BLUE MOUNTAIN Issue 20
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
A Sit Down with Jessica Jacobs and Nickole Brown Life & Works of Rebecca Evans
rare. gifted. timely. poet Lee Herrick deliveres heart & fire
An Evening in Nashville’s Red Phone Booth
Sebastian Mathews on Melody & Technique
Travel with Jeremy Bassetti Freddie Ashley of the Actor’s Express
Fiction, Essays & Poetry
A JOURNAL OF CULTURE
Introduction: on duende Rebecca Evans
Duende. It can feel like a descent into shadow, a murkiness blanketing the earth, suffocating humanity. Some label duende as an emotional nightfall. The term, born from “duen de casa” (master of the house), often relates to elves and goblins and creatures in Spanish and Latin American folklore. Others think of duende as the spirit of evocation, the emotional response to art. I think duende is what brings you to tears, brings you chills, your body’s reaction replying to art, despite yourself. My friend and poet, Ken Rodgers, tells me, “it’s intangible and maybe, indefinable. Maybe Bob Dylan. Maybe Picasso.” And he’s right. Duende is all this. Ken shares, “in Spain, according to Lorca, it’s more apparent in bullfighters and flamenco dancers. Something above conventional beauty, something that hammers the hearts; sinew and bone.” Frederico Garcia Lorca is credited with grappling the definition of duende in his famous lecture in 1933, “Play and Theory of the Duende.” For an artist, duende can be as vital as keeping a pulse, guiding the artist to find her limitations, much like a spirit, an option other than the muse. Yet duende is not something that the artist pushes away, but instead, it’s an entity she must wrestle. Think Jacob and his angel. Think hand-to-hand combat. Think hide and seek with a skillful toddler. Unlike the muse or inspiration, the duende conquers both the artist and her audience. In Lorca’s words, duende is “a sort of corkscrew that can get art into the sensibility of an audience…the very dearest thing that life can offer the intellectual.” Brook Zern, Flamenco aficionado and major contributor to the appreciation of flamenco in the United States, says of duende, “it dilates the mind’s eye, so that the intensity becomes almost unendurable. There is a quality of first-timeness, of reality so heightened and exaggerated that it becomes unreal.” 2020 feels infused with the duende. Deaths. Hurricanes. Riots. Earthquakes. Fires. Revelation. Plagues. Armageddon. And Politics. The world’s aflame and the artist incubates in isolation. We are chilled. We are crying. Our bodies react before our pens reach the page. Lorca writes, “The duende is a struggle…not in the throat, it clumbs up inside you, from the soles of the feet.” Perhaps this is the struggle artists are feeling. The world is feeling. Oxygen-less. Motion-less. Hope-less. Duende lives within all the forms of art, but it gathers its greatest momentum in dance, music, and spoken poetry. These arts need a physical body for audience interpretation. These arts are born and presented and pushed into the world. Perhaps musicians and dancers and poets have a new role in our time, in 2020, a moral obligation to pull the blanket back and fight the good fight, dance with the bull, embrace the battle within, the battle outside of us. Lorca says, the duende’s arrival “always means radical change in forms. It brings to old planes unknown feelings of freshness, with the quality of something newly created, like a miracle, and it produces an almost religious enthusiasm.” In a bullfight, you are not really in a fight, you beckon the bull, call the beast near and seduce it. You must do this though you quiver, knowing you face death. In the center, the heat of the dance, you’ll find your duende, your fire. When you do, let it spark and jump and then follow it, linger with it, dance an enchanting and terrifying dance and grow goosebumps while you howl and laugh and cry. And once you find your duende, I hope you’ll keep it close, allow the miracles and the magic and the necessary change.
Perhaps 2020 is the Year of the Duende.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
NUÇI’S SPACE TURNS 20! Virtual Celebration & Silent Auction Dec. 5 streaming on youtube
Contents LITERARY INTERVIEWS................................6 VISUAL ARTS INTERVIEWS ........................48 MUSIC INTERVIEWS ..................................54 MOVIE REVIEWS ......................................64 BOOK REVIEW .........................................70 SPECIAL FEATURES ..................................74 FACES OF FAITH ......................................110 POEMS ..................................................116 FICTION .................................................164 MICROFICTION................................198 ESSAYS .................................................204
the poetry collections of Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Clifford Brooks “Clifford Brooks has the rare gift of combining a lyric intensity and a grounded honesty in his poetry, one that reflects an amplified, passionate, and giving soul, but one that understands, very well, the suffering that sculpts a genuine heart...In these poems–whether narrative or lyric, minimal or dithyrambic, Brooks knows human passion, how it must suffuse any art worth making.” –William Wright, author of Tree Heresies and 2015 Georgia Author of the Year in Poetry
“Clifford Brooks writes a passionate, eloquent poetry, as wide-ranging as the models he sometimes invokes, including the blues and the epics.”-Robert Pinksy, former Poet Laureate of the United States
There are storytellers, and there are stories. Occasionally, we find no distinction between them. This is the case with Clifford Brooks.
-Kelli Allen, author of Imagine Not Drowning (2017), How We Disappear (2016), Some Animals (2016), and Otherwise, Soft White Ash (2012)
Clifford Brooks’s Athena Departs is tornadic, both in its dizzying whirl of settings, images, and motifs and in its sheer elemental energy....There is nothing faked here, nothing pretended to. Athena Departs is poetry fully meant by its creator, delivered with the force of a whirlwind. —Dan Albergotti, author of Millennial Teeth
Now for a limited time, the entire collection available, signed and personalized. To find out more reach out directly to the author at
firstname.lastname@example.org and use “CCB3 Poetry Bundle” as the subject line.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Lee herrick By: rebecca evans
ire. When I think of Lee Herrick, I think of fire. Not in the way of destruction, but in how the world feels right now—the way fire burns through, especially an artist—and for Lee, a human. Lee’s work evokes something that lives above passion, something deeper, and his words keep reaching, continuously spreading, like wildfire—a vengeance against social injustice, an elegance towards love and tolerance. I recently had the honor of talking with Lee about his most recent contributions in the world of poetry.
It feels like everything you write about is incredibly timely for all that is happening around us. You cover inclusion, death, fire, immigration, and more. You’ve recently featured poems in California Fire & Water (Story Street Press, 2020) and Here, Poems for the Planet, (Copper Canyon Press, 2019). I wanted to chat about your decision to contribute to anthologies. How do you decide what’s a great fit for your work when asked to contribute? Do you ever say “no?” In the case of these anthologies, the editors contacted me with a specific poem of mine that they wanted to publish. In Here: Poems for the Planet, the editor Elizabeth J. Coleman specifically asked if she could publish “A Thousand Saxophones,” which appears in my first book and in a previous anthology as well. With California Fire and Water, which was funded by the Academy of American Poets, poet and Editor Molly Fisk requested “How to Spend a Birthday.” If it’s left for my discretion, I think of work that applies to the anthology’s theme. There’s so much that goes into editing an anthology. I have immense respect for poets and editors who publish anthologies and am grateful when editors want my poems. I have said no before. There are times when I don’t have poems that I think are a good fit or perhaps I don’t have new work available because of other commitments. When editors or publishers have specific poems of mine for their anthologies, I’m always honored and happy to contribute.
I don’t write poems with publishing goals. However, there are times editors request a new poem for their anthology. Sometimes I can do this. Sometimes I can’t. One example was a good experience with poet and editor, Chris Buckley. He’s edited many anthologies, including One for the Money: The Sentence as Poetic Form, a poetry workshop handbook and anthology (co-edited with Gary Young). Chris worked with me on the poem, and since he’s an excellent editor, the poem became stronger in the final draft. It’s called “Korean Poet in California” and appears in my second book.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
I love your fire theme, pushed as a metaphor, an image, yet meaning so much more. In “How to Spend a Birthday,” you talk about lighting a match and how fast and easily fire burns thin wood and skin, and advise the reader, to Light a Fire. Drown out the singing cats, and I wonder if you could speak to this—towards the layers of meaning, especially the events in our world today. I find myself writing a lot about water and fire. I feel most at home near water. I feel most fueled in my poems by fire and the idea of it —as a source of heat, a natural element that can save or kill. Fire can take over and destroy or burn through a city or forest. I think when a poem takes on its own velocity—those rare, intense, glorious times when the writing takes over, when I give myself over to it and get out of the way—I think of it like fire. Not that I think of a poem as destructive, but the larger force that takes over. Writing is like this. Fire can be like this. In the poem “How to Spend a Birthday,” I studied how a match is made and why it ignites. That science didn’t make its way into the poem, but I was fascinated with the idea of the match, the flame, and lighting candles on birthday cakes. Fire in the way of celebration. I don’t know how this relates to current events in the world around us. That’s for readers to decide. I do believe with the explosion of instant media, instant gratification, distraction, and comment threads or reposts becoming ubiquitous, the fire is muted. This is no longer news or truth, but a fifthgeneration reaction to the news event. The event is the news, not the comments or the social media reactions. That is the fundamental issue. In this way it’s like fire. I think it’s important to know the difference between fire and smoke.
You’ve also written about Katina in “A Thousand Saxophones,” opening with: You can live by the water and still die of thirst. I said you can live by the water and still die of thirst Or the worst nightmare come true: That body of water taking over bodies.
First, let me say, this work is beyond powerful and haunting. These words! How, just how, do you enter a poem about a topic like this? We’ve talked about letting the poem do the work, become what it needs. Is that the case when you are shaping a poem to fit a “theme” or stand alongside a larger body of work with other poets? Did the poem come first or the anthology opportunity? The poem came first. I wrote it in 2005, after watching the news and seeing a woman stranded on her roof. There was a news helicopter circling her house, which was completely flooded up to the roof. She was hysterical, crying out to the people in the helicopter. I remember her screaming in despair, and this image haunted me for several weeks. I wrote the poem with her in mind. I thought about the survivors and the dead. I used sound in the poem: how a person might whisper Amen in a church, and I thought of the many musicians in New Orleans who became instantly unemployed or homeless because of the hurricanes. I’ve been told the poem is haunting, as you say, and to your question---how do I enter a poem like this—I don’t know if I can explain it. I try to channel or transform trauma. I don’t want to absorb it or romanticize it. But I believe great art is in tune with it. This is perhaps the only poem I’ve sent unsolicited to the editors of an anthology. A few months after I wrote it, I saw a call for submissions for an anthology titled Hurricane Blues: Poems About Katrina and Rita, edited by Phillip C. Kolin and Susan Swartwout. It was published in 2006. I was elated that they published it and that it was the final poem in the book. Sometimes, things just align. Almost fifteen years after I wrote it, Elizabeth J. Coleman contacted me, wanting to publish it in her anthology with
Copper Canyon Press. I don’t write a poem intentionally thinking or hoping for its timelessness, but I’m glad if my poems contain a staying power or relevance beyond the moment or occasion. Here: Poems for the Planet (2020) is a brilliant anthology about global climate change. Coleman’s work is remarkable. Not only the range and quality of the writing, but the book includes a foreword by the Dalai Lama and a guide to action by The Union of Concerned Scientists.
Can you share how being a Korean Adoptee, an advocate for human rights, a fighter against racism, an activist in your community, all informs your work? I’ve come a long way in my journey and identity as a Korean adoptee or adopted Korean. In the 1970s, when I was adopted, race and racism, particularly in relationships or families, was vastly different than it is today. The prevailing wisdom said that the adopted child should be immersed and Americanized to the fullest extent possible, including erasure of the birth country and elevation (at all costs) of the new country. In my case, the United States. In my early 20s, in college, I began reading literature that spoke to me like no other literature. I read beyond the canon, authors whose lives and literature was born out of struggle, trauma, or alienation. Writers of color. Women. The incarcerated. The poor. There are only about 200,000 Korean adoptees in the entire world. We are a small tribe, from a relatively small country, South Korea. South Korea is also a war-torn country, literally and figuratively enduring imperialist violence in the earlier 20th century along with a legacy of other violence against it. If we believe trauma is inherited, how could I not write about it? It is within me. I notice power structures, imbalances of power, and abuses of power. The lives and dignity of the minimum wage worker in the multimilliondollar corporation interests me deeply. In my case, I think this was heightened. I’m not only a person of color in the United States or an immigrant of sorts to this country, but I’m an immigrant within my own family as I’m the only person of color in my immediate family, comprised entirely of white people. Who we are informs what we write. This is who I am, so I write it.
Who are your “go-to” poets and podcasts for inspiration? What are you reading right now? What book(s) are absolute musts for anyone who wants to read poetry? I have several “go-to” poets, but the two who have been most important or influential are probably Li- Young Lee and Larry Levis. I have leaned on many poets’ work over the years, including Juan Felipe Herrera, Carolyn Forché, and many others. To be honest, I listen to podcasts hosted mostly by stand-up comedians. I love stand-up comedy and have attended a number of great comedy acts over the years. I listen to Tigerbelly and Your Mom’s House. As for poetry or literature podcasts, two of my
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020 favorites are Franny Choi and Danez Smith’s Vs. and Rachel Zucker’s Commonplace. I’m reading several books of poetry that I love: Tina Chang’s Hybrida, Rachel Eliza Griffith’s Seeing the Body, and Anthony Cody’s Borderland Apocrypha. I hesitate to say what books are an “absolute must” for anyone who wants to read poetry. It’s wildly diverse and ultimately subjective. If we read global poems, contemporary work, and ancient poetry—which I think we should—there are simply too many to name. We should read the great Chinese poets, Korean poets, Latin American poets, African poets, indigenous poets, European poets. Phyllis Wheatley alongside Faylita Hicks. Federico Garcia Lorca alongside Sara Borjas. Walt Whitman alongside Brynn Saito.
Poetry feels like it is getting more recognition in America recently – do you feel this is true? What are your thoughts on the status of poets around the world—the European Poets, South African Poets, and Asian Poets – are they more regarded in other countries than the U.S.? And if so, why do you think this? If this is true, I wonder if it is because we are in a time of difficult but important social change---same sex marriage, LGBTQ awareness and rights, #Me too, Black Lives Matter, these are important results of a sustained, collective oppression and violence. These groups are born in the same way people might turn to the arts for community, comfort, or even answers. Poetry aligns naturally with political thought and social change. Shelley can tell you that. I also think it could be the work of literary organizations, teachers, and local poetry organizers whose hard work is finally bearing fruit. I’ve thought a lot about your second question over the years. I’ve traveled in countries where one of the first questions I was asked when meeting someone (and they did not know I was a writer), was “Do you have a favorite poet?” In many countries, poets are revered, not only as philosophers and artists, but also as thinkers and political figures. I can’t say with any real degree of certainty, but one reason I’ve always suspected is that America lacks an appreciation for nuance, slowness, or patience. Again, generally speaking, we are a country of fast-food, drive through, microwave, one-click, planned obsolescence. We are also a young, relatively impatient country. Poetry does not lend itself to this. Poetry takes time to read, write, and absorb. It isn’t a quick answer. It is about nuance and slowness, which are not American strengths, in my opinion. In many other countries where poets are revered and poetry is more commonplace, the societal norms are different. Again, I’m speaking generally, but I’ve been in countries where the marketplace shuts down for a few hours in the afternoon to provide rest or spend time with family. I’ve seen old men sit in a plaza, feed the pigeons, read the paper, and talk about poetry for hours into the night. These are often countries that are much more collectivistic rather than individualistic. These are also countries that generally play soccer or football at a higher level and appreciate it more as well, unlike this country where the slow, beautiful, collective build to a goal is not understood or appreciated. At least not the way it is embraced in other countries. Soccer and poetry are mainstream and paramount in most countries around the world. Here, sadly, not so much.
Can you talk about projects you’re currently working on? The World I Leave You: Asian American Poets on Faith and Spirit (Orison Books, 2019), the poetry anthology I co-edited with Leah Silvieus, was published at the start of the pandemic, so we haven’t offered readings or as much as we’d like for the book. Despite the limitations, it has been received well. It includes over 60 contemporary Asian American and Pacific Islander poets writing on a range of views, experiences, and aesthetics related to faith and spirit. I am working on a memoir. It’s slow going. Recent progress has surfaced in the editing stages. I continue to write poems, but they are sporadic in the pandemic. To be honest, a lot of my creativity is now spent sorting through new ways to navigate life as it is now—as a husband, father, professor, writer, poet, and citizen. I’m grateful for each day. I send everyone good wishes. My main current project is staying healthy and taking care. I hope you are, too.
Cover & Page 12 photos by Marcos Dorado. Page 10 photo by Mike Keo.
CREATIVE CRAFT COCKTAILS & CIGARS
PROGRAM IN A 1920â€™S SPEAKEASY ATMOSPHERE Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Atlanta & Nashville
Lee Matthew goldberg of fringe By: Clifford Brooks
Please introduce yourself and give us some background on your career. What makes you, you? I’m Lee Matthew Goldberg, I’m the author of four novels, Slow Down, The Mentor, The Desire Card and, most recently, The Ancestor. All my books are literary thrillers, thrillers that make you think. I have been published in multiple languages and will be the editor-in-chief for Fringe, a new indie press coming in 2021.
What made you decide to create Fringe and how is it different from other publications? I want to move the publishing industry into the future. There are new and innovative things that presses should be doing. Fringe has a dual goal. It will be for novels on the fringe: out there, mixing genres, but also have adaptability into screenplays and TV pilots. I want to find a way to merge those industries better. We’ll be partnering with Book Pipeline to feed our books through their pipeline to hopefully get it into the right hands.
What are you reading right now? The Tenant by Katrine Engberg, a Scandinavian procedural. I will start The Institute by Stephen King next.
What is your philosophy on good writing? Be original and edit, edit, edit. Don’t be lazy, don’t be cliché, write sentences that will stay with the reader. Make your characters real humans so they leap off the page.
How can we keep up with you online? My website is LeeMatthewGoldberg.com or I’m @LeeMatthewG on Twitter and @ leematthewgoldberg on Insta.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Jendi reiter with winning writers By: Clifford Brooks
Please give us a few details about Winning Writers: how did it gain such momentum? My husband, Adam R. Cohen, is co-founder and President of WW. He handles financial operations, selling ads in our free e-newsletter, social media and other marketing, customer service, and everyday tech support. When we started the business in 2001, Adam had a decade of experience in circulation management for The Atlantic magazine. He’s always looking to refine our marketing tools and learn about the next technology to promote our business.
As VP and co-founder of Winning Writers, I oversee content creation for the website and newsletter. I’ve been entering and winning contests since I was in high school...which was before the fall of the Berlin Wall, for those of you keeping track. I’ve had six books of poetry and fiction published, which taught me (sometimes the hard way) the characteristics of a press that’ll do right by their authors. I won’t recommend any resource at Winning Writers that I wouldn’t use myself.
Over the past two decades (wow!) our customers have learned they can trust us to incorporate their feedback, learn from our mistakes, offer generous refund and substitution policies on contest entries, and even troubleshoot their disputes with other contest sponsors. We’ve been on the Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites list several times.
How do you help keep this train on course? We have a gifted, reliable team of freelancers for contest entry screening, database updating, social media outreach, and web design and programming. Being an online-only business lets us find the best people—some in our town, others as far away as Poland—with the unique skill combination of literary savvy and organized data-management. See our Staff Bios page for the current editorial team: https://winningwriters.com/about-us/staff-biographies
Shout-out to our longtime programmer Alice Webb Greer, and the web design firm Tunnel 7 of Easthampton, MA. https://tunnel7.com/
How does Winning Writers differ from other literary resources? WW is one of the most comprehensive online guides to free literary contests, submission calls, and publishing resources—and all of this is completely free. Our main revenue sources are entry fees for our own contests, sponsored tweets, and ads in our monthly e-newsletter. We carefully curate those ads to find high-value opportunities for our readers, with rules that we consider ethical. For example, we regularly reject sponsors who assert over-broad intellectual property rights to submitted work (a growing problem nowadays in supposedly “free”
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020 contests), or charge fees that are disproportionate to the prize. We see ourselves as serving the entire writing community, with resources explicitly directed towards authors at different career stages, so they don’t waste money submitting to the wrong markets. The recommendation levels and Spotlight feature in our Best Free Literary Contests database were added for this purpose. We rate contests Neutral, Recommended, or Highly Recommended based on factors like prize/fee ratio, selectivity, sponsor’s longevity and prestige, how well the winners are publicized, and the ease and transparency of the contest entry process, among other things. I’m not aware of any other contest directory that does this.
There is still too big a divide in the literary world, in terms of prestige and access to promotional channels, between books from mainstream and university presses, and books from small-press and self-published authors. The latter are either flat-out ineligible for major published-book awards and book reviews or are allowed to submit (which isn’t cheap!) but will never be seriously considered. This has a lot more to do with resource-hoarding and academic gatekeeping than with quality.
We try to close that gap with our North Street Prize for Self-Published Books, which has the best prize/fee ratio around. As of the 2021 contest, open Feb. 15, we’re giving awards up to $5,000 and extensive promotion in our newsletter (50,000+ subscribers) and Twitter feed (135,000+) and the fee is only $65. The categories are poetry, genre fiction, mainstream/literary fiction, memoir, graphic novel/memoir, children’s picture book, and art book (new for 2021). We print excerpts from all of our winners on the website with a critique by the judges. By contrast, most of the indie book awards charge close to $100 and there’s no cash prize at all! All you get is a roll of foil stickers, that you usually have to pay for, and a mention on a website with dozens of other winners.
You are promoting three of your own titles. Tell us about your literary career. I started out as a poet, with early successes such as placing a poem in Best American Poetry when I was still in high school, and later awards from organizations like the Poetry Society of America and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. My most recent poetry collection is Bullies in Love (Little Red Tree). The dominant themes of this collection are my fraught journey to adoptive parenthood and my love-hate relationship with a faith tradition that carried me through trauma but had no room for me when I healed.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020 Around 2006 I felt called to branch out into fiction because I needed to expand my empathetic understanding beyond the lyric “I”. The subject matter that intrigued me required a larger canvas than the individual poem. Through writing exercises and many unused drafts, some of which turned into publishable short stories later, I began building a relationship with the characters who would inhabit my first novel, Two Natures (Saddle Road Press). Set in New York City in the early 1990s, Two Natures is the coming-of-age story of a fashion photographer who struggles to reconcile his Southern Baptist upbringing with his love for other men. The book won the 2016 Rainbow Award for Best Gay Contemporary Fiction and was a finalist for the Book Excellence Awards, the Lascaux Prize in Fiction, and the National Indie Excellence Awards. My debut short story collection, An Incomplete List of My Wishes, includes a couple of pieces that began as backstory character sketches for Two Natures, as well as original stories. I would say that a major theme of this book is the fine line between soulmates and intimate enemies, particularly where an emerging queer identity clashes with our formative relationships—parents, partners, the children we have and the ones we’ve been taught to want. An Incomplete List of My Wishes was published by Sunshot Press, an imprint of the literary journal New Millennium Writings, as a runner-up for their inaugural Sunshot Prize for Prose. Stories in this book have won prizes from such journals as The Iowa Review, New Letters, Bayou Magazine, Solstice Lit Mag, and American Fiction. The book was a finalist for the Book Excellence Awards and the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, both in the LGBTQ Fiction category.
Purchasing links for all my books are on the homepage of JendiReiter.com.
How can we keep up with you and Winning Writers online? Sign up for Winning Writers’ free monthly e-newsletter, which also gives you access to The Best Free Literary Contests database, at: https://winningwriters.com/the-best-free-literary-contests/free-winning-writers-newsletter
We’re also on social media: Twitter @WinningWriters
Follow me on Twitter @JendiReiter and visit my blog JendiReiter.com for sporadic rants about post-Christian spirituality and transmasculine life.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
jeremy bassetti By: Clifford Brooks
Good to have you here, Jeremy. Give us some details about who you are. I am a writer primarily interested in travel writing and what is called the “literature of place.” I also am the host of a podcast called Travel Writing World, a literary podcast in which I interview authors of travel books about their work. I have dabbled in the freelance travel writing space, but I am primarily interested in the modern travel book as a literary form and have been writing one of my own. By day, I teach at a small college in Florida.
What drew you to travel writing? I first came to travel writing—or travel literature—later in life, when I moved to Spain to research in the archives for my dissertation. Since then, writing about travel, place, and experience and thinking about the intersection of travel and literature have
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020 interested me. Travel writing is a powerful genre. I hope we can all agree on the transformative power of literature in general. But in my opinion, travel literature is a bit more powerful than, say, the modern novel as it has a presumption of truth. When travel and writing combine, they become something greater than the sum of its parts. Travel writing gives us a stereoscopic vision of sorts—it doesn’t just give us a glimpse of the other, but it helps us catch a glimpse of ourselves. It helps us at once see the world and see ourselves negotiating the world in a specific time and place. Travel writing shows us how others act when we meet them, and it shows us how we act when they are met by us.
How does your brand of travel writing differ from that of others? Paul Theroux once told me that travel writing is a “maddening” genre because the term includes both literary and commercial writing. I don’t want to ridicule commercial travel writing, as it is useful and creative, and it has its own set of conventions and form. But, while I don’t have a “brand” of travel writing, I am mostly interested in literary travel writing and the modern travel book. Dear mom-style travel writing—the travelogue—bores me. Travelogues are the literary equivalent of flipping through a stranger’s photo album. I get it. You saw “super cool” things. You are “strange” food. You got—gasp— uncomfortable. But I’m mostly interested in an examination and an exploration of the self and big ideas within the framework of travel.
What advice can you give those hoping to become a travel writer? Read the form of travel writing you want to write. If you want to be a travel features writer, read travel features. If you want to write travel books, read them .
How are you making out during COVID?” How do you pull off travel writing in this climate? Most travel writers will tell you that there are two phases to writing a travel book: traveling and writing. It is hard to do any serious writing when one travels, and it is hard to do any serious traveling when one writes. This stayat-home climate might not be so bad for those who are in the writing phase of their projects. Conversely, it isn’t so great for those—like me—who had plans to begin the travel phase of a new project. But I consider myself lucky to be in good health and to have the time and space to read and research. Since the spring, many travel writers and journalists have focused on domestic travel stories as international travel has come to a standstill. And when we look at the news and learn that borders are closing again, this trend may continue.
How do we keep up with you online? The Travel Writing World podcast is available on all podcasting channels, but you can find show notes, book reviews, author interviews, and travel writing articles on the website: https://www.travelwritingworld.com. Otherwise, you read more about me and work on my homepage: https://www.jeremybassetti.com.
jessica jacobs and nickole brown By: Clifford Brooks
Tell us about what makes you, you. Nickole:
What makes me, me? Hard question. Big frizzy hair, I suppose. Or the skillet-cornbread Kentucky that raised me. Or my stubborn, abiding wife that pushes me to be a better person every day. Or words—words like home that I can roll around on my tongue endlessly until my very mouth feels like a kind of home, words like abattoir that cloak their hideous meaning with such beautiful syllables. There’s also my love for all things creaturely—for the white flash of a opossum on the fence, for the tiny horse-like whinny of the Eastern Screech calling as the sun goes down, for my dog, resting her heavy head on my foot as I type these words. Every week that I’m home in Asheville, North Carolina, I spend time at a farm sanctuary and a wildlife rehabilitation center, so the animals there make a huge part of my life too, as do the human heroes that run those places. What else? Bug sounds: cicadas and katydids and crickets. All winter, I wait and wait until the weather breaks to hear them again, and their songs lull me back to myself.
Well, with my barely-in-need of a brush straight brown, Nickole’s got the big-hair market cornered, so we joke that we each write like our hair—Nick’s poems expanding out and out in lush lines, mine always striving toward greater compression. So I guess part of what makes me, me is the balance we work toward, in our home and the poems we share with each other. Also, in the mix are long hours running the trails around Ashville, miles melding with new ideas, new images, until I’m often forced to pause and jot something down that would otherwise be forgotten. And what wonders along the way—just last week, at the end of a long humid slog, there was a rustling to my right and there was a juvenile black bear, its feet stretched out against a sapling, grooming itself by first licking its massive paws.
How did you find out that creative writing is in your blood? Who were your first, big influences? Nickole:
I first made that discovery when I was fifteen and by some miracle was accepted into a free summer program called Governor’s School for the Arts. I was only there two weeks, but during that time I found a part of myself that I’ve been clinging to ever since. Not too long after, I got a five-dollar-an-hour gig working at a used bookstore called Twice Told in Louisville, and the cranky proprietor there gave me an unparalleled literary
education that set me on a path for the rest of my life.
Jessica: Most of my childhood felt like I was born to the wrong place, the wrong time. Queer kid in the homophobic Bible Belt, wanna-be climber and hiker and trail runner in paved-over, neon-lit Central Florida. Books were the way I traveled and met new people, the way I knew the world was larger than the one I saw around me. And about the same age Nickole went to the Governor’s School, I read Plath’s “Daddy” and until I made it to that final line, “Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through,” I’m not sure I breathed, let alone remembered I was in the tiny, dusty library I’d been visiting my whole life. Though my own father is a lovely fellow, I’d been taken fully into her world and been
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020 changed by what I read. What better way I could I spend my life than apprenticing myself to such a practice?
What projects do you have out or soon to hit the scene? Nickole:
Right now, I’m writing about animals, or more specifically, the complex, interdependent, often fraught relationships humans have with non-human animals. Currently, I’m at work on a bestiary of sorts, but I’m working hard to make sure it doesn’t consist of the kind of pastorals that always made me (and most of the working-class folks I know) feel shut out of nature and the writing about it—I try for poems that speak in a queer, Southern-trashtalking kind of way about nature beautiful, but damaged and dangerous. The first of these new poems won Rattle’s Chapbook Contest with the publication of To Those Who Were Our First Gods in 2018. A second chapbook from this project, an essayin-poems called The Donkey Elegies, was published by Sibling Rivalry in January 2020.
After decades of running away from organized religion, in the last few years I’ve been taken with the power of ancient texts like the Torah and the centuries of brilliant writing that have grown from its contemplation. This study feels like a gift, deeply informing how I see the world and move through it. I’m at work on parallel collection of essays and poems that explore the wisdom that’s finding me there in hopes of better understanding it for myself and sharing it with readers.
What is your responsibility as a
writer to your fans? Nickole: To be a witness and a noticer, to pay attention even when I’m tired or afraid. And then, as best I can, to try to tell the truth—the whole contradictory, messy truth—even when it’s an ugly or embarrassing, even when a lie would be so much easier.
Jessica: I second Nickole here wholeheartedly. Books let me know that even when by myself, I wasn’t alone. So now I want to write into the questions that move me, believing that that if I can write poems that offer companionship to even a single reader, that’s more than worthwhile.
How do you feel about being the judge of our LBGTQ chapbook contest? What do you hope to see? Nickole: I always yearn to see someone else’s truth on the page, especially when it’s deeply embodied with sensory detail and lyric language. I hope to be arrested by a poet’s courage and tenderness, by their persistence to find the exact words they need.
Jessica: As the poet Carl Phillips wrote in his brilliant essay, “A Politics of Mere Being,” “Am I a gay black man when roasting a chicken at home for friends? Sure. But that’s not what I’m most conscious of at the time.” Your writing is LBGTQ if you are, so we hope you write the poems you most need to write, in whatever form and about whatever subject, and we’ll look forward to reading them.
How do we keep up with you online? Jessica & Nickole: While you can find us easily on social media, you can learn more about
each of us at our author’s sites, where you can read a selection of our poems (or poems and essays, in Jessica’s case), learn more about our books and order them if you feel so inclined, and see where and when we’ll be reading and teaching in the months to come. Find Nickole at www.nickolebrown.com, and Jessica at www.jessicalgjacobs.com. Together, though, we’ve founded something called the SunJune Literary Collaborative—an organization through which we can give back to the literary community that has given us so much. Through SunJune, we’re hosting local readings that pair visiting and local authors (and hoping to start these up again once the pandemic has left us in peace) and offering the free online workshops we mentioned. If all this pans out, we’ve got more in the works, from in-depth online workshops to extended writing retreats. You can learn more and sign up for workshops at www.sunjune.org.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
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megan baxter By: Clifford Brooks
Where did Megan Baxter get her start? Was it literal birth or later when your purpose chose you? I started crafting stories young, but mostly off the page. As the oldest of four children, I organized games of makebelieve that were small dramatic performances, realized in real-time. The empty woodlots and hayfields around our rural home served as a stage and later became a sort of heartland for me, a place I revisit again and again in my writing. My father read out loud to me often, nearly every night, and just about the time I started reading larger books on my own, I started to write and illustrate stories myself. If you had asked me then I wouldn’t have said I wanted to be a writer, although I lived a life of creativity and expression. I committed seriously to the path when I enrolled in Interlochen Arts Academy as a junior in high school where I majored in Creative Writing. I feel as though narrative and language are the roots of my purpose, no matter what job I hold, or what genre I am working in. I’m not talking just about putting words on the page but rather the deeper exploration of how art, communication, and experience transform the everyday into extraordinary moments of clarity and compassion.
You have rituals woven into the way you write. On a large, spiritual level, how do the words
come to you? How can you build such depth with so few words? I have a few rituals which guide me to the task, but they are always in transition, slipping away in favor of some new beautiful thing. In the past, I’ve lit candles or written at dawn, listened to music, or sat in silence. The most consistent ritual is the sound of my old, mechanical keyboard punching away like a stringless piano. Words come to me, well, as words. On good days, when I’m deep in the work, words string through my head in the way that breaking news flows across the bottom of a tv screen. Often, I see scenes and movement before words form. I’ve often heard of writing and creativity, in general, being referred to as a well, something that can be drained, filled, and dipped into. I consider filling the well one of the essential aspects of living a creative life – reading, engaging in community, researching, observing the world sharply. This process feels more pedagogical then spiritual, being open to learning and shifting.
Who are you listening to? What music has you happy? My mother is a professional classical musician and I grew up with music woven through the language of my family life. I used to draw what my mother’s music made me feel, sketching away furiously as the tempo rose. I listen to music often, all kinds of music, when I’m driving, or working, or cooking. When I write I need to listen to music with words that I either know by heart and don’t really hear anymore or songs without lyrics. I love Florence and the Machine, First Aid Kit, and Lorde for writing. I’m also a huge fan of Springsteen and Dylan. My dog is named Rosalita after a Springsteen character.
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How do you remain upbeat? What makes you happy? What do you think more people could do to help the whole? I try to stay engaged with a multitude of passions. I currently work as a professor, an organic farmer, front of the house staff at a European bakery, remotely for The National YoungArts Foundation, as a private writing teacher, and as a college-level writing tutor. I’m all over the place, interacting each week with a variety of people and professions. I get my hands dirty. I eat bread baked that morning. I teach and share words. I encourage young people to pursue the arts. This diversity gives me joy and speaks, I believe, to the range of my interests, all which feed into my creative practice. The natural world is essential to my optimism as well and I spend my free time out on the back roads with my dogs, or running around the lake, or hiking through old forests of birch and pine.
You have one book out and another on deck. Could you tell us about them and where we can find you across social media? My essay collection ‘The Coolest Monster’ was published in 2018 by Texas Review Press. You can purchase a copy directly from their website or through Amazon. Green Writers Press will be publishing my book ‘Farm Girl, A Memoir’ in April of 2021. I’m excited to share chapters and excerpts in the following months which you’ll find links to on my social media accounts. On Facebook you can find me at ‘MeganBaxterAuthor’, on Instagram I’m ‘meganlbaxter’ and on Twitter my handle is @MeganBa77174829. My website meganbaxterwriting.com is also a great way to stay in touch with me and my creative work.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
rebecca evans BY: Clifford Brooks
You are a poet, mother, veteran, TV host, essayist, survivor - you write it all with skill. How has your unique life experience molded your writing? I believe every life event has informed my writing in some capacity. Someone once asked how many years it took to write my memoir and I replied, all of them, because I needed to live through my experiences first. My military life greatly influences my approach to writing. Writing requires focus, preparation, and persistency—especially revision. The military offered this training, along with teamwork, collaboration, and cooperation. These are critical skillsets when working with editors and publishers. Athletics has also shaped events in my life, including how I write. I view writing as a sport. I’m a writer-athlete. I’m in training. When I submit work, it’s much like a track meet or dance performance. I’ve rehearsed or trained, and this is my best for the moment. Once the dance is over, I’m back in training, learning, and studying. I think of every author that came before me as my personal coach. My mentors in my grad programs are my sport-specific coaches, strengthening my weaknesses. I love every aspect of writing—generating and revising—all of it. Deadlines, tough edits, and other “pressures” don’t phase me. My attitude is, well, no one will actually die if I delete this paragraph. As a survivor, I’m gifted with a broader picture of life. When you overcome trauma, wars, surgeries—you gain perspective. I try to worry and stress over only the most critical things in life.
What do you see as weak spots in the publishing industry? In the mechanics of it, where are the cogs coming loose? How would you fix it? The SWOT assessment is a great tool to evaluate any industry. Strengths. Weaknesses. Opportunities. Threats.
The publishing industry’s STRENGTH is the rise in readership—Podcasts, audiobooks, eBooks, etc. along with accessible formats (phones, laptops, kindles). Most publishers represent a variety of genres—spiritual, self-help, memoir, novels, young adult, and poetry—which means reaching broader demographics. The internet contributes to the industry’s strengths, and now, as COVID has taught us, writers can connect with their audiences and minimize geographical limitations. One industry WEAKNESS, is the primary language in print is still English, creating an imbalance of culture and voices. There is improvement. OPPORTUNITIES in publishing are distribution (I’m talking traditional publishing versus self-publishing) – libraries, universities, and bookstores. Publishers can also acquire re-print rights of many classics, keeping them in print (and distribution). Video, audio, and mixed-media formats are another great opportunity, bringing other industries into the world of publishing. The THREAT in publishing comes mostly from within. The industry competes with itself—a fight between eBooks and paper publications. There are also more global players—small presses, university presses, and self-publication. In my opinion, self-publication can sabotage the market with less-than quality work because there’s not a check and balance system. But many turn to self-publication due to frustration with traditional publishing as a number of great works are tossed aside or slush-piled. One way to fix these “loose cogs” falls on the writing community – writers supporting writers. Writers spreading the word about newly published pieces in journals through social media and sharing one another’s successes. The writing world is small and through stewardship we can do more for each other, increasing book sales and distribution. Most of the books I read are recommended by writers whom I respect but don’t personally know. I simply saw a post on social media and took a bite. Finally, support your local bookstores, buy from small and university presses directly. It might cost more, but these presses support debut writers and artists.
How do you feel about absolute truth in memoirs? Is there any such a thing? Is there an
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
assumed amount of exaggeration? There is no absolute truth. Memoir is based on a flawed human with inaccurate, imperfect recollection. The truth rests in the emotion of the event. Writers try to replicate the emotion on the page. We also leave out sections of dialogue because the ping-pong manner in real-life conversation would bore the reader. Writers must select the most significant situations and organize them into something relatable to oneself and to the world.
Memoir.” To hold a writer to absolute truth is impossible. I also think nonfiction writers should not fabricate events. For example, they shouldn’t claim that they served in the military if they were never in the military. This would be dishonest and the contract with the reader is broken.
The beauty with memoir is the narrator, the person telling the story, offering interior and reflection, which is impossible in real life. We don’t always say what we think. Thank goodness. But in memoir, interior creates tension and draws the reader closer to the narrator. And all interior is subjective. As an essayist and memoirist, I’ll contact people included in my narrative and ask them to fact-check. If I’ve erred, I want to know. I’ve had pilots, rabbis, and military/family members read my early drafts. As a disclaimer, I’m not in touch with toxic people, so if they’re in my “story,” I do not name them or describe them in an identifiable way. I also write in a way to honor my reader—I signal to them when I’m unreliable with my recollection. I’d love a new category in the world of Memoir: “Mostly
How do you edit your poetry? I start with writing everything long-hand and in one sentence. Then I edit in stages. A first edit is different than final polishing. I approach book revision with differing tactics than a poem due to the size of the project and a need for storyline, consistency, arcs, etc. I always read my work out loud and listen for nuances, cadence, and sound. I change grammar and punctuation
based on when I pause in my reading, take a breath, or sometimes cry (or laugh). Another approach is the way I begin drafts. I’ll write a note in my journal, write about the time that…. and I’ll allow that thought to simmer. An instructor once told me that the first time you tell/write a story from memory is most likely the truest version of that tale.
What projects do you have on deck and where can we find you online? I’m adding the final finesse to my memoir, Navigation, which weaves a narrative of mystical and historical nonfiction following the Persian Gulf War, spanning twenty years. It also embraces a supernatural element, including lucid dream traveling. The book crosses boundaries of love and loneliness and continents, and searches for the fragile thread between a war, a marriage, a birth, and a death. I’m plugging away at the final edits of my two essay collections and, in the center, I’m finishing my second MFA (this time in poetry) with Sierra Nevada University. Next year, my full-length poetry book will be publish-ready. I have essays, poems, and thoughts in the world at: The Rumpus, Entropy Literary Magazine, War, Literature & the Arts, 34th Parallel, and Collateral Journal, among others. You can find more work forthcoming in The Blue Mountain Review, Survival Lit, Capable Magazine, and more. My social media handles are: Instagram: rebeccawrites33 www.facebook.com/rebeccawrites twitter.com/RebeccaWrites
What importance does a PR agent hold in the life of a professional artist? Do you have experience in this field? Most writers, if they are to be successful in the business (and there is a business), need to market their work. Once you’ve created art, it requires tending, unless you are solely creating art for the sake of art, which many are. In that case, there’s no need for PR. If you sell your books, your publisher will be pleased. If you please your publisher, your books stay in print. That’s the biz. Marketing helps you maintain your brand, your credibility, and offers opportunity to further your career. Finally, you can’t reach your audience without marketing and you cannot penetrate new markets (including foreign sales) without PR.
The other reason for PR is that many publishers expect writers to campaign. The smaller presses simply don’t have the budget. If you take your art seriously and you want to reach readers, it makes sense to learn some basic marketing tools and carve out time each week to “campaign” your art.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
I am rare and unlovable and I’m trying to accept this.
Some possess luck, as if loved by a panting pet, its tail-wagging his master’s return.
When mad-love nears me— which is not often—inside myself, I kick and bite,
punch and shout, until I wound the other. I destroy
any devoted gesture so I can become— no, remain—the enemy. Flannery said A good man is hard to find. I don’t agree. They swarm like starlings, loyal and ready,
embracing my imperfections as if blind. They are easily found. They just aren’t equipped
to handle my rage, my damage, I am unwinnable, a rare and unlovable war.
He Meant, She Meant By: Rebecca Evans
Trash-Binning By: Rebecca Evans You open his I am loving you, I am missing you texts and the shot of him in military battle-dress, a slight smile curving his mouth. Your pulse pumps somewhere near your temple. You later click his link, Urban’s I Wanna Love Somebody Like You, knowing he sent ten more to ten others, and you tune out that tune. You’ll scroll your camera roll, trash-binning every short clip he ever sent, Hey, Baby, I’m here at Starbucks and you’re the only thing on my mind, hoping you’ll erase his imprint, his impact. You block him on Instagram though you’ll look for him on LinkedIn, wonder if he’s married, engaged, committed, and if he is, you’ll wonder what she looks like, if she’s prettier and, though bile stings your tongue, you’ll look for her, your replacement, his new target, until he blocks you on Facebook. He’ll still message you Merry Christmas or Happy Easter and you’ll realize he’s forgotten you’re Jewish. Maybe he never cared. His messages make you feel remembered and that’ll mean something in your 3 a.m. writing hours while the world sleeps and one side of your bed is still neatly made,
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
a half-empty wine glass on the night table, left over from your Netflix binge of Blacklist or The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. He’ll idle like phantom limb pain – that nerve-burn every time you move a certain way and all you’ll want is your missing arm.
He Meant, She meant By: Rebecca Evans When she asked How were you two involved? she meant, Did you fuck her or something? He said We were only friends, but he meant they didn’t technically
fuck, even though he knew what she meant. When she asked about his pictures, the ones of them together, he in striped jail gear and she in sexy cop bait, he said
It was only one night. And she knew. She knew he didn’t have his story straight. She asked if they still met for wine or beer or dinner or something.
She meant Do you still do her? though she didn’t have the guts to ask. He admitted they met up a few months back, he said it was something
casual and she knew. She knew that sex can be casual, but love will not survive casual encounters. He agreed to tell her if he heard from her,
but he told himself that wasn’t the same as promising to disclose and he never really made that promise. He never really made any. She meant
to ask about that last message, the one that popped on his screen— what are you doing? Instead she watched him lift his phone, a slow smile
slide as he turned the screen tits-down and she knew. She knew.
Now that she knows, she needs to choose, stay with him and unlearn this knowledge. And if she stays, she knows she can no longer ask
and even if she falls weak, asks, means what she questions, she won’t believe him, can’t believe him, and she will lie awake
beside him, sharing space in a King with a man who holds no trust and he’ll ask if she’s all right, but she knows what he’ll mean, he’ll want
to know if they, as a couple, will make it and she knows,
she knows she’s better spread across that bed on her own.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
sebastian matthews BY: mildred barya
Tell us about yourself and the types of writing that you do—form and content.
et me start with the types. I write poems, personal essays, short nonfiction “dispatches,” memoir, stories, and hybrid pieces. I often work with visual accompaniment—collage and photos mostly, but sometimes drawings. I often collaborate with visual artists, photographers, musicians, book artists, or graphic illustrators. So, clearly, I am someone who likes to experiment and to try new things; someone who doesn’t like being pinned down or labelled as this or that. And, clearly, this tendency can be a good thing or a bad thing. Jack of all trades, master of none… As for content, I often write from my direct experience. My latest book, Beyond Repair: Living in a Fractured State, is a series of encounters with friends, family, neighbors, and strangers over a fiveyear period. The book before that, Beginner’s Guide to a Head-On Collision, came out of a car accident my family lived through and its aftermath. But even the fiction I work on often starts from direct experience, as with the collage novel, The Life & Times of American Crow, which has a main character whose journey resembles mine (when I was in my 20s), though I move further and further away from my experience as the story progresses. In this case, my experiences, and my memories, served as a jumping off point.
What keeps you interested in writing? Tackling new forms. Moving deeper into hybridity. Finding ways to become part of a larger conversation and sharing the work out in the world. I try to avoid the writer-alone-in-their-room role
as much as I can. Or, if not avoid—for there’s no avoiding the hard work of composition and revision—than at least augment it with more of the collaborative, social aspects of being a writer/artist. I also very much enjoy the work of putting a book together—the imagining and constructing involved, the trial and error—from final draft to its three-dimensional appearance in book form. I want to have a say in the size of the book, the cover, the font, the paper (color, weight), its design, etc. Totally obnoxious on my part, but there it is.
Where can we find your books? What’s the latest? You can find them at Asheville’s premier independent bookstore Malaprops (or, at least, ask them to order them for you), on the website of Red Hen Press, which is the home of my last four books, or on Amazon if you have to. You can also start the process on my website, sebastianmatthews. com. Beyond Repair is the most recent, though a paperback version of American Crow is coming out soon. It’s self-published.
What other hats do you wear and how do you manage to fit all on your head without straining? I don’t teach as much as I used to, but I am a creative writing instructor with the Great Smokies Writing Program. I make collages and take photographs for fun. I am the father of a seventeen-year-old boy, who I parent with my wife, Ali. And, recently, I have become a DJ for the community radio station WPVM (103.7 FM on the dial or live streaming at wpvmfm.org), where I host a weekly jazz and talk show called Jazz on a Summer’s Day. You should know, you were my first guest! I also do unpaid work for the Vermont Studio Center, an
artist and writers’ residency program and retreat center. I serve on the board and do programming and DEI work. And I do advisory work for a few other literary organizations, have gotten involved in some local anti-racist groups, and do what I can to support Beloved Asheville, a nonprofit organization in town that does all kinds of amazing and necessary work for under-served and homeless populations.
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It’s a lot, I know. But I need to stay busy. And the times require all hands on-deck, don’t you think?
Absolutely. I’ve read your work—you’re gifted at combining different art forms like jazz music or visual art to create a fluid hybrid narrative. How do you accomplish that? Could you take us through your crafting process, editing, and revision? Thank you for saying that. I am a kind of many-potson-the-stove kind of writer/artist. Right now, I have a draft of a hybrid book (poems, prose poems, short prose pieces) that I am beginning to add photographs to. I have a book on my stepfather’s photographs— one hundred responses to my favorite 100 photographs he’s taken over the years. (I am an amateur snapshooter while he’s the real deal.) I have a few other projects sitting around, as well. Some paired with visual material, others just plain text. And it’s not uncommon for a piece to jump from one project to the other, and for that piece to transform from a
poem into a prose sketch in the process, or an essay morphing into a prose poem. A bit like shuffling a couple of decks of cards together. Over the years I’ve come to see myself as essentially a collagist. Everything I do is collage, from straight-up handmade paper collages to photomontages to writings that use collage technique. I collage when I revise (using mosaic technique, weaving and patterning techniques) and when I put together a collection of essays or poems, and I even collage when I put together radio shows. Juxtaposition is at the heart of all the art forms, but it stands out most clearly in poetry, jazz, film, photography, and collage. (I turn to jazz and film for inspiration and for techniques for my writing and my collage.)
How do you approach the publishing platform?
Do you know ahead of time what might be a good home for your projects? There’s sending work out to magazines, journals, and reviews; and there’s trying to get a book published. I used to send my poems and essays out everywhere, anywhere. I’d try for The New Yorker and would also send my work to any small contest listed in Poets & Writers. Now I just send work out to the places I like to read. It’s a good way to get familiar with the scene and a way to make sure your work fits the style and taste of the journal you’re submitting to. (If you’re really serious, order a copy or a year’s subscription). Lately, I’ve been leaning into online journals, which often do creative, out-of-thebox projects and seem more open on the whole to hybrid work. Slag City Review, Zocalo Public Square, Tupelo Review, & Blackbird are a few that come to mind. As for publishing books, I had a memoir come out from a big New York house at the beginning of my career. It didn’t do well, and I ended up with a small press based in L.A. that has published my poems and now a book of creative nonfiction for the last fifteen years or so. Recently, I have started dabbling in self-publishing, though I am open to any sort of relationship that feels dynamic and will get the book out there into the hands of readers.
Are there books you’ve read over the years that have profoundly impacted your life? If so, could you recommend a few and also mention the manner in which they’ve touched you? I think right away of James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son, which keeps teaching me about the power of
bravery and telling truth to power. And Baldwin is one of our great craftsmen. I am reading Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own, by Eddie S Glaude Jr., and early in the book he quotes Baldwin as saying: “I think I really understood and probably for the first time that what you are doing, as a writer, or any kind of artist, was not designed to, you know, to make you special or to even isolate you…What your role was, it seemed to me, was to bear witness. To what life is—does—and to speak for people who cannot speak. That you are simply a kind of conduit.” This speaks to me so directly, filling me with a hopeful clarity it’s hard to maintain these days. And hearing that Randall Kenan passed away, I think of his Walking on Water: Black American Lives at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century, which was an early model for my new book of encounters. He was a brilliant writer, a great teacher, and a lovely, kind man. Other books: Geoff Dyer’s book on jazz, But Beautiful. Russell Banks’ novels. Joan Didion’s work. Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. All of these works showed me what could be achieved
What’s the strangest habit or quirk you’ve ever done to get the writing juices flowing? Vladimir Nabokov composed all his work on index cards. Dan Brown uses inversion therapy—hanging upside down. Victor Hugo wrote without clothes (something I naturally did when I was revising my novel two summers ago). Friedrich Schiller relied on the smell of spoiled apples which he kept in his drawers, while busy Parisian streets and traffic
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inspired Gertrude Stein. What’s your peculiar maneuver? When I was a young man, I used to get high in order to write. Now I often take walks before, during, and after a writing session to process my thoughts and feelings. I often listen to music—jazz mostly, but also World music from Africa and Brazil. I need the trance and flow there behind the typing. But the most intense device I used probably came about when I was first composing Beginner’s Guide to Head-On Collison. More than likely I was approaching the subject too soon after the accident; but I felt the need to write the experience out, so I started out by writing one piece per day for a month—a poem, or a paragraph. Nevertheless, it still felt like I was approaching the accident from the side, not really going very deep. So I tried again a few months later, this time focusing on the moment just before the accident, then in the moments of the accident, then the first few minutes after, the first hour…One a day for 30 days. That was pretty far out of me, looking back at it, but it was what was required if I really wanted to get that heart of that traumatic experience. Or so I tell myself now.
Several writers have defined poetry—Czeslaw Milosz defined it as a “passionate pursuit of the real.” Rita Dove said, “Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.” In your own words, how do you define it?
Is there anything you’d do for writing but not (for) love? (This is a trap!)
For me, poetry is three things. It is the music that comes from the mind and body of a fully open and attentive poet/writer/ artist, often unbidden, usually coded and mysterious. It is the hard work of revision the poet/writer/artist engages in in order to best fashion that music into something truly unique and true. And it is the performance of speaking or singing those words out into the air for others to take in and appreciate.
I always laugh when people say that dogs don’t love us, they just want us to feed them. What’s the difference? The two aren’t mutually exclusive. I think the same holds true for writing and love. They’re not the same thing, of course, but they entangle easily. And neither really comes alive until they enter into your body, into the flow of daily life, and then, now fully activated and animated in your moment-by-moment life, how can you distinguish between them, how they nourish you, or why would you even try?
Brief extract from: Beyond Repair: Living in a Fractured State Blue Nude There’s a jazz to moving through a day in Manhattan, an openness to improvisation required—stepping into the street, finger raised for the next top-lit taxi—descending into subway tunnels, rushing up to the next car, slipping in before the doors jerk close—side-stepping a crowd of bundled up workadays or passing into an impromptu circus scene at the mouth of Union Square or lending an arm to the old woman stuck at the curb, made immobile by the ice. Deep into the last weekend of Matisse’s cut-outs at MOMA, the crowd converges in a room and circles the walls filled with playful collage, taking in all the bright color and whimsical shape, the flowing lines, moving in and out of each other’s sight lines, mumbling ‘sorry’s and ‘no problem’s. I position myself to get some face time with one of the four Blue Nudes—my eye moving back and forth along the figures. Taking a clandestine snap with my phone. Bending down to read about their genesis. Matisse’s assistant, Lydia, says “A small thing, blue on white. That was the start.” In the last room, everyone seems high on joy, laughing and nearly dancing with one another. We’ve been showered with such grace and play. Are reminded what hard work and perseverance in the face of death can accomplish. Walking out into the winter grey. Finding a bar to rest in, choosing a drink and a few appetizers. Letting our little table get lost in the group babble. Going back through the show together. One of us, an artist himself, shakes his head and says, “He was just an old man in bed with a pair of scissors. I fucking hate the guy.”
Bio Sebastian Matthews is the author of a memoir, In My Father’s Footsteps, and two books of poetry, We Generous and Miracle Day. His hybrid collection of poetry and prose, Beginner’s Guide to a Head-on Collision, won the Independent Publishers Book Award’s silver medal. Matthews is also the author of the collage novel The Life & Times of American Crow and the memoir-in-essays Beyond Repair: Living in a Fractured State. Learn more at sebastianmatthews.com.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
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Visual Interv 48
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
taylor thompson BY: clifford brooks
Please provide us with details about your road to self-expression. What makes you, you? I’ve always been a very eclectic and open person; I like crowd surfing at punk shows just as much as I like dressing up and going to operas. I try to say yes to new things, enjoy connecting with new and interesting people, and love swapping life stories. My mother is a teacher, and my father was a commercial pilot that flew both domestic and international flights, so I was fortunate enough to be exposed to a lot of different books, cultures, and experiences from a young age. I’m inspired by my culture and history as an African American woman, but I also love to learn and absorb new information and styles from diverse places and teachers. I’m fond of combining fluidity and structure in my work because I feel like those are my two halves, free-form creativity and Aquarius energy sharing space with an analytical and process-oriented mind.
Who inspired you from a young age to pursue your art? There have been a number of artists in my family, my aunt and great grandaunt painted, my cousin is a ceramicist, and my grandfather was a drafter. I have a lot of amazing relatives that empowered me to be myself and explore. My mother always encouraged and praised my creativity, even when I was staining the garage floor with spray paint while designing my own clothing or adhering found objects to my bedroom walls. I always took every art class that was available in school, and I had several supportive teachers motivate me as well. While I was a teenager, I started exploring graphic design and digital art, which is what I eventually went to college for. It’s become a happy middle-ground, balancing client and commercial design work with my own personal and purely creative projects.
How do you categorize your art and what’s the message behind it? I categorize my art as reflective because when I create something purely to create, it’s me sharing a part of myself in some
way or another. This series is about education and celebration. I wanted to create something that evoked a sense of pride and empowerment in being a Black American, especially against the backdrop of the news cycle and continuing injustices. It’s important to make moments for reflection and acknowledgement of past struggles and victories, and that’s what I set out to share by highlighting some amazing people throughout history.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
What are some of the biggest problems you see in the art world today? I think one of the biggest problems in the art world is gatekeeping and a lack of diverse representation at major museums. I would love to see more curators of color at these institutions to expand narratives and increase accessibility for people from different backgrounds.
What is your responsibility as an artist to your fans? My responsibility to anyone that enjoys my work is the same responsibility I have to myself: to be authentic, to be open, to explore, learn, and experiment always actively.
Who are your favorite artists and why? I have a near endless list of artists that inspire me! I’ll share a few of my current obsessions though: Kayla May, an artist out of Chicago who creates wonderful whimsical paintings that blend cartoons and realism, Toyin Ojih Odutola, who I was fortunate enough to hear speak during her ‘To Wander Determined’ exhibit in New York. She uses a stunning almost hairlike texture when painting and illustrating skin that I find mesmerizing.
And finally, James Jean, because everything he makes looks like it came from a dream world. I would also like to acknowledge the collective artists whose work went into the book The Design of Dissent, which has always been a point of continuing inspiration for me in how to use art for a cause.
What advice do you have for those coming up who want a life in art? I think if nothing else, make sure that you’re fully onboard with whatever you’re creating. Styles and tastes are subjective. Sometimes people will like your work, sometimes they’ll hate it, so in my opinion it’s not worth it to create for the sake of impressing others or mimicking anyone famous. Create for yourself.
What are you reading right now? I’m finishing up Toni Morrison’s The Source of Self-Regard, a collection of her essays on a variety of topics including empowerment, representation in the art world, and human rights. Next on my list is The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson which explores the Great Migration, the movement of six million African Americans from the South to the Northeast, West, and Midwest between 1910 and 1960.
How are you staying sane in the world of COVID? Aside from working through my reading list, I’ve been doing some solid nature exploring around Georgia, visiting Providence Canyon, Arabia Mountain, and Cloudland Canyon over the last few months. I’ve also been doing a lot of studio art, getting my hands dirty with some abstract acrylic paintings and collages. And finally, I rekindled a childhood hobby and picked roller skating back up! I’m not too impressive yet, but I’m working on my moves.
How can we keep up with you online? You can follow me on Instagram (@ fringemouse) for the most up to date personal and creative work, or contact me through my portfolio site at ohheytay.com.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Music Interv 54
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
bryan mullins BY: clifford brooks
Bryan Mullins, who are you? I’m a person who has been blessed my whole life. I’ve always known it but I have also been my own worst enemy. I had a nasty habit of holding on to negative comments and snide remarks about myself from others. I would latch on to them and bury them, like I was a dog saving a bone for later. I should have just told those people to kiss off and let it go. Hindsight is 20/20, right? I met my love in the second half of my 20’s and she told me “what other people think of you is none of your business.” It was the most refreshing realization, but it takes work to eliminate the concept of other people’s expectations from your consciousness. I’ve been putting in the work over the years and now I’m minding my own business and feeling downright happy.
necessarily supposed to be. My first solo gig was at The Rabbit Hole in Rome. Scott, my bud and bandmate, booked it and asked me what name to put on the sign. I said, “How about Muleskin Rawhide?” I was heavy into old blues at the time and had a friend in my school days that used to call me Muleskin, so I thought it was kinda cool. When I got there the sign said “Muletide Perkins.” I said, “Is that me?” He said, “Yeah, I forgot what you said.” So I figured that worked for me. I had a trio with McGizzle and Turn Slick. Ol’ Burnman joined later making a quartet. We played a good bit and had a blast. Local legend Clay Broome once advised to keep your name in the band if you were organizing it. I was pretty heavy into jazz by then so the trio and quartet made sense. Burnman is also the brains behind Stereotrash Records, responsible for an onslaught of recordings of NWGA artists over the last some odd years.
I’ve always felt a little off-kilter, and I have to watch my thoughts because I can go really dark on myself pretty quick sometimes. I’m working on it. Music is what best serves me to combat those thoughts. Whether it’s discovering new music, enjoying live music, travelling vicariously through time/distance through music, or making my own music, it makes me happy. I have always naturally gravitated towards others who share the same joy.
I decided to label my style as “slop”. When I was living in Statesboro there was a restaurant named Lee’s. It was off the beaten path and they had the best home cooking around. You walked up, chose your meat and sides. Dude plopped it all down on the plate. There were no divider plates. You only had a few bites before all the flavors started blending. By the time you reached your last bites it was an amalgamation of all the flavors, and it was heavenly. That’s how I refer to my style. A combination of all the flavors that I’ve soaked up over the years. Full slop, no divider plates.
This has been responsible for life-long friendships, unforgettable experiences, and a home life that I cherish. I’m grateful for people who share their music with the world, and I’m grateful for people who encourage me to share mine. So, for everything that has led me to where I am now, good or bad, I got no remorse. I just want to create and appreciate, be at peace, and enjoy every day for all it’s worth.
I’m currently jamming with Shanghai Slim, who has been a favorite drummer of mine for years. I’ve been having a blast with a project we call Hai-Tide (Shanghai + Muletide). He’s like a big brother to me and I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to conjure up so far. Hopefully, we’ll be able to share some recordings sometime soon.
You run a band named Muletide Perkins. How did the name happen and what flavor of tunes are you into? Muletide Perkins is an alias for my own self. It wasn’t
What are you reading? This year is the 25th anniversary of my high school graduation so I decided to read Catcher in the Rye. It was assigned reading in high school, but I didn’t give it the time it deserved. I may revisit other assigned books from high school. Why not? I was too distracted back then to give them the attention that my teachers would have hoped
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Photo credit: Chris Ozment and there is a reason they were assigned in the first place. I recently began These Truths by Jill Lepore. I guess I’m revisiting American history too. I know it can’t be a bad idea, and now seems like as good a time as any. I’ve also been reading Hardcore Zen by Brad Warner. It’s on loan from Shanghai’s library. It’s very interesting. Come to think of it, all of these that I’ve mentioned are helping me to understand my inability and lack of desire to slip into the “norm.” I guess that’s what I need right now.
Top 5 Favorite Bands and why you love them. That changes daily, if not hourly. There are so many great bands and there are lifetimes of material out there to study and enjoy. It’s overwhelming and beautiful. I can definitely list five bands that have been extremely influential to me. Beastie Boys. I was 9 when License to Ill came out and I saw the video for “Fight for Your Right” at my Uncle Stan’s house. He had satellite TV and tons of channels and somehow it appeared before me. This led me to the other Def Jam artists and then to the massive community of hip hop. They would later point me towards jazz and funk. Sonic Youth. I was helping my dad move furniture out of a house my stepsister had rented. We were moving some kind of entertainment center and a cd fell off from the top and hit me on the head. It was SY’s 1987 album, Sister. It permanently altered my concept of what was music. I went all in. They led me to the massive family of punk, avante garde, and noise rock, and again jazz. During an extended period of uncertainty in my life I used to tell people, “One thing I can always depend on is Sonic Youth. They always had an album in the works and were sure to be coming to town.” Unfortunately, that ended in 2011 but I’m not mad, just grateful for the experiences and the massive catalog. The Beatles. I, like everyone else, grew up knowing about The Beatles. But when I decided to dive in all the way I once again had my musical mind reconstructed. I know tons of folks can relate. Trying to learn their songs is a great way to learn chords and song structures. They led me to further examine the history of rock & roll, and the wide world of 60’s and 70’s rock in all its glory. Parliament/Funkadelic. I saw George Clinton & The P-Funk All-Stars at Lollapalooza ‘94. I had no idea what I was in for. This was before I was into “jam bands” and I didn’t really get it at first. It was one long jam that seemed to go in and out of songs that I somehow recognized from Dr. Dre, Snoop, and Ice Cube albums. I dug it, but it took me a while to come back around. When I did come back around, I went all in. My first listen to Maggot Brain was monumental. This led me to psychedelic rock and funk jams, which take root in jazz. Grateful Dead. I took interest too late to see them live, unfortunately. I didn’t grasp the weight of Jerry’s death. It was around ‘95 before I was made aware of what was going on here. Fortunately, there are countless hours of live recordings. It has been a wonderful study in many fields of the American experience, including blues, country, bluegrass, psychedelic rock, and yet again, jazz. I’m proud to see that the songs and the scene survives. Phish. I, like most, originally thought Phish fans were a bunch of weirdos. Then, with the help of one of my best friends who had already taken interest, I was reminded that I too was a weirdo, and should check it out. Once again, my concept of music was body slammed. I have had my face melted off more times from this band than any other. They are also responsible for some of the best memories and friends that I have ever had. They led me further into psychedelic rock, funk, mind-bending dance music, and of course, jazz. Whoops, that was six. I’ll stop.
How do we keep up with you online? Muletide.com will take you to the website, and there you can link to my social media presences. I used to be more active online but have taken a step back to refresh and reboot. I’ll get back on there when I start playing out in public again.
What bands keep you inspired? I find inspiration in the artists that have/had their own sound and just do their own thing. Folks like Tom Waits, Thelonious Monk, MF Doom, PJ Harvey, Doc Watson, The Kinks, The Who, NRBQ, John Hartford, Bjork, Howlin’ Wolf, Madlib... The list goes on and on. Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts!
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
neal francis BY: clifford brooks
Tell us about the 1970s – fantastic vibe you ride on, make brilliant, and rock into the faces of your fans. You bring funk, high energy, and soul into every song you create. How did you decide on that sound? The music I write ends up resembling a lot of the music I’m listening to. Most of what I listen to was created in the late 60s and early 70s so that’s the reason it sounds that way.
What about your youth shaped you as a musician? Who are your biggest influences? The most important factor was having a piano in the house where I grew up. My mom plays a little and would sit with me at the piano when I was a toddler and by four, I was taking lessons. The first pianists I fell in love with were Scott Joplin and George Gershwin.
Tell me about that keyboard you play with the whammy bar. How did you find it, or rather, how did it choose you? It carries a sliver of your signature sound. How did that come to pass?
The Whammy clav is a kit made by Ken Rich in LA. My buddy Max is a keyboard tech. He had the kit and wanted to install it in a beater clavinet we had purchased for $400. I was initially against the idea, but I’ve come to appreciate it as a unique and expressive instrument.
What is your creative process when writing songs? Do you collaborate with others? Do you create in a bubble? How do you get a song on paper from epiphany to performance? I’m trying to be more disciplined. There isn’t typically a formal process. I get ideas and record them as voice memos or jot something down. The “winners” from those hundreds of snippets get workshopped into solo demo versions and the best of those get recorded with the band.
I have had limited collaborations with other songwriters and some of them have been very fruitful.
What do you feel is your responsibility to your fans? To commit myself to my craft and create compelling art. A subjective criterion indeed!
What are you reading right now? Who are your favorite poets? Who
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
are your favorite songwriters?
you saw, and what effect did it have on you?
I’m re-reading “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn and a biography of William Blake by Alexander Gilchrest. I became interested in Blake when he was mentioned in “From Hell” by Alan Moore and started to connect the dots. His poetry and images are everywhere, notably the titles of some David Axelrod albums I love.
When I was 12 my dad took me to see Pinetop Perkins at Rosa’s Lounge. He was Muddy Waters’ piano player from ’69-’80. That was the first club show I ever went to.
What about William Blake’s poetry drew you in? Do you have any other favorite poets? I was first introduced to his artwork when I was doing a research project on Rockefeller Center in college. Some of his paintings were incorporated into the ornamentation. Over the years I came across references to his work in various settings but what really grabbed my attention was the story behind the painting “The Ghost of a Flea” which appears in the plot of Allen Moore’s graphic novel “From Hell.” He strikes me as such an odd and prophetic figure for his time. I have Songs of Innocence & Experience on my Kindle but I’m really just delving into his work.
What was the first concert
I was already a big fan of his playing. He was well into his 80s but still playing at a high level. I ended up playing a weekly residency at Rosa’s for about 3 years in my early 20s. I guess that was when I saw that it was really something you could do for a living, playing piano and making music.
What is your philosophy behind writing, performing, and the endearing quality of enduring music? I like what I like and what I create reflects my tastes. I wouldn’t say there is a philosophy as much as a desire to create things which I would enjoy myself. I want my records to deserve a place in my collection.
What is advice you would like to pass on to those hoping to make a living in music? Dedicate yourself to your craft and don’t hedge your bets. Don’t go to school for music unless you think it’s absolutely essential for what you want to achieve. Take council from those who are already succeeding and take their suggestions to heart.
How did you push through dark times of doubt as you climbed the ladder
of success in music? I believe I was guided through the dark times as opposed to making a concerted effort to push through them. It’s hard to explain but it feels like I’m along for the ride, not the pilot of the craft. This mode of thinking is healthier for me than trying to force my will on a given circumstance. I deal with periods of self-doubt and fear on a regular basis and there are a few actions I try to take in order to mitigate those emotions. Some days are better than others. When I’m busy is usually when I’m happiest.
How do you define your sound? Epic Monster Jamz
How are you dealing with this stressful time of Coronavirus? There’s days I’m dealing and other days I’m recoiling. We’re all on a journey together. What I should be doing usually includes meditation healthy eating exercise, etc.
How can we keep up with you online and buy you current music? Follow me on social media and buy my records and merch at www.nealfrancis. com
photos by : Liina Raud
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
MOVie review 64
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
movie reviews BY: tom johnson
hobias. We all have one and they provide fertile ground to horror film makers. So, I thought it would be interesting to explore some in my next few articles. Let’s kick things off with one of mine…Arachnophobia. Now I can’t bring myself to say I have a fear of spiders. It’s more of an intense and completely rational hatred. They should all be killed as quickly as possible with whatever weapon comes to hand. I will admit to once resorting to a paintball gun to get the job done but I am only a little proud of that. I am not alone in my fe…hatred of spiders and many movies have used them as their monster of choice. The following five movies stand out as the best of the bunch and if you can push through an involuntary shudder or two, I think you will enjoy the ride. (But seriously, if you are phobic, skip these and watch The Babysitter 1 and 2 on Netflix. Who needs the stress?)
Something WICKED THIS WAY COMES (1983)
As with most things, Disney was my indoctrination into how creepy spiders could be, even though they aren’t central to the plot. I’ve always wondered if this Ray Bradbury novel turned movie might have been an inspiration for Stephen King’s “Needful Things”. See if this sounds familiar. The story is set in a bucolic small town in the 1920s, where nothing ever seems to happen. But everything changes for two best friends Will and Jim, when the boys hear an unearthly train horn one night at midnight. The next day, the town residents find Mr. Dark’s carnival somehow fully set up and ready for business. As the adults make their way through the carnival, they are offered their hearts desire but once it has been granted, they disappear. The boys decide to find out what’s going on behind the scenes and stay after the carnival closes. They realize they are definitely up against dark magic when they witness the carousel making people younger or older depending on which direction it runs. It seems the carnival has come to town to collect souls. Now you are probably saying, “This all sounds interesting but what does it have to do with Arachnophobia? “When Mr. Dark decides he needs to abduct the boys to stop them from freeing the souls of the townspeople he uses spiders. In this famous scene over 200 tarantulas are sent crawling into Will’s room in the dead of night and I doubt I will ever forget the image. Maybe you will have better luck.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
BIG ASS SPIDER! (2013) This film is a mixture of a Godzilla movie and an action/comedy. So, for most of you, it will be a fun romp. For us spider haters, it’s our worst nightmare. The story starts off with our hero Alex, the bug exterminator, who is bitten by a spider while on a call. He goes to the hospital for treatment, but they are dealing with their own problem. A body arrived in the morgue with a large-ish spider inside that bit the coroner. Alex offers to kill it if they cover his bill and Jose the hospital security guard goes to help. The two starts searching for the spider, but it is on a hunt of its own. Using the A/C vents, the spider feeds on a few helpless patients and every time it feeds its gets bigger! The military show up and try to lockdown the hospital, but the spider breaks out. We soon learn that military scientists were using alien DNA as a growth hormone to grow bigger fruits and vegetables. Like all scientists in horror movies, they were apparently smart enough to end world hunger but not smart enough to see if their test produce had any spiders hiding in it. Luckily, a side effect of the procedure causes the spider’s webbing to be extremely flammable. In homage to King Kong, the film culminates with the massive spider on top of a downtown skyscraper, surrounded by the military. Our hero, the exterminator, formulates a plan to shoot the spider in the butt with an RPG to hopefully ignite its webbing. Even for Arachnophobes, this movie isn’t very scary except for the scene in a park that shows just how easily a large spider could tear through a bunch of panicking humans.
Eight legged freaks (2002) This movie uses the same basic premise as Big Ass Spider!, except it does everything better. It’s creepier, funnier and the effects are more realistic (for the time). It starts with an exotic spider farmer who frequently goes out to a nearby reservoir to collect crickets for his (ugh) herd of spiders. Little does he know that a truck has recently crashed, contaminating the water and therefore the crickets with toxic waste. This causes the spiders to grow in both size and appetite. They soon break loose and kill the farmer. A week later, a boy named Mike from the local town of Prosperity comes by for a visit. He is a spider enthusiast and is interested in new specimens, but he finds the farmer all webbed up. When the police come out to investigate, they find the toxic waste. Over the last week there have been a lot of missing pets and they start to piece together what happened. Especially after a giant spider is seen in the mines that run underground throughout the town, giving the spiders an all access pass. The story soon devolves into a glorious siege film with the remaining townsfolk trying to hold off the attacking horde of spiders by fortifying the mall as a last defense. Two things stand out about this movie. The first is that the spiders are always essentially muttering to themselves and sometimes you can almost make out words, it’s hilarious. The second is that the kills are never the same. Since the farmer has a lot of different species, you see each one do what they do best. Trap spiders drag people into hidden pits, jumping spiders attack speeding cars and tarantulas act like battering rams during the siege. It’s an extremely fun movie if you try not to dwell on the spider of it all.
ARACHNOPHOBIA (1990) To be honest, the list should probably stop here because I believe this is the scariest spider movie ever made even though it is technically a dark comedy. It starts in the Amazon rain forest where an entomologist and his photographer are searching for undiscovered insects. They find an aggressive new spider with a prodigious bite when one attacks and kills the photographer. They examine the spider and decide it must have been a soldier because it had no reproductive capability. Little did they know a fertile male snuck into the coffin with the photographer’s body before it was shipped back to his hometown of Canaima, California. We spend most of our time with Jeff Daniels who plays Ross Jennings, the new doctor in town. He is having a hard time because the other doctor was supposed to retire and leave him all the patients, but he reneged on the agreement. Upon arrival in town, the male spider escapes from the coffin and sets up shop in the barn behind Ross’s house. Did I mention that Ross has a crippling case of Arachnophobia? It probably won’t be an issue. The male spider mates with a domestic spider and creates hundreds of new soldiers that it sends out into the town to protect the nest. People start dying right and left but not in the campy ways seen in these other movies. These spiders are hunting the humans and they often stalk them until they jump out for the kill. This is when John Goodman steals the show as the local exterminator. He usually breaks the tension because he handles himself like a goofy cross between John Wick and the Terminator. Ross figures out that there is a second nest in town and if they don’t destroy it soon then the new batch could be able to reproduce, expanding the problem exponentially. The movie culminates with Ross overcoming his phobia while destroying the last nest and going face to mandible with the male spider that started it all. This movie will stick with you if you have a fear of spiders but it is worth the trauma.
KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977) I passionately believe that this movie started my hatred of spiders. I saw it when I was around 8 years old and it really got its hooks into me. I watched it again when I was older and found it scientifically inaccurate and honestly, a little boring but it still gave me chills. I’m not sure I would recommend it but I will give you the details and let you decide for yourself. It starts in a town called Verde Valley, Arizona with none other than William Shatner as Rack Hansen the town veterinarian. He gets a call from Walter Colby, a local farmer, because his prize calf is sick. Rack does some tests and discovers a massive amount of spider venom. This brings a spider expert named Diane to town to help with the problem. Soon after her arrival, the Colby family dog dies from an massive dose of spider venom. Rack and Diane search Colby’s property and find a giant spider hill filled with tarantulas. Diane comes up with the theory that since tarantulas will cannibalize each other, they must be banding together to take down larger prey. Plus, the surrounding areas have been using a lot of insecticide which is driving the spiders closer and closer to town. The next day, they head back out to burn the spider mound when the Colby’s bull breaks out of the barn covered in tarantulas. They burn the mound, but the spiders escape through a tunnel. Now the spiders start attacking humans. They cause Colby to crash his car then web up his dead body in the wreckage. Rack searches the farm again and this time he finds many more spider mounds. The mayor wants to douse them all with insecticide, but they kill the pilot who is supposed to disperse the poison. Soon the town is cut off and people are being killed right and left. The survivors fort up in the local lodge and try to withstand the spider onslaught. The final scene is what freaked me out the most as a kid. When the survivors venture out of the lodge, they find the entire town has been shrouded by miles and miles of spider silk.
“ f e s
t g Q s t B L B t w a
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
American Neolithic Terence Hawkins “This is a one-of-a-kind novel…Terry Hawkins is a bold and fearless writer.” Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers and Mrs. Fletcher
It’s the day after tomorrow. America is Police State Lite. The Bill of Rights has been swallowed by the Patriot Amendments. Science bends the knee to state-sponsored Creationism. The Supreme Court is powerless before the Patriot Tribunal and the Homeland Police upholding their motto, “Always Watching.” Enter Blingbling. Foreign-looking, undocumented, and apparently homeless, he’s implicated in a hip-hop murder. His lawyer, the hard-boiled Raleigh, keeps him from Homeland’s clutches until a routine DNA test exposes a secret that threatens to destroy his client, his career, and much more. Release Date: November 4. Pre-order at thecalliopegroup.com
the skin o dreams: new and collected poems 1995-2018
Quraysh Ali Lansana
“Quraysh Ali Lansana has woven a roadmap of poems and prophecy from Tulsa to Chicago, slowly breaking open the voices of history with each step. Follow the path on these pages to enter your own skin.” Tyehimba Jess, Pulitzer Prize winner, Olio
the skin of dreams is a remembering, an offering and a gathering of geographies. Traversing twenty-three years of earth and breath, Quraysh Ali Lansana’s first new and collected works roadmaps small town Oklahoma to southside Chicago in compelling poems that question, surprise and dare. As a direct descendent of the Black Arts Movement and last student of Miss Gwendolyn Brooks, Lansana explores the complicated internal and external terrain of Blackness and history from a post-King, post-Kennedy childhood through the election of the first non-White president while grappling with the definition of home. These are poems that cry, sing, scream and see.
Available now at thecalliopegroup.com
book review 70
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Skeleton Woman buys the ticket
BY Hester L. Furey BY: Clifford brooks
onesty: Skeleton Woman Buys the Ticket buys it with honest currency. Furey, detached, seeming to wander while paying close attention (in-person) – on the page she steps out with words like watercolors, vicious colors, without regard for the wishes of friends, family, strangers. In “Litany,” Go ahead, blame it all on me/I have a heart too easily made glad/more than my fair share of inner peace/I keep too many cats, debts, children/There have been too many other men/I was raised by wolves. Unassuming, haunting the places she physically visits, in her mythology, her self, in that expanse she is the spawn of wolves. “Poet’s Radio,” Tonight this room is full of ghosts./I can draw a blackout curtain/over my eyes but not my mind. Emerson, Ralph Waldo, and the transparent eyeball, the bravery of unsure footing, but not fearful. Furey is not a contradiction or paradox. A fair share of inner peace still comes with ghosts crouched in the soul’s corners. The beauty here is that none of it is stained by nostalgia or melodrama. You laugh with “American Literary History.” You can’t help it. Then, honestly wrought, “Hub” speaks: You are the center, my word of power,/my whole life a series of your spokes,/of radii beginning with you/in the short overlap between us. The collection speaks. Furey uses her lexicon, direct, aloof while whole-heartedly your (guarded) friend. There is a burden with love of purpose. Heavier still is it to love one burdened with that purpose. Furey visits the site where fifteen thousand lost their culture, but cringes more at the company there at her side. The transparent eyeball of nature is spun on its gentle curve and looks inward. The jungles and tendrils and wildlife we keep in hollows around our hearts gain a new accessibility in Skeleton Woman Buys the Ticket. Write what you know. Lies are a best fit in fiction. Hester L. Furey cements a place among Southern Surrealists with broad strokes of her life’s story. It’s our doorway into her and a window she climbs out of to stay far enough away.
Tell us a little about yourself. I’m from South Georgia. When I was born my parents lived in a cabin on the Americus side of the Flint River. My father died when I was not quite 8, and my mother spent a few years losing everything before we landed in Valdosta. During this time of chaos, I decided to become a writer and to get out of the South as soon as possible. Later I went to grad school in the Midwest and was surprised at how much I missed Southern voices. I became a specialist in literary history, hidden histories that require a lot of travel and archival research. I would go on these trips to rare book rooms, manuscript collections, museums, etc., and on the surface I was researching some political radical who wrote poetry, but I also scoured each place for anything that would help me with my subterranean peace project with the South.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Give us a few details to what made your book hum to life. As with so many other writers, most of my poems grew from dissatisfaction. Poetry has long been a method of problem solving for me, a way to re-see experience and achieve reconciliation. I came back to Georgia 25 years ago and eventually got somewhat into a good place again with my family. I still keep changing my life in ways that they often do not understand or approve of. That’s why I chose the figure of Skeleton Woman as an alter ego – in the myth she’s a bad daughter who has been cast out but comes back randomly in a fisherman’s net and survives.
What are a few of your favorite poems in the book? I decided a long time ago that I didn’t want to be one of those old sad bastard writers. So I love the ones that are salty and absurd, like “Atavism” and “American Literary History.” They made me laugh a lot when I was writing them. “When Your Skin Tells You” and “Identification of Trees in Winter” represent the ends of my poetic development within the book. Some of the love poems – “Arrival,” “The Wife,” and “Shadows and Light” – I hold dear because I get to keep a little bit of “gold” from a life that’s gone.
What are a few favorites your readers chose that surprised you? My cousin Angie liked “Brides.” My great-great grandmother (Angie’s 3rd great), Betty Cravey, was a healer known for talking away burns and wounds. Angie, who is deceased now, thought that was a great way to be remembered. I took “Rock” to a writing group and was surprised that people found it very funny in places. A lot of people seem to like “That Woman,” which I don’t think of as one of my best, but we never know how work will land with others.
What is your next project looking like? Five years ago, I took a buyout to quit my full-time job teaching at an arts college, sold my house, and leaped into the unknown. I also went through menopause and lost my mind for a while, but that turned out to be a good thing. For a while I had trouble knowing what was real. Then a friend suggested I re-read The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams, and I began working on a series of poems about modernist doctor-writers who experienced mental health issues that changed their writing. In a way I took my own advice from the last poem in Skeleton Woman Buys the Ticket, “To a Prince in Time of Trouble”: I found a kind of hieratic narrative to make sense of my personal experience. That sequence, which includes figures like Williams, Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, Zora Neale Hurston, Gertrude Stein, Frida Kahlo, Robert Oppenheimer, and Freud, is nearly complete now.
How do we keep up with you online? I’ve been terrible about this side of things. I have a personal profile on Facebook. I keep a profile on Academia.edu for scholarly work. That’s it for now.
The book is available at: https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/ skeleton-woman-buys-the-ticket-by-hester-l-furey/
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
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interview with the book trailer ninjas BY: Clifford brooks
The Book Trailer Ninjas: Where did you start and how did you name it? When book trailers began, they were bad. Then they got better. Then they got amazing. We started somewhere between better and amazing. Originally our style was to make vintage book trailers using archival footage. We still do that, but now we also make animated book trailers. Why the Book Trailer Ninjas you ask? Ninjas are known for excellence and deep focus. All fields have ninjas. Why not book trailer makers?
What philosophy runs your company? Authors deserve quality book trailers that make people want to watch. Authors are the chosen people. We are chosen to help them. We are the Book Trailer Ninjas.
How do you make advertising books your
own? By slicing footage together using our keen book trailer making ninja style. To do this, you must understand the book, its tone and characters, and the authorâ€™s vision. Authors are also ninjas. Many of them.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
What projects do you have out and what can we look forward to? Expedition by Chuck Palahniuk is among our book trailer projects. https://vimeo. com/141988961
How can we keep up with you online? https://booktrailer.ninja/ twitter.com/sociableninjas
interview with BRENDAN O’CONNELL BY: Clifford brooks
How did you live life before the vocation of manager with Neal Francis and others? Who were you in those years? I moved back to Chicago in 2005 after graduating college and traveling the world for a few years. My stated objective was to “make it” as a musician. As soon as things started to go south, I told myself, I’d give up the ghost and go back to school for a PhD (probably to study African American History). 15 years have gone by and a return to academia seems more distant than ever. I started my journey in Chicago by playing in the blues scene and starting my own band. That project evolved into The Right Now, a seven-piece pop/ soul outfit complete with matching suits, a great lead singer, horns, and all the trimmings. We put out three albums and toured from California to New York. I was always driving the creative and business decisions in the band-writing songs, dealing with bookings, lining up producers, networking with other musicians and industry folks, etc. I loved writing songs and rehearsing with the band, but I also found myself increasingly fulfilled with the “managerial” side of running a band: pinching pennies to pay for a tour or record, sorting out promotional strategies for a new single, following up with agents and managers and label owners. It felt just as good to book a gig or make a connection as it did to play a show. Eventually I formulated a ten-point outline for DIY album releases that I brought to meetings with fellow DIY Chicago musicians. We’d grab a beer or coffee and I’d try to help them formulate a plan for their career, or perhaps come to grips with the fact that they liked music as a hobby more than a true vocation. During these years I also met my wife (and two step kids), had another kid, ran a music lesson business, and did a whole bunch of other stuff that resulted in having too many jobs and too little time. When I met Neal in 2017, I had all the tools to manage but was still holding on to the idea that I’d make it as a “musician” instead of the industry side of things. Working with him has been so rewarding because I’ve been able to realize all the tools that I’ve learned in the past 15 years.
What motivates you? Winning. Whether it’s landing a huge festival or finding the best deal on a new trailer for the band gear or coming in under budget on a tour, I am motivated by the satisfaction of doing my job well and serving my client as well as I possibly can. I’ve been obsessively reading Robert Caro’s four volume history of LBJ during the pandemic and one of my favorite lessons from it is that LBJ would “do everything” to succeed, even against long or overwhelming odds. He did this repeatedly throughout his life and it worked (I mean, he became president, right?). If I believe in my client then that’s how I’ll proceed. I’ll do everything in my control to make sure we succeed.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
How can people get into your line of work while sidestepping drama? Work hard and being nice to people. I have a print that says exactly that above my desk at home. The common thread between all managers is that they are extremely hard working and know how to hustle. It’s not easy to be in this line of work and if you aren’t willing to put in long hours and have a great attitude, you won’t go far.
What do you want your legacy to be? That’s an odd question to contemplate since I really feel like I’m at the beginning of my management journey (even though I’ve been working as a musician since 2005). I suppose I’d like people to remember that I would do anything for my clients (drop everything, rent a van, and drive 7 hours after Neal’s died on the side of the highway) and that I always treated people with respect and kindness.
Please tell us about your agency and how we can keep up with it and you. The Byrd Agency is my own boutique management company founded in 2018. You can follow me on Instagram at @thebyrdagency.
interview with FREDDIE ASHLEY OF
THE ACTOR’S EXPRESS BY: Clifford brooks
Let us begin in the now before we kick back to the beginning. Tell us about the roots of Freddie Ashley. I grew up near Rome, Georgia. My family was closeknit. I come from a long line of hard-working, blue collar people. One of the things instilled in me from an early age was the value of a solid work ethic. My father worked insanely long hours for not a lot of money, but I never once saw him complain. This is something I’ve always carried with me. I always have had a conflicted, even at times ambivalent, relationship to my hometown. On one hand, I appreciated how I saw community and neighborliness modeled. On the other, it was a conservative and constrictive place that offered a great deal of pain along the way for someone like me. Looking back, I was always walking the line between being on the inside and being on the outside, generally feeling the latter most prevalently.
You have said that your youth did not have much exposure to the arts. How did you end up an actor? I was involved in a local boys’ choir from the time I was around nine years old until I was a teenager. That was my sole exposure to the arts. But it was transformative. It was how I discovered classical and sacred music and got to travel a great deal as we toured every summer. Since I didn’t have many friends at school who were boys, it was also a really
validating environment to form healthy friendships with other boys. In the choir I was popular, unlike my school experience. Because it was such an affirming experience, I think I leaned into it a little bit harder. I was a decent singer but not a great singer, so I didn’t have any inclinations toward studying music in college, but I was being pulled to a creative life all the same. Why I chose theatre is still a mystery; my school had no theatre program to speak of, apart from going to a one-act play competition my sophomore and junior years. That was the extent of my theatre experience before choosing to major in theatre. As an inexperienced freshman with a very thick southern accent and no breath support in my speaking voice, I was told by a professor I had no business pursuing acting. Fortunately, I have an oppositional streak when offered unsolicited advice. I vividly remember thinking in that moment, “Fuck you, I’ll show you who has no business being an actor.” So I worked really hard through college and three years of an MFA program, and I became an actor. And as it turns out, I don’t think I have a ton of natural ability as an actor. Anything I’ve done well has been the work of training and my lived experience. When I discovered directing, I realized it made more sense to me and that I actually have a lot of natural talent in that area. I’ll never leave performing forever but directing is where my strengths lie and where I’m happiest.
You keep no secrets in your creative process as a director Why do you hold open rehearsals? Why do you think so many refuse them? I prefer an open, accessible process. There’s nothing
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020 precious about my process and I don’t believe in holding onto it too tightly. I’m an artist, but I also see myself as a craftsperson, so I enjoy the energy of additional eyes on the process. I also think that because theatre is an inherently collaborative art form, I’m somewhat conditioned to keep the process open to observation. That said, there have to be very real limits. There are certain rehearsals that should remain closed if the material is raw, if there is physical intimacy in the scene, if the performers are feeling vulnerable for any reason, or for any other reason that could threaten the emotional safety of the actors or the flow of their creativity. So I would never be cavalier about my preference for an open process and will always be respectful of the boundaries needed by the actors to keep the creative space safe because acting can take you to such vulnerable places. But by and large, I think there’s value in having interested people, students and others observe a process. I think some directors find that a little threatening, or they may believe that outside energy in the room might dilute the focus of the process.
In conversation you and I have talked about the heavy sacrifices one must make to follow their passion for the arts. How have you dealt with this and how have those sacrifices made you not only good at your job but a happier person? I’ve given up a lot. Mainly financial security. I’ve also given up lots of things like social life, vacations and family time.
Work/life balance is hard in this field. But I’ve learned that it’s really easy to get addicted to the work. And so I try to engage more consciously with my work/life balance and be more present within my family and with my partner, who actually backed away a little from his life as a performer in part because of its tendency to consume so much of your life. Fortunately, he’s very patient with my need to create work and the time that takes away from us. One thing I’ve done as I’ve gotten older is try to impose limits. For example, I don’t answer work emails on the weekend. I just don’t do it. My staff knows that if they need me for something pressing on a weekend they should call or text. During the COVID shutdown I’ve been working from home and so I set a pretty firm close of business and stop looking at work at a certain time if possible.
Which hat do you prefer to wear, that of an actor or director? Why? Definitely the director hat. It fits so much more easily. I’m never happier than when I’m in rehearsal doing scene work with actors.
What is a question you’ve been asked so many times you never want to hear it again? How did you learn all those lines?
What advice do you have for those coming up who aspire to a life in the theater? Be ambitious, but don’t be ruled by your ambitions. Have an ironclad plan for your life and then don’t be afraid to smash it to bits. I’ve done that I can’t tell you how many times. I also tell young artists I mentor always to work a little harder than the person they’re standing next to, and also to be a little nicer than the person they’re standing next to. Ironically, I also like to remind people to be wary of unsolicited advice, especially when it comes in the form of telling you what you shouldn’t do. I’ve been given so much colossally bad advice over the years by really smart and well-intentioned people. Yes, seek advice when necessary. But don’t listen when others give you advice about what you shouldn’t do. Early in my career, I had an amazing opportunity to become a dramaturg at the Alliance Theatre. A former grad school professor (whom I admire very much and with whom I still have a friendship) told me it was a bad move because it would distract me from my acting. Really? A job on the artistic staff of one of the largest and most respected theatres in the country is a bad move? And then my boss, the senior dramaturg there at the time, advised me to give up acting because it would distract from my work as a dramaturg. Instead, I continued to do both, and these experiences combined to make me a very good director. What if I’d listened to either of them?
What drew you to Actor’s Express? How is it different from other acting companies and how do you feel about your role within it? I first encountered Actor’s Express in 1994 when I was doing summer stock in LaGrange, Georgia. They brought us to Atlanta to see a show at this really cool theatre in town and turns out it was Actor’s Express. The production was electric, and I said to my friend afterwards, “I have to work for this theatre someday.” And when I was in grad school in the late 90s, I used to read American Theatre magazine at the local bookstore because I couldn’t afford to buy it. And I would see occasional articles about Actor’s Express and think, “that’s that cool theatre I remember.” When I moved to Atlanta, AE was doing the most consistently excellent work in town and there was a fearlessness to it. That’s the kind of theatre I have always wanted to do. I first performed there in 2002 and continued an association
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020 until I got the opportunity to direct a play there in 2006. A year later I became Artistic Director.
What are your top five favorite plays you’ve directed? Why? 1. The Crucible by Arthur Miller – It opened the day after Trump’s inauguration and the play rang loudly in everyone’s ears. Our entire approach to the production was informed directly by the current moment. This play normally takes almost three hours and our production clocked in at just over two. We didn’t cut a single word and I never asked an actor to speak quickly. But we reconnected to an urgency inside the text that animated the play in new way. 2. Murder Ballad – This is a little-known rock musical about a love triangle that ends in murder. I always enjoy investigating the way to blur the lines between the audience and the performance and in this production we created an immersive experience by transforming the theatre into a bar and had the play take place in and around the audience. It was thrilling, and by far my favorite musical I’ve directed. 3. Serial Black Face by Janine Nabers – This was a world premiere play that took place against the backdrop of the Atlanta Child Murders. It was a provocative and disturbing exploration of the pockets of vulnerability that create the kind of environment in which such an atrocity can take place – an atrocity, by the way, that our city was all too eager to relegate to the dustbins of history. We found it to be a divisive play for our audiences and I loved that it forced a lot of white audiences to confront deeply internalized racism and misogyny. 4. Skintight by Joshua Harmon – My association with playwright Joshua Harmon goes back a decade. This is one of his most recent plays and it is about America’s obsession with youth, sex and physical beauty. Our production at Actor’s Express was a real high point for me. 5. Fun Home by Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron, based on the memoir by Alison Bechdel – This is one of the greatest musicals of the last 20 years. Playwright Lisa Kron adapts Alison Bechdel’s landmark memoir in the most beautiful way, and the entire thing is buoyed by Jeanine Tesori’s beautiful score. We produced it at Actor’s Express earlier in 2020 and I loved how our small, intimate space held the story. It was an emotionally rich experience for our audiences.
What qualities in someone stand out to you that make a good actor? For me, the best acting is always focused on finding the truth of the moment. That can mean many different things across various styles, but a sense of truth is key. And that comes from an actor being highly sensitive to other people and to the world around them, as well as having a highly developed sense of self awareness. I also find that my favorite actors tend mostly to be highly empathetic people who are able to listen deeply. It’s possible to be talented and kind of a shitty person, I suppose, but eventually that’s going to show up in the work. Acting is about exploring the most essential aspects of what it means to be a human, so I believe the best acting is rooted in a deep respect for the human experience and, by extension, other human beings.
What bad habits do some actors exhibit that make sure they won’t get the part? Selfishness. Because of the vulnerabilities involved with acting, it’s so easy for actors to become ego-driven as a means of self-protection and preservation. But there’s no room for that. Truly. Those tendencies can show up clearly as red flags in an audition. I have a practice of always asking the person who is working the sign-in table at auditions if any of the actors were rude to them in the lobby. Toxic habits are deadly to a healthy creative process.
Photo Credits: Actor’s Express production of The Crucible by Arthur Miller. Pictured from left: Lucy Gross, Tamil Periasamy, Jonathan Horne (photo by Chris Bartelski) Page 83 Actor’s Express production of Serial Black Face by Janine Nabers. Pictured from left: Tinashe Kajese, Gilbert Glenn Brown (photo by BreeAnne Clowdus) Page 83 Actor’s Express production of Skintight by Joshua Harmon. Pictured from left: Jake Berne, Wendy Melkonian (photo by Casey Gardner) Page 83 Freddie Ashley (photo by Kevin Harry) Page 84 Actor’s Express production of Angels in America by Tony Kushner. Pictured from left: Parris Sarter, Grant Chapman (photo by Ashley Earles-Bennett) Page 86
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interview with kevin fowler of
voodoo element productions BY: Clifford brooks Kevin Fowler: Childhood friend, insanely gifted artist, and recently devoted screenwriter. Give us some details about your life to fill in the blanks. You are too kind sir, and maybe a tad generous with the accolades, but ‘Thank You’, nonetheless. I’m extremely humbled just at the opportunity to be even a brief part of such an innovative piece of work you have here. In short, born in the outskirts of Atlanta and proudly raised in Pickens county, as you well know, which is nestled in the lower foothills of the Appalachians with my brother and a set of parents that still I Thank God for to this day. In late 2008, a change of careers moved me out of the state, bouncing from Virginia, then back down across the Southeast until I was blessed enough to land in the Lonestar State, where I still ‘hang my hat’, just outside of Austin with my wife, Jennifer and our family, some of which are with us locally and some still back in Georgia.
How did you become drawn to screenplays? You tell me brother and we’ll both know! Seriously, best guess? A countermeasure to an artistic ‘Sensory deprivation’...or a form of ‘imaginative evolution’...whichever sounds better going down to the consumer, to me, it was a ‘Salvation’, for a while. Meaning that, as you mentioned in the intro, I ‘was’ a semi-decent artist, but being asth-
matic early in my childhood, it spawned from necessity. I couldn’t play outside and stretch my imaginative legs like the other kids my age, but in learning to adapt to my limitations at the time, it actually enhanced it I suppose. So much so that I turned to pencil and paper, ‘releasing’ it, to put it more appropriately. Then, as life often does as you grow older and one’s priorities change, family/career, etc. things got pushed aside...’repressed’...and ‘yes’ I am choosing my words carefully here, to the point that not unlike a pencil that once was sharp, turned dull... and that once channeled form of necessary expression, now muted, still needed an outlet...all I know is it gave me a whole new meaning to, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words.’
You’ve mentioned being haunted by your characters until they’re on paper. Please explain that to us - the author’s haunting. ‘Haunted’, ‘inhabited or frequented by a ‘Ghost’, a disembodied spirit of something or someone...imagined. Before, because it was something I had seen or read previously, I had a specific characters image already in mind, I could knock it out, clear and move on to the next, but with an ORIGINAL character, not only do you see them in your mind, you know, and only you, who the y are...good, bad, ugly, and where they were, are and going to be. Add to this, additional characters just as detailed, whether heroic, flawed, terrifying or damned they are, so layered and interwoven into one another that the stories that they ‘whisper’ to you goes back for years, years...and the only sounding board they have, for now, are the keystrokes of the tormentor that put them there in the first place.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
What can you tell us about the projects you’re working on? Hmm, I can tell you that there are two primaries, and I apologize in advance for being a little vague... One is an original piece, that I have touched on briefly, that is designed for a theatrical introduction built to be drawn down into a streaming series, with at least one spin off . It is a very hard core, supernatural in origin, military drama that spans decades, so grounded in reality that it will change everything you thought you knew about what goes bump in the night. The second, is a treatment on a prominent proprietary property that is designed for a streaming series on a particular platform, that finally addresses THE question every fanboy/girl has wanted to know the answer to for say, the last 40 or so years. Another one, still in super early development, a violent drama period piece, toned with modern overtures, exploring right vs righteous. So, for those keeping score, two are throat punches and the other, is the one you have to schedule vacation days around...hopefully.
Give is a peek into your production company. What’s it called and how is it innovative? Voodoo Element Productions are a bridge between what you want in a major label but with a dash of independent filmmaking. What I mean by that is that there is a major studio out there now that was so bankrupt in the early 90’s, that it had to sell off some of it best properties, and what put it back on the map and the very top for that matter was giving opportunities to writers and directors that were ‘fans’, and when you give passionate people, passion projects you get prominent work. For me, personally, I do work that I could care less if I make ONE DOLLAR on as long as I get to see it come to fruition, and that not only translates but is universal.
What’s your philosophy on living a good life? Cliff, it took me a long time, and a lot of wrong turns, wrong decisions, full of heartbreaks and headaches to learn that there’s no such thing...it’s a T-shirt, a heavy cotton one at that. The real ‘goal’ is a peaceful life. The life you can wake up in the morning, go to the bathroom and look in the mirror and say, ‘I’m ok with that’ and mean it, that’s the winner.
However, you get there, whatever that looks like, whoever it’s with, or without, it’s not a ‘noun’, ok, a ‘person, place or thing’, right? It’s a ‘feeling’, and not a feeling about someone else, but about yourSELF. Some people will say that’s conceited, and I will say those people are still looking too. Y’know, some of the most influential moments in my life I have found in the places I have least expected, there is a scene from a movie, where these two guys are driving the wrong direction on the highway, and a car on the other side of the right rolls the window down and yells ‘ You are going the wrong way!’, the two guys look at each other and say, ‘How do they know where we are going?’...powerful.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
the red phone booth nashville BY: Clifford brooks
door opens, that familiar sound, and then - the sound of possibility. Bobby met me and showed the way, beginning with a handshake and understanding between us, like a Jay Gatsby smile. One of those rare smiles with a quality of reassurance in it. Beneath the hand-painted, back-lit ceiling, light filters, casting calming, amber hues like Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain. We weave our way through the joint, 1920’s inspired decor, across the brick floors to lounge on high-backed Italian leather sofas. Others sit at a cozy distance, trading stories, eating gourmet bites—worries rolling away like tears in the rain. Despite the scare of COVID-19, the place feels safe and serene. We’ve entered the Red Phone Booth. We’ve entered a secret, a speakeasy, hidden in the heart of downtown Nashville, Tennessee. A secret passcode is required for entry. My thick fingers are numb and awkward, but my mind is nimble—clearer in the cold. No vicious Dorothy Parkers here! The crowd is keen and top drawer. There is a dress code, but nothing snooty. In fact, “snooty” never takes center stage. Everyone looks swell. The whole joint kept its cool and the cool stayed put. Right away, I know this ain’t your average gin-mill. At the honey onyx bar, a team of drink doctors tend and heal, wielding concoctions named “vaccines” and “prescriptions”. And the impressive array of top shelf liquors (180 whiskeys to be exact) guarantees a cure for what ails. And baby, Gatsby’s got a fever! Like the bar, respect is paid to the custom-built humidor featuring over 130 distinct selections. This is not “a cigar bar.” It’s the granddaddy of sophistication. Just another example of how The Red Phone Booth
makes every effort to ensure your satisfaction. And the wangdoodle? It’s smokin’—spanning from the Rat Pack to Earth, Wind, and Fire. More than once, conversation stopped to say, “I love this song.” We stay that way, my friend and me. Enjoying the night. Both of us boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. Basking in the Gatsby glow of the Red Phone Booth’s smile—a thing concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. This is the second in a two-part feature on the Red Phone Booth. Please slide over to our spring 2020 issue for all that’s good in the Atlanta location. Don’t do that now! Get in where it’s good and swim through this interview first. https://issuu.com/ collectivemedia/ docs/blue_ mountain_ review_18_ april_2020 page 157
Bobby – The General Manager
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
What drew you to be the GM of the Red Phone Booth? I started off as the AGM. When I got the call, I wasn’t so sure about it. Leather couches and cigars...it all sounded like a country club to me - Not really my thing. I was invited down to the Atlanta location to get the full experience. I walked in on a Friday night and immediately changed my mind. The room was full, the energy was upbeat, and people were having fun. It wasn’t the somber experience that I was expecting.
What does your spot have that other clubs in town miss? I think the area in which we offer the most compared to others is the experience. Nowadays there are lots of places to find craft cocktails, cigars, comfortable seating, and good food. Rarely do you find it all together in a low-key place. But I am a firm believer in that service over product will bring back 99% of customers. I believe that with the atmosphere, product, and service we provide, we give people a great experience that they want to relax and stay in. It’s why our visit times are a great deal longer than your everyday place. The simple things of getting to know someone by name, taking the time to give a tour, and explain all the attention to detail that went into the place, sitting down and helping to broaden horizons on whisky, cigars, and everything else that we do.
Please tell us how you keep your customers safe in this time of COVID. We put in to each Smokeeater but also our HVAC as well Needlepoint Bi-polar Ionization units. They are proven to kill 99.4% of all static COVID-19. We also use Monofoil. It creates a barrier and kills everything that touches it. We are naturally social distanced with our layout and we stagger our reservations so that not everyone arrives at one time. Our staff wear masks, and we check all staff temps daily.
Jessica Connors – Team Member
What keeps your blood pumping? The guests! There is nothing more satisfying than watching someone walk into our venue for the first time. It’s not uncommon to hear that new guests often make an evening out of coming to the Phone Booth, but their experience doesn’t stop when they find the code- that’s just the beginning! Whether the person walking through the door be a member or first-time guest, it’s exhilarating knowing that I get to be more than just a familiar face and key part of their experience!
How do you light up the Red Phone Booth? As part of the opening crew, I pride myself in being able to say that I have been a constant for our members. I enjoy this industry because it allows me to make others happy, and there truly isn’t anything that I want more than that. I am personable, approachable, and most importantly - I care. I care about the guests, about my fellow team members, about upholding the company’s values, and I care about the experience that everybody has when they step through the door. There are no two team members that are alike, in fact we complement one another almost perfectly. We are a small, tight knit crew with a lot of heart and our RPB leadership team makes it easy to be ourselves!
What are people missing out on if they don’t crash here? They are missing out on the perfect mix of comfort, craftsmanship, and accommodation. It is not often that you find a bar or hangout that can provide all these things without the ominous glow of pretentiousness hanging over your shoulder. Service aside, no expense was spared in the making of our venue. Between the iron work, hand painted glass ceilings, and prohibition style decor, everything just fits! Not to mention the state of the air filtration system, Neapolitan style pizzas made from an imported wood fired over, made from scratch shareables, and vast selection of premium cigars and spirits, I don’t see why anybody would not want to experience Red Phone Booth!
What makes you happy here? I’m so thankful to be part of something that has made its mark as a must-see destination for so many people in such short time. Knowing that I work for a company that cares so deeply about their staff and guests has made it easy to fall in love with my job here at Red Phone Booth!
Joshua Jackson – Head Bartender You’ve a distinct presence. You do not overwhelm. You are cordial but quietly serious with every drink you make. How did mixology become your passion? Oddly enough, I got started in a small bar in central Florida slinging basic highballs and beer. I did that for about 7 years just for some extra cash and was kind of growing weary of the job. It just seemed to be the same thing each day same clientele, same jokes and conversations, and I was honestly looking to get out. One day a friend suggested looking into a new restaurant concept that was opening and felt I would benefit from an environment like that. So, I checked it out and met who would be my mentor, coming out of Chicago. He opened my eyes to a whole new world, something more creative a culinary adventure in alcohol if you will. And from there I’ve looked to find new and unique experiences in this field.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
You don’t wear a costume and your tattoos are deliberate, not ironic. What does your cut say about you? (This kinda made me laugh in a good way.) If I had to say it would be, unintentionally put together. I grew up in a military household, so it was pretty much instilled in me to dress with purpose no matter what the occasion, as well as to take pride in your appearance. (Though I’ve become much laxer than what I grew up with.) As far as the rest of my style in tattoos and such it’s been far from deliberate very little of my work has meaning, I’ve just always enjoyed the art of it, I actually use to tell my mother at 4 years of age that I was going to get tattooed.
What are you reading right now? The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck by: Mark Manson Making Sense Of The Troubles by: David Mckittrick & David McVea
What advice do you have for those who wish to attain the excellence you clearly wield? How do you maintain balance? It takes thick skin to be in this environment and you really have to be able to roll with anything at any point in the hospitality industry. You must pay close attention to your surroundings. For me, I’ve always been the type of person to thrive in chaos. It weirdly centers me and keeps me focused. In this industry there is always something new, some form of chaos, so I strive to constantly learn from my environment and earn at least one new thing every day in my field. I support the American Brain Tumor Association. Not a lot of people know, nor do I talk about it much, but I lost my father in 2018 over a truly short two months experience of glioblastoma.
Red Phone Booth Installs State-of-the-Art Air Purification Technology One of Nashville’s newest hot spots, Red Phone Booth has installed the latest in air purification technology. Global Plasma Solutions’Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization (NBPI) technology purifies the air by eliminating airborne particulates, odors and pathogens. During the cleaning process, the NPBI technology attacks and kills viruses, mold spores and bacteria. The ions steal away hydrogen from the pathogens, leaving them to die, and leaving you with clean and healthy indoor air. The GPS NPBI technology also reduces airborne particles (i.e., dust and pollen) through agglomeration. The ions attach to the airborne particles and are then subsequently attracted to one another, effectively increasing their mass and size. The air filtration technology easily captures the larger particles, increasing the capture efficiency of the HVAC system.
This revolutionary air filtration technology is currently used in many hospitals like Boston Children’s Hospital, the Mayo Clinic and Houston Memorial Hospital Baylor UMC as well as The White House and major universities like Clemson University and Harvard University.
Red Phone Booth’s new cleaning protocols also includes frequent sanitizing measures of all surfaces and seating using healthcare grade disinfectant MonoFoil™D that kills 99.9% of bacteria on surfaces. This EPA approved solution bonds to most surfaces providing a germ barrier for 30-60 days. Other safety measures include member only reservations, staggered arrival times, half capacity, social distancing seating and frequent sanitization procedures.
“Safety for our members is of the utmost importance to Red Phone Booth,” said Stephen de Haan, Founding Partner. “We were already familiar with the latest in air purification because we offer an extensive cigar program for our members. We are excited to now have this new technology and we’ve implemented a number of new disinfecting procedures to help us provide the best experience possible.”
Owned and operated by de Haan and award-winning actor, whiskey and cigar enthusiast Michael Cudlitz, Red Phone Booth successfully opened its speakeasy concept in December of 2019 in the heart of downtown Nashville at 136 Rosa Parks Blvd. The upscale establishment has adjusted its hours to Thursday – Saturday from 4:00pm to 11:45pm. The exclusive lounge will once again be open to the public as the city allows for larger capacity. For more information about the Red Phone Booth visit www.redphonebooth.com
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
More About Red Phone Booth Nashville: Showcasing the 1920’s speakeasy theme, Red Phone Booth’s cocktail menu features an extensive selection of rare bourbon, whiskey, scotch and Japanese whisky selections. Patrons will notice the finest attention to detail that provides for exceptional cocktails including 100% fresh squeezed juices such as blood orange, mango, and cranberry, hand chipped double-reverse pass osmosis ice, garnishes cut to order, a collection of some of the rarest liquors available and over a dozen tinctures, bitters and flavoring agents to help breath new depth. Red Phone Booth is also known for its tasting events where guests not only sample a flight of whiskey, but also engage and learn the spirits’ history from key leaders in the
industry. Cigar enthusiasts can enjoy a wide variety of blends in a cleansed and refreshed air atmosphere. There is a 100% fresh outdoor air system accompanied by five 2,500 CFM air purifiers. In developing the humidor, Red Phone Booth prioritized quality and desirability of the cigars over quantity of any one brand, therefore will continually bring in fresh new inventory. The 5,200 square foot venue features restored original brick and reclaimed tobacco barn wood floors, a honey onyx bar, intimate fireplaces, custom Italian leather couches, and hand-painted ceiling with back lighting. A private room in the back is also available to rent for private events. Red Phone Booth’s goal is to provide each guest with the most memorable experience, always looking for opportunities to exceed each customer’s expectations, while maintaining a sincere gracious attitude. From the comfort of the seating to the training and knowledge of the staff, and the quality of the air, it is all of these things and more that allow for Red Phone Booth to deliver an unparalleled experience for its guests. For more information, visit www.RedPhoneBooth.com
NEW FROM BESTSELLING HISTORIAN H.W. BRANDS The epic struggle over slavery, told through the lives of John Brown and Abraham Lincoln. “A gripping account of the politics that led to Southern secession, war and the abolition of slavery.” The New York Times Book Review
“Mr. Brands…offers a lesson that has never been timelier.” The Wall Street Journal
“A book that deserves to become foundational reading for America’s new reckoning with slavery, race, and racism.”
about the poet: Laura Ingram was born and raised in a tiny town of which you’ve never heard. A small girl with big glasses and bigger ideas, her poetry and prose have been published in over seventy literary journals, among them The Cactus Heart Review, Gravel, Glass Kite Anthology and Voice of Eve. Her second poetry collection, Mirabilis, is forthcoming for 2020 with Kelsay Books. Her first collection, Junior Citizen’s Discount, was released with Desert Willow Press May 2018. Her children’s book, Stand Up, was subsequently released with Nesting Tree books August 2018.
about this work: Ghost Gospels is my sophomore poetry collection. It is a sore tooth stuck in its socket, my silk underthings soaking in the sink; vulnerable, handmade verse submitted from a hospital room that bears in my mind my eleven year struggle with a severe eating disorder, the loss of a dear friend to suicide, and the growing pains of going from adolescent bottle rocket to young adult who still doesn’t quite know what she’s doing. Ghost Gospels is a solemn promise that while I grow up, some things stay the same. published by:
Southern Collective Experience
Harold Holzer, author of The Presidents vs. the Press and winner of the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize
T y a p t r c
Available wherever books are sold
The Ghost Gospels
introducing Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Holding the reader a willing captive in the liminal spaces between life and death, survival and surrender, recovery and decline, Laura Ingram dazzles the heart and mind with the tenderly-wrought insights of a young woman coming to terms with the aftermath of her eating disorder. As the narrator trains her own thoughts away from hunger, the reader is fed hearts from jars, blackberry brambles, and boxes hidden under beds, hearts that have been pickled and skipped like stones across the tops of creeks, hearts grass stained and wobbling and scrubbed pink in the kitchen sink. And bones—bones blooming and curved like question marks, bones kissed and buried and “scrawled against [the] skin like a pharmacist’s signature.” Yet, even as the imagery blooms and fills and increases, becoming ever more tangible, the poems by: laura ingram narrator fears she will dissipate into something no longer substantial, and “you will remember she is only ulna and aspartame and leave her in search of something more solid.”
the ghost gospels
This is a collection that will break your heart and hand it back to you illuminated between the cracks, for like Kintsugi, the Japanese art of using gold to highlight the cracks in repaired pottery, Ingram’s poems embrace wounds and imperfections rather than glossing over them, modelling that through careful attention and reflection, the selves we can create after we have been broken can be stronger and more beautiful than before.
To puchase your copy or contact the poet: email@example.com
Each copy $10
the latest work from
Laura Ingram 99
interview with vikki locke BY: Clifford brooks
Vikki Locke: You’re a force of nature. Please tell us about yourself, your career. Really, a force of nature? Lol I graduated from Ohio State with a Journalism degree, hoping to write the next great American novel, or become the next Woodward and Bernstein. Journalism (back then and way before social media) meant finding the truth. I landed a job as a reporter at a News/Talk radio station in Akron, Ohio. My first beat was crime reporting. I was very green and one of the only women and the guys weren’t easy on me. I was very ladylike at first and didn’t make many friends among my older and wiser colleagues. Just didn’t fit in to the “boys club” until I decided to change my ways. There is a lot of colorful conversation thrown around when you’re immersed in testosterone. So, one day, when one of my fellow reporters was ribbing me about my short skirt and my goody two shoes demeanor, I looked him straight in the eye and said, ‘F**k you!” And that is how I stripped away the no girls allowed attitude. Within a year I moved into the studio and became news anchor, and soon got a job offer in Atlanta. It was an FM station and all of my co-workers called me a sell-out, but they offered to double my pay, so I had no reservations. Back in the 80’s, Atlanta radio was pretty much a male dominated industry except for the sales department. Again, I found myself the lone female, but I was much tougher by then. We would have regular morning show meetings in a large conference room after we got off the air and I remember walking into the area watching my cohorts read their adult magazines and dish on whatever and I asked them to show some respect and leave the mags at their desks. Didn’t work. So, a week later I decided to bring my own reading material to the meeting and asked the group if any of them were uncircumcised like the guy in the picture I shared with them. That was it. Our meetings were magazine free from that day forward. So that’s how I penetrated (pun intended) the boys club, next my goal was to achieve equal pay. I was paid a little less than half of my male counterparts. I realized getting my name included in the show title was the first step and it wasn’t easy, but I eventually won the battle and that’s how The Steve and Vikki Show came to be. The money didn’t come for several years, and I had more than one male superior tell me, “but you make a lot for a girl.” In the end, I was on a level playing field.
What makes you happy? How has COVID changed your perspective on what’s important? I am normally a happy person, but I lost my mother this summer. She suffered from dementia and was living in a memory care facility in Florida. Due to the coronavirus my brothers and I were not permitted to see her, and her condition seemed to worsen. We could speak with her on the phone, but she didn’t understand why we couldn’t
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020 be with her. I believe in my heart that the isolation due to Covid contributed to her death. My biggest regret is not insisting on seeing her one last time.
Star 94, the radio station I grew up on in Atlanta, Georgia. You entertained every morning sans the weekends. How did those years as DJ affect your life? For 30 years I woke up at 3am five days a week so I guess you could say if there was a downside, it was sleep deprivation. But the rewards made up for it. I met and interviewed my favorite musicians, celebrities, professional athletes, world leaders and while my immediate family was in Ohio, I gained a new family in Georgia. I lived most of my life on the air and our listeners became home. And we did so much together like watching the Braves go from worst to first in 1991, then winning the World Series in ’95 and the Olympics in ’96. Elton John was a guest on the show seven times, and I was lucky to attend his Oscar party in Hollywood many times. But the one event that affected me most was the September 11th attacks against the U.S. Steve McCoy, Tom Sullivan, and myself, went to New York City a few weeks after it happened. Before the trip we took several large banners all over Atlanta, asking people to write down messages of love and support and we promised to deliver them to NY firefighters. You could still see the smoke from the twin towers as we landed. One of our listeners had asked a fellow police officer to take us to Ground Zero, and I will never forget the smell and the sight of exhausted first responders still fiercely digging through the ruble for survivors. In between searches we learned these brave men and women were going to funerals, sometimes three a day. They were so grateful for those banners and hung them up while we were there. They had no idea the rest of world was watching and mourning with them.
You have heart enough to heal the world. You do so with the good causes you support. Please tell us about the charity events and organizations you support that we should too. Giving back is so important in becoming part of your community and I’ve met so many wonderful people. My friend Nancy Grace spoke at an event I hosted to benefit women trying to re-enter the work force after overcoming domestic violence. She helped me raise funding for six scholarships. I’ve lost loved ones to Cystic Fibrosis, kidney disease and many friends and family members to cancer. I was honored to sit on several boards and host hundreds
of fundraising events. It shows you the value of the human spirit. When people come together for a good cause, whether it’s donating your time or your money, it gives you a sense of purpose and hope.
What are you reading? What are some of your favorite reads, and why? One of my favorite books as of late is The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and right now I’m reading Athena Departs, Gospel of a Man Apart. It’s so beautifully written. I find myself reading a verse over and over again, feeling goosebumps and hating the fact I will never be a writer like you.
What is your philosophy on living a good life? They say laughing boosts your immune system and helps fight disease. If it’s true, I’ve got a lot of living left. Managing to find time to laugh each day, during a pandemic, isn’t easy but I try. Living a good life means being grateful and patient and contributing and just being a good person.
Your career today, it’s not behind a microphone. How did your trajectory change? Radio has changed so much since I left. I used to book clients on radio shows, now they want to be on podcasts. I’ve always loved writing and developed so many contacts in media in my career, it was an easy transition into PR. And it doesn’t hurt that one of my best friends, Meg Reggie, an Atlanta PR guru, took me under her wing. So now instead of doing the interview, I teach clients how to engage an audience and how to be camera ready for TV. I also write lots of speeches and presentations for CEOs. And the best part of the change…no more 3am wake up calls!
How do you deal with change? 2020 has changed everything. We are all uncertain of our new reality. I can’t wait to be able to hug my family and friends again. To go to concerts and ball games and museums. To travel and go to restaurants. Play on a tennis team, join a book club. In the meantime I’ve accepted the fact that zoom calls may be here to stay and work offices may disappear and we may be wearing masks for a while. Dealing with change means learning how to adapt and move forward.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
What’s a question you’ve been asked so many times, if you hear it again, you might scream? I can’t tell you the number of times someone asked me why I pursued a Journalism degree since “all you do in radio is talk.” Believe it or not it’s a little more than that. It’s not as easy as you might think to do a good interview.
How can we keep up with you online, support a new cause, and/or find out more on what we’ve covered here today? I am on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. Working on my new website www.vikkilocke.com, and starting a blog after the first of the year. Right now let’s focus on supporting local businesses. Volunteer your time to help those in need. Give blood. My wish is for us to be kind to one another. It’s the only way we can fully recover as a nation.
southern collective experience
andrew wilt BY: Clifford brooks
Aside from husband, father, and mad mogul behind 11:11 Press - who is Andrew Wilt? Ha! The first thought to come to mind is the scene in Zoolander where Ben Stiller is looking at his reflection in a puddle on the side of the road and asks: “who am I?” At this moment in space and time, I’m a husband, father of two (1 year old and 3 year old), administrator and educator in workforce development, published author with several works in progress, and finally, founder and publisher of 11:11 Press. And if you’re not familiar with the small press literary scene, I hope this interview motivates you to check out some small presses, because small presses are literature’s best kept secret.
What are you reading now? From the outside, I’m sure my reading appears chaotic, but from the inside, it’s strategic. I’m always reading what other small presses are publishing, which includes one book of poetry, and a book on philosophy or religion. The small press list alone is too long to write out in full here, so let me highlight a few favorites:
Why Visit America by Matthew Baker is one of my favorites from this summer. It’s a collection of strange short stories and if you get a chance to read the book, you’ll understand why studios have been in a bidding war for the film/tv rights. The stories flip reality upside
down and show a side of American culture that is only visible from a distance. I’m reading Will Self’s mémoire Will, which addresses his heroin addiction in his 20’s. It’s an accurate and un-glamorous depiction of addiction, which I find refreshing because too often addiction and substance abuse is romanticized in the arts. Side note: My life completely changed (for the better) when I found the guts to live a sober lifestyle. The poetry book I’m currently reading (and savoring) is Death Industrial Complex by Candice Wuehle – Candice is one of my favorite writers, and Action Books is a small press who continuously publishes great books. (11:11 will be publishing Candice’s Fidelitoria: Fixed or Fluxed in 2021.) I’ve been on and off with Writings 1997-2003 by CCRU, one of the best books of theory-fiction I’ve read, but it’s like reading the notes of a paranoid genius on the verge of a nervous breakdown. That said, I don’t know if it should be read by anyone. Or maybe a word of warning: danger, rough waters ahead. Finally, I’m working my way through the writings of Meister Eckhart. When I finish reading his words, I feel such peace that I no longer have the desire to read or write or do anything besides simply “be”. My desk is a mess of old foundational religious texts I’m working through as I plan the next stage in my life: the Bhagavad-Gita, the Upanishads, the Old Testament, the Dhammapada… I go through these phases of independent study on various subjects, and I get really obsessed. I guess it’s a healthy addiction. ;-)
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Please give us your Top 5 Favorite Books and why you picked them. So many dead authors have taught me how to live, and I always find it amazing how the dead can still teach us, hundreds, or thousands of years after they walked the earth. But I’m not going to include any of them in this list. I want to highlight five living contemporary authors whose writing I go back to time and again so I can learn how to write, so I can learn how to live. 1) Tonight I’m Someone Else by Chelsea Hodson It’s hard writing something new without turning off a lot of readers. Chelsea gracefully walks the line between the familiar and the nameless, and reading her work makes the imaginary feel so real, like waking up in a lucid dream you both share. 2) The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch Lidia taught me to embrace the difficulties in my past. It was ok to not be like everyone else, and that everyone is working through something even if you can’t see it on the surface. It helped me think about my life, my past, future, and present, as ‘Story’ outside of traditional storytelling. 3) Tocqueville by Khaled Mattawa This is one of the early experimental poetry books I read and—like many firsts—it has become a favorite. 4) Joseph Scheiber’s blog: Rough Ghosts I’m cheating here, because Joe hasn’t published a book (yet), though, I’m hoping he does. Most of Joe’s blog posts are reviews of books in translation that are published by small presses. My world has grown so much reading Joe’s blog and his reflections on life and literature. 5) The Sarah Book by Scott McClanahan Scott writes with brutal honesty about real human struggles. He doesn’t sugarcoat it, but he writes in a way that’s all too familiar. Scott pulls back the typical masculine mold and exposes the raw emotion beneath.
What’s your philosophy on a life well-lived? Most people live with an awareness of death, but without the understanding that they’ll be forgotten. There’s a kind of freedom in that, that in a large enough timeline, we will all be forgotten. However, even if no one will remember our name we have the power to create ideas, tools, and art that might last forever. Every act of creation will one day become anonymous, so why bother worrying about the future or focusing on accumulating possessions, accolades, or sensual pleasures? They’re all fleeting. A life well lived is one of creative innovation and service—everything else is a distraction.
What legacy do you wish to leave? I am working on being at peace with myself. If there is a hope for others, it is for them to find the same peace I am searching for. So much pain is created caring about what others think, and at the root of it is one not being stable in one’s own body, in one’s life, in avoiding looking at one’s self for who they truly are. If one strives for peace, love, and unity, all they need to do is find that in themselves. It’s true: change yourself and you change the world, and that’s the power of writing and journaling: to process the world as you see it from the pit of your soul and come out on the other end with a deeper understanding of what it means to be Human.
A similar process happens when you read: you gain a deeper understanding of what it is to be in another’s body, in another’s life, and you can—for a few hours—be another person. When you close the book and walk around in your own skin and in your life, you can take that experience and apply it to your step, thereby becoming more than you were before.
How did you discover a love of words? When did you begin to write creatively? You and I have talked about how so-called disabilities are actually superpowers, well, words are mine. Ever since the beginning, I’ve struggled to keep the words together on the page. Reading didn’t come easy, but I was determined to work through my dyslexic symptoms and have adapted by developing my ability to focus. Anytime you wrestle with something and make it to the other side, you learn deep lessons, tricks, and tools that those who don’t struggle never learn. So, growing up, if struggle is all you know, it’s normal. I thought everyone had as much diffi-
culty with reading as I did. It wasn’t until I learned about text to speech programs and audiobooks when listening became another one of my superpowers and I really started to excel. In elementary school, writing became a way for me to process the world around me. To get things out. I didn’t have a lot of people who listened to me when I was younger, so I did a lot of journaling, and this continued through middle school. This writing then began to accompany playing music in high school and college. In many ways, journaling from a young age was good practice because (due to undiagnosed language issues) the words in my head didn’t always come out on the page so I would go over sentences again and again. I’d labor over word order to find flow and consistency. Word choice and flow became an obsession. Since you’re a poet, Cliff, you know what I’m talking about. The right words placed together, one after the other, can change your life. Like a heat-seeking missile that detonates at your most tender places. If you look at the books that have been around for 100+ years (Hesse, Brontë, Huxley, Fitzgerald, Tolstoy, Austen, Dostoevsky, Poe, Dickens, …) or 1000+ years (Homer, Sun Tzu, Lao Tzu, Aristotle, Seneca, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Plato, Socrates, Herodotus, …), each author wrote something that pinches the human experience and transcends time and culture. Every true writer (who writes as a calling, not for financial gain or celebrity) becomes this kind of addict, searching for those timeless words. If they find them once, they will derail
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020 their entire lives to find them again.
How do you unplug from the world? This is it: doing 11:11 Press stuff, writing, and reading. I also really enjoy going on walks, alone and with others. We only have so many hours each day, and I’d rather use mine writing, reading, thinking, walking, and talking with friends and family. Meditation is another great way to unplug.
How has 11:11 Press evolved over the past year? Readers, authors, and reviewers are slowly discovering who we are. Getting your name out there and breaking through all the noise takes time since there are so many new presses and most of them don’t last. This year things have really taken off, and I’ve had the opportunity to talk with authors I’ve looked up to my whole life. Ten years ago, I was sitting in my tiny university room, and came across a book that many of my favorite authors named as their favorite book. That book soon became one of my favorites. Unfortunately, the Author had died without publishing any of their other work and I was bummed that this book was all I was ever going to read. Fast-forward to this spring, and I found myself talking to the Author’s partner who was willing to send over all of the Author’s unpublished work, including a 600-page novel. Everything about the book and the Author, who finished the novel a few days before they passed, is filled with life. I had the unbelievable honor of being the second person to read the novel manuscript, and talking with the author’s spouse (who was the first reader), the best way to describe the novel is: it’s tender and tough, and the combination wrings your heart. This could be my alltime favorite book, and it could be yours, too.
What tips do you have for folks looking to start a press? Do you have any courses to help? I’ll be teaching an online publishing course in November, limited to five students. If that goes well, I’ll be teaching additional classes this winter, again, keeping class sizes small. As far as tips go, you really have to want to help authors bring their work to life. It’s not about you, it’s about the author and their work. That’s the only way to be successful: to work in service to the author and give their work a strong foundation. You need to be humble, supportive, kind, and empathetic so you’re working together alongside the author in tune and on the same wavelength.
How can we keep up with you online? You can visit us on our 11:11 Press website: 1111press.com and buy our Books/Merch/sign up for future classes at 111press.bigcartel.com
I have these notes and journals from the author at my desk in my office, and I take them out and hold them and I think about the author holding them in their hands. And if time were to jump a beat, maybe my hands and their hands could touch? And that’s what this process feels like, like time skipped a beat, and we are somehow working on this together, breathing life into something that has finally found the perfect time to be born.
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Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
faces fait 110
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
a Conversation with
william hufschmidt By: lee furey
few weeks back I had a conversation with my primary yoga teacher, William Hufschmidt, LMT, E-RYT 500, a program director of the Pranakriya School of Yoga Healing Arts. We discussed his background, the way that yoga is marketed on social media, scandals in the yoga world, the guru within, and the effect of the pandemic on our own yoga practice. Finally, I asked him about what comes next for him.
LF: Would you share with our readers a short version of your yoga story? WH: My yoga story didn’t actually begin with yoga
practice. When I was 14 I was in a car accident [that] snapped my femur bone in half. I spent the rest of the year, my freshman year of high school, figuring out how to be whoever I was going to be after that. … I was in the hospital for over six weeks in traction, and then I was at home in traction for eight months and had a new novel cast. Eventually when I had that cast taken off, I had to learn how to walk because my leg was [gestures] that big after not working for that many months. … Looking back on it 37 years later, I’m aware that it taught me to just be with, to be still. Many times nobody was in the hospital with me; I just had to sit there and breathe. I just got to pay attention to everything or ignore everything that was going on. I also have memories of playing with my breath: doing pranayama, holding my breath in, holding my breath out. … I do remember plugging my nostrils and breathing through different nostrils. I don’t know if I ever had a pattern. … I learned to watch sensations, like to really pay atten-
tion to my body. A lot of that came when I was learning how to walk again, in getting myself up and going through physical therapy, which was just painful -- just painful -- a lot of electrostimulation to try and get muscle contraction where muscle contractions weren’t there, and so that’s really the beginning of how I started with this.
I think I’ve always been inclined towards spiritual practices or spiritual awareness. I was raised Catholic, and … my favorite mass to go to was 6:00 AM or 8:00 AM mass during the week, because it was quiet. It wasn’t chanting, singing, it wasn’t bravado, just a small group of people that got together to be quiet, and I was attracted to that at a young age. … Then at Humboldt State University, …. [Yoga] was the first movement practice that I ever did where I felt like I could do it. I couldn’t run.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
… But I loved moving, I loved feeling, I loved putting myself in positions and feeling things. I have distinct memories from those very first years of practice, of getting into a shape and feeling a muscle relax that I didn’t know was contracting.… [T]he second year my teacher asked if I would sub a class for her…Then the next year she came back and said she wanted to take a sabbatical from teaching and would I take over her classes…. I went to one yoga studio when I went back to Southern California, and I hated everything about it…. But I kept practicing on my own. [At Humboldt] I lived in a little trailer in the Redwood forest about 20 miles North of campus, this tiny little town called Trinidad. I could walk down to this lighthouse right on the cliff above the ocean there, and that was my morning practice: 6:00 AM, me and the lighthouse in the fog on this grassy area, and that just sustained me, for years. … I didn’t follow a script; I just got on the floor and got into my body and moved around. When I was done, I was done. That’s what I did every day. When I got here to Atlanta several years later … I ended up through a whole series of events becoming the controller for this law firm … [and] I quickly got very stressed. … [so] I found a gym … that offered yoga classes, and there I met a teacher named Linda Kessler. Pretty early on she gave me a catalog to this place called Kripalu. … Long story short, I got laid off from that job. It was my liberation. I ended up finding that catalog randomly one day, and I saw a teacher training. I thought let me go do this. This is a month out of Atlanta. … [My teachers there] gave me a lot of language and philosophy to think about and to draw from regarding what is an enlightened experience, what is the goal of spiritual practice, if there is a goal, or a singular goal, or singular outcome to that.
LF: What has your practice looked like lately? WH: I find my practice now is so much more “roll around on the floor when I feel like it”: it’s like I’ve gone back to what it was before my education about what yoga is, and I think part of that is spontaneous, part of that is the pandemic, and another part of that is more and more I realize I’m kind of sick of the conversation about yoga. I’m kind of sick about the social media conversation of what it is… Physically I can’t do yoga the way I used to. I used to love vinyasa, love all that flow stuff, but in the past three or four years with my knee, as my knee is changing, I just can’t do it. … The other piece that’s changed lately especially because of the pandemic: in those first months I couldn’t sit still. … I just realized I was not sitting. I was not staying, and I fought that for a while, and then I was just like no. The whole world is going “do yoga! It’s a great time to practice…” But …there’s too much to sit with, and there’s too much uncertainty of my life that isn’t yoga. To sit with my householder life that requires so much of my attention … and the collective distress of what’s happening. The most consistent daily practice I have had since the beginning of the pandemic is riding my bike. Every day at least once a day I have to get out on my bike…. Also gardening. … There’s a guy named Rudy Pierce, a long term Kripalu teacher. His website is gentleyogi.com, and he does a morning 30-minute pranayama. Gentle pranayama… that’s been really grounding. It’s hard for me to sit on Zoom and take a yoga class right now because I’m teaching on Zoom, and the last thing I want to do is get on Zoom again. … The more I try to fit myself into a daily box, the more I resist that.
LF: Have you been thinking of new material for teacher trainings? WH: I find right now I feel depleted; I feel like I’ve run all the tapes, like it’s all on rote…. I also feel more in need at this point to integrate, assimilate, and figure out what *I* have learned, because you know teaching is not one-directional. [These experiences have] really filled my cup, but the piece that I’m most interested in learning about, to be able to teach better, concerns developmental movement … and how do we build our nervous system. In my reading and studies I have focused a lot on the embryological level, the first 8 weeks post conception.
This leaked into classes such as Anatomy for Yoga Teachers because I just can’t stop thinking about it. Also, how we build our nervous system, fit that together, and I’m really interested in this idea … of how did we learn to learn. How do we learn to be in relationship with our body, … I’m more interested in the deeper layers. Rolfing has really taught me that we can create change – it’s tectonic speed -- and it has to have complete gracefilled synchronistic buy-in from our psyche … that’s what I’m interested in, this transformation experience and to figure out how can I support people who can grow within. …
LF: [referring to my own Rolfing experience] I wonder how many people reading this can say their faith leader changed how they walk. WH: Literally! You’re not the same person that came into yoga teacher training or into the Rolfing series. You are so much more -- living out at the surface of your skin, at the lenses of your eyes, you know, as opposed to inside. You were like a hand puppet that doesn’t fill out the puppet, but you fill out your puppet now.
LF: I’m really filling out my puppet now. [We laugh] WH: …I think so much of yoga out there is -- it’s just such a big bite people are trying to take; there’s never a sense that you got anywhere, a sense of OK, I can pause, sit back, reflect, and integrate. … to consider where do I want to go next with this instead of feeling like Sisyphus always pushing that rock up the hill…. It’s impressive that people can do these things with their bodies, but to broadcast that as “this is what yoga accomplishment is” negates our ability to truly experience when we have accomplished something, had a breakthrough, or we had an insight where we had a moment of stillness, presence, or witness, just attunement, being with this.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
By: veronica patterson Let’s do all the things that don’t matter now: canoe on quiet mornings when the lake is still, find
the new restaurant in town and try it before it closes. Let’s hold hands. Then you do
one thing, and I’ll do another so we can return. Let’s be fragile now, together. Let’s
hike the trail to the cascade along torrents of green frothy water. The world
is a worse mess than when we first thought we could fix it. Storms are predicted for later,
rain, lightning, possible flooding. You get the paddles and life jackets. Let’s wake
our bold promise — I mean, let’s take our old thermos. We’ll go forth, then float, drink
coffee, tell each other stories. This is a binding contract. Sign here.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Veronica Patterson’s full-length poetry collections include How to Make a Terrarium (Cleveland State University, 1987), Swan, What Shores? (NYU Press Poetry Prize, 2000), Thresh & Hold (Gell Poetry Prize, Big Pencil Press, 2009), & it had rained (CW Books, 2013), and Sudden White Fan (Cherry Grove, 2018). She has also published two chapbooks—This Is the Strange Part (Pudding House, 2002) and Maneuvers: Battle of the Little Bighorn Poems (Finishing Line, 2013). She lives in Loveland, Colorado, and teaches for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. She received two Individual Artists grants from the Colorado Council on the humanities. Her poems have been nominated several times for a Pushcart Prize, and have been selected for Writer’s Almanac and Verse Daily. In April 2019, she was named Loveland, Colorado’s first Poet Laureate.
At Sea By: barbara alfaro For Celia Sheridan On a voyage from Ireland to America, my great grandmother died giving birth to her son, who also died. Your husband holds your daughter’s hand as he mumbles something about heaven, angels very near them both, still, listening, like sailors on watch. I imagine you slender, with long hair, laughing softly, even when so ill. That is the silly thing we are taught, to be brave instead of sad. Were you a devout Catholic or did you read the Tarot, trembling when the death card turned? Your gentleness which I am suddenly certain of is like a white rose in a clear vase. I like to think you owned at least one beautiful dress, a girl’s princess dress, soft, lace, and so feminine those who saw you smiled. I wish I had a photograph of you in that perfect dress, young, Irish, and susceptible to dreams – long before the waves rocking the coffin ship like a cradle in the sea.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Chasing After Midnight By: barbara alfaro For Arsenio Alfaro A cricket the nurses were chasing after midnight seemed to amuse the professor of languages who told his wife in the morning heâ€™d been serenaded by an insect. Strapped to the bed because of attempts to get away, he confounded the staff by speaking different languages loudly without restraint as if in a stark Pentecost.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
sea fire By: barbara alfaro Far from the shore and waves in the deepest part of the sea luminescent creatures swirl. Clever beings who never know the sun, creating and owning light. Dragonfish, catsharks, lanternfish, others unnamed, battle or beckon with glowing bodies ~ their quick movement startling the water like the surprise of joy.
Barbara Alfaro is the recipient of a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award in Playwriting. Her memoir Mirror Talk won the IndieReader Discovery Award for Best Memoir. Barbaraâ€™s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poet Lore, Boston Literary Review, Trouvaille Review, Voices de la Luna, and Variant Literature. http:// www.BarbaraAlfaro.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
The Douglas Fir, Worried By: jane ellen glasser First, let me state that I am alive. I live on a 10-acre farm along with some 15,000 others, a close-knit family. Every spring we are bathed in potions that foul the air and make birds sick. In late fall, the relentless sputter of an electric buzz sets our needles shivering. Our roots have mouths. Rumors spread. I have been told I am 7 years old, having grown a foot each year. In this place that is old enough to die.
Jane Ellen Glasserâ€™s poetry has appeared in journals, such as Hudson Review, Southern Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Georgia Review. In the past she reviewed poetry books for the Virginian-Pilot, edited poetry for the Ghent Quarterly and Lady Janeâ€™s Miscellany, and co-founded the nonprofit arts organization and journal New Virginia Review. A first collection of her poetry, Naming the Darkness, with an introduction by W. D. Snodgrass, was issued by Road Publishers in 1991. She won the Tampa Review Prize for Poetry 2005 for Light Persists and The Long Life won the Poetica Publishing Company Chapbook Contest in 2011. The Red Coat, Cracks, n the Shadow of Paradise, and Selected Poems are available from FutureCycle Press. Her work may be previewed on her website: www.janeellenglasser.com
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
garden party By: sarena mason Bees compose a comb in the walls of my home. They eavesdrop on gossiping ladies over motherâ€™s silver, Grand Baroque, and I pour mint juleps cool down my throat. Clink of china, Old Country Roses, the bees look down metaphorical noses at the ladies in their fine silks, pouring honey in their tea with milk. Over lemon poppyseed muffins and cucumber-cream cheese on rye, the ladies whisper who had babies, got married, and who died. I fill my mouth with a blueberry scone. Their voices stick on repeat like grandmotherâ€™s gramophone.
Sarena Mason holds a B.A. of Science in English, with a minor in psychology, from Middle Tennessee State University, where she was awarded the Homer J. Pittard Creative Writing Award scholarship. Her poems have been published in The American Journal of Poetry and The Tennessee Magazine as well as with Voice of Eve and The Voices Project.
Happy Families are all alike By: irene fick Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
How We Divvied Up the Space In our house, Mom owned every inch of the anger, the doors that slammed shut, the shrill Italian curses that spit from her stiffened lips. Dad held tight the trappings of denial, fastened himself to the phone where he did his business, buried in reports piled high on his desk in the den. My kid brothers harbored their innocence, stared at the screen, glued to Gilligan’s Island, Get Smart, McHale’s Navy. I suppose I was in charge of the words, all those words I scrawled in lined notebooks, sprawled on my bed with flashlight and number two pencil, turbulent words that darkened the page, words that morphed into metaphors for all those tender, remembered aches.
Irene Fick of Lewes is the author of The Wild Side of the Window (Main Street Rag Publishing, 2018), her second collection of poetry, which received first place award from the National Federation of Press Women (NFPW), as did her first book, The Stories We Tell (The Broadkill Press). Irene’s poems have been published in such journals as Poet Lore, Gargoyle, The Broadkill Review, The Delmarva Review, Philadelphia Stories and Mojave River Review.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Chimayo By: steven williams They say you can see the face of Jesus When the sun hits the walls of Chimayo. Inside the sanctuary, it is dark and cool. The ancient flagstones worn by footsteps of the faithful. A young man was shot while kneeling in prayer . The heavy smell of snow is on the air. A cup of coffee warms my hands. The waitress with orange hair Complains about her husband who watches TV And goes out drinking with friends. Five-dollar tip for one cup of conversation The crystal stars fall in the darkling night. They say you can see the face of Jesus When the sun hits the walls of Chimayo. At night, only my own face reflected in the icy window panes.
Steven M. Williams is a writer and artist who was born in Louisiana, raised in Texas and New Mexico, and currently lives in Kentuckyâ€”with some of the in-between years living in American Samoa, Japan, and the Philippines. He has had a diverse professional life, with jobs ranging from Marine sergeant to firefighter/paramedic to English department chairperson and finally technical writer. His published works include short fiction, non-fiction, and poetry and he has had one play staged. Now that he is settled, he hopes to use his experiences and the freedom of old age to write something worth leaving behind.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Many Mountains Moving By: deborah doolittle I speak to you like many mountains moving over the landscape, grooving to a distant tune that makes my heart ache. Makes me want to rollover, show a different face to the world. You will get to know me from the swallows that wing and weave the air between us, hugging the contours of slope and ridge, cliff and crag. All this rumble, tumble is my way of dragging out the truth. I’m not bragging. Between these cascades and serenades I make, water flows one way, rolling over stone and root, carving a new route from me to you.
Deborah H. Doolittle has lived in lots of different places but now calls North Carolina home. She has an MA in Women’s Studies and an MFA in Creative Writing and teaches at Coastal Carolina Community College. She is the author of two chapbooks, No Crazy Notions (Birch Brook Press) and That Echo (Longleaf Press), and one full-length collection, Floribunda (Main Street Rag Publishing Co.) Some of her poems have recently appeared (or will soon appear) in Comstock Review, Evening Street Review, Pinyon Review, Rattle, Ravensperch, Slant, Willow Review, and in audio format on The Writer’s Almanac. She shares a home with her husband, five housecats, and a backyard full of birds.
Cycle of Sisyphus By: claire scott I. ANGER Shoving the stone, straining, screaming hell no and why me. Watching others sunbathe, sip lemonade, read novels in the shade, while he grunts and groans and snorts and sweats his way up the hill, a string of curses wafting behind him. II. ACCEPTANCE The stone familiar, each crack and crevice known to his rough hands, pushing it up hill again and again, past the tiny brook, the dipping oak, the thistles and vetches, watching it roll down, gather speed, flatten grasses. One step, one step, one step. III. JOY The earth under his feet, the call of the sparrow, the skittering rabbits and lumbering raccoons, the sudden flash of a silver fox, the warmth of the sun on his back, the cool of the moon, the early snow, the driving rain. And yes, he is smiling. IV. LOVE Flutter-floating up the hill, pressing lightly against the stone, effortless. No grim determination, no counting the hours. Hesitating just before the top, knowing his stone will slide away. Almost dances down the hill to claim the stone he loves and start again. V. ANGER (spoken by Sisyphus) Sore back blistered hands and I say no more. Feet swollen knees throbbing and I say no more. Sick of the stone. Sick of the hill. Sick of this hell. I curse the gods who condemned me to this senseless life. This absurd, futile, fatuous, and completely hopeless human life. VI. RETURN TO PART II (see above)
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Batman By: claire scott Weaving in and out of swings and slides, blue cape flying, black mask with flickering ears, chasing supervillains, ridding the world of criminals, seeking justice for all. Kids beg for selfies with their homegrown Batman, grinning wide grins with missing teeth, while he spins around the playground in his Batmobile solving unsolvable crimes, chasing the Joker, Catwoman, and the Riddler, outsmarting them at every turn. An exhausting day for a six year old who comes home needing hugs and hot chocolate. My son, holding up the world
Claire Scott is an award-winning poet who has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has been accepted by the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, New Ohio Review, Enizagam and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and Until I Couldnâ€™t. She is the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sistersâ€™ Journey in Photography and Poetry.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
night, hospital By: pui ying wong A thick glass separated us from the outside. Snow slid down the roofs of the city, windows ablaze with their own stars. A book of poems on the dinner tray. You in a cotton smock, stained by vinegar.
Pui Ying Wong was born in Hong Kong. She is the author of two full-length books of poetry: An Emigrant’s Winter (Glass Lyre Press, 2016) and Yellow Plum Season (New York Quarterly Books, 2010)— along with two chapbooks. She has won a Pushcart Prize. Her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Plume Poetry Journal, New Letters, The New York Times and The Southampton Review, among others. She lives in Cambridge, MA with her husband, the poet Tim Suermondt.
over new orleans By: John Cooper A few lights trickle, reflected in the air, like diamonds without a ring. The great serpent winds below, immobile. Grave shapes, riven in twilight, carved from silence: scratched pattern depth of lengths scales allow â€” extend, reeve through strength uncertainty, waterward, easy.
John Jack _Jackie_ (Edward) Cooper is the creator of _These Are Aphorithms_ (http:// aphorithms.blogspot.com), author of Ten (Poets Wear Prada, 2012), Ten â€Ś More (Poets Wear Prada, 2016), and translator of Wax Women, with French texts of the original poems by Jean-Pierre Lemesle (International Art Office: Paris, 1985). His work has appeared widely, in print and online. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, he is editor and co-publisher of Poets Wear Prada, a small press based in Hoboken, New Jersey. He lives in Paris.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Laptop and Pen By: Bruce Parker When I watch you type I think of the action of teeth, tongue, and lips. When you speak, I hear your fingers, I see your speech. In silence, the neurons of your brain proclaim in ohs and ones electric pulses across space, turn your words invisibly to mean what you mean to me.
Bruce Parker holds a BA in History from the University of Maryland Far East Division, Okinawa, Japan, and an MA in Secondary Education from the University of New Mexico. He has taught English as a second language, worked as a technical editor, and as a translator. He reads for Boulevard and lives in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in CIRQUE, The Inflectionist Review, Cloudbank, Pif Magazine, thedecameron.online and elsewhere.
When I see you write longhand, curl your words old fashioned upon the paper page, covert, concealed, circumscribed, the black swirls unfold the life in your hand, demonstrate how you well mean and will reveal through time and pace the race youâ€”writingâ€” run, the rhythm of your mind to mine.
after he died By: Joyce compton brown we moved to town to a coal-warmed house with beadboard walls, screen porch, bucket, and dipper— squeaky iron beds and purple irises brought from the farm house. Here, we could work small jobs, get diplomas, not be farm hands. We picked rocks out of pintos, cooked potatoes on a wood-stove, ate country steak on Sundays. We took baths in a galvanized tub, dressed by coal-stove heat, survived on the scraps of life, pension checks and odd change, the misery of love offerings. Afterwards, we looked at battle’s residue— photos of the lost old place, reunions at a one-room school— gravestones with unreadable names, proud old farmers gone to dust, Grandmother’s treadle machine stitching toward a new age. This is my town, which gave and took, sheltered and imprisoned, where farm women learned to time their lives by clock instead of rooster crow, where men walked out of fields, surrendered to factory’s call.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Downtown Heroics By: Joyce Compton Turnerâ€™s hardware, the shoe repair shop, the veterans coffee houseâ€” all smell of old age and leather and coffee, oiled oak floors, and small town news. Well-worn patterns of practiced truths mingle with the musty scent of past griefs folded away for future use.
Joyce Compton Brown has published in such journals as Main St. Rag, Kakalak, County Lines, and Flying South. She studied poetry at Hindman Institute and Wildacres and has won several honors in art and poetry journals. After teaching language at Gardner-Webb University, she concentrates on poetry,art, and roots music. Her chapbooks are Bequest (Finishing Line Press, 2015) and Singing with Jarred Edges (Main Street Rag Publishing, 2018). She was keynote speaker at the American Gravestone Association and won the NC Poetry Society's Poet Laureate award in 2020.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
storytelling By: Jianqing Zheng
after Eudora Welty’s One Writer’s Beginnings
Mother always reads stories to us in mornings when we sit around her rocking chair moving back and forth gently to add a backbeat to her soft voice. She also reads to us in winter afternoons in the dining room by the warm coal fire. Each time she finishes reading, our Cuckoo clock sings. I start reading after I’ve learned words. As my eyes
Jianqing Zheng has published poems in journals including Louisiana Literature, Arkansas Review, Mississippi Review, Blue Mountain Review, among others. He is author of Enforced Rustication in the Chinese Cultural Revolution and editor of the forthcoming book--Conversations with Dana Gioia. He lives and teaches in the Mississippi Delta.
follow line by line, I often hear a soft voice, not mother’s nor mine but human’s, which is so benign that I listen attentively and inwardly. When I write, that same voice I hear from reading comes out.
love thieves By: richard robbins It hardly mattered to the tattooed man his soul lay inside out, where anyone might attempt its capture. He’d sailed far worse seas than these, walking Eighth Avenue to his last appointment with the lama, riding the long train to Connecticut full of glum faces one tripwire away from turning violent or insane. Die first, the lama had said, so he let others wreck the house, the body he’d already abandoned, that iconography the only map to where he might live now, with son and wife, where he makes the small meal breaking his heart, destroying every defense.
Richard Robbins was raised in California and Montana but has lived continuously in Minnesota since 1984. His BODY TURN TO RAIN: NEW & SELECTED POEMS was published in Lynx House Press’s Northwest Masters Series in 2017.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
blue ridge By: zoey brookshire Millennia of day laid over day have thigh smoothed the blue ridge of the eastern hillside. Like women, these ancient mountains, young lithe childbearing women, cragged and crevassed here, there but not much.
Zoey Brookshire has a thirty-year exhibition history as a painter. She has finished two poetry manuscripts, one best left in a drawer, the other under revision. A group of ten readers satisfied the need for readers until this past year when Zoey began submitting, and publishing, poetic works.
Pilgrimage By: john krumberger for Emily The last hour of light of a January day, father and daughter trudge through snow to reach the poet’s one room cabin; push open a door to the remains of a forge where matter was transformed to spirit, then condensed and condensed some more. Long after the fact, spirit fills the space. They feel it, even see it rise to vapor of a fog enshrouding the catalpa trees. Nonetheless, it’s easy to grasp a sense of the poet’s unvarnished sentiment: walls thin as a writing tablet, no plumbing, the river in all moods of weather a mercurial life companion, one she’d never leave, the man thinks -as they turn back towards their footprints and the icy ruts of the island road pleased to have found the place, to show to her. cabin of Lorine Niedecker, Blackhawk Island, Wisconsin
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
John Krumbergerâ€™s poems can be found in Comstock Review, Great River Review, Another Chicago Magazine and Water-Stone. A volume of my poems entitled The Language of Rain and Wind was published by Backwaters Press in 2008. My latest collection Because Autumn was published by Main Street Rag Press in 2016.
sky trinity By: Jeanette miller 1)
A wash of green in the steeple window
Although light enticed Monet
of the church next door convinced
to repeatedly paint a Rouen Cathedral,
a sparrow to believe
I deliberately tilted my camera up
it could fly to sanctuary: a row of trees. Heads bowed, the faithful, united & hungry
to prevent the church from taking a dominant position. In my photo
for the love of a sky-distant father, didnâ€™t know
taken in early morning light
the bird had flown to its death,
the church diminishes
deceived by an image in glass. 2) Beneath the floor boards of St. Francis Basilica lie an archbishopâ€™s bones, relics venerated by our tour guide. Separating Separating from the group, I find, outside, a sculpted, Indian woman, a Christian cross dangling from her necklace, no proof conversion made her forget the sacred sky and trees
in proportion to blue.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Jeanette Millerâ€™s first book of poems was published in 2019 with Adelaide Books. She is currently working on a second book that addresses aging and a memoir about the years caring for aging parents.
How Things Be to Me By: lucas carpenter The show’s just started The stars parade. The center holds, just barely. I can’t sort the tickets. Too many shapes and colors. They keep falling. The teen ticket-taker in a short skirt bends over to pick them up. She’s wearing a thong, which, at seventy-three, means nothing to me except as a memory or, if I’m lucky, a fantasy. But I’m on the job, gotta be straight, no distractions. Acid jazz plays in the background, insisting on itself by cutting through like its namesake, burning. The manager, a short-tailed young demon named Clyde is stuck in a corner slipping silent words to the owner who’s sporting a charcoal pinstripe Men’s Warehouse suit. I’ve never known his name, never even tried to find out. There’s something about that corner they’re in, though. I’ve seen it before: an orange shadow slowly circling them, tightening them together so their words don’t leak out, but Clyde waves it off, moves a few steps back, salutes the owner, then walks directly over to me. He says, “You have to leave. You can’t be sheltered by the show anymore. You’re just a tattered coat upon a stick. It’s affected your affect, and you know we’re all about affects here, what they mean and how to have the best one. There’s the door. Remember that’s the real world. You might need a god.”
A door appears, opening on a doorway offering a dank linoleum hallway leading to a shaky flight of wooden stairs descending to the sidewalk of a street forlorn in a light from film noir. Not safe like the show. I don’t know where to go. It’s been so long. I don’t have to decide now, do I? I do. So stay tuned, but I’m not promising anything. I’m just a desiccated old poet, a shill for myself, exiled far from home.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Lucas Carpenterâ€™s stories have appeared in Berkeley Fiction Review, Short Story, The Crescent Review, Nassau Review, The Chattahoochee Review, and South Carolina Review. He is also the author of three collections of poetry, one book of literary criticism, a collection of short stories, and many poems, essays, and reviews published in more than twenty-five periodicals, including Prairie Schooner, The Minnesota Review, College Literature, Beloit Poetry Journal, Kansas Quarterly, Carolina Quarterly, Concerning Poetry, Poetry (Australia), Southern Humanities Review, College English, Art Papers, San Francisco Review of Books, Callaloo, Southern History Journal, Chicago Quarterly Review, and New York Newsday. He is Charles Howard Candler Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Emory University.
Yarmouth By the Sea By: T.C. Carter When first I met that grand old man Living frugal by the sea In a row house room he rented Just across the hall from me It was summertime in Yarmouth Where the English come to play To refresh themselves quite nicely On their fortnight holiday We had breakfast every morning And a proper cup of tea At the landlordâ€™s kitchen table There at Yarmouth by the sea I learned he was a writer A kindred soul of pad and pen He bared his open heart and soul To elevate the minds of men He would read for pints and pennies Fish and chips or just a grin A poem he wrote that early morn Or a piece from way back when His joy was in the telling The spoken words he cherished so Poured out to those who listened Like sweet honey they would flow But winter came harsh and cold There at Yarmouth by the sea And he shivered in the row house room Just across the hall from me I gave him shillings for the meter That controlled the heaterâ€™s gas But still he huddled in his great coat That he had from decades past We never shared another summer There at Yarmouth by the sea For the season changed as always And the sun shone down on me But he was gone to glory And I think of time he spent with me And how he made my sun shine brighter There at Yarmouth by the sea
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Let Me Ride By: T.C. Carter Boys, help me to the saddle Don’t leave me here in town Let me ride out to the prairie Let that be the place I’m found If it’s time to join my pardners If it’s time for me to die Let me ride out to the prairie Let me ride up to the sky I don’t need no fancy doings I don’t need a lot of fuss Let me ride out to the prairie While I sing In God I Trust All my life I’ve been a cowboy And a good one; I’ve been true To my God up there in heaven And the cowboys that I knew I’ve tried to live the good book I’ve tried to take a stand And where it counts And when it counts I think I’ve made a hand Boys, help me to the saddle I want to hear the coyote call Let me ride out to the prairie You can plant me where I fall I want to once more see the sunset Shining on a sea of grass And breathe the air of freedom For as long as I can last So, boys, help me to the saddle Don’t leave me here in town Let me ride out to the prairie Let that be the place I’m found
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
T.C. Carter: reader, writer, devil fighter.
I am By: Ivanov Reyez I am nothing
but winter leaves rattling dreams of past and future summers— a green I cannot seem to be or paint. I am nothing but a fuckless day whistling dreams without event and clamor— convalescing I lived and live: even leaves risk a longer journey. For what I want is not climax but arousal: the rattle alone, Helios’ route forever; the music pure, without notes or complaining instrument; the greatness without book covers. I am nothing but an unwritten master...
Ivanov Reyez was an English professor at Odessa College. His poetry has appeared in The Cafe Review, Paris Lit Up, Pinyon, Sierra Nevada Review, and elsewhere. He won the riverSedge Poetry Prize 2015. He is the author of Poems, Not Poetry (Finishing Line Press, 2013).
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Late One Night By: Kevin Wilson Late one night in the early morn I woke up and my pants were torn Split the seat from seam to seam Felt like someone else’s dream Turned out everything was fine I realized those pants weren’t mine One of my cousins played a joke Switched my pants and stole my smoke When I catch him I’ll get back My old pants and my smoke, Jack, You can bet on that But right now I don’t know where he’s at.
Kevin Wilson: Finalist 2008 Hudson Prize. Finalist 2012 Nilsen Prize. Author of The Route, Saint Bob Day. Finalist 2015 Black Hills Press Novella Contest. Winner, 2016 Best Screenplay, Wexford Film Festival Songwriter for The Rubes.
Boo Radley’s Blues By: Joseph POwell I’m the neighbor that everyone keeps talkin’ bout, but no one wants to know; the one your good book tells you you’re supposed to love; I don’t mean no harm, nor do I mean to cause any trouble; I lurk in the shadows sometimes; mostly, I just keep to myself. But, if you allow me, I can be a good friend; maybe even, come to your rescue when the timing’s right; for if I’ve learned anything in all my years, is that we’re all lurking in the shadows waiting to be recognized waiting to be rescued.
Joseph Powell is a writer and spoken word artist and the author of four collections of poetry including The Spirit of Baldwin Compels Me. His poems have been featured in various journals including vox poetica, WORDPEACE, and The Freedom Papers. He has performed around the country including the Southern Festival Of Books, the Tucson Festival Of Books, and the Austin International Poetry Festival. He lives outside of Nashville, Tennessee with his wife, Cindi and dog, Hendrix.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Elegy By: Josiah A.R. Cox A navy squid. Plastered. Thrashed that bastard jarhead against the clouded floor of a ship. Mechanic by task, hard ass by nature. Soldier either as hot or cold as a cup of Folgers. A stepfather of flint (Dad could vouch) whose whiskey on ice outlasted his Navy blues. Cloudless day at sea. Grandpaâ€™s warm, palmed smile. Aqua eyes all sparkled, calm, deep.
Josiah A.R. Cox is a native of Kansas City, MO. His current work as a graduate student at Yale examines the relationship between literature and theology. His debut poem appeared in Fathom Magazine (2020).
marlon brando AND HIS DOG IN LIBERTYVILLE, illinois, 1950 By: Roy Bentley —Art Shay, LIFE photographer The hard work of watching old movies includes a photograph of Marlon Brando sitting cross legged in Converse sneakers and a t-shirt and Levis, talking to his dog. Brando is gesturing Me, given the hand to his chest while the other rests on the collar at the white throat of the dog. The kicker is, the happy pooch is giving it the Turned Head. You ask, What is the rest of America up to? In the shade of Pound Mountain, near Wise, the laurel oak understory dilutes the daylight. In the clearing, the boys of green summer collide. Maybe a few touchdowns isn’t triumph over much. It’s certainly not Marlon Brando and dog in LIFE. But to imagine that Appalachian children should be seen and not heard is to miss this bright hour. Jack Wright signals he’s scored. Raises his arms. Earlier, he solo-swam a waterhole the strip mine carved out at a place which, in July, isn’t deadly— if you overlook the nuisance snakes showing up and speeding the pulse this Independence Day. Again, 6-year-old Jack Wright bellows, Thow it! Striding in flag stripes of light and shadow, his kid-fingers are about to sting with belonging.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
WARSHIPS INVADE EARTH AND INCINERATE EVERYTHING IN SIGHT WITH HEAT RAYS By: Roy Bentley In town, Samson & Delilah is playing, the words HELD OVER on the marquee. And in the hills, an asteroid-like thingamabob comes crashing to earth to a Theremin soundtrack. America-from-elsewhere must be one big bull’s-eye. Suddenly, there’s a huge crater. Which locals approach— meaning there’s a gesture to ask Just how fucked are we? It involves waving flour sacks as a sign of friendliness.
Bombers are useless. As are insignia. Uniforms. It’s 1953. America is weary of generals and wars. Uber-handsome Gene Barry / Dr. Forrester takes an ax to the redoubtable ETs, showing off for a woman he’s rescuing. Showing everyone. At last, we are in a church. There's praying. Christ is toppling as, outside, invaders crash and burn brightly to cheering in the streets—
And, all right, one or two do make it a few feet before getting zapped to cinders. Followed by the cop and his copmobile. A general named Mann is saying he has it, the object from wherever the fuck things like that come, surrounded. (Meaning he doesn’t.) Now, he is handing his binoculars to Gene Barry / Dr. Clayton Forrester— so he can see a priest reciting The 23rd Psalm before the Holy Father is cremains in a cassock and collar.
and they might as well be carnival angels, these toughies still standing, given southern California has always been a sideshow, the 20th Century too. Especially with Orville and Wilbur Wright dead and Eisenhower as president, the war in Korea. Maybe the end of the world begins like this— victor-America lifted up but then returned to a backlit earth in one cherished piece.
Starman Decides What He’s Not By: Roy Bentley
If I’m not human, thought the starman— and began getting as teary as his kind gets, imagining he was the butterfly a dog chases, the white-blur by Welcome to Ohio signage— the work is to see hidden-from-myself parts of myself. He had parked his silver spacecraft in the deep end of the lake—he’d exited in jeans, high-top basketball shoes, and a t-shirt reading God Is A Concept By Which We Measure Our Pain. It was nearly dawn. The fishermen had gone home to wives. Television news shows. COVID-19-talk. And he stepped forward for the fish to behold— his unsympathetic eyes considering what he saw and saw repeated in the surface of their lake-home: a light-years-sitting Buddha-belly and astrophysical body bruised by a recent fall-to-earth. The sooner he did what had been asked of him, the sooner he might see lightfall in the eyes of his children
Roy Bentley, finalist for the Miller Williams prize for his book Walking with Eve in the Loved City, is the author of seven books of poetry; including, most recently, American Loneliness from Lost Horse Press, who is bringing out a new & selected in 2020. He has published poetry in december, The Southern Review, New Letters, Crazyhorse, Shenandoah, Blackbird, Prairie Schooner, and Rattle among others.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
The Gold Fish By: Veronica Patterson —for brother Tim In the trunk of the old maple outside my kitchen window, many branches lost to wind, a hollow deepened. Thinking of you as you entered yet another recovery program, I found a gift you had given me, a stone that fit in my palm. Swimming beneath its lacquered surface a flame-haloed gold fish, the betta splendens, Siamese fighting fish that you loved in our childhood aquariums. Did you love that fish, sensing a need long before you knew what your fight would be? Before you found glass walls inside you turned from but couldn’t break? After I placed the stone in the hollow, talisman or prayer, I left it for years. Then three days after your daughter’s wedding in California, where you were sober and happy, you died on a San Diego sidewalk of heart failure. Back home, I went to get back the dark-shining rock, that golden fish, but the tree had grown over it. The swelling had newer, lighter bark. A belly with a navel. This is true but I don’t know what truth it is.
NEW FROM CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED AUTHOR OF SHADOW OF THE LIONS
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A southern-set tale of family, vengeance and atonement.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
buddy BY: Leslee Becker Tom’s dog died last week, wife left him a month ago, and now he was getting a tooth pulled. Dr. Larson told Tom she liked his travel articles, and suggested placing his thoughts elsewhere. He pictured his wife in a desert, regretting her disloyalty and her unhygienic practices. She had diseased gums, and her teeth were dropping into the sand. Peg had called last month saying that she’d “partnered” with a young woman in Utah who owned a shoe store. “Permanently?” “I’m taking stock,” she said, as if discussing store inventory. He’d called Peg when Buddy died, but had to leave a message: “Something happened. I don’t want you to worry, but you better call me.” “Routine procedure,” Dr. Larson said when she finished, “but there’s always the danger of dry socket, especially at your age.” “I’m fifty,” he mumbled. He took a pain pill at home, and was watching TV, when his doorbell rang. The middle-aged woman was plump, and sporting a fancy hairdo. “Nora Boyd. I just moved in next door. Am I disturbing you?” “I was watching TV.” “Oh,” she said, and left. He returned to the show on penguins, a narrator explaining that the Emperor penguin stored up fat, nestling an egg under its stout belly while the female foraged for food. Tom cringed when he learned that the males could lose up to forty pounds waiting for their mates to return. He thought about how people talked about wake-up calls and changing their lives, but felt he received
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020 a message that said, “You have permission to go under.” He rifled through his mail, pleasantly ignoring bills. A flowery card said, “You’ve just had a moving experience!” He nodded, and looked outside at the doorstep, where he’d discovered Buddy on a frosty morning. The dog had shaken snow off and turned in a circle, as if to display its features and say, “I have big ears, and droopy eyes, but I’m loyal.” When he tried to find the dog’s owner, people looked at him sadly, as if he and his solemn-eyed pet were personal reminders of misfortune. He’d written about Buddy’s death in Western Adventures, and realized now that the moving experience card was from a hardware store, and intended for Mrs. Nora Boyd.. “I want to explain something,” he told her. “I don’t usually watch TV in the daytime. I had a tooth pulled, and I was on drugs.” She invited him inside. Her home smelled like a place that specialized in second-hand smoke. Moving boxes were scattered everywhere. She told him that she was waiting for a sofa, and planned to spruce up her place. “I’ve got projects myself, but my dog died. Last week.”
“That’s tough.” She paused a moment. “I need to take a nap. The Japanese do it all the time. They
leave work, have a brief snooze, and wake up refreshed. Maybe you should give a try.” “Sure thing,” he said, returned home, convinced that she was bonkers, and that further interactions with her would be contraindicated. He poured a drink, and looked through his article portfolio, a frank reminder of trips he’d taken with Buddy. “Buddy and I visited Hygiene, a village formerly devoted to the care of consumptives, but you don’t have to be ill to enjoy the bracing air and mountain views, and at the local café, you’ll get sticky buns the size of shoe boxes!” He knew that Peg and her new lover must’ve been on his mind when he wrote that article.
The other articles showed a history of kooks: a man claiming to have the world’s largest collection of steak knives; a farmer who fashioned figures out of scrap metal— “The history of mankind from apes to astronauts”—as an inspirational theme park. The last piece was on Buddy. “Loyal to the end, my faithful companion passed on in the bedroom.” He was running his tongue over his tooth socket, when the doorbell rang—Mrs. Boyd wearing a kimono, and holding a silver container. “I located my blender, and made a little concoction for you. I’ve got plenty of time now.” “Retired?” “Divorced. I’m an actress.” “I thought you looked familiar,” he lied. “I try not to be familiar. I’m a recreation actress. I re-create, you know, fact-based reenactments. Medical detective shows, investigative dramas. I’m paid to be many people. I have to hide my own assets. It’s a matter of visual persuasion.” “I write travel articles.” “I went to a place highly praised for its cuisine by a member of your profession. Got food poisoning.” “I try to be honest.” “I have a favor to ask. Take a look at my sofa and give me your honest opinion.” It was huge, the color of applesauce, and with a hefty price tag. “It looks comfy,” he said. Some boxes had been opened, the contents strewn all over. A careless woman, he thought. “Would you like to have dinner?” “Now?” “Tomorrow. I have to take it easy because of the extraction. I don’t want to get dry socket.” She frowned. “Heaven forbid.” He returned home and searched the TV for the type of program she described, but dozed off, until a searing pain in his jaw awakened him. He took a pain pill, and glanced out the window at a thin moon trousered by clouds that looked stalled.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020 The toothache disappeared in the morning, but he took a pill to be on the safe side. Hadn’t Dr. Larson told him to let his body do the talking? His body was saying, “Tell Nora Boyd you’re still a bit under the weather, and wouldn’t it be nice to cozy up after dinner? How about a little investigative drama?” Then he went through the rest of his mail—two letters from readers, one urging him to check out an emu ranch. The writer supplied directions and signed off as “Interested Party.” “Live and let live,” the other letter began. “Generally, I’m against same-sex entanglements, but my wife and I like your travel stories. We visited the farm implement museum that you and your companion went to. Anyhow, we’re sad for you.” “What made you decide to move to Colorado?” he asked Nora at dinner. “In your profession, don’t you need to be where the action is?”
“It’s pretty costly to live where the action is. I’m going to enjoy being myself. It takes a lot out of me
to study up on the people. I have to become them.” “I bet you hear from viewers a lot.” She nodded and ate heartily. “Must be the altitude. I’m constantly hungry and tired. I fell asleep this afternoon and dreamed I was fishing, and snagged a huge, homely fish with whiskers and human teeth. I hooked it right in the jaw.” She blushed. “Sorry. I shouldn’t be talking about teeth.” “No problem. It’s all behind me now.” He wanted to say more, but she announced that her ex had been fond of reptiles. “He had a python that smelled like spinach. It bit me once.” “Grounds for divorce,” he joked, but she looked wistful. “He told me he didn’t know who I was anymore. My husband.” Tom shook his head. “My wife took up with someone younger, and I thought I’d never get over her, but I did.” Jesus, he thought, when she asked if he’d like to see her parts. He wondered if he’d developed a hearing problem. He watched her reach into her kimono for a DVD. His DVD player was upstairs in the bedroom. She took Peg’s side of the bed.
“It’s a compilation. Select scenes from when I first started acting,” she said. He took a pain killer. She’d gained weight. In her first appearance, she played a distraught, slim young mother whose child had disappeared at a mall. In another, she was testifying in court about an abusive husband. “Very moving and convincing,” he said. She shushed him, as if he’d interrupted an Oscar performance. “I’ve got a confession. I’m afraid to be myself,” she whispered . “Meryl Streep must have the same problem.” She began to cry. “My ex tried to take every cent I earned in my professional career, but I thwarted him.” His eyes felt heavy, and he wasn’t certain if the ringing phone was part of a dream or a TV scene. He heard Nora say, “Yes, that’s right.” She tapped his shoulder. “A woman called, but she hung up before I could get her name.” Peg heard a woman’s voice, and was rattled. Serves her right. The phone rang the next morning, but it was his editor reminding him about deadlines. He called Peg, and got her answering machine again. “I’m sick with worry about you. Please call back.” Nora looked at him mournfully at her door when he said he’d appreciate her company on his travel assignment. “First one since Buddy died.” It was cold, but she wore a light coat and dressy, high-heeled shoes. “I thinking of giving up my acting career,” she said in the car. “I’m no Meryl Streep.” “I was impressed. Last night, watching you act, I…” “Fell asleep.” He stopped at the diner in Hygiene he’d written about in Western Adventures. “Our trade picked up when you mentioned us in the magazine,” the waitress said. “Many customers, including the very ill.” She pointed to his article on a bulletin board, and Nora went to look at it. “I read about your recent loss,” the waitress said. “Your son. Your wife’s holding up well, though.” Before Tom could correct her, Nora returned and asked for sticky buns.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020 “Must be good knowing you have an influence,” she said in the car. “People read what they want into things. You wouldn’t believe what they come up with.” “I get letters from family members telling me what I did wrong, and how I’m not like the real people I’m supposed to be imitating.” she said. He glanced at the directions to the emu ranch, and took a dirt road shadowed by brooding trees. “It’s like something out of Deliverance,” she said, but left the car, and clambered up a hill. He followed, feeling his heart clench, when he heard inhuman screeching, and then saw a scalped-out area below, where ungainly birds ran around a corral. A thin woman was talking to Nora. “The emu is hearty,” she said. “We tried other livestock, but no luck, so we bought these emus. Big eaters, but they lay eggs the size of baseballs.” “Hey,” a man said, startling Tom. The woman pointed at Tom. “He’s going to write us up.” “We aren’t breaking any laws,” the man said. “No, sir,” Tom said. “It’s quite an operation you have here.” “He writes for Western Adventures,” the woman said. “A very popular magazine. They’re interested in the products. I told Nora about the skin oil.” She looked at Tom. “We butcher the birds and use everything. There’s no waste. Be sure to tell people that.” “Ellie, don’t ruin it,” the man said. “He’s superstitious,” she said, and went off with Nora. “What is it that you do exactly?” the man asked. Tom described his job. “The unusual, you know, like those llamas people raise.” He listed the many uses of llama fur and how llamas served as pack animals. “Can’t recall when I last read a newspaper or magazine. We try to keep to ourselves. Wish I’d known about those pack animals.” Tom assured him that the emu enterprise might be just the ticket, but it had doom written all over it. When the women returned, Nora waved her hand under Tom’s nose. “Emu oil.”
It smelled like worms, and the man chattered on about the butchering process. “The first one was a hardship,” his wife interjected. “Like losing a family member. We don’t have kids of our own.” “Those facts don’t matter,” the man said, and pushed her toward the house. Nora placed her hand on Tom’s leg in the car. “I feel like I turned a corner. Their home. No modern conveniences, but did you see how she brightened, talking about those birds? That’s the story. That’s what I’d write about.” He felt he was with Peg, hearing Peg criticize him and his articles, telling him what she’d do, if she were in his shoes, “Maybe you’re romanticizing things. Those people will never make it.” She withdrew her hand from his leg. “I’m just trying to be myself.” He felt a stab of tenderness. “I did something awful,” he said. “Yes, you did.” “I was referring to the past,” he said. “I smacked Buddy really hard once.” He didn’t divulge that it happened the day Peg told him about her female lover. “Pets have a forgiving nature, but it doesn’t always work the other way around. My ex’s python. I couldn’t warm up to it after it bit me. Even before.” “My wife. Our separation’s only been a month. I don’t know where things stand. I’m sorry for leading you on.” “What do you take me for?” she said, and left the car. What have I become? he wondered, or was he always this judgmental, jealous and bitter? He raced to the ringing phone at his place, rehearsing what he’d tell Peg. “I want my DVD back,” Nora said, and hung up. He replayed what he’d seen before on the DVD, then saw a scene that showed Nora on a gurney in a morgue, a sheet covering everything but her head. He watched astonished, as she mimicked the recently deceased. Something that felt like grief gripped him. Maybe he’d turned a corner? He’d return the DVD, insisting that he’d been genuinely moved. She deserved an Oscar, no less than an Oscar, for her performance. Lights were on at Nora’s place, the curtains open. He stood by her door, seeing her in her kimono, lying
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020 down on her new sofa, eating a sticky bun. The moment she opened the door, he felt he’d lost something. He handed her the DVD. “I watched it, from beginning to end. It affected me.” “You’re like a submarine. Just like my ex. You go down for a while then you come up.” He nodded, despite not knowing what she meant, then left. He’d been sentimental to believe he’d turned a corner. He’d try to be honest in his article. “My companion and I visited an emu ranch run by a couple living off the grid by raising unusual birds that yield products claimed to have restorative powers.” He stared at the phone. God, he’d used his dead dog to get to Peg, and he’d exploited Nora. “Sociable creatures, like us, need a buddy,” he added, then recalled Nora saying, “It’s a matter of visual persuasion.” “Tall and majestic, the emu cannot fly, but seeing and hearing them in action is bracing.
looking for a wake-up call, this is the place for you!” Readers, he knew, would come up with their own interpretations.
Leslee Becker, a former Stegner Fellow at Stanford, has published stories in Iowa Review, Kenyon Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Epoch, and elsewhere. She currently lives in Colorado.
Writer to Writer, a monthly podcast hosted by Rebecca Evans and Ken Rodgers, invites artists to read their work and chat about craft, story and tossing words to the world. About Rebecca Evans: Rebecca is an essayist, memoirist and poet and has hosted and coproduced Our Voice and Idaho Living television shows, advocating personal stories, and now mentors teens in the juvenile system. You can find her work in The Rumpus, Entropy Literary Magazine, War, Literature & the Arts, 34th Parallel, Capable Magazine and Collateral Journal, among others. She is currently editing a collection of essays titled Body Language, and just completed her memoir, Navigation. She’s a decorated Gulf War veteran, has served on the editorial staff of the Sierra Nevada Review and lives in Idaho with her three sons. About Ken Rodgers: Ken is a poet, writer and filmmaker who lives in Idaho. Both a Pushcart Prize nominee and a Best American Short Stories nominee, Ken’s work has appeared in many fine journals. His published books include a collection of short stories, The Gods of Angkor Wat (BK Publications), and poems Trench Dining (Running Wolf Press) and Passenger Pigeons (Jaxon Press.) Along with his wife Betty, Ken co-directed and co-produced Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor, a feature length documentary film about Ken’s company of Marines at the Siege of Khe Sanh in 1968. Their latest documentary, I Married the War, about caregivers to combat veterans will be released in 2021. Ken blogs fairly regularly at KennethRodgers.com. Steven Wilson’s original song, “The Words”, is the title song for the show. SteveDWilson.com
Tune in to KRBX Radio Boise (89.9/93.5 FM) the first Sunday of each month at 5:30 PM MT for Writer to Writer.
Rebecca and Ken hope to create and continue writing conversations worth sharing.
r e t i r W Writer to
Previous episodes are available for on-demand listening at: soundcloud.com/radioboise/sets/writer-to-writer.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
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A nice home-cooked meal By: Larry Rothe A month ago, just like that, the father lost his job, leaving him all the time in the world. The mother, who continued to work, went ahead and claimed ten hard-earned vacation days. Together they chose to proceed with plans laid in more solvent times. They would make the trip from their home outside Chicago to Niagara Falls, just as they’d promised their seven-year-old son. The father and mother had honeymooned at the falls, and when they decided to celebrate the tenth anniversary of their marriage by revisiting the site of bygone bliss, they prepared their boy for his first look at a wonder of the natural world. They attempted to describe the cascades, how the rushing river dropped over the edge in great twisting cables of foam. They recited stories of men who had huddled in barrels and yielded to the current’s power, which led in only one direction to a preordained terminus. “Will we ride the Maid of the Mist?” the boy wanted to know. “Will we visit Fort Niagara?” His excitement touched them. He was a delicate child, susceptible to anxieties and random episodes of constipation that altered his otherwise sweet nature and increased his inclination to withdraw. Dismayed at their inability to ease the boy’s troubles, they assured and reassured him. The Maid of the Mist. Fort Niagara. Yes. All that and more. Then one day the father discovered his name gone from his office door and his computer unresponsive to his password. Bad luck would not hold this family back. Of course they’d be forced to economize—drive rather than fly, and overnight at backroads places that announced themselves in neon and whose invitations to weary travelers could be withdrawn at the flick of a switch, illuminating a red NO that canceled the green-glowing VACANCY on the marquee. As the father and mother reflected on the need to adapt their ambitions to their new financial circumstances, a sense of nostalgia swept over them. The necessary restrictions they would impose on themselves carried them back to their early years together, and they felt lighter and younger, as though they had shed a decade of accumulated worry. Neither of them being inclined to sentimentality, they knew what awaited them when they returned home from the falls; but they were optimists, committed to making lemonade from the lemons life had delivered. And so they strapped their boy into his car seat and
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020 steered east, over the Chicago Skyway, through northern Indiana, past the defunct smokestacks and cinder heap of Gary, into Michigan and from there onto the wide-open turnpikes of Ohio and Pennsylvania, three trailblazers heading toward sunrise not sunset, with the Alleghenies still before them. Traveling toward the Atlantic a century and more ago, they would have passed ox-drawn wagons bound in the opposite direction. As the father pressed the accelerator and the car continued eastward, he pondered the luck that had brought them this far, already in eastern Ohio, somewhere between Warren and Youngstown. Toward five they pulled off the turnpike at Irwin, Pennsylvania. Vacancies abounded in the three or four motels outside town. At this time of year the day’s heat had not yet given way to evening, and as soon as they entered their room at the Colonial Motor Court they turned the air conditioner to high. Knotty pine wainscoting covered three walls. A framed print of a mountain scene hung above the night table between the double beds. The mother smiled. “Just like the old days,” she said. The father was happy. The boy inspected the small bars of soap in the bathroom, peed in the toilet, and played with the TV remote, surfing from channel to channel while the mother and father unpacked and readied themselves for dinner. The desk clerk, bifocaled and despite the season clad in a flannel shirt buttoned to the neck, as if armored against a December he might never see, had neglected to shave, and gray stubble poked through skin translucent with age. He recommended a restaurant within walking distance, just around the bend in the highway. Joyce’s, he called it. He grew animated. “It’s where to go if you want a nice home-cooked meal. Be sure to try the chicken-in-a-basket. It’s one of a kind. Tell Joyce I sent you. Name’s Stuart. You tell her Stuart sent you and enjoy your chicken-in-a-basket.” Joyce’s was Joyce’s Old Manse, two stories of white clapboard, with an overhanging roof balanced on pillars and shading the front porch. The father thought the structure resembled a funeral home more than an old manse. The front doors opened on a spacious dining room, the floor carpeted from one wall to the other in a floral pattern, the vaulted ceiling crisscrossed by rafters from which hung lamps shaped like candelabra. In a corner stood an upright piano. Place settings were arranged atop the white paper cloths covering the tables. The father noted, at one table, a middle-aged couple, the woman in a short-sleeved blouse that revealed her ample arms, the man wearing a baseball cap, strands of dark hair protruding down his neck. At another table the father spied a family of four, mom and dad and two boys, one in his early teens and one younger, perhaps no older than his own son. On the counter at the entrance stood the cash register and, beside it, a small stack of CDs for sale. The recording was entitled Re-Joyce! The cover bore this explanatory text: 10 Reasons to Praise His Name.
Composed, Sung, and Played by Joyce of Joyce’s Old Manse in Irwin, Pennsylvania. The plus-sized woman behind the counter emerged to greet them. In her arms she cradled a set of menus. Her lace-trimmed blouse billowed as she moved, curtaining her waist and most of her dark slacks. Her words sounded propelled through her smile, and she spoke not in sentences, but in declarations. “Welcome to Joyce’s Old Manse! I’m Joyce. Looks like there’s three of you, so you just follow me.” Joyce seated them at a table near the family that had caught the father’s eye. While he and his wife studied the menu their son colored his placemat with the crayons Joyce had provided. The father considered the offerings and their prices. A waiter appeared with the food for the family nearby. The older boy had ordered a burger. Before the younger boy the waiter placed a red plastic basket piled high with what appeared to be an entire chicken, cut up, breaded, and fried. The boy licked his lips and rubbed his hands together. The older one clipped him on the ear. “You’re such a dork,” he said. The parents laughed. The younger boy stuck out his tongue and needled his brother. “The dork just got the best thing in the kitchen,” he assured his tormentor, pointing first at his own meal and then at the forlorn patty that rested on the pale bun half. The father went back to the menu. His son continued to scribble, ignoring the father and mother’s attempts to interest him in dinner. “I’m not hungry.” “But you have to eat something,” coaxed the mother. “I don’t want to.” “I’ll have the chicken,” said the father, “and he can have some of mine.” “The chicken,” said the mother. “You drove all the way from Chicago and you’re going to have the chicken? In a basket? You deserve more than that. I’m having a steak.” Joyce chatted with the family at the other table. She ran a puffy hand through the younger boy’s shaggy blond hair as he leaned over the basket, gnawing at a breast. “That’s my boy, Mikey!” Joyce proclaimed. “Can you eat all that chicken-in-a-basket?” Mikey glanced at her, chewing and, like a child possessed, nodded yes, yes, sure I can eat all this chicken-in-a basket. He laid down the half-consumed breast, wiped his hands, and gave Joyce a big, chicken-fed grin. Joyce erupted with delight. “Mikey, you take the cake!” She began to address the room. “Do you believe,” she said, “that a week ago this child was in convulsions. Yes, indeed. These poor folks got the scare
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
of their lives. But that’s my Mikey. This boy does not give up! Here he is tonight, eating like a little prince. This boy does not give up! And the Lord does not give up on those who persevere. Praise God!” The mother gazed at Joyce. Joyce caught her eye. “Oh, it’s true. Just a week ago this young man was in convulsions. And look at him now. The picture of health!” Joyce marched to the upright piano, seated herself, and began pounding the keys, producing a fullbodied, major-mode melody that could not be mistaken for anything but a hymn, one of Joyce’s own making. The father had heard nothing like this since his Sunday School days. Joyce sang:
“The Lord is always ready, The faithful know he’s there. He offers them a shelter, Provides the softest chair.
“The Lord says, ‘I’m your tour guide Through heaven’s glor’ious rooms! Sweep out your sinful urges. Take up your holy brooms.’
“Step smartly to the altar Oh ye of little faith! Now to the Lord give praises Or else you’ll be too late!” The man in the baseball cap applauded. The other diners continued their conversations or concentrated more intently on their food. Joyce slammed shut the keyboard cover. “Praise the Lord!” she cried out. Ecstasy enlarged her as she rose from the bench. The aura trailed her as she strode toward the kitchen, and it hung in the air a moment after she disappeared through the swinging door. “I don’t know how she does it,” said the man in the baseball cap. “Music is just part of her. That talent.
Where does it come from?” His wife agreed. “Music is her life. If you asked Joyce, she’d tell you it came from God, I mean the talent does.” Their food arrived. The mother ate her steak and the father ate from his chicken-in-a-basket. He pushed the basket toward his son. “Have some,” he said. “I’m not hungry.” “You’ll wake up in the middle of the night, starving.” “I’m not hungry.” The father pulled the basket back and ate another piece of chicken. When they finished he asked the waiter to wrap what was left. They skipped dessert. As the kitchen door swung open, Joyce reappeared and billowed toward her post at the cash register. The man in the baseball cap and his wife stood there, ready to pay. They bought a CD. “Joanie will like this,” the man said, nodding. Joyce handed him a few bills in change and clattered a handful of coins into the ashtray on the counter. “Thanks, Fred! And Nancy! You folks come back soon, and tell that little girl of yours I’ll see her in church come Sunday.” At the other table Mikey’s basket was filled with bones. He slumped back and sighed, rubbing his stomach, a gesture he might have adopted from some geezer. “You are such a dork,” his brother reminded him. Mikey flung a well-aimed chicken bone and the brother caught it, shook his head, and clipped Mikey on the ear. “Dork.” As the father and the mother and the boy walked back to the Colonial Motor Court, the day’s humidity remained, clogging the twilight and slowing their steps. When the boy voiced his discomfort, the father reassured him. They had left the air conditioner running, and in a few minutes they would bask in its promised chill. They might need electric blankets! When they let themselves into the room all was silent. The thick air closed around them and clotted in their throats. The father eyed the air conditioning unit and moved the switch from on to off and back, but after a few attempts he understood the futility of this gesture as the machine refused to respond. The office was dark when he arrived there, and no one answered his pounding at the door. In the gathering dusk he heard only the hum of air conditioners, droning from the other rooms. They resigned themselves to the night and watched the last fifteen minutes of a comedy on TV, then
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020 prepared for sleep. “Dad, what are compulsions?” asked the boy. “Compulsions. What makes you ask? Sorry. That’s not funny, is it?” “Funny?” “I mean, compulsions are when you feel you have to do something, even if you don’t want to.” “Like when you wanted me to eat?” “No. It’s like an urge. Something inside is pushing you. Like that lady Joyce. She had a compulsion to sing.” “That boy at the restaurant had compulsions to eat his chicken.” “What? Oh, I get it. Joyce said he was in convulsions. Convulsions are different from compulsions. Convulsions are scary. It’s like your body is out of control, like you twitch or shake and can’t stop.” The boy shifted in bed, rose on an elbow, then lay back. “Sounds like the same thing,” he said. “Compulsions and convulsions. Either way, you’re not in control.” “I guess you’re right.” “Can I have some chicken?” “Sure. Hungry?” “No. But I can’t poop and if I eat something maybe it’ll help me go.” When the father turned out the lights he lay still. He listened to his son’s breathing. He pondered the beauty of the inhalations and exhalations, their quiet predictability, regular as clockwork, the essential rhythm over which the world’s melodies uncoiled. The mother embraced the father and pulled him close. “It’ll be OK,” she said. “It’ll be OK. I love you.” From his bed, and though he was almost asleep, the boy heard the mother. Years would pass before he understood her words, or why she spoke them.
Larry Rothe is the author of Music for a City, Music for the World (Chronicle Books, 2011), a history of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, and co-author of the essay collection For the Love of Music (Oxford University Press, 2006). His fiction has appeared in Story Quarterly. He is currently at work on his second novel.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
run By: Andrew Kleinstuber “He had a story once. It was long ago, before your time, before mine. He was young and he was strong and he loved more than just your grandmother and his family and the work that robbed him of his hearing and, if I had to guess, hours he’d rather have been elsewhere. He was a fisherman. Not a good one, really, not knowledgable about lures or bait or tides, but he loved the water and spent as much time as he could out beyond the reach of sight where the earth dips beyond itself and the water completes the vision. He had a mistress once, sure, a little woman who lived down the road with a husband and children of her own and though he might have loved the times they stole from one another he never loved her, really, like he never loved the time he spent in the Navy when we were at war, but in hindsight he was always able to smile about it all the same. Even had it on his arm in what’s now just smeared deep blue ink in the shape of a panther and below a nickname that he couldn’t even remember getting. Cost him fifteen cents in the Philippines but earned him an infection that kept him in the infirmary three days with a fever that had him seeing visions of his girl back home. Cindy Holloway, I think her name was, slept with the near-sighted kid they kept home in the back of her dad’s Pontiac. It broke his heart, but that was be-fore they made a movie about soldiers getting those kinds of letters and people could sympathize, so when he read the letter he hardly felt a thing as he burned her picture with the lighter he’d won in a poker game because that was about all he could do about it anyways, so what’s the point in fussing over what’s already done. There were drugs of course, and drink, and I’m sure there were young girls in the Orient and the South Pacific like so many others and that’s the world that they lived in and the women took the money and fed themselves and their family, and I’m not saying that it’s okay or it’s right or it’s fair because it’s not, and I don’t want you to think it’s jus-tifiable or even comprehendible, but it’s what was and it happened and it doesn’t change the fact that he was a good man who lived a life of good and spread goodness to those around him. When he met my mother it was in the early years after they all came home, which was a difficult time for the country and for us as a people because they were broken men and we wouldn’t allow that, not on the face of things. They took factory jobs from women who became their wives and service and industry jobs from black men who became their idle annoyance and were unhappy, mostly, because they couldn’t feel anything after the tours and the young boys with the holes in their chests and the young girls with holes in their souls that they’d left in the past that were still with them on the line. He took a loan like others, bought a house and mar-ried my mother and put a son in her that died just three weeks after being born and I know, though they never told me, that it was a terrible life he lived and one that they both knew passed with relief, though they mourned his death and it sent her into a depression the doctor called this and that and gave her pills that kept her temperate and pleasant but her eyes dull, placid. I was born a year later and mother went off the pills and he could stop drinking in secret because there was no-one to talk to and they named me after his mother and, as I’m told, I saved their lives. The second room that had been my mother’s art studio became a nursery and her equipment was either sold to pay for the crib painted in lead and the diapers soaked in chemicals or stashed away deep in the attic where your father found them when she passed and we moved him here, into this room. She was quite the talent, my mother, which he’d always said. See that, there? The one above his bed with the mill working in that wooded stream, looks like fall has just turned to winter much to the horse just there in the corner’s delight, that’s one of hers. And she was even better at oils, if you can believe. But she put them away as he picked up the late shift at the factory because they gave him free financing on one of their model ’58’s before they came out the following year and he was losing two hours a day waiting on buses and trains to get him there and back and, though he knew he’d lose some time while I was young, he hoped when I was able to remember things, when I was walking and talking and started singing in choir, that he would be able to afford to take some time off, but then my mother got pregnant again and my sister came and with
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020 her a new house in a better school district because I was about to start kindergarten and higher taxes and a mortgage and he ended up keeping the late shift and the day shift up until the hum of the equipment ruined him for any-thing high pitched and they found his worth in management and he started wearing a tie to work, 9-5. Couldn’t hear a damn thing I sang, though. That’s why we always drive GM, don’t ya’ know? Cause he was loyal. Is loyal. Which is something we don’t see these days, really. They put food on his table and he gives them his trust, his faith. Of course, he was lucky. There were people that lost hands—worse— to machinery and accidents. They were just figuring the whole thing out at that time, so there was plenty that could go wrong and it did and so often those men were pushed aside as easy as they like because they could, then, and they did. But he was lucky, he’d say, if he knew we were here. He was lucky because they gave him a job and he was able to put food on the table and even able to send his two daughters to school for the first time in our family and though he couldn’t under-stand what a degree in plant science or communications would do for two young women, he’d just as soon punch a fella in the mouth for the very question. He knew, like we now know with the world and how things are turning and shifting and becoming something we aren’t familiar with, that we were in a transi-tion. That we, his daughters that he’d brought into his own world, one he was famil-iar with and comfortable within, were moving forth into another, completely new world. Like you. Where you were born into was before, and in front, after. I know it doesn’t mean anything now, but it will. It’s like he used to tell us, really so much it was annoying at the time but now what I wouldn’t give t—, he used to say that life was like a walk in the woods, that when you tread that path, be it beaten or green un-derfoot, you can choose to move quickly or slow. Walking, though safe and allowing for complete observation, you run the risk of being late, on missing out completely. But if you run, there’s things you’ll miss and there are roots beneath that seek to grab you, hold you back, pull you down for moving at such a pace. My, how I must sound just like him, at this point. Funny how these things happen, how we become them, inevitably. You poor boy, doomed with me as your future, and dictating your now. For heavens’s sake, father, what was that? Did you say something? Should I call for the nurse? Please, father, sit back, you must rest. Dear me, look at yourself, you haven’t the strength. Please, don’t speak, it hurts you so. Oh, he wants you son, he wants to tell you—.” “Run.”
Andrew Kleinstuber is a writer from coastal Delaware. His fiction has appeared in Rehoboth Reads 2018 Anthology where ‘The Beginning of Everything’ earned the Judge’s Award, as well as Delaware Beach Life Magazine where ‘All Alone In Bed’ won first prize in a contest judged by Author George Pelecanos.
revision by: carolyn jack
I find you interesting.
Does that surprise you? It shouldn’t. You’re reading this, so naturally I’d be interested in someone who’s interested in me.
You must want something from me, although I can’t imagine why – I mean, you know nothing whatever about me except that I put words on paper. Perhaps that’s it. You’re hoping I’ll reveal myself. Well, what would you like to learn first? Something significant, I’m sure – none of the usual blather, all that age-place-of-birth-occupation stuff. Although you may find it out at some point. You’ll have to wait and see. I wasn’t counting on your being here. I actually began writing to remind myself what things look like, things I haven’t seen in a long time. You can stare at them the whole day long, but unless you can describe them, you haven’t truly seen them at all. I’ve been trying to recall people, images, and you’ve interrupted my process, I suppose you know. And yet I don’t mind. Perhaps helping you imagine them will help me remember them more clearly. I’ve been looking at a room, in my head. It’s a bland room that would bore you if that’s all I saw – a room with only a few items remaining in it. The rest have already been taken out by movers. To the right of the doorway, close to the entirely blank wall but askew, stands a brown steel bed frame, empty of mattresses. Diagonally across from it, and flanked by two small windows, squats a heavy wooden dresser with three deep drawers. Above it hangs a wide, wood-framed mirror. From wall to wall, the cheap, tan, linoleum-tile floor lies bare of rugs, and though it’s daytime, the surface glares in electric light that must be coming from lamps, though I can’t see the lamps themselves, only their harsh illumination. The shades must already have been packed.
A woman and three little girls occupy this room. The woman is my mother, and I don’t see her as she
was, but as she looked in two different photographs from about that time: one with her short, curled, brownblonde hair touseled and dark in the shadow of El Capitan, the other with her hair longer, smoothed back like glass from her tanned, patrician forehead as she water-skis in the wake of a motorboat, both taken by my
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020 father. (Are you guessing that she’s also beautiful? You are perspicacious as well as interesting.) Probably neither photo pertains to the time period in question, but whichever head I place on her in my memory, her active, athletic body (in hiking shorts? Riding pants?) is always on the move, folding clothes, perhaps, or lifting cartons, while she monitors me and my two sisters. For I am one of the three girls, you see – the smallest, the one unable to look at herself in the mirror, where her siblings giggle at the sight of themselves in the black-wax mustaches and thick, red-wax lips that are the latest candy fad, having climbed up the front of the bureau, feet ledged on the outcroppings of handles and upper bodies propped on elbows. They jeer at me, who has neither candy nor the courage to clamber up there after it. Maternal fiat prevails: I have suddenly appeared in the glass, tiptoe on a packing box onto which I have been lifted, my amber head between the white-blonde and the brunette, fat fake lips obscuring the lower half of my tiny face. My eyes stare over the lips. My eyes. Now here’s a bit of information for you: In my memory, as in all the photographs of me as a young child, they are wide open, wider than normal for human eyes, as if I’m startled or rapt with amazement. As if I can see more that way. They’re encircled by long black lashes, a mature luxuriance of fringe incongruous with my bitty snub nose and my messy sheaf of straw-straight hair. I can even see their color – deceptively brown from a distance, but actually a golden olive green, with a cinnamon ring around each pupil and each iris thinly outlined in charcoal gray, as if with ebony pencil. You never forget the color of your own eyes. As I gaze, everything around them in the mirror blurs away and, even though they’re in my head, I somehow see myself in them, a self that isn’t my body, but is me altogether, though it has no shape or coloration of its own. As if I were nothing but a point of deep, animated darkness seen through the twin portholes of an outbound craft. With eyes like that, you’d think I’d have seen it coming. My husband has always said that my eyes were the part of me he fell in love with first. (A husband! Make a note of that.) We met on a rafting trip just outside of Glacier National Park. He was there taking photographs for a magazine story on river adventures, and I was doing something you will likely think stupid: following the route of a camping trip my parents took before they were married. Why would she do such a sentimental thing, I hear you wondering, but don’t trust your first reaction where my so-called sentiments are involved. My hindsight is 20-20. I was 26 that summer and my parents had died two years earlier – in the kind of accident they would have scoffed at the possibility of – when the tram car they were riding across a gorge in the Rockies fell 500 feet into the river below. A badly made bolt in the suspension mechanism sheared off, allowing the
car to slip from its cable. Six other passengers died instantly, but my mother and father must have gotten out of the wreckage alive in spite of their injuries, because they were found in a cove three miles downstream with their arms around each other and their lungs full of water. The coroner said they must have been lost so much blood, they couldn’t pull themselves out of the shallows. Their demise was so them. (Have I shocked you?) They were always together and always daringly outdoors, scaling or hurtling down or traversing or jumping off some enormous and dangerous part of the planet. For years, with increasing impatience, they tried to coax, reason or shame me into joining them and my daredevil sisters on whatever risky expedition they were trying next. You would have been embarrassed for me: I froze in fear on slides and bunny slopes and diving boards, half-inside kayaks and roller coasters, at the entrances of rope bridges and the bottoms of rock-climbing walls. I paddled in tidal pools while the other four body-surfed in storm surges. I drank hot chocolate and read romances while they schussed and ollied down black-diamond slopes. My parents were cremated. My sisters decided to scatter the ashes as they hang-glided into the gorge Mom and Dad had died in. They knew – as do you by now – that I wouldn’t, couldn’t go with them. Following my parents’ early, tame camping route around Montana two years later was – what? My homage? A test run on training wheels? Something. You’re welcome to guess all you want. I think I was just lonely. Tired of being left behind. Desperate to see what I was missing. The rafting trip was one of those carefully guided, gourmet-fooded “wilderness experiences” that city people like me pick from catalogs. Safe-ish. There was some paddling involved, of which I remember very little. Shouted instructions, flying water, rising panic. But here’s the scene I want to look at: We’ve made it through the rapids into the quiet tract of river near the landing area and, in exhilaration at having lived, I tear off my helmet and sunglasses and whoop. The lean, dark-haired man I married soon afterward takes a shot of me that I later hang over my desk: wet hair flung out like a corona, teeth flashing, the sun sparkling on my long, dropletted lashes. When he lowers the camera, our eyes connect. His are bright in his tanned face, bluegreen, the color of the river. The light in them goes through me. They are full of admiration that feels like love. I think you get the picture. Dan and I have been married for 15 years now. Can you imagine? Do you imagine? I have to wonder what it is you see when I write “married for 15 years.” A steadily deepening affection and mutual respect? Dan gently helping me to overcome my fear of physical risk? My anchoring his incomplete and wandering soul with a companionship that grows ever stronger on our shared photographic adventures into a natural world of danger and daring? Him joining me – ardent and eager – on my literary quests through the universe of ideas? How amusing you are! The facts: I prefer my death-defying acts intellectual. And he likes only books with pictures in them. We just fooled each other for a while. He made me think he loved me. I made him think
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020 I was brave. For six months after we met, my interior climate warred with itself, equatorial below the waist and arctically numb above, as I forced my besotted self to accept all of Dan’s jolly invitations to go zip-lining, scuba-diving, hiking in grizzly country and riding in hot-air balloons, tearfully hoping to survive and, at the end of each torment, to immerse him in the sex that was the sole act of enthusiastic physicality in my repertoire. Always wanting to see that light again. (You’re thinking that we married too quickly, aren’t you? Rash promises made with words, not insight. That’s a reasonable deduction, and a wise. It’s rather easy to see where we went wrong. For you.) In time, the activities we could bear to share eventually dwindled to only that one – shall I call it spelunking? I believe it would have been enough for me to have his love at home, each of us returning to the other after workdays adventuring alone in our particular ways, but if even that part of Dan’s passion had ever been mine, I lost it. He could see in my eyes that what he adored made me miserable and afraid. And I could see in his eyes that he didn’t care anymore. After our fifth anniversary, he hired a young assistant and stayed away for months at a time with her on mule trips down live volcanoes and the like. He texted me the photos that girl took of him, always with his goggles or sunglasses or scuba mask on. I didn’t know what to do. I felt frozen at the top of another slide. Then the assistant quit and he came home for a while, haggard and wistful, to show me his thousands of breathtaking images and cook us dishes he’d encountered on his travels, making an effort to ask about my writing over coffee. I went with him to a few spectator events he could shoot from a press box instead of a base camp. He came with me to book conventions and readings. We weren’t happy. He hired another assistant. I called my lawyer. Then Dan asked me to join him on a cruise. Just a stretch-out-on-the-deck-with-a-daiquiri kind of cruise. To see if we couldn’t make it work. Envision this, will you? We’re on a two-masted yacht, heading from the Keys to the Bahamas. It’s October, still very hot and humid, but the sun takes refreshing dips behind the vast, meringue-like clouds, gilding their edges as if a row of lighted birthday candles had been imbedded on their back slopes. Andros is in sight to starboard and we are supposed to make Freeport by cocktail time in spite of the increasing swell. It’s so romantic. Just like my books. Dan and I lean on the rail, high above the water, gazing at the hazy, distant, celadon bulk of Andros, I from under a floppy hat, Dan through a wide-angle lens. It gets cloudier and windier and the yacht heels over farther. Needing both hands for my death-grip on the rail, but also one for my hat, I decide to go below. As I turn to go, Dan shouts, “Giving up already?” and shoots me with, I suspect, my eyes blinking and my hat brim blowing back from my forehead, unflatteringly like the half-open lid of a can. He lowers the camera. His eyes
narrow at me, dark-gray and cold. Out of nowhere, a wild and ferocious gust of wind howls over us from a new direction. Dan looks past me, face electrified, eyes suddenly a vivid green with excitement, and starts to raise his camera again. My own internal shutter clicks, capturing that instant of Dan in love, Dan’s eyes afire, but not for me. It’s the last clear thing I see. He shouts, “Get out of the way!” and I whirl blindly, confused. Feel a hand on my back, a hard shove. The swinging boom smashes into my face. There were months of surgery and therapy, the fitting of prostheses, before he took me home. Slowly, I have learned to navigate the house and yard, the special computer equipment. He takes only jobs nearby now, returning at night – it’s always night – to cook our meal and check the locks and bed down in our room. He’s had to tell the story a thousand times, to family and friends, new doctors and acquaintances, but there’s a part he never mentions. Nor do I. Perhaps he doesn’t rightly recall, or perhaps I don’t. It’s hard to be clear, when you’re missing what you used to see. He prefers me to wear dark glasses over the plastic orbs that fill my empty sockets. He can’t see if I suspect, and I can’t see if he shows guilt. But I need him now and he stays with me. Words are all that’s left to us, the photographer and his sightless wife: he tightly focused on the dull domestic view, I boldly venturing forth each day into the black unknown. So are you satisfied? You’ve learned more than you wanted, haven’t you? This is the fun part for me. Yes, TMI – you’re a little queasy, poor snoop. Have a drink. It will help you forget the imagined crunch of boom on bone. Perhaps you’ve changed your mind about the deliciousness of peering in. But now it’s only fair that I should learn of you: Do you believe me? How can you? You have only my word. You have never seen, and will never see, my eyes.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Carolyn Jack holds an MFA from the Columbia University School of the Arts. Her work has received two Pushcart Prize nominations and the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics and Writers’ 2016 Meringoff Prize for Fiction. Jack’s stories have appeared in ALSCW’s Literary Matters, The Westchester Review, Pen + Brush in Print and Great Lakes Review. A longtime journalist, she is a contributing editor at the online arts magazine Critical Read and lives in Connecticut.
Decay by: manny delgadillo It was noisy inside the room where mom worked on
turbaned it around the basket, and held it before her
her decorative baskets.
for inspection. The cellulosic emerald glimmered under
She was very methodical about the whole thing. She’d start by rooting artificial flowers into green Styrofoam, the plastic stalks boring like an auger into the squeaky foam. After wedging the Styrofoam inside the basket, she skirted the outer
the shimmering bulb overhead. “What’d you want to talk about?” she asked, gluing fake flatback rhinestones on the weavers. “It’s been a year since Monica died,” I said.
rim with bits of lace and, with the high temperature
She didn’t look up. “I know, hijo.”
glue gun she’d bought at K-Mart, glued fake jewels
“I still can’t believe it.”
and gaudy beads. Finally, she wrapped the basket in sheets of apple-red cellophane. The cellophane crinkled round the splints of wicker.
“I mean, last year I couldn’t believe my sister’d died. But now that I’m 11-years-old, I realize she’s really truly gone.”
She tied everything together with a blue ribbon, a neat looped bow. Every other weekend she sold the baskets for ten dollars apiece at the Flea Market behind the Flagler Dog Track. She spent the day haggling with cheap customers. Sometimes mom came home empty-handed. Sitting silently in her chair, she fished out a glue stick and inserted it into the glue gun. She spread out sheets of blue and red and green cellophane like a deck of cards. She took her time deciding. Finally, she plucked the green tissue,
“Neither can I,” she said without looking up.
She didn’t look up. “She’s basically, like, a skeleton by now,” I said, immediately realizing how morbid I sounded. “That happens after we die, we decompose.” “De-com-pose,” I repeated. Mom packed another basket in cellophane. Without warning, she unapologetically added, “The flies come and lay eggs in every hole in your body. And after they hatch, the maggots feed on you.” “Gross.”
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020 “Thousands of maggots crawl all over you. Bacteria and fungi eat you away.”
of cracker jetsamed in the brown pool. The galletas, soaked through and through, crumbled into even smaller bits. With a stainless steel spoon she salvaged
“I get it, mom.”
the pieces and slurped them.
“And you get bloated cause of all the gases in your body. Your skin turns purple. Entire sheets of skin slide right off—and fluids and gases leak out.”
“You shoulda seen her when she was un bebe,” she articulated. “I took good care of her, spending endless days beside the bassinet, rocking it on the rocking stand. I’d remove the canvas mosquito netting,
“MOM, I GET THE POINT.”
delicately, and pinch her ruddy cheeks and caress her
“And when all that’s left is your skeleton—
stomach. Her stomach was like a big bubble wrap, full of air, ready to pop at the slightest pinch.”
that withers away, too.” She finished wrapping the last basket for
She stopped, slurped café con leche, and continued. “I’d dash talcum powder in between her
Jell-O thighs and fold super-absolvent polymer diapers over her butt,” she reminisced. “Her skin was like chalk. *** After Monica died, mom couldn’t stop replaying the accident in her mind’s eye: Monica coming back home after a night at the beach. Losing control of the steering wheel. The Toyota swerving into a tree on the median. Her head striking the windshield. Her neck snapping like a No. 2 pencil.
It was like mom could hear the tendons
in her daughter’s cervical spine snap out of their grooves. It was like she could reach out and touch the clammy hole in her head. After Monica died mom never stopped talking about her. Mom sat on the rocking chair crushing soda crackers into a mug of café con leche. Pieces
You shoulda seen me, how I rinsed and dried her little cotton shirts and folded them into neat warm stacks. I took such good care of—‘My little sapphire ring,’ I used to call her. ‘Sweet peach.’” But one day, unexpectedly, mom grabbed hold of the chair, scrambled downstairs and threw it away. She recrossed the driveway and climbed the steps up to the second-story terraza. Her yellow bangs were a sleek curtain over a high forehead. “That rocking chair—it made me remember the past too much. I’m going to stop dwelling on it now,” she said, talking only to herself. “I wish I could change what happened, but I can’t. That’s why nostalgia is pure hypocrisy. Forget the past, the past is dead.” She dashed past me and into the house.
It wasn’t just that she had stopped telling
dreamt up that crazy scenario.
stories or that she had thrown away the rocking chair. There was more.
“I think maybe she might’ve witnessed some crazy shit go down, like the mafia murder someone,
and a secret agent was sent to make sure the mafia wouldn’t come after her or anything like that.”
At first, mom had been furious because I hadn’t visited Graceland Memorial Park cemetery. She herself went once a week, taking a fresh batch of sunflowers for her gravestone. She’d squat and caress the grass surrounding the gravestone, her fingertips stirring the thin green blades, imagining it was the hair on her daughter’s
Mom clamped her hands on my shoulders, her vice grip tightening around them. She breathed hot air on my cheek. She didn’t say anything, she only stared at me. After she threw away the rocking chair, though, she barely mentioned going to the cemetery. She even stopped visiting herself. ***
head. I’d find any excuse not to go. “It’s too far
At first, mom hung pictures of Monica’s
away, mom. The cemetery’s all the way in Perrine,” I
quinces all over the walls. The pictures were housed
once told her.
inside cheap dollar-store frames, the kind that
Mom stared at me, head slightly askew, her jaw slackened a little. Back then she was still on benzodiazepines. She rationalized that it was my duty as her brother to— “But she’s not dead, mom. She’s under one of those witness protection programs where they pass you off as dead. And you have to change
dissolved in your hands if handled too much. Monica posed in front of sunbaked balustrades, wooden trellises in the walkway, over the spurting water fountain, or propped against a column. The cheap frames with their black borders hung neatly on paper-white walls. But then one rainy day, a few months after
your name and move far away. You get a new social
she’d thrown away the rocking chair, mom removed
security number and they even change your birthday.
the pictures from their frames, went outside and
And they get a fresh cadaver and disfigure it so badly
flung them on the wet terraza floor. Like a cast-off
that nobody can tell it’s not really you. But you’re not
pile of dirty clothes. The pictures got all soaked in the
really dead, just under protection.”
I had seen the trailer to the movie Eraser, which was forthcoming that summer, and I had
Mom eyed me intently. “Don’t you dare…” she said and walked away.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020 But I had to do it, whatever it was.
in my secret cache. ***
The following day it was still raining. Creeping over to the scattered pile on the terraza floor, I yanked a picture at random. Monica leaned against a tree trunk in a snowy strapless gown and white heels. Long amber hair cascaded over bare shoulders, down the bodice of her gown. I shoved the photo into the pocket of my denim shorts. I zipped down the terrace stairs and into
Squatting under the blue tarp, in the deck of the Bayliner, mom sifted through my secret collection of Monica’s stuff. “Mom, whateryoudoing?” I jumped onto the deck. “You can’t throw it all away!” “I can, and I will,” she replied, packing
the backyard behind the house’s northern side. Nestled everything into a pile. in a corner of the backyard was an abandoned boat, a Bayliner Capri that had belonged to the landlady’s son. It had been completely neglected, like some old forgotten monument, jack stands and cement blocks keeping it propped upright. A weathered blue tarp, torn and frayed in spots, sheltered the deck and cockpit.
“But, mom, this is illegal. You need a search warrant—” “What are you doing con toda esta basura, all this trash?” she asked, completely disregarding me. “…” “You went sneaking around my back, took
Wind blew into the tarp’s frayed holes, the air travelling across the deck, the tarp billowing in a blue canvas ocean wave. I flung the tarp aside and snuck into the deck. Rain drizzled on the canvas, the sound of small pattering feet on a wet floor. Once in the deck, I came across my cache of old toys and baseball cards
everything back?” I shrugged my shoulders. “Look at all this,” she uttered in shocked surprise. She plucked all the “trash”, she’d disposed
and magazines. I tucked the picture inside the insert of
during the past year: the quinces picture, a box
a loose-leaf binder.
of Newports. Her beeper. An elementary school
The tarp crackled in the wind and rain. Small droplets filtered through the rifts and landed on my head. I lifted the canvas and swung over the gunwale on the starboard side. The picture was safe and sound
drawing. Lipstick. A yearbook. A handwritten letter. A student-of-the-month diploma. Her social security card. Immunization records. Progress reports. A pair of sneakers. Everything. “Mom, all this stuff belongs to Monica,” I pleaded. “Look. You can’t just throw away her social
security card. What if someone steals her identity? They can file taxes that way and pocket the money. Trust me, you don’t want that to happen.” “She’s dead, Jimmy. She’s completely gone, hijo. And now it’s time to move on. To try and forget. There’s no better way to cope.” A sudden gust of wind shook the abandoned boat. “I know mom, but, like, this is her stuff. These things are supposed to remind us of her.” It was getting late and the sky turned amethyst. The blue tarp smoldered like a wild
retrieved a cheap rectangular box. Pencils of amethyst light leaked in through the rifts in the canvas. I opened the lid on the box. A lock of ambercolored hair. Her hair. Monica’s hair. Mom had thrown this away too, but I had taken it back. She can’t ever find this, I thought. I touched her hair, and the little pelitos on the nape of my neck and arms stood upright. Alarmed with the impression that someone else was there with me, I huddled under the blue tarp in the deck of the abandoned boat. In some weird way, Monica’s right here, at the
brushfire, windtossed, windshuddering in the
tips of my fingers. I caressed the lock of hair and it was
sudden pickup of breezy air.
like she was there next to me, squatting with me in the
“…everything I threw away. God, what were you thinking of doing with these things, Jimmy?” “I dunno, mom. Maybe open up a museum.” “This is no time for your stupid jokes. I’m so disappointed, Jimmy.” She trampled up the steps to the terraza. “Whateryou gonna do with her stuff?” She didn’t say. She disappeared beyond the second-story terrace wall. Under the safety of the billowy tarp, I pulled out a doohickey under the floorboard and
deck of the Bayliner. I closed the lid—hid the box inside the secret cubby hole. This’ll be all of what remains of Monica, I thought. And whenever I get tired of watching mom wrapping baskets, the smell of hot glue, the crinkly sound of the cellophane, I’ll just hide in here. In here I’m safe. In here I’m with Monica. In here I’m with what remains of her.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Manuel Delgadillo was born and raised in Miami, FL, and is a first-generation Cuban American. He received a BA and MA in Literature from Florida International University. His work has been published in Every Day Fiction and is forthcoming in Aquifer: The Florida Review.
micro fictio 198
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Muscle Shoals BY: Aimee Pozorski The three of us settle into the bed upstairs, faces turned toward the screen introducing Muscle Shoals, a film about the recording studio built in Alabama, 1969. At first, we do not comprehend the weight of it; we do not understand your connection with this place built the year everyone was coming of age, you felt, except for you. With the imperative of a survivor, you tell us to watch the story of this radical studioâ€”the cast of producers and musicians as mixed as your family: Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Mick Jagger, The Staple Singers, Keith Richards, Bob Seger, Cat Stevens. The film tells the story of how they all worked together in the backwoods to build a legacy in racial harmony while the Civil Rights fight thrashed on. The music, we learn, defines you in its protest, railing against the racist acts you witnessed early on. Only the longhaired hippies are threatened at this studio in the seventies, when I was born. Muscle Shoals You bind us together. We are your fish, your family, swimming in shallow waters, the danger encroaching again in 2015, when you, and I and Eliot crawl under the covers, not yet imagining the fall of 2016, the election of 45, the harassment of our mixed family, dwelling now on so-called Sweetbriar. But you have written this history too, have written this family â€” composed us like the singers of Muscle Shoals. You are our strength, girl from Alabama. You have seen this all before. For now, you caution patience, gazing out the window. We talk about music, the Revolution, the Sixties. We feel safe there, for a moment, tucked safely in your bed, as we watch yet another Resistance rising just outside the door. Aimee Pozorski is Professor of English and Director of English Graduate Studies at Central Connecticut State University where she teaches contemporary American fiction. She is an editor, scholar, and author who likes to take pictures in her free time.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Chrysalis BY: Susan Polizzotto Thin the herd, runs through my head as I strip aphids from the milkweed leaves. My knees hurt and sweat drips down my face, but the job is only half done. Tedious work that stains my fingers yellow—I can barely keep up with it at the speed they multiply. Turn your back and one aphid becomes twenty, twenty one hundred, and soon a crowd is munching through the leaves. You get the picture—aphids can devour an entire milkweed plant in a day. If I don’t strip them, no one else will, and then what will the caterpillars eat when they arrive? Voracious creatures, aphids and caterpillars, and backbreaking work but I promised I’d do it. She planted the milkweed, planted the entire garden. For the monarchs. They need our help or they’ll go extinct, she said. I failed in many things, most of which I never told her. What good am I if I can’t keep monarch cats alive long enough to form chrysalises and become butterflies? I hate when neighbors who never said two words to me before interrupt now to say how sorry they are, how much they miss her, how she’d surely appreciate that I’m tending her butterfly garden. I know the truth—they think I‘m strange, all the whispers and stares. Let them think it, I could care less and every day there’s less to care about, what with the virus that multiplies and divides and conquers and leaves everything stripped down to a bare stalk
Susan Polizzotto is a military veteran and an MFA candidate at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She was the 2019 Carl Sandburg Writer in Residence at the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site and has been published in As You Were: The Military Review, Vol 11 (Autumn 2019). She writes fiction and creative nonfiction.
Neighbor Courtesy BY: Elaine Thomas
On my three-mile walk, observing the six-foot rule, dog walkers and phone talkers oblivious, in this season of forty days and forty nights, the fear of god in anyone sixty-five or older, two little boys on bikes — maybe seven or eight years old, four wheels be-tween them, twelve feet between them and me — made my morning when the little guys saw me start to step into the road, halted, spun their bikes around, pedaled in the opposite direction, giving me the sidewalk, as one yelled back over his shoulder, “Don’t get the virus, have a nice day!”
Elaine Thomas lives and writes in Wilmington, NC. She is a former college communications director and a hospital chaplain. She won the NC Writers Network's 2018 Rose Post Creative Nonfiction compe-tition and has published in a number of magazines and journals.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Jumping the L by: David Raney The things I’m afraid my son will do are legion. He’s just eleven but already I’m scared he’ll ride a motorcycle without a helmet, fall asleep smoking, piss off the wrong guy in the bar, snorkel to an underwater cave and swim in. The last one doesn’t quite fit — sounds kind of fun — which is what makes my head spin. I want him to do versions of all these things, just not the ones that get him hurt or dead. Those are tough distinctions to enforce, though, even with the best of intentions. Maybe the other guy’s drunk or stupid. Maybe the sun’s in your eyes. My friend Connie had to lay her motorcycle down to skid under a 14-wheeler whose driver didn’t see her in broad daylight, in open terrain. Scuba equipment fails. Condoms break. It’s a hell of a thing having kids. “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is / to have a thankless child,” says King Lear, and it’s tempting to add “or any.” We love our children beyond all understanding or words — mine anyway — and cliché or not, I’d step in front of a bullet for either of mine. But that’s the easy part. It’s harder knowing they’ll put themselves in front of bullets I can’t intercept, and still harder to recognize that they should. My daughter is 30, not out of harm’s way in this unguessable life but well able to make smart decisions about what to put in her body, when to drive, where to walk. Whatever she’s done to put herself at risk over the years, most of which I’ll never find out about, she’s past adolescence. Her frontal cortex is over 25; her judgments are as good as they’ll ever get. When my son was an infant, I would hold him on the couch in the small hours. He’d put a fist at my collarbone as if hanging on in a stiff wind and make little sounds as he dreamed whatever it is you dream when the world’s that new. In daylight one of his best things was a repertoire of spasmodic hand and arm movements as he tried out his limbs: the Yul Brynner (“This is my land, these are my people”); the Mussolini — arms straight chopping downward, making some severe point; the Don Corleone, fingers touching lightly as if holding a flower, then waggled ominously (“We have a problem”). That’s when, awake or asleep, they’re helpless as bugs on their back. Then they start to crawl and walk and drive and lie with ease and go to parties you don’t know about. Soon my son will become a hormonal IED, making it up as he goes along, and his mother and I will spend years hanging in the gulf between trust and fear, suspended by
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020 love and worrying it won’t be enough. I never did hard drugs or had unsafe sex (much). I never wedged myself into a tight spot thirty feet below the bright breathable air. Never picked a fight with someone who might smash my head with a brick, never dragraced drunk. But my friends and I ran through the woods all day when we were kids, and I did plenty of stupid things on my own. In seventh grade Billy O’Loughlin heard that if you held your breath and got squeezed in a bear hug, you’d pass out. This seemed worth trying — what could go wrong — so we headed to a hallway bathroom between classes. I went first and dropped like a stone, catching him unprepared and smacking my head on the tiles. I came to with a roaring hush in my ears and the sense of a crowd around me. The ceiling insulation was replaced by Billy’s terrified grateful face (I wasn’t dead), and I wove my way to social studies. Years later, sober as a judge, I leaped into a doorway trying to dunk a Nerf basketball and nearly knocked myself out, denting the plaster arch with my forehead and entering dumbass lore and legend forever. My friends had the good grace not to laugh until it was clear I hadn’t cracked my skull. And I did my share of driving when I shouldn’t have, which makes me cringe now that I’m old enough to have lost good people to bad luck or bad genes, grim diseases, no seatbelt. It’s a strange kind of calculus, but it’s possible to think about how much danger you want your children to face. Think of it as a curve: clearly you don’t want them at the violent extreme — refugee, street kid, orphan in a war zone. But do you really want them at the far end? That’s the boy in the bubble, watched round the clock and proof against everything but cancer or asteroids or earthquakes. Does that sound more like love than sending them out to play? The question becomes where along the curve is ideal. Military and security specialists talk about acceptable risk, but that’s one concept embedded in a government white paper and another incised on the bedroom ceiling at 3 am. You don’t want your kids to have unsafe sex, but you also don’t (at least I don’t) want them to have no sex. I would prefer they didn’t find their niche as meth dealers, but I won’t lose sleep over the odd joint with friends. You worry about travel to places they could return from in a box, but who would quash a child’s delight in this fractal, wondrous world? That questing spirit is inseparable from love, the Big L, in all its forms. Unfortunately, it lives right next door to reckless. Most things we learn by doing, often badly and repeatedly. You find limits by bumping into them. Equally true but tougher to live with is this: I wouldn’t wish on anyone I love a life without regrets. Living fully means sometimes sailing out of sight of shore. Which looks terrific on a greeting card and is a breeze to agree with until it’s your kid in the boat.
Or on the roof. When I was about my son’s age we lived next to an elementary school, and one Saturday evening I was on top of it. The school was tucked into a long, sloping hillside (you climbed on a dumpster at the low end to pull yourself up) and I had walked the length of the gravel-tar roof to the far side. The blacktop where we played basketball and punched each other in the arm lay thirty feet below. The view was great, over trees to the cloud-drifted hills lining the Mohawk Valley. From somewhere in my reptilian brain came the impulse to jump across the L-shaped corner where the gym jutted out, which now seems insane — alone, in sneakers, at an age when tripping and falling were everyday events. I backed up, ran like hell and jumped. For perhaps a second I hung over the kickball court, then slammed onto the other side and rolled and got up. I don’t remember what it felt like walking home, or at dinner. I don’t even remember coming down. I suppose my blood was half adrenaline for an hour. I go years without thinking about that long sailing moment, but when I do it still hollows my bones. It was a chance to die for nothing, and I took it. I can only hope my son, long after he’s stopped listening to me, will be both adventurous and lucky. Stumble and laugh about it, I want to tell him, but stick around to be tortured by your own kids. Think a lot. If you jump, make it good.
David Raney is a writer and editor living near Atlanta with his wife, family and T. Rex- Labrador mix. His essays have appeared in numerous journals, most recently bioStories, Compose and Post Road—the last of which found a place in Best American Essays 2018.
Writing a B ook? Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
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kissing the ground that you by:laura mahal The first time I heard “At This Moment,” I was in my living room with my mom and my sister in the next room. We were having an ordinary sort of summer day, doing not a whole lot of anything, and as far as they knew, I was still Sweet Sixteen, the baby of the family, the one who never did anything daring or sinful or outside the box. I, the straight-A student. The church-going Christian, the goodie-two-shoes, the one with my nose in a book much of the time. Little did they know about my summer, the days and nights I spent at the University of Pittsburgh. Oh yeah, they knew I’d lived on campus, in downtown Oakland, in the heart of the Steel City. They knew I’d studied economics and International Politics and been immersed in the Japanese language to the point that I now could get by in a long stream of Japanese sentences, completely unintelligible to anyone around me. What did you think, I would do at this moment, when you are standing before me, with tears in your eyes? These lines did not draw them to me. Did not call to them like the Great Bard, be it Shakespeare or Billy Joel or Michael Jackson or even Madonna. No, they were joking and laughing in the next room, maybe making cookies or pies. Something domestic, no doubt. Something I had no interest in, because I’d just come back from living a parallel life that had nothing to do with a slow-paced rural culture of canning and hanging laundry on a clothesline, with wooden pins, our underwear flapping in the breeze for people in pickup trucks to see when they drove by our house. I’d fall down on my knees, kiss the ground that you walk on . . . A few short months ago, no one had ever thought to fall down on their knees, kiss the ground that I walked on. I hadn’t even been kissed, except by relatives. Sweet Sixteen and completely oblivious to the wider world. But that changed, overnight, when I received a scholarship to pursue International Studies at the Pennsylvania Governor’s School. I’d earned an all-expenses-paid trip to head to college for the summer, take classes with famous instructors, and study alongside the best and brightest from my state. This was both exhilarating and intimidating, but I’ll skip to the reason for the Billy Vera and the Beaters song. For one of my classes, I was supposed to write a group paper on some cross-cultural topic. Someone in my group, probably one of the private school kids, who had grown up with a silver spoon on the right side of their
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
u walk on dinner plate, along with salad forks and dessert spoons and probably a wine and water goblet to boot, proposed we study the differences in marriage habits between Nigerian Christians and Muslims. All I remember now is a big pair of lips, wet and wide, pressing themselves against mine, against my will, because no one but me showed up for a pre-arranged meeting with a middle-aged Nigerian man. He assured me he would give me all the information I needed to write a really strong paper. During my one-on-one interview, he began to tell me about his Christian marriage and his Christian wife. While I labored over my notes, wondering where in hell my classmates were and when they would show, he took my face in his hands and loomed above me, shutting out the lights of the café or coffee shop, the location completely blotted from my mind by the lip lock. I, not yet a soldier, much too young for that, but I, already a martial artist. Somehow, I extracted the lower half of my face from where he sucked it in, in, to the center of earth, through the boiling magma of the hot core, to Nigeria and to Yellowstone and to Hades and then, I was shoving him, pushing against his soft belly, so soft I had to push hard because my hands sunk in deep, pushing into his middle as I climbed from the earth, shot out of a geyser, shoving and shoving until I was out the door and running blindly down the street, ending in an alley, ending against a brick wall, running from one danger and putting myself at risk of another. No way out but the way I’d come in. If I Could Just Hold You, Again. I stopped shaking after some time, and where I went next, I cannot recall. But I do remember a small, neat man, brown-skinned, soft-spoken, asking me if I was okay. He did so with kindness. Gentility. I won’t say I dashed into his arms. Of course I didn’t. What I wanted was what all women want after such an event. A shower that went on and on until the water ran cold, until my skin sloughed off and I could be reborn, the innocent I was before a man assumed he had a right to take advantage of a young girl, naïve and alone, her first time in a big city without the shelter of parents or a class chaperone. But this man—this man was comforting. He told me his name. I laugh to myself as I tell you. Abdul Latiff. Latiff means love. Love was apparently my destiny. Nearly twenty years after Abdul asked me if I was all right, I met another brown-skinned man, whose name one-upped the graduate student from the University of Pittsburgh. My husband Param’s name means Supreme Love. Param and I have been married for twenty-two years come August. Love and Supreme Love are not a bad way for a girl to claim a life, a relationship, be it short-term or long-lasting. It was July, maybe August, of 1986 when Abdul took me to dinner, or fixed me a cup of tea, or invited
me back to his apartment. No. Don’t let your mind go there. I was sixteen. Sweet, sweet sixteen. Abdul was twenty-three. A graduate student from Saudi Arabia, living near to campus in the most gorgeous and well-equipped apartment I’d ever seen. Not that I’d been in many apartments. He made me tea. He fetched me something comforting. He might even have wrapped me in a blanket of silk or cashmere. But he didn’t touch me. Not for days or weeks. Not until we’d met many times, talked for hours, until we learned to share a space as familiar as alongside one another on a couch, though his was top-quality and probably custom-made by a designer. Or side by side at a movie. Maybe we took in a movie. I really can’t remember. Abdul and I never did more than kiss. Not in the weeks remaining to me on campus and in the big city. He and I were chaste, and he was a perfect first boyfriend. Innocuous. More charming than I could possibly describe. The best way I can convey the beauty of Abdul’s feelings toward me would be to tell you of the jewelry he gave me. There was a ring, along with a pair of earrings. Small turquoise studs set in the highest caliber gold. The ring rivalled what many women would wear on their hands from the moment of engagement until their bones returned to dust in the earth, but to Abdul, this was a friendship ring. A swirly spun-gold token to prove that he esteemed my intellect. The turquoise was a robin’s egg. Something to be treasured, not discarded. Well before my own daughter turned sixteen, I sent that ring to my niece. It didn’t feel right to give my daughter a ring that was bequeathed to me by a man who was not her father. I am wandering from the story, the song. From me standing in the living room, a gift in my hand that had just arrived. A wrapped package addressed to me. The handwriting as small and neat as the man who had sent this to me. My hands didn’t tremble when I opened the brown wrapper. The package was the size and shape of a record, so I used care, careful not to scratch the surface. But I did dread seeing what he’d sent me. How would I hide such a large item from the prying eyes of my family?
If you’d stay, I could subtract twenty years from my life.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020 My mom, my sister, stayed in the other room until I set the needle down and Billy Vera started belting out his romantic ballad. Kiss the ground that you walked on, baby. By the time they walked in, he was on the audience-participating part of the album, when fans start cheering. When he goes into falsetto, singing with true emotion, If I could just hoooooooooold you, aaaaaa-gain, yeah, that moment. That’s when they stood in the doorway between the two rooms, looking me up and down, recognizing I had secrets. That a man from halfway across the globe, a Muslim man no less, had fallen for me, even though nothing occurred between us but a friendship that freed us to talk about anything and everything. How he felt free of the customary judgment of Americans, let alone a young white American woman, when we were together. How I teased him when he asked me if I would go with him to buy a birthday present for his brother, and he asked me, “Mercedes or BMW?” Yes, he bought his brother a brand-new car and had it shipped to Saudi Arabia. And I, a girl who came from corn country, cow country. Dairy farms and homegrown produce. Canning and laundry on a clothesline, for all to see, even those in beaten-up pickup trucks who drove down the narrow country lane past our house. My sister laughed so hard that she was quite literally rolling on the floor, like a hedgehog. Even my mom could not stifle the grin on her face. Oh, isn’t that sweet? Young love! Someone sent her a record. They could never comprehend how those weeks and months at the university had changed me. I had been kissed by a man from Africa and another from the Middle East. The former an onslaught. The latter a blessing. I wondered if Abdul would find another American girl, one closer to his age, or if he would head back to his country after graduation and marry a girl from his own culture. I didn’t save that letter he enclosed along with the record, though by rights, it was the first love letter I’d ever received and the last that would be addressed to me for many years. What I most remember is his small, neat handwriting, as if that held the secrets to the universe. Secrets I fed to our potbelly stove, though it was summertime and way too humid and warm to light a fire. My fear of being discovered, of being laughed at, subsumed any desire to scrapbook a summer of me growing up. I haven’t listened to “At This Moment” in at least thirty years. Yet if I were to locate a Billy Vera record
and set down the needle on a vinyl recording, I would be sixteen again, for at least three and a half minutes. Those feelings of embarrassment would outweigh the sacredness of a first kiss. The belief in a pure love would be crumpled like paper sent to an iron stove, balled up like my sister, laughing hard, pointing her finger as if I were the greatest of all possible jokes. Because once oneâ€™s innocence is gone, it cannot be reclaimed with ease. Did you think I could hate you? Now come on, you know me too well. How do I know Abdul forgave me for never writing back? For not calling, not a single time? He knew how young I was. He got me, because we talked for hours on end, night after night. Sometimes, when everything is going my way, I wonder if Abdul is sending me good thoughts from halfway around the world. Darling, I love you. Everyone should have such a memory stashed away, even if they never, ever take it out. Never return to the music that will sweep away time. I find it is enough to have lived this once.
Laura Mahal splits her time between writing and copyediting. Her work appears in various literary magazines and anthologies, to include Fish, DoveTales, Still Coming Home, Sunrise Summits, Veterans Voices, Across the Margin, Flash!, OyeDrum, Charlie Mike, and The Road Sheâ€™s Traveled. Laura is a two-time winner of the Hecla Award for Speculative Fiction and was the recipient of the Gladys Feld Helzberg Memorial Award for Best Poem in 2019. She is a 2020 Lit Fest finalist and was part of the editing team for Rise, which was recently awarded the 2020 Colorado Book Award in the anthology category.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
The Little Engine That Could by: jim mcgarrah The only way remotely possible to avoid drowning is to never go near water, unless you happen to join the Marine Corps. Marines do things mere humans can’t, or so I was told by my drill instructor at Parris Island, South Carolina in the spring of 1967. Part of my training to prepare for jungle warfare in Vietnam was a program called “drown-proofing” optimistically by the Marines. It was as if the technique learned would give you a superhuman skill rather than the chance for survival when stranded in deep water without a life jacket. The training itself proved simple and cruel. My platoon members and I watched a demonstration by our instructor. He maneuvered into various positions in which we could float and effectively conserve our energy. This allowed us, hypothetically, to swim and rest and swim in a slow crawl for great distances. After the brief instruction we were tossed into an Olympic-sized pool by overzealous aides strangely called “safety” swimmers. At first, the water seemed relaxing. The familiar smell of chlorine and suntan oil lulled me into a somnambulant state, and the warm water reminded me of joyous days spent during childhood at the local municipal pool. Ah! Home, a place that had become nothing more than distant memory, returned to my consciousness as the water buoyed me with a gentle rocking. Thirty minutes in the pool without touching the sides or the bottom was our goal. Failure in the Marine Corps is not an option. After ten minutes, I began a struggle to master techniques I didn’t fully understand. My arms beat the water faster and faster. My breath came in rapid pants as if I were a dog laboring to cool myself on a hot day. My motion became more erratic, which made staying afloat even more difficult. As I began to take in mouthfuls of chlorinated water, panic set in. I reached for the side of the pool and safety along with most of my sputtering, drowning, idiotic-looking comrades. The “safety-swimmers” rushed us with long poles and pushed us back into deep water. Every second after that initial collapse of reason followed by a wave of terror seemed like an hour. Under and up, up and under, like a fishing bobber, I flailed the water. Just as I thought my life was ending, an instructor hooked me with a pole, grabbed my collar, and hauled me onto the concrete. I was saved and a failure, as was most of my platoon. After the drill sergeant finished calling the failures every name in his limited vocabulary and we felt sufficiently shamed, I reflected on the event and realized that I’d been too frightened to give myself over to the one technique that required no energy or skill. All I, all any of us, had to do was roll over on our backs, extend our arms like a snow angel occasionally and float. We could propel ourselves forward with our heads above water indefinitely. Then, why the panic? Was it an inability to surrender myself to the quiet of doing nothing, or very little, in a situation that should have required great effort—survival? It wasn’t the first time I had encountered this human flaw. Most healthy young men can swim a half mile in fifteen minutes. The only caveat to that is some aptitude for swimming. Unfortunately, my form in the water could only be compared to a turkey’s form in the air. Couple that ability with a strange notion that every challenge, no matter how stupid, was issued by fate as a test for my worthiness as a special man with a special destiny.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
dnâ€™t When I was a senior in high school, my friends and I had the habit of trespassing on land owned by a local coal company just east of town. This company strip-mined for its coal on the surface of the earth, raping the land till what was left looked more like an alien world than Indiana geography. To reclaim the pristine forests and fields, the federal government forced the company and others like it to reseed with indigenous plant life. Consequently, within a few years the undergrowth and the trees began to return. The huge holes left by the monster draglines and shovels filled with spring water and theoretically, a recreational area was born. This was one of those unfinished places we called a strip pit. Off the main roads and a pain-in-the-butt to find, adults left it
alone. We snuck out there as often as possible to drink, swim, impress the girls who followed us, and goof-off in general. One day, a group of friends unaware of my aquatic limitations, kept ragging me till I agreed to risk my life for a stupid dare that meant nothing, except that up to this point life had been a Pat Boone melody. Bored, I wanted life to be a Rolling Stones song, dangerous and full of visceral noise. Also, a girl named Denise happened to be there and I had been trying for four years to impress her enough that she might consider sharing her cornucopia of goodness with me. If not going all the way, this daring escapade of a picturesque hero might induce a kiss at least. The Herculean task chosen by my comrades was to swim the width of the pit, less than half of a mile and not too great a distance for even a mediocre swimmer. Too bad that a mediocre classification in the water escaped me. The sun
warmed the green water’s surface to a tepid nothingness, a purgatory somewhere between heaven and hell. I remember it clearly. Except on this day and in this place heaven and hell had been reversed, the fire was above me and the cool relief could be found the deeper I dove. However, the springs that fed the cold water to this strip pit were at a depth far below my capacity for holding my breath and after several tries, I gave up the struggle content to stroke toward the opposite shore and prove my challengers wrong. Light and free, my body was buoyed by the almost syrup-like quality of the warm water and the immortality of youth. For the first hundred yards breathing came easy and regular. Throwing my right arm out in front of my body and pulling it back, reaching out with my left arm and hauling it back, I developed a cadence that suited my short arms and legs, a mechanical rhythm propelled easily by my broad chest. Everything seemed to be going well until the monotony of it all—the limitless blue sky, the distance between shores that didn’t appear to be closing, the wide expanse of white sand, and the unintelligible hum of voices behind me—caused my mind to drift to Denise. Her rejection of my last advance stung me enough to miss what had been offered through the experience, a lesson in humility. Of course, I didn’t recognize this epiphany as a teenager. It felt more like a muscle cramp, or what my dad used to call “a charley horse” in the lower leg. Pain stabbed the calf, radiated upwards to the thigh, and folded my left leg into a useless V. A little beyond halfway to my goal, I had traveled past the point of no return. The only thing left was to quit or limp forward. My breathing unraveled into a chaotic series of pants and groans. The leg pain crept upward even more and settled into both shoulders as a dull ache. I began to see the headline in the Princeton Daily Clarion— Local Youth Drowns Tragically While Professing Unrequited Love. I stopped swimming and attempted to massage my leg. My mother cried green tears as I sank beneath the water’s surface. My father quit drinking martinis and burned his gin with my corpse on a funeral pyre. Cousin Mike, in his new role as university scientist, bent over a Bunsen burner searching for a virus to reanimate my lifeless corpse. My sister Sandy and her boyfriend peered into my casket. He winked and said, “Better you than me.” Jim Bagby smiled and waved goodbye asking, “Can I have your baseball card collection?” The deeper I sank, the darker day became. Had I misjudged my destiny? Life was absurd and meaningless. Did that dictate my death? Should I make a leap of faith and fabricate some meaning where none seemed to exist? I could force myself upward, a shell of a man, and scream for help. Once rescued, I would join a church and erase the absurdness of reality through my faith by following a man who walked on water, raised the dead, floated off to heaven, and wore a golden crown twenty-four hours a day. My other choice was suicide. Either way, life would lose its ridiculousness soon, replaced by an intentional loss of consciousness. Even though both possibilities loomed, primal instinct chose another way. Still four years before I first heard Pink Floyd and came to know Camus, I chose the path of Sisyphus, torment and pain, rolling the stone down the hill of life to the bottom and pushing it back to the crest, over and over. Breaking the water’s surface with a huge sigh, I clawed my way to the far shore in physical agony, rested awhile, and then did the back stroke to return, floating every so often to catch my breath. It was the exact same lesson my drill instructor tried to teach me, and in my fear of something inevitable, I had forgotten it. All the kids cheered my effort, gave me another can of Falls City beer, and admitted that guys from Princeton were tough. I agreed, left the strip pit, and joined the Marine Corps in the middle of the Vietnam War to emphasize the illusion of that point. Something changed in my attitude after this incident during basic training, something that allowed me to get through some of the most horrific experiences humans can go through, something that gave me the strength to keep moving forward against the whir of bullets, the rumble of mortar shells, the stench of burning flesh, and the cries of children, not as hero but rather as an ordinary man who learned a lesson in a swimming pool. No one is drown-proof. It is only a matter of when that final wave will close over your head. Isn’t it better to go out looking up at the sky?
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Jim McGarrah’s is the author of ten books. Running the Voodoo Down won the Elixir Press Poetry Prize in 2003. His new collection of poems, A Balancing Act, was published by Lamar University Press in May of 2018. A memoir of war entitled A Temporary Sort of Peace (Indiana Historical Society Press, 2007) won the national Eric Hoffer Legacy Nonfiction Award. Blue Heron Book Works published McGarrah’s newest nonfiction book in May, 2017 entitled Misdemeanor Outlaw. You may read his more recent poems and essays in The American Journal of Poetry, Barcelona Review, Cincinnati Review, North American Review, and Poetry Southeast, among others.
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Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Sheltered in place by: megan baxter The church in town plays a song on its bells each night at six. Although I can rarely pick out the tune I always assume that it’s ‘American the Beautiful’ and running by on my evening route I get those lyrics stuck in my head, rung by bells, repeated over the course of sidewalk miles past all the houses, past all the neighbors, the strangers, sheltering. Past the house that smells of laundry. Past the house that smells like burnt vanilla candles. Past the yard that smells like fresh-cut grass. Past the house that smells like drying paint. Past the house that smells like cats and the house that smells like mothballs. Past the house where a child practices the trumpet. Past the house with a music stand in the window but no one ever playing. Past the house with the blue glare of a TV in all its windows and the house lit by garlands of Christmas lights. Past the porch where a white-haired couple plays cards on a checkerboard tablecloth. Past the garden where two men lovingly arrange flower beds together, mulching, weeding, they are always out, suddenly rich for all the world’s time. Past the house where a boy digs a hole with headphones clamped over his ears. Past the house where a girl practices gymnastics on the cool spring grass. Past the deck where a man and woman sit in their bathrobes smoking, tapping ash as I pass. Past the field where a black cat crouches and past the daffodils blooming over an embankment, chucked there and now thriving. Past the spring flood junk seashells on the brook shore, braided plastic in the reeds. Over the husked feed corn teethed by raccoons. Over the town line, past the historical marker. Under the 4th of July, Memorial Day, Veterans’ Day flags hung now all along Main Street. Through the early darkness of the gas station floodlights, dimmed. Past the locked doors of shut down diners. Past the cars out cruising because it feels like something to be moving even if there is nowhere to go. Around the teenagers at the dead-end road parked in a circle, they lean against the warm car metal, smoking cigarettes, leaving soda bottles and chip bags, metallic and shimmering in the dandelion doff and plow dirt. Over the pile of road salt melted out of the great banks of snow, shining like uncut jewels. Under the flyover sky clear of planes, and under the birds’ shadows arching over the winter wheat, growing in perfect rows, rounding as the earth rounds and rising as the hills over swell and fold. Through the sound of the great cargo train along the old Erie Canal still wailing, so long I get used to its cry before its passes, so long that I return to ‘America the Beautiful’.
ART BY DHRUVI ACHARYA
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
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Contributing EDITORS shannon perri
Shannon Perri holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Texas State University and a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Texas. Her writing has appeared in various newspapers and literary magazines, such as Houston Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Joyland Magazine, and fields magazine. Her short story, “Liquid Gold,” was a finalist for the 2019 Texas Observer Short Fiction contest; her story, “The Resurrection Act,” was awarded a 2016 Joyland Magazine Publisher’s Pick; and her story, “Orientation,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives in South Austin with her husband, son, and menagerie of pets.
contributing editor Robert Gwaltney, a writer of southern fiction, is graduate of Florida State University. He resides in Atlanta Georgia with his partner, where he is an active member of the Atlanta literary community. By day, he serves as Vice President of Easter Seals North Georgia, Inc., Children Services, a non-profit supporting children with disabilities and other special needs. Robert’s work has appeared in such publications as The Signal Mountain Review and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. He is represented by Trident Media Group, and has completed his first novel, The Cicada Tree.
contributing editor Angela Gregory-Dribben lives with her two favorite redheads down in a bottom in Southside Virginia where they are hard at work growing the fattest sandwich tomato in the Piedmont’s trademark red clay. Her poetry and essays can be found or are forthcoming in Main Street Rag, Deep South, Blue Mountain Review, San Pedro River Review, Motherscope, Crab Creek Review, Crack the Spine, Cirque, decomp, New Southern Fugitive, and others. A Bread Loaf alum, she is currently a student in Randolph College’s MFA.
dusty huggings music editor
Dusty Huggins is a family man, musician, writer, and lover of literature. His interest in writing surfaced during his freshman year at Young Harris College due to an English professor nurturing his interest, stimulating passion, and building the confidence required to find his way as a writer. Dusty is the founder of the Atlanta blues-based, Southern rock band The Ides of June, and also performs as both the lead vocalist and bassist. He is a member of The Southern Collective Experience acting as the music editor for its journal of culture The Blue Mountain Review. In his spare time Dusty enjoys touring with The Ides of June throughout the southeast.
photography credits Johannes Plenio Miguel A. Padrinan MBardo Todd Trapani Pixabay Valeriia Miller Rakicevic Nenad Mstudio Andrea Piacquadio Junior Teixeira Sophia Artm Saranin
Josh Hild SevenStorm Seb Guy Kawasaki Swapnil Sharma Raphael Brasileiro Krivec Ales Kam Pratt Rene Asmussen Domen Mirtic Mohammed Abdelg Eberhard Grossga
Emre Kuzu Luis Quintero Jasmin Carter Dariusz Grosa Suzy Hazelwood Josh Willink Ellie Burgin Anton Hooijdonk
Miriam Fischer Fotorafierende Stanislav Kondratiev Visually Us Elly Fairytale Cottonbro Adrianna Calvo Gabby K
Daian Gan Carmela Dinardo Brett Sayles Daniel Frank
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020
Clifford Brooks is the CEO of the Southern Collective Experience and Editor-in-Chief of the Blue Mountain Review. He is also the journal’s content editor. Aside from these duties Clifford is the author of The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics, Athena Departs, and Exiles of Eden. These collections of poetry can easily be found online.
contributing editor Tom Johnson was born in Roswell, Ga. He went to college focused on a career in Information Technology but to make ends meet, he worked in a few demanding sales jobs that taught him the ins and outs of marketing. He had always loved writing and he found that marketing gave him an outlet as well as a way to pay the bills. He enjoyed those aspects of his work so much that, after college, he decided on a career in sales instead of going straight into IT. Within a few months, he studied for and passed the Georgia Real Estate Exam. For the next four years he worked for Remax and later Lindsey and Pauly as a seller’s agent. After that, he became the Director of Marketing and Residential Support for a computer company. There he helped them to increase their visibility, develop new leads and on occasion, write content for client’s websites. In late 2009, he decided to go solo as a freelance copywriter for a wide array of clients. In recent years, he has been branching out into fiction and entertainment writing. His first book is slated to be published in 2020.
Casanova Green is a writer, singer/ songwriter, educator, and pastor. He is a 2010 graduate of Ohio Northern University where he earned a BA in Language Arts Education, with a minor in voice. In 2018 he earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Reinhardt University located in Georgia’s Etowah Valley. Casanova is a member of the Southern Collective Experience, often serving as a contributing editor. He has been published in several publications including The Blue Mountain Review, Raw Art Review, and Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review. In 2019, Casanova published a mini-chapbook of poetry entitled Whispers & Echoes, and his first book of poetry Things I Wish I Could Tell You is scheduled to be published in 2020. Casanova has done extensive ministry work since the age of nine, and has served as both a worship leader and choir director for over twenty years. He released his first album A Worshiper Mentality in January 2016, and his second album Songs from the Journey: Part 1, in August 2019. He is currently working on his third album Songs from the Journey: Part II, which will be released in 2020. Currently, he is the Owner of CGCreate LLC and serves as the lead pastor of True Vision Christian Community in Lancaster, OH, where he and his family reside.
Megan’s first book ‘The Coolest Monsters, A Collection of Essays’ was published in 2018 by Texas Review Press. Her debut novel ‘Farm Girl’ is forthcoming. Megan has won numerous national awards including a Pushcart Prize. Her work has been listed in The Best American Essays of 2019. Recent publications included pieces in The Threepenny Review, Hotel Amerika, The Florida Review, and Creative Nonfiction Magazine. Megan serves as a mentor to young writers and loves developing cross-genre and innovative creative writing pedagogy for her workshops and classes. She is currently conducting research for an environmentally themed novel as well as writing personal essays and poems. Megan lives in New Hampshire where she loves walking her dogs, running, and cooking with local foods.
Bio: Rebecca Evans earned an MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Sierra Nevada University. She’s hosted and co-produced Our Voice and Idaho Living television shows, advocating personal stories, and now mentors teens in the juvenile system. She’s the co-host of Writer to Writer podcast on Radio Boise. Her poems and essays have appeared in The Rumpus, Entropy Literary Magazine, War, Literature & the Arts, 34th Parallel, and Collateral Journal, among others. She lives in Idaho with her three sons.
Contributing editor Jennifer Avery is an editor and writer from the foothills of Northwest Georgia. Her poetry has been published in the Blue Mountain Review and featured on Dante’s Old South. She spends much of her time attempting experiments in skincare and wordcraft. She is currently working on her novel, Ezra in Every Dimension.
Mildred K. Barya
Mildred Kiconco Barya is a writer from Uganda and Assistant professor at UNC-Asheville where she teaches creative writing and world literature. Her publications include three poetry books as well as prose, poems or hybrids in Tin House, poets.org, Poetry Quarterly, Asymptote Journal, Matters of Feminist Practice Anthology, Prairie Schooner, New Daughters of Africa International Anthology, Per Contra, and Northeast Review. Her nonfiction essay, Being Here in My Body won the 2020 Linda Flowers Literary Award and is forthcoming in the North Carolina Literary Review. She received a Ph.D. in English from the University of Denver, MFA in creative writing from Syracuse University, and B.A. in Literature, Makerere University. Visit her blog: http://mildredbarya.com/
design & layouts Bio: Born and raised in the land of peaches and peanuts: Georgianative, Kaitlyn Young is a freelance graphic designer-specializing in both print and digital editorial designs. With a Bachelor’s degree in Communication and a minor in Public Relations from Kennesaw State University, she has worked in the marketing field professionally for nearly a decade. While marketing is her full-time occupation, her true passion is turning ideas into functional and informational works of art by designing magazines, invitations, business creative collateral and more. Kaitlyn lives in Canton,Georgia with her husband, daughters and labrador, Dolly.
Laura Ingram is poetry editor and social media manager for the Southern Collective Experience. She has had work published in one hundred journals and magazines, among them Gravel and Juked. She is the author of four poetry collections: Junior Citizen’s Discount, Mirabilis, The Ghost Gospels, and Animal Sentinel.
Blue Mountain Review / nov. 2020