Crack the Spine - Issue 121

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Crack the Spine Literary magazine Issue 121

Issue 121 July 30, 2014 Edited by Kerri Farrell Foley Collection copyright 2014 by Crack the Spine

Cover Art: “Lines� by Dave Petraglia Dave Petraglia has appeared in Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Better Homes & Gardens; more recently, or scheduled in Agave Magazine, Cactus Heart Press, Dark Matter Journal, eFiction India, Loco Magazine, Gravel Literary Review, Storyacious, The Olivetree Review, Petrichor Review, Thought Catalog, theNewerYork, and Vine Leaves Literary Journal. He's a writer and photographer and lives near Jacksonville, Florida. His blog is


Benjamin Warner Crossroads

Louise Robertson Last Thought

James Bradley

The Upside-Down Glasses of the Swan Princess

Vance Mikin-Laurie Mekong

Jennifer Van Alstyne The Ear

Dan Crawley Potluck

Noah Dversdall Love Letters of Winter

Benjamin Warner Crossroads

I’ll tell you a story. It was when I had my daughter, before she started running wild and got me evicted. Oh God, I got so many memories, I try not to think about them. This was when I had my daughter. I had this friend, Joyce, at least I thought she was my friend. She was always trying to get me to go to Crossroads. Now that place is… what do you call it? Rough, I guess. But she wanted to go. She was always on me to go. I said why do you want to go there? She said to listen to the music. Music was the only thing I spent money on besides my daughter, when I had any money. I’d listen to everything. But you can’t have a radio in here now or somebody wants to borrow it, and then Oh, they didn’t break it, it was broken already. And if you don’t let them have it then you’re greedy and that’s that. I used to have one of those little portable ones, you know what I mean? It was my daughter’s back when I had her. We went to Crossroads, me and Joyce, and all I wanted was to listen to music. It was good music. Kind of like a rock thing? Like halfway to rock and roll and half something else. I just wanted to listen. If I was going out, away from my daughter, I wanted to just hear it. But Joyce was in on me trying to talk about this guy and that guy. I said Joyce I’m listening to the music. She said but this guy and that guy. I said Joyce if you wanted to talk like that we could have done it at my kitchen table. What did you take me all the way out here for? And then before you know it, they were fighting, and we saw them punching and everything, and Joyce said have a drink, and I said no, and she said come on have one drink, and that’s when all the trouble started with my daughter.

Louise Robertson Last Thought Twins don't hear each other’s thoughts. We get headaches. She fell off a piano. I got a headache. I dropped acid. She got a headache. She dropped shrooms. Headache. My head hit the pavement after that Cadillac tore my legs from under me. Headache. But no thoughts. Except the last one. I know what depression smells like. I smelled it on her, that yeast smell, rank as socks, tang of sweat, reek of cold. It was an air rising from some basement where she lived and no one else. It would blow away and she would shower and eat bread and look for a job.

And my headache would disappear. Twins don't hear each other’s thoughts. We get headaches. But no thoughts. Except the last one. That day, she must have spent an hour picking out the right clothes: All black and a shirt with an open neck so she could feel freedom and look pretty. She spent less time on the bridge. When she jumped off, she flew down, expecting to stop wanting to be encased in a box. I got a headache. The wind strangled her neck. Her eyes hurt. She felt faint. She smacked the water, a slab of metal. Her nose cracked, blood smoked out, a dragon's last, weakest fire.

And then she thought, everything in world can be fixed except for this.

James Bradley The Upside-Down Glasses of the Swan Princess Chapter One "To wear one's reading glasses upsidedown is to invert perception, thereby freeing the discursive mind for revelations heretofore undreamt." The pen scratched the words onto the thin sheet of paper which lay across the wooden desk like a damp pair of stockings, held shakily and tootightly by slender fingers. "Oh who am I kidding?" With these words the pen screeched to a halt and dropped to the desktop like Newton's apple, like original sin, like lead. The same slender fingers then grabbed the paper by an edge, crumpled it into a dense mass of dry pulp, and threw it out the open window, where it fell five stories and into the dumpster positioned fortuitously on the street below. The sky was black and speckled with thousands of points of blue light. Though it was late there was a

considerable commotion of street rabble buzzing in the corridors of the city mazes. They spoke of many things, oftentimes through the mediator of a small box, with wires which ran up and into the ears. How far inside the wires went was a question of no small import to the girl with the slender fingers who pondered such things as inverted spectacles as she spent her evenings averting the spectacle of the outside world. A small desk lamp lit the room, with a green shade of the sort found in public libraries' reading rooms or the studies of elderly women whom the rush of romance somehow passed by in their waning days. The girl's face remained in darkness, her hands emerging from the shadows and into the lamp light clutching writing implements and the tails of tigers, both of which squirmed and challenged the

authority of her grip with each drop of blood in shark-infested waters, contortion. Ink and matted fur, she found invigorating. disinterested conversations, were the Attempting to conjure, with her rule. writer's implement, the sorrows of young Werther, she found herself again Chapter Two and again having to settle for the "The inversion of reality brought about clinical assertions of an aging Lacan. by the wearing of one's reading glasses Still, she felt she was making some sort upside-down is purely symbolic. This of headway, and that she should simply is the key, and it is this, our everlasting have faith and allow the words to take susceptibility to the bacchanalian the lead. It was her twenty-second intoxication of the symbolic, which birthday, and she told no one. She allows for the actual epiphany." preferred the desk chair to the bar Slender fingers create words with stool, the tea mug to the beer stein, the the aid of simple tools: ink and a means chatter of her own thoughts to the of dispersing it in a straight line. She chitchat of those her age. was cold but refused to shut the Her thoughts were much older than window. The heat emitted from a 60 she was. watt light bulb is meager, to say the She had discovered this least, but she found that if she dropped extraordinary fact through writing, and her pen long enough to grab hold of it she knew she could not stop now, with her hand for no more than a travelling backwards in time as she second or two, her entire body would was on a caravan of sentences which feel a jolt of warmth which, mixed with stretched out before her mind's eye to the prevailing cold of the room like a a horizon dominated by an iridescent

sunrise. Her body ached and awaited felt the gaze of Janus upon her, laughing and crying, his simultaneous the final word on the matter. lament and celebration of our ignorance which has led us to separate Chapter Three The Mickey Mouse watch lying on the past and future with the sharp blade of desk read 11:59 p.m. on the night of our blindness. Her hair was lifted from her shoulders by an easterly wind, her twenty-second birthday. "What a relief," she sighed. "I revealing a chest which rose and fell thought this day would never end." with an anxiety and an expectation of Now that it was, in fact, ending, she crystals shattering after a fall of several could see clearly that the coming year thousand years. Gripped by a sudden dread, she held wonders in store for her, trials she could not as yet comprehend. She was reached for the watch, which now read arrested by visions. She stood before a 12:03, and flung it out the open pair of enormous marble pillars, naked window of her dimly-lit apartment save for the glasses on her face, which with one fluid motion. Still breathing she wore upside-down. The landscape heavily, she reached for a pen and was barren, a blank page, desolate save proceeded to scrawl the words which for the golden light which shot from she now began to regard as terrifying. the blinding dawn. The infant sun rose, Not just these words, but any words, haloed by a rainbow. She looked up to began to have this effect on her. "The bridge of my nose itches. see birds flying east. She craned her neck to follow their purposeful Something is not right with the word trajectory and her eyes were led, order. All the words are there, but they purposefully, back to the pillars. She are mixed up, badly. . ."

Chapter Four "Symbols rule the world. Symbols rule the world. Symbols rule the. . ." She wrote with a pen, but was beginning to feel more like a word processor. She didn't know what to do. Something was welling up inside of her. She felt like a tea kettle set atop a nuclear reactor. Filled with an irresistible urge, she suddenly stood up from the desk, ripping her body from the halo of lamp light like a scab from an elbow, ran out the front door of her apartment, sped, practically tumbling headlong, down five flights of stairs, and burst out of the building into the midnight air. The stars glittered overhead, but she was down below. Besides, the much-nearer streetlights, in their plastic casings, overpowered those distant nuclear furnaces by a ratio of at least a hundred to one. At that moment she spied a girl of

about her age walking alone in a polkadotted coat and fishnet stockings, her hair dyed a very literal shade of blue, like a plastic tarp. Out of this passing girl's ears, past dangling earrings shaped like the "recycling" logo, ran two white wires, which converged at the base of her rib cage, the resultant single wire then finding its rest in a small, shiny white box affixed to a belt loop on her coat. Still panting from her lightning-like descent of the stairs, the image of an apple with a single bite taken out of it flashed in her mind. She approached the blue-haired stranger, blocking her path like a felled oak, and before either knew what had happened she yanked the wires from the blue-haired girls ear's and yelled, "SYMBOLS RULE THE WORLD !" Their eyes met for several strange seconds, then she repeated in a whisper, "symbols rule the world. . ."

Chapter Five The Swan Princess stared into the painted eyes of the strange girl with blue hair, petrified, delirious and exultant all at once. She found herself acutely aware of the moon's creeping course from black horizon to black horizon. Similarly, the cityscape seemed to be melting slowly like an ice sculpture, neither progression visible to the naked eye, yet somehow known. The blue-haired girl stood motionless as well, not out of fear, per se, but as a result of her brain's sheer inability to draw upon past experience to formulate a reaction, any reaction. Finally the Swan Princess looked down at her right hand to see the white wires which had been plucked like weeds from the girl's effete ears only moments ago, and ran. She ran inside her apartment building, slamming the door behind her, and ascended the five flights of stairs like a zigzagging rocket, not realizing that she still clutched the

wires until she was back in her apartment with the dead bolt latched. She then darted to the window, looked down at that shock of blue still frozen in place on the sidewalk below, and tossed the two-pronged wires out into the open air, where they hit the ground with a minute clunk just in front of the girl's scuffed tennis shoes. The girl then bent down slowly, deliberately, scooped up the wires, replaced them with care, one in each ear, arched her head in the direction of the Swan Princess' window high above, and screamed, "ARE YOU CRAZY? PEOPLE DON'T DO THAT! DO YOU HEAR?? THEY JUST DON'T DO THAT ! !" Standing alone in a dark room, at these words the Swan Princess suddenly regained her composure, reclaiming the delicious lucidity which the heterodox social interaction had promised in the first place, and promptly fainted.

Chapter Six Lying curled up like a kitten beside the open window, her long hair shifted in the cold breeze as she, herself, shifted periodically in the moonlight. She slept for twenty-three hours. All through the night and following day her dreams seemed to be evolving along some manner of logical trajectory. For instance, the first cycle of dreams experienced were composed of nothing but text. Enigmatic phrases such as "the concept of inconceivability" and "the reality of the withered world" whizzed across a black abyss before a disembodied spectator, sometimes interacting with each other, spinning about in cyclones of letters which stabilized into new variations, sometimes staying with her for extended periods, as if making certain she had ample time to ponder the mysteries posed fully and profoundly. From these semantic mise-en-scènes

eventually evolved a slightly higher form of symbolic representation, that of a sort of pictographic world in which all objects and beings were also their own signifiers. The appearance of a being was akin to reading its name. This produced many wholly alien and not-unpleasant readings of dreamscapes by a dreaming subject who was, herself, a pictogram to be read, though when she attempted such an auto-reading nothing was accomplished save a vague tickling sensation all over her "body." Next, the dreamworld of forms began to take on a mass and a definition many times fuller and more vivid than that of the waking world. Each object, for example, an altar she nearly tripped over while exploring a dense jungle positively dripping with life and animation, seemed to possess a hyperreality which could only be compared to a self-contained universe. Running her fingers along the altar's

surface, it's finite mass seemed to deformed, in patterns which suggested extend infinitely across a space no divination by yarrow stalks. larger than her own body. The grim fate they divulged was clear. Chapter Seven Spatters of blood dotted the stillShe moved her arm from side to side, smoldering piles of rubble which rose and each time she did so it felt as if it before her eyes like infected boils, and were undertaking the voyage, like she intuited what had happened here. some galactic space-faring vessel, from This city had crossed the line. It had one edge of the universe to the other. died of pompousness. Drunk on the Her body was light-years across, an wine of its own otherworldly success, incalculable mass. Or was it that her it had allowed itself to forget the body was the universe? Perhaps one of natural world from whence it had those motions of her arm actually took sprung, and Hypnos had returned to several thousand, million, or even rouse the sorry somnambulist from its billion years to complete, a aeon sleep of ages. experienced by her as lasting no more Not knowing what else to do, she sat than a few seconds? at the base of a rubble pile and began Suddenly the sensation of infinite to dig idly. After only a few minutes she mass abandoned her and she found found the first body. She had removed herself amid the ruins of a once-great a large stone, probably the largest she metropolis. Massive skyscrapers lay would care to attempt to budge, and strewn across jagged piles of shattered out it fell: a limp arm in a blackened asphalt roadway like rows of dominos. and bloodied business suit, followed by Subway trains slept, twisted and the poor soul's dangling head. His jaw

hung agape, dislocated. His glasses, question their esoteric motives. worn right-side-up, lenses shattered, Perhaps this city was destroyed as a were otherwise intact. last-ditch effort to eradicate an infestation of "visual pollution" which Chapter Eight had become completely unmanageable. After discovering the first, she began to She wandered the ruins for what see corpses everywhere. Whatever the seemed like hours, past tangled exact circumstances that led to this suspension bridges half submerged in city's demise, the deathblow seemed to tranquil waters, past gaping, smoking strike swiftly. holes in the streets which revealed the Billboards, actors with a thousand subway tunnels below, past rotting faces, had fallen from great heights fruit carts manned by dismembered only to find their final roles upon the vendors, past an unbroken mirror. hard surface of the earth as cubist She halted as she noticed this last caricatures of their former pristine sight in her periphery, an unblemished, promises. She stared at one intently. It full-length mirror leaning against a lay broken and bent beside the base of gutted structure from which small some Art Deco ruins, its absurdly pockets of fire still burned, and turned blissful faces looming taller than her to face it. It was only then that she entire body. Even in their proper became aware of the fact that she was context these jubilant, colorful images completely naked, save for a pair of had more than a little of the grotesque thick-framed reading glasses which about them. They seemed to possess rested upside-down upon the bridge of the power to sap any true joy from her nose, their arms pointing upward hapless onlookers who failed to instead of hooking around the backs of

the ears. Throughout these nocturnal adventures, she had been profoundly concerned with the being of her physical self, but never the image. Plainly, nakedness made sense, but the glasses? Chapter Nine The mirror's frame was gilded and ornate. It leaned at a slight angle against a cracked wall that looked as though it could be toppled with a breath, creating the illusion that she was viewing herself from a position lower than herself. This disjunction, the idea of being lower than oneself, even if ever so slightly, allowed for an objectivity which mirrors rarely bestow. Her hair was dirty and tangled, yet her skin appeared to glow like polished marble, tarnished only here and there by the soot and ash which travelled upon the air currents like divine messengers. Her breasts were brave little soldiers, standing guard at

either side of the entryway to the throne room of the heart. As she examined herself acutely, lost in a schoolgirl's philosophia, a sudden strong gust of wind, which had twisted its way through the barren canyons of the dead city to the very spot where she and the mirror faced each other, roared past and deposited a thick blanket of grey ash which covered her, the mirror, and everything else in the vicinity. She coughed and coughed, struggling, through the fits, to wipe her glasses clean with her hair. Only partially successful, she replaced them on her face upside-down, always upside down. . . Sharing its morbid palette, she was now one with the landscape. Only the two tiny lenses of her glasses, wiped clean, and the alert eyes imprisoned therein, distinguished her from the otherwise thorough desolation which stretched in all

directions, as all other windows had been shattered, leaving, at best, piles of shards, at worst, pulverized grains of sand. She searched for the mirror, sifting through grey dunes and rock piles, but found only body parts and tortured fiber-optics. She collapsed into herself and began to weep, and weep. Chapter Ten The tears flowed down her cheeks, washing away some of the ash which caked itself upon her entire body, creating a miniature Nile River Delta beneath each red eye. Crying seemed the last recourse available in this necropolis of foggy comprehension. Why was she here? What happened? Something seemed wrong. The sun was beginning to set upon the hellish scene, the lavenders and golds of an indifferent, yet somehow sentient-seeming sky, marked the desolation with their ribbons of

warmth diminished. Wiping the tears from each cheek a dark, clay-like substance formed as the liquid sorrow mixed with the dry ash, which she flung from her fingertips in quick motions. She looked at the little balls of clay where they fell, lodged in the grey ash like meteors frozen at the instant of impact with a colorless moon. So absorbed in contemplation and grief was this ash-covered girl that she nearly failed to notice a deep shadow gliding across the earth, eventually covering the clay balls in darkness. She looked up, slowly, following the shadow back to its source, and found herself face to face with a huge beast! Its face was so close to hers that she was overwhelmed by its hot breath as it cycled onto her face and steamed her glasses. Staggering backwards, she stumbled over a broken piece of concrete and fell onto her bare behind. The beast stood, almost motionless,

breathing steadily and following her with its black, shiny eyes. In fact, the creature was black all over. Its face was proud and modeled with the contours of a harsh wisdom; all around it sprung a thick mane of pitch black, lustrous fur. Its body was strong, its four paws anchored to the shifting grey ash like pillars in a temple upon sand. Chapter Eleven It was a lion, but its presence suggested not so much a creature as a black hole, blotting out the stars with an inexplicable negativity completely at odds with our positivistic conception of the cosmos. Its coat was black, yet iridescent, catching the fleeting rays of the setting sun like peacocks in its jaws, sending shimmering feathers flying, a thousand shifting colors before a neutral backdrop. The girl, heroine of this exercise in narrative abstraction, overcoming her

considerable fear, stood up to face the creature eye to eye. In his eyes (she felt sure that he was a "he") she found herself confronted with a synthesis, surely alchemical in nature, of pride, intelligence, melancholy and something else, something as yet unclear. The beast, chest rising and falling, nostrils emitting blasts of steam like an engine, stood before her as if awaiting her next move. She sensed this, and, overcoming a certain embarrassment, spoke. "Hello," she began hesitantly, "I am a stranger in this terrible land. I don't know how I got here. I don't know what I'm supposed to do. Everyone here is dead. Can you help me?" The black lion remained silent just long enough for the girl to feel foolish at expecting a verbal response from an animal, then his snout began to form these words: "Young girl, we have found each other not by chance, but

through a mutual need. This need is the point, the set of coordinates, at which the perpendicular paths of our existences cross, like a constellation. From your limited vantage point, seen through the bars of your tiny temporal cages, the constellations seem eternal, but they, too, are merely travelers passing in the night, assemblages of chance and necessity, causality and will, which are one. I am. . .glad that we have met." Chapter Twelve The girl considered the form standing solemnly before her, a bronze monument blackened by countless seasons of acid rain. His lustrous, velvet coat revealed the inner workings of his body, its skeletal pistons pumping, with a fluidity which she found exceptionally beautiful. She watched his movements, sparse yet captivating, as he asked her, "What is your name, my dear?"

This question startled her, as if at that moment she felt the stirring of some buried memory making its first attempt to claw out of a premature entombment deep within her. "My name...well, I'm the Swan Princess." She curtsied playfully (though she was naked and therefore in no position to do so), and offered her hand in a gesture of greeting. She felt her fear gradually departing (though, in that wasteland, there was no reason why it should), replaced by a vague uneasiness, a disorientation. "Ah, then I am in the presence of royalty. . ." The black lion's voice was deep and rough, though wielded delicately, a forest fire clearing the way for spring's renewal. "Of sorts. My lineage is mysterious, yet pure." She adjusted her upsidedown glasses, a nervous gesture meant to assuage the slight embarrassment caused by such strange words. The sensation that this was

somehow all wrong grew in her. It was not simply the horrific fact of the destroyed city, nor the corpses piled high, which disturbed her. No, the anxiety stemmed from elsewhere, from below these things. "Once, as recently as yesterday, in fact, this cosmopolis was known as New York City, jewel of the risen Atlantis. Today, alas, it is fallen, is fallen. You are a mess, your majesty. Allow me to assist." Before she could protest the lion began to lick her with his massive tongue, removing the grey ash which covered her. Chapter Thirteen The girl attempted, to no avail, to suppress the laughter as the black lion's tongue lapped and lapped her ash-strewn figure. Soon she was completely clean, sparkling like a newborn, laughing like a child. The lion spoke: "Princess of the Swans, mistress to the spell of words,

we have met before. Many times, in fact. Each time in a different place. Once upon a barren desert, beside a sighted pyramid. Another time in your own bedroom, where a chestnut tree sprang up, in-itself, through the floorboards. Yet again in the company of your departed grandmother, whom your being moves toward. Each time we have something new to impart to one another. Each time the contest begins anew." "Contest?" inquired the girl, catching her breath. The beast grinned. "Of course, my dear. All is contest. Are we, titans of this astral realm, to be exempt? Look around you. This city, this monument to nothingness, has now achieved this status in actuality, not merely symbolically. This city, this pile, is all that remains of a will which failed to will to the very end. In the end it chose suicide, though a coward's suicide, passing the short blade off to another

with the stomach to dispatch such a weakling. Will this meeting truly pass, like the others, leaving no mark upon the for-itself of your consciousness, abstraction which is what it is not?" At these striking words, and behind upside-down glasses, the girl's pearllike eyes opened wide. "I'm dreaming," she whispered. Now it was the lion's turn to laugh. "Very good, my dear, very good. Become what you are not. . ." Overcome by exhilaration, these last words barely registered with the young dreamer. She began to float, drifting further and further from the lion and the ravaged cityscape. Chapter Fourteen The girl looked down as the black lion, along with the charred earth upon which he stood, receded into the distance. As a kind of farewell, the creature roared heavenward: "You must suffer one last dream, do you

hear me, my lovely little princess? I, Samael, do prophesy!" Did she hear him? The answer is unclear, speeding away as she did, piercing the clouds with the rubber bullet of her body. She flew toward the golden light of the sun, forgetting the lion and his cryptic words completely in the warm bath of the gloaming. "I'm dreaming," she said aloud, finding herself possessed of a startling clarity of vision. The sky was empty. The sky contained, was, a vast emptiness, blue, pink and gold for the light which ricocheted to and fro against imperceptible particles. The particles did not exist. She looked at her hands. These slender hands did not exist. She perceived that she was experiencing, acting out, the very essence of awareness, yet she found it hard to move beyond the simple articulation "I'm dreaming." For the

moment it was all she needed. The clouds that surrounded her were the most beautiful things she had ever seen. She thought of stopping to examine them further, but the attraction of the giant, magnificently radiant orb ahead proved too great. She moved horizontally, though her momentum was such that it may as well have been straight down, into the sun's gravitational dominion. She understood that this was all in her mind, that her mind was the one thing that did exist in this primordial galaxy, but the pull of the sun was not diminished for this knowledge. The sun did not exist. Did the sun exist? As she disappeared into its white light, she pondered the two mutuallyexclusive hypotheses.

revealed itself in the full light of day. That was how she understood it. Leviathan. She began to see the instability of words, how they wobble around the signifier, always, at best, only approximating its location on a great conceptual or existential lattice. Words were pixels determining the resolution of the perceptible world. Unfortunately, more often than not one hits a wall of irreducible pixilation long before reaching one's destination, a journey for which the words are tools meant to facilitate safe passage. Once again, she didn't know where she was. She was surprised to find herself clothed in a white summer dress of very soft fabric, upon which was printed a pattern of red gloxinias intertwined with the figures of foxes. Her hair, combed and shiny, was pulled back in pigtails which brushed her Chapter Fifteen shoulders. Her feet were bare. Upon Leviathan. The girl's subconscious her face were her usual thick-framed mind had risen from the depths, reading glasses, worn upside-down.

Leviathan. Was this the belly of the beast? Are words the glasses prescribed by an overeager optometrist, a crutch which actually impedes the flawless functioning of healthy eyeballs? The sun hung low in the sky, its white light bathing the landscape like a silk tablecloth. Though the light was overpowering, the girl could make out the faint signature of a rainbow circling the sun. The dark silhouettes of birds flew into the haze. As her eyes adjusted to the light, she witnessed the appearance of two marble pillars which were once as tall as cedars, but which were now broken, their mass tumbled to the ground in boulders and pebbles. The two bases still stood taller than her. She approached and, reaching out her hand, touched the rough, pockmarked marble against the grain of the grooves. Leviathan.

Chapter Sixteen The girl was crouched over the sand, writing with her finger. She wrote a sentence, then wiped it clean, forgetting entirely the content of the recently-redacted sentiment. "Time is a confusing loop of language." "Time is an elusive knot, a stoppage in the arteries of nothingness." "Time is a disease of the heart of existence." Between you and me, these are some of the sentences she dirtied the tip of her index finger to construct. This is the dramatic irony of other people's dreams. Between the shadows of two ruined pillars, aligned with the sunset, white as Paradiso, the girl in the white dress looked up and saw a figure which was not there a moment ago. It was difficult to make out features. The figure, backlit by infinity, making it infinitely dark, appeared as nothing more than

the barest approximation of a human form, a head and a long torso. Her finger froze mid-sentence. The figure was unhurriedly walking toward her, and as it did she saw that the minimal form which she perceived was the silhouette of a hooded cloak, a smooth and gently curving arc which rose from the ground like a bell. Once the figure stood between the crumbling columns it removed its hood and looked down at her, and she up at it, squinting. It was a man. Though he appeared somewhat young, his hair was white. Rather, not white, but a sort of blue, metallic and glimmering. His robes were brown and threadbare, patched here and there with a material of slightly mismatched color and texture. His face was beardless and appeared soft. Rather than stand up to face the visitor she plopped her behind down onto the ground and positioned herself casually below him, as if impatiently prompting

him to react. Chapter Seventeen The pale orange light of the sun shone through the fabric of the girl's dress showing the outline of curved calves. The robed man who stood above her, whose clasped hands were concealed beneath the folded drapery of long sleeves, cleared his throat. To this the girl looked up, expecting speech of some sort. When it failed to appear, she went back to her drawings in the sand. Again, the man cleared his throat. The girl's finger stopped abruptly. She was becoming annoyed, though determined not to show it. She felt as though she had been at the mercy of the whims of others for a thousand years as she floated through the archetypes of her soul. She was dreaming, though whether she was aware of this fact at that moment is an issue which has quietly fallen outside of the bounds of this

allegorical "narrative abstraction." A more urgent question would be this: when she is awake, is she aware that she is dreaming? Moving on from meta-fictive speculation, the man did, indeed, speak. "I am terribly sorry to disturb you, but I find myself overcome by curiosity. Would you do a humble servant of God the honor of telling me what it is that you are writing in the sand, knowing full well that the winds will sweep it away in a matter of minutes?" Looking down to conceal the fact, the girl smiled. She always welcomed an audience for her words. "Well, if you must know," she pantomimed, "I am composing a series of short, pointed verses in the tradition of the Imagist school of poetry." Satisfied with the learned quality of her response, she waited for the fish to tug at the line. The sun was setting fast as she prepared herself for the

recitation. Chapter Eighteen The girl read the stranger some of her sand poems. All the while the man, who now sat cross-legged before her, listened attentively, resting his chin on a clenched fist as he considered every clause. Meanwhile the girl was becoming more amiable with each verse, and soon she was glad to have some company other than those two toppled pillars whose tone-deaf ears couldn't possibly appreciate her exceptional lyrical gifts. The sun touched the distant horizon, across the flat land, and began to shrink. Within seconds it was night, and a canopy of stars appeared as if someone, somewhere had flipped a switch. "Oh my," hiccupped the girl, "I've been so self-absorbed. . ." The monk interjected: "Not at all. Monks such as myself, humble servants of God's lush universe, are accustomed

to listening for great stretches without comment. Just listening and listening. There is, after all, so much to hear, and your poems have filled my heart this day with great joy." The girl blushed the color of the foxes printed on her white dress. "Oh, do you mean it? You are very kind. . ." "Francis," stated the monk. "My name is Brother Francis, student of holy books, willing slave of the Anointed One." "I'm the Swan Princess," the girl said sadly, "But I. . ." "Do not believe." In a short period of time the monk Francis had become quite adept at finishing the young woman's sentences. Looking down, the girl answered, "That's right." Francis pondered this for a moment and said, "If I may be so forward as to ask, what do you believe?" Adjusting her upside-down, thickframed reading glasses, the girl said, "I

believe that I exist, and that the world exists. I believe that nothingness surrounds us, and that to stark nothingness we shall return. . ." Chapter Nineteen "There is water nearby," Brother Francis stated dispassionately, "Are you thirsty?" The girl, still feeling somewhat uncomfortable after her frank admission of philosophical atheism to a monk, welcomed the change of subject. "Thirsty?" she knelled, "Why. . .yes. . .now that you mention it, my throat does feel a bit parched." She put her hand to her neck. "Strange. I feel as though I've been inhaling ash from. . . from. . ." "The incense of the world?" offered the monk. "Maybe," said the girl in the white dress glumly. "Very well, a cool drink for the pretty girl !" Before she knew what had happened, the monk snatched the

upside-down glasses from the girl's face and, raising them into the air with a firm grip, he then swung them down to the ground, piercing the dry earth with one of their arms and in the process smashing the glasses to bits. The Swan Princess gasped. She felt a miniscule panic bubble within her like a stomach ache, a panic which grew until finally she exclaimed, "ARE YOU CRAZY? PEOPLE DON'T DO THAT! DO YOU HEAR?? THEY JUST DON'T DO THAT ! !" Then she froze. The words she had just allowed to burst forth, overcome with rage at the presumptuous monk, reverberated within her like an echo in a dark cave. Her fury was overtaken by a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach, a dread. Francis looked at her calmly and said, "Remember, the words of others, which you use to condemn them, are of the same language from which you build your towers to the sky."

At that moment a low rumble became audible from the ground between the two dream pilgrims where the glasses lay, frames bent and lenses shattered, and suddenly a huge geyser erupted therefrom, splintering the earth beneath their feet. Chapter Twenty Water spouted forth from the ruptured earth, rising high into the starry sky. The spray from this roaring pillar glittered like a second Milky Way, crossing the first and raining down upon the monk called Brother Francis and the girl known as the Swan Princess, each seeking cover respectively behind one of the two broken marble columns. The water, though, was warm and pleasant, and neither felt that its complete avoidance was altogether necessary. The girl, face bereft of the indispensable adornment of her reading glasses, was too bewildered

for words. Now soaked, her white dress clung tightly to her skin as she hugged the pillar with both arms and slid rapidly down its slick surface. Standing beside the other column, Francis donned his coarse hood and lowered his gaze. "What kind of sick baptism is this?" the girl yelled desperately against the howl of the waterspout, "I would write about this if it weren't all so incoherent!" "This," Francis intoned, "Is, indeed, your baptism. The vanity of the world has been surpassed within you, though you will not come to know the fruit of this joyous transformation for many years." Seen through the cascade which rained down with increasing ferocity, the girl faded in and out of sight like the moon behind curtains of rain. "I don't understand!" she pleaded. "Please, help me to see the sights which are as yet unseen!"

The words surprised her more than they did Francis. He simply responded, "You will see it on the television, as a cat rests contentedly in your lap. When the abomination shows itself within the temple, flee Babylon. When the abomination speaks, demanding worship, flee, not stopping to collect your notebook. Flee !" To this last cautionary monosyllable the Swan Princess awoke with a start on her apartment floor. Chapter Twenty-One The girl awoke to find herself curled up like a kitten below the open window, her hair shifting in the cool breeze like sand dunes below the ambivalent moon. She stirred slowly, stretching her arms wide and rubbing her eyes with her knuckles. Glancing at the digital clock lying upside-down on the floor beside her writing desk, she saw, with fuzzy vision, that it was 11:11 p.m. How was

that possible, she wondered, since that would make it earlier than when she fell asleep? Unless, she realized, I slept all day long. . . That was it. It was now nearly twenty-four hours since she collapsed in a manic exhaustion onto the floor of her apartment. This fact, which could easily have been interpreted as troubling, did not bother her in the least. She felt a rare tranquility crawling across her skin, manifesting itself in the form of goose pimples. It was a feeling she wished could last forever, a bodily mysticism in which she felt that she fit into her intangible cosmic slot comfortably and with ease. Her mind seemed to blend seamlessly with her body, and her emotions with her thoughts, in that warm feeling. In fact, this could be said to be its most accurate description: the melding of all perception and experience. Draping herself in a blanket from the pile of clothes that served as her bed,

she moved to the kitchen to prepare a cup of matcha tea. Samurai used to drink this bright green concoction before heading into battle for its power to enhance alertness, and the young woman, alone in her squared-off allotment of the vast western city, desired this benefit for herself. Feeling exceptionally well-rested, she had the entire night in which to write. It was a battle, of sorts. Chapter Twenty-Two The girl removed the reading glasses from her face, setting them upsidedown atop the scattered papers on the desk. She rubbed the bridge of her nose with thumb and forefinger, closing her eyes and thinking about the people of the outside world, the people with white wires running out of their ears and into tiny boxes. "To wear one's reading glasses upside-down is to invert perception, thereby freeing the discursive mind for

revelations heretofore undreamt." The words made her smile, but hadn't she written them before? No matter, all words repeat with time. As she crossed her bridge of dreams, many such revisionary decisions were sure to follow like streamers, a colorful parade of dangling possibilities. The night was still, as was her mind. Her mind was still, as was the night. Were these true statements? Somehow, she believed that all statements were true. Each had its analog somewhere out there in the wide universe of dreams. As she rubbed the bridge of her nose where the thick frames of her glasses left little red marks, she knew she had plenty of dream residue with which to work. She knew, also, that she had to work quickly, because it was fading fast. When she was sixteen, she used to save her fingernail clippings and put them into the cups of her bra as an act of penance for failing to live up to

Rimbaud's vision of the liberated and enlightened poet-woman of the future. She never had too much of a stomach for physical discomfort, so this was the worst she could imagine subjecting herself to. All day long at school her chest itched, preoccupying her and making the boys think she was uptight. Except for the occasional sigh, she bore her burden of loneliness in silence.

Vance Mikin-Laurie Mekong

Clenched teeth, I can’t move. Sweat streams from my face and stains the grey concrete of the kerb. The pain is intense. Crowds of people shift around me, eating chillies from plastic bags and staring. An old man says one word to me over and over. — Ritalin — Ritalin — Ritalin He walks across the road through scooter traffic to a crudely built corrugated iron shed where men in singlets cook human body parts over dark metal grills. Fat drips down and flames lick up around the crackling skin with the smell of burnt hair. The pain in my stomach is feeling worse every minute. Children sit in the back of a car near the barbecue, tapping screens and laughing. Smoke from the exhaust and the barbecue drift away together down the road until they disappear, replaced by the thick black smoke of an old diesel truck heading the other way. Vibrations of the idling car shake the pebbles at my feet and the ground beneath the car freezes white. As it drives away a boy inside chews on a hand while looking at his sisters screen and smiling. The pain forces me down sideways and I rest in the foetal position with my head on the kerb.

Water begins to drip from the cloudless sky and it feels like it’s raining money, as if each drop has a dollar value until it hits the ground. A streetlight becomes limp

and bends while its lamp melts down like a giant tear. I can hear voices now, memories of television advertisements in my mind, faces of actors talking about insurance and alcohol. The crowd is disappearing behind me, rushing madly toward the rising waters of the Mekong. Its water first swallows the trees and shrubs on the shoreline and soon the riverside restaurants are gone too, leaving only the crude signs and flags that stood high above the roof. The water pushes me forwards onto the mayhem of a road slowly becoming part of the river. Chickens panic in half sunken bamboo cages and the flailing bodies of men and monks float by. My feet are moving desperately to keep myself afloat as mountains of jungle disappear, leaving small islands full of monkeys tearing each other apart for the space left in the trees. A boat moves close, pulled by four water buffalo with chains driven through their noses, legs running hard and invisible beneath the brown water. The driver pulls me aboard and says the buffalo will take us to the other side. I look across the now endless brown ocean and at the sad eyes of the buffalo. They look as powerless against this raging current as everything else.

Jennifer Van Alstyne The Ear

when gould listens, he uncurls each ear, cartilage under fingertips & skin, rolls upon rolls, a shaped dome, pale & waxy. there must have been some error, or extra-sensorial connect, something of the pulling in childhood, a newfound syntax, altered & veiled. my mother pulls my earlobes, as one might rub temples or the bridge of the nose. but drums in my head are ordinary, tympanic & mortal.

Dan Crawley Potluck


looks at baseboards,” Perry says. “You’d be surprised,” Ann, his mother, says. The way Perry’s head lolls to the side makes his Adam’s apple grow to the size of a walnut. His hair is long and parted in the center like her husband used to wear it when Ann first met him. “They must have concussions,” Perry says dryly, “from tripping over each other or running into open doors or falling out of windows, never taking their eyes off the precious baseboards.

Baseboard obsession probably is listed in the latest DSM in Dad’s office.” Ann marvels at how this thirteen year old, seemingly overnight, has taken on his father’s arid monotone, his cresting falsetto long gone. She’ll take this deadpan over a highpitched whine any day of the week. Perry rises up from the tiled entryway and squeezes the wad of damp paper towel in his tight fist. “My knees are developing calluses.” Ann hears the vacuum around the

corner as Mads, her daughter, bangs the legs of the furniture in the front room. Because Ann just came from the kitchen, she knows her husband us is on his hands and knees, mopping again. Ann is grateful for how considerate Jonathan is. She had finished mopping the tile floor earlier, and here came her husband behind her to attack the tougher stains with a sponge and bucket. “Your dad’s knees are fine.” She is losing her eldest son fast. He slouches toward the

staircase. Ann says, “He’s a great role model for how it’s done. And when you have your own house, you should do as he does.” “My offspring won’t be wiping off baseboards because I’ll allow them to fingerpaint all over the walls, if they want.” Perry stoops forward as if he returned from a forced march and collapses on the bottom steps. “Perry.” He slowly rolls over. “And then I’ll invite my social club pals over to admire the great works of art.” “Very mature. Just when I’m thinking you’re a grown man, up

pops my widdle bitty baby.” “Wa-wa.” Perry crosses his sleepy eyes and attempts to touch the tip of his nose with his tongue. “New plan. Go and tackle the weeds outside. You can sit on the edge of the planter to spare your damaged knees.” Perry pushes himself off the stairs and hurries out the front door. While finishing up last minute dusting, Ann sees her son outside through the front room’s large bay window. He is down on his knees on the sidewalk, causing Ann

to let out a quick snort and think, Oh brother. Perry’s rear-end is up in the air, his preferred sleeping position as a toddler, the tip of his nose almost touching the concrete. He is fully entranced with something just inches below his stare. Thomas and Riva Holliston come into view, and Thomas does a slow-motion kick right into her son’s behind. Perry bolts off the ground. Ann laughs again. Her son stands straight and is, with all that thick hair, inches taller than the man before him. When did that happen? Riva is laughing, too, and clutches a casserole

dish in her arms. Ann is grateful for the appearance of a main dish and hopes the other couples bring more of the same. Last potluck at the Warrens’ everyone brought too many salads and desserts. Ann realizes that everyone might bring main dishes this time around and pictures herself calling out to her friends, “This time around, we’re storing up for a long, dark winter.” Ann smiles as Thomas tries to mess with her son’s precious hair. Perry leans way back, his arms creating an X in front of him. And then he says something,

making Riva let out a full-bodied laugh. Thomas dramatically points a finger at her son, like he is in his office at the high school. “Thomas called my cell five minutes ago and said they forgot to get to the store and were bringing a box of moist towelettes and one half-eaten mint.” Jonathan is beside Ann, also smiling. His hair is wet from the shower. “Why don’t you go put on some nice pants and a button-down shirt? A T-shirt and cargo shorts make you look like you’re Perry’s age.” Her husband gives her that look he always

does, meaning, Are you kidding me? “Who do I need to impress? You think these people are worth dressing up for?” He laughs at how witty he thinks he is. Outside Thomas makes a wide sweep of his arm, like a maitre d’ guiding a couple toward their table. And as he follows his wife and Perry up the brick walkway, this grown man of thirty-six quickly picks up a dirt clod from the planter and throws it. The dirt explodes harmlessly in the center of her son’s back. But Perry, obviously still getting used to his gangly body,

almost falls into the planter, maybe thinking he’ll have to dodge another incoming clod. Thomas’s face blooms with joy. Ann is joyful, too. Like she predicted, Sheri and Andy Warren showed up with lasagna; Becky and Mike Berg brought a bushel of homemade tacos; Debbie and Brent Carlton carried in two large buckets of fried chicken; Tracy and Doug Belfour had a crock pot full of chili; and Julie and James Cross wowed everyone with a five-foot long ham, roast beef, and turkey sandwich. Riva cooked up a goulash her mother used to make in

the old country. “We’re set for a long, harsh winter,” Ann yells over the others, and everyone laughs like she hoped they would. “We got a dish of sugar cubes for dessert,” Thomas says. “And for salad,” Jonathan says dryly, “please help yourself to my front lawn.” Ann watches Mads follow around Julie and then Tracy and then Riva like a worshipful little sister. Perry lurks in the corners, or is outside on the sidewalk, searching the concrete, going out of his way, Ann notices, to avoid Thomas. Ann wonders if Thomas has noticed, but

he is, as usual, enthusiastically involved with entertaining anyone who’ll be his audience, which at the moment are Doug, Mike, Debbie, and Jonathan. Her poor husband is trying to keep up with his own pitiable deadpan zingers. Not so long ago Perry hogged the front row of Thomas’s show, his biggest fan. In fact, out of all of their friends, Thomas was the one Perry pursued whenever he was close by. Unlike Mads’ trailing behind some of her favorite “big sisters”, Perry would unabashedly hug Thomas’ thigh to keep

him near and wouldn’t hesitate walking in between Thomas and another person’s conversation, demanding all of his idol’s attention. Ann moves from small group to small group, adding her laughter, nodding approvingly to opinions about politics and religion, all the while wrapping her arms around large and skinny waistlines. Later, she and her son have a moment alone in the kitchen. “What gives? You’ve hardly talked to Thomas today.” “We talked outside,” Perry says, irritated.

“What’s with being so stand-offish?” “The guy’s a jerk, Mom.” She smiles. For a moment Ann thought she heard her son say squirt. “He’s your pal.” “He’s more obnoxious than usual.” “I remember—just recently, too—you hanging all over him.” “I’m not touching the guy. He’s violent.” “How so?” “He threw a rock at me.” “It was a little dirt.” Ann is getting exasperated. “You used to love roughhousing with Thomas. You wanted all of his

attention.” Thomas rushes into the kitchen. Perry makes a face and blows away some hair creeping toward his mouth. Thomas goes to work opening and closing cabinet drawers. “I need tape. Masking or packaging, either would work just fine,” Thomas says. “I’m not sure where it is. Did you check the garage?” Ann turns to Perry. “Why don’t you help Thomas find some tape?” Perry quickly moves over to the counter and swivels into a chair. “I don’t know where it is.” Thomas gives Perry a look like he doesn’t

believe the boy. He opens the pantry door and scans the shelves, shoving aside cracker boxes and canned vegetables and glass jars. “What do you need the tape for?” Ann asks. “It’s the craziest thing,” Thomas says, now searching the upper cabinets. “Us boys just now realized we all played the same indoor game when we were Perry’s age.” “What kind of indoor game, Thomas?” “Did I say game? I meant a harmless indoor activity much like a subdued game of bridge between gentle old ladies.” He bends

over and opens a lower cabinet door. Ann feels anxious watching her son dully stare at the man searching her kitchen. “Perry, what were you looking at outside? On the sidewalk when Riva and Thomas showed up?” Perry’s eyes slowly move. He hesitates, and then says, “A cocoon, I think. It must’ve fallen out of the sycamore by the driveway.” “Garage?” Thomas says breathlessly. “Garage.” He leaves the kitchen in a rush. “You could help him, you know.” There is that look again, but now

appearing on her son’s face instead of her husband’s. Ann wonders if Perry has lifted his right brow and pursed his lips as if sucking on a slice of lemon at her in recent weeks or days. Maybe this is his first attempt at his dad’s mordant expression. The front room’s two small couches, the two end tables, and the coffee table had been moved down the hallway and into the living room, leaving a substantial opening. Ann stays at the edge of the entryway. Jonathan smiles broadly at her, tossing one of her thick bath towels from hand

to hand. It is tightly rolled up and taped at the ends and the middle with wide brown packaging tape, giving it the shape of a torpedo. “What is going on?” Ann says to no one in particular. “They moved your stuff.” Perry is beside her. His arms are loosely crossed over his skinny chest. He quietly says, “I could never do this.” “A quick scrimmage,” Thomas says, the roll of tape twirling around two of his fingers. “It’s okay,” Jonathan says. “The ball’s damage-proof.” The other wives tease and laugh at their

husbands as they perform jumping jacks in khakis and polo shirts. Doug, Jonathan, Mike, and Brent huddle up. Mads and Riva begin coming up with cheers. Thomas, still twirling the tape, walks over and stands beside Perry. “We need another guy. You can be on my team.” “No thanks,” Perry says. Thomas moves so fast Perry’s arms stay linked together for a few more seconds. The tail end of the sticky tape begins at the boy’s left temple and winds around and around his eyes and down around his nose

and mouth. “Perry’s a mummy,” Mads says gleefully. Ann watches Thomas encircle her son’s head, his thick hair, again and again with the tape. Perry doesn’t flail against the attack, but weaves back and forth with the man’s frantic labor. At one point her son’s arms reach out at nothing in front of him. Thomas’s eyes shine and his face is coloring with all of his effort. Ann hears Jonathan cackle. She momentarily searches the faces of the others, and their mouths are frozen in wide harlequin grins. Now Perry’s whole face is covered from chin to

forehead. The tape swathed across the back of his head looks like an ancient skull, and a tangled clump of hair sticks up at the very top. Thomas backs away from his work, amused and out of breath. Perry lurches backwards and pulls at the tape over his mouth and nose and ends up sprawled across the bottom of the staircase. For Ann the whole room plunges, much like an elevator usually does just moments before the doors finally part. Upstairs in Ann’s master bedroom, she carefully removes the remaining tape from his

mouth and nose. His reddened chin is shiny with running snot. Jonathan is at the opened door. “You’re doing fine, Perry. He’s doing fine,” he says over his shoulder. “I’m incorrigible,” Thomas says from behind Jonathan in the hallway. Perry purses his mouth and bunches up his lower lip. There is that familiar expression Ann has seen many, many times before. He is trembling underneath her hand on his shoulder. “Perry, honey,” Ann says quietly, “I’ll start on your eyes now and then your hair. I’ll go

really, really slow, okay?” Ann wonders what everyone is doing, how many are in the upstairs hallway behind her husband and Thomas? She hopes they will all stick around and show her son a great deal of kindness and love when he is free. Later, Ann wants whoever has stayed to leave her house immediately and never come back. She is seething with such hatred for herself and the others, all of them gawking and doing absolutely nothing. Perry stares at a far corner in the room, his eyes bloodshot with

tears. And still later, when Jonathan pokes his head into the room, Ann frantically wants to know if everyone is still out there. Her fingertips are tacky and several long strands of black hair hang off a piece of tape that has affixed to her thigh. She is desperate. Now there is this fervent obligation that everyone remaining in her house shows a great deal of admiration toward her son, who has not cried out once.

Noah Dversdall Love Letters of Winter I. I want white noise. The whir of fans. Of blades. The distance doesn’t sound like fans, but blades of grass falling. II. Birds chirping aren’t remarkable. Neither is green. Or color. Or rain for that matter. These are incidental to summer. The sun is remarkable in its length, but it brings growth and growth is unremarkable. III. The flight of bugs is remarkable because it can’t be accurately predicted. Like the weather. The humidity, a constant, feels you, grips you like your first lover: awkward, persistent. Sticky.

IV. Your clothes become your skin. Your skin becomes a hostage and you will want nothing more than to remove it. V. It is darker during a storm than at night. Don’t question stormy nights. Lightning is daylight. VI. Clouds never look up. Not in summer. They dream too much about moss; Pale green. Misinterpret the upward growth of moss as a romantic gesture, not an escape. Moss still thinks North is up, like a gradeschooler. VII. Wind is trees’ gossip about men. Don’t listen. You don’t want to know.

VIII. One tree has more leaves than people you have ever met. IX. Every leaf is only. Trees doubly so. X. The sun gets jealous of ants. Inconsequential, social, unremarkable. The hill has more ants than dirt, each brown, forceful, drunk off the smell of apples. Of sugar. XI. It is the farmer’s job to keep green in check. It is the farmer’s job to love the sun, not the bugs. And not the plants. XII. Summer is the love of closed doors. XIII. Even grass has a shadow. Never try to hide in it. Never light it for more than a lightning strike: that would be rude.

XIV. When I bring blackboards outside, they burn too hot to touch and I have to leave them until they’re bleached white. Their memories wiped.

Contributors James Bradley James Bradley is an artist and writer living in San Francisco, California. His work, which takes the form of painting, drawing, poetry, and installation, as well as other media, deals primarily with the problem of Revelation, or apocálypsis, or “unveiling,” as the guiding paradigm in both the practice of western painting, as well as the dominant spectacular culture. His work has been exhibited at the Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, Verge Art Fair in Miami Florida, Angel Island Visitor’s Center, Robert Berman Gallery, Maniac Gallery, and many other venues. His poetry and prose have been published in various online and print journals including Caliban and Anamesa, and he is currently co-editor of the literary journal HAARP, and co-founder of Hexagon Press. He received his MFA from the California College of the Arts in 2009. Dan Crawley Dan Crawley is a recipient of an Arizona Commission on the Arts fellowship in fiction and was nominated for Best of the Web. His stories have appeared in many journals and anthologies, including The North American Review, Wigleaf, Curbside Splendor, SmokeLong Quarterly: The Best of the First Ten Years, and Quarterly West. He teaches writing at Ottawa University.

Noah Dversdall Noah Dversdall is a young writer from Dayton, Ohio. He works as a poetry reader for The Adroit Journal. Vance Mikin-Laurie Vance Mikin-Laurie is a writer from Melbourne, Australia. His work has been published inThe Age, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, The Molotov Cocktail and various other publications. Dave Petraglia Dave Petraglia has appeared in Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Better Homes & Gardens; more recently, or scheduled in Agave Magazine, Cactus Heart Press, Dark Matter Journal, eFiction India, Loco Magazine, Gravel Literary Review, Storyacious, The Olivetree Review, Petrichor Review, Thought Catalog, theNewerYork, and Vine Leaves Literary Journal. He's a writer and photographer and lives near Jacksonville, Florida. His blog is Louise Robertson Louise Robertson has earned degrees (BA Oberlin, MFA George Mason University), poetry publications (Pudding Magazine, New Verse News, The Rusty Nail) and poetry awards (Mary Roberts Rinehart, Columbus Arts Festival Poetry Competition (twice)). She is active as a poet and organizer in her local Columbus, Ohio poetry scene.

Jennifer Van Alstyne Jennifer van Alstyne has been published in the Eunoia Review, Midwest Literary Magazine, The Monmouth Review, The Foundling Review, Paper Nautilus and Poetry Quarterly. Her chapbook, "Scansioned Music: A Glenn Gould Collection," is being published byCrossroads in 2013 for which she was the winner of the Jane Freed Grant. She is currently the poetry editor for Bombay Gin, the literary journal of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Benjamin Warner Benjamin Warner grew up in Annapolis, Maryland, and received an MFA from Cornell University.

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