cratelit Volume I, Issue I Spring 2011
Untitled, from the series I forget myself (I forget you), 2011 ÂŠ 2011 Sylvia Sukop. 1
Table of Contents Poetry (you know what happens when they silence you?) Chloe Hodge
Blanca in a White Dress Soldadera de Amor... Iuri Lara
Dumb Rio Cortez
Displacement Sophie Grimes
Cempaxochitl Anna-Marie McLemore
Splice Pete Vanderberg
Fiction Pizookie Amanda Miller
The Unlikely Tenacity of Weeds Jeff Wood
Photography Untitled, from the series I forget myself (I forget you), 2011 Nonfiction/Fiction (Film Shoot Next Door), 2011 Sylvia Sukop
(you know what happens when they silence you?) Chloe Hodge you know what happens when they silence you? when they drag your tongue by plywood down the highway? know how you stagger? and you, yes you sitting there, all simple looking listening to me. even if you want to move, you will quiet and crouch your body, bow your head to be polite… it’s my voice keeping you in order. now who say/ who say/ now who say POETRY AIN’T POWER
Blanca in a White Dress Iuri Lara
Soldadera de Amor- Con Amor, Honor y Respeto a la Memoria de Mi Tia Childa Iuri Lara
Dumb Rio Cortez Fat-cup molars drop out this mouth into my open palm Fingerbones saw off these eyelashes I drape this curtain of hair behind my ear & go deaf I drape this curtain of hair behind my ear & go deaf
This is how I sleep after you My hands, liars Collecting the scrap of the body
Displacement Sophie Grimes She has pissed in strange places: houseplants, dishwashers, washing machines, wastebaskets, basement drains, but never done this. Not a classroom, no college bathroom stall. Things here: A grocery list, sweater on the stool, answering machine. A cleana cleaned, chemical scent there sharp in the absence of headache. No headache, but dull in this heat. Blunted, the comprehension. All this pottery. Bowl overturned near her left foot. Missing flip-flop. She is still wearing black. The sun up there, these low ceilings. These eaves, the heat. Sting of reality, sun up there in the sky. Stranger's home. She is lying on the floor of a stranger's home. A studio. Pottery wheel there. Tipped bowl by her foot. She has kissed women, sucked their fingers, fallen over them in slush, in snow. Her songs resounding on porcelain. (That bowl. The flip-flop.) She has bled in basements. Convulsed, cold feet. But always there was her bed, twang of hangover. Beyond, the window overlooks a yard: sounds of children, lunch, summer greening. All this pottery. Sounds of feet on the stairs. Her missing wallet. Smell of metal. Sudden sting of hunger.
Nonfiction/Fiction (Film Shoot Next Door), 2011 ÂŠ 2011 Sylvia Sukop. 8
Pizookie Amanda Miller Pizookie (pi-zoo-key)-noun: An amalgamation of the latin terms pizza and cookie, describing the finest dessert of the twentieth century. Golda reaches for my hand, squeezes it. I flinch a little, startled. She is abrupt in her decision to show affection. I squeeze her hand back. We don’t look at each other, our eyes glued to the tabletop. BJ’s Restaurant is crowded for a weekday afternoon. We sit in silence at our table, engulfed by white noise: chatter, radio pop songs, silverware scraping plates, ice clinking in glasses. After much time, the waiter finally approaches. “What can I get for you?” he asks. “Pizookie please,” I say. “Anything else?” “Two waters and two spoons.” I glance over at Golda, her dark eyes and hair gleaming under the overhead lights. She smiles and nods her head in agreement. “Coming right up,” the waiter picks up our menus and scampers away. It’s December of our senior year of high school. My father recently died of lung cancer. He always said Golda was my nicest friend; he was right. What are you thinking about? His legs. What about them? They hurt him. How bad? Bad. Where is he? Gone. Then they can’t hurt him anymore. They don’t. * 9
Golda and I had been close friends since fifth grade, but our pizookie tradition didn’t begin until our junior year of high school. We went to BJ’s one random day after school, perused the dessert menu and decided to go for it. When the waiter brought it out, our eyes bulged: a personal pizza sized cookie served in a tin, warm and soft, fresh from the oven, topped off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. That first bite was orgasmic—mind-clearing, meditative, psycho-spiritual, transcendent, pizookies hold the key… We scraped the tin clean. From then on, Golda and I made the pizookie a ritual, something on which we could always depend. Tough day? How about a pizookie. Reason to celebrate? Let’s get a pizookie. Bored? Pizookie. * Golda’s sister, Golareh, was diagnosed with leukemia when we were twelve. I remember her at Golda’s Bat Mitzvah party, in makeup and a beautiful wig, dancing, looking happy and alive. She died just a few weeks later. At Golareh’s memorial service, everyone received a pink sheet of paper with her poems and illustrations. The paper also included a piece by Hungarian poet and Holocaust victim Hannah Senesh that perpetually drifts through my mind: “There are stars whose light reaches the earth long after they have disintegrated and are no more. And there are men whose scintillating memory lights the world long after they have passed from it. These lights which shine in the darkest night are those which illuminate for us the path.” * The waiter arrives with our dessert. Two spoons. Two mouths. Melting all over our tongues. Warm mingles with cool and slides smoothly down my throat. My thoughts float. I shift my weight in my seat, uncross and re-cross my legs. What are you thinking about? My sister. What about her? The way she wears her hair. How does she wear it? 10
She doesn’t. There is nothing left to wear. Same with my father. There is nothing left to wear. Her hands, hair, eyes, flesh all gone. His too—hands, hair, eyes, flesh all gone. * We stare down at the tin coated in ice cream chocolate chip cookie residue. Charred bits crusted over the edges. We look up at each other. Again, she slips her hand into mine, gives it a squeeze. Again, I am a little startled, taken aback by her sudden burst of affection. What are you thinking about? The way my sister liked to write and draw. She was going to publish books of poetry, illustrate them herself. What are you thinking about? The way my father played his favorite albums on Saturday mornings–Beatles, Skynyrd, Doors, Zeppelin, Sabbath, Joplin, Hendrix—the way we sang along.
* After college, Golda went to work in PR at The San Diego Museum of Art and I went to graduate school for creative writing. After my first year of graduate school at age twenty-one, I suffered a depression so severe I had to leave New York and move back in with my mom. Since I was too anxious and uncomfortable to go out in public, Golda picked up a pizookie togo and brought it to my house. I could barely talk. Still, she sat with me in my backyard and we ate it in near silence, just the sound of chewing and the breeze through the trees. * Golda is lingering outside BJ’s doorway, waiting for me. We are twenty-four and meeting for a pizookie before I move back to New York to finish graduate school. I give her a hug. “Hey, how are you?” I ask. 11
Her hug is limp. “I’m okay,” she says. Clearly, she’s lying. We go inside. The hostess hands us our menus and walks us to our table. “Your server will be right with you.” “Thanks,” I say. The waiter approaches. “What can I get for you?” he asks. “Pizookie please,” I say. “Anything else?” “Two waters and two spoons.” Golda is staring at me rather vacantly, stirring her water with her straw. “What’s going on?” I ask. “My mom has ovarian cancer,” she says. “Oh no, oh gosh, I’m so sorry.” The waiter arrives with our dessert. Two spoons. Two mouths. Melting all over our tongues. * After finishing grad school, I spent the Fourth of July weekend with my mother in Florida. Upon parting at the West Palm Beach airport, I’d had tears in my eyes because I was going to miss her. We’d had such a nice time together at the pool, the beach, eating, talking, laughing. I had just returned to New York when Golda called me. “Hey.” “Hi.” “How is everything?” “Not good.” “Oh no, what’s happening?” “I think this is the end,” she says, crying, “She is refusing chemo. She’s been getting really sick from it and after the last round the cancer came right back. It’s really aggressive. I mean, no one can force her to do chemo; it’s her body.” Her mother had been sick less than a year. 12
There is nothing to say except, “I’m so sorry. I’m here for you. You can call me any time, day or night.” “Is there anything I should tell her that I’m not thinking of?” she asks, “Everyone keeps saying, ‘Make sure you tell her everything you want her to know.’ But then I think maybe they’re just saying that because they don’t know what else to say.” “She’s your mom,” I say, “I’m sure she already knows everything. She knows you love her.” “I know,” Golda says, “And I tell her that. I just can’t believe I am going to have to go through this again. I don’t want to go back to the cemetery. I don’t want everyone coming to my house and telling me to be strong. I don’t want to see or talk to anyone.” “You don’t have to be strong. You don’t have to be anything. You’re allowed to feel whatever you feel.” * A few days later, my mom called me at work to tell me Golda’s mother had died. She had heard from a friend of the family. When I heard the news, I felt something inside my chest collapse. I called Golda, but she didn’t pick up her phone. I didn’t expect her to, but I wanted her to know I knew and was thinking about her. * What are you thinking about? The morning we took her to the hospital. I’d just gotten home from the grocery store and walked into our living room to find her asleep, her body draped across the green velvet loveseat. She was wearing a long flowing nightgown with deep purple and blue swirls, and a matching floral scarf tied around her head. The window was open slightly, a soft breeze rippling the fabric. The vase on the end table by her head had been knocked over, her arm outstretched beside it. Water was dripping down to the wood floor where pink carnation petals were scattered. I closed the window and covered her with a blanket she had knitted herself, for me actually, when I was a kid. I stood the vase back up, wiped up the water, swept up the petals. Then I poured myself a glass of water and went out into the backyard to stare at the garden, her garden. She had been tending it for years: daffodils, tulips, 13
peonies. It was the middle of summer and the flowers were in full bloom, glistening under the midday sun. * I am thinking about ghosts and whether or not I believe in them. I am thinking about rocks and putting them on gravesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;trips to the park, to the zoo, swim meets, softball gamesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; Passover Seders, Hannukah, Thanksgiving. I am thinking about life, health and joy, bodies that are free of disease. I am thinking about waking up in the morning and living each day. I am going to visit San Diego soon and I know my visit with Golda will involve a pizookie, even if I have to bring one to her house. We might even eat it in her backyard in near silence, just the sound of chewing and the breeze through the trees.
Cempaxochitl Anna-Marie McLemore my great-aunts said it was a sacrilege, that my mother had made me a heretic because she did not teach me to shape pan de muerto into skulls and paired bones. huesos son solamente huesos, my mother told me as we kneaded the dough against the floured wood. what she would teach me, she said, was better than bones. we cut the dough into twenty equal pieces, pinching one end of each and pressing the other flat with the heels of our hands so each petal bore our palm print. cempaxochitl, she told me, sealing each floured petal to the next. marigolds, she told me as the anise warmed and filled the air, and we added vanilla to the glaze we would pour over the petals like sugared rain. cempaxochitlâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; twenty flowersâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; our ancestors called them because so many petals could not belong to one lonely bloom.
The Unlikely Tenacity of Weeds Jeff Wood I rarely mow my lawn. No need. Relentless sun, lack of rain. The weeds have an easier time of it, dandelions, bull thistle, henbit, they grow faster, are more hearty. It is not a bother, the weeds are easy to control, and colorful. I do not use poisons or herbicides. I pluck them by the roots, or ask my daughters to pick them, a penny a stem. I feel no need to eradicate them. We maintain a cautious truce. I fight a losing battle with the junk trees, the alley trees, the ones that go by the giddily euphemistic term “paradise tree.” They are voracious, predatory. Nothing can be done to eradicate them, and only with great effort can they be fought to a stalemate. So. I stoop to pull them out by their shallow roots, step by step, shoot by shoot, I stoop until my back cries in pain, stoop knowing they will be back in weeks, only to be battled again. I rented a roto-tiller and plowed under a large section of yard this spring, in order to plant a garden at the side of the house, and pulled out a large swath of the trees’ root system, the roots shallow, misshapen, bulbous as fetuses. I piled them in a ungainly tangle on the sidewalk, they looked like something found in a carnival sideshow bell jar. I wondered at the time, and continue to wonder often, why weeds have not taken over the world with their unlikely tenacity, their unstoppable energy. It is a wonder there is room for other life to thrive. But other life does thrive, I only have to look around me to see the improbable flowers mixed in with the weeds, the wild roses, the tulips, the day lilies. Most I do not know the names of. This house is over a hundred years old, with perhaps a dozen owners, each with their own garden, their own floral aesthetic, the seeds now mixing through one century and into the next, intermingling, hopelessly tangled, a history told in a confusion of flowers. I finish plucking trees from the front yard, I turn the wheelbarrow of treelets around 16
and head for the compost heap. So much wasted energy, but the trees make for good compost fodder, so perhaps it is not wasted at all. Perhaps nothing is wasted. My hands smell of the sap, an unpleasant cloying scent that will not easily leave the skin. It is hot. I am irritable. My back hurts. I stop at the garden by the side of the house to turn on the faucet, pull the hose toward the dry cracked garden earth, it catches on an errant stump, I flip the hose and watch the wave travel the length of it, leap lightly over the stump to freedom. In some way this small victory thrills me, as does the feel of cool water on my hands, my feet, my shins. I move to the clutter of the back yard. Sports equipment, water toys. Naked muddy abandoned dolls. Scooters. And yes, this is a family of four but we have seven bikes, seven, four current bikes, two outgrown but used when one of the main bikes gets a flat, one still too large but bought to be grown into, like shoes, like clothes, like college funds. A penny a stem. Roots bulbous as fetuses. I disentangle the wheels and handlebars and kickstands, put the bikes away behind the shed one by one. The naked muddy dolls I leave in a disturbing heap by the back door for my daughters to pick through. So much broken, so much left behind. I lug all the sports equipment, the water toys into the shed, bats and balls and rings and racquets, pools and tubes and wiggly water worms. Bats are bent, balls discolored and lopsided, the tubes and pools leaking air the moment they are filled. I pick my way out to the compost heap. At our previous house I built a compost bin that was overfull mere weeks after building it, and so built the one in this house extra large so as to accommodate our appetites. And yet this one is also nearly full. So much waste, so much discarded, and yet so much remains, we are overfull. Shoes, clothes, college funds. Penny a stem. Bulbous as fetuses. I dump the trees into the heap, then shovel the bottom of the heap toward the top, mixing the trees in with the leaves, the weeds, the eggshells, the coffee grounds, all of this will go into the garden next Spring; some will cycle back into the 17
heap as leaves and vines and the chopped ends of withered vegetables. Perhaps nothing is wasted. I look back across the back yard, the lawn, the side garden, bursting with life. Eggshells, baseball bats, discarded dolls, tangled bikes. Overfull. So much remains, too much, this stubborn gift of life, this refusal to hew to boundaries, this ridiculous prodigal giving, our own careless scattered seeds growing with the unlikely tenacity of weeds.
Splice Pete Vanderberg My father & his sons in the sailboat, eyes & minds in four directions until drawn in to a rope, turned to line by his word & the bay beneath us. Difference between a knot & tangle is the knot will hold & easily untie. Tangles can't be trusted or undone. He began to work the line. You should know the bowline. I watched, waiting my turn, his son turned father turned son. One gesture looped & threaded the free-end, like a card trick. We all test the knot, eager to learn something useful, something that proves itself, that lasts.
Contributors Rio Cortez is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, where she was the recipient of the Lucy Grealy Prize in Poetry. She is currently enrolled in the MFA program at New York University. Her work has appeared in Dark Phrases, Through the Looking Glass & Clementine Magazine. She loves & lives in Queens, NY. Sophie Grimes graduated from Oberlin College in 2007 with majors in both East Asian Studies, focusing in Mandarin, and Creative Writing with a focus in poetry. After graduating, she spent two years in Kunming, China as an Oberlin Shansi Fellow. She taught English and traveled extensively throughout Asia while also continuing my Chinese studies. After spending a year back in her beloved hometown, Chicago, she is now pursuing an MFA in poetry at Boston University and working closely with Robert Pinsky and Louise Gluck. Her poem, Frankenstein's Monster, will be in the forthcoming issue of 491 Magazine. Chloe Hodge has finally learned to attract more bees with honey. Iuri Morales Lara is a spoken word and literary poet, traditional Chichimeca-Mexica Native dancer, and community organizer from Santa Ana, CA. Currently a writing assistant for Santa Ana's Barrio Writers Youth Program and working on a Master's in Fine Arts degree in poetry at the University of California, Riverside. Her poems appear in the last three issues of the "Mujeres de Maiz" Literary and Arts Zine, a wombyn of color artists collective based in Los Angeles, CA. Anna-Marie McLemore's work has appeared in the last two editions of Best Lesbian Romance and on the Lambda Literary website, and is forthcoming in the anthologies Red Velvet and Absinthe and Girls Who Bite. She graduated from the University of Southern California in 2008, where she placed third in the Edward Moses Undergraduate Writing Competition and won the Huntington-USC ICW â&#x20AC;&#x153;What Does California Mean?â&#x20AC;? writing contest. Amanda Miller received her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from The New School where she worked closely with writers, Jonathan Ames and Shelley Jackson. She is currently seeking representation for her memoir, One Breath, Then Another. She earned a BFA in Acting from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and has produced and performed original theater works around New York City. She is also a yoga instructor and nationally certified massage therapist. For more information, visit her website: http://onebreaththenanother.com/ Sylvia Sukop is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer. Her awards include an Emerging Voices Fellowship from PEN Center USA and a Fulbright Fellowship to Germany; grants from The California Endowment and the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs; and residencies at Blue Mountain Center, Atlantic Center for the Arts, and Anderson Ranch Arts Center. Along with other Emerging Voices fellows, she co-founded MMIX Los Angeles Writers. A graduate of Bucknell University and NYU/International Center of Photography, she has been a contributing writer to Flaunt magazine, The Huffington Post, and Exposure (the journal of the Society for Photographic Education). Find more of her work at www.sylviasukop.com. Pete Vanderberg served in the US Navy for four years and now teaches high school English and Art. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Hunger Mountain and Four and Twenty among other journals. He lives with his wife and children in Lynbrook, NY. Jeff Wood lives in Pueblo, Colorado with his wife and two daughters. He's had over 20 short stories published in print magazines and online publications such as Boston Phoenix, New York Press, Camas, Tomlit, Six Sentences, Everyday Weirdness, The Greyrock Review, and Bellowing Ark. He will begin
writing his third novel as soon as he figures out how to launch a satellite into low earth orbit from his back yard.