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The photographs are of the Cache River State Natural Area, which is situated in southernmost Illinois.

In this volume:

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published by the Department of English

Shawn Proctor Casey Pycior Misha Rai Joan Roberta Ryan Nicholas Samaras Staci R. Schoenfeld Raena Shirali Betsy Sholl Cathe Shubert Eric Smith Mackenzie Evan Smith Maggie Smith Jessamyn Smyth Kate Sontag Emma Sovich Christina Stoddard Hsien Chong Tan Terrell Jamal Terry Jonathan Travelstead Rhett Iseman Trull Susan O’Dell Underwood Francisco Uribe Laurie Perry Vaughen Julie Marie Wade Michael Walsh Cheryl Whitehaed John Willson Avra Wing Shannon K. Winston Nicholas Wong Bro. Yao (Hoke S. Glover III) Melissa Scholes Young

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Volume 21

Ruth Awad Pam Baggett Tina Barr Jocelyn Bartkevicius Jenna Bazzell Susan Nisenbaum Becker Paulette Beete Anuradha Bhowmik Partridge Boswell Jesse Breite Harriet Brown M. Soledad Caballero Emily Capdeville Sarah Carleton Olivia Kate Cerrone Janine Certo Leila Chatti Kelly Cherry Johnson Cheu Su Cho Geraldine Connolly Peter Cooley Maryann Corbett Lisa Fay Coutley Dorsey Craft Clare Cross Chad Davidson Oliver de la Paz Dante Di Stefano Allison Donohue Hannah Dow Anna M. Evans Laurel Fantauzzo

Crab Orchard Review

Cover: Six photographs by Meg Flannery © 2017

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CR AB ORCH AR D •

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A Journal of Creative Works

Vols. 21 Nos. 1 & 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 Erin Bradley Bartosz Dziegielewski Amber Skelton

Assistant Editors Teresa Dzieglewicz Jennifer Egan Chelsey Harris Anna Knowles Josh Myers Meghann Plunkett

SIU Press Interns Chelsey Harris Jerrica Jordan Kirk Schlueter Board of Advisors Ellen Gilchrist Charles Johnson Rodney Jones Thomas Kinsella Richard Russo

2017 ISSN 1083-5571

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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 once a year by the Department of English, Southern Illinois University Carbondale. We are currently transitioning from a print subscriptionbased publication to a online-only free publication. This transition will take place in Fall 2017. Single issues of our last two print editions, both double issues, are $20 (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 is moving to an online-only publication in the Fall of 2017. Crab Orchard Review accepts no responsibility for unsolicited submissions and will not enter into correspondence about their loss or delay. Copyright © 2017 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,” 1 June 2017, 2700 copies printed, order number 172091. 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:

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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, Lana Fritsch, 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, and Bernadette Summerville Brittney Winters, Maria Leifheit, and Ashley Mallick Dr. David Anthony, Dr. Elizabeth Klaver, 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.


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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 Eugenie & Roger Robinson Nat Sobel Betty Tribble David & Laura Tribble Clarisse Zimra

Robert E. Hayes Chris Kelsey Jesse Lee Kercheval Lisa J. McClure Anita Peterson

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


The editors and staff of Crab Orchard Review dedicate this double issue, Volume 21, Numbers 1 & 2, to the memory of a two very special writers, teachers, former colleagues, and friends who enriched our lives and who made tremendous contributions to American letters through their work:

In Memoriam

Kent Haruf (February 24, 1943 – November 30, 2014)

Lucia Perillo (September 30, 1958 – October 16, 2016)


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General issue

Volume 21, Number 1

Fiction 1

Olivia Kate Cerrone Emily Flamm

A Member of the Tribe Lorem Ipsum

11

Amina Gautier

Hunger Memory

21

Bernard Grant

Hoodlum

32

Shawn Proctor

Sugar

41

Casey Pycior

Preservation

50

Misha Rai

Food I Did Not Eat

58

Hsien Chong Tan

Three Wolves

60

Nonfiction Prose Jocelyn Bartkevicius

Mother Tongue

75

Marian Haddad

Through the Lens

91

Christine Kitano

A Story with No Moral

100

Lynne Maker Kuechle

Spectral Lines

102

Julie Marie Wade

Meditation 35

117


Bro. Yao (Hoke S. Glover III)

Hospital for the Negro Insane

129

Melissa Scholes Young

Cracks

137

Poetry Ruth Awad

Homegrown

22

Jenna Bazzell

An Elegy of Some Sort

23

Paulette Beete M. Soledad Caballero Leila Chatti

At the River Ouse

28

Immigration Office, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 1985

29

Perennial

31

Kelly Cherry

Eclipse

43

Su Cho

After the Burial, the Dead Take Everything That Burns

44

Lisa Fay Coutley

Back-Talk II Astronaut at the Window

45 46

Oliver de la Paz

Labyrinth 12

47

Courtney Flerlage Jessica Franck Ruth Goring

William Watson’s The Electrical Boy, 1748

48

Mother, Hunting

49

That night

62

Rachel Heimowitz

Searching for Our Stolen Sons

63

David Tomas Martinez T. J. McLemore Alyssa Ogi

Allegedly Hemingway Wrote Drunk

66

The Bees, or Bringing Back Eurydice

67

Reparations

73


Jennifer Perrine

The Gauntlet

93

Raena Shirali Eric Smith

Kopili, 8:30am

95

Orpheus

96

Maggie Smith

Planetarium in January

97

Christina Stoddard

Drowning in White

98

Terrell Jamal Terry

City

99

Joanathan Travelstead

How We Bury Our Dead

108

Rhett Iseman Trull

Lullaby and Goodnight

110

Laurie Perry Vaughen

Radio Repair

113

Cheryl Whitehead

Climbing Jacob’s Ladder

115

Shannon K. Winston

Remnants

116

Contributors’ Notes

326

A Note on Our Cover This cover features six photographs by Meg Flannery. The photographs are of the Cache River State Natural Area, which is situated in southernmost Illinois.


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Special Issue

Volume 21, Number 2

Fiction Emily Capdeville Jacqueline Jones LaMon

An Act of Consolation

153

Bergamot

162

Matthew Pitt

Genesis Sweet

187

Cathe Shubert

Following the Moss

199

Mackenzie Evan Smith

My Morning, Your Night

222

Francisco Uribe

Villa Paraíso

230

Nonfiction Prose Harriet Brown

The Shadow Daughter

253

Laurel Fantauzzo

Baptism

260

Lisa Knopp

Worse Than Abandonment

287

Bonnie J. Morris

A Sixties Man

298

Poetry Pam Baggett

What Passes Through This World Sounds Like Crying

140

Tina Barr

Playing Possum

142


Susan Nisenbaum Becker West Bank Wall Paulette Beete Self-portrait as Baryshnikov’s Lover Anuradha Bhowmik Mondays with Baba

144

Partridge Boswell

Playing Dead

149

Jesse Breite

Crazy Mary and the Sharecropper’s Son

151

Sarah Carleton

Internet Search for a Chidhood Friend

152

Janine Certo

Loving Them for the Awe of It

174

Johnson Cheu

The Tracking Stare

176

Geraldine Connolly Peter Cooley Maryann Corbett

Fable of the Good Daughter

177

Some Call It Childhood

178

Haircut, with a Vision of My Father’s Ashes

180

Dorsey Craft Clare Cross Chad Davidson

A Woman Who Looks Like My Grandmother

182

Boys Behind Me in Line

183

Blurb

185

Dante Di Stefano

Einstein’s Sparrow

209

Allison Donohue Hannah Dow

My Date with a Woodcutter

211

Not My Day

212

Anna M. Evans

The Curse of the Fifth

214

William Fargason

For My Father

216

Mary Jo Firth Gillett

The Dying Mother

218

Sierra Golden

Divorce

219

146 147


Ashley Mace Havird

Late for Reading, 1959 Fifty

220 221

Jessica Jacobs

Family Almanac

238

Raina Joines

Nureyev and Fonteyn

242

Annie Kim

Heart Murmur Triptych

243

Angie Macri

Wishbone Road

246

Katherine Markey

Photograph of Your Parents, an Origin Story

247

Tim McBride

Cassette: Plath/Hughes

249

Leslie Adrienne Miller

The Attorney

250

Emily Mohn-Slate

Up the Road, Women in Dark Dresses

252

Clare Paniccia

It Became Evident in the Taking

273

Christy Passion

Crabbing at the Old Train Tracks

275

Ricardo Pau-Llosa

Palm Sunday

279

Joan Roberta Ryan

Close Kept

280

Nicholas Samaras

Mentor

281

Staci R. Schoenfeld

Hialeah Apocalypse

283

Betsy Sholl

Starlings

284

Cathe Shubert

What Abigail Adams Didn’t Write Back

286

Jessamyn Smyth

Pinks

313

Kate Sontag

Likenesses

314

Emma Sovich

Pygmalion Family Portrait

316


Susan O’Dell Underwood

God as Our Oma, Burned to Death in a House Fire

317

Michael Walsh

To the Boys Who Teach Themselves to Use Their Mothers’ Makeup on Bruises

319

John Willson

Mother’s Day at Ninety-three

320

Avra Wing

Ghosts: China “Homeland” Trip, 2007

322

Nicholas Wong

X-Rays: A Diagnosis, or Parable

324

Contributors’ Notes

326


The 2016 Richard Peterson Poetry Prize, Jack Dyer Fiction Prize, and John Guyon Literary Nonfiction Prize We are pleased to announce the winners and finalists for the 2016 Richard Peterson Poetry Prize, Jack Dyer Fiction Prize, and John Guyon Literary Nonfiction Prize. In poetry, the winning entry is “The Bees, or Bringing Back Eurydice” by T.J. McLemore of Tyler, Texas. The judge, Allison Joseph, selected two finalists in poetry, and they are “An Elegy of Some Sort” by Jenna Bazzell of Ponca City, Oklahoma, and “Searching for Our Stolen Sons” by Rachel Heimowitz, who lives in Israel. In fiction, the winning entry is “A Member of the Tribe” by Olivia Kate Cerrone of Peabody, Massachusetts. The judge, Carolyn Alessio, selected two finalists in fiction, and they are “Lorem Ipsum” by Emily Flamm of College Park, Maryland, and “Hoodlum” by Bernard Grant of Olympia, Washington. In literary nonfiction, the winning entry is “Mother Tongue” by Jocelyn Bartkevicius of Winter Park, Florida. The judge, Carolyn Alessio, selected two finalists in literary nonfiction, and they are “Meditation 35” by Julie Marie Wade of Dania Beach, Florida, and “Hospital for the Negro Insane” by Bro. Yao of Glenn Dale, Maryland. All three winners received $2,000.00 and their works are published in this issue. All of the finalists also chose to have their works published in this issue and each received $500.00. Congratulations to the winners and finalists, and thanks to all the entrants for their interest in Crab Orchard Review.


The Winners of the 2015 Richard Peterson Poetry Prize, Jack Dyer Fiction Prize, and John Guyon Literary Nonfiction Prize

2015 Richard Peterson Poetry Prize Winner

“The Bees, or Bringing Back Eurydice” by T.J. McLemore (Tyler, Texas)

2015 Jack Dyer Fiction Prize Winner

“A Member of the Tribe” by Olivia Kate Cerrone (Peabody, Massachusetts)

2015 John Guyon Literary Nonfiction Prize Winner

“Mother Tongue” by Jocelyn Bartkevicius (Winter Park, Florida)


The 2015 COR Student Writing Awards in Poetry, Fiction, and Literary Nonfiction The COR Student Writing Awards in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry honor the exceptional creative work of undergraduate and graduate students who are enrolled at least part-time in a U.S. college or university. Each winner receives $1,000.00 and publication in Crab Orchard Review Alyssa Ogi (University of Oregon) is the winner of the 2015 Allison Joseph Poetry Award for her poem “Reparations.” Casey Pycior (University of Nebraska-Lincoln) is the winner of the 2015 Charles Johnson Fiction Award for his story “Preservation.” Lynne Maker Kuechle (Hamline University) is the winner of the 2015 Rafael Torch Literary Nonfiction Award for her piece “Spectral Lines.” The entries for this year’s COR Student Writing Awards were outstanding and we wanted to mention the other finalists in each category: In poetry— “Ramadan Aubade” by Leila Chatti (North Carolina State University) “Poem in Which You Are Joan of Arc’s Lover” by Emily Rose Cole (Southern Illinois University Carbondale) “Manmade Shelter Beneath a Rupturing Sky” by Aaron Coleman (Washington University in St. Louis) “The Time Dad Killed a Rabid Skunk” by Taylor Collier (Florida State University) “Ant’s Egg as an Antidote to Love” by Trista Edwards (University of North Texas) “Reckoned” by M.E. MacFarland (University of Virginia) In fiction— “Not Worth the Trouble” by Chelsea Catherine (University of Tampa) “Flies and Spiders and Crickets” by James Chrisman (Ohio University) “Brittle” by Megan Giddings (Indiana University Bloomington) “Hoodlum” by Bernard Grant (Pacific Lutheran University) In literary nonfiction— “Cleaning House” by Aracelis Gonzalez Asendorf (University of South Florida) “To Untie, Untangle” by Megan Ellis (University of North Carolina at Wilmington) “Depth Sounding” by Martha Park (Hollins University) “Headwaters” by Ellie Rogers (Western Washington University)


The 2015 COR Student Writing Award Winners

2015 Allison Joseph Award Winner

“Reparations” by Alyssa Ogi University of Oregon (Eugene, Oregon)

2015 Charles Johnson Fiction Award Winner

“Preservation” by Casey Pycior University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Lincoln, Nebraska)

2015 Rafael Torch Literary Nonfiction Award Winner

“Spectral Lines” by Lynne Maker Kuechle Hamline University (White Bear Lake, Minnesota)


The 2016 COR Special Issue Feature Awards in Poetry, Fiction, and Literary Nonfiction We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 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 Dante Di Stefano of Endwell, New York, for his poem “Einstein’s Sparrow.” In fiction, the winner is Matthew Pitt of Fort Worth, Texas, for his story “Genesis Sweet.” And in literary nonfiction, the winner is Laurel Fantauzzo of Thousand Oaks, California, for her nonfiction piece “Baptism.” 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 special topic of the Summer/Fall 2015 double issue, “Family, Enemies, Friends: The Relationships Issue.” We looked for work that covered any of the multitude of ways that our relationships shape us, whether they are positive or negative, nurturing or adversarial. Family, enemies, or friends—we wanted to see work about people interacting with the people in their lives.


The Winners of the 2016 COR Special Issue Feature Awards in Poetry, Fiction, and Literary Nonfiction

2016 Special Issue Feature Award Winner in Poetry

“Einstein’s Sparrow” by Dante Di Stefano (Endwell, New York)

2016 Special Issue Feature Award Winner in Fiction

“Genesis Sweet” by Matthew Pitt (Fort Worth, Texas)

2016 Special Issue Feature Award Winner in Literary Nonfiction

“Baptism” by Laurel Fantauzzo (Thousand Oaks, California)


Olivia Kate Cerrone A Member of the Tribe for Jennifer

Ifede massaged the aloe vera cream into her scars and trembled at the warm scent from the kitchen. Thin porous walls divided the small rooms of the Bella Vita Refugee Center, emitting a faint trace of cooked oil. The Somali women enjoyed torturing her. They were making fufu, the kind her mother used to prepare from cassava leaves and yams. Ifede closed the cream jar and rubbed her fingertips against a groove of coarse skin along her thigh. Burn scars marked the length of her body, forming a jagged island beneath her left shoulder. They tingled in the dense Sicilian heat. It was thick and oppressive, so much like Africa that if Ifede closed her eyes for a quiet moment, she could pretend that she was home in Nigeria with her parents. She’d sat beside them when the church exploded. Where had they gone, past that tangle of debris and limbs? Lucia cooed from where she napped beside her on the bed. A hive of little white bumps stood out against her skin like tiny encrusted pearls. Ifede gathered her daughter close and examined the rash along her neck. Perhaps Magdalena had returned from the pharmacy with the new medication. She rose and went down the hall of bedrooms, each sparse of possessions or furniture outside of a narrow cot. Drawers, chairs and sofas were deemed unnecessary. The staff didn’t want the women to get too comfortable. Ifede paused when she reached the kitchen. Jamiila stood alone by the stove, draped in her long black scarves. Why didn’t she wear more colorful skirts and hijabs like the other Somali women? She was quiet and severe, the one who made Ifede the most nervous. “Do you know if Magdalena came back yet?” she said in a slow, halting Italian. The staff demanded that everyone speak the language at the Center. Jamiila shrugged without giving her the slightest glance. Ifede bristled at this. In the few months she’d spent at the Center in Sicily, the other women refused to befriend her, the lone Nigerian. Perhaps her scars frightened them. They stared at the faded white streaks along her arms and legs, but never asked about the church bombing or Boko Haram. A tense, unspoken segregation existed between them, these refugees from Eritrea or Somalia. Such behavior frustrated Ifede. She studied Jamiila’s tall, lithe form, and felt her insides pinch with resentment. The Eritrean women were always out in downtown Siracusa, dressed up in their tight Western clothes. It was the Somali women who dominated the kitchen, boiling pots of sweet mint tea or frying up sabaayad flatbread and green lentil curry. Later they’d sit outside on the wide balcony that encircled the Center, laughing together in their special tongue and humming Crab Orchard Review

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Olivia Kate Cerrone songs. They shared big, steaming platters of food—everyone gathering bits of meat and vegetables with their fingers. There lived an intimacy in such a meal. Often, Ifede cooked and ate alone with Lucia inside their room. She longed instead to sit among the other women and eat from the same dish, even if the Sicilian staff at the Center found them sporche. Dirty. “Why must you eat like monkeys?” they said, smirking. The women ignored them. Ifede adjusted Lucia against her waist and edged closer to Jamiila, who stirred together a white porridge-like substance in a large saucepan. “You’re making fufu?” Ifede said. Jamiila shook her head. “Soor,” she said. Grits. Softer than fufu, more like cornmeal or the Italians’ polenta. She thought of describing how her mother cooked it—standing in her big yellow wrap skirt and head-tie, her deep, honeyed laughter filling up the old family house—but Lucia began to fuss and soon bawled into Ifede’s tank top. Jamiila sighed, her shoulders tensed. “Why do you let her cry on and on like that?” she asked. “She’s sick,” Ifede said, and bounced Lucia against her hip to soothe her. Jamiila shook her head and turned her attention to a large mixing bowl. She began kneading balls of dough. Ifede hovered close, massaging her daughter’s back. Perhaps Jamiila was also a mother. Many had left families behind in Africa. It was easy to judge when Lucia was the only child at the Center. The baby soon quieted. Jamiila rolled out the dough between her hands to form discs and fried each with olive oil atop a wide griddle. “You should really use some paper towels to soak up some of that oil. You’re using too much,” Ifede said. Jamiila scraped a spatula across the pan, turning the flatbread over. “They won’t come out as crisp,” Ifede said. It angered her that Jamiila should use so much oil, as if it didn’t need to be shared. “They’re fine,” Jamiila said. Ifede went to the pantry. The Center kept the kitchen well stocked with packages of flour and salt, unending pasta boxes and cans of jellied beef that Ifede found disgusting. But the olive oil always ran low. Ifede took some paper napkins and approached Jamiila, startling her. She whacked Ifede’s arm with the metal spatula, hot with oil. Ifede clutched Lucia hard and stumbled back, screaming. She raced from the room, almost tripping down the wide marble steps for the exit. Lucia’s stroller stood near the door. A group of African and Indian merchants waited beside Ifede at the bus stop. Tall palm trees and pink bougainvillea flowers lined the street. The sidewalk vendors shouldered pop-up tables and plastic bags full of jewelry and trinkets. They were headed for Ortygia, Siracusa’s tourist district, to model cheap bracelets on their arms and display colorful blankets from

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Olivia Kate Cerrone Senegal or small wooden carvings of motorcycles and elephants. “Vu Cumpra? Vu Cumpra?” they chanted in Italian. You buy? You buy? Ifede ignored them. African merchants always attracted the carabinieri, who were quick to make an arrest or humiliate them in public. Marocchini, the Sicilians called them. Moroccans. Ifede herself had been called a Marocchina. It was the catch-all phrase for anyone black. She fingered the raw spots along her shoulder where Jamiila had hit her. Ifede withdrew the phone that had been a gift from Magdalena and texted Rafik for help. He was a Tunisian she’d met not long after arriving in Sicily almost a year ago. Everyone knew Rafik. He was famous among refugees, the go-to man who could set you up with a place to stay or even a job, if you were willing to work outside of the law. It took five years before one could apply for a work visa in Italy. The small monthly government allowance the women received at the Center was not enough for rent. A few of the Eritreans had found jobs through him, assisting market vendors. Perhaps Rafik could help Ifede find a new home. She’d told him that anything would do. An Ortygia-bound bus pulled up along the curb. Its doors remained shut. Ifede tensed. Drivers were known to refuse migrants, especially if too many waited together at a stop. A short, balding man slid out from beneath the wide steering wheel and walked the length of the bus, opening windows. Only then did he allow them aboard. The vendors let Ifede on first with her stroller. She went to an empty seat at the back. Sometimes the bus drivers didn’t check tickets and today was a lucky day. The Sicilian passengers turned their faces away from the newcomers, covering their noses. Dio mio, they muttered. What a stink. It was always this way, even though she bathed daily and used a jasmine-scented deodorant. Lucia whined low in her throat. Ifede lifted her from the carriage. Her diaper was clean. There was no trace of oil burns on her skin. The whitestudded rash appeared the same. Ifede kissed the unmarked portions of her daughter’s face and neck. She held her close and trembled. “File bee,” her mother would say. Let it go. Jamiila’s behavior shouldn’t upset her as it did. Fights broke out all the time at the Center. It was a way to relieve the boredom—the long, stagnant days that circled around laundry, cooking and eating. Entire afternoons could be slept away without raising concern. Outside of Magdalena, the staff remained indifferent. Requesting a doctor’s appointment or a trip to the pharmacy for medication made the administrators cruel. Then they’d slam doors and scream at you to wait your turn like everyone else. Always more red tape, delays, excuses. One of them had tried to dismiss Lucia’s rash as mosquito bites, but Ifede knew better. It was better to avoid asking them for anything at all. Vespas weaved in and out of traffic. A little boy clung to the back of a driver as it cut in front of the bus. Ifede cringed. In Ortygia, she walked the short distance to the aquarium. Rafik agreed to meet her there. Sometimes, when Ifede could spare two Euros

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Olivia Kate Cerrone for a ticket, she’d come here on her walks alone with her daughter. It was the perfect retreat from the Center—quiet and dimly lit, seldom busy with tourists. Lucia had fallen asleep. Each air-conditioned room housed an assortment of tanks and Ifede lingered over each one, absorbing the perfect grace and beauty of a leopard-spotted eel slinking through hairy algae, or a Flower Horn’s tangerine-pink scales, woven through with turquoise. But the piranhas captivated her the most. Black and gray, they were the ugliest fish in the collection with small, yellow eyes and a parted sneer for a mouth. Crowded rows of pointed teeth caught the soft aquarium light. They watched her. She felt drawn to their intrusive gaze. Ifede traced her hand along the cool glass and soon one followed, trailing her fingertips. Water gurgled through the filtered tanks, mimicking the pipes behind her bedroom walls at the Center. At night when she shut off the lights in the small windowless space, it seemed as though the whole world had gone underwater. Once more she was back on the boat, pregnant and delirious with nausea. Seawater contaminated the drinking supply. Nothing could stop the constant sideways motion of the boat. Everyone pressed together close—they’d fit several hundred refugees on that little fishing trawler. Vomit coated her throat. But they were no longer in Africa. Her uncle had paid the traffickers to fly her out of Nigeria, and later for a boat leaving Tripoli. Two years she spent in Libya, working off the debt in a sweatshop before they arrested her. Men, three at a time, took her inside of the prison, while other women and children watched. Always a ransom. She’d wanted to stay in her village of Wusasa, continue searching for her parents. No hospital or morgue could reveal where they’d ended up. Still, her uncle thought she’d be safer in Italy, away from Boko Haram. Her phone buzzed. Rafik waited outside. She found him by the Fonte Aretusa, overlooking the seafront. Swans and ducks encircled the fountain; tall papyrus leaves shaded the green-tinged statue of a maiden swimming for her life from the outstretched claws of a water god. Rafik spoke into his cell, a loud and hurried Arabic streaming from his lips. Tight, wet ringlets stood up from his head—he appeared in a constant state of perspiration. When he saw Ifede, he ended the call and a knowing smile darkened his features. “Ciao, ragazza, you ready to do some business?” he said and slapped her a high five, which Ifede found awkward. She resented being called a girl. Still, she gave him a willing smile. “You mean about the new place? Lucia and I—” Rafik waved her off with impatience. “Yes, of course. I’ve already got something lined up. But there’s someone you need to meet first.” “About an apartment?” “No, ragazza. An opportunity. A chance to make some real money.

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Olivia Kate Cerrone Unless you’ve already got something else going on?” He snorted at her, unconvinced. She followed Rafik through the labyrinthine, medieval streets—her curiosity tempered by desperation. He walked fast, always a step or two ahead of the stroller, and described his latest business venture—a luxury villa in the countryside loaned out to him for the exclusive purposes of converting it into a compound for refugees to farm their own land. They’d even partner with some American university, a study abroad program, and have international students work there for a semester too. Ifede struggled to understand what he was talking about. He rambled on in incoherence, often interrupted by someone they passed, who stopped Rafik to shake his hand with a warm greeting. More than one slipped him a few Euro banknotes. Ten years living in Sicily had taught the Tunisian well—he’d absorbed enough smooth-talking hustle to creep his way up through society’s bowels. In Nigeria, they’d call him an oga, a big shot, even if Ifede knew that he was no more than another slick wayo man, full of trickery and deception. “All we need is the right investor to pull through. Working with these study abroad programs is big money. Everyone wins,” he said. Rafik turned down a side street and stopped before an arched wooden door with a paint-chipped knocker. He withdrew his phone and spoke low, turning his head away. Ifede chilled at the real possibility that he worked with the Mafia. She’d heard rumors that he was well-connected. Lucia awoke with contented babble. Ifede clutched at the stroller handle and debated whether or not to turn back. After a moment, the door buzzed and Rafik pushed it open. Ifede followed him inside to a small kitchen, where a bald, chain-smoking Sicilian sat at the table, typing onto a laptop. Ashtrays, dirty plates, plastic cups and cans of that dreaded jellied beef littered the countertops. A stack of merito cards rested beside him, the kind sold at the Internet Cafes to access a private computer for chunks of time. They were coveted among refugees desperate to Skype with family—the Center had no WiFi. “Ciao, Maurizio,” Rafik said, leaning in close to kiss the old man’s cheeks. “Ciao, Rafi,” he said, looking Ifede over. “Is this one from the Center?” “Yeah. She’s looking for a new home too,” Rafik said. Maurizio eyed Lucia, his smile diminishing. He had handsome, severe features, weathered by age. When he spoke, she saw that one of his front teeth was gone. “Are you willing to work?” he said to Ifede. His breath carried a trace of rot. “Doing what?” she said, and imagined the prostitutes that frequented near the Center. “I’m sure Rafi told you all about that new property we’re developing. Right now we have several dozen men and women working the land. They stay with us and we give them everything they need.” Marizio stabbed out his cigarette and lit another.

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Olivia Kate Cerrone She frowned, uncertain. What did he mean by everything? Lucia began to fuss. Ifede gathered the girl from the stroller and brought her close beneath her chin. “Now we’re still in the process of recruitment. Gathering information. This is where you can help us.” Maurizio placed the stack of merito cards into a small plastic bag, along with several forms and a few pens. “You get along well with the other girls?” “Sure,” Ifede lied. Maurizio smiled in approval. “Ask them if they’re tired of charity. Ask how many would like to live again like free citizens instead of domestic prisoners. We can secure them work visas, travel permits too. You just take down their information and give them one merito card in thanks. Simple, right?” He waited for Ifede to nod. She felt hot with unease. “All we’re trying to do is provide a service. God knows you’re better off in our hands than with the Italian government,” Rafik said. “Return what’s left. We’ll send a car for you tomorrow to take you to your new home,” Maurizio said. He handed Ifede the bag, his blue eyes searching her. It was a gaze she’d seen among the Agbo, the roadside doctors who traveled through Nigeria, selling boiled tinctures of herbs and unmarked bottles of pills—each claiming to cure any ailment, even HIV, TB and cancer. Their eyes trained on weakness. Ifede looked away. “We cool, ragazza? You and me are going to be monsters,” Rafik said when they returned outside. He winked and high-fived her, his palm sticky from the heat. Ifede pushed the stroller through the thickening dusk. She and Lucia passed a public garden lined by the decapitated statues of forgotten noblemen. Having the cards in her possession made her restless—would some polizia believe her if he asked whether they were stolen? How stupid she was to get involved with Rafik. Lucia began to cry again. She was scared or hungry—her relentless needs exhausted Ifede. She wished her own mother were here to tell her what to do or at the very least, take Lucia off of her hands for a few long moments. The scars along her body throbbed. Several abandoned storefronts faced her, their deserted windows still plastered with advertisements for Vodafone calling plans and ice cream bars. Sicilians argued or laughed raucously from the surrounding apartment windows. Ifede strained her eyes for a familiar sight. She had thought there was a bus stop nearby. Somehow, they took a wrong turn. Three women—one pale blonde and two Africans—stood together at a street corner. The prostitutes were out early tonight. One wore thick glittery suspenders over her naked breasts, while another sported a violet dress cut at the tops of her thighs, giving a generous look at her neon thong, bright

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Olivia Kate Cerrone like a traffic sign. They ignored Ifede as she passed, though she couldn’t help but be stalled by their voices. The Africans spoke pidgin. For a moment she considered turning back and speaking with the ashana women, these prostitutes, if only for the comfort of speaking in this shared tongue, Nigeria’s lingua franca. She paused, the whole of her ached with longing. Their voices swelled inside her head, punctured by the occasional burst of laughter. “You don kolo?” one said. Are you a fool? Ifede shrank at the words, though they weren’t meant for her. A city bus pulled up ahead and she raced to catch it. At the Center, she fed and bathed Lucia, and sat with her out on the balcony. It was deserted at night. Ifede ate a blood orange and rubbed cream into her scars. Lucia fell asleep beside her on a thick blanket. Ifede could see her mother in the girl’s pug nose and the feline slant of her eyes. How had her daughter survived so much? She’d taken form within Ifede’s womb, though poisoned by salt water, during that hellish trip across the Mediterranean. Her pregnancy had somehow blossomed despite her intense shame and the starvation diet at the refugee camp in Lampedusa. When Ifede gave birth at the hospital in Siracusa, she named her daughter after the city’s saint, Lucia—patron of the blind, an emblem of justice. Ifede found her phone in the dark and clicked through the old photos her uncle had sent of their family, including a few small jpegs of her parents. Gazing at the pictures had become an obsessive habit, especially when she couldn’t sleep, which was most nights. She murmured prayers, gazing hard at their smiling images—father in his tinted glasses stood close beside mother in her yellow head wrap. Every few days, she’d visit an internet café and post missing persons ads of her parents in Facebook groups and Nigerian message boards. Perhaps they’d ended up in a refugee camp somewhere or had relocated to another part of Nigeria. Her uncle had given up the search. Her other family members were scattered or dead. The Italian officials remained useless. She posted the photos wherever she could online—there the images remained safe should her phone become lost or destroyed. Months before the attack, Boko Haram had ripped through the Kaduna State region in a rash of church bombings. It was only a matter of time before they targeted Wusasa’s small St. Francis parish. Ifede and her family had sat together as old Father Leke recited from Ezra 45:1, “and the way of truth shall be hidden, and the land shall be barren of faith.” Then the crash. A car drove through the front entrance, shaking the foundation of the church. Seconds later, a flash. Ifede could remember nothing other than awaking on her side, pinned beneath the wreckage. Her left eyelid was bruised shut, distorting her vision. She screamed until the aid workers came to dig her out. Slipped in and out of consciousness as they carried her

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Olivia Kate Cerrone outside. Too many people. Blood in her mouth. Where had they taken her parents? Perhaps they never made it past the wreckage. But this much Ifede couldn’t believe. She rested the phone on her belly and stretched out beside Lucia. They’d reunite in Wusasa. Once she made enough money in Italy, she’d come and get them herself. “Have you been out here all night?” Magdalena said. She crouched beside Ifede, rousing her awake. Sunlight caught the edges of the Sicilian’s thick Medusa curls, giving them a blue-black tint. Magdalena held Lucia, who squirmed against her. Ifede stood, hot with embarrassment, and folded together the blanket. “I can’t breathe in that room,” she said. “I know. But it’s the only single we have. Unless you want to share a room with other women,” Magdalena said. Ifede thought of Jamiila and shook her head. Perhaps Magdalena knew about their confrontation. “You missed our appointment yesterday,” she said. “I’m sorry. Were you able to get the cream for Lucia?” “Of course.” Magdalena turned the baby’s face to the side in inspection, her hand tender and slow. She shook her head and sighed. “Come with me to the office.” Ifede took Lucia and followed Magdalena inside to a room on the first floor where the administrators worked. Other refugee women stood outside the door, waiting. “Ladies, just give me a moment alone,” Magdalena said, unlocking her office. They gazed long at Ifede with jealous curiosity. She held Lucia tighter and ignored them. “Close the door,” Magdalena said, as Ifede stepped inside. It was a small, cluttered office, often crowded with refugees asking Magdalena’s help to solve various issues, usually medical or visa-related. Ifede had heard the other Sicilians at the Center snicker about Magdalena before. La comunista, they said. That’s what they called naïve humanitarian types who wasted Italian resources away on Marocchini. What government funding that was given to the Center was filtered through other channels first. Magdalena unlocked the large cabinet in a corner of her office, revealing shelves of feminine products, medical supplies and prescriptions. She handed over a small white tube. Ifede felt the tension across her shoulders lift. “This should calm the irritation at least,” Magdalena said. “I’m going to get us some new laundry detergent. Another girl complained about getting a rash from it. Maybe Lucia’s allergic too. How is that other cream working for your scars?” Ifede shrugged, unwilling to complain.

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Olivia Kate Cerrone “Is there still pain?” “Maybe the skin never healed right. There’s nothing anyone can do about it.” “I’ll get Dr. Anzone to see you. There might be a specialist he could refer you to.” “Thanks.” Ifede turned for the door, anxious to treat her daughter in private. “I heard you had some problems with Jamiila? Is that why you left for so long?” Ifede shrugged. Why bother discussing it? Tension divided the women—everyone operated from a place of trauma. They’d all known Libya, even if no one talked about it. “Could you at least tell me where you were?” Magdalena said. “I had to meet up with someone,” Ifede said and bounced Lucia against her hip, while the baby giggled. She avoided the Sicilian’s heavy gaze, hoping the woman wouldn’t launch into another speech about the dangers of illegal work, or how Italians themselves were so desperate, considering the fiftyseven percent unemployment rate in Siracusa alone. Ifede knew all of this. It didn’t change the choice she’d made with Rafik. What did Magdalena know about struggle? One of the women from outside knocked with impatience. Ifede smiled again in thanks and made for the door. All day the driver’s coming presence weighted on her. She tended to Lucia, then showered and dressed—each moment pushing back the inevitable task of gathering information from the other women. Why did it make her so nervous? Lucia cooed from the bed, the side of her neck shiny with ointment. Ifede packed their few belongings into a large cloth tote bag. Soon they’d be living elsewhere, perhaps some place worse. Who was she to trust Rafik? Perhaps she could still back out of it. She’d return the merito cards and make a clean break. Ifede searched for the plastic bag in her room and found that it was gone. She hurried downstairs to where her stroller was parked and tore through its empty compartments. Nothing. Ifede raced to the balcony where a few Somali women stood, hanging laundry to dry. She searched the area, frantic. The women shook their heads and studied her, as if she’d gone crazy. “Did you see a bag here?” Ifede said, her voice trembling. “There were dozens of merito cards inside. I don’t care if you took them, I just need it back before they come and—” Ifede stopped herself, struck cold by memory. Yes, she’d forgotten them on the bus. Lucia had started to fuss and then Ifede had set the bag down beside her on that empty seat. She’d never retrieve them. She leaned against the wall, overcome with dizziness. How many cards were inside? They each couldn’t have amounted to much alone but together? She’d be expected to repay them somehow. What might they do to

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Olivia Kate Cerrone her and Lucia? A cold sweat emerged along her temple. Memories of Libya— the twelve-hour days of toil, the time in prison, the rapes—nauseated Ifede. A low, frantic moan rose from her throat. She bit her knuckles and wept. The Somali women blurred into a tangle of scarves. The car arrived in the early evening, after the staff had left. Ifede waited for its approach near an open window in the kitchen. She’d given Lucia a nap inside their room with the door shut, and hoped that might be enough to stifle her cries if she awoke. Jamiila stood at the stove, frying up more flatbread. A large group of women already sat outside on the balcony, enjoying dinner. The small red Fiat parked close near the Center’s entrance and honked. Ifede made out Rafik’s face through the windshield. He’d come with two other men, their faces obscured. She turned away, ignoring Jamiila, who glared at her as if she might be plotting some revenge. Ifede edged along the wall near the balcony, where she could get a close enough view of the women without exposing herself to the outside. Rafik shouted from below. “Ciao, ragazze!” he said. The women ignored him. Jamiila pushed past Ifede with a steaming plate of bread. “You up there! Is Ifede with you?” Rafik said. Two Somali women rose and peered down at him from the railing. Draped in their headscarves, they appeared as mighty, solemn queens, wise and foreboding. Ifede froze, breathless with anticipation as she waited for Jamiila or another to turn her over. Then one by one, the rest of the women went to the railing and stared Rafik down with silence. He shouted at them in question, then turned and retreated to the Fiat. She couldn’t move until the car receded into the distance. Ifede crept onto the balcony to see that the driveway was clear. He’d be back again tomorrow or find her in the streets. What protection did she have against him? Ifede held herself tight, felt the scars along her arms. The Somali women sat around their large bowls of curry and bread. A few began to hum. They gestured for Ifede to join them. She hesitated, then sat at the edge of the group. The women prompted her to come closer, soon enshrouding Ifede in the velvet sounds of laughter and song.

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Emily Flamm Lorem Ipsum “Syllables,” I said to Noni, in a tone calculated to reflect both challenge and assurance. “Sibasils,” Noni said. She’d said it right once, days prior, copying a random utterance from television. The word had been effortless and clear. My reaction had set her on edge, but syllables was the longest word I’d heard her say in weeks, a jewel in the small crown of my efforts. She’d fumbled with carrot and driver and bathroom. Even egg sounded off—she pressed too hard on the e. The routine of it all was surely preventing her progress; I had turned a natural urge into a duty, an exercise. Possibly what Noni needed to relearn how to speak was not a dedicated friend with solid diction but the fuzz of idle chatter in her periphery, a feed of babbling bodies for whom she felt nothing. “Syllables,” I said. This time my voice was raw and impatient and she met it with silence, her eyes fixed on a dead zone near my face, pleading with quiet forces to compel me to say or do something of interest. The chemistry of our friendship relied on ideas being tugged at by two parties moving in opposition, and I could always tell when she was hitting a wall, but I could no longer detect where her mind desired to go. I’d been coming most weekday afternoons when her husband, Roger, was out working. He made me a key. Roger was the kind for whom true retirement kept pushing out into the future like ambient dinner plans eternally half-made with someone you don’t want to see. He cared for the cemetery grounds at St. Catherine’s nearby, combing the gravesites for litter and graffiti and dog shit and collecting bouquets and cards when they started to brown. He also photographed birds all over the region, selling the pictures to stock companies and nature magazines, and he would occasionally display his work for sale on the walls of a local bookstore café. Their house was decorated with Roger’s prized images: a shearwater in the powder room, two tundra swans over the dining table, a library of poorwills, kingfishers on the kitchen wall. I didn’t think there could be much demand for bird photographs these days, but when I mentioned this to Roger he defended it as the kind of work young people just couldn’t do, a vocation of patience and sensitivity requiring knowledge you could only amass through a long life of observing nature. To find the strange birds, you had to internalize their primary motivations. You had to learn what they ate, when and where their food was likely to be, how high up they built Crab Orchard Review

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Emily Flamm their nests, when they woke, when they traveled, and how to pick out their signature tweets and warbles from the general fabric of forest noise. It takes forever to feel competent at this, he said, and most people just can’t stand all that waiting and failing. Birds, I’d thought, were wildly overrated. The basis of their appeal struck me as distinctly superficial—they’re pretty! and they can sing!— like contestants in lurid network talent shows. But Roger was starting to convince me. When he caught a rare bird lifting its wings it was like lassoing a comet. Such a capture could never be assured—all you could do was study its patterns and set out with your net. I’d brought Noni a couple brownies from the batch Calvin had made for my fortieth birthday, and she ate one, looking happy as a child. The hitch in her bottom lip seemed to be getting better, or I was getting used to ignoring it. Some facial muscle control, Dr. Groban said, was simply gone. Her eyes had changed, too. A pearled cloud had set in over the pupils, making it difficult to know her moods. “Brownie,” I said, knowing the br combination would be trouble. “Bown-y,” Noni said. “Want to read?” I asked. She nodded. “Pease,” she said. I took her hand and guided her into the library. When I first encountered Noni, I’d been walking the oceanside path and saw her standing on her front porch, tall and proud. She paused with her coffee cup in mid-air, like a statue meant to depict untouchable valiance, and said hello. She was once a model and had made a career out of looking that way. I feared her then but said hello back. Noni passed her hand across a row of books, indicating that I should choose. “Anything?” She nodded. The reading options in her library were daunting and mysterious. So many of the titles sounded like shorthand or code for some inside joke the authors had with their contemporaries. Calvin, a sometimeswriter, was an English professor and I was an avid reader. We were book enthusiasts; we wrote letters to authors, we received trade publications and advance copies from publishers, we pored over the archived papers of dead writers we loved, and yet most of the names in this library were unfamiliar. I inspected the rows, knowing nothing about what was what, and picked a slim, short book called The Rites of Never. The cover buzzed with a simple, pleasant energy, and so did the author’s name, Paul Hall, which sounded like a place where pomp and plainspeak could comfortably mingle. I read to her for a while, deep into the book, looking up from time to time to ensure that her eyes were still open and lively. These days, she used so much more of her body, more of her capacity and intent, to listen than she did to speak.

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Emily Flamm I missed our conversations very much. Discovering the elliptical, persistent nature of her mind had been like stumbling into a secret amphitheater hidden among plain rocks. I had archived so many things she had said to me. When I complained about Calvin: “Seeing a man every day makes you miss what’s good about him.” In response to admiration: “People have encouraged my conceits. I’ve been lucky.” In response to my self-loathing: “I’m no picnic either.” Regarding Life Itself: “It’s all just images we dwell inside.” She was my Dorothy Parker, my Lucille Ball, the warmly caustic mother I’d never had. Until it went away, her incautious, elegant voice had made me think so hopefully about time—that its essential work was to improve our connections, not to undo us. As I read to her, I became more comfortable with Paul Hall’s poetry. It was funny in places, even if I didn’t quite get the jokes. At the end of an introspective, reverent poem titled “Cleaning Day,” the speaker said “we’ll lie down and take in light through our tits.” I’d been reading in the kind of heightened voice one reserves for holy occasions, and the surprise of the word tits hit me only after I’d said it. Noni noticed this and laughed. Tits had to be meant as funny—there were a half dozen humorless synonyms Paul Hall might have used—and yet I could not imagine how the poet had landed on the word, where his mind had been during the writing, or why he had chosen to import the otherwise contemplative work into the realm of comedy in its final sound. When Noni’s eyelids began to droop, I took her into the bedroom and helped her down for a nap. Roger would be home soon. I returned to the library and looked through the titles—small presses, no classics—a wide literary landscape Calvin and I had not bothered to investigate. My confusion at the poet’s humor was the type of thing I encountered frequently online. Calvin and I had grown up alongside computers; they evolved on pace with us for a while. In our teenage years the machines were like idiot siblings, duller than television, collecting dust in corners and rarely brought out to play. Hardware, software, interfaces, graphics, fonts, icons—these things were in perpetual flux during our late teens and twenties, becoming more emphatic in some ways and more subtle in others at the same time our own bodies and features were jolting and stretching and settling into their intractable adult shapes. Like us, our devices finally seemed to mature, getting not just smart and fast but wise. Software reflected a rich spectrum of sensitivity. We had more verifiable insight—more roads in—to other minds and communities than those who’d lived before us. Faraway strangers appeared close and clear. When Calvin’s long lost friends emerged online with a photograph or loose line from an old joke, I was able to look in on the particulars of his high school days and sense who he was then. He saw the stiff-natured affection of my brothers tessellated in messages between my cousins and their children.

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Emily Flamm Connectivity created divisions between groups too, or maybe it simply sped up the pace at which the divisions could be seen. As avenues of communication multiplied, so did one’s opportunities for offense or irritation. Groups formed and disbanded without ceremony, without sorrow. New dialects emerged. I was constantly encountering language online that seemed nonsensical to me, whose meaning I could not solve, and by the time I began to understand its use, the expression was dead to others. I could never predict what would ignite mass fury or awe. Each semi-private language had its own momentum, its own humor, its own unmanageable forces, and the shapes of their currents confounded me. So many aspects of human nature went abstract at once, a muddy wash of colors and forms and sensations that surely meant something at some incalculable distance from it all. Noni embraced young people, you might even say she collected them. She had bonded with Laurel, the weekend barista at the nearby café, who was about eighteen and far too cool for Calvin and I. Laurel’s big passion was dreaming up animated characters toward a monumental project she never felt like describing. She wore fake gold hair clips and enormous tinted glasses and dressed in boxy, monochromatic clothing that looked handmade. One morning Calvin and I went for coffee and she took our order with a wad of Kleenex in one hand. Her eyes and nose were bright red, as if they’d been artificially enhanced. When she noticed us noticing her appearance she stared and said “What? I’m sick.” Laurel lacked the capacity for embarrassment. I mentioned her to Noni once in a critical tone and she sat up immediately. “I adore Laurel,” she said. “She wears her inner life around like a costume. She has fun with it.” I learned that Noni had invited Laurel over some afternoons for tea, just as she had with me. There were others, too. Roger, by contrast, became steely in the presence of youth. He was irritated with their superficiality and petulance, and probably with his wife’s fascination with them. He grumbled that it had become the role of elders in society to fix the misdeeds of the young, whereas the natural order of things suggested the opposite. He wanted to know history intimately and cared little for the future. On his side of their bed there were always two heavy nonfiction selections, current events expanded into watery epics. Roger arrived home, looking refreshed from his walk home. “Hi Lael,” he said. “How was everything?” “The same,” I said. “Stubborn. She liked being read to. She fell asleep at five. How was your day?” He brightened inwardly, as if remembering a punch line. “Not bad,” he said. “I took some new pictures, just the landscape. I’ll make you a print.” After the stroke, Roger grew a thick beard. I wondered if it had been intentional—if the change had signified a new stratum of aging for them both and facial hair was his move to embrace it.

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Emily Flamm I nodded a thank you, holding his eyes. “I left you a brownie in the kitchen,” I said. “Calvin made them.” “That’s good. See you Monday,” he said. “See you then.” “Or come back Sunday for the print,” he said. I detected an earthiness in Roger’s voice that reminded me of some prior version of Calvin, and with a jolt understood that their sex life was probably over. Decades of intimacy with a body, an intimacy that felt productive and tense and loving, washed away with the release of a tiny clot of cells in the interior channels. It was like a death, though surely worse in some ways, because you had to clench that remote hope of renaissance. The death of something essential to her had already occurred, but it could not be called a death, it could not be contained, exactly, by that word. I took the path home that gave me the longest view of the ocean, which was almost indistinguishable from the navy field of sky. The houses along the coast were painted in tasteful, bright colors, with attractive wind chimes made of dangling shells and shapes of clay and metal. When the wind picked up it was like a kind of applause. Our house was not on the water—about a mile inland, and we’d gotten a deal on a foreclosure—but I felt unthinkably rich for having access to the views at all. There had been a time, before we moved to California, before Calvin had tenure, when I had given up my career in search of work that held some detectable amount of virtue, and our budget was held together by such a thin, stretched length of string that effects of a health blip or traffic ticket would be felt for months. Instead of taking vacations, seeing the great temples and tombs and waterfalls of the world, we pretended to buy tickets and reserve hotel rooms. We wrote out fake itineraries, even bothering to consider the irritating logistics of getting from one remote point to another, and we kept faux travel journals detailing sights we hadn’t seen. We didn’t go to China, we didn’t go to Egypt, we didn’t go to Istanbul or Buenos Aires. The pastime gained momentum. We enjoyed it so much, in fact, that by the time our income afforded us a bit of real adventure, the places we could afford to see in person seemed less exciting than all we’d taken time to carefully imagine. The game of it was gone. We wanted those trips and sights to mean so much that they couldn’t measure up. Calvin said to me as we flew home from a disappointing stint in Mexico City a few years ago that maybe we weren’t the kind of people who should travel, but the kind who should take their vacations in town with a stack of books and a bottle of good liquor. We had kept to that and it saved us money, but we never quite felt the divine itch-and-scratch of missing and then arriving home. Calvin was leaning over a pot of something in the kitchen when I walked in, and the house smelled clean and flavorful, like broth. “How was work?” I asked. It was a stale question, the same question I’d

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Emily Flamm asked Roger, but with Roger, I’d been interested in the answer. Before he replied, the moment unfolded and revealed itself to be a sequence of other people’s moments, and I heard in mind an echoing chain of all the spousal ennui that had come before us in the living world. How was work, the paper wife asked. Good but meetings went long, the paper husband said. I wondered if he could hear it too. There was so much distance between our voices. I was discovering that when you marry a person, you also marry marriage, the notion of marriage. If it’s your first marriage, you marry the notion even before you have a chance to romp around with it in bed. It’s naïve to assume that the external sense of your marriage—the world’s composite vision of marriage, its clichés, its iterations—would not define you more than you would define it. In any battle to recast marriage’s standing definition from the inside—all its heaviness and glory; the twisted, inbred logic and fractal flaws—the person trying to redefine the thing for herself is wildly outmatched. Calvin had married marriage too; there was that to remember. He was better paired with it, I was sure. The paper husband, paper wife routine were a relief to him at times, probably reminding him of his own contented parents, but for me it cast an unpleasant shine on the dried paint of my decisions. He’d made chicken and dumplings, his specialty, the dumplings flavored with Dijon for a little heat. He lit candles and poured wine and we sat down. From the window, we must have looked happy and warm. “This is delicious,” I said. “How was your day? What did you do?” I told him my thoughts about Noni, her non-progress, and the revelation of their end of sex on my walk home. “He seems so locked up these days. She is too, but she’s gracious about it. She seems to like the company. Without her, he only wants the solitude of work.” “They’ll find new ways to connect,” he said. “I don’t think so. She’s in decline,” I said. I wanted to argue, but I doubted I could get him to argue with me. “Do you think they regret not having children?” Calvin asked. He said the word children the way you might say the name of an old lover who’d ditched you, dormant woe made evident in the attempt to be casual. “I don’t know,” I said. “Noni was always befriending young people. I wonder sometimes if that was her way of adopting.” “What do you think it’s like?” “Children? Or having a stroke?” He smiled patiently at me. “Children.” We’d had the conversation a dozen times before. He had wanted them, but not enough to fight about it, not enough to try to convince me we’d

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Emily Flamm be good at it. I was forty now. It could still be done, probably. I’d wanted children occasionally—or I’d wanted something about my life to be dramatically different, and children would have done it—but the notion of having children instead of a career felt like a cliché, as did struggling to raise a child while struggling to find some kind of professional footing, as did opting out of childbearing entirely and living it up with Calvin forever and ever amen. In my attempt to outsmart clichés I’d become something worse: a little of this, a little of that, but not much of anything at all. I’d become merely a woman, a wan local at the café, a bed warmer, a rag at the ready to absorb the emotional spillage of others, a caretaker for the sick neighbor, a gardener and housekeeper for my high-achieving husband. I’d left my corporate job to find something original and good, and these results would not have impressed the person who made those choices. “I think it’s like making movies on the moon,” I said. “Meaning?” “Meaning I have no idea what it’s like. It could be like anything, depending on the kid, the particulars of the family. I mean—if someone asked you what marriage was like, all you could reasonably say is what it’s like to be married to me. You couldn’t know much about marriage to Virginia Woolf or Alec Baldwin or my mother.” Calvin’s blond hair, thinning in front, was starting to whiten at the edges. I tried to picture him aging rapidly, adding spots and sagging hollows around his eyes. I imagined changing his bedpan, wiping his nose, trimming his ear hair. Securing a niche for him in a palm-treed village of wheelchairs and pastels. “I’ve seen other marriages. Just because you aren’t in it yourself doesn’t mean you know nothing about the experience. My parents—I could say a great deal about what their marriage is like. They avoid problems together. They help each other in matters of health. They attend the symphony and give each other sensible gifts like closet organizers and ointment. They take turns, night after night, reading aloud to each other until one of them falls asleep. They’re like an iceberg or a great blue whale, adrift and general, peaceful, too, and they’ll survive until one of them doesn’t, and the other will follow.” “But do you know how it feels?” “The marriage?” Calvin got up, cleared our plates, ran the dishwasher, brought over a fresh dishrag and wiped down the table. We were on different frequencies. He was in a calm, productive mode, and for the moment, I was worse than a mere woman, I was a festering one. “I bet it feels like home,” he said. The few women I’d been close to in my life were competitive—lovely giants with buttery, gleaming eyes. From some perspectives, I might have

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Emily Flamm been a giant myself. I had left my Michigan hometown where the pizzerias and creameries always bulged with Catholic families whose names and stories I knew, where the bleachers at the high school filled each fall Friday with the ardently nostalgic. I left in search of status. I went into the great hall of commerce and found gold. It was easier than I thought it would be. Having set my sights on money above all, it was not so hard to achieve. An MBA, a nice wardrobe, a veneer of courage. Be punctual, attend all events, decline no favors. Take care of the image. When I went back home to visit family in those years, so many of my childhood friends had morphed into the most lamentable cliché: the putupon housewife. They’d grown heavy and sad. Their wit had crumbled. They told me, in awed voices, that I looked so beautiful, that they loved my clothes. Manhattan, they’d say, breathlessly. A fabled place they’d been to once, maybe, on a special trip—a great spectacle of a city no one really called home. My idols then were people who, in their ascendance to power, despite brandishing their taste and achievements for all to see, had not entirely given up on ethics. Part of what I’d loved so much about talking to Noni, about my discovery of Noni, was that she felt like an icon for a different kind of ambition. She had worked for most of her life and found some success and distinction, but her work did not define her—virtue did. How she treated people. If I asked her what she was most proud of, topping the list of things she’d never say would be those gorgeous magazine covers, her time as a tennis pro, or being a personal assistant to Robert Mitchum. She wouldn’t mention titles or finances or their beautiful house by the sea. Those things did not add up to half of what she was. She was a person who loved people, and people could feel that. She was happiest while speaking with others or reading, filling her mental corridors with luscious things, and taking care to relish in the transfers that were made, immaterially, between souls. Those women, the housewives, my past friends from school—when I saw them now, online, they seemed better, at least from the visible fragments. Their kids were practically grown. They’d found ways to grow and adapt within the bounds of the families they anchored. They held jobs that never sounded impressive to me—retail, teaching, middle management. But the markets ruled us all, didn’t they, and the fact of one’s participation mattered more than petty distinctions. After my early successes, my work had been fits and starts—activism, novel writing, medicine—and each path dried up as soon as I found a pervasive element in the field to criticize. In my late twenties, working in the financial district in New York, I was a master of efficiency. From alarm to shower to coffee to curb took me twenty-nine minutes precisely. I walked briskly to the train, threading the crowds and making each crosswalk light, secretly racing and triumphing over others in transit. I stood on the subway, even if there were seats,

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Emily Flamm inwardly proud of my physical fitness. For a time, I delighted in the rigor; it felt like winning a game. I wore crisp skirts and blazers in shades of black, gray, and cream and I had achieved rapport with the women at the Lucky Clover dry cleaner’s near the office. My calories were fiercely measured. Regular manicures were necessary. Each weekday evening was scheduled— wine with clients, gin with colleagues, cocktails with the neighbors. One evening after work I caught a look at myself in a glass reflection, hurrying in the cold, looking pretty and severe. I hadn’t recognized the face in the glass as mine. I dismissed the image as distorted, like an unflattering photograph. Just an image, but the image stuck. I had emerged from a silver tower with sparkling bathrooms and filtered water. My apartment was in a well-kept building in a convenient part of town. I was healthy. The clothes I wore suited me. But I was angry, or I appeared so, and the image was sharp enough that I had to step back and consider whether the anger was real. The face haunted me. I had to lose it. My daily habits got to feeling both thick and hollow, and I became envious of anyone who did not appear to be in a hurry. I heard tinny echoes of all the working professionals on Wall Street every time I spoke in a meeting or asked a colleague about his weekend. I was continuing a tradition of artifice, and all it had done was make me look substantial from afar. After I’d slept with Calvin the first time—we’d met at a poetry reading—I rose in his dusty apartment filled with books and broken clocks. He woke beside me in the sunlight and pulled me back into bed. “There’s time,” he said. I sensed a kind of deep neural friction between us. It was a weekday and it was already past seven, and it would be eighteen minutes to get home, then twenty-nine minutes to get ready, then thirty-two minutes to move from door to door. “There’s time,” he said again, supremely calm. As if under hypnosis, I laid back down. As a kind of experiment, I decided to assume, for a moment, that he was right, and it felt good. There was time. I returned on Sunday to collect my print from Roger. He suggested a thin steel frame to complement the palette of blue and gray. The image’s content was beautiful in a familiar way: a lightly overcast sky, roughedged rows of stones summarizing, with little variety, the disparate lives. The gravestones were clichés—crosses and slabs with rounded corners, engraved with matching language (beloved he, dearest she) in fonts that conveyed gravitas. More clichés—white and red roses wrapped in tissue paper, an occasional bunch of lilies, letters of love and apology, the odd balloon. Panels of cloud-filtered light tinting the land. Only the perspective, the distance from which Roger saw the scene, struck me as distinct. I bought a steel frame and hung the print in our bedroom. Calvin and I

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Emily Flamm studied the picture that night, trying to make out the blurred words etched into the farthest grave markers. We moved on to inventing histories for the people in the graves: what their relationships were like, how they fought, what they loved, where they traveled. All our speculations were rooted in dubious clues—the presence or absence of flowers, the choice of plot, the state of the granite presiding over their decomposition. Shortly before Noni died, but not before we knew to expect it, Roger put his hand on my knee over a glass of red wine in the living room. I expected him to retract the hand and say he was sorry, he hadn’t meant to. But the hand sat, heavy and intentional. He looked at me with certainty. The crux of his desire had little to do with me—a simple matter of proximity and calcified love. I felt willing, in that moment, to accompany him. When he leaned in, I was surprised at how clean his mouth tasted and how confidently it moved. I touched his hair, the strands thick and dry. We heard Noni cough in the bedroom. He pulled away and his eyes opened wide, embarrassed. I shrugged. “It’s okay,” I said. I held his hand, a taut-skinned, muscular thing marked with ridges and freckles. Wrapped around his, mine looked new. We stayed in the evening’s odd light, sitting so still that it felt like a kind of sleep. Noni would die. So would he and so would I. My life’s work would end, finally, as a pile of remnants. I thought of Calvin on that first morning, certain there was time enough to do what needed doing. I wondered how he managed to convince us both that we possessed any time at all, that some piece of its greater fabric was ours, or that some legible trace would linger from our moves telling those who came behind us what we’d done with what we had.

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Amina Gautier Hunger Memory The question comes from somewhere over her right shoulder, where

the server stands just out of view but close enough to take her order. What will you have? What she wants and what she will have are never quite the same. Always, they will be two different things. Right now she craves a slice of cheese melted over a piece of bread that has been broiled in the oven, and she wants it slightly overdone so that the edges where the cheese meets the bread are browned, so that the cheese makes a bubble in the center, wanting it the way she’d learned to make it for herself during those long ago late afternoons when she let herself in with a latchkey and waited for someone to come home and take care of her so she could be done looking after herself. She cannot have that at a place like this. Only the very poor still make toast that way, broiling it in an oven, using one appliance in the place of two. Everyone else uses a toaster. How she hates it the new middle-class way— the dry offering of toaster toasted bread, the awful way the bread resists the butter, that grating sound of the knife scraping against it—more irritating to her than nails on a chalkboard and, worst of all, the way the toast flakes when buttered, leaving crumbs—disgusting little pieces of itself all over the table. She feeds on her memory of hunger while the server waits. Ma’am? Do you need a few more minutes to look over the items? She opens the menu and orders half of a grapefruit, the first item she sees. When it comes she digs in with her spoon. Lifting a ruby red section, she carries it to her lips. On her tongue it tastes sour as poverty, bitter as life.

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Ruth Awad Homegrown Ain al-Remmaneh, Lebanon, before the Lebanese Civil War, 1975 They were in no hurry for Sabra whose hovels swill with refugees, a crag of secondhand clothes, faces like houses with the lights shut off. The rusted bus lugs the rally-worn passengers and Palestinians through town. Not far from the Church of Notre Dame de la Délivrance, the bus scrapes through byzantine alleyways, windows framing the brief mosaic of brick while the travelers nod with the gestures of the uneven street. A road vendor shouts, “Homegrown bananas!” waving the fruit as they pass. But the bus bundles on toward the rutted shacks and junkyard cars, toward power lines like music staffs and sheeted doorways. Sunlight grazes the unpaved road as they near the church ahead. At a Phalange checkpoint, the bus scuffs to a halt. Some things can be measured: the steps the passengers take as they march into the searing light. The miles from home. How many soldiers and how many notes the church bells rang out. How long those notes hung in the air and how many breaths of a hot gun counting one. And again. And again. One. One.

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Jenna Bazzell An Elegy of Some Sort I. Consider a woman barefoot at a cemetery, her bare feet just at the reach of the grass, the clay grit clings to her ankles, to the wrinkles in her nightgown. Consider the pinewoods quiet in the late afternoon sun, how they stretch beyond the pale maples, the browning Bermuda dirt-pocked, studded with headstones as she stares out from this sloping edge. But if you look at her closely, you might then notice the circles under her eyes, the curve of the hillside, the uneven line of her sight, and the smell of wild onions and sap. You might think again and find the endless space she’s staring into extends, in fact, miles upon miles before this land dips as though scooped away by hands. Or maybe you won’t, but if she’s come back here, and, if her arms are around the shoulders of my father, and if, she’s not considering a thing, you might be happy for her, my mother, alive—not trying to determine the distance to the end of anything. So for a moment, you might be happy for her, but only for a moment, because my mother is dead, and slowly, with each year that passes, it is becoming harder to remember she is gone, that she’s alone. So much so that even in this weather, when a smoke-haze layers the slope and the sun’s muted light flitters through the pines, I keep my eyes shut. You must consider her long illness

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Jenna Bazzell and the loss of the mind while the body goes on living. And having to balance her, to wake her. The weight of her body in my arms. Consider the look. How, finally, she refused to understand, refused to acknowledge anything but the blankness widening before her. How I woke to that look, how I began to see hints of it in the faces of those I knew, those I loved. How, after time, a blankness becomes as inviting as the warmth of a mother’s embrace, the feeling of falling asleep in the back of a moving car, as the smell of ice on a summer’s day or the pavement after a rain, as an unlocked door, as I don’t know.

II. Twenty years earlier, my parents sat, young, by the light of a fireplace. They lingered here, the only Christmas my father would spend in Alabama. This is one of only ten photographs with my parents together. This is before they will marry, before they live in Bloomington, Illinois, their first house where snow drifted up to the windows. Cracked linoleum and torn roof shingles piled in corners. When one door closed, the other slung open. And now that the foundation is gone, it’s hard to imagine them there at all: two people in love with no way to know it would lead them a year later to an apartment a few miles away, marriage as grudgingly familiar as rising again in the middle of the night, a glass of water never where it was left and the floor cold on the feet. But then, my father would have been in dress fatigues and black wingtips that made him stand out in a town of farmers with his black hair swooping to the side; he was Illinois’s answer to a genuine Air Force tough. And then it gets harder: the moment in the picture where they sat by the fireplace, the licks of flames catching her eyes, his— this is when my father asks my mother to marry him even though

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Jenna Bazzell the winter evening is settling in. They stay days longer than they know they can get away with. So that when my father returns to Illinois, he will have to listen to a lecture from his father, a farmer, and his ease with money. Yet my father will still repair fighter jet engines and travel the world in search of something different, to forget the sound of rain sloshing between the corn rows and the seared black lengths of railroad. They still linger in this picture like they do in my mind, my mother with her arms over his shoulders as she has drawn him close. The open-faced mantle. The small light in the pit of the fireplace.

III. It was a Monday. The sun staggered high as heat doubled off the metal vault and eased up, red dust drifted in a warm May wind. “Any others?” the reverend asked, after droning too long in a tone flat as a valley floor, those of us assembled to offer up some story or other, some proof. The fact is no one said a thing. I was fourteen. My grandmother’s tight grip brought me to it: Her hands always shook. Death, a thick clay I can’t dig through back to her lungs, back to her breathing. I could have gone on: her hair the color of copper, her perfume the scent of hyacinths.

IV. She’s on the passenger side, riding a dipping road in Austria, shadows of the tree line, the Alps eastern slope. Tengmalm’s owl. Chamois. Cigarettes. An atlas. A flask of whiskey. The crackle of unknown languages through the radio.

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Jenna Bazzell They aren’t talking. When he stops and takes the camera, fog rising around him filling with light. She swings open the door and turns sideways, her legs dangling above the mountains, the clouds clutching the sky. The veins in her legs, a map of nothing. Everything about her, becoming transparent, the hints of death in her: her blouse hanging off her shoulders, a clavicle exposed, the rasp in her voice, not a word said without it— a cigarette between her fingers, skin thin as rice paper. The last rustyleaved Alpine rose down among the rocks. Maybe this is the picture: my parents somewhere in Europe together. My father just standing there, the sun reflecting off the mountain-faces below, as if I could retrace the length of this moment and never get any closer. Kingfishers preening on the door of a torched chassis.

V. Give me another version of this— a different house, another hallway, not my mother lying atop of her bedspread, half-naked and swollen, not breathing, not making a sound. Not me who finds her, who carries her from the bed, her weight first falling forward, folding over like a sack of soil, her back hollow against the floor. Not my mother—river water of the Elbe running back into the Baltic Sea—standing on a pier, dim moonlight at her back, my mother’s dark silhouette

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Jenna Bazzell leaning over the ledge. It’s now I wonder what divides me from her life, what holds me here so still? She’s returned to the road she and my father traveled in another country, the road that ended, the map’s whiteness ringed by elevation contours. My mother takes a picture of a stripped and torched chassis of a pickup truck with kingfishers on the door frame, preening. Now, this moment must be all remembered and reremembered or I will lose sight of it: cigarettes and atlas. A white blank spot in the road. I remember until it seems like a belief, which is to say, nothing: dust on the truck’s polyester seats and the roof collapsing.

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Paulette Beete At the River Ouse In the great pockets of her skirt, patient as tumors the stones rest. They are smooth, cool, innocent. As she walks her body yearns toward the river. The stones anchor her to the damp earth, each footstep an elegy. Sometimes she takes a flat stone, rests it on her tongue, ballast against the sweet pull of water on her skin. As she walks, damp seeps from her thin wandering body into waiting earth. Here by the river’s seam, words are skittish as marsh birds her flight startles into the air. Here by the river’s edge, she persists. Sometimes the stones trail behind her, pardoned one by one. She stops to cradle a stone, palm outstretched toward water wondering that river’s word for grace.

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M. Soledad Caballero

Immigration Office, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 1985 Stowaway, I asked, reading the options on the sweat-stained form he held out, his eyes quiet and begging. You came by water?   My father wore his only suit that day, white shirt, knit tie, the smell of dry cleaning still stuck inside the blue, pilling wool. Not a man for words or mercy, caught between anger and disgust, my father stared forward hard, hands folded tightly over a manila envelope, ignored my attempts, meek and uncertain, to help the man pressing paper in front of me.   I was a child, ten or eleven, sitting in a hard, plastic orange chair, in the buzz of fluorescent lights, mosquitos looking for blood in a windowless room roped off by country of origin. Bodies grew limp, eyes grew small staring at the empty, stale walls. Our forms filled out in English. Our number forty-three. We waited for time to move.   I never asked his name, guessed only that he needed words on paper with something about the truth

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M. Soledad Caballero in some kind of English. I did not know about hiding, the steel guts of boats on water, legs and arms cramped and crammed, whispers in fear, cold nights riding inside a metal shell along an ocean and no compass, hoping for another daylight. My family traveled by passport, stamped documents with signatures signaling we belonged, even with immigrant names, immigrant forms, immigrant fears. We were just hopeful, just hungry, just poor enough to believe we were safe in second-hand clothes, broken, polite English, Spanish whispered only at night, surrounded by cowboys, cattle, and oil. At the time, it could not strike me, the category, stowaway, or that its reality lived with this man and his desperate eyes. I only knew one ritual of immigration, the waiting rooms, the forms, the disdain of officers. Hard mouths, hard eyes, hard hearts behind glass, rustling papers, looking for mistakes. We were a sign of something still buried but pulsing outward from Oklahoma to Texas to other borders, legal, illegal, the things that happened in between. We were a sign, but I knew from the eyes, the rough grain of his hands, the soft por favor, the urgent fear of the alien, he was not like us.

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Leila Chatti Perennial He comes home smelling of dirt, grit tumbling loose from the folds of his blues, fingernails ringed, ten dark sickles sliding up the hem of my skirt. I like finding mud in strange places: lick of earth behind one ear, umber smear in the crook of his knee. He brings me tomato plants, stems bent from their prosperous heft, green threads curled at the severed ends of branches. Some days, a pot of peppers. A cupful of soil, a spindly stalk crowned with a bud beginning to unfurl. Each night, I watch him peel free his shirt, watch him enter the shower’s stream. And each night in our bed moonlight settles on us like silt, his hands burrowing under the blankets toward the field of my body, my fingers grazing languidly the awn of his jaw.

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Bernard Grant Hoodlum Roy Mosely was crossing the campus parking lot when he saw a

police officer place one of his students in handcuffs. The sun had just set, the air had grown crisp, and it was quiet enough to hear evergreens whisper overhead. Calvin, Roy’s student, sat on the curb with his hands behind his back, his head hung, as the officer rummaged through his car, tossing trash and CDs on the ground. Roy slowed, watching from two rows of parked cars away, and when Calvin looked up at him with a pleading glare, he quickened his pace to go blend in with a pack of spectators gathered near the bus stop. When a second officer appeared, the first one got out of Calvin’s car to converse with her. They spoke for a few minutes, then the first officer motioned for Calvin to step toward them. He uncuffed him. The crowd dispersed. The police left in separate vehicles. Roy stayed and watched Calvin pick up his CDs, get into the driver’s seat, and sit with his hands on the steering wheel. After class that morning, Calvin came into Roy’s office to explain that as he was putting his backpack into his car, the campus officer accused him of the recent break-ins, broken windows and stereo systems ripped from dashboards. He patted Calvin down, cuffed him, and rummaged through his wallet, placing his student I.D. behind his driver’s license. It wasn’t until the second officer arrived, and Calvin said he was a student, that the first officer pulled out his student I.D. and released him, asking him why he hadn’t said so in the first place. “We have to do something,” Calvin said, standing on the opposite side of Roy’s desk, clenching the sides of a chair. “Protest, write someone. Whoever’s in charge of his racist ass.” “We?” Roy had been grading algebra quizzes when Calvin walked in. He stared at the stack of papers, a pen in hand, then glanced up at Calvin’s tight face. Calvin rocked the chair. “Besides me and you there’s like no blacks on this campus. There’s hardly any blacks in Olympia.” “Maybe he just doesn’t like young people.” “This is college—it’s nothing but young people. Do we really want someone around here that’s gonna harass students?” Roy shuffled the quizzes and looked past Calvin to the doorway, where a cluster of faculty members walked by. He caught Vivian’s smile and tossed one back. Too many years and too many thousands of dollars of debt to get here—his

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Bernard Grant own office, a good salary, benefits, colleagues who respected him. He’d made it farther than his hairdressing mother. He’d never met his father. “You know I work he—”Roy’s telephone rang. Calvin watched it as if daring Roy to take the call. Roy held up a finger and reached for the phone, and he almost called out when Calvin strode out of his office, closing the door behind him. Roy graded papers, ran errands, ate dinner with his family, and it wasn’t until after the meal, as he and his wife cleaned the kitchen— Margaret washing dishes, Roy wiping tables and counters—that he was able to mention the incident. Warmth rose beneath his eyes as he related Calvin’s police encounter to Margaret, and he was glad no tears surfaced when she told him the answer was obvious. “He’s just being paranoid.” She’d turned from the sink. Soap slid from the saucer in her hand. “You have to look at it from the cop’s perspective. Everyone’s a suspect, white or black.” “It was race Margaret, it was.,” Roy said. “Is he a trouble maker?” She scrubbed the saucer again, set it in the drying rack, fished in the sink for more dishes. “Calvin has never missed an assignment. He’s never scored below an A on an exam. You think a student like that would break into cars?” “Nobody is one way, Roy.” Roy thought of the unarmed black boy gunned down by a white police officer. There’d been a younger black boy murdered a couple of years ago. “They’re on TV getting killed,” he said. “In real life. And these cops are getting away with it.” “The kid must’ve been up to something. When’s the last time you saw a German Shepherd chase a black man down the street?” Roy clenched the dishtowel. “He came to my office.” “What? Who came to your office?” “My student. After he was arrested. He wanted help.” “From you? What were you supposed to do?” “That’s just it. What was I supposed to do?” He balled up the cloth, threw it on the counter, and went into the living room. Roy couldn’t forget the look on Calvin’s face when Roy had held up that single finger to try to stop him from leaving. That’s all he’d done, held up a finger. He hadn’t even managed to speak. And then the door had shut. And his own wife wanted him to lock it. He wondered if his mother had been right when she advised him to avoid white women. “She won’t never understand you,” Roy’s mother had said of Margaret. “Ain’t a black woman in America can be colorblind, but a white girl, she’s either colorblind or bigoted. Too far in either direction. Even if she means good, she won’t understand you. Your kids won’t understand you either. Hell, you be lucky if your kids even understand themselves.”

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Bernard Grant Roy sat on a sofa, stretched out his legs on an ottoman. The kids were on the floor in front of him. Brenda was on her cell phone. Luke was on his stomach, gazing at the TV. A cartoon. Roy asked them what they were watching. Lucas bounded into his father’s lap. “Mighty Mouse,” he said. “Luke’s show,” Brenda said without looking from her phone. “I’m bored.” Roy squeezed his son’s shoulders. “Mighty Mouse? That’s an old show. What do you know about Mighty Mouse?” “He’s small,” Lucas said, and then he flexed his little arms. “But when he puts on a cape it’s like he’s big and strong, so he doesn’t look like who he really is.” “Oh I know Mighty Mouse. He was my hero as a kid. Still is.” Margaret came into the living room and sat beside Roy, her feet overlapping his on the ottoman. She grabbed Lucas into her lap and kissed and tickled him until he claimed he couldn’t breathe. Once she released him, he stretched across his parents and turned to the TV, wheezing. “Oh, you’re fine,” Margaret said. “My baby boy is so dramatic. Both of my boys are overdramatic.” “He does have asthma,” Roy said. Margaret laughed. “I know, but nobody dies from tickling.” Roy heard himself sigh. Margaret cuffed his arm. “Don’t roll your eyes. And don’t forget: I need you to help me put out the garage sale stuff tomorrow night.” “Why? So it’ll be gone by Saturday morning?” “Where do you think you live? That kind of stuff doesn’t happen around here.” Roy refrained from reminding her that someone had broken into her car last year, and that last week the neighbor had warned them about neighborhood burglaries. He didn’t care what happened to that old junk anyway. The next afternoon, Roy met Vivian in the commons. She was sitting at a small, round table just outside of the café. The table was empty, aside from the open book she was reading. A sociology professor new to the adjunct stages from which Roy has recently emerged, Vivian was a transplant from Georgia. She had long, braided hair, a soft and bright face, attentive eyes. A silver cross attached to a thin, golden chain around her neck matched the earrings that glinted from her ears when he looked up to face him. She apologized, and said she’d eaten early, a garden salad, but wouldn’t mind waiting for him to get something. But Roy had lost his appetite and proposed a walk. The air was warm and mild. Students spread out on the courtyard, eating and chatting, laughing. Some kicked hacky sacks. Others walked tightropes strung between thick-leaved trees, shivering in a light breeze. Roy smelled Vivian’s perfume and moved closer to her, their arms brushing. Vivian

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Bernard Grant plucked a bunch of dandelions that had sprouted beside the main path and blew the seeds, one flower at a time, nodding and murmuring in assent as Roy told her about Calvin, admitting to his guilt for blowing off his student. “I understand not wanting to stir the waters,” she said, nodding and placing a hand on his shoulder. “I was just talking to my students about the masks we all wear. How you can leave the house for an hour, just to pick up a few groceries, you know, but you’re exhausted when you get home because of all the little performances you’ve put on.” She glanced at Roy. Her smile—she was maybe thirty, just a few years younger than him, but she reminded him of a child, eager to share some new bit of information she’d learned. “Say you walk inside and run into your cousin. You put on a mask to chat with him. But it’s a store you don’t often go to so you have to ask a clerk where to find the foil or paper towels, whatever you might need. When you go to check out you pretend to be interested in a conversation with the cashier. And on your way out to the car, you run into your ex or an old boss, a bad boss, and it’s awkward, but you put all your effort into pretending it isn’t.” She stopped in the path and turned to face him. Her skin was as dark as his mother’s. “So, math man, how many masks did you wear?” Roy chuckled. “Four.” “Exhausting, right? So—Kenneth is it?” “Calvin.” “So Calvin comes into your office asking for help. Why would you put on the guardian slash father figure mask when you’ve already got the teacher one on?” “Right. And if I went with him to the dean, then I’d be mixing up all kind of masks.” She closed her eyes and nodded. “Fumbling to fit them all on your face. You’re taking care of yourself. That doesn’t make you a bad guy. I know that if that boy had gotten hurt, you’d have been all over that cop. And the school. Hell, I’d join you.” Roy couldn’t help but smile around Vivian. The smile came easy, unlike the one he forced at home, and it lasted all day, even though he stayed on campus long after classes to meet with students and attend a faculty meeting. He woke late the next morning and sneaked into the empty garage to gaze through a small window at a cluttered driveway. Old oak chairs and a kitchen table next to an office desk. A broken lamp. Toys, mostly cars and trucks, pickups and bulldozers, but also action figures, super heroes and soldiers. Wind lifted the top from a plastic tub, revealing stuffed animals and Barbie dolls. Hard to believe anyone would pay money for their garbage. Margaret stood on the lawn, her thighs tumbling from a red sundress. She took clothes out of a plastic tub and spread them on a tarp. The kids placed their own outgrown clothes on the opposite end. Margaret stretched,

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Bernard Grant turned, and, seeing Roy, asked him to make sandwiches for the kids. “And please, Roy, don’t come back out here looking like a hoodlum.” Roy forced a smile, though as he headed back inside the house, the kids following—Lucas singing the Mighty Mouse theme song, Brenda begging Roy to take her to the mall—he couldn’t shake the word “hoodlum,” a word that amplified as he showered and put on a polo and slacks. It wasn’t until he sat down to breakfast, a bowl of grits and a slice of ham-layered toast, that he understood why the word bothered him. His children’s laughter drifted from the living room and into the kitchen, triggering the association. A checkup. He’d hopped off the examination bed and was tying his shoelaces when the pediatrician handed him a butterscotch candy and said, “Maybe some sweets will keep you from growing up into a hoodlum.” No older than ten, Roy had been too young to understand why his mother had murmured that ignorant fool all day—while she drove him home, cooked dinner, talked on the phone—until she eventually called the doctor’s office and demanded an apology. Roy got up from the kitchen table to place his dishes in the sink and make sandwiches for Brenda and Lucas. His mother had taught him never to put his hands on a woman, but she’d never said anything about wanting to. Sometimes he sure wanted to go upside Margaret’s head. But he was no hoodlum. He’d graduated magna cum laude. Got his first teaching job straight out of grad school. Bought a house. A car. Returning to the lawn, Roy faced a rare fall heat, dry air, a blazing sun. He stood next to Margaret, who sat in a lawn chair, her legs crossed, the top leg swaying while she flipped through a magazine. “Sorry,” he said. “Didn’t mean to sleep in. I worked late.” “I worked late too.” “Okay, but it’s not like I get to leave my work in the classroom.” He didn’t notice the condescension in his voice until after he’d spoken. “Grading papers,” she said, without looking up from the magazine. “Real back-breaking.” This from a woman who joked that watching soaps was in her job description. She “cared” for disabled adults who stayed in their bedrooms all day. “It’s like babysitting,” she’d say. “Masks,” he said. She set the magazine on her lap, covering her thighs. “I can’t understand you when you whisper like that.” “I wear masks all day.” Margaret’s grunt made Roy aware of his position as an instigator. His voice quivered. His hands did too. As he sat down on the lawn chair beside hers, he placed them under his legs. “One for my class. Another for colleagues. Then I put on a mask when students visit my office, a different one for each of them.” “You read too much psychology.” “Sociology,” he said.

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Bernard Grant “Same difference.” “No—it’s not the same at all.” “What’s the difference then?” “It’s…well. One is…” “See? It’s all bullshit.” An elderly woman approached the driveway. Their next-door neighbor. She was deaf, yet charming, with her closely cropped hair, white as her oversized t-shirt, and her loud, jumbled speech. “What did you study?” Roy asked Margaret, withholding the word “dropout.” “That’s low,” Margaret said, waving at the deaf woman, who stood at the edge of the driveway, inspecting videotapes. “Real low. You know I was homesick.” A handful of neighbors came by, more interested in small talk than in buying anything. Nice day. Too bad summer’s over. Nine months of dread coming up. Pacific Northwesterners obsessed over the weather. There were a few sales. A tall boy bought Roy’s basketball shorts. The litter box and scratch pad of Margaret’s deceased calico cat was snagged by an elderly couple. The deaf woman returned to snatch up a popcorn maker, a wedding gift. Roy felt cleaner with each sale. Around two, a man on his way to his grandchild’s birthday party came to peruse their daughter’s old toys. Slim, tall, and balding, he was Roy in ten, twenty years. If Roy were white. “How old is your daughter?” the man asked Roy. “Thirteen. Running circles around me.” The man laughed. “Got a grandson that age. My son says he sleeps harder now than he ever has.” “I know what you mean.” Roy glanced at Margaret, who spent more time with the kids than he did. She caught his eye and smirked bitterly. The man handed Roy a twenty dollar bill and sniffed his fingers. “Ever notice how bad money smells? Couldn’t tell it was so dirty just by looking at it.” The man left, whistling, a basket of Brenda’s stuffed animals in his hands. Margaret folded up her chair and said, “I’m tired too you know. If you would have helped put all this stuff out last night we both could have slept in.” “People steal.” “Who? The high school kids walking to class?” “Maybe.” Margaret looked over her shoulder. “Probably some of them are hoodlums.” Dusk arrived as Roy drove Brenda to the mall. She said nothing as she got out of the car, yet he sat and watched her go up the long path to the mall entrance, holding her cellphone to her ear. He waited until he saw her step inside, then drove away. As he turned onto Harrison Avenue, he became almost giddy at the thought of having some time to himself. He

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Bernard Grant pulled into the Westside Tavern lot and parked next to two motorcycles sharing a single space, then walked up the wheelchair ramp and slapped at a maple branch before entering. The bar was empty, save a couple cuddling in a corner, a young bartender, and two bikers. One biker shot pool, alone, cursing and smacking the table. The other biker sat at the bar. On both his arms, a sleeve of tattoos crept up to a leather vest. Paint splotches spotted his jeans, stretched by enormous thighs. Roy took a seat at the bar, one stool between them, and was about to order a glass of Merlot when he caught sight of the man’s caramel-colored drink. He ordered bourbon, neat. On TV was a news commercial about the nonindictment of the white police officer who’d shot and killed an unarmed black teenager. The biker pinched a nut from the bowl and pointed it at the TV before popping it into his mouth. “Can you believe that, man?” Roy shook his head. “They should have charged him.” “The kid ripped off a convenience store. He was a hoodlum, plain and simple.” Roy sat up, scratched the back of his head. “Yeah. I mean there’s no videotape.” The biker squinted. “Even if there was, what do you think it would have shown?” Heat prickled on Roy’s back. “That…that they—I don’t—” The biker patted Roy’s arm and said he was joking—only an asshole would say that cop wasn’t racist. He introduced himself as Roger and scooted onto the stool beside Roy. Their knees knocked. Roy smelled aftershave as Roger leaned toward him and asked him what he was drinking. Roy inspected his drink as if he’d forgotten. “Bourbon.” “Toss it back.” Roger slugged his own drink and raised his hand to the bartender. “Get me and Roy another couple of these, please.” He removed the band from his ponytail. Long, brown hair fell to his shoulders. The shot made him chatty. He lived in Oregon, rode up to Washington with his dude on his way to nowhere, gazing at heat-soaked valleys and glassy lakes, pristine and sparkling, tripping out on puddles dissolving from the road, just traveling until they ran out of money. But, he bragged, they were newly retired, set, and would never run out of money. Roger paused to offer Roy another drink. Roy declined. Yet Roger snapped his fingers. Two more shot glasses slid down the bar, one of which disappeared in Roger’s fat hand. A rainbow bracelet slid down his wrist. Roger’s knee knocked against Roy’s again, and though he moved his leg, Roger scooted closer and took his shot. “You’re not much of a drinker,” he said. “I drink.” “Then don’t waste money, man. Might not be top shelf but it comes from the top of my heart. Knock it back.” He touched Roy’s shoulder just as the other biker sneaked behind Roger and slapped the back of his head.

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Bernard Grant Roger turned and slapped the biker. The men growled at each other, red faced, exchanged dirty motherfuckers. They kissed. The other biker gave Roy a hard stare as he rubbed Roger’s back. “You messing with my man?” Roy startled, shook his head. “I’m not even—” “I’m messing with you, hon.” Roy flinched as the biker squeezed his shoulder on his way to the pool table. “Where are you from?” Roger asked Roy. “Grew up in Texas. Moved out here years ago though, for work.” “Texas. That’s a long way. How’d you like it out there?” “It’s home.” Roy sensed skepticism in Roger’s glare and said, “I don’t always miss it. You get tired of clerks following you around grocery stores and cops pulling you over, harassing you for no reason. Never happened to my white friends. Never happens here.” He flashed to the handcuffs around Calvin’s wrists. “Well, not as much.” “The south, man. I tell you. Me and Lloyd never tried to hide who we are. I love the hell out of that man. I won’t embarrass him by being ashamed. Back in ’92 we were riding through West Texas and decided to stop at this old bakery. Advertised for miles. Oldest bakery in the state or something like that. Black and white pictures all over the place, big display cases full of every bagel and cookie you can imagine. They must’ve seen something because they told us they’d just opened and hadn’t prepared any food. We said all right and sat down to wait. Well, wouldn’t you know it, a line formed. We joined it, but once we got to the counter they said they didn’t serve people like us.” “Damn.” “Yeah.” After a long silence Roger poked Roy’s wedding band. “How long you been married?” “Almost fifteen years. Feels a lot longer.” “Best feeling in world, isn’t it? To have your best friend as your lover.” Roy gazed into his empty shot glass. “I’d give up anything to be with her.” “Luckily you don’t have to. We’ve hit the jackpot, you and me. Found our partners, found our places in this messed up world.” Roger checked his watch and patted Roy’s shoulder. “Well, Lloyd and I got a movie to catch. It was nice chatting with you.” He paid his tab and signaled to Lloyd, who came over. Roy thanked him for the conversation and said goodbye. As the bikers walked hand in hand to the door, Roy ordered a glass of Merlot, and was tipsy enough to slop it onto his sleeve. It had rained that afternoon. He remembered how, after they had bundled all the yard sale items into the tarps and rushed inside, Margaret’s dress was soaked through and clung to her body. She didn’t exercise, and she wasn’t cautious about what she ate.

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Bernard Grant His phone buzzed. A text message. Brenda wanted him to pick her up from the mall. He ordered and guzzled an energy drink and stumbled out of the bar, burping and cursing. Teenagers trickled out of the mall, shouted jeers as they parted ways, then slipped off backpacks and purses and tossed them into waiting vehicles before climbing in. Crows scavenged the parking lot, plucking at a scattering of soda cups and paper bags. The back door of Roy’s sedan clicked open, startling him. Cool air sifted into the car as Brenda appeared in the rearview mirror. She sighed out a thank you and declined Roy’s offer to sit up front. He turned to the backseat, one arm over the passenger, and reminded her, as he often reminded her, that he didn’t go to college to drive a taxi. Brenda rolled her eyes and climbed up front as Roy maneuvered around waiting vehicles and out of the parking lot. Smoke fumed off her clothes. “Have you been smoking?” Roy asked. “Have you been drinking?” “I had a drink.” “You seem pretty happy to have had just a drink.” Roy pointed to the radio and told Brenda to turn on whatever she wanted to listen to. While she flipped through the stations, Roy headed toward I-5 and thought about his rain-soaked wife. “It’s a shame,” Margaret had said, taking a seat on a wet box, “that you’ll schmooze with a perfect stra—” She slipped into the box. Her bare feet stuck up. Her hair fell over her face. When Roy rushed to the box and grabbed her hand, she laughed and pulled him in. Forcing laughter and kissing his damp wife, Roy thought about Vivian. He’d kissed her yesterday, in his office. Just a peck. He wished his mother was alive to see him falling in love with a woman who understood. Sirens blared, startling Roy. He checked his rearview mirror and saw a police cruiser, sirens flashing, headed towards him. He pulled over, set his head on the steering wheel, and reprimanded himself for throwing his life away for free drinks in a dive bar, and for putting his child in danger. Police lights filled his car. He glanced into the vanity mirror. Calvin’s frightful face was on his own, superimposed. The cruiser sped past. He tried to ignore Brenda’s laughter, but felt his hand rear back, heard a shriek, and saw in his daughter’s face the fear he’d just seen in his own.

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Shawn Proctor Sugar “When the sap is running, you get two drops every heartbeat,” my

father always told us, even back when I needed a stool to reach the buckets hung on the maple trees. They were the words of my grandfather, echoed by his own father in the sugarhouse while the sap boiled down to syrup. Year over year, February was the same—tapping and collection, fire and sap, steam and syrup. We learned function equaled value. The old barn was hammered straight, a tractor patched until the wires, starters, and engine no longer had any effort left to give. My brother and I were never told but always reminded shoulder was a verb.

My father doesn’t make a noise when he sobs. He covers his mouth, palms touching just under his chin, tears slipping down the webbing of his fingers and dotting his undershirt. His body clenches like choking. My brother and mom yell at one another. They repeat the same phrases louder and louder until the sentences are fractured. I understand pieces. My brother shouts service and mom screams family—they stop when the trees have painted out the sun. I sit on the top of the stairs and fold my arms across my stomach. My brother walks, his shadow advancing and retreating from the foyer. He pushes ahead, past quitting his job. He wants to talk about history instead. “The Green Mountain Boys invaded Canada,” he says. “We lived in a free republic.” “When does he come?” my father asks. “Oh-eight hundred hours tomorrow.” Mom bangs her fist on the table. “Paul! It’s sugaring time.” “You have Teddy.” Paul looks up the stairs where I am. I can’t tell if he sees me hiding in the shadow between where the hallway and living room lights end. “He’s not even old enough to boil sap by himself,” my father says. “You’ll die here. Doesn’t mean I have to,” Paul says. My father sighs. “Somewhere else then.” The heartbeat in my ears marks each promise as it breaks. I can’t hear it, but I know it happening all the same: my father’s weeping. Oh-eight hundred hours, I think. Mom waits on the porch the next morning when the man pulls up in a silver Buick. His hair is the color of a Maine beach. He wears a

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Shawn Proctor suit, clean-pressed like a uniform. His shoes sink in the muddy slush. I try to do the math—Oh-eight hundred hours plus twenty hours travel south. Twenty-eight hours, I wonder, or oh-twenty-eight hours? He extends his hand. “A pleasure,” the man says. Mom shivers in a dandelion-colored church dress. Faded flowers speckle the cotton. “Yes,” she says. “His father is inside.” Paul hoists his trunk into the car, the back end lowering, and comes back to receive mom’s standard kiss on the forehead. “Well, this is it, Theodore,” Paul says to me. “Teddy,” I reply. We hug. I pat his back, not sure what else to do. My father clears his throat. The screen door shuts behind him. The man stiffens. “You bring my boy home,” my father says. “Bring him home.” Before dawn the next day, I walk through the sugarbush, where the buckets hang like silver bee’s nests. Paul may have just stepped off the bus at the base in Georgia. My father once told me that you only tap healthy trees, the same way you don’t take blood donations from children or the elderly. When the sun begins to melt snow crusts from the trees, I hear it. Two sap beats. Slow like snare drums then building into a chorus of soft taps. They play against the buckets all around me. I follow the sounds down the mountainside to where the sugarhouse fills with steam, heavy as longing.

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Kelly Cherry Eclipse A ring of fire remains but that is all. All else is as it must have been before The first—the very first, and shocking—dawn. No shadow, only unrelieved nullity. If you had eyes, they would not be of use. If you could see, you still could not see. Then light blossomed in the sky, flowered Into dawn, and color, shape, and shadow Announced their presence, to our endless joy. Yet not endless, for eclipses show us that The dark has not been banished but persists And will return when it chooses to return.

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Su Cho

After the Burial, the Dead Take Everything That Burns My grandmother picks up the bottom of her white-hemp mourning dress & hurls a fluorescent green bottle of soju into the fire. The great bier with its magenta & neon yellow streamers cracks & crumbles inside its smoke. Facing the marble headstone are pastel rice cakes & apples stacked five high. Pouring soju into ceramic glasses, she toasts to the harvest. She tosses wedding portraits, fine linens, cabbages, & his work pants into the pyre. After the fire dies into a flame, she sits in front of the marble table set with a bowl of rice & drink, waiting for him to pick up the chopsticks & eat.

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Lisa Fay Coutley Back-Talk II So what. So you whittle away at some endless road of homing bones, rabbit queen of a coyote town, drifting like influenza over the chainlink breath of birds. So nothing will ever be as it seems. The way baby in womb is cloud cluster with an overbite, chalk outline to the otherwise invisible water inside a night’s sky. Lean with the precise, if bent, torso of a Japanese elm, & hover above him gripping the thinning & sunworn thread of love’s plaid shirt. Water recedes. Weeds will grow taller than any man you kiss here.

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Lisa Fay Coutley

Astronaut at the Window Egg against. Flecked paint. Water locking around a dime. Some wish. Some universe in a different math. She lets her shawl fall from her shoulders, devouring the bed. Constellated freckles, relentless shores. Even stars refuse to let go sometimes, chloroforming every mouth, drowning every eye. Lightning stitches its clouds to its storms, pale bruises for drifting ships, track marks for destinations. Earth the blue. Earth the small. Earth the mapped—line drive into the brilliant gauze, unraveling bandage, rooting pulse.

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Oliver de la Paz Labyrinth 12 The boy in the labyrinth feels his fear. It runnels down his back as long as his breath lasts. He stands still in the darkened arch. Within him, a vowel—all curves and swallows. And soon a whistle sweeps the passageways as the minotaur’s hooves bayonet the ground. The bull man walks as one in a dance. As one en pointe. His fetlocks catch the spark of hoof to cobble and his cadence rebounds from wall to wall. Back against the smoothed stone, the boy closes his eyes. The slow riot of the minotaur’s steps wears the enamel from the boy’s bones.

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Courtney Flerlage William Watson’s The Electrical Boy, 1748 for my brother See the boy suspended by silk ropes, cranked wheel churning a charge to his toes, through heels & ungrounded body, arm outstretched to a girl with her feet in pitch, hands offered to attract feathers, chaff—a trick of spark & current, physics you explain to me—how some charges spool in a loop & others channel like lightning, the shock we almost received when we were younger: caught in a field when the rain came, the hairs of our arms rising. You had been stalking deer; I was there because, always, I followed you, into the open grass, exposed, or through deep woods— thick oaks folding over us, brush of thorn & poison ivy, tick nest. In memory, I’m always making a miracle of you, never bothered by being lost or the losing. Imagine the scars after strike (will you think me braver?): fractals through blood vessels, inflamed branches—some parts, by chance, bound to align.

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Jessica Franck Mother, Hunting It’s dark, so for God’s sake don’t jump. —Susan Stewart Let darkness be the net. Leap, and will I find what I want there? A history stark enough to follow without fable. Between shadow and silhouette, threaded through autumnal brush, my mother stands with no stories, just a thick gloved palm in air. Black hair, let down, edges her face. In this photograph, earth is a veneer she refuses to peel away. Not even a wave, only a gesture raised, here I am— wearing bright orange, blind to deer, impossible to miss.

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Casey Pycior Preservation On September 5th, 1856, a mere 6 days after departing St. Louis,

the Arabia steamboat reached Westport Landing in what is now Kansas City, bound for the Nebraska Territory. The Arabia was loaded with nearly 150 passengers and over 200 tons of cargo, including 20,000 feet of lumber, 2,000 pairs of shoes and boots, kegs of whiskey and ale, and enough home goods (pots, pans, china and tableware, sardines, salt pork, and other dry good, as well as jars of pie filling and pickles, and hundreds of yards of fabrics and skins, buttons and beads, and various liniments, oils, and medicines) to resupply 16 northern frontier towns’ general stores with merchandise. The clock in the car says we have ten minutes to get to the museum for the first tour, and we are parked several blocks away in front of a converted warehouse in the River Market neighborhood. “We’ve got to hustle, Jordy,” I say because he’s a kid who likes to take his time. Normally, I don’t mind it; he pays attention and takes things in, but at times like this it can be a pain in the ass. The City Market is bustling, and I have to drag Jordy past the long line of produce-filled stalls on the west end of the wide open U-shaped space. He keeps pulling against me, pointing and saying, “Look at all those mangoes! And at all those strawberries! And those watermelons! And tomatoes! And peppers!” Andandand.… I told him we could walk through the market and maybe grab a bite of breakfast at one of the hole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurants inside the market before the museum opened—if there was time. But with leaving the house late and looking for a parking spot for twenty minutes, there isn’t. I finally manage to get Jordy past the rows of tables where people are selling their produce and crafts and into the clearing on the east side in front of the Arabia Steamboat Museum. Through the glassed-in front, we can see one of the large paddlewheels from the Arabia turning through a pool of water. I tug one last time on Jordy’s arm and he stops. “Dad.” “C’mon, Jordy. Or we’re not going to make it.” “But Dad, look,” he says and points to a man in a wheelchair holding a sign. Disabled Vet Please Help.

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Casey Pycior We live in the suburbs over on the Kansas side, so I’m not sure Jordy has really seen any homeless people up close, aside from maybe someone holding a sign at a stoplight on an exit ramp. I glance at the man. His face and hair and hands are grungy, and though his clothes are filthy and thread-bare, he’s got his shirt buttoned all the way to the top and it looks as if it’s tucked in. And he’s kind of a big guy, or seems so, and his wheelchair is small and all beat to hell. He sees Jordy staring at him and wheels over to us. “Hey, hey man, you got any spare change?” “Sorry, we’re on our way in here, and we’re late,” I say, and check my watch. “Jordy, let’s go.” I walk a few steps ahead but have to come back because Jordy hasn’t moved. “What does that mean, a Vet?” Jordy asks. “It means I served our country,” the man says. “Fought in the war.” I can’t really gauge the man’s age, but clearly he’s too young for Vietnam. I suppose it’s possible he fought in Afghanistan or Iraq, though he looks old for that. “What’s wrong with your legs?” Jordy asks. “Jesus, Jordy,” I say, “Don’t ask that.” “I’ll tell you for five bucks,” the man says, and Jordy studies him for a moment, and I know what he’s going to do before he even moves. “Stop. Don’t take your wallet out,” I say. I know he’s got a little money from his allowance because he asked me this morning if he could bring some for the Arabia gift shop, so I’m not going to stand by and let him get played. “C’mon, it’s the kid’s money, let him spend it how he wants,” the homeless man says to me. “You don’t have any say in this. Jordy, let’s go. NOW.” “Dad,” he says, “it’s okay.” “I said no.” Jordy looks at me as he pulls his blue wallet from his back pocket and tears the Velcro apart and takes a five dollar bill from inside. He’s not a kid to defy authority, and the way he’s looking at me, it’s like he’s trying to tell me that he doesn’t mean to disobey me. He takes a few steps forward, extending the bill in front of him. “You don’t have to tell me,” he says. I have a flash of the man grabbing my son, and doing…I don’t know what, but all he does is reach out his dirty hand and take the money. Jordy looks at the man again like he maybe sees something I don’t before he turns and walks with me toward the museum doors. I put my arm around his shoulder and pull him close to me. At the ticket counter inside the high-ceilinged lobby, I ask if we have time to make the first tour, and though we’re five minutes late, the lady sells me the tickets. While I wait for the receipt to print, I watch the large paddlewheel turning in the pool, the sound of the paddles splashing into and coming out of the water filling the large space. I say to Jordy, “You didn’t have to give him any money.”

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Casey Pycior Jordy nods. “I know.” The woman behind the counter gives me my change, and I take a five and hold it out to Jordy. “Here, put this in your wallet.” He shakes his head. “Then it’d be like I didn’t do anything.” I fold the bill and put it in my front pocket, thinking maybe I’ll find some other way to give it to him, and I hand Jordy his ticket instead. We follow the arrows down the stairs to where the tour begins, and since we have to catch up, it seems we’ve missed the tour guide’s opening remarks. Jordy leans in and gestures for me to bend down. He whispers in my ear: “Don’t worry, Dad, I’ll tell you what you missed.” Built in the Pennsylvania boat-yard of John S. Pringle in 1853, the Arabia steamboat was midsized at 171 feet long and 29 feet wide. A wood-burning boat, its furnaces consumed 30 cords of wood a day, fueling its 25 foot long, iron-jacketed three-tube boilers, and its 28 foot side-wheeler paddlewheels, each with its own engine, could propel the vessel upstream at a respectable 5 miles per hour. The Arabia travelled the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers before being sold in 1856 to Captain William Terrill and William Boyd of St. Louis for $20,000. The Arabia’s first trip on the Missouri was to Fort Pierre carrying 109 soldiers and supplies from Fort Leavenworth for Gen. Wm. S. Harney’s expedition against the Sioux. In Lexington, Missouri in early March, pro-slavery Border Ruffians seized a shipment of 100 rifles from the New England Emigrant Aid Company bound for abolitionists in Lawrence, Kansas. The Arabia made 14 trips across the Missouri that year, nearly sinking in March and having to receive repairs in Portland, Missouri; a few weeks later, it blew a cylinder head and again required repairs. Kim and I’d planned it out: we were going to get Jordy up early on a Saturday, go to the Arabia Steamboat Museum—a place he’d gone on a field trip with his gifted class and had been begging to show us—and then hit the City Market before going for lunch, somewhere he really liked—the Rainforest Café at the mall, maybe, even though it was across town. After, we’d planned to tell Jordy about our decision to separate. It wasn’t so much that we wanted to soften the blow for Jordy, though of course that was part of it, as it was a kind of final moment for us as a family. But it never happened. Early on the morning of September 5th, at the Quindero Bend near what is now Parkville, Missouri, less than five miles north of Kansas City, a walnut tree snag submerged in the turbid water tore into the Arabia’s hull, causing it to swiftly take on water. Though

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Casey Pycior the river was only fifteen feet deep, the river bottom was soft, and in a matter of minutes, the boat began sinking into the mud and silt. Kim may or may not have been cheating on me, as far as I knew, and I may or may not have been cheating on her, as far as she knew. It wasn’t the physical act of cheating that did it—we were past that, I think. And that was the problem. That as far as each of us knew we were both having affairs and that that fact alone didn’t matter was everything we needed to know. The passengers took turns with the lifeboat, and once everyone was ashore, they left on the riverbank what few belongings they had managed to salvage from the sinking Arabia and set off for nearby Parkville. They were put up in a hotel for the night and, according to one survivor, when they returned the next morning to the site of the Arabia’s sinking, their belongings had been pilfered by thieves in the night. I’d been sleeping in the spare bedroom at the end of the hall for the past few weeks. I waited to go to bed until long after Jordy was asleep, and I made sure I was up before him every morning so he wouldn’t suspect anything. A couple nights before we’d planned to go to the museum, I woke in the middle of the night. I’d thought I heard a thud somewhere in the house, but it was one of those moments where I couldn’t tell if the sound was real or a dream. I sat up in bed and listened, but the sound never returned. In the morning, I found Kim sprawled in the hallway a few feet from my door. Doctors said it was aneurysm. She’d been carrying her death around her entire life and never knew. Not that she could’ve done anything about it. Here’s the thing, though. The way the rooms and hallway are laid out, there’s no reason she should have been on my end of that hall—Jordy’s room was the other way, and there’s a bathroom in the master bedroom—unless she was coming to me in the middle of the night. Did she know something was wrong? The doctors said that’s not how it works, but I don’t know. The Arabia sank so quickly in the river bottom mud that by the next morning, all that remained above water were the smokestacks and pilot’s houses. Soon, the Missouri devoured them, too. No one perished, yet the Arabia’s cargo was lost, including a mule that was left tied to the deck’s rail. All efforts to salvage the wreckage failed, and soon the boat was completely lost to the Missouri. We’d agreed not to tell anyone about the separation until after we told Jordy, so no one at the funeral—including our families—knew, though I suppose anyone close to us might’ve suspected we were having

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Casey Pycior troubles. It felt wrong in many ways, playing the grieving husband, when what I was really feeling was anger and, oddly, betrayal. Not for any infidelities but for forcing me to pretend, to carry all of this off by myself. A few of her coworkers looked at me in a way that made me think they knew, and maybe Kim had told them. But in their group one guy was more distraught than he should have been. I wondered if I’d ever met the man before. I didn’t socialize with Kim’s friends much over the years, so he didn’t look familiar. He could’ve been her lover, I don’t know. It wasn’t as if I could walk up and ask him. Somehow he must’ve known, otherwise I doubt he would have had the balls to show up. But knowing I couldn’t make a scene didn’t stop me from fantasizing about kicking the shit out of him in the parking lot behind the funeral home. Despite our problems, Kim was still my wife. And she always will be, now. Her father, Bruce, kept telling me he knew what I was going through. When he lost “his Angie” three years earlier to breast cancer it was like “God Himself had reached in and stole my heart from my body. And now He’s gone and done it again.” I couldn’t say much; he’d just lost his youngest daughter. But Kim’s mother had battled for ten years. She was a hell of a lady, and tough, like Kim. It wasn’t easy on her or anyone else, but it wasn’t sudden. Everyone had a chance to say what needed to be said. There were no questions. All accounts were squared. And there wasn’t an eleven-year-old left to raise. Rapid and muddy-bottomed rivers like the Missouri often change course due to seasonal flooding, and though the story of the Arabia was told and retold until it gained near-mythical status, the exact location of the wreckage was lost. Stories persisted that over 400 barrels of whiskey sank with the Arabia, but every excavation attempt over the next hundred years failed… Until, in the summer of 1988, using old river maps and newspaper clippings and a proton magnetometer, treasure hunters Bob Hawley and his sons, David and Greg, located the Arabia buried 45 feet below the ground in a farmer’s cornfield over a half mile west of the Missouri River. On November 13, 1988, the Hawley family began their excavation after promising the landowner to have it completed in time for the spring planting. The crew brought in hundreds of tons of machinery and drilled holes to find the outline of the hull. They then dug 20 wells, each 65 feet deep, around the excavation site and installed pumps. When working at their peak, these pumps removed thousands of gallons of water per minute, siphoning it over a half mile to the Missouri River. On November 26th, the crew exposed the top of the Arabia’s paddle wheel 27 feet below ground level. Over the next ten weeks, working 12-hour days, the Hawleys

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Casey Pycior recovered nearly all of the cargo, as well as the one remaining engine, the boilers, and part of the rudder and stern. They completed their dig February, 11, 1989, and within hours of the pumps shutting down, groundwater flooded the empty grave of the Arabia. Jordy’s been asking questions about his mother. Kim was a great mom, so I’m positive Jordy will have strong memories of her. It’s just that his questions are not the kind most eleven-year-olds think to ask. Like, as a child, what did Mom want to be when she grew up? (I don’t know, she never told me. But she loved her job as a middle school secretary.) What were her favorite books? (She liked White Noise and The Notebook. Go figure.) Did she and I have a song? (Yes. “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis,” by Tom Waits. It’s a long story….) Where did we go on our honeymoon? (Branson, Missouri…we didn’t have a lot of money.) What was her favorite band? (Honestly? Dave Matthews Band…but she always told people Wilco.) Where was her favorite place in the world? (Wherever you were, and that’s the god’s honest truth.) The questions come at odd moments—in the car just before dropping him off for school, playing catch in the backyard, while doing dishes after dinner—moments, it seems, when he realizes he won’t ever get to ask her himself. The Arabia Steamboat Museum opened on November 13, 1991, near the landing in Kansas City, Missouri, from which the vessel made its final departure in 1856. The recovered cargo, concealed in the oxygen-free river mud for 132 years, was mostly preserved. Some of the treasures of the Arabia: Goodyear rubber over shoes (patented 1849), Wedgewood China, firearms, jewelry, French perfume (still fragrant), wine (still potable), and perfectly preserved canned fruits and vegetables (still edible). Even the walnut snag that sank the Arabia was recovered. Once unearthed and exposed to air, the artifacts were in danger of rapidly deteriorating, so the Hawley’s stored them in large water-filled tubs, cold-storage caves, and commercial restaurant freezers. They stabilized metals with tannic acid and soaked organic materials in a solution of polyethylene glycol. A state-of-the-art preservation laboratory, housed in the museum and a part of the tour, processes over 700 objects from the Arabia  yearly. Over half the Arabia’s cargo has been cleaned, preserved, and displayed in the museum, yet over 100 tons still remain in the cold or wet storage, waiting to be treated and preserved. “I told you it was going to be great, didn’t I?” Jordy says once we are outside the doors of the museum. He’s carrying a bag from the gift shop, inside it a book about the Arabia Steamboat and a poster-sized map of the

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Casey Pycior Missouri River, Xs marking the known locations of the over 400 steamboats that sank in the river. “I’m glad we went,” I say. “It was fun.” “I think Mom would’ve really liked it, too. Especially all the jewelry and Indian beads and stuff.” And he’s right. Kim would’ve loved it. “I’m sure she would’ve, Jordy,” I say. “I’m sorry we didn’t get to all come together.” But as I think about it, I don’t know how sorry I really am. If Kim and I’d been able to go through with our plan it would’ve tainted all this for Jordy forever. We walk a little way in silence, and for no other reason than to break it, I ask, “What was your favorite part?” “Last time it was all the preserved food, but this time I liked the snag.” “The snag?” I say. “Yeah. I don’t know. It’s just, well…” Jordy looks down at the ground while we walk. He does this sometimes when he’s thinking. “I mean, the thing that sunk the boat is in the museum. But…if the boat hadn’t sunk, then there wouldn’t be a museum…right? So it’s, like…the snag is the most important thing in the whole place.” “What?” Jordy asks when I don’t say anything. “Why are you smiling at me like that?” Though our marriage was over, Kim and I were always going to be parents together, and it’s moments like these that I miss her. The market has thinned out; most of the truck farms and the Mennonites selling their breads and pies have packed up as have the craftspeople hocking their goods. The larger, permanent produce stalls around the edges of the market are still open, and though many of them are beginning to close, I ask if Jordy wants to walk through. He does, so we walk to the north side of the market, toward the river. At one stall we watch a moment as two Latin American men with machetes cut the tops off fresh coconuts for people to drink the water. The coconuts are green and somewhat oblong and look nothing like the brown hairy kind in grocery stores. I let Jordy pick one out for us to share. We watch as one of the men expertly lops off just enough of the green outer shell to poke a long straw through. I pay one of the men, and let Jordy take the first drink. He does and smiles. “Good,” he says. I take a drink, and it’s sweet and smooth. We walk through the rest of the market, passing the coconut back and forth between us. Near the exit of the market, Jordy stops in front of a long table of spices manned by an older Arab gentleman. The air around the table is a heady mix, simultaneously appealing and slightly nauseating. Jordy looks at what must be well over 50 spice bins, seeming to study the exotic names, Star Anise, Cardamom, Fenugreek, Orris root, Zedoary, and I see that the man has stopped packing up so Jordy can continue to look. I start

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Casey Pycior to say something, but the man waves his hand at me as if to say, Let the boy look. I nod at the man, and after a moment Jordy is ready to keep walking. Outside the market, we start up the hill toward where we parked. Few cars remain in the lots, and there are spots open on the street. Just before we get to our car, Jordy says, “Dad? I’ve been wanting to ask you something.” “What is it?” I say and take my keys out of my pocket and press the unlock button on the key fob, and the lights flash and the horn chirps. Jordy goes to the passenger side and steps up on the curb, and over the top of the car. I watch his shoulders rise as he takes a deep breath. “Why were you sleeping in the spare bedroom?” “What do you mean?” I say, but I know exactly what he means, I just had no idea he knew. I open my car door and get in. “On the night Mom died,” he says as he settles into his seat and waits for me to say something. I can’t face him, so I stare through the windshield at the skyscrapers visible through the gap between the buildings. “The spare bedroom door was open and the bed was messy.” In the chaos of that morning, I didn’t even think to close the door. He must’ve looked in the room sometime that day while I was dealing with the hospital and the doctors. I don’t know what to say; I don’t want to lie to Jordy, but I can’t tell him the truth, either. “Dad?” he says again. “Jordy, I…” “No, Dad, look,” he says, and I turn my head and follow where he’s pointing out his window. There, at the mouth of the alley, is the wheelchairbound homeless man from in front of the Arabia museum, only he’s walking on two completely functional legs. “Sonofabitch,” I say. Jordy and I watch him stroll from the alley across the sidewalk and directly in front of our car. I honk at him and he stops, turning to look into the car. He squints and leans his head down and moves it slightly to the side to get past the glare on the windshield. Then it seems he recognizes us because he straightens up quickly. He stands a moment and we stare at each other. Then he smiles and shrugs his shoulders before walking away. “His shoes,” Jordy says. “What?” I say, and look at the man walking away. He’s got on brokendown white sneakers. A paralyzed person’s shoes aren’t going to be wornout. “Shit. You knew?” “Not really, but I noticed them.” “Then why’d you give him money?” “Maybe he needed it,” he says. We sit together in the car, Jordy’s unanswered question still hanging in the air, and watch the man walk up the street where he disappears into another alley.

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Misha Rai Food I Did Not Eat When she is six months along, my father slaps her, open handed, across her face. In the time it takes my mother to straighten herself and rub where her belly hit the mosquito net stand, my father is sorry. His stainless steel Titan watch, a size too big, slaps against his wrist. He never apologizes. The distance between his mother’s conciliatory vocabulary and him is already filled by three sisters conditioned to yes, please, sorry. He watches his twenty-one-year-old wife poke her bruised cheek from the inside with her tongue, reminding him of when she eats Cadbury’s Mr. Pops lollipops except there is no pleasure in her face. My father, a man of metal and wood, holds his gun to his chest, scared at what he has done, what he has started, wondering that mother and I aren’t splattered at his feet. When the walkietalkie on the bedside table croaks with urgent codes he places the gun in the holster, pulls on his uniform and says, “Everybody fights. Sometimes it gets out of hand. Brothers and sisters fight. They hit each other too.” When his police siren fades, my mother uses the insistent song of blood, muscle, and bone to make a listener of me; as another mother from a myth, incited her in-vitro princeling to listen to his father. My mother says, “Hit back.” Like the prince fated to die because his mother fell asleep and he only learned to cross swords towards death, not escape alive, my gore-filled memory takes shape. Mother splays her trembling, fat ringless fingers on her stomach, mumbling about her family: a susurrus of fierce voices. She touches her numbing jaw; pain floods back with something else. She hears water lapping on stone, again as a child, again not yet born, again when her mother dreams of having a child, again when her mother is pregnant, and again until only the sound of loud claps on skin and my mother seethes, “Hit back.” Later, the manservant who will bring me up, will tell me that the violence between them could have ended that night. “You might still have been born a child in whom indignance against men swelled like monsoon clouds instead of anger that obliterates.” My father should have come home and my mother would have taken the press iron to his hand. She, a woman of gold and silk, whose honour is more important than the sanity of her marriage, has to exact the price of her humiliation, of her initiation into a world of womanhood that even her kind find themselves in. 58

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Misha Rai Perhaps the venom from that evening might seep out of their consciousness like a dream. My father might have justified his actions so my mother could have reassured herself that it would not happen again. Not even as water lapping on stone. But my father never made his customary call at midday, nor came back that night. Instead he was ambushed, stuck behind a police jeep with his wounded fellow officer. The gang of dacoits caught them out in their own trap. While my mother waited, the manservant looked after her, ignoring the empurpled swelling on her cheek, and brought her khichdi at noon. She spooned the top layer of the dish covered in cooling yogurt and felt the comfort of basmati rice mushed with yellow Mung bean lentils. Sweet carrots married to salty peas and cauliflower. Tart tomatoes drizzled in fresh cilantro and bay leaves, rough like my father’s hand. With each spoonful, smatches of my mother’s tongue discerned the hot of cumin seeds, pepper, garam masala, cloves, red onions, garlic, ginger, and curry leaves that incited sudden violence. Why hadn’t he walked out to calm himself? Her last bite tasted of the errant green chili exocarp the cook let slip. Her throat constricted as anger leapt to the left-most corner of her heart where a cardamom pod sized knot hardened that no pistachiod-honey would melt. Its citrusy waves shook my sac. Unaccustomed to the settling bitterness, I kicked out. Hard. My mother did not say, “Shhhhh.” She grew heavy, and dreamed of the rip in her seam, my rouge-filled angry birth, my rouge-filled life.

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Hsien Chong Tan Three Wolves The Woodsman

When it snowed, she wore her white cloak with the hood up, took the forest paths, imagined herself the palest-furred of rabbits, invisible to the hawk. In the winter she rarely dawdled. She travelled by the straightest trails – there were no flowers on the road to Grandma’s cottage. Today, she dispensed with knocking, shouldered her way past the door that was never latched, huddled in before the first snowy drift. In the bed, Grandma, a pillow hiding her face. At the table, a woodsman, left hand clutching a loaf of bread, right hand twitching for the ax at his hip. White cloak. Red cloak. Later, when the meat was stewing in the pot, and his ailing wife rose from her bed as if propped up by the very smell of it, the woodsman would tell her about the white stag in the forest. Such antlers, he said. I chopped the animal up so I could carry it, and even then I had to leave them. Such antlers. They covered the sky. Grandma I’ve brought you bread and honey, the girl said, lowering her hood and putting her basket on the table. Come closer, my child, come closer, said Grandma. Let me see how you have grown. The flesh around the old woman’s face had receded, leaving her eyes strangely large. The fat was gone from her limbs, and fine black hairs stood out on her chin, stubborn soldiers that had missed the call to retreat. Come closer, chicken, come closer, said Grandma. Let these old bones give you a hug. A warm scent came from the sheets as she leaned from the bed and reached out her arms, smiling. The gums too had pulled back, and her front teeth were gone, leaving two brave canines above and below. Come closer, darling, come closer. Let me nibble your cheek.

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Hsien Chong Tan

Red Those who have seen her swear this: It was no trick of the light, no momentary fancy, not blood on the muzzle from a recent kill. One shewolf, larger than the others, flanks like rust, paws like snow. In the beginning, she took only sheep; later, cows, horses, naughty children, wayward men. In a more familiar century, car keys, striped socks, the last three cookies from the jar. In October, the hunter’s moon waxes, belly swollen with the things we have lost.

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Ruth Goring That night May 16, 1998, Barrancabermeja, Colombia in memory of Oscar Leonel Barrera Santa The trucks came. That night the grandfather walking. That night the salsa music, the beheaded moon. That night the roundup, anybody walking, the Mother’s Day party on the patio. That night the sister, thinking they were soldiers: dÊjame ir con mi hermano. That night the mosquitos, the oil on the Magdalena, the closed doors. The haste, the dropped cigarettes. That night the dogs. Los siete degollados, the human mouths that had refused. Twenty-five others taken as cargo, driven off, borrados.

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Rachel Heimowitz Searching for Our Stolen Sons for Eyal, Gilad, Naftali, and Mohammed —among the children killed in the summer, 2014 Dogs slither near the dumpster, fur rippling in the half-light of a moon that rests, golden, on the tips of hills. A voice crippled with hormones, braces, the burden of its first salty sweat, cries Hashem, Hashem, why have you forsaken me? Looted, lonely, a mother lighting candles, the glow imprisoned in her grip, the earth fixed to its axis, reeling into a honeyed night, calls, Hashem, and the call bounces from rocky hill to hill, side to side, down the dark wadi. A Friday-night candle for each child, but where are our boys, those still broken-voiced and raw? Only a dry riverbed. Only a broken connection, a charcoaled Hyundai and no one left to claim the theft. In Sodom a mother could give her life in a single, backward glance, her arms stretched toward a dead sea, her body turning slowly to salt, stitched inch by inch

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Rachel Heimowitz to the cliffs above the city. Salt in her palms, salt on her tongue, she calls, Why have you forsaken me? Staring back as the city burns, but what does she see? Not her own empty windows. Not her silver candlesticks melting in the flames. She searches for her abducted sons, those stolen and held by the King of Og. Or perhaps she’s watching those two young girls lashed to the city walls, naked, their bodies slathered with honey and left for the bees, venom sweetening their flesh to death, tears seared to crystals on their honeyed cheeks. Because this is Sodom, young girls used for every perversion, young boys held face down at gunpoint, pulled from cars and burned alive. A cell phone message says, We’ve been kidnapped, says forsaken, says desolate, says alone. The congregation holds a grace note. Hashem, Hashem, my body bruised, my eyes soft, my neck sliced ear to ear, my blood bright as honey on your lips, my torn seed salted and soaked. God, who commanded me on this day, gave me purity in its season, gathers

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Rachel Heimowitz my soul into the palms of his hands, and dashes it to the rocks below. Lay us down, please, lay us down, down on our backs as the moon turns from honey to silk, as the dogs scurry away from the boys in the city. A bitter night. A pillar of salt. Black dogs. Lost boys. Come home, we call, Come home.

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David Tomas Martinez Allegedly Hemingway Wrote Drunk Go now, and awake, children of addiction, believers of the bottomless, of empty space, of empty heads, of emptiness, the redeemers, the hoarders, the caloric counters of everything but the gut. Go now eternal sleeper in the sun, rocking in the night, sluice built throat, your own Hollywood star that is whiskey bottle shaped, protectors, skinners, hiders, swallowers. Go now, obsessed, wobbly and squint and read with one eye, the writing on the wall. Remember when Garamond was god, Didot an angel.

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T. J. McLemore The Bees, or, Bringing Back Eurydice So farewell: snatched by the overpowering night, I reach to you, no longer yours, these helpless hands. —Virgil, Georgics

1. Swarm Longing undoes us, finally whether in fulfillment or, worse, the question suspended forever, as the dead underground have their questions. As she must have— End of summer, both of us drunk after dinner and whiskey, didn’t I crawl into her bed, and wasn’t that yes? Or surrender— After she drifted off, I reached for the book on her nightstand, opened it to find her hand scrawled down the margin— Always your snakebit, your song, your sweetness—and then Lead me up out of this pit. That night I slept beside her, her scent covering me. The future: realm of the merely possible, our refuge from the present. Hungover this morning, I suit up for the honey harvest. September, all the crops spindly, brown-skirted, trying for a last fruit before winter. The hives are ready at last. I bathe them in calming smoke, but the colony swarms, a golden mass rising

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T. J. McLemore to prowl the farm like a bird of prey, like a lion, driving us out of the fields with flailing arms. Nobody escapes it. Bees invade my suit, stinging, swelling my throat shut, just short of shock. Finally the swarm settles, knotting up in the cottonwood, its branches sagging with the weight. When I return with my gear to get them, they are gone, lost. We pass a comb around the dinner table tonight with sticky hands, just one bite each, honey dripping onto our plates.

2. Bugonia The inconsolable lion pacing, turning— snatches of brown hair, trailing, blown in flight—the slow brown surge of the Brazos, more felt than heard— and the copperhead, waiting for her step to strike—was it lust? Dissembling? The long pursuit…midnights peeling paint off the steps of the porch, passing a pocket flask at the drive-in or at the river overlook—or on the bank, light moving up the cliffs, cattail heads bursting and bowing under the weight of their seeds, and the streets we rented on, the seaweed-strewn shore, marginalia, small sounds through the lock in the door (and so much more)… She ran, and I followed. I sucked her wound and cried for help and held her as she died. The cities I wander now don’t know me. I circle their walls, not wanting welcome, not searching the faces in their streets. I stay up for days, lighting candles in chapels,

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T. J. McLemore drinking coffee in all-night diners, avoiding sleep. It’s always the same dream—I’m a lion, lost in a dense forest, which slides and crumbles to sand. I’m in a desert, pacing, the sun burning through the pads of my feet. The heat invades me, rips me apart. I watch as my flesh burns off, my skull drops and slowly bleaches white in the sun, sinking like a boat under the blown sand.

3. Collapse The usual theories came in like a litany of what ails us— cell phone signals, genes, high-fructose winters, pesticides and parasites, a warming or a cooling trend, neglect, misunderstanding, punishment for my sins, too many other sweet-seeming tastes— but some questions don’t have answers. No theory, no self-pity, no possible knowledge can put sweetness back on the comb or call back the swarm. It’s late winter in the city, the ice losing its hold on the salted streets. The earth is ready once more to open. Elsewhere, in some other life, the farm prepares to start over, breaking the dark soil to shape long-raised beds, transplanting the early greens, waiting for the goats to kid with the new moon. Everything fades and comes back around. But she is gone, as traceless as the bees

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T. J. McLemore that never returned, that she followed perhaps to the realm of the voiceless, unanswerable current, the merely dead.

4. Bugonia (Dream) It starts as an itch each time (in my dream) from the joints of my paws—stripped clean, broken and wrestled down as I’d been by sun and sand, gods of the desert—growing then invading the tiny pockets inside my dissembled bones, drawing them back together, all pain— vertebra to vertebra, femur to socket—and becoming song, drone, finding my natural frequency, channeling vibration along bone and sand, rising, building to the head, cells in the half-buried skull, singing there a hymn of death, and empire, a cabin in the pines, a head floating down the river, a path leading up, away from the grave—a buzz of sweetness, a sweet song.

5. Return It’s not enough to imagine her coming back, he taunted, not even turning to me. You put the poison in her. You chased her from the world.

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T. J. McLemore So I grabbed him, the old man (who dripped through my hands when I pulled his mane, whose scales spit fire through my fingers, who begged for mercy with my mother’s face) at last going limp. He gathered himself slowly back to a man, the sea his eyes, rivers his voice. Listen, he seethed, All this you’ve ruined will return, but not before you taste sweetness. Look, it’s not enough that something die: It must be changed. Take your best doe, plug her nose, mouth, ears, shut up her cries. Then beat her to death— pound her flesh to pulp, but don’t break the hide. Lock the body in your dad’s cabin in the pines below the lake. Three days. Kneel and wait, boy… His eyes drained then, and he crawled back to his rock with the gulls. In the end it was easier than I thought it would be. Before the struggling goat even fell down, my blows had the ring of truth, my jaw tight as the old god’s stare. The unbroken hide became a man’s chest, the stopped-up cries like a song. I lit in, paying it all back, breaking until it felt like enough, until what lay there rippled like a filled wineskin. I did just as the god instructed—even prayed—but I didn’t want to go back. Three days was enough to bloat the body and steam the windows of the room. The smell I won’t describe. Fat white maggots squeezed past the plugs in the nose and out the still-crazed eyes. I puked there in the doorway, reeling— hadn’t I expected to find death, not life?— and ran home, cursing through my tears. That night I dreamed of her, the fang marks like weeping eyes on her ankle. She led me through the pines, and no more steam of rot,

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T. J. McLemore only golden light. The ringing trees sagged under the weight of swarms of bees. Bees burst from the dead goat, streamed from its eyes and nose, burrowed through the belly’s soft hide and flew from the cabin’s open door. She took my hand and led me to the riverbank, touched my face with cold fingers when at last I looked to her eyes. In a blur she was snatched by dark water, stretching her helpless hands to me—I am ruined! and I was alone. Days later I woke to myself singing breathlessly her name—then praying it, when weeks passed and she didn’t return. I fell to pieces in grief, breaking slowly apart. Finally I was just a severed head floating on the river singing, still singing her name. I remember she bent at last from the bank, lifted me out by my hair. Bees flew from her mouth, made her ears gold, crawled out her nose. As she kissed me, they poured down my throat.

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Alyssa Ogi Reparations My grandmother rinses the dinner rice for as many years as I’ve been alive— eight swishes under the rusting faucet, eight rushes of white-steeped water taking kernels from the starch. She sifts through the raw pearls with arthritic fingers; a thumb once caught in an iron thresher when she was young, pinky finger bent forward like a heavy corn stalk. Her father was the first Japanese sharecropper in Montrose. In 1929, he planted new wheat in dusty, tented rows. My grandmother was the first of five daughters. Like regimented soldiers, they waited in line once dinner dishes were washed. She stood, a wall, in front of wide-eyed sisters— her father pulled his belt off and hit them for what they had not yet done. “Preventative measures,” my grandmother tells me as she stirs the oden, remembering his heavy breaths tapping time with the beatings. “He believed we’d be safer if we were afraid, he only wanted to do right by us.” Finished, she holds a gnarled hand out. I take it in our usual massage, hard up-strokes toward her knuckles, slow circles down to the wrist. Lines on her palm nearly erased from age. The pains won’t fade away.

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Alyssa Ogi Her thin pinky was broken at Manzanar; a caged sister threw a hot iron out the glassless window and struck her. A nurse wrapped the finger to a popsicle stick but it didn’t set; just grew around the injury. In tidy barrack rows with tar paper walls, she swallowed dust and harvested remnants of childhood. She washed rationed rice eight times for good luck. Her father withered until he was buried as ashes in a mayonnaise jar. I help my grandmother set bowls out; she re-wipes their edges like her father did. The pot is too heavy to carry alone, so we each take a handle and heft it over— stew soaks the room in sweet fish scents. What is beautiful and what is known rests at the table on this quiet night; the rice steams white across my grandmother’s face. Her hand shakes as she ladles broth. My hands will soon be the size of hers. In warm-night silence, we sit and click chopsticks against ceramic. Afterward, dirty dishes piled in the sink, she lets me climb on her narrow lap even though I’m too old, to listen to her breathing.

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Jocelyn Bartkevicius Mother Tongue Russia is a nightmarish authoritarian state, which is always good for some laughs. —Gary Shteyngart

I.

Lithuania was a gravestone at the edge of town, set up on a flatbed

truck and parked on a small triangle of land. No dates of birth and death, just the looming granite slab with the name of my father’s birthplace etched in. On Sundays, he drove me there to pay our respects. We bowed our heads and folded our hands the way my stepfather did at his brother’s grave, as if Lithuania itself lay at rest in the ground below, decomposed and forever lost. As Catholics, my father and stepfather were supposed to believe in a glorious afterlife, the dead waiting to welcome us into heaven. But even as a child I could see that the faith their parents imported from Lithuania and Sicily, respectively, no longer comforted them. At the graveside they never prayed or asked me to pray. Instead we sat and mourned quietly. The dead were gone. Neither my uncle nor Lithuania were expected to join the living again. My father and I sat in his light blue Pontiac, heads bowed. There were two other gravestones on that flatbed truck, for Latvia and Estonia. We weren’t as sad about those deaths because my father and grandmother weren’t born there. Still three dead countries outraged my father more than one. All the Baltics fallen. “The Russians,” he would say. “Criminal.” On more than one occasion he asked me to imagine if his family hadn’t gotten out. “You’d have been born there,” he’d say. As a child I was a literalist, and instead of making an imaginative connection with his homeland, I fixated on his apparent ignorance of biological fact. Even at six years old I knew that if my mother had not met my father I would not exist. And I was certain that my pretty mother would never have gone to Lithuania. She was an American, a college student who’d recently remarried, moving the two of us out of her mother’s house. Dead country or living country, what would it matter if I’d never been born? The thought sent me into despair.

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II. Lithuania was fragile pale blue stationery with tiny indecipherable words sent to my grandmother from her sister Veronika. Thick black lines inked out what KGB censors didn’t want her to know. “Look,” my grandmother would say, pointing to the long Lithuanian words. My grandparents spoke Lithuanian to each other, and sometimes to my father, but not to me. I’d asked them to teach me, and my grandmother had me repeat what sounded like Kape Tao Wayness, “How are you.” She taught one answer, Garray, with rolled r’s I couldn’t reproduce. At my grandmother’s house, the answer to the question “how are you” was perpetually “fine.” Even my father found my pronunciation hopeless, and they taught me no other Lithuanian words. My grandmother held her sister’s letter to the light. “This is how we find truth,” she said. She translated a single line: “We live well, just like Mrs. Petrauskiene.” This, my grandmother said, was her sister’s code. The KGB had no idea that Mrs. Petrauskiene, a widow from my grandmother’s village, had lived in abject poverty, begging for food. As long as Veronika wrote that things were fine, the censors let the words remain. If the sisters had other codes, say, for words such as deportation, gulag, slave labor, armed resistance, or shot in the head, my grandmother didn’t say. I pictured the censors as mere postal clerks, collecting letters and crossing out words. I pictured the country as dead and buried, the people passively succumbing to the Russians. I pictured my grandmother’s sisters and brothers in the worn-wood cottage with their parents on the small farm in my grandmother’s photographs. I assumed that they still lived together in the unpainted cottage with a dirt yard, their lives suspended in time. If they were hungry, it was because the Russians had again destroyed the land. To my grandmother, the Russians were stupid, brutish buffoons, which made it all the more shameful that they controlled Lithuania right down to the letters old women sent each other. The censors blacked out sentences not just in Veronika’s letters, my grandmother said, but also in her own letters. And when she shipped Veronika canned hams and a little cash sewn into the hem of a dress, the censors took it all. The Iron Curtain made phone calls impossible, of course, and shipping limited. The sisters themselves couldn’t pass through the Iron Curtain, and my grandmother would never see Veronika again. I wasn’t so literal minded as to think that an actual iron structure closed Lithuania off from the West. We heard the metaphor on the news and at school, where we were taught that the Soviets wanted to bomb us out of existence. We had drills for when it would happen, alarms going off, and all of us filing into the hallway to crouch facing the walls, arms over our faces. “Stay away from windows,” the teachers said. Even in elementary school, I

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Jocelyn Bartkevicius knew that atomic bombs didn’t just break windows. They vaporized whole cities. Our fearful crouching wouldn’t save us. We’d become a pile of ash indistinguishable from each other, our very essences intermingling with pulverized linoleum, fluorescent lights, textbooks, and brick. At home after a drill, I asked my mother a question she wasn’t supposed to take literally: “The Soviets wouldn’t bomb us here in Milford, right?” Milford was a small town with beaches, an annual oyster festival, a downtown village green, and small businesses like my stepfather’s bar and nightclub. Our neighborhood had lilac and forsythia bushes, tulips and daffodils, and birch and maple trees. What could the Soviets possibly want from us? Ask your mother a question in the negative, and she was supposed to offer reassurance. Instead, she told me we’d be a major target because of all the nearby factories, like the aircraft engine plant where my father worked, just across the river at the end of our street. “Some of those engines are for the military,” she said. It wasn’t like my mother to provide literal answers. By nature, she was a joker, ironic to a fault, and careful to reassure me, a nightmare- and night-terror prone insomniac, who often startled her by walking silently, deep in sleep, into the living room where she sat watching late-night TV, a ghostly unresponsive presence floating past.

III. My grandmother told me that Russian and Prussian troops, in territorial skirmishes, used to invade their village, maneuver through their farm, looting and pillaging, shooting at each other. “We hide in woods,” she said. Vwoods, she pronounced it. “We cook in dark,” she said. “Hide smoke.” We stood together in her garden, my father nowhere in sight. My grandmother plucked some weeds from the ground, stood, wiped her hands on her apron and looked me in the eye. “You are an American,” she said. “You don’t understand.” Inside, my grandfather slumped in a dining room chair pulled away from the table into a corner of the room, a whiskey bottle by his side. Inside, my father read the newspaper in the bright kitchen, sipping coffee at the Formica table. In the garden, I strained my imagination, pictured the woods, sleeping on the ground all day so you could stay up to cook at night. There was my grandmother, who still had a green card because she was terrified of what a foreign government would do if she tried to become an American citizen, telling me I was the alien, not her. Back in the house, she made potato pancakes, a labor-intensive ordeal of grating potatoes, mixing them with a handful of this, a pinch of that, and frying them in a cast-iron skillet over a high flame. My father relished those pancakes, always requested them, and ate plate after plate. To me, they were

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Jocelyn Bartkevicius bland and heavy, savory when pancakes were supposed to be sweet. I took a few bites, then broke them into pieces and scattered them around my plate, trying not to look like the American granddaughter who didn’t understand. When I’d lived with my mother’s mother, an old woman on her street invited kids in for pancakes, American style with honey, molasses, or maple syrup. As we ate she chastised us for our laziness, me for being in Kindergarten just half a day, my friends for their first- and second-grade schedules of six hours per day with breaks for lunch, snacks, and recess. And those summers off. She’d point her thick index finger at each of us. “Soviet children are in school for ten hours every day, all year round. Because of you, they’ll win the arms race.” The pancakes were worth the scolding. Nothing she could say would make us ashamed of playing cowboys and Indians, jumping rope, swinging, and riding our bikes instead of sitting at desks all the time. And whatever an “arms race” was, since duck-and-cover drills at school hadn’t yet begun, I figured those Soviet children were safely blocked in on the other side of the Iron Curtain. My grandmother served my father a fresh helping of potato pancakes, then disappeared into her pantry, returned with a mason jar she handed to me. Inside was a slice of bread. My father stopped eating his pancakes. “I make when World War II start,” she said. That made the bread decades old. “I think here like Lithuania,” she said. Lit-way-nya, she pronounced it. “I put bread in jar, wait till night, bury in backyard.” The bread, sealed in the Mason jar, didn’t have a speck of mold. It looked soft, spongy, not stale. My grandmother laughed. “I think here like Lithuania,” she said. “Neighbors laugh.” The joke was on her, and she kept one jar to remember. Her gift to me: admitting that neither one of us understood.

IV. My grandmother was born into famine, and under the rule of the Russian czar, on a small Lithuanian farm in 1897. There, she worked with her extended family to grow their own food and a bit more to trade in the city. In the larder, they stored jars of home-grown fruit and vegetables. Tomato seeds dried on the windowsill for planting the next year. Potatoes rooted in a cool storage pantry dug into the side of a hill. Chickens pecked the yard. At night, as a child, my grandmother lay out in the field with the workhorses, their legs hobbled with rope, listening in case a horse should break free and run off, a predator should come out of the forest, or soldiers or other rustlers should ride up to herd them away. And then soldiers came in waves. Russians, then Prussians, marching toward each other for battle, advancing, retreating, advancing again, right through the family’s farm, driving them into hiding. I pictured my

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Jocelyn Bartkevicius grandmother in the forest, a teenage girl huddled in the bushes with her parents and siblings, sleeping in the dirt by day, digging up potatoes and home-preserved vegetables they’d buried for sustenance. I didn’t know they’d built a bunker underground, and that years later one brother would use a similar bunker as refuge from the KGB. I didn’t know my grandmother was talking about World War I, that wars could be fought in your yard. “City people come to beg,” my grandmother said. “And we have to lie, say no food. Not enough.” Their farm was on the frontlines of WWI, and troops from both sides killed and ate their livestock, burned their crops. My grandmother was born into famine and lived much of her life hungry even when there should have been food. She couldn’t shake off the guilt, even decades later, over not having shared what little they had. Share, and you would die. The famine of 1897, the year my grandmother was born, perhaps combined with distrust of the czar, drove my grandfather’s parents from Lithuania to Milford, Connecticut, where they had cousins who worked on a farm that could use more laborers. Eight years later, my grandfather was born, an American citizen by virtue of place. In America, he was Stanley. In America, WWI was a distant phenomenon. They returned to Lithuania in 1918, at the end of World War I and the beginning of Lithuania’s independence, but soon territorial skirmishes broke out between Poland and Lithuania, and the capital, near their village, fell under Polish rule. My grandfather became Stanislaus to the Polish speakers and Stasys to the Lithuanians. Their last name was Bartkewiez to the Poles, and Bartkevičius to the Lithuanians. Shifts in the borders meant everyone spoke both languages, plus the Russian they’d been forced to speak under the czar. My father always said it was his mother’s doing, prodding his father to flee Lithuania, take refuge with those cousins in Connecticut like his parents before him, to labor and save enough for his wife and children to follow. My grandfather left Lithuania in summer 1927, less than a decade since his homecoming, and just a few weeks after my father was born. My grandmother never talked about my grandfather, how they met, when they married, what their life together in Lithuania was like. She was eight years older, and had witnessed WWI up close. If she chose him because of his American citizenship, imagining an exit strategy, she never said. All her stories were about herself, as a child, a teenager, and then, a mother with two babies managing life alone for three years while her husband worked on the other side of the world to save the money for their passage. The way she described it, Lithuania seemed ancient and remote, a place as primitive as the “New World” our school books said Christopher Columbus had found by accident hundreds of years before. “Old woman come with cane,” my grandmother said. “Walk from village to village, come to me. Baby cry and cry,” she said, meaning my father, the winter after his father sailed steerage across the Atlantic and back to the town of his birth.

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Jocelyn Bartkevicius “Old woman say, ‘do not feed from breast when miss husband”—hwasbond, she pronounced it. “Baby drink milk and cry.” Three years later, my grandfather sent money, and my grandmother bundled her two children into a wagon and left their village forever. They sailed steerage across the Atlantic for $2,730 American dollars, which included travel visas, about what an airline ticket and passport would cost in the distant twenty-first century.

V. Lithuania is a stack of photographs, black and white and sepia. Pictures so grim and archaic they seem to depict ancestors, not relatives. They could be illustrations for Grimm’s tales. My grandmother’s sister Petryté (Patricia, my grandmother would say), with missing teeth, ragged clothes, and a primordial-looking dog, a Bolshevik dog, as if the Hound of the Baskervilles had mated with a borzoi. Veronika with her arm around not her husband, but his gravestone. The two sisters and their three brothers— the year after my grandmother left—lined up behind a coffin, the corpse, their father, fully visible, mouth open as if gaping at death. Only Petras, the youngest brother, in his military uniform and professionally done photograph, looks like he belongs to the 20th Century. Their village is weathered shacks. Barren land. The epitome of poverty, I think. Years later, I’ll take a few of those pictures to the university where I teach to make photocopies. A colleague, a specialist in critical theory, whose conversation is studded with terms such as “hegemony” and “race-classgender” (class, that perpetual middle child), will look over my shoulder at the photos and burst out laughing. That’s your family? she will say. The built-in slapstick of the anachronistic. In my grandmother’s house, among the photos, it doesn’t occur to me how much even there in the flesh, in the United States of America, surrounded by mahogany furniture and polished linoleum floors, she resembles the family in the photos, carries traces of village life. But once, as a teenager, my best friend and I, prowling around downtown, will run into my grandmother, a little old lady in a long black dress and babushka. In the bustling center of town she stands out, very much the peasant. “That was your grandmother?” the friend will ask. When encountering the Eastern European peasant side of my family, my friends speak in italics. My mother’s side of the family—a blend of Irish, English, and Dutch, supposedly related to someone on the Mayflower—found them similarly hilarious. My mother encouraged performances when I was a child, and

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Jocelyn Bartkevicius loved imitations of my grandmother’s accent. She laughed the loudest when I said “peasant-like” things that my grandmother had in fact never said. Her favorite, purportedly about a Lithuanian cousin: “Beek, stronk like bull, vwork many hours in fielt.” I betrayed my grandmother with such mockery throughout my childhood. But in her house, I was respectful, awed, a little afraid. I urged her to take out the photo album and show me the photo of Petras, whom she said was killed in the war, to take out the tissue-paper letters and show me the black lines of the censors who, remarkably, cared so much about two old women trying to maintain their family connection across a great political and geographical divide.

VI. When my father told me he was born in a village called Gelvonai— Gal-voh-nay, he pronounced it—I thought he’d forgotten Lithuanian, his mother tongue. The word, accented on the second syllable, sounded Italian, the language my stepfather slipped into with his mother if he caught me eavesdropping. My father started Kindergarten with a note pinned to his shirt: “I do not speak English.” My grandmother told me a neighbor wrote the note, and I lacked the curiosity to ask why my grandfather hadn’t. The past was a hazy place, except for my grandmother’s stories. Maybe he wouldn’t write the note, and maybe he couldn’t. My grandfather’s accent was as hard to decipher as my grandmother’s, and I sometimes wondered if he’d ever left the American farm where his parents and their cousins worked as laborers, ever learned English or went to school. Or maybe his was a willful forgetting. When my father started school between the world wars, our town was a haven for immigrants, and teachers were used to Italian and Polish children who couldn’t speak or understand English. By second grade, he was fluent in English, and rarely spoke Lithuanian, though he heard it, constantly, at home. Gelvonai, he insisted. Near a place called Mančiušėnai. Man-chewshay-nay, he pronounced it. By high school, the only languages I spoke were a halting French and, more fluently, because it was secret, easy, and fun, pig Latin. My mother had studied under my French teacher, and he was old and tired of teenagers, with an accent more New Orleans than Paris. We learned to pronounce the “j” in “je” as in the English word “judge,” precisely wrong, and never got the high nasal back-of-the-throat resonance down. The best feature of pig Latin was that our elders couldn’t understand it. Where my stepfather and grandmother used Italian to conceal their conversations, Joan and I slipped into pig Latin around our parents. No became Oh-nay. School became Ool-schay. If we said

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Jocelyn Bartkevicius it fast enough, my mother would never know that “Ets-lay Ip-skay ool-schay” meant Joan and I would be AWOL from high school that day. Listen to my father tell you where he was born and raised—Gel-vohnay, Man-chew-shay-nay—and it might as well have been that pig-Latin code. For years, I believed he had the names all wrong.

VII. “Those peasants,” my mother’s mother used to say, when referring to my father’s and stepfather’s mothers. She claimed to mean it as a compliment, but was betrayed by what she called The Black Irish Tongue. When she was frail and failing in a nursing home, and I visited from college, she asked how my other grandmothers were doing. Before considering that extolling the health and vitality of two women more than a decade older might increase her despair at her current state of decrepitude, I told her how my Sicilian grandmother walked two miles after supper each night, and how my Lithuanian grandmother had recently climbed a towering pine tree to trim the top branches. She looked thoughtful for a moment, then sighed. “Those peasants,” she said, as was her habit, this time with more longing than irony in her voice. The younger, healthier version of this grandmother had applied The Black Irish Tongue with alacrity. Take that annoying advertising jingle for a couch that could be pulled out and transformed into a bed: “Who’s the first to conquer living space / it’s Castro Convertible.” If there was a witness nearby, my grandmother used to say, “Christ, you don’t know if they’re talking about Cuba or an automobile.” Other times, she’d sit pensive with a cigarette and coffee, lamenting how she’d studied to be a concert pianist, but her alcoholic husband had left her and their six children destitute in a run-down rented bungalow off East Broadway, a boulevard of broken dreams lined with abandoned homes and several flourishing bars. She’d take a drag of her L&M, sigh, and say, “He said he’d put me on Broadway. Yeah, East Broadway.” She said it often enough that I thought of it as the punch line of the joke that was her life. All the women on her side of the family inherited my grandmother’s Black Irish Tongue. My mother used to say, “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have lost at all.” Listen carefully or you’d miss her ironic dismantling of sugary clichés. She used to pick me up from school in my stepfather’s Buick, shake her head at the other mothers’ muumuus and thick thighs, then stop to pick up something for supper at the butcher’s, where she’d peer into the display case, point to a hefty leg of beef, and say, “Put a high heel on that.” My second grade teacher, an unmarried middleaged woman in dowdy dresses and cats-eye glasses, required each of us to

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Jocelyn Bartkevicius memorize and recite a poem, and my mother suggested this: “Men never make passes / at girls who wear glasses.” The summer I was twelve, and we were lounging at my stepfather’s bar, she offered me a sip of her vodka Collins. When I refused, she said, “Drink up. The children in Africa are sober.” She looked shocked, as if that sudden irony had been involuntary. “Christ,” she muttered to herself. The Black Irish Tongue was our Mother Tongue, and we spoke to each other in irony and sarcasm. As my skills increased, my mother said (dripping with irony), “You’d better not be funnier than me.” One aunt’s boyfriend said, “Your sisters and mother are so witty.” To which she replied, “Wait until they turn it on you.” My grandmother turned it on me only once, just before my mother married my stepfather, and we still lived packed together in her threebedroom bungalow, my grandmother and mother and I plus two uncles. My grandmother and I were walking home from church, where she played the organ every Sunday, and I was whining that I missed my mother, who was away for the weekend. My grandmother stopped dead in her tracks. “I cried because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet,” she said. In my ghoulish imagination, I pictured that man at the side of the road, feet freshly chopped off, blood draining out and pooling around him. The violence of the comment shocked me, not enough to cure me of self-pity, but enough to make me hide it from her. By the time I started college, my mother used to say, “Be careful, you’ve got it on both sides.” I thought she meant the grandfathers’ disorders, depression self-medicated with alcohol. When my father used to say, imagine if we’d never left and you’d been born in Lithuania, all I could think of was death. The nature of existence—of mine, my life—had been a preoccupation since early memory. Life was tenuous. Life was dark. I lay awake at night fearing the end of the world. It never occurred to me that my mother might be speaking of the women, warning me about the legacy of grandmothers whose anxieties left them living under the shadow of drunken, sullen men. Once, I told a friend, both my grandfathers were drunks, but at least my father’s father had the decency to stay home and support the family. But perhaps the more decent act is to get yourself out of their lives. My father’s father finally left by way of a heart attack in 1964. He died and was buried in the Catholic cemetery of the church where he’d been baptized during his parents’ brief stint in the States. Back in the Soviet Union, Khrushchev was giving way to Brezhnev. Without Stalin, it was possible to pass through the Iron Curtain, and my father offered to take his mother to reunite with family. She refused, without hesitation. “The Soviets,” she said. “They take me. Not let me leave.” Like my father, I thought she didn’t understand that her American children and her green card made her safe. But no argument or

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Jocelyn Bartkevicius reassurance would change her mind. She ensconced herself in the USA, taking refuge in her modest house at the edge of town, where she grated potatoes for pancakes, tended her garden, and made kielbasa from pork so fresh it had to bleed when you stuck it with a fork.

VIII. My mother’s mother used to tell me, “Be careful with that summer tan or they might not let you in the schoolhouse door.” She watched news coverage of protesting black students in Birmingham, and police spraying them with fire hoses. My grandmother shook her head in disapproval. My mother and I had moved out the year before, and now, it seemed to her, the whole world was falling apart. One of her sons had sobered up and married. The other, just out of high school but still at home, tormented her by refusing to get a job. “Lithuania is behind the Iron Curtain, and you don’t see your father acting like that,” my grandmother said, nodding toward the protesters on TV. I contemplated the nature of my father’s silent mourning, all those Sundays parked at the gravestone for Lithuania, no loud protests about Stalin or any other Soviet. I didn’t know he drove his mother to New Haven each month to the only shipping company that would accept boxes going to destinations behind the Iron Curtain. He remembered the canned hams she’d pack, the way she’d try to sew money into the hem of a dress to fool the KGB. From my grandmother’s stories, my grandfather’s dark silence, my father’s lack of protest, I assumed that Lithuania had gone quietly to its grave, a solemn execution faced with the kind of stoicism my mother’s mother seemed to admire. Once, my Lithuanian grandmother told me that her sister wanted to come to America. “But can’t,” my grandmother said. “Need sponsor. I can’t do it. Afraid.” She liked to show me the photograph of her handsome brother in his military uniform. “Petras,” she would say. “Die in war. Russians.” I thought she meant he’d served in the Russian Army, because I was ignorant of history, bored with anything more than the bare-bones facts of her personal experience, what she’d seen, what she’d witnessed, not what continued to happen over there, beyond the Iron Curtain, in that cut-off land of ancientseeming villages and people. In essence, I remained stuck in my grandmother’s past. Lithuania was World War I on a peasant farm. Frozen in time like the version of the language my father would be able to speak for the rest of his life, an “old fashioned” form, I heard from younger Lithuanian speakers, more highly declined and with archaic phrasings. Lithuanian is as old as, and similar

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Jocelyn Bartkevicius to, Sanskrit, and I imagine that when he speaks it’s as if he’s saying “thee,” “thou,” and “who goest.”

IX. My grandmother’s stories, my father forlornly staring at the gravestone of his homeland. When the Iron Curtain fell in 1991, I discovered, in the ashes, a simmering longing for a country I’d considered dead for eternity. By then, I lived in the Midwest, far from my grandmother and father. I wondered why we said the curtain fell. Walls fell; curtains rose. The metaphor was as mixed as the jumbled, politically-tainted bits of information we learned about history in school. I knew my grandmother and her sister had stopped corresponding, but not why. I had in my possession a pale blue fragile paper envelope sent to my grandmother from her sister Veronika, with her return address in the Soviet Republic of Lithuania. Lithuania had shucked off the Soviets, and I wondered if my great-aunt was reachable now, without the KGB to blacken out select words. Without telling anyone, I wrote a letter in simple English to “dear Great Aunt Veronika and family,” and mailed it to that address—joyfully leaving out the “Soviet Republic of.” Months later, I’d heard nothing back, and figured I’d have had equal luck placing a letter in a bottle and tossing it into the Atlantic Ocean. But finally, a letter did arrive, written not by Veronika, but by her grandson, Vytautas. How pleased they were to hear from American family. How many years it had been. When I called my father to tell him the news, he said he was just about to call to tell me his mother had died. The sisters’ connection was as doomed as the little family farm seized and redistributed by the KGB. Twelve years passed before I met Vytautas, Veronika’s grandson, my father’s nephew, my second cousin. He’d traveled to the US as a visiting professor on loan from Vilnius University—he had a doctorate in business— and it was a trial for my Black Irish Tongue to refrain from making cracks about what Soviet-educated people could possibly teach Capitalist Americans about business. Hadn’t he grown up in collectivism? Hadn’t the state seized all modes of production? By then I lived in Florida and taught at a university, one of the first things we realized we had in common. Vytautas flew to Florida to meet me. Imagine that momentous occasion—the first meeting in a family split apart by war and occupation for over seventy-five years. Visions of Cold War propaganda swirled through my head. I was terrified he’d think I was an “ugly American.” I hoped he’d approve of my John Kerry for President bumper sticker (weren’t the Democrats good for Eastern Europe, less overtly capitalist than other political parties?). I hoped he wouldn’t

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Jocelyn Bartkevicius think I was overfed, pompous, or Western-chauvinistic. That my Saturn Vue was modest enough, and my small Craftsman’s bungalow sufficiently frugal. How would a man born and raised under Soviet rule look at me, the American cousin? How radically left could a business professor possibly be? It was after midnight, and I stood among the limousine drivers in a nearly deserted airport, each of us holding up a sign with a stranger’s name. I leaned against a pillar, trying not to look as awkward as I felt, wondering if I’d recognize my cousin from the pictures he’d sent years before. I wondered if he’d recognize me, if there would be a family resemblance. Finally, a slight man with a mustache approached, smiling. He looked so unlike the broad-shouldered, muscular young man I’d expected—something out of a Socialist Realist Happy Worker poster—that I actually said, “Vytautas?” “Yes,” he said. We hugged briefly, and I headed toward baggage claim, but he said he’d checked no bags. He carried a small backpack, although we’d made plans for several kinds of outings during the four days he’d be staying with me: the beach, Disney, restaurants, a cook-out, picture sharing with my father. My first gaffe, I thought, revealing my Western possession-laden approach to travel. On the drive home, we made small talk about the flight, the businessschool seminar he’d been invited to teach, his impressions of the U.S. on this first visit. Years of practice with my grandmother helped me decipher his thick accent, and he wasn’t self-conscious about reaching for words he couldn’t remember, letting me guess so that the conversation could be relatively complex. I still knew nothing in Lithuanian except “How are you,” and if you weren’t “fine,” your answer might as well have been in Sanskrit. My next few blunders are incomprehensible unless you consider that humor depends on surprise. Think of those pratfalls—the Three Stooges, Lucy and Ethel, funny because so unexpected. And in a family like my mother’s, humor also depends upon irony. The more sudden (and surprising), the better. We were equal opportunity ironists. We turned on each other and on ourselves. My mother laughed when, right after making fun of her sister’s odd walk, a neighbor said he could tell they were sisters from far down the street because they walked exactly alike. She ridiculed herself for years for her spontaneous “the children in Africa are sober” comment, and mocked herself for a variety of pratfalls she’d taken. By the time I met my cousin, the Black Irish Tongue, and not Lithuanian, was my mother tongue. Still, it’s nearly unbearable now to remember how I reacted to our conversation about his grandmother, my own grandmother’s beloved sister, the author of those cherished fragile letters. But humor depends upon surprise. Why else would Gary Shteyngart say, “Russia is a nightmarish authoritarian state, which is always good for some laughs”? His memoir, Little Failure, is full of pratfalls, ironies, and self-deprecating ridicule.

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Jocelyn Bartkevicius When we reached my house, it was after one a.m. and my husband and stepson were asleep. I offered Vytautas a beer, and we drank out of the bottles as I showed him the guest room. “Is your grandmother still alive?” I asked. It seemed unlikely, and yet mine had lived to be ninety-six, and had always claimed that her mother lived well past a hundred. “Europe,” she would say. “Food better. Live longer.” “Oh no,” Vytautas said. I told him I was sorry. He stood there silently, looking down, shaking his head. In grief, I assumed. “But I think she would have lived longer,” he said. Vwoood have, he pronounced it. “Why do you say that?” “She get in fight,” he said. “What?” I asked, certain we were encountering a translation problem. “Get in fight,” he said. “She want…how you call part of tree…” “Trunk?” “No,” he said, and explained with hand gestures and broken English that he meant what’s left after a tree has been chopped down. “Stump?” I suggested. “Stump?” he said, looking doubtful, but considering it. After a while he decided that “stump” would do, and described how his grandmother had found a stump she wanted to turn into a planter. But another old woman had wanted the same stump. “So they fight,” he said. “You mean argued?” I asked, still certain that translation was the issue. “No, fight,” he said. “With sticks.” It would have been better if, like my mother’s mother before me, I had simply said, “Those peasants.” But I didn’t. Instead, I burst out laughing. Naturally, he did not. I took a deep breath, and apologized. I didn’t dare try to define such a concept as the Black Irish Tongue, but tried to explain that my mother’s family had a weird sense of humor, a tendency to laugh out loud about tragedy we found ironic or incongruous. And that they were Irish. As if ethnicity would explain bizarre behavior. “It’s OK,” Vytautas said. He insisted that he understood, although he didn’t crack a smile. “Well, I’m sorry,” I said. We were silent for a while, sipping our beer. “I think because of her time in Siberia,” he said, suddenly. I laughed again. My ignorance of history made the truth a surprise. In all the years of stories, my grandmother spoke of hunger and oppression, but never gulags. In all the history I’d studied, no one ever mentioned the mass imprisonment of Lithuanians. Vytautas stared at me.

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Jocelyn Bartkevicius “I’m sorry,” I said. “It’s just that we didn’t know.” Vytautas sighed, but indulged me, his ugly American cousin, with some details. Petras, our grandmothers’ youngest brother, whose handsome picture my grandmother liked to show, a man she said died “in the war,” had been a partisan, a member of the armed resistance fighting Soviet occupation. After World War II, when the Soviets were granted Lithuania, he’d hidden in the forest, fighting for Lithuanian independence. While the West celebrated the end of the war, it continued to rage—in secret—in Lithuania. I remembered my grandmother’s stories about the forest, the way the family had to flee their farm, hide from Prussians and Russians, invading armies that stole their food and slaughtered their animals. They lived in the forest for months at a time, burying provisions ahead of time for just such emergencies. I pictured the kind of forest that comprised over half of the hundred acres my father once owned: birch, pine, oak, and maple, lush and inviting, thick with underbrush, full of partridge, pheasant, rabbit, wild berries, and fast-running brooks. Perhaps Petras had fled to a similar forest, maybe the place where they’d all hidden as children. But he’d been discovered by the Soviets, shot summarily in the head, and others in the family—a brother, a sister, her child—shipped off to Siberian gulags where all of them froze and starved and labored, and some of them, including Veronika’s ten-year-old son, died. Vytautas rummaged through his backpack, found an envelope, fished out an old black and white photograph. “My father says better bring,” he said. “Prove I’m real family.” He smiled. He handed me a picture of a severe old woman dressed in a dark coat, wearing a scarf over her head. “Veronika,” he said. “My grandmother.” He turned it over. On the back, I recognized the word “Siberia.” He translated the rest: “Hello from Siberia.” Terse and unrevealing as a postcard from Hawaii. I wondered if it could be possible that my grandmother hadn’t known. Perhaps the intricacies of execution, exile, and imprisonment were too complicated and politically dangerous to communicate in code. All those years my grandmother stared longingly at her brother’s picture and said only, “He die in war,” all those years she refused to travel to Lithuania to see her beloved sister, even if accompanied by her son, my grandmother may have known but wouldn’t say. Petras was murdered and every relative who was suspected of sympathizing was seized in the night, stuffed into a freight car, and deported to a gulag. And so my grandmother, it turned out, was right, the Soviets probably would have locked her away too. I said goodnight to Vytautas, crawled into bed beside my husband, but lay awake for hours, mind buzzing. For the next three days we behaved like any other Florida tourists. Vytautas visited the Atlantic coast and discovered to his embarrassments that unlike Europeans, and unlike him, American men didn’t wear tight

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Jocelyn Bartkevicius little Speedos. He sampled soft shell crab, Southern barbecue, and rock shrimp. He laughed when waiters served drinks with ice cubes, and took snapshots of those beverages everywhere we ate. He roamed around Disney at night, snapping pictures of light shows and Mickey Mouse. We shopped downtown for souvenirs for his wife and daughters. We discovered that we were jarringly alike despite the cultural divide created by the Iron Curtain. Our senses of humor were similar (once we got past my laughing about dying in stick fights and exile in Siberia), and we’d both studied for doctorates, become professors, divorced, and remarried. The day before Vytautas left, we sat with my father, the two of them exchanging stories—sometimes in my father’s halting Lithuanian— comparing old photographs. Vytautas had one of my grandmother the day she left Lithuania in 1930, holding the two of her children born there, my father and his sister. He tried to convince my father to fly to Lithuania, to meet his father, my father’s first cousin, to see the farm where he was born. “No,” my father said. “I’m too old now. What if I get sick?” Vytautas showed us a photograph of his grandmother, Veronika, standing in a barren landscape. On the back, she’d written something in Lithuanian. He translated it into English: Dear Children, Look at this picture and remember cold Siberia, far Igarka, and us being there. Mother. December 21, 1953. And then Vytautas was gone. We disappeared into our separate worlds, one cousin who grew up thinking terror was grade-school duck-and-cover drills during the Cuban missile crisis, the other who grew up educated in Russian rather than his native tongue, wearing Soviet schoolboy uniforms and pins, and losing grandmothers, uncles, and aunts to gulags and KGB pistols.

X. Igarka, where my grandmother’s sister and nephew were exiled, is sixty miles north of the Arctic Circle. In February, the month I was born, the average number of hours of light is zero. The average temperature is minus twenty-eight degrees Fahrenheit. There, my grandmother’s sister Veronika nearly starved to death. Her ten-year-old son died. In the gulag, she must have contemplated her brother’s fate, shot in the head, and most likely, like other partisans, his body mutilated and left in the town square. Because of armed resisters like him, the Soviets called Lithuania “The Invisible Front.” I’ll never know how much my grandmother knew about her family’s life in Soviet Lithuania. Maybe the KGB censors ran their thick black pens over her sister’s letters about Petras and Siberia. Maybe there was no code, no Mr. Markaitis, let’s say, who was shot in the head, and whose family was

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Jocelyn Bartkevicius punished in a slave-labor camp, no way to get this information past the Soviets. Or maybe my grandmother knew. That would explain her profound fear of the Soviets, which my father—by then fully American—and I couldn’t understand. She thought they would come for her. We told her she was in America, and that could never happen. But she’d never become a citizen, and she was frozen in fear. I’ll never know if my grandmother knew how her sister died after her release from eight years in that prison camp. If she knew, if she stared at her brother’s and sister’s photographs mourning their fates, she kept it to herself. I can’t imagine why she would do that, why her stories all predated World War II. Unless she believed with all her heart that we, the Americans, just wouldn’t understand.

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Marian Haddad Through the Lens Juwaikhat, Syria, 2008

My parents owned a village of apples, and Mother married young; all her life, there, out in the fields, with Father, good people of the earth. Mama—once lived here. And Marta, her half-sister, the one—who, for seconds, will take my Mother’s place. But, who—can take her place? Fortyfive and counting, me—my mother, my life. We arrived—mountain breeze in morning and at night, eating fruit off trees, ripe—apples, plums, apricots, the apricot-paste—the tart sheets Aunt Waded made, the flavor of our country—hayl in our coffee, a cardamom world, black tea, sweets. Uncle, here to greet, alongside the wife of—Mother’s singing brother— Salim—the poet, the songster, singing the blues at night, over the hills, a quiet weeping—poems become songs, in cool air, above mountains. Guests gathered around him in arcs of seating; he sung out the days. The sun had set. And she had not come yet. I came to find Mother, here—in this woman, this ground. Where Mother bled in fields, as water broke and children began. Strong woman. Who had died. We knew she would have to die, but not like this, not like that, a slow nail-less crucifixion—she’d regret me saying her suffering compared. Something about her dying—made me think, of the juxtapositions and positions of Mother, of Christ. God forgive me, I ask, on her behalf, who had no say in such articulations. Marta—the name, familiar on my tongue, spoken, when Mother remembered. Sometimes, she did not remember. “Marta is here!” I dashed to a mirror—I knew the weight of this importance. I—was overcome—by Mother’s face—the dark black-dyed hair against the soft wheat-skin, Mama’s same eyes, lids, a right-cheek dimple, the high cheekbones, Mother’s—the same mouth. I tried to compose—myself—my words, her saying, calmly, stroking my back—the great placidity, Christlike-almost—“La’t tibkay,”—“Don’t cry.” I wanted nothing more—than to kiss her eyelids, her skin, to be free to hug or hold her like Mother. Looking was too much—Mother raised from the dead. Even the scent of her skin, familiar. Compelled to commence the clicking of camera, but her gentle, then firmer, urgings—drew me to pause—but here is my mother raised from the dead. Risen out of—her casket, seven months had passed, Mother tucked away in a box, in the Crab Orchard Review

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Marian Haddad ground, not enough flowers on her grave, another story that led me to my seeming. So here she is, urging—and she looks at me the way Mama used to, pleading. This same sadness. These same eyes. I stopped, severity of respect; if it were up to me—I would have gone on clicking, trying to keep this face. At this respectful juncture, the silence of such; it’s then I began—the quiet looking, images filed away. I have you tucked, here, Aunt—tucked, here, Mother—there is no deletion, no disappearance, I can touch the outline of, the periphery of, your face/s, measure each dimple, Mother, your sister’s, here—yours. We sat, guests, with other guests; sugar-sweet smile—I continued to cry, but inside, a reversal of tears, where there is no more water. Let them talk, I will live inside this box. Obsessive in my reviewing of forms—of faces; flipping-back and back, the same images till they were grafted—memorized—tucked—in this place—whichever place will not lose them. Keeping her, here, in front of me. Ghostlike. Mother, in her younger form, risen up out of the ground. I stared as we sat on the stone balcony overlooking the hills, she and I, stolen away, I stole her away, or did she—steal me? Sun coming down, and her, holding this hand—among the blue hydrangeas. Some trance. Her slanted face towards the sun, a flower, the light. The sweet, sweet, sad eyes. Even the feet—even the feet, were Mother’s, and the same hands. Over fifty years of leaving. Marta acting like Mama—patting my thigh, holding this hand, firmly enough to feel her pulse; her—nestling her head, in the arc of my neck.

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Jennifer Perrine The Gauntlet Evenings in spring, I run the dusty road from my home to the nearest paved street, loop that swings past neighbors I do not know. White and pink crabapples burst petals over yards that bear the stripes of riding mowers; shorn grass litters gutters that collected a winter’s worth of sand. When my feet land in those soft beds, pollen swallows my breath, as do the bright crosses that rise beside each house just after Easter, some festooned with lights that burn bright behind the children tossing balls, riding bikes. I lift leaden thighs, count steps in my head. I don’t want them to see how that symbol—its history— intimidates me, lone brown-skinned woman chuffing along the curbs of their suburb. I don’t want to imagine the old man mulching his tulips or the younger one beside his mailbox looks at me and thinks, you better run, but seven new flagpoles sprouted in March, each bigger than the next, and in my gym shorts, I carry nothing that attests to my residence. I sweat, squint at the sun splashing its last rose-gold

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Jennifer Perrine gasp before it collapses, bathing us all in dusk. I struggle back to the dirt path home, slow to inhale the yellow sweet clover that grows in towering spires, that fills abandoned fields with honeybees, that waves in the wind as if in welcome, abundant, invasive, resistant weed.

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Raena Shirali Kopili, 8:30am Nellie Massacre, February 18, 1983 —notably, not a single culprit received punishment for the murders of 2,191 victims It was dawn, & we went to work the way we always do—backs curved, arms swaying over the acid river, dragging the men’s pale yellow dhotis through the murk. Om, shanthi shanthi shanthi we crooned to the kids on the bank as the sun made itself felt. That’s when we heard it. Quiet, like a long scream trapped under a layer of glass. Behind us the mob entered Nellie from three sides. Like sheep herders. Like sheep, women ran from them to where we stood. To drown away. But there were boats, too. And men, always. Men with guns. Men who only want & want. They jumped from their rafts, splashed in with spears, & we waded toward them, knowing the best way to make a mark is to accept with open arms. Knowing no one would pay what this cost.

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Eric Smith Orpheus Who sings to stones abandoned by the tides, these rituals of sand? The names we offer god are all that’s left, like untranslated scripture. The day’s last gull snags its reflection in a slur of water. We were told of a belief required of us without reason. We were told there would be confusing rains. The hour unravels as it must. And what comes after: sunset, a smear of rust. And what comes after sunset? A smear of rust, confusing rains. The hour unravels as it must without reason. We were told there would be water. We were told of a belief required of us. The day’s last gull snags its reflection in a slur of all that’s left, like untranslated scripture: these rituals of sand. The names we offer god who sings to stones abandoned by the tides.

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Maggie Smith Planetarium in January In the coughing, baby-crying dark of the planetarium, I sit beside my daughter and draw lines with my eyes to connect the stars, to assemble the winter sky’s falling-down house, a star-house tipped on its side, gables lit, closing in, closer, closer—and now I am almost inside it, almost forgetting my daughter beside me, the mother and baby in front of us, and the fussing, whispering dark—that teeming that can’t touch any part of me in this star-house, this winter house I must crawl through because it is dark, and because it has fallen.

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Christina Stoddard Drowning in White I have too many teeth inside my tiny mouth so they pull them out one by one. My mother counts with me backwards until there are reckless feathers floating down to line the parlor of my sleeping heart. I go to unbandage the eyes of Lazarus, rejoicing for I am going to take his place, and he gives me a pearl torn from the mouth of its keeper. On a cliff of salt I put my voice into every shell so my children will follow it home. I am blind as an egg. And the lamb, the lamb, the lamb— he will take years to devour it all.

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Terrell Jamal Terry City Maybe some place it is 1985. I am just becoming four years old & expanding, ever so slightly, realizing rain can be as quick as the sun. In time, I’m chewing on bad news, bad music & mild blues, but never the red berries that aren’t so safe to eat. I wanted a flying bicycle. The potential is that some of us will need to live the way we live. I wanted a diamond star & to walk around the twitching park pretending I wouldn’t come back. I gave up on this city again (everlasting disenchantment), idea is why we created it. Convention is claustrophobia— how’s this a hard breath to bleed?

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Christine Kitano A Story with No Moral Los Angeles, 1989

My mother and I are fighting again over what I should wear. I’m small, maybe four years old. I don’t remember why I don’t want to wear what she picks out, but recall a sense of general discomfort—stockings that bunch and won’t stay up, nickel-sized buttons that catch my hair, lace collars that itch around my neck. I pout. My mother says nothing for a moment, then reaches into the closet and yanks, in one, surprisingly swift motion, a pink dress from its hanger. She grips a ruffled sleeve in each hand, then pulls. The dress rips down the bib, the pink cloth shredding, thin wisps of pale thread framing the rupture. I’m scared. I know I’m not the daughter my mother wants, but I still don’t know who or what she wants me to be. South Korea, 1958 It isn’t that my mother’s family is poor, but that there is nothing to buy. American goods can be bribed from soldiers, but my mother has no one to barter on her behalf. My grandmother’s concerns are elsewhere. In the newly partitioned country, she’s obsessed with claiming land. Her eyes scan the empty spaces left behind by war and she envisions buildings—storefronts, apartments, or hotels. In the torn fields behind her house, she crouches down to grip the soil in her hands. My mother craves the little objects that money or care can buy: a toy kitchen set, a banana, a soldier’s can of peaches in sweet syrup. She sits in her school desk, tugging at the coarse wool stockings that my grandmother buys cheap in bulk. The winter outside is bitter, my mother’s exposed face raw from the cold. A friend slides into the seat beside her and reveals in her mittened palm American lip balm in a plastic tube. How miraculous that such an object exists.

Los Angeles, 1990 In kindergarten I befriend a girl named Lauren, one of the few girls in class who is smaller than me. My mother likes Lauren, calls her “little

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Christine Kitano Barbie.” Lauren’s mother was once Miss Florida. My mother tells me, “Lauren’s mom only wears ironed jeans.” I’m not sure what this is supposed to indicate, but I nod and try to imitate the look of awe on my mother’s face. Lauren and I spend hours together after school dressing up in her old Halloween costumes. We pose in front of the sliding door mirrors. She’s completely absorbed in her own image. And so am I. Her hair is a buttery blonde, fluffy and soft, always tied back neatly in a bow. My mother tries to arrange my hair the same way but, too thin and stringy, it’ll slip from her grasp. It puzzles me that this angers her. This afternoon, Lauren’s dressed as a mermaid. I help her tie the strings of a metallic purple bathing suit top, trying not to catch her hair. The glittering emerald tail cascades from her hips, and she drapes a shimmering gold scarf around her narrow shoulders. We’re going to the ball, she announces. She’s radiant. I don’t remember what I’m wearing. In the mirror, I see Lauren’s reflection and, despite the elaborate costume, think yes, that’s Lauren. I look at the girl standing next to her, the reflection split where the two slides of mirror overlap, am almost unable to recognize myself.

South Korea, 1959 One of my mother’s classmates is the daughter of a Korean woman and a black American soldier. The girl never speaks. After school, my mother follows the girl to the river. The girl plunges her naked body into the water. At first my mother thinks she is playing, but the girl, half submerged, scratches at her skin with her hands, then a branch, then a rock. My mother hides in the reeds.

Los Angeles, 1990 When I confess to my mother that I feel “ugly,” she again tells me the story of her classmate at the river. What happened next, I ask. When the scabs peeled off, they left tight, polished scars. I ask what the moral of the story is. There is no moral, she says.

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Lynne Maker Kuechle Spectral Lines Winter, late afternoon. I curve onto a cloverleaf, past a working-

class neighborhood. White clapboard houses stutter the hillside; naked oaks and maples scratch the sky. I see a palette of mottled neutrals. Then: color ignites. Pinks and yellows explode into mauve, lemon, carnation, Dreamsicle orange. A tattered roof becomes a dancing cascade of color. My brain contracts as I force the image inside. “Remember this,” I command. And I do. Even now, 30 years later. This fragment of memory arises on occasion, important in some mysterious way. It’s imprinted on the gray mass inside my skull, nestled among neurons and dendrites. It clings to form while other sights, tastes, smells slip away. We experience the world in color, thanks to cone cells in our retinas that interact with the cerebral cortex. In most of us, two-thirds of those cells react most strongly to red light, another third respond primarily to green, and a tiny remainder focuses on blue. Together, they allow us to differentiate nearly three million tints and shades, though we name only a fraction of them. My father’s favorite color was yellow, a surprising choice given his edgeof-surly nature. Always, he tolerated—never relished—life. Men as a whole are said to favor blue, but my father never wavered. For years, the brightest items in his wardrobe remained the same: one yellow shirt, a pair of yellow socks, a faded yellow sweatshirt. On his final birthday, two days before he died, my brother and I sent him a bouquet of yellow balloons. I’m not sure why we settled on such a frivolous gesture. He annually requested only two gifts: socks and underwear. But perhaps he realized those balloons would be among his last sights. Perhaps he welcomed the thought that his children knew him after all. The man who sat by the phone while it rang, waiting for someone else to answer, that day picked up the receiver and called me at work to thank me for the gift he didn’t need, hadn’t known he wanted. Today, my husband and I have a kitchen coated in yellow; a living room and bedroom dusted with maize and pink. Yellow, the color of happiness; pink, the color of romance. As I pass the age my parents were when I knew them—the age when they painted their living room yellow and, later, hung buttery gold drapes in the new house—like them I crave the comfort, the warmth, of sunny colors.

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Lynne Maker Kuechle I self-diagnosed seasonal affective disorder the first time I heard the term. Finally, something explained the heaviness that approaches each autumn, weighing on my shoulders, eyelids, heart. As a teen, I loved the mellowing of fall. I still revel in autumn’s bonanza, when leaves seem to emit their own light. Yet the knowledge of what comes after stabs me each August as summer’s brilliance fades. I dread November, December and early January, when weekdays mean traveling in dusky gloom. I fully expect to die some gloomy November day, having decided that the hope of spring isn’t worth months of bitter darkness. Even at midday, in December I feel blind. Labor Day weekend, 1995. The cancer that had been smothering my mother’s organs for eight years finally tightens its grip. She moves from driving a car to being pushed in a wheelchair nearly overnight. Six months, her oncologist estimates, and we begin looking at the nursing homes I know she will hate. In the meantime, we stay at her house, feeding her, helping her to the bathroom, meeting with a hospice nurse. And the six months collapse into four days, fewer than 100 hours between pronouncement and final breath—the one she draws the instant my hand slips from hers to greet my returning husband. When I turn back, pale eyes stare sightlessly from beneath half-closed lids. Her skin has already faded from peach to gray. A month later, at the Art Institute of Chicago, my husband and I shuffle along roped aisles, admiring Monet’s progression from Realist to Impressionist. When I step into the final room, I gasp. A triptych takes up an entire wall, wisps of emerald, moss and berry dripping from the top border. A sea of molten primrose and cranberry buoys strips of teal, azure, forest. The edges fade into dark greens and grays. And in the center, dazzling, so bright I catch my breath: gold, lemon, white, cream. Brilliance. The light people see when they’re dying—or think they are. Like all warm tones, the center of the painting bulges forward, pressing other colors into formation. On the sides, shapes retain their boundaries, but toward the center the images meld. Suddenly I understand what theology can’t explain: how perhaps when we die, we leave our bodies but don’t lose them. How perhaps we fade into the universe without leaving our individual beauty, knowledge, love. “Look,” I whisper to my husband, touching his arm, my voice catching. “Look. He painted heaven.” Only in the months immediately following my mother’s death do I consider becoming pregnant. As it turns out, I was unlikely to have been successful: undiagnosed endometriosis had been creeping through my abdomen for years, binding my ovaries and uterus, strangling my fallopian tubes. Nevertheless, our daughter is conceived the autumn I became an

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Lynne Maker Kuechle orphan. Halfway across the world—perhaps at the moment of my mother’s death, perhaps at the moment I stood before Monet’s painting—cells divide to form embryo. We wouldn’t meet the girl for three years, until she was born with a brain damaged by the alcohol her birth mother had ingested. Until she was taken from her birth home and hospitalized for malnutrition. Until she spent nearly a year in a detsky dom, a baby house, as a legal if not biological orphan. On June 10, 1998, I awaken to Judy Garland on Minnesota Public Radio: she’d shared my mother’s birthday. “I wish we’d get a referral today,” I tell my husband. “It would be a sign.” I’m not altogether surprised when the phone rings at 10 a.m. I’m not thinking of ice or winter or alpenglow later that afternoon, as I slip a black videocassette into a VCR and watch a short tape of a little girl living thousands of miles away. The child feels familiar. A toddler with glowing blond hair, she stands motionless, blue eyes wide in confusion. Someone speaks to her from behind a camcorder, asking her perhaps to move, walk, say her name. We can translate only a few words. She didn’t move, and for that reason the family who saw the videotape before us declined to adopt her, heeding the physician who warned that this child might never live independently. By the time we got the video, a second chapter had been spliced in: now the girl moves, carries a doll, smiles. We follow the same steps as the first family, hear from the same doctor. But we resist his dire pronouncement. A doctor in Boston is far more optimistic about this child’s chances. I allow myself to fall in love with the little girl’s blue eyes, blond curls. We make the decision. We change our lives. The week before meeting her, we tour the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia. It is late fall, the sun slanting low in the sky. We see more Monets, and other treasures, in this museum that was once the tsar’s winter palace. We walk into a room that instantly becomes my favorite in the world: an expanse of crystal and glass, marble and silver, mirrors and tapered candles. Russian winters are long, dark, fiercer even than ours in Minnesota. The tsar built this room to steal as much light as possible from the pale December sky, arranging corners and angles to send each sunray reflecting and refracting, bouncing tirelessly across the room a hundred times, a thousand times. All to remind the palace’s inhabitants that darkness is not permanent. That spring will come again. We perceive with our senses, but how do we know? I drove that cloverleaf nearly every day for four years, but I never saw such luminescence again. Always the houses hid their potential beneath blue and gray shingles. Just once would I see that winter brilliance, recognize it as important, tuck it into memory.

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Lynne Maker Kuechle Over the years I’ve known things that, logically, I shouldn’t have known. I’ve walked into places where I knew immediately I would one day live. I’ve turned on the radio, dead sure of what song would be playing. The night my friend Mary died, at just 37, I’d had no idea she was ill. Yet sometime after passing from life she entered my dreams: we planned to go waterskiing on White Bear Lake, but it was already dusk. I dipped my hand into the water, expecting a chill, but found it warm, comforting. “We didn’t go waterskiing,” I said with regret, and Mary smiled. “No,” she said softly, “but we did a lot of other things.” Four months later, my husband and I bought a house with a view of White Bear Lake. Mary had been the last friend I talked to on the evening my mother died. I’d hung up the phone, let go of my mother’s hand to greet my husband—and my mother had disappeared. Eighteen months later, it was Mary’s turn. “She always wished you’d have children,” her husband told me at the funeral. Eighteen months after that, we brought our daughter home. Coincidence. Memory. Intuition. Perhaps they’re all part of the same thing. Perhaps they’re ghosts, gathering at our shoulders, watching our choices and pointing the way as we try to make sense of our lives. Although I’d recognized our future daughter in an image flickering on a screen, that video and her name were all we knew of her. As we waited four months for the paperwork to clear, a listserv of parents who’d adopted from Russia linked me to a woman named Marta. She’d traveled to the same orphanage, adopted her son, and taken pictures of his playmates. When she sent me copies, I thumbed through a thick stack of photos—toddlers playing in groups, a few children in pairs, and one unbelievably clear portrait: our daughter, wearing a faded T-shirt and skirt, beaming into the camera. “I remember her!” Marta writes when I tell her I’ve identified our child in her pile of snapshots. The two of us had worried when others on the listserv began talking about attachment issues in their children. “Relax,” she says now, “she’s a wonderful girl.” One afternoon, she explains, a dozen children tumbled outside for recess. One slipped and fell. Only the toddler who was to become our daughter returned to the fallen child, waited, held out a hand to help her up. Nearly 15 years later, that tender heart remains. Our daughter cries when a fish in her aquarium dies, her face crumpling like the embers of a fire. She scrambled into her grandparents’ laps more eagerly than their biological grandchildren ever did. She’s a favorite of her pediatrician, her special education teachers, her skating coach. A teen who squeezes hard when she gives hugs and signs her texts xoxoxo. She gathers and diffuses love the way the crystal room in the Hermitage gathers and diffuses light. Yet, like that room in winter, she’s surrounded by darkness, by leaden clouds that saturate her mind, preventing certain neurons from firing. She

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Lynne Maker Kuechle struggles to tell time on a clock with hands. She doesn’t know how much change to expect when she buys an ice cream cone with a five dollar bill. Symbolic language puzzles her. If I notice her squinting in bewilderment, I’ll explain what a metaphor means, ask if she understands. She always says yes, though she often means no. When people ask how old she is, I’m not sure how to answer. She’s chronologically seventeen, emotionally twelve, intellectually perhaps eight. Like the print I have of Monet’s triptych, she is beautiful. Her slim, muscular body radiates heat like an oven, making her warmer, even more vibrant, than the oils he used. Her blond hair—turning darker now, though once it matched the lemon spark of a winter evening—falls in long, thick waves, the kind of hair I’ve always wanted. She is full of energy, constantly in motion, some of it natural effervescence, some a byproduct of attention deficit disorder. The things that draw her attention change as continually as Monet’s painting snags my eye—top to bottom, edge to edge. When we painted our child’s bedroom, we didn’t know if that child would be a boy or a girl, so we sponged blue and yellow on the walls to give them a soothing but cheerful patina. Not until years later did I learn of chromotherapy, the ancient, holistic belief in the power of colors to heal. Yellow, proponents believe, stimulates nerves and purifies the body; blue soothes illnesses and treats pain. What better choice for a child who brought nothing from Russia but anxieties, learning disorders, and an immense capacity to love? For years I’ve wondered why some sparks of memory—a rooftop, a handful of balloons, a museum painting—embed themselves so deeply. And I think it’s this: Like wavelengths of light, our lives sport spectral lines, isolated peaks of intensity that stand out from an otherwise continuous spectrum. We’re made of atoms, formed of chemical reactions: Couldn’t subatomic laws also reveal themselves on a grander scale? And so, as we make our way from birth to death, moments arise that call us to attention, leaving a print like that of electrons moving from one orbital to another. I don’t yet know if those flashes cluster in youth and fade as we grow older. It may be so. As we age, the lenses in our eyes turn yellow—not the bright color of my father’s favorite shirt, but a dingy smear that hinders our ability to differentiate shades of blue, green and violet. Already, at dusk I see fewer nuanced shadows and more blocks of black; without my glasses, I can’t choose matching clothes from my closet. When I was 35, my ophthalmologist casually asked at the end of my exam, “Has anyone ever told you that you have cataracts?” I panicked, remembering my Aunt Maud who wore contacts and glasses at the same time, underwent surgeries, and still saw her world fade to a muddled blur. “Do cataracts run in your family?” he asked. I didn’t think so; Maud was

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Lynne Maker Kuechle a relative by marriage, not blood. “Have you spent a lot of time outside? Looked directly at the sun?” I tensed, recalling eclipses I’d watched through pinholes in paper plates, the sun lamp I’d had in high school, the occasional visits to tanning beds. Had I looked directly into those searing lights? Had I ignored the rules and burned away my eyes? A year later, I gratefully heard the answer: probably not. He again measured my cataracts, which hadn’t changed in size or location, pronounced them “congenital,” and assured me they’d do no harm. In the meantime, I’d persuaded my husband to go to Paris—“while I can still see it,” I pleaded—where we saw more Monets, toured his house and gardens, viewed the lily pond he’d painted so often. I learned that he’d created his late works, including the triptych I’d so admired, under the effects of cataracts that blurred his vision, hampering his ability to see blues, greens and whites while intensifying his perception of yellows and purples. The gold and mauve center of that triptych, the section I’d recognized as “heaven”: was it simply a manifestation of fading vision? And, if so, does it matter? Although we rely on our lenses to show us what exists, perhaps there’s a lens of the soul as well. Perhaps spectral lines emerge from a metaphysical aperture, a pinhole open to the heart of things, a crack giving us access to knowledge we amass without direct perception. Although Monet might have hoped to achieve something utterly different, the mixture of hues he produced nevertheless spoke to me on a day I needed to hear it. A few months after we returned from Russia with our daughter, we attended a celebration with other adoptive families. We’d all used the same agency; it was barely a coincidence, then, when a woman stepped up to me, hesitated, and spoke. “That little girl,” she motioned to our child, who was playing nearby. “Is she from Orel?” She was, of course, the woman who’d declined the referral of our daughter, the woman who’d feared the burden of raising a child with significant special needs. Tears welled in her eyes as she touched my arm. “I’ve never stopped thinking about her,” she said. “I’m so glad she found a home.” We looked at each other: two potential mothers, an intersection of what was and what could have been. She paused. “I’ve never forgotten her,” she repeated. “I couldn’t. I just couldn’t get those blue eyes out of my mind.”

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Jonathan Travelstead How We Bury Our Dead Nine-thirty a.m., Thursday, June twenty-seventh. My parents’ home. So who are these penguin men who take the wash cloth and plastic tub, the dropper of absinthe-tinged morphine from my father’s enormous hands? The funeral men have come, though no one remembers who it is that called them. They soothe my sisters, myself, and brother in succession, hands guiding our shoulders to the sunflower curtains of the kitchen. Narcotic blue pooled in the sink’s chipped porcelain. Coffee, cold and still in its pot. Because we have paid them to dictate for us our farewells, they take special care to assure us that bathing the body is no way to milk pain from the hands, that we only increase our trauma with each stroke of my mother’s slack, cooling cheek. Stitched together like a quilt. This is how they coach us to wait, to save it for the reenaction in their Victorian rooms of veneered particle board and crushed velvet as if the pulse could rekindle for bad taste. Scene. Tie snared around my neck. Blurred queue of faces and run-on condolences parade by the body I now only remember with exes for eyes. Where is the comfort where nothing is understood? Where, in the twenty-third Psalm’s pastures and valley of death do we begin forgetting how it was that when we were apes and said goodbye we gathered around what is lifeless with low hoots, hairy fists just uncurling from anger at the sky before dragging the cicada wings of our hearts into the reeds?

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Jonathan Travelstead We forget, too, the cloyed smell of rose petals and orange peel means ghost, that a host of sparrows ferry the body’s remainder across the river— the body which was once packed on the dining room table with rosemary and lavender by the son so the family may then begin lowering the weight. What I feel instead is an anger they tell me is impotent, worthless. An anger they say I don’t want and should not feel and so it returns to me and returns to me. It comes as grief that gloves the tongue, dulling a taste for sweets. It comes like a rag-tipped phantom, lingering at the corner of sight in July’s baked afternoon, and it comes like an opiate. Making each lover my mother, it comes as I find sex joyless and strange because, by opening the box where they place a scarecrow that almost looks like her, I forget that warmth leaving my palm is what means goodbye. Ask yourself who buries your dead? Go on. Not you. Garbage men paid with a discreet check in the mail. George & Lenny with a backhoe and spade in a crude American Gothic for Funeral Times magazine, dangling cigarettes in the only hole that separates them from making rent and two cases of beer a week as they talk about that patch of America they’re gonna call their own. And all those rabbits. This is how you look away. This is how we bury our dead.

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Rhett Iseman Trull Lullaby and Goodnight Mothers across the city, sleep tonight, sleep through the hours of crash in the alley, siren unfastening red from its cradle, sleep through the guttercat licking its claws, the hemlock tapping its code on the window. Stir not from your dreams of knives heavied by butter, of dew in the meadow assailing each hem. Rooms away, a stereo’s coming on softly: valley so low, hang your head over… sleep through this song reaching up from your childhood and sleep through the family dog’s whine of dementia on waking, lost in the foyer, circling the rug. There will be time, soon enough, for your breaking attention: the boxing of sweaters, the twice-washed dish. Sleep

* well tonight, mothers across the city, none of your sons crowded five to a cell, none bowing from the bridge rail toward dark waters. In their beds, in their footy pajamas, they keep faith in nightlights, in mended bears, faith in the Lord whose existence

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Rhett Iseman Trull you’ve promised. No wolf zipping itself into sheepskin, this house no house of straw, all your young men tonight accounted for—blood alcohol at zero percent, teeth by nicotine unstained, skin unfolding its scars as their dreams leave, on their faces, soft eddies—dream with them: Tomorrow,

* by the clock of the coffee’s slow drip, he departs, your eldest, for a shift at the grocery. Hear the register ping, jets misting the lettuce, the mop slap the floor with its kiss. Now watch him return, come evening, to you. He steers the garbage to the curb; empties his plate of seconds; then lulls from the piano all the old songs, an octave too low, making up for the C that won’t sound. And into dusk he rocks beside you on the porch as the other mothers of the neighborhood, mothers of the city, call in their youngest, every single one of whom drops his bat, his bike, or ball to come running, running in the light just now begun to vanish. Watch them slam

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Rhett Iseman Trull their happy doors. What happens next, you do not have to see to know: bath, books, and that hum in the dark, that battle not to close their eyes.

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Laurie Perry Vaughen Radio Repair My father loved to mend a world fine tune the Bakelite dials. Radios lined our walls like books. Some he left tagged as friends, other an abandonment he could glean for parts. There was a drawer removed like a tooth from the desk, an inventory of plastic dials he’d save, knowing delicate things are easily stripped. I see him clear as song, memorized— reading glasses on, his face illuminated by an old industrial art deco lamp. The iron toggle switch once burned my hand, and bore down on my life like work. It’s taken so long to sort out his livelihood. You know, those radios brought the world into our house, helped desegregate the South, at least for a few hours, and ordained the ordinary King, made some Kings of Swing. My father preferred his music live, the trial and error of making it himself, an apprentice to Blue Diamond guitar strings, taught by rambling men from silver rails. My father’s work seemed always fixing to end, one customer away from the overhead, the overheard, paralysis and debt. A child soon learns her middle name is Dream. I found his lyrics in another drawer where a ledger, or an accounting leaned. I recognized at once the tune, the DNA of his chords C, A-minor, G. I listened as a way to mend, as solder irons warmed, the way old radios also did.

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Laurie Perry Vaughen My father leaned back in his vinyl spinning chair, recording the entirety worthy of repair, a soft silver word, alloy, as his metaphor. Most days the world was slow enough that we could sing along. Unlike the clock, we could turn the knob of the world two ways. I came to trust the dial’s ability to discern, to find Billie Holiday in close proximity to a Bill Monroe. I played both by ear and both were as foreign as my father’s old War. I listened to the music allowed, as a fusion fully electrified by chords, amps, picks and pickups, vibrato’s extended arm. The radio crackled in discord. Harmony was my mother’s voice. The world an interruption just as Billie Holiday began to list places unfamiliar to us all. Now my father’s life is stripped as parts. At times I wished we’d kept it all—the old knobs, nodes, diodes, the nods, a tad, a moment, a scat, the scant amount of time we had. My hand reaches to turn the toggle of the old lamp from before to after, when suddenly I imagine my father some forty years ago turning the dial to that unfamiliar world beyond our rural post. We stopped whatever it was we normally did, just to hear Satchmo take our breath away, to hear the President say the longest word I knew— the slow plodding five syllables of de-se-gre-ga-tion.

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Cheryl Whitehead Climbing Jacob’s Ladder Hillside Hospital, Queens, 1949 I mixed my paints. I worked. And then acclaim pursued and captured me—but not my friends. How can that be fair? Am I to blame? Am I the one on which Negro art depends? A curator called to tell me, “Mister Lawrence, we’d like to hang your panels on our walls.” Explain to me why only my artwork warrants praise while interest in my peers’ work stalls. Success was not supposed to feel like this. I’m in a ward with inconsolable men. See that fellow there? I saw him kiss his wife good-bye, and he hasn’t spoken since. I paint. He digs in the hospital flower patch. Against our sadness I fear we are no match.

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Shannon K. Winston Remnants Tourne, pousse, plie—three words my mother taught me while kneading dough. Bent over the counter like Vermeer’s Astronomer, my hands traced star shapes in the flour. Turn, push, fold. The foreign assemblage of words rose on my tongue. Tourne, pousse, plie. My mother sprinkled water on the counter as white light filtered through the kitchen window. Turn, push, fold— air bubbles nesting in yeast burst like comets. Glimpses of pale yellow and tips of blue. This heating and cooling and reheating of particles in the making. Rock, dust, ice.

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Julie Marie Wade Meditation 35 five

This is the year I am more legs than torso. I move as if on stilts,

but still favor stilts on the playground. This sounds like a nursery rhyme, though it isn’t. I like the thimble kind—pink buckets turned upside down, tethered to green straps, ideal for clomping. I am far away without meaning to be. I am harder to reach in play, impossible to reach when I am reading. As I wobble and fall, the other children guffaw. I plunge deeper into the white pools of the page. It’s my candle year: two fawn-brown tapers with a flame on top, a flicker of red in my hair. It’s my kite-tail year, the long strings of my lower half tugging me back to earth, my head set comfortably among the clouds. Gravity is never an easy lesson. My mother answers to many names, Gravity among them. She is my first world, my first lesson in limits. I live in a house made of mother and mortar, bright windows and red brick. My father and I dangle from the ceiling, two look-alike kites intertwined. My mother unrolls us and reels us in. I have trouble telling right from left, trouble making snowflakes and folding paper cranes, trouble tying my shoes. Velcro is not an option, my mother says. All my teeth are tight in my mouth for now, but I am afraid of the big tooth on the kindergarten wall that promises loss is coming. I am reading at a third-grade level, but I have failed my draw-a-person test, so my parents are summoned to school to determine if I am a wunderkind or a dud. The results prove inconclusive. I begin to memorize what does not come naturally to me. “Left” is the eye that only sees fog. “Right” is the hand with the lonely freckle, one interpunct under the thumb. “Right” is also whatever my mother says. Soon, she enrolls me in after-school activities. When I swim, I feel as true to my body as the stories we are allowed to believe—God and Jesus and George Washington. When I dance, it is always an act of science fiction. I love stories, but I do not believe the story of my own body. I never have. I am a meta-child who believes in metaphor. No one has told me yet, but they will: A comparison wherein one thing is described in terms of another. I anticipate this definition while sculling on my back in the pool, while hanging limp in jellyfish pose, while learning to bob up and

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Julie Marie Wade down. I open my eyes under water and regard the others, my namesakes. I am a girl because I resemble these girls. We are like each other without being the same, stick arms and legs with little bellies jutting forth, beveled promontories. See how we shiver when we are cold? See how our fingers raisin when submerged? But the dry land pronounces our differences. My wet hair is pinned back, my skin still damp under my leotard. Sometimes my stomach rumbles. On the dance studio floor, we stagger ourselves and spread our legs as far as we can, twelve sets of pink tights and slippers. My feet point forward in a V, and when the teacher comes to widen them, they snap back again like a firmly hinged door. The butterfly: “flutter, flutter.” We press our soles together and flap energetically. The other girls’ knees come to rest on the floor. “Push them down and hold them there,” the teacher says to me. The frog: “Hips flat, bottoms down.” The teacher comes around, smoothing our prone bodies with her rolling-pin hands. But I am a pop-up book—no splits for me, no sitting on my knees. Even cross-legged, I tip forward, hunching my shoulders. When we practice our pique turns, I get dizzy and stumble out of line. The only other dancer I have ever seen belongs to my music box. She tinkles and twirls until the lid crushes her, mid-pirouette, into silence. I believe she brims with many unnamed longings, happiness, and also regret. She is a metaphor, but not only a metaphor.

ten Now the body is both fact and opinion. I can argue with myself, and a deeper self within me argues back. I am a double digit, an exemplar of binary code. For my birthday, my father takes me to Silver Coin with forty quarters burning a hole in my bag. I spend everything on games with joy sticks and steering wheels. Though my scores are low, I relish the racetrack for its circular nature, the spaceship for its aerial view. This is the year that older women begin to take my hand and lean in close, whispering that I will “soon become interested in boys.” But the truth is, I have been interested in boys for a long time. I study their confidence when faced with physical challenge. I admire their fearlessness in falling, bleeding, the pride they take in their most conspicuous wounds. We are similes, these boys and I, two essentially unlike entities linked by a surprising connection. Our connection is Mrs. Miller, who has wavy brown hair and a soft pleasing shape, Mrs. Miller who has just turned twenty-five. Everyone likes her, but the boys and I—we like her extra. We vie for her attention daily, one-upping each other with clover bouquets and blackberries picked from the thicket we aren’t supposed to cross. She thanks us and smiles, pats our cheeks and touches our foreheads when she suspects we might be flushed.

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Julie Marie Wade I run a fever for all of fourth grade, yet I earn the gold star for perfect attendance. I lie in bed at night and fantasize that Mrs. Miller brings me orange juice and an ice pack. “1” is the girl in me. She likes dresses all right and is excited about switching from ankle socks to stockings in the spring. She glosses her lips and puckers for the bathroom mirror. She might even agree to wear her Easter bonnet. “0” is the boy in me. He likes the idea of kissing, the intimacy of breath, two bodies joined by their tongues. At CPR class, he imagines pressing his warm mouth against a stranger he has pulled safely from the pool. The stranger is always a girl. When I consent to “going steady” this year, I imagine it will be all kickball and bicycle-riding, this boy like the brother I never had. He pushes me on a tire swing and listens while I play piano for his neighbor. But he wants something, too—a corporeal engagement with his body that feels both dangerous and uninspired. “1” is the mouth that kisses him back under the mistletoe, that leaves a little smack of cherry. “1” is the body selected from the audience that night for a spotlighted dance with the star of Cotton Patch Gospel. She looks pretty, her other self concedes, in the black velvet French dress with the blue satin rose. She discovers she enjoys being twirled and dipped, then praised for being graceful after. “0” is the same mouth that presses into her pillow at night, dreaming of Mrs. Miller, Mandie Salazar from school, Agent 99 from Get Smart. “0” is the body alone, undressed, examined furtively under the covers. This body is growing so fast it will soon surpass the mother’s height, is already head to head with the boy. And when they stand together in the basement, trying to recreate her moment of light, he puts his arms around her middle, heaves, tells her he isn’t sure that he can lift her. In Pioneer Girls on Wednesday nights, she wins at foursquare and tetherball. Her long legs fuse into a single fin. She becomes as fast and fluid as water. Then, we go in. I am my old self again, careless with the glue and scissors, worse with the needle and thread. “You’ll just have to tell your parents you didn’t earn your domesticity badge,” the troupe leader says. This is the closest thing we have to Home Economics, and now I’ve blown it. For Valentine’s Day, I bring my mother a hook-and-eye potholder that promptly unravels in her hand. I give my father an eagle fashioned from dark yarn and stuffed with cotton. “Is this a football or a potato?” he asks.

fifteen

My body is no longer a story. It is a novel—new and long at once. I have starved myself till the clavicles pierced through my skin, then softened

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Julie Marie Wade the flesh beyond the ledge of thin. I have gone two rounds on Accutane to become unblemished again. I have shaved my legs so fiercely they bled. The exposition is over, and now the rising action begins. This new, long world is parsed by a Cartesian seam: girls who live too much inside their bodies and girls, like me, who live too much inside their heads. The boys are gone now. They belong to the world beyond us. When I ask her, my mother simply repeats what she has read: “Single-sex schools enable young women to excel as leaders and better prepare them to meet the challenges ahead.” In the promotional video, a girl in a class sweatshirt and loose ponytail sips from her Nalgene water bottle and says, “I appreciate not having boys around. I can really concentrate on my schoolwork without distractions here at Holy Names.” At this, my mother balks. “It’s a prep school, not a nunnery, and every young woman should learn to look the part!” “What does that mean—look the part? You make it sound like I’m auditioning for something.” “You are—every day—whether you know it or not.” For this reason, my mother will dress me for the rest of high school. She will choose my clothes and lay them on the rocking chair each night, then meet me in the morning with her mousse and pick, a diffuser she bought at the mall. She likes “the wet look.” There are blazers and blouses from Bill Blass, Liz Claiborne slacks with deep pleats, brown woven belts to match my loafers, and a fleet of dreaded trouser socks. I no longer resemble the other girls. I don’t even resemble myself. Perhaps, in retrospect, I begin running cross-country for the clothes. I have never felt more confident, more the way I imagine a boy must feel, than in my black running shorts and Nike sneakers, my long tank top with the cropped black sports bra underneath. Everything is neat and tight, my body moving forward in one straight line. On our training runs and at our races, sweat is expected, required. I tuck my hair under a ball cap. I swish water around in my mouth, then spit it out on the ground, the way I’ve seen real athletes do. At the end of the season, my coaches present me with a trophy for “Most Improved.” My mother weeps at my bedside over how huge my thighs have become. “You need to stop training,” she says, “or they’re only going to get bigger and bigger.” Is it the story of my body I begin to doubt, or the story my mother has told me about my body? This is also the year she leafs through my biology book before announcing out of the blue: “Girls can’t masturbate, you know. There’s no point in touching yourself.” My face crimsons at the thought. Was she thinking that I had been thinking about it? At the piano, I press down on the damper pedal with

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Julie Marie Wade all my might. I make the notes soft and blurry, string them together like Christmas lights. On television, we watch shows about virgins and angels and a celibate ranger in Texas. One night there is an episode about a woman who has been raped. I am stunned by her sorrow, the way she mourns for what she can neither name nor replace. I tell my parents, “If I were raped, I would kill myself, no question.” “You don’t mean that!” my father cries. But I do. I can only love my body alone and in motion. Any touch would seem a trespass now. A few months later, I am sent home from school with chicken pox. “What a relief!” my mother sighs, bringing me orange juice and an ice pack. “I was so afraid it was your acne coming back.” My symbolic quarantine made manifest: I have time on my hands now, time with a body. My mother leaves me gloves, reminds me not to scratch. Sinking deep in the oatmeal bath, I bless myself and let my fingers wander.

twenty This is the year I begin to touch down in my body at last, after years of soaring through space, staying the course, naming myself by proximity to others. Who would I be if I landed somewhere else? This is also the year I acquire the Latin phrase, sui generis, and begin to cite it as defense and explanation for all my actions. I am not “similar to” or “different from” anyone; I am sui generis, I say, end of story. “Just what is that supposed to mean?” my father demands. “Unique, peculiar, one of a kind.” Without asking my parents’ permission, I apply to have my scholarship transferred to a college in London. I want to hear the language I think I know made new again, and this, too: I want to undo the deep repression that has kept me chaste and fearful, erratic in my acts of longing and withdrawal. My mother packs my suitcase, selects my clothes for the overnight flight. “Why are you doing this to us?” she keeps asking, and even sui generis doesn’t seem a suitable response. First, it is dark, and I am dozing in the back row. Then, the sun is rising over the left wing, and I step into the lavatory to wash my face, to meet my own eyes in the mirror. They are dark blue, often mistaken for brown. The right one, which can see clearly, appears larger than the other—wide awake and ever-watchful. I look down at the yellow cardigan with little pearl buttons my mother has purchased for me. Do I tug absently at a loose thread? Do I fasten a button that has come undone? Or is the moment more telekinetic than that? Suddenly, they are falling like raindrops into the sink, an insistent clatter

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Julie Marie Wade of six, seven, eight. The sweater, now buttonless, swings open. I see my ugly beige bra, the same one my mother wears. I see my bare midriff, never flat enough to meet my standards. I gather the pearls and tuck them in my pocket. Even if I could sew, I would still scatter them like ashes. The body knows something about hyperbole, and the body knows something about hiding. I am cordial with my host family, and they are cordial with me. I stop drinking coffee and convert enthusiastically to tea. Every morning I run the streets of Eastcote, past the red mailboxes and the zebra crossings. I am a portrait of health and good humor. Sometimes I ride the Circle line for hours, writing to the rhythms of the train. All this to learn: I have come 4700 miles, and the gnawing in my lower abdomen, the slight constriction under my ribs, never goes away. Rather, it intensifies. I try less wine, more wine, vary my quantities of cider. I take up smoking but try not to inhale. I imagine my pink lungs from the health class diagram, floating now in charcoal clouds. One morning I notice a church near the house where I stay. The organ music is not as soothing as it is familiar, but it will do. From the back pew, I listen to the minister, trying to place his accent until I realize, disappointed, that it’s the same as mine. Afterwards, he introduces himself and reveals that he too was raised in Washington State. His wife brings me a glass of champagne. For several weeks, I take Christ’s body broken for me as I haven’t done in years. This is something to tell my parents at least when I call them from the phone box on the corner and promise I’m having a sui generis time. “Come out with us to the club,” a classmate cajoles. I wear a short skirt and a red shirt, paint my lips and slick back my hair. A friend from home has sent me a Sark book, and I attempt to imitate her “bodacious” style. At the door, a man traces his hand the length of my leg, asks where I’ve been all his life. It’s then I recognize this feeling in my gut. It isn’t acid reflux. It’s the way my mother told me all good girls feel when they lie. I never went inside the club. My classmate waved to me, and I waved good-bye.

twenty-five Now for the hyphen years, which do not begin until we have come of age: twenty-one and counting. They imply a perforation, each small dash like a saloon door. They mean to show us how the present swings—the present tears—both ways. And what does love do? Love allows us to swivel. In my writer-life, I have acquired two words—a steering wheel and a joystick perhaps—to navigate the hinged nature of human time. Analepsis-Prolepsis. To leap back-to leap forward. I love stories, and I am beginning to believe the story my body tells about itself. It is only the title of the story that eludes me now.

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Julie Marie Wade In my twenty-first year, I shed virginity like a veil. I am lighter, no longer standing guard over phantom treasure. In my twenty-second year, I leave a man at the altar. I am lighter still, trusting in the power of unspoken vows, the via negativa by which both our lives are spared. In my twenty-third year, I make a new life with a woman. By my twentyfourth year, I have forgotten how to sleep alone. And so it is that on the morning of my twenty-fifth birthday, I wake in crescent pose curled around my beloved’s body. This is our excursion to Sistersville, West Virginia, where we will be mistaken for sisters by everyone we meet. This is a haunted inn—the gift itself—where I will mistake bad plumbing for ghosts in the bathtub. I have always been interested in what becomes of the essence of us—the wick extinguished, but not the rising smoke; the nose of the kite severed, set free from its tail. A tear: My parents and I are becoming ghosts to each other. See how they recede to ether in the rearview mirror. Their bodies, a quarter-century before, gave rise to mine, as yeast to dough, but there is some essence of my own that transcends them, and some essence of their own that I do not possess or have lost and will never regain. Does it make any sense to say that I mourn the distance spreading like water between us—mourn it, but without regret? A swivel: I have gone forth not to multiply but to bond. I have discovered a love electrovalent in its intensity, multivalent in its expression. The phrase “samesex relationship” never fails to surprise me. How ionic we are, how differently charged! And then to think of the friend whose father once said, “Homosexuality is nothing but vanity, Narcissus gazing at his own reflection in a lover’s face.” My rebuttal, ten years in the making: The beloved’s body is not a looking glass. The beloved is not a metonym. She stands for nothing but herself. A leap back, incredulous: How am I now the age Mrs. Miller was fifteen years ago? I had imagined I would inhabit a womanhood like hers. After all, she taught us the word paragon, for a spelling test, and its synonym, epitome, to expand our lexicons. Mrs. Miller had embodied these terms for me: the paragon of twenty-five, the epitome of a woman in her midtwenties. When I fell in love with her, I fell in love with fulcra. On her desk, I remember how Mrs. Miller kept a folder labeled Miscellany, and when I asked what it was for, she said, “For everything that doesn’t fit into the other boxes.” Perhaps Mrs. Miller had become a woman in the most literal sense. I could hear the hyphen in it: wo-man, deriving from or in relation to man. The year before we had known her as a first-grade teacher named “Miss Baer,” but when her prefix changed, she seemed to be, all at once, solidified, her foundation settled. She even moved to a different classroom, a higher grade. Was this how words embedded themselves in the body, like fragments of glass and shell inside a stone? Was marriage or what it signified—heterosexuality— something we could see or at least perceive?

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Julie Marie Wade And was what I felt at twenty-five even “womanly,” or was it, in fact, “miscellaneous”? I was taking gender studies classes in graduate school. Suddenly, every nevus was presumed to mean something, to reveal a longdormant truth. Friends were coming out of the woodwork to tell me they had “always known” I was a lesbian. They could “just tell.” Should I add it as a prefix to my name? Should I claim it as an ontological category of existence? Could this word explain anything at all about my unique, peculiar, one-of-a-kind embodiment—why, for instance, I could never sit comfortably on my knees? Then, a woman asked, “Why do you wince when I call you what you are—a woman who loves women? Are you ashamed?” I shook my head. I was haunted by the sound of the word, not what it sought to convey. “So, what is it?” she pressed. “I just don’t think I can answer to a name that falls between leprosy and lesion in the dictionary.” I didn’t know her well. She had a ghostly face and dark hair that hid her eyes. “Maybe try a different dictionary,” she said. “They’re adding new words all the time.”

thirty A leap forward, catalytic: I turn the big 3-0 standing in the checkout line of a grocery store I no longer frequent in a city where I no longer live. The digital clock switches to midnight as I swipe my debit card. “Your Marlboros, ma’am, and your cash.” I had wanted to smoke, for nostalgia’s sake, while driving through the neighborhood of our past life in Pittsburgh. This was also, as it happened, Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood, a show my beloved and I had watched as children. The ultimate prolepsis Pittsburgh turned out to be, for we had gone on to inhabit a place inside the television, twenty years after our first glimpse of it on screen. Was this phenomenon surreal or hyperreal? I couldn’t tell you now. I learned those words in my twenties when my education in theory began. At first, I was attracted to theory because it seemed to lack a body. Theories were ethereal, weren’t they? A purely cerebral subject, I thought, and I knew I was better, as the saying went, “in theory than in practice.” In Pittsburgh, I had a professor who some referred to as a “theory head.” I wanted to be one, too—a theory head but also a gumshoe. As it turned out, this professor rode my bus and lived in my neighborhood. I thought he was smart and intimidating and gay without presuming any correlation among these things. After a low score on my essay, he invited me to meet him at the Katerbean.

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Julie Marie Wade “It turns out, I’m not very good at theory,” I apologized outright. “What makes you say that?” “Your comments on my paper—and the grade.” “Well, any good theory is meant to be the mode of transportation, not the cargo. Do you see what I mean?” “It’s an analogy,” I offered sheepishly. “OK. Let me say this another way: It’s as if you’re putting too much trust in the theories we’ve studied.” His eyes were very blue, perhaps the color they mean when they say cerulean. “Theory doesn’t give you answers to questions. Theory gives you the questions.” And I could see how this was not unlike the way the body might give you a pain, calling your attention to some aspect of yourself you might otherwise overlook or prefer to ignore. Theory was painful like that. It could bruise you. It could scald you. It could even make you pick at scabs of wounds that were nearly healed. Later, the same professor told me he had learned that many members of the faculty believed he was gay when they hired him. In fact, he was married to a woman. He wondered—and perhaps this wonder needled him the way a theory surely would—if the assumption that he was gay had made him appear a more compelling candidate for the position he now held. “Do you know why they thought you were gay?” I asked. Why had I been so certain, so insistent that the gay body was marked in some way and that I knew this way? If I could recognize what I had seen or failed to see in him, perhaps I could discern and articulate at last what I had seen or failed to see in myself. “Well, I got tired of speculating, so I asked around.” He was chuckling now. “I found out that most people thought I was gay because I have a woman’s middle name!” Now I am called thirty, which sounds like theory, which reminds me of Cherrie Moraga’s “theories in the flesh,” which I am teaching to my own students in a gender studies class. I teach with questions, which is the way I have learned to move through the world: What does it mean to say “the physical realities of our lives […] fuse to create a politic born out of necessity?” Moraga insists we do this “by naming our selves and telling our stories in our own words.” By analogy, I might say that language is the consummation of our longing to name at last who we are—to make ourselves known. In my thirtieth year, my first book is published, my first attempt at naming my self—or selves—of telling my story in my own words. One reviewer describes the book as “written from the body,” and when I read her words, I wince at first, the way the word lesbian has made me wince for years. I wanted so much to be praised for my intellect, even as I must have known by then that the body was, and is, the ultimate physical reality to be reckoned with, the site of the truest intelligence, of which and from which I had been writing all along.

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Julie Marie Wade Perhaps the reviewer meant to suggest I was a theory in the flesh. Weren’t we all, in fact—strange constellations of arms and legs, skeletons and cells, somatic questions pulsing to be asked? I wrote and thanked her. Then, I plunged deeper into the white pools of the page.

thirty-five Every tour of the past culminates in a present. Every past resides in a body, incubated by memory and imagination. At my age now, my mother was new to motherhood. I cannot remember her then, of course. We had only just met each other. But she used to recount how she had pined for me and how, when I arrived at last—her “miracle baby, against all odds”—she spent her thirty-fifth winter holding and rocking, long hours unmoved from a chair. Perhaps I am more miscellaneous than my mother. She believed a woman was not truly a woman—could not call herself such—until she became a mother. What was she before? But I am always before to my mother, always other, because I have never taken after. In my thirty-fifth year, my “same-sex marriage” becomes legal in the state where I live. I have been pining for this moment for years, and when it arrives at last, I weep like a baby watching tender news stories, the Miami verdict replayed and replayed: “The stay is lifted.” Like my mother perhaps, before she had me or could be certain I would ever be born, I was afraid to admit how much I had wanted my marriage. I am still afraid it will be taken away. My beloved and I have not changed our names the way our own mothers did, and yet a name has been changed for us, modified: We are married women now. My father once told me I would never be a woman in his eyes until I married—until he had “given me away.” He mentioned nothing about children, but perhaps they were implied. Even now, with all these silver threads in my hair, I suspect my father wouldn’t see me as “grown.” Even now, with this ring on my hand and this vow in my heart, I suspect my father wouldn’t see me. I do not believe in the two-become-one any more than I believe the two must become three. “Do you have a credo?” the interviewer asks. She wants to know if there is something that cinches my life, that binds together my body of work. “Recursion is my credo,” I say. I touch back, as if to the shore or the wall of a swimming pool. I pivot, then push off again. Flutter, flutter, I might have said. Flip-turn. “You’re in danger, I fear,” the editor notes, “of telling the same stories over and over.” But isn’t that what we do? Isn’t that what it means to be human? What

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Julie Marie Wade I had wanted was to plumb them thoroughly, all those porous stories of the past. With only anaphora to guide me, I search them out: Which ones hold water? Which ones are nursing seeds? And if theories are questions, can’t credos be, too? What do we know that we don’t yet know we know? In my thirty-fifth year, my first book is released in a second printing. It is a not a sequel, as some have wondered, but a renewal, a literary kind of recursion. They are the same words inside, signified by an altered cover. So it is with the body aging—that synonym for growing, changing—but always, some deeper essence abides. Stripped of descriptors—woman, lesbian, married—each body develops its own way of being in the world. Here in the sticky south Florida heat, my body develops an affinity for linen, that ghost of the fabrics, that there and not-there at once. “I am my own person,” I repeat in my sleep. “I have made my own family,” I smile into the mirror. While climbing mountains on the spin bike, taking pride in the strength of my thighs, I remind myself how unlike my mother I am. I will not fear size. I will not fret curves. Mine is a body in love and in motion, the most honest incarnation I have ever been. Then: a twist: the climactic moment of the fragmented narrative. I had written the book and called it “a memoir in fractures.” I had mentioned therein my mother’s forecast that I was “headed for a fall.” In love, I hoped. From grace, she feared. We were alike in this way, my mother and I: the literal always lost on us with our fondness for figures of speech. When I slipped in a flood on the kitchen floor, my beloved heard a sound like shattered glass. “Did you drop a bottle?” she called from the other room. “Are you taking out the recycling?” It was my leg, both long bones severed above the ankle. I sat on the ground without moving or making a sound. There was no pain, not yet. There was only premonition. I knew in an instant how I would spend my thirty-fifth winter: long hours unmoved from a chair. This is my body broken before me—on the stretcher, in the wheelchair, on the table in the operating room. This is my first visceral and undeniable vulnerability, though I understand, implicitly, that it will not be my last. To fall is inevitable, one way or another. To flourish in spite of fracture is the only choice we have. Before I go under, I hear some nurses talking in the room. They are laughing and making plans for the weekend. Everything they don’t like they call “gay.” My body is neither here nor there. They move around me as water glides around rocks. Is it a gay body they see? Is it marked in some way? The word floats across the room like a stray balloon. I try to grasp it with my teeth, but instead I sleep. When I wake, the memory weighs heavy and sour on my tongue. This is the year I am more legs than torso, again. I move as if on stilts,

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Julie Marie Wade an embarrassment on crutches. I begin to memorize what does not come naturally to me: “going slow,” “taking it easy,” “sitting still” as my tibia and fibula do the difficult knitting I could never perform with my hands. May they be prodigious. May I be patient. May my beloved feel this gratitude rising like steam from my skin. And when I sink into the bathtub at last, its bubbled caesura, I study the half-moons of the incision sites, their deep purple zippers of scab, the bruise that I can only describe as sui generis. “A fracture blister,” the doctor says. Gravity is never an easy lesson. What to make of this body now, beginning again: its curses and re-curses. A friend laments, “When I said ‘Break a leg!’ at your reading, I meant it as a metaphor!” I flex my foot like the day’s greatest accomplishment. I wiggle my toes as an act of divination. When I balance in tree pose and meet my own eyes in the mirror, I see how I am a metaphor, but not only a metaphor.

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Bro. Yao (Hoke S. Glover III) Hospital for the Negro Insane 1.

It’s a regular morning and I head out the neighborhood passing the Glenn Dale Hospital, a clump of old abandoned buildings built in the early part of the century that now strike the eye as a modern day betrayal of the land. They are dying a slow death, in plain view, but still remain out of the range of insight. I’ve grown used to the mile or so stretch of ruin. Sometimes I look, and other times I do not. When I do, it chills something in me. A flash of the mind imagines the cobwebs beginning in the angles of the room and spreading out like a ghostly mist, mixed with the dust from the chipped paint, toxic deadly and deadly toxic, flaking off the walls. Then people appear moving slowly from room to room in the daze of sickness. Some of them cough deep in their chest and I feel the burn. The hospital used to house people who had contracted TB. When it was closed down in 1981, the official reason was asbestos. Each broken window has a person staring out into the loneliness of the hills so still and silent. The grounds are untended now. The grass is high. 2. Glenn Dale is an eye sore for the affluent African American community that surrounds it. Located in Prince George’s County, just outside the Nation’s Capitol, the hospital is in the middle of one of the most well off African American counties in the United States. In all directions, just miles from the facility, are developments that suggest African Americans have risen above the ideological ghetto that seems to live in the basement of the black image. It’s Black History Month and the clichés arise: tattered travelers without shoes, former plantation dwellers wandering through the half memory of slavery and abolition on a quest towards freedom take the stage. In P.G. County, like most of America, these ghosts belong to the past where many of them wait for recognition and rest. Most of us have seemingly moved far beyond them. They exist as painful reminders of the past or at

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Bro. Yao (Hoke S. Glover III) least, reminders of how far we’ve come. After all, what does the image of slavery have to do with one of the nation’s most affluent African American communities? How do the ghosts reconcile with the luxury cars, designer clothes, and gates at some of their entrances? Many homes not far from Glenn Dale sell for upwards of a half a million dollars. All of this strikes me as odd. I’ve watched the community change. Growing up, we played paper football, pencil fought, and threw spitballs at each other as the school bus would pass Glenn Dale. Back then it was just another site on a country road, not too far from our house in Lanham, Maryland, just a few miles down the road. My parents, recent transplants from New York, were too sophisticated to live in the country again. They had grown up in places that looked a lot like Glenn Dale. We now lived in the suburbs, a space halfway between the city and the country. For my mom, Glenn Dale, though close, was on the other side of an invisible line that separated the suburbs from the country. She would laugh if headed East on 450 and away from D.C. saying, “We going to the Boondocks.” Now the hospital is a last man standing, a piece of land yet to be redeveloped. It sits on a piece of prime real estate with an obstacle course attached to it. Hidden in the mess of brick is the problem of asbestos, whose toxic chemicals cause cancer. I’ve also heard that it takes a hundred years for TB to go away. Developers have made several bids on the property but still haven’t succeeded in turning the campus into a new set of luxury homes. In that way, the old hospital symbolizes the history that remains with us sitting in plain view. We know it’s there, and drive past it every day. It is physical and conceptual. The old hospital represents history and the world changing around the unresolved pieces. Historical buildings are designated as such to note them as signposts of society’s memory. Maybe the buildings still stand because there is something unremembered about them? Maybe they remain vacant and empty because they are waiting for rest and reconciliation with the past? And maybe, when the memories are properly put to rest, the ground, the developers, and the world around will be allowed to swallow them.

3. Memory can easily be buried in the present. Too often it is disorientated at the place where lightning strikes. For lightning is the charge of storm. The chances of being struck are the chances of trauma. The flash blinds. The thunder produces deafness. In its wake, all that we can see, and all that we can hear, become enmeshed with the emotion that never was recognized in the first place. In the present we

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Bro. Yao (Hoke S. Glover III) carry these old memories half experienced and half unrealized. To like moments that are fundamentally different, we bring the charge of the old trauma. We wander through the fields of existence unable to decipher the difference between the now and the old—the what has happened, and what we think will happen. We think we can’t survive when we already have. Imagine the tree whose tip reaches into the sky. Imagine the exact point where the flash roots itself to the ground and releases its charge. Imagine the wounding. It is both the place of awe and the place of worship, the place of belief and disbelief. It instills both reverence and fear. It gives us sense of our existence while at the same time obliterating our ability to think about it. Afterwards we wander. We look for our reflection and find the half image cut and pasted to the old image dimmed by the pain or blurred by the light. We half remember as we are led back to those same places searching for a sense of completeness.

4. Not far down the road, maybe a thirty-minute drive from Glenn Dale sprawls another abandoned campus. This one is located further in the country. There’s less development, but still you find houses built that can be afforded by the wealthy scattered amongst roads that are deceptively southern, haunting, and beautiful at the same time. Here the bricks of the empty buildings are more well kept; they belong to the Crownsville Hospital for the Negro Insane. Crownsville was opened in 1911 over twenty years before Glenn Dale. 1911 is also personally unique because it is the same year my grandmother was born. In the elderly one finds history in the living. There is something both fascinating and humbling about the presence of someone who has lived over ninety years. One questions the reality of the history before them. What do they really know? Where are all the places they have been? The life of my grandmother and that of the Hospital for the Negro Insane have almost identical time spans. Granny was born in the Deep South— Alabama—and in her life would see two “World Wars,” the introduction of indoor plumbing into her house, the dismantling of Jim Crow, the rise of Black Power, the birth of the computer, and the rise of the cellular phone. The South she was born into has been much written about. It is a land full of mental illness; the black psyche could not exist there without confronting it. One can only wonder what happens to the minds of citizens who must live in a country where the mental illness has been sanctioned by the law and allowed to grow rampant. Mental illness breeds mental illness: Walk down a street and make sure you don’t catch a white woman’s eyes. Always

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Bro. Yao (Hoke S. Glover III) go through the back do’, the back do’. Don’t fight even if you are right. In those times many Negroes couldn’t even vote because voter suppression was active and full-time. Granny was born just four years before the reestablishment of the Klu Klux Klan. In 1911, the Hospital for the Negro Insane began to house the Negroes who had been designated by the state of Maryland as mentally ill. Once admitted to the facility, the blacks who had been designated as mentally ill were fit enough to build much of the institution with their own hands.

5. I met Crownsville during my older son’s soccer years. At the time he was involved with a Maryland Developmental Program soccer team who practiced just a few miles from Crownsville. I did not know the building was made by and for Negroes at the time. We passed it, and like Glenn Dale, the initial drive past was full of shock, wonder, and amazement. Who lived here? What is the story? In some ways history is very intimate and touches the mind with a specificity that longs to be synced with a memory from another place and time. In that way, Crownsville and Glenn Dale are sisters of the odd and mysterious who somehow find themselves together holding hands in the realm of my mind. Crownsville reappeared in my memory recently when Dr. Monifa Love and Monica Turner, two leaders at Bowie State University, chose the Hospital for the Negro Insane as the subject for an innovative Young Scholar’s English 102 Course. As a part of the program, students researched the institution, interacted with former employees, and learned about the ways the Negro insane were treated. As you might imagine, electro-shock, lobotomies, and harsh living conditions went hand and hand with the confinement. Both Glenn Dale and Crownsville seemed to be a physical match for the old and abandoned in my memory. My spirit connected the two sets of building cut from the same historical time period with my own fears of ghosts, death, and confinement. But I was plunged into something else far darker and confusing when I began to imagine a sea of black faces behind the walls of Crownsville. The hospital then began to smell like a slave ship and linked with the underground history I have spent most of my life studying. To this day, Black History functions like an underground railroad for many of us, particularly those who work in the humanities. We operate like priests who have yet to be designated as such. Our questions of philosophy, language, history, and interdisciplinary study seek to link spirit, humanity, intellectualism, and cure. The mess of slavery is the shattered glass of both personal and historical memory. Imagine us on the grounds of the old

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Bro. Yao (Hoke S. Glover III) hospital picking up the thousand pieces, stuffing them into bags, and then heading back to a lab to figure out how they all fit together. Though abolition occurred one hundred and fifty years ago, the study of our history still serves as a path to freedom. Those who take up the tasks of decoding our often difficult and traumatized past, seek to reconcile the contemporary expressions of African American culture with our past treatment and seemingly chronic issues. Our challenges are both intimate and depersonalized at the same time. One of my pivotal traumas packaged in “get over it” involves a plumpbellied monk in high school, who wore the garb of those vowed to God. His robe was white with a large red cross painted on his chest. He was the one who gave me my first D in a biology class. According to him, I was cheating. Dazed, I stumbled into the recesses of my own mind. Prior to entering his school, I had made almost all A’s. My pride was my algebra, my advanced math, my ability to do equations in my head. I loved school; so much, I realized when accused of cheating, I had never even thought about cheating. The notion that his reality could be imposed on my mind, where the thought simply did not exist, tested both my confidence and sanity. It was a Black History riddle of sorts. Like the Asian koans designed to teach practitioners about the nature of thought, my instructor’s perception challenged my view of right and wrong, justice and judgment, fair and evil. How does one prevent people from thinking you are lying—capable of what you have not even commissioned with your own mind? The result was an unpredictable anger that arose precisely at those moments I felt vulnerable to a similar accusation. In some ways, it was my introduction to the Black part of Black History. My grades dropped considerably and I shied away from the sciences and math. Though still a good student, the equation I sought as an answer to the situation made the predictability of math seem illusory. Though men like my biology teacher occupied the physical world, they were not machines. They were ruled by consciousness. What were the precise rules of consciousness? How did it take shape in the world? What were the designated inputs for such a mind to manage success from an inferior position such as mine? Though much better kept, Crownsville immediately made me think of Glenn Dale. Abandoned buildings seem to have a common ancestry. If anything it is their combined sense of age and the past, the mystery of the old within our community. Their presence asks the questions: Where are their people? What happened to them? How did this come to be?

6. On Halloween, young people in Glenn Dale make a tradition of going to the hospital to snoop around and be scared. After all, Halloween is

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Bro. Yao (Hoke S. Glover III) fantastically made up of fear, ghosts, goblins. Even mental illness engaged in the midst of the holiday can be processed effectively. The holiday, like all of them, is both psychic and full of wonder. October 31st is one of the days we are allowed to engage our fears and sense of the odd. Though not limited to these categories, the confrontation with mental illness almost always raises these questions. Should you have an abandoned building in your community, I am sure the young people there do something similar to what folks do at Glenn Dale. The haunted house is a cultural trope for us. Just like the fantasy of Negroes, it longs to be grounded in the real world. So kids for decades have been creeping into the buildings at Glenn Dale past the no trespassing signs posted all around the grounds. This October 31st you could see the tracks of police cars through the tall grass as officers posted up before the sun had gone down on top of the hills with their lights swirling to protect the old, dying buildings from young fools looking for adventure. From what I’ve heard, it’s not hard to get in. The doors and windows are all broken. Everything is falling apart. If you weren’t a kid, you’d be scared of the TB lingering in the air or the asbestos. You’d be scared of the building falling in on you. But really, that’s what Halloween is all about. Confronting the fear in yourself with an external object as the prop. People want to be scared. The prop justifies the scream. The release of the fear as your heart races and your adrenalin pumps into your brain says that what you thought was scary was real, real enough to extract a truly emotional response. Your body gives it up, like a pre-written script. When you think about it, that is, think about fear as an intellectual activity, your response is not as powerful. For knowing fear is not feeling fear. With thought the two become intertwined. To truly be scared, the fear needs more free reign to inhabit the vast expanse of our attention. The old hospital becomes a way to feel fear, not know it. Our intelligence, and often secure positions, give many of us the luxury of thought with feeling that is constantly undermined and unacknowledged. To want to be scared is about the scream and the heart racing. It’s about the rush that brings all your energy into the present. To achieve this, it usually needs to be dark. The place needs to be unfamiliar and abandoned. You must go to the place where you do not know in order to gain the chance to feel—for real-for real—what you have been hiding from yourself. The scream you want to experience is the scream of irresponsibility. The one that comes from shivers and only the thought that you do not know what will happen next. In these cases the scream functions as freedom. It is an exorcism of the crazy in you, ordained by you.

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Bro. Yao (Hoke S. Glover III)

7. I think Crownsville is different because the insane seem to be more haunted than the dying. The dying are confined because they are sick and in some cases will die; the mentally ill are confined to live—because society has designated they cannot live with us. Now, I am thinking of Gothika with Halle Berry or The Shining. The mentally ill and the confined show up often in movies. I can understand that. There is something fascinating about the mind and the idea that someone has separated from it to the point that they must be institutionalized. As odd, and even more petrifying, is an external authority imposing the idea upon a person that their mind is no longer sane. False imprisonment, much like the idea of false imprisonment within a prison, is always a possibility. The law attaches itself to the designation or accusations, the psychiatrist comes into assess, the judge presides and makes decisions. Insanity is so much like slavery. For when we study it, it often becomes unimaginable. In part, this is because of our fear. As much as slavery is a sign of our inhumanity, it is also a site of our fear. Though I have not discussed the fear of being enslaved with whites, I can imagine they may even be more afraid than blacks. The thought of enslavement cannot be separated from the tragedy of it, the fear of it, the dangerous distance that a law designating some humans as non-human produces. The slave is abused for not working. The slave is abused for trying to read. The slave is abused for running away. The slave is abused for taking his or her own thoughts of freedom seriously. Almost naturally, as an African American, I am a bit suspect of the charade of those designated mentally ill. The reconciliation of slavery’s dilemma lies in the designation of our freedom via amendments to the Constitution and legal acts that attempt to resolve the intimacies of designating thoughts of freedom unconstitutional for over a century. Slavery was mass confinement of African Americans to a mental institution. Dr. Love reminds me of this when I talk to her about the Institution; she speaks softly and says that sometimes we are wounded in ways that only a spiritual work will resolve. I hear ghosts. I imagine my ancestors. I can’t help but think of the hospital as some version of a slave ship that keeps sailing long after abolition. The notion of mental illness associated with slavery has been taken up by Dr. Bobby Wright, Amos Wilson, Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, and other black psychologists. The Black Psychology Department at FAMU is almost legendary in this respect. The notion that the navigation of mental illness within the African American community has to be managed by African American scholars versed in Western psychology, knowledge of the history of African American people, and African religions is a logical

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Bro. Yao (Hoke S. Glover III) necessity. Unfortunately, that work is also revolutionary and challenging to existing power structures. It might sound clichÊ, but to question the mind that renders you inferior gets at the heart of the question of slavery and black history. The comfortable answers suggesting it is simply the way of the world may very well be true but also have little to do with processing your own mistreatment. One’s sanity in this case is not a luxury. One must swim through the sea of the concept of insanity to get there. If we go to the Crownsville Hospital for the Negro Insane, from what shall we be released? What scream will come out? What fears will we find in the moments that have long lingered in the past as thoughts, as knowing and unknowing?

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Melissa Scholes Young Cracks In the summer of 1982 we grew and harvested a mountain of corn so high that the pile’s peak reached the buckles on my overalls. My brothers and I wrestled at the top of the silky cobs to be king. When the corn began to rot, we chopped and sold firewood from a flatbed truck on the side of the highway; we bred AKC German Shepherds that nobody wanted to buy; we traded the eggs from our chickens. Because they took more than they gave, we slaughtered those same chickens. Dad hammered two nails into a tree stump and stretched their necks. The chickens ran—bloody and headless—to line the banks of our pond, spilling their contents into our swimming hole. My brothers and I grabbed them by their spiny claws and dripped guts on each other’s feet. Mom plucked and boiled them for dinner. I learned to be useful. u

When we built our first house, my job was insulation. As the youngest and a girl, my task was to reach where no one else could. We couldn’t afford pre-cut batts so Dad rolled fiberglass bales onto the front lawn to measure and slice. Mom picked the leftovers from blades of grass and gave them to me for loose fill. I crawled, knees scraping splintered subfloor, sawdust shards coating my hairless legs, into the crevices of attic slats. I curled my ten-year-old body into a fetal position as my bleeding hands stuffed the scraps that protected us from drafts. uu

My other role was radio celebrity. In rural Missouri, between Richard Marx and Madonna, a commercial aired of an adorable little girl talking about her family’s business, Reliable Termite and Pest Control. My signature line was: “And when you call, tell ‘em Missy sent you.” Dad said the commercial would be good for business. In the Scholes family, we did anything that was good for business. Dad said that kids sell. “They’ll think you’re cute, Missy. They’ll call,” he promised. One night after work he brought home a tape recorder with a plug-in microphone. We stayed up late at the kitchen table rewriting our commercial script. I learned not to

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Melissa Scholes Young breathe too much when we recorded or my voice was muddled. We taped over my mistakes. I tried again and again to sound the way he wanted me to. uuu

On Sunday afternoons, after mass at Holy Family, we drove around staking out local businesses that did not yet patronize ours. My brothers and I pointed through our car windows at potential clients that we wanted to “Call and tell ’em Missy sent you.” Dad said our geographic closeness and intentions brought good luck and gave him the courage to put on his technician’s uniform on Monday and knock on more doors. uuuu

The license plate on Dad’s red Chevy 4 x 4 proudly proclaimed him Bug Guy. My oldest brother’s read I Debug U. Mom drove a maroon Cadillac around town with Bug B Gone. My dream was always Bug Girl or Lady Bug, but when I turned 16 and Dad and I searched the license database, both were taken. uuuuu

On the day of my college graduation, Dad made his final offer. “It ain’t a bad life, ya know?” he said. He promised an apartment, salary, and respectable office employment suitable for a girl. “History?” Mom said, staring at my diploma, “how’d you study history for four whole years? I thought you were a business major.” uuuuuu

My parents must have always hoped. My older brothers were already scuttling into crawlspaces in search of termites and baiting thousands of rodent stations at the corporate clients whose parking lots we once stalked. But sitting in the front of Dad’s truck, with the contents of four years of dorm life in the back, all I could see was the view out his front window and how much he’d taught me to want.

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T h e R e Family a t i o Enemies s h i p Friend s I s s u e


Pam Baggett

What Passes Through This World Sounds Like Crying Midnight. I walk beyond the reach of lights into rough-mown pasture, soak my shoes in the day’s late shower. A full moon gleams through clouds like high-beams through fog, silhouettes two geese that soar overhead, one silent but for its wingbeats, the other squawking its distress. At the nursing home where I’ve spent three panicked days, my mother’s learning to sleep until wakened by strangers who come to change her sodden diaper, careful with the purple wound, black stitches of her broken left hip. They tell me she clings to the bed rail, wails my name. In daylight, she watches every car that enters the parking lot, looks a question at me with each strange new sound: the blast of air when the door opens, intended to keep out flies, the beep-beep of a truck backing up. It’s the questions I can’t answer— how the brain smooths to calm unrippled water, tiny flickers of thought, how the body outlives its memory of putting fork to mouth, of thirst, how a woman becomes a silhouette of herself—

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Pam Baggett Questions that send me out, disturbed as geese frightened from a pond where they’d hoped to drift through the warm humid night, lush with the scent of wild roses, a whippoorwill that won’t stop its plaintive song.

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Tina Barr Playing Possum The possum’s skin has been taken off, what’s left is pressed fur muff. An old friend, unknowingly, in an email sheds her skin, shows what’s under it. A snake needs to nuzzle a log or rock, peel back the loosening; in water, the whole will roll back from its face like a nylon stocking the snake rides out of. Its wet transparency shows patterns; two rounds come off its eyes. Skins keep for years, like dried flowers, garlic hanging in rafters. Facets of character glint like mica a yellow-lined garter slides over. Always a shock, what comes out, the way a cottonmouth widens its jaw, inside pink-white. They’ll go for you, track, not fall back. Inside an older cousin who’d drunk his day away, I saw something else get up, as he rose from his couch, what alcohol feeds, what most people never see. Emotions dart like skinks into corners. They baste our insides; we are never not becoming. Lily flowers will push themselves open from a closed bulb; candelabras, potentials climb their stems.

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Tina Barr Echinacea, lavender will draw from sand, land without water, offer their medicines. Lilac moths, like open petals, flit; crocosmia offers a plank on which red petals walk its length.

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Susan Nisenbaum Becker West Bank Wall This is not the barbwire pyramid or the three story concrete slabs. This is not the checkpoint. Or the floating checkpoints. Or the queue or wait or being denied. We have to decide on separation as a philosophy. There is a reduction in bombings. Mother on one side. Children on the other. Brother on one side. Sisters on the other. Now she steps on the crate, then stretches to reach the oil drum’s top where she wobbles in desert gusts. Where once the family clustered. Where once she crossed her courtyard to borrow an orange. Now her black jilbab flaps against her body, stout as the olive trees razed with the houses on this side and a man steadies her with his hand. Where once she walked under morning stars bringing clean towels for her grandson’s birth. Where once she carried pomegranates to the sick. 422 miles of zigzag curves and loops. Security fence. Now she gathers her dress and mounts the barrier like a horse, balancing against a man on the other side who places her foot on a ladder. For her modesty, he glances away.

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Susan Nisenbaum Becker Where once her daughters and nieces visited—they removed their hijabs, shook out their hair, danced. Surrounding the hookah they smoked dried apple. There will be no recognition.

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Paulette Beete Self-portrait as Baryshnikov’s Lover How do you hold on to a man with such disdain for gravity? It’s not that he’s out of my reach; it’s that it’s so difficult to reach him. Those mournful eyes hover over me like a hot-air balloon. I don’t know enough Russian to explain he has the Rapunzel story upsidedown. We are tethered by a frail string—true love. It is hard to know which kiss will be a scissor, which will be a knot. I would like to blame it on the language barrier, and it’s true, our bodies do not speak the same vernacular. He would like to tie me to his wrist. I would like to tie him to the curl of my back. It is true also that we cannot agree which language to use when we speak of absence. Or how to describe the difference between how his body hollows my bed and how my body hollows his bed. What is true: we can both walk gracefully from point A to point B. What is true: we can both walk gracefully together from point A to point B. What is true: we cannot agree on when to start or how long to take or what to do. It is difficult to hold on to a woman who has such disdain for the gravity of the situation. It’s not that she’s out of his reach. It’s that it’s so difficult to know if she wants him to reach her.

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Anuradha Bhowmik Mondays with Baba 1 We drive his old dented Nissan down to the grocery. Through the rearview, he sees me pick and eat the melted candy stuck between stained seat cushions— Mamoni!—I cover my eyes, see his half-smile slip through gaps between my fingers.

2 Holding hands, we walk in the store. I skip up & down rows of produce, canned goods, and dairy in a pink dress with bows and a Rugrats backpack, pretending I’m in school like Dada. Each night, we fight over who gets to sleep next to Baba, but I get to spend Baba’s day off with him (I’m not yet old enough for kindergarten). I hope Dada gets jealous.

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Anuradha Bhowmik

3 I carry coupons for gallons, and Baba pushes the cart. We once drank whole milk at home, but it’s bad for Baba’s heart. In the vitamin aisle, I look for gummy Flintstones. He grabs Centrum Silver, fish oil pills he’ll keep in the fridge. Tongs poke ice for frozen catfish, plopped in a plastic bag: whiskers thick as creases in his forehead and deep-cracked hands.

4 Baba’s pockets sag with loose change: he slips me quarters for the vending machine. I insert coins, push buttons for a Coke. Water droplets cool the bottle, drip down and trail the sides like veins in Baba’s wrinkled arms, scuffed elbows worn and dry. I stand tiptoed, point the soda toward his lips for a sip. He lifts me up, I wrap my arms around his neck, breathe in his salty skin. We have the same smile: two huge front teeth, noses flat, squinted eyes. Today, Baba is mine to keep.

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Partridge Boswell Playing Dead It’s the last night of our tropical family vacation and we’re the only ones at the pool, soaking up our final prelapsarian drops before a pre-dawn flight back north to hills still held hostage beneath ashen heaps of snow. The kids are diving for bottle caps, taking turns holding their breath the longest, their submerged bodies lava-lamping in a lagoon of liquid light reflecting a soffit of palm fronds, when the youngest says: On a scale from one to ten how dead do I look? and soon everyone’s floating on stomachs and face up reenacting the aftermath of a plane crash over open ocean or the southern end of Lake Kivu in another April that redefined the dimensions of cruelty— formaldehyded memories which seem to elude us as we laugh hysterically and snap a grim photo declaring Finally, the perfect holiday card! then peek at the preview, aghast at the fine line between irony and insanity, recalling that tableau of the Oberbürgermeister of Leipzig, his wife and daughter posed slumped in their Sunday best on a couch and desk in his office in city hall. Somehow these children look deader than dead, their mock corpses betraying not a single breath of their giddy fun, more convincing than the postcard moon rising over a languid gulf. Leave it to them to make a game of the worst case scenario. To squeeze lemonade from life and death alike then toast the elopement: the happy couple already enjoying their endless honeymoon, while the joke’s on us

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Partridge Boswell waiting at the chapel, worrying how we’ll ever pay for the reception. Too soon, we’ll pack our passports, gazing long and hard at Fayum portraits of ourselves, if only to steal a mortal embrace sealing painter and model the moment we dip a dry brush-tip into our hearts and pull it out: bone dry, not a drip. Unlike the warm wet skin of young limbs emerging now from their watery tomb to towel off in the dark—certain on a scale from one to ten, this fountain flows to infinity.

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Jesse Breite Crazy Mary and the Sharecropper’s Son Maybe she thought that easy line, Whatever you want to do is alright with me, was for her, Mary Woodson White, perhaps it was for her—the one who walked into Al Green’s Memphis mansion, to find her sometime lover on a Friday? Maybe it was because four months earlier, “Let’s Get Married” shot up the charts, and she waited for a parallel lyric, something more than the skinny shirtless man pulling a fantasy gun on Greatest Hits ’75? Whatever moved her, it must’ve been a torrid spell—only got by scalding grits flung over his back while he settled in a warm tub and by a bullet, right then, to her own head— and it must’ve been hell enough to drop him to his knees at his sharecropper daddy’s church, to raise him up in the Full Gospel Tabernacle for the rest of his free-born days—how the last words she wrote—The more I trust you, the more you let me down—became the one note he could never choose to give up.

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Sarah Carleton Internet Search for a Childhood Friend She isn’t oiled and tan, silicone breasts bulging around a string. She could be the one with coarse hair, whose tired eyes assess me through granny glasses, but that ski-slope nose is all wrong. I seriously doubt she got married and changed her name to Goodman, so I stick with what I know in my gut. I’ve had thirty-five years to work on character development for my long-lost pal, and I’m sure she likes women best, won’t die her hair blond or paint her nails, will never vote republican. She’s not a millennial with swinging dark braids and tattoos inspired by street art, and she’s definitely not German. I wish she could be that toughie in a snug cap and an orange slicker, leaning on a boat railing, alive to salt and sun, but my Heidi would be older than that by now and more freckly. My eyes burn with near misses and impostors. I hope she’s pulling a book off the shelf, thinking, Why would I ever post photos of myself?

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Emily Capdeville An Act of Consolation Tilda helped her granddaughter, Habibi, search for a book to read. She steadied the toddler near Haley’s old bookshelf as Habibi wedged her chubby fingers between a fat, blue-spined paperback and a thin, tall Little Golden. Both fell to the ground: Rough Guide Ukraine and Mother Goose. “Mother Goose seems more appropriate, don’t you think?” Tilda gathered her granddaughter, propped the book open and began to read out loud. Just as they finished, the doorbell rang, one buzz followed by Dvorak’s “The Water Goblin,” an audible Halloween decoration from four years before that Todd never dismantled. Tilda straightened her freshly dry-cleaned silk shirt, smoothed her white slacks, and carried Habibi to the front door. Expecting the government social worker to be a dour woman in a fraying black pant suit, she found instead a girl no older than Haley would be, all expertly curled hair and recently applied lip gloss, extending a hand. “Mrs. Nobles?” “Just call me Tilda. Hope the drive wasn’t too much.” “Not at all,” the woman responded, clutching her briefcase in one hand and tickling the little girl with the other. She spoke to Tilda but didn’t move her eyes away from little Habibi. “Much easier than this little girl’s fantastic voyage. I’m Violet Schramm. I haven’t seen her in weeks.” “You’ve met before?” Tilda led Violet to the kitchen and turned on the kettle. “Please.” She gestured towards the attached formal dining room. “I’ve set us up in there.” Unopened mail and overstuffed manila folders covered all but two of the dining chairs. Empty boxes of colorful playsets and plastic dolls of all sizes loitered in front of the fireplace. The official condolence letter, printed on Oval Office card stock and signed by the President, perched in a frame on the mantel, alongside Hayley’s graduation photo. Fixings for tea and coffee sat on the table along with shortbread cookies, two different types of jam, chocolate truffles and fruit salad. “It’s past lunch but not quite dinner,” Tilda explained. “I thought we’d snack.” “Sounds good to me. May I?” Violet held her arms towards Habibi, taking the placid heft from Tilda’s silken embrace. The girl hadn’t yet made a sound. “So you’ve met before? You were saying?” “Yes. They didn’t tell you? I was her social worker from the start. I met her on the base in Germany, I accompanied her to Fort Duke, to all her doctor’s appointments. I even took her shopping.” “I had no idea. I thought they just sent you to check on the state of the house, to make sure everything was in order. What did they say? Suitable?” Crab Orchard Review

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Emily Capdeville “Suitable and fit for a young child,” Violet answered, stroking Habibi’s hair as the girl slobbered over three of her fingers that she’d stuck into her mouth. “No, Violet, I had no idea. I suppose we owe you a huge debt.” The kettle steamed. Tilda made a pot of French press and brought it along with the rest of the hot water for tea. “I can’t believe she’s been here for three whole weeks.” “I see the bruises have faded quite well,” Violet said to Tilda, while still facing the girl. “Do you know how she got them?” “It could have been anything. Those men are used to carrying a hundred pounds of food, clothes, weapons. They are incapable of handling anything lightly. And she traveled on a tanker for over forty miles…those don’t exactly come with car seats. When we met in Germany, she was pretty beat up. Bruises, some scrapes and brush-burns. Diaper rash, too.” “We’ve already worked on the potty,” Tilda interrupted. Habibi would make, or had made, three after all. They guessed she was born in the early winter, at some point during November or December. No matter when her birthday fell, she would still be expected to use the toilet eventually. “She’s really filling in.” Violet caressed her head, smoothing down the black hair to the curls at the bottom. “Have you been calling her Maryam?” Tilda poured tea. “No, I haven’t brought myself to do that quite yet.” Habibi removed her hand from her mouth and watched with her deep, black eyes as her spit webbed from her lips to her fingers. “Will you give her a different name?” “I think so. I think that’s the plan.” Tilda glided her fingertips over the freshly pressed tablecloth. “It’s like adopting a dog, though. You always feel so bad changing its name, because that’s how he knows himself. But if you don’t change it, all those years of whatever came before, well, they never quite go away.” Tilda wondered what she could ever name this girl. She couldn’t call her by her given name, the name on all her documents and certificates, a name that had probably once been on her father’s lips, a name that Tilda could never say. Could she dare name the girl Haley? “I’ve been calling her Habibi.” Violet nodded. “That’s what we called her, the whole time we were processing her.” “Brigby told me. It’s a nice nickname. In the meantime, anyway, it will do.” Habibi. Sweet thing. Baby. A non-name, a nickname, for a new lover, a cute puppy, a soldier’s favorite gun. For the girl, it didn’t quite fit. Not for this child. Not for Haley’s daughter. “I guess we should get down to it, then.” Violet stood and brought Habibi to Tilda. They left the coffee and tea and sweets untouched. “May I look around?” Tilda stood up and again smoothed her slacks. Habibi lingered by her side, grasping her grandmother’s dangling pinky and ring finger. “Of course. Is there anything in particular you need to see?” “Just, you know. Where she sleeps, plays, eats. Got to make sure there

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Emily Capdeville aren’t any exposed electrical outlets. On my own, if possible. If you don’t mind. Protocol,” she shrugged, as if it explained everything. From the downstairs half-bathroom, Tilda heard Violet rooting around the house, opening drawers and shutting them gently, moving chairs and curtains to check various walls and surfaces. Tilda had retreated to this bathroom almost two years earlier when she and Todd first received the news about Haley. They knew it was coming, had to have known. They had been swabbed and sampled, little bits of them reunited with the bits of Haley that she couldn’t live without, the pieces of her that had made it to some lab in Washington. About that, Todd knew all the details. Tilda refused to know them. The day the two officers delivered the results, Todd banged through the house, slamming the back door shut so fiercely that its window pane cracked. Tilda hid in the bathroom. She didn’t know where their other daughters, Frannie and Frankie, had gone. Violet must have tripped. A muffled Fuck made it to Tilda and Habibi, by way of the space between the floor and the bottom of the bathroom door. Habibi sat on the toilet. Tilda waited for her to go, watching from the mirror, while checking her own silky hair for strands of gray or silver. The sticker of Brandenburg Gate they’d brought back from Berlin, disappearing from the edges inward because of moisture and window cleaner, still lingered on the bathroom mirror. After two years in Dobrotvir, a small Ukrainian village, Haley hadn’t wanted to come home and Todd encouraged her to explore, told her that her youth was the time for adventure. She found poorly paid work in Berlin, assisting immigrants with asylum applications, job coaching and finding basics like toiletries and beds for the night. When she hesitated to come home for Christmas, Todd planned a family trip to Germany. They toured Tiergarten, as long as the cold would allow, the Holocaust Museum, Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin Wall. They traveled by train to Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg since they didn’t have enough time to go further away, to Dachau or Auschwitz. Haley saw these sights for the first time, with her family, despite having been in Berlin for almost a year. The family never made it to see the refugee center, where Haley worked, an hour outside of the city in Fürstenwalde. Habibi went a little. Tilda wiped her and washed her hands then took her out of the bathroom, running into Violet at the foot of the stairs. “Just want to make sure I know where I’m going.” The social worker had removed her jacket. Underneath it, she wore a white V-neck shell and, Tilda could see, a black bra. “Where have you made up Habibi’s room?” At the top of the stairs, Haley’s door was shut. Years before, as a girl, she taped a sign, a star cut out of yellow construction paper, her name written

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Emily Capdeville in red. Tilda tried to remove it but the tape peeled off the paint. She would get rid of it as soon as she found time to repaint the whole door. “Haley’s old room, right at the top of the stairs.” Violet held her clipboard close to her chest. “Will I know—” “Her name is on the door.” She hesitated from the third step and looked back at Tilda and Habibi. The little girl didn’t squirm, just insistently sucked on her fingers and thumb. “When did she last live here? If you don’t mind me asking?” From the start of high school, Tilda tried to help Haley find direction. She loved languages, and was good at them. Fluent in French and Spanish by the end of her freshman year of college, she thought about translation. “You could work for the government,” Tilda suggested without specifying which branch, which office, might need her. “Who would I be translating for?” Haley’s courses always focused on France and Spain, Europeans who spoke English as well as their native tongue. “We’ll figure it out,” Tilda assured her, not certain of an answer. Definitely, the government would find a place for Haley. And her parents would keep a place for her, too, in case it didn’t work out. Haley abandoned translation after a medieval French course bored her enough to earn her an F. “Before the Peace Corps,” Tilda answered. “She actually hadn’t been home since then. She went from the village to Kiev to Berlin.” “How long ago was Berlin?” “Oh, she got there…” Tilda looked at Habibi, as though her three years were the foundation on which Tilda now made calculations about Haley. “More than four years ago, I guess. Five.” “And you kept her room all this time?” Violet, Tilda thought, did not have children. Must not. Haley, her firstborn, was always welcome back in their family home. Would always have a place. “We never had anything else to do with the room,” she answered, gesturing around her large, empty house. Nodding, Violet padded up the stairs. Tilda took Habibi out to the front stoop. One year after the family’s visit to Germany, Haley disappeared. No one ever learned the exact circumstances of her going away, although Tilda imagines she was kidnapped, that some man or men, maybe ones Haley knew, put a burlap sack over her head, something porous rather than a plastic bag. Tilda always pictures dust and dried twigs shaking loose from the itchy, woven fabric, sticking themselves in Haley’s hair while they travel east. She forces herself to believe that Haley breathed deeply through that musty cloth, that she fell asleep at some point on the voyage, and that she dreamt of the day they’d walked under the Brandenburg Gate and into the park, shivering and sipping hot chocolate. From the Department of Defense report, Tilda learned that the day after she disappeared, her co-workers noticed that she wasn’t at work. The

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Emily Capdeville day after that, her boss went to her apartment and knocked but Haley didn’t answer. Two days after that, he unearthed her file from Human Resources and found Todd and Tilda’s contact information. By telephone, he notified them about the situation. An hour later, a security officer at DoD received an audio link, a message from her captors confirming that they had her, although they never made clear the why. Three days after that, a full week after she was taken, a different officer called Todd and Tilda to give them the news: Haley was a prisoner of war. Their life filled up like a balloon attached to a helium tank. Vigils. Prayers. Photos. Teddy bears. Candles. American flags. Ribbons tied around the metal of chain link fences. Tilda saw Haley, a schoolchild in a plaid jumper, tying yellow ribbons to those same metal links to remind passersby of soldiers overseas, to remind civilians to think of them, to keep them afloat in their thoughts. Todd wanted to visit the site in Berlin where she’d been kidnapped. Tilda insisted he stay home, for Frankie, for Frannie, to help the volunteers. Endless calls. A meal train. Phone banks. Cash rewards. Buttons with Haley’s face. Four-hundred and seventy-eight days after Tilda and Todd heard that their daughter had been taken prisoner, DoD asked them to go to a lab and give blood. Another eighty-four days passed. Finally, the soldiers came. The balloon had overfilled. The soldiers brought notification, an official letter on richly embossed paper. Haley: a casualty of war. “But,” Todd managed to mutter, just before his rampage through the house, weeping for a moment on the sofa, “there is no war in Germany.” Another day with Habibi closed in as the chilly dusk crept downward. This had been Haley’s favorite time of day. When she was younger, she said she never knew the best way to enjoy it. Was it while sitting on the porch, actively using every sense to soak up the fading light, the cooling air, the spirits of all those creatures that stay hidden during the day but creep out at night? Or was it better to be caught up in a soccer game or going for a jog, actively oblivious yet almost participating in the closure of the day? No one was on the street and the front of the house faced east, so they couldn’t watch the sunset from there. The sky darkened down onto her and Habibi, who sat in the cold grass, pulling out small handfuls of blades and dirt and weeds. Tilda and Todd had been on this lawn, chatting with their neighbors last August when officers, different officers, came again. Tilda hadn’t realized they were military at first because they drove up in an unmarked, white car. But two men in uniform, just like the messengers who had come before, walked up to give them the news. Even as they approached, the lightness of summer lingered. The small happinesses she’d managed to find after two years of Haley being missing and one year of Haley being dead burrowed in now and anchored in a way

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Emily Capdeville Tilda hadn’t thought would be possible again, deeply enough so that just the sight of these officers didn’t unmoor them. Haley was already gone, she knew. What else could it possibly be? One officer introduced himself as Brigby; the other stood silently by, nodding periodically but never speaking. “Your daughter had a child,” Brigby said. The neighbors faded away, retreating across the lawn like shadows diminished by the setting sun. Todd’s mouth hung slack. “How do you know?” “We know.” Tilda smiled, almost laughing. “That’s impossible. Our daughter is dead. Don’t you know that?” “Yes ma’am, we know.” “Our daughter is dead, and you’re here to what? Rub it in?” Tilda had begun to laugh but her eyes sharpened to slits as her lips tightened and curled. “You can’t know that. You can’t know what you’re saying you know.” Todd shook his head, no, no, no. “We know.” “How can you possibly know?” Todd spat. Officer Brigby’s eyes narrowed and trained on Todd. A neighborhood tabby wended its way against Todd’s calf, massaging its purr into the temporary quiet. “We have video evidence, sir.” Todd moaned. The cat slunk to his other calf. Tilda knew him, knew he was wondering: if he couldn’t have gone to Berlin, to visit the site of her disappearance, should he see this video? “Why are you telling us this?” Because she’d born a child, a daughter. Their DNA confirmed she was Haley’s. The U.S. government had taken possession of the child, and would like to make the girl an American, to situate her custody with Haley’s next of kin. The mission to take possession had been bloody, eighteen civilian casualties. One U.S. Marine lost his left hand. Tilda wanted to say that he needn’t have lost his hand, that they hadn’t asked him to do that. The officers held another letter, this one printed on plain paper and folded into an envelope, which offered the baby girl to Todd and Tilda. “The U.S. Government would like to offer this as an act of consolation for your family, to help you find some peace, to get back some small part of your daughter.” She wanted to remember that Officer Brigby had said it. “They did her a favor when they killed her. They put her out of her misery. Better death than to go on living like that.” But despite a lot of the other lapses that came to her so easily, forgetting to pluck her right eyebrow after plucking her left, letting days pass between toothbrushings, leaving the empty oven on for hours at a time, she couldn’t forget it. She couldn’t lapse it. She couldn’t misremember that Todd had said it. Back then, Tilda found a way to not hate Haley even though, without clear reason or direction, she insisted on the Peace Corps; insisted on

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Emily Capdeville the internship in Berlin; insisted on staying and working in exchange for barely enough to live on when refugees started to overrun borders by the thousands. Haley insisted on being there, in a place where of course she would get kidnapped and tortured and killed, all facts for which Tilda managed to not hate Haley. But this news, this grandchild, a product of…of what? Tilda didn’t want to know. The humid summer air fanned the latent embers she had managed to bury deep in her bowels. Frannie and Frankie went to stay with friends. Todd had to hold Tilda down most of the night. No one slept. The next day, Tilda packed bags for Todd and their two daughters. She had to be on her own, now. And so they left. Violet stuck her head outside. “I’m ready for you, Tilda.” Habibi had fallen asleep in the grass. Tilda scooped her up, and brought her inside, to the sofa. On the dining room table, Violet had pushed aside the platters of snacks and chocolates and replaced them with two legal-sized sheets of paper on which she’d hand-drawn a blueprint of the house. “Have a seat,” she said, while motioning to the chair nearest the drawings. “All of the dangers in the house are marked with a red X.” Tilda peered at the drawings. X’s covered them, like an outbreak of chicken pox. She looked up at Violet then back down at the paper. Her tears landed on the drawings until Violet slid the sheets away. “Tilda. Don’t worry. Really, don’t worry. This is for guidance. To help.” She pulled a chair next to her and waited for her to stop crying. “Tilda, we’ll fix these things. Really. Don’t worry.” Violet could have checked her watch or phone, as preoccupied as Tilda was with sobbing. But, she didn’t. She waited. Finally, Tilda said, “It’s just been so long since I’ve had to worry about any of this.” “Let’s go over the list and make a plan.” Violet tucked a stray hair behind her ear and began with the first floor, mostly covering electrical outlets, dismantling locks on bathroom doors, securing cabinets and softening sharp edges. “The window pane, back in the kitchen. That is a huge hazard. It could crack and fall at any moment.” All things Tilda knew. Violet’s gaze and pen then traveled to the second floor, pointing out more of the same infractions along with blocking access to the fireplace in the master bedroom. “And she needs a crib.” “A crib?” Tilda tried to picture a crib in Haley’s room, Habibi’s room. “Isn’t she a bit old for a crib?” “She’s a bit old, yes. Sure.” Violet began to fold up the drawings. “But she’s small and probably gets disoriented easily if she’s tired or cranky. You could get one of those cribs that transition to a bed. They can last until a kid is six or seven, depending on how they grow. I can show you which to get. She definitely needs one, at least until she is more comfortable, expressing herself in English, asking you for help. It’s dangerous when they try to do things on their own.”

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Emily Capdeville “A crib.” Tilda still had the twins’ crib in the attic somewhere. Haley’s, she’d given away after the twins’ sonogram because it would be too small for her sisters, for both babies. Violet covered Tilda’s hand with hers. “You’re doing a lot right, Tilda. The night-light, for example. Great addition, and very important. Especially for someone like Habibi, who’s been through so much trauma.” “The night-light,” Tilda laughed. “She hates that thing. I have to turn it on after she’s fallen asleep.” “Does she cry?” “Believe it or not, the night-light makes her cry.” The women sat quietly. Violet craned her head towards the living room, as though she was trying to hear Habibi cry, or even breathe, from her makeshift bed on the sofa. Upstairs in bed, Habibi whimpered every few breaths, probably sobbing through her dreams. Tilda left the bed and picked up the bluespined book from where it had fallen earlier in the day. Haley insisted on sending her books back from the Ukraine, even though it would have been cheaper to simply replace them all with new copies. “They’re filled with my memories,” she’d said. Always whimsical, never practical, Tilda had thought, still thought. She sunk next to the night-light, just her upper back slouched against the wall so her face could be as near to the dim light as possible. She held the book close to her face, paging through, reading Haley’s notes about restaurants—Gregor, 5/22, fav varenyky so far written by one and by another, stopped on way through Kiev, diarrhea for three days—and highlighted cities, the places that she had been able to or had wanted to visit. On the blank back of a chapter title page, Haley had written a brief dispatch from the plane on the way to Kiev. Already, this trip has taken forever. Eighteen months from the time I applied to when I got my placement. Six months of vaccinations. Two months more to wait for my departure date. Orientation for a week. And now this never-ending trip, flight after flight after flight. And a bus after all this. Over two years! And I’m supposed to spend over two years in the village! Dobrotvir. Feels like a lifetime! But it’s still pretty exciting. Like I finally have focus. Like I’m doing something. I was looking out the window, somewhere over Europe. It’s crazy to think how nutso they were at customs, boarding the plane, but how from the air, it just looks like one big country, one borderless mass. Tilda closed the book and peered at Habibi. She would put the crib in here. If that girl went wandering, somehow escaped her room and the house, she’d be in trouble. Her English wasn’t good enough yet. Really, she barely spoke at all. She would keep her in the crib for as long as she’d fit. Even if she resisted, Tilda would keep her there as long as she could hold out.

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Emily Capdeville Habibi whimpered again. Her hair matted to her forehead with sweat. On her knees, Tilda moved over to the bedside and held Habibi’s small hand in hers. She would clip her fingernails tomorrow. They were getting long. Another small cry escaped from Habibi’s parted lips. Her cheeks pulled back in a grimace. Tilda held her hand, stroked the top of it with her thumb, and whispered, “Shhhh. It’s okay. You’re safe here. You’re safe with me.”

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Jacqueline Jones LaMon Bergamot When I was in the first grade, my folks initiated a spirited family competition: which one between the two of them, my mother or my father, could grow the largest afro. Now, there are a few facts that you need to take into consideration in order to fully grasp the gravity of this seemingly benign situation. First of all, we are talking about the spring of 1963. Not 1970, when afros were a relatively common, mainstream, accepted occurrence; certainly not 1975, when the style was enjoying its commercialized, gentrification phase and finding a comfortable home in prime time television and in Blaxploitation films. We are talking about the era when the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (may he rest in peace and power) had a dream, and that dream did not articulate the proliferation of afro picks; when the Freedom Riders were driving up the eastern coastline and their many recorded stops did not include bi-weekly shape-ups at Brother Raheem’s Natural Hair & Afro Emporium, and its progeny. No, this was a radical move that attracted many a blank stare from white and black folk alike, a trail of cancelled birthday party invitations, and the attention of nervous and perplexed local law enforcement on more than one occasion. I should also mention that both of my parents had at least one parent who had been known to check the “Caucasian” box on the national census reports upon occasion. They both had hair that succumbed to the slightest bit of gravitational pull and thus, needed to exert energy to create curls with tightness, permanence, and reverence to our African heritage. Truth be told, there was actually very little that was natural about their Naturals. They used vinegar and water concoctions, they sat with unsightly detergent pastes made out of Tide and Borax for long periods of time—any home remedy that was rumored to create any sort of kink in the hair, anything short of applying Lilt or Toni or other precursors to the curly relaxer. The only thing that seemed to work at all for my mom was to roll her hair on permanent rod rollers along with generous applications of Dippity Do, and even that didn’t last but a day or two. My dad’s case was even more laughable; once his hair grew out more than an inch or so, the weight of it stretched out anything resembling a curl. His thick, wavy hair was out of vogue until Ron O’Neal found his fame in Super Fly, but that was still a long time to come. And yet, they did this in the name of blackness—of highlighting it, of acknowledging it, and celebrating a notion of the past they could only imagine. 162

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Jacqueline Jones LaMon During this phase of life, my parents focused much of their attention on the heritage element, making sure that my restless brothers had private after-school Djembe drumming lessons from a Gambian master and that I would take a West African dance class and learn a bit of Swahili. Nakupenda, Mom and Dad, but none of the boys and girls in Miss Clark’s first grade classroom spoke Swahili or had even heard of the constructed language before. Most of us just wanted to make our way through Books One, Two, and Three of Dick and Jane, hoped to see a puppy named Spot beneath our Christmas tree, and wanted to be able to say that we were milk monitors on a regular basis. Forgive me for my lack of gratitude, but my parents’ insistence that my siblings and I learn about what they referred to as our dominant culture turned me into a bit of a hellcat and I have the detention ticks to prove it, but I’m getting ahead of myself. My mother, Rosalie, was a walking anomaly, and I so loved that about her. She adored clothes shopping and would plan elaborate errand-day itineraries so that she could scope out the hit-or-miss designer sample treasures at Loehmann’s and get everything else in the world accomplished on time. Shoes were her favorite indulgence, especially high heels, and she would save up for months to buy the latest pair of pumps worn by Gina Lollobrigida or Dorothy Dandridge. She would also take frequent trips up to 125th Street in Harlem where she would buy bolts of African print batiks, snag a few Butterick patterns, and stitch up matching outfits for us all. My brothers—Marcus, who was ten, and Langston, who was eight—failed to share my enthusiasm for our unified appearance and groaned each time our mother would arrive at home with what they said was, that funny looking fabric. “Gwendolyn, come here and try this on for me before I stitch up the hem. I think it’s done, but you tell me.” When I walked into my mother’s sewing workshop, which was really just a used-to-be closet, she was holding a golden-colored dress with bold red medallions outlined with finely embroidered lines of white and black. It had a slim fitting bodice with short sleeves and a full, gathered skirt. It was clearly the most beautiful dress I had ever seen. I could hardly catch my breath sufficiently to squeal my approval. “So you like it?” My mother smiled at me. I grinned and nodded like a bobblehead. “I was thinking of adding a little bit of white rickrack here, right along the hem, and maybe on the sleeves…” She was running her hands along the pattern of the fabric and thinking out loud, not really asking my opinion about the matter. Either way, I was ecstatic about what was to come. “Hmm,” she said, “so yes, maybe just the hem…” The following day, my mother walked my brothers and me to school, the two boys wearing their standard black trousers and white button down shirts, but now with narrow neckties made out of our family fabric. I was wearing my couture design with black patent leather Mary Janes and a lacy,

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Jacqueline Jones LaMon white crocheted cotton sweater. My mother had even stitched two bows for me that I wore on the ends of my braids. The boys were miserable; they walked two car-lengths in front of us, which created an acceptable distance for any onlooker to forget what they thought they’d just seen. Everyone in our Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood attended P.S. 3, and everyone walked to school, usually on their own. No one in the fifth grade walked to school with their mother, unless there was a younger sibling involved in the mix. And, even then, the subtext of that scenario indicated that the fifth grader wasn’t entirely trusted to get the job done. “If it wasn’t for you, I could have been on the playground already,” Marcus hissed at me once we entered the iron gates of the schoolyard. I looked over at the first-grade line-up area, to the right of the kindergarteners. There were a few people there—Brenda, Lola, and some of the boys—and we were still early enough to play outside a while longer. “If it weren’t for you,” my mother corrected. “Now, don’t you blame Gwendolyn because I’m here. That’s just ugly acting up,” our mother said, grabbing Marcus by the chin. She turned his face this way and that to catch sight of the sleep in the corner of his eye. She pulled out her handkerchief from the outside pocket on her pocketbook, spit on the corner, and wiped the night’s crustiness away. “Mom, don’t,” Marcus whined and Langston stifled a giggle with the back of his hand, but I didn’t because that wouldn’t be nice and Marcus could be mean when there was an audience around to see him perform. “Well, maybe next time you’ll take more care when you’re washing up, don’t you think?” She took a step away from my brothers, Mr. Scowling Face and Mr. Giggle Hands, and said, “Now, you two be good boys and give me a hug and a kiss, so I can go and say a few words to Principal Moskowitz,” which they did reluctantly, because some of the bullies might be watching and see. Marcus stomped off toward the fifth grade line, but Langston shouted after him, “Aww! We’ll try again next week, Magilla!” before darting off to the third grade huddle of boys between the swings and the jungle gym. My mother looked down at me, disturbed. “I don’t like that Magilla Gorilla program, Gwendolyn…” I nodded in agreement and took her hand. “I don’t either, Mommy. It makes me sad. Nobody wants him. He always comes back to the pet shop.” My father and my uncle George came home with our new television set the day that I started first grade. We’d had one before, a portable that sat on an aluminum TV tray, but nothing fancy like this one. This one was a console, a top-of-the-line Magnavox, one that not only had a television set with two dials of channels but also a turntable to play records, an AM/FM radio, and not one, but two speakers built in. My mother insisted that it

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Jacqueline Jones LaMon match the wood of our coffee table and upright piano, so that our living room didn’t look hodge-podge and uncouth. “See here, Rosalie, the doors slide shut, so when you’re not watching it, no one will know that it’s home to your top of the line television…and so much more! They’ll just think it’s a fine piece of furniture sitting against the wall, holding your vase of flowers and other expensive bric-a-brac,” Uncle George said, sounding like the commercials that interrupted The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday nights. He was in night school learning how to be a television repairman, specializing in console televisions and stereo sets, but for now, he worked as a full-time deliveryman for large, boxed items at Abraham & Straus down on Fulton Street. “You don’t have to sell me on it, Brother. Just wish there was more color on the thing for your niece and nephews to see.” And Uncle George and my daddy threw up their hands and slapped each other’s shoulders on the way to the kitchen to grab a Pabst from the fridge, mumbling something about “Mother, May I?” and giant steps and baby steps, and other games I was surprised that they even remembered how to play. Everything that showed up on our television set, showed up in black and white and every shade in between. When my mother referred to color, I thought she was talking about the blue in the sky that I imagined to frame the water towers in Petticoat Junction or the slimy, lime green skin of Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent. I learned otherwise the day that I’d taken my box of sixty-four Crayolas to the picture tube of the television screen to make my mother’s dreams of color come true. There had to be a way to make the color stick to the worlds that lived deep inside our television set, and not just live on the surface of the screen where all it took was elbow grease to wash it all away. That day in school, all the kids were abuzz. Principal Moskowitz made an announcement, after leading us in the Pledge of Allegiance, that we were going to have a special assembly and even the kindergarteners were expected to be there. “I’ll bet that someone’s in big trouble and is going to get yelled at in front of the whole school,” Brenda said, while folding her paper in vertical quarters for the penmanship lesson. We were practicing words that begin with capital Q’s that day and nobody wanted to do the work. Capital Q’s were difficult for most of us, but they felt similar to G’s to me, so I didn’t mind. “I don’t think so,” Lola said, “and my mother works in the office so I would know if someone was in that kind of trouble.” Almost everything Lola ever said mentioned her mother’s status in the administration. Lola’s mother, Mrs. Johnson, was the attendance lady, so, on the surface, that was plausible. But she was a kind, discreet lady who always spoke just above a

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Jacqueline Jones LaMon whisper so no one else could hear why you had to go to the doctor or leave school in a hurry to go down south to visit your grandparents. I chose not to correct Lola’s grammar, but I knew that she’d made a mistake. Pointing it out to her would give her permission to call me a know-it-all and nobody wanted to be called out of her name. I didn’t know everything, but I did know some, and keeping the peace was a valuable skill to hone. “Maybe someone’s going to get a big award or get picked to go on a television show,” I said, and Brenda and Lola seemed to like that idea the most, so that was what we chose to believe. When we filed into the auditorium, we noticed two rows of parents in the rear of the room. There were photographers and reporters standing near the stage. My mother was seated in the last row, a few seats from the aisle. She waved at me and smiled. Principal Moskowitz walked to the lectern and tapped the microphone a few times with his index finger, creating amplified booms that shook our wooden seats. “Good morning, Boys and Girls!” Principal Moskowitz shouted. “Good morning, Mr. Moskowitz,” everyone sang. “Today is a very special day. Today, our school has the opportunity to make a difference in the world! How many of you want to make a difference in the world? Raise your hands…” And everyone raised their hands because making a difference seemed to be something we should want to do, although we weren’t sure what that meant or how it related to Miss Clark’s first grade class. Mr. Moskowitz beamed at us, the skin on the top of his head reflecting the overhead lights, his eyes becoming happy little angled slits on either side of his nose. “Our school has been selected to participate in a pilot program. And the reason that we were selected is because you are such good boys and girls; you are kind boys and girls; and you are smart boys and girls.” Our teachers began applauding and smiling at us, so we applauded ourselves as well. “In the coming weeks, you will begin to see new students in your classrooms. These are students who will be coming from other schools in Brooklyn, from other neighborhoods far, far away from ours. These are students who will be looking for friends and for kindness. Who knows how to be kind to strangers?” he asked, and Miss Clark’s entire class raised our hands. Miss Clark pursed her lips and nodded quickly, her straightened, flipped hair bouncing just above her shoulder blades. “Who is ready to make new friends?” Mr. Moskowitz continued, pausing because hands once raised had found their way back down into laps. I looked down at my knees; I’d put my hand down, also. “Boys and Girls! Put your hands back in the air! Just because we make new friends doesn’t mean that we can’t keep the friends we have…” and the entire auditorium of students exhaled their relief. Best friends nodded at best friends and all was well with the world once again.

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Jacqueline Jones LaMon “In addition, there will be some of our students who will visit the other school. What we’ll be doing is called an exchange. It’s an honor to be a part of this pilot program because these students will be representing P.S. 3 in another school district and learning all sorts of new things; these students will be our ambassadors. All those students who think this sounds like an extraordinary experience, raise your hands!” And I did, even though I wasn’t entirely sure of the definition of extraordinary, but Mr. Moskowitz had said it with such gusto, it had to be something to behold. When I turned around, I saw that Langston had his hand raised, too. He was bouncing up and down in his seat, grinning with his big, dimpled cheeks. “I don’t know, Rosalie. This whole exchange thing; what are the logistics?” And my father eased back into his threadbare, tweed La-Z-Boy, having turned down the volume on the television set. I watched Walter Cronkite mouth the news that I didn’t want to hear anyway. I was coloring in a new coloring book, stretched out on the floor, adding green to the thick, black outline of leaves, transforming a hint of a forest into something lush and vibrant. It was early September and I wasn’t even thinking about adding yellow, red, or orange to the leaves on my trees. My brothers were outside, playing skully down the block, without jackets, or even light sweaters. “We have to make a difference,” my mother said, and I smiled at her, remembering the excitement of Mr. Moskowitz when he’d offered us those words. “I mean, who better to do this work than us, Bill? All our lives we’ve been looking for ways to be a part of the change.” My father nodded, reluctantly, tapping the tobacco down in his pipe and reaching for his Zippo. “I know that, but this time we won’t be doing the work. The children will,” he said, and my mother looked to me to say something. “I like to do work, too, Daddy,” I said, and my mother seemed pleased enough with my response. “We’ll give it a go, Rosalie. But, if anything smells fishy…” my father said, wrinkling his nose. “…if anything smells fishy, we’ll go back to the original recipe,” my mother said. The following week, Langston and I found ourselves as a core group of ten students, two in each of grades one to five, to serve as ambassadors and participate in the inter-district exchange. It was the first time I would be taking a school bus to school and I was delirious; this was just like the school bus that Dick and Jane rode to school in the more advanced books. That first day, we arrived at the designated bus stop a few minutes before the appointed time, puffed up like helium balloons prepared to float into another hemisphere. “Rosalie, will the children have to meet this bus at 6:30 every morning?” my father groaned. His work as a pharmacist at Brooklyn Jewish Hospital

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Jacqueline Jones LaMon didn’t require him to be at work until nine, so this schedule was adding another layer of sacrifice to the social justice cause. “It seems so. I guess we’ll have to see,” she said. Dawn was still in progress, the world awash in violet, with deep pinks and reds piercing the occasional cloud in the otherwise indigo sky. You could see the sliver of the moon along with rising of the sun, even a random star or two. Every celestial body had come out to usher us into this new experience. Principal Moskowitz stood next to Mrs. Johnson, both of them answering questions posed by a young man scribbling their words into a thin, spiral notebook. A woman darted in between the cars and the parents, smiling at everyone and taking pictures that left me seeing splotches of black for minutes at a time. We stood there, so excited, all dressed up and waiting. I was wearing a navy blue jumper and a navy and gold batik blouse that my mother had allowed me to design, my hair pulled back in a ponytail that gathered the Shirley Temple curls that spiraled down my back. I’d never been granted permission to wear my hair to school in anything other than two braids before, but today was special; it was, as my mother said, a reasonable compromise for a monumental day. “Gwendolyn, come here,” she said, just before we left the house, “let me smooth your edges.” She reached into the jar, scooped out a dollop of the blue, rubbed it between her palms, and smoothed down the hair that waved its way into the loose elastic band at the base of my neck. “There. Now it will stay in place all day. Now it will shine, just as brightly as I know you will, all day long.” She kissed my cheek and the top of my head. And, standing here on the corner of Franklin and Jefferson Avenues, my mother smoothed my edges every few minutes, then centered Langston’s tie for good measure. We saw 6:30 turn to 7:00, 7:00 turn to 8:00, and 8:00 turn to 8:30 before one of the other parents caught sight of the bus in the distance. “Rosalie, this isn’t a good way to begin,” my father said, shifting his weight from his bad leg to the good. His brown leather shoes shone in the daylight, just beneath the cuffs of his sharply creased trousers. “You should go, so you’re not late. It will be fine; I’ll see to it,” and my mother gave him a hug and a quick peck on the cheek, adjusting his grey wool fedora before he walked down the street to catch his own bus and make his way to the hospital. “I’m so sorry, Mrs. Peterson,” Mr. Moskowitz said to my mother, “for this wait, for all of this confusion.” And my mother nodded her understanding at the man who had no control over what could only be seen in the distance. “All we know is that there seems to have been a delay in picking up the students from the host school in Sheepshead Bay.” He moved from one family to the next, expressing his apologies to parents and placing a hand of comfort on the shoulders of the students.

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Jacqueline Jones LaMon When the school bus arrived and the doors opened, the camera crews stood poised to take footage of the new students getting off the bus. The bus driver never diverted his forward gaze, just sucked his teeth and shouted for us to hurry up and take our seats. There were no passengers on the bus to disembark. “I don’t want to go anymore; please don’t make me go.” It was a chorus that I heard all around me, from boys and girls in all the grades. My mother looked at Langston and me, raised her eyebrows. “I still want to go,” Langston whispered. “Do you?” And I nodded my head yes. I was nervous, and this was something new, but I would have my brother with me and that kept me smiling. We got on the bus and sat together; Langston letting me take the window seat. I could see Lola crying, Mrs. Johnson trying to pull her toward the steps of the bus while she resisted. Giving up, Mrs. Johnson said something to Mr. Moskowitz and then walked Lola across the street into the front entrance of what used to be my school. “I guess I’m going to be the only first grader today,” I said to Langston. He looked around the bus, took stock of who had stepped on the bus and who had had a change of heart. “It’ll be okay, Gwendolyn. We’ll have each other. And you’re smart. You always know the answers.” I hadn’t thought about the academics, the logistics of the education I was about to receive. It is one thing to know the answers in a place where the questions are ones you’ve always been prepared to hear, but this was going to be like being untethered in outer space, where all the givens are challenged and constantly called into question. “So do you,” I said, but Langston didn’t read as much as I did. I liked to read almost as much as I liked to color. We both understood that there could be questions that might remain unanswered if he became nervous and thought more about himself than the work. It had happened before, but the teachers were almost always patient with him, coaxing the answers out of the fuzzy places and making him realize what he’d known all along. We held hands and remained silent for the rest of the ride, as the bus traveled down Eastern Parkway and passed the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, and the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza. We circled around the plaza, and passed the Prospect Park Zoo; we inched along Ocean and Parkside Avenues; we entered the Prospect Expressway and went down Ocean Parkway and rode all the way down to Surf Avenue until we were in front of the New York Aquarium and could see the Coney Island parachute jump and The Cyclone in the distance. I could smell the salt in the ocean air, along with the staleness of uncollected trash from Labor Day weekend. And I had to go to the bathroom.

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Jacqueline Jones LaMon The bus driver hacked and spat out of the window. He seemed to speed up when he came to the intersections, making us slide across our seats whenever he made a turn, as if we were riding The Himalaya. He yawned. “So it seems like I made a wrong turn. Overshot our destination. Looks like you people are going to be late today, but clearly that won’t surprise anyone.” And it made sense to me. The school would know that the bus had been late, so we wouldn’t get in trouble for someone else’s doing. By the time we arrived at our new school, there were no teachers on the sidewalks to meet us. The school was larger than any elementary school I’d ever seen—four stories high, made out of red bricks with a massive limestone staircase leading up to the second floor entrance. I could see the schoolyard from the side of the building—just a huge slab of concrete, without swings or slides or trees. It was a yard, just a yard, encased in chain link, and nothing else. There were a few students running around, playing tag. It was a game I knew. I relaxed a little bit. “Well, this is it. Everybody out!” the driver shouted. And as soon as the last person had stepped onto the curb, he slammed his doors and drove off. There was a group of parents across the street, walking in a circle, carrying signs and pushing baby carriages. They stopped walking when we looked at them, but none of them said anything to us. They just stood there, staring at us, with hands on hips, looking mean. We walked as a group up the stairs and found our way to the office. This new attendance lady took one look at us, glanced at her wristwatch, and told us we were tardy. She gave us our room assignments, along with her frown and our demerits, and scolded us for our lateness. “But we didn’t do anything wrong,” Langston muttered, taking the paperwork and sticking out his lower lip. “In this school, we don’t take any backtalk! In this school, you can’t act like you used to in that neighborhood,” this new attendance lady said, looking down on Langston over the tops of her half-glasses. I shook my head at my brother, wanting him to be quiet and not to respond, to be seen and not heard, to be silent and mighty, to appear compliant and well-behaved, if nothing else. And yet, I knew that look. When Langston looked at me, I knew that he was trying to figure out how his past behavior was lacking, how being good could be improved to be better and approach this new unspoken best. I shrugged my shoulders at him; this time, I didn’t know. Already, he was counting on me to know the answers and not a single question had been asked of us. “Oh, just go. Just get yourselves to class. You’ve already missed almost half the day; it’s almost time for lunch. We don’t want any trouble out of you people. Just go; go on, get.” None of us were in the same class. Langston was in Mr. Demitri’s third grade and I was assigned to Mrs. Story’s first grade. Brian was in Miss

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Jacqueline Jones LaMon Holder’s fifth grade class, and Frankie was in Mr. Sheffield’s fifth grade. That was it. All the other students had elected not to come and now, I was the youngest one there and the only girl. My stomach wrapped around itself and tugged itself into a tight, little knot. I walked down the hallway to room 117 and waved to my brother as he walked into the stairwell and up the down staircase, beyond what I could see. When I found room 117, I could hear a grown-up speaking and children laughing. I’d been taught not to eavesdrop, but I stood outside my classroom and listened. I could hear people being happy. I could hear chalk moving across a blackboard. I could hear the legs of chairs moving across the floor. I could hear my thumping heart. I turned the doorknob and opened the door. All at once, everything stopped. All the light and tinkling sounds I’d just heard, the chalk, the chair—everything halted. No one moved and no one smiled. I felt as if my legs had lost their bones; I held on to the doorframe and managed to take one step inside. This was freeze tag taken to the nth degree, for sure. “Boys and girls, we have a new student today. This is Gwendolyn Peterson. You’ll have a chance to meet her during lunch. Be good boys and girls and make her feel welcomed,” Mrs. Story said. The words she spoke sounded so friendly, but there was a sigh in her voice, just beneath the surface, as though each syllable she offered were a chore. I raised my hand and waved to the class. No one waved back. “Gwendolyn, this is your seat, over here,” Mrs. Story pointed to a table in the corner of the room. Four individual desks had been pushed together to create a single table. I was used to this arrangement; that is how our kindergarten desks had been arranged at P.S. 3. At P.S. 3, the first graders sat in desks arranged individually, in rows. I had been hoping for that symbol of educational trust and maturity, but I understood that different schools meant different rules and practices. There was one empty seat and I took it. There were two girls at my table and one boy. My seat was next to the boy. When I sat down, he scooted his chair as far away from me as he could, without removing himself from our table. “Danny, is there a problem?” Mrs. Story asked him. Danny scrunched up his nose and poked out his lower lip. “Yes, Mrs. Story,” he said and began fanning the air in front of his face. “She smells.” And even though I was sitting down, I knew my legs had turned to mush because I felt them pool on the floor around my perfectly polished shoes. I looked down at my hands and didn’t recognize them. They were shaking brown hands that felt foreign and ugly in this place, offensive brown hands connected to indicted brown arms that didn’t feel beautiful or pretty or familiar in the least. “Danny, it’s not nice to say someone smells,” our teacher said. “But, Mrs. Story, she does. I’m next to her, too, and I smell it.” This,

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Jacqueline Jones LaMon from one of the girls at our table, the girl opposite me. She glared at me with her pretty green eyes, her short bangs framing her Peter Pan pixie haircut. A chorus of mmmhmm’s took over the classroom. “All right, all right, boys and girls. I think we can end our morning just a bit early and make our way to the cafeteria for lunch. Melissa and Josh, you are our line leaders today. Walk properly and I will meet you there in just a moment.” Everyone stood up, pushed chairs beneath tables and stood in line in twos—boys on the left, girls on the right. There had been an even number of students prior to my arrival. I stood alone at the back of the line. “Gwendolyn, may I speak with you for a moment?” Mrs. Story beckoned me to her desk. I walked over to her as the other students walked out of the room. “Gwendolyn, I’m very sorry that you had to experience such rudeness. What Danny said to you wasn’t very nice. It must have made you feel very uncomfortable, yes?” And before I could gather my voice to respond to her, my body erupted and I couldn’t stop crying. “Oh, dear. Gwendolyn, I’m so sorry that happened to you. You and your pretty African costume,” Mrs. Story said, patting me on the back and handing me a tissue from a box on her desk. “Sometimes people are afraid of what they don’t understand.” I gathered myself together and was able to listen to what she had to say. “Yes, Mrs. Story.” “Do you think you can give us all another chance?” she asked and smiled at me, pointing to the wastepaper basket where I could dispose of my tissues. “Yes, Mrs. Story.” “Excellent,” she said, leaning closer to me. “And maybe, when you’re getting ready for school tomorrow, whatever it is that you people put on your hair or your skin…maybe you can limit to using those potions on the weekends, when you don’t have to come to school. Do you think that will work?” I didn’t know what to say. Until that moment, I hadn’t known that I was different, that castille soap was a potion, that coconut oil was something out of the ordinary, that the blue my mother had used to coax the shine and waves into my hair would cause so much division and angst. “It’s just that these scents aren’t what the other students are used to having in our classroom. Can you understand that, Gwendolyn?” And I nodded that I did, but I wondered why I was the only one in my new class who had to make room for change. Mrs. Story held my hand while we walked down the wide hallway to the cafeteria. I tried to construct what it was that I would say to my parents that evening after dinner. I wondered if they knew what I knew now—that we were different than other people. I wondered why they hadn’t told us. I sat alone in the cafeteria for first grade lunch. I sat alone on the steps during recess. I didn’t raise my hand all afternoon because the knot in my stomach made its way to my brain and my throat and my dry, empty

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Jacqueline Jones LaMon mouth. I didn’t know what I knew that I had once known. I didn’t recognize anything in this world, even myself. That evening, we didn’t get home until after 8:00, the bus driver claiming traffic was to blame for our five hour trip that spanned a bit over four miles. None of us said a single word during the entire bus ride back to P.S. 3. Langston held my hand, his eyes red rimmed and swollen. Someone behind us started to hum the theme song to The Magilla Gorilla Show. I looked at my brother and squeezed his hand. He smiled at me, drew a smile in the air in front of my face. I finally understood why Magilla didn’t mind returning to the pet store, of all places, time and time again. It was home for him and it made sense in his world. Langston and I started humming that song, too.

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Janine Certo Loving Them for the Awe of It In the restaurant housing, we slipped on aprons—their bibs branded with claws, each one pointing its finger. A line snaked outside the door. Clowns twisted balloons while we served sautés & bisque, imperial & cake. Long after, we clutched neon tumblers, toked on a passed bottle. I sweet-talked the night guard so we could sit on the same cement where we toiled, felt somehow authorized to the Key lime pie, the still warm bin of rolls. We ran to a black ocean, the beach dotted with side-walkers, flickering blue carapace, antennae & eye, not minding them for our drunkenness, amassing them in bucket. We broke into the apartment of the boys who lived above us, still out for the evening. One by one, we arced the crustaceans, sand-dredged, into their shower. Only to be wakened later to a rage. The boys pounded our door, shattered our window. We heard a tic and scurry on our floor. In the morning, the sadness of the animals’ confusion, drifting past table legs on an unknown coast. It was the year we saw the Ferris wheel on fire— spokes churning the thick air, casting a glow on the castles, the castles to sky.

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Janine Certo I remember how we poured them all back to the sea; how I saved not one cent that summer; how I drove a car in the wrong lane.

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Johnson Cheu The Tracking Stare Her eyes follow you as you turn the corner toward the sociology books, then loop back towards the barista for another latte. Tracking. This daily game threads through your world. You’ve played this game on canes, crutches, wheels, in leg casts, leg braces, in suits, swim trunks, in restaurants, at the gym, on the bus, in the bathroom. Most days, you’re too busy to care. You always notice though, especially the little ones who walk backwards through store aisles staring, or who stand stock still as though you’ve turned them into a pillar or gnome. Today, you notice her, not because she’s pretty, but because hers is not a come-hither stare, not a murmuring where-do-I-know-you-from? stare. It’s the kind of stare that’s literally the cliché: if looks could kill.… Her eyes convey enmity: you shouldn’t be walking this earth. Be gone! I smite thee! Just like last year, the sorority girl on the bus who proclaimed, you’re taking up too much of my air, you should die. Just like last year, the Chinese student in class who proclaimed, people want to associate with people of a high social value, and you have no value because you are disabled. The Globe and Mail reports that 98% of the children in China’s orphanages have disabilities, so why wouldn’t these people think you vermin? What would your extermination do for this Chinese woman drinking coffee? She’d be drinking coffee, eating her glazed doughnut regardless. The hairs on the back of your neck stand. She means you ill will. You’ve interpreted stares for years; you breathe this. Still, you must roam this earth. Your neck hairs remind you others have always tried to define, confine, malign your existence. The fear, the prickly hairs, the kill stares, those never leave you.

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Geraldine Connolly Fable of the Good Daughter Once a milkweed, once a daisy, once I was a pleasant gauzy girl. I raked hay and weeded the garden. I had to raise myself, wake myself, cook and prepare for the day. I remember wanting more time, more love, expecting to inherit the farm, until the acres were sold and covered with trucks and chemicals. Once like a flower I wanted to be good. Once I prayed and obeyed. But something must always happen. Say, a betrayal. Bad birds come to rest. A weed turns into a stave. I remember having a family, now split and sundered by greed and secrets. Now devil’s weed shoots past the declivities. An old story, the good daughter, only a child’s fable. I put on cactus skin thick as chain mail. One-speared, sisterless, I hold up the swords of the agave.

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Peter Cooley Some Call It Childhood Not yet the ecstasy, the iconic thrill release should give the body, perishing. Watching my sister sleep, I see her still enmired in the tedium of her dying. Fifty years back her hands, aflutter now, lowered my little head into the toilet and I emerged to stand here now beside my dad, ninety-two yesterday, celebrating with a grin missing today, looking down on her, silent always. In the family album of a time others call childhood my sister threw away but I remember, my sister rides my father’s back, her grin ecstatic. I remember, too, the game of horse, release from my mother at the end of dinners bound by her preoccupation with the perfect dish. I gluttonized, tuning out her question: was I happy? Once there must have been something like—tenderness?— between my father and my sister such as I have known three times a father. Staring at her here, my dad remembers what? Anticipates? Appreciates the irony of ecstasy, my sister, black lungs shot, will predecease him, her trust fund retuned to him. In that photograph the ground, pock-marked with autumn leaves, darkens with the years my father raked after we left. I suppose, come fall, my father and I will drive out to watch the leaves turn multifoliate, riotous, ecstatic in the chill Michigan October. I know he will not recall this photograph but talk about the weather. Busy in myself, I will be at the same questions: if my sister lives, when will I learn to bury

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Peter Cooley my hatred of her? Did my father ever love her? Would he if he knew my truth about her? My sister will not survive another winter.

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Maryann Corbett Haircut, with a Vision of My Father’s Ashes Millimeter snips of my clipped hair slip, sifting from the scissor-edge to my arms, my lap where their dappled black-and-gray lets a brain-switch flip to some inner eye, flashing back: his cigarette ashes. Weightless waste of spent Chesterfields, Winstons, Camels, Lucky Strikes, sour in the ashtrays flanking his wing chair, sodden in highball glasses, stubbed in bathroom sinks where the Barbasol’s faux-menthol was powerless to perfume the stink. What was ash to him? Decades of film noir explain how he dreamed himself— pure Forties Bogart, dinner-jacket suave, a cool hand gesturing smoke, a smolder censing rooms thick with urbanity. Struck from the film script:

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Maryann Corbett his wife, his daughters cleaning bathrooms, tasting ash. Daydreams luffed away the tobacco’s sludge, shipyard’s sweat, and fatherhood’s pained bewilderment— What? Oh, the mirror. Done. So much reflection pours ashes on my head: Even while tea-rose breathings of salon chatter gust away his ghost, I, too, turn to ash cigarettewise, my loose ends cinder-swept away.

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Dorsey Craft A Woman Who Looks Like My Grandmother A woman who looks like my grandmother knocks on the door of my grandfather’s house as the sun goes down each evening. He sees my grandmother at his right— the real one, the secretary at the army base who typed with precise clicks like a tap-dancer— writing letters in her chair. But through the pane on the door, he sees the other, shade of lipstick more orange than red, scarf covering her not quite brown hair, staring at him with her eyebrows pushed together, just like my grandmother would, kind frustration. The clock on the mantle chimes. A girl on television cuts a figure eight into bright ice and faces smile down at him from the walls. He almost reaches to feel the shape of her fingers curled around the pen, the corner of her mouth where her tongue appears, small and pink, its taste like sweet tea. The other outside is banging away, her voice calling his name, speaking the wind, the black river running by the old house, his own grandfather who died young of a fever, her knocks the sharp clatter of bright fingernails against raised keys, her voice shrill as the ring when you reach the end of a line.

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Clare Cross Boys Behind Me in Line So they held her down, said Wade, and I unbuttoned her shirt. And she said, Well, what are you going to do now? The other boy laughed. Button it up again, he said. Yeah, said Wade. He mimed with his fingers. Button it up again. I knew the girl. She was kind of like me, bookish, with glasses and Catholic school skirts. I suppose I should have been horrified, frightened, and I was in a way, but as I hunched over, hiding my chest, I knew that the popular girls got their bra straps snapped. I saw movies. I watched TV. Even cartoon rabbits bugged out their eyes. All that was some kind of power, and knowing it some kind of shame. And shame still, saying this now: Part of me wanted to be that girl, held down by two boys, Wade fumbling with the buttons of my blouse (I didn’t even like him), three boys gaping,

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Clare Cross gazing at those little hills cloaked in white cotton and lace, a tingle and thrill, maybe Wade reaching, tentative, touching the pink and green rose appliquÊ in between. Unlike the other girl, I would say nothing, waiting for Wade to clumsily button my blouse. Then the boys would run away laughing (I couldn’t imagine it ending a different way). I would lie on my back for a moment, watching the clouds, then stand, brushing the playground dust from my skirt. I would walk home, keeping forever my secret, terrible and sweet. I was held down. I was desired.

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Chad Davidson Blurb for Jake Heralds a new voice on the literary landscape. Reorders the cosmos. Takes your breath away, your trash out back. This, the new version of the same version as before, like orange juice with pulp, or lots of pulp, or no pulp, or no pulp but vitamin D, or Grove Stand, or whatever they’re selling when the farmer’s hand extends that carton right into the bright everlasting neon of a grocery store, and we understand the world has always run on these half-truths, these demi-deifications. Running the other day, my friends, I paused at the sunken orbitals of a dead crow by the BP and thought, So this is what the soothsayers were all so hot on, this or that slosh of viscera in a bowl, cracked egg and whatnot, all the while the same dream of stillness, of coming to rest finally, of giving the body over entirely, like a check for charity, some poorly funded outfit for kayak accidents. All the while, big trucks and bigger men lumbering for the stuff they need to keep chugging along. My friends, today I almost called my friend, gone over a year, scrolling through my numbers. I can’t remember anybody’s number anymore. What is it we do when we don’t erase the dead from our phones? What is that? Lazy elegy? Little flame of memory sputtering on low battery? Hands down, the best new writer on the horizon of the American literary landscape. Scratch that. Seascape. Scratch that. Since the Niña punctured the palm-lined bays and sent forth its death squads. Easily the greatest new poetry book of the past two thousand years. Of the past, period. Ovidian. Not since Virgil have we seen such grandiloquence,

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Chad Davidson such grammar, such unadulterated adulation. My friends, there are children with bloodshot eyes and Izod shirts, straight from azalea suburbs who are dying to read this book not blurbed by my friend, though he said he would before— fantastic, a must read—not even seen by him— unforgettable loveliness, this raw, emotive locomotive of a book—not even in the dream in which he is still alive—explosive, dynamite, ICBM all the way to your living fucking room— the dream in which he sits with bourbon rusting in a thin tumbler, in which the galleys have arrived, billowing sails of my poems, in which he takes one look at this, my book, as yet blurbless, as yet spineless, just a jumble of sheets like those in the dryer behind him, the low rumble soothing enough, the bourbon sweet but not too sweet, the air just right for fucking it all, so he nods off, thinking of the perfect blurb for my book, or, better, the perfect way to let me know he just can’t do it, can’t summon a few more trite concoctions for the back cover, shockingly bare, which he’ll do, he’ll call me, I know, I swear, best book ever, the one that will change everything, soon. It’s coming, my friends. It’s on its way.

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Matthew Pitt Genesis Sweet When I visit Grand, he’s all demands for his oversized, six-button remote (“The couch crack, Donnie, check the couch crack!”), or slow vicious sneers at my bangs and nose stud (“What the hell factory hires a guy tarted up for Saturday night?”). But my grandfather has fallen for me. I can prove it. Once I leave, Grand courts me. Writing me well into the night. Scheming to figure where we’ve hid his car keys. So he can defy his suspended license. Drive to my door. The door, anyway, he believes I live behind. My grandmother died a decade ago, after a decade of dementia. Uncle Jerry’s four states west, with his “own life to ruin.” My father (call him Hal) lives closer. At least in theory. That leaves me and Mom as Grand’s only regular guests. I drop by after my Wednesday business extension course. Mom spells me after her nursing shifts—dutiful ex-daughter-in-law fanning out fast food Grand never joins us in eating, and brochures for old-folk homes she tries selling him on thickly: Sam Springer’s over at Sunset Alcove, and enjoying it; the Barstows are still together, thriving at Rolling Lawn. With an herb garden! Grand barely stood his neighbors when fences and dogs lay between them. Why would he want them in constant view now? No, it’s this view or bust. Holding onto a remote control big and flat as a Ping-Pong paddle, his ticket to viewing vegetation. Den dust growing around his bleak house like a crop. Coating his flannel shirts. His cotton pants threadbare from daylong rubbing at his scratchy sofa bed. Used to at least stamp his walking passport to eat and sleep. Now that he performs those functions on the sofa bed, toilet trips are his sole exercise. Hard to turn off his faucet at that age. Water goes in, water empties. Mom showed me scans she’d had taken of his lungs. Like burnt raisin toast, filled with carbon. His talks with us were blackening, too. Donnie— what am I doing up? “It’s the middle of the day, Grand.” I mean at all. If I told him he was looking good, he’d tell me I was looking blind. Mom tried cooking some of Grand M’s recipes, to remind him of her. My cold bed’s reminder enough. You aren’t far, old fart, I’d think. From turning into the dust you’re parked and covered in. End zone’s in sight. Just inch forward, break the plane, so us living stiffs can all go home. That was six months ago.

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Matthew Pitt Six months from the afternoon I mistook his moan for a Best of Hee-Haw barnyard skit. I’d forgot he wasn’t in the den. Hadn’t been for a half-hour. I traced the noise to the house’s other side. Thinking a cashew went wrong down his windpipe. But the moan rose, as if a hole Grand couldn’t plug had opened in his body. Life was leaving his skin in leaks. Questions hauled on my shoulders. The hall rotary phone: Did the fucker even still work? Should I yell out? Or would that just blow a heart valve? As I inched to his bedroom and toilet, his moan shaped into words. The way fog you step closer to finally collapses into what it’s been cloaking. “Oh god,” his moan burned softly. “Oh god.” Oh god, I thought. Grand was keeling, right there, on Pepto pink linoleum. I’d have to undress him sock by reedy sock. Clean shit, literal, fossilized shit, off his body, shower the corpse. I wanted my mother. But her nursing shift was an hour from over. So I nudged the door. He was hunched over the laptop we’d bought him three birthdays back. Well, I bought the protection plan. A photo printer followed next year. Trying to drag him into a century he wanted to drag out of. When we set him up this year with e-mail, he acted like we enrolled him in Hitler Youth. I mean he physically pinched my lips when I explained how to login. But there he was, reading the screen. “Good note, Grand?” He twitched at my voice, hit a button on the monitor, rose without a word, and shuffled back to the sofa bed. Once I heard Hee-Haw’s volume crank, I examined his screen, which he’d only dimmed. The concealed e-mail lit back up. Hi! I have invited for you see my network of local willing acquaintances. All of us now wishing for you to journey here, but I dream it most. Hope you touch base me, sugar, for I am all day in want of you. Winks, Olga Olga, I thought, not Oh, god. The early test e-mails Mom and me sent lay in his folder, unread. He’d opened this spam alone. Tried and failed to answer the spammer many times, each attempt longer, as if his note would eventually go through if he spilled enough info (his actual problem was hitting “Draft,” not “Reply”). He’d wrote of his job at the lithography press, his marriage and the kids who came of it, and how, while he could tell Olga was foreign, her written English, really, was decent, and how he could remember his being truly awful when he first immigrated. It was gallant and all, but still. I’d have been less freaked to find some long ode about cupping Olga’s ass cheeks. Nine out of ten e-mails, I’d learned in my extension course, were spam. Each of us sifted through 30 per day, 11,000 a year. What if this one lured Grand to a chat room? How long before Olga, desperate to “talk,” would claim to need Grand’s lone credit card (owned for twenty years, and still a

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Matthew Pitt $1,200 limit on it) to complete the call? How could I keep him from reaching out for this fake face, whose beauty he already believed in? Cleaning blood or feces suddenly didn’t look so bad. So I created an account for Olga. Planning to let him down quick, on my terms. Thanking him for writing back, Olga admired his long marriage, but worried she’d: stepped far too over bounds. I am working girl with no time to say hi for real, or even, real truth, write much back. This chat given such smile to my face, but I think to should look for gentle-Man nearer me. Hope I find one sweet as you. There not many enough! Before I could hit send, his moan again filled my mind. How he’d said “Olga” with the soft l of his people. Our people. Oohl-geh. I couldn’t drop an anvil on the guy. I wish you happy life. I like listen folk and tradition records at library. do you to? I came back to the den, telling Grand I heard his computer ding. A message had come in for him. “Now? Mine? Do I have to—sign something? Pay to read first?” No, I explained, just hit open. And you can check it anytime: next week, months from now… Try five minutes. His face graped with pleasure as he read. Either not hearing me creep to the door, or not caring. I knew Olga’s next message would be lying in wait by tomorrow’s visit to his den. “Pimping unreal women on a nearly-dead grandpa,” my pal Sergei summed up. “For that, you made the Twisted Shit Hall of Fame.” “Woman, singular. And it’s not pimping. First off, Olga is me. Second…” Did I have a second? In two weeks, I’d written nine notes to Grand, with his pace picking up. It was turning into the drudge job I’d fought to not repeat. The follow-up to my stint at the third-rate Chinese joint, my weeks featuring “Happy Birthday” renditions sung to loathed people over gummy angel cake. The bad dream of a bad life sprouting roots. In panic, I’d told Sergei what I’d done. “This hasn’t derailed to lewd,” I continued. “We trade sweet stories.” And we did: Olga wrote about how scarce fresh fruit had been in her childhood hometown; Grand recounted the watermelon he’d cart back for his family each Friday, how bright its juice tasted after long workweeks. “I’m steering him from spam-scam, credit fraud, identity theft.” “Sure. Distracting an old man from malware by giving electronic hand jobs. It’s heroic.” Sergei popped a thumb in his mouth. I heard his tongue work the digit like a gerbil will its water bottle. This meant a harebrained, get-rich scheme

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Matthew Pitt was forming. We were partners in the extension class, “Getting Ahead in a Headless Economy.” We’d lived together a year, until I couldn’t afford half of butt anymore, and had to move back in with Mom. “Yeah, heroic. Also fucking brilliant. Give your lonely relative the gift of virtual love. Love that lasts as long as they do. Neat, enduring, affordable. $2.99 a month.” “Jesus, Sir Gay.” Normally that would have rattled him. I never met such a flaming homophobe. This time, he didn’t flinch. He was a guy whose money lust scored him with edge. When he hit sixteen, his immigrant parents were extradited back for old felonies that took years to come to light. The irony was they’d fled the Soviet bloc for free-market nectar. But once they landed in our country it got, as Sergei put it, regulated into tapioca, while the new black markets springing up in his folks’ homeland made the American Wild West look like a popsicle stand. “You’re right. Too small,” he said, popping his thumb back out. “$4.95’s a much better price point.” Weeks later, me and Mom were wolfing torrents of fast food, as the Discovery Channel’s War Week played. Wolfing quietly, so to not wake Grand, who had drifted off to the narration. “Amazed you outlasted him, Donnie,” Mom said, gnawing fried dill spears as a new segment began. We started conversations at the end of commercial breaks, to have an excuse to cut them short. “You look worn. Work? School?” “And such.” She stared at me. She’d found a mustard teardrop under my lip, but I blushed at the stare, thinking I’d left bobby pins in my hair. Not that I wore them, but Olga did. Olga had once had hair like a cinnamon bun, same hue, heft. After going gray, she put it up with bobby pins. She/I told Grand that Olga colored through her 40s, then stopped. I knew Mom had done this, so it sounded legit. Grand asked was there any cinnamon left in the roots, a sentence full of wonder and strange hunger. Grand thought about hair roots? Honestly, he brought up a hell of a lot about women’s couture. Not the bowling or fishing I expected his e-mails to revolve around. “Did the show already cover Dresden?” I asked Mom. “Where Grand fought?” “Dresden was nowhere near where that man served,” she replied, chuckling. “They’re coming to his part now: the Pacific Theater. Mainly Manila.” That’s right; born in Europe, but he fought in Asia once he came to America. I didn’t know his uniform or insignia color, the weapons he’d been issued, how much his boots weighed. None of it. He already knew Olga’s hat and shoe size, her fallen arches and when they ached most, bridgework, when she let her pierced ears close, the label of her one tailored suit. Still, I wasn’t lying to Sergei. It hadn’t gotten lewd. Maybe Grand didn’t know about electronic photos. But his letters had been clothe-tease. Requests to hear what she put on each particular day. What she planned to wear tomorrow. “Grand?” I asked, rising. “Want anything before I go?”

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Matthew Pitt “Leave him in peace. He’s all but down. Not sure he needs anything now.” Before ending her visits, Mom had always shouted Pop! Need anything? While it seemed sweet, now I saw its other function. A way to excuse her conscience, in case Grand kicked before her next call. The way a girlfriend once asked me, How can we make this work? the day before she dumped me. “He has needs. He’s just run out of ways to ask for them.” But I could ask. Well, Olga could. Could scratch deep, as long as she did it with a light touch, respecting the courtship, accepting certain tangents and odd forays. I had to let the man lead. I wrote e-mails with synth-spined 80’s anthems in the background, courtesy of Pandora: Laura Branigan’s “Gloria,” Toto’s “Africa,” Manilow’s “Some Kind of Friend.” That last song gave me a story thread I could use, of a cherry Maserati Olga’s neighbors owned, and Olga pined for. Once the neighbors’ son got consent to drive the vehicle, she flirted with him relentlessly. Was this your first love? Grand asked. “I think they got the alias,” Branigan sang, “that you’ve been living under.” Car, yes, Olga replied. Boy, no. I’d separated Olga and Grand by three decades. Birthed her in the years of peace he’d help bring to his former homeland. Olga would rib the music he cherished from his homeland as moldy, but once she signed off, I’d troll the night away searching for them. His favorite was a wedding ceremony song, some parts set to music, some to gossiping guests. “Play for me, musicians / A love song like a snake / So that I can dance long enough / To get a groom.” His Polish had gone wobbly, beat out of him in American schoolyards, and so he was grateful for Olga’s translations. Could he return the favor? Tell me what else you like as boy. Then what make you man from boy. If I show too much demand, I stop. But in our early time of writing, remember? You say I, Olga, may ask you, Alton Stanley Prezinski, anything. Is this still true? This was how I learned about his ’53 Oldsmobile Super 88. The dizzy thrill Grand had felt flagging a showroom salesman with $1000 cash in his vest—half the car’s cost—after a childhood spent in lines for loaves of bread. How he’d buff the chrome for an hour at a time. Work it over not on evenings it got dust-ridden, but when he returned from the lithography press, fuming. Greeted by whatever items his sons had broke in the yard, branches they ripped off climbing trees, mud they clumped on a clean porch, shrubbery they’d torn, wanting to chop the boys down as if rage was his hatchet. Mainly Hal, my older one. Grand didn’t say why my father pissed him off more for causing the same trouble. Just moved to the style of

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Matthew Pitt automobile polish he preferred (Car-Skin, it was called), without so much as a period disrupting sentences. Back when I called Dad, Dad—not Hal, not “respondent”—he and Grand acted like prizefighters when in the same room. Doing everything but punch, prowling, sizing up angles, scanning for spots where thrown blows would do the grandest damage. I considered letting Olga push the issue: playfully mention feisty boys filling a house, disrespecting their exhausted parents. But one wrong word, and Grand would shut her out of that cave, too. Anyway, the net of smells from what I’d baked in the oven had caught my thoughts. I’d been foregoing fast food lately, leaving Grand’s home earlier to spend more time with him at mine. I’d forgotten how a well-cooked meal worked, how the garden of spices broke down in meat to give it new life. That evening I peered out a window, thinking: azure. It’s an azure sky. I wasn’t sure what azure meant, but I wanted it to mean the color of earned calm. Translating calmed me too. I’d play song clips from the old country on a loop when stumped by a word. Did that sound like arguing, what they sang? Open my pocket dictionary and let random words—sorrel, yawp, portmanteau—hit like spices on my tongue. The more lyrics I spun for him, the more details he spilled. Not about Hal, but Grand’s wartime campaigns: stationed in New Guinea for Maffin Bay, followed by the Luzon operation in the Philippines. I’d known he’d been a technical sergeant, wounded, but had no idea how close to his lungs the shrapnel sank. No idea it was lodged there still, and any attempt to surgically pluck it would finish him. No idea about his Bronze Star—if he’d kept it, he’d hidden it as well as the shrapnel. Grand took his bullet the first day of summer, 1945, smack between German and Japanese surrenders. A wound ticketing him to the states weeks before Hiroshima. On the Discovery Channel, Deadly Weapons Week replayed those last scrapes in the Pacific. “Did you know just one troop died in Grand’s rifle platoon during the assault?” Mom nodded. “Hal Oakley. How your father got his name.” That wasn’t what Grand told Olga. He’d written details about guiding his guys over a highway strafed by machine gun and tank fire, then leading them to allied tanks. Then one of the soldiers under his supervision got out of sight. That one, he said, was Roger Oakley. I took in what this meant. That Dad’s name wasn’t linked to Grand. That he was in fact two years older than he’d claimed. Was this worth telling Mom? What did that lie really matter, screened beneath all the others we knew Hal had told? “Where is Grand, anyway? Toilet?” Mom asked. Desk, I told her. E-mailing. “He does that now?” She turned up the volume, pinching wool pills off his blanket. “When you said Grand still needed something from us, a while back. What did you mean? What do you think he needs?” On TV a child survivor of Little Boy, a Hibakusha, was asked to say where it hurt. The child was silent; the camera tightened. Still no whisper.

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Matthew Pitt Watching him in dark goggles, I wondered what he’d seen last. Before the pressure separated his eyes from their sockets. Wondered which was worse: carrying that sight everywhere, or knowing its details would fade, until the day he couldn’t pull up any. “Our faces,” I said. “Even if it doesn’t seem so.” I eyed Grand’s deer-hoof hat-rack, his burnished wood floor lamp. The house felt less like a graveyard, and more like a museum I worked in but didn’t know. Olga nearly asked for the story behind Grand’s pair of Springfield “trapdoor” rifles, crisscrossing in the den, until Donnie stopped her. She’d never seen or heard of the things. She couldn’t know about the fingerprints of Grand M still retained in the den, like the copies of Lady Knit Now journal Grand hated, but still hadn’t brought himself to trash. Then one day, Grand tried to send repair money for Olga’s car, so she could visit. I’d invented diagnostic problems. False stalls to keep her from meeting in person. Your notes are a gift. This can be mine. I lowered my head. I was cash poor, had never turned down money from the guy, but this. This I couldn’t take. When I said so, I got a haughty reply. Then find a bus route. Meet me at the library. I’m tired of alone. When Olga challenged him on being truly alone, he admitted: Donnie and Diana come over, sure, but they’re pity stops. Made only because Hal won’t. They’ve been drafted into service. I cringed at that note. I kept watch because this man gave me things, might give more in his will, and was running out of oxygen. You owed suffocating fish attentive company. Or a quick pop with a pipe above the eyes, to break its suffering. Finally, Grand relented on springing for Olga’s car repairs. I get it. You’re a proud woman. How you know me, she replied. Every so often I’d dust clean his spam folder. I always kept the original “Olga” notice though, and one time, re-read it. I’d forgotten an actual company, Genesis Sweet, had sent it. And while other spam notes piled up, he hadn’t replied to one. Not the one with the subject line: Looking for a Laid Buddy. Not: I’ve been out of town but am back and looking for real fun, hun. And not: For crying out loud, dude! Don’t wait until your penis falls off, forever! Take this pill and Presto! You;ll snap your fingers and she;ll unzip your pants. He’d stayed faithful to Olga. “How beautiful,” Sergei said, after next day’s class. “You twisted shit. So what’s Grampy see in Olga? She got frump in the rump? He into role-

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Matthew Pitt playing? Women who aren’t too experienced—sexually active since the U.S. Olympic boycott, tops?” I made to complain, but Sergei moved on. Describing the ideal demo market for our virtual octogenarian love site service, which he’d insisted should be our final project. Our service might seem sleazy to boomers, but Sergei wanted to market a free trial toward grandkids, who could later persuade their parents of our service’s value to their parents, and convince them to pick up the recurring fee. “Cause Donnie, I gotta say, I brought up your Cyrano act with girls from class and…” “You did…? What the fuck?” “Hold your howling. I’m hoisting your ass in class these days. Do your threaded discussions, type your response papers. Just be glad I value the art of good fieldwork. Anyway, I only told the front-row hotties. They think it’s sweet, relax. I thought I’d need to bring up Grand’s Bronze Heart to soften the ick factor, but they were hooked. Think you’re resurrecting the bygone days of love letters and shit…” There went that thumb again, lost in his mouth. “This idea’s cap-G Gold. Nigerian prince with hot cash meets MakeA-Wish foundation.” Sergei’s bringing up that spam chestnut made me think how I’d reeled Grand in, jerked him along. Maybe avoiding a date would be harder on all parties. Wasn’t it better to chauffeur Grand to the library, let him scan the stacks and reading rooms, see that the face he’d built up was a no-show? Or even make Olga keel? I wanted to think I’d helped his health more than blood thinners could. And while he’d started snatching Mom’s fast food, vulturing the warm cod discs on sesame-seed buns she brought, he still lost his grip on his paddle remote all the time. His speech still drooped into occasional babble. He wasn’t getting better. Olga just gave his breakdown a glow of adrenaline. Then Grand asked me out. Not me, Olga; me, Donnie. Replying to the test e-mail I’d sent when setting up his account, six months back. Asking if I’d take him on a drive. I wrestled with what voice to write back in: the eager one I wanted? Do-nothing Donnie, answering only out of obligation? I aimed for breezy familiar: Good to “hear” from you, Grand. E-mail is crazy, right! I’d love to take you on a trip. Where to? Grocery store? Movie? ?library? He came back with lake. At dawn, we cast out. He dug in by a pin oak, near an army of frogs. Not the best spot for catching fish. He’d picked it because it was the steadiest soil. Easier to lift him to higher ground in a pinch. We cast into an ashy net of fog. After an hour or so, he asked did I remember the snapping turtle he riled here when I was ten. Course I did. He

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Matthew Pitt had motioned me to a shivering part of the lake edge. Had me come close, closer, waving a twig under the surface. Then an alligator snapper rose up all at once hissing, back ridged, two feet from my nose. Sank a beak claw into Grand’s twig and broke it clean. “Hal called me a damn fool for that, said I’d put you in danger. But you were laughing your guts out.” Chuckling at the memory, I asked why the turtle had fought, if it didn’t really need to. Why hadn’t it swam off or contracted? “It’s the breed,” Grand told me. “Too big to hide in their own shells.” “Speaking of bites,” I teased, “got any pointers on getting some nibbles in the dating waters? How’d you charm ladies back in your bachelor days?” He said nothing. Didn’t bring up Grand M, or Olga. “It’s been a rough go for me, Grand. Maybe this class I’m taking will land a good job,” I considered. “Out-of-state, in Illinois; maybe then I’ll have better prospects.” “State? Why leave your street? You just need gumption. Know what gumption is? It’s hope that don’t mind being dragged once it gets a bite. Lucky you…” Then he trailed off. Flung a line that barely tapped water. Just when I’d given up on hearing more from him, he packed his tackle box and cleared his throat. “You ought to let hope drag you around awhile. I am. Every once in a while, it pulls you to a new world entirely.” Hopeful? Me? Grand? Which was more shocking to consider? But there was hope in this Olga situation. Which is why, when he stopped writing her cold, I panicked. He still shot e-mails over to Donnie. But he was getting more forgetful, neglectful. He’d only eat from cashew tins, change clothes only on Wednesdays. I dug through his search history— only took two tries to hack his password—and saw he still hadn’t strayed to other spam. It relieved me, on my creation’s nonexistent behalf. But who was Olga? What images had Genesis Sweet made her in? If he clicked their link, he’d either think their images were lies—the sculpted tits, the faked sultry—or that my notes were. The gateway to her gallery (44 pics, 4 vids, 2 gifs,), though, was blocked. You are forbidden access to http://etcetera. No luck on the site’s main page, either. It didn’t take much Googling to learn that Genesis Sweet had gone under. Olga was completely me. It was final project week—Sergei bought a domain name, calling our proposal eMatchinary, a virtual dating site for those “reduced in body or mind, but still vibrant of heart and spirit”—when things soured. A cold turned my head into a nightly snowball, all dripping melt from my nose and eyes. All the networking surveys I’d replied to or CVs sent in class had amounted to one measly job nibble: an unpaid internship, demanding a sharp dress code that would slash my credit limits. So of course that’s when Grand sent his Dear John. Breakups always hit in times like this.

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Matthew Pitt

It read, in part: We haven’t met yet, Olga, but still it seemed indecent to not say why I stopped trying. I went to the library three times when you said you’d be there. Well, first time I was late, by nine minutes. But point is I looked. Other people your age were there, but none with your hair, gone to gentle silver but still cinammon roots. The more I looked and couldn’t find your hair, the more foolish I felt. But then, Olga, someone found me. This woman is one I knew well years ago. Then not at all for years after. We caught up. Then, and on each Wednesday since. That’s not quite right. Everything was caught already. Easy to collect because, for all I’ve told you, there’s much you don’t know. Things she learned about our family, while babysitting my boys decades ago. At first I felt the fool going after her. I still, you see, saw her as young. But truth is she has a decade on you, so this isn’t cradle robbing. If anything, it is giving back some of the cradle, ha-ha. Anyway, I apoligize. But writing any more to you would be to insult both you from afar, and her (my old/new friend), from right in front of me.

Wednesday plate lunches with Hal’s old babysitter: that’s why Grand changed clothes that day. I didn’t know how he’d made it to the library those other times. Had he figured out a bus route? Problem two: I didn’t know how Grand was meeting this new woman. Did the sitter still have an active license? Or had he found his keys? I’d forgot where Mom hid them, and she was unreachable this time of day. I checked the clock. Class started in ten minutes, but I’d have to ditch Sergei again. Tail Grand. I checked his Inbox. Found a note to his new object of affection, and plans to meet. I didn’t have to hit the open highway. Didn’t have to so much as hang a left on Hulen. Paradise turned out to be ten blocks from his sofa bed. In a diner Grand used to take me to. Where he’d celebrated two “300” bowling scores. Bragged on his lucky ball and his cranker style with fellow young people who grew up, grew old, grew away. Once the road’s star attraction, the diner was now concealed behind a dollar store and a place promising cash loans for car titles. Through the window I couldn’t make out their whispered order. Their lips barely moved. But I saw four hands clasp over a square table. Fingers twine at the tips. Steam strands from coffee mugs winding up the fingers. And in those steam strands, fine as nylon fishing line, hung a question I couldn’t help but bite down on. Was she lovelier than I’d imagined Olga to be? No. She was fatter, with a bad hip and ankle boot, bound to a scooterchair, hair straw, dressed dowdily.

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Matthew Pitt But so what? To Grand she was an original beauty. Olga was tough and could get through this. Could I? I felt jilted, and wanted Hal feeling the same. Wanted Hal to see his father staring mooneyed at the old sitter. He deserved it, after the shame he brought down on us. Selling proprietary tech info. The court case, the verdict, the vacuum of months without him. The reduced sentence for selling his bigger-fish friend down the river. The things that came out in the trial: a promotion procured through fraud, a summer home put in abeyance. Then the things that didn’t come out, things I’d known but closed lip about: like the cliché of him screwing his secretary. Even when it came to deception, Hal couldn’t muster his own bright idea. He’d taken me to that summer home years before for a “boys weekend,” really a short-con excuse to dispatch me to the lake and hump said secretary at will. I found them the final afternoon, storming in with a first-rate bluegill. First time I’d seen someone I didn’t know, nude. Lurching from his sad attempt at an alibi, I banged a knee against one of the home’s alien walls, crumpling. She—his mistress—had been the one to dress my wound, applying alcohol and gauze, humming over my tears. Mom and I were trying to mine out gems from Grand’s life before it ended, but had we been any more upfront in sharing? I’d spared her the secretary story. But I’m sure she kept me innocent to other other women’s trails, voices, hairstyles. How many disappointments did we carry quietly, with no plans to release them, even if the other straight-out asked? Driving back from Hal’s summer home made me excruciatingly observant. I can pinpoint a worn timing belt’s whine now, no problem. Distinguish the knockoff air freshener from China called Pinky Musk. No word was shared, is what I mean, not one, until he asked, “Ever want to rollerskate, bud?” I’d lowered my head. It would burst if I had to meet his eyeto-eye. “You do, now.” He’d dragged me into a sporting goods emporium, forging a hobby for me, buying the first pair of skates that fit. Back home, he apologized to Mom for rushing me to the rink too soon, tongue clicking as he explained the drama behind my injury. Though she lifted my bandage with her nurse’s serenity, I still winced. “Nothing’s broken. We’ll have you back to new in no time,” she’d said. “It’s just skin you lost.” Which brings me to this moment, now: back at Grand’s house, alone. I’m usually in class, so I’ve never seen how shafts of light hit his computer at 3:43, the bumper-to-bumper dust beaming from the window. When I follow the dust to his screen I see a note, sent by Grand, I missed in my earlier panic. Returned as undeliverable. Hal, your emails unlisted in the white pages. Number’s there, but I figure this way you can’t hang up. Also, I got to go slow. Everything I’m typing you already know. Which somehow makes it tougher going. You came into this world just after I got taken away. Taken

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Matthew Pitt to the front. When your mom sent me mail in Asia, she wrote letters like you still didn’t exist. And with mortar shells whistling above me, I needed that. To pretend like all her thoughts were on me, and each stupid thing she knitted back home was mine. It was a ruse, but one that made me smile. Made me forget the next night might be my last. Then when I came back you were there. Not just there, but a toddler. A person I’d missed out on meeting. Me not treating you right wasn’t from hate. It was because I saw, the moment I humped my bags into the house, that it now belonged to you. That you belonged to her, more than you ever would me. And when I tried to stop snapping at you, turn you into a man, I did it the wrong way. Or you took it the wrong way. Like you were a smudge I wanted to wipe away. All Grand’s done is enter his son’s given name, an @ sign, and the server he used with Olga. Only way Hal sees this note is if I track him down and present it myself. But that won’t get Grand closer to him. Only stir more choking dust. So instead I text an apology to Sergei for missing class, explaining I’m in a family emergency. But swearing that I’m his partner for our project, for keeps. To seal this pledge, I text some advice: eMatchinary, dude, is too cynical a name. But I know an alternate we can swap it for. Genesis Sweet. The business that owned this name first is no more. It’s ours if we want it. And why wouldn’t we? Genesis Sweet: New Beginnings, Late In Life. What do you say? Then I devise a final, false account, using a name I haven’t typed in years. My hands hover over Grand’s keyboard. Which finger to press down first? “D” for “Dear”? “H” for “Hope this finds you…”? “T” for “Thanks for reaching out…”? So many letters. Each a key to a voice we can no longer claim as ours.

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Cathe Shubert Following the Moss The trail was rocky—rockier than Katie expected. Her graying

American sneakers slipped over the scattered stones. Scree, the guidebook called them. Scree. The sky blushed, slowly extinguishing the light. The sharpening air shocked her sweating skin after the heat of the late afternoon when they’d first started their hike. The guidebook had promised a “moderate brisk ascent of about 2 ½ hours.” That was 3 hours ago, and the rustic “refugi,” or refuge hut, the guidebook promised would be at the end of that moderate ascent was nowhere in sight—nor was the short, steep hill that should have marked the start of the last 10-20 minutes of the ascent to the refugi. The pages of the guidebook crumpled in her right palm into a moistened fold not unlike the way she crumpled the euro notes in her wallet. Why she felt compelled to bring cash, yet had forgotten her sleeping bag in her coworker’s classroom, was beyond her. Katie’s breath sliced in and out of her lungs like a knife as she swallowed hard on another cough threatening to erupt, trying not to think about her pack being lighter than it should be, trying not to think about the increasing chill in the soft pink air. “Estás bé?” Robert asked. His accent was perfect. He was about five feet ahead of her—or however many meters that was. Katie was never very good at conversions, and she was tired of trying so hard to be less American. “Sí,” she puffed, bracing forward. Sí was the one word she felt most comfortable with, to the point where her coworkers teased her, calling her “lectora sí.” She shifted the straps of her pack. “How much further, you think?” “Not much!” Robert bleated. His voice was high pitched. It had raised half an octave each time she had asked the question in the last hour. “Almost there.” A breeze picked off a few reddening leaves from the surrounding trees. Katie ground her right leg into the path cut out from the surrounding forest, bending her weight into her knee and feeling a burn in her quads. She gulped the air and shifted her straps again. “Need a break?” Robert asked. He had kept moving and was now about eight feet further up the scree. Katie coughed in response. “Probably should have skipped those cigarettes last night,” Robert said. Though his back was to her, she could hear the arch in his right eyebrow.

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Cathe Shubert “Thanks, Deb,” Katie gasped through uneven breaths. Her eyes hurt from the effort of not rolling them. “I still think it’s weird you don’t just call her ‘mom,’” Robert said for perhaps the tenth time since the matter had come up. “I mean, she is your mom.” “Adopted mom,” Katie corrected automatically. “Who loves you,” Robert added, as if as a challenge. “This is a serious conversation for a Friday, let alone an exhausting hike. I don’t want to talk about it,” she hastened to say. “It’s fine, I’ve always known. My brother and I used to tease each other about it. ‘No, you’re adopted.’ ‘No YOU are.’ And then Deb would come in, all, You’re both adopted, knock it off.” Robert had turned to face her at this point, his face again contrite, unsure. Katie felt a flicker of annoyance again. “But whatever, new topic.” She bent her head as she unclipped the straps and then swung her pack to the sloping ground, taking advantage of the ducking movement to roll her eyes at last. She kept her head down and arched her now weightless back, rolling her shoulders up by her ears and then slowly in opposition to the arch of her spine. Robert didn’t remove his pack, but rather unscrewed the Nalgene from his pack’s side pocket. Shifting his stance wider, he bent his knees slightly as he drank from the wide rim of the plastic bottle. Katie contemplated throwing herself on her pack as if it were a couch. A lumpy couch. But a couch nonetheless. She thought too about digging for her own water bottle, but it was one of those plastic Evian ones (a brand she’d recognized) she’d bought at the market minutes before boarding the bus to meet Robert at the trailhead— and it was somewhere buried in her pack. She didn’t have the energy to go pawing through it. In her outside pouch pocket, she’d shoved a cardboard box of one euro Don Simon Tinto—another last minute market purchase. It came in the same kind of carton milk came in here—and like the milk (Katie remembered, shuddering inwardly), sat on the shelf unrefrigerated until opened. “Better keep moving,” Robert said. She stood up straight and reached so intently to the darkening sky she felt her heels lift up from the dirt and her core start to wobble. The stretch felt painfully good. She set herself down on the ground with a slight tilt. “I need a minute.” Her voice, three shades short of a whine. Robert sighed and kicked his premium hiking boots—bought the first day he’d arrived in the country at a glossy outdoor outfitter, about seven months prior, and already well worn, with impressive grips that kept him stable on slick stones and creeks—into the biggest stone near his foot. “Okay, but no longer than five minutes. Otherwise our—” “—Our lactic acid, yeah, yeah.” Katie turned from him to sit on her pack and was startled at the scene twinkling far below. “Oh!” she cried. “Look.” She pulled her knees into her chest and hugged them tight.

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Cathe Shubert Andorra la Vella sparkled below, the street lights and autobuses and commercial shopping center sprawl glinting against the rose gold sky. It looked like the center of a potted bowl, with Katie and Robert perched halfway up one of the lips of the Pyrenees mountains. It was only in that instance that Katie realized how far they’d hiked. “Man,” Robert breathed, taking steps towards her, back down the mountain. “Beautiful.” He paused. She could feel his tongue curving into a question. “Just like you?” Katie felt her shoulders flinch, then immediately felt a rush of self-loathing for her knee-jerk response to her boyfriend’s attempt at affection. “Are you cold?” Robert asked, inching closer, eyes wide and searching. “A bit,” Katie lied, gripping her opposite elbows as she kept her knees tight to her chest. She stared at the city. “It looks like a toy town from here.” Robert looked at the lights, then at her, before unhooking his pack and swinging it down to sit next to her. Without a word, he unwrapped the green fleece from around his waist and put it around her shoulders. Katie murmured her thanks and slid her arms into the jacket. The fabric felt warm against her goose pimpled skin. The collar was too big and came up against her nose. She burrowed herself into the smell of sweat, leaves, dirt, soap, and Armani body spray (bought duty free from one of the many perfumeries that lined the main street of the country and beckoned shoppers in three languages to take advantage of the unique rebajas that only Andorra offered, that somehow put the tiny principality on the European map). She inhaled deeply, forgetting the damp cold spreading from the ground to the pack below her, forgetting the soreness in her muscles, and forgetting that she hadn’t initially wanted to come on this hike. The wind tossed up a few more drying leaves, then blew fiercely. The sky was—mercifully—clear. There’d be no torrent of rain at dusk today, though the temperature was steadily dropping. The wind whistled its disapproval. “It makes you feel so small,” Robert said finally, gesturing below. Katie nodded, her eyes boring into the heart of the valley. “Sublime,” she said, reaching for a word half-remembered from an old Romantic English literature college course some years back. “Like we could disappear.” Her heart skipped a beat as she spoke, thinking, as she had at a few other points in her life, how easy it could be…one false step off the sidewalk before the light turned, one wrong, unsure step off the side of a mountain. “It’s kind of peaceful,” he said. “Being up here. Away from it all—from teaching.” He glanced at her. She continued looking at the valley, the way the city burrowed from the center of the valley up into the sloping mountain sides, each apartment complex and house slotted into layers stacked like steps while the two main streets below intersected with small cobblestoned alleyways. Those tiny streets seemed like snakes curving to the motion of the glacier-fed river, which cut through the center of the city.

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Cathe Shubert “It’s nice.” She tried to see if she could spot her studio apartment from her spot on the trail. Each light below looked like a pinprick. “I’m glad,” Robert said, his shoulders falling down away from his ears, his brown eyes warming. “I knew you’d like it once we got underway.” He reached his arm out and slung it across her shoulders. “There’s nowhere I’d rather be right now.” Katie tried to smile. “Not even in the refuge hut, with a fire crackling and our Don Simon uncorked—er, cut open?” Robert grinned back. “Okay, maybe one place. On that note.” He stood up. Katie felt the loss of his arm as she shivered for real in its absence. “We’re losing the light,” he said. “We should really get going. Don’t want to spend our six-month anniversary sleeping outside.” He was halfway back up the pile of scree, pack reset and straps recinched, before she’d even stood up straight. “Wait!” she said, untangling herself from the green fleece. “Your jacket.” “Keep it,” Robert called out from over his shoulder. “It’s getting cold.” Katie grunted and hoisted her pack up, wincing against the fresh digs the straps made into what felt like seared skin. The fleece did offer extra cushion, though not enough to keep her from feeling the synthetic material of the pack bite into her after hours of fighting gravity. They trucked along in silence, eyes on each carefully placed step around the rocks, which were growing bigger and bigger in size, yet harder and harder to see. The light was fully receding now, the shadows of the thinning trees and shortening shrubs different shades of bruises against the ground. At one point, Katie rolled her ankle and yelped in pain. “You okay?” Robert shouted from in front of her. Katie grimaced, doing her best to roll off the pain with tiny circles as she struggled to maintain her balance on the other leg with her injured foot inches circling off the ground. “Yeah,” she said through clenched teeth. “How much further?” She paused, glancing up to notice Robert staring with a frown in all directions around him. A sudden thought occurred to her. “Are you sure we’re going the right way?” “Of course!” he answered quickly, still scanning and squinting into the now complete darkness. “We’re fine.” He’d long since turned on the headlamp dangling around his neck and now reached down to snap it into place on his forehead, like a minimalist miner, the word diamond speckled on the sides of the headband. “Any minute now.” Katie fished a flashlight—a normal, pen-sized, handheld one—out of Robert’s fleece pocket, feeling a mixture of gratitude and annoyance for his boy scout-worthy level of preparedness and tenacity in pretending all was well. Flicking it on, she continued on behind Robert. He stopped every few minutes. Scanned the thinned out trees they were quickly leaving completely behind. Then shifted their direction to the left, then the right,

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Cathe Shubert until Katie felt like they were weaving in and out of the now-boulders that peppered the path without actually advancing up the mountainside. “Are we lost?” she squeaked. She felt her teeth clatter together. She wondered how cold it was. The temperature seemed to have dropped 20 degrees since they’d hit the trailhead—but even Katie knew she was prone to exaggerate. “Are there mountain lions here?” she asked, for perhaps the twentieth time since Robert had suggested the trip. “No,” Robert bit down on the word. “How many times do I have to tell you, NO. There may be a fox or two. And they’ll be way more scared of you.” Katie’s heart pounded. She picked up her pace so she was closer to Robert, so close in fact she almost careened into him, sending them both off balance for a moment before Robert righted both of them by steadying himself on a nearby boulder. They continued on, the wind getting fiercer without the trees to shield them from it, their pinprick flashlights growing sharper against the curtaining darkness. After Katie stubbed her toe—on her good foot, not the one she’d twisted earlier—and Robert started humming under his breath, she stopped and huffed loudly. “This isn’t right,” she said. Her voice heaved out as if a torpedo on the wind of her exhale. Robert whirled around so fast his Nalgene careened from his pocket and swung from a mini silver carabineer outside into the darkness past the thin, tiny halo of light his flashlight allowed his body. “What?” he yelped. Not for the first time, Katie felt a surge of pity mixed with annoyance and guilt. “I mean, it’s practically dark, we’ve been hiking for hours. We’re lost.” “We’re not lost! I’ve been following the blazes and there’ve been about a billion of them. Any minute—” He gestured towards a smattering of yellow on the enlarging rocks they’ve been hopscotching. “That’s a blaze?” she asked. “I thought so…it does look a little…” He shoved his flashlight closer to the rock. They kept walking. Robert hummed louder. Katie tried not to read the wind whipping through the scattered brush as animals stalking them, about to pounce at any moment. At last, Robert stopped. The moon had chased the sun completely out of the sky, and it was dark, actually dark now. “I’m sorry,” he croaked, sounding hard on himself. “I think we’re lost.” Katie bit her lip. “Okay…” “There was some patch of stone-free flattened land about five minutes back,” he said. “I’d brought my tent just in case. We can pitch it there.” Katie thought longingly of the promised stone-walled refugi—like a

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Cathe Shubert cabin! a house! not like camping, not really! that probably had blankets and candles, too!—but allowed Robert to pass her to take the lead in retracing their steps. She wondered when was the best time to inform him she’d forgotten her sleeping bag. The ground flattened slightly under her feet as the rocks gave way to a grassier patch. Robert set his pack gingerly on the ground and began to fish out gear as Katie flung her pack to the ground and stretched again. Robert connected the metal poles, sliding them through the edges of the nylon tent, reminding Katie of the big parachute her gym teacher had once brought out in middle school. She’d been staring at Robert for five minutes before it occurred to her she should be helping. She picked up the rain cover uncertainly, then heaved it over the tent. Without a word, Robert straightened from tightening the stakes and reversed the rainfly so the letters “REI” faced the sky. Feeling slapped, Katie shrunk back to her pack. “You’re the only person I know who would carry a tent across the Atlantic,” she said, almost as an accusation. Robert smiled. “You know me.” “So together,” Katie said, picking at her cuticles. The pointer finger on her left hand began to bleed. Robert’s smile strained. “Good thing, I guess.” This was the moment. “So, I forgot my sleeping bag.” Robert stared at her. “You WHAT?” “I know!” Katie cried, more baby-like than she wished. “I left it in Laia’s classroom. It was hers and I borrowed it and then I left it because I wasn’t sure we were still going and then I was rushed to catch the bus and we’d already started hiking by the time I realized what I did and then I thought we’d be fine if we got to the refuge…and anyway,” she finished, panting a little. She hadn’t taken a breath. “How cold does it get up here anyways? It’s been a warm fall. Indian summer, really.” Robert continued to stare at her like she was a stranger. “In the VALLEY!” “Don’t yell.” She sniffed. “I brought layers.” In response, Robert heaved himself, pack first into the tent, then popped back out to toss hers inside. She could hear him unzipping and unsnapping compartments to arrange everything inside the tiny dome with, if you asked her, quite a bit more fuss and rustle than necessary. Katie hesitated, then crouched inside, trying to find a comfortable seat in a space that, though marketed for two, probably would be more comfortable for one. She watched, half in awe, half in annoyed envy, as he unfurled what looked like a swimming raft from the pack, and began to blow it up. A tiny, one-person air mattress. “Here,” he growled, arranging it underneath her, poking at her thigh until she lifted herself up. “At least you’ll be off the ground somewhat.”

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Cathe Shubert Grateful, Katie arranged it more centered underneath her while Robert gathered up the food from his and her packs, shoving it in the stuff sack he’d untangled from his sleeping bag, which curled alongside her mat like a black, shiny, blue flannel lined caterpillar. He then crawled over her back outside the flapping doorway. “What are you doing?” He hesitated. “Bear bagging the food.” “WHAT?” she yelped. “It’s just precaution. There haven’t been bears sighted up here in years,” he said. He disappeared into the darkness for a few moments. Katie hastily zipped the tent shut in his absence, and jumped face first into the mesh roof when he returned. They settled into the tent, spreading out on their backs, but not before Katie donned every item of clothing she’d brought: two pairs of sweatpants, a sweater, a fleece, and a long, ear flapped hat she’d bought at a market in el Seu de Urgell a few weekends back. Robert swiped his headlight to the side and read from a book of Ezra Pound’s poetry while Katie shifted from side to side. No matter which way she shifted, there seemed, for all his efforts to find a clear, grassy spot, some sort of rock jutting out from under her, mat notwithstanding. “Let me know if you get cold,” he said, flipping a page. “’Kay,” she said, turning on her side away from him. “You tired?” he asked. “Yeah,” she said after a beat. He clicked off the light and slid close to her, spooning her body with his, tugging open his mummy sleeping bag as wide as it would go so it covered part of both of them. She curled tighter into a ball. “Thanks for being so great,” she whispered. “I don’t deserve it.” Katie listened to him hold his breath, then let it go quietly. “Why do you say things like that?” He wrapped his arms under her armpit and her back to pull her close. “I don’t know what you get out of this relationship,” she said, feeling hot and cold and claustrophobic in the tent. She felt his arms tighten around her, then slack like unharnessed rope. “There are so many things I love about you,” he whispered, his voice twisting like knotted rope. Katie felt herself stiffen. That was the closest he’d ever gotten to telling her he loved her awake. One time a few nights back, after watching a movie together in his bed, he’d fallen asleep and mumbled it to her as she’d slid the laptop off the bed and turned off the light. She remembered freezing and then sweating. She remembered wanting to open the window, her heart racing, her mind thinking, why, and her heart thudding, no, and her stomach twisting. “He’s everything you could ask for in a boyfriend,” she’d emailed a girl friend from home a month or so back.

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Cathe Shubert Her friend had written back, “If it’s right it’s right, if it’s not, it’s not. But he sounds great!” Katie shifted her body weight again, and in the process knocked his top arm off hers. “Sorry,” she said, “I just can’t get comfortable.” The wind shook the corner of the tent by their feet. “What was that?” Katie asked, jerking upright. “Robert?” she pressed when he didn’t answer. “It’s just the wind,” he said, lying flat on his back. His right arm still outstretched from where it had rested underneath her back, while his left arm, which she’d knocked off the top of her, now spread-eagled against the opposite side of the tent near the door flap. “Distract me,” she said, still sitting upright, wanting to avoid cuddling and thoughts of love and panic. He was quiet. “Anything happen at school today?” she pressed. He shrugged. “The kids presented their oral reports on New York City.” “Any good?” “Sure,” he said. He waited, furrowing his brow, opened his mouth, then closed it. “What?” “Nothing. You?” She launched into an animated tale about how one of her worst-behaved students refused to stop chatting in Catalan to his friends, how she’d floundered trying to figure out how to quiet the boy so she could teach, finally losing her mind and sending for the aide who worked in the office who sometimes pulled problem children out. She spoke first in English, and then, when it became clear he wasn’t fully grasping the full extent of the punishment, resorted to Spanish, which she knew much better than Catalan, despite the night classes she and Robert attended in attempts to improve their command of the country’s official language. Robert somehow had a knack for distinguishing between the languages and spoke “molt bé, com un natiu” whereas Katie’s coworkers teased her for speaking “Catañol” every time she tried Catalan. “And then he CHUCKED his pen at my head, it narrowly missed me and hit the projector, before shouting, “ANDORRA EZ NO SPAIN,” then sitting down and looking almost as shocked as the rest of the class, which had hushed.” She exhaled on this last detail, enjoying the theatricality of the moment of re-telling. She finally looked down at Robert, brought back into the present and out of the memory. His eyes were closed. “Am I boring you?” she asked. “Are we okay?” he asked, and the question was so abrupt and out of the blue for her that Katie sputtered. “I—I think so. I mean, I haven’t felt connected to you in weeks,” she answered at last. Robert winced as though she’d kicked him. “Ouch.”

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Cathe Shubert “I’m sorry! I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” she begged. “You’re so great, you’re the most considerate guy I’ve ever been with— ” “But,” he demanded. “You just want to go back to being friends.” “That seems really out of nowhere,” she insisted, starting to rock back and forth on her heels as she crouched into a ball. She wished the tent were big enough that she could pace. Robert scoffed. “You avoid my touch, you barely want to plan anything anymore, when we talk, it’s all about your classroom and you never seem to hear my stories, you’re forgetful—“ “That,” she interrupted, “is so unfair, I just ASKED you about your day—” “And you didn’t even wait for me to get going, you just launched into you. I feel like a sounding board for you, sometimes, and that’s it.” Katie reeled back onto her flat feet, stunned. “That’s horrible,” she admitted. She slid onto her back, feeling the cold, slightly damp Earth seep up past the mat into her skin. “I just—” “What do you want?” Robert whispered. To her horror, she started to cry. “Oh, no,” he said, voice edged with concern and what sounded a little like relief. He rolled to her once more, hugging her face into his chest. “Don’t cry.” The supposition made her cry harder. She cried for her student, who had stuck his tongue out at her as he was led away by the aide that finally arrived minutes after the pen chucking. She cried for the cold, for being so far from anything familiar, for being so bad at teaching. She cried for her adopted parents, back in Washington State, thousands of miles away, who called only to ask if she could help them untangle some social media issue for their auto parts business. She cried for herself, for wanting so badly to make it work with Robert, to prove to herself and her friends that the reason she’d never been in a serious relationship before now was because of long teaching hours, because she always picked emotionally immature and unstable men. She cried because for her birthday, Robert had gotten her jewelry, a gift that to her signified serious intentions, and the necklace was elegant and lay still in the box in her drawer, untouched. She cried because the last time she’d felt joy she’d been skipping stones on the craggy Pacific coast when she was eleven, and, try as she might, she could not muster up enough energy since. She cried, because she knew someday soon she’d have to tell Robert that he was right, that she did just want to be friends, but for now, he was all she had in this country where only four other people spoke English proficiently, and they were mostly retired British ex-pats who lived two towns over from the capital. She cried because even though she felt so out of sorts she couldn’t bear to say goodbye just yet. “I just want to go home,” she choked at last. She thought about saying, And I’m not ready for anything serious, but the wind picked up again, and

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Cathe Shubert she wondered if she broke up with him in the tent if he might make her sleep outside, feeling in some ways that she would deserve that. Robert stroked her hair. Kissed the top of her head. She sank into his chest. There was nowhere else to go tonight. She clung to his body. Drifted off. The next morning, they both awoke to the sound of birds, the light pale as slate against the walls of the tent. Barely dawn. They were both stiff from sleeping on stones and something that was revealed as some sort of gnarled root once Robert dismantled the tent. Katie stretched and surveyed the winding path they’d taken last night over the scree, which, by light of day, looked infinitely more dangerous and terrifying as it sloped straight up to a smaller, neighboring mountain peak. The rocks loomed, sharp and spiky and smattered with what looked like yellow-green spray paint. “Good job we stopped trying to climb that,” Robert said, shaking his head. He’d just finished breaking camp. Katie nodded, amazed. “What’s that yellow stuff?” she asked, pointing. Robert stiffened. “Moss. It’s what I thought the blazes were. I figured it out too late, I’d been following it instead.” He sounded gruff. Embarrassed, likely. “Wow,” Katie said. “We could have died.” Robert swung around without a word and began stomping up the path—which by light of day looked so manicured compared to the rest of the rocky bald face that Katie wondered how on earth they ever managed to get off track. The path led immediately up a steep hill that hadn’t been visible to them in the dark last night. She hurried to follow Robert up the hill, feeling contrite and eager in the brightening morning light. “I’m so glad you had the tent,” she called up to him as he huffed himself up the increasingly steep incline. In the distance, Katie thought she heard bells. Without speaking, without really thinking, she knew even before she saw it that, as soon as she and Robert crested the hill and could see over the side of it, she’d see the refuge nestled just a five-minute walk from their campsite. A flock of goats and cows grazed just outside the stone hut. They tilted their heads on their bell-laden necks as if to ask, what took you?

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Dante Di Stefano Einstein’s Sparrow for my father-in-law There is the simple fluency of air to contend with, the way the wind will mouth amen, amen, amen until your grief turns to water, or a current of ash. And then, in twilight, you are dreaming bones in the shape of the body you once knew, and loved, and married yourself to, always, only time has turned into a silken triangle tucked in your shirt pocket. Your great-grandmother folded her linens in the same way one hundred years ago. Your father’s love letters to your mother were folded thus and lost in a basement. But you did not wed yourself to this shape, or that garment; you wed yourself to flight. Albert Einstein dreamt of the perfect wing in Zurich, long before the Luftwaffe, the cattle cars, and the atomic bomb. His wing had nothing to do with all that, or Newton, for that matter; it was light from a star, bent by the sun’s gravity. When the sickness came, she stayed bedridden until the end. The dog with big doe eyes looked on from the corner. Angel statues and tiny glass birds looked on from the shelves. You massaged her feet because they hurt; her whole body was valved in pain and there was no breeze to disguise this suffering, no way to call this holy, or keep time’s bending away from her. Sometimes death is a room, you thought, with one unpainted patch on the ceiling to stare at. If only a sparrow would come

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Dante Di Stefano to the windowsill to threshold a song. If only the statuary of the dying were more than mere filaments of braided smoke. Cancer is the arrow breaking apart in the body. It is flint, the flint tip of the arrow sparking as it hits rib. It is what the arrow knows in its arc, what the air whistles to its atoms. All of science, the universe, this hour, proves itself in doubt, the dream of a wing made perfect, held in the part of her mind that had not succumbed to the more-light of last-breath, and there is no way to recall her pupils then, flitting from side to side, become a shadow of sparrow over the graveyard, over your own wedding day.

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Allison Donohue My Date with a Woodcutter I didn’t think he’d bring his ax. But there it was belted to his hip as we entered the animal shelter. I’d wanted to see what he looked like inside with animals in cages instead of wild. His boots and the hem of his denim pants trailed vermiculations of dirt as we circled the pets. And when I asked about his work he brought up the giant rainworm of Baden, pointing to the dachshund’s length in comparison. Pick one, I said. And he laughed an echo when the hound rolled on her back in the play-area grass. The dog heeled when he whistled. The way even his hands carried weight as he pawed me with his tacky, sanitized palm; I’d wanted to know how he’d react when provoked. The animals just watched as he leaned in close smelling of slobber and earth, the forest he’d walked here from. Melaleuca leaves, winds keys, he spoke vernally. Birch scent like sweat to his neck, faintly. He threatened me unlike any other man. Like an approaching wind with a sky to make you run. I meant awe.

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Hannah Dow Not My Day I am at another wedding not my own, feeling like I’m as important enough to be here as the carpet’s fringe— a nice addition, if pointless and occasionally in the way. I’m in a new dress, but Jesus is the only one who knows it, and not just because he saw me cut off the tags and slide it over my head this morning, but because he stares at me while everyone else looks to the altar, where the action happens, though I wouldn’t call it that—for all their hype and eternal implications, ceremonies feel so uneventful. Do you mind sharing your limelight? I ask Jesus, because no one but me notices him or the way his muscles thrust in chiseled pain. The priest says something about bodies— how two become one, and I imagine bride & groom joined at the hip, like the plastic couple perched this very moment on their three-tier vanilla cake,

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Hannah Dow and the pain of being irreversible, altered this way. Jesus says this wedding was his idea. He likes bringing people together, likes parties, and says the wedding of two bodies is pretty much the same altering thing that happens when I let him inside of me. So I married Jesus today, and I should have known this when I first walked down that aisle—he hasn’t taken his eyes off me yet, and it’s not even my day. Do I think he’ll make a good husband? Not if I’m the jealous type. I don’t think I’ll like the way he loves everyone equally or watches every woman in the world undress before slipping into bed.

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Anna M. Evans The Curse of the Fifth When your mother is dying, it is likely your daughters will be beautiful and oblivious because they have just discovered what their half-smile does to boys. Meanwhile you will be lumpen, peri-menopausal. This is called natural timing. Therefore, it should not surprise you that, on the night they turn off your mother’s machines, you have the period from hell. This is called poetic justice. You are grateful for the wise, competent nurse who shares, in a horse whisperer’s voice, that she doesn’t think your mother will last more than an hour more. This is called guilty hope. Because, although you doubled up, the blood is already pooling in your underwear, a dampness more shameful than the one on your cheeks. This is called the impossible bind. Your mother has been dying for weeks. But now she’s actually dying. Bloodlessly. And you are the one who is bleeding. This is called bloody irony.

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Anna M. Evans You are holding your mother’s hand, imploring her to hear how much you love her, and what you are thinking is, what you are remembering is, how she cried when you got your period because your aunt was born wombless. This is called inappropriate association. And you are hoping—hoping!— that this won’t go on much longer because of the blood, your blood, for which she was back then so weepily happy. This is called a woman’s lot. Finally she does die. For several minutes you forget the swampy mess between your thighs because it’s only you now. You are the last woman bleeding. You are motherless. This is called being alone. Then you remember your father, who is also alone, back at home, so you waddle out of the basement depths of the ICU and finally there is a bathroom. This is called heaven in hell. Four weeks later, approaching the anniversary of your mother’s death, you are weeping uncontrollably in the grocery store when you realize the unfortunate synchronization. This is why it is called the curse.

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William Fargason For My Father When, in over a year since I’d last seen him, I get his letter—at first I don’t recognize his handwriting: clunky all capital letters, almost dug into the page. before even words, we didn’t speak the same In sharp passing, he mentions the bender that put me in just after last Christmas. He, who got too ruffled on most phone calls to keep calling. my sound without echo, his without limit I type him back a little something— don’t send it. But could’ve—. It wasn’t so much that he couldn’t understand as that he wouldn’t. the constant constant of his opinion In another one of his usual fits, my mother tells me he’d thrown something at my sister again, then crumpled down into the couch like always, eyes full of fury, almost-tears like a child. promising a future I won’t participate in Those thunderstorms in spring, the heat-lightning silence in between—

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William Fargason back again, more frequent. We all knew they’d come, just not when. that part of me apart from me The rule, not the exception, when he made me feel guilt—in what used to be my house, too— over this distance, neither of our faults. my anger at his like a top spun spinning I remember him helping me move out of my apartment. He swept a broom across my popcorn ceiling, knocking down dust that fell like ash, fell like snow. his papier-mâché face layered thicker Some Sundays too when I’d visit, he and I would get stuck riding back after Mass. He took his breaths slow as if the air was his to take. the fractured person he left leaving him fractured Questions spooled off, filling the car— dull balloons. He, who asked only to fill the silence—because he never knew exactly what to do with silence… the space between defined as —but the words moved out before us like a stone skipped across, then sinking into the lake behind the house, which by then, in the heat of near August, had to be down at least a foot.

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Mary Jo Firth Gillett The Dying Mother The single purple daylily in her Art Deco vase, her skin translucent as moonstone. The falling, the breaking, the six units of blood, the never-the-same, the bone-on-bone shoulder pain, her fierce heart chugging on. And her voice, “I have a right to die,” and her voice, “I changed my mind.” The Vaseline® on cracked lips, how she gummed my fingers and bedding and hospital gown. Then hospice, her sunken cheeks, bony chin a ship’s figurehead jutting into the storm. We taste but cannot swallow her grief, labored sucking in of air, twenty seconds between breaths, on, on. More morphine, and she stops, mouth slack. The relief, the guilty relief. Then saying to the body snagged words not said before. My brother’s question—did you sense her soul leave? My non-believer grief. Oh, where are her teeth? And the house— boxes of clippings, coupons, costume jewelry, new sweaters, nighties, stationary saved “for best,” the sheet music, the piano, canvases unpainted, thousands of untried recipes on 3 x 5’s, copied in perfect script. All the cold green lizards of grief.

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Sierra Golden Divorce from C, the woodworker Love is a vise. The silly flush of it becomes tight as tentacles, the weight of a blue whale. The act of it work beyond the shape of my hands. I want love to be a featherweight, wish I could dovetail my words with but. I would say but this error is the sign of love but not even the rain has such small hands, but our relationship is a body and we will not dismantle it, bone by bone. In the dark I walk by the neighbor’s boat—a skeleton waiting for skin— kept in a rundown shed lit from within. The shipwright lugs a steam box into place, planes luminous broad beams, and lays the keel like a spine. He knows what we don’t. The slow art of bending ribs, to find the breaking point night after night. To stop short.

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Ashley Mace Havird Late for Reading, 1959 Skinny second-grade sharecropper boys: straw-headed, lizard-eyed, sores scratched open. Nehi for supper, Baby Ruth for lunch. Cussing already. They run in packs. They drink no milk. They eat no peas. First week of first grade. I don’t know the ropes. Past swings, coal pile, whitewashed gym—I’ve gone too far. Red apple half-eaten in my hand. They brush no teeth. Heavy-sweet hedge, honeysuckle to pluck to touch to tongue-tip. Yellow jackets swarm. First bell. I drop the apple before it stings. They kiss no mother. Three—long-legged, too fast. Cheek fisted down, mouth spitting grit. Up my dress, ragged nails dig past elastic. Last bell rings. I’m late for Reading. They live in dust. Find home in fields.

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Ashley Mace Havird

Fifty Child with the lost name, it was your skin that stood you with the others of your kind at the barn working our tobacco, when the tractor, through heavy morning fog, towed in for curing a drag stacked with cropped green leaves. And it nudged the pole that held the roof. And the pole felled you. Skin whiskey brown as Catfish Creek. Come afternoon my father’s jittery hands gripped his Super-8. Preserved for posterity the ringlets, crinoline, back-bowed sashes of my birthday party. Off to one side Mattie in her good uniform, face behind her hands. No word uttered about what happened down by the swamp. Ten candles sputter out. Jesse leads in the horse I’d begged for. It fills the frame. Forty years later to the day, my father, after too many stiff ones, spills the beans. Those were the days before people knew about suing folks for a fortune. He paid for your funeral, for everything. Sent flowers. Even visited your family, even sat in your house. Name? Honey, that was a long time ago. He believes you were ten, like me. Happen nowadays—he knocks back the Jack— he’d be sued in a snap.

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Mackenzie Evan Smith My Morning, Your Night The contents of the suitcase—dirty underwear tossed in, Lilly’s

dresses sandwiched together, toiletries in a gallon Ziploc bag—made Raj want to vomit. It all still smelled like Lilly, like vanilla and honey. Her parents had said that he, as her fiancé, could have whatever he wanted from the suitcase. They had the rest. Her baby blanket, the Jasmine Halloween costume, the high school uniforms and college diploma, a whole life with Lilly, while he had—what? A couple of years? The stuff in her suitcase, packed by her classmate, was the least they could give him. Raj, at home in Pittsburgh, had learned of Lilly’s death just hours after it happened. Lilly had returned from her Hindi classes to the YMCA Hotel in Connaught Place where she was staying. Once in her room, she walked onto her balcony in just her towel—maybe to get a clean shirt? Her laundry still hung over the railing when they cleaned up her room—and she slipped and fell over the railing hitting the concrete four floors below. The girl in the next room, who was also in her language program, heard her scream. She flew down the stairs, but it was over. The web of voices that carried the news to Raj was small: the girl in the language program, Hannah; their program director; Lilly’s parents. The facts stood in a neat row in Raj’s mind but they didn’t help him untangle the line of events that had created a world without Lilly. He looked at the suitcase again. There was only one thing he wanted in there. It was, after all, for him. He dumped everything out. Once the suitcase was on the floor, once a layer of Lilly’s clothes covered their bedroom, he knew: the painting was gone. Hannah had agreed to meet Raj at the hotel. She stood in the lobby, her fingers tapping an iPhone. She was one of those women he had seen but never talked to, first in high school, then in college, and now as an adult. Her blonde hair was a perfect mess on her head, and she wore yoga pants under a baggie kurta. Her face shimmered with pink makeup, the kind that seems to get on everything, and she gripped an oversized leather bag under one arm. “Hannah?” She looked up, annoyed, no doubt, to be pestered by yet another Indian man. Then her face shifted. “Raj! Raj.” She reached out and hugged him, the leather bag like a small wall between them.

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Mackenzie Evan Smith “Hi,” he said. Her hug felt warm and real, and the comfort of it surprised him. No one had hugged him since Lilly’s death. He had hung back at the funeral in the States, watching others in their grief instead of displaying his own. There had been sorrys and handshakes, but Lilly’s parents were the recipients of the long hugs and the long looks that stood in place of words. Although he and Lilly had dated for two years, he had only met her parents once, shortly after he and Lilly had been engaged. He was just the fiancé, an interloper of sorts who would soon be washed from their lives. “Thank you for meeting me,” Raj finally said. “Of course, no worries.” Hannah paused. “I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine how you’re feeling. Lilly was so amazing. Such an amazing person.” Her face was fully focused on him. Her phone made a soft ding but she didn’t break his gaze. He wanted to nod in some way, but just returned her stare. “Um, are you hungry? Want to grab something to eat? It’s actually dinnertime in the cafeteria. And tonight is my last night at the YMCA before I finish language training and move into my new flat, so I can actually stand to eat here one more time.” She swung her head around the lobby toward the cafeteria and then back at Raj. “Lilly would have liked that,” she said. Her eyes didn’t meet his again. Raj looked around the place, the building where Lilly had died. A low, crumbling concrete railing on the balcony was decided upon as the culprit. Hannah had told him that all of the balconies were now being repaired. He had looked up at the building as he entered, looking for the balconies. Lilly’s room was in the back of the hotel. He had chosen to come here, but now that he was close, he couldn’t get any closer. He didn’t know if he wanted to stay there, in that moment, or if he wanted to leave the hotel, to leave India, all of it, forever. Grief seemed to divide most of his instincts. It was August, a few days after Raj and Lilly had planned to meet up. The plan had been that Lilly would finish her language program, and Raj would join her—his first trip to India in spite of the fact that his parents had been born in Chandigarh. They would travel north to where his parents were from and then keep going before Lilly began her research grant in Delhi in September. Raj would be with her. He would write. They would explore India, together. After the funeral, after Lilly had been cremated, after he had returned to their apartment, Raj had a choice. To get on the plane or not. He had told everyone who had asked, and there hadn’t been many, that he would not go, that the ticket was already cancelled. But then, days before he was scheduled to leave, he thought he should go. And he thought he was right to lie about the ticket. He wanted sink into that place alone. He wanted to see what Lilly had seen. Now, in the cafeteria, they scooped dhal and subjiz onto their plates and piled roti onto their trays. This felt natural but forgotten, like a language he

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Mackenzie Evan Smith had always known but no longer used. The dining room had concrete floors like the rest of the hotel and bad acoustics. Raj felt that every whisper shot across the room. Three hotel workers behind the buffet openly stared at Hannah and Raj. Lilly had talked about this—the constant stares she got from everyone, men, women and children. She had told him that it felt as if even the dogs in the streets had stared right into her. But these stares surprised him now; he had thought he would blend in with everyone else in India, but quickly realized he was still the other. In Pittsburgh, where he had gone to college and still felt most at home, he had come to understand that the city didn’t regard him in the same homey way. When people at parties asked where he was from, he’d smile and say “New Jersey.” It was the truth; he’d been born in New Jersey. But that, of course, wasn’t what they were after—they wanted to know where he really came from. He knew it wasn’t meant to be confrontational—most of the time—but the question had never stopped unsettling him. The Indian workers in front of him held that same question in their eyes: where are you really from? Raj listened to Hannah talk about her classes, the teaching placement she’d be starting soon and her thoughts on India. She talked confidently, filling each moment between them as they ate. He wondered if she had done this before, had been forced to deny some awful pain and somehow keep swinging on with life. Her experiences in India mirrored Lilly’s in many ways, and without absorbing the details of what she said, he enjoyed the rhythm of her thoughts: the steady climb of her stories and the swift fall of surprise that made up their summation. He had never done this with Lilly. With Lilly, every word and detail was part of the essential, connective tissue of life that made up her mind, her character, her being. But he couldn’t focus on what Hannah said. As Hannah told a story about a rickshaw ride—somehow the driver had convinced Hannah that she should try to drive the thing—he noticed her nail polish. “And so I’m driving like a fucking crazy person down this tiny street and this old guy with a chicken comes out of no—” “Where did you get that polish?” Raj interrupted. “What?” “The nail polish you’re wearing. Where did it come from?” He could hear the flicker of anger in his voice. “Oh, Raj. I’m so sorry,” she said, dropping her hands below the white tablecloth. “Lilly gave it to me. It didn’t occur to me that you’d recognize it or even notice.” “She always wore that color, always,” he said. His anger settled somewhere in his gut. The polish was a bright coral color. Raj had never once seen her without it, from the day they met to the last day he saw her sweeping through airport security toward her departure gate. Raj knew it

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Mackenzie Evan Smith was coral, and not just gaudy orange-pink as he had originally thought, because he had asked Lilly about the polish on their fifth date. He knew it was their fifth date because Lilly had kept count and announced the number of times they’d gone out at the end of each date. She counted for months, a sense of excitement in her voice as she ended each date with a “Sixteen now, wow!” By date number five, he had noticed that she never wore another color and had finally gathered the nerve to ask her about it. “Lilly, why do you always wear that?” he had asked. “Wear what?” she asked, not glancing down at herself but instead looking around the restaurant. Her hair was short and dyed a deep blue that week, something like the color of an evening ocean, something close to the color of her eyes. “The orange nail polish?” “It’s not orange. It’s coral. The color is called ‘California Coral’ and I wear it because it makes me feel glamorous and grown-up.” “You want to feel grown-up and glamorous and yet wear dresses with sneakers every day?” Raj pushed. “Hey, my dresses are classy and I’ve got to be comfortable, hence the shoes. It’s a look that’s taken a long time to cultivate.” “You’re twenty-four.” “Two decades is a long time to spend thinking about how you look.” She was so earnest, her eyes not leaving his. This was how she traveled though life, always. And it was how Raj wanted to travel, too. Hannah was full of more apologies: “I had no idea. I’m so, so sorry. Lilly had an extra bottle, so she gave it to me.” Raj reassured her that it had just surprised him, thrown him out of his head for a moment. They ate their dinner. “So, you said you wanted to go to Delhi Haat?” Hannah asked. “You wanted me to show you where Lilly got you the painting?” Raj had known once he decided to come to India to be here without Lilly, that he could really only endure the trip if he had a goal. A concrete plan. Something that would lead him through India and then release him back to the States once he was finished. “Yes. Yes, please. Can we go now?” he asked. “Of course. But the thing about Delhi Haat is that the venders rotate every few weeks. I don’t know if the same seller will be there.” Raj nodded and glanced at the buffet line. The three workers still stood eyeing him, even when he looked up and stared back. Although the sun had crawled below the skyline, the heat at the market still radiated from the concrete and swam up Raj’s body. Little stalls lined the market’s walkways and lanterns hovered above. Scarves, wooden carvings, kurtas, jewelry, miles of fabric. Lilly had not told him about this

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Mackenzie Evan Smith place in detail and now he understood why. He watched tourists wander the stalls, their eyes fixed on trinkets, rattling off lists of people to buy stuff for: “Aunt Margie, Mrs. McAllister, Sophie….” She had told him that the market featured crafts from all over India, and that she had bought a Madhubani painting from Bihar. The stall had held just Madhubani paintings, all used for celebrations—weddings, births and holidays—and depicted colorful, large figures and bulbous animals, giving them a strange otherworldly quality, according to Lilly. She had bought the painting to celebrate their engagement. Lilly had proposed to Raj on a Friday night in early spring. They had just finished binge-watching season four of Breaking Bad and she had made peanut butter cookies with hunks of chocolate pressed on top. There was some party to go to, but they didn’t go. She talked of the research she was excited to start in India, which was funded by a fellowship at Pitt and focused on women’s craft collectives. He told her of profile and story ideas he had for India. She stopped to finish a bite of cookie. “Raj, will you marry me?” He didn’t know if she was joking, but before he had time to consider, the word “yes” slipped from his mouth. That memory danced with his memory of the painting. She had held the painting up during a Skype conversation. “I wanted to wait, but I couldn’t. I had to show it to you,” she said, the painting bobbing up and out of view in her excited hands. She told him how different this painting was from the others. It was only black and white instead of those large and colorful creatures, its image a warren of streets and buildings and people, all tiny with blurred edges as if moving across the canvas. “It’s Patna,” she said, “The largest city in Bihar.” The painter had been there only once and had sketched the scene during his visit. He told her that he had wanted to fill in the black lines of the painting, but every time he started to do so, he couldn’t decide on a color. Above the swirls and packed lines of the painting stood an empty sky, the canvas blank. “I love it,” Raj told her, “I can’t wait to hold it.” “The painters are all in the back,” Hannah said now. She moved quickly in front of him through the crowd. Raj saw that she was adept at moving through swaths of locals and tourists alike. He now understood that they were different skills. When they had left the hotel and headed toward the metro, she had walked an even pace and kept her face pointed toward the ground. The crowds on the street parted with her presence. Now she bobbed through the tourist traffic, taking up less space in the world and becoming almost unnoticed. The back of Delhi Haat felt more chaotic, with paintings and large wooden carvings spilling out onto the walkways. The tourists had thinned out, perhaps having made it through their shopping lists at this point.

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Mackenzie Evan Smith Hannah stayed focused, approaching each seller and letting a string of Hindi fall. She reported the results of each interaction: “They say there’s no one from Bihar here. But they said that stall down there might know when they’ll return.” And then at another stall: “He said there is a stall from Bihar.” They wandered into the last unturned corner of the market. “I think this is it,” Hannah said, her eyes swinging over the paintings on the ground. “I remember some of this stuff.” “It looks like all the other stalls,” Raj said. All of the paintings had the same shapes and colors, the same big bodies and with large, dark eyes. “No, this is it!” Hannah smiled and then launched into more Hindi with a woman in the stall. The woman watched Raj as Hannah spoke. She wore a kurta over a pair of jeans. “Ok, I’ll get him,” she said to Hannah and disappeared, melting into the back of the tent. “She speaks English,” Hannah said. “I’d guess most of the sellers do?” Raj said, hoping this didn’t come out wrong. He almost said more, more about Hannah’s capable Hindi and more about Lilly’s Hindi. He had liked to think of her navigating the world with words that made no sense to him. She had always operated in her own language, so it made sense that she would flourish in learning another language. He remembered a word she had used a lot. Bes—enough. She had taken to saying it at the end of their daily Skype conversations. Bes, she would say, I’ve got to get to bed, my love. Let’s talk again in my morning, your night. He thought of telling Hannah now how his own parents only spoke Punjabi to each other and never to him or his sister growing up. They wanted their children’s English to be American, the implication being that learning Punjabi would somehow mar this ambition. As an adult, Raj regretted that he knew no Punjabi, that the way he looked and the American culture he called home were such stark divisions within him. Instead of voicing this to Hannah, he let his thoughts settle on what he would say to the painter. What did he hope to find here? Would buying another painting make anything better? Lilly was still dead. He was still alone and unemployed. His parents didn’t even know he was in India. He rarely spoke to them and each time he did call the conversation devolved into a fight about the basic building blocks of life. These blocks—a job that led to a career that could support a family and a 401K—were the only thing between him and success, according to his parents. If only he could organize his life into a useful pattern, he’d be happy. That last part was never said. It had never actually occurred to Raj that his parents only wanted the best for him. They had always seemed in opposition to the things he held close. Stories, music: for Raj, these things had always made life not only possible, but also meaningful. His parents were bewildered by his need to stay in his room listening to music and reading. They wanted to know, what did these things have to do with the meaningful work of building a life? In their eyes,

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Mackenzie Evan Smith he had failed in every basic step toward adulthood. The only person, in fact, who had not thought of his life as a failure was Lilly. A man appeared. Hannah began talking to him and gesturing towards Raj. “…so he came to meet you. To see if you had any other paintings like the one Lilly bought.” “Hi,” Raj interjected. “Hello, Rajesh. I’m Akhil,” he said slowly as if Raj didn’t speak English. No one had used Raj’s full name for years and it didn’t sound like it belonged to him anymore. “I’m sorry to hear about Lilly. It is a tragic loss,” Akhil said. His face was twisted with the strange sorrow that people wore when they learned about Lilly. Raj knew the face. But then he saw that there was something else: a real sadness. “Thank you,” Raj said. He had said thank you so many times since Lilly’s death. Thank you for coming. Thank you for saying that. Lilly would have loved to hear that; thank you. He was not thankful for any of it. “I have something for you,” Akhil said, and retreated into the stall again. He was gone for several minutes. Hannah didn’t look at Raj. He looked at her as she leafed through each painting in the stall, her face never looking up to catch his. He watched her with only part of himself. Raj wondered if a piece of himself—a sizeable chunk, really—would always be in another place, a place where Lilly had lived and things were as they should be. He saw himself in one life, his real life, going back to school, getting a good job and finding someone new to bide his days with. But. But. That parallel track, always a glimmer of his life with Lilly. He could see them living in Italy together, the book he’d write, the research Lilly would do. He could see Lilly’s stomach swell, could see their home, could see their intended life stretching before them, plain and wild and fascinating in its intensity. Akhil returned and unrolled the painting. His painting. “Lilly came back. She wanted to add this,” Akhil said, his hand floating across the canvas. In the sky above the cityscape, lived a new world depicted in paint. In a maze of scenes, one after another, he saw two tiny figures standing beside each other. In the next scene, tiny blocks of life, one of the figures alone with a book, the other standing in a miniature market. And there were more scenes: a baby, a home. “You know what it is,” Akhil said softly. “It’s us,” Raj said. “It’s our life.” Raj had met Lilly at Kava Han, the coffee shop he worked at for three years after college. She had come in, ordered a hot chocolate and then stood at the register taking him in. He would learn later that she was immune to uncomfortable silences. “Where are you from?” she said after what felt like a minute, a minute in which Raj didn’t walk away to start making the hot chocolate, but instead stood facing Lilly, uncertain of what kept him there.

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Mackenzie Evan Smith “New Jersey,” he said. “That’s what I thought! You’re Raj, right? Brandon’s friend?” “Yea, we were freshman roommates.” “He’s in my Econ class and mentioned that his best friend is also from Marlboro, New Jersey, and works at Kava Han,” she said, as if any of that connection made sense. “Oh! I’m from Marlboro,” she added. Raj couldn’t say that it was love at first sight, but once Lilly entered his head, there she stayed. Holding the painting in his arms, Raj didn’t feel the relief or comfort that he had hoped this visit would bring. When he stepped off the plane in India, he had known that this place could only hold him for so long. But now he would need to consider not only Lilly and the hole she had left in his world, but what might lie beyond that. There had been something deeply meaningful that they had seen in each other, some essential element of life that Raj would either have to chase again, or let die along with Lilly. Raj followed Hannah out of the market. He watched her, a few steps ahead, move at a pace he couldn’t match. But then she stopped ahead of him and stood in front of a woman sitting on the ground. The woman didn’t have a stall. In front of her lay a crescent of toy wooden flutes and tabla drums for sale. She looked up, her eyes bouncing onto Raj, before handing a flute to Hannah. Two children galloped up to the toys as he watched Hannah turn the toy over in her hands, her nails glinting California Coral in the evening sun. The children said something he couldn’t understand—was it Punjabi? “They say it’s beautiful,” Hannah said softly. Raj wanted to ask what was beautiful—the toy, the painting, the sun sliding away from the market—but instead he nodded.

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Francisco Uribe Villa Paraíso I sat on the top of a wooden crate filled with tomatoes. I was

surrounded by family: Aunt Inez, Uncle Pablo, and Juan—my cousin. I was in the back, sitting in the pickup’s cargo area, and I felt alone. My mother sat in the front with Abuelo, who was driving us in his ’70s red trailer truck. “El trai-le” as Abuelo proudly called it was actually an ordinary Chevy pickup he had attempted to modify into a big rig-looking kind of truck. The sides of the truck’s cargo area had been boarded up with rough planks of wood, five feet high, and light filtered in through small, splintered cracks. Sheets of brown canvas covered the top of the truck’s cargo area. Those sheets made el trai-le look more like a covered wagon from the times of the Oregon Trail. Across my feet, heads of lettuce and small limes rolled back and forth. It was on every Monday and Thursday that Mi Abuelo transported fruits and vegetables from the big city to his small produce market. But instead of produce, he had picked my mom and me up from the city’s international airport and was taking us to Villa Paraíso—a small rural town in the outskirts of Jalisco, Mexico. Confined as we were, I could not see the faces of my relatives. I only saw moonlight reflected in their eyes. Moonlight that crept in from slits in the truck’s canvases. For some reason I avoided looking into their unfamiliar eyes, but then I turned, trying to find Aunt Inez’s face. She’d asked, “Tienes una chamarra, a jacket? It’s going to get cold once we get on the highway.” She spoke to me in Spanish, but in my head I tended to translate some of the words into English. “No. No tengo,” I said softly. Inez turned to her son. “Juan, give your cousin your chamarra.” Juan handed me his red windbreaker jacket. He was fifteen, three years older than I was. And even though we were both in our adolescence, those three years—at that age—divided us more than I understood. When we got on the highway, it became icy cold. Above us, the truck’s canvases flapped insistently. Juan’s red jacket was more than a few sizes too big, but it did keep me warm. It was early in the morning, and the sun had not begun to rise. The city lights were behind us, and we found ourselves on a dark, desolate Mexican highway. I couldn’t see anyone around me. I only heard their voices. My Uncle Pablo’s voice asked if I remembered him from the time when he used

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Francisco Uribe to live with us, in Modesto. I told him I didn’t. He said, “Well, I guess not. Since, after all, you were just a bebé then.” But I did remember him. It wasn’t from the time when he had lived with us. It was from the last time I was in Villa Paraíso. I was six back then, and I saw my uncle crying. It struck me odd because he didn’t show any emotions while doing so. Tears ran down the sides of his stubble cheeks. His face calm and vacant. I’d come with my mom that time because Mi Tata-Abuela was dying. She could no longer eat, walk, or do pretty much anything. I remembered hearing her mumbling to herself: incoherent words that frightened me. She was drunk on medicines. My mom must have seen how anxious I was because she commanded me to go to the corral and play. That’s where I found Juan. He was squatting and playing with a mountain of dirt. I went to him and said, “Hola.” “Hola,” he said back. Crouching next to him, I saw how his brown hands kept caressing a mountain of dirt until it was smooth. I wanted to say something, but I couldn’t. I could never find the right words to say around people until they were long gone. But he—keeping his dark-brown eyes on his little hill— asked, “Me quieres ayudar?” “Si. I’ll help,” I said. “I’m building a ‘volcán.’ Ve coleccionando, the dry leaves and twigs that are around the corral. But make sure they’re dry, seco, and bring them to me.”​ I did as Juan wanted me to, and by the time I came back with the dry items in my hand, he’d finished digging a hole that ran from the side to the top of the little hill. He forced the twigs and leaves into the hole. He grabbed a piece of newspaper from the back pocket of his ripped, dirt-stained blue jeans and shoved it alongside the twigs and dried leaves.  Juan  struck a match against a concrete block and lit the newspaper with the match. The mound erupted with smoke and fire. The smoke wavered in the air and slowly enveloped both Juan and me. Sitting on top of the wooden, fruit-filled crate,  with Juan’s chamarra keeping me warm, I wondered if he remembered that moment. That eruption. El trai-le began to twist and turn. I had to hold on to the truck’s planked side. El trai-le finally began slowing down and turned into a cobblestoned street. The truck shook up and down. I felt queasy. With my body shuddering, I peered through the cracks and saw many beautiful multicolored houses.  The morning mist somehow made its way into my mouth, and it had a pleasant taste of wet dirt. We came to a complete stop. “Por fin, we are here,” yawned Juan. We were at Abuelo’s house. I gave Juan back his jacket and made my

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Francisco Uribe way out of the truck. When I jumped off el trai-le, my legs wobbled as I hit the ground. I vomited. The flight and drive had made me nauseous, but the jump proved to be too much, and my body rejected outright everything I’d previously eaten. The next day was a Sunday. Tradition was, and I guess still might be, that on Sunday nights, after church, anyone who was looking for a distraction from the dullness that came with living in a small-rural village made their way to “la plaza.” My mom and Aunt Inez thought it would be a good idea if I went, so they arranged for Juan to take me there. When Juan came to pick me up at  Abuelo’s  house, two other boys surrounded him. Juan’s friends made me more nervous than I already had been. They were older than I was, but they were also much more boisterous. This came naturally to them. There was a wildness about them. There’d be times not long after that night when I tried imitating them. Their attitude. Their demeanor. Their fearlessness. But that’s all it was—an imitation. Before I left Abuelo’s house, my mom called out to me, “Cuidade, okay? Be careful, very careful. Ven, toma esto. Here’s some money. In case you get hungry, you can buy something to eat.” She extended her arm. I reached and grabbed a few bills from her soft-warm hand. Juan introduced his companions. Aldo and Ramiro. Ramiro was brown and shorter than Juan and Aldo, who was the tallest of the three. Aldo’s height, however, wasn’t as imposing as his pale skin. I later learned his classmates called him Casper, but never to his face. “Mira,” said Aldo as he pulled out a short string of red firecrackers, “We’re going to have fun esta noche.” A few minutes after leaving Abuelo’s house, we reached la plaza, the town’s main square. At the center was el kiosco, an elevated bandstand with a tan ceramic tile roof. There was no band playing inside the stand, only kids racing around. La plaza was where the town’s people, young and old, came and walked circles around el kiosco. Everybody was nicely dressed. For the most part people had just gotten out of church, which was right next to la plaza. The plaza itself seemed to be an extension of the church, with el kiosco as the town’s true holy symbol and shrine. White smooth concrete benches ran alongside the circular pathway that encircled the bandstand. The pathway was raised two feet off the street and decorated with red and orange floor tiles. Short-ornate lampposts illuminated la plaza, and white Christmas lights dangled from one tree to the other. Couples walked, hand in hand. Young girls strolled with their friends, pretty in their dresses. And young guys gallivanted around, sticking their chests out like proud roosters. “Are you going to ask anyone for a walk?” Ramiro asked Juan. “Not tonight.”

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Francisco Uribe “What about Vero? Don’t you always walk once around el kiosco with her?” “She’s mad at me for talking to Karla.” “Ay caray. Well, how about your cousin? He should ask a pretty girl to go around. Diablos, he’s from el Norte, no girl is going to say no to him.” “How about it?” my cousin asked me. “No. No lo creo. I don’t feel that well.” My voice cracked. “Hell, he’s afraid,” Aldo jumped in. “Hey niño, aren’t there any muchachas in el Norte. What about those pretty gringas with their strawberry-blonde hair? Diablos, I can see you probably never even talked to a girl…Are you a maricón or what?” I felt my face reddened. We walked around and followed one pretty girl after another. Some girls occasionally gave us a shy smile and a quick stare. Then they’d turn to one of their friends, whisper something, and laugh nervously among themselves. “Look, can’t you see? They like you,” Aldo said to me. “Come on, go and ask one of them for a walk.” “A walk?” “Yeah, porque no? Ask them to go for one walk around el kiosco. Aver, cual muchacha do you like?” “I saw him looking at Sonia,” said Ramiro. Sonia, I realized, was the name of the girl who I’d kept looking at. She was tall and a bit older too. She wore a white outfit that looked like a quinceañera dress. It swayed as she walked in her white heels. She wore over her dress a green soft-cotton sweater. Her long, dark-brown, silken hair touched the bottom of her back; it was tied with a white-satin ribbon, and the fringes of her hair flowed straight down, covering her eyebrows and resting on top of her long eyelashes. Her ears—because they were decorated with small, silver, heart-shaped earrings—glittered under la plaza’s white lights. Of course, we began trailing her. Aldo whispered into my ear. He wanted me to go and make a move on Sonia. He kept pushing me out in front, closer to her. But each time he did that, I nervously slowed my pace, until I fell behind Aldo, Ramiro, and Juan. Finally, Aldo got fed up and said, “Míra. Watch me.” He stealthily approached Sonia from behind, got close to her, and unexpectedly lifted her dress high above her waist, revealing her white cotton underwear. Sonia shrieked in horror and in anger. She quickly regained her composure, turned around, and punched Aldo in the face. Aldo let himself fall to the ground and laughed maniacally. “You better never do that to me otra vez,” cried out Sonia. “Van aver, I’m going to get my brothers. They’re going to give you a paliza. Just wait and watch. You’re going to regret what you just did to me! Pendejo!” Aldo was completely amused, but he thought it best we leave la plaza. They all assured me that we didn’t want to run into Sonia’s brothers, who

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Francisco Uribe were rumored to run with a bad crowd. Before we left, however, Aldo took out his firecrackers, lit them, and threw them into a crowd of people. A few seconds later we heard the pops! and the screams. We were walking down an alley, completely in the dark. The only lights that illuminated us were the many stars that flickered above and the moon, which partially was covered by a low-floating cloud. A few large dogs began following us. They were strays. Aldo used those dogs as target practice. He would pick up rocks from the gravelly road and throw them at them. The dogs whimpered when pelted, but for some reason they never showed any aggression. After some time, Aldo quieted down. Ramiro yawned, and Juan walked quietly. It seemed that there was nothing else to do. The air felt heavy and humid, and it had a strange odor. I sniffed and asked Juan what that smell was. He looked at me and motioned with his head to a wall with a red flag, “You see over there, behind that wall, they slaughter chivas, vacas, y otra cosas.” Large bloodstains colored the sidewalk. Those faded-red stains flowed from underneath a black, large-metal fence onto the graveled street. “And that dried sangre?” I asked. “That’s the blood from the animals they kill. La sangre runs down into the calle. The animals that are not sold,” he added, “are left to rot under the hot sun.” Just then we heard the mumblings of an old man. A drunk. He was sitting and leaning against the shadowy wall of the slaughterhouse. His white hair shone brilliantly in the moonlight. His eyebrows were thick and gray and covered with dirt. In his hand, he held an old dusty coat. The drunkard talked nonsensically to himself. Scattered around were browncolored beer bottles. Aldo’s eyes gleamed, “It’s el borracho,” he said and picked up one of the bottles. “Vació! Empty,” Aldo said with disdain and threw the bottle at the old man. The old man stood up and yelled. He ran towards Aldo, but his run soon became a wobbling, staggering walk. Both Aldo and Ramiro laughed. Juan grabbed me by the shoulder and kept me apart from them. Aldo snatched another empty beer bottle and threw it. The borracho was hit and fell. Ramiro took the old man’s coat and began waving it around like an expert bullfighter. The borracho, on his knees, struggled to get up. Ramiro draped the coat over the old man’s head and hollered, “Toro! Toro!” Thick beads of sweat stuck to the man’s face. He mumbled curse words and reached out, trying to take a hold of Ramiro. But every time he reached, he stumbled. His hands fell flat on the graveled street. I saw how his wrinkled, old-man hands clenched themselves in anger. Aldo laughed and teased, and as Ramiro again dragged the coat over the old man’s head, Aldo came running in and kicked the man in the head.

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Francisco Uribe Red mist floated in the air. “Ayyyyy!” cried the borracho. The sound itself was quite comical. A high pitch whine that cracked in the air. But no one laughed. Everyone stood still except the old man. He lay flat, motionless, and silent. Juan squeezed my shoulder. Dogs began to bark, and a light from a distant house turned on. Everyone started to run. I would have stood still had it not been for Juan, who pulled me alongside of him. We ran until we crossed the town’s only highway. We had gone beyond the edge of the town, and we kept running until we were alone in the wilderness, near a lake. My heart pulsated, and no one said anything. I didn’t know exactly why, but I felt like crying. I felt scared. I could feel tears ready to burst out of my eyes. My lungs were ready to choke on the night’s humid air the way a child does when he wails himself into exhaustion. But I turned my head so that neither Juan nor his friends could see my face. I bit down my lip and toughened myself and held all but a tear or two in. As I grew older, that process of holding back and hiding my emotions became easier, and at times, it would be too easy. But at that moment, I really struggled. I stared at the lake and saw steam rising out of it. Finally, Ramiro broke the silence with a nervous laugh and said, “Ha, I brought the old man’s coat. And I didn’t even realize I still had it.” Juan asked Aldo, “Why did you even kick him? Te pasastes.” “Shit, I don’t know why I did it? I just did. Hey, but did you hear how he screamed when I kicked him? Like a girl, una niña. Not only is he a drunk but he’s a maricón, a fag, too.” “Is he muerto, dead?” I found myself asking. Ramiro looked at Aldo, and Aldo looked off into the distance. My cousin answered, “No, I doubt he is. We all know Aldo has a weak kick. He’s the weakest kicker in futbol. Even if he kicked you right between your legs, he couldn’t break a testicle.” Aldo grabbed the coat away from Ramiro. “Maybe he has some money.” He searched through every pocket but found nothing except a lighter and a pack of cigarettes, Farros without filter. “Let us smoke some,” Aldo said and gave Ramiro and Juan each a cigarette, but he avoided me. We all stood underneath the moon; its light reflected off the lake and onto our faces. I imagined we must have looked like mad and lost ghosts. “Can I have one? A cigarillo?” I asked. Juan and his friends looked at me perplexed. I didn’t look at Juan but stared directly at Aldo and asked again. “Okay. aqui te va.” Aldo stuck out a cigarette. The cigarette was in my mouth, between my cold, shivering lips. Before I even sparked it, tobacco leaves fell on my tongue and tasted bitter.

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Francisco Uribe Aldo exclaimed, “You’re not inhaling. You’re doing it all wrong, como se ve que eres virgen.” “Inhale?” “Yes, breathe it in, into your lungs.” I listened to Aldo, inhaled, and a violent cough fell upon me. Tears filled my eyes. I couldn’t stop them from rolling down my cheeks. The smoke penetrated my lungs and scared me. It felt like the smoke would remain inside of me forever, darkening my insides and causing all kinds of pain. “That’s enough.” Juan reached over, grabbed the cigarette, and flicked it at the lake. It made a fizzling sound when it hit the water. “If he gets home smelling of cigarillos and smoke, his mom will tell my mom, and then I’ll be the one getting beat on the head.” Juan grabbed the old man’s coat from Aldo and took the pack of cigarettes. “Let’s go. It’s time to go home,” Juan said. Aldo and Ramiro stayed behind. I walked alongside my cousin and kept quiet. I was afraid of approaching the place where the old man had been, of seeing him there, still lying flat and motionless on the street. But when we got there, he was nowhere in sight. Juan stopped in front of the slaughterhouse. “Listen,” Juan said, “Do you have any money?” “Si, el dinero my mom gave me,” I responded. “Me lo prestas? I’ll pay you back.” I handed the bills over and watched Juan roll the money until it looked like a single cigarette. He then placed the bills inside the pack of cigarillos and put it in the coat’s inner pocket. He positioned the coat on the spot where the man had been sitting, close to the bloodstains. “Para el boracho. For the drunk....Let’s go. ” Before we got to Abuelo’s house, I asked Juan why did steam rise out of the lake. He told me it was because there was a volcanic stream that ran underneath the entire town. He asked me if I hadn’t noticed that the water here, in Villa Paraíso, always came out hot, no matter which knob I turned on the faucet. I thought about it for a second and asked, “Has a volcano ever erupted near here?” He remained quiet for a few seconds and finally responded, “No, just the one we built, long ago.” We got to Abuelo’s house. I went in. Juan stood outside and headed home. I walked up the stairs and made my way towards the bathroom. Before I could go in, I heard my mom’s voice, “Is that you, mijo? It’s late. Are you okay?” “Yeah, ma. I’m going to take a shower before I go to bed, okay?” “Esta bien.” I twisted the cold knob on the shower faucet, but the water came in quite warm. As I showered, the smoke still lingered in my lungs unable

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Francisco Uribe to escape, so I thought. I could still smell and taste the tobacco. I feared my mom would be able to smell it too, no matter how much I showered or brushed my teeth. I didn’t know what I could do to get rid of it, or even if it would ever go away. Later that night, in bed, I heard cars off in the distance, driving through the town’s lone highway—driving through the same wind that rustled trees and that filtered in through a small opening in my room’s window, blowing a curtain into a slow-rhythmic dance. Strange animals made strange sounds. On that night, that small Mexican rural town produced many wonderful, undistinguishable noises. All of which seemed to emanate from somewhere a great distance away, perhaps from another planet: or perhaps even from another time—the past and the future coalescing as one cacophonous and harmonious sound. But I couldn’t be lulled to sleep. I pictured Aldo and Ramiro still standing by the lake looking like mad and lost souls. Images from that night’s events kept running through my mind. I was in bed, cold, and I longed for Juan’s red windbreaker jacket. I thought of la plaza. I thought of Sonia and of how she looked in her white, soft-cotton panties. That’s when all of my worries faded away. I could no longer wait to grow up. I wanted to be older so that I might have the courage to ask Sonia for a walk around el kiosco. And so I closed my eyes and dreamed about her and all those other pretty girls in Villa Paraíso.

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Jessica Jacobs Family Almanac 1. Find a piece of land that suits you. Low-lying ground, free of obstructions, with fertile soil is preferable.

Father looked west across the continent, fancying himself a gentleman farmer who dealt stocks on the side. He was handsome, young, and fresh out of college. He was waiting.

2. Inquire as to the availability of the property.

Mother had long hair the brown of freshly turned earth and a smile to match the ivory dress, worn only once before, by her mother, years ago in that same white church on Oyster Bay.

3. Buy the land.

After the long black snake of the limousines, with their busy screech of wipers on tinted windshields; after the toasting, the dancing, the saying of goodbyes, no one remembers the exact moment she lost her name and was given another. My mother wed amid the first of the summer’s many storms.

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4. It is important to know your property.

The island broke the icy Puget Sound, more than two hours off the mainland. Their fields were overrun with dark foxes and burrowing rabbits; the barn commandeered by great gray owls with six-foot wingspans, long-eared myotes, and the lurking brown recluse. They told the seasons by the height of the hay.

5. Build shelter. When possible, make your house a home.

Father bought one hundred acres and built a brown-framed house. Mother was twenty-two and knew no one.

6. By mid-April, grass should begin to grow.

The first spring brought wildflowers and the swell of mother’s stomach. Each day she fled the loud silence of their house to walk the paths with a hand to her belly, breathing in the blossoms. Crocus drooped like spilt cups while stag-horn grew to soothe the nettles. Yet, despite all this, the hawthorns’ beauty and the delicacy of Queen Anne’s lace,

7. Allow grass to grow.

the poppies were her favorite; they began to die the moment they were plucked.

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8. Some people talk to their crops, believing even plants need some incentive.

A ruby bracelet the red of the tractor weighted his palm as he outlined the deal; she would give him a son, he would give her the—Fine, she nodded and smiled and left to throw up in the bathroom as she felt her baby turn inside.

9. When grass reaches full height, gather boys with strong backs and ready the tractor.

The sun slunk away while father drank a beer with the island boys who felt like men with the hay fallen at their feet. Walking out to join them, her water broke in the new darkness.

10. Rake hay and give at least a day to dry.

I entered with the morning and was given my mother’s name. My father raked in the field, the bracelet coiled in the black of his pocket. For a week, he would not speak to her.

11. Bale hay and store in cool dry place. Your task is complete.

When I had seen five harvests, my mother gave birth as a third and final try. My father stood beaming above her

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as my sister watched her nurse my new brother. I played with the red that circled her wrist.

12. Caution: When wet hay comes under pressure, heat builds and spontaneous combustion is an immediate concern. Many barns are lost each year to these fires.

Eighteen of those summers felt too long to wait, but now that I no longer have to, I come home often. We drink coffee at the kitchen table and I work not to see the new lines on her face. She asks how I am; I return the question, watching her eyes darken when she says his name. She tells me of the suitcase she keeps packed in the basement, just in case. We eat dinner as the sun goes down and afterward we do the dishes—tiny flares rising as the bracelet catches the light dying in the sky. Before I leave, she whispers she’s learned the number of the local taxi and knows the ferry schedule by heart. Just in case. I hug her and back the car away. She leans in the doorway and waves; walks into the house, her back to the hayfield, cradling her wrist.

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Raina Joines Nureyev and Fonteyn Filling the floorboards with walnut shells, we force bitter shards away from the meat. Twilight stretches over a dish of apricots, dissolves into the smoke drifting above your cigar. Evenings like this come on slow as the moon who, having polished a first draft, is well on her way to an obscure conclusion. We’ve long since exchanged fictions— your walks through knotted alleys in Kyoto, my late-night rigors with an unmarked script. I recall the stage where we met: your face closed under contrived lights, then opening, falling away from its smooth shell as one hand spans the limits of languid air. Not even my speech will regain its old shape. In the flies, a rope shifts its weight; we pull old figures through a chassé. Who would go back? I think of the ant queen eating her own wings, then the muscles that move them. Forgetting the fierce labor of her last meal, the trembling of that first, final flight.

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Annie Kim Heart Murmur Triptych 1. He has a hole inside his heart, the doctors said. The streets are white with snow. Herbert has a hole inside his heart, I chant. The cool white statue grows. Hospital that never ends, black tiles I jump like a checker board: one-two, one-two. Long drives home, their silence. Then summer and the carousel stiff with rust. Mother rubbing cold cream slowly, at her mirror. The heart’s mutations—whole atriums growing in reverse—no valve, two valves— Our friend the cardiologist spells out, shaping the air with his long pianist’s fingers. Your brother’s condition, he adds, was not genetic. Don’t forget don’t forget don’t forget how the fingers of his right hand curved— as if alive—toward the flawless thumb.

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2. In this room called lost brother stands a piano with the lid half-open, grass stacked inside it prickly sweet. The belly swells with this music. ... Sound like a faint swoosh: the tide where it shouldn’t be. But that’s a symptom, not the disease— smoke as messenger of fire. He was my younger brother. Then I became the youngest. ... In this landscape called lost brother grass newly mowed, as far as the eye can see. Half-above, half-below the earth. No shadows. That’s what’s wrong with it— I never held the pieces in my hand, never cut my fingers. No sound but my voice. Like the garden in my photograph that shows no hint of the snow that fell swiftly, lightly, all morning.

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3. snowy kite pulling itself through wet ropes heavy as oak as bad thoughts burning themselves into smoke into daylight when you fly looking back don’t think this roof was built to keep you

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Angie Macri Wishbone Road She shoots at ghosts from the front porch, most nights more than one. She’s seen them run full on, river stone. Into a room by the wrist: that was midnight, noon by his watch, his shift done and woman, you’d better be good and willing. This is my home, this. Miss Ms. Mrs. She knows the lips that promise, that kiss. Miss Ms. Mrs., the sheriff begins, put down the gun. She’s missed. She’s missed again. Into the room by the wrist: the old press on bone through skin even though he’s gone (not missed) and she’s alone. The ghosts must know. This is my home. This.

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Katherine Markey Photograph of Your Parents, an Origin Story Here she is. Her body a bowl not yet filled with the thought of you and him standing there as unexpected as a knife. He likes the way she holds her cigarettes, how she tilts her chin to draw smoke into herself. She’s skinny, full of secrets, and you can tell by the way she poses for the photograph, she thinks a good man has found her. That’s all it takes. We dizzy right up to pain we believe belongs to us. Imagine yourself in the curl of his lip over a cold beer can, or a crack in the glass that she holds and when her mouth slides over it, you’ll bloom there in the drink. So throw your own party, unearth for your guests the story about the night your parents met. Pretend you’re not mining this experience for someone else. Pour the drinks strong, and tell them how your father earned his nickname after drinking so much— a bathtub full of Bullfrog, he’d say— he ate the field mouse brought to him by his own friends, who knew he was a man capable of terrible things. You, not yet dreamt of, but there he was extinguishing some quivering softness,

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Katherine Markey gnashing down the bones and blood of a weakness he held in his hands. Did your mother watch and laugh? Or merely stomach the whole scene, resign herself to what was already coming for her—the ugliness we allow ourselves to witness. Admit it, they taught you everything you know about hurting. It doesn’t matter if this is true. There are so many details you misremember, nights when you let the past swallow you whole.

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Tim McBride Cassette: Plath/Hughes I taped them back together like a torn photograph, a double exposure, a stripping bare. You can feel the scar, a braid of razor wire: the thorn in her voice, his acid burr. I taped them back to back like hostages or prisoners of war, nothing between them anymore— that close, that far—but this sheer strip of plastic film, their voices etched in magnetic iron ore and loaded onto spools a motor threads between capstone and roller, precarious, primitive as torture. I gave them separate sides like duelists or angry lovers turned away in bed. I let the tape heads wear: As one goes forward you can hear the other hauled backward through the gears, the undercurrent always there, the blur of one voice into the other: his jaguar dragging Lady Lazarus over the cage floor, her risen woman sneering back: she swallows him like air.

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Leslie Adrienne Miller The Attorney was proud of his Danish Modern, his contained view of a small cube of snow-covered concrete beyond the glass doors. Of his recipe for chops flamed with sage, his command of French and German, his lack of pets. Probably he had a penis he thought special as well, and when I knew him, he was on a mission to service it. After the chops were down to bones and grease, and the wine a mere inch in the carafe, he came to the real story, a wife betrayed, grown daughters at a distance, and a mistress become, recently, tedious with the tendency to appear uninvited at the patio glass. We waited looking out into the perfect square of falling snow for a face to rise like a second moon out of the swirl and flurry. She’d gone to drink, he admitted now, and only showed in the wee hours, leaving a weave of prints. But there would not be noise. She’d learned quiet by then and would not even tap the glass. Though all this was long ago, when I was still moving through possibilities with the last volition the ovaries offer, a rich potion for 60-something men who’ve lost a segment of their lives like a favorite cap left in a cab, and only miss it when the weather turns, I can say now that even if she did not appear that night or any after, I saw her just the same, rife

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Leslie Adrienne Miller with the bloat of jilt, her light eyes keen with hunger in the glass, the tiny triangles of her eye teeth flashing their news of famine. Even then I knew it wasn’t me she’d take, nor would she ever reach the man polishing his spectacles with care safe in his Danish Modern chair, but one day there’d be a pack of us roving through the dark halls after the nurses’ last shift, and even if he were doddering, lost in reverie and rank pajamas, we’d be the hot breath at his shoulder, the speed of wheels beneath, we’d be the ones to wake him into a world of nothing but fear.

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Emily Mohn-Slate Up the Road, Women in Dark Dresses pull corn in tall fields like the ones she grew up tending, and my grandmother waves knotted fingers at my son. She dangles them like ribboned wands. His eyes follow for a few seconds, lose interest. I nurse him in her dark living room—ancestors with my flecked eyes watching. 1947, my grandmother, age twenty-four, married in a sensible skirt suit and hat, red lips flat, not quite a smile. My husband talks to her on the other side of the wall, her motorized bed grinding up and down. I want to do something beautiful for her, sincere as the flower of my son’s mouth slightly open as he sleeps on my breast something like the way he reaches for my mouth while he eats, needs to touch my lips, to know I am there and breathing, too. She is dying and I don’t know what to do. I press a brown velvet pillow to my face to remember, can’t describe the smell seconds after. She is dying and I want my son to make her smile. But he is serious, grunting and batting at her purple fleece robe. She helps him clutch the robe’s thick belt. It tightens around my throat. Everything she might say is locked in her shy neck. I do not ask the questions I meant to ask. She waves goodbye. The rented mattress sighs when I stand to go. The corn along the road bows its many necks goodbye.

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Harriet Brown The Shadow Daughter I did not attend my mother’s funeral. I went instead to the island

of Maui, five thousand miles away. On the day her mortal remains slid into a drawer in a mausoleum in southern Florida, I was hiking the LahainaPali Trail with my husband and daughter, following the five-mile-long path that hugs the cliffs over the Honoapiilani Highway, with views of the Pacific below and fields of lava and igneous rocks above. Over the years I’d imagined her death a thousand times—imagined killing her myself, in fact—and in every one of those scenarios I assumed I would go to her funeral. Even after years of estrangement, I believed her death might miraculously heal something inside me. And I thought I still wanted to be healed, despite the fact that it had been years since I’d thought about her daily, years since she appeared in my dreams. For years I’d joked that my mother would outlive me out of sheer spite. I made my husband promise he’d keep her away from my deathbed, just as I’d made him promise years earlier to keep her out of the delivery room. In a weak moment, disorganized with pain and panic, I thought I might succumb to the longing for a mother and let her in. And then, in a mash-up of the dramatic scenes we’d played out over the years, she would swoop into the room where I lay hooked up to tubes and machines, unable to speak but conscious, thereby giving her the opportunity to cry and kiss me and loudly and repeatedly proclaim her love and her overwhelming grief. She would make even my dying about her. Much later I saw that was both the defiant joke of a child who can’t imagine a parent’s disappearance and a talisman against that very possibility. As it turned out I was the one who stood at her bedside, watching the mechanical rise and fall of her chest keep time with the ventilator’s hiss. Her hair, which she’d dyed blond in her 70s, slid across the pillow; her beautiful straight nose was bent to one side by the adhesive holding the tube in her mouth. Deep in septic shock, with her organs failing, she resembled a large doll, her skin rubbery and swollen smooth. Liquid pearled along her arms and the backs of her hands, forced out through her skin as her kidneys failed and her cells wept. The shape of her hands, their curving thumbs slack now against the hospital sheet, was deeply familiar. I could picture those hands in motion, scrubbing a kitchen counter, bringing a cigarette to her red-slicked lips, slapping my face.

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Harriet Brown I’d flown to Florida from my home in upstate New York for my sister and father, to be here with them while whatever was happening to my mother played itself out. That’s what I told myself, anyway. I loved my father despite his weakness, his willingness to give me up because my mother said so. I loved my sister despite her closeness with our mother; she and I had worked hard over the years to stay connected, and we held a deep affection for each other despite the family schism. A nurse slid through the glass doors, adjusting tubes and dials, checking vitals. She called my mother by name, asked her to open her eyes, and I backed away from the bed, my heart pounding. I did not want my mother to look at me. She couldn’t speak, she was as close to death as a living person can get, but still I did not want to see what she thought of me, what she’d always thought of me, reflected in her deep-set blue eyes. I put myself in the far corner, in the only bit of shadow in that toobright room, and listened to my sister talk and cry and sing, trying to coax our mother back from wherever she had gone. If anything could make our mother open her eyes, could reel her back briefly from the precipice, it was my sister’s voice. My mother was dying, though no one said the word. She was helpless and vulnerable and still I felt afraid. My sister begged her for a sign, an acknowledgment that she was still fighting, even as I dreaded it. In life our mother had been quick to judge, to criticize, to punish with her words, especially me; what terrible words might she deliver, what barbed look might she send my way now that she had nothing else to lose? Even if I’d known for sure that she would say nothing, I would still have backed into the shadowy corner where she couldn’t see me. I would still have felt my stomach drop and my heart stutter. I flew home the next morning. I wasn’t there a few days later when my sister and father tearfully took my mother off life support and she died, or rather was finally allowed to be dead. By the time my sister sobbed her good-byes I was thousands of miles away. My husband and I had planned our family’s trip to Hawaii long before my mother complained of a pain in her belly and asked my father to drive her to the emergency room, before the curtains opened and then closed on this particular act of our family tragedy. I thought about canceling our trip and flying back to Florida for the funeral, but the truth is I didn’t want to be there, and I don’t think anyone else wanted me there. I thought I should want to be at the funeral, to say good-bye on all sorts of levels to my mother, who had been such a defining force in my life. But I didn’t. I didn’t want to sit through the service, dry-eyed, as my sister grieved and our father kept asking how this could have happened. I didn’t want to listen to the eulogies of praise and loss that would feel like they’d been written about someone else’s mother. I didn’t want to hear people talk about

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Harriet Brown how happy-go-lucky and fun my mother was, the life of every party, the one who wasn’t afraid to wear a silly costume or lead the conga line or play a practical joke. I’d been puzzling over that reflected version of her my whole life, a version I did not recognize and had never personally experienced. If I was there all the old feelings would wash over me again and I would become once more, in my own eyes and everyone else’s, the cold and withholding child who’d destroyed my mother’s life. Whose story didn’t match the family narrative, whose chest held a stone instead of a heart. So I went to Hawaii with my husband and two daughters and set out on the trail that morning. I felt little about my mother’s death; after 35 years of estrangement, maybe I’d felt everything there was to feel. Or maybe not. The Lahaina-Pali trail can be steep in spots, but the difficulty of the trail didn’t explain why I couldn’t catch my breath. And it didn’t explain why great purple bruises, exotic blood flowers, bloomed suddenly on my legs from thighs to knees. I had to stop every five minutes, waving my husband and daughters ahead, to lean over and look out at the placid Maalaea Harbor as my heart raced way too fast. Crouching beside the dirt trail, I felt my tongue and lips go numb. I started to choke, though there was nothing in my mouth. A sentence popped into my head: Though my mother died this week, I’ve been missing her my whole life. I sat cross-legged, hugging my knees, in the dirt, which had once poured red-hot and molten from the mouth of a volcano, and tried to belly-breathe. The sun threw my shadow across the trail, where it looked much larger than I felt. I was small again, small enough to be my mother’s daughter, to feel the sickening mix of fear and longing and rage that shaped my childhood. That shaped the essence of me, the synapses and neurotransmitters, the habits and choices that had led me to this patch of volcanic dirt, this odd sense of being both erased and present. For so long I’d been that shadow daughter, the shape of me thrown without choice across a rocky trail, separate from the solid body of my family but still connected. I was used to feeling broken but this was different, this feeling of unwilling connection, as if the molecules of my body were coming together in a new way and there was nothing I could do about it. Only when my mother was dead could I let myself feel like her daughter, step out of the shadowy place I’d learned to inhabit. It was an irony she would not have appreciated. I was estranged from my family, to one degree or another, for most of my adult life. I told myself I didn’t care, or at least I didn’t mind. I told myself I didn’t need them. I buried the longing to connect with them so deep even I couldn’t feel it. The estrangement began between my mother and me, though it spread to include many others in the family and outside it. Everyone who’s known

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Harriet Brown me even a little knows about my relationship with my mother. From the time I left home at 16, we had an on-again, off-again relationship—months when we didn’t communicate or see each other, punctuated by brief interludes that often ended with an explosion. We had no contact at all for the three years before she died. It was my choice to cut the cord, to push my mother out of my life and mind as much as possible. The alternative—to keep cycling through the same painful, pointless interactions—had become increasingly unbearable, and I felt I had to choose between her or me. The “me” wasn’t just about my own mental health and ability to function; it included my husband and daughters, the people who were part of my daily life, who suffered through our dysfunctional relationship almost as much as I did. Over the decades of our alienation, I talked to and about my mother in rage, in sorrow, in grief, and in hurt. I spoke to her in hatred, out of a wish for revenge, from a desire to understand what was wrong between us, all the while believing I would never definitively understand the problem or find a solution. The story of our relationship remained mysterious. It seemed to me there were many versions of what happened between us; certainly there was her version and my own, and to say they were different is like saying a centipede is different from a volcano. I could never figure out how to interpret what had happened and was still happening between us. And I was afraid to look ahead to what might unfold in the future, which seemed both misty and far away and, at the same time, completely predictable. Then, too, to tell the story I would have had to believe in my version of events, what I saw and felt and understood, and for a long time I didn’t. If I felt one way and my mother felt another I believed my feelings were misguided or mistaken. If I recalled a situation, an event, a conversation differently than she did, my immediate assumption was that she was right. My body reacted violently to these narrative discrepancies with bouts of nausea and vertigo and panic attacks that could last days. One of those attacks took place the day I graduated college. Six of us sat around a round table at a restaurant in Bucks County, Pennsylvania— my grandparents, parents, sister, and me. The long buttery rays of the sun made our faces glow. We were characters in a movie, a romantic comedy, maybe, where the 40-something narrator looks back fondly in voiceover on a defining moment in her life. And what took place that day did illuminate something for me, a feeling I couldn’t name for the longest time but one I can conjure even now, decades later, with the same sense of shock and dread. Sitting around that table, newly graduated from college, I was thinking of course about the future. My future. Three days later I would borrow my grandfather’s beat-up maroon Malibu and deliver myself to a Salvation Army women’s residence in Greenwich Village, to start my adult life at age 20. I was nervous—terrified, actually. I was thinking about the 80-mile drive into the city, which scared me, about hauling my possessions up four

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Harriet Brown flights of stairs to the tiny room I would inhabit, about the job I would start (at an ad agency, because that was the only one I could get, though I still hoped for something grander and more meaningful). Across the table my mother said my name and I blinked. She wasn’t talking to me but about me, to the table at large. I found birth control pills in her purse when she was 14! she was telling my grandparents. Really, that girl. She delivered her words lightly, not looking at me. I sat at the table in a kind of shock. My mother’s words beat their way down my spine, tiny hammers on bone. She was 14! Really, that girl. My brain, meanwhile, was spinning and fizzing, trying to come up with words, any words, in response. What I remembered was that at age 14 my favorite Saturday evening activity was playing double solitaire with my grandmother and watching Star Trek. I had yet to go on a date or kiss anyone. I barely had breasts. I was 16 the winter I lost my virginity with my boyfriend, on the fake leather backseat of a car parked in the empty synagogue parking lot (chosen both for irony and isolation). A few months later I came home and found my purse spilled on the living room floor, my mother on the couch, bare legs curled under her, eyes swollen, surrounded by a blizzard of crumpled tissues. I had dropped out of high school and was heading to college in a few weeks, as terrified to go as I was sure I had to leave. When my mother saw me she burst into tears and gestured toward the telltale dial-shaped packet protruding from my opened purse. How could you? she wailed. We went to Planned Parenthood and got them, I said. We were being responsible. You lied to me. I never lied. Anyway, would you rather I got pregnant? How could you do this to me? This isn’t about you, I said. Anyway, you went through my purse! You had no right! I had every right. Everything in this house belongs to me. I knew then what my mother wanted: for me to fall to my knees and apologize, not just for the birth control pills but for leaving home, and for the thousands of other less tangible transgressions I’d committed over the years. She wanted me to apologize for who I was, which was not who she wanted me to be, to swear I’d stay home, go to secretarial school instead of college, give up writing, marry a weak-chinned but high-earning Jewish boy, live close. She wanted me to deny myself even before I knew who exactly I was. If she thought I regretted wanting a different life she would pull me into her lap and rock me, weep herself hoarse. She could forgive me. But I didn’t regret it. I didn’t want her forgiveness, at least not in that moment, and I was immune to her tears, having been regularly inoculated throughout childhood and adolescence. In that moment I felt no remorse,

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Harriet Brown just the certainty that if I stayed bad things would happen. I left her on the couch as her tears revealed themselves as rage and she shouted at me to come back. Four years later, at the restaurant table, my mother leaned back in her chair, all four-foot-eleven inches of her. Her clasped purse rested on the linen tablecloth. Her hair was done, her nails polished; her hands, always prettier and better tended than mine, sparkled with the opal and diamond rings my father had given her. She seemed right. I wondered if I could have gotten my own history wrong. I’d studied psychology; I knew how easily memories could be manipulated, deliberately or not, changed by the very process of calling them back from wherever they receded to. My own memories were fuzzy, dislocated in time, full of holes, like letters from the battlefield, full of redactions and blank spots where someone had censored the details. Maybe my mother was right. She was, after all, the mother, the authority, the boss. Maybe on that summer night I was 14, precocious in a way that wasn’t a virtue. The thought came as a relief. I wanted to reconcile our dissonant versions. I wanted to believe I was wrong so my mother could be right. But that relief didn’t last. In my mother’s timeline I’d lost my virginity my freshman year of high school, only a month after we moved to the town where my parents lived now. But I knew that my boyfriend and I had spent nearly a year together before deciding whether and when to have sex. I couldn’t have been 14 when my mother found the pills in my purse. Now I was sure. All I had to do was lean across the table and say so. Set the record straight. Speak truth to the power that radiated from my mother like ultraviolet light, invisible but dangerous. If I’d been sitting across from, say, Richard Nixon or Queen Elizabeth, I would have had no trouble. But at that dinner, which was supposed to celebrate my accomplishments and my future, I couldn’t challenge my mother any more than I could self-induce a seizure. Either she wanted to think her daughter was a sexually precocious 14-year-old or she was changing the story deliberately to make me look bad. It didn’t matter which; the effect was the same. The table went silent as we sat, mute and frozen, on our velvet chairs. The look on my grandmother’s face shifted; her smile become more complicated, her eyes sad as she looked at me and then at my mother, whose lips curved in a genuine smile, whose foot tap-tapped under the table, whose lipstick left a glowing kiss-shaped stain on the glass in front of her. What I wanted then was to slap my mother with the truth as I remembered it until her knowing smile dissolved. What I wish now, with the hindsight of middle age, is that I’d leaned across the table and asked how she felt at that moment. I don’t care anymore whether she believed what she was saying, whether she meant to be cruel; anyway, I’ll never know. But I really do want to know what she was feeling, having stunned everyone at

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Harriet Brown the table into postures of disapproval, sorrow, and outrage. Was she sorry she’d said it, despite her pleasant smile? How did it feel to her, as a mother, to believe (or pretend to) that her daughter had become sexually active at age 14? Was she proud of me? Envious? Vengeful? Worried? Now that I’ve raised two daughters into adulthood myself, I wonder if my mother felt angry and resentful and abandoned. The restaurant celebration was supposedly all about my accomplishments. The life I was about to step into was a life she might have wanted, if she’d had the chance. She grew up poor, the youngest of three children with a single mother. She’d had to go to work right after high school, and she’d worked hard ever since. Maybe her constant critiques (You know what your problem is? You don’t watch enough TV. You think too much!), which seemed absurd and inexplicable to me, were designed to cover her own longing for a life beyond wife, mother, secretary. Even if I’d been able to say something that night, to ask or protest or register disbelief or anger or hurt, I doubt anything would have changed. Over time our estrangement deepened rather than healed, a scar that would not scab over, though for years I continued to believe that if only I could find exactly the right combination of words in exactly the right order my mother would turn into the loving parent I had once wanted. It occurs to me now that maybe this is why I write, that in some way everything I write is directed toward her. And if I had somehow conjured that alchemical combination of words, and if she’d somehow metamorphosed into the mother I longed for, I wonder now how my life might be different. Would I have turned into the loving, obedient, devoted daughter my mother had always wanted? What would that have cost me, and what would I have gained? My mother is gone now and I will never hear or understand the story she told herself about me. About us. I know only my own story, which starts like this: My mother is dead and I have been missing her my whole life. That’s as good a place to begin as any.

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Laurel Fantauzzo Baptism I can’t tell if I should hold my breath. The air carries diesel fumes,

standing water, sweat, and air conditioner fluid. I decide it’s not a bad smell. It’s a strangely familiar smell, as if I’m stepping into an old home I’d once occupied many years ago. But I’m still nervous about breathing. “Is the air here toxic?” I ask my mom. She frowns at me. This is a familiar frown. It is a frown that communicates a whole world of displeasure. I am her eldest. I am her pale, dark-haired, half-white, twelve-year-old American kid. I am her blood and her traitor, often in the same moment. She gives me the answer she will repeat over and over in her home country, whenever I speak. “You’re so spoiled.” I go quiet, watch her, standing next to me on the curb. She closes her eyes. Maybe she’s fighting off another headache. The kind of headache that makes her faint, or puts her to bed for two days at a time. Maybe she’s trying not to think of my father, a former American Naval officer who makes her laugh sometimes and slaps her at other times. “I’m not spoiled,” I say. “You grew up with ice cream and paper towels,” my mom says. “You throw soup away if you see a bug in it. You’re spoiled.” I wince, waiting for her to hit me. She doesn’t hit me. But I don’t relax. It’s mid-December, midday, in Metro Manila. So it’s hot. The heat hugs me. It’s the sweaty kind of hug I hope will end soon, like when I’m swept up by an overly affectionate relative who’s otherwise a stranger to me. There’s a fence across the street from our arrivals’ curb. People press their faces against the metal of this fence. They look like needy, deflated puppets that will only become animated at the sight of the loved ones they’re waiting for. These people are trapped in a world far more difficult than mine. A world I’m free to visit and then leave. I notice: Every security guard bearing a shotgun, smiling at me and saying, “Merry Christmas, ma’am, welcome to the Philippines!”

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Laurel Fantauzzo A red bumblebee named Jollibee, smiling proudly at every corner. The concrete walls, galvanized iron roofs, and faceless skyscrapers that compose the capital city. The rainbow-colored umbrellas of streetside vendors selling cigarettes, candy, duck eggs, rags, newspapers. My mother, speaking in Tagalog with more authority than she ever does in the United States. She gets us a taxi. “Shut your mouth,” she warns me. The driver pauses on the curb and pops open his trunk. My mom lowers her voice. “If the driver hears your English, he’ll charge us more. Or he might try to kidnap us.” “Why would he kidnap us?” I help my mom load our cardboard box, packed with new clothes, American candy, canned goods, and moisturizing lotions, into the trunk. “For a ransom, because you’re American, you have dollars. Don’t talk now.” I shut up. My mom barks in clipped tones to the driver, who nods. In the US, my mom always smiles and laughs too loud with white strangers she needs something from. She sounds like a bewildered houseguest. Here in Manila, she always knows what to do; how to command this mess. I feel guilty, implicated. I want to flee. I think of upstate New York, where there are trees covered with snow, and my Italian American grandma is cooking spaghetti and meatballs for my brothers and my father. Manila is not my mess, I decide. Manila is not where I belong. I don’t look like my mother. Even she says so, muttering that I look so Sicilian. I have curly dark hair and wide brown eyes. My mother has straight black hair, high cheekbones, and narrow eyes. She looks Chinese Filipino, or Spanish Filipino. Her college friends and relatives will elbow me and say how pretty she is, how much I resemble her. But I don’t ever think I resemble her. In my mother’s country, I am considered a foreigner, and therefore a target. I find it weird and funny that I’m suddenly considered so valuable. I also find it frightening. So, silenced and scared, I sit in the taxi’s backseat. I lean my head against the hot window. The familiar unfamiliarity of my mother’s Tagalog, as she directs the driver, lulls me to sleep. For most of my time in Manila, I sleep. It’s my way of hiding. The first thing my mom had noticed about America, when she visited for the first time in 1979, were the roads. American roads were so wide. “What do you notice about the Philippines?” she asks me when I wake up in the taxi. “Narrow roads?” She laughs.

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Laurel Fantauzzo I’m not sure how long her laugh will last. So I just shrug. I don’t take the risk. I don’t tell her that I notice: The stoplights, which are treated like suggestions, not representations of a national traffic law. The jeepneys—World War Two jeeps recycled into multicolored buses—vying for inches of roadspace against revving motorcycles. Some buses so decrepit, they move forward at a diagonal: one set of tires inflated, the other set uniformly flat. The pricey SUVs with windows tinted black. The public smog-level signs obscured, rendered unreadable, by the dirty gray pollution. Families live in wheelbarrows patched together with scrap wood. Stray dogs dart between cars. Barefoot little kids linger at every traffic stop, in every parking lot. Our cab driver hisses at the kids, cocks his fist to threaten them when they stretch their hands toward his window. The kids notice me and dart to my window instead. I look straight ahead, paralyzed by shame, as the kids linger. My mom was right. People see that I look like I’m from somewhere else. The sunset is pinker than I ever imagined pink could be. The Pasig River, choked as it is with trash, explodes the sunset in an unbelievable exchange of light and water, sky and dead current. The Christmas paroles illuminate doorways and windows. Small, artificial, electric stars. My mother takes me on a baffling Tour of Aunts. She requires me to mano every older woman I meet for the first time and call her Tita, whatever the confusion of our relations. I take each woman’s palm in mine and press the back of her hand to my forehead: a Filipino sign of respect for the elderly. Sometimes these women hug me and won’t stop hugging me. My whole frame braces against the unfamiliar body heat. At each stop on the tour, my mom empties our box of more American goods. Snacks, moisturizers, new clothes from the clearance racks of Ross and Marshall’s. One day we go to Ermita, Manila, the neighborhood where my mom grew up. The streets are narrow and ancient, the signs all green and battered. We ring the doorbell at a house that’s as big as ours in a suburb of California; five bedrooms, maybe, and three stories. In Ermita it looks like a mansion, set behind a rusty fence and gate. The elderly maid who answers seems fossilized herself. She has a wellpracticed, silent subservience. Her whole twiggy, brittle form bends for the orders of others. Another puppet, I think. Like the ones at the arrivals gate.

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Laurel Fantauzzo The maid leads us to the kitchen table. She’s going to serve us lunch. We sit. I smile at the maid every time she returns to our table. My smile, I hope, will prove that I’m someone better than the locals, someone who won’t order her around and make her serve me soup. I smile and smile. The maid doesn’t meet my eyes. The chicken soup she serves tastes strange—a wrong kind of sweet, where I thought it should have been salty. I don’t finish it. My mom asks questions of the maid in Tagalog. I still can’t understand her. But I notice my mom sounds more awkward here; more like she does in the US, when she wants something from someone else. The maid shows us, silently, to the living room. I don’t know what we’re doing here. I sense not to ask. Eventually I figure out that we’re waiting for someone. My mother and I wait a long time, the whole afternoon, watching a series of Filipino game shows on TV. I can’t understand the rules of any game. Even though the television is loud, I feel myself dozing off again. “Sige. Hali ka na,” my mom sighs, waking me after I don’t know how long. “Hali ka na,” she says again. She is using one of the only Filipino phrases I know. Come on, you. Let’s go. So we go to the mall. The enormous malls confuse me with their endlessness, their corridors: warrens of bright shops and beckoning sales employees, their sound systems repeating a maddening set of English-language Christmas songs and Top-40 American hits. But the enormous malls also relieve me with their cool air conditioning systems and their ever-present pizza, burger, and ice cream options. My mom’s favorite is mango cake. We share a mammoth slice. She seems kinder, calmer, but I know she must be disappointed about something. I don’t ask what it is. I relax into her rare gentleness. “How are you doing here?” my mom asks. Taut, fresh slices of mango, vanilla frosting, and spongy vanilla cake deluge my mouth with sweetness. My mom’s question was an honest one. I decide to give her my honest answer. “I kind of want to go home,” I sigh, after swallowing. For a moment I think she will agree. But my mother’s face darkens. She looks at the tabletop. I stop eating the cake. She looks like she did only months before, when I told her outright, “I don’t trust you.” We were in the car, my brother in the backseat. She punched me in the face. The pain made my ears sing, but I didn’t say anything. Then she started to cry.

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“You’re all I have,” she said then. “Don’t you see that? You’re all I have.” She mutters now in the Filipino mall. “Spoiled. So spoiled.”

Another aunt on our Tour of Aunts has a palatial home behind more gates than I can count. Before I give my mano, my mom warns me that this aunt is famous and deserves special courtesy. “She’s the Oprah of the Philippines,” my mom murmurs. I resolve to be especially silent. When a maid welcomes us in, my mom brushes past her, smiles and laughs loudly. The Oprah of the Philippines opens her arms to us. My mom introduces me, and I mano. She has powdered the elegantly sloping planes of her face. She seems both wizened and ageless. She has a perfect haircut, her dark hair a halo. She smiles a warm smile at me. There seems to be one maid for every room in her house, all of them young. Their uniforms are perfect: baby blue smocks, crisply ironed, unsullied. They watch The Oprah of the Philippines closely, waiting for the smallest signals. We sit at her enormous rectangular table for dinner. She sits at the head of the table. “It is Laurel’s birthday in just two weeks!” my mom pronounces. “Oh my! How old will you be, dear?” the Oprah of the Philippines asks me. “Thirteen,” I say. “We must have a party in the province!” I go silent again, not sure how to respond. The Oprah of the Philippines describes her farm, a pretty place, somewhere outside Manila. I would have preferred a small gathering at McDonald’s, or an early departure back to the United States. But my mother accepts the invitation for me. Two weeks later, we follow The Oprah of the Philippines along trafficclogged highways and dirt roads to her farm outside Manila. It’s a rooster farm. When we arrive in the late afternoon, Technicolor birds are tied singly to posts in a sunny field as far as I can see. Their tethers give each of them one perfect, lonely concentric space to claim in the grass, so that they each seem alone, though there are hundreds of them. The farm workers, brown men in basketball jerseys and tattered shorts, take me on a tour of the place. There is a main bamboo house with electricity, huge bedrooms, a separate outdoor kitchen, and more maids. This main house is where my mom and I will sleep, in a huge guestroom. Beyond the main house, there is a cockfighting pit and an open-air farmhouse. The moneyed violence is a Sunday pastime of Filipino men. I don’t remember learning about it, and I’ve never seen a live fight. I’ve only ever seen a small statue of two stuffed roosters my mom keeps on a shelf in the kitchen in California.

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Laurel Fantauzzo When I take my tour of the open-air farmhouse, one farm worker places a mortally wounded bird in an open wood box. He nails a cross above its head. I see the bird blink and breathe, seeming very tired, its chest rising and falling with stuttering effort. The worker watches me watching the bird. “You know adobo?” the man said. His eyes are red, whether from exhaustion or suppressed grief or something else I don’t know. “Tinola? Dinner!” He points to the dying rooster. His companions laugh at him for trying to speak English. They hold their noses at him. I do know tinola. It’s ginger chicken soup. It’s my favorite thing to eat when I’m sick. And adobo is the soy sauce marinade my mom likes to spike with sugar. She serves both dishes with white rice, which my dad never eats. He prefers pasta. I don’t say any of this to the worker. I look above his head, toward a ladder. He gestures with his chin, and I take that to mean I am allowed up. “I sleep there,” the worker says. I climb alone into the worker’s loft, a platform high above where the bird is about to die. The whole structure—where the cockfighting pit, the sleeping platform, and the nearly-dead bird are—is open to the provincial air, with a cogon roof and a simple bamboo frame. The worker’s sleeping platform has a slanted ceiling of dried grass and a bare cotton mattress. I look out at the green, open fields, the hundreds of roosters, all of them touched by the sun. I can breathe more easily here, far beyond the reach of Manila’s smog. For the first time in the Philippines, I think I could live here. I could do this life. I even flop on the worker’s bed, imagining his idyllic rural tasks. I rest my head dreamily on the worker’s old pillow. I felt something hard and unforgiving under the soft filler of the pillow. I lift my head, and then the pillow, to see what I’ve landed on. It’s a black handgun. I had only ever handled toy guns in my life. I pick this gun up. The handgun is made of metal. Its heavy weight and strangely cold temperature tell me it’s real. I put the gun down. I take care not to touch the trigger, something my father once mentioned, when he talked about being in the Navy and handling firearms. I cover the gun with the pillow again, and climb down carefully from the loft. “You like?” the worker asks. He grins at me, sweeps his gaze from my feet to my face. I run back out into the sun, between the lines of captive birds. Often in Manila, I wake in the middle of the night, not knowing where the bathroom is, not knowing the dimensions of the dark at all. Not

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Laurel Fantauzzo remembering the bed, room, building, city I’m in. In these moments I am tethered to my mom, dependent on her totally for my coordinates. It will come to me only later that, as her marriage to an alternately gentle and violent American man was failing in California, this dependence is exactly what she needed to feel from me. We stay with one of my mother’s wealthy classmates for a few days before Christmas. This woman is a single mom, and I am, again, instructed to call her Tita, though she isn’t related to us by blood. She lives in a penthouse in Makati, the business district. It’s a neighborhood cleaner and more moneyed than Beverly Hills, the wealthiest neighborhood I’d ever seen in California. My mother’s classmate lives in the penthouse with her son, a fourteenyear-old boy, Marco. Marco is dark haired and high cheekboned in a way that tells me he will be a handsome man soon. He stays courteous when my mother and his mother are in the room, saying “po” many times to respect them. I don’t know where Marco’s father is, and somehow, their silence warns me not to ask. On my first night in the penthouse, I see a crevice in their small stairwell and ask Marco if he stores anything there. “The driver,” Marco says, laughing. “He sleeps there.” He points out the driver’s pillow and threadbare sheet. “Don’t you have drivers in California?” “Yeah,” I say, “my parents.” Marco laughs louder. He takes on the role of young ambassador for me. He orders me Jollibee, the most popular fast-food restaurant in the Philippines, every box adorned with the ubiquitous, smiling red bee. He laughs at me and finishes my spaghetti when I find it too sweet. It’s spiked with even more sugar than the tablespoons my mom adds to our adobo at home. It makes me homesick for my Italian grandma, who makes pasta for my dad every day when he visits. He teaches me a game to play while his silent driver drives us to another mall for last-minute Christmas shopping. Whenever we pass the poorestlooking vehicles—ones welded, it seems, from pounded-flat tin cans—Marco shouts a Filipino phrase out the window that means “Flat tire!” and ducks. Then, the poor car’s poor driver pulls over to find that there is no flat tire at all. “At least we get them off the road for a while,” Marco says. “The BMWs.” “BMWs?” I ask. “Broken Motor Works,” Marco says, and laughs at his own joke. “Pieces of shit.” The car his own driver was maneuvering is a Toyota Camry, like the one my mom drives in California.

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Laurel Fantauzzo So I try the prank myself. I shout the phrase at one tin-can car. “Walang hangin!!” But I don’t duck. I wait to see what the BMW car will do. This one is filled with several generations of a family. I can’t even count how many family members, children, elderly, are piled into the sad, slow, skeletal contraption. They all wear basketball shorts and tank tops and rubber sandals. I catch one young woman’s eye. She dangles out of the front seat and hears my earnestly shouted phrase. “Flat tire?” she mouths in English, her face open, honest, seeking my help and confirmation. I nod, suddenly engrossed by my car-to-car exchange with a stranger. I forget that I’m pulling a prank. Yes, I confirm with a nod. You have a flat tire. Marco shoves me from across the back seat we share. “You’re supposed to duck, bobo.” So I duck. Marco ducks too. We don’t bring our heads up until the driver silently swerves onto a Makati back road and into the mall’s underground parking lot. I don’t know where the woman and her family ended their journey. Barefoot kids in dirty clothes approach us with empty hands. Marco warns me not to give money to them. “Their parents are gamblers and drug addicts,” he says. But I give money anyway. A kind of penance. Just a few peso coins. More kids run toward me, their hands outstretched. Marco hustles me into the mall. I look behind me; the kids are peering in through the glass doors, knowing they’re not allowed in. A guard approaches the kids and jerks the butt of his shotgun at them. They run across the parking lot. “I told you. Shit.” Marco says. Marco doesn’t speak to me as he weaves through a mall. He pauses at small booths of cheap electronics and videogames, then leaves without warning. I try to keep up. When we’re back at the condo that night, I smile at Marco in his mother’s narrow penthouse kitchen, seeking a truce. “Wanna order Jollibee?” I ask. “My mom gave me pesos.” His response is calm. “I hate you.” I paused and smile wider, unsure. But Marco gazes at me and speaks in the same calm voice. “You might think I’m joking,” he says. “But I really hate you.” My mother and my aunt arrive home then. They carry shopping bags and laugh with each other in Tagalog. “Oh, did you have fun at the mall?” my mom asks Marco in loud, cheerful English. “Are you showing my daughter more of the Philippines?”

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Laurel Fantauzzo “Sure,” Marco says, grinning. His eyes stay flat with contempt. “Laurel’s fun to take around.” We leave Marco’s condo to spend Christmas in Laguna with yet another aunt on our Tour of Aunts. My mother’s oldest half-sister. The town is rural, about a three-hour drive south from Makati. Here, I’m able to wander alone, with no driver or ambassador to guide me. I buy peanut-flavored Choc-nut candies at the small sari-sari stores of the homes nearby, two for a peso. Choc-nut makes my mouth pleasantly numb with sugar. This aunt’s living room windows don’t have glass or screens. Just metal bars through which the hot breezes can move. The top floor’s bathroom has no toilet, just a shower. They tell me to pee into the drain. At night I try to hold it. I watch a neighborhood pig slaughter in the street. I’m used to seeing meat in shrink-wrapped packs, few bones required. I’m not used to hearing a pig scream. I never knew pigs had hair. This pig is covered with black hair, and it sounds like a human child. When the teenaged butcher dips a sharp knife into its side, the pig struggles against the blade, until it grows tired and then quiet and then still. The blood of this pig runs across a plastic folding table, soaking the newspaper acting as tablecloth, photographs of current events dyed a vicious red. The pig’s blood drops onto the asphalt, where stray dogs lap at it. The young butcher scrapes the pig’s hair from its body with the flat of his knife. A little kid asks for the pig’s tail, and the butcher obliges. The kid whips the bloody tail in circles around his head, like a New Year’s party favor. Afterwards, when all the best parts are sold, the pig’s teenaged butcher places clean newspapers atop the dark red butchering table. He lies down on the dry newsprint and the blood beneath it, then curls up to take a nap. On Christmas morning, my mom makes me go to church with her around 3 a.m. We walk instead of taking a cab or a motorcycle. I follow her in the dark. When we choose our pew, I fall asleep against her shoulder amidst the hymns, the smell of candles, the priest’s drone. I’m already too old to be doing that, newly thirteen, but it’s a two-hour Mass right before dawn. I wake and catch stares from older women who disapprove of my Christmastime nap. I close my eyes against my mother’s shoulder again. I always like leaning my head against my mom’s shoulder in church. She never reprimands me for doing it. When we finally emerge from the church after an epic line for Communion, the sun is bright. The church plaza is crowded with churchgoers and streetside entrepreneurs.

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Laurel Fantauzzo One vendor is selling sparrows in a small wooden cage. They are each tethered, flapping, and singing over each other. “Only fifty pesos,” my mother murmurs. “For a bird.” I want a sparrow of my own, but I don’t bother to ask my mom. I know there’d be no way to bring a Filipino bird back to America. We return to California a few days later. “Hey, honey!” my dad says to me when we walk into our living room. He says nothing to my mom. “How was your trip?” For many nights after I return home from Manila, I’ll wake around midnight, my body not yet readjusted to California time. In the dark, I’ll forget where I am again. I’ll listen for diesel engines and roosters and Tagalog. But I’ll find only blank quiet. The American silence would never help me back to sleep. The residue of Manila would never leave me. It would stay there for twelve years, until I returned at age 24 alone, without my mother, the two of us long since estranged. “It was hot there,” I say to my father now. “A hot Christmas?” my dad says. “That’s un-American!” He grins. My mother says nothing to either of us. Later, she unpacks new clothes and souvenirs in the bedroom my father no longer shares with her. While we were in the Philippines, he had moved his clothes and shoes to the guest bedroom downstairs. She unwraps more small, stuffed roosters, tailored slacks, dried mangoes, tiny, decorative, Filipino machete blades, a traditional painting of a happy couple farming in the province. All gentle, earthy tones and blue sky. She unwraps tailored barong tagalogs for my brothers and my father— the thin, formal Filipino mens’ shirts made from pineapple silk. My brothers wear their barongs once, then forget about them. I never see my dad wear his. The following February, my mom comes home from work and slaps my middle brother in a rage. In response, my father wrestles her to the ground. He pins her there while she cries. It isn’t the first time he’s done this. But it’s the first time he’s done it in front of us, instead of taking her to the garage first to do it in private. When he finally lets her stand up, my mother runs for the phone. “Don’t do it,” my father bellows when she picks up the phone. “Don’t you do it.” She calls 9-11 and screams for help. She hangs up the phone and sits silently in the living room, her eyes toward her own knees. My father sneers. “You’re too smart for me. I’ll tell them you abused my kid.” Two white police officers arrive a few minutes later. I hide in the bathroom. I listen to my father talking calmly with the two white officers as if they are friends. A fight that got a little out of hand, my father explains. The officers nod, seeming to understand how it is for guys like my dad. My father thanks them for coming by.

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Laurel Fantauzzo Days later, my dad serves my mom with divorce papers and a restraining order for child abuse. My mom never lives at home with my father again. As the divorce proceeds, and my parents grow angrier at each other, I can’t keep track of who I’m supposed to hate or why. I feel required to keep love and suspicion in my heart in equal measure. Most of the time, it feels like a foot is stepping on my throat, pressing harder whenever I need most to cry out for mercy. I start to wish I could return to Manila and escape all this. To spend time with me and my brothers, away from my father, my mom rents motel rooms near our schools and asks us to visit her. Sometimes I’m the only one who does. In one motel room near southern California’s 101 Freeway, my mother orders her favorite Italian takeout. Something with eggplant and red sauce and too much mozzarella cheese. It’s salty, not sweet. The way I prefer it too. I don’t know where my brother is. Maybe skateboarding. We watch a Saturday afternoon rerun of the game show The Price is Right on TV. I feel cramped in the motel room, not sure what she wants from me. It’s a few months after our return from Manila. I’m thirteen and a half now. “Do you remember the woman who wouldn’t come out of her room in Ermita?” my mom suddenly asks from her seat on her hotel bed. “Ermita?” “Naku. Think. In Manila. When we visited the old house.” “We were waiting for someone there? When we watched game shows?” “Yeah. We had lunch and watched TV, waiting for her.” I nod. I remember that day in Manila: the skinny maid who ignored my smile, the bad-tasting soup, my mom waiting for an aunt who never emerged, the afternoon I spent trying and failing to understand the Filipino game shows. I never found out what the rules were or what the game was. The shows had seemed, to me, merely loud: laughter, karaoke, nearly-naked women, occasional bouts of sobbing from selected audience members. I didn’t get the point of all that performance. My mom says now, “When I was twelve, my parents didn’t have much money, so they sent me to live with that aunt because she was rich. But she was mean. She hit me all the time. She would lock me out of the kitchen during mealtimes. She made me watch through the window while she and her kids ate all the food. So eventually I walked home. My parents didn’t really care that I was back. But they didn’t make me return to her. I was still hungry sometimes, when I lived with my parents again.” My mom pauses, realizing something. “I’ve never told that story to anyone.” She smiles. She looks calm and relieved. I don’t understand why my mom tells me that story at that moment. I don’t know yet how present traumas can kick up past traumas: the agony

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Laurel Fantauzzo of divorce excavating childhood horrors. Like the sudden motion of a boat propeller, swirling bad debris at the bottom of an ocean. My mom doesn’t believe in therapy. She believes in God, friends, movies, travel, and, very occasionally, me. None will ever seem effective enough at ameliorating her pain. Least of all me. At thirteen, I don’t know what to do when she tells me about her cruel aunt. I decide to go to the bathroom instead, even though I don’t have to pee. The bathrooms in the Philippines were the most baffling sites I had to maneuver alone. For all twelve years of my life, I had only ever known the American style of bathrooming. The water in the toilet, for example. In American I would press this water down, politely, easily, with a small metal lever. Hot or cold water emerged obediently from the sink and shower faucets. No surface of the bathroom was ever left wet—besides the inside of the toilet bowl, of course, automatically refilled with clean water. I didn’t realize until the Philippines that the American style of bathrooming was exactly that—a style among other styles. The Philippines taught me there were other ways to eliminate my waste. Sometimes, during that first trip to Manila, I would wake up in a new room. I would go to the bathroom and find that the toilet didn’t flush when I pressed down the handle. I would try to hold it, then finally decide to pee in the shower drain, run the showerhead water for a moment, rinse myself, and return to bed. My mom never seemed confused by the bathrooms, but it never occurred to me to ask her what to do there. It felt like I should know. So I pretended to know. One afternoon my mom took me to a small alley in Ermita, Manila, where she’d grown up with her eight siblings. She left me to play with some neighborhood kids while she visited with distant cousins. The kids and I made friends immediately. I learned their games through their fast, happy pantomime. We drew in chalk, spelling English words on the black asphalt. We threw our sandals at an empty can that served as our target. We chased each other and laughed. The kids didn’t seem to care about my difference, about my pale face or my inability to speak Filipino. They just wanted to play, and they were happy to play with someone new. It was one of the few moments I felt like myself in Manila: a twelve-year-old who wanted to laugh and run beyond the reach of my mother. After about an hour of playing, I had to pee. An old widow, who seemed the designated babysitter of the alleyway, invited me into her home to use her CR—her “comfort room.” I entered her CR and shut the door behind me. There was a toilet, which I was used to. But next to the toilet, there was a full bucket of clean water.

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Laurel Fantauzzo Buoyant atop the water was a smaller bucket with a handle. A kind of scoop. I didn’t know then that the scoop was called a tabo, and I didn’t know what it was for: to act as a manual flush. I was supposed to scoop the clean bucket water into the toilet, until whatever I’d left in the bowl descended into Manila’s ancient septic pipes. My mother never explained the function of the tabo to me. Fifteen years later, when I returned to the Philippines without her, I would undergo my own bathroom education, and come to my own bathroom conclusions. I would remember this day in the widow’s bathroom with horror. There was hardly any water in the widow’s toilet. There was no metal lever. So there would be no strong, reassuring, obedient, American-style flush. And there was no shower. I looked from the toilet to the bucket of clean water, confused and alone. My urge to pee grew stronger. So I lowered my pants, squatted, and peed in the bucket of clean water. Then I went back out to the alley to play. When I was twenty-seven, I would learn the full measure of the sin I’d committed. Middle-class and poor Filipinos always keep buckets of fresh water on hand. They are useful for droughts, for days with low water pressure, or for typhoon emergencies and floods that might temporarily contaminate Manila’s water supply. Filipinos never let clean water go to waste. They might later use the bucket water to hand wash their laundry, since personal laundry machines remain rare luxuries in the Philippines. The tabo and bucket water are also used as manual showers. You use the tabo to scoop the clean water from the bucket, and you pour the water over your head to bathe yourself. There is no way to know what became of my mistakenly placed pee. It has haunted me over the years. Did the old widow smell her bathroom and immediately recognize my egregious American error? Or did she, diyos forbid, step into the comfort room to cleanse herself? Did she lift the tabo to her head? Did she baptize herself, horribly, in the piss of an ignorant Filipino American child? I want to laugh at my sin. But I also want to hide from it. I wish I could apologize to the widow. I wish I could take her hand and press it to my forehead in a gesture of penance and respect. Pasensya na po, I’d say. I’m so sorry. My mother never taught me how to be here, you see, and it took too long for me to learn.

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Clare Paniccia It Became Evident in the Taking that when they cleaved from him a piece of the ossicle, they left some perception of kinship: the telling curve of the skull dissolving into skin, patchworked like a sewn doll. My father wheeled into the ICU, bandages molded across forehead, across the ear. This was a frightening thing, to see that man sitting down, clutching arms and reassuring through some future glimpse that home would be sure, soon. What scaffolding held us together inwardly, that could break with such ease? I did not know it, then. We may see our mothers, our fathers: we know that we have come forth from these bodies, but what of the stuff beneath the skin? This might be what props us together— These cavities that have opened into us a bond through sound waves, the eerie falling of the stomach as it collects into feet, the vomit, the reluctance to leave the ground. I have never felt more of my father’s child than in this biology—Than in the airplane cabin, thinking that I, too, am breaking on the inside: a flawed system of tubes and wires that reach down into the dizzy and constantly remind me of my imbalance. Could I measure similarities in the lines of the face any better than in this fear of my own dissolution, the ear creating a dearth of noise—The same curve of bone passed down into such vertigo that only

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Clare Paniccia proves the hammer sounded well into us, our structure. I can see those moments where you lay still and instructed: three drops into the left, four into the right—I imagine myself, grown, crawling up against the pillow, the ear protesting in its fragility, the stomach full, and not remembering my father but becoming a semblance of his cells, these membranes stretching over the drum, weakening over time. Memories coded not in words, but in flashes to the stitch, the tensing muscles that claim us at our most basal and draw us out into future selves, hinged around these kindred molecules, this lineage of maladies.

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Christy Passion Crabbing at the Old Train Tracks I. K. Kaya’s Fishing Supplies Smell of dust and old rain when you enter, the filtered sunlight through the filmy windows up top touching the bamboo poles, nylon nets, and wood-trimmed glass case filled with metallic lures and pink glitter squids shimmering desire; nothing changes. I am here with Papa, his tanned arm outstretched over the counter to Mr. Kaya’s, whose face is all numbers and books, but his knuckles are square and his palms are calloused; they know hard work. The tin cans stripped of their labels (were they asparagus? maybe tomatoes?) line the edge of the aisles filled with small lead weights and blunt spindles. Hanging on the wall, the cotton string crabbing nets we came for patient and plain, like Pop’s gray Kangol hanging next to the front door. My hands run over all the different textures, carelessly I slide my feet into rubber-soled tabis while I half-listen to the men share their truths about fish and family. There is no need and busy here, just a slow belonging among the Penn reels and glass floaters centered, unopened.

II. Bait The butchers are at home, still asleep; the hooks for the duck and char siu empty, yet the fish stalls are already lit, being stocked by lean men in rubber boots carrying soggy cardboard boxes on their shoulders, hustling in the early morning simmer. Buckets of ice are poured onto steel tables

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Christy Passion for the whiskered weke and wide-eyed menpachi, each fish neatly lined up with the next like iridescent red-bellied dominoes. A trough of tight-lipped Manila clams proves irresistible to touch— Papa motions for me to hurry along so I let them roll from my palm back to their family, their difficulties. He calls out to the old Chinese man smoking at the register, counting out coins. “Asook get aku head?” “Get, you like see?” Fish heads, heads as big as mine, with their purple-red lungs trailing like party streamers, are held up for approval— I clap as they are tossed into our plastic bucket, lean over them to take in the blood smell, the torpedo shape of their platinum heads, tiny hooked teeth just inside the border of their mouths agape, seemingly mid-prayer, their last fish words not known to me. Bright gloss of their gelid eyes glinting under the fluorescent lighting fresh like the morning star, promising.

III. Old Train Tracks The blue Nova kicks up the dry dirt no matter how slowly we pull in, but no one makes the effort to go as far as the old train tracks, so we don’t have to apologize. We unload under the misplaced monkeypod tree, lay the nets flat, untangling the string from the floaters without much talk; each tug and twist familiar, devout and on the best of days, it stays mostly quiet once the nets are cast then settled into the chamoised silt layers. Julie’s tangerine bikini top flashes taut and uncompromising— she sets up with the good beach chair a fair distance from the bait bucket and its mob of flies. Pop sequesters himself under the sparse shade of thorny Kiawe holding his transistor radio against his right ear and cheek.

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Christy Passion The sticky silver knob rolls between a talk show touting DMSO and Frank Sinatra. I keep to the middle balancing on the last two tracks lying on the rotted wood, click my tongue against the roof of my mouth tasting metal in the noonday haze, waiting. The Pacific is not beautiful here, from the land to its mouth there is no subtle transition. Unnatural angular rocks form the torn shoreline once heralding a red train that carried the Queen and her entourage. It is brown here, grubbed, a blemish of crippled waves. When I look out at her, unending blue with white lashes blinking at the sun, I pity these choked off inlets, still connected but wanting to be forgotten, like widows at a bridal shower. There is no urgency here, no desire for ascent: Julie’s Teen Beat, her Farrah Fawcett hair, the sound of Pop pissing behind the Nova, his white undershirt slack, the water from the melted ice in the Igloo flecked with dirt and suicidal gnats as I splash it against my neck— we are not beautiful Hawaiians here.

IV. The Pull It’s time, the only mistake now is stopping; once the cord is touched, pull with the chest twist at the waist— maybe it’ll be another monster like the six-pound beast from two summers ago, pulled up right there defiant, cutting through the net with his black-striped claw, eyes on the eddy, there’s the orange floater swaying towards the gray surface, then the metal rim— maybe it’ll be blue crabs, soft-shelled, Mama’s favorite newspaper spread out over the counter first then the thwack of the butcher’s knife splitting them in two the water’s letting go, hands keep gliding as the cord cuts into the palm, maybe there’s nothing, that’s part of it too; sometimes nothing’s all there is. On those days sweat and stagnant water stink lingers on the ride home. Nothing’s quiet as church, uncomfortable as tight shoes.

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Christy Passion Julie’s come over, gloves on, bucket in hand, arcing against a sudden gust, her skin bright as copper on ash Pop’s positioned on the ledge looking into the unseeable, turns back smiling, so I lock my legs, pull with all I got knowing we’ll make do with whatever’s given to us.

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Ricardo Pau-Llosa Palm Sunday You’d think, the man mumbled to himself, these radio guys would have enough sense to not crack rush-hour jokes during rush hour. He bobbed his head in that wise sway that mixes incredulity with the tango of I-have-no-idea. And all because this woman in the red Beamer next to him, who tried to cut him off already twice so she could get out from behind the concrete mixer, which she doesn’t know is right behind the school bus, and if she had seen that combo she would have thrown her pricey car right on top of his band-aid Corolla, no mercy, no chance of escape. But he edged up looking straight ahead as if to say, You there, me here, and all is as it should be. Tune into my station, Babe. Laugh with me as the world laughs at us, stuck in procession, chanting into our phones. I know you aren’t talking really to anyone but yourself while pretending to be on the phone so I won’t get any ideas, the man thought to himself looking at her left door-dangled arm, index finger nail conducting the orchestra of her chatter with crescents carved from the air. Alright, lady, since you asked nice.

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Joan Roberta Ryan Close Kept      My sister winds her way down Quesnel Street  to pick up her Marlboros and organic milk. Muttering sotto voce, she averts lens-shaded eyes from the horses fenced a field-length away, watches for cracks in the pavement under unsteady feet, does not see me drive by. Though tamed now by Clozaril, the voices are with her again. She speaks with them in deep private, close-guarded as the headless porcelain doll, six perfumes, and carved red bead she seals in her triple-locked trunk. They are people she told me once, but will not reveal names, ages, features or what they say, except for the rare they won’t let me wear my turquoise earrings or they told me you died last night. I share what I know of voices— conscience, muse, tutelary deities, creatures who spring from the pen with wills of their own—but she meets each probe with only a thin, twisted smile. Why such distrust? To whom would I reveal her secrets, dear reader, but you?

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Nicholas Samaras Mentor Wedged in an old book, the surprise of a found photograph: in the picture, I still wear the thinness of adolescence. Grinning next to me, you held the girth of your office. One of your window-panes was stained glass, a ripple of blue light colouring the bookcase. On the desk, the miniature orange-tree I gave you for our friendship. The bright, tiny spheres in spring growth, its branches, exquisite and twisted. My father warned me about you, but I was pliable with youth and, under the heft of your influence, I gave you what you wanted— someone to create in your own image. I read your old books you gave me and drew my name carefully under yours. We whispered in the back of funeral parlours where you told me how no one understands. For a decade, you didn’t age but I couldn’t stop myself from growing. And when I left, you would not speak again, would not raise your eyes. Now, I hear

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Nicholas Samaras your name from gossips. My wife carries a child I once would have named after you. Whenever one of us telephones, it is each a stranger who answers. We are what the years bring us to, and whose fault was it I grew older than you, that we both became what we are because of each other and in spite of each other equally? You were my fat angel of dark laughter. I am the enemy who loved you. You are the enemy I loved.

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Staci R. Schoenfeld Hialeah Apocalypse Each morning I woke to sea urchins shedding their spines, leaving a trail of needles in their wake and starfish congregating in constellations echoed by the night sky. Bioluminescent jellyfish swarmed the shore. Stingrays turned fanned backs to the coast like a quiver of arrows hurtling into the Bermuda Triangle. That November the sky was scrubbed free of stars for seven days and every skyscraper, every palm tree clawed at empty space, desperate for guidance. Every shrimp-smudged flamingo disappeared. The squeaky windshield wipers of my father’s Dodge Omni, my mother’s stained glass supplies and every line on every tennis court at Milander Park. All of them, gone, gone, gone. The air thick with smoke and glass. I dreamed the palm trees, their fingers feathered like a child’s eyelashes, invited me outside where the humid night glittered with suspended shards. I reached out for one and another and another and tried to puzzle-piece them back in place, but there were too many fragments and none of them fit right in their frames. That year I broke my leg on a see-saw, but I never spoke to God and because of that now I talk to everything. Strangers. Piano keys. The oyster’s knife edge.

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Betsy Sholl Starlings

Nay, I’ll have a starling shall be taught to speak… —Henry IV They’re everywhere, like phrases from Shakespeare, these birds crowding the suet with its greasy crumbs. They bully other birds, tear up shingles, pry apart the neighbor’s eaves. You can shout them off, but they always come back, all whistle and buzz, bits of night spackled with starspit, doves who dove into tar pits and flew out covered with grit. If Shakespeare lovers, hoping to populate this country with every bird the bard named, had them shipped from England, what does it say about us, that not the lark, but these creatures thrive, whose vocal range includes gravel crunch, car alarm, rusty hinge? And what does it say about Shakespeare that he still hovers around what we see, so I saw Lear when my cousin called to describe her father’s growing obsession with a flock of starlings that messed the car he no longer drove at night— Lear, because he’d given her all his worldly goods then wanted to run her life. Run or ruin: the two so at odds all she could do was everything wrong in his sight, while he stewed and fumed. Now, they’re both gone, he of old age, then she of some failure or refusal to thrive, as if without him the cigarette grit in her voice had nowhere to go, or she lacked the will of these birds, their stubborn intent to flourish, the way since their release in Central Park, they’ve spread coast to coast, and even crowd

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Betsy Sholl this churchyard, come to forage among graves, filling the stony silence with quarrelsome squawks. If they’re such good mimics, let them pick up this clatter of tags from passing dogs, sound of the creatures father and daughter both sank their affections in, speaking to those animals what they could never say to each other— Sweetie pie, Good girl—all the fond murmurs dogs get the tone of, while the two of them heard in the other’s voice words they always wanted, only said to another in front of them, so given and withheld at once. Starling, if only the dead could hear, against that implacable Never— dog sigh, tail thump, whimper at the gate.

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Cathe Shubert What Abigail Adams Didn’t Write Back In a letter to his wife in March 1776, John Adams declined his wife’s request that the congress “…remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors” I pleaded, warned: Remember the ladies… We blew kisses over the dying violent embers, wiping your wounds, only for you to rise on the gust of all our breath, above smoke. Child of altercating fire and coal, of gnarled backwoods and burgeoning cities, you are conditioned to ignore because ignored. He fears, he says, the despotism of the petticoat— despotism indeed! Why must we be one or the other? In order to knit, one needs a pair of needles to carry and push the yarn one end to another. Tyrant needles but stab, making nothing. I see now that liberty is only a beginning, relegated to halved sum.

* Only a beginning, relegated to a halved sum, making nothing. I see now that liberty is one end to another. Tyrant needles but stab; a pair of needles carry and push the yarn. Or the other question: in order to knit, does one need despotism indeed? Why must we be one he fears? He says, the despotism of the petticoat. You are conditioned to ignore because ignored. Gnarled backwoods and burgeoning cities smoke. Child of altercating fire and coal, rise on the gust of all our breath, above embers. Wiping your wounds, only for you we blew kisses over the dying violence. I pleaded, warned: Remember the ladies…

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Lisa Knopp Worse Than Abandonment “There are worse things than abandonment,” a friend once told you. The moment you heard this, you knew that she had succinctly articulated something essential. Soon, this phrase became your mantra. You turned to it for peace and perspective whenever you were troubled by how little time, money, and attention your son’s father provided him. Sometimes, you’d repeat the mantra silently, sometimes under your breath, sometimes out loud, and sometimes you heard it being whispered to you in a voice that wasn’t yours. Sometimes, the syllables were so fast and clipped that they shot past as if they were greased. Other times, each syllable was drawn out, with sustained intervals between them, prolonging each iteration long enough for you to weed your entire garden. But you withheld judgment and took your mantra as it came to you, watched the syllables spin, slide, shift, throb, leap, or drift; settle, rouse, and settle again. Worse…than…a…ban…don…ment. For the most part, you were glad you didn’t have to deal with your son’s biological father at parent-teacher conferences, church Christmas pageants, Boy Scout and Civil Air Patrol events, and later, at your son’s court appearances and counseling, diversion, and probation appointments. “Gerald” would have been too jokey, too confident, too certain that every woman in the room wanted him. A lousy role model for your son. What’s worse than abandonment would have been sharing your son with such a man. It was hard, at times, trying to do everything for your son—nurturing him, disciplining him, sitting through all of those Boy Scout meetings, telling him about puberty, fighting to keep him in school. It was also hard, at times, paying all of his expenses. Yet, it was worse when Gerald did send money, like the time he tucked a check for $200 in a card for your first Mother’s Day. You and your baby were living in a mildewy basement apartment near the university, eking by on the money you earned as a graduate teaching assistant and a Saturday morning yoga teacher, and the boxes of groceries that your folks brought you. When you received the windfall, you paid several bills. Then each check you wrote boomeranged, with charges attached. When your son was about to enter middle school, you told Gerald that you wanted to put him in a private school. Gerald liked this idea and said he’d pay the monthly tuition, which floored you. Maybe he’d changed, you thought. But too many months the money never arrived and you had to cover a hefty unbudgeted expense. After two years of this, you put your son back in the public school. Crab Orchard Review

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Lisa Knopp What’s worse than abandonment would have been raising a child with a man who couldn’t see much less clean up the messes he made, who, though fun and spontaneous, acted before he thought. (“No impulse control,” one of your friends said of him. “A real loose cannon,” said the one who gave you your mantra.) Not long after Gerald almost strangled you to death and bit your nose so hard that it left a saddle of scabs, and later, pink scars, you had a vivid dream about a little boy, your little boy. When you told Gerald that you were quite unexpectedly pregnant, you weren’t clear what you wanted from him. You wanted this baby with an intensity that surprised you. But you knew that you couldn’t raise him alone; yet, neither could you raise him with a man who’d tried to kill you. When Gerald said that he didn’t want a child and would pay for the abortion, you got your own apartment, finished the school year and then resigned from your position as a high school teacher, and moved to Illinois for graduate school, where a mere 50 miles separated you and your family. Soon after you left Omaha, Gerald moved to a former cow town on the old Chisholm Trail in southern Kansas. You were grateful for the geographic distance. When you returned to Nebraska four years later for more graduate school and marriage, you were fearful and hopeful that Gerald would see your son more often now that you were closer. But when he visited Lincoln or Omaha, cities where he used to live and own restaurants, or his sister’s farm in south-central Nebraska, he rarely called. If he did make plans with your son, he usually broke them or arrived extravagantly, unforgivably late. When your son was fourteen, Gerald told him that he’d visit three days after Christmas. All afternoon and into the evening, your son sat by the front window, watching, waiting. Gerald called the next day to say that he’d been detained by end-of-the-year business. What about New Year’s Day, he asked? Would that be a good time to see the boy? After the New Year’s Day visit, your son would see Gerald on two other occasions, once when he was fifteen and once when he was sixteen. When your son was 24, you received a phone call from one of Gerald’s friends, a guy you hadn’t thought of in decades. When the old friend said that Gerald, overwhelmed by debts and the death of Dash, his beloved collie, his constant companion, had hanged himself from a tree in his backyard, you gasped. For a few minutes, you felt dizzy and your mind went blank. You weren’t surprised by the news: Gerald was a dramatic, violent man who had met a dramatic, violent end. What surprised you was that it was Bev who had tracked you down and had asked Gerald’s old friend to contact you. Bev was the woman Gerald occasionally slipped out to see when you two were together. Apparently, she’d been a constant in his life. In one of the email messages she sent you following Gerald’s death, she wrote, “I am very sorry for [your son’s] loss, and told [Gerald] on multiple occasions that at some point [his son] was going to show up on his doorstep, and he was going to be

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Lisa Knopp pissed!” It was because of Bev that Gerald’s cow town friends learned about the son they didn’t know he had. You wonder if Gerald didn’t mention his son because he was ashamed (of his own flesh and blood? of his own negligence?) or if it was because his son was out of sight and so out of mind. Five years after you left him, Gerald showed up at your home in Lincoln, with a bicycle for your son and a gold band for you. He got down on his knees and promised that if you agreed to marry him, he was done with Bev. You had good reasons for refusing Gerald’s proposal: you didn’t like or love him; you doubted his sincerity and suspected that he felt free to propose because he knew that you would say no; you were a little over a year away from marrying someone whom you did love, who would never throw things or strike you, and who would be fiercely devoted to your (plural, as in yours and his) daughter, who would arrive in a few years. Your husband would help your son with his homework and take him fishing in a city lake, where they never caught anything, though not for lack of trying. Your husband would participate in your son’s parent-teacher conferences, school programs, and Boy Scout gatherings, and you wouldn’t feel embarrassed by him when he did. When you and your husband divorced, the relationship between your son and his stepfather also ended. But there was a logic to that parting of ways, and so it was a different sort of abandonment. Darren, Gerald’s long-time friend and mechanic, and one of the executors of Gerald’s estate, said that his buddy should have married Bev. Years ago when Bev called to say that she was in trouble with that bar she owned down in Cancun, Mexico, Gerald was on the next plane to straighten out her finances and bring her back home to Nebraska. A few years before Gerald died, Bev visited him. All of his friends, especially Darren, had encouraged him to marry her. “She’s gotten fat and old,” Gerald said. “So I ask him,” Darren said, “Who are you, Brad Pitt?” In an email to you, Bev said that she and Gerald talked on the phone almost every day toward the end of his life. Gerald had been depressed and hopeless, and had awakened frequently at night in a cold sweat. She begged him to see a doctor, but he refused. When she talked to him on the day he died, she had “no indication that anything was amiss, other than the norm for him.” Gerald didn’t need to fear that the son he’d abandoned would show up at his door, pissed off and demanding a reckoning. At the time of Gerald’s suicide, your son hadn’t seen him for eight years. He never talked or asked about his biological father and liked it that way. After receiving the news of Gerald’s death, you convinced your son that the two of you should go to the former cow town where Gerald had lived for almost twenty-four years. You’d pay for gas, meals, motel rooms, everything. The only time your son had been to Gerald’s home was when he was two months old and you took him to Omaha and introduced father and son. You hoped that if your son saw Gerald’s last earthly home, he’d gain a better sense of who this man

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Lisa Knopp was—or had been. Darren, the optimist, said there might be some money for your son, though you knew there wasn’t a chance of that. Joyce, a friend of Gerald’s who was also an executor of his estate, apparently felt as you did, because later, when Darren repeated that claim in her presence, she pursed her lips and wrinkled her brow. But money or no money, there was something in this situation that your son needed to confront. There might even be some blessings along the way. Like your son, you’d rather not think or talk about Gerald, so when the news of his death brought a deluge of details that you thought you’d forgotten, you felt afflicted, tainted. You remembered meeting Gerald in October 1982 at a Science of Creative Intelligence course at the Transcendental Meditation Center. You were a couple of months into your second year living in Omaha and teaching high school English, still felt too far from home, too lonesome and alone. When Gerald asked you out after the first class, you hesitated. You’d found his dominance of the class discussion irritating and were rather put off by his large facial features, his thick waist, and his casual, businessman’s attire, which you’d soon discover was what he wore all of the time. Yet, he seemed fast, fun, and mischievous, had a strong sexual energy, and a rich, hearty laugh that had made you laugh. Surely there was no harm in going out with him a time or two. Because you felt less alone in the big city when you were with him and because he provided a welcome distraction from your demanding job, you continued saying yes when he called. But if you ran into people you knew when you were out with him, you were embarrassed and felt there was something that you needed to explain. About eight months after you and Gerald started dating you moved into his place. Now you can articulate the reasons for this disastrous decision. Then, you were too far from your people and your home ground, and so, too easily swayed by what a persuasive, assertive, and self-absorbed man wanted you to do to make sound decisions for yourself. But, too, you were dazzled by his lifestyle. When you met Gerald, he had just opened an upscale restaurant, where the wait staff pampered the two of you. His sumptuous apartment was part of the first floor of a mansion that had been built by an Omaha railroad tycoon in 1883. You loved the tall ceilings and windows, hardwood floors, and ornately carved woodwork. Gerald had richly furnished the place with rugs from Morocco, the first glass-topped dining room table you’d ever seen, the first king-sized bed you’d ever slept in, a handsome Philco console radio from the 1930s, art deco prints, and glassware. A small, bronze replica of Giambologna’s Flying Mercury sat atop a stereo speaker almost as tall as you. One afternoon a week, a maid cleaned and did laundry. You have forgiven yourself for being swept away by all of this. After all, you were young, naïve, and straight out of your blue-collar hometown in Iowa. But what you can’t forgive yourself for is that you acted on that tendency of yours to take the course of less resistance, of greatest

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Lisa Knopp convenience at that moment rather than investing the time and energy in finding or creating what you truly desire. What you desired was a kindred spirit with whom you could share your life and your living space. Gerald wasn’t that man. Yet he was there, and he was persistent. Sometimes you’d resolve to try harder, to go deeper with Gerald, to try to fall in love with him and make him fall in love with you, but when nothing changed, you gave up. Though you’re still tempted by the allure of the easy and convenient, you know that when you succumb to it, sooner or later that choice will do some sort of violence to those involved. When you saw the condition of Gerald’s final earthly home, it was clear that something had gone very, very wrong. The antique Philco radio sat near the back garage door, its once lustrous wood gray, split, and warped. In the kitchen, stacks of crusty dishes towered in the sink and the ceiling had blackened and buckled from water damage. The smell of mold was so strong that you propped the front door open in spite of the cold as Joyce, Darren, your son, and you toured the place. Unpaid bills covered the floor of Gerald’s office. Though Dash had been dead almost three months, several piles of his dried poop remained in a corner of the living room. Someone had ransacked Gerald’s vast collection of LP record albums and rare books, leaving the dusty shelves empty except for the Flying Mercury statue. Darren handed the statue to your son. “It’s yours,” he said. “Take anything else you want.” Your son took the statue and a few tools, and left the rest. The four of you combed through the papers in Gerald’s office searching for bank statements, bills, receipts, tax notices, and insurance policies. During the search, you found photographs of his women, both those who came before and those who came after you, and several of you. You found your son’s artwork and school photographs and more cards and letters than you remember writing and sending. Most of your letters contained bits of news about your son and a continuation of one quibble or another between you and Gerald. Technically, Gerald did not die in his own backyard. At the time of his death, he was living in a house that he’d bought years earlier because it stood on the edge of what he predicted would be an area of great commercial development. In December of 2008, he and his neighbors sold their homes to developers who planned to raze them and fill the space with offices, stores, and parking lots. Shortly after the sale, Gerald and Dash had gone to California in the RV where Gerald met with some of the head honchos of a fast food franchise that he’d dreamed of buying since before you met him in 1982. “He came this close,” Darren said, holding up his grease-stained thumb and forefinger a hair’s breadth apart, “to landing the deal.” Not only had Gerald failed to make his dream come true, but on the drive back to Kansas, Dash had died. Whatever money Gerald had received from the sale of his house was gone, though no one knew how he’d spent it. He was to

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Lisa Knopp have vacated his former home by March 1, the day after his suicide. Yet, he hadn’t packed a single box. The funeral home delivery guy brought to the motel where you and your son were staying the heavy, black box of Gerald’s ashes and a clear plastic bag filled with the contents of Gerald’s pockets at the time of his death: glasses in black Brooks Brothers frames; a miniature menu from the successful diner he owned; a Kansas Powerball ticket; and a billfold containing a driver’s license indicating that he was an organ donor, several OfficeMax receipts, about $240 in cash, and a receipt from Dollar General, where at 9:17 p.m. on February 27, 2009, Gerald paid $5.25 for a carton of Jungle Juice, a bottle of Dr. Pepper, and a package of clothesline rope. When your son saw the driver’s license photo, he said, “At least I know what he looked like.” You’ve tried to piece together the last evening of Gerald’s life. He and Bev talked at 3 p.m. She noticed nothing unusual. How had Gerald spent the several hours between the phone call and the trip to Dollar General for the rope? Savoring a last meal? Watching You Tube videos about how to tie a noose? Searching, searching for a solution as he paced or wandered in his wreck of a home? Gerald chose hanging over something slower and milder like sleeping pills or carbon monoxide because he was a fast, dramatic, violent man. He was a determined one, too: death by hanging is the most reliable form of suicide. You imagine Gerald sitting at the kitchen table tying the noose, testing the strength and holding ability of the loop and knot with his large, soft hands. Perhaps he knew how to do this from his Boy Scouting days. In Gerald’s backyard beneath the silver maple and above Dash’s grave was a table and knocked-over chair. Perhaps Gerald stood on the chair first, found that it wasn’t tall enough, and then dragged the table into the yard. Or perhaps he needed the chair so that he could climb onto the table. He threw the noose over a sturdy branch, secured it, and slipped the loop over his head. Perhaps he stood there deliberating, wondering what followed death, wondering how people would receive the news of his death, wondering if there was some way out of this mess that he had missed—an unlocked door, a hole in the fence, a suddenly remembered magical incantation, a savior waiting in the wings. But Gerald often failed to consider the implications of his actions — abandoning his obligations for a spur-of-the-moment road trip or spending spree, or lashing out with words or physical force — until after the damage was done. More likely, he put the noose around his neck and without further ado, jumped or fell forward. Did his body, sixty pounds heavier than when you met him, sway in wide arcs that became narrower and narrower, or did he spin, fast at first, then slower and slower until finally, he was at rest, barely moving, like an abandoned tire swing? Gerald dangled from the winter-bare tree, head drooping forward on a broken stem, chest and shoulders concave, knees slightly bent, like a big, old question mark.

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Lisa Knopp The next morning, Gerald’s handyman found his boss, called the police, and they cut him down. You wonder what thoughts sputtered in his mind in the last moments of consciousness. Did he feel relief when the noose jerked hard, compressing his jugular vein, carotid artery, and windpipe, breaking his neck, and severing his spinal cord? Or did he panic and try—or want to try—to loosen the rope so his breath and blood could move again? Surely in his final moments, he thought about Dash. But did he remember Bev? Or the sister, brother-in-law, and nephews whom he’d once been so close to but who now wanted nothing to do with him? Or his brothers and their families, who also refused to take Gerald’s ashes or to allow Bev to list their names in his obituary? Did he remember Boy Scout meetings, a place where he’d felt safe and successful as a child? Or the difficult former girlfriend who refused an abortion, refused marriage, and raised the boy without asking for much—his boy, who would be deeply shaped by his father’s abandonment of him and by his mother’s belief that there was something worse than abandonment? Or did he, in his final moments, feel or think something that you can’t imagine? In his final thoughts, did he remember that he had tried to kill you? You remember looking up at him, his face hideous with rage as all 240 pounds of him sat on your chest and he tightened his hands around your neck. You couldn’t breathe, couldn’t stop the pressure, couldn’t see any way out, no unlocked door, no hole in the fence, no suddenly remembered magical incantation, no last-minute arrival of a savior. What might have been your last thought was that you were going to die right there on the kitchen floor on a late afternoon in June, and your mother would never, ever let this man get away with it. But blessedly, he let go. As your breath and blood moved again, Gerald bit your nose, spit in your face, and yelled words at you that you couldn’t understand. Now you can’t remember what you’d been fighting about, but because in some vague way, you felt responsible for what had happened, you didn’t call the police, didn’t go to the hospital, forgave him when he asked, and moved out (though not immediately). You’ve managed your life these past thirty-two years so that there’s little chance that anyone will be in a position to bolt all of the exits and throw you down. Worse things than abandonment. After the near strangulation, you stayed home for several days until the swelling on your nose subsided. Fortunately, it was June, so school was out for the year. Unfortunately, it was June, so you couldn’t wear a turtleneck. Before you went out, you caked makeup base and powder on the teeth marks on your nose and the red marks and bruises on your neck and face. Only your yoga teacher asked what had happened. You told her that you were so klutzy that you’d fallen down the front steps. But she didn’t buy it. She knew that you could move gracefully through a long chain of Sun Salutations and hold balancing postures like Half Moon Pose from now

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Lisa Knopp until kingdom come. “I don’t like the man who did this to you,” she said. “I did this to myself,” you assured her. Your neck and nose healed, and you tried to put the whole ugly scene behind you. You and your son, along with Joyce and her boyfriend, cleaned out and closed down Gerald’s restaurant, a charming diner on the highway running through the heart of the city. Later, Darren and Joyce would sell it. It was the kind of place that served eggs, pancakes, biscuits and sausage gravy, hamburgers, hash browns, and pie, with little on the menu that you, a finicky, gluten-free vegetarian could eat. Even so, you were impressed by how well Gerald’s diner captured a white, middle-class, middle-America image of the 1950s, his favorite decade. While you and your son met with Joyce’s attorney friend at her office, two of Gerald’s creditors, rough, surly characters, burst into the diner demanding what he owed them. Joyce’s boyfriend said that one asked where he could find Gerald’s son. This alarmed you. Who had told them that Gerald had a son? If they saw your son, would they recognize him as Gerald’s, too? More than one of Gerald’s friends, upon seeing your son for the first time, had said, “You don’t need to tell me whose boy you are!” It was the blue, blue eyes, the thick eyebrows, the slightly upturned nose, the naturally straight, even teeth, and the stocky build. The attorney said that if there had been any money from Gerald’s estate, it should have gone to your son. But in his will, Gerald had revised the amount that he wanted to bequeath your son from $20,000 to $50,000, the edit written with a blue ballpoint pen in Gerald’s big, bold, blocky letters. Though you suspect that his intentions were good, you’re curious as to what prompted the change and whether he understood that under Kansas law, his edit effectively wrote your son out of the will. You brought your son to the former cow town on the Chisholm Trail not because there was money to be inherited, but because you had hoped that he’d come to understand something that had eluded him. What he got was the opportunity, over and over again, to proclaim himself as Gerald’s son to people who hadn’t known he existed, to perform the duties of next of kin (talking to the police; signing the death certificate and the cremation order), and to assume responsibility for Gerald’s remains. Darren said that Gerald wanted his ashes scattered on the family farm. When your son agreed to do this, Darren said to you, “You raised a good boy there.” Your heart swelled with love and pride. The farm Gerald wanted to return to in death was the setting of disturbing stories that he told about his childhood. He was tardy for school most days because his father wouldn’t let him leave until he’d fed and watered the cattle. Gerald didn’t mind doing morning chores. The other farm boys did them, too. But he considered it an expression of his father’s animosity toward him that he had to be so late for school every day. Often, Gerald’s father ordered his son to bend over and then kicked him hard enough that

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Lisa Knopp he fell on his face in the mud and manure. Gerald told stories about other punishments and humiliations. You doubted the severity and frequency of the abuse until you met his sister, who said that every day, her mother berated her for being fat and worthless, nothing to her but household help. Worse than abandonment. Some who suffer material or emotional poverty grow up to be generous with their time, love, and money. But others grow up to be tight-fisted. Gerald’s sister devoted herself to her husband, sons, and students, in that order. But Gerald chose the other response. After he dropped out of college, he severed ties with his parents. When you knew him, the only contact that he had with them was at Christmas when his mother sent him a box of her homemade cookies and candy. When she died a few years before her eldest son’s suicide, the siblings had fought over whether to rent or sell the land and house. Gerald had advocated for the latter, which caused a rupture between him and his sister that never healed. In your dreams, you kept returning to Gerald’s apartment. You crept through the cold, dark rooms, looking for something, though you didn’t know what. You riffled through magazines and mail in the living room and pushed aside piles of clothes in the bedroom. When you heard Gerald’s car in the driveway, his footsteps in the hall, his key in the door, you panicked. If there wasn’t time to escape through a window, you hid deep in a closet, but never in the kitchen. It was your fear that awakened you from the dream and made it cling to you all day like a foul odor. Perhaps if you’d reported the assault to the police, you wouldn’t have had the gnawing sense that you’d lost something or that something had been taken from you, and you wouldn’t have kept returning in your dreams to the scene of the crime. After Gerald died, your nightmare journeys lessened in frequency until finally, they stopped. But because you hadn’t found what you were looking for or were hoping to set right, nothing was resolved. After Gerald’s estate was settled with his creditors paid pennies on the dollar, you and your son met Joyce at Applebee’s in Manhattan, Kansas. You chatted with her about her work as a nurse, as a medical volunteer in Central America, and as the former manager of Gerald’s apartment complex. Hesitantly, she told you that he owed her over $20,000 in back wages and money she’d loaned him for one of his business ventures. How could such a good woman be friends with Gerald? Joyce gave your son three boxes of Gerald’s possessions that she had deemed of sentimental but no monetary value and so hadn’t taken to the estate auction. Since your son’s place was small and crowded, he asked you to keep the boxes for a while. You started going through the contents of the biggest box, but soon lost interest in the photos, plans for new restaurants, and mementos (a T-shirt from a Rolling Stones concert; a Boy Scout sash with badges in animal husbandry, first aid, fingerprinting, home repairs, lifesaving, and many others; all those Norman Rockwell prints). Bev would have cherished the contents of the

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Lisa Knopp boxes. When you suggested to your son that he give them to her, he said he’d think about it. Six years later, the boxes still sit in your basement. For a few years after Gerald died, you emailed your condolences to Bev on the anniversaries of Gerald’s birth and death. Her grief was deep and pure. She asked you to pray for Gerald. But she was the one who was alive and suffering, so you prayed for her. If your son ever decides to scatter the ashes on the farm where Gerald grew up, you’ll suggest that he invite Bev to participate. But you doubt that he’ll ever part with the remains. Each fall, he deer hunts on private land not far from the farm, so he’s had opportunities to fling handfuls of ash onto the land where Gerald once fed cattle and where his father kicked him so he could watch him fall on his face. When your son’s pets died, first the pit bull and later the hound, he cremated them himself and kept their remains. When your elderly cat died, you were going to bury her in your backyard between the lilac bushes, a lovely, hidden, shady place. But your son asked for her body, which he cremated and returned to you in a pretty ceramic jar with a lid. “In case you move someday,” he said. “This way, nobody gets left behind.” You stopped answering Gerald’s emails a few years before his death, when you noted the sharp shift from his moderate Republicanism to the crude rhetoric and dogma of the far right. Gerald sent cartoons ridiculing the president, not for his policies but for the size of his lips. In one email, he wrote, “I send these because it’s so much fun to piss you off.” After skimming one particularly vile anti-ACLU (he probably knew that you were a longtime member), pro-NRA message, you decided you were done. Thereafter, you’d delete his messages without opening them. You kept your word…except for twice. When you read “Want to bury the hatchet” in the subject line, you were curious and opened the message. Within, it read: “in my head?” You were amused and then you weren’t. You wondered if this was an indirect attempt on Gerald’s part to start a discussion. Yet, there was nothing there that you wanted to respond to. The subject line in his final message to you read, “The Most Beautiful Sunset Ever.” Within was a photograph of a rainbow at sunset. Over six years later, you still have that one on your server. Now you wish that you had at least thanked him for the picture—just to see how he responded. Perhaps you agreed too quickly when your friend told you that some things are worse than abandonment. At the time, you thought that this meant that it was better to raise your son alone than with a man who was a real loose cannon. One of Gerald’s old college buddies said that Gerald didn’t spend time with your son because he didn’t want to pass on his “loser mind-set.” This might have been an honest statement; but more likely, it was a flimsy excuse and a specious philosophy. Many flawed people have risen above their weaknesses for the sake of a child. Besides, even a child who has spent little time with a parent manifests some of that parent’s attributes through what he

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Lisa Knopp or she consciously and unconsciously accepts or rejects: your son lives on a cattle farm in the rural part of the county; he was an ardent Boy Scout, despite your ambivalence about the organization; he’s impulsive, though less so as he ages; he’s not good with money; he has stained and hardened his hands through hunting, fishing, wood chopping, machine repair, and physical labor; he throws out papers, clothes, old tools, and junk because, he says, “I’m not going to be a slob like he was.” ; he has been with the same woman since they were in high school. It’s as if your son did know his biological father and was shaped by him. Yet he spent so little time with the man that it took a driver’s license photo to remind him of what his father looked like. When you asked your son how he felt about Gerald’s death, he said, “Now there’s no chance of my dad ever getting to know me.” Traditionally, repeating a mantra has served two purposes, one worldly and one spiritual. The mundane and largely self-serving purposes include communicating with or placating the dead, warding off evil forces, curing illnesses, controlling the thoughts or actions of others, and acquiring magical powers. The spiritual uses of a mantra include quieting the habitual fluctuations of the mind and then directing consciousness toward its ultimate source. In short, the spiritual aim of mantra practice is nothing less than salvation, nirvana, union with God. With years of mindful repetition, any mantra will take root and bear fruit. To that end, the word or phrase must be chosen or assigned with insight, discrimination, and clear, egoless aspirations. After thousands of repetitions, the meaning of your mantra is less clear than when you first uttered it. Now you ask, what is worse than abandonment? While abandoning a lost, dangerous, or threatening cause, precept, or person is reasonable, abandoning one to whom you owe responsibility or allegiance is not. But what are you to do when a situation includes both danger and responsibility? You try to silence the mantra that you’ve repeated for so long that it’s always there, murmuring like a creek beneath your conscious thoughts. You wonder how all of this—the abandonment, the suicide, your nightmares, regrets, partial relief, and your inability to portray Gerald as a complete character (you’re more attentive to the details of this whole, dark messy affair than the big questions they raise), and indeed, your son’s life—might have been different if you’d chosen a different mantra. “Thou art that.” “Let it be.” “Mercy.” “Grace.” Now you know that what’s worse than abandonment is clinging to your stinginess, your hard-heartedness, your conviction that your son and you were the only ones wronged. What’s worse than abandonment is not being able to tell this story as unabashedly yours.

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Bonnie J. Morris A Sixties Man Vietnam was a war waged with bombers and fighters and missiles manufactured in California, the state where the anti-war movement found its initial strength. —Marc Reisner, A Dangerous Place I remember when Roger was working for Hughes Aircraft, and he was walking around with a peace symbol, which was really contrary there. He wore a peace sign—they thought he was some kind of freak. —Dick Rose

We were different.

As the nation fumbles toward acknowledging that Woodstock happened almost fifty years ago, it’s not only aging hippies and baby boomers but the schoolkids of that era who appraise our past anew. I was, in the sixties, six and seven and eight; I saw the fires of protest through playground-centered eyes, and had my focus directed by parents in “the movement.” This is a tribute to my father, who like so many idealistic men awakened, fifty years ago, to the reality that his livelihood made bombs. In extricating himself from postwar California’s aerospace engineering and defense careers, reinventing himself and being honest with his family about such change, my father compromised his income while his boyhood friends became cozy millionaires. The flip side to L.A.’s moneymaking lure was the newly permissive culture and its temptation for still-young men to abandon family responsibilities altogether; to disavow suburban materialism and seek one’s very individual pleasures as a freewheeling man. This drove many “sixties men” toward the orgies, teepees and be-ins far from the pediatricians and nursery schools that spelled security for their children. My old man neither sold out nor split; at 75, he looked back at the road less traveled by and his choice to be the dad who stayed, and wondered if he should have made more money. I want to put in words that his choice was far from static. He took us with him in his different way, living out “peace and love” as mindful, hip stability. Forty-eight years ago it was 1969; and to outward appearances, aside from the giant peace sign in the window in lieu of an American flag, our family framework was no different than that of many young middle-class

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Bonnie J. Morris Jewish households in west L.A.—I went to bed every night at 8:15 with my homework done. TV time and junk cereal were strictly regulated. My brother and I had regular visits to our beloved Jewish pediatrician, Dr. Plachte, a Holocaust survivor who fled Kristallnacht. I wore a red, white and blue Campfire Girl Uniform after successfully ascending from Bluebirds in a “flyup ceremony” heavy with patriotic symbolism. Good boundaries existed. Yet within those borders, our family landscape included some very new terrain. My father had left his job at Hughes Aircraft and was now a graduate teaching assistant at USC, often at home; my mother took a job at a department store and was working part-time as Roger prepared for a career more idealistic, altruistic, and pacifistic than making armaments. This modeling of flexible roles, of making sacrifices for a higher purpose, was not only in my home but at my school, where I would witness a teachers’ strike in which the leader of my “gifted” classroom walked that picket line alone. What led up to my parents’ significant changes in outlook; in lifestyle? What led my father to taunt his military-contract employers at Hughes Aircraft by wearing a peace sign to work—and hanging a giant peace sign in the front window of his house? Why did my mother begin refusing to salute the flag at my Bluebird club meetings and instruct me that I, too, could just stand quietly in passive resistance? How did the three of us end up at Century Plaza, running from police tear gas during that night of protest in 1968? To hear my parents tell it, the light bulb of conversion went on for them during a somewhat kinky dinner party at the home of a UCLA philosophy professor, Keith Gunderson, in 1966. ROGER: It’s not that simple. This was way after lots of other people became liberal. We were in our little house with our little children. When did we sense a movement? I didn’t know who I was. I started at Hughes a nice, straight young Republican, making electronic stuff, all military. By the time they laid me off, I was a vocal liberal. MYRA: We were so ignorant of what was going on in Vietnam, just believing what we were being fed by the government, that when we first heard about Dr. Martin Luther King, I can remember thinking: why is that his place, to criticize the government? How unpatriotic! I just could not understand. I feared that change would make things chaotic, and that some people couldn’t handle that kind of responsibility. ROGER: The question here is really when, if ever, do you acquire a sense of responsibility for the larger society that you live in rather than just reacting to what that society gives you. You can always

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Bonnie J. Morris go the other way, too, become anti-social, try to figure out ways to lie, cheat, steal, and be a nogoodnik. But let’s forget about that guy, even though he might reside or at least have a toehold in our subconscious. I had been working at Hughes Aircraft for quite a while when the Vietnam War was really beginning. I was making bombs, and I didn’t care to. Yet also, at this very same time the antiwar movement came along—and I was against it! I thought it was bad, unpatriotic. We became political when we had dinner with the Gundersons. That evening, we became political. Like a switch was turned. MYRA: It would have been when you were in nursery school; 1965 or 1966. We knew the Gundersons from the recorder society, and then discovered we lived right behind one another, and they invited us and another couple to a dinner party. That evening, Roger became very interested in what Keith Gunderson had to say, and asked him for a reading list. But just to show you several threads that were going on at the same time, Donna, who had two little boys, had prepared this French meal for us which she obviously spent HOURS and HOURS doing everything just right. And then she was so tired, this young mom, from having done this that she fell asleep while we were all talking. I think that’s a very interesting thread—that we were all trying to impress one another! And women were knocking themselves out to put on this display. At the same time, at this same party there were about six of us. And while we’re sitting and talking, this other guy they had invited was sitting next to me and had his arm around me on the couch— Roger was sitting right across from us!—and he starts tickling my back, running his hand up and down my back. It was a bizarre evening! ROGER: Lots of things happened that evening. I talked with Keith, and he essentially said “Look, we’re on the wrong side in this war. We should not be in the war, and we certainly should not be on the wrong SIDE; the guys we’re supporting are the bad guys.” And I was like, WOW! That’s a bit much! MYRA: It was like a red state person talking to a blue state person, today. ROGER: And I said, “Look. I don’t know the history. You know the subject, you’re a professor. Give me a reading list.”

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Bonnie J. Morris MYRA: He was a professor in the UCLA philosophy department, which Rog respected. We had taken a philosophy course when we were undergraduates at UCLA, and one semester it was taught by Donald Kalish, who became this famous or infamous, depending upon your political persuasion, head of the department during the Vietnam War. VERY politically active in opposing the war at rallies and so forth. So Keith Gunderson was there with him. And this was like unheard of. WE had not hung out with intellectuals before. ROGER: None of our friends, in our backgrounds, were intellectuals. MYRA: Smart, yes. But not intellectuals. ROGER: And the people who were intellectuals were nerdy. And nerds have now carved out an honorific name for themselves, but then…no. Plus, “eggheads” were considered dangerous. MYRA: True intellectuals were not normal. Do you remember, Rog, the word NORMAL? That was a standard of behavior—“It’s not NORMAL.” ROGER: In the play Hair there are a couple of songs that capture that. Comparing, I think, 1968 and 1948. NORMAL was something that we strove for, Myra and I when we were courting, when we were newlyweds.…We bought the house and our car and we did this and we gave parties and we bought furniture and oh, my goodness, were we normal. Normal meaning upper middle class cool. All right? MYRA: We thought we were so sophisticated. We liked Chinese art—we had that statue of Ho Ti—and we still have the abacus. ROGER: Keith told me to begin with The Ugly American, for example, and various other things that talked about the history of Southeast Asia, post WWII. French Indochina had been a protectorate of the French. The Japanese came in and took over the joint and the local rebels against the Japanese were led by Ho Chi Minh. And then, after the second world war, when Japan is defeated and the question is who has jurisdiction over what, the United States was totally disinterested in acquiring any new possessions— we were in a “let’s bring home the boys and return to normalcy” mode. Okay? “Let’s be isolationist.” So we said to the French,

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Bonnie J. Morris “Okay, who gets to run this place? It’s yours.” So I read through this stuff, and I went back to Keith and said, “You’re right.” I said, “With the exception of maintaining certain economic ties, which are traditional, namely supporting the American entrepreneurs in the other country, short of that, we got no business dictating to the people over there who governs them. Furthermore, the people whose side we seem to be on are flat-out bad-guy gonifs.” Okay? MYRA: And this would have been around the same time you went back to school. But I don’t remember whether you were already in school when this night happened—but right around then, he decided his career at Hughes wasn’t happening for him. He took a battery of tests at UCLA. Was it politically motivated, your change of careers, or just not being happy with what you were doing? ROGER: BOTH. I didn’t leave Hughes until they fired me. I was one of the first to go. MYRA: So then that last year that we lived in L.A., he didn’t have a job. I worked at the Broadway and he worked as a guest lecturer. ROGER: What happened was that one of my professors got sick, and I covered for him. I knew the material, so I went and gave the lectures. MYRA: So around the same time that we had this dinner at the Gundersons’, Rog went back to school and I actually was taking some night classes at UCLA. I don’t remember how much in touch I was with what was going on in ordinary campus life, but you’re just out there and you hear things that are going on. By then we had gotten interested in politics. I think it was partly Roger being on campus and, for me, taking classes and being there with the students at night—and wanting to feel that I was still young and with it, and picking up on what they were doing. There was a lot of posturing going on, I think, in our involvement with the peace movement. There was also genuine feeling. It was somehow through the Gundersons, I’m sure, that we first heard about rallies and stuff. But then what we were on campus, we were in touch with that sort of thing. I was also working at USC while Roger was going to USC. We went to a couple of rallies, peace marches…Then we attended a peace vigil on Wilshire and Westwood, which was a major intersection. We held signs, and it was in silence, a Quakertype silent vigil. The big mistake we made was taking you guys to

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Bonnie J. Morris Century Plaza, and after that we didn’t take you to anything except Moratorium Night. Moratorium was in two parts. One was at Mar Vista, and another was at UCLA at night and I went with Roger. A candlelight vigil. Phil Ochs was there, many of the folksingers. ROGER: There were lots of candles. MYRA: You see, we were in such a different category, because by then we were young, suburban parents. That changes your life immensely. You’re out of it, politically, for the most part. We had to inform ourselves more— ROGER: I went to some peace vigil organized by some pretty farleft types within the movement, some people standing with a sign on Wilshire Boulevard. Soon it was a weekly thing. MYRA: It was on Saturdays, and he may have gone more than I did. It was a regular, weekly thing. I remember going at least once. You wanted to know about the Century Plaza march. Okay. This was 1968. By this time, we had gone to a couple of political events. In somebody’s home, or a peace march. We were very heady with the feeling that we could change the world, that we WERE changing the world, and we also felt we were utterly cool and groovy and with it and young, and were being rather obnoxious about it, I’m sure. We found out about this kind of late, or decided to go kind of late, but it was a last minute decision to go. We were told, or we did learn that we should dress nicely, look very respectable, etc. And where to meet—at Cheviot Hills Park. We knew that President Johnson was going to be at the Century Plaza Hotel. And we were coming out as citizens to show our opposition to the war. We came to the park by ourselves. We weren’t with an organized group, or even with friends. None of our friends were really into this. It was a nice evening, and we were kind of at the end of the march because we were with two little kids, who obviously couldn’t walk fast. And there was the usual milling around to get it started—it took a LOOONG time to get started, as you know marches do. So we had to walk along Pico Boulevard for quite a ways and by the time we snaked around and onto the Century Plaza road, people were way ahead and we were following farther behind. People came by and, I think, gave you candy bars and stuff. And then we saw somebody RUNNING, in the opposite direction—towards US. People, coming towards us. And, you know, it looked like they were hurt—we didn’t know what was

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Bonnie J. Morris going on. Then we started to hear rumors that something bad was going on up at the front of the march—that people were getting hurt. And I forgot to say that even before we heard any ruckus, as we were approaching the hotel I said “What are those guys doing up there on the roof? They’ve got machine guns! Why are they pointing them at us?” That was an awakening! And we didn’t know what was going on, but we finally decided that we had better leave. We had little kids with us. We didn’t know if it was safe. We walked a long ways off to wherever our car was, drove home, and turned on the TV set. And then we saw people getting hit over the head and running away and the police clubbing people. We were just astounded. And we realized that we were utterly naïve in going into this situation. My parents were mad at us for exposing you kids to danger. We thought it was a perfectly safe thing, like a Sunday walk in the park, you know, basically. There was a parade permit and we were supposed to follow a certain route, and it was supposed to keep moving. But the more radical wing sat down in front of the hotel, the police told them to disperse, and when they didn’t disperse and they just formed a flying wedge and started hitting and chasing people. Of course there were plenty of innocent people who hadn’t sat down, hadn’t done anything, not that sitting down is a crime, but people who weren’t involved in sitting down in any way who were bloodied and chased—it was awful, just horrible. So, obviously, after that we didn’t take you kids… ROGER: We were pretty simple back in those days. Even though we thought we were so cool and so radical and so well-read and so knowledgeable and so worldly and responsible and all those other nifty words, we were just incredibly naïve. A lot of the sentiment was good. The sentiment generally was to loosen the boundaries where it’s just human pleasure that’s involved. You know, if people want to smoke dope, go screwing, hey, that doesn’t hurt anybody— this was before AIDS. And that resonated with lots and lots of people, particularly in big cities, where a kid could go down the street and around the corner and not have any more parental influence. Healthy young hedonism is quite appealing. MYRA: The peace and love part was just so appealing. How could you not like it? The peace sign in the front window at Christmas—I decided that one night. ROGER: We were very much, at that time, into the movement, at least self-consciously. It seemed appropriate at the time. The

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Bonnie J. Morris time was one of breaking with traditions and doing your own crashingly original thing. But, hey, we were into that. And so the idea of making a great big chicken-wire peace sign and putting Christmas-type decorations and lights around it would be kind of a good statement. And I must say that when I look back on it I think it was a good statement! Yeah! MYRA: And people came down the street and knocked on the door—That one couple, who came in and got stoned with us— ROGER: That was cute. MYRA: It was a nice thing to do, and we did it the way you make a float, with chicken wire and crepe paper. We had to cut all these pieces of crepe paper. Thousands of pieces! ROGER: And as a matter of fact we had neighbors very close nearby who were of quite different persuasion. They didn’t object. MYRA: Nobody in the neighborhood ever said anything negative. ROGER: I think we probably did our best to make that time period an adventure for you kids, rather than trying to propagandize. MYRA: I did do propaganda. I can remember. Not about this, but about other things. Not propaganda—that’s the wrong word. I did tell Bonnie things, politically, that I thought she should know— about racism— ROGER: But this stuff permeates the history of the late sixties and early seventies, that ten-year period from 1965 to 1975. As a kid, four to fourteen, you were saying “What’s the world like?” We were old enough—twenty-four to thirty-four—so that our world was back ten years from where we were. We were there, immersed, busy being, not becoming. We enjoyed and participated and believed in the sentiments that drove the movement years. We participated in some of the events, and as Myra says, I don’t think we were terribly convincing as leaders of the movement. We kind of went along, okay, and enjoyed ourselves. MYRA: Part of it, yes, was following fashion. A lot of it was NOT a political statement. There were really fun clothes in the sixties; they were colorful, flowing—men’s clothes finally became interesting

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Bonnie J. Morris and fun. Wonderful! Today, everyone’s wearing solid colors—or neutral colors. But they were flamboyant then, and fun. The part of me that loves drama and dance loved all the feathers and beads and fringes. Even those long culottes, and mini-skirts—minis and maxis were at the same time. All of a sudden there was such a wide range of choices! I don’t remember when I first smoked pot at home. It was always after you were asleep; but this one time I got SO HIGH. So uncomfortable, because I stayed there for hours and couldn’t come down, which is scary. But before I got nauseated I was totally goofy. I was thirsty, and I remember not wanting to swallow water, but I went into the kitchen saying “Great idea! Great idea! Come in ’ere!” So Roger came in and I had two bowls filled with water. I said, “If you don’t want to swallow, you can just hang your tongue down into the bowl!” We were kind of superficial—We liked all the trappings. The love. Well, you know how I am. I love that; I still do. The idea of peace and love and justice; and singing, the folk music, all that. I just loved all of that. People together. The sense of community. ROGER: Community. Community. Yeah. But it was not true. Even the play, Hair, makes a sharp distinction between the black guys and the white guys in the movement. It was not integrated. It was in no way institutionally integrated. That was one of the things that led into the peace movement, the peace marches. That’s all moving toward the peace movement. But when you got there, it was still the black guys and the white guys. MYRA: Roger had to go to New York, for work, and when he was there he saw Hair, on Broadway, and then we got tickets and went to see it in L.A. and I can remember being so utterly shocked and blown away by this naked guy on a trapeze coming out over the audience. WOW! That was a mindblower, that show. But the other thing was that at the same time, the next morning, we all got up, got our kids together, drove up to the snow, and did our standard suburban thing. That was really our daily life, not protest and calling committees and getting together with meetings—no. We were more into talking about it, the desire for peace…You got a big dose of it. But we weren’t political like—like people of deep political and social commitment, Joan Baez and Judy Collins. At one point we got very doctrinaire in not saluting the flag. I remember opposing that and not saluting when it was required at your Bluebird meeting, standing next to your leader and making a

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Bonnie J. Morris really big deal out of it. When I realized how incensed she was by what I said, I backpedaled really fast! We didn’t take hard risks. We were working on our own lives as young parents. That was it. BONNIE: Yet wasn’t there a point when you didn’t pay your taxes in protest of the Vietnam War? MYRA AND ROGER [both groaning and chuckling]: Oh. Yeah. ROGER: That lasted until the guy rang the doorbell. So, okay, it was a very, very small statement. You know, ordinary people don’t really have any avenue to ping the system, to make a statement. Yeah, you get to vote once in a while, big fucking deal. You can write letters to the editor until they sense that you’re a nuisance and won’t publish you any more—But if you refuse to pay your taxes, at least they gotta send a guy out to ring the doorbell in order to get the taxes collected. That’s not much of a statement, but hey—it’s a statement. MYRA: I was home when the guy came to the door. ROGER: Wasn’t that the same guy that sold toilets? He came to collect our taxes, and somehow or other we got into discussing with him what he did other than get people to pay their taxes, and he said he sold automatic toilet seats. The point here is the vast scope and extent of our protest, and our great suffering for peace, was that we had a lovely afternoon with the toilet man! This strikes me as very funny. Okay. We were different. We were conscientiously experimental. We were rather desperate to be hip and groovy. But on the other hand, we had no intention of subjecting ourselves to any substantial inconvenience or discomfort! MYRA: My sister called us on that. We were having a big family discussion that got kind of heated—we were the “black sheep.” We considered ourselves extremely cool, and were probably a pain in the butt to everybody, but Martha called us on the fact that at the same time, Roger hadn’t quit his job at Hughes Aircraft yet! ROGER: The whole business of political activism is, for most people, mitigated substantially by their everyday ordinary circumstances. You have to go to work and earn a living, and buy clothes for your

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Bonnie J. Morris kids, and have doctors and buy houses and have dogs and cars, and all of those things, one by one, seem like boons! Bonuses! But each one comes with a loooong laundry list of responsibilities. And once you’ve got a wife and a couple of kids and a suburban house, your list of responsibilities is so long that you’re not gonna risk very much. You’re not gonna risk hardly anything. You’ll give vocal support, okay? You’ll wave a flag. Or, you won’t salute a flag. Dig? But you’ve got too much depending on you. MYRA: But changing careers the way you did—and later enrolling the kids in an antiwar Quaker school—. ROGER: Okay, we did a couple of things out of commitment which had some price associated. Yes. I shouldn’t beat myself up over the fact that I didn’t risk much. I did risk some. Having removed himself from a war-production workforce, my father accepted the Faustian bargain of being at war with himself. Growing a beard, having some quality weed at hand, cranking up the Sergeant Pepper album while paying monthly bills—these were permissible eccentricities of the time for a thirty-five-year-old family man; but many of Roger’s Jewish buds from his Fairfax boyhood were also very rich and successful by 1969. Herb Alpert, who started the Tijuana Brass and then went on to head A & M Records, already had a foundation in his name. Other pals had made swift killings in real estate, advertising; they now had bigger houses, bigger hi-fis, and faster cars than Roger. They didn’t camp nude in a scorpion-flecked pup tent on their tenth-wedding-anniversary trip to Kauai. Unlike Roger, they had been hungry first-generation Americans during World War II, and, as Jews, differently burdened by the meaning of the Holocaust; schoolboys determined to make it big, to prove something. Now grown, these sons of immigrants employed Japanese gardeners, Mexican housekeepers, and blond high school studs who stirred their chlorine-redolent swimming pools (my own “pool party,” when I turned nine, involved filling up a plastic wading pool from our garden hose.) My father’s old friends were smart, funny, well-dressed, successful men in tight pants, big belts and pointy boots—but they were not movement people. I understood this when we drove curvingly upwards into their canyon neighborhoods, parked our station wagon beside sportscars that made my father wince in envy, stepped into the echoing Spanish-style tiled hallways. These guys had made it. But sacrificing material comforts for intellectual principles was not their bag. They never, ever, looked down on Roger for his choices; decades later, all of them wistfully looked up to him for never selling out, and called him

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Bonnie J. Morris the moral touchstone of their lives, the consistent philosopher. They did not look down at him, nor did he look up to them, in 1969; but certainly he looked over at them, noting their bigger and better toys, the affluence symbolizing masculine power in L.A. He alone, the goy amid the Jews, had gone back to school to continue his learning as a married man, trying to infuse higher meaning into his life. The journal-like ledger he kept during this period reveals wild ambivalence about the pull of 1960s enlightenment versus his obligation to support his family in West L.A. style. On one side of each page are his ideas for books, articles, classes, seminars, protest actions; on every facing page, the painful family budget. Huxley: Man as “multiple amphibian”—feelings, sensations, changing body states, reason, images, dreams, playing with symbols, intuitions, practical survival, oceanic feelings unexpected, illuminations. Neuropsychiatric Institute—control of alpha rhythms through feedback. Esalen Institute. Realms of Meaning; Philip Phoenix. New Homes for Poor People; Lansing, Clifton & Morgan, 1969. Altered States of Consciousness; Charles Tart. ed. Thoughts on Revolution: I. By the left Reasons: system self-serving, neglect Argument: why wouldn’t the revolutionary government be so also? Transition cost: long time to pay What if it loses? Even if cost benefit, ecology won’t wait. Ideas: 1. Great men speak to the boundary between civilization and the outside. 2. Western civilization as a boom and bust social mutation. The crisis now is NOT a life or human crisis but a LIFESTYLE crisis. Western civilization must drastically alter its style or perish soon. 3. Man lost contact with the land and nature as he became urban and specialized. The culture should remember through ritual, education, and even periodic return for work, Russian style. 4. Lifestyles as overlapping circles—the more circles yours overlaps, the more info and options you have. 5. To pursue the pecking order and symbolic territory in the face of great danger is like playing chicken—childish. 6. Everyone envies and copies the wealthiest so everybody depletes as fast as possible.

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Bonnie J. Morris SOLUTION: rationing of resources. NOW is a point on a continuum leading from the past (memory) to the future (plans). The NOW should be contemplated regularly, for all sensory data is stored there. The mind is primary in dealing with past & future, while the body is primary in the NOW. Book idea: reference for environmental planning. BUDGET RECORD: House / clothing / auto insurance / gasoline / electric / medical / dentist / phone / water / food / How many other men, dissatisfied with “the system” but too old to play irresponsible-hippie-freak, strained to reorder their priorities in that era? The game of Life, man; your choice—the burden of making it in moneyed L.A.; or the siren song of the Age of Aquarius? I knew—and my brother knew—that there was nothing our old man wasn’t capable of doing on the big list of what gave real men street cred. He was a bodysurfer, an Armytrained engineer, a beach volleyball wizard, a brilliant home carpenter— he built me a climbing tower in the backyard, a bookcase, a dollhouse, a bunk-bed with fancy cut-out designs and secret drawers. Hippies greeted him with “Hey, weird dude!”, and he still conducted the Recorder Society in weekly music nights. He showed my brother how to fly kites from our garage rooftop, constructing a portable, homemade kite-string creel. Talent leaked out of his pores. But the anguish for Depression-era boys with any kind of talent, any kind of smarts, was the old idea that talent should make you rich. To reject materialism was to reject all that the previous generation had fought for; to consider moving your wife and kids into a teepee was goyische kop—the Gentile’s madness. And for the women, the drumbeat of second-wave feminism remained a distant signal; thus far it had little impact on their expected, supportive roles. As 1969 gave way to 1970, almost all my closest friends moved away from L.A.—their fathers’ career offers and promotions dictated location, and the wives followed the men. Whither thou goest, I will go. Sometimes these moms, too, defended the choice to leave on their own (but still maternal) terms: “I could see the smog between our house and the house next door,” hissed one of my Camp Fire Girl leaders. “That got me up on my high horse.” Moms with sixth-grade kids at my elementary school cast a panicky eye on Palms Junior High, an infamous den of drug dealing—would their gifted little darlings, heading to Palms for seventh grade, be able to withstand hallway pushers and other sad temptations? Was this why they had come to America? I vaguely knew that there was tension here in Beatnikland; that whispered talks of money filled the air. I knew that not all the changes and

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Bonnie J. Morris choices of the 1960s took benevolent paths; experimentation had real and painful costs. My mother’s best friend did not see her brother for twentytwo years once he disappeared into the 1960s, left the country, and cut all ties to his family, taking an enormous toll on their parents. “I could cry, and get some relief,” the aging matriarch of that family confided in me decades later; “But my husband couldn’t cry—it was so painful. This was his only son! I loved him, and I forgave him. Ach. There’s no use bringing back what happened in the 1960s.” In our relatives’ households there were problems and accusations ranging from drug abuse to divorce to custody battles, and in due time quite a few good people stopped speaking to each other—though we were still expected to have Sunday dinner, somehow, at the homes of BOTH grandmothers each week. Eventually, these stressors of social status and kin loyalties would induce Roger to send out his resume with the full expectation of leaving Los Angeles. Yet while we all could feel that we were building up to a major change, one that would spin our household off across the country, none of this was vocalized to me. The year before it had been customary for my mother or father to abruptly toss off an enticing plan like “How’d you kids feel about moving to New Zealand?”; but now there was a giant lacuna around the sentiment “It’s time to get out of L.A.” I felt it as I sat at the table, writing, watching my father write. Leaving L.A. meant noticing, suddenly, what we loved about a place we had come to fear for its sprawling hype and simmering tensions. Every cliché had to be paid homage, in a hurry. I went to Disneyland for my tenth birthday. Everything began to speed up wildly, like the home movies my father loved to shoot on his 8mm Kodak Brownie, stop/start montage clips of our childhoods and Yosemite trips, as though we were human photo lenses imprinting L.A. on our retinas ten frames per second: the sixties, the sixties, the sixties. My father’s ledger marked the grim day when he finally sold his beloved sportscar, his Austin-Healy Sprite. Sold to Nora Sue Atwood, East 99th Street, Inglewood. The day we moved to North Carolina, I rode the moving walkway at Los Angeles Airport with my family, most of our baggage cultural and in our heads, not in our clenched hands. I thought then of how the “moving walkway” had become emblematic of how all of us had moved through that landscape of 1960s change, now to be spit out at the other end and delivered to the early 1970s. My mother was crying as we arrived at the gate and readied for our flight out of L.A.; she was Ruth, leaving behind her tribe, following my father to his job in a strange land. Whither thou goest, I will go. Roger’s work would never be armaments again; he, himself, had beaten his sword into ploughshares. None of us ever lived in Los Angeles again. Yet our family’s foundations there, the stories from yesteryear, continued to be retold, repeated, lovingly

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Bonnie J. Morris recast in stone like Simon Rodia’s towers, spiraling upwards in the smog: that was where we came from, old L.A. Remember that? Remember then? Remember the 1960s? Remember the time we…? My old man’s diary once revealed his 1960s dreams, his yearning toward the Movement, and the conflict with his need to earn a livelihood. I interviewed several other idealistic-but-stable sixties dads I had known as a kid, men who might have preferred to folk dance or bump and grind with the revolution but who, throughout the sixties, kept at a different sort of grind in order to feed their daughters. Many of those daughters, like me, became feminist professors or doctors, the women’s movement emerging from the ideals of the 1960s in what is often called the unfinished revolution (of gender). It was fashionable to bash men, to bash daddies, in the lesbian feminist culture I partook of in my twenties; but what I understood from interviewing my elders was that I owed a debt of gratitude to a generation of decent guys. Not long before, their own forefathers worked mainly for food and shelter; no one had time for ideas. Thoughts of yogic yurt-building had no place in the Depression; in the wars. Radical feminist that I am, I can see the sacrifices all our fathers made so that we girls could change the rules— and change the roles.

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Jessamyn Smyth Pinks The shallows-rocks are swimming: body upon body a cold press of backward glance— how this beak tears flesh still living, how your mouth shaped my name. How once light sank a clear shaft deep, and what we saw though we weren’t supposed to. Going swimming? That devastation of smile. Hmmm. I answered: Glacial runoff, zombie-fish— how much will you pay me? Your startling blush payment enough on those cheekbones. How I dropped pants, shirt, waded, dove. Current fierce. Cold lung-stopping. Body upon body, memory is a cold press; desire sometimes indistinguishable from glacial current, cerulean and ice. How when I came out gasping, you gave me your sweatshirt, looking down at the ground; my skin risen to mountain peaks, snow-capped. How I never touched you, not once, not intentionally, though fuck, it’s all I wanted in a dying world. Their skins peel off distorting bone before they are done with them. Your mouth shapes my name. Water on the slopes of these pressing bodies, mountains upthrust; convection of currents, magma beneath. How I loved you in the shallows. How I saw you in the depths.

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Kate Sontag Likenesses   Mirror-shy and pudgy as a kid, I’d watch my Audrey Hepburn thin, updo-pinned mother’s reflection shake a golden can of lacquer and grip a bristle brush as she tried to style my tidal rush of hair against the far-flung lull and white frizz foam of coastal waves, feel her pull it tight, brace myself within the chemical swoon and drown of spray the way I did every time my feet sank in wet sand, until each recalcitrant strand of sea grass grown out of my scalp shown smooth as brown beach glass then fit into a perfectly photogenic ponytail lit from behind and looped like an amber filmstrip high on my head as she stretched and twisted saltwater taffy pairs of turquoise and pink, yellow and red rubber bands to hold it all in place, this followed by a velvet or satin ribbon from the five-and-dime, tied slow-mo into a bow, breaking the pace, then the finishing touch when she combed my eyebrows up like— like what exactly?—soft cactus spines or baby pine needles, a fledgling sandpiper’s feathers or wayward winglets perhaps, that always looked odd as accents over foreign words and forced my face into a question mark no silver-screened Marilyn, Greta, Sophia, or Marlene answered, my mother’s own eyebrows mere shadows of Audrey’s, their darkly drawn caterpillar arch and flare flights of fancy beneath imitation bangs all whimsy and charm, one of L.A.’s young divorcées living on the margins of Hollywood in the fifties, soon to remarry

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Kate Sontag —her savvy, sulky, quirky vanity a kind of beauty one step removed she recognized in herself whenever she blinked at me.

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Emma Sovich Pygmalion Family Portrait The pale boy clutching his father’s hand, the father who clutches the boy’s mother’s hand, the mother whose hands will convulse around anything because inside her a bundle of blood infant and umbilical and afterbirth all should and soon will be outside. Never have statues of the Virgin sweated as this statue sweats for her second child. The boy is old enough to walk and talk, to wait quietly. Soon his father will lift him to a hip, their heads will touch, cheek to soft crown, cheek to shoulder broad enough to be a pillow. They’ll sit, boy on father on chair, waiting for mother twice over to recover enough to nurse. The boy has never seen so much blood. Never blood on his mother. Never on his knees or palms. Just bruises, pthalo blue, a color his father would point out in the night sky after a storm. Bruises that float just under the cool surface of skin or white stone. Now, blood all over his mother’s gown, on her bare knees, on the wild oblong thing once inside her, on the doctor’s gloved hands around it, on her hands and arms to accept it, on her mouth and cheek to kiss it. On the boy, his hand to his sister’s face, his hand on their mother’s arm, but not on their father, who hands his camera to an orderly, shows her how to frame a shot: the four of them, three gory.

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Susan O’Dell Underwood God as Our Oma, Burned to Death in a House Fire Finding her body, finally, under ashes of clothes, the youngest fireman cries. We interpret this last story of her life like black walnut leaves: She was going for the family pictures in the closet. But we find the photos saved, tossed out upon the grass, edges charred to brittle sepia and smelling like an old fireplace. In every photo she is lost. We are angry the moment they find her. We would rail at her to run, to have run, to be running, up into the high field or the woods beyond the field, hiding maybe in the old cave she showed us when we were kids. We wish and can’t stop wishing even after, praying she’s there, crouched terrified but breathing, hearing our calls for her while the firemen tromp through the soggy ruins, calling. The heirloom china doll survived. We find her too, in the yard’s debris the firemen chucked out of the smashed windows. Maybe the doll it was that killed her, then. So we’ll lay blame on that doll our Opa carried around even as a boy-baby, barely knowing her, but loving her even then, calling the doll Lois after the little girl she used to be on the farm next door, cradling it in his arms. Lois, Lois, he called his little doll her name, which now we pass from hand to hand,

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Susan O’Dell Underwood unbroken and hateful, dear as a newborn, porcelain hands and cherub face barely burnished by the flames.

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Michael Walsh

To the Boys Who Teach Themselves to Use Their Mothers’ Makeup on Bruises First you consider how well the flesh tone will conceal you from casual eyes, then the prying kind. You’ve learned pretty girls shouldn’t be bruised, but you’re boys, quietly trained in your families’ ploys. You get good enough grades and speak with smiles that charm your teachers into looking away. Throughout the day you check your camouflage, reapply in toilet stalls. You buy more at the drug store, and if your pockets are ever searched, you can say the makeup belongs to your beards. Your glamers make everyone else see those handsome sweet talkers, not the toughs who know how to take being humiliated, slugged. You do and you don’t want anyone to notice how rocklike you really are, how proudly you defy your beaters, make them work for it. You fear what will happen when your foundation fails, and a friend or stranger who’s not a fool asks what someone is doing to you and who they are. That’s what you worry will break you.

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John Willson Mother’s Day at Ninety-three I tried to miscarry you by jumping up and down, you tell me over toast and marmalade, aluminum walker parked by your chair, your Boston Terrier snarfing crumbs blindly underfoot. Did you look like me when I’m poolside, jumping to shake water from my ear? Cambria—“where pines meet the sea”— a retreat for you and Dad, your last child seven years old. Your diaphragm stared from the bedside table at the moon, and I was out of the blocks. I had four already, and really didn’t think I could cope with another. I remember us in a life raft, our last family trip, you, Dad and me, water thick with oil, kelp. Our ferry boat lay up on stone that had ground us awake through the cabin floor. Later I wore sneakers and a blanket Kwakiutl people gave me. Wait here with your father—at the tribal pharmacy I sat while Dad got his tiny white pills: nitroglycerine. Refugees, we all watched an Eagle Dance in a longhouse, a gift from our short-notice hosts in Alert Bay.

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John Willson You stood behind me, sheet safety-pinned around my neck, me squirming on the stool till you screamed I won’t take this anymore, hurled the scissors. Steel quivered in the pantry door— one loop and its finger rest formed a hanging letter Q. Would you have jumped higher to miscarry, had you known Dad, the family barber, would die that year, the year I would turn thirteen? My wife pours your second cup of tea. Breast cancer followed her miscarriage— what was to have been our first child. High-dose chemo stilled her womb. I place the sugar bowl on your right— Thank you, dear. We called you “our dividend.” Don’t forget that. This morning, after helping you dress, I pulled white hair from your brush, a mat the size of a quarter, so fine and soft I tucked it into my wallet.

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Avra Wing Ghosts: China “Homeland” Trip, 2007 I Ghosts cannot enter the Temple of Heaven, yet there we are—five of us in silly sun hats, sweating in the August heat, high-stepping over the threshold to take pictures of empty rooms and each other—the family our guide says he envies, not knowing of the boys’ fight in the hotel, the girl’s tears visiting her orphanage, my breakdown on the night train to Changsha.

II The Emperor stood on the altar and petitioned the gods for plenty. What chutzpah to think he spoke their language. To believe it was all on him. We schlep our feet on the streets of Beijing knowing how to say only Bu yao! Bu yao! Don’t need! to the people hawking trinkets. We buy a dragon ball of family unity made from phony jade.

III The girl didn’t ask to come here, be reminded of memories she has no memory of— abandoned on the sidewalk, cared for by nannies in Baby Room 3. She clings to us bai gui, white ghosts, trying to escape those other phantoms

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Avra Wing that she won’t believe exist. The ones who gather by all the entrances, begging to be asked in.

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Nicholas Wong X-Rays: A Diagnosis, or Parable Inside your father a longitude shifts like a thread transfixing an axe, and this axe, blunt but calm, fathers sobbing, has two legs. Its soles scaled like Sudokus. It thinks your mother’s cervical curve leaves a cheap shape on her foam pillow bleating her head’s weight. The axe is eating light on noodles, congee. On its ego, enclosed. Manly, mentally convalescing, lest the calenture cracks in its lungs. Different from flick knives, belt buckles, the axe loves rhythm: tattering hooves of blindfolded horses, the awed odds

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Nicholas Wong of King of Reason against Dreamscope’s. The axe’s cinched bag full of cached bets. Each time it picks racing toward the end point was the time it thought its legs could be chopped off, so its labored life would also end.

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Contributors’ Notes Ruth Awad is the author of Set to Music a Wildfire (Southern Indiana Review Press, 2017), winner of the 2016 Michael Waters Poetry Prize. She is the recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, and her work has appeared in The New Republic, The Missouri Review Poem of the Week, Sixth Finch, CALYX, Diode, The Adroit Journal, and elsewhere.  Pam Baggett’s poems appear or are forthcoming in Atlanta Review, Greensboro Review, Kakalak, Nimrod, and Tar River Poetry. Work also appears in several anthologies, including The Southern Poetry Anthology Volume VII: North Carolina. She’s a Pushcart Prize nominee and a 2017 recipient of the Ella Fountain Pratt Emerging Artists Grant. Tina Barr’s fellowships include a National Endowment for the Arts, a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Award, and a Tennessee Arts Commission Award.  Her most recent book is Kaleidoscope (2015). Jocelyn Bartkevicius has received the Missouri Review Essay Award, The Annie Dillard Award in Creative Nonfiction, the Iowa Woman Essay Prize, the Vogel Scholarship in Nonfiction at Bread Loaf, and other awards. Her work has appeared in anthologies and in such journals as the Hudson Review, Missouri Review, Bellingham Review, Iowa Review, Fourth Genre, TriQuarterly, Gulf Coast, Bridges, and Sweet, and has been selected for the “notables” list in The Best American Essays. Her essay “Gun Shy” is included in Waveform: Twenty-First Century Essays by Women, edited by Marcia Aldrich. She is working on a memoir about the Lithuanian diaspora and secret mass deportations in Soviet Lithuania. She teaches in the MFA program at the University of Central Florida and is the former editor of The Florida Review. Jenna Bazzell won the 2015 Everett Southwest Literary Award and has received two honorable mentions from the Academy of American Poets. Her poems appear in Passages North, Cream City Review, Fifth Wednesday, Hayden’s Ferry Review, New Madrid, Southern Indiana Review, and Sou’wester. Susan Nisenbaum Becker’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The MacGuffin, Poetry East, Harvard Review, South Florida Poetry Journal, Ibbetson Street, Salamander, Comstock Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, Consequence, Lumina, Calyx and Talking Writing among others. She is a playwright, actor and arts organizer for which she has received several Local Massachusetts Cultural Council Grants and has been a feature on several local cable television arts programs. Susan has been awarded residencies at the Banff Center for the Arts, Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the Ragdale Foundation and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and was nominated for a 2012 Pushcart Prize. Her first full-length book of poems, Little Architects of Time and Space, was published by WordTech Communications/Word Poetry in 2013.

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Contributors’ Notes Paulette Beete’s poems have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Gargoyle, Escape Into Life, and elsewhere. Her chapbooks include Blues for a Pretty Girl and Voice Lessons. Find her on Facebook at PauletteBeeteWriter. Anuradha Bhowmik is a Bangladeshi-American poet and writer from New Jersey and an MFA candidate at Virginia Tech. She is a Pushcart nominee and has received scholarships from the New York State Summer Writers Institute, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Frost Place, the Indiana University Writers’ Conference, and the Juniper Summer Writing Institute. Her poetry and prose are forthcoming or have appeared in Slice Magazine, Zone 3, The Normal School, Copper Nickel, Ninth Letter Online, Word Riot, and elsewhere. Her website is www.anuradhabhowmik.com.  Partridge Boswell’s first book of poems, Some Far Country, received the 2013 Grolier Discovery Award. His work has recently appeared in Smartish Pace, Gettysburg Review, American Poetry Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review and Poetry East, and on Vermont Public Radio. Co-founder of Bookstock literary festival and the poetry/music group Los Lorcas Trio, he lives with his family in Vermont.  Jesse Breite’s recent poetry has appeared in Tar River Poetry, Chiron Review, Briar Cliff Review, and Prairie Schooner. He has been featured in Town Creek Poetry and The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume V: Georgia. FutureCycle Press published his first chapbook, The Knife Collector, in 2013. Harriet Brown’s most recent book is Body of Truth: How Science, Culture, and History Drive Our Obsession with Weight—and What We Can Do About It (Da Capo, 2015). She teaches magazine journalism at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications in Syracuse, New York. M. Soledad Caballero is associate professor of English at Allegheny College.  Her scholarly work focuses on British Romanticism, travel writing and interdisciplinarity.  Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in the Missouri Review, Memorious, Iron Horse Literary Review and others. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and is working on her first poetry collection. Emily Capdeville will receive her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Orleans in 2017. Her novel, Search a Dark and Empty Space, won the William Faulkner Wisdom Competition Novel-in-Progress award in 2015 and is on the short list for the Novel award in this year’s competition. Her non-fiction has appeared in Sugar & Rice Magazine. “An Act of Consolation” is her first fiction publication.  Sarah Carleton writes poetry, edits fiction, plays the banjo and raises her son in Tampa, Florida. Her poems have appeared in many publications, including Houseboat, Avatar, Poetry Quarterly, Bijou, Off the Coast, Shark Reef, Wild Violet, The Binnacle, Cider Press Review, Nimrod, Ekphrastic, Chattahoochee Review, Sow’s Ear, Kindred and Spillway.

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Contributors’ Notes Olivia Kate Cerrone’s Pushcart Prize-nominated fiction has appeared in various literary journals including the Berkeley Fiction Review, Paterson Literary Review, The MacGuffin, and New South. The Hunger Saint, a historical novella about the child miners of rural Sicily, was published by Bordighera Press in 2017. Janine Certo’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Emrys Journal, Cider Press Review, Alimentum, Italian Americana, and Main Street Rag, among others.  She is currently an associate professor at Michigan State University.  She lives in East Lansing, Michigan. Leila Chatti is a Tunisian-American poet. The recipient of a scholarship from the Tin House Writers’ Workshop and prizes from Ploughshares Emerging Writer’s Contest, Narrative Magazine’s 30 Below Contest and 8th Annual Poetry Contest, and the Academy of American Poets. Her poems appear in Best New Poets, Ploughshares, Tin House, Narrative, Georgia Review, Missouri Review, West Branch, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. Kelly Cherry is the author of twenty-four books, ten chapbooks, and two translations of classical drama. Her most recent books are Twelve Women in a Country Called America: Stories (Press 53) and Quartet for J. Robert Oppenheimer (Louisiana State University Press), and her most recent chapbook of poems is Physics for Poets (Unicorn Press). Johnson Cheu’s poetry has appeared widely over the years. Recent work is forthcoming in Chautauqua and Foliate Oak. Su Cho is currently an MFA Candidate in Poetry at Indiana University and  serves as the Editor-in-Chief of Indiana Review. She has received her BA in English, Creative Writing, and Psychology from Emory University, and her poems have appeared in Word Riot, THRUSH Poetry Journal, Star 82 Review, Sugared Water, and Aesthetix. Geraldine Connolly is the author of the chapbook, The Red Room, as well as three fulllength collections of poetry, Food for the Winter, Province of Fire, and Hand of the Wind. Her poems, reviews and essays have appeared in Chelsea, Gettysburg Review, Poetry, Shenandoah, Georgia Review, and the Washington Post. Peter Cooley’s tenth book of poetry, World Without Finishing, will be published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in 2018 and he is Senior Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Tulane University and Poet Laureate of Louisiana. Maryann Corbett lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Her third book, Mid Evil, won the Richard Wilbur Award for 2014. She is a past co-winner of the Willis Barnstone Translation Award and a past finalist for the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award. New work is forthcoming in 32 Poems, Able Muse, Tampa Review, and Think.

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Contributors’ Notes Lisa Fay Coutley is the author of Errata, winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition Award, and In the Carnival of Breathing, winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition. Her writing has been awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and has appeared recently or is forthcoming in storySouth, Prairie Schooner, Gulf Coast, and Poets & Writers. She is an Assistant Professor of Poetry in the Writer’s Workshop at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Dorsey Craft holds an MFA from McNeese State University, where she was awarded the Joy Scantlebury Prize in poetry. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Notre Dame Review, Ninth Letter, minnesota review, CALYX, Vinyl, and elsewhere. She is currently a PhD student in poetry at Florida State.   Clare Cross is an Illinois native who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her poetry has previously appeared in the Bellevue Literary Review. She is the co-author of Goodnight Keith Moon and is currently working on a novel. Chad Davidson is the author of From the Fire Hills, The Last Predicta, and Consolation Miracle, all from Southern Illinois University Press, as well as co-author with Gregory Fraser of two textbooks, including Writing Poetry: Creative and Critical Approaches. He also co-directs the writing retreat Convivio in Postignano, Italy. Oliver de la Paz is the author of four collections of poetry:  Names Above Houses, Furious Lullaby, Requiem for the Orchard, and Post Subject: A Fable. He also co-edited A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry. A founding member, Oliver serves as the co-chair of the Kundiman advisory board. His work has been published or is forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Tin House, and Poetry Northwest. He teaches at the College of the Holy Cross and in the Low-Residency MFA Program at Pacific Lutheran University. Dante Di Stefano is the author of Love is a Stone Endlessly in Flight from Brighthorse Books. His poetry, essays, and reviews have appeared in Brilliant Corners, Los Angeles Review, Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. He is the winner of the 2015 Red Hen Press Poetry Award and the 2016 Manchester Poetry Prize. Allison Donohue holds degrees from Virginia Tech and Texas Tech University. Currently, she is an MFA candidate at the University of Oregon. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in the Cortland Review, Whiskey Island, Hotel Amerika, and elsewhere. She reads poetry for Iron Horse Literary Review and nonfiction for JuxtaProse Magazine. Hannah Dow is a PhD student at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers, where she is an Associate Editor for Mississippi Review. Her chapbook, Options for Penance, is forthcoming from dancing girl press, and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in North American Review, Ninth Letter, and The Journal, among others. 

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Contributors’ Notes Anna M. Evans’ poems have appeared in the Harvard Review, Atlanta Review, Rattle, American Arts Quarterly, and 32 Poems. Recipient of Fellowships from the MacDowell Artists’ Colony and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and winner of the 2012 Rattle Poetry Prize Readers’ Choice Award. Her sonnet collection, Sisters & Courtesans, is available from White Violet Press. Laurel Fantauzzo grew up in California with a Filipina mother and an Italian American father. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Esquire Philippines, and The Rumpus, among other venues. She has earned grants and residencies from Erasmus, Fulbright Foundation, and Hedgebrook. William Fargason’s poetry has appeared in New England Review, Barrow Street, Indiana Review, Rattle, Cincinnati Review, Narrative, and elsewhere. He earned a MFA in poetry from the University of Maryland, and he is currently pursuing a PhD.in poetry at Florida State University. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida. Emily Flamm’s fiction has been recognized by AWP’s Intro Journals Project and other competitions. She was a Bread Loaf Work-Study Scholar in 2014 and she teaches writing at the University of Maryland. This is her first accepted story.  Courtney Flerlage received her MFA in poetry from the University of Virginia. Her work has appeared in Day One, Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies, Written River, Alabama Literary Review, Ghost Ocean, and elsewhere. Jessica Franck was recently the Fall 2016 Philip Roth Resident at Bucknell University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Blackbird, Bennington Review, Day One, and elsewhere.  Amina Gautier is the author of three short story collections: At-Risk, winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award; Now We Will Be Happy, winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize; and The Loss of All Lost Things, winner of the Elixir Prize. She is a recipient of the International Latino Book Award, the Florida Authors and Publishers Association President’s Book Award, the Royal Palm Literary Award, and the Chicago Public Library’s 21st Century Award, her short fiction appears in Agni, Blackbird, Glimmer Train, North American Review, and Prairie Schooner, among others. Mary Jo Firth Gillett’s poetry collection, Soluble Fish, won the Crab Orchard Series First Book Award. She’s also published four award-winning chapbooks, most recently Dance Like a Flame. Her poems have appeared in the Southern Review, Gettysburg Review, Crab Orchard Review, Green Mountains Review and other journals. She’s won the NY Open Voice Award and a 2012 Kresge Fellowship in the Literary Arts. She is online at maryjofirthgillett.com. Sierra Golden received her MFA in poetry from North Carolina State University. Winner of the 2015 Rane Arroyo Chapbook Prize, Golden’s work appears in literary

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Contributors’ Notes journals such as Prairie Schooner, Permafrost, and Ploughshares. She has also been awarded residencies by Hedgebrook, the Island Institute, and the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology. Ruth Goring’s poetry collections are Yellow Doors and Soap Is Political. Spanish and English editions of her first children’s picture book, Adriana’s Angels / Los ángeles de Adriana, are due out in 2017 from Sparkhouse Family, an imprint of Augsburg Fortress. Ruth’s poems have appeared in CALYX, Pilgrimage, Iron Horse Literary Review, RHINO, New Madrid, Pirene’s Fountain, and elsewhere. She grew up in Colombia. Bernard Grant is a PhD student at the University of Cincinnati, where he is a Yates Fellow. He has also received residency and fellowship support from The Anderson Center, the Jack Straw Cultural Center, Vermont Studio Center, Sundress Academy for the Arts, and Mineral School. He holds an MFA from Pacific Lutheran University and his stories and essays have appeared in New Delta Review, the Nervous Breakdown, and the Chicago Tribune Printers Row.  Marian Haddad is a Pushcart-nominated poet/writer and National Endowment for the Humanities recipient and the author of Wildflower. Stone., the first hardback in the nearly-25-years Pecan Grove Press had been in existence. Haddad’s work has also been covered by The Huffington Post and The Hallmark Channel. Her chapbook, Saturn Falling Down, was published at the request of Texas Public Radio; Somewhere between Mexico and a River Called Home approached its fifth printing before the passing of H. Palmer Hall and was a Small Press Distribution Notable Book; In this City of Saints, a 160-page poetry collection, is forthcoming from Mouthfeel Press. Ashley Mace Havird has published three collections of poems, including The Garden of the Fugitives, which won the 2013 X. J. Kennedy Prize. Her poems and short stories have appeared in many journals including Shenandoah, Southern Review, and Virginia Quarterly Review. Her novel, Lightningstruck, won the 2015 Ferrol Sams Award and has been named a recent Editor’s Choice by the Historical Novel Society. Visit her at www.ashleymacehavird.com. Rachel Heimowitz is the author of the chapbook, What the Light Reveals. Her work has appeared in Poet Lore, Salamander, Crab Orchard Review, Spillway, and Prairie Schooner. She was recently the winner of the Passenger Poetry Prize, a finalist for the Richard Peterson Prize, and she has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. Rachel received her MFA from Pacific University in Spring 2015. She can be found online at www. rachelheimowitz.com. Jessica Jacobs is the author of Pelvis with Distance, winner of the New Mexico Book Award in Poetry and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Her chapbook In Whatever Light Left to Us was published by Sibling Rivalry Press in 2016. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with her wife, the poet Nickole Brown, and serves as the Associate Editor of Beloit Poetry Journal.

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Contributors’ Notes Raina Joines has an MFA from the University of Florida and teaches poetry workshop, literature, and composition at the University of North Texas, where she is the faculty advisor for the North Texas Review. She is the recipient of fellowships from Blue Mountain Center, the Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences, and the Lillian E. Smith Center.  Her work is out or forthcoming in Measure, St. Katharine Review, and Grist: A Journal of the Literary Arts. Annie Kim’s debut poetry collection, Into the Cyclorama, won the 2015 Michael Waters Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared in Kenyon Review, Ninth Letter, Mudlark, Asian American Literary Review, Crab Orchard Review, and elsewhere. A graduate of Warren Wilson College’s MFA Program for Writers, she is the recipient of fellowships from the Virginia Center for Creative Arts and the Hambridge Center and serves as an editor for DMQ Review. She works at the University of Virginia School of Law as the Assistant Dean for Public Service and lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.   Christine Kitano is the author of the poetry collections Birds of Paradise and Sky Country.  Recent work appears in Wildness, Miramar, and Asian American Literary Review. She is an assistant professor at Ithaca College.  Lisa Knopp is the author of six books of creative nonfiction. Her most recent, Bread: A Memoir of Hunger, explores eating disorders and disordered eating as the result of a complex tangle of genetic, biological, familial, psychology, spiritual, and cultural forces through research and personal story. Knopp’s essays have appeared in numerous literary publications including Missouri Review, Michigan Review, Iowa Review, Gettysburg Review, Northwest Review, Cream City Review, Brevity, Connecticut Review, Shenandoah, Creative Nonfiction, Prairie Schooner, Iowa Review, and Georgia Review. She has work forthcoming in Omaha Magazine and Seneca Review. She is a Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, where she teaches courses in creative nonfiction. She lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, and is online at www.lisaknopp.com. Lynne Maker Kuechle is approaching completion of a MFA in creative writing from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is the recipient of two artist initiative grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and was chosen as a participant in the Creative Nonfiction Mentor Series at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. Crab Orchard Review is her first major publication. Jacqueline Jones LaMon is the author of two award-winning collections of poetry: Gravity, U.S.A. and Last Seen; and a novel, In the Arms of One Who Loves Me.  A professor at Adelphi University, she serves as president of Cave Canem Foundation, Inc., and lives in Brooklyn, New York. Angie Macri is the author of Underwater Panther, winner of the Cowles Poetry Book Prize, and Fear Nothing of the Future or the Past. Her recent work appears in Cimarron Review and Prairie Schooner. An Arkansas Arts Council fellow, she lives in Hot Springs.

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Contributors’ Notes Katherine Markey is a PhD student in poetry at Oklahoma State University. Her work has previously been nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Cave Region Review and a selection of her poems is set to appear in The Southwest Anthology forthcoming from Texas Review Press. David Tomas Martinez’s work has been published or is forthcoming in Poetry, Ploughshares, Tin House, Boston Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, Oxford American, Pleiades, Prairie Schooner, and many other magazines. His debut collection of poetry, Hustle, was released in 2014 by Sarabande Books, which won the New England Book Festival’s prize in poetry, the Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award, and honorable mention in the Antonio Cisneros Del Moral prize. Martinez’s forthcoming selection of poetry, Post Traumatic Hood Disorder, will be published in 2018, also by Sarabande Books. He is a Pushcart Prize winner, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship recipient, lives in Brooklyn, and teaches creative writing at Columbia University. Tim McBride has published one book of poems, The Manageable Cold, with TriQuarterly Press. He won the 2014 MacGuffin Award, selected by Carl Dennis; he was also runner-up for the 2015 American Literary Review award in poetry and the 2016 Joy Harjo Poetry Award at Cutthroat. T. J. McLemore’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Michigan Quarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, Crazyhorse, Greensboro Review, Massachusetts Review, and others. His awards include the Richard Peterson Poetry Prize and a nomination for a Pushcart Prize. He lives in Fort Worth, Texas. Leslie Adrienne Miller’s  sixth collection of poems is Y.  Her previous collections include The Resurrection Trade, Eat Quite Everything You See, Yesterday Had a Man In It, Ungodliness, and Staying Up For Love. Miller’s poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, American Poetry Review, Antioch Review, and Kenyon Review, among others. Professor of English at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, she holds degrees in poetry from Stephens College, the University of Missouri, the Iowa Writers Workshop and the University of Houston. She is online at lesliemillerpoet.com. Emily Mohn-Slate’s recent poems are forthcoming or have appeared in Indiana Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Cimarron Review, Adroit Journal, Poet Lore, and elsewhere. Her manuscript, “The Falls,” was a finalist for the 2016 Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize offered by University of Pittsburgh Press. She teaches writing at Carnegie Mellon University and Chatham University lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Bonnie J. Morris is the author of fifteen books and recently installed the first-ever exhibit on the women’s music movement in the Library of Congress. A professor at both Georgetown and George Washington University, she is now touring with her recent titles Sixes and Sevens and  The Disappearing L.   See her website: www. bonniejmorris.com.

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Contributors’ Notes Alyssa Ogi received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Oregon in 2015. Her poetry can be found in burntdistrict, Blast Furnace, and other journals. Clare Paniccia is currently a PhD student in poetry at Oklahoma State University, where she also works as an Associate Editor of the Cimarron Review. Her work has been featured in or is forthcoming from Zone 3, The Pinch, Connotation Press, Puerto del Sol, Best New Poets, and elsewhere. Christy Passion’s first collection of work, Still Out of Place, was published by Bamboo Ridge Press in September 2016. She is a critical care nurse and poet. Her singular works have appeared in various local (Hawai’i) journals and anthologies, as well as in mainland and international journals such as Blue Collar Review, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, Bamboo Ridge Press, and Mauri Ola. She has received the James Vaughn Award for Poetry, The Atlanta Review International Merit Award, and the Academy of American Poetry award.  Ricardo Pau-Llosa has seven poetry books to his credit, the last five with Carnegie Mellon University Press, the latest, Man.  He has recent and forthcoming work in Hudson Review, Stand, American Poetry Review, Plume, Southern Review, New England Review, Boston Review, and many others.  Jennifer Perrine is the author of No Confession, No Mass, winner of the 2016 Publishing Triangle Audre Lorde Award, the 2015 Bisexual Book Award for Poetry, and the 2014 Prairie Schooner  Book Prize in Poetry. Previous books include  In the Human Zoo, recipient of the Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize, and The Body Is No Machine, winner of the Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award in Poetry. Perrine lives in Portland, Oregon. For more information, visit www.jenniferperrine.org. Matthew Pitt’s second collection, These Are Our Demands, is forthcoming through Engine Books this year. His first, Attention Please Now, won the Autumn House Prize, and was a Writers’ League of Texas Book Award finalist. Individual stories have appeared widely in such forums as Best New American Voices, Cincinnati Review, Oxford American, Conjunctions, Epoch, Saturday Evening Post, Southern Review, and in a previous edition of Crab Orchard Review. They also have been cited in “Best of ” anthologies, and won numerous awards and fellowships. Matthew lives in Fort Worth, where he is an Assistant Professor of English at Texas Christian University, and Editor of the journal descant. Shawn Proctor’s writing has been nominated for Best New American Voices and published in several  anthologies and  literary journals, including Flash Fiction Online. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Rosemont College and a BA in English from Kutztown University. To read more of his work, visit shawnproctor.com. Casey Pycior is the author of the short story collection, The Spoils. He is originally from Kansas City, and he earned his MFA in fiction writing at Wichita State University and his PhD in creative writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  His work has

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Contributors’ Notes appeared or is forthcoming in Beloit Fiction Journal, Midwestern Gothic, Harpur Palate, BULL, Wigleaf, Yalobusha Review, and The MacGuffin, among many other places. He lives in Lincoln, Nebraska with his wife and son. Misha Rai is the first-ever PhD in Fiction to be awarded the Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Fellowship in Women’s Studies for her novel-in-progress, Blood We Did Not Spill. Her prose has appeared in  Indiana Review,  Hayden’s Ferry Review, Sonora Review, and the Missouri Review blog. Misha Rai was born in Sonipat, Haryana, and brought up in India. Joan Roberta Ryan lives in Taos, New Mexico, where she indulges her passions for skiing, mushroom hunting, Mediterranean cooking and, above all, reading and writing poetry.  Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming  in  Atlanta Review, Nimrod, Sow’s Ear Review, Spillways, Naugatuck River Review, Ekphrasis, Euphony, Roanoke Review, Calyx, Cold Mountain Review, Off The Coast, Cape Rock, Taos Journal of Poetry and Art, and other journals. Her collection, Dark Ladies and Other Avatars, is scheduled for publication by 3: A Taos Press in 2017. Nicholas Samaras is the author of Hands of the Saddlemaker and American Psalm, World Psalm. Individual work has appeared in the New Yorker, Poetry, Paris Review, the New York Times, Image, and other places. He has currently completed a poetry manuscript and is completing a memoir on childhood years living underground. Staci R. Schoenfeld is a recipient of 2015 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for Poetry, grants from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund and the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and residencies from the Ragdale Foundation and Albee Foundation. She is a PhD student at University of South Dakota and assistant editor for poetry at South Dakota Review. Recent and forthcoming publications include poems in Mid-American Review, THRUSH Poetry Journal, Southern Humanities Review, and Room Magazine. Raena Shirali is the author of GILT. Her honors include a 2016 Pushcart Prize, the 2016 Cosmonauts Avenue Poetry Prize, the 2014 Gulf Coast Poetry Prize, & a “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize in 2013.  She currently lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, where she is the Philip Roth Resident at Bucknell University’s Stadler Center for Poetry, and serves as a poetry reader for Muzzle Magazine. Betsy Sholl served as Poet Laureate of Maine from 2006 to 2011. Her most recent collection, Otherwise Unseeable, won the 2015 Maine Literary Award for poetry. She teaches in the MFA Program of Vermont College of Fine Arts.   Cathe Shubert is Assistant Professor of English and Journalism at Judson College. Her work appears  or is forthcoming in Michigan Quarterly Review, Crab Orchard Review, Madison Review, and Flyway: Journal of the Environment.  The former nonfiction editor of Ecotone, she loves animals, pimento cheese, and poetics.

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Contributors’ Notes Eric Smith’s work has been published in Indiana Review, New Criterion, and the Southwest Review. He teaches at Marshall University. Mackenzie Evan Smith’s stories have appeared in Main Street Rag and Sixfold, and have been a finalist for prizes from Glimmer Train and New Letters. She is currently a Creative Writing MFA candidate at Oregon State University where she is at work on her first novel.   Maggie Smith is the author of The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison, Lamp of the Body, and three prizewinning chapbooks. In 2016 her poem “Good Bones,” from her forthcoming book, Weep Up, went viral internationally and has been translated into nearly a dozen languages. Weep Up will be published by Tupelo Press in September 2017.  Jessamyn Smyth’s writing has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, received honorable mention in Best American Short Stories (2006), and has garnered a long list of prizes. Her books The Inugami Mochi and Gilgamesh/Wilderness are from Saddle Road Press, and Kitsune is available from Finishing Line Press. Kate Sontag is co-editor with David Graham of After Confession: Poetry as Autobiography from Graywolf Press. Her work appears in Verse Virtual, One, SoFloPoJo, Prairie Schooner, Verse Wisconsin, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Poetry Daily, and the anthologies The Crafty Poet 2, Cooking With The Muse, Villanelles, and Boomer Girls. Emma Sovich is a poet and book artist from Maryland. Her first book of poetry, Wendy Wendy Wendy, is forthcoming from Red Paint Hill Press. Her chapbook, None of Us Know Any Stories, is available through dancing girl press. She has writing appearing or forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, Passages North, Salt Hill, Beecher’s, Fairy Tale Review, Sixth Finch, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and others. Her book arts works have been shown in nine states, and have homes in the libraries of Indiana University, University of Florida, the Newberry Library, and elsewhere. Find out more at emmasovich.com. Christina Stoddard is the author of Hive, which won the Brittingham Prize in Poetry and was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award. Her work has appeared in DIAGRAM, Iron Horse Literary Review, storySouth, and Tupelo Quarterly. Originally from Tacoma, WA, Christina lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is the managing editor of an economics journal. Hsien Chong Tan is an MFA graduate from the New Writers Project at University of Texas at Austin. His work has appeared in the Mid-American Review, Conium Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Vancouver with his wife and two cats. Terrell Jamal Terry is the author of Aroma Truce, forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press in 2017. His poems have appeared or will soon appear in Denver Quarterly, Poetry Northwest, The Literary Review, Green Mountains Review, West Branch, The Journal, and elsewhere. He resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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Contributors’ Notes Jonathan Travelstead served in the military, currently works as a firefighter for the city of Murphysboro, and makes pens in his woodshop under his company’s name “Scorched Ink Penturning.” His first collection How We Bury Our Dead by Cobalt Press was released in March 2016, and his Conflict Tours was published in Spring of 2017.  Rhett Iseman Trull’s first book of poetry, The Real Warnings, received several awards, including the Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award. Her poems have appeared in 32 Poems, American Poetry Review, Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, Southern Review, and other publications. She and her husband publish Cave Wall in Greensboro, North Carolina. Susan O’Dell Underwood directs the creative writing program at Carson-Newman University. Her poetry and short fiction have appeared in a variety of journalsand anthologies, including Oxford American, Still, Rock & Sling, One, and The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume VI: Tennessee. She’s been a featured reader on Tennessee Shines, a live radio program broadcast and streamed globally from WDVX in Knoxville, Tennessee, and her reading at the Birthplace of Country Music was recorded and is archived at The Smithsonian. Francisco Uribe is a writer from Long Beach, California. He is the recipient of the Ruth Brill Award and the Donald Drury Award, both awarded to him for his fiction. He’s been published in Loading Zone Literary Journal, Verdad Magazine, and Westwind Journal. To learn more, please visit retrowavearts.wordpress.com. Laurie Perry Vaughen’s poems have appeared in Laurel Review, Greensboro Review, Cold Mountain Review, minnesota review, and Poetry Miscellany. Her work was selected by James Dickey for the award in his name in 1995 and published in Emory’s Lullwater Review. Joy Harjo selected her work as a finalist for the Sue Elkind National Poetry award with Kalliope: A Journal of Women’s Art. She holds an MA in creative writing from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and is completing her MFA in poetry through the Sewanee School of Letters. After a career in newspapers and corporate communications in Chattanooga, Vaughen teaches in the Writing Lab at Dalton State College in Georgia. Julie Marie Wade is the author of eight collections of poetry and prose, including most recently Catechism: A Love Story, and SIX: Poems, selected by C.D. Wright as the winner of the AROHO/ To the Lighthouse Poetry Prize.  A recipient of grants from the Kentucky Arts Council and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund and the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Memoir, Wade teaches in the creative writing program at Florida International University and reviews regularly for Lambda Literary Review and The Rumpus.  She is married to Angie Griffin and lives on Hollywood Beach. Michael Walsh is the author of The Dirt Riddles, recipient of the Miller Williams Prize in Poetry from the University of Arkansas Press as well as the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry.  His poems have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Cimarron Review, The Journal, and Prairie Schooner. Most recently, he was the guest editor for Queering Nature, a special issue of The Fourth River.

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Contributors’ Notes Cheryl Whitehead’s poems have appeared in The Southern Poetry Anthology, Mezzo Cammin, Measure, Callaloo, Crab Orchard Review, Hopkins Review, and other journals. She has been a finalist for the Morton Marr Poetry Prize and the New Letters Poetry Award. John Willson is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize and awards from the Academy of American Poets and the Artist Trust of Washington.  His poems have appeared in journals including Bellevue Literary Review, Coachella Review, Hawai’i Pacific Review, Notre Dame Review, Sycamore Review, and Terrain.org.  A two-time finalist in the National Poetry Series, John lives on Bainbridge Island, Washington, where he has been designated an Island Treasure. Avra Wing’s novel, Angie, I Says, was made into the film Angie. She is also the author of a young adult novel, After Isaac. Her poetry appeared most recently in Wordgathering, and she has poems slated to appear in issue 108 of Hanging Loose. She is a workshop leader for the NY Writers Coalition, and can be reached at www.avrawing.com. Shannon K. Winston is currently completing her MFA at Warren Wilson College. She is also a translator, poet, and poetry critic. Her work has appeared in Kentucky Review, Gingerbread House, Zone 3, and Absinthe: A Journal of World Literature in Translation. Her first full-length poetry collection, Threads Give Way, was published in 2010 by Cold Press. She lives in Princeton, New Jersey, where she teaches in Princeton University’s Writing Program. Nicholas Wong is the author of Crevasse, the winner of the 28th Lambda Literary Award in Gay Poetry. His recent poems can be found in Third Coast, Gulf Coast, Sublevel, Sixth Finch, and Wasafiri (U.K.). He is the Vice-President of PEN Hong Kong.   Bro. Yao (Hoke S. Glover III) is a poet, teacher, and former owner of Karibu Books. His work has centered on issues of literacy and the promotion of reading in the African American and larger community. He is currently an Assistant Professor of English at Bowie State University. His poetry and essays have been published in African American Review, Obsidian III, Tidal Basin Review, Smartish Pace, Beltway Quarterly, Specter, Libations, Ploughshares, and other journals and anthologies. Melissa Scholes Young’s work has appeared in the Atlantic, Washington Post, Narrative, Ploughshares, Poets & Writers, and Poet Lore. She was born and raised in Hannibal, Missouri and proudly claims it her hometown. She teaches now at American University in Washington, D.C. is a Bread Loaf Bakeless Camargo Fellow. Her novel, Flood, is forthcoming from Center Street, an imprint of Hachette Book Group. She is online at www.melissascholesyoung.com.

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CR AB ORCH AR D •

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REVIEW

After twenty-two years as a subscription-based print publication, Crab Orchard Review will be moving to a free online publication due to budget considerations in the state of Illinois. The biggest change this involves will be moving us from a paying market to a non-paying market. This is necessary at this time if we are going to continue to bring our readers the vibrant contemporary writing that has filled our pages over the years. We want to thank all of our many contributors and subscribers who have made this such a rewarding project and we hope that we will be a welcoming destination for the many contributors ahead. We look forward to seeing you all online!

http://craborchardreview.siu.edu/


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& Southern Illinois University Press 2018 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition Awards 2 winners – $2,500.00 and publication each (Online submissions only: CrabOrchardSeriesInPoetry.submittable.com) All unpublished, original collections of poems written in English by U.S. citizens, permanent residents, or persons who have DACA/TPS status are eligible* (individual poems may have been previously published). (*Current or former students, colleagues, and close friends of the final judge, and current and former students and employees of Southern Illinois University and authors published by Southern Illinois University Press are not eligible for the Open Competition.) Two volumes of poems will be selected from an open competition of manuscripts submitted online through Submittable. com between October 1 through November 18, 2017. The winners will each receive a publication contract with Southern Illinois University Press. In addition, both winners will be awarded a $1,000.00 prize and $1,500.00 as an honorarium for a reading at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Both readings will follow the publication of the poets’ collections by Southern Illinois University Press. The entry fee is $20.00. For complete guidelines, visit CrabOrchardSeriesInPoetry. submittable.com or send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to:

Jon Tribble, Series Editor Crab Orchard Open Competition Awards Department of English Southern Illinois University Carbondale 1000 Faner Drive Carbondale, Illinois 62901

Profile for Crab Orchard Review

Crab Orchard Review Vol 21 Double Issue 2017  

The next to the last print issue of Crab Orchard Review, featuring General/Awards Issue for 2016, including the Winners of Our Annual Fictio...

Crab Orchard Review Vol 21 Double Issue 2017  

The next to the last print issue of Crab Orchard Review, featuring General/Awards Issue for 2016, including the Winners of Our Annual Fictio...