Conceptions Southwest 2017

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Conceptions Southwest 2017

Conceptions Southwest 2017

Copyright Š 2017 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 Printmasters 5220 2nd St NW Albuquerque, NM 87107 505-341-0610 Cover Image: Perceptions of Northern New Mexico: Taos by Jesse Furr. Page 13. Fonts: Raleway and Unna 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 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

Thank you to everyone who supports this publication! Conceptions Southwest could not exist without any of you.

Dr. Leslie Donovan Lorenzo Durling and Printmasters Carolyn Souther Daven Quelle and the Daily Lobo Advertising Office Alexandra Magel, Melissa Krukar and the Scribendi staff Keriden Brown and the Best Student Essays staff asunm and gpsa Every staff member Every contributor Every reader—that means you! Student Publications Board members: Monica Kowal, Chair, unm President Representative Leslie Donovan, Faculty Senate Representative Robert Trapp, New Mexico Press Association Representative Joseph Bartolotta, Faculty Senate Representative Gabe Gallegos, asunm President Representative Jessica Campbell, asunm President Representative Tyler Narvaez, asunm Senate Representative

Staff Members Editor in Chief Caitlin Carcerano General Staff Kimberly Mitchell Kayla Tabuena Victoria Meira Christan Tamulewicz Raquee Rivera

Foreword Since the early twentieth century, New Mexico has had a reputation as a haven for creativeminded people. It seems like everyone from Georgia O’Keeffe to George R.R. Martin has called New Mexico home at some point. Maybe it’s something about the open expanses of land bathed in the sun’s vibrant light, or maybe it’s the artistic legacy of the many cultures and peoples that have lived here for the past thousand years, but this is a place where the arts flourish. I think that’s especially apparent in the magazine you now hold in your hands. This is the fortieth edition of Conceptions Southwest; the fortieth combined creative effort of artists and writers, designers and photographers, students, professors, alumni, and so many more people who don’t fit in a neat little box. I want to thank the staff for their hard work and dedication this year. I especially want to extend my thanks to Kimberly Mitchell. Between Scribendi and Conceptions Southwest, this is the third magazine we’ve made together, and I could not think of a better collaborative partner. Kimberly is organized, dedicated, and has an incredible eye for detail that constantly keeps me on my toes. I also want to thank Raychael Stine and Amaris Ketcham, two professors I’ve worked with since my sophomore year of college. Their knowledge, creativity, and passion for their own creative pursuits push me to be the best artist, designer, and magazine editor I can be. Presented in this magazine is some of the best creative work to come out of the University of New Mexico’s community. I am honored to share it with you. Caitlin Carcerano Editor in Chief


Table Of Contents Poetry 1 Extinct Cathy Cook 4 Neglecting a Garden of Weeds Dallas Alexander 14 The Culmination of Humanity Bruce Parker 15 Valuable Humans Kelsey Rust 18 4/19/16 Michaela Marie Dolly 19 Hawthorn Etching Allie Sipe 23 Speak for Me Vicky Camarillo 24 The Art of Baking Jordan Burk 34 Manifesto Jesse Montoya 35 Polyneuropathy Jordan Burk 38 Blue and Umber Allie Sipe 39 My Father as He Cleans the Tub Cathy Cook 41 Superstitious Alexandra Magel 42 Waffle House Sestina After A Night of Drinking Tori Cárdenas 50 Showering with Grief Cathy Cook 53 Lightswitch Alexandra Magel

67 Some Changes Michaela Marie Dolly 71 Finger Machines Kelsey Rust 79 Thoughts on Sweets Keriden Brown 80 Itty Bitty Living Space Jillian Kovach 81 Clocks on the Wall Fallon Rose Romero

Creative Nonfiction 2 Growing Up In New Mexico Abigayle Goldstein 44 Pear Shaped Lorien Megill 54 The Patriarch of Meadowlark Joshua Rysanek 59 Ewedishale Hu Lorien Megill 63 When You Become Grotesque Claire Stasiewicz

Short Fiction 5 Amor De Mil Años/ Love of a Thousand Years Saray Argumendo 11 Not A Heart Attack Emperatriz Ung 26 The Root of the Weed Sydney Wheeler 46 Staying Trinity Koch 75 Camellia House/ Casa Camellia Angela Arrey Wastavino

Visual Art


12 Wanderlust Jesse Furr 13 Perceptions of Northern New Mexico: Taos Jesse Furr 16 El Jardin Valerie Rangel 17 Fly Chelsey Moore 21 Darkslide Lorena Molina 36 Feeling the Distance Jesse Furr 58 Baby Vampire Comic Amanda Magel 62 Withdrawls Jesse Furr 65 Roberta Blackgoat Valerie Rangel 69 Action Figure Michael Houle-von Behren 70 Transcendence Lorena Molina 72 Together Lorena Molina 77 Transformation Valerie Rangel 78 Angels and Demons Valerie Rangel

9 On Track to Adventure Colton Newman 10 Balance Paul Talley 25 Strawberry Popsicle Dune Alford 37 Dust Jesse Yelvington 40 Dad Paul Talley 49 Ballet Dream Michael Foust 52 Cathedral Worker Michael Foust 61 Twister Thomas Yegerlehner 66 Grand Prismatic Jesse Yelvington 68 Center Paul Talley 73 Pier Emily Carrico 74 Lake Louise During Winter Colton Newman

Extinct Cathy Cook

Everything I love is dying The world of paper a mausoleum All my printed words are drying The ink no longer flying from the page Handmade books and homemade answers Like chunky hungry type Pounding out one letter at a time Or paper critters tucked in pockets Are running out of rhyme Eyes still consume But hands are empty Words still bloom But on screen, not in ink.


Growing Up in New Mexico

Abigayle Goldstein

January gives everybody spring fever long before there is hope of warmth. February speaks frost to the hard dirt and dusty remnants of what used to be a back lawn, but the summer dried out the grass and the winter shriveled it to nearly nothing. March caresses barren trees with dry wind that whispers to the earth and the roots of all things that spring will come again, and soon, so be ready, be ready to bloom. April begins with the sweet budding on the branches of the trees—two of them in the backyard— built up with a ring of brick so that the month’s showers, if there are any, will continue to nurture those sad saplings. The dry brown grass hides pale green shoots that are beginning to poke their heads above the dirt, testing the air to find that it’s safe to finally come out. May means gardening, and the morning glories are so heavy on the fence that the wire is beginning to bow and bend in such a way that the faces of the flowers seem to dance in the beams of the sun at six a.m., when Momma finally manages to roll all the children out of bed to go press seeds into the wet dirt and harvest the cucumbers and tomatoes that have already grown on their vines. June is hot, hot, hot, and of course it hasn’t rained because this is the desert, and what green of the lawn and hanging trees is only there because of our care. Otherwise, the backyard would look like the land on the other side of the fence that separates our property from the ditch bank and the beginning of the mesas where tumbleweeds reign supreme and sagebrush offers little shade to the desert creatures. At dark the scent of jasmine floats on the breeze and the train whistle sings the song of the plains at midnight, but in our little house on our small piece of land, everybody is asleep and bone tired from the days of cultivating the plains to be what we want them to be. July mornings begin with the sound of oats tumbling from the pink bucket into the trough and the snorting bickering of the horses excited for feed time. You can hear their animated lips feeling at the wisps of alfalfa lying in the dirt because they’re just outside your window, their heavy hoofs stomping here and there as they shift back and forth on their long legs and their tails flick to discourage the flies, producing a whistling noise like a whip, and you can imagine the sting of those long hairs fleeting across your sunburnt skin. August—sleepy afternoons and long, long days when the sun doesn’t set until well into the nine o’clock hour. Bees swing lazily from flower to flower in the garden, landing clumsily on carrot tops and chives that bend beneath their awkward heaviness, but the bees don’t tumble to the ground,


just impossibly lift off again. Summertime means the horses sweat and the sweat becomes lather where their skin chafes on skin and their long lashes droop sleepily, one hoof cocked like horses do when they rest, leaning against the railroad tie of the gate, brushing back and forth to catch that itch on the rump, kicking up dust that gathered there in its fur from a roll in the dirt earlier that afternoon. September is the state fair, and the state fair means cows, and cows mean flies upon flies migrate into the state, following the trail of droppings and boardwalk leftovers the fair leaves in its wake. Flies mean the acrid smell of fly spray to help keep the horses unbothered, but the fly spray doesn’t help the kids who don’t want to have to stay inside when it still feels like summertime. The little girl dreams of riding in the shows at the big barn at the state fair, but doesn’t, instead collecting the wilting heads of the morning glories and rubbing the sticky color from the petals onto her horse’s dappled fur in a circle around her eye and hand-print patterns on her rump so she looks like an Indian pony. The curling vines get woven into the long shaggy mane and the little girl spends the rest of the waning day lying on the grazing mare’s back, staring up at the cloud-scudded sky until the warmth of the sun and the rhythm of the horse’s lend some sense of beauty to what is usually a quaint state of falling apart. withers rising and falling with each step soothes her to sleep. October and Indian summer. The days are still long, but not as long as June, and the desert weather is still dry hot, but fall has come to the valley. The cottonwood trees that grow along the Rio Grande, desperate to be near the little water the desert has to offer, have turned from heavy

green with cotton pods to a vibrant yellow, dying with the changing of seasons but also with the drying up of the river over the rainless summertime. Indeed, the Big River will see no water again until the snow melts off the mountain tops next spring, if the state sees any snow at all. Everything around cries out for a drink, a mere drop, of water. November, everything dies. The final sunflowers of the Indian summer drop their dried out petals and their heads, heavy with seeds, bow in sadness that the warmth has finally left and been replaced by a dry, cold wind and the barrenness that comes to the land when all of the color leaves. Every shade of brown you can think of—the bay of the horse, the deepness of the cow’s wide eyes, the leaning railroad tie, the tumbleweeds and leaves and grass blowing by, and the long dust drive. Everything blends into everything else as far as the eye can see, across the valley to the Manzanos standing stark gray-blue against the faded, tired sky. December. If we are lucky there will be a dusting of snow here and there throughout the month, and if we are unlucky there will be a freak blizzard that nobody in the desert ever expects to happen, but that happens more often than an outsider might think. The snow will cover up the barren branches of trees and hide the dirt away so that everything seems more beautiful than it really is—the enchanting lie of the desert in winter. The snow tends to dump itself in a thin layer and then the sky clears, so that at night the reflection of the moon on the shining snow is so bright that the children are kept awake by the light and thinking about Christmas coming soon, when all the farmers and rancheros will string Christmas lights onto their dilapidated houses and barns and the fences outlining their properties to lend some sense of beauty to what is usually a quaint state of falling apart.


Neglecting a Garden of Weeds

Dallas Alexander

And one more thing, the sunflowers are all dead! You were supposed to save them, since you didn’t save me. How hard is it to kill a weed? You can hardly grasp them—their stems are like sandpaper. Or miniature thorns. Is that why you stopped touching me? I’ve been plucked from the ground enough times to know how to live without water… Only, you can’t hold anything gently. Maybe I stink like a sunflower— A stagnant summer without rain. Was I ever beautiful? Or did you always mean to throw me away?


Amor De Mil Años Saray Argumedo

Te veo y veo a una alma que ha sufrido, que a anhelado el amor que yo he acumulado por años. Pero ya has llegado a mí. Te he esperado desde aquel momento que la medicina del amor me dio la oportunidad de conocerte. Aquella visión que tuve y nos vimos a los ojos. Los dos sabíamos que algún día en el mundo físico nos íbamos a encontrar. El día que me topé con tu sonrisa en aquel lindo atardecer de Nuevo México, yo sabía que tú y yo nos habíamos visto hace muchos años atrás. Te acercaste a mí y en ese instante reconocí tu olor, reconocí tu postura y tu cabello liso y negro. Al serrar mis ojos viaje hacia el pasado. Volé al primer día donde tú y yo nos conocimos. Y en ese instante se me fue la respiración, me llevo al inicio de nuestra historia. Fue en el año 1520 cuando nos enamoramos por primera vez, pero nuestro amor duro poco. Al próximo año nuestro líder nos exigió vencernos por los españoles. Nos separamos por necesidad de sobrevivir. Tú te fuiste a ser el guerrero de tú patria. Yo me quedé a ayudar a mi madre y a mis hermanos a sobrepasar la opresión que vivíamos en aquel hermoso Tenochtitlan. Los dos morimos peleando por nuestra libertad, por nuestra voz. Nuestro amor y el volvernos a ver era la fortaleza que consumíamos para luchar. Fallecimos un domingo por la tarde, tú caíste en armas de los españoles y yo me enferme. Aun así nuestro último suspiro en vida se fue con el pensamiento de nuestro último beso. Nuestra historia continuo. Nos volvimos a encontrar en el año 1910. Tu zapatista y yo soldadera. Los dos luchando por justicia, agua y nuestra tierra. En esta vida nos separamos de nuestra familia para luchar por ellos. Tú y yo éramos inseparables, nuestro amor era resplandeciente. Nos decían que éramos la creación de un amor revolucionario. Tu siempre me platicabas de aquel día cuando ganaríamos esta lucha volveríamos con nuestros padres, fincaríamos una casita de adobe y les compraríamos dos caballos. La guerra comenzó a escalarse y nos tuvimos que separar. Al despedirnos me dijiste que algún día nos volveríamos a ver. Y nunca fue así. Los dos caímos cuando callo el gran Emiliano Zapata. Pero nuestras almas guerreras le dieron continuación a nuestra historia. Fue en el 1968 que nos volvimos a ver en la caída del Tlatelolco durante las Olimpiadas. En esta era te encontré en un tiempo de obscuridad, el mundo entero sufría.


Te vi de lejos, te reconocí y entre la multitud de estudiantes nos reunimos en el centro de la manifestación. Nos besamos sabiendo que sería el último día que nos volviéramos a ver. Mientras nos abrazábamos, sentimos el cambio de energía de nuestros compañeros. Llegaron los federales en sus helicópteros volando como zopilotes, zopilotes armados que acabaron con nuestra vida. Aun así nuestro amor revivió. Regresamos a la pobreza y a la opresión de nuestra colonia pero nuestro amor nos volvió a reunir en la guerra sobre identidad, justicia y tierra. Esta vez fueron tus ojos los que reconocí. Nos besamos los dos con el rostro cubierto. Yo con mi pañuelo rojo que cubría la mitad de mi cara y tú con tu mascara negra que hacían lucir tus ojos color miel. Con ello protegíamos nuestra identidad, lo sagrado de nuestro pueblo y nos hicimos ver como todo el mundo nos hacía sentir, invisibles. Fue una bala que acabo con nuestras vidas el 1º de enero del 1994 en el Tianguis Campesino de Ocosingo, Chiapas, México cuando los dos junto a nuestros hermanos y hermanas del Ejercito Zapatista Liberal Nacional (EZLN) declaramos guerra contra la humillación del gobierno Mexicano. Pero como emigran las mariposas, migro nuestro amor y nuestras almas hacia el norte. Fluyeron como fluye el agua del Rio Grande. Esta vez duramos tiempo en encontrarnos. Los dos nos perdimos entre la ignorancia que nos aisló en los Estados Unidos de América. Migramos por necesidad, nuestra madre tierra evaporaba tóxicos que no dejaban continuar sembrando los valores que nuestros ancestros nos habían dejado. Y hoy te he vuelto a ver. Tú aun no me reconoces pero sé que la lucha nos volverá a unir. En esta vida quiero ser yo quien te recuerde de la creación de tu historia, de tu identidad, de tu pasión y de nuestro amor. Quiero que juntos sembremos el cambio que nuestra gente anhela. Pero hoy, te encuentras vagando el mundo


como alma perdida, ni te reconoces a ti mismo. La ola de ignorancia te quiere desviar hacia el mar del egoísmo. Hoy seré yo quien luche por ti. Sé que al volver al vientre de nuestra madre tierra me reconocerás. En el hoy, es lo único que nos une a ti y a mí. Ese fuego sagrado que nunca ha perdido su luz, que siempre nos recuerda de nuestras raíces y de nuestras tradiciones. Allí comprenderás que juntos podremos vencer el llanto y la ignorancia por la que hemos peleado en vidas pasadas y la que desafortunadamente aún nos rodea. ¡Habré tu corazón! ¡Reconoce me! Deja que la medicina del amor te lleve al pasado y te ayude a recordar de aquel amor que sentimos hace mil años. Continuara....

Love of a Thousand Years

Saray Argumedo

I see you and I see a soul that has suffered, a soul that has yearned for the love I have accumulated for years. But now you have come to me. I have longed for you from the moment that the medicine of love gave me the opportunity to meet you. That vision I had where we came face to face. We both knew that someday, in the physical world we would meet again. The day I came across your smile during that beautiful New Mexico sunset, I knew that you and I met years ago. As you approached me I instantly recognized your scent, I recognized your posture and your beautiful black hair. When you gazed into my eyes, I journeyed into the past. I flew to the very first day when you and I met. In that moment I lost my breath, it took me to the creation of our story. It was the year 1520 when we fell in love for the very first time, but our love didn’t last long. The following year our leader demanded that we defeat the Spaniards and we had to separate for the necessity of survival. You went on to be the warrior of your country. I stayed home to help my mother and siblings overcome the oppression that we were living in our beautiful Tenochtitlan. We both died fighting for our freedom, for our voice. Our love and seeing each other again was the strength we used to fight. We died on a Sunday afternoon, the Spaniards defeated our people and killed you during war and I became very ill. Even so, our last breath in life was taken with the thought of our last kiss. Our story continued. We met again in the year 1910. You zapatista and I soldadera, together fighting for land, water, and justice. In this life we separated from our family to fight for them. You and I were inseparable, our love was resplendent. We were told we were the creation of a revolutionary love. You always talked about the day when we would defeat this battle, we would return with our families, build a little house made out of adobe and buy them two horses. But as the war began to escalate, we had to separate. When we said goodbye, you told me that someday we would meet again. And we never did. We both died the day our leader, the great Emiliano Zapata, was defeated. Yet our warrior sprits kept strong, our story continued. It was in 1968 when we met again at the fall of Tlatelolco during the Olympics. I found you during an era of darkness; our entire world was suffering.


I saw you from a distance and I recognized you among the magnitude of students. We walked across them and met each other in the center of the demonstration. We kissed, knowing that it would be the last time we would see each other again. As we held each other close, we both felt a shift in the energy of our colleagues. The police officers arrived. They flew above us in helicopters like vultures, armed vultures that ended our lives. But even so our love revived. We returned to poverty and the oppression of our pueblo, but our love reunited us in the war for identity, justice, and land. This time it was your eyes that I recognized. We kissed, both with our faces disguised. I wore a red handkerchief covering half of my face and you wore a black mask that only exposed your deep brown eyes. We wore them with honor, proudly disguising our identity and the sacredness of our people, embracing how invisible we were to the rest of the world. It was a bullet that ended our lives on January 1, 1994 at the Tianguis Campesino of Ocosingo, Chiapas, Mexico, when the two of us together with our brothers and sisters of the Ejercito Zapatista Liberacion Nacional declared war against the humiliation of the Mexican Government. But as butterflies naturally migrate, our love and souls migrated up north. They streamed like the water of the Rio Grande. This time around it took us a while to find each other. We both got lost in the ignorance that surrounded us in the United States of America. We migrated out of necessity. Our Mother Earth evaporated toxins that did not allow us to continue transplanting the values that our ancestors had left us behind. And today, we meet again. You still don’t recognize me but I know that the fight for justice will bring us back together again. In this lifetime, I want to be the one who reminds you of the creation of your history, your identity, your passion and our love. I want us to sow together the change our people yearn for. But today, you continue to roam the


earth as if you were a lost soul, you do not even recognize yourself. The wave of ignorance wants to divert you toward the sea of egotism. This time around I will be the one to fight for you. I know that when we return to the womb of our Mother Earth you will recognize me. Up until now, it is the only thing that unites me and

But as butterflies naturally migrate, our love and souls migrated up north. you. That sacred fire that has never lost its light, that will forever remind us of our roots and our traditions. Till then, you will understand that together we can overcome the ignorance that we have been fighting in past lives and that unfortunately still surrounds us today. Open your heart! Recognize me! Let the medicine of love take you back to the past and help you remember the love that we felt a thousand years ago. To be continued....


On Track to Adventure Colton Newman 9


Balance Paul Talley 10

Not a Heart Attack Emperatriz Ung

The little one wants to know who my father is. “Don’t you have a dad too?” he asks. “Where is your dad?” he wonders. And I don’t have the heart to tell him that his grandpa hurt me. Hurt me in a way that no words can take back the damage dealt. “He’s gone,” I tell the little one. “Gone where?” he asks. Bright eyes full of curiosity. I shake from fear of saying too much. Saying the wrong thing. Because we’re taught to keep it contained, because he’s too young to know. “Did he have a heart attack?” he guesses. The little one guesses, persists. Silently, I fabricate stories in my mind. Stories where my father isn’t the villain. I invent tales of adventures that took my father far away, places that exist only on the outskirts of my imagination. “But was it a heart attack?” the little one asks again. “No, not a heart attack.” And it eats away at me because this little one can’t possibly know the stories he’s stirred up. And I can’t bring myself to tell a lie. “He’s just gone,” I whisper.


Pen and marker on Moleskine, 3.25� x 5.5�

Wanderlust Jesse Furr 12

Four-color screenprint on BFK, 20” x 15”

Perceptions of Northern New Mexico: Taos Jesse Furr 13

The Culmination of Humanity

Bruce Parker

The bridge our train must cross is closed because there’s a jumper on the handrail. Instead we take the bus which can get past the ambulance and police cars that block the track. The bus picks up insane, impoverished, disabled, unemployed, all mass transit takers of life. A man in a wheelchair boards the crowded bus. We stop frequently, behind schedule. A woman boards with the kind of cart old ladies use to wheel their groceries home. Another wheelchair-bound citizen comes up the ramp behind her. The woman’s cart jams between the rows of seats. She blocks the aisle. A toothless woman behind us screams orders at the driver. People laugh and taunt, curse, complain. The driver finally squeezes the second wheelchair on board. The door closes with a swish and clunk, the driver puts the bus in gear, and we proceed. “Relax,” he says, “it’s all good.”


Valuable Humans Kelsey Rust

Is it the unborn child, with a new beat of heart the child now born; covered in its mother’s vernix, a nose filled with mucus breathing a first breath of oxygen with new lungs It could hardly be the woman at midnight scarcely dressed under the street lamp on Bourbon Street awaiting the next customer to remind her why she is alive Possibly the man of course, with the pocket watch made of only quick time drinking scotch in celebration to stocks marked up in time for next decrease in price Perhaps the men and women behind the streets of your local Presbyterian church who reeking of urine and cheap vodka wait patiently to be next for a prayer and a warm bed Which would you say— holds the most valuable life?


Papercut, 18”x24”

El Jardin Valerie Rangel 16

India ink on paper, 8”x10”

Fly Chelsey Moore 17

4/19/16 Michaela Marie Dolly

We are two flumes— I dread that you will lose altitude with me, But I can’t tell you that. I can’t tell you That your downward gaze makes my head hurt or That your sodden tone reminds me Of how plants must feel after it rains, Unsure if their spines can lift up through Layers of loosened topsoil and leaden water. It’s the uncertainty that gets me, The splinter in the glass, the gray sliver in the sky, The dread of a future burden that sometimes Runs in your background or muddles your clear stream or Shows its shadow even as your words try to astray me. I like to believe We are two unshakable blooms Stretching in tandem and awakening The same to each surely bright day as To each overcast and crestfallen.


Hawthorn Etching Allie Sipe

the hawthorn silhouettes the sky, an etching from you to me. you are a series of edges: stay out. i am silent, waiting, hurting. the dust in my throat is heavy. beside me, you are miles and miles away.


Oil paint on skateboard, 31�x7.5�

Darkslide Lorena Molina 21


Speak for Me Vicky Camarillo

My throat was cut out neatly, a wide hole shaped like a bell. They’d snapped out some vertebrae to make the dark hollow less offensive; if you peered inside, you could only see the silvery thin cord of my esophagus. (This made me self-conscious, so I swallowed small bits of food at a time.) Words sprung in my head but couldn’t stretch or scatter. And if I leaned forward too quickly, if I ran, I worried that my heart would rattle in its place and fall out on the floor with a slap, like a piece of meat for a dog. At least then it might be someone’s sustenance—juicy and caked with the ingredient that, according to Mom, is always the most important.


The Art of Baking Jordan Burk

I. Baking is science. It is measured and precise. It cuts throats. Baking does not forgive, and cheesecake does not love. II. One egg too few. I tried. Baking did not forgive, and cheesecake became sour pudding. It slipped sick through my lips into the kitchen sink. III. Another mistake. A rotten egg or rancid butter. Cheesecake eight months too early. IV. Perfection. I baked a subtle-sweet dessert with a trickle of raspberry, and a dusting of bitter chocolate. I served it on square white plates with silver forks, but cheesecake does not love. V. Baking is a half-measure, a safe science, because cheesecake does not love.



Strawberry Popsicle Dune Alford 25

Sydney Wheeler

The Root of the Weed

Molly Cleary’s greenhouse was full of poison, where the untrained eye would see only flowers. She grew deep purple monkshood and electric pink belladonna, indigo bunches of delphinium and delicate white false Queen Anne’s lace. From floor to ceiling, the greenhouse was filled with flourishing bane, each one as beautiful as it was deadly. “Why?” Amelia would ask. “What use could you possibly have for so many toxic plants?” “I love a good villain,” Miss Molly would reply with a wink. “You never know when you might have a need for such a thing.” Miss Molly wore the veil of a woman of propriety. In polite company she was the perfect lady. Her graying hair was never out of place, and her dress was always in perfect order. In the classroom and in the greenhouses as Amelia’s governess, however, Miss Molly taught her things that made both of them wonder whether or not her father would approve. Their lessons were nothing of an obscene nature; Miss Molly simply provided Amelia with what she believed to be a proper education. Their lessons were about literature, music, art and philosophy. She taught her about the stars and the planets and the manner in which the universe rotated. All of these were things that Mr. Towne would not consider to be a woman’s business. Miss Molly taught these things with great gumption when she was meant to be teaching Amelia how to sew and cook and be a proper lady. It was, however, Amelia’s late mother’s wish that her daughter be taught in these arts. Mr. Towne was rarely at home; he did not need to know the details. Amelia’s family’s land was ancient and expansive. Miss Molly kept three glass greenhouses on the property, next to a small cottage that ran by a creek. This was where she slept and taught Amelia lessons. The big house, where the family lived, was at the top of a large hill, out of sight from Molly Cleary’s home. One hundred years ago, an apple orchard sat snugly between this creek and another hill on the other side. Now, after years of negligence, it had become a forest, filled with all manner of plant life. Often, Miss Molly and Amelia would explore these woods in search of plants and herbs. That afternoon threatened rain, trickling an occasional icy drop onto Amelia’s face and throat. The wind was just mild enough to whimsically play with their hair as they walked. Amelia wore her favorite summer dress, a dark gray cotton gown that hung low around her waist, the skirt filled with pockets. Her ash brown hair was tied neatly into a braid that draped over her shoulder and fell down to her hip. Miss Molly wore red. She allowed her long, billowing gray hair to fall


down to the small of her back. She wore long sleeves to cover the deep scars on her forearms. Amelia knew better than to ask about them. “In the times of the ancient Greeks, apples were considered to be tokens of love,” Miss Molly said as they settled beneath one of the ancient apple trees for lunch. “Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was also the goddess of flowers and fruit. Gifting someone an apple would be like bringing one’s lover a rose today.” “That makes more sense to me,” Amelia replied, “An apple is far more nourishing than a rose. But I think it would be better to bring one’s lover a potato. I find that to be a far better expression of love.” A smile played at the corners Miss Molly’s lips. “And why is that?” “A rose is beautiful and smells pleasant, but once it has been plucked, it will die after a few days. This is a fine description, if one is trying to express a fickle infatuation. Apples are delicious and useful, and considering that they resemble the human heart in size, shape, and color, I can understand the connection. But their seeds are toxic and they are therefore toxic at the center, which is not a particularly flattering representation of love. A potato can make all manner of foods, can survive for far longer, and, when planted in the ground, will create more potatoes. I’d say that is a better reflection of love. At least, the kind of love one reads about in novels.” Miss Molly did not respond, but the glimmer in her eye told Amelia that she approved. “I have not seen young Mr. Benbow today,” Miss Molly said with a wry smile. Amelia blushed. “Did he stop by this morning with the post and the paper?” “He did not,” Amelia replied. “Perhaps his father has finally swayed his mind with tales of witchcraft.” Miss Molly laughed darkly, before glancing nervously in the direction of the manor. “Still, I wonder if he was deterred by something more sinister.” Amelia had filled her many pockets with the


wild sorrel and mint leaves that grew by the creek before the two returned to Amelia’s greenhouse. It was the smallest of the three, and had been a gift to Amelia on her sixteenth birthday. Here, she did not grow poisons, as Molly did. She preferred to grow herbs and food. She wanted her plants to heal and to comfort. Her

Gifting someone an apple wou be like bringing one’s lover a rose today. plants grew happily, overflowing from their beds, greedy for sunlight. Amelia crossed the threshold of her sanctuary and stopped dead. Molly reached for her hand and held it tightly. In the short time they’d been gone, thousands of weeds had pushed up through the soft earth, dislodging large clumps of soil from their places. Mr. Towne, Amelia’s father, traveled quite frequently. Each time he came home, she would find her greenhouse filled with weeds and rot. The two of them walked back to the cottage in a heavy silence. Mrs. Georgia Towne died of cholera when Amelia was four. Or so the press had been told. There were, of course, wicked rumors that Mrs. Towne’s demise had been far more cold-blooded. On the rare occasion that Amelia accompanied Miss Molly into town, she would hear them whispering. Her father had murdered her mother because she was a witch. That was the most popular opinion. He’d done it to save her soul and protect his child from her influence. Whatever his reasons were, Amelia was certain that it was not her best interests that were on his mind that night. Despite being so small a child, Amelia remembered the night in question with no small amount of certainty. She remembered the eternal walk down the grand hallway, toward


her mother’s library. Her parents were within, their murmured voices seeping through the cracks beneath the double doors. Her father’s voice was harsh and venomous, her mother’s was forcibly even. The door handles would not budge. When her mother’s screams echoed through the massive hall and the smell of blood hung thickly in the air, Amelia concealed herself away in the closet under the stairs. From the crack in the door, she watched as the door swung open at last. “Amelia.” He said her name with authority, commanding that she show herself. “Amelia!” He roared. He must have heard her crying, because the door swung open with great force, hitting her hard in the temple. Amelia fell back on her rear end. Hot blood dripped down her face. Mr. Towne grabbed his daughter harshly by her small wrist and dragged her from her hiding place. Amelia kicked and screamed, but to no avail. From the hallway, she could see her mother’s bloodied form through the library doors. She lay in a heap, perfectly still. Cholera is a nasty disease. No one questioned the closed casket. For many years after that, Amelia did not speak. Miss Molly had been employed by the estate from Amelia’s infancy, and together they forged a system. Amelia loved walking with

Every flower in the garden had a different meaning and every color a different connotation. Miss Molly in the gardens and greenhouses. Before long, they learned to use flowers to communicate with one another. It started off simply enough. Amelia would bring her governess a sprig of lavender when she was hungry, a poppy when she was tired, and chamomile if she was feeling unwell. Over time, their flowering language developed.

Amelia would leave a vase of violets beside her bedroom door when she wanted to be left alone. She would give Miss Molly a carnation to show gratitude. Dahlias represented fear, where lilac represented excitement. Every flower in the garden had a different meaning and every color a different connotation. In the many years Amelia spent in silence, she never once felt unheard by Miss Molly. It took years of determination, but eventually Miss Molly managed to coax speech out of her charge. When Mr. Towne was in the house, in his presence, silence would befall her once again. As far as Mr. Towne was aware, his daughter was a mute. Perhaps this was the reason that, despite Amelia’s sixteen years, Mr. Towne had never tried to marry her off. Amelia speculated that his possessive nature might have something to do with it as well. Amelia’s father had been away on business for nearly a full year. In that time, Amelia had allowed herself to be lulled into a false sense of security. She’d convinced herself that maybe this time he was really gone for good. As was his way, he had returned now without notice. Mr. Towne would expect both of them for dinner. When the master of the house was in town, Amelia and Miss Molly would spend hours preparing his evening meals. He would have nothing short of perfection, not only in flavor, but in appearance as well. He would expect his dining companions to be dressed to match. Miss Molly, in her finest pink silk gown, set the table that night with shaking hands. Amelia reached across the table, interlacing their fingers to steady her. Molly glanced up at her and attempted a reassuring smile. Dinner began precisely at seven, and the clock read five minutes till. Miss Molly and Amelia sat across from one another at one end of the table. Between them, Amelia had set a vase of daffodils. Courage. Mr. Towne’s chair remained empty on the other side. The white, floral wallpaper was speckled and stained a deep red, and had begun to curl and fall away.


The solid oak floors were torn and splintering, the table itself ran deep with long grooves. Mr. Towne’s dining room felt sick. As the clock struck seven, the front door swung open with a crash, allowing the chilly air to fill the entry hall. For just a moment, Amelia caught a glimpse of her father as she remembered him. His thin blond hair was combed to one side, and his small brown eyes glared over his bifocals as he peered at her through the doorway. He gripped the door handle with sausage-like fingers, and his rounded belly poked out beneath his silk vest. He was never as tall as she thought he was. All of this dissipated as he stepped over the threshold. The paintings in the hall began to tremble. Amelia’s mother had been a lover of fine art. From the wall at the top of the first landing, three paintings, a bear, a wolf, and a stag, all began to dissolve, lending their ferocity to Mr. Towne as he stepped into the house. Inky, blackened fingers turned to massive claws that protruded from his white, stained shirt sleeves. Long, twisting antlers sprouted from his head and raked the ceiling, breaking pieces off the crystal chandelier with every movement. He took his seat at the head of the table, digging more deep grooves into the tabletop. He did not hesitate to begin his meal. His muzzle dripped with wine and gravy as he dug hungrily into his plate. His coat was torn at its seams, allowing the tall curve of his hunched back to peak through. Red, suspicious eyes scanned the table as he shoveled food into his mouth. Amelia and Miss Molly knew better than to meet them. The dining room was never quiet when Mr. Towne came to dinner. Though he always insisted that his potatoes be boiled to perfection, he preferred his meat to be raw and wriggling. One never grew fully used to the terrified shrieks of the livestock. What he did not eat alive, he took pleasure in destroying. The beautiful desserts that Miss Molly baked would be torn through moments after they were brought out. Garnished masterpieces would go


clattering to the ground with regularity. Miss Molly and Amelia pretended not to notice. “How were your travels, Mr. Towne?” Miss Molly asked. Bones snapped between his teeth, sending chills up Amelia’s spine. Her father’s abnormalities did not affect him outside the

What he did not eat alive, he took pleasure in destroying. manor, allowing him to carry on with his business as he pleased. Mr. Towne growled as he swallowed a live chicken whole. The sound was aggressive, but even. That usually seemed to be a good sign. When Mr. Towne was finished, he dropped from his chair to the ground with a thud. As he turned away from the table, his long, bristled tail knocked several plates and the vase of daffodils to the ground with a crash. In a single bound, he launched himself from the dining room to the grand staircase. His claws scraped against the hardwood floors, prying up boards as he propelled himself up to the second, then to the third story. The dining room was silent. The remnants of Mr. Towne’s supper overwhelmed the room with the thick smell of death. The fresh blood and carnage slid lazily down the walls and dripped from the ceiling onto the white table cloth. Miss Molly’s fork clinked delicately against her china plate as she trembled. Her own supper remained untouched. Amelia looked her dead on, but Miss Molly would not meet her gaze. She stared intensely at the wall. Her breathing grew ragged. Tears fell down her pale cheeks. Her soft pink lips parted in a rattled sob. The silence was shattered by an earsplitting howl. Miss Molly straightened and met Amelia’s


gaze. Slowly, she rose from her chair and made her way tentatively toward the staircase. For a moment, Amelia thought she might collapse. Miss Molly steadied herself in the doorway, gasping for air, before disappearing up the stairs. Amelia tore at her cuticles. Only once did Miss Molly ignore him when he called, and they’d both suffered for it. Questioning Molly about why she stayed, even begging her to leave, had become a redundancy. The two of them had repeated that conversation a hundred times over. She never said the words, but her intentions were clear: She stayed to protect Amelia from the same fate. They were two lone women with no money, no prospects, and no connections. Everyone in the town was terrified of Mr. Towne; they would never dare take them in. Where were they to go? Amelia didn’t sleep that night. She could not bear the noise. It wasn’t until the early morning hours that the house fell quiet. She was on the brink of sleep when heavy footfalls yanked her back to wakefulness. She held her breath, waiting as they moved slowly down the hallway. No sooner did the sound pass her front door that they stopped, shuffled, and passed her front door again. The locked door handle trembled in its socket, straining against him, holding him at bay. Her heart lurched in her chest. Barefoot, in

Beside the cottage, the three glass greenhouses awaited her, glistening in the moonlight. her pale blue night dress, she slipped through her bedroom window and ran down the hill toward Molly’s cottage. Molly had not yet returned, and the door was locked. Beside the cottage, the three glass greenhouses awaited her, glistening in the moonlight. Despite having grown up in a manor, when she was a girl, she always felt that these

greenhouses were true castles. It relaxed her to be among them. Even in the darkness, Amelia could see that something was wrong. In a perfect radius, the grass around Miss Molly’s third greenhouse had died. Amelia’s breath quickened. The dead grass pierced the soft skin of her feet as she sprinted to Miss Molly’s greenhouse door. Everything, every last bloom, sprout, and leaf, had died. The smell of rot was overwhelming, Amelia had to fight the churning of her stomach as she ventured farther in. The monkshood had perished. The belladonna was unrecognizable. The delphinium and false Queen Anne’s lace had dissipated into a puddle of sludge. What had he done to her? Amelia hurried back outside and up the hill. Candlelight still illuminated Mr. Towne’s bedroom window. If Molly were still alive, she would not be back for some time. Amelia’s heart beat rapidly and her palms began to sweat. She could not catch her breath. Helplessly, she sought sanctuary. Her barefeet padded against the cold, orange tiles of her greenhouse floor. She breathed in the comforting aroma of the soil and must. Though the terror did not leave her heart, her shaking hands ceased their movement. Her plants still lived, but they would not last long suffocating on weeds. Her potatoes were particularly overrun. Dropping to her knees in the dirt, she set to work. The weeds’ thorny spines dug into her fingers as she yanked them out of the earth from their roots. She couldn’t bear her beautiful foliage to be tainted with such unkindness. The invading army of weeds was never of the same sort twice. Last time, Amelia had found her plants overrun by creeping thistle. In the darkness, Amelia found that her potatoes were the unfortunate hostages of slender speedwell, but there was something else growing among them. She plucked the unexpected intruder from the earth, and brought it close to her face, inspecting its soft, pink petals.


Before long, heavy breathing and sobs broke through the silence. Amelia leapt to her feet and followed the sound to the cottage. Stumbling, bloodied footprints lead the way to Miss Molly, who lay against the front door in a heap. Her dress hung in rags off her body. The claw marks were clear and distinct, ripping cloth from flesh. In the moonlight, the blood reflected like slowmoving rivers, oozing down her body, forming a metallic puddle on the threshold. The skirt of her dress had been torn away; her inner thighs were raw and bloodied. In all the times he’d mauled her, he’d never before touched her face. A deep gash ran from her chin back to her left ear, where a large chunk was missing. A second began on the right side of her pale throat, disappearing somewhere beneath her clavicle. The sun had risen before the bleeding stopped. Amelia treated her wounds with myrtle and sticklewort to stop the bleeding; ginger and turmeric to stop the pain. Every rag and tatter in the cottage had been stained with blood. Miss Molly settled into an old armchair by the fireplace. Her head drooped back, before she snapped to attention again. “You should sleep,” Amelia suggested. Miss Molly shook her head. “What’s that? In your pocket?” Miss Molly asked. Amelia had forgotten all about it. In her efforts to cleanse the potatoes, she’d come across a squatter she did not expect. From her pocket, Amelia produced the delicate pink flower. “Oleander,” Miss Molly said. “Toxic, in all its parts,” Amelia replied. In their private botanic language, they used oleander to convey a simple message: danger. “Is that from my greenhouse?” Amelia shook her head. “Where did it come from?” With a great deal of care, Amelia led Miss Molly back to the smallest greenhouse. The orange tiled floor was still littered with uprooted weeds and clots of soil, where Amelia had spent the night evicting them. “It’s a volunteer,” Amelia said, showing


Miss Molly the bunch that still grew between the cracks in her tiles. “This is from the potato patch?” She asked. Amelia nodded. The following evening, Amelia returned to her greenhouse to collect produce for the evening’s supper. As always, Mr. Towne would expect an

In their private botanic languag they used oleander to convey simple message: danger. elegant meal, and she filled her basket to the brim. The path to and from the cottage followed a fence that ran along the road. Amelia trekked along it idly, dreading the evening to come. “Good afternoon, Miss Towne,” a familiar voice called. A tall, young man walked alongside his bicycle on the other side of the fence, heading in the opposite direction toward the small town half a mile south. Owen Benbow’s father owned the post office there. Since he was a boy, he’d spent his days delivering letters and parcels on his bicycle. “Miss Towne? That’s rather formal,” Amelia replied. “I thought it more appropriate. I understand your father has returned from his travels. I’d hate for him to overhear me addressing his lady daughter by her first name.” “There is some merit to your concerns,” Amelia replied. “My father has quite the temper.” “Of that I am certain,” Owen replied, lowering his voice, “There are whispers, Miss. Terrible accusations.” “About my mother? Yes, I know.” “If only it were just. They say there is a curse on this house.” Amelia smiled, “I don’t see you keeping your distance.” “I’m not afraid, Miss Amelia. I may be the only one who isn’t.”


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“Let them be comforted. They won’t have to fear for much longer.” That evening, Amelia recovered Georgia Towne’s faded teal ceramic cookware from its hiding place in the attic and her floral wedding china, exhumed from its grave in the basement. She set the table with steady hands. The sedated sheep and chickens slept calmly in a row of cages, letting out an occasional bleat or cluck as she moved past. Amelia gently ran a damp cloth across each plate, removing the thick layer of dust and grime and revealing the beautiful porcelain that hid beneath. Hand-painted yellow crocuses bordered her mother’s china. These flowers represented severe sadness to Amelia. Perhaps, after today, they would come to hold a new meaning. The colors were vibrant, as if they were aware that this might be their last hurrah. In the kitchen, flour stuck to the wrappings on Miss Molly’s face and throat. The homemade pasta was in the pot, and the knife in her bandaged hand chopped mercilessly at the basil leaves and pine nuts on the board. Cinnamon and nutmeg filled the room with their sweet fragrance as they liquefied over crisp, autumn apples in the oven. Miss Molly worked from an old wheelchair recovered from the attic; she did not have the strength to stand. Her wounds pained her, but she would not be fatigued.

e colors were vibrant, as if they were aware that this might be their last hurrah. Dust fell regularly from the ceiling as a pair of heavy, clawed feet paced loudly two floors above, waiting impatiently for the dinner bell to ring. The dining room came alive as they laid the feast out on the table. The candelabra was lit with five long white tapers, the space around its foot was decorated with orange and red autumn

leaves from the former orchard. Miss Molly laid her creations around Mr. Towne’s setting. A deep, blue glass bowl filled with tender pasta and vibrant green pesto sauce; apple pie with a light flaky crust in a red dish; crisp, fresh greens in a crystal salad bowl. Finally, resting in a shining cast iron pot, was Mr. Towne’s personal favorite: succulent roasted potatoes from the greenhouse with a colorful floral garnish. My father took the bait and swallowed the poisoned potatoes whole. Within minutes, he was struggling for air. Disoriented, he lunged at me, tearing his claws across my forearm. He fell to one side, taking the table down with him. The candelabra made contact with the drapes, and we saw our opportunity then. The flames were spreading fast, and we did not hesitate to trap him in with them. The beast had breathed his last, and we buried his bones beneath the burning rubble of the manor. I moved into Miss Molly’s cottage, out of sight from the remains of my family home. We lived there quite happily for several years, wandering the woods by day and tending to the greenhouses by night. We abandoned our language of flowers, and traded it for a new one. I was free to throw myself into my studies, and before long, our skills with medicinal herbs and flora found their niche. We made a modest living, mixing medicines and herbs for the townspeople. They no longer feared us. Miss Molly now lies in that ancient orchard, beneath her favorite apple tree. It was not until long after she had gone, when I was pregnant with my first child, that I returned to the ruins of my family home. I was Amelia Benbow by then. Besides the grand staircase, the great stone archways were all that survived above the foundation, and many of them had crumbled. The intricate moldings that once framed the threshold stopped at my knees as I stepped through what had once been the front door. The stairs had survived up to the first landing.


While the building had crumbled around them, they seemed nearly untouched by the flames. Of all my mother’s paintings, only one survived the fire: my mother’s portrait. Her springy, ashen hair matched my own. Her green eyes grinned back at me kindly. I spent many years wondering what had turned my father into something so monstrous. Perhaps it was my mother, punishing him for what he’d done to her. It was her paintings that transformed him, after all. I placed a hand on my rounding belly and allowed myself to be comforted. My mother loved me. Perhaps my child would not inherit Georgia Towne’s curse. I stepped through a crumbled archway. Though this particular wreckage looked no different than the rest, I knew it to be the dining room. Leaves and stalks had begun to sprout through the thin layer of ash that still remained here. At the far end, something lay in a heap, the remains of my father’s old coat. Deformed and vicious, his blackened, burned skull looked up at me. His sharp fangs had cracked and split in the heat of the fire. One of his twisting antlers had broken off at the base and lay defenseless in the vegetation several feet away. His gaping jaw hung wide open in silent surprise. Vines and foliage had overtaken him, woven their way through the massive, misshapen ribs that peeked through the remains of his clothing, binding him to the earth. Through his left eye socket, a delicate, pink flower bloomed.


I spent many years wondering what had turned my father into something so monstrous.

g o

Manifesto based on a poem by Jordan Burk

Jesse Montoya I I grow my zucchini strong and brave. Their color, a noble green grained and speckled smooth with shine Their hearts are not thin and pallid like the others Tumors do not bubble beneath their skin My zucchini do not tremble when my wrinkled hands reach down and tear them away from the coolness of the earth II The Aztecs knew human sacrifice. A still-beating heart for the rain god pulse and dribble, red awash A wreath of intestines in winter to birth a meridian sun Costumes of flayed skin on festival days, priests dance pulse and spin I raise my zucchini like Aztecs. III My zucchini know honor and obligation. I show them their bread, vanilla and cinnamon walnuts and sugar My zucchini know dignity in death Humble specks, scattered in the nooks of brown bread emerald stars on white teeth To them, I am deity liver-spotted hands hands of god


Polyneuropathy Jordan Burk

She breaks her toe just to see it bent and crooked. Kicks it hard against the off-white door jamb. Will it whisper soft refrains of sympathy through her shin, her thigh, her breast, and throbbing kiss her thalamus? She hopeless craves pain. Shades of bliss. But the toe lies silent. It watches her obtuse, beginning to yellow and swell. She tries again. She hears it snap and crack into a new shape, but it will not submit. It hangs limp and silent.


Ballpoint on Moleskine. 3.25” x 5.5”

Feeling the Distance Jesse Furr 36


Dust Jesse Yelvington 37

Blue and Umber Allie Sipe

the night you leave is heavy, punctured by gritty sand and salt stinging open cuts. silhouetted against sea and sky, you fade and blur, waning to navy silver in the fog and salt of the bay. you are the deep blue and i the umber shore: rifted by forces out of our reach, waiting to crash together once more.


My Father as He Cleans the Tub

Cathy Cook

Face screwed tight, the violin peg, Arms taut strings as he sponges stains from the bathtub Face and neck blotched red by years of brutal sun With purple veins crawling from forehead to neck Bleach stings eyes, blinking, fluttering, trembling fingers on the bow Unforgiving tile the color of clouds and midmorning sky When they’re swirled together in a paint can On his knees, held safe in black kneepads, as he Struggles to stretch and bend The strings about to snap.



Dad Paul Talley 40

Superstitious Alexandra Magel

I am not religious but superstitious oh, those big gilded trappings of the pews and those two hundred year old books with the shiny edges and stamps from a few states away aren’t for me but, oh, I flinch at my unlucky number and knock on wood and bow to feral alley cats when they stare I am bothered by that army of texts, marching on simpering sentimentality but, at the burning grain in the center of my chest I feel reverence and I pray, I pray, I pray


Waffle House Sestina After A Night of Drinking Tori Cárdenas

On this morning—April, Thursday—I am fixating on how the dirt parking lot seems to be eroding beneath me. Anything to distract me from the electricity crackling in my ears, in my throat. Looking from my hands to a short, handwritten note in my calendar, thinking of a way to explain the time I spent on your name. But that explanation is so much easier than the one for this fixation on the fence, where there are two initials handwritten in a permanent marker heart. Rain has eroded the red paint and the way it’s serrated looks as though it must have been electrified. When you arrive, we skim the menu, I focus the on electric hum from the soda machine, instead of your explanation of your favorite dish, and the divine way it looks when it comes off the griddle, and how you’re fixated on blue whipped cream and how it tastes like heaven. Erosion weakens my joints. I’m sure it’s the liquor rewriting itself into me from last night. When I sign, my handwriting is shaky and disjointed, the way you’d expect electricity to look on paper—signature static, partly eroding at the edges. Then, we sit outside and I am trying to explain away my words from the night before, fixating on how damned blue the sky is so I can’t see that look


you give me. The one where you seem to look through my chest like an x-ray, writing your thoughts on my face while I try to fixate on the sky. No—the only things that are electric anywhere near us are the power lines, I’m explaining to myself as I watch hot, creamy butter erode my blueberry, blue corn waffles, just as I erode under your stare. But everything around me looks like I feel. Perhaps it would be less trouble to explain to you exactly how much I would love you to write entire sonnets on my skin, because I am electrocuted when you touch me. That is my real fixation. If I let you erode me, will my handwriting always look this electrocuted? Will I always explain away my shaking as a fixation on the sky?


Pear Shaped Lorien Megill

I don’t remember ever feeling thin enough. I don’t even know what that means, I just know I’m not it. I have gained weight, lost weight, worked out, sat around doing nothing, obsessed over food, eaten whatever I felt like, and no matter what, it has all been wrong. When I was eight or nine and pre-growth spurt, an adult commented to my dad that I had gotten “chubby.” My parents contributed to none of this. They always focused on what the books say they’re supposed to: my intelligence and kindness, all while I nourished the voice in the back of my head that says I should feel guilty for every piece of food I even think about eating. The underlying message is that I’m lazy and lack self-control; I am not only inadequate physically, I am inadequate at a character level. Because if I honestly, truly cared about this I would probably eat pasta less and run more. I studied abroad for a month in Ireland and one of the things I remember is how I wasted countless hours hating the way my clothes fit. I was convinced that I had been gaining weight recently, and I was consumed by it. I compared myself to every other woman on the trip. I took pictures in front of amazing, beautiful places where I loved being, but when I looked at them later, I was distracted by the way I looked. I know how self-absorbed this is. It’s a perverted narcissism: the belief that this is something worth so much of my time. There is no nobility in thinking so poorly of certain areas of myself, because I am still doing far too much thinking of myself. Societally, I feel equal pressure to constantly belittle my body since I don’t look like the people on TV (and because if I don’t, how will I fit in?), and to embrace my shape and be body positive (because if I don’t, how will I fit in?). It’s a weird limbo, and it can be difficult to balance on the see-saw between hate and acceptance. I was probably twelve when I posed for a picture with a group of friends. One of my best friends jokingly told me to suck in my gut. I never wore that shirt again. I know I’m supposed to want to be healthy, to say that’s all that matters, that if I’m healthy I’m right where I should be. If you asked me, I would use this script. If pressed, I would agree with this. But truthfully, in my deepest self, I don’t want this at all. I just want to be skinny. I wanted not to have an eating disorder, but to be small enough that it was possible. A dance teacher and family friend once commented that I had lost weight and then asked if I was okay; if I was eating. And I was proud.


I have learned that I will see myself differently depending on how I’m feeling about the world and myself in general. Not in a metaphorical how one views oneself way, but literally I will be feeling happy with the way I am physically one day and like I have gained thirty pounds the next. I believed in high school that skinny was the answer. Then as a freshman in college I got down to my goal weight, and I was still fundamentally myself. I was still filled with insecurities about my appearance; I wasn’t any less single, any more confident. I had thought that I would feel like I was worth more, but I was the same, just lighter. Nobody told me that I was overweight. Nobody has ever told me that I am overweight. I guess I just decided on my own. An argument could be made that no article of women’s clothing exerts as much power as the swimsuit. Trying them on makes me panic. My body responds like it would to a job interview or test or an audition. I get anxious and sick. It has been this way since before I was a teenager. I hear my issues come out of the mouths of other women sometimes, in the same selfdeprecating non-jokes that I am in the habit of making. As we compliment each other in the form of insults to ourselves: “I love your skirt. I could never get away with that.” As we stand in front of long bathroom mirrors and compete in the unhappiness Olympics—whose hips are widest, whose thighs are thickest, whose intrinsic value is least based on the number sewn into their pants. As we comment about how terrible something we are eating is, just so that the people around us know that we know that we should be sorry for eating it. If beauty is pain, then I must only be beautiful when I’m hurting.


Nobody has ever told me that I am overweight. I guess I just decided on my own.

Staying Trinity Koch


He kept his eyes on the browning grass in front of them. The short, drying strands were stiff and unyielding to the gusts of chilled wind. He pushed his hands deeper into his pockets, wishing he’d brought his earmuffs. A frown tugged at his lips. One of his legs bounced. Out of the corner of his eye he saw her turn to face him. He knew she was going to talk before she did, the skin around her lips pursing for just a moment. Beside him on the rigid bench, Evelyn coughed. A narrow shoulder brushed against his. “What was dying like for you?” He let her question roll around in his mind for a long moment. “Painful,” he said slowly, hoping she’d drop it. “I remember the pain.” “Were you scared?” she pressed. He turned to her and raised an eyebrow, catching sight of his fuzzing features in her large, round glasses. “Why do you think I’m still here, Eve?” “It’s not always a choice.” “No, I guess it’s not.” Annoyance made his voice harder than he intended it to be. He pulled his hands out of his pockets, picking at a loose thread on his jacket. “David,” she said eventually, breaking the tense silence between the two. Her cold fingers brushed against his apologetically. “Would you choose to stay?” He frowned and leaned back against the bench. “If I had the choice again?” “Yeah. Do you think you would?” “No.” Her body stiffened. “No?” David shook his head, slouching on the bench. “The world’s a shitty fucking place. Mostly because of the people in it.” “I don’t think all people are bad,” Evelyn defended, blue eyes watery. “No, but enough are. People don’t give a damn about anyone but themselves.” An upset frown marred her face. She looked down at her thin hands, which shook in the afternoon’s chill. “I think you need to meet some better people.” He tried not to think about how much it didn’t matter. Another long moment of silence stretched out between them as the wind whistled through the dry leaves. David watched a tabby cat trot across the street. He flipped his jacket’s collar up. He wished he’d brought his hat.


Evelyn cleared her throat, tightening her scarf with gnarled, pale fingers. “Am I one of those people? The bad people?” “Evelyn,” he said, surprise making his voice sharp. She winced but didn’t back down. “Well, am I?” “No! No, of course not,” he added, forcing his voice to be softer, forcing himself to release the tension in his shoulders. David pushed himself up and turned to look at her. “What kind of question is that, Eve?” he asked, taking her hands. “An honest one.” He shook his head. “Jesus, Eve. No, you’re not a bad person.” But she wouldn’t meet his eyes. Instead, they were fixed on the trees in front of them, on the half bare limbs. What few leaves were left were mostly a deep orange or a browning, dry yellow. A soft push of wind dislodged several large leaves; they fell slowly. Her eyes followed them. “I feel like I am,” she murmured. “More often than not.” He sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Well, you aren’t.” “Yeah, okay.” But he noticed that she didn’t look convinced. He watched as she ran her fingers across the bench’s well-worn wood. He sighed. Her skin was cold, much colder than his. He rubbed her knuckles gently, afraid that if he rubbed them too hard he’d bruise her thin skin. The movements calmed her, and she leaned against his shoulder. “I’m glad you’re here,” she said. “Yeah?” He managed a small smile. “Yeah.” There was another long pause before David said, “I never knew you thought you were a bad person.” Evelyn shrugged. She coughed into her scarf. “I didn’t want to bother you.” His forehead furrowed. “You don’t bother me, Eve.” “Not ever?”


He forced a smile to his lips. “Why do you think I’m haunting you?” She shook her head. “That’s negative. The connotation.” “Not always. With you it’s affectionate haunting.” He kissed her knuckles and ignored the burning cold of her skin.

He rubbed her knuckles gently afraid that if he rubbed them to hard he’d bruise her thin skin. She smiled. “I love you.” “Love you, too.” Another teasing breeze tugged at their hair, bringing with it the taste of frost. He noticed her cheeks and nose had turned bright red, contrasting with her pale skin; the new shade almost matched the color of her scarf. A small tremor shook her body. He frowned. “I’ve been thinking,” she said slowly. “On what I want to do, after I die.” He gave a small nod. “And?” “I’m thinking about staying.” “Eve…” “I’ve seen how unhappy you’ve become. Especially since my diagnosis.” He frowned. “I’m not unhappy.” “David, you’re fading,” she pointed out. Another cough shook her thin body. He kept rubbing her knuckles, pushing his thumb over hers again and again, so hard that he saw her wince. He forced himself to relax again, lighten his touch on her. “So? I’m old. It happens to us ghosts.” “You’re more snappish. You hardly look at me.” She swallowed. “We don’t talk anymore. Like we used to. Not really.” “Eve, please. I don’t think we should—” “David. We need to have this conversation.” He traced the hem of his jeans with a finger.

ly, oo

“Okay. Okay.” “I’m thinking about staying,” she repeated. “I don’t know if you understand your options.” “I do.” “Well, I’m not sure that you do. You’re sick, you’re afraid. I understand that. But—” “I don’t want to leave you,” she said, turning to look up at him. Her eyes watered again. He felt a lump form in his throat as a wave of guilt washed over him. “It’s not always your choice, Eve. You don’t always get a choice.” “But I will.” “You won’t get to change your mind,” he reminded her. His voice was soft, hardly above a whisper. An insistent, chilled breeze almost tore his words away. “I know.” “You’ll be here, until you fade.” “I know.” He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed her knuckles. The feel of her skin on his made him feel sick. “I don’t want you to regret your choice.” She turned and looked up at him, large, pale eyes fixing on him. “How could I regret you?” “Evelyn.” “I love you, David. I understand the choice I’m making. I’ve thought about this for a long time now.”

They sat there for a long time before he kissed her hair and pulled away. “Let’s get you inside, Eve. Okay?” She gave him a tired smile and allowed him to help her to her feet. Together they made their way down the sidewalk. Evelyn leaned against him, and he kept a protective arm around her side. Behind then, the sun was beginning to set. It cast everything in a harsh, golden light.

The sat there for a long time before he kissed her hair and pulled away. “I just don’t want you to regret staying, Eve.” “I won’t.” He turned and pressed his face into her frizzled, graying hair. His arms wrapped around her thin frame. He tried to ignore how much her body was trembling now. He wondered how much life she had left. “I love you,” he murmured. “It’ll be okay.”



Ballet Dream Michael Foust 49

Cathy Cook

Showering with Grief

Grief runs off my body With the dirt and the stink Of two days without washing And the sweat that clung to me Through restless sleep Regret fills my belly with warmth As I rub off dead skin And discover the wholeness Of my being underneath Full of heat My breasts and shoulders Covered in blotchy red spots Brought forth by the water Steaming over my skin I am bathed in warmth The hair on my head is brittle Needs to be conditioned But I simply rinse Water massages my scalp My forehead a waterfall Dripping from my downturned face I step out Clothed only in my endless skin Stretched across muscle and bone And the soft tufts of dark brown fur Beneath my armpits and between my legs I wrap myself In the well-used blue towel Hair hangs about my face Dark unruly clumps


My body is Made of light I am endless as the field of stars Stretched across the night I am a universe Which is why I can leave the grief Puddled on the floor Draining away I turn, Every molecule hot I am glowing And I walk away And I walk away.



Cathedral Worker Michael Foust 52

Lightswitch Alexandra Magel it comes at the end of stories or when something moves, peripheral I’m in the dark, watching a movie the lights turn on, blinding the wiring down here is bad I’ll respond at the end of the scene Unheimlich a perverse punchline not when you give in to your brain yelp at a mouse, a spider and turn away, grimace like a champ tennis player biffing a point but that pinpoint prickly grainy feeling when the hair at your neck stands and your eyes go wide, eyelids meld to sockets that feeling slides up your spine into shoulder blades like it belongs there the boundaries of your skin have vanished but it doesn’t matter preferable to branch out, to see what’s there to prepare in the dark, watching a movie the lights turn on briefly blind electrical, wiring, but— the switch itself is turned up and no one is home


The Patriarch of Meadowlark

Joshua Rysanek

“The best way to put it,” my grandpa said, “is that Fred is the patriarch of Meadowlark.” Fred was one of the first regulars of the senior center. He made friends and, on a larger scale, a community. He taught many the ins-and-outs of billiards—and ping-pong too. In his career, Fred interacted with celebrities daily. My grandpa’s only disclaimer: “He’s a Yankees fan.” I met Fred four years ago at the Meadowlark Senior Center. It was summer; I was off from school. My grandpa invited me to play billiards—“to shoot pool,” as he would say. We walked in a back entrance. A pair of wide windows were divided by a weathered metal door. Closed blinds hid the world within, but the door was propped open. Hospital fluorescence and an odor of worn leather leaked out of the room. “We can’t go through the front; they won’t let you in,” my grandpa said, pulling the door. The room was full of life. Big 98.5, the local oldies radio station, was drowned out by uproarious trash-talk and hoarse laughter. Men encircled each of the four pool tables. One man powered around on his scooter, lining up a shot. Another toted a prosthetic arm. I remember a man cleaning his glasses with his sleeve as another twirled his cue stick, gloating in victory. Others leaned on stools clustered around the fresh green tables. The tallest man in the room, even hunched over his cue stick, Fred could see clearly over all of the other men. His white curls glowed against his dark skin. But Fred would still be the center of attention if he stood five-foot-five. His years have imbued a rare grit in his voice—distinct among the cacophony of the pool hall. You can almost hear the echo of Fred’s life in his speech. It’s like the thought of your favorite dessert; Fred’s voice makes your mind salivate. You can’t help but crave its depth and richness. Think Barack Obama. He is the kind of person who can make a dictionary sound like a best-seller. His voice is powerful, yet compassionate in a soulful tone—it is familiar, yet mysterious. You can’t help but listen to him. My grandpa slipped a dollar bill into a wooden box marked DONATIONS. “Hey, Ray!” called out one side of the room. “Who’s the new guy?” the other side joked. “Hey, gang, this is my grandson Joshua,” my grandpa said, “and he’s going to teach you all how to shoot pool today.” The men laughed, giving me nods and handshakes, and returned to their games. All but Fred. Fred cupped my shoulder in his craggy palm.


“So I hear you’re a wrestler,” he said. I dumbly froze, still engrossed by his presence. “Don’t worry son,” he said, “I only bite ladies.” Now smiling, his face folded in on itself. “Yes, sir,” I said, gathering myself. We shot pool for hours. Everyone loved Fred. He enlivened the pool hall. The moment Fred enters a room is like the moment when a drop of dye is added to a glass of water. He diffuses so every part of the room shows his color. Pour out some water, and the color does not separate. Everyone in the room—the water—is stained by Fred. I was stained by Fred. Maybe he’s just a funny old man with a voice rivaling that of Morgan Freeman. That couldn’t be it. My grandpa gave me the short of it. Fred’s a year older than my grandpa, eighty-nine. He was born in Harlem during the Great Depression and between two world wars—a hard time for anyone to be born. For Fred, an African American, it must have been even more of a struggle. As Fred grew up, Harlem harbored a surge in the arts now referred to as the Harlem Renaissance. It’s weird to think I even met someone who lived in times I’ve only heard about in textbooks. He’s living history. But most of all, my grandpa stressed that Fred was a “good guy.” The rusted iron gate squealed as it swung on its hinges. I pressed the dimly lit button on the stucco wall. A flickering light filtered through the window to my left. I heard fumbling at the doorknob and the deadbolt withdrawal. I turned to the door. A stout figure smiled through the screen door. “Josh?” she said in a coarse voice. I said yes and she urged me inside. She took my coat and I saw Fred. He looked like a giant with the short ceiling. He clicked the remote and the TV went black. “Hi Josh!” He gripped my hand. “That’s my wife, Juanita,” he said. “Come with me.” I followed him through the kitchen into a big room with a pool table in the center. Family photos covered the far wall. The photos


ranged from black-and-white portraits to recent graduation pictures. We sunk into a weathered, leather couch. We started from the beginning. Fred’s childhood. Poverty. Racism. Grit. Fred knew he was poor. Fred described living in New York as a hectic fight for existence. He lived alongside

For something to be “hard” is o subjective. Maybe being a “goo guy” is subjective, too. Marcus Garvey and Langston Hughes, often seeing them on the streets. Exorbitant housing prices left them poor too. It was hard, but it didn’t matter to Fred. He didn’t know any other life. He had his friends and his family. The community raised the youth. Sharing was normal. He didn’t even realize how scarce of an environment he grew up in until later in life when he and Juanita bought their first house in Brooklyn. Fred paused and ordered his words. Still, he only acknowledged living with more as different, not necessarily better. “You grow up in Harlem,” he said, “and you get used to your surroundings.” He stressed subjectivity. He doesn’t resent people who grew up with more than him. Fred doesn’t blame them for thinking their lives are hard. Everyone endures their own hardships. For something to be “hard” is only subjective. Maybe being a “good guy” is subjective, too. Fred worked in the garment district in New York. Juanita’s mom got him an internship as a shipping clerk for a Manhattan boutique on Seventh Avenue, near 36th Street. The designer Anne Klein and her husband, Ben, owned the shop. Fred started answering phones and arranging sales. He became popular; clients specifically asked for Fred. He traveled across


only od

the country, even abroad, for fashion shows. He ate at the best restaurants and stayed at the best hotels. He met and got to know celebrities from many industries—Shelly Winters, Perry Como, Arthur Miller, Perry Ellis, Mia Farrow, Coco Chanel, Ralph Lauren, Diane von Furstenburg, and Cyd Charisse, to name a few. Fred even used to drive Marilyn Monroe home whenever she argued with her husband in Anne Klein’s showroom. Fred’s extensive accounts were almost automatic. If over the phone, I could have believed he was reciting written material to me. It became obvious that this was the stuff that most people were interested in, and the stories he told most often. They didn’t mean much to Fred. These stories appeal to modern pettiness. But what could I learn from the story of a man meeting a crowd of well-known names? It is not what makes Fred special. Fred could have met anyone and still ended up the “good guy” he is today. “To heck with people,” Fred said. “Well when you get to know them, a lot of them were just regular people. A lot of them were regular. They’d sit down and talk to you. A lot of them wanted to sit and talk to you—as long as you’re not all over them.” Fred loves people. Exposed to diversity and

But what can I learn from the story of a man meeting a crowd of well-known names? discrimination in his youth, Fred responds to people in an admirable, candid way. To Fred it doesn’t matter who you are; it matters how you are. Fred taught me that we’re all in this world like the next person in New York—coexisting in anonymity. American life is an outcry for identity. Fred reached for the end table behind him.

He grabbed in the drawer and I heard the crunching of plastic wrapping. In his giant hand, he held out a mint to me. I knew I was in at that point. Fred trusted me. I thanked him. A foot operation ended Fred’s career. He stared off toward the pool table in the center of the room. His voice became hollow and soft. It came out of nowhere. He had two sons. Both of them died. I stopped writing my notes. My pen scribbled off mid-thought. I looked up at Fred, shocked. He continued. “It’s hard to explain what it’s like,” he said, “but I have their pictures in my bedroom and I wake up every day and I talk to them sometimes. It’s just hard to believe that they’re not here.” The first of Fred’s sons to go was a cameraman for a local news station in Baltimore. Fred pointed up at the wall of photos. The jumble of images became a living story that Fred told. Fred’s son, the cameraman, smiled down at me from the wall. His film tech equipment on his lap, he sat on the marble steps of a Washington-style building. Fred and Juanita visited their son when he got his first job out of college, working for Ted Turner at a news station in Charlotte, North Carolina. Excitedly, he escorted his parents around the station. He introduced them to his team. Pulling Fred aside, he whispered he would work there for nothing. Fred looked me in the eyes and spoke with vigor. “And I never, in my life, felt so good to hear that,” he said. To know his son was happy made him happy. Fred’s son died nine years ago, without warning, from complications during a routine surgery to repair a lower-leg injury. Fred and Juanita rushed to Baltimore when they heard news of the failed operation. They organized a funeral. “It couldn’t have been more beautiful,” Fred said. “Flowers filled the whole parlor.” People sprouted where flowers didn’t. Many Baltimore-Washington area media were in attendance—newspapers, TV, and radio. Fred’s


other son spoke in his brother’s honor. The governor even wrote to the widow. Fred wiped his eyes with his forearm. Fred and Juanita returned to a transformed home. Some neighbors landscaped the backyard (it was beautiful—a koi pond cut across the middle). And in the front, they removed a longdead tree that Fred always hated. Fred brought the Harlem sense of community to Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Again, he stained the hearts of the people around him. Fred’s other son died from pancreatic cancer only three months after diagnosis. Another tragedy. He missed his sons, but they left behind their children. Fred smiled. His eyes widened as he talked about his grandkids. He told me to follow him and he showed me around the house. He was excited, like his son the cameraman giving a tour of the newsroom. Each room had meaning to Fred. Silently, they housed Fred’s memories. The first room, dressed in floral print, was Fred’s granddaughter’s room. Fred remembered the summers she spent with him and Juanita. The room at the end of the hall was his grandson’s where, once, Fred spent a whole night covertly assembling an intricate Lego. The next morning, Fred’s grandson saw the surprise and said, “I don’t like it.” Fred waved his palm and filled the empty room with laughter. “I just feel fortunate to get to the age I am,” he said. “I’ve had a good life. A wonderful wife. Sixty-five years, we’re married. If I had to go tomorrow, I would go. I don’t think I’ve missed anything in life.” I left Fred’s house with more questions. I don’t know what it means to be a “good guy.” I’m not sure anyone knows. I don’t know why Fred is a “good guy.” But I know he is. Can “goodness” be rationalized? Is it dynamic and fragile, or blindly governed by grace? Maybe we live in a world where “goodness” is serendipitous, where some are born morally lucky. Does “goodness” even exist? I’m no philosopher. On my deathbed, I won’t be able say what makes a “good guy.”


Now this is not unsettling to me. These questions are not meant to be answered; they are meant to be thought about. Fred reached me, stained me, not with his stories of lavish dinners or dancing with celebrities, but by teaching me a lesson in humanity. It is okay not to know. But it is important to know why. I left Fred’s house

Again, he stained the hearts of the people around him. feeling content in this way, driving past where I imagined the dead tree once stood.


Graphite, colored pencil, and ink on bristol board. 10� x 17�

Baby Vampire Comic Amanda Magel 58

Ewedishale Hu Lorien Megill

My youngest brother Bear is four and still learning English. He turns to Mom and says, “I’m black.” She thinks, this is it. Here is a moment of important conversation. Then he points at her and says, “you’re purple.” He is wearing a black shirt and has decided that this is the easiest way to identify people. The colors he sees are the ones we choose in the morning. Biracial feels like a weird, clinical word to describe my family, but despite the fact that I would never tell my friends I’m headed home to spend Christmas with my big biracial family, it is accurate. I am white enough that I sunburn on medium-length car trips, and my youngest brother and sister, the Littles (the nickname persists despite the fact that they are now eleven, and my sister is poised to outgrow me any day now), are Ethiopian American. The word makes sense in the abstract, but not when talking about my own flesh-and-blood family. Mom tells me that the other third graders are teasing my youngest sister Liddy, and it makes me cry. They are telling her that her beautiful, short afro is boy hair. “Girls are mean,” I say, barely kidding. “Don’t let her go to middle school.” Mom shows Liddy pictures of celebrities with short hair, and a year later I send her a picture of Viola Davis, who wore her natural hair on the night she won her Emmy. Liddy still decides to grow it out. “If you want to grow it out you can,” I tell her later, “but do it for you.” Then I try not to think about punching eight-year-olds. Liddy wants to be like our twenty-one-year-old sister, Lee—to use a hot straightener on already straight hair and paint pink on underexposed white cheeks. I want to tell her that she doesn’t have to do that to be beautiful, that she doesn’t have to do anything to be beautiful, that even as a two-year-old in an orphanage full of expectant children she possessed a regality and elegance that I still haven’t pinned down at twenty-four. Lee and I are getting ready to audition for a community theatre production of Fiddler on the Roof. “It’s too bad,” I say, “that Liddy can’t carry a tune. Then they could cast all of us, and three of the sisters would actually look alike.” Mom looks up at me, puzzled. I pause and then laugh. “I forgot.” The first thing I think about my youngest siblings has nothing to do with our complementary skin tones. Instead, I remember that Bear knows so many Star Wars facts that he defies what


Ou stu

some people think of as “traditional autism” by recognizing when you are sad and wanting to do something about it, and that he used to dress up as Batman and Superman, but also as Mr. Frederickson, the little old man from Up. I think about Liddy’s ability to read people (it’s so uncanny, that if she were not also kind and sensitive I would be afraid of her becoming a super effective cult leader) and I remember that she has the best smile and sweetest laugh, and when she was small and you picked her up, she would rub your back while you held her. She just wanted to soothe people. I don’t forget the history and heritage that are part of my brother and sister, (because how can I separate out such vital pieces of the people I love?) but I forget for a moment that our outsides are different. Our hearts are made of the same stuff, our characters filled with similar content. Liddy and Bear are two and three and newly home. We are cobbling together a family dialect made up of English, scattered pieces of American Sign Language, and words in Amharic, the Littles’ native language. We learn Amharic for milk and water, patience, thank you, yes, goodbye—words we need to get through every day. We knit the pieces of our familial language together the way that we knit together our family itself, building a patchwork quilt of words, and finishing each

ur hearts are made of the same uff, our characters are filled with similar content. day with love in whatever language makes the message most plainly known. “I love you.” Thumb, index, and pinkie finger out with the middle and ring finger folded down. “Ewedishale hu.”



Twister Thomas Yegerlehner 61

Pen and marker on Moleskine, 3.25� x 5.5�

Withdrawls Jesse Furr 62

When You Become Grotesque

Claire Stasiewicz

You’re quite drunk. This seems natural to you—it’s your first day of travel and drinking seems like the easiest way to defeat jet lag. The jet lag is extreme. Flying from the States to Thailand with four layovers is no small feat, but it’s worth it. You’re in a new place, with two good friends, and you haven’t felt this good in months. The new place is Phuket. It is dirt-filled and sex-fueled. It smells at one moment like raw sewage (probably because you’re walking past an open sewer) and the next like fresh coconut. The streets are lined with broken sidewalks covered in locals selling cheap jewelry and trinkets, and the sidewalks are lined by small store fronts. There are numerous massage parlors, where one can get everything from a friendly smack on the ass from your same-sex masseuse (“oooo, sexy bum!” she squeals) to a full-on happy ending—or so we are told. Phuket is clearly a tourist’s heaven—a salacious and entertaining destination with beautiful scenery—and a secretly real and desperate place. But you avoid the desperation that lies behind the dingier shop fronts and the creepier massage parlors; you’ve so far ignored the old men walking with beautiful Thai women who are very young...too young. You’ve decided to see the beauty of the place, and experience a new culture where, for $1.50, you can purchase a bowl of chicken Pad Thai the size of your goddamn head. Where, for $23.00 a night, you can sleep in a king-sized bed, lie by a crystalline pool, and forget your troubles. A place where you can snorkel, scuba dive, and rock climb in some of the worlds’ most beautiful natural areas. You’re seeing the beauty of the place, and the fact that you’re drunk on Chang beer and chatting to two cute Australian guys helps. The Australians take you and your two friends to another bar—although the bars in Phuket are all the same. A grouping of bar stools outside a bar-fronted and sweaty kitchen, where a young woman brings you ice cold beer. You don’t start this beer yet—it’s probably your 8th anyway—but instead hold the cold can against your sweating forehead, realizing that even at midnight, Phuket never cools down. Your friends seem to be enjoying themselves, but jet lag is setting in and the three of you are ready to leave. The Australians ask you to wait, “Just one more place; we heard really good things about this place.” You’re easily convinced, and stumble drunkenly on. You find “the place.” You give a strict-looking Thai man $10.00 and walk up a long, dark staircase, your equally drunk friends giggling behind you. You sit around a large stage, at bar



top tables on large stools. Young women bring you more cold beers and the seats around the stage fill up. At least 75 other people are there for the show, most of them tourists. Some are American, but many seem to be European. There is a bachelorette party full of pretty German women squealing at your left, and you’re not sure what the stage is for. The lights go down. A Thai woman stands on the stage, scantily clad. She removes her underwear, straddles a bench, and proceeds to pull about twenty coins from her vagina. You look at your two friends. One’s mouth is hanging slightly ajar, the other has a dopey, sloppy drunk smile plastered on her face. The woman then pulls a string from her body, and on that string are eight razor blades. One of your friends exclaims, “Oh God!” as she claps a hand over her mouth. The crowd gasps and “ooohs,” and “aaaahs.” You try not to throw up. You try not to laugh. The show continues, and more women— some of them young, some of them surprisingly old and wrinkled—take the stage. The women do things to one another as well as to themselves, and you’re not sure how to react. There are giggles from the Germans, gasps from your friends, and the two Australians are simultaneously disgusted and intrigued. As the audience laughs

is just another fun tourist adventure, a saucy story to tell your friends back home. But you know better. You know the reality of Thailand. You know about the sex-trade and human trafficking that runs rampant through Phuket. You recognize that the old men and young Thai women you saw earlier are part of a largely ignored part of the world—part you don’t want anything to do with. But here you are, contributing to it. Here you are— educated, American, wholesome—and you are contributing. And now you remember that this doesn’t just exist in Phuket. The grotesque world you just entered exists everywhere. In the States, in your hometown. It exists around the people you love and maybe even through them. It exists. And you have contributed. So you sit there. With your knowledge of the reality of the people who stand on that stage for your entertainment. And you try not to throw up. You had never come face to face with it though—you had never knowingly contributed to it. In Phuket, though, it was easy to find this grotesque creature. And in Phuket, it was surprisingly easy, terrifyingly easy, to find a part of that grotesque creature within yourself.

ou don’t want to participate, but you’re here. as a woman drops live turtles from her body into a bowl of water on the stage floor, you’re conflicted. You don’t want to participate, but you’re here. You did not know what the show was, but you paid for it—you contributed to it. There is a deep, dark part of you that wants to laugh, too. Some sort of grotesque, fuckedup creature deep inside of you that thinks this


Papercut, 18”x24”

Roberta Blackgoat Valerie Rangel 65


Grand Prismatic Jesse Yelvington 66

Some Changes Michaela Marie Dolly

Some changes happen too quickly To observe with the eye— Some fractures flex so fast one wonders where they came from, suddenly Water is leaking in, The mind floods, you didn’t intend To let things get so dismayed. Some changes happen so slowly They can only be noticed in retrospect, Collapsing each frame into immediate adjacency, Only later appreciating each movement and change, Trying hard to reckon all the time that has passed, Suddenly sick with your inability to recollect— Where did each minute go? What did each moment try to say when you weren’t listening? They eventually wrote you a note and left— no phone number to call, no address to follow— But it isn’t your fault you couldn’t see Each changing thing, each slow tear, every wear and stretch, Most aren’t even our doing, most things We don’t expect to break, but everything degrades, Day after day, eventually, in Reviewing each crease it’s obvious How things have folded and bent Again and again, but only after The lines are permanent.



Center Paul Talley


Oil pastel on paper, 5”x7”

Action Figure Michael Houle-von Behren 69

Ink, watercolor, and colored pencil on paper, 18�x 23�

Transcendence Lorena Molina 70

Finger Machines Kelsey Rust

Fingers like machines moving to the beat of a tick of blood circulating from one hand to the other Count the hours of the small woman’s hands stitch, row, mend to feed those fingers who feed small mouths Each inhalation is progress to fingered hand machines one…two…three mend, row, stitch to be alive is to labor bend, fold, mend count to the sound of the beat of blood flowing through hand machines


Chine-collé etching on BFK, 8”.x11”

Together Lorena Molina 72


Pier Emily Carrico 73


Lake Louise During Winter Colton Newman 74

Camellia House Angela Arrey-Wastavino

Camellia House was not a bordello; to the contrary, it was a dilapidated house that in winter was dark, almost an architectonic cadaver, with windows hermetically closed showing yellowish curtains that long ago were white, which today held the window frames as bandages. The opaque windowpanes were diagnosed with advanced myopia bordering blindness. The front walls suffered from chronic acne, having the paint swelling as fistulas provoked by the passing time. The roof was dark like an elderly spine impeding deliberate walking. The small fence, formerly adorning the garden, suffered from arthritis showing deformed lumber. Camellia House feels suffocated by the rheumatic pain of contemporary life. It has no direction, without street name or number. Its memory was corrupted by its senile dementia. In spring its body revived each year, leaving behind its pain, embroidering its garden in magnificent pink camellias and others as white as happy brides. It dressed up for summer transforming itself into an energetic adolescent to get ready to hibernate its sadness for the coming gray season.


Casa Camellia Angela Arrey-Wastavino

Casa Camelia no es un burdel, por el contrario, es una casa vetusta que en invierno es sombría, casi un cadáver arquitectónico, con ventanas herméticamente cerradas, enseñando cortinajes amarillentos, que en su tiempo fueron blancos, y que hoy sostienen los marcos cual sendos vendajes. Sus vidrios opacos fueron diagnosticados con miopía avanzada, casi al borde de la ceguera. Los muros frontales sufren de acné crónico, con la pintura hinchada por fístulas provocadas por el deterioro del paso del tiempo. El tejado, de color oscuro, cual espina dorsal de anciano, le impide deliberadamente la marcha. La pequeña reja otrora que adornara el jardín sufre de artritis deformando sus maderos. Casa Camelia se siente acosada por el dolor reumático de la vida contemporánea. No tiene dirección; sin calle ni número, se le ha olvidado, su memoria fue corrupta por la demencia senil. En primavera su cuerpo revive cada año, llenándose de camelias magníficas de color rosa radiante y otras blancas como alegres novias. Se viste de gala en la época estival transformándose en energética adolescente para luego invernar su pena en la estación gris el año venidero.


Papercut, 18”x24”

Transformation Valerie Rangel 77

Papercut, 12�x18�

Angels and Demons Valerie Rangel 78

Thoughts on Sweets

There is nothing in the world better than A white, thick, creamy, delicious cheesecake. Baking one takes skill and a springform pan; The thought of just one smooth taste makes you ache Much like alcohol, but you don’t know why. You start to worry about things like that: Why it goes down like cream, no need to try, Easy as breathing ... I didn’t want that. Funny how cheesecake stirs these thoughts about. You think about the cheesecake and its taste, Thinking normal thoughts and darkness leaks out Of your brain and it won’t go back in place. You grow cold thinking about your family, Wishing for just one drink in agony.


Keriden Brown

Jillian Kovach

Itty Bitty Living Space

A propaganda poster lines my esophagus coloring me in shades of Lübeck’s history (The north was never very subtle) and all I can do is plunder along. The church bells in my brain are cracked and rusty and drive me into Viennese comfort, or at least what the reassurance in my voice claims it’s good for. But my holster’s been empty for a while now. I’ve had to do a lot of getting my point across to people who insisted they were on my side while they were organizing the ultimate coup de grâce behind my trusting back. Except, understanding is an awful lot like playing a video game where there’s a keyboard cutting your communication down to 10%. At least I’ve gotten good at writing emails to myself forwarding messages and reminders that I’m not as trapped in my own head as I’d like to think.


Clocks on the Wall Fallon Rose Romero

Find I see not in the dark that is torn blinded by lure then sure caught in torture swirl up ‘n red, like eyes of a trauma often than not it’s the knock by the mama sliding her might like an iron fist monster timing too late for I slipped into falter the altars of madness, the sane come to falter the chapters they’re written on flesh that is torn the core of the sin manifests a monster the bruises they scar to the score of torture sure they may get a tattoo that says mama above all the mama’s the source of the trauma time it reverses yet don’t erase trauma clocks on the wall cease and follow to falter clocks on the wall fallen weapons for mama time standing deathly the scars are still torn and born of a violence conditioned torture then grown to be violent conditioned monster a curse or just blessed a surviving monster glimpses of hell etched in eyes that saw trauma inches of flesh that got drenched in this torture matters of time before psyche does falter gathers the tears through the years that’s been torn drowning affair as she stares loving mama


drowning affair as she loves staring mama look in the mirror she’s fine with the monster both ego and id she has chosen whose torn adorned a ‘cissism adored tragic trauma lifestyle so selfish a lifetime to falter cessation of heart she loves with a torture refusal to churn her passion for torture I yearn for compassion ‘n also my mama I know I’m not perfect ‘n surely can falter I know one thing’s for sure … I am no monster I dream of the day I’m strengthened from trauma just sowing the seeds and I sew what is torn I am not what she is ... a monster I break all the cycles … the trauma and pick up the pieces of what has been torn


Contributors Dallas Alexander Dallas is an English major at the University of New Mexico with a concentration in creative writing and a comparative literature minor. 4 Neglecting a Garden of Weeds Dune Alford Dune Alford was born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she attended New Mexico School for the Arts, while also studying dance at the National Dance Institute. She fell in love with drawing and painting, but after attending the University of New Mexico, she was drawn to the art of photography. Now in her junior year, Dune feels inspired to see how far she can take photography in order to create work that tells her personal truth. 25 Strawberry Popsicle Saray Argumedo Saray Argumedo is from the border of El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, and is a recent graduate of the community and regional planning program. Her work has revolved around the development of indigenous communities in Mexico. Through this work and her life experiences as a Mexican indigenous woman, she’s written stories about the struggles she and her people have faced and continue to face today. Amor de Mil Años/Love of a Thousand Years is a story that emerges from a vision she had where she encountered the love of her life and the past traumas they both faced in multiple past lives. It also brings to light true historical events and hardships that have occurred in Mexico and the migration of a love story that reunites the couple in New Mexico. 5 Amor de Mil Años/Love of a Thousand Years

Angela Arrey-Wastavino Angela M. Arrey-Wastavino, PhD, has authored fiction and nonfiction work. Her professional expertise includes diversity integration, equity, and social justice for a peaceful world. She has volunteered for diverse grassroots groups and non-profit organizations. Her multiethnic background has motivated Professor Arrey-Wastavino to extensively participate in multicultural art community projects in the US, Europe, and Latin America. 75 Camellia House/Casa Camellia Keriden Brown Keriden Brown majors in English at the University of New Mexico. She is considered a creative human with an aura of safety. She wastes most of her time as a paralegal at a civil defense office, and on days off she enjoys the comfort of cats and roaming her home without the shackled restriction of pants. She loves caffeine and preaches death before decaf. 79 Thoughts on Sweets Jordan Burk As a student, Jordan studied English; afterward, they went on to practice web development. They love the intersection of art and technology and hope, one day, to address social issues through video games and interactive fiction. 24 The Art of Baking 35 Polyneuropathy Vicky Camarillo Vicky Camarillo graduated from UNM in 2015 with a degree in creative writing. She’s now an assistant editor at a newspaper in Texas. 23 Speak for Me

Emily Carrico Emily Carrico is an English major currently in her third year at UNM. Although her first love is the written word, she has since discovered an equal interest in visual art and photography. In all her creative works, she seeks inspiration from the unnoticed beauty of everyday experiences. 73 Pier Cathy Cook Cathy Cook is a poet, student, fiction writer, and journalist. She is originally from Las Cruces, New Mexico and much of her work is inspired by the desert landscape of the southwest. 1 Extinct 39 My Father as He Cleans the Tub 50 Showering with Grief Tori Cรกrdenas Tori Cรกrdenas is a short, brown, tattooed poet from northern New Mexico. In 2014, she graduated summa cum laude from the University of New Mexico. Currently, Cรกrdenas lives and works in Albuquerque. 42 Waffle House Sestina After a Night of Drinking Michaela Marie Dolly Michaela has been an avid writer of poetry since she can remember. Her writings tend to be journalistic and confessional, and her fondness of nature serves as the backbone to most of her work. This is her second publication in Conceptions Southwest. 18 4/19/16 67 Some Changes Michael Foust Michael Foust is a photographer that enjoys the photojournalism aspect of his pieces. He uses this aspect to capture a mood showing people in a natural state. Other uses are a different point of view for perspective in his pieces. 49 Ballet Dream 52 Cathedral Worker

Jesse Furr Jesse is in his final year of undergrad at UNM. He enjoys drawing immensely and appreciates the outlet and opportunity for publication that Conceptions Southwest offers. Upon graduation, he is interested in becoming an illustrator and graphic artist. 12 Wanderlust 13 Perceptions of Northern New Mexico: Taos 36 Feeling the Distance 62 Withdrawls Abigayle Goldstein Abigayle E. Goldstein is a junior at the University of New Mexico and is studying to teach English as a second language. She was born in Albuquerque, raised in Belen, and has always lived in New Mexico. 2 Growing Up in New Mexico Michael Houle-von Behren Michael is always in the process of developing himself as an artist. He is always seeking to make a better art piece than the previous one. 69 Action Figure Trinity Koch Hoping to one day be a published author, she spends most of her time on the backside of the Sandias exploring the Cibola National Forest with her horse. She will graduate with a dual degree in Spanish and English with an emphasis in creative writing and hopes to live locally. 46 Staying Jillian Kovach Currently studying abroad in Amsterdam, Jillian is a third year English major with a minor in Honors. She is overwhelmed by her everchanging perceptions of home, the death of the guitar solo in modern rock music, and her extraordinary obsession with cheese. 80 Itty Bitty Living Space

Alexandra Magel Alexandra Magel has lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico her whole life and loves being an English major at UNM. She was published by Conceptions Southwest in 2016. She usually writes poetry when she should be asleep. 41 Superstitious 53 Lightswitch

Chelsey Moore Chelsey Moore is a senior at the University of New Mexico. She is an alternative artist that doesn’t believe in the notion that art absolutely must be destined for museum walls, but instead can exist in everyday life, for the everyday person. 17 Fly

Amanda Magel Currently majors in Studio Arts at UNM and enjoys talking about Wonder Woman a lot as well as watching cartoons and making comics. 58 Baby Vampire Comic

Colton Newman Colton is currently an environmental communications major at UNM with a need to photograph his life and what he sees. He mostly sticks to nature and animal pictures, because that is what he connects well with. He wishes he could take everyone with him on his adventures, but until he can do that, he’ll just share his views. 9 On Track to Adventure 74 Lake Louise During Winter

Lorien Megill Lorien Megill is a native New Mexican currently living in the frozen Midwest as she pursues her MFA at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She also teaches writing and works as an Operations Editor for Blue Earth Review and has been published in American Girl Magazine. 44 Pear Shaped 59 Ewedishale Hu Lorena Molina Lorena is an aspiring illustrator who loves to eat too many sweets and has a deep love for puppies. She has been featured in Conceptions Southwest in 2016 and is graduating in the spring of 2017. 21 Darkslide 70 Transcendence 72 Together Jesse Montoya Jesse is an aspiring trial lawyer and writer. He is currently in his second year at University of New Mexico School of Law. When he is not buried in law books, he can be found writing poetry, reading Junot Diaz, playing Dungeons & Dragons, lurking at Satellite Coffee, or dayhiking picturesque Albuquerque trails. He firmly believes the word bougainvillea is the ugliest word in the English language. 34 Manifesto

Bruce Parker Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Bruce Parker earned an MA in secondary education (TESOL) at the University of New Mexico and worked as a technical editor, teacher of English as a second language, and translator (Thai, Mandarin Chinese, Urdu, Punjabi, and Turkish to English). He lives and writes full-time in Portland, Oregon, where he and his wife, poet and artist Diane Corson, convene a biweekly poetry workshop called Ars Poetica. He has published two chapbooks, The Martyrdom of Santa Eulalia and Memories Are Made of This (both Portland Ars Poetica Press, 2016). His work has most recently appeared in Terratory Journal, SPANK THE CARP, Quarterday Review and Scarlet Leaf Review. 14 The Culmination of Humanity Rangel Valerie Silhouette papercutting is a hobby, an outlet, a therapy which she releases her thoughts, dreams, and prayers into the world. Inspiration for her papercut themes stem from a passion for environmental science and social justice issues. 16 El Jardin 65 Roberta Blackout 77 Transformation 78 Angels and Demons

Fallon Rose Romero A life filled with an amazing amount of turmoil and anguish, yet Fallon Rose seems to find a way to not only pull through but bring so much knowledge with them once they emerge on the other side. The years in Las Vegas, Nevada have surely left a mark on Fallon, to them, it is a an opportunity, not a burden. This translates beautifully in “Clocks on the Wall,� a traumatic situation flipped turned upside to a positive outcome. Welcome to the life of Fallon Rose Romero. 81 Clocks on the Wall Kelsey Rust Kelsey is an undergraduate student at the University of New Mexico with a major in English and a minor in Asian studies. Despite the fact that her concentration is in professional writing under the English department, she enjoys writing creatively both academically and personally. She uses poetry as a muse to mentally process and maneuver her environment and the issues in the world. 15 Valuable Humans 71 Finger Machines Joshua Rysanek Joshua Rysanek is a psychology student at the University of New Mexico. He likes his dogs and the mountains. 54 The Patriarch of Meadowlark Allie Sipe Originally from northern California and southern Oregon, Allie Sipe is a senior studying English at the University of New Mexico. 19 Hawthorn Etching 38 Blue and Umber Claire Stasiewicz Claire is a graduate student working toward her MBA in international management. She holds a BA in Honors interdisciplinary liberal arts and art history. She is an avid traveler, learner, and lover of exercise. She hopes to work for cultural arts institutions in the future. 63 When You Become Grotesque

Paul Talley Paul Talley is a geography student at the University of New Mexico. He has been taking pictures for fun for five years. Some of his favorite pastimes include playing strategy games, skateboarding, and looking at fun Internet memes. 10 Balance 40 Dad 68 Center Emperatriz Ung Emperatriz lives and writes in D.C. Follow her on twitter @mprtrzng. 11 Not A Heart Attack Sydney Wheeler Sydney Wheeler is an English major at UNM. A lifetime of reading nonsense inspired her to begin writing fiction at the age of fourteen. She hopes some day to write nonsense professionally. 26 The Root of the Weed Thomas Yegerlehner Thomas Yegerlehner is a freshman at the University of New Mexico. Unsure of where he is going in life, Thomas makes art to try and find some meaning in this crazy, twisted world. 61 Twister Jesse Yelvington Jesse Yelvington is a queer, vegan, transmasculine Hufflepuff who adores cats and the smells of green chile and rain-soaked desert dirt. He is a social justice activist, musician, and slam poet and believes in questioning, and staying true to oneself, as well as the uniting power of adventure. 37 Dust 66 Grand Prismatic

Submit Your Work to CSW!

Want to see your work published in the 2018 edition of Conceptions Southwest? Send it in for consideration! How to Submit Visit to submit your work. We’ll begin accepting work in August 2017, 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, and music and composition. 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 seven inches on their longer side at 300 ppi in cmyk. Questions? Contact us at

Conceptions Southwest Volume 40 The fine arts and literary magazine of the University of New Mexico

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