Conceptions Southwest 2018

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Conceptions Southwest 2018

Conceptions Southwest

The fine arts and literary magazine of

the University of New Mexico 2018—Volume 41

Copyright Š 2018 Conceptions Southwest Published by the Student Publications Board University of New Mexico All rights revert to contributors upon publication issn 1048-8790 c/o Student Publications MSC03-2230 University of New Mexico Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001 Printed by Starline Printing 7111 Pan American Freeway NE Albuquerque, NM 87109 505-345-8900 Cover Image: Rain on Central by Jesse Yelvington, page 9. Fonts: Hamurz and Palatino Linotype Conceptions Southwest is the fine arts and literary magazine created by and for the University of New Mexico community. Its staff consists of undergraduate and graduate student volunteers and is directed by an Editor-in-Chief selected by unm’s Student Publications Board. Submissions are accepted from all unm undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education students; faculty; staff; and alumni. This issue is brought to you by the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico (asunm) and the Graduate Professional Student Association (gpsa). Copies and back issues are available in the Daily Lobo Classified Advertising Office, Marron Hall, Room 107. The Conceptions Southwest office is located in Marron Hall, Room 225. To order copies of our magazine, please contact us at or visit our website at

Special Thanks Dr. Leslie Donovan Becky Maher and Starline Printing Carolyn Souther Daven Quelle and the Daily Lobo Advertising Office Joshua Rysanek and the Scribendi staff asunm and gpsa Every staff member—the body Every contributor—the heart Every reader—the soul Student Publications Board members: Monica Kowal, Chair, unm President Representative Woong Lim, Faculty Senate Representative Robert Trapp, New Mexico Press Association Representative Cindy Pierard, Faculty Senate Representative Gabe Gallegos, asunm President Representative Noah Michelsohn, asunm President Representative Tyler Narvaez, asunm Senate Representative Taylor Bui, gpsa Representative Celia Raney, Student Representative

We raise a glass, and this magazine, to you

Staff Editor-in-Chief Jillian Kovach Managing Editor Emily Streams General Staff Miriam Goss Copyeditors Keriden Brown Alexandra Magel Kimberly Rose

Foreword Itatem qui voluptur? On renimol orepudi tiuntiscidel expedigenda destis maxim venisi omnis qui aut ius restio cuptateni te et rae non nem quae denitatius, quo que estiur sus im quunditiis adigendaecto quiaturest volore voluptaqui delibus apiciis quaessinist, cone imus, odic temquis et lam quiassitam, ullecum as ea quam volesed minihil ipic tem reperch illestia etur? Quid esciis veliquas adia dolorep tassum ipit eum autate volorios eum, con pelluptas dolor andae est, quiandel modit lati alicimus apedis as dis alicia cus natem eum atibeaturem unti consequo eos dolenienis alique delitius si ipsumet volla pliquosam nihicillora sit, qui dolorep udiossitatet ut eatiuntis ministi aut quis es endebis ut quat modio. Rae vel ipsuntibus molor sim faces nobis earum qui unt am quis de vollaborum, necum quostio. Itaquis volore non nonsequisque pre reperat quist labo. Caborro exerit porrumquis at iduciis simaiost volor si con rehendellaut a nis quam, sum eatem la nonsequam quo con parunt omnimus eumeni autem hicilibus veris magnis es reperunt adit volesende pliciaerunt ulliqui nectiuntota dolorem esto blandel luptae perfero con cus consed que eium eat plaboriaspel imus aut aut eaquunt dolest estet volupti asperro et harum digento odioritatur sitia pa exerferunto consecu sdaerit iusdaep eliquia cum si dolorio nsequist, sumquam unture dolut asped ex es audignimil magnihi temolup taquidus doluptatia nullici idebitia nonsed mo molora doluptat magnis pellam sedigen isquas ex es modi commolent et ligendicitis aspid quam, voluptam, officiur aligendam, core natur renimenia volorum quodit min prorum labore res pratusdae il ma etur sunt aut quia sequaestrum harcipitius quo mil eum volupta quidi de rem etus eveles estintectus. Conectas atet quia delest ommossi dollam autat vent re cus rat aut et pratur sunt lantiorempor sam simusan dioreic iisqui dolora viti dolestium ex etur sit et pro min esenis si destion sendion sequam vendebisci ut autet eat ma is aliquae nobit arum debis vellam num unt odicit, ut magnis rem aliquam ab isquiatur? Tatur, cusam seque res am reptata tiscillorem at volorem quis ab incto voloreiciae. Nam quidundipsam delissedis con enihit eum fugita aliquatur, si te perum expliciet mollore rovidem sum re consediam, sum fuga. Molum, ut excereium assim lates receptatia estiunt iusam fugias aligent. Officilicia samenis cus molum natinctat re sundaectur rem faccum etusamus illuptio od ut et estiam vende omnit untiorro conempor sitius siminte mquaepe reperun dessiti

Table of Contents 45 Inside, Outside Paul Talley

Creative Nonfiction 34 A Plate for the Devil Jesse Hendricks

57 Summer Storm Jesse Yelvington

47 Lab Rat Joshua Rysanek

64 Faces Amongst the Disparity Marco Lueras

Open Media

65 August Heather Brock

17 Bliss Douglas Brandt

72 Selfie Master Dune Alford


78 Mountain Shadows Aja Simpson

2 Autumn Leaves Aja Simpson

80 Covenant iii Sean Campbell

6 Home Jesse Yelvington 7 The Long Way Down Christie Gross 9 Rain on Central Jesse Yelvington 10 dc Luisa Pennington 14 Long Walks on the Beach Jesse Yelvington 24 Floating on Pavement Dune Alford 33 2017 DĂ­a de los Muertos, Albuquerque, New Mexico Carolina Bucheli 41 Tree and Mountain Aja Simpson

81 Monolith Sean Campbell

Poetry 1 These Lamps Are Always Lit Tori CĂĄrdenas 8 Popejoy Alexandra Magel 11 Revolving Positionality Cassie Smith 15 Graduate, Class of 2017 Cathy Cook 18 Lint Eric Anderson

19 Tastebuds Charissa Inman

82 Zozobra Tori Cárdenas

22 Thump Thump Danielle Ho

83 Context Matters Cassie Smith

23 This poem exists already Eric Anderson 40 Cup of Ocean Abigayle Goldstein

Short Fiction 3 Dreams of Starlight Kimberly Rose 25 Yee Naaldlooshii Dakota Begay

42 To Flowers Pressed in the Pages of a Textbook Kimberly Rose

38 The Fish Alexandra Magel

44 The Gentle Burden Michaela Dolly

39 The Tiny God Alexandra Magel

46 A Thousand Sounds Michaela Dolly

58 El Pescador William Dauphinais

54 breathe Trinity Koch 55 2/11/16 Michaela Dolly 56 david Luisa Pennington 62 Sound Direction David Morgan O’Connor 63 Safety David Morgan O’Connor 66 Algorithm Tori Cárdenas 67 Tinder Tori Cárdenas 70 NiL-NiL David Morgan O’Connor 71 Water Sun Carolina Bucheli 73 Copy of a River Valley Cathy Cook 79 before i become void Trinity Koch

74 Not a Dream Madison Holden

Visual Art 12 Escape Linda Holland 13 Crescendo Linda Holland 16 Moonlit Lagoon Kara Filipas 20 The Space Between Us Caitlin Carcerano 21 Sunspot Caitlin Carcerano 60 Poisoned Kara Filipas 61 Plant Witch Caitlin Carcerano 68 Village Linda Holland 69 Jazz Linda Holland

These Lamps Are Always Lit Tori Cardenas Stars settled down into the grass glassy orbs of pale light and your heart drummed like rain against the window of my ear I saw the sky in you the meteors tumbling there like black ink through the ocean and I caught my breath in a basket when I collided with your constellation.



Autumn Leaves Aja Simpson



Dreams of Starlight Kimberly Rose Ever since the invention of digital time-telling devices, Chronoctis and Kairomus cherished every second they spent on the job. They lived, and worked, in an elderly couple’s antique grandfather clock. In the early mornings, before the old husband rose to let the cat out and set the tea kettle to boil, Kairomus pulled the strings attached to the two hands of the clock until the positions of the hands matched the time written in the stars. In the late evenings, after the old wife had cleaned up the dinner dishes and set out a bowl of milk for the cat, Chronoctis would scale the mother-of-pearl clock face and push the hands until they matched the time written in the stars. It was backbreaking work keeping the clock and, indeed, all of the time it controlled, accurate. Most days they only needed to spend a few minutes actually keeping the time, but it required constant observation in case the clock slipped away from the true time of the stars. Neither Chronoctis nor Kairomus had ever seen the stars. “They must be beautiful and bright, like the light that shines in the day,” Kairomus said to Chronoctis during one of their many, endless stretches of silent watchfulness. It was midday, halfway between Kairomus’s tasks and Chronoctis’s. “Impossible,” Chronoctis said in a voice that claimed knowledge of all things. “They’re faint and mysterious. Well beyond the understanding of two simple timekeepers.” Kairomus disagreed, and when she lay down to sleep the afternoon away, she dreamed of stars. They were vast, glowing creatures with voices that ticked like clockwork and eyes that shined with centuries. They didn’t stand on legs like the old husband and the old wife, nor did they flicker like tiny, barely corporeal shadows as Kairomus and her brother did. The stars were so much more, with hands that constantly moved, weaving the endless silk of time. “It is time,” the stars said, their voices at once coming from all around Kairomus and from nowhere—it was as if she had always known the words, but was only now aware of them. “Come to us, timekeeper.” The dream shifted into bright shades of colorless light, and Kairomus jerked awake with the fading image of stars in her mind. It was half-past three, she knew. And forty-seven seconds. Chronoctis’s timekeeping wouldn’t begin until nine. At the moment, he sat watching the progress of their antique

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charge and its steady march onward through time. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. In moments like these, Kairomus imagined that constant rhythm lasting forever, continuing even if timekeepers weren’t around to maintain it. Kairomus continued to lay there, but she did not go back to sleep. The grandfather clock stood sentinel at the end of the hallway. Even though Chronoctis was intently listening to the soft passing of time, he could not hear the old husband talking to his wife in the kitchen. “I feel like I picked up something today,” the old husband said, his gray eyebrows furrowed in frustrated concentration. “You did,” the old wife grunted. “The newspaper.” “No, I mean a cold,” the old husband said. The old wife frowned. “Why on earth would you pick up a cold?” The old husband shook his head. He wasn’t in the mood for her games, not with a cold sort of ache spreading through his chest. “I think I’ll go to bed early tonight,” he said. Bored and alone in the silent house that evening, the old wife went to bed early too. The sun had begun to set, as it was summer and the sun set late in the day, when she walked past the old grandfather clock to bed.

Chronoctis had just started his evening climb of the clock face when Kairomus slipped out of the clock and landed on the carpet without a sound. “Where are you going?” Chronoctis called. Kairomus only turned because of the panic in his voice. He clung to the X of the ten, his eyes as wide and dull as the clock’s inner gears. “I need to see the stars!” Kairomus called back. She had never left the clock before, not since it had been crafted and she and Chronoctis had been created to tend it. It was impossible for her to keep the tremor out of her voice. Kairomus and Chronoctis both felt the whine of time slipping, as the clock and the stars began to misalign. Chronoctis threw himself at the minute hand and jerked it into the proper position. He swore and lost his grip and slid down the clock face, barely catching himself on the V of the six. Kairomus knew her brother would be fine, and that she needed to be outside to greet the stars when they appeared. She ran down the hallway, light and ghostly. As she ran she whispered a promise, unheard, to Chronoctis that she would be back on the clock by four, when her task would begin. Chronoctis couldn’t leave the clock untended, but he couldn’t let Kairomus run off on her own. He stared down at the carpet, miles below, and braced himself for the jump just when the whine started again. Time rarely slipped more than twice a day, but he couldn’t take a break to ponder this—he had a clock to tend. Kairomus wouldn’t be able to help him anyway; he was the night keeper, and only he

He clung to the X of the ten, his eyes as wide and dull as the clock’s inner gears.


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could fix the clock when it slipped in the dark. Opening the sliding glass door was no more difficult than resetting the clock, and Kairomus slipped out into the night. The sky was fading from light-dark blue into dark blue into black. There were no lights on in the house, and Kairomus kept her eyes fixed on the sky. She wasn’t sure when she became aware of the first star. It was in the corner of her eye, faint, the color of the face of her clock. Then there was another, across the sky, bigger and brighter and everything Kairomus had seen in her dream. She felt lighter than she ever had. “It is time,” she said, repeating what the stars had said in her dream. The stars twinkled and blinked and tapped out, in the language of time, a solemn acknowledgement. Kairomus didn’t like the tone of their message, and she felt another whine as time shifted. Chronoctis was having a difficult job wrangling time, she thought. She turned her eyes away from the stars above and stepped back toward the old couple’s house. But where she looked, she only saw stars, and all around her she felt the whine of their voices, of time spiraling away from her. Chronoctis was too exhausted to wonder what had become of Kairomus. If he let go of the clock’s hands, time would spin beyond his control. He wasn’t sure if he’d be able to hold on until Kairomus could take over in the morning. He wasn’t sure how long he had been holding on when the whine of time started in his chest, becoming so loud and strong that it rattled his every atom. He held on as long as possible, determined to

keep the time in check for as long as he could. But he knew, perhaps better than anyone, that when time slips free, relatives like long and brief no longer matter. When the hands of the clock finally broke his grip and he tumbled downward for the last time, he imagined he could see the stars, and he hoped Kairomus had found them as beautiful as he did. In the early dawn of the next morning, no one reset the clock that no longer kept time, and no one got up to put the tea kettle on in the kitchen.

The stars twinkled and blinked and tapped out, in the language of time, a solemn acknowledgement.

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Home Jesse Yelvington



The Long Way Down Christie Gross



Popejoy Alexandra Magel it all comes in a set: the red coarse fabric pulled over springy, tired seats your bony knees just showing under the hem of your dress, the tulle itching through your tights the dimmed lights—you can picture, outside yourself the reflecting line of your tiny eyeball, and the feather breath eyelashes bordering but the real action hangs, oppressive omnipotent, above your head, your eggshell skull, contained just below the ceiling the swelling strains and, under, those deep pearls of the bass hold it all together —but now it sways, and the ribbons of it weave up around each of your ribs, lacing then through your eye sockets and out, pulls—you can’t breathe— and you are sure you will be annihilated by this beautiful, beautiful music



Rain on Central Jesse Yelvington



DC Luisa Pennington



Revolving Positionality Cassie Smith “Can the subaltern speak?” always mediated by the voices of the d ominant power structures? Perhaps the best we can manage, is to speak

as though we

could find some common ground between us



Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “Can the Subaltern Speak?” In Marxism and the Interpretation of Cultures, 271–316. Edited by Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1988.



Escape Linda Holland

Acrylic on canvas, 20”x16”


Visual Art

Crescendo Linda Holland

Acrylic on canvas, 24”x20”

Visual Art


Long Walks on the Beach Jesse Yelvington



Graduate, Class of 2017 Cathy Cook It’s a Willie Nelson kind of summer. There’s a two-step in my song, a lover in my smile, and a pair of worn-out overalls hiding in the closet. I don’t know what Willie would say about this triple-digit heat, but I know he’d approve of tequila and skinny-dipping and my ass-hugging jeans. I’m at a crossroads, could stay or go, but I’m happy just to two-step to the kitchen, fold clean sheets, ignore emails stacking up on top of unopened job alerts. I just want to play folk songs, dance in big skirts, make love, and dream about the river. I’ll leave the running, the bill-paying, the loan-taking, the boxing and unboxing of jewel-eyed piggy banks, dusty textbooks, nonstick pans, business-casual shoes, to my future self. She can handle my affairs. She can solve my problems. I’ll drink tequila with the new moon.



Moonlit Lagoon Kara Filipas

Spray paint on canvas, 20”x10”


Visual Art

Bliss Douglas Brandt

Bronze, silver, and copper

Open Media


Lint Eric Anderson I heard a whisper of your voice in the empathy of another I excavated her soul for a thread of your spirit to hem the frayed edges of our torn fabric only to discover lint in the corner of my eye



Tastebuds Charissa Inman I was five and sweet And you told me women shouldn’t be fat. Now every time I eat Your voice screams from the place mat. And you told me women shouldn’t be fat. This world can be so unjust. I’ve eaten enough bullets and crap. Haven’t these morals become rust? This world can be so unjust. War with my body is my own civil war. Love and oil and money and lust Choices are made; an eagle will soar. War with my body is my own civil war. Decades of Barbies, and years of oppression. What will become of the girl next door? From the bottle, we eat lithium for depression. Decades of Barbies, and years of oppression. It’s like something evil Has become our obsession.



The Space Between Us Caitlin Carcerano

Oil on canvas, 36”x48”


Visual Art

Sunspot Caitlin Carcerano

Oil on canvas, 20”x24”

Visual Art


Thump Thump Danielle Ho There is something in my chest That pounds with the Thump thump Of desperate college dorm rooms And (thump thump) Rum-soaked nights. It is the beating of my fists against A strange man (thump thump) With his hand down my shirt Whenever I try to speak about The problems of wearing a dress. Assault is a kitchen pot Being beat like a drum (thump thump) And we are supposed to Tread lightly. The beat of two forms Melts perfectly with the beat Of footsteps on pavement And people will say They are not a part of the hands Grabbing my skirt or the Man attached to them. That they are deaf to the (thump thump) Of my heart when I walk alone At night or the Thump thump Of a woman Falling down the steps.



This poem exists already Eric Anderson I feel the cold in the blizzard that will not melt. I watch the snowflakes pile and desperately I stick out my tongue to catch their unique geometry for it is on this water I subsist. That which I do not catch builds endlessly at my feet. Through negligence I’ve built my cave of love and of rage and of peace and of struggle. Outside, A pinhole.



Floating on Pavement Dune Alford



Yee Naaldlooshii Dakota Begay Yee Naaldlooshii—He, who by the will of it, walks on all fours The old stories say that when the wind blows, it is searching for turquoise. The first snow lay heavy on the Canyon de Chelly. It weighed down on the leaves, the hogans, and the people. First snow was always marked with celebration, but this year no feasts were to be made. No cheers or children rolled over the soft white powder. Walks with Ghosts stood beside the fire, watching the far end of the canyon where a runner jogged through the snow, dragging his feet and kicking up a cloud of frost behind him. Ghost’s father grimaced as he pulled the mutton from the fire. “Then it is as I feared,” Narbona said. “Bilagáana is coming.” Ghost’s arms tightened around his chest. “Yes, and now we are cornered in this valley.” “They cannot pass through the neck of the canyon. The gods will protect us.” Ghost sighed and turned back inside. “What are we to do, Father? Every time we push them back, they return with a hundred more men. Every time we ambush them in the valleys, they burn down a village. Every time you say that the gods will protect us, they have let us suffer. How long do we wait?” Narbona ripped the blackened flesh from the bones with his teeth. “The White, Yellow, and Blue Gods will save their people. We—” “Father. We cannot wait for a sign. We must act. Run, hide, we cannot fight them again!” “We will not run,” his father’s voice boomed. A stillness held the air. Narbona took his time, eating in silence. After the last of the meat slid down his throat, he spoke. “Perhaps we must move to the next world.” “What do you mean?” “The gods have ferried us before, from one world to the next in our time of need. Four times before, we have brought them gifts and sacrifice.” Narbona looked up from the fire. “Tell everyone to gather all the turquoise they have. We will give them a gift like no other.” The last of the silver and turquoise clinked into place in the small pile in the center of the canyon. Narbona grimaced. A paltry amount. The gods would not be pleased. “Is it enough?” Ghost said. “No. It is not,” Narbona whispered. “We will have to fight and hold them here.”

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“Then we will die,” Ghost said. He looked at the huddled families, bound together by their wool rugs. They shuddered in the snow. The orphans and broken families of this war awaited their chief’s judgement. “What would we do, surrender?” Narbona said. “No, these white men have already made slaves of our people and murdered our warriors. We die here, in our home. Proud, and strong.” The hopeful spark sputtered and faded from the people’s eyes, wandering instead to the discolored mixture of brown and white that surrounded their tiny pile of personal possessions. “No. I refuse that fate,” Ghost said. “Our people have suffered enough.” “Then what will you do?” “I will go out. I will search and I will find more.” His father clasped his shoulders. “I see there is no use in stopping you, my child. You’ve always had your mother’s fire.” Ghost smiled. “I’ll be back, and I will bring the stones we need.” “Go swiftly, and may the Four Gods bless your journey.”

that blue-gold. No cavern, deep and dark, held azure secrets. Only after the hunger gnawed at his stomach and the thirst in his throat clawed up to his mouth did he rest. He pulled out his salted meats and started a fire. The pine trees loomed over him, bent and bowed like old men from the winds that howled overhead. Warmth came to him as he ate, and the darkness echoed around him. The droning of the whispering leaves in distant aspens sang him to sleep. The fire was dead when he awoke, before the first call of the hawk. The sun had not yet crossed over the top of the eastern deserts, and the mountains slept. Ghost had gone to start the fire once more, to regain the feeling in his extremities, when he saw it. A massive wolf, gray and white, stood on the other side of the clearing. The stench of his breath, like rotting meat, rolled over his senses, smothering out the calm cool of the morning air. His great eyes like ice stared into him. He knew he could not draw his bow before the beast would be upon him, consuming him. A smile spread across his cruel fangs, and he licked his lips with his long, blood-red tongue. “I know why you are here, Walks with Ghosts.” Ghost blinked. The voice still reverberated in his head, ringing and echoing like a shout in the canyon. “I know why you are here and I can grant it to you.” “Who are you?” The wolf took a step forward, the fur on his back like spikes, revealing himself from behind

The pine trees loomed over him, bent and bowed like old men from the winds that howled overhead.

Ghost ignored the cold that bit his skin like flies, pushing himself through the night. Every cave and every rock he searched. His hands were raw from the rough edges that cut his clothes and scratched his skin. Yet no rock yielded to him


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the shadows of the trees. “I am Great Wolf, the spirit the Diné have forgotten. But I have not forgotten the first children of the Earth.” Ghost stood up, watching as the beast drew near. “What do you want, Wolf?” “Corn and beans,” Wolf said. “My paws are unable to remove the husks or pick the beans. But your hands are useful to me.” “And in return?” “I will give you the blue stones that I have collected from these mountains.” “How much do you have?” “Enough to get many of your people away from the guns and swords of the Bilagáana,” Wolf said, “but not all.” “So I am to decide who lives and who dies?” The wolf was upon him now, its ivory fangs like knives aiming down upon him. “Not necessarily.” Wolf walked toward the remains of the fire. He bent his mighty head down and blew on the embers, igniting it into flames. “There is another way.” His eyes glittered as he said this. “Look into the fire.” The white ash began to move, taking shape and form, yet remaining brittle and cold. It showed men on the fields crawling and begging, their guns torn to shreds, the coagulated mixture of the blood of the horses and men swirling in pools in the desert. War drums echoed. Ghost could taste their flesh. It was sweet. Clean and pure. His foot stomped down on the last of them, crushing the life out of them like ants. He could feel their hearts struggle and slow. The visions returned to ash. “All of this can be yours, Ghost,” Wolf said as he watched the massacre below. “All of this

and more. They will tremble before you, and their pale gods will fade in your wake.” The words left Ghost’s lips as a whisper before he could stop himself. “At what cost?” Wolf laughed. The deep rumble rolled up his ribs and across his fur before breaking through the spaces of his teeth. “Your father’s heart.” The beast’s eyes watched Ghost as shock spread across his face. The beast licked his lips. Shock, but not disgust. He moved away, back into the woods. “Think about it, Ghost. And tell me your answer when you bring the corn and beans to the end of the canyon.” Ghost watched as the small ashen figures faded, crumbling into dust. “I am glad to see you returned safely, my son,” Narbona said. “What have you found that is so important that you needed to summon all the Elders?” “I found no turquoise in the mountains, to my despair,” Ghost said. “But I have found a way to get a great deal of it.” “How?” Hok’ee said. “I met a Spirit in the woods.” “Niyol?” Ahiga said, as he rolled his ceremonial feathers and bones in his hand. “No, no wind spirit spoke to me.” “Bear, then?” Hok’ee said. “Let him speak,” Narbona said. “I

“So I am to decide who lives and who dies?”

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was certain one of the great spirits would give us a sign.” “I spoke with Wolf,” Ghost said. All the cheery light vanished from the room. Even the fire felt colder as the Elders grasped at what Ghost had said. “Wolf?” Narbona repeated. “You spoke with Wolf?” His father’s voice was a growl between clenched teeth. Ghost gulped. “Yes. He offered all the turquoise he had found for corn and beans.” “Corn and beans? Then we will have no food,” Narbona said. “If your plan works then we won’t need it, will we?” Ghost replied. The other Elders exchanged glances. How could they be so blind? “We need the turquoise. It is the only way the gods will be pleased.” “But it is Wolf’s turquoise. Who knows if they will accept payment from such a trickster?” Hok’ee said. “Who says his payment is true, even? Do we trust Wolf to not just give us rocks painted blue with dyes?” Ahiga said. “The food can help us last the winter if we cannot find turquoise.” “But we have found turquoise!” Ghost said as his hand slammed into the ground. “We have a way to appease the gods, and you refuse it out of your stubborn desire to stick to the old ways!” “There are reasons why we don’t praise the wolf, Walks with

Ghosts,” Narbona said. “Like what? What stories do we have about Wolf, what lessons?” Ghost said. “None! Because we chose to forget him. But he did not forget us—the first children of the Earth. He has come for us when all the others have looked away.” The Elders stirred uneasily. “Where is Bear, or Owl? Hawk? Wind?” Ghost said. “They have let us be cornered in this canyon and have left us to die. But Wolf offers us a way out. We have no other choice here, Elders.” Ahiga sighed. “Perhaps he is right.” “I am right.” Narbona’s jaw clenched, the muscles in his face tightening the sagging skin. “Did he offer anything else?” Ghost gulped. His foot shifted in the sand. “No.” Hok’ee rubbed his head. “I do not like this, but I do not see any other way, Narbona.” Narbona grunted, and stood up. “So be it.” He pushed past his son and out into the cold of the night. Ghost shook his head and followed him. Ghost had always loved the snow, the soft crunch as it depressed under his foot, the dulled silence it blanketed across the land. He loved how the lights of the fires from the hogans and shadehouses danced out from between the cracks in the wood and stone, how it danced from behind the blanketed opening of the tipi. But his father trampled across it, loud and boisterous, like an injured deer crackling through the underbrush. “Father!” Ghost shouted to him. Narbona stopped, but did not turn.

“There are reasons why we don’t praise the wolf, Walks with Ghosts.”


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“Father, I know you are disappointed in this, but—” “You have made a deal with a demon, child,” Narbona said, finally turning. “Have my lessons still not ingrained themselves in that thick skull of yours? Or are you just willfully disobeying them?” Ghost took a step back, opening and closing his mouth as his father took another step toward him. “Father, I think that—” “You think? That is a refreshing change for today, child. Perhaps you will think of your people and our wisdom before you go making deals with such spirits!” “It is because of our people that I did this. Are you so blinded by your pride to let us suffer and die at the whims of the Bilagáana?” “Our people are strong and proud, and you should know this! You are to lead these people someday, and—” “Not if they’re all dead because of your damn pride, father! Your father may have dealt with the Naa’kai, but these white men are nothing like them! They cannot be beaten by outsmarting them. They know the lands as we do, and they have tenfold the men.” “You do not speak to your elders like this, Walks with Ghosts.” “I will if I have to. If you’re unwilling to lead our people, then I will,” Ghost said. “I may not be able to save you, but the people will survive.” “At what cost, child? How many traditions will we be forced to forsake, how many ancestors will we disappoint? Wolf’s deals are poison and they will sap the vitality out of our people.” “But we will be alive.” “A half-life. I’d rather we all die than live

that way.” Ghost scoffed in disbelief. “I won’t let you kill us all for your pride, Father.” “No, but you’ll kill us all for yours.” His father said nothing more and disappeared into his hogan. Ghost could feel the blood in his veins scream, scratching at his skin. The haze that clouded his mind only faded as another hand grasped his shoulder. Ahiga stood beside him. “You father does have reason to worry. We all do. Wolf should not be trusted.” “What exactly did Wolf do? Why do you distrust him so much?” Walks with Ghosts said. Ahiga sighed. “I suppose, if you are to be the next chief, that you should know. Once, long ago, when our people still had the wings given to us by Yellow God, there was the warrior Strong Water. He led our people to great glory and honor. He defeated many foes, but eventually our people were spread thin. The Anasazi rose up against him. And with his armies so spread, they were wiped out. Wolf came to Strong Water and offered him great strength. All he had to do was give him his wings, and Strong Water would be able to best all his enemies. “I know you do not believe all the old stories, child, but they ring with truth and certainty. His rage was endless and he defeated his foes.

Ghost could feel the blood in his veins scream, scratching at his skin.

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But our people lost so much as well. We lost our wings and were forced forever to wander the earth. And the Anasazi…you only see the remains of their people: Strong Water wiped them all clean of the earth. “This is why I do not trust Wolf. He takes—from you, from the world. The Earth lost its balance, lost one of its children because of his rage and bloodlust. And it took from us our freedom.” Ghost let the taste of the words linger in his mouth. “Get some rest, child,” said Ahiga. “We will gather what we need in the morning.” Ahiga left him there, in the snow and the cold, to wonder. Was that the power he could give him? The power to wipe all of the Bilagáana away? He tried not to think about it. Tomorrow would grant his people their freedom.

the lids off them with his snout. A cruel smile spread across his lips. “Very good,” Wolf said. “And the turquoise? I don’t see anything on you.” “You’re very well armed for a simple trade, Walks with Ghosts.” The wolf licked his lips. “Afraid of something?” “Where is the turquoise?” Wolf’s tongue snaked out and grabbed the corn and beans from the baskets before him. In one foul gulp he swallowed the entire contents. Ghost drew his weapons. “Where is it?!” Wolf laughed as he felt the blade slither against his skin. Ghost took a step back as the wolf began to retch. A shower of turquoise overflowed the basket. Ghost watched as the wolf would eat the contents of each container, and then fill it back up with the turquoise. When the wolf was sated, the baskets were overflowing, and the wolf’s grin returned. “See? I keep my side of the deals I make.” “Thank you,” Ghost said. “The gods will take the sacrifice. Have you decided who lives and who dies? How will you look into those wide, terrified eyes and tell them that they have to die?” “I…” Ghost stopped. “And how about our other deal? Have you been considering that?” A burst of angry, hot air left Ghost’s nostrils. “They are coming, you know. They’ll be here soon,” Wolf said. “All I need is his heart. Take it from him and I will give you my gifts. You can keep your people safe.” “I cannot,” Ghost said. “He…he is my father.”

When the wolf was sated, the baskets were overflowing, and the wolf’s grin returned.

The baskets and pots were filled as the last of the corn and beans were placed inside them. Ghost thanked those who had sacrificed what they could and waited. He told the Elders to wait back in their hogan. He knew this transaction he would have to do alone. He carried his dagger and tomahawk on his side, gripping them tightly as he saw the spirit watching from above. The wolf jumped down from the cliffs, lazily strolling toward him. Wolf sniffed the baskets and lifted


Short Fiction

“Well, the deal will continue to stand, if you so wish,” Wolf said. “I’ll be watching you, Walks with Ghosts. Just think about how many lives your father’s is worth. Just think about how many he is willing to sacrifice. We’re all just scared animals in the end, Ghost. Being a chief means making the hard choice.” Wolf walked away, but before disappearing again into the woods, spoke once more. “And I hope you’ll be willing to make that choice.” Ahiga had begun his ceremony, drawing the sand around the mountain of turquoise that lay in the middle of the Canyon de Chelly, when the runner sprinted around the bend in the canyon. “Bilagáana! Bilagáana!” he shouted. “Bilagáana are here!” “The gods say that this is enough to save a few hundred,” Ahiga said through clenched eyes and smoke that spilled out of his mouth like a fountain. “But not all.” The people looked among themselves. “Any who can fit in the circle will be saved.” For a moment, no one dared move. But when the sound of gunshots and hooves echoed through the canyon, there was only panic. Men and women pushed their way in. They shoved and shouted. They punched and kicked. Those outside screamed to get in. Those inside shouted to get out. Ghost watched as the teeming mass of bodies struggled to fit inside. He turned to his father, hoping for his wisdom to see them through. To make sense of the chaos. They needed Narbona to tell them who lived and who died. But his father was struggling to get in too. He shouted

his authority. “I am the chief! You will let me in!” At the end of the canyon, the warriors were trying to buy them time. But their blood stained the white snow a deep scarlet before it mixed into a dark slime under the hooves of the white man’s horses. A cold numbness filtered through Ghost’s veins. “We need more time!” Ahiga shouted. Ghost felt his hand wander to the hilt of his dagger. He calmly strolled through the crowd; his father turned toward him. His lips asked, “What are you doing?”, but the words were lost in the gunshots, in the screams, in the vibrations of the blade sinking into flesh. The shock in his father’s eyes was what scared him the most. But it did not disgust him. Neither did the flaying, the ripping, and the twisting. The pop and snap of bone and sinew did nothing to stop him. Those who saw tried to move, but couldn’t. A voice came into Ghost’s mind. Eat it. The wind howled, and Ghost stepped out from the circle. They were only a few hundred feet away now, the Bilagáana with their loud guns and sharp blades. Behind them, on the cliff face, Wolf stood, grinning wider than ever.

They needed Narbona to tell them who lived and who died.

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Ghost fell onto all fours, feeling the dark magic his people had so long hidden from him course through him. The white man’s face turned to horror. He could only imagine the terror that clenched their hearts as he licked his long teeth like knives. As the screams flew out from the canyon, so did a flock of birds, greeting the bright blue desert sky. end


Short Fiction

2017 Dia de los Muertos, Albuquerque, New Mexico Carolina Bucheli



A Plate for the Devil Jesse Hendricks The San Francisco Bay Area hosts a population of wasps, known as yellow jackets, that threaten to ruin cookouts on any given summer day. The common honeybee is eviscerated by its own sting; its aggression is tempered by necessity. Yellow jackets eat meat and therefore bite with impunity. While the honeybee found a symbiotic relationship with its source of sustenance, the yellow jacket pursued a path forged through hostility and violence. The scent of meat can attract them from hives one thousand feet downwind. Their sheer numbers and fierce belligerence can drive away much more sophisticated and powerful predators, including humans. In my family, backyard birthday celebrations and summer cookouts were never ruined by yellow jackets thanks to a trick passed down through my maternal grandmother. We didn’t hang traps or arm ourselves with fly swatters to engage in futile battle; we made them a plate. We gave them a plate with a bit of whatever we were eating: hot dogs, hamburgers, various savory and sweet salads, soft cakes with thick icing. It would sit isolated and removed for the wasps to ravage. While we enjoyed our goods, they enjoyed their spoils. Our abundance was such that the cost of peace was well worth the price. Ritual sacrifice shares the basic premise of my grandmother’s trick: that there is a brutal cost to be borne by a few so that many may thrive. We offered up a plate in sacrifice to ravenous forces that we could not otherwise command. Human cultures share this calculus across space and throughout time. It is an ancient wisdom. When the temple stood in Jerusalem, the Hebrew people used my grandmother’s trick on the Day of Atonement. On Yom Kippur two goats were brought before the altar amid the bustling temple for sacrifice. The first goat was given to Elohim, the blessed holy one, and the second was cast as the scapegoat. Yom Kippur, the culmination of the high holy days, was much more critical than a contemporary suburban Fourth of July celebration: the fate of an entire people rested on the ceremony. It was the only day of the year that the high priest would dare to utter the true (now long-forgotten) name of God, alone before the abode of His earthly presence. And the ritual attracted a force much more sinister than yellow jackets: emanations of evil, the bastard by-product of creation, the sitra ahra. Rather than fight with the devil over God’s share, they sent into the desert “a scapegoat to give him so that he leave them alone and occupy himself with that portion of his.”1 The scapegoat lay broken at the bottom of a cliff while the 1 Quote from the Zohar, the classical text of kabbalah, attributed to the second-century sage Rabbi El’azar


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sitra ahra picked its bones clean and the Hebrew people made amends with their God. The Hebrews, unlike their ancient pagan counterparts, prohibited human sacrifice since the day Abraham led his son to the top of a mountain, bound him to a rock, and nearly bled him white. Thousands of years later, the Romans would teach the Western world how to administer the act properly. They explored the depths of cruelty with ingenious enthusiasm while pursuing bureaucratic efficiency. From what we now consider the turn of the millennium until the fourth century ce, the roads were lined with columns of crosses bearing men suffocating in a cage of crushed ribs. The thirdcentury emperor Diocletian bound men with their mouths agape and poured bolts of molten lead down their throats. The lead found the path of least resistance through their bodies and collected on the floor between their feet in a puddle. Roman imperators appeased their jealous gods and restless populations with exotic battles to the death in grand coliseums as a government program to improve their citizens’ quality of life. Men and women were offered up to the altars of ideology and political power for hundreds of years across the vast empire. It is little wonder that upon the roads of the Pax Romana Semitic and Hellenistic culture would converge in the form of a man bent to embrace the damned. And it is little wonder that they killed him, too. The Romans showed the Western world that the unseen forces we cannot command are not always supernatural. Often, they are the bastard byproduct of society, such as crime, political

dissent, or economic disparity. But like the sitra ahra, they are also satisfied by flesh. A sorry few are tossed into the teeth of the system while many enjoy an unnatural abundance. People took the place of potato salad in my grandmother’s trick and, for the first time, the swarm of yellow jackets spilled from hives of our own deliberation. Twenty-first century Western civilization seems to have internalized the assumption that well-being is a zero-sum game, and when taken to absurd, almost surreal extremes it may be. For every Bugatti, a thousand distended bellies; for every man with a tower named after him, the workers of ten foreign factories live hand-tomouth. The fantasy of free will assures us that the rich man has earned all that he claims while the poor man is his own victim. The poor are tucked away into awful pockets of the earth or hidden in plain sight as populations of busy cities operate around them. San Francisco is one such city, and on a bright, warm September day I noticed a shirtless man who lay on her cement sidewalk, reduced to a pile of sunburned skin, propped up by the jagged poles of his skeleton. His hair and beard combined as a wild brown and gray mass surrounding

The Romans showed the Western world that the unseen forces we cannot command are not always supernatural.

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the chapped red skin on his face. His eyes were shut tight against the sun. Deep lines ran in all directions from his mouth like the marks of a past explosion against a weathered wall. He lay fetal on the ground with his head, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles as contact points to the unforgiving surface. Tattered, stinking pants covered his legs and the soles of his shoes were ground through. Aside from the pants and shoes, he seemed to have no material support to secure his continued existence or provide a modicum of comfort. I wore month-old canvas low tops, a pair of sturdy, stylish short pants, and a hundreddollar replica jersey of my favorite baseball team. My wife and I were on a weekend trip in San Francisco to celebrate our eighth anniversary. We stayed with my sister-in-law and her live-in boyfriend in their thirdstory apartment with bay windows overlooking Crissy Field and the St. Francis Yacht Club. The four of us were walking back to their place in the Marina district after having watched nine innings of America’s pastime in one of Major League Baseball’s premier venues. When we passed the man on the sidewalk I said, “That man is dying.” We kept our brisk pace and I looked over to my wife. “It’s weird that no one does anything. If he was shot and bleeding people would

freak out and call an ambulance. But if you are slowly starving to death or killing yourself with drugs, everyone just watches.” “Well, what do you want to do?” she asked. I could see her hazel eyes searching mine behind shaded lenses. The sun shone on her smooth black hair waving gently in the breeze as she walked. I could not assume that her question was strictly rhetorical. Six years previous she resigned from a very lucrative position at a Silicon Valley investment bank to earn a Master’s degree in elementary special education. She explicitly dedicated herself to social justice by attacking poverty and social disadvantage, transforming herself into a strong advocate for vulnerable, underserved children. “I don’t know. Nothing, I guess.” I wondered if he suffered from mental illness, substance abuse, or both. I wondered if he had children or parents or anyone who loved him. I wondered if he was alive. “It just seems crazy to me that with all the wealth in our society some people live like that.” “It is,” she said. That man lying on the cement, gaunt yet somehow still a barrel-chested source of his cluttered and bony limbs, was a human scapegoat broken at the bottom of a cliff, alone in the desert while the celebration of abundance rang in his ears from a distance. He and over a billion other invisible, anonymous men and women worldwide are left out like my grandmother’s unguarded picnic plates to satisfy the appetite of our modern devil, the economic sitra ahra. Their flesh is consumed

Deep lines ran in all directions from his mouth like the marks of a past explosion against a weathered wall.


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by the unseen swarms while we stand among them untouched. We assume that because they are mentally ill or drug-addicted that we are categorically different: that we aren’t a diagnosis, layoff, or foreclosure away from being cast in their lot. We assume that there must be a cost for the material comfort enjoyed by industrialized Western nations and silently consent to it being paid elsewhere. We believe that our economic system is natural, Darwinian even. If there are winners, there must be losers. And we live like there is no other way.

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The Fish Alexandra Magel It started as the shine in a drop of water. The drop was on the underside of a leaf and it caught the god’s eye. She bent close to it, admiring the flecks of spectrum color that flashed at its different angles. The god cupped it, pulled the shine out of the water and inspected it. The shine showed potential. The god stroked it with her fish-fin fingernail, to separate each color from the others. She flattened each color with the pad of her finger, pressing them into plates—no, scales—and a small flick on either side made dents for eyes. A tweak here and there made the fins, the gills. Then she curled the half-formed thing around itself, brought it to her lips, and breathed life into it. The new lifeform, a fish, began using its eyes and swam out of its curl in the space between the god’s cupped palms. Its tiny, ridged scales made the colors of the rainbow down its body, and its triangular fins were almost invisible. It explored the bumps and ridges of its temporary confinement, nosing its surroundings with its snub snout. Then it looked up and saw the glory of its god’s face. It stopped swimming and stared up in rapt attention. The god watched her new creation, pleased, and cherished the admiration it showed her. She showed it her teeth when she smiled—and snapped the fish up with one bite, neatly slicing it in two between her teeth and sucking the pieces down her throat. The water drop, empty of light, rolled off the leaf and vanished into the earth as quickly as the fish had.


Short Fiction

The Tiny God Alexandra Magel The tiny god didn’t want to walk across the entire ocean to the island, even if it was to meet with her own followers. She threw a tantrum, and the continent was razed by flattening winds. After three days of ignoring prayers for the storms to stop, she had an idea. She sank down through the layers of the earth, to where the old god lived embedded in the magma. She asked him if he would stretch, just a little. Very soon, she insisted. He sleepily blinked down at her. The younger, upstart gods hardly ever came down to bother him. He agreed to what she asked—he didn’t see how she asked anything of him anyway. As he shrugged back his huge head, the tiny god raced to the surface. She waited just above where the old god was. When he stretched out his arms, deep under the earth, it made the ocean tremble, and made a wave bigger than all others, which the tiny god rode all the way across the ocean. It set her down near her temple on the island. She skipped to it, lightly hopping around the waterlogged bodies of her followers and the destruction the wave had caused. She turned elegantly, sat in her throne, and waited for the survivors to crawl to her feet.

Short Fiction


Cup of Ocean Abigayle Goldstein Wrap the softness of your fingertips around my contours and brush the calluses on your palms against my curves I live to serve My figure pinched between your thumb and forefinger—firm wrists—reinforce my balance with the flat of your hand and search me Look into my depths I will reflect in my copiousness the inside of your mind, mirror the pictures played across the glinting beauty of your eyes, and I will define the shortness of your breath You must consume this—our ebb and flow with a kiss and control me with the abrasion of your lips Take me in I promise you will find your answers fused to my questions, trapped and wild and in need of liberation, swelling like a tide within Take a sip, hands cupped around my hips—swallow our confusion and then Set me aside—stilled, quieted—and live



Tree and Mountain Aja Simpson



To Flowers Pressed in the Pages of a Textbook Kimberly Rose

These trees, hidden in the gentle folds of land between the sloping crests of a mountain, have never heard the coarse sounds of a voice other than my own. Or maybe they have. But in this starched golden sun in the twilight days of summer, these trees are mine alone. That broken one, split unevenly into halves and lying across careless chunks of granite; That scarred one, proudly displaying emerald leaves above the crooked mark of a black bear’s claws; That picturesque one, symmetric in every seed, casting shade on my thoughts of the crooked streets and shriveled trunks of home. There are things other than trees, and they are also mine. The chittering, twittering, fluttering of creatures I would chase out of my house without regret, but which I consider bosom friends, comrades-in-arms, out on this wild frontier —the last vestiges of an uncorrupted world. But the airplane contrails never truly leave the sky, growing like so many cracks in a broken mirror. The stream is mine. Melted snow trickles to sate the spring I’ve only visited once, farther down the mountain. Silvery fish dart through patches of sunlight and shade. The rhythm is erratic, so unlike the sparkling of city lights.



The stream’s spring is not mine. I cannot see it from where I stand among these trees. It is foreign to this place that is mine. I’ve taken rocks, flat stones from the stream and chips of quartz from the coarse dirt. Sitting on my desk, while I am here, those relics are also foreign. The steady hum of a bee echoes in this glade. Its favorite flower is blue, small. A wildflower with petals like the dactyl bones in my hand. That flower is the bee’s, and I want it. The impulse is hot in my stomach, a molten ball of dirty asphalt that urges my hand: Reach forward and take it. The bee takes its pollen, unaware or uncaring that I could pluck the flower and take it home, right out of the bee’s entire little world. But why would the bee care about my intrusion? The flower is his. These trees and stream and rocks are his. Maybe they haven’t heard the soft bzzzzz of a bee other than his own. Or maybe they have.



The Gentle Burden Michaela Dolly I live with a slowly burning fear of the discord that swells within those I love made suppressed until a high tide splashes the serene coast. This is denial. I am so easily disrupted at the turn of wind from sweet to slapping, the soft dole of a gray sky cracked by lightning, your melted honey-brown eyes snapping to black— I don’t even know how to ask, just stumble back aghast, my sweet little receptors blasted— I wish I were made of more bone and less pink bloody tissue that secretes revealing fluids of naiveté and woe.



Inside, Outside Paul Talley



A Thousand Sounds Michaela Dolly I have bursts of disbelief at the beauty of this life followed by pangs of confusion at its paradoxical discord which orders itself into thousands of noises that pummel my ears all at once. Some moments, I receive one heavenly tune and I am almost saved— they come between time’s ticking, nearly unknown like ghosts somehow both made and not made of me. They know my fate, They are not worried at the thousand sounds I cannot help but hear because I am still listening for the single tune that is mine.



Lab Rat Joshua Rysanek Some prefer to bloody their coats. Ryan Harvey does not. He skips the particulate respirator, polycarbonate ocular shielding, and white lab coat entirely in favor of dark tones that hide stains. Before surgery, Ryan showers and trims his beard. He dresses in a button-down shirt fastened to the top button, a pair of ripped jeans, and Nike sneakers. He sanitizes his scalpel, scissors, prongs, and clamps in a pressurized steam vat called an autoclave. He prepares syringes of a saline solution and an iodine antiseptic. He covers the stainless steel operating table with blue, absorbent surgical sheets. He moves a bag of Q-Tips within arm’s reach. He calculates the stereotaxic coordinates, measuring each axis: anterior–posterior, dorsal–ventral, medial–lateral; then shaves bare and rubs with isopropyl alcohol clean the area where he plans to make the incision—straight, neat, through the scalp. He monitors the delivery of anesthesia, tuning knobs, balancing with oxygen. The room’s ventilation system—a single, taped, plastic tube, snaking up the wall to the mouth of a vent—is shoddy at best. He ensures the patient is fixed in place, wiggling the limp body to check for aberrant movement, adjusting. He swings over two bright lamps and a microscope and inspects. He swoops aside a scoop of bright brown hair across his forehead and draws back his sleeves before pulling on a pair of sanitary nitrile gloves. He leaves surgery with clothes wet only of sweat. Ryan’s a graduate psychology student of the University of New Mexico from Fort Wayne, Indiana, who works in the Clark Spatial Navigation and Memory Lab where I met him. He’s in his late twenties, five-foot-ten, steely-eyed, and vegan. He rides his bicycle everywhere and parks it inside when he can. He wears a helmet. He has a car. And a cat. He likes his coffee freshly ground and freshly roasted. He exercises rights granted to him by the First Amendment and sticks it to the Man. He enjoys programming and photography and burritos so big they require two tortillas. Across his forehead drapes a dramatic comb-over shading a prematurely receding hairline. He stands with the lethargic, hunched posture of a dying man but walks with the purpose of a pilgrim, physically slight but possessed by the austere will of a religious devotee. His undergraduate thesis tested the effects of microgravity on vestibular systems in mice. His master’s thesis used electrophysiological recordings in rat models to evaluate

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the spatial deficits associated with prenatal alcohol exposure. He carries around a little red notebook labeled with his initials everywhere he goes. He talks like he writes, in a code of sorts, like he has something to hide behind a wall of words. He may have written or said that animals received muscimol inactivation of the anterior thalamic nuclei before a fourtrial probe test. He makes passwords like sqrt(-1) with hints like imaginary. Once, he caught someone in a lie by checking a website’s metadata html code. He wrote a program to track his camera’s exposure of the night sky. It could be because of this impressive, indigestible way he carries himself that he needs to repeat himself so often. He’s hard to keep up with.

what he wanted to do. By the end of his first semester, inspired by a general psychology course and a desire to help people, he switched his major to psychology. He loved it. He loved that it was possible to study that which enables studying. He loved that each case would be different and interesting, that he could help people, face-to-face—that he could see change. He wanted to be a psychiatrist. He ended up getting into an undergraduate pr og ra m t h at p ut s t ude nt s i n r ole s i n behavioral health c e nt e r s where he met a man obsessing over demons in a temple and a woman who was sure she was married to Bruce Springsteen. The people were different; they were interesting. But it was overwhelming. He couldn’t see change. He just saw a helpless group of people stuck in an endless circuit, never healing. He only learned that things are even more complicated out in the world. At this rate, he figured, he could only help maybe ten people in his entire life. He dropped out of the intern program and got a job working as a lab technician in a behavioral neuroscience lab at the university. There, he learned how to run electrophysiological experiments in transgenic mice with defective vestibular systems. He was helping make novel discoveries—basic science that could be applied to treatment. The life of a neuroscientist was more controlled; variables, conditions, effects could be isolated. Changes weren’t just visible— they were quantifiable. Ryan can see himself helping millions—humans and animals—by dedicating his life to neuroscience.

He loved that it was possible to study that which enables studying.

“It’s a terrible thing I’m doing to you, little girl,” Ryan says, squinting, shaking, almost wincing. There’s depth to his articulation of little girl, as if remembering a dead child, equally assuring and pained. He snaps closed the lid on the induction chamber and twists a nearby nozzle. Isoflurane gas wheezes into the box. Ryan didn’t always want to be a neuroscientist. He enrolled at a Purdue University satellite campus in Fort Wayne intending to study business, but he didn’t really know


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It’s, rather, she’s writhing about contorting, bashing walls, floor, ceiling of the little plastic box. The box dances on the table. More struggle than last week. I hope we don’t have to hold it down. She must have seen it coming when they took her cagemate last week. Terrible. She lasts; it’s not weak. Little girl. Would I be a coward to look away? I’m feeling woozy. I can’t tell if it’s the gas or…not even any blood yet…. She, it, squeals but the box’s seal muffles the pathetic noise. Ryan’s looking, not watching, though. It’s more of a twitching now. We’re more breathless than silent. Limp. Done. Ryan pops open the lid and plucks it out. Her eyes are in slits, open still, but fleeting. He flips the box over a trashcan, dumping stray hair tufts and shit pellets. When people in the lab need help— undergraduate research assistants, the lab tech, graduate students—they come to Ryan. He programs the scripts for every project. He spins the best electrodes. He does the best surgeries. He knows what he’s doing. If something’s broken, Ryan fixes it. Problems with research, go to Ryan. Problems with theory, Ryan. Technical difficulties, Ryan. Veterinary consultation, Ryan. Consumer tech advice, Ryan. Cinematographic expertise, Ryan. Relationship advice, Ryan. Emotional trauma, Ryan. Whatever you need, you can count on Ryan to be there, ready at his desk, curved over his keyboard, swiveling in his chair, thinking. And he’ll help: he’ll listen. Not hear, but listen. If he’s speaking, it’s likely he’s asking a

question. He’s the kind of person who shows wisdom in reflection— always reevaluating, weighing options, thinking critically and, empathetically. He’s kind of the lab’s messiah. The rat’s in position now, legs and body splayed on the cold, covered table between two metal ear bars, which Ryan fits in her ear bones, adjusts, then readjusts to ensure she’s secure. He folds a paper towel and slips it under her motionless body to prop her up, to make her more comfortable. “There you go, little girl.” He pinches her tail and with his thumb and forefinger, gently uncurls it so it can circulate blood. He strokes her back and pats down her ruffled fur. He’s got this look of utter care and concern on his face like he’s looking on a loved one laid up in a hospital bed. Between slow blinks and parted eyelids, his eyes are glossy. He’s vulnerable. This could be the last time she sees another living being. He’s been here before; he knows this. He squeezes a thick dollop of artificial tear jelly on each eye so they don’t dry out.

Would I be a coward to look away?

It’s 2013 and humid. Ryan prepares to present his undergraduate thesis at a NASA-funded conference in Cape Canaveral. He hopes the experience will strengthen his

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g radu at e s c ho ol appl ic at io n s. He ’s committed; he’s killed one hundred mice. Botched surgeries. Overdose. Hypothermia. Infection. Euthanasia. Experimental design. Experimental success. A few accidents; many more planned, programmed, in the first degree. A hundred dead, in the name of science. A pencil-in-chestpocket-type man walks up to where Ryan has his poster set up. Conferences have always been exciting for Ryan. They’re some of the very few places where he can talk and be understood. Preparing to engage in florid interface, Ryan straightens and smiles. The man leans into Ryan’s display so closely his thick glasses are almost grazing the poster—his bushy brow scrunches as he scans the poster’s contents. His scrutinizing gaze crawls from line to line. Ryan’s happy someone could be so interested in his work. Five minutes pass before Ryan interrupts the silence by clearing his throat. The man ignores Ryan, finishes the last block of type—he’s made it to the references by now—adjusts, and faces Ryan. “We already did it,” the man says. His face scrunches more, all over now, his bottom lip protruding like a car’s bumper.

“Wh-what do you mean?” Ryan asks. “We did it—in the seventies.” He frowns. “This is old work.” Repeated. Already done. Useless. Not one, but two hundred dead, in the name of science. In the name of science? If not, what then? Practice? A thesis? A career? The blood, the squeals, the despondence and utter cognitive a c h i n g—Ry a n can’t take it. He must find a way around it—design a way around it. Scientific method. Clear conscience. Ryan returns home to Fort Wayne, but not to the lab where the mice were. The summer before moving to Albuquerque for grad school, Ryan works in a biology lab doing plant research. Stalks replace tails and leaves replace limbs. Lab coats feel lighter than ever. Ryan no longer worries of blood stains.

I imagine if I squeeze her like a dog toy she’ll honk goofily.


With her eyes jellied up, she doesn’t look real— more cartoonish, a head-shaved ragdoll with googly eyes, anesthesia and oxygen filling and emptying her. I imagine if I squeeze her like a dog toy she’ll honk goofily. She doesn’t look real when Ryan’s needle pricks the skin on her head, when Ryan pushes his syringe’s plunger, inflating her with little subcutaneous bubbles of lidocaine hydrochloride. Once the local anesthetic takes effect—once the lidocaine blocks sensation from signaling to the brain— whatever feeling left is taken from her. Not real. No feeling. Numb.

Creative Nonfiction

She doesn’t look real till Ryan’s scalpel slices through her skin, exposing layers of fat, membranes, cells to skull—and blood flows. Blood oozes as Ryan tears the wound wide, anchoring it open by the many layers with surgical forceps. I hand Ryan the saline syringe and he washes it out, using a Q-Tip to swivel and dab the blood away. He’s graceful and tender, but she bleeds and she’s real and she could turn and bite Ryan’s careful hands, rip through his sanitary gloves, puncture his fleshy hand, and Ryan would feel it—Ryan would bleed. She bleeds and I remember why we’re here and that she needs to be real. She needs to be real, and to not be, for us. Underneath her skull, through her dura mater, arachnoid space and mater, pia mater, bathed in cerebrospinal fluid, lies her gray matter—a very real brain. And deeper, through her cerebral cortex and crossing stringy striae, traveling the physical ventral and the temporal anterior, rest her anterior dorsal thalamic nuclei: implicated parts of the hippocampal spatial memory circuit, which Ryan will ablate, lesion, deactivate with N-Methyl-daspartate neurotoxic microinjections. She needs to be real so we can use her, drill holes in her skull and screw in cannula—electrode tracks in her real brain—hook her up to a complex network of amplifiers, microprocessors, and a computer and record the electrical signals of individual cells, study her behavior and neurophysiology—so we can begin to understand how she, rather, we make memories.

to soy. Struggling. Now, he kills animals as a part of his occupation— he accepts this, the killing, and morally bargains by being vegan. He’s done a lot of thinking about the exchange. You can tell by the wavering uncertainty in his voice when he speaks of it. He genuinely cares about all life, human and animal—that’s why he chose a profession that improves human and animal life. Getting there is the hard part, though. Ryan tells me this is the worst part. Not least favorite but the worst. It’s why he left the mice lab in Fort Wayne, why he became and remains vegan. Perfusion. It’s one of the few things people in the lab don’t approach Ryan with. With respect to perfusion, he’s a novice—not by experience, but by skill. Last time, his shaky hands betrayed him, missing, goring, erupting blood all up his sleeve, spattering under his chin. Ryan avoids perfusion. He trades programming, writing, statistics— favors and work of any sort to avoid it, and because not everyone hates it and his expertise is so valuable, he usually does avoid it, pass it along, forget about it. Not today. His partner in life and in science, Laura, joins us today. She knows it’s the worst part for Ryan, and it’s the

It’s one of the few things people in the lab don’t approach Ryan with.

Ryan remembers becoming vegan. Transitioning from dairy to soy and from flesh

Creative Nonfiction


worst part for her, too. She’s got a trick to show Ryan, to make it easier on him and his patient, who waits, pacing inside her cage on a table. Ryan lifts open the cage, and Laura tries to snag her by the base of her tail. The rat hurtles herself across the space, clawing up urinesoaked bedding, into a wall, away— she squirms as Laura reaches and retracts till she’s got her, and Laura swaddles her in a dirty blue towel. “Ready?” Laura asks, motioning the convulsing blue bulge toward Ryan. He nods and she holds the towel out in front of her, then whips it backward like a softball pitch in a violent circle, stopping without releasing. “Now,” she says. Ryan sticks the body with a syringe and depresses, injecting a lethal dose of pentobarbital. Laura drops the rat back in its cage. It’s calm now, no more pacing or fleeing— docile. It huddles in a corner. Ryan puts the syringe down on a counter and bows into Laura, facing away. I can’t see his face, but I imagine him shutting out tears. The rat looks normal, its breath steady, effortless, till its lungs become heavy and its chest collapses, its small frame like an aluminum can to a formless boot, crinkling in death. Laura leaves. It’s not over yet; the perfusion’s only started. And we have ten

minutes of heartbeat left to get it done. We’ll hijack the left ventricle, use it to flush out the blood from capillary tissue and replace it with a formalin solution, binding proteins for an advanced rigor mortis, which we need to safely extract the brain, soak it in sucrose, and slice it for histological analysis. Ryan moves the rat onto a metal grill above a sink. He makes a tent of the rat’s stomach skin and cuts it open with a pair of scissors. It reminds me of gutting a fish. It bleeds. Ryan, equipped with forceps, prods around the exposed red and purplish nubbins. I can make out some of the organs—intestines, liver, lungs, still pulsating heart. Ryan assures me she feels nothing. I dunk the intake hose of a small pump into the formalin beaker and hand the outflow end, outfitted with a needle, to Ryan, which he guides toward the heart. “Somehow,” Ryan says, pointing the needle, “all these little parts, parts of parts, come together to make this being.” He pushes the point into the heart. Blood drips through the grates into the basin below. I flip the switch on the pump. To its flat electric hum, we watch as the dripping blood thins. We’re still as the organs gray and begin to clarify. Soon we will decapitate the rat. And if we did things right, the rat will stiffen enough for us to crack the skull without damaging the brain. Ryan presses his hand to the rat’s side and begins stroking her fur. Little girl. He fits her neck between a pair of scissors. He pauses and tilts his head upward. His whole body seems to be tilting upward. He

I can’t see his face, but I imagine him shutting out tears.


Creative Nonfiction

seems to be six feet tall. His face is serene as if in prayer. Behind us, the door opens. Ryan turns. It’s Laura. “Want to grab lunch?”

Creative Nonfiction


breathe Trinity Koch i used to be more once and i will be more again but in the time between this and that i will be less



2/11/16 Michaela Dolly Struggling to bud, stretching, the ache reminds me that my inspiration has seasons and dies sometimes. I start to wonder if it will ever return. Next I forget I ever had it and then things appear to me— light spectrums stretch, I notice the weather, the blue filter removes, and I’d like to capture it, somehow— I turn my lens and let blur come to beckoning. I’d like to record this enlivened state of beauty before I shift my gaze in ignorance and thanklessness. My words are the flowers and the bugs I want to catch but leave alone to not disturb their fluidity. I pet them with my pen and suppose questions I might ask if I could bother them for answers.



david Luisa Pennington you were my david so perfectly sculpted with succulent lips and a tongue that could make mountains moan. the touch your thoughts had upon me made me question God; for if a “should” should ever exist with the power to change the world, I had every belief it was you. but it was a constant rapture—the never-ending test of my worth. and, in this panic, I put myself in you. as a mere fragment of Michelangelo’s imagination, you were my david: the most powerful image of man, almost as omnipotent as the creator himself. but neither figure is proven to be real. that must be why you had to go. that is why the image of us has ceased to exist. that is why, in this judgement of character, you must have chosen to love without the concept of a living soul. that, truly, must be why.



Summer Storm Jesse Yelvington



El Pescador William Dauphinais The cold spring wind whipped his face and the fishing line danced between his sapling and the current of the river. The wind grew stronger with the rising sun and grew even stronger into the early afternoon. The line would frequently crawl back to the riverbank, the gusting winds making him recast his line. But he didn’t mind. He always appreciated, with all his changes, that the river did not change. The river was always giving, even on days when he didn’t catch any fish. On fruitless days he would pull in his line at dusk and wait for the evening sun to settle on the tops of the cottonwood trees. A million green cottonwood leaves glowed with a golden lining and a pale yellow hue would cover his face and assure him that he was home. Once the golden fires on the leaves died, he would walk back alone on the quiet dirt trail that led to his house from the river. As he stepped through the back door, his wife Elena would smile at him and feel grateful he was home, even though he did not catch any fish. He was also happy when he returned home and would always tell Elena with a smile, “Eh, quizas otro dia.” “Bueno, Victor,” she would tell him. After placing his leather tackle and sapling in the corner of the kitchen near the back door, he would sit down at the small table. Elena would set in front of him a nice hot, stone bowl filled with beans and red chile and topped with a thin slice of cheese. This always filled his belly and made him feel good about his day of fishing. Elena would sit across from him with her bowl of beans, chile, and cheese and they would smile at each other after every bite, feeling happy they were together. As this day drifted into evening, the wind calmed down, his line danced less, and the river current slowed to a peaceful drift. The shadows from the cottonwood trees were spread out wide across the river, appearing as a large, dark, wild mushroom garden on the surface. The sun softened and he thought this would be another day without fish. He shoved the end of his sapling deep into the soft riverbank now that the wind and the river were calm, and he felt ready to go home to Elena. The soft evening sun hid behind the cottonwood trees, illuminating their figures into a hundred burning, golden statues. “Gracias a Dios. Gracias al Sol,” he whispered. As he stared at the silent burning of the cottonwoods, a spot in the river splashed


Short Fiction

and small waves rippled toward him. He looked down at the sapling. The line was taut and it plowed upstream. The neck of the sapling was curved down like a worm. He grabbed the line and slowly began pulling it in, stopping at moments when the line whipped back into the river. He continued to pull in the line as the fish emerged to the surface. The fish swam in small circles, kicking the water with its tail fin. He held the line waiting for the fish to tire. The fish soon relaxed its struggle with the line and Victor gently hauled it to the bank. He wrapped his strong, brown hands around the fish’s head and under its belly and hoisted it above him so the fish would reflect the waning twilight. It was a long fish, thin and speckled dark green and brown with a small, white belly that ran from mouth to tail. He held it in front of him, looking at its face, long jaw, and tiny sharp teeth. The fish’s large, round eyes were staring back at him in fear and disbelief. The fish was very cold and must have come from the bottom of the river. He knelt down, continuing to look at the fish. The sun had set, leaving a yellow-red glow at the bottom of the cottonwoods, and a blue and purple sky hugged the evening stars. The air cooled and quieted. He gazed at the fish in silence and watched it gasp and turn coarse in his hands, but its eyes never lost that look of fear and disbelief. He continued to stare, watching the life slowly leave the fish. Victor sighed and decided that fear and death should not be the ending to this day. He carefully removed the hook from the fish’s mouth, so as not to snag the small, sharp teeth. He slipped the fish back into the water and it disappeared into the murky river, leaving him all by himself. “Adios, amigo.” He picked his sapling out of the soft, wet dirt and washed the butt of the sapling in the river. Then he placed the leather tackle strap on his

shoulder and walked back home. He felt happy that he had caught the fish and felt even happier that the sun and the river had been so nice to him today. He walked into the kitchen through the back door. The kitchen was warm and filled with the aroma of beans and fresh corn tortillas. He placed his tackle and his sapling in the corner and sat down at the table. Elena stood in front of the boiling pot of beans, stirring them slowly. She turned and smiled at him. He smiled back. “Eh, quizas otro dia,” Victor said. Elena kept smiling at him and continued to stir the boiling beans slowly.

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Poisoned Kara Filipas

Spray paint on canvas, 10”x10”


Visual Art

Plant Witch Caitlin Carcerano

Ink and Photoshop, 5”x6.5”

Visual Art


Sound Direction David Morgan O'Connor My father advised, when defending never commit first. Force the mistake… 90% of attackers will panic and I was a good stopper, almost professional, but I scoffed blame adolescent angst, blame impatience, started going for the man, not the ball, pushed too far forward got lazy coming back. Somewhere between 1977 and 2017 I forgot I had teammates. Language changed: offside, clear it, corner, mark him, down the line, man-on, time, hold it, I’m open… became: alibi, vindication, repetition, hash. Now when we talk the beautiful game on Sundays over Skype from our separate corner-benchworlds, I fear I’ve never committed enough because I was always defending.



Safety David Morgan O'Connor Watching wipers push sleet, flick hail plow my favorite slush into windshield petroglyphs tunes cranked father at wheel brother called shotgun first all concussed and upside down on the hand brake we’ve just won some hockey cup or football game filled up on fast food before anyone knew fast was bad food my father’s open window cigaretting night smoke into night snow a sneak corn fields yearning spring which might never come we tailspin feeling pure neutral the car planes through another lane we score—cargo adrift goods delivered to shelves to bunk beds my father rubs my head then my brother’s neck when safe enough again to drive with one hand he snaps off the radio the best is yet to come… still singing along he drives past a white-tailed doe pursued by rutting bucks and says real clear you guys played a great fucking game today



Faces Amongst the Disparity Marco Lueras



August Heather Brock



Algorithm Tori Cardenas Programmed to gasp at the sound of your ringtone, and peer through square, frosted app-windows to catch a glimpse of what your life is like now that I’m alone, my memory overloads, accessing every scrap of data ever stored. If “her,” then “every memory about her,” and the tin robot coded to pine against a wall socket dreams of electrified fields, its glowing green cursor processing poems about planets, about rockets, about graffiti-green neon forests, unplugged, sitting and short-circuiting in synthetic 8-bit rain. No longer human, read: disconnected, drugged. Release a few updates for this battery drain so we can code in new responses to your name, plug myself in, reboot to a life that’s not the same.



Tinder Tori Cardenas Every word we’ve exchanged is actually in binary. Pixelated words and blood which should be whispers. In this, there is no ceremony our keyboards only provide a summary of pulses and shortness of breath, letters deciphered with strict attention to every word any allusion to pauses in speech, over-wary of hints dropped by happy accident. My listener, do you understand the irony? How this shouldn’t be experienced secondary, that these nothings should have been whispered in cozy cafés or on cold park benches under snowfall heavy and heady and breathless mid-January? Bloodstreams can’t collide over bandwidth, clustered in closed networks—but before you tell me you’re lonely, these gigabytes of messages are so much to carry. I would havoc you with a tilt of my shoulders, download your scent and log it like a password, only avoiding the wireless connection, making a temporary collection of bytes and bits of skin twisted. Every word we’ve exchanged is really in binary. In this, there is no ceremony.



Village Linda Holland

Acrylic on canvas, 24”x20”


Visual Art

Jazz Linda Holland

Acrylic on canvas, 24”x20”

Visual Art


NiL-NiL David Morgan O'Connor In order to compete you must first hold understanding long enough to apply rules that rarely shift after the clock starts you realized you can’t hold anything contradictory in your head or hand or heart dripping like a fan’s hat pulled from a river with a branch easily broken in dryness by the time you get close to scoring you can’t remember which was your goal what sidelines mean from the bench at final whistle you watch the stadium empty no coach no team no future perhaps you drew.



Water Sun Carolina Bucheli 1. I like rain, but not the moment just after it stops. Trees look vulnerable, and the sense of expectation is gone. Wind no longer brings but lets go, and there is a feeling of loss in the gaze of the clouds. 2. I tried to find a way to tell you what I felt without having to write it down. Each time I remembered you repeating “don’t trust your words, trust your image.� I waited for the rain to stop outside my window, and I drew the way in which drops hung on to the leaves of the trees, the trees we used to count before falling asleep. 3. I woke up tired, it was raining, and I felt relief. It gave me an excuse to close my eyes and turn my back to the possibility of walking past you in the street. 4. I woke up and the rain had stopped. It feels colder outside when there are no drops falling to cover the ground. 5. Leaves started falling today, weakened by the force of the water. But if someone saw the city just as it was, not knowing it had rained, they would not know who was to blame.



Selfie Master Dune Alford



Copy of a River Valley Cathy Cook My mother and I, our freckles match scattered up my right arm and down her left like a forest of dead trees seen from above with white ground peeking from beneath them. The permanent furrow between her right brow and her nose, like a river valley in her beaming face, is situated in the same mountain range where my eyebrows crinkle on my face. Her lines match mine—the parentheses at the corners of her mouth where my cheeks fold when I smile, the baby bags beneath our blue-gray eyes. I wonder if immortality is sacrificing your own body to make a daughter.



Not a Dream Madison Holden I fell. For a moment, I was certain I was going to die. Everything was so dark that I had no idea if I had just stepped off the edge of a cliff or merely stumbled into a hole. But my palms made contact with soil, and my terror momentarily subsided to a dull panic. Glancing behind me, I searched for any movement discernible in the blackness. My fear built back up as the silence pressed in around me. Had I lost it in the dark? I couldn’t tell. I stood up, brushed myself off, and refocused on each step I took forward to prevent another fall. Far up ahead, there was a shimmer, and I felt a moment of hope. There was light, so that meant everything was going to be okay. I just had to make it to the light. I want out. The feeling was like a blow to the chest, and I could barely contain the panic that lit every nerve ending to hypersensitivity. That was the moment I realized I was trapped here in this darkness. If I couldn’t make my way to that light, I would never be able to escape. I. Want. Out. Again, even more intense. I started running, stumbling my way toward the faint glow, hoping beyond hope that it was the salvation I was looking for. I still couldn’t hear anything above my panting breaths and the leaves crunching under my shoes. While part of me felt relieved, part of me was also completely petrified. Not hearing it meant I didn’t know where it was. Not hearing it meant that it could be literally anywhere, following in the trees above me, or even waiting in my path ahead. But I was drawing closer to the light. Step by step its brightness grew until I could make out the shape. It was a door. Of course it was a door. If there was no light here, light would absolutely be on the other side of a door. It made sense. A branch snapped behind me and I picked up speed, no longer quite as worried about the ground in front of me as I could mostly make out the landscape now. Whatever the thing chasing me was, it was still out there, still hunting me. I just had to make it to the light. With a triumphant shout, I hauled the door open and threw myself through it. Right before the door latched shut behind me, however, I heard a different noise. “Wait!” someone called behind me, but it was too late. I turned around in an attempt to reopen the door. I couldn’t leave someone else out there with that thing, but I also couldn’t seem to locate the handle on this side. I tried to open my eyes, squinting


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through my eyelids to try and determine my new location. The light was so bright that it took a solid moment or two for them to adjust, but eventually I could begin to take in my new surroundings. There was definitely no handle. The wall in front of me was smooth metal, with a row of buttons on the side. It clicked—an elevator. I had made it into an elevator. As a last attempt, I pressed the open-door button. I instantly regretted my decision as everything went black again and I felt the floor drop beneath my feet. I couldn’t hold back the scream that tore its way from my lungs. I have been here before. This wasn’t my first time in a bad place. A sensation of calm radiated through me, even as I continued to hurtle toward an unknown. I will not die in this elevator. It was then that I realized my feeling of calm stemmed from the feeling that I had previously been in this exact elevator, free-falling toward certain death, and I had not died. Except…I had never been in this elevator before. Before I could process what was going on, the elevator crashed. Another scream of terror overwhelmed the calm I had just experienced as I crumpled into the floor. While I could see absolutely nothing, I knew I was no longer whole. Pieces of my body didn’t quite feel right, but I couldn’t tell exactly which ones had failed me. Then the pain hit. If I didn’t know better, I’d have guessed that there was no part of me not broken. I couldn’t stay there, though. I couldn’t waste time crying. I had to find my way out. Trying to move my right arm resulted in an excruciating

shock of pain, so I tried my left. Still pain, but not so much. I could feel around. The floor, no longer smooth, also no longer ended where the elevator wall should have been. As I continued feeling around me, I suddenly grasped an outstretched hand as it was given to me. No. Terror, primal and fierce, ripped through my being. “Are you okay?” I heard, and my heart started to slow back down. Whatever I thought it might have been was absolutely illogical. There was someone else trapped in here with me; I was no longer alone. The hand helped me to my feet, slowly, as I assessed my body for all the different injuries. Thankfully, the worst was my right arm. Everything else seemed more or less intact. At the very least, I could stand. That meant I could walk, which meant maybe we could escape. “Yeah, I’m mostly okay, I think,” I finally responded. “Who are you? Where am I? How do we get out??” He chuckled. “You must be new if you are still holding onto the hope that there is an escape.” Another thought crossed my mind. “How did you find me?” No. The feeling again. Not as intense, but almost more frantic. I again dismissed it as irrational.

If I didn’t know better, I’d have guessed that there was no part of me not broken.

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“I heard the crash and came to investigate. I’ve been trapped here long enough to know my way around the dark pretty well at this point.” He still hadn’t let go of my hand, and part of me found comfort in the contact. “Come with me,” he finally requested. “I want to show you something.” I followed him as he led me through a maze in what must have been a cave system. Every now and then, I would reach out and touch the damp walls as we passed by. For all I knew, we could have been going in circles. Finally, though, the still air was moved by a light breeze, and I followed the hand out into a clearing. A single star was in the sky above, but it was just enough light to see by. I turned to look at the person who had rescued me, taking in what details I could about him. He glanced at me studying him and grinned. “I know the feeling. The first time I found someone else, I was pretty ecstatic as well.” “There are more people? Where are they?” I wasn’t sure if I was excited or concerned about the fact that there were others. He shrugged and looked back at the star. “Sometimes, they feel like they need to go their own way, you know?” I nodded. That seemed like it would make sense. Another thought. “Are you sure that no one has made it out, though? How can you know?”

He chuckled at my question. “Trust me, I know.” This time when he looked at me, though, there were only dark holes where his eyes should have been. Again, overwhelming panic. I tried to drop his hand, but now he was holding on to me, nails digging into my flesh as he started forward once more, dragging me behind him. Run. I pulled frantically, my heart in my throat. Now I knew I was going to die. As I tried to tug myself away, I barely noticed a black spiral of ink around my pinky grow and swirl to encompass my entire hand. A flash of light, though, and my captor let go, momentarily stunned. “RUN.” This time I heard as well as felt the sensation urging me to escape. As I started running, I glanced over my shoulder to see the dark monster that had been chasing me earlier also trying to flee from the other person living in this trap. I couldn’t spare the thought to determine what it meant. Instead, I ran as hard and as fast as I could, uncertain as to what death would be preferred at this point. Shadow creature? Elevator crash? Eyeless monster? Something— anything—else? I finally reached the edge of the clearing and tried to keep up my pace as I weaved through trees, but the light was dimmer and I stumbled more often. Tears of frustration spilled down my cheeks as I pushed myself as hard as I could, knowing there was no way it was fast enough. The harder I tried, the slower it felt like I was moving. I wanted to scream. I skidded to a stop with mere inches to spare

“The first time I found someone else, I was pretty ecstatic as well.”


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between myself and the edge of a cliff. My heart sank. This was the end; I was cornered. My pursuers were fast approaching, and I whirled around just in time to see the shadow burst from the trees and throw itself at me. I flung my hand up in front of my face to protect myself, bracing for the impact, but as soon as the shadow touched my skin it turned back into a stain of ink. No momentum transferred. Jump. Now I understood where these overpowering feelings stemmed from. While I didn’t know if I could trust the dark ink, I also knew that I would rather die by falling to my death than whatever torture the man without eyes wanted me for. So I turned, took a quick breath, and leapt off the ledge just as the eyeless creature reached out to grab me. Fingers grasped at my skin, but I was already over and falling. He couldn’t get me now. I was free. I woke up, panting hard, blankets twisted up around me, the sun just peeking over the edge of the horizon. After a few moments of calming myself, I reached over with the intention of checking the time, but the motion caused me to notice something unfamiliar. I instead brought my hand up in front of my face to look at it more closely. A black spiral of ink trailed up around my left pinky, and—as I watched—it folded its ends together, becoming a crossed loop. Were anyone else to see the finished mark, they would likely assume it was just some tattoo. Only I would know otherwise. Thank you. The feeling of gratitude was so pure, and I wondered how long it had been trapped in

the dream with that monster. As I contemplated, I rested my hand on my chest, still trying to work on breathing evenly again. A feeling of stillness slowly seeped through me. Rest.

Fingers grasped at my skin, but I was already over and falling.

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Mountain Shadows Aja Simpson



before i become void Trinity Koch how long will it take to strip the flesh from my bones, exposing smooth and nameless mass, mold me into a house fit for nothing but skeletal desires and traces of blurring memories? i am the taste of ash, i am disconnect. i am fear and the stench of burning. i am the sharp pain of glass tearing through your body, the shudder that ripples through the earth before it splits open. i am the salt of tears and the last breath between lips. so let the wolves come and consume all that i have to offer, let them feast on my flesh and on my sin.



Covenant iii Sean Campbell



Monolith Sean Campbell



Zozobra Tori Cardenas And this is exactly how New Mexico would handle fear— burn it. burn it with fire with green chile with wild anger explosives with desert heat salsa, tango, cumbia with cries, wails Scribble your fears, burn them huddle together in dark shudder at groans in dark permeate skin in warm raining dark brush against this boy you don’t understand as whites of children’s eyes pop out from the firework bloom How many scraps of paper and ink do we need to set fire to sky his arms tumble and crash electric barbaric flume. Will you see beyond the rainbow, or will you fear the same things next year?



Context Matters Cassie Smith We are historically situated beings, doomed to be represented, mistranslated, and understood by those places from whence we came. “Savage slots” preserved for dissection, interpretation, and publication. “Suffering slots” made, wholly unrecognizable to the multiple subjectivities that make us who we are. What is the answer to a text-centric rendering of our souls for the canon? To lives made words by “experts” and problematized through the lens of antiseptic analysis? Enter: Art. Poetry. Drama. Music. Dance.

Robbins, Joel. “Beyond the Suffering Subject: Toward an Anthropology of the Good.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 19, no. 3 (2013): 447–462. Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. “Anthropology and the Savage Slot: The Poetics and Politics of Otherness.” In Global Transformations: Anthropology and the Modern World. New York: New York, 2003.



Contributors Dune Alford Dune Alford grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which might be part of the reason she was drawn to an arts career from a young age. She came to unm to become a painter like her father, but in the process was drawn to an art form that made more sense to the work she was interested in making: photography. She will be graduating in May of 2018 with a degree in studio arts with honors. Floating on Pavement 24 Selfie Master 72

Eric Anderson eric j anderson is a multidisciplinary artist from albuquerque Lint 18 This poem exists already 23

Dakota Begay Nicholas Dakota Begay is a half-Navajo native to the Albuquerque area. He is getting his degree in philosophy and has long wanted to be a writer and teacher. He loves thinking, partying, and playing tabletop roleplaying games of his own design. Yee Naaldlooshii 25

Douglas Brandt Douglas Brandt is a New Mexican artist with a passion for metals and their

properties. He has been featured in several editions of Scribendi, and is a liberal arts student at the University of New Mexico. Bliss 17

Heather Brock Heather Brock is originally from Oregon, but spent fall term 2017 as an exchange student at unm. She studies graphic design and animation at Southern Oregon University, and spends her free time exploring her home and taking photographs in the Pacific Northwest. August 65

Carolina Bucheli Carolina Bucheli is an Ecuadorian undergraduate artist student at the University of New Mexico. She is currently working on a double major in English and Spanish and a minor in journalism. She created a YouTube channel, Voids of Ink, with the purpose of uploading her poems in video format. The previous semester she came in third place at the Karen McKinnon poetry contest at unm, and her video “Strangers” was chosen for the 2017 Cherry Reel Film Festival, unm. 2017 Día de los Muertos Marigold Parade, Albuquerque, New Mexico 33 Water Sun 71

Sean Campbell Sean Patrick Campbell is a photographer and artist based in Glasgow, Scotland, currently on exchange at the University of New Mexico. Through his lensbased practice he seeks to interrogate the inherent

symbiosis between landscape and mythology— personal, cultural, political. Rituals, including those of the analogue photographic process, incantations, and invocations of moving image and the power of uncanny objects, form parts of this inquiry into the physical and psychic structures that surround us. Covenant iii 80 Monolith 81

Mexico in 2008, and recently earned his second Bachelor’s in English studies. He has traveled extensively across the U.S., but prefers the western part of the United States. El Pescador 58

Caitlin Carcerano

Michaela has been writing poetry since she can remember, using confessional style and themes of nature to grapple with internal struggle. The Gentle Burden 44 A Thousand Sounds 46 2/11/16 55

Caitlin Carcerano is a 2017 graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in art studio, concentrating in painting and drawing. Her art practice revolves around painting, graphic novels, and the intersection she creates between the two. Caitlin has formerly been published in Conceptions Southwest and Scribendi. The Space Between Us 20 Sunspot 21 Plant Witch 61

Tori Cardenas Tori Cárdenas is a gay, brown, tattooed poet from northern New Mexico. In 2014, she graduated summa cum laude from the University of New Mexico. Recently, she returned to earn her mfa in poetry. These Lamps Are Always Lit 1 Algorithm 66 Tinder 67 Zozobra 82

Cathy Cook Cathy Cook writes poems, articles, grocery lists, and fiction. Her work has been published in The Daily Lobo, Conceptions Southwest, and The Chaffey Review. Her poetry is inspired by the body of the land and the landscape of her body. To read more of her work, visit Graduate, Class of 2017 15 Copy of a River Valley 73

William Dauphinais William Dauphinais has been a resident of Albuquerque since 2004. He holds a Bachelor’s in history that he earned at the University of New

Michaela Dolly

Kara Filipas Kara is a unm graduate, an entrepreneur, and a dreamer. She is a multimedia artist who loves learning about and incorporating new art forms. Moonlit Lagoon 16 Poisoned 60

Abigayle Goldstein Abigayle Goldstein is a senior at the University of New Mexico who was born and raised in Albuquerque and Belen, New Mexico. She majors in English with a focus in creative writing and likes to share her work with others, but for the most part writes so she can better understand herself and the world around her. She plans to become a high school English teacher. Cup of Ocean 40

Christie Gross Christie Gross is a published author, having released her first novel, Passages: Through the Eye of the Needle, in late 2012. Her digital artwork has won awards and

been published in Advanced Photoshop magazine. The Long Way Down 7

Jesse Hendricks Jesse Hendricks is the convergence of several favorable conditions that have created a pretty good life. He graduated from the University of New Mexico in December 2017 and resides in Albuquerque, where he enjoys spending time with his family, writing, and studying religious history. A Plate for the Devil 34

Danielle Ho Danielle Ho is an undergraduate student from Honolulu, Hawai’i. She is active in the Model United Nations team on campus and is very passionate about women’s rights, justice for indigenous peoples, and lemon meringue pie. Thump Thump 22

Madison Holden Madison Holden is an individual trying to find her place in the world while also attempting to determine how much coffee she can drink before the caffeine transports her to an alternate reality. Not that she minds alternate realities, it just makes the “trying to find her place in the world” bit a tad more difficult on occasion. Her online dating profile says she’s an infp-t, she plays video games, and she makes her own costumes for anime conventions. She kinda seems like a nerd. Not a Dream 74

Linda Holland Linda Holland is twice a University of New Mexico alum who lives and thrives in New Mexico. Her abstract paintings

emerge from conversations improvised between color, form, and texture to evoke energy and movement, tension, and balance/imbalance. Escape 12 Crescendo 13 Village 68 Jazz 69

Charissa Inman Charissa Necole Inman is in her final year as an undergraduate student at the University of New Mexico, studying English, Spanish, and U.S. history. She plans on applying to an mfa program after graduation and can’t wait to see where her writing takes her. Tastebuds 19

Trinity Koch Trinity spends a lot of her free time roaming the Cibola National Forest with her horse, where she finds inspiration. She hopes to continue to live locally and one day support herself and her fur babies through her writing. She also enjoys working with clay and reading. breathe 54 before i become void 79

Marco Lueras Marco Lueras was born in Alamogordo, New Mexico, and was raised in the nearby village of La Luz. He is currently pursuing a ba in criminology with a minor in communications & journalism at the University of New Mexico. Marco aspires to work in law enforcement once he finishes his schooling. Faces Amongst the Disparity 64

Alexandra Magel Alexandra Magel spent her undergraduate time at unm studying English and living in the Honors building. She was the Editor-in-Chief of Scribendi 2017, and has been published in Conceptions Southwest in the 2016 and 2017 editions. She usually writes poetry when she should be sleeping. Popejoy 8

The Fish The Tiny God

38 39

David Morgan O'Connor David Morgan O’Connor is from a small village on Lake Huron. After many nomadic years, he is based in Albuquerque, where an mfa and short story collection progresses. His writing has appeared in Barcelona Metropolitan, Across the Margin, Headland, LimeHawk, Origin Journal, Cecile’s Writers, Bohemia, Beechwood, Fiction Magazine, After the Pause, The Great American Lit Mag (Pushcart nomination), The New Quarterly and The Guardian. Tweeting @dmoconnorwrites, Sound Direction 62 Safety 63 NiL-NiL 70

Luisa Pennington Born and raised here in Albuquerque, Luisa is currently a sophomore who enjoys hiking and writing. She is a sucker for covfefe (coffee) shops and anything related to an expressive environment. She is in love with good music and good people. dc 11 david 56

Kimberly Rose Kimberly Rose is an alum of unm who got her Bachelor’s in English. She’s had stories, poems, and essays published in past editions of Scribendi, Conceptions Southwest, and Best Student Essays. She collects story ideas from her experiences as an emt. Dreams of Starlight 3 To Flowers Pressed in the Pages of a Textbook 42

Joshua Rysanek Josh is a psychology student and Scribendi editor fueled by chile and coffee. His poetry and essays have appeared in Best Student Essays, Conceptions Southwest, and Sprout. Lab Rat 47

Aja Simpson Aja Pilar Simpson is a third-year journalism major at The New School in New York City. She spent the last two years of her undergraduate education at the University of New Mexico and has missed the Albuquerque landscape a great deal since transferring last fall. She often looks back at these photos as a reminder of the calmer, more serene environment of New Mexico. Autumn Leaves 2 Tree and Mountain 41 Mountain Shadows 78

Cassie Smith Cassie Smith is a doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico. Her research interests include community-based art education, U.S.-Mexico borderlands, and experimental ethnography. Revolving Positionality 10 Context Matters 83

Paul Talley Paul Talley is a senior at unm studying geography and journalism. He enjoys taking pictures, playing video games, and riding bicycles. Inside, Outside 45

Jesse Yelvington Jesse Yelvington is a queer, vegan, transmasculine Hufflepuff who adores cats and the smells of green chile and rain-soaked desert dirt. They believe in the healing power of a cat’s purr and the uniting power of adventure. Home 6 Rain on Central 9 Long Walks on the Beach 14 Summer Storm 57

Submit your work to Conceptions Southwesti Want to see your work published in the 2019 edition of Conceptions Southwest? Send it in for consideration! How to Submit Visit to submit your work. We’ll begin accepting work in August 2019, and the submission deadline will be in mid-November. News and updates about our submissions process can be found on our Facebook page, Conceptions Southwest. What to Submit Our categories are short fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, visual art, photography, short film, theatrical writing, music and composition, and other media. Submissions may be in any language, but any non-English submissions must be accompanied by a translation. All photography and art images must be at least 7 inches on their longer side at 300 ppi in cmyk. Questions? Contact us at

Conceptions Southwest Volume 41

The fine arts and literary magazine of the University of New Mexico

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