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he T BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue #14

a journal of culture

INTERVIEWS LITERARY

POETRY Robert Pinsky Lane Young Cornelius Eady Ellen Malphrus Alexander Johns

VISUAL ART

MUSIC

FICTION Cameron Dezen Hammon Matthew R. Bradley Meagan Lucas

SPECIAL FEATURES

*All rights within remain with the respective Artists.*


Intro I. What’s the point? Not of writing per se, but of giving headspace to thoughts about how it’s done, how it’s supposed to work. Pretentious? Yeah. Privileged? Probably. Picture this: Rodin’s The Thinker, but with a monocle, a waistcoat, and a fountain pen. A solitary character with the capacity, it seems, to sit and think endlessly. A cannibal who eats himself. II. I knew a man who died from AIDS. It was, of course, terrible. How do I tell you about it? For starters, I felt sad, horrified, inadequate. Why don’t you believe me? III. Between sentences, between words, between the letters of every word that’s ever been written there are vast, un-crossable crevasses. How do I know this? Because you believe in things you’ve never seen. IV. When I was a kid, Grandpa would take me hunting for arrowheads in the fields behind the farm house. That’s where Great Grandpa lived. He died when I was very young. I still remember the cistern pump in the kitchen, how I had to pump it ten or twelve times before even the tiniest trickle would flow. V. Keats called beauty truth. But so far as poets nowadays know, there’s no such thing as beauty or truth. Only emotional common ground. VI. What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen? Maybe your answer is, “My wife,” or, “The Rockies.” But that’s total bullshit, isn’t it? I’ve never met your wife and I’ve spent my entire life in Chicago. Give me something real, motherfucker. VII. The most difficult thing is restraint. What do you believe I haven’t said? VIII. To cross the Khumbu Ice Fall on the way up Mt. Everest, climbers lay extension ladders like bridges across huge crevasses that the most well-shod mountaineer would otherwise disappear into. So deep and vast are the crevasses, that the Khumbu Ice Fall would even eat the climbers’ screams. These ladders are just common aluminum extension ladders found at Lowe’s or Ace or Home Depot. But on the side of the world’s tallest mountain, they’re no longer part of a summer afternoon spent painting the house. They save lives. IX. Welcome to the Blue Mountain Review. Nobody will come to your conclusions for you. —Paul Luikart


Cover Notes Photo of Jericho Brown A Publication of The Southern Collective Experience

Logo design by Laura McCullough Behind The Scenes Poetry Editor, Interview Requests Clifford Brooks | cliffordbrooks@southerncollectiveexperience.com Prose Editor Terence Hawkins | terencehawkins@mac.com Design Director Holly Holt | holt.bmr@gmail.com Visual Art Submissions Alecia Vera | aleciabuckles@gmail.com Music Editor Dusty Huggins | dusthugg21@gmail.com


CONTENTS

Poetry Robert Pinsky Lane Young Al Maginnes Paul Luikart Anthony Harrington Danny P. Barbare Derek Berry Cornelius Eady Edward Lee Elizabeth Beck Ellen Malphrus Heather M. Harris Iain Twiddy Alia Hussain Vancrown Octavio Quintanilla John B. Graebar Simon Perchik Jeffrey Skinner Stephen Windham Alexander Johns Nikita Nelin

1-6 7-11 12-13 14 15-16 17 18-19 20 21 22 23-25 26 27 28 29-30 31 32 33-36 37 38-40 41-44

Fiction Cameron Dezen Hammon Greyson Ferguson Derek Pletch Kevin Arnold Paul Luikart Matthew R. Bradley Mark McGraw David Erik Nelson Tony Taddei Meagan Lucas Nikita Nelin

46-49 50-51 52-55 56-61 62 63-66 67-68 69-76 77-86 87-90 91-98

Essays/Book Reviews James H. Duncan MJ Kobernus Father Byron Tindall H. Holt Tom Johnson Dan Veach Melissa Studdard

100-101 102-105 106-108 109-111 112-114 115-116 117-118


Interviews Literary Interviews Jericho Brown Dan Veach Michelle Castleberry Tom Simpson Barren Magazine Booklogix Doug Dahlgren Bidwell Hollow William Bernhardt

120-122 123-125 126-129 130-131 132-135 136-138 139-141 142-144 145-146

Visual Art Interviews Alecia Vera Jessica Schulman Billy Roper Tom Darin Linskey Lil Mo

148-154 155-160 161-166 167-171 172-173

Music Interviews The Buzzards of Fuzz Tamsin Quin Jamaal Hicks Andrew Riley

175-177 178-181 182-184 185-187

Folks from The Southern Collective Experience The Yanceys Samantha Rose Hill Nikita Nelin Suzanna Chippeaux

189-193 194-197 198-202 203-204

Special Feature Faces of Faith Josh Sneed Cole Thomas Drew Bowers Recovery Collective Tater Patch Hemingway’s Dog

206-210 211-213 214-217 218-220 221-224 225-226 227

Newcomer Judy Kirkwood

229-232

Tabula The Southern Collective Experience … Because Everyone is South of somewhere.


Clifford Brooks was born in Athens, Georgia. His first poetry collection, The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics, was re-issued by Kudzu Leaf Press in August 2018. His second full-length poetry volume, Athena Departs: Gospel of a Man Apart, as well as a limited-edition poetry chapbook, Exiles of Eden, were published by Kudzu Leaf Press in 2017. Clifford is the founder of The Southern Collective Experience, a cooperative of writers, musicians and visual artists, which publishes the journal of culture The Blue Mountain Review and hosts the NPR show Dante’s Old South. He is on the faculty of The Company of Writers, and provides tutorials on poetry through the Noetic teaching application.

Services offered: Tutoring • Lecturing • Reading • One-on-one manuscript editing

Please email for more information: cliffordbrooks@southerncollectiveexperience.com


Poetry Robert Pinsky History of My Heart One Christmastime Fats Waller in a fur coat Rolled beaming from a taxicab with two pretty girls Each at an arm as he led them in a thick downy snowfall Across Thirty-Fourth Street into the busy crowd Shopping at Macy’s: perfume, holly, snowflake displays. Chimes rang for change. In Toys, where my mother worked Over her school vacation, the crowd swelled and stood Filling the aisles, whispered at the fringes, listening To the sounds of the large, gorgeously dressed man, His smile bemused and exalted, lips boom-booming a bold Bass line as he improvised on an expensive, tinkly Piano the size of a lady’s jewel box or a wedding cake. She put into my heart this scene from the romance of Joy, Co-authored by her and the movies, like her others– My father making the winning basket at the buzzer And punching the enraged gambler who came onto the court– The brilliant black and white of the movies, texture Of wet snowy fur, the taxi’s windshield, piano keys, Reflections that slid over the thick brass baton That worked the elevator. Happiness needs a setting: Shepherds and shepherdesses in the grass, kids in a store, The back room of Carly’s parents’ shop, record-player And paper streamers twisted in two colors: what I felt Dancing close one afternoon with a thin blonde girl Was my amazing good luck, the pleased erection Stretching and stretching at the idea She likes me, She likes it, the thought of legs under a woolen skirt, To see eyes “melting” so I could think This is it, They’re melting! Mutual arousal of suddenly feeling Desired: This is it: “desire”! When we came out Into the street we saw it had begun, the firm flakes Sticking, coating the tops of cars, melting on the wet Black street that reflected storelights, soft

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Separate crystals clinging intact on the nap of collar And cuff, swarms of them stalling in the wind to plunge Sideways and cluster in spangles on our hair and lashes, Melting to a fresh glaze on the bloodwarm porcelain Of our faces, Hey nonny-nonny boom-boom, the cold graceful Manna, heartfelt, falling and gathering copious As the air itself in the small-town main street As it fell over my mother’s imaginary and remembered Macy’s in New York years before I was even born, II And the little white piano, tinkling away like crazy– My unconceived heart in a way waiting somewhere like Wherever it goes in sleep. Later, my eyes opened And I woke up glad to feel the sunlight warm High up in the window, a brighter blue striping Blue folds of curtain, and glad to hear the house Was still sleeping. I didn’t call, but climbed up To balance my chest on the top rail, cheek Pressed close where I had grooved the rail’s varnish With sets of double tooth-lines. Clinging With both arms, I grunted, pulled one leg over And stretched it as my weight started to slip down With some panic till my toes found the bottom rail, Then let my weight slide more till I was over– Thrilled, half-scared, still hanging high up With both hands from the spindles. Then lower Slipping down until I could fall to the floor With a thud but not hurt, and out, free in the house. Then softly down the hall to the other bedroom To push against the door; and when it came open More light came in, opening out like a fan So they woke up and laughed, as she lifted me Up in between them under the dark red blanket, We all three laughing there because I climbed out myself. Earlier still, she held me curled in close With everyone around saying my name, and hovering, After my grandpa’s cigarette burned me on the neck As he held me up for the camera, and the pain buzzed Scaring me because it twisted right inside me;

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So when she took me and held me and I curled up, sucking, It was as if she had put me back together again So sweetly I was glad the hurt had torn me. She wanted to have made the whole world up, So that it could be hers to give. So she opened A letter I wrote my sister, who was having trouble Getting on with her, and read some things about herself That made her go to the telephone and call me up: “You shouldn’t open other people’s letters,” I said And she said “Yes–who taught you that?” –As if she owned the copyright on good and bad, Or having followed pain inside she owned her children From the inside out, or made us when she named us, III Made me Robert. She took me with her to a print-shop Where the man struck a slug: a five-inch strip of lead With the twelve letters of my name, reversed, Raised along one edge, that for her sake he made For me, so I could take it home with me to keep And hold the letters up close to a mirror Or press their shapes into clay, or inked from a pad Onto all kinds of paper surfaces, onto walls and shirts, Lengthwise on a Band-Aid, or even on my own skin– The little characters fading from my arm, the gift Always ready to be used again. Gifts from the heart: Her giving me her breast milk or my name, Waller Showing off in a store, for free, giving them A thrill as someone might give someone an erection, For the thrill of it–or you come back salty from a swim: Eighteen shucked fresh oysters and the cold bottle Sweating in its ribbon, surprise, happy birthday! So what if the giver also takes, is after something? So what if with guile she strove to color Everything she gave with herself, the lady’s favor A scarf or bit of sleeve of her favorite color Fluttering on the horseman’s bloodflecked armor Just over the heart–how presume to forgive the breast Or sudden jazz for becoming what we want? I want

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Presents I can’t picture until they come, The generator flashlight Italo gave me one Christmas: One squeeze and the gears visibly churning in the amber Pistol-shaped handle hummed for half a minute In my palm, the spare bulb in its chamber under my thumb, Secret; or, the knife and basswood Ellen gave me to whittle. And until the gift of desire, the heart is a titular, Insane king who stares emptily at his counselors For weeks, drools or babbles a little, as word spreads In the taverns that he is dead, or an impostor. One day A light concentrates in his eyes, he scowls, alert, and points Without a word to one pass in the cold, grape-colored peaks– Generals and courtiers groan, falling to work With a frantic movement of farriers, cooks, builders, The city thrown willing or unwilling like seed (While the brain at the same time may be settling Into the morning Chronicle, humming to itself, Like a fat person eating M&M’s in the bathtub) IV Toward war, new forms of worship or migration. I went out from my mother’s kitchen, across the yard Of the little two-family house, and into the Woods: Guns, chevrons, swordplay, a scarf of sooty smoke Rolled upwards from a little cratewood fire Under the low tent of a Winesap fallen With fingers rooting in the dirt, the old orchard Smothered among the brush of wild cherry, sumac, Sassafras and the stifling shade of oak In the strip of overgrown terrain running East from the train tracks to the ocean, woods Of demarcation, where boys went like newly-converted Christian kings with angels on helmet and breastplate, Bent on blood or poaching. There are a mountain and a woods Between us–a male covenant, longbows, headlocks. A pack Of four stayed half-aware it was past dark In a crude hut roasting meat stolen from the A&P Until someone’s annoyed father hailed us from the tracks And scared us home to catch hell: We were worried, Where have you been? In the Woods. With snakes and tramps.

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An actual hobo knocked at our back door One morning, declining food, to get hot water. He shaved on our steps from an enamel basin with brush And cut-throat razor, the gray hair on his chest Armorial in the sunlight–then back to the woods, And the otherlife of snakes, poison oak, boxcars. Were the trees cleared first for the trains or the orchard? Walking home by the street because it was dark, That night, the smoke-smell in my clothes was like a bearskin. Where the lone hunter and late bird have seen us Pass and repass, the mountain and the woods seem To stand darker than before–words of sexual nostalgia In a song or poem seemed cloaked laments For the woods when Indians made lodges from the skin Of birch or deer. When the mysterious lighted room Of a bus glided past in the mist, the faces Passing me in the yellow light inside Were a half-heard story or a song. And my heart Moved, restless and empty as a scrap of something Blowing in wide spirals on the wind carrying The sound of breakers clearly to me through the pass Between the blocks of houses. The horn of Roland V But what was it I was too young for? On moonless Nights, water and sand are one shade of black, And the creamy foam rising with moaning noises Charges like a spectral army in a poem toward the bluffs Before it subsides dreamily to gather again. I thought of going down there to watch it a while, Feeling as though it could turn me into fog, Or that the wind would start to speak a language And change me–as if I knocked where I saw a light Burning in some certain misted window I passed, A house or store or tap-room where the strangers inside Would recognize me, locus of a new life like a woods Or orchard that waxed and vanished into cloud Like the moon, under a spell. Shrill flutes, Oboes and cymbals of doom. My poor mother fell,

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And after the accident loud noises and bright lights Hurt her. And heights. She went down stairs backwards, Sometimes with one arm on my small brother’s shoulder. Over the years, she got better. But I was lost in music; The cold brazen bow of the saxophone, its weight At thumb, neck and lip, came to a bloodwarm life Like Italo’s flashlight in the hand. In a white Jacket and pants with a satin stripe I aspired To the roughneck elegance of my Grandfather Dave. Sometimes, playing in a bar or at a high school dance, I felt My heart following after a capacious form, Sexual and abstract, in the thunk, thrum, Thrum, come-wallow and then a little screen Of quicker notes goosing to a fifth higher, winging To clang-whomp of a major seventh: listen to me Listen to me, the heart says in reprise until sometimes In the course of giving itself it flows out of itself All the way across the air, in a music piercing As the kids at the beach calling from the water Look, Look at me, to their mothers, but out of itself, into The listener the way feeling pretty or full of erotic revery Makes the one who feels seem beautiful to the beholder Witnessing the idea of the giving of desire–nothing more wanted Than the little singing notes of wanting–the heart Yearning further into giving itself into the air, breath Strained into song emptying the golden bell it comes from, The pure source poured altogether out and away. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/35398/history-of-my-heart From: History of My Heart

Robert Pinsky is an American poet, essayist, literary critic, and translator. From 1997 to 2000, he served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. Pinsky is the author of nineteen books, most of which are collections of his poetry.

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Break Out Poet

Lane Young

The Failed Cynic

Love is all ambience, tone, theatrics, honeyed words, nostalgic fragments; whatever it is we think about the tunnel of, whatever record companies think we need; rampant ritual sentiment, a communal pool of pumping blood.

We search the Hallmark aisles for quips that say enough but not too much—phrases and ellipses we may topically apply to our particular kind of social bond.

And if we dare to choose a mass-print missive with a little passion or peril, rest assured: they are all anonymous words, amusements, offerings of oh-so slight affection, purloined letters, as borrowed as marriage vows.

The only saving grace behind our sad clichés: our foolish, willing, this-time belief— the pilot light of hope that keeps us listening.

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Ignatius Days

Now that Fortuna had saved him from one cycle, where would she spin him now? The new cycle would be so different from any he had ever known. —JOHN KENNEDY TOOLE, A Confederacy of Dunces

In my meandering twenties,

We lived for what we could write about in letters.

whenever I knew my life

We both wrote reams of serious-minded chaff.

was about to take another plunge,

And just as he turned to The Consolation of

when Fortuna had turned the wheel

Philosophy

again against my favor,

by Boethius, so did I turn for consolation,

I knew where to turn for solace:

over and over, to the pages of his story.

A Confederacy of Dunces. I wasn't the only one.

Once married, I tried again

When I would read it on the bus

to read myself through uneasiness.

people would come up to me

I picked up the book, but no longer felt

to talk about the book, how they loved it too,

that drive of desperation—

as if there was a secret Society of Ignatius.

halfway through my life, with so many other books to read.

Ignatius Reilly and I have much in common. After college we both returned

Besides, my Myrna had already come for me

to the "womb room" of our childhood.

by moonlight, and this time

We both failed early on at teaching,

everything had a chance

and fared little better at other work.

to be different.

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At a Loss

At such a point I don't know where— or more precisely, thought I knew exactly,

but the confidence was inaccurate, strong wishes blowing it all off course.

Sometimes a mess is just a mess, and sad distances too much like scripts that didn't make the cut—

the story line too confusing, with neither formula dynamics nor striking originality.

Today it seems to configure itself as paring down the list; it's only one lifetime and modestly priced.

Tomorrow it may seem again a blind bargain, agreed to more out of weariness than forethought or conclusion.

Another day the choice may be apparent— the straw that stands out at the top.

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Rock Band Listings

Names as arbitrary as for mixed drinks or race horses; homages to weirdness; nods, allusions, mock heroics; sharp rocks found along the river bed and worn on leather straps around the neck;

letters reproducible for flyers, shirts and decals; cloned in local music-show compendiums; bold enticements, born out of confusion; antidotes, with judicious drops of poison.

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I, Too, Dislike Writers

They come up with odd monikers for themselves. They call their work their stuff. Like actors they alternate between knee-knocking shyness and braying. When reading their work they're so swollen with pride, so craving an audience, they lose all sense of when to cut it off. They forget responsibilities in pursuit of inspiration. They grab up secrets and events they come upon as material, molding it enough to get it wrong yet keeping it recognizable. They drop the names of writers they have read and writers they have met but haven't read. They sit in cafes writing in their notebooks, shamelessly absorbed in their impure endeavor. It's too bad their products can't be synthesized— it's the same way as with oysters and silkworms: we have no choice but to put up with their processes.

Lane Young has lived in the Atlanta area all of her life except for her four years at Grinnell College in Iowa where she earned a B.A. in English. Her poems have appeared in 360 Degrees, Potpourri, Lilliput Review, MOBIUS, The Sierra Nevada College Review, The Journal of Poetry Therapy, bluemilk, and Poets, Artists and Madmen among other publications. (laneyoungpoet.com) Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 11


Al Maginnes The Night of Changing Fires On the far side of this continent, houses are drowning in fire, even small towns left skeletal, timbers and unburned brick and metal. Tonight, I feel electricity, low as the murmur of flame under a gas log, buzzing deep in my blood, forcing my eyes to open each time they close. So many things encompassed in that single word fire: warmth, destruction, the beginning and end of time. Tonight if I stepped outside I could make myself believe the edges of plants in our yard, the spears of grass are outlined in fire, their mantles of flame gleaming without smoke or heat. If I switch on the 24 hour news, I could wait through the harvest of lying politicians, the celebrity scandal du jour, and hear which direction the fires are turning and wonder again how long I will have been sleeping when the flames turn in my direction. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 12


Dream’s Animals While we sleep, some portion of the body departs, shadowless. It will not whisper of its travels when it returns, but I have sensed its leaving in the kick of small muscles when the one beside me enters sleep. And I have lain beside the sleeper more nights than one, envying the wanderings of that small portion of the soul, animal-shaped and alert, its landscapes of bent trees, of grass broom-fry and itchy, mud underlying each season in its turn. And I’ve stood to study what lies outside my night windows though there is nothing out there for me to read, no words to translate. What lives out there lives in the mystery of sleep, which is the mystery the body holds. It is not salvation our sleep animals offer, but escape from this present of star formations and weather. And they will be gone when we wake to the few seconds of amnesia before our lives rush to fill us again, dividing us from the animals we have been.

Little Universe For all I know, the fret and worry of this planet might be a seed passing through the gut of an animal large and unnamed, some species that eats and digests, unaware of our presence, just one seed in a cluster of overripe berries. Neither do we know what small universes spin within us. But on some speck of matter lodged deep in the damp clockwork of organs, there exists one who would be you if you were not busy being someone else. And each of that one’s pain and rages pass unnoticed in the rivers of our blood, the boundless trail of intestines. I stood in a circle once to celebrate the harmonic convergence. Frazzled white kids, we scattered corn meal, recited bits of poems to celebrate the hidden synchronicity of planets. Half a lifetime later, I think of us as little seeds carried through galaxies, bearing shapes and histories we don’t fathom, while deep within, the little beings who make our bodies their universe recline in all they know of infinity.

Al Maginnes’ seventh and most recent book, The Next Place, was published in spring of 2017 by Iris Press. Recent poems have appeared in Shenandoah, North American Review, Rattle, Vox Populi and many other places. He lives in Raleigh NC and teaches at Wake Technical Community College. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 13


Paul Luikart Another Country Hole digger white tongue— Loafer style shoes. Big, old stolen car— Mercury cab. I didn’t see no handcuffs. Tuesday, I didn’t see nobody. On First Looking Into McCarthy’s Blood Meridian The men ride across intolerable plains On nameless horses Through sand and sand-upon-sand and Villages made of clay and bones. Scalps for the Glanton gang are trophies— The rest of the bodies bleach-skulled and Left in the desert for dry rot to set in. Only the saguaros raise their arms in prayer. The Judge, man of mutiny to all moral lives, The hairless hulk with brains for war, A marauder, plain and true. It was his Idea to make gunpowder from piss. Poor kid, don’t you know your doom is Sure? Like a scorpion crushed by a Hard-worn boot heel. You’ve always been pinned To the evening redness in the west.

Paul Luikart is the author of the short story collections Animal Heart (Hyperborea Publishing, 2016) and Brief Instructions (Ghostbird Press, 2017.) His work is included in the 2019 Best Microfiction anthology and won the Nassau Review's 2019 Writer Award for Fiction. He is an adjunct professor of fiction writing at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. He and his family live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 14


Anthony Harrington The Ballad of Glenda a simian saga Have you ever heard the tale of Glenda the Glib Gorilla? Oh, it’s the warmest story told This side of West Manila. Two scientists who were man and wife (Each with Ph.D’s) With foundation money funding them Had sailed across the seas. In Equatorial Africa They went on a safari. (The wife, her name was Marilyn. The husband’s name was Maury.) The guide who led them had read too much In the works of Hemingway. He drank warm gin and with his gun Blew animals away. He blasted away at lions, Gazelles and leopards, too, And now and then for the hell of it He nailed a nearby gnu. One fateful day they’d all arrived At a stand of green bamboo. The guide suddenly raised his rifle up Just as they started through. He’d spotted some hulking hairy forms Hunched over by the ground. The African sky was split in two By the gun’s explosive sound. That night Marilyn told her husband Glenda’s new sad story.

Fatally shot, it turned out, were A gorilla mom and pop, For soon was heard a mewling sound That made the doctors stop. No bigger than an ice cream cone (Chocolate, not vanilla) Dropped upon the ground there lay An infant-sized gorilla. The doctors picked the orphan up And gazed into its eyes, And there arose among those three Deep familial ties. So back from The Darkest Continent The doctors brought the kid (And discovered later that it was The smartest thing they did). In hills northeast of San Francisco They leased a ranch-like villa, And there they raised their adopted girl, Glenda the bright gorilla. She learned to sign two thousand words. Her fame, it steadily grew. Professors came from far and wide To learn what Glenda knew. But deep in the heart of Marilyn Lurked a mother’s kind of fear— Which Glenda finally signed to her Late in her thirteenth year. “Mom,” she said with flying fingers, “I’d like to have a diddle.” (This is, of course, a G-rated verse. I’ve cleaned things up a little.) She said, “Oh, whatever will we do now, My darling Doctor Maury?” Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 15


Not for nothing had clever Maury Been granted his Ph.D. He sat and typed ten grant proposals And landed two or three.

Which led in turn to greater things (I relate them with a boast): A network executive caught her act And made her a talk show host.

And with the funds he gathered thus They went from zoo to zoo To find a male gorilla with whom Their daughter might pitch woo.

On TV screens across the land She happily signs away While Marilyn and Maury translate What Glenda’s got to say.

One hundred gorillas, more or less, The three paraded past, But none was the one for Glenda Whose hopes were fading fast.

Well, now you’ve heard the tale complete (In Yiddish, the ganz’ megillah) Of the rich and happy life led by Glenda the Glib Gorilla.

Back home in the corner of her cage Glenda just sat and moped. Oh where, oh where was that simian hunk For whom her young heart hoped?

Is there a moral in this story Of this singular gorilla? Nope. Not a hint of one at all— Not even a scintilla.

But one summer night a circus train Lost one of its iron wheels And a dozen uncaged animals Took to their furry heels.

Except the author’s moral virtue Who, creating this gorilla, Resisted the strong temptation To name the beast Priscilla.

The one not rounded up was Bob, The circus’s lone baboon Who swaggered into Glenda’s cage Under a gibbous moon. You’re not dumb. You can guess the rest: It was love at their first sight. Glenda and Bob played Hide-The-Banana All through that summer night. From then on Glenda was the glibbest Gorilla ever known (Though some of the signs she now signed Had a sexual overtone). Bob’s effect on Glenda created A total transformation. Her eloquence led to some specials on A public TV station—

Anthony Harrington was born and raised in Philadelphia where he received a degree in Philosophy from St. Charles Seminary. He has made his home in the Atlanta area for the last four decades. Examples of his verse have been used in textbooks by Robert Wallace and Miller Williams as well as in The Random House Treasury of Light Verse. His poetry volumes include Tersery Versery, The Man in the Goodwill Bin, and From the Attic: Selected Verse, 1965-2015.

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Danny P. Barbare

Third Shift Working third shift, late at night white eyed husky, Yorkshire running around in circles. Moist, dry food, small large breed chicken and rice, pumpkin, the

Danny P. Barbare has recently been published in Plainsongs, La Presa, Huizache, Progenitor, Perceptions, and many other publications. He resides in the Upstate of the Carolinas with his wife and family and small dog Miley.

yard, ripped open toys, pans and bowls sanitized Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 17


Derek Berry homesickness noun. distress caused when one is away from home. noun. the rot that will destroy the home you live in. the landlord who will evict you. the tangle of wires that will spark the fire. verb. how a flower’s yellow petals dance toward the sun. how a tree gathers its rings close as possible around its trunk, searching for whatever small space it can find to grow. how kudzu might slither into the mouth of a verdant field, name this place permanent. how temporary shelter becomes home. adjective. how to describe the scrabble of racoons in the attic. how to describe the sound of someone else’s alarm clock on the third week of sofa-surfing. how to describe the third eviction notice. how to name the darkness when the lights get cut again. noun. a song you cannot hear until you press your ear against a closed door. behind the door, a horror of tongues humming a sermon-hymn in unison. this is a music louder than hunger. noun. an aviary of robins without wings.

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sloppy magician aliveness is sleight of hand practiced palm card slipped to top of deck rehearsed flourish revealing one hundred limp rabbits their back left paws sacrificed sawed for good luck god help me my blood’s more gin than oxygen watch i will slur the words right this time watch i will turn paycheck into puke puddle i will turn the body against itself listen i’m real scared of dying i’m real scared of living too let’s be brave together pinky promise? watch i will pull the rabbit from the hat, alive intact

Derek Berry is the author of the novel "Heathens & Liars of Lickskillet County" (PRA, 2016). They are the co-founder of literary non-profit The Unspoken Word & serve on the board of Free Verse Poetry Festival in Charleston, South Carolina. They are the recipient of the 2018 EMRYS Poetry Prize & 2018 KAKALAK Poetry Prize. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in Gigantic Sequins, BOAAT, Beloit Poetry Journal, Yemassee, Pidgeonholes, & elsewhere. They live in Aiken, South Carolina. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 19


Cornelius Eady Photo of My Father in Front of Our House On Waverly Place If you squint, you could confuse him for a Tenor sax player, on the circuit, A barn burner Back on the block, All chitlings and Franks Hot Sauce. And he rarely wears a suit, So where is he headed, after This jaunty pose? Freshly shaved, Parked on the curb in front of our house, Hand in pocket, as if to say That’s where his money was. Possible titles for this photo: Working man steps out! I’m on the way to your funeral, (and I’m glad you dead), The day the mortgage got paid! Was the wind that lifted his suit Off the nail behind the door Of our living room fair or ill? Before the sugar gets him. Before his wife falls into her sadness, A buckshot swan upon the surface of the pond, Before the steering wheel of his Buick Slips from his fingers, like a tooth, Yanked from a jaw. My Daddy looks sharp, Poised between here and there. And what tops a poor man In a cheap suit, When he’s happy? Poet/Playwright/Songwriter Cornelius Eady was born in Rochester, NY in 1954, and is Professor of English at SUNY Stony Brook Southampton, where he is also Poetry Editor of the Southampton Review. He is the author of several poetry collections: Kartunes; Victims of the Latest Dance Craze, winner of the 1985 Lamont Prize; The Gathering of My Name, nominated for the 1992 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry; You Don't Miss Your Water; The Autobiography of a Jukebox; Brutal Imagination, Hardheaded Weather (Putnam, 2008), and the anthologies Every Shut Eye Ain't Asleep, In Search of Color Everywhere, and The Vintage Anthology of African American Poetry, (1750-2000). He wrote the libretto to Diedra Murray’s opera Running Man, which was short listed for the Pulitzer Prize in Theatre, and his verse play Brutal Imagination won the Oppenheimer Prize for the best first play from an American Playwright in 2001. He was awarded tenure at SUNY Stony Brook in 1995, and holds a PhD in the Arts (Hon) from the University of Rochester (2010). His awards include Fellowships from the NEA, the Guggenheim Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Traveling Scholarship, and The Prairie Schooner Strousse Award. He is co-founder of the Cave Canem Foundation, and was, before returning to Stony Brook, The Miller Family Endowed Chair in Literature and Writing and Professor in English and Theater at The University of Missouri-Columbia.

Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 20


Edward Lee Do Not Pass By I refrained from holding your hand as you lay in the hospital bed, dying within the echo of your dignity, fearful that when death finally came he would not be able to take you, my fingers too tight through yours; I had witnessed too much pain twisting your bruised body and stiffening your pale mouth to let that occur, even if it deprived me of you. Fragile My heart is made of wax and feathers, an Icarus in my chest, or his wings at least, safe in the criss-crossed shadows of my ribs and disposition, better to be safe than sorry, my heart melting and burning through my bones. Edward Lee's poetry, short stories, non-fiction and photography have been published in magazines in Ireland, England and America, including The Stinging Fly, Skylight 47, Acumen and Smiths Knoll. His debut poetry collection "Playing Poohsticks On Ha'Penny Bridge" was published in 2010. He is currently working towards a second collection. He also makes musical noise under the names Ayahuasca Collective, Lewis Milne, Orson Carroll, Blinded Architect, Lego Figures Fighting, and Pale Blond Boy. His blog/website can be found at https://edwardmlee.wordpress.com Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 21


Elizabeth Beck

Open Letter to My Pickles If I call you, my pickle it means I have claimed you as my own. You’ve memorized Shakespeare’s face, touched a plant and palmed a crystal, applauded one another, nodded to Tupac, met my eye while shaking my hand, giggled at pop-up dance moments, heard me swear and laugh too loud. You’ve stood on a chair, fists raised in the air to Still I Rise, learned I spell Phish with a ph,

Elizabeth Beck is a writer, artist and teacher who lives with her family on a pond in Lexington, Kentucky. She is the author of insignificant white girl by Evening Street Press and Interiors by Finishing Line Press. Her ekphrastic collection of poems, Painted Daydreams is to be published by Accents Publishing later this year. In 2011, she founded the Teen Howl Poetry Series that serves the youth of central Kentucky. She also runs Leestown OUTLOUD, a middle school spoken word group.

understood karma from the Pen God Cup, cried Ame! when you heard me call Ago! Remember me when you eat Jolly Ranchers know that you are valued and loved. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 22


Ellen Malphrus August His back faced her When she walked through the gate To the pool so she Leaned over quietly and

My Last Lover

Licked the

Paris is like that—

Nape of his neck

a matchless beauty

Then fingers

that wants

As he reached around without looking To touch her lips and hair They said some things and It was 98 degrees When the heat inside became Unbearable They went Into the bathroom Beside the coke machine One And then the other She looked into the mirror And he looked Over her shoulder Took her Hands and placed them

to hear it every day. Forgets you if you miss a beat. So you stand by the river and wait on the right song— bleeding for the rhythm. in every note.

Flat against the glass that Frosted with steam except where Her fingertips moved As sweat dripped From their noses Then they swam. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 23


Tied at the Back Palm Sunday in New Orleans I finish my coffee and walk across Jackson Square just as masses spill from the Sanctuary—so fine in Sunday frocks,

At the bookstore, last errand before my

freshly blessed and headed to Commander’s

flight, the clerk says sadly, That’s-How-It-Is.

Palace—greeted outside by fancy priests

When he falls down, again, someone will call

in red flowing robes, police nearby to

911 and he’ll be driven, again,

guard the costly gates of privileged heaven.

to jail or hospital, depending on the officer. (Who may or may not have

From what, I wonder, then make the turn at

gotten laid that morning.)

Pirate’s Alley and see. In this town few stand out amidst the bizarre, the profane,

In the shadowed

the pathetic, but there he is—gray haired

alley two cops stop him, then step away.

and grizzled, dressed in blue hospital gauze,

When we pass I ask them. Nothing to tell.

sock footed, still banded—wending his way

He’d pissed in a cup (Like the one a tired

along the side wall of grand St. Louis

nurse had him use for the clinic sample?)

Cathedral. Venerable edifice.

then set it down among other trash from

Granddaddy of them all, its bells tolling.

last night’s revelry—a tourist complained. On hand for mass duty, their job is to

He is as close to the mighty altar,

keep him moving.

closer even, than the rich crimson robes out front.

So he walks in darkness, seeking the impossible—a place to

Disoriented detritus cut loose and drifting. Man overboard, likely medicated, no doubt hurting.

lie down, simply lie down, until he falls down dead—

Long spangled strands of bright Mardis Gras beads drape the magnolia trees around him—no life line there. No rosary for the old timer this Palm Sunday April Fool’s Day.

ill-fated casualty of the Big Easy hard hit.

Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 24


Sounds of a Certain Sunday I stand naked at a window in New Orleans and listen through brocade walls to stories of wrought iron and lust. Three days now to hear tour guides on their slack-reined clops around the Quarter and I am drawn to the voice of one clarion enough to reach the river. He carriages a fresh basketful of riders— all intrigue and camera faced— every hour or so. Delighting them with tales of gates and gowns, the haints and whores of Rue Royale. Through cornstalks and Morning Glory I watch to see which of them have eyes enough to notice me, here, in this twelve foot frame of wavering glass. Me, inside a room itself rich with coffee and newspaper sounds of a morning begun mid-afternoon. But the sound that stirs clearest, deep in the small of my back, is a voice more enticing in its silence than three hundred years of Creole history. Come, it calls me, back to bed.

Ellen Malphrus lives and writes beside a tidal river in her native South Carolina Lowcountry and beneath the mountains of western Montana. James Dickey was her mentor and Graduate Director for the MFA she earned at the University of South Carolina. She was also mentored by Pat Conroy, who wrote the foreword to her 2015 novel Untying the Moon. Malphrus’ fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in a variety of publications including Southern Literary Journal, Review of Contemporary Fiction, William & Mary Review, James Dickey Review, Haight Ashbury Review, Georgia Poetry Review, Catalyst, Without Halos, Our Prince of Scribes: Writers Remember Pat Conroy, and several anthologies. She is Professor of English and Writer in Residence at the University of South Carolina Beaufort, as well as Deputy Director of the annual Pat Conroy Literary Festival. She is most at home in nature, and her concern for wild places and creatures, particularly when it comes to coastal conservation, is evident in the fabric of her writing. www.ellenmalphrus.com Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 25


Heather M. Harris

Fire and Stars Black blanket Hovers, Circled eye gaze. Serious ghost Stories, Penetrate Blaze— And Embers While Others Remember, Times Gone by Too Fast. Stippled Distant diamonds Catch Our wonder, And Convince Us: There’s So Much More. Heather M. Harris is a writer and from New Orleans, who holds a Master’s of Arts and Teaching and a Bachelor’s of Arts and Sciences from Southeastern Louisiana University. Occupationally, Heather has been busy freelancing for Option Books, editing non-fiction manuscripts for clients, marketing and managing content for Cajun Pepper studios, and writing and hosting murder mystery dinners for clients. Heather has also co-authored a screenplay pilot episode for N.C.I.S. New Orleans. Lately, Heather’s work has appeared in The Hobo Camp Review, and The Blue Mountain Review. In her community, Heather serves on the board of the New Orleans’ chapter of D.B.S.A, supporting and advocating for those with mental Health illnesses, is on The P. T. O. board of Ridgewood Preparatory School, is involved in several local writers’ groups, as well as various planning committees at her local Church, Fellowship Bible. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 26


Iain Twiddy

Every Second

It makes sense, when the mud-run river I grew up by implied every second

that like itself, I could leave, indeed go anywhere every time never again —

that from Prague’s florid blocks, Tōkyō’s concrete colony, Auckland’s Vulcan suns, from four decades away

I keep coming back with the weight of a sea just to hear it again, just to be clear.

Iain Twiddy studied literature at university, and lived for several years in northern Japan. His poems have been published in Flyway, Quiddity, Poetry Ireland Review, The London Magazine and elsewhere. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 27


Alia Hussain Vancrown Jar by Jar I know that lightning bugs belong to summer, but let me transport them, jar by jar, into spring. The spring a lost lightning bolt, meant to shock something higher, instead found the lone weeping willow tree in the yard & reduced it to an injured coyote in submission. Its bark, soundless, grayed out, stripped of its sap & yelp of life. Its branches dangling like loose limbs from old hips, its green canopy losing color as it resigned itself to its fate, until someone had the kindness to shoot it again. The spring flash floods turned Hickory Hills into rivers—too few street gutters to swallow the onslaught— & we half-naked tribesmen hollered, whooped & kissed, our bare calves unafraid of human filth, sharp debris, our concern only that we get wet & dare lightning strike our throats, death be damned. We were storytellers & our songs were irresponsible twangs of leaked secrets, guilty splashes in muckwater, the moon sliced repeatedly by our brown feet into strips of rich, white pall, the moon’s face perfect composure of mourners at a funeral. The spring I started to bleed for the first time & learned shame was a dull, red lightning bolt staining my left leg & learned shame was suddenly rituals forbidden & learned shame is nothing but oral history passed down, father to daughter, mother to daughter, inherited true as fear of nearing thunderclaps or continued drought. The spring of baked earth, cracked heritage, faith chucked into fire to crackle like dead carcass, sparks flying in darkness, reanimated lightning bugs. The spring it hailed & you brought me one hailstone to examine in your kind palms, palms that never struck the side of my cheek or repressed science, womanhood, an innate desire to shapeshift. That spring it hailed & nothing was destroyed, every life a magnification of its examined self, two eyes aglow & two eyes aglow.

Alia Hussain Vancrown has published in journals and magazines in print and online. Her poetry has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She was selected to participate in Winter Tangerine's 2018 workshop, Singing Songs Crooning Comets, featuring seminars by Kaveh Akbar and Aricka Foreman. Alia works at the Library of Congress in the Law Division. She currently resides in Maryland. For more, please visit www.aliahussainvancrown.com and Instagram @aliagoestothelibrary. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 28


Octavio Quintanilla

How I like To Dance

The Holy Marriage

skimming from lilac to cherry-blossom to (one mind) poplar (supported by) our glances, meet in (four eyes) the barren land of ethereal air like (a pair of) shattered minds (binary stars) in the wake of a poem

You and I, and the Forest.

Civility

his shoulders, which bring happiness,

They ask you to kneel so they can shoot you in the back of the head. So hard to refuse to do anything when they ask with such kindness. You would’ve preferred a pistol-whipping, a kick to the back of the knees, a punch to the liver.

the open bush where he is lightly walking,

Blood.

this day –

No one yells “hijo de puta” at you. No one threatens to wipe your DNA clean. Instead they offer a cigarette, which you refuse. They call you, “señor,” guide you gently by the arm to the spot where you will feed a tree’s trunk. “Arrodillese por favor,” they say, “Aquí todos somos amigos.”

Everything passes – this beautiful man,

everything, forward towards freedom.

Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 29


Encounter When this strange bird comes to huddle in the nest of my divorce,

I want to touch it first and then hold it to the light of the language I know.

You’re a bird, I say.

I must be all glimmer to this creature that takes the place of a wife.

You’ve been wrong about everything, the bird says.

Yes, I want to say, I’ve been wrong about everything, but I don’t.

Octavio Quintanilla is the author of the poetry collection, If I Go Missing (Slough Press, 2014) and the 2018-2020 Poet Laureate of San Antonio, TX. His poetry, fiction, translations, and photography have appeared, or are forthcoming, in journals such as Salamander, RHINO, Alaska Quarterly Review, Pilgrimage, Green Mountains Review, Southwestern American Literature, The Texas Observer, Existere: A Journal of Art & Literature, and elsewhere. You can check out his Frontextos (visual poems) in Gold Wake Live, Newfound, The Windward Review, Chachalaca Review, Chair Poetry Evenings, Red Wedge, The Museum of Americana, and Twisted Vine Literary Arts Journal. A series of Frontextos are forthcoming in Tapestry, housed at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. His visual work has been exhibited at the AllState Almaguer art space in Mission, TX, Centro Cultural Hispano de San Marcos, Our Lady of the Lake University, and at the Weslaco Museum. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Texas and is the regional editor for Texas Books in Review and poetry editor for The Journal of Latina Critical Feminism. Octavio teaches Literature and Creative Writing in the M.A./M.F.A. program at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas. Check out his website: octavioquintanilla.com or find him on Instagram @writeroctavioquintanilla & Twitter @OctQuintanilla Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 30


John B. Graeber

Cold

I’m drawn to bleak landscapes and hard winters. The feel of icy tendrils slipped beneath skin, and bone cracked by cold. Slate skies of endless gray. Skin burned by a razor wind. As much me, as it is my home.

These roads are long and straight. Flanked by trees, black claws slick with damp or sheathed in brittle armor.

John B. Graeber is a writer living in Chattanooga, Tenn., with creative nonfiction at Glide Magazine, Nooga.com, and Fathom Magazine, and featured poetry on Chattanooga's local NPR affiliate. He is also co-founder of Tributaries, a literary newsletter that explores the inspiration behind great writing. His work includes explorations of faith and doubt, the sinewy presence of grief and memory, and the particular ability of poetry to capture a shadow of the inexpressible.

They bear me home. Where my bones have also been cracked, but not by cold.

Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 31


Simon Perchik * Though every night is sand the slightest breeze

empties the Earth into a few small stones

stretches out on this rickety bedside table

already a necklace for this headstone

starts a fire in your chest :a single landing light

coming by to make her look her best

and the smoke from some plane

as if you were going somewhere together

circling tighter and tighter, lost

dressed warm with flowers and kisses

with you in its mouth as songs about waves

where your arm used to be. *

oceans, butterflies –you need this beach

Tied to the ground this shovel

–a waterline can save you now

relies on the heights

let you softly down, tied hour after hour

though it’s your arm spreading out

to the widening stone overhead

–you whittle off pieces

no longer the silk dress that opened

the way its long handle

with just your breath and in your arms

shaped the Earth

the charred guitar still trembles

opened its slow roll-over

when wood comes too close and string

for wood that will become

touches the pillow or your fingers.

a second sun yet February

* This grave gives thanks and it’s sad –her name

is already a single day

hollowed out from the bone in your body

warmer than all the others

not connected to any other

expects you to remember, dig

though help will never come –your throat

till a hole rises alongside

gave up everything just to dig itself in

as a few hours

and yet this dirt still changes hands where none was there before. Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, Forge, Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker and elsewhere. His most recent collection is The Osiris Poems published by boxofchalk, 2017. For more information including free e-books and his essay “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website at www.simonperchik.com. To view one of his interviews please follow this linkhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSK774rtfx8 Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 32


Jeffrey Skinner Seven Shots to the Head: A Crown 1

2

Here: the absolute zero of home,

The knocking broke me open.

Ribs fractured, buried in the backyard.

I was one huge moist & pulsing eye

How I ran to answer door & phone,

In the acrid air of chicken farms—

How dire the need to speak, & be heard!

Blink—each commute a lonely drunk.

Sun glitters on ten thousand leaves

In church I would shift, or cry.

Even when I look away. Doesn’t it?

Nearing the end, drink had taken

I’m still stuck on certain basic questions.

Me to myelin rot & nerve alarm,

Pour me another. Repeat, until lit.

Liver fuming, a blue funk.

O, you endless chain of anothers!

Looking back they say everything

Some god was glowing behind my door.

Was meant to be. But no one

I couldn’t see above the whir of children.

Thinks so then. And there’s the sting.

I thought all speech a kind of grieving.

I didn’t think much of anything

I was curled up inside the sun.

In my late youth & full ambition.

Then I broke, & heard the knocking.

I had a wife, daughters. I could sing.

Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 33


3

4

I had a wife & daughters, could sing

Remove face, eyes; but where is soul

Sometimes wild inside the page.

Then? What strain of autophagy

Not sure they knew what I was doing

Extends from the metaphorical

In that back room besides

Into the red goo of biology?

Smoking & drinking, or reading

Then, bang—off to a new city,

Stories in several voices, child astride.

New job, new hit of oxygen & denial!

Despite my descent I loved that age,

Everyone drank & talked poetry!

Lost inside the family thing.

Our dream of a world, turned real.

Don’t know . . . maybe they guessed

Our includes Sarah & the kids

The other loss diminishing me,

Of course, all still young & wanting,

The one that briefly feeds the soul

All of us young, & wanting.

Then takes, piece by piece, the body

And it was good, outside my head—

Till, gaunt & greedy for the rest,

A family, making a new name for itself.

It shears the face, inhales the soul.

But I lie. I speak only for myself.

Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 34


5

6

Excuse me for speaking for myself

Drink remains my faithful hell

But there’s no one else in here.

Though I return from the asylum

Or: everyone & his brother’s here,

Thinking, All righty then—that’s done.

Toting guns, talking to themselves.

But body squirmed, & every cell

Maybe it’s an infection: I can’t hear,

Pushed hard against last call.

Sound finds me under water

Mind could not connect to tongue,

Floating in a fugue of selves.

Thoughts looped, & looped again.

My daily drink empties out a fifth.

I sat hours, silent. I touched no one.

Bullshit. I signed on to the deal

O teeth-grit white-knuckle days!

Centuries ago. It’s plain as the red

Hours that passed like kidney stones.

Nose on my face—a flaw, part

In truth, it was ten months before

Escape, part unction, part genetic.

I found myself considering ways—

When drink’s glamour goes dead

Bullet, pill, rope, leap, slice, telephone;

Drink remains, my faithful hell.

Telephone? I called a fellow sufferer.

Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 35


7 I called a fellow sufferer, an angel In Docker jeans. Then coffee, & talk

Beloveds, Sarah, Laura, Bonnie—

Talk talk. The end of words is laughter,

God is love touched down & sober.

Apparently. I felt strangely better.

I’ve spoken to him on the phone.

From then on, anything withheld,

His hands are made of mercy.

Any grain of sand I didn’t sift to talk

Even if today’s the only ever after,

Grew inside me like a jagged gear,

It’s ours: the absolute zero of home.

Turning. But I did not return to hell.

Jeffrey Skinner’s latest published collection is a chapbook from C&R Press entitled White Boys from Hell. Some of his other new poems are forthcoming in North American Review and The Threepenny Review, among other journals. He lives in Louisville Kentucky with his wife, the poet Sarah Gorham, and their basset hound, Dixie. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 36


Stephen Windham Ghost Runners for George It’s the umpteenth inning of our sandlot game, and guys are drifting away – moms beckon, some leave from boredom or have new ideas

He advances only when forced,

for how to use what light remains.

and only to the next open bag.

The sides are fixed – we won’t choose up again. Positions can be shifted, bases covered,

Another double to right

but the batting order is inviolate,

moves the ghost runner to third,

and so we call up ghost runners

but the batter stretches it to a triple,

to pinch run for the departed.

sending the ghost runner sprinting for home. A perfect strike to the plate

Batters stand in, take their hacks.

caught before the batter reaches third,

One reaches with a double and is still on base

forces the ghost runner – yer out!

when a vacant slot in the order comes up and the runner is called in to pinch hit.

And so in the failing light it goes,

“Ghost runner on second!” he yells,

kids and ghosts wheel around the base paths,

and leaves the bag to the phantom,

anything to get in some extra innings,

who takes a conservative lead,

until too many defections

his progress governed by ghost runner rules:

finally leave the living outnumbered, the night undeniable, and we call it a game, at last.

Stephen Windham grew up in Alabama, but has now lived the majority of his life in Georgia, mostly in the Atlanta metro area. He has published poetry in The Snake Nation Review, Poetry East, and The Atlanta Review, among others. His essay, “Aretha Franklin’s ‘Chain of Fools,’ My Mother and Me” appeared in Issue 12 of The Blue Mountain Review. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 37


Alexander Johns

The Cow Who Wanted to be a

The Piranha Ghost

Hamburger

was surprised to find itself, well,

kept looking away from her mother's udder,

a ghost.

kept imagining the dark shape of the barn, seeing above land for the first time, the sun each dawn rising to reveal some Euclidean shape in silhouette, somewhere something other than tree or field, calf trying the light, trying the horizon, the surface of the earth,

finally at peace, not seeking something to eat, along with the others in the school, so confused down there, realizing in its now-infinite, once-piranha mind that there are creatures above which fear its tiny teeth and frenzy, knowing not that piranhas don't eat people, never have, can't, in fact, reduce a cow to bones in seconds

The lamb made of cashmere,

he only knows now what a cow is and somehow

wool so good on skin,

sees the stars as they are

it's a sin,

and somehow always has,

bleats for more than one reason on that contested hillside. Reaches her long neck over the gate, gazing beyond the farmer's head.

and was never a flesheater at heart to begin with, never much of a fish, just some silvery flesh doing its best despite the inherent limitations, can't be blamed for participating in the Meal, stirring up bubbles,

The gravel road, the sunset

which can't help but rise

and his glorious clouds.

toward the light.

Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 38


At the Baggage Claim

Christ Pets a Cat

A Somali refugee watches Anthony Bourdain

and she purrs, as she would whether

on the TV screens

it was God or a man stroking her fur, showing attention, what every cat wants to be

and the artistically arranged assembly

the center of in every home. He

of meat of rare stag, orchid petals, and

looks her in the eye, and she stares back.

reduction of hundred-dollar-a-bottle red wine, Croatian truffle, and

Scientists still aren't quite sure

hormone of sea urchin,

why cats purr, but Mary watches

set lovingly into a bed

from around the corner

of dry ice fog

as the cat relaxes in her son's

while a cellist plays an unbroked D note.

large hands, and he lifts her up to his throat

He's seen a TV only twice in his life,

and presses her soft neck

and here he is in the

to his

Atlanta airport,

Adam's Apple,

having made it to the States, while he waits feels by his vocal chords for the Episcopalians to meet him.

the little rumble that resembles what will

He sees what no eye has seen,

eventually be called

hears what no ear has heard. an engine.

Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 39


Your Heart is the Size of Your Fist My heart is your hand, son. It blooms when our fingers coil, when you grip the pencil and write your awkward letters, honest but misspelled. When you shake it, gripped at me in hatred, it struggles to beat. When you grab the back of my head and pull me to your cheek, its blood might as well be light. When you take up a tool, type, strum, scrub, fight, swipe, struggle to undo a bra, it'll be my heart you handle. Caught you red handed.

Alexander Johns is an Associate Professor of English at the University of North Georgia, where he teaches American literature and creative writing. He was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia and currently resides in the Athens, Georgia area. His most recent collection, Darwin's Book of Saints, was published in 2018 by Aurore Press. He has been nominated for Georgia Author of the Year in 2019 and is the recipient of the 2013 Pavement Saw Press Prize for his collection “Robot Cosmetics”. His poems have appeared in Town Creek Poetry, Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel, Stray Dog Almanac, Chaffin Journal, Accents Publishing, The Oklahoma Review, Red River Review, Two Drops of Ink, The Journal of Language and Literacy Education, Kota Press, Scrivener’s Pen, Bellemeade Books, and other publications and were featured in the No Small Measure Georgia Broadsides project. He is the managing director of Word of Mouth, a monthly reading series bringing together nationally known and local writers in Athens, Georgia. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 40


Nikita Nelin The Changing of (A)Dream. I woke with all my dreams on loan in a lucid state of revolution. I woke up in this country with simulacra fantasies of an all American Dream. I woke up in a Hopper painting, over weight and lonely with Sinatra screaming at me because he too was lonely. I woke up with a language that transgressed against daunting plans and my vision was a sense syphoned off of the the mouth of a Klein bottle that I kept secret in the interview for this American life because the best dreams, the ones that keep time going, are deranged. I woke up in this land with dreams of revision, praying at the wishing well and counting my time by coffee spoons because the abacus was outdated and the currency was that of servitude. But why is gratitude not green? And have you considered why we say “green with envy?” What if we had agreed on a more suitable lie? I woke up sure that this was a dream. I woke up on the symbols of non-violence. My waking up was a peaceful protest and the ultimate maxim was to be the dream. But that’s some really heavy lifting. I had to practice. I did pushups. We are the dreams of revisions, of pebbles in the sand, washed ashore amid the disarray of debris, relics of the tsunami of our culture. And we are the revolution. The revolution does not come fast enough in the advertised future. The revolution calls for a personal transformation. The revolution calls for a slowing down, for a listening, for mindfulness, for leaning into the trouble and the billion voices, digitized and not, of separating the waters of what is avatar, what is an institutional hypnosis, what is the cool hand of real human touch. The revolution recognizes temperature changes. It does not destroy. It waits patiently for the tides to recede, for the air to settle, for gravity to announce itself, for a pause in conversation, all while cultivating your own garden in the secret passageways of your dreams. And dreams cannot be whored out. They are whored in. It, dream, cannot be given away, one must be invited into the recesses of privacies, and there you are the passage maker. The revolution does not take power and give it away because that cycle has rendered the movement moot. Power to the disempowered, disempower the powerful by force, still leaves someone naked in the snow shaking with vengeance, calculating their hero’s journey. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 41


The revolution has no principle, and there is no interest rate when we scatter the cost across lifetimes. But the down payment is a complete surrender into the dream, and this could be the dream of half my generation. The revolution is art turning from colonial culture to the native, to tribal, to Eastern, to matriarchal. It is in the shock wave, the only window with light when religion, when politics, when science, when consumerism had all failed to actualize our dreams; when we are virtual, and virtually driven to imagine a greater leap, out of the virtual and into a hands-on vision. But it starts inside. It starts with silence. Not everyone can be a marvel hero—icons of greatness. I’s and I’s and I’s, more I’s: we need eyes, many eyes, many many eyes, tuned in to the human frequency. We don’t need definition makers, we need meaning finders. We need less want. But if you want something less prosaic, something concrete, something less dream state, something less stream of consciousness, something to tweet, a wardrobe of directives and an update on the status of the revolution, than here: We need sustainable products, and sustainable is holistic not in the way that some fearful greedy man on the monopoly board with money and power has absconded with the dictionary to make you see new-age, and hippy, and wistful, but rather in a rigorous conscious way where ‘sustainable’ creates culture, considers the earth and our place here, localizes, reaches out, is intention followed by action, not in your neighbors sandbox but in your own. And the sandbox is lucid and the sand turns to concrete upon rain, and spans lifetimes, and maybe not in this lifetime but what choice have we got? We need mindfulness, we need drums, we need trance, we need to lose ourselves and reconstitute around a new meaning of the dream, one with eye contact, one where we talk to strangers, one fitted on the currency of gratitude. We need today. And today, touch someone, break the mold, delve out kindness to a stranger. Compliment a child running in the street. Ask an old man about his karmic quest, hold hands a little too long, read a sad story, on paper, carry an extra fruit, re-imagine what sustainability means for you and your product. Go into a handstand on the side walk, better yet, do a heart opener. You will have to get dirty. Wish good morning in the afternoon, and when they respond with “it’s the afternoon” reply with “well, it’s never too late to start again.” Surrender, just for today, the anxiety of whether you fail or succeed. Try to understand Shakespeare but fail, and still Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 42


love the rhythm of the words. Ask someone if they like the Beatles and then quote a line in conversation. Unplug, don a clown nose in the most awkward situation, carry an extra piece of fruit. Read out loud. Meditate (sit) in an office chair; ask a coworker to sit with you but smile playfully and innocently as you do so. Write a thought down and then amend it with semicolons, (and then amend it) (again) (and again), and again. Witness the constitution of your mind. Begin writing that parking ticket and then rip it up. Triple tip, at McDonald’s. Pay someone else’s toll. Do a hundred pushups and then yell from the top of your lungs, “One thing I can tell you is we’ve got to be free!” Better yet, yell, “New shit has come to light!” Make a business decision that does not hinge on the immediacy of risk-reward. Write an essay in direct address. You… Be randOm. Decide what that means for you without me; in fact, without anyone. Meaning is yours—that is what we are fighting for. Write a love letter to yourself from your past life, and forgive the messenger. Write a thank you letter from yourself in your next life, and let go of your temporal image. Run the first leg of a marathon; it is shorter then you think. Put masking tape over every brand name on your wardrobe. Write your name on the masking tape. Better yet, write something in latin. Dying languages are great. Take up graffiti. Apply for an MBA but for reasons other than wealth. Bring a round of plums for everyone at the bar and afterwards announce how cold and how sweet they were. Repeat in the morning. Repeat with a partner. Repeat in stereo… stereo… repeat, repeat! Repeat in poem, in social contract, in business plan, in person. The revolution is here. The revolution is not about power. Power is the lie that keeps on stealing meaning from you. We need consciousness. Wait, hear that again and mouth it with me… we need con…scious…ness. Draw up the expanse of what that means. Whatever your skill, whatever your medium, your device… film, letters, business, medicine, law, personal training, yoga, software or hard, operator, content writer, bartender, clerk, parking attendant, mother, stranger, walker, barista, CEO, veteran, Seal Team member, sports broadcaster, cook, asshole hater, order taker, manifesto maker. We need you! To draw up (a)dream… Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 43


Forgiving What You Can’t Forgive the broken promises snipping at your feet, the thousand resolutions

Forgive the path that did not bend to honor your command, and every obstacle you’ve sworn to punish to the end.

marching in the streets. Forgive the weatherman for keeping the secret of the heat.

Forgive what you remember forgive what you forget, even forgive this poem

Forgive the weather forgive your heart Forgive the snow, the sleet. Forgive your love forgive your hate, your enemy your friend, And every diplomat you’ve met forgive their mal-intent.

forgiving what you can’t. Nikita Nelin is the offspring of a cosmonaut and a therapist, and though he did study psychology, he has never tried to escape the earth, except through his writing. Nikita was born in Russia and immigrated to the U.S in 1989. He has lived in Austria and Italy, and has traveled the U.S extensively. His work often takes on a borderless perspective, exploring contemporary culture from the fringe through his journalism, and the nature of lineage and likeness between difference through his fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. He has received the Sean O’Faolain Prize for short fiction, the Summer Literary Seminars Prize for nonfiction, and the Dogwood Nonfiction Prize. He memoir, The Fifth Season, was chosen as a finalist for the 2017 Restless Books Immigrant Prize as well as the 2018 Dzanc Nonfiction Prize. He holds an MFA from Brooklyn College and is a 2019 associate fellow at the Hannah Arendt Center. If you wish to support his work you can find him at Nikitanelin.com and through Patreon

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Fiction Cameron Dezen Hammon The Lighter the Scar I’m the sort of person who notices the gravediggers. I’m the sort of person who notices myself noticing the gravediggers. Here we are, awkwardly standing at the grave. It’s cold. Heels sinking in the loam. Those guys are out of sight, just on the periphery. They stand beside the pile of dirt with its blue tarp concealing nothing. Wanting a smoke. Wanting to get the earthmover going so they can do their fucking job and go home. And we weep. Make a big show of it. Don’t know where to look. Gravediggers know where to look. I admire that. I always notice those kinds of people, the ones on the periphery. I suppose I was in a gravedigger mood when I first met John. He was engaged and I was married. “John’s fiancée is so cool,” one of the other biologists said when we were uncoiling the slack lines from the morning dive. John was fingering the knots, doublechecking the tanks. He said nothing. I pictured his fiancée immediately: long hair she’d never colored in her life. Good with a hunting knife. Dog lover. They’d both lived in the Pacific Northwest all their lives. Hippies. So, I assumed they had the sort of engagement that would go on indefinitely. I was wrong. The next time I saw John was seven months later, when the data from the summer dive was in and I was supposed to present it to the University. John wasn’t involved with that part of what we did. He was a diver. We used his boat and gear, but no one was really interested in his ideas. But I made sure to go out on a survey so I could see him again. He’d put on some weight. His long hair was stringy, and his beard was grayer than it had been the summer before. After we’d dredged and weighed and measured for a few hours I asked him to dock us at Toby’s Bar. It had been a long week, and everyone needed a drink. “I guess you can talk to me now,” John said later, “because we have beers.” Mine was a local IPA and his was some cheap shit, and by the time he’d put up the gear and made his way off the dock I was on my third. I asked about his honeymoon. He pouted. I reached into my backpack and pulled out a condom, wilted in its once-gold wrapper. It had been at the bottom of my bag since before I was married. I put the condom on the bar, next to his beer. “OK,” he said. “I’ve been married six years,” I said. “Exactly three of them unhappy.” I knew my marriage was “unhappy” and not just normal, not just what every marriage is as it enters the terrible year seven, because our couples’ counselor had said so. “You are unhappy,” the counselor said, looking right at me, a cartoonish worry line appearing on his forehead. He did not say this to my husband who was looking out the window, and not to us as a couple, but to me directly. I sunk into the papasan chair and tried to make eye contact with the miniature statue of Kali, Hindu goddess of destruction, that the counselor had on his desk. It was difficult because Kali had many heads, and I found myself focusing intently on each one, like you do on the beads of a rosary. I’d held a rosary Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 46


when we buried my stepfather. I’d rubbed the beads between my fingers like I’d thought would make me look sad, and religious. How my stepfather would’ve liked me to look. In the counseling sessions with my husband I counted Kali’s heads silently to myself while he talked about his new job. While he talked about the department, and the dean. Counting heads was a way to run down the time until the session was over, and I could go back to the lab. I loved my husband. I told John that when we were at Toby’s drinking beer with the condom between us. I told him I’d followed my husband—let’s call him Mark—I’d followed Mark to the desert for a teaching job, and wasn’t that enough? While Mark graded essays, I spent all my time in the university pool. I could close my eyes under the water and imagine it contained something, some mystery. But when I opened my eyes all I saw were the shaved thighs of the diving team, the flat blue of the painted pool bottom. I had never lived so far from water in my life, I’d said. Maybe that was my problem. John looked at me then with an understanding I appreciated. I don’t know if he was realizing that it would be easy to be with me, or hard. As it turns out, it was hard. “This isn’t my first rodeo,” John said. He palmed the condom and stuffed it in the front pocket of his jeans. I sipped my beer and waited for him to say something less stupid. I’d struck a bargain with myself, that if he did say something stupid, I’d go back to my room, alone. No harm done. I’d cut shoot, abandon ship, GTFO. These were the sorts of bargains I made with myself in those days. After paying the tab at Toby’s, we walked the two blocks to the naval officer’s quarters where they put John up during these dives. There were a few other men in the building, men I knew, and they didn’t make eye contact as we stumbled up the stairs to John’s room, so I didn’t either. I wondered if I could come with someone who used clichés. I thought probably not. I knew my mind would recall the cliché at the most crucial moment. I didn’t come with John, after all, that was true, but it wasn’t because of the clichés. “What I know about fire,” John said in a text message a few days later, when I was back home, “is if you bury it, it has to stay buried. Or it will burn up everything.” I found the fire analogy heavy-handed. It embarrassed me. But even though I’m no girl scout, I got the point. It was already burning up everything. Every morning I woke up thinking about him. Every night I went to bed the same. I had run out of actual memories, so I made them up. I imagined John and me against a tree trunk; he’s lifting my skirt, his face in my hair. We’re in a gas station bathroom, or on a countertop, or on the beach. In his truck, in my truck. These images kept coming and I couldn’t stop them. I didn’t really want to stop them, and I felt bad for not wanting to stop them. Sleep was the best time because I was with him, my mind making its own guiltless associations and scenarios. But then I thought about how when I was a kid my mom was the school nurse before she married my stepfather, and how she had a framed needlepoint above the coffeepot. “Feed a cold. Starve a fever,” it read. I guessed it made sense. A fire that burns up everything. My mother taught me many tricks of the trade from when she was the school nurse, like how to stop a bleeder, how to quiet a cough. I was Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 47


a cutter back then, so I knew that the sooner I got ice on the wound, pressing hard on a hand towel or a wad of toilet paper, the lighter the scar would be. That night in John’s room the steam heat was on full blast and his window was propped open with a book. Slices of cold March air cut through the steam every few minutes. He lay back on his narrow bed and his work shirt bulged at the third and fourth button. He extended his left arm and pat the mattress, like he was summoning a dog. I lay down in the space between his armpit and ribs and fell asleep. I woke up a few hours later and the light outside was green, almost yellow, like a storm was coming, or the sun coming up. I couldn’t tell. I got up and fumbled for his Nalgene. He was asleep, that yellow light falling across his chest, rising and falling. I drank all his water and tripped on his backpack and a pile of laundry on my way out. The whole next day I thought about how he hadn’t touched me, how he’d made that space for me beside him. When I got home, my husband was waiting for me at baggage claim. In the weeks that followed I was wet and warm all the time despite the cold desert spring, the dust in my nose and throat. I wanted sex constantly, but every time my husband came, I cried. I couldn’t come unless I was alone, and it took forever. My husband wondered if it was early onset menopause, or barotrauma, from years of diving with shitty gear. I sent John a text message. “I miss you,” I said. He didn’t reply. I was obsessed with the Loch Ness monster when I was a kid. I had posters, books, videos, the “L” Encyclopedia always bookmarked. I researched John in much the same way. I found his bio on the diveshop website. I found an abandoned blog in which he compared buoyancy compensators and analog diving gauges. I found an op-ed he wrote for the South Whidbey Record about the disappearing Lingcod in the marina. I found his LinkedIn page, and then his wife’s LinkedIn page. I knew they would get a message that I was looking, but I didn’t care. I checked his Instagram account every few days at first, and then every hour, and then a few times an hour. I got sick and spent a week in bed with a real fever, clicking and browsing, clicking and browsing. I imagined John with his longhaired, dog-loving wife. I imagined him patting the space beside his ribs for her. “She wants to know who’s texting me,” he said. “Fuck,” I replied, lazily. I felt sorry for her, but I wasn’t afraid. I’d been forty feet deep with John, grinning like a psychopath behind my dive mask, my face two feet from the crenellated fans of live fire coral. I’d been even deeper than that, with a halffull tank, blissed out on giant Pacific Octopus and oxygen deprivation, while he waited on the boat with enough slack line to save my life or kill me. I’d survived this and other stuff. And I wanted him beside me, inside me, more than I wanted to not be afraid. I booked a ticket north and told my husband I was going to a conference. Never mind there was no conference, nor was it the season for conferences. My husband didn’t notice. Or he didn’t let on that he noticed. I Pricelined an expensive downtown hotel the first night. I swallowed three melatonin with a minibar vodka and dreamed of John. In my dream his hair was black and shiny, and when he smiled, he had fangs. The next day I rented a car and headed for the island. On the ferry, it was funny; I didn’t really look at the water. There was even a school of something following us, I knew because a bunch of little kids were squealing about it, but I couldn’t make it out in the murk. Every time I looked anywhere I saw John. It was no use to try to see anything else.

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What I knew about John’s daily life was what I saw on social media. I knew where, for example, he got his coffee on Saturday mornings and which trail he ran with his dog. He never pictured his wife in these social media posts and I took it as a clear indication of her irrelevance. Occasionally, when he did post a picture of her, it drove me crazy. One in particular featured her and the dog snuggled inside an expensive sleeping bag. I considered cancelling my trip. But when I checked again a few hours later he had taken the post down, and I was relieved. If you’d asked me then, did I want to really be with John, I’d have answered — yes. During one of our brief conversations, after that night in his room, he’d said, “I know you wouldn’t want me if you could have me.” I told him he was wrong, but honestly, I wasn’t sure. I told him that I wanted him forever, and almost as soon as I’d said it, I began to believe it. I knew one thing; I couldn’t make a fair judgment of what I wanted without more of him. And to get more of him I’d have to get a few things out of the way. When the ferry docked, I started up the engine of the rental and posted a picture I’d taken on deck. I hoped it would let John know I was on my way. It was Saturday, so I drove to the state park, and parked my car at the head of the trail I thought he’d take. My fleece could hardly keep out the damp. I checked my phone, no service. I slung my backpack on one shoulder and sank my right hand inside the front pocket, fingering a loose razor blade in my toiletry pouch. I pushed the pad of my forefinger into the blade, lightly at first then with more pressure. I watched cheerful couples, families with small children, and athletic crones make their way up the trail. When someone glanced my way, I smiled. It started to drizzle, and I noticed myself then. A woman on the periphery of a parking lot, at the edge of one thing and the beginning of another, with a CVS razorblade half stuck in her finger. What would John think, I wondered, when he saw me here? John’s pickup pulled into the far corner of the lot and I began to cry. This wasn’t what I had planned. His dog was not in the passenger seat as I had expected, but a woman with long hair. I pulled the blade into my palm and closed my hand around it. Then, I pulled my hand from my backpack and thought about what John had said about burying fire. I guessed I wasn’t good at burying anything after all. I couldn’t feel the razor or my finger anymore. Or more specifically, I felt no pain. But I could see John’s eyes behind the windshield, small and hard. The blood from my finger pooled in my palm, and I pulled my cupped hand from inside my pocket. I wasn’t sure what I’d do with my hand, the blood, the razor, but by the look on his face and hers, I knew that whatever it was I was doing was working to some degree. I had their attention. What I had been feeling and carrying alone the last few months, I wasn’t alone in it anymore. It was us, all of us, together. What had been mine was now ours, and it was all right there for me to read on their faces. Cameron Dezen Hammon’s writing appears in The Kiss anthology from W. W. Norton, Ecotone, the Literary Review, the Houston Chronicle, NYLON, and elsewhere; and her essay “Infirmary Music” was named a notable in The Best American Essays 2017. She earned an MFA in creative writing from Seattle Pacific University and is a writer-in-residence for Writers in the Schools in Houston, where she lives with her family. Her debut book, This Is My Body: A Memoir or Religious and Romantic Obsession will be published on October 22, 2019 from Lookout Books. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 49


Greyson Ferguson Hair in the Bathtub I’ve never liked hair in the bathtub. Even my own. The way a strand twists and swirls through rising water before bobbing to the surface. I take a towel to the dry porcelain, wiping out any would-be strands. Satisfied, I fold the towel and set it down on the toilet seat, palms ironing out cresting dunes in the thick cotton. I plug the tub and twist open the faucet. Water, the perfect temperature, surges to the white surface below. It’s always frustrating when someone comes to visit and they adjust my temperature setting, forcing me to fiddle with the handles until I unlock the combination of perfect bath water. But nobody ever visits. Guess I’m frustrated for another reason. Reaching for the bubble bath pushed in a corner I stop, my finger tracing along the oversized plastic container. I like bubbles in my baths. It hides the floating hairs. It keeps me from looking into the water and seeing me. But today, right now, it doesn’t seem like the time for bubbles. At least I’ve never heard of someone using bubbles. I take off my clothes, folding and adding each on top of the towel. Checking to make sure the door’s latched, I stand over the tub, steam rising. Warmth filling my nose. If I don’t check the door, one of the dogs will come in and confiscate my underwear. It makes her happy. Maybe I should let her in. One foot steps into the tub, pulling my breath in, as if to cool the fire around my toes. I accept the heat as goosebumps run down my arms. As my breathing returns to normal, my second foot joins the first. As I sit, the water pulses against the front of the tub before gently pushing against my chest. My knees remain two islands above the water. The warm water wraps itself around me. A hug, which soon will cool. A metaphor for most of my relationships. My eyes scan over the water. Bubbling up from the waterfall near my toes. No hairs to be seen. Or the twisting threads are lying in wait under the surface. I choose not to look. Instead, I look at the plastic tub of bubble bath, the purple liquid wondering why I neglected to invite it in. The shampoo I over-pay for in hopes of thicker, fuller hair. The safety razor gifted to me by the company, in hopes of a favorable review. The company’s gift represents the nicest gesture I’ve received in some time. People stop offering nice gestures in adulthood. At least that’s my experience. Only birthday card I received last year came from the insurance company. People have to make gestures to one another somewhere, right? I’ve read about people paying it forward at Starbucks. I’m not sure how I can pay it forward with my birthday card. Perhaps that’s why my premium went up. The safety razor is heavy. The handle twists off to reveal the razor blade. It’s thin. Paper-thin. It gently flexes between my thumb and finger. I wonder if this is the right kind of blade. As I lift my left arm, water drips from my wrist. Tears from my body. A body no longer capable of feeling. I haven’t felt anything in a long time now. No good. No bad. No excitement. Nothing. Like in a bubble as the world goes by. I go through the motions. I work. I eat. I walk dogs. A human on autopilot. I’m not sure if the pilot remains or if he hopped out, strapped with a parachute, a long time ago. I just want to feel.

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I met someone online the other day. I invited them over. I just wanted to feel something. I didn’t. Sometimes you just want to feel. The blade pulls down my skin, following the vein. It pulses with the beat of my heart. Blood flows. The water swirls into a painting of red, but there are no happy little trees here. I watch the blood pool. I can’t remember if I felt it, even though it just happened. Maybe my brain is numb. It’s been numb for a while. I don’t know. Whenever I’ve heard about suicides on the news, family members and friends always say they had no warning. They were kind and happy and satisfied and full of life. They cry and wish their lost loves had said something. Called someone. Told someone. Did something other than what they did. I called someone. I told them I needed to talk. That I felt down. Lost. Alone. Numb. Empty. They told me to hold that thought, pot delivery at the door. Bested by a weed. When you need to talk about intimate details, at least when I need to talk about intimate details, I don’t just want to talk to anyone. There’s only a select few I’d want to open up about that too. After abandoned for a medicinal mental high I can’t call the landlord and tell them to shut the water off— --I reach and turn off the water. I feel weak. Lightheaded. Like my body is caving in on itself. I’d hate if my water pooled down onto the neighbors. Probably wouldn’t get my security deposit back either. I wonder when they find me if my friends will say they wish I had called. Told someone. Said something. Did something other than what I did. I wonder if that person, that one friend, would realize. I wonder if they’d blame themselves. Or blame me. Coldness envelops me. I shudder as the bath water turns from a watery pink to thick crimson. It’s eerily beautiful. As I make the last cut, I continue to feel nothing. I’m just there. At least for a few more breaths, I’m just there. I wonder what comes after when I fade out? I’m okay if it’s nothing. Because that’s what I already am. How I already feel. Just more of the same. Vision blurs. Spots of green and yellow move in, taking over my field of view. Void of strength, I slump into the water. As my head wobbles and life fades, I can see it. There, bobbing by my toes, a hair. I hate hair in the bathtub.

Greyson Ferguson is a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design with a Bachelor's degree in Film and Television. He has written for numerous publications, including USA Today, Yahoo, CBS Interactive, and The New York Times. Greyson is the author of the travel memoir Travel For the Soul (Even If You Don't Have One), which became the #1 Peruvian travel book on Amazon upon its release. When not writing, Greyson can be found walking his dogs, discussing all things beer on his YouTube channel (2 Dudes and a 6 Pack), and exploring new books and music in the NBBC Book Club. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 51


Derek Pletch In the Southern Breeze I sat at the metal desk fighting off sleep as the room blurred. My eyelids weighed downward like steel doors and I strained to keep them from closing. I allowed them to shut for a moment. As I felt myself succumbing to sleep and I forced them to open again. With each shutter it became more difficult. My mind was all fog and tangled wires. I was tired but more than anything I was tired of being tired. I wanted to sleep and if not to sleep I wanted to lie down for a moment of neither moving nor thinking. Another hour passed and I found myself merely staring at the pages of my textbook. The words fell off my mind like tape that had lost its stick. I stood and walked to the sink and pulled out my shoe polish kit from the cupboard beneath it. I turned on the faucet and poured a dribble of water into the cover of the tin. I sat at my desk and wrapped the soft white cloth around my index finder and dipped it into the lid. With the wet cloth I rubbed the hard black polish in a circular motion until I had worked it into a soft putty. I scooped out a dollop and began applying it to the shoe leather in tight circles with just the right amount of pressure, careful not to overwork it or add too much or too little water so as not to dull the surface. As a marathon runner after a time becomes no longer conscious of the movement of his feet, my hands fell into a similarly mindless rhythm. The lulling repetition brought me a moment of peace and calm. After a while the cloudiness disappeared and I began to see glimpses of reflection. Outside the room Taps began to play. I listened as the melancholy notes drifted across campus. For years, the diurnal playing of Taps has been a reassuring signal to soldiers and cadets that the day had ended and they had come out the other side unscathed, and in that brief moment all is good and all is safe. My roommate stood up from his desk and opened the drawer and pulled out his Rosary. He walked to his bed, knelt down beside it and, holding it with both hands, began saying his Hail Marys. For a moment I, too, thought about God. Unable to push off sleep any longer, I changed out of my uniform and lay down on my own bed. My shorn head bristled against the crisp pillow. I basked for a moment in blissful stillness, my only moment of respite the entire day. But it wasn’t long before the thoughts returned: how could I possibly not have heard them? Kevin’s room was only two down from mine. Had the noise from the fan in my room masked the sound? I listened to the fan as it oscillated back and forth. The tinny whir waxed and waned as the fan moved along its axis. The steady noise was substantial, but not enough to drown out shouts coming from down the corridor of the barracks. Through the thick wooden doors, I listened for sounds from outside the room. Not a stir. Through the open window on the opposite side of the room I could barely detect the faint buzz of insects, katydids and crickets in their nocturnal chorus. An upperclassman in the parking lot shut the door of his car. In the open quad upperclassmen came and went throughout the night, walking to the bathroom or to the vending machines. Doors opened and closed. Slippers shuffled on concrete floors. Had I just grown accustomed to those sounds? But white sheets don’t make a sound. Burning crosses don’t make a sound. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 52


I closed my eyes and imagined waking at 2am to a burning cross illuminating the figures of five men in white sheets surrounding me. I imagined the terrifying shadows made from the flickering light stretching across the high walls and ceiling. I imagined them chanting Kevin’s name, the racial slurs, the threats. I imagined the cross burning out and, suddenly, complete darkness…unable to see them, yet knowing they are still there. And most terrifying of all: not knowing what they will do next. The rest of us later learned what happened that night. But Kevin in that moment had no idea what these intruders in white sheets might do. He could only imagine it. He could only draw from the stories of what had happened to other black men who’d been attacked in the night by white men in white sheets. Beatings. Torture. Lynchings. It would not have been unreasonable for him to imagine that they would do these same things to him. It would not have been the first—or even the hundredth time—that wicked things had been done to a black man by white men in white sheets. It was impossible to project myself into that experience and know the true terror Kevin must have felt in that instant of not knowing. Film crews were everywhere on campus. Like an invasion. On the way to Jenkins Hall that morning, I was filmed—footage to be aired that evening with what I suspected would be a reproving and foreboding narration about the pitfalls of military education in the South, with its not-so-subtle implications that what happened had somehow been inevitable: the dark side of The Citadel that had revealed itself. I found the cameras violating. I didn’t want to be a symbol. I didn’t want to be a prop of racial hatred. I wanted to remain a featureless knob in the background making his way to class in anonymity. Invisible. I couldn’t help contemplating the absurdity of it all. One day I’m a high school student in a small town in rural Virginia and four months later I’m trying to avoid appearing on CBS News. There was even a rumor that Reverend Jesse Jackson was coming to Charleston to personally lead a demonstration. One of the most prominent African American figures in the country, here, at The Citadel? A man who had marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. is now protesting the school I had chosen to attend? I had read all of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s writings in high school, and I had even quoted him the previous year in my graduation speech. He was someone I respected and looked up to, and now, suddenly, I felt like one of the people he had protested against. The Incident had escalated to a national level and, as I thought more about it, rightfully so. Because it was not only the act itself that must be taken into account, but what that act represented. How were people to know that this act of racial symbolism would not be followed by an act of racial violence as it had so often in the past? If five cadets felt this way, how many others did as well? And Reverend Jackson, as someone who had lived through the violence of the Civil Rights Movement, knew that better than anyone. He had seen verbal threats escalate into violent acts. He had seen a racial slur lead to a beating. He had seen burning crosses lead to lynchings. He had also seen the government stand by and do nothing. He had seen the government, which was supposed to protect all of its citizens, regardless of color, give a slap on a wrist when it should have done far more. Reverend Jackson knew that symbolism as heavy as this shouldn’t be taken lightly. You could not swing a sledgehammer and expect it to have the impact of a feather. Adding to the tension, at the upcoming football game that weekend against Wofford, black cadets were planning to protest the school’s handling of the racial incident with a black power salute during Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 53


military formations prior to the game. The Citadel administration, hearing about the planned protest, threatened to expel any cadet who followed through with it. I tried to understand the logic of the school’s threat: apparently they had decided that five white cadets wearing white sheets and carrying a burning cross into a black freshman’s room in the middle of the night was not grounds for expulsion, but raising one’s fist in the air at a football game would be? I wondered whether the black cadets would actually follow through with it. The school administration, in a lame attempt at compromise, later stated that the black students would be allowed to remain seated when the marching band played Dixie, during which cadets typically stood, sang, and waved Confederate flags in the air. I thought about how little progress we had actually made since the Civil Rights Era. Our society had outlawed educational segregation, but then replaced it with social segregation. We had given AfricanAmericans access to our water fountains and bus seats, but then we took every opportunity to remind them that we had not given it to them in sincerity. You coloreds can eat at the white restaurants, but we will not invite you into our own homes for dinner. You can attend the white schools, but then we will build our own private schools and shut you out. We will subvert your constitutional amendment of equality with our amendment of free speech and we will call you unspeakable things while we wave our rebel flags in your faces. We will burn our Savior’s cross in your yard while we ignore His Gospel to “do unto others” and we will ignore the fact that Christ Himself was shunned and discriminated against and nailed to a cross for the same hateful reasons that we hanged blacks from trees. A few hours later I woke to the blare of my alarm clock. In the dark I slid off the bunk and used my hands to inspect my bed sheet and blanket for billowing. I could feel that the pillow fold had loosened in the night and I slid my hand under the case then tucked the sheet tightly, reworking the pins to set the crease. I shaved while my roommate dressed, careful not to miss any stubble that might snag on a Cadre officer’s cotton glove during morning inspection. I dressed, using my thumbs to tuck in my shirt, folding it back over itself at my sides and pulling it tight to remove any wrinkles along the belt line. I straightened my nametag, adjusted the insignia on my collar, and eyed my brass for stain and scratch, front and back. I passed a cloth over my shoes one last time in case dust had accumulated in the 5 hours since I last shined them, and I rolled a lint brush over my cap. My roommate finished first, but waited for me at the door. We gave each other one more quick inspection with the scrutinizing eye of the Cadre to make sure all was irreproachable, then we opened the door and stepped out into the darkness. Along the red and white checkered quad, we lined up and formed in. We stood straight, eyes forward. We tucked our chins tightly into our necks. We pulled our shoulders back until our scapulas almost touched each other, pinching the skin and muscle between them. We forced the inner portion of our elbows further inward. We then held that painfully contorted posture while the Cadre officers moved among us, scanning for imperfections: tarnish on a belt buckle, scuff mark on a shoe, face stubble—misalignment of any sort. I turned my head slightly and looked across the line of cadets and saw that the line was tight, each knob precisely equidistant from the other. There was no gap in the line where Kevin had once stood; where we had once stood with Kevin. It was as if he had never been there at all.

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As the sun began to rise we marched toward the mess hall for breakfast, and I could see the open blue water beyond the marsh and I tried to focus on that pleasant image. In the never-ending onslaught of Knob year, I had learned to cope by separating and compartmentalizing—to relish the transitions, the moments between things: the “at ease” command, the march to the parade ground, the calming stillness preceding sleep. In the pain of the formation brace, I would focus on the pale blue shadow on the white columns in front of me as the sun moved across the quad. In the heat of drill practice, I would take in the beauty of the parade grounds, the expansive green lawn that formed its center, and the palmettos and live oaks that lined its perimeter. I had learned to draw strength from whatever I could. Knobs were not allowed to speak inside the mess hall, but as we entered I would always seek out and make eye contact with the women who worked there. In their dark eyes I found a nurturing maternal vivacity, a strength-giving vim that they transferred to me with a single smile. They spoke in an archaic dialect, which I could barely decipher—as if trying to read a letter that had been rained on and the ink smeared across the page, only piecing together a phrase here or there. Even though I had trouble understanding them, the lyrical rhythm and cadence of their speech soothed me. I wanted to know their stories—these women who could work here, whose brothers and uncles and sons could tend the grounds or sweep the floors, but who, until just twenty years earlier, had not been allowed to attend as students. I speculated about their lives beyond the walls—the type of homes they lived in, what their husbands and children were like. Every day since the news of the Incident went public, I checked to see if any sign of what had happened to Kevin shown on the black women’s faces—a raised eyebrow, a concerned look, anything. But I noticed nothing different, only their usual cheerful, benevolent selves.

A graduate of Hampden-Sydney College, Derek Pletch is a proud 10th generation Southerner, and grew up in the country in Virginia where there was little else to do but read books. But then urban sprawl, cable TV and puberty invaded his idyllic literary-filled childhood in Spotsylvania (at the time the fastest growing county in the United States), and his life changed. He eventually ended up in advertising, where he’s worked with director Christopher Guest, Academy Award-winning cinematographer Robert Richardson, and numerous Academy Award-winning actors. His DividedWeFail advocacy campaign was considered instrumental in defeating the Social Security Privatization Act of 2005, and was featured twice on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. His advertising work has won a Grand Clio, a One Show Pencil, and is part of the permanent film collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. One of his paintings was selected to the NAT 22 Exhibit by Pulitzer-Prize-winning art critic Jerry Saltz. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 55


Kevin Arnold Seven Steps toward Home Wade didn’t like to think about why he’d waited decades to return to Barrington. A business trip put him so near his home town that a visit seemed almost unavoidable, even though he couldn’t keep his high school thoughts at bay. His mother had abused prescription drugs and alcohol, and his father, even with his fancy Dartmouth education, had a hard time keeping a job. Could anyone blame him for trying to forget high school? Leaving from the airport in San Francisco, Wade scribbled down the start of a list, or even a poem, about how to return home, Step One: Wait Twenty-two Years. The expensive suburb of his youth made him think of his last name—Middleton― the guy in the middle. He wasn’t poor but he certainly wasn’t rich like his first love, Barbara, who’d left him when he was twenty. One way or another, he’d done okay and he didn’t want to return to Barrington feeling inadequate. He used frequent-flyer miles to upgrade for this trip home. Step Two: Go First Class. He enjoyed a scotch-and-water before dinner, and his comfortable window seat. He had a great view of the lush landscape as the airplane descended into O’Hare airport. His eyes filled with tears as nostalgia overwhelmed him. He felt a little woozy. When he gathered himself together and left the terminal, a blue Toyota Avalon sedan waited for him, trunk open for his luggage, something the rental car agency had started doing as another frequentflier benefit. At least I’m not returning home in a potato truck, he thought. He drove to Hinsdale, a suburb twenty minutes south from the airport, where a group of investors waited for him. They owned nine theaters and wanted to refurbish them—his company would update their speaker systems. After his presentation, he thought he impressed them with his thorough knowledge of their theaters (they seemed to like that he’d included six photos of their theaters from the Internet) and how his company’s speakers would be perfect for their refurbishing. When they responded well, Wade called the home office to negotiate a price and presented it to them. After one back-and-forth negotiation, they agreed to bring his proposal to their board. Relieved, Wade hopped in the car and drove thirtyfive miles north to Barrington. Rather than cut over to the toll road, he took side streets through towns he’d grown up around, the familiar stops on the Northwest Railroad . . . Arlington Heights, Arlington Park, Palatine, between them driving through forests thicker than he was used to seeing in California. He’d heard about a new theory on public radio that people are connected to their place on earth through patterns in the earth’s molecular structure. He wondered if that might be affecting him. He guessed that the huge anvil-shaped cloud he saw out the right window had formed itself over Lake Michigan, a few miles to the East. He wasn’t sure what seemed so familiar: the thick forests, or this molecule thing, or the big sky with towering white clouds, but, two thousand miles from where he’d lived for the last twenty years, Wade felt strangely at home. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 56


Toward Barrington, the forests gave way to strip malls, little developments, and, near the train tracks, the small downtown. He was in two worlds at the same time―the people out buying things and going to work looked like the people he’d seen in California that very same morning, but they were walking on his childhood streets. He suddenly knew Step Three: Hit All the Old Haunts. He passed the barbershop, its red-and-blue pole still swirling exactly as it had when he was a kid. On the days he was supposed to get his hair cut, he’d run the six or seven blocks from high school into town to get a jump on the other boys. It was an early brush with tempus fugit; a five-minute hustle could save him an hour. Wade drove past his old high school. It served all the children in all the surrounding farm country, so it seemed too big for the town. The school’s clay-colored brick core was three stories, with wings of classrooms spreading out into the Illinois plains. He spotted Mrs. Hautch’s social studies classroom where, buoyed by her encouragement, he had worked hard the first semester of his senior year to get into college. He got his ‘A,’ but then slacked off second semester. She’d looked pained when she handed the first quiz of the new semester back to him with a ‘D’ at top. He’d managed to get into college, but years later, the memory of her disappointment still nagged at him. Wade made a U-turn and headed into town, looking for The Spot. It was a drive-in reminiscent of American Graffiti. Those days would be great to recapture, he thought. Long before he’d seen Lucas’s movie, Wade loved to cruise past The Spot in his father’s emerald green Pontiac Catalina, purchased with inherited money right before his father lost his last job. He wondered what effect his father’s failures had on his own choices now, whether he was a little too risk-averse for Silicon Valley. The Spot was gone, replaced by a Ten-Minute-Lube. Wade sighed. Chocolate malts and hamburgers had turned into motor oil. ₪ As the sun set among the massive clouds, now light grey with hints of red and yellow, Wade drove away from town, toward his old neighborhood. He parked at North Barrington Elementary School and wandered down a way on the path he’d used to walk home. Ancient memories came back to him, like Jimmy’s mom meeting him at the door in her lacy underwear and slip when he was a young teen. The bra was unlike any he’d ever seen—no shoulder straps! And when he stared, trying to understand what magic held it up, did she have to smile at him the way she did? Unlike those slow walks, the drive from school to his old house took minutes. But when he saw it at last, he almost turned around and drove off. The house, sitting on almost an acre of lawn, was now painted white. Two Honda sedans were parked in the driveway. He hesitated. Still, this was why he’d come, right? What he should do is knock on the front door. But who lives there now? Would they let him in? Step Four: Knock on the Door of the House Where You Lived. He stepped onto the porch and, reminding himself that Midwesterners were regarded as trusting, worked up his nerve. He rapped on the door. A woman's voice answered from a distant part of the house. “Who is it?” Wade took a step back when she opened the door a crack. Her pixie-cut gray hair framed a pleasant, kind-eyed face. He extended his hand. “My name is Wade Middleton. I used to live here, in the long bedroom over the garage, the one you have to go through the knotty-pine bedroom to get to.” Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 57


“My name is Lisa,” she said, opening the door wider and reluctantly returning his handshake, “when did you live here? We came in ninety-four. Please, come in.” Wade, surprised she opened the door, quickly said, “I left in the early eighties, just before they widened the road. You’ve kept it up nicely.” He nodded as he stepped into the foyer off the living room. A man with rolled-up shirt sleeves and a pair of wire-cutters in his hand stared at Wade. He put the tool in his back pocket and came forward to shake Wade’s hand, “I’m Tom,” he said. “You used to live here?” “Yes, I’m out here on a business trip from California.” Wade looked around at the intricately patterned wood ceiling and stone fireplace and said, “I don’t remember it having all this detail.” Tom smiled at the compliment, “Well, I spent three months sanding down the ceiling. It had been painted over. Everything needed work. The toughest was the crawl space—the lightest rain would fill it up.” Wade remembered the drainage problems his father couldn’t fix. Lisa motioned for Wade to take a seat and went off to the kitchen to start a pot of coffee. Tom settled into an easy chair as if he had no other plans than to have a pleasant chat with a stranger from California. Tom asked about Wade’s business. “Oh, I work for a company that wires movie houses for sound, and I just called on a new customer over in Hinsdale. That’s my day job anyway. I also write some poems. You?” “I’m the vice-principal at a high school in near Chicago, where Lisa teaches English. It’s a long commute, but we love the rural atmosphere out here.” He snapped his fingers as if he had just remembered something. He called out, “Lisa, where’s that old book I found?” “It’s around here someplace. I saw it just last week. Tom, why don’t you take him upstairs?” Wade followed Tom up a short stairway to a small room set among the sloping roofs. The room had a balcony overlooking the front yard. “This was my sister’s room. Young guys used to come around and throw rocks at her window. She was a live wire in those days. I think she might have snuck down that trellis more than once.” Tom chuckled politely. “We raised a daughter in here, too. Never thought about it. Maybe she did that as well.” The two men walked into Wade’s old room built over the two-car garage. He could almost touch the plasterboard ceiling. “When I was a kid I loved basketball. I used to jump to the ceiling, no more than oh, ten or twenty thousand times.” Tom laughed. He stopped in the hallway up on the next level when he saw his parents’ room, where his mother often lay in bed when he came home from school. He never knew what to expect—each day was different. Sometimes she was lucid but argumentative. On the worst days she lay barely conscious, sometimes half-dressed, her speech slurred.

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The thing that Wade came to understand was that he was always less important to his mother than her next drink. He questioned why he’d decided to come home. He stopped talking to Tom, following him down the stairs silently. In the kitchen, Lisa had filled three coffee mugs. “This house had five or six owners in just a few years, and two divorces. The neighbors called it the troubled house. Tom and I bought it after the young man who lived here died in a car wreck.” It certainly was troubled when we lived here, Wade thought, and was glad when Lisa interrupted his thoughts by handing him a book, an old paperback with cardboard covers. Tom told Wade, “I found it between joists in the crawl space off your old bedroom.” Wade turned its fragile pages. “101 Favorite Poems. It’s a wonderful find. I think I found it in a bookcase downstairs when I was still in grade school.” Lisa topped off the mugs. “Read it and see if it brings back any memories.” Wade thought he might have remembered his father reading “Jest ‘Fore Christmas” by Eugene Field aloud to him and his sister. Could it have been from this book? Then Wade spotted his carefullyinscribed initials, WM, one letter the upside-down of the other, on the flyleaf. He had appropriated it from the bookcase. He kept reading. Lisa asked, “Are these the kinds of poems you write?” “Sometimes. But with less rhyming. Here, listen to the way Kipling starts ‘If.’ “If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too” Lisa smiled warmly. “This book should be yours.” Wade shook his head. “No, I couldn’t take it from you. But here’s the part everybody remembers, the last stanza: ‘If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, And—which is more—you'll be a Man, my son!’” Wade remembered wishing his father had been the kind of man who would talk to him like that. But now a father himself, he thought perhaps children ask too much of their parents. In a way, the birth of his daughter had allowed him to forgive his own parents. He looked at his hosts. “Maybe I should work on rhyming mine more—there’s power in those rhymes.” “It’s yours again.” Lisa looked at Tom, who nodded in agreement. Wade started to refuse the book, but remembered the old adage that to accept a gift is to give a gift. The next step came to him. Step Five: Accept Life’s Gifts, and he said, simply, “thank you." Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 59


₪ Wade drove west along a winding country road dotted with meadows. He soon entered the upscale, horsey-estates side of town, Barrington Hills, where Barbara had lived. He passed the country club where he’d worn his first tuxedo, to escort Barbara to a cotillion. It wasn’t until he took a right turn on Otis Road that he realized he was headed for Barbara’s house. Step Six: Ferret out the Pain. That summer when she was home from Bennington and he was home from the University of Washington, they spent many evenings together. She’d tell her parents she was going to sleep, then slip out and join him in the barn, which wasn’t visible from the house. One time she came clutching two sheets sewn together. He gathered dry straw and she stuffed it into the sheets, handful after handful until it made a mattress. Wade had never been happier than when he drank in her nakedness, or better still, held her, made love to her. He loved the way she was confident and vulnerable at the same time, how she opened herself to him without fear. In her warmth, his fears about his family and his future faded. They were in love. What else could it be? That made everything right. The following year, she broke up with him. It still stung. They had gone to school on opposite ends of the country. The phone calls grew less frequent, and her letters, which had been filled with details of her days and specific longings for him, stopped altogether. Her father, a prominent banker, didn’t like him. Perhaps her father had convinced her to stop seeing him, maybe even with a reward. Wade couldn’t know for sure, but that spring Barbara’s father gave her a new yellow convertible. Wade’s letters to Barbara were, compared to hers, short and sketchy. Maybe he hadn’t let her know how special he thought she was. Maybe a little acknowledgement might have helped with his ex-wife, too? Perhaps that was a lesson he still needed to learn. Wade found Barbara’s old house and got out of the car. The sight of her father’s name on the mailbox made him feel as uneasy as he had in his mother’s room. He parked on the road and looked across their paddock to the barn. Lost in the memory of their intimate times there, he walked toward the dark building. Suddenly lights went on everywhere, and a bell clanged. Dogs howled. He sprinted back to his car. Running, he slipped on the gravel and scraped his hand. It bled. He sped off. Five minutes down the road, a police cruiser passed him headed the other way toward Barbara’s house, its red and blue lights pulsing. ₪ On the night flight back to San Francisco, Wade, upgraded again to first class, relaxed. After a late dinner and a Scotch, he opened 101 Favorite Poems. It sure was a classic, with names like Wordsworth, Shelley, and Lord Byron. First copyrighted 1873, almost 150 years ago. He wondered how many of these now-revered names might have had any notion that their words might last into the twenty-first century? He needed another step, a final step. He went back over Kipling’s “If.” Rudyard radiated trust: “Trust yourself when all men doubt you.” Things have always gone better for me when I do that, he thought. How about Trust Yourself as a last step? He hesitated. Trust Yourself didn’t sound as final as he had hoped, and too easy somehow. Still, he wrote it down before re-reading the short book, cover to cover. After putting a the book away, he pulled up a blank page and typed in: Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 60


Going Home in Seven Steps One:

Wait Twenty-two Years

Two:

Go First Class

Three:

Hit All the Old Haunts

Four:

Knock on the Door of the House Where You Lived

Five:

Accept Life’s Gifts

Six:

Ferret out the Pain

Seven:

Trust Yourself

So, he had what he’d envisioned: a list for someone returning to their roots; possibly a poem. It wasn’t a great poem, but it certainly fit the origin of the word, the Greek word poēma, something made. He would show the Steps to his writing group—maybe they’d have him leave off the first column, who knows? If they liked it, he might send it off to a journal or two—you never knew what might spark an editor’s interest. More importantly, he asked himself, had the journey been worthwhile? Revisiting the old pains and lost love, he felt lighter. A little less burdened by his past. He was glad he’d taken every step. Well, except the first one—he’d probably waited too long.

Kevin Arnold is a poet, teacher, and fiction writer from Palo Alto, Ca. He has published in fifty literary magazines, has a book of poems. This story is woven into his novel, The Sureness of Horses. His poems have been featured six times on YourDailyPoem.com. He served as President, Poetry Center San Jose, 2000-2012. In the last six months, he’s been published in Slippery Elm; Fresh Hot Bread; Wine, Cheese, and Chocolate; and Fault Line. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from San Jose State University, 2007. Based on a story extracted from one of his novels, the San Francisco / Peninsula California Writer’s Club named him Writer of the Year. See KevinArnoldAuthor.com.

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Paul Luikart Klamath Falls Motel Room I met my mother for the first time in a Klamath Falls motel room. She was a baggy-skinned, big woman. I glanced at her breasts and wondered who all she’s ever nursed. Not me. “Hello, Mama.” What else would I have said? “’Mama?’ Is you some kind of nut?” she said, “I don’t do that weird shit.” “I’m your son,” I said. “I don’t have no children.” “Who am I then?” “If this bullshit don’t end in me getting paid, I’m gone.” What a disgusting smoky murmur of a hag’s voice. I loved her. “Please,” I said, “We're blood.” "We ain't nothing, you fucking freak." The door whumped shut behind her and the room was filled with the possibility of music. Lullabies or the jingle of change and car keys inside a purse. Hollered good mornings, sausage sizzling, the A/C kicking on. What a family. I’d nail those pretty sounds to my head if I could. The Neighbor’s Grandchildren It is not silver, it does not sparkle in the morning light like a cowboy’s pistol from the Wild West. It’s dull and gray no matter the light. The cylinder can hold six bullets like a cowboy’s pistol though, but I only have one. Rather, I have many bullets. I only loaded my gun with one. The neighbor’s grandchildren climbed the big maple tree all day yesterday and into the evening. They shinned up the rough bark and leapt from the sturdy limbs, the ones lowest to the ground, the ones that must call to them, day and night, en voz alta. I watched them and they waved. I gave them all the peppermints I had in my pocket. Our street is made of concrete slabs and if, in death, I can miss one thing, it will be the way the seams rumble when I drive to Pick-N-Pay for the newspaper or fresh raspberries. If I can miss two things, raspberries will be the second. Everything else is not worth missing. Dorothy is inside with her gruel. She will take her pills for hypertension. She will look for my white head to kiss. I wonder if she’ll still kiss it when my brain is in chunks on the lawn. She won’t. She can’t stoop that low, for one thing. Her knees are gone. I wonder what she will do though. I’d like to see. My last prayer is for the neighbor’s grandchildren’s parents. Those children will press their faces to the plate glass window when they see the swooping lights of the ambulance. Dear Lord, let their parents tell them lies. Paul Luikart is the author of the short story collections Animal Heart (Hyperborea Publishing, 2016) and Brief Instructions (Ghostbird Press, 2017.) His work is included in the 2019 Best Microfiction anthology and won the Nassau Review's 2019 Writer Award for Fiction. He is an adjunct professor of fiction writing at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. He and his family live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 62


Matthew R. Bradley HELLBOUND ART: Hellraiser Crosses the Mediums Just as I have a penchant for directors who script their own films, from Woody Allen to Ingmar Bergman, I am fascinated with authors who double as scenarists. The skills are far from interchangeable, and literary lions from Raymond Chandler to F. Scott Fitzgerald have struggled with screenwriting. Yet some authors are able to work both sides of the street, be it with original screenplays or adaptations of their own or others’ work. In the case of best-selling British fantasist Clive Barker (b. 1952), these are but two of his many hats, which include director, actor, producer, illustrator, playwright, essayist, painter, visual artist, and comic-book creator. Barker’s writing credits on the Internet Movie Database are deceptively numerous. Many entries are merely sequels or video games based on his characters. His own track record as a filmmaker is mixed. Directed and adapted by Barker from “Cabal” and “The Last Illusion,” respectively, Nightbreed (1990) and Lord of Illusions (1995) were subject to studio tampering and fared poorly at the box office. But Hellraiser (1987) was another matter. Dissatisfied with George Pavlou’s handling of his scripts for Underworld (1985) and Rawhead Rex (1986), he made his directorial debut with the film, which spawned an ongoing franchise with its iconic, evil Cenobites, most notably Pinhead (Doug Bradley). Many an adapter faces the Procrustean task of padding out a short story to bring it up, or eviscerating a novel to bring it down, to feature-film length, but Barker’s “The Hellbound Heart,” published in George R.R. Martin’s 1986 Dark Harvest anthology Night Visions 3, was the right length—just under a hundred pages in the 1988 Berkley mass-market edition—to obviate either. With its themes of alienation and transgressive desire, grotesque violence, and horrific humor, it might be said to resemble a displaced Southern Gothic. The 1996 laserdisc boxed set, including Barker’s audio commentary and a facsimile of the shooting script, enables one to take an unusually detailed look at its transition across the mediums. The novella starts as 29-year-old Frank Cotton tries to open a black lacquered puzzle box in an upstairs room of his late grandmother’s London house. Created by Lemarchand, a maker of singing birds, the box was sold to him by Kircher, according to whom it could summon “the Cenobites, theologians of the Order of the Gash,” said to hold the secrets of unimaginable pleasure. Yet when the jaded nihilist has finally solved Lemarchand’s Configuration and the Cenobites, accompanied by the persistent ringing of a bell, emerge from their own dimension with their impossibly scarred facial features, Frank learns to his damnation that his idea of pleasure and theirs do not coincide at all... A year later, Frank’s brother Rory, eighteen months his junior, moves into #55 Lodovico Street with his wife, Julia. Unknown to Rory, over their four-year marriage, she has grown to despise him, fixated on her joyless tryst (a week before the wedding) with Frank, whom they haven’t seen since. She takes an immediate dislike to “the damp room,” until a curious phenomenon occurs: after Rory cuts himself with a chisel, the blood pooled on the floor vanishes inexplicably. One night, alone in the room and sensing a presence, Julia watches in fascination while the bricks in the wall separate to Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 63


reveal a horrifying figure—seemingly ripped apart and haphazardly, only partially reassembled—that identifies itself as Frank, and says, “Blood.” He is trapped in the wall, midway between our dimension and that of the Cenobites, who subject him to indescribable torments. His only escape is to reconstitute his earthly body, and for that, he needs blood—lots of it. Julia begins picking up strangers in a bar, luring them home with the promise of sex, and then stabbing them up in the room. Frank drains their vitality, gradually regaining sufficient substance to become a bandaged, albeit recognizably human, figure. Yet she has not counted on Kirsty, a friend of Rory’s whose unrequited love for him is obvious to the reader, if not to the oblivious Rory. Sensing marital tension, but little dreaming its source, he has asked her to have a talk with Julia. Dropping by while he is at work, Kirsty sees another man’s coat on the rack and, drawing partly correct conclusions, tries to catch Julia in flagrante, but barely escapes with her life—and the lacquered box. Unwittingly releasing a Cenobite in her hospital room, she bargains her soul for Frank’s, leading them to the house. He has killed his brother and donned his skin. Tipped off to the imposture when “Rory” utters the same phrase that Frank had during his abortive attack (“Come to Daddy”), she tricks Frank—who accidentally stabs Julia during the melee, then consumes her—into identifying himself, fleeing the house with the box as the Cenobites wreak their terrible revenge, tearing him into pieces with hooks and chains. The script opens in medias res in the “Torture Room” amid the aftermath of Frank’s first dissolution, and although the narratives are similar, Barker alters the characters and their relationships in significant ways. Rory is now Larry, “an American in his early forties”; Julia, repatriated to London after a Brooklyn sojourn, “looks perhaps ten years his junior”; formerly 26, Kirsty is now “barely twenty” and—most significantly—his child by a deceased first wife. Her character is fleshed out with a dismal rented room in Waterloo and a first day at work in a pet shop, while Neville, a colleague of Rory’s who hits on a drunken Kirsty at a party, is upgraded to Steve O’Donnell, a nascent boyfriend who adds little to the plot. Barker displays his visual skills with eight character sketches of Frank and the Cenobites that are reproduced along with the script, in which the box has been renamed the Lament Configuration, whose origin was explored in the third sequel, Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996). The “Lead Cenobite,” only subsequently dubbed Pinhead and extensively merchandised, is described thusly in the novella: “Every inch of its head had been tattooed with an intricate grid, and at every intersection of horizontal and vertical axes a jeweled pin driven through to the bone.” Julia’s flashbacks to their “afternoon delight” are triggered by a photo of Frank that she finds among his effects, and intercut with shots of the move leading up to Larry’s injury. The film itself starts with Frank (Sean Chapman) buying and opening the box, although Barker later said “a very, very thin actor,” Oliver Smith, played his skinless form to allow for the prosthetics. Andrew Robinson, the psychotic Scorpio Killer from Don Siegel’s Dirty Harry (1971), brings his supreme creepiness to this “Freudian nightmare’s” now-literal “Come to Daddy”; he contributed both his line when he realizes the jig is up (“Well, so much for the cat-and-mouse shit”), and his final rejoinder before he gets ripped asunder (the enigmatic “Jesus wept”). Equally well cast, and both Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 64


seen in Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988), were Clare Higgins as Julia and Ashley Laurence, in her film debut, as Kirsty. Its titular reference to Hell notwithstanding, the novella was relatively free from Judeo-Christian allusions. But Larry and Julia find the house full of tacky religious icons, and in her delirium following the escape, before she collapses and is hospitalized, Kirsty passes two nuns in the street. Larry cuts his hand on a nail while helping the moving men carry a bed upstairs, and it is perhaps no coincidence that Julia now dispatches her prey with a hammer, not a knife. The aural motif of the bell, retained in the script, is not in the film, but Barker’s audio commentary noted that Christopher Young’s foreboding score, “in a sense, made a larger mark on the movie than practically anybody else associated with it.” The denouements differ: originally, the Cenobites’ “Engineer” passed the box to Kirsty, apparently “elected its keeper,” yet the cinematic Cenobites have no intention of keeping their bargain (if she’s lying, “We’ll tear your soul apart,” vows Pinhead, paraphrasing the novella). Finding her gone from the hospital, Steve (Robert Hines) arrives to help Kirsty escape from a monster, referred to in the script—but not on the screen—as the Engineer, who in the novella was just as humanoid as the rest; given the already monstrous Cenobites and Frank, the low-budget creature seems superfluous. She throws the box into a bonfire, but the derelict (Frank Baker) who has been following her, seen stealing and eating locusts in the pet shop scene, plucks it out, turns into a skeletal dragon, and flies off as we cut back to where Frank bought it… The exact nature of the derelict—in whom many viewers reportedly saw a resemblance to Barker, as did this one—is deliberately ambiguous. Barker said, “I’m against explaining too many mysteries,” expressing his fondness for the less literal works of non-American directors such as Dario Argento, Federico Fellini, and Andrei Tarkovsky, whose films are not primarily plot-driven. Barker’s debt to Argento is most obvious in a dream sequence that gives Kirsty a presentiment of the threat to her father; surrounded by feathers floating through the air, she sees a figure lying on a bier, covered with a white sheet that becomes soaked with blood, and is then whisked off to reveal the brief image of a mangled corpse. Made for one million dollars, Barker’s “domestic triangle” was filmed primarily in a real house in North London. With several characters dubbed into “American” by U.S. distributor New World Pictures, it was released in September 1987, less than three months after President Ronald Reagan signed an Executive Order creating the first Presidential Commission on AIDS, making its confluence of blood, death, and promiscuity timely indeed. The special make-up effects by Bob Keen—whose Barker-based movies include Candyman (1992)—visualized his gruesome descriptions; tellingly, writer-director David Cronenberg, among the most prominent practitioners of “body horror,” had a major acting role in Nightbreed. Yet its violence punctuated a more nuanced narrative than those of the slasher films then in vogue, just as Young’s lush score was far more substantial than what Barker called the “three fingers on a synthesizer” soundtracks of contemporaneous genre entries. Although the reviews were mixed, the film was enormously profitable. With their punk/S&M aesthetic, Pinhead and his cohort—the Chattering (Nicholas Vince), “Butterball” (Simon Bamford), and Female (Grace Kirby) Cenobites— quickly became fan favorites. Pinhead, whose human history was revealed in Hellraiser III: Hell on Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 65


Earth (1992), dominated the film despite his brief screen time, in the tradition of Harry Lime or Fr. Lankester Merrin. “We have such sights to show you,” Pinhead says in one of the film’s most quoted lines, and indeed, Hellraiser turned out to be but the tip of an iceberg that is still growing after more than three decades. Sequels include Barker’s novel The Scarlet Gospels (2015) and nine more movies as of this writing, on several of which he served as a writer and/or producer; the franchise also includes various spin-off stories by other authors, video games, comic books...and the inevitable Sherlock Holmes pastiche. And yet the disturbing power of the original, with its terrifying portrait of a woman who will literally do anything to rekindle an unspeakable passion that transgresses every human or moral law, remains undimmed.

Matthew R. Bradley is the author of Richard Matheson on Screen: A History of the Filmed Works (McFarland, 2010) and the co-editor, with Stanley Wiater and Paul Stuve, of The Richard Matheson Companion (Gauntlet, 2008). He is preparing a comprehensive screen history of the “California Sorcerers” writers’ group that included Matheson, Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson, William F. Nolan, Jerry Sohl (all of whom he interviewed extensively), and Charles Beaumont. He also explores “the nexus of film and literature” at his blog, Bradley on Film (https://bradleyonfilm.wordpress.com/). Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 66


Mark McGraw Mr. DeLeon You know I think it really started in church that day when he read the scripture. We weren’t paying much attention, sitting all together in the youth group on the third and fourth pews. It was warm in the sanctuary and we were a little sleepy because we had all traveled to the football game at Bauxite the night before. Mr. DeLeon read the scripture right out of the New International Version, 1984 Bible in his accent that for sure let us know he wasn’t from here. You could hear the hum of the A/C units struggling to put out some cool air and you could smell the potluck dishes in the fellowship hall for after the service. But then when he finished with the verses, he closed the Bible, paused for a second, looked up and said, “May God bless the reading of Her Word” just as natural as could be, just as if it was always said that way. Well, you could hear everybody kinda hold their breath for a second. We didn’t even look at each other. Maddie stopped playing with her cell phone and looked up. We were just thinking, “Did I hear that right? Did he say what I thought he said?” And the choir got up right after that and they sounded a little shaky, with some of the sopranos coming in late after the fourmeasure intro. But they usually sounded shaky. And Brother Jerry got up and did the sermon just like always and we had lunch. But Sandy (her daddy is a deacon) told me there was a terrible argument in the deacons’ meeting over it that afternoon. Well, who asked that guy to read scripture and did they know he was going to say Her Word at the end and then some of the deacons who teach over to the university said well, how can you limit the deity to just the masculine and wouldn’t it be nice to say She and Her every once and again just to be more inclusive and break down the patriarchy whatever that means. I don’t reckon anyone even said anything to Mr. DeLeon about it, but he for sure never got to read the scripture in church again. I didn’t care what he did in church as long as he kept teaching at the high school because he was the best teacher I had even though he was brand new and hadn’t even been there a whole year yet. I had him for Social Studies and he was always telling us stuff we had no idea about. I remember he told us that the Aztecs in Mexico City already had plumbing and running water when the conquistadors came over here to America to conquer them. And all the while in Spain they were still emptying chamber pots over the walls of their houses. He’d tell us stuff like that all the time. Stuff that wasn’t in the book, but it made you think, you know? And when they split us up boys and girls to do sex education that one day he volunteered to lead the class. I don’t remember us ever having sex education but that year Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 67


the homecoming queen and the head cheerleader both turned up pregnant and I guess they figured they better do something. Anyway, state law said they could tell us to use condoms but that they could not explain how to use them or demonstrate how to put them on. So, when Mr. DeLeon finished reading the part of the script that said we could help reduce the risk of an unwanted pregnancy and disease by using a condom he stopped, put the clipboard down, and told us he had developed a great technique for putting his socks on. And we’re thinking what on earth does this have to do with anything. He stepped from around the lectern and pulled off his wing tip shoe and rolled the top of his brown dress sock down and pulled it all the way off his foot. And he stood there under the stage lights with his old bare foot sticking out and showed us the sock rolled down all the way to where the sock was a round disk, you know. And he said here’s what you need to do with the sock before you engage in footwear activity and we all just busted out laughing. But he waited for us to stop and kept going. And we laughed even louder when he said he would leave some room in the sock around his toes before engaging in footwear activity. But we were paying attention. And he carefully rolled the sock up his foot and said, “Now, that sock has to unroll all the way up your shinbone. It doesn’t make any sense to leave it down around your ankle or below your heel. That’s not safe for footwear activity.” And you know I understood exactly what he was talking about. I hadn’t ever had that explained to me before and even though I always heard we should use a condom I didn’t have more than a general idea about how they work, I admit it. And that was the end for him at the high school, apparently. An office worker came to our class that afternoon and told us Mr. DeLeon had a family emergency and gave us some worksheets to do for the rest of the class period. We never did see him again. We spent the rest of the semester doing modules on the school’s laptops and took a standardized test at the end of the semester. They used the money they saved not paying him to hire a football coach for the defensive ends.

Mark McGraw is a writer, translator and assistant professor of Spanish at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. He retired from a twenty-year Marine Corps career in 2005. He is the translator of Joseph Avski’s Heart of Scorpio and One Step from Juárez and has written essays on ultradistance cycling for Vital and gravelcyclist.com.

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David Erik Nelson BUT LO! MEN HAVE BECOME THE TOOLS OF THEIR TOOLS "I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion. I would rather ride on earth in an ox cart, with a free circulation, than go to heaven in the fancy car of an excursion train and breathe a malaria all the way. The very simplicity and nakedness of man's life in the primitive ages imply this advantage ‌. But lo! men have become the tools of their tools." —Henry David Thoreau By the time Jilly stepped out the doors of the Elephant & Castle, it was raining even harder. The traffic on Adams was both thick and glitchy, moving in jagged, grinding spurts, seemingly at odds with itself. Out on the freeways traffic really did--as advertised--race along in an effortless ballet, cars making way for each other, peeling off to glide up exits and curve around interchanges. It reminded her of the old educational reels she and her brother used to watch on archive.org when they were kids, back in Bell Buckle, Tennessee. These were ancient things from the 1950s and '60s and '70s, celebrating American manufacturing prowess with long tracking shots of assembly lines of beer bottles or hot dogs whisking up and down and around. She'd been surprised by how different the car-packed streets of a city like Chicago had been from the Interstates around her small town. In contrast to the freeway ballet, Chicago traffic seemed mindlessly biological, pulsing and throbbing like an ever-branching intestine gradually digesting something. But, of course, that image hardly made for a good Super Bowl spot. Jilly poked at the UberRydrr app on her phone. Unlike her bosses at the ad firm, the phone--and thus the app--knew her real name and Social Security Number. Taking into account her actual credit rating, age, current location, and the prevailing ryde supply and demand in this part of Chicago at this time of day during this particular downpour, the app informed her that a person of her means had three options: a boxy glass-n-plastic Rinspeed MicroMAX Oasis packed to the gills with names in alphabets Jilly couldn't immediately recognize, pearlized robin's-egg blue a bare-bones AlphaGoogle Waymo SDC (as though everything wasn't a self-driving car now), no other passengers, generic white slogging six blocks to the closest elevated train platform Her attempts to navigate the app were thwarted by the increasing urgency of her phone's buzzing, the panicked cascade of alerts and texts as her boss, her boss's boss, and plausibly a boss one sphere closer to God, learned that the GM account was most definitely done dying, and was now just dead. She finally made contact with the icon representing the Google Waymo, generic white, confirmed her selection, confirmed her confirmation, confirmed the pickup address, then held the phone's power button down with her thumb until, with a final rattle, it went dark. The pub's awning was in good repair, but the rain was pelting down with such ferocity that the back splatter from the sidewalk had, on its own, nearly soaked her through, pebbling her glasses. There Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 69


was even water in her ears. When her ryde finally glided out of the sheeting rain and sidled up to the curb, Jilly threw herself at the dark gap in the side of the grey ghost with gusto. She flopped into her seat with tremendous relief. It was nice to be out of the pub and away from the the staff's pitying eyes. It was nice to be protected from the foul weather. But, most of all, it was nice to be out of the world altogether. Quietly ensconced in her own little private plastic box she could finally let go and slump into the day's failure. She'd never ridden on one of these cheap little Alphabet Google Waymo SDCs: She hadn't had the money to ride around in rydes back in Tennessee, and a Waymo didn't fit the image she'd tried so desperately to cultivate here as "Jillian Holmes, marketing wunderkind." The car's interior was surprisingly tasteful, and surprisingly roomy, brilliantly white, seamless and smooth, upholstered in something synthetic and E-Z-Kleen™ that-Jilly slowly realized there was already someone in the car, despite what the app had said. "Oh!," she chirped. "I'm sorry! The rain . . ." Jilly kept talking, her mouth on autopilot as she rifled her purse for something to dry her glasses. "Never do those ride-shares," her mother had warned Jilly consistently since the age of 12. "People get raped in those no-driver cars." Which, of course, was true--with 100 million autonomous cars on the road, basically everything was true: If everyone riding in a car on a given day bought a Lotto ticket, then five of them would match all six numbers and hit the jackpot. Everyday people gave birth in cars and found $20 bills in cars and got engaged in cars and wrote novels in cars and whatever. Just because a thing happened didn't make it likely. But Mom had a zeal for dark pronouncements. A fervent devotee of the far-right end of the talk-radio dial, she also believed that CryptoCoin was a Jewish conspiracy and Dar al-Islamists were planning a coordinated attack on the Walmart supply chain because it's "the purest existing reflection of American ingenuity and values, Jilly." But Mom had a point--not about Walmart and CryptoCoin, but about riding in cars with strange boys: The odds of getting assaulted in a driverless car were higher than the odds of winning the lottery in one, evidenced by the fact that the government didn't make ryde operators install an "I found a $20!" button or a "We got engaged!" button; they made them install a big, dumb, red PANIC button. If you slammed it--or yelled "9-1-1! 9-1-1! 9-1-1!," the car blared its alarm, pulsed every light--from the brights and taillights to the interior dome light and the little one next to the license plate--and drove straight to the nearest cop. Jilly'd finally managed to find a dryish Kleenex buried in her purse. She scrubbed at her lenses, smearing more than drying them. Perched back on her nose, they gave her a soft-focus glimpse of the other passenger. Not a strange boy at all, but rather a trim, professionally dressed oriental woman-Oriental?, her mind echoed back. Oriental? Horrified, Jilly's brain momentarily locked up. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 70


She'd meant "Asian," of course. She'd told her mother countless times--uncountable times-"'Oriental' Is for rugs, Ramen flavors, and the Trading Company that sells cheap doo-dads to giveaway at church carnivals; people are Asian. Or just, you know, people, Ma." "Oriental" was a word Jilly Wilikers of Bell Buckle, Tennessee might twang. And, goddamit, today notwithstanding, she wasn't going to slide back to being Jilly Wilikers. Not without a fight. Jillian Holmes, marketing tech wunderkind, would never call a fellow female professional "Oriental." The woman's hair was dark, veined with silver, pulled into a sleek bun. She sat straight-backed in her seat, perfectly balanced and at ease, her smile slight and symmetrical. Her black rain-slicker was pristine--not a droplet of water beaded on it. On her lap she held an odd briefcase, bulky as a lawyer's, but the wrong dimensions for traditional paper files. Maybe a sample case of some sort? When she was little, Jilly's father had sold inventory management systems--back before everything became an app on some minimum-wage kid's phone--and he'd carried a similar case to hold the demo scanner and tags. "I'm--" She paused, breathed, and pulled the cloak of her perfect Platonic self-conception back around herself. "I'm sorry," she said in her smooth Jillian Holmes voice. "You startled me. I didn't realize I had a fellow traveler. I'm Jillian." The woman smiled politely and nodded once. "A fellow traveler," she agreed. She was British, Jilly marveled, then stifled the notion, which was certainly racist. Of course she was British; anyone could be British. "I apologize," Jillian continued. "I have a lot on my mind. I'm afraid I'm not myself today." This seemed to amuse the woman; she chuckled, laugh-lines crinkling into jolly crow's feet at the corners of each eye. "Well then, who are you?" Jilly chuckled back companionably--just two women, two powerful and professional women sharing a moment of bonhomie in their little moving oasis, cloistered from the man's world of business, a secular confessional minus the patriarchy. The woman set a warm, convivial hand on Jilly's forearm. Suddenly Jilly found herself sobbing. They were ugly, wracking sobs. And she was spilling the beans: In the beginning, it'd just been for the lulz. Her best friend at Walmart, Rondell, had become obsessed with this TED talk titled "The Power to Empower is Powerful." It hadn't been a real TED talk--Jilly herself was obsessed with these; watching them on YouTube was the only college she could afford. No, Rondell's obsession was with some small-potatoes TEDx event-TEDx Middlebury or something. It was almost more of a joke about TED events than an actual TED event. But despite the stupid name, "The Power to Empower is Powerful" was actually a pretty good talk-half "rah-rah CEO sisterhood" feminist cheerleading, half piranha-vicious high-pressure sales, and wryly self-aware all the way through. The stuff about the psychology of persuasion in the middle of the talk wasn't just new and exciting for Jilly; it was a revelation.

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But that wasn't why Rondell loved it. Rondell loved it because the woman giving the talk--Jillian Holmes--affected this bizarre baritone, as though she was imitating Thurston Howell III from Gilligan's Island. And Jillian Holmes was Jilly Wilikers's spitting image--if Jilly'd been a blonde with ironed bangs in a black turtleneck. They'd goof on Jillian Holmes endlessly at work. Jilly could totally nail that ridiculous baritone. For Halloween Jilly'd bleached and ironed her hair and donned a black turtleneck borrowed from the store's Junior Miss section. One drizzly December Saturday they'd sat in Jilly's mom's basement with an endless stream of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer on the Netflix and set up "Jillian Holmes"'s LinkedIn and Twitter and Instagram profiles, populating these with the YouTube video and empowerment memes and their own little hot-takes on women and sisterhood and marketing and the war in Israel and whatever. Eighteen months later, like a thundersmack out of a clear blue sky, a headhunter from an up-andcoming ad agency in Chicago had "reached out" to Jilly via LinkedIn, offering a six-figure salary, plus moving expenses. And, still laughing, Jilly'd accepted. Shockingly, she wasn't busted on day 1. Or day 47. Or day 202. If she just played it cool, kept the voice on, and took frequent breaks to frantically google things like "KPI" and "CRM" and "patriarchy" on her smartphone in the ladies room stall, it wasn't even all that hard. It was actually sorta fun--and having her own apartment overlooking an endless lake as big and smooth as an ocean beat the hell out of living in her mom's basement. And then she'd had her lunch meeting with GM. Jilly'd arrived expecting to see their head of marketing, Tad--with whom she'd Skyped almost daily, and who thought Jilly was the "bee's sneeze." Instead she was greeted by a woman. She was handsome, older, with pale chestnut hair and high, slightly elfish cheekbones. The table was a little two-top; no room for Tad, or anyone else. She explained she was "filling in" for Tad, and was familiar with the account. Jilly took out her tablet and launched into her pitch. "Quite nice," the woman said when Jilly'd finished. "A really top-notch strategy for the Surus Sport. I see why Tad was so enthusiastic." She paused, still smiling pleasantly. "I recall your talk in Middlebury a few years ago, Jillian. As it turns out, we have a mutual friend--Karyn--who helped organize that TEDx. I was so sad last month, when I heard Jillian Holmes had been killed in a car accident. So young and charming. To be honest," she said the word with a twist, like a knife in the gut, "I almost threw up when I heard, because they were saying one of our early-model Cruise AVs had been involved. Even after it was determined that the Cruise's fallback vehicle localization had operated entirely properly--that it really was an honest-to-goodness unavoidable accident--I still felt terrible. I sent flowers to your memorial service. Karyn called to thank me. She said it was quite a lovely event." The woman stood briskly. "At any rate, Jillian," another twist, "I'm glad to see you're feeling better." She did not offer her hand before walking out. Jilly's phone had begun ringing almost immediately. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 72


She'd thought she'd been exceedingly clever to have made it so far--brilliant, in her own way. But really, she'd gotten away with it for as long as she did only because no one had any reason to bother trying to catch her. "That," she sobbed in the ryde with the preternaturally calm female professional, "that's what stung the most: I wasn't even good enough to trick them; just pretty enough that they didn't care to look too deep. That feels so much worse than just being fired." The tidy woman nodded sympathetically, smiled a tidy smile. "'Made redundant' is the euphemism preferred in London." Jilly smiled her own little smile. She remembered something she heard once--she had no clue where-that the English had not just mastered the art of the passive voice, but pushed it to its ne plus ultra: the passive-aggressive voice. Jilly snuffled, embarrassed, but also relieved. She looked out the windows. The traffic was a herkyjerky progress, but the stream of slickered, umbrellaed, soggy pedestrians shouldering their ways along the sidewalks was constant, like too many eels choking too shallow a stream. So typically, that it was faster to walk-The car came to a jarring halt. The kind Asian businesswoman's boxy attache case tumbled from her lap with a jingle like cowboy spurs and Christmas bells. Almost as a reflex, Jilly reached down and picked up the case, handing it back to the woman. In doing so, she happened to glance at the dashboard. That was when she noticed the emblem on the dash-which was neither Google's rainbow-G, nor Waymo's bi-color zigzag W-snake. It was the BMW roundel. Jilly's body seemed to fill with ice water: She'd gotten in the wrong car. "I'm . . . I'm so sorry," she began. She dredged up a self-deprecating smile, "I seem to have gotten into the wrong car--" "Oh?" the woman replied, "I wouldn't say that." The car was crawling forward again. It wasn't what the woman said, exactly, but rather something ineffable in her mien, hinting at onrushing cataclysm. Alarm began to spin up somewhere deep in Jilly's reptile brain. Nonetheless, her smiling mouth ran on almost automatically. "I can't believe today! I'm so sorry to have intruded, and to have dumped my problems on you . . ." Jilly's eyes skimmed the dashboard, looking for the mandatory glowing red PANIC button that should be there. And wasn't. Her mouth ran out of words. The smile drained from her lops. "This," Jilly felt her way from word to word, like a blind woman in a furnace room, "Isn't a ryde-share at all." Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 73


"You are correct," the woman answered. "This is a very private vehicle." "I should go," Jilly said. The woman continued as though Jilly had not spoken: "Although I was expecting you, I'm afraid it turns out you've put me in a bit of an awkward spot: I've been sent to take care of 'Jillian Holmes.' But I've absolutely no way to determine if I've been sent for the late Jillian Holmes--she of the famed TEDx talk--or you." It suddenly dawned on Jilly that getting found out and fired might not be the absolute worst thing that could happen to her today. She pawed blindly at her door. The inside panel was smooth: no handle, no lever, no release--not even a button to lower the window. Jilly felt as though she'd sucked in a snootful of iced freon. Her head swam greasily, and her stomach did a single lazy flop before dropping not just to her feet, but down to the center of the earth--falling and falling eternally, just like her hopes of ever seeing the outside of that autonomous BMW. "Not that it's any real matter," the calm and pleasant woman continued. "The job remains essentially unchanged, and the matter of 'Jillian Holmes' shall soon be resolved satisfactorily." Jilly tapped her phone to wake it, glanced down to see the dark screen, and recalled she'd shut it down back under the awning of the Elephant & Castle. She surreptitiously thumbed the power button on her phone, knowing that it took the stupid thing a full two minutes to power back up and find a signal. "This white-white patent leather interior," Jilly said, groping for time, "the smooth-smooth white dashboard and doors and the plastic coatings on all the screens and such--that's not factory standard?" "Not standard," the woman confirmed, "but available to a certain very special clientele." "I bet this special interior cleans up quite nicely, right? Fingerprints and fiber samples and any sign I was ever in this car will just wipe right off?" The woman nodded again. "Indeed. This interior cleans up like a dream. And this dark-dark rain slicker doesn't show stains at all." The very professional Asian woman unlatched her case, reached in, and withdrew the most awful knife Jilly had ever seen. The grip was a set of pointy brass knuckles, the blade's tip cruelly hooked forward a touch, like the claw of some terrible steel bird of prey. She vaguely recognized it from something she'd seen on the History Channel one late night, some sort of British trench knife. This one had been painstakingly restored, and glowed mellowly in the gloom of the storm that pushed in through the tinted windows. At long last Jilly's brain accepted the obvious: This woman had come to kill "Jillian Holmes"--and, being a professional, that's exactly what she would do. Absurdly, Jilly couldn't determine if she had this coming or not. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 74


"No," Jilly said, her voice flat as a skipping stone plopping into the water after a single skip. "Yes." "But--but I didn't do anything!" The tidy woman was incredulous, her own cloak--one of professional good humor--finally falling away. "Really? Really? Not to be too precious, but I'll have you know that some of us earned our reputations with hard work--not by tarting up in a black roll-neck jumper and talking like an utter twat." The woman barked a bilious--but honest--little laugh. "I make a rule to kill without joy-bloody unprofessional, otherwise--but in your case, young miss, I'm making an exception." Out the windows Jilly saw the foot traffic take absolutely no note of her predicament. She began to scream, "9-1-1! 9-1-1! 9-1-1!" her native twang sinking mutely into the E-Z-Kleen interior. The car took no evasive maneuvers on her part. It didn't nose its way over to the curb, didn't flash its lights and honk, didn't open its doors. The pedestrians did not flinch, not even those bare inches from her window. Jilly and her fellow traveler were only a block or so from the awning of the Elephant & Castle. She saw her plastic-egg white Waymo pull up, obediently open its door, and sit like an idiot, vacant and waiting. So typical. That's when the fastidious woman in the black rain slicker sprang upon her. Her impact threw Jilly's head back, where it smacked soundly into the laminated glass of the tinted window, rattling her fillings and sending her eye glasses arcing toward the windshield. The pain was like an atom bomb going off in Jilly's sinuses, filling her ears and eyes with a blinding roar. Outside the pedestrians streamed on, taking no notice of the explosive violence in the car. Momentarily dazed, Jilly marveled at the car's truly exceptional sound-proofing; no wonder GM was getting shellacked in the market by BMW and the like. If only she'd known an hour ago, she would have worked it into the "challenges" portion of her pitch. Then came the knife, spine up and edge down, quick into Jilly's belly, just below the sternum. It twisted, then tore up and out, grating against her sternum as it came, making it sing like a damp finger stroking the rim of a wine glass. Then again, the knife entering a bit lower, twisting, and coming up and out to join the first deep cut. She was being unseamed. Jilly's eyes did not leave the window, the rain, the many pedestrians under their many umbrellas, the stupid little Waymo SDC sitting in the rain with its door open. The world shrank. Not to that famous pinprick of light folks always described in those prime-time "near-death experience" interviews. There was no tunnel of light for Jilly Wilikers, late of Bell Buckle, Tennessee. The world shrank to the clean white interior of that car, no smaller. She wasn't Jillian Holmes anymore. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 75


And she wasn't Jilly Wilikers, either. But she was alive--just yet--and damned if she was going down without a fight. There was something nestled at her core, hard and nameless and eternal. It had not been dulled by countless indistinguishable days in a Tennessee Walmart. It had not been worn smooth and innocuous by her accidental birth in a go-nowhere backwater. And it was entirely unwilling to simply slough off this mortal coil and drift away now. The young striver still had her phone--like every other young professional woman in the Chicagoland area. It was glowing now, but still unable to find a signal. She wrapped her fingers around the solid little hunk of tempered glass and steel, then brought it up in a fast hard chop to the tidy huntress's chin. The huntress's eyes fogged, then cleared with a gleeful snap, like the bough breaking under baby's cradle. She sprang forward, knife out--but the younger woman, holding in her guts with her free hand, got her feet up and kicked like a stung mule. She did not hesitate, but leapt, phone raised like a cudgel. They came together on the blood-slicked floorboards, unstoppable forces of human progress, immovable objects of patriarchy's derision. The knife did not tumble from the hunter's grip. The phone was not lost in the melee. Outside, the traffic thawed a little, and then a little more. It loosened like March slush on a peaked roof, sloughing off down the slope. The autonomous ghost-grey BMW melted into the river of traffic, women grappling within.

David Erik Nelson is an award-winning science-fiction author and essayist who has become increasingly aware that he's "that unsavory character" in other people's anecdotes. His stories have appeared in Asimov’s, the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Pseudopod, The Best Horror of the Year, and elsewhere. In addition to writing stories about time travel, sex robots, haunted dogs, and carnivorous lights, he also writes non-fiction about synthesizers, guns, cyborg cockroaches, and Miss America. More of his writing can be found online—as can he—at davideriknelson.com or twitter.com/squidaveo Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 76


Tony Taddei Everyday People The barefoot black kid pawing at my motorbike runs his eyes over my leather jacket and long hair. “What the fuck you looking at?” I ask him. The kid flinches and that’s when I glance again at the girl sitting on her porch. She’s beautiful—eyes green like sea glass, lips the shape of candy hearts, coco skin and a pillow of hair so big I could bury myself in it. Even still, I’ve must be out of my mind trying to get her to look at me by picking a fight down here in this neighborhood. “Ain’t looking at nothing, brother,” says the kid, touching the bike again. “I’m not your brother. And get your hands off my bike.” He wouldn’t even know how to ride it. And even if he did he wouldn’t get far. Some cop would pull him over as soon as he turned the corner—barefoot black kid on a barely used 1970, 125cc Kawasaki with no license plate. “All right, all right . . . brother,” says the kid. “Ain’t my fault you got such a nice motorcycle I can’t keep my hands off of it.” He is a wise ass, though. This kid. Getting tougher now too as a crowd of his friends close in. “Yo, Santorelli, where’s your boy Spendoli?” This is Freddy Hughes, one of the black kids we all kind of know from around here. He’s stepping out of the crowd of soul brothers who’ve been watching and he’s pointing up the street, smirking. I stare at him like he’s speaking a foreign language. But it is a good question. Where is Spendoli? I was supposed to meet him down here at the edge of this neighborhood to catch up with Bobo Ribisi and Johnny DeCarlo. “I don’t know, I ain’t seen Spendoli,” I say, spitting out the words. “Well, you ain’t seen him, you ain’t seen him,” says Freddy. “Got to believe that. Hard to miss that white face when it pops out around here.” “Why don’t you go fuck yourself, Freddy?” I hear myself saying it and again I glance at the girl on the porch. This time her eyebrows are raised, and she’s got a very faint smile on her lips. She lowers her eyes, but I can tell that she likes to be looked at. Or maybe she just likes me looking at her. “I don’t need to fuck myself,” says Freddy. “I got your momma doing that.” I start laughing like I think it’s really funny and then . . . “Yeah, well my momma told me to give you this.” I jump on the Kawasaki, land on the kick-starter and twist the throttle until I have the bike headed right at Freddy’s crotch. He pivots and then he starts hauling ass like a jackrabbit while the rest of his friends scatter. I’m spinning donuts left and right trying to catch Freddy as he runs up and down Bishop Street, and I’ve almost got the front wheel of the bike up the slit of his ass, when he takes a sharp left and I punch Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 77


the handle bars out as far to the right as they’ll go. It’s a smooth move that might have worked except that I’ve hit a patch of sand left over from the last storm of last winter. I wipe out and lay the bike down on the road at fifteen miles an hour. Sliding to a stop, I can smell the denim burning off the exhaust pipe where the bike landed on my thigh. I twist back toward the frame of the bike and begin to push at the gas tank. I know that the girl must still be watching me, so I make the bike seem heavier than it is to show off a little. But just as I lift it and I’m about to set it upright, I hear an evil sounding voice, a kick-your-ass baritone, calling out from across a distance that isn’t that far away. It’s Luther, of all people, and he’s standing beside the girl on the porch. Luther: black beret, thigh-length leather jacket, eighteen-year-old Black Panther just about to take off his training wheels. Everybody knows about Luther. And now I’m wondering if that’s his sister I’ve been staring at behind him on the porch? “Who told you could crash your motorcycle on my street, mother fucker?” says Luther. Freddy and his crew, even the barefoot kid, are reassembling around me now, close enough for me to hear them mocking me with their mutterings. Up on the porch where Luther is standing, the girl is still watching me. The expression on her face is not disgust or even satisfaction that I may have got what was coming to me. It’s sympathy, as if she wants to come over to me to see if I’m all right. “What the fuck you looking at, Claris?” says Luther. “Get in the goddam house.” She turns to Luther, cocks her head and squints, dropping her right shoulder like a fighter setting up a punch. “Clareeece,” she says. “How many months do I have to live in this house before you learn how to say my name properly? My name is Clarice.” And with that she turns back to me and begins to gaze hard from twenty-five feet away across the road—which all of sudden feels like no distance at all and, in fact, makes me feel like she and I might not even be living in the same place as the rest of these people on the street, not even in the same year or on the same planet. It’s not 1972, anymore, I’m not fifteen almost sixteen years old and this is not New Haven, Connecticut, it’s no time and no place, and when she smiles at me this time I have to look away first, and now I’m feeling something else, something I never felt before and can’t describe. “Gino, you okay?” Sure, now Spendoli shows up, running over from around the corner of Bishop and Lawrence. He could have been hiding back there watching the whole thing for all I know, chicken shit that he is, even if he is trapped down here living around the corner in this not-so-white-anymore neighborhood. “Yeah, I’m good,” I say to Spendoli. “Let’s get the fuck out of here.” The bike seems to be okay, scratched up but moving without any wobbles, and I’m already rolling it away when I catch sight of Luther walking toward us. Freddy and the other kids who’ve been milling around break apart as Luther steps in front of my bike. “Don’t come down here no more,” Luther is saying. “Your boy can meet you up at your house from now on.” I can’t tell if he’s giving me friendly advice or some kind of secret warning. “It’s a free city,” I say to Luther. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 78


“Is for some of you’all,” says Luther and I know not to say anything else. The muttering crowd of soul brothers also becomes very quiet, the kind of quiet that makes you a little nervous. Though it doesn’t seem to be bothering Clarice because she’s is still on the porch. In fact, she’s sitting on the steps now, arms hugging her knees, watching me, not caring a bit what Luther might be thinking as he turns once again to glare at her. I am home after hanging out with my friends for a couple of hours. Pushing my bike into the back of the garage to hide it in a place where I’m hoping my father won’t see the scratches, I find Douglas lying on the floor behind the snow blower, chewing on the head of one of my sister’s Barbie dolls. The dog is almost eight years old, old enough to be a middle-aged man, but I swear he’s a little retarded. He sees me with the bike and he brings the doll’s head over to drop it at my feet. I ignore him but he keeps picking up the head and dropping it in front of me until I get the bike into the garage behind the lawn furniture. This dog knows I’m a pushover and that on most days I’d take pity on him and toss around that doll’s head for him to fetch. I once asked my father why he named the dog Douglas, and this is what I got: “Kirk Douglas, toughest actor who ever lived, played a boxer and a gladiator and even made that faggot painter – what was his name, Van Gogh – even made him look like a real man.” Sometimes I’m not sure who’s more retarded, my father or the dog. In any case, I’m glad to see that my father’s municipal-owned Chevy Caprice is not in the driveway, just my mother’s Buick Skylark tucked up in front of the lawn furniture and my bike. Brushing my fingers along the Skylark’s fender, I wonder what might happen if I slipped into the house and stole the keys to run the car back down and see if the girl, Clarice, might still be there. I can see myself now . . . I’m sitting inside the Skylark with Clarice. I’ve taken her on a joy ride, and we’ve parked the car in a spot I know at the base of East Rock where there are a lot of trees and not much else, and I’m kissing Clarice and she’s kissing me back, and her left hand is resting on my crotch, and . . . Douglas starts to howl. It’s my father and he’s pulling up the driveway in the Caprice, his partner Bobby DiNucci riding shotgun, looking like Frankenstein as he takes up three quarters of the front seat with a torso the size of a mailbox, hands big as lawn rakes, and arms swinging like boat oars. You gotta love these two together—Bobby and my father. Forget how mismatched they are in size. Their running nicknames for each other alone are enough to kill you. My father calls Bobby ‘Spade’ and Bobby calls my father ‘Hammer’—Sam Spade and Mike Hammer. That’s who they think they are—Sam Spade with bad hips and a bottle of Pepto-Bismol in the glove box of his unmarked police car and Mike Hammer with arch supports, a bulging disc and delusions that anyone who’s not the same color as him is out to do him harm. I step to the front of the garage where my father could see me if he looked. Douglas, however, is way ahead of me. He’s galloped all the way over to my father who’s now so busy talking to him like he’s a four-legged baby that he doesn’t even notice me standing there. “Dougy, Dougy, Dougy . . . Did you miss me, killer?” My father is kneeling, rubbing Douglas’s belly from his dick to his neck and back. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 79


“Hey Gino, wash the car will you?” Having unpacked himself from the Caprice like the Jolly Green Giant let out of a can of beans, Bobby has spotted me standing inside the garage. “And vacuum the mats too,” he says, as if he’s just invented comedy. “Sure,” I say. Can I keep the change I find in the seats?” I ask this in a way that might as well mean “fuck you,” though Bobby is too dumb to hear that. My father, however, has heard me and picked up on my attitude and he’s not fond of it. “Where’s your mother?” “I don’t know. Car’s here.” I point to the Skylark. “Thanks, Sherlock. What the hell are you doing out here hanging around in the garage?” Douglas, sensing my father is done with him, runs back over to me. “Just putting the bike away,” I say to my father. “Where’d you go?” “Just riding around.” My father is rubbing the stubble on his chin and glancing toward the garage, up and over its roof as if he could get his eyes to cannonball down into Luther and Clarice’s neighborhood. “Yeah, well make sure you stay up here with that bike,” he says. “Or I’ll take it away so fast your head will spin.” Just then Douglas lies down at my feet – he loves everybody, this dog – and so to make Douglas happy and piss off my father I drop onto one knee, rubbing Douglas’s belly exactly as my father was. I also start to picture Clarice rubbing the dog’s belly with me, and I feel myself get a little flushed and warm. Douglas likes Clarice. I like Clarice. Clarice likes me. “Hey, you hear what I’m saying about staying up here and out of that neighborhood back there?” my father shouts. “Yeah, yeah, I hear you.” It is then that I decide I am going back to Clarice’s house on my bike as soon as my father leaves to go back to his shift with Bobby. Three days go by and Spendoli, DeCarlo, Ribisi and me are squatting around the Kawasaki in front of Wozniak’s news stand on the corner of Edwards and State Street when out of my right ear (my left being tuned into the bike which I have running at idle on the sidewalk) I hear girls giggling. These are not white girl giggles, these are high-pitched, Baptist church, don’t-stop-me-now, black girl giggles. I know it before I even have to look. And when I do, cutting off the engine so I can tune in more closely, I see that one of the girls is Clarice. I’ve ridden my bike on and off for three days around Clarice’s neighborhood – hoping I’d see her again sitting on her porch or walking to the store or hanging out at that scabby laundromat down there – not able to find her anywhere. But now, wouldn’t you know it, she’s decided to come strolling up here into my neighborhood.

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Clarice and her two friends get closer, and just as I’m sure they’re about to walk right past, she stops a few feet from me, turns to the girl on her right, the one with six-inch platform Thom McCanns, and she speaks. “Wait a minute, Ruby,” says Clarice. “I’ve got to tie my shoe.” Five surprised faces look at Clarice’s red, white and blue sneakers. I hesitate before glancing at Clarice’s feet, not because I don’t think to look at her shoes, but because she is close enough for me to smell her perfume and I feel like I took a hit of dope that would have been too strong for somebody twice my size. It’s only when I come to my senses that I notice Clarice is also not looking at her shoes. She’s dropped to one knee – the ruffled edge of her short white skirt rising to show me the back of her thighs – and she’s looking at me. “Your shoe ain’t even untied, Clarice.” It’s the second girl with Clarice who is saying this. She’s shaking her braided pigtails, and eyeballing her other friend with the platform shoes. “The laces were getting loose.” Clarice is pretending she’s busy with her shoe but when she stands up again, this time I’m ready. “Where’s your brother?” I ask. I say it with an attitude that my friends will think is meant to mock Clarice and these girls, but that’s far from the way I mean for Clarice to take it. “Who?” she asks. “Luther,” I say, and Spendoli, DeCarlo and Ribisi start smirking. “He’s not my brother,” says Clarice and her two friends turn their heads from her to me and then back to her. “Luther’s my mama’s boyfriend’s son,” she says. “We’re only living in their house until we can get a place of our own down here.” “Oh,” I say. “Where you from?” I know enough to know that this is the kind of question to ask when you’re in front of a girl you like. But there really couldn’t be a worse time or place for me to ask it. My three friends are looking at me now like I’ve lost my mind chatting up this girl, while Clarice’s friends have gotten in front of her and are trying to block our view of each other. “We came from Bridgeport,” says Clarice, sidestepping her friend with the pigtails so she can get closer to me. “My Daddy died and my mama met Luther’s father at her job . . .” “Come on, Clarice, we got to get downtown,” says the girl with the platform Thom McCanns, her hands balled into fists at the end of her arms. “You want to get them tickets don’t you?” says the pigtailed friend. “Yeah, alright. I’m coming.” Clarice turns away. “I’m the one told you ‘all about that show in the first place,” says Clarice, shrugging them off and walking ahead. Clarice’s friends scamper to catch up to her, and just when I think I’ve lost her for good, she pauses and speaks again, loud and clear, to make sure I hear it.

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“There’s no way I’m going to miss Sly Stone at the Arena Tuesday night,” she says. “No way I’m not going to be there.” Cranking her head over her shoulder she glances back to find me. “Stop staring at the white boy, Clarice,” the girl in the Thom McCann’s hisses loud enough for all of us to hear. But Clarice doesn’t seem to care how much her friend hisses or what the eyes on this street aimed at us like sniper rifles will make of her and me. Instead, she drops her eyes down onto me even more heavily, her lids covered in blue shadow closing over the two of us like a blanket before she’s forced by her friends to turn and walk away. I’ve counted down the days and plotted my strategy, and now it’s Tuesday night and I’ve parked my bike at the edge of a surface lot across the street from the New Haven Arena. So now what? There are so many hundreds of kids banging around the front entrance, and so many girls who could be Clarice, that to find her I’m either going to have to be very lucky or very smart. “Hey kid, get that bike out of the way.” The surface lot attendant has caught me plugging his driveway, and he’s not happy about it. Deciding to kill him with kindness, I very politely ask if he’d mind me parking my bike behind his booth for just a minute. He thinks about that, looks past me and says, “You got any idea what can happen around here in a minute?” Turning around, I see what he sees. White kids and black kids mingling everywhere, while all around the edges of the crowd cops, brought on for extra duty, stand tense as soldiers. It wasn’t even two years ago when a platoon of Italian and Irish policement along with a Crown Vic full of FBI lawyers almost started a riot when they put Bobby Seale and a couple of other Black Panthers on trial in the federal courthouse just two blocks away on Church Street. Right now, in front of the Arena, however, you’ve got white boys side-by-side with brown boys, blond girls bumming cigarettes (not to mention their attitudes) from black girls in African flag t-shirts, and all of them mingling and breaking into song—Hot Fun in the Summertime, Everybody is a Star, Family Affair. All I can think of is what a cop like my father would do if he saw what was going on in front of the Arena with me sitting in a surface lot at the edge of it. Yes indeed, there is a lot that could happen here in a minute. I roll the bike over to the back of the parking lot shack, drop the kick stand and wave at the attendant who has gotten busy directing a car into one of the last open spaces. “Okay, thanks.” I yell at him, not waiting for a reply, after which I throw myself into the traffic: car horns honking, fists dry-humping the air out of drivers’ side windows. When I get to the Arena side of the street, my first encounter is with an irritated black man shouting into the crowd. He stands a good six and half feet tall, and weighs at least 350 pounds. “You got tickets, stand over there.” He points to the middle door of the Arena. “You want tickets, stand over there.” He points to the box office nearby. “You ain’t got tickets and don’t want tickets, get the hell out of here.” I look at the box office. To find this girl I’m either going to have to be very lucky or very smart. I study the middle door of the Arena where the kids who have tickets are supposed to be standing. Kids like Clarice. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 82


The problem is I can’t see well enough through this crowd to find out if Clarice is standing there. So I get up on my tiptoes. I start to crane my neck, but just as I’m getting bead on the situation, I hear a man bawling out my name from somewhere in the crowd behind me. “Gino? Hey Gino. Gino Santorelli.” At first, I’m curious, but then it hits me. I know that voice. “Gino . . . Gino!” It’s Bobby DeNucci. Of course it is. The fucking oaf will do anything for overtime pay, even if it means he has to work security at a concert. I drop down off my tiptoes to blend into the crowd. I need to avoid Bobby, and I’m hoping I can once again become invisible in the crush of people pushing and shoving me every which way—my elbows slamming into the spinal columns of overdeveloped black boys, my rear end and groin grinding into kids who don’t even seem to know I’m there. I’m so overloaded by all this contact that at first it doesn’t even register when someone’s soft, wiggling fingers tickle my wrist. “Hey.” This word is breath in my ear before the warmth of it turns into sound and then into more words. “You looking for somebody?” Of course I am. My heart begins to rock like a drummer’s paradiddle. I turn and I’m standing face-toface with Clarice. A couple more inches and our lips would be touching. “Yeah,” I say. My eyes meet Clarice’s. “I was looking for you.” We smile at each other and it goes on just long enough for me to realize that twenty or thirty heads away Bobby DeNucci has spotted me again and his jamming his bulk into the crowd to get closer. “Can we go somewhere else?” I ask, leaning into Clarice’s ear. “I’ve got a ticket,” she says, protesting, though I’m pretty sure her attitude is more for show and just for now. Before I can be certain, however, somebody inside the Arena fires up a recording of one of Sly Stone’s more recent hits. They’ve done it to whet the appetite of the crowd and it’s working. Music and lyrics come blaring out through bullhorn speakers over the entrance doors and the crowd loosens up considerably as they start to boogie and jump and sing. Sometimes I’m right and sometimes I’m wrong . . . my own beliefs are in my songs . . . “We’ll come back. I promise.” I shout this at Clarice and, before she can think about it, I grasp her arm, moving us toward the curb and freedom. The butcher, the banker, the drummer and then . . . Makes no difference what group I'm in . . . I am everyday people . . . “Hey! Kid. Hold up.” Back there somewhere Bobby is yelling, his voice no longer his Gino-whydon’t-you-wash-the-car voice, his voice now just the voice of an angry white cop. Clarice and I start to run. At the street, I put my arm around her waist to guide her through traffic and when she puts her arm around me in return a shiver goes through me. This tight together we Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 83


have to slow to a waddle to cross the street but when finally get to the other side and when we do we stop not far from where I’ve parked my Kawasaki. I know I am going to kiss Clarice and that she is going to kiss me back. Neither of us could stop this from happening if we wanted to. Unfortunately this is also when Luther decides to show up. I have no idea how he knew to end up here. Maybe he’s been watching Clarice all along. Whatever it was, there he is, swaggering toward us on the far side of the surface lot. And worse than that a step behind Luther on either side of him are two other black men a good decade older than Luther, both of them wearing goatees and angry expressions. Am I going to let Luther and his friends stop me from kissing Clarice? You bet I am. Though Clarice is not going to let them stop her. She leans in and kisses me on the mouth, before pulling away. “What the fuck you doing, Clarice?” Luther is shouting as his two friends hold him back. Clarice tilts her head away from me to taunt Luther with a smile. “Get your ass over here,” Luther yells. “Easy, man,” says the guy to Luther’s right. “Let it be,” says the one on the left. “This ain’t no thing for you right now.” Hearing this, I get a little braver. “Come on?” Clarice hesitates as I make it clear what I have in mind. “Get on the bike.” I sweep my arm out to the left pointing to my motorcycle a few feet away behind the booth. For a second I think that maybe Clarice won’t move, but as it turns out there is nothing more I need to do to convince her. She’s already on her way and before I know it she is on the back of the bike and I’ve taken a running leap onto the seat. She puts her arms around my ribs, and I choke the carburetor and kick. Hard. Lifting my head from the handlebars, I can see that Bobby has finally bullied his way through the crowd. The only thing keeping him from lurching across Crown Street is the green light allowing the traffic speed by in front of him. Bobby is shouting something and, though I can’t hear what it is over the engine noise and music blaring from the Arena’s bullhorns, I can guess. “Goddamn it, kid,” he’s saying. “Don’t do this. You ain’t gonna like what happens if you do this.” He would be right, of course, if that’s what he was shouting. I’m not gonna like what happens if I do this: not gonna like what happens with my father; not gonna like what happens in my neighborhood with my friends or in the world that revolves around Luther and his friends, and up and up all throughout America from there. Not gonna like any of it. But now is not the time to think about what might happen in the future. Now is the time to think about the present where Luther has just broken free of his friends, and Bobby has gotten the red light and is running faster than I ever thought a man that big could run. “Where are we going?” asks Clarice, her voice vibrating as I rev the bike. “Away,” I yell.

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I twist the throttle and the bike leaps from behind the attendant’s booth, rearing up into a wheelie on the sidewalk before we land on Crown Street. In front of us is a police car parked in the fire lane we’re using to make our escape. Creasing past the car, I weave into traffic, cutting across the middle lane to get us into the lane that runs by the arena. Accelerating now, I can see Bobby DeNucci in my rear view mirror still trailing us on foot. He’s too far away to catch us but he has begun whistling and shouting to get my attention and the noise he’s making has piqued the interest of some of the kids on the sidewalk in front of the arena. A small army of boys, their mouths open in laughter, wrangle themselves into the street to try and stop Clarice and me, but just before I have to hit the brakes to stop us from hitting them, Clarice raises her fist in the air and starts swinging. One-by-one the boys back away to give us room to drive past. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life—a single girl with the power to hold off an army. I gun the throttle and swerve back into the center lane, squeaking left to ride in a tight line between a yellow cab and a Toyota Corolla. Running full out away from the Arena, I can still hear the music from under the marquee. We got to live together . . . Clarice shifts her position on the back of the bike, her hands snugged into the side pockets of my jacket. “I’ll bring you back later when things quiet down,” I shout over my shoulder. “I don’t want to come back,” says Clarice. “What about the concert?” I yell. Clarice doesn’t answer me, and all I have to do to understand why is to take another peak in my rearview mirror. Behind us now, I can see Bobby DeNucci standing alongside Luther and his two friends; the four of them watching us roll away. From this distance, you’d almost think they all found something to unite in—the way they’re standing there quietly side-by-side, dumbfounded, blinking. You’d almost think that, wouldn’t you? Though Clarice might tell you differently. Even still, watching Bobby and Luther get smaller in the distance, I’m wondering if I should be as afraid of them as I’ve been. And it’s not just because we’ve finally gotten away together, Clarice and I. It’s because, somewhere in my gut it’s hit me that there’s really nothing they can do to us. Sure they’ll try to make our lives difficult now, but what then. The future, that horrible future that guys like Bobby and my father want me to think is coming, that future has got to be a lie. Guys like Bobby and my old man can never really stop anybody from loving anybody they want. Bobby will die someday. My father will die. Even the Panthers will all someday die. And when that happens, everyday people like Clarice and me and a billion others just like us, we’ll inherit the earth. I’d like to believe that anyway. “You ain’t supposed to be riding this motorcycle down here, are you?” Clarice asks loudly into the hair trailing down my neck. “No,” I yell over my shoulder. “I’m not supposed to be doing any of this.” Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 85


Seeing an escape route up ahead, I break free out of the jam on Crown Street to maneuver down a smaller street into a quieter section of downtown. Shivering on the seat behind me, Clarice puts her chin on my shoulder. “It’s okay,” she says. “Let’s keep going.” I lean back until her nose is touching my cheek. “You like dogs?” I ask. “I do if they like me,” she says. “He’ll like you,” I call back to her. “I know he will.” “Who?” “Douglas,” I say, slowing the bike so that the engine is no longer screaming. “That’s a funny name for a dog.” Clarice giggles. “I know,” I say. “I didn’t name him. It wasn’t my idea.” But Clarice already knows that, I think. I can tell by the way she’s resting her cheek on my shoulder that we’re in this together now, and that everything we know we’ll know together, and for a long time to come.

Tony Taddei holds an MFA in Fiction from Bennington College and is a past recipient of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowship for prose fiction. His humor and short stories have appeared in Story Magazine, Folio, New Millennium Writings, The Funny Times, Bloodroot Literary Magazine, Pif Magazine and The Florida Review. He currently lives and works in New Jersey and has recently completed a novella as well as new book of linked short stories. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 86


Meagan Lucas Excerpt from Song Birds and Stray Dogs (Forthcoming, Spring 2019, Main Street Rag Press) October, 1982 The air was stifling despite the pumpkins lined up on her neighbors’ porches signaling the approach of Halloween. Her customers at the cafe kept calling it Indian Summer, but Jolene knew that switching the calendar to October meant it was fall, and time was running out. The pew was hard beneath her and dampness collected between her back and the wood. She'd long since stopped caring whether she left wet marks on seats. This goddamned-never-ending-hot weather and her eternal morning sickness were a miserable combination. The smallest of mercies was that all the toilet hugging kept her size under control and her secret under wraps. Jolene’s lips stuck to her teeth, and her tongue became a soured towel, at the thought of eventually having to tell her Aunt Rachel. The pastor’s voice was a radio station only half in tune. Jolene watched a bird making a nest in the tree just outside the church window; the tiny brown thing dragging impossibly large pieces of debris and knitting them into a home. It was the wrong time of year to be building. Jolene wondered what happened to the bird’s previous home, if she’d chosen to leave, or if she’d been pushed out. The minutes passed slowly, the morning light slipping through the yellowing leaves to form pleasing patterns on the old wood floor. Jolene was drifting so thoroughly she didn't notice the service was finally over until Aunt Rachel was standing with her hands on her hips. "Come on now, Jolene, you know we have to get a move on if we're going to get to Bitty's in time. Pastor Rowe really outdid himself today. Bless his heart." Jolene followed Rachel into the aisle, watching the bright floral print of her aunt's skirt ripple across her ample hips and sway against her thick calves. Jolene knew she had that to look forward to; this baby ruining what figure she had before she'd even really had a chance to use it. The relative cool of the church steps refreshed Jolene and she found that she was almost hungry for Bitty's fried chicken, or famous shrimp and grits. They would need to get a move on if they hoped to get a table. Arms linked, they strolled down the sun street to the tune of Rachel's rendition of "Old Rugged Cross." Not exactly meandering music, but Jolene was happy to slip back into her own thoughts. She went back to that afternoon in David’s living room; she’d blown out her hair silky smooth and worn his favorite dress to tell him the news. “I don’t know why you gotta be like this,” he’d said. “Just. Jesus, lemme think, would you. We don’t got to make any decisions right now.” Winning the lottery would have been less surprising than his reaction. “Yes we do. I’m gonna start showing soon. And when Rachel finds out, she's going to kick me out.” When he wouldn’t even look at her, she tried a different tactic. “Let me come live with you. I won't have to quit my job for at least six more months, and I could cook and clean for you. We don't have to get married or nothing.”

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He turned, his eyes narrowed and smile smeared across his lips. "You didn't think I was going to marry you? Did you? Showing up here in that little skirt, telling me you're knocked up. I bet that's exactly what you were expecting. I'd take one glance at you looking all cute and carrying my child and I'd proclaim my love and we'd live happily ever after. Well, you've got another thing coming, honey." His gaze settled back on the television. Jolene chewed on the side of her thumb nail while staring at her toes. She willed the tears to stop welling. Everyone had told her David was trash. He was good for nothing but heartache, they said, but she disagreed. Oh, he was good to look at with those broad shoulders and narrow waist. That chestnut hair he wore just a little too long, curling over his collar. Huge green eyes, she got lost in. He had stopped by the cafe every day on his lunch to ask her out. She held out for a few weeks, knowing his reputation. But when he whispered in her ear that she was the prettiest thing he'd ever seen, and his lips brushed her earlobe, she swore everyone must have just been telling stories. It must be the shock of the thing, she decided. He wasn't a monster; he'd never let her be homeless. He wouldn’t abandon his own child. “I don’t believe it’s mine.” All the air left her lungs. Heat burned her cheeks, "you know I’m not like that-" "That's the end of this." It felt like she’d run a marathon. Her body ached and she couldn’t catch her breath. Her fists were balled in her lap. Jolene had hoped he could be swayed by her imminent need, but had underestimated his selfishness. She grabbed her purse from the floor and stood to go, wishing she had smart parting words. But as she stood there, trembling with anger and disappointment, nothing came. She positioned her body to block the television and said: "good-bye," with what she hoped was grave finality. "Can you change the channel for me, while you're up?" he asked as she strode to the door with as much confidence as she could muster. Letting it closed behind her, she jogged down the street. She didn't look back when she got to the corner. He wouldn't be watching from the window. Even now, walking down the sidewalk arm in arm with Rachel, she should have felt connected and loved. But her secret was growing in her belly and Jolene was sure of one thing: she was alone. She had thought that given a few days to cool off, he would come to his senses, realize his responsibility, and come back. But he hadn't. She’d knocked on his door a few times but he was never home. She thought maybe he'd actually gotten on that shrimp boat heading for the Gulf, but whenever she asked his friends about it, her questions were met with snorts and eye rolls. At the restaurant, there was a line out the door. Jolene was dizzy just thinking about having to wait an hour in the sun to get a seat. She knew that Rachel looked forward to eating Sunday lunch out more than any other part of her week, even more than Wednesday night bible study, although she'd never admit it. A bead of sweat slid down Jolene’s temple and dripped from her jaw onto her chest when she heard a high pitched drawl from inside the screened window. "Rachel, Jolene, yoohoo!" Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 88


Jolene had a sinking feeling she knew who was calling to them. She pretended she didn't hear, but on the second "Yoohoo!" Aunt Rachel did. "I think that's Shirley White calling us from inside the restaurant!" Rachel grabbed Jolene, pushed through the crowd, and joined the White’s table. Shirley’s company wasn’t as terrible as Jolene had been expecting, because Shirley required everyone’s attention in order to tell her stories, freeing Jolene to let her face relax and her mind wander. According to Shirley, Cassie Maybin unpacked her husband’s suitcase after a business trip and found it full of women’s clothes. Mr. Maybin claimed it was an error at the airport. But Cassie was convinced he was having an affair. Shirley said it only confirmed what she had long suspected, that Jack Maybin was a little light in the loafers. As she said this, Shirley waggled her eyebrows conspiratorially and the table laughed. Jolene’s stomach turned over as she stretched her lips over her teeth, but she couldn’t force a laugh to come out. She imagined all the things that Shirley White would say about her in only a few months. On the walk home from lunch Rachel kept burping and rubbing her sternum with her fist. Jolene was nervous that her aunt had such terrible indigestion. A block from their house, Rachel turned toward her and said, “I want to ask you something.” Jolene pictured herself and the baby under a sleeping bag in an alley in damp December, and digging through hot and smelly dumpsters in July looking for scraps. This was the moment she’d been waiting months for: every time she’d scrubbed the toilet after she vomited; every time she winced when someone brushed against her sore chest; or when she was sure her face was green at the scent of eggs, or bacon, or pine cleanser; she was just waiting for that question from Rachel so she could spill her guts and beg for Rachel’s forgiveness. “Okay,” her voice cracked. “The new man in your life, he’s a good Christian man, right?” Jolene’s brows knit. “I don’t understand.” “What is this world coming to, Jolene? Married men, with children, dressing like women and running around with other men! Seems like every Sunday we’re adding another brother or sister addicted to crack cocaine to the prayer list. Or someone’s daughter or niece who is pregnant and don’t know who the daddy is.” Jolene’s mouth was dry and her head spun. It was her turn to rub her sternum with her fist. “So, I guess,” Rachel continued, “I just want to make sure the people that you’re spending time with are quality, God-fearing people. Especially any young men. Your mother always had a lot of men in her life. Course, I don’t need to tell you that. Her greatest weakness, I think, was her taste in men, and her insatiable need for them. Even when we were girls much younger than you, we weren’t even wearing brassieres yet, and there were boys on our porch every night at sundown. Drove our Daddy crazy, but he kept it under control. When he died there was nothing Mama could do. Leah was just wild; it was in her blood.” “I’m not seeing anyone.” “No? But is there someone you’ve got your eye on?” Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 89


“Just working. I’ve been walking on the beach a lot, too, I guess.” “You haven’t talked about David in months, which is a relief, honestly. But then with the walking and the dieting, I just thought…” They were climbing the porch steps and Rachel’s statement faded in the air as she opened her purse to take out her keys. Jolene knew this was her moment to come clean. She could tell Rachel what was going on. She was never going to have this chance again. Rachel fumbled with the keys. Jolene opened her mouth. Rachel turned the lock and pushed the door open. “Well, Jolene,” she said. “I’ve got to tell you, I am relieved. All the time you’ve spent away from the house, I’ve been thinking you had a new boyfriend that you didn’t want me to know about. I’ve had this horrible fear that you were getting in trouble, the kind of trouble I was always worried your Mama was getting into. So, I’m glad you’re not. I’m glad the apple has fallen far from the tree.” Jolene clenched her teeth, shut the door behind them, and managed to excuse herself to her room before the cold ocean of fear and guilt swallowed her whole and the tears started rolling down her face.

Meagan Lucas is: a mother, a wife, a teacher, and a Pushcart nominated writer. Her short work has appeared recently in: The Same, The New Southern Fugitives, and Still: The Journal. Her debut novel, Song Birds and Stray Dogs is forthcoming in Spring 2019 from Main Street Rag Press. Meagan is an Adjunct Instructor at AB Tech, and the Fiction Editor for Barren Magazine. Born and raised in Northern Ontario, Canada, she now lives in the mountains of North Carolina. When she is not writing or teaching, she is reading, drinking coffee, or haunting bookstores. You can read more at: meaganlucas.com. She tweets: @mgnlcs Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 90


Nikita Nelin Excerpt from The Fifth Season “Nu” Means “Well” It is 1995. I am fifteen. We are in Florida, and now you know where we’re going. You know where we will land, and so you know that geography is only the context for this story. I am by my mother’s bed restraining a fury which is failing me. I am trying to pull her out of bed. I am making speeches with the conviction of a revolutionary about how this is our chance at life again, how this, “this,” I wave my hand at the window to exaggerate a future outside beyond what we’re living, “this can change everything.” It can get us out of here, this place we were never supposed to land. It can set things right. She barely moves. I am packing her bags and mine. I try to pull her from the bed, by her leg, but my effect is nothing. There are plane tickets waiting for us, to a new place, away from where we had been beached for all of my adolescence. I am yelling. I am convinced that this is the moment, this is the moment to go. But she cannot move. There is nothing physically broken in her. The trauma is deeper than even my knowledge of our family stories. Having exhausted my anger I sit down on the bed next to her. Bill Clinton play’s the saxophone on the TV and the background noise is supposed to make us feel less alone in what is otherwise the beached state of nomads. I can sense the light setting outside and between us into dark. “Nu…” I say. *

*

*

“Nu,” means “well.” As in, “Well, here we are.” It never means “we are well.” You are never “nu.” It is never a commentary, though it can be a pause — “nu…” It can’t be a “so,” because you can never be “nu and nu and nu” like you can “so and so.” “Nu” immigrated to Yiddish, not the other way around — “nu” was slowly cooked in clay family stoves to kill its bitter root. “Nu” finds its origins in Russia’s horse-whipping serfs — nu, thank you Gogol. “Nu,” is mostly gentle, mostly spoken by a friend, by someone familiar with your soul, unless they are packing a sidearm. If someone packing a sidearm says “nu,” they are demanding papers. My mother admits that, “nu,” she does not remember much of that first train ride when we fled Moscow in November of 89’. She had had a molar removed three days before we left. By the rules of Soviet dental barbarianism they stuck something back into the absence, as if to say “don’t you forget us.” So apparently there was a rod sticking out of my mother’s jaw and inflaming it as we traversed the destitute Soviet land. That’s why she was green and her face was swollen. So, when I tell her that just after we left the station her sister had walked into the cabin and said to her, “Nu, you’ve finally done it,” my mother agrees now… “Nu, it sounds about right. She probably did say it that way. She probably thought it was a compliment too.” To be fair, I do not remember too much of that first leg either, and then, much of what I remember has coagulated with glimpses of my mother’s fever struck memory. I remember moods and single frame

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images. I remember that north and south were just directions while East and West were destinations, philosophies, Capital Commitments, signs impacted with a meaning far greater than mere orientation principles. They were boundaries beyond which no one was permitted to see, new ways of life. I remember the first atmosphere. It was night. It was dark. Everything smelled of boiled eggs. We were in a four cot cabin. A few hours, maybe days, after liftoff our cabin had picked up another passenger, a large village-made Russian woman who came packing a suitcase of boiled eggs. She also snored like an early-era five year plan tractor. This I remember well. My mother lay on her cot between tea breaks and dozed into her missing tooth delirium. My aunt had her arm wrapped around me, urging me to lean into her. She understood the poetic setting of letting go. In between the snoring, and the tin can rattle of the train, there were many stops. No one ever got off, but people got on. At the stops there was shouting. There was a trained anxiety that preempted these stops, a well documented conditioning. It was mostly during the night that the men would turn up. They walked the length of the train, waking its tentatively floating souls. There were dogs with them, rifles, flashlights, and side arms. “Papers! Nu, davai, davai.” Faster, faster. Exiting Russia. “What’s wrong with her?” “She lost a tooth.” “Fine. Nu, bumagi!” Papers. Entering Belarus. The egg lady stirred and reached into her egg bag. “Nu, papers, papers! Where you going?” We didn’t know. Exiting Belarus. The egg lady searched her bag for something that was not eggs. I could hear tiny continents of eggshells collide against her bony fingers. When she wasn’t trying to hold me, or making hot water runs for my mother, my aunt stared out the window dreaming of her own Aliyah voyage one day to come. “Nu! Show us your papers! Nu, leaving, huh..? Traitors.” Entering Lithuania. “Nu, nu, nu, nu,” in rapid bursts, waking the cabins. Exiting Lithuania. People would complain about these entitled strangers bursting into their dreams, but in tentative whispers and never less than a few miles after clearing the checkpoint. Only the egg lady never said a word, fitted as she was to cruel indifference. “Nu, good riddance,” said our faceless document query at the final border. My mother’s eyes were thinly open. We sat on her cot. She cradled me with her fever weak arms draped around my shoulders and a hand lifted up to animate the worlds rushing by. “See,” she said, in a hoarse voice, “how everything changes in the window.” “Like on the television?” I asked. “Yes, honey, but no one can turn it off. There is no switch. This is a very, very special mission we are on, sweetheart. Now, watch

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the world change. Notice how the landscape evolves. The breadth of the frost contracts to the bark, the armor of the trees grows thin and the winter unclasps its grip from them,” she said, echoing the meter of her favorite poetry. As you travel West the world becomes more organized, less deranged, less wild, less desperate. “Nu…?” Valentina said, preparing her thin parcel. We were at the final border. Here she would be getting off and boarding a train back to Moscow. For my mother it is the deformed core and mangled Soviet rod where her tooth used to be that hold all the pain of leaving. It would be years before she allowed a dentist to repair that broken root. For me it’s my dog. Marpha was a dachshund crossbred with something even more awkward, and thus absolutely blameless. She was terrified of heights and never nipped at my feet. She is the one reason I know to have not been the reason for us leaving. When it was time for the family caravan to depart our apartment for the train, I assumed all of the adventured naiveté of Marco Polo — all eyes on the unknown, no collateral rumination. The farewell party poured out of the apartment. My grandfather was already outside warming his Volga. The Nebulous One disappeared to perform a taxi miracle for the remainder of the group. My mother and me finally step out of the apartment. I am bundled up in a fresh new parka. An old, pious girlfriend of my mother’s remains behind to clean up, wishing us “god's blessings, forever,” through the closing door. The apartment is due to be transferred over to an actor friend of my mom’s who was a husband of hers, briefly (not really an episode worth recalling at this moment except for comedic relief). He had lost a finger to a staged saber fight and was one of the few people we knew who could offer a fair price for the Moscow two bedroom, and when I remember him I just see a stub of a finger. Marpha would be taken in by another friend of our family, I was told. It appears we had many friends. I believed this telling, without trusting it entirely. As we walked out my dog crawled and wagged and clawed at the door, my mother’s friend trying to pull it back. I was already on the outside. There was still an opening though, the door not yet shut. There was the glimpse of abandonment. She said goodbye with all the power of a threatened Rottweiler, that little body that knew me. And on my side of the door there was no brave mask or adventure or story solid enough to keep me protected from the actuality of goodbye. Something at the core of my small body could not allow me to take another step forward. I kept holding the door open, squeezing my leg through the crack, back towards my dog. I couldn’t let go. No one had taught me how. I held on to the door not ready to lose sight of my little powerful dog, crying, kicking, not having words for it as on one side a woman, jammed up by her own witness-tears, pulled and held one innocent small thing, and on the opposite side my mother summoned her galactic courage to contain the other. As the door between us finally closed I knew with full certainty, beyond any words, that there was something out there I would never see again. My mother comforted me, dragging me through the corridor and downstairs. “We have an adventure that waits us,” she kept saying, “with all sorts of unimaginable creatures.” A bright light lapped up the sick green walls. Their paint curled in my sobs. There was a mournful barking. There is an innocent animal in the heart of every resolution.

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My mother’s sister, Valentina, stood on the other side of the train, below our window. My mother on the inside. Their father’s live, playful eyes — motionless, mournful, resolute, infinite in their tenderness. We pulled away from the platform through a series of high barbed wire fences, leaving the last contained edge of the crumbling Union. Men with fur hats and shouldered rifles stood between the fences smoking and spitting, indifferent to the departing. My mother wrapped a scarf around her swollen mouth and sighed with pain. I imagined the future. The egg lady again dug at the crumbs inside her egg bag, finally fishing something out of there. She pushed a vial of some village remedy into my mother’s hand. “Take it. Take it. Nu.” A Small, Great C-ntainer When I remember this thing that we did — and I mean remember in all its carnal rapture and wicket magnitude — I think of god. Not the embodied type. No robes, gold trimmed throne, no ledger accounting for pious deeds or the abacus beads of moral accounting. Nor is it the g-d from Hebrew school of whom something always feels omitted. I mean, the feeling of god. The god found from the other side. The one admitted when you are not looking. The extra, undefined sense, found in the confrontation with something unmistakably larger than you are. For some it is war, or love, or the transmutation from an otherwise hopeless condition of mind and body. For me it was adventure, a head first dive into what even my wildest imagination could not fulfill. It is the source of all unproven gravities. It can contain every meaning and still not answer your desperate questions. It is bewildering and amusing. It inserts no other purpose but for the purpose of merely experiencing itself, as itself, without reductions and inconclusively. I remember waking up on the moving train in the morning. We were already out of the Soviet territory, progressing to unimagined lands. There was the feeling of a weight having been removed. Somehow, all in one night, I had mourned and then ceased mourning everyone. Now, with the past seeming adequately dispatched, I could live inside of this living story, far greater than I am, and greet all its revelations. My mother was still asleep, with our documents clenched in one hand and a porcelain tea cup in the other. Her swelling was down. Why did she hold a teacup in her hand? Because for the coming indeterminate time of our lives our most immediate concerns were rumored to be weight and money. Weight was one thing. All refugees leaving the Soviet Union were allowed a certain weight they could take with them. Basically, a couple suitcases each and a box filled with knickknacks. There was fear within the authorities of what was being dragged away — I suppose, of the newly non-Soviets evacuating with them some mass and weight deemed essential to Soviet continuity. There was a list of things one could not take with; gold, hand guns, medals, citizenship, any cash above $300, etc… Regardless, people still managed to smuggle out all sorts of charms, lining their coats and undergarments, bribing every fat guard along the way, devising inventive ways to trick the bag and body searches. I’ve heard stories of men transporting Russian mole-rats by the dozen; of a large Caucasus family who smuggled out a whole car, piece by piece, later reassembling it in Italy only to find out that they could neither get it to run again nor did it contain any vintage value but irony. We took my grandfather’s Kodak because (logical thought) it had been assembled, bought and smuggled in from abroad, and the family samovar because my mother always whimsically compromised between nostalgia and practicality. Otherwise, my mother elected to be light for the travel — weightless. Money was a whole other thing, though not entirely disconnected from the weight we carried.

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All refugees leaving Russia were concerned with money. We didn’t know what to expect. Rumors rained down like a Chernobyl rain — terrifying but not yet verifiable in its makeup. “Europe is lined with thieves.” “There is a KGB informant in every train car.” “You can get rich selling condoms in Italy.” They were padded with more easily verifiable, if not resolvable, questions. How do you survive, feed yourself and family? How long will you be in transit? How much money do you need for the trip? Where are you going? How cold will it be? Everyone sold everything that could be sold. Those who had nothing to sell, stole. The great haul for our adventure was the apartment, which was quite the source of contention. My mother often remembers stories from Russia by saying things like, “You know, the neighbors on the fourteenth floor… the ones who babysat you, the ones with the little boy, Vassily, who’s a popular musician now…?” “What fourteenth floor?” I ask. “I remember the one that was a tram ride from that fancy restaurant that served vanilla ice cream in those little metal bowls. The ten story one. That’s all.” “Oh…” she realizes, and retreats to memories I cannot share. I only remember our second apartment — us having relocated to the two bedroom when I was five. She realizes that that second apartment, to me, was my first, the only Moscow apartment I’d known — that our experienced memory is actually divided. We are Jewish. She is irreconcilably overbearing, theatrical, witty and bright, an indescribable force of nature when terrified for my safety who orders lemon and a straw with her water as I cringe at her entitlement with service. I was a rambunctious handful from the start, a rapscallion in advanced training. I was trying to find my father in great heights and burned myself over and over against the limits of things. There is a diagnosis for us in every attachment theory handbook and each Woody Allen film. So, yes, she needs help admitting that our memories differ, that there may not be such a thing as a psychic umbilical cord. Or if there is, it does not transfer everything. Anyway, we needed to sell that second apartment. The first and only one in my mind. My grandmother really wanted it. She had been living in a cold, leaky basement dwelling for years. Somehow the publication of twelve books did not lead to tangible securities. My grandmother could not offer much money for it. In fact, she pretty much admitted that it should have been her consolation prize for losing her family (that’s my mom and me, for anyone counting). “I deserve something from you! For my suffering,” she said. There were numerous fights in our kitchen, leading up to the sale. My mother would be cooking something; creme de anglaise or our famous family apple pie. My grandmother would sit at the kitchen table insinuating something about how my mother always uses too much sugar, and then it would all rise into a fight. Someone cried. Someone felt betrayed. Both them someones’ felt abandoned but from quite differing points of departure. My grandmother would storm out with a pair of my mother’s leather boots instead. When my mother finally crawled out from under that repository of guilt, she sold the apartment to Sasha, her short-term ex-husband, the method actor with nine fingers. They had married years earlier, merely so the actor could receive permission to stay in Moscow, where the film scene was. These papers were hard to

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come by. My mother agreed out of kindness, out of a sense of adventure, an anecdote-hungry whimsy, out of some guttural power play to make my father, the Nebulous One, take notice and possibly appear again. I only found out about the marriage when I came home from summer camp to discover wooden crates filled with fruit on our balcony. “Where did the fruit come from?” I asked. “Oh, from Sasha,” my mom answered. “Okay,” I said, and waited for my father to return again. Why the fruit? How did I know? I have no idea. It must be a tradition or something. I just remember seeing the fruit baskets and then knowing my mother had gotten hitched. Hm, maybe we were more prepared for the adventure to come than I admit… They separated soon after. I remember his toothbrush drying on the sink, and the night he came back for it. In the interim, since Russian lodgings came with separate bathroom and shower rooms, he taught me how to pee in the bathtub if the woman of the house is occupying the toilet. “Just make sure to run water after so there’s no trace.” “Warm or cold?” “Eh, just run the water.” Also, my father came back sometime around then. I don’t remember that, because he left for another secret adventure soon too and thus became the Nebulous One once again. I just know that in our mythology it happened. Well, so the method actor bought the apartment. My grandmother was furious. I was indifferent, plotting my new identity. My mother was hiding our money. With the money she bought: a parka for each of us; a shiny red tracksuit for me; a stylish green raincoat for herself; two expensive, embroidered tablecloths to sell abroad; about a dozen Russian dolls; a few pieces of jewelry; five or six dozen condoms, also to sell abroad; and a Russian tea cup painted with fruit. She packed it all tightly and carefully in the center of her suitcase, pressed firmly against her life’s collection of little alabaster elephants. The rest of the money she exchanged into Austrian shillings and Italian lira, whatever there was that I hadn't stolen of course. I too had been planning for abroad. We traveled with all of that, and the family samovar — a samovar that by all accounts didn’t even work. It never made tea, at least not in my lifetime, though my mother remembers having had tea from it before I was even an idea. It had been passed down a few generations until it ended up abandoned at our dacha. It stood there, season after season, until my mother and me began arriving in the summers. We would board the train amid the deafening bustle of the city at Mayakovskaya station, and take the three hour ride away from the world. My mother would buy candy and pierogies from the vendors who passed through the compartments, and she would buy seeds for the garden, and flowers, always flowers. She would tell me that my great-grandmother had done this with her when she was little like me and they went to the dacha together, that the old woman would say to her granddaughter “the summer is a time to watch things grow” through a cloud of smoke escaping her cigarette. “The summer is a time to watch things grow,” my mother said to me, smiling some secret knowledge. “Which things?” I asked. “Things, like you!” she said and handed me my half of the pierog. The train would stop at a small wooden platform in a quiet place where a thin dirt path led into our summer. Every turn was familiar to me, as it still is now, and draped in an other world mystery. At the wooden gate to the house I would climb a forked tree to jump the fence and fetch the gate key from its hiding spot under the kitchen balcony. My mother would scream, “Nikita, please be careful!” I would then unlock the gate for her, feeling like a conqueror. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 96


She would open the shudders and free all the windows. The breeze lifted dust from the dormant surfaces. The sun caught the dust and shredded the rooms in thick, yellow rays, as if an artist had returned from their respite to add to their great work. I would go searching for my secret spots where I had buried things, proofs of my existence the previous summer, the decay and dirt on my treasures confirming some undeniable effect of aging, and she would place the fresh flowers into the samovar as maybe her grandmother had once done with her after the heirloom had ceased making tea. That’s how we knew the summer had begun, quietly and together in the magic house, with the strokes of light and the flowers. The flowers would slowly give up their quintessence, spreading their aroma through the rooms, week after week, after month — blooming, drying, dying. It’s how we told time. And by the end of the summer they were gone and we knew it was time to return to the other seasons, to those of the city. But at the end of our last summer my mother scooped up the time keeping samovar and brought it along. So we traveled with it, along with everything else impacted by weight, time, or money. That’s why my mom slept with a tea cup clenched in her hand. She laughs when she reveals this, the surprise at her own unknowing, the image I reflect of her and the teacup, “That must have been why…,” she says. “…But wait, you still haven’t told me. Were you afraid it would break in the luggage?” I ask. “Probably…” she hesitates, starts giggling again. She too isn’t sure why we did this thing, and she can’t contain such awareness in any vehicle smaller than laughter. At her best she allows the laughter to fill in the missing details for her. I allow it to remake the story into a more necessary illusion. “What happened to the cup, ma?” I ask, playfully teasing her now. “I don’t know.” She is laughing again. Even on the phone I can clearly see her doubled over in her giggles. Laughing so hard I can hear her choking on her spit. She even snorts a little, she finds the whole tea cup image so odd, so accurate. I buckle in for details, plug an ear cord into my phone and light a cigarette. It is 2015. She is in Florida, anxiously waiting for something. There are no seasons there to guide her. Her landlord of the last fifteen years has again informed her that she will need to find a new home, but she can no longer remember how to navigate such decisions. Even on the opposite end of the country I can feel her unease building, reaching out for me through the cord. I am far away from her because I am the one in charge of distances now. Our worlds are still drawn by the effects of taller shadows and we are still trying to resolve them without naming their source. Beneath each of our conversations we are quietly debating a void and its haunting impressions upon us. A stranger with an excited pit bull bums a smoke from me and tells me of his plight and that his life is collected in a Winnebago. I am outside of a library, in Seattle, where the collective summer mania is drawing to a close and the locals are organizing their possessions for the dark, rainy months to come. There are old SUV’s parked on the street. A Pathfinder and a Suburban, late nineties models, and the Winnebago. They are currently vacant but books and toilet paper rolls are piled up on the dash. The back seats are folded and spread with bedrolls, clothing and plastic bags strewed about the remaining open

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spaces. There is sadness here, a slow and beautiful evanescence — souls lost, rudderless but curious — I can see that too. The stranger walks away with a weightlessness that I am sometimes almost jealous of. She sighs in the pause and giggles on the other end of the line. “Let me get this straight,” I say into the phone, guiding her to her one great relief — remembering together — “you literally had a root carved out from your jaw three days before we left everything and everyone, and then you traveled across the Soviet Union, on a train, holding a tea cup for no discernible reason?” “Yes…,” is all she can muster through her fit. She can barely talk, so amused by the randomness of what she was doing. “I don’t know why… I was just…” laughing, “…just holding that cup in my hand the whole time.” I could tell you she used it for a saline solution to calm her inflamed roots. I could tell you, poetically, that there was some umbilical link between the tea cup and the samovar. I could tell you there was no tea cup because neither she nor I know what happened to it. But none of that is true. There is no purpose to the tea c-p except that she can’t stop laughing when she recollects it, except that its unknown purpose is the source of her bewildered amusement. After all these years, it is holy.

Nikita Nelin is the offspring of a cosmonaut and a therapist, and though he did study psychology, he has never tried to escape the earth, except through his writing. Nikita was born in Russia and immigrated to the U.S in 1989. He has lived in Austria and Italy, and has traveled the U.S extensively. His work often takes on a borderless perspective, exploring contemporary culture from the fringe through his journalism, and the nature of lineage and likeness between difference through his fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. He has received the Sean O’Faolain Prize for short fiction, the Summer Literary Seminars Prize for nonfiction, and the Dogwood Nonfiction Prize. He memoir, The Fifth Season, was chosen as a finalist for the 2017 Restless Books Immigrant Prize as well as the 2018 Dzanc Nonfiction Prize. He holds an MFA from Brooklyn College and is a 2019 associate fellow at the Hannah Arendt Center. If you wish to support his work you can find him at Nikitanelin.com and through Patreon.

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Essays/Book Reviews James H Duncan Everyone Has a Story to Tell I once worked for an art magazine in an office near Times Square around 2011, and one of my after-work drinking spots was a great little dive bar called Jimmy’s Corner, owned and operated by a former boxing promoter named— yes, you guessed it—Jimmy. It would have been an even better bar if it had been further away from Times Square and the parade of tourists who sometimes stream through to get a taste of what remains of the grittier side of NYC. But on a random Tuesday afternoon you could still get a seat at the long, narrow bar or crowded back room and stick some dollars into what I believe is the best jukebox around—full of old Motown, blues, and jazz numbers. So on this random Tuesday after work I was there putting away a cheap beer and a group of construction workers in bright yellow safety vests piled in nearby and ordered a round of drinks. One of them saw me reading a book and we struck up a conversation, as he also read sometimes on his breaks. He said his workmates would joke about it depending on the book, the usual tough-guy camaraderie I remember from working on handyman crews or in restaurant kitchens back in college, taking any and every shot you could at one another about any perceived quirk. When he found out I was also a writer, he asked me a very typical question most writers get—where do you get your ideas? He said he always wanted to write but he didn’t think he had any stories to tell. He didn’t think there was anything interesting about his life, and he felt he wasn’t creative enough to think up a story that hadn’t already been told a hundred times better. So I said what I tell everyone, something I still believe to this day: everybody has a story to tell, whether they realize it or not. This got a strong rebuke from one of his coworkers, who said he thought the idea was total horseshit. “People think they’re interesting but most are boring as hell,” he said. “Nobody gives a shit about all this day-to-day crap people do. The only people who think that’s interesting are snobby-ass college types who think hard work is some exotic thing they’ll never have to do themselves. What shit!” That, to the best of my memory, is what he said, and it’s what he stuck by no matter what I tried to tell him. To a degree, he had a point. There has always been a lot of boring writing out there, by the educated and otherwise alike. But that doesn’t mean every story someone tries to tell is worthless or dull. And if you’re a writer, if you’re a painter, if you create in any way shape or form, your number one job is to mine yourself for that story. You need to buy into that possibility right out of the gate, that you can find art anywhere, especially within your own experiences. Stories abound in every city, on every farm road, within every home, and hide inside every boring-ass, commonplace, humdrum life. Everyone has something inside worth telling. It might not be happening to you right now, and it might not be interesting to every person you meet, but you have a story to tell, and if you’re a writer, you need to tell it. And you’re damn right to think this applies to those in heavy construction too. Case in point: one of the best writers I know is Bud Smith, author of F-250, Everything Neon, Double Bird, and pointedly relative to this essay, Work, which is a memoir about his life working heavy

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construction and odd jobs juxtaposed against his childhood and his creative endeavors as a writer during his off-hours and coffee breaks. Bud can be a very eloquent and insightful writer, but there are times when he’s almost intentionally simple and stripped down. There’s no need to pretty up a tale like this. The mistakes and pratfalls and pain and humor all comes out on its own within this blue-collar, commonplace tale that takes place in Jersey, the land of Springsteen and tough dreams. Yet there magic in that place. You can see it even for all the dirt and scars and grime. That’s why a book like that exists, because there’s a story worth telling in the weaving wordplay of academia as well as in the rough-and-tumble humanity of poverty and toil. And he did it by writing a few minutes here, a few there, almost entirely on his phone during lunch and coffee breaks, moments after work, at appointments, what have you. A whole damn memoir, just like that. A story told through fragments, pieces that grow into pages and chapters, bit by bit, pulling the past into the future to tell a story. In a way, anyone can do this, taking the few minutes here and there and examining your story in piecemeal. Sure, talent and a knowledge of craft helps in the delivery, but if you sat down today and began writing every strange story, accident, idiocy, hilarity, heartache, and moment of success between the ages of say, 10 and 25, I bet there’d be a story in there. You’d start to see a pattern eventually. You’d see how one event connects to another, how you overcame X to stumble across Y and that’s how you learned Z about yourself or someone else. It won’t happen right away, you won’t see the whole story immediately, but if you jot down a page about this, a page about that, flesh it out a few minutes here and there, it can happen. The story will reveal itself. Will it thrill everyone? No. But it might spin just enough of that magic that comes out of hard work and the strange ether of the writer’s mind to warrant the effort you took to bring it into the world. And anyone can do this. You can start from nothing at all, maybe about going to school, maybe about playing in your neighborhood, maybe music you remember as a kid. Or it could be a life-changing event, a story spawned by watching a divorce rip apart a family, a disease bringing you down, or maybe falling in love with your high school sweetheart. I’m actually giving this a shot right now, culling a story from my life that doesn’t span my entire existence but a handful of years. I’m not saying this is a story everyone needs to or wants to hear, but sometimes there’s a story you need to write for yourself, about yourself, to better understand where you come from and what it means. I realized there may be something there in the six years since I found out I had cancer, something more than just the cancer. That’s not the story. The story is hiding behind it somewhere. I wrote about it in poems but nothing long form, nothing so in-depth. So I’m working on sifting through those days and months, finding the funny moments, the confusing ones, the scary ones, the lonely ones, the boring ones, the accomplished ones. Maybe it adds up to something, maybe it doesn’t, but I’m doing it for me. If I feel like it comes around and says something worthwhile, I’ll share it. I think we all have stories inside worth telling, but there’s only one way to find out for sure—to put in the work first. Take the time, use those lunch breaks, turn over every stone we find. There’s at least one in each of us, one story. I believe it, and I believe you in you too. James H. Duncan is the editor of Hobo Camp Review, co-host of the Troy Poetry Mission, and author of such books as We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine, Dead City Jazz, and What Lies In Wait, among others. He currently resides in upstate New York and reviews indie bookshops at his blog, The Bookshop Hunter. For more, visit www.jameshduncan.com. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 101


MJ Kobernus Was Robert Heinlein a Misogynist? In this article, I take a long hard look at the Grand Master of Science Fiction, and come up with some surprising conclusions. Once upon a time, I came across a wide-ranging discussion on the work of R.A. Heinlein. This was on Goodreads, a platform for sharing book reviews, and discussing authors and such. As Heinlein is one of my favorite authors, I took a keen interest in the conversation, the general consensus of which resulted in him being roundly condemned for chauvinism, if not outright misogyny. As a fan, this saddened me, since I rate him as a fine writer. I felt that many of those speaking out had failed to understand a fundamental point about Heinlein; that he was not stating his own desires or interests, but was using one or more themes as a vehicle to provoke the reader into questioning society’s arbitrary standards, social mores and rules. That is the Heinlein I know and love and it is what makes him relevant, even today. But was he a misogynist? Perhaps the best way to address that question is to examine his broader work rather than just one or two characters from a single novel, which was what most people seemed to be doing in the above-mentioned conversation. When you consider the historical perspective of his oeuvre, I would have to say that there are few male writers who did more for women in Sci-Fi. That is not to say that any criticism of his characterization of women is unwarranted, but generalizing to the point where he is labelled in the most negative terms, based on only one or two books in a career that spanned five decades, seems a bit harsh. I began reading his books in my teens and at that time, I was not aware of any particular agenda on Heinlein’s part. However, in retrospect, I can see that he consistently attempted to subvert prejudice in many of his novels. This is most clearly seen in his treatment of women (we’ll get to that later) but he tackled a good many subjects that required sleight of hand to ensure their publication in the conservative, separate but equal America of the 1950s. Unusually for the literature from that period, and especially for Science Fiction, there is a broad diversity of minorities represented in Heinlein’s books. In Tunnel in the Sky (1955), the book’s hero is Rod Walker, a young, black student. Heinlein was subtle in his description of Rod. I suspect this was due to two reasons. First, at that time the buying public would not be interested in reading about a ‘black boy,’ but also, and I think that this was Heinlein at his Machiavellian best, readers that identified with Rod would get a wakeup call when it became obvious that he was black. Pulling the rug out from under his reader’s metaphoric feet was a trick that Heinlein employed in order to get the reader to think, to question and maybe even to evolve. This was a method that he employed again in one of his best-known novels, the 1959 epic, Starship Troopers, where the main character was Asian. Yes, Johnny Rico was from the Philippines and spoke Tagalog. Don’t believe me? Read the book. Okay, so he wrote about minorities. What about the criticism that Heinlein failed to create roles for women that allowed them to be as creative, intelligent, resourceful, and tough as men? This complaint came as something of a surprise to me. Even more surprising was that these views were often arrived at from reading only one, or perhaps two of his novels. And at the top of the list of Heinlein books that Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 102


caused offence? Why, it is none other than Stranger in a Strange Land from 1961. It does not require a very close reading of Stranger to discover what the fuss is all about. There are, no question, some extremely patriarchal attitudes on display there. One infamous line stands out, spoken by a female character: “9 times out of 10 when a woman gets raped it’s partly her own fault.” This serves to encapsulate not just the misogyny of the time in which the novel was written, but if you would believe his accusers, that of Heinlein himself. Personally, I am not sure that the writer must necessarily have the same point of view as any of his/her protagonists. After all, there are any number of books with characters who hold pernicious attitudes, or do bad things. Are we to take it that these are the genuine desires of the writer? Hardly. I recognize that the Feminist movement began to gain serious traction not long after Stranger in a Strange Land was published, but at that time, no-one objected to the book for its patriarchal attitudes. Rather, they responded, quite spectacularly, to the ideas of free love and self-determination that were expressed in the novel. In fact, Stranger was viewed as a radical opposition to the patriarchal attitudes of the day and was later embraced by the Hippy movement who saw it as encapsulating many of their ideals, including that of Free Love and of course, Equality between the sexes. As one reads the novel, you might become uncomfortable with the obvious sexism displayed by some of the male characters. However, this is undermined by Valentine Michael Smith, the Martian, who ultimately shows a better way and teaches that sex is about sharing and growing closer, learning to ‘grok,’ rather than dominance and possession. In my opinion, the sexism existed merely as a vehicle to allow Heinlein to demonstrate an alternative path. In other words, he demonstrated a diametric opposition to chauvinistic attitude through specific events and certain characters, namely Michael Valentine Smith. As a writer, Heinlein was a visionary. But he lived during a period of social change, so his work might reasonably be expected to reflect that. After all, much of what he did was social commentary, so for him to not comment on gender politics would be unexpected. And he does not disappoint. His female characters are driven, career oriented, highly educated and entirely capable of living life on their own terms. The fact that they choose to do so in the company of men may well be what irks some modern readers of his writing. Recently, I came across an interesting article about Heinlein, where Gary Westfahl suggested that in his later life, Heinlein was actually satirizing the genre in which he was the undisputed master. Westfahl argues that Heinlein became more and more satirical, to the point where the titles of his books even contained obvious clues to his intention. The 1984 novel Job: A Comedy of Justice was followed by The Cat Who Walks Through Walls: A Comedy of Manners (1985); and his last novel, To Sail Beyond the Sunset: Being the Memoirs of a Slightly Irregular Lady (1987). If Heinlein was subverting the very genre he had helped create, then it would be expected that he would do his level best to ensure that the apple cart, if not turned over, would at least be given a good, solid nudge. This might explain some of the extreme attitudes displayed in his later work. For example, when a female character is subordinate to a male character, even deferring to him when he is clearly wrong, the automatic assumption is that the man is a chauvinist, and the woman is guilty of failing to exert her God given right to equality. While the former may be true, it is the latter point that is interesting. In my opinion, this is Heinlein at his best, as he peels away the hypocrisy rampant in Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 103


the society he knew. Far from being the case that the woman ‘agreed’ because the hairy chested ape was her protector, it is rather because she was concerned with protecting her man, in particular, his fragile ego. Heinlein delighted in demonstrating that the ‘weaker’ sex was often more pragmatic, capable and driven than their counterpart. In the pulp era of the 30s-40s, women in Sci-Fi were not much more than decorative ingénues whose main task was to look pretty, admire the hero and scream when the alien/body/fungus/slime, etc., appeared. But Heinlein’s novels contain female characters that not only challenge their male counterparts, but are capable, intelligent, brave and resourceful to the point that that the man is almost superfluous. I say ‘almost,’ and it is here that some people may have an issue, since Heinlein was clear on one point, and that was that men had a role for which they were uniquely equipped. One might take the view that Heinlein himself was a product of his times, yet his writing reflects very modern depictions of women. As early as 1951, in The Puppet Masters, Mary is described by the main character, Sam, in glowing terms. However, when he greets her: “She stuck out a hand. It was firm and seemed as strong as mine.” Heinlein presents Mary as a beautiful woman, but she is more than that. A capable agent, she is instrumental in defeating an alien menace, and ultimately travels to Titan as part of the team sent to destroy the threat of alien invasion. Yet as strong as her character is, there is no shortage of patriarchal and blatantly sexist attitudes. But are they Heinlein’s, or his characters’ who, let’s face it, represent 1950s American men? I believe Heinlein was deliberately demonstrating extremes of attitude in order to reveal hypocrisy. In fact, I contend that he was allowing these characters free reign to present their biases in order to act as a foil for the female characters who would ultimately undermine them. In the same year as he wrote The Puppet Masters, Heinlein published a collection that contained a piece that represented one of the first attempts to write a truly feminist Science Fiction story: Delilah and the Space Rigger. In this tale, a woman, Gloria, goes to work on the construction of a space station. Naturally, there are conflicts, and as the only woman, she is subjected to considerable pressure, not least of which is to quit and go home where she belongs. However, she perseveres, and proves herself to be at least equal to the men she works with, finally leading to her acceptance amongst the rough and ready crew in a male dominated industry. This story, relatively early in Heinlein’s career, is often overlooked and yet reveals a writer who considered gender politics to be important and frequently wrote about it in a positive, if occasionally provocative manner. Fine, I hear you saying. So he wrote about women. But did he write well? What of the accusation that Heinlein only created two-dimensional female characters? In this article, Rah, Rah, R.A.H! Robinson declared that, “Examination shows that Heinlein’s female characters are almost invariably highly intelligent, educated, competent, practical, resourceful, courageous, independent, sexually aggressive and sufficiently personally secure to be able to stroke their men’s egos as often as their own get stroked.” What he is saying, I think, is that Heinlein’s women often do not need men, but simply like them. They want to have men around. In his future world where the gender playing field is even, Heinlein believes that men and women would find common ground. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 104


Modern readers may not be satisfied by his portrayal of women, yet in the context of his own loci in time and space he was challenging societal mores by creating women who were as smart, tough and lusty as the men he wrote about. Many of his female characters are strong women. To say otherwise would be a disservice to womankind. This is nowhere better seen than in the 1963 novel, Podkayne of Mars. In the story, the eponymous heroine dies to protect an alien baby, in an act that the original publisher felt was far too brutal and insisted on changing. Later editions have Heinlein’s original ending. I may be wrong on this point, but I do not think a Sci-Fi novel featured a female main protagonist before Podkayne. Or how about ‘Peewee’ from the 1958 novel, Have Spacesuit, Will Travel? Peewee is an adolescent girl, but proves herself to be more capable and intelligent than her older companion, the teenaged Clifford. He wants to protect her, but quickly find that it is she that saves him. Some might say that Heinlein’s best defense is no defense at all. To paraphrase Popeye, ‘he is what he is.’ Personally, I think he is both a product of his time and a visionary. Heinlein grew up in a world vastly different than our own, where institutionalized prejudice and racism was normal, and even considered moral. But in a body of work comprising more than 30 novels, and numerous short stories, he demonstrated again and again that there were other paths to follow. His writing changed and matured over the years, and whether or not he really did satirize his genre, he consistently shone a light on prejudice throughout his career. If he failed to portray women convincingly, it was not for lack of trying. Misogynist? I don’t think so!

MJ Kobernus is an Anglo/American writer, publisher and editor. He has hundreds of articles in print, as well as a dozen short stories and four novels in a variety of genres. You can find out more about him at www.driven2write.com. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 105


Father Byron Tindall Father Tindall Sermon Year C 7 Epiphany Oh my. Jesus is at it again. He is telling his followers to ignore how most everyone else acts in their relationships to and with others. This “Law of Love,” as it has been called, is very similar to the discourse of Jesus found in Matthew 5: 39-47. One major difference is that the Golden Rule appears in Matthew’s seventh chapter in the middle of one of Jesus’ other exhortations or sermons, if you will. It is interesting to note that the Golden Rule appears in some form or another in almost most every major religion in the world. For example, in Judaism, there is a legend concerning the Jewish Rabbi Hillel, who lived to approximately 10 AD. A non-Jew offered to convert to the Jewish faith if the rabbi could teach the proselyte the law while standing on one leg. Hillel is reported to have replied, “What you do not like, do not to your neighbor. That is the entire law, and all the rest is commentary.” Here are some of the others. Bahá'í Faith - Lay not on any soul a load that you would not wish to be laid upon you, and desire not for anyone the things you would not desire for yourself. Buddhism - Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. Confucianism - One word which sums up the basis of all good conduct....loving-kindness. Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself. Hinduism - This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you. Islam - Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself. Jainism - One should treat all creatures in the world as one would like to be treated Native Spirituality - We are as much alive as we keep the earth alive. Sikhism - I am a stranger to no one; and no one is a stranger to me. Indeed, I am a friend to all. Taoism - Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain and your neighbor's loss as your own loss. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 106


Unitarianism - We affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. Zoroastrianism - Do not do unto others whatever is injurious to yourself. All of these statements convey the same truth to me. None of us, no, not one, inhabits this earth in a vacuum. The entire creation is interwoven with and dependent on the rest of creation. The truth of the matter is that what one part of the creation does, has an effect, albeit very minute most of the time, on the rest of God’s creation. That can be very hard to get one’s head around most of the time. This is one of the many instances when it is far easier to worship the messenger than to listen to what he has to say. After all, as St. John tells us in the first chapter of his gospel, the entire creation came into being through Christ. “He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him and without him not one thing came into being.” It can’t get much plainer than that. If this is true, and I know it is, then the Christ certainly deserves our worship as well as our praise. But does our worship and praise of him relieve us from the responsibility of hearing and then following his directions on how we are to deal with the rest of his creation? I think not. As has been said many times before, Jesus did not come into the world to start a new religion. He saw as his mission the need, among other things, to change the way people dealt with one another. As a Jew, Jesus, in all probability, knew Micah 6:8. “He has told you, O mortal, what is good and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” That’s quite simple on the surface. Be just in all your dealings with others. Love kindness. Walk in humility with God. Jesus never said to be just only with your fellow Jews. He didn’t limit kindness to the Israelites. Think of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Remember in giving a summary of the Law, “Jesus said, ‘The first commandment is this: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is the only Lord. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”’ Jesus’ admonitions are just as viable for us today as they were for those who were fortunate enough to hear Jesus in person. Jesus didn’t call for any exceptions to the Law of Love in his time, and neither are exceptions allowable today, whether we like it or not. We have to worship Christ for who he is and what he’s done and what he’s doing. But our allegiance to Christ doesn’t stop with worship. We are called to follow him and emulate his life Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 107


of love for the entire creation, not just those parts of the creation, including all human beings, we pick and choose to love. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan friar based in Albuquerque, N.M., opened his Daily Meditation email from the Center for Action and Contemplation earlier this month with these words: “We need to look at Jesus until we can see the world with his eyes. In Jesus Christ, God’s own broad, deep, and all-inclusive worldview is made available to us. “Too often, we have substituted the messenger for the message. As a result, we spent a great deal of time worshiping the messenger and trying to get other people to do the same. Too often this obsession became a pious substitute for actually following what Jesus taught—he did ask us numerous times to follow him (for example, Matthew 4:19; Mark 10:21; John 1:43), and never once (did he ask us) to worship him....” St. Francis of Assisi is reported to have said something similar to this to his followers: “Go forth and preach the gospel wherever you go. Use words only if it becomes absolutely necessary.” Not bad advice for followers of Christ in the 21st Century.

Byron Tindall and his wife, Anne, moved to the Cherokee County, Ga., area in December 2007 in order to be closer to members of their families. Following retirement from the newspaper and printing industry, Byron continued serving as Vicar at Christ Episcopal Church in Denmark, S.C., for several more years. When he retired, he had served in the Diocese of South Carolina for 25 years. Before moving to South Carolina, Byron served four small mission churches in the Diocese of Central New York. He continues to preach and celebrate the Holy Eucharist on a regular basis here at Holy Family. He also assists in the areas of pastoral care and outreach as well as serving as mentor for the Education for Ministry program. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 108


H. Holt Society and Thoreau’s “Walking” | Literary Analysis Opposed to the social subjugation present in everyday life, Henry David Thoreau advocates mankind’s need for connection with nature in his piece “Walking.” Even as a child, Thoreau was immersed in nature, and came by it naturally. His parents, Cynthia and John, were “renowned for taking long walks together” (Walls 44); and his mother was noted for taking “them [Thoreau and his siblings] outside [to] listen to the birds” (44). As Thoreau grew into a man, his connection with nature was deepened by a two year period (1845-47) on Walden Pond, where he was cut off from society. He was deeply moved by the closeness of nature as to write: “‘What sweet and tender, the most innocent and divinely encouraging society there is in every natural object. I was so distinctly made aware of the presence of my kindred, even in scenes which we are accustomed to call wild’” (Walls 201). His adoration for this “divine society” is why he came to oppose the society built by mankind, and serves as the prevailing theme of his work. Although Thoreau would write and re-write “Walking, or The Wild” until his death (much like Whitman did with “Song of Myself”), he first delivered the lecture on April 23, 1851—the same month that fugitive slave Thomas Sims was returned to bondage in Georgia, after four-hundred armed Boston police officers marched him down “State Street to a waiting ship bound for Savannah” (Walls 316) with the instruction to kill anyone who intervened. Thoreau (and close friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, both writing and living in Massachusetts) strongly opposed slavery, the most heinous form of social subjugation. As the preface of Henry David Thoreau: A Life relates, “Thoreau could look to ‘Nature’ as an eternal fountain of renewal and regeneration, a sacred force capable of healing even the deepest acts of human destruction, including slavery, war, and environmental devastation" (Walls xviii). One of the writings that supported this was “Walking,” a lesson supporting what he and Emerson considered higher law—“a supreme moral law nullifying any civil statutes that contradict it” (Walls 317). Higher law, in consideration of how they viewed it, “was a land where freedom was not a state of exception, where freedom was a home in which one could dwell” (Walls 318). Thoreau (and Emerson alike) found this by strongly supporting man’s need for connection with nature. Considering that Thoreau initially delivered this work as a lecture, the tone is educational yet emphatic, to address his enthusiasm for the topic; and is told in the first-person perspective, to recount his experiences and understanding of nature. By the time he wrote this lecture, Thoreau was already a seasoned, self-proclaimed naturalist. While he wrote his piece during a time in our history rife with slavery, he also noted other variations of social subjugation; specifically, holistically. As “Walking” starts, he calls on us to “regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society” (Thoreau). In April of 1844, he built a campfire in preparation for cooking fish for himself and a friend; however, this fire caught a “warm, dry southwest wind” (Walls 171) that would eventually burn one-hundred-odd acres and cost $2,000. From this costly mistake, Thoreau would come learn a valuable “truth few others fully understand: human beings are not separate from nature but fully involved in natural cycles, agents who trigger change and are vulnerable to the changes they trigger” (Walls 173). In this introductory passage from “Walking,” Thoreau wasn’t saying that people weren’t fully involved in social cycles, as people can cause changes and be susceptible to these triggers within manmade society. Much like Faulkner and Coleridge writing about the demand for respect the natural world deserves, Thoreau makes nature his central plot, serves as its champion—and strives to open people’s eyes to see the “divine society” he discovered separate from the one marked by social control.

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As Thoreau’s work continues, we see different forms of social subjugation; of course, one of the strongest examples then and today is employment. He believed that the mechanics and shopkeepers who “stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all the afternoon too” were deserving of “some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago” (Thoreau). What does this say about Thoreau’s character? In an article from 2017 by Michael Schrimper from the Concord Saunterer, he relates how he teaches Thoreau at Boston’s Emerson College. In his endeavor to teach “Walking,” one student denounces Thoreau as “snobby” for the selfsame passage quoted at this paragraph’s start. Meanwhile, the central input Schrimper receives is: “To walk that long, my students said, is a privilege, one in which most people harried by jobs and other commitments cannot afford to partake” (Schrimper). As the article continues, he encourages his students to look into what Thoreau is getting at, and they come up with Thoreau’s strives to “uncover the new.” Despite the practical appeal for this calling, nature is not central to Schrimper’s article. These “other commitments” can be believed to be part of the social machine, the mechanisms by which we are subjugated; and Thoreau’s “snobbery” is shortsighted. As a point supporting this statement, I turn to Yoshifumi Miyazaki, Ph.D. at Chiba University in Japan, who serves as an advocate for the benefits of shinrin-yoku (Japanese for “forest bathing”). He believes that our connection to nature is linked to our evolution, as “‘we’ve spent 99.9 percent of our time in nature. Our physiology is still adapted to it. During everyday life, a feeling of comfort can be achieved if our rhythms are synchronized with those of the environment’” (Williams 22). Despite what conclusions he (and other Japanese researchers) have come up with regarding nature, however, “American [researchers] seem preoccupied with our pull away from it, our distractions, inertia and addictions” (Williams 30). What could be lumped into these categories, particularly distractions? These “other commitments” that Schrimper’s students mentioned could be considered distractions, those in which they felt socially obligated to fulfill, and thereby feel compelled to label Thoreau as a “snob” for having the time to walk for hours on end. While some (perhaps most) of these commitments might not even have been applicable during Thoreau’s time, he was still faced with his own societal pressures; and instead of conforming to them, he moved deep into the wild, built a cabin, lived simply, and walked, as was his character. In reading “Walking,” the Massachusetts mid-nineteenth century setting also builds on the role of subjugation in society and the call for nature. For example, Thoreau mentions a village that his townsfolk are confined to, be it those “confined […] to the highway” (Thoreau) after an impromptu visit to the woods; or womankind “confined to the house” (Thoreau). The extensive walking that Thoreau does is done in fields and woods, away from the village and confinement as prompted by his local community. He communicates how the walking he does isn’t for exercise, but for the spirit, so “[t]here will be so much the more air and sunshine in our thoughts” (Thoreau). As another note on confinement, Thoreau is potently against so-called “man’s improvements” to the natural landscape. He believes “the building of houses and the cutting down of the forest and all large trees […] deform the landscape […] [and makes it] more and more tame and cheap” (Thoreau). The setting, therefore, consists of a landscape that is transforming to suit the needs of society—not his “divine society,” but the one which is manmade. As a more positive note on “divine society” in Thoreau’s work, there is also a poem contained within the pages called “The Old Marlborough Road” that strives for a link with nature. The poem is essentially about a road that leads to nowhere, as it is an old road that once led to Marlborough but no longer does. Within the poem are the lines, “What is it, what is it/But a direction out there,/And the bare possibility/Of going somewhere” (Thoreau). Thoreau believed walking nowhere could place us on the spiritual path to somewhere. He enhances this understanding by relating “that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright” (Thoreau). In fact, walking in nature has been

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known to have health benefits. The benefits of forest walking that Miyazaki and colleague Juyoung Lee in 2014 recorded are: “12 percent decrease in cortisol levels” (Williams 23) … “7 percent decrease in sympathetic nerve activity, a 1.4 percent decrease in blood pressure, and a 6 percent decrease in heart rate” (23). Miyazaki and Lee proved that what Thoreau was encouraging mankind to do then is still correct today: unplug from society and connect to nature, so our internal systems can right themselves. Beyond the measures of social subjugation mentioned above, Thoreau was a patriot much like Whitman, and fancied America’s pull towards the west, “into the future, with a spirit of enterprise and adventure” (Thoreau). Because the nature around him was vast and glorious, he linked what he saw to how he believed America could be. He also noted from this link that, “The founders of every state which has risen to eminence have drawn their nourishment and vigor from a similar wild source.” In other words, without Thoreau’s “divine society,” the social society as we know it would be impossible. Consider, historically, the dawn of man: we began as nomadic hunter-gatherer communities. How did we survive? Nature gave us vegetation to eat, food game to hunt, and shelter from bad weather and wild animals. How do we continue to survive? Nature continues to give. Everything we consume, wear, drive, and even the money we spend comes from nature. Nature is, as Thoreau relates, mankind’s “vast, savage, hovering mother” and yet we find ourselves “so early weaned from her breast to society”—and unaware of what she has done and continues to do for us. In conclusion, regardless of the beauty Thoreau found in nature, he realized during his time that, “[w]hile almost all men feel an attraction drawing them to society, few are attracted strongly to Nature” (Thoreau). Thoreau dedicated his life to the reasoning he found in hoping to inspire others to break free from social constraints to pursue his “divine society.” His political views were in line with his environmental views, as the equality he strived for existed in all he did. He was spiritually pulled towards nature and offered it his greatest respect. Of the eye-opening passages that are strewn throughout this work, the most quoted are “all good things are wild and free” and “[i]n wildness is the preservation of the world” (Thoreau). Through them, Thoreau has taught mankind a good lesson. The society we live in weighs us down with commitments. While we cannot walk for hours and hours, we still have every right to break free, untether ourselves now and again, and go for a nature walk. Works Cited Schrimper, Michael R. “Teaching Thoreau’s ‘Walking’ in the 21[Sup St] Century.” Concord Saunterer, vol. 25, Oct. 2017, pp. 149–152. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.snhu.edu/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=hlh&AN=1 29708227&site=eds-live&scope=site. Thoreau, Henry David. "Walking." Project Gutenberg, www.gutenberg.org/files/1022/1022-h/1022h.htm. Walls, Laura Dassow. Henry David Thoreau: A Life. The University of Chicago Press, 2017. Williams, Florence. The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative. Kindle Ed., W. W. Norton & Company, 2017. H. Holt is a Georgia author who dabbles in all realms of written expression. She serves as the Design Director for the Southern Collective Experience. In her spare time, she practices another art entirely: the art of avoiding society. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 111


Tom Johnson The Cream of 80’s Cheese Ahh the 80’s, no one does brainless fun like they did back then! But how does one define “80’s Cheese”? No idea…it’s like trying to figure out the sound of one hand clapping. But the genre does have a few defining characteristics: Over the top scenarios, whether it be comedic or action oriented A bigger than life almost cartoon version of a main character No boundaries, everything is on the table No message The last element may be the most important in that these movies do not concentrate on driving home a message. They are not political, they are not trying to save the planet or eradicate social injustice, “80’s Cheese” just wants to have fun and entertain you. The following titles may not be intellectually stimulating but that doesn’t make them any less important. Flash Gordon (1980) I can sum this movie up in two words “Queen Soundtrack” Apparently having Queen do the soundtrack for your movie is the main ingredient in having a cult classic because they have done it twice and the results were Flash Gordon and Highlander. You may think that you have never heard of this movie but I guarantee if you type “Flash Gordon Theme Song” into Youtube, you will not only recognize it but start bouncing in your seat. It is in your DNA, don’t fight it. The story begins when an intergalactic emperor named Ming the Merciless gets bored and decides to amuse himself by afflicting the earth with cataclysmic natural disasters, as one does. The two main characters Flash Gordon (New York Jets football player) and Dale Arden (Travel Agent) are on the same plane when it is downed by a falling meteorite. They crash into the laboratory of Dr. Zarkov (An early version of every Jeff Goldblum character). Luckily for them, Zarkov has built a space ship to go into space and figure out what is going on and he tricks Flash and Dale into accompanying him. Now, allow me to try and encapsulate the ensuing insanity in one sentence. After hopping from planet to planet gathering allies to overthrow Ming and trying to rescue Dale, it comes down to Flash alone on a rocket cycle mounting a suicidal attack against Ming’s capital city and its impenetrable lightning shield with some last minute help from an army of Hawkmen and a future James Bond. What more can I say?

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Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985) This movie is based on an amazingly long book series by Warren Murphy and Richard Sappir. The series was first published in 1971 and has gone on to span over 150 books. At one time, I made it my goal to read every book in the series but I lost steam about halfway through. The quality can vary wildly between books but if you end up liking this movie you owe it to yourself to try some of the novels. I recommend The Best of the Destroyer as a place to get started. The movie begins following Sam Makin, a Brooklyn street cop and Vietnam veteran. A secret government organization named CURE sets Sam up for a crime and railroads him into a false death by execution in the electric chair. Cure takes ownership of the “body”, performs facial reconstruction and renames him Remo Williams. He will eventually become a guardian of the American way of life as an almost super human but completely unstoppable assassin. Remo is given into the care of Chiun, the Master of Shinanju, the ultimate martial art from which all others flow. Chiun works for Cure as a mercenary and is to train Remo as the next master of Shinanju but Chiun must kill him if he fails or proves untrustworthy. By the end of the movie Remo can dodge bullets (years before the Matrix), run on water, climb walls and use his enhanced strength to punch through anything in his way. The effects are a bit dated and I would love to see it redone today with modern CGI but it is still a fun, popcorn movie. Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon (1985) As a rule, passion projects never pan out well for the filmmaker. Usually because they have spent years polishing and over thinking the idea until it just has an audience of one. The Last Dragon bucks the trend by being a must watch martial arts adventure. The cast includes Vanity fresh off the movie Purple Rain, Julius J. Carrey III as Sho’Nuff the Shogun of Harlem and martial artist Taimak in his first acting role. Considering Berry Gordy, founder of the Motown Records label, was integrally involved in the production it’s odd that the soundtrack is the weakest part. Two original songs from the movie were nominated for the Golden Raspberry Awards. The movie begins with a young, black martial artist named Leroy Green being told by his martial arts master that he could teach him no more because the true Master was inside him. Leroy thinks he has done something wrong because he can’t believe in his own worth as a martial artist so the master sends him on a quest to find the true Master. The Master is supposedly so strong in the martial arts that he can manifest his Chi as a golden Glow all over his body. On his quest he soon runs into Sho’Nuff who wants to beat Leroy in a fight (so that his subjugation of Harlem will be complete?). While avoiding Sho’Nuff he meets Vanity who says she can help him find the Master. Unfortunately, an unscrupulous music mogul kidnaps Vanity because he wants her to showcase his client’s music video. No, I’m not making this up, it’s really the plot and keep in mind, I’m leaving out the weird stuff! The story culminates in a Glow infused showdown between Sho’Nuff and Leroy where he discovers that the power has been within him the entire time. He is The Master.

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Big Trouble in Little China (1986) Kurt Russel has frequently shown that he can play a hero, antihero, villain and anything in between but his role in this movie is something special. The goofy but badass Jack Burton is on par with great characters like Ash Williams from The Evil Dead and Martin Riggs from Lethal Weapon. He is a charming blowhard who’s in over his head but comes through in the clutch with shocking moments of competence. The story centers around a Chinese sorcerer named Lo Pan that is trying to break an ancient curse that splits his spirit from his body. He sends his three magical henchmen Lightning, Thunder and Rain to get the special green eyed girl he needs. In comes Jack Burton, a loud mouthed trucker who is in town to visit a friend named Wang. He agrees to take Wang to the airport because his friend is going to pick up his green eyed fiancée. Jack meets Gracie Law who is picking up her Chinese friend as well when a street gang kidnaps Wang’s fiancée in the other girls place. Soon after, the henchmen make an appearance, tear the roofs off buildings, kill many and kidnap Wang’s fiancé as well as Gracie Law who just happens to also have green eyes. Both women pass Lo Pan’s test so he decides to sacrifice one to break his curse and marry the other.

Jack joins forces with a martial arts gang, a sorcerer, and his buddy Wang to infiltrate the Chinese underworld to fight through Chinese monsters from myths and legend, the henchmen and the evil sorcerer himself Lo Pan. Let’s hope they don’t get consigned to the Hell of Upside Down Sitters! As an aside, this movie inspired a lot of people including the makers of Mortal Kombat who used Lo Pan and Lightning as the basis for Shang Tsung and Raiden. Commando (1985) As far as I am concerned, Commando is the pinnacle of 80’s action movies. I watched it so often while growing up it may have given me a form of body dysmorphia because I didn’t grow up to look like Arnold Scwarzenegger in this film. Strap yourself in because Arnold is at his Arniest in this classic. Plot wise there’s not much to say but that is by no means an insult. Arnold is a retired special forces Colonel named John Matrix. He’s happy spending his days caring for his daughter and carrying around entire trees that I assume he cut down to relax. Until he learns that one of his former team members named Bennett is killing off the rest of the team to find Matrix. Bennett is working for a South American dictator that wants to blackmail Matrix into committing a political assassination that will put the dictator in power. So, Bennett sends a large team of mercenaries to take Matrix’s daughter prisoner and they do manage to abduct her though very few men survive the mission. The next hour and a half follows Matrix as he butchers his way up the food chain of the dictator’s organization until he finds Bennett and his daughter. Arnold is a one liner spewing engine of destruction as he uses guns, rifles, shotguns, and rpgs to fight his way through legions of bad guys without ever reloading his weapon or getting more than a small cut. You know, to show his vulnerability. It even has one of the all time best action one liners when Matrix tells Sully (one of the kidnappers) “Sully, remember when I told you I would kill you last? “ Sully stutters a reply of “That’s right you did” Matrix deadpans “I Lied” and proceeds to drop him off a cliff.

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Clifford Brooks Lunchboxes | Book Review Lunchboxes, the new book of poetry by Dan Veach, is intelligent, honest, and carefully nostalgic. Veach is a man of nature fascinated by the nature of man. He is not trapped in the past nor rushing the present to get anywhere tomorrow. This is a poet that is self-aware without an albatross of ego preventing him from reaching his audience. Like his reading style, his writing is airy, easy, funny, and woven with a humble wisdom that’s undeniably his trademark. Growing up in California during the 1950s, he takes his first impressions of life and tucks them into a deceptively simple lunchbox (Part 1) that all readers can carry, open to any page, and identify with. As with his previous collection, Elephant Water (selected poems of which are featured in Part Five) Veach uses less a brutal act of tapping keys and more delicate brushstrokes of watercolor to create his poetic landscape. The four sections of Lunchboxes represent the poet’s phases of growth as a person as well as an artist. His memories are our roadmap. The five sections: Lunchboxes, Kinfolk & Family, Scherzo, A Date with Clio Muse of History, and A Sprinkling of Elephant Water, contain poems that read with the same weight of a careful man of intent, but also slink into a dry-but-infectious sense of humor that prevents the poet and/or the reader from taking themselves too seriously. In the first section, you have poems about Superman capes, coonskin caps, building forts, and guns with holsters before the idea of a cowboy was ruined by violence. Yet, in this section I want to point out lines in “The Water Hose,”: “Magical snake / in the grass / of our tract house Eden, / writhing with sudden / life, speaking in cool / clear tongues / that only children understood.” I try never to see too deep into poetry, but Veach can seamlessly ease childhood innocence, the “magical snake” of the Old Testament, and transport me to a biblical story. However, there is no melodrama or sour note at the end of this clarinet solo. The children are safe, and so am I, and so are you. In the section titled Kinfolk & Family, he takes us from his first years in California to his next step in Tennessee. The South is “a place of profound mystery / for a kid who, except for some spindly palms / had scarcely seen a tree. // In the deep woods of Tennessee, / built of weathered gray boards, a chimney / of stone, a long porch with rocking chairs.” Veach does not like obvious rhyme. I imagine it is his musical soul that also likes words to lead you along with a melody embedded within and not forced at the end. The vulnerability of the poet is heartbreaking, but never melodramatic. We learn about his Aunt Reva, a disaster with dipping snuff, grandparents with too much moonshine in them, and then the passing of his father in “Father and the Buddha.” In the poem, his father is bent by both scoliosis and family responsibility, but then a stroke forced him to relax: “There was no struggle at the end. / He lay back in bed – and then / for the first time in my life / I saw my father’s face relax.” Then an epiphany, asVeach sees its double meaning, “At last he looked as peaceful as the Buddha. / And I, who had always admired / such Eastern stillness, such tranquility / recoiled from it now in horror.” It concludes with the lines, “The burdens that bent his back so long / had been lifted, every one / and now settled slowly, cool and dark / upon his only son.”

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I must admit that the third section, Scherzo (defined as “a vigorous, light, or playful composition, typically comprising a movement in a symphony or sonata”) is my favorite in the book. Again the intrinsic musician, Veach balances the acts (or movements) of Lunchboxes from wonder, to all-too-real, now to the laughter of life in poems titled “My Name is Mud,” Un-Romantic,” (“However, historical forces / gave us this Germanic gift of gab / which Voltaire, that clever French crab / compared to the snorting of horses.”), “Now It Can Be Told,” and my favorite title in my favorite section of the book, “Why Do Fashion Models Frown?” “You’d think they would smile / like the people who sell toothpaste / wrinkle cream, or Cadillacs. / But no, these frowning fashionistas / are not simpatico, not your friends.” It is not only the truth in the material, but also important is how the poet lays out its telling, to prevent the reader from bouts of depression. Laughter is the only remedy. The fourth part of Veach’s opus dives into the core of historic study with A Date with Clio, Muse of History. I believe that an individual does not know themselves without understanding where they came from, where we came from, and the lineage of learning. In a fascinating turn of attention, Veach goes back to 1,000,000 BC with “Tough as Nails.” However, he continues his, and your, smile with lines like, “Forget about Cave Bears and Dire Wolves / and other horrific tales - / the biggest source of Stone Age stress / was fingernails.” History is nature and how humanity fit, and fits, into it. From fingernails to 1200 BC with the poem entitled “The Hittites,” 340 BC in “His story,” about Alexander the Great’s early love of music (and his father’s disdain of it), forward to a subtle high point in 1660 AD’s “Enlightenment Man,”: “The Royal Society / thought they were smart / for getting together / to take him apart. // Will all the King’s horses / and all the King’s men / every put Humpty together again?” In all of man’s scrambling to learn it all, has becoming enlightened made us better, or like the Industrial Revolution to Tolkien, does mankind lose more of its peaceful innocence in the quest for information? The fifth and final section of Lunchboxes is called A Sprinkling of Elephant Water. Veach considers the poems in Elephant Water his “classics.” As much as he has, and will, grow, poems like “Elephant Water” (As for me, a Southern Baptist bred / I too was always taught to avoid sprinkling. / “Full immersion of nothing!” they always said.”) “Age of Information,” (“The Age of Paper was filthy / rich with dirty information. / Handwriting would always betray / your character and state of mind: / John Hancock’s signature told King George / that he faced a determined man.”), “The Seal” (“The master artist and the masterpiece / In you their embodied longing can be seen / Gliding at ease in your well-loved element / At home, at last / In the dark shape of your dream"), and the last poem of the book “My Long Thigh Bone” (“I wonder, will anyone see this bone and dream / Of the way I used to dance to the Supremes?”). This last chapter of Lunchboxes contains not only Veach’s dreams, but our recollections of his life’s work. We all have our favorite songs, friends, family, books, or vacation spots. Veach tells us some of his favorite stories before we slip off to sleep. The whole measure of this book is a single experience with a life all its own. I highly recommend you read this book by Dan Veach, and remember how much fun it is to open a lunchbox full of surprises.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lunchboxes-danveach/1130559073;jsessionid=85EC1B2401ACF3BE5068744DBBB54F62.prodny_store02atgap05?ean=9781604542516&st=PLA&sid=BNB_ADL%20Core%20Generic%20Books%20%20Desktop%20Medium&2sid=Google_c&sourceId=PLAGoNA

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Clifford Brooks I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast | Book Review I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast is the story of the poet thriving from her place in the cosmos. She is a force of nature while bursting with childlike wonder. She is whole unto herself, and thankful to the Creator for the abundance behind, around, and ahead of her. It is a story of triumph. It is a tale of lasting meditation. I go so far as to dub it a fresh book of hymns. Let’s begin at the beginning: The book’s construction is elegant, balanced, and the typeface is clean. Each poem is centered on the page without cramping into the gutter margin. The cover art is striking, and echoes not only the spirit of the poet, but the abundance within. There are moments of a clear ekphrastic-style of writing, but is not the sum of her parts. Here, the poet is also a prophet of metaphysical philosophy with a clear nod to Wallace Stevens’ Priesthood of the Invisible. I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast is in hardback. This is typically a gamble from a marketing perspective, but that’s if the content doesn’t demand the higher price. Studdard writes poetry in this volume that would be failed if not offered in hardback. Her accomplishments in language are staggering. Studdard doesn’t dabble in base romanticism. She never falls into the trappings of recollection that leave the reader feeling they are always on the outside of an inside joke. Her poetry is accessible, erudite, and strong. Every poem is economically perfect in its use of words and line breaks. The science of rhyme is a deceptively simple subject, and Studdard is a master of it. Her ear for tone within her work is pitch-perfect. The music helps her use of eroticism ring refreshingly pure without being fifty shades of anything. In the poem “Nirvana”, “Mother Earth’s most intimate/fabric, ripping a frayed slit/for yourself. Think of trees/poking branches where they don’t belong,” juxtaposes the divine feminine I Am and inspiration from a painting to stare beyond the rat race to transcendence. The poem “When You Do That” does not demand that we know what “that” is. “It feels like millions of tiny/ harps are playing inside my body/and all the extinct animals/that ever were/are again/running into you/inside me,” paints a cyclical sense of love, human interaction, birth, or the dying light of a star we still see as new. Throughout the book the nature of existence is putty Studdard shapes into voluptuous bits of truth. “Painting You into the Scene” is another lush example of the poet spending the day being moved by life to create life on canvas: “There are so many/ways to paint I miss you – to show your letter, resting/on a chair, to place your tea cup, steaming beside a plate/of toast, as if by committing color to canvas, I could draw you…” I believe there are rules to art. However, where the hard discipline of practice must give way to the elastic nature of words is how the various forms of art influence and coalesce with each other. There is a taste to Studdard’s poetry. The synesthesia she creates comes close to the point of complete saturation, but her ineffable style pulls us back before falling too far, Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 117


Narcissus-esque, into her world. This is read again in “Vagabond”, “I danced, you dropped scarlet/and lilac scarves at my feet, /you doused me in the thick sweat/of wine, stained me henna/with your rough and unread palms.” There is nearly too much to unpack with the subtle swaying from one culture to another – effortlessly – with the “dance” here a motion between the poet and reader. The movement is natural as the revolution of seasons. “Barefoot Rondelet” is a poem to be shared to the hilt, “To be reborn./step barefoot from this world, praying/to be reborn/wild-eyed, seared by life, and graying/already with wisdom, forewarned:/it’s sad, sweet, brief delaying/to be reborn. This precise/concise poem could be the preface to the whole. Life is brief, beautiful, sensual, spiritual, and ever-evolving for the articulate mind with primal drive to see each day done well. There is no rush in Studdard’s style, nor is there melodrama of time wasted. I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast is one of the best collections of poetry I’ve ever read. It is one worth keeping on the writing table or at your bedside to think big, be inspired, or help the dreams that find you in sleep be good ones. Like Walt Whitman, Melissa Studdard wants us to know she is starlight – as are her eyes on everything around her – as are we. https://www.amazon.com/Ate-Cosmos-Breakfast-Melissa-Studdard/dp/0988944766

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Literary Interviews

Jericho Brown interview by Casanova Green My first memory of meeting Jericho Brown is peach cobbler. Actually, the lack of peach cobbler at a restaurant. As I watched him tell stories to the people we were with, I noticed he was a man of great joy and great depth. He was the center of the universe and we all were pulled in by his charm, wisdom, and experiences. He paused for a moment and asked the waiter, “Do you have peach cobbler?” “I’m sorry, sir,” the waiter said. “We do not.” He laughed and responded, “How are you going to be a restaurant in Georgia and not have peach cobbler?” We all laughed it off and he kept telling us stories. I didn’t say much at that dinner nor on the car ride to the restaurant and back to our venue. I began to feel a deep comfort with him though. Both of us have names that are the merging of awesomeness and a color, we are aware of ourselves and how we fit in the world, and that our experiences influence our word. After hearing him read his work and spend over two hours speaking with a small group, I knew that I was seated with one of the great modern voices of poetry. Jericho Brown is a poet, professor, and the director of the Creative Writing Program at Emory University. Among his many accolades, he has received fellowships from Harvard and the Guggenheim Foundation, won the American Book Award for his first book Please and the AnisfieldWolf Book Award for his second book The New Testament, and his poems have appeared in a variety of publications including The New York Times, TIME, and The New Republic. He has released a new collection of poetry entitled The Tradition. His poetry is a visceral journey of authenticity which makes you think, feel, and engage with every word he writes. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 120


1) Tell us about yourself. I'm a poet. I've really organized my life around this fact. Whatever I'm doing, I'm a poet doing that thing.

2) Who are your influences? I like a lot of 60s and 70s Motown. I'm inspired by the way Lucille Clifton dealt with the spirit as a part of every day life in her work. I learned a lot about creating a kind of public intimacy in tone and voice from reading James Baldwin and Essex Hemphill. I've been reading a lot of Oppen and Hopkins lately.

3) When I read your work, you talk about issues that we, as black folk, leave "in the house" such homosexuality and family issues. Why do you discuss topics so freely which other writers either shy away from or try to cushion? I don't think I get to (or should get to) choose my subject matter. Homosexuality shows up because I think some guys are hot, and whatever I am considering should be able to come through in my work. It's not a good idea for me to hold some part of my thought back when it comes to my poems since my poems want all of me. Also, I don't do any of this on purpose. I'm pretty obsessed with the colors red and green and blue. They appear in my work just as much as elements of sexuality. I'm thinking about a lot of things, and my poems have a right to all of them. I love black people enough to understand that me being more free makes us all more free.

4) As someone who has worked in politics, how can writers express their truth in today's turbulent times? The most important thing is that we be open to telling the truth all the time about everything. This is not easy, but we don't have easy jobs. We just have talent and knowledge. If we are telling the truth, we can't help but become more aware of ourselves as social beings in politicized bodies. And then there can come the telling of the story of each body...

5) I noticed that there is a major difference between how you speak in conversation and how you read your poems in person which I find captivating. How did you find your reading voice and what advice can you give to writers in terms of presentation? Oh, when I read, I try to relay the poem in the music, rhythm, and voice that it came to me. As you know, a good deal of writing feels like transcribing something overheard. When I read in front of people, I want

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to give them that voice in the same way I remember hearing it. If I can think about how I felt when I was writing the poem rather than thinking about people in the audience, I can relay the poem and not my nervousness or my need to please.

6) Please tell us about your next book. The Tradition, out from Copper Canyon in April, details the normalization of evil at the intersection of the past and the personal. I interrogate how everything from rape to mass shootings to the murder of unarmed people by police now seems a cultural expectation. I want to know how much evil is just a little evil in the classroom, in the bedroom, the workplace, the garden, the movie theater. So I make mythical pastorals of these locations to question the terrors to which we’ve become accustomed, and to celebrate how we survive such terror. And because of the urgency born through terror, I think my work has become its most innovative. For the book, I invented the duplex, a form that combines the sonnet, the ghazal, and the blues. It's a book of elegies and sonnets and dedications to the natural landscape written in cadences that allow for the kind of breathless music I want from poems when I'm reading poetry. Yes, I'm still a poet of eros and of the body, and this new book is proof of that.

Pictured: Jericho Brown & Casanova Green

7) What do you want your legacy to be? That I wrote something that changed somebody's mind. You can find out more about Jericho at www.jerichobrown.com and connect with him on Twitter at @jerichobrown. https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781556594861

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Dan Veach interview by Clifford Brooks 1) Mr. Dan Veach: You are a man who wears many hats and more Hawaiian shirts. Where did you grow up? Where do you call home? How does time and place play into your creative life? I grew up in Southern California in the 1950s, in a little town called Gardena near L.A. (Also the hometown of poet Garrett Hongo and the king of alternate-history fiction, Harry Turtledove, an elementary-school classmate.) This is the setting for my childhood poems in Lunchboxes. I went to high school in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, blessed with a perfect blend of nature and intellectual stimulation. Oak Ridge, not Harvard, is my true alma mater. As a leader of SDS during the anti-war movement of the 1960s, I did have the pleasure of shutting Harvard down several times, and being prosecuted by Archibald Cox -- who would go on to prosecute Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal. Kicked out of Harvard for a couple years, I was sent to Atlanta to organize against the war, and promptly fell in love with the city's friendly people, natural beauty, and cultural vitality. 2) How did you do in your math classes? How does meter and sound work into your poetry? You are also a musician. How does poetry feed your love of music and vice verses? Like most poets, I'm not a math whiz. While not strict about meter, I do feel a sense of rhythm in poetry is important. As to sound, I am (as one would expect of a translator of Beowulf and The Cid) very fond of alliteration, assonance, and even rhyme-- but preferably in unexpected places, so the effect is not too obvious. Usually I'm not even conscious of them myself-- they just happen. I play bass clarinet in a concert band and an orchestra, and do Chinese ink painting as well. I believe that all art forms spring from a deeply-rooted sense of rhythm, so they naturally feed and lead into one another. If you're looking to music for inspiration, however, you can't do better than listening (and moving, if you feel inclined) to great classical music. Actually playing such music is so demanding that one has little leisure for inspiration. Still, amateurs like myself persist, for the sheer pleasure of being in the middle of the music. 3) There is a theory that if prose writers took a class in poetry it will make them more aware of word economy and internal melody. Do you agree or disagree? Why? Please don't make prose writers aware of word economy-- it would ruin their lives! Poets condense, novelists e-x-p-a-n-d. As to the music of poetry, memorizing a single great poem, like "Dover Beach" or Frost's "After Apple Picking," will teach you more than all the classes in the world. You have to internalize poetic rhythm, let it seep into your soul.

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4) Do you remember the first time writing your own poetry took hold of you? Do you recall when and where you were? Did playing music hit you around the same time and feel similar? After Harvard, I had no desire to join the ruling class, or to work for it. But what should I do? It was a cold, clear fall in Boston when poetry began to come to me, seemingly out of nowhere. Somehow I found the courage to follow it, along whatever unknown pathways it might lead. Around this same time, I found a clarinet reed in the street one day, and later a clarinet mouthpiece! Then, as we were packing up to leave the dorm, someone found an old clarinet in the basement. What could I say? The universe wanted me to play clarinet, and so I did. 5) The Atlanta Review: Give us your take on its birth, growth under your tenure, and who takes the helm now. How does it feel to pass the torch? Capers Limehouse, my partner in Poetry Atlanta, finally talked me into starting a literary journal, much against my better judgment. Before long most of our friends dropped out and Capers left town, leaving me holding the bag. Fortunately, I discovered that I really loved this work. Every day, it was like getting the most beautiful and personal letters from perfect strangers all over the world. And the challenge appealed to me. I had sold radical left-wing newspapers to factory workers on freezing Boston winter mornings. Surely poetry couldn't be that much harder. (Pause for laughter.) To nearly everyone's surprise, Atlanta Review was a great success. The world's best-selling poetry journal in 1996, the year of Atlanta's Olympics, it published Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning poets. It featured the very first poems to come out of wartime Iraq and pro-democracy Iran. These Iraq andIran issues were re-published as books by Michigan State University Press-- the only journal issues ever so honored. Oxford University and the British Council celebrated our Great Britain issue; People's University held a major conference in Beijing to celebrate our China issue. After editing Atlanta Review for 22 years, I have turned it over to Karen Head and the good folks at Georgia Tech, where it will hopefully become an Atlanta institution. Karen and J.C. Reilly have done a wonderful job, and just produced a stunning 25th Anniversary Anthology we'll be celebrating at AWP. I could not be prouder or happier to see Atlanta Review in such good hands. 6) What question have you always wanted to be asked but never have? What’s the answer? I was first inspired to write poetry in high school, when I walked into the Oak Ridge public library and pulled a book of Chinese poetry off the shelf. I was instantly transported into a different world, one that I wanted to live in forever. 7) If you could design a festival with your favorite poets and musicians (alive or dead/five of each) who would you choose? Why? From ancient China I'd invite Wang Wei and Tao Yuan-ming, plus John Keats and Langston Hughes. Samuel Johnson would not get along with any of these people ("No one but a blockhead ever wrote except for money!"), so, what the heck, why not Akhenaten, Egypt's heretic poet Pharaoh, whose "Hymn to the Sun" is one of the greatest pre-Homeric poems? For musicians, Mozart was unequalled at improvising over coffee and pastries, and Anton Stadler to Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 124


play his Clarinet Concerto, Ravi Shankar on sitar, Pepe Romero on flamenco guitar, and Pablo Sarasate, to play Zigeunerweisen on his gipsy violin. And of course, we'd need Cliff Brooks to keep the party lively! 8) LUNCHBOXES is your new collection of poetry. First things first: Why “lunchboxes,” and how does the name of the book reflect or set the stage for its content? Lunchboxes begins with poems about growing up in 1950s Southern California, complete with Superman capes, Davy Crockett coonskin caps and, yes, “Lunchboxes,” the title poem, in which we find "a secret message, encrypted in peanut butter and purple jelly, written on white Wonder Bread." We also visit my Tennessee relatives (a disastrous episode involving Aunt Reva's snuff), learn a dark secret about French snails, and find out why cave men hated their fingernails. 9) You tackle politics with a grace but pointed skill I admire as well as deem unparalleled. What are your favorite politically-charged poems in this collection, how did you develop your dry wit, and does it make you nervous to let them fly in today tumultuous sky? I suppose any poem advocating basic human decency would be deemed subversive by the current administration. The only political poem I'm aware of in Lunchboxes is "Surprised." It started out as a poem about little poetry magazines, but as it gathered momentum turned into something else altogether: the fate of Joy ("I knew her in my youth, back in the 60s") in our present political climate. 10) You have “A Sprinking of ELEPHANT WATER” tucked at the back of this book. Why these poems, and what message do they convey at the tail end of the new batch? These selections from Elephant Water will always be my classics. Though written fifty years ago, they are still as vibrant as ever for me. To see these poems with their own ink paintings, go to Elephant Water, which was inspired by Chinese scrolls that integrate poetry and painting. 11) What new projects are you working on with either poetry or music or both? My next project is a selection of my best translations from Chinese, Arabic, Spanish, and AngloSaxon, called Transcendence. It will include Iraqi war poetry; Tang dynasty "duets" by Wang Wei and Pei Di; China's first great lyric poet, Tao Yuan-ming; Garcia Lorca and the medieval romances that inspired him; Anglo-Saxon poems and riddles; and the best bits of Beowulf and The Cid. I've recently finished a novel, Beowulf's Barrow, that picks up where the poem leaves off. In the modern plot we go in search of Beowulf's undiscovered tomb. In the ancient plot we find out what happens to everyone else in the poem! And one of these days I may get around to my third symphony, on Spanish flamenco themes.

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Michelle Castleberry interview by Clifford Brooks 1) What about your youth swooned you into the life of a poet? How did your teen years and young adult life play into it? How do you feel about the poet inside today? A middle school teacher gave me and a friend access to a closet full of discarded textbooks. I found a contemporary poetry anthology. It was already over a decade old but that introduction into free verse was like a message from another civilization. Maxine Kumin, Dorothy Parker, E.E. Cummings, Langston Hughes...here were people using language in a way that was so new to me. That was like reading a book of spells. I was hooked. 2) What are you reading now, and what music has your full attention? Recently, I have been reading more nonfiction (White Trash by Nancy Isenberg) and fiction (We the Animals by Justin Torres). Savannah Sipple's book of poetry, WWJD, is a barn burner. On my to-beread pile: In Whatever Light Left to Us by Jessica Jacobs, This Day by Wendell Berry. 3) What is your ritual to warm up to and then come back from writing? I could probably use more ritual in my writing life. Usually, I keep things pretty compartmentalized (that mythical work-life balance). I work full-time as a therapist and in some ways that work feeds my attention to words. My mentor taught me to keep a daybook where I collect reading notes and ephemera. All of the image and language gathering eventually informs the work. 4) If you could meet your top 5 favorite writers (dead or alive) who would they be and why? I met C.D. Wright once but I wish I'd had more time with her and been brave enough to ask more questions. Through my studies with The Makery at the Hindman Settlement School, I have had to opportunity to meet people like Rebecca Gayle Howell, Savannah and Jessica mentioned above, and Nickole Brown. All of these are strong women writers whose voices are deeply informed by place. They also have shrewd eye on the forces at play in history, both personal and at large. 5) What books do you have out, what fire burned them out of your soul, and where can we find them - or other single-poem publications? Dissecting the Angel and Other Poems is my only book so far. It accrued over seven years of writing and a time of great change in my life. You can get it through the Barnes and Noble in Athens. More recent work can be found on my website where I link to places like Philadelphia Stories, Freezeray, and The Chattahoochee Review. The most recent Atlanta Review is the most current, in print only.

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6) How do you prepare for public readings? Do you feel reading poetry is a lost art form? A good bit of fretting is part of the deal. From the time I was a teen into my thirties I played music so I kept the practice of making a set list. I time everything. There are so many demands for people's attention that it would be a shame to overbear. No, I think there is a blooming of out-loud poetry. The spoken word community is thriving in live venues and online. There is a lot to learn there. Too many poets read as if ashamed of their work. I always want to say, "Speak up! Trust us, we want to hear you." Playing music gave me that gift, the comfort with a mic. 7) What is your rule of thumb about what makes a good poem? Gracious, that's a hard question. You can't go wrong with Emily Dickinson's "If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry." Any somatic response is good, too. Getting goosebumps, grunting assent, dropping the book in your lap and staring into space, cursing. These are all good signs the poet has gotten not just into your head but into your body. 8) What hobbies do you have to stoke your creative flair? I lack a lot of free time, between work and writing and regular life tasks. When I can, I am trying to learn how to use a new camera my loved one gave me for my 50th birthday. 9) What annoying stereotypes about artists would you like to see disappear? In my work as a therapist, I truly enjoy serving people in the arts. On top of just how difficult it can be to protect a creative life, there are some old stories that make it even harder. Instead of the addicted and "crazy" artist, I would love to hear more about artists in recovery/sobriety. More about artists who lead lives that keep the drama in their imaginations. You don't have to be chaotic to create. Also, please, more older artists. I look to models like Tom Waits and David Bowie for folks who create past addiction and over a long period of time. 10) What question have you never been asked, but wish you were? What is it, and what is the answer? To which organizations do you want to donate this trazillion dollars? The Hindman Settlement School in Hindman, KY, Family Counseling Services (where I work) in Athens, GA, and Nuci's Space (mental health for musicians) in Athens, GA ***

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Two Poems from unpublished manuscript The Choir: Poems Based on the Hyrtl Skull Collection. Note: Each poem is titled with the proper name of its specimen. The italicized text before each poem is from the descriptive placard displayed below each skull. Maria Lipinska 17, Lithuania died of smallpox. Frontal grooves; moderate overbite. Here, let me show you my favorite lamb. She is the runty silver one Father wanted to kill. He said she was too small to live. But I soaked my dress hem in milk and fed her ‘til she grew. We call her Spindle because of her little legs. She will never go to market. Watch this. I can make her stand on her hind feet. If I hold one hoof, we can walk around like sisters.

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Orazio Trani age 39 Island of Lissa, Dalmatia Idiot Frontal grooves I watch the boats spit out the people. This is my spot to sell flowers. I only say, “Would you like to buy some lavender to refresh you from your journey, Kind Lady, Good Man?” I do not say, “Lovely woman let me kiss you.” I do not say, “The boats will eat you at night.” My mother practices with me every morning. But I know it now. I am good. This is my spot. Would you like to buy some lavender?

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Tom Simpson interview by Clifford Brooks 1) What one book, song, poem, and/or philosophy sums up who you are today? What about life makes you dance? "Eden" by 10,000 Maniacs, for both questions. Perfect song. 2) What drew you to a life as an educator within academia? What shortcomings do you see in it? What improvements are being made? I'm the youngest in a family of college-level teachers and writers. There was a lot that I hated about school when I was a kid: a playground culture where "smear the queer" was a daily ritual, for instance. It took years for me – it wasn't until college, really – to fall in love with school. Ever since then, I've tried to invite students into that same realm of respect, freedom, and joy. 3) What is your opinion of the old saying, “Those who can’t do, teach?” Garbage. One of the worst sentences ever constructed. A culture that denigrates teaching is doomed. (And yet the saying is completely true of me as a devotee and practitioner of baseball, someone whose athletic prime was in a previous century. Now I help coach a JV team. It's great!) 4) What creative, personal projects are you most proud, and what of that flavor do you see on the horizon? The work I do for Čuvaj Se ("Take Care" in Bosnian / Serbian / Croatian), an NGO founded by poet Heather Derr-Smith. We just got a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo to run literary workshops for emerging writers in 5 cities in Bosnia-Herzegovina this year. 5) You recently became the interviews editor for American Microreviews and Interviews. Please tell us the history of that series, how it’s evolving, and the way folks can submit to be a part of it. I started doing interviews for AMRI last year, when poet Melissa Studdard was editing them. She was so fabulous to work for, and when she needed someone else to take the reins (she has recently taken on more responsibilities with VIDA: Women in Literary Arts), she offered me the gig. The interviews we do are by invitation, but we're always looking out for great suggestions for writers we can amplify, writers who are brilliant and humane. 6) What is a question you’ve always wanted to be asked, but never have? What’s the answer? What's the purpose of education in the 21st century? Antifascist peacebuilding. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 130


7) How does music play into your creative process? Do you have any rituals to get the divine fire going? One of the greatest joys of my life is the morning commute to school with my twelve- and fourteenyear-old kids. They have fabulous taste in music, way better than mine was at their age. Lately we've been listening to Living Colour, Soundgarden, Metallica, Prince, The Cranberries, Stevie Wonder, Rush, Pearl Jam, and Stars at Night (a great punk band from East L.A. that we just heard live in Boston). Singing and air-drumming exorcises some of the anxiety I still feel at the start of every school day, and it frees my brain up for the fullness of life. 8) What do you dream about? What gives you hope? I have way too many recurring anxiety dreams. Really dumb ones, like it's my senior year of high school, I haven't been going to math class for months, I'm late for the test and won't graduate, etc. As a kind of therapy, I've started reviewing my dreams like a tough film critic. The one I just mentioned gets zero stars out of five, because it's utterly derivative and clichéd. But once I had a dream where I was playing bass for James Brown, and I was awesome. In real life, I don't play the bass. Five out of five stars! Survivors give me hope. I can't tell you how many survivors, people who've been through hell, have helped me get up off the mat. That kind of kindness leaves me speechless. 9) Where did you grow up? Where do you call home? What does “home” mean to you? Olean, New York, seventy miles south of Buffalo. Beautiful, gritty place, where northernmost Appalachia and the rust belt overlap. Home is where I can let my guard down, wherever I don't feel anxious and self-conscious. It's where people know what you need, even when you don't know how to ask for it. 10) If you could go back in time to meet, and speak in-depth, with one person, who would it be? What would you talk about? My mom. We lost her suddenly four years ago. I was planning to talk to her something like ten thousand more times, about parenting, about writing, about art. I'm doing the best I can to figure some of it out on my own. Tom Simpson, Ph.D., teaches courses on religion, philosophy, and human rights at Phillips Exeter Academy. He is the interviews editor for American Microreviews and Interviews, the assistant managing director of the literary human rights nonprofit Čuvaj Se, and the author of American Universities and the Birth of Modern Mormonism, 1867-1940 (UNC Press, 2016). You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @tomsimpsonphd.

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Barren Magazine interview by Clifford Brooks Answers provided by Jason D. Ramsey, Publisher/Executive Editor, Barren Magazine. First of all, I would like to thank Clifford Brooks and the Southern Collective Experience for this opportunity to interview with the Blue Mountain Review. I am deeply grateful. 1) “Barren Magazine” – where did the name come from? What does it mean? How has it been misinterpreted? What’s the most important thing about it? JR: A couple of years ago, I wrote a poem called “These Barren Fields”, which was published by The Bees Are Dead, a small, British dystopian e-zine. It became quite a hit in my small literary circle – a musician acquaintance of mine even wrote an album around it. The poem itself is on the Barren Magazine website under ‘From the Editor’, along with a brief history about how Barren came to be. The Barren name to me is a bit dichotomous. Our content is mostly stripped – photos are largely stripped of color, words are stripped of fluff – so on one hand we represent a bare, somewhat solemn look on everyday life. On the other hand, we tend to publish quickly (a full issue each month), and with a semblance of lavishness and richness. One hand balances the other. One reader commented on Twitter that she didn’t feel like ‘Barren’ fit our publication, that we are too quirky and lively. It made me laugh, but I get it. The most important thing about the ‘Barren’ name is that it embodies life full circle: what once was empty can be made whole; what once flourished can be eradicated in an instant. 2) What sets Barren apart from other literary journals? JR: I want to be careful not to dismiss other literary journals, since we have great rapport with and great respect for so many. I think all literary journals struggle to find their niche – the one thing that really sets them apart. While my background is in writing, I have always been a highly visual person. I’ve long dabbled in photography and web design. On the surface, I believe the aesthetic of Barren Magazine is what strikes people and leaves a lasting impression. Perhaps this is one way it is set apart from others. Each piece tells a story with both words and a photograph. Also, I have been very fortunate in that the Barren editors are absolutely top-notch. They take great care with every submission, offer a large percentage of very personal rejections, and work exceptionally well with writers to craft final drafts. They are all so highly engaged, and they bring forth love in their volunteer work which translates into finished products and the vibe of our magazine as a whole. We also make a point to take a global approach. In seven issues, we have published writers and photographers from 42 US states as well as 28 countries across 6 continents. Our audience truly humbles us. 3) What inspired you to create Barren Magazine? JR: I have run online arts magazines for over five years, just in different, more niche markets. I wanted to branch out and create a literary magazine that reflected our cultural and political climate, only on a very personal, human level (Barren is apolitical, or, as apolitical as one can claim to be). I wanted to create a literary magazine that was, quite literally, for everyone. I have Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 132


long admired The Sun Magazine for its breadth and willingness to challenge norms. I wanted to find a way to emulate the effect it had on me in the form of a true literary magazine. Basically, I was tired of the divisiveness in the art world. I wanted to build a platform based on realness, rawness, and inclusiveness. Something that we can all relate to. 4) Who are the men and women behind the scenes that give Barren its wings? What role does each play, and what’s their skill set? JR: In October, a mere three issues in, I was drowning in submissions and took a chance by putting out a Twitter call for volunteer Masthead positions. The response was overwhelming. I ended up assembling a good-sized Masthead that has only grown over time. We’ve had some come and go - the fluid nature of volunteer organizations - and some have switched roles, but as of this interview we look like this:

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The crazy thing is that none of us have met in person, but we all work so well together. It’s a blessing. We communicate virtually via Slack from our stations all over the globe: 12 US states, plus Canada, Ireland, Germany, and Nigeria. 5) How long have you had the doors open? JR: I started developing the Barren brand in April 2018. I built the website in June, started accepting submissions shortly thereafter, and released the inaugural issue on August 20. 6) Your logo is unique, and I believe embodies the ‘barren’ look of its namesake. However, it’s also bold and stands strong. Am I reading too much into it? How did you come up with your logo, and what does it mean? JR: I worked long and hard on that logo -- I don’t think you’re reading too much into it. (laughs) Since the Barren name stemmed from the poem I wrote, I wanted to pay homage to it in a sense. Hence, the bare tree. I added some birds to the mix for the flight effect -- a way to break free from the doom and gloom. I made sure to accentuate the root system, since that embodies Barren in its symbolic whole (evolution, growth, oneness, togetherness, separation, unpredictability, etc.). The color contrast and asymmetry of the tree inside a perfect circle is intentional. As are all the graphics on the website. I’m a little obsessed with fine details and hidden meanings. 7) What kind of poetry, prose and photography are you looking for – generally? What stands out? What are you sick of seeing? JR: Like all literary magazines, we are looking for the best of what we receive. As we all know, though, the ‘best’ is highly subjective. Much of what we have published is intense, dark, and heavy, but we have also published pieces that have left us laughing hysterically. We look for bold voices who tell stories in ways we haven’t heard before. We look for photographs that offer glimpses of life that make us stop, shudder, think. Most of the photography we have published to date has been monochrome with stark contrast, which is quite dramatic and universal. We are, however, branching out to color photographs in the next issue. Our catch phrase is ‘hard truths, long stares, and gritty lenses’. We revel in the shadow-spaces that make up the human condition, and aim to find antitheses to that which defines us: light in darkness; beauty in ugliness; peace in disarray. In other words, not heavy at all… 8) What are you and your staff’s biggest pet peeves when it comes to submissions? What bad habits immediately toss out a candidate? JR: We really do welcome all submissions, and we are grateful to read every piece. Each one of our editors have their own pet peeves, but I won’t disclose them. For me? Trying too hard. People often equate Barren with the hammer-effect. Of course, we do have a penchant for the dramatic. But so often we see submissions that go for the jugular when it isn’t necessary -- when it’s out of context with the rest of the piece. There’s beauty in subtlety, too. And it’s much harder to pull that off. The only things that make us immediately toss out a candidate are violations of our Statement On Safety And Inclusion. That will get you blacklisted from Barren for good.

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9) What little things can someone do to make their submission come in a bit ahead of the others? JR: Proofread. Avoid cliches. Pay attention to story arcs. The most important thing? Be authentic. Sure, we have published some bestselling authors and wordsmiths with MFAs, but we have also published a number of high school students and others who were previously unpublished. Be real. Wow us. You never know what will catch our eyes. 10) Where do you see Barren in 20 years? What new additions would you like to see? What improvements do you have in store? JR: We really love what Barrelhouse has done with their boot camps and events. If we’re fortunate enough to be around in 20 years, it will be because we were able to impact artists on a larger scale. We would love to offer a print circulation, which may become possible through the upcoming Barren Press, an umbrella micro-press that I’ll be launching soon (with another, different, awesome Masthead). We’re currently holding our first Barren Poetry Contest, and we would like to hold Prizes for all mediums. We’re in the initial stages of mentor program for upcoming writers, and we would love to be actively involved in global conferences and even hold workshops of our own. But, all that has been done before. We’re looking into pioneering some new things in the publishing industry and to stay ahead of trends for the sake of longevity. In due time. For now, we’re focused on publishing wonderful writers and photographers in ways that really resonate with our growing audience. You know, grow that root system.

barrenmagazine.com Facebook: facebook.com/BarrenMagazine Twitter: twitter.com/BarrenMagazine Instagram: instagram.com/barrenmagazine

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interview by Clifford Brooks 1) What was the spark that started BookLogix? Whose brainchild was it? Atlanta is a very creative community, with a wealth of talent in the arts, but ten years ago when BookLogix was started, our founders had seen that there was a lack of established resources to help writers publish and print their books in a professional and cost-effective manner. BookLogix’s founders both came from a background in digital printing and assembled a passionate team of professionals to provide a start-tofinish publishing solution for writers, not just those here in Atlanta, but across the U.S. 2) What is the driving philosophy behind your operation? Why was it created? Our mission is to educate and support writers during the publishing process and beyond, while giving them books they can be proud of, and working to raise the bar on quality for nontraditionally-published books. For many years traditional publishing seemed to be the only option for a writer to get their work out there. Then self-publishing was born, but earned a somewhat negative reputation due to some poor-quality works making it to market. At the end of the day, every good manuscript deserves a shot to reach readers, regardless of how it was published. We provide authors with nontraditional publishing options to turn their manuscripts into marketable and professional books that stand toe-to-toe with traditionally published books. We educate them on publishing standards, genre trends, and more during the process to help them produce a quality book. We aim to make the publishing process enjoyable for writers by coaching them and guiding them as we work on their book, to help increase the book’s chance of success. The satisfaction of our authors is of utmost importance to our team on a personal level. 3) What services do you offer? Is BookLogix truly a place for “one-stop shopping?” BookLogix really is a one-stop publishing resource. We offer everything needed to publish, print, sell, and market a book, from ghostwriting and editing to design, paperback and hardcover book printing, eBook conversion, online selling and store distribution, to marketing services and support. Writers can choose to self-publish under their own publishing name, or have their book published under one of BookLogix’s four imprints. Along with the publishing services, I think BookLogix’s personal attention and our process of working hand-in-hand with our authors really set us apart. We provide advice, coaching, education via free workshops and webinars, and moral support along the way. 4) Do you make the books of your clients available on more than just Amazon? If so, who? How do your authors keep up with their sales numbers? In addition to selling our authors’ books on Amazon, we have a variety of sales channels, from physical bookstores like Barnes & Noble and independent stores, to our own BookLogix BookStore online, and authors’ websites, for which we can do the fulfillment. We also have several options for wholesale book Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 136


distribution and also eBook selling on Amazon, Apple and more. We also fulfill bulk and wholesale orders from schools, companies, and nonprofit organizations who may be ordering our authors’ books. Authors are provided with a quarterly sales report that shows what format(s) of their book were ordered, the sales channel it came through, number of copies sold, and royalties earned. If an author is doing a special marketing campaign and wants to check in on sales mid-quarter, they can reach out to our team for an update. 5) One of the factors I applaud most is the quality cover design, tight construction of the book, and clear typeface. What words of caution do you have for those who may go to a competitor without knowing exactly how much extra effort BookLogix will go to for a quality product? In nontraditional publishing, as in so many other industries, it’s important to do your research before committing to a provider. My best advice: talk to writers who have used them to see if they were pleased with the provider’s work. Also be sure to read reviews online, get samples whenever possible, and find out how involved the provider will let you be in the process---will they let you speak to the people who will work on your book? It’s not just the author whose feels that their reputation is at stake when they release a book—our BookLogix team feels emotionally invested too! We want to be sure that a book we publish for an author is something that both they and we are proud of, so we work with the author to educate them on style standards and trends for their genre, and why we will do things a certain way during the design and formatting process to produce a high-quality book. We don’t use automated software programs for design and layout, our in-house designers work on our authors’ books and we go through an internal review process to ensure that the final product is clean, professional, and in line with genre standards. The last thing an author should do is put lots of effort into the writing and editing process, and then have a poorquality layout done by a provider who doesn’t understand good book design. 6) What are a few pitfalls clients may fall into investing their money with a fly-by-night company? I wish it wasn’t the case, but I have heard so many horror stories over the past several years: writers getting locked into terrible contracts, losing thousands of dollars, not getting the files for their book, providers doing poor-quality work or shutting down or disappearing before they finished working on a project, and more. Many writers have complained of other providers not paying them royalties owed. There are so many options out there—so many people selling services to writers. The best way for a writer to protect themselves is to really research the companies they are interested in. Can you speak with an author who has worked with them? Are they a licensed provider registered with the state? Do they have a physical place of business you can visit with an actual staff, or do your calls to them go to an overseas call center? Have you looked them up with the Better Business Bureau? 7) I also admire how your staff sits down with every client to go over every detail and step of your process. What is your mantra behind customer service? At BookLogix, it’s so important to us that an author understands the process we will take their book through and why we are making the recommendations we make during the publishing process. We always strive to set realistic expectations for writers. It’s so frustrating to see other providers making false promises of grandeur to writers, selling services an author doesn’t need, or telling them their book will be a best-seller when there’s no way to guarantee that, especially when they haven’t even reviewed the writer’s manuscript yet.

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Our primary focus is the satisfaction of our authors, by providing them with a book they are proud of that is marketable and meets genre standards, while making the publishing experience as enjoyable and stressfree as possible. Often it can be hard for an author to think like a salesperson, and make decisions that have the buyer in mind, when they may have personal preferences that differ from their book’s target audience. Our team really works hard to guide writers to in making the best decisions for their book and their goals. 8) Please give us a few examples of the packages you offer. One thing we kept hearing over and over from writers is that other providers had services they didn’t need lumped into publishing packages. All of BookLogix’s services are offered a la carte, so a writer can pick and choose the services that best fit their needs and their publishing goals, or we can put together the services that are best for your book based on its genre into a comprehensive publishing plan. Some writers who work with us have their own editor or cover designer, so they can just use only the services they need to put together a total publishing process. Other authors will engage BookLogix for the entire publishing process from start to finish, including printing, selling/distribution, and marketing. We are totally flexible and can support writers in any manner that best suits their needs. 9) Your company can create hardbacks, trade paperbacks, and coffee table-size books. What are other “little things” you offer (that make a huge difference) that other companies overlook? Being able to work directly with our publishing team is something that really sets us apart. With other providers you may never even know who edits or designs your book, but with BookLogix you’ll literally speak to your editor, designers, and marketing coordinator, and if you’re local you can come to the office and work with our team in person. That personal interaction is something many other companies can’t offer, because they’re outsourcing the work on a writer’s book. We do all the work in-house with our team. Since BookLogix prints and binds paperback and hardcover books in-house at our facility, we have nearly unlimited options for printing and customization, from special materials to personalized or branded versions of books, to oversized books for book signings and events. We’re actually one of the few hardcover binderies in the Southeast, and one of the few publishers who prints their own books in-house. Authors can print in smaller batches and we offer print on-demand services as well. We can ensure the quality of the books that we produce, whereas other publishing providers are outsourcing the printing to a large print house, and then can’t control the print quality of the books themselves. We often hear from writers who have used another publishing provider and are just not happy with the quality of their printed books. 10) Where do you see BookLogix in 5, 10, and 20 years? The nontraditional publishing industry continues to grow and change, and BookLogix is growing along with it. We will continue to expand our services to assist writers who are pursuing all publishing paths, and add on new and enhanced services as the needs of writers continue to change. We hope to also bring BookLogix offices to other cities, to offer writers in other markets the same face-to-face interaction that our Atlanta-based authors get to experience!

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Doug Dahlgren interview by Clifford Brooks 1) What’s your backstory? What moments in time built up to make the man you are today? A dangerous question to ask a fiction writer. I suppose the answer would depend on how you looked at the end results. I am the oldest of six siblings. Others from similar backgrounds can relate. That in itself, makes you more aware and responsible because it’s expected of you. You tend to look ahead for potential trouble so you can head it off, or try to. You learn that though your efforts are not always appreciated, many are worth it. I’m a father and a grandfather. You learn from those honors. I am a Vietnam era veteran. I worked two, simultaneous careers for over thirty years. Met a lot of folks. Some became characters in my books. Some didn’t. The word “responsibility” plays a big role in my life. For better or worse, that’s who and what I am. In all I’ve done, I try to think it through and then do my best, hoping that will be enough. I have been married to the same, amazing woman for nearly 52 years. That’s gives you confidence that you must be okay on some level. 2) How did the idea for your radio show come about? What’s it called? Where can we find it? I was interviewed on an internet station out of Ohio, about my writing, and the station manager liked something in the way I handled that. He asked if I’d ever considered doing my own show. After calling several writer friends, asking if they would trust their careers with being interviewed by me, The Doug Dahlgren Show began in April of 2014. Live broadcasts continue every Friday at 11 AM Eastern and the recorded podcasts of those programs are available at your convenience on the webpage, www.artistfirst.com/dahlgren.htm 3) What do you write, and what made you want to dive into the chaotic world of letters? I am a storyteller. I write fiction. How well I do that is entirely up to you. My prior careers involved written bids, quotes, and contracts, which to be successful, must tell a story and be understood. Writing fiction is virtually the same thing with different content. There are certain mechanics to literary writing that continue to be a challenge, but I have help in those areas, and the main thing is, “telling the story.” If art is involved at all, that’s where it lies. I have nine novels available and I offer those as exhibits “A” through “I.” I suggest you start with “B”, The SON Silas Rising. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 139


4) What are you reading right now? For the last five years, my reading has been in preparation for the show each week. My wife reads each book that is featured on the show, cover to cover, and gives me notes. I am familiar with many authors and many books in many varied genre’s. I try to deep dive into the author’s BIO and read bits from their book. I know about the author and their book when we talk on the radio. Most of the guests seem to appreciate that. Makes for a more relaxed conversation. 5) Who are your three favorite authors? Ah, did I mention I’m old? The three authors who had the most profound effect on me were, Arthur Hailey, Frederick Forsyth, and I must mention John Grisham. As I said, I am a storyteller, therefore I admire great storytellers. These guys are some of the best. Storytelling involves great characters and weaving their stories within the novel. Hailey was the best at pulling everyone together for the big pay off at the end. Forsyth’s “Day of the Jackal” is still the ultimate page-turner, and Grisham’s storytelling in “The Client” kept me involved. Each of these authors demonstrate “plausible fiction.” I like that. I get to meet many authors these days. Most are relatively unknown. My job is to introduce them and get more readers to try their work. 6) Who are the top five people you’d love to have on your show, and why? Not to avoid the question but as I said, my program is primarily an introduction of writers whose work is not yet in the mainstream. I’m proud of that and comfortable with it. There are many established folks I’ve felt would be nice to have on the show. Unfortunately, too many of those turn out to be “too good” or not in need of what I do. I will point out one who wasn’t “too good,” though he is an excellent, very popular, and successful author. Craig Johnson has been on the program, twice. If you don’t know him, you should. Great guy, terrific writer and not at all affected by his own celebrity. He is a “class act” as they say. To be more responsive to the question, I won’t name names. I would like to have writers who are confident in their work but would like more recognition. You’re out there. I know you are. Give me a call or shoot me an email... doug@dougdahlgren.com 7) What advice do you have to help those who want to get into the literature talk show business? Go for it. We need more people talking about what’s available to readers today. The goal is to turn around the tide that has gone out, and get more people reading again. As far as advice, I’d put that in the same category as writers who want to teach others. If you do what they do, like they do, you’re no longer yourself. The world doesn’t need more copy-cats. If you want to do a talk show, do it your way. Learn what works for you and adapt as your listeners demand. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 140


8) What are your biggest pet peeves in the business of books? Egos and Political Correctness. They divide us. If I need to explain that, you probably wouldn’t like my answer. I will say this… it definitely takes moxie and a secure ego to complete a book and present it to the market. Not everyone can do that. BUT…don’t let it go to your head… and Do let your readers judge it for you. Always respect your readers and bless them, those who take the time to do a review. Good or bad. We can learn from both types, and we should. As for politics, everybody has an opinion, but how you vote doesn’t make you a great writer nor should it affect who you associate with and support in this business. 9) What do you do to unwind? You have any guilt pleasures? I enjoy travel, short trips, with my wife. Meeting with old and new friends is always fun for both of us. I enjoy talking with people. To be completely honest, taking a good nap is growing in stature for me. Most of all, we both enjoy watching our children and grandchildren grow and succeed. They are amazing. 10) How do you want to be remembered? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could control that? Of course, we’d all like to be remembered for our intentions, regardless of the outcomes. I hope people will remember me as consistent and honorable. That I was loyal, would be nice. And that I tried to be a good and reliable friend. What friends and acquaintances remember is really up to them. The important stuff I’ll leave to my wife, kids, and grandkids.

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Nicholas Barron interview by Clifford Brooks 1) What’s your backstory? What makes you tick? What about life gets you going? My backstory is a childhood of meager means on a small farm in rural Missouri. My parents are amazing, but they didn’t know what to do with this kid who spent all of his time reading and writing stories. Where I’m from, people don’t become authors and poets. Even going to college is not a given. I did go to college, though, and have spent the past 13 years working in digital communications and marketing. That background gave me the skills to launch Bidwell Hollow. Nearly all of my time is spent working. Right now, when I’m not at my day job, I’m working on Bidwell Hollow. In many ways, though, the adage is true: you’re not working if you love what you do. I’m devoted to making Bidwell Hollow become what I believe it can be, which is a connection point for readers, writers, and poets. 2) What lit your fire to create Bidwell Hollow? The original inspiration for starting Bidwell Hollow was the loss of Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac in Nov. 2018. I read the blog version of The Almanac. When it stopped publishing, I realized how much I missed it. So I naively decided to do my own version of The Writer’s Almanac. I started Bidwell Hollow as a blog, and then people requested an audio version. And that’s when I launched the podcast, even though I had no experience with podcasting. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 142


Keillor brought back The Writer’s Almanac in May 2018. Knowing there’s no sense in competing with a living legend, I stopped publishing Bidwell Hollow. After a few months of research and contemplation, I decided to launch Bidwell Hollow 2.0. This time, Bidwell Hollow is a weekly newsletter of book-related news, a blog publishing poet and author interviews, and a podcast telling true but little-known stories about famous writers and poets. 3) If you could have your 5 top “dream team” poets to interview, who would they be and why? I’d like to interview Hart Crane. I think he felt pain to which I can relate, and I would want to dive into that with him. To round out my “dream team” of poets, I would have to say Elizabeth Bishop because I love her work. I would want to interview Robert Frost if only to hear the stories I’m sure he could tell. W. H. Auden is in the top five, yes. Above all, though, I want to interview Emily Dickinson. How much could one interview change what we know, or think we know, about her? That’s one of the reasons I publish poet and author interviews on Bidwell Hollow. Never should a literary artist pass from this Earth without us having an opportunity to learn about the person behind the art. 4) What’s the philosophy behind this project? The philosophy behind Bidwell Hollow is to provide a place where readers, writers, and poets can gather and engage. To start, I’m focusing on telling real stories about the people whose words we read and recite. But if Bidwell Hollow grows, it can be a community, a gathering place, for people who create and consume the literary arts. 5) Who are your ten favorite poets and why? Ah, this is the moment when I’m discovered for the fraud that I am. I want to rattle off a bunch of clever names to impress you, but I’m not well read enough to do that. The poets I’ve read whose work I enjoyed the most are Elizabeth Bishop, Nancy K. Pearson, W. H. Auden, H.D., Edna St. Vincent Millay, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, John Ashbery, Countee Cullen. And I’ll reserve the tenth spot for the poet I haven’t read yet, not because those I have are unworthy, but because I love to discover poets whose work is new to me. There’s another poet over the next hill, and I cannot wait to read them. 6) What is a question you’d always like to be asked, but never have? (What’s the answer?) Well, maybe this question, actually. 7) What creative, personal projects you’re working on? Have I mentioned Bidwell Hollow? Ha. Seriously, Bidwell Hollow is my creative, personal project. I do journal once or twice a week, and now and then I’ll jot down a poem in my notebook. But all of my time and energy is going into Bidwell Hollow.

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8) Where have you been published, and where would you love to be seen? I’ve submitted a few short stories and poems over the years. All have been rejected. I’m OK with that because I don’t think, at this point in my life, that getting published in the traditional sense is where I want to focus my creativity. Bidwell Hollow is my creative outlet. It’s something I believe in, something that I think we need. Besides, I’m published on Bidwell Hollow all of the time. 9) What advice do you have for those who would like to start a project like yours? My top piece of advice is, to be honest with yourself. Be honest about the level of effort it will take and the energy that you’re willing to give it. Be honest about why you want to do it. Be frank about what success looks like to you. If your goal is to publish an occasional blog post that a few friends and your mom will read, alright. But if you want to build something that people read, consume, and engage with, be honest about the amount of time and work and money that will take. There may be nothing harder to do than to convince someone to take time out of their frenzied, hectic days to read something you’ve published. Talk to any book blogger, and they’ll tell you that it’s work on top of work. There are no overnight successes, but there are countless overnight disappointments. 10) What makes Bidwell Hollow different from other blogs? Great question. I think there are a few things that make Bidwell Hollow different from other blogs. For one thing, the blog is more accessible and user-friendly than other blogs. Particularly in the literary world, many blogs don’t follow what’s considered to be best practice for publishing online content. Whether it’s breaking up long chunks of text, making sure each post contains a few images, or search engine optimizing, the Bidwell Hollow blog stands out from other literary blogs that I’ve seen. This makes Bidwell Hollow easier to consume and easier to discover. Another way that Bidwell Hollow stands out is that you don’t have to be a bestselling author or awardwinning poet to be featured. There are only a couple of requirements to be featured on the blog. You have to be a published author or poet. And you have to be a poet or fiction or non-fiction author. No self-help or business authors, for example.

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William Bernhardt interview by Clifford Brooks 1) What events in your life are most responsible for the writer you are today? I have always loved stories. I still do. I grew up within walking distance of a library and that changed my whole life. The librarians there made me who I am today. 2) What is your opinion in all fiction being 80% real-life experiences from the author’s past or present? I think that may be more true in an author’s early work than later. I’ve published 47 books, and I could not possibly get all that from my life. I do a lot of research. That said, I do try to write characters and situations that seem true to my experiences. 3) What are you reading? What’s your favorite band? Is there any visual art you collect? At the moment I’m reading My Wars Are Laid Away in Books, a biography of Emily Dickinson. My wife and I had the delight of visiting her home in Amherst recently and the book was highly recommended by our guide. My favorite band in R.E.M., though there’s new Australian alt-folk group called Oh Pep I like a great deal. I have some Carl Barks “duck” lithos that I love. 4) What have you written? What is your current project, and how can we keep up with its progress? I have written novels of all types, two books of poetry, and eight books on writing. My most recent novel is The Last Chance Lawyer, a legal thriller that arises out of our current immigration controversies. 5) How does social media play into your writing life? Like it or not, social media is the best and most efficient way to get the word out about your books. The only promotion that ever sold a book is word-of-mouth. Today, that’s primarily digital word-ofmouth. 6) You have a passion for helping other writers. Where did that passion come from, and how can folks sign up? I remember being a young boy who wanted nothing in the world more than to publish a book—but with no idea how to make that happen. No one in the relatively small town where I was raised could help (or offer much encouragement). I had to figure it out on my own. My goal is to make it a little easier for the next generation.

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7) What’s a question you’ve always wanted to be asked, but never have? (What is it, and what’s the answer?) I can’t think of one. I’ve heard it all. 8) What are some habits of highly effective writers? Getting up in the morning and getting to work. No excuses, no whining about writers’ block, no waiting for the muse to strike. Just start working. The muse will come. 9) What are some bad habits writers have that work against them? There are always other things in the world that sound more fun than sitting in a chair and typing… 10) What are a few things on your literary bucket list? I wrote two novels featuring a psychologist named Susan Pulaski. I’d like to do at least more novel with her, to finish her story. I’d like to write more poetry. I’d like to do a collaborative project sometime. What a blast it would be to work with another writer I admire! Social Media Links: www.williambernhardt.com wb@williambernhardt.com Facebook: fb.me/WGBernhardt2 Twitter: https://twitter.com/wbernhardt Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/willbern

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Visual Art Interviews

Alecia Vera interview by Clifford Brooks 1) You are a rational optimist with both good business and exceptional artistic skill residing in one soul. How do you manage to keep both eyes on the positive in a world, and vocation, that quickly grinds down so many? How do you allocate mental energy to both the nuts-and-bolts of industry while still maintaining whimsy on canvas? First off, thank you for noticing. I think it just comes naturally to me but not without a price. I spend all of my time and energy pouring my heart into every aspect of being a businesswoman and a creative. I choose this life day in and day out and I think everyone around me notices that, hence, the numerous amounts of jobs and projects I am apart of. I work hard to get where I want to be and I have sacrificed my fair share in doing so. With that being said, I think I am just developing my own formula for success and happiness and that’s how I’ve gotten so far. It’s been an organic process and the only focus has been my happiness. When you are happy, you can do more. Everything is being fed by that one area. If I am struggling mentally, I allow my artwork to remind me of that happiness and it all comes flooding back. It seems to be a cyclical effort that I am forever honing and perfecting. 2) Please tell us about your training and education. What is your equation of streets-tobook smarts in breaking above others in your line of work? I have a BFA in Art and a minor in Painting from Shorter University. I also studied at UTC for one year and gained a lot of education from their art program but also realized my work is rarely based on concept and is mostly driven by aesthetics. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 148


I’d say the book smarts have helped paved the way for me but its the guts that have given me all the glory. I realized early on that I didn’t really fit into any art markets that I was being shown so I did what most wouldn’t dare to do and I attempted to carve out my own path. I have been working on a niche market that could bridge the gap between Fine Art and the DIY scene of today’s working artists and so far I’ve made a little bit of progress with the gallery that I currently curate. It’s an exciting venture that serves my many talents so I am excited to see what I can bring to the table when it comes to helping others. 3) Who are you? I am a living ball of color who loves to laugh. The end. In all honesty though, I am a working artist based out of Chattanooga, TN. I help run an all-inclusive space called The Palace Theater. I curate the gallery inside of that space and it is called Bazar Odditorium. I hustle more than anyone I know and currently have six jobs and that doesn’t include the several volunteer opportunities that I am involved in. I tell people I live on “island time” because I never pay attention to the day or the clock and quite frankly, I have no idea how I do what I do. If you are curious about how to follow along on my insane journey, just follow my Instagram @aleciavera. 4) What are you reading right now? Who are your top five favorite authors and poets? Why? Hmmm. That is a great question. It is rare that I sit down with a book although I do go through spells of heavy reading. I actually prefer to listen to podcasts or audiobooks these days. I think that is mainly due to my time being valuable so I prefer to listen AND work at the same time and that seems to be the best fit for my hectic schedule. I am currently listening to a podcast called I Like Your Work by Erika Hess. This is has been helping me develop my skills in interacting with artists and how others are working on achieving their goals. On the other hand, my all-time favorite Podcast is conducted by two comedians and it’s called “Guys We F***d”. Don’t let the title fool you, they actually discuss a lot of very important issues that occur worldwide and they open a discussion about things often overlooked or misrepresented in the media. It’s something that also makes me laugh and you all should know that’s the most important thing to me by now. I will say though, one of my favorite books that I reference often would be, “Big Magic : Creative Living Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert. That book has changed my life. But, to be honest, my favorite author is Laurie Notaro. That woman knows how to captivate my soul with her humorous writing. The only poetry I really keep up with are my friends. I have various talented individuals in my circles who are truly coming up in their own creative field and it’s been delightful to watch. Here are a few to look out for: Juan Camillo Garza based out of Atlanta, GA Erika Dionne Roberts based out of Chattanooga, TN I’m sure there are so many more I am forgetting at the moment but these two creatives really stick with me. 5) If you could put on an art show with ten artists (alive or dead) who would they be, and why would you pick them? WOW. What a question. Here it is: 1. Marcel Duchamp (dead) Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 149


2. Penelope Gazin (alive based in LA) 3. Mark Rothko (dead) 4. Joanne Greenbaum (alive based in NY) 5. Larry Poons (dead) 6. Peggy Noland (alive based in LA) 7. John Foster (alive) 8. Jules Olitski (dead) 9. Kristen Liu-Wong (alive based in LA) 10. Helen Frankenthaler (dead) Well, I know that this show would be insanely captivating visually and also slightly controversial which would provide an edge. Good art combines intriguing imagery and always sparks conversation. Plus, I was extremely inspired by the color field painters of our past and would love to host them with my new favorite artists of this generation. 6) How does your feminine strength and identity play into your form of expression? It has to be one of the most powerful features of my work. Everything from my color palette, to form, to subject matter all screams feminine energy. I love the fact that I am female and I think it’s super special to embrace that in this day and age. There is so much going on that encompasses the identity of being female that I am happy to shed some beautiful light on it all. I like to challenge what people perceive as feminine energy as well. A lot of my work can be super androgynous and I think that is really important for conversation. My work creates its own dialogue and has it’s own voice and I think that is one of the most significant things I could do as an artist. 7) Is art subjective - the liking of “good art” vs “art only famous because someone famous claimed its good?” I do believe art is subjective. That is why this field is so difficult to break into and maintain. There are so many factors into categorizing “good art”. What even qualifies good art? Well, it honestly depends on who you are asking. There is no right or wrong method to creating but we all know that some artwork is better than others but that is only driven by perspective. Someone famous claiming a piece as “good” may in turn create a buzz around said piece but that’s not necessarily driven by the work itself but by fame. That is another topic of conversation for another day. I also believe it is all about who you know though and if you have a certain agenda, that fame could be exactly what you need to succeed. That celebrity may have provided a platform for others to enjoy that artwork and that’s just good marketing. It doesn’t mean the work is good but it does mean the work is being seen so there is another element of success there. 8) Have you seen the film “Velvet Buzzsaw?” What are your thoughts on it? (I highly recommend this film if you haven’t seen it.) I did see the film! It was not at all what I expected but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think it provided underlying relevance when it comes to artistry and representation. Not all artists have the same agenda and that plotline displayed that. Some artists create for their soul and have no interest in being known which I think is very beautiful. In all extremes, the film goes to show how screwed up it can be when someone doesn’t respect that. Most everyone in that film had what was coming to them but it is also the reason I despise that side of the artworld. It was always just about money.

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9) You are taking the reigns of visual art editor of the Blue Mountain Review from now on. How does that feel, and where do you see yourself taking this beast? It feels great! I am excited about what I can bring to the table here at BMR. All I have to say is, I hope you all are ready for a wild and weird ride. Every artist I represent and work with has a funky twist and I am excited to share that with everyone who reads this publication. 10) Tell us about Bazaar Odditorium (please correct the spelling if I murdered it). Who started it? Where is it? What does it do? What’s your role in it? Bazar Odditorium is a an ongoing, organically growing, safe space that represents all walks of life and their artistic endeavors ranging from gallery showings to comedy and poetry shows and more. Rose Cox is the owner and founder of both the Palace Theater and Bazar Odditorium and she asked me along on this very special journey. We also run the space with Keith Nolan our Technical Engineer. I am the Gallery Curator and Creative Director and Manager of the space and it has been one of the most challenging and rewarding projects I have taken on. Most artists I represent will also be featured here in the Blue Mountain Review. We are located in Downtown Chattanooga, Tn at 818 Georgia Avenue. It is in the Innovation District and we are flowing right along with the growth of our lovely and accepting city. There is no other space quite like it. All of our shows are highly produced by Rose and have specific details of each which make them special and unique to The Palace. Check us out on Facebook at The Palace Theater and you can follow Bazar on Instagram @bazar_odditorium.

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Jessica Schulman interview by Clifford Brooks 1. Introduce yourself. What’s your name and tell us where you are from. My name’s Jessica, I mostly go by Jess because I think it sounds cooler. I grew up in the Atlanta bubble suburbs. My parents and brothers are southern transplants, my family is all from New York and that New England area. I’m the sole Georgia peach of the Schulmans. 2. How long have you been a practicing artist? Where did your art education come from? I’ve been creating stuff since I was a child, but I’ve only been saying officially “I’m an artist!” since probably 2014 when I had my graduating exit show at UGA. I was an art education and painting major, but the education part was a “back up” that I truly did not want. 3. How did you find out art was something you wanted to invest your time and energy into? Was it by accident or was it something you have always known? Please explain. Continuing to make art has been something I’ve always known even since growing up, if only subconsciously at first. When I was just an art education major in college I thought maybe I’d paint on the side. When I was a senior I panicked about sinking my life into teaching having no time to paint, so I added painting as a second major. That’s when I was like “oh yeah, you can make money elsewhere, just be a painter, you can do that.” 4. At what age did you start exploring the arts and has it always been focused on painting? Have you explored (or want to explore) any other mediums? If so, what would you approach next? As a kid the thing I would always bring on road trips with my family was a sketchbook. Any vacation I had to have something to draw with. I got really into acrylic painting in high school then switched into oils in college. I mainly do oils just because of their vibrancy and the way I’ve gotten into working with them has become more second nature. When I go back to acrylic again it’s like having to dust off some forgotten muscle memory. As far as exploring with other mediums, I’ve gotten heavily into graphic design. It feels like such low stakes so I feel less inhibited, I can just go weird and crazy all I want. I’d love to also dive into more sculptural pieces. I think that’d add a nice challenge to my art thinking process and help expand the growth of my work. 5. You are someone who creates large scale work that contains vibrant imagery. This question may be more of a chicken and egg scenario but I am going to ask anyways. What speaks to you more when it comes to painting? Is it the color or the size? Why? Ugggghhhgh um I guess I’d have to say color. Close tie though. I can feel more of a connection to a small vibrant piece than something large and neutral. If I ever find myself feeling like I need to make something darker and more neutral (I mean why do we artists ever feel like we HAVE to do something Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 155


like that...like what), it just feels like a school project to me. It’s like I can appreciate art that does that but I don’t live in that world. 6. A very simple question from one artist to the next, how do you work? Is it in a studio? Do you listen to music or podcasts while you create? Explain your setup. I HAVE to have a studio. I’m a pretty lazy person and if I have to move my supplies to and fro constantly, I won’t do anything. Living in small apartments has sucked for that reason, but there was always a garage or storage unit I could find and outsource for my work. Luckily we rent a house now that has a second bedroom which has become my studio. I cannot tell you how excited I am to have an air conditioned studio for the summer. My paint and supplies are stored in a wooden tool chest that my dad built before I was born. My palette is a large window pane I bought at Habitat for Humanity for about three bucks. I paint with probably a 60-40% ratio palette knife to brush. I build my own canvases so I can go as big as I want. My easels are also courtesy of my dad (where my love of tools and building things myself came from), PVC pipes with holes drilled in to adjust the height the pegs go in. When it comes to what I’m doing while painting, it’s always music or podcast. There’s this awesome etymology podcast, the Allusionist, that I listened to the entire winter of last year and it’s funny to me to look at a piece of my work and remember how I was listening to the importance of swear words while bundled in two winter coats (I was painting in a garage at the time). I’ve only listened to podcasts the past couple years, but music has been a huge part of my life since childhood. I listen to a TON of music all the time and all genres all over the place, so I’ve either got St. Vincent, Blink 182, B52s, CCR, Dolly Parton, Ariana Grande, Wolf Alice, Tyler the Creator, Kid Cudi, Linkin Park... truly just whatever. It always subtly affects my work as well. When I was listening to the newest Paramore album After Laughter, there were a plethora of purples and gradients that went into my work. 7. As artists, we often find our work shifting at times. Can you recall a moment in which that happened for you? If so, what was the catalyst? The tectonic plate shifts of my work have occurred probably 3 times. Once I got to real painting classes in college (where my FOR REAL process as an artist began), when I was in my graduating painting exit class, and the horrendous shift of this political era. The former two occurred mainly from being around other like-minded people when it comes to art and creating it. I realized I had a purpose for my art to go when I started real painting classes, and in my exit class I felt like I was painting (oh god sorry for the cheesiness) my soul or my essence for the first time. I don’t talk very much or let off too much of myself to people, but I felt like I could have people see me through painting. This last shift in my work has been this need to focus solely on women and the feminine. I remember thinking at a time “do I need to include men’s fashion, shift more masculine” for some reason. It feels suddenly very important to be large, bright, fun, and in your face with girls. 8. Upon meeting you, I could tell you were more relaxed and reserved when it comes to your social life. It wasn’t until I heard you speak about your work that I saw a different side of you. Tell me, is it easier to for you to speak about your interests when you have work to equate it to? In your opinion, why do you think that that is? I’m such a reserved person, it probably takes people a good couple months for me to let you know who I am. I’m guessing it sounded easier to you for me to equate it to work, because it feels like an outlet that’s safe. It’s like I’m with my buddy, she can take the eyes off me. I hate eyes on me.

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9. What is the main inspiration and driving force behind your work? Color, clothes, women, girl power. You know, stuff that’s “not important.” I paint it large. I want to go bigger, like really get in your face. But in a fun, happy way. 10. Can you describe what it’s like to be a working artist in this generation? Where do you harvest your inspiration? Do you think it’s easier to be a creative in this day and age? Why? There’s not many people in my life who think being an oil painter in this our 2019 year is something that makes sense. Like I’ve said, I’m starting to love drawing and painting on my computer, it’s low stakes. There’s no set up, it’s ready to go, no loss of materials. But there’s something about the heavy stakes of a painting and the physicality that make it feel more worthy of my time and adoration. I think it’s probably easier to be a creative with the breadth of creativity around and the sheer amount of access points we have to that. I get a ton of inspiration from fashion accounts and other artist accounts on Instagram. There’s so much more media to explore. There’s much easier ways to access materials that I’m guessing people in the 50s could only dream of. But when it comes to people who don’t do this as their chosen field, it probably sounds extra antiquated to gather the dearth of space and equipment I need to make a painting. 11. Outside of producing artwork, what else do you do? Can you describe your current work situation. I’m currently on track to being an assistant brewer. I’m a bartender/server at Naked River and they’ve been an amazing help to being my stepping stool to my career goals. I’m half working in production now alongside tending bar and serving. There were so many things I wanted to be growing up besides a professional artist (softball player, trainer, musician, baker), and I had too many potential paths. I finally got into making beer after watching both my brothers and husband mess around with it before I finally said to myself “I can do that.” I always loved the science of cooking and baking and beer is very much beverage science. 12. If you had to give one piece of advice to other creatives, what would that be and why? Talk to other creatives. Even if you’re shy and not outgoing like me, just be with other artists and talk to them about art. That’s always the downfall in my work if it’s just me, no one creates in a vacuum.

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Billy Roper interview by Clifford Brooks 1) Tell us what sculpted your life as an artist. How does your childhood play out in the artwork you create? How does "place" factor into the colors you use? Well, first of all, I am not real sure I am an artist and I am not being humble here. At best what is called an artist is a chandler something beyond what is know and the rest is either learned habit or repeated versions. In my childhood there were two things happening. One was I did not know I did not have the things I did not because I had never had them. Second was I did not know I had all the love, gifts and warmth because I had never not had them. we was poor way beyond what people now days might know about. That poverty was a gift. It developed in me the ability to see things for what they are and also see them for what they can be. I got more stuff now than room to put it. my art sells for a lot of money. in ways all that fell out of the sky. On my part I had developed the ability to be where it fell. I saw opportunities and took them. I have never conformed to what people want. So much of my life has been purification by fire. "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you." 1 Peter 4:12 Thus I was born. I know what it is like to have people falling all over me and I know what it is like to have people fall because of me. I am not proud of either. So in answer to your question I sculpted my own life. But how I got in the circle I was born in I have no memory. How does childhood play out in my art? Well, the most obvious way is constantly. To a large extent I am a memory painter. The influence of Pickens county ga is beyond saying. The first white people to enter this place were my ancestors. we been here a while. In a very true sense my body is made out of this dirt and it will go back to it if I have my way, a lot of things I love are buried in this ground. But how long before some piece of dirt comes and tears it down. (Do you detect a certain note of hostility here?) I was raised to a mix of white Cherokee ways. So many of the things I learned came from the Cherokees/Creeks. 2) What attracted you to folk art? My whole life I painted, carved, etc. Then one day people started categorizing: “folk art,” “self-taught,” and “outsider.” 3) You have referred to folk art as, "the illegitimate child of the art world.” Where do you see folk art in the genealogy of visual expression? It is the art of the heart as all art is, but of all art forms, I think it truly is the art of the people. It is often created by poor people and sold to rich people. Rich people don’t understand it because they don’t. Like Letting the fish hold the pole, it has no meaning to them. I do think that folk art is the first, true Appalachian art form. I also believe my art will be seen as on the edge of folk art one day 4) What is your opinion of Howard Finster? How do you believe he fits in the Pantheon of Creators? I never met him. I was invited to his birthday party once, but didn’t go because I didn’t know him. I’ve heard countless times that I am influenced by him, but that’s not true. I have been creating my art Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 161


since childhood, and that’s a long time before I even heard of Finster. Of course, I can’t say that some part of his work hasn’t touched mine. Every part of life influences us. Finster certainly opened the door to the larger art world for many, me included. Here is something else that is true: I saw preachers paint, carve, and draw exactly as Finster did. There was a church in Suches, Georgia, back yonder, that had artwork in it so close to Finster’s you would have thought it was him. The artist was in fact a preacher who had never met Finster, never traveled, and never watched TV. The Beatles were not the first to do what they did, either. They did it well, and their way. That will take you far down the road 5) Do you think it's possible to form a school to teach folk art? No, it’s not possible. Folks art as I know it is like an ethnicity. To know it, you must be born into it. 6) What did you study to become the artist you see in the mirror? I took three art classes in high school. After that I attended tech school for four years. After that I worked in a marble quarry. I did cabinet-making and carpentry for quiet a while. Life is what made me an artist. 7) What are you reading right now? Japanese Woodworking 8) Have books or music every played a roll in your creative process, or made it onto a canvas? Yes, constantly. Movies play a big part in my creative process as well. I can quote ”Dancing with Wolves” and “Roots” by heart. Music has been a part of my life from birth plumb to now. 9) If you could put on an art show with ten artists (alive or dead) would would they be? African carvers, Native American carvers, Thorton Dial, Rick Long, Cornbread, Grandma Moses, Willem de Kooning, Mose Tolliver, and Matisse. 10) What hobbies do you have that allow you to recharge from your art? Do you need a break? I like to go to flea markets, read, or watch YouTube videos. Sometimes I won’t paint for a long time, and instead I will carve wood or marble. I will take breaks from it all for extended periods. I have paintings that I have been working on for years. I will just stop it all and go camping or a while. I am a solitary person. I don’t need crowds. I am alone most of the time. I don’t like to have my picture taken

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11) What advice do you have for up-and-coming artists to help them avoid some of the hardships you've faced? I would like them to know it ain't that great being known. Failure and success ride the same train. A writer said in an article about my first art show that I had a voice that trained artist would die for. This came from a writer not generous with praise. My reply to that was, “Would they pay for it what I paid for it?” In 99% of the cases the answer is, “No, they would not.” If you measure success by what you don't have, you have lost before you start. Success in the art world will take all you got and then some. If you ain't ready to lose you ain't ready to play. 12) Is it hard to interact with the public once your art makes it to a level of ‘fame?' Yes it is and it doesn’t get any easier just because a lot of people know who you are. You are met with many unexpected questions. Over time, I developed come backs. Some ask, “Could you take any less for that?” I say, “I already am,” or, “No, but could you give me some more?” When people say, “My child could do that.” I say, “Wow! I wished they had! (I have a line for all occasions.) 13) Often, by our nature, artists are introverted. Do you find society taxing and your studio an oasis from it? Very few people see me anymore. I spend my day at home working on the projects, peacefully abiding. When I go to town and I hear, “Are you the artist?” I just stop and spend time with them. Most people don't mean any harm. 14) Where is your work now? I have work in the Gilmer County's gallery, Canvas and Cork in Dahlonega, High Country Gallery in Blue Ridge, Georgia, and Out Back at Rocky's Place in Dawsonville, Georgia. Mainly I sell my own things. The best place to see me is on Facebook. 15) How can people find it? Do you have any art shows coming up that we can note? The only show is the Bear on the Square Festival in Dahlonega, Georgia on April 27, 2019

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Tom Darin Linskey interview by Clifford Brooks 1) What about your youth, family, and other early experiences that gave you such a unique perspective? What has life been like thus far? I grew up in a pretty small town on the banks of the Mississippi River in Missouri. I think it was the Christmas I turned six when I got a View-Master. It came with a bunch of reels of popular TV shows at the time. Stuff like Batman and Bonanza, that old TV Western. Anyway, I loved sitting in the kitchen with the lights off, looking at the pictures. I was sucked in by the rich colors. We eventually moved to St. Louis when I was in the sixth grade. My mom worked nights, and overall it was a pretty lonesome time for me. I wasn’t too good at making new friends, so, after school, I’d grab my bike and ride down to the Rock Road Branch of the St Louis County library system. I had big dreams about traveling around the world. I’d pour through books of history and geography, looking mainly at the images, and dreaming roaming the world. The pictures I saw only stoked my imagination more. Believe it or not, music also played a role. This was the world way before CDs and digital streaming. I wasn’t into the stuff they played on the radio, but I did like going to different record stores to “rummage” around for cool music. I was a little snobbish about music, in fact. But these album covers were stained-glass windows, giving me a glimpse into music from abroad. Sometimes I’d even buy the record if I liked the cover. I think my interest in photography was partly born out of that. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 167


2) What are you reading right now? What music is stuck in your head? I’m an avid reader in fact. I joke around that I keep books strategically located throughout my house in case of an emergency. Right now, I’m reading a handful of books, including one about bull and bronc riders called “Bite the Dust.” I guess I’m drawn to that because I’ve been working on a photo project about cowboys. And I do a lot of editing to music. That helps to explain why I’ve got that great Tom T. Hall song, “That's How I Got to Memphis,” stuck in my head. 3) When you photograph people, what about them catches your eye? How do you approach them for permission to capture their image? I’ve always been a people watcher. When I’m out with my camera, I’m always looking for someone interesting to photograph. Nine times out of ten, what grabs my attention is a gesture: a smile, a glance, or something simple like that. But it’s hard for me to nail it down. The only way I can describe it is that sometimes it feels like God is tapping me on the shoulder. A couple of years ago I was in Paramaribo, Suriname, the former Dutch colony nudged on the muddy shoulder of South America. I saw a deaf couple on the street speaking in sign language. There was something endearing about them, and I felt this weird gravitational pull to stop and communicate with them. I say communicate because Dutch is the official language of Suriname and I can’t speak Dutch, nor can I use sign language. But the camera can do wonderful things. I stopped them and made some motions with the camera. They understood what I was up to, and they graciously posed for me. One thing I do is carry business cards with me. If I stop someone and ask them for a picture, I’ll give them a card and offer to send them a copy of the photo. 4) What is one of the funniest moments to happen as a photographer? Sometimes I’d take my kids with me on a shoot. When our third child (we have four) was younger, he got the idea into his head that every time I took a picture, money magically appeared in our bank account. So, if he wanted something, and I told him we couldn’t afford it, he’d tell me to hit the streets and start earning money. 5) You’ve traveled far and wide to catch life on camera. Where have you been, and what are your 3 favorite locations - why? I lived abroad in Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina for the better part of a decade. While I have a lot of emotional attachments to those places, the camera has really ignited my love affairs with Portugal’s Lisbon, Mexico City and London. Lisbon is a very intimate—and ancient—city. It offers a feast for the eyes: Narrow, winding streets, surprising river-facing vistas, weather worn facades with azulejos (hand painted tin-glazed ceramic tiles), great food, music and wine.

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Closer to home, Mexico City is an often-overlooked gem. While this city is one of the world’s most populated urban centers, the Mexican metropolis can surprise you. The cityscape is peppered with colorful street market stalls, cafes, museums, wide open gothic churches, and of course, its street art. London is London. It’s the capital of the world. You could pass the same street corner at least five times, and each time there would be something new. 6) Who are you top 5 favorite photographers and why? Whether it’s the high desert of the American South West, or the Dublin of yesteryear, I am drawn to photographers who can catch the beauty—and power—of everyday life in a seamless, and almost organic manner. US-born William Albert Allard’s take on America is wonderful, particularly his work on the Amish. I’m reading a biography of Edward Curtis, whose work focused on American Indians, and that’s reignited my interest in his classic portraits. Besides poets, Ireland has given the world some wonderful photographers. People like John Minihan and Billy Doyle. I love Minihan’s photographs of the famed writer Samuel Beckett. As for Doyle, while he has been called Ireland’s “Cartier-Bresson,” he is more than that. His black and white film work captured the heart of a long-gone Dublin. That said. I’m a sucker for good portraits, and my top five photographers would not be complete without including Will Wilson. He’s a Diné (Navajo) photographer who works with a large-format camera. He produces these wonderful tintype portraits of Native Americans. 7) Where do you see yourself in 5, 10, and 15 years? Hopefully someplace alive, with a camera strung around my neck. Seriously, though. As long as I have my wife and kids nearby, I don’t care. 8) What advice do you have for those trying to break into photography as a profession? I’ll just be simple and straightforward here: Believe in your work. Don’t undervalue your talent. 9) What have you always wanted to be asked but never have? What’s the answer? No one has ever really asked why I got so serious about photography so late in life (I was in my forties). Photography helped me battle grief, and then depression. I really believe that the physiological aspects of photography alleviated some of the symptoms of depression. Light affects the brain, and in my case, it really helped me step outside of my “dark place.” I don’t want this statement to sound maudlin, because photography has been a Godsend. Wounded in darkness, but bandaged in light. 10)

What is your philosophy on life?

I don’t know if I have a philosophy per se, but I am a believer, and I do take Christ’s words pretty seriously. I’m one of those back-pew believers, not a theologian, belly crawling to the kingdom of God with all the other stragglers and walking wounded. But Christ’s message has had a huge influence me on how I see—and hopefully—treat others. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 169


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Lil Mo interview by Clifford Brooks 1) Tell us about growing up. Where were you born? What is the first thing you remember? What event early in life shaped you to be the man you are today? *Born in Chattanooga Tn. *The Projects(bricks) *Watching My Grandma Hustle to Survive. 2) What are you reading right now? What new music have you found? Who are your favorite authors and poets? *21 laws of Leadership. *21 Savage *Tupac and Napoleon Hill 3) What music gets you going? If you got to pick the groups to put music to your next documentary, who would they be and why? *Trap Music. *master P hot boys *relatable 4) What is your connection to Chattanooga, TN? What do you see improving there these days, and what still needs work? *Born Here *race relations *equality 5) What sparked your interest in making a documentary? Do you plan on growing that skill? *Wanting to share my perception *yes 6) What drew you to the story of “32?� What roadblocks did you have to beat to get it in the hands of the public? How hard was it to get people to cooperate with you? *Filming seemed like a good topic. *time and effort *on a scale of 1 to 10 7 7) What other kinds of film-making are you interested in? What new projects do you have on the horizon? *Movies *more documentaries Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 172


8) Who are your biggest inspirations in life? If you could pick a film-maker to help you, who would it be and why? *My grandma *Spike Lee 9) What do you do to unwind and keep your cool? *Sleep Oil 10) What question have you always wanted to be asked, but never have? *Can u give me a million dollars Please lol.

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Dinner: Wednesday – Saturday

Lunch: Wednesday - Saturday

Sunday Brunch

4:30 PM – 9:00 PM

11 AM – 2:00 PM

10:30 AM - 3:00 PM

44 Chambers Street | Jasper, GA 30143 | 706-253-8500

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Music Interviews

The Buzzards Of Fuzz interview by Dusty Huggins

1. Give the reader a general summary about The Buzzards of Fuzz and the Desert Rock genre. The Buzzards of Fuzz is a three, sometimes four-piece desert rock band from Atlanta, Georgia who traverse the Southeast in search of the finest party in rock and roll history. The desert rock genre (sometimes referred to as ‘stoner rock’) is a global continuation of the Palm Desert rock scene originated by bands like Across the River, Yawning Man, and Kyuss. 2. The Buzzards continually grow within the Atlanta Rock and Roll scene. What would you say are some of the key contributors to the success you all have had thus far? Thank you, that’s very kind of you to say, Dusty! The BEST piece of advice I ever received was to do something, do one thing – for your band EVERY DAY. It doesn’t really matter what you do - but if you can force yourself to do just one thing every day then in a year you’ve made 365 moves. Sometimes you have a good day and you do two or three things, maybe five? And not that I’m qualified but the best piece of advice I can GIVE is to try and do one thing for someone else every day in conjunction with what you do for yourself. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 175


I’m continually surprised how those acts add up and how many amazing opportunities come from just working hard and being kind to one another. 3. Last year’s Fuzzstock ended up being a huge success. Tell us about this year’s growth and anything you can, without giving away too many surprises. It was so much fun! The first Fuzzstock was honestly one of the best nights of my life – I really didn’t even consider bringing it back, but when I joined A. Rippin Production, Amos (Rifkin) asked if we wanted to add Fuzzstock to their calendar as a yearly event and it really clicked that this could be something more. This year, we’ve moved the party to East Atlanta Village at the newly remodeled 529. The capacity is now 250 and the room sound and board are just incredible! We expanded this year’s lineup with 50% more bands over the first year and we’re introducing some Fuzzstock-specific merchandise like T-shirts, buttons, and a compilation CD that includes tracks from Fuzzstock I & II artists. We did try, when possible, to retain the folks from last year because it did feel like a family and we care very deeply about those involved. Jackson Heaton (Rock 100.5) is coming back to host again and DJ Ho Tram (Billy Konkel of Hot Ram) will return to DJ in between bands and for the after party. Sasha Vallely sang a few songs with us last year – this year, her band Sash the Bash will be performing. We almost had our friends Flashback Flash fly in from California, but in the end the date just didn’t work for them. Ultimately Ben (Davidow), Amos, Cody (Martin) and I have set our sights on attainable growth for the fest while maintaining the same fuzzy family feelings that made the original worth repeating and I think we’re well on track to meet that goal. 4. If you could have any lineup and venue for Fuzzstock, and I mean any, what and where would it be? That’s a really tough question. I think this year we did everything right, we’ve got some amazing talent and 529 is one hell of a nest for us – the people here are so kind and supportive and really care about musicians. So for this year, I think this lineup and this venue is the dream. There has been some talk about this becoming an outdoor event at some point. I think the concern is that we may sell out and some folks won’t get in. As much as I want to include everyone and love seeing the growth, it is just as important to me that the festival retains the intimate feeling that made it a success. So we would need to reconcile those things but who knows, maybe we end up in a field with 20 bands by Fuzzstock V? 5. How have you seen the Atlanta Rock and Roll scene grown since the Buzzards entrance and what is the potential for it going forward? The Atlanta scene is an onion wrapped in a riddle dipped in enigma sauce – there are so many layers that I’m not sure if I’ve watched it grow or if people have just gradually turned me on to what was already happening. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 176


I will say though that I’ve watched our class grow. I’ve watched my friends grow – I think everything operates in cycles and I suspect we’re going to see some Atlanta talent break the mainstream soon. Marking each other’s growth is a real interesting way to monitor your own – what’s good for any of us is good for all of us and the potential for growth exists in every small thing we do. Pick up a guitar, hang a flyer, go see a band you don’t know – all of these create growth, in yourself and others. 6. Do the Buzzards have any specific goals for the upcoming year? We certainly do! This is year five for Buzzards and we decided to really reflect on what we were doing and to try and become more proactive rather than reactive. We’ve had many amazing opportunities over the last five years but we’ve just constantly been chasing our tails trying to keep up with them. We’ve never taken a break to clear our heads and focus on our own path, we’ve just been going with the flow and trying to keep up. So we took some time off to regroup, write some new songs and get to know each other again. Ben, Chuck (Wiles) and myself have been performing with each other in and out of different bands for at least five years before Buzzards started. As you can imagine over that time we’ve all grown quite a bit in a lot of different ways and are now in a place where we can all contribute more and have more of a voice, it’s been an important part of finding our center. Another goal was to limit the amount of shows we are playing both in town and on the road and focus on calculated runs on specific time lines so we’re not ALWAYS on the road and can sort time to work on new music or other opportunities. 7. How do you all feel about where the music industry is today and if you have any critiques, what would they be? Crisis and opportunity can be the same thing. We are truly in the wild west of music right now – you can stand around complaining about how little streaming nets you or you can adapt. Some of the tools previously in place to larger bands are all but gone – but really, they weren’t available to just anyone in their heyday, anyway! Now, there are no gatekeepers – you can release your music directly to everyone, no A&R or record labels to stop you! You can probably reach out and meet some of your heroes – I have. It’s an amazing time to be a musician if you’re willing to be creative about what’s happening. 8. When can we expect the next Buzzards album? Space Fuzz 20/20 lands in 2020! Social Media Links: www.facebook.com/thebuzzardsoffuzz | www.instagram.com/thebuzzardsoffuzz www.twitter.com/buzzardsoffuzz | www.thebuzzardsoffuzz.com Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 177


Tamsin Quin interview by Clifford Brooks 1) Give us a unique walk down memory lane. How did your childhood and teen years shape the gypsy you are as an adult? My parents are old hippies, so I was always bought up with a lot of freedom and music around me. We never had much money growing up but looking back these were the best days I remember because we would entertain ourselves by exploring and camping. We lived in a council house that backed onto miles of English countryside and I remember being very young, maybe 5 or 6 and disappearing for whole days with my brothers and sister. My mum would pack us up with some jam sandwiches and we’d walk over the hills into the woods and be gone for the whole day without an adult in sight. At around 5pm my mum would stand at the top window of our house and shout all our names across the fields for us to come in for dinner. We’d have camp-fire parties at the bottom of our garden with all my parents’ friends sat around playing us songs on guitar. Later on, when my parents split, my Dad bought a narrow boat to live on and we spent many weekends cruising the canals in southern England and having musical tow-path parties. It was this that sparked my interest in playing guitar, I wanted to be able to join in with the Jam sessions. My Dad said if I practised on his guitar for 6 months to prove I was serious, then he would buy me my own guitar and true to his word, he bought me my first Tanglewood when I was 14 years old. It was beautiful and I started writing straight away. I think because of the way I was brought up, I have always felt a strong connection to the outdoors and nature, which inspires a lot of my songs. When I was 22, I somehow ended up living and working in the city for a couple of years and it nearly killed me. So, I bought myself a campervan and quit my job and spent a few years living in laybys and nature parks and writing lots of songs. That’s when I started really playing live shows. Now I live in a house with my partner (and there’s hot water on tap which is a huge luxury compared to the van!) and we are in walking distance of the canal and a beautiful woodland. I think my childhood had a huge influence on my song-writing and who I am today and I am proud of that. 2) Your music is the flavour of folk the American Appalachia region inherited. You sound like daisies captured in sunlight, but often it woos me away from the deep longing beneath. How do you layer your song-writing and musical arrangements? Well, thank you. I tend to mostly play solo when I play live and when I write its usually when I am alone. So, I tend to write very stripped back musically. This leaves a lot of room for embellishment and is why I love playing around in the studio with different instruments and sounds. You can really make a song come alive with sometimes subtle additions. Really what I enjoy most is writing lyrics, I love creating poetry that comes from the soul and hopefully is powerful enough to affect listeners enough to feel something. When people tell me how my lyrics have made them feel, that’s what means the most to me. We are all on this strange ball of earth together and human connection is the one thing we all need (and yet one thing a lot of us are lacking). To have that small moment with someone Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 178


through the power of your songs and music is just so special. You have become part of each other’s lives, even for a small moment and truthfully, I think that’s the main thing that keeps me going sometimes. 3) What are you reading right now? Who is your favorite poet, musician, and novelist? Right now, I have about 5 books on the go. I’m terrible for that, but I like to read whatever I am in the mood for, so I have a couple of novels on the go, a poetry book about trees, and a couple of music marketing books that a friend lent to me. My all-time favourite book is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. My stepmother gave me a copy years ago and said, ‘It’s probably not your thing’, but I read it within 24 hours, and it changed me. Now it’s like my bible, I read it three or four times a year. It’s pretty dog-eared now as I have lent it out to a lot of friends and take it each time I travel, but I learn something new from it each time I read it. I love the magic of books, how they always seem to find you, as opposed to you choosing them. I love the feel of them and the smell of them. However, I don’t have a huge collection at home (only about 25 – 30 of my all-time favourites and wildlife reference books which fill one shelf) because I believe the magic should be passed around and once you have read them you should free them up and pass them on. One of my other favourite writers is Terry Pratchett. I can get truly lost for hours in his books and just disappear into his crazy world. Poetry-wise, I used to take myself out for lunch a lot and sit and write songs and lyrics. Years ago, I was sat writing in this little country pub in Wiltshire and an older couple were sat opposite me. The husband went off to pay their bill and the lady started chatting to me, it was one of those moments which could have been made into a film. She said she could see I was struggling with something (I’d just come out of a break-up) and she said I might appreciate this; and handed me a note. It was a small scrap of paper with Invictus by William Ernest Henley typed on it. She said she kept a copy in her purse to remind her to be strong when she needed it. She gave it to me because she thought I might need it. It really struck a chord with me and I have kept it in my wallet ever since and read it regularly. It’s so powerful and reminds me to keep being unapologetically and enthusiastically me and stay in control despite the situations happening around me. “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” 4) What question have you always wanted to be asked, but haven’t? (Please provide the answer.) Q: Would you like a million-dollar recording contract? A: Yes, ok, thank you.

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5) There is a philosophical weight to your melody. Which schools of thought, or philosophers, influence you? I’ve never been one to fit in with routine and conformity and always think there must be more to life than just working a job you hate to pay the bills. Although I have fallen into this many time myself. It’s hard not to if you want a stable roof over your head. I am lucky enough now to work sporadically and in many different areas of my interests. Each and every one of us are unique and I think we were all put here to bring something unique to the table. I am trying really hard to get to the end of my life without having too many regrets of missed opportunities and to follow the path I was put here for. Find out what you enjoy and do it full-force! 6) How useful have you found social media in regard to promotion? What are a few things that work for you? A few years ago, I would have been a little pessimistic about social media, but now I think it’s an invaluable, useful (and free!) tool for artists. I have realised that pretty much everyone spends a lot of time on social media, so if you can capture their attention online, then you can usually lure them to a gig or two. It’s also fantastic for networking with people in different parts of the world, it really gives you a global audience if you use it right. I have been really pleasantly surprised at how inclusive the online music community is. I have made some great friends that I have never met in person, we review each other’s music and help each other find music venues, it’s wonderful. We are all in this together and all trying to get somewhere, so it’s such a nice feeling when you can help each other out. Social media has been fantastic for helping spread the word about gigs and live events. It helps to connect with fans and make new fans because you can share intimate moments of writing/recording to a wide audience. Social media is definitely something I want to work on and connect with more people as much as I can. That said, there needs to be a balance of real-life and online use. I try to limit my social media time and go on once or twice a day to check notifications. I also set boundaries with my fans. I have had fans add me as a personal friend on Facebook and I just don’t think that’s appropriate. My music page is there for my music fans. My personal page is for friends and family only, I keep it private. I don’t think it’s appropriate for fans to see pictures of my family and see what I am up to day to day. What I am happy to share goes on my public pages, but I try to keep my personal life separate from that. 7) What bands, musicians or venues are on your bucket list to get on stage with? There are so many musicians I would love to jam with and play live with. Personally, I love a lot of singer-songwriter music and find it inspiring to see solo artists being so successful. If I had to choose, I would absolutely love to play live with Passenger, I think he is one of the best songwriters of our generation and has a real ear for melodies. Plus, he seems like a nice genuine guy with no ego and fun to hang out with. Oh, I would also LOVE to dance with Florence Welch from Florence and the Machine, she seems fun. I’d also love to see what John Mayer would do with my songs, he’s an incredible guitarist and it would be interesting to see how he could change my songs. My biggest career goal I have set myself is to headline at the Royal Albert Hall in London. I already have my band made up in my head. Mostly using the people who played on my latest album: my partner Pat Ward on guitar, Lee Alder (Belarus) on guitar and backing vocals, Lukas Drinkwater on double bass, my producer Jon Buckett on keys, and Tom Bradley on drums. I can imagine it so clearly in my head. It is going to be magic. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 180


8) What projects do you have in front of you now or close on the horizon? How do we keep up with you? I am currently working on the new album. I have a lot of new songs that seem to work really well together on this new record. The style is a little different from my last album Gypsy Blood, it’s a little more folky and stripped back. I’m really excited about it and have been doing most of the recording myself which has been a learning experience in itself. I will be releasing this in late summer this year, with an Autumn UK tour to support it. You can keep up with all my music on my social medias, just search Tamsin Quin Music on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube. You can find more of my music on Spotify, Bandcamp, Apple Music and other online outlets. If you would like a physical CD, please order from Bandcamp. 9) What makes you happy? The simple pleasures in life is what makes life worth living. Walking with friends, hugging your loved ones, listening to the rain outside with a good cup of tea in your hand. Good people, good food and good environments, that is the secret to life. Create your own world of little pleasures inside this crazy world of strangeness. That’s the only way we can survive happily.

Social Media Links: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TamsinQuinMusic/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/TamsinRosieQuin Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/0CKUgtTgPbRB521brn9eDE Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tamsin_quin/ Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCYlaWrWQoqvI8zPBXl8XUg?

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Jamaal Hicks “Maal The Pimp”

interview by Clifford Brooks 1) Give us your beginnings. What were your dreams as a kid? How did those dreams translate into your adult life? I grew up as a kid in College Hill Courts, better known as the West Side projects in Chattanooga, TN. My dream was always to be an athlete. I was very good in football in my little league days but as I got older basketball became my passion. My sophomore year in high school I was put off the basketball team for being involved in some street activities & then my junior year I was put off the team again. So my senior year, I decided to let sports go and I entered into a city wide High School Talent show & won 1st place for “Best Rap.” I followed that up with my 1st release on cassette tape & from there MAAL THE PIMP emerged. So by the time my adult life began, my dreams & goals had changed & it was all about the music. 2) What were some of the biggest challenges you had to conquer to get into the music business? What advice do you have for those coming up? The biggest challenge in the music business is always learning how to actually get paid from your craft. Learning the importance of networking & branding because that’s what most artists seem to never understand in the beginning until they start realizing how much money is being missed later on down the line. This is 90% business & 10% talent so my advice to upcoming artist is GET YOUR BUSINESS IN PERSPECTIVE FROM THE START & also to remember that networking & building relationships is more valuable than any amount of money. 3) How has education played into your worldview? To make it, how much school smarts to streets smarts do you think it takes to navigate life? Education has played a big role for me, a very major role. I have a degree in Music Business from Middle Tennessee State University & because of the knowledge I acquired there I’ve been able to make lots of money in this business. But at the same time street smarts is definitely needed. It gives you that instinct that can’t be taught so it allows you to read people from a different angle, not be intimidated by anyone or anything because you have come from worse situations, & sometimes allows you to intimidate someone when necessary. But when you are street smart & business smart it gives you an edge because you can always decide which “smart” you need to use depending on the person or situation you’re dealing with. Prime examples of people who were successful from street smarts but also educated would be Master P, J. Prince, Birdman/Baby, Suge Knight, & 50 Cent just to name a few. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 182


4) If you were able to put on a music festival with artists alive or dead, who are the 10 you’d pick, and why? Top 10 artists for a music festival would be BOB MARLEY, MICHAEL JACKSON, PRINCE, SNOOP DOGG, ANTHONY B, WHITNEY HOUSTON, TUPAC, DR. DRE, HOT BOYS, & GETO BOYS. 5) What are you reading right now? Who are your top five favorite poets and novelist? Right now I’m reading “THE ART & SCIENCE OF RESPECT”, a book released by Rap-A-Lot Records owner James “J” Prince, a person who is well respected in the music industry & in the streets. I don’t have a top 5 poets but my favorite 2 poets are Mya Angelou & Tupac Shakur. 6) It is nearly impossible for people today to talk about politics without a brawl. You and I have, and all was good. Why do you think politics and society seem impossible to discuss these days? Politics are difficult to discuss these days because race is so much involved. Until then it wasn’t so serious. When Obama became president that’s when Politics became more of a problem to discuss because so many white people were offended to the point that they could not control their racism & it showed in actions & speech, even the ones in power. And black people were so happy to finally have a black president that we weren’t allowing anyone to bad talk Obama without firing back so that up the ante in politics. Then when Trump , who has a history of racism & no political background was elected, that upset a lot of people & also was kind of looked at as a “Yall had Obama, but now look we got yall back” type of thing so again the ante was upped even more. 7) Your work with the documentary “32” is unprecedented. You also laid the title track that embodies the story. Please outline how “32” came to be, and your creative process behind the beat and lyrics. The reason for releasing the “32” documentary was simple. It was unjust actions, racial profiling, & defamation of character towards those from our community & it needed to be exposed in detail. The 32 men who were defamed all over the news needed a voice to speak for them because they couldn’t defend themselves & I was that voice. I knew a lot of those guys personally so that documentary was never to bring myself the attention but ME being the one to put it out gave it that certified stamp of approval. It was sickening to watch 32 black men get defamed & given lots of time for allegedly talking about things over the phone but then see the Hamilton county sheriff get caught red handed with multiple kilograms and get less than time that everyone. It’s obviously racially motivated & that’s what also led me to writing the actual song “32”. I wrote the lyrics without even having a beat & then a producer based out of North Carolina named Hush Sicarri sent me a beat that matched up perfect with the lyrics so from there, the actual song was created. 8) Can art change the world? What role does music play in society? No, art can’t change the world BUT if can definitely be an influence on the brains of the people that will change the world. Music plays a big role in society because so many youngsters want to imitate the music in everyday life & so many adults don’t understand the painful reality of the topics discussed in music so they misjudge the music & the artists who create it. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 183


9) What projects do you have going on now? What can we look forward to in the future? Where can the public go to keep up with you? My new album “Nothing But Respect” releases in April 2019. I’m currently working on a documentary called “Off Comes The Mask”, which is a story about the Rise & Fall of Fam Records. Also, I have an acting role in a movie along with Lil Boosie, Starlito, Bezzled Gang, & MJG (8ball & MJG) called “The Milwaukee Story: Too Much Sugar For One Dime” that releases in theatres nationwide in Winter 2019. In the fall, I will begin filming a new documentary called “Life With Chopper City”, which tells the in depth story about the label I was with while living in New Orleans. 10) What’s a question you’ve always wanted to be asked, but never have? What’s the answer? Can’t think of a question that I wanted to be asked but was never asked. Social Media Links: *Youtube.com/PimpoholicTV *Instagram.com/@MaalThePimp *Twitter.com/@MaalThePimp *facebook.com/MaalThePimpakaMTP *Reverbnation.com/MaalThePimp

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Andrew Riley of the Doghouse Atlanta Channel interview by Clifford Brooks 1) Give us a bit of background on you. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school? Where do you work? What about life made you the man you are today? Well, I grew up in Roswell north of Atlanta in the 1990s and I went to high school at Pace Academy. That’s where I started getting into video production, which is my current day job at Georgia Public Broadcasting working as an associate producer in their local productions department. I’ve been a fan of old movies my entire life and my Dad really had a great impact on some important influences that pushed me into this direction. I went to college at Elon University as a double major in Cinema Production and History/Geography with a focus on Mexican history. I learned way more as a History student than a Communications student, which is probably a large reason why I gravitated to producing television documentaries with my current day job. If I were to boil down a list if positive influences, I’d list Robert Evans, Theodore Roosevelt, Alan Watts, Stanley Kubrick, Jean Luc Godard, Nick Hexum, and Ted Turner. My passions for media and for knowledge brought me to those people and I try to live parts of my life like them as best I can. 2) What are you reading right now? Who are your favorite author and poets? I am so entrapped in media I admittedly don’t find much time to read, but I’m actually going back through the Harry Potter series right now. I haven’t read through it since I was in high school and I didn’t know hardly anything about British boarding school at the time. I still don’t – but I definitely view the books a bit differently now. I’m almost 3/4 through The Goblet of Fire. It’s good. I appreciate this magical boarding school drama. It helps me escape from the round-the-clock media. 3) How did Doghouse come to be? What stoked your fire to create it? What’s the overall goal? Doghouse was a compilation of many, many ideas that happened over about five or six years. Ea ch idea was to solve a problem at the time – the first being “what do I call all this video?” Then, the question was “how can I get this video from my camera to the viewer instantly?” Then, you make up a plan on how to solve these problems and find people who would want to be on camera. I was having the time of my life shooting live set video and meeting bands, so I started figuring out how to make this live broadcast setup work in a venue. There are still many problems, but all the Legos are in the box. Right now, I’m focusing on regular nightly live Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 185


programming and I am hoping that the Doghouse Atlanta Superstream will be live within the next few months. The livestream is “super” because it is not just one program, but many multi-genre programs running true live, not just recorded and broadcast as live. There’s a difference and I think audiences respond better to live interactive programs. 4) How do people apply to be a part of your project? Who are a few of the Atlanta bands under your roof? I have a policy where I will help anyone who asks! Right now I’m working on a main brand called SoundFetch, which will house the music programs. Those programs would include a regular talk studio recap/interview, like a Tosh.O for our local music, but with some interview content. That’s probably the program I am most excited about. I don’t have any bands signed to any sort of distribution agreement. This is more of a media/news organization – live broadcasting. 5) Do you play music? How does your passion for music keep you afloat during bad times? I want to say that I do not play music, but I admit that I was in the high school band on trumpet. They switched me to tuba my senior year, which I really enjoyed. You can have a bit more attitude with the tuba than with the trumpet, which surprises people, but it’s what I think. I’m glad I don’t play today because I worry that my enjoyment for music will one day shift like my passion for movies did. Watching a movie became an analysis process and makes it difficult for me to enjoy the moment. Music hasn’t gotten into my head like that yet. Quite honestly, the music that this Atlanta scene releases is what keeps me going. It’s my perfect escape where my passions and talents for video can be expressed within the context of another’s amazing art. When I’m shooting a show from the front row and it reaches that next level – there’s a moment in which the camera operator loses themselves and they become the music. Every shift in that camera lens is determined by the splitsecond decision making of the operator, which is only an emotional response caused by the music. It’s where I feel at peace and makes all the work to get there totally worth it. 6) If you could have 10 bands (alive or dead) under your roof, who would they be - and why? ONLY TEN?! Come on Cliff! I hate to pick bands out like this because I don’t want anybody to think that it means anything. If anyone wants to see the full list, I release Spotify playlists of the new music these Atlanta bands are putting out seasonally. I’m drawing from those lists, so these ten are just people whose songs have had a particular impact on me. Also, I’m not listing any bands who aren’t playing anymore. 1) 2) 3) 4) 5)

Zale Chelsea Shag The Norm Citizen Gold Flashback Flash

6) The Orange Constant 7) Universal Sigh 8) Camera Box 9) Sound Culture 10) The Buzzards of Fuzz

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7) So many incredible bands have a hard time breaking out and up. How does Doghouse help with that? It astonishes me how little media any local music is receiving. I hope to use the broadcast medium as a way to reach audiences near and far and to help propel the music through the internet’s echo chambers and into a general international audience. 8) Where do you see Doghouse in 5, 10, and 20 years? 5 Years – Regional station expansion 10 Years – International station expansion 20 Years – Space station broadcasts 9) What is the business philosophy you live by? It’s kind of like fishing. I don’t bet my meal on one line. What if it’s just in the wrong place at the wrong time, but that one line could be in the right place later? There is no single correct or incorrect idea. My flexibility and eagerness to shift ideas can be unsettling to people, but the way I see it; the animal that fails to change with the weather is doomed to be stuck out in the rain. 10) What’s a question you’ve always wanted to be asked, but never have? What’s the answer? I’d love for 311 to ask if I would want to livestream their show. Of course, I’d say yes.

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Folks from the Southern Collective Experience

The Yanceys interview by Clifford Brooks 1) (husband)What did you dream about as a kid? Do you believe in prophetic dreams? How did your faith shape your youth. A: As a kid I remember dreaming about living a life of luxury and being able to get anything I wanted. Having the house with the basketball gym inside, swimming pool in the backyard, and a high dollar sports car in the front. I guess these would be more of daydream wishes, rather than the uncontrollable ones that come at night. However, I believe both style of dreams can be prophetic. Daydreams being more of a practice of our ability to cast out a vision. While dreams at night, being more of our ability to receive visions being cast upon us from a spiritual world. Then, “deja vu” would be the physical manifestations of forgotten visions. For me faith was the ultimate “potterer” of my youth. I was told to dream big, aim high, and trust God! I was taught to believe I could do anything I set my mind towards doing. 2) (wife) What strong, female role models first gave you strength? How do you convey that same inner fortitude to your daughters? A: Growing up My mother as well as both of my Grandmothers were strong influential women in my. I watched as they put God first ,nurtured and empowered their families, worked hard for everything, and loved and supported their spouses all without a single complaint (at least openly) or signs of weariness. Effortlessly, and sometimes unknowingly I have grown to model many of these traits, that allow me to exemplify strength and fortitude to my daughters . In essence I understand that experience is the best teacher and Actions speak louder than words ( especially when dealing with your children ,they hear nothing but see everything). I learned what A strong women looked like by watching my mother and Grandmothers. Without even knowing it, I embodied their strength while watching them , learning how to deal with adversities with style and grace. My hopes are that by my works, my daughters too will learn what it takes to be successful in their own rights. 3) (husband) You hold the world on your shoulders - with style. Tell us about being an engineer, father, husband, musician, and author. What does a typical day in you life look like? A: My days have become almost a boilerplate routine. Well the process has become boilerplate but the experiences are becoming more and more dynamic. I think that’s what keeps me balanced in a sense. The engineering side of me needs to set structure discipline and order, while the variation of all that I’m a part of helps fuel my creativity. For instance, I’m blessed to be in a talented household, but with that comes a very busy lifestyle. Everybody is involved in something that helps nurture their talents. So everyday there’s the consistent “weekly schedule review” of everyone’s activities and then ironing out the logistical conflicts. Waking up in the wee hours of the morning to get “my stuff” out of the way before going into work, being efficient at work to get off in enough time to ensure the evening Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 189


family plan is executed as intended......This is the boilerplate everyday process. However, while on the way to the different places we need to be , the conversations help us visualize what we each experienced while apart. Then, while we’re at the those places, we witness and analyze the world around us. We learn how we interpret the world separately and as a family....this is the creative fuel that sparks the songs on the album and the chapters of the book. 4) (wife) You are a true Renaissance woman. You are a mother, wife, pillar in community events, outreach programs, and you are also an entrepreneur. You exude strength, intelligence, and beauty while your family grows in momentum. How does a day in your life play out, and please give us details on your path to success. A: Whew! A day in my life to some may seem overwhelming; but for me I’ve know no other way. My Mornings begin at 6:30 a.m. with my alarm waking me, and usually laying there for another 10 min to Pray and fully become aware of all of my facets. Lol. I wake up our 3 school Aged children so they can prepare for school. After I Iron clothes, fix breakfast, pack lunches, make sure they are properly dressed and don’t have dirt behind their ears; l take our 15 yr old to a near by bus stop so she can make the hour long bus ride to Chattanooga Center For Creative Arts. Before she leaves the car we say a short dally prayer and our “ I love You’ s” and She’s off. I then return home to comb hair and rush our 6 yr old and our 10 yr old out the door as they catch the bus that arrives outside of our front door. By this time, if our youngest son hasn’t awaken, I have time for a cup of coffee while I scroll thru Social Media and my “YouVersion” BIble app. He soon wakes up and is ready for breakfast. Depending on the day of week my schedule may include all or some of the following activists while the Children are away at school: Making/ taking kids to appointments, laundry and household chores, coordinating after school activities with the King, grocery shopping, paying bills online or via telephone, searching the web for successful business ideas, researching potential vendors, and doing in clerical work that is asked of me by DLY2 all before lunch! After either preparing or picking up Lunch for our 4 yr old and trying to get in some sort of learning activity or mental stimulation , We both tuck away for our afternoon nap (its a must in order to maintain my youthful glow lol) At the moment I am carving out time to memorize my role in an upcoming play that I am in called, “The Attic”. I am also researching different Graduate Programs in an effort to soon Return to School to get my Masters in Family Counseling. By the time the children get home from school, the day really picks up momentum as I help with homework (or supervise) make a light snack, and make sure their chores are done and they are prepared to head back out to their various Extra curricular activities. Our boys are involved in every sport in every season and our girls do dance as well as the 16 yr being active in whatever concert/musical/choral practice that is scheduled. On Certain days we have church or some sort of ministry rehearsal. On busier days we grab a bite on the go (which I usually feel horrible about) while on other days we end our night with family dinner where we exchange stories or funny jokes and talk about upcoming events. We usually wrap our days up around 9:30, send the little ones to bed and reflect on the day with the King and glass of wine ! 5) (husband) DL, you have a new album out. How is it different from your past albums, what new topics does it tackle, and how have you grown in the process? A: The new album is titled “Life Is Love” and it embodies the everyday experiences we encounter as human beings and the situational inspiration we search for as spiritual beings. What makes this album different from my previous projects is that I already knew what direction I wanted to go in from a body of work perspective. Mostly because ,prior to recording, I spent years performing the songs and creating a fluid flow for a live performance presentation. Also, this is the first project Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 190


where I worked with other musicians to expound on acoustic versions of my songs. A good majority of the songs were written years ago, but I can say the newest topics I addressed are the concepts of being “redeemed” and “saved”. I think those are two subjects that I’ve always believed in but faced difficulty when trying to explain it to others. I’m proud of how those songs turned out. I’ve got to say that I’ve grown most in two ways, musically and spiritually. Being around a group of highly skillful musicians has expanded my music theory approach in songwriting. My ears have opened up to many more audible possibilities. Lastly, I’ve struggled with choosing how to classify my artistry as gospel, or R&B. Going through the process of releasing this album, I’ve learned how to confidently conceptualize my spiritual experiences within a social context that can transcend the genre box. 6) (wife) It is impossible to keep up with you. I’ve tried and failed. What is your philosophy on hard work in a world of constant excuses? What artwork do you use to relax? A: My Life from the outside may seem tiring and impossible to keep up with, but I wouldn’t have it any other way! Growing up I watched as my mother worked (sometimes 2 jobs at a time), came home to help with homework, cooked dinner, and not to mention she never missed a practice or a game that me or my brothers participated in as an athletic family. She showed me that we make time for what we deem important! There is never any excuse that you can give for failure, but simply that you gave up too soon. Tenacity, flexibility, optimism, and determination are all the ingredients needed to get your piece of success. I enjoy Writing poetry and plays as a relaxing art form, I have been writing since I was 10 years old. You would think as much as I talk I would run out of things to say, yet I manage to still find words that get caught in my head and can only translate thru ink and paper. Music is the soundtrack to my life 7) (both) As you raise your children, and you have a full house, what parenting rules have you found to be gospel truth? What rules should be tossed out and never used again? A: Raising children is never a cookie cutter job. We have found that each of our children have individual needs and personalities which cause them to respond differently to our various parenting techniques. For example, our daughter doesn’t like to be scolded, so she tries her best to avoid doing anything that might cause us to deal with her in that way. In fact yelling at her causes her to shut down and essentially doesn’t receive the lesson or instruction that is trying to be taught. On the other hand our baby boy is quiet the opposite! He will think that you are not serious or that he can push the limits, until you get very stern with him and lay out negative consequences if his behavior doesn’t change. Scolding seems more effective with him and he is much more of a act now, take my consequences later type of child. Although all of our children are very different in many ways. Some more obvious than others i.e. Age, sex, temperament, personalities. Certain ground rules apply in our household: 1. Always respect yourself and others 2. Understand every action has a consequence good or bad. Think about whether you want the good or bad before you do the action. 3. Try your very best in every thing you do. Parenting can be on of trial an error so we have learned some rules don’t have to be so rigid and some of the things we were taught growing up were good for us but may not work for our Children.

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One such example is the “do what I say because it’s what I say and don’t ask me any questions “ this was a common theme in our household growing up. While We understand the reassigning behind our parents’ response. We also understand the World we live in now is much different and we are raising children that our more exposed than we are. Now don’t get us wrong. Some answers will be, “because I said so”! But we feel it is important to have appropriate open dialogue with our children about the Why’s of our answers in a world full of technology we still want to be the primary source of information for our children. Understanding the why’s of discipline or structure has helped them to grow rational thinking in a World where they can become distant with a click of a button. This is just our attempt to keep communication and understanding mutual 8) (both) Please Tell us about your children. What dreams do they have? How does the church influence their lives? How do they help y’all maintain balance? A: We have four biological children who are the most intriguing combinations of us. The order goes, girl (Kaylyn 15), boy (David III 11), girl (Alivia 6), boy (Imanuel 4), and they are all cartoon characters!...lol. Kaylyn is a honor roll sophomore preparing to go off to college really soon and is focusing her studies on forensic science. She has an amazing voice and is looking forward to continuing use of her talent in choir at what ever institution she chooses. She’s really down to earth and a unicorn pickle loving goof ball! She dreams to be an entrepreneur and have her own lip gloss product popping. David “D3” has already determined he will be a NFL star with his own engineering company. He’s a straight “A” student playing every sport possible, and an avid Fortnite gamer with an extremely confident personality. He’s witty and has a work ethic that matches his intellect and will blow your mind. Alivia is Ayanna 2.0! She has an extreme electric personality that grabs you the moment you enter the room and it will not let you go! To her life is a ongoing theatric play starring….well of course her!...lol. She’s a cute dramatic cheerleading gymnast dreaming to be a movie star. Lastly, Imanuel is the professor of the house. He has life lessons for everyone of all ages and a “red ink” brain armed and ready to fix whatever you think is right. He’s a natural music talent who’s playing sports and cracking jokes! Church keeps them all balanced and empowered. Through being active in church they are learning biblical leadership principles that prepare them to be outstanding humble contributors to society. It keeps them grounded in faith with confidence. We see so many of our attributes in them that guiding them along in their journey’s help us to continually guide ourselves. That’s the largest balance that’s maintained and one of the major blessings in starting a family at a young age. The home is definitely synchronized. 9) (husband) What advice do you have for men who are considering marriage and children? A: I would say first and foremost find security in who you are as a human being. For if you cant be secure in loneliness, there’s no way anyone else can be secure in you. Be intentionally prayerful in understanding your purpose and what the pursuit of it could potentially look like. My dad used to tell me all the time “son don’t get married and start a family unless you’re ready to take care of them”. I used to look at it as just a statement of being financially prepared. However, I’ve learned that financial responsibility is just the shiny object everyone else can see. It’s important, but what’s most important are those things that are almost invisible to the naked eye. Being a husband and a father means you are responsible for things that you can’t necessarily control or even fulfill, but you must be eager to take on that responsibility and try. Expect sympathy from no one but be willing to give it to all. Give clear directions and be prepared for them not to be followed, but remember, you’re the one leading towards the goal. Failure is not an option, so you must always see success, through the ups and the downs. When you are tasked with what seems to be the impossible, remember the only thing that’s more valuable than love, is life itself. LIFE IS LOVE !!! Cherish it. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 192


10) (wife) What advice do you have for women who are considering a husband and children? A: If I could give any advice to women who one day dream of having a husband and children it would be that Love conquers all!! Love for yourself Is first and essential. Love yourself enough to know yourself and your personal goals before setting out on expansion. Motherhood is a self-less job and you can easily lose yourself in the process. Knowing and loving yourself first makes the transition so much easier (because motherhood is hard work ) As for becoming A wife; I used to hear the elders say, “Find a man who loves you more than you love him�. I never understood that at the time and honestly I thought it sounded pretty selfish. But now I understand what they meant. For women a lot of times is so easy for us to love and become attached emotionally to others outside of ourselves. So much so that we pour out so much of ourselves that there is a potential for emptiness. When a man loves you that much it becomes easy to give of yourself to others because he is filling you up continuously with all his love so that you will never go empty! From the beginning, thru it all and until the end. LOVE CONQUERS ALL

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Samantha Rose Hill interview by Clifford Brooks 1) Who are you, Professor Samantha Rose Hill? Your writing exudes a depth of understanding that has one hand firmly in an ethical approach to the philosophy of Hannah Arendt. Your other hand holds the soul of a poet not hardened by the brutal truths you take head-on. Did Arendt handle her study of the human condition/politics and poetry in the same way? How are you different from and similar to Arendt? I’m the Acting Director of the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College, Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Studies, and Associate Faculty at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research in New York, New York. I’m a writer, poet, critic. In Arendt’s Denktagebuch (Thinking journal) there is a short entry that reads: “Amor mundi — warum ist es so schwer, die Welt zu lieben?” Love of the world — why is it so difficult to love the world? This question has always resonated with me. Arendt was a poetic thinker. She saw the worst humanity has to offer, and her question was how do we love the world? For her loving the world meant coming faceto-face with the world as it is. You placed poetry and the “brutal truths” of reality on opposite sides of each other, but I think that they are intimately intertwined. A poetic disposition helps one to see the world as it is, helps one to love the world. I can’t answer that last question. I never knew Arendt. Thinking about it I’d say, I’m a different kind of writer than Arendt was in certain ways. I’m much more interested in writing for a public audience than an academic one, which is how Arendt oriented herself in writing. At the same time, I just finished a very personal memoir about sexual violence in academia. I don’t think Arendt would have ever written a book like that. 2) What does it mean to be a practicing philosopher in an age fraught with fake news and a new religion of ignorance. Arendt believed that thinking in her time was dangerous. How about now? What banister can we hope to hold on to? Thinking has always been dangerous. It’s what got Socrates killed. Arendt wrote, “The notion that there exist dangerous thoughts is mistaken for the simple reason that thinking itself is dangerous to all creeds, convictions, and opinions.” Today, in the era of fake news, social media, and the Internet, we are losing our capacity for discernment. With the phenomenal appearance of totalitarianism in the middle of the 20th century, Hannah Arendt argued that the traditional moral categories of good and bad (banisters for thinking) have lost their relevance. The same is true today. The inability to discern fact from fiction, and make critical judgments paves the ground for the emergence of fascist propaganda and rhetoric. As a political thinker today I think that we have to find a way to preserve and nurture our ability to make judgments.

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3) You told me that you recently finished reading Eleanor, or, The Rejection of the Progress of Love. You said it was “a cold poetics,” and, “More like staring at a painting than reading.” I can’t let you slide without expounding on these observations. Please do. Talking to you is dangerous too, apparently. I was enticed to read it by a dear colleague who thought it might help me with a book I’m working on. In a Kantian sense, I want to say that some things are resistant to thought. The stylization of the work, which is about form itself, creates a sense of distance between the page and reader. Something can be intellectually stimulating and not open up space for thinking. It’s the difference between something which is objectivity beautiful, and something that is truly so. I appreciated the form but it did not find harmony with my soul. 4) Earlier I mentioned Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress reminds me of some of Arendt’s political philosophy. You told me she was connected to sci-fi, and one of her books began in that genre. Please tell us about that book and how Arendt used sci-fi to flesh out her purpose. I can’t say much about science fiction, but I can say a couple things about The Human Condition. Arendt opens The Human Condition with a kind of sci-fi fantasy about the moon and travels to outerspace, imaging how our perspective might change if we are displaced from earth. I think of The Human Condition as the flipside of The Origins of Totalitarianism. If Origins is about the emergence of totalitarianism and the foreclosure of the world, The Human Condition is about protecting spaces of freedom and the ways in which we move through the world. Arendt offers her now-famous tripartite distinction between the different realms of life and their corresponding activities: private, social, public, labor, work, action. Poetry plays a significant role in The Human Condition, even more so in her own translation of the text from English to German. Arendt says, “Of all things of thought, poetry is closest to thought, and a poem is less a thing than any other work of art . . . ” Poetry is a way in which we record our experiences and artifice the world that we share in common. Poetic thinking stands in contrast to totalitarian thinking. 5) I read in your essay “Thinking Itself is Dangerous” the perilous lack of ethics and irresponsible use of language in our current administration. Please hone your finer points of that essay here concerning what we see in the White House. Do you see philosophers today shifting toward a more proactive role in government? Oh to have philosopher kings! No, I do not. Though, I know a number of folks who are setting up private consulting firms to give advice to big businesses on how to handle ethical dilemmas. Not quite the same thing. I’m worried about language. I think a lot of people are. I read an article a couple of months ago that said vowels were dying. Donald Trump’s speech grates upon the ears. Arendt used to say that you could tell how smart a person was by their word choices; this is a part of her argument about the banality of evil in Eichmann in Jerusalem. Trump, like Eichmann, can only speak with stale, canned language. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t think, it means that there is no evidence of selfreflective critical thinking. Language is a reflection of our ability to think, of the expansiveness of our imagination.

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6) You have a new series that at the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College that brings together philosophers and poets. When does that begin? Who are the first to step into their respective seats? What is the goal? How can people find out more details on time and place to possibly attend? It began this month! You can watch a video of it online. Ann Lauterbach moderated a conversation between Fred Moten and Robert Gooding-Williams, who talked about love, the beautiful, judgment, Arendt, and democracy. I initiated this series with the generous support of the Poetry Foundation because poetry is at the heart of Arendt’s political and philosophical writing, as a form of thinking that can bring illumination in dark times. Right now we are living in a moment of darkness that encompasses political, social, economic, and ecological strife, mass homeless, and loneliness. The phrase Words we live by comes from the end of Hannah Arendt’s book On Revolution. Turning to the poet and French resistance fighter Rene Char, Arendt wrote that “the storehouse of memory is kept and watched over by the poets, whose business it is to find and make the words we live by.” The language of poetry was, for Arendt, what remained after the war, as a record of experience that could provide a sense of durability in the world, and as a form of thinking that could lead us away from the tyranny of ideological thinking, toward a reckoning with the world as it is. 7) Tell us about the Hannah Arendt Center. When did the doors open? What’s its overall focus? What are a few highlights thus far you are most proud? How can people apply to be a part of it? The Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College was founded in 2010 by Roger Berkowitz. Hannah Arendt is buried at Bard College with her second Husband the poet and philosopher Heinrich Blücher, who came to Bard to teach in 1952.We also have her personal library here as well. We do public intellectual work in the spirit of Arendt. Every October we host an international conference with about 1000 attendees, and somewhere between 20 and 30 speakers. This October 10th and 11th our conference will be on Racism and Antisemitism. There are a lot of ways for people to be involved in the Center! We host an online reading group for members. Right now we’re reading Rahel Varnhagen: The Life of a Jewess, which was Arendt’s first book after her dissertation monograph on Saint Augustine and Love. If you’re in the New York area we also host a number of public events in the city and upstate. And every Sunday we publish a newsletter called Amor Mundi. (Please subscribe!) 8) You are now translating Arendt’s poetry for publication. What if any difference is there between her voice as a philosopher and poet? Have there been any new findings about her life or brilliant psyche in your study of her poetry? I collected, edited, and translated Hannah Arendt’s poems from German to English. It’s been done for about three years at this point, but publishing is a complicated business. Hopefully it will be out soon! I started working on Arendt’s poems in 2010 when I discovered them in her archive at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. Describing Walter Benjamin Arendt once said: He was a poetic thinker without being a poet. The same compliment could be extended to Arendt. I think of the poems as a kind of secondary autobiographical text, they offer us a glimpse of a great thinker who had a strong sense of privacy. Also, I find some of her poems to be quite beautiful. Reading the poems you see Arendt playing with poetic form, she is thinking through philosophical concepts that appear in her published writings. A number of the first poems were written when she was quite young and are love poems for Martin Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 196


Heidegger. There’s about a twenty-year gap during the interwar years, and then the first poem she writes is W.B., for Walter Benjamin after he committed suicide in the Pyrenees unable to escape the Nazis. In her later poems, the style becomes more loose, she’s reflecting on loss, World War II, time. There’s a kind of melancholy undercurrent that runs throughout all of the poems. 9) What about your poetry? Who has guided your taste in verse thus far? What music inspires you? What unique connection do you find between philosophers and poets? I’ve written poetry for as long as I can remember. It’s just the way I think about the world. As far as my taste goes, it’s quite eclectic. I carry certain poets around with me: Frank O’Hara, D.H. Lawrence. Lately it has been H.D. and John Ashbery. It took a long time for Emily Dickinson to open up to me, but once her work did it was like seeing the world anew. I have the great fortune and pleasure to be colleagues with the inimitable Ann Lauterbach. Everyone should read her new volume Spell. I love Tiek, Celan. Anything melancholy. My political theory courses are always infused with poetry. My work does not fit within a prescribed academic discipline. Right now I’m teaching Kant’s third critique on judgment and we’re looking at Walt Whitman, W.H. Auden, and Goethe. What is grass? What is a rose? How does language shape our understanding of the world? On music, I love Bob Dylan most of all. There’s also Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone. Music is very slow for me, I’m really sensitive to it. I have a very limited playlist. Mostly I listen to jazz: Bill Evans, Sidney Bechet, the Hot Fives and Sevens, Art Tatum, are standbys right now. 10) What’s one question you’d love to be asked, but never have? What’s the answer? Oh, I don’t know. I love questions, I like them to surprises. I always tell my students there are no answers. https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/thinking-itself-is-dangerous/

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Nikita Nelin interview by Clifford Brooks 1) We’ve talked briefly about your birthplace and affection for Dostoevsky. In the vein of flash fiction, please outline for our readers your life from Moscow to the American west coast, and how Dostoevsky’s ghost followed you. To answer that in flash is hard. I wrote a whole memoir about it and could barely keep that thing under 300 pages. But I’ll try, just the hot spots. My mother and I left the Soviet Union in November of 89, three days before the wall fell. We didn’t know it was gonna fall. It was kind of weird actually. We were in the mountains of Austria staying in the basement of some inn and dining of thin soup when we found out. It was an odd psychic twist. Like, all the sudden, the overt reason for why we left had ceased to exist right after we left. We left for many reasons though; antiSemitism, lack of opportunities, family drama, but most of all I think my mom wanted to have an adventure. So we had an adventure. My father stayed. From Austria we went to Italy and waited for U.S. asylum. We immigrant kids became street rats, setting up squeegee enterprises at intersections, selling stuff the Italians threw out at the black markets, and playing in the arcades. It was amazing. We were finally granted asylum and placed in South Florida. South Florida felt like a waiting room, where people went to wait to die. There are no sidewalks there. We arrived in America on May 11th, 1990, the same day my father became an official cosmonaut of the soviet union -- yeah, so there’s that too. I didn’t speak the language and had already picked up some, um… adventurous habits. So for most of my adolescence I skipped school, played basketball, and got into all sorts of trouble of the aloof type until I finally dropped out and moved out of the home my mother was sharing with a former Ukrainian wrestler who had become a veterinarian studying shamanism. We lived on the property of the animal hospital and cemetery. I didn’t like it there and the wrestler and I didn’t get along. I thought I could do better on my own. I didn’t really. Then again, the dank and dark places I found at the time were the right answer for that wrong time. I get to say that now. I’m lucky. At 21 I had a bad car accident where I flipped my car on I-95 and got hit by an 18 wheeler. I crawled out without a scratch but my mother and I (she’s a social worker now) got arrested together that night after fighting the cops – another side story in the memoir. We laugh about it now. Alcohol was involved, on my part. It had been for a while. I had become an after-hours kid living to a Nick Cave sound track. She was just trying to help me. After the accident I changed my life. I also got my GED and went to community college in South Florida. I took cigarette breaks with one of my teachers. As we smoked together, she complimented an essay I wrote and said she thought I could make it in Columbia University, if I went to NYC. I was floored. I hadn’t had someone see me like that before. I moved to New York City. Another teacher at a community college in NYC encouraged me to shoot for liberal arts schools and helped steer me to Bard in the Hudson Valley. Bard changed everything for me. Liberal arts schools are designed in such a way that the professors offices are right next to the classrooms. The access is remarkable. I became friends with them. A few were dissidents from the Soviet Union. They brought me back to my Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 198


heritage. I was studying psychology at Bard, because it felt logical. I was sober. My mom is a therapist. My grandmother was a well-known behaviorist in the Soviet Union. It just made since. I was president of psychology club and we set up events for the student body where I introduced tarot cards as a personality assessment tool. I wanted to go into neuroscience. But I was reading fiction again, especially the Russians. I was reading the Russians who had been silenced by the party and was blown away by how they coded their messaging of the human spirit. And I read Dostoevsky for the first time. His ghost, as you say, it literally found me. It was spring. I sat on a bench at Bard overlooking a field. I was finishing Demons. Dostoevsky wrote Demons because he wanted to depict a terrible man as a sympathetic figure. Stavrogin is this man. I was reading the appendix to the book. A chapter that had not been permitted to publication. In this chapter Stavrogin goes to see the priest Tikhon. He brings with him an article he has written which depicts all the terrible things he has done, and he testifies in it for how God has not punished him, implying that God does not care about our morality. He’s not bragging, or confessing. He wants to destroy the idea of a heavenly authority. But he wants Tikhon to read it. Dostoevsky sets up the chapter in such way that when Tikhon reads the document, the reader reads along. You read in three voices, Tikhon’s, Stavrogin’s, and your own. You are becoming a co-participant. After reading, Tikhon asks, “If someone were to forgive you for this. Not someone you know or fear. A stranger, reading your terrible confession alone, by candlelight, if he were to forgive you for this, would it make a difference.” A pauce. “Yes,” Stavrogin replies in a whisper. That moment, for me, was like a veil being torn away. I knew who that stranger was. It was me. And the choice I made about this character mattered, in some nearly metaphysical way. It could change me – my choice. What Dostoevsky did there, I wanted to do. From there I knew I wanted to be a writer. After Bard I got an MFA at Brooklyn College. It was confidence building. I got to call myself a writer for two years without feeling weird about it. Towards graduation most of my cohort was making life plans, and I just packed everything I owned into my car, boxed up my books and mailed them to New Orleans where I had decided to move. I loved the creativity of that city, the community, and the sense of insulation I felt there from the more logical ambitions of the world. I was flying high. I had just won my first few awards. I was sure I was invincible. But I didn’t stay too long. I was becoming restless, and some new process was beginning in me. After NoLa I hoped over to Florida again, sending my books again too. The USPS lost them all on that round. That sucked. In Florida I sold my car. I jumped on a train and went back to NYC. I was recycling cities now. In New York I taught college during the day and bartended at night to pay my bills. I wasn’t writing. I was very unhappy. I was just performing a life. I signed up to volunteer for two months at the Omega Institute in the Hudson. My jobs gave me the time off and I sublet my place. I was preparing to jump, but I didn’t really know it yet. I slept in a tent at Omega and worked. A spider bit the back of my neck as I set up tent. It swole up to a golf ball and didn’t go away until the day I left. At Omega I met a woman who was taking a similar break from her life in San Francisco. She was heading to Burning Man after Omega. A few months earlier my mother had asked me, “What do you want to do.” I answered that I want to go and experience strange adventures and relate them to people through my writing, like Burning Man.” I decided I was gonna go. By some strange circumstances I received a phone call telling me that I had “just won the Burning Man lottery.” I was invited to go build a large art project titled Burn Wall Street and live in the desert for a month. A former mentor of mine agreed to let me post about the experience at the Hannah Arendt Center. The woman I was falling in love with was going. So, I gave up my jobs, my apartment, whittled down everything I owned to two duffle bags and a computer and I went West. I’m a romantic. It was 2012.

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There’s more. A visit to Seattle. The woman and I moving to NoLa. Back to Seattle. We’re in Tacoma now, 30 minutes from Seattle. My father’s death. Russia. Credit scores, student loans, and living with a Sufi mystic for a spell. You know, the usual life stuff. There’s always more. The last seven years… It’s been strange. It’s been hard. It’s been awesome. But I haven’t stopped writing since. That was the goal. That was what I was preparing for. Whether I knew it or not at the time, didn’t matter. That’s as short as I can keep that one. Good question though. 2) How does philosophy not only factor into your work, but act as its foundation? What is your personal philosophy of writing? I would describe myself as a skeptic desperately searching for meaning. I am interested in every philosophy, but cannot entirely submit to any of them. This is gonna seem tangential, but we’ll get somewhere. My great grandfather was assistant secretary of agriculture under Stalin. He supervised the transfer of German machinery after the war. He was a true believer in what they were trying to make. In 52, During the Doctor’s Plot, he tried to help other Jews escape prosecution and was arrested. Luckily Stalin died soon after, and he was released. I am told that something was broken in him after that. He lost his theory. Could not reconcile the theory with what people do with it in their hands. He died a few months before I was born, but my mom likes to joke that I am his reincarnation because of our eyes. She believes in stuff like that, and I guess on some days I can too, but that’s another story. What’s important is that that story stuck with me, and I guess, coupled with where I left, I can never forget what happens when theory meets man. Years ago I read Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon. It’s about a founder of something like communism or fascism. He gets arrested and is forced to sit in a cell. There he encounters the mysterious “first person singular.” In conversation with this “I” he tries to identify the error of what he helped design. I highly recommend it. It’s an amazing testament to what totalitarianism really is, the root of it beyond political spectrums – it’s the arrogance of social engineering. The book reminded me of my grandfather. I read it for a class taught by Roger Berkowitz, who is the director of the Hannah Arendt Center. We developed a sort of friendship around the book and I studied Heidegger and Arendt with him. The thinkers of the mid 20th century really appeal to me. Walter Benjamin, Koestler, and Arendt. Arendt encouraged us to love the world. “Amur Mundi,” is what she said. To love the world one must see it as it is, not blinded by optimism or banistered by history. That goes along with my writing. I want to make you feel for the villain, and make you suspicious of the hero. I don’t want to turn them around. I just want you to feel the complexity of human in the world we create. To my nonfiction I add the exposure of experience and deconstruction of objectivity. I want tangible journalism. I want to go to a place. See it. Touch it. I want to be there. And then I want to write to you about it. And in doing so I am going to admit that it is I who is writing. That I too am human and have my bias and all the isms. But I think when I give the reader both that experience and that disclosure, I have given them everything I can to see the world I saw as it is, and thus to love it by the act of seeing. The philosophy of Sufism also coordinates with this well. For a while I researched the relationship between Rumi and Shams. Shams was wild. Rumi was a scholar. Rumi would write this stuff in Arabic, and Shams would tell him, “Stop it! White in Persian. It is the language of the heart, not the head.” There is such depth of feeling and acceptance and grace and wildness and wisdom in Rumi’s poetry, and it came from his encounter with the world through Shams. When I read or hear work that loves the world, I feel it immediately: Rumi, Leonard Cohen, Dostoevsky, Arendt, the movie Moonlight by Barry Jenkins, Hozier, Mary Oliver, some of Kendrick Lamar… But my ultimate philosophy in writing, is keep working. I used to be lazy but didn’t know it. Then I knew I was lazy and was still lazy. Now I know I am lazy, but I work hard. Keep writing, keep writing, keep writing, I tell myself. The reasons will change. The contemporaries will either come along or fall Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 200


away. Keep writing. It will lead. This, feels to me, like a full proof system against the trappings of dogma. 3) Your achievements in academia are genuinely impressive. Please provide us glimpses into your CV at the accolades you are most proud. I like to say that I am a former “at risk” student and high-school dropout who has taught college. An ESL speaker, who has won awards for writing in my second language. That’s me bragging. I am very proud of some experiments I came up with to introduce students to writing. I feel like our education system functions in such a way as to make students believe that writing is useless, or inaccessible, when the truth is that it’s a secret map directly to your own voice. We could all use more of that journey. But I’m probably most proud of my first writing award. In 2010 I received an email informing me that a story of mine had been chosen for the Sean O’Faolain award. I was flown to Ireland for the Frank O’Connor Short Story Festival and got to read there. Ireland is amazing. The last place on earth where when people get drunk at a pub they get onto tables and recite poetry – their country’s stories. Anyway, I got to chat with the writer who picked my story. I asked her why? She said, it was the uniqueness of the sentence structure. Throughout my life in America I had been lambasted about my grammar issues. I was afraid of the language and didn’t pick up a book from 1990 to 2000. Even in grad school my sentences would get picked apart. Some of them were really terrible though. But that award showed me something I had begun to suspect, that what was once my weakness, a defect, was actually my uniqueness, a piece of the map that reveals my voice. 4) What do you think of the publishing industry today and the role of the author in promotion? From the writer’s perspective it’s more confusing than ever. There are all these new avenues being experimented with, but we still ache for acknowledgement from the establishment. I know I do. But the establishment is really bad at curating new talent. Like when you get too big you no longer have to and your idea of talent becomes replication. Writers can build a name on the outskirts, but that can be a full time job itself. There’s so much professional migration, no since of community, it’s like we’re always looking for someone to adopt us and tell us we’re good, we’re worth it, we’ve made it. We’re all Gatsby in this way and even if we succeed wildly by our own rules we still want that approval from the East Egg and from Daisy – the old elite. It seems like the medicine is to create alternative community models, like what you’re doing with the collective, and to practice new standards by which we can value what art is. And maybe at some point we will actually feel the full reward of those values, that maybe as we grow older in our craft we reconstitute a new definition of literary success. But I still want the attention of the big five, who doesn’t? And sometimes I resent myself for it because maybe my own particular voice cannot fit their model. And I don’t want to change my voice. 5) What are you reading, listening to, and dreaming about today? I’ve been listening to Jacob Banks lately, “Nina Got Power” by Hozier, and Leonard Cohen again. I come back to Cohen a few times a year. It’s like a religion. I’m rereading Homo Zapiens by Viktor Pelevin. It’s an amazing book. Pelevin is sort of the Russian Tom Robbins with some Dostoevsky thrown in. Homo Zapiens takes place in Russia just after capitalism snuck in. The main character is a writer who takes up this new thing called advertising. He finds he has a knack for reframing existing Western brands for the “Russian mentality.” It’s really a genius exploration of art, content, meaning, and the differences between American and Russian psychology. As for dreams… Buying a house, having a kid, writing some short stories, building a farmers table for the dining room. I’ve also noticed this cultural and political trend: so many people I’ve met are talking about setting up alternative and Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 201


more self-sustaining communities across America. A sort of opt-out of the old dream. It feels like the potential of an organic movement building, one that could shift the cultural and political topography of this country. I kind of want to map it. See what people are doing, how and why. But I’d have to sacrifice a lot of other things to take this on at the moment. So at this time, it is only a dream and not something I’m dreaming towards. 6) What creative projects are you working on, and what is the one in front of you that might be your white whale? I’ve spent the last five years writing a memoir and then a large novel. The memoir has had a strange life. It’s been a finalist for a couple awards, and some stories have gotten traction, but publishers have been tepid. They praise the writing but say it doesn’t fit the market. So recently I did some revision on that. For the last year I’ve kept this list of stories I want to write: characters, scenarios and such that I want to explore in a small and more controlled capsule. I’m looking forward to that. As for the whale, I think I tackled it and I failed, and succeeded in a way. Mikhail Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita has always struck as something even bigger than a novel, almost metaphysical. In it, the devil comes to Moscow in the 30s – a dark time – and takes a look around and basically says, “wow, you guys have really fucked shit up.” His visit puts a mirror to that culture and time. It’s haunting and beautiful and hilarious. I wanted to try it with America, now. Started writing the day after the election. I think, in many ways, it became my social protest. Every time something weird happened in our country, I just sat down and wrote. Some parts are really strong. Some have remained untamed. I’ve had a few people read it. They either love it or hate it. I think it terrified my agent. She had no idea what to do with it and nearly told me to stop, but with a lot of kindness and care. A mentor of mine read it and suggested that I find a way to finish it, that the book is in there. I exhausted myself. Weird things started happening in my life as I wrote it – I think that’s how it is with some books. I’ve needed to step back. I’ll likely come back to it, but I need to drink some spring water first – short fiction and all – before I go out into the deep again. But I’m sure I’ll go out again. I’m a restless person and a traveler, an emigrant by nature. I will need to go see. 7) Can you say a few words about the included pieces? I wrote “Forgiving What You Can’t” the night before you reached out. As in writing, I like to include something salient from my real-time life experience. It makes in all feel more living, at least for me, more genuine. I realize in reading it that it’s heavily infected with the rhythm of a Leonard Cohen poem, “A Thousand Kisses Deep.” I think he would forgive me. “The Changing of A(Dream)” is a poem or manifesto, I wrote in 2013. One morning I literally woke up with a sentence in my head. It was the first sentence. In a coffee shop the rest poured out. Sometimes I shake people. It’s my political rally. The two shorts, “‘Nu’ Means Yes,” and “A Small, Great C-ntainer,” are excerpts from my memoir. In a quick way they capture the terror of leaving and the wonderment of going, that was my emigration experience – the most basic building block of what showed me who I am.

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Suzanna Chippeaux interview by Clifford Brooks

1) Tell us about your roots, where you live now, and how life has helped you grow. I was born in Olathe, Kansas and was raised in Wichita, Kansas until i was eight then my family moved to Oklahoma City. I've been homeschooled my entire academic years along with attending vocational school for graphic design. 2) What are you reading right now? Currently I am reading The Art of War by Sun Tzu and 8 Weeks to Optimum Health by Andrew Weil, MD. 3) What are your hobbies to escape work and life in general? I am an extremely artistic person so anything that involves being creative is a great outlet for me. I find myself sketching and painting in my free time. 4) Who have been the biggest influences in your life and why? I would have to say my teachers have made a big impact on my life as well as my mom. They have all been a big encouragement and have taken the time to invest in my life. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 203


5) What other art forms do you work in outside graphic design? Sketching and painting. 6) What moves you to love the graphic design work you do so well? Graphic Design gives me the tools and freedom to express my thoughts and ideas in so many different ways. 7) How has the Southern Collective Experience intern program benefited you? It has given me an opportunity to express myself, to work with others, and to gain experience through it all. 8) Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years? My desire is to use my talents and gifts to better the world 9) What company would you love to work for one day? Myself :) 10) What’s one question you’d love to be asked, but never have? (What’s the answer?) Will you marry me? Social Media Links: https://www.facebook.com/suzanna.chippeaux.16 https://www.instagram.com/zannas.magic/ https://www.instagram.com/zanna.chipp

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Special Features

Steve Moutrey interview by Brian Newman

1. Could you tell us about where you are currently at in your Spiritual Journey? Yeah, year 37. (laughing) Seriously, I am too far away from the goal to judge the distance or to boast in how far I have come. I’m not who I used to be, and I don’t think the same way I did a few years ago. Yet I am very aware of my sins and how desperate and grateful I am for forgiveness. I’m trying to enjoy, what can be painful at times, sanctification in my life. Only God truly knows how much work is still needed in my life. So, currently I am at today in my spiritual journey, and it is a pretty good place to be. 2.

How has your view of The Creator changed over the course of your Life?

From a wrathful, can’t wait for you to mess up God, who is just going to leave when you don’t amount up to what he wants. To a faithful and loving Father who delights in my desire to serve Him and those around me. I didn’t know it at the time, but my earthly dad had a huge affect on the way that I pictured my Heavenly Father. Which caused me to keep a safe distance from God. I guess I thought He can not hurt me if I don’t need Him. My view changed due to the work of the Holy Spirit. My healing began when I surrendered to God. My growth occurred when I realized my desperation for my Savior. 3. Is your Faith inherited from your parents and community or did you take a different Path? I didn’t inherit my parent’s faith, because I wasn’t raised in a faith-based home. We had little waves of church. My parents planted seeds but didn’t have the luxury or understanding to properly water them. A broken home, abused, molested, rejected, and too many funerals caused me to wrestle with and challenge the idea of God. I went more on the, taking 40 years to do an 11-day journey, path. God was patient with me as He took me through the fires. Keeping me alive and slowly showing me light and dark. I took a different path to the point of surrendering and knowing who my Savior is, but my community has played such a huge part in my faith as it is today. 4.

Could you describe for us the Lowest Point in your Spiritual Journey?

In 2003, I was in prison for a probation violation. Fortunately, I had already started to read the Bible at this point. I see now that God saved my life by putting me in the worst place possible and was placing Himself in my view before it started. About half way through my “government contract” I got the news that a good friend of mine was killed in jail. This hit me very hard, and I ended up cursing God. Saying things that now make me cringe to think about, and I was proud of it to. My new opinion Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 206


of God gained me the respect of some of the gang members. Since life inside got a little easier it helped to justify my position in my mind. My Heavenly Father never gave up on me though. There was a special night they had a church service and this guy was coming to give his testimony. I figured it was better than sitting in the dorm not knowing what would pop off. As I listened to this man’s story of what he had done and still could say now that God loved him, and moreover that he loved God I was broken to my core. It made sense that night who God was and the weight of what I was doing. I was convinced though that I had committed an unforgettable sin and God was not going to forgive me for this. I was trapped in that lie for a few years, but God would not let go of me. I wasn’t even trying to be with Him at the time and He still protected me. Later He laid on my heart that He wants to forgive me for all that I have done, and bring me in close to His presence. “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16 5.

Is there a particular “Mountain Top” experience that you would care to share?

I was going through a very difficult time in my walk, where I was being extremely attacked. I was attempting to break free of some past traumas and loosen bondage. I had not heard God speak in about 3 months and wasn’t sure what I thought about my faith anymore. I told my wife that I wasn’t going to service one week and instead I would be going to seek God and find answers. So, I went to the river and sat with my bible and played some worship songs, prayed, and just listened. I knew that something had to change, I couldn’t stay in the place of confusion that I was in. There were people fishing and swimming at the river. I had thought to go into the river and dunk myself seven times. Of course, I quickly tried to dismiss that idea since I was in jogging pants, t shirt, and sneakers. I couldn’t shake the thought though. So, I prayed and asked God to confirm this was His voice. I asked that He give me sign in the word. I blindly flipped open the Bible and the first thing that I read was 2 Kings, where Naaman is being told to dip himself seven times in the Jordan to be healed. I could not believe it, God was speaking to me for the first time in months. Now I looked up and there was 5x the amount of people around, I heard Him ask “do you love Me enough to embarrass yourself”. I went out in the middle of this river people were looking at me like I was going to try to drown myself or I was just crazy. I dropped in the water neck deep 9 times, then I heard His voice ell me this time all the way under. When I came out of the water everything was different. The weight was gone, burdens were gone, I knew things were alright. God had baptized me that day and spoke to me in a way that I hadn’t ever experienced before. 6.

How do you approach differences of opinion on Spiritual Matters?

If it is not a salvation issue, I don’t get involved with the debates. Now if someone is truly seeking an answer on a topic, we can discuss it and I will share where I am at on it. The thing is this; pride has a way of creeping into our lives under the umbrellas of intelligence, knowledge, and understanding. People tend to want to tell others how much they know or that “your wrong” and “well actually”. This does not serve anyone or cause them to press into God. Ephesians 4:29 says “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, so that it may give grace to those who hear.” When we talk to each other to say “you just don’t understand yet” or “I use to think that way too” we are putting that person down and not building up. Brothers and sisters need to relax on the details and debates, because as we continue to study, grow, and mature our understanding of the scripture is going to change. I don’t see certain spiritual matters the same way I Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 207


did a year ago, because our Heavenly Father continues to refine me. We are all at different places in our walk, and I try with love to meet people where they are. The gospel is what matters. Remember we don’t save anyone or convince them that they need a Savior. God does that through His Holy Spirit, we are supposed to be the example of His love. 7.

How have people you grew up with responded to your new Spiritual Walk?

Well, I don’t hang out with the people I grew up with (laughing). In all seriousness some have seen the man I am and are happy for me even though they disagree with my belief. Most don’t talk to me because my outlook on life has dramatically changed, and when we see things so different it can seem like I’m judging them. Though what is going on is, while I want love those around me, I am not laughing at worldly jokes, and I believe the Holy Spirit is convicting them and that is uncomfortable for anyone. Great story; I was having dinner with a guy that used to be my best friend. He does not want anything to do with God and has a pretty serious drug problem. He respects my belief and I don’t preach at him, but every so often remind him that there is forgiveness and redemption. So, we are sharing a pizza one night talking about the kids, and where I am. He looks up and says, “everything you say now is biblical, it always comes back to God.” All I could say was, “That is the greatest compliment I have ever been given, thanks.” Now his statement wasn’t accurate, but I would like it to be. It’s the goal; to completely give myself to God and my words be only for giving Him glory. Psalm 19:14 - Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. 8.

Is there anything you miss about the expressions of Faith you grew up around?

No. 9.

How has your Faith impacted how you face obstacles in your Life?

My faith doesn’t just impact but is the driving force behind how I do everything in my life. Specifically speaking of obstacles God’s Word tells us not to be anxious about anything, be thankful, and make all our request through prayer. The blessing in that is a peace that surpasses all understanding. As when Israel was in the wilderness and Moses always told them to remember what God has done for them. He didn’t free them from slavery, an army, hunger and thirst to let them be overcome once they crossed the Jordan. It was the promised land, and he was not going to break that promise. Jeremiah says, that he has a plan for us, and it is not for evil but for a future and a hope. James says to rejoice in the trials for they are bringing a refinement and perfection in us. Malachi says, “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” Think about this. A woman asked a silversmith about the process of refining silver. He explained that, in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest to burn away all the impurities. The silversmith said, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. For if the silver was left even a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed. Then she asked the silversmith, "How do you know when the silver is fully refined?" He smiled at her and answered, "Oh, that's the easy part -- when I see my image reflected in it." God never leaves us in our trials, He keeps His eye on us the whole time until He sees His image in us.

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10. How does your Faith inform decisions in your life such as career and long-term goals? I believe no matter what we do or how much money we make we will have joy and peace, if it is where the Father has put us. Society tells us that we are supposed to spend our lives climbing the “corporate ladder” gaining promotions and saving money for those coveted vacations. Now being successful is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is when life becomes this tunnel vision rat race for success. My faith has completely changed the way I look at success. God may change my path at any time and wherever He puts me it is an opportunity to shine a light in the dark. My career or title is not my identity, it’s just my job. I think about Paul’s response in scripture, he always said that he was an apostle of Messiah. The career or job is just an avenue for finances, our identity and life work are the testimony of what God has done and is going to do. Long term goals are not what we can stack up from the job, but the impact we leave from how we did the job. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23-24 11. How has your Faith impacted your Marriage and Parenting? Before I had God in my life and realized my desperate need for a Savior, I didn’t know how to truly love my wife. Then the picture I had of parenting and authority, as a dad, was a long list of what I didn’t want to do. God has taught me that as a parent my job is to be an ambassador, showing my kids the love and grace of there King and Heavenly Father. I had to learn that these are not really my kids, but they are His and He has called me to watch after them and teach them about Him until He calls them home or returns. Parenting can be seen in the parable of the talents. God has giving us these blessings and He will come for them at some point. We have been commanded to “diligently teach them”, and there are some hard days that we must press through. We must invest in them so that His glory is seen by them and through them. Sometimes when parents get upset with their children for disobeying, it is pride in the parents. I would find myself saying things like “All the things I do for you and this is how you are going to treat me”, or “ your mother works way to hard to be treated that way” and “who do you think you are talking to like that, I’m your father, you will show me respect.” I was mad that they were disobeying MY instruction, instead of explaining the sacrifice Christ made, how their sin effects them, and helping them walk out of it. I’m thankful God does not look at us the way we look at our children, and I’m grateful for new eyes. My marriage was much like a lot of couples in the world today. Always looking out for yourself and being very aware of what your spouse does not do for you, or what they do to you. God had to heal a lot of things in me before I could lead my wife the way He intended. Also, so that she could trust and submit to me the way she is supposed to. The Word of God teaches us to serve the other instead of expecting to be served. It is a lot more rewarding to try and outdo your spouse in giving rather than getting. The other thing is my wife was giving to me to be my help meet, my first earthly counsel, my companion in my relationship with God. As I am her companion in her walk with God, and as we both learn what the Father wants from us in our individual relationships with Him our marital relationship bets stronger and better. I guess I could have summed all that up with Faith teaches us to love. 12. Do you believe that people really can change for the better? Absolutely, I’m the proof. Ezekiel 36:25-29 says, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 209


you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleanness. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you.” Jeremiah 31:31 says about the new Covenant, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teaches his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” That is a for real change, a truly new person. 13. Do you feel that there is something “Missing” about how Religion is practiced today? We don’t have time or space to even begin to answer that question (shaking my head). I mean how do you answer this question quickly? Of course, we are missing stuff that’s why we have a church on every corner. For starters we are missing love and humility. It is pride and arrogance the finds its way in and causes division amongst brothers and sisters. I believe it is that same pride and arrogance that has led us to be a country that has invented a God that is ok with our sin. Which also blocks us from hearing from the Holy Spirit and receiving correct interpretation on doctrine. We need love for each other and submission to our King who has been giving all authority. We are a nation that worships men, money, cars, and all our luxuries, not God. How is it that there is one way, a narrow path, and Christ says that there will not be many saved in the end, but Bradley County alone has over 200 churches. The math doesn’t add up. Now this isn’t to say there are not real believers who lay there lives down for the Glory of God our Father. It is to say that all together what we are needing is true love, for each other and a dying world. To tear down the walls of pride and arrogance that divide us and be of one accord. 14. When you watch the nightly news, do you feel things are going to get better or worse? I don’t watch the news, but we know that it is going to get far worse here on earth. So that we can get to the day that is better than any of us can dream or imagine. 15. If you had ONE phrase you could scream from the mountain tops, what would it be? That’s tough, I have never been known for only having one thing to say (laughing). It would be: “Repent for the forgiveness of sins and believe the gospel of our Lord Yeshua Messiah.”

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Josh Sneed interview by Clifford Brooks 1) What is the backstory of a comedian who weaves a deceptively simple intelligence into his act? Did you note so many subtle nuances in human behavior as a child and teenager? I think the roots of my desire to make people laugh definitely started with my father. At a very early age, I noticed the way people responded to him and how effortlessly it was for him to make people laugh. He never needed to be the center of attention and I loved how his style was to just have the funniest line at the right moment, versus trying to always be “on”. Growing up in a strict, Southern Baptist home, stand-up comedy was never on. Bill Cosby’s “Himself” and Jeff Foxworthy were about the only two albums I remember my parents putting on, because they were clean. The rest of my sense of humor was shaped by Saturday Night Live, slapstick movies like “Airplane”, and the stand-up I would watch on A&E’s “Evening at The Improv”. There, I was introduced to Steven Wright, Larry Miller, Wendy Liebman, Jake Johannsen, and more. But, SNL was the most influential by far. 2) I often think that comedy is the highest form of art. No matter what someone is going through, if you can make them laugh, they forget about it for a moment. How do you stand on that idea? I couldn’t agree more. I don’t know if I’d have that insight were it not for actually hearing it from so many people over the last 20+ years. I don’t believe there are a lot of occupations where you do your job and people thank you for making their life better for a little while the way that comedy does. It can be as simple as “I had a bad day.” I’ve also heard things like, “This is the first time I’ve gone out since I lost my job/loved one/divorce, and I haven’t laughed in months.” Those moments are powerful. One time a girl and her brother came up to me after a show in Baltimore. I learned he was active duty military and she had gone to visit him while he was in the US for a couple of weeks. They were going to Grand Rapids, MI the following week to see their parents for the holidays and, by chance, that was my next gig. They brought their family to the show and I gave him a CD to take back to the Middle East with him. A few years later, I got an email from her informing me had been killed in the line of duty. In his possessions was the copy of the CD I had given him and she just wanted to thank me for the memories she had of sharing my jokes with him. She told me how he shared the CD with his fellow soldiers over there. You never think that humor can have that effect on people, but I’ve been blessed with a long enough career to hear these stories and each one is as special as the last. I also didn’t realize how much comedy would help me in dealing with the loss of my father. That first time on stage after his passing was very therapeutic for me. I realized it’s not necessarily what comedians say that can help change people’s attitude for the better, but rather the environment created by so many people laughing that does it. The atmosphere is what can flip that switch, and the comedian is the one who can create it with the audience, not for the audience.

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3) You have a clean show that doesn't thumb anyone in the eye. Is that a harder show to get on stage? Is it an easy route to dump four letter words into the act and put effort into offending people? (I mean "really" offend and not the ridiculous "everything offends me" whining done today.) I do believe it’s harder to do clean comedy. I was told by the woman who owned the club in Dayton, OH that she could use me more often to emcee if I could be clean. I also didn’t want to disappoint my parents who, at the time, had never heard me swear. If they ever decided to come to a show, I wanted them to enjoy it. I do believe that there is a place for curse words, but that they lose their power if used too often. I was once told by my mentor, “Treat profanity like a spice. It can make a steak taste amazing, but you’d never eat a plate of oregano for dinner.” I still think about that to this day. 4) Who inspires you? This doesn't have to be comedian-only. Who picked you up (literally or figuratively) in life when society got too heavy? My dad still inspires me, even though he’s gone. He was a model maker at Kenner toys and always seemed to have this “never take life too serious” attitude. I belive comedy can help you stay young in the same regard. He always put family first and that’s a big reason why I don’t live in LA or NYC. I want to be a dad and a husband more than I want to be a famous comedian. If I can be both, great. But I’m happy with the career I have as it affords me the opportunity to try and fill the ginormous shoes my father left behind for my children. 5) To your wife: What is it like to be married to a comedian? (This is up to you, boss.) From my wife, Jenny: “That's a hard question to answer. I don't think Josh embodies the stereotypical comedian. Josh, at home, is light-hearted, easy going, fun, and sweet. Professionally speaking, he's an entrepreneur, business-minded, quick, witty, responsible and dependable (at home, too). In almost everything, he will find humor. He's a rare breed. He brings calm to his family and his business ventures. He's always been confident in whatever it is he's doing. I think that helps on stage. It’s ironic to be answering this question on our 9th anniversary, but we just a have a lot of fun, and he's a big part of it. The only downside to being married to a comedian is the travel. He's gone quite a bit, and typically it’s during the weekend when all the milestones and traditions seem to happen. I've only spent one New Year’s Eve with him. There's just a lot of joy in the everyday shuffle, usually because of a quick joke he slips in or sometimes just the lightness of his persona. Simply put, it’s fun.” 6) What is the funniest hotel story you have from being on the road that (if you have one) also involves a near-death experience? I wish I had a good one. There’s so many funny stories but I’ve never really had a near-death experience while on the road for stand-up. After Mike Birbiglia’s “Sleepwalking” story, I don’t know that anyone should try to tell one because you’ll never top it. But if you want a good story about life on the road, just google “Farting on Jessica Simpson”. People seem to enjoy that one. 7) If you could put on the most epic comedy special of all time with ten acts (dead or alive) who would they be and why? This is nearly impossible, but I’ll try (in no particular order)… Mitch Hedberg, Dave Attell, Wendy Liebman, Robert Hawkins, Bill Burr, Jimmy Pardo, Greg Giraldo, Jim Gaffigan, Jerry Seinfeld, and Dave Chappelle.

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8) If being a comedian didn't work out, what was your Plan B? Do you have a side gig to keep your comedy chops in check and madness at bay? In 2005 I started a t-shirt company with a buddy of mine. The goal was that it could take its time to grow and maybe one day when I didn’t want to be on the road 50 weeks a year (yes, that really happened), it could provide some income to fill in the gaps. I’m proud to say that we now have four websites we run, three brick-and-mortar stores in Cincinnati, and about 23 employees. I also do social media content and consulting for a couple of national brands. This allows me to be home a lot more often, and keep comedy fun because I don’t HAVE to do it. 9) What are you reading right now? What is your writing process for your stage persona? I’m not reading anything. I don’t really enjoy it. Even books I’m really into put me to sleep. I don’t care what the book is, the movie was better. The stage persona is, I hope, just an extension of my off-stage persona. I want the audience to feel like they’ve known me for a long time. Like I’m just a guy hanging out telling stories. I think a lot of my material is rooted in actual events or things I really said, but with a sprinkle of exaggeration or sarcasm on top. I don’t think there’s anything in my act where people would say, “There’s no way he really did that.” 10) What question are you so sick of being asked you'd rather be damned to wear a mullet for eternity than answer again? (You don't have to answer it.) Ha! It’s funny because when people find out you’re a comedian it’s a lot of the same questions. “Do you write your own jokes?” “What’s your real job?” etc. What I like the most though is that after I answer them they usually say, “I could never do that.” That’s when I realize that there’s a need for comedians, and that 20 years in, I still get that same sense of pride that what we do is special. I hope it never goes away.

Social Media Links: JoshSneed.com Facebook: @JoshSneed Twitter: @JoshSneed Instagram: @JoshSneed SnapChat: @Sneediddy YouTube: @OhioJoker

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Who am I?

Cole Thomas interview by Clifford Brooks

From a deeply subjective perch, I am an embodied trek across an ever-changing landscape of opportunity, fulfilling my roles, chosen and assigned. (My spirit-animal is the owl!) I am a presence here basking in or suffering through seasons of compassionate generosity-of-spirit, passionate self-indulgences, trepidation, and soul-mauling fire storms. Part spectacle, part spectator, part specter, I am fortunate to alight on this vessel called grace, for respite. There I can fuel up sufficiently to offer grace to others. I am prone to answer simple questions with a superfluous rigor that annoys people who are not prone to answer simple questions with a superfluous rigor that annoys people who are not prone that way. Yes, that really just happened. There, there, it’s okay. It happened to me, too. I suppose there is something a little “special” about my mind that doesn’t allow me to sift the simplicity out of simple stuff. I know it can be bothersome, yet as Pete Buttigieg recently stated, “Your quarrel, [world]…, is with my Creator.” Imagine me failing employment screening test after employment screening test. Them: “What bothers you the most about another employee stealing from a company you work for?” after which follows four multiple choice options. Me: Is this an example of a preposition ending a sentence and if so is this business just demonstrating its ‘casual Friday’ appeal or am I just being way too 1672 about this? Okay… right, stealing employee. I cannot answer this! It doesn’t say whether the employee is a custodian stealing a pint of bleach because last week he used some of his own bleach from his private cleaning company because ‘my’ job site had run out OR the thief is the CEO who needs that $20k a month she is skimming in order to upgrade her boat. That’s who I am. Then too, I suppose I comprise all of the “people” the Johari Window exercise reveals. If I recall correctly, it asks who you are, who others think you are, who others think you are even though you don’t agree, and who you think you are although others don’t seem to agree, and so forth. I self-identify as a woman, mother, auntcle, oji’i, artist, autist, civic leader, African American, lover (even when I have no lover at all), empath, teacher, and queer boi, and I am daughter and sister to relatives who are repelled by several of those identities. I am also a fierce advocate for people whose complex intersectional identities tend to result in their marginalization. What lights my fire? Performing at collaborative artistic events, moving with purpose from audience to back-stage to stage, and back to audience again lights my fire. It is the experience of giving and receiving, telling and listening, witnessing and mutually affirming others by utilizing, forfeiting, and holding space for vital - truly life-giving expressions of cultural-experiential range. (For a moment, I imagined my youngest son and my father reading that sentence, searching desperately for any hint of actual substance. The oldest son would just flash me that “whatever you think you said, Mom” smile get on with his skateboarding.) If you’re an artist, most especially one whose work generates sound or stirs the consumer to utterance of their own, I pray you live to know, how spiritually riveting it is to be in that room, that auditorium, that club, that festival green, or that crowded living

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room where artists trust their “babies” to other artists and to a mixture of aficionados and art virgins alike, to those of various social classes, classically trained and self-taught. What makes me sing? (Please see “What’s my philosophy on life?”) When did I recognize the divine fire of my Creator was in my soul? Please do not assume that I am this poor, old, sad, other-abled, oppressed, intermittently dispossessed*, queer, black, underachieving, butchie mama. Frankly, I resent being called “sad.” bud-dum tssshhh! As I was growing up, people I trusted told me about God (in the form of the Christian Holy Trinity). That sounded peachy until I faced the fact that even when I allowed for magic, miracles, and creative license, the Bible was being touted as unerring when clearly it gives instruction like “run fast and stand very, very still” or “go left and go right,” simultaneously, not consecutively. Sometimes my GPS does this, but nobody is claiming that my GPS holds the ticket to salvation! Then, when I came out around 1980 as a probably bisexual or lesbian person, a stampede of here-to-fore okay people rushed at me claiming that our loving, reasonable, omniscient Savior suddenly looked upon me with hell-bound disdain. This letting-other-people-dictate-to-me-the-natureand-substance-of my-relationship-with-my-Creator nonsense came to a not-so-screeching halt. But it came to a halt, nonetheless. Even though my mother is both teacher and minister, I believe my spiritual illumination and authenticity came more from watching films and reading about world religions; from creating art as a photographer and performance artist; and from reading mainstream and underground texts. My own lived experience and the connections made while reading the biographies of black people, biracial people, queer, people, and women grew me into a place where I trusted my own discernment. *intermittently privileged I’ve never told anyone this. The God of my understanding reminds me a bit of Bruce Lee characters. The character had some higher calling and the viewer didn’t always clearly understand his methods, but we never once doubted that his desire was for the greater good, and that he would take the high road whenever there was one to take. In practice, I revere God through God’s most familiar names Jesus and Mother Nature, and also through the spirits of less familiar ones: Kwan Yin, Dike, Bastet, and my late Grandma. I knew it was there before it had a name. My creative drive is superimposed upon my social justice calling. The divinity in this shows itself in these pivotal reminders I battle every decade. I recognize that no matter how much I’ve cared about another person, how much I desired their love and approval, something deep inside my bones does not allow me to be permanently derailed from the fulfillment of what Coelho’s character, Santiago, comes to call the “Personal Legend.” It impresses itself upon me even when I dread doing the work or I feel too vulnerable or I must set aside other important matters. What am I reading right now? Blame it on my A.D.D. (Attention Divergence Diversity. Okay, I just made that up.) I read three books at a time. I will read a book by a person of color, a southerner, an LGBTQ author, and/or a woman, habit first instilled in me by my stepmother, author, Barbara Ann Porte. I’ll read a book for current project research and listen to a spy or detective story on CD in the car (interspersed with NPR, of course). I picked up DaMaris B. Hill’s A Bound Woman is a Dangerous Thing after hearing her speak recently here in Atlanta. I picked up Keller’s The One Thing…Extraordinary Results from the thrift store where those of us who endure (first world) famine in order have a few expensive and meaningful endeavors every few years shop for non-

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food. To be fair, though, I am a thrift junkie and it works quite well with my offbeat – I prefer “avant garde” fashion sense, while scratching my bibliophile itch. I reproduced the domino illustration in the Keller book on a big sheet of paper and hung it on my wall. That’s how I met Clifford. I asked myself, “What can you do today [toward your one thing]?” Show Up. And I attended the Lost Southern Voices Festival. As for a detective novel this reading cycle, that poor thing is a mere manuscript that clamors for my attention every spring. It’s about Ellery Rex, a roving drag-king who unwittingly solves a mystery at every stop on hys tour. Yes, a drag-king - - crime-solver. (I strategically avoided “dick” here. You’re welcome.) I got the idea years ago when I read about this 1950s southern women who left New Orleans and later performed in drag in a music group called the Jewel Box Revue. Stormé DeLarverie was her name. She died five years ago, at age 93. Once Stormé, the patron saint of butch lesbians and drag kings, pokes me hard enough in the shoulder to finish this novel, it will be an immensely amusing and often sobering read, further informed by my experience as an androgynous model, performance artist, and gen-u-INE drag king. What new music has me by the heart? Out of the blue last week, I got on social media and posted a list of vocalists I would have loved to hear in concert, as duos on stage. Kimbra and the late Amy Winehouse, for example. Dolly Pardon and Norah Jones; Joan Armatrading and Tracy Chapman. I listed my friend composer, vocalist, and genderqueer friend Bucky Motter who I paired with the very queer Be Steadwell, a Washington, DC composer, vocalist, and playwright. Now, I am into my third year living single, and I find Be Steadwell’s works leading up to her musical A Letter to My Ex is holding me pretty good. There are lyrics like, “Sometimes you don’t feel like a girl. Sometimes you don’t feel like a woman. Most days you just feel like a boi. Most days, you just fell like an alien” sung with such an absence of criticism, such intimate knowing, that they stop me in my tracks every time. What’s my philosophy on life? My philosophy on life is very likely that same set of ideals that make me sing… the energies that draw me to performance poetry, acting, and even to teaching (and, for several decades, to professional counseling): I know better than anybody, because I’m so special. Everybody should just listen to me! Let’s face it: We all think we’re special. We secretly imagine that marrying our perceptions of others to our own lived experience uniquely positions us to conceive and birth the truth about life. The only way I know to combat this notion that my perspective is most accurate is to place myself in situations and circumstances where other are most likely to tell their own stories, their own way, while they show common decency to the other humans in the venue. Artists tell stories in ways that compel us to drop our defenses, renounce our ethnocentric notions, heal our wounds, and help someone else heal theirs. Anyplace can be a church. When we avoid spending time with art, why isn’t that almost like failing to commune with nature, living an unexamined life, or taking the Creator for granted? Shit, that leaves way too much room for egoism. We sing love songs in the shower, naked and vulnerable, as we reset. It’s often someone else’s story, giving us comfort, and empowering us. Even “bad” art moves us, and “low” art often reminds us that there is no low art (Basquiat). Yes, art is a time machine and a crystal ball, a life force, even a means for celebrating death and rebirth. What new project do I have coming up? The Backstory. I met Dr. Robert Glor the chorale conductor who is also the artistic director for Our Song, Atlanta, a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, and Allied chorus, on a film set. I really liked Robert, so we kept in touch. After attending Our Song’s winter concert, I auditioned and performed in the very next concert, a spring cabaret at Synchronicity Theater. Next, I performed as part of an operatic collaboration with Georgia State University, at the Rialto Center for the Arts in April. Now comes an opportunity of a lifetime: A collaborative chorale event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. This days-long 1969 protest is believed to have begun the contemporary movement toward LGTBQ human and civil rights. I was just eight years old when an almost 50-year-old Stormé DeLarverie stood her ground against New York police officers who routinely hassled the community of people who danced and drank

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at the Stonewall Inn, presumably because some of the woman dressed “like men” and vice-versa. Raids are said to have been frequent, dangerous, and humiliating, a way of hunting gay and trans people (as well as people who cross-dressed for other pursuits) to make them afraid and unwilling to live openly. This year marks a small miracle, and I am humbled by the opportunity to perform as one of just eleven Our Song Chorus members selected, in the June 27, 2019 celebration, Quiet No More. Did I mention it’s at CARNEGIE HALL??? #Stonewall50 is happening at Carnegie Hall! If you want to meet us there, the tickets may be purchased through the website of NYC Gay Men’s Choir. If you live in or will be visiting Georgia earlier that month, visit https://www.oursongatlanta.org/product/ticket-advance-purchase-2/ to find concert tickets and visit http://www.oursongatlanta.org/oursupporters/ to learn more about sponsoring and supporting Our Song, a not-for-profit. We are performing Quiet No More in Atlanta with the full Our Song Chorus. Since I will be traveling to New York on a Monday and remaining through Sunday, I would be most grateful if readers contribute to a Go Fund Me Campaign I have set up to cover expenses and allow me to travel and take lodging and meals under safe circumstances. Of course, if it becomes necessary for me to live on the risky side of life in order to show up for my performance, I will make it happen. However, I would like this to go off without a hitch, specifically without moving bits of cash around only to spend twelve hours on a bus and land on the couch of a stranger. I was doing that in the 80s, ya’ll. This is a whole new century. I would very much appreciate your assistance, and although the Go Fund Me piece is not tax deductible, send your address to RadicallyContented@gmail.com after you make a contribution to my GFM account, and I will write you a postcard from New York City. Promise! There is more New York information here at https://www.stonewallchorale.org/and https://2019-worldpride-stonewall50.nycpride.org/! Anticipating that I will be one of a few women and people of color singing at Stonewall’s 50th anniversary this June, I will conduct some Stonewall-related photojournalism while I am in New York, in-between rehearsals and the big performance. So that all of you may share in the experience, I will bring back trip highlights to share. (There is the real possibility of publishing them in Ebone’ Bell’s DC-based T.A.G.G. Magazine, too!) In addition, I will pass out hundreds of my International LGBTQA Healthcare Awareness Ribbon stickers in New York! During local pride festivals, I often speak to event visitors about strategies for offering preventive healthcare screenings during or before their art events. I later follow up with them, sharing resources through my own organization, AGenda Benda Justice. Do you ever tag social justice advocacy onto your artistic life? And oh yeah, I’m writing a jaw-dropping book on radically contented© loving. It’s about peas, too. How can you help me on Go Fund Me? Here is my link. Any amount helps cover some expense from plane tickets to meals to Lyft/Taxi fares. Thank you and please watch for exciting campaign updates every week! https://www.gofundme.com/send-cole-tocarnegie-hall&rcid=r01-155556626525-29876b63b1dd49f3&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_w

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Drew Bowers interview by Clifford Brooks 1) What is your current teaching position and career path? I am in year 12 at Milton High School in Milton, GA where I am the Director of Choral Activities. The program has more than doubled in size during my tenure and we now service more than 200 students with curricular and extra-curricular offerings. Prior to Milton, I completed a Master of Music Degree in Choral Conducting at Louisiana State University and taught Middle School Chorus for 6 years in Carrollton, GA. 2) Please give us some highlights of your life. What shaped you into the man we see today? What in your life are you the most proud? I grew up in a small town, Rockmart, GA, which was a wonderful place to be. I had a wonderful home but not perfect. I had incredible support and the means for success but there was never abundance. We were never left wanting but certainly did not have the means for excess. My parents have always been incredibly supportive and taught me hard work. This is a huge part of who I am today. Nothing was or is easy but everything was always possible. Hard work can really overcome many things. This is still integral in my success. I am certainly extremely proud of all the musical moments in life but I am most proud of my incredible family. I have an amazing wife, Leslie, and two intelligent, inquisitive, beautiful daughters – Tucker and Cora. 3) What drew you to education? What are some of the strengths and weaknesses of public education? How do you see your skill set improving the scene? I was not initially drawn to education. I entered college and Music Education was the degree choice because it was well-rounded, and I could do many things from there. Along the way, I realized that I really enjoyed teaching and conducting, and the rest is history. Public Education is SO important. Everyone deserves the opportunities that are given through school. We all should want to be surrounded by intelligent people. I do not want to the be smartest person in a room.  I wish for everyone to find the best version of themselves and it starts with a good education. We are graduating more students than ever in the history of the US. We are doing more for students than ever, however the narrative is that we are failing. I think school has never been better. It is certainly not perfect and needs to be improved but we are succeeding. I wish that testing did not play such a vital role but we do need assessment. I wish that students who do not wish to go to traditional colleges/universities could be encouraged to take alternate paths once again. One should not be ostracized if they wish to go to a non-traditional school or trade school. These are a few of things. Education is constantly breaking barriers. I wish for it to be properly funded and see what really can happen for students from all walks of life. Knowledge is power! In my classes, hard work drives us. The process of success drives what we do in the classroom. We try to be creatures of habit – good habits. These good habits include the following: teamwork, giving our best even when we are not 100%, consistency, ownership, self-evaluation and self-correction, and the list goes on. Good music does not happen overnight. It takes time. This is something that we work on daily. I try to Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 218


use these habits as life lessons. These are habits that will create success whether the students decide to enter the world of finance, own a business, teach, work a trade, or make music. 4) What about your young life in public school shape your worldview? How did college change that? I remember multiple teachers who were fair and encouraging. They were always encouraging us to try new things – to take advantage of what was offered. Rockmart was a great place to grow up but it was also limited. This is not a bad thing but certainly there were many new doors opened as I moved away for school. As I went to college, it was great to be a part of a place that welcomed the ability to think for oneself and to question. There were folks from many different backgrounds and belief systems. The doors to the world began to open. Now this is not to say this did not exist or was discouraged in my hometown but it was limited. I owe much of my success to my beginnings and the chance to go to college. Shorter College provided so many opportunities to see the world and be exposed to things that I never imagined. I was able to form my own opinions and ideals. All the while still knowing that I needed to work hard to achieve. It was liberating. I will never forget the classmates, the professors, the experience that helped shape who I am today. 5) What are you reading right now? Who are you favorite authors and poets? Why? I am currently reading Gray Mountain by John Grisham. Unfortunately, I do not get to read as much as I would like. My schedule is super intense. When I do get to read, I am a big John Grisham fan. Any suspense novels are great. I also have enjoyed Dan Brown and Daniel Silva novels. I get to enjoy good poets more frequently. I try to use poignant and meaningful texts regularly when choosing choral music. We have performed texts by Yeats, Longfellow, Shakespeare, Dickinson, Browning, Teasdale, just to name a few. I think it’s important to expose students to good texts. I personally have learned more about quality texts through singing them than I ever expected. It adds another layer of understanding to make music with great words. To understand the stresses and the syntax. It is a wonderful experience. You also get to experience someone else’s interpretation of these words with the music they provide. Music also has the ability to expose people to good poems/poets that might not otherwise experience them. 6) How do you see the creative arts enhancing public education? Creative arts are vital to public education. I wish that each student was required to experience or be a part of at least one year in some art program. It is at the core of who we are as humans. Whether it be visual or performing, we all can and should appreciate all forms of art and understand fully how it impacts our lives. Our favorite movies would not be the same without the musical score. Our cities would be drab without the beauty of architecture or artwork. The list goes on. In the performing arts, it is all about the collective. We are always able to achieve more and accomplish things as a group that can never be done as an individual. It is so important to learn through collaborative arts. It is great to have group goals but ones in which the individuals are held accountable. I use this example sometimes in the classroom. A student who earns a 95 on a math quiz/test would be wonderful. However, in a choir of 40 if each singer, scored 95% there would be too many mistakes. In my classroom, every time a student opens their mouth to sing, they are taught to make the best sound possible. It is part of the process. The ability to work collaboratively and bring your best to the join table is vital in professional life – in business, in hobbies, in clubs, in really every aspect of adult life.

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7) Who are your favorite composers and contemporary musicians? Why? This is a tough question – like asking a chef their favorite meal.  I am a huge Bach fan. I think his music is brilliant and when performed well is so much fun to listen to and/or sing. I also enjoy the tension and angst that Beethoven creates. His music is laborious and intense. I am a fan of English music – Ralph Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Herbert Howells – great music! Edvard Grieg is also wonderful. For modern/contemporary: It is tough. I support those who play and write their own music. Complete musicians. I am a fan of Dave Matthews. I like the Indie Rock music. I love jazz. All kinds of jazz. I am open to anything that makes you listen. Great music comes in a variety of styles but it should always make you listen and not just be in the background. 8) What is a question you always wish someone would ask, but never have? What is the answer? I am not sure I have considered this before. Interesting question and tough. I am pretty much an open book and cannot think of one. 9) What are some of the unknown hardships in teaching, and how do you deal with them? The schedule is intense. Most people know that. The other unknown is just how much you carry with you outside the classroom. You grow attached to the students. You want them to succeed and when they do not, it is a burden that goes home with you. Any successful teacher spends time outside the classroom planning but also just thinking through what worked or did not work. How to improve. How to reach different kids. It is a task that follows you constantly. That is hard for anyone outside education to understand. 10) How does your faith work in your work and home life? My faith in integral to my music making. We are constantly working to achieve the emotion or character behind a song. I also try my best to live by example. I am certainly human and make mistakes, but it is important to show this constantly whether it be in the classroom or at home. Kids are always watching. The church is where it all began for me. For as long as I can remember, I have been singing in the church. It has been an integral part of my career. 11) What are a few things you wish you’d known before beginning a life in education? Just how rewarding it would be. I knew about all the challenges. I had no clue how exciting and rewarding it would be. I have the best job in the world. 12) What is some advice you have for those looking to follow in your footsteps? Be Strong! Stick with it and work hard. Be consistent and fair. Those two words have carried me far in the classroom.

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Tom Leu interview by Clifford Brooks

1) Where does your divine fire come from? What inspires you? What do you keep precious that still allows you to see the world with childlike wonder? The desire to continually learn and grow are the two constants that inform and drive all of my personal and professional endeavors. Learning and growing are what inspires me the most. I believe that the person who is no longer open to learning and growing isn’t truly living, or contributing for that matter. There’s always more to learn to apply to our lives, to therefore grow and become better versions of ourselves… for ourselves, and for others. I find strength and inspiration in ”not” knowing. I embrace the pursuit of knowledge, and then applying that knowledge to my life. When the timing is right, this ultimately produces wisdom that I’m hopefully able to share with others in compelling, provocative, and relevant ways through my work. 2) Where did you grow up? Where do you call home? Where’s the one place on earth you can visit to immediately feel at peace? I was born and grew up in a northern Midwest city called Rockford, IL. At the very top of the state, and about 90 minutes West of Chicago, Rockford is probably best known as the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band, Cheap Trick. For me, the beach (and the ocean) has always been the most serene and inviting place for me to be. Beaches all over the country, coast-to-coast, have always drawn me to them since I was a kid. It’s primarily for that reason that I live in West-Central Florida today, just a few minutes from the Gulf of Mexico and Clearwater Beach. 3) You have more than one radio program. Please tell us what they are and their target audience. My longest running show is the Sound Matters radio show and podcast which airs on 1440 WROK radio out of Rockford, IL since January of 2017. The show, and podcast is in its 3rd year and approaching 100 episodes. The show focuses on music and entertainment talk with a bit of “motivation” layered in underneath it all. I like to call it “rock and roll that’s motivational.” It’s no secret that the world is dark enough as it is, so my content decidedly adds some positivity into the conversation along with cutting edge commentary and interviews with successful rock artists. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 221


Check out the show’s website at www.soundmatters.tv for all past episodes, show notes, photos and more. I also host and produce the Recovery Collective podcast which brings together and connects a collective of creatives, experts, advocates, movers and shiFters who dare to get up, stand up, and get down to the business at hand… which is to lend a helping hand to those still struggling (with self-defeating behaviors of many varieties) by letting your voice be heard… as we, together… talk shiFt™ about recovery in its many forms, and most importantly… share insights and solutions to overcome and rise above what I call the AV/DC’s >> the Addictions, Vices, Devices, Distractions, or Compulsions that may ail you or someone you know. Check out the podcast’s web page at www.recoverycollective.rocks. 4) Please share with us what you are comfortable with about your struggle with addiction, and how you made your way out. I was an alcohol user and abuser for nearly two decades. Growing up infatuated with music and rock and roll specifically, I was attracted to the lifestyle I read about and saw portrayed in movies, videos, and on TV. As a teenager, I jumped headlong into playing in my own rock bands and enjoyed all the good and the bad that comes with it. Drinking allowed me to feel comfortable in my own skin, and became my go-to for many, many years. At the end, things got very, very dark for me, with many consequences, and I knew I had to make some serious changes. My life was literally at stake. So in December of 2002, I decided to step way outside of my comfort zone and do something different if I truly wanted to change my life. I began attending 12 step meetings in my area, and over the next 10 years, learned more about me and why I drank the way I did than I ever thought possible. It was this program of recovery that really allowed me to be able to step away from it after a decade consistent attendance. I had grown and evolved, as did my recovery needs. I’m happy to report that I haven’t had to drink again since that very first meeting. Today I attend different types of recovery meetings. And also today, I work with others in recovery, and produce and host the Recovery Collective podcast as my way to give back to others still struggling. 5) What are a few misconceptions in our culture about addiction and recovery? One of the biggest misconceptions in my opinion, and one that is a recurring staple of my content and conversations on the Recovery Collective podcast is that “recovery” itself is often stigmatized. Meaning that many who are not in recovery, or not yet in recovery, view being in recovery as something that is less than. I make it a point to share from my real-life experience, and also pull from my guests who are in recovery, to share about what life is like today as a person in long-term recovery. It’s impossible to see this reality when you are still in the throws of active abuse or addiction. And so typically, the only thing that people anticipate is a life in sobriety that is always going to be miserable at worst, or boring at best. It’s neither Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 222


in my experience, nor the majority of my guests’ experiences. This is only something that can be realized however through our own personal experience. So I’m continually emphasizing how much better and more rewarding life can be on the other side if given a chance. Focusing on this future, rather than just on the past and the negatives only, I believe, is the paradigm shift and lynch pin into successful long-term recovery. People can get there… they just need to give themselves a chance. And that’s an inside job. 6) How have you used art to heal after the ravages of hitting bottom? Music, writing, speaking, and entertainment have always been my salvation throughout life. When I was abusing alcohol and drugs, or even in the years since, being able to create and express myself artistically, has been a constant in my life. It’s always given me a healthy outlet that has served me well. For me, it’s not just a want; it’s a need. 7) What are you reading right now? I’m always reading, or rather these days, listening to audiobooks about biographies of people that I admire and respect. Whether they are musicians, artists, business leaders, entertainers, or entrepreneurs, etc., I’m fascinated with the journey people go on from A to Z. I believe there are many lessons for us all to learn in studying the lives of others, and then apply those lessons to our own paths. If it’s not an audiobook I am listening to, then I’m devouring podcasts on a daily basis. The majority of stuff I read and consume is nonfiction. I get most my fiction fixes from movies and television (which I also love). 8) What are your guilty pleasures these days? What do you do to clear your mind? Not really guilty… but comedy! Stand-up comedians and snarky, oftentimes non-politicallycorrect humor is just what the doctor ordered for me. So much of my work is seemingly heavy and dense that sometimes being able to laugh and just let loose is a very welcome diversion. 9) How does your faith work within your daily life and personal relationships? Today, I place my faith in the art and science of critical thinking. By this I mean valuing the ongoing challenge of consistently working hard to evaluate information and outcomes objectively, not subjectively. This is difficult of course as human beings because by nature we are subjective creatures. The challenge then is to consciously minimize knee-jerk reactive behaviors, and instead replace them with thoughtful, proactive behaviors by harnessing metacognition consistently (that is, thinking about our thinking). As lofty as that sounds, it’s my belief that if we all improved in this area even just a little, the world would become a better place for us all.

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10) What big projects do you have on the horizon, and how can we keep up with you? Coming up are many more episodes of both the Sound Matters radio show and podcast, as well as the Recovery Collective podcast. I’m also planning to up my YouTube presence and highlight my work as a professional corporate and collegiate speaker. I travel all over the country and deliver high-energy, multi-media keynote presentations on Communications and Psychology topics… proprietary content I call Communichology™ (book forthcoming). I enjoy forward momentum… 11) How can the public contact you, and how can they (if they can) appeal to be on your show? The best way to connect with me is to follow me on any of the various social media platforms at my main handle: @tomleu. I’m fairly active on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, but admittedly, social media isn’t my favorite place to be. I prefer real conversations when possible. My Instagram recovery page gets a lot of traffic at @recovery_collective as well. My websites for my various endeavors are also listed below. I always appreciate when others reach out and connect. Thanks so much for the interest and support! Stay tuned-in… Tom Leu, MS/CPC Social Media Links: www.tomleu.com (speaking) www.16imaing.com (photography) www.soundmatters.tv (radio) www.recoverycollective.rocks (podcast)

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Tater Patch Players: The Art of Performance There's nothing that says "community" like good community theater. Friends, family, your local grocer... there's talent all around you. Some claim that the art of live performance is dying, but we couldn’t disagree more. There are many ways in which community theatre embodies the core of the performing arts. The accessible local stage is important, ranging from furthering education to self-expression, introducing change and so much more. The actors' and production team's self expression is laid on the stage ready to share with you, the public. Community theatre provides locals with a platform in which they can express themselves without judgment — something we need more of in today’s world. The audience can benefit from these efforts, not only in the form of seeing a performance, but because they will get to experience a diverse group of people working together as one. The performances can remind us how we can work together to better our society. In the midst of public schools slashing creative programs, community theatre has never been more important for our youth. They need a place where they can explore the creative aspects of their minds, where they can express their emotions without fear of rejection. Tater Patch Players is expanding its youth program this year and is also offering drama classes for home schooled students. Tater Patch Players has been bringing fine entertainment to North Georgia, set in the town of Jasper, for over forty years. This year, in the midst of so much turmoil, they are bringing a season of laughter to the public. Opening their season is The Kitchen Witches by Caroline Smith. There are nine performances from Friday Feb 15 to Sunday Mar 3, 2019. Isobel and Dolly are two “mature” cable-access cooking show hostesses who have hated each other for thirty years, ever since Larry Biddle dated one and married the other. When circumstances put them together on a TV show called The Kitchen Witches, the insults are flung harder than the food! Dolly’s long-suffering TV-producer daughter, Stephanie, tries to keep them on track, but as long as Dolly’s dressing room is one inch closer to the set than Isobel’s, it’s a losing battle, and the show becomes a ratings smash as Dolly and Isobel top both Martha Stewart and Jerry Springer! For the next delight, we retire to the convent. But in Drinking Habits, by Tom Smith, there is little time for quiet contemplation. Accusations, mistaken identities, and romances run wild in this traditional, laugh-out-loud farce. Two nuns at the Sisters of Perpetual Sewing have been secretly making wine to keep the convent’s doors open, but Paul and Sally, reporters and former fiancées, are hot on their trail. They go undercover as a nun and priest, but their presence, combined with the addition of a new nun, spurs paranoia throughout the convent that spies have been sent from Rome to shut them down. Performances are April 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20 and 21. Wine and secrets are inevitably spilled as everyone tries to preserve the convent and reconnect with lost loves.

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Greetings! Is a word full of friendship and warmth. For nine shows from Friday Jun 14 to Sunday Jun 30, 2019, the word has deeper meaning. In the midst of this "Archie Bunker" type family, a miracle might be occurring. Has intellectually disabled brother Mickey suddenly been transformed into an alien? An angel? Is this a Christmas miracle? Tom Dudzick has written a play for all seasons. In this funny but thought-provoking play, the core beliefs and prejudices of all of Mickey's family are turned topsy turvey. The show and its resolution are comedy bliss. On Golden Pond, by Ernest Thompson, is golden indeed. This is the love story of Ethel and Norman Thayer. Ethel and Norman are returning to their summer home on Golden Pond for the forty-eighth year. He is a retired professor, nearing eighty, with heart palpitations and a failing memory—but still as tart-tongued, observant and eager for life as ever. Ethel, ten years younger and the perfect foil for Norman, delights in all the small things that have enriched and continue to enrich their long life together. They are visited by their divorced, middle-aged daughter and her dentist fiancé, who then go off to Europe, leaving his teenage son behind for the summer. The boy quickly becomes the “grandchild” the elderly couple have longed for, and as Norman revels in taking his young ward fishing and thrusting good books at him, he also learns some lessons about modern teenage awareness—and slang—in return. In the end, as the summer wanes, so does their brief idyll, and in the final, deeply moving moments of the play, Norman and Ethel are brought even closer together by the incidence of a mild heart attack. Time, they know, is now against them, but the years have been good and, perhaps, another summer on Golden Pond still awaits them. The nine performances are September 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 27, 28 and 29. The main stage season will end on a hilarious note, with Jones Hope Wooten's Dearly Beloved. Nine shows from Friday Nov 29 to Sunday, December 16. Bring all the visiting relatives to enjoy some hilarity, Texas style! An over-the-top wedding, three feuding sisters and a church full of small town eccentrics. What could possibly go wrong? In this fast-paced, laugh-a-minute comedy, the Futrelle sisters of Fayro, Texas – Frankie, Twink and their estranged sister, Honey Raye – are thrown together to pull off a family wedding. But it is not going well. Frankie’s oldest twin daughter is marrying the son of the queen of what passes for high society in Fayro and Frankie is desperate to make this antebellum-themed wedding an elegant affair. It soon becomes obvious that Fate has other plans… Between Frankie’s suspicions of her husband’s infidelity, Twink’s revamp of the wedding dinner into a tacky potluck supper and Honey Raye’s bombshell news that’s fueled her mysterious move back to town, the chances for this wedding being a success are fading fast. In spite of the best efforts of Miss Geneva Musgrave – the cantankerous wedding coordinator – and the homespun enthusiasm provided by Dairy Dog employee, Raynerd Chisum – the proceedings go hysterically off course with the stunning revelation that the bride-to-be and her intended have fled town. The Futrelles scramble to keep the mutinous wedding guests in place by staging a hastily thrown-together talent show in the sanctuary while the Deputy Sheriff races through the countryside to collar the runaway couple and drag them back for the “I do’s.” This joyful Southern-fried comedy about love, marriage, sisterhood and three hundred pounds of good, ol’ Texas barbeque will have you laughing all the way down the aisle! Added to all of this, there is a summer Youth show, summer youth workshops, Improv nights and classes for fun lovers of many ages and varied experience. We encourage you to explore this part of the arts in your community by learning more at the troupe's website (www.taterpatchplayers.org) or Facebook page. You can get updates on events, buy tickets, and read some of our colorful history. Come out to watch, to laugh and even to volunteer. It's a type of art that is accessible to all and has a place -- in the audience, on stage, back stage, or in the box office -- for every member of the community. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 226


Hemingway’s Dog My girl and I keep fighting, what should I do? If it’s as simple as she’s a cat person, and you’re a dog person, I think we both know what you need to do. If that’s not it, ask yourself: when is the last time I took my girl on an adventure? Maybe she wants to be in the rugged outdoors with you? Maybe she wants to hike, or sweat, just see your humanity up close and outside the rut of every day living. Take her outside and howl at the moon. Netflix and chill is old news. My brother-in-law is always talking about himself and is so competitive at board games that no one has a good time around him. How do I handle this without resorting to violence? I can’t imagine your brother-in-law is a dog person, but let’s leave that aside for a moment – people are who they are. In my world, we dogs would handle this simply: I’d go over and pee on his leg. I know humans aren’t down for that, so, I say if someone can’t handle board games without getting angry, yelling or throwing things, they have no business playing. Don’t play if he’s around. Just don’t do it. Life is too short. As far as him talking too much, try this: each time he starts talking about himself, let him get through the first sentence and say, “I think you told that story last time, hoss, what do you think about them Tarheels this year?” (If you don’t have good taste, you can mention another team). Hemingway’s Dog, how can I improve my writing? What are you reading? Might sound glib, but it really starts there. Until you read great writing, you won’t produce great writing. Need a suggestion? You could do a lot worse than The Old Man and the Sea. Beyond reading, listen to great music, live if you can. Go walk through a museum. Look at every painting then go back to the one you can’t forget. Sit in front of it and study it the way the old man did Cézanne.

Follow Hemingway’s Dog on Twitter @doghemingway where you can @ your questions for the canine advice columnist. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 227


Interested in advertising with us? Please contact Clifford Brooks: cliffordbrooks@southerncollectiveexperience.com

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Newcomer

Judy Kirkwood interview by Clifford Brooks 1) Give us the moments in your artistic development you find most influential. Although I now consider myself a full-time Floridian and have embarked on an exploration of the South, I will forever be rooted in the Midwest. I am from Champaign, Illinois, and my mom had a volume of Carl Sandburg poems that she studied when she was in high school. In grade school I immediately related to his poem “Fog,” where “the fog comes/on little cat feet….” The Imagists, including William Carlos Williams, were a very early influence, though it was some years before I was reading Pound. I was the yearbook copy editor in high school, and based my Introduction to our brand new school on T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” which I am surprised I got away with. It was the 60s and I was all about alienation and the despair of modern existence. I think most of my poems for the literary journal were about death. But I also loved the spare, unpunctuated poetry of e.e.cummings. College was my poetry playground. I went to the University of Illinois in Champaign from 1968 to 1972 and took as many courses as I could in modern literature, and studied and wrote poetry in workshops with Professor Laurence Lieberman, author of over a dozen books of poetry. That is where I met my future husband, about whom I write in my book Prelude to a Divorce. We became a couple as a result of poetry. It was a glorious time to be a student. We were keenly aware of how lucky we were to be alive considering the Vietnam War, and how important it was to save the planet – and survive. Wonderful poets came to read and speak on campus. James Dickey had one of the largest audiences ever for a reading, flying high on his novel Deliverance. My boyfriend (later husband) and I had drinks at a pub earlier in the day with him when we stopped him on the street and thanked him for visiting our poetry workshop. Unfortunately, by the after party Dickey was extremely drunk and incommunicado. When I was admitted to the graduate level Program for Creative Writing at University of Illinois, Chicago, there were opportunities to meet and hear poets all over the city. My guy, who was in medical school in Chicago, went with me to hear Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, Robert Bly, and Gary Snyder. (My son was so affected by Ginsberg’s Howl he got a full lower arm tattoo of Ginsberg praying.) Later, when my husband was doing his medical internship in Boston, I heard Adrienne Rich at Harvard, where I worked. Feminist poets were coming into their own: Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, Anne Waldman, Maxine Kumin. I studied and read and wrote poetry all through the 1970s and half of the 1980s, and was published in a number of literary journals and in Christian Science Monitor, Mothering, Minnesota Parent, and was awarded writing grants. I subscribed to at least a dozen journals and poetry publications, and audited poetry workshops with Ron Wallace at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 229


Then I stopped and became obsessed with handmade paper and typography via the UW’s Art Department, and was a co-founder of the Wisconsin Center for Paper Arts in Madison. It was partly due to wanting to self-publish my poetry and others’ in a beautiful tactile format. My limited edition poetry books, which are in rare book room library collections across the country, included Small Planets, The Climate of Dreams, and Necessity: A Chronicle of Obsession by Paul Anderson. Necessity was featured in an exhibit at the library of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. I also printed poetry broadsides and 3D poetry objects. In the mid 1990s, I became a journalist for local and regional publications, and by 2000 I was focusing on luxury travel writing – a good gig while it lasted. In the last ten years I have done a lot of book editing, ghostwriting, and now co-authoring. 2) Who are you top five favorite authors and poets? Why? -Mary Oliver, who passed recently, is one of my favorite poets at the age I am now, late 60s. There is a memoir quality to some of her poems and also exhortations to live your life fully (“Tell me what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?” from “The Summer Day”). -I went through a period of reading everything written by Pablo Neruda poetry, essays, biographies. Neruda is, I think, perhaps the top poet on the subject of love. Read his 100 Love Sonnets and 20 Love Poems and a Song of Despair, inspired by his third wife Matilde. I can’t read his original work, but the translations are sensuous, passionate, romantic, real and surreal. -Speaking of love poems, I so enjoy Connor Judson Garrett’s poetry. As a younger writer, many of his poems are posted on his Facebook page as soon as they are written, and he is prolific. His first collection, Life in Lyrics, was published in 2018, and he already has a second collection out, Become the Fool. I had the pleasure of reading a draft of his novel, which is making the publishing rounds, and it is a total winner; can’t wait to read it again. Garrett’s writing is pure and soulful, rocketing between bliss and heartbreak. He is also the publisher (with his partner Jawad Mazhir) of my Prelude to a Divorce, via Lucid House Publishing. -And speaking of prolific, I have reconnected with Paul E. Anderson via Facebook, who was a student with me in the graduate Program for Writers at University of Illinois at Chicago. Paul and I worked together in the 1980s, when I did a limited edition printing of his book Necessity. I am so happy to be reading his poems on almost a daily basis on Facebook. Paul writes poetry and songs that he performs that flow out of his heart and brain so naturally it demystifies the process of writing. His thoughts become poetry as a byproduct of his being alive. His self-published volumes include artwork, photography, and graphics. One of my favorite lines in a poem by Anderson: “She was a river in a musician’s dream.” -Lastly, I will cite a book rather than a writer, as the most significant poetry book I ever read: Naked Poetry: Recent American Poetry in Open Forms (1969), available on Amazon by third party sellers. It includes Kenneth Rexroth, Theodore Roethke, Kenneth Patchen, William Stafford, Weldon Kees, John Berryman, Robert Lowell, Denise Levertov, Robert Bly, Robert Creeley, Allen Ginsberg, Galway Kinnell, W.S. Merwin, James Wright, Philip Levine, Sylvia Plath, Gary Snyder, Stephen Berg and Robert Mezey (who were the editors). It was my poetry Bible for years after first using it as a textbook Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 230


in college. I passed it on to my younger son, who has a poet’s soul, even though the cover was torn in half and it had drops of my blood on it. 3) What prompted you to write this collection? What are the book’s themes? I have been working on this manuscript for decades intermittently. I would put it aside for a few years and then pick it up one day and revise some of the poems. I didn’t put it into sequence and order until 2018, when I decided if I don’t publish the book now, when will it happen? It was ready. It wasn’t until everything was in order that I realized the whole was really a memoir of my “growing” from a girl safe with her parents’ voices in the background to a girlfriend, wife, mom, and a woman struggling with her own creative identity. Even though the title is Prelude to a Divorce, because it was a 35-year challenge to keep my marriage going, it’s not about feeling bitter in any way. It’s about “seeing” myself in context, as a writer and a woman, and describing my world as it was changing. These lines taken from “Homage à la Vie,” Homage to Life, by the French/Uruguayan poet Jules Supervielle, accurately describe my aspirations: It is good … ………. To have given a face To these words — woman, children, And to have been a shore For the wandering continents And to have come upon the soul With tiny strokes of the oars ………. And to have all these words Moving around in the head, To choose the least beautiful of them And make of them a feast, To have felt life, Hurried and ill loved, And locked it up In this poetry. 4) What projects do you have coming down the pipeline, and how do we keep up with you? I’m always working on a book project – coauthoring, ghostwriting, or editing for various authors. I hope to start doing workshops/readings – combining material from my book, Prelude to a Divorce, with interactive presentations about writing memoir via poetry; how to access creativity via senses; and meditations for writers. My judithkirkwood.com website is in the process of being updated. In the meantime, I post weekly on my Facebook and Instagram accounts: @judyjudykirkwood WriterEditor; and judyjudykirkwood. 5) What’s a question you’ve always wanted to be asked, but never have? Would you accept this million dollar check as an advance on your book? Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 231


**Please pick one poem from your book to go with the interview. From Prelude to a Divorce After the Rain I shoulder the weather Along with everything else As thunder rumbles down my back Rain dashes across my face And I try to keep the dog From having seizures When lightning illuminates His dark corner. I am used to being everywhere Breaking falls. But when that job explodes I am blown sideways Into my own life, Where everything is hinged Like flaps on an advent calendar Or torn skin on an elbow. The devil of it is I still slip through the keyhole Of memory At dawn sometimes Where I whip my husband’s juice Scrape his burnt toast And scatter the crumbs. It’s hard to remember That he is gone And the storms have moved south. On clear nights now I look through a telescope Set up to watch the earth turn— That battered landscape of lovers. Most morning I am ready To let the sun brighten my hollows, To fly through the day On a dust mote twirling in a beam of light. Social Media Links: www.judithkirkwood.com Facebook, judyjudykirkwood WriterEditor Instagram, judyjudykirkwood Twitter: @judykirkwood LinkedIn: Judy Kirkwood Issue 14 | Blue Mountain Review | 232


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The Blue Mountain Review Issue 14  

A Journal of Culture Poetry, Literature, and the Arts from The Southern Collective Experience.

The Blue Mountain Review Issue 14  

A Journal of Culture Poetry, Literature, and the Arts from The Southern Collective Experience.