LITERARY & ARTS M A G A Z I N E
Cochise College Cochise & Santa Cruz Counties, Arizona Editors Cappy Love Hanson Nanchy VĂŠlez College Advisors Shirley Neese Jeff Sturges Jay Treiber Rick Whipple
Front and Back Cover Art Art: “Old Beauty in Orange” by Cathy Murphy Design: Rick Whipple Acknowledgements
The Mirage staff would like to thank the following people for their help in producing the magazine: Keith Ringey, print shop manager, and Juan Zozoya, print shop technician, Douglas Campus; Carlos Cartagena, Gilbert Parra, Tom Blagg, and Randi Minor, Information Technology, Sierra Vista Campus; the staff of the Copper Queen Library, Bisbee; and Ken Charters, Elizabeth Lopez, Diane Nadeau, Tracey Neese, and Curt Smith, proofreaders. Creative Writing Celebration Winners Mirage publishes the first-place winners of the previous year’s Cochise Community Creative Writing Celebration competitions in poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, if available. The Celebration takes place in late March/early April and is produced by Cochise College, the University of Arizona South, and the City of Sierra Vista. The following are the winners of last year’s competitions: Poetry: “A Cup for Elijah” by Mimi Ferraro Fiction: “At River’s Edge” by Beth Colburn-Orozco Nonfiction: “Snippets” by Priscilla Stone Mirage Mission Statement Mirage Literary and Arts Magazine has a three-part mission: 1. It serves Cochise and Santa Cruz counties by showcasing high-quality art and literature produced by community members. 2. It serves Cochise College by establishing the College as the locus of a creative learning community.
3. It serves Cochise College students by providing them an opportunity to earn college credit and gain academic and professional experience through their participation in all aspects of the production of the literary and arts magazine. Font This year’s Mirage is printed in Minion, an Adobe original typeface designed by Robert Slimbach. Minion is inspired by classical, oldstyle typefaces of the late Renaissance, a period of elegant, beautiful, and highly readable type designs. Copyright Notice All rights herein are retained by the individual author or artist. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without written permission of the author or artist, except for limited scholarly or reference purposes, to include citation of date, page, and source with full acknowledgement of title, author, and edition. Printed in the United States of America. © Cochise College 2011
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Literature A Cup for Elijah . . . . . . . . . . .1 Mimi Ferraro Punctuation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2 Bethany Perry Snippets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3 Priscilla Stone Bluebirds on the Mexican Border . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9 Carol Sanger In Spring’s Shadow . . . . . . . .10 Beth Colburn-Orozco Art Autumn Path . . . . . . . . . . . . .12 Robin Colgan Foggy River . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13 R.J. Luce Entrance to a Natural Garden . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14 Lindsay Janet Roberts Airport, Caracas, Venezuela .15 Brian G. Prescott Making Art from the Mess . .16 Karina Stanger El Capitan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17 Justin Lane Mirror Mirror 15 . . . . . . . . .18 Liz Hampton-Derivan Old Beauty in Orange . . . . . .19 Cathy Murphy
Literature Dry Land . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20 Julia Jones A Lesson in Astronomy . . . .21 Mimi Ferraro Winter Solstice Omen, Deerskin Lake, Wisconsin . . . . . . . . . . .22 Lavendra Copen Ground Rules . . . . . . . . . . . .23 Harvey Stanbrough To the Mailbox and Back . . .28 Norman W. Bates The Dying—September . . . .29 Moireh Moon Manifesto . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .30 Lavendra Copen Earth Moves . . . . . . . . . . . . . .31 Moireh Moon Lunchette . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .32 Carmen Megeath The Cycle of Ramón . . . . . . .33 Harvey Stanbrough Art Elements of Motion . . . . . . .36 Cathy Murphy Brilliant Flowers . . . . . . . . . .37 Cathy Murphy Harvest Gold . . . . . . . . . . . . .38 Diane Truschke Innocent Kiss . . . . . . . . . . . . .39 Lindsay Janet Roberts
Pomegranates . . . . . . . . . . . .40 Macaela Cashman Cranes Flying over Cranes . .41 Carole Beauchamp Serenity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .42 Lucinda Weinberger Untitled #1 Untitled #4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .43 John Charley Literature At Riverâ€™s Edge . . . . . . . . . . . .44 Beth Colburn-Orozco Madwoman on/in/from a Corner . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .55 Moireh Moon Mountains (View to Sonora) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .56 Carmen Megeath It Wouldnâ€™t Have Worked, Anyway . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .57 Lavendra Copen Math Whimsy . . . . . . . . . . . .58 Christopher Overlock Hero Standing Between Two Beasts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .59 Carmen Megeath
Art Two Heads . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .60 Albert Kogel Toad Serenade at Dinner, Thailand . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .61 Brian G. Prescott Three Baby Swallows . . . . . .62 Yolanda van der Lelij Taos Blue Gate . . . . . . . . . . . .63 Macaela Cashman Red Ritas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .64 R. J. Luce Dream Bead . . . . . . . . . . . . . .65 Kate Drew-Wilkinson Sol y Sambra . . . . . . . . . . . . .66 Crow Dicehart Night-Blooming Cereus . . . .67 Lucinda Weinberger Ant on a Stone Staircase . . . .67 Angela Pitkin Biographical Information .68 Submission Guidelines . . . .74
A CUP FOR ELIJAH
First Place, Poetry Competition, Cochise Community Creative Writing Celebration, 2010
Anthony sits: sweating, frightened, Catholic, seventeen; white knuckles grip underside of table. Yesterday at school, Rachael stands in the hallway, invites him to Passover Sedar, begins to explain ritual: remembrance, a place set for Elijah, wine cup filled. Exotic Hebrew skid crashes corridor. Other students’ pastel streak by, but he sees only her before him: silken mystery, Hallah eyes. Petals slo spray hallway. Tonite at Sedar, room fragrant with unfamiliar scents, liturgy, Anthony, damned hymn-less penitent, closes eyes, murmurs weak rosary prayer. Around candlelit table, quizzical relatives stare. Rachael’s father, dressed in ceremonial kittel, bends over open Haggadah, recites the telling: slavery, release, redemption, Exodus. Four ritual wine cups later Anthony, head a buzzing hive, listens, hands desperately clasping wine cup chalice. Rachael turns, smiles encouragement, shoulder, neck, throat pale in half light. Anthony drifts O holy night unleavened bread of affliction Mary Mother of god Dayeinu song of praise spirals above guests rooftop world circles stars again a place set for Elijah awaits his return awaits Messiah fiery chariot shakes Elijah into sky night hurtles whirlwind blast cracks front door wide open astonished guests gasp candle flames extinguish Rachael’s raven hair streams Elijah’s cup spills reddens white table cloth
I can’t bear thinking about you anymore. But I’m afraid not to. I guess this is what I’m used to, maybe what I’ve asked for in this life. Periods of happiness, punctuated by loss. Ah, the punctuation. Periods. (Parentheses) Ellipses . . . Question marks? Never a comma. I wish you were a comma, and then you could be the one to put an end to this pause so we would become one long unbroken run-on sentence that just keeps going like it’s never gonna stop that turns into a paragraph without punctuation so you forget where it began and you can’t see an end because the pen keeps writing and writing and then you forget how to stop or even pause because you’ve been taken over by the words that won’t stop flowing onto the page where they have you entranced as they turn into pages in a story that writes itself even as you think about trying to put on the breaks because you’re afraid the end of it’s coming but you don’t want to see it and you don’t want to feel it while the sentence keeps on writing itself and spiraling out of control but you realize you’re having fun trying to figure out just how to keep it going on and on and the beginning is so far away you can’t even remember how it started and all you know is you’re in the middle now and if you stop to wonder how you got here you’ll lose the thread and then comes punctuation but why does the sentence have to stop when it’s so enjoyable to just keep writing and see where the pen will take you into more and more pages without pauses or stops or periods of loss that in the end meant nothing and everything because you finally learned how to keep going and now I don’t know how to stop writing or where the punctuation fits into this sentence that keeps on going of its own will like it has a life of its own and it drags me down the page on a journey I can’t help but enjoy as I wish you could enjoy it with me so you could tell me where to leave out the punctuations I lost so long ago because now I’m out here in a sea of words that just keep coming and it would be fun to be with you so we could be lost out here together after the comma
First Place, Nonfiction Competition, Cochise Community Creative Writing Celebration, 2010
Surgeon #2: They call it nipple sharing. We take fifty percent of the nipple from the healthy breast and fold it in half to create a new one for the reconstructed breast. It looks like you are a great candidate for that. It’s easier for us to do it that way; otherwise we have to try to make a nipple from your labia. And that doesn’t look so good. Surgeon #1: You may want a lumpectomy, a mastectomy, or a double mastectomy. Some women say, ‘Slice off both and make me new ones.’ The thing is, we are ridding so many women of their breast cancer now that we see the reoccurrence fifteen to twenty years down the road. The double mastectomy may save trouble in the future. Surgeon #3: There’s your baby clear as day on the ultrasound. It’s right on the muscle. I can get it. I know I can get all of it. By the way, I love your pearl pendant. Nurse I’m only telling you this over the phone because Practioner: I’ve worked with you. Otherwise, you’d have to schedule an appointment, and that could take another week. The radiologist rates the lump at a five on the malignancy scale. Zero is benign and six is confirmed with biopsy. We need to cut it out of there. I gave you a STAT referral to the surgeon. Can you be there tomorrow at 4:00 pm? Friend #1: We need to get you on colloidal silver. And gold, too. I can make you some of that. I read on the internet they’re great at fighting cancer. I’ll bring
you over some miso; that’ll replenish you, give you some nutrients. You’ll feel better after the miso. Friend #2: Oh, yeah? Lotsa women are surviving it these days. I worked with plenty who had radiation and went back to work the same day. There’s tons of support out there now; you’ll be fine! Sister #1: Be prepared. They may want to take off the whole breast. You know Aunt Addie had it and beat it at seventy, lived to ninety-one. If she can do it at seventy, you can do it at forty-five. That’s our only family history, and you’ve got no other risk factors. I should go myself and remind my girls to get checked, too. Oh, you’d better stop drinking that soy milk. Sister #2: How’re ya feeling? You can call me anytime if you want to cry. I’m up most nights. Sure wish I could come out there and be with you through this. Don’t hesitate to call. We’re praying for you. Survivor #1: Lumpectomy was the best choice for me. I’m a double-D and got plenty to spare. Radiation made me tired, but I worked through the whole thing. I’m still dealing with the anger of how my body could turn on me like that. It just really pissed me off. One breast is bigger than the other, but my boyfriend says it gives him options. I knew that this was not going to be what I die from. I don’t know how, but I just knew this was not going to be it. I take my medicine, and I’m fine.
Sister’s Friend: I had the mastectomy three years ago. They did the reconstruction a few months later. My margins weren’t clear. Had to go back to surgery, then radiation and chemo. I wore an expander. That’s like a foam implant that they fill with saline, under the muscle, for three months ’cause I’m small breasted. After that, they gave me a new boob. I declined the nipple ’cause I was sick of ’em cutting on me. I knew that I was gonna die someday, but it wasn’t going to be from this. The medication? I never had much of a libido to begin with, so I can’t tell you about that. I only know that, for forty, I look and feel damn good! Friend #1’s Get second opinions. Whatever you do, get more Sister: than one opinion. I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t pushed the issue. They weren’t even going to order a mammo until I insisted. And don’t let ’em shove you into anything. It’s your decision. They wanted me to get a mastectomy, and I just couldn’t do that. I had the lump taken out and, seventeen years later, I’m fine. Survivor #2: Laugh a lot. Just embrace life. Take this as an opportunity to empower yourself. Remember, make the decisions that are right for you. I wish that I had done the mastectomy when I was first diagnosed. But at that time, I just couldn’t get my head around the concept. It might not have come back; I don’t know. With conventional and alternative treatments combined, it’s down from level four to level two. Put joy back in your life. Like I said, laugh a lot.
Daughter #1: What stage is it? What do you mean you don’t know yet? Waiting for what? When’s the surgery? I’ll see if I can get it off work. My boyfriend’s aunt had it last year, and she lost all her hair. We helped her shave it. Daughter #2: Okay. . . okay, okay. I know. I’m fine . . . really, Mom, I’m fine. Can I have your new bra, the super-lift one? Yeah, the one we got in the boutique at the mall? Son: Just keep me posted. I thought by the way you guys were exploding my phone that someone died. . . . Love you. Husband: Your left breast in no way dictates my love for you. Just to let you know, I plan on spending the next thirty years with you. Ex-Husband: Speechless. Pale. Daughter’s Stepmom: I’m so sorry, so sorry. Admitting You look pasty. Are you alright? Wanna see the Clerk: ER doc? Oh. . . blood work. I can register you for that. Give me your order, and I’ll place it in the computer. Don’t worry, dear, I saw your diagnosis on the paperwork. My sister had a double mastectomy two years ago, and she got a great boob job. A whole new set. Looks great! You’ll come through this fine.
Office Assistant: Sign here to release your medical records to yourself. Sign here to say you’re responsible for what your insurance company doesn’t pay. Sign here to donate tissue and fluids from the surgery to cancer research. Sign here to release your records to the College of Medicine for teaching purposes. 7
Mammo Tech: Don’t get dressed yet. Let me go across the hall and show these to the radiologist. He may want some more views. Stay put. I’ll be right back. Radiologist #1: Multifocal lesions at the nine, ten, and eleven o’clock positions with linear, ductal, clumped enhancement at the ten-eleven o’clock position, along with a one point six lesion at the nine o’clock position with a possible adjacent satellite lesion consistent with multifocal cancer. Radiologist #2: ASSESSMENT: BIRAD 6 known biopsy proven malignancy. Naturopathic Alkalize your body. Stop eating meat, sugar, Doctor: white flour, and alcohol. Studies on flax oil and turmeric are promising. I recommend cruciferous vegetables and beta-glucans. Let’s build up your immune system, protect your liver, and place as many cancer-fighting substances as possible in your system. Surgeon #3: Eat whatever you want. It won’t make your cancer go away.
Surgeon #1: Sign here for me. I need you to verify in writing that you don’t smoke. I won’t work on you if you smoke. By the way, do you mind if I take some topless pics? You know, before and after shots for the website? Surgeon #2: It looks like stage one, grade two. Prognosis is excellent. Social Worker: I’m a survivor. Fifteen years, ovarian cancer. I was meant to be here today to help you with whatever you need to get through this. Billboard on South Campbell Avenue: Visit University of Arizona’s Cancer Center. Mass Media: Boobs define femininity. Big boobs, little boobs, tall nipples exude power. Cancer.org: If you experience shortness of breath, the cancer may have spread to your lungs. If you experience reoccurring chest pain, it may have migrated to your heart. If you experience headaches, it may have spread to your brain. It’s the number-two killer of women in the United States. T.V. Cancer Centers of America: We treat the whole Commercial: person. NPR: We are each destined to survive at least one major event in our lives. Everyone is meant to live through something.
BLUEBIRDS ON THE MEXICAN BORDER
It’s December 26, 34 degrees, and the dogs are barking. A helicopter hovers over the hill behind the house, the one separating me from Mexico. It rises and falls in a bobbing fashion so rotors separate branches to flush out people hiding under the trees.
I grab a jacket, go outside, and see a small group of migrating bluebirds–orange chests and russet lapels–dart from tree to branch, pluck tart berries from the pyracantha. I sit in the scarce sun, watch them skate on the bird bath and wonder where they’ll go next when the quiet is shattered by a tiny machine gun of clicks as the resident hummer swoops in to drive the bluebirds away from his feeder. And the helicopter changes pitch. It banks left to run rangeland along the highway. I know they’re out there somewhere, sheltering in another tree. I try to remember my bird class: How do birds survive this cold?
IN SPRING’S SHADOW
If plants have souls, as I imagine they do, I sent my tomato plants straight to purgatory before they even had a chance to bud. This is really the last of my worries right now; the little biodegradable cups that hold their skeletal remains are much less unsettling than the persistent buzzing of my doorbell. I know who is there, and he knows I am in here. This is how it is with us. We fight, we make up, and then we fight again. I picture a Good Samaritan walking by my apartment building, seeing a madman attacking my doorbell. Without hesitation, he approaches and hits my husband over the head with a frying pan. This is a thought that disturbs me but not enough to make me get up from my kitchen table to let him in. There is no trick to growing vegetables. My mother’s side of the family has been farming as far back as anyone knows. Northern folks with the sense it takes to bury seeds in the rich soil and wait. I put my six little cups outside in my kitchen window box yesterday and forgot about them. For the past month, they lived warm, humid lives on a shelf in my bathroom, facing south. It dipped below twenty degrees last night, so they are all dead. Here lives the tomato killer, a sign hanging from my front door should read. These withered remnants of a once-promised harvest would cause my grandfather to hang his head in shame, wondering where he’d gone wrong. “I’m sorry,” I say to all the farmers who came before me. I crush what is left of the leaves between my fingers. They crumble like the wings from a dragonfly carcass. There is death all around me, and the doorbell continues to buzz, filling my house with the drone of ten-thousand angry bees. Eight years is too long to spend with someone who hates my cooking, loves to finish my crossword puzzles, leaving them on my bed stand to gloat, and once told his mother if he should ever marry me, to make sure she marches up to the altar and slaps him hard to wake him from his nightmare. I wish she would have.
Some of this is his humor, which first attracted me to him. Mostly, he has a mean spirit I once thought could be curbed with love and tenderness. These tomato plants are proof that sometimes good intentions are not enough. The persistent noise of the doorbell makes me wince as I picture the frying pan above his head. In his way, he is trying. The argument last night went on long after the temperature dropped and my tomato plants died. Itâ€™s his fault, I tell myself. But what does it matter? Even if it is true, the plants are dead. I stick my index finger into the soil of one of the cups. The little earthen ice cubes I found an hour ago have softened. The soil is moist, and that is where the calm begins: crawling up my hand, under the buttons of my cuffs, past my elbow, into my body, opening my heart. I close my eyes and float in the darkness. I could fly out my kitchen window, away from the regret and the doorbell. It is the soil that grounds me. It is my heart that wonâ€™t let go.
AUTUMN PATH acrylic
FOGGY RIVER photograph
ENTRANCE TO A NATURAL GARDEN metalwork
Lindsay Janet Roberts
AIRPORT, CARACAS, Brian G. Prescott VENEZUELA photograph
MAKING ART FROM THE MESS mixed media
´ EL CAPITAN acrylic
MIRROR MIRROR 15 encaustic/mixed media
OLD BEAUTY IN ORANGE photograph
Dry land. The mesquite quivers in the heat. Life draws its force within to secret bones, Holding tenaciously a silent beat. A lizard flashes, tan between the stones. Hot land. Cicadas rustle through the air, Laying the burden of their ceaseless cry On ears of men and creatures as they stare At vultures floating high, hung in the sky. Hard land. When thunderheads in noisy din Release their load of heavy drops, it seems The land, unthrifty, cannot soak it in, But lets the water flow in rapid streams To washes, gullies, riversâ€“gift so rareâ€“ Lavish with what it does not have to spare.
A LESSON IN ASTRONOMY
The doctor intones something about stroke, ruptured artery, base of brain Circle of Willis; I imagine some remote galaxy, struggle to understand the celestial storm inside your head. Orbits wobble, neutron stars collapse; sun, moon, planets, the future string in elliptical orbit across night sky. Eight hours of surgery later, you survive—shaved head savage reminder: cruel stitches, crescent moon scar seared behind ear, along temple, right side of scalp. One week passes, two. Antares spins in Scorpio. I cling to Pleiades, like you cling to waking mind, hope of recovery. Slowly, past stutters awake. You remember an aunt long departed, battle demons in a hotel room in 1987, recall a past Quinceañera dress in detail: flower swirl of pink, white, lace. Become unrepentant rehab renegade: make early a.m. forays into staff kitchen, have secret conversations with your horses; in the quiet of your lonely room solo dance wind chime arpeggios, dream of home. Spring. Comets, meteors, trail pale raking sleeves, quarks spray–phenomenon, like destiny, leaves its mark. Home two weeks, you circle the yard, cigarette in hand, dogs at heel; body lists at odd half mast, gait slightly lurching, but steps getting stronger. You turn, raise hand, wave. Arcturus brightens in rouge-pink sky. Overhead Mars Jupiter beam lost resplendent jewels
WINTER SOLSTICE OMEN, DEERSKIN LAKE, WISCONSIN
In a shoreline break, where lake ice succumbs to subterranean springs, a coven of thumb-sized, inky fishes cluster, keep their own counsel, heads arrowed toward the center of their solstice circle. From above, they form a stylized, living sun, undulating in the welled-up water, black burning in a sky still white with desolation, as by vested power they breathe and swing the drifting planet back toward its star.
All right, then. A few ground rules. Before you begin dismantling and dismissing this story as some sinister mental fabrication of a full-blown fool, consider, just for a moment, there are things you do not know, and there are things you know that you will never admit, even to yourself. Or perhaps especially to yourself. Consider the cloud you occasionally see that’s so smooth, so perfectly shaped, no bubbles or bulges or straggly rain-hair hanging from it. You know it is not a natural cloud. You know, too, it is not man made, because man-made clouds, once they’ve risen in an obviously man-made column and achieved some altitude, closely resemble natural clouds, other than their various colorations. But even knowing all that, you find a way to dismiss it. And consider how your own shadow, occasionally, for a blink of an eye, acts in a way that is disproportionate to your distance and angle from the light source that created it. Think of how that makes you feel for that instant when you aren’t quite sure. But again, given the human propensity to deny fear rather than deal with it, you find a way to dismiss the thought instead of risking seeing what’s just on the other side of that shadow. Consider too that jagged fragment of a thousandth of an instant when you feel that one of your cells is about to warm in just the wrong way to just the wrong degree and explode, and that it will lead to a kind of chain reaction, a kind of immediate cancer, in which the next cell and the next cell and the next thousand million billion cells do exactly the same thing. Well, if you’re afraid to consider what might have created that cloud (and might still be hiding in it), and if you can’t bring yourself to investigate the whole timeskipping, jagged-shadow phenomenon, you certainly will find a way to laugh off the thought that your cells might become involved in a cataclysmic (to you) chain reaction that will scatter you, if not light years in space, surely at least over a city half block or so. Ignore what you will, but just for the duration of this story, obey the ground rules. Consider smooth clouds and leaping shadows and super-heated exploding cells and the millions of other
minuscule instances that you know are true in the moment but that you uneasily scoff away as impossible because you really have no other choice. Take the first instance. You’re walking along a sidewalk in the afternoon on a sunlit day, hardly a cloud in the sky except possibly a few of those distant smooth ovals near the horizon that you think, for a few seconds, might well be some sort of covering emission from a space ship. They can’t just be clouds, after all, because they’re entirely too smooth at the edges, and just a little metallicdark at the edges as well, as if reflecting the silver glint of the vessel hidden there in their midst. And for a split second or two, you think, There they sit, spying on us right through a fake cloud. And you shake your head slightly and indulge your imagination, but you don’t let it get too far because that, were it true, would be far too much to take. So, in the third or fourth split second, you dismiss the thought with a self-assured half smile that you reserve for moments like this. All of that happens in the few seconds you’re glancing at the sky, and just at the end of that self-assuring, nervous half smile, your shadow, which should have flowed easily and naturally over the curb, sticks for the briefest millionth of a nanosecond on that little strip of bulging black something between the sidewalk and the curb, although you know you kept moving at the same leisurely pace the whole time. And in the next half second or so, you acknowledge that you noticed it, but you can’t keep that thought around because it doesn’t fit in any of the little compartments in which you file away bland, non-frightening information. So you dismiss it, convince yourself it was a trick of the light because That simply can’t happen. It was not a trick of the light, of course, but you couldn’t stop it from happening, so you simply will not allow it to have happened. And you smile that sanity-saving, self-assured smile and glance away just as if you’re hoping to make eye contact with an old friend who, you’re certain, has never seen his shadow do odd things. If he’s there when you look (but you know in advance he won’t be), the rapid, fake-excited conversation that
ensues will steer your mind immediately away from such psychoparanormal wanderings and back to safe, mundane things like how Marge and the girls are doing and how much longer it might be until the Red Sox win another pennant and how it’s wonderful to see him again and you can hardly wait until next time, and he says, “Hahaha, me too,” before he disappears. But he’s lifelined you back to the real world. But he isn’t there, just as you knew he wouldn’t be, so your smug smile is lost to the blank brick wall and then a window, in which you see how foolish it looks, and turn it off. And then, just as you pass the inset doorway, which of course contains a deep shadow full of shadows, your shadow sticks again, but this time for a much longer time. And although your left foot has rotated almost fully through its heel-to-toe motion, and the tip of the sole of that shoe has begun the process of breaking the bond gravity has formed between it and the sidewalk, and the heel of your right shoe is well on its way to its appointed landing spot, your right thigh and calf tense just a touch, and your abdomen tightens just a bit, and you keep that foot up, delay the landing for another half second, sensing somehow if that foot falls before your shadow reunites, you and shadow-you will be severed forever. You have no time even to consider why that’s such a terrifying thought. In a panicked instant, your right shoe, still suspended above the sidewalk as you continue to move forward in one-millionth-of-asecond frames, you’re certain you’ve heard of that shadow-severing thing happening to someone else sometime, so it certainly could happen to you as well, despite the fact that you’ve spent a great deal of time thinking that surely nothing really bad could happen to you. Have your shadow and your shoe somehow wrangled responsibility for your karma and conspired to show you that something bad can indeed happen to you? Your brain screams, But they can’t do that! They’re only a shoe, a shadow! But the shoe is reaching for the sidewalk, and you can practically hear it laughing at you because gravity says you can’t delay the footfall forever, and it’s descending, and your heart’s pounding, and at the last possible
instant, the shadow, as if tired of visiting the other shadows, zips out and reunites with your right shoe just as it touches down. And you’re so relieved, you almost stop dead. But a mumbled “Thank you,” disguised as a light cough, will have to suffice because, after all, someone might be watching. It’s been a trying time, walking from your office to the taxi stand, so you decide to forego the usual after-work martini, and you turn and raise one hand, and a cab glides up, and you slip effortlessly into the back seat, making sure, with a hyper-quick glance, that your shadow came with you, and close the door and relax back into the seat, safe. Then you close your eyes, certain you just need a little relaxation, nothing more, so you think back to a calmer time: last summer, outside the city in a few-acre meadow sprinkled just so with wildflowers and surrounded by occasional, sparse patches of trees. You were your own paradox, both one with the world and a separate entity, a human spirit guiding muscle and sinew and bone, and the clouds were all natural, and your shadow avoided drawing attention to itself, and every bird call, every ray of sun, every blade of grass was just for you. It was Heaven on Earth, and the first hour or so was perfect, a union of you with All That Is, human and world, united and alone. Then a stick snapped. Close. A quick, casual glance, so as not to reveal that you were alarmed in any way, revealed nothing but a few trees two or three hundred yards away—too far for the sound to have carried—and nothing between you and the trees that could have put enough force on a stick to create such a sound. So you reach skyward slowly, as if stretching your back, and God, I’m making one hell of a fine target flashing through your mind as you perform a slow pirouette, eyes on the alert but not appearing to be on the alert, and find absolutely nothing for which to be on the alert. A bit more wandering as you dismiss the initial event, but it’s no use because you can feel eyes, someone’s or something’s eyes, and the day is over. Paying particular attention to everything on the ground, as if looking for some bit of something you lost along your
track, you pace back toward your SUV, not quickly but casually, not directly but meandering just a bit, just enough to tell whoever is watching that you really have no idea he’s out there with a scope and a 30.06 and a desire, just once, to see what war would have been like. And you know he’s out there, but you can’t allow yourself to know, and within seconds of gaining your SUV and locking the doors and fumbling the keys into the ignition, you’ve convinced yourself it really was just the wind. And the cab pulls up in front of your spacious suburban home where your wife and son and daughter and Tramp, the ugliest wire terrier you’ve ever seen, so you absolutely had to have him, are waiting for you, Anxiously, you think, But not really, you know. And you step out of the cab and flip the driver a fifty and a quick “Keep it” and head up the walk. And the buzzing is odd, mixing as it does with the sound of the engine and the smell of the exhaust as the cab pulls away because Sounds very seldom mix well with odors, and that light-blue tinted glow in the air between you and the porch is different too, isn’t it? But the porch is where you’re going, so you relegate those thoughts to your Think-About-It-Later or your Honey-You’re-Never-Gonna-Believe-This bin and step into the dim-blue glow and the dim-blue buzz and feel just an absolutely amazing, soothing, glorious warmth. And although the tip of the sole of your left shoe is just breaking the hold of gravity, and your right shoe has a spot all picked out where it’s going to land, you suddenly realize it won’t. You have time for one eye-flick to the right where your shadow is scampering across the yard, and one eye-flick up to the unnaturally smooth cloud with the metallic dimblue lining, and the last thought you try to think doesn’t happen before those cells swell and burst.
TO THE MAILBOX AND BACK
Norman W. Bates
The full moon sets. Although a few clouds reflect the moonlight, The eastern horizon is still dark. The little dog stops in his tracks. He finds the need to sit and listen. Cocking and recocking his head, He listens to the myriad of neighborhood sounds. Other dogs bark. A rooster crows for the sun to rise. The poplars chatter in the dry creek bed. Each sound is a reason not to move. Finally, a whispered command and a tug on the leash start him in motion. We cautiously make our way down the driveway. What usually takes two minutes takes five. When we reach the mailbox, He sits in the middle of the drive. Listening and headcocking convince him there is danger nearby. There is no moving him. I grab the morning paper, And we turn around and head for home.
THE DYING— SEPTEMBER
So late in summer and not enough rain. One toad in the road, silent. Bewildered. What use for a song–who will answer? A sky fat with the wet, a sodden blanket that will not let go, will not yield its gathering of water. So near the equinox, Creation holds its breath; and I, looking within, find I no longer inhabit my own heart. Where? I mutter–Oh, Where have I gone to now? The Heart an empty canyon, solid living walls of stone; but here–a crack opens– the fissure bleeding light, a rosy spill. The rending of rock is a grinding hurt, breaking, making a space. Ravens! My good neighbor hollers– Ravens on your roof! Oh, Trouble! What is the trouble today? They come to pick my bones clean, to shine in the morning sun. –Dem bones dem bones dem dry, dry bones– Hear the word– They come to mark all the blood on the ground lit by Mars’s yellow gleam. Have no worry, I call out, grinning– For I am already dead. We, all, are already dead– already dead and dreaming.
for Diane Freund I admire, though sometimes weary of them: poets who pipe up, tell all, spill the beans. Why do they allow the ravaged cat out of the bag? Confessionâ€™s good for the soul, is why, and so is pinning the blame on the asshole. The absolute power of the perpetrator corrupts absolutely but shrivels like a blind spider in the sear of truth. Illumination makes it hard for those who harm to cower in the shadows of our fear and fatigue. Let us make it even tougher for them. No matter how worn we are, letâ€™s absolve our childhood selves, stand toe-to-toe with the old terrors. Let us speak the first word and the next and never, never stop.
You like a rock in my bed sleek and smooth and holding warmth, to yourself like an old secret–
You dense and dark in my bed curled and clenched and holding tight to yourself like a wounded child– You, you– come and gone from my bed sliding and shifting and slipping through my fingers– like the desert dust.
The storm cloudâ€™s swift shadows flooded the streets And the babyâ€™s minutes were infinite The half-moon was suddenly there And everything meant something Like his gaze said he was not true But that was another story As light scattered across the tabletop Where two beauties and one charming Played for the world
THE CYCLE OF RAMÓN
The world had been sad for three days. The sky wept steadily, softly, the water dripping from limbs and leaves of trees and eaves of houses, trickling into rivulets and streams that whispered their way east, to the ocean. There was only the overcast and mist and rain, but no thunder. Only the gentle pattering of drops that seemed almost to hush each other as they washed houses and fences and gardens and roads and paths. Only the cool, mute darkness. The normally flashy lightning dared not rend the sky with so much as a single appearance, and in those few rare moments when a break appeared in the clouds, the stars dimmed themselves rather than risk interrupting the young widow’s mourning. María Elena leaned over the dining room table, which took up one whole end of the roomy kitchen, and gently stroked her husband’s hair. “Ramón . . . mi Ramón,” she whispered, her voice barely disturbing the air. “Tu eres mi corazón. You are my heart.” She dipped a soft linen cloth in a bowl of hot water, squeezed it with one hand, then washed gently over his forehead, smoothing his eyebrows from the center out. “Te amo, Ramón . . . mi corazón.” She carefully dipped the cloth in the water again, then squeezed it and washed each temple, gently brushing his hair over his ear on either side. Dipping the cloth again, she squeezed it, then gently washed his cheeks, then both jaws, his neck and throat and chin. She dropped the linen cloth into the bowl and sighed. “Te perdí para siempre, mi amor. I will miss you for a very long time.” She stood, picked up the bowl of tepid water and looked upon her husband–he seemed to have faded a great deal since yesterday–then moved toward the kitchen, dabbing lightly at her own eyes. Ramón became aware of a certain reduction, an ebbing of himself and the tides in his cells, a wafting away of the need for sensory stimuli, then the rapid distancing of the stimuli themselves. His hearing and eyesight didn’t fade, as he’d always thought they would. Instead, those things to which he tried to listen or upon which he tried to focus quickly withdrew, receding to mere pinpoints as quickly as snapped fingers, although with his vision he seemed able
to track their digression from here to there; that is to say, they weren’t close one moment and suddenly a pinpoint the next, as if they’d pulled a quantum trick, although the entire process seemed to happen just that quickly. Simultaneous with this reduction, Ramón experienced a kind of draining, as if funneling from something into nothing, perhaps to make Nothing more full . . . or perhaps more empty. Even as he drained, and even as he experienced the flow that accompanies being drained, a numbing, half-hearted deadness, a throbbing, pulsing, liquid gravity, pinned him and his numbness to a dark, stark, undulating mass. As if that weren’t enough, at almost the same time, the despondent grief of someone letting go washed through him in a series of waves, gentle as the caress of a loving hand. They were almost physical, seeming to begin at his forehead in the vicinity of what some call the “third eye” or the “psychic eye,” smoothing out and down, out and down, descending over his eyelids, over and around his nose and eyes, down over his cheeks. Each wave lingered for an extra beat at his lips, as if encountering a breakwater and mournfully regretting the need to surmount it, then slipped remorsefully down over his chin, throat and torso. Each wave continued through each limb and out through the tips of his fingers and toes. Of all the waves, the first was by far the strongest, and although each followed the same pattern, each washed through him with less intensity than the one before, merging him more fluidly into the liquid gravity that had been above and the undulating mass that had been below. Even as the waves washed one after another after another through his body, tendrils from the first wave rose through his brain, probing, touching off electrical impulses, a grand finale to his personal fireworks show. Synapses fired in sequence, dozens setting off hundreds setting off thousands, and through a misty fog he flashed from a dark red warmth through light to crib slats and saltillo tile floors to jeans with a rope belt and friends and laughter and a wayward cursing of a coward with a gun and a brilliant, screaming-red instant and–synapses fired, thousands setting off millions setting off billions. He must have glowed like a shooting
star, he thought, as he plunged from the heavens into the undulating mass of the womb. The waves ebbed, dwindling to ripples, and eventually, just as he and the gravity and the undulations fully blended, the ripples blinked out of existence. The mist dissipated, and the mass he had become rose and fell, swelled and ebbed. Something in his blood began to mix with his need, and he began to seep, to dissolve, to reconstitute in drops that slipped through the slats in the table and off the edges, then reunited beneath. He–the first bit of him–ran along the slats and dripped to the floor even as the next bits above were dissolving, slipping through slats, dripping to the floor and forming a rivulet to the drain in the back wall. In a few hours, he was just in front of the garden and stretched around the corner to the shed and from there back through the drain where the last of him was seeping across the floor. And from the old, tired garden gate that he’d meant to fix, from there back around almost to the shed, the water from the sky dripped from limbs and leaves of trees and eaves of houses and trickled into rivulets and streams. There it was, rainwater and Ramón, and all together it whispered its way east, to the ocean. The overcast and mist continued for his protection, but the lightning, no longer able to contain its joy, flashed across the sky in bright smiles as the thunder applauded his return to the sea and from there to the heavens and from there, someday, to another womb. The stars burst like supernovae, celebrating. By daybreak even the young widow had stopped mourning, for she couldn’t remember a time when she hadn’t been alone, and she couldn’t remember ever being happier.
ELEMENTS OF MOTION photograph
BRILLIANT FLOWERS Cathy Murphy photograph
HARVEST GOLD oil
INNOCENT KISS metalwork
Lindsay Janet Roberts
CRANES FLYING OVER CRANES photograph
UNTITLED #1 photograph
UNTITLED #4 photograph
AT RIVER’S EDGE
First Place, Fiction Competition, Cochise Community Creative Writing Celebration, 2010 At thirteen, I was plucked from Chantilly Grove like the kitten that got snatched up by a hawk out of the Pelletier’s backyard. It happened so fast, there wasn’t a thing anyone could do about it. Billy Swanson moved in with his grandma six days before my fourteenth birthday. He got out of juvenile detention up north, and his mama said he couldn’t come home. Nana Swanson’s house was just down the road from ours. It was the red brick place with a huge front porch held together with shiny white pillars. People said slaves once lived where the garage stood. I never believed that story. Silvia was Mrs. Swanson’s first name, but everyone in town called her Nana. She wore an apron most days and baked fruit pies for us kids to bring home for supper. She smelled like cinnamon. Mama used to say you couldn’t think of Nana Swanson without smiling. “Go ahead, Sissy,” she’d say to me. “Close your eyes real tight and think of Nana and that apple pie she’s carrying.” I’d close my eyes and start to giggle. Mama would chase me around the kitchen, saying that if she caught me, she’d tickle me until the rooster crowed. I loved Nana for how she made me feel. When we heard her grandson was moving in, it was only natural that I would like him, too. Lots of folks looked forward to having another kid in town. So many families had moved up north to work in Jackson. Never mind Billy had been in detention. It was common knowledge that lots of city kids don’t know what to do with themselves, so sometimes trouble finds them. Mama was out in the backyard, weeding her garden, and Daddy was at work down at Carlyle’s Granary and Feed when Billy showed up. Nana was supposed to meet him at the Greyhound Station, but her gout was acting up. Billy strolled down our street like he’d lived there all his life. Maybelle McGregor was the first to see him. I was upstairs in my room, playing solitaire when the phone rang.
“Sissy, go fetch your mama,” Miss Maybelle said. I ran out the back screen door, hearing it slap behind me. “What’s wrong, baby?” Mama shouted, as she stood up from behind her raspberry patch. “Miss Maybelle said to get you. She sounds upset,” I yelled back. Mama came running toward me wiping her gloved hands on her apron. “Is she on the phone, honey?” “She sure is,” I said, stepping aside so Mama could get in the house. She scooted past me and picked up the receiver with her gardening gloves still on. I’d never seen her do that before. “Hello, Maybelle,” Mama said. She turned to see me standing right behind her. “Go make us some lemonade, honey. Miss Maybelle and I need our privacy.” I did as I was told. From the kitchen, I watched Mama pull the phone as far as the cord would go so she could get a look out the front window. I followed her gaze, and that’s when I first saw Billy. I could tell, by the way he strutted down the middle of our street with that duffle bag slung over his left shoulder and a cigarette hanging from his mouth like it had always been there, that Billy Swanson was bad news. He didn’t look like any of the boys I knew. Billy was tall and solid as a sycamore. He wore a cap pulled down low on his forehead. With the shadows the way they were, I could barely make out his features. For some reason, that made me think he was hiding something. By the way Mama was acting, with her neck craned and her words spilling out all over the place, I knew it was best I stayed put. People in Chantilly Grove were tolerant of family who came to visit, but Billy was another story. Mama and Miss Maybelle seemed sure of that. Even though I was standing in our kitchen with Mama not ten feet from me, I was scared. The kind of scared a rabbit must feel when it sees a hound dog. Until that dog sees the rabbit, that rabbit’s got nothing to worry about. But deep down inside, the rabbit
knows someday that hound dog is going to chase it. That’s what gets the rabbit’s heart going so fast it could bust right out of the poor creature’s chest. I heard my own heartbeat in my ears; I looked to see if Mama heard it, too. Her eyes were fixed on Billy. Whatever Miss Maybelle might have been saying, I could see Mama was upset. Once he was out of sight, I went back to making lemonade. Then I saw Billy out our kitchen window, and my natural curiosity got the best of me. I stepped out our back door and made some noise with a broom handle against the railing of the porch. It caught Billy’s attention like I knew it would, and he turned around. He stopped right there in the street, took off his cap, and stared at me. No boy had ever looked at me like that before. I felt my face go crimson when he waved. Billy was the most handsome boy I’d ever seen. I dropped the broom and ran back into the house. “My Lord, Sissy, why are you all red in the face?” Mama asked when she came into the kitchen. “It must be the heat,” I said. She came towards me and pulled me close to her in a bear hug so tight I thought she’d never let go. “Sissy, I want you to stay inside today until your daddy gets home.” The only time she said something like that was when I would fuss. I hugged her back because I knew she was scared. I also knew I had lied to my mama. I felt real bad about that, and at the same time, I hoped Billy walked down our street again. We stayed inside the rest of the day together. She tried real hard to keep busy, but I could tell she had a lot on her mind. When Daddy came home, she followed him upstairs and closed the door behind them. I went about making a salad to have with the crab cakes Mama made special for me. They were up there a long time, and when they came down, Daddy made himself a whiskey. He even poured Mama a glass of wine. She never drank wine except at Christmas. It was the middle of June, so I knew that Mama had told Daddy about Billy.
At supper, all Mama could talk about was Billy living on our street. “Maybelle said that boy best not call on her daughters. If she ever catches him on her front porch, she’s gonna let ol’ Sam take a bite out of him. That dog can be real mean,” Mama said. Miss Maybelle had two girls. Katherine was younger than me, and Allie was my best friend. We’d been together since we were babies. She was real sick the week Billy showed up. Her mama wouldn’t let me anywhere near their house in fear I would catch whatever Allie had. She wouldn’t even let Allie talk on the phone. Sometimes I wonder if we’d been together that week, maybe I wouldn’t have found Billy so exciting. Allie always thought I had good ideas and that I was brave. She used to tell me that all the time. The truth was, Allie made me feel like I could do anything in the world. When she wasn’t with me, it was like someone took a pin to me and let all the air out. “When Allie gets better, I think Maybelle and I should take the girls up to the Holiday Inn in Baton Rouge for a couple of days. You and Jack can go off fishing if you’d like,” Mama said. “Now, don’t get ahead of yourself, Delilah. Billy Swanson might not be that bad after all,” Daddy said. Sometimes it seemed Mama wore Daddy out with all of her words. He finally turned to me and asked if I would fetch him a piece of peach pie, which I did. Before dinner was over, my parents had agreed it was best that I didn’t visit Nana Swanson until Daddy had a talk with her grandson. By Friday, I was tired of staying in the house. We had a real heat wave come through that stilled the air and covered all of us in a summer sweat. I’d never wanted to sit on the front porch as badly in my life as I did those few days. Mama tried her best to keep the house cool by pulling all the curtains closed and rearranging the fans. My mood was as dark as the house. Billy was all I could think about, and I knew it was wrong. I wanted to tell Mama, but I didn’t have any experience with the feelings I was having.
After everybody went to bed Friday night, there was a pinging sound on my bedroom window that woke me up. At first, I thought it was giant moths flying right into the glass. As I lay there and listened, I eventually figured out the sound. Even though no one before had ever tossed stones at my window, I knew it was Billy. Because I had no experience with boys, I suffered no confusion or worries regarding who might be at my window; therefore, I was not scared. Instead, I was extremely nervous, so much so goose bumps covered my skin, causing me to shiver. When I finally got up the courage to walk over to the window, I noticed at least a dozen little pebbles on the window ledge. It made me smile before I even looked down. When I did, there was Billy, searching Mama’s flower garden for more pebbles. My window was wide open. I had taken down the screen earlier in the day for more air. When Billy looked up, all the pebbles fell from his hand, and he stood there looking at me like he had when he saw me on the porch. I knelt down to protect myself from his gaze. I reached behind me and grabbed the pillow from my bed and stuffed it in the windowsill so I had someplace to rest my arms as I looked down at him. “Hi, there, I’m Billy Swanson,” he said. He smiled a crooked smile that made him seem shy, I suppose, but his eyes were the color of topaz and hard like the gem stone. The full moon shined in them. I could almost hear it talking to me. See those eyes, Sissy? You need to be careful with that boy. “I know who you are, Billy Swanson. You’re Nana’s grandson,” I said. “Well, if you know who I am, don’t you think I should at least know your name?” he asked. I could feel the heat rise in my face again. “I’m Sissy Miller,” I whispered, barely loud enough for even me to hear. “It’s nice to meet you, Miss Sissy Miller,” he said. I liked the way he talked. I’d never heard a boy from up north talk before. His
words were sharp and clear and somehow managed to cut through the heat. “Why don’t you come down here, and we can go for a walk?” he said. “I think you need to go before my daddy catches you in our backyard,” I said. His crooked smile had a dimple on the end of it. Seeing it made me want to run downstairs, but I stayed put. “All right, Miss Sissy Miller, but you can bet I’ll be back,” he said. “I’m not one to resist the moonlight shining in your hair.” His eyes narrowed, and right then I understood why Mama was worried. I grabbed my pillow, closed the window, and watched Billy saunter through our neighbor’s backyard. When he was finally out of sight, I ran back to bed and pulled the cover up under my chin to keep from shivering to death. Everything about Billy swam around inside me: his smile, the way he talked, his thick, black hair. He was charming, that’s for sure. I couldn’t fall back to sleep with my head so full of Billy. Eventually, I got up and grabbed the brush off my dresser and ran it through my long hair until it felt smooth and full. Then I held it up to the moonlight. Mama always said my hair was the exact color of corn silk. In the moonlight, it reminded me of drizzling honey. I wanted Billy to touch my hair. I closed my eyes and imagined his hands on my face, brushing a strand of my hair aside to kiss my cheek. Dawn finally came and brought with it all the practicality of a new day. I opened my window and collected the pebbles off the ledge. I put them in a little lavender satin pouch my daddy had given me for Valentine’s Day when I was ten. Inside was a pair of tiny gold heart earrings. I put them on and decided they looked real pretty. I secretly hoped Billy would notice them the next time I saw him. In the morning, I had a hard time looking at my mama and daddy. It wasn’t that I was afraid to tell them about Billy coming to my window. I was worried if I did, then I might never see him
again. I’d always been a good girl, but somehow Billy cracked that perfect shell of mine, filling me up with parts of him. After breakfast on Saturday morning, Daddy headed over to Nana’s house. I asked to go with him, but his stern look was enough to keep me rooted at the front door. I helped Mama with the dishes while he was gone. We were quiet together in the kitchen. It seemed the laughter in our house had dried up since Billy arrived. The clanking of dishes was our only companion. Nearly an hour later, Daddy came home. Right away, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to sit on our front porch for all of eternity. Mama was standing there right beside me. “It’s worse than I thought,” Daddy said, never looking down at me. “Poor Nana, she’s aged a hundred years since I saw her last. She never even offered me a cup of coffee.” Mama and Daddy went into the kitchen, and I followed. Over the next half hour or so, Daddy told us both about Billy. Seemed his mama didn’t want him back because she was afraid of him. He’d gotten in trouble so many times over the years that no school would take him, including Chantilly Grove High School. This last time, he was put away for six months for hurting his girlfriend. Her daddy had filed the charges. Nana told Daddy if Billy got into any more trouble, he’d have to go to regular jail with the grown-ups. He was turning eighteen in a few weeks. After his birthday, Nana would ask him to leave. She had hoped some love and kindness would turn him around. “Seems God has other plans for Billy,” Daddy said. Daddy didn’t see Billy. Nana said he was gone a lot; she didn’t know where he went. In fact, he was leaving again and wouldn’t be back until Sunday night or Monday morning. She said it was best not to ask him any questions. It made him angry. Just when I thought Daddy had run out of steam, he looked at me real close. “Sissy, I know you’re a good girl, and I hate having to say this to you, but your mama and I don’t want you going anywhere near that Billy Swanson,” he said. “For right now, we don’t want you visiting Nana either.”
I was not a defiant child, but in that moment, I didn’t like my daddy telling me what to do anymore. I didn’t say anything, of course, but I wasn’t about to spend another day behind closed curtains in a house so hot I didn’t have the energy to play cards. And just like that, Daddy got up from the table and said, “Come on, sugar, why don’t you go sit on the porch while I cut the lawn.” I was so excited to get out of the house, I didn’t even excuse myself from the table. Mama came out on the porch with lemonade and asked me what kind of cake I wanted for my birthday. With all the thoughts I had swimming around inside my head, I’d almost forgotten I was turning fourteen on Monday. I told her chocolate cake with white icing. She made a game of it, “So it’s cherry pie then?” she asked. “Nope, chocolate cake with white icing,” I said. “How about rhubarb and strawberry cake?” she asked. Then something changed in her eyes. I turned around to follow her gaze. Billy was walking past our house. He was staring right at me, grinning all the while. The hair on my arms stood up and I shivered. It was the first relief I’d had from the heat all day, and Billy had caused it. I felt all giddy, then terrified that he would tell my daddy he had come to my window. Mama grabbed my arm. “Come on, Sissy, let’s go inside. Your father can deal with him,” she said. From behind the curtains in the living room, Mama and I peered out past the driveway where we watched Daddy on the sidewalk talking to Billy. Billy was facing our house. He was staring at me again. I grabbed Mama’s hand to anchor myself. They talked a good long while; Billy slapped Daddy on the back before strolling off towards Nana’s place. Mama and I stood still while watching Daddy slowly trudge up the driveway. Mama pulled me close to her as we made our way to the front door. “That boy ain’t right,” Daddy said, when he came in. Mama said, “Sissy, go start lunch. I need to talk to your Daddy for a bit.”
I knew I was supposed to be in the kitchen, but I didn’t like the way my parents were acting. I also didn’t like that they were unwilling to give Billy a chance. I wanted to know what was going on, so I snuck in through the dining room to hear what they were saying. Daddy said all Billy talked about was how pretty I was. He liked my blonde hair. I certainly wasn’t vain, but the thought of Billy thinking I was pretty made my cheeks blush. “I don’t want that boy anywhere near our daughter, Edmond. Do you hear me?” I’d never heard Mama talk to Daddy that way before. I slid back around the corner into the kitchen and started slicing tomatoes. Billy didn’t come to my window that night. Nana had told Daddy he was going to be gone for a day or two. I was happy to have that information, otherwise I would have gone crazy in the dark, wondering where Billy was. That night after Mama and Daddy went to bed, I took out the velvet pouch and spread the pebbles out on my bedspread. Each pebble seemed to open up a new place inside of me for Billy to enter. I had never kissed a boy, but I had kissed Billy a thousand times in my thoughts. I imagined the smell of tobacco on his breath and the warmth of his hands on the small of my back. Mama had talked to me a few times about boys. Even some of the girls at school had kissed their boyfriends, but no one had prepared me for the feelings I had for Billy. Sunday after church, I spent most of the afternoon going through Mama’s magazines, looking for beauty secrets. Before dinner, I grabbed two eggs, the mayonnaise out of the refrigerator, and the honey Mama used in her tea. I put all of it into a paper sack and headed upstairs to the bathroom. I made a face mask out of the egg whites and washed my hair with honey, then softened it with the mayonnaise. It was the first time I had really noticed myself. The girl was gone, replaced by a young woman whose reflection in the mirror I didn’t yet recognize. I liked who I saw in the mirror, but I didn’t know what do to with the feelings I was having. I felt like a newborn filly might. I was just trying to get my legs under me so I could get on with seeing the world.
The heat had worn us out, and we all went to bed early that night. Mama came in and asked if I was excited about my birthday. I was too tired to think about it. “Mama, how will I know when I’m grown up?” I asked. “Sissy, it happens differently for everyone, I imagine. I know people older than dirt who still don’t have the good sense God gave them to make the right decisions. I think that’s part of it. Making good decisions and taking care of yourself and the people you love,” she said. “Am I grown up then?” I asked. “I think you’re further ahead than most people,” she said. I hugged her and breathed in her familiar scent. She always had the right answers. After she left, I took the satin pouch from my nightstand drawer and poured Billy’s pebbles into the palm of my hand and let them flow through my fingers over and over again. Their tiny clinking was the saddest thing I’d ever heard. Soon I felt my tears fall like rain onto the pebbles, making them shine in the moonlight. Billy had opened a place inside me busting at the seams with excitement, and at the same time, I was filling up with fear. Being scared has a funny way of making someone feel all alone. I sat there a long time, hoping something magic would come from those stones. I went to bed feeling different somehow. The young woman I’d seen in the mirror earlier in the day was guiding me. Only I didn’t know where I was going. I guess the little girl who had always believed in magic was gone. I woke up in the middle of the night, sweating from head to toe. It was as though the hot air in the room was pressing me into my mattress. I went downstairs for a glass of sweet tea, but more importantly, I wanted to stand in front of the refrigerator with the door wide open. That’s when I saw Billy. He was standing on our porch like he belonged there. I had such a fright, I dropped the ice cube tray I was holding. In the movies, people scream. All I could do was gasp for air.
The storm door was open. The only thing keeping Billy out of our house was the ancient screen door Mama complained needed fixing. “What are you doing here, Billy Swanson?” I asked. He put a finger to his lips. “Shh, Sissy. Your daddy wouldn’t want you down here talking to me, would he?” he asked All of a sudden, I was shaking all over. I pulled the collar of my pajama top tight around my neck and covered my belly with my other arm. I couldn’t move from where I was standing. “Why don’t we go for a walk, Miss Sissy Miller? It’s a beautiful night for a walk,” he said. He was so handsome and charming standing there. He leaned into the door, his hand caressing the wooden frame just above his head. His fingers moved slowly. I wanted to feel them against my cheek. “You need to go before my daddy sees you,” I whispered. “Sissy, you don’t want your daddy to come down here. You never told him I came to your window, did you?” he asked. His voice was soft but strong enough to lift my feet right off the ground. I swear I floated towards the sound of his voice and his crooked smile. “Come on, Sissy. It’s nice and cool out here. The bullfrogs down at the river are calling for us to come join them,” he said. I listened for the frogs, and Billy was right. They were talking to us. I unhitched the door latch, and Billy backed up some. I slowly stepped out onto the porch, and he smiled the most beautiful smile I’d ever seen. He picked up Mama’s gardening shoes and laid them before my feet. He gently held both my hands so I could steady myself as I slid each foot into the muddy old sneakers. “The frogs are waiting for us, Sissy,” he said. He dropped my right hand, and together we ran towards the woods out behind the house that led down to the Genesee River. I felt more alive at that moment than I had in my whole life. Billy’s hand in mine made the world a bigger place. I knew I could run forever. It was at the edge of the river where moonlight landed in his wild eyes, and my heart beat like a rabbit’s.
MADWOMAN ON/IN/FROM A CORNER
Corners. Stand in the corner crouch in the corner stand on a corner and wait men do that. I was raised on a corner to be quiet to occupy small spaces to be small enough to fit HOW SMALL CAN YOU GET? maybe even invisible yes make yourself so small and quiet until I SWEAR ON MY GRANDMOTHER’S GRAVE not even your friends can see you in this corner . . . Sometimes you fight your way out of a corner BOO you’re bigger BOO you’re stronger and when it’s over go and FIND a corner and get small again because you spend your life avoiding blows until you really ARE bigger and you can call the POLICE or someone even bigger and then well then they just try to blow holes in your heart–but i can disappear, when that happens, look in a CORNER because life on this plane is just too–well . . . thick it is torture sometimes running through your veins like chunks of salt snagging and tearing from the inside of an avalanche of sorrow burying pushing squeezing you from the outside i can’t stay here for too long DON’T take it personally but DON’T invade my air space i may have to gun you down i have a weapon it is my silence . . .
MOUNTAINS (VIEW TO SONORA)
The conjunction between hope and promise My gaze ever upon the world Infinitely finely meshed with light. Sparrows scatter Low like leaves across the gray pavement Under cars, over curb and sidewalk, through the weathered chainlink fence Into air. To the south, mountains. You Remain inviolate Distant blue Ringing the wide, busy sun-filled plain Untouched by toil and ache or Cessation of Range upon misted range Always on the edge of the horizon, edge of the World. You Remain untouched and undisturbed Visited by eagle, jaguar Wild bee, wood ant Only And the wind, never ceasing.
IT WOULDN’T HAVE WORKED, ANYWAY
He’d have dragged the white-tailed deer carcass into my vegetarian kitchen, antlers clattering on the terra cotta tiles, hacked him up into steaks and chops and roasts. I’d have come across the random spatters for months: a fine froth of blood on the mini-blinds, fragments of fat dried to the tile behind the microwave, an unidentifiable fluid sticking the phone keys, impossible to scour out. 57
That recurring conversation–karma, killing, Biblical imperatives–already tended toward quarrel. If differences in love and logic hadn’t separated us like femur from hipbone, this would have been the final knife. That the blade that cuts the carrots might also cleave the meat had not occurred to us yet.
Dedicated to my math teacher, Ms. Susana Sanders They say it took an abscissa and an ordinate to create me So now here I am Somewhere on this plane as a common coordinate. Oh, I’ve seen and done a lot. I have gotten as close to dear asymptote, as oblique as she was, As any point I know. I’ve helped solve many an equation and frustrated friends by providing no solution. I’ve circled, arched parabolic upward, even gone piece-wise on occasion. I’ve had my polynomials factored, my squares and cubes rooted. If you tried to log all the places I’ve been, you better keep your exponents handy because I like them e’s. But now I sit–not sure if I’m positive or negative, left or right, straight or curved, odd or even, horizontal or vertical, symmetrical or not–I just do not know! Am I approaching my limits? Am I just being irrational? Am I real or just imaginary? My identity seems a bit complex at this point. I don’t want to be extraneous. I just want to be normal and whole.
HERO STANDING BETWEEN TWO BEASTS
The moon of the Without lands on the mountain ridge, Horizon of the Known–barque of the moon, a perfect halfCrescent white and luminous. Waiting for travelers who would enter that effulgence. Angel below, Lion above, All’s as it should be– Pain and its tender companion courage Stand on the shore. Time to head out. The four winds at the edge of the world Have flown On. Black, heraldic shield of night with hope rampant. Points gleam star bright. My animals with me.
TWO HEADS acrylic
TOAD SERENADE AT Brian G. Prescott DINNER, THAILAND photograph
THREE BABY SWALLOWS acrylic
Yolanda van der Lelij
TAOS BLUE GATE watercolor
RED RITAS photograph
DREAM BEAD lampwork
SOL Y SOMBRA photograph
NIGHT-BLOOMING CEREUS photograph
ANT ON A STONE STAIRCASE photograph
Norman Bates hails from Rhode Island and graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1971. During twenty years of military service, he completed a masterâ€™s degree in English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He retired to Sierra Vista in 1991 and has taught English composition and literature at Cochise College ever since. He and his wife, Irene, live with a spoiled Chihuahua and Lhasa Apso in Hereford. Carole Beauchamp lives in Bisbee with her husband, Dan; dog, Callie; and cat, Harry. She has taken several photography classes at Cochise College in the past and is currently learning to use Photoshop. She especially enjoys taking photographs of landscapes and wildlife. Macaela Cashman holds a PhD in education and anthropology and has done extensive undergraduate work in music and art. She is Director of Professional Development and Learning Innovations at Cochise College and also works at the college as associate faculty, teaching art history and humanities. In addition to her involvement in the visual arts, she has been teaching yoga for the past eighteen years and is a novice cellist. John Charley, born in Pennsylvania, studied photography at Rochester Institute of Technology, The Visual Studies Workshop, and the Univeristy of Arizona (BFA 1986). He has been a resident of Bisbee, Arizona, since 1997. Beth Colburn-Orozco lives out in Cochise County with her husband and menagerie of animals. After fifteen years of desert living, she finally feels this place in her heart. As a writer of both fiction and creative nonfiction, Beth enjoys exploring the complexities of relationships and the power of place and nature. Robin Colgan was born and raised in Michigan, where she graduated from Yale High School in May of 2001. Robin took art classes
at Mid Michigan Community College in Harrison, Michigan, before moving to Cochise, Arizona, in May of 2010. She is currently attending Cochise College in Willcox. Robin has always been an artist and wants to have a career using her talent.
Lavendra Copen lives in the windy shadow of the Huachuca Mountains with middle-school granddaughters Chella and Celine. A graduate of the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, she has taught school in the Four Corners area and currently makes her living doing medical and legal transcription and selling organic produce at local farmers’ markets. Crow Dicehart prowls High Lonesome and the rest of Cochise County for unusual shots. “Sol y Sombra” was taken on a day of storm clouds and bright sun at the Sierra Vista Campus of Cochise College. Kate Drew-Wilkinson began making glass beads at the age of 50. She says she was born an artist, writing poetry and drawing from an early age. Her first career was in acting, primarily Shakespeare. Hollywood and then New York changed everything for this English woman, who now lives contentedly in Bisbee. Kate teaches bead making each summer in a sixteenth-century glass factory in England, followed by work with French glass workers in Normandy. Mimi Ferraro was a finalist for an Arizona Commission of the Arts Playwriting Fellowship and a five-time winner in poetry at the Cochise County Creative Writing Celebration. Her poetry and short pieces have appeared in publications throughout the country, including Phoenix House Art Journal, Mirage, Mule, Blue Mountain Review, and Sin Fronteras, and in the online poetry e-journals Voices on the Wind and Monsoon Voices. Liz Hampton-Derivan found her passion for photography in 1979, when she got her first 35mm camera and began studying
photography. Liz received a BA in art history before developing her own personal interest in creating art. Now she works digitally, creating soft, romantic, dreamlike images. She added a new dimension to her work in 2009, when she began working in encaustic painting (beeswax with resin and pigment colors) and mixed media. Julia Jones is retired, not to mention reclusive, and a student at both Cochise College and University of Arizona South. For extra credit in an English course, she ended up writing this sonnet, and to her surprise, it didn’t come out too badly. What do you think? Albert Kogel teaches painting, design, and art history on the Sierra Vista Campus of Cochise College. He is always looking for new students and encourages anyone interested to sign up for an art class. Justin Lane is an emerging artist and aspiring singer/songwriter from Willcox. He wants to travel the world and express himself, one abstract thought at a time. R. J. Luce was a wildlife biologist in Wyoming before retiring to Arizona. He lives along the San Pedro River and photographs the river in all seasons. He has traveled to Mexico, Belize, Brazil, and the U.S. Virgin Islands for bird watching and photography. He has authored technical wildlife publications and magazine articles about wildlife and provided photos for books, outdoor magazines, and wildlife field guides. His outdoor mystery novel, Disappearance Creek, was published in 2009. Carmen Megeath is a poet and musician who lives in Bisbee, which is ever a reference point in her writing. She was secretary for Cochise Fine Arts, the long-lost-to-memory avant-garde arts organization which hosted the Bisbee Poetry Festival, and has performed widely in Bisbee. For twenty years, she was employed at Cochise County Library, “the jewel of county government.” She is editor and publisher of Blue Mountain Review, a journal of Cochise County poetry.
Moireh Moon wandered west from New York, scattering poetry and songs across sixty-two years. She has performed her creations in various venues and states all along the way. Her body is slowed and somewhat frozen by multiple sclerosis, but nothing can freeze the song in her soul.
Cathy Murphy is a professional photographer living in Bisbee. Her images of fashion, architecture, and fine arts have appeared in publications throughout the country. Her photography is displayed at Bisbee’s PanTerra Gallery and the Arizona Latino Artists Cultural Center in Phoenix. Her touring exhibit, “Marching Through History with Cesar Chavez and the Farm Workers,” will open in San Francisco in 2012. She teaches in the Digital Media Arts Department at Cochise College. Christopher Overlock occasionally writes poetry when the muse and the mood strike him. He enjoys being inspired by nature and exploring new places in and around Cochise County. He has been involved with several local historical organizations. Chris works for Cochise College. Bethany Perry is a thirty-three-year-old single mother who graduated from Cochise College in June 2011 with an AAS in avionics. After many years in the workforce, she is excited to be entering a new career. Her father was a poet, and she has always enjoyed writing as a means of expression. Angela Pitkin graduated from Buena High School in December of 2008 and is now a student at Cochise College. She has a passion for photography and foreign languages, as well as for music and dance. She is headed off to Germany this year. Brian G. Prescott became interested in photography, travel, and nature as a young man. In the earlier years of his photographic endeavors, he concentrated mostly on birds, then expanded to many subjects. He has visited Iceland, Spain, Antarctica, Australia,
Papua New Guinea, Thailand, South Africa, Venezuela, and much of Central America. His photos have appeared in various publications, including a Sierra Club book, American Birds, and in several newspapers, including The Sierra Vista Herald. Lindsay Janet Roberts was trained to “see” by her artist grandmother at an early age. Learning to weld at the age of twelve, she maintained an interest in working with metals. Her passion for a clean environment has also led to some interesting works made of recycled materials. She recently acquired a MEd in order to teach art. Teaching inspires her work, and making art is like breathing, a necessity for keeping her sanity. Carol Sanger is from the East Coast and has lived in Arizona for twenty years, half of them in Cochise County. She started writing poetry in the mid-1990s and has workshopped with Mark Doty, CK Williams, Linda Gregg, Tony Hoagland, and Rosanna Warren, among others. Poetry is the way she makes sense of the world. Carol works for the Arizona Community Foundation, has four dogs (it’s a slippery slope), and a large, complicated family. Harvey Stanbrough was born in New Mexico, seasoned in Texas, and baked in Arizona. After graduating from a twenty-one-year civilian-appreciation course in the U.S. Marine Corps, he attended Eastern New Mexico University, where he managed to sneak up on a bachelor’s degree. He works as a writer, poet, freelance editor, and writing instructor from his home near St. David. Karina Stanger enjoys athletics, art, music, and literature. She grew up in St. David, graduated with an art degree from the University of Arizona, and now lives in Willcox with her husband, Telly, and their five children. She takes art classes at Cochise College and recently taught a class at the Bucket List Studio and at Cochise College. She is having fun meeting new people and experimenting with different textures and techniques.
Priscilla Stone, AKA Hawkins, resides on a ranch near McNeal, writing short stories, nonfiction, and poetry on border experiences, life and death in the ER, and the consciousness of trees. Her work has appeared in several publications. After graduating from the University of Arizona in English literature and creative writing, she spent the summer at the University of Cambridge. She teaches English at Cochise College and is pursuing a graduate degree in the humanities. 73
Diane Truschke comes from a long line of New England artists and moved to Arizona at age six. Her interests lie in pictures depicting the sea and in writing poetry and short stories. She hopes to write and illustrate her own creations. She is currently employed with Willcox Unified School District and serves on the Board of Directors for the Charles William Leighton, Jr. Hospice, named for her late father. Yolanda van der Lelij grew up in the Netherlands, in Holland. She graduated from agricultural college, where she met her husband. They sold their company in the Netherlands and began farming in America with their three children. Yolanda lives in Willcox, where she enjoys gardening, quilting and, most recently, painting. She became interested in painting after taking a class at the Bucket List Studio in Willcox and has continued to study art at Cochise College. Lucinda Weinberger has been taking pictures since she got her first camera in grade school. At eleven, her first published photographs appeared in her hometown newspaper. After graduating with a BS from a small college in Iowa, she honed her skills while working as a travel agent. She enhanced her skills in digital photography through various workshops. Her work has recently appeared in City of Sierra Vista Parks and Leisure publications.
Mirage Literary and Arts Magazine is designed and produced by students of Cochise College with help from faculty advisors and volunteers from the community. Those interested in participating in the production of Mirage should contact Cochise College at 520515-0500. Submissions are accepted from Cochise College students and residents of Cochise and Santa Cruz Counties in Arizona. The works are selected via an anonymous process: Each submission is judged without disclosure of the writer’s or artist’s name. Submission Guidelines 1. Submissions will be accepted only from students at Cochise College and residents of Cochise and Santa Cruz Counties. All submissions must be the original work of the persons submitting them. 2. A single cover sheet must accompany submissions, listing all titles of works, as well as the submitter’s name, address, phone number, and email or fax. The cover sheet should also include a brief autobiographical statement of seventy-five words or less, written in the third person. No name should appear on the entry itself, as submissions are evaluated without knowledge of the submitter’s name. 3. Artwork and photographs must have titles or must be identified as “Untitled.” If necessary, the artist should indicate correct orientation. Digital format is preferred (email attachment, compact disc, etc.); however, slides are acceptable. If photographing original artwork for submission, the photographer should pay attention to lighting and orientation to prevent shadowing, glare, skewing, or unintentional cropping.
4. Submissions in poetry and prose must be typed. Prose should be double spaced. Single spacing is permissible for poetry. Font should be Times New Roman 12. Unless unique formatting is integral to the piece, literary work should be left justified and not printed in all upper-case letters. 5. Each person may submit up to five pieces of writing and five works of art. 75
6. There is a 2,000-word limit for each piece of prose submitted. 7. Mirage encourages digital submissions. Digital literary submissions must be Microsoft Word document files. Digital art submissions must be sent as files at 300 DPI or higher and at 100% of their original size. 8. In matters of mechanics and style, the Mirage staff defers to A Writerâ€™s Reference, Sixth Edition, by Diana Hacker. Note: The staff of Mirage reserves the right to revise language, correct grammar and punctuation, revise formatting, and abridge content of any literary workâ€“which includes the brief biographies of writers and artists. The staff also reserves the right to crop, resize, or modify works of visual art in any way deemed necessary to ready them for inclusion in the magazine. Where to send submisions: Submitting via email: firstname.lastname@example.org Submitting by mail or Cochise College courier: Cochise College ATTN: Mirage 4190 W. Highway 80 Douglas, AZ 85607