“My language is the common prostitute that I turn into a virgin.” -Karl Kraus “Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.” -Franklin D. Roosevelt “Poetry is thoughts that breathe and words that burn.” -Thomas Gray
Volume 12 F Issue 1 Fall 2010
C o -E ditors Kristen Leigh Russell Haley Sciola L ayout M anager Veronica Musch L ayout Kristen Leigh Russell Haley Sciola E ditorial A dvisors Liz Ahl Paul Rogalus S enior E ditors Jeff Bird Michael DiTommaso Kayley Fouts Spencer Jackson Andrew Maznek Christian Passen Kristen Leigh Russell Haley Sciola Kelley Wren A ssociate E ditors Janel Forcier Renée Johnson Andrew Maznek Liz Rufiange C over A rt “Memory Maker, Memory Taker” Dexter Richards Cover Design Nathan Gagne
Centripetal: [(sen-`tri-pə-təl)], adj., (New Latin centripetus, from centr- + Latin petere to go, seek) 1709.] The semi-geological force that directs a not-for-profit magazine dedicated to promoting literary excellence in the state of New Hampshire and beyond in curvilinear motion toward its rotational crux. The creative literary fervor proceeding or acting in a direction toward the center, tending toward the afferent axis of language and all the mighty world of words. Submission Guidelines: Submissions are open to students, alumni, faculty and friends of Centripetal. All submissions must be typed. No hand-written submissions will be accepted. Individuals may submit up to four pieces per each of the following categories: Prose less than 4,000 words; Poetry of any length, any style; Micro-Fiction less than 500 words; high resolution color and/or black-and-white Art or Photography. Submissions should be e-mailed as attachments in Rich Text Format (RTF), Document (DOC, not DOCX), or JPEG to firstname.lastname@example.org. All submissions must contain name and contact information for the poet/writer/ artist, as well as a brief note on the contributor. Centripetal accepts one time North American Rights for print and online publication. All rights revert to the authors upon publication.
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Contents Vol u m e 12 F I ss u e 1 F a l l 2010 1.Remember
2. SLOW: CHILDREN AT PLAY
6. A Bit of Light Reading
7. Train Tracks
10. Razors to Portage 11. The Room 14. Catfight 15. Rainy Day Routine 17. Drops Straight From the Bottle 21. My First Time (At the Roller Rink)
Rebecca Alosa Matt Major Mollie Menees Kayley Fouts Tom Anglin Spencer Jackson Kayley Fouts
22. Wake and Wonder
23. Jersey Love
24. I Live Among the White
27. Stability 28. Bukowski
Kristen Leigh Russell Kevin Nordle
33. The Alley
50. The Storm
53. Liquid Courage
55. Magnum XL
Kristen Leigh Russell
56. Virginitis: A Vagina Monologue
58. Both of Us
59. Just the Way You Are
64. The Sacrifices of a Footbridge
66. A Stained Reality Picturesque
67. Energy 68. Letting Go
Jennifer Streeter Michael DiTommaso
70. What Follows the Death of A Chickadee 72. The Temporary Ones
Spencer Jackson Haley Sciola
74. So Fast
78. November 3rd, 2009
79. Purgatory 81. Untitled 82. Songs and Reminders of the Dead 84. Icrarusâ€™ Disciple
Christian Passen Alia-Ross Elwy Robby Binette Kevin Nordle
R emember Jenna Curren Sometimes when you are silent, I want to wish myself into the space between your brain and your skull. I want to take a jar with holes in the lid, and catch all your stray thoughts and watch them glow like the fireflies the children chase. And when I hold up my trophies, triumphant and empowered, maybe then I will know the secrets of your silence.
Slow: children at play Abbie Morin Usually on evening walks I make a point to pass The road we stumbled down That night you stole the sign. At the time it felt symbolic But we didn’t know of what. We didn’t even know where we’d put it. Two weeks ago We packed our separate lives Into the same moving truck. And along with our bookshelves, T-shirts and patchwork quilts, Came the heisted relic. Mounted in our living room In silent celebration The silhouetted childRunning, playing, Reminds me of you in the dim light Scampering up the hill. Both of us Laughing at your struggle To conceal the sign under a mexican blanket. How could i have known a year ago? Chasing after you Through freshly fallen leaves, I would end up finding myself Not as i was- guarded, entitled, egotistical But as i had been When i was still a child, Mesmerized and hopeful, Unafraid to get dirty. Always at play.
Staircase Kevin Bouchard
can remember the moment I decided to be a police officer. It happened during one of my favorite crime investigation shows. In this one episode, the police officer had gotten a report from a house in his Parent’s neighborhood, and after he got there, he discovered that the emergency had come from the house where his Parents lived. This was my favorite part of the episode: watching the determination in the character’s eyes as he sped in his car to where they lived. The episodes never ended sadly; it was a children’s TV show, and gave me a somewhat exaggerated idea of life and death, good and bad. The villains got arrested and the heroes were either saved or the saviors. Everything was fair. Every time the newest episode finished I would go outside and play cops and robbers with the other kids in the neighborhood. Both of my Parents seemed to appreciate my ‘fantasy of public safety’ as they called it, and fueled the spark with Christmas presents or birthday gifts. One year they got me a plastic badge and handcuffs. I remember handcuffing my younger Sister to the staircase in the living room because I wanted to force her to watch the crime shows with me. The whole time, she would stamp her feet on the wooden steps and rattle the plastic chain around the railing as she cried for our Mom. Once she had stamped her feet against the stair boards so hard that it had dented. The stair bent slightly every time we walked over it, after that. Neither of my parents ever heard her when I handcuffed her there, though. My Dad worked during the day and my Mom always did her cardio workouts in the basement when my TV show came on. She couldn’t hear anything over the sound of her pounding treadmill. When she’d come upstairs she’d see that I’d handcuffed my Sister to the railing again and make me apologize right there. “You wait till your Father hears about this (we only used ‘Father’ when we were extremely serious).” She ended up grounding me from the television for a week. “Except for at dinner,” she added. We always watched TV when we ate. My Dad was an EMT and didn’t get home until that time of night, and by then my Mom had usually forgotten what I’d done. She only ever called my Dad while he was working if my Sister or me hurt ourselves somehow. The idea of our survival depending on a 911 call terrified her. She always worried what would happen if she didn’t have cell phone
service if something ever happened, because we had no landline phones. Once she had even tried to convince my Dad to build some kind of HELP! button like the ones old people wear around their necks when they fall down stairs. Eventually he built an intercom system and wired it throughout the house; it pleased my Mom to an extent, but the intercoms couldn’t contact the police, like she’d wanted, and their purpose became ambiguous after a while. My Mom usually used it to tell me that dinner was ready. One time, during a severe rainstorm, the house had flooded and the wiring began to spark and almost started a fire. I remember watching the bits of sparks flying from the walls while the rainwater poured down the staircase from the exterior balcony. I lied to my parents when they asked me if I had left the glass doors open. I told them I ‘didn’t remember.’ But the evidence was there. The rain damage made the dent in the stair board much worse, and all the stairs after that felt a bit more brittle when we walked over them. My Dad never found the time to fix the water damage, though; he kept trying to repair the intercom system, which only worked one way after the flooding. If you wanted to hear anything anymore, you had to strain through the screeching static to make out the simplest of messages. He never finished fixing it. Even after high school the intercom boxes were left on the walls like an artifact of one of my Dad’s household experiments. He considered the house his personal instrument and tried to create something new every time we had guests over. When my Parent’s threw me a celebration for my police certification, my Dad had built a walkway that stretched from the front yard to the back patio. My Mom had asked him to renovate the stairs but he was intent on making the backyard more ‘dynamic’ for party guests. Whenever one of the guests arrived he would guide them down the path and tell them all his building techniques, all the tools and methods he had used: “A herringbone pattern,” he had said. “Threw my back out luggin’ the brick from the back of my truck.” Each of the guests would nod and devote a moment to marveling his craftsmanship before taking a seat and eating. A few years later I had a place of my own a few streets away from my Parent’s house. My Mother always called me in the middle of the night if she heard any strange noises; I think that when I became a police officer she felt comforted in some way. My Dad had grown old and wasn’t able to give her the same sense of security he had once been able to. That’s why when she called me at midnight a few months ago, I hadn’t thought much of it when I answered the phone. But this time her voice was shaking unlike I had ever heard it.
Centripetal I tried to calm her down as she began muttering something, but listening to her was like trying to fish the words from the static of our old intercom system. She said my Father had fallen through the stairs in the middle of the night. By the time I got there, the medics had already arrived. They stood in the driveway beside the ambulance, their white figures glowing under the rays of my high beams. My Mother met me outside. She said my Father was still alive but in serious condition. He had broken one of his legs and had received serious damage to his spine and neck. When I went inside and saw the scene, my stomach seemed to fall through the void torn in the staircase. I imagined my Sisterâ€™s delicate wrist handcuffed to the railing, her infuriated feet smashing into the thin, water damaged boards. The presence of the tragedy lingered in the darkness where my Father had fallen through. He was never the same after that. He couldnâ€™t build anymore and was forced to retire as an EMT. Every time I visited him, I would always think to myself as I drove home that it just wasnâ€™t fair.
A Bit of Light R eading Renée Johnson
he sat in the same soft squeaky chair that had been placed by her cedar smelling desk. The scratchy curtains brushed against her as the warm breeze came through. As she reached for the object of her mid-day routine, she felt it teeter and fall off the beveled edge. Slowly she sank to her knees and walked her callused fingers through the darkness until the smooth surface of Utopia was found. Picking it up with her delicately firm hands she rose and resumed her spot. “Utopia” she mouthed as her fingers glided across the page and she began to feel.
Train Tracks Abbie Morin With cut off denim shorts and filthy tennis shoes, Sunburned cheeks and a couple of joints stuffed in our pockets We would traverse the rusting metal rails Like tight rope walkers Weâ€™d wander down the tracks through unkempt foliage Clutching 99 cent cans of Arizona Iced Tea and Talking about what we couldnâ€™t possibly have understood At the tenderfoot age of seventeen We never made wrong turns And finding home was always just going back the way we came. Today I find that the rotting planks of wood Do nothing for me Anymore But break my stride Dictate my direction And keep me looking Over my shoulder Constantly For the oncoming Train.
U n t i t l e d , Kayley Fouts
Time Rebecca Alosa I watch my grandmother bend to tie his shoes with a knowingness that can only come with time after the children have grown, and the business of living has slowed to quite routine. a lifetime together comes down to these basic needs to be fed and dressed cared for the years spent tying the shoes of their children disappear into mere memory as she bends to tie the shoes of the man who took care of them allwe spend our lives trying urgently to move forward, and then somehow find ourselves slinking slowly back to the beginningI watch them and feel the slow, sinking weight of time and age and with a mixture of love and sorrow realize the small submissions born out of love.
R azors to Portage Matt Major My oily black body has begun to reek Trudging under the weight of my boat Mud so deep that I cannot speak To escape low water is what I seek The rotting smell begins to slide up my throat My oily black body has continued to reek My feet stick and my bones creak Somehow my body remains afloat Mud so deep that I cannot speak To others I have been considered a freak Distance from others forced the remote My oily black body has always reeked Under the weight my muscles have tweaked The sunâ€™s setting makes the marsh gloat Mud so deep that I cannot speak Salt marsh can make a crossing look bleak So far Iâ€™ve come that I must stay devoted My oily black body has begun to reek Mud so deep that I cannot speak
The Room Mollie Menees
sit in this room for hours. Not because I want to, but I have to. Well, maybe part of me wants to. But that part I don’t like. At times, I feel like I am just watching the paint dry, but there’s no paint there. There hasn’t been in years. The room consists of the cracking faded blue, peeling to expose the dark cement that holds me in. There’s a musty mirror on the wall with smudges from my sleeve trying to clean it. There’s the wooden floor, softened from the years of use and blackened by unclean feet. A bed sits in the corner with a pale blue sheet and comforter neatly stretched across and tucked under. There are hinges on the wall, but no door to enter or to leave from. Over in the corner of the room sits a chair, pale yellow with no arms and rusting legs. It’s nailed to the floor facing towards a tiny window that looks out unto the sea. The window is latched, and it would take the strength of ten men to open it. The wall and floor by the chair are scratched and picked at, creating splinters in the floor and marks on the wall. I’m not supposed to go over there. Yet I do. Sometimes I sneak over to the chair; over the splinters and twisted nails which I tower above, and sit down to look out the window. The sight amazes me every time. The sea is expansive, changing colors every time I take a peek at it. Sometimes it’s so light that you can see the seashells being illuminated by the sun casting down. Today though, it’s a dark blue with white crests forming off in the distance. The sky overhead is gray, a color I’m used to in this dull room. At the start lies a small beach, with sand so light that the lack of sunshine can’t even dim it. Rocks glitter the landscape as turtles rest. Birds fly down and grab at fish, taking them from their families and eating them whole; their blood, bones, and bodies. I wish I was out there. Sometimes I try and pull at the latch to open the window, but it never seems to budge. One time I worked on it so much that my fingers started to bleed. I just smeared the blood on the wall and kept on pulling until I heard them coming. It’s been a while since then. I sit up on the chair and begin to pull at the latch. The rust flakes off onto my fingers as I pull, yet nothing seems to move. I move so I’m sitting on my knees and begin to pull hander, pressing my left hand against the wall and pulling with my right. Nothing. I sit back down against the chair; put both hands on the latches and my feet on the wall and pull with all my strength. I feel my skin begin to tug. I stop.
They’re coming. I quickly release the latch and jump off the chair and run over to the bed. I can hear their voices as they make their way closer. The walls get thinner, turning into wafers as they approach with their voices. The noises. I imagine their breath leaving lips, floating and seeping. Dripping. The voices get louder. It comes through the wafer and wraps around my head, suffocating me with discipline and conduct. They’re outside now. I hear them slip through the walls, but they never make it into the room. They scrutinize me though. Taunt me. Domesticate me. Control me. Teach me. Chain me. Fix me. Break me. But they never touch me. They can’t. I lay on the bed, wrapping the blue sheet around my body, itching from its burlap roughness. Their voices dim as they drip away from the wall. They become less viscous, and the walls thicken again. I lay here for what feels like hours, but could easily have been minutes. Time is warped here. The only sense of time I get is from the light coming in from the window, and even then it can be misleading. Clouds have blocked the sun, convincing me to accept the darkness and perceive it as night. I close my eyes and relax in the irrelevant sense of infinity. I awaken to the sound of something beating. My eyes adjust as I rule out my heart as the reverberating sound. I step on the rotting floor and the walls begin to pulse, stretching and shrinking with each wavelength of sound. It’s not the voices causing this shift, but the sound of a bird fluttering against the window. The gull is a dirty white with grey peppering his body. His feathers look coarse; wet even, as he swoops down and hits the windows with his wings. Beady eyes peer over an orange and yellow nose, into the room and through the glass. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen anything so close to me before. I stand and start to walk towards the window, feeling lighter than ever as the wood barely warps under my feet. My hand stretches out toward the window, slips of what light that exists breaking through the clouds and ribboning around my fingers. For the first time I feel a warmth on my skin, a feeling that resonates down to my bones. The gull beckons me with his polished eyes, and I continue on until I feel a pain spreading through my feet. My gaze unlocks with the bird as I look down in confusion. The sight stops me. My feet are starch white from shock, but slowly begin to turn a rosy red as my blood reaches air. Three tips of rusty steel nail pinch out of the top of my feet; two in my left and one in my right. Blood begins to pool around the tip of the nail, lacing down my threadwork of skin, taking sinuous roads into a growing pool
Centripetal of claret red. My shock subdues the pain as blood begins to stain the floor and soak into the corroded wood. I try to lift my left foot from the nails, but feel the skin tug and rip out of place. Losing balance, I press my hand against the glass and feel a budge. My eyes ascend up towards the window and swell with knowledge. I grasp the lock with my hands and pull, feeling the barricade loosen. The rust flakes off and falls onto my feet, now covered in a jacket of sanguine appliquĂŠ. The latch clicks and I pull, a whisk of cool air seeping through. The voices begin to rush in through the walls, scraping at the membrane of my asylum. I see their hands through the stretchy film, reaching and trying to break the patchwork. I fully open the window, feeling the ocean breeze swim through my hair. The smell hits my nose like a bullet, an aroma of salt and freedom. The voices begin the scratch through the web, an oozing substance exuding as they poke their fingernails through. Bursting with strength, I rip my feet from the nails on the floor, oblivious to the sound of shredding skin. I step up on the flimsy chair with my right foot, and place my wounded left foot out the window. The gull skirts around my foot, encouraging me to continue on. I grip the sill and loop my right foot out the window, sitting on the edge of the small window as the barrier breaks and the voices begin to swoop in. With one breath in I slip out the window, feeling the icy grips from the voices kissing my back in a final farewell. I feel the air swallow me up as ebbing gulls proudly sing to me. Before I reach ground, where my shattered bones will become shells for the coast, I feel the warmth echo through my body, and know that for once, I have found freedom.
Catfight Kayley Fouts With tornado terror You whirl in And just as quickly Bluster out Upheaving my roots From the stable soil. Your violent words Spew out of the shotgun barrel That is your mouth, Firing phrases Into my chest. You inform me That I crawled So far under your skin To become a virus Infecting you With my selfish germs. You pour your poison Down my throat Forcefully churning My stomach. Slowly it seeps, Hot and harmful— Ignoring my pleas For you to leave. But if that’s how You really feel, Then I am glad You amputated me At the knee Because girl, Gangrene Can spread.
R ainy Day Routine Tom Anglin
dragged myself out of bed as the painfully upbeat ringtone blared from my phone. I planned on waking up earlier, but my hand involuntarily hit snooze every five minutes during the past hour. Though I should have been hungry, the nauseating burps of last night’s beer strangely comforted my need to eat. I could sleep more; and I wanted to. But I wouldn’t. I chased my glass of water with a mediocre teeth brushing, and slipped into my haggard shoes, which always cut my left heel near the Achillies tendon. I have new shoes, three pairs actually. The motivation is what I’m lacking. There is no clear-cut reason for my apathy toward positive progression; just a convenience of continuation. I jerked my head to the left enough times until my hair wouldn’t mask my face, put on my Sox cap, grabbed the backpack, and walked out the door. My Ipod was almost dead, but it should have enough battery to get me to and from class, so I popped in the ear buds, grateful just to have music. I’ve become almost zombie-like in my routine; no longer is there thinking, no longer questioning, just playing my role. It wasn’t until I reached the bottom of my steps when I realized it was raining. I could’ve grabbed my raincoat in a minute’s time, but again, I didn’t care to. Why bother trying feel like sunshine when everything else is caught in a raincloud? As I walked, I fished my last American Spirit from the pack, as part of my routine. The rain and wind tried to block any attempts of igniting my Bic, but with some careful hand cupping, it sparked. The first two drags of a cigarette never tasted very pleasing to me in the morning, but it became almost ritualistic to smoke on my walk to class, so I did. Every face I passed was blank, every set of shoes cold and wet. It was a kind of day everyone always hated, but still found necessary to make the sun seem brighter. I could accept that even if it was an inconvenience. After carelessly tossing my cigarette butt on the footpath by Rounds, I made my way to the second-floor water fountain: The one that is over-powered to the point of squirting onto the floor; it’s been like that for years. I wondered why no one ever fixed it. I wondered if possibly the maintenance man just didn’t care every time he was asked. Maybe he found a simple joy in knowing that kids like me would lean over, thirsty and depleted from the night before, seeking only
a cool sip of water to get on-track, just to be sprayed in the face and put back into our respective places. Homework was passed back and assigned, passed back and assigned, in both my classes. The routine kept on rolling. After sneaking glances at my phone every few minutes for the past couple hours, it was finally 1:10. I only had an hour or two of academic expectations to fulfill, with a whole night of freedom ahead of me. When I left the side door of Rounds, the rain had increased ten-fold, drowning my happiness one drop at a time. I managed to bum a cigarette off some kid who Iâ€™d only met once when he bummed one off me; it was mutual that he owed me. I managed to spark the cigarette amidst the pounding rain, which was a pleasant surprise. As I walked down the parking lot hill, I stood under a maple tree to let the cigarette breathe from under my guarding palms. Between one second and one drag later, the breeze shook the leaves; just enough to perfectly release an agonizing rain drop halfway down the length of my loaned cigarette. Immediately it was drenched, bending hopelessly, falling victim to the rain, as was I. Another cigarette was gone, along with another routine day; and on it went.
Drops Straight From the Bottle Spencer Jackson
ine, I just don’t know why I gotta’ go too.” I grumbled. “Listen, it won’t be that bad,” Ryan, my younger brother, pleaded, “I’ll just feel better not being alone.” None of this was fair. I was driving, he got to be in the passenger seat; he could look at me, read my face, and he didn’t have to focus on the road; he could focus. I didn’t drink, he did. We continued down a night soaked road, graced under a streetlight every fifty feet or so. “Please Aaron?” Ryan pleaded once more. Everything, the way he looked and how his voice sounded, brought me back to us as kids except back then he was asking me to walk to the store with him instead of go to AA with him. “I said yes, and we’re going.” I conceded, “But only if it works. If you’re not fixed after this, I’m tying you to a friggin’ bed and feeding you spinach shakes until you’re clean.” Ryan laughed a little. His sullen face and tired eyes seemed a bit more vibrant. Seeing that flash of actual life made this a little bit more worth it. The AA meeting was held in the upstairs of a free clinic. The rooms were large and dark with wooden walls and tall ceilings. The overall look and ‘mood’ of the building reminded me of an old library. It smelled terrible. “… and then the rent was up, and instead of paying that I…” I sighed quietly and leaned back, sitting slightly outside of the circle of alcoholics around me. I was hoping they would assume I wasn’t one of them; that I was with my brother. I thought that by coming in my suit and tie, I would stand apart from these… people who would probably be wearing cargo pants and fingerless gloves. They were all wearing suits and ties. “… that’s when she left. Took Amelia and left. I’d love to see her again; to at least know where she is and that they’re doing okay…” I fought off a yawn and was anxious to watch Sports Center or something. Anything but this; I hated these people. They were miserable, and I wasn’t. My knee was bouncing, irritated and bored, and it seemed that it was the only motion in the room. Ryan sat forward, absorbing the sad stories of each derelict in the
circle until it was his turn to speak. “Hello,” my brother said, standing up, “my name is Ryan and I’m an alcoholic.” My knee stopped bouncing. “When I was twenty, I started drinking regularly. I was in college at the time, and I was dating this girl named Emily. She was beautiful, smart, charming, and …” I remembered Emily; she was all those things and more. She was, in fact, the perfect catch. I’d always used to joke with Ryan, telling him she was way out of his league, and I was right. Still they were together, happy, for quite a while. Then when things got bad, she left him. Then when things got worse, he drank a lot and went to her apartment. I got there minutes after he’d kicked her door in. She had been huddled up in the corner while Ryan trashed her place, pulling out drawers, flipping tables. It was bad. I ended up dragging Ryan out, kicking and screaming. We never saw her again. “After that, I stopped. I couldn’t stop feeling sorry for what I did to everybody. It got bad. I thought my friends were gone and that my family hated me. It didn’t seem wrong to go back to drinking.” I bowed my head down, closing my eyes. It was like watching your brother sing the national anthem at a Sox game, except he was screwing up the words. “I stole from my parents. I lied to my friends. Worst of all, I stole my brother’s chance at getting his dream job on the west coast.” Ryan finished, motioning towards me with his hands. My head snapped up. I couldn’t believe he mentioned that. A few months ago, I was offered a position with a magazine near L.A. Great pay, easy work. The timing was terrible though because Dad was getting very old and his heart would soon give out. I had a deadline to accept the job, or they’d start looking for new applicants. I had to leave; leave home, leave my father to die. I sat by his bed; just Dad and I, and held his hand. I felt anxious and ashamed to be leaving like this. We hadn’t heard from Ryan in almost two years, yet Dad still asked about him each time I came to visit and each time I told him that Ryan was doing fine; that’d he be over to visit soon. I gripped his hand once more before saying goodbye. He asked me to hug him, and I did; holding him close and thinking how this would be the last time. Tears were welling in my eyes when he whispered, “Please take care of your brother for me.” I stepped back and could only nod. A week after I got to California, Dad died. Ryan hadn’t gone
Centripetal to see him. About a month later, I got a call from one of my cousins, Frieda, saying Ryan was belligerent and was sleeping on her couch. Please take care of your brother for me. “Uh, mister … “ The pompous fresh-out-of-college counselor began, his round face directed at me. “MacManus.” I added, “Aaron MacManus.” “Right, did you have anything to say to Ryan, about Ryan, to us?” “Oh… um…” Part of me wanted to stand up; to leave right then and there. What could there possibly be for me to want to say in front of ten strangers. Ryan ruined my career, the reason I wasn’t with my father when he died, and his drunkenness alienated us from the rest of our extended family. “Ryan,” I began, feeling both pissed and embarrassed at once, “You have done a lot to be ashamed of.” Ryan’s head dropped solemnly. “Still, you’re my brother, and I’m gonna take care of you.” That was the best I could come up with. “How very nice!” the counselor cooed, “Now we’re going to do an exercise. I want you all to stand up and give each other hugs.” What? Both of my knees started to bounce intensely. Fight or flight. As the counselor spoke, people were already getting up. No. Not doing it. I’d been eye-balling the guy next to me. A skinny, pale man with wisps of faded blonde hair stretched across his balding head. He wore a grey suit and trembled lightly. When he spoke, he stuttered somewhat, and he seemed every bit as creepy as a man can get. Now he was on his feet and facing me, closing in for the embrace. I stood up and put my hands out in front of me gesturing him to move along, but he was determined. He wrapped his long alien-like arms around me and squeezed. “You’re a good man … a good brother.” He said to me. My arms were out to the side, and my hands were contorted like twisted dead trees. The stringy man was holding on way too much, and I felt myself begin to wiggle and squirm as I tried to get out of his grip, but he held on tighter. “You need this…” the man whispered, his voice was soft, “… more than you think.” The man let go after, he was smiling; I was definitely not. Ryan took this opportunity to catch me of guard. With his athletic arms, he spun me toward him, and wrapped himself around me.
“Good God, man!” I whispered to him harshly, “What are we doing?” I expected Ryan to laugh at me, to make some sort of joke out of this. When we were younger, his job was to humiliate me, but now he was crying. “Oh… oh Jesus, Ryan,” I mumbled, “we shouldn’t be doing this here.” “I-I’m so, s-sorry.” He babbled. “Dad… Mum… Everybody… You.” “That’s good!” The counselor said, “That’s it, let it out.” I flared up at the intrusion. For a moment, I’d forgotten about the room full of people, and this guy made the whole situation seem childish and overly public. “Jesus fuckin’— Ryan, let’s go, we shouldn’t do this here,” I growled, gathering our coats, “This is a personal thing, man, Christ!” How embarrassing! Huggings, feelings, grown men crying. It seemed like the door was pulling me too it. I had a hold of Ryan’s arm and was leading him out with me. I reached forward to grab the doorknob when the stringy man in the grey suit swept in front of me, holding his long arms out and staring me down. “C’mon man,” I barked, “This was fun, but we can handle this on—“ “You can handle yourself,” He interjected, “But you can’t handle him.” I looked back at Ryan, who looked back at me. “I need this.” Ryan said with tears in his eyes. I stood there a moment longer, looking at my brother. A short moment passed, and I sighed as I let my brother’s arm go and returned to my seat. The room returned to its quiet awkwardness, grown men sitting in a circle just talking. “Francis,” The instructor continued, “Could you please tell us about yourself ?” “Uh, ahem. Hello, I’m Francis, and I’m an alcoholic. The first time I let myself down was a few years ago when…”
My First Time (At the Roller Rink) Kayley Fouts Cherry-licked, slick pop hits Bounce through the black-grated Industrial speakers, Thudding out their heartbeats On the polymer floor. I see only the reflective Light from the disco ball Sprinkling the track Like snowflakes in autumn, Barely covering the frosted leaves. The vibration of the spinning Wheels beneath me Spark an electricity inside me As if you crossed the red and black wires That run through my body. It feels as if I was meant to do this, Meant to cross my right foot In front of my left to make the corners, Meant to bend low into my knees And power down the straight-aways. Because you, roller skating, Have brought me to life. When my wheels touched the track I felt the defibrillator hit my chest And Iâ€™ve been alive ever since.
Wake and Wonder Adam DiFilippe Wonder
A blue hue frosts the waking world.
Mechanic eyes bleed red upon the wet asphalt, accenting the oil spilt rainbows.
As earth opens its eyes; like dawnâ€™s gate, pouring forth an ocean of paint; brush strokes, unrushed and certain, faint waves of a dreamscape.
But humans took hold of the Canvas; and created their own paints, desperately hackingwith machines and math,
But each dawn will bring dusk, and in that dreamy time mankind will always gaze at the heavens; (superiority being their art) Rocketing crafts of steel; unnatural beings of size, yet still dwarfed by the natural denizens; The cosmic fireballs and astral bodies, that combined make the universe, quietly holding manâ€™s soul in its grasp; Making us dream
Making us weep.
Jersey Love Cecil Smith I can see you, you know. I know how many times you’ve glanced over here, You over-tanned lump of Casanova flesh. I know how many times you’ve licked your bottom lip In the hopes that I’ll see it and Suddenly want to be in your arms, And by arms I mean lap And by in I mean on. I can tell how badly you’re sweating this one out Because your lips putter along With the tiny, shaken prayers to God Or Vishnu or Xenu Or The Situation, if your orange Shake and bake skin tone is anything to go by. I can see you, you know, so you might as well come over And try to win me with some freshly grated “I’m so lost in your eyes” And did I mention that we have imported “Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?” And don’t forget about our de jour “Is there a mirror in your pocket?” Because I can assure you We only serve the worst To the brightest And I’ll roast you, right here, right now.
I Live A mong the White Cecil Smith “I live among the white lights,” he said to me. “I live among the white lines of love and I cross over and over again trying my best to make them stick to my smooth Un-blessed skin. I live among the white lies.” He was pretty, with bright red eyes all bugged out of his head like he just couldn’t believe that I could believe in him anymore His lips were broken and shaking, puckered and covered in planned words when he looked at me buggy little boy, shaken little dog toy torn at the grungy seams until his head had come undone and his ears were torn from his nose from his eyes Those pretty yellow lined eyes Because everything he saw was gold I told him right then and there that I understood. “I’m a white lie,” I said. “I can feel everything you’ve taken and everything you’ve owned and worked so hard to destroy.” And he grinned in that way that only the really cool killers do “And that’s just what I thought when I saw you,” he said. “I’m a white lie. I’m a pretender.” And I can see inside of you right now that you don’t believe a word that spills from this preplanned package of correct sayings and plastic wrapped lies and prepaid assurances and already written hopes and lines filled with something I had initially intended to be artistic and filled with allusion and soul-touching rhyme But I can’t rhyme anymore It makes me feel so pretty And I can still see the doubt that crawls up between your stomach and lungs
25 Centripetal and digs its sweet little paws into the shoulder blades you have so beautifully pretentiously rested against the back of your chair like you already know where I’m going with this But you don’t believe me And I’m not so white right now I’m not so pale with the yellow stained eyes and blood soaked teeth but I was once. And I am telling you right now, no lips involved, that I am a sick individual because I have found myself more at home Telling all of you pretty little birds that I am sick than when I look, and I say look with the most metaphorical voice I can muster, Out into the street filled with bleeding hearts and penny songs and condom filled pockets That line the jackets of my family and friends. I feel more at home to tell you all that behind my face And deep behind my ears I hear screaming And I hear crying And I see blood on my bed and on my hands and the shining metal on my fingertips that digs into his back and I love every. single. piece of me that way. You still can’t believe me because it’s just the sane thing to do To think that it would be just too crazy to have another Jeffrey Dahmer standing right in front of you Telling you that he dreams of dying as living and living as temptation but I can tell you right now that in poetry we can believe that anyone will tell us the truth and I say things like this with my pretty prepaid mouth: I am a murderer.
Thoughts Kaleb Hart
What makes us think? What fuels our souls? Our lives we feel we must control, Or fail... and cascade over the brink. We willing set our standards high And climb the ladder, until years have Gone by, that we realize We sold our souls for gold. We marry, have kids and watch them grow, As they take our place as we Fade happily, then die. But there’s not a moment that passes When our souls and minds attempt to try To understand… To understand, To fathom, To grasp this world, This existence we live in That I know is all a part of God’s plan, But still I wonder, though I trust in Him, Because I am human, I am simply a man.
D i T o mm a s o
Stability Kristen Russell Dear Stability, I want your house, your car, your family. I envy how you continue to build on a dream, and make it come true. Why do you get the smiles? This city is your worst enemy, but I know him quite well. He’s a lonely half-way house and I’m struggling to handle halfway normal. He sees the lowest of the low, He befriends addiction and selfishness. I want your reliability, your trust, your life. I desire your drive, to travel down the long road of ambition. Why do you get success? You’ve never met paycheck to paycheck; you really should because she’s life changing. Like a natural disaster she sweeps through, Like Russian Roulette she might feed you. You’ve never met me, I’m not life changing, and I’m not your worst enemy, I just want you, I want to be free.
Bukowski Kevin Nordle Angelic dipsomaniac— Celestial bar fly— Bawl nostalgic hymns of home— A Sot’s intemperate Rhyme. Strong spirits yield weak souls in men, In drink they drown in vice— Though they know they lose themselves, They perpetually pay the price. For loss breeds saints and blessedness In those who use it well— Brings mirth from mire as Lotus Flowers rise up from the depths of Hell. O sing to me poetic verse! Breathe life on every page! Drink deep of wine and nectar Sweet—yet deeper of sacrilege. And I your humble student shall Rejoice and praise your name— The leaves you wrote drape on my Mind, as I hang laurels on your grave.
U n t i t l e d , A li Myers
Think Michael DiTommaso I thought and thought Or so I think That thoughts, once thought May pass a brink And new thoughts I think, are thoughts And things, once thought They think; belie new things I thought and thought And thought some more Thought across oceans Touched thought shores And things that* I thought They added by scores To all that I thought Which made me think more I went one by one Thinking out every thought And making so many Of these things that I thought That I thought that I thought Every thought I could think... But I think that I could have Thought more
D i To m a s s o
31 Ce n t r i peta l
Writer Sean Robinson
e wrote and that is all he did. From morning bleary-eyed dawn before coffee or shower or starving-artist breakfast. And until the setting sun bled across congested unartistic streets, he sat and fought the Blank Page War, filling sheets and napkins, paper and walls with woods and phrases, scraps of songs and quick penned poems barely caught and trapped in ink. And there came a day when notebooks grew in lopsided towers, bridges between bed and nightstands, crumpled sheet piled mountains. Himalayan expanses of useless words, white pages of dragons and one man, neck deep in literary flotsam, bushwhacking through a jungle of mixed-up phrases and misread lines. When they took away his paper, he wrong on himself: up his arms, down in drunken lines around his fingers, he wrote of lions and unicorns of epic battles barely remembered, truths best unsaid and desperately needing to be told. And when they took away his pens, censored the lines that grew between his shoulder blades and out from itching fingertip, the lines grew steadily and heavy, between crease of thumb and forefinger, across lips and forgotten broken syllables, he watched the story grow across him. Organic, free.
Classmates Kimberly Paniagua I speak two languages: One to my left and one to my right. On my left is Jim. Blonde haired, hooded sweatshirt. We pass comics to each other during lectures. To my right is she. Mysterious, enticing, she Whispers Spanish love songs under her breath and I swear I can hear the trumpets. It shakes me when she sighs Her accent- thick like grandmother’s masa. I want to learn every way to say I love you in her language But she doesn’t talk much. I wish she would open that treasure chest of a mouth Pour all of its beauty out and revive our broken hearts. Become a part of this little life: a brother, a sister, a lover. Jim can’t see why I like her So I draw him another comic It’s of a girl standing on her desk screaming at the top of her lungs.
Pa n i a g u a
The A lley Christopher Foster
n the beginning I was simply there, staring past those two solemn brick walls at the street beyond the confines of this alley. It may not have been the beginning of my existence, but it was the earliest point in my stream of thought that I was conscious of the world around me; a world that continued to spin without a single acknowledgement of my existence. I wasn’t even sure if I did exist. There was nothing to tell me otherwise. It was my prison. There was no physical wall that kept me from escaping; just a thought in the back of my mind: a subtle recognition of the futility of trying to leave. I was somehow connected to this spot. There was no need for me to go elsewhere, and yet there was every unknown reason for me to stay. At first I contented myself with sitting in the corner, the spot farthest from the street that the alley opened into. I was afraid of what lay outside my alley, past the dumpster with the chipping paint, beyond the walls covered in aimless graffiti, where the light and noise combined in hectic harmony. Day after day I watched people pass on the other side of my unseen barricade, oblivious to my curious stares. Sunlight and moonlight, day and night, blended as these long days wore on. I had little sense of time, but every day felt like an eternity. I always wondered why I was here. I knew I had once been a part of that world, had a life outside of this place, but I couldn’t remember, no matter how hard I tried, what had put me in this situation. Eventually I came to accept it, and with this I grew more curious of the world outside my alley. I ventured from my perch in the corner, inching closer and closer to the entrance each day. At first I was worried the people that walked by would see me and wonder what I was doing there, assuming the worst. Whenever someone turned their attention down the narrow space, I would freeze, and they would continue on. It didn’t take long for me to realize that no matter how careless I was, no one would be able to see me. I was no longer a part of their world; just a spectator living out his days in this dark dank amphitheater.
Centripetal 34 Before I realized it, I was only a few steps from the sidewalk, close enough to hear the footsteps of the people as they hurried by, yet still so far away. The bustle of city life was tiresome and I quickly grew weary of it, but there was nothing else I could do. I couldn’t sleep; even in the pitch black of night, when I closed my eyes, I saw the brightest of lights. So blinding was it, that I rarely closed my eyes. I knew there was some reason for this, some higher motive to keep me always attentive, so I came to accept it, just as I had everything else. Then I saw her, and my curse no longer seemed as such. I had no way to tell the time or day, nor did this matter. At that moment, there was only her and nothing else. Her dark brown hair, flowing just past her shoulders, curled beautifully in the gentle breeze. Her eyes, of the same marvelous deep brown, were the only thing I had seen since the beginning that I could not look away from. Her gait was fluid and elegant; she walked with an air of purpose that made her stand out from the rest. As she approached, I reverted back to an old habit, remaining completely still for fear she would see me. She was so different, so unique, that I thought maybe she would be able to. For a solitary instant, her gaze passed over me and her eyebrows creased in concentration, as if she was trying to perceive something that wasn’t there. Then I realized that was exactly what she was doing. Somehow, she could sense me, but from her perplexed look, I knew she could not see me. And then she was past, out of sight faster than she had come. I rushed to get a better view, moving as close to the sidewalk as I dared, and caught a fleeting glance of her flowing hair, as she disappeared around the corner. It was over too quickly. I found myself pleading for her to return, for her to pass by once more, only this time more slowly. Why couldn’t she have stopped and let me look at her beautiful face for just a second more. That’s all I wanted, all I could ask for, to see her again. She was the only thing in my thoughts that night, a night that seemed to pass faster than any other before. There was something about her, something I couldn’t quite understand, that made it impossible for me to think of anything else. I hoped to see her again, if it was only once, so my time trapped in this place would have meaning. I now had something to look forward to, something that would make the time that passed worthwhile. To my elated surprise, she passed by my alley the next day as
Centripetal well. It was just as brief as the first time, but there she was, even more beautiful than I remembered. This time, however, I made sure I was more observant. I noticed she wore close to the same outfit she had the day before: black pants and a white buttoned blouse, which had a name tag pinned below her left shoulder. The name Abigail was written across it in bold, black lettering. “Abigail,” I said silently to myself, happy to now have a name to go with her face. I assumed she was either on her way to or headed home from work; she was definitely dressed for it. Then, once again, she was gone, and I was left to wallow in my grief, wishing once again she would come back. But I had the feeling I didn’t have to worry. Common sense told me she would be; it seemed this route would be part of her routine. This new idea, of having something to look forward to each day, twisted my lips into a strange shape. I hadn’t smiled in so long. I wasn’t entirely sure I had lips to smile with. But I imagined I was, which made the grin in my thoughts grow even wider. Usually Abigail just passed by, mostly by herself, but sometimes with a friend at her side. Every now and then I would catch a part of her conversation. I discovered she was working, at her first job, in fact, in a convenience store only three blocks away. There were some days when she didn’t work, but this only made the days she did pass by all the more meaningful. I’m not sure how long exactly, but sometime after I first saw her, there came a day when I got to see her for much longer than was usual. She was with another girl, one I had seen before, and they stopped at the edge of the sidewalk. Abigail laughed as she looked both ways down the street; it was such an honest, heartfelt laugh. “But seriously, Abi,” her friend said, her tone becoming less amused. “Why not?” “I don’t know,” Abigail responded, shrugging her shoulders indifferently. “I just don’t know.” A car honked as it slowed to a stop, getting their attention. They hurried along, waving at the man who had been nice enough to let them cross the busy street. Entering a café on the opposite side of the road, I could see Abi take off her coat. I hadn’t even noticed she was wearing one. It must have been cold that day, something I was unable to feel. Finding seats in a booth by the front window, the two settled in. Leaning against the brick wall, just inches from the sidewalk,
I watched as they ordered, ate, and laughed as anyone would. It was refreshing to see something so real, something so normal, when my days were filled with anything but. They stayed until night had fallen on the city. The streetlights buzzed to life, warding off the darkness that was settling on the street. I never found it to be enough. There was always something eerie and unforgiving about the shadows that remained. They hid a secret I had yet to uncover. Abigail left the café with her friend in tow, crossing the near deserted street at a rapid pace. I watched as her hair bobbed with each bouncing step. I listened to each soft footfall in the quiet dead of the night. It was all I could do, all I would ever be able to do. They were silent as they hurried out of sight, their arms crossed snuggly to combat the cold. The time when she wasn’t there began to race by, until finally the only thing I remembered from each day was seeing her. I forgot about everything else; nothing but her seemed to matter anymore. I began to think she was the reason I was here, trapped in my alley. She was the only thing that made any sense. Until that night, when everything changed. I knew she was going pass me by that evening, because her schedule had found its way into my subconscious. But she was late. It was a long time dark before I spotted her, making her way down the sidewalk. She was completely alone, sticking to the light cast by the street lamps, trying her best to remain out of the shadows. They seemed especially sinister that night, and I couldn’t quite understand why. As she began to pass by the entrance to my alley, a sound from behind me stopped her dead in her tracks. It was a loud whimper, followed by the desperate pleas of a child. “Help me, help me,” the voice called out. It was so familiar to me. I knew I had heard it before. “What’s wrong?” she asked in return, always considerate, but still apprehensive. “I hurt myself,” the child cried. I definitely had heard this before. As she began to enter the alleyway, the memories flooded into my mind, a violent torrent of pain and emotion. “No!” I screamed, startling myself. I hadn’t heard my own voice since that night. She couldn’t hear me. “Don’t go!” I pleaded, even though I knew it was useless.
Centripetal “Where are you?” she asked, walking slowly, squinting her eyes in the dark. “Over here.” I could see the men in the shadows, approaching Abigail as she made her way further in. It was the thing we had in common, our selflessness, that led us straight into this trap. I wished she could see the danger that lurked beyond her vision. I needed her to stop, to listen, to think. Why must she fall for this ploy? She was smarter than I ever was. She had never done anything to deserve this. She was beyond the dumpster when the man behind it attacked. In the sudden realization, a piercing scream escaped her lips, but was quickly muffled by his brutal, ruthless grasp. I had to turn away; there was nothing I could do. I could hear her struggle, her bones break, her whimpering cries as they violated her, just as they had me. I remembered the pain, the agony, the embarrassment, all the things she was suffering through now. I hated these people for putting me through this, but I hated them more for doing it to her. Before long her struggling ceased, and their devious mumblings and laughs made my rage grow even stronger. They were the epitome of Hell in her world; a world I was glad to no longer be a part of. With each second that passed, I remembered more of the pain than I had before. I remembered how I had kept wishing to die, because it seemed they would never stop. A wish I had been granted, only after much agony and suffering. An eternity had come and gone before they finally grew tired of their sport. They left as quickly as they had attacked, leaving Abigail a solemn mess on the ground. This was different. They hadn’t left me here. I noticed it was starting to rain. The sky was weeping for yet another victim of life’s cruel reality. Slowly, I made my way to her side, turning my eyes away from the gruesome sight. I refused to see her as they had made her. Instead, I remembered her kind smile, her flowing brown hair, and her thoughtful brown eyes, and made that what I saw as I knelt beside her. I stared for a second before I found my voice. “I’m sorry. I didn’t want this to happen. I never thought I could fall in love.” That word, love, was so foreign to my lips, it almost didn’t sound real. But I knew it was right. I was more sure of this than I had been about anything before. “I had
almost forgotten what love was until I saw you,” I said, my voice quiet amongst the steady trickle of rain drops that fell through me, painting the worn pavement a darker shade of gray. I tried to remember what it was like; the small splashes of water on the back of my exposed neck, cold water running into my shoes when I stepped in a puddle that was too deep, or even the smell of the rain as the wind carried those beautiful storm clouds in over the city. Staring down at her, I tried to remember what it felt like to be alive, as her own life faded slowly from her moist, ashen cheeks. I knew she could hear me, because her eyes opened slightly at the sound of my voice. I had no idea how, but she could see me kneeling there beside her, in that dark and lonely alleyway. As the memories continued to come back to me, I remembered what it had felt like to be alone. The grim reality that I was going to die had been even harder to face when I knew there would be no one there to comfort me. I was glad I could be there to offer her that small sentiment. “Who are you?” she asked, then took a shallow, raspy breath. I had not expected her to speak. There was no way I could know what she saw when she looked at me; I hadn’t seen myself in so long. But this was not the time to worry about such a thing. “A friend,” I answered when I could think of nothing else to say, trying my best to hold back the tears that were fighting to get out; tears I knew could never exist. The smile that came to her face would have melted my heart, were it still beating in my chest. I had seen her smile before, but it had never been directed solely at me. It was in that moment that I found my answer. I finally knew the reason, the answer to my only question: why? “You need to be strong,” I told her, reaching my hand out to touch her hair, but pulling back as I remembered it couldn’t be. “But it hurts,” she cried, her tears lost in the rain that dotted her face. I could see each breath she took in the cold, night air. “I know,” I said, remembering the pain of it all. “But you can’t give up.” That’s when I heard the footsteps approaching on the sidewalk. They rang out so clearly in my head; joyous bells signaling her chance to live. “Call out,” I pleaded with her. “Call for help.” “I can’t,” her voice was almost a whisper. She coughed, and I
Centripetal saw red spots dot her once white blouse. I knew she was speaking the truth; there was no way whoever it was would here her. As I saw the woman enter the small space between the two walls of the alley, I did the only thing I knew. “Help!” I called as loudly as I could. I didn’t know if it was my voice that caught her attention, or He himself who turned her gaze towards Abigail, but it was enough. Spotting her in the dim light from the street, the woman rushed down the alleyway. Abigail looked up towards me after she saw the woman headed her way. “Thank you,” her soft, loving smile was still directed at me. I stood as the woman reached Abigail and knelt to her side. A cell phone was already in her hand, dialing furiously for help. Backing away, the last thing I saw of that world was Abigail’s face. A smile that I knew would continue to shine.
Houdini Jenna Curren One day, between cigarettes and gossip, I asked why she couldnâ€™t forget him. She looked right at me, almost though me, taking a deep drag of the cigarette, as if it was a remedy for her pain. She exhaled, watching the smoke drift, and she might have been sleeping, except for her open eyes that looked like she was ready to disappear.
Hemispheres Spencer Fiffield
rolled over in Sarah’s bed to look at the clock. It was four in the morning and I couldn’t sleep. I decided to stop trying and leave. I have a weird thing about sleeping in someone else’s bed, and hers is all full of lumps. Sarah’s usually a pretty sound sleeper, but I guess me getting up shook just the right bed spring. She turned lazily, facing me while her body was still facing the door to her apartment. “Danny,” she whispered. “Baby, what are you doing?” I was buttoning up my pants and looking for the rest of my clothes. “Work in a few hours, babe.” I lied. Unemployed for the past four weeks. She didn’t know it. Not that I cared. But it was Monday, so she’d buy it. She was on a few things, anyway; if I said I got a job at NASA she’d buy it. She yawned and rubbed her face while I buttoned up my shirt and slipped into my shoes. I checked my pockets. Wallet, keys. Phone. My phone was missing. “Shit,” I whispered. “What is it?” Sarah asked me, returning to that comfortable front spoon position that she likes to sleep in. “My phone.” I said. “Must’ve slipped out of my pocket and gone under the bed.” This was a figure of speech, of course. Sarah had no box spring. What she did have was one mattress covered in loose sheets to make up for it. Maybe the phone had found its way into a neat little crevice and made a happy home. In any case, I was feeling anxious. I don’t like to be without my phone. It disturbs me. I like knowing that I’m in control of who gets to talk to me, and who gets my voice mail. I was sure that someone was trying to call me right then. I just knew it. Someone important was calling me at four in the morning on a Monday. “Where’s yours?” I asked Sarah. She yawned something, one arm limply pointing to her dresser. I followed her finger to a little pink phone with an Invader Zim charm hanging off the antenna, nestled between a dented, nicked jewelry box and a scratched-up mirror. My name was the only D in her phonebook. I pushed send. One ring. “Do you hear anything?” I asked her. She said nothing. Two rings. f i ff i e l d
“Baby?” I asked her louder. Her eyes opened, peeked up at me from the warmth of the covers. “Listen to me, okay?” Three rings. “I don’t hear anything.” She said. I was about to close the phone. “Hello?” A man’s voice answered. “Who is this?” I asked. “You called me.” The man reminded me. I wanted to tell him to go screw himself, but he was right. “Who is this?” I looked over to Sarah’s bed. She was sleeping, still as a rock. Was she playing with me? She looked dead, so I knew she was gone again. I didn’t need to check my voice, but I did anyway. If Sarah was really playing with me, I didn’t want to let this guy know I was in on it. “I’m trying to reach my friend. 494-7689.” “That’s me.” The man said. I laughed. “No, that’s impossible.” I told him. “How’s that?” He asked. “That’s my number. I’m 494-7689.” I looked around the room, trying to find the bathroom door in the dark. I decided I might need to step out of the room to tell this guy off properly. “Who are you?” He asked me. “Dan Cook.” I said. “Who are you?” “Dan Cook.” He said. I went for the bathroom. Inside, with the door locked, I sat on the edge of the tub. It was lined with cracks, the cracks lined with something green and old. The shower tiles seemed striped with stale piss. The perfect place to catch my girlfriend cheating. “Nice joke, asshole. You steal my phone, get a few laughs.” I said. “Now tell me why you’re fooling around with my girlfriend.” “Your girlfriend?” He asked, scoffing. “I’ve been sleeping with Sarah since last February. When did she meet you?” I stopped for a second. “Last February. Day after Valentine’s.” I told him. “Whoever you are, we have a lot in common.” “You sound just like me.” I heard him whisper on the other end. “What happened to Tim Fontaine?” I asked him. “You’re me, you’ve got to know this.” “Oh my God,” He said. “Tim Fontaine died in Iraq two years ago. Stepped on a landmine. I was at the funeral. I wore my brother’s cufflinks.” I pulled the phone away from my ear for a moment. I tried f i ff i e l d
Centripetal to think of something to say, but I couldn’t. I hung up. Tim Fontaine had died in Iraq. I had gone to his funeral wearing my brother’s cufflinks. It was just me and his own family. There was no way he could have known this. I unlocked the bathroom door and looked at Sarah for a little bit while she slept. I decided there was only one way to be sure someone wasn’t putting me on. I put on my jacket, slipping Sarah’s phone into the front pocket, and stepped out. 2 It was five. I stood on the Gold Street sidewalk beneath my own apartment. My building was just across the street, my room on the third floor. I could see my window, black and empty. Nobody home. I had a theory to test. I called him again. He answered on the first ring this time. “Hello?” He asked. “Where are you?” I snapped at him. “You again?” “Answer my question.” “My apartment. It’s on Gold Street.” He knew me, alright. But I started to laugh at myself. All my friends know where I live. Hell, I probably told a few of my friends about Tim’s funeral. It was a joke. “Prove it.” I said. The light turned on in my apartment. It scared me, and I almost ran until I saw him. A shadow, a man’s shadow stood at the window. He held a phone in his hand. “Is that you?” He asked me. The shadow in my window cupped his other hand around his eyes as he peered down at me. “You look just like me.” “What are you doing?” I started yelling. “What is going on?” “I wish I knew myself.” He said. The shadow stepped away from the window, and the lights went off. Before I could speak again, he had hung up. 3 I wandered around the city for a few hours before I found my way back to Sarah’s place. I had a key. Inside, the bed was empty. I didn’t know if she was at work, or if maybe she had somewhere to be. Things seemed very surreal, as though her room was a painting, a postcard from the real thing. I was dizzy. I decided to
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lay down. I didn’t bother to get undressed or even take my shoes off, knowing Sarah wouldn’t care. I kept the phone in my hand while I tried to sleep. He called me not long after. “Yeah?” I asked when I answered. “God, you must be me.” He said. “What do you want?” I shouted. “Been thinking about what’s going on.” He said. I relaxed a little. “Maybe we’re both hemispheres of the same person. We’re both sharing one life.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “What, you’re saying you’re my doppelganger? My evil twin?” “I don’t think I’m the evil twin.” He said. “Two objects can’t occupy the same space, Dan.” I told him. “This can’t be happening.” “It is, though. That’s the problem.” He said. “What was the first thing you did yesterday?” “I left my apartment, met up with Sarah,” I thought about it a little before going on. “Then we saw her dealer and went back to her place.” “Not me.” He said. “I scheduled an interview with the manager of JB’s Deli down the road. Rent’s due in two weeks and it’s time I got a job. Then I saw Amy.” “Amy?” I nearly screamed. “Are you insane? She has a kid.” “She’s a nice girl. She’s clean. She has a job, she has responsibilities. She’s better than Sarah.” I closed my eyes, rubbed at the bridge of my nose with my free hand. “When was the last time I even talked to her?” I asked him. “Three months ago.” He said. “Remember? When you kicked her and little Jacob out of your apartment? You were bored with them. That was despicable.” “I can’t take care of a kid, I’m not ready.” I told him. “No, but I am.” He said. His voice was becoming stern, commanding. Fatherly. “And another thing. Tomorrow, after my interview, I’m calling up that little junkie Sarah and telling her it’s over.” “You can’t do that.” I sat straight up in Sarah’s bed, pleading with him. I couldn’t lose Sarah. “Don’t do that me. She’s my world.” “Please, you hate women.” He said to me. “You’ve slept with every woman in town and treated them all like animals. You put one down and pick up two more.” “That’s not true.” I said. “I don’t hate them. I just sometimes f i ff i e l d
Centripetal feel a little cramped. That’s why I love Sarah, she knows me. She gets me.” “Sarah’s poison. The drugs, the lies--” “Sarah doesn’t lie.” He said nothing. He didn’t need to. I looked around Sarah’s apartment. The yellow, cracking windows, the rusty screens behind them. The orange carpets, the brown woodpanel wallpaper. The long dresser sitting against the wall across from the bed, lying like a coffin, sunken into the carpet like dead shark. The apartment seemed built by lies. Sarah was made of lies. “She does.” I whispered. “All the time.” “Not Amy.” He said. “She didn’t lie to you ever. You did all the lying there. You should’ve heard the things she said when I called her.” “Why?” I begged him. “Why would you ever call her? Of course she hates me.” “I needed to apologize. I needed to make things right. She’s moving in next month. Her and Jacob.” I was overwhelmed. It was like being hit by a wave, tossed about in the surf. I didn’t want this. I liked my life fine before without him. It wasn’t a good day. “She is not moving into my apartment.” I shouted. “Her and her kid. That kid just got in the way of things. There was never any time for us. No time for me. No room for me to be myself with that stupid little kid running around. I don’t want him in my apartment. I used to like Amy before that idiot kid ruined everything.” “Look at you,” He muttered. I heard a small chuckle behind his words. He was laughing at me. Making fun of me. “Blaming your problems on a child. How mature of you.” “I want her and that kid out of my life.” I told him. “I want you out of my life.” “Now you know how I feel.” He said. “I’m trying to make for all the damage you’ve done with your piddly little misanthropic existence, and all you can do is complain. The world could do without you.” Outside, a police siren wailed. “I’ve got business to take care of, Dan.” He said. “More phone calls, more apologies. It’s hard work getting a life this screwed up back on track.” “Stop doing this to me.” “You did this to yourself.” I heard him say before he hung up. I listened to the white noise in Sarah’s phone for a while before I closed it. I clutched it tightly, knowing he could call back any
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second. I wanted him to call back. I felt myself fading, then. I could feel some new emotion swelling up inside of me. Some small part of me wanted him to fix everything. Not much more of me wanted to fight him. The rest of me just didn’t care. 4 I woke up when the door slammed. I was cold, clammy with sweat that had poured down my face and back all night. I was naked except for my boxers and socks. My pants, shirt, jacket, and shoes were in a heap beside the mattress. Everything else from Sarah’s apartment was gone. The sheets that had swallowed my phone, keys, my wallet so many times were all gone. I lay on a bare, yellowing mattress, frayed at the ends where machines at the factory laid needle and thread. The door to the bathroom was open, and inside I could see the shower curtain was gone. Straight ahead I saw the stain that the giant dresser had left. A black outline of that old, wooden death-knell, and inside the woodpanel wallpaper was at least three shades lighter from when only shadows touched it. It didn’t feel right. It looked like a mouth staring back at me, ready to swallow me whole. Take me off the planet. Sarah was gone. He had fulfilled his promise. I heard a string of beeps. Sarah’s phone. It was coming from beneath me. I had slept on it, keeping it safe from Sarah in case he called me again like I knew he would. “What?” I asked him. “You sound terrible.” He said. “I’m sick, I think. Running around so early, all the stress. I think I’m coming down with something.” I told him. “How’d that interview go?” “I think I won them over. I’m going to be a meat slicer. Twelve bucks an hour.” He took a deep breath, letting it out in a slow sigh. “This needs to stop.” I told him. “I can’t live with you hanging over me forever. I’m losing my mind.” “Same here.” He said. “I’m busy making everything right, clearing the name Dan Cook. I can’t have you around. Too big a risk.” I rolled over onto my stomach. Bad move. It felt like I’d just rolled onto an upright dagger. My guts were twisted like a dozen snakes fighting in a gunnysack. I felt burning bile shoot into my mouth and soak my tongue and teeth. I’d be vomiting soon. f i ff i e l d
Centripetal “I think whoever deserves a life the most should be Dan Cook.” I heard him say. His words drilled into my head, slowly digging into my eardrum and plowing into my brain. I was sicker than I’d ever been. His voice was murder to me. “You saying I don’t deserve a life?” I yelled. “Everyone deserves a chance. Everyone has the right to live.” “You had your chance. You blew it. Give me my chance.” He said. He wasn’t the same overbearing Father that he was the day before. He was reasonable, gentle. His was like the voice of reality itself; calm, almost serene, but unerring and unswayable. “I learned my lesson.” I bargained with him. “You can go now. I’m changing my ways. I know I screwed up a lot of my life, but I can take it from here. Please.” “No.” He said. “Can’t take that chance.” “Please. Maybe we can take turns. I’ll be Dan Cook for a while, then you can take over.” I said. “Already told you. Can’t take that chance, Dan. You’re too slippery. You’ll fall into the same habits. There can’t be two Dan Cooks. There has to be just one.” I rolled onto my side. Tears, thick rivers of suffering rolled down my face, and not because of that knife still twisting in my belly. I opened my eyes and was immediately hit with motion sickness. The sun was too bright. I dropped the phone and got to my knees. The knife in my stomach was now a rolling ball of fire, ripping my guts to pieces and pushing more bile to the back of my throat. I lost it all over the orange carpets. Not having eaten the last two days, it was mostly water. I fell into it. My eyelids were weighted with iron. I could hear him speaking in the background, the phone a few feet, maybe a few miles away. I could hear him on a distant ship passing in the night. I could see his shadow in my window, peering back at me. I could see him taking over my life and living better than I ever could. 5 I was on the streets. The super had found me the day after, and had put me out as quickly as you’d expect. I was naked and raving; blood red all over, sweating out every drop of water as soon as I drank it. He thought I was a junky. I was just dying. I found a spot between a grocery store and a secondhand clothing store. Nobody seemed to mind me sleeping there as long as I didn’t bother any customers. If I kept my mouth shut, no one would notice me. I don’t think it would have made a difference
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if I didn’t keep my mouth shut; I was becoming a shadow more and more each day. I kept the phone in my coat pocket. It was dead. But I wanted to keep it in case he tried to call me, and wanted to talk some more. I needed to hear how my life was going now that I was out of the picture. He never did, though. A few days passed. No one noticed me. I started to wonder if anyone had noticed me before all this. Maybe people like me were shadows from the beginning. I spent most of my days thinking, then. I had nothing else to do with myself. Finally, he came. He wore some of my clothes, but they were cleaner, shinier. As if all the dirt I had thrown across them over the years had never happened. He didn’t look real, up close. He looked like a life-size doll of myself, with plastic skin and molded, pressed hair to bright, too luminous to be mine. “Still alive, Dan?” he asked me, smiling. His teeth were as straight as his collar. “Just haven’t been feeling myself, lately.” I said. He laughed. “That’s good,” he said, extending his hand out to me. I took it, and he pulled me to my feet. I stood as straight as I could, but still felt wobbly. My bones had melted from sitting and sleeping all day. My kneecaps were jelly, and my muscles like balsa wood. “Amy and Jacob come next week.” He said, brushing the dirt off of my jacket. I tried to nod and show some interest, some happiness for him. I tried to accept what was coming. “The job’s going good, just picked up my first paycheck. Not much, but I’ll need the money pretty soon.” “This is the end, Dan.” He said, gently squeezing my shoulder. “I’m taking the life. You’ve gotta go.” “I know,” I said. “I’m a shadow now.” “No,” he shook his head, “I used to be a shadow. You’re a memory.” I winced. “That’s harsh.” I said. He laughed again, taking his hand off my shoulder. He stood, not smiling so much as just acknowledging me. It was good to feel acknowledged again, even if it was only for a minute. “I wish I could look back and say that I had a good run.” I said, looking at the ground. “Wish I had something pleasant to cling to.” “Don’t worry about it.” He said. “I’m taking care of things. You can go now.” I started to feel light. I hadn’t eaten in so long that lately it felt like barbs were sticking inside my ribs. But this feeling was new. f i ff i e l d
Centripetal It was like I was made of nothing, as though I were a balloon, being drained of air. I crumbled to the pavement, and looked up at him. The world seemed a lot brighter. The sun was in my eyes no matter where I looked, but it burned like a torch right behind his head. I had to put a hand in front of my eyes, but it didn’t help; my hand wasn’t there anymore. I started to sink into the ground, like it was quicksand. “You’re in good hands,” he smiled down at me, and then I disappeared. ~ I looked down at him while he faded away into the pavement. The old Dan Cook was gone. He wasn’t all that bad. But he was dragging me down. I couldn’t have him weighing down my conscience anymore. Still, letting him go almost hurt. I stayed awhile, not mourning, but thinking. Maybe about why this happened, but that didn’t matter. It did happen; that’s all that matters. I didn’t stay long, though, just a few minutes or so to feel the wind and smell the air. I had to get to work. It wasn’t a career, but it was a start. I had a lot of debts to clean up, and a woman and child to take care of. I couldn’t be a kid like him anymore.
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The Storm Kaleb Hart
thought I was done. Done with being that man who didn’t exist. Done with being invisible, and done with the dismal duty of sealing the fates of others. I was loyal to the Company, loyal to my country. I couldn’t take it any longer. The lonely nights, always looking suspiciously over my shoulder...Most of them deserved it. They were evil men, not fit to live in this world, fit only to suffer in another. But there were some...who were innocent. I was told they were strategic liabilities, loose ends – and I killed them. I couldn’t live like that anymore... I started to become someone, some thing, that felt nothing. The little things in life, a fresh summer breeze, a casual Saturday evening conversation, the innocent smile of a happy young girl walking in the park with her mother...slowly became meaningless to me. My soul, the part of my being that was good, was being dragged from me into the black void, by the faceless shadow I was becoming. They told me I was a patriot, and that sacrifices were necessary to maintain balance and security. I knew I believed the same thing...but not in the sense that they meant. I told them I was done. I let the burden slip from my shoulders and fall to the ground where I stood, walked away, and never looked back. I thought I was free. I was wrong. It was a cold night in Boston, and I was walking to Joey’s, a local sub shop that I found since I moved here to start my life afresh. I’d been going there every Friday night at five o’ clock for the past three months, and every time I always got the same thing. Every Friday night when I went to Joey’s to pick up my usual order, Joey was always there to greet me with a smile on his wrinkled face and a “How are ya tonight?” In a thick Boston accent. I’d always reply with a friendly smile and tell him I was doing fine, and then he would mention something about that weeks news while he made my sandwich. Joey was a nice guy. This particular night, however, was not like every other night. I walked into Joey’s and he greeted me as usual. We had our normal small talk, but as I was about to leave, he said “Hey, are ya sure you don’t want to try something else next time? We’ve got some other good sandwiches ya know...” He looked at me with his dark gray eyebrows raised in anticipation of my my reply and smiled. I gazed back and smiled
Centripetal at him. “No thanks...I like to stick with what I’m used to.” He looked down for a second with a smile and then back up at me. “Okay,” he said, and then pointed at me as he spoke, “But remember old habits die hard.” We looked at each other for a moment. It was as if we could both see through each other, and what we kept locked within the deepest part of ourselves. Then he chuckled, bade me a good night, and I started to walk back to my small house. I thought back to the first time I met Joey. It was right when I moved to Boston and I was walking around the city on a hot summer day, trying to pass the time. I remember walking on the sidewalk and seeing the the little sub shop, its entrance sitting exactly on the corner of the street. A little bell jingled as I opened the door and walked in. It was a small little place, with a few booths and tables, and it had an air of old fashioned character to it. The black and white checkered floor and chromerimmed, white top tables had faded from constant use, subtly revealing their history of the many generations that had made their mark on them. As I was studying the place, an old man appeared from a doorway behind the counter, wiping his hands on a towel. He must have heard the bell, since he noticed me right away. He looked about 75 years old, and had a long, slender scar on the left side of his neck. As he walked up to the counter in front of me he tossed the towel on the counter and picked up a pad and pencil. He looked at me and smiled with his wrinkled face, every line and crease seeming to hide a story of how it got there. “Hi, how are ya tonight?” “Good, yourself ?” “Not bad, can I get ya somethin?” “Uh, sure... Can I have an Italian, with lettuce, extra onions, oil and vinegar? Oh, and I’ll have a Schweppes.” “Sure thing pal.” He pulled the can of soda from the refrigerator behind him and set it on the counter in front of me, the condensation already forming droplets on the cold aluminum. As he was making the sandwich, I noticed a tattoo on the side of his left arm. It read 3 Contingent O.G. above a symbol of an eagle, rifle and artillery shells. I remembered from a military history book that the 3 Contingent Operational Group was a unit that operated
with the Office of Strategic Services in World War II. I paid for my sandwich and he mentioned the last days Bruins game, and introduced himself. I told him I’d be back for sure, and left the shop glad to have made Joey’s acquaintance. It seemed the most curious secrets hid in unusual places. Beeeep! A car horn blasted from behind bright headlights ten feet away, pointed straight at me. I was so deep in thought I wasn’t paying attention, and didn’t realize I almost walked into moving traffic. He let me cross, and I continued to walk back to my small house. It was particularly dark out that night, due to the heavy cloud cover. Within minutes after leaving Joey’s it began to rain, the freshly fallen leaves that departed the trees lining the streets began to catch the water, savoring every drop, hoping to live a little longer. As I walked, the drizzle soon turned to a steady rain, and suddenly, the falling cascade and the nearby houses were illuminated by a flash of lightning. Just as I turned a corner on the path, the sudden brightness revealed a mysterious figure following me. I instinctively reached inside my coat, my senses peaked. Then the thunder shook the sky, the sound stretching for miles, spreading its fury as far as it could, and brought with it the man I thought I would never have to be again. He had found me out. I thought I was free from that burden. But Joey was right... old habits die hard.
Liquid Courage Robby Binette Now before you go out there into the world, maybe you might want to lubricate your throat a little or maybe even liquidate your low self esteem to get those big, big muscles you’ve always dreamed about, my dear dear darling Can you imagine yourself as lord of the hunt? Artemis, with an figure made of stone Would you believe me if I said you could fly without the help of pixie dust? All that has to be done is to indulge in the cake that says “Eat Me” and the bottle that says “Drink Me” Now tell me, baby, how far do you want to go? Now imagine yourself at a wedding, the suit you wore is the same one you wore to your last funeral Your tie is too tight and you feel like you’re falling in love with the wrong person so you need something, just a little something a “pick me up,” yeah, something to help you dance Now I know that white people can’t dance but you don’t care You want to move your feet like their on fire, pants in flames and sports coat smoking like a brush fire You want to move like James Brown on the night he saved Boston “Chaka-chaka-cho!” You want to feel all the blood rush to your fingers and your head and scream to the rhythm of the night that seems so big it would swallow the night and the stars whole but you’re a little shy, don’t worry I got something for you See that girl over there? Yeah, you know the one I’m talking about:
the one sitting over there at the end of the bar You may know her and you may not but the point is what the fuck is she doing here all alone on a night like this? She wants to have your babies She wants to spend the rest of her life with you She wants you to make her breakfast She wants you to sweep her off her feet You can tell all that just by looking her in the eye Now all you have to do is go talk to her So go to her! Do it! NOW! Don’t wait, don’t hesitate! Go! Go! Go! Take one for the road and take one over there with you for her You got balls of brass steel and you didn’t even know it and you got an even goofier stupid smile too So anticipate the seduction and appreciate the assumption Reject the stupid false minded calculation that you may need nerves and a strong head on your shoulders Fuck that! You got courage in a bottle! Now go get ‘em killer!
M agnum XL Kristen Russell I am overwhelmed with a rush of cigarette lust. I want to tear your shirt off your upper torso, To pull at your hair until I hear the soft moan of desire, For you to feel so teased you can’t handle it anymore. To push you up against the door before you throw me down with a hard kiss to the floor, To see you squirm in need so powerful that nothing can stop its force. I want to wake the neighbors all night long, When my calves dance on your shoulder blades. Our bodies will wash these sheets with a passion, So defined it could hardly be blinded by the sun. An urge to force our bed crashes through the 27 floors below us to alarm the neighbors, because we were just too passionate to hold back. I want to fuck like animals, and the only safari I can picture is in my bed. To copulate like raging wildfire and baby when I see it I pounce But would I end up in this rut again for one night? Magnum XL, you don’t stand a chance Not now, not a week from now, not even when I’ve been lonely for months. This one moment of weakness won’t give in, not unless I have some of that lust maker called vodka. A few months, a bad day, a glass; Magnum XL you are right where I want you, I knew all you wanted was a piece of ass.
Virginitis: A Vagina Monologue Haley Sciola
’m suffering from a severe case of Virginitis. Assuming not one of you remembers what that was like, I’ll make it clear for you: In all of my nineteen years, my vagina has never engulfed a penis. Poor thing has always had to settle for a few fingers, and more recently, well, I’ll admit to an upgrade: a pink silicone vibrator with a smiley face on the head, and an attached semiglorious clit-tickler in the shape of some mongrel rodent sticking out its tongue. I mean, when I turn it on, I feel like Mount Vesuvius has erupted in my vagina and oh! just thinking of it feels so nice! But my vagina knows that a vibrating pink silicone rodent is no match to the real thing in the flesh. And yet this Vesuvian rodent-driven eruption is what I think about before I dream, what I desire to experience when I wake up (instead of sitting through my intro psych class every day), and you bet it is what I dash back to my room to fondle the instant class lets out, and then again in the shower after dinner. I can’t help it; it’s Virginitis. I have had a few steady boyfriends and all, but when my vagina demands more, more, more! Oh, yes! More! – My stupid conscience bellows WOAH, VIRGIN! Close your legs! Are you going to marry the dude attached to this penis? Do you even love him? To which I try to respond, sorry vagina, but I really just want a good fuck. But no, I was raised with those things called, like, morals and values or something; stupid shit like that. What they are really for, I tell you, is just to cause a giant mental penis barricade. It’s not that I can’t get any, it’s that my conscience won’t allow it. Don’t deal out your V-card to just anyone, it whispers to me with a gentle strength that cannot be overcome. Don’t waste it. This battle between my vagina’s orgasmic desires and my mind’s morals is not working out; neither will concede a thing to reach a compromise. And although my conscience may be winning, my dissatisfied vagina attacks on the mental front daily. I look at a guy and wonder, how big? I have a conversation about hot dogs, and thanks to my cranky vagina I’m totally thinking penis. Popsicles? Penis. Mushy banana? Limp penis. Cucumber? Hard penis. Blowpops? Blowing a penis. Fifteen pens? Switch that around and it spells penis. Rooster? A cock is a penis. Uncle
Centripetal Dick? Oh shit; he has a penis! As a fundamentally biological magnet, my vagina must incessantly pull towards its anatomical opposite. And lucky me, my case of Virginitis will only be cured when the right time comes, when â€œMr. Rightâ€? comes, and when my conscience affirms I will not be wasting it. In the mean time, all those Mr. Beautifuls out there better watch out; I think you need my number.
U s , Nathan Gag ne
Just the Way You A re Jacob Gagnon
t was the third day of spring when Dylan left his home. It was the kind of day that you mark off on a calendar even before it ends. The sky was a deep shade of blue, like the color of Iris flowers, and cloudless. There was a soft breeze rolling through the warm air. The sun shined brighter than it had all month and caused droplets of melted snow to fall from the gutters of buildings, staining the sidewalks with water. He stopped when he came to a bar and grille named Teddy Marin’s, or Ted Mason’s, Dylan could never quite remember which. It was nearly empty inside the place and completely empty outside on the patio. He went outside and sat at the first table he came to. It was too nice out, he reasoned, to be stuck inside the dark restaurant. He took a deep breath of the fresh air and ordered a gin and tonic. As he waited for his drink and for his girlfriend, Vanessa, he hummed an old Tom Petty song that had been stuck in his head all day and glanced blatantly at a waitress’s ass. Vanessa arrived just as Dylan’s drink did. He nodded at her to sit down as he sipped it and took off his sunglasses. She leaned in for a kiss but he did not. He barely even looked up from his drink. She slumped in her chair and ordered water when the server asked her. “Is there a problem, Dylan?” She asked. He took a long sip. “Yes,” he said. “Well don’t just sit there and ignore me for chrissakes, tell me.” “Settle down.” “You settle down. You’ve barely talked to me all week and now you sit there and sulk the moment I stepped into the goddamned place.” “Settle down”, he said again. “Fuck you, Dylan.” He took another long swig, finishing his drink. The waitress with the nice ass he had admired earlier came over and dropped off Vanessa’s water. He ordered another gin and tonic and waited until the waitress had gone back inside before he said anything. “You know what the problem is, Nessa,” he said leaning in.
His voice took on a hard sound as he stared directly into her eyes for the first time in awhile. She looked away and took the lemon hanging off of the edge of her glass and squeezed it into her water. “I’m done with this whole mess. It’s depressing the hell outta me”, he said. “It’s depressing you!” she yelled. “Keep your fucking voice down”, he said. She slumped back in her chair and let out a deep sigh. She stuck her finger in her water and stirred it. The ice hitting the glass made a soft clatter. “Please stop that”, Dylan said. She kept stirring. She began to stir faster and faster as the water splashed up over the rim of her glass and sprayed the light purple tablecloth turning it to a dark and damp purple. Dylan brought his thumb and middle finger up his forehead, pressing into his temples, massaging them. He closed his eyes and mumbled. “What did you say?”Vanessa snapped. She stopped stirring the ice cubes and dried her finger off on her powder blue sundress. Dylan brought his hand from his forehead and put it down on the table and looked in Vanessa’s direction, only behind her. The roads were mostly empty, he noticed. An old, beat-up Cadillac, mud brown, had just fired through a yellow light. There seemed to be no difference as he was the only driver on the road. “Nothing”, he said. “No, no Dylan. You tell me what you said. Now.” “I didn’t say anything, Nessa, just drop it.” As he reached over to grab what remained of his drink, she stopped him. Her hand clutched his wrist the way a child’s hand would grab their mother’s before crossing the street. There was force in the gesture, but when she lessened her grip it felt intimate. “Please tell me, Dylan.” She stared into his eyes as he stared intently at her hand as it rested on his wrist. She had just gotten her nails painted, he thought. Hot pink, her favorite color. He cleared his throat. “I said that it wasn’t supposed to happen like this.” Vanessa removed her hand from his wrist and placed it neatly on her lap where her other hand waited. “What wasn’t?” “You know what,” he said. His voice rose slightly. He glanced up at her. Her eyes were focused down. “Love wasn’t supposed to be this hard,” he began. “I look at my parents, hell, even my grandparents. They’ve been married for twenty, fifty years and do you think they have
Centripetal any doubt in mind that they’ll stay together forever? None, I bet. I don’t know if I see that with you, Nessa, I just don’t. I can barely see this relationship goin’ another day, let alone fifty goddamn years. It’s just we…” He cleared his throat again. “They just seem different than us. They seem… I don’t know…” “Happy,” she said. Dylan looked up to the sky and closed his eyes, letting the sun pierce through his eyelids. “Yeah, happy”, he mumbled. There was a long silence. To Dylan it could have been thirty seconds or thirty years. The world itself seemed to pause for a moment to take a deep breath, before continuing on with the day. Dylan spoke first. “We’re… It’s like we’re like magnets or something. You and me.” “What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Dylan squirmed in his chair. “Well, ya know when you press magnets together that aren’t made to be together, they repel. No matter how hard you press’em they won’t stick. That’s us, Nessa. We’ve tried hard. We have. It’s just not sticking for us.” Vanessa’s eyes watered up. She took a sip of her water, placed it down and wiped them. “So it’s pretty clear, you’re not happy,” she said. “I thought…” “No, you didn’t, Nessa.” “Don’t fucking interrupt me”, she snapped. “You always interrupt me. Stop it.” “See what I mean? We’re attacking each other like pit bulls. Jesus Christ, Vanessa, this is ridiculous. I thought this was love when we first started dating, but it’s not. I don’t know even know what this is”, he said. “Well then, I guess I don’t either.” Dylan took a long sip, finishing his drink. As the waitress made her way over, Dylan caught her gaze and shook his head three or four times. The waitress stopped in her tracks, turned around, and went back inside. When he looked back at Vanessa she had her elbows propped up on the table supporting her head. Her face was buried in her hands and slow, painful sobs echoed from her side of the table. “You gonna be ok?” Dylan asked. “What do you think?” she sobbed. Dylan’s eyes dropped
and he rubbed the calluses on his hands and avoided looking at Vanessa. “I asked you a question,” she said. Dylan looked up slowly. “What?” “I asked if you thought I would be fucking ok!” She shouted. She had pushed herself away from the table and stood up. “Huh?” “Calm down, Nessa. Jesus Christ, you’re causing a scene.” “We’re the only two people outside, Dylan! Just you and me! There isn’t any scene here, just a chicken shit coward named Dylan.” Dylan’s head lifted from his hands and he stood up. He was no longer embarrassed, he was only angry. “Shut up,” he said. His voice had grown hoarser than before. He could feel a knot forming in his throat. He swallowed it down hard and stood up. “What are ya gonna do about it, big tough guy? Break up with me again? You can’t… can’t accept me for who I am, the way I am, huh?” Dylan stood, frozen in the moment, unable to speak. “That’s what I figured,” she said, “You never were more than my walking mat anyway.” That’s when it happened. Dylan couldn’t even control his hand from swinging up across her face. It made a loud noise, like a heavy stone being dropped into a lake from a high dock. Her face changed so quickly and so radically that Dylan had to pinch himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. She looked as if she had turned into a ghost, a ghost with a faint red handprint on its left cheek. “I’m sorry,” he said. His voice was a pitch above a whisper. If the world hadn’t felt as if it had completely stopped she probably wouldn’t have been able to hear him. She didn’t respond, but only stood standing in the same spot with tears beginning to form in her eyes. Soon, he knew, they would be rolling down her cheeks in pairs and her forehead would turn into a sea of wrinkles. “Please, Nessa, I’m really sorry, let’s get outta here, ok?” She didn’t move. Their waitress opened the back door and poked her head through. “Everything alright out here?” “Yes,” Dylan said. “Are you sure? We heard yelling and I don’t want problems…” “I said we are fucking wonderful, dear.” he said. His rose his voice then lowered it like someone turning on a television and realizing that the volume is too loud. Her eyes widened and
Centripetal stared at Dylan. “Alright,” she said and hurried inside. “Let’s get out of here,” he said. “Ok,” Vanessa said. “Ok?” “Ok.” He reached into his pocket and dropped a crumpled ten and three one dollar bills on the table, put his arm around Vanessa and walked out. “Dylan?” she said, as they walked along the water-stained sidewalks. “Yes?” “I love you,” she said. “I know, Vanessa, I know. I love you too.”
The Sacrifices of a Footbridge Renée Johnson walk over me that’s what i’m here for don’t worry about me i’m only here to please i live to see You happy walk over me my gates are open my home is your home my bed is your bed eat of my food i will watch with famished eyes as the fruits of my labor come tumbling out of Your engorged lips walk over me and let little crumbs of my kindness fall into my wide open eyes do you know that they sting? i tell myself never again the gates are closed to ones like You but I let You walk right over me walk over me You don’t care how You treat me this is how friends are i trusted You i looked up to You i came to you for wisdom the one person I could ever call a mentor You walk over me
Centripetal with Your iron cleet soul my back is punctured time and time again canâ€™t You see the scares walk over me if that is Your will and i will let You because i love You and thatâ€™s what you want walk over me Love walk over me and i will still love but know that one day i will not be there and you will fall into the deep jagged pit that I supported you from.
A Stained R eality Picturesque
auren sat in the chair of the tattoo parlor, feeling the latex and cotton wipe away the excess ink and drops of blood from her hip. The stained cloth reminded her of a romantic tragedy, written, and left in the rain. She liked the little pinches the needle gave her as it decorated her flesh. For a short period of time, it provided her with a feeling of closeness and love. Lauren believed tattoos to be a metaphor for love. So many aspects intertwined, the delicacy and attentiveness the artist provides his counterpart to complete a masterpiece, while still causing slight pains and hardship. She hoped the artist might find love between the protruding bones that were his canvas. Maybe he would develop such admiration for his work, and in turn find a spot for her in his heart. She never experienced emotions so strong. The quivering needle sent shivers up her spine. This ecstasy was beyond flesh deep. Lauren wanted to grab the artist when he was done. She wished to pull him close, and whisper in his ear the depth of her feelings for him. She yearned to tell him how she imagined their amazing future together. She wanted to explain the picturesque images in her mind. Images of their children running happily, in a green grassed, suburban backyard. She searched for any words that would extend their moments together. Wiping the remainders of fresh ink and broken flesh, he balled the tainted cloth in his gloves and tossed them into the trash. Looking over his work, the artist asked her what she thought. Lauren searched deep into his eyes, waiting for him to say something more than he had. Longing for him to utter anything; anything that would stop her heart from mirroring the black and red splattered rag, wrapped up in used latex. All she saw was that he did not understand her and she would just end up another picture for his portfolio.
Energy Jennifer Streeter Your shoulders are the negative side of the magnet, and my hands are marked with a plus. A fishing hook lodged between the cracks in my spine tugs me to you, pulling me from the papers, the projects, the plans you and I have made together piled up on the table, sifted between mail. Something like love radiates inside of me, buzzing in my fingers, radiating in my liver, my toes, burns on your back where my affection scalded you. Your heart is a replica of mine valves that match up and fuze together like the broken, melted, crayons on the radiator. Edges clasping together, trying to escape our core, pounding against our ribcage, an electrocardiogram drum.
Letting Go Michael DiTommaso Letting you go Is so close To letting go of my skin That the two thoughts --In my head-Are inseperable And yet, for you To drop me was To drop a hot potato Sad though you were To lose a perfectly good potato You no longer had to deal With the burn With the pain With the stress That I brought into your life Because for you Things can’t stay the same You let go of the past Each memory a grain of sand Falling between your fingers And you’re only too happy To splay your hand just a bit wider And forget the world And does that make me wrong To cling to the floatsome That was once our relationship And is now just so much rubble Slowly sinking to the depths Because for me, letting go of you Is like letting go of my skin And that’s not just hard That’s impossible Were I a man to tip the bottle
D i T o mm a s o
Centripetal I’d drown my sorrows Were I a man to smoke, snort, or shoot The pain away Then it would exist only behind a veil Of altered consciousness But I am not that man I am not you Hiding behind the weeds In the garden of your life With the weed that seems To be anything but So I’ll try--I will--to let you go But how I’ll do it I really don’t know
D i T o mm a s o
What Follows the Death of A Chickadee Spencer Jackson
he oppressive summer sun beats down on the lush green grass as it pushes itself up in protest to the inevitable coming of fall before the deadness of winter. Encircled by tall, old pine trees, the small blue house and the lawn it sat on was like a hole cut out of the normal world. Nearby, a tiny child with bright blonde hair and wide blue eyes has stopped playing and is looking down at the ground. At his feet is a Chickadee, lying on its stomach with its wings slightly extended. Up close, the edges of his feathers look coarse and haggard. Each desperate, heaving breath seems to take away how much air can be drawn in with the next. The small boy watches with his mouth closed, his brow furrowed. He doesn’t touch the bird. It doesn’t take long; only a few minutes pass. The Chickadee looks up at the boy with its black eyes as it takes one final breath before becoming permanently still. The boy watches and waits. The bird does not move. Unsettled, the boy reaches down with one chubby finger and pokes the bird on the back. When the bird does nothing in response, the boy scoops the bird up and runs to his house. His small feet resounded against the smooth wooden floor as he reached the threshold of his kitchen. He stopped in the doorway, leaning against the frame and feeling the cool white paint against his smooth skin. His mother was standing in front of the window above the sink, leaning forward with both elbows locked as she clutched the edge of the counter. Her dirty blonde hair looked faint and thin, yet her figure was large and solid to the boy, who stared at her with the bird lying on his outreached palms. “Hey Mum,” he says grimly, “I found a bird.” She doesn’t turn around. “That’s great, honey.” She replies quietly. Her eyes are focused on the dirt driveway leading away from their little hole in the world. The same driveway the boy’s father drove up two days ago and hadn’t come back since. “Mum?” the boy asks, raising the bird up, “Is this what being dead is like?” She still doesn’t turn around. She doesn’t want him to see the tears in her eyes. “Go back out and play sweetheart,” she replied, “play as much as you can before dinner.”
Centripetal Without saying another word, he leaves the room with the bird. His tiny footsteps can be heard on his way out. The screen door smacks shut, and the mother is left alone once again. The boy’s question plays over in her mind, “Is this what being dead is like?,” and quietly she crumbles, sobbing, to her knees.
The Temporary Ones Haley Sciola Life is a temporary, yet eternal condition: the cliché goes we’ve only got so long to live, yet life keeps regenerating, one splitting zygote at a time. Then you get into the life cycle. That band, Five for Fighting, sings “You’ve only got a hundred years to live.... Fifteen there’s still time for you... Thirty-three you’re on your way and every day’s a new day.” But really, how many get even a hundred years? How many choose to live past twenty-one? Because for some, that is actually a choice worth contemplating; and I’d like to know for how many. I need to know: where are the living statistics, the ones who settle on continuing, but tackle mind and skin daily with shameful thoughts about quitting? And how about the ‘lucky ones’ who have simply failed in their attempts to qualify for burial six-six-six feet under? I need to save these Statistics. But what can anyone do or say to help? Anything? Or is it that once your mind gets fucked up, it just stays that way and keeps fucking up worse, until you don’t even want a hundred years anymore; not anywhere close. You did the same after your throw I caught at our softball game, after your drive I chased during field hockey practice: you followed through. And there—that refusal of the most precious gift— the one and only life a human can live— that refusal will not pass go to Heaven, will not collect two hundred dollars to cover funeral fees, and will not buy you a condo on Boardwalk;
Centripetal because you’re nothere to live in it, or play Monopoly in the first place. But that’s a long-ass game anyway, and you wouldn’t like it because it takes about seventy-nine years to finish, and at that point, less people would be saddened by your death— only solemned—because you would have reached a hundred anyway; and then, not just your mind—but your body as well— would be ripe for death. Temporary then would have bordered on mortal eternity. It would be your time to count your Hasbro money, plastic properties, as well as loved ones playing the Game around you, and tell them you’ve won; goodbye. But you threw the Game instead, and said nothing. I didn’t even know you that well. I haven’t seen you, smiled at you, or spoken to you in years— and I also haven’t paced back and forth alone in my room, with ideas floating among my thoughts— and then sat down to write them— in over a month. And yet—I am writing about you. I’ll never know your reasons, but if your motive was because you thought no one would care,then I ask you this: Why would your death—intentionally shattered— force me out of my creative drought? I didn’t even know you that well. The answer: you were temporary, but never anonymous; and even the temporary impact upon the thoughts of the incurably everlasting mind. Especially The Temporary Ones.
So Fast Brittanie Bradley
sat in my seat on the bus waiting to get home. My sister and my best friend Bridget sat close by as they talked about the day’s plans. So far they’d decided on playing outside and building forts, the usual fifth grader’s schedule. As I looked out the window, I could see that the leaves had begun to change and I could smell that wonderful smell of fall. I could feel that this was going to be a good day. I turned my head to start in as well when I heard a boy’s voice shout from the back of the bus. “Hey Brittanie, have you opened your letter from the school yet?” I recognized the boy’s voice immediately, only this time Kevin wasn’t being his normal self. “No, it’s not for me. It’s for my parents,” I replied, my letter sitting in my backpack at my feet. “You really should open it.” His voice was neutral and calm, completely out of character. I reached into the red folder and took the letter. “To the Parents of Brittanie L. Bradley” glared up at me. I held it in my hands for a moment deciding whether it was a good idea; it was for my parents after all. After a quick moment, I figured there was no real harm, it was just a letter, and tore at the back flap. I unfolded the letter carefully and quickly skimmed through the words that meant nothing to me, until I saw her name. On the 11th of October in 2000, one of our students, Sarah Vigue, died at the age of 10… My mind went blank. *** I sat quietly on the playground bench, fidgeting with the woodchips that surrounded me. I didn’t want to be here, this was completely my parent’s decision. Sitting there awkwardly, I watched as the boys chased the girls around the playground, throwing woodchips and threatening to give them cooties. Being the new girl wasn’t my idea and it wasn’t fun in any way. I continued my routine of watching the other kids, two loud boys were screaming at each other, when I saw a young girl in a blue dress walk towards me. Her hair was a dark brown and longer than mine, which was a difficult feat since mine was close to reaching my waist. She walked strong, leading the red head that bobbed behind her. “Who are you?” She asked once she reached me. “I haven’t
Centripetal seen you here before.” “I’m Brittanie, I just moved here from Cape Elizabeth,” I answered back, staring at my shoes and avoiding eye contact. “Well, my name is Sarah and this is Amber,” she said pointing to the red head. “Do you like tag?” “Yeah, I think I’m fast,” I let a smile cross my face. “I don’t know, I’m fast too,” she said. “Do you want to play with us and some of our friends?” “Sure,” I said, pulling myself off the bench. She reached out and grabbed my hand as we headed onto the playground, both of us smiling. *** I stared at the letter in my hands. My sister reached over the seat and grabbed it from my hands. When her eyes left the page, she looked down at me, concern clouding her vision. I just closed my eyes and rested my head on the seat. I needed to be anywhere but on the crowded bus. *** “Why does she get to go to the nurse’s office all the time? You know she’s just faking it to get out of school again,” I heard Kevin say to Ben. Kevin and Ben weren’t the smartest of kids. They always were making jokes, disrupting class, and basically being bullies to those who wouldn’t stick up for themselves. If Sarah was around, they wouldn’t have been so confident. She always stuck up for herself. “Smartest plan ever dude,” Ben replied back. “Guys, shut up. Would you want to throw up all day?” I was getting annoyed. Sarah had been out of school for almost a week now and all they had to say was that she was faking it. Their attitudes made me want to tell on them. It wasn’t for a few days after that she was able to come back to school. She had missed a lot of the homework, but the teachers made exceptions and tried to get her caught up again. Her personality never faltered, she was still as bubbly and outgoing as ever. The doctors had said that nothing was wrong. *** “Are you going to be ok?” Bridget nudged me with her arm. “Leave her alone. She needs quiet right now,” I heard my sister say over all the laughing and screaming on the bus. “That’s clearly not going to happen,” I heard Bridget say back. I didn’t hear voices or words, just white noise. Nobody knew, and nobody even cared. I felt like I had nobody to talk to,
nobody to understand. My eyes started to burn, but I couldn’t cry on the bus. Not around all these people. *** “She’d love to.” I heard my mother say into the phone. I looked at her as her face fell just a bit. It had to be Sarah’s mom on the phone. “Just let us know when you have more details. Yeah. Bye.” She hung up the phone and looked at me. “Sarah has been given a wish by the Make-A-Wish foundation. Her wish was to go to Disney World and she wants to bring you.” I didn’t know what the foundation was and I was scared to death to be away from my family, but I couldn’t say no to her. The next day I had her over to the house to swim. She’d changed so much over the months. Her hair had fallen out due to the chemo and now she wore a short wig to hide it. Her face and body had gotten so bloated I didn’t recognize her from old pictures. This wasn’t the skinny brunette I knew. She had finally been diagnosed with HLH, a term I couldn’t even pronounce, and they were doing all they could. She no longer produced bone marrow and would eventually need a transplant to stay alive. “Are you excited?” She asked as she walked towards the water. “I’m so excited,” I smiled back as she jumped into the water. A frown came across my face. Why was this happening to my friend? *** I looked back out the window again. The leaves were still the same colors and the smell still came through the windows, but this wasn’t the happy day I had thought it would be. We should’ve known this had happened. Sarah’s mom had stopped writing emails a few days ago. I thought maybe things had gone good and she had been recovering. My mom and Sarah’s mom had been emailing one another almost every other day since they arrived in Cincinnati. We knew of the complications, of the fungus found in her arm, of the donors not matching up, but we never stopped hoping it would work out. It hasn’t. *** “Ready? Go!” Sarah’s mom yelled as we girls went flying across the yard. I found a tall bush to hide behind as Sarah ran to a car. All six of us girls ran for cover as Sarah’s mom came after us. I watched as she crept up along the side of the house.
Centripetal I waiting for my moment and ran to the safety zone. Victory! I watched the other girls try in vain except for Sarah. We did a dance as we ran for the house. Sarah was throwing a going away party and it had been going great. We had already eaten ice cream, watched clueless, and played Mario Party. Now it was time for Street Fighters, but I suddenly didn’t want to be there anymore. My stomach felt wrong and I couldn’t think of Sarah leaving. I went under the table and called my mom while the other girls played, screaming and laughing when the fighters took their stances. “Mom, can I come home?” “Why? Are you not having a good time?” The concern in her voice came through. “I don’t feel good. I want to leave.” I didn’t know what was wrong. I told Sherri, Sarah’s mom, that my mom was coming and she said that was fine as she gave me a big hug and thanked me for coming. Sarah was upset, but she handled it fine and gave me a huge hug as well. I sat on the couch hugging my knees until my mother knocked on the door. I grabbed my sleeping bag and walked towards the car, yelling out goodbye to all the girls at the party. I stared out the window as we left the driveway, a sick feeling in my stomach. *** The bus finally came to our stop as I hoped off onto our road. I didn’t say a word to my sister or Bridget as I walked to the house. I walked in the door, dropped the letter onto the table and went to my room. This couldn’t have happened. I locked my door and cried until my parents got home. They tried comforting me, saying it was for the best, but the best would’ve been her coming home. The next few days we prepared for the funeral. I didn’t cry during the service and I didn’t cry as the casket was put into the ground. I didn’t cry for days. But when Sherri thanked my mom for everything we’d done for them a few days later, I broke down. Mostly I got angry that I left her party early. That I couldn’t help her, that it wasn’t me.
November 3rd, 2009 Jordan McKenney Madeleine, We had our Fiestaware picked out And names for our three children And a rough idea of a house Where Haley, Joshua, and Liam would live. Madeleine, you were going to teach me How not to be afraid of horses, How to plant vegetables And how to fix my own damned sweater. And I was going to bring you North, and value your input over that of Anyone else In the selection of this year’s Christmas tree. Madeleine, I was going to make you tea When you were sick, and answer the Door, turning all away but your dear friend, Come to save you with her Witchcraft or her grandmother’s soup. I was going to teach your brother how to write A better symphony, though I daresay he Would get along just fine. I was going to Buy you scarves in Boston when we went to see The new year come in. I was going to ask you at that same park bench in Newcastle When my student loan checks had finally been enough to cover The cost of your small, understated, elegant, modest, Typically New England, non-conflict diamond. Madeleine, you were going to be happy when I called you today So you’ll understand my confusion When you breathed goodbye Instead of hello.
P urgatory Christian Passen
find myself once again turning to you for guidance. I have cursed your name, I have turned my back to you, and I have run from you without looking back. Despite all my best efforts, I find you standing before me with open arms. I collapse to my knees and beg for your mercy, but have have already given it to me. I crawl to your feet to kiss your toes, but you step back and say, “Stand up.” I look up at you with fear over flooding my eyes. Every bone in my body is shaking. I can hardly speak, for my voice is but a faint trembling whisper. Your offering hand descends to mine, to lift me back to my feet. Ashamed, I look down. I have found I can no longer look you in the eye. You’re stare is so strong, I feel as if you see right through me, as if you are stripping me of all I am and all I pretend to be, simply to see what is actually there, beneath all the pathetic defenses, I insist on putting up. Before you, I feel as if I am naked. With every ounce of my strength, I reach out my trembling hand. You take hold, with a soft, welcoming, yet at the same time, firm and sturdy grasp. I feel as if I am lifted up with such force, that the whole world has moved from beneath me. The surrounding air feels cold, yet refreshing, as if I am standing on top of a misty mountain, embracing nothing but fresh air. Again you look at me with a stern eye. I stand before you with no sense of pride or confidence; such worldly things have been lost or forgotten. All else feels distant to me. There is nothing but you and I and the fine line between Heaven and Hell. Behind you lies the gates of heaven, which some people have described as “The pearly white gates” or “The gates of Gold.” In this light, I don’t see the image, that so many people before me have portrayed, instead, I see a somewhat peculiar sight. I don’t see shiny gates of gold, but rather red silk like a curtain. As if a play is about to begin, I expect to see the curtain open and reveal a wondrous view. A sight of angels, harps, clouds, and an overwhelming white light, brighter than that of the sun. However, this curtain remains closed. Opposite this curtain is another, the gates of hell. Behind this second curtain, what I
Pa s s e n
expect to be revealed is a stretch of perpetual darkness, shadowy figures resembling that of human bats, an overwhelming rush of sweltering heat reflected from the streets of fire, and an unwelcoming mist reeking of sulfur. I look upon your face once more and attempt to utter a thought, but my voice remains silent before you. My mind is racing, as my eyes wander. I am trying to collect all my misplaced thoughts, yet they remain lost in the abyss of my hollow mind. Suddenly I find myself breathing heavier. My eyes begin to widen as if they could take up my whole face. My heart is pounding as if it could burst out of my chest at any given moment. My head slowly turns, terrified, I look to you once more and whisper two words in a faint, trembling voice, â€œJudgment day.â€?
Pa s s e n
U n t i t l e d , A l ia-Ross Elw y
Songs and R eminders of the Dead Robby Binette Over the last two months, we’ve cleaned out your closet and I’ve never drank so much in my life We gave two shirts to Paul, four pairs of pants to Rick, and two shirts and four pairs of pants to Bonesy They all seem to have your size, surprisingly but to tell the truth, I’m starting to feel like that closet, cleaned out and empty We cleaned out the draws of your dresser and gave everything to good will Your room is empty now and Mom never no longer sleeps in your bed The long johns you used to wear skiing I’m sure will find a nice home, your winter coats will warm someone else this winter, your boots, jeans and sweatshirts will fit someone else’s figure but the Red Sox shirt I got you for Christmas though is still unworn and bears the tags will probably still hide in the boxes we’ve hidden upstairs in the attic for God knows how long What they don’t tell you about someone dying is that it’s not the passing, the hospital, the wake or the funeral that’s the hardest thing to deal with but the things that they leave behind The pictures of you are still on all the walls and the eyes seem to follow us around like that of a haunted houses Do we get rid of them? Do we take them down? We’ll throw them away eventually I guess The one thing I’m sure you’d be pissed about is that we canceled the sports package on the Cable box and since I never watched any of it, your chair remains empty and the TV off
Centripetal The chair is an artifact now so scary in it’s shade of dark blue that the cat won’t even sleep in it We gave your fishing rods to friends and relatives, your collection of lures and hooks to Uncle Peter in hopes that he’d use them to catch fish you wouldn’t but living on the river now seems to have lost its’ significance The fish that you caught on Lake Ontario that summer is still mounted on the wall collecting dust like it always has next to the bottles that I’ve started collected, a collection that has seemed to grow and grow with your passing Wine bottles, absinthe, vodka, bourbon and gin, and beer bottles of every sort just left there to rot for some strange reason, a reminder of something Who would have guessed there would be that many different brews from Sam Adams? I do now I dance and prance around the living room listening to all the songs you taught me to love sometimes: Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, The Four Tops and everything Motown before diving into the blues of B.B. King and Robert Johnson I spin and swirl in an intoxication till I have to sit down, until the room stops spinning before passing out on the floor At night though, I try to pursue the life I knew you would want me to have that of a writer, a teacher, something of worth but the applications just pile up, the stories never get finished and the poems never get written It’s all just become a mental block I sit down at my desk amongst the CDs and the books, methods of escape and I stare at the blank screen and nothing comes then I reach for the glass, hoping it’ll numb
Icarus’ Disciple Kevin Nordle (In Loving Memory of Jeff Nicolay 1953-2010) Fly free spirit! Fly! Defy the Gods and Float freely to the heavens! Spry spirit flit and ride The winds that blow! This fleeting sphere Cannot contain cherished Souls as yours. Glide good spirit! Glide! Fleece the stars From Heaven high; vie For height with hawks— Sing sweet soliloquies For sparrows. Rest rare spirit, reside! Furl your tired wings— Lie in peace; soar tranquil Skies. Though the flesh Flashes briefly, your soul shall Always shine.
Centripetal Poets and Writers Officers Fall 2010
From left to right: Kayley Fouts, Mike DiTommaso, Kristen Russell, Haley Sciola
Plymouth State Poets and 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, The Clock, and the PSU English and Art Departments. We would especially like to thank Dr. Rogalus and Dr. Liz Ahl, our advisors, without whom this would not have been possible.
Notes on the Contributors Adam DiFilippe shuffles through an intense review of art submissions as the Art Editor of Centripetal. Michael DiTommaso never fails to debate the quality of a poem’s ingredients as the Poetry Editor of Centripetal. As the Poets and Writers Treasurer and open mic night MC extraordinaire, Mike plugs Centripetal deadlines, when he’s not playing tunes on his harmonica. Kayley Fouts is the Poets and Writers Advertising Manager. Her ads are plentiful and incorporate various traces of artistic ability. Nathan Gagne has been designing the covers of Centripetal for eons (actually, three years). He patiently works on countless revisions of our final cover draft, and then our final-final draft, and then our final-final-final draft… Spencer Jackson brings his prose-iatrical experience to the critiques as Prose Editor. Veronica Musch rescues the Co-Editors in myriad layout crises as Layout Manager of Centripetal. Paul Rogalus is the Co-Advisor to Plymouth State Poets and Writers. Paul has been with Poets and Writers since the dawn of its archaic creation, and has been spotted at every Poets and Writers meeting thus far. He never fails to provide both constructive and positive support to the members, especially the Co-Presidents. Kristen Russell & Haley Sciola are the Co-Editors of Centripetal and Co-Presidents of Plymouth State Poets and Writers. They enjoy watching slam videos on YouTube in the Poets and Writers office. Kristen employs her agent-like abilities to book features for open mic nights, in order to promote the spoken art that Centripetal cannot voice. Haley utilizes strategic patience to assess, reassess, and re-reassess the nitty gritty aspects of Centripetal. They are very proud to have produced their first Centripetal together!