SF&D | Winter 2015 [Pushcart Two]

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SF&D | Short, Fast, and Deadly Winter 2015 | [PushCart Two]

ISSN (print) | 2163-0712 ISSN (online) | 2163-0704 Copyright Š 2015 by Individual Authors | All Rights Reserved

Joseph A. W. Quintela | Editor Parker Tettleton | Editor

Published by Deadly Chaps Press www.deadlychaps.com www.shortfastanddeadly.com DCsf&d2015| 1

Barbara Rosenthal | Cover Photo

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iv | Note from the Editor vii | Featuring Randall Brown | Questions // Randall Brown | Photograph // Randall Brown | Boxing Day // Randall Brown | In That Way // Randall Brown | He Doesn’t Know He’s Dead // Randall Brown | There Wasn’t Anyone // Randall Brown | Winter Blues, April // Randall Brown | Nothing To Report xviii | Featuring Rebecca Nison | Questions // Rebecca Nison | Photograph // Rebecca Nison | Little But Blue // Rebecca Nison | Kelly Link // Rebecca Nison | John Cheever // Rebecca Nison | Angela Carter // Rebecca Nison | Jorge Luis Borges // Rebecca Nison | Karen Russell xxvix | Featuring Sophia Starmack | Questions // Sophia Starmack | Photograph // Sophia Starmack | Dreams From The Cloister xxxix | Featuring Barbara Rosenthal | Questions // Barbara Rosenthal | Photograph // Barbara Rosenthal | Anchored Flying Doll // Barbara Rosenthal | Little Doll Doorway // Barbara Rosenthal | Pointy Doll In Coffin // Barbara Rosenthal | Doll In Montreal Ethnographic Museum // Barbara Rosenthal | Figure In Hat With Book And Candle In Magic Doorway liii | Featuring Jennifer E. Brown | Questions // Jennifer E. Brown | Photograph // Jennifer E. Brown | Astraeus // Jennifer E. Brown | I do love you, Anne (Sexton) // Jennifer E. Brown | Multnomah // Jennifer E. Brown | Untitled // Jennifer E. Brown | Re: (the nature of light is undecided) // Jennifer E. Brown | Spencer Beach Park

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lxii | Featuring Robert Vaughan | Questions // Robert Vaughan | Photograph // Robert Vaughan | No Face World Champ // Robert Vaughan | ====Four Myths==== // Robert Vaughan | Pets: Three Vignettes // Robert Vaughan | When He Left it all to Me // Robert Vaughan | Gauze, A Medical Dressing, A Scrim // Robert Vaughan | The Rooms We Rented

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Joseph A. W. Quintela | A Note from Our Editor

Dear Wordslingers, Paintdrinkers, and Friends, You return, because you love. Because something pushes you there, be it bidden or unbidden. Because if it was a cart, you would lay down on it and let it take you…anywhere. For Winter 2015, we return for a second round of work from our 2014 Pushcart Nominees. Stay warm! With Words! Go read! Joseph A. W. Quintela Winter 2015

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Randall Brown | Questions // Randall Brown | Photograph // Randall Brown | Boxing Day // Randall Brown | In That Way // Randall Brown | He Doesn’t Know He’s Dead // Randall Brown | There Wasn’t Anyone // Randall Brown | Winter Blues, April // Randall Brown | Nothing To Report

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Randall Brown | Questions (with Answers from Dictionary.com)

Who? Who did it? Who does she think she is? What? What is the matter? What does he do? What are those birds? What is wealth without friends? You need what? What does it cost? Where? Where is he? Where do you live? Where do you stand on this question? Without money, where are you? Where does this affect us? Where are you going? Where did you get such a notion? When? When are they to arrive? When did the Roman Empire exist? When is a letter of condolence in order? When did you ever see such a crowd? Why? Why did you behave so badly? How? How did the accident happen? How damaged is the car? How are you? How can you talk such nonsense? How is one to interpret his action? How do you mean? SF&D | viii

Randall Brown | Photograph

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Randall Brown | Boxing Day

The island night brought out so many stars that it looked more like snowmelt than sky. One could point anywhere into the air and make a constellation, call it whatever came to mind. Look: “lost mitten.” Back at the villa, he wrapped boxes for the staff, but they ended up offended. He wasn’t sure if it had to do with the present inside—umbrellas that fit inside pockets—or the idea of the present itself. Wherever he went, he ended up floundering. Along the beach, a security guard stopped him, told him he had strayed beyond the bounds of the villa owners’ property. Stars, the Hollywood kind, flickered on that beach. He lay on his back at the boundary. A long time ago, it didn’t matter that the starry sky held only questions; now the security guard stood over him. He asked the security guard what he done wrong, and the guard pointed away from that beach, asked him if he needed help finding his way home. Beyond the guard, he glimpsed the stars, fallen to that beach, those long-ago wishes still clinging.

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Randall Brown | In That Way

I was old to have a paper route. Sixteen, afraid to drive. As I stopped monthly to collect, I dreamed of half-dressed women. None arrived. Only old men and women read newspapers, even then. They gave an extra dollar or two. They asked me what I would do with all that money I was making—college, car, take a girl out to the drive-in. I told them 45s. The Night Chicago Died. Billy Don't Be a Hero. Time in a Bottle. American Pie. They heard "Sporty Drive" and talked of a car that didn't exist. Flying down Brentwater Hill, I smashed into my mom's car pulling out of our driveway in that way that didn't believe in looking. I flew over its hood, hit ground, leg twisted backwards, a two-year sentence for her, unable to threaten to leave, until they'd found a way to untwist my leg and make it stick.

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Randall Brown | He Doesn’t Know He’s Dead

Night after night, my father gathers supplies, all the time from bedroom to foyer, flannel shirts, jeans, thick socks. No longer confined to a wheelchair—gathering, piling up, putting away, taking out, back and forth, fly rods, the fly vest, the waders, his floppy hat to be covered in pins: Trout Unlimited, Boiling Springs, Moore’s Run, Lee’s Ferry. Okay. I know, I know. I have to tell him. Dad, you aren’t going anywhere, not anymore, but there are all those rods lined up, night after night, next to the door.

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Randall Brown | There Wasn’t Anyone

For Alan, autumn brought with it a beefy calendar: a continual flow of ultrasounds sent via Federal Express to analyze, the corresponding reports to write up, a spate of new physical annoyances—stomach acid and gas rising, the SSRI sending crackles and pops throughout his head, and finally a crumbling kingdom to maintain. Branches covered the lawn, window frame wood rotted around him, paint peeled off and fell like snow, all the window screens lay scattered among the leaves. He lived at the edge of a cliff. Fall became an idea jogger. That continual descent into waste. His handyman didn’t flinch at installing the bungee cord on Alan’s deck. Not a tremendous drop off the side, but enough. One could leap and return. Imagine such a thing. At the end, he’d grab hold of the cord, pull himself back up. Easy. It didn’t quite work that way, though. It took not only his Xanax but an airplane bottle of Maker’s Mark whiskey to get him to the edge. On the deteriorating tire swing and play set, forms flashed, a family flickering in and out of existence. The ultrasound ghosts fluttered like moths. He teetered. The wind, from Canada, held the first of winter, and it urged him forward. If that’s what the world wants, Alan thought, so be it. He entered air like a man walking the plank. Before the cord caught, he felt the un-restraint. If only one could find a high enough deck from which to fall; if only one could free-fall forever, with no ground awaiting or no cord to pull one back.

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The cord caught. Something cracked, an arm of all things. The pain brought a welling of tears. He bobbed. It would be a day before Jilda came to clean. He didn’t even bother yelling.

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Randall Brown | Winter Blues, April

Blooming flowers grow. How beautiful to see them.

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Randall Brown | Nothing To Report

Phil rang the bell. Through the faded curtains of the New Hanover Inn, sunrise spilled past him, toward the empty breakfast area. Marla appeared from her hidden office. “Oh, God. Phil! I thought you were the hotel inspector.” She yelled something to the office. “We’re late serving breakfast,” she said to him. She smoothed her curled red hair. “I’m surprised to see you.” He took out his order pad for their breakfast items: frozen this and frozen that. “You always know how to accessorize,” he told her. “Doesn’t matter when I’m here.” “Oh, this.” She pulled the turquoise bolo away from the hollow of her neck, toward him. “My father gave it to me. From New Mexico.” She returned it to her skin. “Some of those hotel inspectors get a little starchy. I’m so glad it’s still you.” “What do you mean ‘still you’?” “We have all these buses coming now. In and out. We’re going to need double of everything.” Behind her, trays were being carried to the warmers in the breakfast area. It smelled like warmed up sausage, waffles. “You don’t know?” He shook his head. She told him. “They just can’t pull the account,” he said. “I’m struggling to make a living as it is.” “It’s not my call.” She reached out, put her hand on his. “You know how I feel. I don’t want to lose you, Phil.” SF&D | xvi

Her hand felt warm. Not like the fake-fresh breakfast. He had a train to catch, more hotels, more meetings across the front desk or in a cramped back office. “Oh Jesus,” she said. “I think that’s the inspector who just pulled up.” She ran toward the office. “Sorry, Phil.” “Your nylons are torn.” Wasn’t it nylons that Willy Loman sold? Or were nylons what he bought his mistress? Or his wife? He’d read it as a kid, learned about the low-man. Tragic or pathetic? What had they decided? On the way out, he bumped into the inspector. “So what’d you think?” the inspector asked him. “Of what?” “The hotel. Your stay. Everything.” Through a hole in the clouds, Phil glimpsed a beautiful sky, the turquoise of the bolo Marla’s father had given her. The blue of her eyes. Her father’s, too? What had happened to them? Where did they all go?

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Rebecca Nison | Questions // Rebecca Nison | Photograph // Rebecca Nison | Little But Blue // Rebecca Nison | Kelly Link // Rebecca Nison | John Cheever // Rebecca Nison | Angela Carter // Rebecca Nison | Jorge Luis Borges // Rebecca Nison | Karen Russell

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Rebecca Nison| Questions

Who? Some heroines and heroes of literature who have provided some of the finest company I've had the pleasure to keep. What? This is the first installment of my Portable Mentors series, in which I pair the dazzling words of tremendous writers with scenes and images I associate with their work. The words I chose are those of compassionate advice and gentle encouragement. Writers often scribble in solitude. These paintings protect that solitude while providing the guidance and the semblance of kind, whip-smart company we sometimes crave in the depths of that solitude. Where? Cheever's Ossining at dusk, the rich winged embrace of Carter's creatures, Link's winding, bloody road to the Snow Queen, Russell's gator-crammed swamps, Borges's infinite Library of Babel When? Any time you create, here they are.

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Why? I made these as gifts for the writers in my writing group. They have all, in a way, mentored me, and so I hoped to pass on the mentorship of great writers whenever they're in need. How? Paint, words, wood, brushes, time, quietude, adoration

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Rebecca Nison | Photograph

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Rebecca Nison | Little But Blue

I tell you this is how it will be. You will stand at the port, turned toward the sea watching. Your eyes will try to hold me as my boat shrinks from you with each wave’s new rolling, as I sail into the indistinct distance. Despite my leaving, I will still love you – just as I love my home port but cannot find in myself any staying. You see, an unrelenting thirst churns in me for beginnings, for the unvaulted sea. Later, in the indistinct distance of time, when I am gray with the dust of many shores and brimming with the words of countless strangers, when I have not seen land, when I have not seen you in so long my vision knows little but blue, when my supply of freshwater has all been drunk dry, in my boat I will drink the sea’s water smiling. When it seals me with the heaviest thirsting, I will lie dying in my boat’s cabin craving you and viewing only blue.

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Death’s hand, dry as longing, will bring me back to the port where you have stood for years waiting, your body still as a sculpture, face stiff as a mask, your mouth, shaped for avowal, speaking no words, Your eyes, cloaked by visions of me, unseeing; Your arms outstretched and hands, evolved for making and taking, grasping yet holding nothing. When my ship arrives, You, for years the paralyzed audience of our past, will finally inch forward. You will breathe in the salted air. Your mouth will utter my name. When my body is presented, your eyes, useless for all those years, will finally see. My death will be your beginning. I tell you this is how I love. Turn around, step away. I am made of endings. If from the distance you believe you hear me singing, turn away your ears– it is only the sea waving, a boat creaking, a terrible creature with a near-human cry –

//written as an ekphrastic response to “Root Sheathing (Elegy As Mask) by Samm Cohen for Books Without Words (www.bookswithoutwords.org)//

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Rebecca Nison | Kelly Link (Portable Mentors)

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Rebecca Nison | John Cheever (Portable Mentors)

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Rebecca Nison | Angela Carter (Portable Mentors)

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Rebecca Nison | Jorge Luis Borges (Portable Mentors)

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Rebecca Nison | Karen Russell (Portable Mentors)

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Sophia Starmack | Questions // Sophia Starmack | Photograph // Sophia Starmack | Dreams From The Cloister

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Sophia Starmack | Questions

Who? There are those who choose, or who are called, to dedicate their lives to contemplation of the inner world. They say they find there the love and solace the rest of us seek in the mundane. They might be monks, mystics, heretics, priests, prophets, renegades, yogis. I’ve always secretly wanted to be a nun. What? I kept Jean Valentine’s The River at Wolf in my purse for an entire year. That work taught me about poems-that-are-prayers, poems that arise from the dreamworld and give fleshly bodies to that other mode of being. When? In the wake of a broken heart? In the gathering season before the Next Big Thing? Where? I’ll admit to having spent some time hiding out in a monastery, and to having been on at least one pilgrimage. Why? A peculiar and unforeseen shakeout of genetics, temperament, and circumstance. But we’re the lucky ones.

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How? Lots of work. Lots of gratitude.

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Sophia Starmack | Photograph

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Sophia Starmack | Dreams From The Cloister (1)

Brother Christian could sing one hundred fifty psalms to the rope as it burns through his hands. Trembles from the heart of the bell a pair of great eyes staring-white on white.

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Sophia Starmack | Dreams From The Cloister (2)

The village is shining: the teeth of a tiger in the dark.

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Sophia Starmack | Dreams From The Cloister (3)

I’ll sit right here till I know whether that black, flapping leaf is really a crow. Let’s say only the smallest things: Will you ring the bell? We must stop the machines. You can walk with us.

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Sophia Starmack | Dreams From The Cloister (4)

Is it breaking the Rule when we babble on in our sleep, kicking the white sheets of our thoughts?

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Sophia Starmack | Dreams From The Cloister (5)

With the sun-white sky fifty grackles will rise, or a leaf will fold itself dark from the ground. I may weep again.

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Sophia Starmack | Dreams From The Cloister (6)

Lord, please close this box of words. But let it open again tomorrow.

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Barbara Rosenthal | Questions // Barbara Rosenthal | Photograph // Barbara Rosenthal | Anchored Flying Doll // Barbara Rosenthal | Little Doll Doorway // Barbara Rosenthal | Pointy Doll In Coffin // Barbara Rosenthal | Doll In Montreal Ethnographic Museum // Barbara Rosenthal | Figure In Hat With Book And Candle In Magic Doorway

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Barbara Rosenthal | Questions

Who? The characters in Wish for Amnesia are all idiosyncratic personalities with sharply drawn philosophies, exaggerated physical bodies and wild ambitions. They each interact with reality in a singular manner. But each exerts great effort to have effect on one and all, eternally. What? Well the challenge is to solve the problems of the world now, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? It’s really now put up or shut up time for everybody. When? “If not now, when”, right? Too bad this novel didn’t get the head start it might have decades ago, but maybe not. Maybe truly this novel did need the polish of rolling around in the mud for so long, and then the whirligurge of these last few months constructing it for Deadly Chaps definitive publication. Where? If I close my eyes, then anywhere is as “here” as what is actually in front of me. I’ve been thinking about that lately. Part of my incessant “What would I do if I were locked away in a dungeon” fantasy. The other thing I’d do is set my mind to listen. I just would hope my senses wouldn’t be taken away.

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Why? Did you ever notice that “why” has two meanings? And each meaning implies the opposite direction in time to consider the answer? I think I wrote about this in Clues to Myself. The “past-based question ‘why’” means “what caused this to have occurred.” The “future-based question ‘why’” means “what did you hope would result.” Likewise the dualanswers “because.” How? The book developed its first draft from material collected 1981-85. It circulated to publishers via Anais Nin’s editor and my agent, Gunther Stuhlmann, 1989-92, who died before placing it. It alternately languished, was redrafted, was rejected by other agents and presses large and small until all the drafts and journeys fill a trunk. And now in the dusk of the days of paper, and dawn of cyberspeech, has found some ink and e-ware. How (2)? I give my subconscious a camera and promise not to interfere. With rare exception, I shoot 35mm film, full, frame, in a trance state, often while moving, and issue them with no digital manipulation. They are from my Surreal Photography body of work, which comprise the categories Free Birds; Renegade Horses; Trapped Figures; Tiny Houses; Strange Neighborhoods; Aberrant Trees; Sinister Landscapes; Haunted Castles; Eerie Locations; Dark Continents.

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Barbara Rosenthal | Photograph

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Barbara Rosenthal | Excerpt from Wish For Amnesia - Chapter 10: The Birth of Jewel

Caroline lay in the hospital bed, on her back, bathed in sweat. Her new baby, Jewel Marie Rubin, slept in a tiny plastic cart against the wall. Caroline was wet between the legs, itching slightly, her skin chilly from hospital air-conditioning even though some summer sun did reach her through the window. Internally she was warmed by low-grade fever. Jack would be coming soon; did she look OK? He set such store by beauty although he’d never admit it. She ought to comb her hair, or at least the bangs, she thought, running her fingers through them. There was a comb and mirror in a compartment of the bed tray. She tried to unfold the mirror but it clattered and fell into the tray several times until she gave up. Her body was dull and limp, her hands uncoordinated and her mind fuzzy. An awful, drawing pressure from fresh hemorrhoids and sharp perineal stitches streamed through to her attention despite an oozy, yellow disposable latex glove ballooned with melting ice chips and fitted high like a saddle against the sore strip, pubis to coccyx. The glove reached obscenely under her in a position of holding and stopping as well as feeling and probing the organs so recently active. She had been appalled when the nurse filled this glove. Was there no such thing as a real compress? Or even an oval balloon? The glove seemed to mock what she’d been through. Never had her back and limbs been so sore. When she tried to turn over they responded with wrenching protest. Her legs ached and her throat burned. She tried to remain still and go back to sleep. She couldn’t. The hospital room swam in noon sunlight, white paint, white bedding. Was it good for her pupils to be so pinpointed? Supposedly yes: she’d once read a magazine article about bright light being conducive to positive

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emotion. Caroline was alone except for the baby. There was no other new mother in the second bed. She managed to hoist her body for a view but yellow and black blotches splotched her dizzy vision. She did not have a good, clear memory of the birth. There had been some sort of twilight sleep induced by an injected drug she hadn’t planned for and which had woefully disappointed Jack. There had been a dream, a nightmare, that her teacher Beatrice was the midwife, the three of them poised in a ritual mélange, but Caroline didn’t recall it. The infant slept near her against the wall a few feet behind a naturally focused sun to shade division in the room, the light advancing imperceptibly toward the child. The planet is so crowded, Caroline worried. What if this child itself were not a good addition, not an asset, or even worse, a burden on others, or on the world itself. What had she done, her worries thundered. Through her own doing the world had moved into the future. There should be standards set some day, she scribbled in her sketch pad on the tray table. Some day the competition on this Earth will be too much for just any offspring to be born of wantonness. There arose in Caroline a less than complete enrapture with her child, a sour-mist air of resentment. Caroline had suffered in delivery. Cary’s own mother had been furious about the sudden marriage and baby. She’d refused to come into the city to see them and at Caroline’s lowest moment, had told her on the phone that Caroline’s birth had almost cost her her own life. Cary had hung up on her mother at that, but couldn’t forget it. Caroline had been in vital need of comfort but she had not even one woman friend on whom to rest her thoughts. Her closest friendship was tainted with ill feeling; she dreaded even notifying Letty of the birth. An odd thought sprang to Cary, that Letty might be so jealous she might someday harm her family. Personal histories were so complex: who knew, who knows why anyone, might do the things they do.

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I’ve always been a bright girl, she reminded herself, glad to be married to someone as outstanding as Jack. She’d been intimate with so many but this man was the best, even his semen tastes like the heartiest chicken soup; she smiled, though the laugh brought her sharp, sudden pain, at the memory of telling him this recently. There was no doubt she’d be faithful to him. How different would Jewel be from Jack or herself? Ask him, she thought, genetics is one of his fields, but the thought depressed her. She hardly knew her husband. He was such a brilliant man. Caroline couldn’t even differentiate between what he called “his fields.” She thought of these fields agriculturally, all his areas of study lying adjacent on a vast patchwork plain, with Jack the landed gentleman strutting through them. She didn’t see him as a good farmer, though, but dismissed that notion, too. When she thought about what he did she could not understand how what seemed like such fundamental questions could take up boundless arenas of study, thick publications, complex conferences, lengthy meetings, volumes of dense text —. Why were cultures perennially at odds with each other? Why should anyone care what went on in their neighbors’ minds, hearts, bedrooms, churches? Couldn’t everyone just live and let live, “keep our eyes on our own plates,” as her mother used to say. Couldn’t there be just one answer, one definition, one agreement? Perhaps this is what religion does, she thought, it answers the unknowable with the single word, “God.” “God knows,” her mother would say whenever Cary asked a question about the world. It meant the question was unanswerable. But also it meant that one could live happily enough without searching for the answers, and perhaps unhappily if answers were found. No, God couldn’t help: more blood has been shed in the name of religion than of anything else humankind ever dreamed up. She would like to be in on discussions of such things with Jack, but he stomped her, and she stewed in resentment. SF&D | xlv

At a dinner party just a month ago, Caroline had come up with the idea of a universal agreement for cultural tolerance. Before she’d hardly begun, Jack had railed at her. “Oh you don’t have the slightest idea what you’re talking about,” He’d humiliated her in front of their friends. “Just what kind of agreement? Some kind of charter? A written agreement?” He’d kept on at her. “Even the language it is drafted in would be subject to murderous dispute. Even the shape of the table could start a war.” Their hosts had tried to make a joke out of this and cajole Jack aggressively to bring him around. Cary hadn’t necessarily meant a written agreement, just an agreed agreement, “live and let live.” Couldn’t everyone understand what that meant? She couldn’t understand why Jack would call her “naïve.” She couldn’t keep the evening off her mind. Weren’t these his own politics? The incident had caught Cary off guard. She’d been shocked by Jack’s derisive anger, by his instantly competitive tone of argumentative debate. She had suggested the idea with persiflage, jocosity even, simply for the sake of innocent dinner conversation. And why would he even say that? It didn’t seem consistent: As far as she knew, Jack supported leagues of nations, and spoke often of human goodness, no matter how much evidence there was to the contrary. It was their friend Beatrice who had no faith in humankind, and she wasn’t even at that dinner party. Was he conflicted on this point? Has he changed his vision? She couldn’t ask him. Jack had really laced into her. They’d left their hosts soon after, and while getting into their car — Caroline’s car, really; Jack refused to learn to drive — she tried to tell him how he’d made her feel but he wouldn’t listen. He laughed at her again and grabbed her and made love wildly, right there in the people’s driveway. She succumbed with hatred and even though already eight months pregnant at the time, a ferocity of her own. She would never let anyone make her feel so inferior again. Jack could be impatient, grating, grand, an asshole.

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Cary pondered the idea of individual responsibility. How could peace and harmony be not just bullshit sloganeering, but actually practiced. It was frustrations like this which had caused her to shun college debate. She just wasn’t able to make anyone understand. Did this new baby, Jewel, really carry the best genes of them both, that was what Caroline wanted to know. The most dominant, does that make them the best? What was “best?� Would Jewel turn out to be a product recognizably from them both? We are all descendents of the archetypes, after all, she had been taught. Caroline elevated the head of her hospital bed with a control button and looked at the baby. It lay snug in its pink-lined bassinet with an index card printed Jewel Rubin. She stared at the name of her child.

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Barbara Rosenthal | Anchored Flying Doll

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Barbara Rosenthal | Little Doll Doorway

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Barbara Rosenthal | Pointy Doll In Coffin

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Barbara Rosenthal | Doll In Montreal Ethnographic Museum

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Barbara Rosenthal | Figure In Hat With Book And Candle In Magic Doorway

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Jennifer E. Brown | Questions // Jennifer E. Brown | Photograph // Jennifer E. Brown | Astraeus // Jennifer E. Brown | I do love you, Anne (Sexton) // Jennifer E. Brown | Multnomah // Jennifer E. Brown | Untitled // Jennifer E. Brown | Re: (the nature of light is undecided) // Jennifer E. Brown | Spencer Beach Park

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Jennifer E. Brown | Questions

Who? The man of Tulare Street, the man of Tunnel Road. What? This otherworldly sadness. When? You have moved into time or; time has happened. Where? On the back of an envelope. Why? It was a question that didn’t make any sense. How? I saw the signs.

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Jennifer E. Brown | Photograph

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Jennifer E. Brown | Astraeus

I can hear your house, a meandering and cracking kind of cry. It rained that day in summer. The wind rushed up the trees. The light of the sky went out. Now the air is thick and calm. I’m not wondering why you left. I’m wondering why you told the officer you’d married the wrong woman, why you hid in the woods. You said you were going to watch the Perseids shower from the sky, the meteors flash and burn around the atmosphere at dawn. I could hear them too like fire as we rolled through space.

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Jennifer E. Brown | I do love you, Anne (Sexton)

You were going for the night, the drinks, the gut wrenching dawn— you went for the undoing. In the cemetery of innocents, the haphazardly formed street corners of extinct cities, the clanging new suburbs, I thought: It’s true something keeps the entire lexicon from surging in and it can break. And I said: All the light of my life, gone. I take it back, Anne— I do love you. You had to be so dramatic and write about the body. Nobody knew the body back then, how uncomfortable it is. “Look what our mothers have done!” they said about it. Poor us. The men had their way, now look how crazy we are. We bleed, we are all about death, see? But I don’t buy it. —shrieking, saying, you took me from myself, and now look— winter.

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Jennifer E. Brown | Multnomah

In the summer of uncertain fates you went to Portland at two in the morning and you would be back, but not in my lifetime. It was as clear as a bell and perfectly quiet. A balmy flush swelled up into the rafters at the end of the afternoon. I went out to watch the black waves in the dark, and the blurry white horizon by day. I got on my knees, facing Mecca, the radio tower and the medical center on the hill. Render me unto myself, I said, deep in the valley, late at night, in a stupendous heat and exhaustion. Then a cool grey Pentecost came on. I took up with a man who’d been in the war in Africa, his eyes searching and quizzical. I cut his hair in the yard in springtime while his slender hands rested at my thighs. Up on the scintillating hills the earth was waiting expectantly for an orange dusk. I thought I could hear your voice, out by the stream at night, around a corner.

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Jennifer E. Brown | Untitled

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Jennifer E. Brown | Re: (the nature of light is undecided)

In the old time of distant things where we spoke and heard words, where events were long and drawn out, excruciating and forlorn everything had a sound, even the day. I knew there was going to be this great future, thin and shrunken— no— broad and delirious I stayed out all night for it and it burnt me up, I’ve been burned alive by my own language, the one taught to me. Do you know, I grew up on the edge of town. It was shouts and the smell of that dry weed that grows around the lake.

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Jennifer E. Brown | Spencer Beach Park

I was baptized in the waters of Spencer Beach Park, south of Kawaihae Harbor, my head arcing out to sea. It was late afternoon and the kids were playing in the ocean like seals. I could see them floating in the shadowy waves as daylight rushed over the deep. Streams of grainy light burst through the low clouds on the dark silver water. The ocean gleamed like a plain when we rounded the corner at the Queen’s Highway. I remember the thick mildew of the rainforest, cool like stones— the white heat at Hapuna, up in Hilo the grey rain. The place used to be called Ōhai ʻula. One day, Tyson’s mom and her friend were swimming together in the waters of a he’e au where human sacrifices were flung. Sharks have been gliding there for hundreds of years. At the time, they didn’t know it. I was baptized not far from the he’e au, though I did not know it then either. Like the women swimmers, it was told to me later.

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Robert Vaughan | Questions // Robert Vaughan | Photograph // Robert Vaughan | No Face World Champ // Robert Vaughan | ====Four Myths==== // Robert Vaughan | Pets: Three Vignettes // Robert Vaughan | When He Left it all to Me // Robert Vaughan | Gauze, A Medical Dressing, A Scrim // Robert Vaughan | The Rooms We Rented

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Robert Vaughan | Questions

Who? What? When? His name was Santino and he was the catalyst for leaving Rochester, New York in 1984. We arrived by a circuitous route in New York City’s East Village, only for him to flee weeks later. Meanwhile I had a job at Art Café on 2nd Avenue (now Telephone Café), and began exploring the club scene, places like Pyramid, Boy Bar and King Tut’s Wah-Wah Hut. Where? Why? How? Eventually I followed up to Skaneateles, one of the Finger Lakes’ towns and we made a go at a second attempt. Then a third, fourth and finally I had to get back to the city again. When we broke up, my values turned inside out. I was torn, and alone and the only thing I could identify with was the song Meat is Murder by The Smiths. Or perhaps that entire collection.

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Robert Vaughan | Photograph

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Robert Vaughan | No Face World Champ

He had a thing for gimps. Scanning pages of para- Olympic competitors, surfers riding the shark munch waves, cutting out photos of stumps, prosthetics, limbs that were missing, unattached, removing more and more in his mind until he was rubbing a rubbed out image. Shadows of his former wheel-chaired marathon racers, downhill ski racers with singular poles. The last time he saw his psychic, she told him you’re gonna die within six months. Her prediction nearly took over his fantasies of stubby limbs, of one-eyed jacks, of spinal biffs. Instead, he started a support group for People With Missing Limbs (PWML) and posted it all over the social networks, and Craig’s List. The first meeting attracted a large crowd, but he was completely unprepared to respond when Patty, a dwarf who had gone through recent gender reassignment, whose toddler feet had done a tango with a lawnmower, asked him, “So what are you doing here?”

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Robert Vaughan | ====Four Myths====

^Myth One^ Against the fog he was a big man. Against the fire tower he stood out like Paul Bunyon. And there were a great many folks who respected him: firefighter, crusader, bowler of the year. Award-winning spelunker. But we’re his other family. Who would have even known? Not me, not my sister. I try not to remember. I try to tamper down the stink. ?Myth Two? Somebody said she did it for kicks. Another said it was all for attention. I thought it was pretty stupid. Christmas day. Hovering over a fence along a country road? Wearing just a gauzy slip? A surefire way to end up in the loony- bin where Aunt Tina is a lifelong resident. My sister has done some fairly idiotic things, and this was just another in the line of icy dumbass dumb-ness. {Myth Three} Let’s play marco polo she said. I’m unsure you can do that in the ocean. The roar of the waves, the salt in your ears. The leadbelly bottom and sandy rewards. I said let’s disappear into the surf, dissolve into foamy crests, creammate our desires into damp, fertile depths. {hold our breaths forever, in unison}. /Myth Four\ Another small town filled with cheer. You couldn’t miss the liquor sign. Tallest sign in the county, higher than any billboard, larger than every SF&D | lxvi

building. Lit up at night, like my daddy was, mostly. Sometimes, the /q\ and the /u\ would flicker off, and the rest of the word, ‘lior’ reminded me of what I did after he touched me.

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Robert Vaughan | Pets: Three Vignettes

1. I was riding LBJ’s horse bareback when it jumped off the cliff. This was no surprise, as she’d pulled the same stunt once before, into the Rio Grande. Still I was more prepared this time, wore my striped bathing cap from the Five & Ten and had practiced plunging into our pond from a platform my daddy built when he wasn’t at the local watering hole. I tell ya, if it wasn’t for 4-H, I’d be on some other planet like Pluto, where they don’t even have horses, looking for a missing rope to tie myself up through nine lives. 2. I can’t recall whose idea it was. We were tired of the typical Christmas, candy canes, mistletoe, especially the tree. Who really enjoys cutting them down? Lumberjacks, and even though mom used to be in forestry, I think it was Uncle Stan who suggested the kitty tree. At first it sounded like huh? Then, when he drew the photo, all black cats piled atop one another, like the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders in perfect formation, those eyes glaring like a taxidermist’s nightmare, the blackness of the holiday seemed perfect. Little Mina started to race around the living room peeing her pants in excitement, while the rest of us shouted yes! 3. Ever since the Sonoma earthquake, we’ve started eating in the shower. You can accomplish two things simultaneously. Hana insists we eat out of rubberized cat dishes and since both of our kitties were flattened in the rubble, I suppose it’s a way to honor them. But Hana gets claustrophobic and bossy sometimes, blurts things like “eat this!” When she does, I push her face into the oatmeal. Sometimes she laughs, but usually she says it’s like being raped without the r. I just smirk, tell her don’t be such a pussy.

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Robert Vaughan | When He Left it all to Me

He had to leave he said though we’d met only days prior and like with any men breaking boundaries we’d lain together despite barbed wire fences, pools with fathomless bottoms. The morning he split, he thrust his blue down coat into my arms, said I won’t need this, but it was a bitter day when later that December I found the tape in its pocket. Eva Cassidy sang Fields of Gold and I can’t forgive her for dying so young. Where did you go? Still can’t listen to more than the first half; no, less than a quarter of that song.

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Robert Vaughan | Gauze, A Medical Dressing, A Scrim

Gauze When they converted the basement into his room, Billy was too young to know any differently. He just wanted his own space, didn’t want to share it with his five older siblings anymore. Then when he was around ten, he stopped eating dinner with the rest of the family. His mother placed his dinner plate on the top stair every evening. In exchange he only communicated through minute notes he’d send or receive by pulley-pails hooked-up inside the laundry drop. A Medical Dressing One time when Ethyl, the family dachshund, accidentally ventured downstairs, she was never seen again. Same for one sister, Darla, who thought she’d left a sweater atop the laundry machine. Disappeared. Eventually Billy was indistinguishable from any basement dweller, resembling the spider realm. Webs. Gossamer silver. Tears. Detecting vibrations, lurking toward eventual prey. The family nearly forgot he existed. A Scrim Then one day while folding laundry, his mother noticed a note and she decided to read it aloud to the rest of the children at dinner that night: Here is your stormy day, the one with pressing clouds and chilling breeze. Here is your way you fall in step, synchronize laughs and moderate beliefs, acclimatize moods and medications. Here, then your last vestige of blue

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sky and fortitude. A mĂŠlange of mercurial designations. Bastion of sailboats emptying out horizons. They all craned their necks toward the basement.

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Robert Vaughan | The Rooms We Rented

1. Palm Springs: Her tucked hair peaks out from behind both ears like detangled detours. The skintight dress she wears, not a dress, maybe a shift, has lines like the LA freeways, and a red sun appliquéd on the center of her chest. She is an undelivered Christmas cactus in the searing desert. What we learned: We knew so little about the outside world, had no radio and no T.V. And that woman never taught anyone anything worthwhile. 2. Bangor, Maine: On the days she went to church, she braided her hair to her right side so she could see her split ends with alacrity. In between rounds, she’d ask herself: am I breathing underwater? How we changed: She now spoke with just a trace of transatlantic lisp- in a voice that had nothing whatever to do with who she was or where she came from. 3. Madwilly, Tennessee: Today the detainees who usually sit at hidden cubicles are paraded around like a Silicon Valley start-up. They call it points, and I call it farts in a tight space, with no air that collapses your hormones while you wait, alone, in your blind, with your hair follicles afloat. Our mantra: ‘All I want to do is come a little closer.’ Lifted from the port-o-potty wall. 4. Houston: Before she left for overseas, that last night, she told me, all I dream lately is how to get you underneath me. And by underneath, I mean the ocean floor. SF&D | lxxii

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