YOU MUST STAY DRUNK ON WRITING SO REALITY CANNOT DESTROY YOU. --R AY BRADBURY--
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 Lauren Tiner Carrie Waldron E DITOR IAL A DV ISORS Dr. Liz Ahl Dr. Paul Rogalus A SSOCIATE E DITORS Emily Cote Elizabeth Mosher Rebecca Paulin Elizabeth Rice Lisa Riley Michelle Stephens C OV ER A RT Nasr S. Ghajar C OV ER DESIGN Nathan Gagne Carrie Waldron
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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.
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CONTENTS Vo l u m e 1 0 ◆ I s s u e 2 Good Tunes Ryan McLellan
At Night Ryan McLellan
Logics: When [Ex] is Some ^ is and Christine Leiper
Guardians Christine Leiper
“Sorry” Karly Gray
I Say I Love You Sarah Clermont
Gemini Abbie Morin
Who Needs Antiquity? Matthew Zakrzewski
An Evening Dip Nicole Bailey
Man of Tin Nicole Bailey
The Melody of Rain Naomi Fosher
Dual Perceptions Naomi Fosher
The Day You Left Jenna Rugh
Beyond the Stained Glass Window Jenna Rugh
Upon Waiting Kimberly Paniagua Riots Kimberly Paniagua
reporting in gaza Carrie E. Waldron
I am whatâ€™s left. Carrie E. Waldron
De Sun Dance Alexandria Cappello
The Bone Tree Alexandria Cappello
Broken Open Spaces Nasr S. Ghajar
Madness with Limits Nasr S. Ghajar
A Seamstressâ€™s Doll Arielle Tiner
Restoration Bryan Funk
Selkie Daughter Beckie Dowd
Flowers Create Sexy Adventure Beckie Dowd
Traitor Angela Hartmann
Silent Angela Hartmann
Stand Still Liz Rufiange
One Bed, Two Souls Lauren Tiner
A Fair Trade? Michael McClory
Lars Poetica Michael McClory
Coming of Age Richard Simard Greenware Richard Simard
The Open Freezer Michelle Stephens
The Wife of the Old Magician Aaron Simmons
The Bottom Aaron Simmons
Piersman Robby Binette
Hallmark Holiday Robby Binette
Empty Apologies and Broken Promises Samantha Stephens
Reverie Elizabeth Mosher
Fireworks in Portsmouth Heidi Therrien
Happy Birthday Judi Dague
First Kiss Judi Dague
CENTRIPETAL GOOD TUNES Ryan McLellan I don’t like jazz unless I’m driving past midnight, leaving routine in the dust of improvisation. I don’t like jazz in a bookstore, soft and subtle from small speakers in corners, just loud enough for pretentious patrons to hear, but not a decibel above the point where you can enjoy it. All I can hear is some whiny trumpet, most likely Miles, sounds more like a mosquito than the master of self-reinvention at this volume. There’s no bass in those tinny speakers, you can’t pick up the incendiary solos slammed through an upright with the precision of a painter. Miss out on polite applause from the white audience, appeased by performances of black musicians and the ones on stage play wisdom like heartache.
CENTRIPETAL I donʼt like jazz on NPR, I prefer to find it on obscure local stations late at night, DJ’s with insomnia bad as mine with gravel and glass-shard voices, who try not to smoke during their set, most times giving in when the station manager goes home for the night, exhales long drags of cool and says, “This next performance comes from a long-lost album, so turn up your radios and listen for the sax solo at the ten minute mark.” I don’t like jazz unless it’s Sheila Jordan telling a story, too young to get into the club so Bird kicked open the stage door and played to her in the alley outside. I don’t like jazz in any workplace other than a bar, seems too out of place in a lawyers office, doctor’s office, post office, stripped of the fire and sounds more like muzak rather than rip-roaring romps in dark and dingy hole-in-the-walls, playing for pennies and puffing smoke like incinerators.
CENTRIPETAL I donâ€™t like jazz unless itâ€™s ugly, sultry and spun on an scratched and skipping LP, broken wax with more power than bulldozers on coke that woke up with a hangover and chased the dragon with a shot of whiskey, straight no chaser.
CENTRIPETAL AT NIGHT an erasure of Kerouac’s “Tristessa”
Ryan McLellan Taxis aiming for whores with young men, arm in arm; hanging over longlegged brunettes, their pelvics pull and plead Cops pass like figures rolling under the sidewalk, children gape where spidery dancers in turtlenecks look through the eye of the criminal, digging the scene A few twisting stereotyped soundwaves from doorways, starving to leave it for the cat I walk along the street, begin to eat as I run, stinking livers hot in grease, crackle on the grill Devouring mouthloads of fire, cow meat hacked head and all, gristle on a mangy tortilla with salt, onions, green leaf -
CENTRIPETAL A half-mile down, candles and dim bulbs; Bohemian adventure, night of stones, hot spot narrow streets, musicians drumming in the big rich men, poor men mingle -
CENTRIPETAL LOGICS: WHEN [EX] IS SOME AND ^ IS AND Christine Leiper We laid in bed together and he taught me logics. He said, [Ex] (x is a person ^ x dislikes relationships), his translation, some people dislike relationships. But my thought was, he’s going to make me his girl. We held each other and he taught me logics. He said, [Ex] (x is a person ^ x dislikes love), his translation, some people dislike love, mine, how distracted I was with his fingers on my spine. We laughed together and he taught me logics. He said, [Ex] (x is a person ^x dislikes commitment), his translation, some people dislike commitment. But I could only think how perfect we were. We made love and he taught me logics. He said, [Ex] (x is me ^x loves our situation), his translation, I love our situation. Now I wont let him touch me. I shut the door in his face and taught him some logics. I said, [Ex] (x is a person ^x dislikes bull – shitters), his translation, some people dislike bull – shitters. My translation, Fuck You.
CENTRIPETAL GUARDIANS Christine Leiper * Edward My name is Edward Bishop. I will die before I am legal to vote, legal to buy cigarettes, legal to drink a beer. I haven’t even kissed a girl and I don’t think I ever will. I am fifteen years old and I have Juvenile NCL, otherwise know as Batten disease. I was diagnosed at the age of eight. I remember how it all started. I loved baseball; I was going to be the next Manny. But when during little league games I couldn’t focus, I started getting hurt because I would get dizzy, fall down, and miss the ball, I had to stop playing. I thought that was the most devastating day of my life. I began not being able to see, going through glasses upon glasses. It was at one of these eye doctor visits that one of them said I should go see a neurologist. I was eight, what did I know? I remember my mother ignoring the advice, ignoring it and then I began having seizures. I wonder what it was like to see me have that first episode- I remember feeling my eyes uncontrollably roll back, and my entire body feel like a limp noodle yet stiff all at the same time. The neurologist appointment was scheduled that day and I was seen the following. My mother died that day we went; I saw it in her eyes. I saw this great loss when she heard she could not save her only baby that day. Raylinn My name is Raylinn Bishop and I have a son that is going to die. He was an eight year-old little boy when we found out. My husband Emmett wouldn’t believe the truth. He wouldn’t believe it because he couldn’t accept the fact that it was both our faults he had this disease. He couldn’t handle the fact that both of us carried the defective gene in our DNA that would inevitably kill our Edward. Couldn’t stand the fact that we passed this on when we made him. Edward is fifteen now, he is what some call a vegetable. Though, sometimes, when I am there with him in his room I can see something in his eyes. As if there is still something there. I don’t know what to do, he is my only son. When Marie was born I was petrified to have her, Emmett and I talked about abortions, what if we passed this on to her? We couldn’t bear it. But I couldn’t bear aborting a life. I couldn’t live with myself. My son was dying- he could die at anytime. I had no control over that, but, I wasn’t going to kill this innocent creature growing inside me. When I told Emmett I was keeping Marie he left me. He said I
CENTRIPETAL was crazy, that I was selfish. Marie is six years old now, I take her to the doctor’s to be checked and she is a beautiful, intelligent daughter and she’s healthy. She loves her older brother too. I’ve sent Emmett pictures and letters but he won’t come home again. He came once on Edward’s eleventh birthday. When Edward started having a seizure in front of Marie, Emmett took her inside, told her he loved her and that he had to leave. I love my daughter, and I feel awful that I cannot be the mother I want to be for her. I cry every night for Edward to be at peace. I apologize to him for doing this and I ask God to have mercy. Edward I am alone inside my head. I hear everyone around speaking, though they don’t know I can hear them. I leave it that way; I don’t want them to think I can feel their pain through panicked voices. I don’t want them to know I can read through their fake smiles. I just want them to continue to believe I am gone, lost in my disease. I try not to hear them anyway, thinking hurts too much; thinking makes my brain eat itself away. Sometimes it’s just a gnawing. Other times it’s this vicious tearing and ripping of my neurons, white and grey matter. It is those hours, minutes that I show some reaction, some sense of life. Bedridden and unable to communicate, I wait. I wait for the sweet death to take me away and far from this place of sorrow. Where my mother could stop crying, where my father could come home and where my baby sister could be a normal kid, with normal friends. That killed me the most, knowing my sister was picked on for having the creepy brother, knowing no one wanted to come over and play at her house because I could erupt at anytime. I am just that strange boy that stares out his bedroom window from his chair, restrained upwards because I cannot hold myself up. Sometimes the boys of the neighborhood would stop and stare back at me, only to return to their friends and laugh, throwing mud at my window. They had no idea; ignorance is a beautiful thing, huh? Emmett Got to get this work done, got to get this work done. Can’t think about the past, don’t think about her face. But what a face, she must know that even though I left, that she is the only woman I love. She must know that when I go to bed at night I dream so vividly that when I wake up I still feel her warmth and smell her scent. Raylinn is a gorgeous creature. Dark chestnut hair that thickens to her waist, her tall slender legs compliment her hourglass figure. She has these piercing green eyes that have me hostage for eternity. I love my wife. I work long hours in the city, I always have. I would commute
CENTRIPETAL from our home in Stamford, CT to Manhattan everyday, sometimes on weekends. My apartment is not my home and the only thing aside from clothes and a little bit of furniture it has three photos, one of Raylinn and I, one of my little girl Marie when she was born, and the last. The last picture I have is of my son and I. That picture is usually turned to the wall. Not because I don’t love my son, because, I hate myself. I hate what I have done to him. Why us? Two out of one hundred thousand cases and my son gets this disease? Edward, my son is a saint, he was the perfect son a fathers dream, and I had it all. I remember he and I would fight over our teams. He would get so excited rooting for the Red Sox, while I would eagerly jab him on rooting for the Yankees. Boy, that kid had an arm even at five. It got to the point where instead of telling me I needed to be less rough when we rough housed, that he needed to be told. Edward, perfect boy Edward. I can’t bear to look at him now, when he needs me the most. I can’t even fucking be there for him. Father of the year right here. Raylinn won’t come see me, not that I blame her. I’ve only seen my daughter twice, the day she was born and once on Edward’s eleventh birthday. I cannot tell you the amount of pain I was in that day. I got him a baseball signed by his favorite, the great Manny Ramirez. Edward had a terrible episode when I handed him the baseball, Raylinn had her back turned because she was trying to get Marie to put her sweater back on. When I showed him the ball he saw it and just went crazy and started to have a seizure. I instantly put the ball back in my jacket pocket and had to turn away grabbed Marie and brought her inside. Strongest little girl I know. She didn’t even flinch she just looked at me and said, Daddy Edwards going to be ok. Edward Marie will come home from school and sit by my bed. She likes to read to me. Stories about princesses and knights. She will also tell me about her day in school. If I could speak I would tell her I love her and that she is going to be the most beautiful woman in the world inside and out. I would tell her she is going to be something amazing in this world, that when I am gone I will be watching her from above. Of all the people in my life, she is the only one that knows I am still here. She is the only one that knows I am still watching and listening. Marie doesn’t have any friends. At least she never brings any home. My mother always asks her but she quickly responds with, I don’t need any friends I have you mamma, and I have Edward. I hear her and I get sad. Marie needs real kids her age in her life. She will stare into my eyes and know that I am trying to speak to her and for whatever reason I feel as if she answers me back. She likes to just sit in my room on the floor, playing with her dolls, talking nonsensical scenarios. I love it and I love her. She loves
CENTRIPETAL to tell me about the boys she secretly has crushes on. It changes every week, but I look forward to hearing about Chase, Thornton, Seamus, and Henry. She will say that she doesn’t like them anymore because they either pushed her, or called her a silly name. She will then look into my eyes and wait for an answer, and I will respond with as much feeling that I have through my eyes. I say wordlessly that I would take care of her, that I will make sure no man, no boy will ever harm her. She will smile, that’s when I know she can hear me. Marie is my saving grace. Locked inside my diseased dying head, she seems to keep me going. When there are thunderstorms or she’s had a bad dream, she will sneak into my room with her blanky and teddy bear, and this precious six year-old will crawl up next to me and tell me not to be scared. She will protect me from the rain. It is those nights that I can feel the tears dripping from my eye sockets. Raylinn All she ever does is sit in his room. She will come home from school visit with me do her homework in the kitchen while I get supper ready and talk about her teachers. She never talks about the kids at school, what she and her girlfriends did. I don’t even know if she has friends. Marie seems so happy, but I feel like she’s lacking. I tried to join the PTO but I felt so out of the loop when Marie wouldn’t want to do anything we were planning. She would always get upset with me and tell me it wasn’t fair that Edward couldn’t do it. How can a six year-old be so mature? She can’t, it can’t be possible, she’s six with the maturity of a thirty yearold. Christ, she keeps me sane. Right now she’s upstairs with Edward playing tea party. Edward is so quiet though when she is with him. So still. When she is at school I will put him by the window so he can watch the outside and wait for her to come home. You can feel this undying tension electrifying his skin when I touch him while she is away. Emmett called yesterday, it was so good to hear his voice, and I wish he would come home. God, I wish he would come home. Edward Accepting one’s death is hard. Well, it is suppose to be hard. It was easier when I stopped talking. When I stopped talking the world around me seemed to murmur. The only one that would talk to me was Marie, sometimes my mother depending how guilty she was feeling. If my father were here though, I know he would talk to me. But he isn’t as strong as the others; he loves me too much to be strong. So he left, he left because he felt it was what the best thing for me. I don’t want him to see me like this anyway. Sometimes when mom takes me out in the chair to get fresh air we will pass people. Mainly just older woman, and I can hear
CENTRIPETAL them whisper to themselves, that, it’s a shame he had to leave them, that boy deserves a better father, and that poor little girl growing up with out a daddy, must be terrible on that wife of his. My mother doesn’t pay attention; she doesn’t want to bring on an episode. It use to make my blood boil and I would start to feel that pain come over me, the pain that would start the whole loss of consciousness, my mother could feel it too and she wouldn’t take me on walks for awhile after. It is hard being a pain that harbors deep inside their hearts, a pain that knocks on their souls. I pray every night for them to be rid of me. I pray to feel my body go numb and taken away. Marie needs a guardian, she can’t be strong all the time, she needs to be a little girl, and she needs to let it out and cry. So I wait. Marie My older brother is going to die today. He told me this morning when I was getting ready for school and I came in to say goodbye to him. He doesn’t know it yet, but I do. I love my brother; he’s my best friend. My mommy doesn’t understand why I don’t have other friends; I don’t need them right now. I need Edward and Edward needs me. The kids at school make fun of me, but that’s because they don’t understand. How could they? They don’t know what it’s like to protect something that they care about. I miss my daddy, mommy misses him too. I think Edward misses him, but he will never tell me. We don’t talk about daddy, daddy was his hero. Like the day daddy brought him the baseball, Edward was so excited he couldn’t control himself, I know. Daddy blames himself though for Edward’s attack. But it wasn’t, Edward just couldn’t control his joy. He may appear lifeless, but he’s really full of life. I will tell daddy this when Edward leaves us. Mommy says that I shouldn’t worry about Edward, that he’s going to be ok. I don’t have the heart to tell her that I already know the truth. I came home from school and looked at Edward. He looked at me back and he told me with his sad green eyes that he couldn’t do it anymore. I smiled at him and closed his eyelids. I kissed his cheek and whispered in his ear, I love you, don’t get lost. I left the room to get some juice. Edward With my eyes closed I feel the pain wash over me in its entirety. The pain of what I am, the pain of what I have, the pain of never being able to feel my family’s touch again. My brain begins to fire and it is then that it starts to hurt. My body loses control, thrashing and hurling. I fall off my bed. My mother comes rushing in, she sticks a towel between my teeth in hopes that I don’t bite my tongue off. I can sense Marie is at the
CENTRIPETAL door, mother turns to her and screams to get out, but she doesn’t. The pain cracks open my skull, revealing itself, and dives in to eat and pinch with a dull knife through every inch of grey matter, into my white matter. I have tears pouring out of me; these tears are for letting this life go. It is when I feel the blood trickling from my ears that I know it is almost over. I hear the words of my mother, Oh God, my son. The world is quiet. Raylinn My son is dead, my son is dead. My son is dead. I’ve said it over and over again, the funeral is tomorrow and I still cannot accept he is gone. They tell me this is normal. Emmett is home and I don’t know if it feels right anymore. My son is dead. Am I dead? What is death? I have left his room the same and forever it will be that way. Marie hasn’t cried yet, I don’t understand. How can this little girl be so strong? She hasn’t left her father’s side since he has been home. Like they had never been apart. I wish it were that easy for me. My son is dead and his funeral is tomorrow. God, what is my name again? Emmett Home, my little girl and I are two peas in a pod. She makes me feel stronger about everything, makes it easier to be there for Raylinn. I am worried about my wife. She has lost her glow and the twinkle she always carried has faded. I miss Edward. I miss my boy; I have his baseball stowed safely in my suitcase. I am going to give it to him tomorrow; I will place it in his hands so he may have it when he rests. The funeral is tomorrow and I find myself, when Marie is not around, weeping. Raylinn has caught me a few times and she leaves when she sees me. I don’t think she can bear the pain. But I am home; I will never leave them again. Edward My gravestone is beautiful, black granite with an engraving of a soldier on a mountain. My name boldly arches at the top: EDWARD SCOTT BISHOP. Everyone is crying, everyone except Marie. What a funny little creature she is. She watches as everyone pays his or her respects, she watches my dad give me my baseball and she smiles. She watches my mother kiss my lifeless face. But I can still remember my mother’s soft touch. Marie turns away from the funeral and looks at the tree, the tree that I am leaning against. I know she sees me, because she smiles and slightly waves. I blow her a kiss and on the passing breeze I whisper out to her, I will always be watching, I will always be with you, I will always love you. I send one last smile to her, one last look to my father and mother and I
CENTRIPETAL glide away with the morning air. Marie seemed to understand that I meant what I said. From every night since I have watched over her bed, making sure no nightmares creep into her slumber, I make sure no lightening wakes her from the deep peace, I also make sure that she remembers she is a child. She plays with all sorts of kids now. So I stay by my post, doing what my body held me back from, doing what I was made to be, a guardian.
CENTRIPETAL “SORRY” Karly Gray Counterfeit letters make a word, an empty shell. Beautiful exterior. Repulsive in eminence. Senseless speech, in my ears. The whore of his language, getting fucked with the flicks of his tongue. Expression; Associated with sorrow. A feeling easily faked. Pronunciation “sawr-ee” Makes ribs crack, exposing, addicted, heart.
CENTRIPETAL I SAY I LOVE YOU Sarah Clermont I say I love you But we’re moving so quickly I’m not sure if I really mean it Or if I just say it to return the favor. I say I love you But I’m not sure if it’s the truth. I say I love you And I think I mean it But I can’t quite feel it. Something seems to be missing. I say I love you But I’m not sure I know what I’m thinking. I say I love you And I’m really starting to believe it’s true Something feels different inside People say you know when you’re in love. I say I love you And I’m pretty sure I mean it. I say I love you And I know it’s the truth. I love you more than anything I never want that to change. I say I love you And I’ve never been so sure about anything before in my entire life. I say I love you And I feel your love. You love me as much as I love you If not more. I say I love you And you show me you love me too.
CENTRIPETAL I say I love you But something feels different. It seems like there’s distance between us Even when we’re lying in bed together. I say I love you But something is not right. I say I love you And you say you love me too But you’ve stopped showing it. And that scares me. I say I love you To keep you close. I say I love you But I’m not sure if I mean it. At least not anymore. Things are too different between us. Still, I say I love you Because I’m not ready to lose you. I say I love you Because I mean it And I always will love you For the rest of my life. But I say I love you As I say goodbye.
CENTRIPETAL GEMINI Abbie Morin “Abs, what time are you going to go sleep?” You asked me. “Depends,” I replied. “When do you want me to go to sleep?” It was reminiscent of a conversation We’d tripped over so many times before. Dancing around realityAvoiding one another’s eyes, Smiling behind stringy hair. Before Everything got so fucked up. Before you put your mouth on mine, Before the whispers, Before I fell, Before you left, Before I realizedIt was an exchange of words That tasted of lovers’ spit That smelled of thrift shops and patchouli That felt like trembling hands on naked chests. My beautiful broken love, what has become of us? Of me? You told me you hear voices sometimes. That you feel submerged in water and then the words come Spilling into you, but rarely ever make sense. I thought of all the times I had called out to you In the still of night. I told you that I don’t think you’re crazy and it’s because you’re special. I told you about the dreams. And how they still won’t go away. You said you feel responsible. For everything.
CENTRIPETAL For a moment I felt a glimmer, I knew you hadn’t forgotten. For a moment it was like you had never gone. I told you it wasn’t your fault. I was lyingI’m always lying.
CENTRIPETAL WHO NEEDS ANTIQUITY? Matthew Zakrzewski I sit here and stare at the same wall I have stared at since I was moved in years ago. I’ve seen decorations come and go, children grow up, I’ve heard conversations, promises, break-ups, and arguments. And I must say the arguments seem to come more frequently in this day and age. I’ve seen the crumbling of a family and its slow reconstruction. They don’t call me a grandfather clock for nothing. I’m old, but not tired, not yet. “I’m still ticking.” Ha. That’s one of the expressions I’ve come to like that the kids seem to say…. They always seem to use it when talking about the old people. They have so many useful expressions these days…. I look at the painting across the room that is almost as old as I am. I talk to it sometimes. “Hello dear friend,” I say, but it doesn’t respond. It never does, but I’m sure it is looking at me, wondering why I never respond either. But it’s no biggie, just like the kids say. “How’s your day been going?” I ask. The man on the painting looks at me in contempt. And I don’t doubt him, I’m talking to myself. But I make him reply nevertheless. “Foine, foine, good sah,” I imagine him saying, “Ahhnd yoa’s?” “Well, my day is just splendid so far,” I reply and turn my focus to the hallways as Henry and Elizabeth stop in the doorway. They are the owners of the house. Henry takes good enough care of me, but his grandfather was better. I’m lucky if I get my gears checked at all…. He always blames me for the time being wrong, when he should just stare in the mirror to see the real perpetrator, the fool. “Well if you would just tell me,” Elizabeth says, her voice choking, “who she was, I’d feel much better.” “She’s no one hun,” he lies through his teeth. I stare at him with all the anger a grandfather clock can muster. I shake unnoticed to both of them and a small metallic click comes from inside me. I sigh. Broken again. I must stop from watching these episodes or else they will think I’m defective. “That’s a lie!” Elizabeth screams frantically. She grabs his chest and a sob escapes her throat. “It’s a lie.” “Yes. It is,” I tell her. “Honey, hey, honey, look,” Henry coos, “She’s just a new person from the office I have to train.” A shudder runs through Elizabeth’s body as if the lie is running its course through her blood. He pats her head and looks into the room at
CENTRIPETAL me. I glare at him with all my might but he looks away. Elizabeth sniffles. “What’s her name?” “He’s cheating on you,” I say. She blinks her eyes and looks into the study at me as if she heard me. And I suspect on some subconscious level she has. Before Henry can respond, I look away and towards the painting. We stare at each other. “Great Scott!” he says. “You ahh broken sah!” “Yes,” I reply, but that’s all I say. I don’t feel like talking to him anymore. “You’re a bastard,” I tell Henry. “Really…I must say you are a terrible human being.” Henry grunts and turns the wrong gear as if to punish me. “Dammit all,” Henry curses and hits my wood. I can hear him breathing impatiently behind me, as if he’s waiting for me to fix myself. “Nope. The other one, you fool.” I sigh and look at the man in the painting. Today he looks back at me companionably enough. He knows what annoyances come with being broken, having been dropped and cracking his frame. Henry growls. Instead of turning a gear, he somehow manages to turn the minute hand forward thirty minutes. I groan. Of course this will be blamed on – suddenly my hour hand moves backwards in time. I suspect this is Henry’s attempt to correct his mistake. “Sah!” That picture says. “I must know! Is that the roight toime? I must know!” Henry comes around and stares at me in the face. I give him my best “I hate you” stare. He doesn’t notice. Instead, he throws his hands up in the air and slams them down at his sides. “What the fuck….” “Sah!” the painting says louder. “Sah! Yoa toime is incorrect! I thought you should know!” I ignore him. After all, I am the one imagining him speaking. Henry leans his fist on my face, and I can hear my glass crack and bend. “Henry,” I say calmly. “Could you please stop leaning on my face? I’m trying to be calm, but that hurts a lot.” I look over at the painting. The man seems to be leaning in to hear better. “I was wondering,” I whisper to Henry. “If you would consider moving that painting to another place in the house. “Wot?” the painting asks frantically. “Wot?”
CENTRIPETAL But Henry is silent and ignores my request. He takes his fist off my face, leaving a spider web of cracks. He rubs his temples violently then looks up at me and shakes his head, as if this whole thing was my fault. And I suppose it is. “Stupid clock.” Henry hits my glass gently, but it buckles under his fist. I sigh and try to close my eyes but I can’t stop looking at Henry. The doorbell rings and Henry’s eyes widen. A stupid grin breaks out on his face and he runs out of the room. “Wot,” the painting asks, “was tha’ about moving?” “Nothing, nothing,” I reply. I look down. A piece of glass has fall down and landed on the carpet. I suppose that’s as close as I’ll ever get to crying. “No need to worry. Nothing’s going to happen to you. Nothing ever will.” I open my eyes to look into those of a man. Not Henry though, some other man. His face is wrinkled and there are massive bags under his dead eyes. His red flannel shirt is open on the top revealing sweaty chest hair. Dark stains are under his arm pits. The man’s jeans are covered in dark grease stains. He wears a trucker’s hat over his mangy and greasy hair. He has a package in his hand. He’d be considered “over the hill” by the kids these days. The Greasy Man pokes me right in the eye and slowly pushes forward. My glass crumbles around his stupid finger. “Oh shit,” he mutters and looks around, but no one saw him. I look around with him. There is a bunch of other people looking at smaller things. A child runs around his mother’s feet like a dog, and waves a toy he wants to buy. I look at it closer and see it’s one of Henry’s old toy trains I hadn’t seen in years. There is a box by the mother’s feet with “Kid’s Toys $1.00”. I’m at a yard sale. Anger forces itself up my frame when I look over at Henry, who is talking to the mother of the child running around. He did this. I can feel the red anger pushing up but then I look back at The Greasy Man and a coldness runs through me that any human being could recognize. It is the breeze that carries death. As if waiting for my epiphany, a cold wind blows into my now unprotected face and it stings. The Greasy Man looks away and I shudder from the cold. “Hey mister!” The Greasy Man yells across the yard. I look over and see Henry look over from talking with the woman and her child. “Be right with you!” Henry calls backs. The Greasy Man looks back at me and jams his hands into his pockets. He grins. Three teeth are missing. “Sir,” I tell him, “You must understand there has been some
CENTRIPETAL kind of terrible mistake.” The man shakes his head, still grinning. “You gonna fit in real nice in mah living room,” The Greasy Man says. He looks over and Henry maneuvers his way around boxes overflowing with random things. He stumbles over a box filled with kitchen supplies and a spatula falls out. “Can’t get enough I see?” Henry grins and slams his hands in his pockets as well. “No sir, no sir. This here clock-” “I’m a grandfather clock, thank you very much,” I report to him, but he continues anyway. “-is absolutely, one hunderd percent, beautiful. And I’d like to see it in mah living room. Raaght next to this beauty.” He gestured towards the package. “Yes sir,” Henry says, grinning stupidly. “This is a-” His smiled drops and he looks at my broken glass. “Well, I guess it could use some repairs. But it sure is beautiful. My grandfather’s you know?” They both stare at me, The Greasy Man with awe, Henry with faint disgust. A car drives by, blasting music. Towards the other side of the yard sale, a teenager sneaks off with a set of expensive golf clubs. “She sure is a beaut,” The Greasy Man says. I was about to say something, but I suppose I could be considered a girl. Or a boy. Both or neither. Henry takes what the man has in his hand and places it in the grass in from of me. He hooks his arm around that greasy man and they walk a little bit towards the road to talk about price. I look down at the package then up at the two men. “Sah!” a muffled voice called. “No….” The coldness rushed back into me and I look down at the package. “No….” “Sah! I can’t see! Is that you? Is it really you? What’s going on?” “We’re being sold.” “Oh joyous day!” that painting exclaims from the package. “You must be excited! I say! You must!” But I don’t respond. I watch as the two men laugh and come back. One, a traitor to me and his wife, the other my new owner. The Greasy Man leans over and picks up the painting, while Henry puts me on a moving dolly and they muscle me towards the man’s gray station wagon. My wood chips as they grind me into place in the trunk. “Good doing business with you,” The Greasy Man says and they shake hands.
CENTRIPETAL “Yes, and you too!” Henry fakes a smile. The same smile he uses to console his wife. “Havva good day mister!” The Greasy Man says as he makes his way into the front seat. He barely fits. “You too!” Henry says and pats the door then walks away rubbing his hands on his pants in disgust. The car starts. “Sah! Your wood is chipped!” I don’t respond. I focus on the ripping ceiling of the station wagon. “Sah! I say! Your wood!” I stare. “Sah!” I stare. “Sah!”
CENTRIPETAL AN EVENING DIP Nicole Bailey Into silent waters, under cascaded moonlight, One last swing, I decided to leap. The stars twinkle out of sight. The trees shake in the wind’s song like a skylight. Into the depths as it slowly creeps, The current tries to sweep me away into the night. Trying to see through the sediment of graphite, My feet try to reach the ground but it’s too deep, The stars twinkle out of sight. The current grabs me as I fight, Continuously as it sweeps, The current tried to take me away tonight. Trying to smother my light, A secret I must keep, The stars twinkle out of sight. I must be home at midnight, My parents think I’m still asleep. The current tried to take me away tonight. The stars twinkle out of sight.
CENTRIPETAL MAN OF TIN Nicole Bailey Rusted in spots I could tell you were sitting On the bench for a while. Oil seemed to drip from Your face but the last time I thought your eyes did move I went left and started again The expression still Remains the same. I swear I heard words But not even a syllable I went around and tapped First gently to hear If something was there Another rap on the back. You remained hollow Resonating through Empty like a drum Waiting for a tune But still nothing. The hinges make You stiff in this place I tugged at your arm And looked you straight In the eyes. Did your heart sink like a stone? I saw the oil can hoping I could Somehow revive you But the oil turned into molasses. Try and say at least one word Or even hint once? Blink Twice?
CENTRIPETAL THE MELODY OF RAIN Naomi Fosher The sensation of perspiration; the spherical sound sings to me. Its essence of grace is the empress of the celestial The gentle scatter and pitter patter are feet that touch the tin topped roof It floods and volleys With showers and storms The torrent will torment Until you are through But then it will sprinkle And drizzle some mist Until the sun cleanses its soul
CENTRIPETAL DUAL PERCEPTIONS Naomi Fosher I could feel the bullets whip past my flesh, begging to graze my skin. Everything slows down, the air like a jelly, thick and heavy. He fires again and again at me. I hear the shots ring out, but they are muffled with my thoughts. Holding the gun steady, his brown eyes gleaming with a snarling glare, he points it at me. I leap out towards the pine tree, watching the bullets fall short of my torso, a few feet to the right. One, two, three… they come streaming towards me, intent in the destination of my warm tissue, full of life. I judge the rate they are coming in at, with calculation and precision of a perfectionist. I hold his gaze and my eyes pierce his back just as intently. It’s my game too because I want him to shoot at me. That way he won’t go after my sister or brother. I would take the fall for them if need be. My eyes taunt him relentlessly and he tries again firing two more shots. They echo like twins, eager to caress my insides. I continue to fall towards the pine tree, praying I will be out of the bullets’ range still. My yard looks blurry to me; all I see are the bullets and his eyes. I am fixated on him, begging him to try again. I need to protect my siblings. There is a new noise in the background. I hear something far off like the slam of a door. I hear my mother’s strangled scream as the scene plays out in front of her vision. I can’t break the focus I have to see the fear, but I can hear it and smell it in the air. The tangy scent like sweat and cloves meets my nostrils. I wish I could tell her I had it under control with my eyes, but I couldn’t break my gaze. He did though, he ripped his eyes from mine, just like a rapist tears at the skin of an innocent girl. The shock made me gasp sharply and the intake of breath hurt my lungs. His eyes were not on me anymore, they were now darting to and fro with a violent lust. I saw his eyes stop and focus on my sister and I went cold with shock. I had tried to prevent that, but I failed an epic failure. He turned his whole body, rotating it towards her, but most important were the eyes and the gun which were both pointed at her. His arms created a straight line with precision and ease as he aims the gun steadily at my sister’s heart. He doesn’t even blink as he pulls the trigger. I want to jump out in front and take the bullet in me as a sacrifice, but I am too far away. Rebecca is still, with shock etched on her face perfectly as if she belonged in a museum as a featured sculpture. She is only twelve years old. She is too young to die. But then nothing happens. The gun just makes a pitiful click.
CENTRIPETAL Rage scorches in his eyes and he tries the trigger countless time, each time a final click greets him. I exhale all of the trapped air inside my lungs with relief. He is out of ammunition and that gives me time to intervene. But he is quick to decide, quicker than I am. He flings the gun down and it thuds to the ground with his impatience and rage. I am on the ground still from my fall and I get up, but my legs don’t cooperate and he is right next to my brother before I am up. He is short, very short next to my brother’s frame. He must be at least a foot shorter, but the compensation for his height is made up in the long knife he had pressed up against my brother’s chest. I couldn’t see his eyes anymore. I had to stare at his profile and his sharp features because he was standing behind my brother, arms wrapped around him like an awkward hug. He was a short punk of a kid, with black hair that gleamed with grease and sweat in the sunlight. Baggy oversized jeans and a white t-shirt was his outfit of choice for the day. He shouldn’t have the right to wear white; white is the color of purity I thought to myself. He had strong arms with defined muscles, but he was far from attractive. His nature overshadowed everything else about him and his eyes gave it all away. He was a scumbag who was trying to compensate for something by attacking me and my family. He was a despicable person. “Nobody move!” he yells out, grabbing my brother and bringing the blade closer against my brother’s t-shirt. I continue to get up, defiant and intent on changing the current situation. Scumbag jerks quickly, threatened by my movement. “You!” he yells at me and points with his knife hand. The blade catches the sun and blinds me, but doesn’t distract me. “Especially you! Don’t move or I cut this guy.” I know he is serious and I hesitate. I wouldn’t be able to accept that it was my fault if anything happened to James because of me. But it’s not my choice again because I am powerless. He is in control. In one quick motion, without provocation, he slashes a gash in my brother’s arm. Nothing happens and then the blood starts to pour out, a river or warm life all over my brother. Scumbag curses as he gets some on him. It’s a deep gash and I can see the skin flap and hang, raw and unnatural. I want to scream and tear at flesh, but I can’t and I don’t. “All of you! In the house! Now!” I slowly and methodically make my body move towards the door of my home, but I am numb. It is my fault. I should have protected my siblings better. ******** Pete watched her in her sleep. He always slept well, but he loved to wake up and watch her sleep sometimes. There was something private and intimate about watching someone sleep. She never knew how many
CENTRIPETAL hours he spent watching her, making sure she was sleeping soundly. She was at peace now, her breathing in a steady rhythm with light snoring. He would always tease her about that when she woke up. She started to twitch a bit and Pete wondered what she was dreaming about. Maybe a beach somewhere beautiful he thought. She looked so beautiful when she was asleep. Her hair fanned out and created a halo on the pillow. Her face involuntarily expressed every emotion she was feeling. He loved her innocence when she slept and her sense of vulnerability. She started to shake her head back and forth and groan, “No…” She stopped, but her former relaxed expression was gone. She looked concerned now and her eyebrows were scrunched. She looked anxious to Pete. He reached out his hand and stroked her hair gently. The auburn locks flowed easily through his fingertips. He was careful to not wake her. She needed to sleep, but as he always joked with her: it wasn’t beauty sleep she needed because she always looked beautiful. She twitched again and moaned out. He stroked her hair again and kissed her forehead, settling back on the pillow to watch her again. His eyes flicked to take a look at the clock across the room. The harsh red numbers told him it was three in the morning. He didn’t care at all. ******** In my house I feel like I am suffocating. The air can’t possible feed my lungs with oxygen. I am choking and gasping for air. He is pushing us through our own home at knife point and I am suddenly afraid of death. I had never been this close before. The former familiarity of the hallways vanished and they seemed cramped and vicious. I tripped against my will, unsteady because of my terror. He locked us all up in separate rooms and I had no idea where anyone else is. I was locked away in my own room and he chose to take care of me first. I hope fear did not show to my family. I needed to be strong for them. Captive in my room I am alone. And apparently unsupervised I realize. He didn’t plan for that. Surveying the room I know I can escape easily. The windows are my doors to freedom. Climbing over the stacks of books and discarded clothing I make my way over to the window. I see the rain pouring down, torrents as angry as I am. Clambering up to the sill I open the window with a heave. It gives easily and I take one last look around the room before I push the screen out and slip outside. ********
CENTRIPETAL She looked worried still. Her expression was pained and she was constantly twitching and shaking her head. The relaxed feeling from before was long gone and Pete was wondering if she was having a bad dream or not. She had a lot of weird dreams, but she was also prone to nightmares. There was one nightmare, maybe a year ago, that she woke him up because she was screaming. She was being chased by wolves and just ran and ran. She said she had fallen and the wolves were tearing at her skin, ripping her legs apart, muscles and veins being shredded. He had to wake her because she was screaming in her sleep, sitting bolt upright. It was almost worse than sleepwalking. It made him shudder remembering the look on her face when she told him. She had looked like she had invented a new shade of terrified. He wished he had woken her up that night and taken her out of her vivid mind so she didn’t have to be prisoner to her own mental images. Caressing her arm, he feels that her muscles are tense. She shakes her head back and forth again and is making strangled sounds in her throat. He tries to put his arm around her, but she pushes away and turns over. He waits patiently and rubs her back in circular motions. She still twitches and moves. He tries to comfort her, but he can’t reach her. ******** The rain is coming down heavy, drenching everything. I am not where I am supposed to be; my yard was supposed to be just outside my window. I somehow in a huge forest that separates my neighbors yard from my own. The forest is dense and everything is black from the rain. The branches reach down to hold me back and the forest becomes denser as I search around for a way out. I am trying to be held captive again, but in freedom this time. Every surface is slick and I start to panic. My breaths come quick and shallow, sucking in the wet air. I try to grasp on to the slick surfaces, but they do not aid my scramble through. There is no path and everything seems to be closing in on me. I decide that however risky it might be, I should try to fly out of there, regardless of how close I was to the house. I had no idea where I was or how close I could be to anything. Flying would be tricky because of the forest, but it is my only hope. Pushing through and trying to find the most open area, I struggle finally finding a place with a small opening to the sky. Hopping three times, I try to take off into the air, but the rain keeps pelting down and it is making everything heavy. I try again and again to take off - taking leaps like Mario needs to do to fly in all of the video games. But the rain holds me down and it’s no use. I am soaked through, lost and drained. Making my way forward, pushing through the
CENTRIPETAL wet branches I make my way blindly. They seem to have made a wall now and it’s nearly impossible to make it through. But suddenly I am out in the open in front of her neighbor’s house and the forest disappears. Their dog is out front, a black and white mutt named Chester. He starts to bark at me and I’m afraid he will alert everyone of where I am. I see a light turn on and a face at the door. It is John and he narrows his eyes when he looks at me, upset that I woke him up. He always has to work early and he is usually grumpy if woken up. “What is going on here? Why are you walking around my yard at midnight?” he scowls at me. I didn’t realize it was that late. I shiver from being soaked and from the terror that my family might now be okay. “It’s an emergency Mr. Straftord. I need to call 911. I think my brother is hurt.” His expression softens immediately and I see a new urgency in his eyes. He opens the door wide and motions me in. My heart is pounding and I can’t see straight anymore. I glance back at my house, but there are no lights on. It looks ominous and I rush into the safety of my neighbor’s house. The house is exceptionally hot, and I drip water everywhere. Puddles form everywhere. “This phone is dead. Go in Jenna’s room to use her phone she should still be awake.” I know this house very well. Jenna and I have been friends since second grade. Her room is at the end of the short hallway. I make my way down the familiar stretch, running my fingers along all of the walls and the closets. The light is on in her room and I knock lightly. The cheap wood feels heavy to me, heavier than I remember. I shiver from being soaked. Jenna doesn’t answer the door though, my ex-boyfriend Matt does. He gives me that sarcastic half grin of his. “Come on in. Make yourself at home.” His voice is low in his chest, and rumbles softly. I hesitate because I was expecting Jenna and not Matt. The break – up had ended badly and I knew Matt still had feelings for me. I went in and sat down on the bed soaking the sheets. I could feel his eyes on me the whole time, taking in my every movement. I just wanted to use the phone. My family was in danger. “Matt I need to call 911. Now.” I pleaded with him using all the strength I had left in me. I focused it all into my eyes. “Okay, no problem. Here you go.” He hands me the black receiver, but he won’t let go. His blue eyes gleam and he seems to be enjoying this game. His fingers clasp around mine and he lays his other
CENTRIPETAL hand on my thigh. “Matt. Give me the phone.” I stare, my gaze is solid. “What baby? What’s wrong?” He toys with me using his eyes, and then breaking the locked stare. I can feel his eyes up and down my body, taking in the curves of my breasts, stomach and thighs. He meets my eyes again and slowly starts to move his hand up my thigh. “Matt! Stop it! Stop!” But he won’t stop and starts to run his hand all the way up my stomach and stops when he is cupping my breast. He yanks me close, pressing his body close to mine. I try and push away from him, but I am trapped again. ******** She is shaking now. Her hands grab at the sheets and she is so tense. She is moaning constantly now and all the lines in her face are drawn. Pete tries to brush the hair from her face that sticks to her cheek. She is flushed and sweaty. Her hair is matted and she squeezes her eyes tightly. He watches her and says soothingly, “It’s okay baby, it’s going to be okay. Shhhhh…” He strokes the side of her face and rubs her shoulders. But she doesn’t stop twitching or moaning. She cries out “Oh God!” in her sleep and he decides he probably should wake her up because she is having a bad dream. As he goes to gently shake her awake, she cries out, “Matt!” He stops cold. Looking at her he can’t believe she is dreaming about Matt. She claimed she was over him. It was a year ago, but still. She was with him for six years. He suddenly feels disgust towards her. How could she? It was probably an erotic dream she was having anyway. Pete rolls over so he is turned away from her. He feels empty inside. She is still twitching and moaning in her sleep. She starts to grind her teeth. He moves away so he isn’t touching her at all, moves to the edge of the bed. He wants to be as far away from her as possible.
CENTRIPETAL THE DAY YOU LEFT Jenna Rugh Fireworks of broken glass catch light as they ricochet off the white wall. I am shattered on the floor amidst the crushed ice, and cheap vodka. Liquid remedies pulse through my veins as I think to myself, “I could light this cigarette with the fire in my eyes.”
CENTRIPETAL BEYOND THE STAINED GLASS WINDOW Jenna Rugh I’m nuzzled up to the breast of your suit coat as I watch the other children run down the aisle to class. I bury my face deep into the crevice of your arm and pray you won’t make me go but the smile on your face and that shake of your head says I can stay right here. I never liked Sunday School or singing along with the older people around us who just can’t carry a tune. I came with you, to be with you; to flip, softly, through the silken pages of the Bible and feel the red valor of the pews against my cheeks. I don’t always mind wearing my Sunday best and I like the way my silver buttons glitter with the light drifting through the stained-glass windows. Sundays were always my favorite day to listen to the organs play and choirs sing and place your dollar bills into the offering dish. I spent my Holy days mimicking my hero, my father, as I learned how to pray.
CENTRIPETAL UPON WAITING Kimberly Paniagua Here in the Fontana Kaiser Permanente surgery waiting room, Building 3, Fourth Floor, it’s colder than natural. Hospitals tend to be that way, sterile, reeking of birth and death. But all waiting rooms are not created equal. The waiting room for surgery patients is a little different. Everyone seems a bit more anxious, a bit more sad. You’re surrounded by strangers, who in any other circumstance, you would never see. Like when you ride the A Train into the city and find yourself sitting across some cat with a banjo. I try and wrap my mind around it. Strangers all in the same place, waiting. I think about their stories and get lost for a bit. The middle-aged man reading a grocery store novel, like some nescient housewife. He probably hasn’t had sex in months, I think. There’s an elderly woman wedged in the corner of the room slumped over a chair, weaning in and out of sleep. Her body bobs up and down, catching its sleepy self periodically. We all stare at her and think in unison: That’s going to be me one day. Some people in the room are actual patients. Like the young woman sitting two seats down from me. She’s real pale. That cancer type of color. Rag stretched tightly over her shaved head. I think if I were ever diagnosed I’d let my head shine in the sunlight. So free, just me and my beautiful baldness. And I’d shave it long before the surgery, as if to say “fuck you” to the staff who would think they were robbing me of something. I can hear the fuzzy chorus of “No Woman, No Cry” streaming from her music player. Turn it up, sister. A doctor enters the room now. He’s dressed just like in the movies with blue scrubs and a nice ass. He talks to a man in the middle of reading the “Ipod and Itunes User’s Guide.” The rest of us look on and can’t help but quiet down so we can hear the bad news. “She did great. She’s in the recovery room, just waking up,” the doctor says. Damn. I guess there won’t be any interesting hospital stories to tell at dinner tonight. Every doctor looks like an actor to me. The uniform, that smile and confident demeanor. I think about all the primetime medical dramas I’ve seen over the years and how real life never plays out like that. Maybe I wouldn’t want it to. The patient always dies and this time the patient is my sister. Time: 11:37 am.
CENTRIPETAL RIOTS Kimberly Paniagua Sonny The riots came. They flooded the streets and killed the whites and killed the spiks that looked like whites. They were real angry. Their fists were cut up from convenient store windows lay shattered on those dirty California sidewalks. Young black boys learned a lot that night, about how to be men. Anger is the way into the soul and it was burning up inside us for a long time now. I wonder if Malcolm would have been proud of us. I imagine him sittin up in Heaven looking down, sliding those black framed glasses from his face only to smile and say, “That’s my boy.” The streets were filled with black voices and it reminded me of a dream I have. In it I’m being chased by a face I can’t see but I know it’s white. Even though I’m running it always gets me on the ground. After last night my dream changed a little, now the thing that’s chasing me has a badge and is sayin something in a language I don’t understand. I’m reminded of my ancestors. My hate runs deep. I know this. But the riots stopped yesterday and today I’m on the corner of Pico Boulevard opening up shop with the boys. The air was wet and made the back of Sonny’s shirt stick to his skin. Los Angeles in the spring wasn’t beautiful like it used to be. It’s Monday and the boys of Sonny’s Barber are setting up shop a little after eight in the morning. Everyone in the city woke up with a bit of hesitation; even the bums didn’t climb out of their make shift houses until noon. Sonny stepped out of the daylight and into the cool room letting the stale air brush over his face. Him, Willie and Ray all stood in the entrance under the door unsure of whether they were ready to open their business back up or if anyone would even come. People always need to get their hair cut or a nice shave, even after something like this. They contemplated the thought for a second and walked into the room. Sonny stepped over to his station and ran his fingers over the cold steel of his scissors still lying there from days prior. They sat there perfectly still in time as if they hadn’t been touched in ages. Sonny thought back to his first years as a barber but realized he had drifted away from that person. He was old now and still black. He ran a barber in South Central. “Boy I discovered sin when I was six years old,” Sonny said. “Now what do you mean by that?” Ray chimed in. “What I mean is that I’ve seen wicked things in my life and none of this riot shit can compare to that. These young negro boys looking for something to fight for,” he spouted off.
CENTRIPETAL The two other men in the room grumbled and continued on with their tasks. The hum of the store was upon them and they relished in it. Ray grabbed a broom from behind the counter and brushed the bristles against the scratched linoleum floor. The swoosh sound soothed their nerves. Ray was a tall, thin man. He rotated the only two pairs of trousers he owned every other day and always wore a different tie firmly knotted beneath his chin. His lips had a way of smacking when he spoke but people usually grew to ignore it. “I know what I know and I say those whites finally got it coming to them,” Sonny said. “Now wait a god damn minute are you telling me that violence justifies violence?” Ray asked. “What I’m saying is that violence breeds violence,” he said. “Oh would you two cut it out. We’ve got some serious work to do. This place is a mess.” Willie was older than the other men. The day he was born the doctor pronounced him legally blind. A blind boy is rough, but a blind black boy in the depression was something else. And even though he couldn’t see the room, Willie could feel these men and that barber shop better than any able bodied person could. This room was his home, his food and drink. He didn’t cut hair but Ray and Sonny couldn’t remember a time when Willie hadn’t been a part of the shop. Sometimes they wondered if he preferred life without seeing it. If he sat there, content. If it made things easier for him. “We should be so lucky to have this business here,” he continued “Those young kids knew they’d find nothing but a few bills in the register.” He moved over to the counter and opened the drawer. He lifted up a small stack of bills and flipped through them counting up to five. George Washington peered up at him from the slots. “Hey did you boys hear about that Korean barbeque place a few streets over? They got looted too and wiped clean. Uh huh. I tell you the times are changing,” Ray remarked. “Oh they were probably a bunch of illegals anyways. They’re probably the reason we’ve only got a few bucks in our register. Taking all the good jobs away.” “Now how in the hell is a Korean barbeque joint taking money from our pockets?” Ray asked. “Oh you don’t know nothing,” Sonny waved his hand in the air. The sunlight was fighting its way through the layer of smog that hovered over this part of the city. It never seemed to want to leave but the boys got used to it after a while. The streets were nearly empty. The black, brown, yellow, and white natives were all afraid to meet the day. A
CENTRIPETAL figure appeared outside the barber shop window and the two men turned to look up. It was a homeless man pushing a cart filled to the brim with recyclables and blankets. “I bet this shit doesn’t even faze a man like that,” Sonny noted. “A man like what?” Willie asked. “Some bum outside the shop. I bet he’s seen a lot of things that we can’t even imagine.” “But not more than you of course,” Ray smirked. Willie and Ray chuckled to themselves while Sonny ignored them both and looked down at his hands. He thought about how much they were beginning to resemble the bottom of his father’s shoe. They were much older now and started to hurt. Soon he wouldn’t be able to hold the razor like he used to. One day it would fall out of his hands and land on the tile floor and he’d know it was ending. Willie The riots came last night and I fell asleep to sirens. My apartment ain’t very high up and I worried about those kids stumbling upon an old blind man in bed. They’d kill me just for fun and I’d never know what color they were or why they did it. The fires erupt out of cars, while store windows billow smoke in the distance. The city is on fire tonight. I could feel the heat against my skin; it was the same heat that came from those towns that burned in years past. The shop is still the same but I can feel the neighborhood changing around us. The sounds are different and people don’t talk as much anymore, even the regulars. It’s these things that keep me up at night. After cleaning up the shop the boys all took their seats around the store. Willie would always sit in the third seat to the right against the window. He liked when the sun burned the back of his neck, he said it reminded him that there was still something natural in Los Angeles. Ray would always sit behind the counter, eager for the newest client to come in. He would try and predict what the next person would look like: some young cat asking for corn rows again or the twenty something black girls that always mistook the place for a hair dresser. Sonny stayed at his station. He’d sit and swivel in that old chair back and forth, thinking about how angry he had become over the years and how much he liked it. He interrupted the silence. “Watts ain’t got nothing on this shit,” the words hissed from Sonny’s mouth, cracked mid-air, and fell to the floor. “Would you just stop already? Stop playing that race card, victim card, nonsense! What happened to the black man trying to rise up?” Ray asked “He did! Haven’t you been watching the news this past week? A revolution is happening out there,” he sat up and pointed to the door.
CENTRIPETAL “You sound like a joke, man. Rodney King even said we should all get along,” Ray huffed. “Well then he don’t know nothing either,” Sonny said. The men sat quiet for a while still fuming over their tiff. The squeak of the barber chair could be heard along with the occasional passing of a car outside. Suddenly the slow twangs of a blues guitar could be heard from the speakers at each end of the room. Sonny looked up in confusion and glanced back over to Ray who had turned it on his favorite station. The three men sat in silence for what seemed like days listening to Robert Johnson play that thing. “You know how the story goes right boys?” Willie asked them. “What do you mean old man?” Sonny snapped back. “It was said that Johnson sold his soul to the devil to play that good. Thinking about it now, I’m not sure I wouldn’t have done the same.” “Yeah, well we’ve been doing dumber things than that for years,” Ray laughed. Ray I saw the tapes like everyone else. It hurt at first but I think I’m getting used to it. Some say he was drugged up and others think he was asking for it but I think I’ve seen this before. I watched that white truck driver get beat by a group of blacks on the news. I think I heard his skull crack a little. There’s a quiet that hangs over the city now despite the sound of shattering windows and hollering. It lies with us when we go to sleep and only we will know its voice. We as in the people who live here, not blacks. Fear is not exclusive. My children are grown and gone away from this place and I am glad. At this moment the sound of the bell above the door chimed and the three men turned their anxious heads upwards to see who their first customer would be. At the mouth of the shop stood a man, no older than twenty-five, with a crew cut and army pants on. His upper lip stuck out creating a kind of permanent frown on his face. It looked as if it had been swollen, puffed out and encased in a layer of dried blood. He half walked, half stumbled into the shop and rubbed the back of his neck. “Hey, yeah I’d like a shave. You guys do that right?” he asked. “We can shine your shoes too…” Sonny mumbled underneath his breath but Willie was the only one that heard him. Ray quickly stood up and dusted off his station’s chair and faced his newest customer. “Sure thing we can. Just take a seat here,” Ray said while rubbing his hands together anxiously. “So what brings you to this part of town?”
CENTRIPETAL “I work just around the corner and always drive by this place. I thought I’d stop in and get a shave,” he mumbled. “Hm,” Sonny moaned “How about I do it huh Ray? I mean it’s the first customer of the day after all. I’d like to do it. Hand me the scissors would ya?” Ray paused for a brief moment and handed over a pair. The delta blues continued to linger in the air. Willie tapped his foot feverishly. Sonny spoke to the man’s reflection. “How’d you get that nasty cut there?” he asked while stirring the shaving cream in a bowl by the station. He took a good look at the man. His skin was pink and filled with pot marks; the corners of his shaved head lay jagged and sharp. The men couldn’t tell if he was homeless or another city kid trying to start something. The man didn’t answer. He slid his body back into the chair until he was looking up toward the ceiling. Sonny hovered over him now and looked a little closer at his upper lip. Images danced wild in his head. A lead pipe, or maybe a night stick, coming down so hard he didn’t know what hit him. Willie could be heard humming in the background. Sonny took out his pack of razors and slid one between his fingers, angling the blade to catch the light coming through the window. He could see his reflection clearly in it. His black skin looked darker. More noticeable like those jungle boy cartoons he had seen pictures of. He looked back down at the young man and brushed on the cream. White on white. Sonny traced the blade along his jaw line and pressed down. The man jerked his body away suddenly. “Ouch, man. You got to be careful,” he said. A small bead of blood slowly surfaced and trickled down this jaw. A nick. The men sat there in silence looking up at Sonny. His chest came out and in with heavy breaths, his eyes had something real mean in them. A little riot of sorts, one of many, right there in the barber shop on Pico Boulevard.
CENTRIPETAL REPORTING IN GAZA
“She had such tiny fingers, yet she could move the whole world.” ~ Nasr S. Ghajar
Carrie E. Waldron arms, legs, pinwheels of blood, but i can’t stop shooting. a six-year-old’s fingers pull me room to room, cold face reporting. “look—we’ve got no shelves for our food, no food for our mouths, no mouths to speak out against—” against me, but i can’t stop shooting. a boy rests, fingers wound tight around broken rebar, broken bones that used to hold up his house. his mother, his father, his ten brothers are buried beneath him. he’s the only one left, and i can’t stop shooting.
CENTRIPETAL I AM WHAT’S LEFT. Carrie E. Waldron I am a minor chord dull pencil blank score. Erase me. I am a smiley face yellow chalk black board. Erase me. I am dying-pen scratchings in margins of books. I am scuff marks from black shoes on honey-gold dance floors. Erase me. I’m beautiful. I’m words. I’m a poem. You gave me away. Now I’m lying alone on some high shelf, ignored. Erase me. I am what’s left after everyone’s gone. I’m deep lines in wet sand: footprints of pebbles chased up and down shore. Erase me. I’m the salt that stung your eyes. I’m the waves that filled your lungs. I’m the body you dove into, then abandoned, unexplored. Erase me. I’m the crumbled foundation of one of our houses. I’m broken windows, bad memories of the war. Erase me.
CENTRIPETAL DE SUN DANCE After Annette Mitchell’s Toothpick Dancers Art Quilt
Alexandria Cappello We be walkin in de fiels lookin fo’ de sun to feed ouah souls. We nuffin mo’ den beauty t’ de Lawd. Me bruvah n’ me sistah be runnin wit dey arms like stringy lims n’ fingas like de claws of de birds!
Me sistah look like she tryin to catch dem rain drops from de sun be’fo’ it don’ gone down. De mo’nin’ is gwine t’ en’d soon.
We be’ workin fo’ days in dis place. Bow’n haids waitin fur de sun to lif ’ dem weights from ouah heavy chains.
We crawl on dat ground like animals, walkin on our hands n’ feet thru de day. Still breatin t’ lift dat weight we still be carryin.
We been carryin wate fo ouah lives, waitin on de sun to feed us of our missin pride. Momma say dat huh
CENTRIPETAL Momma ast god for all de colors in de world. He den give us all de colors and dem others be jelous. We still be breatin for de day we be runnin free,we still be lookin for de sun, and dem rain drops datâ€™ll free us.
CENTRIPETAL THE BONE TREE The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek were active between 1975 and 1978 by the Khmer Rouge. 17,000 men, women, and children were executed for being academics, doctors, students, or enemies of the Khmer Rouge. They didnâ€™t want to waste bullets so they killed their victims in the Killing Fields.
Alexandria Cappello Golden light shone through tall elephant grass, slim and slender. There was a narrow footpath from one end, to the other. This here be the killing tree, he says. That there be the ditch where you throw â€˜way the bodies. I trudge through grass from one end to the other. This here be the killing tree, he says, men would take kids by their ankles and throw them against the tree. With no bullets to spare, people are left to die in fields. No one wants to waste precious bullets. I imagine bodies dancing in fevers while flying to their fate. I picked up tiny bones as I walked from one end to the other. This here be the bone tree. After you find bones, place them up against
CENTRIPETAL this tree. I followed the footpath made as I picked up teeth. He watches me. I am a grown man crying from one end to the other. I see two femurs touching, two radii being tickled by ten digits. An empty rib cage with no soul left. The Khemer Rougeâ€™s innocent victims. A doctor touches a teacherâ€™s toes. A lawyer butts skulls with an artist. A poet drowns in the ditch. A legacy covered in dirt. This here be the killing tree, that there be the ditch where you throw away the bodies. Any questions?
Nasr S. Ghajar
BROKEN OPEN SPACES
Nasr S. Ghajar
MADNESS WITH LIMITS
SEAMSTRESS’S DOLL Arielle Tiner
RESTORATION, Willington, CT
CENTRIPETAL SELKIE DAUGHTER Beckie Dowd My real mother is a seal slipping through the ocean, rolling, sliding, catching fish. Sleek body moving with gentle assuredness through buoyant waters. I meet her surfacing, rivulets streaming down her sleek shining head clear black eyes beckoning. Immediate recognition. I leap off the rocks; swim out to her. We slide silently past lolling kelp beds and ancient seahorses. Past infinite schools of fish; so attuned to primordial heartbeat they turn simultaneously on a compass needle. Bobbing and rolling with the tides past coral castles vibrating with life. We burst upward surrounded by moonlight lapping wave tips. Itâ€™s been too long since Iâ€™ve been home.
CENTRIPETAL FLOWERS CREATE SEXY ADVENTURE Beckie Dowd The apple blossom Loves up bees on hot June days. The bee doesnâ€™t mind the caress of the stamen on her spindly legs. She likes the attention and goes back for more. The promiscuous white flower enjoys mingling with the juices of the others flaunting their showy dress in the meadow. Pollen slides down the pistil-the chemistry is there. An expression of sweetness yields forbidden fruit.
CENTRIPETAL TRAITOR Angela Hartmann A frustrated gay student, looking for direction, came to me with hope wrapped around her teenage trials and tribulations. I listened to her cry, because she was all alone, because she didn’t have an adult role model, because she was scared, and I swallowed my identity. She said, (I mean she actually SAID), “I wish you were gay so you could understand,” and my cowardly, ridiculous response sympathized with her isolation. I wish I could explain how I am the biggest traitor this world has ever seen, how lying to her was like punching my teenage self in the face with brass knuckles dripping with infectious hatred. I watched her leave my classroom, laughing at my witty sarcasm, knowing my sarcasm won’t be enough to save her from her own mind. It certainly hasn’t saved me.
CENTRIPETAL SILENT Angela Hartmann He is a quiet man, with gentle blue eyes, who laughs with his shoulders bouncing up and down, slowly to emphasize his happiness. His mind is sharp, fluid with memories of the Korean War patched with World War II moments stitched with family portraits, but he can’t hear a thing. When you speak to him, your words circle around his elderly body before he smiles and says, “What?” But unbeknown to you, he can read your body language as if it were a navigational chart during his prime Navy days. He’s been married for over sixty years to a woman whose strength is in her intelligence, even though she’s only armed with an 8th grade education, but their love, though worn and aged, is endless. He was never close to his parents, as his numerous siblings rivaled for their attention, but he loved his grandparents, because when he was left without direction, they took him in as a boy and gave him purpose. He never told me this when I was in my early twenties and showed up at his door with my belongings shoved in my beat up car. All he said was, “It’s good to have you home.”
CENTRIPETAL STANDSTILL Liz Rufiange Windows gape, breathing in humid air that carries chalk dust around the room. Pale dust coats the students giving them a ghostly complexion, and they slouch, slack as zombies. Heat glues their legs to their plastic seats. Desks crammed into the back of the classroom, stacked on top of each other to get far away from the teacher’s questions. The clock hands have been frozen at 2:25 for hours, manipulated and locked in place by some higher authority. Floor tiles alternate colors; blue, white, blue, white, blue, white— heightening the monotonous cycle of learning. Bulimic lockers that can barely hold down paper bag lunches; Desks so thin it’s impossible to store books inside. Blemishes and graffiti are cemented onto each desk’s face, carved by hands that wait for a bell that won’t ring.
CENTRIPETAL ONE BED, TWO SOULS Lauren Tiner “Clarissa,” Ben calls out to me. I turn to see his shadow fading in and out as I teeter on the cold, slate floor, making my way over to him. “Coming,” I say, without hesitation. He sits in the dark, Indian-style on his mattress, with no bed boards or posts. His bed is elevated on a small podium, a step that leads to another realm, a hazy haven where we are able to shed our skin, to exist without the burdens of existing. A long tapestry hangs behind him, a deep purple cloth, scribbled with swirls of black symbols, begging to be deciphered. “Where are you?” he asks. “I’m right here.” “I can’t see you,” he says, “It’s like you’re not here at all.” “But I am here.” “You could be anyone,” he teases me. Maybe you’re Amanda or Veronica. Maybe Clarissa is a figment of my imagination. “Maybe,” I say. I feel like a child, looking up at Ben who seems as though he’s floating above the floor, on an island, ready to drift away. I can hear him breathing heavily in anticipation as I sit on the bed. I watch his broad outline, his chest, breathing in and out, forming into shapes and shadows on the white walls, different than the shapes I’m used to. My senses are subdued, surreal, untouchable. Until he touches me. “Is this wrong?” Ben asks. I look away as I grasp onto his soft, beige bed sheets with swirls of gold, wringing them out as though they’re saturated with water, twisting them laboriously within my small, quick hands. Ben waits for an answer. I began kneading his pillow with the palm of my hands like dough. I look up at him and it startles me, how much he looks like Nick; I have to remember whose bed I am in. “I don’t know,” I say. “Do you really want to know the answer?” Ben’s breath sounds stifled now as he moves the loose pieces of hair falling over my eyes. I don’t mind, I like the feeling of being swallowed up whole by my long, dark hair, as though it’s a curtain draped over my thoughts. I can draw them open as I please. “I don’t know if the answer matters now,” he says. “It won’t
CENTRIPETAL stop us anymore.” I feel magnetized when Ben speaks to me this way, inevitably drawn to him no matter who I really belong to. When he says “us” or “we”, it’s all I can think of, it’s all I want. I don’t remember the life I had only a few hours ago, the things I left behind, things that seemed to matter so much before, feelings I can no longer recall. “Do you think we’ve gone too far?” I ask. I concentrate on twisting and wringing out his sheets, twisting and wringing them, twisting and wringing them until my fingers begin to throb. Ben looks at me, and I know that the answer is yes, I’ve known it all along. I wonder where my sense of values, where my level-headed, logical, agenda book, plan ahead, excel spread-sheet mind ran off too. I don’t know who I am. All I know is that I’ve been stranded by my judgment, by my sanity, and it doesn’t feel so bad floating on Ben’s island of temptation. Perhaps it’s really an island of redemption, the island everyone yearns to discover. “Come here,” he says. My mind drains of all preconceived notions, cautions that I will later regret. I’m ready to drift away, a fugitive. I sit closer to him, the souls of my feet close to his own, reminding me of Vonnegut’s, Cat’s Cradle, where the sole’s of ones feet are the most intimate of places to press together. I notice my short legs sticking out of Ben’s baggy t-shirt, and I wonder if our feet touch, are we then soul mates. Who will I belong to, Nick or Ben, and why must I always belong to someone else. It’s exhausting. Ben is rubbing my back now, I am his pet cat, purring, curling up next to his chest for warmth. I remember now; sometimes it feels good to belong to someone. I try to focus on him, to adapt my eyes to the nighttime, but I can’t adapt, not yet. He grasps my face in his large hands, attempting to focus on my physical embodiment, departing from his vision in the dark. When he stops touching me, I feel drowsy, non-existent. His dark skin looks eerily pale, illuminated by his neon lit laptop on the table beside us. Our bodies glow, black and white, intertwined. His lips curl up in acknowledgement as his eyes penetrate my own. They are wider, deeper than my eyes, even larger than Nick’s eyes with his cherrywood irises. Ben’s thick, black brows highlight his strong features, his sharp, long nose and small mouth, his narrow chin which juts out of his skin, his soft, black hair, erect from a slight slumber.
CENTRIPETAL Ben’s soft gaze grows rigid for a moment, concerned. I can tell his boyish face turns devilish when he’s mad. “What’s wrong?” he asks. I shake my head, scared to open my mouth. I feel a sadness fall over me; my jaw tightens as I fight back the words my mouth yearns to articulate. If I lose all my senses, I could be somewhere else. I’m afraid to close my eyes, to teleport my mind to the bedroom I have run away from. The letter “N” is on the tip of my tongue and I swallow it like a pill. These beige sheets could grow into a moss green, the walls could pop with Abby Road Beatles posters and Gibson guitars, replacing the white walls scattered with hectic Pollack paintings, all those red, green, and blue lines, interconnected on a white canvas. A Zippo lighter and guitar picks replace the Woody Allen movies and multi-vitamins on Ben’s bureau. The room begins to smell like pot and sweat as the lingering scent of soap scum and Lysol trickles out the door. Ben doesn’t smoke pot. He grasps onto me firmly, his breathe reeks of alcohol although we haven’t had a sip to drink. I feel his touch, less, and less, and less, he’s losing me until I recoil, involuntary; he looks no different than Nick at such an intimate angle. How can I tell the difference? Ben could be Nick for all I know, if I stay this way forever. Nick with his pale skin, his delicate, thin bones, dark eyes, and wild hair. I know Nick’s thinking about me right now; we are thinking about each other, in different ways. He thinks I’m going to bed, and I am going to bed, but not alone. Karma is not far behind me and I’ll welcome it, the fate that I may deserve. I’ll find out what that fate is, but it’ll have to hold off until tomorrow. Nick couldn’t possibly understand; he could never cope with the truth. He remains the perpetuating example of a soft-shelled soul, while Ben’s core appears to be strong, sturdy. So, how is it that I can confuse two men so easily? Perhaps Nick is not so vulnerable, perhaps Ben is not so strong; I may be the glue to mend and merge them both. If I’m the solution then I’m ready to travel the surfaces of Ben’s bones with my glue-stick, searching his body for tares, exploring his coffee-colored skin which stretches over well-formed muscles, pillows of compact flesh, defined, rippled throughout his body, a never ending mass of soft, sculpted clay. I trace his symmetrical shape and notice he needs mending; his broad upper frame whittles around his waistline and narrows until his hip joints meet the meat of his legs. I have an urge to eye a needle and a thread, to pull out his inseams and sew them back together, in and out, in and out, drifting over and under his skin, an ocean of waves. I wonder how he balances without a steady core, his center.
CENTRIPETAL I become weary of Ben as I graze my own body, petite yet strong, grounded and balanced. I try to trace my way back to myself, searching my exterior, so small next to his own, as though I am shrinking inside my own outline, my own shadow, slowly vanishing under his enlarging frame. I tell myself, I cannot be harmed, lying under his shelter. I tell myself that I am safe, that it’s okay to let go of my sturdy foundation, to fly away in the eye of a hurricane that only looked like a mild storm a few minutes ago. Hurricane sirens commence. I look out the window, it has started to midst outside; fog creeps up the window panes and I can longer see clearly. The whole room is filling up with fog. I tell myself, it’s okay to forget, to give in to the unknown, yet this feels so familiar. I catch Ben watching me think. The most intimate of things. He must sense that my inhibitions are gone. I no longer feel the need to cover my mind with a blanket or cower away from his hand, from this moment. “What are you thinking about?” Ben asks me. “Just don’t hurt me,” I say, “I’m not in the right state of mind.” Ben shakes his head, “The thought never occurred to me, to hurt you.” “That’s the problem, we’re not thinking, we’re just feeling. You could do the same thing to me.” “What ‘thing’ are you talking about?” “This,” I say, “Nick.” I stare at my shadow against the wall, my alter-ego. “One night you could confuse me for Amanda or Veronica, and maybe we’ll be in my room, but it’ll begin to look like someone else’s, and maybe you won’t know where you are or what you want anymore—you’ll find yourself where I am.” “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Ben says. I can’t tell if his voice sounds sad or frustrated. I stare out the dark window. “You will,” I say. “But right now, I don’t care.” I feel my alertness begin to falter, my mind withering away, caught in the fog, but I know I’m alive when I hear his breath, when I smell his mouth, his lips, his saliva, his teeth, and it brings me back to moments like this, moments that only exist now in my memory, in the small trinkets of recollection in which I store my version of life. The sight, the touch, the smell of him, of another, the sound of a man’s body next to my own. Is it supposed to feel different? It does, yet it doesn’t feel wrong or careless, it just feels. I know tonight will sit like a hangover in my stomach tomorrow, but I welcome the sensation. It’s better than feeling nothing at all.
CENTRIPETAL A FAIR TRADE? Michael McClory If you were awake, too, I’d tell you about the terrifying dream I just had. I was working in the deli. I was hypnotized, by a spinning blade with images of: the landlord, my cell phone bill, food, and countless commodities. I watched this blade cut pound upon pound off the flesh of my life: a walk in the crappy park on a sunny day, an afternoon spent swimming in the river, my little brother’s twelfth birthday party, the trip to Revere where we fell asleep on the T because of all the pills. Then, suddenly, the blade stopped. The boss handed me pictures of dead men, but my flesh was all gone. I want to tell you about this, but I know if I wake you, you won’t be happy. So I turn on the TV and watch the ruthless advertisers dive after their targets.
CENTRIPETAL LARS POETICA Michael McClory Lars thinks he’s an artist, he thinks the world is full of art. He believes he a teacher, he believes he’s teaching me things, but he’s so damn quiet I sometimes forget he’s around. He started following me a few years ago: to grocery stores, on road trips, and countless mountain summits. Lars walks by my side whispering in barely audible tones. He comments on everything and everyone we see. He tells me everything is beautiful. He wants me to see beauty in the deteriorating hands of the old women as they shake searching for exact change. He once referred to the Midwest as a giant pool table. He mumbled something about how the mountain summit is the alter of an atheist. The nights I get drunk he gets loud and boisterous, sure of himself, but not very coherent.
CENTRIPETAL Lars, my clumsy Zen master. Sometimes I try to write down everything he says, because sometimes it means something, and he never repeats himself, and I never remember.
CENTRIPETAL COMING OF AGE Richard Simard Time moves slowly, hear its gentle tick. The pendulum swings from tick to tock. The coming of age is something majestic. As a youth, many memories will stick like jumping rope, dodge ball and sidewalk chalk. Time moves slowly, hear its gentle tick. The earlier journal entries seem less thick as the prospect of wisdom begins to unlock the accepting of age. This is sometimes majestic. Mid-life crisis slams; a falling brick; life insurance policies, and all that jargon talk. Time moves faster, hear its hasty tick. Then memories start to fade like a bad magic trick. The day is almost over; itâ€™s nearing twelve oâ€™clock when the coming of age is hardly majestic. Watch in regret as the flame burns the wick. Finally, a bird falls from the flock. Time moves quickly, hear its rapid tick. The coming of age is nothing majestic.
CENTRIPETAL GREENWARE Richard Simard Your eyes used to be glossy, like the fresh glaze on a pot, while your hands were as soft as unfired clay. You once had a dream, but it is no longer malleable because you lived it, and so hardened it in the kiln. Before, you pulled the beaches of California, and trimmed the palms of Barcelona, carved the tributaries of the Amazon, and detailed the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Then, these were bisque. You thought you had brushed on a shiny gloss, but now realize it was actually matte. Struck by disappointment, you throw your art on the floor, and swear that you will never dream again.
CENTRIPETAL THE OPEN FREEZER Michelle Stephens Phyllis Woodard stopped in front of the cold brick building where her husband would soon lose what little life he had left. Her wrinkled hands trembled as the guard in front of her stepped back to let her pass. Her walk was slow but deliberate, and the heavy oak cane in her left hand kept her steps steady. A plain grey concrete wall stretched on endlessly, as the woman walked with her slow gait towards a plain gray door that grew closer with each step. A guard in a black uniform held the door open as she entered the tiny room and took a seat next to her husband’s lawyer, Debra. “It’s almost time,” Debra said, with a glance at the clock on the far wall. “Yes,” Mrs. Woodard replied stiffly. “How are you feeling?” Mrs. Woodard didn’t reply. “I suppose that was a dumb question.” Mrs. Woodard stared straight ahead with a blank look. Debra tried again. “I did everything for that appeal. But Rich just wouldn’t go for the insanity plea.” “Richard,” Mrs. Woodard corrected, twisting her aged gold ring around her wrinkled finger. “Yes, him,” Debra said absently. The curtain in front of them opened slowly, and the women fell silent as they watched the scene unfold. “That needle,” Mrs. Woodard whispered. “It’s so long.” Deb took her trembling hand, and they both looked away. “Yes,” Debra replied quietly. “Richard doesn’t like them. He hates needles. He hates them!” she cried, with growing intensity as she stood to her feet. Debra instantly rose as well. “Don’t make a scene,” she warned quietly. “The guards will remove you if you do.” Mrs. Woodard sat down slowly, looking down to her hands. Soon, the curtain closed. Debra rose, and pulled a heavy bag from the floor, settling the leather strap on her shoulder. “Are you okay, Mrs. Woodard?” “Yes.”
CENTRIPETAL “They’ve opened the door. We can leave if you want,” Debra said slowly. “Yes, of course. It’s nearly dinner time,” Mrs. Woodard said vaguely, without moving. “Monday is meatloaf day, Richard loves the way I make it.” She turned without further comment and led the way once more into the desolate hallway. “Are you sure you’re OK?” Debra asked once more as they reached the parking lot. “Tired, just tired,” Mrs. Woodard replied, picking up her handbag. Before Debra could say anything else, Phyllis had swung the heavy door of her navy blue Cadillac open and painstakingly slid her frail body inside. Her mind wandered throughout the short drive to her modest home, set back from the main road by a long dirt driveway. The house itself was pale grey, with peeling paint. The once white shutters were cracked in places, a project that Richard had always said he would get to eventually. After he built her new cabinets, patched the rip in the liner of the above ground pool out back, and fixed the broken wooden stairs of the back porch. She pulled into the attached garage, and shut the door behind her. She sighed as she walked into her warm kitchen. She felt much better now that she was safely home. Glancing at the clock, she realized that if she didn’t start the meatloaf soon, they wouldn’t have dinner on time. She pulled out some ground beef, and went about her business mindlessly. She could make this dinner in her sleep. She never held any respect for a microwave. When she and Richard had been married all those years ago, they hadn’t yet existed. She learned to cook from her mother and grandmother on an old iron woodstove, with food kept chilled in the icebox. Over the years the icebox had changed into the dusty refrigerator that held leftovers, fruit, and her homemade ice-tea, and the wood stove to a gas burner stove that gave her trouble each time she went to light it. Despite this, she never kept any sort of cold meal on hand. Richard worked hard, and it gave her a mild sense of pride to always have a hot meal waiting for him when he woke up in the morning, when he came home for exactly 40 minutes on lunch break, and when he finally sat down at night with that day’s newspaper. Richard always had a big double portion of Monday’s meatloaf, and today she made mashed potatoes to go with it. She set out two plates on their hardwood table, and placed his newspaper on his chair. Phyllis brewed a fresh pot of coffee on the stovetop, as she
CENTRIPETAL waited for the meat to cook. When the coffee was ready, she set a large cup down at his spot – black was the only way he would ever take it. Finally the meat was finished, and she set it down next to his spot. “Richard,” she called, pouring herself a glass of iced tea. “Dinner is ready.” She sat down and folded a napkin in her lap. He didn’t come through the door. She waited a few more minutes patiently, but started to get annoyed. She had worked at this dinner, and he was lagging behind in front of the television again. She finally stood and made her way towards the living room. But he wasn’t there. She walked back across the hall, and into their bedroom. The bed was still made and her cat Mabel laid curled up in the lone ray of sun that still shone in the rapidly depleting light. Phyllis made the circuit of the house once more. This time, the morning’s events rushed back to her. She stopped next to her bed, and sank down into the softness. Mabel looked at her, then settled back to sleep. It was only two weeks ago that their children, Kirsten and John, had taken the clothes from the old cedar dresser and out of their small closet. Kirsten had been steadfast, nearly ignoring her completely in her quest to rid the room of Richard’s belongings. Each sock was found, each darned by her own hand. Richard hated throwing out socks. “I spent three years wearing these in,” he would say. “No sense in letting all that go to waste.” In the dim light of his evening news, she would weave her needle in and out of the fabric, prolonging the life of the beaten down cloth. John had been more understanding, she thought. He had made separate piles; one for the Salvation Army, one for storage, and one for throwing away completely. She had mused over each pair of worn jeans, every last thin t-shirt, until even John’s patience ran thin and he moved the process along by stepping in front of her and throwing the shirts she cried over into the garbage pile. She supposed she couldn’t blame them. Richard had never been a doting father. He made a better grandfather in his later years, displaying far more patience with Kirsten’s kids than she thought him capable. She finally stood and walked over to her window. After everything was said and done, every scrap of Richard was gone. Except for his truck. Kirsten hadn’t known what to do with it. John didn’t think they could sell it. Neither of them wanted to be burdened with it. Phyllis had never liked it in the first place, and she liked it even less now as she stared out her bedroom window. Its garish pictures glared back at her, brightly dancing clowns, popsicles and ice cream bars painted in
CENTRIPETAL dazzling colors. Richard had spent months trying to fine tune the speaker system to play a melody that would instinctively draw out children. The police said it was the Woodard’s property, and it was returned to her once they had completed their investigation. She hadn’t touched it in the months it sat out in the yard. The slight buildup of rust across the chrome would have made Richard angry, but she supposed it hardly mattered now what he thought. Its passenger side door slid open in the breeze, and Phyllis remembered Richard’s insistence that the dealership sell the truck cheaper due to the faulty latch. She gave an involuntary shudder as she slid her blinds closed to block out the sight. She could remember perfectly the day Richard had come home three hours too early. He didn’t say a word; just slid into his chair in the living room, aimlessly flipping through the channels. She knew enough not to ask how he was. Eventually, he spoke. “They’re downsizing again. The company thinks it’s about time I think about retirement.” Phyllis knew there was more to the story, and she waited patiently for him to continue. “So I told them that they wouldn’t be firing me, and I walked out,” he smiled to himself, and sat up straighter. “I think it’s time I went into business myself.” Phyllis was silent. Sixty-five years old was a bit too far into life to begin a business, but when Richard decided on something, he didn’t back down. A few months later, he came home with a box of ice cream bars, and a card for the only car dealership in the area. “Phyllis,” he said with a smile. “I’m going to drive an ice cream truck.” There was no more discussion. Later that week, he brought home the old truck and spent four weeks restoring it to driving condition. Phyllis learned how to order ice cream shipments straight to the house, and when everything was set up, Richard headed out for his first run. Mrs. Woodard could never think bad of anything that made her husband come home with a big smile on his face. She hadn’t seen him that happy in years. Every day, it was the same thing. Even if he had a day when he didn’t sell much, he was still smiling. He made enough money to support them, and Mrs. Woodard had no reasons to complain, until he started coming home later and later and later each day. Nearly ten years went on like this. Phyllis had no idea what he did in the late hours. He always said he took a new route home, but having been married to him for decades, she could tell when he was lying. She supposed it couldn’t be anything that exciting, and who was she to question the man who had taken care of her all her life? She hadn’t really worried about it until two police officers knocked on the door one day. Richard was still working, and Phyllis told
CENTRIPETAL them so when they inquired about his whereabouts. She couldn’t give them a specific time when he would be home, so they promised that they would be back at the house later in the evening. For the first time, Phyllis started to worry about her husband’s activities. She wondered if it was a routine investigation. Perhaps he had forgotten to pay at the gas station again. He was getting older, even if he didn’t like to admit it. She had an even worse idea. Maybe his eyesight was failing, and he had hit something, or someone, and hadn’t even realized it. That would be her husband, refusing to admit anything had happened at all. She waited impatiently by the window all day for his truck to pull in, but the police were back before he was. “Do you mind if we wait inside for him?” the younger of the two asked. She stepped back to let them in, and the three of them had sat silently at the kitchen table until Richard finally stepped through the door. He’d been in custody ever since. Held without bail, they charged him with the murders of every child found in the shallow grave; eleven in all. But they were all stymied about the one boy they had expected to find, and had not. Mark Jasper’s mother had been watching her son from inside the house. When the little tow-headed boy had gotten inside the truck instead of waiting patiently at the window, she had run to the door, but when she reached the front yard, the truck and little five year-old Mark were gone. He had gotten sloppy, the police said. They had identified most of the bodies, and they all were reported missing on their walk home alone from school. Mark was the only one he had taken in plain sight. Richard refused to answer any questions, only talking to his court appointed lawyer, Debra, sparingly. The police had turned their house inside out looking for the last little boy. Mrs. Woodard wasn’t sure why. She would have seen if Richard had ever brought in a body. She was certain there could be no way it was in the house. All the other bodies were found together. Why should this last boy be anywhere else? She roused herself out of her troubled thoughts, and made her way back to the kitchen. The food was long cold, but she took the meatloaf and slid it back into the warm oven. She picked up the plate at Richard’s place and set it back in the cupboard. She thought she saw something dart out in the back corner, so she followed the movement slowly, hoping that she didn’t startle Mabel more than she already was. There was nothing in the old freezer except Richard’s last ice cream shipment. Phyllis had been so sure that she had seen something, but now she started to second guess her instincts.
CENTRIPETAL Her doctor had prescribed some sort of pills. “For the shock,” he had told her. As she made her way slowly back to the main level, she stopped at the medicine cabinet and took two of the white pills. She turned the corner to her bedroom as she swallowed them, but they stuck in her throat when she saw that Mabel was still asleep, curled up on her bed. ‘If it wasn’t Mabel, then what could it be?’ She wandered back to the kitchen, grabbed her broom to drive whatever animal it was back outside. She reached the basement again when she saw a small boy run across the floor and run out of sight around the corner. “Hello?” she called out. “Who’s down here?” She set the broom down as she walked to the back of the darkened room. Why was the freezer open? The cold air rushed out in a fog, and for a moment, as she stepped forward, her vision was clouded. She waited for it to clear and was greeted by the sight of boxes. There were stacks of frozen popsicles, ice cream bars, and one ten gallon bucket of vanilla fudge ripple. “That’s odd,” she said to herself. “Richard never used ice cream he had to scoop. Only bars.’”She reached both hands in to lift the tub. It was far too heavy for her fragile limbs, but she’d never let that stop her before, and pulled harder. With a loud ‘pop,’ the top came off and the force knocked Phyllis back. She fell to the ground, where she stayed for several minutes. When she regained her breath, she reached up and grabbed at the wooden shelves next to her, using them to propel her to her feet. She tottered for a few seconds, attempting to hold her balance. When she felt steady, she took a step forward. The only thing she could see in the bucket before she collapsed into blissful unconsciousness was a mass of blonde hair and one small hand.
CENTRIPETAL THE WIFE OF
Aaron Simmons He is old and waning like a new moon, picked from the edge of a dried rose. His cape is dusty filled with loose magic. He’s pawing the brim of his top hat, calmly he clumbers over past illusions. He told me once, “Magic is in the air it’s all a matter of knowing where to catch it.” One night we went hunting round ridge, dressed in black, armed with flashlights and jars. Through bridge and bramble he led, In socks and hearts we stepped, till striding upon fairies in their mid magic moonlight. We filled our jars with their light, and rolled in the tender laughter of our rediscovered hearts. He climbs stairs now without the creak of mystics His cane is filled of fiber instead of legs of giants. The windows let light in on a half time shift the others have become memory. The fable has become memory, the story is lingering “on the red line heading home.”
CENTRIPETAL A neighbor was dieing once We struggled next door and found him lying on his side refusing to look upward. He brought out a dove to show the man. “lie back he said and face the sky.” We met in a park he was kneeling making me a rose. He wasn’t subject to reality once. He danced on rooftops with the Cat King at night, vagabonds in celestial reasoning, racing to pounce and shatter the darkness of Dog’dens watch. One morning over orange juice he told me, “This is my last trick” It was Tuesday and he had a queen in his hand. “Focus now, I’ve always loved you.” The Queen fell and he was gone.
CENTRIPETAL THE BOTTOM Aaron Simmons I’m thinking of the bottom. Where the mud, and grog are warmest in pre-winter fumblings. I’d like to be there, under; to hollow out a mud grovel, breathe with my skin, near the toad and rotten bark. I want to dig in beneath broken leaves and forests of lake-weed, my body covered in a great ebon ooze. The toad is telling me “Place your feet here, where the mud thickens, the weight of water warms, and the jelly worms are thriving.” He is an old toad writhing, rotten, and cold at the bottom.
CENTRIPETAL PIERSMAN Robby Binette The piersmen would come at dawn armed to the teeth with hooks, bait, giant fishing rods and probably more importantly, patience and luck They would fight off seagulls as they made their way out onto the water board over board as if they were walking on walking sticks They’d lean over the railing, son by their side, hot coffee in their right hand as they watched the waves crash and foam and spit They know that the ocean is unforgiving monster and respect that They see the waves back and forth and fear it’s sucking tide By noon, the piersmen are not gone The pros have come in with the real bait, gutted guppy and squid ”We’re here to catch the real game,” they’ll say “We’re here to fish” But the piersmen don’t care, they’re there Nothing else matters I can see the pier filling and the piersmen start to go in walking board by board walking on walking sticks back to shore
CENTRIPETAL This may be lunch This may be the end I hear the waves and the sound of the wind and the pros scream, “I got me a big one!” as a pelican lands on the bench I’m sitting on It’s not much for conversation, a few squeaks and an urge to bite if you get too close I miss the piersmen and their simple talk over the pros bragging about their house in the Hamptons or their 500 foot yacht “You see that there game last night?” “Man, Manny is hitting em’!” “So is the Papi and the Longhorn! Whoa!” He makes me smile for a man who has little on his mind and his only concern is how much bait is on his line “Sure, this will keep the bastards busy.” Before this, there was the chaos of the house: children crying, music playing and alarm clocks going off How one can get sick of Burnt scrambled eggs and the gas that’ll give you after, horrible But that soon fades away in the miles of blue from Santa Monica o the Baja and from Boca all the way north to Nova Scotia
CENTRIPETAL Someday I won’t be just visiting this island of wood but I’ll be a part of it, walking board per board on walking sticks slowly away from the shore with my child by my side, and a hot coffee in my right hand I’ll watch and listen to the waves, sit on a bench, feed the seagulls and barbaric pelicans and watch them shit The pros will no longer be there The sky will probably be gray The child won’t want to fish but play video games The conversation will be small But it won’t matter I will have become a piersman as the tide will come and go and history will continue on once again
CENTRIPETAL HALLMARK HOLIDAY Robby Binette You get a letter in the mail on Valentine’s Day and it says: “Dearly beloved, I know we haven’t seen each other for some time now but I just wanted to wish you a happy Hallmark holiday and to let you know that I am doing so much better without you in my life; I am making out with new people, seeing many more, and probably have slept with your best friend too very recently Love and kisses, XOXOXO Your ex girlfriend/boyfriend” Now ain’t that a bitch? Shit
CENTRIPETAL EMPTY APOLOGIES AND BROKEN PROMISES Samantha Stephens The sirens were sudden, time froze. Looking out his window I watch as the ambulance makes its way slowly through traffic - the lights burn my eyes. As I tend to my purple, lifeless, father, tears stream down my face and as the salt lands on my lips, I realize this might be the last time I will ever see him. It was just another Saturday. I was ten years old and my dad’s little tomboy. I remember running into my mother’s room every weekend anxiously waking her up so that I could hurry up and get to his house. He usually had something fun planned and if not there was always one of my many cousins to play with. That Saturday in particular we had plans to go to the batting cages. I was trying out for the travelling softball team and dad promised to transform me into a young female Babe Ruth; pretty ambitious right? He thought the world of me and I thought the world of him; before my father’s sports injury he was a star athlete, so anything he told me about sports I listened to in amazement. I can remember packing my Barbie Duffle bag full of nothing I needed, grabbing my glove, my bat, and my cleats and piling everything up next to the front door. Just like every other Saturday my mother double checked my bag and repacked it with the necessities: underwear, pajamas, socks, sweatshirt, and Sunday clothes. We pulled up in front of his old three story, three family house and I unbuckled, swiped a halfassed kiss on my mother’s right cheek, hopped out, and yelled, “love you” to her as my grandmother shouted from the bus stop that she was going grocery shopping. I sprinted up his stairs and burst through the front door; when I called out for him there was no answer. Boom! I hear the front door bust open. “Hello?!” the paramedics shout. “In here! In here, HURRY!” I scream at the top of my lungs. “HELP! PLEASE! MY DAD NEEDS HELP!” Three paramedics rush to his side, checking his pulse, and looking into his eyes with a pencil-like flashlight. Untying the elastic around his blue bicep I watch as the ring around his arm whitens and then turns a pinkish color. They tell me to go into the other room – I am frozen. The young female EMT picks me up and sits me on the couch in the other room. Peeking through a crack in the old white wooden door I watch as the two male EMTs pull out the dull needle embedded in the crest of his inner elbow. I can’t help but think about how he refers to those marks as scrapes from the ceilings he works on. Hoisting him up
CENTRIPETAL and strapping him down to the body board they whisk my father down the stairs. “Honey, I’m going to have you come with us.” The female EMT takes my hand and gently rubs the top of my head. Looking up at her through glazed over eyes; I take one last look at my Barbie duffle bag and let her close the door behind us. A crowd has formed along the street and his neighbors offer to take me off the hands of the paramedics. “Please don’t make me leave him. Please.” I look up to her in desperation. “It’s going to be okay.” She lifts me into the back of the ambulance and sits next to me rubbing my shoulder as I watch my father balance between life and death. Entranced in the design of his track marks, ten years of memories flood my mind, from him teaching me how to ride my bike without training wheels, to watching him get chased by the Revere Police three years before. Snapping back into reality I start shaking and begin yelling at him as if I were his mother. “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? WAKE UP! DAD, PLEASE! PLEASE JUST WAKE UP!” I feel the blood rush to my face as the temperature in my cheeks rise, my eyes are drowning in their sockets as the veins in my neck withstand the pressure of my vocal chords. “PLEASE, I NEED YOU!” My voice quiets as it cracks in desperation, “I need you… don’t you understand I need you.” The female EMT wraps me in her arms and I feel a tear hit my forehead, I don’t know why she is crying. Arriving at the Whidden Memorial Hospital, I watch as they rush my father into the emergency room connecting wires and liquid bags to his body as they pump his chest and push him abruptly through the swinging doors. The nurses direct me to the waiting room; the walls are a pale cream and serve as no help in keeping my mind off everything. With no inclination of what else was going on in that room I pace. I pace back and forth until I grow dizzy with memories and unfulfilled promises of future activities. That wasn’t the plan. The plan was batting practice and some lunch, not finding my father kneeled over the side of his bed with a thick rubber band wrapped around his arm and a needle thrust into his elbow with only the whites of his eyes showing. I was not supposed to find him face down at the edge of his bed limp, in a cold sweat, hardly breathing. At the age of ten I shouldn’t have had to call 911 to tell them that my father had overdosed on what the D.A.R.E program taught me to be identified as heroin. I was not supposed to be calmed down by a paramedic I didn’t know or wait out the verdict of his life by myself in an empty waiting room. That was not the plan. The plan was batting practice not “how to save your father’s life” practice. “Baby…” an emotionally soothing voice whispers across the
CENTRIPETAL empty hospital. I look up and see my mother across the lobby. I don’t respond, I run into her arms, collapse around her small frame, and wipe my salty tears and runny nose on her shoulder. The tears she is holding back break like an ocean wave and pour heavily down her face. I can feel her chest breathe heavily and her hold on me tightens before she lets go. Why is she crying? They have been separated for years; it isn’t her dad or family member that overdosed, it’s mine. She squeezes one last time and pushes me away to look me in the eye. “I’m so sorry this had to happen to you.” At this moment I realize she is crying for the same reason the paramedic cried; she is crying because my heart was just broken by the only man who should never break it. She is crying because at the age of ten her daughter’s world is crumbling beneath her, and there is nothing she can do to stop it. My mother is crying for me. The ticking of the clock echoes as my mother and I wait in silence for news from the doctor. The swinging wooden doors open and a tall doctor with grey hair enters the waiting room. “Mrs. Stephens?” With an in-dent on his forehead, his eyes wide open, and his mouth neither smiling nor frowning we both stand up. “Blake... Ms. Blake - Brian and I never married,” my mother said quietly. “Ms. Blake, Brian’s going to be ok but I’d like to speak with you about the next couple of steps we are going to have to take in regards to Brian’s addiction.” “Sweetie, I need to speak with your mother alone.” He looks up at my mom and glances back at me. I stare at him blankly. “If you want, you can go in and see your dad. He’s awake but really tired, so he might not be able to talk much but I bet he’d like it if you went and sat with him.” He stood up and signals toward the wooden doors. My mother crouches down and hugs me as she pushes me toward his room. Eavesdropping as I head for my father’s hospital room I catch choppy parts of their conversation. “Intervention is necessary.” “Danvers Rehab Center.” “90-day programs.” Approaching the tan double doors I question whether or not I want to go in there. Hesitating, I struggle to successfully complete my first few steps. Walking into his blank room, I don’t see my father, I see a pathetically lost man. He can’t even look at me; the silence lingers. As the sound of the heat generator gets louder I can’t figure out how to break the ice; I place my elbows on my knees and my head in my hands. I fight
CENTRIPETAL to hold back the tears lining my eyes and with an inhale of breath and a crinkle of my forehead the dam bursts. I feel his rough hand on the back of my head and hold my breath as he stumbles to get words out. In an emotionally apologetic tone the words “I’m sorry” come out of his mouth. For a minute I really believe he is sorry for everything he has put me through. For a moment I really believe he is going to stop doing drugs and that this is really his last stint. For this split second in time I really think he loves me more than drugs and it is the best feeling in the world. I can hear my mother’s heels as she slowly makes her way to his room. “Samantha, I need to talk to your father alone honey grab your jacket, say goodbye to your father and go sit in the waiting room. I’ll only be a minute,” my mother says as she walks through the door. I lean over to hug him and he kisses my forehead. “I promise this time it’s going to be different. I’m sorry,” he whispers in my ear as I try to pull away. “I love you, Egghead.” I love him too but I can’t bring myself to say it back. Driving home in complete silence I wonder what is going through my mother’s head and what she said to my father in the hospital room. Walking in the door my mother drops her coat and presses play on our answering machine. “Hey Mich, it’s your sister. Just got your message about Sam and wanted to know what was up. Call me back.” “Mich, it’s Donna again. I just talked to Ma, she said Brian’s fucked up again. What the fuck happened this time?! CALL ME BACK! I’M WORRIED.” My mother calls her back and I overhear her telling my aunt what happened. “I flipped out on him Donna, it took so much in me not to strangle the bastard right there.” Her voice breaks, I can hear the tears being held back. “You had to see her face Don, my baby was all alone.” I hear her pacing in the room next to me. I rush to my bedroom so she doesn’t catch me listening and slowly crouch back to the edge of the hallway. “I just don’t know what to do, I’m a bad mother if I let him keep visitation rights and I’m a bad mother if I don’t let her see him. I can’t fucking do this anymore. I’m going to have a mental breakdown.” My mother continues to tell my aunt what she said to my dad. I hear her flick a lighter and inhale the cigarette smoke. “I told him one more fucking time Don, and he’s done. No more seeing her, he needs a fucking reality check or he is going to lose the best thing in his fucking life. I think I knocked some sense into his hollow
CENTRIPETAL head.” I didn’t see my father for two full months. He checked into a sixty-day rehab facility; I talked to him once a week over the phone and received letters regularly. When he got out of rehab he immediately found himself a job and moved out of the “bad” area that he lived in. He was on his own two feet again and I was able to rely on him. My mom would actually allow him to pick me up from school if he got out of work early, she would even let me spend Sunday nights at his house. I couldn’t believe it I had my dad back and in full force. He was clean for a full four years taking drug tests weekly as part of his probation. But then the inevitable happened, his probation ended and he realized he had a new-found freedom and shortly after this realization my father screwed up again. Week after week he had less money, and was growing apart from me more and more. His old habits were back. He would drop me off at my grandmothers and leave me there for hours. When he would come back to get me, there it was, his “drug face” pale white with a touch of white foam in each corner of his mouth, pupils the size of pin needles, and barely open eyes. At dinner he would hide behind a newspaper and pass out in his chair foaming at the mouth. Those were the worst times, staring at my feeble father hiding himself behind a newspaper because he couldn’t look at me. My father has been on and off again with drugs throughout my entire life and I don’t think he will ever truly get better. It is probably the worst fear waking up every morning hoping you don’t get a phone call informing you that your father has overdosed again. But I have lived my life without my father in it once and I never want to again, so as for me I am just going to put up with his phases and hope that one day this “drug phase” of his will end for good. Then just maybe I’ll have peace of mind.
CENTRIPETAL REVERIE Elizabeth Mosher as the water flows as the trees are brushed by the wind the sky darkens no sound but nature the river gurgles ice breaks and drags along the bank the snow is untouched among the trees no path is visible except the one in my mind i have known this place for years i often wonder what people imagine when they see my footprints sprinting off into the woods i stay off the well beaten trails watching for animal tracks careful not to tread on them to preserve them incase someone else would like to see it has been a long time since i was so alone it is refreshing but in a place in the back of my mind i await contact for it to bring me out of my reverie to remind me of the world the real world but which is real the world where people run everything or this place uninhabited other than me, the animals and the plants and the snow and the river and the wind in the trees
CENTRIPETAL FIREWORKS IN PORTSMOUTH Heidi Therrien The winter wind slices the meat off thighs and serves them to next morning’s sun. A man drags a wood sled and hopes his child is still attached. A snow globe reflecting the firework’s light is all the heat the little boy needs. Paparazzi flashes in green red and gold blink and twinkle. A shotgun blast signals the end and the beginning. People watch mesmerized. Like zombies they stand huddled sharing each other’s breath. Packs of wolves stopped in their tracks by a magnificent moon. Homeless recede to the far corners of alleyways and hug them selves. They stare at feet that walk by, put out their hands for pennies on a dollar. But tonight, the fire in the sky catches their eyes more than anyone on the street. A night they wish on every star that blossoms. Luck is a breath that touches the sky until the finale. The fireworks fade like the skin they knew. Then they run to the streets to gather the ashes. Remnants of wishes that now seem childish, that they tuck under their tongues to save for later.
CENTRIPETAL HAPPY BIRTHDAY Judi Dague I wanted you to notice me through the smoke of your twenty candles. I kept looking at the clock I knew you were anticipating my smooth legs that became obsolete I was a hot ticket toy you were eager to unwrap. I could smell the sweet smoke rising off the bitter batter. I knew it was coming the party was dying. You noted the clock then me there. You gave me a look like a receptionist that kept me waiting, ‘I’ll be right with you’ A half smile found my face and my feet shuffled behind yours. It was quiet enough to hear the torn wrapping paper scrape the floor and the shrieks of the stupid girls start to weave out the door.
CENTRIPETAL You made a wish with wide open eyes. You played ‘I spy’ to three or four unopened condoms, I spy with my little eye an unopened card – to my boyfriend with love, that will have to wait until morning.
My hips curved under you I saw the hurting. I made love to the ceiling as blank as my expressions. You sang your song and licked the frosting from your cake. I noticed the windows with rain on their cheeks, I thought you would too. I’m stuck in a tomb of technicalities, my treasured trust taken for granted. HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Is it what you wanted? Is it what I wanted? I want for you to notice, through the smoke left over me it’s not your birthday anymore.
CENTRIPETAL FIRST KISS Judi Dague I’m trying to remember the first time. The first feeling when we kissed. I see myself on my back in the snow with mismatched mittens and you with a grin that’s genuine. The black trees held up a tapestry of the pink and purple sky. I knew nothing but that moment on that cold night in January. And it’s different I know, when we all grow up. When we all pretend to have answers to how someone feels or even to how we feel about our past. And how we ever got over saying goodbye to that boy. But did I ever get over saying goodbye to that girl in the snow, while
CENTRIPETAL laughter collected like snowflakes on our shoulders. The chase still kicking through her legs
long after he pinned her down for another kiss. Our red cheeks glowing together like hot coals. Lost in the space between the sky and the ground. Lost like the turquoise mitten I wouldnâ€™t find until spring.