pants. I can’t see him over the combination of annoying bald heads and afros. I push my way through for a better view and the men part, staring at me as I pass. I am Mrs. Object of Their Fantasies as I walk through, and I can feel their eyes. I make my way close enough to the stage and I spot him, Mr. Wow I Am Even More Sexy up Close. The earlier distance didn’t give the contours of his body, particularly the taunt bicep any justice. He leans over, grabbing cords, and his loose jeans part with his shirt, revealing the top two inches of his boxer shorts. There are guitars printed over them, red fender-looking guitars. I am edging closer to him without even knowing it, drawn in by the reality of him and the ideal image I have created. Hello there, Mr. Lucky Number 16, I think to myself as I stare at him. You aren’t completely aware of anything yet, but in an hour or so you’re going to be one hell of a lucky man. I bet you’re much better than number 12, who was the best so far. I approach Mr. Object of Desire, Mr. Bring Sexy Back Always, Twice. His back is to me and I have to practically yell to get him to notice me. He turns, hearing my “Hey there, sexy…” “What?” is his clever response to my line. Leaning in a little, I angle myself to accentuate my perfectly planned cleavage, “I just wanted to tell you that I loved your guitar playing.” Yeah and you’re damn sexy, giving me erotic, musical day dreams. You excite me more than all of the others so far, kudos to you. I wonder how you do it...I
CENTRIPETAL add, but don’t voice. “Thank you. I really enjoy playing.” His eyes gravitate to my chest and I can feel his eyes taking in the round perkiness of my onehundred percent, natural breasts. I notice the deep, chesty timbre and quality of his voice. His full, blue eyes move up from my chest and follow the path up my neck, lips and nose. They finally meet my basic chocolate brown eyes. Mr. Luscious Number 16 is so close to me I can feel the heat off of his body and see the sweat stains on his t-shirt spanning from armpit reaching up to the shoulder. “Meet me in one hour in your car, wearing only your boxer shorts. I’ll already be there,” is all I say as I turn to walk away. But not before I see his eyes open wide with awe and interest. A sweaty hand grabs at my arm. He grabs me and pulls me close to him and whispers in my ear, “I’ll be there.” ******** I always know which car is theirs. It’s always next to the band’s van with all of the equipment. More often than not it’s not a really nice car or anything, something that is substantial and runs. They drive Oldsmobile’s, Corollas and Hondas – practical cars with good gas mileage. The paint peeling, cloth upholstery, no sunroof type of car is guitarist’s car of choice. I seat myself in another car, another stereotypical guitarist car – this one is a 1990’s Alero coup model in navy blue. The interior is tan, but is ripped and stained in places. McDonald’s wrappers and Dunkin Donuts cups litter the floor and much of the seats. This reveals that like number six, nine, and ten, this lucky number sixteen is on the road a lot and is a slob about it. He must not have a lot of company in his car, I think to myself as I stretch out, trying not to come in contact with sticky cups and wrappers. A sudden tapping on the glass makes me jump. His Highness has arrived in all of his sexy glory. And by sexy glory, I mean in his boxers. As he enters the car, a giant squeaky protest from the door plays as theme music. I can barely make out the design on his boxers. But as he shifts and sits down I see a giant red and black AC/DC logo on the front. I smirk as I reach out and touch his arm. He looks stunning under the low light of the overhead light in his car. Shadows play around on the contours of his face, creating unknown and mysterious places that I want to explore with my hands and lips. His sweat sticks to my fingertips and I feel the raised maps that his veins create on his arm because he’s so warm. I lean in a little closer to him and say, “I’m staying at the Holiday Inn on NE 2nd Ave in Portland. 1441 is the street number. You’ll see it.”
CENTRIPETAL He knows exactly what to do and puts the key in the ignition. ******** It’s always the same at a hotel. Same exact setting for all of my escapades. They’re full of flowery bedspreads and antique paintings of landscapes framed in gaudy gold frames. Stark white towels and tiles frame any bathroom experience I may have. Directories and guide booklets showing me all the sights and places to go that I never will be able to see because I’m only ever there for the guitar players. But they’re worth it. The fun is in the hotel and not outside of it really, unless I’m at the bar, club, or venue watching the guitar players. It’s always all about them. This hotel room is no different than any of the other countless rooms I have had the delightful pleasure of staying at. This one has a queen bed which was a pleasant surprise when we walked in. Spread out on the bed now, I am completely nude and my sexy musician is on top of me kissing my neck, shoulders and face. If he wants this bad enough he has to work for it. I flush delight, partially from the rush and tingling sensations of his lips on my skin, partially from the power I have. He has no idea that a record label deal is resting on this next half hour. This could be one of the most important half hours of his career, and maybe even his life, and he doesn’t know it. He moves down now and positions himself on top of me. Expertly gliding himself into me, he begins to rock and thrust. I grab at his chest, arms, butt… anything I can get my hands on. I push him deeper inside me and he leans close to my face, panting on my neck. “Oh, God. Oh, God,” he moans deeply…and then I hear him curse, “Shit. Damn it,” and he stops suddenly. He collapses against my chest and then pushes himself up with his arms. “I’m so sorry. Shit. I lost it.” I glance down and he did indeed lose it, completely. He rolls off of me and onto the empty space on my left. I shift to look at him slightly and he has his hands over his face. He is cursing over and over under his breath. My eyes roam from his face, down his chest and stomach until they rest on his thighs. I can see he is soft and little. I’m not interested anymore and I get up to put my clothes on. “I’m so sor…” he starts to say, but I cut him off. “These things happen. Don’t worry about it.” But I am disappointed. Number sixteen is a failure as far as I am concerned about the whole ordeal. Just like number seven and eleven. What a shame. He isn’t the worst, number seven is the worst. But… this is still disappointing. He had so much potential and he wasted it all.
CENTRIPETAL ******** The glaring sunlight met my eyes the next morning and I pulled my sunglasses down from their perch on my head. Strolling out of another crappy Holiday Inn, I feel the familiar effects of such a liberation that I feel constantly. It’s always just another city, another crappy hotel, another sexy guitarist. As I walk, swaying my hips slightly, I press speed dial number two on my phone. I hear two rings and then a gruff “hello.” “Hey Bill, its Sadie. Just calling you to update you on that band I saw this weekend in Portland. I think the name was Deconstruction. But yeah, anyways, they weren’t really that great. I wasn’t impressed with their performance. Especially the guitarist. He really just screwed up the whole thing for the group.” “Well, you would know best. We’re so glad to have you on board. Your expertise is valued.” His gruff and raspy smoker voice is one I am still adjusting to. “Why thank you, Bill. I just really love what I do. Listening to bands is great. And what can I say? I’m just a connoisseur of guitar players.”
CENTRIPETAL THE LOVESHADOW Abbie Morin I didn’t even blink, As you wrapped your dainty fingers Around my shrinking roots And shook the leaves From my cracking branches. I never itched, As you crawled Beneath the surface Of my skin. Even when I cracked, And flaked, Like aging yellow paint, I let you remain. I never even breathed a word, As you dragged me From my haven, Straight into your inferno. My screams locked tight Inside my lungs, As I watched the flames Lick away my sanity. I don’t even mind it much, That you ransacked me, Raped and pillaged, Left me empty, A ghost town. Because When darkness falls, It’s almost haunting, How you always appear-
CENTRIPETAL Whispering into blackness Begging me to wait, Just a moment longerSwearing and pledging, Before the casings of my eyes, Slide open, And I remember the truthSo converse To my own reality. But I still hold on, I grip your poison Like it is The Elixir. As long as your loveshadow Finds me in my slumber, I will gladly swallow Your burning hatred While I am sleepless and stirring.
CENTRIPETAL SYLVIA Abbie Morin Oh SylviaWhy did you do it? You shattered minds With a single stroke With your contents tipped Onto a page. Let all the world see your naked skin. Who twisted you this way? Was it only pain that birthed your art? Sylvia, was it childhood? What were you thinking beneath That house on Elmwood Road? Sputtering and vomiting, But powerless to stop your own breath. Sylvia, was it the unborn babe That turned your body into a Holocaust? Or was it Ted who warped your mind And crushed your hand beneath his foot? Among the flames and smoldering gas Did you compose your final verse? Only to be licked away, As your flesh was slowly melting And your heart thumped one last time. Your tulips still stand brightly Sylvia, They wonâ€™t be soon forgotten. Could Dr. Horder have saved you? Overlooking is a crucial part of surviving Far before the eleventh of the second month You were gone.
CENTRIPETAL PACKING Michelle Stephens I pack the boxes of our ended life, but you apologize and I give in, then dump the contents back onto our bed. I started with your clothes; that gray beret I bought for you in Paris lies within the boxes that I packed for you today. You walk in and beg and plead with me, say “I never want to part from you again,” then dump the contents back onto our bed. Our bodies writhe on linen, soft ballet. You play my body like a mandolin. I pack the boxes of our ended life. You walk out now, leaving my nerves to fray. My closest companions are rum and gin. I dump the contents back onto our bed. When the phone rings, all I can do is pray. The way I worship you, I’ll never win. I pack the boxes of our ended life, then dump the contents back onto our bed.
CENTRIPETAL A BUMP IN THE ROAD Michelle Stephens “Check the map, I think we made a wrong turn,” Andrea snapped as they passed yet another dilapidated barn. Her rusted, tan Subaru was surprisingly hot for a late autumn evening, and the motor whined in protest each time she touched the gas pedal. It was no surprise; Andrea has had the car since her 16th birthday. Now it was eight years later, it had survived high school and college, and was in its last year at grad school, and it still hadn’t had a major breakdown. “I looked like two minutes ago. We’re going the right way,” her twenty-year old sister, Emma, grumbled. Her bare feet rested on the dash, leaving footprints in the light dust. The Juicy Fruit gum in her mouth had long since lost its flavor and she rolled down the hand crank window to spit it out. “Well, check again.” Andrea ordered, letting go of the wheel to pull her wavy auburn hair back from her face, which was coated in a light sheen of sweat. Emma sighed and pulled out the crinkled map from below her seat. She pulled it up forcefully and Andrea heard the rip as Pennsylvania seceded from the rest of the Northeast. “Yep, still going the right way,” she said, without bothering to look. “You know, maybe we should have stuck to the highway. At least then we’d know we were going in the right direction.” Andrea shook her head and gripped the steering wheel harder. Her knuckles whitened and she opened her mouth, but quickly shut it again and forced her hands to loosen. “Can we stop at the next restaurant? I’m starving,” Emma complained, tossing an empty bag of chips into the seat behind her. “We’re only a few hours from home. Let’s just wait. I’m sure Mom will have something ready for when we get home,” said Andrea hypothesized, looking briefly to her sister. “She’ll probably be at the hospital.” “Which is where we should be too,” Andrea muttered. Emma pretended not to hear. “The only thing left in the house will be leftovers.” “Well then that will have to do. We aren’t stopping.” Emma was silent for a moment. She pulled down the visor, looking at her reflection in the grimy mirror. “I need more blush. Can we at least stop at Rite-Aid when we get into town?” “We can go tomorrow. I just want to get home right now,”
CENTRIPETAL Andrea said. The car was quiet for a few minutes more, the only sound emanated from the cell phone clutched tightly in Emma’s hand. “I have to go to the bathroom,” she complained, straining to put the phone back into her pocket from a sitting position. “Fine, the next outhouse we pass is all yours.” “Bitch.” “Yeah, don’t forget heartless and cruel in front of it too,” Andrea snickered. Emma sighed loudly and looked out the window. Andrea glanced over. Emma’s long blonde hair whipped gently around her head. The rest of the family was red-headed. Andrea chuckled. “Hey Em, remember that time when we were little? I told you that we found you in the dumpster? Remember how you tried to run away? With that little backpack that looked like a stuffed bear?” Emma looked back at her, a smile tugging the corner of her lips which she quickly tried to hide. “I trusted you. Whatever you said, I always believed it. Mom wanted to kill you. Especially when I tried to get back into the dumpster to wait for my “real” family.” Andrea’s cell vibrated to life in the sticky cup holder between them. She picked it up quickly and answered without looking at the caller id. “Hello?” “Andy honey? It’s Mom.” “How’s Dad?” “Well, I didn’t want to have to say this, but he’s not doing well. The doctors don’t know if he’ll make it out of surgery, so they don’t want to put him under.” “So they can’t take out the bullet?” “They haven’t yet. They said when they had something else to report, they’d let us know. The next few hours are critical and he’s still in intensive care, so not much change since we spoke earlier. I haven’t been able to see him yet. Not since they took him in this morning. Are you girls almost here?” “We have a few more hours. We’re only in Vermont.” “Ok dear, drive carefully, and I’ll see you both soon. I’ll call again if there’s any change.” “Ok, bye, Mom. Love you.” She clicked the phone shut and dropped it back into the cup holder. She looked at the road grimly for a minute, and then tugged a scratched pair of sunglasses from the console. Her right foot came down harder on the gas and the little engine screamed in protest. Emma sat up a little, looking around. “Finally, a little speed to
CENTRIPETAL this trip. When are we leaving to go back anyway?” “Dad’s not doing so hot. He might not be able to get the surgery to get the bullet out.” “I don’t understand what happened. They go out hunting all the time. They never shot each other before. Usually, it’s the defenseless animals they go for.” Emma flipped open her cell phone. Andrea changed the radio station and turned it up louder, blocking Emma out. She yelled over it. “God, Andrea, they do this shit all the time. Bullets come out easy. I saw it on Discovery Health Channel.” She scrolled through her contacts, a smile on her face. “Josh just texted me again. I hope we get back soon. He met some slut at the bar last night. Probably another bimbo with fake tits.” Andrea slammed her fist against the steering wheel. “I came down to get you in New York all the way from Smith, and all you can think about is yourself. I could have been home long before now. Dad is going to die and you want to stop for dumb shit.” Andrea turned to her, fire in her eyes. “He’s your father too.” She turned back to the road just in time to see a dark shape ahead of them. Her foot scrambled furiously for the brake, and she stomped on it as the car lurched over the bump and skidded to a stop ten yards further. Seatbelt-less, Emma was propelled forward and her feet smashed into the windshield. “Fuck!” she screamed, and settled herself back into her seat. “That’s gonna bruise! What the hell was that?” “I don’t know!” Andrea screamed back. Then she took a breath. “It was just… there… I only looked away a second…” “We have to go back. Find out what it is… or was…” “We have to keep going. Mom’s expecting us.” Andrea straightened out her seatbelt, which had tightened uncomfortably across her chest. “We can’t just leave it. What if it’s still alive?” “What if it’s not? Are you going to pick it up?” Emma recoiled. “You hit it. You pick it up.” “This is stupid. Let’s just go look.” They climbed out of the car slowly, looking to each other as they made their way steadily. “It’s moving. Crap, it’s moving!” Andrea shrieked, stepping behind Emma. “How is it still moving?” Emma asked quietly. “That’s a bone. On the outside.” “Shit!” Andrea moaned. “What is it?” “I don’t know. Something small… with fur,” Emma stated,
CENTRIPETAL taking a small step forward. “We have to help it,” Andrea stated. She ran back to the car and pulled a tattered brown fleece blanket from the trunk. “Here, wrap it up in this.” “You do it. I’m not touching that thing.” “Fine.” She took a tentative step forward and kneeled next to the creature. “It’s a cat, Emma. We have to get it to a vet.” She quickly reached down with the blanket and scooped the black cat up as gently as she could. “Get the back door open.” Emma walked to the car quickly and pulled open the door. “Ugh, I don’t want to see that thing.” She walked towards the front of the car, leaning against the hood. As Andrea laid the cat in quickly, Emma called to her from the front. “Uh, I think you should come see this.” Andrea shut the back door with a gentle click and walked quickly towards where Emma stood, hunched over near the passenger side tire. The tire was entirely deflated. “You blew out the tire too?” Emma whined. “This is just perfect. Wonderful even. You better call Mom.” “I can’t call Mom, she’ll just get worried,” Andrea stated, leaning against the car. “I have a spare, let’s just change it and get moving.” “You change it. I just got these nails done.” She held up five glittering fingers. “The quicker it’s changed, the sooner we are on the road again. It’s not going to live much longer.” “Thirty dollars,” Emma retorted. “That’s from my food budget. I’ve been living off Mac n’ Cheese and Ramen to afford them.” “Get the damn spare out of the trunk,” Andrea commanded, tossing the keys to her over the car. Emma groaned with disgust. “Fine,” she snapped finally. She opened the trunk and tossed their overnight bags onto the concrete behind her. She pulled up the carpet as Andrea came around to the back. “There’s no spare back here,” Emma stated. Andrea nudged closer. “There has to be a spare. Dad put one back here before I left for school.” “Well it’s not here now. I’ll bet Dad made sure it was in here though. You are his fucking little princess.” Emma didn’t see it coming, but Andrea’s open hand across her face left a sharp sting and a deep red hand print. “Damn it! Bipolar much?” She rubbed her cheek gently. “It’s the truth. You could never do wrong in his eyes. You got the A’s in school, you were the one who played sports, won prom queen,
CENTRIPETAL lived the perfect existence. He loved you. He hated me. You weren’t even there when the drinking started.” “Shut up! That was a hard time for him. He was going through a lot. He got help for it.” She turned away, tears springing to her eyes. Emma was relentless. “Sure, he got help after all the shit we went through. After Mom and I became little more than his housemaids and punching bags.” “Stop it, Emma. It wasn’t that bad and you know it!” She yelled angrily. Andrea whirled around and walked blindly away. “How would you know? You weren’t even there,” Emma bellowed after her. “You were away at your Ivy League shithole!” “You said you forgave him,” Andrea said, walking back towards Emma. “We were all there, Emma, me, mom, and dad. You said you understood and that you forgave him. I heard you say it!” She grasped her sister’s hand tightly “Guess I’m a better liar than anyone ever thought. He was probably drunk when he was hunting. That’s probably why he got shot.” She pulled away roughly and rummaged through the trunk’s contents again. “Screw it. Just get the damn tire.” Andrea said flatly, clearly defeated. “If it was back here, I would. You don’t have a spare, sister darling.” She spat the last word out. “Where the hell is it? Quit messing around, Emma.” “I’m not kidding. There’s no spare.” “Shit! What the hell do we do now?” “Call Triple A,” Emma suggested, pulling her cell back out of her pocket. “That cat is going to die! Triple A takes hours!” Andrea yelled hysterically. “I’ll call.” Emma dialed in the numbers from the card in her wallet. Andrea paced for a second and retreated to the backseat of the Subaru. The cat was writhing in the blanket, making a pathetic mewing sound. Andrea reached a shaking hand into the bloody mess, finding an unmarred patch of ebony fur. The cat hissed weakly and turned its head around as if to bite, but couldn’t find the strength. Andrea stroked it slowly, tears blurring her vision as the cat settled quietly, and after a few minutes, went still. The cell phone in the front seat vibrated in the cup holder. Her mother’s personalized ring tone twittered brightly from the pink glitter covered phone. She reached up between the seats and snatched it up. She quickly flipped it open. “Hello?” She asked weakly.
CENTRIPETAL “It’s just Mom, honey. The doctor just came to talk to me.” “So what’s going on?” “He’s in ICU still. There’s nothing that can be done anymore.” “Why didn’t they at least try to operate?” “Because there’s alcohol in his system. A lot of it. If they put him under, his body wouldn’t have been able to take it.” “So what happens now?” “I’m waiting, but it won’t be very long befo-” She trailed off. “Hold on honey, the doctor’s coming.” Andrea heard muffled voices. Her mother’s sob was all that she needed to hear.
CENTRIPETAL COREY Kaitlyn Ross 15 years gone by Rewind. To days of soft pink flesh and a baby’s cry. I held her hand. In anticipation. Our fingers locked, sweaty. The clean white walls were Not calming. You came not porcelain But grimy And red. Like raw meat. Your hair also, On fire contrasted next to my Buttery curls. The florescent lights: so strange to you? You’re screams were almost: comforting.
CENTRIPETAL You were healthy. We were happy. I held you for a few minutes carefully. and you looked at me, observing. I smiled because You approved. While your eyes rolled back into your first little dream.
CENTRIPETAL 13 DEGREES Kaitlyn Ross Her fingers were frozen. She had been waiting, For a new beginning Her screaming Echoed the walls with a rattle to the pipes She had locked herself in her room for hours at a time, four days. They were not panicking. “A typical teenager” She heard them mumble She knew They wouldn’t understand. Not that she wanted to explain it Because she couldn’t figure it out On Her Own
CENTRIPETAL She climbs out her window Walking in the snow Leaving footprints Behind On accident. When they knock She will be gone.
CENTRIPETAL ANATOMY OF ANGER Alexis Borbotsina Sometimes it starts at the tips of my fingers, seducing molecules, shaking them warm. Then my veins, conductors, retain and spread the heat, up my forearms, swallowing elbows, it rises. My heart accelerates, breath is short, and as the tension squeezes my neck, I lose feeling of the fingertips that started it all. It becomes hard to swallow, and my eyes swell; any blink drops bright, boiling tears down my ripe, red cheeks. Twitches tweak my shoulders, spasms down the arms, colliding with the filling, rising heat. My mind races, sometimes messages come out of my mouth that arenâ€™t from me, but are flames sincerely from the heat thatâ€™s risen. And by the time
CENTRIPETAL my brain catches up, all recollection of what aroused me here is gone.
CENTRIPETAL RUSSIA Tim Sacco The skyline was vibrantly red, as if a hatchet had been taken to the body of the sun and its corpse slowly dragged across the horizon. “Why do you have to go?” I asked. “Because,” Claire replied, “There isn’t any better way to practice my Russian than to go to Russia for a while, obviously. If I don’t perfect it, then I wasted four years of school for nothing.” Sunlight ripped into the murky water of the pond, our feet dangled in from the crew dock behind St. Paul’s. “I wish I could go with you,” I said. “Maybe we should just elope, and you could teach me Russian. You would get all the practice you need.” “Oh yes, we’ll got to Vegas and elope, and I will teach you Russian in the car on the way,” she said sarcastically. “Sounds good to me,” I said with a smirk, “We’ll even invent our own dialect of the Russian language. They will travel here to study us.” Claire hung her head. Her curly brown hair sunk over her face, masking her brown eyes. I studied her for a moment, every minute detail, every crevice, every texture. Her hands were trembling. “Claire, don’t worry,” I said, “It’s only a year.” “Only,” she replied smugly. “I know you need to go,” I said, “You know I will be here, waiting.” “I hate Russia,” she said, “The language, the culture, everything.” “You know that isn’t true,” I reassured her, “Besides, while you are over there, you can get me one of those Russian hats with the fur inside.” She chuckled. “I heard they have to wear those hats in the northern part of the country because it gets so cold their brain will freeze,” she said. “Well, maybe you should get one, too,” I said, “I don’t think I’d like it if your brain froze.” She glowed, momentarily. “You know,” she said, “I don’t think I would much like my brain frozen either.” Her eyes captured the rays of the sun within them, like a dream catcher. I touched the top of her hand with my fingertips for a moment. “You feel cold,” I told her. “I just realized this time tomorrow, I will be gone,” she said. I could feel heat upon my cheeks and a distant breeze brought about the scent of rejuvenation or decay. “Claire.” “Yes?”
CENTRIPETAL “Say something,” I said, “something in Russian.” She looked at me for a few moments and then spit out a few incomprehensible words to me, all sounding gentle as they fell from the tip of her tongue. “What did you just say?” I asked. She paused for a moment. “I said, ‘not even God can see us now,’” she replied softly. I touched her hand again; it was still cold and trembling. “I wish this moment would last a while.” “Please, don’t,” she said gently, so I took my hand away. She slipped off the dock, beneath the water. She was submerged, time stood still.
CENTRIPETAL STRANGLED SYMPHONIES Jennifer Streeter Sticky lemon sucker fingers extend out, reaching to grab its swaying string. The mass of rosy red bobs in the air, spinning around to look at the crowds, Toothy, cotton candy grin appears as grips the balloon like hands of an old friend She laughs mysteriously at the image that reflects back at her, the pink polka-dot dress makes her tiny frame, large, and then small again. Magical sparks glisten as her nails click along the wall; she searches for a way out of this maze. The carts spin, and faces laugh, and stomachs frown. Vibrant rainbows mesh together, on the canvas of a white cart. They laugh holding tightly to the hot metal bar, imprinting joy into the old rusty ride.
CENTRIPETAL LOVE IS LIKE A MOSH PIT Nicole Bailey Being upfront And center Feeling the bass In between off beats of Unsteady rhythms Anticipating The slide of The pick. I start being Tugged left And you to The right Like I’m North and your South Magnets Separated. I reach Towards you… The crowd Pushes and pulls Like taffy in A factory. People move Clockwise then Counterclockwise But I’m sandwiched Crushed with Little air supply…. I try to swim back to You.
After Sean Thomas Dougherty’s “Eating Violins” Nicole Bailey Can you hear the pick dancing between the strings? To hum a song between words Through the ears in sound waves, like Vibration of feet tapping In a stadium of millions To assert it’s hook Of the lead riff, the spot light, The bridge, down to its frets Inlet, like all the seamstresses Weave their thread back and forth on the machine in a factory, the name will be stamped, branded, strung-out in the head stalk. You are southern hospitality, on long weekends with extended family. On the edge of callused fingers At Woodstock continuing in the festival Dancing in wee hours, saunter You are a rekindled romance, You are unforgettable and timeless Radiant, sunshine. With your song we will sing along Into the street, beggars will become A few pence richer as it falls into your case, You are rhythm who complements melody Changing chords To a key, a minor tune Changing the pitch Into a sad song, digress, to a past Whose song it is from Boston New York, L.A. to Chicago, To the house of blues Where you whispered listen Without distress, but you weep often But allegro, with your words Not many people can hear you, I will watch
CENTRIPETAL For your comeback Hidden by the other instruments trying to overpower you as you revolt, The volume control is moving as the guitarist Sways your whammy bar. I wait for your solo because Youâ€™re the background singer. You are the tune without words. Wait for the set, Which is always better than the first. Before the encore.
CENTRIPETAL JULIE Tonya White She did not ask me to close the window. She only brushed her graceful fingers against the corner of her mouth, curling the tips under thin strands of hair. She pulled the wetted ends along her cheek and onto the starchy white pillow. The shimmer of wetness dried instantly in the morning light. Her hand slowly and steadily returned to its place by her side. She had said she was happy. As I sat in the stiff and formal chair under the miniature TV that we never turned on, I watched her stillness. She lay content staring up at the ceiling. The entire room was white, she once explained, so what was the difference between a ceiling and a wall anyway? The nurses thought this was her getting restless, but I knew her better than they did. She was content here. She needed to be. She let her face fall to one side and caught my gaze. Her hair cradled her forehead and twisted gloriously in all directions across the pillow. She shifted her gaze from my eyes to the window. I could tell she was thinking, not hard, but focused. She looked back over to me, closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She opened her mouth, about to speak. She looked intently into my eyes and gave me one of her all knowing yet entirely humble and loving smiles. There used to be a bit of question in that smile. But nowadays, I was the only one with question. Her chest lowered dramatically into the sheets as she let out a long and silent sigh. The fabric wrinkled like ripples of water receding into the ocean after the grand wave rose and crashed upon the sandy beach. Each breath was taken and released with drama irresistible to small children running to chase the water, only to run from it again. And with almost as much struggle as those children, running for hours on the beach, she would take, and release, breath after breath. Both of us knew she was cold. Wind gently made its way through the window screen and settled around us. The dry chill of winter was dancing through the crisp leaves. The golden light was made even warmer by those thinning strokes of color, temporarily attached to tangling branches. Only a narrow stream of this morning light flowed to her. It traveled over the curve of her thigh and was lost. Something about the way the cold chilled her pale skin and raised the hair on her arms made her more beautiful than ever. I knew the cold wasn’t “good for her”. She was still strong in my eyes yet despite what I thought, she was ever so physically weak. I would have felt guilty, if I didn’t know how she loved the
CENTRIPETAL feeling of that autumn air filling her lungs, I would have closed the window. I traced the stark contrast of the black metal window frame against the white walls. There was no window sill, only a slight indentation that was far too small to place any welcoming plant or cherished knickknack. And as I loved the smell of the fallen leaves, I dreaded a day I might brush my bare feet through them without her hand just in reach.
CENTRIPETAL TO BE TAKEN Tonya White Where Is this place you hold Dear Where we find your lost memories? You color me Wet on a soft spring day. And I warm you Golden With sun I shine through the trees Carefully, watch you stroll by. The air is Crisp. my heart is by my side When the crows start to call the snow gently melts I will wait for tomorrow And a new glimpse of light. Spread me like flowers Across a vast open field. We run and fall together ever lost in tall grass. Until then I will wish
CENTRIPETAL Only for the sake of Wishing. Try To move puddles with my hands And keep time that is gone.
CENTRIPETAL A GIRL YOU USED TO KNOW Kristin Boyle He’ll be sitting in your lap—my favorite seat Young and curious, swinging tiny bare feet A high school portrait you hold in your hands Just a girl you used to know, who wasn’t in the plans He scoots over closer to get a better view Nothing much to see, so then he looks at you The hint of a smile, then—“Daddy, who’s she?” What will you think of when you remember me? Remember our first date? We spent hours in the car Just lying on our backs Looking up at the stars And when the cops came we couldn’t think what to say Never told your parents, but we laughed the next day I used to hold your hand Oh how I loved you so Just another guy? People come and people go Slow dancing to all the wrong songs We were so different, yet we always got along All those days together and all the months apart Every time we’d end, was another time to start Still—words were left unspoken, and things left undone We were both so young, but it was clear you weren’t the one We had nothing in common… living different lives A year of separation initiates goodbyes The background of my thoughts, tucked away in dreams The years go on forever It was yesterday it seemed You and I will lose touch, as people often do We’ll be miles apart, but I’ll still think of you
CENTRIPETAL Patiently waiting, little fists on his thighs Still smiling, looking up into your eyes “Hey Daddy, who’s that girl?” Time still goes, even if you stop the world You try to remember, but it was all so long ago Tucking the picture away you say— “No one, son… Just a girl I used to know.”
CENTRIPETAL HOW TO HOST A DINNER PARTY Lauren Tiner Carol Shank threw a cheap box of dehydrated mashed potatoes into her shopping cart. She slowly strolled down the narrow aisle, which was lit with artificial lights and splattered with dead flies. The circuits buzzed over her head, ready to blow a fuse. Her pale, narrow face turned into a scowl as the country singer, Reba, came on over the intercom. Shoppers stared at Carol with her lean physique and straight posture, sporting a sweater vest and collared shirt in the sweltering heat, her gaze aloof to others. She noticed the downtown supermarkets in Texas, Fort Worth were no match for the fresh seafood markets and the natural food stores she’d been accustomed to, growing up in a small New England town. Carol hosted dinner parties all the time back home, before Tony forced her to move northwest. His plumbing company needed him in Texas, otherwise they’d have no income at all. Lately, good food and intelligible conversation seemed scarce. Her husband, Tony, ate mostly Hungry Man dinners now when he came home from work. Carol glanced at her shopping list and searched the canned aisle for green beans. There was only mole sauce. She grumbled, making her way over to the fresh produce. She felt too weak to cook. Waves of heat rushed over her. The thought of making dinner for a woman she hated didn’t help. But Tony insisted; he wanted to have his husky coworker, Billy Boy Lloyd, and his baby wife, Sandra, over that night. Carol practically keeled over every time Sandra opened those sinfully lush lips of hers, spewing out something about winning the “Ms. Tamale” title one year at the annual fair. Carol vented to herself, standing with her hands on her hips in front of the fresh vegetables for five minutes, where the green beans should have been. She saw a young employee walk by with a cart of beef jerky. “Excuse me, miss. Excuse me.” The employee kept walking. Carol shuffled after her, yelling louder, “Excuse me!” The girl turned around with a slightly annoyed look on her face. “Do you have fresh green beans?” The girl stared back, “No, sorry,” and began to walk away. Carol threw down her list, “Does this place have fresh anything?” A cluster of shoppers by the deli turned to see Carol flustered in frustration.
CENTRIPETAL The young girl stopped pushing the cart of dried, processed meat and pondered on Carol’s words. “Well, we have mole sauce.” Carol waved her arms in the air, surrendering to her new environment, “I give up.” She stormed over to the frozen aisle and dumped a dozen packages of broccoli into her cart, “This will do,” wiped her hands and made her way over to the cash register. She vowed to plant a vegetable garden in the backyard when she found the energy for it. Carol began unpacking the groceries from the trunk of her silver Sedan when Tony pulled his jeep into the narrow driveway. She turned around as Tony shut his car door. “You’re home early,” Carol said. Tony un-tucked his flannel shirt and grabbed his tool belt, walking cautiously towards Carol with short, stiff strides, lifting up his Dickies pants. His toe-steeled boots scraped against the pavement as he dragged his feet. Carol noticed the circles around Tony’s eyes were darker than usual. “Yeah, Billy and I finished our last job early. I figured you’d want some help.” Carol sighed with exhaustion as she picked up a grocery bag, eyeing Tony. “Oh, thanks. How considerate of you. If I’d known you were coming home early, I would’ve asked you to pick up the groceries for dinner.” Tony plucked a shopping bag from Carol’s arms. “Go, sit and rest, all right. I’m sorry. I just thought it’d be nice to have company tonight.” Carol shook her head in nervous laughter. “You know how much I can’t stand that floozy—out of all the people, Tony honestly. I’ve noticed the way you ogle Sandra.” Tony pushed open the screen with his foot, “Sandra’s a good girl. Maybe you two can become friends,” and shut the door behind him. Carol stared at the pale yellow paint on the panels of the small house, already peeling away. She felt a pang of jealousy rush through her chest as the door shut, the way Tony praised Sandra and overlooked what Carol did for him. She slammed the trunk closed and walked into their cluttered kitchen. She took out pots and pans from the bottom cabinets, making a racket as Tony unpacked the groceries, careful not to say a word to him expect for, “excuse me” when he got in the way. *** Dinner started off with an uncomfortable silence. Carol shoved a broccoli spear into her wide mouth, savoring its earthy flavor as she stared down Sweet Sandra the Home-wrecker, (recently dubbed her stripper name by Carol) from across the dinner table. She crunched down
CENTRIPETAL on the spear with her sharp teeth, chewing slowing, eyeing Sandra as though she were making the next move in a poker game, instead of sitting at her cherry wood dinner table, covered with a deep plum cloth, lit with ivory stemmed candles. The small flames flickered against Sandra’s eyes. Carol thought she could see the emotion, the secrecy ticking underneath this southern belle’s taught skin. She noticed the way Tony’s dark arm hairs rose as he looked at Sandra. Carol could just picture her husband and Sandra in bed together; an ogre and a Barbie doll. Horrific. Sandra ran her fingers through her voluminous, platinum blonde hair, smiling slightly at Tony as she lowered her green eyes, pressing her shiny, pink lips together. Carol couldn’t help smoothing out her short, black wig every time Tony and Sandra swooned over one another, as though it would cut the tension at the table. Carol swore she heard Sandra giggle each time she looked up at Tony, as though she were laughing at another one of her husband, Billy Boy’s perverted plumber jokes. Carol knew that look. Stupid bitch, she thought. Her stomach churned, taking her mashed potatoes and pork chops for a spin. “Have some mashed potatoes, Sandra, please. I made them with sour cream; you southerners like that stuff, right,” she said with a clenched smile. Sandra shook her bobble head insistently, “Oh, no, no. Billy and me don’t eat heavy foods anymore. I like to watch my figure anyhow.” Sandra gave Carol her irksome pageant smile. “Oh, well isn’t that nice?” Carol smiled back and stabbed the pork chops on her china plate with a fork until the dark, red liquid leaked out of the slab of meat. “By the way, it’s Billy and I, not me and Billy.” “Oh, Carol,” laughed Tony trying to soften through her harsh tone. “Carol’s mind is always stuck in the classroom—even when she’s on leave.” Carol shrugged Tony’s hand off her shoulders and poured herself another glass of Merlot, a more generous portion this time. She’d have a chemo-hangover in the morning. She didn’t care. Not since the mastectomy months ago, when Tony stopped touching her. When the cancer had spread quickly through the lymphoid, perhaps fueled by her anger, by the bitter resentment she couldn’t let go of after the first time Tony slept with another woman. Carol looked over at Sandra’s husband, Billy Boy, and winked. “More wine anyone?” she said. “Yes ma’am,” said Billy Boy as he held out his glass. Carol cringed at the word “ma’am” and poured the wine, making eye contact with Billy Boy. She never noticed before, but Billy Boy looked strangely attractive tonight. It could be the fact that he still
CENTRIPETAL had all his hair at the age of forty or maybe the way his worn wool sweater clung to his burly chest. Billy the plumber, who worked alongside Tony, wasn’t much of a thinker, but maybe he made a lot of money unclogging people’s sewage systems. Maybe he made for a good lover. He managed to land twenty-six year old Ms. America. Although, a chocolate bar could win her over too; she looked starving. Sandra still had those bright, doe eyes, a look of naivety. Carol knew Sandra’s giddy days were numbered. She could hear Sandra’s happiness tick away like a time bomb. Carol wished she could find it in herself to advance Billy Boy beyond conjuring up the mere envious plans in her mind. She wanted to obliterate the idea of marriage for women like Sandra who ruined it for the rest of them. Carol caught herself fantasizing as her wine dissipated; she’d really like to take one of her Pier One Import chairs and knock it over Sandra’s idiotic, sickeningly pretty head. She’d like to pull out Sandra’s breast implants or the pads she wore on her Victoria Secret bra, (she wasn’t sure which method she used yet for those perky breasts) and scream, “Aha! You’re a fake. I knew it.” Carol helped herself to an extra buttered roll. She didn’t know exactly what she’d be fighting for. Her husband didn’t prove much of a prize with his balding head and handlebar mustache, but he was hers regardless. Years ago, pedestrians would stop him on the street and insist Tony looked like Mr. Clean, but those days were over. Sandra fidgeted in her chair, about to say something. Carol could tell she seemed unimpressed by the last minute “dinner party” Carol was forced to whip up in a jiffy like Martha Stewart. “You know what game we used to play in Girl Scouts?” said Sandra with her girlish voice. Tony and Billy Bob smiled intently, staring at Sandra as Carol snickered. Sandra eyed her and continued. “Well, we used to go around the table during snack time and each of us would share something nice we hoped to happen in the future. I thought it’d be nice if we tried the game at the dinner table tonight.” Carol stood to excuse herself from the table. “Oh, Carol,” Sandra said innocently. “I’m so glad you want to go first!” Carol scanned the table like a skittish cat and frantically pointed at Billy Boy. “I believe Billy Boy had his hand raised first.” Caught by surprise, Billy Boy looked at Sandra, his thoughts turning like reels in a film. “Well, my sweet Sandra, I can only hope that in the future your mother doesn’t burn me in Hell for knocking you up.”
CENTRIPETAL Sandra blushed as Carol and Tony stared at the mother-to-be. They never wanted children or at least Carol didn’t. She just couldn’t find the time in between her studies to swell up like a balloon and drift away. Carol licked her lips, sticky with envy. “You know what I hope for in the future? First, I hope that you and Billy Boy have a happy, healthy child, which no doubt you will. And second off, a little off the record, I sincerely hope that you don’t plan to screw my husband in the near future.” Sandra’s pretty pink face drained as Billy Boy looked at her with distain. Carol downed the rest of her wine. “Now, if you all don’t mind I must get some rest for my doctor’s appointment in the morning.” Carol walked into the small, rustic kitchen, adjacent from the dining room, still cluttered with dirty pots and pans; she grumbled as she looked at the dishes piled up in the sink. Carol felt exhausted by the amount of cooking and unfamiliar emotions she exerted tonight. She opened the top wooden pantry for her nightly vitamins and turned to see Sandra, standing meekly in the doorway, wringing out her hands. Carol turned her back again, shuffling through the cabinet for a made-up object. “You know what I hope for in the near future?” said Sandra. “What,” Carol said without turning around. “Is it world peace you hope for or an end to world hunger?” she asked sarcastically. “No,” said Sandra quietly. “I hope that very soon, you’ll beat this cancer—that you’ll feel happy, healthy again.” She paused, waiting for a reply. “Thank you for dinner.” Sandra slowly left the kitchen, wrapped her arms around Billy Boy who looked at Carol with pity, and walked out the door. Tony came up behind Carol, resting his chin on her shoulder, tightening his arms around her slender waist. “I’ll finish the clean up— then we’ll talk when we get to bed.” Carol threw down a dish towel on the tile floor, “Oh, I don’t want sympathy anymore. I just want to be left alone. Tomorrow’s my last treatment anyhow.” Carol began to gag, the effects of the chemotherapy and wine already plaguing her body. “Hold my wig,” she said frantically as she threw up in their large, metal sink. Tony gently set aside what he called her Pat Benatar hair, rubbing her back and her head. “You need to get some rest.” Tony grazed Carol’s dark, fuzzy scalp. “Hey, your hair’s growing back.” *** Carol could hear Tony spraying and scrubbing the pans from the bedroom. She turned off the late night news on the television and listened to her husband hum as he cleaned. She hadn’t heard him hum or
CENTRIPETAL sing for a while now. She hadn’t heard him around the house for a while; Tony worked or played Texas hold’em at Billy Boy’s when he wasn’t taking care of her. That’s what he said at least. Carol breathed lightly as she heard his footsteps creep up the stairs. She didn’t realize how much she’d missed the sound of him, the idea of him being around. Tony’s shadow peaked in the doorway, “Hey, you awake?” Carol nodded. “Come to bed.” Tony crept into their bed with his jeans and sweater still on, holding onto Carol, creating two entangled silhouettes on the wall. “I know I haven’t been the best husband in the past, but I didn’t cheat on you with Sandra,” he said. “Well, you haven’t touched me for months, Tony.” “You wouldn’t let me, Carol. I freaked out when you were diagnosed—I thought I could lose you, and I began to think of our relationship as something more than sex, more than something physical— ” Carol cut him off, “You’re not attracted to me anymore, you won’t be until I go through plastic surgery and grow all my hair back. I’m not half as attractive to you as Sandra is. Admit it,” she said spitefully. “I don’t care what you look like Carol. You know I’ll always find you beautiful. I want you to get better. Sandra’s not the point. I never touched her; she’s just a likeable girl. What draws people to Sandra is her happiness and thankfulness for life. You could learn something from her.” Carol cringed. “What, how to accent my sneakers with sequins or find a long-lasting nail polish formula?” They both laughed. “No,” said Tony. “You could learn how to be happy.” Carol rolled her eyes in the dark. “But life hasn’t shit on her yet. She’ll see.” “What do you mean; she’s having a child with Billy Boy for the love of God. That’s punishment enough.” They laughed again, harder this time. “You know what I hoped for at the dinner table,” said Tony as he looked at Carol. “I hoped I’d hear you laugh again.” She rolled over and looked up at Tony. Only her eyes were visible, wide, glistening in the dark. “Why not our marriage?” “What?” Tony asked. Carol sighed, “Why didn’t you wish for our marriage--for it to become stronger again?” “Well,” said Tony. “I want you to become stronger first, and then
CENTRIPETAL we can figure out the extraneous things.” Carol shoved Tony’s thick arms off of her, kicked the covers from under his feet and struggled out of bed. She stared at Tony for a moment, her eyes wild, her nightgown disheveled. “Extraneous! Seriously, Tony, now our marriage is nothing but a grocery list to you? I am sick, this is true, but how do you ever expect me to quit acting so negative, how do you ever expect me to heal completely if the strongest bond, the only bond I have is this,” she flung a pillow at Tony and muttered something as she walked down the stairway. Tony got out of bed and hollered down the stairs, “Where are you going?” Carol’s voice sounded faint, “To sleep on the couch.” Carol could see Tony’s outline as he walked down the stairs. He stood and looked at her, wrapped up in a cocoon on the couch. “You didn’t finish the dishes,” she said. “Listen,” said Tony as he sat down next to Carol, lying on her back, staring at the ceiling. “Look at me, will you?” Carol stubbornly looked back at Tony. She told herself, she would not break down, she would not cry for him. He tried to touch Carol’s face but her eyes followed his hands, her pupils’ dilating like a cat’s, ready to attack. Tony adjusted his seat, trying to articulate his words, carefully. “When I said all I wanted was to hear you laugh again, I didn’t mean nothing else matters, that our marriage doesn’t matter. You know that. Why are you over-reacting?” Carol closed her eyes as though she were shielding his every word. Tony stared at the ceiling now too. “I want my wife back—I want Carol back.” “Well here I am, all of me.” Carol looked down at her chest. “Well, some of me. Take it or leave it.” “No,” Tony shook his head. “This isn’t who I married. When you were diagnosed with cancer, you survived but something in you died, Carol.” Carol opened her eyes, inflamed with tiny red veins. Her voice was louder now. “Maybe you shouldn’t have cheated on me—you shouldn’t have loved another woman. I was never enough for you.” Tony stood up, cupping his clenched hands with a look of pain on his face. “Goddamnit, Carol, that was years ago.” “Two years ago.” Carol flinched as Tony slammed the coffee table with his fist, making a loud thud as magazines fell to the wood floors. She lost her breath for a moment, afraid to exhale, afraid that the
CENTRIPETAL next sound would set him off as well, that the next protest would make him leave. “You are impossible,” Tony hissed. Carol stood abruptly, although fatigue made her body heavy as led, anger fueled her energy as she moved closer to Tony, her voice a shrill now, “Do you know what I’ve sacrificed for you? I moved across the country, to this stupid little town—this Hicksville—for your job. I’ve spent nights alone, months alone, wondering when you’d come home to me. I don’t have anyone left, but you. The only reason you’re standing here right now is because I’ve been sick; if I were healthy, we’d be divorced.” Carol’s last words lingered on Tony’s face. He kicked a magazine as he walked over to the closest, taking out his jacket. “What are you doing,” asked Carol in a panic. “Leaving,” Tony said calmly as he slipped his arms inside the sleeves and pulled up the zipper. He looked at Carol, standing there, frail and pathetic with a blanket on the floor beside her bare feet. “This is what you wanted, isn’t it,” he said as he grabbed his keys before Carol could reach them on the hook. Tony walked out the front door, the welcome sign shaking as he slammed it shut. Carol plopped back down on the couch in defeat. Silent cries turned into sobs as she saw headlights peak through the windows and heard Tony’s Jeep drive away. She slowly made her way back up to the bedroom and toppled over in utter lethargy. Mid-night, Carol felt the mattress lower and turned around to see Tony’s outline against the bedroom wall. Carol wasn’t sure if it was a dream as he unzipped his jacket, took off his jeans and crawled into bed, his cold hands warming up on her hot back, his breath reeking of Marlboro cigarettes and whiskey. He smelled like Tony. He did not linger with the scent of another woman’s perfume. He had no traces of smudged lipstick on his face. Perhaps he’d gone to the little dive bar down the street in order to calm his nerves, but all that mattered in that moment to Carol was Tony. She curled up next to her husband and fell back asleep with a trace of a smile left on her face.