arie DelloBuono, Kristin Martino, Emera Wilson, M Willow Wilson
Meghan Decker, Donna Smyrl
The Griffin is a literary journal sponsored by Gwynedd-Mercy College. Its mission is to enrich society by nurturing and promoting creative writing that demonstrates a unique and intelligent voice. We seek writing which accurately embodies or reflects the human condition with all its intellectual, emotional and ethical challenges. Like the mythical griffin, a constructed creature of fearless strength and courage, we prefer formed works rather than experimental ones. Manuscripts of literary works â€“ poetry, short stories, short plays, reflections â€“ are accepted for consideration for publication throughout the year. Copyright 2009 by Gwynedd-Mercy College. Subscriptions available for $10. Checks for subscriptions should be made payable to Gwynedd-Mercy College and sent to: The Griffin c/o Dr. Donna M. Allego Gwynedd-Mercy College 1325 Sumneytown Pike P.O. Box 901 Gwynedd Valley, PA 19437-0901
Donna M. Allego Editor In times of change and unrest, art remains a cultural bedrock. It is with great pleasure that The Griffin staff presents the 2009 edition. From numerous manuscripts we have culled fine representatives of our human experiences. Join our authors as they journey into relationships, the self, art and music and humor, as well as lifeâ€™s pleasures and social issues. We hope that you enjoy our newest feature, the essays and stories by Gwynedd-Mercy College students who were the collegeâ€™s outstanding writers of the year. Due to economic reasons, this will be the last issue of The Griffin for a while. Although the magazine is on hiatus for a year, I hope to resume my duties as editor and speak to you again. Many, many thanks to student editors Marie DelloBuono, Kristin Martino, Emera Wilson, and Willow Wilson for their love of the work and camaraderie. Much appreciation to the publication crew, Donna Smyrl and Meghan Decker, and to the Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Denise Wilbur, who believed in the magazine. And, of course, thank you to my gracious colleagues throughout the college who enjoyed the readings. Blessings to everyone.
Table of Contents
Forward. .......................................................................................... iii Relationships
What Happens Between Us Joe Lamport...................................... 10
The Placenta Tree Ian Caskey....................................................... 11
Dual Images (Requiring Parental Guidance) Richie H. Smith....................................................................... 16
Your Father Left His Wings Behind Laura Sobbott Ross............... 17
The Feeling Will Pass Andrew Millar............................................. 18
Of Sister, Of Daughter Sigrid Johnson........................................... 23
Home Sigrid Johnson.................................................................... 24
Leaving Jonah In Pittsburgh Joan Rudel....................................... 25
To The Andromeda Galaxy From The Milky Way K. E. Duffin............................................................................. 26
The Purple Vase John McCluskey.................................................. 27
His Guitar Arun Gaur................................................................... 30
Sortilegio Heather Caliri............................................................... 31
Ode To Light Alicia Gerner.......................................................... 33
Daughters Of Milton Chella Courington...................................... 34
Lines Composed In The 7-Eleven Parking Lot Joseph Lamport....................................................................... 35
Each Burning Season Linda Swanberg.......................................... 36 iv
The Empty Notebook In Buenos Aires: Tango Para Uno Susan Thomas......................................................................... 37
Debut K. E. Duffin....................................................................... 38
Highfalutin Formation Janice Lierz............................................... 39
The Ascension Of Helen Z. Brenda Liebling-Goldberg.................. 41
No More River Ice Alita Pirkopf................................................... 46
Rising Sun John F. Danahy............................................................ 47
Drunk Night Miles Brugmann...................................................... 53
The Gamble David Kitson............................................................ 54
The Flower Matt Counte.............................................................. 56
Bright Holders Of Plenty Ellen Case............................................ 57
Epitaph Marvin Adelson............................................................... 61
Internet Legend Lenny Levine...................................................... 62
Just Figures Noel Sloboda............................................................. 68
The Dramatist Caroline P. Huber.................................................. 70
One Spring Day Leland Thoburn.................................................. 73
Second Chance Mary L. Hickey.................................................... 78
John Michael Shannon.................................................................. 80
Hole In Throat Kelly DeLong....................................................... 83
Chinese Tracy DeBrincat............................................................... 89
Linda Lives Christine Ecklund...................................................... 91 v
Deeper Megan O’Reilly................................................................. 94
Niche George Bishop.................................................................... 95
In Montparnasse Cemetary Pamela Davis..................................... 96
Bathroom Mirrors Michael Sandler.............................................. 97
City Kids Twilight Marvin Adelson............................................... 98
Pony Ride Pamela Davis............................................................... 99
Sunflower Georgia Ressmeyer..................................................... 100
The Clouds Alan Robert Connors............................................... 102
Mountain #3 Yu Chiwhan.......................................................... 103
Vincent’s Worker John Peterson.................................................. 104
The Tender Grass Helen Wickes.................................................. 105
Fishing Megan O’Reilly............................................................... 107
Carnival Ride Alicia Gerner........................................................ 109
The Shamanic Power Of Song V. M. Fry..................................... 110
The Bench And The Wind Rafael Valverde................................. 112
Dr. Zanolli’s Fine Day At Work Tanya Chernov......................... 115
A Homeless Man Is Singing Jonathan Greenhause...................... 116
Orange Like That Shannon Joyce Prince..................................... 117
Thirteen Year Old Boy Gunned Down On His Way Home From The Store Laura Sobbott Ross............................................ 119 vi
Sophie’s Walk Bill DeArmond..................................................... 120
The Explosion Maureen Curcio.................................................. 122
Gwynedd-Mercy College Outstanding High School Poet of Montgomery County Contest Winners
(Untitled) Lara Beatrice McQueen.............................................. 124
My Universe Debbie Hersh......................................................... 125
Roaches In Our Relationship Konrad Swartz.............................. 126
Outstanding College Writers of Gwynedd-Mercy College’s Writing Contest
In The Arms Of My Brother Abby Reed..................................... 128
Continuing Research On Whale Conservation Chase Hall............................................................................ 131
A True Best Friend Relationship Alexandra Gurko...................... 134
Pedagogical Methods & Hamlet: Treating Students As Critics, Artists, And Learners Maureen Curcio....................... 136
J.R.R. Tolkien’s Use Of Language In His Literature Willow Wilson....................................................................... 144
Environment David Smith.......................................................... 151
Notes on Contributors............................................................ 158
What Happens Between Us Joe Lamport
Life is what happens between us The spark and the beauty Of our proximal journey What emerges from within Drawn out by orbital spin A careless timeless knowledge That stays with us even as We motor along the curve of tomorrow Approaching a new perigee Where standing right next to me We will be most intimate In the gravity of our predestined embrace Life is what happens between us The sturm and the drang of it Where the yin meets the yang of it As the front of fondness Gives rise to a storm of co-movement and co-motion Confirming the sum and substance Of all our before and aftermath And then in the rays of after sun Following the shutter-shaking squall We reemerge from our habitual dwellings Tentative in our first chirp Though determined to reclaim the Earth
The Placenta Tree Ian Caskey
The tip of the trowel broke dirt. Roots thumped. May stabbed again. “Be sure you work it in a circle,” the woman said. May jabbed out an oblong circle. “Now dig out the dirt,” the woman said. May thrust her hands into the earth. The woman smiled. May tossed dirt to the side. It splashed heavy. She came across a root and tugged. It wouldn’t budge. She wedged the trowel underneath and pulled. She grunted. The root snapped. Dirt splashed up. She shut her eyes and turned and spit and wiped the dirt from her face. She dug some more. “That’s good,” the woman said. May stood up and clapped her hands clean, forming a cloud of dirt. The woman, wearing a red bandana with white paisleys, coughed onto the back of her hand, a raspy cough. She stepped over to the hole, crouching down, the top flap of her bandana fluttered open, showing her baldhead. Her knees creaked. She settled and placed the palms of her hands onto her thighs. Her eyes were sore, redlined and pink. She squinted, looking into the hole, black soil and squiggly wet root. “Now get me my knapsack,” she said. At the trunk of the poplar tree, May grabbed the knapsack by the strap, and dragged it along the ground, parting dead leaves. “Don’t drag it,” the woman said. May lifted the strap and laid it across her forehead. The sack tapped off her butt as she traipsed along. She stopped beside the woman. They gazed into the dark hole. The woman took the knapsack and flopped open the flap. She pulled out a rectangular Tupperware container. There was something dark inside. She pulled the lid off. A rank metallic odor struck the air. Inside the container was a maroon blob covered with tufts of frost. Placenta. It had been stored in the freezer since May had been born. The woman wanted to save it for the right time, a time that May would remember. She set the container down beside the hole. “All right put her in there,” she said. May got onto her knees and lifted the back end of the container. The placenta slipped over the edge, thick and thin vascular stretches, and slopped into the hole, rolling, breaded in dirt. It settled on top of the squiggly wet root, a black blob. Their hands, young and old, bulldozed from the mounds of dirt «11»
dirt back into the hole filling it halfway, a soiled depression. “Now get the sapling,” the woman said. Back at the poplar tree, May grabbed the sapling. Baby leaves fluttered as she trotted back over to the hole, smiling. Her milk teeth gleamed, a row of milky kernels. She held the sapling up. A burlap sack was tied to the bottom. The woman pulled the twine string and the twine loops shrank, disappearing. Pinching burlap, she unveiled the sapling’s bottom. Wild roots naked. May set the sapling into the hole, holding it there while the woman pushed the rest of the dirt into the hole. May plopped onto her knees. They spanked the earth, a jumble of hands, large and small imprints on the black soil. The sapling quivered. They stood and held hands, forming a circle around the sapling. The woman looked at May and nodded. They closed their eyes. May could feel the sun against her face, especially her eyelids, warm and red. The wind blew. Leaves rustled. The top flap of the bandana flapped open and stayed, a paisley crown. On the woman’s baldhead, off-center, was a dime-sized tattoo of black dots. Close to the tattoo, on a scaly patch of flesh, was a long and squiggly hair that lifted and swayed in the wind, a crisp antenna. The woman spoke. “To you the incomprehensible fabric of the world formed in a circle. To you who give through sun, moon, and earth and ask for nothing in return. To you who live in us all spiraling out through the air to the ether and to the outer stretches of the universe. To you we say ... “ She squeezed May’s hands, “Greetings,” they said in unison. The bald woman tongued the sores in her mouth and continued, “And with our greetings we ask that you accept this sapling and its life. We ask that you will help it to grow as you have helped us. And on this day, in this time, this is what we ask. May it be heard.” May giggled. “Now be with us in silence,” the woman said. They stood in silence. A crow cawed in the distance. A wind skated by. Leaves crinkled. Darkness crossed over May’s face. Cold. She opened her eyes. In the darkness, a baby leaf danced. The woman’s eyes were still closed, her eyelids quivering, her mouth silently warbling. Tight around a dead oak tree was a strip of fire red flagging. The woman hooked it with her fingers and pulled. It stretched, gummy, and then broke. Single-handedly, she balled it up and stuffed it into her knapsack. She mumbled under her breath, “thirsty.” May looked up at her. They kept walking through the woods. May kept on singing. Placenta tree. Placenta tree. We just planted a placenta tree, placenta tree, placenta tree, pla-cen-ta Tree ... Mommy?” “Yes deary.” «12»
“Is the placenta tree gonna grow up and have organs like we do?” “Not exactly,” the woman said, smiling. “Then what?” “Well ... our placenta will disintegrate into the earth, and the tree will get its nutrients from that and grow.” “So the tree won’t have organs?” “No.” “Oh,” May said, and then wondered if the tree could have a brain without organs. They kept walking. May kicked a dead branch. It rolled to the side. She bit her lip and looked down at her mom’s boots covered with flecks of green and tan paint. They stopped. Between two spindly bushes hammered in the ground was a flagged wooden stake. “What’s that?” May said. “A property marker,” the woman said. They stared at the wooden stake. “Nobody owns this land,” the woman muttered, “Nobody.” She booted the stake with her right boot and then booted it with her left boot, back-and-forth, an awkward dance, until it was good and loose, and then she pulled it out. The triangular tip was soiled. She tore the flagging from the top of the stake, and handed it to May. “Go bury this under some leaves,” she said. May grabbed the stake and trotted off. The woman looked down. Buried in the ground, a dirty white cap with a strip of red flagging tied around it. She crouched down. Her knobby knees jutted up. She cleared the dirt off the cap with her thumb. It read: Grazer & Sons. She puffed angrily and clawed around the cap revealing a steel rod. She clawed out more dirt and latched onto the steel rod. She pulled. Her thin muscles trembled. She pulled some more, grunting. “Come on ... come on ... “ She continued to tug, a spastic jerking, but the steel rod wouldn’t budge. Anger seized her mind. She slipped into recall. The hospital. The room is cold. The blue-slipover is loosely tied across my back. I feel like the incredible shrinking woman shrinking in front of the white plastic machine that looks like a gigantic toy faucet. The nurse tells me to lie on the steel table. I hate steel. The steel is cold against the exposed strips of my back and the backsides of my calves. My heart is racing, but I keep telling myself it’s okay. The nurse asks if I’m okay. I nod. Then she puts the thermoplastic mask on my face. Through the white mesh of the mask, I study what’s inside the white plastic ring of the faucet. The x-ray «13»
circle. The nurse screws the mask onto the table so my face won’t move. She leaves. Voices on the intercom. I keep my eyes open and still. The room goes dark. A fluorescent light beams precisely around the black dots tattooed on my head. The faucet clicks. The x-ray circle lights up—black and grey. I feel nothing. Radiation. I can’t feel it, but I know it’s killing everything, the good and the bad. May could hear her mom in the distance, struggling. She dropped more leaves, spreading them with her foot. She looked up and across the way. A fawn stood sideways, its caramel-colored fur dotted with creamy dots. May’s eyes widened. She could feel her heart beating as she locked eyes with the fawn, whose black eye, full of life, had leaked over time into its fur, a syrupy tear. Blustering, the fawn snapped a poof of air. May gasped as the fawn pranced through the pine trees, disappearing. The woman yanked at the steel rod. Spastic. Her face reddened. A vein bulged on her forehead. May ran towards her with her arms in the air. “I just saw a deer. A baby deer.” The woman looked up, exasperated, and coughed onto the back of her hand, a raspy cough. “You did?” “Yeah, over there, over there,” May said pointing. “Over there. Did you see?” “No,” the woman said, hoarsely. “Oh my god it was so pretty. I’ve never seen anything like it, the baby deer. You should have seen it, it was so, so deery.” “Well that’s nice,” the woman said and stood up and clapped her hands clean. “I wish you’d seen it,” May said. The woman looked down at May. “Well I see you,” she said with a loving smile, “and that’s enough for me.” Through the trees, peeking over the top of the dirt bank was the top half of the green Plymouth station wagon. May took giant steps while the woman walked with a gnarled stick, poking at the earth. May stopped, reared back, and then jumped. She pranced about, getting lighter with each step. She reached for her mother’s hand, missing. “I wonder why the baby deer was alone.” The woman poked mud. “Watch your step,” she said. They walked around the mud. “Maybe its mother was sick.” “No,” the woman said. “The mother wasn’t sick.” «14»
“How do you know?” “I just do.” “Oh,” May said, wanting to ask more questions but didn’t. The woman flung the knapsack into the back of the station wagon. The strap latched onto the lock knob, jerking the knapsack back which hit the carpeted floor, landing next to a cluttered stack of canvases. The top canvas, an oil painting, was of a brain-shaped mountain growing from its wrinkled crevasses bountiful trees and bountiful bushes. The backdrop was menacing, black and grey–a swirling void. The woman was behind the wheel with her head craned back, gulping from a ribbed plastic bottle: water. Bubbles raced from her pursed lips through the water. May watched her mother’s throat, the Adam’s apple rising and falling with each gulp. Mother finished the bottle and screwed the cap back on and tossed it into the back with all the other empties. Her throat still burned and the sores in her mouth itched. Tonguing the deepest sore, she winced, pulling another bottle out from under the seat. Untwisting the cap, she clenched it as she gulped more water. Silently May was crying, tears rolling down her plump cheeks, swelling between her closed lips. She licked her lips, tasting the bitter salt of her tears and looked back into the woods, wishing for the placenta tree to grow up with a brain, a brain that would be all right.
Dual Images (Requiring Parental Guidance) Richie H. Smith
1. For Her If the doves could raise you from your sleep, I’d follow you like a blindfolded boy, a finger’s breadth from my mother’s outstretched hand I can still see her through the off-white film of a flowing gown the breeze from those softly flapping wings comforts me on numerous occasions she had to pluck the twisted arrows from the depths of my infant skin folds rosy and white, untouched by the sun still shielded by a cloud layer it obscures me from the image 2. For Him My father skipping down the steps newspaper under his arm, thin wallet worn through the seat of his corduroy a selfless trot to the secondhand car where he scrapes the frost, inhales the exhaust until I meet him inside on the torn vinyl upholstery and the start of just another ordinary November morning
Your Father Left His Wings Behind Laura Sobbott Ross
In memory of Dan Ross His hang glider stayed folded for months by the compost heap, mosses already flowering in shades of green over places that once knew midair. Remember how he told us he had seen both coastlines while inland and rising above the emerald column of Florida, clouds in his white hair, wind as pure as spring fed water... His fourth wife took his ashes to Australia. She was a mail order bride from the Philippines, not like his third wife who had eyes the color of peanut butter he told us once, recalling island music. We had to sell the hang glider and just about everything else we could carry to the fence that Saturday morning in November— those picked-over pieces of us, an awkward reckoning beneath strangers’ hands. That was after you dreamt of your father and his urgency for you to find the answer folded into the pocket of the mildewed canvas that sheathed his old wings. We half expected a yellowed check, a lottery ticket, an Irish blessing, an incantation handwritten between rain etched creases. Oh God, if we could only dream again— not in the white knuckled way of the displaced, poised and weighted along some sudden ledge. It’s just like falling in love again, your father might have whispered in his voice of wind, threading the sky on airborne limbs— the sea, green eyed this time, and altogether too beautiful to resist. «17»
The Feeling Will Pass Andrew Millar
Two hours ago, while eating their TV dinners without ketchup because her mother forgot to go to the grocery store today and stayed home sorting family pictures into two piles on the couch – ones with Sanabelle’s dad and ones without – two hours ago, Sanabelle’s nose was completely filled with mucus. When she picked it, her mother paused and said, “How many times do I have to tell you, do not pick your nose. One of these times you will scratch your brain and that will be it.” Sanabelle’s mother lied about many things. She lied in the form of declarations of the unrealistic; accidentally scratching one’s brain, for example, is unrealistic. Sanabelle knew this. Her mother also lied in the form of false promises, assertions like “I will send you to the orphanage if you keep eating Mommy’s chocolate,” or, “I will buy you the boots, but you have to stop asking about your father.” Not long ago her mother told her, “Seven-year-olds can’t stay awake past ten o’clock because it will make them so tired they will sleep for years. When they wake up, their friends won’t remember them. You’ll have no friends.” Sanabelle had wanted to get her father’s opinion on this matter, but his office door had been locked for an hour. She had stayed awake that night, watching the red numbers on her alarm clock change, wondering if she was about to undertake hibernation. Perhaps she should have eaten handfuls of peanuts, she thought to herself. Just in case. At nine fifty-nine, wide awake, she lay safely under the covers so that in the unlikely case her mother was correct and ten o’clock felled her like a fainting spell, she wouldn’t hit her head on the dresser. Ten o’clock came. She did not suddenly become sleepy. She was still awake at ten o’ five, and would have gone downstairs to prove her mother’s fallacy, but her parents’ voices grew loud from the living room, the third night in a row. She pulled her blanket up to her ears. So tonight, when her mother told her to keep her finger out of her nose, Sanabelle took the opportunity to finally challenge her mother’s irrationality. She looked directly into her mother’s face and slid her index finger into her right nostril as far as it would go. She was grounded for the rest of the night, possibly for the rest of the week depending on how fast she got her act together. Scratch your brain – what a preposterous thing to say. Sanabelle knew the difference between the textures of booger and of brain. She had never touched a brain but had seen what they looked like and inferred their texture was similar to that of hamburger. ~ «18»
Earlier today Sanabelle’s mother had gone from room to room wearing her tan bathrobe creating a one-sided dialogue. She grasped a handful of her own hair and pointed with the other hand at their sofa, the color of the local wheat fields on a cloudy day. “The sofa. Yours. You wouldn’t just leave it, would you? No.” She moved into the office, where Sanabelle’s father often sat at his russet wooden desk and sorted his business papers. Most of them had an emblem at the top of the page, a star inside a circle and the words Oklahoma State Board of Licensed Social Workers. “See. Your files are here. You can’t leave them, can you? No, you have to come back.” “When is he coming back?” Sanabelle asked. Her mother put her hand on her own forehead, causing her hair to curl up and over her fingers. She said, “Child support, of course. But what about the rest? I’m going to have to get a job?” “When is he coming?” Sanabelle asked. Her mother slammed her hand on the desk. “What am I supposed to do if you decide you’re a queer freak?” Sanabelle shouted. “When is he coming back?” Her mother noticed her. “Soon, sweetie,” she said. This, too, bore a hint of untruthfulness. Sanabelle wasn’t stupid – she knew her mother was keeping something from her, something to do with her father’s absence, and this infuriated her. ~ As Sanabelle lay on her bed now, confined to her room, staring at the ceiling and clenching her jaw, she could hear her mother stumbling around the rooms of the first floor again, digging through the rubble of the house, sorting the fragments. Everything her mother said was a lie, and there is no love in a lie. So Sanabelle pondered how to undo them, to make her mother sorry for the deceit and retract at least one. She imagined herself on a hospital bed, recovering from serious illness, her mother standing beside her resting a hand on Sanabelle’s head, saying, “Thank God you’ll be all right. I promise I’ll be a better mother now. Just tell me how.” And Sanabelle would make her promise to never lie again, knowing the promise would be unbreakable this time. She scanned the room for ideas, ways to make her mother sorry, but came instead to the picture on the dresser – she in her pink fall jacket sitting atop a brown mare at the horse ranch while her father stood next to her, smiling. Beside the picture was a silver bracelet he gave her to wear at someone’s wedding they attended months ago. There, next to the bracelet, her eyes fell upon two packs of Bubble Yum, the inner silver wrapper of one pack peeled back. She brought the gum to her bed and laid each piece on the bedspread. “Don’t swallow your gum,” she said in a mocking voice. “It will stay in your stomach forever.” She made these words into a song, repeating them over again «19»
as she unwrapped each red cube and lined them up. They smelled like sweet fruit. She put one in her mouth, chewed until it was soft and wet, and swallowed it. She did this with each piece, until there were nine pieces of bubble gum in her stomach. Then she lay down. Her mother had told her that swallowing gum caused upset stomach and constipation. Worst of all, her mother said, it was indigestible and remained in a person’s stomach forever. But Sanabelle was not going to get sick or constipated like her mother had told her. The gum was not going to stay there the rest of her life. The moment when her mother came up to her room for an apology and Sanabelle told her what she had done, that she had swallowed gum and felt fine – that would be the happiest moment of Sanabelle’s life. Her mother would regret grounding her and would be forced to reconsider her claims about the probability of accidentally scratching one’s brain when picking one’s nose. Sanabelle did not feel anything. She felt no different. Perhaps she should have chewed it more, though. That might have softened it, dissolved it some. By the fourth piece she had become sick of the flavor, just wanted to swallow it down, and so had quickly dispatched the rest. Now the gum felt sugary in her stomach, like the red coloring hadn’t faded at all. It was a red lump, soft and round, sticking to the wall of her stomach. Her grandfather had explained his stomach cancer in these terms – just a bump on his stomach, a bump that could have killed him if it had kept growing. But that was different. She imagined the way the first piece dropped down inside and each piece fell on top of the last, melding into each other, growing until the lump must have gotten quite big. What were her stomach juices doing to it right now? Maybe it was still taking shape, still finding the right place to sit, expanding to the sides, filling the space. She had seen the cover picture of the movie “The Blob” in Video Station with her father one night. The man in the picture was trapped in the pink Blob trying to get out, screaming to get out, and now something similar may be growing in her stomach trying to climb up her esophagus so it could blob its way downstairs. Hopefully it would trap her mother or at least cover her in slime before moving on to the neighbors and down the street to the rest of the town. Waiting for it to pass through was not an option because it was probably too big and just like her mother told her she was probably constipated and it was staying in her stomach and now nothing, not food and not the blob, was coming out. But it had to come out. It couldn’t live inside her forever. If she went to the hospital the doctors would have to put her on an operating table and use a scalpel to cut a semicircle on her stomach and open the flap and scoop it out «20»
with a surgical spoon and leave a scar for the rest of her life. A feeling had begun in her stomach, a warm nausea, and as much as she didn’t want to, she sat up and yelled for her mother. After a silent moment her mother stomped up the stairs and said, “What’s the matter now?” Unsure how to explain her predicament, Sanabelle said, “My stomach feels funny.” “Get a cup of water from the bathroom. The feeling will pass.” Sanabelle moved her legs so her mother could see the torn foil wrappers on her bedspread. Her mother pointed at them. “Sanabelle? Did you swallow that gum? Tell me the truth.” Why should she tell her mother, a woman of double standards, the truth? Instead of answering, Sanabelle asked why her father left yesterday. “What did you swallow?” her mother said. “Just the gum?” Sanabelle kicked the wrappers off the bed. “I swallowed all of it.” Her mother turned for the door. “It’s time to grow up, young lady,” she said and went downstairs. Sanabelle went to the hallway, to the balcony railing where she gripped the wooden dowels and stuck her head through. She listened to her mother in the kitchen, sliding open the drawer under the counter where the phone sat, flipping the pages of the phone book, then setting it on the counter and taking the phone off the cradle. Sanabelle dashed into the master bedroom at the other end of the hall and picked up the bedside phone as the last digit in the number beeped in her ear. “Poison Control Services, this is Janine. Please state your address or street location.” “Look, it’s probably no big deal. My daughter just swallowed a lot of gum and I was wondering ... “ “Please state your address or street name, ma’am, so I can help you.” “I don’t think I need an ambulance. I just need to know if it’s dangerous to swallow a lot of gum.” “Ma’am, you’re probably right, it’s probably okay, but if you could just tell me where you are.” A beep interrupted the line. Her mother said nothing for a second, then said, “I’m sorry, my husband is calling. I’ll call you back.” Sanabelle sat on the floor with her legs under her. She covered the mouthpiece of the phone with her thumb in case she accidentally made any noise. If she listened now, when they were unaware of her, perhaps she could acquire some of the truth. A click in the phone, then her mother’s voice again. “Bernard, where are you.” “I’m on my way over to get some files,” her father said. “How’s Sanabelle?” “Oh. Fantastic. She just swallowed two packs of bubble gum. I’ve never «21»
seen the kid so happy.” “She swallowed how much gum? Is she all right? Did you call the hospital?” “I called Poison Control. The lady said it’s okay.” “Are you sure? Let me talk to her.” “What, you don’t think I can handle this?” her mother huffed. “You think you can abandon us then call up to make sure I’m doing my job?” “Deborah, calm down. I’m not abandoning anybody. If you had been more open to discussing it, maybe I could have stayed until it got worked out.” Her mother huffed again. “Don’t you see what you’re putting our daughter through? Couldn’t we just keep on the way things were until this passes? Maybe you’ll decide you’re wrong about this.” “It doesn’t just ‘pass.’ Believe me, I’ve thought hard about this. For a long time, I tried not to think about it, and I’m telling you that’s harder.” “And when you asked me to marry you?” Her mother’s voice rose in pitch. “Then?” “I’m done attempting to make you understand. You’re not trying.” “No, I understand. You want to fuck men in the ass, right? You miserable, selfish ass fucker.” A pause. “Real mature. She better not be able to hear you.” “What do you care.” Her mother clattered the receiver onto the cradle and Sanabelle could hear footsteps booming toward the staircase. Sanabelle replaced the phone and headed into the hall toward her bedroom. As she walked her stomach tightened. A hot wind spun within her, setting her off balance, and she knocked the bathroom door open and slumped against the smooth porcelain toilet. Her mother tromped up the stairs and appeared at the bathroom door. “Your father’s coming over,” she said. “Is he coming to take me to the doctor?” “I called the doctor and she said you’ll be fine. You just need rest.” “My stomach hurts.” “I bet it does.” Her mother stood in the doorway, hugging herself. She bit a fingernail. The soft light between the Venetian blinds over the window made the white inside of the toilet seem formless, flattening everything into two dimensions. There were no ridges to anything, no sides, just a pale circle. The water was so clear, so motionless Sanabelle wasn’t sure it was there. She heard the front door unlatching, her mother’s feet thudding down the staircase. She heard her father’s voice, then her mother’s over top of it, each rising louder and louder. Sanabelle held back the desperate urge to shout above their voices – “I don’t feel good!” – because she knew by now they would not hear her. Instead she stared at the calm white water, waiting for the moment when her body couldn’t handle the lump inside her anymore and forced it out. «22»
Of Sister, Of Daughter Sigrid Johnson
We were alone you and I and a mountain cracked exposed a hundred sapphire secrets to the open air. Your face lit like a firefly searched mine with relief. For you, I pretended not to notice and continued brushing your teeth. You spoke to me of dreams but words never confined you. I heard the fierceness of your song And understood a drum could never contain it. I felt the gentle tug in your hovering and answered it with stories. Now the others are back and the long legs of night have descended upon us but I hold your image still of sister of daughter tucking you between sheets and covering you with all the playful kisses and tickles that a lover never has.
It’s in a slide picture that I see the stark preciousness of you cradled there in your uncle’s arms fat as a lollipop and smiling almost as any child with less than 27 months on the ground. It’s now that I see the dragons of you have retreated the frogs have stopped raining from heaven and rivers have been washed of their metallic taste of blood. For you were the one plucked from a golden room and told to lead Vikings. You were the one whose footsteps rocked a tree from its roots and echoed in the ears of generations. You were the one tied to the great flow of the earth whose face radiates in body understanding that you are home and anything is possible.
Leaving Jonah In Pittsburgh Joan Rudel
Your quiet, dark eyes turn down As I board the bus. We force Halloween smiles, frantic waves. You want to go with me to the airport; I need to take the bus alone. Walking up the narrow jet stairs I can no longer hold back tears. Grandma, I’ll be four after pumpkin day. I will not see you again Until winter is heavy around us. As the ground moves away, I look down and see the plane’s shadow. Late October afternoon when I leave you, I am that shadow.
To The Andromeda Galaxy From The Milky Way K.E. Duffin
I pry open the door of night—like an Advent calendar— and see my double as a toppled Ferris wheel heading for my own heart’s sluggish ordeal: Andromeda, stars-breath smudge on a mirror, my second self in a soot-black theater. No screams or panic, though you hardly seem real swirling toward me with zillionth birthday candle zeal. I go bounding airlessly through that corridor of desolate space like an exhilarated lover, I pine for your star-sprinkled form and infinite charms. But what if you are just a funhouse reflection, Sweet? I’m seeing your past as one day you’ll see mine. That solemn glow, those starry enveloping arms. When can we meet? Never? A perfect defeat.
The Purple Vase John McCluskey
“It’s March first!” Erica said. “Bring me the purple vase!” “It’s only March first,” Paul said. “I know, too early—” “Gets earlier every year,” Paul said. “—nowhere near spring yet, but I need flowers in the house before my birthday,” Erica proclaimed. “Besides, winter’s over when February’s over, as far as I’m concerned.” Paul put down the Sunday Times and lifted himself from the oversized leather chair–his winter cave. The morning rain had grown steadier. “What will it be this year, daffodils again? Looked pretty good against the purple last year. Hey, maybe roses–I like red and purple, that’s our team colors. Better yet, irises. Yes, irises! Purple on purple, that’s kind of chic. I had a good sales year last year; we can afford something chic around here.” Erica eyed Paul warily. “The vase is too small for irises,” Erica said. “Maybe something white this year. I don’t want the same flowers two years in a row.” “I’ll pick the flowers this year,” Paul said, and the sincerity in his voice relaxed Erica’s eyes. “Paul!” “No really, this winter’s been so lousy, I’m actually kind of into this. Be nice to get some flowers in here,” he said, and he moved over to his wife and squeezed her hand. “Besides,” he winked, “I left the car out last night so the rain would clean it off and save me a car wash. Gotta put it in the garage anyway.” Erica’s eyes bloomed. “Maybe something white—” “No, no, my choice, you have no say in this, starting right now. Give me the vase; I’ll take it with me to see what goes best—” “Oh babe, be careful, please. That was the—” “I know, the first birthday gift I ever gave you. Don’t worry, you’re looking at the guy with the best hands in the Over Forty League.” Erica fell in love with Paul’s gesture, with the surprise and genuineness of his participation in her ritual. How she loved when he surprised her, and he had done it often in the early years. Not great big balloon-filled surprises. She especially loved the tininess of them, the «27»
subtlety, the intimacy. His eyes finding hers across a room and parking there long after the meter should have run out. The surprise lunch date when he took off work and met her at her office. True, she had to rearrange her calendar, but what meeting could possibly have been more important? And the kiss. That Christmas week. They had driven into Rockefeller Center to see the tree. Thousands of people looking at the skaters, the lighted tree in the falling snow. He took her by the hand and walked her behind the tree, near the wooden sawhorse barriers, and right there in the middle of Christmas in Manhattan, he took her face in both hands and he kissed her mouth, holding her face long enough so that any thought either may have had to underscore the moment with words dissolved away like snow in the rain. “Here, take these,” Erica said, and she handed Paul the new slipon duck shoes she had ordered for him from the L.L. Bean catalogue. Perfect for March puddles. “Where did these come from?” Paul asked with genuine surprise. “I know how much you like your new basketball shoes. The puddles will ruin them.” “Thanks, hon,” Paul said. He slipped the new shoes on, kissed her lightly, and he left. Erica ran her fingers slowly down the sides of her face. The rain had made a mess of the yard and the streets. The old snow and ice were given new life with the abundance of flowing water. Since the temperature was only 34 degrees, the rain stayed as rain, and the ice underneath the new puddles stayed as ice. Clutching the vase, Paul sloshed down the driveway, pleased as a four-year-old out in the rain with new boots and a secret plan. His feet stayed warm and dry, and his cavalier stride avoided no puddles at all as he broke in the new rubberized shoes. “Ha!” Paul laughed out loud. What could be better? he thought. I have to go and pick her ring out right about now anyway. Should be ready for her birthday on the fourteenth. She loves these big, flashy surprises! Paul had been waiting to buy Erica a diamond dinner ring for the longest time. He knew that once his staff got that last contract signed at the end of last year, his bonus would allow it. Finally. Near the end of the driveway, only ten feet from the car, Paul walked through a large puddle formed from the rainwater running off an old snow plow mound that had melted and refroze over and over for the last two weeks. A sheet of ice lurked just below the surface like a shark among swimmers. Paul’s new shoes hit the ice, and even the best of L.L. Bean could not keep his feet from scooting ahead of the rest of «28»
him. Paul was on his back before he knew exactly how it happened. The purple vase lay in pieces next to him in the rain. *** Paul drove in silence. No radio. No humming. Think I got ’em all, he murmured to himself, and he kept feeling the broken wet pieces on the front seat next to him. He would have to come home with flowers in a purple vase, he knew it. The car hissed its way through the watery streets. He parked in front of Claire’s Jewelry and picked out a threecarat ring, even bigger than what he had been planning. The jeweler told Paul how excited his wife would be with a stone of this size, color, and clarity. Paul nodded, paid for the ring, made arrangements to pick it up in two weeks, and left the store deflated. He headed over to Petals, the best florist in town. Flowers filled the store-all colors and shapes. He bought daisies, roses, irises, and daffodils. “Do you carry vases?” Paul asked the saleslady. “Yes, we do, right over here.” “You wouldn’t have purple, would you?” “We have a nice light lavender—” “No, that’s okay, thanks,” Paul said, and he took the flowers with him into the rain. Paul drove straight home in the quiet car, flowers in the backseat, the broken vase in the front. He pulled the car into the driveway and entered the house with an absence of expression and an abundance of flowers. “What did you get—oh my God, Paul!” Erica laughed at the monstrous collection of flowers in his arms. “How will they ever fit—” Erica caught herself. She saw no vase, and she instantly knew. Paul handed her the flowers and saw in her eyes that she knew, and they both let the awkward silence of their unspoken knowledge of the accident accompany them to a place they hadn’t been in years. “Kiss me,” Erica said to Paul, and she let the flowers fall away. She leaned into him, and his hands cradled her face with the care reserved for priceless gifts.
His Guitar Arun Gaur
He came on mule-back from a shade. When camp-fire stirred up, his teeth became whiter. He had thought that the sound-box of his guitar was made of a woman’s bone. When he started playing, she gazed into the sky by the fire. Into the dull and drab sky. It was difficult to fly to the moon after that.
Sortilegio: Sorcery, spell, charm. HarperCollins Spanish-English Dictionary, 1st Ed. Oscar stopped Nadine in the hallway after class and gave her a flat parcel. “Feliz cumple,” he said. She tore the flowered paper and revealed a thin book. She didn’t recognize the poet. The cover featured a woman, naked to the waist, her eyes remote. She cradled four oranges on her chest. Her breasts looked like two more fruits. Nadine thanked Oscar and patted his shoulder. He was nice enough. They had met once at a café to study for a midterm. He wore his wavy, corn-husk hair long, caught back by a rubber band. A haphazard goatee, also the color of grain, covered his mouth. In the early fall humidity, his hair frizzed into a golden nimbus. Later, Nadine sat in her apartment and paged through the book. She tried not to look at the woman. On the first page, in fountain pen, Oscar had inscribed a sonnet. Reading its cryptic Spanish, she could not tell what it was about, or if it was any good. His printing showed care: the emptiness in each a and o was full and whole. She reached for the dictionary to translate the harder words, but after looking up sortilegio, she put away the gift. In her dream that night, she shaved Oscar: his hair, his moustache, the half-moon of fuzzy goatee. He kept his eyes open to watch her wield the sharp blade. With each stroke of the razor, she made him disappear.
Ode To Light Alicia Gerner
I want to go where you’ve been, take on your shifting form, transcend boundaries, pass through Saturn’s icy rings, see the intricacies of Orion’s Belt. You’ve been there, darting faster than imagination, illuminating ebony skies far and wide. And here, on earth, what wonders have pleased you. You are there clarifying edges, blinding eyes with glacial reflections, a witness of construction, inducing dreams, altering consciousness. Only you know truth, can bend through crevice and creep towards shadows, pierce darkness. You exist to birth life, direct the merging of realms.
Daughters Of Milton Chella Courington
I read Milton enslaved his daughters demanding they sit in Eve’s shadow while father John rolled out dark metaphor in cadence a chorister could envy. I imagined an old chauvinist bearing down on his female progeny as he bore down on King Charles, slicing off a head that offended him. After I developed glaucoma, I remembered Milton, blind at 44, and took it all back, everything bad I ever thought about him and saw a poet afraid of the dark. Did he feel abandoned, left in the hands of girls younger than Eve, eager to escape? Would they care for his words, brood over them as he would? Did he feel remorse for the light spent on Cromwell, believing he deserved to be locked away in darkness rubbing his palms night after night?
Lines Composed In The 7-Eleven Parking Lot Joseph Lamport
Orion rises from his side And cinches his belt, Ready to march across The dome stretched high above The 7-Eleven parking lot and Into the wintry night. And just how many ways can A blackbird see you, dear friend? One or two at most? Although Always returning such favors With more poetic labors Will never improve Upon the blackbird’s view. Yet why else write but To celebrate This night and This sky And to commemorate Noble Orion Letting loose Another shaft From his star crossed bow, As I take another sip of scalding decaf. «35»
Each Burning Season Linda Swanberg
For Georgia O’Keeffe “The mountains in the distance seem almost to paint themselves for you, until you actually try to do it.”
Untouchable as wind blowing through sockets of bone, you paint invisible voices— discarded treasure excavated from imagined shapes. Bones wind-white and smooth. Aloneness is a call— finds you any place you choose. A desert faint with murmurs—scorching hills that shoulder their way into your heart. Beyond Ghost Ranch badlands undulate like smooth, dry streams. Colors splash the sky— russet, gray, aubergine—streaks of blazing earth. Abiquiu hills burn each season red. The hills do not paint themselves for you, Georgia. They paint you.
The Empty Notebook In Buenos Aires: Tango Para Uno Susan Thomas
The Empty Notebook glides across the dance floor smashing into everything it meets with – trouser cuffs and ruffled hems of skirts are trampled in a frenzied slide. Dipping, turning, deadlocked in its bindings pages splayed and flung beyond its gliding – swirling, dragging, mashing its own margins, it stops and tears itself in two. Olé
My life went astray at seventeen, when I began to write goatherd poems to superannuated nymphs— “Like Polyphemus, my dwindling embers of sight. ..” Pan (Pan?) to screaming hordes, exploding blimps, an instant horror movie. Nobody knew what to do. Some would whisper a cryptic “Don’t pursue.” (Careers and grants were lost. Reputations too.) My first steps in the world were apocalyptic. I’d been such a studious child, Latinate, shy, taunted for years to “let your hair down” by smirking adults. Now I menaced the land from on high with iambic tread, my shadow eclipsing the town. Erat monstrum horrendum, ingens, informe! The world turned cold, friends and parents wept. “In your late adolescence it all went wrong.” Since my birth some wrongness in me slept. Like a vagrant bird that inexplicably flies in the opposite direction when the seasons change, though covering the same distance, then tries to survive the winter it finds beyond the range of its kind—anyway, like that. My crime was great: crafting words like an ardent lover for the wrong persons in the wrong place at the wrong time. My first mistake, from which I would never recover.
Highfalutin Formation Janice Lierz
You want to avoid conflict— with those girls named after jewelry stores and dead queens, with those boys who smoke cigarettes in the john. You don’t want trouble— Yet convicts pioneered a waterside wonderland, a multicultural city; a whale swallowed a reluctant prophet before it spit him upon the shore; a half-starved orphan gathered courage by asking for more gruel from the greedy. We are carbon, and if we fall into the ocean, dragged underneath by rocks, deep inside the crust of the Earth, where it is too hot, the weight too great, in a million years or so, we could come back— as diamonds— Would you be showy and highfalutin— an array in a tiara, a tennis bracelet, hidden in a box. Or will you simply be— the hardest substance known to humankind.
The Ascension Of Helen Z. Brenda Liebling-Goldberg
Helen Zipkin was a pleasant-looking woman of an indeterminate middle age. She had everyday brown eyes, medium-length hair in a neutral shade of gray, and unremarkable features. The most salient feature Helen possessed was her ability to blend in wherever she went. Pleasantly. Placidly. Painlessly. Not that Helen had always been so placid and unperturbed. She had, as a young girl, tried diligently to excel at any number of things. Composing, writing, painting, sculpting, Helen had tried them all. But her peripatetic wanderings through the visual and nonvisual arts had led only to a promising collection of unfinished stories, a stack of interesting, if incomplete sketches, and a plethora of instruments she never played: a guitar, a sitar, two flutes, a dulcimer, and a second-hand sax. These expensive experimentations drove Helen’s mother to distraction. “Grow up, Helen,” she would say to Helen. “Youth is wasted on the young,” she’d say to herself. But most often, she’d just say, “Oh, Helen.” Just: “Oh, Helen.” And that, of course, irritated Helen the most. Helen had assumed, in her collegiate days, that there was a single source for all of her failures: she aimed too high and wanted too much. Later Helen would decide that all she really aspired to was a kind of wonderful mediocrity. The problem was that Helen could never accomplish this either, bits and pieces of tunes, phrases, colors, shapes, flitting in and out of her consciousness until these, too, just slipped through her mind like so many rays of liquid light. Of course Helen did grow up. She divested herself of her guitar and her sitar and her penchant for the visual and the nonvisual arts and manied a fine young man named Hank who possessed no vague longings or inexpressible desires other than an inexplicable need to balance their checkbook on the third Wednesday of every month. “Oh, Helen,” her mother said, from time to time. “You are such a dreamer.” But mothers cling to these notions whereas time rushes on, and, somewhere in that rush, Helen’s fanciful forays and unfinished dreams became almost, if not quite, forgotten. Still, from time to time, when Hank stayed out late and the night air was filled with the faint trace of roses, Helen would feel ordinary and incredibly alone. Eager to inject some color into her life, Helen decided to return «41»
to her roots. She fried latkes on Hanukkah, baked hamantaschen on Purim, and ate take-out Chinese every third Wednesday of the month while she watched the early films of Woody Allen, but to no avail. Next she tried out other people’s cultures. She cooked chile rellenos on Cinco de Mayo, a Galette des Rois for Epiphany, and mutton on May Day, but none of these flavors rubbed off on her. The only thing that Helen acquired was a library of exotic cookbooks and galloping indigestion and a file box of recipes she never used. “If Martha Jay, my husband’s secretary from Nacogdoches, is a savory plank of down-home country ribs and my sister Margery, who spent a year at the Sorbonne, is a piquant dish of coq au vin blanc, then I, Helen Zipkin, am an Oscar Mayer bologna sandwich with lettuce, mayo, and three Oreos on the side,” Helen said one night when she’d all but blended into the bleached blond woodwork of her wellmodulated kitchen. “Oh, Helen,” her mother said. Later Helen threw away her cookbooks, all except the Italian ones because her husband Hank was fond of mostaccioli, and she turned, instead, to the quieter joys of life: the turn of the sheets at the comers of her bed, the soft, even folds of her monogrammed towels. And, in these quieter, if more prosaic endeavors, Helen finally managed to succeed. Indeed, Helen was so skillful at smoothing life over that no one even noticed her efforts, her efforts were that effortless. Helen began to see herself as a woman in waiting, although waiting for what she couldn’t be sure. Perhaps she was waiting for that one defining moment that would explain her existence. Or perhaps she was waiting for that moment of zest Margaret Mead had described in one of the textbooks that Helen had read when she was young and foolish and full of dreams. Helen couldn’t be sure. She only knew Margaret Mead and her zest were nowhere to be found. Not in the crisp edges of the sheets and not in the soft folds of the towels and not in any of the hundred distractions that had come to pass for her everyday life. “Oh, Helen, you are such a child,” her mother would say. Helen would say nothing. She only knew that she’d lost the thread of her life, and it was unraveling off the spool. And then Helen had a son named Arthur and she found, at last, the poetry in her life. There was poetry in the flush of her son Arthur’s cheeks and in the rise and fall of his little chest and in the flutter of his eyes. And, happy at last, Helen would wrap Arthur in her arms and rock him for hours and marvel at the poetry of ordinary things. Only sometimes, in the afternoon when Arthur slept peacefully in his crib, she would think of her mad forays into the arts, visual and nonvisual, and she would say to herself, “Helen, Helen,” although she always said «42»
it softly so she wouldn’t wake her son. It was at these times Helen felt she shared in that sense of isolation felt by all great artists, even if she’d failed to excel in the arts. As time went on, Helen came to see these moments of existential sadness as a luxury, what with a new baby and a houseful of demands, so that, in the end, time simply swept away these feelings of yearning that Helen had felt before the poetry of living became the measure of her life. The problem was that twenty-five years had passed since Helen first stood and marveled at the flush of her son Arthur’s cheeks. Arthur had become a lawyer and was married now and only came for dinner on alternate Thursdays. Meanwhile, twinges of longing and inexpressible regret began to nibble at the edges of Helen’s existence, even on those Thursdays when her son Arthur appeared. And then, one day, standing in her kitchen with its collection of cookbooks and its bland, blond cabinet doors, Helen discovered that she had developed a most disturbing condition. She was shrinking. In imperceptible increments, of course–her husband Hank and her married son Arthur hadn’t yet noticed–but Helen realized her amazing condition when, day after day, the doorknobs became increasingly higher and her clothing became progressively longer. “The hems of my dresses are beginning to droop,” Helen said to her mother. “The shoulders are creeping down my elbows,” she said. “I’m feeling panicky,” she said. “Switch dry cleaners,” Helen’s mother said. Helen was perplexed by her curious condition, feeling oddly out of place in her well-regulated house. But as no one noticed–not her husband or her son or even the doctor who found her condition fit, if somewhat prosaic–Helen began to enjoy the delicious absurdity of her condition. Even when the armholes of her dresses swooped past her knees, nobody noticed. Not her mother or her husband or even her sister Marge, who looked more furtive and French as the days went by. No, everyone just kept laughing and quarreling and living as if Helen were staring at them through a one-sided window, whereas she, the increasingly diminutive Helen Zipkin, had become invisible to them all. In the privacy of her kitchen, Helen considered the implications of her dilemma. After all, shrinking, in the way that Helen had been shrinking–incrementally, if imperceptibly–was quite an astounding feat. I could be a celebrity, Helen thought. I could be interviewed by Oprah or Katie Couric or even Diane Sawyer, although last week, Oprah had interviewed six singing transvestite nuns, and Katie had interviewed someone with twenty-eight multiple personalities, each of them unpleasant, and neither of these offerings had lived up to the level of dignity that Helen believed her dilemma demanded. After all, shrinking, «43»
incrementally, if imperceptibly, was a precarious situation that could, and probably would, lead straight to the edge of the great Unknown. Oh, Helen, Helen thought, secretly thrilled at the danger of it all. And her heart began to palpitate in an unusual, if lively, rhythm. Helen decided to keep her condition a secret because it struck her that shrinking was original and daring and quite wonderful in its own way, even if no one had noticed. Perhaps this is my defining moment, Helen thought to herself one day. And the thought made her swell with pride, even as she diminished in girth. But as Helen retreated, inch by inch, the sky began to look so much wider and the stars began to loom so much larger that Helen was quite overcome by the wonder of it all. Helen began to carry whatever was left of her, on any particular day, with an uncharacteristic grace, although surprisingly, or not surprisingly, no one noticed that either. The routine of Helen’s life continued much as before. “We’re ready, Helen,” Hank would call to her from his perch in the dining room where he liked to eat dinner with his married son Arthur. And Helen would hitch up her sleeves so they didn’t droop in the sauce, and she’d dish up the rigatoni or the fedelini marinara while Arthur might comment on the clumps in the pasta or the lumps in the sauce or the water that had seeped to the bottom of the bowl and ruined the consistency of her sauce no matter how diligently she had tried to drain the pasta, but Helen would say nothing. She’d simply scurry back to the kitchen, careful to step over the hem of her dress that trailed beneath her. Of course Helen no longer cared about everyday problems. She’d just look out her window at the cool night stars–orange, blue, yellow, red–and nearly faint with the beauty of it all. Sometimes, straining to rest her elbows on the butcher block counter that towered above her, she would hear her husband and her married son Arthur laughing, sometimes at the clumps and sometimes at the lumps and sometimes just in that male way that the two of them shared. She would be filled, at these moments, with so much love for Hank and Arthur and even Arthur’s wife Lynnie, who never came to dinner, even on alternate Thursdays, that the fierceness of her feelings would make her want to cry. And then she’d stand there and listen. To the clinking of the spoons against the sides of her plates and to the undercurrent of voices and to the pulsing of the universe that banged away in her head until she couldn’t catch her breath. When she couldn’t contain the swell of her feelings, she’d unlatch the door and escape outside while her heart expanded with the panorama of the night: the majesty of the sky and the fragility of the stars and the feel of the wind as it played across her face. I will never learn to make pasta right, she thought sadly on the last «44»
Thursday of that particular month. I will never divest my sauce of lumps or see another sky so awesome or ever feel wanted in the way that I want. And she plucked her sleeves out of the disposal and wrung them dry and scuttled toward the pool, just a stump of the woman she once had been. Or so she thought, as she sat on the steps of her regulationsize pool with its chlorinated water and its straight, even edges and its conventional blue tile. “Oh, Helen,” her husband called when he wanted more of something or less of something, she couldn’t be sure which. “It’s female troubles,” she heard him say, his voice drifting across the blue of the pool. “You mean male troubles,” her son Arthur said. And then they laughed, not a mean-spirited laugh but a pleasant laugh, the kind of laugh that fathers and sons might share on alternate Thursday evenings. Helen didn’t mind. She liked that Hank could laugh and Arthur could laugh, even though he always came to dinner without his wife Lynnie, because life was joyful and good, and all she wanted was to sit by that pool a little while longer and listen to the sound of their laughter floating on the waves of the evening breeze. Only Helen Zipkin had disappeared. She’d evanesced in the air over her regulation-size pool until she was lost forever in the starry dome of the night. The odd thing was there wasn’t a ripple in the pool where the stump of Helen had finally dissolved. Just the cool reflection of the early night stars and the sun bleeding red across the darkening sky. THE END
No More River Ice Alita Pirkopf
It could have been my own childhood, my fantasies, my dreams, green, moist—budding in spring. But no, it is my child’s that fills the hills with buds, the lakes with hungry fish. I circle, through clouds and cold times, landing where all is just beginning, springing, sprung, begun. I felt it would, last fall, when pumpkin light and warm windows spread porch promises.
Rising Sun John F. Danahy
On the drive home from his office on the second Saturday of December, Martin sang along with a CD of his favorite Christmas carols. At the crest of a long hill, he spotted an old man along the side of the two-lane country road. He first noticed the shock of white hair and the half-hopping, half-limping steps as the old man struggled with a large, brown suitcase fastened with a black belt. The man wore a red plaid flannel shirt, dark green pants, and no coat or hat. Something about the old man looked familiar, but Martin couldn’t place him and dismissed the thought. Martin knew it would be foolish to pick up a stranger. His wife, Grace, would certainly admonish him, but his holiday spirit, and an old man without a coat in freezing weather, convinced him to stop. He pulled the Jaguar to the shoulder, backed up, and opened the window. “Where are you headed?” he asked. “Risin’ Sun,” the old man answered. “I’d be right grateful for a ride.” *** Forty-five, Martin had the smooth face and jet-black hair of a much younger man. His eyes were pale blue, his lips thin, and his ears unusually small. Warm and comfortable in his cashmere coat and sweater, navy blazer, and gray wool slacks, Martin said, “I’m going in that direction, but not all the way. Come in out of the cold.” The old man hoisted the suitcase into the back and then settled into the front seat. Martin offered his hand. “My name’s Martin Connors. What’s yours?” “Lucas Jewel, but folks call me Luke. Much obliged for the ride.” Luke’s large, bulbous nose was the most prominent feature of his face. Bushy salt-and-pepper eyebrows arched steeply above his warm, brown eyes. Yellowed teeth flashed through the smile he offered in return for the handshake. His fingers were thick and gnarled, and the strength of his grip surprised Martin. From the age spots on Luke’s hands and the deep lines etched in his face, he looked at least seventy years old. Martin’s uneasiness faded as he saw that Luke Jewel was just a friendly, old man. “Do you have family in Rising Sun?” «47»
“I got no kinfolk there, don’t know a soul, but the Lord told me to go to Rising Sun, so that’s what I aim to do. I reckon the good Lord’s got somethin’ in mind.” He looked straight ahead with a placid, guileless expression. Martin arched his eyebrows with skepticism about direct communications with the Lord. “It’s cold out there today. Why are you traveling without a coat?” “Didn’t need no coat in Alabama, and I got no money for one now.” Luke’s expression didn’t change. “What did you do in Alabama?” “I was doin’ okay on the Social Security and the odd jobs folks’d give me. But when my trailer caught fire with me near burnin’ with it, I couldn’t seem to make ends meet. Don’t know why, but the odd jobs didn’t come no more. So I took to prayin’ and readin’ my Bible. After a bit, the Lord told me to go to Risin’ Sun.” Martin glanced at Luke repeatedly as they talked. The old man’s belief seemed so blind yet so complete. Martin felt sorry for him but wondered if picking him up had been a mistake. Feeling uneasy but not sure why, Martin shifted in his seat. “How long have you been traveling?” he asked. “Since Thursday night,” Luke answered with a smile. “The Greyhound told me I had to go to Baltimore, then get me a different bus. Got there last night and slept in the bus station to get out of the cold. I only got twelve bucks left and couldn’t buy a ticket to Risin’ Sun, so I set out at sunup on foot. Kind fellow gave me a ride to Aberdeen, and I been walkin’ since he let me out.” Martin tapped his thumbs on the steering wheel as he glanced back and forth at Luke. It unnerved him that this old man had put his life at risk based on voices from the Lord. He considered where he could let Luke out of the car and then remembered how cold it would be tonight. Martin had no idea what it was like to be cold or alone. As always, his family would be warm and safe this Christmas, and he mused about why this old man would not. Restless, Martin shifted again in his seat, torn between a desire to help Luke and the increasing urge to get away from him. “If you don’t know anyone in Rising Sun, why would you come all the way from Alabama, especially in this cold?” “The Lord’s givin’ me direction. My faith’s all I got left.” “Do you have family in Alabama?” “I got no family no more, ’cept the fosterkids my wife and me raised up. The wife passed on five years back. It’s terrible lonely without her, but the Lord’s been takin’ care of me. Kids write to me when they «48»
can. Sure am proud of ’em. When I get back on my feet, just might go see ’em.” A smile spread over the old man’s face as he talked about his family. The warmth was so real it startled Martin, and he winced with the realization that Luke loved his family just as much as he loved his. Perhaps they had more in common than he thought. He considered taking Luke home but dismissed the idea as totally impractical. Besides, Grace wouldn’t stand for it. He blew the car’s horn unintentionally, and the sound jarred him out of his thoughts. As he turned off the highway, he saw the sign for the local budget motel. “Luke,” Martin said, “I’d like to get you a room here at the motel. You stay the night inside, out of the cold. I’d feel a lot better knowing you were safe. We can try to get you a bus to Rising Sun tomorrow. What do you say?” “That’d be more than you should rightly do. I’d be obliged. The good Lord sure is lookin’ after me, all right.” Getting out of his car, Martin stepped into an icy puddle and cursed. His left foot was wet and cold as he carried Luke’s suitcase into the lobby and asked for a room for one night. The desk clerk looked askance at Martin, as if she were unaccustomed to well-dressed customers. She glanced at Luke and back to Martin, then shrugged and handed Martin the key. Large flakes of paint adorned the dirty, worn carpet as Martin led Luke down the dimly lit corridor to room 10-25. A musty smell hung in the stale air. Martin hesitated as he opened the door, peering into the shabby room. “Come on in and set for a while,” Luke said, and walked in. Martin felt awkward, like an intruder. He wanted to leave but went in and sat uneasily on the edge of the bed. His wet foot ached from the cold. He glanced toward the open bathroom and caught a faint smell of urine. In the next room a man and woman argued, heightening Martin’s feeling that he didn’t belong here. “Let me show you a few of my pictures,” Luke said. He opened his suitcase, placed a tattered Bible on the table by the bed, and took out an old cigar box held together with two large rubber bands. Holding the box with both hands, as if it were precious and fragile, the old man placed it on the small dresser. His eyes lit up, and he smiled as he took each picture, examined it, and handed it to Martin. The black-and-white photographs, white, half-moon shapes adorning their borders, were cracked and faded with age. Martin studied the faces, unsure of what he was looking for or why. “This here’s Catherine and me,” Luke said, “on a trip to Little Rock. Lookee here! That’s me at the firehouse near forty years ago.” «49»
Martin gasped softly at Luke’s image in front of the firehouse. He covered his lips with his fingers and smiled as memories of his grandfather washed over him. Forty years younger, with a full beard and a thick head of chocolate-brown hair, wearing suspenders and knee-high boots, Luke could have been the brother Martin’s grandfather never had. Martin smiled, remembering his grandfather’s gentle hand boosting him into the seat of a huge fire engine. “That’s Catherine and her Ma,” Luke continued, “and that’s the house we lived in when we was first married. This one’s me and Catherine with Jeffrey and Bob. Them boys–how they loved Catherine.” The older boy, his lips pursed and his chin jutting forward, stood straight and proud at his father’s side, staring defiantly at the world. The younger boy, clad in hand-me-down, oversized bib overalls and a flannel shirt, hid his face behind his mother’s leg. Luke paced excitedly, cradling each of the pictures before handing it to Martin. The old man’s face had softened, and his limp had become less pronounced. “This shindig’s the picnic we had that time the boys was all livin’ with us. And there’s Catherine and me on our thirtieth. She beamed as bright as the sun when the kids give us that surprise.” Catherine, dressed in a plain but attractive white cotton dress, stood next to Luke, her smile wide and happy, her eyes bright with a love so real Martin’s heart ached. Luke’s arms were around her, his large hand covering her shoulder as if he would never let go. Martin shifted nervously on the edge of the bed, staring into the faces of people he couldn’t know, people who had shared with Luke a life he couldn’t imagine yet felt a growing connection to. Cold numbed his toes, and his stomach tightened. An unreasoned resentment welled up in him, as if these people were forcing him to confront Luke’s life and troubles. Martin felt drawn into something he didn’t understand and couldn’t control. His hands shook, and he dropped a picture to the floor. He stood abruptly and spoke rapidly without stopping for a breath. “Here’s some money to buy yourself dinner and breakfast at the diner next door. I’ll come back tomorrow to see how you’re doing. We can talk more then.” The urge to get away overwhelmed him. He rushed out the door and down the dismal corridor. “Thanks kindly,” Luke called after him. On the drive home Martin drummed the steering wheel. His life and family were secure. He didn’t have to worry about being poor or alone. But the faces in Luke’s pictures were drawing him out of his safe, comfortable life into an unknown circle. A blast of cold air blew his hair askew as he opened a window. He quickly closed the window and straightened his hair. His thumbs drummed monotonously on the «50»
steering wheel. When he arrived home, he told Grace about the old man. She reacted as he had expected. “Damn it, Martin, you shouldn’t pick up strangers. You don’t know who that old man is, what he is, or what he’ll do. Why do you want to get involved?” He shrugged his shoulders and stared out the window. “You seem upset,” she said, frowning. “What’s wrong?” “He has nothing, and we have everything.” “It’s a shame he’s poor, but we have nothing to apologize for. You’ve worked hard to get us where we are.” “I know, but I’ve been lucky too. Why me? Why us, and why not him?” “Spare me the guilt. What’s wrong with success? Or do you just want to help him so you can feel in control?” “You can be so cold,” Martin snapped back. He turned toward the window. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.” “I’m sorry, too.” She moved to his side and hugged him. “Why worry so much about a total stranger?” “Maybe it’s because he reminds me of my grandfather. I don’t know.” “There’s a limit to what you can do and who you can help.” “I know, but he’s more than some anonymous picture in the paper–he’s real. I’d like to back away from him, but I just can’t.” “I don’t understand this whole thing,” Grace said. “You’re not acting rationally. This is not like you.” “He has this way, this childlike way of approaching things. And he has a blind belief in his Lord that’s...that’s...I don’t know what it is.” They talked more but went to bed with nothing resolved. Unable to get Luke out of his mind, Martin spent a restless night. He dreamt he was dragging a huge, stainless-steel cross through the deserted, snow-covered streets of Rising Sun. Coming to the steps of an abandoned church after walking for hours, he found his grandfather frozen in a snowbank, clutching the picture of Luke and his wife. In the morning, Martin knew he had to help this man who seemed to have nothing but a cigar box full of memories. Over their morning coffee, he told Grace, “I’ll give him bus fare back to Alabama and enough money to live for a month or so while he looks for ajob.” “That’s way too much,” she said. “It’s Christmas. We’ve got everything we need. The money’s cheap help, easy for us.” “Yes, but where do you stop? Don’t you see you’re being foolish?” Martin looked away and gave no reply. «51»
“We know nothing about him,” she said. “For all we know, he’s trying to bilk us.” Martin shook his head slowly, as though he didn’t want to face the possibility. “How do you know he’ll go back to Alabama or that he even wants to? You can’t play God, you know.” “All I know is that I have to do something.” On the drive to the motel Martin thought over what he’d say. He’d remind the old man about the dangers of the cold weather, the folly of going to a town where he didn’t know a single soul, but he guessed Luke would try to follow what he thought was the Lord’s direction. Had the Lord really talked to this guileless, old man? Would He protect him now? Martin’s mind swirled. He knocked on Luke’s door. When no one answered, he realized Luke might be at the diner having breakfast. As he walked back through the lobby, the desk clerk remembered Martin and handed him a message from the old man in 10-25. As Martin read the message, he sighed deeply, relieved. The message read, “Gone to Rising Sun.” THE END
Drunk Night Miles Brugmann
I could have lost myself as easily by stepping Over into the brown-bottle abyss, the glassy sleep; But I stay, wakeful as an insect, thinking endlessly Of wings—fluttering desire, and Here I am in youth, poised to pollinate Mad at something or other I can’t yet describe: The circling of the sentence casts out into the Atlantic night A fly line, a comma to life, clasping An island crag dried of mystery Serious, uncaring— And the stars’ needles point million-year-old light Over this face of mine, this field I stumble through.
The Gamble David Kitson
“Give me your wallet!” the man snarled; “now!” I stared at the seething apparition, frozen. A moment before it had been a nondescript huddle slumped in weary anonymity; a dead tired passenger, homebound on the subway after a long day. It was a commonplace sight; and perhaps, it was this familiarity, despite the slight qualm of unease I had felt on entering a deserted subway car so late at night, or it might have been my own crushing fatigue, but, whatever it was that had caused me to remain in that car instead of seeking another, it was a moot point now. The revolver in the man’s hand was a foot away from my face, centered unwaveringly on my forehead... “Do it!” The ‘crunch’ of the weapon cocking shattered through the car. It blasted me out of my paralysis; heart pounding, I began fumbling within the folds of my jacket. Somehow, I managed to will my fingers through the numb stupor of those terrifying seconds and quickly unburdened myself of my wallet. As the man snatched it from my hand, my gaze fell on his forearm. It was skeletal, withered as a parched twig; and the skin horribly blotched, disfigured by numerous sores and punctures; everywhere, dark bulging veins flared hideously across the ravaged surface like tributaries in some grotesque landscape. I choked back a sudden nausea. It was happening again... Once before, some years previously, I had been confronted at gun point by a crazed drug addict desperate for the means for his next fix. Fortunately on that occasion, my wallet had had some cash in it and I had escaped unscathed. Addicts have little use for an empty billfold, a fact borne starkly home to me now, as the man, having rifled through it and finding it bare, flung it disgustedly to the floor. His rabid, wild-eyed look said it all. “Your pockets...” he hissed; “empty them!” Very carefully. I extracted a five dollar bill and a few crumpled singles. It was a meager offering, much too small, I was grimly aware, to satisfy the needs of his craving. But it was all I had. The man grabbed the money and quickly stuffed it down the front of his pants. Neither his stare nor his revolver wavered from my face. I knew the moment that decided my fate had arrived. Strangely, despite the paucity of the offering against which my life was being weighed, my fear had dissipated, due, perhaps to the whispered consolation of the voice in my head comforting me that «54»
death would provide release from struggles besetting my life in recent times, a devastating ordeal, encompassing both, the collapse of my business and, with it, the disintegration of my marriage, reducing me to a state of near-fatalistic despair. Or again, it might have been due to that other voice in my head; the one that was screaming: ‘Can’t you see he’s going to kill you, John!? Do something! Don’t just sit there and let this madman take your life! So your wife left you, and yes, you’re broke, but at least you’re alive! You can make a fresh start! Grab his wrist! Push the revolver aside! Hold on till help arrives; it’s bound to come soon.’ Just then, the train suddenly lurched and swayed as it rounded a bend in the tracks. My assailant was thrown off-balance and the revolver shifted away from my head... ‘Now!’ the voice shrieked. I sprang, lunging for his gun hand... The man reacted with incredible agility; the revolver swung back, a blinding blur. And, in that infinitesimal millisecond, even as my fingers managed, somehow, to trap lightning in a bottle and close desperately round that darting wrist, I knew my gamble had failed: the weapon was already at the end of its deadly arc. My life flashed past my eyes in that terrible instant; freeze-frames that tore at the heart: childhood; adolescence; adulthood: the scattered successes; the many failures and disappointments. Yet, in as much as they all mattered, none wrenched more heavily than the image at the very end of that fleeting collage: the crumpled corpse on the floor of a deserted subway car and its epitaph, ‘he gambled with his life and lost.’ The moment expended itself in a thunderous blast. I heard myself cry out as a sharp, searing sensation scythed through my head; images and sounds around me faded instantly. And slowly, as if in slow motion, I felt my body sag and begin to tip forward... Suddenly, out of the darkening abyss of the onrushing floor, there streaked toward me, out of nowhere, a great light, shimmering and twinkling in all the colors of the prism. It was a mesmerizing sight, of a beauty beyond anything I could have ever imagined. And, for a long time after that, while gradually my chest stopped heaving and the perspiration dried on my forehead, I remained in my bed, savoring those first spectacular rays of the dawn sunlight streaming in through my bedroom window. ***
The Flower Matt Counte
Samuel crawls out from under the petals of a large red flower. It’s the size of a mid-sized automobile and it’s in the street outside his house. He’s stoned from its vapors. It’s one of the greatest feelings he’s ever felt. A Tommy Gun is strapped across his back, and it clanks against the street’s pavement. He unstraps his gun so he can lie on his back and look up at the sky. The clouds above are gray and barely moving. It looks like it might pour rain at any moment. The rain starts to come down. Samuel struggles to his feet. He laughs—his head feels really light. Other pedestrians run up and down the street, seeking shelter. Some stop to ogle Samuel’s flower. He frowns. If only he can get it inside. He tries to drag it by one of its petals but it’s unmovable. Samuel tries and tries and tries until finally, he gives up. He grabs his Tommy Gun and sprays the flower with ammunition. Spent rounds sprinkle the pavement with the raindrops. The onlookers scatter. Samuel hangs his head in shame.
Bright Holders Of Plenty Ellen Case
I always imagined that my collection of Fiestaware bowls would be broken once I had kids. I looked forward to it. I could hear the sound of one era closing and another opening, as pottery fractured against a countertop, and cake batter flowed onto the floor. But that’s not what happened. I started collecting Fiestaware and other dishware from the 1940s when I was 20 and establishing a kitchen of my own. I bought the first two bowls at an elderly neighbors’ yard sale. The marigold-yellow fourquart and the raspberry two-quart both sported the trademark Fiesta ridges on the outside of the bowls, meant to make them easier to hold when whipping a meringue. I fell in love with the curves of the bowls, the way they combined beauty and utility, and their bold blue, pink, and yellow glazes. Over the years, I foraged through garage sales and thrift shops for the odd saucer or cup. Later, as the value of the old china grew, I searched antique shops. I found pitchers, saucers, a gravy boat, and when I was lucky, one of the big stately mixing bowls. Friends gave me matching salt and pepper shakers, cream pitchers, and sugar bowls of another time. A time when women did not question whether or not they’d have children. When I lived in a communal house, I forbade my roommates to use the bowls. My best friend Margaret was the exception. Together we stirred up the corn fritters of her childhood and the apple brown betty of mine, following recipes handwritten by our mothers, aunts, and grandmothers on yellowed index cards. Margaret and I hoped to live our lives in the same town. She wanted children, and I looked forward to helping her raise them. But she was accepted to medical school in Atlanta, married a man with a Southern drawl, and when she got pregnant, we were three time zones apart. She sent me a photo of herself at eight months along. We called it the Demi Moore shot because she had posed in profile, naked, in the bathroom, one arm draped across her breasts, the other forming a fig leaf beneath her protruding belly. I flew out after the birth, stayed a week making soups and stews to pack their freezer, assembled a stroller, folded diapers, and rubbed Margaret’s shoulders until she slept, little Florence tucked in the wing of her arm. I have never seen my belly swell like Margaret’s. Never felt the «57»
tumbling inside of another being growing and dependent on me. I had pictured it, a life with one man and two brown-haired kids. But I had not questioned, in my youth, if I truly wanted children and why or why not. I suspect many women assume as I did that they will be mothers because we were raised to think it’s what we do, that a life without children will mean something went wrong. It didn’t. I don’t mourn the lost chances as some of my friends without children do. What saddens me is that, despite our involvement in our communities, our support of schools, the roles we play as teachers, aunts, and babysitters, not having children can still leave us excluded from the mainstream. I’m at the age–my forties–where women often befriend each other by striking up conversations at the gym or in the checkout line. Assuming the commonality of motherhood, they ask me, “Do you have kids?” Sometimes the question is “How old are your kids?” or “What school do your kids go to?” They ask in the friendliest of manners, with the expectation in their voices that we’ll soon be enveloped in that dialect of parents, comparing first-graders or how much our teens eat. But I derail this pleasantly anticipated interchange when I answer–with a smile–that no, actually, I’m not a mother. For a moment, the smiling woman initiating the conversation is at a loss, so while she switches gears, I ease the transition by offering that I’m an enthusiastic aunt, my nieces 7 and 14, piano and volleyball geniuses. I’ve saved the conversation from that awkward plummet it could have made. If the conversation goes well, we find many areas of common ground–including and beyond a love of children–upon which to nourish the start of a friendship. But I still cringe inside when the question arrives and wish I could just tell the larger truth. “No, I decided not to have children. And it makes me feel like an outsider at times, as if I don’t belong. Yet I do, because I look after and enjoy the children of my friends, family, and even strangers, which is as it should be in this tribe called humanity. No, I don’t wish I had kids, just that I could be inside the loop of community whose bonds seem to require having had children.” My Fiestaware bowls are still intact, hardly a chip marring their brilliant Art Deco curves. They’ve survived half a dozen moves, countless batches of corn muffins, banana bread, and potato salad. Bright holders of plenty, they glow against the yellow cabinets. They are worth something now because a craze for old dishware swept the nation some years back, followed by a wave of revived Fiesta designs. Manufacturers introduced new lines and colors with which today’s brides can outfit their kitchens. The bowls I own have seen 50 or 60 years of biscuit dough and cake mix, and when I take one down from the cupboard, I wonder what bride of the 1940s first owned them. Did «58»
she have children? If we had met, is that the first question we’d have asked each other? When my sister’s girls come to visit, we choose a bowl and sift flour and sugar, crack eggs, and pour vanilla. Today we are making waffles for their parents, still asleep in the guest room. Amy and Molly have chosen the marigold bowl because they want to make a really big batch. Under Amy’s inspired and vigorous stirring, the bowl slips over the lip of the counter. I hold my breath and watch it fall. The moment has come, and I wait to hear the crash. But Molly the volleyball player dives under the falling bowl. Both hands extended, she grabs it, getting a face full of batter for her heroism. Waffle batter slops onto the linoleum too, but the bowl never makes contact with the floor. “Good save!” Amy shouts. We mop up the floor and Molly’s face, add more flour, and start again. After breakfast, I wash the bowl and leave it upside down to dry, its yellow belly rising from my dish drainer. Tomorrow I’ll use it to make mango biscotti, which I’ll FedEx to Margaret’s family in Georgia. Before I seal the box, I’ll write the ingredients and instructions on an index card and tuck it beneath the wax paper. Perhaps, one day, in their 21st-century kitchens, in bowls I can only imagine, her daughters will follow that recipe. THE END
She was often on the verge of greatness, but There was always something more important to do.
Internet Legend Lenny Levine
Virus warning! Be on the alert for the Tourette Virus. It will insert random obscene words into your text files. You will not be able to eliminate these words with a simple Find and Delete search because the virus uses hundreds of different obscenities, and it will spit them out randomly. You will have to go through every one of your documents to discover where they are. Then, once you’ve deleted them, they will appear again when you close the file or try to save it. This is a real nasty one. It can be picked up with ordinary music downloads, particularly in the country music genre but in others as well. Please pass this warning on to everyone in your address book. Have you gotten this yet? You probably will. I’m the author of it. Thousands, maybe millions, have read it by now. I’ve gotten it back several times. That’s when I know they’re good, when I start getting them back. Did you see this one? Little-Known Facts The energy expended in the average sneeze could generate enough electrical power to start a car engine. Contrary to popular belief, biting your fingernails is good for your teeth. And swallowing your fingernails is a good source of protein. Ferrets can rotate their heads 360 degrees. Panthers are the only mammals who have both male and female reproductive organs (from the Greek, “pan thera” or “all genders “). Many digital cable boxes contain hidden cameras. John F. Kennedy increased his life insurance by $500,000 three hours before he was killed. Adolph Hitler’s favorite song was “Bie Mir Bist Du Schoen. “ And so on. Some of my best creative work is done during the occasional downtime at my job. I’m a proofreader for a major direct marketing agency. You know all that junk mail you barely look at before you throw it away? That’s what I proofread. “Letter-perfect from the mail to the pail,” is what I say. The next time you get a sweepstakes notice, check out the small print. No, you don’t have to read it, that’s my job, just take note of how much of it there is. Realize that I’ve examined it, in all its grueling detail, on at least six different occasions, and if there’s a typo in there it’ll be my ass. «62»
If you listen to music through headphones, and the rhythm falls in sync with your heartbeat for more than fifteen seconds, any variation in it can result in a dangerous arrhythmia. I’ve been publishing in this way for two years now, and no one’s caught me yet. Somewhere in the agency, I’m sure, Big Brother is scrutinizing our extracurricular workstation activity, but they must be looking for porn downloads or hits on terrorist Web sites. In any case, if I haven’t been fired by now, I probably won’t be. At least not for this. Do not keep plants in a closed room for any length of time. They will over saturate the air with oxygen. When you enter the room, your static electricity could cause a fire. Alyssa Wong dropped by my cubicle this morning with a bunch of galleys. She’s one of the traffic people who take the work around, from the computer geeks who input it, to yours truly, who hopefully catches their mistakes, to the powers that be, who then change their minds about nearly everything and start the whole process again. She’s my favorite, a beautiful Asian woman with big, almond-shaped eyes and long, dark hair. My knees grow weak in her presence. “Mark,” she said (I love it when she says my name), “could you do me a favor? Do you think you could proofread my résumé for me?” “Are you leaving?” I asked, my heart sinking. “I’d like to,” she said with a little shrug that I found adorable. “Wouldn’t everybody?” “Not me,” I replied earnestly. “What else would I do with a degree in English Lit?” She laughed. Alyssa has the most melodious laugh I’ve ever heard. I could listen to it for the rest of my life. “You’re never serious, are you?” she chided me. I could be serious about you, I thought, and then was unable to speak. Fortunately, I was saved when I remembered her request. “I’ll be glad to look at your résumé,” I said, in a voice that I hoped sounded efficient, yet warm. “When can you bring it by?” “Would sometime after lunch be all right?” “It’s a date,” I said, and immediately felt like a total idiot. Five Possible Signs of Cancer
Frequent urge to yawn Need to urinate more than once during a twelve-hour period Lack of energy after sexual activity Dryness in the throat upon awakening Unexpected weight gain I was taking a break from a particularly odious piece of work, a «63»
medical pamphlet with tons of prescription information, by browsing through one of the search engines that look for Web sites containing email addresses. I originally started out by copying addresses from e-mail forwards I’d get, and built up a pretty good database that way, but then I discovered these search engines. They’re wonderful tools, and I owe a large part of my success to them. My collecting pleasure was interrupted, however, by a familiarly grating voice. “Marco Polo, my man!” It was Kevin Wazlewski, my least favorite traffic person. He always calls me Marco Polo, it’s his idea of clever wordplay. “Just wanted to give you a heads-up, ol’ buddy. The Banana Safari Catalog is gonna be comin’ at you in full force tomorrow.” I couldn’t look at him, his buff jock physique, his pecs arrogantly stretching his tank-top shirt. Mostly, I didn’t want to look at the gleeful expression on his face. “Great, Kevin, thanks,” I murmured, waving my hand vaguely in his direction while staring at my computer screen. “Just thought I’d pass it along,” he said happily. “I know you don’t like sudden surprises.” He gave the side of my cubicle a playful smack that made it shake. It’s true. The worst thing you can do to a proofreader is dump a large job on him without prior notice. In Kevin’s case, though, warning me only helped get his sadistic rocks off, because he could see me suffer twice. “Have fun!” he sang out, as he continued down the aisle. Inspirational Story A man was driving to school to pick up his two children, but he was running late. Suddenly, he had a premonition that they were going to be kidnapped. He frantically sped up the car, praying to God to protect them until he could get there. In the fervency of his prayer, he lost concentration and didn’t see the traffic stopped ahead. His car slammed into the rear of the car in front of him, killing him instantly but disabling the other vehicle, which was being driven by a convicted child molester. God, in His wisdom, will protect the children of those who truly believe in Him. Pass this story on to all your friends and loved ones. Alyssa came down with her résumé a little after two. She sat in the chair beside my desk, crossed her shapely, elegant legs, and watched me as I read it, causing me no little distraction. But I concentrated fiercely and managed to spot a few mistakes that, although minor, made me feel proud of myself. “This is nice,” I said, glancing over at her. “Do you want to be an art director?” “Eventually,” she said, “but right now, I’ll probably settle for a «64»
horizontal move, maybe traffic manager at some other agency where they promote people faster. I’ve already made one change in my life this week, so why not two?” I guess she wanted me to ask, so I did. “What change is that?” “I broke up with my boyfriend.” “Oh.” Now I had no idea what to say, which is what always happens when someone tells me something personal about themselves. “I’m sorry,” is what came out. She gave one of those wonderful, mellifluous laughs. “That’s sweet, but you shouldn’t be. lt was a long time coming and I’m much better off.” “Well, in that case, I’m glad,” I said. She laughed again. “Glad to make you glad. How about you? Is there a significant proofreaderess in your life?” “Not at the moment,” I answered. Not at any moment in the history of the world, I thought. “Well, I really appreciate your doing this for me.” She stood and reached over my desk to pick up her amended résumé, putting her close enough for me to smell her perfume, which was the most intoxicating fragrance I’d ever experienced. She paused at the entranceway to my cubicle and looked back at me. “If there’s anything I can do in return, please let me know, okay?” My mind was in utter turmoil. Was this an opportunity? She’d always seemed to find my company agreeable; she actually thought I was funny; she just told me she broke up with her boyfriend. “How about having a drink with me after work?” I found myself saying, not believing I was doing it. She looked pleased for a brief moment that made my spirits soar, but then she said, “Oh, I can’t.” Her voice sounded genuinely disappointed; at least I thought so. I’m used to women patronizing me, I’ve got radar for it, but this didn’t sound that way. “I’m supposed to get together with Kevin,” she said apologetically. “He has a virus protection program for my PC, and he’s going to help me install it.” “Kevin Wazlewski?” I asked, my stomach giving a lurch. “Yes, he sent me an e-mail about a new virus that’s really scary, the Tourette Virus. You can get it by downloading country music, and I do that a lot.” “Oh,” I said, oddly relieved, “you don’t have to worry; that’s not real.” “It isn’t? How do you know? I looked it up on FactChequer and they didn’t say anything about it.” I was actually disappointed to hear that. FactChequer.com is my New York Times Best-seller List. If it’s on there, it means a lot of people «65»
have gotten it. I don’t care about being debunked, just about being read. But more than that, I cared about her, and not having Kevin Wazlewski install anything anywhere. “It’ll be on FactChequer soon, believe me,” I said. “I know it’s false.” “But how?” Could I tell her? I so wanted to. It’s frustrating to be famous and be the only one who knows about it. I yearned to share it with somebody, someone who’d understand. Would she? I hoped so. “Because I’m the original author,” I said. She blinked. “You’re what?” “I’m the writer.” I told her about all the e-mails I’ve been publishing, some that have become classics, like the so-called Dyslexia Worm, the one that switches around any numbers it finds on your hard drive. It was exposed as a hoax on FactChequer two years ago, and I still see it going around. I even got up a few of my favorites on the screen and showed them to her. The whole time she seemed fascinated, shaking her head in wonder, but not saying a word. “So you don’t have to worry about the Tourette Virus,” I said in conclusion, “and we can have that drink after all, if you want.” To my dismay, she looked at me the way someone looks at a package of raw chicken that’s a couple of days past the sale date. “I don’t think so,” she said. “You know, when you first started telling me all this, I thought you were kidding. But you really mean it; you really do these things to people, lying to them and frightening them.” It felt as if I’d been slapped. “Have you ever noticed the stuff we crank out at this place?” I retorted. “What I do is no worse than that, and it’s much more creative. And people actually read it.” Her tone had now become icy. “I don’t want to be responsible for getting you fired, so I won’t report you,” she said evenly. “I’ll just keep delivering work to you as usual, but we’ll hold the chit-chat to a minimum from now on, okay? Thanks for looking at my résumé.” With that, she turned on her heel and left. It was difficult, because my eyes kept watering, but I went back to reading the work in front of me, a sheet of voluminous prescription information about the rare but horrific possible side effects of a new cholesterol-lowering pill. If people were going to experience liver failure, at least it wouldn’t be misspelled. Virus Alert Be on the lookout for the Empty Life Virus. It will take the form of a Self-Pity program hidden in an otherwise innocent-looking Desire «66»
download. Once in your hard drive, it will begin to create Loneliness files that will increase exponentially, until you are no longer able to access any shareware at all. Ultimately, it will irreversibly corrupt your entire system. Please forward this message to your friends and family, and anyone you truly care about. Before it’s too late. THE END
Just Figures Noel Sloboda
rejected by a princess who did not like being kissed while she was asleep a knight-errant retreats to a ruined garden surrounded by wilted roses beneath indifferent birds dropping waste in the underbrush he spills out his heart to a passing bumblebee which gives him a hard look how stupid it buzzes talking to bugs of affairs of the heart and he is at first stung by this new prick to his ego ÂŤ68Âť
the suitor then reflects on differences between the nature of love and the love of nature and he figures he can’t expect much more
The Dramatist Caroline P. Huber
“I have an idea,” Eliza told her friend Binky as they spread peanut butter on bread for their sandwiches. “Let’s go through the woods and spy on Mom’s Cousin Charlotte.” Binky, a skinny young thing whose mousy blond hair stuck out in uncontrollable spikes from beneath the cap she habitually wore, stared at her from behind murky glasses. “Why?” Binky asked. Eliza made a quick decision not to mention Hansel and Gretel or any of the witches that populated the world of her lively imagination. Binky’s timidity often obstructed her plans, and she was used to devising strategies to get her friend to go along. “Just for the heck of it,” she replied. “She has a lot of cats.” This particular plan had been hatching in Eliza’s thoughts for some time. It was the result of listening to her mother entertain her friends with stories of her Cousin Charlotte’s eccentricities. Eliza liked to sit in one of the rattan chairs on the porch watching her mother as she twirled her cocktail glass, obviously enjoying the attention of her audience. The gaudiness of her jewelry, the smear of crimson lipstick on the rim of her glass, the glitter of her laughter fascinated her daughter, who silently took in every detail of her mother’s performance. “She used to have this bulldog named Ernest,” she remembered her mother saying one evening to the assembled group. “A dreadful, slobbering creature with a ghastly smell that she insisted on bringing with her to tea. When I complained, she would say, ‘But he’s so happy!’” Appreciative laughter greeted this vignette. At this moment, however, the problem was to convince Binky that an expedition to Cousin Charlotte’s was an excellent way to spend a few hours of an otherwise dull day. Eliza twirled an imaginary glass in imitation of her mother as she talked about the interesting possibilities, and eventually Binky resigned herself to Eliza’s obvious purposefulness. The girls packed their lunches in a knapsack and started off on a trail through the woods. Tall spruces created patches of light and shade as they trudged along the path, and just beyond the trees, waves pounded the rocks along the shore. “She makes soup out of rattlesnakes,” Eliza informed Binky as they approached the clearing where Cousin Charlotte’s house stood. “How do you know that?” Skepticism was another of Binky’ s signature traits. “My mother knows. I heard her telling people.” «70»
The two explorers stood for a moment at the edge of the woods, studying the house before them. It was a modest, gray-shingled house with maroon trim; hollyhocks bloomed behind a stone wall in front of it, and a pebbled walkway led up to the front door. “Come on,” said Eliza, starting toward the house. “Let’s peek through the window. I’ll bet she’s brewing up something in there.” As they crept toward the house, they were startled when the figure of Cousin Charlotte herself suddenly appeared around the comer. She wore a long, blue smock, and her gray hair was pinned back in a bun. “Hello, there,” she said, putting the basket and trowel she was carrying on the wall. “Aren’t you Cousin Eleanor’s girls? How nice to see you.” Her voice was soft and high-pitched with a lilt that struck Eliza as very different from the strong, confident tones she was used to. “Would you like something to drink?” Eliza thought about the rattlesnake soup, but spurred on by Binky’s obvious reluctance, she gulped, “Yes,” and added after a pause, “thank you.” They followed Cousin Charlotte through a small living room and were soon sipping iced tea in a porch swing behind the house. Conversation did not exactly flow, but Eliza managed to find responses to Cousin Charlotte’s questions about their activities while Binky sat silently swinging her legs; Eliza noticed with disgust that Binky’s hand on her glass was streaked with dirt and smelled of the orange that had been part of their lunch. Before they left, Eliza had launched into a long story about how they had rescued a dog from a lake in the middle of a dark night, a tale that Cousin Charlotte seemed to find interesting and even believable. She clearly enjoyed the dramatic gestures and exaggerated facial expressions that enhanced the story. When they got up to leave, she presented each of the girls with a small, ginger-scented sachet that she had made from a piece of calico fabric. It was a foggy day several weeks later when Eliza proposed another visit to Cousin Charlotte’s. This time Binky, with uncustomary readiness, nodded in acquiescence to her suggestion, and the two girls set off through the woods. There was no sound of the waves breaking on this windless day, but they could hear the forlorn groan of a distant foghorn. The fog had coated the spruce trees with moisture, and drops fell on their heads as they made their way. When they reached their destination, the house and garden were shrouded in mist, and no welcoming figure appeared to greet them. Undeterred, Eliza strode up to the front door with Binky close behind her. She banged the brass knocker several times before she turned away and started toward a window. “Don’t do that,” said Binky. “Let’s go–she’s not home.” But «71»
Eliza continued to make her way to the window. She peered in, and after a few moments, she beckoned to Binky, who was lingering on the walkway. Reluctantly Binky joined her, and the two pressed their noses to the panes. What they saw made them turn to each other in awe. “Let’s go,” hissed Binky. “She’s probably asleep.” “No, she’s not asleep. Something’s wrong.” And once again they peered through the glass. Inside Cousin Charlotte lay slumped in an armchair with her head resting at an odd angle on her shoulder; one hand dangled toward the floor, and Eliza noticed a book that had fallen there. Much to Binky’s horror, Eliza tapped on the window several times, but there was no response from the inert figure within. The girls exchanged startled looks. “We’d better go,” Eliza whispered. As they hurried along the trail toward home, Eliza gave some thought to the announcement she would make and tried to calculate the degree of drama that was called for. She worked on visualizing her performance as messenger and its effect on her audience. Should she try to exact the reaction the situation demanded by immediately declaring, “Cousin Charlotte’s been murdered!” Or would it be better to state in a hushed voice with just the right touch of urgency, “Something’s wrong at Cousin Charlotte’s. I think you’d better get over there?” The role was a challenging one, and Eliza took it seriously. She realized that Binky, hurrying along behind her, would be no help at all.
One Spring Day Leland Thoburn
“I swear to God, if I have to shoot one more arrow, I’m shooting to kill.” A cherub named DeAngelo muttered to himself as he wobbled through the air, looking for someplace to sit. He landed on a log and, with equal parts exhaustion and frustration, threw down his bow and buried his face in his hands. There were blisters on his fingers, and his body sported a variety of cuts and bruises. His friend Aloysius fluttered down beside him. “What’s up buddy?” DeAngelo’s eyes and mouth drooped, and a tear ran down his cheek as he turned to face his friend. “Is it just me or is this job getting harder? All I’m trying to do is bring some love to people and what happens? Venus Williams swats me. Jay-Z maces me. Paul McCartney’s dog gets me in her chops and I have to stab her with my last arrow before she’ll drop me.” He paused to blow his nose. “Do they make body armor in extra small?” Aloysius patted his friend on the back. DeAngelo continued. “And if they’re not outright attacking me, they get snide. Like, ‘how can you hope to bring happiness with such a small arrow?’ and ‘do you shoot both ways?’ Or my favorite – ‘shoot this!’ What’s the use?” “What do you mean ‘what’s the use’? Without us old Sod would stop spinning, darkness would envelop the Earth, and Satan would come to rule the hearts and minds of men.” “You think that isn’t happening already? Look at Donald Trump. Just yesterday I had to use up almost half my quiver on his wife just to keep her from going ballistic.” “Look at the bright side...” “What bright side? I shot the other half trying to wing Pamela Anderson, but she was too quick. I couldn’t touch her.” “No, I mean the good old days. Before the Internet. Before Hollywood. Before Bill Clinton.” DeAngelo brightened up at the thought. Then, his face sagged. “I don’t have time for this right now. Look at my list. I mean, have you ever seen a sorrier batch of couples? I’ve got Hulk Hogan and Linda Bollea; Michael and Juanita Jordan; Prince Harry and Chelsy Davy...” “You need a break. Let’s go get a cold one. I know a bar in town.” DeAngelo looked wistfully at his friend. “You think they’d let us in? We look like babies.” «73»
“Leave that to me.” The two cherubs fluttered through the door of the Litter Box, Tavern and Bar. “Hey. No babies in here!” The barkeeper’s snarl revealed teeth that were yellowed and uneven. His beard was unshaven, a toothpick drooped from his mouth, and his dirty undershirt failed to hide a hairy potbelly. Aloysius flashed through the air to hover in front of the startled barkeeper. Grabbing the man’s shirt, the cherub lifted him into the air and slammed him down on the bar. The barkeeper’s shocked look was soon replaced by sheer terror, as Aloysius morphed into a fifteen foot tall likeness of Mephistopheles, complete with horns, tail, and flames. After accidentally toasting the man’s eyebrows, Aloysius spoke. His voice echoed a deep, metallic resonance. “Two Miller Lites.” Aloysius resumed his cherubic form and hung in the air in front of the petrified barkeeper. “Please. And not too much foam,” he added sweetly. The barkeeper ducked behind the counter to comply. “Wow, where’d you learn that?” asked a very impressed DeAngelo. “Abraham gave a workshop the day you were sick. He taught us that so we could defend ourselves in case we ran into Amy Winehouse.” DeAngelo nodded and hung his head. The barkeeper delivered their beers. Aloysius thanked him as the barkeeper nodded and looked nervously to the door. Aloysius turned to his friend. “I know it’s hard work, but think of the rewards.” “What rewards?” “C’mon, you’re a hall-of-famer. I’ve got to remind you? Weren’t you the one who hooked up Anthony and Cleopatra?” A smile crept on to DeAngelo’s face. Then, it fell. “Yeah, but remember how they died?” “Well, yeah, everybody dies. But remember how happy they were there for a while?” DeAngelo nodded and smiled again. “Yeah, like that...roomeo, what was his name? Oh yeah, Romeo. Romeo and Juliet.” Then his face fell again. “Oooh, not a good example.” “No no no, don’t think of it that way. Just because people screw up afterwards doesn’t mean you didn’t do a great job.” Some of the darkness left DeAngelo’s face as he took another sip of beer. “Remember Helen of Troy and Paris?” Aloysius asked. DeAngelo grinned. “I really stirred the pot with that one, didn’t I?” “You bet you did. And how about Anne Boleyn and Henry the «74»
VIIIth? Peggy Timberlake and John Eaton? Edward the VIIIth and Mrs. Wallis Simpson? You didn’t just ignite a few pheromones there. You changed history.” DeAngelo was getting into it now. “Yeah, and how about Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn? Samson and Delilah....” “That’s the spirit.” Aloysius goaded his friend on. “...Ralph Kramden and Alice? Kermit and Miss Piggy? Robin Hood and Maid Marion...ouch.” “What happened?” “That one brings back painful memories.” Aloysius arched an eyebrow. “He’s the only one who ever shot back. Nicked me here on the shoulder.” DeAngelo stretched his neck to look at an old scar on his right shoulder. That done, he looked back at Aloysius, and a mischievous grin lit his face. “And remember a couple of years back when they came out with that prototype, the XJ-10 turbo love arrow? Only used it once.” Aloysius again arched an eyebrow. “Tom Cruise.” Aloysius nodded. DeAngelo’s wings started to hum. He finished his beer and turned to Aloysius. “Thanks buddy. I needed that.” “No problem. What are friends for?” The two cherubs lifted up off of their chairs and floated towards the door. “Hey,” the barkeeper barked at them. They turned back. The barkeeper flinched and threw up his hands to protect his face. When after a few seconds nothing happened, he spoke. “Who’s gonna pay for them beers?” The two cherubs looked at each other. Aloysius shook his head, while DeAngelo shrugged his shoulders. This was a problem they had not foreseen. Just then a voice from the kitchen split the air. “Who you sayin’ ‘hey’ to, ya big lummox?” An ugly old woman, fully the equal of the barkeeper in class, barged through the swinging doors. She wiped her hands and nose on a very dirty apron and then pointed a crooked finger at the man. “If you’re giving away beers again to your buddies so help me God I’ll...” She saw the cherubs hovering in mid-air and screamed. “You’ve been serving babies.” “They’re not babies. That little one on the left is...” The embarrassed barkeeper stopped. “Are you as blind as you are stupid? Look at them.” «75»
“Shut your mouth you old hag. I’ll do what I want out here, and you’ll like it. Now you get back to that kitchen where you belong.” “Old hag, am I? I’ll show you old hag…” The old woman looked around and grabbed an iron skillet, while the barkeeper grabbed a whiskey bottle. The two antagonists circled, preparing to do battle. Aloysius and DeAngelo looked at each other and nodded. Each withdrew an arrow, aimed, and fired. Both arrows found their marks, as a shimmering aura enfolded the two erstwhile combatants. Smiles adorned their faces as they set down their weapons and embraced in a manner fully worthy of the great lovers of years past. Aloysius and DeAngelo exchanged high fives and zipped out the door to float in the sunshine out front of the Litter Box, Tavern and Bar. “Ready to go?” Aloysius asked. DeAngelo eructed. Then, he nodded. “First one to get Hillary wins.” “You’re on.” In a flash the air was empty again, save for a few sparkles that drifted to the ground. THE END
Second Chance Mary L. Hickey
Ambrose was slightly smarter than average for a field mouse. Perhaps if he’d been brighter, he’d have recognized the trap when he first saw it under the kitchen sink in the farmhouse. Then he would have walked away for the same reason smart humans avoid games they know use loaded dice and marked cards. On the other hand, if his intellect had instead resided in the left half of the bell curve, he would have jumped at the bait without a second thought. Then the spring and bar would have snapped him into oblivion without his ever knowing what had turned out his dim lights for the last time. But as it was, Ambrose had first grasped at the bait, then reconsidered. He had drawn back before he could quite touch the tempting morsel of Monterey Jack at the trap’s center, but in doing so had created enough vibration to trip the spring. Now he was caught by one of his front legs, able to struggle and squeak but not to escape. Ambrose quieted down after awhile, realizing that his efforts would do him no good and were only intensifying his pain. He thought about how stupid he had been, giving in to his greed instead of remembering that even for a mouse, nothing is free. But then, if he believed that, why had he gone inside the farmhouse in the first place? There was plenty to eat out in the fields, and thousands of other mice were content with that. He resolved to be more careful, to cultivate the healthy skepticism that distinguished the longer-lived specimens among his large extended family. He resolved this despite knowing the pride and opportunism that drove his thoughts and actions were like the rangy, scraggled thorn bushes that leapt from the furrows each spring before the corn or beans had even sprouted. They were difficult for the farmer to control for even one season, and probably impossible to eradicate for good. Even as he pondered these things, Ambrose recognized that his new-found wisdom was unlikely to be of any use to him. The farmer or his wife would eventually find him, yes, but why would they want to free him once again to dirty their house, gnaw their baseboards, and steal any food they forgot to put away? No, they would probably crush or drown him, and his fate would be ultimately no different from the stupidest of his brethren’s. Ambrose heard footsteps approaching, a resolute crescendo abruptly ending in sickening silence. The farmer’s wife stooped to open the wooden cabinet door, then peered into the darkness under the sink. «78»
Ambrose twitched involuntarily as the harsh light from an antique brass ceiling fixture fell on him and the now overturned trap. The farmer’s wife picked up the trap by its edges and held it up to the light. Then she began walking toward the back door, still holding the trap with Ambrose dangling from it by his mangled front leg. Her footsteps struck a different rhythm now, a soft and solemn procession toward a fate he could not imagine. Hope leaped in Ambrose’s tiny heart as the farmer’s wife unsnapped the deadbolt, then pushed open the door that led to the fields, and to freedom! Now she was standing at the end of a small deck outside the back door, at the top of three wooden steps leading down to a wash-gravel path connecting the house and the barn. The rising sun had finger-painted a few hesitant splotches of light along the tree line that bounded the back eighty, casting long shadows on the fresh furrows. To Ambrose, from his new vantage point high above the world he had once despised as too small, they looked like a thousand paths leading to a new beginning, a second chance at the life he was meant to live in the rich and fruitful earth. Why wasn’t she setting him down? Ambrose wondered. Then like the bite and sting of the bar of a trap, the realization struck him that once again, he had fooled himself into thinking he could gain something the mere peons of his species could not, that he was gifted and therefore privileged beyond the merely ordinary. He understood that freedom, even and perhaps especially for a mouse, is fragile, and once it is surrendered in a moment of weakness, venality, or fear, it is thenceforth only a fond but fading memory. This realization, at least in his distorted imaginings, changed his spirit in a way that he fancied was very important, though to what or whom he could not begin to speculate. However, even had his epiphany been genuine, he would have been hard-pressed to explain the value of an internal change forged only by final extremity, and never outwardly expressed or put to any proof. In any case, it was not sufficient to save him. The farmer’s wife waved the trap slowly and gently back and forth, her husky, weathered voice calling out toward the gray-shingled barn, the fields and trees, and the first healing rays of a sun rising too late to kiss a mouse good-bye. “Here, kitty, kitty...”
Think of John riding down the street on his bicycle, peddling slowly, legs sore and weak. Imagine his black hair, grizzled with burgeoning streaks of gray around the ears. He’s huffing and puffing. Can’t you hear him huffing and puffing? He may, he thinks, blow your house in. It’s reaching dusk. Streetlights on. Children have been called in to dinner. I never get called in to dinner, John thinks. I never get called anywhere. I never get calls. I’ll blow your house in. He stops at the big red STOP sign, reaches his left hand in to his pocket–well his Mom, two years ago, before she died, said that that was his left hand–and pulls out a dollar. A DOLLAR. It feels so crisp in his hands. So straight. Taut. Smooth. He wonders where dollars are made. He wonders. John always wonders about things. John wonders why his mother left to go to heaven. He wonders why his father keeps drinking bottles and bottles and bottles, and then, always, yells at him, calls him a ‘retard. A stupid, lazy man.’ John wonders if his father is right. I wish, I only wish, I could blow my house in, he thinks. Kill him. Kill my father with my breath. He blows a huge breath into the air, touches the STOP sign with his palm, like he always does, and peddles on–down the steep hill, past the barking dogs, the late-evening lawn mowers, past the verdant woods. He begins to peddle faster. He has nowhere to go. Imagine John having nowhere to go. He can’t go home. He knows he can’t go home; his father is still up, still about, still smoking and drinking, still cursing and yelling. Picture John pulling into the corner store, the one that’s two blocks from his house, the one he goes to every evening. “What can I get you today, John?” the young, blonde clerk, Michelle, says to him. “Another ticket, Shelly,” John says, smiling, bashful, his cheeks imbued with a faint red hue. «80»
John loves Shelly. Can you feel the love John has for Shelly? Shelly, the only one who makes him feel good. The woman who makes him smile, gives him weird tingles in his body. Shelly, his girlfriend. Do you think Shelly will be his girlfriend? “Shelly will you be my girlfriend?” he asks, lowering his head, putting his shaking hands into his pockets. “John... ...I would, but... .. .you know I’m seeing Bobby... .. . your neighbor.” She laughs. It’s funny. John’s funny. John knows that Shelly is with Bobby. John cares. John likes Bobby. But, he knows, verily, that he could treat Shelly better, make her ‘more happier and most prettier too’; like he told Bobby last summer. Shelly gives John a penny from the register, and watches him scratch off another ticket–a loser, always a losing ticket. But, don’t you know that John won TEN DOLLARS last moth? TEN WHOLE DOLARS. He bought Shelly candies. Chocolate candies. And, she loved them, ate them all. She told John she ate them all. Why wouldn’t she eat them all? Candies are good. Chocolate candies are good. John likes chocolate candies, but he knows that he can’t eat them. The doctor says chocolate makes him hyper, makes him different and strange. “I’m already different and strange,” he remembered telling the doctor. “You’re quite fine, and normal,” Dr. Norris had replied, and laughed. Think of John walking out of the store, slowly, sadly. Defeated. Defeated by Shelly’s blue eyes, her blonde hair. He truly loves her, wants to marry her, have children–have little boys, a boy named John, like him. Can you feel that sadness? Can you feel his heart, heavy with grief and disappointment, trying to peddle back up that hill? He stops at the stop sign, after pushing his bicycle halfway up the hill, touches it with his palm again: STOP. And peddles on. Huffing and puffing, casually riding home, past all the houses and trees. Huffing and puffing. «81»
John hopes his father is asleep, drunk, on the couch, the empty bottles strewn across the living room, the ashtray full. I want to blow my house in, he ponders, pulling into the his driveway. I want to blow the stupid house in. Don’t you think he would, if he could? Don’t you think he’d blow the house in?
Hole In Throat Kelly DeLong
The four boys stood facing each other in the corner of the backyard, discussing whether or not to let the new kid George join their football game. In the middle of the yard George threw the Nerf football up in the air, caught it and tossed it up again. Then he started running around the yard while throwing the football up in the air and trying to catch it, his arms outstretched. He tripped in the grass and fell face first. Kenneth was the oldest. He spoke first. “I don’t want him playing with us. He grosses me out with that tube in his throat,” he said. “Ever see him in school?” Andy said. “He takes the tube out of the hole and rinses it in the water fountain. It’s disgusting.” The four of them looked at George, who was getting up. He tossed the ball up in the air, bobbled it, but eventually pulled the ball to his chest. He saw them watching him. “I’m really good,” he said. “I could probably beat all you by myself. Are we playing, or what?” Even from twenty feet away they could hear George’s breathing as it whistled through the tube. The tube was attached to a thick, white string around his neck, like some sort of odd necklace. They turned back to each other. “Why does he have that thing anyway?” Kenneth said. “Lee’s in his class,” Teddy said, pointing at his twin brother. “He needs it to breathe,” Lee said. “I don’t know. Something happened to his throat when he was a baby or something.” “I don’t like him,” Kenneth said. “He’s too weird. And look at him, he stinks. We don’t need him. Five makes the teams uneven.” Kenneth was thirteen. As the oldest, his opinion carried some weight. The other boys nodded. “I don’t like him either,” Andy said. “Let’s tell him to get out of here,” Teddy said. “He won’t go,” Lee said. “We didn’t want him on our after-school basketball team. But he stole the ball and ran off with it. He only gave it back when we let him play.” They looked at George again. He was leaning over with his hands on his thighs. He seemed to be struggling for breath. “I don’t want that freak on my team,” Kenneth said. “How about he plays with Lee and Teddy?” Andy said. Lee and Teddy shrugged. “Alright,” Kenneth said, “you guys can have him then.” Lee and Teddy went over to George and told him the news. “Get «83»
ready to win!” George said. “I always win.” Kenneth and Andy had the ball first. “It’s three Mississippis,” Kenneth said. He yelled, “Hike” and backpedaled as Andy took off on his pass pattern. But before Kenneth had moved back three steps, George was placing his hands on him, saying, “You’re sacked! I nailed you.” “You didn’t count three Mississippis,” Kenneth said. “You cheated.” “There’s no Mississippis in football,” George said. “You don’t know how to play, do you?” Kenneth said. “You’re the one that doesn’t know how to play,” George said. “Tell him guys,” Kenneth said to his friends, who were standing around. “You have to count three Mississippis,” Andy said. “That’s the way we play,” Teddy said. “One Mississippi, two Mississippi,” Lee said. “Like that.” “That’s stupid,” George said. “You guys don’t know what you’re doing. My dad played for Penn State University and he never counted Mississippis.” The boys looked at each other, unsure how to answer that. “Okay,” George said. “But it sounds dumb to me. Let somebody else rush the quarterback then.” This time Andy was quarterback and Kenneth went out for the pass. Andy threw the ball, but it was tipped slightly by Lee. Kenneth came back for the ball. Just as he was about to grab it out of the air, George knocked Kenneth’s arms out of the way before he could get his hands on the ball. The ball hit Kenneth in the nose. “That’s a penalty!” Kenneth yelled. “You can’t touch me before the ball gets to me. That’s illegal. Did you see that?” Kenneth asked Andy. “We get that down over and the ball where the penalty was,” Andy said. “I can do whatever I want to the receiver when the ball is tipped,” George said. “Don’t you guys know the rule?” Kenneth and Andy looked incredulous. Kenneth turned to Lee and Teddy. “That was a penalty and you guys know it,” he said. They nodded in agreement. “You guys don’t know anything about football!” George said excitedly. “I can do anything if the ball is tipped. Don’t you guys know that? What is wrong with you? You guys don’t know the first thing about football. That wasn’t a penalty. That was a perfect play. It’s «84»
second down and you get the ball right—” Before he could finish he was overcome by a coughing fit, the likes of which the other boys had never seen before. George hunched over, hugging his stomach, making some of the loudest, strangest sounding coughs the boys had ever heard. After a while George yanked out his tube and started making gurgling noises in his throat. Then he spit several times. The boys started to back away. “I knew we shouldn’t’ve let him play with us,” Kenneth said in a loud whisper. “He’s so gross,” Andy said. “What if he dies?” Lee said. “Maybe we should sneak away,” Teddy said. “He’s too weird for us,” Kenneth said. They watched George spit some more. He stopped coughing and put his tube back in the hole in his throat. George turned to them. “Let’s go,” he said. “I’m ready to play.” The boys stared at him. “What? Come on,” George said. “What’s your problem? Let’s go.” They didn’t move. “What, are you guys wimps?” he said. “You afraid to play with me?” George walked over to the football and picked it up. “Second down,” he said. “The ball is here.” Reluctantly, the boys lined up on either side of the ball. * Several plays later George’s team had the ball after an interception. George said he was the best quarterback they’d ever see, so his teammates, Lee and Teddy, lined up on either side of him, ready to run the routes George told them would lead to an easy touchdown. The play, however, did not lead to a touchdown. It didn’t even lead to a completion. Lee and Teddy were supposed to cross in the middle of the yard, to confuse the defenders. But, instead of crossing, they ran smack dab into each other, knocking them backwards and to the ground. They rolled around on the ground holding their heads and groaning. Kenneth and Andy stood over them laughing. “That was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen,” Kenneth said. “Bam, just like that.” “That was hysterical,” Andy said. “Smash. Their heads cracked.” George ran by Kenneth and Andy, the ball tucked under his arm. “It’s still a live play!” he said once he was past them. “Get him!” Kenneth said. Kenneth and Andy raced after George. Kenneth dove with his hands «85»
out to try to touch George before he crossed the imaginary goal line. “Touchdown!” George said. “I got you,” Kenneth said from the ground. “No, you didn’t,” George said. “I didn’t feel a thing.” Kenneth got up and pointed to the ground. “I got you right here. The ball’s at the goal line.” “You’re dreaming,” George said. “You just don’t want to admit that I was too fast for you.” “What?” Kenneth said. “You were down,” Andy said. “We should do the whole play over anyway,” Kenneth said. “Lee and Teddy were both hurt. The play went dead when they got hurt.” “That’s not how it works,” George said. “I can’t believe this. You just make up your own rules as you go along.” “You’re the one,” Kenneth said, pointing a finger at George. “You make up your own rules.” George wasn’t paying attention to what Kenneth was saying. Something behind Kenneth caught his eye. “Hey,” he said, running past Kenneth and Andy. Kenneth and Andy turned around. Lee and Teddy were on the ground, grabbing at each other’s throat. “Break it up, break it up,” George said, pulling Teddy up by his waist. “What are you doing?” Kenneth said, coming up from behind. “Don’t touch them.” “I don’t want them fighting,” George said. “They’re brothers.” “They always fight,” Andy said. “Brothers shouldn’t fight,” George said. “I don’t fight with my brother. We love each other. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.” “Let me go!” Teddy said. “I wanna kill Lee pee wee for running into me.” Teddy broke free from George and jumped on his brother. They fell to the ground and went back to trying to strangle each other. “I gotta stop this,” George said. “They’ll hurt their throats.” “No, you’re not,” Kenneth said. “Everyone knows to let them go.” “That’s stupid!” George said. He went over to the brothers and tried to pull them apart. But before he could separate Lee and Teddy, Kenneth tackled George from the side. He wrestled him onto his back and sat on his stomach, looking down on George, whose heavy breathing rapidly whistled through his tube. “I told you not to touch them, but you didn’t listen to me, did you,” Kenneth said with his teeth gritted. “You think you know it all!” “Get off me!” George said, trying to wriggle under Kenneth. «86»
“Not till you admit you’re wrong. You’re wrong about everything,” Kenneth said. “You don’t know a thing about anything.” “But they’re gonna hurt their throats,” George said, kicking up his legs to try to break free. “So?” Kenneth said. “That’s none of your business. You just need to shut up. You talk too much. You know that? Now shut up.” “No,” George said. He tried to sit up and to throw punches at Kenneth. Kenneth laughed. “You can’t even punch right,” he said. “You gotta lot of things wrong with you. You’re a mess.” George kept thrashing around until he saw Lee, Teddy, and Andy standing over him. They were shaking their heads. “Hey,” George said, “you’re not fighting.” “No,” Lee said. “But you two were trying to hurt each other,” George said. “So, we always fight,” Teddy said. “Don’t you know nothing?” Lee said. “See, idiot. I told you so,” Kenneth said to George. “Get off me,” George said. Kenneth obliged. George got up. He stood there staring at the four boys as if he saw something about them that he didn’t like. He made a disgusted face. “What are you looking at?” Kenneth said. George said, “I thought playing football with you guys would be fun. But it wasn’t. You guys are too different.” The boys had looks of confusion on their faces. “We’re too different?” Kenneth said. George nodded. “Yeah,” he said. “You guys are weirdos.” “You’re the weirdo,” Andy said. “You’re the one with the hole in your throat,” Lee said. “And that weirdo tube,” Teddy said. “Yeah, you’re the freak,” Kenneth said. George shook his head. “Next time you guys are in front of a mirror, take a look.” “What does that mean?” Kenneth said. “Just look in the mirror and you’ll see,” George said. He turned around and walked away from them. He held up his hand. “See you later,” he said. “What’s your problem?” Andy said. “Go home to your mommy,” Lee said. “Yeah, we don’t want you!” Teddy said. Kenneth picked up the football. He threw it as hard as he could at «87»
George, but it sailed to the left, missing him completely. “I hate kids like that,” Kenneth said. “They think they’re so smart.” “Yeah,” Andy said. “Yeah,” Lee and Teddy said. They turned away and started walking to the other side of the yard. “You know,” Lee said. “I think he was right about tipped balls. I think I saw that on a game on TV.” “Me too,” said Teddy. “I remember that.” “And Mississippis,” Andy said. “They really don’t have them in college or the pros. Everyone kind of knows that.” “That’s right,” Lee said. “What?” Kenneth said. “You want to play football with him?” “No,” Andy said. “We don’t want that.” “Not with that hole in his throat,” Lee said. “And that tube,” Teddy said. “He’s too gross.” “Alright,” Kenneth said. “Let’s agree he doesn’t know what he’s talking about and play the way we always play.”
As soon as my brother came home from the hospital I decided to kill him. I waited until Mother fell into a head-on-the-kitchentable afternoon coma, then wedged two fingers into the baby’s pink, translucent nostrils. I’m not sure what I expected would happen but absolutely nothing did. The runt kept squirming, arms and legs waving spastically. “You have to cover its mouth too,” said Dr. Kimmy, which was what my sister made everyone call her in those days. She joined me near the baby’s crib, which, for right then, was my bottom dresser drawer. Dr. Kimmy wore Father’s white dress shirt, with his Sunday church tie wrapped around her waist, and Mother’s compact mirror Scotch-taped to her forehead. She slipped her hand over the runt’s toothless, gaping yap and said, “I learned that when they brought you home.” I adored Dr. Kimmy for that and grabbed her free hand, waiting for the little babe to expire. The metallic cylinders of our wind chimes danced in the breeze outside. Their music made our crackerbox bedroom feel exotic and Chinese. I vowed that if our brother died the way we meant him to, I would become Chinese. I would weave my hair in a long, flat braid, wear silky, red Christmas pajamas and black velvet slippers, eat only rice and fortune cookies, drink only tea. Oh, how I longed for a new life as a Chinese girl with no baby brother! “I’ve never seen anyone die before,” I said, all nervous and light-lit inside. “What happens?” Dr. Kimmy put one hand on her hip; I knew I was in for a good explanation. “After the heart stops, the soul flies up to heaven, and a big gush of blood squirts out. Then, the eyes roll backward”—she demonstrated—“it shakes all over like it’s electrocuted, and then,”—she slid her finger across her throat—“kaput.” That sounded pretty good. The baby’s cheeks were red and squishy, his eyes like blind marbles, but so far, no dead symptoms yet. I wondered how my little brother would feel when he died, sleeping there under the dirt, growing old without us, only rabbits and snakes, moles and worms to play with. “How will we know when the heart stops?” Dr. Kimmy pulled a stethoscope from inside her undershirt and placed the plastic parts on the places they went so you could tell if something was dead. She smiled and nodded her head. “Listen for yourself,” she said. She handed me the listening part. I put it to my ear and listened as «89»
hard as I could. There was nothing for the longest time, until the chimes laughed and rang out again. I jumped, and the stethoscope clattered to the floor. “Don’t worry,” Dr. Kimmy said. “That’s just his soul flying up to heaven.” I stood there trembling, waiting for the blood, and for my new Chinese life to begin. THE END
Life seemed much easier when I was dying. For 18 months someone else balanced my checkbook and dealt with the mail. There were free hot meals delivered, complimentary pedicures, and stressrelieving massages from newly attentive relatives. Cheerful DVDs were slid through my mail slot, intended to take my mind off the cell warfare in my body. Well, School of Rock must have worked, because, as of Monday, I am apparently cancer free. When I refused to take “yes” for an answer and persisted in finding a fatal loophole, my handsome oncologist playfully shooed me away in favor of the wan, bald woman on her cell phone just outside his door. My flip-flops felt like lead as I made my way out past the receptionist, who, for the first time in two years, didn’t look up with her I’m glad I’m not you smile. My insurance was airtight, so there was nothing to do but leave and unabashedly plan the rest of my life. So why didn’t I feel like it? The notion of getting on the phone or mounting the freeway and heading home was just too much. I could only think of stopping in at the Old Navy at the corner strip mall. I liked their flannel pajama bottoms because they washed nicely, were ridiculously cheap at $9.98, and came in several cheerful patterns—Scottie dogs, a field of full-house poker hands, smiling skull and crossbones, and a nice nautical stripe going in a flattering vertical direction. I had bought several pair in preparation for chemo and wore them happily beyond. Now that I allegedly didn’t have cancer anymore, would I have to buy investment pajamas? Would I need to spend a lot of time deliberating over thread counts and durable waist closures because I might need them to last the rest of my very, very long life ahead? Would I have to resume the tedious process of passport renewal and marriage counseling and come up with a long-range hair plan? Was I expected to give up medical marijuana and finally love green tea, gardening, brown rice, and jazz music? Would I have to roll down grassy hills with my grandchildren and make friends with my next-door neighbor who made beer and played the bagpipes? Was there no excuse left for not finally learning how to parallel park? I couldn’t help but wonder why I had made it out alive and the 12-year-old boy with braces hadn’t. What level of gratitude would be required from me now? Would I be expected to Hail Mary, love Jesus, and praise God in some perpetual, significant, exhausting way? Would «91»
I have to volunteer, or donate blood, money, or vital organs? Exactly what kind of tab have I been running here? THE END
Beyond the blue curtain, I hear them discuss me. They call me by the name of it. Disease, room number. A sign above the cot reads: Are you comfortable? You hold my hand apologetically, like I am your mother and you have disappointed me. Illness drains sex out first. The prescriptions look like ominous progress reports; the small bottles like war, technical-orange, cold, important. In a greasy clinic magazine, statistics about chronic pain: some sufferers commit suicide, most don’t. No explanation. I consider it. Responsibility? The Price Is Right? Dull razors? Maybe we still believe that God will lift the strings of our souls like a puppeteer, pull us up out of our dead helplessness, grinning, chattering stupidly. Deeper than our lust for an ending is our love of something else. Right now a woman, trapped in her house for years, finds a new crack in the wall.
I run boyhood through rolling dunes, high and deep, missing the adventure of small lies. There, smoke filters up out of cigarettes I stole from my father forty-two years ago and mother cries as the ash of blame falls to friends after she finds whiskey I forgot to hide. Again. You’d think these episodes would’ve gone the way of other disappointments– no one welcomed me to the majors and the closest I’ve come to the priesthood is the guilt I keep to myself. Meanwhile, he died of lung cancer and she with all the strangers of Alzheimers. I end in a somnolence of white sand, small waves of footprints crisscrossing my spine. Adventure goes out of me like a long drag, a toast to the boy who got away– deep in the dunes of his truth.
In Montparnasse Cemetery Pamela Davis
a man in bruised corduroy pants fills a pitcher, waters red geraniums. He walks back and forth between the faucet and a woman’s tomb, briefcase slumped against her stone. Two teenagers hold hands as they cut between the graves, ignoring inscriptions. New leaves tremble in a quick breeze; late afternoon settles into long shadows. The man tending the tomb brushes his knees, straightens his back, buttons his coat for home. Is nine years long enough? Twenty? Fifty?
Bathroom Mirrors Michael Sandler
Fragment of a morning when he lets me shave, the bright lather flushing my cheeks (like his). He wipes large ovals in the glass, and I gaze impatiently into the stubbled years. Then he swings a mirrored door so that it skims our reflections from the facing glass. To the right: receding phantoms—millions of me with him! To the left: a second, mocking infinite. Let’s rinse them off, he’d say, and two razors (mine no blade) dip, stir a wet warmth...Nowadays, of course, just one emerges, a keen scythe from dull water—I reap what’s not yet razed. Another morning, and some other children at the sink. My own. We daub the timeless cream. We laugh and do the mirror trick—all grown. This, too, recedes into the ravening frame. A mirror never reflects when it absorbs. What else entombed here, just beneath the gray now bearding me? But rising steam enshrouds the thought, merging it with clouded slate— or, if I could pierce its silvered character for fragments of his cracked, assuring brow, I’d spot a child, pajamaed, left to hunt the fracturing for the reflection—gone.
City Kidsâ€™ Twilight Marvin Adelson
Heartless evening Kicks apart the ball game Bullies the kids back to tasteless dinners And takes over the street
Pony Ride Pamela Davis
We were sleeping in our beds when the trucks rolled in, spilling men who never slept into the hot August night. By noon, the long, articulated arms of carnival rides clawed the flat sky and sent us spinning with our hair on end, sweet fried dough rising high in our throats. At 15, we were antsy for thrills assembled from hasty bolts that trembled on rusted-out joints. The Hammer tossed us up, slammed us back, churned our bodies like wash. High in the sky and screaming for more, I thought my life had finally taken off. Today, I drove by carnies setting up a carnival in a different town, unloading Shetland ponies onto crackling asphalt. I remember the summer I was five, riding the scabbed back of a brown-and-white pony. What became of her? Tethered to five others with head hung low, hooves cracked and crusted with dung, circling, circling.
My one sunflower bit the alyssum during last night’s rainstorm. It lies facedown, spine snapped, waiting for whatever happens next to happen next. No late-arriving ambulance of sun can reattach that stem, restart the pulse. I bring the corpse inside to fit it in an open casket vase. The flower droops. Rays fall off. I eulogize on bees’ behalf.
Alan Robert Connors
Clouds on the horizon Methodically approach Relentless in their demeanor No escape, no respite From their maddening rage The swift sword of Nature’s fury Reminding us once again How grandiose we pretend to be In our insignificance
Mountain #3 Yu Chiwhan
From the looks of that black smoke of cloud that’s circulating above my head, it will rain tonight. From the southeast it’s blowing in, so tonight we won’t watch the infant stars in sky’s blue-black ocean. Alpine birds, hasten your flapping, hide yourselves in your forest nests. In the valley, aren’t the green frogs croaking for all they’re worth? I am the mountain. All night long I’ll stand, lonely and exposed and wet. (Tr. Duane Vorhees)
Vincent’s Worker John Peterson
The rolling sea of wheat rises to the reaper, rises to the warm sun, rises for no other reason, but to sway in the breeze that ripples the worker’s white shirt and cools his creased brow. His back bowed by the seasons, his hands encrusted with the scent of soil, he slices free thick stalks of wheat and gathers them into bundles of golden spears. Pulling a rag from his pocket, the worker wipes his lips, watches the breeze massage the wheat, the flaxen field of wheat, which he has cursed and loved over a lifetime of laboring beneath the brim of a tattered, leather hat that encircles his wrinkled face like a halo, harvested from the earth.
The Tender of Grass Helen Wickes
She’s immersed herself in green, emerald in the sun, smooth jade in the shadow. She zooms her tractor in circles, a ribboned hat on her head. She lives for the smell of what’s been cut how it drops a plumb line straight down through her years. She lives for the moment in early May when waves of ready-forthe-taking grass blades brush her ankles. Each hour of sleep—she will have earned it, paid up-front, in full, by cutting the acres of meadow, pasture, and field. Tonight she sees Jupiter from her window—stolid, judgmental, bearing down on her in approval. That he is a distant sphere of hot gas with a molten core of liquid metal, this too is a source of comfort. Even from bed she listens for the grass to fight back, the delicate persistence with which the small shoots break the crust, and replenish her world. How well they use the night.
The boy kneels by the river, trying to catch a fish with his small hands. With the fog on the river, the sky blank as a sleeping face, there is only the warm car to think of, the sandwich in your pocket. When you look down, the stones and shells seem very distant, the way streets of umbrellas look from tenth floor hotel rooms. You bend down, pick up a stone, feel with the heart of your thumb how achingly smooth its surface, how naturally you accept its coolness. For a moment, you remember collecting shells as a young girl, drawing them to your ear, listening to the ocean singing through their narrow mouths. You move your fingertips over the stone until you feel it, as the river must have, becoming smoother, cooler, easier and then it becomes almost painful to be part of its deep rightness. With precision, you cast it into the river, watch it skip nervously across the water. As you are about to turn away, you look over at the boy and in an instant, like an old bear, he has caught one, a flash of silver. «107»
You wait for the struggle, for the thing to writhe away, but he only opens his hands slowly, lets it drop sweetly into the current, and plunges in again, searching.
Carnival Ride Alicia Gerner
We climb on, never really knowing why. Strap ourselves down, into tangles of arms and legs a centipede rising in darkness. And then we tilt towards the sky as if offering something– amusement for the constellations, perhaps. They watch us spin around and around the blur of lights like streaks or lines drawn into night, the shrill crescendo of squeals, hair flapping across our dizzy faces. And no matter how many times we slow, sink back down to where we got on, the smell of hotdogs and popcorn filling our noses with promise, there are those who simply choose to ride again, surrender to the rise and fall, little cyclones of light.
The Shamanic Power Of Song V. M. Fry
Roundly we press unto ourselves the loves of our lives, The colors of Autumn, shadows, the rustling of leaves, The brightening of skies, gloamings, fogs, wit, decency And crisp mountain air. We gather fireflies, elegance, Legends, rhythms, fragility and laughter. We embrace Our moods like smugglers and heroes. We veer From convention, watch fistfights, rainbows and super Fast cars. We pity the battered and lovelorn equally And cherish cheap souvenirs. We boast, shout and mourn Receding hair. We negotiate thickets of contracts; and Make confessions to strangers on airplanes, as if life Were a peep show, cheap and vivid, or a piggyback Ride to oblivion. We dance when in imminent Danger, oblivious to night’s sounds. We sing With the shamanic power of song, expecting The front porch light to be left on for us forever.
The Bench And The Wind Rafael Valverde
Marty and his mother moved into the apartment late that spring. The temperature was getting hot already as if it were July; this brought the neighborhood out. Windows and doors were open and people were a lot more open to each other because the weather gave everyone something to talk about. And so, Marty made friends faster than usual. He met Toby and his sister Lindsey who lived in the first floor apartment. Toby was six like Marty and Lindsey was eight. The three played up and down the block, and also in the tenement’s courtyard. The courtyard was paved with cement and surrounded with beds of soil where bushes, small trees, and a wide variety of flowers and plants grew. Near one of the small trees was a bench. Thick four-inch pipe formed the frame and the seat was made of three wooden planks. They were painted green, but the paint had stared to peel revealing bare, weathered wood. The bench always was occupied by an old couple. The children in the building called the couple Grandma and Grandpa. Maybe just because they were old or maybe because that’s what they were to the them. Grandma and Grandpa were in their seventies and both had pure white hair, though Grandpa’s was a little thin on top. They were both a little plump, which only added to their Santa-ness. Grandma and Grandpa did not speak English, only Polish. None of the children in the neighborhood spoke Polish, but they all understood Grandma’s and Grandpa’s smile and laugh. Children sometimes abruptly would break from playing and run to them: they tied children’s shoes. Kids, like Marty, who couldn’t tie their shoes would go over and say, “Grandma, please, tie my shoe.” And she would with a smile thrown in as extra. Toby and Lindsey’s uncle James visited sometimes. He drove a truck and was away a lot, but when he visited he would call Lindsey into the house for awhile. Sometimes Toby and Marty went inside to look for Lindsey. They would find James sitting in a recliner not wearing a shirt, sweaty, drinking a beer. He always ate Slim Jim’s beef sticks. He would offer some to the boys, but they did not like it. “You wanna bite of this beef?” he would ask, “C’mon Toby, take a bite of this. How about you? You’re Marty, right? You wants some meat?” James always smelled like sour beer and his breath felt hot and greasy, especially when he spoke to them up close. While the boys stood there listening to James talk about all sorts of odd things–he slurred a lot–Lindsey would come «112»
out of the bedroom, and then they would go back outside to play. One day, Lindsey stopped playing and cried. She couched down on one knee and hugged the other. Her face disappeared into her chest. Toby asked her if she was alright. “No, I feel sick,” she said. “But you were fine a minute ago. C’mon, let’s play,” Toby said and started to run, but saw that his sister had not moved. He went back to her and Marty came over too. “Why, are you sick?” “I don’t know and I don’t like uncle James.” “Why not? He stinks, but why not?” Toby asked. Grandma, having seen Lindsey crying and not getting up, walked over to her. Grandma knelt down and put her arm around Lindsey and gently moved her chin up to see her face. She saw the tears pouring out of Lindsey’s face and something else. Grandma saw Lindsey’s eyes. They reminded her of eyes she had seen before. Eyes filled with adult shame and fear. Not a child’s despair, but that of a being who had experienced ugliness and did not know how to understand it. Grandma motioned for Grandpa to come and help. As he walked over, Grandma picked up Lindsey–she was a very thin little girl. Grandpa came over and put his arm around Grandma to help her and they walked to the bench. Grandma said something in Polish to Grandpa. She hummed a tune to Lindsey as she rocked her under the little tree behind the bench. Toby and Marty ran off to play tag. As she looked at the back window of the first floor apartment, Grandma continued to rock and quietly hushed the girl. She rested her chin on top of Lindsey’s head and her eyes teared as the smell of the little girl’s hair made her remember. Grandma thought about when she was a girl and about her daughters. The fear she had experienced herself as a child and then as a mother worrying about her girls. Grandma knew. Although she sat on a bench with Grandpa watching the children play, she knew what was happening inside some of the apartments, especially Lindsey’s. Lindsey’s mother drove up and parked in front of the building. As she walked to the front door, she saw Lindsey in Grandma’s arms. Her heartbeat raised. Running to the bench, she shouted, “Is she okay? What’s the matter? Grandma shook her head and spoke in Polish in a tone which conveyed everything was fine. She said a few more things to Lindsey’s mother in Polish, which Lindsey’s mother didn’t understand. Noticing the dried tears, Lindsey’s mother assumed her daughter had gotten hurt while playing. Since Lindsey was quiet now, her mother thanked «113»
Grandma and walked the little girl to the front door. Grandma watched as Lindsey, with her head down and holding her mother’s hand, was lead back into the apartment. As the door closed, Grandma clenched her jaw wishing she had said something, but she knew she couldn’t. During the summer, uncle James died in an accident while delivering a large load of motor oil. Grandpa died too. Grandma did not sit on the bench for the rest of the summer; she stayed inside. But in the beginning of the fall when it was still warm outside, she returned to the bench. Marty still asked her to tie his shoes although Toby had learned by now. They ran around the courtyard chasing one another. It was odd to see Grandma sitting alone under the little tree. So Lindsey would come over now and sit with Grandma. As they sat there, they held hands and felt the wind slowly turn cooler as winter approached.
Dr. Zanolli’s Fine Day At Work Tanya Chernov
He is the psychiatrist who doesn’t believe in pharmacies. He wears the mossy sweater rolled in fat cable stitches at the neck. He with the cane made from thistle and tamarack, works in an office with only a one-foot-by-one-foot window for light. He works in the room too small for a desk; beneath his chair a rusted, white scale never moves, aging like lace, off-limits to patients. He sleeps and paces in the lone house among apartment complexes. He who owns the car with three red doors, one purple, hangs his mouth open guppy-style when speaking. He in the doorway big enough for only one, twisting and jerking as if dancing to never-ending dirge— shines with cloudy perspiration. He, the blight on someone’s insurance claim. He, who cares little for embracing. He, with permanent curls on a nearly bald head. He, who examines dead crows in the street. He, who rubs the walls of caves for slugs. He, who prays oceanic and loud, he, who yells with sagging knees bent. He, who pounds on the thinned pages of history books, still tears down posters calling for change.
A Homeless Man Is Singing Jonathan Greenhause
The traffic light turns green, a line of cars advance, and a homeless man is singing, cardboard flaps around the littered streets, cans of soda, cans of beer, shattered bottles by the wind-swept pier, a homeless man is singing, buildings rise and buildings fall, no one speaks for days and cats mate in the darkness of an alleyway, a homeless man is singing, a plane is flying overhead, the clouds are starting to disperse, no more threat of rain, no falling snow, a homeless man is singing, a cop-car’s blinking lights reflect from blacked-out storefronts, brick and pocked concrete, opossums hang from leafless trees, a ledge is stripped of flapping starlings by the breeze, a homeless man is singing, a tenement is burning to the ground, a newborn child is lost and then is found, amazing grace spreads over every town misplaced and then erased, a homeless man is singing, a rainstorm’s a rumor and remains a murmur, a gravelly voice that travels through the remnants of this place harboring histories often long forgotten, kept apart from blood to feed these beating hearts, these towns are disappearing everyday for lack of what is lived and what we will not say and, after all, the answer lies so clearly here before our eyes... as a homeless man is singing.
Orange Like That Shannon Joyce Prince
At the first eighth of the orange we are back in Mexico and for a moment it’s peaceful, the fields look like a verdant sea and she can pretend her life is not vendable, her health and her hands have no price attached. I, unborn, am watching her as she hands the orange to me and I pry seeds from the messy flesh that stings my papercuts. This is before they spray the DDT. At the second eighth we are reminded about the colors of a huipil, her sister in Guatemala who breathed poison so others could eat bananas, Josefina, Ofelia, Heriberto, the names of children poison will never allow her to conceive. The third eighth she rips from the fruit reminds her of live-in days in San Diego, (the lovely zoo where she took her three young charges). Back home, she wasn’t allowed to eat la jefa’s fruit, its too expensive she said, even for the woman who loved her children by proxy, but never as much as she would come to love me. At the fourth eighth we veer towards father whom she met at Mass in a horrid orange suit, (but oh, weren’t those the times, and he remains so beautiful.) He made her fearful not as men are rumored to do but because she feared for his heart, so soft it could be pulled apart at any dueno’s whim like the tenuous eights of an orange. Now my father can speak, we are at the fifth eighth and how his heart survived its sale under overpasses and in the backs of trucks on the way to pick the orchards of the people who persecuted him for being illegal. Though he believed La Virgin would appear next to him one day in the boughs to give him a blessing, she didn’t, yet she sent her daughter, my mother. The sixth eighth makes us silent, we have said nearly everything we can bear to say about the metronome of chores, and we do not wish to speak about the cancer that spreads through her body like a spring of orange blossoms. All the beauty in her life, save me and Papi has been for someone else, her nightmares ensured the viability of other peoples dreams. On the seventh eighth I think how I will not let them put roses on her grave, roses grown in Ecuador by women so full of pesticide their limbless children fall prematurely from their wombs and no one can afford flowers for the graves. «117»
Now the ignominious “eighth,” bulging freakishly from the sphere, pesticide born ninth eighth, strange like how Mayan women don’t know how to not wear bright colors, even when being sacrificed, strange like El Negro, el padre, from Georgia who says his people used to sing in the cotton fields because black people didn’t know how to quiet their song. Strange like how Mayans, Blacks don’t know how to give up even when being given up, he says, they harbor freakish hope among horror. I eat the last eighth, the sun flesh salty with tears.
Thirteen Year Old Boy Gunned Down On His Way Home From The Store Laura Sobbott Ross
Los Angeles, March 2008
His mother will always wish she hadn’t needed them, hadn’t asked him to get the lemons. She would have sliced them later— quartered the stars beneath a rind still warm with her boy’s hands. Maybe she would have slivered the lemons into paper-thin circles, spread them around the rim of a platter of red peppers and basmati rice. What did it matter? The skillet of simmering flavors pushed from the burner long before the hour passed when someone at the door brought the news. Inside his fists they found lemons, sound as yellow eggs. The family would open them, plunge through the veil of pith, split the weeping marrow down to a tree coiled inside its earth of seed coat. They would need to find something that would grow. Something that would fracture into wind and wild petals. Something that would bear the weight of fruit gathered in a color sharper than the morning sun. «119»
Sophie’s Walk Bill DeArmond
When Sophie passed through the gate she paused briefly and turned back to the school where her teacher stood leaning against the door. Shyly, Sophie waved goodbye, but the teacher ignored her gesture, head bowed, eyes unmoving from the base of the doorway. Sophie always looked forward to her walk home, regardless of the weather. It’s not that she didn’t like school, she did. Every day was an adventure, so many things to learn, the names of far-off places she dreamed of visiting. But after school was Sophie time. She would usually stop at one of the market stalls to cajole a small treat for her mother–something different every day. Occasionally, she and her sister would get caught up kicking the ball around until Sylvie would warn Sophie that if they stayed one more minute Abu would scold them. Normally in the afternoon, Sylvie would wait around for her sister since Sophie got out a half hour later than middle school. Sophie was proud. Next year she would be on the same schedule as her sister. But today Sylvie wasn’t there. She had gone on ahead. They turned off the main road and headed through a pasture. Even though the land was now parched, Sophie could remember how vivid the colors were in the spring. Before they slid down the bank into a dry wadi, she caught sight of smoke on the horizon and just the faint hint of meat. Bagina must be roasting another boar, she thought. Then she recognized the distinctly pungent odor. The Janjaweed! To not panic and to focus her mind, Sophie nervously began to sing as she shuffled her feet forward through the dust. She couldn’t understand why none of her friends would join her. As she ascended the embankment, Sophie stepped on a thorn. She hopped on one foot to remove it, a thin drop of blood forming. She looked down the rise to the soccer field, now bulldozed nearly halfway across. But there was no time to think about playing. She must hurry to her destination. She was prodded forward until she reached the edge of the pit. The soldier made her kneel down. Looking to the tree line, Sophie’s eyes caught those of a huge white bird with black shoulders perched precariously on the highest limb. She felt a particular bond with this fowl, appropriately named a Kite. Flyaway little friend. This is no place for you. Dropping her gaze slightly to her right, she recognized the eyes «120»
of her sister, now a dull gray. It was one last thing to comfort her. They would be going home together today after all. She never heard the shot that took her sight, never saw the white bird startle at the sound, then rise slowly into the air, escaping the killing ground. **** CNN reported that 287 people had been killed in Darfur that day. That brought the toll of this senseless war of feudal extremism on the promise of free choice to over 400,000. This was just a statistic to most of the people who heard it–a momentary pause and a sigh in their busy day. But not to Sophie, who was the last to die today. And tomorrow there would be 287 more victims, 287 the day after that. And another 287 every day until there were no more school girls left with a dream.
The Explosion Maureen Curcio
Today I feel I should be a mouthpiece for the world. For him and her, those forgotten, but also for myself Become an echo of each and, yet, remain singular, myself I see the explosion. I hear the cries – many of which are inaudible. The tear not shed, the word unspoken – These are the most pungent expressions of loss. Whispers of a broken heart, young and old, resurrect our unified sadness. A world lost to tomorrow – a hope drowned by tongues in cheeks. A dream, undreamt. We try to grasp reality to make things tangible, But we cannot see clearly and it melts before the fire. Trekking this unusual landscape, We traverse the mistiness that lies ahead with ignorant fear. But, there is a hope we have not found yet. It lies in the soul – A connection that ties us together despite our beliefs and gaunt expressions. Some have found it and nurture the extension. They stand as a fortress, beckoning the lost to come home – to make contact. Exploding with zeal they are around us, yet we still stay blind. Remove the shield from upon your eyes; Be a mouthpiece and an echo; Remove your tongue and let it wag with logic and wisdom, not facetious tones; Unclog your ears and listen for the explosions.
Gwynedd-Mercy College Outstanding High School Poet of Montgomery County Contest Winners
Lara Beatrice McQueen - Lower Moreland High School
I built a clumsy little house within my heart, all for him, where we spent whole summers without regard to the season. These times, timeless times, when the green ribs still arched proudly, bowstrings against the morning hum when the products of my raw ecstatic fingers still radiated warmth when the walls fairly beat with the splendid rush of a new friend, a face to memorize, a name to repeat, and the strange, strange thrum of my lovesick heart— these were all fair-weather days, even when frenzied mud-dancers soaked my shirt and tumbled over the lines in his lip. We looked for pinholes in the nighttime curtain, and fed each other rich words, licking our lips of their sumptuous juices. II n’est rien de réel que Ie rêve et I ’amour, he said, and still I did not know whether I believed his earnest whispers. The moment my heart faltered the wind poked its arthritic fingers through the cracks left in the wall and stole my love from me. The house I built in childish haste grasped for its foundation, but the planks were bow-backed and weary and the underpinnings plagued with mould so it settled into disrepair. Today, the marrow in its huddled skeleton showed signs of carmine life buried deep within its stark shell, creeping back, but returning nonetheless. Now I must remember I promised never to dust off the key and unlock that tight-jointed cabin for another summer guest.
Debbie Hersh - Lower Moreland High School
Let them be stars Perfect diamonds of the sky Always admired, studied, watched Let them compete against each other To be the most beautiful The brightest in the sky. Let the people watch and wonder And let them smolder all the hotter Because of the attention. And though they may seem eternal, In the timeline of the world They are a fleeting prettiness. Let some slowly simmer into age Or explode in hatred at the passage of time Having their last tantrum before surrendering But I would rather be Earth I might have to forever circle such Prima Donnas And I might be cooler than one of them But I seethe beneath the surface. I would rather be substantial Than a gaseous ball of fury If I could make life and give life I’d rather create my own world.
Roaches in Our Relationship
Konrad Swartz - Christopher Dock Mennonite High School
So we came close to the way it was before. But when light comes across they race on the floor. Looks like kitchen tiles are alive. Tonight, a single roach halted our love making. “Jesus Christ!” and she rolled to her side, nice view of her back though. I could feel the falling out. I sunk through the mattress. By the end of November, Mel gave up. I maintain— it isn’t my fault.
Outstanding College Writers of Gwynedd-Mercy Collegeâ€™s Writing Contest
In The Arms Of My Brother Abby Reed - Freshman
My brother, Pat, has always been a big guy. Ever since I was a little girl there was no better feeling than being lifted up by him to see the world from a higher altitude. His lanky arms would enclose me, holding me tight and secure. I always felt comforted and safe in the hands of my brother. Five pictures alone can depict everything our relationship was, is, and will ever be. My brothers were 17 and 15 years old when I was born. In this picture, the three of us stand in the kitchen. They both must bend to hold my tiny hands as they reach high above my head. This picture continues to represent our relationship today. A lot has changed since then, but I continue to be the common link between my brothers. Their height is overpowering, and it appears as though they are too tall for the room. At 6’8” Pat must stoop down quite a way. I can barely reach his kneecaps; his long, monkey-like arms swing down to steady my wobbly walk. Even from my very first steps, he has been right by my side. Here is Pat and me outside his dorm near Dickinson College. He is 19 years old and holding a three-year-old me in his arms. According to Pat, he’d often borrow me for the afternoon, take me to the mall or parade me around campus, trying to get a date. Because let’s face it, what girl doesn’t swoon for a guy with his baby sister in his arms? The sky is a brilliant blue, making this day seem as content as we felt. He squints slightly as the sun shines in his eyes. His smile is broad and beaming as my hands go to his face. We’re both happy and completely infatuated with seeing each other again. If I said that I wish it had stayed perfectly sunny like this forever, I’d be lying. Because without the rains of trial and tragedy, I wouldn’t be able to truly appreciate the beauty of the moments like this. Here we are again in a polar opposite circumstance. He is 21 years old, and I am six. Our uncle was an FBI agent who was just killed in the line of duty. As we are leaving his funeral, the Philadelphia press managed to capture just a glimmer of the pain that losing him evoked. In the background, our older brother looks on as our father weeps into the arms of one of our uncle’s friends. My arms are clutched around Pat’s neck, tears are streaming down my face, and my mouth is open in mid-sob. Splashed across the newspapers, what can’t be seen in this photo is my brother’s face. However, his eyes, too, welled with tears. This was the first time being in my brother’s arms couldn’t fix things. Unlike a scraped knee, his arms couldn’t promise safety; his arms «128»
couldn’t bring our uncle back. However, what my brother’s arms taught me in that moment was that there is nothing more powerful than love. Love can heal as much as it can hurt. We both grew up a lot in that instant. It was the moment I lost the innocence of childhood, and the first time I saw my brother as a man. The fourth picture was taken at the beach last year. I may not be in this photograph, but this time I got to be behind the camera lens. My brother is in his mid-30’s and sitting in the sand dunes with his family. His beautiful wife, Julie, rests her arm on his shoulder and lays a hand on his wrist. They have been maried for 12 years, and I have never failed to see his face light up at the mere mention of her name. His two young sons sit on his lap, and his long hands wrap around their chests, pulling them in close. One of my favorite things to do is watch my brother be a father. Ryan Patrick shares not only my brother’s name, but also his strength and sensitivity. Michael James has my brother’s eyes and smile, as well as his athleticism and courage. But both Ryan and Mike have the power of love in their arms, just like my brother. Pat and Julie use a lot of faith and unconditional love to raise their boys. One day, if their boys become just half of the man my brother is, they will have done an excellent job. I am incessantly proud of my brother and all he has accomplished starting with his family. This picture was taken my freshman year of college over Christmas break. My royal blue shirt brings out the matching blue in both of our eyes. He’s dressed in his favorite color, the bright safety yellow sweatshirt I got him for Christmas about two years ago. I swear he never takes it off, and I enjoy knowing he must think of me every time he wears it. His arm wraps around my shoulder and he tilts his head, resting it on me. His cheek grazes my hair and a contented but weary smile crosses his face. About three days previously, he and I had traveled to New Jersey to see Pat’s specialist. I was in the room with him when the doctor came in. I saw his hands tremble slightly after she said she couldn’t do anything more. I saw his lips purse together in frustration, as she explained he had been misdiagnosed four years earlier. I felt his forced optimism as we walked out of the hospital together. On the drive home, we didn’t talk much. Emotionally and physically exhausted, I fell asleep about half an hour outside of town. When I woke, I saw a smile creep across his face, “you still sleep so cute...” he said sentimentally, and then teasing, “just try not to drool all over my seats.” I gave him a playful punch in his right arm. Sick or healthy, good days or bad days, he’s still my brother and that’s all that matters. And I’m reminded that’s all that ever did. Lately, some days are better than others with Pat. It hurts being away from him and knowing that there’s nothing I can do to make him «129»
feel better. But my brother continues to show me that God is good, all of the time. I love coming home and feeling him enfold me in a hug, my head resting so close to his chest I can feel his heartbeat. His arms don’t promise that everything will always be okay in the future, but they do proclaim without a doubt, that in this moment everything is all right-and for now that is enough.
Continuing Research on Whale Conservation Chase Hall - Freshman
Whales have been inhabiting the earth since the beginning of time and were created to share in its resources just as we humans do. Over the past thirty years, whale conservation has become an issue for the Endangered Species Act (E.S.A.). Some of the whale species have made a comeback, and it is not too late to save the various species that have become endangered. There has been much research conducted on the conservation of whales, and it is starting to show results. Diane Ackerman’s The Moon by Whale Light and Leah Gerber’s “Measuring Success in Conservation” provide accounts of the conservation of whales. We need to be patient and continue to conduct diligent research to save the whales. If we continue to make progress as we have in the past, we can make a great difference for the future for the conservation of these magnificent creatures. Whales were among the very first species to be listed as part of the Endangered Species Act. As stated in Leah Gerber’s “Measuring Success In Conservation,” in 1973 there were eight species of whales placed on the ESA list. Those eight species include the blue, fin, sei, humpback, right, bowhead, gray, and sperm whales. The populations of whales that are considered to be endangered range from three hundred fifty whales to seventeen thousand whales per species. Gerber informs us: “For the most part, our limited knowledge of large whale biology makes it extremely difficult to quantify the extent to which a population may go extinct in a specific period of time” (318). Due to the extreme conditions of whale research, it can be very challenging to produce precise results. It is very important for everyone to be conscious of how we treat the oceans around us. We must make a more valiant effort not to pollute the oceans or lands around us to give whales and other endangered animals a better chance of surviving in our world. It is important for whale researchers to be very careful when conducting any research on whales, in order to ensure that they do not put the whales in any more danger than they already are. Collectively, researchers and the general population need to be conscious of what they do and what they put into the ocean because we would not want anyone dumping trash on our front lawn. Fishermen in particular must be mindful of the nets that they use when they are fishing, because they are a hazard to all ocean life. Ackerman states that: “More whales are killed every year from drift nets than by whaling ships” (143). The dumping of chemicals into the ocean plays a major part in whales dying «131»
and being put on the ESA. However, Ackerman says, “even that is minor compared to how many die from the poisons being poured into the seas” (143). It is important for researchers to respect the oceans, just as they would like their own natural environment to be treated. The ocean is where whales spend their lives just as the earth is where we spend ours. Although there has been much research conducted in the past, we are not at a point where we are ready to stop researching these whales in order to save them. So far, researchers have been successful with their research because they do it respectfully and safely, which is crucial to helping save the whales, not harm them. We have begun to see results from the research that has been continuing for the past few decades. Gerber made mention that one species of whales was even removed from the ESA list in 1994. Gerber also proved that grey whales had an increase of 2.5% in its population between the years of 1968 and 1998. Another species, the blue whale, has also seen an increase in population in the Oregon and California areas. Gerber made a point that we must not forget about the rest of the whales and that: “The mere fact that several populations are increasing does not indicate that they are truly on the road to recovery” (317). With the help of persistent whale researchers, we continue to make new developments to help save the whales. Even though we have seen promising results from the researchers like Gerber and Ackernan, we cannot stop there. We must continue to explore the whales that are on the road to recovery and repopulation. Whales are beautiful animals that are created to inhabit the earth just as we do and deserve the same respect and awareness that we do. It is important for societies to remember that our world is not just for human beings; there are a multitude of other living things that reside on planet earth with us. There is not enough awareness and education on animal conservation and preservation made available to us. The opportunity to educate our world on endangered animals can only increase awareness and increase the actions that are taken to help these and other wonderful creatures. Education of animal conservation can be very effective because once one person starts to make a change, others will follow suit and in the end we can all start a revolution to help these innocuous animals. Throughout the history of conservation there have been many developments and steps to help save the whales, such as better location of whale communities, knowledge of mating habits and migration routes. Whales have been on the Endangered Species Act since the early 1970’s, but recently we have started to see a recovery of certain species of whales since their endangerment. I was rather shocked to see that «132»
there are eight species of whales placed on the ESA list. Eight species of whales adds up to a large number of whales. After conducting research on whale conservation I was also delighted to see that so many people and organizations have made a valiant effort to provide money for whale research or to become involved in whale research. It is through the diligent and knowledgeable research of whale researchers that we know which whales are endangered and approximately how many of each species were endangered and how many are currently endangered. Works Cited Ackerman, Diane. The Moon by Whale Light. New York: Vintage Books, 1991. Gerber, Leah, Douglas DeMaster, SimonaPerry Roberts. “Measuring Success in Conservation.” American Scientists. 88:3 (July/August 2000): 316-314.
A True Best Friend Relationship Alexandra Gurko - Freshman
A daughter is a little girl who grows up to be a friend. I keep this statement close to heart because it deeply describes the relationship between me and my mother. My mom, born on February 17, 1962, is a sister, mother, daughter, best friend. No one competes with her. She is by far the most hardworking and courageous person I know. It is 1966 and the little girl patiently waits to have her picture taken. Sitting straight up, she looks proud to be in front of the camera. For the next few minutes, she will be the center of attention, the star. Although she does not know it yet, this photo will later be posted in the studio window for all to see. As people pass by the studio, they will be able to admire the beautiful little girl. Her slight smile may not seem filled with joy, but her big, bright brown eyes are filled with happiness. Her boy cut, blonde hair goes to show how well she fits in with her three brothers. One would never guess that at home, she wrestles in the mud along with her brothers. She is a complete tom boy, hidden underneath a light pink dress. She is a rebel. With her big, curly hair and tall high heels, deep down she is a true 80’s woman. The year is 1985 and my mom is 23 years old. She is laying in the grass at her best friend’s mountain house. They love the wilderness and Rock and Roll. When they are not at Guns and Roses and Aerosmith concerts, they are riding four wheelers and dirt bikes. Here, she is relaxing, about to hop on a brand new four wheeler. She is laying down, enjoying the freedom of her younger years. With her serious face, one could tell that she is an independent woman who does not rely on anyone. She is ready to take on any situation life throws at her. With her eyes staring into the camera, it is as if she is not afraid of anything. She is a brave young woman. Her arms crossed underneath her head show her independence and how she is proud of herself; she is ready to show her accomplishments to the world. The wind is whipping through our hair. It is 1991 and my mom had just given birth to me seven months earlier. A smile comes across her face, for she is so happy to be at her favorite place, Flagler Beach, Florida, with her favorite little girl. Standing behind the camera is my dad, doing anything in order to make me smile. As the picture is taken, it is as if my mother is holding on to me for dear life. Her secure grasp on my tiny body shows how much she cares. She would do anything just to make sure I am safe; she is ready to protect me from the world. My mom is ready to teach me everything she knows and help me, one «134»
day, become a respectable young woman. Her eyes, slightly closed, are gazing down at me. She adores her newborn daughter; she is anxious to see how our later relationship will be and how I will grow up. Eighteen years later, I am graduating from high school. This picture is taken in our current living room, which is filled with pictures. The collage of photos on the wall that my mother and I hung up over the years show our journey of being a family. They show how proud my mother is of my younger brother and me. My mom, standing with me in front of our collection, has a smile on her face. Her smile is a mixture of joy and nervousness. Today she will be sending me off into the real world, all by myself. Even though she puts a smile on her face, I can tell that deep down she is going to miss me. Secretly, she does not want me to grow up and leave. She wishes that her baby girl could stay with her forever. But that is not possible; everyone grows up sometime and now is my time. Tina, my mom and my best friend, will always be the person whom I hold closest to my heart. Throughout the past 12 years, she raised my brother and me on her own and proved to everyone just how strong she is. Day by day she struggles to work at her back breaking job in Center City. No matter how hard her job may be, she never gives up. She tries her hardest, so that my brother and I will have everything we need. She constantly deals with the hard times and does what she has to do to get by. As I get older and decide to have a family of my own, I hope to be just as great of a mother she has been to me. She is my hero and my role model.
Pedagogical Methods & Hamlet: Treating Students as Critics, Artists, and Learners Maureen Curcio - Senior
Play reading, literary analysis, scene summaries, and theatre visits, which are considered desk-bound learning approaches, have been the most popular techniques for teaching Shakespeare’s plays in the past. These methods, while valuable, may be somewhat outdated if they are the only methods used for student learning. Integrating these conservative methods with more innovative techniques, including dramatic, technology-based, popular culture, and film exposure methods, can serve to better provide a more thorough and memorable experience for both pupil and instructor. It is true that the traditional approaches to teaching Shakespeare can provide great insight into plays such as Hamlet. Simple play reading – whether in small groups or as a class – often prepares students to correctly understand Shakespeare’s language, theatrical terminology, character development, and plot (Wade & Sheppard 11). Similarly, literary analysis and scene summary work can also help students extract key information and connect it with a wider context of literary criticism. However, both methods may tend to overemphasize the instructor’s opinion and convey a notion of elitism or high-culture that can deter students from remaining open to Shakespeare’s body of work. Many times, these methods also stress only particular aspects of the play when more student interpretation should be encouraged. Theatre visits function in a similar way because directorial and actor interpretations, while successful in exhibiting action and dramatics, may only provide one perspective and can discourage students from using their own interpretation skills. In acknowledging the usefulness of these methods along with their inherent flaws, there is a formidable argument among scholars and pedagogical experts that “making meaning through language is naturally dynamic, personal, interactive, and social rather than static, public, transmissional, and solitary” (Wade & Sheppard 9). Therefore, other methods of transmitting information about the plays and the Modern period have been suggested at great length. These methods have included “improvisation, role play, hot seating, and involvement of outside agencies,” which attempt to “promote understanding of text and plot, motivation, dilemma, and character by dramatic exploration,” yet make the experience of reading a play like Hamlet a more personal «136»
journey for the student (Wade & Sheppard 11-12). Making Shakespeare a personal experience for the student is a common theme among many of these newer pedagogical methods, which stress the analysis of language and action followed by reflection as the best mode of practice. One of the most common methods used to create such an experience for the student is the performance-based strategy. This approach not only reinforces certain elements of the play that should be examined by students, but also allows them to discover the atmosphere of the Elizabethan theatre and the performance process (Wade & Sheppard 10). In point of fact, performance-based instruction is inherent to the teaching of Hamlet precisely because plays are meant to be performed; additionally, the idea of “the play within a play” is a specific theme in Hamlet. As Herold states, “theatrical actingout is, after all, a way of exploding the hermeneutic circle in which Hamlet feels trapped, of releasing Hamlet himself, the beholder of theatrical performances” (129). Nevertheless, in using this method, teachers should be wary of allowing students to reduce Hamlet to a flat character. He should be represented as a deep character that is not simply crazy or sane. Such a polarized view of Hamlet reduces the analysis of the play in secondary education to a sheer “fixation on personality” (Herold 132). Rather, the emphasis should be on an exploration of the lines – ones that are illustrative and offer “visual images and vocal sounds that provoke thought, stir feelings, stimulate alternative possibilities, [and] lead to fruitful discussion” while integrating the ideas of the period about God, Nature, Society, the Universe, and Evil (Swander 533-534). In doing this, it may be useful to use less conventional practices so that students are better able to explicate information about specific situations, speeches, and characters. These techniques may include: “cameo work, character trials, workshop exploration of speeches, five-minute versions of the play, [and] parallel improvisations on themes and situations before approaching the texts” (Wade & Sheppard 13). Thus, the common practice of a rudimentary class reading of the play from the first to the last line may not be sufficient enough to account for the benefits of such a strategy. Like performance-based strategies, film adaptations on video or DVD have been used to foster a method of creating an experience of Shakespeare as well. This approach bridges the gap between Shakespeare and the student by accompanying the text with visual action, emotion, and relativity to the audience. Whether to use whole films or chosen clips remains debatable among scholars and instructors, as does the use of more than one film version, but either mode serves to illustrate the dynamic ways in which interpretation can be displayed through different “settings, costumes, choreography, music, or camera «137»
angles” in comparison to the actual text (Stibbs 6). Additionally, the ability for instructors to rewind, fast-forward, and freeze frames is a unique advantage to using film clips as well, and is one of the reasons that screenings are a mainstay of most teaching strategies (Stibbs 5). This facet is particularly useful in monitoring character construction through “close-ups, visual referents in mise-en-scne, [and] crosscutting” (Osborne 230). With such an approach to teaching the plays, a study of the art of film is highly beneficial as well and would seamlessly segway into a study of modern and Elizabethan theatre, which are important subjects to explore in order to fully understand stage directions, asides, and setting descriptions in the play. In specifically teaching Hamlet, using one or more of the film adaptations continues to be popular with teachers. Whether to use Branagh’s, Gibson’s, or Olivier’s version seems to be a matter of preference, but it should always be emphasized to students that film versions, no matter how true to the text they may be, should be considered “cinematic form[s] of the filmed essay” – controlled, edited, and designed as personal renditions of Shakespeare’s original (Osborne 227). However, this is not to say that using films is a negligent practice, but it is merely to say that critical tele-visual skills should be used. Witnessing a number of performances helps to juxtapose different interpretations and emphasize the acceptance of various interpretations as well. For instance, many instructors prefer Branagh’s version of Hamlet because they feel it is the most authentic and most engaging for the modern audience. As ‘Walton states, “Filmed at Blenheim Palace with a Victorian setting and an all-star cast, Branagh’s version hooks students from the start...it’s all about reading – in a way many students have never experienced” (556). One of the most interesting ways to use the films in conjunction with the text is to read the play using the closed-caption feature, which lets students see the text and action while hearing the words at the same time. This creates a most excellent learning experience that acknowledges multiple intelligences and captures the essence of Hamlet while remaining faithful to the text (Walton 557). Walton goes on to say that reading a synopsis of the scene beforehand may be beneficial to establish the plot so that students are able to “participate in the ‘spectacle’ – that element of theater that Aristotle deemed essential to the nature of tragedy” (558). An explication of the lines after the screening will also emphasize aspects that students may have glossed over in the film and written reflections reiterate that the students understand what they have just witnessed and interpreted (Walton 558). The integration of technology and popular culture into Shakespeare lessons has also been a popular topic in the most recent «138»
debates on pedagogical methods. For example, studying Hamlet on CDROMs can highlight textual variants among the folios and quartos and provide extra background material to enhance understanding of various interpretations and productions of the play (Stibbs 5). Stibbs suggests that although this is categorized as a “desk-bound” activity, it provides students with the flexibility to be individualistic and collaborative at the same time (5). Likewise, the use of the Internet is particularly profitable in this sense because students can learn at their own pace and explore subtopics concerning the play that are of particular interest to them. For instance, the program Shakespeare: Subject to Change, a project by Cable in the Classroom, allows students to use “text, images, audio, fullmotion video, and animations” to interact with the text online. Most notable of the site’s menus are Pen to Paper and Stage to Screen, which both present digital versions of primary source documents and clips from film adaptations (Shakespeare: Subject to Change 77). Similarly, a CD-ROM-based game called Hamlet: A Murder Mystery uses Branagh’s version of Hamlet by providing players with film strips to “‘edit three parallel versions of the deaths of kings included by Shakespeare...[ultim ately], the exercise amounts to the player’s creation of his own film just as Hamlet devised the play within the play’” (Osborne 239). Although this last example may seem trivial, it could be used if extra time were allowed and still serves to promote the idea of the possibilities of different literary interpretations. As stated before, the Internet is an especially useful form of technology for today’s student of Shakespeare. Students are able to gather a wealth of research materials through the Internet; however, instruction about viable criticism and scholarly research must be emphasized by the instructor. The use of technology can also expand into the area of classroom discussion with tools such as discussion boards and blogs, which promote online communication between students and teacher. According to Aune, the use of a class website is a valuable addition to pedagogy because it helps students “become more familiar with the Internet and how to use it critically for their own research” and allows them to participate in the worldwide discussion on Shakespeare (132). Technology can also accompany performance-based strategies through the use of audiovisual recording of performances, film editing, website creation and research, and the inclusion of other multimedia formats to further enhance student learning, exploration, and creativity with the text. For example, Peter Donaldson at MIT created a website for his students called Hamlet on the Ramparts. The website, which offers students the opportunity to create their own multimedia essays, provides film clips in order for students to create a plethora of potential «139»
interpretations (Osborne 229). Nevertheless, the use of any such activities are many times prohibited on the basis of a lack of technology and time as well as the notion that such teaching methods deviate from the text so much that understanding and focus on the text are neglected (Wade & Sheppard I2). Therefore, creative activities and projects such as these should be assigned with caution and should not be substituted for a solid, traditional learning base in Shakespeare, but rather as accessories that expand the curriculum. Apart from the use of technology, film, and dramatic interpretation, there has been strong evidence to support the proper use of discussion, presentation, and debate. These modes serve to reinforce the skills of oratorical exercise, argumentation, and rebuttal, which are essential skills for students to grow as learners and interpreters of any type of information. Teachers are able to implement such strategies through class and group discussions, topic-focused presentations, and student-led seminars (Wade & Sheppard 12). These strategies allow teachers to serve as moderators in discussions, which as research has shown, helps students form their own opinions more freely. For example, in Townsend and Pace’s study concerning two classroom discussions of Hamlet, one classroom that was dominated by the teacher discouraged members of the class to become active participants (598). In particular, the ambiguity of Gertrude’s character was not addressed in class because the instructor provided a given interpretation of her character and did not allow for challenges to his position on the subject (Townsend & Pace 599). In contrast, a second classroom’s teacher functioned as a leader to set up the discussion, but allowed students to become members of a “narrative audience” that not only reacted to topics, but initiated them as well, which promoted better preparation for class through reading and response prior to class time (Townsend & Pace 602). Classroom discussions can be developed to incorporate such student participation in the following ways: (1) create face-toface interaction in the classroom through circle discussions or small group discussions; (2) create activities that focus on student thought and interpretation; (3) have students write reactions before and after a discussion; and (4) allow time for the generation of discussion questions (Townsend & Pace 604). These techniques must also be fostered by a comfortable classroom environment and a respectable rapport among students. Personal student interpretation has not only been limited to acting and classroom discussion. Other modes of creativity and opinion have also been introduced that include: “literary critical essays, context questions, letters to and from characters, plot prediction, newspaper accounts, police reports, diary entries, plot continuation, plot altering, «140»
and genre switches” (Wade & Sheppard 13). However, the emphasis of personal interpretation is not only on reactions to characters through creative writing, but also includes the questioning of critical interpretations and different readings of the same scene or character (Mellor & Patterson 13). In these assignments, students should be instructed not merely on what each character says of themselves, but also on what each character says of one another and the authenticity with which they establish their opinions. This recalls the idea of critically thinking about different film versions as well. This same method can be used to incorporate literary criticism very easily with Hamlet especially because of the dynamic natures of Hamlet, Ophelia, Laertes, Polonius, Gertrude, and Claudius. Additionally, linking Shakespeare to the present has been a continually intriguing method for many instructors. As Whelan reports, teachers such as Alan Sitomer, one of 2007’s State Teachers of the Year, incorporate popular culture into their lessons to enhance students’ Shakespearean experiences in an unconventional manner (49). Sitomer uses hip-hop lyrics to parallel the strife of modern teenagers and hip-hop artists with Shakespeare’s characters. As Whelan explains, “Hamlet deals with the abuse of power, greed, and feelings of desperate isolation, exactly the same things Tupac sang about in his famous song ‘Me Against the World’” (50). The emphasis in these sorts of strategies stems from the idea that great writers deal with universal themes of humanity and issues that students can relate to if they approach literature from their own point of view (Whelan 50). Yet, learning objectives should be planned with an emphasis on irony, subtext, and historical content, while expectations should include only the use of lyrics that are non-homophobic, nonmisogynistic, and do not include profanity or violence (Whelan 49). It is imperative to establish and maintain educational boundaries when incorporating modem lyrical poetry and images. Ultimately, desk-bound, dramatic, technology-based, popular culture, and film-exposure teaching methods need not be exclusive when instructing students on Shakespeare’s plays. Integrating several of these methods will provide a well-rounded experience in which students are not only taught the important tenets of Shakespearean society and the play itself, but are also able to function as interpreters of literature and, more importantly, interpreters of information and evidence. The exercise of interpretation is essential to scholarly growth and must be successfully integrated into lessons for students to fully relate, understand, and appreciate a text such as Hamlet. Students should be able to become active, intelligent, and informed audiences that can take part in the literary canon, but more importantly, in the exploration of the human condition. «141»
Works Cited Aune, Mark. “Always a Work in Progress: Creating a Course Website for Introduction to Shakespeare.” Sixteenth Century Journal 32.1 (2001): 127-L33. Humanities Full Text. H.W. Wilson. 9 Nov. 2008 <http://hwwilsonweb.com/>. Herold, Niels. “Pedagogy, Hamlet, and the Manufacture of Wonder.” S hakespeare Quarterly 46.2 (Igg5): 125-134. JSTOR. 18 Nov. 2008 <http://www.jstor.org/search>. Mellor, Bronwyn, and Annette Patterson. “Critical Practice: Teaching ‘Shakespeare.”’ Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 43.6 (2000): 508-517. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. 5 Nov. 2008 <http://search.ebscohost.com/>. Osborne, Laurie E. “Clip Art: Theorizing the Shakespeare Film Clip.” Shakespeare Quarterly 53.2 (2002): 227-240. JSTOR. 18 Nov 2008 <http://www.jstor.org/search>. “Resources.” TechTrends 48.2 (2004): 77. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. 5 Nov. 2008 <http://search.ebscohost.com>. Stibbs, Andrew. “Between Desk, Stage, and Screen: 50 Years of Shakespeare Teaching.” Educational Review 50.3 (1998): 241249. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. 31 Oct. 2008 <http://search. ebscohost.com>. Swander, Homer. “In Our Time: Such Audiences We Wish Him.” S hakespeare Quarterly 35.5 (1984): 528-540. JSTOR 18 Nov. 2008 <http ://www.jstor.org/search>. Townsend, Jane S., and Barbara G. Pace. “The Many Faces of Gertrude: Opening and Closing Possibilities in Classroom Talk.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 48.7 (2005): 594-605. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. 9 Nov. 2008 <http://search.ebscohost. com>. Wade, Barbie, and John Sheppard. “How teachers teach Shakespeare.” E ducational Review 46.1 (1994):21-29. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. 9 Oct. 31 2008 <http://search.ebscohost.com>. «142»
Walton, Barbara. “Thank you, Kenneth Branagh.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 49.7 (2006): 556-559. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. 9 Nov. 2008 <http://search.ebscohost.com>. Whelan, Debra Lau. “Yo Hamlet!” School Library Journal 53.6 (2007): 49-50. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. 9 Nov. 2008 <http:// search.ebscohost.com>.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s Use of Language in his Literature Willow Wilson - Senior
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s works, words are key elements in discovering meaning (besides the obvious fact that words are, of course, fundamental to a written work). Tolkien imagined vast and detailed worlds with many colorful places and creatures, and he also imagined new languages and names to accompany them. Tolkien drew upon numerous ancient and modern languages, including Old English, Middle English, Old Norse, Icelandic, and Welsh. One can see Tolkien’s vast knowledge of words and languages and their meanings by examining the names and words used in his literature. Some of the most fundamental (and well-known) creatures in Tolkien’s literature are Hobbits. According to David Day, the word “Hobbit” comes from holdbytla, an Old English construct meaning “hole-builder.” The word “hole” is derived from the Old English word hollow, which in turn is derived from the Old German word hohl, which is pronounced the same as the modern English word “hole.” In Tolkien’s imagined Hobbit language, Hobbits refer to themselves as kudok, a worn-down version of the word kud-dukan, meaning “holebuilder,” which is a Gothic construct that Tolkien derived from the prehistoric German word khulaz. Incidentally, khulaz means “hollow” in prehistoric German. There is an almost circular connection between the word Hobbit and these words. Hobbit comes from hole-builder, and hole comes from hollow (which khulaz means in prehistoric German), which comes from hohl, which is said hole, which is where Hobbits live. Thus, the word Hobbit describes the people it represents on multiple levels. (Day 11-13). There are differing viewpoints on the word Hobbit, however. According to Daniel Grotta’s biography of Tolkien, the author himself did not know where the word came from. Some theories have been advanced, including one by Paul Kocher, author of Master of Middle Earth. Kocher stated that “the Oxford English Dictionary defines the Middle English word ‘hob’ (or ‘hobbe’) as a rustic or a clown” (Grotta 84), similar to the “little people” of Celtic mythology. It seems unclear what the true origin of the word was, but it also seems suspicious that Tolkien would have no idea where the word came from. Perhaps all of these words and their meanings combined in Tolkien’s philological mind to form the now legendary word Hobbit. Next, one of the most important Hobbits in Hobbit history was Bilbo Baggins, and Tolkien did many things with this character’s name. «144»
Day, again, has a very detailed description of the derivation of the name and its many meanings. Bilbo’s last name, Baggins, apparently has its origin in the Middle English Somerset surname “Bagg,” which meant a money bag. Bilbo’s father’s name Bungo is apparently derived from bunge, which meant a purse in 1566, and bung, which meant a pocket used as a purse in 1610. All of these meanings related to the Baggins family, who were enormously wealthy and powerful among the Hobbit community. (Day 15-16). Bilbo’s name apparently came into the English language in the 15th century through Balboa, a Portuguese city known for making delicate swords of flexible yet almost unbreakable steel. In Shakespeare’s time, “bilbo” meant a short but deadly piercing sword or a small, thrusting rapier. This name has a twofold meaning in relation to Bilbo. Firstly, Bilbo was given his legendary sword (which he passed on to Frodo) Sting, forged by the elves. It was a small sword, but very sharp and deadly. So, Bilbo’s name is very applicable in that sense. But secondly, and almost more importantly, Bilbo had a sharp wit and was very clever with words. This gift helped him to avoid death at Gollum’s hands because he was able to solve Gollum’s “riddles in the dark.” This piercing wit was probably more useful to him than his sword, and he did not even use his sword in his encounter with Smaug. (Frodo, however, used Sting many times, and Sam did, as well, including when he killed the great spider, Shelob). (Day 16). Yet one more aspect of Bilbo Baggins that Day has examined is that of his title of “hero-burglar.” Gandalf persuades Bilbo to become a hero-burglar for the Dwarves on their Quest to retrieve treasure from the dragon, Smaug. According to Day, the word burglar comes from the word burgher, which means a freeman of a burgh or borough (or burrow, as the case might be for Bilbo). Burgher’s derivative, Bourgeois, is used to describe a person of the middle-class with humdrum ideas. This is applicable to Bilbo because he is not a typical hero, but rather a resident of the Shire and more of a homebody. Also, the Germanic root word of all these derivatives is burg, which means a mound, fort, or stockade house. Thus, there is an almost complete reversal in roles for Bilbo. He begins as a burgher, one who owns a house, and yet he becomes a burglar, one who plunders a house. His “humdrum” Bourgeois life was unalterably changed into a vast adventure. (Day 16). Another pivotal character in Tolkien’s The Hobbit is Gollum, also known as Smeagol. Smeagol apparently means “burrowing” or “worming in.” The name comes from the Old English word Symgel (or Smeagol), which means “worming in,” which then became Smial (pronounced “smile”) in modern English, which means “to burrow.” This is clearly descriptive of Gollum’s practice of burrowing deep into «145»
mountains, in the dark, waiting to prey upon such creatures as Hobbits. Smeagol’s cousin Deagol, whom he murdered for the One Ring, has a similar derivation. Deagol comes from the Old English word dygel, which means “secret unknown” or “hiding away,” which in turn became dial in modern English, meaning “secret.” Deagol found the Ring of Sauron and kept it a “secret” from Smeagol at first, as other ring-bearers (including Frodo) did after him. (Day 19). Tolkien also made many parallels between the Anglo-Saxons and the Hobbits. Hengist and Horsa were “brothers and legendary leaders of the first Anglo-Saxon settlers in Britain who went there, according to the English historian and theologian Bede, to fight for the British king Vortigern against the Picts between ad 446 and 454” (Encyclopdia Britannica). Hengist meant "horse" or "stallion" in Old English, while Horsa meant "horse" in Old English. The brothers were apparently Jutes, one of the three original tribes of the Anglo-Saxons. (The others were Angles and Saxons). In Hobbit history, there were two founders of the Hobbit homeland known as the Shire. These brothers were called Marcho and Blanco. Marcho is derived from the Old English word mearh, which became “mare” in modern English. Marc meant “horse” in Gaelic, while march was the Welsh word for “horse.” Blanco is derived from the Old Norse word blakkr and the Old English word blanca, both of which mean “white horse.” Tom Shippey confirms this, claiming that the Old English word marh meant “horse,” while the word blanca meant “white horse” in Beowulf (102). Another parallel between Anglo-Saxon and Hobbit history is that Hobbits also had three original tribes, Fallohides, Stoors, and Harfoots. In Anglo-Saxon history, war and invaders caused the Anglo-Saxons to leave their homeland of Angle, a wedge of land between the Schlei River and Flensburg Fjord, and to migrate from East of the Alpine Mountains, across the English Channel. They arrived in the West to a homeland known as the Shires. Similarly, the Hobbits were driven by war and invaders to leave their homeland called the Angle, a wedge of land between the Loudwater and Hoarwell Rivers, and to migrate across the Brandywine River into what became known as the Shire of Middle-earth (Day 22-23). Clearly, Tolkien was mirroring much of his own people’s history in his account of the Hobbits. Bag End, the ancestral home of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, is another play on words and social standing from Tolkien. According to Day, Bag End is a literal translation of the phrase cul de sac, which means “dead end.” The phrase, although it sounds French, is apparently a “French-ified” phrase–the French people more commonly use the word “impasse.” According to Day, cul de sac “was a term invented in the early twentieth century by snobbish estate agents who felt the «146»
term dead end was too common” (46). Thus, Tolkien has subtly shown the middle-class standing of the Baggins and Bag End, as the name of the home comes from a literal translation of a snobbish expression, a kind of meeting in between the two extremes of commonplace and extravagant. Day goes on to discuss the many ways in which Bag End, built by Bungo Baggins, can be interpreted along with Bungo’s name, concluding that one could call it a bungalow or a bunghole, and Bungo Mr. Bag Bag of Bag End or Baggins-Gone (46). One of the greatest villains that Bilbo faced in his quest with the Dwarves was Smaug, the great dragon. According to Day, the words dragon and worm were interchangeable in Old English and Norse literature, and so he examined the derivation of “drake” and “snake,” concluding that together they mean monster. Smaug, according to Day, comes from the adjective smeogan, which meant “penetrating” in Old English, and the verb smeagan, meaning “to inquire into” in Old English. It also came from Smeagol, which (as seen above) meant “burrowing” or “worming into,” and from the verb smugan, meaning “to creep through.” All of these words are derived from the Prehistoric German verb Smugan, meaning “to squeeze through a hole.” Thus Smaug’s meaning becomes “squeezed through a hole,” something that Tolkien referred to as a “low philological pun” (Day 68). Probably the most important, well-known, and iconic character that Tolkien created was Frodo Baggins. The surname Baggins has already been explored, but the name Frodo has extreme importance in the examination of the nature of the Ringbearer’s character. The name Frodo is Froda in original Hobbitsh, as Tolkien explains that –o and –e endings are feminine in the Hobbitish language and –a is a masculine ending (Shippey 205). Froda meant “wise” in Old English, and the similar name Frothi meant “wise one” in Norse. According to Day, “in Old English and Scandinavian mythology, the name Frodo...is most often connected with a peacemaker. In...Beowulf..., Froda...attempts to make peace between Danes and Bards” (83). Thus, Frodo Baggins can be known as both Frodo the Wise and Frodo the Peacemaker. This is a telling side of Frodo, as he displays qualities of both wisdom and peacemaking. Frodo carried the One Ring and chose to let it be destroyed rather than be consumed by its power. And when he returns to the Shire, Frodo swears off all violence and fighting, becoming sickened by the thought of it. And because of Frodo’s heroism and choice to destroy the Ring, the Shire and its inhabitants knew peace. A pivotal character in aiding Bilbo and his nephew Frodo, as well as nearly all of the heroes of Middle-earth, was Gandalf. According to Grotta, Tolkien revealed the identity of Gandalf, admitting privately “to critic Edmond Fuller in 1962 that ‘Gandalf is an angel”’ (96). According «147»
to Day, “Gandalf comes from a name in the Icelandic Dvevrgatal: Gandalfr. The Old Norse element of Gandalfr, when translated, is Gand–meaning a magical power or the power of Gand, that is, ‘astral travelling.’” (52). Day argues that Gandalf has many origins, including Merlin of the Celts, Odin of the Norsemen, Woden of the Early Germans, Mercury of the Romans, Hermes of the Greeks, and Thoth of the Egyptians. Day explains that “all are linked with magic, sorcery, arcane knowledge, and secret doctrine” (52). Readers, if interpreting Gandalf as an angelic being, can see the “manifestation” or revealing of Gandalf as an angel when he transforms from Gandalf the Gray to Gandalf the White. Gandalf ’s Elven name was Mithrandir, meaning Gray Wanderer, but Gandalf in Old Norse means White Sorcerer, a clear sign of his “goodness.” Although Saruman began as a White Wizard, he soon descended in darkness, supporting Sauron and his hordes of evil. This could be seen as almost symbolic, as Saruman became the evil sorcerer of Isengard, Gandalf was reincarnated as the White Wizard (Day 52). Tolkien further uses language in his creation of the Ents, large tree-like beings. According to Matthew Dickerson and Jonathan Evans, the word meant “giant” in Old English, a different spelling of eoten. It is a modernization of two Old English words, ent and eoten, found in Beowulf. These words, like the Old Norse word. jötunn, meant “giant” (Dickerson and Evans 128). Tolkien created a language for the Ents, drawing upon Old English and Old Norse for his inspiration. Tolkien also includes place-names in his stories that have been taken in some form from other or older languages. For instance, Bree is an important location in The Fellowship of the Ring, the site of The Prancing Pony inn, and it also means “hill” in Welsh (Shippey 109). There are many, many more examples of names of both persons and places with Old English, Middle English, and other foreign language roots in Tolkien’s literature. According to the National Geographic’s website, the name Saruman is taken from the Old English root searu-, meaning “treachery’’ or “cunning.” In addition, according to Day, Saruman’s name is “an Old English construct meaning Man of Pain” (52). Sauron’s name comes from an Old Norse or Icelandic root, meaning “filth,” “dung,” or “uncleanness.” Mordor, the land of Sauron in Middle-earth, is derived from Middle English murther, which comes from Old English morthor, which is akin to Old High Germarn mord, and all of which mean “murder.” Middle-earth comes from middangeard, which was “the name for the Earth itself in Old English poetry and was considered to be the battleground between the forces of good and evil” (National Geographic). One can see that Tolkien has drawn «148»
upon many more languages than just English, and he has also created several of his own languages. Tolkien created several languages in his literature. He created two languages spoken by Elves: High-elven or Quenya and Grey-elven or Sindarin. Men spoke several languages, as well, including Westron (akin to Modern English) and Rohirrim, the languages of the people of Rohan. Tolkien also created the Hobbitsh language, spoken by Hobbits, although most Hobbits spoke the tongues of men. Other languages he created included the language of Ents, Dwarves, Trolls, and Orcs. Orcs, especially, spoke the language of Mordor, the Black Speech. This language was detested by those outside of Mordor–Gandalf, particularly, refused to speak the inscription on the One Ring, claiming that it should not be uttered. Tolkien also created a series of runes and other symbols to represent the written language of the Dwarves and the Elves. He created 51 runes (called the Angerthas) to represent the Dwarves’ alphabet, and 36 runes (called the Tengwar) to represent the Elves’ alphabet. Most of these runes represent single letters, while others represent groups of letters or sounds (Tolkien 494-513). Tolkien’s impact on language went beyond just his stories of wizards, dragons, elves, dwarves, and Hobbits. Many of his names and characters are known by thousands of people from watching the Lord of the Rings movies, if not from reading the books. However, some people have even learned his Elvish languages and continue to study it and its many features. According to its homepage, the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship or E.L.F. is “an international organization devoted to the scholarly study of the invented languages of J.R.R. Tolkien.” It prints two journals and has one online journal, with many articles on Tolkien’s use of language, such as Elvish verbs and root words. Clearly, the impact that Tolkien’s imagined languages have had on fans and scholars alike, including the attempts to speak Elvish and the prolific influence Tolkien has had in the philological world, are a testament to the power of words and their meanings. Tolkien did so much more than write just a fanciful story: he created his own world, complete with its own languages and races and geography. There are many, many books written on Tolkien’s stories of Middle-earth, from religion and philosophy to ecology to mythology. However, almost all of these books center on his language: the words he used, the names he used, and their meanings. Works Cited Day David. The Hobbit Companion. New York: Metro, 1997. Dickerson, Matthew, and Jonathan Evans. Ents, Elves, and Eriador. «149»
Lexington: UP of Kentucky, 2006.
The Elvish Linguistic Fellowship. “E.L.F. Home.” The Elvish Linguistic F ellowship. 8 Sept. 2007. The Mythopoeic Society. 25 Nov. 2008 <http://www.elvish.org/>. Grotta, Daniel. The Biography of J.R.R. Tolkien: Architect of Middle Earth. Philadelphia: Running, 1992. “Hengist and Horsa.” Encyclopdia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopdia Britannica Online. 20 Nov. 2008 <http: //www.britannica.com/ EBchecked/topic/261232/Hengist>. National Geographic. "Beyond the Movie." National Geographic. 2008. National Geographic Society. 25 Nov. 2008 <http://www. nationalgeographic.com/ngbeyond/ring/language.html#real>. Shippey, Tom. The Road to Middle-earth. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003. Tolkien, J.R.R. The Return of the King. 1965. New York: Ballantine, 1973.
David Smith - Senior
Before beginning to define the assessment activity and the objectives studied, it is important to define the surrounding environment in which the process took place. The assessment took place at Jaggard Elementary School, in Evesham Township, New Jersey. Evesham Township is a rather affluent area, so Jaggard Elementary is able to possess the resources necessary to provide a very conducive environment for educating young students with autism. The assessment began in a classroom containing only four students, all of whom were diagnosed with autism. Each student had his or her own specific learning area within the room, which was tailorfit to that student’s needs. For example, one student did not possess the ability to verbalize, so part of her area was devoted to her assistive communication device and PEC’s. This setting gives the instructors the ability to work with each student as comfortably and effectively as possible. There was also an area of the room that was solely devoted to sensory input. Such items included were weighted blankets, weighted pillows, squish balls, and a Temple Grandin-inspired squeeze shoot. Another portion of the assessment process took place in the school’s gymnasium, which consisted primarily of a rubber-floored basketball court, with bleachers on one side. The lines of the basketball court were crucial for the day’s activity, as they provided a clear path for the student’s to follow. Subject Assessed and Overview of Assessment Objectives The goal of this assessment component was to assess an individual with a severe or profound disability. That being said, the reflective practitioner assessed a 10-year-old student who was diagnosed with autism. While he may be considered as being severely affected, he was still capable of communicating verbally on a limited basis. These communication skills will be further discussed in the assessment objectives, as they are an integral part of the process. Before even entering the classroom, the teacher provided the practitioner with some basic information about the student. He comes from a family that provides a great deal of support for his personal needs, and mother specifically supplies the family with a plethora of opportunities for the family to work together on activities that exercise various skills. The teacher continued to state that through the intense «151»
learning experience at the school, and the continued practice at home, this student was able to make great strides over the past years. One of the more well-known traits associated with autism, are noticeable social skills deficits, that can range anywhere from mild to severe. Under this range of deficiencies, are three main classifications: avoidance, indifference and awkwardness. Avoidance is rather selfexplanatory, as the individual avoids almost all social interaction. Indifference, the most common behavioral characteristic, is when the individual neither seeks, nor escapes contact with others. Finally, an individual exhibiting awkwardness may desire to interact socially, but lacks the required skills. This being so, he may not act appropriately in a social setting. As already stated, an individual with autism, like the student observed, most likely will exhibit some degree of said characteristics. The objectives targeted for this assessment were, for the most part, designed to define this individual’s social capability, through five main competencies. The first objective was to identify social skills needed for all educational settings. Rarely, and possibly never, does the educational process occur entirely in one consistent setting. Students move from place to place throughout the day, and each setting must be accommodated. While assessing an individual’s skills in different physical settings, it is also important to do so in different people settings, and thus arose the second objective. The goal of this objective was to identify methods for ensuring individual academic success in one-to-one, small-group, and large group settings. As is true with the variation of physical environments, a student will encounter settings containing varying levels of people. The student’s ability to work in these different settings must be assessed, to ensure the least restrictive environment for learning. One of the main reasons for conducting an assessment of a student, is to determine that student’s individual learning differences. When this assessment is of a student with a severe and profound disability, it is even more so important to decipher how these differences affect learning, and this led into the next two objectives. The first objective was to apply characteristics associated with specific areas of autism, and their impact on learning. The second objective, while along similar lines, was to indentify and differentiate learner differences within each disability category based on a student’s level of functioning, rather than classification. Through these two objectives, the reflective practitioner was able to observe the student not just as one with a disability, but as an individual with specific, personal learning needs. The fifth and final objective of the assessment component project was to determine the type of system that was executed through out «152»
its entirety. The process was determined to be an authentic, formative assessment, and the supporting evident for this conclusion will be presented later. Objective 1 Identify social skills needed for all educational settings. In today’s evolved educational system, there is a multitude of educational settings that a student will encounter on a given day. From classrooms, to computer labs, to cafeterias, what may be thought of as a simple elementary school consists of many environments that are very complicated for an individual with autism. These varying settings require a wide range of social skills. In order to create the least restrictive environment possible for the student, he needs to be assessed in such these, so proper accommodations, adaptations, and instructional changes can be made to further improve the learning process. In order to implicate this assessment process, the student had to be presented with multiple educational settings. To account for this, the reflective practitioner performed this assessment on a day when time would be split between the classroom, and the school’s gymnasium. Overall, this assessment proved to be a great success. Communication is one of the, if not the most, important socials skills required to create and maintain a successful educational setting. This activity placed the individual in two different settings, the classroom and the gymnasium, and used two different primary forms of communication, auditory and visual. The end result showed that the student assessed was capable of communicating socially, in a confined, controlled classroom, as well as in an open, and less-ordered gymnasium. Objective 2 Identify methods for ensuring individual academic success in one-to-on, small-group, and large-group settings. While it is true that a student will encounter several different physical settings during the course of the day, he or she will also experience varying settings in regards to the number of other people within these settings. As already discussed, a major trait of autism is general social deficits, whether they are avoidance, indifference, and/ or awkwardness. These deficits generally do not apply to all amounts of people either, which makes academic success with an individual with autism even more difficult. To account for this, the reflective practitioner identified methods that would ensure individual academic «153»
success in three levels of population: one-to-one, small groups, and large groups. Such settings are those that would be encountered on a given school day, so they pose a very authentic experience to the subject. This objective focused on identifying methods for ensuring academic success in one-on-one, small-group, and large-group settings, as these are settings that are regularly encountered during a given school day. The reflective practitioner felt that after all three sections were complete, he was able to identify several tools that would provide the student with the least restrictive educational environment possible. When working one-on-one, the student responded when the reflective practitioner was closer to the student’s level, and started the sentence with the student’s name. When in a small-group, using the student’s name also worked well, as it helped the student realize that the statements from the teacher actually warranted responses. These two trials showed methods for attracting and keeping the student’s attention, which is crucial in the classroom. In the large-group, the two worked on sharing materials, which is an important skill for any student, let alone one with a disability. Overall the reflective practitioner felt that he achieved the objective, as he deciphered several methods for ensuring the student’s academic success. Objective 3 Apply characteristics associated with specific areas of disability and their impact on learning. As already stated, the individual assessed was diagnosed with autism, and there are several characteristics associated with this specific disability. These characteristics have the potential to severely hinder the student’s learning ability, as they may greatly affect the educational process. In 1996, the American Psychiatric Association released a list of approximately eleven characteristics of autism, and in order to be diagnosed, a student must display six or more of these eleven. While each characteristic will not be specifically defined, those displayed in the student assessed will be discussed. These eleven characteristics can also be grouped into three main core domains of deficits, and they are social skills, communication, and behavior. Deficits, or even complete lack of social skills, are one of the more well-known characteristics of autism. As already stated, these deficits can be placed into three main classifications: avoidance, indifference, and awkwardness. The student who was assessed clearly displayed characteristics of indifference, as he spent time bouncing on a large red ball, while the rest of the individuals in the room went «154»
about their business. He never sought out attention, and he never appeared uncomfortable when others would enter his vicinity. Instead, he continued bouncing, in complete disregard for those around him. While the student appeared to be in a steady state of indifference, the reflective practitioner was informed that this was not always the case. In the two year’s prior that the main teacher was familiar with this student, he displayed almost solely avoidance characteristics. At his most severe, if there were more than four people in the room, the student would sit facing a wall, and would rock constantly. Gradually, though, the teacher was able to acclimate the student with larger and larger amounts of people, until he was able to function around many people in a confined space, as was evident at the Jaggard Jog. Overall, at no point did the student appear uncomfortable or bothered by simply being in the presence of others. Also, he never to appeared to initiate contact in a manner that would suggest awkwardness. When assessed of the deficits in social skills that are characteristic of autism, the student was almost completely indifferent to those around him. Every student is different, and this is no big news. Many people do not realize, though, that every student with autism is different as well. Just because an individual was diagnosed with a disability, does not mean he or she will exhibit every characteristic of that disability, and to what extent. The student assessed lacked complete social skills, but was able to exist amongst other people, which may be considered a mild deficit. He was able to communicate, but on a limited scale, and all the while he showed almost no behavioral characteristics that are commonly associated with autism. This student, while disabled in some ways, is not out of reach of learning, and with the right environment, these disabilities should have a minimal impact on his future success. Objective 4 Identify present educational levels of academic and functional educational performance based on formative assessment and student performance. In order to clearly identify the student’s educational levels in regards to academic and functional performance, the reflective practitioner introduced the student to several activities that encompass both skills sets. These authentic activities provided the reflective practitioner with the opportunity to formatively assess the student, meaning that assessment was ongoing through out the activity. The first activity is one familiar to the student, and was referred to as the “Class Store”. In this classroom, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, students are allowed to pick an item from the Class Store that «155»
they would like to play with for a given amount of time. After selecting the item, the student is required to “pay” for the item, by making exact change out of an assortment of fake money. On this day, the reflective practitioner took the place of the teacher, who normally runs the activity, in attempts to assess the student. Through all assessed activities for this objective, the reflective practitioner determined that the student performed at varying educational levels in both academic and functional activities, depending on the type of thought that was required. For example, the student proved very successful when working with rote skills, such as basic math and the recitation of familiar words. When presented with abstract issues, though, the student struggled. His performance, as the derived from the various formative assessments, denotes that the student is not at the appropriate developmental level as an average ten year-old, but he is still ahead of the other three ten year-olds in his all-autism support class. More work needs to be done in regards to abstract thinking, and the teacher ensured the reflective practitioner that such skills are worked on regularly. With time, in such a positive environment as this, it appeared that the student has an adequate situation to facilitate growth in both academic and functional areas of education. Objective 5 Authentic, Formative Assessment One of the main goals when working with an intellectually disabled student, is to prepare that individual for the most independent and successful life possible. Such goals are just as important when working with a student with autism, as many real-world tasks and functions do not come easily to such an individual. For this authentic assessment, the student went through activities and scenarios that simulated such authentic or real-life tasks, in order to best define the students abilities to function as an independent being. One such activity involved working with money, which is a very important life skill. As was discussed in the prior objective, the student was required to make correct combinations of money, in order to purchase an item. While the student did not perform perfectly, he displayed general knowledge of the topic, and also showed room for expansion. Social skills are also important life skills that individuals with autism either lack, or exhibit deficits in. The student was assessed on his ability to interact with others on multiple levels, including one-on-one, small-group, and large-group settings. In the real-world, an individual encounters a wide variety of population by location, so it is very important to acclimate the student with as many settings as possible. «156»
This student responded well to all three settings also, as he appeared comfortable regardless of the mass of people around him. Although the student performed well in this regard, he still proved deficient in his communication skills. Being able to coexist with others is only part of the battle, as one must be able to communicate with others, in order to live and grow as independently and successfully as possible. Review of Practicum After completing this entire practicum experience, the reflective practitioner came away with what is considered a wealth of information about the individual student, and also about possible best practices when working with other students with autism. Not to be misconstrued, though, it is fully understood that each student is an individual, and no one method is guaranteed to work for all, but the reflective practitioner feels confident that the results of this assessment produced important tools that can be used again in the future. Overall, the reflective practitioner considered the entire process as a great success, as all five objectives were successfully achieved. Over the entire process, there was great cooperation from both the Jaggard Elementary administration, and from Diane Fenu, the classroom teacher. Evesham Township has an amazing autism support facility, that provides a very unrestrictive environment for students on the autistic spectrum, and this was very apparent in the studentâ€™s academic and functional success.
Notes on Contributors
Marvin Adelson resides in El Cerrito, California, and is a Professor Emeritus of architecture at UCLA. His varied career includes engineering, psychology, public service, industrial research and working in the Army during World War II. With industrial research he worked in a development department overseeing the development of a headmounted display that prefigured virtual reality. In the Army, he headed a team that sought to improve operations at the Air Force Command Post in the Pentagon and helped to design several military systems. He also co-founded the Institute for the Future, was an executive director of a committee at the National Academy of Sciences and was a program designer for the Governor’s Commission on the L.A. Riots. An avid writer for many years, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Bogg, Oregon East, Owen Wister Review, Rattlesnake Review and Wisconsin Review. George Bishop lives and writes in the central Florida area. His recent work has appeared in Philadelphia Stories, Literary House Review and is forthcoming in Grasslimb Journal. Miles Brugmann resides in Nyack, New York. He is a graduate of the creative writing program at the State University of New York, Purchase, and will be attending law school in the near future. New work is forthcoming in River Oak Review. Heather Caliri resides in Encinitas, California, where she recently completed her MFA from San Diego State University. Her work has been published in The MacGuffin, Harpur Palate, Nexus, Icon and The Timber Creek Review. Ellen Case resides in Oakland, California, and maintains her own psychotherapy practice in Berkeley. She specializes in social class transition issues, trauma, depression, anxiety and integrating cognitive theory into relational psychoanalytic therapy. She holds a MFA from Mills College and a MA in clinical psychology from John F. Kennedy University, both in California. Her essays and articles have appeared in Ars Medica: A Journal of Medicine, Arts and Humanities, The Chaffin Journal, RiverSedge, The San Francisco Chronicle, Suttertown News and the Psychotherapy Institute Viewpoint. «158»
Ian Caskey is a native of North Carolina and now lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. He is a recent graduate of City University of New York’s baccalaureate program and is currently working on his first novel. His work has appeared in John Jay’s Finest. Tanya Chernov is a new voice currently pursuing a MFA in poetry at the Whidbey Island Writer’s Workshop, studying under David Wagoner and Carolyne Wright. She lives, works and writes in Seattle. She also is a web content editor for Expedia.com, where she enjoys being paid for her grammatical neuroses. Her writing can currently be read in RATTLE, Isotope and Stringtown. Alan Robert Connors was born Robert Jules Grieff in Dallas, Texas, as the youngest of three children. After his parents separated, he was adopted by Thomas J. and Barbara Connors of Scottsdale, Arizona, at eight years old and became the third oldest of nine children. Now residing in Phoenix, he made the switch from a long career in the culinary industry to working in market research while pursuing a writing career. He has always been an avid reader of poetry and a huge rock-and-roll fan and lyricist. Matt Counte was born in Chicago, got wise and moved to Santa Monica, California, where he works, surfs and writes compulsively. Chella Courington resides in Santa Barbara, California. Her poetry has appeared in more than 20 journals including Spillway, Carquinez Poetry Review, Permafrost, Soundings East, Iris, Karamu and Phoebe. In 2004, she published a ‘chapbook’ titled, Southern Girl Gone Wrong with Foothills Publishing in New York. John F. Danahy resides in Troy, Missouri. His work has appeared in Aim Magazine, Art Times, Desert Voices, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, The MacGuffin and RiverSedge. Pamela M. Davis resides in Santa Barbara, California. After her career as a copywriter and freelance journalist, she retired and devoted herself to writing poetry. Though she only recently began submitting her work for publication, she has spent years refining her craft by studying and taking classes with Ted Kooser, Phillip Levine, Ellen Bass, Christopher Buckley, Jack Grapes, and other poets. For the last few years, she has been invited to read her work at Shakespeare and Company, an independent bookstore in Paris. She has also participated in the Paris Poetry Workshop with Cecilia Woloch. Her work is forthcoming in Compass Rose and Red Cedar Review. «159»
Bill DeArmond is a professor of mass communications and film at Southwestern College in Chula Vista, California. He is the 2004 grand prize winner for fiction in the Kansas Voices contest and third place winner in the Kansas Writers Association Fall 2006 Mystery/Suspense fiction contest. His poetry, letters, non-fiction and stories have appeared in True Romance, Outer Darkness, USA Today, TV Guide, The Denver Post, AIM Magazine, and many others. He is also the author of four books, the most recent being The Quest for Rational Faith: Common Beliefs Across Sacred Traditions. Tracy DeBrincat resides in Los Angeles, California. She is a freelance advertising consultant in the entertainment industry. Her first novel manuscript, Every Porpoise Under Heaven, received the 1996 Washington Award for fiction. Her short stories and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in Apalachee Review, The Baltimore Review, Berkley Fiction & Poetry Review, Pacific Review, Willow Review, and many others. Kelly DeLong resides in Deluth, Georgia. Her work has been published in The Jabberwock Review, RiverSedge, Pangolin Papers, Zone 3, and others. K.E. Duffin was born in New York City and currently resides in Somerville, Massachusetts. She studied at Harvard University, where she received a doctorate in the history of science before devoting herself to writing. Her work has appeared in Ashville Poetry Review, Illuminations, Pennsylvania English, West Wind Review, and many others. Her book of poems, King Vulture, was published in 2005 by The University of Arkansas Press and was a finalist for the 2004 Walt Whitman Award, the 2003 Gerald Cable Book Award of Silverfish Review Press, and a runner-up for the 2003 Winnow Press First Book Award in Poetry. It was also a finalist for the National Poetry Series, the Walt Whitman Award (twice), the Colorado Prize and the Bakeless Competition. She received the Zitomirsky-Harvard Review Prize for reviewing, the 2003 Willow Review Prize for poetry, and honorable mention in the 2004 Annie Finch Prize competition. Her visual art has been exhibited internationally and is in the collections of the DeCordova Museum and the Boston Public Library. Christine Ecklund resides in Santa Monica, California. She is a writer, producer and co-author of the humor book, Fixed Mix Seeks Same: The First Book of Dog Personal Ads. She has written for such shows as Doug, The Secret World of Alex Mack and Chicago Hope and has co-authored a ÂŤ160Âť
one-act play, She’s Leaving Home, which was staged by the Cross River Theatre Company in New York. She has also produced more than 100 episodes of the documentary series Switched for ABC Family, as well as a ten-part documentary series for The Disney Channel, Totally In Tune, about an inner-city junior high school classical orchestra in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in RE:AL and she has given readings of her short stories in different locales in Southern California. Currently, she is working on her first novel. V.M. Fry resides in Annapolis, Maryland. As a former student of the Pulitzer Prize winning poet Henry Taylor, Fry is the writer and illustrator of Things Done Alone, published by Logan Elm Press. Fry is also an artist and frequently exhibits poems in tandem with paintings. New work is forthcoming in Poets’ Podium and Slipstream. Arun Gaur lives in Panchkula (Haryana, India) and has taught British and American Literature and Critical Theory courses at Mizoram Central University, Aizawl, where he was the Senior Reader. He is the author of I Stand Apart: Alienated Center in Walt Whitman’s ‘Song of Myself ’ and has book-reviewed articles and illustrated travelogue pieces. Recently, his poetry appeared in Gold Dust, The Pedestal Magazine, Skald, Cosmopsis Quarterly, Stellar Showcase Journal and Salzburg Review. Alicia Gerner is currently pursuing a MFA from Rosemont College in Rosemont, Pennsylvania, working on her thesis and living in Horsham, Pennsylvania. Jonathan Greenhause resides in Jersey City, New Jersey. He is an avid poetry writer and occasional Spanish translator. His poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Bitter Oleander, Bryant Literary Review, Many Mountains Moving, Nimrod, RATTLE and Sojourn. Mary L. Hickey has worked as a newspaper reporter and photographer, winning a Keystone State journalism award for a full-length feature in 1991. She has also been an occasional technical writer. Her fiction and poetry has appeared in Kalliope, Happy, Pegasus Review, Dark Starr, and other publications. She has also published a book, Arise and Call Her Blessed, about Mary, the liberated woman who became the mother of Jesus, under Paulist Press in 1999. In her spare time, she teaches and writes about backgammon, winning the Ohio Masters event in 2002, 2003 and 2006. «161»
Caroline P. Huber was born and raised in New England and currently resides in Locust, New Jersey. She attended Vassar College, Columbia University and Rutgers University, where she received a doctorate in English literature. She has taught at many levels from preschool (Head Start) through college. Her work is forthcoming in Epiphany, Eye, Portland Magazine and RiverSedge. She is a mother of five and grandmother of 12. Sigrid Johnson is a newcomer to the poetry world, contributing to this publication from Toronto, Ontario. Her experience includes studying at the Humber School for Writers, where she received representation with their literary agency for her first children’s novel, The Second Island. David Kitson resides in New York City. His essays and short stories have previously appeared in Words of Wisdom, Spring Hill Review, Thorny Locust, Mindprints and Storyteller. Joe Lamport has had a varied career as a lawyer, entrepreneur, journalist, financial analyst, chauffer, self-published novelist and parttime poet. He lives in the heart of New York City with his wife, two children, two dogs and, somewhat begrudgingly, three cats. He was recently nominated for the honor of Poet Laureate of West 28th Street. Lenny Levine resides in Bethel, Connecticut. After graduating from Brooklyn College with a degree in speech and theater, he became a singer, songwriter and eventual composer for many successful jingles including McDonald’s, Lipton Tea and Jeep. Then he composed songs and sung backup for Billy Joel, Neil Diamond, Peggy Lee, Diana Ross, Barry Manilow, the Pointer Sisters, Carly Simon, and others. He also performed with the improvisational comedy group War Babies. Brenda Liebling-Goldberg resides in Houston, Texas. She is a graduate of Smith College and has a master’s degree in radio, television and film from Columbia University. Her experience includes working as a story analyst at both Universal Studios and MGM Studios. Recently, she was a finalist in the Heekin Group Foundation fellowship program for new and emerging writers. Her work has appeared in Descant, Fox Cry Review, Home Planet News, The Hurricane Review, Nassau Review, Phantasmagoria, Phoebe, Pilgrimage, Rio Grande Review and Watchword. Janice Lierz resides in Fletcher, North Carolina. She says that she has always had dreams of becoming a traveling troubadour, but somewhere «162»
along the way veered into a 20-year executive career with Fortune 500 companies. She recently returned to her former aspirations as an entrepreneur and artist. She is also a CEO of a nonprofit organization that grants residency fellowships to emerging writers, poets and painters. She has studied at Bread Loaf, the University of Iowa, Duke University and with many writers and poets including Anne Hood, Lynn Freed, Natalie Goldberg, Daniel Wallace and Ron Rash. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Asheville Poetry Review, Del Sol Review, Eclipse, Tar River Poetry and Tightrope. John McCluskey resides in Ridgefield, Connecticut. He works in the computer industry and is a father of two, studying for a master’s degree at Manhattanville College. His work has appeared in Inkwell, Reader’s Digest, Fan: A Baseball Magazine, Newsletter of Short Stories, Poetry Forum Short Stories and Verve. Andrew Millar is currently a fiction editor for Fugue, and working on a novel in his spare time. His stories have recently appeared in The Red Clay Review and The Oleander Review. Megan O’Reilly recently moved to Los Angeles, where she works as assistant editor of the poetry journal RATTLE. Her poems are forthcoming in 32 Poems, Connecticut River Review, Crab Creek Review, and others. John Peterson resides in Los Angeles, California. A graduate of the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in literature and creative writing from Claremont Graduate University, he credits much of his understanding and love of poetry to the graduate courses he took with poet B.H. Fairchild. He currently teaches literature and writing courses at Pepperdine University in Malibu. He is working on a dissertation that examines the relationship between landscape, identity and environmental ethics in the works of N. Scott Momaday, Edward Abbey and Terry Tempest Williams. New work is forthcoming in River Oak Review. When he is not writing or teaching, he’s hiking with his Labrador, Chaney, in the local mountains. Alita Pirkopf received her master’s degree in English literature from the University of Delaware and later taught several small classes related to feminist interpretations of literature. She also took a poetry seminar taught by poet Bin Ramke. Her poems have been included in two art shows and published in Illya’s Honey, RiverSedge, Ship of Fools, The Distillery and The Chaffin Journal. «163»
Shannon J. Prince, from Houston, Texas, is a recent graduate of Dartmouth College with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing. As a student, she was an activist for indigenous and African issues, a ceramics artist and travel addict. She enjoys writing poetry, creative non-fiction and fiction on a variety of topics. She has been published in Frodo’s Notebook, Falcon Wings, KUHF magazine, Imprint and Rice University’s Writers magazine. Georgia Ressmeyer was born and raised on Long Island and has spent most of her adult life in Wisconsin, working as an attorney for individuals with mental disabilities. Currently residing near Lake Michigan, the beaches, dunes, woods and prairies have all served as inspiration for the nature imagery in her poetry. Her short novel, Bernice: A Comedy in Letters, was published by Metis Press in 1984. She is a two-time winner of state grants in creative writing. Other work has appeared or is forthcoming in Five Petalled Blossom, The Lyric, The Alembic, Byline, Phoebe, Wisconsin Review, and many others. Joan Rudel resides in West Harrison, New York and has been teaching and writing for decades. While teaching at Manhattanville College she published her first book, Assessment of Developmental Learning Disorders, in 1987. Her work has been published in 13th Moon, Berkeley Poetry Review, Jewish Women’s Literary Annual and the New York University Faculty Journal, to name a few. Recently, she was a semi-finalist for the Muriel Craft Bailey Memorial Award (Comstock Review). She received her bachelor’s degree in English from Barnard College, Columbia University, her master’s degree in English literature from New York University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and her doctorate in education from Fordham University. Michael Sandler lives near Seattle. A graduate of Stanford University and Yale University, he was once a student of Cleanth Brooks and has written poetry over the past 30 years, overlapping a law practice he is currently winding down. Michael Shannon resides in Pittston, Pennsylvania. With a bachelor’s degree in writing, he has published work in Enigma, Steam Ticket, Down in the Dirt, The Oak, The Foliate Oak, and many others. Noel Sloboda resides in York, Pennsylvania, but is originally from Massachusetts. He works as dramaturg for the Harrisburg Shakespeare Festival and teaches at Penn State, York. His first collection of poetry, Shell Games, was published in 2008 by sunnyoutside press in Buffalo, New York. «164»
Richie H. Smith is a writer, performer and physician living in New York City. His literary work has appeared or is forthcoming at www. ducts.org, 580 Split, The Briar Cliff Review, Cairn, Confrontation, The Distillery, The Dos Passos Review, Fox Cry Review, Mudfish, Pebble Lake Review, Red Cedar Review, Red Wheelbarrow Literary Magazine, Slipstream, Sulphur River Literary Review, Poets Podium, The Texas Review, and Breakfast All Day (UK). On stage, his work was featured at The Poetry Project. He has also published articles in scientific journals and is currently working on his first novel. Laura Sobbott Ross is a freelance architectural designer in Sorrento, Florida. She was recently nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has had her poetry published in New Millennium Writings, The Arkansas Review, The White Pelican Review, Kalliope and The Caribbean Writer, among others. Her poetry will also appear in The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Wild Violet and The Loch Raven Review. In 2006, she placed first for poetry in the Mount Dora, Florida Literary Festival and the Great Blue Beacon. Linda Swanberg is a lifelong resident of Montana, living in the city of Missoula with her husband, Gregg. She received her master’s degree at the University of Montana and studies with Tobin Simon of the Proprioceptive Writing Center. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The South Carolina Review, Weber: The Contemporary West, Wisconsin Review, River Oak Review, Talking River, Aries, The Cape Rock, and many others. Besides writing, Linda spends her time tending to her woodland garden and studying music, playing the piano, the cello and composing. Leland Thoburn resides in Foresthill, California. He was the runner-up in Writer’s Journal’s 2008 Fiction Contest and his work has appeared in The Foliate Oak Review and Opium Magazine. Rafael Valverde resides in Maplewood, New Jersey. He is currently a criminal investigator and a former prosecutor. Duane Vorhees has lived in Korea most of his adult life where, since 1987, he has been teaching American Literature and history to GIs. He has a doctorate in American Culture Studies from Bowling Green State University. As an active member of the Seoul Artist Network, he has been performing and writing for many years as a scholar, journalist, hobbyist and poet. In 2000, he participated in an Asian congress of poets in Manchuria and, as a result, his work has appeared «165»
in periodicals on three continents and has been translated into Spanish, French, Romanian, Korean and Hindi. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Chicago Quarterly Review, Compass Rose, The Madison Review, The Seattle Review, and many others. Helen Wickes resides in Oakland, California. She received a MFA from Bennington College and was the recipient of the Jane Kenyon Scholarship. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Runes, Santa Clara Review, The Coe Review, the Bennington Review, and others. Her first book of poems, In Search of Landscape, was published in 2007 by Sixteen Rivers Press. For many years she has worked in the Bay area as a psychotherapist in private practice.
Gwynedd-Mercy College Outstanding High School Poets of Montgomery County Contest Winners 1st Prize: Lara Beatrice McQueen, of Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, is a recent graduate of Lower Moreland High School. While there, she was a creative coordinator of the Art Club, president of the Vegetarian Club and assistant editor of Human Voices, the school’s literary magazine. 2nd Prize: Debbie Hersh, of Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, is a recent graduate of Lower Moreland High School. As an avid reader and writer, she has won several poetry contests and has written a few novels. She was just four years old when she won Huntingdon Valley Library’s Write and Illustrate Your Own Book contest with her story The Rabbit Hole. She is also an accomplished flute player and played in her high school’s band and wind ensemble. 3rd Prize: Konrad Swartz, of Spring City, Pennsylvania, is a recent graduate of Christopher Dock Mennonite High School. He enjoys reading, writing, playing guitar and listening to music.
Outstanding College Writers of Gwynedd-Mercy College’s Writing Contest Short Category (3-5 pages) 1st Place: Abby Reed, from Manheim, Pennsylvania, is a freshman nursing major at GMC. She is a member of the women’s soccer team and assists at a local retirement community. This is her first published writing. «166»
2nd Place: Chase Hall, from Chalfont, Pennsylvania, is a business administration major at GMC. After graduation, he hopes to attend graduate school for a degree in higher education. This is his first published work. 3rd Place: Alexandra Gurko resides in Folsom, Pennsylvania. She is a freshman nursing student and member of the field hockey and softball teams at GMC. Long category (6-10 pages) 1st Place: Maureen Curcio, from Cedars, Pennsylvania, is an English/ secondary education major at GMC. She is a contributing writer for The Gwynmercian, the student newspaper, and also enjoys writing short stories and poetry. Reading, writing and film are her personal passions. 2nd Place: Willow Wilson resides in Collegeville, Pennsylvania. She graduated from GMC in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in English. There, she wrote for the College’s Currents, Today and Gwynmercian publications, in addition to acting as an editor for this year’s The Griffin. She is currently a graduate student in Arcadia University’s English graduate program. 3rd Place: David Smith, from Cape May Court House, New Jersey, is a senior elementary, early-childhood and special education major at GMC. He plays on the men’s basketball team and was the Colonial States Athletic Conference player of the year. This is his first published writing.
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