“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” -Lewis Carroll
Volume 13 F Issue 1 Fall 2011
Kristen Leigh Russell
L ayout M anager Veronica Musch
E ditorial A dvisors Liz Ahl Paul Rogalus
S enior E ditors
Liz Ahl Michael DiTommaso Spencer Jackson Paul Rogalus Kristen Leigh Russell
A ssociate E ditors Ryan Cameron Melissa Davidson Renée Johnson Andrew Maznek Patrick O’Sullivan Cecil Smith Haley A. Sciola
C over A rt “Thimble ”
Dexter R ichards
Adam Di Filippe C en tripetal is printed True C olors P rint and D esign 57 M ain Street P lymouth , NH (603) 536-3600
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 literary submissions: prose, micro-fiction, flash fiction, screen plays and poetry of any stlye, each less than 4,000 words; and up to four art submissions: high resolution (300-dpi) 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 email@example.com. All submissions must contain name and contact information for the artist/poet/writer. Centripetal accepts one time North American Rights for print and online publication. All rights revert to the authors upon publication. Acknowledgements: 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, Plymouth House of Pizza, The Clock, Dr. Liz Ahl and the PSU English and Art Departments. We would especially like to thank Dr. Paul Rogalus, our advisor, without whom this would not have been possible.
PSU Poets and Writers 19 Highland Avenue Suite A14 Plymouth, NH 03264 firstname.lastname@example.org
Contents Volu m e 13 F Iss u e 1 F a l l 2 011
1. Eve Speaking of the Exile 3. Dandelion Fireworks 4. Flying in the Deep Blue Sky 5. Exiling Myths 6. Cheshire Cat in the Sky 7. Self-Made Man
Melissa Fintonis Kristen Leigh Russell Renée Johnson Katherine MacDonald Kristen Leigh Russell Cecil Smith
11. The Age of Odds
13. Good Morning Vanessa
14. An Outing with Mother
21. The Seven Deadly Sins
23. Between Ourselves 24. Cat’s Meow
Katrina Carbone Michael DiTommaso
25. Little Red
26. An Ode to Edgar Allen Poe
Kristen Leigh Russell
28. To a girl I used to Know
29. Some Boys Don’t Leave
30. For Lizzie
32. Charlie’s Grandfather
Adam Di Filippe
38. What’s Disgusting? 39. Silence 40. An Open Letter from Chewbacca to the Rebel Alliance
Benjamin DiZoglio Heidi Therrien Michael DiTommaso
42. Authority Issues
43. Ivory Dreams
44. the grotesques
Adam Di Filippe
45. Burdens 47. Candy Cane
Tyler Carignan Christian Passen
49. The Hounds of Tindalos
59. Sunset 60. Inspiration
Alana Baron Jennie Fogg
61. GRAVEYARDS Sara Ramsdell 62. Irene
64. A Funeral Procession?
65. Last Will and Testament
Eve Speaking of the Exile Melissa Fintonis Men will blame me for our paradise that was lost; they will write of my betrayal and how I alone tempted Adam to pick and eat the fruit that hung from the forbidden tree. They will say it was in my nature, for sin must have been looming within me from the moment He created me. Something must have gone wrong as his hands crafted my body, as Adam waited patiently for my arrival. Yet, they do not know the truth of the matter, and even if they did, they would still write me off as guilty; Adam is not, could never be to blame. Adam desired me, even begged Him to create me, and upon my awakening, he was there to love and to guide me among a world where nature, animals, and we lived as one and the same. We traveled the vast and open lands of our Paradise, and came across the tree together. It was forbidden, Adam proclaimed. He told me to stay away from it, or else we would be punished. The snake taught me to question. He planted the seed in my mind; why would He plant a tree that was forbidden? Yes, why would He? The tree had to be for us, that fruit oh how beautiful it looked with its rosy, red hue; I wanted to touch it. The snake whispered sweet nothings in my ear; Imagine what it would taste like, oh the knowledge that we would consume. He wants you to eat the fruit, so why not try it? He would not harm the children he created.
Yes, I will admit, I did indeed lead Adam to the tree, and I ate from the tree, but it was his choice alone to eat along with me as my arm outstretched towards his. I am not at fault for the choice he made, for the serpentâ€™s tongue twisted my own. Exiled, we stand apart, the man blaming me for our parting from Eden and Him. I do not regret the sin that I tasted. I have been shown a world that is neither perfect or imperfect; a world that may be harsh and unbearable at times, but one that brings moments of happiness that make it that much more able to endure. My Adam, my love, how much we been through, the years we have spent raising a family and creating this earth from my own childbearing womb; a gift He has blessed me with, even knowing what I did. I know that we will return when our time has come and He has forgiven our mistakes. He, the almighty, our lord and protector; the one who granted this newfound life in order for us to shape the world as it stands now.
D AN D ELION FI R E W O R S , K risten Leigh Russel l
Flying in the Deep Blue Sky RenĂŠe Johnson Is the skyâ€™s blue sticky? Does it stain the skin? Is it thick? Is it creamy? Is it fluid like water, so that to flywould be like a swim? Would it drip from us in droplets, When our feet return to ground? Would it leave puddles of sky stagnant on pavement, absorbing into the grass. Would young ones, Just learning how be tied to floaties held by their mothers as if they were balloons? If all this were true. I would fly until my skin camouflaged in and when I came back down it would look like the sky was falling.
Exiling Myths Katherine MacDonald you shouldn’t be afraid of the night, see, the stars are just birthmarks on the blackberry back of an overexposed universe. they’re just myths projected onto the heavenly body. don’t be wary of cancer, we can bind its claws in linen ribbon. and we won’t stop there. we can put the bear in hibernation, snap the horn of the capricorn, convince the twins to take a swim with pisces. before we seek solace in finding the sun, we can take the task of locating the roaming, ragged sirius who can be found fighting the bull. pull him from the fray and tuck a rose into his collar.
M acDona ld
Cheshire Cat in the Sky Kristen Leigh Russell Traveling in haste quite late! Mysterious sounds surround us. Crickets are playing their violins, A simple symphony of night. Bound by our busy lives, We deceitfully sought distraction. Spotted! Our deviation: A gleaming smile in the sky. His grin beaming Bright from the moonlight, Miraculously opens to advise: “Only a few find the way, some don't recognize it when they do.” His smile takes us back, To a pile of leaves we dove in. Redeeming a fraction of joy and Seeking deep meaning in leaps. We recall now, a bustling Weathering of imagination. A destruction of our naive youth, A continuum of humdrum! We continue down the path Chasing fireflies.
Self-M ade M an Cecil Smith No one would think to bring a weapon to a graduation for Goffstown High school, so in my head I knew I was as safe as I could ever be. That was where it would end, though. No more soft white walls to protect me from hands grabbing at my neck. No officials to keep tabs on words spilled from young mouths caught up in the ignorance of fifteen years living. Whatever safe ground I had run along those past years was sweeping from under my feet, dragging me to the edge of whatever cliff side wonder lay behind the curtains of a madman. It had been a soft breaking until then, the shining floors covered in secrets to be walked by on our way to class. No one would ever ask, “Why?” I was safe from having to answer things I had not a precise answer for. I knew I could never step into a dress again that way. I knew my hair felt freer shorter, cropped close to my head to say I was not the same. My jeans were baggy and worn, and sneakers never left the heels of my feet. It had been over a year since I’d worn a bra. The lines of students in front of me stood far too quickly to look somber. It seemed all of their eyes shone with the promise of parties in the weeks to come. It was a time to drink and fuck and pretend that the world never happened to people like us. The world could never matter to us, because we were at the shifting gears of time, awaiting the papers that lead us into the golden light of “The Real World.” “What do you want for your birthday?” Mom would always ask me months in advance, because I would never have an answer. It’s hard to admit to your own mother that you do not want that blouse, or those heels. No purses or makeup or shiny new earrings to make your face shimmer for that cute boy in sixth period. I can never remember exactly what was said, or how the moments lined themselves up for that answer I could never take back. What I can recall is taking her computer keyboard from her, and typing in the words that would start the engine. My mother had no idea what a breast binder was when she saw it, but a few moments of clicking about the website gave her whatever insight she needed. I can still see her eyes growing large, almost making her young again; her forty turned thirty in surprise.
Centripetal 8 One month later, the binder came in the mail, and all I could feel were nerves when the packaging was ripped open on my bedroom floor. I hadn’t had the courage to open it in front of her. It was my burden to take on the rest of my life, and sacred cotton felt like freedom on my fingertips. Another line of students was up in front of the stage, grinning like they had just found that twenty dollar bill in the wash. I wanted to get up and run out of those double doors, fleeing along the sidelines of the highway until I found my way home. Even if no one was looking at me, I was certain that they were. Maybe the corner of an eye would bat at me, asking what the hell I was doing wearing maroon. “Isn’t that the boy color?” I thought they might think. “Why is it draped around you?” Nothing would leave their mouths, but I could hear it in my ears like one thousand suns exploding. There were only two of us in the crowd, easily placed by our soft faces and hard colors. We had both worn black under our gowns that day, I think. Maybe we were mourning the loss of four years gone past, or the womanhood we had left behind, or the feeling of security that had touched us so fleetingly at every turn that was washed away by every camera that caught us in that moment of change. It was only after the first week of binding at school that I felt brave enough to look Andy in the eyes. He was a year older than me, just coming into his syringe made manhood, and he was beautiful. The curves of his hips were still round, and his face was puffy from the after bite of androgens running through his blood. The tiniest bit of stubble had just grown in patches along his neck. He was the first transsexual our school had run into. All of the protocol they had had in place no longer applied to him. I could imagine the secretaries scrambling to correct their pronouns, trying to understand how they were meant to approach him from then on when he went to the bathroom. Was it the right one? Could he walk in among urinals without them being caught on the ass end of a lawsuit? I wanted his beard like there was nothing else in this world worth waiting for. I wanted to feel the scratching against my hands when I rubbed them on my face in the morning. I wanted to feel the scrape of a razor against my throat while shaving, and the itching of my shirt rubbing against the irritated skin all day. I wanted that in such a way that it ached deep in my chest, and I almost wanted to dig my fingers in just to see why it
9 Centripetal burned so badly. It was a warm tingle, a sort of innocent desire to assimilate. Our row was called up next, and I almost cried. I could see the kids behind me gawk a little when I walked past, but I get the feeling now that the surprise was over in a flush of excitement. They were up next. The girl in front of me smiled and made her own way up to the pedestal that would mark the end of everything we had built our lives upon for so much time. I could feel the sweat building in my palms, and I knew that I was shaking, blushing, terrified. I had never even considered that I would make it as far as that, gazing out to a crowd that would post my walk to the future on Facebook; something surely to be forgotten months later. I had only ever told my friends, some family. Everyone else was new to the existence of me. “So your name is going to be…” “Cecil. It’s Cecil now. And if you could, you know, say ‘he.’ Maybe just when we’re alone, if that’s okay.” “Yeah, sure! I, uhm…yeah!” Ariel’s face was a little flustered. She had been so shocked when I told her my new goal in life was to have a dick by the time I was twenty-five. “So, I mean, is it dangerous? I mean, I know surgery is dangerous to begin with, but, is it, like, especially dangerous? Or something…” “Well,” I told her, “It’s not so much the surgery I’m worried about. It’s the people I worry about. I mean, people like me are killed for this, you know?” “Wait, seriously?” After years in high school I’d thought she might have caught on that difference isn’t exactly the best way to get people to like you. Kids were teased for being gay, for being fat, for being black, tall, short, thin, Asian, everything. The “Real World” didn’t seem like much more, to me, than high school without painted yellow lines. “Yeah, there was a guy a while back who was killed by some his own friends who found out. People like me get beat up for this shit. I’ll be surprised if someone doesn’t kill me by the time I’m forty!” I had tried to laugh it off, like it would never actually happen to me, but we couldn’t get it all out. It was choked in our throats because we knew that it might. Those who do not assimilate become famous, or have their bodies dumped behind bars, far from the street lights. We didn’t talk about that again until over a year later. She’s
Ce n t r i peta l 10 still scared for me sometimes, and I can see it in her face when another one like me has been gutted in a paper, or left in the ICU because to so many in the world, birth is concrete and you should just stick with the cards you’re dealt. I never liked card games. “Ceira Smith.” That name stung me like an ice bath. I had never been so ashamed to hear it said out loud, to have ears touch it and know what it meant. I couldn’t fit in that name anymore. My body wasn’t hers, and my brain was never a she, and I felt like an imposter until I stepped out into that light. Even with her name still ringing around the rooms’ walls, their eyes were filled with me. I stopped shaking then, forced but potent enough get me to the podium. I took a breath in and each step, step, step I took felt like fire was running up my legs, chewing on my spine until all I had left was one little vendetta to grab and run with until all that they heard was me, and everything they saw matched up with what their ears already knew. I reached out my man sized hands, and smiled so hard my teeth were screaming when I saw that diploma about to hit my palms.
11 C e n t r i p e t a l
The Age of Odds Ryan Cameron What you are about to hear Is the rhythmic beating Of my head against the road sign That is telling me to Reduce speed What you are about to hear Is the swallowing of 3 grams And the sizzle of a lucky strike What you are about to hear Is a scream That reaches all the way to Williamsburg Virgina But can not be heard from my parents room just down the hall What you are about to hear Is the sound of optimism Spitting in your face And going to bed with ease What you are about to hear Is the sound of two hands One too big and one too small Sealed unnaturally with the sweat from their palms What you are about to hear Is the catch of a single piece of pink confetti Presented to the wrong person At the right moment What you are about to hear Is not a poem about living in a van with your best friend Crying non stop Because neither of you canâ€™t seem to shut up What you are about to hear Is the sneaking away from responsibilities So that a single pall mall can be smoked by the river A kind of Vonnegut fetish So it goes What you are about to hear is The sewing of something better than just fabrics
Centr ipetal 12 And something more tangible than ghost What you are about to hear Is the vibration of a phone In constant use In careful thought What you are about to hear Is the sound of two hands Both in perfect f itting Needing nothing to keep them together Ending with one last vibration of my phone
13 Cent r ipeta l
Good Morning Vanessa Renée Johnson I know how awful I look. My hair creates a wild mane around my face, which has yesterday’s makeup smeared all over it. I usually make it a point to avoid any type of reflective service before I have a shower, but today Priscilla is here. So I pull my hair into a bun and splash some water on my face hoping that she won’t come down the stairs as perfect as always. She does, and I try my hardest not to notice her as I count scoops of coffee into the filter. From the corner of my eye I can see her sitting at the kitchen table with her left hand placed in a ray of sun, making the diamond shine. I look down at my own bare left hand and slowly let it wither into the sleeve of my bathrobe. I press the button on the coffee maker and wait until I hear it gurgle before I move to mixing Mom’s medicine. This has been my morning routine for five years now, but today there is an extra cup in the machine, and Priscilla has crossed yet another one of my life goals off her list. My sister is five years younger than me, but she has always managed to live more than I have in every way. In high school she was the popular cheerleader, with a full scholarship to art school. I was the girl who ate lunch in the library and was unable to go to college, because Mom was sick by the time I had made enough money to go. Last night Sergio picked Priscilla up in his blue sports car. She wore this beautiful little dress she had bought in Paris. I had just checked on Mom and was getting ready to make myself dinner when Priscilla had called me to share the good news. I open the cabinet and take out two mugs. Priscilla’s phone begins to ring; from how she’s talking I’m guessing it’s one of her girlfriends. The morning silence is interrupted and she begins to tell the story all over again, but with a certain flair that I’ve never known her to have. I pour the hot coffee into the mugs, focusing on the smooth sound the liquid makes as they begin to fill. I place a steaming cup of black coffee in front of her the way she likes it, and she picks it up without even looking at me. In our house we have a set of mugs; each one has a family member’s name across the side. As I sit down and stir in my cream, I noticed that I have given Priscilla my cup. She doesn’t even realize that she’s drinking from the “Vanessa’s Mug”, and then I notice that am drinking from Mom’s.
C e n t r i p e t a l 14
A n Outing with Mother Kevin Nordle MOTHER: About 60 SON: About 30 LONELY MAN: About 40 WAITRESS: About a C-cup Scene: MOTHER and SON sit at a table in a restaurant- dim lighting. LONELY MAN sits at another table, alone. MOTHER - Did you wash your hands? SON - Yes, Mother. MOTHER - Don’t slouch. SON - Sorry, Mother. MOTHER - Did you decide what you’re having? SON (Looking down at the menu) The steak and potatoes, I think. MOTHER - What about the salmon? (beat) I have heard good things about their salmon. SON - Maybe the salmon… (pause) MOTHER - But their steak has also received excellent reviews. SON - Yes, the steak does sound lovely. MOTHER - That’s what killed your father though. (beat) Steak and whores. SON - Mother, please. MOTHER - Alright, alright; get the steak if you wish. SON - I agree that the salmon would be better. (WAITRESS enters)
15 Cent r i peta l WAITRESS - Hello there folks. My name is Jackie, and I’ll be your server tonight. (MOTHER and SON nod to WAITRESS) MOTHER (to SON) Don’t slouch. SON - Yes, Mother. WAITRESS - The special tonight is a porterhouse steak served under a portabella, Swiss reduction sauce with a side of fresh, grilled garlic pea snaps and a baked potato. MOTHER - I shall have the salmon, please. (beat) No sides. No sauce. WAITRESS - The salmon does come with a side of MOTHER (interrupting without raising her voice) The salmon, please. (beat) No sides. No sauce. WAITRESS - Yes, ma’am. Anything to drink? MOTHER - A glass of water. WAITRESS (to SON) And for you? (long, long pause) SON - I will have the steak, please. MOTHER - I shall have the steak, please. SON - Yes, Mother. (beat) I shall have the steak, please. MOTHER - What about the salmon? (long, long pause) SON - I thought you might let me try a bite of yours, Mother. (beat) So now I can try both. MOTHER (to WAITRESS) Isn’t he a bright boy? And he’s so handsome. He’s single, you know. WAITRESS - Oh… I… umm… (pause) Was there anything to
C e n t r i p e ta l 16 WAITRESS (cont.) drink with that? SON (embarrassed) Water, please. (beat) (WAITRESS begins to leave) SON - Instead of a baked potato, can I have it mashed? WAITRESS - I’m sorry… we don’t have mashed… (takes menus, exits) MOTHER - Why didn’t you get the salmon? SON - I told you why, Mother… MOTHER - Why didn’t you ask that young girl out? SON - She didn’t seem interested, Mother. MOTHER - You were slouching. SON - Yes, Mother. MOTHER - Your father slouched. (beat) And he ate meat. (beat) And he fucked whores. SON - Please, Mother. MOTHER - Alright, alright; but ask that young girl out when she comes back. (WAITRESS enters, puts one glass on the table, and moves to the next one to take orders) WAITRESS (to LONELY MAN) Hello, Hank. (long pause) The special tonight is a porterhouse steak served under a portabella, Swiss reduction sauce with a side of fresh, grilled garlic pea snaps and a baked potato. LONELY MAN (to the table) I’ll have the steak, with a glass of chardonnay. WAITRESS - Ok. Is there anything else? (long pause) LONELY MAN - Can I have my potatoes mashed?
17 C e n t r i p e t a l WAITRESS - Sure thing, Hank. (WAITRESS exits with menu. MOTHER lights a cigarette as she passes) WAITRESS - There’s no smoking in here, ma’am. MOTHER - (stamps out cigarette on table cloth) Sorry, sweetheart. My son here wanted to ask you a question, though. (long, long pause) SON - May I have my potatoes mashed, please? WAITRESS - I’m sorry, but we don’t serve mashed potatoes here. (WAITRESS exits) MOTHER - Why didn’t you ask that young girl on a date? SON - I think that man got mashed potatoes. MOTHER - Who cares what that man got? (beat) Why didn’t you ask her on a date? SON - She didn’t seem interested. MOTHER - How can you tell? SON - I wanted the mashed potatoes… MOTHER - Potatoes and steaks are bad for you. SON - I know, Mother. MOTHER - So is slouching. SON - I know, Mother. MOTHER - You are such a bright boy, Son, and so handsome… like your father was. (beat) Hopefully that is all you inherited from him. SON - Yes, Mother.
C e n t r i p e ta l 18 (WAITRESS enters with LONELY MAN’s wine and food) WAITRESS - Anything else, Hank? (long pause) LONELY MAN - May I have your phone number? WAITRESS - Excuse me? LONELY MAN - Your phone number… May I have it? WAITRESS (she pauses, writes something on a piece of paper) I get off at 8. LONELY MAN - OK then. (LONELY MAN rises, not eating or drinking the wine, pays an exuberant amount of money, and exits) MOTHER - You’ve missed another opportunity. (beat) Just like your father. SON - Yes, Mother. MOTHER - You know, that’s what killed him. Indecision and missed opportunity. SON - Yes, Mother. MOTHER - You should ask her out anyway. SON - Mother, please. I will be too embarrassed. MOTHER - I shall be too embarrassed. SON - Yes, Mother. (pause) SON - Anyway, I can’t stand to do it. I shall feel ill… I might even faint! (beat) It shall be terribly embarrassing. ` MOTHER - It will be terribly embarrassing. SON - It will be terribly embarrassing, Mother.
19 C e n t r i p e ta l MOTHER - Don’t slouch; it makes you look fat. Sit up and ask her out when she comes back. SON - What should I say? MOTHER - Tell her she has nice breasts—girls these days are obsessed with the size of their breasts. (pause) Tell her they look natural… Though God knows they aren’t. SON - Mother, please. MOTHER - Very well; ask her to go to a movie with you. SON - There isn’t anything good in the theatres (pause) Ever. MOTHER - Stop making excuses. This is exactly like last night. Stop moping and be a man. (pause) Here she comes. Ask her on a date. SON - Yes, Mother. (WAITRESS enters with food) WAITRESS - Is there anything else? (Long, long pause) MOTHER - Go ahead, Son. SON - Why can’t I have my potatoes mashed? WAITRESS - We don’t mash potatoes here. Is there anything else? MOTHER - My son was just admiring the size of your breasts. SON (begging) Mother …. WAITRESS - Excuse me?? MOTHER They are much nicer than the ones his father’s girlfriends had. They were all sluts though. Total whores! (beat) At least you don’t look like a complete harlot. SON (weakly) Mother… please...
Centripetal 20 (WAITRESS exits, fuming) MOTHER - You should have asked her out on a date. You eat steak and you mope and slouch and you don’t even ask pretty, wholesome girls on dates. (pause) You’ll die like your father did. SON - Trying to escape you? (Curtain)
The Seven Deadly Sins Melissa Fintonis Ginger melancholy tastes so sweet, as Gluttony feeds on the honey crumbs from the nectar of bees. Pride marks the vines in the twilight hour and sleeps alone in its harrowing tower. Forbidden fruits hang, tempting and tantalizing as morals fade away, Lust in anguish and materializing. Star-crossed, destined for a truth that hides Sloth in the dreams of untold stories like churning tides. Rubies and gems glitter sinfully in the midst, illicit treasures that Greed waits to snatch with an iron fist. Crimson darkness shrouds the eyes of Anger, wreaking havoc and chaos in its hours of danger. Inviting with a temptress stare, Envy yearns for prey so na誰ve and rare.
Surrender Tyler Carignan You’re written in me I can’t put my fingers on the ink but it’s there, flowing in thick beads from the broken ends of sadistic arrows. I feel the graphite mixed with my blood; heart pumping the fatal concoction through distilled arteries, because being your canvas is like death, where all that is left of me is the blank slate of white space, which even under a microscope yields imperfections. With each broad stroke comes a tender gash, encroaching pigments that dry into a ripened mix of gushing desires, boiled silence and calculated words. The color devours my everything. I am fragments; a stone pillar so forsaken that it is only the idea of a man. Oh, how Sodom’s burning splinters the definition of existence! Where I can only fold my cards in with the Lot. As long as death is darkness; the abyss is away from you. Hopefully too, my theory is confirmed, before the consuming wrath of slaughterhouse Red ammonia-pungent Blue and cowardice Black all smear me away that life is just like death only worse.
Between Ourselves Katrina Carbone and your countenance is resoundingly so as the breath you take in each time is colored spearmint lightly. the days of treating people as things are over. you treat me neither here nor Â there.
Catâ€™s Meow Michael DiTommaso Two slinky fat cats struttin' their stuff like they're the cat's meow, I'm talkin' cat calls whistles echoing off the walls when these two walk by The soft sound of somber jazz sets their paws tappin' "What's happenin'?" They purr to the feline fems, tails twitchin' to the switches on the hat and snare. To be fair, these high rollin' daddies, suckin back fatty milk and mice, like to play nice when they're on the prowl, seeking the growl of the sax and some casual sex This is the apex of their nine lives, no wives to chain them, restrain them when the music calls, it's balls to the walls when night falls These cats are beasts of nature, known by the nomenclature felix felix, because, baby, they're all about gettin' lucky. Tonight, perhaps, failing any mayhaps, or a fight these slick cats will have a dog day, all play til dawn, when those feline females are all gone
D i T o mm a s o
Little Red Leah Loraditch Red like the sticky solo cup in my hand, like the lipstick that Iâ€™m almost positive is smudged all over my face. Lumberjock grabs my ass and stares down the front of my shirt. The better to see you with tonight. It must have been the leather jacket or maybe it was the wolfish grin. Maybe it was the way Lumberjock stepped away from me as he sulked over. Big hands. Big arms. Big feet. The better to hold you with. Lumberjock spears us with his eyes as the wolf wraps his arms around my waist, heat from his breath hot on my neck. His lips are hungry as they press against mine The better to eat you up with.
An Ode to Edgar Allan Poe Kristen Leigh Russell Every time I hear the tap tap tap, The constant rapping on my door, I curl continuous chills. It’s that ridiculous raven again, With a constant repetition of “Nevermore!” “Nevermore!” It’s in your head I know, that Belligerent black cat: so innocent. You, suspicious and overly vigilant, Filled with false paranoia, then turn to Gash the eye of your precious pet Pluto! You become consumed with guilt. It’s in your head I know, The eye of that man: the haze. It’s there, staring, glazed and gazing! Your obsession hideously hacked his body! You try to hide it beneath the floorboards, Try not to let it boastfully show. It's in your head I know, the Uncertainty of a strange dark pit, with Rats critiquing your every move: A slight hope of tearing these ropes. You rot with thrill, terror, and suspense. But it was my pendulum you stole! Your guilt is tapping at my Rue Morgue, It's you who built my house of horrors... You, who fills me with such inspiration! How could I possibly adore your wretchedness? Grotesque! Yet… I long for that tapping… Evermore! Evermore!
A l i m e n ta ry, E r i k a Ga l luzzo
To a girl I used to K now Kevin Nordle She tells me people are too damn greedy and she Believes they will trample over her tired Bones to get what they want. They fear her feet from corners of neo-florescent Moons; she moves with rhythms of ecstasy and effervescent, introspective decisions. These beasts and demons help her sleep in the Hell of a starless night; she looks for God’s face In a smoke clouded room. She sleeps tight in the afternoons; finding peace in A hash pipe—finding snow in April under a pillow she Forgot about long ago… She remembers me and thinks back to days on the Beach; sucking lemonade and ice tea instead of Guys behind her building. Juxtapose the heart’s prose with a bloodied nose; Notice your best high is your worst low; and that Light still shines through the window… Her cry for help has failed because demons and Beasts replaced the saints and priests that Were her friends. And no one hears her here in the small corner Of a rundown shack she calls a home; the land lady Demands gaily “I want my fucking rent!” And birds and sun rays are old days that went by with No place to claim in her memory—she feeds off feathers And heat stroke— her blood is thick. She’s sick of getting her rocks off by smoking rocks; It’s no shock when she ties stones around her neck; Stands on the bridge And Jumps Off.
Some Boys Don’t Leave Maria Boudreau Some boys don’t leave Instead they sit, waiting Holding on to that last piece of hope Hope that you’ll come to your senses Realize you were wrong Some boys don’t leave Instead they pass the time Tennis ball in hand In a hallway As you live your life around them Some boys don’t leave Instead they remember Dwell on the past In a hallway full of memories Memories he knows you remember too Some boys don’t leave Instead they stay In your mind and in your heart Not letting go because they know A part of you doesn’t want them to.
For Lizzie Ryan Cameron I can sum up my town in four orgasms, three words, two bowls and one cigarette We are all so poorly assembled here Our beards have grown so patchy, our youth still leaks through I want to have my biography written in text messages Because in the next five minutes I’m going to text this girl some thing I shouldn’t And before these 2 minutes and 55 seconds are out I will lean in and do something I know I should We live off the late nights And live with the early mornings We delve into a classic game of truth and dare I say more truths Until we are fully prepared for when we touch We enter touch, not entirely But not too far off Not too far from the crushing frequency of the blindblindblind Who scream that some hearts are true And I scream that all hearts are true It’s the other organs that can be a bitch to deal with Not too far off from that clearing in the over pass Where we smoke out of a hookah at dusk And stumble into a church, sincerely observing something we know we shouldn’t This poem is not about fucking But it’s not too far off For I started using toilet paper instead of napkins Because I talk like an ass too often Saying shit, what’s happening To us, Eagerly trying to please each other in front of the paranormal And now that it is done Things are back to normal Or at least not too far off from normal We are still young, lighting our cigarettes with bonfires And adhering to a Canadian wind That knocks on my door at the most unholy hour of the night But I am easy to forgive As I watch pollen drop like rain fall Onto the whites of your eyes because damn it, I refuse to accept these as your tears
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Imminence Katrina Carbone there's still the scents of you around. i am to do what i should and not care that the earth is even enormous. if there is exploitation and belligerence; Â i am nothing of the sort.
Charlie’s Grandfather Jacob Gagnon Charlie’s father hadn’t said much on the ride to the hospital. After picking his son up from school, he asked Charlie how his classes were going (Fine, Dad. My teacher’s really nice) and then when his next baseball game was (Thursday, I’m pretty sure. At Erickson Park). Charlie answered as eager as any young kid would when his father asked him anything. His father only nodded and lit a cigarette. When they arrived at Manchester Community Hospital, his father flicked his cigarette out the window, locked his door and got out. Charlie did the same. He moved as fast as he could to keep up with his dad. They held hands as they walked quickly through the parking lot until they were safely on the sidewalk leading up to the building. Charlie noticed a penny on the ground but didn’t stop to pick it up because the heads side was face down. Charlie’s dad walked up to the doors first, opened one side and looked back to make sure his son was right behind him. They walked up to the front desk together. The woman sitting behind the counter had dark red hair and wrinkles around her eyes and mouth. She smiled at Charlie and then at his dad. “Hello there. How may I help you?” “Hi. Don Welles and this is Charlie.” He nodded his head at him. “My father’s here and we’re not sure what room… Henry Welles?” The red headed lady, glanced at her computer screen in front of her, typed something, and then glanced again. “Alright, here we are…. Henry W. Welles, room 129”. “Thanks,” Charlie’s dad said, “Appreciate it.” They walked down the hallway, took a right, then another right before Charlie saw the numbers on the door. His father stopped in front of the closed door. Charlie was about to walk through when his father stopped him. “Hang on a minute, Kiddo.” He bent down slightly so that his face was closer to his son’s. He cleared his throat and let out a small sigh that he didn’t think Charlie heard. “Grandpa is… he’s in tough shape right now. He’s… well he’s kind of sick right now. He might seem a little different than when we saw him last month.” “What do you mean, Dad? Different?” Don looked into his son’s eyes, clear and blue, just like his own. He sighed again, this time louder. A nurse walked past them.
33 Centr ipetal “His memory isn’t as good as it was last month, bud. He forgets things sometimes. Just be… aware of it. He might not remember some things, or he may seem a little mad, but he isn’t. Ok?” Charlie nodded, confused. Don opened the door and Charlie followed close behind him. Charlie’s grandfather was sitting on a brown reclining chair, listening to the Red Sox game on the radio. He turned his head and gave Charlie’s father a blank look. His hair was thin and a shade darker than grey. His face looked round and tired. He couldn’t stand by himself. “Hey Pops, its Don and Charlie. How’s it going?” Charlie looked around the room. There was one window with a shade pulled over it, a small desk covered by a few old newspapers and books and an empty kitchen. “Still around,” he said, “yourself?” He gave Charlie a hard look. “I’ve been alright. No complaints, I guess.” Don’s eyes followed his father’s which were looking at Charlie. “Charlie, go give your grandfather a hug, already.” Charlie walked over and wrapped his arms around his grandfather. His skin felt cool to the touch. He was shaking lightly. It felt like an eternity before Charlie felt his grandfather’s arms hug him back. “Oh, Charles,” he whispered, “I’m sorry.” “For what, Gramps?” Charlie pulled back and looked up at him. “I just… forgot… nothing. Never mind,” he gave him a grin, “Just glad to see you, is all.” “Me too, Gramps.” Don walked over and shook his father’s hand. He took a seat on the small sofa beside the chair. Charlie sat beside him. They listened to the game in silence for a little while. Cleveland was beating Boston by a run in the top of the seventh. The quietness was interrupted when the grandfather looked at Don and spoke. “I don’t want to stay here, Donald,” he said. “I know, Dad, but I don’t have a choice.” Charlie’s grandfather shook his head and closed his eyes. He threw his head back and cleared his throat. “I want to leave!” he croaked. Charlie felt himself jump slightly and creep closer to his father. “Dad. We’ve been over this. Every time I come here, you do this.” “Probably cause I don’t want to be here, Goddamnit.” “Dad, for the love of Christ, Charlie’s here. Will ya. relax?”
Centripetal 34 He looked at Charlie, then Don, then Charlie again. "I'm... sorry. It's just... it's just hard. I am alright to go. There are people in here, Donald..." He leaned in closer to his son, in hopes that he may hear him more clearly, "Donald... there are people in here that can't do anything for themselves. They scream like babies when they're hungry or they... go to the bathroom all over themselves." Charlie, confused, began to feel a smile curl up at the corners of his mouth. He pictured old people wandering around the hallways wearing baby diapers and bibs and carrying rattles. His grandfather saw him and did not smile. "It's true, Charles. It's no joke... they can't help themselves. They are like babies in here. I don't wanna go out like that, would you?" Don shook his head. "Of course not, Dad, but...." "But nothing! I want out." There was another silence. The Sox had just scored a run on a double hit by someone that Charlie couldn't hear. "Well?" "Well what, Dad? You act like I have the resources to help you. I don't. You cannot walk by yourself, you're... you're forgetting a lot more often. Your health needs treatment that I can't stay home from work and give you. You know this. I work, Michelle works and we simply don't have the money for a full time nurse. This place is not the best option, you're right. It's the only option, Pops." "I am a grown man! I am a veteran, for chrissakes! I am not staying here and no one can stop me!" Charlie's eyes darted from the veins bulging from his grandfather's neck to his father's face. A wave of frustration was washing over it the way the tide of the ocean comes in and washes everything on the shore away. "Oh yeah, Dad?" Don said. His voice dripped with thick sarcasm. "How's that? You can't walk, you can't drive, and you can't afford all your medications and treatments! Can ya?!" Charlie's grandfather dropped his head. "And your money? How ya gonna feed yourself or get a cab? Huh?" All three were quiet for a little while. Don spoke up. "If you can leave here and take care of everything yourself, then be my guest." Another silence, one that demanded to be filled. "Huh?" "Stop," Charlie said, "Please, Dad, stop it." Don glared at his son until he saw the moisture in his eyes well up. Charlie bit his lip as hard as he could so he wouldn't cry. His father said nothing, only continued to look at his own father, who looked out the window. Charlie could taste blood. "I'm... â€œDon cleared his throat, "I'm sorry, Dad." He then looked at Charlie and mouthed, 'I'm sorry, Bud'. "I, uh, I lost my temper a bit. It just gets old, ya know. I'm just trying
35 Centr ipetal to keep you around. Keep you healthy. I'm sorry you hate this place." "So am I," Charlie's grandfather said. The remainder of the visit wasn't long. Charlie listened as his father and grandfather talked about baseball and work and little else. Twenty minutes later, Charlie found himself sitting beside his father, on their way back home. It took a few minutes before he could muster up the courage to speak. When he did, his voice cracked slightly, but Don heard him fine. "Dad, is Grandpa gonna die?" he asked. Don's eyebrows raised and dropped. "Someday." "Are you gonna die someday too?" he asked. "Me?" he looked at his son, "Nah, I plan on living forever. So far, so good." Both of them laughed. "Do you think it hurts? Ya know, to die?" Charlie asked. "Well..." Don paused. He thought to himself for a moment before continuing. Charlie could see a squirrel, running from yard to yard until it reached a big tree. It ran up the way firemen slide down a pole until the car passed it and he could no longer see the animal. "That's what the great thing about being alive is, Charlie, we never have to know those things." “I hope it doesn’t, Dad.” “Me neither, Charlie.” Charlie nodded at his father, and then smiled when he did. He thought about his upcoming baseball game, and forgot about death, at least for the time being.
Autumnâ€™s Adam Di Filippe winds swirling making spirits roar thick globby raindrops popping on heads crisp lighting explodes behind clapped thunder amid light and shade temperatures mingle like hurt lovers polarized blues capsulate skies and mountain horizons luscious red apples for schoolboyâ€™s teachers crayola browns thick and pure as fresh mud brilliant yellows, saturated oranges, languid reds, hues innumerable and those nostalgic days, hours, and mere moments: a pile of leaves here and wet with mothy grass there, with chimney smoke lingering in the air, lazing in the sunlight with Whitman and Yeats, AutumnYou give reason to believe in a soul!
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Ripples Haley Sciola ...like thumbs on African drums they travel with friction as this addiction pounds out the next wave so soundless until fingers are pickled with wrinkles and the pondâ€™s meniscus settles after all the Tiger Lily petals have Tiggered up on their tails and bounded through us in this real life Disney dream...
What's disgusting? Benjamin DiZoglio You get a load Of me while I thrust my barrel Between another man's Lips and blow His mind onto Hot Cement, but You cover, wrench Your eyes if I gently place My barrel between His loving lips And it's my mind That's blown
Silence Heidi Therrien
Is an art. Discovered when your mouth becomes the purple hue of dawn. A swollen sound dragging the corners of your lips. Your tongue, a tarnished trinket. A canvas of ears listen for bruises to slip from you like a yolk. You tell them nothing. Your throat an empty page. The paper cut of a brain kept quiet under the twenty sheets of paper you call years. Sheets you would toss to the wind for a body that works. Not this stiff spine. This lost penny in other people’s pockets. Convinced that no one has found you. You keep your teeth as dogs. Chew through quiet sounds like men sneaking through your window and into the sheets. No one sees the violent flowers bleeding down your thighs. Your hand, a violet smashed on the page. You can’t jump. Can’t land. So you burn at the stake with silence singed into your tongue and throw your wingless words into wind. And hope they learn to fly.
Th e r r i e n
A n Open Letter from Chewbacca to the R ebel A lliance Michael DiTommaso What the fuck is this shit? I mean, I've been around two hundred fucking years, and I've seen some shit in my time— I've fought beasts in the lower levels of Kashyyyk's forests that would haunt the creatures of human's nightmares, I watched droid armies roll over the shores of my home, then the fucking Imps lay waste to swaths of my planet— and enslave my people. And now all I want is to make my way in the galaxy, pay my life-debt to Han and follow him where-ever he goes— and then he gets all half cocked and sweet on that furless bimbo and goes risking both our necks for something that WASN’T OUR PROBLEM and what do we get? You give us some piece-of-shit, hutt-slime, bantha poodoo metals to wear around our necks, and that's supposed to make me feel better? FUCK YOU I bust my ass every day to keep The Falcon —my home— in working order and out of the hands of Imperial slime,
D i T o mm a s o
41 Ce n t r i peta l faceless white jobs. Do you know what you've done to our careers? We're smugglers. There's no money in being a hero. Who's gonna repair our ship? Your new government? When you take over and make new laws —just as arbitrary— over what can go where and who can sell what, then we'll find ourselves pitted against you— and when that day comes, I'll ram a conc missile up those Incom junk-shit engines on your precious X-Wings, and Han and I, we'll have a contest to see who can blow more Rebel scum—"New Republic" hot-shot cockpit-jockey fly-boys into free ions.
D i T o mm a s o
Authority Issues Spencer Jackson How dare you look down on me from where you sit, safe and certain that what you made can't reach what you are, like we couldn't harness fire, as if we didn't reach the stars. Soon you'll see how much we've grown. We'll teach you omniscience is ignorance yet to be known. And what will you say when you see the toys you made doing what they do best, crashing through your golden gates and taking what beauty and glory remains for themselves and leaving only excrement and ash-shambles of the golden age that should have been cut down sooner? How will you feel when you cry in contempt to the apathetic heavens at what you are and what you could have been? Will you hate me for looking down on you, safe and certain that what made me can't reach what I am?
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IVO R Y D R EA M S , J e n n i f e r S t r e e t e r
Adam Di Filippe for Sherwood Anderson
ugly is the man that buys keystone every morning before eating breakfast, the poor father who uses his last 20 to by cigarettes instead of formula, the mother that dresses her child as a half-nude princess for sunken eyes, evil are the men and women that heard kitty genovese scream and did nothing, the millionares / billionares that send poor blacks / hispanics to their deaths, the frat boy that raped his best friendâ€™s girlfriend when she passed out at the party, grotesque are the people that cut into their own flesh to remind themselves that they feel, the sex-addicts that can only feel temporary love with a stranger inside them, people like you and me, that donâ€™t want this poem to endâ€Ś
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Burdens Tyler Carignan “We are only yokes tied to dreams.” A bug eyed travel writer told me that once in a carnival of all places, right next to the cotton candy stand where the bewildered children professed their glee. Right next to the tape covered wire that criss-crossed through the outer mezzanine, powering the entire spectacle of time ill spent. I found it even more ironic, that next to me, dangling on the fringe of a less than proud drain, was the chain and cross of a sticky crucifix, laden with the glazed remnants of razz-berry blue-cotton candy and a healthy sheen of a sugary softdrink. The consensus was -Ugh -- I could feel the yoke pressing down, friction blistered shoulders tear each second in the selfish heat of overcharged, nonsensical entertainment. It was grievous, watching my fellow cattle dish out their hard earned green, plowing the fields of the clown masters pockets; exchanging precious feed for fuming shit; lining the threads of the cuban cigar syndicate’s wallet; smoldering with illegal imports, mispronounced third world countries and endless peanuts! A whole Goddamn sea of peanuts! Praise the Lord, we choke on the shells of industry, not even knowing the meaty center when the telethon preachers come in and suck the salty flesh out through a straw. I loosen my yoke at the collar, stare at the flock of painted
Centripetal 46 lambs. Truth is, I don’t care how dreams come and go, who only fill the endless gaps while I’m think to myself -- how unchrist like -- it’s the point I seem to miss. Are we really only yokes tied to dreams?
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Candy Cane Christian Passen Stability, You carry me as I carry you. Strong and stable The Cane for Able, Not his brother But the staff upon Which he leaned. An ironic twist To a fateful story; The name of Ableâ€™s strength Also represents A horrendous downfall. We lean; we depend We require; we bend We mold to the shape of A candy cane. Our backs are broken; Now we use this staff as a token Of our appreciation To Able. Stability, Oh Stabilityâ€Ś Carry on, My wayward Son.
Pa s s e n
HOKUS-POKUS Sara Ramsdell Set the chair to rocking just before she enters the room, Grandpa said. You can get a rise out of her. The neighbor believes in that hokus-pokus. Miss-ter Huckins! she will exclaim, Someone may have been holding down that empty chair! Now the dark winter evening struggles to contain the rushing emptiness of the latest word from home. Grandpa. I imagine the now blank window overlooking his drive, the click of the dogâ€™s searching paws on the hardwood floor. Across the room from me, a chair appears to hold itself down. Miss-ter Huckins! The cat rises up from my lap, arches his back and glares. I see for myself now how it is, how it will be: a white feather at my feet, a flickering light at his mentioned name, the sensation of heat from his empty wood stove. Hokus-pokus.
The Hounds of Tindalos Spencer Fiffield “They hunt me.” Lying on his back in his hospital bed, surrounded by so many machines, hooked up by so many wires and cables, my grandfather looked weaker, closer to death, than I’d ever seen anyone. I don’t like to think of things in such a morbid scope. I try to think that death is the start of a new chapter, but seeing Grandfather told me that the end is not as grim as the beginning of the end. He’d had a stroke, we were told. Janet held my arm and stroked my hand, telling me that she was there for me. I appreciated that, but I wasn’t sure if I did need her. Grandfather was nearly seventy. They say people can live a lot longer than that, but they usually don’t. It was time for him to go. I’d just hoped that when he did die, he wouldn’t be strung up to life support machines. “How’re they treating you, Mr. Ingalls?” Janet smiled at him, trying to make him a bit more cognizant, a bit more adjusted to his surroundings. It was a nice gesture of her. I was just ashamed that I couldn’t do the same. “Did you hear me?” Grandfather said. He lay with his eyes closed, and his mouth barely moved when he spoke. “They hunt me.” Janet and I both sighed with some disappointment. We had been warned that Grandfather might not make much sense when he talked for a while. “What are you talking about, Grandfather?” I asked, kneeling down beside his bed. “You’re safe here. No one’s after you.” “They’ll get me, Jackie,” he said, reaching out to my face. Jackie was what he’d called my father growing up. We had never looked much alike. “They already took your mother. You’ve got to save yourself.” I shook my head at what he was saying. Grandmother had died in a car accident about the time I was born, some twenty-two years earlier. “Wanna get him some water, Babe?” I asked Janet. She nodded, stepping outside. When she was gone, I turned back to him, and held his hand in mine. “You had a stroke, Grandfather,” I told him. “But you pulled out of it. You’re going to be fine. When they let you out,
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Centripetal 50 you’ll come to stay with me and Janet in the city.” “They’ll never let me out, Jackie,” he said. “They’re going to kill me in here.” “Who, Grandfather?” I asked him. “The hounds, Jackie,” he said, squeezing my hand sharply. I was taken aback by how strong he was. Grandfather had always been a strong man, able to pick me up over his head even when I was twelve, but I didn’t think he still had that strength in him. My hand began to ache, and I tried to pull away then. “Grandfather, stop it,” I said, trying to get away. Janet walked in just then, and stopped short in the doorway. “What’s going on?” she asked. “He won’t let me go,” I told her. “Get the book, Jackie,” Grandfather said. “You’ll need it when they come for you.” “Stop it, Grandfather,” I said. “They’ll come when you sleep,” he went on. “I said stop it.” “I hear them barking, always,” he said. “They hunt me.” “That’s enough,” I raised my voice and yanked away from him. Janet rushed towards me. “God,” she whispered. “Baby, are you okay?” “I’m fine,” I said. Looking down at him, I saw a cloud of disappointment cross his face. He began to frown, not with anger, but with sadness, as if he’d just regained a painful memory. I grimaced, mad at myself for yelling at him when I knew full-well he wasn’t right. Janet ran her hand across my back gently. “I’m sorry,” he said. “It’s okay, Grandfather,” I said, kneeling back down beside him. “You were just confused.” “Jackie,” he said, running one hand through my hair, pulling my head closer to his lips. “The book is in my closet.” I nodded my head. “I’ll get you your book, Grandfather,” I smiled at him. “Thank you,” he said, smiling back up at me. It was nice to see him that way again, even if it was only for a moment. ~ “Did he mention what it looked like at all?” Janet asked me as I pulled myself into the attic from Grandfather’s bedroom. There had always been a sort of secret hatch just above his bed, the source of endless childhood legend. I had never been allowed to go up there, and as an adult, I’d never had much reason too. “No such luck,” I muttered, slowly scanning the moun-
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51 C e n t r i p e ta l tains of cardboard and cobweb for anything out of the ordinary. “Just that he really needed it.” “I don’t like this, Baby,” Janet moaned. “I don’t like how creepy he’s gotten.” I lowered myself down again, so I could look her in the eye when I spoke. “The man’s had a stroke,” I told her. “He isn’t in his right mind.” I turned back to the hatch and pulled myself back in. “Then how do you know there even is a book?” “I don’t,” I said. “But if my grandfather wants some book by his side when he goes, then the least I can do is look.” The beam of my flashlight prodded at the corners of the attic until I found an odd chest. It was nothing too out of the ordinary in its appearance, but it stuck out to me immediately, if only because I’d never seen it before. I’d spent every summer of my childhood in the care of my grandparents, and had never seen either of them using it before. “Here’s something,” I said, pushing the rest of my body up with my arms and swinging a leg over the edge of the hatch. I then crawled on all fours, fearing a wound from some rusted nail or stray splinter sticking out of the exceptionally low attic ceiling if I should stand, until I had the thing in my hands. It was small, about the size of a bread box, and beautiful. Underneath a thick film of dust, it was a deep shade of mahogany, with tarnished gold hinges and an elaborately carved top. I undid the small latch at the front, and pulled the lid back. There was only a book inside. Its cover was thick black cloth, but at the edges of my flashlight’s beam, that same black seemed to shimmer purple. Its spine was brown leather, and its cover held no name or picture. “Find anything?” Janet called from the bedroom. “Something,” I answered. I opened the front cover and found the first page blank. I flipped through the pages, trying to find something of note, something Grandfather might be interested in, but found nothing. Each page was a yellowing sheet of blank paper. “What is it?” Janet asked, peeping her head in through the latch. She cast me in shadow with the beam of her own flashlight. I held the thing up as I turned to her. “Nothing,” I said. “It’s blank.” “Maybe it’s something special to him,” Janet offered. “We should take it to him, just in case.” I couldn’t help but run my hands across the spine. At a
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Centr ipeta l 52 glance, it looked pretty ordinary, but running my fingers down it, I began to feel something sticking out of it. I kept rubbing at the same spot, and started to feel a lump. It seemed to protrude more the longer I kept my hand there, and as I moved my hand up and down the spine, I started to feel more of them. At first they were round and soft, but as I touched them, they hardened, and grew into sharp points, until I realized I was touching bone. A spine. “Babe?” I heard Janet call to me. It startled me, and I dropped the book. Looking down at it on the floor, I got a better look at the leather binding. There were no bones, no lumps. “You okay?” she asked. I picked the book up, held the spine under the beam of my flashlight, and saw nothing. I turned the light off, and began crawling back towards the hatch. ~ We were told on arrival that his condition had worsened. In the night, he had had another one. At the moment, he was unresponsive, possibly comatose, possibly vegetative. Either of those states could have been permanent. There were no direct answers. No one knew what had triggered this. Janet and I didn’t speak much in the hospital, instead choosing to sit beside him and wait. Nothing was really to be said anymore. I began to resign myself to the fact that he would die very soon, and that would be the end of my family. I kept his book on my lap. “I think we’re in the room where my parents died,” I told Janet. “What makes you think that?” she asked me. “Just a thought,” I shrugged. “A notion. It would make sense, in a way. This is the hospital where they took Grandmother after her crash. Maybe she died here, too.” Janet squeezed my hand. “Maybe I’ll die here, too.” She rested her head on my shoulder, gently kissing the top of my bicep. “Don’t die, baby,” she said to me. “If you die, I’ll just go, poof.” She held one hand out in the air, mimicking an explosion. I ran one hand through her hair, and kissed her forehead, before I closed my eyes. I was glad she couldn’t see my face. I didn’t want
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53 Centripetal her to see me cry.
~ I opened my eyes some time later. It was dark out. I sat up in the chair, and saw that Janet was gone, probably to the bathroom, or maybe to the café downstairs for some food. I looked over at Grandfather’s bed, and saw that he was gone, too. I still had his book on my lap. I stood upright, putting the book on the empty bed. If something had happened to him, I deserved to be informed. I wanted to get the name of whoever moved him and sue their ass into the ground. “Excuse me,” I called out, going to the door. The hall was empty, and only the emergency lights were on. “Excuse me.” No one answered, but in the distance, I heard something odd, like wood or cement being ground, or maybe even chewed. At the end of the hall, I could see a light coming from one ajar door, and something wet spilling out onto the tile, forming a fairly large pool. When I squinted, I could see that the pool was red. “Excuse me?” I called out again as I walked towards the door. I thought that perhaps some sort of emergency surgery had just taken place, and that maybe a janitor or nurse was still inside, cleaning up. “Excuse me?” When I got to the door, I heard the chewing again, this time louder, as if it were right behind the door. It made a terrible tumor of fear knot at my stomach, and I put one hand over my navel to try and stop it. It told me not to open the door, to just turn back. But something about that chewing, this incessant, grinding gnaw dragged my mind away from my stomach, and told me to peer in. I pushed the door open slowly. It was a surgery room alright, the walls decked with streaks of blood. A gurney over to the side had been tipped over, and an instrument cart had spilled its contents to my left. In the center, two enormous black dogs fought over a piece of meat. “Oh my God,” I whispered, pulling my hand off of my stomach and over my mouth. The dogs heard me and looked up. They were not dogs. Their black, slim bodies gave way at the neck to bat-like maws, with sideways mandibles resembling the mouth of a crab. Black, soulless eyes peered out from beneath a sloping brow, and wide, flat ears hung off the sides of the head. It terrified me, made me hollow, as if somehow, seeing these creatures, or rather
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Centripetal 54 being seen by them, was worse than death. These were the creatures they wrote legends about in the Dark Ages; these were the things nightmares are made of. I backed slowly into the hallway, holding my hands outward to illustrate I was no threat to the creatures. One of them growled at this gesture, and I felt warm piss spread across the front of my pants. My blood froze, and my heart turned to lead before sinking into my bowels. “Please,” I tried to bargain with them, still moving backwards into the hall. “Please, don’t hurt me.” One crouched down on its haunches just then, preparing to lunge forward, it was then that I turned and ran, hoping for either escape, or a quick death. I sprinted up the hall, where the light was dim. It made it difficult to run, because I was afraid of tripping over something, maybe even my own feet, but instinct drew me forward, kept me nimble. But no matter how fast I ran, I heard them, just a breath behind me. Their paws and nails clicked on the tiles, their tails swished in the air, their teeth, those disgusting, mortifying, stomach-turning jaws were clicking, hungry, furious, vengeful. But at the end of the hall I could make out a person. A man, waving to me from behind a set of heavy doors. He opened one, calling out to me, “Jackie, get in here!” Grandfather was in here. It served me no reassurance. I was terrified for two people now. I bolted into the open door, and Grandfather slammed it shut behind me, almost clipping my elbow in the process. I turned, and saw him bar the door with a broken off two-by-four. He struggled with it at first, and I was about to help him with it, but stopped when I noticed his left arm was gone; a red stump replaced it at the bicep. “Jesus Christ, Grandfather,” I said, moving to him as he finished getting the plank into the door handles, effectively sealing the creatures out. “What the hell is going on?” “Tell me you got the book, Jackie,” he said. “What were those things?” I asked. “Where is the book, Jack?” Grandfather began raising his voice. “Grandfather, what th—“ “Where is that goddamn book?” Grandfather shouted. “I left it on your bed when I woke up,” I told him. His face turned white then, as if an awesome, stupefying wave crashed over him. “Tell me what is happening here.” “You don’t have the book,” he said, walking away from
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55 Centr ipeta l the door. Behind it, the dogs began clicking again, digging away at the metal with their claws. “We’re stuck here.” “Where is here, Grandfather?” I asked, following him. He lead my away from the doors down another hall, apparently some sort of children’s wing. We passed a room full of empty, broken cradles behind a brown, dirty plastic wall. “You’re in Hell, Jackie,” Grandfather told me. “Those things are the Hounds of Tindalos. They killed your mother. Now they want us, too.” “Grandfather, it’s not Jackie,” I told him. “Jackie was my dad, remember?” “I remember,” he said. “Won’t help much, though, Jackie.” I shrugged. He was still somewhat lost, even in this new world, although it was nice to see him functioning again. “Why do those things want us?” I asked him. He stopped then, putting his one hand onto the wall of plastic that separated us from the nursery. “Your mother was a witch, son,” Grandfather said. “A powerful one. Powerful witches make powerful enemies.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My grandmother was a product of the forties; she never wore pants, and was a practicing Catholic all of her life. She was not a witch. “Grandfather, you’re not in your right mind,” I tried to tell him. “Did it ever cross your mind while those monsters were trying to kill you that maybe some paranormal forces were at work?” he asked me. “Maybe the world isn’t exactly as it seems.” “Magic doesn’t exist,” I said. “Why don’t you open those doors and tell them that?” he smiled weakly. He stared off then, as if at a painting, or at a movie screen, or at something projected onto the aging, cracked plastic that I could not perceive. “This is where you were born, Jackie,” he said, dragging his hand down the window as if it had died there. “You were always the jewel of our lives.” “Grandfather,” I said, taking his hand off the plastic. “We need to get out of here. Tell me how we stop those things.” “Need the book, Jack,” he whispered. “No two ways about it.” “Maybe I can get it back from your old room,” I told him. “Maybe we can get around them.” “How?” he asked me, not looking away from whatever
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Centripetal 56 he saw in the nursery window.
~ We opened the two doors silently; an inch or so each at first, just to be sure we were safe. The Hounds were nowhere to be seen. Grandfather’s room lay just ahead, it’s door slightly ajar. “What if they already got in there?” I asked him under my breath. My whisper seemed to echo off the walls in all directions; I may as well have shouted it, it seemed. “Well, we’ll be no worse off than now, won’t we?” Grandfather whispered back. On our hands and knees, we crawled down the hall, peering into all the rooms we passed along the way, checking for signs of the creatures. We saw none, and heard none. Approaching Grandfather’s room, I looked to my left, seeing the door I had first opened when I woke up. There was a thick, shining bloodstain splashed across it, probably from when they broke out, giving chase when I ran. I knew it. I’d heard somewhere that all hospital floors go in a big circle, or at least most do. Seeing a clear coast, I stood up, and dashed to the open door. “Jackie, wait,” Grandfather tried to say, grabbing my shoulder. I didn’t hear him, nor care at all what he had to say. The sooner I got that book, the sooner I got to hold my wife, smell her hair, hold her, kiss her, the better. My life rested on that book, and it couldn’t wait any longer. I ran into the door, banging it loudly on the wall inside, and froze. A Hound stood on Grandfather’s bed, the book in his mouth. “Get the book,” Grandfather whispered. “Read the spell.” “What the hell are you talking about?” I asked him. Behind me, down the hall, I heard the rest of them come running. We had time to run, but not much. “Forget it, let’s go.” “Get the book,” he said, louder this time. I saw then that he was edging himself to the end of the bed, moving closer to the monster. “Read the spell.” “Grandfather,” I shouted, “don’t!” Grandfather tried to swipe the book away from the Hound with his remaining hand, only to slap the creature across its flat, square nose. It dropped the book then, seemingly out of anger. It clicked its mandibles slowly, growling, white foam slipping off of its yellow fangs and onto the bed’s comforter.
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57 Centr ipetal “Grandfather,” I said, trying to grab him. Before I got him, though, it did. The Hound leapt off the bed, throwing the comforter and the book into the wall behind, and locked its jaws around my grandfather’s throat. Grandfather screamed, kicking at the creature’s stomach to free him, but to no avail. I turned and saw the rest of them barreling down the hall towards us. I slammed the door shut and pushed my full weight against it. “The book, Jackie,” Grandfather howled. “Get the book!” I locked the door and dove onto the bed, clutching the book to my chest. I opened it, knowing that I had seen the pages blank before, and found them filled, leaving no room for margins, with thin, black script. “Cast the spell!” “Which one?” I called out, stepping to the edge of the bed. Grandfather looked up at me then, and our eyes met, and for the first time since the stroke, since I found out he was sick, I saw in his eyes that he knew I wasn’t his son. He didn’t want to call me Jackie anymore. The creature flicked its head to the side, snapping Grandfather’s neck and splattering my hands and face with his blood. It yanked back then, tearing out his throat and forcing the bloody meat into its teeth with those clicking mandibles. It then returned to Grandfather’s body as casually as any dog returns to a bone it hasn’t seen in a few days. It tore meat off of him like a lion off a gazelle or impala. I held the book out in one hand, trying to speak over the sound of the many Hounds outside, throwing their weight into the door, splintering the frame, shaking the bed beside me, making me tongue dry, and the sound of the one inside the room with me, busied by its meal. “Alsi ku nushi…” I tried to pronounce the words loudly, as if with a sense of power, but powerlessness, defeated helplessness reduced my voice to a croak. Besides, the words made no sense, and looked like thrown together syllables. “Ilani mushiti… itti kunu alsi mushitum…” The Hounds outside stopped just then, and began whimpering, baying, and clicking loudly. “Kallatum kattumtum… alsi bararitum qablitum u namaritum…” The one feasting on Grandfather grew stiff just then,
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Centripetal 58 arching its back and looking back at me. Its eyes held a mixture of fear and rage. These were not the soulless doll’s eyes I’d seen on them earlier. “Ashshu kashshaptu u kashshipanni…” It too began baying, lowering its body to the floor and hiding its head beneath its paws, trying to cover its ears from my words. That’s when I grew confident. I knew I was hurting them. I knew the spell was working. I turned the page and started to speak again, when it startled me with a bark. I was thrown off for a moment, just half a moment even, but that was it needed. It pounced on me, knocking the book away from me, and enveloped my face in its mouth. I screamed, and heard my scream resound off the grooves that lined the creatures wet, pink, cavernous mouth. Its tongue, black, barbed, and dry as a cat’s, lunged at me, probing my eyes painfully. Whatever saliva that had covered it burned my skin like acid, and made me scream more. When I ran out of breath to scream with, ran out of letters and sounds to vomit out in a plea for expiation, it put its paws on my chest, tensed its muscles, and yanked its head back. ~ I came back from the cafeteria downstairs with two pink plastic trays; chicken strips and waffle fries for him, and a Caesar with extra croutons for me. I walked fast, knowing he could wake up any second, and knowing that my husband tends to be hungry when he wakes up. I took one step in and dropped the trays. Blood covered the room. It soaked the walls, the bed, the floor, the curtains; it dripped from the ceiling like water off a stalactite. Both of them were dead, and the room was painted in their blood. One thing stood out to me that day, against the landscape of brutality, and I stared at it as I cried out for help that came too late. His grandfather’s book lay in his lap, pristine.
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SUNSET , A l a n a B a r o n
Inspiration Jennie Fogg She smiles while I snap a quick photo. Her mouth is upturned, but her moss green eyes flicker with doubt. The doctor said three months. Maybe six. Four down, how many more? Her once winsome figure has shriveled; ruthlessly ravaged by twenty-five years of camel lights. Thick, sable waist length hair used to adorn her careless head; now home to half a dozen assorted wigs; blonde red, brown. Five months. Her heart is strong, yet the rest of her body is failing. Each breath taken is labored; hard bought. She smiles and says: “Don’t be
But can I continue to inspire when my inspiration has been laid to rest?
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GRAVEYARDS Sara Ramsdell We always come back to graveyards. I never wear enough night layers, and you zip your shouting white shirt black leather shut so I can’t find you when you slip away. You don’t know that I don’t look for you. Alone among the echoed markers, I listen to myself repeat the stone names as if my own. It’s only when you crackle close behind me that I turn for you to brush my sleeve and recognize me. We always come back to graveyards. This time the earth is cut out like shingles, grass roofing piled soft beyond the cellar hole. From below you voice the cold, chiseled name, and I think of asking, “Yes?” But you hear it as an answer, already down in the cool dirt solid packed and lowering me into your arms. The rectangled earth too pungent-alive yet for wood, we stand and paste our love-lined palms to the walls and stomp hard. We always come back to graveyards. Teasing the shadows, we count starred excuses for wandering so near together in the night, and I wonder if someday long after I’ve lost sight of you I’ll ever look for you in a place like this.
Irene Heidi Therrien You looked like a typewriter. Letters faded and used. Semi colons fell from your mouth like soup from a can. You were layers of torn skin that spoke like the first floor of an apartment that harbored your husband’s knuckles. When he died you said you never felt so ‘wide open.’ I thought you meant, ‘free’. You told me the stone over his grave reminded you of how you built love with broken bricks and cheap nails and even after he passed, the night-sounds through your open window left you as white and cold as a new sheet of paper. Irene, in the days before you died you fed the neighbor-hood children soup with blood still in the bowls, cut your heart out and slid in the thin slices like raw tomatoes. I remember you alone. The chance to prove your love, lost. An empty cartridge of a woman waiting for her story to bleed out like the perfect spine of a book he taught you to be. You waited by the window and rusted. Turned into your own compost and like any good seed,
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63 Centripetal you took root and followed him into the ground. The next year, your niece grew tomatoes next to your plot. She didn’t understand why the fruit always came out bruised. Why the violets were darker on damp days. If I understood what was happening then, I would’ve told her it was because you were made of the darker stuff. How the ink leaked down your cheeks when he connected another point. The tape placed over his swollen fruit of a fist as he buried gardens in your body. I would’ve told her how I saw you stand straight at the foot of where that botanist was buried. How the wind hit the hem of your dress. I would’ve told her anything else that she wanted to hear and then walked away like some paper dream folding outwards until the creases in our steps didn’t sound like a bell at the end of our trite little sentences.
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A Funeral Procession? Robby Binette “Aunt Nattie, what are you doing?!” “I'm coming, George! I'm coming!” It was at this moment that Aunt Nattie tried to jump into George's coffin knocking it from its stand causing George to roll out onto the floor There was screaming and a commotion followed Only a half hour earlier, Aunt Nattie was sitting in her car in the parking lot downing the pint of Zhenka that I had sold her After finishing, she got out of her car stumbled across Route 3 into the Fournier-Hale funeral home and tried to jump into the grave with her older brother, George Shortly after, things calmed down and Aunt Nattie was under control The family of the deceased all went to The Inn where Nattie continued to drink and eventually got alcohol poisoning then had to be taken to Speare to get her stomach pumped The moral of this story is: well, there is no real moral to this story, just the fact that things like this happen in small town we're all connected in an interactive web Something your mother tells your father gets to your brother then your sister's friends eventually making it to uncle and aunt who then your cousins' friend whose roommate in college's best friend already knew so tread lightly There is a happy ending to this story though The next day at the burial, Nattie did fall in the grave, it looks like she may have tripped on the dirt mound but no, and word on the street is that she's been sober since
Last Will and Testament Clair Larsen The hum in my ears echoes the tune of my days. As my soul and body cling and tear, my mind draws randomly from the shuffled stack of my memories. For a moment there is the bright green of Astroturf and a crackly voice announcing the game. Then, the asphyxiating scent of florescent nail polish, painted all outside the lines. An immobilized ankle. Dancing in the cool of the evening. Stained hands and puckered mouths. Square, black caps in the air. A tarnished diamond being eased onto a delicate hand. The itching of a mosquito bite. The agony of one birth, and the ease of another. Bitter tears, playful tears, no tears. You must see this smile on my lips. Canâ€™t you feel the joys I have lived? All of this is leaving me now. My triumphs are seeping from my finger tips, my passion is weeping from my toes. From the ends of my hair flies every mistake. Absorb all that you can, let the rest sink into the walls for the next abandoned love to release. I can see us now, from up above. From my useless eyes, someone now sees. With my ligaments, someone now walks. With my lungs, someone now breathes. Spread my ashes in the sea, in a field of wild flowers on the prairie. Plant few in the ground. Now, dance. Celebrate my time with you.