Chautauqua Resilience issue
Editor s J ill G Er a rd PhiliP G Er a r d advisory Editor d iana h umE G EorGE
assistant Editor s l auriE C l a rk k ris tEn d or sEy J a mE s k inG s us a n P oliz zot to G illia n P riBiCko
CovEr & Book dEsiGn G a Bi s tEPhEns
Editorial assistants J ona h B Eat t y t homa s h or nEr t homa s k oEhlEr s iErr a E. t hoEmmE s
diGita l Editor W illia m d. G Entry
Chautauqua institution arChivEs J onatha n s Chmit z
ProofrEa dEr s l auriE C l a rk G illia n P riBiCko
With sPECia l tha nk s E mily C arPEntEr m iChaEl r amos E mily l ouisE s mith s ony ton -a imE C hautauqua i nstitution
manaGinG Editor s a r a h J. s tEPhEns
Copyright © 2021 Chautauqua Institution
Chautauqua is published each June by Chautauqua Institution, a not-for-profit corporation under section 501(c)(3) of the United States Revenue Code. The opinions expressed in Chautauqua are not necessarily the opinions held by the editors or by Chautauqua Institution. On the Cover: Munger Garden, 1922–1924, photographer unknown, Chautauqua Institution Archives
Below photos courtesy of Chautauqua Institution Archives: Ice Skating on Plaza, 1944, photographer unknown Garden, 2007, Michele Roehrig Bathing Beach, 1912, photographer unknown Elementary School Outside, 1920–1929, photographer unknown ISSN 1549-7917
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The Chautauqua Way
or more than a hundred and thirty years, Chautauqua Institution has served as a stage and a classroom for leading figures of the times, including Ulysses S. Grant, Booker T. Washington, Alexander Graham Bell, Susan B. Anthony, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Chautauqua way is a habit of living in a state of continual enrichment: learning on vacation, finding intellectual stimulation in leisure, imbuing all activities with a passion for art. Learning and art should not be confined to separate spaces or designated hours, nor spirituality expressed only within sacred walls or books of prayers. Chautauqua is a literary manifestation of the values and aesthetics of Chautauqua Institution. Each volume is a portable Chautauqua season between covers. The sections loosely reflect the categories of experience addressed during those nine summer weeks, playing one writer’s vision off another’s in the spirit of oblique, artful dialogue. The Chautauqua way is also reflected in how we make this book. Each year, in partnership with the Chautauqua Literary Arts, graduate and undergraduate students in the Department of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington work as members of the editorial team, guided by professional editors and an advisory board. They read and discuss submissions, fact check and edit, search for art, and participate in the artistic process of building a book, to be released at the start of the summer season. In our editorial sessions, we read aloud excerpts or even entire works, listening for the music of great writing, searching for the piece that eloquently addresses the issue’s theme through some facet of the life in art, spirit, or play, or a life lesson. Writers, ages twelve through eighteen, enjoy that same respectful attention through Young Voices. So settle back on a couch or a comfortable patch of grass and spread this book open like a tent. Immerse yourself in the world of ideas, imagination, and language that lives between its covers. For as many minutes or hours as you like, you are part of the Chautauqua community.
Jill Gerard and Philip Gerard, Editors Chautauqua Institution
Chautauqua thanks Chautauqua Institution and the Department of Education for their support of the journal.
life of the spirit
4 5 6 7 14 17
J ILL G ERARD Riding Lessons A NABELLE M AHONEY Cardiac Sonographer C HARLOTTE M ATTHEWS Months in & Counting C HARLOTTE M ATTHEWS Fear of Recurrence M ARGUERITE A LLEY We All Live Here Forever J OSE L UIS O SEGUERA The Three Lines T REVOR M OFFA Chimney Swifts
20 M ARY E LIZABETH B IRNBAUM The City and
life at Leisure
34 35 38 40
life in art
the Wilderness 21 J ENNAFER D’A LVIA Staircase 29 J ONATHAN B. A IBEL Not-Still Life with Trees 30 D OUG R AMSPECK Metempsychosis
K ATHRYN A TWOOD The Physics of Grace A NNE K AIER Barefoot J AVY A WAN Escapism H ANNAH F EUSTLE Baltimore, 1946
44 N ICHOLAS S AMARAS Runaway 46 N ICHOLAS S AMARAS Single Gold Light 47 50 56 57 58
Wavering Far-off in a Black Distance M IKE S CHNEIDER Beethoven Quartet C AROLINE N. S IMPSON Finding Tango in Turkey J USTIN H UNT The Art of Saving P RARTHO S ERENO Puccini Plays on Turtle Island P RARTHO S ERENO A Day
62 C ONTRIBUTORS ’ N OTES
Riding Lessons Jill Gerard
he moment stands out so clearly in memory. I was ten years old and set to head off to gymnastics class at a new dance and movement studio with my best friend. We were starstruck by Olga Korbut and wanted to try to tumble like she did. Just as we were about to get into the car, my mom shouted to me from across the street. “Do you want to take gymnastics—or would you like to get a pony?” I’d never imagined that I might really have a pony—but I’d always wished for one. I’d seen the neighbor girl ride, and once or twice she had even let me climb into the saddle. My decision was immediate: a pony. In hindsight, I recognize how much my parents sacrificed to make having that pony possible. I also see now that all the hours spent in the barn, in the riding ring, and on the trails left an indelible stamp on the person I became. But here’s the really important detail. Because I inherited a family friend’s pony—she’d outgrown him and was moving on to a bigger and better show horse—I became part of the barn family at Zuck’s Stables in Erie, Pennsylvania. And because I became part of the Zuck’s Stables family, I met Gay Claridge. Mrs. Claridge became my riding instructor, my coach, even my surrogate mother for a handful of years. Because of her care and attention and encouragement and challenge, I became independent and tough and stubborn.
Chautauqua If I close my eyes, I can will myself back to the barn. Down the long graceful curves of the driveway, winding past the jumping field, then the pasture, then the outdoor ring. The large white doors push back, and I step into a wide center aisle with box stalls on either side. The doors to each stall stand about four feet high, and behind them, I see the horses. They hang their heads over the doors nickering softly, stretching out their necks, hoping for a carrot or a scratch behind the ears. The first stall on my right belongs to Pickle, a big brown gelding with a friendly demeanor. Second stall, Penny, a bay thoroughbred mare. Next is Lancer, the sweetest Morgan pony—liver chestnut, flecked a bit with white, a star on his face. Third stall, Delilah. Big chestnut mare, Mrs. Claridge’s horse. Then the tack room. My pony, Shahraq, a chestnut Arabian with a white star on his face, is sweet and funny and dependable—and stubborn. His stall is just past the tack room. Three down on the right. Next to the stall door, my tack box is filled up with all I might need: grooming kit, Hooflex, Mane and Tail shampoo, a bucket, sponges, a sweat scraper. Mrs. Claridge is always there, dressed in light canary riding britches, tall brown leather boots, and a polo shirt. Her short white hair curls at the edges. Her blue eyes sparkle. Her wide smile makes us all feel welcome. There is always something to do: horses to let out or bring back in, tack to clean, stalls to freshen up. Barn life. In those first days at the stable, Mrs. Claridge taught me how to groom the horses and ponies. With the rubber curry comb, I worked from the top of neck down over his body, under to his stomach, and around his haunches, the curry moving in tight circles. From time to time, I had to bang it against the boards to shake off the dander. Currying was followed by the Dandy brush, neck to haunches—firm, brisk strokes that sent loose hair flying. Then the soft brush over the same parts and now down the legs to the fetlocks. I groomed his mane and tail with a wide-toothed comb. Then picked his hooves. The steady, repetitive work was calming. I know now that those tasks allowed my mind to both focus and wander—and they helped to instill
Jill Gerard an internal code of ethics, of caring and empathy, of responsibility. Before it was time to tack up—cinch on a saddle and put on the bridle—Mrs. Claridge would inspect the grooming. She’d run her hands down Shahraq’s neck, along his back, and over his legs. She would check the chestnuts, small knobby growths just above the knees on the front legs and just below the hocks on the rear. If they looked neglected, we would pause and rub in a bit of moisturizer, removing any rough edges. She would run her fingers through his tail to make sure there were no tangles. All the while, she would explain why each part of the routine was important. I grew to love grooming. I knew the landscape of my pony as well as or better than I knew the landscape of my own backyard. Soon, I instinctively noticed every small nick or a bit of scab. I learned to “pull” Shahraq’s mane, keeping it short and tidy. I learned to name the anatomical parts: poll and chin groove, withers and croup, cannon and pastern and fetlock. “Jill, look here,” Mrs. Claridge said, pushing her hair off her face, then running her hand down Shahraq’s front leg and leaning into his shoulder. Just like that, his leg was bent and his hoof resting on her knee. She brushed away a bit of dirt and point to the back of the hoof, just along the frog. “See here.” She pointed to a small soft white patch on his hoof: thrush. The treatment: soaking the affected hoof in a bucket of half bleach and half water and then brushing on Hooflex. As I learned to care for my pony, I learned to pay attention to the smallest details and tend to them, taking things in stride and moving forward in my work. I was discovering a habit that nourished me and one that would stay with me throughout my life. Details matter—they accumulate toward understanding. Details add up to a life. As days became weeks—in the ring with two other riders, Anne and Tracy—I learned to trot, both sitting and posting. The need to work in concert with the pony challenged me each day. After a while, trotting became simpler—and Mrs. Claridge knew when to up the stakes. First, she asked us to drop our stirrups. One by one, Anne, Tracy, and I pulled our feet from our stirrups. “Reach down to pull the stirrups up and
Chautauqua cross them over the pommel of your saddle. Okay, pick up a trot again. The work is in your knees.” She would repeat this over and over: “Don’t tighten your whole leg, work with your knees.” Soon enough this too seemed within the range of doable. Then the challenge increased. “Drop your reins. Keep the pony moving forward and in line with the pressure of your legs.” The next week, “Pick up a trot. Drop your reins. Good. Now, extend your arms straight out from your shoulders, reach out to the side.” The work was steady. Each week partly the same and always different. Trotting was followed by cantering, ring work by field work and trail rides. One summer day, after our group had mastered walk, trot, and canter, when we had moved on from cantering to galloping around the big field, we met a new challenge—the emergency dismount. We were to go full speed and then get off our horses in mid-gallop. If it sounds scary, that’s because it was—terrifying. But Mrs. Claridge coached us through it, as she had through all the other maneuvers. We started at a walk. “Drop your stirrups. Drop the reins. Place your hands on the neck, just above the pommel. Kick back and up with your right foot. Look forward. Land with bent knees and drop and roll to the left if needed.” One by one, we practiced. Anne, Tracy, and I. First at a walk, then a trot, then a canter. The jumping field had a slight downhill pitch. Mrs. Claridge asked us to pick up a canter. We were to circle the whole field, and on the second round, as we headed up the slight incline and away from the barn, we were to dismount. Tracy went first. Her horse, Seaweed, was a compact, gray quarter-horse cross. As we all watched, she cantered around the field. Just as she turned the corner and headed up the hill, she dropped her reins and kicked up and off. She landed with bent knees and stuck the landing. We all cheered. Anne went second. Lancer had a rocking horse canter. They circled the field, and halfway up the incline, Anne dismounted. She stayed upright and Lancer, the most willing of ponies, circled back to her and stopped with a nicker, as if to ask what she was doing standing on the ground.
Jill Gerard Then came my turn. I picked up a canter, up and around the field. As I approached the final turn and was about to head back up the second time, I could feel my heart thumping in my chest. As if from miles away, I could hear Mrs. Claridge: “Okay. Drop the stirrups. When you’re ready, lean forward and kick up and over with your right leg.” I looked down, the ground falling away, swallowed hard, dropped my stirrups. Up and over and down. My knees bent and then buckled and I rolled to the left. Grass, sky, grass. Stillness. And then Shahraq was back. He reached out with his nose to nuzzle me. I sat up, then stood up and brushed the grass off my pants. Mrs. Claridge was walking up the field. Anne and Tracy cheered for me. I did not cry. “Good job. You landed perfectly,” Mrs. Claridge smiled at me. “Let me give you a leg up. Then you all walk the field to let your ponies cool down.” Over the months and years, new and even bigger challenges came along. I remember one day, after we had mastered cavaletti, straight poles on the ground, and then small jumps, we moved on to higher fences. We were working in the outdoor ring. The fence had been raised to three feet. I cantered around the ring and set up my approach. “Sit up tall, look ahead. Heels down. Lean forward from the hips. Soft hands.” Mrs. Claridge would remind us of what we needed to attend to all the way to the jump. On that day, just when I thought Shahraq would jump, he stopped. I flew over the jump on my own and landed in a heap on the ground. Mrs. Claridge remained calm. She jogged across the ring and helped me up. Then she brushed off the dirt. My eyes welled with tears. I picked up the reins and was going to head out of the ring and back to the barn, but Mrs. Claridge stopped me. “You need to get back on the pony.” I shook my head. “I don’t want to.” It was barely a whisper. “I know, but you must,” she said. “Let me give you a leg up.” And just like that, I was back on the pony, facing my fear. She first led me around the ring, glancing back now and again to check on me. “Okay?” She looked me in the eye and I nodded. “Okay, then. You pick up a trot and circle the ring.” After I had circled the ring three or four times. Mrs. Claridge crossed
Chautauqua to the fences. She lowered each one by six inches. “Take the fence with the crossed bars at a trot this time. Circle and approach the jump with confidence.” She moved closer to the jump, and, as Shahraq and I approached, she made a clucking noise—and we went over without a falter. “Good job,” Mrs. Claridge said, and I beamed at her approval. Mrs. Claridge had helped me face my fear, and in the bargain, she had taught me something about grit and determination. We finished the day’s lesson by jumping all four fences in a circuit. And so it went. We rode the trails through woods and fields, down Sheldon’s Trail to Walnut Creek, where we would let the horses wade into the water and enjoy the cool current. We learned about the danger of getting mired in the bogs and about the need to loosen the reins and let the horses find their stride. We mastered loosening the girth on the slow walk down the barn driveway. The care of our ponies always came first—after a ride, there was more grooming, and we walked them with a halter and lead line until they were cool enough to rest in their stalls. With each challenge, Mrs. Claridge taught us to count on our own abilities, to trust ourselves, and to be responsible. They were lessons in horsemanship—but they also were some of the most important life lessons I ever learned. The act of showing up, of doing the needed work to care for the pony, of riding and tackling an increasing set of physical challenges, taught us to be present and to face challenges, to be our best selves—kind and empathetic, supportive of our team, dedicated to doing the right thing. Perhaps this is the real challenge of our lives—how to face each day with grace and determination, to overcome our fears, to test our abilities. If we are fortunate, we have teachers and mentors along the way to help. I had Gay Claridge.
Chautauqua Resilience issue
“ Crucial to ﬁnding the way is this: there is no beginning or end. You must make your own map.” —Joy Harjo
Life of the spirit
Cardiac Sonographer Anabelle Mahoney
look into hearts for a living, and it’s because of this, I think, that my patients tell me such personal stories—stories they relive with every rhythmic, or arhythmic, beat of their heart, stories that pulse through their arteries and coagulate in their veins, and stories that make their fingers tingle when they see me walk into the waiting area wearing a white lab coat and a cheerful smile, calling their name. In the exam room, the patient becomes aware that I will be looking at the most intimate part of their being, where they keep their secrets, desires, and regrets hidden from everyone. As I explain the ultrasound and ask them to remove their shirt or blouse and change into a hospital gown, they wonder if I’ll be able to see what they’re hiding. Then I gesture to the exam bed and ask them to lie down on their left side while I adjust the screen. Will the depths of their souls be visible on that screen? Soon it will display a blurry black and white image, indistinguishable to them, but they know it will mean something to me. Finally, I hook them up to the machine, put gel on the probe, and warn them that it might feel cold before pressing it into the bare skin of their chest. When I turn to look at the screen, I break the barrier between flesh and soul. They’re completely exposed and inexplicably connected to me. I capture images of their heart while they tell me a military combat story, or that their child is dying of cancer, or what they went through to come to this country. They don’t know about the other stories that are buried in their heart, like the one about aortic stenosis, or mitral regurgitation, or viral cardiomyopathy. And they don’t know about me—about the baby I gave up.
Months in & Counting Charlotte Matthews
My childhood friend’s teaching herself braille in the small hours of the morning, likes how she can touch meaning, the raised dots, the embossed paper, the geometry of it all. Plus, she tells me, Napoleon’s soldiers used it to commune silently at night. Robert E. Lee High School has been renamed to honor John Lewis, beloved leader of the Selma marches, as has the Edmund Pettus Bridge. We eat makeshift casseroles for dinner, clean out the last of the pantry before masking up to brave another outing. Ruthie, down the street, dances under a willow tree, and her father films it in slow motion, which is what these days can be for us now, way to notice what we would otherwise fail to see.
Fear of Recurrence Charlotte Matthews The yellow jackets are back, each little flaw in the house’s soffit a compartment to occupy a place to brood, something any of us might do, take up residence without asking because we are so alone in this world. The afternoons are shorter now less light every day. I sit on the porch, sound of buzzing and boring, sound of making something. My oncologist calls to tell me the results are back, and they’ve found no suspicious masses. I turn the words over in my head, consider them the way you might a new watch: no masses, nothing suspicious, The yellow jackets are back, but at least for the time being, the cancer is not.
We All Live Here Forever Marguerite Alley
osalind disappeared on a Sunday afternoon. A day trip to hike around Parc règional des Sept-Chutes—Calvin had intended to go with her, but had been called into an understaffed branch outside of Montreal at the last minute. Felt a little relieved, even. When they hiked she always seemed to set a pace just a little too quick for him. He would pant like a dog, ignoring the views, while she waited for him at the top of the hill and maybe that Sunday he had woken up tired, felt that old heaviness in his limbs as he lay in bed beside her in the gray pre-dawn light. Of course, he wonders now. He wonders if she’d be alive if he’d been with her, or if he’d be dead, or if they’d both just be gone. Because that’s all he knows, all anyone seems to know—that she’s gone. A missing person is an impossibility in this day and age, he thinks. No one is ever really gone. They are missing for a few hours or days and then they are found. They are a body; bodies do not cease to exist. On her Facebook he scrolls through years of jobs and schools and trips and boyfriends. She has a type: light-haired and tall and well-educated. Calvin doesn’t quite fit the mold. Calvin is more strawberry blonde, a little on the stouter side, semi-illiterate in comparison to these strapping young Canadians. And he has fading, greenish tattoos on his knuckles—the remnants of a youth misspent in Plattsburgh, crossing the border to drink, and then eventually crossing over for good to join a chain selling auto parts. On the Sunday she fell off the edge of the Earth, he replaced seven car batteries. A rudimentary understanding of French. A slightly less rudimentary understanding of English, used to coordinate by phone the details of a memorial with her parents, who will fly in from Vancouver, and who were generally unsold on the whole idea of his existence in their lives when their daughter first introduced him. Now, he detects a certain
Chautauqua softness forming among the three of them, a poultice of bafflement and grief. The memorial will be on another Sunday. He will have to request time off work. “Do you think she would like white roses or red ones?” he asks. “White roses are too funereal,” says her mother. “When she gets back, she’ll be offended by that,” says her father. Calvin is silent. The division of labor in their apartment has fallen apart with him as the sole inhabitant. He waters the plants twice a day but forgets to take the trash to the curb. Unpruned, the ferns expand to shroud the windows in greenery. Her long, dark hairs are still clogging half of the shower drain. He does not remove them. Instead, he keeps the shower on, even when he’s not in it and has no intention of getting in it. It’s white noise in the apartment. The illusion of company, the illusion of the activity of another person still filling in the background static of life. In this way, he creates his own haunting. On Saturdays, he searches. The regional park is full of trails she may have been inspired to follow, trails tracing the lip of Lac Rémi and down into the forests, now illuminated by fall color. Eighteen months ago, when Rosalind was last seen, this would have been a sea of early spring green. He hopes she has enjoyed the changing of the seasons, the gentle swell of summer now released into a gray autumn. The search parties gave up at the end of that August, but he continues to trek through the area, following one path into another, waiting for her to appear. He has imagined the encounter many times, in myriad situations: sometimes in his mind’s eye she comes ploughing out of the woods, eyes wild, flings herself into his arms, a little scruffy but thrilled with her adventure. Sometimes he finds her with a broken leg, having survived off a nearby berry bush for months and from water dripping off a rock into the bowl of her cupped palms. A miraculous story, worthy of a human interest piece on the national news, perhaps. Sometimes he finds her sitting on the trail, waiting impatiently for him to catch up.
Rosalind was last seen at the Mont Brossard trailhead, but there is no confirmation that she ever entered the trail from any of the witnesses who came forward. No possessions of hers were ever recovered. No trace of a struggle. No suspicious activity. No body found in the dredged lake, or among the trees and boulders around it. No, she was not suicidal. No, she was not in any trouble with the law, no, not that I’m aware, yes, sir, I knew her quite well, we’ve been together for two years, and knew each other before that, too, when we both first moved here, and she was like an anchor, strength came easy to her, we talked and talked and talked— But he knows there’s an untruth in that. He didn’t know everything about her; there was more for him to learn, he’s sure of it. There was so much more to talk about. “Is this weird?” she’d asked him, when they first met and were living in the same building, him on the damp bottom floor and her on the renovated top floor accessible by creaking wooden stairs up to a narrow balcony. She was perched there, dipping french fries in ice cream with delicate little flicks of her wrist. “No,” he said. “It could be weirder.” And she’d laughed at that, a guttural, choking sound, too joyous to be grotesque. It summoned something dormant in him, and he’d let out an ugly laugh as well. Maybe they fell in love then, he thinks. Maybe that’s all it took—hearing your own laugh in someone else’s mouth. When he can’t sleep, he walks long circuitous routes through the city, dipping between the French and English sides at random, wandering between empty, gray warehouses and silvery office buildings extending up and out. In broken French, he buys cigarettes from a girl at a twentyfour hour corner store, smiles at her silently. He wants the girl to look at him, to make awkward, prolonged eye contact, if he can have it. He wants to feel that pleasant pang of discomfort. But she doesn’t spare him a glance, and there’s no one in the known world who would care if she did.
Chautauqua It drizzles in the early morning as he traces a path back home, and he lets the rain flatten his hair. The sky is a passive gray sheet, just beginning to undulate slightly with the light of the morning: water on the edge of a boil. At the bottom of the stairs leading up to the apartment he sits down heavily, smoking through the end of the pack as the sun rises. He thinks about how the world is perched on a wire between known and unknown, swaying tremulously over each abyss. A neighbor steps out of the building next to him, smiles while pulling a bike out of the rack, and Calvin is aware, vaguely, that his own face is not doing what it’s supposed to do. He’s about to scowl. He already is. The neighbor pedals away. In dreams, her face is often obscured by smoke. In dreams, she stands ahead of him on the trail, face impassive as she waits. In dreams, she comes into the bedroom late at night and he hears her sigh as she takes off her earrings and he asks her how was your trip? and he wakes up before he hears her answer. Sometimes she’s just a shadow in the corner of the room, not so much something dark as a spot within an absence of light, and he doesn’t know if it’s a dream or if this is real, this void into space where she resides, but he knows he’s not afraid of it and maybe, perhaps, if given the choice, he would fall into it himself. There were issues, he knows. Her parents’ dislike of him being one of them. But there was also the time he asked her to marry him, and she didn’t hear him because she was wearing headphones at the time, and he had decided not to ask her to take them off. The subject never came up again, though he suspects it should have. But he passes these off as issues of timing. They were not quite thirty, and therefore enjoyed the suspended animation of being in a place between young and old, ease and responsibility, inconstancy and commitment. Marriage didn’t have to matter yet, and there was still time to convince the parents, who thought his blue collar life beneath her. Their growing fondness for him now only proves that time may have conquered all else. But maybe the issues had seemed insurmountable to her, he thinks now. Maybe there were other issues he couldn’t fathom.
Marguerite Alley She sent him links to articles each day that he didn’t have time to read and they never spoke of it. Her parents arrive on a Friday evening. He inflates an air mattress for them in the living room of the apartment, dresses it in pale yellow sheets recently purchased and laundered to softness. Because there’s a version of her brain inside his. It’s been there since they met but now it’s louder. It tells him things. It tells him to take out the trash at night, to buy milk before he forgets and makes it all the way home, to take the sheets out of the washing machine and hang them out and collect them before the afternoon rain begins to fall. He does as he’s told. “Did Rosalind buy these?” her father asks, running a hand over the crisp sheets. “Yes,” Calvin lies. Things disassembled become meaningless. When laid out in disparate parts, a mosaic effect should take hold, but rather all he sees are pieces, nonsensically arranged. He did not know her; a collection of anecdotes is not knowledge. Assembled facts do not coalesce without a body to contain them. He cannot write a eulogy any more than he can grasp water with his fingers splayed like claws, poised to sink into soft dirt and hold him close to earth. “Evidence of the divine,” said Rosalind one afternoon. “The existence of the shearing knife.” She was using it to carve precise slivers off a block of Vermont cheddar. An orange sunset was pouring in from the window above the sink, sliding off the leaves of the hanging ivy. The tips of Calvin’s fingers were numb from removing oil pan screws for eight hours, from guiding old window wipers out of their sockets and new ones in. He could think of no suitably clever retort. Rosalind eventually turned away and the slicing resumed. He thinks if he could read minds he would only do so selectively, in those essential moments when words fail, when there’s no way to meet in the middle and he must extract the sentiment like a tooth and there’s
Chautauqua no way around the invasion, no secondary method of obtaining that most crucial of thoughts, no way around that urgent fact that we are all inherently unknowable. This would be easier than speaking. It would be more intimate than speech. All that hovers in the known and the unknown worlds would be revealed, laid before him like a forest spreading down a hill. He would know this: that the world is not actually perched on a wire. There is only one abyss and we’re all inside it, all the time. On the last night he spent with her, the people in the flat below them were having a party, the bass line of the music rattling the floorboards with every voracious thud. Calvin, in good spirits, had done a little interpretive dance while he microwaved ravioli for the both of them, raising his arms above his head and shimmying across the vibrating linoleum of the kitchen floor. When the song changed and ceased to thud, he looked to her for approval, his impromptu routine complete. “A good effort,” she offers, clapping, eyes crinkling into a grin from where she sits on the couch. “But I would’ve liked to have seen a little more artistry. More attention to the physicality of—” Before she can finish, he has lifted her up, her ugly laugh cracking open like an egg as he twirls her around the room. The morning of the memorial he wakes early and stands in front of the bathroom mirror until his face crumples—suddenly—a paper bag caving in on itself. He watches water swirl down the drain. At the service today, he suspects that all those invited will search for a deeper meaning, but already he rejects it. There is nothing to be learned from this—when confronted, the facts of life become meaningless, their shapes obscured by the outline of a person relieved from the burden of the known and thrust into the unknown, the missing, the endlessly unsolved. All he knows is that she is someplace else now. And that he still lives here, forever. “The turnout is impressive,” says her mother, surveying the crowd as it gathers under a white tent.
Marguerite Alley “Take pictures,” says her father. “She’ll appreciate the outpouring when she gets back.” And then Calvin laughs. It comes from something outside of himself, something hard and loud and defiantly elsewhere. It could not have come from within him, not here, not now. But it erupts: a harsh, serrating sound. Water seeds at the corners of his eyes. His mouth opens wide, the laugh of another tumbling out.
The Three Lines Jose Luis Oseguera Graye rested peacefully in plumage, wearing Montezuma’s headdress underneath the nest where he had been born only weeks before. —Death in Graye When this whole thing first started, the pandemic, I never thought I’d write a eulogy for a bird, three simple lines. Yet it came as no surprise when a pair of mourning doves chose to nest in our hanging mandevillas. “I think the fat one is the girl,” my wife said. “And the skinny one on the balcony rail is the boy.” We named them Gale and Guy, as in the French pronunciation, not because he was a “guy” bird. A few days later, I wasn’t surprised to see two eggs, perfectly white, or how Gale was able to balance the weight of time, her empty bones and summer’s heat above them. She somehow knew that the passage of time would grant her squabs the urge to be born. It came as no surprise when my wife told me she looked fat or that she wanted to hire a West Hollywood personal trainer or when we found out she was pregnant with our second— the product of her X and mine. I wasn’t surprised to find the chicks’ discarded shells curled like sardine can lids or that I thought of my mother and how my son’s smile reminded her of her first husband’s mischievous grin, her ex, my dad.
Jose Luis Oseguera
I wasn’t surprised that as the squabs grew bigger, they hopped out of the elevated nest and onto the balcony or that Gale’s leaves of absence grew longer or that one day, she never came back. The squeakers looked more and more like their father, so we named the smallest one Graye because he was grey and the bigger one Ganja because she was growing like a weed. It came as no surprise when my son began to thrash his head against the headrest of his highchair whenever I tried to hand-feed him bits of bread, or that he wanted to do it himself, as when he bruised his cheek on the side of our coffee table when he let go of my hands to walk in his body. It came as no surprise when my wife yelled at our dog for having chased one of the fledglings off the balcony while holding the other one in its mouth. “Babe,” my wife said. “I think Graye was already dead.” I stared at the bird’s stiff feathers, the dirt lacing them, and the emptiness left within. What was a body anyway but dust and space, sparse stars brought to sleep only to dream of life as flesh? It was interesting to see how small and empty something looked when someone had stopped living in it. It didn’t surprise me when I heard the doctor say via FaceTime that the baby nested deep within my wife was a girl, not by the absence of a penis, but by the three tiny lines formed by the fetal labia. It’s funny how we tend to weigh our lives by what we think is missing rather than what’s simply there.
However, as I placed Graye’s soft, weightlessness into a plastic bag, and scrubbed away the bird droppings caked on the balcony, I was surprised to see how this one-bedroom abode, a part meant to be temporary, drenched with living, had become our house—a nest, a shelter we thought there couldn’t be anything beyond, where our wings grew strong full of feathers, amidst our shells and twigs, the landing where we learned how to feed ourselves and fly. Yet, it wasn’t our home, a place that would be made out of what we’d bring with us, but also, of what we’d leave behind; an image I drew in my mind, and from memory as a child: a roof and two walls, three lines.
Chimney Swifts Trevor Moffa Like smoke the swifts from their chimneys ghost, wisping into the crepuscule, and each evening I’m thrilled to know they find our hollows good enough to return to, like those ancient empty trees whose insides honed swift toes to fit the home, whose felling changed the names of more than birds, whose final breath breathed chimneys to the swifts above the burning, like those memories that escape everything but my senses, those memories that become instinct and bind me to myself like the mortar between the bricks of these chimneys, the uneven in-between my still evolving feet cling to.
“ It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most resilient and responsive to change.” —Charles Darwin
s n o s s e L e L if
The City and the Wilderness Mary Elizabeth Birnbaum I thumb the tiny paper canoes of rapini, and the deep mahogany seeds heap numberless in the stainless bowl. If I make a basket of my fingers and hunched palms, the rapini seeds will leak through the seams. This momentous summer, each time I go down to my vegetable garden, ornate tomatoes, windy kale leaves, labyrinthine zucchini stems have all grown five inches, ten inches in frenzied rain. The bright sails of Swiss chard are too big to hold in my arms. A New Yorker, swaddled in bricks, all I knew in the city was thing after thing chosen for perfection, trimmed, glossed, and showcased in the box. Except the weeds, in the Bronx, like me, that grew up from sidewalk cracks. Strange world, outside my concrete planet, uncontrolled by the blue uniform. A fertile passion. Over my new raised beds, storm clouds mime disdain of straight and prim. What am I, down in the green, but a thick stem among a gathering of leaves, each leaf an opening eye.
Staircase Jennafer D’Alvia
lyde and I are rollerskating in the park. He leads me around his wheelchair into slides and figure eights. Then he swoops me behind him and lets go with a flourish sending me into multiple tiny turns. There’s a rush of whirling, and at the end of the song, we both know it’s time. My building’s a few blocks away. I skate behind Clyde, and push his chair along the sidewalks, T-stopping here and there when we pick up too much speed. We make it into the lobby no problem. It’s the next step that gives me pause. I’ve got to somehow get Clyde up four flights to my apartment. He’s always seemed lean, but right now he looks solid and heavy, like one of those Egyptian scribes, where the legs have become part of the marble base. Clyde’s ex, Brielle, got him up steps, and she’s not any bigger than me, but Brielle’s extreme, mentally. She’s the fanatical type. When Clyde got paralyzed, she slept in a chair in his hospital room every night for three months. People see me and Clyde together, and they think I’m like Brielle, some kind of martyr, but they’re wrong. That’s not me. I don’t want to be with someone disabled, I want to be with Clyde and I want him whole — so much so that I dream about it at night. “Shall we?” Clyde says. “I don’t think I can do this,” I say and I’m not even sure if I mean get him up the stairs or date a guy in a wheelchair, but when I see Clyde’s worried face, I clear up my sentence. “I’m not very strong,” I tell him, and I hold out a skinny arm for his inspection. He reaches over and makes a circle around my upper arm with his thumb and index finger, then laughs. “Don’t worry,” he says. “It’s not about arm strength. You’re gonna use your legs, like in skating.” The word skating makes me feel calmer. It brings me back to our
Chautauqua connection. I nod a couple of times, but I’m not really convinced. Clyde can tell. “Come here.” He puts up his armrest and beckons with his index finger. I get on top of him. My legs spill out over the giant wheels, and the two of us completely block the staircase. I brush my lips against Clyde’s high cheek bones, his long eyelashes. If our situations were reversed, and I was the one who couldn’t walk, he would just carry me up the steps, right to my bedroom. With his hands under my shirt, I picture that, and it all seems so easy that I wish for it, until I realize what I’m thinking. The outer door clicks announcing someone’s arrival. I get up and Clyde maneuvers deftly out of the way. My neighbor eyes us with surprise or anger, and I guess what he’s thinking: White woman, Black man. Or maybe it’s the able-bodied plus wheelchair he’s trying to add up, or else he’s just got a basic mistrust of other humans. Either way, I stick my tongue out at his back, but when I look at Clyde, it seems like he doesn’t even notice the guy. Stuff like that, random acts of animosity, seem to bounce off him. The guy takes the steps at a decent clip. Not as fast as I would normally go, but way faster than Clyde and I are about to go, I realize. Clyde positions his chair at the base of the steps again and starts giving me commands in his patient way. “So you have to stand behind me,” he says. “Yeah, like that… Now tilt the chair back.” “What if I can’t hold you?” I ask. Because now I’m thinking that Clyde’s vastly overrated my strength, and this whole thing may actually be dangerous, reckless even. “You’re not gonna drop me.” He sounds so relaxed and sure that I almost believe him, and I lean his chair back, bending my knees. “A little more tilt,” he says. “A little more…” It’s strange to have Clyde leaned so far back, he seems almost like a piece of furniture I’m moving.
Jennafer D’Alvia “Hey upside down,” I say, looking at his face. This is how it’s supposed to be between me and Clyde—fun, funny. “Hel-lo.” It’s just one word, but the way Clyde draws it out makes it sexy. I smile at him. I’m a step above, stooped over. “What now?” I ask. My lower back is straining, but I ignore it. “Now, you gotta bend your knees—just like you’re skating. On three, you pull and I’ll push. One… two… three.” He’s up, and I’ve got him at a balanced angle on the first step, so I don’t even feel his weight. I smile. It’s magical. Paradoxical. Like everything else with Clyde. We go for the next step. As he pulls back on the wheel, every muscle in his arm shows up in high relief. His body is so beautiful, and so broken. From the waist down nothing works, not since the car accident way before my time. My mind runs ahead: We make it to the landing outside my apartment, I reach into my backpack for my keys and open the door. Then Clyde locks his chair, stands up, and walks in after me. It’s impossible not to imagine that this stairwell is our test and once we get to my floor, everything will be alright. Like there’ll be some magical result. It’s not going to be like that, I know, but I can’t stop wanting it. “How many more steps ’til the landing?” Clyde asks, from his upside down position. “Two more.” He nods. I notice the top of his head has these short waves of kinks in concentric circles, coming out from the crown. He’s mentioned his waves, but I never really got what he meant until now. “Oh, hey, I finally see what you mean by waves. It looks cool!” I tell him. “You’re just noticing that now?” Clyde says. My cheeks get hot. What else should I have picked up about him by now? “Well, I’ve got a perfect view of your hair from here.” He laughs. “That you have.” We get to the first landing. And I guess Clyde was right. These stairs
Chautauqua are no big deal—or maybe I’m stronger than I’d thought. And Clyde helps a lot, wheeling back on my chair. We pause at the landing. I get my water bottle out of my backpack, take a swig and pass the bottle to Clyde. It’s hot in the stairwell and we’re both sweating. Clyde smells musty and good. I stand close to him, and he does what he always does. He puts up his armrest, so I can get closer. When I lean on him, he slips his hand up the back of my shirt and we kiss. Clyde’s lips are meaty and soft, like raspberries. “Let’s do this,” I say. We’ve got two more flights to go. Once again, I’m above him. The stairs are a bit steeper, so I can’t tilt him too much, but we manage to get up the first three steps. After that, there’s a narrow turn in the staircase, and the chair’s too wide. It looks like he should fit, but no matter how much we jostle, pushing and pulling, it’s stuck. I hold the chair, tilted back as far as I can, and I wait for him to say something. Clyde’s ingenious, the way he MacGyvers make-shift ramps, or bungees things together. Maybe he’ll have an idea for this too. He lets out a big sigh. “Let’s go back to the landing,” he says. We bump him back down and the chair slips on the last step and hits the floor with a jolt. His right leg slides off the foot rest and hangs loose. A leg shouldn’t be that light. Driftwood is the word that comes to mind. It looks like something Clyde could just leave behind, something not really part of him. His face stiffens as he grips the armrest with one hand to keep balance, and reaches for the limb with the other. The leg slips from his grasp and swings out. I imagine him thinking, Not now, and that’s how I’m feeling too. At least for tonight I want to keep him together, the way I’m used to him, with his legs in their jeans, placed just so on the footrests. I look away to the dirty window pane and the floor tiles as he fishes for his leg. Once he’s settled everything back in place, I breathe easier. He’s Clyde again, dignified with his hands in his lap, beautiful long-fingered hands, but the image of the dead leg doesn’t quite leave me. I’ve seen his leg swing out before, in the park, and I felt badly for him, of course, but it was always his problem. With each step up, it’s becoming mine, and
Jennafer D’Alvia what if I can’t handle it? Clyde opens the pouch at his waist and takes out a pack of cigarettes. He rubs his thumb on the little wheel of the cheap lighter, three then four times until there’s a flame and the end of the cigarette glows red, as Clyde sucks intensely, creating a crease in his nose. He exhales and the smoke whisps around his face. It’s just smoking, I know, but I love the way Clyde does it, the way he does everything, deliberately. Every little thing he does, you know he means it. “Let’s try again,” I say. “Get up a little higher this time,” he tells me. “Okay, but I’ll need you to push.” “Oh, I’m gonna push.” And just like that his energy’s back and I catch that wave, like, yeah, we got this. We do our thing, and get up the first two steps, and the third, but then we come to the narrow turn. We jostle the chair, scraping the sides against the wall, until it feels like the chair’s gonna break apart. “It’s not gonna work,” I blurt, and I think Clyde will argue, but he doesn’t say anything. Finally, I lower him back down, taking more care on the last step this time. We’re stuck on the landing. It turns out I can’t pull him up after all. I’m not strong like Brielle, or determined, or whatever she was. And it feels like this outcome was utterly predictable. I can almost hear Clyde’s voice saying, I’m paralyzed, in his slow, measured way. It’s obvious, I know. The guy’s in a wheelchair, but was I really supposed to understand what that meant? Was I supposed to figure it out? That he won’t be able to have sex with me the way I want him to, and that he really can’t walk—not ever. Because if he could walk, like once in a while, or even once a year, he definitely would have walked up these steps. This was the time to do it. This was the moment to splurge. To muster the energy. To use his one wish. What am I even thinking? Outside it’s spring with breezes moving branches around, but in the stairwell the air is completely still. I feel grubby, hungry and tired all at once. Maybe we shouldn’t have tried, because, I get it now, this is how
Chautauqua it’s going to be with Clyde all the time. It’ll be me, acting like a superhero and I can’t do it. I can’t pull him up. It’s not workable. It’s already not working and we haven’t even begun. Maybe all those people who look at me and Clyde like we’re crazy are actually right. “Yo, guy!” Clyde calls out to a neighbor coming up the stairs—a short man I don’t know by sight. “Could you give us a hand?” The guy stiffens, and keeps his gaze on the walls as he turns sideways and hurries past us. I feel a surge of fury. Clyde shrugs. “Guess not,” he says. I want to punch that guy with his selfish attitude. But I understand. I mean, why get involved in other people’s problems? Why exert yourself for someone else? It’s hard to pull a man in a wheelchair up a staircase. Clyde has no choice, of course. He can’t just opt out. He has to deal with this stuff all the time. In fact, this is probably like a regular day for Clyde. This is a walk in the park for him. Or should I say a roll? Both sentences seem to insult him, even though Clyde doesn’t care about semantics. He’s even got jokes to make the skaters feel better about him being paralyzed. “Go ahead and sit,” he loves to say. “I brought my own chair.” All the skaters smile gratefully, but it turns out there are side-effects to him bringing his own chair; there’s no incidental touching. I never get to sit next to him on a park bench. We can’t inch closer. Trying to get near Clyde is like trying to get from a dock to a boat that’s being pulled out to sea. Eventually, you have to jump, or just let the boat float away. “Well,” Clyde says like he’s screwed himself up for something. “I guess it’s time for Plan B.” I didn’t know there even was a Plan B. He’d seemed so confident with the original plan, acted like he didn’t think we could fail. And now, here we are at Plan B, and I have no idea what that means. Will his chair now morph into a helicopter, James Bond style? Clyde locks the brakes on his wheels and leans his body forward. Then, just like that he’s out of the chair. He’s on his face on the filthy floor. A snail out of its shell. It never occurred to me that he could be separated from his chair this way. In my fantasies, when he’s out of his
Jennafer D’Alvia chair, his legs start to work, but that’s not the reality. Instead Clyde’s lying on the staircase on his elbows with his legs strewn this way and that, his pant legs crumpled like litter. I look around afraid someone will see him like this. His torso twists back towards me. “Grab my legs!” he says. Okay. Okay. I grasp his ankles and as I lift, I have to step back to pull his pelvis off the ground. And now Clyde’s a wheelbarrow, a rickshaw, some strange contraption. He must have known the whole time this was an option. Plan B: A last-ditch, desperate move. Something out of Disney’s Fantasia, he’s hand-walking up the steps. His hands are his legs. His hands are his wheels and he’s functioning. He’s a getting it done. Not a man anymore, a machine of human parts, willing to do whatever it takes to be with me. He pads through the first landing, and we don’t stop. Sweat drips down his nape, as he places one hand, then the other on each step and we inch our way to the top, hand-step by hand-step. Finally, we’re there—the fourth floor. Clyde palms to the middle of the tiles. We’ve done it. I’m stunned. “You could put me down,” he says. He lies across the fourth floor landing like a spill. His nostrils flare, drawing in a long draught of air. I stare at him. Sweat’s beaded up on his face, on his neck in the rivulets between the waves of his hair. I knew he cared, but this is different. The things they talk about: walk through ﬁre, cross an ocean. . . He MacGyvered it. He MacGyvered himself. I’m still staring at Clyde, when he reaches one arm up for my hand, then presses it gently. “Could I trouble you for my chair?” he asks from the floor. I head down the steps and when I come around the corner and see the wheelchair, I feel relieved. What would we do if it were gone? I sit on the chair for a second, to see what it feels like. The cushion fell on the ground when Clyde left the chair, so I’m on the canvas seat, and it’s just like a normal chair until I release the brakes, then instantly I’m rolling. I steer to the left and back to the right making a little figure eight on the landing. The chair’s so responsive and maneuverable. I feel weightless on it.
Chautauqua I stand and pull up on the canvas seat to fold the wheelchair partway, and that’s all that’s needed. It’s light without Clyde, and no problem to bounce up the steps. I’m back on the fourth floor in a minute and I roll the chair up next to him and drop the cushion on top. Clyde reaches up and locks the brakes, flips back the armrest. When he sees me hovering, he says, “I got it from here.” I watch as he lifts himself slowly, using the strength from his triceps. His body moves intensely upwards, like a tree growing in time lapse. For a moment he hovers above the cushion and then he’s back in his seat. The whole thing is mesmerizing. He lets out a big exhale and then smiles at me. I open the door to the apartment. “Wait,” Clyde says, and he takes my fingers and leads me back towards him, almost like a skate move. He curls me into his lap and pulls me in closer. It’s clear now that Clyde means to ferry me inside for this first time. It would be easier if I got up and opened the door for us both to pass through, but Clyde’s a romantic, and I am too, because I lean back into his chest and hold my legs out, giving him room to drive the chair forward, pushing us over the threshhold.
Not-Still Life with Trees Jonathan B. Aibel Dearest, in your native New Mexico weeds can’t grow to trees: every tree in the flat earth has a patron, bearing water. For my native New England if we overlook a chokecherry one year, or two; it’s taller than me with a taproot that grips like hell that resists the mattock’s prying. Meantimes maple helicopters sprout multitudes of two-leaf babes in the rock garden. Thank heaven for the lawn mower that cuts them down like grass. I get slower, the trees quicker; one day they’ll wrap their roots around us; seems fair enough.
Metempsychosis Doug Ramspeck Plato described how Orpheus became a swan following death, Thamyris a nightingale, but after our neighbor’s miscarriage, the sky above her house transformed in the night into a dark mirror, while the apples in her orchard fell with uncountable thumps, fed on by a fox we spotted sneaking up from the river at first light. There was something in the way the crows called out across the hairline of day, and something in the way that new light bruised the tall grass along the field’s edge. I used to imagine that years were unappeasable, that dirt grew soggy with rain then hardened each winter into a kind of stone, but recently I have been wondering about the resurrection of wind flitting through leaves at first light, about the skin cells of stars arriving after dark, about the extravagance of metaphors we employ to describe our distillations of loss. Then this morning, I saw out my back window my neighbor down on her knees by her tomato plants, the clouds a migration above her, her gloved hands searching, it seemed, for hornworms. And I thought about the way my mother used to place tomatoes on our kitchen windowsill to ripen. They were the size and shape of hearts. They had their green quietude while angled sunlight fell through the window to expose the visible world. Memory is granular, I think, but in the way that crow calls gather over years into a single ghostly sound, and in the way that my neighbor rose at one point this morning to cradle a ripe tomato to her chest.
“ There are moments when all anxiety and stated toil are becalmed in the inﬁnite leisure and repose of nature.” —Henry David Thoreau
Life at leisure
The Physics of Grace Kathryn Atwood Your stone skips effortlessly across the river, but when I throw mine, it just drops in the water and sinks to the bottom. You try to reassure me. “It’s all in the wrist,” you say. I squint, maybe it’s the sunlight reflecting off the water or maybe it’s the unexpected tears. You take my wrist, run a finger along the newly formed scars, red and angry like I so often feel. But, your touch against my skin cools me. You place a flat, smooth stone in my palm, curve my fingers around it. “See,” you say, “this is how you hold it; gently, like you might not skip it—like instead you might just keep it in your pocket…” Your fingers slide off my hand and your thumb grazes my scars. You draw my arm back just slightly. “Breathe,” you say, and I exhale, surrender my wrist, my hand, my heart. You guide my arm and at the last moment, gently, you release me, and I release the stone. It performs a perfect glide, skipping once, twice, three times across the water. I am breathless as this stone, something so heavy, so impossible, flies so lightly, kissing the water, suddenly free.
Barefoot Anne Kaier
rilliant, burning sand stung the open fissures in my heels the instant I stepped onto the beach. We children went shoeless everywhere that summer. No seven-year-old—certainly not one in a spiffy yellow-checkered bathing suit—would wear sneakers in July. The heat spread itself across acres of dry sand in front of me. I closed my eyes and imagined a hole going down into the cool earth. Almost to China, I thought, trying to forget my smarting feet. If you dig far enough, you get from New Jersey to the other side of the world. As my face started to flush, I picked up speed, trotting on the balls of my feet, then sprinting, determined to get off the sandplain. All over my body tight scales thickened my skin. They pulled apart here and there—behind my knees, between my fingers, deeply in my heels—and I bled a little between the cracks. Although all this made ichthyosis, my skin condition, plain to everyone who looked at me, I tried not to think I was any different from the friends I was going to meet. I hoped I wouldn’t be limping on sore feet when I finally caught up with them. Following the family code of never speaking about my skin—hardly acknowledging it—I didn’t say a word about it to my buddies. I soldiered on, trying to please my parents who wanted me to be treated like a normal kid— and act like one. That was the culture in 1953 in my Irish-American family. You didn’t call attention to anything that was different about you. You pretended everything was fine. As the sun streamed down, I breathed in shallow gulps. My heart pulsed almost to my shoulders. Sweat couldn’t make it through my thick layers of skin to cool me. I was in the middle of the stretch of dry sand now. Somehow I had to keep going, to get away from this crushing heat. I had to get off the thick sand that kept me looking down so I wouldn’t trip. By now I could smell the ocean in the distance. Would I have a scarlet face from the heat when I finally caught up with my pals? They tanned so easily.
Chautauqua To forget that, I tried to imagine my feet cooled by swirls of sea foam even when I felt the sand hot as a grill beneath my skipping toes. When I was younger, my Dad, seeing I needed help, would carry me on his shoulders all the way across this desert. Today I was alone, going to meet my friends for a swim. By now I couldn’t feel anything except the heat pushing against my calves and arms and chest, my heartbeat getting louder in my ears. I was frightened I’d pass out right there under the sun. Almost blindly, I stumbled around sharp clam shells whose edges could slice me, kept my legs moving through the last dry yards until I began to feel something ooze under my feet. Here the high tide had left the hard sand wet before flowing out again. A breeze off the ocean circled my shoulders. A few more steps and frothing waves massaged my ankles. As my feet absorbed the vigorous water, the cracks between the thick plates of dead skin loosened. Soon each foot felt flexible, almost whole. My friends, horsing around in the bigger waves beyond the breakers, called to me and I swam out to join them. The ocean tingled along my arms; the waves lifted me up and down. I could breathe deeply again as I moved my legs against the swinging water. Exhilarated, I shouted among the others, happy to be part of their crowd. We laughed and splashed each other, at home in the ocean. Now and then, I glanced at the life guards up on their white wooden stand. They were there to rescue us if necessary, but I never went out too far. Bending over in the green swells, I made spearing motions with my arms so the water would rush past them. It felt delicious, but I began to dread the end of the afternoon when I would have to walk back across those endless hot sands. I stayed in the arms of the sea as long as I could, but when the others wanted to go home, I scampered out of the water, pretending to myself—and to them—that I was excited to start the journey back. As we began the trek, the sun looked like a fried egg sitting in the sky. I told myself I only had to make it to our house where I could cool down in the outside shower. Then we kids would eat watermelon in my mother’s kitchen. Imagine juicy red slices, I whispered to myself. You’ll be
Anne Kaier okay. Pretending to feel the shower water streaming down my back, I ran as fast as I could. The ocean had softened the slabs of skin pulling fissures in my heels; they didn’t hurt as much. I raced in front of the others until I got to the strip of grass and weeds along the pavement on our street. I had made it across the sand; dandelions felt soft on the arches of my feet. Almost seventy years later, I feel enormous compassion for my young self—and anger that I had to endure those burning walks without shoes or a hat—accoutrements that would have marked me as different. It’s also true that in the summer of 1953, the Jersey Shore was air conditioning. That’s one reason why my parents brought us there from our stuffy house in the suburbs. They didn’t hide me—and they didn’t make me wear sneakers. They wanted our family to be like every other family they knew. So they took us to a place their friends went—to the beach where the great cooling ocean wove its fingers around my feet. All I needed was to get to it. Every day.
Escapism Javy Awan Always have at hand the accoutrements for escape—for example, a trap door, even if it’s fake—but better if it descends to a maze of tunnels you have yet to map, although you’ve memorized the first fifteen turns before they connect to an infrastructure vast—a side channel veers off to robbers wiring a bank vault for a blast—go, go! Before it all blows! Dusting off, you’re passed by Chasids intoning psalms on their way to Jerusalem— how they connect beneath the seas and rugged terrains, no one questions—it’s accepted by faith and the believers arrive rubbing their eyes and shouting Hallelujahs. Some passages require that you squirm like a worm, and your helmet may dislodge nests of insects, moles, and rodents, to scatter and scurry away, higgledy-piggledy, until that hairpin bend—wriggle on, don’t panic— you’re escaping! Maybe you’d prefer to freeze cakes and pies with files and pliers baked inside for delivery on visiting day in the cell block, or to knot sheets to bedposts and dangle out pried windows while shocked orderlies shout, or to shimmy down ladders of prison suits to hit the ground running, pursued by hounds. You’re escaping to the rowboat tangled fast in brambles, paddling marshland channels to freight tracks, clinging to creaking bogies under scrapes of sparks above rumbling ties
or bellyflopped flat on the roof entering a tunnel. At the station, you retrieve your stash of IDs, passports, wads of foreign cash, and kit of disguises— rubbery, facefit masks that detach at the neck— this tag doesn’t read “Cruise” but “Clouseau”! Low-comedy escapes can work like high tech. But you can’t beat McQueen revving his hog out of the Stalag or Houdini cuffed in a safe and sunk. In the mountains, resort to skis—leave Ski-Doos to the bad guys whom an avalanche will overtake, and if they shoot, they’ll miss, as seen on TV. Take my hand, this way out—you’ve escaped!
Baltimore, 1946 Hannah Feustle The war is over, and the ladies’ duckpin bowling league is back at the alley with the gleaming floors, with fits of giggling, nyloned legs, spare change for soda and eyes on the curfew clock. They watch discharged GIs arrive at the next alley—both have steady work now, but home isn’t all they remember. It’s an ordinary night, music and laughing and rattle of pins, except watch: this night will be immortalized. The grandchildren will know of this alley on this day, when she first sees the sharp point of Al’s chin, and he sees Ede with the bowling team, the one with fair hair and blue eyes with worry caged behind them, when he raises a glass in her direction and she lifts a hand in return. For everyone else, the night is ordinary, passes. Their lives change, and all around, there are forgotten parts. A family bickers, a woman’s hand slips, a glass smashes. Don’t you know someone dropped a ball, there was a thump-thump as it struck the floor, that it rolled off-center before it clattered the pins?
“ And I’ll be here when only the sun and moon are left, and the sea, and the wide ﬁeld. I will constitute the ﬁeld.” —Louise Glück
Life in art
Runaway Nicholas Samaras I planned everything a fourteen-year old could plan. I knew the history of “freedom money” and bagged groceries for tips, silver coins saved for running and turned into folding green. It only took the last beating to decide it was the last beating. Walking out of my life was the simple act of walking down the mountain and finding a nest in the woods to hide in. Down the Requa footpath, I folded myself into the green trees, breathing safety as time stopped. A runaway lives in the moment. I lived in that moment. Years later, a part of me still lives in that moment
of pure freedom and pure fear, still choosing the terror of the unknown over the terror of the hand, the belt, choosing to be that hidden, that close to the earth and sky, but breathing for once, knowing safety even in danger. How many days was it? I lived my life in those days, being spare— brave and afraid, hurt and not hurt, terrified and grateful, a child stepping out of childhood, making a decision and living with it as long as possible.
Single Gold Light Wavering Far-off in a Black Distance Nicholas Samaras I was happy with loneliness, in a solitary room on a monastic mountain. A roaring rain all night, the air glistening with blackness and downpour. Gathering was done, the prayers at rest, each of us left alone for hours of evening solitude, the dusk of my room’s window left open to rain and its running silver, the music of cascade and the touching of my solitude. Staring out into a chasm of dark, I sat for hours and saw, across the gorge, one tiny gold rectangle of light levitated, a window of light where I swore no house or hut had been before. All night, I stayed up long into the hours, watching that radiance. How I longed for that amber to keep me company, imagining a hermit’s lamp and hours of gold vigil. In that wild storm, to be safe inside my guest room, confronting myself, alone but comforted by presence, knowing of humans nearby vigilant in study, lonely and living.
Beethoven Quartet Mike Schneider The violin is a crinkled oak leaf settling Earthward in cool October air. A blind woman traces its cradling fall, a fingertip dance to the Brailled score as notes scatter down the page. Curled at her feet, a guide dog listens into the silent spaces. My sciatic nerve twitches pizzicato like a red-winged blackbird screeches & lifts over the creek by the old ballfield. The viola splashes & ripples the surface of a lagoon, silvery beneath the aloof white moon. With plaintive groans, the cello rows toward shore where a young man tiptoes past a sleeping watchman. The second violin’s eyes glisten as if they know a secret: Winter, the garden of fierce old age.
Lonely Ludwig, passion blazing like flash-fire, roars through dry forest, courts the Countess. She won’t have him, half-crazy coot, halfdeaf, impervious as an ancient tree, armored in bark, still
climbing toward morning light. Should anyone be surprised that this music asks for us only to hover bodiless on a layer of charmed air above the city, across the river into the pines & purple clover up to a high white plateau?
As Sabina listened to late Beethoven quartets, her pet tarantula, Roland, fed on small creatures—crickets, snails, beetles. Quality protein snacks, she’d say, is how life passes, dissolved by time into emanations, words that begin with “s” at the end of tenderness—sausage, sand, stars. Beethoven, word that says Welcome to my madness, yours too & my joy more huge than the Frost Moon. You too may surrender to serenity. Disagreement inside me requires a clown’s mask to hide how I resolve into magic. Everything I say means Listen: This is how I tame my wild love.
Daily you climb a ladder rung by rung & the apple dangles out of reach & you tumble in mid-air flailing like the cartoon coyote. Morning is sixty brown beans, count & grind them, clutch a kiln-fired mug— savory darkness, cold clay, beseech emptiness to speak— fear & slide trombones. How a cutter cracks ice is how the cello aches from silence into sound & the man in the garden of fierce age mocks nothing as he says to himself, Who knew I’d want so much?
Finding Tango in Turkey Caroline N. Simpson “In that moment that both are listening, the magic of the music, the skin of one in the skin of the other, the smell, the touch, produces the miracle of something like a mantra, and the yin and yang is there! We are dancing tango!” —Ricardo Vidort
hand the tailor a roll of lipstick-red satin and the sketch of my dream dress: fairylike multi-length hem, halter straps that button behind my neck, and a plunging backline. In this conservative neighborhood of Ankara, Turkey, the sweet woman has likely never received such a request. Perhaps I am her only yabancı customer. When I return the following week to try it on, she has cut some slits too high, showing more of my thigh than I’d intended. Maybe this is her dream tango dress too. On the day of the milonga where I’ll debut the dress, my girlfriends and I have plans to meet after school at The Bistro for a glass of wine and a mezze. We toast to the end of the school year, to summer travels, and to some of our impending moves, including my own. After three years of teaching in Turkey, I am moving to Barcelona for another international teaching position. My girlfriends are on their second glasses of wine when I call for a taxi. They want to see my new dress before I leave. I change in the bathroom so I can do a quick twirl around their table. “Mashallah, canım! What God has willed, my dear!” With catcalls and whistles, my gaggle of girlfriends sends me off into the night, into the close embraces of many men, into the clutch of one. The first time Tuncay and I danced together, I was in my very first tango class. I was warming up as his praktika was ending. As he headed
Caroline N. Simpson
to the door, he changed direction when he saw me and approached with the confidence of discerning taste. Without a word, he pulled me into a close embrace—which I had not yet learned. I stiffened. I could do nothing in tango other than clumsily walk backwards. But as he moved, my body softened and began to respond in ways I didn’t know I could. I felt a warm electricity rise from deep within me. It seemed to hover where our chests met, like a moonrise we now shared. When the song came to an end and he released me, I felt drunk— unable to distinguish where my body ended and the room began. “Iyi partner. Good partner,” he said, looking me up and down before throwing his jacket over his shoulder and swaggering out the door. Though it would be another year and many lessons before I would experience that feeling again, I fell in love with tango that day. People are often surprised that I learned to dance tango in Turkey, a primarily Muslim country. Surprisingly, Istanbul is one of the largest tango festival organizers in the world after Paris and Buenos Aires, the birthplace of tango. It is true in the villages and much of eastern Turkey that I must dress conservatively, avoid prolonged encounters with any man, and never touch a man not in my family. But on the dance floors of the country’s western cities, I can dress provocatively and engage in the physical intimacy of tango with men I’ve never met before. It’s hard to completely ignore the cultural taboo of touching strangers of the opposite sex. Perhaps this added to its intrigue and caused tango to explode in Turkey in the ’90s. For me, the dichotomous expectations to be both conservative and open provide a safe space to unfurl something that has been closed for a long time. Weeks before I dropped off the red fabric at the tailor’s, my Turkish friend Rukiye and I took a walk after school one day in the hills across the street. It was part of a neighboring university’s land, so we had to step over the barbed wire fence that had been stomped to the earth by many teachers before us. There were packs of wild shepherd dogs that roamed this scrubland. I’d been bitten by one earlier that year, which
Chautauqua sent me to the hospital for a rabies shot. Now, I only walked here with friends. I confided in Rukiye about Tuncay—how our dancing over the last few years had led to dinners and ski trips with friends and now to his persistent pursuit of me. I told her of my resistance to starting a romance. He spoke no English, and though I’d been learning Turkish for three years and we could chitchat, there could be no pillow talk. I was also moving to Spain in a few short months. What was the point of starting something now? “There are many kind connection,” Rukiye said in her broken English. She told me the story of a foreigner who met a Turk in Ankara and then moved to Germany for work, but maintained the long distance relationship. I couldn’t imagine wanting to commit to Tuncay from Barcelona; there wasn’t enough depth in our friendship off the dance floor. But Rukiye dismissed each of my qualms. “This a connection!” she said as she shook her head. Then suddenly, she shouted, “Bak, canım! Look, my dear!” and pointed to the sky in front of us. I’d been so busy trying not to trip on a rock that I’d missed the rainbow forming against the backdrop of a yellow, post-storm sky. Seven years earlier, a boyfriend whom I had adored had left me abruptly. I had lost my virginity to him, and he had been there with me when I lost my father. I had fallen in love with all aspects of my life then: the job and the mountain town where we had met. The stars had lined up, and we both blossomed. However, his burgeoning led him to other horizons. After working through my anger and grief, I returned our relationship to its pedestal in my heart. Over the years, different men had entered my life as friends, and sometimes one’s feelings leaned towards the romantic. But I kept them all at bay, disinterested in a close embrace that would fall short of what I’d felt in Russ’ arms. Without knowing it, I was carrying a post-storm sky with me into each new encounter, only seeing a sickly yellow light when I looked at new opportunities for connection.
Caroline N. Simpson This kind of dedication to one person would be considered poor etiquette in tango. It’s a social dance with a community spirit and to dance with only one person all night is considered rude. In one evening’s milonga, I experience many different partners. Some dances are playful and make me laugh. Others are sensual and make me blush, even take my breath away. Some awkward partners frustrate me, while another’s nervousness is sweet. Some are curious and invite me to embellish. Others are closeminded, and I feel like a piece of furniture moved around the room. Some feel safe like a bear hug and become the partners I come back to when it’s not going well on the dance floor. Other partners are electric and addictive. A night dancing tango is a sped-up lifetime of encounters and connections. With each partner, one dances a tanda consisting of three or four songs. If it’s not going well, a tanda can last a lifetime—is that a ﬁfth song the DJ snuck in? Afraid to hurt feelings or breach tango etiquette, I’ll let a bad connection drag on, but not without scouring the room over his shoulder to make eye contact with my next partner, someone who can help me recover. Once in a blue moon, I won’t be able to stand it any longer, and I’ll break short a tanda. Often more uncomfortable than the dancing itself, a broken tanda can taint the rest of an evening, leaving me unable to connect again. Other times, a tanda ends too soon—was that four songs? Even if the time goes by in the blink of an eye, there’s a timeless depth in a good connection. I feel totally present; all others in the room disappear. Such a dance can even break the spell of a broken tanda. A close embrace like this can be both a portal to everything and a beautiful suffocation that throws all else to the periphery. When I arrive at the milonga in my fire-red tango dress and catch Tuncay’s eye, he smiles and knows the whole evening will be foreplay. When we dance head-to-head, heart-to-heart, we drink in each other’s perfume and cologne, becoming intoxicated with what will happen later that night when we are alone. The more we watch each other dance with others, the more we long to be in our own close embrace. And
Chautauqua each time I return to his arms, I feel the moonrise every place our bodies touch. Tuncay and I enjoy a short affair before I leave for Barcelona. Off the dance floor, our embraces feel incomplete, as if pieces of a larger connection we have while dancing. Our pillow talk is as pathetic as I’d anticipated, but not without its humor. Thinking I’m saying something benign in Turkish, sometimes he’ll roll over offended until I realize I’m using the wrong word. Nonetheless, we are addicted to each other in that short time we spend oscillating between beds and dance floors. Like all Turkish names, Tuncay is a word with a specific meaning. It translates to “Bronze Moon” in English. I think of the Harvest Moon, when the moonrise comes shortly after sunset and hovers close to the horizon, larger than life. It’s the time to harvest everything before embracing a new season. I feel that moonrise the first time and every time I dance with Tuncay. When I finally let go of our vast differences and ignore what we have to offer off the dance floor, I feel great joy in our connection. The harvest is bountiful when we open for each other. Ricardo Vidort, one of the great Argentine tangueros, believed that, when a couple danced well together, “both bodies were talking, whispering, sliding on the floor.” This wordless communication that results in a beautiful dance, two people moving as one, is what makes tango so unique. My life has changed so much since I met Tuncay. I have left international teaching and moved back to the U.S. I continue to dance tango, but after becoming a single mom, I can no longer commit the time I used to. And in these Covid days, I haven’t put on my heels in months. I hope to return to tango when the world and its dance floors re-open. But even if I never dance again, I can thank Tuncay for breaking the spell of the broken tanda in my life. Before, I idealized a certain kind of connection and as a result, I missed out on a myriad of beautiful encounters both on and off the dance floor. Every dance floor is a foreign land full of unknowns. But I am learning to open my arms for each person that welcomes me. This requires discarding layers of expectations: promises for the future, haunts from the past, and rigid rules we make for ourselves about with whom we’ll
Caroline N. Simpson share our time. Of all the places to learn this, I did so in the conservative country of Turkey, where dancers are drawn to a closeness denied them in so many other spaces. Many tangueros admit an obsession with tango. Once you experience the miracle of being able to intimately connect with even a stranger, that feeling is in your body for life, and you can’t wait to experience it again and again. Ricardo Vidort believed that “tango is a choice of a moment for all your life.” I like to imagine a world where humans move as tangueros, making the choice in each encounter to listen, surrender, and open for one another, with the goal of moving as one.
The Art of Saving Justin Hunt “Later, Freya hid Helmuth’s letters in their beehives. In this way, they were preserved for posterity.” —Frauke Geyken, from Freya von Moltke: Ein Jahrhundertleben 1911-2010. I was no Helmuth. I never paced a cell thinking of you, never wrote you letters, wasn’t hanged at Plötzensee. But after we married, I kept you waiting. I worked late at the office, traveled so often, you must have thought me dead: a man gone under to his toil, an apparition who shimmered up, now and then, at our old place north of the city—to stake tomatoes and plant corn until dark, bush-hog pastures by moonlight, drive off again at dawn. Once, you wanted to leave, I know. But you stayed, graced the nethermost stretch of our early ground. I see you yet— down by the wide willow oak in your beekeeper’s suit and veil. Like a priestess slinging incense, you swing your smoker, lift off the hives’ lids, becalm your bees, look for honey. Was it there you stored the little I gave you, saved it up these forty years?
Puccini Plays on Turtle Island Prartho Sereno This morning I cleaned house and did laundry— the underwear drawer well-stocked and tidy again. Then it was my favorite path—through the woods and into the used bookstore and on to the corner cafe and home again where my sweetheart bakes bread and has put on opera—arias from the deep, perhaps the very same deep the wild-eyed woman on the cliffs of Mendocino told me she was trying to find her way out of. Outside, the bird feeder is full. The cold trough continues to push down from Alaska, keeping the pear tree’s buds closed in on themselves, lost in thought. The gray world out the window is at peace with herself, even as she knows the atmospheric river will continue to wash all her loves downstream. What’s left of my friends have scattered—Italy, Costa Rica, the Otherworld, Japan. It seems I am meant to sit still in this well-swept house— in this eye of turbulent absence. It’s coming clear that no one can save us from falling off the edge. And now I think maybe we are ferried on the back of a great turtle after all— a tottering benevolent beast, content with time and its machinations, content to paddle over the channels of dark matter, to hobble across the starry way.
A Day Prartho Sereno You open the day, and look— a sack of what you’ve always wanted has been dropped in your doorway: sunlit hours with lizards crawling through them. The frog pond’s improvisational chorus of plop and croak. Redwoods inch up toward tomorrow, and the stream where you decide to rest, though diminished in dry season, gurgles ever so faintly on.
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Contr ibutor s ’ Note s Jonathan B. Aibel is a poet who spends his days wrestling software to the ground as an engineer specializing in quality and testing. His poems have been published, or will soon appear, in Ocean State Review, Soundings East, Pangyrus, Sweet Tree Review, Rogue Agent, Main Street Rag, and elsewhere. He has studied with Lucie Brock-Broido, David Ferry and Barbara Helfgott Hyett. Jonathan lives in Concord, MA with his family.
Marguerite Alley is from Durham, North Carolina. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Bodega, Pigeon Pages, Mary: A Journal of New Writing, among others. She is an undergraduate at New York University.
Kathryn Atwood grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and graduated from Cornell University with a degree in English. The Director of Communications at an independent school in Los Angeles for nine years, she has just recently returned to writing fiction. Kathryn lives in the Hollywood Hills, and if she hangs out far enough over her balcony, just to the point where she thinks she might fall, she can see the OOD of the Hollywood sign. She shares this space with her husband, teenage son, and two cats that always seem to have better things to do.
Javy Awan lives in Salem, Massachusetts. His poems have appeared in Poet Lore, Solstice, Potomac Review, Ghost City Review, Innisfree Poetry Journal, The Ekphrastic Review, and the London-based Long Poem Magazine.
Mary Elizabeth Birnbaum was born, raised, and educated in New York City. Mary’s translations of the Haitian poet Felix Morisseau-Leroy’s poems have been published in The Massachusetts Review; the anthology, Into English (Graywolf Press); and in And There Will Be Singing, An Anthology of International Writing (The Massachusetts Press). Her work is forthcoming or has recently appeared in Lake Eﬀect, J-Journal, Spoon River Poetry Review, Soundings East, Barrow Street, and elsewhere.
Jennafer D’Alvia holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. in applied linguistics from Columbia University.
Her stories have been published in 34th Parallel, Epiphany, Hanging Loose and The Rappahannock Review. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and named as a finalist in Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers. She lives in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, where she’s working on a collection of stories.
Hannah Feustle is a PhD student at the University of Southern Mississippi and a graduate of the University of Memphis’s MFA program in fiction. She is the recipient of the 2019 Deborah L. Talbot Poetry Award from the Academy of American Poets, and her work is forthcoming in Bayou Magazine and LandLocked.
Justin Hunt grew up in rural Kansas and lives in Charlotte, NC. His work appears or is forthcoming in Five Points, Michigan Quarterly Review, New Ohio Review, Arts & Letters, The Florida Review, Terrain.org, Atlanta Review, Bellingham Review, Crosswinds Poetry Journal, Cider Press Review, Southword (Ireland), and The Bridport Prize Anthology (U.K.), among other journals and publications. He is currently working on a debut poetry collection.
Anne Kaier’s essays appear in About Us: Essays from the Disability Series of the New York Times, 1966 journal, The Gettysburg Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and The Kenyon Review. “Maple Lane” is a 2014 Best American notable essay. Her memoir, Home with Henry, was published by PS Books. Her poetry appears in Beauty is a Verb: An Anthology of Poetry, Poetics, and Disability. She has been a Fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She earned her Ph.D. in English at Harvard University and has taught at Bryn Mawr College, Arcadia University, and Rosemont College. She is working on a memoir about her years at the University of Oxford in the late 1960s.
Anabelle Mahoney is a Creative Writing MFA candidate focusing in Fiction at Emerson College where she also works as a writing instructor
and consultant. She is especially interested in how characters react to their environment. She is from Boston. This is her first publication.
Charlotte Matthews’s memoir, Comes with Furniture and People, was a 2019 finalist for the Indie Book Awards in the category of Women’s Issues. Additionally, she is author of three poetry collections, Still Enough to Be Dreaming, Green Stars, and Whistle What Can’t Be Said. Associate Professor at The University of Virginia, she has work recently appear in The American Poetry Review, Cave Wall, The Virginia Quarterly Review, and Ecotone. Her honors include fellowships from The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and The Virginia Center for Creative Arts. She has taught for the Writers’ Center at Chautauqua Institution.
Trevor Moffa is a poet and former coal miner, park ranger, bookseller, and button pusher from Pittsburgh, PA. His poems have recently appeared in 3Elements Review, Sampsonia Way Magazine, Nimrod International Journal, and Roanoke Review.
Jose Luis Oseguera is an LA-based writer of poetry, short fiction and literary nonfiction. His writing has been featured in Emrys Journal, North Dakota Quarterly, Potomac Review and The Literarian. He was named one of the Sixty-Four Best Poets of 2019 by the Black Mountain Press.
Doug Ramspeck is the author of eight collections of poetry, one collection of short stories, and a novella. One recent book, Black Flowers, is published by LSU Press and was a finalist for the UNT Rilke Prize. Individual poems have appeared in The Kenyon Review, Slate, The Southern Review, and The Georgia Review. He is a three-time recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award.
Nicholas Samaras is the author of Hands of the Saddlemaker (Yale University Press) and American Psalm, World Psalm (Ashland Poetry Press). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The New Yorker, Poetry, The
New York Times, The Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. He is working on a new manuscript of poems, a poetry textbook, and a memoir of his childhood lived underground.
Mike Schneider has published poems in many literary journals, including Chautauqua, New Ohio Review, Notre Dame Review, and Poetry. Three times nominated for the Pushcart Prize, he received the 2012 Editors Award in Poetry from The Florida Review and won the 2016 Robert Phillips Prize (selected by Richard Foerster) from Texas Review Press.
Prartho Sereno, Poet Laureate Emerita of Marin County, CA, is author of four prize-winning collections: Indian Rope Trick, Elephant Raga, Call from Paris, and Causing a Stir: The Secret Lives & Loves of Kitchen Utensils. Sereno earned an MFA from Syracuse University, worked as a Poet in the Schools for 22 years, and is founder of the online series The Poetic Pilgrimage: Poem-Making as Spiritual Practice.
Caroline N. Simpson was a 2020 Delaware Division of Arts Established Artist Fellow in Poetry. Her chapbook Choose Your Own Adventures and Other Poems was published by Finishing Line Press in 2018. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize in poetry and nonfiction. Simpson teaches high school English at the Tatnall School in Wilmington, DE, and has taught internationally in Turkey and Spain.
C h a u t a uqu a is open to submissions from any writer. The editors welcome original, previously unpublished works of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, particularly those pieces that embody the vision of Chautauqua Institution, as much a philosophy and an aesthetic as a physical place whose soul lies in the American passion for self-improvement—the drive to enrich oneself culturally, artistically, morally, and intellectually. Check the website for information on themes and reading periods: chq.org / season / literary-arts / readers / literary-journal. General submission guidelines are also available on the web at chq.org / season / literary-arts / readers / literary-journal. Book reviews, interviews, and profiles are by invitation only; please query the editor before submitting. Other queries may be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this issue: “Except the weeds, in the Bronx, like me, that grew up from sidewalk cracks.” – Mary Elizabeth Birnbaum, “The City and the Wilderness” “He cannot write a eulogy any more than he can grasp water with his fingers splayed like claws, poised to sink into soft dirt and hold him close to earth.” – Marguerite Alley, “We All Live Here Forever” “…a child stepping out of childhood, making a decision and living with it as long as possible.” – Nicholas Samaras, “Runaway”
“You take my wrist, run a finger along the newly formed scars, red and angry like I so often feel.” – Kathryn Atwood, “The Physics of Grace”