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A Literation. An Issue Of Identity. VOLUME 2: 2014

Amy Harrison B.D. T.S.A.D. Christopher Schaeffer Evan Culbertson E.W. Certain Christopher Rife Jessica Hiestand Brittney Dussault Vivienne Mah Joe Richardson Leah Baker Michael W. Schmidt Logan Ellis Katherine La Mantia Romila Barryman Sabrina Kulka

A Literation. VOLUME 2 / 2014

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Jen Mueller MANAGING EDITOR Sun Young POETRY EDITORS Kevin Grijalva (Lead) Cheyenne Varner Zane Hagans James Goodwin PROSE EDITORS Noelle Wonder (Lead) Cole Bubenik Kelsey Gutierrez Amy Weston OTHER CONTRIBUTIONS Luke Dingle

All Rights Reserved. The respective authors and/or copyright holders retain all rights in each of their individual original contributions. Some of these contributions may be covered by Creative Commons licenses. i

MISSION STATEMENT A Literation is an online literary magazine dedicated to discovering new internet writers, fostering a robust online writing community, bringing attention to emerging artists, and bridging the gap between traditional literary channels and next gen lit.


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i-den-ti-ty: : who someone is : the qualities, beliefs, etc., that make a particular person or group different from others


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 and no-one knew where the bones were kept
 so i admired her merely from a distance
 only walking across the Earth when she wasn’t there
 to eat the dirt she had milked her words into
 collect them so the other poets couldn’t trace
 her paths across the body of dirt and lovers
 with tender feminine flesh she had carved 
 i wanted to buff it out 
 and cough out a renaissance of my own

 because childbirth and beards 
 hadn’t prevented a knot of hairless 
 limbs atop her verse
 or the wet membrane that 
 slowly fucked her vocabulary
 while scissors grew from her meat 
 and moaned}


A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

 and after my eyes became occupied experiments
 i departed with an engorged stomach 
 attempted to regurgitate some meaning
 from the dust into paper
 cleansing my swollen guts of words
 all the time replicating and recalling
 those still tongues my teeth smiled for
 before answering another sapphic voice
 to breathe lan·guage over brunch


A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

GOD THINKS I’M PRETTY by Brittney Dussault Daddy's new wife talks about God more

mother. She talks to him like she talks to

than the pastor at Calvary Church on

the ladies from church who wear

Broadway and Pine. I think they must

starched dresses and enough hairspray

know each other, God and my new

they'd combust if something called "Holy 6

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

Fire" showed up. This makes me think

ently than her. Which is more impor-

they are best friends, God and my new

tant: an A from the teacher, or a C- from

mother. Which is why I partially blame

daddy's wife? I can't ask God because

him when she dresses me in khaki skirts

step-mother hogs the line.

and black woolen jumpers well into July,

while other little girls my age get to wear

At twelve, I hear my brother doing the f-

pink and frilly string bikinis because

word with a girl that looks like our fa-

boys don't notice us yet. My new mother

ther's first wife. I've been taught about

says not to worry, they'll never notice

fornication since I was nine and know

me. July is when she cracks my head on

that sex is a sin. When I am seventeen,

the sidewalk and says not to tell my fa-

there will be a moment in the backseat of

ther. I am eight and three quarters and I

a car by a lake in the summer. The car

know two things:

will be too small, but the owner won't no-

tice because I will be taller than him. I 1) I am not pretty.

won't plan on his hand slipping up the

2) God must agree.

length of my khaki skirt, but when his fin-

gers reach their destination, I will forget I am ten when she slams my head in the

repentance and religious guilt as I experi-

door. My room is pink with gold glitter,

ence mindless pleasure that makes my

but the floor is concrete. I sleep on it the

right leg shake the way my dog shakes

night she raids my room, stealing all my

when you scratch her belly. But I am not

pretty things and tipping my bed over so

seventeen yet.

I cannot sleep on it. I am not allowed


I am fourteen and high school starts to-

morrow. I sit on the sunny porch and lisWe live by the beach, yet I spend my

ten to step-mother's sermon on inde-

summers building her a wailing wall and

pendence versus identity. I take away

copying scripture into a textbook. In the

skin the color of Christmas, but it is only

fall, there will be religious essays to write

August. I am sick and press my head to

and she makes the mistake of sending

the coolness of the blue toilet in what is

me to a Holy school that believes differ-

called the "children's bathroom." Grown 7

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

up things happen here, though, like

dles, she ceased being my priest. I re-

blood and vomit. There are two scales

turn the sweater she gives me and buy a

beneath the sink. A precaution, she

pair of jeans. The weather turns warm

must think, in case I break one.

and I wear a t-shirt. August arrives and

I wear a pink bikini. God, of all people,

At school, I tell the people who should be

calls me pretty.

my friends that I cannot spend time with

them because they are heathens. In the

My new apartment has a white toilet too

locker room, before gym, I cover myself

pretty to ruin. There are no scales be-

the way step-mother taught me. When

neath the sink. Instead of lying, the mir-

someone asks, I say it is polite to be mod-

ror shows me what is. My reflection

est, but know it is better to be courteous

smiles, says, "I found you."

and hide the ugly. At fourteen, identity means doing as step-mother says and parroting her lessons back to the world. This, I am told, is witnessing. I suppose that makes step-mother's words Gospel.
 Sixteen and my only friend is a rapist. Convicted young and now three times my age, the folly of his youth is something I will never experience. He says identity is finding yourself, but I don't tell step-mother this. He wears a purple hat, walks me to the bus, hugs me so I won't run away. I see God in his smile. Seventeen comes and so do I. He never calls again.
 I no longer confess my sins to stepmother. When I blew out eighteen can8

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

Becoming Conch Shells After Edwidge Danticat by Logan Ellis


you to humiliate me. To shout “you fucking pussy” in my face and shame me in

I now know there’s road upon road upon

front of everyone. I needed something

road and more road after that. I also

from you.

know that each passing car holds a story, a blurry tragedy. I look at my headlights

But I think I’m just confusing loneliness

lighting up the yellow pinstripe jacket of

with doubt. I span the roads, wondering

the road before me and I don’t miss you.

where to go, until I force myself to stop.

Sometimes I’m lonely. Lonely like a

I don’t think I miss you. I wonder more

crowded school bus, me sitting in the

how Damien turned out. I can’t believe

back with my trumpet case on my lap

you defended that name. No matter how

and you up front, chatting with someone

much I said I hated it. It sounded so

nameless. I think you knew I loved you

evil. You had a thing for bad boys,

then. I think you loved me too. I wanted 9

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

though. I still don’t know why you

our families. You wouldn’t tell me why

picked me.

you hated it here, you were being a fucking introvert again, which was frustrat-

What if people I pass on the road think

ing, but cute.

of my tragedy? What if they read it on my face in that one second they see me?

My Dad watches Lance while I’m in

I can’t help but thinking as I stare at

classes. He’s always happy to see him,

those see-in-the-dark stars you glued to

so eager to hold him and rock him, but

the ceiling of my SUV. My skin is irrita-

when he looks at me, I can tell he’s just

ble on these sticky leather seats. Tonight

so fucking disappointed. I just want to

I’ve parked along the side of “Sycamore”

grind his face against the wall or claw at

street. Like a visitor. The nights remind

it until my fingernails break in his skin.

me of sleeping over at your house when

He tells me to throw out your trumpet,

we were in high school. My body

or pawn it. Your mother was supposed

wouldn’t let me relax when your dad

to pick it up, but she hasn’t visited since

lurked around the house. Or maybe it’s

Lance was born. He hates how I stand

like you said, my constant thinking

up for you, he thinks I’m a damn delu-

leaves me skeptical.

sional idiot, or that something’s misfiring in my brain. I know he’s worried but

I’m thinking of changing my name. I

really, his emotions are scaring me more

don’t want you to follow me anymore.

than mine.


I feel like I need another body near me.


My mind goes to tell you something, and

Everything still feels the same. I’m still

then I remember you left. I take out your trumpet and play a few notes. I

wearing the same clothes, I’m still watch-

played the trombone, but the ombesure

ing the same history programs, I still

is pretty similar, I just have to tighten up

pop my back obsessively, I’m still lactose intolerant. Everything. I’m living with

my lips, like I’m kissing you.

my Dad now and going to that college in


our hometown. Why couldn’t we have


gone there before? It’s so much closer to 10

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

I’ve been having a dream where you

need to find a job soon. You never had a

drop Damien in a pond. I stand by with

job. I hated you a little for that.

you and watch him drown. I wake up


wanting to do something terrible. To keep the thoughtless demands of my


mind satisfied.

There’s this guy in my Computer Pro-

I stole from a convenience store. Twenty

gramming class that said he liked my

years old, my first time stealing. You

eyes. I knew it was bullshit, since you

took more risks than I did. I thought of

never used to say a damn thing about

you there with me. It made it easier.

them, but I took the compliment. I think

But when I walked out, the excitement

it’s because he has the same slightly

left me gasping for air. I ran to my SUV

crooked teeth, the same greasy hair, the

and drove for a while, trying to regulate

same average height, the kind of height

my breathing. It’s been so long since I’ve

that barely got you on those roller coast-

had a panic attack. You used to make

ers. But what I really like about him is

me laugh when I felt one coming. You

his skin. He has the same beautiful tan

made me realize it was pointless. I don’t

skin as you.

know what that feels like anymore.

He makes Lance laugh, the laugh that re-

By the time I stopped, the Dreamsicle I

minds me of yours, kinda broken and

had stolen had melted in my pocket. Of

fun to laugh with. We do “date-like”

all the things, I took something that I

things. I don’t know why, nothing much

didn’t even need.

happens. We just take shitty fast food back to his house and sit and tell each

The next time I decided to steal, I aimed

other stories. When we talk, I feel like

a little higher. I tucked a package of nap-

I’m coming back, like reversing an explo-

kins, a few razors and some mint gum in

sion, everything’s a tricky fucking cam-

my jacket. I walked out whistling like a

era technique. The things he says about

hotshot. I have no idea where I’m going.

you…the things everyone says about

I know I’m still in Nebraska. I have just

you…they don’t even understand. He

enough money to get by for a month. I’ll

talks a little too much, a little too confidently. He tries to hold my hand and I 11

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

flinch a little. The tension hurts me, but

fles. The chefs are stereotypical loud-

I’m ready to fucking burst.

mouths with aprons. The waitresses have no enthusiasm. The food is bland

His name is Oscar. I think I need him.

and floppy. They have a soda fountain

Is it okay to need him? Tell me it’s okay

with all the off-brand cola products. I

to need him…

don’t know if I ever told you how much it


bothers me when people order soda in


the morning. I mean, morning is for

I’m somewhere in Wyoming. The town

hate the sound of cups refilling. It’s like

is vague enough for me to forget the

the sound I imagine when I think of

name. But I’m somewhere. I’ve decided

Damien’s lungs filling as he drowns. I

against the name change. I think I need

still have that dream. I hunch near the

something to carry with me. I know I’ll

water, wondering if there’s a way to save

have to give it up sooner or later.

him. A way to do something differently.

I made a name for myself when it hap-

I watch the couples that come in.

pens. Steven Wilson. I used to rant

They’re usually sobering up, feeding

about names like that, the ones that re-

each other waffles and dumping ten pack-

peat the same ending consonant sounds.

ets of sugar substitute into their coffee.

They stick to the roof of my mouth. I

Others are like conch shells. Sullen,

think you understood that. That’s why

empty, forever cursed by the whisper of

you avoided people with those names,

a memory, a mistake. Regret, longing?

like I did. You used to tell me to say the

Which are they? Which am I? I’m not a

odd things on my mind. We were won-

poet, but I feel like writing something

derfully terrible people.


I finally landed a job at some place called


juice and coffee. Not soda. Already I

Jack’s Diner. They rejected me and then called back asking for morning help. I


agreed, since I still can’t sleep well. I’m

…when he fucked me I thought of you. I

the standard busboy, cleaning up every-

thought it was you. When he leaned in, I

one’s dirty napkins and half eaten waf-

imagined he whispered the same words 12

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

you would before you’d slip your hand

I’m trapped in my mind. I don’t want to

under my shirt and dip underneath my

think anymore. I want you to dig at my

bra, “How badly do you want it?” I mum-

skin, to make me dig at my skin, at my

bled, “So much,” just before he collapsed

temple, so I can peel away the skin like

on top of me, tore at my pants, finally

Velcro, like stubborn, desperate Velcro,

worked at unlatching my bra, all of

so I can break apart my skull. i want you

which you would have done by now with

to make me do it i want you to move my

grace and smooth fingers, all while kiss-

hands i want you to control me.

ing underneath my ear. His skin rub-

I was right to be doubtful. I knew that I

bing against mine is what really got me

wouldn’t be a good father. I knew that a

off. His skin is so much like yours, a lit-

child wouldn’t look up to me, just like no

tle bumpy here and there, but practically

one did before you came. I knew I had

the same. When he finished and all his

to go. I accept it. I’m finding a way out

clothes were back on, he kissed my cheek

of this Catch22. I won’t say sorry.

and stepped outside. I peeled away the stitching on the couch and imagined you

I think I’ll stop writing after today. Ste-

playing John Coltrane. What was the

ven needs different motives, different

last song you played?...God, what were

people to find and care for. It’s not fair

the last words we said to each other?

for him to think about a previous life he had no part in.


I know what saves Damien in my dream.


I just had to leave before he opened his

…Is it time to be Steven Wilson? Some-


times I don’t respond to my name at the


diner anymore. When a customer asks me my name, I say Steven Wilson. Mel


no longer has the same meaning.

I told Oscar to stop seeing me. It felt like

I tore down those stars yesterday and

I was cheating on you. I don’t know how

turned the world on its head. I feel like

to feel anymore. When I was pregnant, I

an insane electrician. I rewire myself,

imagined that you were growing inside

then rip my work apart and rewire again.

of me, that you would be the one who 13

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

was attached to the end of my umbilical cord. But Lance did come out with your skin, your naturally dark, but not too dark, tanned skin. Sometimes I want to touch his skin like it’s yours, to run my fingers along his arm and his forehead. Sometimes I want to kiss him like he’s you. Lance, it’s a heroic name, I think. I’ve been asking myself why you waited until the last month to leave. You could’ve left months before, or as soon as I told you. I saw it in your face then, just for a second, it didn’t respond, it froze, but you changed it so quickly I thought maybe it was just me. Now I know it was your decision. Right then, you knew you couldn’t handle it. But at least you tried. At least you flicked my fat belly when he kicked, at least you read to him. At least you were a father when it didn’t count. I’m not in shock, they all say the same damn thing, but I know I’m not. There’s so much secretive road between us. I know there’s no chance in hell I’ll see you again. I’m reminded by the cold brass of your trumpet, but it’s the thought that keeps me writing. Somewhere, you must still love me.


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“a Storage, 1927; Now Odes, Saints, And Gardening Tools” By B.D.

all hells are in equally diverse fruits,
 all fruits are in equally diverse geometry,
 all proofs are satire, all folding into all;
 a strange hersperus
 cannot charm phospherus to meaning.

we're potted in a harmless loop of
 ruggieri's hair, trudging through the gaps
 of teeth and into the lining of gums and
 a progenitor mash like chance (1d6): 1: put this
 in heterodoxy, a less restrictive misplacing; 2:
 put this in the non-identical gyruses and sulcuses
 of a "thinking thing" body; 3: put this is milk,
 or silk, or an affixoid between the two; 4:
 put this in a hidden compartment of a cuban heel,
 lodged in a jittering webway once tusked against
 the bosoms of a lithe singularity; 5: put this
 two inches away from two inches away from two inches
 away from from; 6: put this in a picture of
 the treachery of images called "this," a haecceity
 inferring no additional knowing.

everything moves through aria, processional,
 rhizotomy, hacking; humidors, or places where people store
 small, albeit collectable, versions of david hume,

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

are the common tongue,
 are the smooth bore never fissured
 to riflery.


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Fleas by Michael Williams Schmidt When she awoke she was in the middle

A swarm of glowing, incandescent wasps

of Caracas, Venezuela slapping a mos-

pulsed and vibrated in the darkness.

quito on the inside of her arm. It ex-

Flashing, brilliant beautiful colors, repre-

ploded in a juicy splat and the blood

senting every step of the spectrum, the

trickled down to her wrist. She had never

fat little insects led her weightless frame

seen the tiny black bag in her lap before.

as it plummeted further and further into

Made of crushed velvet and held to-


gether with a simple golden pull string,

Quietly, they whispered string music into

she dug her fingers into the twisted open-

her ears. She no longer feared falling.

ing and spread the bag apart.

The wasps were swapping colors, form-

She was no longer of this world. The sky

ing a melodic arrangement of notes to ac-

turned black. 18

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

company the elaborate sequence of blink-

The light became so dim that there was

ing lights. They surrounded her and en-

no way to see the blackbirds streaming

veloped her. They held her in their midst

out of invisible, ethereal vines to feast.

and carried her into the stars.

They picked off the wasps, one by one. The last light muted. The strings fell si-

The momentum made her eyes water.

lent. She was falling.

Her teardrops slid like razors. It reminded her of the starry pupils of some-

The wormhole took her so far down that

one that she knew a long time ago. She

time and space lost all meaning to her.

remembered the nights alone in the for-

Fourteen hours or fourteen years, she

est under the wide open sky as the moon

could not tell which was which. She hit

smiled down upon her. The weather was

the bottom with a gentle thud and found

cold but she could not remember ever

herself in a river of jelly and lard. Kick-

feeling so warm. She was afraid of the

ing and straining, her limbs had no ef-

dark without him close to her.

fect on her movements. Slowly, she inched deeper and deeper into the

The wasps guided her across diamond-

sludge. She took a deep breath and pre-

encrusted super-highways of blinding,

pared to submerge.

arcing light, passing gelatinous balls of digestive acid as they floated by and

She was rescued shortly before blacking

belched out the bleached bones of un-

out by the blue crabs, a chorus line of

lucky carrions.

over-sized lifeguards patrolling the shallow edge of the river. They closed their

She raced with the wasps down a cosmic

pincers around the oiled skin of her fore-

tunnel, a wormhole shadow, as it fun-

arms and shins. Their claws were tough

neled into a dreamscape and past a clus-

but the blue crabs were gentle and they

ter of burning, dying stars.

fished her toward salvation.

But the ride would only last so long. The

The crabs reminded her of childhood

wasps were fading out and falling away.

summers spent in Maine. The crabs

A handful were bursting, exploding like

there were not blue and she had started

luminous popcorn kernels. She could

to feel badly, knowing that if these crea-

feel as her body weight once again an-

tures realized how many of their earthly

chored her. Gravity regained control. 19

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

counterparts she had feasted upon that

locking plastic bag, stuffing cheddar and

they would have surely left her in the

American into his gaping mouth by the

lard to drown.

handful. Silky strings would drip into the corners and crevices of his shirt, ripen-

The Ferris wheels of Fryeburg, the canoe

ing for a later date.

trips down the Saco river, memories of long lost romance came flooding back to

She reached the purple shoreline and

her. The hippies of yesteryear had only

wrenched herself out of the muck as a

one summer of love but she had been

black hole in the sun deepened. Her skin

lucky enough to experience three in a

tanned and faded with the ebb and flow

row. The end of August would swiftly ap-

of the tide. She licked her lips. They

proach and the words “good-bye” were

tasted of raspberries.

never spoken. Life would pause, shifting

Her saviors wished her a fond farewell

into neutral until the flowers of spring

and skittered off, perhaps searching out

would bloom again and the butterflies in

more travelers who had lost their way.

her stomach would flutter once more.

Now she had to walk. Every step caked

But on that fourth summer’s dawn she

more and more of the purple sand be-

realized that three summers is all that

tween the toes of her bare feet. Was she

she would get. She never saw him again.

always shoeless? Did they get lost along

In her head she believed that no one

the way? She could not remember.

would ever live up to his standard. Many

Before long the hole had eaten the sun

men were comparable in many different

and she was left stumbling ahead in th

ways but no feeling she shared with any

darkness, hands spread out before her as

of them ever matched up with the emo-

she blindly navigated this unknown land-

tions that she felt during three summers

scape. Torches blazed with blue fire and

in Maine before she was even of legal

she trekked heatedly toward her new des-

drinking age.


Maybe that was why every subsequent

She could hear the singing long before

union she had attempted failed. Her first

she could see him. It bellowed and ech-

and only ex-husband would devour

oed. The bass penetrated her chest

shredded cheese straight from the zip20

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

where she felt it in her guts. The sand be-

“Pretty lady…”

neath her feet began to bump.

“Fell from the sky…”

“I come from the ball where my little

“Big hands…”

fleas trot.

“Big feet…”

Where the moon is a wheel and the wa-

They buzzed and gossiped at levels too

ter churns hot.

low to decipher. The mass of tiny audio

We walk through the echoes where the

projectors created a terrifying din and

bloated gnats gnaw

she covered her ears.

And we sing to the crabs in the waves as

“I think I want to leave,” she told them.

they claw.”

“I think I want to go home now.”

Before her stood an enormous flea. He

The grandmaster of fleas nodded sadly.

was dressed in his best evening wear,

“You don’t like it here?” he asked her.

spinning a bejeweled cane like a lengthy baton. He tipped his top hat to her and

“It’s not that,” she assured him. “I just


don’t feel that I belong here.”

“How do you do, fair lady?”

The flea agreed. “Perhaps just a simple fox trot before you go?”

“Where am I?“ she asked. “How did I get

She nodded her head and took hold of


his outstretched claw. His brothers and

The flea smiled. His antennae twitched

sisters cheered and danced. The moon

rapidly. “I haven’t the foggiest notion.

spun. Together they sang.

Would you care to share a few steps with

She remained there for more than one


dance and when they were finished the

The flea’s average-sized brothers and sis-

flea whispered into her ear. His briskly

ters swarmed around him. Hundreds of

whiskers tickled her face and neck. He

thousands climbed on top of one an-

told her the meaning of life.

other, larva and pupa alike, arching their thoraxes to get a better look at their new

When she awoke she was in the middle


of Caracas, Venezuela watching a mos21

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

quito on the inside of her arm suck blood. She watched it fly away. How long had she been here? Was she asleep? Had it all been a dream? Fourteen hours ago she was on a plane to Caracas, Venezuela. In that period a lifetime had passed. Fourteen hours can seem like a lifetime. A lifetime can seem like fourteen hours. She thought back to what the giant flea had said to her in their final moments together, his top hat shifting from side to side as he readjusted his monocle, but she could not remember what it had been.


A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

Differences Of Expurgation by Evan Culbertson I remain a bit anxious about my next grilled cheese
 with such an extemporaneous precedent at my fingertips
 Jonas wants hummus, I need to steam a shirt
 and settle, settle, settle for a despicable calendar

Much like deleting old poems and papers, it’s hard
 to feel much worse or much cleaner – of all my fears,
 this may be the most unnecessary. “What priority does
 the project address? What is the justification for it?”

I just figured I’d toss it out 
 there like tossing cooked noodles at a kitchen cabinet
 (wood) which I find so vulgar (ignorance)
 but who’s going to pick up the angel hair

and be the wrong person to stand in the right spot 
 when the moon sank I called you
 and told you that Ke$ha was cleaner than expected
 but I washed my hands anyway (just in case). 
 la vie dans les sacs , anticipating fumigation
 there isn’t much of a place to return to today

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

forgo presentability and manifestos and come over 
 so we can watch that One Direction video for the fourteenth time. 
 Tricked again! I won’t call it a bike but
 we should leave the country. That would be fun.


A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

Red, And The Idea That A Color Could Be Angry. by Leah Baker 1. I was removed. Not born, but taken from

I lived in my brother’s shadow and hand

a womb by knife and doctor a month be-

me downs in the Winter’s house. There

fore I was ready to leave warmth and soli-

was no water or electric. And though I

tude. I had been planned and prayed for,

don’t remember those days, I have been

a brown eyed baby girl to grace my

often told that I never cried.

mother with chance. I have never been

We moved when I was four. Further into

my own person. Even my name is a left

the country and purgatory. Our closet

over from a member of the family, seem-

neighbor was a mile way, and rising

ingly given to me as an afterthought. 26

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

around on all sides of the large farm

formation to other people remained puz-

house corn fields blocked us from the

zles to me.

view of gravel roads.

I went to preschool. I was silent and dis-

My father worked at a factory. My

tracted to the point of concern. My

mother worked at Issac Ray, the ward

teacher decided to test me to see what

for the criminally insane at the State Hos-

was wrong with me. Deafness. Mute. Re-

pital. She spent an exhausting amount of

tarded. My mother was livid and insisted

time waning between manic and depres-

that the problem was not me, but them.

sive. I had tried to learn how to see the

They were treating me like a child. I was

difference. The manic mother would

not a child.

bake cookies and demand perfection.

There was an art project. We laid down

Nothing was good enough for the manic

on large pieces of paper and traced

mother. The depressive mother was ne-

around each other. I was outlined in

glectful. She would lay in bed and regale

thick red marker. They told us to draw,

us with the sad tale that no one would

inside the lines, what we wanted to be

ever care about us. How we felt. If we

when we grew up. I drew two large black

were alive or dead. We were nothing.

eyes. A black crooked line for a mouth.

I was a strange child. Sensitive. My

Nothing else.

mother saw this as a weakness and be-


gan to drill normalcy and control into my head.  Emotions were not meant to

Sadness is the first emotion I can clearly

be shared. Feelings were a dirty thing.

remember outside of need and want.

Children should be seen and not heard.

Mother had the idea that people could be

My brother seemed to be saved from the

trained like animals and took any fail-

lessons on how to behave like a normal

ures on my part as a personal attack. Fail-

person, his bright blue eyes and easy per-

ure meant the depressive mother would

sonality gathering him friends while I re-

settle cold eyes on me from across the

mained lonely and withdrawn. I didn’t

room. When I started first grade and be-

understand how people worked. Their

gan to once again show weirdness she

faces which seemed to give so much in-

sat me down told me how terribly sad I was making her. 27

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

I can see clearly a black and frozen night

further off set me from the other chil-

where my mother is fighting with my fa-

dren, and she needed me to be normal. I

ther. She is holding in a shaking hand

was caught reading during recess in the

onto a shrinking wrist a knife that is

furthest bathroom stall from the door.

cleanly reflecting the lights from the

The teacher called my mother concerned

open door. I am crying silently holding

that I was not being social enough with

my arms around my body dressed only

the other children. Mother burned my

in a pair of dirty white underwear. My fa-

books. I had learned not to cry by now.

ther takes pleading moments to beg me


to go inside where I will be warm. There is a gnawing hunger in my stomach and I

Silence has been a warm blanket. My

have been outside so long I have forgot-

most comforting of family and friends. It

ten what it feels like to have fingers. Two

never demanded more from me than I

days ago my manic mother had baked a

was able to give. It took each second I

cake for my birthday. There is blood all

was entrenched in it and would stare

over the car on the way to the hospital

wide eyed and friendly at me. Children

and am telling her stories to keep her

should be seen and not heard.

awake. My father drives way to fast.

Out a distance from the farm house with

When she comes home I am told that

the spacious rooms and creaking floors

this is what happens to people who are

was a small creak with a smattering of

strange. This is what happens to failures.

trees around it. It broke up the corn-

I must never be a failure. I must be per-

fields that seemed to expand with each

fect. I must be in control, one slipped mo-

day. Stretching into time, consuming the

ment is all it takes for everything to fall

world till nothing was left but the lonely

away like skin and flesh and the color of

home. I could disappear for hours with-

blood to stain the seat of a pickup truck

out notice. My dad worked long hours.

on a cold winter night.

My mother was either busy dying or cleaning. Or painting, molding clay, or

I had no friends in school, passing my

ignoring that we existed outside of blood

time with books in places that didn’t

and tears, and the occasional failure

have real names. Mother told me to

which must be swiftly punished.

never excel too much. My genius would 28

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

I found a dead dear along the side of the


creak when I was eight. Its flesh rotting

My great grandmother was a part of our

off and the skin sun bleached and dried

legacy of insanity. She was obsessed with

along the rib cage. I was instantly en-

owls; the wide watchful eyes of porce-

trance across the creek towards the

lain, plastic or metal would stare blankly

bones and the truth of them. Into the

into the rooms of her house thick with

cold water and mud on that hot summer

cigarette smoke. When I spent the night

day I moved down the shore until I could

I dreamt of all their heads spinning at

hold in my tiny hands the skull of the ani-

once before taking flight and chasing me

mal. The bottom jaw fell off splashing wa-

through the house and peeling my skin

ter and mud all over my face and cloths.

from my muscle. My muscles from my

One small hand gripping an antler and a

bone, in agonizing details and precision

smile on my muddy face.

removed while I slept on the couch lined

I could remember the first time I had

with dining room chairs to keep me from

seen real bone before. Six years old and

falling in the night. There are still nights

on a stretch of highway in early fall lit-

when I cannot sleep and when I close my

tered with broken glass and mangled

eyes I see mechanical owls staring at me

metal. The terrible smear of blood and

with hell in their eyes and my skin in

brains where the passenger had been

their beaks.

flown out of the front window and

She was dying when I was turning nine.

scraped face first along the road into on-

The summer was well into July and her

coming traffic. Their skull popping open

body was already in December. The hos-

as their face disappeared in seconds. The

pital buzzed a steady sound of beeps and

bones were not a clean white, but a red

electronic hums into her coffin lined

that shocked me and stays clear in my

with dire faces of mournful family mem-

head to this day.

bers. I sat alone in a chair in the corner,

Attempts were made in dirty water to

watching her face in the hollows between

make things clean, but at eight you lack

huddled family members. Her skin like

the knowledge. Rotten flesh clung desper-

paper over the bones, her mouth always

ately to the animals skull.

opens devoid of teeth, her eyes stereotypically sunk into the darkness sur29

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

rounding them accented by the lack of

lips and wonder if all open wounds felt

color in her flesh. When the doctors

the same to every person. If I pressed the

came the adults moved into the hallway

lies hard enough into my crooked teeth I

and I was left alone with the ghost of a

could taste fresh flowers of blood bloom-

woman. I remembered how she would

ing like bruises under pale skin.

stand and lean on the back of my great

I had stopped sleeping and would stay

grandfather’s chair and watch TV. I

awake for days. Words and pictures re-

never saw her sit.

playing in my head in a cascade of waves

When she looked at me I went to her

and foam like sea water on sand. Attack.

side and took her hand, now skeletal in

Retreat. Stuttering breathing and short

design with dark shadows cast from flo-

whimpers of desperation into an empty

rescent lights. She didn’t speak but in-

audience. More silence to grace my lies

stead stared at her hand in mine. There

that tomorrow wasn’t coming.

was a terrifying moment when I met her

I wondered how far expanded this dark-

eyes and I was too young to understand

ness would be in type face. Times New

what was happening. Her eyes so subtly

Roman. 12 point. Double spaced. A se-

changed. The alarms sounding might

ries of bold blacks against white eight by

have woke her from her sleep. I shook

eleven and half prayers folded and

her anyways, with a startled cry as I real-

placed where they would be found and

ized what was happening. My mother

read. The heavy foreign feeling of drugs

pushed me so hard away I fell onto the

dragging at my lungs and internal or-

floor under the feet of frantic nurses.

gans. My arms and legs ached with

I refused to cry when we buried her.

every effort under the heavy sedatives. No more nightmares.

5. If I was very still in my bed at night I could tell myself lies about the next day. The cold air from broken windows in winter chilling me through thin blankets layered on my naked form. I would press my fingers to my chapped and cracked 30

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

Walk by Katherine La Mantia I went to a shopping mall with my grand-

small, quick steps.” And I tried. It felt

mother when I was eight, and she gig-

alien and wrong and like I would lose my

gled behind me at how I walked. I asked

balance at any moment, but I tried. I

her what was so funny, and she said,

walked to the end of the aisle and back

“You walk just like your father. You walk

and looked up at her for her approval.

like a man.” That was news to me. I

She shrugged. “Better, I guess. But still

didn’t know there was a particular way

not very ladylike.” She smiled and put

girls were supposed to walk. She put me

her hand on my shoulder. “You’ll get the

on a straight line on the tile floor and

hang of it one day.” And I spent the rest

said, “Smaller, straighter. Ladies take

of that afternoon minding my feet, trying 31

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

to make every step fit squarely in the

dare their friends to ask you out and

middle of each floor tile.

girls snicker when they embarrass their guy friend by yelling out that he likes

I wore dresses almost exclusively until

you. It’s funny, because why would any-

the third grade, when my mother

body like you.

spanked me for the second and last time of her entire life to try and make me

branch out and try jeans. It worked, and

When I was twelve, I was jealous of the

I never touched another dress until my

way older girls shimmied down the hall-

senior year of high school. I wore black,

ways, hips swaying easily from side to

shapeless things most of the time, hiding

side as they walked. I was jealous that

my body under a Jack Skellington pull

they got double takes. And so I broke my

over I got at Disney Land. I forgot that

own rule and tried to try, again. I gave it

I’d ever liked sandals and socks with

a shot when I first saw my friends’

frills and skirts with matching patent

mother having lunch with them. I took a

leather belts. I forgot that there was a

few steps back and forth in the lunch

time when I would beg my mother to

line, adding a subtle bit of sway each

french braid my hair instead of wearing

time. Everyone else seemed to have it

it down in front of my face every day,

come naturally, but for me, I supposed,

and I wrinkled my nose at the mere

it would have to be a conscious effort.

thought of owning something pink. It

And I swore I was getting the hang of it

was better to be one of the guys, I

when Mrs. Chizmar came up and

thought. Better than trying to be a girl

clapped a hand on my shoulder. “Are

and not doing it right. I didn’t get boobs

you making fun of how I walk?” she

until too late, and was devastated when

joked. And from then on I only practiced

Jamie Belcher said to her friends, “I won-

in crowded hallways or in the reflection

der if she even wears a bra?” and peeked

of my backdoor windows at night. I

down the back of my shirt to check while

thought I was getting better, and so I

I pretended to be asleep on the bus. The

tried out a bit of hip movement in front

giggles cemented that idea for me. Yes, it

of my aunt, who laughed me all the way

was better to not try than to fail. Better

upstairs where I pretended the world

to pretend you don’t care when boys

was empty except for me. 32

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

I looked up how to walk, searching

weight of shame and guilt. Femininity

through diagrams and tips that made me

was not important as blending in with

feel sillier than I already was. The leg

the wall, being as small as possible. I

swings out easily from the hips, the

don’t know that I really walked at all, but

hands relaxed and fingers slightly

just went where the tide pulled me. I

curled. Chest up, chin out. Gaze

wasn’t one of the boys anymore. I didn’t

forward. And I repeated these words in

belong with the girls either. I barely ex-

my head like a mantra going from class

isted at all.

to class or tracing the path from the

I collected colors through the years. Pur-

kitchen to the living room to the stair-

ple and yellow and white and pure in-


digo and finally, the unthinkable, pink.

High school brought some colors. I wore

The most girly feminine pink in a lace

red and blue and green in-between bouts

dress with frills that made me smile

of black and gray and kept my hair all

whenever I wore it. I took in things with

the way down to the small of my back.

shorter hemlines and bolder prints and

Dainty shoes instead of sneakers and

cuts that hugged my silhouette. I traded

pretty purses instead of two dollar tote

skulls for flowers and my beloved Jack

bags. I was better at looking the part, but

Skellington pull over for an even more

I still cringed at how my hand looked

beloved cardigan until I looked one day

when I picked things up, how I bent and

and found a wardrobe and a person brim-

how I moved and how my mouth looked

ming with life. Now, I think, I walk a lit-

when I laughed and how my face

tle, straighter, a little taller, not afraid to

crushed together when I leaned on my

take up space. My grandmother would

hand in the middle of a boring class. I

be disappointed: I still take wide steps.

didn’t know how girls got their hair so

But my hips move however they like. My

smooth and straight that they could run

body demands a presence. I’d like to be

their fingers through it and it would fall

as big as possible to thrust myself upon

perfectly back into place. Touching mine

the world, to be bursting out of my own

only frizzed it up more. My first real rela-

skin with substance so people make way

tionship gave me hunched shoulders and

for me because I command it to be so

a shuffling gait, my spine heavy with the

without saying a word. Sometimes, I can33

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

not help but spy myself in a mirror, a reflection, in other people’s expressions, and I try to place my feet more carefully, to keep my steps even, to make sure my hips sway just so. The leg swings out easily from the hips, the hands relaxed and fingers slightly curled… But I can quiet these thoughts. I master them easily in the space between one step and the next. It doesn’t matter how I walk; what’s important is that I do. I walk.


A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

No More Ghosts Of Descartes by Christopher Schaeffer Have we spoken to Descartes?
 No, we haven’t.
 Terrifying shine on the underside
 of the ship he carried in his pocket
 for consultation and assurance,
 his tiny combs,
 his ice-skate ruptured at the seam,
 like an idiot,
 like a damn animal, or wheezing white cloud.

His feet slipping into elegance—
 this combat ontology—
 his mustache so hideous
 dragged across the lip,
 those bodies decked out
 in numerous arrows,
 as he saw them in pictures,
 those jars to jam a pair of fingers into
 swept up along the clean inner surface
 and dusted—

as green and blue objects
 becoming soft and abstract
 at the mouth of a river,
 as he saw it,

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

as a smaller cleaner reason
 erected in the space of a figure
 he could whistle about 
 or work through with his hands
 and instruments,
 looking carefully at and sucking in on
 loose hairs around his mouth
 with his body held back in abeyance
 I don’t need that now

working intently while drooling
 on his own white chest,
 and amazed at its total absence.

I don’t have any reason to address Descartes.
 Let’s call a figment a figment.
 I’ve met people who would like to kill him,
 or write his name on a board and strike it out.
 Dredge out and kiss upon his mystery skeleton,
 his brazen head with a horrible wig on top.
 his expression like worms.
 Descartes the bones of a vanishing coin,
 an invisibility potion spilled on a grown-man’s bib.
 They want his body to be underground,
 his body in a jar forever,
 soft flesh
 like a human vapor
 doing sword-moves 

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

at its subject,
 at its shedding campaign
 of sweat and teeth and permanent 
 sumptuary mess.


A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

Ignorance And Idealization by Sabrina Kulka There’s a picture of me at age twenty that

I had almost forgotten of this picture’s ex-

exists in a folder, in a desk, in the bed-


room of a boy I used to love. It once

In it, I am naked, one knee up on a bed,

hung in a college photography class exhi-

one hand supporting myself as I lean for-

bition for a few weeks; it once hung on

ward, the other reaching towards the

the wall of an apartment in a second

camera. My hair, uncombed and wavy,

world country for the better part of a

is shoulder-length. My smile is genuine;


my slightly open mouth suggests I may

He hands the black and white photo-

be mid-laugh. I look happy.

graph to me one night, grinning. Upon

This girl, seemingly unconcerned despite

seeing it, I cover my eyes, overwhelmed

her lack of clothing and a lens being

with embarrassment. It had been almost

pointed at her, is a stranger to me. I feel

three years since I had seen it last, al-

betrayed by the confidence evident in

most three years since it had been taken. 38

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

her open shoulders and her wide smile; I

ourselves. We listened to Wilco’s Yankee

feel more vulnerable looking at this im-

Hotel Foxtrot on repeat, to which he

age than she appears to be as the subject

made a reference in a poem he wrote me

of it.

six months later. In that bed, I saw him cry mid-salvia-trip as he struggled to

It was taken one night in late April of

write his name on a page in his note-

that year, both photographer and subject

book. In that bed, I cried anytime he re-

wine-drunk, naked, and giggling.

minded me that he would be leaving

It was taken in my bedroom at the time,


my favorite bedroom I’ve ever had.

It was taken a long time ago, I think

There were two windows that were more

sadly, knowing that the “me” who is pic-

than half the length of the wall that my

tured here is the “me” he is still in love

bed was up against, through which sun-

with. Then, I was more willing to expose

light burst during the day, and moon-

myself, to rid myself of self-doubt, to al-

light later shone even when the shades

low myself to believe what he said about

were drawn tight. The windowsills were

my condition: that mental illness wasn’t

full of books, the bookshelves full of gifts

real, that depression was an excuse I

from him.

made for myself so I didn’t have to try

It was taken from my bed, and appropri-

the things that frightened me, that I

ately so: it was, more specifically than

could be functional without medication.

that room itself, the setting for most of

He said he saw my potential and encour-

our relationship that spring. In that bed,

aged me to realize it myself. He believed

we read out loud to each other from Pa-

in me, and because he did, I did, too.

blo Neruda’s Los Versos Del Capitán,

I know that now, the parts of me that he

both the Spanish and the English transla-

has always found frustrating are pushing

tions. We thumbed through a large book

him away; the illness to which he pro-

of black and white photographs entitled

posed I “just be happy” as a legitimate so-

Mexico: Through Foreign Eyes, imagin-

lution renders me lethargic and weepy

ing the day we could go to Puebla to visit

and irritable, making me a less than de-

my mother’s side of the family before set-

sirable candidate for partnership. I know

ting off to explore the rest of the country

that he would rather ignore that there 39

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

might be something wrong with me, pick

me, to never again define myself by my

and choose the characteristics about me

relationship to and with another person,

that he likes best, and at the very least,

and to never again let anybody take a pic-

remember me the way I appear in that

ture of me naked.

photograph. I know that, after three long years of trying to be, who I am is not who he wants me to be. Everything is different now, I think as I give the photograph back to him. It will never again be the way that it was. We spend one more night together. When I get home the next day, I take two of the postcards he had sent me while he was away down from my bedroom wall and read them again. Yours, he had signed them. I wonder if he had ever truly thought of himself in that context—as mine—the way I had thought of myself as his, letting myself adopt the idea that belonging to someone else was a significant part of who I was. How could I have not? The way that he addressed me frequently had affectionate overtones of possession: my gypsy woman, my little gremlin, Sabrinichka mía. I put the postcards in a shoebox, put the box in my closet, and close the door. I vow to myself to never again allow another person’s perception of me to define 40

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

Condiments by Jessica Hiestand the chicken skin on my forearm
 the oily coffee beans I press into my eyelids
 I could drown in a claw-foot bathtub 
 but I always forget to love things

trees aren’t objectively boring 
 but the Big Bang would probably
 become boring if you watched it
 every day for twenty-one years

I smell like the millennium
 I don’t use a bathrobe but I pretend to
 my hair will be prettier when it falls out

two years ago in Boston Commons 
 a man approached me 
 to tell me I was very beautiful
 and it made me feel like a glass bottle
 full of sugar cubes

we were going to watch Koyaanisqatsi
 we were going to watch the moon turn into salt
 we were going to spell it wrong 42

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

 when I get anxious 
 I spin a hair tie around my middle finger

I am pregnant with rituals,
 I am ancient as wine.


A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

The Enlightenment Of A Well Traveled Soul by Romilia Barryman I knew of a boy who spent his whole life

way their hearts and mind succinctly

avoiding himself. He slept with his head-

share the same calm? The idea that

phones on so the music could feed him

things simply are, the general acceptance

thoughts he was certain he would never

towards everything imaginable; does it

think up of. And I thought about this

happen without the infuse of communal

when I was trying to trap the bokeh of

and personal spiritual fullness fasting in

the sunlit bamboo shack through the

Ramadhan brings? And what if mistakes

clicks of my camera. If you grow up

were set in stone for us to love ourselves

spending volumes of silence with strong,

more? I sat with an empty pocketed drug

centered souls in South India’s dry

addict one winter morning. The sun

heated madness, is it enough to breathe

shone softly enough to remind us of kind-

the same air to subconsciously store the

ness, while our condensation of words 44

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

evaporated visibly between us. I could’ve

half of the first step - the rest is to create

sworn he was only acting unhappy be-

a self-induced amnesia to listen proper.

cause society condemned him to be so.

And if your family breaks seemingly to

And, I mean, for veins so intoxicated, his

the point of no repair, would you offer

mind seemed so clean; equipped with

yourself as a wrench to the problem or

the idea that things simply were, a gen-

would your pride refuse to sacrifice your

eral acceptance towards everything uni-

happiness for the cause? I took six years

maginable. If you push the endurance of

and countless relapses before I could

your thought processes to find calm

step back and see how beautifully strong

among the shattered lives of East Van’s

we all progressed – how our foundation

exiles, is it enough to breathe the same

of sand was simply cement waiting for

air to subconsciously build a sanctuary

water. That’s what all people are, really;

in the depth of someone else? There are

cement waiting for water. But some look

those who can see details and there are

at the cloud of thoughts of others and

those who feel them like braille. What

wait a lifetime for rain, not knowing if

happens to regrets when you have those

they look up, they’d see their own burst-


ing to create thunderstorms.

time moments? I tried to give everything to someone who was trying to exhaust my energy and emotions because he was convinced it was easier to fill an empty bottle. But a man who is a bottle can never change that who is a book. And that who is a book may wet and destroy their pages by conversing with a bottle, but having to rewrite and update thoughts is never time wasted. And debates are futile at times. They don’t discuss those microscopic facts you would only know if you allow yourself to become her. Walking in shoes is only the 45

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

Brasstown by E.W. Certain I have laid out twenty two years
 on the Brasstown bridge,
 each memento evenly spaced
 by ten centimeters from
 edge to edge. And I have laid myself down in front of them,
 face towards the rusting arches,
 head to one end and feet to the other. I have taken your skin
 out from under the floor boards
 and cleaned it, doing away with
 the strangulation marks upon your neck
 from the guitar strings. Tacked on the letters to your fingernails,
 polished with alcohol and organized round you,
 and I know how flat you are in comparison. I wonder if the blinking aerials
 of the cooling towers of Duke
 can be approached from the base
 of the valley where this
 river runs through. Day's time by walking, you think?
 Ah, you were never as much of a speaker
 as you had claimed. 46

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

I can hear the train marching,
 and it is heading for us.
 Should I get off the bridge?
 What direction should I go?
 Shall you glide me down? And as I had contemplated my place
 on the Brasstown bridge,
 the Westward wind swept you away. Muffled by grinding steel,
 flesh torn into schematics,
 I could not see you float
 into the mountains that had 
 swelled around our arrangement. How I am unfortunately caught in long visits
 with harmonic creatures,
 heavenly bodied and longing for Eden. They say outside these gardens
 are arid imitations and
 sickened beasts,
 but I am likened
 to disagree.


A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

Girl by Vivienne Mah Where you are not is standing at the

Where you are is curled, fetal, in the pul-

edge of a beach, with the water lapping

sating cave of your mind because in

at your toes like some faithful mutt and

these hours, these momentous moments

one friend's fingers entwined perfectly in

where time is suspended and your face

yours. Where you should be is in the

eroded away by confusion alone, reality

white confines of your shrink's second

ceases to exist. There are demons that

best office, the not-detestable, not-loved

stalk these passageways with every inten-

man sitting before you in his spotted tie

tion of plunging razor-sharp claws into

and grey slacks nibbling on the end of

where your metaphorical chest should

his pen like plastic and poison is his


bread and butter. 48

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

You want fresh water, life giving water

close them and cover your face, cover

and cold air to sting your eyes so that

your pores, because all that abnormality

you cannot see that the shadows are still

of girl-love is seeping into you and you

moving and you are sure that the trees

could choke on your disease.

are reaching towards you with their spin-

Your parents have taught you about a lit-

dly fingers. You want the world to rob

tle red man that sits on your shoulder

you of your oxygen so that you cannot

and flashes in fluorescent shades when it

blame your own lungs for deflating

is inappropriate for you to cross, but

within your chest, you want the yellow of

dancing on the edge of oblivion runs

your skin to wash away in the water and

pure bliss in a shade you can't identify

your blood to turn to ice so you cannot

through your veins. As does the feel of a

recall you are bound to a name that disre-

woman's hair, soft and silken in between

gards the buzzing in your brain as a

your fingers and at times crisp from the

weakness, not an illness. It's longing that

dye they've run through it to destroy

brings humanity, and by God you long

what's not appropriate, or stubble-like,

for it, a second heartbeat that desires nor-

shorn close to their scalp. Nausea's set

malcy thrumming underneath your skin.

up tent in the pit of your stomach at the

There are nails clawing against your

thought you're touching another that pos-

wrist and it takes you a moment to real-

sesses the same swell of flesh and softer

ize that you are gouging the numbers of

curve, down below, that you have. Yet

the girl you loved deep into your skin,

your fingers find a way there nonethe-

drawing red as proof that the paper

less, and you are thinking of the down-

masks your parents wear are not enough

wards angle of your mother's face and

to transform you into their China doll.

the lines you will put on that high fore-

Your teacher once said there was a man

head when you have mashed your own

in a book who brought entertainment to

flesh into the angles of another woman's,

the crazy masses one nurse lorded over,

you are thinking of what you should not

but you're losing words now, spiraling


away into characters and jagged lines

These guilty pleasures are what colours

that possess hot maws that come to rav-

your waking hours and the thought of

age you and you close your eyes, close,

them sustains them like a pill would a 49

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

junkie. You make the comparisons as a

bedroom when you haven't put up the

prayer: there are worse, there are worse,

drapes and wound open the window to

there are worse, and breath comes easier

let a change of air enter. And again, you

when the weight is displaced to a lie. You

are vividly aware that this is not a fight

are well aware you should stop, that the

you want. You want complacency, you

shadows will only grow longer the more

want decency, you want the clear eyes

hours you count towards your deceit, but

and forward gaze your sisters possess.

some nutters choose to take the weight of the world on their shoulders and lug it around with them as proof that they are

Not this. Not this heady combination of


certain oblivion and a slow drive towards a balance of lies, late nights and too


much tequila to justify it when your

And God, kissing. You made a poem

pulse picks up at exposed belly and dark

about it once, scrawled it hastily down in

hair piled high upon a Cherokee girl's

jagged lettering. 'Kissing is nice, kissing

head. You do not want that raw hunger

is good, I'd do it all day if I could.' There

that tugs you away from the life you have

is some sick pleasure to be found in the

been gifted with, should sustain, you do

knowledge your father prides himself in

not want sex to dull the senses.

his butterfly-light touches, when you

Someone says, 'this is Australia. We ac-

alone know the power a tongue dug deep

cept anything here.' You are entitled to

into another's mouth can evoke, know

scoff, make that harsh sound at the base

how the exposed hollow at the base of a

of your throat that sounds like it could

throat is not a weakness, it's a gift that al-

be a sob if you cared to let the wet slip

lows you to feel the fluttering of exis-

through. Your lungs are, after all, al-

tence that's pressed fiercely against

ready working in that position. They un-

when a savior presses against your wrist

derestimate you if they think you'll sob.

and throat. Strongest in that hollow, too.

You've learnt the rigidity of a stiff back,

Yet. Yet you still crumple when you go

locked jaw. You've the benefit of smaller

home and catch that waft of day-old

eyes: who can fathom the depths of an

clothing and the heat that lingers in your

iris when to peer into it is to get too close 50

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

into the space of a woman who cares for impersonality? Your love comes with and is for the tide, red or blue. Calls you in as it's called to the moon and away. Thrumming, throbbing, a beat runs through you that's tied to the entire history of you, not the dreaded germ that's infected you to become a creature an old woman doesn't know.


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A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

Irrational Sonnet by T.S.A.D. Ang Lee, envious of anorexics,
 had a zebra and a tiger and a raft made of sticks
 to contend with. Enough for one man's plate.

The zebra had to fill in lots of forms,

a blasting wind of paperwork that ate
 the striped horizon. None of Ang Lee's tricks
 could overcome the hoof-to-pen logistics
 to cash in on and eat it—what a fate!

When Ang came in, his skinny little arms

stacked with apples, the zebra had no qualms
 with signing envelopes: "How I could faint
 at the joy I find in fruit but not in forms!"
 He took the zebra's forms with upturned palms
 and pleased all. Ang the tiger, Ang the saint.


A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

“Wake Up Apache, You’ll Sleep The Day Away,” by Joe Richardson the Woman said. “And you’ll never make money sleeping this late.” The bundle of blankets on the bed moved. A hairy arm stuck out and reached into the drawer of the nightstand. The Woman chuckled. She moved closer to the bed. The arm pulled a black pistol out of the drawer. The gun pointed toward the source of the noise. The finger squeezed the trigger. The Woman howled in pain. Apache threw the blankets away. He still gripped the smoking gun. He scanned the room. It was empty. The Woman’s sobs followed him as he stormed out of the bedroom. 54

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He avoided the piles of books and magazines. He dodged the heaps of discarded food and cigarette containers. He kicked through the scattered masses of crumpled up newspapers. He scooped the mix of dirty and clean clothes off the couch and sat down. He dropped the pistol on the coffee table and reached for a box of cigarettes. Empty. He reached for another one. Empty. He searched through the other boxes on the table. Each one was empty. He picked up his jacket from the floor and hunted through the pockets. He pulled out one bent cigarette from a crumpled pack. He pulled a lighter from the pocket of his pants. He flicked on the flame, lit the tip, and inhaled the smoke. “When will you learn that never works,” The Woman said. “You’ll always be stuck with me.” Apache picked the TV remote up off the table. The small television flickered on. A woman with platinum blonde hair sat in front of a silhouette of the Capital. She spoke directly to the camera. “People of the Southern Sector continue to battle Corporate troops in the streets. A leader of the revolts, Ajax, was executed this morning. Troops are preparing for a retaliation at some point in the future.” A picture of a young man appeared in a box above the woman’s shoulder. “Wasn’t Ajax that simple kid who lived upstairs with his sister? He couldn’t lead a line to the bathroom,” she said. “They had to execute someone,” Apache said. “He was probably just caught outside during the riots and hauled away.” “You would have been furious back before you were on the Corporation’s payroll,” she said. “Why do you care?” he said. “You hate anyone that’s flesh and blood.” “I care about you,” she said. “Poor Apache, you never had a marble to lose.” Apache pulled a small silver case out of his pocket. He dropped out two circular pills into his palm and popped them into his mouth. “Those never work for long,” she said. 55

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

Apache closed his eyes and waited for the pills to kick in. Junkies called it Serenity. It was a purgatory between life and death. Hours of seeing, hearing, thinking and feeling nothing. Bliss in a pill. Hours of peace. He came to with a jolt. He gasped for air. He struggled against imaginary waves trying to drown him. He coughed, hunched over and fell to the floor. He tried to breach the surface of an all-consuming black pool where faces of devils and ghouls whirled around him. He shook uncontrollably. He vomited on the floor. He pulled himself into a sitting position trying to come down. He looked at the large window. The sun was gone. “It’s disgusting when you come back from your trip,” the Woman said. There were two loud knocks on the door. The Woman screeched. “Get up, Apache. We got one!” Apache crawled to the door and pulled himself up. He unlocked the series of deadbolts. No one was there. There was a large manila envelope on the floor. He sat on the couched and cleared the debris from the coffee table. Piles of empty cigarette packs and books fell to the floor. He tore open the envelope and pulled out a stack of papers and several bundles of cash. He thumbed through the pages and pulled out a photograph. “She’s pretty,” the Woman said. The lady in the photograph had black hair and bright blue eyes. “What’d she do?” “Her name is Circe Reynolds. Twenty-eight years old. Works as a Corporate personal assistant in the Capital. Lives in building 2B in one of the fourteenth floor penthouses number 1428,” Apache said. “Now how do you suppose she can afford that kind of place on an assistant’s pay?” He flipped through more pages. “Hello,” he said. “Looks like she was not being a very good girl. She is currently the sexual companion of a few men- and women- on the Corporation’s board of directors. And she is apparently threatening to go public with this series of affairs.” 56

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

“She’s not a very smart extortionist,” the Woman said. “That she is not,” he replied. He pulled one more sheet from the stack. “She should be home right now,” he said. “We better get moving.” Apache pulled on a dirty shirt and a ratty jacket. He checked the bullets in the pistol and slipped it into his pocket. He reached under the couch and pulled out a metal box. He pulled his identification papers from it and stuffed them into his jacket pocket. He dropped some of the bundles of cash inside and put it back under the couch. He picked up the manila envelope and slipped the papers back into it. He dropped the package down the incinerator shaft near the door. The hallway smelled like urine, cigarettes and booze. A junky sat under a flickering light. His closed eyelids twitched and his lips twisted into a strange smile. Apache passed him and stepped onto the elevator. The car shook all the way down. The cables groaned and nearly drowned out the hisses and pops from the old speaker. He hit the side of the box with his fist. Music- expert hands moving along the keys of a piano replaced the pops and hisses. “Mozart,” he said. “What?” said the Woman. “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,” he said. “He was a composer centuries ago. My dad used to play this song when I was a kid. I wish I could remember what it was called.” “Sounds boring,” she said. The elevator jerked to a stop on the ground floor. The pops and hissing returned. A man sat at a desk behind bulletproof glass in the lobby. He was a mountain of flesh wrapped in a dirty tee shirt. His eyes were glued to a small television on his desk. “Rent’s late, Apache,” he said without looking up. 57

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

Apache went to the desk and slid two fresh bills into a small hole near the bottom of the glass. “Enjoy,” he said.

“I hate him,” the Woman said. “We should do him in too.” “There’s no money in it,” Apache said. He pushed the lobby doors open. Loudspeakers outside announced curfew. A young couple- sucking each other’s faces and feeling each other’s bodies- stumbled into a nearby building. For a moment the streets were empty. Apache stood on a corner near the checkpoint. A gentle breeze swirled around him. He heard a cadence of marching boots. A Jeep turned the corner up ahead. A man shouted into a bullhorn, “Curfew is in effect. All people must return to their homes. Anyone found on the street will be dealt with severely.” He repeated this mantra as the Jeep rumbled past. A column of helmeted Corporate troops with guns at the ready followed the vehicle. The buttons on their dark coats sparkled under the streetlights. Apache kept his head down and hurried to the checkpoint. Four men stood guard at the checkpoint. Two blocked the passage into the capital and two more hid behind sand bags with heavy guns pointed toward the South Sector. “Papers,” said one of the checkpoint guards. Apache handed him his identification and Corporate approval documents. “Go ahead,” the man said. He waved Apache through. Something happened when he crossed into the capital. One of the roving Jeeps exploded, lighting up the night. The men at the checkpoint readied their weapons. Alarms sounded. The columns of troops broke rank. Men and women darted out of alleys and buildings. They were armed with pistols and knives and hatchets. People from the windows of of buildings rained down Molotov cocktails onto groups of soldiers. Explosions and the staccato of gunfire split the air. Apache watched from the safety of the capital as the rioters were cut down. He saw Corporation troops hacked to pieces by 58

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

dissidents. Apache smelled the blood in the air. He heard the screams of the dying. A rioter ran toward the checkpoint. He was cut to shreds by the big guns.

Apache walked away from the carnage and deeper into the capital. Citizens of the capital sat at outdoor cafes swapping stories with friends. Music flowed from open windows and mixed in the air. People wandered the streets drunk and happy. In the distance, the Corporation’s Headquarters shone like a beacon. Building 2B was identical to the other white, fourteen story buildings that surrounded the Corporation’s headquarters. The lobby was flooded with light from chandeliers. The walls and floors were marble and shining elevators lined the walls. “Beethoven,” he said as the elevator carried him smoothly to the top floor. The piano music filled the car. “Ludwig Van Beethoven.” “If only your job was to remember the names of dead musicians playing in elevators,” the Woman said. “I bet she screams. I bet she begs for her life.” There was glee in her voice. “You’re sick,” he said. The doors opened with a ding. Apache’s shoes made deep imprints in the thick, luxurious carpet. The muffled sounds of dinner parties and families gathering around the television sets for the Corporation’s evening broadcast emanated from behind the closed doors. “Think anyone will notice,” the Woman said. “They never do,” he said. 1438 was at the end of the hall. Apache pressed his ear against the door. Silence. Apache gripped the pistol in his pocket. He rested his finger gently on the trigger. He knocked. Nothing. He knocked again louder. Nothing. He banged his fist on the door until he heard a voice on the other side. He heard a dead bolt slide away and the clink of a chain being undone. 59

A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

The door swung open. A naked man with tired eyes stood in the doorway. “What do you want?” Apache hesitated. “Who is it?” A woman’s voice called from somewhere inside. “I’m handling it,” he shouted back to the disembodied voice. Apache pressed the barrel of his gun against the back of the naked man’s head. he squeezed the trigger. The bullet burrowed into the man’s skull. The ringing in Apache’s ears caused by the gunshot stifled the sound of crunching bone and tearing viscera. The naked corpse fell forward with a thud. Apache dragged the body into the penthouse and closed the door. He saw her out of the corner of his eye. He swung and pointed the gun at her. She was the spitting image of her picture. She wore a black, thin robe that shimmered under the light. She looked at the body on the floor. Her thin face showed no emotion. But Apache saw something in her eyes that he knew all too well. “She’s scared,” the Woman said. “I’m sorry about your friend,” Apache said. She stared at the gun in his hand. “So what is it that you want?” she slid the robe off her shoulders. It fell to the floor in a heap around her ankles. Apache’s eyes roamed over the contours of her body. He drank in every curve and every inch of exposed flesh. “Sorry,” he said. He pulled the trigger twice. Two bullets tore into her chest. She collapsed. Her face contorted in pain. She tried to suck in gasps of air. He fired once more into her head. Her body fell limp. “What a rush,” the Woman said as the elevator slid to the ground floor. “I never get over the excitement. You’re hands are still shaking.”


A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

Apache shoved his hands into his pockets. He slipped through the capital and across the checkpoint unnoticed. The corporate troops lifted body bags into trucks and led lines of handcuffed rioters to the outskirts of the Sector.

“Poor bastards,” the Woman said. Apache passed the landlord asleep in the lobby. The elevator smelled like fresh vomit and urine. The speaker hissed and popped all the way up. The junky was still there. he slumped down under the light. His lips formed silent words and his eyelids twitched. Apache hesitated at his door. He glanced around the hallway. He pulled the gun from his pocket. The door was cracked down the middle. He gingerly pushed it open. He stepped into his dark apartment. He reached for the light switch. Apache heard a gunshot. He felt a hot pain in his lower back. He fell to the ground. His gun slid across the floor. He tried to crawl toward it. The shooter rolled him over onto his back.

He heard the Woman scream. She wailed and sobbed.

“Don’t go. I’m not ready.” The shooter fired again. Apache felt the bullet enter his chest. He gasped for air. The shooter stepped over Apache. He heard his murderer walk down the hall and climb onto the elevator. The Woman whimpered between sobs, “Good night, Apache.” As the darkness closed in, Apache could hear music. “Mozart,” he whispered. His eyes closed and he was still.


A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4


A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

Year Of The Delted Xanga by Christopher Rife Homer Simpson: Where are we going sir?
 Mr. Burns: To create a new and better world.
 Home Simpson: If it’s on the way, could you drop me off at my house?

The latest polls indicate
 days when fourteen people
 could be considered your best friend
 are most missed. These numbers are
 as rebellious as my tongue can paint.
 I want bitter cobwebs
 off my deleted walk.
 I need a practical use for geometry.
 I’m up with single mothers, 
 down six points in the crucial
 showers-at-night demographic.
 Under bridges where I spray
 paint cartoon characters
 instead of beer like my friends,
 I found shame in soft rebellion.
 Now I stir it into my coffee.
 This is a big decision, so I 
 better daydream on it.
 Maybe I’m misattributing, but
 there are things the electorate 
 should never understand.


Contributors POETRY Amy Harrison B.D. T.S.A.D. Christopher Schaeffer Evan Culbertson E.W. Certain Christopher Rife Jessica Hiestand

PROSE Brittney Dussault Vivienne Mah Joe Richardson Leah Baker Michael Williams Schmidt Logan Ellis Katherine La Mantia Romilia Barryman Sabrina Kulka


A L I TER ATI ON VO L . 2 / 2 0 1 4

Acknowledgments Special thanks to all the Tumblr writers who submitted to us; all the Tumblr lit editors who featured us; all the Tumblr lit journals who supported us; all the Tumblr bloggers who reblogged us; all the Tumblr readers who read us; and all the Tumblr peoples.

-A Literation Staff


A Literation, Volume 2  

A collective of original prose and poetry from writers who post on Tumblr.

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