The Driftwood Review Issue Eight December 2010
Editors: Terry Allen & Dennis Barton
Cover Image : Light in the Country By Dennis Barton
Alexander J. Allison
Adria Abbott Glass
All Growed up in There
Senior Center Lunch
Lost Language of Childhood
Michael Lee Johnson
The Cliff Hanger
Offshore Feeding Area,
Jim Davis Jr.
Guadalupe Island 38
The Double Breasted Suit
Fiction 14-17 24 36-37
Cross Timbers Miserably Found
by by by
Geoff Peck Chris Conti Christina Low
by by by
Christopher Woods Dennis Barton Christopher Woods
Photography 19 30 39
Bluebird Sheds Rooftops
Alexander J. Allison live vibrations my ears were ringing and my feet were itchy and i was aware of my hands. i didnâ€™t know where to put my hands. i consciously adopted the blankest expression my face could master and listened to my friend who was playing his music. since i wasnâ€™t listening, i told myself i liked it. everyone else liked it, they used their hands like everything was deliberate and everything made sense to them. i concentrated on how my legs ached. and clapped when the song ended, though i couldnâ€™t remember the song (i had sung along at one bit with no idea of what i was saying). it smelt of stale sweat and everyone was smiling.
James Clark Evolution Something had not happened or almost nothing and in-between, circling, skirting the non-existent something concludes a point a measurement of tithes singing a ring cycle river borne to aqueduct an intake, a valve, a pressure gauge wheels turns round a release held to capture that piece invariably different in tone on ice and skating under winter wraps the magical click of a new tide as moon pull reverberates a shudder and turn
[Today, stamped, a letter arrives post haste a window on my name no latch, no key, no door a flap, adjusts to open (the finger slide) to news of a sort] curvature and torsion all correct a balance, magical fulcrum cube roots parenthetical a triumvirate lucky-dip hat a circle of fifths drops down the scale to pitch space even spiral through black gates of wrought iron lucky helix
Adria Abbott Glass Cheating
She told him last night when her head hurt, her eyes sore, like creosote coating her optic nerve. Pained to look at him, worse, to look at herself knowing The eyelashes shed on the bathroom counter smelled of honeysuckle. The thought made her sneeze
H.D. Brown All Growed up in There The impression left in your finger from growing around your wedding ring Stays there long after you take it off It stays as long as it was there And if you donâ€™t find another one To take its place The old one could slip back on As easily as it came off When you used to remove it To work on your car It do leave a mark But it aint the same As leaving it on
Lavina Blossom Senior Center Lunch ―My wife’s name was Virginia,‖ he says. Conversation stops. He looks around at their pinched patience, their nods, suffers their sad murmurings before he examines his plate and keeps his mouth shut so they can carry on revisiting places they were born, their travels to exotic countries, various other states.
His days have been largely unvaried and he is no more interested in their histories than they are in his memories of a woman who was all the states to him. No southern belle, not sultry, cool headed. His still, shape and smell, although thereâ€™s nothing to her here he hasnâ€™t willed to fill the lulls, until a jolt, someone saying her name. Three syllables, a word thatâ€™s nothing like their Washington or their Portugal.
Geoff Peck Cross Timbers Tarver sticks the knife in just below the whitetail’s breastbone, tells me it really is an art not to get piss and shit all over yourself. He continues to narrate. Lets me know you have to cut through the abdominal wall, not just the hide, but be sure to point the blade towards you. This prevents cutting the internal organs and keeps the blade from getting dull. He’s been doing this since he was six. He grew up on this ranch—was basically raised in a blind. I’ve never shot anything in my life, and don’t care for the field dressing lesson now, but he’s my new brother-in -law, so I keep the rifle slung across my shoulder, look interested. After he removes the penis and testicles, he shows me how to cut around the anus. Two inches in diameter with a four inch insertion. He stresses the importance of not cutting the rectum. ―Ah, and look here,‖ he says and motions for me to come closer. He shows me the fecal matter, tells me this means we’ve got to tie the intestine in a knot above the rectum. He does this without gloves. ―Going in bareback,‖ he says. He turns and smiles, but I don’t catch the euphemism fast enough, and when I don’t react the emotion leaves his face. He turns back to the deer.
It’s Thanksgiving morning, just an hour after sunrise, and the wind brings a chill as it blows through the Cross Timbers, but Tarver doesn’t mind, having removed his jacket long before. His sleeves are rolled up at his elbows, but I can still see spotting on them. Blood covers his hands and forearms, making him look like a surgeon from another time. It’s his first Thanksgiving without his father. A fact my wife made sure I was aware of before we came home, telling me nineteen was too young for this to happen to him, that I needed to go hunting with him this morning. I can sense it in his demeanor that she’s right, that he needs to impress this ritual upon me, that the mechanics can keep his mind off his father. Next is the bladder. Tarver points out the translucent, pear-shaped sac to me before he pinches off the tract with one hand and cuts it free with the other. It looks like a water balloon covered in blood. I stare past it to the buck split open below, to the dead grass around him. I try to dilate my pupils until everything merges. When he finishes field dressing the deer, I help him hang the carcass in the doorway of their barn so it can drain. He tells me this spot is best because it allows the south wind to circulate through the body cavity, staving off the early onset of bacterial growth. 15
After we make sure it’s high enough to where the dogs can’t get to it, he asks to see the picture I took of him with the deer. With the blood still on his hands, I hold my digital camera in front of him. He has the buck by the antlers, its neck twisted in a fashion that makes me turn away. ―Funny thing is,‖ he says while looking at the picture. ―I’ve always loved animals. When I was little I wanted to pet the deer I’d see out here on our land, of course I couldn’t ever get close enough, but when I started hunting with my dad, I’d pet the ones we killed while he set up to dress them.‖ I think of how I saw him do this today. When he dropped to a knee in front of the deer, he took it by the antlers with one hand and the other stroked its side as if it was his dog. ―I’ve been doing this all my life, and my heart still races when I first catch sight of a whitetail,‖ he tells me. ―There’s something majestic about them, you know?‖ He pauses, glances at me. I recognize the look, remember it from when I was a teenager. The self-consciousness that arises when you think you've made yourself vulnerable. ―I mean, I still want to shoot them—prove that I can, you know?‖ Something visceral runs through me, and I get the urge to tell him how twisted this sounds. But it’s Oklahoma and I know better. I just nod.
He takes a rag from his back pocket and tries to wipe off the blood. Some of it has already turned dark purple, dried to his skin. ―I guess that’s called a paradox, huh?‖ he laughs, searches my face for recognition. I nod again. He looks down at the rag in his hands, then back to me. ―Hang on,‖ he says and disappears into the barn. I watch the whitetail sway back and forth, listen to the tension it places on the structure it hangs from. When Tarver reappears he’s holding two cans of High Life. ―Secret stash,‖ he tells me and tosses one my way. I look towards the house, wondering if my wife and mother-in-law are up yet. ―C’mon, man, we’ve gotta celebrate,‖ he says and pats me on the shoulder. ―I haven’t bagged a deer on Thanksgiving in four years.‖ This gets to me and I tap my beer to his. The beer is skunked but he doesn’t seem to notice. He leans against the barn door and looks over his family’s land: the blackjack oaks freckling the prairie, the turkey grass grown tall and colorless. We wait for the deer to drain.
Penny Wilkes Lost Language of Childhood Back when curiosity did all the work, nothing irritated beyond the inconvenience of nightfall that robbed them of tree climbing light. Back when they scampered into magnolias and oaks despite parental warnings. Eavesdropped on birds and questioned why ancestors ever wanted to leave the doughy scent of branches. Summers, they wore white for the boysenberries. Against the cloth, they hurled and dribbled the purple stain of emblems no mother's detergent could obscure. their defiance spread to words discovered in forbidden books like canoodle and others of four letters. They let aloud the hushed secrets of sex. then tasted the tang of sour apples and hid promises in limb shrines. Back on the ground, wind would always lift their kites beyond gravity's disappointments.
Bluebird by Christopher Woods
Michael Lee Johnson Thoughtful First updraft late September at the door almost asleep remembering what I forgot at the store my ex-girlfriend shows up on my doorstep with no place to stayď€ my birthday.
The Cliff Hanger Old age brings cliff hanger choices. If I stay sitting down a minute too long, I may not be able to get up at all, thinks Charles, his walking poles casually leaned against a garden wall. Every day, the balance shifts slightly. Heâ€™s patrolled this neighbourhood for 30 years and today he dully thinks of cutting it short, and resting a while. Cloud shadows pass as he slowly sinks. Death has become a charming woman, cultured and sensual and knows him well. She invites surrender at every choice, coos Tch! Itâ€™s so hard to pick up the poles. His heartbeats rise beneath her voice. Struggling back up onto his feet poles shuddering under his weight, he sets off again, now relieved to flee that lulling voice that slips into his ears: I wait for the day when you come to me.
Dixon Hearne Transitions See the faces run, Cry down the candle postâ€” Take your place Among the masses Lifeâ€™s tangibles, Intangibles, Facsimile, Refuse. Call in the candle maker Another generation passes.
Marietta Calvanico Ballast Cityscape from the 44th floor Sun split over the Hudson, This is almost too pretty to take seriously, More like the postcards that are sold at every newsstand, You are more beautiful. You manage to hold me down securely, No easy task, If you let go, I’ll surely float Up… Crowds of people pointing at the sky over Times Square will say: You can’t even tell she’s a person from down here.
Chris Conti MISERABLY Having reached the Place de la Concorde, my thought was not to kill myself, as was Nervalâ€™s before me, but to rescue from the Place de la Concorde the object of Nervalâ€™s thought. But like Nerval, I failed miserably.
Jerry Kraft Breakthrough Scientists pursue replicable proof with methods built of centuries, verifiable by the physical senses. How then to prove sub-atomic belief or measure pale dreams of cold mist; how to culture desire in a Petri dish? No equation describes the condition of our dark and private universe, no physics for how we long to be.
Bodie’s ancient gas pump whispered a Western story if you put your ear to it, refusing to shut up; the weeds sang to clanking chains, and chalk dust coated us pale, the tinge of our ghost town ancestors. Picture us: sephia tourists, hands through glassless panes, fingering artifacts placed for our amusement: mule blinders, gun oil, tooth pliers and pincers, gargantuan needles to mend skeletal corsets and bustles, the unruly implements of past lives rooted out. An uncle said Bodie had more whores than horses, while countless daughters prayed west and wept, Goodbye God, I’m going to Bodie. A gang of grandfathers who couldn’t keep their pants on appointed me frontier child, keeper of forgotten photographs, engraved lockets, and railroad pocket watches— so thank God I’m just passing through.
Weâ€™re the ones with wicked blood, hankering for whiskey brawls and forgettable love; a spell of lost fortunes catapulted us home. What was it like to be cast back a handful of generations, fortunate or unfortunate? Everyone I ever loved now has rust in place of blood, buried with poker chips for eyes, dressed naked or with dice cuff-links. My mother is an antique, my father exiled to an Orange County bone yard. Who would have thought? Our gold rush lust is boundless.
Dixon Hearne ―Heather Days‖ Time passing easy Since I said goodbye To wide-eyed friendships That never were, People grabbing my hours, Stealing my youth— Entangled names and roles. I never quite got your script, But I made me smile, Pressed my jeans Stepped out On the town Always together—ever apart. We laughed louder then. Life was simple Before I cared. Tomorrow came With too much new Or too little care. Now caught between My willful ways And gentle means.
Spring Cleaning I want to tell you: the things we hold onto are only phantoms: bone crushed into dust, old flannel shirts, abalone from Mexico. At the airport, you remind me, every visitor wants to be greeted on arrival. I go on pretending you have met me with daisies in your hand. You protest building again on unsympathetic grounds. On the phone, I want to tell you: it is okay. What we have lost cannot be known in skeleton terms. When our eyes meet, briefly, I watch the wincing way we are each alone. At home, I open my closets, pull out the buoys I have used to keep afloat: fabric, porcelain, and paper begin to sink. I want to tell you: we are sponges: water does not mend the holes, cannot tear them wider. 29
Sheds by Dennis Barton
Allison Meraz Blacklisted
As the nurse’s white walk retreats from Alzheimer’s row Uncle Willy’s eyes fix on the dresser, the framed photo of him and Castro
We watch Looney Tunes silently laughing together
When the grown-ups leave finally we risk eye contact
He pulls a bloody tooth from his grin, proud Reds, he says 31
Melodie Corrigall Flying ―You don’t look a day older,‖ he glows amiably, which is true. I have a youthful face. And being a sport, I respond in kind. ―Same for you,‖ I beam, (shame on my white lie). In fact, he looks ancient. His hair, a metallic gray, his face wizened and pale. The spongy chin sagging, the stomach bloated and resigned. ―I always think of flying when I think of you,‖ he chuckles. ―Flying?‖
―You said you would learn to fly. Did you ever?‖ ―Not yet,‖ I confess. ―Too late for wings now,‖ he cries, tenaciously cheerful. ―Au contraire,‖ I protest, ―still on my list.‖ He grins. We promise to meet for lunch, when things slow down. Then off he goes for another twenty years. ―If we live that long‖ he turns to shout gleefully.
Jim Davis Jr. Offshore Feeding Area, Guadalupe Island In the shark infested water off the coast, I see you, bobbing in buoyant blue, cast in the ochre reflection of rocky peaks, my salutatory fin carving wake, consigned to attraction, lured by you, breathing your salty essence, and me – coming in hot. Aroused by your scent, my black eyes glaze over and I swallow you whole. For a moment there is nothing – pure bliss – then a jerk, a tug and a stiff piercing which I endure, nothing that could sour your fleshy bouquet, I roll my tongue over you, salivate, gnaw and digest your juices and by the time I realize you’ve been pulling in the opposite direction, it’s too late: there are buoys in the water and long meters of braided cable trailing behind us, tracing our path through what was pristine. Still, with you in my mouth I am somehow confident, sprinting with scarred fins, calcified claspers, a pain in my jaw that won’t quit.
I tumble and roll and suddenly, without warning, you, the pain, gone. I slow and slice gingerly through the depths, unguided, within a tidal haze I undulate slightly to stay afloat, barely swimming: pain free, taste free, free of sight and sound and numb to the white core of me. Until, in the distance, a splash, an intoxicating, recognizable perfume. I discover you, bobbing indifferently on a blue blanket, cast in menacing, rocky shadow. Entranced, I circle with glazed eyes, wanting nothing more than another bite. Instead, I turn a piece of driftwood in the sand, I flick a green bug from my calf, dust my thigh, I spend all afternoon on a beach towel, pink from the sun.
Christina Low Found
For years, I thought he left me. I envisioned my heart as a plastic molded thing; a kind of two-piece Valentine clamshell with a small bear holding a silk flower or a felt heart inside. Red. Opaque. I knew I would never love again because he told me, ―this won’t break you,‖ and I believed him. That was when I wrote in my journal every day. April 12 He paged me for lunch, even though he has Robin. We met at Zippy’s and he held my hands across the table. ―She’s a kind woman,‖ he said, and I twisted inside. I wanted to tell him, ―I am a kind woman. Why don’t you want me anymore?‖ but I knew it was futile. I pulled away, twisted my chopsticks around my saimin, piled the noodles atop my spooned broth, swallowed the scalding words instead. June 3 I can’t sleep, can’t stop crying. It’s like a part of me is missing. I tried to tell him to leave me alone, but I don’t really want that. He told me he wants me in his life. Almost every day I drive by his house on Lime Street, peer into his windows as I sit at the red light, and pray he saunters past in his paisley pajamas so I can see if he’s happy. June 18 Last week, he invited me over while she was out. Leaning up against the wall were two paintings. One was an exact replica of a photo of me smiling, the word ―Sunshine‖ above my head in orange block letters. The other, a gross cartoon of a red finger-nailed woman holding a martini, her legs spread wide open. Her skin, green and warty. She sat at a bar with a sickened man who looked like him. I hate that he sees me this way, am beginning to hate him, too.
August 1 We had dinner at Old Spaghetti Factory. I asked him to give me some time alone—no paging me at three in the morning, no showing up to my work unannounced, no more letters and no more paintings. I need some time for me because it’s always all about him. I didn’t say that of course, but I felt bad when he almost cried three times. ―You’re leaving me?‖ he asked, incredulous, before telling me how she made him leave me—how, if he had it to do over again, he would have chosen me. I call bullshit. Besides, it’s too late. I just want to heal. For years, I’ve been licking my wounds. I married a gentle man, spent ten years thinking my plastic heart didn’t mean I couldn’t love—just that I was safe. I left my journals alone, unread. Now I’ve found them, I have to edit my whole life.
KC Culver Daphne: Afterward "Since you cannot be my wife," said he, "you shall assuredly be my tree." -Bulfinch's Mythology The most important part of the story, no one tells: Daphne, afterward, her long fingers transformed into rough, crooked branches. Never again to feel her father's embrace, she traces the wind as it passes through her foliage. Eternally green, she watches the hunters who pass by, unaware of the ease of moving. She is surrounded by silence and the heavy memory of flight. Rooted, she cannot escape Apollo, her only visitor, who shamelessly strips her leaves in a noble kind of rape and turns his back, leaving her day after day.
Rooftops by Christopher Woods
J.M. Ricks The Double Breasted Suit Small town boys, smooth cheeked, no guile, all we knew of style was flannel shirts and jeans. Then a leap: the double breasted suit, with its wide lapels stretched out like wings, trousers tumbling over the shoe tops, the break in the pant legs a wry beckoning grin that called out, sure as supper, this is what a man wears; time to begin. Finally the moment, embraced in my suit, tie newly knotted: a medal at my throat. My fatherâ€™s face draws close, Old Spice and smoke, his eyes moist, he whistles, one pure note.