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Journal of the Arts Brown + RISD Spring 2010 Volume 42


Photogram 8 Alexia Mosby *Intro Pages and Pocket are cropped images.

The Long Road Home Matthew Lin Signs Samantha Martin Untitled Hannah Sheldon-Dean Plunge Michelle Meyers The Man with No Face Michael Frauenhofer On the Nature of Various Things Nicole Halmi No Place Thirii Myint



Last Laugh Maria Anderson Octopus Melissa Henry Taste Lissa Mazanec 25 Turbans Manvir Singh Untitled Jeremy Cutting House #12 Andrea Nguyen Nancy Leanne Luce Self-Portrait Marlee Bruning Life in Christian Iraq Emma Leblanc Latakia, The Other Side of Summer 4 Emma Leblanc

to andrew wyeth. Susan Yue Untitled Sarah Denaci New Acquisitions Emily Sorg Deserting the conditional concerns Rachel Arndt Untitled Nicole Dupuis Archaeology Hannah Sheldon-Dean The Plains Emily Gogolak Old Lady Jezabelle Samuel Schmelzer Philippines Sarah Grimm Untitled Phoebe Neel


1 3 5 9 21 25 35

6 8 18 19 20 32 33 40 43 45


StaffManagement Momoko Ishiguro Managing Editor Kathy Do Marketing Editor Megan Gadient RISD Editor Tabitha Yong Junior RISD Editor

Megan Gadient Editor Sara D’Apolito-Dworkin Editor Evan Brooks Junior Editor Jessica Tang Allan Sakaue Judy Park Jingtao Huang Tabitha Yong Cynthia Poon Elizabeth Lund

StaffArt Morgan Ritter-Amour Editor Robert Gordon-Fogelson Elizabeth Lund Marlee Bruning Genevieve Busby Allan Sakaue Jenna Steckel Nina Ruelle Jingtao Huang



Diane Cai Editor Evan Brooks Michelle Meyers Adam Davis Kate Holguin Yvonne Yu Tabitha Yong

Christi Zaleski Editor Jenny Frary Kate Van Brocklin Janet Zong Kevin Casto Stefan Offermann Mimi Dwyer

MissionStatement Clerestory Journal of the Arts strives to enrich the arts on College Hill through the publication of exemplary student work in the areas of art, poetry, and prose. The magazine draws submissions from undergraduates at both Brown and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), ultimately selecting a diverse body of work that highlights creative talents from both schools. By offering students an opportunity to be featured in a polished, well-designed magazine, Clerestory hopes to: inspire young artists to continue their creative pursuits, help maintain a high bar of quality for the arts at both campuses, stimulate conversation about student work throughout both campuses and beyond, and foster engagement between student artists and the wider Brown and RISD community. The editorial boards of Clerestory, which consist of Art, Poetry, Prose, and Design, select pieces to be published through a blind, democratic process that occurs over a period of several weeks each semester. The boards serve to give student artists, writers, and enthusiasts an

opportunity to gain editorial experience by working for an established publication. In addition, the boards at Clerestory are designed to narrow the gap between the student bodies of Brown and RISD by providing a meeting place for students from both schools. Clerestory Journal of the Arts is published biannually in the fall and spring. The magazine welcomes any Brown or RISD undergraduate to submit their work for publication or to participate through one of its editorial boards.

Last Laugh | Maria Anderson | Digital photograph

Latakia, The Other Side of Summer 4 | Emma Leblanc | Digital photograph

Life in Christian Iraq | Emma Leblanc | Digital photograph

Taste | Lissa Mazanec | Corn husks, sunflower seeds, alfalfa

Self-Portrait | Marlee Bruning | Pen on paper

Octopus | Melissa Henry | Oil on canvas

Recovery | Leanne Luce | Oil on canvas

25 Turbans | Manvir Singh | Mixed media

Untitled| Jeremy Cutting | Digital photograph

House #12| Andrea Nguyen| Pen and ink with watercolor

The Long Road Home Matthew Lin The first time I met you I was running, choking on the heat and dust of a dying summer. You followed me even though I told you I was running to nowhere, to no one, from nothing. I counted my labored footsteps with painstaking care, mindlessly forgetting to ask you your name. Still, you trailed behind me with interest, sometimes pacing to my left, a few times even leading the way. I liked you. I liked this silent companionship. My feet and legs, rising and falling with the most objective of intentions, distracted me. I lost track of my steps – 6394 or 6412? What did it matter? I looked at my arms, the color of honey and olives, and couldn’t tell whether I had been darkened by the sun or by the unclaimed dirt that seethed through air. Shifting my weight to the left, I turned a corner and we were immediately in synch. For minutes, that seemed like hours, which felt like the frozen red wink of a broken traffic light, we listened to the drumbeat of our directionless momentum, syncopated by my rapid heartbeat. Without warning, you bounded in

front of me, letting me stare at your weathered skin. I noted every gravel-colored freckle and each intersection of winding wrinkles that chaotically adorned your exposed body. Of course, the prickling heat in my feet and the bitter taste of thirst in my mouth sent me home. Approaching my house, I stopped my watch. I turned around, and like the most unexpectedly sublime things in my life, you were gone without a goodbye as you came without a hello. You were my adventure, my wordless accomplice. I carried on with my life, hoping to see you again, and I did. Every morning, I saw you watching over me through the windows of my school bus, reminding me that you hadn’t forgotten about me. When fall came, I saw you counting harvested cornstalks, a summer of sweat and work, which mosaicked the edges of the sidewalk. In winter, I saw you playing amongst the shopkeepers’ children and the dogs from the local village. Once, I even saw you standing firmly, supporting the angry footsteps of local rioters protesting a long disputed land conflict. Like instruction in a road sign — you were always there for me — so sure of which way was right, which


was left, and which was wrong. You watched me skin my knee when I tried skateboarding. I became a swimmer instead. You watched me grow from small to tall, from Seuss to Shakespeare. You watched me love, you watched me scream. You watched me hope when no one else was looking. You watched me realize that I would eventually have to leave you, and I did. After graduation, I left you in China for a new life in America. But of course I came back. I had to. When I saw you again, you had changed. Your stubby arms and legs had grown into the sinewy limbs of sturdy highways. You spoke with the force and chaos of impatient taxis parched motorcycles. You no longer protested with the villagers or played in the dust with vagabond dogs. You dressed yourself with the likes of modern shopping centers and Western eateries. You had become just another modernized street, no longer the captivating path that carried me home every day. No longer the winding heartland of mystery that I fell in love with.


Signs Samantha Martin I hadn’t seen you in years, so I was surprised when I looked up and found your face, crumpled and stuttering. There was a thick wall of plexiglas and a row of metal bars between us, so I couldn’t hear what you were saying, and I’ve never been any good at lip-reading.The headline running across your shoulders didn’t help; it was something cryptic like “Tragedy for Two” and I was first of all reminded of how much I hate television news. Microphones swarmed and on the small screen, you nearly drowned in them. Everything about you was in miniscule motion, a slight shrug, a fumbling of lips, small jaw movements as you bit at the side of your mouth and I remembered that about you, in hindsight.You weren’t crying because you couldn’t, never have been able to, you told me. I’d thought you were lying. We had been standing at the side of the road beneath a wilted bus sign.You stared up for a while and I thought you were looking at the stars. I leaned over, hoping to see the bus coming to swallow us up, but it wasn’t and I just stared demandingly into the swarm of headlights

down the road, searching for a pair of tall, orange ones to turn the corner. Suddenly, you asked me to get the sign for you. I didn’t know what you meant until you pointed up at the tiny and blue pictographic bus. It’s hard to explain, you said, but I need it. What the hell would you do with it, I said. It wasn’t a question, I wasn’t interested and you didn’t answer. At the party, you’d been all laughter and glamour and cleavage. Now, wrapped in a thin jacket, you wouldn’t relinquish this determined expression, tapping your fingers and biting your lip. I felt for the first time an acute sense of disillusionment. You kept pushing for the sign and I stayed incredulous. It was then that you looked like you might cry and I complained about how women were always trying to coerce me with tears. That’s when you said you wouldn’t be able to.You had me nearly convinced when those tall, orange lights suddenly appeared at the next intersection and we stumbled onto the bus.We were both pretty wasted. It was just us and a couple of kids.You said loudly that you wouldn’t ever let your hypothetical, future kids run around so late at night. Is it your kids that got you on the news? It has been a while.


I watched the whole segment from the sidewalk, jostled about like a ping pong ball by the furious stream of pedestrians. I could have gone inside, I guess, and potentially gotten an explanation or your name from the audio track. I wish I had, just to hear the screech of that reporter when you finally slammed your fist in her face. As it was, I could only watch her stumble backwards, clutching her nose, her blood seeping between your fingers.You had that determined look on your face, like before when you wanted that sign so badly, but this time, there was a satisfied tint to it. I finally knew that you weren’t lying on the bus that 3AM trip when you sulked, saying that the only reason you didn’t climb up the streetlight to wrench the sign off yourself was because you’d have had to take off your heels. As drunk as we were, we’d lose them and they wouldn’t let you on the bus without them, you’d said with a bitter confidence that could only come with experience. But I’d just stared out the window, waiting for the lights of each intersection to approach and pass by until we finally reached your stop. I still don’t know why the fuck anyone would ever want that bus stop sign. But still, at three in the morning,


I was zigzagging through streets, trying to find the damn thing again. I’d been at it since two, thinking it couldn’t be too tough And here you are again and it’s like looking back at a photograph. It’s the same party, the same people, those high-heeled shoes. When I first came in, you saw me and waved, all laughter and glamour and cleavage and I almost walked over to ask you what had happened, but you

Untitled Hannah Sheldon-Dean Someone asked me why I would not stay here and my answer is, because of the walks. I have loved every one of them but with each the air gets thicker, and harder to move against. Even this wazlking now is a movement against. The branches above are laced and threaded and smogged with things that could be called old, but more than that they are too new. They turn gray almost as they are born. Down each street, the knowledge of every month clogs the sidewalks with endless pedestrians. I, as a pedestrian, follow the far edges of parks and squares and the pockets of newness are obvious. Still, they are interwoven and sodden, turning gray as I look at them as a courtesy of all the fluid tendrils that sing out from heights. Over time, over the course of a block, things remain so permanent that I have to look away, to: a cluster of sticks or needles like flowers without their heads, stuck into the earth and I know why. To: sound. To: light that stuns me daily and has never been unfamiliar. To: the insides of houses where I have or have not been invited.

The branches above are threaded and smogged and laced. They are bending. If I stayed longer they would break under the layers and layers and layers. Said sometimes to be leftover vibrations, or particles of a different kind, and ripples that stop being visible but don’t stop being. Smogged and laced and threaded. Lift the fleece off the trees as if gray cotton candy. There are colors but they seep through the places that were supposed to stop them, and become hazy to the eyes. This is the kind of walk that leads to shouting, and I never shout, though I have imagined myself shouting, at a mountain, at a skyline, at a body of water. As we move through with everything there is to be heard, everything that sings out, the desire is to be heard back. The sign of success is a mist, maybe, resting down over the tops of the trees.


to andrew wyeth. Susan Yue


people only make you swerve you say, an artist has to be ingrown to be any good. and yet, and yet you rely on people the way you rely on helga testorf, that prussian lady who lives next door, and sat still for you for some odd even number of hours, expressionless, two hundred forty seven times as you swirl your whites and cadmium yellows, your burnt umbers and cinnabar greens, your winslow homers and old habits that die hard, egg yolks that become tempera, tempera that become pigments, pigments that map out every contour, every hill, every freckle on the landscape of her face.

and on january 16th the day you died, i gave christina’s world to a little girl, her face stippled precisely layered, structured, like one of your earlier paintings, the base tones various shades of tawny pink and raw sienna, with a generous spattering of golden, larger-than-speckles on her tiny nose. her deep set eyes and dark-brown irises stared back at me as i told the class to draw pictures of what they saw when they looked out their bedroom windows every morning.

but what if what if i don’t have a window in my room? she asked. it’s okay; just paint what you see when you look out your door i answered, thinking quickly. i see a highway when i look out my door, she said. okay, I told her, reaching for the oil pastels, the dark reds and cobalt blues, let’s draw that. i can’t, she said, there are no gray crayons. and with all due respect mr. wyeth, she made me swerve


Untitled Sarah Denaci spinning far in the future me and my husband can’t see down our coffeecups or through each other’s toupees. leaves smack at the window, sometimes we flex our hip abductor, hoping we’ve thrown out the damp kleenexes, and that fall hasn’t blown out our names


Plunge Michelle Meyers My name is Tom, I’m 32 years old, and I work in a skyscraper in downtown Los Angeles. Sometimes I look through the window, at the trash strewn across the streets, the dying fichus trees lining the sidewalks, the brown pollution hugging the Hollywood Hills, and I wonder if I should…but then I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the glass, and everything is good again. My skin is radiant, my teeth glow, and my nose is perfectly symmetrical. Except then I come home and undo my tie and take off my pants and unbutton my shirt. I stand in front of the mirror in our bathroom and it’s bitter, covered with fingerprints and makeup residue. My face takes on a sour, skeletal quality with sagging skin under my chin and teeth like broken piano keys, blemishes emerging like volcanoes. Virginia didn’t care for this mirror, doesn’t care for this mirror, didn’t, doesn’t, didn’t, isn’t, whatever, but I keep it around, and every day I’m reminded that this could be me, that maybe this is me. I wonder if this is the truth, if I’m really that bad. Maybe I deserve to be punished.

• Crops of green grass tickle the hillside. Flaming orange poppies erupt out of crevices. They stream like devil’s tears, and their black pupils watch as I drive past on winding roads. I blink my poppy eyes. There is a certain delicacy to the sun’s rays, a certain uncharacteristic fragility. I think of Rancho Bernardo and the pool and the breeze like a baker kneading gently at its surface and piña coladas with little pink and red umbrellas. I think of bananas flambé with vanilla bean sauce and blackened salmon and eggs over easy with maple sausage. Eggs in bed. How long has it been since I’ve had eggs in bed? A few years at least. I accidentally dripped a long yellow smear of yolk across the sheets and Virginia went sprinting from the bedroom like an Olympic athlete, large breasts pressing against her nightgown. She leaned over with a cold, wet washcloth, dabbing at the stain, laughing and frowning at the same time. “Tom?” Virginia wheezes. She uncrinkles from her nap, a purple-black puffiness under her eyes. The sun disappears behind a greasy smog, something in between clouds and smoke, and the sky sinks closer to us, pregnant with indignation and disgust. I watch as


the flowers recede, as the grass stops waving, a dank, musty smell caving in around us. “Yeah hon?” “Are we almost there?” “Just a few more miles.” “Oh.” “I’m so glad we’re doing this. I think I may have killed someone if I’d spent another week at the office. Just grabbed my machete out of the desk and lopped off a head or two. Can you imagine that?” “I’m thirsty.” “There’ll be plenty to drink at the hotel. Water, soda, guava juice.You love guava juice.You know what, this vacation is for you. Let’s make it all about you.” “Tom, I’m in pain.” I look into her eyes, her pale green irises so beautiful and empty, and I can feel her heart beat inside of mine, slow, laborious palpitations. Th-thump…th-thump… th-th-thump. “I know. Almost there.” • I step into the cool night air, the wind whispering into my ear, the moon swimming languidly across the pool with long, dragging strokes. The hot tub gurgles underneath an ivy veranda, the hotel’s peach stucco walls like


chafed human skin in the dim light. I’m in the sort of mood where I can feel everything about me, minutely, nails pressing against my fingers and hairs prickling in my nostrils and even the clumsy machinery of bones and muscle as I wander closer to the pool. I sit at the concrete’s edge, sliding off my sandals and dipping my pale feet into the water, swinging my legs like a little kid. I listen to the air, holding my breath so that I can hear better. Holding, holding, sand pouring at the edges of my sight as I notice somebody approach. He is familiar, the distant familiarity of a friend’s friend or a second cousin or someone who once worked in the same restaurant as you. “Hello?” “Hi.” “Do I know you?” I ask. “I don’t know.What does it mean to know somebody?” “I don’t know. It just means…you know, to know them.” “So if we’ve met, does that mean we know each other?” “Sure.” “But what if we’ve met and you don’t know anything about me? Do we know each other then?” “I don’t know. No, probably not.” “Then I don’t think we know each other, Tom.”

“How do you know my name?” “I would hope you knew who I was,” he says. I don’t reply. “Life is complicated,” he suggests. “Not always.” “Your life is complicated.” “Yeah. Is yours?” “No, never.” “Oh.” We stare at one another, unblinking, his face broad and flat and silent. “Well goodbye.” “Leaving so soon, Tom?” “I’ll be back.” “Okay.” “I want to be good,” I say. “You can be good.” “I don’t know.” • In my peripheral vision I can see Virginia’s naked body reflected in the mirror. Steam is beginning to mist up the glass from the hot bath, but I can still make out the basic contours of her shape—her long giraffe hips, the surgical smile embedded into her abdomen, the beauty

mark on her left butt cheek contrasting starkly with her alabaster skin. But I can’t see her sharply anymore, can’t see her as someone with a face, someone with eyes and a nose and a mouth. There is a cotton haze and she is a body with no features, a something instead of a someone. I want to love her. If I don’t love her then maybe I can’t love anybody. Maybe I don’t have the capacity for love. We lay across from each other in bed, enveloped by the thick marshmallow covers. The skin of her thigh touches against mine. Her body feels foreign to me, cold. “Goodnight Tom. Love you.” “Night,” I say. The ventilator hisses beside her, letting out exhausted sighs. I fall asleep. • Pink light. A sunset on the walls that were once white and then pink and then a turbulent mix of orange and mustardy yellow and still pink. Pink petals sprinkled around her body. A tongue caressing her watermelon lips, sweet and wet and slightly porous, darkening to a red like cherries or blood, cherries or blood, which is it, cherries or blood? I look down and see that the tongue is my tongue, my tongue is caressing her watermelon lips like an amphibian, tongue in, tongue out, tongue in, tongue out. Somebody’s hands are on her porcelain


breasts, stroking the smooth skin with his dollhouse fingers, satin, silk, silk under my dollhouse fingers. I press delicately against her, my fingers against her, her eyes staring into mine. Feline eyes. A spotlight in the room that is empty but for the pink petals and the two bodies entwined. My disembodied arms wrap themselves around her, the soft dips in her cashmere, the amphibian tongue exploring her cheeks, her forehead, the lobes of her ears, forbidden fruit. I want to eat the forbidden fruit but I pull away. She smiles without her teeth. Why did you stop? I don’t want to eat the forbidden fruit. I can’t eat the forbidden fruit. Am I the forbidden fruit? She smiles with her teeth and they are the rotting cores of apples. I jump to my feet, back away, bare back against the sunset wall as the sutured cavity of her chest bursts open and tarantulas rush forward, hundreds of tarantulas crawling across her skin, her hair, her face, swelling, bushy bodies growing, fangs bared until we are covered with cynical tarantulas. • “Do you ever feel like you’ve got a role in life? Like, you’re a definition and somewhere in an old peeling


thesaurus there’s a single word next to your name?” I ask. I am back at the pool again, the same familiar man’s lips rippling apart as he speaks to me, fragments of air splattering wetly against my neck. “I have more dimensions than that. Maybe you’re just a one-dimensional kind of guy,” he says. “Me? One-dimensional? You’re one to be talking… not that I care anyway.” “You should care.You don’t have to be a lot of things but they should be the right things.” “Do you have to be so philosophical?” “That’s not philosophy, Tom. That’s life.” “And you’re patronizing. Great.” The man’s eyes elongate into shadowy screams, skin pulling tightly around his plum-pit nostrils. “At least I don’t fuck things up. I only get to watch.” Silence. “I want to be good.” • A funhouse. Acidic light pours down from the windows, sliding green down the glass. Bare feet against glass shards, the tarantulas scurrying up and down the bare legs attached to my bare feet. Blood running from the vampire gashes in my feet, trails of

blood, blood on my hands. Tom? Tom, where are you? I see myself in the many mirrors and I am round and I am flabby and I am fabulous, distorted mirrors, exploding mirrors, searching for the forbidden fruit. The smell of the forbidden fruit, like flowers and film, I smell the forbidden fruit with a forked cobra tongue. I’m coming. Am I coming? I slide my tongue along the mirrors until it is pungent, flowers and film, and she is trapped in the mirror, banging her fists against its piecrust shell, flaking away layers. Only I can rescue her and I do rescue her as a serpentine smile spreads across her cheeks. We are together, her scent enveloping me as I look up at the looming dollhouse eyes stretched along the ceiling, pale, familiar green eyes that do not blink. With both disembodied arms I pull down on the thick black lashes, pull them closed. Finally. I devour the forbidden fruit, over and over again, scraping away tendrils of skin, lusting for its flesh that is sweet and tart, ripe to be plucked. We roll apart, a watery feeling squeezing my stomach, too much fruit, too much fruit, deep purple fruit juice leaching from

my ears, fruit puree dripping from my nose, black fruit seeds pushing my teeth apart. Tom! What’s wrong? I can’t see your face in the mirror anymore. • Virginia calls from the bathroom. “Tom?” The world drifts in a soupy Vaseline glaze, sleep like a lead apron draped across my chest, lamps turning towards me. The walls are sedimentary, gritty dirt walls that would crumble at my touch, and I try to ignore the cardboard quality of the hotel room, the seeping ceiling. Coal black thunderclouds press down on my shoulders but when I blink, they have already blown away. “Yeah?” I say. “Tom, would you come here for a moment?” “Yeah.” I swing my feet off the bed and plod across the carpet, stand in the doorway.Virginia is submerged beneath steaming water, spider fingers creeping along the thick layer of bubbles that obscure her. She grins, an effortful grin. “How about a swim, Tom? For old time’s sake.” I look at Virginia but cannot see her. The bubbles


begin fizzing, simmering, broiling, the claws of the bathtub like animal talons, her gluey face no longer adhesive. I see the face of the familiar man, lurking just below the surface, gazing at me. “Come on, Tom, take a swim with your wife. Do it, Tom, for old times’ sake.” I reach up and undo a button, hand wavering, stop, feel the hard plastic button between my fingers. I drop my head so that I don’t have to look at her anymore. “I’m sorry,Virginia, “ I plead. “I can’t, I just can’t.” She sinks into the bathwater, her charred body swallowed, the man’s face disappearing. “Do you even love me anymore, Tom? Do you?” • The stench of Clorox, a sterile latex wind vibrating through the room, the autumnal silence clamping itself around me. The man in the black and white photograph above the bed refusing to look into my dark poppy eyes, the whispers, whispering TOM, TOM, TOm, Tom, tom, tom, tom tom tom tom tom! Suitcases stack themselves along the walls, thorn tattered, zippers ripping open and shut on their own volition, vwip, vwop, vwip, vwop, a macabre symphony,


crescendo, forte, FORTISSIMO,VWIP VWOP VWIP VWOP VWIP VWOP VWIP VWOP! They know, they all know, they, the asbestos windows chomping open and shut, left, right, open, shut as I stumble across the spongy carpet sucking at my ankles, pulling me to my knees, crawling when I glance down, filthy tarantulas swarming along my back, bloated blood bellies, porcupine hairs bristling along their bodies, heartbeats synchronized, millions of heartbeats, THUMP-THTHUMP-TH-THUMP! I’m sorry! The balcony doors open like a gaping mouth, my socks soaked through, red lipstick kisses on white socks melting together. The cast iron ceiling rises and falls, lungs expanding and contracting, hot coffin breath against the back of my neck. Silence. Snake-bite slits across her wrists and the frothy bubbles of the bathtub like tart cranberry foam, faucet spewing, spewing thick saliva through its vicious grin, scalding hot saliva creating a blistering ridge along her shoulders. Virginia... I’m sweltering, the midnight moon poaching my insides. An intestinal fear pulses through me. I don’t

know what to do but I hold tight and take one step forward, another, shaking off the tarantulas so that they vanish into oblivion. I step onto the balcony and my toes freeze and have frostbite. I’m free. How do you like that? I sneer. The familiar man speaks.You are a terrible person. He is not a familiar man but a familiar face, a reflection in the water that is one of my many mirror selves. Who are you? I’m Tom. I’m 32 years old and work in a skyscraper in downtown Los Angeles. I’m a good husband and my wife isn’t dead. Who are you? he says. I’m Tom. I’m a bad husband. I want to be you. Okay. I’m going to jump into the pool and when I rise above the surface I will be you. Okay. I climb onto the prison-bar railing and peel off my clothes, white shirt absorbed into the breathy night air. Blood-sweat slices across my shoulders in bruised rivulets. I’m taking off my clothes so I can be clean and wash it all away. Okay.

I’m going to jump. Okay. One, two, three. I watch myself jump and then I jump, rising and free-falling, spiraling, falling. The ivory moon does not catch me. I hit the cement and blood leaks thickly from the crack in my skull. My mouth twists into a half-smile, half-frown, sinking, lost… A venomous pain and my eyes are fluttering open, Virginia is like a mirage, an ethereal shadow, wavering above me, breasts receding, coarse black hairs breaking her skin, blisters crackling and oozing along her broadening, hunching shoulders, pallid blue-grey corpse skin wilting under her chin, a sour, skeletal quality, teeth like broken piano keys, her green dollhouse eyes melting into raw fleshy scarlet, white wings along her back, matted, molding, feathers molting, mucousy worms engulfing her wings. I try to get away, my body welded to Virginia, the moon laughing. What’s the matter, Tom? she says in a gravelly, guttural voice, deeper, coarser. Don’t you like what you see? • “Haven’t you made up your mind yet?” I ask. Ambient aromas waft from the kitchen, fresh basil and garlic


and the dark sultry scent of flourless chocolate cake. The hotel restaurant hums with the din of couples chatting, couples clinking their glasses together, couples chewing and swallowing and digesting. The pianist plays Mozart, running his fingers up and down the octaves. I glance at Virginia, at the ratty gray sweater and the round black beanie on her head, hiding the few raggedy strands of hair she has left, glance away, embarrassed. “Sorry, Tom, my stomach’s still off from the chemo and everything here is too rich.” The couple at the table next to us look at Virginia, frown at the frumpiness of her clothes. I can feel their frowns like hot sizzling oil on my skin. “There has to be something that you’d like.” “I told you, everything is rich,” she says quietly. They’re all whispering to each other, whispering and pointing. “Well do you want to leave then?” “No, it’s fine, maybe I just won’t have anything.” “You can’t just not have anything.We’re at a restaurant.” “I guess I’ll ask the chef for some chicken broth.” They shake their heads, whispering and pointing and shaking their heads


“Okay.” “Fine.” A waiter approaches us, a fat bowtie leaning against his neck. “Would you like a bottle of wine tonight, Sir?” he asks. “What do you think,Virginia?” “What?” “ What do you think?” “About what?” “What do you think about a bottle of wine?” “I can’t. My medications can’t mix with alcohol.” “What about one glass?” “Tom, I can’t,”Virginia says, her voice rising, turning to the waiter. “I want a glass of water with no ice.” The waiter walks away. “What, doesn’t he care if I want a glass of wine? Just because you don’t want wine, I don’t get to have any wine.” “Tom, he’ll come back.” “That’s not the point, he should’ve asked if I wanted wine.” Virginia sighs, squishing her face into her hand, little watery tears welling up in her eyes. “What’s wrong?” “Nothing, nothing, I’m just tired.”

“This was supposed to be fun. This was supposed to be all about you,” I say. “Life isn’t fun.” “Vacations are fun.” Virginia glares at me. “Vacations are not fun if you’re sick and nauseous and have lost your hair…at least you have hair.” “Oh here it is, cancer guilt. Do you think it’s easy for me, watching you die?” “Really? Really, is this where our conversation is going?” “Hearing you cry at night, hearing you complain—” “I have been fighting!” The waiter comes back. “Ma’am, your water.” He sets the glass on the placemat and then leaves, the glass sitting precariously near the edge as Virginia ducks under the table to find her pills. “He forgot the wine again.” “Tom, you don’t need the wine!” She lifts her head, knocks into the glass, a waterfall, my lap soaked with water and everyone whispering and pointing and shaking their heads, shaking, shaking, laughing, pointing and laughing, hehe, heehaw, hahahaha, hooohooohooo… “Fuck!” I shout. Everyone turns around, silence cloaking the room like a wool blanket. Juicy round tears roll

down Virginia’s face. I stand up, throw my napkin on the floor, and stormy away, leave the room without looking back.


New Acquisitions Emily Sorg Fifty-dollars were spent on canaries for the excited patients: Hallway guards with feathers.Yellow for their happiness. Jaundiced for the time being but not once the singing started. In a coal mine, canaries die before humans are hurt. Blame it on a fast metabolism, a weak heart. (I read it in an article once, (see also: wild canary, see also: birdcage. It takes one to know one, (one whose perch is a pocket, barred off from the sky whose grasp is a metal twig, suspended by design, whose noise is a squeak when un-oiled, forgotten whose hollow body makes a soft thump when it hits the inevitable floor.


Deserting the conditional concerns Rachel Arndt

The prediction was for spring-smell in January to taste like courage and mumbled love. Fall into bed, fall out of our seasonal grief, fall into planetary woes no thicker than sketches, fall out of desire to be awake. Come read poetry with me in bed. If the sound of movement through puddles were intent on bringing the trees to their feet, surely waking would float upon the sunrise with the grace one expects from daybreak—that smarmy sweet of what has been looked forward to becoming what is. There is a difference between hoping the tree roots will snap and wanting to saw off the trees’ arms. There is being certain only of the latter. Hold tightly so I don’t notice. The disuse of astonishment.Those who wait for surprise.Those who wait for schematic rise and fall even if they refuse to be written and anger because language cannot grasp such surface and unquestionably cannot plunge beneath. Every nine seconds the link between the map and steps taken (“You are here”) is compared to a seismic shift. The plates grind against each other, this time replaced unsubtly by gnashing teeth and plastic armor, the mechanics of cycles and their tendency to end despite a tendency for perpetuity. Overcoming the scope of one line of latitude is not equivalent to a seismic shift, but neither is the mentioned link, and neither are the nine seconds it takes the narrator to recover valor. Besides the warmth of textiles and master plans, you are the first thing.


Untitled Nicole Dupuis

Through veils of light, covering our bodies like the sheet you wrapped your newborn in, the pure white crisp smelling like sweetest ginger in the vacuous wastelands, dancing weed-petals around your earthen-bound eyelids fanning sweet lash into grass, hurt gaze into life and these dandelions will grow into something greener and more meaningful, softly trickling wet dew into sweetest milk and slowly settling into the folds of your belly where I kiss you and diminish you, slide my soul through your crevices my lips through your injustices while I writhe with the desire that sends an ache between my thighs, now you’re rubbing me like a lamp and I am reading you like a map breathing warmth into your tundra suck sweet berries from your bogs and I could stay in this place forever, I’d say, if you’d only let me I’d drink your streams dry of their doubt and with the water wash your aching feet.


The Man with No Face Michael Frauenhofer You always forget that it’s real. Once the risperidone kicks in you feel tired and a little confused but the bad dreams are over.You start opening windows and leaving lights on.You have lunch with the girl down the hall. You forget that it’s real, up until it comes back. • In my dream Julia is sitting on the desk with her skinny white legs shut tight. The wind peppers her skin with little goosebumps and it paints her with cold. Her eyes are lightly closed and her pubic hairs lift on the breeze. The hours pass but we do not talk. We have no need for words. I brush her collarbone with my lips and start to suck at the crease of her skin, my hand slides down her stomach and comes to a rest. We will live in the dark as if insects or bats. We will crawl towards the light. • Stare into every car. Shadows melt under streetlights. Street maps and boxes of tissues, air fresheners and torn envelopes. One of the cars is not totally empty. There is a girl in

a tracksuit curled up inside, dead, with her hands making fists. Her face is hidden by the darkness. I freeze. I run east down the street, then run west. I listen for a car engine’s revving. There is no one around. I stagger back to the car and press my hands to the glass. This time there is no one inside. • There’s a pinch in the back of my skull where my consciousness starts. I suck the smoke through rice paper and it sears my raw throat. I start to cough but I catch it and my noze starts to buzz. Then I let the smoke out in a plume, thin and gray. Paul is cutting the lines with his ID card. The glass’s surface is dulled by white clouds. “Couple of these’ll put your ass right to sleep,” he explains. I start rolling the twenty dollar bill. It’s mostly the Tylenol that burns. We trade sniffles and suck down the drip. • I walk my mouth up Julia’s cheek, lip by lip. They are strawberry pink and her skin is white paint. She bites my lip and pulls back and she breathes in my face, moist and warm. My jaws slide open wide as they trace the contours of her chest.


We hold each other and shiver. Stomachs expanding and shrinking with each nascent breath. We will lay on a blanket on her basement floor with our skin lightly coated with sweat. We will look out the window and notice the dripping landscapers taking breaks by the tree. •

hit three, six, and eight every time. Some days I get off at three; some days I get off at six; some days I get off at eight. I take the stairs to my actual floor so no one watching the elevator can track me. Which is irrational, I know, my fucking name’s on the door. But it makes me feel better so I always hit three, six, and eight. •

Paul’s words come out all at once in a slur. “I think I’m passing out too, man. I gotta go to fucking bed.” “Yeah, man. Me too.” I grab the crumpled bag with the weed and stuff it into my pocket. He closes his eyes for a few seconds while I put on my jacket. He holds his arm out and our hands slide against one another, then catch where our cupped fingers snag. “Peace.” I listen to the clanking machinery of the elevator the whole way down. Once the doors shudder open there is no longer sound. I hate walking alone in the dark but it’s better than staying in my room every night so most nights I walk alone in the dark. Thankfully there are no cars out this time. I check every dark window I pass. There are faces in some but if I stop to look at them they fade right back into the shadows. I make it back to Minden and take the elevator up to my room. When the elevator comes I

I go to meet my friends at the dining hall just like we agreed but I can’t seem to find them in all of the crowd. There are too many faces so I squint and my muscles tense up. When they find me they hug me and ask lots of questions, wonder why I was late. It’s hard to answer and my jaw feels stuck shut. I haven’t showered in days and I’ve been skipping class again. They talk to each other excitedly, taking big bites of pizza, punch the table and laugh. I pick at a lonely onion ring and stare at the salt shaker. None of them directly address me and when we leave they seem worried but I have nothing to say to them. I want to make them feel better but I don’t know how to talk anymore. The next day I don’t even leave bed. I don’t understand time. I can look at my clock but the little white numbers don’t mean anything. I spend hours with my eyes halfway-closed.


• “It feels like I can see everything. All the little particles, the molecules and atoms that make everything. It’s so much more than I can process and it makes me not speak, sometimes, and that scares me. But I can feel how close I am to figuring it out, like maybe one day I’ll be able to control them, make them do what I want. There are three of us with the power to see them. I don’t know how I know this. I just know this. And when we get good enough, when we master our powers, we can make the world a perfect place. There will be no more suffering, no more things that just don’t work out right, because we’ll be controlling everything on a molecular level, making everything happen perfectly.” I keep talking and talking but Julia looks like she doesn’t understand. I tell her why the shadow men can never get ahold of my power and that’s when it all clicks, you can see it in her face. “I love you,” she says, “but I just can’t deal with this.” For a second it looks like it hurts her to say it, but she laughs and then cries a little. She looks down. “I really, really want everything to be okay for you but this is…too much. I can’t do it.” I watch the little particles that furiously twist as the wind blows her hair. “That’s…that’s totally cool. I mean,

it’s happened before.” All the feeling slides into my forehead and makes my cheeks hot. “You’re not the first person who’s…left because of it.” I sit down in the grass and almost curl into fetal position. I don’t know how long I stare at the ground but when I look up she’s gone. • I look over my shoulder and see the man with no face. He is tall and slender, with gray skin and long, thin fingers. As he passes each streetlight its light sputters out. There are people stuck in every car I pass, pressing their hands and their faces to the windows, the car rocking from the turmoil inside. There are shape-shifters in the storefronts, flickering and disappearing. There are shape-shifters perched in trees on high branches. A strange wind starts to stir up the leaves, forms a cloud of black dust. When this happens I break into a run. The second I start running they start running too, a hundred shape-shifters with flat gray feet, and the cloud of dust whips after me. The man with no face leans on a street sign at every street corner, with his hands in his pockets and his hat brim pulled low. I can hear my feet slapping the pavement louder and louder with each step I take. Once I get inside I take the elevator, three, six, and eight, then the stairs, and I pull out my phone.


I need to find someone safe. I need to talk to someone safe. There is no one safe. I call my sister and she picks up but I know it’s not her, know she’s already dead. I can hear the man with no face talking in her voice, “I was sleeping, what’s wrong,” see his crooked gray mouth form the words. I lock the door and curl up in a corner, hiding under a blanket with my phone on the ground. “Tell me something only you would know,” but she doesn’t know what to say for a second so I hang up the phone. I’m hungry but I don’t eat the food, I know they’ve poisoned all the food. I can hear the quiet hiss as the gas starts to enter the room. The wind rattles the windows and the lights start to flicker. I can hear him in the back of my head, telling me to turn out all the lights. I call my sister again but it goes straight to voicemail and I shiver through the tone. “Sarah, it’s happening again, I mean I know it’s not real but it’s real, I know everything’s real, I know the medicine just makes it harder to see, but it’s still there, you know it’s still out there, I know it’s not real but it’s real—” • “It’s just a disease,” Sarah says. Like cancer or the flu. We can beat this, she says. She says the bad dreams are over. You forget that it’s real, up until it comes back.


On the Nature of Various Things Nicole Halmi On the casual observer. I am sitting on a hotel balcony looking at the Danube, which is in front of me. This is the second time I have been here, and I still do not speak the language, after having heard it at home throughout my entire childhood. But I am hoping, nevertheless, to find what was left here for me. On the utensils. In the middle of the city, differences in language are not a problem—everyone that I am surrounded with—the service industry in its entirety—has been carefully trained in basic English: please, thank you, yes, water with bubbles. Unsolicited, the maid in my hotel spoke to me in French this morning, and so I smiled for the first time since arriving here; maybe it would be easier than I thought to slip through unnoticed and incorrectly labeled. My grandmother is going mad, I know she is. She has made it clear that she will never leave her home

again, now that she is home again. And all I am prepared to do right now is to watch. On photography. The Bajor Gizi Szineszmuzeum was closed yesterday. It is closed all month, because it is August. But the taxi still parked on the side of the street and everyone inside got out to take pictures: of the outside of the building, of the ivy that would need to be trimmed back in September when they open again, of the potential for remembering what had happened. Bajor Gizi, the great actress and best friend of my great-grandmother, sang a song about junebugs in the opera in 1929. I did not bring a camera, I have enough pictures. And you cannot photograph a song, or at least I cannot. On the illusion of few and clean. The throngs of people coursing through the streets are sweaty, still packed in rows, tight as the day they were cast into this mentality. There is no room, or perhaps no inclination, to air out. The people on the television are no longer slender nor smiling, and go about their business with little fanfare; doing it any other way, it seems, would desperately misrepresent their Hungary.


On the sensation of a narrative. I walk through the city, and as I do I touch all of the buildings. I run my hands down them as I pass and wonder if my grandmother has done the same. I have not seen her in four years, since she decided to return to this place where she was born, and am left now trying to absorb her through the situation of her childhood, her Hungary, her time before—and now after—America. On Mäda Primavesi. In the indigo-walled café on Vaci utca, where I have come to spend most of my time, I am waiting, weighed down by the knowledge that I must see my grandmother, and intensely apprehensive about what I might find when I do. And it is here that I saw the only elegant woman in all of Budapest. She sat at a table in the center of the room glancing away from her three companions—all men of a like age as her, which could just as easily have been twenty-one as it could twenty-seven. Her eyes, large and a very deep plain brown, were an appropriate match for similarly articulated hair, shoulder length and straight, held away from her roaming eyes with a single bobby pin. As for


the rest of her face, it was unremarkable: oval shaped, thin-lipped—comely, certainly, but not much more. The most pressing matter of her exterior visible above the table was the very full fur coat, into which she had slipped her gaunt torso and arms, wear-ing it with such nonchalance that it seemed as if it were the only thing protecting her heart, lungs, and stomach from the external world. The whole effect, of course, was too much of an inadvertent spectacle for the other members of the party. None of them addressed her, not even the man sitting across from her. They were the only things distinguishing her from the subject of a Klimt painting. Her age was the only thing that distinguished her from my grandmother. On remakes. Communist barracks with all of the windows broken are still intact—walls gored with bullet holes— and lie on the outskirts of the city. Nothing has been rebuilt, though I know nothing is the same. On the why. How can this city still be called Budapest? There is something missing.

On the collusion of blue and green. I could not stay in the city any longer: the weight of waiting had finally surpassed the weight of anxiety. Driving to the western border, the sky meets fields all around. Corn is ubiquitous in Hungary; I found this out after driving 200 miles to Felsocsatar through such cornfields, broken only briefly by dots of towns and Lake Balaton, with its summer vacationers. I continued on. On edible flowers. The man with the sweat-stained “Free Tibet� baseball cap and ill-fitting sport coat is propelling himself down the side of the road as if with invisible ski poles. He has stopped for a stretch during his travels, one hundred miles of which have been completed in the car in front of mine, and quite likely the next one hundred as well. I stopped too, to look around. We attempted conversation, but could find no language that we have in common. Appetite whet but not nearly satiated by this, my mouth began to water. We exchanged sounds, but little else. On clouds. It is a long drive and I can see the generous white-

grey legs of women sitting around a table above me. The little dog sauntered across the floor underneath and I thought he was leashed until the wind blew and he ran off on his own, scattering him into what will almost certainly become raindrops by the time I reach Felsocsatar where my grandmother has cloistered herself. On quantum leaps. The cornfields have ended their parade around my car, and I can hear her humming the song about junebugs in the back of the house, the house that is too large, too stone, and yet still somehow a natural projection of the land. I can see through to the back of the house from the front, and she is sitting there, on the porch, holding court with the flowers and trees that she carefully planted, a imitation of the garden she grew at the house she abandoned in 1956. On the state of the window currently being open. My papers are blowing about and her papers are blowing about and she is painting violently and will not stop until every inch of the massive page is covered, and I do not blame her, the blank paper is ugly, is daunting. The papers under the one she is working on are even


more wildly colored. The wind blows up the corner of the top layer, but she quickly smoothes it down, covering what was beneath, so I pretend not to have seen it. Like a child in deep concentration, the corners of lips are curled up, though not in a smile. On a doll’s house. I watch her as she moves through the house, and her eyes do not. She is moving through the house where she lived with her father as a child. Here are her dolls, and see how she has set out little cakes for them. They will use their tiny forks and knives to eat off of the plates she has carefully placed on the embroidered tablecloth that was her mother’s before she died. Now she is walking through the dining room and there is her father, sitting at the head of the table, waiting for the dinner to be served. She smiles because he is smiling at her, his only daughter, her father. I follow her into the sitting room and linger after she continues on in her reverie. There, on the table by the cobalt velvet couch is a picture of him, carefully arranged in a frame with pressed flowers—Lily of the Valley, his favorite. He is wearing his hussar’s uniform and sitting on his horse, and smiles when he sees me looking at him.


On the River Pinka. From the porch where I am sitting, I can see down into the valley, down to the River Pinka, down to the tiny houses clustered together, down to the roads that rarely intersect because there is rarely more than one road. In 1956, guard shacks and fences were the most prominent geographic phenomena in this area: not one mile west of this house is the border between Austria and Hungary. I watch my grandmother remove the fur coat, now wet, that she had been wearing, and leave it by the guard shacks, by the banks of the Pinka. The disgust she feels at leaving behind her wedding present from her husband is dampened by the urgency that the situation requires. The wet coat slows her down and she cannot afford to be slow in her escape. She and her husband take turns carrying their three-year-old son through the harsh November air, their arms otherwise empty after having lost the suitcase filled with all of the possessions it could hold in the river. They are escaping into Austria and I can hear the Communist reaction to the revolt in Budapest roaring behind them as it flattens across thirty-three years, finally halting in 1989. The three of them were lucky, or so it seems to me, because they

met neither death nor imprisonment in their escape, though I could be convinced that my grandmother felt the opposite. She would rather have died on her own soil than lived on another, but her husband made the decision—mere days after the start of the revolt—and she knew it was best for her son, my father. All of this I can see from my seat on the porch. On lock and key. This is quite strange. I have never seen my grandmother without the small brassy locket around her neck, a gift from her father when she was a child. Before my grandfather died, enclosed in it was a tiny picture of the outline of Hungary, and after he died, a small amount of his ashes were added and the locket was never opened again. The locket is no longer around her neck. I asked her where it had gone and she gestured, arthritically, yet rhythmically, with her finger to the garden. When the look on my face belied no understanding, she finally began to speak, nearly the first words she had spoken to me since I arrived. On letters to anyone. I am watching her paint. Each painting starts out as

an attempt to realistically render the river in front of her, but as she realizes that she cannot possibly encapsulate all that she sees with watercolors, she gives up and starts a new one. And now I am looking at all of her unfinished paintings, and in all of them I can see the path they followed from Budapest to Austria: driving to Szombathely, walking through the densely wooded expanse until they reached Felsocsatar, crossing the Pinka, then crossing the border. I gathered all of them and hung them up in a line on the wall inside the house, all next to each other, continuous and repeating. The first in the line is blue ballpoint pen on the back of a white paper napkin. This one she sketched for me, when I was six, when she told me the story the first time. I brought it here with me, in my breast pocket. On tarot. She gave up her compulsive reading of tarot cards years ago. She did not even take them with her when she came here. She knew she would not need them anymore when each time they showed her the same thing, and it too looked like a map.


On shadow puppets. My back is to the wall of windows that separates the inside of the house from the back porch. I have hung the pictures in a ribbon across the wall in front of me, and the sun is coming in through the windows behind me. I am making shapes with my hands on the wall. The shapes are flitting over the routes in the paintings, dancing outside of the paths, but still moving in the same direction. She buried the locket in the garden so that my grandfather could be home. She was waiting all of that time to do it. On propagation through grafting. I have taken to exploring the house as an extension of my grandmother. I am sitting on the bed in my room, a guest room, and on the wall in front of me is a painting of her that her brother made when she was in her twenties. From the right angle, this is a painting of the woman in the cafĂŠ on Vaci utca who wore the uproariously unnecessary furs in mid-August: the same brown eyes and hair, the same oblivious nonchalance. It is becoming clearer to me that the only things that are evocative of my grandmother are those that no lon-


ger make sense—this guest room, which has entertained only one guest in four years; her continuous painting; her return to a near Communist country from a country where she had everything including a living family. Perhaps she knew that I would come. On the lives of a work of art. It had been some time before today since I had last seen my own face; I am looking at it now, though I hardly recognize it, the skin too fair, the features too placid and elegantly arranged, is this really what I look like? My eyes are still large and plain and brown, but the carefully practiced indifference they once reflected is being worn away as I am able less and less to rely on language to communicate my thoughts. On a Greek chorus. The glass blew off the table and smashed against the porch railing. The wind is picking up. On vivisection. My grandmother, speaker of five languages, refuses, or perhaps has begun to forget, to speak to me, when she speaks at all, in English. Words hang in the air and

repeat themselves when they are few. Parallel to my beginning to connect meaning to this sound is my beginning to disregard this connection. We sit and paint. She is pleased and hangs mine on the wall next to her own. Every morning I look at them and it is becoming harder to remember which are not mine. On return. We are sitting on the floor in front of the wall of paintings, eating marzipan shaped like fruit. My car, the only car within miles, seems to have driven itself away. This marzipan is delicious, and the series of paintings is not nearly completed. On the allegations of unreality. I am looking out the window towards the border between Austria and Hungary. There are small mountains, there is a river, there are speckles of other houses and farms, whose roofs probably still hold the plague in their thatching. I cannot see the border; there are no longer fences here.


Archaeology Hannah Sheldon-Dean

When I was still in love I walked cities and felt ghost towns. I saw people in back roads and courtyards and felt more things in the air and to buildings – white like learning or gray like trade – I said well What are you? Are you for the living or are you for the dead? We bury our dead but we keep them close to us. I had no monument. I made the whole city my monument.


Some societies value scars on the body and I would not look away from the sunlight fall on dark stones or high windows. The earth, pressing around rocks, softness showing little white and red flowers, wet smell sticking to my hair, carved a half-moon on the delicate skin between my shoulder blades.

The Plains Emily Gogolak

i. Motionless by the window Contemplating the smell of stale cigarettes and the garden roses outside and the way light obscures things in the late afternoon There, limbs limp, hands and feet perennially numb, oblivious to temperature He, sitting ii. Light runs in between black and itself Eyelids restless, move, close and now all is black Vertigo In the plains again, he is running Looks back at her through stalks, laughing and running Moves through an August heat and takes her in his arms Noticing how the sun is fading out of focus, playing with the color of her hair He, floating iii. Stumbling back to my static exile I cannot move but to see her But now she is gone And the plains are far And the light has passed And I, sitting


Old Lady Jezabelle Samuel Schmelzer

The morning was her orchestra, a symphony of incoherencies. I languished in her music. Thin wisps of steam and hope float upwards— I know they are still there, somewhere; I just can’t see them. Snowflakes meet memories slowly rising from her mind— a gentle cloud of white hair. Briefcases waltz among swaying hands, pens tango on pocket dance floors outside. I’m going to catch alligators— put them in the moat that protects my sand castle.


No Place Thirii Myint I wrote to William asking for a love story, and instead he sent me a poem that began, “Loneliness leapt in the mirrors.” It was a poem about no one. I say no one, but I mean a young woman, departure’s ex-girlfriend. Will told me in his last letter that he is constantly thinking of doing something of movie-like proportions for Natalie. I imagine him showing up in Seville with his hair parted to the side and maybe some yellow flowers from the market. Natalie said her apartment will be by a river, so I imagine a river behind Will, sparkling in the sunlight, and never mind that it is only January because Spain is far away and already it is summer. And movie-like, Natalie will leap into his arms, crushing the flowers between them, and she will kiss him on the mouth. I believe I am helping Will by fantasizing this, because, after all, reality is nothing but a collective dream, and my dreaming makes this love story more real for the both of them. I am always trying to write a love story. I recycle Zachary in my mind until his eyes change colors and he

begins to smell of the laundry room. In the basement there is too much lint in the trash and mildew on the walls. Snow is piling up outside by the window. Zachary is thinner than I remembered, and he is half-naked on the water heater, smoking a cigarette. I tell him that this is out of character, to smoke in the laundry room when he knows I am asthmatic and wiser now that I have fallen out of love. Zachary throws his cigarette into the trash, and the lint catches on fire. Look what you’ve done, he says. • William came running up the hill to say goodbye to me, and he was only Will, not Zachary. It was meant to be a moment of movie-like proportions, I think, and I am sorry I ruined it. I am sorry that the bus was late, and I was waiting in the cold with a crowd of other people and their luggage. It was snowing, and Will had ran uphill in the deep snow to catch me. He was out of breath. “What are you doing here?” I said. “I ran up the hill,” he said. “Why?” I said. “Because,” he said, “I wanted to see you.” It occurred to me that the people around us would think he was my boyfriend, and it was as if their collective dream brought mine to reality. I held Will’s hand with the


excuse that he was not wearing gloves and would be cold. “But my hands are not cold at all,” Will said, and to prove it, touched my cheek with the back of his hand. His fingers were warm. For no reason, I took off my gloves and touched his face. I decided then that I would allow myself to write another love story about William. And I will leave it as a love story because that is what it could have been if he had been the one who was too late, and he came running up the hill, out of breath, only to catch the sight of me boarding the bus, with my little red backpack and the snow in my long, dark hair. If that were the last he saw of me, would he not have fallen in love? And if I were to take a seat at the back of the bus, if I were to look behind me, by chance, would I not have found him standing there in the snow, his hands in his pockets to keep warm and his face flushed from all the running that was for nothing? Would he not have reminded me of Zachary? And shall I say I am wiser now? Because I have fallen out of love with a boy who was never who I made him to be in my stories? Because Zachary has a real name, a name that is less beautiful to me when written out, either in typeface, or in cursive, without the lovely ‘y’ at


the end, the ‘y’ which I like to drag out with my pen, as if drawing my fingers over the glass of an aquarium. Zachary, with an arching stroke of the hand, Zachary, with a dying fall, Zachary, like a litany of all the things I had collected but lost. His name invoking the memory of God, though perhaps in the lowercase, god, with dark curly hair and a classical nose. God remembers, Zachary, but we have killed him, and are we the wiser for it? Can God remember if he is dead, or are his memories, by themselves, only sounds lost in the wind? No, Zachary says, they are not lost. They collect, like the snow, and pile up outside the window. • Though it is January and snowing, I go for nightly walks. I lean against the railings of bridges and think of the words, white nights. White nights, when the light from streetlamps softens the snow, and the sky is close and low. I count, first night, second night, third night, fourth, but there are no strangers who meet my eyes, and the morning comes without an end to the story. There are no benches along the street, and under the bridges there are no frozen creeks.The highway is empty. I walk slowly, and imagine I am inside a snowglobe. I imagine William holding the city in the palm of his

hand, shaking the snow loose and watching it fly up into the sky. If I remember lines from Will’s poem, I recite what I can: loneliness leapt in the mirrors, but all week/ I kept them covered like cages. When I pass under streetlamps, I look up at the snow falling from the light, and I think:The night/ Was mine, but everyone’s, like a birthday.The white nights are mine, I think, though it is only January and St. Petersburg is far away. In St. Petersburg, the nights are white not from snow, but from the twilight that fades so slowly it lingers until morning. It is midsummer in St. Petersburg, and there will be fireworks. In the heart of the city there will be dancing and music, and opera from the theater will echo in the back streets where children have gathered to listen.There is no heart in this city.The other and hated city/ Where I was born. It is vast, but sprawling and I walk only along its border, keeping close to the foothills. I cross the bridge over the empty highway and walk to the public library where I had first met William. I had been pretending to watch the fishes in the aquarium but Will caught me looking at his reflection in the glass. He smiled at me, and I smiled, too. “Could fishes have built all this?” he asked me later

that day, opening his arms wide, holding the entire library with its dozen glass windows there in his arms. The library had closed early because it must have been a Sunday, and we were outside by the water fountain. In summer, children in swimsuit could be seen chasing one another, but it was November, and the water was shut off. We were alone with the stone sea creatures. “Fishes can’t read,” I said, “Why would they build a library?” “That’s not the point,” William said. He sat down on the fountain’s edge and placed his hand on the flipper of a giant sea turtle perched beside him. “Fountain of Atlantis,” I said aloud, reading the inscription on the turtle’s shell. I wanted to tell Will about an essay I had written the year before on the lost city of Atlantis. It was the same year I wrote my first short story, about a runaway girl who meets a dead boy under a bridge by a creek. Only the boy isn’t dead when she finds him and asks to be killed, because the water in the creek is cursed. The girl is undeserving of this tragedy that befalls her. She is clumsy and wistful and falls too easily in love with the undying boy. But the boy is wiser and he has a sharp knife prepared. I did not tell this other story to Will because he


reminded me of the boy in the creek, and I did not want to kill him. Instead, I told him about Atlantis. The island of the god Atlas, who holds the skies on his shoulders. A god, but in the lowercase, with eggshell eyes and chiseled toes. A god among stone sea creatures. When I reach the public library, snow has filled the water fountain, and there is a banner at the entrance announcing renovations. I press my face against a glass window, and inside there are no books, only rows and rows of empty shelves, and in the back corner, the aquarium is dry. • Since I have fallen out of love, I am not qualified for murder. I sit half-naked on the water heater and smoke a cigarette. I say to the window, if sound is only an instrument of thought, then Zachary, being only a sound, by itself has no existence. Zachary, I say, Zachary, Zachary, Zachary, until the sound loses meaning. It is cold in the laundry room, and with each Zachary, my breath fogs up the glass. Zachary says, No one ever dies because he was killed by those who loved him. I’m not talking about God, I say.


I am talking about Zachary, he says. Once a sound is thought into existence, I say, it becomes a name, and we fall in love with it. No, Zachary says, it becomes a memory. But a memory is a thought, I say, and if thought is only the instrument of sound, then a mind, by itself, is lost in the wind. In a snowglobe, nothing is ever lost.The snow that is shaken loose and sent flying into the sky will pile up outside the window. If we walk through the city at night, it will fall from the light of streetlamps and gather on our eyelashes. And when we blink, our eyes will be wet from the melted snow, and leaning against the railings of bridges, we will meet a stranger. He will see that we are crying, and looking into our wet, snow-melted eyes, which glisten under the lamp light, he will find everything he had collected but lost. For we are inside a snowglobe, where nothing is ever lost, but only recycled, as I recycle Zachary in my mind. Zachary is not mine. He is mine, but everyone’s, like a birthday. Like the white nights, white from the snow, and from the lingering twilight. Zachary sits with me by the basement window and we watch the fireworks in the white sky. Outside, the snow falls. It is always falling.

• The morning I was to leave, I called William from the payphone behind the bagel place where I had breakfast. “Hey,” I said, “Sorry for not saying bye last night.” “When did you leave?” he asked. “Early,” I said, “before midnight. I was tired.” “I didn’t see you,” he said. “I saw you,” I said. “Are you leaving now?” he said. “Yes,” I said, “the bus is coming at noon.” “Well,” he said. “Well,” I said, “I should probably go now.” We said goodbye, and I hung the receiver back on the cradle. It made a tinkling sound, like a coin had dropped, and even though this happened every time, and I knew there would be no coin, I pushed one finger into the coin return and felt for one. There was nothing. Then I began to cry. It was the same after every phone call. I thought it would be different with the payphone, being out in public, but there was no one on the street, no cars even because the roads were covered in ice. It was strange, standing there alone in the snow, my finger still pressed into an empty coin return, crying. In my stories no one ever cries. Zachary is laid out in

an open casket, and we are content to gaze calmly at his face. But it doesn’t even come to that, because services are sentimental, and a love story should never betrays any sentiments. I kill Zachary and it is enough that he is dead. I can say, “Zachary smells like the city after it rains,” and because Zachary is dead, the city will weep for all of us. The storm drains will echo beneath our feet, and the bark of trees will turn black. In my stories, we walk through these blackened trees, and follow the cracks in concrete where the rainwater has collected.We breathe deeply and the smell of wet asphalt dampens our throats.We might say to ourselves, “this smells reminds me of Zachary.” And because it is a love story, the rain might turn to snow as it is falling, and the snow might melt in our hands. • Before we moved out of the city, William and I used to attend these Valentine’s Day parties at the old-age home up in the foothills. Sometimes there would be a violinist who came to play, and we could request whatever we liked. We heard he was from the city, too, but homeschooled, so we never knew how old he really was. If you asked him, he would say, “I’m a hundred.” He looked about fourteen. I asked him to play, “When


the Roses are in Bloom,” but he did not know it, and anyway, the old ladies all wanted “Danny Boy.” “It’s an oldie,” the woman next to me at the table said, “an oldie and a goodie. A real goodie.” She closed her eyes to listen, and I could see the blue veins under her eyelids. They quivered with every note. The violinist’s eyes were closed too and I remember thinking he looked even younger that way, as if he were sleeping. Across the room, William was cutting out hearts from pink construction paper and the old ladies at his table were watching him closely. They were all madly in love with Will. Once, one lady looked intently at his face for half an hour before declaring, “You look just like my husband!” Another asked him to dance. I had felt then that it was a shame to be a woman, to outlive the men whose faces you could not forget. We must have been only sixteen or seventeen, but William looked much older and when I watched him waltzing with the little old lady, the two of them alone in the back of the room, I saw how he could have been someone’s dead husband. Always the men are dead, or dying, or asking to be killed with a sharp knife they have prepared. And how old is our violinist now? I asked William in


my last letter. One hundred and six? One hundred and seven? Has he outlived all the old ladies we used to know, as befitting of Danny Boy? Our old ladies are dying, I said to Will, and he said, we did the best we could. We brought them a full carton of blood-red oranges for Valentine’s Day, and took turns reciting poetry by Seamus Heaney. One was a poem for his mother, which began, “There was a sunlit absence.” I have forgotten the rest. William said in his letter that he thinks about these poems, too, especially the sunlit absence. He said it is the season for bitter oranges in Seville and Natalie is making marmalade to store in clear, glass jars. In my mind, I see the jars of marmalade lined up by a sunlit window, and Natalie, lying on top of her white sheets, taking a siesta. Her hands smell of orange peels and where the sunlight touches her skin, the fine hairs glow red. • I am tired of writing love stories. I wait for Zachary by the creek under the bridge. When he finds me he says something about the colors of stone, and I can’t remember if I am the one who is dead, or if it is Zachary, or if we are both still alive, and I am only a prophet. It is summer and the creek is dry, its sandbags exposed.

Zachary climbs up the railings of the bridge and walks with his arms raised on both sides, like the dead bird we found in the creek, its wings outstretched on the smooth stones. Once, when I was little, I had accidentally killed a bird, a baby bird whose wing was mending. When I pulled my foot away, the asphalt was stained black, not red like I had imagined. On the bridge, Zachary is silhouetted by the city streetlamps and no one sees him but me.We take turns being the one who is dead. I consider that maybe we are both dead and this explains why the creek bed is dry and the stars seem too many in the sky. I point out constellations to Zachary. Orion. Gemini. Cassiopeia. But these are the stars of winter, and when I look up, Zachary is bleeding black, not red like I had imagined. He jumps off the railings of the bridge and flies away with his arms outstretched. I turn away from him and from the bridge that is washed in lamplight. I examine the stones in the dry creek bed, their colors watery in the shadows of the trees that grow low along the bank. I say to the stones: I am wiser now that I have fallen out of love. And the stones are gleaming, in light that comes maybe from the stars, but more likely from the

streetlamp by the bridge, or the headlights of a lone car driving late on the empty highway. I think of the baby bird that I had killed and if he wouldn’t have died anyway, with a broken wing. • Loneliness leapt in the mirrors, and I did not cover them. I looked intently at my face for hours. I looked like someone’s dead wife, like someone who had died young. I thought of how I used to lay on the floor of my room and listen to the sound of William making love to Natalie through the walls. I thought of this, and I stopped writing letters to William. I thought of departure’s ex-girlfriend in the poem and how the wreath in her arms was still alive, some leaves holding her hand and the others waving goodbye. It was maddening, how happy she was. In my last letter to William, I said, Could fishes swim to Spain? I imagined him and Natalie in Seville, making love in a sunlit room overlooking the river. By the window, there will be clear, glass jars of marmalade, and in a tall vase, the yellow flowers from the market. It is Valentines Day, when the roses are in bloom, and blood-red oranges are in season. This was the kind of love story I had been asking for, I say


to Zachary.We are in the laundry room contemplating the mildew on the walls. Once I dreamed I was a black hole, I say, and it felt like making love, only it lasted longer. I had the same dream, Zachary says, but it felt like I was dying. Zachary is a hundred years old, and like all young men, has died many times before. Once, with a sharp knife by a creek under a bridge. Once, drowning in a river in Seville. Once, in a snowstorm, while running uphill to say goodbye to me. He must have slipped on a patch of ice. Or else, it was a suicide, a tragedy that I deserve now that I am no longer clumsy or wistful. But since I have fallen out of love, Zachary is coming apart. His hair turning to black, like the bark of trees in the city after it rains, and his eyes mismatched, one green and one brown, like a changeling. One night I go to bed with a human boy, and when I wake up in the morning, there is Zachary sitting at my window, watching the snow fall. • On the day that William and I met by the aquarium in the public library, he asked me about the god Atlas, and why he had to hold the skies on his shoulders.


“I don’t remember,” I said. I looked at the stone sea creatures around us, but they remained quiet. “Anyway,” I said, “Atlantis isn’t about Atlas. It’s just a name.” “Fountain of Atlantis,”William said, tracing his fingers over the inscription on the stone sea turtle’s back. “Can a fountain be a fountain with the water shut off?” “Can a city be lost if it never existed?” I asked. William laughed, and his laugh was like the echoing of a storm drain in the city after it has rained. I laughed, too. I told William that in Greek, u-topia meant no-place, as in, non-place. The only safe place to keep dreams. And like a musical box that sings when it is opened, like Pandora’s box that wrecks before it brings hope, too much is scattered into the wind if lost cities are left ajar. They must be shut tightly, like the glass lid of a snowglobe, like the storm window in the laundry room, lest the snow drifts in and dampens our throats. “We can only collect the things we’ve lost,” I said. “No,” Zachary said, “We can only lose the things we’ve collected.” We walked in circles through the empty water fountain and around us the streetlamps were gasping, waking up to the night.

Philippines. Sarah Grimm

A species consuming discovered in the central, umbilical in the discarded spirit of Many would absorb

cord blood HIGHLANDS carnivorous skills. your baby’s enemy

and obtain the victim following birth. A new giant believed in one’s cannibalistic blood that would allow carnivorous tribes.


Philippines. is collaged from: “Cord blood is the blood in your baby’s umbilical cord following birth that is usually discarded.” ( “Many cannibalistic tribes believed that consuming one’s enemy would allow them to obtain and absorb the spirit and skills of the victim.” ( “A new species of giant carnivorous plant has been discovered in the highlands of the central Philippines.” (


Untitled Phoebe Neel Once in a while, through the dark, a forest of white faces that glows through old photographs on the mantel. I lived next to a black family and often our postman mixed up the paper. I remember the father wore dark shoes, nice enough, save for the cheap leather, overoiled sheen. His teeth were huge, glimmered, like tombstones. I never could quite look him in the eye. Those were whiskey years, of brown paper thick glass. methodical peals of high school passing time line conversations with myself. the breakfast counter, the New York Times, the fine, upstanding type, I admire the heft ; articles that arrive ornate carpets of abstraction. ( Ask for stories and the only ones I know are those of floral dresses, waxed banisters.


Once I believed it possible to escape inevitability: the era of that black boy with the dreads, the girls; white-blonde, the breasts they flung around, beneath the burlap. flat Polaroids with

too much contrast,


disposable sunsets, beer and homemade tattoos blossoming on gauzy skin. pickpocketed once-lives sunk


within the wallpaper.

now in a different molding apartment I live life in diptychs, film developed in the bathroom, slapping away dark hair memories curling up in the corners. the petals of routine

ever so gently

turning blue. discarded conversations

steeped into the stairs.


Sleep well


— dear heart.Your love thrown over me, heavy. Bedrooms filled with wooden drawers and grey cashmere. When I get up to go to the bathroom halfway I’ll come to forget, to fall asleep on the couch. Later, you find me, curl my legs around you, say you’ll bring me back. Airborne, in your arms, my eyes spill open and the angle makes everything look strange. your hands are far too tender on mine; I imagine terrified unseen neighborhoods hip-hop splattering from the cracks in the street. . awash: eyes, velvety, like graves.

( Yes I know

I’m merely mouthing the words

but you could still pretend like you’ve heard. )


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Issue 42 Spring 2010  

Clerestory Journal of the Arts

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