The B'K, Vol. 10, Issue 2

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bitchin’ kitsch

Vol. 10 Issue 2

The Bitchin’ Kitsch (2010-present) or The B’K is a quarterly compzine edited and published by The Talbot-Heindl Experience, LLC in Denver, CO. The B’K is an outlet for people who may not be accepted or considered by more traditional publications. The B’K aims to have a diverse publication from a diverse set of voices and promises inclusivity, diversity, and respectful discourse. Issues are published in January, April, July, and October.


Editor-in-Chief and Design: Chris Talbot-Heindl Editor: Dana Talbot-Heindl


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About the Cover

The cover piece is a digital illustration by Katy L. Wood, titled “The Amethyst Corpses.” Follow Katy on Instagram or Twitter at @Katy_L_Wood!

Table of Contents Art

Cayen Brian Anthony Hardie Katy L. Wood


Richard Wayne Horton Gregory John Madge Lance Manion Robert Rickelman

Non-Fiction Rachel Gonzalez Clara B. Jones Robert Rickelman

60 33 12-13 cover, 55

10-11 52 16-17 28-31

26-27 46-47 56-58

Poetry blume (michael johann bauer) Eloise Brown Benjamin D. Carson Maureen Daniels Jennifer Davis Jonathan Douglas Dowdle John Grey Sal Kang

Cara L McKee B.A. McRae Joshua Medsker Christopher Aslan Overfelt Mara Panich-Crouch M. Protacio-De Guzman Richard Salembier Rhema Sayers Sugar Tobey Zarnab Tufail Dr. Mel Waldman Paige Weisert

37 44 4, 40 42 6, 43 32 9 34 14-15 51 36 23 48-49 41 24-25 18-22 7, 54 39, 59 45 8 5 50 35, 53 38


That Wonderful Mess by:

Eloise Brown

The most clarifying moment of my life was when I broke myself, And I was spread out on the floor, a million tiny pieces. I saw everything that made me, All the shards of hopes and dreams that had crashed down. The squares of my success, It was the most perfect I had ever been. And when I went to put myself back together, The agony of the jagged holes and missing sections nearly tore me apart again But I endured for a while, Walking on half-shattered legs, misshapen hands and a crooked heart. I felt compelled to break myself again, So that I could see the tiny ripples of perfection that lay in the ugly chaos. But the second time, all I got was a mess of parts and sharp pieces. The most frightening moment of my life, was when I put myself back together. And I took every piece of myself and laid it back in perfect form. But when I looked at myself, at the immaculate, still-life that I’d become: I missed the imprecise mess that I used to be.

“I missed the imprecise mess that I used to be.”

tracing you by:

Zarnab Tufail

a year from now we will share the same sky roof and watch the city sleep in the same hour. time zones will no longer be a problem because i will be asleep a few miles away from your mother smiling at your departure. when i sleep, you will hug yourself in the basement mosque like you told me and think of the girl who once lived. all night, the demons will taunt you under the lights of your office room - you will ignore them. the keyword to happiness is that it will ‘come around.’ i try to find your paradigms in all the eyes i see. we laughed at your black cat caressing you. how one day i would too. everything has an expiry date; from the yogurt to the leftover scars to loves. we just got overwhelmed and forgot to read the date when we bought this packet of love. to me your sleeping drools were a masterpiece. you never read my favorite series i sent you through the mail which took months to arrive. yes, we both wished i had mailed myself so i could sleep in your arms that night. the stars in my city look clearer now. it rained after years of dirt. yes, i still wish you would climb up to my window and sneak in, it is always open for you. my ajar window awaits and to let out my everlasting doldrums, i let the air in. my bookshelf is full with new books but my greed never ends. I wish i could cumulate us into a few volumes but you happened so fast, i lost track of time.


Lucid Dreaming by:

Maureen Daniels In the midst of this predawn chill, we are meant to touch each other, to reach that whispered rush of yes. We move slowly, so that nothing will break when we love beneath this burnished Harlem sky. The notes of a Chopin mazurka rise from the apartment below. Awestruck and disbelieving, you mourn the loss of everything, the sugar that disappears in your coffee, the shadows that follow the sun. I didn’t know you were longing to make a fist of burning paper or a lullaby of flame and ash. You stop to push aside your hair. Your face and its perfect symmetry give me back to myself. I can’t look away.

“when we love beneath this burnished Harlem sky.”

Losing Faith by:

M. Protacio-De Guzman Kneeling in front of your monolith I inhale the vapors of indifference That cloud the best of judgments From you and I, shaking my head In disbelief, try to gather anew All my scattered thoughts hoping These will lead to understanding What you really are to me, More than anything else. But my thoughts explode the moment They are touched by the winds while Those who survive the contact melt Upon kissing the ground, flowing Through my fingers like the water That is you and I, resigned but not Quite to this terrible, terrible fate, Scream at your stone façade, As if this affects you.


Tang Dynasty Poem by:

Sugar Tobey She looks twenty but she’s about twelve hundred years old now the tang dynasty was a long time ago she still waits for a young man to come and dig her a carp pond I have dug her this pond so many times

A Pause is a Metaphor by:

Jonathan Douglas Dowdle Close your eyes with a sigh, A sign, held up against the marching of Hours, resolute as soldiers, Pounding through your blood; at war With destruction, is creation, Sculpted, like the heart, Some finely tuned instrument Still searching for the right Music to dance within, the inch Between a step and a stumble, As walls crumble, and bridges burn, We lose the safety of every prison We learn, that comfort is what Keeps up hostage, but There is only life Where we burn, deep in The heart’s trembling beat, and Though We wish to take the time to explore, There is no end To all our motion. A pause is only a metaphor.


Cocoon by:

Richard Wayne Horton

“Hi! My name’s Douglas!” A boy in a T-shirt and shorts stood behind the picket fence. “Want to see my yard and look at my toys?” “OK.” Mikey went in at the gate. Douglas showed him around. There was a wagon, some swings, and a patch of sand where toy trucks had made roads. Mikey squatted and rolled them along their roads and over rough spots that made the trucks turn over. Douglas said, “My dad is real important at the base. My mom is nice too. We have a TV! It’s brand new. It’s a Motorola. Wanna come in and see it?” “Yeah!” The two 6 year olds went into the trailer. Douglas’ mom said, “Well howdy-do! Douglas has a new friend! What’s your name, hon?” “Mikey.” He tried to smile but it felt wrong. Douglas’s mom wore a pretty dress and apron. The place was too clean. “Mama, I’m going to turn on the TV.” “You just go right ahead, sweety pie! I’ll pour you both a glass of Kool Aid and make some nice sandwiches.” And that was it? She wasn’t going to yell at him to keep his paws off the expensive TV? Douglas put his hand right on the TV knob and turned it. A greenish picture slowly phased in. The speakers buzzed. A man in a suit appeared on the screen, holding up a box of detergent and talking. Mikey noticed the handkerchief sticking out of his front jacket pocket and wondered if it had snot on it. Douglas stood next to the TV smiling. “See? Now watch.” He clicked the knob and the picture shrunk into a bright greenish dot in the middle of the screen. Douglas’s mom, who was still smiling, as if she liked doing that, called, “Come have your Kool-Aid, Mikey! I made jelly and butter sandwiches!” She ruffled Douglas’ hair as he ran and jumped into the wooden chair

next to the beautiful polished table that had a lace doily in the middle on which sat a vase of flowers. Mikey walked slowly toward the table like in a sci-fi movie. Douglas’s mom ruffled his hair too, and he jumped back, before she could hurt him. He gave her a horrified smile. The sandwich was of course delicious. What the fu…Don’t say that word you little creep or I’ll…The crust of the white bread had been cut off. Some of the jelly got on Mikey’s face because the crust wasn’t there to stop it doing that. He saw Douglas’s mom wiping his face, and Douglas liking it. Mikey was afraid he would be next, and she wouldn’t be so nice. He quickly wiped the jelly off with his hand and wiped his hand on his pants while she wasn’t looking. After Mikey and Douglas got through and ran out the door again, Mikey said, “You know what sometimes hangs on fences? Cocoons! Let’s look under the boards.” He glanced out at the desert, took a big breath of hot dusty air and smiled. He knew things Douglas didn’t know. As Douglas excitedly followed him to look at the wiggly cringing things under the fence boards, Mikey saw one of the toy trucks next to the patch of sand he was passing, and kicked it. The little men he imagined riding in it were all killed.



Olivier Schopfer



How to Properly Self-Harm: from the Makeup Artist by:

Sal Kang

CW: Self-harm Prepare your skin first: run it under hot water. Let your arm get soft & bloated, the kind of vulnerable that makes it open up at any misdirected touch. Do not wait for the water to boil so you can sterilize the blade like your therapist advised. A good artist doesn’t rely on her tools Instead, she depends on the time being just right. Is wholeheartedly swayed by the mood created through the dimmed bedside lamp. Watch your gaping pores like a nurse staring into a patient’s eyes before euthanasia. This is the base and primer all complete.

“A good artist doesn’t rely on her tools” Next is, of course, the blush. We all need a bit of color to make our nude complexions pop. Don’t mind that some of the strokes release poignant obsidian separated messily from the red. Think of it as mascara. Stare at the two shades as they drip down your limbs, refusing to blend. Study their irregularities just to ignore them; let your art run free. Don’t listen to what the orthodoxies have to say. After all, when the clotted blood turns black & blurry & careless like eyeliner tested on an obnoxious shopper’s arm, you too will realize: this illusion of permanence will only last about a day at most When your art teacher points out the irony—the fact that you specialize in line art—laugh and play along. It’s all a funny, sick joke. How you cut wrists instead of creases. How you highlight scars instead of cheekbones. Your body is only on fleek from the shoulders up.

The concealer comes after all these steps which confuses me still. Then again, what better than contradiction itself—the dismantling of all previous steps—to finish off this disordered routine? Here, let me powder up your mistakes. My hands a master of contour, I play with shadows to create illusions of perfection. Here’s a tip: on days your skin simply can’t afford to break out or be broken into again, try drawing on your joints with lipstick. The crimson shade your mother described as being too provocative. Look into the mirror and try smiling. No one will ever know of the layers underneath the flawless disguise, the smooth skin they all stare at & choose to ignore


holocene by:

Lance Manion

At the time this piece was published, we were unaware of the problematic pieces (transphobic and I wasn’t speeding but the roads were icy and it jumped out of the woods. I had no xenophobic) that the author was publishing Afterto learning of these we decided Just enough forelsewhere. the deer to think itself, “Those are pieces, the breaks.” to remove this author from our issues. I hit a deer.

It leapt out of the way and I clipped it with a dull thump. It spun right into the path of an the deer (again) but it seemed unlikely that it could have dodged the hurtling vehicle. I craned my neck to look back but all I saw were the red tail lights of the other car as it slowed down and then kept driving. Late for work perhaps or just the driver thinking to himself “My work here is done.” “It was just a deer.” Not my dear. I turned around awkwardly, as it was a narrow winding street- it took a few back-andforths- and drove back to the scene of the crime where I pulled over and got out.

Nothing moved except my eyes over the snow. There was no twitching carcass. No big dead eyes to look up at me. Not even a few red drops on the white ground. No hoof prints to follow to their grim end. courtesy to let me grieve. could exhale. There was no wind, but the clouds raced across the sky; the moon was there one minute, gone the next. Everything cast a shadow.

I was walking through my door. I lay in my bed, alone in the dark, and realized the shadows had followed me home.

Life is like that. And death, apparently. I hadn’t known the deer existed a few seconds before I hit it and as I lay there, I had no undone. It was the quiet that got to me. I couldn’t see the moon from my bed, but I knew it was out there. IAt knew had piece seen the thing despite being 238,550ofmiles away, thethat timeit this waswhole published, we were unaware

the problematic pieces (transphobic and xenophobic) that the author was publishing elsewhere. After learning of minutes. these pieces, we decided to remove this author from our issues. I went out to my car to see if the deer had done any damage and saw The next morning, hoof prints on my lawn.

It was, of course, impossible that the same deer had followed me home. Things like that don’t follow you home.

have tracked me down. I wasn’t guilty of anything. I wasn’t accountable. All the best villains believe that, I think. The sun was warm and shone as usual but I got the feeling the moon had told it everything at daybreak. “Anything happen last night?” Satellites are like that. Can’t keep their mouths shut. If I sported a handlebar mustache, it was at that moment I would have twirled the ends. Instead, I went back into the house.

Odd. These things don’t follow you home.


Safe Space by:

Mara Panich-Crouch 1. if you toss a woman from a moving car a cigarette discarded with a violent flick of pointer finger and thumb there are technicalities. 2. consider: adrenaline confuses as you jump off a bypass in the dark the act of saving yourself is the very act through which you disappear. 3. I will tell you what you want to know but refuse to identify solid. water. ice. steam. rising from the coffee mug you despise [I secretly love] you may unwrap me I present unabashedly female love the areas where you are curved and also where he is linear. 4. I am incognito in my nakedness disappearing [for lack of lipstick and colored breast] BIRDS [for want of a better metaphor] fluff their feathers at the sight of a favorable mate. MONSTERS [on the other hand] demonstrate in shady areas interface between sacred and profane our unconscious desire.

5. If you came to a holiday gathering, would you bring a gun? Does yearning inspire two shots, no warning? 6. What assumptions are made up from my low-slung dresses; your pants and boots? 7. I like the way I look and I like the way I feel and I like the way they look at me and I like the way they smile and I like the touch of your fingertips saying sexy things and I like the way I turn my head when beauty passes by and I like the falling snow in darkness and I like my painted nails and I like the praise from a stranger unaware and I like to get emotional excited or dismayed and I like the tender rolls of skin that fold beneath my clothes and I like you knowing the place to touch and I like to laugh and pull away and I like to be with you and I like to say I can’t stay and I like to be selfish and I also aim to please and I like to hold a warm cup and I like to stay unafraid. 8. thousands of minuscule needles perform a masochistic acupuncture treatment reddening my chest and forearm but they insist it is a sensitivity not an allergy. 9. What would I have done to survive western expansion to outlast manifest destiny? a bedraggled prostitute adorned adored cold and solid with an excellent bedside manner customer service guaranteed hosiery and socks and sleeves and skirts and coverings and boots and woolens and corsets too constricting to stay on for long. 10. I will be meat for your eating. Drag the steak knife against the grain. 11. she disappeared uncharacteristically they are looking through garbage heaps for her name her body her DNA her blood quantum


sifting the soup of our discarded lives for a clue a single snowflake melted before accumulation. 12. At seventeen he drowned in his own bathwater and while everyone wailed I imagined a sigh of relief as his muscles relaxed and gave way to warm waters. 13. Beware the bringing the drawing of worms after a storm dry drowning in the light of morning. 14. Fetish objects float through our unconscious memories:

unlace boots efficiently one-handed unbuttoning bra straps wool socks combs and brushes soft sweat and odor of bodies naturally groomed subtle imperfections

I want to make you into art share my pleasure wantonly 15. Does the way I present my breast my curve my soft mounds of fat and skin and muscle and foam make me less dominant or Does it give me more sense of control subterfuge a silent smile long before reaching for pepper spray.

16. She sits on her mystery worrying is an antiquated approach exceptionally cleared because she knew him she was aware of his person not he hers Object objection her Self memento mori vanity of earthly life more concerned with numbers than people with numbers then people. 17. My closet is still full after the purge everything is coming out 18. Breathe the steam of my nudity the odor of the beast bear rising after a lingering hibernation. 19. stroke or household accident lying on the bathroom floor four days staring at the urine drips the collection of hairs and dust and dirt below the rim Should I re-tile with something more aesthetically pleasing a contingency plan for staring four days alone and not dying


20. A splotch of bright color in a grey alley alone icy and curled in a doorway. 21. I built an altar in a lonely nook filled it with the fates of women lost stolen from newspapers and social media shares torn from family albums she’s older now she’s fifteen she knows him trusts him she’s gone hard to frost under a snow laden apple tree with anyone else but me. with anyone else but me. with anyone else but me. 22. This page is marked your thumb where you touched my cheek a smudge of my flesh tone crème [a mask to cover dark spots and inflammations and selfhood] wipe at me with your confusion undress me until I am honest before you eyebrow pencil mascara cover crème lipstick smear nail polish the hair in-between 23. You can’t blame the bartender’s hands for the additives included after he walks away. You can’t blame the bar for what happens outside the bar. You can’t blame him for trying to bed us both. You can’t blame a stranger for being strange. You can’t blame him for wanting. You can’t blame him for looking. You can’t blame him for trying. You can’t blame him. You can’t blame. You can’t. You can. You.

You know what it is by:

Cara L McKee you held it once in your heart, you know that it’s here. Turn your head, quickly catch a glimpse, and there! You’ve found it. Your heart is filled full-wide, throat closes and ribs tighten. There. There. Now that you’ve found it will you let it hide away?


Pedagogue by:

Christopher Aslan Overfelt

Behind a desk, Christopher sits in a plush rolling chair examining an ink pen that he holds in his hand. The clear body of the pen has a soft gel grip and the ink flows smoothly and precisely onto the page from the ballpoint tip. This is a nice pen, he thinks as he scrawls a line on a scrap piece of paper. Before the desk, students sit hunched over their own desktops, some scrawling feverishly on a page, others staring into a blankness before them. Christopher watches them. Rich white kids, he thinks. All of them beautiful with symmetrical faces and perfect teeth. The future doctors and lawyers and bankers of America. Those who hold power. Their parents have provided them everything they need and more. One turns and looks back at Christopher behind the teacher’s desk and then quickly returns their gaze to the paper on their desk. Will they ever know what it is to suffer? Will they ever recognize the poverty of the many on whom their wealth depends? Or will they remain cloistered in their castles; the fenced communities of white suburbia, protected by the police and the United States military; protected by the privilege of wealth and power. The classroom is peaceful with only a few students occasionally adjusting in their seats. Opening a drawer from the desk in front of him, Christopher takes a few more gel pens from a box and puts them into his teaching bag. On the desktop before him are pictures of strangers, family portraits propped up in small frames. Behind him, too, on the wall are pictures of a family he does not know. His students must love him, he thinks. Guiding them along the path to success. Providing them with the knowledge they need to complete the journey set out for them. One they can no more deny than the air they breath or the water they drink. He connects with them because he is one of them, and he has a vested interest in seeing that the system he benefited from is passed along to his children and the children of his community. When the bell rings, the students gather their things and leave the classroom, leaving a vacuous space in which Christopher revels, curling up in the soft silence. Finally, he thinks, I can get away from them. But there is one student who is particularly slow in getting up, in fact he doesn’t move but remains sitting in his desk. From his chair, Christopher

can only see the back of his head and that he has his arms folded in front of him on the desk. Christopher watches him for a minute and when he doesn’t move he asks Aren’t you going to lunch? The young man doesn’t respond and Christopher gets up from his chair and walks over to his desk, leaning on the next desk over. You don’t want lunch? he asks. When the student looks up at him, Christopher recognizes himself eighteen years earlier. In the student’s eyes he can see the pain of anxiety, the fear and the suicidal thoughts. I didn’t see you when I took attendance, says Christopher. What’s your name? The young man stares up at him but doesn’t respond. I know your name, says Christopher. I know you better than you do. The young man smirks but still doesn’t speak. I know you won’t drop out of highschool and I know you won’t kill yourself. I know you will carry on through the pain of anxiety and you will stumble through the next eighteen years of your life not knowing why or how and you will never find those answers. The student stands up and goes to leave the classroom and says You’re not even a real teacher. Sitting back down in the plush rolling chair behind the teacher’s desk, Christopher once again takes up the gel pen, admiring the continuity of form and function. He checks the clock, seeing he has fifteen more minutes of freedom. Am I the prison ward or a prisoner? he thinks. He gets up and turns the lights off in the classroom, letting a soft light fall through the window. Am I locked in with them? Or are they locked in with me?


The Baptism of an Atheist by:

Rachel Gonzalez

Hilda and Cameron were one of a kind. They met in a chemistry class that Cameron was muddling perfectly until Hilda stepped in, and so became high school sweethearts. They had the pictures of themselves posing together in Hilda’s parents shag carpeted living room to prove it. She in a lovely lavender gown, he in a powder blue suit with oversized lapels. They managed a long distance relationship during the analog days, before Skype and Facebook were around to keep you company. He wrote her a letter every day for four years and she would always respond. After college Cameron said to Hilda “I’m going to California, and I want you to come with me and be my wife.” And so she did. They lived there for a while, doing nothing in particular. She wore smart pantsuits to her painfully dull engineering job and he positioned himself in the middle of a cubicle. They rode trolleys to and fro day in and day out, ate Chinese food to the point of developing an MSG intolerance, and saw enough rollerblading Speedo wearing men to decide to migrate just a little bit east—where the property value is lower and the state much more red. Arizona is where they put down roots to grow their own family tree. Branch number one being a baby girl, who could fit in a shoebox upon her premature birth. She had Hilda’s eyes and complexion and Cameron’s nose and disposition. They named her carefully, to ensure that there were no cruel rhymes to be made on the playground. They settled on a Russian word for “snow,” although the only Russian they knew were the white ones Hilda drank on her twenty-first birthday. The same drink that gave her a hangover simulating a coma. Lina just seemed to fit that tiny brown eyed baby. Hilda and Cameron believed in a few things: a nice glass of wine at the end of the day, a strict vitamin regiment and the fact that the frost of a frozen vegetable medley is the best compliment to any piece of fish. But when it came to a higher up, an Almighty or a great spaghetti monster in the sky, they were on the fence. They had each been baptized in their infanthood, but who’s to say if that really helped or hurt anything? So, when it came time to think of the mortal soul of their child, they were in a bit of a pickle. “Should we baptize her?” Hilda asked, bouncing Lina on the counter while preparing her sink bath. “Like, in the biblical way?” Cameron asked, adjusting his tie. He was about to start another day at a desk job Lina would never understand or know the name of, for sure. “Yes, in the way that you and I were. All of those millions of years ago, remember?” Hilda made Lina do her pre-bath dance, which was more for Hilda than Lina. “Dear, does anyone remember their baptism? I think I had bronchitis during mine, warning sign number one that Catholicism and me weren’t the best of fits.”

“It was just a thought.” Hilda switched off the tap and dipped Lina’s toes in the water. “One that I’m sure would please both of our mothers to no end.” “Ah yes, the mothers.” Cameron nodded, “I think we have more to fear there than with any displeased god-figure.” “So, you never worry about something happening to her that leaves her wandering around a cloud with weird little bird wings and no clothes?” To be honest, depictions of cherubic babies had always unsettled Hilda. Ever since the art history class she took on the Renaissance, seeing those rosy cheeked, ribbon carrying infants floating only God knows where had made her wonder why that was their fate. And if God had also hired a sitter for all of them to burp them and change them and watch over them while He was off gallivanting. “Nothing is going to happen to the little peanut.” Cameron kissed Hilda’s head and then Lina’s. “She doesn’t need a baptism. Just a helmet.” “Leave, go now.” Hilda shooed her husband out the door and in to their sensible car. While Hilda was alone with Lina, sudsing up little baby’s head she thought of the worst case scenarios: infectious disease, unstoppable global warming and gluten everywhere. Precautions needed to be taken to save her baby’s unblemished mortal soul. Hilda cupped her hand into the water and dribbled just a little over Lina’s forehead. “Bless this child, all five pounds six ounces of her.” Another sprinkling of water washed over her head and down her nose. “Bless the hairs on her head, all twelve of them.” More water cascaded off of Hilda’s fingers to plop onto Lina’s head. “Bless all ten of her fingers, ten of her toes and the little dimples on her knees.” One last handful, for good measure. “Let her live long and prosper. May the force be with her. And may she have no worries, for the rest of her days.” Lina giggled as the last few drops rolled off of her head. Her little hands splashed in the sink water as she chased the bubbles that were swirling around. Hilda looked down at her child with love and a little less worry. “That’s my girl.” Hilda swaddled the newly sink blessed baby in a towel and held her close. She used her patented butt pat method to get Lina to sleep, and sure enough Lina’s eyes soon grew heavy and her mouth opened for her tiny fingers. “And now mommy is going to have some wine, because that’s what being Catholic is all about.” And even years later, when Lina was old enough to be embarrassed by everything they ever did and old enough to think she knows better, every time her daughter walked out the door Hilda knew she would be safe. All because of those few drops of water and that glass of zinfandel.


Annie by:

Robert Rickelman

The only parents Annie had ever known were her loving mom and dad, Henry and Claire Richardson. She had no idea that the first, unspeakably horrible, four years of her life were hidden behind a curtain of divine amnesia. She didn’t know that she was born Anna Maria DeMarco, nor was she aware of the unthinkable atrocities inflicted upon her by the monsters who were her biological parents, Renzo and Sofia DeMarco. The Richardsons were doting parents who showered Annie with the love and devotion that is every child’s birthright. And Annie had flourished. In high school, her grades were stratospheric. She was the logical choice for class valedictorian, but an innate shyness caused her to forgo this honor. She chose a large Midwestern university, preferring the anonymity it allowed her. Although she was pretty, Annie did not date. She had acquaintances, but no real friends. Annie easily graduated summa cum laude, and once again she declined to speak at her graduation. She was heavily recruited her senior year, and took a job in St. Louis. Annie would miss her mom and dad back home in Chicago. It was in St. Louis that Annie felt something was not okay. She couldn’t put a finger on it, but there was a sense that different parts of her mind were walled-off, separated. Annie became convinced that thoughts and ideas, parts of her, were trapped within, yearning to escape. She was bewildered. There was a secret, perhaps a terrible one, and she was hiding it from herself. A crazy thought she fought to ignore. But it gnawed at her relentlessly. Then, something inexplicable and terrifying happened. A wall had cracked. Annie awoke one morning, it was a Saturday, to find her arms raked with razor-like cuts. A blade lay on the nightstand. She began to tremble and couldn’t stop; she was overwhelmed and afraid. Who would do this to her? Who had done this to her? Could she have cut herself? Impossible. She would never. Annie collected herself, then the blade, and staggered to the medicine cabinet. Clutching the remaining blades, Annie stumbled out of her apartment and downstairs to toss them in the dumpster. She turned, benumbed, her knees buckling, and clung to the rails as she climbed up the steps. Finally, she reached her apartment and bolted the door behind her. Annie spent the day watching TV, nibbling sweets, and drinking as much coffee as her queasy stomach could handle, scared to death at the prospect of falling asleep. Should she call the police? And say what? She fought valiantly to stay awake, but sometime after dark, the shadow of deep sleep overtook her.

Annie had kept the drapes open to capture the ambient light of the parking lot. But at 8:00, she awoke to the blinding, early morning sun. Annie could barely catch her breath. On her arms and legs ran a network of superficial, but long, bloody and painful knife wounds. From her navel radiated a web of cuts crisscrossing her stomach and breasts. “Did I do this? Did I? What the hell going on?” A very sharp kitchen knife steeped in a pool of blood on the floor beside her bed. Again, Annie struggled for composure. “Deep breaths. Deep, deep breaths. Breathe from the belly.” Annie sat up and slowly staggered to her feet. Her head pounded, she was woozy. Her mind buzzed with an endless stream of whispers. The ceiling was undulating. She knew she was hallucinating, that the ceiling was not moving, but her eyes were not convinced. As she walked to the kitchen to get some water, the floor dropped from under her, the way floors do when you first wear a new, stronger pair of eyeglasses. “Dammit. Dammit all! Am I going crazy. Think! What do I do? Jesus Christ, help me. Am I a cutter? I can’t be. Why, for Christ’s sake, is this happening to me?” Annie gathered all the scissors and knives, even the butter knives, and crept downstairs to her car. She wished she were invisible. Annie locked the “weapons” in the trunk, sneaked upstairs, and softly closed and locked her door. Once more, Annie plied herself with coffee and sweets, and fought to stay awake. And again she lost the fight. At midnight, Annie was awakened by a soft warm breath blowing gently in her ear. “Annie,” a voice whispered. “A-a-a-n-n-i-e, can you hear me? I know you can. I know you can, Annie, and we have lots to talk about.” Annie sat up, rigid and straight. Terrified. “Good. You’re finally up. I’ve been so bored sitting here by myself.” “Who, who are you? Where are you? What the hell do you want from me?” “I’m right behind you Annie. See me now?” Annie turned and caught the gaze of a pretty little girl with dark brown hair, poised comfortably at the corner of her bed. “You don’t have to be scared, Annie. I’m a very old friend.” She giggled, “Well, to tell the truth, I’m a young friend. Get it, Annie? Pretty funny, huh? A young friend.” “A-n-y-h-o-w...I guess I should introduce myself. That is, if you really don’t remember me. My name is Anna Maria. Anna Maria DeMarco.”


“And I’m supposed to know you? I don’t know you and I don’t want to know you, you little bitch!” “Sorry, Annie, but I’ve worked very hard to get to talk to you in person. We both know about your big old walls. So, anyway, I really can’t leave now. You do understand, don’t you, Annie? I know you do.” “OK. You’re here; what do you want?” “You know, Annie, we have lots of things in common. Can you think of any? I’ll give you a hint, OK? Now, think. Annie...Anna...Annie...Anna. Pretty neat, huh? Our names are very – um - similar. Yeah, that’s it, they’re similar.” “I...yeah, I guess. Annie and Anna sound alike. So what?” “Please don’t be rude, Annie. I don’t like it when people are rude. And you know what else? You curse too much. It’s very unladylike, you know.” “So, what are you going to do, slice me again?” “Very funny, Annie, but you did that, not me. Oh, I know something else we have in common; we’re both from Chicago.” Annie stifled a gasp; tried to stay calm. “That’s nice. Lots of people live in Chicago.” “Who are the Richardsons, Annie? I don’t care much for that name. They aren’t your real parents; they adopted you. Do you know who your real parents are?” “I never met them. They were just kids. They were too young to take care of me, so the Richardsons adopted me. The Richardsons are my real parents; they’re the ones who raised me. You don’t know what you’re talking about, you little brat.” “Unh, unh, unh, you’re being rude again. What did I tell you? I don’t like rude people; I just told you that. Besides, Miss Know-It-All, they lied to you. The Richardsons are liars. You have the whole...entire...word...for...word...same name as me - Anna. Anna Maria DeMarco. What do you think of that, Miss Anna Maria DeMarco?” “Screw you and screw the DeMarcos.” But the truth poured out of little Anna Maria like an endless stream of bile. All the terrible things her natural parents had done to her came to light, and this little girl was the messenger. The wall had indeed cracked. On wobbly legs, Annie made her way to the bathroom. Vomitò ĺ anima. She vomited her soul. And when she had nothing left to give, when she was completely drained, Annie lay crumpled against the toilet bowl. At long last, she rose to her feet and trudged weakly to bed. Wiping the detritus from her mouth and chin, Annie sobbed, “No, no. That’s not who I

am. I’m Annie. I’m Annie Fucking Richardson.” “You know, Annie, we can’t both have the exact same name. That would be confusing. So, I’m gonna be nice. You still get to be Annie, and I’ll be Anna Maria.” Annie merely groaned. “That bathroom sure is smelly. You really should clean it. Well, I hafta go. Bye, for now, Annie DeMarco.” The days drifted past, then the weeks, months, and years. Anna Maria would drop by on occasion to torment her. This was her new life; it was her routine. One morning found Annie rushing to dress for an important appointment. She was a wreck, a bundle of nerves. To make matters worse, Anna insisted on choosing her outfit. When Annie said no, Anna Maria fumed. “Wear something sleeveless. You never go sleeveless.” “Great fashion tip, Miz Donna Karan. Let’s show everyone our cuts.” “Nobody cares how you look anyway. Nobody.” Annie hurled a brush that barely missed her reflection in the mirror. “You’re a bitch and a whore,” Anna Maria hissed. “My, such language; our little girl’s growing up. I couldn’t be more proud. Well, gotta go. Ciao.” Annie left her apartment, stode to her car, and accelerated out of the parking lot. Traffic was terrible. She kept an eye on the clock and one on the road. Annie arrived with time to spare, pulling into a well-maintained, rather austere, complex of modern buildings. She parked near a sign that read “Rolling Meadows Behavioral Health Center, Inpatient Entrance.” As she exited her car, Annie looked almost chic in her light gray sweater and crisp charcoal slacks. On approaching the lobby door, she nervously pressed the buzzer. Wearing her bravest face, Annie greeted the receptionist with a cheery, “Good morning,” then retrieved something from her purse. “Good morning Dr. Richardson, how are you today?” As she adjusted her badge, Annie turned and replied, “Oh, I’m fine, thanks, Debby, I’m just fine.”


Open by:

Jennifer Davis To your surprise, the door was unlocked. The walls took a deep breath and choked out years of dust while hiding from the sun you brought along. The teddy bear in the corner seemed to reach out like a small child for their mother after a bad dream, in need of comfort, protection and love. Trays of uneaten food shoved through a hole in the door littered the floor from those before you who were more concerned about feeding than rescuing. Handwritten letters to family members to say good-bye stacked nearby on the table— each carefully worded and folded neatly for distribution— presentation counts. So many before you had only knocked and when no answer was heard, walked away and forgot. You were the only one to open the door.

Neuroplasticity by:

Brian Anthony Hardie


The Small Date by:

John Grey She buttons up the blue dress, shakes her head in the mirror, combs her hair, down, up, sideways, in equal dollops of frustration. She’s seventeen, in her bedroom, going for a look to win herself over, a tiny army fighting back, with nothing more than the evening’s prospects, the stress that presses in on her: parents squabbling in the kitchen, her younger brothers scrapping in the back yard and there is the noise of the streets, cars and trucks, horns and exhaust, and buses rattling manhole covers as they rumble past the window. Her young body is cramped and sweated by the city but her thoughts are fantasy: Lochinvar on a white stallion galloping down the hill in her direction, a brash romantic on a ladder at the window wooing her away. She imagines her hero’s hand pressed against her cheek, his arm around her waist, and then her embrace of him, gently at first, but finally with the firmness of love. Meanwhile, her mother is sobbing. Her father’s anger can’t take the weight of those tears, breaks down into apology. Her brothers’ fight is over and they’re friends again. The street is still loud but it doesn’t mean anything by it. She continues to ready herself for her date. He’s a neighborhood boy. No one special. But compromise is clear on the subject. He’s the green dress. He’s bangs. He’ll do.

drunk/warm/mine/yes by:

Paige Weisert

drunk in the backseat of a car i have never seen before i don’t ask where we’re going because i don’t really care i think i might be a better person when i’m drunk it’s like maybe that’s the real me? the one i keep hidden away: she is nice. she is warm... warm. i don’t know about much but i know about Warm it’s my favorite of all the feelings because you can feel it in your heart and also in your hands and your stomach and your arms warm. how i feel right now is warm how i’ll feel in a couple hours is dead dead is a pretty word so is girl so is she so is Mine lots of things are mine not because i bought them but because in my head i pointed at them and said “you are mine and only mine and nobody else can ever have you” when people take what is mine i get sad then i get angry then i laugh i laugh because i’m angry, i laugh because i’m sad. These things make me laugh because i am crazy. when people call me crazy it surprises me they act like they’re telling me something i didn’t know i feel like saying: Yes, i am crazy, but are you just now noticing? i feel like saying: yes, i am crazy, but are you scared? i feel like saying: yes, i am crazy, but have you ever wanted me to be anything else?


Things to Do Next Tuesday by:

John Martino Find a circle, a square, and a triangle together, light and shadow side by side. Stare through reflection of a stranger’s face under reconstruction until the least common denominator is one. Illustrate “in love” so that “tall” becomes “small.” Invent a game, one with stones, a crown of thorns, a calm sea. Distill feeling of spring from the silhouette of a body moving disproportionately away from you. Look only for the color blue. Go wherever it leads to.

She Always Says by:

Patrick Attaway

The doctor labels her ever present state of mind: PTSD. Yet her acronym swallows my OCD. The way she mentally paces around me and never stops forces me into quiet. There’s no room for my words or suggestions when she gets going. “What does that solve? But what am I supposed to do?” If my love did not lessen the tension she wraps around my temples, I’d scream as I ran, swimming into the sewers trying to drown myself in human filth.

“There’s no room for my words or suggestions when she gets going.”


Something I Wouldn’t Say by:

Jeffrey Zable

No, I wouldn’t say I was an intrepid traveler like a couple of people I know, but I have been alone in some distant places, unable to speak the language, having to pull myself together enough to get a room and some food. And just a moment ago I remembered sitting in a park somewhere in southern France watching an old woman feed the pigeons as if they were her children, while real children whooped and chased each other around a playground under the watchful eyes of their mothers. And, of course, there is nothing special about what I just recalled except that I felt so lost, lonely, and sad at the time that I didn’t think I was going to make it. Then there were many other places and people I encountered along the way, much of it seeming like someone else had been there, and I have to think that I went to most of those places for no other reason than to prove to myself that I could do it, that I wasn’t afraid to be out of my comfort zone--which, unfortunately, was seldom the case. And no, I wouldn’t say I was an intrepid traveler.

Understudy by:

Richard Salembier I acted as a middle child with middling results I beat myself to perfection running lines in a theater of self-loathing insomnia and conflict - can’t sleep wondering would an earring make a drinkless sap look cooler - can’t sleep the barfly with great cheekbones has bad teeth halitosis and that’s not all - can’t sleep he has an overbite and nothing to eat unless you count swizzle sticks.


Polymers by:

Eloise Brown You explain polymers to me. Then roll your eyes when you say I don’t understand. “But we’ve been making our own.” I think. So you take my hand, sit me down smile at the waitress laugh because you know her “Did I tell you about the microscope?” So you take my hand, sit me down smile at the bartender Wave because you know her “Did I tell you about the microscope?” So you take my hand, sit me down smile at the barista Wave because she knows you “Did I tell you about the microscope?” So you take my hand, sit me down Wave at the waitress laugh because you fucked her. And you tell me about the microscope. I was under. And how you’re angry because you looked, And you saw And you saw And you saw And you said That I don’t understand polymers Or derivatives Or unrequited love

Martian Felon’s Lament by:

Joshua Medsker Sometimes I look at the moon and Earthrise from my warren window, red dirt on my boots, wondering Was it all worth it? The conquering. No blood shed but a planet harvested And me on an invisible chain.


Last Words by:

Benjamin D. Carson Come here and we’ll talk by the pool. Come here and we’ll talk by the fire. Come here and we’ll talk by this truck heading south to Boca Raton. Come here and we’ll talk by this phone booth that just rings and rings and rings. Come here and we’ll talk by this bakery, break bread and take tea. Just come. I have a flower for you, a chrysanthemum. By the pool, the fire, the truck, the phone booth, the bakery: Come. It is time for last words.

Loving the Artisan by:

Maureen Daniels The orchids on the desk are illuminated by an electric blue glow. The wire-lights tangle the shadows. This is where you build the songs that sing for me, those word by word declarations. The minutes dissolve in the steely air. You taste the blood dimes of paper cuts, the redwood splinter between the toes, the ocean drunk from the lip of a cracked half-shell. I’m as invisible as a sting of alcohol. When you reach out, you will not find me. There is no word for us. If we touch we disappear.


shut-like-up-down by:

blume (michael johann bauer) words are held back in a safe distance so no one speaks or whispers a charm only sharp-edged silence is expecting some waves now of sounds never heard of songs never been as people may try hard returning unknown their lives still abandoned got lost through dead noise

Dust by:

Rhema Sayers The dust in the wash puffs with each of my steps. It hasn’t rained for months. I turn and look back. Each footprint has a hazy umbrella over it As the dust settles. The trees are sickly, the leaves yellow. They wait for the monsoon. There are no weeds. Even the cactus are parched and dying. The dust covers everything. There were no glorious wildflowers this year. It hasn’t rained for months. I turn and look back. All the memories are covered with dust. You and I are getting a parched look.


NYT: a review by:

Clara B. Jones “...plagiarize or be plagiarized....” Aurelia Guo

Interlocutor: My partner’s favorite poet is Aurelia Guo, but I don’t understand her work. What is Guo’s writing all about? Respondent: Ahhh, very interesting! Guo is a young, rapidly-rising Conceptual Poet. According to The Ian Potter Cultural Trust, she “is an interdisciplinary textbased artist and poet.” I think she is a Frank O’Hara scholar living in London, and her new chapbook, NYT, was selected by Sam Riviere as one of the best poetry books of 2018. Like Silvia Federici, Guo believes that women should be paid for “emotional work.” (“Loves work and loves knowledge”). (p 2). I am not surprised that you find her poems confusing. Many writers and critics are not “on board” with conceptual literature. One of its major spokesmen, Kenneth Goldsmith, has stated that, Conceptual Writing “employs intentionally and self and ego effacing tactics using uncreativity, unoriginality, illegibility, appropriation, plagiarism, fraud, theft, and falsification as its precepts;...and boredom, valuelessness, and nutritionlessness as its ethos.” (2010). The “movement” includes Caroline Bergvall, Christian Bök, and Vanessa Place, among others. Conceptual writers rely upon “sampling” texts for resourcing, similar to the way in which scientists sample populations of living things for research. On the other hand, scientists sample randomly. The critic, Marjorie Perloff, however, said that Conceptual Writers’ “choices” are “very difficult” since using a “found” or collaged word or phrase or sentence implies not using others. Andrew Epstein noted that conceptual poems are a form of “remixing,” similar to rap music. (“When you have money to burn,/try burning money like incense/to produce a sweet smell”) (p 3); see remixing of word, “attractiveness,” on pp 2, 8, & 19). I: When I read Aurelia’s poems, I think they make sense at first; but, when I think about them, I’m not so sure. (“And the dog sniffs used tissues/Like isabelle huppert in the piano teacher/And I think about unpublishable” (p 12). R: You are saying that the poems attract your attention, even if they don’t seem to make sense. It may not matter if Guo’s method or anti-method makes sense. The words ground the text yielding an object susceptible to analysis—or, not. The Conceptual Poet mediates the relationship between the original text and the

original author... I: ...but, do “original” poems exist if each text represents an editing—a rewriting—process and is sensed and perceived differently by each reader? Isn’t every poem a series in itself? (“Now, the shoes are pressed to the earth’s lips/ and it sounds like it’s been translated from the German”). (p 5). R: Good! I see your point. Iteration, redundancy, reprocessing, repetition, and reprogramming have a long history in art and literature, and the provenance of a creative work is not always clear. Guo may intentionally hide provenance or source, but she does have conventions, such as excluding punctuation —her “choice.” I: What if she is playing a joke on us? Wouldn’t this be nihilistic? R: Nihilism is intentional. The poet makes choices, as Perloff said. I: Is Perloff saying that Free Will exists? R: Does it matter? You decide whether the poem on page 7 is composed of three couplets or whether each couplet is a poem—or, perhaps, each line is a poem. (“for reasons that had little to do with personal pleasure,” and, next line, “and when she had it she typically demanded it take place in the dark”). Why do you want to make sense of the poems? Poems are not always what they appear to be. Sense and feel, don’t think. I: I think I understand some poems, or, parts of some poems. The poem on page 4 is about temperature—about the earth’s hot core and an “unheated” building and a speaker who is all “fired up.” (“Now the earth was formless and empty/ Living in an unheated, illegal warehouse all winter/Nobody can stop me from having children”). R: Guo has not revealed the details of her process. That is her intentional “choice.” If you give them a chance, the freedom of her poems may translate into your own freedom. I: But, are these poems? R: Marcel Duchamp would say that if NYT is not a book of poems, it includes Guo’s ideas of poems. (“To sit in a room alone/Gilded mirror”) (p 20). Don’t think, sense and feel. I: I think I get what you are saying. I will give the collection another try. A copy of NYT can be found at: paperback/product-23867829.html


Duende by:

B.A. McRae

There’s a woman who lives in room 208 at the Aeonian Home with a perfect view of the lake. She wasn’t bitter or mean but by the other residents she was hardly seen; social events she didn’t particularly partake. The world couldn’t keep up or wouldn’t slow down for the little old woman and her terribly confused mind. For she firmly believed something a little out of tune; though the nurses were kind, to the situation it was as if they were blind. There’s an easel in front of her window, she doesn’t call herself a widow, she is ecstatic to look at it every morning. Because while she is sleeping, though she is tired of dreaming, she believes her love has left her a painting. Yes you heard correctly, every morning she wakes up to find a beautiful painting waiting to be viewed, and along with it each time is the same little note always with the same two words; she has kept each one in a shoebox under her bed. The nurses help her hang up the paintings, some stay in her closet, or on occasion she gives some of the old ones away to other residents; the artwork of her love she loves to spread. Her love was a painter, but of course, and they met in Spain where she was traveling and he was subconsciously patiently waiting for the love of his life to come wandering through. In no time at all love covered them whole, and later on they became three instead of two. Their lives were lived through happy memories, a few scraped knees, but love was always present no matter what. Love can fill each crack of your soul with the glue it needs, but it also has

the strength to pull and twist your gut. He always figured he’d go before her, there’s no preparation in dying. He left on a Sunday morning without a warning, and a few unfinished paintings. The devastation made a creation; her imagination became her distorted reality but in its irony it kept her sanity, in her world her love never lost their breath. They never handed in their paintbrush to the cold hand of death. But of course her view sadly isn’t true. But if not her love who brings her paintings and notes, then who? These paintings are her loves, the ones they’ve painted throughout all their years; and though she thinks she gives them away they are simply just returned. Each time she sees one it’s like the first time, but by morning with the new paintings it’s like the memory is burned. The narrator and deliverer are the same, just as the two words on each note are the same; “Remember Me,” the words are a hope that someday they’ll get to her. She lives to see these paintings, and I am the son she doesn’t remember.


I Am Enola by:

Dr. Mel Waldman

I am Enola after dark below the Coney Island Boardwalk bloated with emptiness & bereft of old blessings-the celestial visions of a child gold eyes gazing at a cosmic panorama creatures of obscure beauty grinning wisely at the lost boy & a kaleidoscope of turquoise skies & red sunsets & gorgeous rainbows in the wet season painting beauty on the phantom soul I am Enola a non-existential conundrum surrounded by a cornucopia of everlasting unreality by the sea in bestial Brooklyn an unholy sphere of broken atoms bereft of light spiraling & swirling into the ineffable & crashing into the chaos of the unfathomable I am Enola & the boiling sand burns my non-being a floating phantom ponders the New World Order & the Parachute Jump looms in the blackness of the unbearable August night & now I dream of Old Brooklyn & remember enchanting things I never saw & eerie events that never happened in sweet phantasmagoria a pristine vastness where chimerical peacocks & butterflies sing & sway in phantom skies & I see a parade of Monarch butterflies & white & blue peacocks & peacock feathers adorned with eye markings of gold, red, and blue flow across unreality & faraway into a vanishing view & the eyes of destiny I am Enola covered with the shattering shroud of invisibility shadow of a shadow of a forsaken ghost forbidden phantom pariah in the fire of oblivion here in nowhere below the Coney Island Boardwalk & floating too across the burning sand the bestial way of the wounded wolf forever rushing slowly toward the pier & jetty in futile search of sacred identity & home for I can’t come back shall never return nor shall I discover why or who I am-not even the dead know Brooklyn or who they are I am Enola nothing more

Icarus as a Girl by:

Christine Krieger As my mother’s daughter, I had choices. Doors opened where luck would have it, a least resistance path, each step revealing the step ahead. Fate was a crazy game we played with the gods, trust just a thought, but I knew I was meant for more, meant for bigger things... I was born to give it all away. I had choices but never tried to escape. It never came up in conversation. Babyfat, summer freckles, beach blond, sleeping cheek bones, clavicles folded like angel wings. My memory is fishy and warped, but if I know this girl, she’d wear her wings high over her head like they want to fly and she can’t keep ‘em down. Girl like this wants to see how high she can go. Girl falls for the sake of falling.


This Dog by:

Gregory John Madge

I don’t know why this dog can’t stand me. He shivers at my very presence. I have closed the door now so he cannot leave me again, but he is on the verge of convulsing. He continues to eye me with terror and refuses to avert his gaze. The brilliance in the black of his coat mocks the strangely serene sensation which has welled up deep within my stomach. The room is aflame with discomfort. My eyes have become nothing but moistened hollows. I sit and reflect. Nothing enters my mind. I cannot remember what I have done to this dog.

spy by:

Paige Weisert the birds watch me so i watch right back they mock me they wait for me to give in i hold on, i say “just one more day” i keep it together. i think of bright things, warm things that burn the tips of my fingers i turn off every light, crawl under the covers i count all the way to 100 in whispers i snap my fingers and tell myself that i’m fine, and i am i breathe, i laugh, i sing, i spin, i run, i fall


Tasseomancy by:

M. Protacio-De Guzman Wading finally Into the ocean’s wet embrace, We chase each other like The children we once were, Relishing the warm water— Surprising at this time— And the friendly company We keep. When fatigue hits us We stumble unto the shore And fall to the sand Recklessly—our limbs Entangled like driftwood, Our chests heaving with The waves shattering On the shore. If the water that flows Between our toes were tea And the beach the tea cup’s Bottom, I wonder what Fortunes can be fathomed From the splay and spread Of our tired and misshapen Bodies.

The Universe by:

Katy L. Wood 55

The Amazing Antabuse Experiment by:

Robert Rickelman

CW: Alchoholism One of the many deals I made with Pat so she wouldn’t kick me out of the house was that she could observe me when I took my Antabuse tablet each morning. Regrettably, I’d made the mistake of telling her about the psych ward trick of cheeking, which was where, when the nurse gave you your pill, you’d maneuver it with your tongue to the back of your mouth between the cheek and gums. The nurse would give you a small cup of water to wash it down, and you had to be careful to keep the pill from getting wet and dissolving. You’d then leave the nurses’ station and furtively remove the pill you had stashed. You could either use it later, or give it to someone who liked that type of medicine more than you. You’d do it as a favor, for money, or as an exchange of some kind. In 2003, when I was in Springhill Hospital, a female patient named Lark would cheek her 1 milligram Ativans for me. She did not like benzos; methamphetamine was her drug of choice. The payback was that I convinced Pat, who was unaware of that whole business, to purchase hair care products that Lark could not afford. I should have considered the likelihood that Lark had some form of hepatitis or other heebie-jeebies, but I needed the Ativan. I was a fucking basket case. Lark was a frequent visitor to several Tucson area psych hospitals. She was chronically homeless, and had lost all of her teeth when she got beat up in a park that was popular with street people. She had dentures, and although she was in her early thirties, when she wasn’t wearing them she looked like an old woman. I felt sorry for Lark. She was a cutter, and she picked her skin so frequently that scabs would appear. It was a vicious cycle where the more she picked, the worse her sores became. Lark was probably going to be sent to the state hospital in Phoenix, which was referred to as ASH for Arizona State Hospital. She was pretty much resigned to that fate, and a long stretch at ASH didn’t concern her. It would not be her first time, and she knew how to play the system. When I explained to Pat what cheeking was, I did not tell her of the risk I’d taken in accepting Lark’s Ativans. In all fairness, I should have told Pat, but when you’re a detoxing drunk, the truth doesn’t count for much. Every morning, Pat would give me the Antabuse tablet, watch me closely, and have me

open my mouth wide enough for her to see whether or not I had cheeked the pill. It irritated me to be under this kind of scrutiny, but I was a liar and a manipulator, and I couldn’t blame her for being suspicious. One Friday morning, Pat brought me my Antabuse and gave me a glass of water to wash it down. I kept the tablet in my mouth, and I surreptitiously let the pill slide into my cup of coffee, where it dissolved. I then dumped the coffee and the dissolved Antabuse into the sink when Pat was out of the kitchen. I continued this practice throughout the weekend. By Monday, I’d managed to miss four doses of Antabuse, and the urge to drink was killing me. I decided that when Pat left for work, I would drive to the liquor store and get a forty ouncer of Steel Reserve, a very strong malt liquor. It had twice the alcohol content of most beers. So drinking a forty was similar to drinking eighty ounces of regular beer. That was more than a six pack. We had two cars, and Pat would take all the keys with her to prevent me from driving to the liquor store. But I was very sneaky, and I’d had copies for both cars made at the neighborhood Ace Hardware. We owned a 1996 Geo Metro and a 1997 Toyota Corolla, and a duplicate key cost about three bucks. Sam’s liquor store was less than a five minute drive from our house. I took our dog Scott along with me. Scott loved riding in the front seat with the window down, sticking out his head and relishing the wind in his face. I parked and entered the store, went back to the coolers, and grabbed two forty ounce bottles. I walked to the counter to pay for my beer. With more than a bit of sarcasm, the woman at the register, who was downright ornery, said to me, “Well, I guess I don’t have to tell you the price for this.” I was very embarrassed. I could feel my ears burning, but I laughed weakly and gave her five dollars. She returned my change, bagged the beer, and I left. All the barbs in the world were not going to stop me from getting my Steel Reserve. I got in the car and drove home. Once I opened a bottle, Scott headed to the door. I let him out. Although I was never mean to him, Scott hated when I drank. He was a smart dog, and he knew that nothing good ever came from my drinking. I finished one bottle, and the Antabuse did not affect me a bit. I decided that I was going to need some more to drink, so before I got too drunk, I drove to a different liquor store, this time without Scott. I bought one more forty ouncer. I was pushing my limits. When I got home, I poured the beer into several glasses and put them in the fridge. I put the empty bottles in a bag and, before I became too shit-faced, I drove to a do-it-yourself car wash, pulled up to the vacuum area, looked around to make sure there were no cops around, and ditched the empties in a garbage can. Then I drove home and enjoyed my ice-cold glasses of beer. At 9:30, Pat called. I was probably halfway finished with my malt liquor. I answered the phone, very serious, trying not to slur. Pat didn’t seem to suspect anything. After we


hung up I finished the rest. For a couple of hours I enjoyed the high, but as the buzz slowly waned, I began to worry about Pat finding out. At noon I brushed my teeth and showered. I hoped that the smell would not be detectable when Pat got home. At this point in a day of drinking, I always regretted my actions and spent most of my time worrying about Pat busting me. There had been many times when Pat caught me drinking, and she would always be furious. Who could blame her? I certainly didn’t. At 3:00, I took four Klonopins, two milligrams each, but they didn’t steady my jangled nerves. In fact whenever I stopped drinking, I would always come down hard, regardless of how many benzos I ate. Pat arrived home shortly before six. I did my best to act normal and calm. This time I was lucky. Pat didn’t catch the odor of alcohol, but I knew that, come tomorrow, I would want to get drunk all over again and would be consumed with the same cravings. And the following morning Pat would give me my Antabuse, which I’d slip into my coffee while trying to keep my hands steady. Damn. Why was I doing this to myself? It was sheer insanity.

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Richard Salembier it was never my intention to grow up i confided to the surf and the angel on my shoulder who responded with warm showers her liquid caress whispered between waves patience the first will be last wax majestic the wicked witch melting vaporized still life return to the coil and the last will be first


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