Crab Orchard Review
In this volume:
in print since 1995
ISSN 1083-5571 $14.00
20 Years: Writing About 1995 – 2015
CR AB ORCH AR D
published by the Department of English
$14.00us Vol. 20 No. 2
9 771083 557101
Michael Marberry Peter Marcus mariana mcdonald Cate McGowan Erika Meitner J.M. Miller Linda Downing Miller Erika Mueller Jed Myers Mary Elizabeth Parker Alison Pelegrin Stephen Pett Geoffrey Philp Christine Potter Christine Rhein Liz Robbins Brent Royster Linwood Rumney Nicholas Samaras Rikki Santer Rion Amilcar Scott Lisa Sewell Martha Silano Jay Sizemore Karen Skolfield J.D. Smith Susan B.A. Somers-Willett JeFF Stumpo Matt Sumpter Brent Taylor Spring Ulmer Mark Wagenaar Scott Woods Lauren Yates
Volume 20, Number 2 Summer/Fall 2015
Tariq al Haydar Joy Arbor Roger Bonair-Agard Shevaun Brannigan Amy Knox Brown Andrea Carter Brown Stephanie Carpenter Cortney Lamar Charleston Susanna Childress Tiana Clark Heidi Czerwiec Jim Daniels Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach Amy Elisabeth Davis Ann V. DeVilbiss Jehanne Dubrow Hannah Ensor Brett Foster Megan Giddings Carmen R. Gillespie D. Gilson Gail Goepfert Kari Gunter-Seymour Jennifer Hancock Jeff Hardin Laura Haynes Erin Hederman Julie Henson Erin Hoover Tom C. Hunley Elizabeth W. Jackson Laurie Clements Lambeth Jenna Le Brigitte Leschhorn Alexander Long
Crab Orchard Review
A B ORCH AR R C D •
A B ORCH AR R C D •
A Journal of Creative Works
Vol. 20 No. 2
“Hidden everywhere, a myriad leather seed-cases lie in wait…” —“Crab Orchard Sanctuary: Late October” Thomas Kinsella Editor & Poetry Editor Allison Joseph
Founding Editor Richard Peterson
Prose Editor Carolyn Alessio
Managing Editor Jon Tribble
Editorial Interns Teresa Dzieglewicz Chelsey Harris
Assistant Editors K Brattin Toni Judnitch Laura Ruffino Mary Kate Varnau
SIU Press Interns Philip Martin Alyssha Nelson Board of Advisors Ellen Gilchrist Charles Johnson Rodney Jones Thomas Kinsella Richard Russo
Summer/Fall 2015 ISSN 1083-5571
Special Assistants Brent Glays Drew Hemmert John McCarthy
The Department of English Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Address all correspondence to:
Crab Orchard Review
Department of English Faner Hall 2380 - Mail Code 4503 Southern Illinois University Carbondale 1000 Faner Drive Carbondale, Illinois 62901 Crab Orchard Review (ISSN 1083-5571) is published twice a year by the Department of English, Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Subscription rates in the United States for individuals are $25 for one year, $40 for two years, $50 for three years; the foreign rate for individuals is $40 for one year. Subscription rates for institutions are $28 for one year, $56 for two years, and $84 for three years; the foreign rate for institutions is $48 for one year. Single issues are $12 (please include an additional $10 for international orders). Copies not received will be replaced without charge if notice of nonreceipt is given within four months of publication. Six weeks notice required for change of address. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Crab Orchard Review, Department of English, Faner Hall 2380 Mail Code 4503, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, 1000 Faner Drive, Carbondale, Illinois 62901. Crab Orchard Review considers submissions from February through April, and August through October of each year. Please visit our website, CrabOrchardReview.siu.edu, for the latest guidelines, calls for submissions, and contest information. Most of our submissions are now through CrabOrchardReview.submittable.com, so please do not send submissions via postal mail unless you are certain we are open for postal submissions at that time. Crab Orchard Review accepts no responsibility for unsolicited submissions and will not enter into correspondence about their loss or delay. Copyright © 2015 Crab Orchard Review Permission to reprint materials from this journal remains the decision of the authors. We request Crab Orchard Review be credited with initial publication. The publication of Crab Orchard Review is made possible with support from the Chancellor, the College of Liberal Arts, and the Department of English of Southern Illinois University Carbondale; and through generous private and corporate donations. “Printed by the authority of the State of Illinois,” 18 June 2015, 4200 copies printed, order number 117496. Lines from Thomas Kinsella’s poem “Crab Orchard Sanctuary: Late October” are reprinted from Thomas Kinsella: Poems 1956-1973 (North Carolina: Wake Forest University Press, 1979) and appear by permission of the author. Crab Orchard Review is indexed in Humanities International Complete. Visit Crab Orchard Review’s website:
Crab Orchard Review and its staff wish to thank these supporters for their generous contributions, aid, expertise, and encouragement: Barb Martin, Karl Kageff, Amy J. Etcheson, Bridget Brown, Lynanne Page, Angela Moore-Swafford, Wayne Larsen, and Kristine Priddy of Southern Illinois University Press Bev Bates, Heidi Estel, David Lingle, Kathy Reichenberger, Joyce Schemonia, Kelly Spencer, and Bernadette Summerville Shaylin Carlton, Rebekah Durig, Chloe Hesler, and Sarah Jilek Dr. Elizabeth Klaver (chair), Pinckney Benedict, Beth Lordan, Judy Jordan, Scott Blackwood, and the rest of the faculty in the SIUC Department of English Division of Continuing Education SIU Alumni Association The Graduate School The College of Liberal Arts The OfďŹ ce of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost The Southern Illinois Writers Guild
Crab Orchard Review is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.
Crab Orchard Review wishes to express its special thanks to our generous Charter Members/Benefactors, Patrons, Donors, and Supporting Subscribers listed on the following page whose contributions make the publication of this journal possible. We invite new Benefactors ($500 or more), Patrons ($200), Donors ($100), and Supporting Subscribers ($50) to join us. Supporting Subscribers receive a one-year subscription; Donors receive a two-year subscription; Patrons receive a three-year subscription; and Benefactors receive a lifetime subscription. Address all contributions to:
Crab Orchard Review Department of English Faner Hall 2380 - Mail Code 4503 Southern Illinois University Carbondale 1000 Faner Drive Carbondale, Illinois 62901
CHARTER MEMBERS*/BENEFACTORS John M. Howell* Rodney Jones Richard Jurek Joseph A. Like Greg & Peggy Legan* Beth L. Mohlenbrock* Jane I. Montgomery* Ruth E. Oleson* Richard “Pete” Peterson Peggy Shumaker
Dan Albergotti Carolyn Alessio & Jeremy Manier Anonymous Pinckney & Laura Benedict Edward Brunner & Jane Cogie* Linda L. Casebeer Noel Crook Dwayne Dickerson* Jack Dyer* Joan Ferrell* John Guyon*
PATRONS Robert E. Hayes Chris Kelsey Jesse Lee Kercheval Lisa J. McClure Anita Peterson
Eugenie & Roger Robinson Nat Sobel Betty Tribble David & Laura Tribble Clarisse Zimra
DONORS Lorna Blake Chris Bullard Heidi Czerwiec Charles Fanning Jewell A. Friend John & Nancy Jackson Reamy Jansen Rob & Melissa Jensen Elisabeth & Jon Luther
Charlotte and Gabriel Manier Lee Newton William Notter Lisa Ortiz Ricardo Pau-Llosa Lucia Perillo Angela Rubin Hans H. Rudnick William E. Simeone
SUPPORTING SUBSCRIBERS Joan Alessio Joanna Christopher K.K. Collins Corrine Frisch John & Robin Haller Zdena Heller Karen Hunsaker Lee Lever
Charlotte McLeod Peggy & Albert Melone Nadia Reimer Lee Robinson Catherine Rudnick Peter Rutkoff Victoria Weisfeld
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Volume 20, Number 2
Editor’s Prologue: Twenty Years
Fiction Amy Knox Brown Megan Giddings
A Recipe for Mice
I Invented Longing
Linda Downing Miller
The Elizabeth Smart Memorial Hike
Rion Amilcar Scott
The Legend of Ezekiel Marcus
Why Aren’t You Dancing?
Nonfiction Prose Tariq al Haydar
Laurie Clements Lambeth
A Good Twenty Years
Ghosts March in Ferguson, MO
Poetry Joy Arbor
When God Chose Love over Truth
In which Jay-Z asks me to come back to Brooklyn
Shevaun Brannigan Andrea Carter Brown Cortney Lamar Charleston
Getting Out the Vote
“Still Life with Torso of Cornrowed Neo-Soul Sanger”
Ten Long Weeks at Sea
An Ode to Iron Chef
Filling Out the Health Evaluation Questionnaire Tough Guys on Facebook Declaring Bankruptcy
Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach
For the Journalists Who Write About Ukraine
Amy Elisabeth Davis Ann V. DeVilbiss Jehanne Dubrow
The Murder Cycle
[To a Navy Wife, in Maryland] Reunion Porn
Spectacular 03: Super Bowl XLVI
Brett Foster Carmen R. Gillespie D. Gilson
Darkness Visible: The Turns of the Century, 1999 The Biggest Loser The Discovery Channel The Today Show
Facebook Newsfeed: So Much This and That
Kari Gunter-Seymour Jennifer Hancock
Contingency Plan, Aquarium of the Americas New Orleans, 2005
The Widening Rift
Infinity is a number you will never arrive at,
Why I Sometimes Pretend Iâ€™m BeyoncĂŠ
In the Aeroplane over the Sea
Tom C. Hunley
Elizabeth W. Jackson
Sonnet Written on the Way Home from the Cinema Richard III
86 87 88
Rumi Returns to Mazar-I-Shair Marathon
Inaugural Poem, January 20, 2001
Your Rivers, Your Margins, Your Diminutive Villages The Onion headline says “Keith Richards’ Housekeeper Has Braced Herself for Finding Dead Body Every Morning Since 1976”
The Art of Genocide
Mary Elizabeth Parker
Doppelgänger: The Flip Side of Your Yearning
My Daguerreotype Boyfriend
Elegy for Ferguson
Los Alamos, on the 50th Anniversary of the Trinity Test
Not Fling.com Body Painting
Epilogue for the Wrong Y2K
Banana Workers in Limón, Costa Rica
Myself Among the Many Selves
Hashtag Voyeur “A Swift and Fatal Luge Plunge, and Then an Abyss of Sorrow”
Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque
Hope is a thing with blasters
Soldiers’ ‘Fun’ Photo with Flag- Draped Coffin Sparks Outrage
Susan B.A. Somers- Willett
The Artist Is Present
Against Itself Cannot Stand
Still Life with X-Files
The Janitor of High School Musical Speaks
Love Poem for Cher Horowitz
Contributors’ Notes A Note on Our Cover
Contributors and Cover Artists 1995 – 2015
The 2015 COR Special Issue Feature Awards in Poetry, Fiction, and Literary Nonfiction We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2015 COR Special Issue Feature Awards in Poetry, Fiction, and Literary Nonfiction. The winners were selected by the editors of Crab Orchard Review. In poetry, our winner is Liz Robbins of St. Augustine, Florida, for her poem “Columbine Video.” In fiction, the winner is Stephen Pett of Ames, Iowa, for his story “The Elizabeth Smart Memorial Hike.” And in literary nonfiction, the winner is Spring Ulmer of Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, for her essay “Bubbles.” The winner in each genre category—Poetry, Fiction, and Literary Nonfiction—is published in this issue and received a $2000.00 award. All entries were asked to fit the topic of the Summer/Fall 2015 special issue, “20 Years: Writing About 1995–2015,” focusing on writing exploring work that covered any of the ways our world and ourselves have changed due to the advancements, setbacks, tragedies, and triumphs of the last twenty years. Visit us online. Crab Orchard Review’s website has information on subscriptions, calls for submissions and guidelines, contest information and results, and past, current, and future issues:
The Winners of the 2015 COR Special Issue Feature Awards in Poetry, Fiction, and Literary Nonfiction
2015 Special Issue Feature Award Winner in Poetry
“Columbine Video” by Liz Robbins (St. Augustine, Florida)
2015 Special Issue Feature Award Winner in Fiction
“The Elizabeth Smart Memorial Hike” by Stephen Pett (Ames, Iowa)
2015 Special Issue Feature Award Winner in Literary Nonfiction
“Bubbles” by Spring Ulmer (Chester Springs, Pennsylvania)
Allison Joseph Editor’s Prologue: Twenty Years Crab Orchard Review is a literary journal that wasn’t supposed to exist. Dr. Richard Peterson, our founding editor and former English department chair at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, was told in the early 1990s that funds for a journal existed, but for a number of years he couldn’t find a staff to make a journal a reality. In 1994, when I, along with Jon Tribble and Carolyn Alessio, was hired to teach at SIUC, all of a sudden Dr. Peterson had a ready, willing, and able editorial staff. I had been an editor with Indiana Review; Jon had been both an editor and the business manager of Indiana Review; Carolyn had ample editorial and professional experience. We were all ready to discover new voices, publish stories, poems, and essays, and put SIUC and Carbondale on the map as a center for creative writing. But as with many things in academia, things weren’t quite what they seemed. As long the magazine was just an idea, the money was there. As soon as idea became action, those funds mysteriously disappeared. Dr. Peterson (or, as those who know and love him call him, “Pete”) would not be deterred (a fact I attribute to Pete being a rather tenacious man from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) and he proceeded to fundraise (long before Kickstarter, even) for that very first issue. He sought funding for the journal’s first issue from people who weren’t in love with the set of administrators who denied our initial funding. Our joke for all the years that followed has been that Crab Orchard Review began as a magazine paid for by spite. But spite can only take a literary journal so far. After that first issue, we found ourselves back at square one—how to pay for another issue. Fortunately, Dr. Charles Fanning, our departmental expert in Irish and Irish-American Studies, offered to fund our next issue if we would focus it on Irish and Irish-American literature. The issue would premiere at the American Conference on Irish Studies, which was to be held in Carbondale that academic year. We rose to Crab Orchard Review
Allison Joseph – Editor’s Prologue the challenge, produced the issue, and established our tradition of publishing special topic issues, alongside our general issues. Two issues a year for twenty years means a lot of things—lots of late nights in Faner Hall, deciding on that poem or that story or that essay. Two issues a year for twenty years means we’ve seen a lot of changes—we’ve gone from huge boxes of postal paper submissions to almost all electronic ones, from library hunts for information to Google searches, from bundling up a package when an issue is complete and shipping it to the printer via Federal Express to uploading PDF files at our printer’s website in a matter of seconds. The technology of executing the magazine may have changed, but our commitment to being “a magazine that writers admire and readers enjoy” hasn’t. From the beginning Jon Tribble, Carolyn Alessio, Dr. Richard Peterson, and I wanted Crab Orchard Review to publish lively, admirable, accessible, and accomplished writing. We wanted the widest readership possible and the widest range of writers sending us work. We wanted the journal to be a learning laboratory for all of our undergraduate and graduate interns and our graduate-level assistant editors, and we couldn’t have done our work without them. The work hasn’t been easy, but it’s been so worth it to be part of the conversation about literary journals and contemporary literature in the United States during these past twenty years. I wouldn’t trade a minute of it and I’m proud to have been part of bringing this magazine to life for two decades, providing a home to the work of over 1,700 poets, writers, and artists. I hope you have enjoyed this journey we’ve been on and are looking forward what the future holds for Crab Orchard Review and its editors, staff, writers, and readers.
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Amy Knox Brown A Recipe for Mice On the last day of that cold January of 2007, as the newspapers
crowed about soaring stock prices and rising home values, Burris Killian’s wife Mary found a kitten huddled in one corner of their barn. A black kitten with gold eyes, who—as Mary related to Burris—tilted its head at Mary, then rose on his back legs and turned in a pirouette. How could she resist? She and Burris sat in the living room, the kitten curled on her lap, Mary’s fingers stroking its head. Of course she couldn’t resist. They’d been married almost fifty years; Burris loved his wife, and he’d learned to pick his battles. He’d always believed that barns were the best places for cats, but even as Burris opened his mouth to share this observation, the kitten hopped off Mary’s lap, walked over to Burris, and stood on his hind legs. Swaying a little, he turned in a circle and then dropped back on all fours. Burris had to admit that the trick was—he’d have to say “cute,” though that wasn’t a word he normally used. In the two days between the kitten’s appearance and Mary’s death, they talked about what to name the animal. “Maybe Burris, Junior,” Mary suggested on the last night they sat in the living room together, as they always did after supper, a fire crackling in the fireplace. “What about Dancer?” Burris offered. Mary tilted her head. On her lap, the kitten tilted his head in the opposite direction, both of them indicating they didn’t think much of his idea. “Maybe not Dancer,” Burris conceded. “How about Mac?” Mary said. Burris shrugged. He thought it would be strange to call the small creature by the name of the barrel-chested neighbor who’d owned the land abutting theirs. The mention of Mac’s name reminded him of news he’d heard that afternoon at the grain elevator, where the area farmers gathered to trade gossip. “Speaking of Mac,” he said, “I guess his kids plan to sell the farm.” Crab Orchard Review
Amy Knox Brown “Well,” Mary said. That one word held the entire population of other words, sentences, and paragraphs they’d uttered since Mac’s son had hauled Mac off to live in California a year earlier, gotten control of the land, and let the fields go to weeds: the venality of the children; their cruelty in uprooting an old man from the land his father and grandfather had farmed; the possibility (or probability) that the land would be sold. “Well,” Mary said again, and Burris knew she meant Now we have to wait and see what happens next. In the middle of the night, Burris felt a soft patting against his face that he sensed didn’t originate from human hands. He opened his eyes. The kitten was tapping his cheek. Waking him up in the middle of the night! This, Burris thought, was the reason cats needed to stay in barns. He reached out to wake Mary—a gesture of retaliation, he knew, even as he did it—but his wife’s side of the bed was empty. Burris sat up. He and the kitten stared at each other for a long moment, and Burris hauled himself off the mattress. He followed the kitten into the kitchen, where he found Mary lying on the floor, a glass tipped over next to the sink, water dripping off the counter. He dropped to his knees to feel her pulse. Her skin was cool beneath his fingers. Maggie, the oldest child, flew in from Oregon. David drove from Pennsylvania. They dropped suitcases in their childhood bedrooms and sat in the living room, bickering over which television show to watch. How long since the two of them had been home together? Burris wondered. Years, he thought, possibly decades. They’d both left the farm for college, then departed for their respective coasts. Maggie was a nurse. She made dutiful weekly Sunday-afternoon phone calls. David taught English at a college whose name perplexed Burris: Indiana University of Pennsylvania. David sent letters once or twice a month. Although Burris saw bits of himself and Mary in the children— David had inherited Mary’s sharp tongue (but not her soft heart), Maggie’s eyes were the exact blue of Burris’—they seemed now like strangers. Bossy strangers. They arranged the funeral and wrote the obituary for the newspaper; David prepared dinners of mysterious ingredients (What was jicama slaw? What was wrong with cabbage slaw?). The day after the funeral, Maggie began burrowing into closets before Burris stopped her. “We need to get this place cleaned out so you can sell it,” Maggie said. She held a box that said “photos” in Mary’s writing. She lifted one 4 u Crab Orchard Review
Amy Knox Brown flap; the box held skeins of yarn, ribbon, and squares of fabric. “One person can’t take care of a house this size, and—” “No.” Burris reached for the box. Maggie held on, and he was forced to give the cardboard a sharp tug to get it out of her hands. “Yes. Sell this place, you can get a little condo in the retirement community around the corner from where I live, and—” “No,” Burris said again. He replaced the box in the closet. He thought of Mac being dragged away from the farm next door. That was not going to happen to Burris. “I’m staying right here.” The children went back to their own lives, threatening monthly visits that Burris was confident would never transpire. He left Mary’s clothes in their closet, her tube of lipstick in the drawer in the vanity, her ashes—which he planned to scatter somewhere of significance—in an urn on the mantel of the fireplace. Her cookbooks remained in their neat row on the Hoosier cabinet in the kitchen. He allowed himself to think, She’s not really dead, she’s gone to town. Not dead; in the barn. He knew this wasn’t a good idea. He knew it wasn’t healthy. Still, he couldn’t help himself. He leafed through her old cookbooks, looking for recipes she’d marked with notes: Good with cinnamon ice cream; or Won’t make this again, about a stew containing hard-boiled eggs and curry that Burris remembered with revulsion. He examined the pages of Henley’s Eighteenth Century Formulas: Recipes and Processes, which they kept with the cookbooks, though the recipes weren’t for food, but rather for dyes, oils, and veterinary remedies. The oldest book in the house, it had belonged to Mary’s great-grandfather, and the pages were the color of weak tea and dotted with brown splotches, like age spots on an old man’s hands. Henley’s also contained a chapter of formulas for creating animals and insects. Burris read over the quote that opened the section: In The History of Animals, Book I, Aristotle wrote that “Some animals spring from parent animals…whilst others grow spontaneously and not from kindred stock; and of these instances of spontaneous generation, some come from putrefying earth or vegetable matter, as is the case with a number of insects, while others are spontaneously generated in the inside of animals out of the secretions of their several organs.” Burris remembered reading the maggot recipe aloud to Mary: Leave a square of beef in shade. In two days, it will produce maggots. He remembered how she’d laughed. Now, he saw a notation in the margin, Crab Orchard Review
Amy Knox Brown next to “square of beef.” Mary had written, Works with chicken, too. Burris felt himself smiling. She’s not dead. She’s just away for a little while. He sat down in the kitchen chair and let the kitten jump on his lap. He tried to remember what they’d decided to name him. Fifty acres wasn’t a huge farm; it wasn’t even a big farm, but the fifty acres in Lebanon, Kansas—the precise center of the United States—had been in Burris Killian’s family for a hundred years. The land faithfully produced corn and soybeans to sell, and alfalfa to feed the cattle Burris raised. There was plenty of room for a chicken house and pigpen, space for an enormous garden. In other words, as Burris was fond of saying, the farm was the right size to keep you alive without killing you. At the grain elevator, the other local farmers—some of whom owned more land, some of whom owned less—couldn’t dispute that kind of wisdom. They nodded and looked down at their hands. By the time Mary died, they’d cut back; the pigs had been sold off, and then the cattle, except for a little bull named Zeke that had made himself into a kind of a pet. In the spring of 2007, Burris began planting his acres of corn, but he decided to let the land reserved for soybeans revert to prairie, and he staked out a smaller garden. A developer had purchased Mac’s farm, for what was reported at the grain elevator as an astonishing sum of money. From his tractor, Burris watched a bulldozer smash into Mac’s old farmhouse. Dump trucks hauled away crumbling sheets of drywall and broken two-byfours. Excavation machinery chewed holes in the earth. A billboard appeared at the intersection of the highway and County Road 2: Find your dreams in Emerald City! Phase I of 5 in process: Three and four bedroom, three bath homes. No money down! Low interest! You’re not in Kansas anymore! Of course the last sentence made no sense: the development was right in the middle of Kansas. Burris felt his eyes narrow in disdain every time he drove past. The houses rose like toadstools after a spell of dampness. The speed with which each dwelling was erected surprised Burris; he’d thought it would take weeks or even months for a house to be built. But the dozen houses the developer managed to squeeze onto the five acres closest to Burris’ property were completed, it seemed, in a matter of days. Three of the houses were situated so that their backsides stood only a few feet from Burris’ lot line, casting narrow shadows down on the area where he planted his garden. On his knees, patting dirt over 6 u Crab Orchard Review
Amy Knox Brown basil seeds, Burris watched as families in rumbling Hummers arrived. They looked through the houses, and sold signs appeared in the yards, one by one. The bulldozers roamed over the yet-unbuilt part of Mac’s land, leaving cavernous holes. He heard Mary’s voice in his head: It might not be as bad as you’re thinking. You know I don’t like change, he thought. I know that, Burris. He could hear that tinge of sharpness to her voice. There’s no use in borrowing trouble. The families moved into Emerald City. The fathers who lived in the houses next to Burris’ lot line introduced themselves, hollering down from their decks one Saturday in early June when Burris was out checking his bean plants for aphids. They all seemed to have a variation of the same name: Tyler, Taylor, Tanner. Tyler was stocky, Taylor was bald, Tanner was tan. Burris nodded at each man in turn. He said, “Nice to meet you.” He crushed an aphid between his thumb and index finger. A week before the summer solstice—the longest day of the year—Burris sat on the rear stoop in a straight-backed chair brought from the kitchen. He liked to sit here, ten or fifteen feet from his cornfield; if he listened closely, he could hear, under the soft rush of the wind, a faint creaking, a straining, as the corn dug its skeletal toes into the earth and stretched its green arms upward. Before Mac was hauled off to California, he and Burris had held a yearly competition with their corn: each man selected a particular plant, measured it every evening and again the following morning, and then reported the results to his neighbor. Grew an inch last night. Oh yeah? I got an inch and a quarter. Huh. Let me see. Guess you’re right. Guess you did. Burris had always written his numbers down in a little notebook he kept tucked among the cookbooks in the Hoosier cabinet. He tied a red ribbon around the chosen stalk to make sure he’d be able to distinguish it from the other plants. He named the plant he was tracking, alternating yearly between male and female names, the way the weather forecasters did with hurricanes. By harvest, the sun had bleached the color from the ribbon; the wind had shredded it to tatters. Burris hand-harvested the ear from his special plant and took it inside, where he carefully stripped away the husk and silk. Mary Crab Orchard Review
Amy Knox Brown boiled the ear in salted water to which she’d added a little milk. They slathered the cooked ear with butter, a shake of pepper, and broke it in two to share. They sat at their kitchen table and savored each kernel as it burst between their teeth and filled their mouths with sweetness. Just yesterday morning he selected the plant he’d monitor this summer, the summer of 2007. He’d retrieved a length of red ribbon from the box marked “photos” and tied it around the narrow stalk. He named the plant Mary. As the sun lowered, the neighbors came outside. The parents sat out on their five-by-eight-foot decks, holding glasses of wine the color of urine. They screamed greetings to each other and raised their glasses. The children screamed, too, chasing each other through the yards, dragging sticks across the sides of dog kennels, setting the dogs to barking. One of the children tripped and fell. A louder burst of screaming was followed by an impatient voice: “Just one more minute. Let Mommy finish her wine. Then we can have ice cream for dinner!” “I don’t want ice cream for dinner. I want macaroni!” No one could hear the corn grow, even if he was paying close attention. Burris sighed. He hoped they’d go in soon; the evening might be saved if silence descended and he could remain here on his back stoop and wait for the first fireflies to appear. As the sky darkened, a wink of light flashed in the back corner of Burris’ yard. One wink, then another, and then his whole yard— as well as the yards of Emerald City—filled with fireflies. The insects dipped, rose, and blinked. Burris clasped his hands across his stomach and watched. In the neighboring yards, the children screamed at the sight of the blinking lights and chased after the fireflies. One child managed to catch an insect right at the edge of Burris’ property. The child’s fist closed over the bug, hard, and then the child—a boy—smeared the smashed insect against his face. For a moment, the boy’s skin glowed, and the other children squealed in amazement. For the next several nights, the children were out killing fireflies, smashing the bugs against their skin, and, with their momentarily illuminated faces, chasing each other through Burris’ cornfield. The corn was only a couple of feet high, at that phase where it could be easily trampled, and when Burris checked the field on Saturday morning, a big swath of his corn plants had been crushed against the ground. 8 u Crab Orchard Review
Amy Knox Brown The plant he’d tied with a ribbon was broken off near its roots, leaves already curling brown, dying. No respect, Burris thought. He looked over at Emerald City. Right now, just after sunrise, the development was as quiet as the area used to be when it was still Mac’s farm. He imagined Mary examining the trampled corn, her eyes narrowing. “Well,” she’d say, and Burris would know exactly how to proceed. In the silence, Burris thought he heard Mary’s voice: Look in Henley’s. “All right, then,” Burris said aloud. In the house, he opened Henley’s Eighteenth Century Formulas: Recipes and Processes and leafed through the pages. He read Jan Baptiste van Helmont’s recipe for scorpions: Carve an indentation in a brick, fill it with crushed basil, and cover the brick with another, so that the indentation is completely sealed. Expose the two bricks to sunlight, and you will find that within a few days, fumes from the basil, acting as a leavening agent, will have transformed the vegetable matter into veritable scorpions. He imagined reading the recipe to Mary, Mary nodding and saying Worth a try. Outside, Burris pushed his wheelbarrow behind the barn and gathered three pairs of bricks from the pile he kept there. He wheeled the bricks to the front of the house, where the sun shone hard all day. He chiseled indentations as directed. Next, in his garden, he knelt by the largest basil plant. He felt to the end of each leaf and used his thumbnail like a knife to detach it from the stem. Holding the bouquet of leaves, he prepared himself to stand. A shadow fell over the garden: Tyler, the stocky neighbor whose tiny yard was one of the three abutting Burris’ lot. Tyler was the father of the boy Burris watched kill the first firefly. Burris looked up under the bill of his cap. “Morning,” Tyler said. “Morning.” Burris set his left hand against his left knee and told his muscles to move. His leg straightened; he brought his right foot against the ground; he was upright. He tucked the basil leaves in the front pocket of his overalls. “Making some bruschetta?” Tyler asked. Burris had no idea what bruschetta meant. It sounded like a pejorative name for a mean Italian grandma. He shook his head. “Think we’ll get any rain?” Tyler was holding a tank of herbicide, Crab Orchard Review
Amy Knox Brown which he swung back and forth while he talked. “I want to put down some weed killer, and it says not to do it if it’s going to rain.” The sky was the color of sheet metal, with just the slightest touch of blue near the horizon. No clouds. A stiff, low wind blew. The weather this morning was the kind that would prompt Mary, when she stepped outside to water her geraniums, to remark, “It’s going to be a scorcher.” “Doubt it.” Burris looked at the neighboring lawns, smooth expanses of recently laid sod. “But doesn’t look like you’ve got any weeds to speak of.” “Just in case,” Tyler said. “You got to stay ahead of the curve on these things.” “All right, then.” Burris tipped his head to signal a friendly end to the conversation. On the driveway, Burris squeezed the basil leaves between his hands, thinking how the leaves themselves were scorpion-shaped, the stems like little tails. He divided the basil among the holes in the bricks, put the other bricks on top, and set them in a row in the sun. In the notebook where he’d kept track of his special corn plant, Burris wrote: Scorpions planted 6/18/2007. Results expected by 6/22. That night, Burris stayed inside his house. Through the open windows came the sounds of the children screaming as they chased the fireflies, smashed the bugs against their skin, and howled in pleasure at the momentary glow. In a pocket of silence between screams, he heard scraps of adult conversation: Poor old guy. Wife died, all alone. Probably glad to have some kids around out here in the middle of nowhere— They were discussing him, Burris realized. He moved away from the window. Glad to have kids around? Running through his cornfield, smashing his plants? The neighbors had no idea—no idea—what they were talking about. Four days after he placed the basil between the bricks, Burris rose at his usual early hour. He fed Zeke, the little bull. Heading toward the driveway, he felt the familiar trepidation that had seized him when he’d gone to check on something he wasn’t sure would work out or not: Did the storm he’d heard during the night drop longed-for rain on the garden, or had hail pellets fallen and pulverized the strawberries? Did the cow successfully birth the calf in the early hours of the morning, or would he find both creatures dead in the barn? On the driveway, Burris looked down. In the beams of the rising 10 u Crab Orchard Review
Amy Knox Brown sun, he saw movement: small scorpions, the color of damp earth, crawled around the bricks. He took note of the scorpions’ heavy front claws, sharp tails that curled jauntily over their backs. Fifteen or twenty of them milled around on the driveway; a couple began moving purposely through his front lawn, headed toward Emerald City. How Mary would have laughed when he told her what he’d accomplished! The scorpions marched through Emerald City. They nestled under rose bushes; a few adventurous ones managed to get themselves up on deck railings. The younger children were initially wary of the insects—which were, after all, frightening-looking, with their huge claws and the pointed stinger at the ends of their tails—but then, when night fell, the scorpions glowed faintly, sending off light from under bushes or their perches on decks. The glowing, of course, reminded the children of fireflies, and so they went after the scorpions to capture them, smash them as they had smashed the fireflies, and rub the luminescence against their skin. It was a little after dusk when Burris heard the first child scream. Another child cried out, and another, a whole pack of howling. Parental voices rose in the dark: My god, look at his face! Look at her hand! What happened? What were you doing, picking up that dangerous bug? The scorpions stopped the children from bothering the fireflies. A few of the children quit going outside entirely; they’d see a row of scorpions on the deck railing, swishing their tails like angry cats, clacking their front claws together like women holding castanets, and even after their parents swept off the little devils with a broom, the children stayed inside to play video games, content with the light of artificial explosions. The corn was safe, though Burris didn’t have the heart to select another stalk to monitor for growth. Next year, he thought. He sat on his stoop and watched the fireflies. With the children inside, the parents’ voices seemed subdued; Burris could almost pretend they weren’t there. He wondered if he’d overreacted to the children’s behavior. He found himself nudged with guilt. When his spinach ripened at the end of June, Burris picked handfuls and left bunches on the front porches of Tyler and Taylor and Tanner, a little offering to make amends.
Crab Orchard Review
Amy Knox Brown On the Fourth of July, an explosion woke Burris before dawn. A patter of racket erupted; Burris initially thought gunfire before he remembered the date, a holiday marked by sanctioned explosions. He sighed and climbed out of bed. He poured kibble in the kitten’s bowl, then trudged out to the barn to feed Zeke, who cowered in a corner of the stall, eyes rolling in fright. By noon, all the neighbors had come outside. Firecrackers popped, bottle rockets whined and banged, sparklers sizzled and snapped. The relentless noise grew louder as the day progressed. The kitten hid under the bed. Dusk fell, and explosions propelled flowers of fire into the sky. Now and then, someone lit an M-80, and each boom left Burris’ ears ringing. Remnants of cardboard and plastic pattered against the roof like shrapnel. Burris felt as if he was living in a war zone, but told himself that it would be over soon. He went to bed and had actually managed to fall asleep when something tugged at his consciousness. The kitten was standing next to the bed, yowling. Burris opened his eyes. Light smacked against his windows. He heard a sound distinct from the fireworks, a horrible sound of pain. Burris struggled out of slumber. He sat up and shook his head. He realized that the light was fire. He realized the sound of pain was from the bull. One of the bottle rockets must have landed on the barn and set it ablaze. Burris lunged out of bed, his throat dry with horror. He rushed outside. The firemen arrived in time to save part of the barn, but by then the little bull was dead. Burris stood in the half-burned building, looking down at the dark carcass. Water glistened on Zeke’s fur. Even with the sound of fireworks still filling the air, Burris couldn’t get that bellow of pain and fear out of his head. If Mary were here, she’d kneel down next to Zeke and rest her hand on his wet fur and say, Poor little fellow. Burris looked toward Emerald City. In his head, he asked Mary, Henley’s? The hiss of a bottle rocket sounded as if someone replied, “Yes.” In Henley’s, Burris read Virgil’s recipe for bees: Bury a young bull upright, so that its horns protrude from the soil. In nine days, bees will spring from the putrefying flesh. Bees, thought Burris. He leafed through Henley’s until he found the page where Mary had written Works with chicken, too. Her familiar 12 u Crab Orchard Review
Amy Knox Brown handwriting soothed him. He could almost hear her voice, with an undercurrent of merriment: Yes. Bees! The next morning, on the north corner of his property, far from the house, Burris began to dig. It took all day to excavate a hole deep enough to bury Zeke upright. He wrestled the corpse into the grave and left the head protruding above the ground. Taylor (whom Burris had nicknamed Baldy) and Tanner stood on their decks, watching. “That’s too bad about your barn,” Baldy said. He adjusted his ball cap. Burris grunted. “You got insurance to cover it?” Burris shook his head. He shoveled dirt into the grave. “Don’t you need to bury the whole body?” Tanner hollered, though his voice held the tentative note of a city slicker who’d never dealt with death. “This way is better.” Burris eyed them under the bill of his cap. Were they the ones who set his barn on fire? He made eye contact with Tanner, who met his gaze. Baldy casually stared into the distance when Burris looked in his direction. A spent firecracker shell sat on the railing of the deck, and with his index finger, Baldy flicked it off into the grass. Inside, Burris wrote in his notebook: 7/5: Bees expected by 7/14. No rain fell the rest of the week. Temperatures climbed near 100 in the afternoons. Stiff prairie winds carried the scent of the decomposing bull away from Burris’ property and let it hang, instead, over Emerald City. On the ninth morning, Burris rose at his usual early hour. He poured a cupful of kibble in the kitten’s bowl. When he stepped outside, he was greeted with a low hum—a pleasant murmur, like the magnified sound of blood moving through veins. A swarm of bees hovered over Zeke’s grave. It was a thick swarm; Burris estimated four or five hundred bees must have been swirling out of the bull’s corpse. As he watched, a few bees broke from the swarm and headed toward the hollow oak a couple of yards away. A few others buzzed off toward Emerald City. In the hollow oak, the bees made honey. Over in Emerald City, the bees made trouble, buzzing purposely toward glasses of the sweet, urine-colored wine. From his seat on the back stoop, Burris watched the wine-drinking parents swatting the air. Baldy stood on his deck, holding a can of beer, and talking to his wife. Burris heard him say, “Bastard said the stock was going up, up, up and now it’s totally in Crab Orchard Review
Amy Knox Brown the tank, I don’t even know how much we lost—” and the wife said, “Are you sure?” Baldy removed his ball cap and tossed it on one of the deck chairs. “Of course I’m sure,” he said, angrily. Burris didn’t see the bee land on Baldy’s gleaming scalp, but suddenly Baldy bellowed. “Dammit! Damn wasp!” He pawed at his head, staggering around the deck. Seconds later, he clutched at his throat. He made a gagging noise. Baldy’s wife said, “Now how much did we lose?” Baldy croaked out what sounded like a number: Ninety. Or did he say, “I’m dying?” “It’s just a bee sting,” Mrs. Baldy said. “Don’t be so dramatic.” Anaphylactic reaction, Burris thought. He called out, “You better get him to the doctor.” “What?” Mrs. Baldy said. “He needs a shot,” Burris said. “Go to the hospital.” As it turned out, Baldy’s anaphylactic shock was a mild case. The wife drove him five miles to the emergency room, where a doctor gave him an injection—Burris heard Mrs. Baldy yelling the story to Mrs. Tanner after the Baldies had returned—and the swelling in his throat went down almost immediately. He was inside now, having a beer to restore his nerves. “Damn bees,” Mrs. Baldy said. “I’ve never seen so many of them. I wonder where the hell they came from.” “It’s weird,” said Mrs. Tanner. “I just read an article about the bee population actually going down. Global warming or something.” Mrs. Baldy scoffed. “That’s all a crock.” She paused for so long that Burris glanced over at her yard, and he felt her gaze boring through the darkness, right at him. “I think something else is going on. And you’d better look out,” she added, ominously, turning back to Mrs. Tanner. “I bet you’re next.” The heat wave broke. Rain fell for two weeks. At the end of July, Burris wrote about the weather in a letter to David; he mentioned it to Maggie when she called. “You should come out for a visit,” she said. “Sure,” Burris said. “Pretty busy with the crops right now, though.” “David and I will be out next summer. Get the place in shape, put it on the market. It’s a good time to sell.” Next summer was a problem he could head off when it got closer. “Sure,” Burris said. 14 u Crab Orchard Review
Amy Knox Brown After the phone conversation, Burris went outside to take stock of his garden. The tomatoes had ripened early, and dozens of beans dangled like ornaments off the vines. He found two zucchinis the size of baseball bats hidden under their leaves. He needed to start canning; growing up, he’d helped his mother, then, after he was married, he and Mary spent their annual week in the kitchen, packing tomatoes into jars, cutting beans on the diagonal so they looked like little spears. For comfort, he carried on a conversation with Mary in his head as he moved around the kitchen, getting the canning supplies in order: Where’s the tongs? In the drawer by the sink. Toward the back. There you go. Probably ought to get some new rings for the jars—these ones are sort of rusty. Yes, we should. The next morning, Burris climbed in his truck for the trip to town. Passing the north side of Emerald City—the area that bordered the highway—he noticed a vibrating haze hovering over one of the holes that had been dug for foundations. A swarm of bugs, he figured; the excavation was probably full of water, breeding mosquitos. Two kids stood on the edge of the hole, poking around with sticks. At the hardware store, Burris ran into Dwight, a friend from the grain elevator. They visited about the usual subjects: weather, crop report, The Old Farmer’s Almanac’s predictions for winter snowfall, which was anticipated to be a record. “Sorry about your barn,” Dwight said. Burris said, “I’m pretty sure the bald guy next door was the one that set it on fire.” “Been hearing some things about that Emerald City,” Dwight said. “Oh?” “Heard the developer ran out of money. He can’t afford to build the rest of the houses.” “Huh.” “And there’s lots of insect problems. You had bugs on your place? “No more than usual,” Burris said. When Burris arrived home and let himself in through the unlocked kitchen door, he sensed a slight disturbance in the air, a lingering foreign smell of perfume or cologne, as if someone had been in the house. He berated himself for his foolishness: in his whole life here on County Road 2, there’d never been a reason to lock the door. But now he was surrounded by people he didn’t know. Crab Orchard Review
Amy Knox Brown He noticed an empty spot in the row of cookbooks. The little notebook where he tracked his corn and later his creatures was missing from the Hoosier. Flour dusted the floor, as if someone had pawed through the flour bin. The hairs rose on the back of Burris’ neck. He drew in a deep breath and realized the foreign odor was chemical, not perfume. He walked into the living room. He saw that the urn containing Mary’s ashes had been moved a few inches on the mantel. The lid, on close inspection, appeared slightly askew. And then Burris saw a fine white coating on the hearth. A substance that looked, from a distance, like flour, but he knew, as he knelt and touched it, that Mary’s urn had been opened, possibly tipped over or shaken, and some of his wife’s ashes had spilled on the hearth. His throat closed with anger. His knees felt nailed to the floor. His fingers, dusted with the cremated remains of Mary’s bones and flesh, shook. A strange buzzing filled his head and spots glittered in front of his eyes. He might have blacked out for a moment—or perhaps even longer than that; when he found himself again capable of conscious thought, he noticed the square of sunlight that had been on the floor directly in front of him had shifted toward the west. Burris drew in a deep, shuddering breath. The buzzing in his head receded. The kitten was sitting next to him. How long had he been there? He looked at Burris with his golden eyes. If he could talk, he could share exactly what had happened while Burris was gone. “You okay?” Burris asked the kitten. The kitten stood, pirouetted, and sat. “Did they come in to steal? Did they take the silver?” The kitten tilted its head. Burris took that as a “no.” “They were just in here to look around?” He felt the kitten’s response pressing into his brain: Something like that. Maybe trying to figure you out. Not meaning any harm? I wouldn’t go that far, the kitten said. Someone came inside his house. Someone stole his notebook and spilled his wife’s ashes from her urn. Burris breathed deeply. He got to his feet, replaced the urn’s lid properly, and slid it back to its original location. The kitten followed Burris to the kitchen. In Henley’s, Burris found Jan Van Helmut’s recipe for mice: If soiled underclothing is placed in the opening of a vessel containing grains of wheat, the reaction of the leaven in the underclothing with fumes 16 u Crab Orchard Review
Amy Knox Brown from the wheat will, after approximately twenty-one days, transform the wheat into mice. Twenty-one days. He needed to start immediately. The half-burned barn seemed like the logical place to grow his mice, though Burris felt a little conspicuous, a little ridiculous, carrying a wide-mouthed vase and a pair of his unwashed boxer shorts across the yard. The shorts were some Mary had given him years earlier for Valentine’s Day, red with white polka dots. Tanner stood on his deck, spraying a can of Raid toward a couple of bees that hovered just out of reach, as if taunting him. Burris had finished setting up his things in the barn when he heard screaming from the direction of Tanner’s property. Two kids— one of Tanner’s sons and Tyler’s son, the initial killer of fireflies—stood in front of Tanner, holding up what appeared to be deflated balloons or scraps of fabric. Tanner was yelling, “Mother of God! Drop that!” “It’s dead, Dad,” his son said. “I just want to know what it is.” Burris moved closer. Tanner covered his face and moaned behind his hands. The kids turned, raising the objects toward Burris. “Do you know, Mister?” the Tyler boy asked. Burris looked through the bottoms of his bifocals. Up close, the objects revealed themselves to be some sort of creature—frogs, Burris guessed. Albino frogs. But then he noticed that the creatures had only three legs, not four; no visible eyes; and their bodies were smooth as Baldy’s head and bloated as ticks. A shiver traveled the length of Burris’ spine. “Where’d you find those?” he asked. “By one of those holes,” the Tanner boy said. “Out by the road.” He offered to hand the creature to Burris, who forced himself to keep from recoiling. “I couldn’t tell you what they are, boys,” he said. “But you might want to put them in the trash, and then wash up real good.” Burris looked at Tanner, who had dropped his hands to his sides. A streak of something white—white as albino frogs, white as flour, white as ashes—striped Tanner’s cheek. Burris waited a week before he checked the wheat. What looked like mold—but was doubtlessly fur—had covered the grains, and they had swelled into triple their original size. July rolled into August. The days grew incrementally shorter. The grains of wheat continued to swell. The fur, originally gray, shifted Crab Orchard Review
Amy Knox Brown closer to brown. The nights began to hold a warning touch of coolness. Twenty-one days passed, then twenty-five, and then thirty. Burris refused to give up hope. He knew things took longer to grow at the end of the season. On the thirty-first day, Burris found mice in his barn. His creatures appeared slightly different than the gray mice he was used to; Burris’ mice had reddish bodies, spotted with white, and black fur covered their short tails. They were, Burris thought, more attractive than the run-ofthe-mill mice you saw in everyone’s barn. Several of them ventured up to him and sniffed at the toes of his work boots. “Hi, fellas,” Burris said. The mice looked up at him with their golden eyes. They swished their short black tails; and then they crept out of the barn, scampered through Burris’ browning grass, and crossed the lawns of Emerald City. Even before Burris heard stories at the grain elevator, he knew what happened: the mice slipped through barely perceptible cracks in foundations or tiny spaces around windows where the caulk had already shrunk. They climbed inside dresser drawers and gnawed through clothes; they left droppings on kitchen counters. The mice ignored cheese-baited traps. Instead, they chewed their way into cereal boxes and grew fat on Lucky Charms, Count Chocula, and Franken Berry. Burris heard from Dwight that one of the mothers in Emerald City was pouring out cereal when two plump mice dropped into the bowl. “At least she thought they were mice,” Dwight said. “But they looked different than regular mice. They had polka-dotted fur, like some kind of mutant. That was the scariest thing—she wasn’t sure exactly what they were.” The two creatures stood up in the bowl and looked at her, swished their short tails, then hopped off the counter and disappeared while she stood in her kitchen, screaming. Maybe the reason Emerald City was abandoned had nothing to do with Burris, the scorpions, the bees, or the mice. Maybe the homeowners would have fled without any of his doings. There was the economy, for one thing, the lost jobs, the precipitous drop in home values, the spike in gas prices. The houses in Emerald City had been overvalued from the start; by the time the unusually cold winter of 2008 arrived, they were worth less than half of what most people had paid for them. Utilities to heat the high-ceilinged rooms cost a fortune. You had to drive miles and miles to get the most rudimentary groceries, a gallon of milk or a magnum of wine. The contractor had filed for bankruptcy, and so the rest of the development, which had 18 u Crab Orchard Review
Amy Knox Brown been stripped of every growing thing and pocked with holes, presented them with views as barren and malevolent as the surface of the moon. At the end of January—a month of record snowfall: almost four feet—Burris stood next to the propane heater in the grain elevator, listening to reports about the condition of the houses themselves, how they were so poorly constructed that nine months after they were built, they exhibited the trouble you’d expect from a place that had been standing for decades. For instance, a slammed door on the second floor caused the front door to fly open (how was that even possible? Burris wondered). Nails rose out of the deck flooring, and the boards came loose. (Any fool knew you were supposed to use deck screws, not nails, Burris and the other farmers agreed, shaking their heads at the contractor’s ignorance.) Roofs leaked after a hard rain, and the basements flooded. The water in the basement spawned hoards of spiders that somebody had identified as brown recluses. The brown recluses hid in bedclothes and shoes. One woman reported that a spider had dropped down onto her bare stomach while she lay naked in the bath. Burris nodded; he’d heard splashing and shrieking from Baldy’s place a few nights earlier when he’d gone outside to look at the stars. The bites of brown recluses could be lethal. Insecticides, it was said, only made them grow larger. So who wanted to live in a place you could barely afford that was falling down on top of your head, infested with poisonous spiders, on land that spawned mutant mice and amphibians? Well. Burris looked down at his hands and shook his head. He’d had nothing to do with the spiders or frogs. “And some of them are saying your barn’s a hazard, it should be torn down, they didn’t pay money for that kind of view,” Dwight told Burris. “They’re the ones that set it on fire,” Burris said. “I know. The bald one, you said.” “You reap what you sow.” “And he doesn’t like that skeleton of the bull in your yard. He said it gives his kids nightmares.” “You reap what you sow,” Burris said again. “That’s right,” Dwight said. “That’s exactly right.” The neighbors in Emerald City, every one of them, put their houses up for sale. When they received no offers, the families packed their belongings in U-Haul trucks and drove away, leaving scraps of their lives behind—a shoe forgotten in the corner of a closet, a carton of milk Crab Orchard Review
Amy Knox Brown going sour in the refrigerator, a sleeve of photographs that had slipped down behind a stack of books that nobody was ever going to read. The snow melts. Spring comes. Maggie and David will visit in August, but they’ve given up bothering Burris about putting the farm on the market. “It’s a terrible time to sell,” Maggie admitted during their most recent phone conversation. “Better hold on for awhile.” Mary’s geraniums bloom anew, and Burris drops a few of the blood-colored petals inside the urn on the mantel. He adds strands of hair harvested from her comb. On the eve of the summer solstice, Burris sits on his rear stoop and waits for the first firefly of the season. The scorpions curl under river rocks to sleep. In the hollow of the old oak, the bees kiss and hum. The black cat—who has, oddly enough, shown no interest in any of Burris’ creations—dozes at his feet. No cars pass on the road. No smells of cooking contaminate the air. No human voices, with their tones of hilarity and complaint, can be heard. In Emerald City, the abandoned houses decay, rot an element contained within the boards that age, untended, the process assisted by the relentless prairie wind that blows grit too fine to see, almost too fine to feel against skin, but it does its abrasive work and wears down, eventually, everything it touches. The wind brushes Burris’ face. He lets himself think, Mary’s not dead, she’s in the kitchen. He imagines her standing by the sink, drinking a glass of water. She’s wearing her blue-and-white plaid housedress, white ankle socks, sensible black shoes. She sets the empty glass on the counter and stares through the window at the half-burned barn. She’ll have something to say about that, Burris thinks, smiling. He wonders how long the geranium petals will take to work their magic with the ashes in the urn. Burris shifts in his chair. One of his sweet mice crawls up Burris’ overalled leg, crosses the hand Burris rests on his knee, and creeps along Burris’ arm, tickling his skin with its whiskers. In the corner of his left eye, Burris sees a wink of light. Turning, he sees another light flash on his right side, and he turns again. Moving his head so quickly must be what causes the blue of the sky and the white clouds to blur together so that they look like plaid fabric moving in front of him, the fabric of a dress that surrounds the body of a woman he has thought about every day for the greater part of his life. “Mary?” Burris says. He squints; everything in front of him has blurred. The sky has shifted a 20 u Crab Orchard Review
Amy Knox Brown shade darker. Lights blink crazily on either side of Burris’ vision, and the crickets in the grass go silent. The mouse reaches Burris’ shoulder. It stands and presses its nose gently against Burris’ ear. “Mary?” Burris says again. You’ll see her soon, the mouse whispers. You’ll see her soon.
Crab Orchard Review
Joy Arbor When God Chose Love over Truth Just outside Bil’in Village, West Bank November 2005 Perhaps it’s that hydraulic excavator on the horizon or what’s left when one world crushes another but here between rows of olive trees, the air is a mouthful of stones. Far from home, we seek the truth but don’t want to speak. The farmer who sees construction dust starve his olive leaves must—the settlement’s expansion steals his harvest, twenty-five dunams of farmland, half the land of the village. No one inhales too deeply. The farmer fingers the leaves. In the distance, the haze of dirt and dust held aloft, the goldenrod of construction equipment, occupation’s infantry of progress. Skid-steer loaders and diggers reroute the earth’s ley lines for indoor plumbing, rearrange veins for sewage retrieval, add more pages for those who long to lie down and rise up in the City of the Book, to dwell all week in Shabbat’s eruv, to tussle with schoolteachers over the value of Nutella sandwiches. Staring out their windows they don’t see the choking olive grove or us, but a blank canvas for flats for their cousins when finally they make aliyah. On the sixth day God chose Love over Truth. Cast out of heaven and down to earth, Truth shattered, crushed diamond facets, fragments strewn everywhere, uncountable. 22 u Crab Orchard Review
Joy Arbor Now there are only truths: partial, incomplete, contradictory. Shards lodged in the lungs, sharp glitter in the sand. We search within and without, on lone mountains, in holy texts, down the throats of strangers and friends. The rabbis say each truth is a door to new realities, new questions. Each threshold must be crossed in turn. In the Palestinian olive grove, truths pelt us from all sides.
Crab Orchard Review
Roger Bonair-Agard In which Jay-Z asks me to come back to Brooklyn In the dream, me and Jay-Z slapbox like boys do—actually we say it’s okay to throw punches because we believe we can’t really be hurt. We strip down to undershorts. We take our shoes off. I believe I can beat him, but he’s a big dude so I’m a little scared. I don’t want to get caught by a big random punch. You gotta take off those rings, I tell him. He laughs, takes them off. One of them is a graduation ring from my high school. You have a QRC ring?! Yeah pahdnah. I heard about your work. I got one When I filmed that video in Trinidad in 2000. That’s fresh, I say. We start dancing around the room. Jay’s wife shakes her head. It’s not Beyoncé. It’s a local girl he stayed with. They have two kids. We’d been hanging out earlier. She took me to meet Jay. She leaves the room. We flail at each other. No real blows land. Neither of us is going in hard. I’m thinking I need to get inside them long arms so I can hit him with a flurry. I know I can end it quick if I get inside one time—crack him in the jaw. You should take that ring he says. Your fingers is way bigger than mine—paws, I say. We laugh. Jay’s wife is sitting a ways off under a tree, talking to a neighbor—knitting. It’s Brooklyn but not Brooklyn. In another part of the dream I have a frustrating conversation with an ex and then I’m mad I haven’t stuck to my plan to never talk to her again. I’m back with Jay-Z. By now, we abandon the slapbox. We’re breathing heavily and sweating. 24 u Crab Orchard Review
Roger Bonair-Agard It’s time for me to go. We gotta get up I say. No doubt, he says. Come back to Brooklyn fam. We need you. I wish, I answer. I’ve got a kid. Gotta get back to her. Bring her too, he says. Brooklyn take care of y’all. Here’s my number. Gimme a call. We dap up. I hug Jay-Z’s wife. They stand close to each other and wave as I leave. Everyone is a little sad.
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Shevaun Brannigan Lucky Ones The girls in ripe fruit-bright dresses do not smile their Gulf of Guinea mouths. They have been through the unimaginable ordeal I can’t stop imagining— the girls sleep in rows. They have a busy day ahead. They dream of physics exams, of boys in the village they like, of a disagreement that day between friends. They dream through the cargo trucks pulling up, booted feet descending on their school ground, through guns cocking, through the police fleeing to the bush. Out of the 276 girls kidnapped, at least one dreams she is flying before the men enter the school and begin to yell their God-shouts, to fire their weapons in the air where moments before a girl had been soaring. The girls are herded onto trucks like goats. As the trucks pull away, the burning school collapses into itself like grief, as though the girls are its beams, and without them, the school can’t stay standing. In neighboring villages, as flames spread from roof to roof, so does word of the stolen daughters—like parents’ wails, embers fly to the stars. New constellations.
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Shevaun Brannigan Inside the trucks, the girls huddle together. Some stare out the open back, mark the speed of their lives disappearing with each shrub that rushes past. Then, the trucks begin to slow. Here, my mind falters. To jump from the back of the truck, to risk being shot, to run through the unfamiliar, dark underbrush, to see the flames, to run toward them, to hope that the strangers whose faces are lit by fire can be trusted and can be brave, to risk being chased, to leave their sisters behind? To stay, to risk being shot, to be led at gunpoint through the unfamiliar, dark underbrush, to be told to renounce their God, their life, the laws of physics, to be sold? A girl running toward flames remains running toward flames unless acted upon by an outside force—the woman of the burning village who catches the girl in her arms and tells her she is safe for now. One of the lucky ones. The woman’s body presses against the girl’s. The girl’s body presses back.
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Andrea Carter Brown Getting Out the Vote after Robert Campin A hard-worn garden complex in Las Vegas. Last stop of a long, desiccating day. Dented door, much painted. Through it, children’s laughter, muted: at least someone is home. Four raps on the brass knocker. A friendly Latino woman opens the door, surprised to find two middle-aged Anglo women. “Grassroots volunteers for the campaign,” they introduce themselves, “We’re looking for,” one consults a clipboard, “Luis Gonzalez.” According to the print-out, he is the only voter living here. “Is he home?” “Yes.” Pause. “Can we speak with him?” “You’ll have to come inside.” Longer pause. “We’re not supposed to.” “He’s paralyzed.” The two volunteers exchange glances, decide to break the rules. Smiling, she leads them down a hall into a small bedroom. In the far corner, a man lies on a single bed. He is wearing nothing but a T-shirt and disposable underpants. In his eyes, a wild expression which subsides only after the young woman, his daughter it turns out, explains who these strangers are. Speaking for him, she tells them: Yes, he wants to vote.
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Andrea Carter Brown No, he isn’t registered. This will be his first election since becoming a citizen, since being paralyzed. Thus, the Q & A begins, the patient daughter switching easily between English and Spanish, as together they complete the complicated form. Citizen: Yes. Over 18: Yes. Name: Last, First, Middle. But he has two last names; they make one the middle. Address: easy. Date of birth: the shocker. How young he is, given how old he looks. Place of birth: Veracruz, Mexico. Driver’s License: No. State Photo ID: to both volunteers’ relief, he has one. The daughter rattles off the number she knows by heart. Signature: their hearts sink, assuming he can’t write. Instead, the daughter squeezes into the space between the wall and the bed, holds the clipboard steady, helps him get a firm grip on the pen, and guides his hand to the slender rectangle within which he must sign. And he does, in cramped, shaky script, legible to the Anglos, who are satisfied it will pass muster. This is one registration they want to get right. May every clerk who lays eyes on it send it on its way without a hitch. May this absentee ballot arrive. In time. En español. May this man, who has waited so long to vote, whose life has been unspeakably hard, be able to cast his first vote for a President
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Andrea Carter Brown of the “Party of the Poor,” as his daughter enthusiastically volunteers. Five people in that small square room. At the center, a wasted man. On his left, his wife gently strokes his forearm with one finger; on his right, his daughter with children of her own fills in the date. At the foot of the bed, two Anglo women look on reverently, like donors consigned to a side panel or corner of the altarpiece. Humbled, they try not to stare. Instead, unaware until they confess it later to each other, they look at his feet. The nails, especially. So clean, and trimmed. Buffed even. The care that went into that. They take in the room’s cleanliness, the lack of smell, the absence of medical equipment, the second bed for the wife, the man’s bed positioned so he can see out the window. Struggling not to lose it, the Anglo women summon up “Adios”—to the man, his daughter, and the wife, who responds, “Ve con Dios,” using the familiar form of the verb. Giggles, suddenly: unsuspected by the grown-ups, three of the daughter’s children are hiding under the bed. Having heard and understood every word, Spanish and English, in unison they chime in “Good-bye,” a knowing look in their eyes. Long after the two volunteers hurry back to the County Clerk to deliver this voter registration before the deadline, both women
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Andrea Carter Brown will worry about him, will be haunted by the look in his eyes, his wasted legs and dainty feet, will hope this vote brings Luis MartĂn-GonzĂĄlez peace.
Crab Orchard Review
Cortney Lamar Charleston
“Still Life with Torso of Cornrowed Neo-Soul Sanger” The video rolls: first the chords, and then, there he is; a spotlight skims him from the head down, creating a sheen on chocolate every shea butter believer must praise, and I’m tantalized to the point of hard staring, my bottom lip quivering with a lyric, I think. I’m not old enough for anybody around me to know certainly if I’m straight or not; how to diagnose my eyes’ fixation. I’m still coming into my own, another potential Mandingo bred to drip off the bone and as curious as any swallower of sound and light can possibly be. On the TV: a man, stripped to bare skin. Humanoid drum—a tighthide beat with many a homegirl’s whet-mouthed wanting: this boy, as church-going mamas chide, standing there buck naked, chest all out likely firm enough to dead a punch, abdominals in flex as he sets that falsetto aflutter from his throat like a caged dove. His pelvic bone leads eye lines into a censor-friendly tease at screen bottom; still, a point has been made in that mental darkness. I know what every man has between his legs, but I don’t know exactly what every man has. I know what I have between my own, and what I’d like to, and what a textbook says I’m going to get that I didn’t ask for. I know soul music comes from the pit of the stomach; my soul lived before my body had a name. It whispers prayer that a coffee-colored woman flours the bird of my spirit with lenient hands: call it a nappy headed dream, call it a pitied-fool’s fallacy—unless I twisted my roots. Maybe if I had them tilled, split like a cotton field into rows, if I could really sang like chicken grease in a cast iron skillet or was a prime cut of meat and mystery, then she would come to me, take me with her into a humbler past, our sincerest luxury our closeness when sleeping. 32 u Crab Orchard Review
Cortney Lamar Charleston Yeah, I’m old enough to know no black boy should ever want to travel backwards in time, but I recognize love is strange voodoo; there’s no other way to explain the pin needles, how anatomies of mine move of a shadow mind at the fathom of even holding her—I’m telling you, this is how it feels: like I’m a man with hands, like I’m a man with a mouth.
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Susanna Childress Ten Long Weeks at Sea The search continues for Architeuthis… —July 2001 And how does the giant squid pull in its prey, with talon-tongue, its radula, its purple mouth spread for vivisection? Scientists wander the deep in pods, pressure-sensitive cameras winking. Let’s roll, they say, We’ve got squiddage—so much time, like everything else, spent waiting for the right time—Today’s the day! Each day you check for blood, for spotting, for the baby to signal, I’m here. I’ll stay. Over the deep-sea CB someone shouts, Topside to Squidrover sudden storm blowing in a real doozie pull up repeat pull up over. No one can tell you how many babies you’ll have to lose. No one wants to speculate. Some mouth somewhere is open. Some beautiful depth, plumbed. In the black of 2000-feet, fish-flecked, the camera delivers silence, the whites of eyes, the path of hands flinging up. 34 u Crab Orchard Review
Megan Giddings I Invented Longing It’s late June and we’ve spent hours drinking blonde sangria in the backyard. Everyone else is in the party, sweating and dancing and having to yell to be understood. We’re in a long talk about whether or not eating the grapes floating in our drinks will make us more or less drunk. More, we decide. Then I talk about how handsome Magneto was. How sexy he made Nazi-hunting. It’s a relief that you finally see my point. When we were in the theater, I gasped the first time I saw him. It was as if his perfectly clinging white polo shirt could turn water into wine. A man behind us had heard me gasp and said, “Get it, Girl.” You teased me about it for days. But now, we vow to quit our jobs, buy dramatic face-framing hats, and travel the world hunting down dictators and fascists. We’re going to live a real Magneto lifestyle. I’m so happy, I swear even my mitochondria are beaming. For months, I have wanted to be with you. And now here we are planning an adventurous life together filled with great clothes and socially condoned violence. And when that life is fully planned, we fall into a conversation about how we’re living in the sexiest time in all of history. At least in the United States. “We’ve invented jeans that make our asses, all asses look great. You can be 500 pounds and still have a great ass,” you say. “Do you mean skinny jeans?” I ask, fishing a grape out of my glass. I pop it in my mouth, feel it burst between my teeth. You nod. The sides of our hands are touching. “Even our superhero movies are so sexy now,” I add. “Growing up, I saw nothing sexy in the Superman movies or Michael Keaton being a wistful Batman. But here I am. An adult woman getting to see Batman do shirtless push-ups.” You tell me about a time before I knew you. The police found a man waiting for you by the dumpster. Well, anyone in my building, you clarify. He was clutching a knife, planning to slit someone’s throat and take all their stuff. Crab Orchard Review
Megan Giddings You take a long blast of sangria. I watch your Adam’s apple bob with the effort. One of the hardest things, I think, is knowing the right way to say you are precious to me. I’m not sure why I feel this way, but if everything were little—not just my feelings, but the entire world—it would be so much easier to be sincere. “It happens,” you say as if you had just been talking about spilling a glass of water or leaving the grocery store without getting eggs. We lie down. The soil is cool. It’s too bright to see any stars. My mouth is still knit shut. I listen to you breathe and hope my nose is inhaling your exhales.
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Linda Downing Miller The Decider There
were plenty of psychologists who could lead you through your damaged childhood to a better-adjusted present. There were loads of lawyers who could help you put an ex- before spouse and halve possessions. There was a handful of advice columnists who might weigh in on your problem if they chose you. There were no straight-up decision-makers for hire: people offering to make your personal choices, in your best interests, for a small fee. At least, none that I found after several hours of Internet research. I took that void as an opportunity for profit. I was home from college with a bachelor’s degree in business: a young white male of average distinction. Unemployment hovered at 10%. The rare, entry-level corporate job attracted blizzards of resumes; I was buried beneath the perfect GPAs with their virtuous records of service. Even area retailers and restaurants weren’t accepting applications. In the unlikely event of an opening, hiring managers and HR departments had plenty of pre-screened candidates to call. It was up to me to find my own livelihood. Bootstraps, right? We can’t all sit around playing video games, doing nothing about our status among the 99%, while our student loans come due. Inspiration hit on a Friday night in September. I could hear my sister banging around in the neighboring bedroom, her dresser drawers thudding, her sighs escalating. I couldn’t concentrate on what I was reading—some online article about interviewing skills I’d probably never need anyway—so I knocked on her door and shouted through it. “What the heck are you doing in there? A gut and remodel?” Alexa whooshed the door open and shot me that sibling look—the you-are-so-not-funny. Then she flopped beside a heap of clothes on her bed. “I can’t decide what to wear. My favorite shirt’s dirty. And I have a date with this hot new guy in AP Psychology.” She had on an old flannel robe of our dad’s, probably pulled from a give-away pile five years ago when he’d moved out to move in with his girlfriend. I refrained from the obvious joke (“I’d go with the Crab Orchard Review
Linda Downing Miller moth-eaten flannel”) and instead closed my eyes and massaged my temples. “I am channeling ‘hot new guy in AP Psychology.’ Show me your top choices, and I’ll tell you which one will make me fall madly, permanently in love with you.” Alexa laughed. When I opened my eyes, she was gathering options, her ironed hair swaying in flat curtains over her clothes. “For $5,” I added. She said, “You’re evil, Kevin,” but she paid. And she stopped thudding and sighing. And she wore my pick: a blue shirt with lacy sleeves but plenty of coverage up front. (I may have been channeling “brother” as well as “hot new guy.”) Her $5 bill got the business side of my brain working. The Internet research followed. Within a week, I’d put up a bare bones website and drafted some basic copy. I tried it out on my mom over pizza one night, Alexa off on her second date with AP Psychology guy. (Shirt must have worked.) Quoting from my home page: “The Decider™ frees you, the customer, from self-doubt and second-guessing. I lift the weight of responsibility from your shoulders and serve as a convenient target for blame if things don’t go as you had hoped. I don’t guarantee results. Just decisive decisions and 24-hour turnaround.” My mom nodded approval, her curly hair in clear agreement. “I think you’ve found an unmet market need. In fact, I might be able to use your services.” She whisked away our plates and glasses, although I was still chewing. “I’m going to a doctor in the city Monday morning for a second opinion on something. A women’s medical issue.” Her head disappeared into the dishwasher and popped back up. “I can’t decide whether to catch the 7:21 or the 7:50 train. I’m supposed to be there at 8:45. I don’t want to be late, but I hate to be too early. I tend to be early.” I swallowed a bite of pizza that had kind of gotten stuck in my throat. “Is the office close to the train station?” “Ten-minute cab ride.” “Take the 7:50 and sleep in,” I advised, diplomatically avoiding any mention of the dark circles under her eyes. “That sounds like a good decision.” She pulled $10 from her purse and handed it over, without even asking my rates or trying to bargain me down. I built on each experience—for instance, requiring a Q&A with the customer before even the most straightforward-sounding 38 u Crab Orchard Review
Linda Downing Miller decision. (My mom was a few minutes late for her second opinion because I’d failed to consider her morning coffee habit and related need to use the bathroom after a 40-minute train ride.) The beauty of the business, though, was that people tended to be satisfied just because they’d been spared the agony of deciding. Even my jobless old high school friends seemed able to muster up crumpled fives and tens from the couch cushions, or from gainfully employed relatives, so that I could save them from painful decisions like whether they should shave for a cousin’s confirmation/bar mitzvah. (Answer: lose the creepy beard.) As I gained customers, I fine-tuned my pricing and identified types of decisions The Decider would not take on: ■ Decisions that might result in a crime or loss of life (Should I join the army? Trash a cheating girlfriend’s car? Go through with radical preventive surgery? I’m sorry, but you’re on your own.) ■ Decisions about who was right/at fault/started it, etc. (“The Decider does not take sides or resolve disputes.”) I priced decisions at an escalating rate of significance, based entirely on my judgment, from $5 to $100 per decision. Decisions for groups—e.g., where should we host our grandmother’s 90th birthday dinner?—required a kind of prenuptial contract. (Everyone pledged to abide by The Decider’s answer in advance.) Decisions that needed research—I’d have to find the restaurants to consider, not just choose among them—cost an extra $40 an hour. I worked mobile from my subsidized “family plan” cell phone or from my home office/childhood bedroom with free Internet access. A few months into the business, net income was solid. I’d saved enough to pay the security deposit and first month’s rent for a place of my own, but I hesitated to make the move; beyond the business expense advantages, I appreciated being near what was left of my family. At that point, my mom was spending a lot of time in bed, recovering from surgery and getting ready for some follow-up stuff that didn’t sound pleasant. I restricted my business hours to between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. so that if I were on the home front, my calls wouldn’t disturb any recuperative rest. Personally, I started to sleep less and less.
Crab Orchard Review
Linda Downing Miller In the beginning, the work hadn’t stressed me out at all. I’d get a request—should I buy the red Converse low tops or the navy? I’d discuss it with my customer/sister’s-friend’s-sister for five minutes. I’d run around the park across the street or play air guitar to a favorite tune in my room while glancing at online images of canvas shoes, and bam. I’d deliver my decision. I might get a call a week later—hey, the red Converse clash with a lot of my pink and orange tops—I’d be like, well, yeah, but overall, the navy would have made you a much more boring person style-wise. Consider that! One problem, I think, was that I developed a few steady clients. From a business standpoint, that’s gold, right? Repeat customers. You don’t have to spend marketing dollars to attract them or waste time learning their basic backstory. But what I realized after a while was that customers could become dependent, giving up more and more choices, literally handing off their lives to me. And who was I? Some 22-year-old doling out decisions from the cocoon of my room or hanging out in musty basements watching even more pathetic peers beat their all-time records in virtual races and fake worlds. This customer Blake was my biggest challenge. He started out simply enough, called me my first month in business. “Hey Kevin? I heard you were offering some kind of decision-making help? My buddy Glen told me. He knew you in high school I guess?” “Yeah that’s right,” I said. “Glen’s a good guy—rock star on World of Warcraft, too.” I reviewed my rates and all, and Blake said, “Well, the thing I’m trying to figure out is whether or not I should go to graduate school. I’m sort of sick of the whole school thing. I’d like to work, but I haven’t been able to find a job, and my dad says go to grad school, so it’s like… do you think I should apply or not? Or…what would it cost for you to decide that?” “I’m thinking that’s a $50 decision,” I said. He agreed that was fair, and so I asked him some questions about his career goals and stuff, what type of job he hoped to have, how he had done in school as an undergrad, how he would finance the whole thing. When I found out that his dad had basically offered to pay his way through grad school free of charge, no loan, no payback, I was like “Dude! Go to freakin’ grad school! That is a no-brainer, and that is my final answer. I’ll send you an invoice.” (And dream of being you.) I think it was only a day later when I got another call from Blake. He wanted to know what grad schools he should apply to. I wondered 40 u Crab Orchard Review
Linda Downing Miller how the guy had gotten into college in the first place, but I just said, “Bro, there are books and online listings and stuff for that. You need to look up the ones that have the best programs for your field. If you want me to do it, I will, but I’ll charge $40 an hour, and it’ll probably take a few hours.” He agreed to take the first cut. A couple days passed, and then he emailed me his top five choices, environmental science programs. I told him, “Apply to all of them in case you don’t get in. That’ll be $10.” Well you probably get the idea. He kept calling me, and I kept charging him small fees for “duh” kinds of decisions: should I write one of my essays about working on a service project in Zimbabwe or about caring for my grandmother with Alzheimer’s during summers home from college? (Answer: Zimbabwe. Everybody has a grandmother with Alzheimer’s. Plus, Zimbabwe has an environment.) He finally decided on a graduate program in North Carolina (another $40 for me) and moved out there spring semester. Then he called moaning about how he missed his girlfriend. I said, “Uh, Blakey-boy. In none of our 20 or 30 or 40 conversations over the past four months did you EVER mention you had a girlfriend here in Schaumburg, Illinois. That might have been a decision-making consideration, don’t you think? The Decider is feeling ill-informed.” Blake was quiet on the other end of the phone, and I heard my mom creaking around in the hallway. It was after 10 p.m. She probably wanted me to hang up so she could get some rest. She had one of those unpleasant-sounding follow-up treatments scheduled the next day. I asked Blake, “Is she a serious girlfriend?” “Well we were high school sweethearts,” he said. “We went our separate ways in college because she was going out East and I was staying in the Midwest, but we reconnected over the holidays. And now I’m thinking I shouldn’t have left.” “Are you asking me if you should quit school and come home?” “I guess so.” “No. Wait out the semester. That’ll be $10. Gotta go.” During that semester of Blake’s in North Carolina, I noticed my sister developing a little bit of a chip on her shoulder. I’d hear her stamping around, clanging dishes in the kitchen or exhaling at high volume nearby. I opened my door once and she dumped a huge pile of formerly folded laundry at my feet. I was like, “Hey, the carpet isn’t too clean down there.” Crab Orchard Review
Linda Downing Miller She dropped the empty plastic laundry bin over my head. “Vacuum’s in the closet.” “Thanks for the info,” I said, and then a call came in. I’d fallen into a profitable niche handing out relationship-related decisions to the young women of Schaumburg. Sort of ironic, since I myself had zero prospects. But friends of my sister’s, sisters of friends, word spread, they’d call me trying to figure out next moves “from a guy’s perspective.” “So we met last week at this party. We really hit it off. Talked late into the night. He asked me for my number, but I haven’t heard from him. Should I friend him on Facebook?” “Yes.” (Why not? Dude probably still wouldn’t call.) “We had three dates. I thought we were having a great time, and then nothing. He texted me he was busy when I suggested we see a movie two weeks ago. Now I need a date for my friend’s wedding. Should I ask him?” “No. Try another movie, first.” (With low hopes.) I made sure my lovelorn customers understood that The Decider offered thoughtful decisions but not rationales. I didn’t want to be having the difficult conversations those deadbeat guys were avoiding. I was smart there. As far as my sister, well. It seemed that whenever I was off the phone, she wasn’t around. Not long after her laundry tantrum, I ran out of clean underwear. When I checked our basement, I found a pungent pile of my dirty jeans, T-shirts, and boxers beneath the laundry chute. Someone had obviously made a point of overlooking only my clothes. Of course, I didn’t bother my mom about it. I washed them myself; it’s not like I never went to college. Blake got more and more depressed out there in North Carolina. He said most of the other grad students were from the South. They had Southern accents and all. He’d call me to ask questions like whether he should go down the hall to a party or just stay in his room. “I don’t really feel like going,” he might say. “And the people here, they tend to dress up for these things. Khakis and button-downs. What should I do?” I had no clue sometimes—should I be a motivational guru and encourage him to come out of his shell or should I just tell him to do what he felt like doing and hide in his room? I reminded myself that the value of my service was taking the stress out of decision-making, not 42 u Crab Orchard Review
Linda Downing Miller the outcome itself, but I started to hedge my bets in case I was steering him in the wrong direction. One time, I’d tell him “stay home.” The next time, I’d say “go out.” Twenty more dollars would arrive in my bank account. Blake’s disposition remained bleak. One night in March, I got this: “I heard Theresa went out to eat with a guy that I know from my high school. He’s an idiot. And a user.” “What’s the question?” I asked. “Should I have left? I shouldn’t have left, should I?” “The Decider doesn’t deal in the past,” I said. Who profits from that kind of thinking? “Should I come home this weekend, fly home? My dad might pay if I asked him to.” “Would you be missing any parties? You know you need to build your social network out there a little more.” “I don’t think there’s much going on.” “Then fly home. And Blake?” “Yes?” “Bring my $10 to the Hot Dog House, noon Saturday. I think we need to meet.” No doubt I was due for a change of scenery. Awhile back, I had abandoned my “run around the park/airjam to a tune” decision process. The calls had ramped up, and I’d felt pressured to act faster. What I did instead was run down to the kitchen, grab a two-pack of Pop-Tarts, and inhale them in my room while deliberating. I’d snarf and talk to myself, scanning barely relevant advice from online columnists and random bloggers, sputtering crumbs into my laptop keyboard. I’d ball up the empty wrapper and toss it toward my trash can, but the ball would always unfurl; the wrappers were made of some kind of weird, metallic, crunch-resistant material, and so they would open up and float to a landing somewhere near the can. My dingy carpet was littered with Pop-Tart wrappers. And the brown paneling on my walls, installed by some former owner in the ’60s or ’70s, doubled the ugliness of any mess or mood. A couple of days after I told Blake to fly home, I did something I hadn’t done since starting the business. I decided to take a short vacation—a little birthday present to myself. Thursday at 10 p.m., after helping another regular decide whether to go to a movie with an annoying friend or stay home Friday night (Answer: movie, it was a sci-fi Crab Orchard Review
Linda Downing Miller blockbuster), I changed my voice mail to indicate I would be unavailable through the weekend and would return all decisions on Monday. Friday morning, I went downstairs to the kitchen to make myself some scrambled eggs for a change, start the day off right. My mom was draped over a cup of coffee, eyes swollen and slitted. I realized I hadn’t seen her in days. She seemed smaller than I remembered. It might have been the red bandanna wrapped tight to her skull. “Want some eggs?” I asked her. “I’m cooking.” She mustered a weary smile and said she wasn’t hungry. Then she said, “Happy Birthday.” I was touched that she’d remembered, knowing all she’d been going through. I gave her an awkward hug, me standing, she slumping. “Alexa left for school, and she’s at your dad’s this weekend,” my mom said. “But she baked you a cake. It’s on the counter over there. And I got you something.” She nodded toward a book-shaped package next to the cake. “Open it,” she said, and so I did, appreciating the direct order. It was a copy of George W. Bush’s autobiography, Decision Points. He’s not my idol or anything; I was too young to vote during his tenure, but of course he was the original “decider.” Coined the term by accident. (Failed to trademark it.) I admired his “from the gut” approach. It meant a lot that my mom had made the purchase, knowing her personal distaste for the Bush dynasty. “I thought it might help you with your business,” she said. “You’re an awesome mom,” I told her. “And you’re doing so great. Fighting this…thing.” I had yet to use the “c” word—she herself had only let it drop once, after the second opinion, before the battle really began. The thing to do now was to stay the course. “I’m going to read this right away,” I said, waving her present and blinking vigorously until my vision cleared. The weather that day was oddly mild for early spring—not raining and not freezing—so I spent the afternoon on a park bench gleaning what I could from W.’s story. It was basically a back-patting look backward, though. Not much I could use in my position without advisors and all. Plus he had the advantage of belief in an all-knowing, forgiving God. In my business, it was just me. Lifting burdens from my customers. If I’d felt the presence of a higher power, I might have tried to direct his or her attention to more critical matters. My mom and I shared my birthday cake after another pizza dinner, and then she went back to her bedroom to lie down. I thought 44 u Crab Orchard Review
Linda Downing Miller about bringing the rest of the cake to whoever’s basement was on tap that night; before I’d shut off my phone, Glen had texted me something about celebrating with a beer and some cross-faction combat. What I did instead was carry the uneaten cake outside, scoop it from the platter with bare hands, and hurl the thing as hard as I could against the side of the garage. I fired up the hose and watched chocolate frosting turn to sludge, blasted away all blue traces of the “Happy 23.” I can’t really explain why; it was a good cake, moist and flavorful. Before bed, I thanked all my Facebook friends for their birthday wishes. At the Hot Dog House on Saturday, I ordered a double Chicago dog with everything and took it to a booth by the window. I knew Blake right away when he walked in, not just from his online photos and the swoop of black hair he wore over his forehead but from the slow, careful steps he took into the place, as if he were deciding where to place each foot. I raised a hand in his direction; he’d know me from my website. He stopped walking and looked torn—should he place his order or say hello first? Other customers veered past him to the counter. I called out, “Go ahead and order and then come on over,” giving him one for free. When he slid in across from me with a veggie burger, no fries, I knew he needed more help than I could ever give him. “Blake,” I said and put a hand flat on the table, intending to get right to the decisive point: he needed to take responsibility for his own life, kick The Decider habit. He looked at me with blue puppy-dog eyes that could melt the steely resolve of even the most confident expresident. “How’s your girlfriend? Have you seen her yet?” I asked. “We went out last night, but she was kind of keeping her distance. She said she wasn’t sitting around waiting for me to finish grad school, not that I’d asked her to.” He opened his burger and started picking off the onions. “You could have told them to hold those,” I said. He grimaced. “I thought about it….” “Never mind.” I watched him remove the rest of his onions, slimy bit by slimy bit. A Cyrano de Bergerac scenario began playing through my mind. (Theatre Studies had been an easy Humanities credit.) What if I offered to go to Blake’s house with him, and he invited Theresa over? I’d whisper decisions from the bushes through an open window, while he sat on the couch with her. I could even suggest things for him to say like, “I’ve Crab Orchard Review
Linda Downing Miller realized I’m in love with you. I should never have let you go. Do you think you could wait for me to finish grad school? Could we be exclusive?” I didn’t know Theresa yet, but what if I fell in love with her, and then she realized that she’d fallen in love with me? Only I wasn’t a guy with blue puppy-dog eyes and swoopy black hair but a guy carrying around 20 extra pounds of Pop-Tarts? A guy who was actually beginning to lose the hair around his temples from entrepreneurial stress? I turned on my phone and saw that I had 18 voice mails since I’d shut it off Thursday. Probably 18 more decisions that had to be made. “Blake,” I said. “Business is up. And in the interest of fairness, I am going to have to limit our relationship to one decision per week. I felt I should tell you in person.” Okay, I’d gotten wishy-washy. But he needed time to get his balance before I shoved him down the road on his own. “Oh gosh,” he said, chewing. Swallowing. Thinking. “Can you help me decide which decision to ask you about each week?” What would “W.” do? At heart, I felt he was kind of a softy. I said, “Yes. Okay buddy.” Then I told Blake to tell Theresa his true and deep feelings for her before he headed South. Sunday morning, I started catching up with things at the office: ■ Go ahead and get that short haircut. ■ Attend the recital instead of the bar crawl. ■ Wear the sport coat and tie for the informational interview. ■ Don’t buy the two-year repair protection plan. ■ Confront your BFF about her backstabbing. ■ Hold off on the flaming skull tattoo. ■ Ask her to marry you. ■ Tell your parents you’re gay. ■ Etc. I was in a comatose state of non-sleep, lying on a pile of barely crumpled metallic wrappers somewhere in the vicinity of my bed, when my sister called. “Dad told me I should confront you about your lack of contribution to our household,” Alexa said, all formal and non-teenagery. “Oh really? Who crowned him The Decider? It’s trademarked on my website you know.” 46 u Crab Orchard Review
Linda Downing Miller “Seriously, Kevin. You need to step up. I’ve been doing the grocery shopping after school. I’ve been doing the cleaning—except your room. I’ve been the one taking Mom to chemo every other Friday, too.” “I appreciate that, kid. I know I’ve let my business take over too much of my time.” “Things have to change,” she said. “I got a job at the mall. I’ll be working through the summer. And then I’ll be gone. Ohio State, remember?” Since when were they hiring at the mall? Someone could have told me. “I’m prepared to help,” I said. “But in the meantime, tell Dad to mind his own freakin’ business.” “Tell him yourself,” she said. “And you can buy your own PopTarts this week. I’m staying at Dad’s.” “Thank you for the birthday cake,” I remembered to say. The week was grueling. I shopped for groceries. Vacuumed. Laundered. Cooked dinners my mom hardly ate. Decided things. When Blake called Friday morning, I realized I had missed him. “Good to hear from you Blakey! How can I help?” “Well,” he said. “I just wanted to tell you…I talked to Theresa about my feelings. How I thought she was so special. How being with her made me feel so awesome. I told her I was sorry I had left for grad school. That I would really rather have stayed home and hung out with her on the weekends and worked maybe at the public works department, using my degree, but they hadn’t had any openings. I asked her if we could maybe get pre-engaged. If we could agree to see only each other until I got my master’s, and then we could talk about whether we were ready to get actually engaged, since I wasn’t sure how fast we should move and all.” Man, had he needed Cyrano in the bushes. “Yeah?” I said. “She said to call her when I had my degree but that her phone number might have changed.” “Uh oh.” “I don’t really have any decisions for you this week. I just thought I’d call.” “No problem. Keep in touch,” I said. “Sorry about Theresa.” “That’s okay. It wasn’t your fault,” he said. “I’ve decided it was mine.” I had a vision of little Blakey teetering down the autobahn on a tricycle. It made me dig around in the refuse of my room until I found a half-empty box of tissues. And then it was strange. One tissue led Crab Orchard Review
Linda Downing Miller to another. I’d tapped into some kind of inner torrent. In the span of about an hour, I drained that sucker. Dry-eyed, I drove my mom to chemo. Sat next to her watching the drip drip drip of toxic fluid. She actually slept through most of it. Thanked the nurses and me as we were leaving. “No biggie,” I said, feeling a wave of desire for my brown paneling, my familiar, metallic mess. My mom’s grateful expression faded into the flat, inward gaze of someone who knows something ugly is on its way. On my website, I put “The Decider™ is currently on hiatus.” What really happened is that Alexa got my application to the right people at the Shoe Palace. I’ve had good feedback on my performance, particularly from my female customers. I take my time with each one. No rush. No problem thinking about it. Of course I’ll offer an opinion if asked. Yes, I think your husband will love the red. No, I don’t see anything wrong with a pair of sturdy, practical sandals. If a customer asks me to help her choose between pairs, I stammer and mumble and say that if she really likes both of them, maybe she should consider treating herself to two? The commissions come in steady, not quite at the level of my old gig, but I sleep better at night. I’ve quit the Pop-Tarts, lost 10 pounds, and taken over food purchase and prep on the home front. When Alexa leaves for college, I’ll cover the cleaning, too, no problem. Blake got home from North Carolina in May and isn’t sure whether he’ll go back. He didn’t ask me to decide for him, and I’ve kept quiet. Honestly, I hope he stays here. He started dating someone new, someone he met in human resources at the public works department. The girl is sort of vague and quiet and wispy—a perfect match for Blake in my unverbalized view, and she fixed me up with a co-worker of hers. Lara is something special. Kind of old-fashioned. Always wearing dresses and fresh lipstick. Almost always smiling in a kind, reassuring way. She came over the other night and we sat together on the couch after checking whether my mom needed anything in the bedroom. I leaned into Lara and told her about the shoes I’d sold that day. There was one customer I thought had made a poor choice—bought shoes that would probably pinch her toes after an hour or two. Lara told me not to worry. Then we heard my mom coughing upstairs: thick bursts and short, struggling gasps. I jumped up to take a peek, and Lara came with me, and just the soothing touch of her hand on my arm as we looked in 48 u Crab Orchard Review
Linda Downing Miller from the doorway made me feel steadier—like whatever came next, I could handle it, though I wouldn’t exactly say “bring it on.” My mom must have been coughing in her sleep because her eyes were closed, and she quieted while we were standing there, her patchy, half-bald head settling further into the pillow. I have this idea that Lara and I could get married. That maybe together, we could resurrect the business—lighten the burdens of more people. We could take some precautions against customer dependency; Lara would be good at figuring out the policies and procedures we’d need. It’s something to consider, anyway, when the timing feels right. I might even ask Blake for his opinion.
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Tiana Clark Particle Fever (Mark Levinson, 2013) They built a seventeen mile circle to recreate the big bang, how the laws of physics crash like a drum beat of what makes us. Your hand finding mine in the car ride home, as white lines on the highway blur into memory. I do not need to know every answer. Give me a plane ride to question my ego. When you are mad, give me my first name in your mouth— hard consonant of T, said with the Tip of the Tongue. What we speak into existence like a drum beat of what makes us. Give me a plane ride to question myself. Aren’t we always flying, into each other into the mouth of the universe? Could it be magic? The white bunny we lift from the hat like early fog on the road to work. We discover foot by foot how we grope for each other, sway to music we don’t even hear.
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Tiana Clark There is always movementâ€” atoms bouncing around us like a room full of endless balloons. The seen and unseen world. What wanted to be born out of nothing? Mouth openâ€”kiss ready: lit with charge and wonder.
Crab Orchard Review
Heidi Czerwiec An Ode to Iron Chef O Kaga, king of your Kitchen Stadium stable of chefs, Chairman of red-pepper chomp, you intone If memory serves… to set both scene and table with the rarest, most expensive foods flown in special, especially prepared by giants of culinary skill. O secret ingredient! O mounds of matsutake mushrooms! O Battle Octopus, bludgeoned alive! Suspense of ice cream chiller (will it work?), decadence of duck seared in lacy caul of fat! O fortune teller feasting on foie-gras-stuffed bream! O squid ink, swallow’s nest, and saffron! O dainty ingénue crunching ortolon! All devised by badly dubbed demand, Allez cuisine!
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Jim Daniels Filling Out the Health Evaluation Questionnaire Have you ever had? I have been troubled. I continue to be troubled. I have farted and burped and will continue to do so. I have a history of a loss of consciousness at night. I self-treat hunger, and snack frequently, in mockery of the clockery. God was once my primary care physician, but he no longer takes my insurance. Angels buzz in my ears, and I see halos around lights, but I am taking my vitamins. I am allergic to advice and helium balloons. I am over my affair with recreational drugs, though they still call me late at night and breathe heavily. My hair thins with vivid dreaming. I have many occasions per week, but would like more occasions. More opportunities to tremble. I notice an unusual taste in my mouth after eating unusual things. I perspire easily in the face of the halitosis of shallowness. I prefer day sweats to night sweats. I have noticed changes in thirst. I have been in love. Itâ€™s a chronic condition. I bruise easily. I have lost the ability to play the bongos and tolerate oldies stations. My heart has skipped at the faint voices of my dead. I have experienced loss of hearing and sensitivity. There is a history of death in my family that I believe I have inherited.
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Tough Guys on Facebook There they are: Marko Meathook, Fat Freddy, Mean Gin-o, two of the three Bruise Brothers. What are they all doing now, fat and tattooed, gaunt and tattooed, still buff, and tattooed? Smiling shy or with mugshot bravado, cradling grandchildren, arms around their kids legit and illegit, their bewildered or posing or loving spouses or hook-ups or exes, or alone, hunched over the fire of a beer or a cup of Starbucks. They stare back at me baldly, but I remember their long stringy hair of spit and slurs, lifting me rattling against a hallway locker for change, for drugs or just because, shoving me into the trash beneath bleachers, behind auto shop, in the Warren Guns parking lot. Hard. Tough. Greasers. Rockers. Hoods. At their keyboards. Got a smoke? Got a light? Impact of a meaty fist in the gut. Marko could be an usher in church with that warm, holy grin. The Bruise Brothers, polite funeral home employees. Fat Fred? Slimmed down into a gentle sag. They had jobs, and they kept them or lost them, just like the rest of us. They had bosses. They took and continue to take out the trash.
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Jim Daniels Someone loved them once, or twice. Too old to be anyoneâ€™s muscle, they muscle their way onto my computer screen. What do they want? They want to be friends.
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Declaring Bankruptcy Nostalgia’s inflationary tendencies hit me upside the head on the phone with my oldest friend he’s at his mother’s she who angrily remembers nothing tell her I said hi hi hi hi. She broke up our last fight forty-five years ago shaming us at twelve when it wasn’t so hard. He’s lost his business and maybe it’s not my business but I call from three states away, offer condolences, etc.—it’s all in the silences. He’s shrugging it off though I can’t see the shrugs. I hear the wistful drift the shame of not getting the joke wrong end of the telescope rain blowing through screen and onto carpet— that kind of storm. Once when I was sick for the forever of six childhood weeks he knocked softly on the door and we built houses of cards in the silence of the late afternoon rug.
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Jim Daniels See what I mean about nostalgia—we start talking at the same time, then both stop and wait. What do you do at age 58 when you lose your business after 35 years? No cake, no candles. 300 miles away I listen to the same rain. Giving up the ghost. Looking for another ghost. He has buried his father, his daughter, his business partner. So who am I to offer condolences now? Two photos in front of my old house on Rome across from his: next to each other in our Eagles baseball uniforms gloves at our feet, next to each other in our tuxedos before we pick up our prom dates. Luxury tax on nostalgia. The rain isn’t letting up. Looks like a rainout. Looks like Monopoly in the basement farting contests and kool-aid— I could go on forever, but I’ll leave us naked streaking through the Big Boy’s over on Ryan— who were those crazy kids? You had to have been there and we were having given up all our assets having revealed all our assets get it get it? No joke Monopoly in the basement wistful drift
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Jim Daniels wrong end of the telescope that kind of storm say hi to your mother tell her I remember everything
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Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach For the Journalists Who Write About Ukraine After Steven Lee Myers and Alison Smale’s March 2014 article in the New York Times, “Russian Troops Mass at Border with Ukraine” Only use familiar turns of phrase: the crisis between the Kremlin and the West. Use quantitative words—excessive, full-scale, massive, mass—an urgency, that like a horse or dog, you’ll tame. Use metaphors of temperature —erupting, heat, a flash point— simple hots, like oil or flame, to echo a named winter, a cold that never ended. Build potential gravity like an asteroid’s pull towards what will burn it down to dust, the threat of a deep rupture—impervious to anger and to breach, the chernozem split wide and wild and reaching. And then
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Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach discuss the territorial integrity of this. Interrogate and pin its body: logical male rushing nation or hysteria-filled okraina, female border. Pin, restrain it —immutable— then strip it down to claim you understand the workings of this land, the place where river-bones meet coal-soil skin. Call it catastrophe for Ukraine and pretend omission lacks intent. The article not present in the Slavic will go unnoticed, but when it rises—as all silence must— and cracks the Dnepr river’s ice, its howl will wedge between the blend of air and water: a heap of fur and frozen blood-bones, resurfacing, like a litter of kittens drowned that summer.
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Amy Elisabeth Davis Untethered Self-regulation is to regulation as self-importance is to importance. —Willem Buiter So all bets are off: water should be slipping down edges of pine needles in some New England August, not dripping from eucalyptus. Los Angeles does not do thunder in October. It plans half-mindedly for hopscotch monsoons stopping by when ocean grows a shade less cool, when El Niño—missed for years— blusters back, but without the crashings that shake roof and windows as sky gods battle this autumn afternoon. One more sign the seasons are shifting, steadfastly, everywhere, toward that great melt we fear when we think to imagine everything we do not want to think about. * The Jazz Age over, a nation watched numbers slide from tickers into ponds of despondency and certain we would
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Amy Elisabeth Davis bank on hunches and good weather, tried to guard the future from itself. But even though the ocean lashed come fall, we did not hear the warnings, overlooked another era’s dreams of us, for us, let planks and shingles fly. Now, like water falling from fir, numbers glisten as once they sighed. Screen flicker has shoved aside sad whispers of endless paper ribbons, of streams cascading to the floor. We too bundled gambles into single baskets, bet on dreams, jumped in too late, and had no hooks to keep the markets fastened firmly to the cliff’s fierce edge. * Every autumn we chanced it, lowered the umbrellas, neglected the levees, failed to sound the sirens that were not there. We watched water take cities, villages, and fishing boats—all unloosed from anchors—thrashing into the sea. Then, once more, stocks’ tumblings taught the tired that a lifetime had not bought the laying down of work. Chasing off the salt and spice of red-hot chips for supper, tainted water filled small bellies, let children sleep as surely as the homeless
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Amy Elisabeth Davis street folk huddled over grates where steam en route to warm the offices of government escapes. Better, though, to stretch out on a sidewalk where heated water fills the air than getting caught in an attic, drowning thirsty, once oceanâ€™s climbed the stairs. We swim between the fires last time and the fires next. After the rain, walking on trails already emptied by the drought below, no one throws a rope offshore. Rope must first devise new length from untwined fibers, nets be woven, strung anew. Meanwhile, broken shelf of ice, plank, and roof persist in weaving strangely between loosened nature and untied temperament.
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Ann V. DeVilbiss The Murder Cycle
For Ellen Marks, Jill Behrman, Crystal Grubbs, Lauren Spierer September, 2012 Bloomington, Indiana
They released him early, for good behavior, because half of his life was worth all of hers.
I. Insomniac You learn the shape of a room long past midnight, learn its walls lit only by the cracks in the blinds, and bright every rare hour a car drives by like a lighthouse out in the sea of the world. Tossing fever makes your bed into a prison, the sheets twisted about your limbs, bound, so you keep a knife by the bed. Around five the vents speak, low voices too faint to make out, susurrous, urgent. Do you know how to keep a secret? Here is how to find a secret: touch the loam of the earth and then 64 u Crab Orchard Review
Ann V. DeVilbiss see the night broken open like a curtain, sending new air into the delicate pleural layers of your chest, air sharp as a lemon, moving through you like a blade through silk. Take the blade from your lungs and use it to open the earth up, and there is the secret, stirring its feathers, trying to find its feet. The part you canâ€™t remember is what happens before you get to morning, how your restless mind finally quiets into darkness. You always wake somewhere different with half-remembered dreams of grasses like tawny hair and the rough heft of cairn stones. When stirred, a secret will rise up sudden, like a kestrel striking: too late for safety, too fast to feel like waiting. You will enter a new country, wild and unsettled. The girls are waiting for you there, in a field somewhere far out, dirty swells of flesh falling aside to show clean white bone. They donâ€™t speak because it is too late to wake you.
Crab Orchard Review
Ann V. DeVilbiss
II. Favorites You like the ones with hair like hay, frizzled and honey hued, the kind that casts a hazy ring of light around their heads bobbing through the halogen glow of the gas station, catching red and blue from the soda machines as they bend to pick out candy you buy them before they follow you into the dark with faces that think they know, but donâ€™t know, not yet. To keep a secret you must build it a house, gather up branches two, three at a time, trying for the shape of a pyre or a pyramid; both are types of tombs, and the dead keep a silence that feels like home to a secret. Before you make them quiet, you take them somewhere far enough that no one can hear. They would break the secret, if they could. After, Lysol rises like sarin over each grave, cloying and heady. You must keep the secret out of the sun, crafting above it a careful shade. Some things have to be protected from light, 66 u Crab Orchard Review
Ann V. DeVilbiss and they live murky lives like dreams underwater, eyes shuttered against the low-slung sun. A secret is one of these.
III. This One Was Lauren I first noticed the door the summer Lauren disappeared, a white door on the back of a box truck parked always in an alley at the end of a tunnel of trees. When a girl went missing, for a while her face would be everywhere, hung like a talisman in every window, as if she would come back if we only proved we still remembered her. Missing is easier to say than murder, with the hard sharp knife, and the way the body blooms around the blade, like a kiss. Looking at the door, I imagined climbing up into the truck to find all the young women who have ever gone missing, the air thick with flies and the smell of the blood Crab Orchard Review
Ann V. DeVilbiss underneath them, their hair dusty with the dirt of shallow graves, lips wrinkled dry over their teeth in the gleaming ivory grin of death. They would shrink away from touch, put out their hands instead, marked deep, each oneâ€™s name scratched carefully into her withered palms. Underground there is time for careful spelling. I will take and keep each girlâ€™s name, lay them all around me like a magic circle late at night when the wolves stay quiet because they are hunting.
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Stephen Pett The Elizabeth Smart Memorial Hike The cackle comes first, from the slope of scrub oak; then a
magpie tears free of the brilliant turning October leaves, plummets, catches just over Mona’s head. Jonas’s uncle Coby tromps behind her up the worn trail winding the bottom of Dry Creek Canyon, talks about the two years he spent in Bolivia as a young man, even lived with a remote, small tribe in the rainforest, about how he came to settle in Michigan, where he lives now, has for at least two decades. He officiated at Mona’s wedding six years ago up another canyon, was deputized at City Hall for the occasion, asked those assembled if they would support this couple promising themselves to each other for all time. But just four weeks ago, Jonas, her husband, botanical illustrator and author Jonas, father of their two children, infant sisters adopted one year after another from a “lapsed” Mormon nineteen-year-old just 250 miles away in Rexburg, Idaho, told her he no longer loved her and, when challenged, confessed to being in love with another woman. Of all the birds in the canyons around Salt Lake, Mona loves magpies most, how they seem to accompany her those rare days she finds time to hike. Just when she feels most alone, one will dive ahead, black wings locked, black tail taut, head black, too, breast white, and vanish around a turn over a rocky trail. Coby says, “You okay?” because she stopped, felt the edges of that bird bladed against her eyes. She breathes. “I don’t know,” she says. “Am I?” “Of course you are,” he says, and she forgives him because he is innately optimistic, she knows that about Coby, naïvely optimistic, like a dog—with a dog’s goatee, a Schnauzer’s? a Wheaten?—a comforting, fastidiously neutral older man she walks with now for his sake as much as for her own. Mona’s not sure exactly why Coby flew out, staying for a week with his sister, Jonas’s aunt Lorrie—except he did just retire from Crab Orchard Review
Stephen Pett teaching at a university…except he heard their marriage was in deep dark trouble. Except he is Coby. He met with them separately the day after he arrived, Mona lunch, Jonas drinks. And yesterday, after paid mediation the day before exploded in impossible demands, they even asked Coby to “help them talk,” to be “Jimmy Carter,” Jonas said, and Mona wondered which party that made her. That two-hour “talk” helped, but left her sobbing, wobbly, and at least Jonas and Mona, still in their house together—Jonas afraid he’d be charged with abandonment if he left—did not shout last night. Then this morning, Sunday, Jesus, Coby phoned. “Jonas has the kids today. How about a hike? It’s eleven years since Elizabeth Smart’s kidnaping. Her book—she wrote a book, My Story—has her all over the news again. Let’s go up and see where they held her.” “You know?” “I’m one of the few. You’re looking for perspective, right?“ “Very funny.” “No joke.” And she forced herself loose of the Sunday silence strangling around the Times. “Amazing, huh?” Coby says. “I’m six or seven and my parents just let me wander up here whenever, never said be careful of this or look out for that. True for other kids in my neighborhood, too. A different time. One kid’s mom did keep him home in August because, she said, ‘That’s when rattlesnakes go blind. They’re shedding and their old skin clouds their eyes till it peels off.’” Coby laughs and pats her back; she strides ahead. “But snakes are hibernating now. It’s only your skin’s shedding.” “The Elizabeth Smart Memorial Hike.” “As promised. The Big Catharsis.” “So I’ll see how lucky I am not to have been brutalized at fourteen. I saw Katrina.” “Hiking’s good medicine, that’s the truth of it, and I wanted to visit the spot. Good old National Enquirer curiosity. This next fork, to the right,” Coby says. Two helmeted mountain bikers, in tight, bright spandex, call, “Coming up,” and Mona and Coby squeeze to the side. The cyclists, a man followed by a woman, churn past, tires slipping, without another word. “Never saw a soul up here when I was a boy,” Coby says. “Now it’s even got a name, the Shoreline Trail. Can’t people keep things, I don’t 70 u Crab Orchard Review
Stephen Pett know…authentic? The good news is, looks like hardly anybody leaves the main canyon.” Bad news for Elizabeth Smart, Mona thinks. Coby goes first into the steep side canyon, pushing under scrub oak branches, the white from the recent, brief, first snow still stitched through shadow around rocks and roots, weaving his way through boulders and rubble. This less-traveled trail must be no more than two miles from where Elizabeth Smart was abducted. Coby says—Coby, the expert, who watched an NBC special from last night on his laptop at breakfast: “Immanuel—real name Brian David Mitchell—took her while her nine-year-old sister lay next to her in bed, marched her right up here.” “Why didn’t the police use dogs?” “They did. Plenty in the news clips. Missed her scent.” Mona smells…the turbulence, shivers, goose bumped in this heat, this strange late heat. “He kept a knife against her the whole way. She asked him, ‘Are you going to kill me?’ and he said, ‘Not yet.’ ‘Do it,’ she told him— so someone would find her body and her parents would know what happened to her.” Coby says, “You first, set the pace.” The trail opens some, still steep but smoother, here in the bottom of a canyon, here at the base of mountain slopes she cannot see the tops of, here strangely two-dimensional in the sun angled just right. They do not talk, and the rhythm of the climb and another magpie diving and the thought of a blind rattlesnake coiled to the side keep her from returning to the dark, oppressive thinking she has been boxed in, that box still nearby, door open, the necessary agony of it all drawing her in, tugging. Uncle Coby asks, “So let me get the history straight.” “The history?” “Jonas was here and you were in Palo Alto when he asked you to marry him.” “After AmeriCorps and New Orleans we moved back to Salt Lake.” “His hometown.” “I didn’t mind. He had this…this power. Then I got into the program at Stanford for a year, and he stayed behind. He had just launched his first field guide. Halfway through he flew to California and proposed.” Crab Orchard Review
Stephen Pett “Watch out,” Coby says. “Muddy the next stretch. Must be from snowmelt. If you want to go back.…Your sneakers’ll get dirty.” “What are shoes for?” Mona says, and she manages to walk on their edges just above the trickle of water and the mud. “Looks like it’s drier ahead.” They have climbed maybe a quarter mile in this side canyon, this spectacular canyon, she can’t help but register, in its fiery reds and crisp golds, without seeing another person. What she sees now are bones. “Whose are these?” “Deer.” He unwedges the white skull from brown soil, leaves clumped in the sockets of its eyes. “I had a student who collects bones,” he says. “Bone collecting’s become this huge hobby. There’re websites where you can order almost any skull you want.” He returns the skull to the depression he worked it from. Blue jays shriek high over them. Small birds drift. Her shoes are muddy but her feet are not wet. Mona is happy her shoes are muddy. They pass the spine, ribcage, and legs of another deer, grasscolored hair matted across the trail. “Deer hair’s hollow,” Coby tells her, “for insulation.” “You think I care about hollow hair,” she would have said from the box, but she does care, even considers gathering a clump of that hair and stuffing it in her pocket. A half-mile in, where the canyon begins to widen and the bottom flattens, the trail is less clear, divides, one vague path leading up higher to the right, another crossing fallen logs to the left. Here the bunched scrub oak gives way to trees, thigh-thick trunks, multicolored leaves, and an almost-meadow spread of grass. Coby stops, turns, smiles. It’s her breath she hears, not his. Her shadow lies weightless on the yellow grass. Grasshoppers, still alive this late, spring, crackle, glide. A finger of sweat tracks from her neck down between her breasts. “This may be where she was,” he says. “But my money says she was at the next clearing. I always wanted to camp up here, one of these unexpected flat spots. A friend of mine and I, maybe ninth grade, were going to once and as I was leaving my dad said, ‘Keep your pants zipped.’ He thought we’d be meeting girls.” “And?” “We spent time with plenty of girls, but none wanted to camp up Dry Canyon. Andale.” Coby starts to the left, Mona to the right. 72 u Crab Orchard Review
Stephen Pett “Maybe the trail died,” Coby calls. On the other side of the dry creek bed, he is squeezing through bushes Mona can’t name. Her way is clear enough, over roots, leaves, rocky soil here pressed with heart-shaped hoofprints, big, and there strewn with dark, damp, grape-sized pellets. “Plenty of deer poop,” she calls. “But I don’t know.” She runs a twig through one of the huge, soft pellets, carries it as her feet, surprisingly steady on this slope, her legs surprisingly strong—must be having kids, invisible exercise, she thinks—carry her forward. Down—where she reconnects with Coby, Coby standing on a trail, the trail they’d lost, that apparently continued between them. “Man, that’s monster deer shit,” Coby says. Monster, she thinks, pitches the twig. She unslings her daypack, removes her Klean Canteen, drinks half the warm water. “Want some?” “No thanks. I’ve never gotten thirsty in the mountains. Beautiful, huh? The colors.” “No wonder they couldn’t find her, Elizabeth Smart. You hiked these canyons your whole life and you got lost.” “Immanuel kept her chained to a tree for four months. Cabled is what it really was, a thick cable bolted around her ankle. You’d think at least one hiker would have passed. But people camping, you don’t intrude. During the huge search after her kidnapping, her uncle came almost this far up the canyon looking. In her tent, cabled to the tree, she heard him calling, and so did Immanuel. He pressed her down with his knife at her throat. And his wife, Wanda Barzee—his other wife, since he’d married Elizabeth in some…some ceremony her first night—what did she do?” “How must the uncle feel now, knowing he came so close?” “If he’d stumbled in on them, he might—” “Okay.” Now Mona knows she wants to see the spot where Elizabeth Smart was held captive, to stand where that tent stood, to wrap her hand around the tree she was cabled to. She goes first, the sun on her hair, her neck, her shoulders, in silence except for the scuffling of her feet, Coby’s thumping boots, Coby’s breathing, short, sharp puffs behind her. Over her shoulder she says, “Do you know what really happened? Between Jonas and me, this past month.” “I know,” Coby says, “that Jonas had weeks to get used to the idea of…and you only learned what…” “A month ago today. No, tomorrow. On the seventh. I’d left town, Crab Orchard Review
Stephen Pett flown to Sacramento, because my father had a clot in his lung. My cell phone died, a toilet drowning, and Dad had been in the hospital and was already out of surgery before I knew. He’s fine, he’s fine, but when I got back home the girls kept talking about this woman, saying how nice she was, that she’d played with them while I was gone—in my house. I’d asked Jonas about her before, since I knew they did things together, but this time, no emotion in his voice, he said, ‘I don’t love you anymore. I’m in love with someone else.’ Just like that.” Her shoes are pounding now, her arms like wings driving. Coby’s breathing heaves behind her. “And you know what he said? You know what he said?” she nearly shouts. “He said, ‘This is not an affair. This is just a relationship you don’t approve of.’” She stops, wipes her eyes with the sleeve of her shirt, her eyes that have not really let tears go. Her heart is like some, some rodent digging its way out. “Maybe there,” Coby says. A trail angles off this one up through scrub oak to the left to what she can see is a flat under open sky. Coby says, “He’s…he’s not thinking straight. He.…This infatuation has him…crazy. I’m a guy. I can understand how a guy—” “And listen to this. When I…when I brought up right and wrong, he said he thinks this like black-and-white binary morality causes more trouble in the world than it solves. ‘Look,’ he said. ‘Murder is murder unless the circumstances justify it, right? Then it’s no crime. Same with…assault…’ ‘Murder and assault?’ I said. ‘That’s extreme, okay,’ he said, ‘but I’ve been unhappy, for years…and this choice of mine…I can’t say it’s wrong.’ ‘I can,’ I told him. ‘I can.’” Mona’s legs have lowered her to the dry, rock-pocked earth. Her arms have given up their bones against her sides. Is her burning face going to crack, flake away from the hard empty cavity of a skull? “Mona,” Coby says. “I guess this was a terrible idea, huh? Hey.” She wishes Coby could hold her, hug her, but she knows that cannot be, the two of them alone up this canyon, but how could that be wrong? Simple solace. What he does is rest his hand on her shoulder, this man who is no real relation of hers. Why should she trust him? Because they asked him to marry them years ago? Because of his avuncular slouch and stupid goatee? She raises her legs, presses her forehead into her knees. “I’m so…so sorry,” she says. His hand opens across the middle of her back, vanishes, and he clears his throat. Silence. Around her heart, her lungs. One bird whistles. Some 74 u Crab Orchard Review
Stephen Pett creature leaps up the slope through leaves behind her—a squirrel? a marmot? a coyote? a mountain lion? Coby, almost whispering, says, “When whoever it was on that TV show, Meredith Vieira, someone, asked Elizabeth Smart how she could stand to be back up here after all she went through—because the Today Show came up here with cameras, they must even have had a helicopter filming, because they had an overhead shot of this canyon—when Meredith Vieira asked her that, she said, ‘I can’t blame the place. This place had nothing to do with it. I blame the people.’” “I…” Mona says. “I…blame myself.” “Oh, please,” Coby says. “Blame Jonas. He chose. He says he can’t help it. Okay. He can say what he wants. But you…you blame him, that’s absolutely fine.” Coby is trying so hard. She cannot lift her head. “Elizabeth Smart said, ‘If I had to pick three words to describe what my life was like up here, I would say, boredom, hunger, and rape.’” Mona tremors up from a place somewhere in the earth. Shakes, but the sun is down her side. One tremor straightens her. Her cheeks are dry. Her mouth is dry. Her eyeballs are bone dry. She swivels those eyes to Coby, who smiles, the wrinkles curling on his face, her own struggling smile reflected back in the round lenses of his glasses. He stands. A magpie cackles. Mona rolls onto her knees. Drinks the last of her water, letting it spill down her chin. “How did you get so fucking wise?” she asks him, and regrets it. “Ha!” he laughs. Yellow teeth. The light thins his face. “I was lucky,” he says. “I’ve told very few people, but I had my affair before I was married. With someone else’s wife. I never would have believed myself capable. She started it…and I couldn’t help it. The wife of the head of my graduate program, the much younger wife. I told myself I loved her, she said she loved me…and doesn’t love trump any morality, I mean really? For those involved, doesn’t it?” “Love of self,” Mona says. “Could be that’s what it all comes down to. Of course she dumped me and went on to some other young guy. I made my choice then. I would be married to marriage. I’ve loved Beatriz all these years, but there are times, there are temptations…?” “No children.” Did she say that? “Sorry.” “Let’s look up here.” Sixty what, sixty-five and Coby bounds up into this new clearing, smaller than the last, but a little better concealed, a more plausible site for— Crab Orchard Review
Stephen Pett “What do you think?” “Could be,” she says. He slides the stained, brimmed hat off his gray head. A grimace against the sun. Widens his stance. “We lost one,” he says. “I knew, know.” “A girl, Irena. In her sleep.” “I shouldn’t have.” “Why not?” “You…you kept your marriage together.” “With a lot of outside help. The generosity of strangers.” “We were at a therapist for a year and a half. Jonas never said he couldn’t…I wanted to work…” “Should we head back?” “You said there was another clearing farther up, the one you believed was it.” “I don’t know.” Up through branches to the east, she sees the saddle of a ridge. “I’ve never hiked all the way to a ridge in these canyons,” she says. “I’d like that.” So they start, Coby back in front, on the trail that is the trail, not a deer trail, beside the empty gorge that must carry water a few months a year. Bird shadow crosses the path, but when she throws a glance up the sky is empty, close enough to scrape her nails across. Coby says, “Whenever I’d talk to my father about something tough I was going through, he’d say, ‘A year from now you won’t know the difference.’” “Elizabeth Smart was taken ten years ago,” Mona says. And Irena thirty or forty, she doesn’t say. “Fair enough, but you should see her, so poised. Amazing.” Mona concentrates outside herself. Trees throw hard-barked trunks up into the sun. Bushes taller than Mona are bunched with white-dusted blue berries. Birds do call here, rising trills. Coby stops—because the trail, the trail, has ended in a wide tangle of grass and sage and branches. She does not want to stop. No stopping. “There, up there, isn’t that the way?” “Hawk eye,” Coby says. “The pathfinder. You lead.” And what are they now, a mile from the main trail?—and they have seen no one, and the canyon widening ahead is a palette of fireworks, leaves exploding. They follow a trail from one side to the other, then up the western slope, a low traverse, and down, and Coby has stayed quiet, 76 u Crab Orchard Review
Stephen Pett thank god, leaving her with her own familiar, lying head voice for long moments. Then he says, “Here. This is the clearing I remember. This is where I think it was.” This is the broadest opening of them all, with more flat grassy stretches. Three shirts, one black, one white, one green, hang from the branches of a hunched tree. She walks to them, pulls the green one close, its cold damp knit, reads the label, XL. Lets it sway. Could it be Immaneul’s? After years? So someone else has been here—and left shirts? “Check this out,” Coby says. On the east side of the clearing, wedged between two trees, is the rust-dark, improbable iron carcass of a stove, a stove hollowed out, its iron frame broken in places. On top is a rusted saucepan, starred with bullet holes. Coby lifts the pan. “Cool,” he says. “If I lived in Salt Lake, I’d take this home.” “I like it,” Mona says. “Or…I don’t know, I’d probably leave it for someone else to appreciate. That’s how it should work.” Between her muddy shoes, Mona sees a curved, winglike, palmsize section of iron. “I want this,” she says. She holds out the piece, filigreed in brown leaves, like a piece of…petrified jungle. Do you think I should have qualms about taking it?” Coby squints, scratches above his ear jutting beneath his hat. “I’d say no one else would like that as much as you.” She slides it into her pack as Coby wrenches out and up a front bar of the frame. “What does this read? These letters stamped in? The company name. ‘Mall—’” “Malleable,” Mona says. “Ironic, I’d say.” “Amen,” Coby says. Crouches. “Take a gander.” The stove is jammed with plastic water bottles, maybe fifty, maybe seventy-five, labels faded. “Do you think?” she asks him. “Immanuel did make regular trips to town for water—and alcohol. But I don’t see any glass bottles.” “No.” “My money is now on this spot. I’d say this is where they kept her. So which one’s the tree?” “The tree?” “She was cabled to.” He crosses maybe thirty yards to the thickest of the crooked oaks rising from this clearing. Closes his hand around it, as she planned to do herself when she was sure. The three dangling shirts throw shadows like men. “The ridge,” she says. “I still want—” Crab Orchard Review
Stephen Pett There is no adequate way to describe the sound that cuts, that slices that sentence, or drills her chest, or pours like hot oil over her. A smooth near-yodel that is the cleanest, most honest sound she has ever heard. Coby bounds over to her, his index finger at his lips. “Shh,” he says. He throws up his hand. “What was it?” she whispers. “An elk, bugling.” She sees he wants to high-five and she does. “I’ve only heard that once before, camping outside Los Alamos in New Mexico. My god. Up here. My whole life up here and I never heard that.” “The shit,” she says. He nods, starts higher. “Quiet,” he says. “Maybe we’ll get lucky.” They zigzag around bushes, trees, without trail, higher and higher and if she glances out, the slopes gentler now are, are gorgeous. And a magpie swoops. And a magpie cackles. “Are…elk dangerous?” she asks Coby. “Nah, we won’t get too close. We might not see them at all.” Every rock, shadow, depression is a bull elk, and how could anything that sounded like that be dangerous? Coby takes four, five strides, stops, scans to the sides, ahead, takes three more. Is she breathing? Is she anchored to the ground? Could she launch herself into sunlight over the canyon? “Hey.” Quiet. “Hey.” From their left, above them. And before she can make sense of this, Coby says, “A guy, up there, sitting. See him.” “You hunting?” Coby asks the man, the young man, with a blond flip of hair, no hunter orange. The man whispers, “Yes.” “Bow?” “No. Rifle.” And how does it carry this far? A human voice so quiet. “Up there,” the man says. He points ahead, up to the saddle. “Elk?” Coby asks. And this is her pulse scraping inside her skull. “More hunters,” the man almost hisses. Coby hooks his hand around her arm. “We best go back,” he says. “No.” Mona tugs loose. Stares at the man almost invisible in the trees high on the canyon slope, the man with the rifle. The man who if he had mistakenly shot her could have said he thought she was an elk. “The bull? The bugle?” “Yes.” 78 u Crab Orchard Review
Stephen Pett This time Coby pulls and she cannot tear free. She can’t. “Mona,” he says. “It’s time anyway. We have to be back for dinner.” Mona does walk, walks out ahead of him so he lets go. She walks down and down, her shirt clustered with burrs now, seeds, her socks, too, she’s sure. And she knows this much. When the police finally found Elizabeth Smart and asked her “Are you Elizabeth Smart?,” she didn’t know, couldn’t answer. Mona knows that. As they reenter the clearing with the stove choked with water bottles, with the hanging shirts, with the tree she did not clasp, Mona says, “I know this much.” “What?” Coby asks her. Does his voice break? “I know this much.” And she spreads her arms.
Crab Orchard Review
Jehanne Dubrow [To a Navy Wife, in Maryland]
Some say cruisers, others carriers cabled to catch descending bodies, and some will argue for destroyers, those barbed surfaces that pierce oceans and air. I say whatever can come home will be the vessel of desire. Is not the Aegis Combat System—a warning made of electricity, tined waves of sound— named for a shield Athena wore when she was angriest, and therefore beautiful, the golden scales of it like snakes writhing? The uninitiate would think the goddess hurricane. So, to the husband gone, although you’re slow in your returning, you do at last return, filled now with all the same mythologies, the seabag dropped by the door, the coat you shrug off a kind of shield, how it smells of animal and salt. after Mary Barnard’s translations of Sappho
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Reunion Porn —term used in the military community to describe feel-good homecoming videos often used for commercial purposes The camera can’t decide whose face it loves the most— the girl who’s practicing long division when she looks up from the desk, or her daddy standing by the door, still dressed in uniform as if just shipped from Afghanistan into Miss Flower’s fifth grade class. Money shot of the child’s undistorted mouth. Close-up of broken chalk, a cherry scented marker left uncapped. And if we are watching this video from our living rooms, no doubt we feel the itch of empathy in our eyes, like the irritant of pollen dust in spring. Little Kaitlyn is crying now, a violent sadness that even ten-year-olds can most of the time push down. It’s the sharp surprise of her father and all of us here observing her loss in its nakedness until, at last, the camera finally blinks away.
Crab Orchard Review
Hannah Ensor Spectacular 03: Super Bowl XLVI Tom Brady looks angry and the game hasn’t even started. His wife asked us all to pray for him, pray for Tom. There she is in a special box, we can barely see her: just enough to know that she is the hot model who married Tom Brady. Please, God, let Tom Brady win another Super Bowl!, Gisele asked us to pray. Half the game goes by the football players stop playing and Madonna dances. She is fifty-three years old. There are exaggerated feathers and soldiers and she wears gold lamé then the lamé is gone but we don’t get to see how because the soldiers swing their swords and the football field melts into Madonna she is a cheerleader. Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. and CeeLo Green are there. I’ve heard one of them is a racist one of them thinks rape is okay I swear I had this dream once but that was Nanci Griffith not Madonna and Madonna is fifty-three years old says this is just like a prayer yes I myself prayed for it and when she evaporates into a cloud of smoke only the stage is left and it says WORLD PEACE.
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Brett Foster George Clooney You gotta have a lot of cojones to prank George Clooney, to phone him late at night and say those outrageous things about his young girlfriend, what’s her name. Just because she’s from Las Vegas, that doesn’t mean she’s a stripper, of course it doesn’t, please! She’s just a cocktail waitress. So what? His driver who’s a cop traced it, the number, back to a pre-paid cell phone. That was that. And imagine that— Clooney, whom Vanity Fair last month called The Last Actor in Hollywood, that guy rudely awakened, middle of the night, and those shocking words, the obscenities, his anger like a punch in Leatherheads. Earlier they had a motorcycle accident, a miscommunication at an intersection, common enough. A lawsuit followed like a hungry child. All year she wore an air cast, Red Carpet here and there. They still smile, give an answer numerous times, from head to talking head. They hold hands as if they intend to last. It isn’t fair, this cost of being one of us, even beautiful among us, sad and perishable, often injured and injurious. How he got the number, why he swore at the movie star, why they too must suffer ignominy sometimes, and paparazzi— who’s to say? Bad enough to be hounded, ordinary
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Brett Foster fury, but he shouldnâ€™t have to hear lies about his girlfriend, who is young and strong and will not have him around forever.
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Carmen R. Gillespie Darkness Visible: The Turns of the Century, 1999 Darkness visible, said Milton of hell: Diallo in his doorwayâ€” 41 shots a failure to identify/identify/identify/identifyâ€Ś the subject, occluded as he was by his ebony wallet. Darkness visible, said Milton, missing the point. In hell, he said, the blackest truth swells to sight but forgot the darkness that lights labyrinths of this life. Darkness visible, said Milton of hell: i.e. (conversation heard from the middle of a bridge arcing the Potomac River on a very black night) Clotel: Dear Colin and Conde, we thought you both knew, that a spade is a spade and a coup is a coup. Darkness visible, said Milton of hell, chuckled Ellison.
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Carmen R. Gillespie
The Biggest Loser It was her husband who finally called because her breathing seemed heavier, labored. She never woke for more than two hours. Neighbors complained of the smell, he said. Her head was near-bald in the back from the constant rubbing side to side. They cut a hole through her rose-print papered wall and ten men had to lift her out. At the hospital, she cried as they laid her on a slab used for dead bodies, shawls of sheets wrapped around, when they found she could not fit into any of their beds. She grew thinner for the cameras, becoming recognizable. Eyes emerged from flesh to admit redemption, her fat losing form like a desert chimera. Our necks rubber toward the screen, eyes strained to slits as we consume whatâ€™s left in skin that, as it hangs, convicts.
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Carmen R. Gillespie
The Discovery Channel Half watching their shark-toothed boots climbing the 70 degree slope, I am critical, wondering whether their lives were so uninteresting in the nether world of everyday that they took to riding Everestâ€™s frosty backside to find a purer view, when the camera shifts without warning from the panting climbers to a frozen body, seeming to still cling to the iceâ€”too high to be recovered. Numb, the climbers continue past, leaving undisturbed his hand, frozen and open. What if everyone was left where he dropped, left exactly there, bereft of all but flies behind the office door. Would we stand a minute, inhaling, or scurry past, breath tight, folders clutched against the silent command?
Crab Orchard Review
Carmen R. Gillespie
The Today Show Today three soldiers died in Iraq and plans for a Twin Towers memorial remain controversial, but, shortly, we will be honored to have as our guest on Today a true legend: the star of Austin Powers, who will tell us about the hardships and struggles he encountered facing the thought of so many hours in the makeup chair before each day’s shooting. But first, let’s check in on the weather. Al?— Thanks Matt. Today folks in the east will be forced to try to endure the unusually hot weather. Cold fronts over the Rockies are stalled, causing much higher than average precipitation. That crazy jet stream is still shufflin’ slightly southward, so temperatures in the northwest continue to be cool, just like you, Matt!—Thanks, Al. Man it seems like yesterday when our Al was always hot. He didn’t get cool unless he had a couple of Big Gulps and some ice cream and today look at him! You look great man! And guess what? Later this hour, we’ll share the best diet for a perfect shape this summer! Stay tuned. Now for today’s guest…
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D. Gilson Mug Shots Pee-wee Herman, greasy, Sarasota hair. Al Pacino, the sexy, get-back stare. Lindsay Lohan, numbers four, five, and six. O.J. Simpson, the gloveâ€™s too-snug fit. Michael Jackson, it doesnâ€™t matter. Mel Gibson, Heather Locklear, William Shatner. Shia LeBeouf, in a blue hoodie. My brother Marty, a fifteenth no guilty plea. Paris Hilton, with a side pony. George Michael, rides the white pony. My mother, hit back on her deadbeat husband. Hugh Grant, cock-eyed, blowjob hunting. John Edwards, Crest Whitestripped, Rob Lowe. Marilyn Monroe, Norma Jeane DiMaggio. My brother Randy, petty-theft, tired eyes. My brother Mike, meth again, looks surprised. Justin Bieber, in need of acne cream. Cher, stunning beauty, here at thirteen.
Crab Orchard Review
Gail Goepfert Facebook Newsfeed: So Much This and That I. It’s had a lot of views, this TED Talk. Monica Lewinsky speaks out, speaks up, after a decade of silence. About personal shaming in a culture of tech-enhanced bullying. About abuse of power. And fear. About times after the blue-dress incident when a mother’s fear spurred her to make her adult daughter shower with the door open. About Tyler Clementi, 18, webcammed by a roommate being intimate with another man, jumping from the George Washington Bridge. That shame. This shaming to death.
II. You should watch. This video of a camera-equipped eagle swooping 2,700 feet down from the top of Burj Khalifa, world’s tallest building in Dubai. From tower peak to the fountain below. Land from sky getting bigger and bolder. Will this eagle land on its trainer’s arm? For this, people crane their necks.
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III. Seriously? This is a push beyond the edge. Blue raspberry Peeps. Three Peeps-flavored milks. Peeps Yankee Candles. Peeps recipes for flavoring vodka.
IV. And imagine this. A team of teen felons from Gainesville, released on good behavior for a game of b-ball, walks on the court blindsided. Players on the opposing team recruited fans and cheerleaders to applaud them on. No one remembers who won.
V. Does that image march across your screen, your mind too? That recurring pictureâ€”men in orange suits kneeling beneath black-clothed, masked killers with knives unsheathed, ready to slit necks, to stack up heads, human heads, on ledgesâ€” like so much this and that.
Crab Orchard Review
Kari Gunter-Seymour Kandahar Province By now they have buried her, tiny hands crossed. If only her father had not pressed her future ever into yours, choosing your farm boy arms, your Jesus face, ruby droplets soaking your khaki and pelting the ground. Fill the buckets, scoop the molten sand. Curse the field pack and insurgents. Sleeve wipe your brow breathe in, breathe out, only seconds left to clamp the artery, casting an invisible line between beauty and abomination. Believing, remember believing, pretty sure you heard a voice from heaven saying Honor shall uphold the humble in spirit. Waking sleepless, sunlight scalds the morning sky lashing scarlet against your back. 92 u Crab Orchard Review
Kari Gunter-Seymour You drop to your knees, arms stretched wide, crying Why father, why?
Crab Orchard Review
Contingency Plan, Aquarium of the Americas New Orleans, 2005 The lure of the piranha to endless streams of school children: rows of alien teeth, jaws like prizefighters, a mob that moves as one and generates blank fear in the hearts of river men. Itâ€™s the highlight of the tour, and in the days before the storm charts showed the spread, the invasion of black ink swimming up the Mississippi, docks stricken in Greenville and Hannibal, the death of the Great Lakes in PowerPoint time lapse. The Assistant Director sees where this is going. A great migration, masses of thugs flooding over the levees. Letâ€™s call it what it is. But he clicks his pen, accepts complicity in extinction. We do what we must. The native species. The risk. 94 u Crab Orchard Review
Jennifer Hancock Efficiency and euthanasia. In the flickering fluorescent hallway behind the tanks he follows the plan. The city holds its tropical breath, a ferocious pause before hell unhinges its jaw.
Crab Orchard Review
Rion Amilcar Scott The Legend of Ezekiel Marcus A month after school opened—when the most coveted boys
had paired off with the most coveted girls and, for the majority of us, our affections were going tragically unreturned—Mr. Coles, the new art teacher, decided he hated Ezekiel Marcus. It was in the way he shied from addressing Zeke whenever he could, the upturned curve of his lip when he was unable to avoid talking to him and his sense of relief during Zeke’s frequent absences. Mr. Coles wasn’t like most of the other teachers at Alfred McCoy Middle School, he was essentially a good and decent man so he would have never admitted what was plain to me. Even to this day, I bet if I were to ask him—wherever he is, certainly no longer a teacher—he’d deflect with his signature joke, I hate you all equally. Then thinking twice he’d take the edge off and add, I love you all equally, too. See, fundamentally, a good and decent man, no matter what those who only focus on his downfall say. We called him Mr. Cold. A name, I think, Zeke made up. Anyway, he was the first one I heard say it during 3rd period art one day and my laughter turned from tittering to inconsolable, if laughter can be called inconsolable. I wanted to stop, but it soon became impossible and those who only thought it mildly funny became caught in the throes of inconsolable laughter, all of us except for Ezekiel who stood proudly watching his handiwork. It was funny because Mr. Coles had a youngish, elfish face with wild crabgrass patches of hair about his cheeks and chin, none on his upper lip. But he was handsome. Impossibly, even freakishly, handsome—strong cheekbones and a smooth dark complexion—a fact I had to reluctantly admit and one most of the girls never let anyone forget. He appeared to us not at all like an authority figure, but more like a wizened teenager. Hair all black while most of his peers sported grays and bad dye jobs. Mr. Coles was one of the few teachers still in his 20s, while his co-workers dwelt in middle age or circled retirement. He was tall and dark and his face shined and he always smiled, even when he was angry and trying to be stern, especially when he was angry and trying to be stern. All of
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Rion Amilcar Scott this is why we treated him poorly and why he overcompensated, first attempting to come across as a pal, a trustworthy big brother and when that failed, he turned into a hardass for a time, though he was a phony hardass, one we could see clear through. Rarely, if ever, did we tremble in fear at his silly yelling and stiff pointing finger. Marshall, he called to me as I shook with laughter as Zeke taunted him with the moniker of Mr. Cold. Marshall, it’s funny, but that’s enough. This just caused us to laugh more. The warmest man in the school, Mr. Cold, then sent Ezekiel into the hallway as presumably his mentor, Mr. Drayton, advised him to do. Damn, that’s cold-blooded, Mr. Cold, a proud and smiling Zeke said on his way out to another rise in laughter. Mr. Coles never regained control of the class that day. All of us—Ezekiel’s fans, his instigators and enablers—were just as or more responsible for his antics, but he bore the brunt of reprimands and punishments. He was our hero, and eventually our martyr. The price he paid that day was a slim one, but there came a day when the cost of being Zeke shot way up and he’d find himself desperately unable to pay. After that though, things carried on as usual for most of us. The days were a little less entertaining without him, but we got along. And Zeke? Well, I’m getting ahead of myself. The next time we saw Mr. Coles he was stiff and stern. Even his movements changed to reflect the new him. We talked through the roll as usual and by the fifth name, he stopped and looked up with a scowl on his face. Even with his contrived scowl, he still managed to appear somehow smiling. He stared at Zeke even though we were all speaking. There were always five of us at the front table: Me, Zeke, a Puerto Rican girl with curly hair named Jana and two jokers named Ernesto and Tommy. Hey, Zeke, you want to go stand in the hallway again? Mr. Coles, asked. I didn’t do nothing, Zeke said. I’m not the only one talking. Why don’t you pick on Tommy and Ernesto? Either you be quiet or go stand in the hall. Those are your two options. I’m not here to argue with you, Ezekiel. When Zeke kept talking to us, Mr. Coles ordered him into the hallway. Zeke stood swiftly so that his metal stool toppled to the floor. On his way out he said, Man, we were going to stop calling you Mr. Cold too, but you keep showing us how cold-blooded you are so you’re gonna be Mr. Cold from now until whenever. Zeke, be quiet or it’s the office instead of the hall. Crab Orchard Review
Rion Amilcar Scott Zeke spent most of the class in the hallway rapping the uncensored version of a dirty song that played every few minutes on the radio stations we all listened to. Shake that ass buck naked, bitch/ don’t you fake it, bitch/Shake that ass buck naked, bitch… Mr. Coles pretended not to hear him and that’s how we all knew that this new Mr. Cold was a put on designed to trick us into behaving and respecting him. His demeanor was a lie, a desperate one. I could understand Mr. Coles’s desperation. His true self earned him zero respect, but still a lie was destined to fail. It was no wonder he was so adrift in the classroom. Much of his behavior was straight from the manual of so many of our educators, but particularly Mr. Drayton, who was old and stiff and smelled vaguely of urine. I’d often see Mr. Coles sitting in the cafeteria and joking with the old Jewish man. Chatting in the parking lot outside their cars. In each other’s classrooms between classes. Theirs was an unusual friendship, based entirely on the fact that the clueless Mr. Coles needed a clue and that the waning Mr. Drayton enjoyed the ego stroke of acting as mentor to a starry-eyed wanderer. Near the end of class, Mr. Coles called Zeke back into the room and asked us all to pay quiet attention. You may have noticed that I am not as open as I once was, Mr. Coles said. Less apt to listen to excuses. More likely to punish indiscretions. I never wanted to be this kind of teacher. I figure you all have had enough hard-assed drill sergeants, but you guys have been so damaged by that kind of teaching that you don’t respect anything else. Not your fault. And it’s not all of you, but enough that I’m forced to change my approach. From now on if you are not in your seat by the time the bell rings I am marking you tardy and too many tardies means you lose credit for the semester. You talk when I am talking, I’m sending your ass out the classroom. Not to the hallway, but to the office. You don’t work on your art, I’m sending you out of class. We can have a good time, but it’s something you have to earn now. Damn, he’s Mr. Cold for real, someone in the back said and Mr. Coles shot Zeke a stone look. And, Mr. Coles said as the bell rang signaling the end of class, my name is Mr. Coles, please address me as that and nothing else. That afternoon during gym class, while the 6th graders were having lunch, me and Zeke placed bets on how long Mr. Coles would keep up his hard-ass persona. It was a soccer week and we competed to show the girls who could keep the ball in the air with just our feet, heads, thighs and chests for the longest. Zeke was already a soccer star 98 u Crab Orchard Review
Rion Amilcar Scott and could out dribble even the best of the high school students. As we kicked the ball around, we compared notes with others and it seemed Mr. Coles had given similar speeches in his other classes, but thanks to the presence of Zeke in our class, 3rd period got the harshest lecture. It’s because of that fucking Mr. Drayton, Zeke said. I know he got in Mr. Cold’s ear and turned him against us. I bet ol’ piss-breath was like, You got to break Zeke’s spirit. It’s the only way. I hate going to his fucking class. Yeah, and now we’re going to hate art class. Zeke pointed to Mr. Drayton overseeing the sixth-graders’ postlunch recreation time and said, I bet I could hit him right in the nose with this soccer ball from here. You think you Pelé, I replied. He tapped the ball gently ahead of him. Just strike the ball in the right spot, you can place it wherever you want. That’s what my coach says. What would you give me if I knocked the shit out of him with this ball? I had no doubt that Zeke could make the ball sail from the top of the hill down to Mr. Drayton’s face—I had seen him score some impossible goals—but I pretended I didn’t hear him so he’d drop it and he did. For the first week of Mr. Cold’s new persona we worked in silent misery most of the time. In history class we learned about the Soviet work camps and during 3rd period I imagined we were in one, fashioning cheap, meaningless trinkets out of wire and then out of clay or papier-mâché. Mr. Coles taught us to make animals out of newspaper, paint and lacquer. Zeke chose to work with wire, bending it into a little man on a little bicycle while most of the rest of our table continued to work with clay. I think that was the most peaceful I had ever seen Zeke and Mr. Coles complimented him more than once for his demeanor, but to me it was all wrong. Zeke was happiest when he was causing chaos. I made a human out of newspaper and painted it brown and joked that I was creating an Ezekiel Marcus doll. He took it in good spirits at first, then one class—I made the joke over and over to a rising chorus of giggles—he unwound a piece of wire from his bicycle and wrapped it around the neck of my Zeke doll. I’m gonna kill that motherfucker, he said. He tried to make us feel as if he was kidding, but I could tell the conformity and silence were weighing heavily on him and my jokes weren’t making it any better. Mr. Coles frowned at Zeke’s outburst. Crab Orchard Review
Rion Amilcar Scott Marshall is working really hard and here you come to disrupt things, Mr. Coles said. I just don’t know what gets into you Zeke. You haven’t caused any trouble lately and now this. Go stand in the hall. Zeke stormed out while Mr. Coles continued to rant: Lucky I’m not sending you to the principal. The only reason you’re not going to the office is because you have been good the past few days. Think about that while you stand out there. That day during gym class a bunch of us ignored the soccer game at the other end of the field. Every few minutes Zeke spied Mr. Drayton down the hill from us looking stiff and severe. I hate that nigga, Zeke said. Why you worried about him, I said. You let Mr. Cold turn you into Meek Zeke. Jana and Ernesto stood nearby as did about a half-dozen other students too cool to play soccer. Not being aware of who was around us was my biggest mistake. If it had been just me and Zeke, he might have lightly cursed me and moved on, but in front of so many people, Zeke was conscious that his star was on the rise and getting bagged on by a square like me could put that in jeopardy. Our peers were as attracted to his humor and arrogance as they were repelled by my awkwardness and insecurity. I smiled, more broadly than the moment deserved. Hey, Weak Zeke, I said too loudly. I looked around at the people next to us, pathetically, hoping their reactions, their approval, would suddenly make me three or four inches taller. The fact that Zeke even tolerated me around him was a throwback to the days when we were 6th graders and both insignificant. Without warning, he shoved me to the ground and kicked dirt in my face while people pointed and laughed. The smile left my face sometime between when my feet stood firm in the grass and when my butt slammed hard to the earth. Ernesto pulled Zeke back and I stood and cursed at him, but I didn’t lunge. Zeke was bigger than me. Even more than looking to avoid a beat down, I certainly couldn’t afford a beat down in front of Jana. I watched Zeke angrily as if poised to swing. My posturing fooled no one, but it was better than a groveling apology or a fight I was destined to lose. Zeke shoved past me, pushing his way through a group of fight-gawkers. Jana asked me if I was okay, and, while I nodded and preened for sympathy, Zeke was deftly removing the soccer ball from the feet of the more clumsy players at the other side of the field. He came barreling toward us while slower players trailed, a cloud of dust in his wake. Zeke waved his right arm like a windmill and pulled his 100 u Crab Orchard Review
Rion Amilcar Scott leg back so far I thought he was going to flip backwards, but he didn’t flip, instead he kicked the ball and I ducked, though there was no need to do so. It sailed over the goal in a magnificent rainbow-arch until it struck the unsuspecting Mr. Drayton right in the nose, breaking his glasses and dashing them and him to the ground. Mr. Drayton cradled his face and screamed while blood poured down his cheeks. Soon me and Zeke found ourselves called to the principal’s office during fifth period Pre-Algebra. Some snitch said they heard us joking about hitting Mr. Drayton with a ball. The Principal, Ms. Badwell, questioned us separately, but I feigned ignorance and righteous anger. How could a boy kick a ball from on top the field all the way down the hill with the precision of a young Diego Maradona? I asked the principal, though I said it with much less eloquence and eventually she chalked it up to an accident, which I know Mr. Drayton never bought. Zeke apologized to Mr. Drayton the next day when he returned with a hilarious red-splotched bandage over his nose. Mr. Drayton accepted—his face draped in a sneer—and from there things got bad for Zeke. If only I didn’t antagonize him just to entertain myself. The Legend of Ezekiel Marcus grew that day. To us he became The Bad Nigga No One Could Touch. Unfortunately, to the teachers he became That Bad Nigger No One Could Touch. Some days I could literally see the target burning red on his back. Ezekiel’s ascension from badass kid to rebel coincided with us learning about the Civil Rights Movement in history class. During lunchtime on Tuesday, he gathered me, Ernesto, Jana and Tommy and began speaking in a hushed, nervous tone. Look, he said. We got to take back that art class. It was the only fun we had all day and now the thing is all somber and shit. Cold’s gone fucking crazy. Well, it’s your fault, Zeke, Jana said. He was just trying to be our friend and you decided to act like an asshole. It’s not time to be blaming nobody, Zeke said. I want old Mr. Coles back. Everybody want him back. We need to do what Martin Luther King did and act as bad as can be. Civil disobedience. Don’t nobody call him Mr. Coles. He’s Mr. Cold. When he tries to talk, cut his ass off. And we take the consequences. He can’t send the whole class to the office. Watch, in a week we’ll have nice Mr. Coles back and it’ll be because we took a stand. That’s stupid, Jana said. If it’s so stupid, why Martin Luther King do it like that, huh? Zeke Crab Orchard Review
Rion Amilcar Scott said. Why Gandhi do it like that, huh? Didn’t they win? They hit them with some hoses and made dogs bite them, but they won. I’m from Cross River, I ain’t afraid of no fucking water. And there ain’t no one in Cross River afraid of some angry dogs. We got angry dogs up in the Wildlands. Who here hasn’t stared down an angry dog or two? We all nodded, except for Jana. What I’m saying is they can’t do nothing to us if we stand together. I think he’s onto something, Ernesto chimed in. But we got to be prepared to take the consequences, Zeke said. Getting sent out of class. Detention. Calling our parents. Losing credit. Everything. But the light at the end of the tunnel is victory. Y’all dumb, Jana said. Mr. Coles fine as shit. I’m not getting on his bad side for y’all childish nigs. Jana walked away while the rest of us made plans for our revolution. I watched her behind swish and thought seriously about following it, but you wouldn’t believe how electric that moment was. We shook hands on our conspiracy and proposed various disruptive actions. I felt like we were witnessing the birth of The Rev. Dr. Ezekiel Marcus Luther King, Jr. For a week, when Mr. Cold lectured on art history or on some technique, we cut him off to discuss something inane. Zeke would loudly rap his favorite parts of his favorite song, ‘Shake it Buck Naked, Bitch’: You ain’t really do nothing/I’ma make it do something/Twerk that ass for me baby now let me see ya shake something. We threw clay around the class. Zeke harassed and shamed those who wouldn’t get with the program. Me, Zeke and Ernesto always got sent out in the first few minutes. Jana would sit there working on a clay mask, shaking her head. The last straw was the day Zeke gathered a lump of clay, big as his head and dropped it out the second story class window onto the shiny red hood of Mr. Drayton’s convertible. As soon as that metallic thud struck we could hear Mr. Drayton in his downstairs classroom emitting a sound like the final wails of a wounded wolf. He dashed up the stairs, leaving his class baffled and teacher-less. Me and Zeke sat in the corner suppressing our laughter while Mr. Drayton screamed at the class. One by one Ms. Badwell led us into the hall to question our involvement, but without a witness, we were off the hook. Well, sort of. In front of steely Ms. Badwell and icy-eyed Mr. Drayton, squirrelly Mr. Coles ordered us all to detention after school if we didn’t give up the culprits. That day, none of us showed for detention and me and Ernesto and Tommy and a few other dudes played basketball right outside Mr. 102 u Crab Orchard Review
Rion Amilcar Scott Coles’s window to taunt him. Zeke was off somewhere with one of the girls he was seeing. After an hour, we walked away laughing. It was great fun. Mr. Coles never again mentioned the detention and neither did we and by the next week it seemed something had shifted. Mr. Coles arrived to class looking not broken, but hopeful for once. Like it was again the first day of school. Like we were all eager learners and not the assholes we had become. He was freshfaced. Shaved all that crabgrass off his cheeks. The man looked less like an authority figure, more like a boy. He no longer fought the losing battle to suppress his smile. When someone called him Mr. Cold he chuckled and said, Now, now. We were confused at first. Thrown way off guard. We still talked over him and flashes of annoyance still passed over his face, but he shrugged and took the discussion in the direction of whatever interested us, which is how we spent much of one class discussing, ‘Shake it Buck Naked, Bitch.’ You know you be listening to Dem Freak Boyz N Motion, Mr. Cold, Zeke said to our amusement. You mean, Dem Zeke Boyz, Mr. Coles replied. I’m tired of seeing Dem Zeke Boyz in motion. You should sit your ass down sometimes. No, just kidding. I know the song. What? You guys think I’m too old to listen to what’s out there. Not my thing though. I do like how some of those rappers take that George Clinton and James Brown stuff I grew up on and recreate it. Yeah, as a collagist, I can certainly appreciate that. I tell you what class: On Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays I bring in some of those songs your rappers sample and if I don’t have to send anyone out of the class those first three days you can bring in your music to play the rest of the week. There were some cheers. Applause from the back. If we were confused before, at that moment, Zeke and I and everybody else understood that our plan had worked. We declared total victory. Mr. Coles gave us a sorry, what-have-I-done, look. Jana winced at our excitement, but she also smiled. How could she not be happy about taking our class back? We sat through Parliament on Monday and James Brown on Tuesday, but by Wednesday we had commandeered Mr. Coles’s boombox and for three days straight we danced in our seats and played little else, but ‘Shake it Buck Naked, Bitch.’ Silly kids. We could never see that we were causing the breaking of a man’s spirit. Brutally unraveling him. That when he went home to relax, to watch a television show, to drink a beer, to make love to Crab Orchard Review
Rion Amilcar Scott a woman, he would hear our shrill voices and see our smirking, rude faces. Perhaps I say this to elevate myself. To give meaning to times that have faded from everyone’s memory. Maybe I just want to justify my obsession with bygone days. And why do I keep up this obsession, huh? Why do I carry this memory like cross wood on my back? Maybe it’s because I saw a homeless man beneath layers of dirty blankets on Rolly Street and he had the face of Mr. Coles and I couldn’t bear getting closer to find out if it was him; if I had helped to fatally wound not just a man’s career, but all of his life. Maybe this vision was a symptom of the obsession, in other words I saw Mr. Coles’s face because I am crazy about the past, not because it was actually him. What are the chances that it was him, huh? Sometimes I see Ernesto and he’s dressed in a suit, looking respectable. A lawyer now, brokering deals. And only if you know how to look can you see the rowdy preteen’s face upon his. I only see him on my lunch break at the bookstore or at a fast food joint—we work two blocks from one another—and we only talk in five-minute bursts, though we mention meeting up on the weekend we both know such a meeting will never happen. When I bring up Mr. Cold or Ezekiel or Mr. Drayton, he says, You still remembering all that shit? It is what it is, man. Let it rest. But I’m not the type to let anything rest. My brain turns it and turns it and turns it. How do I avoid the abyss? Seems many people fall into it. Life can go bad real quick. Mr. Coles didn’t avoid it and Mr. Drayton didn’t avoid it. Ezekiel damn sure didn’t. Memories hold lessons, don’t they? Isn’t that why our minds won’t let go? And I don’t believe for a second that Ernesto is the type to let things go or that any one is for that matter. One time, I mentioned Mr. Cold and he said, remember Kelli? That was crazy, right? Shit, was funny back then, but…Hey, he said, changing the subject. Did I tell you my wife is about to have a little girl? That’s great, Ernesto. The world can’t have enough little black girls. I wish I were having a little girl. That was a lie, one I said too easily. What if there were a little black girl out there, Ernesto? One about the age you and Jana and Zeke and, especially, Kelli were when all the bullshit went down. The age you all stay frozen in my mind. The result of the past—a different past than the one I’m obsessed with, but one no less shameful. And what if I’m haunted by her, man? Haunted, Ernesto. Haunted. These last few words I thought, but didn’t say. 104 u Crab Orchard Review
Rion Amilcar Scott I’m one and done, boy, Ernesto continued proudly. Wife want another one, a boy, but the world got enough men, right? Right. Kelli. Showed up in that art class like some kind of illusion. I thought I was a period early or something and I checked the clock, then I lost interest in time. It occurred to me that I had never seen such a well-formed version of womanhood in our school. None amongst my female peers. Nowhere in Alfred McCoy Middle School really. Even the most basic words fled from me and I stood in the middle of the class staring at her. It was as if one of the fertility dolls we fashioned out of clay in the beginning of the school year had come to life. Certain things stay with you. Certain things cause rivers of shame to well up in your chest whenever you recall them and no matter where you go or what you do there’s little chance of escaping those poisonous thoughts; little chance of not having to relive them from time to time. But there you go, trying to fill up your head with enough noise to drown out the insistent hum of shame. Standing there staring at Kelli is such a moment. Even in my memories, her face is obscured by her chest as if she was made of breast-meat and nothing more. The thing that made Kelli different than all the other girls was that while their chests bore nubs—good starts, at best—Kelli’s sported round fleshy bulbs. It was as if God the artist was working on a line of clay figures and He had finished shaping and smoothing and baking this one sculpture—and He had sculpted it to perfection—while the others needed years of fashioning before they’d be ready. Kelli’s breasts. What was it about them that caused such derangement? Common-place, pedestrian and ordinary things, even when beautiful. Utilitarian chunks of flesh. How we diminished her and in turn ourselves. Turned parts of her body into heavy burdens to carry. Watching. Tittering (we no longer laughed, from then on it was just tittering). Commenting. Losing our composure. Falling in love and developing obsessions all for the wrong reasons and then developing resentments when our shallow affections were ignored. Zeke was the only one who treated Kelli like a real person and even that was a put on. Whenever she wasn’t around he’d remake his favorite Dem Freak Boyz song, chanting, Bounce them big things, Kelli. And we’d titter and we’d titter and we’d titter… Whenever I saw Kelli, she was usually wrapped in her own solitude. Arms folded as she walked, elbows pointed outward like spears. A trail of whispers followed her always. She had done this and Crab Orchard Review
Rion Amilcar Scott that with so and so. She was removed from her last school for so on and so forth. She carried something inside her womb and a flood of milk had swelled her breasts. No, she had killed the thing inside her womb and the milk wouldn’t go away and every day during sixth period she disappeared deep into the guts of the girls locker room to spill her milk down the shower drain. The most coveted girls clutched more tightly to the most coveted guys and the most coveted guys all pulled close to Kelli in the moments when their girlfriends looked away. Only Jana offered Kelli friendship and only in the art room. Sometimes they’d spend their lunch time in Mr. Coles’s room and I’d swing by and watch Kelli and leave wondering why neither Kelli nor Jana had ever fallen for me. I pretended to work on my papier-mâché Ezekiel Marcus in a back corner of the class while I watched Kelli’s clay-covered hands as she kneaded the material, searching for little pockets of air. Why are people at this school so strange? Mr. Coles, Kelli asked, not looking up from her artwork. What do you mean? he replied. I mean, some of these bitches act so funny. They won’t even talk to me, but decided already that I’m the devil. Like I’m pressed to talk to them. Some of them act so immature, Jana chimed in. I don’t like this school either. I’m about to go to private school next year. Watch. My dad said give it one more year and then I can go to St. Josephs over in Port Yooga. I’m gonna try to go with you, Jana. I’ma talk to my dad about it. Give it some time, girls, Mr. Coles said. Especially you, Kelli. People don’t like change. They see something new and it challenges them. You are going to go through all kinds of things and then it’ll get much better. You’ll probably even forget that the first few months were rocky. Trust me. I hope so, Kelli said. The only class I like is art. You’re the only teacher who doesn’t treat me like I’m some alien. Mr. Drayton’ll go down the line asking people questions and skip over me. I don’t even think he’s ever made eye contact with me. I swear, Mr. Coles it’s like even the teachers are immature here. Can I use the wheel? I haven’t taught that yet, Mr. Coles said. No one’s allowed to use it until I show you how. I learned at my old school, Kelli said. It’s not hard. Please. Yeah, please, Jana said. 106 u Crab Orchard Review
Rion Amilcar Scott It didn’t take much begging for Mr. Coles to start the motor and get the wheel to spinning. As Kelli sat there sculpting, flecks of clay flew up onto her clothes and onto her face and into her hair. Wearing an apron so dirty it appeared to be made of dried clay, she looked happy for once; no longer out of place, but outside of the art room though a storm brewed all around us and I was too busy staring at Kelli’s breasts to even take notice. Zeke was the first to point it out. These bitches gon’ riot, he said. Huh? You ain’t notice some of them Hatefield hoes ready to fuck Kelli up and not in the way we want to fuck Kelli up. Vanessa, Carol, Isis, all of them say Kelli trying to fuck with their dudes. Ain’t nothing else but to take it to the fists. Say they gonna rip her weave out, boy. Zeke delivered the news with the excitement of a sports announcer, waving his fists as if the girlmob was advancing on him. And I have to admit, my veins throbbed with excitement. The last fight I saw was two sixth-grade boys smacking each other and then wrestling to the ground where they held the same position for five minutes until security came to cart them away. When Kelli walked the halls, arms wrapped around her torso, girls cursed at her. Sometimes they threw things that missed. They drew nasty pictures and posted them around the school. The drawings didn’t feature Kelli’s name—just big cartoonish circles in front of a stick figure. We all knew what was up, but the teachers seemed oblivious. When it all went down, me and Ernesto and Jana were near the cafeteria talking shit. I was awkwardly trying to get Jana to ride my bus in the afternoon, even though that meant a 20-minute walk home from my neighborhood to her apartment in McCoy. I’ll walk with you, I said. Besides, you need the exercise. Go somewhere, Marshall, I don’t know why you bothering me. Don’t you like Kelli? Where is everybody? Ernesto asked and we ignored him, but we shouldn’t have. We were amongst the few who had missed the memo. Girl fight up on the hills. The Hatefield girls had finally grown tired of Kelli and her tits sauntering around the school as if it belonged to her. That’s what I imagined they said before they punched her and kicked her and grabbed at her hair. Tommy and Zeke’s accounts clashed on the minor details, but matched perfectly when it came to the big picture. Four-on-one. Kelli never stood a chance. Though to hear Zeke tell it, she put up a fight like a wild animal for a little while. Crab Orchard Review
Rion Amilcar Scott Punching and scratching, keeping the four from getting too close. What stopped her momentum was when Isis (or was it Carol? What does it matter?) snatched at her shirt, ripping the buttons, releasing all that we dreamed about for the whole crowd to see. At that point, Kelli could only fight with one hand. The other one she dedicated to covering her nakedness, trying to contain the shame of living. It all ended when Mr. Coles rushed into the fray to pull the girls off Kelli until security could arrive to take them all to the office. The next day in art class Kelli wasn’t there, having been suspended for several days. We did no work, instead we spent the whole time listening to Zeke give us the rundown. He and Tommy performed the fight blow-by-blow, second-by-second. When it came time for the big reveal, Zeke snatched at Tommy’s shirt and yelled, Wump! That’s the sound they made coming out, Zeke said. They actually made a sound. I’ll never forget it. Damn, I said. I miss every fight. Every damn time. And then when it was all done, Zeke said, the bitches started to chant, Hatefield, Hatefield is where we’re from! Hatefield, Hatefield is where we’re from! Long ago, before even my parents were born, residents of McCoy—a neighborhood on the southernmost tip of the Southside— dubbed themselves Hatfields. They were people whose poverty put them in opposition to everything, even the very ground they walked upon. More recently, younger Hatfields renamed their neighborhood, Hatefield because the hard gravel and weed and trash besotted empty lots made the name feel truer. Many of us weren’t from Hatefield at all, but we claimed it whenever we could, hoping the tough living would make those we feared fear us. Guys, Mr. Coles said. Stop it. I don’t even know why you want to call your neighborhood that. Hate’s not a good thing. We shouldn’t be glorifying people getting beat up. Let’s not be ignorant. Okay? When Mr. Coles said this he had that smile, that smirk, that grin that destroyed the seriousness of anything he had to say. Zeke howled and pointed. Come on, Mr. Coles, you know you were entertained, he said. I saw you, boy. This nigga only rushed in after them titties popped out. They were nice too. I thought they’d be ashy, but they was nice and moisturized. He was all like—at this Zeke grasped at Tommy’s chest, groping while pretending to hold him back—come on now, stop fighting. Ooh, that’s so soft. 108 u Crab Orchard Review
Rion Amilcar Scott Leave Mr. Coles alone, Zeke, Jana said. You always starting stuff. Just ignore him, Mr. Coles. Mr. Coles’s face looked as if it was about to explode in laughter. He rubbed his closely cropped head and chuckled some. We didn’t need music that day, whenever there was a break in the action we chanted: Hatefield, Hatefield is where we’re from! Man, Mr. Coles, Zeke said. Be for real. You know you was thinking about our song. Our song? Mr. Coles asked. That Hatefield thing y’all chant? Naw, you know what I’m talking about, ‘Shake it Buck Naked, Bitch.’ You the main one who be playing it in class. Man, Mr. Coles, you took one look at Kelli and was like, I’ma make it do something/ Twerk for me bitch now let me see ya shake something. Zeke continued: You know that’s what you were thinking, Mr. Coles. Stop faking. Stop faking. Mr. Coles shook his head and rubbed the short hair on his cheeks. His smile grew alligator-like. In a low soft growl, he said: Come on and bounce them big things, baby. Mr. Coles! Jana screamed, stepping away from her clay pot and just as swiftly, she stepped back to the table and returned to massaging her artwork. I don’t think she looked up for the rest of the class period. Ernesto hollered in delight. Me and Zeke slapped five. Tommy did a dance while Jana shook her head, massaged her clay and turned up her lips. And as soon as the words came from him, Mr. Coles’s face became sheep-like. His eyes darted upward. He passed his hand over his head. When I reached to give Mr. Coles a high five, he backed slowly away shaking his head from side to side. All right, he said. All right. We had our fun. Let’s get back to work. There was no returning to work. Not that day, not even in the days after. We never saw Mr. Coles again. The administration had gotten word of his comments and that was it for him. At least, I’m assuming that’s what happened. No one told us anything. All we knew was that he was gone and a stern old woman with a wrinkled mask face would be our long-term sub. We relied on the trail of whispers for news. They said Mr. Coles had lost his mind and ended up in an insane asylum. But he had looked perfectly healthy to me. Just a man. That’s all. A regular man like anyone else. Years later I heard rumors of him packing his belongings after school while Ms. Badwell screamed at him. So stupid, she was supposed to have said. What did we learn Crab Orchard Review
Rion Amilcar Scott from all this? Let me answer for you, Dennis: Even if they look like women, they are not women! Zeke said Jana had snitched on Mr. Coles and when he accused her in front of everybody she denied it, but it was too late. We all turned on her and she too became cloaked in a blanket of solitude. She moved on to the high school with us, but I don’t remember even having two conversations with her after we determined she was the snitch. Kelli finished out the year with us, even navigating the glares and the stares to make a friend or two, but when we started high school, she was gone. Zeke wasn’t long for Alfred McCoy Middle School, himself. A place like that could never contain someone like Ezekiel Marcus. He became consumed with the injustice of Mr. Coles’s removal, speaking on it loud enough for adults to hear whenever he could. He stopped the fight, Zeke said. He’s a hero. This how they treat heroes around here? He ain’t say nothing I wouldn’t have said. Kelli got some big ass titties. Ain’t no secret. It came to a head one day in science class. Mr. Drayton brought his dog, Iggy, in for a lecture on mammal life. He did it every year, one of the few things he looked forward to. A white and black thing that looked everything like a wolf, except it had a friendly domesticated vibe. Not an ounce of aggression on most days. Still, Mr. Drayton kept Iggy behind a cardboard barrier that the dog could have toppled with his breath. As Mr. Drayton tried to start his lecture, Zeke kept riding him. Speaking out of turn. You were supposed to be dude’s friend! You sold the nigga out. Y’all always sell niggas out. Selling niggas down the river like you own them. Why is that thing even here? You lost your dog, Mr. Cold, so you brought in another dog to replace him with? You foul, Mr. Drayton. Nothing could settle Zeke. Mr. Drayton stepped from the room to summon security and Zeke strode to the barrier that separated Iggy from the class and began barking loudly. Iggy stood and barked back, his hackles raised as if about to strike. Mr. Drayton dashed into the room and grabbed at Zeke, shoving him as hard as he could. Don’t you ever touch my dog, Mr. Drayton screamed. Don’t you dare. Don’t you dare. Don’t you— Ezekiel swung wildly, punching Mr. Drayton twice in his forehead. His head snapped back with each blow. Mr. Drayton fell fast—face forward—and even bounced when he hit the hard classroom floor. There he was, our Mr. Drayton, out cold during fourth period science. 110 u Crab Orchard Review
Rion Amilcar Scott And after that, no more Ezekiel, not at Alfred McCoy, at least. We rarely even saw him in Hatefield either. No one was sure what happened to Zeke. Yeah, I could have dropped by his house; it was only a half-hour walk from where I lived, but I’m not sure that ever crossed my mind. Those who we think of as close friends, how easily they can be disposed of when it takes even the slightest effort to see them. I learned that over and over after Zeke, sometimes painfully. When Mr. Drayton returned several weeks later, he wasn’t the same man. It’s as if the already old man had aged two decades. He walked with a limp that had never been present before. The urine smell now sometimes stung my eyes. We weren’t sure if he had always worn orthopedic shoes. One class he didn’t even bother to talk science. He just told us that he wasn’t mad at Zeke. It’s not his fault, he said. Your people are naturally scared of dogs. It’s because of what they put you through when you were slaves. Making dogs hunt you down. Then with the Civil Rights Movement, how they sicced their dogs on you. Real cruelty. It got into your genes. Evolution, you know. Not Zeke’s fault at all. Last I heard, Zeke had murdered a pretty big drug dealer and fled the country before the law or the streets could catch up with him. I don’t know if there’s any truth in all that, but I wonder after him a lot, especially now. I get on the computer and search his name, but nothing ever turns up. Once in a while I hear that a member of Dem Freak Boyz is trying to make a comeback and I check to see if Zeke is in his entourage. Ridiculous, I know. Or I imagine he’s not a murderer at all, but a rapper speaking murder in the hopes that crime raps will make him wealthy. But wasn’t he destined to become a soccer star? There are days I search through the roster of the European teams, maybe he’s a benchwarmer, maybe some sort of coach, a towel-boy. Anything, but a fugitive. What becomes of the children destined to be broken by their saviors? I know where Ezekiel is. He’s on a beach—in the Caribbean or Europe, somewhere where’s there’s no chance he’ll be snatched and brought back to face his problems. He’s looking calm, but yet still troubled. There on that beach, Zeke sips beer after beer as the waves crash. And he cocks his ear toward the whispering foam, hoping it will tell him how things went so wrong.
Crab Orchard Review
Brent Taylor Why Aren’t You Dancing? Just after college, there would be times I’d be sitting alone,
mostly at night, and I’d pick up the phone and dial random numbers. I’d start with an area code I knew, then an exchange, and dial randomly from there. I worked in telemarketing at the time, so I knew a lot of area codes and exchanges. This was the late ’90s, when everyone still had landlines. I’d get a lot of answering machines, a lot of busy signals, a lot of disconnected numbers. Still, if I kept dialing, I’d eventually get someone. At first, it was your standard wrong number call. Someone would answer, I’d make up a name, ask if that person was there. No one here by that name, a voice would say. You must have the wrong number. This was the extent of it, this same refrain, with little variation. Once it was said, most people would just hang up. The more friendly people might repeat their number and ask if it had been the one I meant to dial. I found it helped calm the urgency of living in the city. I grew up in the suburbs, but once I graduated, found a full-time job, I got an apartment in Midtown to be closer to work. I was unused to what seemed to be the never-ending refrain of police and ambulance sirens outside the window. To hear a voice answer when I called, usually over the background of playing children or a television or a stereo, eased the feeling that life was an emergency. Eventually, though, I found myself needing more and more from the interactions, so I would try to engage the person who answered, keep them on the phone longer and longer. Sometimes, I’d talk to total strangers for over an hour. Like this one time, a woman answered, and I thought I heard a baby in the background: “Hey babe—how’d it go? I guess the baby isn’t going down.” “Um, I think you have the wrong number.” “Oh, sorry. I thought I was dialing my wife—I heard crying.” “I remember those days…but believe it or not, that’s my cat needing to go out.” “Oh, that’s funny. You said you remember. You have kids?”
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Brent Taylor “Oh yes,” she said. “But my youngest is seventeen years old. That’s how I knew you dialed wrong. He fusses getting up, not going down.” From there, I asked her about her kids—how old, what they were doing, what it was like seeing them grow up—whatever I could think of to keep the conversation going. I don’t have a wife, I don’t have kids—at that point, I’d never had a girlfriend—but letting her think I did kept her on the line. That’s the first rule of cold calling: Keep them talking. “It’s the main thing you need to know,” Marty told me. “It doesn’t matter if they’re not interested. It doesn’t matter if they’re pissed off, busy doing the laundry, whatever—if they’re still talking, they’re considering.” Marty trained me at ComAmerica—or Con America, as he affectionately called it. My first day on the job, I shadowed him at his station the entire morning. He was 25 and still finishing college at the time, but when I started, he had been Sales Rep of the Month for almost the entire year running. Eventually, he graduated, left ComAmerica, and got a job selling penny stocks at a chop shop up in Buckhead. Marty made his first million before he turned 30. I got the job at ComAmerica right out of college. It was the first thing I found, and of course, I never imagined myself doing it more than a few months. Really, I couldn’t imagine they wouldn’t let me go after a few days. I was never very good with people—not inperson anyway. I don’t understand the face-to-face protocol, shaking hands, making eye contact. I’ve never known how hard to grip or understood how long is too long to meet another person’s eyes. It turned out I was better over the phone, and I stayed nearly four years at a place where half the new hires walk off in the first week. Over the phone, there are no expectations. Or the expectation is the person doesn’t want to talk to you anyway. Marty gave me pointers: Never breathe into the line because it’s creepy; always listen for the background noises when they answer—televisions, stereos, children playing. Any glimpse into their lives is something you can use; people like to talk about themselves. For some reason, it came easily, and for the first time in my life, I was good at something that involved other people. It seemed natural that it became my social outlet too. My ex-girlfriend Beth, when she found out I used to cold-call strangers just to talk, equated it to the social version of a Hail Mary pass in football. I never told her I had done this, she found it in an e-mail I had sent to PetalumaGirl81, who I met online. Crab Orchard Review
Brent Taylor Beth and I had been having problems for a while when she discovered these emails. After nearly two years, we’d just moved in together less than three months before. It hadn’t been right since, but when she found the emails there wasn’t anything I could say. She said what upset her most about it were all the things I shared about myself that I’d never told her. She said that was our problem: I didn’t talk enough. Communicate, she meant. I didn’t think this was very fair of her, seeing as she said all this in a text message. Text messaging was pretty new at this point, but Beth was crazy with it. I didn’t notice this until we lived together. She was always texting friends from work or her sister. Sometimes I had the feeling she was texting another guy right in front of me, though I never found proof. When I finally got her on the phone, right after she left, I was going to call her on this, but there was just this long silence. I realized: this is the world we live in. If they’re that upset (screaming, crying)—it’s not about you. That’s the second rule of cold-calling. “You can’t take it to heart,” Marty told me. “You just called them on the phone—what’s so awful about that? Maybe it was an inconvenient time—maybe their dog died or maybe they just found out they have cancer. Maybe they’re just looking for someone to yell at—whatever, at least they’re still talking.” And he’s right—sometimes people just need someone to take it out on—whatever it is. Like this one night, it was late, so I dialed a West Coast area code, hoping to catch someone still awake. I got this woman, and she got so angry, she refused to let it go. “Tom, is that you?” she answered, groggily. “Tommy?” She was breathing heavy, like she had been swimming. Something wasn’t right, and I quickly apologized. “Tom, please. Is everything okay?” “I dialed the wrong number,” I said again. A long silence, then: “Goddammit!” “I—” “Goddammit, goddammit, goddammit!!” I hung up. But she called right back—star 69. “You nearly gave me a heart attack,” she said. “What’s the idea?” “I’m sorry—I was trying to call my girlfriend.” “What the fuck, buster?” “She was waiting up for me…” I offered. 114 u Crab Orchard Review
Brent Taylor “It’s nearly midnight!” “I’m sorry,” I said, hung up again. Thirty seconds later, the phone rang. “You know, I’ll never get back to sleep,” she said, disgusted. “I thought you were my husband calling to—nevermind! It’s not like you care.” “Your husband?” I said. “Your husband what?” “Nevermind. You don’t care—you wouldn’t be dialing people up at midnight if you fucking gave a shit!” “I didn’t dial the wrong number on purpose…” There was a long pause, and then I heard her crying into the phone. “I don’t know,” she said. “I just don’t know.…Anything.” “Do you want to talk? About it, I mean?” “Oh, fuck you! Creep!” And she hung up. She called back another time, but it was the same. I didn’t find out what was going on with her husband, but whatever it was, she needed to let it out. In her break-up text, Beth wrote that it was a miracle we got together. In retrospect, she typed, she couldn’t see how it even happened—though she hoped one day to be glad it did. She hoped one day we would even be friends. And, about a month ago, I got a friend request from Beth on Facebook. It had been over ten years since I had talked to her, but I admit, for an instant, I got my hopes up, even after the way it ended. Then, I saw on her profile where she was married now, with a little girl. It was a miracle that we got together. We met in a club of all places, though neither one of us were ever club-people. Marty had dragged me out on a Friday, to this place called Inferno. He had been gone from ComAmerica six months, but just before he left, he had found out I was a virgin and had made it his mission to get me laid. The club had low lights, loud music, and a bar that glowed orange, yellow, red. Like being inside a lava lamp. Beth’s friend from her work had dragged her there too. We were both waiting for drinks at the bar when she said something to me I couldn’t hear. “What?” I shouted, cupping my hand to her ear. She flinched, forced a smile. All I heard the second time were the words “lights,” “bar,” and “spinning.” Crab Orchard Review
Brent Taylor “It’s like being in a lava lamp,” I yelled. She laughed. “What?” “Funny,” she said. “That’s funny!” The bartender brought my gin and tonic. I smiled awkwardly, returned to my place over in the corner, against the wall. A few minutes later, Marty was talking to her. They were standing at a tall table, across the room. Marty was charming, confident. He had an easy way with women. I couldn’t help feeling disappointed. It wasn’t like I was going up to her—I knew better than that—but still. Then, I felt my phone buzz in my pocket—a text from a number with an L.A. area code. Want to dance? it read. I looked up, saw her smiling and waving. Marty had disappeared. I’m not much of a dancer, I wrote back. No one’s watching. I looked across the room, she shrugged. You will be, I typed. I hit send. I waited, feeling sick in my stomach, thinking she had given up. Then, my phone vibrated in my hand. I’ll close my eyes was the reply. And she did. The whole time, closed tight. It was the only time I ever danced with anyone. But we danced for what must have been an hour. She kept getting closer and closer, a little off-balance, either from having her eyes closed or maybe from the drinks. Finally, she pulled me to her, said, “Let’s go sit down.” We found a table, and I got us a drink. She barely touched it, she was so sleepy. We talked some. Our legs intertwined under the table. I asked her if she was from Los Angeles. “Well, I lived there for a while,” she said, a little embarrassed. “Not from there—obviously.” That was when I noticed her Southern accent. We hadn’t said much dancing, and the music was so loud. “I’m from Moultrie.” Her friend came over, said she needed to go after she went to the ladies’ room. When the friend was gone, we sat there looking at each other, out of things to say. I kissed her—I don’t know how it happened, but it did. “I’m glad you did that,” she said, when I pulled away. “I thought I would have to kiss you.” 116 u Crab Orchard Review
Brent Taylor The third rule of cold-calling: Speak with authority—especially when you don’t know. “What is authority, anyway?” Marty said. “Simply presenting yourself as one who knows. After all, who knows anything for certain? Before Columbus, they thought the world was flat.” That first morning, I watched him make call after call, get rejection after rejection, his demeanor never changing. I found out later that he was going through a divorce at the time, not to mention final exams at school. Still, with each new call, he maintained that slick, seamless motion with which he found the next number on the call list with his left hand, picked up the phone and dialed with his right. “Columbus died in prison,” he’d told me, putting the receiver to his ear. “Penniless. You want to make sales? Let people live in their flat world—that’s Rule Number Four.” Of course he was making the rules up as he went along (“Rule Number Five”), but using his method, I made it through my first week as a telemarketer. Really, it’s guided me ever since. When I left ComAmerica, I worked a couple of IT jobs before I finally started my own business doing website maintenance. Cold-calling was how I got my biggest account—an online dating service for people already in relationships. It’s also what saved me with Beth when we first started dating. The first physical date we went on was disastrous. I couldn’t look her in the eye through dinner. I sweated through my shirt. When the waiter cleared the plates, she beat me to the check. Dropping her off, we even shook hands. It couldn’t have gone worse. But, a week later, I called her. When she didn’t call back, I called again. “I admit,” she said, when she finally answered. “I’m surprised you called. You hardly said a word the other night.” “I’m sorry,” I told her. “I wasn’t feeling well.” “I thought you decided you didn’t like me.” “No…no way. How could you think that?” “I know this is silly, but I have this thing about my accent…I thought you were poking fun when you asked me if I was from L.A.” “No, the music was loud—I didn’t even notice your accent.” “Well, you’d think after living out west for nearly five years, I’d be over it—but it’s like some people hear it, think you’re ignorant.” “It’s lovely,” I said. “I think so—like steel guitars.” There was a long silence. Her stereo played softly in the background. “That’s really sweet,” she said. “Nobody ever told me that.” Crab Orchard Review
Brent Taylor We began talking each night after work. We’d talk two or three hours some nights. She lived 45 minutes from me when we first started dating, so we only saw each other on weekends—but we talked every night on the phone. Sometimes, we’d talk so long we’d fall asleep, and I’d wake up, hear the soft, even sounds of her breath through the receiver. One Monday night, a month after I met her, I called, and she had just gotten out of the shower. “You want me to call back?” I asked. “No, it’s fine…not unless you mind talking to me wrapped in a towel.” We talked about our weekend for a while—she had been out of town, so I hadn’t seen her. She had gone home over Easter to see her parents. Then, she told me about work. She’s a schoolteacher, or was, first grade. Finally, it was getting late, but neither of us wanted to hang up. “Well,” she said, after a while. “I told you what I was wearing.” “Yeah?” “Yeah, I had to lose the towel, though. Too damp.” Her breathing changed. “You should ask me where my hands are…” I hesitated. Then, I remembered Rule Number Three, repeated it to myself in my head. And that was my first time, of sorts. Once Beth and I were together, I stopped dialing random people. For one thing, there was no time for it anymore. For another, I got tired of bothering people, whether they were nice about it or not. Even at work, it started to wear on me. That was the first time I had the thought that maybe the thing that makes you really good at something has a way of making you bad at everything else. My sales went down. I took longer and longer in between calls. According to Marty, longer times between rejection calls was always the first sign you were done. When I left ComAmerica, Marty still had the company record for the lowest average time between calls. Last I talked to him, four years ago, he mentioned that he had spoken with Steve, our old boss, recently—the record was intact. Also, Marty’s third wife had just left him. When I was ten years old, maybe three or four months before my parents got divorced, a girl called our house one night. By her voice, I could tell that she must have been around my age. She was crying. I remember it was on a school night, around 10 or 10:30. It was 118 u Crab Orchard Review
Brent Taylor just my mother and me, my father was at work. He worked for the telephone company—long, odd hours, repairing down lines—and we never knew when he’d be home. The night the girl called, I was finishing some homework at the kitchen table. My mother waved me over, handed me the phone with a strange look on her face. “Hello?” I said. And it was this young girl, obviously distressed. She wouldn’t tell me her name, wouldn’t say what she wanted, she just kept asking me to talk to her. “I have to go,” I told her. “Please don’t hang up.” “What do you want me to say?” I finally asked. “Just talk…” she said. “Just keep talking.” But I got scared, hung up. Not long after, my father came home one afternoon, told my mother he was leaving. It was right after school, and I was doing homework at the kitchen table again. “Sweetie, go to your room,” my mother said. I went down the hall to my room, sat on my bed, and fell asleep to the sound of my mother’s voice from the other room—angry, yet hushed. I woke after dark with her sitting on the edge of my bed. She placed her hand on my forehead, ran her fingers through my hair. She sat there most of the night—not turning on the light, not saying anything. If she cried, I didn’t know it. It turned out that my father had this other family across town—a wife and a little girl. There was no messy divorce, he just wanted out. He couldn’t manage two families anymore. So they agreed, he’d send my mother what money he could each month, and he moved out. I only saw him one time afterwards. I had just graduated and had been working at ComAmerica maybe three months. I called him on a whim. He reluctantly met me at a TGI Fridays on a rainy, Sunday afternoon. Of all the questions I had for him, the only one I asked was about the girl who had called us crying that night. All those years, I knew it had been my sister. “Impossible,” he said. “Deanna couldn’t have been more than five or six, if that.” For weeks after, I went back and forth in my head, wondering how he could be so sure. I had a hard time letting the idea go. I mean—who calls a random stranger crying? Just to talk. Finally, I picked up the phone, dialed a number just to see. Crab Orchard Review
Brent Taylor One night—maybe three weeks before I met Beth—I dialed a random number, and this woman picked up. She couldn’t stop giggling. She could barely get out ‘Hello’ for all her laughing. I heard a man’s voice close by. He asked her who it was. I imagined I heard the faint sound of kisses on her neck. “Wrong number,” she said. “Stop it! Stop it!” “What’s so funny?” I asked, grinning into the phone. “I’m sorry,” she said, forced herself serious. “Who are you looking for again?” I’ll never forget her voice. She had a rough, grainy voice—coarse, yet elegant—like truck tires, moving slow over gravel. The voice of a woman who smoked long, slender cigarettes. “Oh my god!” she screamed, laughing more. “What?” I said. “What is it?” “He’s dancing!” she shouted. “Now he’s dancing!” “Wha—Why?” “On the bed! He’s dancing on the bed! And it’s… Oh my—” They sounded so happy. I could just see them there, naked on the bed. Somehow, I knew they were naked—that they had just made love. I didn’t know it in a weird way. Instead, I imagined them playing, tickling each other. Not sexual, just intimate. “Why?” I said again. “Why is he dancing?” But the man had taken the phone. “What?” he said, very serious. “I asked why you were dancing…” “Who is this?” “I—” “Why aren’t you dancing?” He laughed suddenly, the woman screamed in the background—and he hung up. Sometimes I would sit and listen to the dial tone. I’d have to hit the reset button to keep it from going to a busy signal—but after a while, there were these vague voices that would emerge, conversations from somewhere else on the line. I never made out any of the words. I just understood the cadence of human voices attempting to convey significance. Often, I wondered if it was real—or if it was just my ear, tricking me into hearing it. When Beth moved into my apartment, she convinced me to get rid of the landline seeing as we both had mobile phones. After she 120 u Crab Orchard Review
Brent Taylor broke it off, I tried dialing random numbers a couple of times, but it didn’t feel right from a cell. Beth found the e-mails I traded with PetalumaGirl81, and she left without saying anything. Instead, she sent text messages. The final text said she would come by to get her things the following week. She couldn’t face me right now, she wrote, couldn’t bear to hear my voice. I called her anyway—or tried to. Six times, before she picked up. I knew if I could get her, I could explain. If I could just get her on the line, keep her talking. “Beth,” I said, when she finally answered. But she hung up. The dial tone is what I miss most about landlines. These days, with a cell, you pick up the phone and nothing. If someone hangs up on you—silence. Same as if you just stopped talking. With a dial tone, you know. There’s no mistaking it, the perpetual and ceaseless pitch of the line, penetrating the ear. Listen long enough, it becomes a part of you—almost as if it’s coming from within—welling up, reaching out—endlessly.
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Jeff Hardin The Widening Rift The problem, he came to see, was that the master narratives, the shaping assumptions undergirding everything his students knew could be traced, on the one hand, to Disney and on the other hand to what Green Day called “a redneck agenda.” Today, for instance, he nods when a student gloats, “If it’s not the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, I’ve never heard of it,” without an ounce of irony, without a shade of regret, or mournful tone, slamming her pencil down in exaggerated finality, as if the matter has been settled. Wasn’t that the problem, his problem, how seldom anything was settled, how Monet could look at the mountain and the views continue multiplying though all anyone wanted was the postcard. Or the soundbite. As if description of a wave’s incoming, 122 u Crab Orchard Review
Jeff Hardin with its infoldings and strainings, half-breaks and prolongations, could be caught in a glance. As if Proust could be abbreviated, sent as a text message. No quick fix, it seemed, could repair the widening rift, no Greek myth explain the disconnect between people on one side and bone-head losers on the other, between passion trying to find a clear answer and indifference changing the subject again. He sat some evenings in a hum of lawnmowers mulching up leaves while the man without a helmet raced the road again, doing 70 or 80, as if an audience might be there to cheer his bravado and speed. Evening after evening, a year, then another. And the finches doing a kind of topsy-turvy dance in the air around the feeder though the woods and the fields in any direction abound.
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Laura Haynes Infinity is a number you will never arrive at, and when this was first explained, it felt like a lungful of Kaua‘i Electric: the bright phosphorescence that clung. A moment of hawk, thermal—when just for a second you see the whole carpet unrolled and how it fits perfectly into the room, how the color brings the place to life again, like a new wind that comes in from the east and blows everything westward at an alarming rate— tumbleweeds everyone into a sunset we are not prepared for. Some punch lines get delivered in act one. Bleed if you must, but do not die of poisoned wallpaper. Leave the house and gulp fresh air. O longlensed camera; O candle within the candle. O soft click of a magnetic door that finds its way home again, seal that holds but lightly, contact and ease built into design. Sublimity is an ocular turned out, in—clear light pouring through the thinnest slices
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Laura Haynes of time you can manage to pin down, and then find a sub-structure, even tinier. About halfway between the moving strings and the molten stars is the level of grace you inhabit, the place you stand on the number line. You are a sine curve moving down a long rope that loops around perpetually. You are almost the greenest twig on this inverted tree, rooted in the veldts of western Africa, passed like the tattoo of drums from town to town. You are a polaroid, a brew, a rendering— rough thumbprints in clay. You are a new canoe made in an old way. —for 23andMe
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Erin Hederman Why I Sometimes Pretend I’m Beyoncé It’s that sideways drop to the floor, then the soft, slow move back up, like butter melting in reverse, but it’s really that Crazy in Love booty pop that gets me. I realize that She is it, the woman I aspire to be, sometimes. Nobody wants that kind of fame, cameras clicking in your face, lights smashing into you, mobs of people shouting your name everywhere you go. No, that sounds like a nightmare, no sweet dream there, but I do want that sass, that confidence, that royal feeling that is Queen Bey. I aspire to one day just grow a body like that; I can’t lie, but when Partition comes on, standing in my old musty apartment, something happens; my butt pops left then right then again and again, and I transform. I am a new person, and I don’t know if it’s Bey or my own version of Sasha Fierce. All of a sudden I’m hopping around my living room like it’s my very own music video. I’m doing Her moves, and I’m doing them right. I even try that floor thing, and I feel alive. I strut from one side of the room to the other, and I strut hard, “’cause we ain’t even gonna make…to this club.” The track changes and, “I’ve been drinking,” comes out of my mouth, and I probably have, because I’m on all fours, crawling around like a sexy beast rolling all over the sandy beach that is now my home. If I do say so myself, my body feels a little curvier as I run my hands from top to bottom, touching my toes then slowly, softly move my way back up.
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Erin Hederman I move into Flawless, and She shouts, “bow down bitches,” and I do, because I am so not worthy. I’m doing the Single Ladies hand move, my head bobbing back and forth because I woke up like this, and, ladies, we are flawless. I end it with a little Halo, and now I’m doing some sort of interpretive dance, which includes a lot of ballerina-like stretching, spinning, and running. I call this the cool down period of my strange sultry exercise, hands curved to a point above my head, body spinning, sweet and smooth, and as the final note plays, I spin one last time, melting like butter into the floor, my body grateful we are only Beyoncé for tonight.
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Julie Henson In the Aeroplane over the Sea We will die & the data on our computers won’t. Even on crashed planes, the black box sings a self-righteous-George Washington canary, “I cannot tell a lie.” Computers one day will be artifacts in museums and inside each Apple will still be e-mails I’d cringe if other people read them. I tell Bethany there is a small notebook of passwords in my dresser drawer, if anything tragic happens shut that noise down. The sunset tonight lingers over the Pay Less Grocery store on Green Bush road, near the cemetery where kids volunteer to restore the old graves. You Only Die Once, they paint on the posters. Or YODO. On the World Wide Web, you die ad infinitum, in the same way, forever. Kurt Cobain killed himself. At this point, query his name & he’s killed himself a million, maybe a hundred million, times. Because he was famous. As trivia we’re also allowed to google how. I can’t get over this rare February heat wave. Each man his own groundhog, pink faces, paisley sunsets, we all of us emerge on dirty sidewalks like hounds sniffing the damp air. Fully animal. The sky pale blue, sharp yellow. Many mornings I wake up forgetting Timothy McVeigh existed, and by dinner remember. Have to look up the Waco Siege & Ruby Ridge by proxy, remember that too. Many mornings, I lie in bed 128 u Crab Orchard Review
Julie Henson for an hour, trying to remember everything that has ever happened up until this exact moment. Memory is sieve & a cloth. Me, here, gesturingâ€”what will we become is the wrong sentiment. How long will we be it. Maybe. And the girl with a wheelbarrow, somewhere fleeing war.
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Erin Hoover Girls The point not that so-called ugly girls get laid on HBO but where the single mishap is funny, a slew of them can look downright ambitious—like bitches nobody liked in high school, smudge-eyed and trussed up in complicated skirts, queuing outside the club with their amber vials of blow. Our kind of fucking up less Millennial than perpetual, because we too called ourselves journalists and wrote for weeklies nobody read, got swept into green rooms on a glance or stupid luck of a drummer who sized up my platinum, six-feet-tall, Australian friend as a sure bet and invited us backstage, his frontman singing to her in a side room while he laid out theories about off-beats for me, a dark foil whingeing about desire who was also, maybe, just a little bit fat. Even before he pushed a shrink-wrapped demo like cab fare into my palm, I knew it wouldn’t be any good—my nights then were transcendent in their flaws, and when my friend pulled him off me, her stunned
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Erin Hoover what were you thinking slung between us, garlands at an anti-award ceremony, I might have said I wanted to Take Back Some Night Somewhere or hang with those bad bitches at Seneca Falls, but I’m kissing Dave from Staten Island because he wanted to kiss me. Does it get any less complicated than one passed-over object burying itself in another? To those who would say Girls is the third wave finding itself, who speak from some absurd position of being “found,” I offer this grounded but ahistorical Fuck You, that I swear our girlish centers burn white-hot as surely as nothing burns there. It was last call five minutes ago. Somebody turn up the lights.
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Tom C. Hunley Officer Down (Police Chief Clancy Wiggum) This dream keeps screaming at me. I’m cleaning up the sweet illegal fireworks that I confiscated and blew up. I can tell that one of them remembers me leaving it sputtering on the ground. It says Why’d you light me if you couldn’t ignite me? and it has Ralphie’s face. He’s always delighted in long things: hoses, extension cords, suspenders. Dad, let’s walk the dog. I’ll hold the leash and we’ll look at the power lines. Sure, son. I made him goalie of The Mighty Pigs, but he brawled all by himself and skated figure 9s and figure 7s, laughing at his own visible breath, saying I’m a freezer. He rode every roller coaster at Praiseland, then spent a hundred hours watching Youtube videos of those coasters and hundreds more drawing detailed pictures of them. Me, I won’t even go on the Ferris wheel, and boy does that boy make me dizzy.
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Tom C. Hunley What did you do in school today? Square danced. Oh, in gym class. No, in the cafeteria. Some kids cheered. Some threw food. I had fun. I hear the other kids laugh at him when I swing by after school in my cruiser and I wish I could cuff ‘em and book ‘em. Ralphie spins, says I’m the world, and he is, he’s my world that feels alien sometimes, spinning far away from me.
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Elizabeth W. Jackson Dolphin Talk “If I could do only one thing before I died, it would be to swim with a middle-aged couple from Connecticut.” —New Yorker cartoon Anguilla: trainers swear the dolphins love us— look at their smiles, they say, and we line up to buy the dream. Every half-hour, on cue, pewter bodies surge underwater past a shelf of feet. With pumping tails, they drive their bodies up, leaving the water to arc through air. They nose into a tamed sea. Children squeal and clap. Parents scramble for cameras; the shutters play a symphony. Misty is eight feet long, 450 pounds of muscled grace. She hums for herring and shimmies to disco, little girls following her lead. Across the pool, a pair pulls a young Caesar over water. Then, the final trick: a kiss. Misty swims under water, and tourists open their hands in the lapping waves: each one waiting like a groom at the altar, no bride in sight.
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Sonnet Written on the Way Home from the Cinema Call it reverse racism if you like, but it enrages me to have to watch a man of steadfast will and forceful thought— a man like the Hmong guy selling pike along the turnpike, or the Thai guy carving knickknacks for tourists in a roadside booth, or my own dad, who, in his distant youth, hawked loaves of bread, shamefaced, to keep from starving— it angers me to see this kind of fellow objectified, aestheticized, squashed flat, diminished to a voiceless scrap of yellow at the edge of an Anglo moviemaker’s shot, reduced to mute decor at the margins of a white-skinned artist’s film—Or call it love.
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Richard III My father phones to say King Richard’s bones have surfaced in a parking lot. Glee flooding his voice, he asks, “Is this King Richard the one who saves the day in Robin Hood?,” alluding to the Disney cartoon movie he and I enjoyed together when I was a child. Hailing from Bình Định, a province that lies on Vietnam’s central coast, Dad never filed the genealogies of English kings in memory’s dockets when he was a boy; to him, Howard Pyle and even Errol Flynn are ciphers. Yet, book learning is his joy, and no one I know surpasses him in smarts. “No, Dad, that’s Richard I, the Lionheart.”
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Tariq al Haydar Machine Language She wasn’t calling me a “sand nigger.” Not exactly. Nothing
she said was directed at me, per se. I was just the overweight guy leaning against the glass wall of the arcade, smoking Marlboro Ultra Lights. My best friend, Rashid, wasn’t even trying to pick her up. He was just flirting with one of her friends. Seattle in 1996 didn’t seem like a racist place and time, but there I was, trying to keep my corpulent self out of the way, inhaling carbon monoxide in the fringes while Rashid engaged a gregarious blonde. Meanwhile, Aziz, Rashid’s acquaintance, was chatting up her Asian friend, who had her arm in a cast. They were all in earshot, but I tried to focus on what Rashid was saying. Whenever he interacted with girls, he would transform into a different person, one who spoke in non-sequiturs that they would find charming for whatever reason. Sometimes I suspected that they were actually laughing at him, which made my face red and sweaty. Embarrassment by proxy. More often than not, however, I’d realize that they were not ridiculing him at all. His conquests always seemed inexplicable to me. He ambled back to where I was standing, a prominent pimple occupying the center of his forehead and a shit-eating grin adorning the rest of his face. “She likes me,” he announced. “Who doesn’t?” I sniffed as I stepped on the butt of my cigarette. “Can we go now?” “Aziz is talking to her friend,” he said as he adjusted his little eyeglasses that were much bigger than his little eyes. “What’s burning your rice?” “Nothing,” I mumbled. I glanced at the blond girl, who had gone back to discuss the encounter with a third, slightly overweight girl. I didn’t even notice her at first, which caused me to immediately identify with her. Aziz walked back to us and said, “If I knew how to speak English, I’d be the crusher of maidens’ hearts.” He exhaled loudly. I had just met Aziz that day, so I nodded. Like us, the group of Crab Orchard Review
Tariq al Haydar three young women had convened on the other side of the exterior of the arcade. They were standing at the exact point where the sidewalk merged into the beginning of the parking lot, but I could still hear what they were saying, more or less. The girl with the broken arm didn’t have much to say about Aziz, but the blonde kept going on and on about how funny Rashid was. That’s when I heard the third girl say it. I don’t even know how it fit into the conversation, but I distinctly heard her refer to us, with a modicum of disgust, as “those sand niggers.” That was the first time I had ever heard that phrase. I was familiar with “nigger,” of course, although at the time I associated it more with the raging East Coast-West Coast rap war than with a national history of violence. “I think that fat chick called us ‘niggers,’” I told Rashid and Aziz. “Us?” asked Rashid. “Are you sure? But we aren’t black.” “She said ‘sand niggers,’” I replied, half-wishing I had said nothing. “You know, like niggers from the desert.” This sent both of them into a frenzy. They walked up to the three young women, trying to appear as menacing as possible. “What did you call us?” shouted Rashid. I lingered, staring at the cigarette butt I had stomped earlier. The slightly overweight girl straightened her back and walked up to Rashid. She was taller than him. “Why don’t you get on your magic carpet and fly back to Saudi Arabia?” How did she know we were from Saudi Arabia? The three of them started screaming at each other: Rashid in broken English, Aziz mostly in Arabic and the girl in an accent I couldn’t quite place. I walked up and put my arm between Rashid and the girl and pleaded, “Let’s go. She’s not worth it.” “Yeah, you go,” she said with a smirk. Back in the car, Aziz discovered that I spoke fluent English. “Are you kidding?” he said, turning to me in the backseat. “If I spoke any English at all, I would have damned the good out of her.” Rashid and Aziz went on and on about how I should have utilized my language skills to the belittlement of this racist. Did I not have enough self-esteem to stand up for myself? The more they talked, the more convinced I became that they were right. I couldn’t sleep that night, my mind awash with the litany of profanities I could and should have hurled at her. Redemption beckoned the very next day, as Rashid and I walked out of the QFC carrying bags of ice. The slightly overweight girl was 138 u Crab Orchard Review
Tariq al Haydar right there. She had spotted us and was walking toward our car with both of her middle fingers raised. The obscenities I had rehearsed in my mind the night before came flowing out of my mouth: suggestions for sexual favors she should offer; speculations on the possible shallowness of her gene pool; and, of course, put-downs of her appearance. Mainly her weight. Rashid was pleased. He patted me on the shoulder and laughed approvingly before he drove off in his rented Ford Taurus. But I didn’t feel any satisfaction. I’ve always spoken some kind of liminal language; equipped with basics in both Arabic and English but perpetually miscommunicating, or at least not entirely satisfied with what I ultimately say. As a boy growing up in Richmond, Virginia, I insisted on rolling my Rs. I refused to pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, or to the republic for which it stands. I’d just stand there every morning, silently waiting for my classmates to finish their ritual. Maybe it wasn’t that strange, considering I’ve never been a U.S. citizen anyway. Then again, citizenship didn’t mean anything to me then. My world revolved around Transformers, which I watched every weekday afternoon at four o’clock. My favorite was Jazz, not only because he was Optimus Prime’s secondin-command, who ordered Sunstreak and Sideswipe to transform into a Lamborghini and Ferrari before every battle with the Decepticons, but, more importantly, because Jazz was a Porsche. Only years later would I discover that Jazz was supposed to be black. An African-American robot from Cybertron. We moved back to Riyadh after I finished second grade. I could vaguely understand Arabic, but I couldn’t fathom how I’d be able to study science, history, and geography in that language. I had to take an entry exam to get into Ma’had al-Asema Schools. The large man with the large mustache told me to write “elephant” in Arabic. I did, slowly drawing the circle of the “F,” the little saucer with two dots underneath that was “Y,” and the umbrella handle that constituted “L.” “You forgot the dot on top of the ‘F,’” he said. I looked at him, afraid that they would send me back to Richmond. “It’s okay,” he laughed. A lot of my time in elementary school was spent deciphering words I had never heard before, often to comic effect. I thought “nation” Crab Orchard Review
Tariq al Haydar meant “mother.” In my mind, “Hathal” wasn’t just a name, it was the person who sang the “athan,” the call for prayer you sometimes hear in Hollywood movies like The Exorcist or The Hurt Locker. When my cousin told me that I’d “regret” not giving him my Super Mario Bros. cartridge, I thought he’d said that I would be “filled with blood.” The worst part about Riyadh was that I couldn’t play with other kids during the week. Everyone lived in isolated concrete villas. All my friends and cousins were car rides away. I found myself missing how I could navigate our entire neighborhood in Richmond by bicycle. In lieu of the basketball games I couldn’t play anymore and the frogs I couldn’t hunt in the pond that was now half a world away, I watched VHS cassettes filled with American sitcoms in an infinite loop: Family Ties, Alf, Webster, Night Court, Mr. Belvedere, Cheers, Perfect Strangers. I guessed at what language they spoke on Mypos, theorized about Bruce Willis’s true feelings toward Cybill Shepherd, and wondered why Theo kept getting into trouble with Dr. Huxtable. “Why don’t I understand anyone’s jokes?” I asked my mother abruptly one day. “Your classmates?” she asked. “Do they understand your jokes?” “I keep quiet for the most part.” “You need to watch Egyptian films,” she suggested, and took me to a video store on Thalatheen Street, where she bought me The School of the Mischievous, a black-and-white play starring Adel Emam and Saeed Saleh. It took me a few viewings, but I began to understand the humor, though I didn’t understand what Younis Shalabi meant when he said, “Spell it and drink its water!” The audience went crazy though, so it must have been funny. Mr. Bassam was a Palestinian high school teacher who tutored me. Every day, he’d start our Arabic lessons the same way: “Write an ‘H.’” I’d try to draw those two not-quite-concentric circles, but Mr. Bassam would sigh and tell me, “Don’t lift the pen up. It’s all one motion.” It took me a while, a frustratingly long while, but I eventually mastered the “H,” which seems simple enough in retrospect. Mr. Bassam would later tutor all my younger brothers, and when they all outgrew his expertise, he’d come by and play ping pong with us and watch La Liga or World Cup matches, chain-smoking all the while. “So when will you quit smoking?” I’d ask. “As soon as the school year ends,” he’d say. “Teaching dumb Saudis is very stressful. I need my fix.” 140 u Crab Orchard Review
Tariq al Haydar Once the school year ended, we’d ask him again and he’d reply: “As soon as the school year begins.” “Why?” my brother would laugh. “It’s summer vacation.” “Son,” he’d say, “I have to drive all the way to Nablus and endure those motherfuckers and their endless checkpoints. You can’t talk to soldiers. Teaching dumb Saudis is a lot less stressful.” After graduating high school, I majored in computer science at King Saud University in Riyadh. I chose computer science because it was not medicine. The first semester was a breeze because we had to take six English language credits, which I aced. Then we had to learn C and Java. The most terrifying entity I’ve ever come across is the compiler, a program that translates source code from programming languages to binary code. Typically, after the Algerian professor told everyone what kind of program he wanted us to design, I’d scribble the little I understood of whatever programming language I had to grapple with. Once my program was done, I’d run it through the compiler, which would inform me that I had fifty-four errors. It never specified what they were. Sometimes, a single misplaced semi-colon produced twenty different errors. After an hour and a half of searching through my sorry excuse for a program, line by line, I’d finally find a semicolon that shouldn’t have been there. I’d delete it and run the program through the compiler again: Ninety-one errors. I’ve always loved getting lost in bookstores: exploring different sections, examining covers, sampling pages, discovering authors. I was at Jarir Bookstore on Olaya Street, which isn’t there anymore, leafing through Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent, when I noticed a middle-aged man with a potbelly staring at me. “Is that for class?” he asked. “No.” “So why are you reading a Joseph Conrad novel?” he asked, apparently amazed for some reason. “Because I like Conrad,” I replied, putting the book back on the shelf. “Are you in college?” he asked. “What do you study?” “Computer science,” I sighed. He took a stack of papers out of his breast pocket and mumbled, “Let me give you my card.” But then he shuffled the papers for five whole minutes, muttering, “I know it’s here somewhere.” Suddenly, Crab Orchard Review
Tariq al Haydar he stuffed the papers back into his breast pocket and triumphantly produced his wallet from one of his other pockets. “I think it’s in here,” he beamed. It was, and he extended it to me, urging me to contact him if I ever thought about transferring to the English Department. I can’t remember his name, but he was an Assistant Professor. As soon as he left, I threw his card in the trash. I don’t know why I did that, and I’d waste a couple more years torturing myself with that damn compiler, but in the end I did transfer to the English Department. I moved to Washington D.C. for graduate school, where I met a bunch of newspaper columnists and intellectuals. Many of them were Arab nationalists who had thick mustaches and listened to obscure (to me at least) Iraqi singers and found my love of Wu-Tang Clan and Guns N’ Roses off-putting. We organized gatherings at local community centers where we could get together with other Arabs and discuss Marx or Arendt or Said and debate whether or not Arabs were too primitive and barbaric for democracy. Salah was a Kuwaiti who had caterpillars for eyebrows and always showed up in jeans that were ripped at the knees. He never spoke Arabic. The English he spoke reminded me of my own: the kind news anchors from Minnesota spoke once they’d beaten the specificities and regionalisms out of their tongues. Most of my friends didn’t like Salah. “Why does he speak English all the time?” they’d ask. “It’s not like we have any Swedes or Alabamans in attendance.” I tried to stick up for him, even though I secretly disliked him just as much as they did. One of the few things I remembered from linguistics classes I took as an undergraduate was that speakers of a “subordinate” language spoke a “dominant” language for one of two reasons: either it facilitated communication, or the speaker desired some kind of prestige through association with the dominant language. I tried to argue that Salah belonged to the former group, even though I suspected he fell into the latter. “Well,” said one of the Arab nationalists, “he can speak all the English he wants. He’s still a sand nigger to them.” I don’t know how true that is, or who this “THEM” referred to. It seemed like such a massive pronoun. I closed my eyes and imagined ripping “THEM” up into a thousand little “thems” I could scatter into a river. 142 u Crab Orchard Review
Tariq al Haydar Then I imagined diving into the river, separating myself from everyone else, and allowing the stream to take me to where the ocean began. The salt water carried me to some distant land, where I emerged from the sea and rested on the sand. As the last rays of sun flickered, a group of women and men in strange purple and yellow clothes approached, holding spears and speaking in tongues. I couldnâ€™t recognize the languages, but I understood that they were asking me to identify myself. I opened my mouth.
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Stephanie Carpenter Connection Refused In college, we fingered each other constantly. We fingered each other in dorm rooms and computer labs, from library terminals, at the student union. I fingered skinny Matt from creative writing; I fingered athletic Jeff from work-study; I fingered myself so I’d know what it felt like. In times of great loneliness—late nights, Sunday evenings—I settled at my suitemate’s empty desk and fingered everyone I could think of. A lice epidemic raged across our tiny campus my senior year. I avoided contact with upholstery, bedding, hair—but I kept on with my fervid fingering. Everyone had a .project; everyone had a .plan. Back then, everyone had a secret self that could be known only through fingering. Finger 97adb, I’d type, and the blank computer screen would fill with quotes and quips assembled by a wry junior named Andy. This was in 1995, -6, -7, -8: our Facebook was made of paper and ink, containing the names, home addresses, birthdays, and high school senior photos of every student at my 2000-person college. That directory recorded the past; our UNIX profiles gave glimpses of the present. Here were The Simpsons and the Roland Barthes quotes by which we constituted ourselves. And along with a user’s alias, .project and .plan came a record of their last activity. From whose computer did X last login, and when? The fingerer could know this about the fingered. Fingering was a covert activity, but not without risk. A slight catch before a profile loaded meant that its owner was caching my activity. The only way to avoid exposure was by quickly typing “amnesia”—and then “amnesia” again, just in case. I didn’t know how to set that snare myself. I didn’t know how to discover who’d fingered me; I don’t know if anyone ever did. I only knew how desperately I did not want my fingering to be felt. Today I teach at a technological college. Like my alma mater, it’s located in the wilderness. Many of my students seem shy, cowed by the harsh weather and by the demands of their engineering programs. But I know that they know many things about each other, through 144 u Crab Orchard Review
Stephanie Carpenter many digital means. Their online personas are far more elaborate and dynamic than ours were—their looking and liking less targeted and furtive. They freely friend each other, even sometimes me. The unadorned UNIX prompt of my college years is still somewhere inside my computer, though I don’t know how to reach it. “Finger 98sac,” I’m certain no one is typing—and by that means, learning nothing about me. Long ago I vacated my first online identity, as I have left behind Friendster, Myspace, Ello. “Finger firstname.lastname@example.org,” you might try typing—and the response would be “Connection refused.” In this respect, nothing has changed. I envy my students their seeming candor, their willingness to follow or be followed. At 19 and even now at 39, I would not dare construct a self that everyone can see.
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Alexander Long On Forgiveness I don’t know what it means, but I try to Do it, and mean it, and I don’t know What it means. How is that possible? In Rwanda, after the genocide, President Kagame made it a law For the Hutus to live side by side With the surviving Tutsis, the same Tutsis whose family members they slaughtered Not with gas or guns, but with machetes. Eight hundred thousand were slain in a month. The math alone puzzles the soul, a feat Not even the Nazis or Stalin could Could accomplish. Kagame’s plan in placing The slaughterers in such close proximity With their survivors was to engender A culture of not only acceptance But also forgiveness. Each village Would hold trials in which the Hutus Would confess to hacking to death a Tutsi, Or more likely, Tutsis, and the Tutsis Would be required by law to forgive The man, or sometimes the boy, who slaughtered Often an entire extended family. But perhaps what’s most astounding is that Tutsis and Hutus lived side by side Before the genocide: they were, and are, Inter-married, had, and have, children Together. So, yes, what you are thinking Is inexplicably correct: brotherIn-law killed sister- and brother-in-law, Uncle hacked off limbs of a nephew or niece, Son-in-law raped mother-in-law while father146 u Crab Orchard Review
Alexander Long In-law watched, or appeared to watch, while blood Trickled out the corners of his mouth, eyes, And ears. These trials, gacaca, were met With deep suspicion and full compliance, And according to Kagame have helped Rebuild, among other things, Rwanda’s Infrastructure. But the mind and the soul, Faculties we each possess and know So little about, what swirls inside them Once the verdict is “given”, the “punishment” Divvied out? What’s a decent image To put down in ink by a stranger So removed like me? Like you? Do Bodie Estes and Kyle Ross and Cassandra Warr forgive me for being white, or do I forgive them for being black? Do we Laugh it off over a couple of beers At a grade school reunion, and find Some solace in a common enemy, Sister Amadeus, the United States of America, the Catholic Church? Does a winter wind chafe our skin that much Less? Is our sleep any less terrorized? I’m thinking of our eyes, all of them Leaking what they’re made of, what makes up Most of the only planet we’ve been given.
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Michael Marberry Weekly Apology —following instances of domestic violence in the NFL It’s Sunday, so my favorite team is losing. It’s Sunday, so I cannot deny I love little as much as I love this slow and systematic destruction of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian body: the precision of a wideout’s quick hot-read, the fetishism inherent in four yards/carry, and the headhunters’ enthralling brutality. Today, the hogmollies seem adept at pain, and the quarterback seems more beautiful because his spiral is the tightest of similes. In the news, a man beats a woman in a box and drags her down the hall, while another tree-whips a baby like a disobedient horse, and it’s Sunday, and I’m celebrating violence. If I’m a man, I am a man without a history of cruelty, despite the tuggings of my nature. Do we deserve our hurt? I can’t answer that, though I feel I have known those deserving of punishment and may be, myself, deserving. To harm someone and, in doing so, enforce control and structure in our perpetual chaos must be alluring and wondrous and cathartic: 148 u Crab Orchard Review
Michael Marberry to learn what sound a body makes and where it leaks from. There is certainly that appeal, which I can understand without condoning, which I know will be unpopular with you (and rightfully so), as a conscientious reader, expecting justice, which I cannot give you.
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Peter Marcus Rumi Returns to Mazar-I-Shair It is also Afghanistan’s unofficial capital of prostitution— so much so that “going to Mazar” has become a byword for Afghan men looking to pay for sex. —The New York Times to consider writing love poems for the 21st century, to whirl in the streets—a lone dervish preaching the bliss of dust, to search for scarlet lips blousy as opium poppies in springtime. Is it possible to recognize innocent singing after a massacre and reprisals? Muffled radios in clandestine rooms to occlude the virile groans of pleasure. The youngest of the divorced and the widowed on their backs, their gazes fastened to ceilings or posed on knees and hands to keep their coffers filled with Afghanis. What would Rumi intone now? Eight centuries ago he noted, the soul sometimes leaves the body then returns, though this is also relevant in coital trauma. While other of his lines reside nearer to a psychiatric truth: our nakedness together changes me completely. Is it two conquering forces: the Taliban and U.S. military or four powers, if one includes divine and mortal love? Rumi fled the onslaught of Genghis Khan in this same city, then grieved in exile for decades over his murdered teacher. Loss shadows us through the world then leads us away from the corporeal. The ruins of the old khanaqa still standing where his father taught and he studied as a boy. The BBC reports: if you visit Mazar-I-Shair today, you still might meet a few local men who ecstatically chant his verses, if they haven’t yet been slain for recitation of profanities. Rumi praised sweet wine
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Peter Marcus and the grapes from which it came, the gardens and the roses that compose them, but that was in his other life in Turkey. I wish I knew to whom, and about what he was speaking when he said:
There’s nothing worse than to walk out along the street without you. I don’t know where I’m going. You’re the road, and the knower of roads.
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Marathon And then you had the incident of this [sic] Swedish cartoons which depicted Muhammad in the worst form, which is one of the worst forms of cursing Muhammad we have ever heard of. And then you now have the abuse of the book of Allah in ways that we have never heard of using it, as toilet paper and shooting at the book of Allah for target practice. So what is happening now and the enormous extent of it, even though it angers every Muslim, it is also a sign that the end of these kuffar [unbelievers] is near. â€”Anwar al-Awlaki, from a 2008 audio lecture from Yemen In one region of hell there are runners without legs. Reach your hand inside a honeypot, a cookie jar, and risk amputation by hacksaw or cleaver. Play soccer and jeopardize losing a foot. What can one do for those villagers who will hang from the oaks if heard singing? The immolated witches are remembered at Old Burying Point and Judge Corwinâ€™s wooden house, though the earth remains fundamentally stone, especially for those left unconscious, buried below a heap of cinderblocks to preserve the honor of kinfolk and neighbors. Perhaps the lone true liberty resides in cyberspace, where one is free to rant and fetishize and find instructions for how to build explosives. The bomb contained nails like those sold at Home Depot
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Peter Marcus for residential construction, nails equivalent to those deployed in the last crucifixion. Still, one may observe the goodness of strangers with numbers taped to chests and backs, who gathered up the detached, sweating limbs and sprinted them toward emergency vehicles with their shiny white-red doors pushed open, allowing at least, some of us to hope for an alternative salvation.
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mariana mcdonald Guéckédou Bats soar past felled trees in Guéckédou, searching for fruit their jagged teeth crush to savor the nectar within. Back at the roost in trees high above, the unfeathered birds rest upside down in an up-ended world, swaddled papoose-like in their wings. Villagers chatter in Guéckédou about bad roads, bushmeat, and drought. They know not to say the word out loud, the name of it, so it won’t fill the air, harming those touched by its sound. Bodies pile up all around, stench of blood pungent as fear. Relief workers toil in Guéckédou, dressed like astronauts brought back to earth to treat those wrestling death. Infected ones roil, wretch, vomit, bleed inside and out. Some are saved. They serve to stay the spread, chanting their rare tales of hope. Many feet flee from Guéckédou, some to places deep inland, far from the word that cannot be uttered yet stubbornly speaks its own name. Some to cities, to cousins and lovers, some to cloud-covered cabins high above, landing in distant dull fields.
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mariana mcdonald The whole world points to GuĂŠckĂŠdou, wondering now what might have been done to utter the word, to corner the virus, to keep it from soaring all over the earth, multiplying and flying about, determined as a fruit bat searching for food.
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Cate McGowan Inaugural Poem, January 20, 2001 What’s next? I wonder, as I know this morning will change the course of things, like a dam breaking off the Mississippi and swallowing whole towns, only dolls and broomsticks floating downstream, people sitting on roof points waiting for helicopters to drop a line. Last year, Atlanta’s gorilla, Willie B., died. I remember I was fired that morning. It was record cold as I waited in the parking lot for my boss to cut my last check. That day my childhood died, somehow, too. All my life, I’d seen Willie B.— on grammar school field trips, family picnics, second grade birthday parties, when outof-town relatives came to visit. An old gorilla, he’d been captive for forty-odd years, since being pulled from his mother’s arms at two or three, while his family sat on some African hilltop, surrounded by nothing. They crated him like a piece of 156 u Crab Orchard Review
Cate McGowan furniture or an artifact from Tut’s tomb, caged him in a glass viewing room, like those gorillas in Samsonite commercials from the Seventies. For humane purposes, later, Willie B. was moved, to some forest environment where, as the main attraction, he squatted, the sheen of his silver back iridescent in the noon sun, and he chewed on leaves, swatting mosquitoes, surrounded by berms and fences. His corner of the zoo, “all-natural,” as public relations touted, was built so old Willie could copulate in comfort. Now, his offspring only knows the confines of some zoo in Georgia. His offspring has a lot to look forward to. I woke this morning in sadness— I dreamt about the last passenger pigeon, Martha. Last night I’d heard her mentioned on TV and looked her up on some search engine— altavista, lycos, goto, hotbot, yahoo, dodo, Asian elephant, rainforest, rhino, manatee, wolf, buffalo. I can’t keep the sadness at bay, the idea of how all those birds are gone, how it would feel to be the last of some species. To be mateless, incapable of continuing. Martha, the last passenger pigeon, died in the Cincinnati Zoo. It was 1914. They found her corpse stiff on the tile floor, her ruby eyes staring at nothing, Crab Orchard Review
Cate McGowan waiting for the taxidermist’s knife. All her kin, billions of them, once, the most numerous species of bird on the planet, who’d dimmed the sun with their massive flocks, were shot down in millions, by Gatling guns and hunting parties, killed for their meat, for sport. Tonight, I look up, praying for stars and there aren’t any. The light pollution hides them. Artificial daylight, so we can drive, so we can see, to get to jobs and shopping malls, obscures the beauty up there, somewhere, hidden behind the manmade light deflecting off a ceiling of purple and crimson clouds, obliterating the moon’s carcass, blankets of pollution pressing down. Through the clearing, the moist, red clay glistens. The trees are gone from clear-cutting. The lights of the city twinkle at a distance. Through all that glimmering, distant beauty, some of those lights illuminate some evil crime, some killing, some pain that some man feels.
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Laurie Clements Lambeth A Good Twenty Years Pity (2006)
“That child,” the man said, “should be taken out and shot. He should be put out of his misery.” The man, my brother-in-law, was speaking about his grandchild whose muscles slacken out of his control: type II Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). We were on a transcontinental video call through the computer—the early days of Skype. My husband and I tried to hide our shock because we could be seen. Stone faced, or turned to stone. The man sat in his youngest daughter’s bedroom, surrounded by pillows in multiple shades of pink. We watched his head wobble in a little box on screen, the brown liquid moving in his shot glass, the timing between words and mouth, all delayed and shaky. Technologically palsied. The man continued. “Really. Not to say anything about your problem, dear, but that poor lad’s life is not a life. Your…” He stared into space, trying to think of the right word to describe multiple sclerosis, and produced the following: “…problem is nothing compared with what he has to deal with.” My muscles do slacken, tremor, or tighten beyond my control, but for different reasons than my great-nephew’s: blocked communications from brain to muscles or skin or eye or bladder. While the child’s disease progressively destroys the brain stem and motor neurons supplying his muscles, my affected neurons are more spread out, the damage more sporadic, often transient. Whatever weakness I have felt, whatever slackening of gait or grip or speech or memory, I have prepared myself for more, but certainly not the rapid progression and early death associated with his form of SMA. I once worried my greatnephew might someday read about his grandfather’s cruel statement or worse, that he may never reach the age to discover it. He is now twelve. Six years before that conversation, as my husband prepared to leave his country to marry me in mine, the same brother tried to dissuade him. Ian, listen. MS is a mental illness, he told him. You don’t know what you’re getting into. The location for MS and mental illness is indeed the brain, as is SMA. It’s a place where a lot of pretty Crab Orchard Review
Laurie Clements Lambeth important things begin and end, like movement, memory, sensation, dexterity, and, of course, despair. I wasn’t there when he offered that brotherly advice, but I knew about it, each syllable resonating in my mind as though I had heard them directly. It all came rushing back in the instant he compared me and my “problem” to his grandchild. It’s not so much the hierarchy of disability he set up that bothered me, the way anyone might pit one person’s suffering against another’s pain. This is a common impulse, and its ubiquitous nature fascinates and repulses me. It’s true: the child is far worse off than I am. But his grandfather resorted to pity on the edge of cruelty. He felt the child’s “life is not a life,” physical activity a requirement for the living, and those who don’t move their own bodies exist in a misery they must be split from. Somehow, I narrowly escaped that sentence, because my illness didn’t appear disabling enough. The first time I heard the phrase “Philosophy is learning how to die,” I had lived with multiple sclerosis for less than two years. I was still adjusting to a new life with chronic illness, more aware of time’s limits and my own frailty than I had ever been before. The statement sang to me. I didn’t know then that it was the title of an essay by Montaigne, fired up by Cicero. When I scrawled the phrase on my denim college notebook, the line was attributed to no one, which seems fitting, universal: all of us learning how to die, whether we know it or not, death and disease our common leveler. Every day we spend in these bodies makes us adore them or despise them more. Some of us learn earlier than others what it is to be old, how to lose control of muscles, memory. How to be slow. How to need help with things we should have mastered: walking, turning a knob, going to the toilet, speech. Through frailty and dependence we learn survival, endurance, and become somewhat more acquainted with learning how to die. That radiant boy whose muscles slip from him while rods are sewn into his back, girdles crafted to hold him erect in his chair— what will he learn in his brief life? What potential pleasures? How will he grow? How will we apply his beauty, intelligence, grace or terror to the taper of our own lives? I imagine this is precisely what the child’s grandfather is afraid of. I want to go back, interrupt him, reach through the screen and shake him, say something about that elementary philosophy lesson. I carry such obsessions over years, and still, I can barely muster a word in his presence. I recall things from the conversation—he’s my only 160 u Crab Orchard Review
Laurie Clements Lambeth progeny, that’s my lineage—repeated over and over, the way a drunk person will when working out a particularly rough problem. Or, I always believed that if you worked hard, you know, man, that things would come to you, and the thought that you go around in life with this DNA and you don’t even know it, and you pass it on…and I begin to understand. This man is learning about the body’s fragility, the reckless chaos of the physical world. He violently rejects it. Poor fool that you are, who has assured you the term of your life? —Michel de Montaigne
Twenty Good Years (2002) After seeing the film Hilary and Jackie, based upon the fraught relationship between two musical sisters, Ian leans forward from the couch, shocked or exhausted or both. His hands run through the sides of his hair until they cradle his head. Jacqueline du Pré (the Jackie in the title) had multiple sclerosis and died from it. I had only heard of one person who “died from MS” before, a poet’s wife, and when I heard those words, I was sure it was a sort of shorthand for “complications arising from.” Didn’t I learn that people don’t die from MS? In the 1980s, this was the best kind of news a doctor could offer. Weren’t the neurologist’s words, when I received my diagnosis at seventeen, “chronic but not fatal?” Until that point, those words were interchangeable to me; illness existed on the outside, and both words held the same meaning. After physically comprehending their difference, I refused to let the words touch each other. Years later in a writing workshop, I argued fiercely with a poet who claimed in his poem that psoriatic arthritis was fatal. I am that committed to the difference, that fired by my own fears. Sitting next to Ian on the couch I think I know what’s wrong, but I ask anyway. And I ask again until he speaks. His eyes rip to the periphery where I sit beside him. He says he doesn’t like to think of my death, of living without me after I’m gone. I don’t recall his exact words but these: the film reminded him of “the inevitable.” That’s enough of a marker. I’m bursting to tell him I won’t die: “But I don’t have that kind of MS. Mine doesn’t progress. She had the rapidly progressive kind.” Crab Orchard Review
Laurie Clements Lambeth My mind flashes to a shot of the actress dragging her feet between the physical therapist’s parallel bars against a white background. Since seeing the film, I have used such parallel bars. I have retrained myself to walk more than once (mine is a forgetful body), and each time it gets harder. Even with relapsing MS, the disease indeed progresses. It’s taken a long time to learn that. Still, my life has not been threatened. Fiercely, as though I’m grasping for logic, I spit out “How can they portray MS in a movie anyway?” I don’t want him to learn how to grieve, not this way, so early. Not with the expectation of loss, although writing that, I realize that everything we love is always tinged with at least the possibility of losing it. I thought I told him, the day after we met in 1997, the day of Princess Diana’s funeral in his home country, the day when all our disclosures were made (he: I’m not a prince with a massive inheritance; me: I have a chronic illness called multiple sclerosis), that MS isn’t fatal. I remember a newspaper was open to the Jumble and comics; we had been looking at it in our friends’ kitchen. I told him about the first time numbness painted my hand and arm, the dizzy spells after that, the left leg too stupid to move for weeks at a time. He held me and said, “doesn’t change a thing.” A few days later I dreamed of him standing in a forest clearing, and when I stepped toward him through a carpet of leaves, I noticed blood streaming down his face. He looked sad, apologetic even. In the dream, a surge of intense compassion and distress came over me. Rush of leaves. I ran to him. I awoke. I mark that dreamed or imagined loss, which felt larger than anything I’d known, as the moment I knew I loved him. My arm instinctively slips around his shoulders. “When did you think I was going to die,” I ask. “Not soon. I thought we’d have a good twenty years.” “You moved from England to the U.S. under the impression that I’d die in twenty years, and still you gave up everything?” I’m surprised. He’s embarrassed to reveal his lack of knowledge, the depth of his love. “I don’t think Jacqueline du Pré died from MS,” I say. “Nobody does. Maybe they fall, or maybe a car hits them because they’re too slow crossing the road, but they don’t die from the disease itself.” The word “die” extends across three syllables. My uncertainty is leaking through. “Some people lose the ability to swallow.” 162 u Crab Orchard Review
Laurie Clements Lambeth I refer to the notes I’d jotted down during the film, launch into academic, theoretical observations about the actress, Emily Watson, and her attempts to convey numbness, incontinence. Everything seems larger than it is because she tries to enact an invisible, alien experience. There is a disconnect. Like silent films portraying voice. In the movie Jackie’s tremors eventually make drinking nearly impossible, and she appears to lose the ability to swallow— dysphagia—so I imagine that to be the MS symptom which caused her death: choking or aspiration pneumonia from liquid entering the lungs. I refuse to read the biography for clarification. Each hacking catch of liquid running down my trachea, each morsel of food lost at the back of my mouth, more common the longer I live with the disease, terrifies me. I refuse to learn how to die that death. Twenty years is nearly past.
Lemonade (2003) A year from seeing that film, Ian and I would listen to a live MS teleconference attempting to motivate people with MS and their care partners to see the sunny side by remembering a simple acronym. These teleconferences and events are commonly hosted by pharmaceutical companies to educate people with MS and those who are newly diagnosed about research and current therapies available. Generally, the aim is to promote the sponsoring drug company’s medication by comparing it favorably against any other medications. A phrase is slipped in. Testimony. An endorsement made by a person with the illness. At some of the events neurologists avoid this game altogether and present material about the current trends in research, highly useful. But with this particular teleconference, the complicated nature of the disease would be oversimplified, and the speakers would make a particularly transparent endorsement. We have both long forgotten the acronym, or we’ve intentionally shed it from memory. What I have instead is a souvenir: a bingo card Ian crafted for me: “MS Motivational Speaker Bingo.” One row begins with the square “Empowerment” (Every day is a new day). One begins “Proactive” (It’s not about what you can’t do—it’s about what you can do! and I have the disease but it does not have me). The square in the far left column, in the penultimate row, is my favorite, so darkly comic: It’s not a death sentence—it’s a life sentence. Imprisonment made into Crab Orchard Review
Laurie Clements Lambeth lemonade. No chance of parole, but for some chosen at random, a lighter sentence, a more comfortable cell. Luck of the draw. This is just the kind of comparison the speakers would have set up, without understanding the irony behind the statement. Ian embraces the irony, then cuts through it: for some delirious reason he’s willing to take that sentence with me, whatever it may be, whatever luck we have. A life sentence is a death sentence, once you accept all the terms.
Coiled Time What happens when we die? As a child my understanding of the phenomenon centered on a single moving image: the black and white striped stockings of the Wicked Witch of the East, who had just been crushed by Dorothy’s house, and whose ruby slippers had magically snapped from her feet. The way the feet shrivel and roll once the shoes’ rigid outline is removed, as though the body evaporates from the extremities inward while the flesh flattens, becomes a ball— yes, both at the same time: this is how I imagined death. We just curl into ourselves. Like a spring. One could say I started learning how to die when I passed out of this notion and into a form of medical certainty. Still, the scene offers a certain nostalgic enchantment when I watch it now. Those curling toes, the focus of a moment. When my toes don’t work for me, when they jam upwards, too tightly wound, or when a twinge will swim down my leg to wiggle a toe without my control, when they feel numb as though something is stuck to, say, the big toe, a cup maybe clinging to my heel, or as though they are too large to possibly wedge inside my shoes, when I measure my progress toward remission by how much tickle may spark up the arch, I think of those stockings, the shrivel. The reflex, the absence, the pulling away. In 2004, the year I couldn’t drive because my foot could neither recognize nor press the pedals, both legs numb up to the waist, feet feeling like they were covered by shoes larger than ruby slippers, Ian and I would set ourselves up on the couch, him sitting, me lying down with my feet in his lap. Then he would tickle my feet, one after the other, everywhere. I was supposed to close my eyes for the experiment, but I was too fascinated by the connection between what I saw and my memories of being tickled. “How about that time,” he’d say. 164 u Crab Orchard Review
Laurie Clements Lambeth “Nope.” My eyes would dart to the television, then back. “This? How about there.” “Nothing.” Not being ticklish brought at first a sense of invincibility (nobody could take me down in a tickle fight), but also a sense of loss. Strange that something so small could make one feel so literally disembodied. Absence growing, part by part. Each night my husband worked to revive them. Each night I watched these appendages attached to my legs and those dear hands moving. There is an instrument—something like a pizza wheel or a giant spur with spokes—that neurologists roll up the foot to provoke a reflex, a twinge. Some doctors snap a swab’s wooden stick and drag the sharp, broken end along the sole. Absolutely no stick, no cold spoke could have incited reaction, no amount of clever finger wiggle could have produced that tickle reflex I’ve had all my life, that impulse to roll my feet away. I could say there was a lot of padding to get through, because it felt that way, but there was no padding, no sock, just skin. I felt nothing each night, and then a patch near the arch some nights might spark, then die away. Feet that don’t move or feel: that is another kind of death, I suppose. Stiffly lodged in these massive, invisible shoes. Imagine the brain’s neurons as a tangle of stringy, interconnected legs, all sheathed by thick stockings (striped or otherwise) that insulate them. In the brain and spine of a person with MS, these stockings— the sound of the word myelin so close to nylon—are torn, run, eaten by immune cells. Nerve impulses become impaired, muscles slacken or grow taut, feet don’t tickle, skin sparks or feels nothing. Scar tissue grows like calluses over the inflamed, bare neurons: lesions. Sometimes there is repair. Sometimes the nerves themselves wither and fray. I imagine them curling up and waving goodnight.
Black Holes (Spacetime) This is what I remember from a conversation with my neurologist about some routine MRI results in 1999. He said the words “moderate lesion load. Not a light lesion load, but not bad, either.” “Oh good,” I said. “No gaping black holes?” I meant hole in the head. I meant a hollow where nothing happens. I meant cavern. I meant vacuum. I meant deep space. I was joking. Crab Orchard Review
Laurie Clements Lambeth “Well, actually, there is what we call a black hole…” “A what?” “In your occipital lobe, a black hole. There’s an area of permanent damage where the nerve is broken, but you probably don’t perceive it at all. Your brain compensates.” Permanent damage, although I perceive nothing. I wrote it down. Nothing before had been permanent except the disease itself, and I’d made my peace with that. Progression? Black holes? Not exactly part of the deal. Now Montaigne is echoing in my mind again: “Poor fool that you are, who has assured you the term of your life?” Over the years and through multiple relapses and disease progression, seven more black holes, where the nerve fibers have degenerated or died, have materialized in other parts of my brain. Seven places where the lights went out for good. Most MS lesions show up on MRI as bright spots, lights of varying sizes, like stars, slice after cross-sectioned slice through the brain. Here is where immune cells have attacked neurons, chewed through myelin’s gristle, stripping the nerves of insulation. Black holes were once lesions with the capacity to repair: bright white spots. Black holes in the brain and spine begin their lives, then, as stars. The stars grow larger, longer, sometimes. “Too numerous and too confluent to count,” said my most recent MRI report. Galaxies. They join together, the glowing masses. When a nerve’s axon is attacked repeatedly in the same place, the nerve fibers themselves, once protected by insulation, fray and shrivel. The star burns out to a dark darker than the MRI’s image of surrounding brain tissues. Black holes in the universe were also once stars. They were so massive that when they died, they collapsed in on themselves, unable to stand their own gravity. Like the interior of our own bodies, they are visible only through the aids of radio waves or x-ray—MRI itself a system of radio waves and magnetic fields. They show up via the objects that surround them: dust, the warming gas drawn in, the light from an orbiting star. That star, in a binary system like Cygnus X-1, will eventually fall in, too, but through its light we understand the dimensions of its companion. Cygnus: the swan. Like the star and its vortex, swans mate for life. Gravity draws them together and they dance while they can. That’s all any of us has. Life sentence, death sentence. Till death do us part. When the star finally enters the black hole, what will be there? As it passes through the event horizon—the mouth of the black 166 u Crab Orchard Review
Laurie Clements Lambeth hole—its light will be lost to human eyes, but it may continue within the darkness until it reaches the point of singularity, the center. The densities are so great there, the gravity infinitely crushing, that the laws of physics break down. Space and time cease to exist. Something to be feared, of course, but strangely beautiful and comforting to me—a sense of simultaneously too much and too little: everything and nothing at once, the permanence of damage, but also the absence of time and space, obliterating anticipation and fear. At once flattening and curling inward like the witch’s feet, churning. That sense of paradox extends to the potential capabilities of black holes, once considered agents of mass destruction, absorbing and never releasing what enters, then later revised into something like space shredders, leaking out the information of what enters but in an unrecognizable state, and now understood to actually create—one astrophysicist recently called them “benign architects”—as much as they demolish what enters them. At the center of our galaxy spins a supermassive black hole. Dense jets of dust and gas burst forth from it, signaling the birth of new stars. Regeneration, repair, destruction, all embodied in a massive vortex. Does this make death or fatal illness any easier to face? A site of truly permanent damage transforming and reshaping the universe with its powerful jets? The black hole itself is already a dead star, permanently damaged and destructive to all who enter (fatal), yet an infinite, generative force (chronic). Like black holes death draws us into a feared point of infinite density, a singularity inevitable but unknowable until reached. It pulls into itself our loves and our fears, our grief and loss. Or do we place them there? If death is a black hole, I’d like to think of it as transformative. Not so bad, to inhabit radiant energy flares, pure potential thrust from absence. However it may rearrange them, death projects jets of memory, the voices, phrases, scents, and images of the dead, surges of emotion, across the universe. They come in fragments, mangled and reshaped as they are by the vortex. But they come. They make.
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Your Rivers, Your Margins, Your Diminutive Villages We are all as old as each other and the cashier at Food Lion does not check my ID for chardonnay, cards me next time for the case of PBR, looks at my license and says you’re the same age as my mom but you look much younger, and I think of her hard-living mom—of the women who come after shift-change at Moog for bagged salad and Lean Cuisine and ground beef for the kids and I want to make it clear that I am at the Food Lion with my faded tattoos again every day sometimes more than twice mostly for my kids since I’m the mom with the overrun cart and the yelling we’ve run out of toilet paper again we’re missing the cheddar or ketchup and no you can’t have that, but today outside the automatic doors by the caged propane tanks and water dispenser and Redbox movies and Coke machine there’s a two-tiered metal stand with hanging baskets of trailing pansies on the bottom shadowed by wind chimes with miniature
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Erika Meitner pastel birdhouses on top and what I want to tell you is that these stop me: their song and their otherworldly new age light speaking at the top of their lungs trembling against engines revving and carts shuddering into one another after groceries are unloaded into trunks slamming shut—this music the best failure of my imagination which is usually stuck on the camo-ed pickups or the home piercings or the plastic bags skittering the curb— everything other than what it is I think I am which is part of this but younger and ethereal, so what if everywhere had wind chimes: doctor’s waiting rooms or Jiffy Lube or the DMV? What if they trailed after us wherever we went as though our actual steps on concrete or asphalt or linoleum generated song that’s not quite song but two objects strung closely together knocked into each other by randomly generated breezes your cart my cart the beverage aisle: our trembling jittery refrain.
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The Onion headline says “Keith Richards’ Housekeeper Has Braced Herself for Finding Dead Body Every Morning Since 1976” and I was born in 1975. I was born when subway rides were thirty-five cents and New York was bankrupt and the Daily News headlines read “Ford to City: Drop Dead.” Residents used gold tokens instead of Metrocards then, and my father still calls the cards tokens the same way he calls jeans dungarees. Does anyone say dungarees anymore? he asks, oblivious to time passing and language he wears like worn-in shoes, and his Hebrew, too, is stuck in 1956, the year he left Haifa as a kid, and when I lived there at twenty-one I taught him the words for television (televisia) and cell phone (pelephone), which are obvious in a certain way but need to be pronounced with the right stresses. I am on the Long Island Rail Road, and each time I ride I wonder how many more times I’ll get to hear this is the train to Penn Station because time is more fleeting now, moves faster, like a ball at the end of a downhill roll, like a truck picking up momentum, this train passing Storage Deluxe & overpasses & red-and-white smokestacks & Starside Drugs & Surgicals & Korean churches, one quoting Lamentations in huge silvered letters: “Is it nothing to you, all who pass by?” My father is getting old. He’s had a stroke and gone blind twice but doctors have patched him up. I haven’t lived in New York in sixteen years but I still love the trains and one day soon I’ll have no one to visit here, no excuse to ride the rails. The electronic announcement, which used to be the actual conductor, repeats (always the same inflection) when you leave the train please step over the gap between the train and the platform. This station is Woodside, and if 170 u Crab Orchard Review
Erika Meitner you breathe slowly enough, Mets-Willets Point is still Shea Stadium and not Citi Field. The landscape, it speaks in weeds and tags as we jag past squares of yards from above: a mom scooping water from an inflatable pool with a plastic bucket, guys playing soccer in an empty parking lot off the LIE, the silver World’s Fair Unisphere unchanged since 1964, as if the entire planet was contained in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Some days I record everything because I don’t know what’s important. There was nothing to swipe with tokens. You could wear them on a chain around your neck in case of emergencies and Keith Richards is very much alive, still singing “Tell Me (You’re Coming Back).”
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J.M. Miller The Art of Genocide You’re too quick on the trigger. The trench comes first. Let those who will fall in it do the work. Without a pit, the bodies pile up, there’s the grave to dig, then the job of dragging left to us. The dead can pull the ropes of your muscles down with them. It can happen after a long day. Smoke. Relax. These prisoners are resigned as Job, waiting for release. Give them the shadow of the day and shovelfuls of sun. Soon enough, we’ll have our fill of killing, and after, the cover-up.
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Erika Mueller Disturbance In grade school, my reoccurring dream: a bridge collapsing into water, land shifting beneath waves, people struggling to stay on high ground. Now Japan is drenched in disasters: earthquake, tsunami, leaking nuclear power plant. Already cows give poisoned milk, spinach bright with radiation. America’s most severely disturbed children, sans empathy or remorse, slam fists into me daily, try to smash their first grade faces through windows, whisper of cutting us open and want to carve deep boundaries into their skins. In training we’re told about domestic abuse and torture, attachment disorders, brain waves of children who hate themselves and how we can build new neurological paths away from the nightmares they’ve lived. In Japan, they’ve doused the reactor in seawater, buried it deep beneath sand. Sometimes the children spill aggression out slowly until we feel it enter the cold living room and look for the source. Other times they explode out of nowhere, break whatever is at hand. We guide them outside, wrap them into themselves, hold tight for hours until they burn out. There’s no proof these methods work. Off the east coast, oil slicks again, the west coast lined with toxic rubble, and all day they promise they’ll do their best to kill us. Crab Orchard Review
Jed Myers Burning Man As a boy, I believed I would have to join one of the several armies: men who advanced like packs of crouching mammals into the smoke of disputed hills, the gangs of guys with pistols who sported wide-brimmed hats and neckties like modern cowboys till they got killed, the civilized characters like our neighborhood dads going bald and fat on sirloin and ice cream till their hearts attacked and they died (in a kind of bon voyage for their boys just signing on with their own outfits)…or one of a few other leagues—the scientists cooking up the uranium we believed the future would run on (air cars everywhere, shuttling tight-suited smartasses who’d never need sleep, who’d thrive on nutrient concentrates…), the diplomats trading bodies for favors, the managers locked in their towers, the professors
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Jed Myers abstracted away from the scents of spring, the actors (be they salesmen, brokers, rabbis or camera hounds)…. The menu selections might as well have been printed on the insides of our foreheads—we’d sally off the asphalt after the last touchfootball dusk, and still breathless fresh out of the rush of our youths, we’d enlist, light our LUCKYs, clink our pints, kiss our deflowered first mates goodbye, and cross the subtle cusp off the shallow slope we’d hiked since birth, into the valley and down, fanning out on the long paths of our tasks, right and wrong, taking up with our specified swarms, and never ask, By what rite am I sworn, (for example) to kill anything moving that’s not white in the Mekong Delta? How the hell did my fervor turn to these dials and lists, these triggers and launch sites? We’d trusted the visions of tall children with whiskers and cigarettes, brass-buttoned punks waving batons, white-coated specialists naming the ghosts in their scopes and cloud chambers,
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Jed Myers all of us needing to believe they were men who knew how the world works. Then, as if by the wind-blown spread of a billion rye mold spores, came the revolution of flowers, daisies placed in the flutes of aimed guns, the known divisions dissolved, boundaries blown, acid-induced visions eroding the chipboard walls of the given dominion. And soon it all spun like a tie-dye pattern, a melted and torqued prism of wishes, a rainbow twisted into a whirlwind—down and out of its bottom fanned frenzied dancers in dust, a through-the-night writhing of stimulant-loosed limbs among lost and dehydrated young. The music shredded itself. But we weren’t done with what had been born in the synapse-storm, what had torn us loose from our labels and special assignments—sprung out of our snapped-open chromosomes, flung wide, it seemed, from the dictates scrolled in the genes, we new nomads found ourselves gathered out on unnameable stretches of sand, where we burned
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Jed Myers effigies of the form of man through the festival nights. There I was, among those rebels, for a time in the haze of the various fumes and smokes, inhaling history’s cold-sweat pungency, its stinging singed-blood bouquet— I thought we were free in that unfenced desert colloquy under the weightless stars’ great eddies. I’d not be assigned a unit to play for. We were dispersing the teams. The music poured through us, as if we’d gone porous as frothy spirits. Pure possibility sifted in our interstices. Warm wind and light mixed inside us. This was our chance— not one more win for the petrol kings, not a next coup for the ore extractors, nor a vote for the polished puppets coached in the code of the frackers. But we missed the obvious—we drove the interstates back to the airports in our rentals, stopping for ribs, losing a few hairs to high-speed near-misses, made our planes after lining up to absorb some rays for our nation’s decayed conscience, returning to valleys of days, back in our lanes,
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Jed Myers in the costumes for the roles weâ€™d play, while the fundamentalists retook Fallujah, bomb plots unfurled and were foiled in the city of the Olympic Games, the Super Bowl warriors paraded amid the throngs of vicarious victors, the crows convened in the bare winter trees above the ravines, and we burned on, all aging away in our given positions. Weâ€™d gone along by the grace of empire and our nature, much as it seemed we would to the boy I once was, when our pops pulled up in their Falcons, Fairlanes, and Bel Airs, in time for dinner (thanks to the migrants digging out our potatoes, the slaughterhouse crew, and the packers somewhere in the distance we never knew).
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Mary Elizabeth Parker Doppelgänger: The Flip Side of Your Yearning for my young friend who moved from U.S. to Ukraine for the sake of his online love, Lina That small young man in the tall fur hat has strong white teeth, a quick brain, and plans for increase in money, love, and central heat. His chin and cheeks and hair itch; he needs a wash and shave (the pipes still bad at home). For now, he just likes traveling light as goose down toward the Hermitage, enjoying the negligible weight of his fur toque which warms his ears and gives his aquiline nose authority. Petrograd’s cold for May; he sniffs the sting of fairy ice painting the sidewalk, anticipates the snow glitter of plaster curlicue-ed with gold all up Catherine’s grand staircase, which he is privileged to earn his pay scrubbing (and sneaking minutes in galleries beyond). He likes best the Velázquez room, its shadowed children in red clothes, faces pinched red at the chin, like peaches that ripen slow—
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Mary Elizabeth Parker poshlust he plans for his own, sons and daughters he’ll raise with a smart University girl, one of those thin-muscled girls with their English, who ply lacquer boxes to Yanquis near the cathedrals, gather in piles of rich Yankee dollars. He scrubs marble, thinks of girls, girl spies in an old USA film, blond USA girls in the Arctic accosting bad Russians, girls in white snowsuits wrestling and shooting, girls diving in snowdrifts as high as their heads— diving and tumbling stiff over and over like padded porcelain dolls, then bounding back up, shooting wide, guns flaming hot in all that snow— until they win—those angel girls panting, spent, in shining white— softest white lapin wet at wrists and throat, white snow suits, white silk, padded wet to their curves. For lunch today, he’ll choose milk from the kiosk, raise his face to a snow-filled milk sky, each flake a tiny, tiny white snow-woman in a silk snowsuit, falling to land on the tip of his tongue.
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Alison Pelegrin My Daguerreotype Boyfriend ‘where old photography meets extreme hotness’ You, with a prophet’s name, posed on a zebra rug in side-buttoned boots, sneak past the shushing librarian and find me, damsel jailed in a tower of books. We’ll never touch, though I’m a sucker for footballers, for crew teams lined up by height, for poets and priests, and horse thieves sentenced to hang, explorers chopping through Arctic seas never to return. No need to sleep en plein air on hay stacks—peace-tie your cutlass and come to mama. There is room in my life for the outlaw who smokes on camera in cuff links and a paper collar, the Thoreau look-alike, the frontiersman dressed in skins, his beard carved by a Bowie knife. I favor equally the cowboy with the shot-off finger and the Indian with an eagle feather stuck in his hatband. I’m so alone, the archives’ nun, reading in the dark, feeling around the metal shelves for something warm. I don’t care
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Alison Pelegrin what people say. I have resigned myself to an old fashioned courtship of rationed touch. Certainly you recognize my silhouette, the blushing scent I drag along in these heavy skirts, my costume for the hunt. I coo like a dove in flight, and you always listen—lifting your chin first and then your eyes, squinting as though from the crow’s nest, over desert seas, you’ve sighted promised land.
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Geoffrey Philp Elegy for Ferguson for Rethabile Masilo I was born with my hands over my head; my palms open in a permanent state of surrender—a posture inherited from ancestors after they believed the orishas had abandoned them to invaders who taught the meek would inherit the earth beneath their feet, and then dragged them below banners of the French, English, Dutch, and Spanish through the forgotten kingdoms of Mali, Oyo, Songhai, and Ashanti to the Door of No Return. I’m still standing with my hands over my head, but I’m raising the flag under which Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X schooled Steve Biko with the weapon that children of Soweto remembered when they lowered their arms to embrace deliverance by their own hands.
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Brigitte Leschhorn Ghosts March in Ferguson, MO I walk backwards because I am a ghost, and that’s how ghosts
walk. Or is it those looking to commune with the devil? I don’t remember what mi tía used to say. It’s been a long time since I heard those stories that adults tell to children to make us behave. I walk backwards to face my threat, my enemy. The men in riot gear do not make eye contact. It is August, and this is Ferguson. Day four. I drove from St. Louis City to join the protesters on the other side of Canfield and West Florissant, but these men, their shields, their tanks buttress the streets. They’re doing their jobs, and that means looking straight ahead past my eyes, my hair, and my arms lifted in the air. They yell as their neat line advances toward our cluster of people. They are a river I can’t cross, and the uniformed tide rises as we rise. They divide us into islands. We listen as their radio talk is broadcast. They say someone pushed a car over. We saw nothing, but the voices behind the shields threaten to arrest us. But I’m not even a protester, not yet, not until they’re cocking and pointing rifles, and come at us with their dogs, and they grow to outnumber us. We bathe in their fear. I’m so small. I start yelling back with an anger I try to forget most days. There are six in our cluster at first, but the crowd swells, and those who can’t go home join us. They’re not protesters either. I talk to the boy next to me who looks about twelve. He lives around here and rides his bike every day. His house is a mile or so behind us, and he doesn’t know—none of us does—that the cops will flood those streets too, cutting us off. The boy rides in circles, away from the line of shields but always near our group. I talk to the girl with the purple lipstick, to the woman trying to pick up her child from a daycare on Canfield, to Adrian who rants about Obama and who will later give us a ride out of here, and to a young man in a white long-sleeved shirt who will recognize us the next afternoon and shout hello from across the street. The young man in white has a camera, cradles it like a tourist in his own neighborhood. He smiles as he takes pictures. He narrates what is
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Brigitte Leschhorn happening with the tone of a sports commentator, no hint of surprise in his voice. Of course there are dogs and armored trucks and more officers than people. We’ve seen this before. I am ghost, and I belong to the past. My childhood in Panama in 1989 blends with Ferguson in 2014. I collect new memories with old ones. I see the Invasion of Panama again: the men in green coming out of the military trucks, the brush fires sweeping the hills, our family sleeping on the floor because of the gun shots. I was only six. Noriega was a prohibited word in our household, and pretend-playing as a newscaster was a punishable offense. Don’t look at the television. But I did and I saw Billy Ford running down the street with his shirt soaked in blood. The whole world saw it too. The adults moaned, gasped, said no, no. The Americans thought they were rescuing us. I peeked out the window, another punishable offense, and saw the looters. They busted through display glass. The military trucks came then with the GI Joes and their black rifles. The people ran down the streets of Tumba Muerto and past the parking lot of our building, things spilling out of their arms. Or maybe I saw it on television. No, I don’t think so. The guilt I felt being near the window is palpable still. I wasn’t afraid, but the adults were. They vacillated between still and quiet or hot and loud. Whisper or shout. There was no middle ground anymore. But this is not Panama. It’s Ferguson. It’s 2014 in St. Louis, and I am walking backwards yelling at the police because, in this moment, I am more angry than frightened. I’m an adult, and I understand now why Panamanians called the military gringos using that tone your grandma reserves for pecadores and their worst sins. I understand it, finally, and it makes me angry. As the police officers march us past the McDonald’s parking lot, we see a man being hauled out of the restaurant in cuffs. It’s a reporter, another man shouts as he runs past us. I don’t believe him. This is not Panama. This is not the past. I take turns walking forwards and then backwards. Sometimes I have to walk a little faster when the tide gets too close. I am not a child, but I am a coward. On Friday, day 6 of the Michael Brown protests, we watch on television as Ferguson lights up at night. I watch the reporters running for their cars, like I watched the reporter running after Billy Ford down the streets of Panama. Gringos are gringos even in their own country. Crab Orchard Review
Brigitte Leschhorn Michael Brown’s ghosts are everywhere, and I know them. They are at the rallies, and at night they make their ghost mischief. They point at people who become ghosts too, and the police, they’re afraid. Ghosts that wear masks. Ghosts that wave their hands. And everyone is afraid, except other ghosts. They point at me. “I want to be there,” my boyfriend says to me. We are waiting for my friend from Brazil to arrive in St. Louis, so we can pick him up from the airport. We can’t do that if we’re getting tear-gassed. I realize I’m glad we have an excuse, and I hate that. I want to do more than just stand with the protesters chanting and holding my hands up. I want to feel like I too am a mass threat, look at those officers and have them look back so they know I’m there. I want to be one of the many targets of their bullets and know what to be afraid of. I want to feel brave as I fight for my life. I want to be white. I’ve spent a long time imagining this. In kindergarten, I always picked the blue or green crayon for the eyes, the red or brown for the sleek straight-lined hair (yellow is a dull crayon, and I didn’t like blond hair anyway since it looked like old people hair). I pulled tight on my curls, willing them with some deep magic to stay taut. I hated my hair, and my mother hated it too. It was tiring. How did my best friend Karina get her hair to be almost blond and fall at her shoulders? How did she get her skin so white? She was Panamanian like me. She lived in the same neighborhood. She was pretty like the soap opera stars. I’m pretty like mixed girls are pretty. Mutt-like. Mutty. Exotic. Karina isn’t me. I’m not Michael Brown. I’m not white. I’ve been out in the sun too long. But I want to be white. I want to be a hero. I had the hair and nose of a witch, my classmates said, so I dressed like one for my first Halloween. I was 12. I had only been in the United States for a year. I had to pee that night, and I was trying hard to hold it in. I was set on making a good impression. My friend was white and American and didn’t speak Spanish. Her family had a big house. The parents were lawyers, and they walked us in our costumes around their big-house neighborhood. I wanted to hold in my pee, but a little trickled out and ran down the tights my friend let me borrow. I took off the costume at her house and put on my grandma’s silk pajamas. My grandma wanted me to look nice even in my sleep. I balled up the tights under my friend’s bed. She never invited me for a sleepover again. She was not a witch like me. She wore a white or pink dress that 186 u Crab Orchard Review
Brigitte Leschhorn night. It sparkled. I wanted to tell her how I was an angel once at a church procession in Panama. I had wings and a halo. I didn’t think she would believe me. My white friends don’t know I want to be white. They don’t know that their skin is almost gross to me, like the white or tan crayon no one likes to use. But I get the point of it in the box. I get the beauty. You need to have it there, or something feels incomplete. The day before Michael Brown gets shot, a couple of my friends come back from their brief honeymoon in Puerto Rico. They live in Ferguson. “North County followed us,” they say. Before that a caveat: “This is going to sound racist.” I stay quiet. I remember my ghostness. “They were so loud on the beach,” they say. “We couldn’t believe what was happening, but—this is hilarious—then they saw this policeman…” I watch their pale amused faces as they mimic their Ferguson neighbors: “Let’s take a picture with the poh-leese.” I don’t find it funny. They see this, so they move on. This story has a point their expressions tell me. “The worst part,” they say, “is that they left their trash there, all over the beach.” I know my cue. I’m supposed to say something disapproving. Puerto Rico is my dad’s country after all. There was a mess all over his beach. I should be disappointed too. I pretend I’m one of those ghosts who hears things being said but cannot participate. They look past my eyes, my hair, my discomfort. We talk about Ferguson. “Why are the news not reporting all the people who are getting shot because of these protests? These riots are making it impossible for me to sleep.” I once thought I was close to them, but they don’t believe in ghosts. While tear gas canisters hit the streets of Ferguson, we pick up my Brazilian friend at the airport. We update him on the news. “I don’t get it,” he keeps saying. “People get shot every day, 120 in Sao Paolo alone.” This is his first time back in the states in 10 years. I’ve forgotten how hard it is to explain American culture. He goes with us to the rally at Greater Grace Church on Sunday, day 8 of the protests, and Crab Orchard Review
Brigitte Leschhorn I explain that uniforms are the dress of heroes. We exchange “silly” American stories. We think of our native countries, of ever calling a cop a hero like we mean it, like being good is the same as being heroic. We half-laugh. “I forgot about that,” my friend says, “the hero thing. Unsung heroes. All that.” My friend tells me another story. It was at Halloween, over a year after 9/11. My Brazilian friend, then an exchange student in college, decided he wanted to be a soldier for Halloween. He went to a military surplus store and got himself a uniform. His sewn-in name was Knoll. He waited for his friend at the bus stop in his costume. People cheered for him as they passed in their cars. At the party, the people he was with pretended he had just come back from a tour and had no time to change. The party guests thanked him again and again for his service. One of them said to him, “yeah, kill those motherfuckers over there. Those Muslims should all die.” My friend became too afraid to tell them he was playing soldier, that it was just a costume. At the protests, I turn to the people next to me. I want to know how they keep pointing and the people become ghosts. They shrug because it doesn’t matter. We’re not the ghost-makers.
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Los Alamos, on the 50th Anniversary of the Trinity Test July 16, 1995 Now we are all sons of bitches. —Kenneth Bainbridge to J. Robert Oppenheimer It was a Roadrunner cartoon until then: up mesas and down, brown stone and sand, sky blue and windless. We kept the car’s air conditioner cranked until our fingers ached, but sweat dried on our arms the minute we walked into sunlight; I could lick the back of my hand and taste salt. I wore a leather cowboy hat from Australia with my white sundress and sandals, and was afraid to go into the museum. As if knowing it was there heated the whole desert, as if I were still twelve, awakened before dawn by sirens, praying to not count ten three times: the civil defense code. As if a red transistor radio were still under my pillow and “Don’t Let the Rain Come Down” my only proof of nothing incoming: Ah-ah, oh no. You and I had forgotten the big birthday, didn’t know there’d be scientists our parents’ age on line with us, pointing at mock-ups of their old living rooms, linking fingers with their smiling wives. I didn’t know how hard I’d want to hate them, especially one man who laughed
Crab Orchard Review
Christine Potter at the Trinitite: a green blob of desert sand fused in the explosion, a ruined church window. Yeah, I grabbed me some of that stuff! Wear it on a string around my neck if I’m catching cold! Works great! But they were silent in the room with the black ghosts: pictures from Hiroshima of men and women turned to photographs themselves by the fire such good people could make. So I didn’t hate anyone. Then, I couldn’t hate.
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Christine Rhein Not Fling.com or Craigslist’s Casual Encounters, but the tasteful tone of Ashley Madison—the o a floating wedding band, the website slogan bold: Life is short. Have an affair. News to me—over 12 million anonymous members in the U.S. alone eager for romantic, married dating— candlelight dinners, conversation, dessert saved for later at the hotel. And to top it off, Wall Street investors are eyeing the success, the blog and Twitter feed, profits to hit $30 million this year. Infidelity takes a village now, all kinds of sites offering fake business trips—airline tickets, car rental receipts, itineraries to leave on the kitchen counter during a visit across town. And no stopping there— alluring options for the betrayed too, Spytech, CheaterVille cashing in on the need for proof— why wait around for a lipstick mark or a whiff of Polo cologne when the Internet and GPS can lead straight to heartbreak? I shudder at trying to keep track of those flights not taken but sometimes delayed, text messages needing erasure, lies needing conviction, even in affairs—No, of course my spouse won’t ask about this Christian Dior watch—what a wonderful surprise! It seems nothing’s shocking anymore, as I think about my neighbor’s wife of twenty years pretending she was leaving him to find herself. He didn’t discover the other guy until after the divorce, the 50/50 split, a picture popping up on Facebook—under People You May Know.
Crab Orchard Review
Body Painting after “Blue Girl,” a photograph from Desert to Dream: A Decade of Burning Man Photography Blue. Nude. Except for the pair of cowboy boots she’s kicking up dust with, but no one’s looking at her feet. And not just any blue— periwinkle or robin-egg. This woman’s cobalt all the way, and it’s finger-painted, thick—even her hair matted with blue-glue style. She’s standing on the gray, hard playa, ancient seabed that cracks and splits into pieces, an endless puzzle, or, after rain, morphs into a sticky desert mud, tugging at soles, each plunging step. She can’t explain the week-long kinship, a camp-out city pulsing with art and techno and trades—cup of espresso for some wine-braised stew, a hug, a tattoo, a massage, a spanking. Anything mutual goes. Anything theatrical too. She claims to be a goddess from the 16th dimension who possesses her body and uses her natural talents… And somehow it does take talent to dance in the desert like a goddess—not just anyone with cornflower whims. 192 u Crab Orchard Review
Christine Rhein Sheâ€™s proud of her blue shoulders, breasts, ribcage, the azure sweat slicking her thighs and neck. Proud to be singing her own blue-lipped song, her arms outstretched like snakes or wings. Imagine if everyone could sing like herâ€”unafraid to show shocking white teeth, a wide-cave mouth demanding Look! See the body gone canvas. Gone harbor. Gone sky.
Crab Orchard Review
Liz Robbins Columbine Video You can find it online, the snowy black and-white video shot from hall-and-room monitor cameras. Hear the pops dispersing a flood of kids down a stairwell. 9-1-1 calls made and abandoned. The killers stalking the library, dark wave churning forward, all the windows slammed shut. Harris and Klebold shooting under tables where kids hide, screaming. They laugh, Aren’t you dead yet? On a beach, the dune grass bending to the wind, already yellowing. Klebold saying, Look at the blood, Jesus! You won’t be able to, but won’t miss the killers’ tones, how ordinary their voices seem, how bored. Anybody else alive in here? Just us. Klebold falters as he looks out the windows, unspooled by so many cops. Harris, the cooler head, asks, Would you rather get shot by cops or yourself? They pace as if trying to read the scene, bubble up a different ending, but there’s no one to hurt but themselves, the only excitement left. You see them kneel to count together, hear in their fear they’re already running down the shell beach. Then they’re done, and it seems the silence doesn’t go on long enough, mere parenthesis to
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Liz Robbins how long the pictures stay, deeply arrowed, frozen under water. From the silence, from the screen, you must look up, having lost your place a moment.
Crab Orchard Review
Brent Royster Epilogue for the Wrong Y2K Don’t mention this to the man flailing downward from the penthouse window in a blur of tuxedo tails and loose change; countless well-grounded folks felt pandemonium at century’s end would take us all by storm. But to fizzle, short-lived? No! War between time zones! Famine to clean out every Midwestern bread store for miles—even Twinkies disappear. A palpable stasis to freeze routine like an unwound watch. The queasy comfort just irks people. Millions lose touch and abandon this material plane in its very last minute. But instead: a man wakes at noon to find he’s lost his keys at the bar. He dresses, walks downtown to find raving madness still there. Fast asleep. Empty bottles,
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Brent Royster plastic cups, litter ever-present. A high-rise marquee flashes 11:59 all day— the same instant perpetuated to exhaustion, a tedious alarm. Block after block, neighbors doze through day-after cleanup, then watch the evening news, amazed: All these numbers cashing out. So what if the date hasn’t flipped? With the right air temperature and comfortable clothing, one might plunge eternally toward earth like an injured moth. Who knows? Maybe it’s not the year that makes the wingless leap.
Crab Orchard Review
Linwood Rumney Banana Workers in Limón, Costa Rica Banana bunches suspended over their heads, they run headlong for the packing house, sprinting through the plantation’s labyrinth of cableway paths. They wear used Yanquí clothes. Nike swooshes dangle from their jerseys like broken wings. They smirk at the two of us, a plump gringo and a labor organizer, cradling clipboards while we watch them toss the green pillars onto the conveyer belt, chug a half-liter of water and dash again into these hectares of plants so large they’re mistaken for trees, and so fragile they’re held up against the fierce weight of their own fruit, anchored to the soil by the same twine binding the workers’ sneakers. I’ve read of a boy who swallowed a pinch of fungicide-salted earth on a dare, collapsing as though poisoned. I’ve read of laid-off immigrants from Belize, Panama, and Nicaragua who, ashamed to return to families they can no longer feed, end their lives with sips of paraquat. Their bodies, discovered weeks later, are untouched by scavengers or rot.
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Linwood Rumney Sunlight scatters the long shadows of these imposter trees. My companion yawns, tugs at my elbow, says we should grab a beer, some gallo pinto, no one wants to talk today. From a mile out the road winds around the valleyâ€™s lip, an island of pesticide-soaked bags shimmers and recedes among green cascades of banana leavesâ€” a startling and unlikely jewel.
Crab Orchard Review
Nicholas Samaras Myself Among the Many Selves I am myself among the many selves. I am relaxation before the holy altar of the GPS, knowing names of streets before I pass them. I am less-stressed to find my son at the end of a cell phone. I am my ability to call ahead, late. Leaning into function, I am however I function, these multiple selves, my online presence enhancing my presence. I am what I rise to, myself among the many applications, more competent, hyper-sapien, post-humanly achievable.
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Rikki Santer Hashtag Voyeur Pillows #languish Flowers #panting Teacup #leaning Lipstick #sears Hallway #vibrates Telephone #cornered Photos #sighing Carpet #skewed Stationery #misspent Vase #surrenders Bracelets #echo Hairbrush #leers Wallpaper #withdrawing Purse #aquiver Piano #poses Shadows #feud Table #stoic Ashtray #queasy Dust balls #cautious Closet #tilled Clock #repenting Red stain #drying Still life #framedbytabloidfill
Crab Orchard Review
â€œA Swift and Fatal Luge Plunge, and Then an Abyss of Sorrowâ€?* for Dodo Kumaritashvili, mother of Nodar, the 21-year-old luge athlete who died in a training run at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics Each week, with stones brimming from her dress and coat pockets, she trudges up and down the Trialeti mountains in a dense progression of switchbacks. Her small granddaughter nourishes her enough to return home to a silent kitchen where she prepares the stroganoff, goulash, and herring that he loved. Those evenings, she arranges the meal for him atop his bedroom desk, then sits for a while among the trophies, photographs, and posters. Hours lapse and then she clears the delicacies to deliver them to neighbors or passing strangers. Sleep rarely can loosen the grip of that fatal 270-degree turn. In the middle of restless nights she wanders outside into the freezing darkness not
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Rikki Santer stopping for shoes or coat. I was just going to walk until I died. She rewinds his final moments, stretches next to him in that last sled and peers through the racing space between his feet to watch the smooth and icy umbilical cord of track unfurl. Behind the church, through flimsy wire fencing, pigs and cattle plod over his grave. Not even one percent remains, she says of a woman that was.
*Note: headline from the New York Times
Crab Orchard Review
Spring Ulmer Bubbles A child?
I want to talk about having a baby, not having a baby, or
adopting a child with you. I just wish I wasn’t 58 and hadn’t had a vasectomy. Fifty-eight? How old are you, Dave? I say and laugh. Did I just say 58? Dave’s 48. I’m 37. We’re in bed. He gets up. I met Dave through a friend. He’s a woodworker who manages his own high-end woodshop in Brooklyn, and the day I met him he was laying someone off. Soon, he’ll use my meager salary to deny me my dream of a child, but all I hear right now is water running down the hall in the bathroom. I feel incredibly sad. It isn’t anything I understand. I’m thinking about my father asking me, So, I guess Dave won’t want to start another family? I’m in tears when Dave comes back to bed. Oh, Spring, he says. His arms are wet. Water drips off his elbows onto my arms as he kisses my tears. We drive to Van Cortlandt Park to walk Dave’s dog. I feel like crying whenever I see a child. The trees are light green, having not yet leafed all the way out. In two weeks it’s going to be so different here, I say, imagining the density of the leaf cover, and reaching up to touch a new, still-wrinkled maple leaf. The wrinkled leaf makes me want to cry, as does the thirteenor-so-year-old girl who stops to ask us Seven’s name. What’s on your mind? Dave asks, after we break off the path, and head into a more wooded area. It’s too hard to admit that I am reeling inside, that I suddenly want to move to the country and leave Dave and his teenage children to their lives he can’t leave in the city. It’s a knee-jerk reaction. I want him to have to make some concession. How can he get it all and deny me? I’m thinking about the spring, I say.
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Interview I feel fated as I walk down a cobbled street in downtown Brooklyn. The trees are large, the building old. Inside Petr’s office, there’s a photograph of his late son, Jan, wedged within the gilded frame of a giant mirror near a desk. I went to school with Jan. I stare at his face in the photo as I sit in Petr’s bottomless chair. Petr’s from the Czech Republic. I want to know whether he has read Mark Slouka’s The Visible World—the book in which the main character’s mother, a Czech woman, never recovers, despite marrying and having a child, from her hurt past. He has Milan Kundera’s Testaments Betrayed on his shelf, loaded with post-its. I take the job, not only because I need money. I take the job, if I’m perfectly honest, because during the interview Petr confesses to me that he is no longer together with Jan’s mother; he had a son out of wedlock, a boy who is now age seven. Petr is in his sixties. Dave has been telling me he is too old to have a baby.
The lid of a teapot Work begins in the back, windowless office, under buzzing, fluorescent lights. Petr starts me on his finances, balancing budgets for a myriad of accounts. He is a meticulous record-keeper and as he teaches me how to enter figures into the spreadsheet, whenever he comes upon an accounting error, he swears he’ll kill the woman who worked the job before me. I enter numbers, decimals and corresponding codes into the Excel documents. My eyes swim. I grow nervous, thinking I’ll make some error. Cleaning up after making a tea my second day of work, I wedge the top of Petr’s teapot on so tightly I can’t get it off. The lip chips as Petr pries it off. A little piece of sandpaper softens the blotched ceramic. Petr operates in a mode of perpetual panic. He sands furiously. I go back into the office and hold my breath as I add up the numbers, squinting at the miniature boxes on the screen. What mistake will I make next? What will he find to berate me about? In this year alone—I’ve heard from a musician—Petr has hired and fired nine personal assistants. The kindergarten next door to my office is humming with activity. Children’s voices cut through the thin walls. What is lightning? I hear one child ask. Electricity, an adult answers. Crab Orchard Review
Spring Ulmer I get up. I have a question for Petr about a receipt. He’s playing the flute, learning the difficult solo in Morton Feldman’s Flute and Orchestra. I interrupt and he shows me on the metronome how quickly he must play the five 16th notes in quarter time. Outside, a girl swings back and forth on a swing, keeping her own time.
Child of science (I) The boy in the bubble was a child of science, his birth orchestrated by doctors eager to study his genetic disease, his immune system in such peril that he could not exist without medical intervention. For a time in the late ’70s and early ’80s, the boy was calm and cooperated within his man-made bubble. His profoundly unhinged family life spelled a kind of emotional coldness I related to as a very young person. The only child of parents who lost a child before me, I found the boy’s isolation familiar, as it somehow signified not only my reality as separate from my parents’ grief, but also the dead-end dirt road of my childhood. The stone house my parents built by hand was a place protected from the world. Insulated within the house, my parents and I pretended we were safe. Then one day the boy in the bubble lost it and smeared his feces all over the inside of its plastic. He had journeyed out of the bubble in a special suit on only six occasions. Thereafter he refused to wear the suit ever again. Leaving his bubble and living within it were both unbearable existences.
The tulip bulb In the late 1500s, Carolus Clusius, a Dutch botanist, returned from a trip to Constantinople with a tulip bulb and stuck it in the ground. Soon after this, people in Holland began planting tulip bulbs. A bubble was, for the Dutch at this point in time, simply something to clean up with after plunging their flower-hungry hands into dirt. Then the bubonic plague struck and perhaps because the tulips’ bright petals contrasted all the drear, suddenly what one had to fork over for a single tulip bulb was exactly what it cost to buy twelve farmable acres. The soaring price of bulbs, led, in a matter of months, to a new crop: tulip thieves sprang up, as if overnight, 206 u Crab Orchard Review
Spring Ulmer and began to proliferate. Then a trade in ungrown bulbs erupted. Everything happened underground. Petals streaked like licking flames (caused by an outbreak of the tulip mosaic virus) brought in ever higher prices. Meanwhile, the Dutch East India Company spread smallpox across Africa and Asia. In addition to taxing indigenous farmers and monopolizing slave markets, the company began to sell shares. All it took was the company’s largest shareholder to be caught selling futures to shares he no longer owned and, in a matter of months, the monopoly of the company was broken, the Dutch economy tanked, the tulips’ worth bolted, and the world’s first speculative bubble popped, leaving many pairs of dirty hands in its wake.
Health insurance Wake up, migrant worker, my father calls. I’m awake, I say. I’ve taken a week off work in the city to come back home to help sell berries on our small farm. Come out here, my father says. I’ve got something I want to discuss with you. I’ll be out in a minute. He’s been talking to my mother about my not having health insurance. I’ve overheard them. They want me to research a policy. I pull on my old jeans and a T-shirt. We all know what would have happened to this family had I been diagnosed with cancer when I wasn’t insured, my father says, as soon as I join them in the kitchen. Get some. It wouldn’t be your financial responsibility if anything happened to me, I say. Oh, sure, we’d just disown you, my mom jeers. I leave the conversation hanging, drink my tea, and head down to the patch. It’s a warm day, the sun already at burning strength. I take the damp tarp off the wooden table, fold it up, and grab some baskets. The cedar waxwings are already eating berries; a flock of about twenty of them. Their yellow bellies glint. They always pick the biggest, reddest fruit to peck at, leaving the half-eaten and scarred berries for me to dispose of.
Crab Orchard Review
Letter to an old flame (I) …i am eating lychee tonight in brooklyn. the skins are darker red than i remember, tougher, and the pits—the pits i entirely forgot about. it has been a long time since i ate them for the first and only time with you. i have a book coming out in a month. one of the essays mentions you. it is an old love song. one i hope you don’t mind me singing. a way of memorializing, of making a shrine. the essay moves beyond the pain of my poems. and tonight, as i eat the lychee, i move beyond the years i’ve mourned. i’m writing to tell you that i am in love with a carpenter whose apartment i’m in. dave is from montana, and this last weekend he and my dad went out and cut down a dead tree. there is a whole lot of sorrow and a whole lot of happiness at once…i wanted to tell you while the news is still new. i wanted to tell you, too, that i love you, that i won’t forget. that i talk to you through the forest mushrooms, through the strawberry plants as they blossom.
Stock I ride my bike across Brooklyn in search of a branch of my Arizona bank, thinking about Dave’s and my relationship. I recognize the rough spots and know all too well how thin its fabric is. By evening there’s grime on my face from battling the city on my bike. It has been eight years since airplanes flew suicidally into the center of this nation’s commerce, eight years since money launderers yanked their dough out of U.S. banks, particularly those Muslim investors (who repatriated billions of dollars of investments into Malaysian and Middle Eastern reserves). The dollar’s worth has shriveled as the price of oil continues to skyrocket alongside the price of almost everything else. The bubble I’m riding through is so gigantic it’s leaving a ripple effect in its wake. I find no bank. Everything’s a foreclosure. I search and search for a branch that doesn’t seem to exist. As I ride, oceans are being dredged to quicken fiber-optic cable connection speeds. These days computers trade stock with other computers at half-millionths of seconds. Forget the government bailing out banks. Forget Wall Street. Trading these days consists of a back and forth sending of 208 u Crab Orchard Review
Spring Ulmer coded instructions—algorithms—that make decisions, the same way our brains might tell us who to love. Computers, so programmed, obviously lack judgment—they simply traffic information, battling each other to outtrade and outfake. If enough algorithms ever go rogue at the same time (and they do go rogue, sometimes making million-dollar mistakes), financial institutions will collapse in microseconds.
I would like to raise a child I want to raise a child in the forest amidst tent worms, mud heaps, trillium, Indian paintbrush. I cannot imagine another way. Dave tells me that maybe he wants and needs to stay in the city. We are walking across Prospect Park at night. I feel something inside me clam up. My instinct is to run. Then, on the way home, I come up with a compromise. Buy a building in the city and have my baby, I tell Dave. He doesn’t say anything.
Ben Petr picks up his seven-year-old son, Ben, from the airport. Ben has traveled alone to New York from the Czech Republic. He’s been awake 48 hours, Petr marvels. He feeds the video of Ben’s recent school theatrical performance into the main computer’s disk drive. That’s the wife seducing Joseph, Petr says, pointing to the screen and laughing. Look at the costumes. The costumes are stunning. I rave with Petr, because this is how one gets along with Petr—one agrees. I am no longer the calm, composed, long-haired girl who arrived at Petr’s office early this spring. He’s gotten under my skin. I’ve hacked my hair off. Now I’m used to his giving me orders, barking out commands, playing dictator. The building smells of freshly polished floors. Ben says something in Czech. Petr laughs and translates what Ben said: The technicolor coat stank. I feel my headache ease. We watch the show and eat watermelon. Ben spills his soda and grows fearful. I whisper that he shouldn’t worry; Petr hasn’t seen. Crab Orchard Review
Spring Ulmer At noon the next day Petr decides that we should work at his house. The three of us set off on our respective bikes. Ben needs air in his tire, so we stop at a gas station on Atlantic Avenue. The attendants say they don’t have any air for bikes, but Petr insists. They reluctantly chance the use of their car tire pump after Petr agrees not to sue should Ben’s tire pop. The tire fills up perfectly. Ben is eager to ride. We coast down the street. Leaving the station, I see Ben dragging his foot along the pavement to slow himself down. I fear he’ll twist an ankle, break a foot. When Petr stops at the bank, I teach Ben how to brake.
A man on the train A kind-looking man and I get on the wrong subway train and sit there until a cleaning woman tells us we want the train on the opposing platform. We shuffle to the other train, seat ourselves, and wait. I ask what work the man does. He says construction. It’s a hard time, he tells me. He is a union worker and nobody is hiring union anymore. From forty men, his company has been downsized to five. You must be good, then, I say, as the train begins to move. But I have to work overtime to make enough to pay my babysitter, he says, and there’s no overtime, so I went to my boss and I told him, I said, I have two girls at home. I might have to leave. I have to work overtime. And he said, We’ll work something out. I’m lucky, the man says, looking at me. I really am. Does your wife work? She left me. One day I came home and she wasn’t there. You don’t know how horrible that was. She got caught up with the wrong crowd. Drugs. Oh, I’m sorry, I tell him. I don’t wish anyone to go through that kind of pain. And now my kid’s school closed. She was going to a Catholic school and no one can afford tuition anymore. And then yesterday I found a new babysitter, too. The last one wasn’t good. This one’s from my country. And my oldest, she said, She’s a good person, Daddy. I can talk with her. Where are you from? Ecuador. Ecuador, I echo. 210 u Crab Orchard Review
Spring Ulmer My stop is coming up. I stand up and touch his shoulder. The doors to the car open and I feel myself hesitate.
Debt Slaves On the other side of the world, small farmers are having an increasingly hard time competing with agribusinesses on the global market. Many are now in debt and so deeply troubled they drink pesticides or drown themselves. Suicide isn’t the only response to debt slavery. After the World Bank’s restructuring of the agricultural system in the 1980s, the international coffee market crashed, and Rwanda, a country whose main export was coffee, went bankrupt, its public services collapsed, and its national debt nearly doubled. The World Bank offered loans and these loans were used not to repair the damaged coffee trade, but by both the Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Army and the Hutu Interhamwe to purchase weapons. Everyone knows what happened next. As it is now, farmers who aren’t killing themselves or each other are now being killed by U.S. drones. Fred Moten and Stefano Harney trace the creation of the drone to modern logistics which was itself founded upon commodities called slaves whose production was in circulation and distribution as property that reproduced and realized itself.
I fall in love It’s the way Ben jumps on me, burr-like. It’s his need for physical affection. It’s his hair—the curls at the base of his neck; the way Petr applies sunscreen, slathering the cream everywhere, Ben patiently extending an arm. Your hand, Petr demands. Now can we go to the park? At the park, Ben throws an acorn at a squirrel, and—incredibly it seems to Ben and me—the squirrel darts over, picks the acorn up in its mouth, and scampers up the tree trunk with it. Over near the swings, a man waves a four-foot-long bubble wand. Bubbles, bubbles, get your bubbles, he shouts. Kids dance. Ben runs over, popping every one before anyone else can. A girl cries. Get your bubbles, the man shouts again. That, I tell Dave when I get home, is the perfect job: bubble man. Crab Orchard Review
Viral infections A research fellow at the University of Reading implants a virusinfected chip into his hand. To prove a point, he has lab computers scan his hand. In so doing, the virus in the man’s hand implants itself into the database and begins to replicate. The bionic man makes known that those with viral-infected implants risk infecting other devices. In fact, fetal monitors have already been infected by malware. Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is battling for a cyber-secure facility. To fight the evils of the Internet, the hospital’s chief information officer says, not only do you have to have a moat, you have to have a drawbridge, burning oil to pour on attackers, and guys with arrows.
I crash Two guys pick me and my bike up. One has alcohol wipes, toilet paper. I black out. When I come to my eyesight is strangely tunneled. Everything has become too difficult. I don’t want to work anymore for Petr. I am tired of being yelled at and being told things are my mistakes. I cry near the East River Say, you all right? a guy walking his dog asks me. Yeah, I’m fine, I say, raising my head from my arms. I’ve been crying, trying to give up things I’ve never had. I am sitting in the spot where a sea of onions slept outside unprotected for several nights a few weeks back. Now a load of garlic rots one block over in a dumpster. We starve amidst giant granaries, a poet once wrote.
Ben pops bubbles Ben pops shipping bubbles. Petr talks of death, how one doesn’t decide one’s time, forgets one’s wife’s birthday, grows old, watches everyone die. Natural, he says and smiles. That’s why all the Slovakian women wear black. They are all the time mourning. Ben believes in the power of Transformers, leaps up stairs, locks himself in the playground and cries. I cry at the cream he tries to whip 212 u Crab Orchard Review
Spring Ulmer from milk in a cup in the office’s pseudo-kitchen near the old piano. How we can love and be tricked; how we can trick ourselves; how the trick is sometimes what’s real. Petr hits the chair in anger and uses scissors to scratch his back. I dream of lost receipts, getting in trouble. I am much more than this, I want to yell. I do yell. I throw pens at Petr. He turns benevolent. I have stood up to the lion.
I compose my own replacement ad By the time I write my own replacement ad, I’ve done what Petr’s asked me to do: I’ve fiddled with his finances, defrosted his refrigerator, traveled to the Czech Republic with him for a month. I have taped parts of scores together, searched for lost trombones. I’ve listened, visibly sickened, as he spouts theories about how blacks are slow because they come from warmer climates. I now have nightmares of placing musicians’ sheet music on the wrong stands. Each time I wake, Dave comforts me. We find each other again, after not recognizing one another’s voices on the phone, after a month apart, after acknowledging that our futures are incompatible. I am on my way to Petr’s to attend to the last of it when my front bike tire sinks into a grate. I sail over my handlebars, land on my face, leave a puddle of blood on the sidewalk, and walk home knowing I’ve shattered my two front teeth.
Foam Like a horse inhaling as another horse kicks her, the world, as I see it, is currently suffering from a condition not unlike subcutaneous emphysema, a sickness during which air bubbles proliferate beneath the skin. (The structural implication of the current earth-encompassing network—with all its eversions into the virtual realm—is…not so much a globalization as a foaming, writes Peter Sloterdijk. In foam worlds, he adds, individual bubbles are not absorbed into a single, integrative hyper-orb, as the metaphysical conception of the world, but rather drawn together to form irregular hills.) But whereas every other country has to borrow against the money within its own bubbling borders, the U.S. (the horse that kicks) maintains the reserve currency of the world, because it Crab Orchard Review
Spring Ulmer has a privilege no other country has: to borrow against the total amount of dollars in global circulation.
A man with needles sentences me I borrow against what I know to be true and follow Dave’s direction. He sentences me to acupuncture. I don’t want to go. I stall my entrance to the subway. Underground, a boy mirrors my fear. He wears thick glasses. It is his first time riding the train. He looks scared. I tell him he is brave. It’s wobbly, he says. The appointment isn’t hard. But my second visit, a week later, hurts like hell. I leave and tears fall. The needles have evidenced my hope against hope, calling it out as fraudulent. I won’t have a baby with Dave; he isn’t making it happen. I fall apart. I search wildly for adoption information, but am stopped at every site by my age, Dave’s marital status (he’s separated, still married), and my lack of real income and absolutely no savings. Each site drives Dave farther away.
Dave, Oscar, and I deliver a table Dave has to deliver a $45,000 table his workers have made. I do not want to be alone. I am in denial that our relationship has ended, and I beg to come along for the ride. Dave rents the biggest U-Haul he can find and picks me up on Kent Avenue near the Sunbelt construction mural. I climb up into the cab. Oscar, one of Dave’s employees, moves over into the middle of the front seat, so that he’s sitting nearest Dave, to make room for me. Sitting between us, Oscar talks about the snow outside, his first. He tells us that his daughter, a freshman at Florida State, recently came to visit. She had never seen snow before either. She had a blast making snow angels in the middle of Fifth Avenue. But look at it now? It’s dirty, Oscar says. I would stay here if they would find a way to get rid of the snow. As we drive upstate, Oscar rambles on about how blue the snow is in the country and about how much he loves his daughter, how he paid for her college ten years in advance; paid it all, even the cost of her dorm room and books. I look over at Dave, but he’s concentrated on the road. In the living room of the client’s mansion, I hand Oscar the screws. He lies on his back in his T-shirt and jeans on the expensive, dark-blue carpet and screws the absurdly ornate table together. 214 u Crab Orchard Review
Spring Ulmer After the table is in place, after we’ve broken a Tiffany’s Christmas tree ornament, after the doors to the mansion close, we ride back to the city, unload the blankets from the truck, and go out for a drink. It is then in the flickering candlelight that Oscar tells us the real reason he doesn’t want to stay in New York. It isn’t the snow or the cold. He is lonely. He left his wife because she didn’t want any more children. He always wanted more than one. He doesn’t know now, though, whether he made the right decision. Dave touches my leg under the table. I am crying, but it’s dark in the bar. I don’t think anyone can see. Oscar seems to shrink on his stool in his beige-colored jacket and his stocking cap. He carries himself as if apologetically: this man who wants more and has lost everything, save for his daughter. He’s going back to Florida to be near her.
Snowboarding I don’t want to join the ranks of Dave’s wife and his girlfriendbefore-me, both of whom tried to snowboard just to please him, but I end up going, because Lucy, Dave’s fifteen-year-old daughter, asks me to. What if you don’t have a choice? is how she asks. And because she never really asks me to do anything (in fact, she once asked me not to go to her soccer games), I go. I get on the board. I spend two days proving that I can do this thing. On the second day, after I go down the bunny hill without falling, I take the board off and sit outside near the garbage can on the peoplefilled deck in the sun. I wonder, as I sit, feet cramped in my rented boots, whether I’ve lost myself. What am I doing? Sure, I’ve learned something—learned to carve the snow with my body, learned to twist in anticipation of the slope. I’ve even stopped fearing being anklecuffed. But something is wrong. What is it about these days—days I’ve told Dave and Lucy to go enjoy themselves on their boards, days I’ve fought my inner battles outwardly with the mountain—that hurts? The lift man watches. He says, It’s beautiful watching you out there. He sees me learn while Dave is elsewhere, on some difficult trail.
Lucy and I drink bubble tea Lucy’s loaded her straw with tapioca balls. A man with a piece of pizza in his mouth walks past. She spits and the balls just miss him. Crab Orchard Review
Spring Ulmer I run across the street and slip behind the outer plastic wall of the bodega where the flowers are. Lucy chases me, a newly loaded straw full of bubbles in her mouth.
Letter to an old flame (II) … the sides close in, the city and its expenses, no insurance, always the homeless, the concrete that covers and encloses. i try to find its other side… sometimes i think that the road was never going to be easy, that i would always have to walk the mile in, through snow up to my thighs, that there wouldn’t be light when i got there, it would be cold… a man who lives behind a fence in a car shovels snow from behind the dumpster. sometimes i see him doing pushups on the sidewalk, bare-handed in this weather. now the reality is my only having my duffle. how many times must i leave. how many times must i begin again… i want to be okay. i want the fact that maybe i can never be a mother to be okay. i want the city to be okay. i spoke to an old friend today. she said, people die. you don’t want to not talk to them. so i am writing…
We watch Trombone Shorty We watch Trombone Shorty on the internet. Dave says, Look, I think he’s doing circular breathing. His cheeks are puffed, his breathing made visible only in the thrust of his shoulders. His eyes bulge. Lucy, who is usually so composed, goes and gets a glass, fills it with water, and hunts down what she calls Spring’s straw—my bubble tea straw. As Trombone Shorty continues to play, Lucy, a trombonist herself, blows bubbles continuously, breathing through her nose, collecting the air in her cheeks, trying to pace her exhales so the bubbles surface evenly.
Child of science (II) Julian Assange—today’s child of science—compares system administrators to yesteryear’s industrial workers who once made 216 u Crab Orchard Review
Spring Ulmer up …the backbone of the economy of the 20th century.…[T]he greater interconnection that exists now, economically and politically, Assange lectures,…is all underpinned by system administrators.…And we are all, or many of us, are part of administering that system, and have extraordinary power, in a way that is really an order of magnitude different to the power industrial workers had back in the 20th century. An administrator like Assange draws air out of the foam of the state, breathing it back into the commons. And what does it mean to infiltrate national systems, to spell out relations between body and state? It means this child of science is hunted and trapped—as if within a bubble—inside another nation’s embassy.
Back into the commons It’s snowing again. I walk Dave’s dog down Kent Avenue. Dave’s in Utah, snowboarding with Lucy. The snow whisks around the cranes on the construction mural. I recall the feeling of being glued to the board, of letting the earth turn me—before I learned to turn myself this way and that, as if throwing a clay pot with my body. How many others, I wonder, are out there, similarly not knowing what they are doing, flinging themselves here and there, wishing for someone to love them? For better or worse, maybe this is all there is, I think, no answer, no question, just algorithmic motion and drone reproduction. I step around a urine-dotted snowdrift. Suddenly Seven leaps up, takes the leash in his mouth and begins shaking his head, jerking me back and forth. He is telling me, I know, to let go. But I keep walking with him. We are almost home.
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Lisa Sewell Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque Fresh back from Iraq and battle-tested, their M-16s locked and loaded, three hundred National Guardsmen landed where the law and order situation was bad and before they let the people flood the Mardi Gras-colored seats, they cordoned off the astroturf and searched and seized the cigarettes and pen knives, lighters and bottles from those who could have stayed and watched the roof blow, their TV sets and couches swamped and swallowed. In the Superdome they were suspect and safe, though in the air above the stadium where pigeons fly, there was a desperate SOS, the low stifled sound that arises from the soul when overcharged with awe when there is no quarterbacked command, no coach, no concerted drive into the end zone.
For we think when natural disaster comes it comes for everyone, and we will stop our cars or rise from benches to help, but inside that Augustâ€™s Superdome no game-saving Hail Mary
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Lisa Sewell came just in time and only rumor floated: rumors of individuals robbed and beaten, individuals raped in the third tier bathroom stalls or was it at the five or fifty yard line? Individuals who had to pee on the floor, who spoke of the pervading stench of no electricity and the shouts for order, as Kayresa Newmanâ€™s baby passed out in her arms. And then my soul sickened and became giddy with the giddiness of one who gazes downward into some dreary and unfathomable abyss.
* It was scary. We have bodies. We have strokes and chest pain, seizures and fainting. There were bodies so tightly packed the guardsmen couldnâ€™t pass between the hungry little voices grabbing in to pull and scratch, the echo of gunshots unmasking them as refugees, so like ourselves and more ourselves than we had ever been, as twenty thousand swamped the hundred fifty dollar boxes and hundred dollar seats. Who or what became them in the dark aisles of that dank arena but the human dark of blank refusal and blackout calm before the emergency kicked in, before the storm peeled the cover off the stadium roof and two large holes let rain and light fall on the elderly woman dead in a wheelchair with a note on her lap bearing our names.
* Were they being treated like animals by animals, behaving like animals, or rising and falling to a natural level of self-annihilation Crab Orchard Review
Lisa Sewell as outside the Superdome the 82nd Airborne was having trouble distinguishing between degrees of need, between disaster and disgrace with the low, dull sound a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. If his house is ruined there is nothing he can do and nobody in charge to hold accountable as yellow school buses caught in traffic jams and able bodies pressed into panic against the barricades. In the rising heat that was scramble and riot, no spontaneous human wave of triumph could raise our arms, one after the other or move us to stand.
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Martha Silano SkyMall Pantoum It’s a great time to shop, escape the power of gravity. Nothing to lose but pain. You’ll never fumble with wires again. Escape the power of gravity. Drop the daily mascara ritual. You’ll never fumble with wires again. Comes with three-speed vibrator, so drop the daily mascara ritual, showcase your treasured keepsakes while coming with three-speed vibrator: provides dramatic lift. Showcase your treasured keepsakes as you discreetly monitor home. Provides dramatic lift disguised as a birdhouse. Discreetly monitoring home, uplifts your downtime. Disguised as a birdhouse, stops the spread of infection while uplifting you downtime. Can you say the same? Stops the spread of infection; rejuvenates down to the cell. Can you say the same? Think how much time you’ll save, Crab Orchard Review
Martha Silano rejuvenating down to the cell. True mobility! No cart required! Think how much time youâ€™ll save. True mobility! No cart required! Itâ€™s a great time to shop. Nothing to lose but pain.
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Jay Sizemore Hope is a thing with blasters Outside, men are being shot in the back. Deputies are pulling pistols instead of tasers. Their weapons are not set to stun. When I was six years old all I cared about was swinging a tobacco stick and humming through my lips the noises a lightsaber would make. The birds circled overhead like TIE fighters in formation. Outside, someone says “fuck your breath,” while a man bleeds to death, his incredulous cries winnowing to rasps. I watch the new Star Wars trailer on a work break, and suddenly I’m six again, rolling in the grass, dodging blaster fire from birds. I remember how Jedi could deflect lasers with their palms and their faith, and for ninety seconds, I knew no bullets would hit their targets.
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Soldiers’ ‘Fun’ Photo with FlagDraped Coffin Sparks Outrage Anyone who spends the day lifting bodies in the air needs an outlet, they said in their defense. Of course they know they’ll have their turn, some future war, the bullet before the bullet’s sound. Shrapnel against bone’s imperfect shield. The Honor Guard was privilege. But weren’t they human? Don’t others get to smile at their work? In the office, boxes of new flags folded into triangles. A warehouse of body bags in case of war. They did their jobs. Don’t say they didn’t. In the photo, men embrace and look surprised to see another man in their arms. One looks on approvingly. One crosses her eyes. A tongue stuck out, some rabbit ears, one soldier sleeps against the coffin’s edge, one lays down in front as if they’d rolled the coffin to the beach. It’s where we work, they said. Where else to take a picture of our group? We meant no disrespect. The body in the coffin long past caring. The family would be thanking us now instead of all this bad press, if giggling woke the dead.
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J.D. Smith Zombie Requiem By the time you read this, the meme will be going into remission. Movies will be about Vikings or Ostrogoths, if not Mongol hordes, time travel, something that would allow forbidden love, which does well in focus groups and saves on special effects as flesh stays on the bone. Costume partygoers will no longer sleepwalk in tattered clothes and intone, with feigned hunger, BRAINS. Other meanings will slough away, leaving only Haitian legend and a tiki drink until the undeadâ€™s next slow lap around the culture. Or this time the undead might be gone for good, as if the living had aimed for their heads and made every shot count. Their loose, entombed flesh might at last be found moldering in the footnote to a history written for a time of higher seas and fewer species, observing the quaintness of an age that had to embellish its fears.
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Susan B.A. Somers-Willett The Artist Is Present Marina, your lesson is stillness, and here I am raging like a teakettle next to the dead of New Jersey, the couple next door cursing each other in the driveway over their broken-down Kia while the rest of the neighborhood waits for them to divorce. At night, I smoke in the street and want to move my body against the dead legs of trees in the neighboring cemetery like the torturer’s horse Auden talked about that wasn’t in the Breughel painting but should be. It is what it is, everyone says of the budgetary crisis, and I have come to suspect this is the state motto alongside Benny go home. I hang eight-sided Ba gua mirrors in the alley between our houses hoping to diffuse my neighbors’ poison arrows, but what I really need are noisecancelling headphones. So says my Chinese apothecary. Today I saw you robed in white like a Cossack and I elbowed Orlando Bloom who tweeted on his BlackBerry while his dangerously skinny girlfriend leaned on his famous shoulder blades and his holiness Lama Doboom Tulku smiled continuously under his white skull cap. Everything is everything, I wanted to say to him, because this is the most Buddhist sentence I know. You should have been there. You were so pale as if the urine you held in all day were a flagon of good chardonnay. Vegetarianism, you told reporters, was the key to repressing the body, but it was obvious your skin had yellowed like my father’s, jaundicing in the days before he died in his bed. I know; I was there. My evidence: the fresh pillow you sat on. Today was your last day of performance, a grand finale. In the months before, one man danced before you and asked for your hand in marriage. Another woman dressed identically to you and sat with you like a living mirror all day. (The audience was pissed at that indulgence, but hey: that’s 226 u Crab Orchard Review
Susan B.A. Somers-Willett verisimilitude.) Most people sat and some finally cried for you or for themselves. Whatever will be will be. And when it is over, when this evening you shimmer in Givenchy and mug fiercely between James Franco and BjĂśrk, I wait motionless in Broad Street Station, where the train to Dover is late. It seems all trains to New Jersey are late. I have nothing to offer myself, no headphones or books, so I offer my hands, bloated with the weight of standing hours in the gallery, and which rest now like loaves, little loves, on my knees. I breathe slow and small like the new branches of the tree I watch in Mt. Hebron Cemetery and the brown bird that will walk that branch: breath-and-bone shallow, feather-and-heart shallow, the nutâ€™s shadow chasing the leaves out in memoriam along with the imaginary horse who will never innocently scratch there. I wait with my hands open like a cotton napkin on my lap for the trainâ€™s report to break the branches of winter diminishing into bloom. I wait like the train that is waiting to be moved.
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JeFF Stumpo Against Itself Cannot Stand Each half of your Facebook feed believes the other is destroying the country, and your only certainty is that all this is being filed away for advertisers. You found another lump last night, told yourself you’d call this morning, allowed yourself to get distracted by the kids arguing over who gets the last of the Mini-Wheats. The living room is divided from the kitchen by a half-wall, something that’s always bothered you, like order is breaking down somehow, like it’s a thing that is not quite what it is. There’s been a missile strike somewhere that matters to you. In a former life, there was an arrow. Before that, you invented brachiation not to climb trees, but to launch rocks at other apes. It’s natural now,
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JeFF Stumpo to curl your fingers around something and know you could throw it, natural, like how youâ€™re used to spitting blood each time you brush your teeth.
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Matt Sumpter Still Life with X-Files A blue face warps in the TV screen then seems to drown. My father and I watch as a man and woman appear, their faces looking out from government IDs. We know them well. When the man goes home at night, he lies down in the fluorescent light of his fish tank. He dreams what life has taught him to dream: baseball, a yard in Rhode Island where the grass holds the shapes of his feet, the smell of fish, a sandwich in the afternoon. Across town, the woman stands in front of a mirror and examines her neck, feeling for an injection site, a sign she’s been someplace forgotten. She pulls her shirt away from her shoulder blades and searches their hard perimeter. My father looks worried. He understands, at forty, what I don’t: how your body starts to feel like someone else’s, how the stars begin to gather in a kind of threat. When the show ends, the low whistle of the credits echoes over us and out the window to a city where it rains at least a little every night.
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Mark Wagenaar Elegy Just as Regulus once carried the relics of St. Andrew—knee cap, three fingers, a tooth— to the ends of the earth, building shrines wherever he was shipwrecked, so you too have been carried away. Of the Wave itself there are now only scars & debris—a motorcycle, current-borne, throttle zeroed for the horizon, now parked on a beach in B.C., the other side of the world. A fishing boat docked in a third story window. A mailbox with a hand inside. And the radioactivity, which once burned in your throat to measure your thyroid uptake, is in the grass, the cattle, in their milk, is everywhere. But what is it, this invisible cloud, but a decay of particles, a shroud stitched of their vanishings, shroud that forever hangs from the rafters of each cell it touches, like the guilt the living feel for living (I’ve looked so long at the faces on bulletin boards I dreamed a boat with a hull hammered of faces, bound to drift always beyond us). You pull at me, softly. The way a distant galaxy will always tug at us, moonpull of your hair, your bones, your fine hair. This evening’s half-life reels back your shadow. A Geiger’s steady rattlepulse instead of your heart—you must always have a face, my Andrew, my Hunter Gracchus, my Fukushima.
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Scott Woods The Janitor of High School Musical Speaks Do you have any idea how hard it is to get sneaker prints off of linoleum that’s been carrying an entire high school’s weight in singing, dancing, raging hormones? I mean, I just waxed that floor. They got a gym that’s never seen a basketball. What’s the point of a gym when every hallway, desktop and bathroom stall is an invitation to The Dance? Every pine-scented bucket I have is filled with dingy water and the sweat of their dreams, which I could more easily admire if I weren’t cleaning up after them every other period. Every time there’s a fire drill they file out of their classes, twirling, arms in the air, single file all the way to the curb, where they jump on the nearest car, bopping their necks to the rhythm of a fire alarm. They moonwalk in midtown intersections, halting traffic, jumping up and down on people’s cars, then drag they funky feet into the cafeteria like they’ve been dancing on air. I just washed those tables, just emptied that trashcan Troy is spinning over his head like a damsel in ballet distress. Like they don’t have trash cans at home. Like their parents don’t mind that they practice their jazz hands while passing the mashed potatoes.
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Scott Woods Their idea of intramural sports: choir practice. Varsity Sculpture. Full contact macramé. No books, no library, no showers. By 2:30 I’m ready to nail some ballet shoes to the floor. None of them realize that they’re just one bad knee or failed recital away from having their name on their shirt for a living, rinsing out some self-absorbed kids’ dreams in a mop bucket.
Crab Orchard Review
Lauren Yates Love Poem for Cher Horowitz I have never read Emma, but have seen Clueless at least two dozen times, once for every year of my life. This either makes me the Worst English Major or the Best 90s Kid Ever, like the optical illusion where the woman flips back and forth between old and young. Or The Dress, how the white and gold becomes black and blue. There are children too young to realize that the music video for Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” is a shot-by-shot remake of Clueless. There was a time this music video would have aired on TRL, and these kids would have rushed home to see it, only for fans to scream over the ten second clip. I was too young to realize how Amber’s social life could have consisted of balls flying at her face, or why Tai was so amazed that her school had coke. Somehow, my mother let me watch this movie over two dozen times. I watched it the first time I shaved my head, multiple times on cable in my grandfather’s bedroom. I watch it every time I do not know what else to watch. Freud would have a field day with Cher Horowitz, a girl who loses her mother to routine liposuction, falls for a gay man, and ends up dating her ex-stepbrother. Freud vs. Cher Horowitz is a Celebrity Deathmatch waiting to happen. And now the previously deceased “Father of Psychoanalysis” will try to defeat the matchmaking Beverly Hills fashionista. Will Freud break Cher and her iceberg of a subconscious with questions about her mother, or is that cokehead so Audi? All of my money is on Cher. Don’t let anyone say you’re just a virgin who can’t drive.
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Contributors’ Notes Tariq al Haydar’s work has appeared in The Normal School, Down & Out, Jadaliyya, and others. He is an assistant professor of English at King Saud University in Saudi Arabia. Joy Arbor has an MFA from Mills College and a PhD from University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her poems have recently appeared or will soon appear in Dunes Review, Jewish Currents, and Natural Bridge. She teaches communication and ethics at Kettering University and is happily pursuing modern homesteading adventures with her family in the country. Roger Bonair-Agard is a native Trinidadian and Brooklynite. His most recent collection, Bury My Clothes (Haymarket Books), won the Society of Midland Authors award for Poetry and was longlisted for the National Book Award. He has been published in Harvard Review Online, Callaloo, Drunken Boat, Poetry Magazine Online, Gulf Coast, and Academy of American Poets: Poem-a-Day, among others. He teaches Creative Writing with Free Write Jail Arts and Literacy Program at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. Shevaun Brannigan is a graduate of the Bennington Writing Seminars, as well as The Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House at The University of Maryland. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in such journals as Best New Poets 2012, Rhino, Washington Square Review, and Court Green. Her favorite poetry gig is the workshop she leads at her local Domestic Violence Shelter, and her work can be found at shevaunbrannigan.wordpress.com. Amy Knox Brown is a fourth-generation Nebraskan and the author of a story collection, Three Versions of the Truth, and a poetry chapbook, Advice from Household Gods. She is the program director and assistant professor of English at the College of St. Mary in Omaha, Nebraska. Andrea Carter Brown is the author of a poetry collection, The Disheveled Bed, and an award-winning chapbook, Brook & Rainbow. Her poems have appeared in Southwest Review, Gettysburg Review, Ploughshares, Mississippi Review, and Five Points, where three poems from her manuscript September 12 won the James Dickey Prize. New poems are forthcoming in Miramar and Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology. Currently Chair of the VCCA Fellows Council, she lives in Los Angeles, California. Stephanie Carpenter is a native of northern Michigan, and she holds degrees from Williams College, Syracuse University, and the University of Missouri. Her prose has appeared or is forthcoming in Storyscape, Quiddity, Big Fiction, Midwestern Gothic, Crab Orchard Review, and elsewhere. She currently teaches literature and creative writing at Michigan Tech University. Cortney Lamar Charleston lives in Jersey City, New Jersey. He is an alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania’s performance poetry collective, The Excelano Project, and a founder of BLACK PANTONE, an inclusive digital cataloging of black identity. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Rattle, Beloit Poetry Journal, Eleven Eleven, Folio, The Normal School, J Journal, Chiron Review, and elsewhere. He has received nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.
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Contributors’ Notes Susanna Childress has authored Jagged with Love, awarded the Brittingham Prize, and Entering the House of Awe, a Green Rose Prize selection at New Issues Poetry & Prose. Sherman Alexie chose one of her poems for the 2015 edition of The Best American Poetry. She also writes fiction and nonfiction and is in the music group Ordinary Neighbors, whose fulllength album, The Necessary Dark, is based on her writing. She lives in Holland, Michigan. Tiana Clark is a Pushcart Prize nominee living and performing poetry in Nashville, Tennessee. She is a board member of The Porch Writers’ Collective, a literary arts center. Her poems have appeared in Southwestern Review, The Raven Chronicles, Nashville Arts Magazine, Word Riot, and others. In Fall of 2015, she will be attending Vanderbilt University’s MFA program in creative writing for poetry. Heidi Czerwiec is a poet, essayist, translator, and critic who teaches at the University of North Dakota and is poetry editor for North Dakota Quarterly. She is the author of SelfPortrait as Bettie Page and of the forthcoming A Is For A-ké, The Chinese Monster, and the editor of North Dakota Is Everywhere: An Anthology of Contemporary North Dakota Poets. She could never bludgeon an octopus. Jim Daniels’s fourteenth book of poems, Birth Marks (BOA Editions), was selected as a Michigan Notable Book and received the Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award. His fifth book of short fiction, Eight Mile High (Michigan State University Press), appeared in 2014 and also was chosen as a Michigan Notable Book. He is the Thomas Stockham Baker University Professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach emigrated as a Jewish refugee from Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, in 1993. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Oregon and is working on her PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. Her poetry has appeared in Gulf Coast, TriQuarterly, and Guernica, among others journals. She is the author of The Bear Who Ate the Stars, winner of Split Lip Magazine’s 2014 Uppercut Chapbook Award. She is also the editor-in-chief of Construction Magazine. Visit her at www.juliakolchinskydasbach.com. Amy Elisabeth Davis is a historian as well as a poet. Her poems have appeared in Tar River Poetry, New Millennium Writings, Women’s Studies, Spillway, and Beyond the Lyric Moment, an anthology. She has a book on the economic policy of the Kennedy administration forthcoming with Cambridge University Press. These days, she writes mostly poetry. Ann V. DeVilbiss holds a BA from Indiana University, where she completed the English honors program with a concentration in poetry. Her work has also appeared in New Southerner and Sixfold. She does editing and production work for a press in Louisville, Kentucky, where she lives with her husband and their cat. Jehanne Dubrow is the author of five poetry collections, including The Arranged Marriage (University of New Mexico Press), Red Army Red (Northwestern University Press) and Stateside (Northwestern). Her second book, From the Fever-World, won the Washington Writers’ Publishing House Poetry Contest, and her first, The Hardship Post, won the Three Candles Press Open Book Award and was re-released by Sundress Publications. She co-edited (with Lindsay Lusby) The Book of Scented Things: 100 Contemporary Poems About Perfume. Hannah Ensor is from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and received her MFA in poetry at the University of Arizona. Along with coordinating the Reading and Lecture Series and the
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Contributors’ Notes Summer Residency Program at the University of Arizona Poetry Center, she is also a coeditor of textsound.org, an assistant poetry editor for DIAGRAM, and serves as president of the board of directors of Casa Libre en la Solana, a literary arts nonprofit in Tucson, Arizona. Brett Foster is the author of two poetry collections, The Garbage Eater (Triquarterly Books/ Northwestern University Press) and Fall Run Road, which was won the Finishing Line Press Open Chapbook Competition. His writing has appeared in Image, Kenyon Review, Poetry Daily, Raritan, Southwest Review, and Yale Review, and he has received a PEN American grant and the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize. He teaches creative writing and classical through Renaissance literature at Wheaton College. Megan Giddings is an MFA student at Indiana University and the executive editor of SmokeLong Quarterly. She was anthologized in Best of the Net 2014. Her fiction is forthcoming from or has been recently published by Passages North, Gargoyle, and Sou’wester. Carmen R. Gillespie is an English professor and poet at Bucknell University. Her published works include: a chapbook, Lining the Rails; a poetry collection, Jonestown: A Vexation, which won the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award; Toni Morrison: Forty Years in the Clearing; and critical companions to authors Toni Morrison and Alice Walker. Other awards include grants and fellowships from the Ohio Arts Council, Cave Canem, Fulbright Program, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Fine Arts Work Center. D. Gilson is the author of Crush, with Will Stockton (Punctum Books); Brit Lit (Sibling Rivalry Press); and Catch & Release, winner of the Robin Becker Chapbook Prize (Seven Kitchens Press). He is a PhD candidate in American literature & cultural studies at George Washington University, and his work has appeared in PANK, Indiana Review, and The Rumpus. Find him online at dgilson.com. Gail Goepfert is a poet, amateur photographer, and teacher. Currently, she is an associate editor of Rhino. Her chapbook, A Mind on Pain, was released by Finishing Line Press in 2015. Her publications include Avocet, Ardor, After Hours, Caesura, Florida English, Jet Fuel Review, and Room Magazine. Her photographs appear in print or online at the Chicago Botanic Garden, Olentangy Review, 3Elements Review, and Rattle. She has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Kari Gunter-Seymour is a graphic designer, photographer, and poet. Her work appears in Rattle, Still: The Journal, A Narrow Fellow, Clover, A Literary Rag, Digital Papercut, and the Los Angeles Times. Her poetry was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is the founder/curator of the “Women of Appalachia Project,” events featuring Appalachia’s visual, literary, and performing women artists, www.womenofappalachia.com. Jennifer Hancock lives in western Colorado and teaches at Colorado Mesa University. Her poems have recently appeared in Fruita Pulp and in the “Prairies, Plains, Mountains, and Deserts” issue of Crab Orchard Review. Her first collection, Between Hurricanes, is forthcoming from Lithic Press. Jeff Hardin is the author of Fall Sanctuary, Notes for a Praise Book, and Restoring the Narrative, recipient of the Donald Justice Poetry Prize from West Chester University Poetry Center. His fourth collection, Small Revolution, is forthcoming in 2016. His poems appear in recent issues of the Hudson Review, Southern Review, North American Review,
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Contributors’ Notes Southwest Review, Measure, Bluestem, Grist, Tupelo Quarterly, and elsewhere. His website is www.jeffhardin.weebly.com. Laura Haynes is a former screenwriter and a graduate of The Bennington Writing Seminars. Her work has appeared in McSweeney’s, The Rumpus, and Prime Number Magazine, which awarded her its 2014 Poetry Prize. She was a runner up in the 2015 Tennessee Williams Literary Festval’s poetry contest, judged by Vijay Sheshadri. She lives in Santa Barbara, California. Erin Hederman earned a BA in English with a focus on creative writing from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She lives in Chicago, Illinois, with her fiancé and her two cats. She loves going to work as a Special Education Teacher. In her free time, she loves to read and write both poetry and fiction. This is her first publication beyond college. Julie Henson’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Subtropics, Quarterly West, CutBank, Southern Indiana Review, Iowa Review, and others. She was a finalist for Washington Square Review’s 2015 Poetry Prize, a finalist for Iowa Review’s 2014 poetry contest, and a semi-finalist for Boston Review’s 2014 “Discovery” contest. She lives in Lafayette, Indiana. Erin Hoover’s poems are forthcoming or published in The Pinch, Prairie Schooner, Gargoyle, Redivider, Sugar House Review, and Best New Poets 2013. A PhD candidate at Florida State University, she also serves as editor of the Southeast Review and volunteers for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. Tom C. Hunley is a professor of English/Creative Writing at Western Kentucky University and the lead singer/rhythm guitarist for Dr. Tom and the Cartoons. “Officer Down” is part of his book The State That Springfield Is In, forthcoming from Split Lip Press. The book consists of forty dramatic monologues in the voices of characters from The Simpsons and includes poems previously published in Birmingham Poetry Review, Crab Creek Review, Diode, Rattle, Rock & Sling, and others. He is co-editor, with Alexandria Peary, of Creative Writing Pedagogies for the Twenty-First Century (Southern Illinois University Press, 2015). Elizabeth W. Jackson is a practicing psychologist and writer who has published in a variety of fields, including psychology and the visual and literary arts. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the Potomac Review, Zone 3, Measure, and The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume VII: North Carolina. In 2014, she won the James Applewhite Poetry Prize. Laurie Clements Lambeth is the author of Veil and Burn (University of Illinois Press), selected by Maxine Kumin for the National Poetry Series. Recent poetry has appeared in Crazyhorse, Great River Review, Tupelo Quarterly Review, and Bellevue Literary Review, where her poem received BLR’s 2014 poetry prize. Her lyric nonfiction has been published in the Iowa Review, Mid-American Review, and elsewhere. Concurrently working on a memoir and her second poetry collection, she teaches in the University of Houston’s Honors College. Jenna Le is the author of Six Rivers (New York Quarterly Books), which was a Small Press Distribution Bestseller. Her poetry, fiction, essays, criticism, and translations have recently appeared in AGNI Online, Massachusetts Review, Measure, The Normal School Online, and The Village Voice. She works as a physician in New York. Brigitte Leschhorn was born in Panama and now lives in St. Louis, Missouri, where she teaches English Literature at a private school. She received honorable mention in Boulevard
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Contributors’ Notes Magazine’s 2013 Short Fiction Contest for Emerging Writers, and she was recently published in Boulevard’s 30th Anniversary Issue. Alexander Long’s third book of poems, Still Life, won the White Pine Press Poetry Prize in 2011. His work has appeared in the Southern Review, American Poetry Review, AGNI, Blackbird, Callaloo, Miramar, Pleiades, and Third Coast, among others. A thirteen-time nominee for a Pushcart Prize, he’s also an associate professor of English at John Jay College, a professional musician, and at work on a literary biography of Larry Levis. Michael Marberry’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The New Republic, Sycamore Review, West Branch, Indiana Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Cincinnati Review, Bat City Review, and elsewhere. He has served as coordinator of the Poets in Print Reading Series. He lives in Michigan but hails from Tennessee. Peter Marcus’s first poetry collection, Dark Square, was published by Pleasure Boat Studio: A Literary Press. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Boulevard, Poetry, Ploughshares, Southern Review, Witness, Crab Orchard Review, Nimrod, Rattle, upstreet, and others. A recipient of a Connecticut Fellowship for the Arts grant, he is Academic Program Coordinator for the Elms College Accelerated Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at Mount Wachusetts Community College. mariana mcdonald’s poetry has appeared in The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume V: Georgia and Lunch Ticket. Her fiction has appeared in Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers and Cobalt, where she was a finalist for the Zora Neale Hurston Fiction Prize. Her short story collection, Green Jacket, is forthcoming from Benu Press. She became a Fellow of Georgia’s Hambidge Arts Center in 2012. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where she is a public health scientist. Cate McGowan, author of True Places Never Are (Moon City Press), is an award-winning writer and Georgia native who’s been anthologized in W.W. Norton’s Flash Fiction International. She has contributed to many literary publications, including Glimmer Train, Wordsmitten, Louisville Review, Moon City Review, and the English fashion magazine Tank. She has been an editor for the Louisville Review and SFWP (Santa Fe Writers Project) and an arts writer and essayist for national outlets. Erika Meitner is the author of four books of poems, including Copia (BOA Editions), and Ideal Cities (HarperCollins), which was a 2009 National Poetry Series winner. She was recently the 2014–2015 Fulbright Distinguished Scholar in Creative Writing at Queen’s University, Belfast. She is also the director of Virginia Tech’s MFA program in creative writing. J.M. Miller is a poetry and fiction writer from Wilmington, Delaware. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Connected: What Remains As We All Change, HalfwayDownTheStairs, In Gilded Cage, Storm Cycle Anthology, Tic Toc Anthology, Joys of the Table, Mojave River Review, Broadkill Review, and MidWest Quarterly. She received a 2014 Individual Artist Award as an emerging poet from the Delaware Division of the Arts. Linda Downing Miller’s fiction is forthcoming in Fiction International and has been a finalist for Crab Orchard Review’s Charles Johnson Fiction Award. Her creative nonfiction has aired on Chicago Public Radio and appeared in the Chicago Tribune and elsewhere. She earned an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte and teaches memoir and creative writing at the Center for Life and Learning in Chicago.
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Contributors’ Notes Erika Mueller’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Duende, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Wisconsin Review, Puerto del Sol, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from the University of Oregon and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of WisconsinMilwaukee. She serves as an assistant editor of Cream City Review. Jed Myers lives in Seattle, Washington. Two of his poetry collections, The Nameless (Finishing Line Press) and Watching the Perseids (winner of the 2012 Sacramento Poetry Center Book Award), are 2014 publications. His work has received Southern Indiana Review’s Mary C. Mohr Editors’ Award, the Literal Latte Poetry Award, a Pushcart nomination, and, in the UK, a Forward Prize nomination. His poems have appeared recently in I-70 Review, Watershed Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Heron Tree, Ilanot Review, Tusculum Review, and elsewhere. Mary Elizabeth Parker’s poetry includes the full collection The Sex Girl (Urthona Press) and four chapbooks, including Miss Havisham in Winter (FutureCycle Press) and Cave-Girl (Finishing Line Press). Recent honors include the 2013 Edwin Markham Prize in Poetry and the 2014 Writer’s Digest Poetry Award. She is creator and chair of the Dana Awards in the Novel, Short Fiction, and Poetry, offered since 1996. Alison Pelegrin is the author of three poetry collections, most recently Hurricane Party and Big Muddy River of Stars, both with the University of Akron Press. A recipient of a creative writing fellowship from the NEA, her poems have appeared in the Southern Review, Poetry, and Ploughshares. Stephen Pett is the winner of Crab Orchard Review’s Special Issue Feature Award in Fiction. He is the author of a novel, Sirens (Vintage), and a collection of poetry, Pulpit of Bones (Morrow). His short work has appeared in many venues and made the Notable list in The Best American Short Stories. He was the coordinator of Iowa State University’s MFA Program in Creative Writing and Environment and is the Founding Editor of Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment. Geoffrey Philp was born in Jamaica. He is the author of the forthcoming novel, Garvey’s Ghost. His work is represented in nearly every anthology of Caribbean literature, and he is one of the few writers whose work has been published in The Oxford Book of Caribbean Short Stories and The Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse. A graduate of the University of Miami, where he earned an MA in English, he teaches creative writing at Miami Dade College. Christine Potter is a writer, poet, and internet broadcaster who lives in a very old house with two spoiled tom cats and a patient husband. She has published in the Anglican Theological Review, Rattle, Fugue, and American Arts Quarterly. Her two collections of poetry are Zero Degrees at First Light and Sheltering in Place. Her website is chrispygal.weebly.com. Christine Rhein is the author of Wild Flight, a winner of the Walt McDonald First-Book Prize in Poetry (Texas Tech University Press). Her poems have appeared widely in literary journals, including the Southern Review, Gettysburg Review, and Michigan Quarterly Review, and have been selected for Poetry Daily, The Writer’s Almanac, and Best New Poets. A former automotive engineer, she lives in Brighton, Michigan. Liz Robbins is the winner of Crab Orchard Review’s Special Issue Feature Award in Poetry. Her third collection of poems, Freaked, won the 2014 Elixir Press Annual Poetry Award, judged by Bruce Bond; her second collection, Play Button, won the 2010 Cider Press Review Book Award, judged by Patricia Smith. Her poems appear in American Literary Review, Beloit
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Contributors’ Notes Poetry Journal, Denver Quarterly, Kenyon Review Online, and River Styx. She’s an associate professor of creative writing at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida. Brent Royster earned an MFA and PhD from Bowling Green State University, and he now teaches writing at Central Texas College. He spends free time riding across Hill Country, fishing, hunting wildflowers, and napping with his two hounds. His poems have been published in Cimarron Review, Green Mountains Review, Mochila Review, North American Review, Quarterly West, South Carolina Review, and other notable journals. Linwood Rumney’s poems, nonfiction essays, and translations have recently appeared in North American Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, Adirondack Review, and elsewhere. An editorial assistant for Black Lawrence Press, he lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he is pursuing a PhD as a Taft Fellow. Nicholas Samaras has a new book, American Psalm, World Psalm, from AshlandPoetry Press. His recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Massachusetts Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Harvard Review, Poetry Daily, Prairie Schooner, and other periodicals. Rikki Santer’s work has appeared in publications including Ms. Magazine, Poetry East, Margie, Grimm, and Main Street Rag. Two of her published poetry collections have explored place: Front Nine (the Hopewell earthworks of Newark, Ohio) and Kahiki Redux (the late Kahiki Supper Club of Columbus, Ohio). Her collection Clothesline Logic was published by Pudding House, and her latest collection, Fishing for Rabbits, was published by Kattywompus Press. Rion Amilcar Scott has contributed to the Washington City Paper, PANK, The Rumpus, Fiction International, The Toast, and Confrontation. He was raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, and earned an MFA at George Mason University. His collection, Wolf Tickets, is forthcoming from Tiny Hardcore Press. Presently, he teaches English at Bowie State University. Lisa Sewell is the author several books, including Impossible Object, which won the 2014 Tenth Gate Prize and is forthcoming from Word Works Press. She is also co-editor, with Claudia Rankine, of American Poets in the 21st Century: The New Poetics (Wesleyan University Press) and Eleven More American Women Poets in the 21st Century: Poetics Across North America (Wesleyan). She lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and teaches at Villanova University. Martha Silano’s books include The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception, recipient of the 2010 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize, and Reckless Lovely (Saturnalia Books). She also co-edited, with Kelli Russell Agodon, The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts for Your Writing Practice (Two Sylvias Press). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry, Blackbird, AGNI, New Ohio Review, and North American Review, where she received the 2014 James Hearst Poetry Prize. She edits Crab Creek Review and teaches at Bellevue College. Jay Sizemore’s work has appeared online and in print in Rattle, Prick of the Spindle, Revolution John, Menacing Hedge, and Still: The Journal. He’s never won an award. He still sings Ryan Adams songs in the shower. Sometimes, he massages his wife’s feet. Currently, he lives in Nashville, Tennessee. His chapbook, Father Figures, is available on Amazon. Karen Skolfield’s first book, Frost in the Low Areas (Zone 3 Press), won the 2014 PEN New England Award in poetry. She has received fellowships and awards from the Poetry Society of America, Ucross Foundation, Split This Rock, Hedgebrook, Vermont Studio Center, and
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Contributors’ Notes others. New poems appear in Hobart, Indiana Review, Miramar, and Pleiades. She is an Army veteran and teaches writing to engineers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her website is www.karenskolfield.com. J.D. Smith’s third collection, Labor Day at Venice Beach, was published in 2012, and in 2007 he was awarded a Fellowship in Poetry from the NEA. His other books include the essay collection Dowsing and Science, the humor collection Notes of a Tourist on Planet Earth, and the children’s picture book The Best Mariachi in the World. He lives and works in Washington, DC. Susan B.A. Somers-Willett is the author of two books of poetry, Quiver (University of Georgia Press) and Roam (Southern Illinois University Press), and a book of criticism, The Cultural Politics of Slam Poetry: Race, Identity, and the Performance of Popular Verse in America. She is the recipient of a Gracie Award, a Writers’ League of Texas Book Award, a Pushcart Prize, and a NEA Fellowship in Poetry. She lives and writes in Austin, Texas, with her daughter, Libby. JeFF Stumpo has been a bookstore owner and a part-time professor, a slam poet and an apologetic telemarketer. His latest chapbook, a collection of 20 villanelles titled Villains, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. His wife is the smart one. His daughter is three going on thirteen. His dogs are nuts. He has a website at www.jeffstumpo.com. Matt Sumpter’s poems have appeared in The New Republic, The New Yorker, Best New Poets 2014, and elsewhere, and his scholarly writing is forthcoming in College English. In 2013, he won the Crab Orchard Review Special Issue Feature Award in Poetry. He is currently a PhD student in creative writing at Binghamton University. Brent Taylor lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife and two-year-old son. He studied journalism and creative writing at Georgia State University. He has had some poems published in smaller magazines, though this is his first published story. Spring Ulmer is the winner of Crab Orchard Review’s Special Issue Feature Award in Literary Nonfiction. She is the author of Benjamin’s Spectacles, selected by Sonia Sanchez for the 2007 Kore Press First Book Award, and The Age of Virtual Reproduction, published by Essay Press. Her essay, “A Short History of Our Flesh and Blood,” was a notable essay in Best American Essays 2013. She teaches at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Mark Wagenaar’s The Body Distances (University of Massachusetts Press) is the 2015 winner of the Juniper Prize. His first book, Voodoo Inverso (University of Wisconsin Press), was the 2012 winner of the Felix Pollak Prize. His poems appear or are forthcoming from The New Yorker, 32 Poems, Field, Image, and many others. He and his wife, poet Chelsea Wagenaar, are doctoral fellows at the University of North Texas in Denton. Scott Woods is the author of We Over Here Now (Brick Cave Books). He has widely published and edited work and been featured in national press, including multiple appearances on National Public Radio. In April of 2006, he became the first poet to ever complete a 24-hour solo poetry reading, a feat he bested with six more annual 24-hour readings without repeating a single poem. Lauren Yates is a Pushcart-nominated poet based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her writing has appeared in Nerve, XOJane, Umbrella Factory, Softblow, and Melusine. She is also a poetry editor at Kinfolks Quarterly and a member of The Mission Statement poetry collective. She is currently a Poet in Residence with the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery at Drexel University.
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A Note on Our Cover This cover features the nineteen previous special issue covers and Crab Orchard Review would like to thank Victor Brown, Fern Logan, Trina Kyounghui Yi, Carolyn Alessio, Anton P. Janulis, Marc Moxon, Masha Zager, Jason Holland, Vagner Whitehead, Richard Lawson, Bastien Desfriches Doria, Jason Lee Brown, Jessica Hutson, Erin Carman-Sweeney, Molly Baumann, Sean Chapman, Maggie Graber, Lena Mรถrsch, Lisa Percy, Loren Elise Foster, Mae Remme, Justin Herrmann, Allison Joseph, and Jon Tribble for images that have made our covers unique and memorable.
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The editors wish to thank all of the talented poets, writers, translators, book reviewers, and photographers who have made these twenty years of publishing the magazine possible with their contributions to our pages and our covers. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to showcase your fine work,
Allison Joseph Editor & Poetry Editor
Carolyn Alessio Prose Editor
Jon Tribble Managing Editor
Crab Orchard Review’s Contributors and Cover Artists 1995 – 2015 Jhoanna S. Aberia Gabriel A. Abudu Lavonne J. Adams Betty Adcock Kim Addonizio Bayo Adebowale Faith Adiele Opal Palmer Adisa Tory Adkisson Deborah Ager Kelli Russell Agodon Delmira Agustini Liz Ahl Dilruba Ahmed Latifa Ahmed Neil Aitken Funso Aiyejina Susan Aizenberg Usha Akella Dan Albergotti Elisa Albo Benjamin Aleshire Joan Aleshire Carolyn Curtin Alessio Elizabeth Alexander Meena Alexander Jeffrey Alfier Tariq al Haydar Dick Allen Preston L. Allen Stephanie Allen William Allen Lauren K. Alleyne Tabaré Alvarez Ameen Alwan Candice Amich Catherine Anderson CB Anderson Dale Gregory Anderson
Daniel Anderson Dargie Anderson Idris Anderson Kirsten Andersen Maggie Anderson Molly Bonovsky Anderson T. Duncan Anderson Christopher Ankney A. Manette Ansay Nin Andrews Liviu Antonesei Alison Apotheker Jacob M. Appel Francisco Aragón José Manuel Arango Joy Arbor William Archila Tani Arness Elsa Arnett Christopher Feliciano Arnold Martin Arnold Fred Santiago Arroyo Rane Arroyo Renée Ashley Jennifer Atkinson Tacey M. Atsitty Seﬁ Atta Chi-Wai Au Amanda Auchter Derrick Austin Robert Avery O. Ayes Carol Willette Bachofner William Baer Pam Baggett Rebecca Baggett Julianna Baggott Jasmine V. Bailey
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Doreen Baingana Melissa Baird Devreaux Baker Holly Teresa Baker Margaret Baker Kerry Neville Bakken Ned Balbo Shauna Singh Baldwin Shanan Ballam Kathleen Balma Pāramitā Banerjee Amiri Baraka Sarah Barber Dara Barnat Aliki Barnstone Tina Barr Dorothy Barresi Lesley Erin Bartlett Jackie Bartley Samiya Bashir Ellen Bass Erinn Batykefer Molly Baumann Jenna Bazzell Jeffrey Bean Evan Beaty Jan Beatty Jedd Beaudoin Anemone Beaulier Jeanne Marie Beaumont Robin Becker Jack B. Bedell Lory Bedikian Nicky Beer Paulette Beete Robin Behn Andrea Behrends Josh Bell Sally Bellerose
Contributors and Cover Artists 1995 – 2015 Naomi Benaron Oliver Bendorf Julie Benesh Jenny Benjamin-Smith Jessica Rae Bergamino Rachel Berghash Denise Bergman Heather Brittain Bergstrom Daniel Berkner J.A. Bernstein Ciaran Berry Eleanor Berry Reginald Dwayne Betts Tara Betts MaryEllen Beveridge Tamiko Beyer Sita Bhaskar Mary Biddinger Joelle Biele Brian M. Biggs Annie Binder L. Annette Binder Remica L. Bingham S. Beth Bishop Wendy Bishop Dana Bisignani Michelle Bitting Rebecca Black Ryan Blacketter Lorna Knowles Blake Diann Blakely Elaine Bleakney Lucy Jane Bledsoe Amy Bleser Richard Boada Katherine Bode-Lang Don Bogen Paula Bohince Michelle Boisseau Emma Bolden Dermot Bolger Jody Bolz Andrew Bomback Mawiyah Kai EL-Jamah Bomani Roger Bonair-Agard
Bruce Bond David Bond Barrie Jean Borich Deb Everson Borofka Laure-Anne Bosselaar Marta Boswell Louis E. Bourgeois Angela Bourke Daniel Bourne Ash Bowen Catherine Bowman Lynne Martin Bowman Jennifer Boydston Earl S. Braggs Russell Brakefield Shevaun Brannigan Tara Bray Gay Brewer Mark Jay Brewin, Jr. Emily E. Bright Traci Brimhall Geoffrey Brock Brian Brodeur Ben Brooks Joel Brouwer Lowell Brower Amy Knox Brown Andrea Carter Brown D. Winston Brown Danit Brown Eleanor M. Brown Fleda Brown Gloria Brown Jason Lee Brown Kurt Brown Sass Brown Stacey Lynn Brown Victor Brown Debra Bruce Joseph Bruchac Daniel C. Bryant Andrea Hollander Budy E. Shaskan Bumas Dana Burchfield Derick Burleson Matthew Burns
Ralph Burns Darrell Burton Mary Bush Anthony Butts Christiane Buuck Kathryn Stripling Byer Edward Byrne Mairéad Byrne Nelinia Cabiles Alejandro Cáceres Teresa Cader Lanette Cadle Marcus Cafagña Liam Callanan Lauren Camp Joseph Campana Siobhán Campbell Carlos Cañeque Katie Cappello Nick Carbó Karen Carissimo Erin Carman-Sweeney Stephanie Carpenter Susan Streeter Carpenter Abigail Carroll Linda Casebeer Wiley Cash Deborah Casillas Cyrus Cassells Shannon Castleton C.P. Cavafy Xavier Cavazos Rhonda Lynn Cawthorn Richard Cecil Jung Hae Chae Cara Chamberlain Catherine Champion Myriam J. A. Chancy G.S. Sharat Chandra Jennifer Chang Leonard Chang Leslie Chang Tina Chang Victoria Chang Katie Chaple Sean Chapman
Crab Orchard Review
Contributors and Cover Artists 1995 – 2015 Mario Chard Cortney Lamar Charleston Gītā Chaţţopādhyāy Chen Chen Ting Ting Cheng James E Cherry Richard Chess Susanna Childress Sandy Verónica Chinchilla Michael Chitwood Helen Cho Ashley Chow Khaleda Edib Chowdhury Martha Christina April Christiansen Dora Chu Patty Velásquez Chumil Huan-Hua Chye David Citino George David Clark Tiana Clark Tom Clark Anne Clarkin Adam Clay Harry Clifton Judith Ortiz Cofer Allison Coffelt Garnett Kilberg Cohen Isabel Cole Toni Kay Cole Karlyn Coleman Wanda Coleman Billy Collins Craig Collins Martha Collins Alex Collins-Shotwell Jona Colson Nandi Comer Kathy Conde Geraldine Connolly Gillian Conoley Christina Cook Peter Cooley Nicole Cooley Will Cordeiro
Jennifer C Cornell Katie Cortese Melissa Cossey Elizabeth Costello T. Zachary Cotler Leigh Anne Couch Kevin Coval Donna Lewis Cowan Doug Cox Stacy Gillett Coyle Colleen Coyne Kevin Craft Chauna Craig Anna Marie Craighead Kintis Karen Craigo Stephen Cramer Steven Cramer Timothy Crandle Kelly Cressio-Moeller James Crews Curtis L. Crisler Mary Crow Sarah McCraw Crow Melissa Crowe Ricardo Cortez Cruz Gillian Cummings Deborah Cummins Silvia Curbelo Tricia Currans-Sheehan David Curry Mary Pacifico Curtis Anne-Marie Cusac Sarah Cypher Heidi Czerwiec David Dabydeen Philip Dacey Kyle Dacuyan Jason G. Daley Jim Daniels Traci Dant Smita Das Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach Ruth Ann Daugherty Tracy Daugherty Laura Davenport
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Chad Davidson Amy Elisabeth Davis Carol V. Davis Christopher Davis Jarita Davis Jennifer Davis Mary Ann Davis Mella J. Davis Erica Dawson Adam Day Lori Rader Day Debra Kang Dean John F. Deane Laura Ann Dearing Nehassaiu deGannes Danusha Laméris de Garza Edward J. Delaney Oliver de la Paz Isabel De La Peña Christine Delea Brian Komei Dempster Deborah DeNicola Catherine Zobal Dent Toi Derricotte Jeanine DeRusha Danielle Cadena Deulen Ann DeVilbiss Bianca Diaz Joanne Diaz Natalie Diaz Paul Dickey Katy Didden Sharon Dilworth Alex Dimitrov Viet Dinh Elizabeth Dodd Ana Doina Margaret Dolan David Dominguez Matt Donovan Stacey Donovan Bastien Desfriches Doria Adrian Dorris Matthew Dougherty Sean Thomas Dougherty
Contributors and Cover Artists 1995 – 2015 Mitchell L. H. Douglas Michael Dowdy Qwo-Li Driskill Jill M. Drumm John Drury Jehanne Dubrow Kevin Ducey Michelle M. Ducharme Denise Duhamel Camille Dungy Rebecca Dunham Iris Jamahl Dunkle Rishma Dunlop Lan Duong Melanie Dusseau Kate Dwiggins Stuart Dybek Katherine Dykstra Cornelius Eady Andy Eaton Hope Edelman Bethany Edstrom Gwendolyn Edward Brendan Egan Troy D. Ehlers Quentin Eichbaum Barbara Eidlin Nancy Eimers Susan Elbe Joanna Eleftheriou Eden Elieff Anne Elliott Kelly Norman Ellis Alfred Encarnacion Anita Endrezze Andrea England Elizabeth Enslin Hannah Ensor Kristine S. Ervin Marlon Unas Esguerra Elizabeth Eslami Angie Estes Phebus Etienne Kerry James Evans Renee Evans Kathy Fagan
Sharon Fain Jim Fairhall Tarfia Faizullah Blas Falconer José Luis Falconí Leah Falk Karen Falkenstrom Siobhan Fallon Robin Farabaugh Patricia Fargnoli E. Farrell James T. Farrell Lance Farrell Shawn Fawson Jeff Fearnside Sascha Feinstein Chanda Feldman Beth Ann Fennelly Matt Ferrence Melanie Figg Annie Finch Robert A. Fink Mary E. Fiorenza Susan Firer B.K. Fischer Diane Gilliam Fisher Eileen FitzGerald Mo Fleming Terri Fletcher Cherryl Floyd-Miller Kim Foote Calvin Forbes Sean Frederick Forbes Charles Fort Brett Foster Loren Elise Foster Robert Elliot Fox Ryan Fox Vievee Francis Matthew Gavin Frank Rebecca Morgan Frank Jeffrey Franklin Yolanda J. Franklin Steven Frattali Melissa Frederick Yahya Frederickson
Jason Freeman Judith Freeman Ru S. Freeman Jeff Friedman Nathan W. Friedman Pete Fromm J. Bruce Fuller Mary M.Y. Fung Allison Funk Teresa R. Funke Rachel Furey Joshua Furst Jeannine Hall Gailey Dana Fitz Gale Juan Carlos Galeano Brendan Galvin Eric Gamalinda Sergey Gandlevsky Cristina Garcia Kim Garcia Lisha Adela García Ramón García Richard Garcia Julie Gard Geoffrey Gardner Jessica Garratt Nola Garrett Ana Garza Amina Lolita Gautier Chris Gavaler Cameron K. Gearen Allen Gee Melody S. Gee Abby Geni Jamey Genna Kristen Gentry Jenny George Liz Gerber Hannah Gersen Jamilee Gerzon Paul Gibbons Margaret Gibson Megan Giddings Christopher Gilbert Erika Reich Giles James Gill
Crab Orchard Review
Contributors and Cover Artists 1995 – 2015 Carmen R. Gillespie Mary Jo Firth Gillett Diane Gilliam D. Gilson Nikki Giovanni Elton Glaser Mirri Glasson-Darling Lisa Glatt Kate Gleason J. Eugene Gloria John Glowney Valentina Gnup Gail Goepfert Albert Goldbarth Beckian Fritz Goldberg Lea Goldberg Joyce Goldenstern Yonason Goldson Naama Goldstein Sarah Hannah Goldstein Karen B. Golightly Iris Gomez Joy Gonsalves Kevin A. González Ray González Rigoberto González Heather E. Goodman Katherine Gordon Lindsey Gosma Vince Gotera Rae Gouirand Maggie Graber Michael Graber Andrew Grace Philip Graham Matthew Graham Sarah Estes Graham J.P. Grasser Stephen Gray Carrie Green Heather Green Arielle Greenberg Jeffrey Greene Jeff Greer Linda Gregg Eamon Grennan
Jennifer Gresham G.L. Grey Sarah Grieve Tom Griffen Brett Griffiths Rachel Eliza Griffiths Susan Grimm Kelle Groom Anthony Grooms Scott David Gross Jennifer Grotz James Grove Robert Grunst Susan Gubernat Matt Guenette Bruce Guernsey Teline Guerra Carol Guess Paul Guest Jacqueline Guidry Gemma Guillermo Eric Gunter Kari Gunter-Seymour Sapna Gupta James Gurley Andrei Guruianu Cindy Williams Gutiérrez Lee Gutkind John Guzlowski Debra Gwartney Marilyn Hacker Rachel Hadas Dilara Hafiz Joey Hale Rachel Hall Mark Halliday Therése Halscheid Forrest Hamer Jeffrey Hammond Jennifer Hancock Nathalie Handal Twyla Hansen Julie Hanson Kerry Hardie Jeff Hardin John Hardoby
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James Harms Janice N. Harrington Duriel E. Harris L. Rebecca Harris Peter Harris Rochelle Harris Katie Hartsock Kent Haruf Elizabeth Harvell Yona Harvey Sharon Hashimoto David Hassler James Haug Elizabeth Haukaas Chris Haven Stephen Haven Shayla Hawkins Dolores Hayden Aidan Hayes R.E. Hayes Terrance Hayes Ava Leavell Haymon Douglas Haynes Laura Haynes Elizabeth Hazen Lorraine Healy Seamus Heaney Jocelyn Heath M. Ayodele Heath Erin Hederman Michael Heffernan Rachel Heimowitz Linda Lizut Helstern Donna Hemans G.E. Henderson Ginger Adcock Hendrix Christopher Hennessy Sara Henning Julie Hensley Julie Henson Mimi Herman Daisy Hernández David Hernandez Leticia Hernández-Linares Justin Herrmann Katherine L. Hester
Contributors and Cover Artists 1995 – 2015 Karen Heuler William Heyen Kate Lynn Hibbard Lisa Higgs Sean Hill James Himelsbach Dennis Hinrichsen Edward Hirsch Ho Anh Thai J.D. Ho James Hoch Suzanne Hodsden Cynthia Marie Hoffman Elizabeth S. Hogan Ming Lauren Holden Diane Holland Jason Holland Melissa Holmes Anna Maria Hong Kevin Honold Chloë Honum Jane Hoogestraat Erin Hoover Christopher Hornbacker Sherry Horowitz Caitlin Horrocks Randall Horton Jennifer A. Howard Matthew Howard Stephen S. Howie Adam Houle Kelly Houle Vanessa Hua Jennifer Hubbard Ladee Hubbard Sonya Huber Shelly Hubman Al Hudgins Andrew Hudgins Ann Hudson Amorak Huey Leah Huizar Gerry Hull Maria M. Hummel T.R. Hummer Tom C. Hunley
Ellen Hunnicutt Kathryn Hunt Cynthia Huntington Bethany Schultz Hurst Rochelle Hurt Sandy Huss Jessica Hutson Doris Iarovici Holly Iglesias Luisa A. Igloria Dionne Irving Syed Manzoorul Islam Esteban Ismael Ryan Iwanaga Annemarie Kattan Jacir Elizabeth W. Jackson Gary Jackson Linda Susan Jackson Major Jackson Richard Jackson Gray Jacobik Mark Jacobs Robin Leslie Jacobson Roy Jacobstein Nahal Suzanne Jamir Anton P. Janulis Mark Jarman Honorée Fanonne Jeffers Lesley Jenike Rose Jenkins Melanie Jennings Ha Jin Alana Joblin Antonio Jocson Don Johnson Jacqueline Johnson Jennifer L. Johnson Laura Johnson Luke Johnson Nicole Johnson Sara Eliza Johnson Alice Jones Ann T. Jones Bryan Tso Jones Jeremy B. Jones Patricia Spears Jones
Rodney Jones Tayari Jones Tommy Jonq A. Van Jordan Melanie Jordan Fady Joudah Judy Juanita Kasey Jueds Dean Julius Felix Jung Deb Jurmu Ayesha Kabir Margaret Kahn Adrianne Kalfopoulou Subhashini Kaligotla Suzanne Kamata Kirun Kapur Veronika Kapustina Holly Karapetkova Wayne Karlin Ariana-Sophia Kartsonis Joy Katz Mary Keck Anne Keefe M. Nzadi Keita Chris Kelsey Christopher Kempf Dolores Kendrick Sarah Kennedy Bakhit Kenzheev Vicky Kepple Jesse Lee Kercheval Kathryn Kerr Sharon Kessler Gimbiya Kettering Irmgard Keun Lindsay Key Claire Keyes Vandana Khanna Sung Min Kim Yeungkwan Kim Andrew David King Thomas Kinsella Heather Kirn Terry Kirts Steve Kistulentz
Crab Orchard Review
Contributors and Cover Artists 1995 – 2015 Christine Kitano Peter Kline Jerry Klinkowitz William Kloefkorn Elizabeth Knapp Trevor West Knapp Ruth Ellen Kocher Jee Leong Koh Sandra Kohler Chrissy Kolaya Gary Kolb Yusef Komunyakaa Autumn Konopka Laura Koritz Kateri Kosek Takamura Kōtarō Karen Kovacik Teresa Joy Kramer Mark Kraushaar Leonard Kress Pam Kress-Dunn Amy Kucharik Lynne Kuderko Meredith Kunsa Anna Kushner Aviya Kushner Ilyse Kusnetz Melissa Kwasny Bonnie Wai-Lee Kwong Stephen Lackaye Nimisha Ladva Gerry LaFemina Andrew Lam Laurie Clements Lambeth Jacqueline Jones LaMon Deborah Landau Margarite Landry Rosa Lane Steve Langan Elizabeth Langemak Quraysh Ali Lansana Jeanne Larsen Lance Larsen Katherine Larson Shanie Latham C.T. Lawrence
Richard Lawson Leah Lax Jenna Le Việt Lê Anna Leahy Bethany Tyler Lee Donna J. Gelagotis Lee Ed Bok Lee Gareth Lee Karen An-Hwei Lee Larry Lee Li-Young Lee Soo Young Lee Joseph O. Legaspi Gary Leising Amy Lemmon Teresa Leo Stephanie Lenox Barbara Leon Jeffrey Thomas Leong Brigitte Leschhorn Nan Leslie Shara Lessley Brian Leung Henry W. Leung Michael Levan Julia Leverone Jeffrey Levine Julia B. Levine Lisa Lewis James Liddy Mark Liebenow Taemi Lim Ada Limón Alice Lin Michelle Lin Joan Lindgren Moira Linehan Amy Lingafelter Alissia J.R. Lingaur Enrique Lihn Elline Lipkin Julia Lisella Timothy Liu Sonja Livingston Karen Llagas
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David Lloyd Fern Logan Alexander Long Joel Long Nathan Alling Long Sandy Longhorn Dawn Lonsinger Jeffrey Loo Liliana Loofbourow Lorraine M. López Beth Lordan James Lott Rebecca Loudon Christina Lovin Terry Lucas Bob Lucky Raymond Luczak Susan Ludvigson Peter Ludwin Jennifer Luebbers Daniel Luévano Alexander Lumans David Lunde Susan Luzzaro Cate Lycurgus Charles H. Lynch Rachael Lyon Richard Lyons Catherine Phil MacCarthy Catherine MacDonald Linda Maceri Margaret MacInnis Ginny MacKenzie Margaret Mackinnon Angie Macri Patrick Madden Marjorie Maddox Edna Madera Rick Madigan Michael David Madonick Kelly Magee Al Maginnes Alana Merritt Mahaffey Gregory Mahrer Amit Majmudar Makuchi
Contributors and Cover Artists 1995 – 2015 C.P. Mangel Mike Maniquiz Shahé Mankerian Jeff Mann Linda Mannheim Dawn Manning Terrance Manning Jr. Marjorie Manwaring Sally Wen Mao Michael Marberry Peter Marcus Daiva Markelis Debra Marquart Tim Marsh Christine Marshall Brandi Nicole Martin Diane Kirsten Martin Lee Martin Lisa Maria Martin Melanie Martin Betsy Mitchell Martinez Chloe Martinez Dionisio D. Martínez J. Michael Martinez Yvonne Martinez Michael Martone David Mason Frank Matagrano Adrian Matejka Khaled Mattawa Derick Mattern Christopher Matthews William Matthews Sharon May Wendell Mayo Cris Mazza Janet McAdams Melanie McCabe Nancy McCabe Shara McCallum Holloway McCandless Shaun McCarthy Rebecca McClanahan Marty McConnell Caridad McCormick Laura McCullough
Jeffrey McDaniel Tara McDaniel Terry Mc Donagh mariana mcdonald Judy Smith McDonough Colleen J. McElroy Andrew McFadyen Ketchum Ron McFarland Evan McGarvey Caitlin McGill Karyna McGlynn Thomas McGonigle Cate McGowan Campbell McGrath Michael McGregor Shannon Marquez McGuire Ashley Anna McHugh Heather McHugh James McKean Kevin McKelvey Maria McLeod Lynne McMahon Janet McNally John McNally Claire McQuerry Gwyn McVay Kat Meads Michael Mee Anna Meek Martha George Meek Carolyn Megan Nishta J. Mehra Rachel Meier Erika Meitner Lydia Melvin Orlando Ricardo Menes Amy Merrick Carrie Messenger Philip Metres Elisabeth Meyer Kimberly Meyer Michael Meyerhofer Joseph Millar Áine Miller
Amy Miller E. Ethelbert Miller Heather Ross Miller James Thomas Miller J.M. Miller Leslie Adrienne Miller Linda Downing Miller Sid Miller Claire Millikin Tyler Mills John Minczeski Norman Minnick Edward Minus Aria Minu-Sepehr Christina Misite Gabriela Mistral Ian Mitchell J. Jason Mitchell Anna Mitcov Sonya Chung Miyamura Rajiv Mohabir Faisal Mohyuddin Eduardo Moncada Derek Mong Keith Montesano Missy-Marie Montgomery Sarah Fawn Montgomery Ingrid Browning Moody Jonathan Moody David Moolten Carolyn Moore Lenard D. Moore Kristi Moos Dionisia Morales Juan J. Morales Michele Morano Nancy Morejón Deborah Moreno Beth Morgan John Morgan Kyoko Mori Melissa Morphew Donald Morrill Corey Morris Ian Morris
Crab Orchard Review
Contributors and Cover Artists 1995 – 2015 Lena Mörsch Josh Morse Karissa Morton Mihaela Moscaliuc John Moss Thylias Moss Travis Mossotti Marc Moxon Erika Mueller Simone Muench Steve Mueske Vijayā Mukhopādhyāy Mari Muki Maureen Mulhern Rick Mulkey David Mura Danika Paige Myers Jed Myers Mary Lee Myers Melissa Mylchreest Kristin Naca Mariko Nagai Arlene Naganawa Adela Najarro Sarah Nance Paula Nangle Nick Narbutas Taslima Nasrin Marie Nasta Jen Neely E.A. Neeves Jessica Hendry Nelson Marilyn Nelson Susan Neville Jacob Newberry Jeff Newberry Richard Newman Lee Newton Aimee Nezhukumatathil Nguyen Quang Thieu Thu Anh Nguyen Titi Nguyen Greg Nicholl Alejandro Nicotra Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill Leah Nielsen
James Nolan Miho Nonaka Lalita Noronha Hannah Faith Notess William Notter Michael Nye Debra Nystrom Andrea O’Brien Dan O’Brien Gina Ochsner Mary O’Donnell Dennis O’Driscoll Thomas O’Grady Soo Jin Oh Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo Terry Olsen William Olsen Sharon Olson Matthew Olzmann Thomas O’Malley Regina O’Melveny January Gill O’Neil Ife-Chudeni A. Oputa Lisa Ortiz Micheal O’Siadhail James P. Othmer Derek Otsuji Katrina Otuonye Frank Paino Tanja Pajevic Marissa Palmer Sarah Pape Tanya Paperny Deborah Paredez Mary Elizabeth Parker Cynthia Parker-Ohene Aimee Parkison Chad Parmenter Sara Parrell Anne Leigh Parrish Tim Parrish Dustin Parsons Elizabeth Parsons Brice Particelli Elise Paschen JoLee G. Passerini
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Krishna Pattisapu Laura Paul Ricardo Pau-Llosa Ed Pavlić R.A. Pavoldi Nikól Payen Gloria Paz Edith Pearlman Candace Pearson Nancy K. Pearson Memory Blake Peebles Alison Pelegrin Jennifer Pemberton Sara Pennington Benjamin Percy Lisa Percy Brenda Leticia Juárez Pérez Emily Pérez Emmy Pérez Fernando Pérez Mike Perez Lucia Perillo Jennifer Perrine John Peters Melissa Peters Richard Peterson Julia M. Petitfrere Stephen Pett Audrey Petty Chris Pexa Kevin Phan Geoffrey Philp Carl Phillips Julia Phillips Marilene Phipps Patty Dickson Pieczka Catherine Pierce Sam Pierstorff Leslie Pietrzyk Sasha Pimentel Mary Pinard Jon Pineda Lee Felice Pinkas Sara Pipher Jo Pitkin Matthew Pitt
Contributors and Cover Artists 1995 – 2015 Caroline Pittman Jessica Plante Beth Woodcome Platow Donald Platt Delia M. Poey Elizabeth Poliner Laura Polley Iain Haley Pollock Katherine Poltorak Pamela Porter Susan Azar Porterﬁeld Christine Potter Lynne Potts Michele Poulos Vanesha Pravin Brenda Sparks Prescott Rohan Preston Christina Pugh Mike Puican Mary Quade M. Lynx Qualey Jill Sisson Quinn Leroy V. Quintana Lawrence Raab Zara Raab Emily Raabe Stanley Radhuber Colin Rafferty Jennifer Rahim Joanna Smith Rakoff Anand Ranthidevan Wendy Rawlings Sunīl B. Rāy Midge Raymond Sally Read Nancy Reddy Elizabeth Rees Cynthia Reeves Tony Reevy Bushra Rehman Meredith Reiches Nicole Louise Reid Thomas Reiter Paisley Rekdal Kristen Staby Rembold Mae Remme
Otto Rene Shelley Renee-Ruiz José Edmundo Ocampo Reyes Charles Reynard Christine Rhein Kathryn Rhett Jonathan Rice Susan Rich Brad Richard Rachel Richardson Jennifer Richter Jack Ridl Katherine Riegel Kristel Rietesel-Low Dwaine Rieves Suzanne Rindell Jenna Rindo Shana Ritter Sara Quinn Rivara Roxana Rivera Joshua Rivkin Natalie Bryant Rizzieri Carrie Lea Robb Liz Robbins Helen Robertson Kristin Robertson Lee Robinson Susan Robison Juan Manuel Roca Juliet Rodeman Paulette Roeske Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers Pattiann Rogers Lauren Rooker Kathleen Rooney Bill Roorbach Lee Ann Roripaugh Patrick Rosal Terez Rose Natania Rosenfeld J. Allyn Rosser Clare Rossini Suzanne Roszak Cynthia Roth Wesley Rothman
Susanna Roxman Lucinda Roy Sankar Roy Brent Royster Jeffrey Rubin Mark Rubin Mark Rudman Linwood Rumney Joy Russell Kate Russell Gianna Russo Peter Rutkoff Vern Rutsala Amanda Rutstein Angela Rydell Jaime Sabines Diana Sabot Ira Sadoff Zohra Saed Lise Saffran B.A. St. Andrews Sheryl St. Germain Leslie St. John Marjorie Saiser Natasha Sajé Mike Salisbury Metta Sáma Nicholas Samaras Aaron Samuels Erika L. Sánchez Jorge Sánchez Sheila Sanderson A. Sandosharaj Anne Sanow Rikki Santer Kaitano Sarah Colette Sartor Catherine Sasanov Jane Satterﬁeld Jeannine Savard Seth Sawyers Mandy Sayer Maxine Scates Natalie Scenters-Zapico Alexis Schaitkin Michael Schiavone
Crab Orchard Review
Contributors and Cover Artists 1995 – 2015 Margot Schilpp Geoff Schmidt Nicola Schmidt Peter Schmitt Meg Schoerke E.M. Schorb Steven Schreiner Steven D. Schroeder Greta Schuler Dana Schwartz Jason Daniel Schwartz Ruth L. Schwartz Steven Schwartz Greg Schwipps Andrea Scott Brittney Scott Cecilie Scott Mark Scott Rion Amilcar Scott J.D. Scrimgeour Maureen Seaton Shane Seely Tim Seibles Rebecca Seiferle Jan Selving Paula Sergi Sean Serrell Patty Seyburn Lisa Sewell Amar Gaurav Shah Purvi Shah Angela Shannon Alex Shapiro Aisha Sharif Kavita Sharma Andrea Shaw Anne Shaw Reneé H. Shea Timothy Shea Deema K. Shehabi Denise Shekerjian Neil Shepard Reginald Shepherd Cherene Sherrard Michael Shewmaker Leslie Shiel
Nancy Shih-Knodel Carrie Shipers Margaret Shipley Evie Shockley Betsy Sholl Enid Shomer Deborah J. Shore Kim Gek Lin Short Peggy Shumaker David Shumate Paula Redes Sidore Martha Silano Robin Silbergleid Amanda Silberling Barry Silesky Anya Krugovoy Silver M.E. Silverman Taije Silverman Diane Simmons Beth Simon John Oliver Simon Maurya Simon Brian Simoneau Chad Simpson Natasha Singh Kabita Sinha Susan Sink Sacha Siskonen Jay Sizemore Alberta Skaggs Jason Skipper Louie Skipper Floyd Skloot Karen Skolfield John Slater Lauren Goodwin Slaughter Ellen Slezak Andrea Witzke Slot Arthur Smith Erin Elizabeth Smith Genaro Kỳ Lý Smith J.D. Smith Jonathan C. Smith Maggie Smith Patricia Smith R.T. Smith
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Theresa D. Smith Sally Smits Bill Smoot Kirby Anne Snell Bruce Snider Monica Sok Adam Sol Alan Soldofsky Sharon Solwitz Indigo Som Susan B.A. Somers Willett Jason Sommer Cathy Song Richard Sonnenmoser Dana Sonnenschein Gary Soto Lilvia Soto Renee Soto Cassie Sparkman Annette Spaulding-Convy Diana Spechler Carol Spindel Leslie Stainton Jodee Stanley Maura Stanton Maureen Stanton David Starkey Rebecca Starks Vanessa Stauffer Celisa Steele Whitney Steen Liz Stefaniak Kevin Stein Melissa Stein Mary Stepp Susan Sterling Christine Stewart-Nuñez Alison Stine Nick Stokes Myrna Stone Blanca Strepponi JeFF Stumpo Crystal Stuvland Adrienne Su Wanling Su
Contributors and Cover Artists 1995 – 2015 Virgil Suárez Ira Sukrungruang Mecca Jamilah Sullivan Matt Sumpter Pireeni Sundaralingam Jules Supervielle Jennifer K. Sweeney Kate Sweeney Shannon Sweetnam Wally Swist Patrick Sylvain Margaret C. Szumowski Eileen Tabios Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie Sara Talpos Kenny Tanemura Ron Tanner Caroline Tanski James Tate Adam Tavel Betsy Taylor Brent Taylor Judith Taylor Lois Taylor Sam Taylor Alexandra Teague Brian Teare Emily Gray Tedrowe Ryan Teitman Susan Tekulve Jorge Tellier Naomi Telushkin Molly Tenenbaum Christian Teresi Elaine Terranova Richard Terrill Maria Terrone Daniel Nathan Terry Doua Thao Casey Thayer D.J. Thielke Amber Flora Thomas Susan Thomas Jean Thompson Jeanie Thompson
Lynne Thompson Matthew Thorburn Samantha Thornhill Judith Thurley Bradford Tice Brian Tierney Elizabeth Solares Tinuar Daniel Tobin J.C. Todd Pappi Tomas Jennifer Tonge Rafael Torch Angela Narciso Torres J.L. Torres Sevé Torres Jen Town Qiana Towns Alison Townsend Ann Townsend D.H. Tracy Barbara Tran Eric Tran Abby Travis Natasha Trethewey Tony Trigilio William Trowbridge Allison Backous Troy Lori Tsang Beverly Tsao Jennifer Tseng Sandy Tseng Seth Brady Tucker Brian Turner Emily Tuszynska Chase Twichell Will Tyler Leslie Ullman Spring Ulmer Alison Umminger Rachel Unkefer Amy Uyematsu Ivón Gordon Vailakis Antonio Vallone Ryan G. Van Cleave Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon Alexandra van de Kamp
Mary Van Denend Emily Van Kley Mark Vannier Susan Varnot Kevin Vaughn Reetika Vazirani Martha Modena Vertreace Jeannine Dorian Vesser Natalie Vestin Marianne Villanueva R.A. Villanueva Heather Villars Paulina Vinderman Latha Viswanathan Benjamin Vogt Judith Vollmer Elizabeth Volpe Fred Von Drasek Elizabeth Klise von Zerneck Ocean Vuong Avni Vyas Sophie Wadsworth Chelsea Wagenaar Mark Wagenaar Mary Michael Wagner Gemini Wahhaj Gale Renée Walden Davi Walders Frank X Walker Nicole Walker Eamonn Wall John Wallace Ronald Wallace Bryan Walpert Joanna Lin Want Israel Wasserstein José Watanabe Chris Waters Mary Yukari Waters Maureen Waters Michael Waters Kenneth Watson Jonathan Watson Miles Garett Watson Carole Boston Weatherford Gordon Weaver
Crab Orchard Review
Contributors and Cover Artists 1995 â€“ 2015 Charles Harper Webb J.E. Wei Shao Wei J. Weintraub Stefi Weisburd Braden Welborn Anna Rose Welch Tana Jean Welch Renee Wells Gabriel Welsch Patricia Jabbeh Wesley Timothy Westmoreland Daniel Westover Elizabeth Wetmore Joe Wilkins Cori A. Winrock Tony Whedon Lesley Wheeler Shanna Powlus Wheeler Cate Whetzel Kelly Whiddon Katharine Whitcomb Cheryl Whitehead Gary J. Whitehead Vagner Whitehead Carolyn Beard Whitlow Chris Wiberg Marcus Wicker Ginny Wiehardt Dara Wier Regina Wilkins Crystal Williams Eran Williams Erika Williams Jenni Williams Johnathon Williams Lisa Williams Lynna Williams Phillip B. Williams Waimea Williams Corrie Williamson Greg Williamson Susan R. Williamson John Willson Eleanor Wilner Danny Wilson
L. Lamar Wilson Terence Winch Tina Wiseman S.L. Wisenberg Terri Witek Geoffrey D. Witham David Wojahn Michele Wolf Melora Wolff Cecilia Woloch Terry Wolverton Mimi Wong Nicolette Wong Yim Tan Wong Diana Woodcock Josh Woods Scott Woods William Kelley Woolfitt Russell Working Baron Wormser Lawrence Wray Carolyne Wright William Wright Robert Wrigley Dominika Wrozynski Carson H. Wu Charles Wyatt Lyndane Yang Bro. Yao Lauren Yates Amy Yee Melinda Yeomans Roger Yepsen Trina Kyounghui Yi Jake Adam York Kyoko Yoshida Chryss Yost Kevin Young P. Ivan Young Saadi Youssef Josephine Yu Alia Yunis Lee Zacharias Masha Zager Matt Zambito Javier Zamora
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Karen Zealand Jeanne-Marie Zeck Maya Jewell Zeller Zhang Er Jianqing Zheng Bian Zhilin Kristin Camitta Zimet Laurie Zimmerman Clarisse Zimra Yvonne Zipter Agica Zivaljevic
Crab Orchard Review Volume 20, Number 2, Summer/Fall 2015, The Twentieth Anniversary Issue, "20 Years: Writing About 1995 – 2015"
Published on Sep 1, 2015
Crab Orchard Review Volume 20, Number 2, Summer/Fall 2015, The Twentieth Anniversary Issue, "20 Years: Writing About 1995 – 2015"