ISSUE 6 FALL 2015
“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” – Albert Einstein
Riding Light Fall 2015
The Riding Light Review
A sixteen-year-old boy once imagined riding on a beam of light, and his simple thought experiment played an important role that would later change the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;it ushered in the age of modern physics. This boy was Albert Einstein. Einsteinâ&#x20AC;&#x2DC;s use of imagination fueled his work in physics, which eventually lead to his famous 1905 papers on Special Relativity. Riding Light emerged out of a desire to push the boundaries of creativity through language, ideas, and story. We believe in the power of imagination, the fuel for our ideas and innovation. This notion inspired the name of our magazine.
Masthead Editor in Chief Cyn C. Bermudez Associate Editor, Fiction and Nonfiction Melissa RaĂŠ Shofner Associate Editor, Fiction and Nonfiction Yvonne Morales Lau Associate Editor, Poetry Kara Donovan Junior Copy Editor Sophie Eden Readers Jamie Hoang ÂŠ 2015 The Riding Light Review ISSN 2334-251X This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission from individual authors or artists. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or any other means without permission of the author(s) or artist(s) is illegal.
CONTENT EDITORIAL Art ARTISTS COVER ART Ramya Raghavendra INTERIOR ART Caitlin Crowley COSTA DYSTOPIA Nick Sweeney Fiction A BUNCH OF US WERE STANDING ON THE STEPS Kiley Reid Photography by Caitlin Crowley THE FIELD BEHIND HIS HOUSES Megan Paske Photography by Jéanpaul Ferro THE HONEY TREE B.L. Draper Photography by Caitlin Crowley JELLY FISH Jeannie Galeazzi Photography by Caitlin Crowley
ONE BOY’S TROUBLE Joe Giordano Photography by Caitlin Crowley Poetry MUDROSES Bob West HIKING 7 NATIONAL PARKS IN 10 DAYS, INDIAN TACOS FOR SALE, & SELFIES AGAINST SEDIMENT Carol Hamilton THIS IS EVERY LOVE STORY EVER TOLD, DARK HORSE, & PETALS Lana Bell THE NIGHT WATCHMEN & DRUNKEN PINE PARK James Cushing A CYNICAL STOIC OF QUESTIONABLE HONOR Colin James
EDITORIAL This year my daughter and I (and my grandbaby) are spending Thanksgiving alone. I’m cooking for us, a classic Thanksgiving dinner, albeit a mini version. Since it’s just the three of us, we are going to celebrate with a Twilight Zone marathon instead of the usual football game that I know my brothers will be watching. I’ll miss my family for sure, but we will be with each other in spirit. How are you celebrating Thanksgiving? Welcome to our second fall issue, a literary and visual feast. Check out this lovely edition in-between turkey and pie. We have original fiction by Kiley Reid (“A Bunch Of Us Were Standing On the Steps”), Megan Paske (“The Field Behind His House”), B.L. Draper (“The Honey Tree”), Jeannie Galeazzi (“Jelly Fish”), and Joe Giordano (“One Boy’s Trouble”). We also have poetry by Bob West, Carol Hamilton, Lana Bell, James Cushing, and Colin James, and photography by Nick Sweeney, Caitlin Crowley, and Jéanpaul Ferro. Enjoy! All of us at The Riding Light Review wish all of you a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.
ARTISTS Cover Art Ramya Raghavendra is a computer scientist and world traveler. She currently resides in New York. The cover photo was taken during Ramya's travels through Southeast Asia: beautiful papier-mâché lampshades from local handmade paper displayed at the Night Market in Luang Prabang. Photography Feature – Costa Dystopia Nick Sweeney takes too many photos hoping some of them will work, eventually. Laikonik Express, his novel about friendship, Poland, vodka, and getting on the train for the hell of it, was published by Unthank Books in 2011. Much of his work reflects his fascination with Eastern Europe and its people and history. He is a freelance writer and guitarist with Balkan Troubadours, the Trans-Siberian March Band. His story, ―Traffic,‖ won second place in the 2015 V.S. Pritchett Memorial Prize competition. Some of his photos can be seen at nicksweeny.phanfare.com, with the password skwarepeg.
Interior Art Caitlin Crowley is a film and darkroom photographer based out of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Caitlin graduated from the University of Saint Francis with a degree in Studio Art. In addition to photography, Caitlin enjoys painting, running, extreme roller-skating, and sushi.
The Riding Light Review Art and Literature
Art by Isabella Kelly-Ramirez
We believe in the power of imagination.
P r a i s ef o r
: “ At ouc hi nge xpl or a t i onofi de nt i t y . . . ” –Ki r k u s Re v i e ws ( S t a r r e dRe v i e w)
“ …de e pl yc a t ha r t i c …” –S h a wnM. , A ma z o nRe v i e ws
“ . . t hei nt i ma t epor t r a i tofme ndi nga he a r tbr oke nbyl i f ei t s e l f . ” –I n d i g oWi l ma n n , V i s u a l Y a r n
“ . . . s t a y swi t hy ou…” –S a r a T . , Go o d r e a d s Re v i e ws
“ Awhi r l wi ndt r i pa r oundt hewor l d…” –T r a c i Mc Do n a l d , A u t h o ro f Ki l l i n gC a s a n o v a
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A BUNCH OF US WERE STANDING ON THE STEPS Kiley Reid Margaret meets Ethan when he asks her to dig into his front pocket and grab his keys. In his arms is a girl with bootleg vomit and a delayed right eye. She keeps saying, ―It's not even like that.‖ Margaret hears him fine but says loudly—so everyone can hear—―You want me to what?‖ "It's cool. Don‘t be weird,‖ Ethan assures her. His mouth is sneaky and cute. He points to the girl in his arms. ―This is my cousin. You're really pretty." She'll never see his cousin again. Not because she died or anything; she went to Community College. But she will see Ethan when he takes her to the first and only scary movie she'll ever enjoy. Ethan smells like the good kind of tobacco. He touches her right amount. None of his shirts say anything. In his car, Margaret pretends to be nervous to meet his family. Ethan warns her for the fourth time that, ―They can be a little … much." She tries not to love them already. His brother has a child. His sister has a tattoo. His dad can't dance. His mom loves Michelle Obama. No one is even a little bit much. They are boring and nice and Margaret lets herself fall into them.
Margaret bends and spots purple crayon drawn underneath the table. A sentence written in cursive script says you ruin my birthday every day of my life. Then they are everywhere. Is this yours? It’s fucking disgusting is scrawled in a pink post-it at the back of the fireplace. Black hairs stuck to the bottom of the bathtub ask, what do you mean you’ve never held a baby. In the wicker fruit basket, written with a black sharpie on a banana, it says who the fuck is Becca?! Margaret sits next to Ethan’s grandmother as his father acts out the Titanic in a game of charades. Everyone says aloud, “One word. Three syllables.” She remembers how many girls she stood with when Ethan asked just her to dig into his front pocket. Even Madison was there. And she was doing that thing where she showed everyone her belly button and complained that she couldn’t get a piercing because the guy at the shop said she had no skin to grab, see? Margaret turns to Ethan’s grandmother and pushes the hair behind her ear even further behind her ear. She says loudly, “Are you having a nice time? “Eggs.” Ethan’s grandmother attempts a mislaid smile. She holds up a thousand-year-old finger to say, “But what’s important is what I’m having for dinner. Pasta.”
Kiley Reid lives and writes in New York City. She thinks it's funny how you think you can say all these things about her like she won't find out about it.
MUDROSES Bob West The storm jumps a shivering bird away from one centrifugal sunburnt cloud leaving the light to push through lost objects picayune goblin tracks on anything white The roses are upright but covered in mud mothers ruined by newer perfection
Bow West lives in north Florida where he writes poems and short prose pieces, some of which have been published in Gravel, The Bitter Oleander and The Beloit Poetry Journal among other publications.
THE FIELD BEHIND HIS HOUSE Megan Paske
He spent most of his tenth summer in the field behind his house. He explored every inch of it, sometimes roaming along the train tracks that bordered it. He picked up stones he found interesting, waiting to boil them laterâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;in secret, or he would get a beating for wasting water and electricity. He found every reason he could to stay outside, even in the rain and the wind, and as far away from home as he could. It was not until his eleventh summer that he found her. The fawn had been there for a few days. Rigor had started to set in a day or two before and by the time he discovered her wilting carcass, she had already begun to deflate. He named her Lily; she lay still and unloved in an untended, unruly bed of Tiger Lilies. Waiting to be taken back to the earth. He vowed to take care of her. He visited her every day, sitting next to her and willing her back to life. He knew she would never come back, but he kept the hope that she sensed she was no longer alone. No longer abandoned. He was not sure if she really was a she, but that is how he wanted her to be. Lily, his fawn. He spent hours next to her; he read to her out of his library books. The rare occasions on which his father allowed him to ride his bike to the library downtown, three miles off, he chose books he thought she would want to hear. Sometimes he sang to her. Sometimes he laid down next to her and dreamt he was drifting into the next world in which he knew she was dancing. The smell did not bother him. Her lifelessness to him seemed less than that of death, and more of peace and rest. The summer before, the day his cheek was broken and his tears ran down, mixing with the blood and stinging his open sores, he ran as far into the field as he could. Every day after, he longed for a friend. This summer he found her, and she became 17
his obsession. She comforted him, even in the rain and the wind. She remained motionless, yet full of the only empathy he ever received. He roamed the tracks, picking up rocks, yet instead of bringing them home to boil, he brought them to her. He built her a shrine and laid each one with intent and love. The days passed too quickly. The books were read over and over, until he could not bear to turn back to the first page. He wept silently next to his little, shriveling friend. He feared for the day she may disappear completely, but until that day he swore to himself and to Lily he would faithfully keep her safe. Away from the turkey vultures and crows. And she kept him safe, in her own way. She kept him away from his father and broken cheeks and bloody tears. He slowly watched the maggots come and steal pieces of his friend. Those days, he left her earlier. He could not bear to see his lovely friend being betrayed by the living earth. Before dusk he would return home. Home remained the tomb it always had been. He walked in the back door quietly, wishing his steps to be silent and not wake his father up. For he knew that without his Lily by his side, he had no friend to comfort the impending bruises that would form. The nights were the longest. He crept into his bedroom and slipped in his earbuds. Listening to his jazz music and long forgotten blues. Ignoring the knowledge that his father would soon wake up. The last day of the summer, he made a mistake. He left a library book on the tableâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;one that was overdue. It was a story he had read to Lily countless times and he knew the moment he walked into the kitchen that he would never again have the chance to read it to her. He had it memorized, but suddenly the words escaped him. They were thrown out of him with the smack across his face. His father broadsided him with the 18
book. It went flying across the room and fell in a crumpled heap in the corner. His face immediately began to burn, and he knew the bruises would come soon. Without thought to the consequences, he ignored his fatherâ&#x20AC;&#x2DC;s screams and went for the book. His father grabbed him by the arm and he heard the snap. Pain shot through every inch of his body and he screamed silently. Tears welled up in his eyes and he fought the urge to fall. He remained standing. His arm, now contorted, lay as lifeless as his fawn in his fatherâ&#x20AC;&#x2DC;s grip. After the emergency room, after the excuses his father gave the nurses and the doctor, and after the cast was set and they were back home, he waited for his father to go to sleep. He wanted one last chance to see her. He left through the back door, not caring then if he woke up his father. He closed the door behind him. He ran back to the field behind his house. Megan Paske lives with her husband in Neenah, Wisconsin. She studied Journalism at UW Madison and was published in various newspapers as a columnist. She and her husband coauthored a story in Marathon and Beyond. Her fiction writing has been featured in The Fable Online, Buck Off Magazine, and will be included in the January issue of Forge Journal.
THE HONEY TREE B. L. Draper I have always loved the honey tree. Tall and brown-barked, its leaves little more than a memory, the honey tree stands on the crest of the hill behind our farm. Though it appears dead and lifeless to the uninitiated, those who take the time to look closer will learn its secret. It is a palace of the bees. Every evening I watch it, when other chores do not claim me. I sit nearby and observe the bees as they work and wander and leave and return. They work to a pattern, though a casual observer would not perceive it. They leave at dawn for an hour or two, then return, flying slower than they left, as if burdened. Others depart in their stead. This process goes on every day, all day. In winter, a wary person, a quiet person, may approach their palace and extract a portion of their treasure: honeycomb, dripping and golden. My life became entangled with their rhythm; the life of an unhappy farm girl against the life of the honey tree. I was unhappy because a square peg in a round hole will always be unhappy. Though born to a farming family, those who tilled the soil and ate their produce and were proud of the dirt under their fingernails, I longed for different things. I dreamed of reading and writing and music and theatre, like my mother had in a former life. She was born to a noble family. Her parentsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;my grandparentsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;had money and thus had access to the life for which I craved. My mother had left it all behind her for the simple life of a farmerâ&#x20AC;&#x2DC;s wife. For love. I did not blame her for her choice, as it was hers to make, but a part of me blamed her for telling me about that world. She taught me to read, gave me the precious books she brought with her to this life of the soil. Many rainy days were spent with her telling me stories of plays 21
and balls and music—until I thought my heart would burst with the image of them. I know she meant well, but all she did was make me unhappy. How could a life of digging furrows and harvesting plants satisfy me now? So I spent my days watching the honey tree and daydreaming of other lives and other pleasures. I also cultivated a grim picture amongst the other farming families. They called me difficult, and despondent, and depressing. But how could I pretend to be happy when I knew what I was missing? ―How can you not be proud of your family?‖ my father would ask. And my heart ached at the wounded look in his eyes. ―I am proud of you, papa,‖ I would answer. ―I just want more.‖ He didn‘t understand, and neither did my mother, who was happy in her new life. She loved my father with all her soul. No wonder music or literature could not compete. But I had not been given that choice to make. So I remained unhappy—and unloved—until my thirtieth year, when Beebeard appeared. I spent the morning milking the goats, tending the sheep, and tilling the far field in preparation for the spring planting. In the early evening, I escaped to the honey tree. The bees were lazier in winter; their droning hum seemed deeper, reverberating through my body. I lolled on the bracken at the base of the tree and gazed upward as the bees flew to and fro above me. Soon the light began to dim, and I wished them goodnight and headed for home. My parents had a visitor—a new and strange visitor that I had never seen before. ―Rose, come and meet the baron. He has come to buy two of our spring lambs.‖ My father‘s words were polite, but I heard 22
the warning tone behind them. And as I appraised our guest, I understood why. The baron wore a beard of bees; live bees. They buzzed and crawled over his lower face like a living growth. Never still, their movement fascinated me to the point that I barely remembered to curtsy before our noble guest. When I drew my eyes away from the bees, I found myself pierced by two green eyes staring out at me. ―Please, sir, call me Beebeard. Everybody does.‖ His eyes crinkled at the corners, and his lips slanted upward in a wry smile. And though he spoke to my father, as custom dictated, Beebeard‘s eyes never left my face. That visit began an odd love story. Beebeard regularly visited our farm; first to choose his pick of our lambs, then to buy a hen, then to pick through our crop of potatoes. Each time he visited, he would bring me a gift: a flower, a confectionary, a ribbon. After the third visit, my parents excused themselves and left us alone. That was when I understood that they were permitting the courtship. Of course, who could blame them? A thirty– year-old daughter with the reputation for being unhappy does not make for a good farmer‘s wife. Beebeard‘s intentions were clear, and so were my parents‘. A beard of bees was odd, but not odd enough to halt the pairing. There was little I could do. At a loss for what to say to the man, I took him to the honey tree. As he gazed at the bare branches and caught sight of the buzzing tenants, I again saw his green eyes crinkle and his slanted mouth glint with strong white teeth. I understood then that Beebeard shared my love of the bees and the honey tree. That was when I began to fall in love with him. We were wed in the spring. I wore a mantle of heather, and my husband wore his beard of bees. We must have been an odd 23
sight: the bride and her buzzing groom. Was I marrying the man or the bees? I liked to think it was both. Afterward, my mother wept and made sure I took her books with me. She hugged me and told me to be a faithful and loving wife. I responded that I would try. My father kissed my cheek and told me that I should be happy; I would no longer have to till the soil or live the simple life of a farmer. His words both pleased and saddened me as he was right. I wouldn‘t miss digging in the dirt, but I would miss him, and my brothers and sisters, and my mother, and our time together. I kissed him back and turned to follow the gentle buzzing of my husband. We walked for many miles. My feet ached in their new wedding shoes. We walked and walked, through the town and out the other side, until I felt I would fall down and never rise again. Just when I thought I couldn‘t take another step, lights appeared. As we drew closer, a huge building loomed before us, five times the size of the house I had grown up in. ―Welcome to your new home,‖ said my husband. And life from that moment could not have been more different from my previous life as a farm girl. That night became a blur as Beebeard took me from room to room. There was a library—an incredible library—with books upon books from floor to ceiling. There was a ballroom so vast I could barely see across it. One room was dedicated solely to music, with oddly shaped instruments and page after page of strange symbols my new husband assured me held the secret of melody. There was a kitchen, a cloakroom, a dining room, a study; there were so many rooms and hallways that I knew I would spend the first week getting lost. One room, however, I would not forget. Beebeard finally stood before another huge wooden door. This one differed from the 24
others by featuring a large brass lock. ―This is the one room you must never enter.‖ ―But what‘s in there?‖ ―Nothing!‖ His voice was harsher than I had ever heard it. ―It is private and you must never enter it. That is all you need know.‖ He turned and headed down the hallway, and I followed him. My curiosity was aroused, of course, but with a library to keep me busy, one mysterious forbidden room did not concern me for long. Finally, my new husband led me to our bedroom. It was luxurious beyond imagining. The enormous bed was piled with furs and cushions and silken coverlets. The floor was strewn with rose petals and lavender, and I wondered whether Beebeard himself had tended to this task or engaged some yet unseen servant. ―Here is your bedroom.‖ ―Don‘t you mean our bedroom?‖ My boldness masked the nervousness I felt. ―No. I will sleep . . . elsewhere. I will see you at breakfast.‖ With a swirl of his cloak and a final hum from his beard, my husband disappeared out the door, and I faced my first night as a married woman alone. This began a pattern that defined my new life. Each morning began by breakfasting with Beebeard; we feasted on bread and honey from his own hives, all served by a dour servant. The rest of the day was spent wandering my new home, reading in the library, or exploring the extensive gardens. Sometimes I was alone, but often my husband accompanied me. He showed me his hives, the thrumming of his beard of bees always loudest when amongst them. The gardens were full of colorful blooms, and my husband shared tales of each one: its provenance, its 25
healing properties, and its meaning according to herb lore. His tales often made me laugh, and I loved the way his green eyes crinkled and his white teeth flashed beneath his mobile beard. The library was full of treasures, which at times I read alone, curled in a comfortable chair. Other days, Beebeard read to me from a favorite tome; everything from comedy that had us giggling to a tragedy that often had us both wiping the tears from our eyes. The evenings, after supper, were often spent in the music room, where Beebeard would play for me. I had never heard much music beyond that played at harvest festivals, and my new husbandâ&#x20AC;&#x2DC;s talents would keep me spellbound, listening until late into the night. No matter the hour, however, Beebeard would always leave me at my bedroom door, where I would slip into our huge bed alone. I would spend hours going over our time together, remembering his smile and how his mouth slanted upward in amusement and the way his eyes crinkled at the corners. The image of his deft fingers turning the pages of a book or sliding along a musical instrument would raise aches deep inside me that I was never able to rid myself of. I knew that each day I loved him more and more. Eventually I dreaded the hour of our parting and began to wonder where he spent his nights. I believed I knew and began to be obsessed by what was behind the forbidden door. One morning, as we breakfasted on honey and bread, Beebeard told me he would be away for the day. â&#x20AC;&#x2022;I must visit the merchants in town and take care of some business. I will return to dine with you. Enjoy the day.â&#x20AC;&#x2013; He bowed toward me and left. I knew that my chance had finally come. The previous week I had discovered a large brass key in the music room, kept in the chest that housed the sheets of music. I guessed at once that it opened the brass lock of the 26
forbidden door and had been biding my time for the perfect opportunity to use it. As soon as Beebeard had left the house, I raced to the music room to retrieve the key. Feeling like a thief, I stole down the long corridor until I stood before the locked room. My hands were shaking so much that I dropped the key several times before I managed to insert it in the keyhole. At first I thought it wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2DC;t turn, but it did so easily; obviously this door was unlocked often. Could this truly be where my husband spent his nights as I lay alone in our marriage bed? All was darkness and shadows as I entered; my small candle doing little to dispel the dark shapes dancing around the walls and ceiling. I spied a sconce on the wall and held my flame to it until it caught alight, and the room was revealed. I couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2DC;t understand what I was seeing. A huge bed, as large as the one I slept in alone, lay in the middle of the room, piled with cushions and silken sheets. Strewn across it were clothesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;dresses, skirts, blouses. I reached out and ran my fingers along their finery. Satin, lace, velvet, fur. My fingers traced an ecstasy of softness and texture that I had only dreamed about. I wandered across to the huge closet and peered into its depths. More clothing hung there, as dazzling and feminine as that which covered the bed. In a daze, I moved to the dresser that dominated the far wall. Small containers covered its surface. Delicate glass boxes, etched with roses and birds, and brightly painted wooden chests. Opening their lids, I found piles of precious jewels, chains of pearls, and curling ribbons. Ornate glass bottles were scattered amongst the treasure, the scent of lilies and musk tickling my nose. Why would my husband hide these treasures? What could he want with them? Why did he lock himself here, away from me each night? I could think of only one reason, and it made me ache. Before we wed, he must have loved another. These 27
were her belongings, her memories. He could not face consummating our love and preferred instead to spend his time lost in tender reminiscing. I had spent so much effort to win his love. But all along I had been beating against a heart that was closed to me because it belonged to another. I understood now why he had forbade me enter this room. The secret he held so dear would make all clear to me; that my husband‘s heart could never be mine. In misery, I sat on the end of the bed that I would never share, amongst the silken gowns I would never wear, and I wept in time to the beating of my breaking heart. I heard faint footsteps approaching, but so sunken in misery was I that I did not move. I sensed a presence enter the room and knew from the gentle buzzing that Beebeard stood before me. Gathering myself, I raised my eyes until I stared straight into his. ―I told you this room was never to be entered.‖ ―Yes, you did. But you never told me why. I love you, I want to share your secrets. So here I am.‖ I wiped the tears from my eyes and stood to face him. ―Now I understand why you don‘t love me. Why you never can love me. I will try and be satisfied with this life. And your room will be your own again.‖ I turned to leave but was brought to a standstill by Beebeard‘s hand roughly grabbing my arm. ―What do you mean I don‘t love you? Now that you know my secret, you no longer love me. That is what you mean. Admit it!‖ His eyes glared at me and his beard of bees raised its humming as if in sympathy. His fingers dug into my arm so deeply that I cried out. Immediately he let me go, and I staggered away from him. 28
―Not love you? This secret only makes me love you more!‖ I stared at him and he at me. We were locked in a battle that I little understood. ―Tell me,‖ his voice was low. ―Tell me the secret you think you know.‖ I dropped my eyes to the floor; staring into his green eyes only raised the ache in my heart. ―You love another. You would prefer to spend your nights here, amongst her belongings, her memories. A simple farm girl could never replace the love of which you were denied. I can hardly blame you for your deception.‖ Beebeard‘s hand reached out and tenderly caressed my face. His fingers gently raised my chin until our eyes once again met. To my surprise, a wry smile was in place beneath the living beard. ―Silly girl. I have loved but once in my life. She is a farm girl, true, but in no way is she simple. These belongings you see here,‖ his hand waved around the room, ―they belong to me. They are me. For I have deceived you, but it is not that I love another. It is that I am not a man.‖ I blinked. ―You love me? These are yours? You aren‘t a man?‖ I felt stupid to echo him, but I struggled to understand his words. Beebeard sighed and sat heavily upon the bed, and I sank down beside him. He stared down at the floor, and I gazed at his profile as he related his story. ―I am a woman. My father had no sons to inherit his title, so he raised me as a boy. We both knew that his lands and title would be stripped from me, a mere woman, upon his death, so we took steps to ensure that nobody knew the secret. When I was a child, I tended the hives. It happened almost by accident the 29
first time; the bees were as drawn to me as I was to them. Eventually wearing the beard seemed natural. I have always dressed as a man in public, but in private . . .‖ Beebeard shrugged. ―I wanted to feel like a woman. I wanted to feel beautiful and feminine. The only place I can do that is behind a locked door.‖ My heart ached anew for all that he—she—had been through. To deny how you were born would be difficult beyond my imagination. ―So you took a wife to allay suspicion.‖ ―No!‖ The anger behind that word surprised me. ―There was no need for me to wed; plenty of men do not. It wasn‘t until I met you that I ever craved the company of another. Your kindness, your intelligence . . . I was drawn to you. Then when you took me to the honey tree I knew that I wanted to share my life with you. You love the bees.‖ Finally, Beebeard looked up and her eyes met mine. Staring into those eyes, I remembered our conversations, our long walks through the gardens, our shared books and beautiful music, and I knew that for me nothing had changed. ―I knew I loved you from the moment I showed you the honey tree. I loved you as a man, as my husband. Nothing has changed now that I know your secret. I love you. Whether you are my husband or my wife.‖ Beebeard‘s head tilted as she gazed at me. After a few moments of silence, she waved a hand across her face and murmured something too low for me to catch. Her beard shifted, and the buzzing grew so loud my ears echoed with it The bees rose in a cloud. A tornado of yellow and black whirled before me then disappeared as suddenly as it arrived. The face the bees left behind was strange yet familiar. The green eyes, the slant of those lips; they were as known and beloved to me as my own features. Where the bees had been, 30
there was nothing but smooth skin. My hand stretched to trace its softness. Her fingers wrapped themselves around mine, and I knew that I was home.
B. L. Draper lives in northern Australia where she teaches children about our world by day and writes tales about other worlds by night. She has stories published by Gone Lawn and Youth Imagination magazine and hopes one day to complete her novel before sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2DC;s too senile to enjoy it. She can be found online at bldraper.com.
THREE POEMS by CAROL HAMILTON HIKING 7 NATIONAL PARKS IN 10 DAYS Millions of years upthrust eroded down to our steps somewhere between red sediment against sky and gravity We see how brief we are but cannot grasp the hair-breath of our being New pains from those days mean nothing The piled-up mail tells a different story one of how things fall apart in my absence how despite all I have seen everything exists in the nanosecond In the end the truth remains tongue-tied
INDIAN TACOS FOR SALE Outside my idling moment, a pink tagboard, soggy with the rains and black marker strokes fuzzy, sits on a grassy corner beside the stoplight: Fridays 4-7:30. There beneath the metal Warning: Electical Wires Buried sign? Where stop? A quick cash exchange out the passenger window before the light turns? Today is only Wednesday, the day that promises temporary relief ahead. I say a short prayer that this venture works, some ready money before a new week begins, a little hope for somebody.
SELFIES AGAINST SEDIMENT I stop to take photos only to breathe a moment against the vigor of the younger. Millions and millions and millions of years gape here in open wounds all around us, carmine, vermillion, golden, aflame with light and impossible time. Gasps and inner-rebellion at our own insignificance do not serve the moment. She holds up her extended stick, snaps her own photo there, proof against this possible loss of all self. All I can do is to position my borrowed walking stick to take one more safe step. Carol Hamilton taught second grade through university graduate classes in Connecticut, Indiana, and Oklahoma. She received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Central Oklahoma and won a Southwest Book Award, Oklahoma Book Award, Cherubim Award, Pegasus Award, Chiron Review Chapbook Award, David Ray Poetry Prize, and a Byline Literary Award for both short story and poetry. She also won a Warren Keith Poetry Prize. Carol has published seventeen books and has poetry published in various journals: Christian Science Monitor, New York Quarterly, Poet Lore, Atlanta Review, and more. She is a former Poet Laureate of Oklahoma and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize five times.
COSTA DYSTOPIA Nick Sweeney
THREE POEMS by LANA BELLA THIS IS EVERY LOVE STORY EVER TOLD you are a rotten tangerine hanging on the bough of my tree, half in waiting to splinter off, the other half already bruised through from maturity and hungry worms-I watch westerly wind leaps into your gaping rind, sunlight snakes beneath your insides like the way ocean rushes toward caves and dunes, leaving just enough mystique in its wake-seeing your whole spotted and incised, I arch my limbs past the shingled wall then over the ground to catch your fall, you look at me with sad orange eyes still wet of juice before hurling earthward in scattering core, seeds and open pith-someday I'll look back on this moment and wish I'd known how to follow you home through black, for this is you and me born of sun, sugar and dirt, before you stumble and fall, before I lose all my leaves to despair--
DARK HORSE the mind, he says, is the most able organ when the will to live is so much kinder than the need to die-the flesh, he says, is a great sexy nothing, when the peaceful paleness is the white landscape pulled over the bones-the soul, he says, is what happened to the body as the teeth let go and the mouth is starved from empty cups of sounds--
PETALS at some point, there is a perennial urge to press my petals into every aerial pleat on the atmosphere-in this two-dimension time and space, it's all part of settling my weight: sprained sepals, severed filaments, the ricocheted snaps of anthers and stiff ovule that spills pulses down the stairs of my form-Lana Bella has work of poetry and fiction published and forthcoming with over 120 journals, including a chapbook with Crisis Chronicles Press (Spring 2016), Ann Arbor Review, Chiron Review, Coe Review, Literary Orphans, Poetry Salzburg Review, Poetry Quarterly, and elsewhere. She divides her time between the US and the coastal town of Nha Trang, Vietnam, where she is a wife of a talking-wonder novelist, and a mom of two far-tooclever-frolicsome imps.
ONE BOY‘S TROUBLE Joe Giordano Knocking a hornets' nest off a tree wasn't the inspiration of a future Rhodes Scholar. I should've known better, but when Lenny Spazzolatto dared me and called me scared, I went along. I called Lenny‘s cousin weak eyes because his peepers bulged like a toad. I'm Anthony. Our parents were friends and we vacationed together in the Catskills at Villa Napoli Resort; a welcome week's respite from Brooklyn's summer heat. The hum of the critters grew along with the angst in my gut as we neared. The nest looked like a paper-mâché medicine ball. Lenny had a three-foot stick, but at the sight of a swarming mass of stingers, I wished it was a barge pole. I was about to question the wisdom of our endeavor when Lenny stabbed the nest, knocking it to the ground. A wall of wasps came at us like a tsunami, and we took off. I heard the sound of a gaining buzz saw when my feet tangled with Lenny's and we both went down. Stings felt like a blowtorch pressed to my flesh. My heart pounded as we scrambled up and hurtled toward Villa Napoli's outdoor swimming pool. The day was steaming. Our parents and every resort guest lounged at the Olympic-sized pool. Lenny and I were menaced by a wave of hornets that rivaled a Biblical plague. We shouted, "Wasps," before we flung ourselves headlong into the deep water. Guests' heads casually rose or turned at our warning. Then the stinging began. Everyone, our parents, slow moving seniors, women who'd unclipped their swim suit bras for an even tan, everyone, screamed, flew off
their lounge chairs, and dove into the pool. Aquamarine churned like a white-water river. I stayed under. My skin felt on fire from multiple stings. Then my mind turned to my parents' reaction to the chaos I'd caused. I considered drowning myself, but my chest nearly burst, and I came up for air. The wasps had dissipated. My parents looked at me like I was an approaching storm. I gulped. Lenny's head bobbed to the surface next to me. His stung face puffed like a boxer pounded for fifteen rounds. Yet, he had a gap-toothed smile. "Wow. Wasn't that great?"
Joe Giordano was born in Brooklyn. He and his wife, Jane, have lived in Greece, Brazil, Belgium and Netherlands. They now live in Texas with their little shih tzu, Sophia. Joe's stories have appeared in more than seventy magazines including Bartleby Snopes, The Monarch Review, decomP, and The Summerset Review. His novel, Birds of Passage, An Italian Immigrant Coming of Age Story, was published by Harvard Square Editions October 2015. Read the first chapter and sign up for his blog at joe-giordano.com
TWO POEMS by JAMES CUSHING THE NIGHT WATCHMEN Every tree has a relative who died horribly and citizens hide behind the air in their lungs and their religion and ethnicity and prescriptions whose warm power swells like the rolling ocean. The day before yesterday a woman stood by me, trying not to cry. I saw a dark highway, a headlight, an empty school I had attended, halls filled with purple and gold light reminding us both how well the nurse / patient relation had been written into the coda of our turbulent details. I need information about my confusion. My shirt‘s a lake of spangles. Good evening, lost instrumental fragments, lines excised from songs. A steady breeze pushes my dream toward fire. I‘m grateful for clocks and the gift of reading, which helps me exist in the larger culture that has no edges, but can blind you. Small squeaking machines wait for me in a way I can‘t explain, like a faun who crosses its first highway in order to leave a wreath at your campfire.
DRUNKEN PINE PARK In the places we stayed, floors kept their cold in light or shadow. Covered with frost and a life spent listening to one family‘s breath, the ground lingered, awaiting the long white silence of nakedness. Your family recognized me through my mask. Their weathered hands reappeared as triangles, diamonds, origami birds and fish. The midnight box had been carefully put away. You were the birthday girl, tied up with ropes of dusty paper. I dug in my pockets for my knife and folded your clothing on my blank youth. JAMES CUSHING, born 1953 in Palo Alto CA, holds a doctorate in English from UC Irvine. In the early 1980s, he hosted a live poetry radio program on KPFK-FM in Los Angeles, which gave early exposure to Dennis Cooper, David Trinidad, Amy Gerstler, Wanda Coleman, Leland Hickman, and many others. Since 1989, he has taught literature and creative writing at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and served as the community‘s Poet Laureate for 2008 – 2010. His poems have appeared in many journals, and Cahuenga Press has published five collections: You and the Night and the Music (1991), The Length of an Afternoon (1999), Undercurrent Blues (2004), Pinocchio’s Revolution (2010), and The Magicians’ Union (2014). Cushing currently hosts weekly a jazz program on KEBF-FM, 97.3 ―The Rock‖ in Morro Bay (esterobayradio.org) His daughter is the New York-based poet Iris Cushing. 52
JELLY FISH Jeannie Galeazzi This surfing lesson—Brinkley‘s birthday gift to himself—was not panning out to be the vital toughener-upper, the crucial step-up-to-manhood, the fateful proof-in-the-pudding that Brinkley had imagined. Shivering in his rented wetsuit in the wave zone off Ocean Beach on the edge of fog-frosted San Francisco, Brinkley Minton, thirty-seven last Tuesday, sat bobbing astraddle a borrowed surfboard in water cold enough to slam his skull with sherbet headaches and drive his testicles up into his lungs. It didn‘t help that he‘d been saddled with the build of a peasant stevedore paired with the face of a palace fop. It had never helped. CAUTION, said the signs posted in the lot where he‘d parked, PEOPLE WADING AND SWIMMING HERE HAVE DROWNED. His instructor, Erika, guessably mid-forties, had been shouting encouragement of diminishing cheer at him over the arctic bite of the wind. Brawny in her wetsuit, she pointed out to sea at a looming bump of water. ―Look! An easy one,‖ she bellowed, her frizzy black curls sopped down to a scrawny ponytail. ―Ride it with me!‖ Stiff-jawed to curb the chattering of his teeth, Brinkley shook his head and sensed himself being jeered at by the surf mob jockeying for waves on either side of him in the crowded Saturday-afternoon lineup. ―Well, I’m taking it,‖ said Erika in a holler, her gaze fixed on the swell. ―So remember, you get snagged by a riptide, don‘t fight it, just paddle parallel to the beach!‖
Brinkley doubted the gullibility of the riptides, yet to voice that doubt seemed gutless—the very opposite of virile—seemed tantamount to declaring himself unfit for anything fate might toss his way. The wave in front of them was just breaking. Right at its crest, Erika popped up on her board and zipped off triumphant, leaving her pupil adrift under the glum supervision of a balding bleached-blond brute who‘d been introduced to Brinkley, just minutes ago, as ―Squiffy.‖ Brinkley watched his surf-sensei shrink toward the beach—crouching on her board, angling with fancy footwork—and lean into her wipeout with a jubilant splash. ―Dude,‖ called Squiffy from his board two yards away, his features lost under a peeling sunburn. ―Watch the waves, man, not her ass.‖ Brinkley stifled a limp retort and sat chafing at this afternoon of shame. Just from the clumsy way he‘d carried his board through the beach parking lot past the other surfers dressing and undressing by their vans, he‘d overheard himself being scoffed at as a ―kook.‖ Erika herself had mocked his waxing technique. “Don’t wax the traction patches, silly, and don’t wax the board smooth! Just rub until the wax beads.” She‘d even made him practice the popup on the grimy sand in front of an audience of sniggering kite-flyers and squawking seagulls. “Start face down. Now, push yourself up, scoot your knees in, plant your back foot at a right angle to the length of the board, then balance. Got it?” Brinkley, with his chunky frame, could barely perform these acrobatics on land let alone hope to replicate them on a wave.Then out in the water, in the brief eternities between waves, on his board he‘d either sit too far forward and thus ―pearl‖ off the front or sit too far back and thus ―stall‖ off the rear, occasioning hoots and razzes up and down the lineup. 55
Yet now things had gone eerily dense and quiet, as if the fog had panino-pressed the tides into a lull. Listening to the water‘s thrubs and gurgles, Brinkley was reminded of the background music at Bhangra‘s Bollywood Buffet. It was at Bhangra‘s that he took noon refuge Mondays through Fridays from the merciless phones and his gossiping co-workers at the symphony box office, and it was at Bhangra‘s that he could wallow at will in exotic grub and the composition of haiku. Just yesterday, Friday, on a paper napkin plucked from the tabletop dispenser, he‘d penned: Bark bark bark all hours— we banged on the wall for peace; silence, now. LOUD. He congratulated himself on a fine profound haiku, never mind that the “we” in the middle line was pure fantasy; Brinkley had banged alone. Oh, for a waxed-paper-lined basket of toastblistered naan glistening with ghee, for a mound of basmati ladled with vindaloo, for a pyramid of gulab jamun. Monday— lunch!—yes. Buoyed by the prospect, Brinkley relaxed his grip on his surfboard and twisted around in search of Erika—here she came, plowing toward him through the choppy wave zone, a rosy-cheeked mermaid ripe for a haiku—just as a claw of foam reared up and cuffed him into the frigid water. Floundering, gagging on brine in the aquatic roar, Brinkley somehow remembered to heed the directional tug of his ankle leash and cover his head to that side, per Erika‘s instructions, so as not to get clobbered by his board. 56
―Jeez, man, the thing‘s floating right next to you,‖ came Squiffy‘s voice, warbly through the water. ―There‘s a difference between getting barreled in an eight-foot tube and just falling the fuck off, okay?‖ Brinkley periscoped up and spat saltwater, smeared his hair back off his forehead, and lumpenly restraddled his veering board, a bone-white affair trimmed in bold black Polynesian tattoo patterns ludicrous for a landlubber. Erika, who‘d lent him this board for an extra fee, came splashing up next to him. ―Ahoy there!‖ she said, all buddybuddy as if she hadn‘t just bailed on her charge. ―How‘s The Squiff treating you?‖ Brinkley, too miffed for buddy-buddies, glanced toward Squiffy and rejoiced to see his oppressor‘s neoprene-clad hindquarters paddling away. He turned his gaze to the steely Pacific and tried to suss out which patch of ocean might surge forth into the breaker that would end this torment, either drown him for good or ferry him back to dry land. Maybe fate would grant him the sight of a circling shiny-gray shark fin. Erika sat up on her board and craned forward. ―Uh-oh,‖ she said, ―you‘re shivering.‖ A swell bounced them up and moved on like a hand sliding under a child‘s quilt leaving the ragdolls behind. Erika pointed at a bigger swell prowling toward them. ―Look—there!—let‘s take the sucker.‖ Brinkley did look. Wanted to take the sucker. Knew he never could. ―Come on,‖ said Erika. ―Bellyboard style! Ready? Watch…, wait…, and…, NOW!‖ 57
With the swell upon them, no time to think, Erika flopped onto her stomach and gripped her board and Brinkley flopped and gripped in kind and the wave swept them up and whisked them along in a salt-stinging blur—an exhilarating glide!—until they tumbled off in the shallows at the sandy lip of civilization. Erika stood up and unfastened her ankle leash. ―Whew! Lesson over,‖ she announced, and wrapped the leash around the tail of her board. ―Um, unless you want a second try.‖ Resolutely mute despite his wild heartbeat and wilder rush, Brinkley copied her leash technique to the extent that his icy gloved fingers would allow. ―Right,‖ said Erika. She lifted her board and clamped it under one arm. ―Let‘s get you back to your car.‖ With the sun glowing down at them coldly white through a thinning in the fog, Brinkley willed his frozen joints to bend as he trooped after Erika across the beach, the sand churning underfoot, terra scarcely more firma than water. Up the concrete steps they went to the parking lot, where Brinkley kept his head down as he passed the real surfers, all of them presumably wise to his bellyboarding ignominy. The CAUTION signs rattled in the wind. By the time he and Erika reached her rust-ravaged station wagon stabled beside his pristine compact, his teeth were chattering with enamel-cracking force. Erika leaned her board against her rig, squatted by the back wheel to grope up under the fender, and withdrew a ring of keys. Straightening up, she turned toward Brinkley with a grin. The grin vanished. ―God,‖ said Erika, ―your lips are blue.‖ Lips? Did he have lips? 58
―Oh my God. You‘re really shivering.‖ Erika whipped off a glove, keys jangling, and pressed her bare hand to his cheek. Startled at the gesture, Brinkley felt neither hand nor cheek. Panic in her eyes, Erika spun toward her wagon and unlocked the hatch and threw it open. ―I‘m taking you straight home for a hot bath,‖ she said, and grabbed his surfboard and heaved it into the cargo space with her own, not even pausing to zip the boards back into their sheaths. ―My apartment‘s five blocks away. Get in.‖ Vaguely scandalized—yet unable to resist wondering, with sudden warmth, if this disastrous birthday gift to himself might now harbor an amorous upside—Brinkley made a move to obey. ―Hey, Erika,‖ called the owner of a wind-parched baritone voice that turned out to belong to Squiffy sauntering beefily toward them in his wetsuit, his board tucked under his arm. ―Next time you want to ditch a student on me while you hog the waves, I‘ll regretfully, like, decline.‖ Erika had not quite yet closed the hatch. ―I ‗ditched‘ my student,‖ she said, greeting Squiffy‘s zinger with coquettish equanimity, ―on the best damn surfer at Ocean Beach .‖ Rushing to his damsel‘s defense, Brinkley blurted out “Yeah!”— his first utterance in what seemed hours—only to realize he‘d just seconded Erika‘s compliment to the foe. Who didn‘t look at him. ―Erika, tell your pet tourist to butt out.‖
In Brinkley‘s view, The Squiff had been standing there perfectly upright in his slouchy way; then, all at once, a gloved fist on a wetsuited arm was seen to swing out—Squiffy ducked—and the gloved fist, completing its arc, slammed into Brinkley‘s own gelid shoulder. Not quite immediately, the numbness in Brinkley‘s balled-up right hand bloomed into an explosive smarting scorch as a budding bruise rose smoldering on his shoulder. He‘d just punched himself. Publicly. Squiffy straightened up taller than expected and peered down at Brinkley through eyes the blue of acid-washed denim. ―Prick.‖ Brinkley felt a clammy blush sear his cheeks and go twanging hotly down his neck and spine. And in his mind‘s ear, he heard an echo of haiku: Bark bark bark all hours—… He squinted across the sand, past the wave zone, and out to the lineup dotted with the surf elite—the coolest of the cool— sitting alert astride their boards, avidly confronting the pitiless horizon. …we banged on the wall for peace;… To march right back out there with his board and plunge alone into the waves would be dignity itself. Redemption! It would also be certain death. …silence, now. LOUD. Brinkley glanced back at Erika and Squiffy, caught them trading eye-rolls.
Proof. Pudding. With a lunge at the station wagon, Brinkley hauled his surfboard out of the yawning hatch and was just lugging the board past Erika and Squiffy toward the pearly glare when Squiffy let out a guffaw and gave Brinkley a slap on the back that sent him staggering. ―Yeah, take the easy way out,‖ said The Squiff with a snort. ―To go on living life as you, man, now that would take stones!‖ The gibe, though deadly, went sailing through the air with all the heft of a tissue-paper airplane, so lofty and pure was the truth riding its wings, and it snicked against Brinkley‘s left temple and, crumple-nosed, fell flat. Even so, that truth was enough to halt Brinkley on teetering tiptoe and—after a pause, even with the blinding silver shimmer-sheen of the Vast Beyond luring him toward oblivion—enough to make him pivot on those toes, set down his heels, and walk serenely back to the hatch and replace the board. ―Called your bluff, huh?‖ needled Squiffy with Erika there shaking her head. ―On the contrary,‖ said the birthday boy, level of tone, and shut the hatch. It did take stones, but he finished opening his gift: ―It was I who called fate‘s.‖
Jeannie Galeazzi's work has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has appeared in fifty-one publications, including Fence, The Literary Review, Permafrost, Southern Humanities Review, Main Street Rag, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review (blog), Feathertale (Canada), Dotlit (Australia), Snorkel (New Zealand), All Rights Reserved (Nova Scotia), and Gold Dust (UK). Her work is also forthcoming in The Sow's Ear Poetry Review and So to Speak.
A CYNICAL STOIC OF QUESTIONABLE HONOR Colin James The large boulder rolled down a manmade hill, just missing an escapee from the many reasons for not living at home. A youngish man typically inclined to procrastinate, flinched. This was not one of those times. He left his shoes behind in an almost athletic leap, rolled a good twenty feet protecting what he could. A diminutive figure holding a crowbar stood silhouetted in the setting sun. An old girlfriend or the new one, it doesn't matter. Colin James has a chapbook of poems, A Thoroughness Not Deprived of Absurdity (Pski Porch Press), www.pskisporch.com/?page_id=139
Building Red: Mission Mars edited by Janet Cannon
October 13, 2015
Earth Witch A Winterhaven Mystery by Stella Jay Candle
by Cyn Bermudez
Riding Light (The Riding Light Review) is fiscally sponsored by Art without Limits. To make tax-deductible donations, please visit our website. Stay Connected Facebook: www.facebook.com/ridinglightreview Twitter: www.twitter.com/riding_light Website: www.ridinglight.org ―Imagination is more important than knowledge.‖ – Albert Einstein
“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” – Albert Einstein
The Riding Light Review Contributions by Lana Bell, Caitlin Crowley, James Cushing, B.L. Draper, Jeannie Galeazzi, Joe Giordano, Carol Hamilton, Colin James, Megan Paske, Kiley Reid, Nick Sweeney, and Bob West.