east coast ink issue 012 | AFRAID
C O N T E N T S EAST COAST INK | Issue 012 | AFRAID
L E T T E r
f r o m t h e e d i t o r 2
P O E T R Y 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . S p r i n g C r e s s a n d D a f f o d i l s .................. .................. .................. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .................. .................. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .................. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..................
Far From There T h e F i r s t T h i n g We S h o u l d D o i s K i l l Black and White Shakes Things I Am Afraid Of Small Boy in Rubble Public Places Eleventh Hour Blending in the Quaver Neon On Being Just Another Fish in Just Another Pond
F I C T I O N 2 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . T h e H u n t e r s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 A . M . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . G r e e n N i g h t
M I C R O F I C T I O N 3 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . W a l k H o m e .................. Despite Me, the Birds Swim
n o n f i c t i o n 3 3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . W e W o u l d H a v e S t a y e d c o n t r i b u t o r s 3 7
ISSUE 012 EAST COAST INK Fall 2016
eci staff owner, editor-in-chief Jacqueline Frasca associate editor Austen Wright fiction editor Erika Childers nonfiction editor Jill Shastany
East Coast Ink Issue 012, Fall 2016: Afraid. Copyright © 2016 East Coast Ink ISBN 978-1-365-46908-4
Cover image by S arah Aguiar. Images inside front cover, inside back cover, and on pages 3, 6, 13―14, and 25―26 by Jacqueline Frasca.
East Coast Ink magazine is produced four times per year and is an individually owned and operated publication. For additional content , please visit ecimagazine.tumblr.com and connect with us @ecimagazine. Pitch us your creative nonfiction and submit fiction, poetry, micro fiction, book reviews, mixed media artwork and photography to ecimagazine@gm ail.com. Copyright of all materials reverts to the individual artists and authors. No materials may be reproduced under any circumstances without written permissions from the editorial staff.
letter from the editor W h e n we s e t ou t to ch o o s e a them e for this issue, I originally wanted “ u n c a n ny.” I wo r rie d it wa s too abstrac t , but in the hands of the right artis ts a n d w ri ter s , wh a t a s u r re a l is sue it c ould have c reated—a c ollec t ion c ura te d o f t h e m os t u n s e ttling fe e ling known in c onsc iousness. The unc anny is tha t fe e l i n g o f comple te a nd u tte r disc om fort , disgust , and fear you c ollec t i n yo ur ext re m i t i es wh e n s o me th in g is just inc orrec t enough—when things don’t move a s t h ey s h ou ld , wh e n s o me th ing is m asquerading as hum an but you know in yo u r c o re th e re ’ s noth ing h u man about it . I t’s why horror m ovies where the e n e my o r mon s te r h a s s tra nge, jerking m ovem ents when it c rawls upsid e d ow n a re s o u n s e ttling, a nd it’s why the legs of t he Pale Man (resem bling the Te n o m e ) in Pan ’s Labyr in th a re m ore upset ting to m e than it s eyeless fa ce c o u l d eve r b e . It’ s why rob ots with near- hum an fac es and expressions are j us t n o t o kay. B u t th e u n ca n ny is a b o u t as diffic ult to desc ribe as deja vu c an be, a n d h a rd to h old , th o u gh it knows how to c ling to you. That’s how we c ame to s e t t l e on th e th e me “AF RAID,” whic h is not quite “fear”; we didn’t wa nt e n d l e s s s ub mis s io ns a b ou t s p iders and heights and agoraphobia, about the fe a r s we sh a re ou r live s with and t ry to navigate life regardless of. We wa nte d to b e s h own wh a t ma ke s ou r creators truly afraid, right now. I t m ight be s o m e t h i n g yo u ’ ve d on e , s o me thing t hat was done to you. I t m ight be a to o -cl o s e exa m i n a t ion o f wh o yo u a re a nd how you think, it m ight be a folkt ale ab o ut w i c ke d t h o u gh ts , it migh t b e that you feel ordinary. I t c ould be spiders. B ut t h a t fe e l i ng o f b e ing a f ra id ca n be spoken about in so m any poignant ways , a nd s h ow n o n s o ma ny ch u r n in g levels. W h ile lis te n in g to a le cture on the art of storytelling rec ently, t he s p e a ke r told u s th a t th e f irs t truly hum an thought was, “I am alive.” The s e co nd t ru ly h u m a n th ou gh t , h e s a id , was “I will not always be.” We are all afra id , a n d t h e m o re we u nd e r s ta nd about t he fears of others, the better we c an exis t to g e t h e r—with mo re e mpa thy, m ore c om passion, and better tools to soo the . He re yo u ’ ll f ind poe ms , prose, m ic ro fic tion, and art about what m a ke s o u r a rt i s t s u na b le —or u nwilling—to sleep at night . Chasing the fear, running f ro m t h e fe a r, b u t a d d re s s in g it regardless through art . As we near Hall owe e n, we e n c o u ra ge you to re a d th e se t ales wit h a brave heart and lots of c andy ( a nd maybe a p e t o r two n e a rby fo r support). Rem em ber, “Fear is t he m ind k il l e r.”
[ poetry ] spring cress and daffodils Steve Klepetar
The kid who drowned when she fell through the ice that winter, comes back every spring as if the water could give her up now
in new warmth, with crab trees spreading their riot of fuchsia flowers. Iâ€™ve seen her by the bridge, cold blue eyes alert as traffic hurtles by and boys toss baseballs back and forth on the practice field. No one can hurt her now, or send her back to the dark realms, until the shadows
return. Her small hands hold spring cress and daffodils, as if her hunger wouldnâ€™t shatter air, or break the willows with her siren screams.
far from there Ann Welch
This far from there Fear for you catches me unawares Its sleek cold tines invade my spine Seek to align me With notes of despair— But I don’t scare so easily
After all— Having loved you ceaselessly Since you tamed me with Saint Exupery And tuned me to your fingers’ lingering drawl— I know your body I know it outside in My mouth trawls favorite coves and bays My hands, like a blind man’s Fly straight for the planes of your face
I know your body I know its strength I know the lengths that you have traveled bringing love and pleasure Like the out-from-under feeling I can measure Only by the loss of all my manners To our lust And I know you will be well. It’s not simply that you must , though there is thatBut tooYou are responsible for those you have tamed And there are far too few glorious red dresses For all who would make that claim So to paraphrase Dorothy Parker— You’re still in the game— And I will not be afraid.
the first thing we should do is kill A.J. Huffman
all the spiders. Lawyers never really bothered me, and I am not afraid of snakes or hostile judgments from pro-arachnid protesters. Let them picket my house indefinitely. The idea of their pounding feet wearing cracks into my sidewalk is far less offensive than the thought of even the tiniest eight-legged tiptoe inching across my bedroom ceiling.
black and white Giulietta Schoenfeld
You’re too far gone now, to look back. It’s been weeks since you uncovered the forbidden manila folder, and now the worms from the can you thought you were ready to pry open, wriggle around in your mind. Years should be enough time to bestow an objective view on something reduced to a memory, but you feel a pang of the past thudding in your chest . And you open the folder, turning to those sterile white pages with black and white text and you begin again.
Pages ago you read a story about a girl. She was lonely. The text read: She suffuses loneliness. Misunderstood. She often argues with her parents. Troubled. Her tales are wild and imaginar y but filled with death and disturbing themes. Instead of seeing human figures, the text worries, she sees strange combinatorial dream-like shapes in the inkblots. Butterfly—slash—moon. Rainbow—slash—sailboat .
She sounds like the average child, filled with colors, limitless, bursting with light and fantasy— But you know that can’t be true. There’s a reason the assessment was given, there’s a reason the stack of text before your eyes tries to fit her into cookie-cutter categories, mindless of the edges torn off in the process. There’s a knot in your chest where the worms have congregated in a squirming ball; the questions twist and thrash, the doubt overflows; Perhaps the doctors were wrong. Perhaps it was all a mistake. Or perhaps—
Years ago, you were a different person as the pages describe. You favored pink above all other colors, one paragraph says. It describes you in a matching strawberry-pink headband and jacket ensemble. The Gameboy, you stubbornly brought to the office the day they told you something was wrong (with you) was also pink. No, you trust the medical system. You trust your parents, you trust the orange vial sitting in the medicine cabinet . You trust because you must and you’re too far gone now, to look back. The medicine runs in your blood.
Kate Ciavarra afraid is smoke stuck to your throat and lungs bubbling with indecision i’ve always been deer-eyed headlights or otherwise
things i am afraid of Kate Ciavarra
my lungs are full of salted water i’d run into the wrong book and found the lonely ocean i forgot to read the fine print before i signed my life away and though the city made of stars is beneath an array of ocean waves i always thought heaven would be up. my chest is fit to burst and suddenly i’m full of stars stars stars and stars i’ll never dive into a story like this again
small boy in rubble Guinotte Wise
A news video of Syria some few people in the exploded streets and one of them way over in the left hand corner of the screen is a small boy in silhouette and he looks like a kid’s drawing of a kid a boxlike body pipe stem legs an old man’s gait or perhaps just hesitant from some far off blast that made him stutter step, he looks around, continues on and my heart goes with him and my prayers such as they are, my prayers might hurt him rather than help him whoever his god may be and I find it hard to breathe properly I am ashamed it plays over and over in that eye that never closes. I see him now. Can you? A little stop and start silhouette in a rubbled roadway, he looks about , what can he be thinking. Where is his god shield? Childhood. If tears can help he’ll make it . He is more real to me than I.
public places Steve Klepetar
I live with this horror; when I tumble I go down into blood. Neruda
Again sirens in the streets, again the bodies covered in sheets, reporters with grim faces, endless clacking of words. Here come the senators with their khaki pants and their blue shirts and prayers. Here come the saints with their signs, counselors with murmurs of silk. Here are the mothers weeping, reruns and voices on the telephone, money to spread on the tables of luck and greed. It stains our hands with a strange new oil. We reek of machines, of rags and crowds and humid air. We own a century of rain that carves minerals from stone, a sheaf of years with its heat and trash, animals driven mad in their pens, a time of cars and planes and plastic bags. The circus is in town and we parade, flagellants chanting the single truth weâ€™ve learned: avoid public places, check for the nearest exit; always be ready to run.
eleventh hour Joan McNerney
Wrapped in darkness we can no longer deceive ourselves. Our smiling masks float away. We snake here, there from one side to another. How many times do we rip off blankets only to claw more on?
Listening to zzzzzz of traffic, mumble of freight trains, fog horns. Listening to wheezing, feeling muscles throb. How can we find comfort?
Say same word over and over again again falling falling to sleep. I will stop measuring what was lost . I will become brave.
Let slumber come covering me. Let my mouth droop, fingers tingle. Wishing something coolâ€Śsoft â€Śsweet . Now I will curl like a fetus gathering into myself hoping to awake new born.
blending in the quaver Jacqueline Frasca
I only rest in beds of opium, blending bruises with the buds and the cuts with petal reds. The colors fit like new scar tissue, the buds hold the hand of ripening purples—damaged blood cells under my skin—and match shades of green from grass— stains in lacerations on my knees. Marvelous colors creep and seep, merging in the quaver of my haziest songs. Bend and rip wide open and the opium petals catch raining blood, little umbrellas above and below, but show no sign of stain. I bend here only.
Guinotte Wise Dapper even dangerous in fedora just like Leonard stepping into nighttime peril Neonâ€™s shiver distant beckon Not unfriendly just somehow terse a trope from Chandler weighing heavy on the night This time is not for fun nor dabblers nope not for them who crave excitement they who step into the night
on being just another fish in just another pond Jacqueline Frasca
It seems everyone writes the same things about autumn. Everyone sits on this bench I saw displaying “FRESH PAINT” three days ago (now chipped and splintered), content in their heavier jackets and scarves and writes about walking through the loose leaves, as I am. Everyone’s ankles freeze as they watch the red in the sunset fading greyer as the sky always pales before darkening for the day. Everyone knows three p.m. now feels like seven, looks like cold. Everyone thinks the leaves on the lawns look like peppered stars in the sky, blowing about
in bursts—Just the way everyone finds it hard to leave bed even when the room is stifling sick and your skin wants honeyed light on the red trees, brightening. Surely everyone finds being horizontal to be the only way oxygen can enter the lungs, surely everyone has to drink frigid water to tell themselves they ’re awake, and traces the lined path of chill down to their stomachs.
Isn’t everyone’s hair this limp? Each person must look down at their limbs and know what real detachment aches like. Can everyone feel their bones but not their body? But certainly everyone that writes sees that tree, between the gazebo and slow-freezing pond, whose upper branches must be icy in their bare extension, and wonders: if heat really rises, why the lower limbs cling to their colors. Why the closer to the sky, the more the leaves crave the ground—crave horizontal. Everyone’s hands are getting numb through
their suede gloves (mine are fake) as surrounding benches for the nearest mile fill with close pairs who all think autumn is a season—impermanent .
” s h i p ’ s h o l d , ” k a t y d o u g h t y
[ fiction ] The hunters Grace Franzen
Dowse the forest in the dale, Bring a penny and a pail. Make for him a hermit’s snare, Draw a circle in the air. Say three times the creature’s name, Any will do just the same. When at last the deed is done, The Beast will take the weakest one. Abigail swung the bucket and skipped along the forest path. She recited the words over and over, finding new ways to say them or trying them out to the tunes of different songs. When she looked over her shoulder and saw that the forest entrance was no more than a golden ball of light , she stopped and pulled her dowsing rod from the front of her overalls to check their heading. The rod was a branch she’d found at the outskirts of the woods, one stick splitting off in two in the shape of the letter Y. It would have been a good crutch for something small, like a badger with a broken leg. It was also a perfect dowsing rod. Abigail put down the bucket and gripped an end in either hand. She spun around and pointed it at her brother some distance behind her, dawdling in the path. Zachary ’s hands were pushed into the little pockets of the sweater their mother had put him in. “I’m hungry,” he whined. “I wanna go home for lunch.” “We’re hunters.” Abigail brandished the rod. “We’re gonna hunt down the Beast and save the forest .” “I’m gonna starve.” “Then you’ll starve,” said Abigail. “Hunters don’t eat until they ’ve caught their prey.” “You don’t eat the Beast , the Beast eats you,” Zachary grumbled. He shuffled his feet . “I’m going back home.” “You’re too little,” Abigail reminded him. “I’m in charge while Mom’s out . She said you have to do everything I say, remember?” Her brother turned back with his lip jutting out over his chin. Satisfied, Abigail returned to her dowsing. “Forest wood, forest wood, lead our footsteps as you should,” she sang. Everyone who lived near the forest knew how to dowse, just as they all knew the forest rhyme. Abigail knew it was important to get their dowsing rod from the forest itself, so the magic would be in the branch. She sang the incantation once
more for good measure, and then slowly turned the rod in a circle where she stood. She was sure, or at least mostly sure, that the dowsing rod was pulling her ever so slightly. Eventually she stood with the end of the branch pointing into a shadowy part of the trees. A shiver of excitement ran through her. “Our prey draws near!” she said. She picked up the bucket , hearing the lone penny at the bottom sliding around. “Let’s go.” Zachary ’s eyes were wide looking into the darkness. “We’re not s’posed to leave the path,” he said. “We’ll get lost .” “Not with this we won’t .” Abigail twirled the enchanted rod in her fingers. “Come on, do you wanna be a baby or do you wanna be a hunter?” “I wanna eat lunch,” Zachary pouted. “And I don’t wanna go in there.” “Why?” Abigail grinned; he’d unlocked her best weapon. “You scared?” “No.” He glowered. “Bet you are.” “I’m not!” “Prove it , then.” She turned and flounced away, into the depths of the trees. She wasn’t surprised to hear his clumsy toddling footsteps soon after. The trees grew thicker and older away from the path. Abigail looked up at the large branches tangling above them, blocking the light . Crickets chirped and branches snapped. Abigail could feel her heart beating harder in her chest; of course the Beast would be hiding here. Zachary had his own opinions about the place. “It’s too dark in here!” he cried. “And I can’t hear the birds anymore!” Abigail listened, and realized indeed the birdsong that had glittered along the footpath was gone here in the deep trees. “That must mean we’re getting close,” she whispered. She was dazzled for a moment , caught up in the splendor of adventure, but as usual her brother’s petulant screeching broke the spell. “I want to go home.” His mouth was screwed up tight between his cheeks. “I don’t like it here.” “You’re such a baby, Zach.” Abigail swung the handle of her pail impatiently. “I don’t care,” he said, to Abigail’s displeasure, crossing his little arms tight . Usually calling him a baby would do it , but she’d have to get creative now. “Well,” she said, and thought it over. “You can’t go home now. The Beast may have already spotted us.” “What?” Zachary looked up and his terrified eyes glistened in the twilight . “That’s right!” Abigail smiled. “And he only eats scaredy-cats.” “You’re lying!” Her brother’s lower lip quivered and she laughed. “When at last the deed is done, the Beast will take the weakest one!” she sang, words that Zachary knew well himself. “Stop!” Tears welled up in his eyes and he shoved a pudgy arm across them. “I wanna go home!” “It’s too late now,” said Abigail. “Now we gotta kill it before it takes you. So let’s go, and don’t fall behind.” She turned and kept going, Zachary ’s sniffles following close. For a moment she thought about what it would be like if the Beast did take him. She would be the girl whose brother was carried off by the Beast , who had been brave and escaped to tell the tale. No more babysitting, no more dragging around someone who was the worst
adventurer she’d ever known. Maybe if the Beast did come it would come after Zachary. Of course she would rescue him immediately, she reasoned; but she just wanted to know, wanted to see what would happen… The trees that had pressed in on them suddenly shied away. There was a dark hollow here, and a tree in the middle that looked different from all the others. The branches were bare, twisting and jerking into the dimness above. A gaping hole in the trunk opened onto inner blackness. Abigail clutched the bucket to her heart for a moment , feeling it flutter against the metal. “This has to be where he lives,” she said. Zachary only whimpered in reply. She set the bucket down in front of the dead tree, certain the Beast was waiting inside. “Make for him a hermit’s snare,” she muttered and lifted her pointer finger. “Draw a circle in the air.” “Don’t ,” Zachary moaned. Abigail stuck out her finger and drew a circle around the hole in the tree. “There. Now…” She hesitated a moment over the next instructions. “Say three times the creature’s name, any will do just the same. That must mean we can call it whatever we want!” “I hate when you do this,” her brother sniffled. “I didn’t even wanna come.” “That’s ‘cause you’re a big baby.” “Well you’re a bully!” He scrubbed the tears off his splotchy cheeks. Abigail put her hands on her hips. “You’re a baby, and that’s why the Beast is after you in the first place.” She grinned. “If we name it after you it’ll be easy to defeat … Zachary.” “Don’t!” “Why? What’s the matter… Zachary?” “Abby stop, please, it’s scary!” her brother wailed, hands over his ears. Abigail felt a breath of wind stir at her neck and a surge of adrenaline rushed through her. She laughed and jumped, clapped her hands, eager for success. “When at last the deed is done the Beast will take the weakest one, and the Beast’s name is… Zachary!” she bellowed at the trunk. The tree stood unmoving. Abigail waited, holding her breath, and after a moment she realized that the hollow they stood in seemed even darker than before. Was it sunset already? She looked around for her brother but saw only shadows. “Zachary?” she said again, tentatively this time. She heard her brother’s terrified sobbing and whirled around. A great tall shape stood over her, blacker than the darkness, like the tree hollow. She wasn’t sure what it was, but it was most definitely not shaped like a man. “Are you… the Beast?” she breathed. The thing didn’t answer. She saw no eyes but she felt it was watching her. Somewhere behind the shadow she could hear her brother’s hiccupping cries, but they were distant . The dowsing rod in the front of her overalls suddenly felt like a thin, straggly hand, clutching her chest . She felt her pulse begin to pound in her ears. “But …but …don’t you only take the weakest ones?” she forced out . She felt the shadow looking at her—no, looking into her, a black void spreading into her very depths. Abigail looked back into the Beast and realized, far too late, a grave misunderstanding.
Lara Lewis The mistake, of course, is never one she consciously makes. It starts out innocently enough, reading one story to amuse herself after dinner. One story online links to another, which leads to another, which leads to a multi-chapter piece that takes over an hour to finish reading. And they are all riveting, although some fall flat , and some she forgets within five minutes of reading the thing. The result , however, is always the same; finding herself in the dark, thoroughly terrified and unable to keep her eyes closed. There is something about darkness that she actually quite likes. She likes the way that it blankets over everything, and even appears in shadows when the lights are on. She likes the way silhouettes dance across walls as people walk by, or the way the shapes of branches paint themselves on the wall opposite her window, the way the shadows dance as the sun spins across the morning sky, are all quite nice. But now? Now she sits, listening to herself breathe. She sits and watches the door to her bedroom for movement , and every so often she jumps when she sees something peak in, but every time she dares to lean forward and see what’s watching her, it’s just the stuffed bear she won’t get up and move. She sits and she listens to the shadows, the house. The wood settles and shifts around her, the door creaks. She can hear the air conditioning blaring, or maybe it’s the whistle of something alien and hungry. The bear smiles at her. She opens her laptop again, closes out all of the stories. She can barely remember which one scared her in the first place, but the numerous tabs make her stomach turn as she sees each title. Why did she do this to herself ? Of course, playing a game only puts her mind at ease until she turns it off. Then she’s face with the dark and the silence again, waiting to swallow her. The air conditioning snarls, then resumes its steady breathing. Above her, her fan shakes. She lies back and closes her eyes. They open again; the dark is too great , allencompassing, and even though she needs to be up early she cannot , cannot sleep. She gets up. Her footsteps make the floor groan in agony, but that’s because it’s an old floor, a well-used floor, she really should see about getting a new one soon. She turns the light on. Ambiguity scatters; she can see her desk, her bed table, her closet and the paper scattered across the floor. She can see that nothing is there but her; even the bear outside is clearly just a toy with the light pouring on it . She sighs in relief— it’s strange, but if she can get some sleep this way, she’ll take it . She gets back into bed and sits down, wraps herself in the covers, closes her eyes. Her bed groans.
green night Robin Dunn
The Green Night comes near, oh my darling, and he has ordered us beer. “I think I will have two beers,” she says, and she does. “I think I will have you,” I say. “Not yet ,” she says. Were it midnight I could say it , and how it was, would I could tell you, who I was too, when I was the Green Night . Who am I now? “Who are you now?” she asks. Who am I now? “Oh God” Not God. “Oh God!” Not God. “Oh, God!” Green Night . I live in Los Angeles under angry people. I have a girlfriend who lives in Brooklyn. We make love on Skype, in between our infrequent visits. But these are unimportant details. What is important is Green Night . For I am Sir Gawain, and I love you. In the beginning was the word, but I wasn’t listening. “What is on the radio?” she says. “That is my mother.” “What?” “It is her.” “It sounds terrible!” “She is terrible. Like Kafka. Like a wart .” “I can’t stand to listen to it!” She leans in closer to the speaker. My mother is grumbling. I love my mother but she is a grumbler. My girlfriend is humming along to her. I am watching the sky, for dragons. Beowulf is coming later and we are going to get drunk. I love him. “How can you listen to this?” she is saying, and then I fuck her and the voices go away. But not Green Night . In Los An— “Are you awake?” “Yes.”
“What did you say to me last night?” “What?” “Something about a green knight .” “A Green Night . It’s who I am now.” “You going to put on a costume and stuff.” “No, not ‘and stuff.’ Green Night is who I am.” She laughs. I make us both lattes and drive her to the park so we can get drunk. There is no drunk like in Los Angeles. Revolution. At least for an hour. Ribald limbs, untested, rambunctious. I hold her in my arms.
In Los Ang— “What is that you’re writing.” “This, it’s a poem.” “It doesn’t look like a poem.” “Yes, poem.” “It doesn’t look like a poem.” “Well, whatever it is.” Whoever my vengeance will atone for. I broke up with her on Thursday. She can remain in Brooklyn. I in Los Angeles. Beowulf and I are getting married, but it is a Hindu marriage, as of a young girl to a dog, to worship god, who is a dog, and to show holy things how many of us there are now, to count trees and spirits, and make music. Sing with me, for I am coming, to my subway stop. I sing, and you with me, though you are distant , and I am afraid. I am singing. To the train conductor. “This is my song.” “What are you doing in this cockpit . THat’s not allowed.” “I am Green Night .” “Are you like with Hollywood or something.” “Yes.” I am not with Hollywood. I detest Hollywood. “Yes, I am with Hollywood.” “What movie is it?” “Green Night .” “Not another comic book thing.” “No. It’s poetry.” “Oh.” We are driving under the city. I have a sword. In Greenwich Park I get a phone call on my cell phone. It’s my girlfriend, my ex girlfriend.
She is telling me about Manhattan, and how she wants to move there. I agree it is a good idea, and I hang up. There are robins in the trees, and a documentary team has showed up to film them. My cell phone is low on batteries so I climb up one of the trees and shout: “Hollywood, now I come to kill you. Run, for your life.” Hollywood is laughing. But I carry my sword. I carry it inside. I carry it on the side of my leg. I have no head. In Greenwich Park I am dancing, and the documentary team has decided to incorporate my dances into their piece, as a sort of contemporary expression. I slay some of them in battle, as a kind of contemporary expression. There is screaming, and grief. I snarl into their dying faces. Over my head are trees. I too am a tree. But I do not live in the forest . I live in Koreatown. The Koreans know me here. They are afraid of me. And I am afraid of them too. I am asking the subway conductor, “Is it true, this train goes to the ocean?” “Next week, man. We’ll be done next week.” I will stand with my sword on Santa Monica beach. Like my grandfather before me. But he could take the train there in 1933.
“Is it true you’re a writer?” my ex girlfriend is asking me. What do these kinds of questions mean? “Is it true you’re a woman?” I ask her.
I am Sir Gawain, and Green Night . In a night that will not end. Though my enemy is gaining on me, this is part of my plan. For I behead the beast , as my brother Beowulf does. And I ride headless on my steed, to show the earth my honor. In Koreatown I am riding, with my beard. Here they are afraid of me. I am afraid of them. One day I will teach school, to small children. I will show them how to kill dragons.
[ micro fiction ] walk home Lara Lewis
The issue with autumn evenings is always that they become autumn nights. The soft breeze that greets you with a playful whisper grows harsher with each step, whipping around you and hissing into your ears. The pleasant afternoon chill, making the air so crisp before the sun goes down, seeps into your jacket and tugs at the hairs on your arms until they stand paralyzed. The leaves beneath your feet grow soggy and squish under your boots, like you’re stepping on slugs or mud. They do not greet you with a friendly crunch. The sky grows orange as it darkens—light pollution, you call it , but doesn’t it feel so much more poisonous than that? The way the clouds pool over you, doesn’t it feel like you’re being watched? You can’t even find the moon in the smoky sky, but you keep walking the way you were going, keep pushing yourself forward, keep telling yourself that crunching sound you hear is coming from the leaves under your feet , and certainly not from right behind you.
despite me, the birds swim Emma McPherson
While I dwell a vivid hallucination of how raised my new skin is, a crane dips its neck down several feet , yanks out some of my hair for a souvenir, and takes off back out to the center of the lake, cuffing me like a gust of vicious wind with its wing when I look up to watch it go. Had I been negligent? I look around, scalp stinging, and the tree has released me from its shadow. The heat in my skin rushes to attention. My shoulders are blushing, but not burned. I can salvage this. It’s still early enough for the quiet period of the lake. One hundred feet away a group of small birds wades the surface, diving in a loud, splashing frenzy every few minutes. Two loons skim past , uninterested. I hear their haunts in my heart . I touch my hand to my scalp and wince. The crane is watching me and I raise my shoulders in response. The tickle of a small wood spider creeps along my thigh, scaling hills and valleys of the ink in my skin. The scarring is mountainous.
[ nonfiction ] we would have stayed Emma McPherson
“How would it have ended, do you think?” “We would have stayed.” This was back when we were both on either side of the line, watching the other person watch it and wondering when the other would cross it , or ask us to. Almost a year after all I could think was, “There’s nowhere I can be alone. I just want to be alone,” I’m staring at being “alone” over that same line. Cocking my head, narrowing my eyes, wondering which of us will cross it . “Inauthentic” used to be a quality in myself I sought to harbor. It’s born in you when enough people reject how you are and how you think. Cognitive behavioral therapy will tell you there are other ways to think, tools to use to train your thinking. I’m sure somewhere inside me, the chemicals are laughing—but really it’s Lilith, celestial Lilith and her mirthless smirk climbing out through me at all hours. In astrology, all the signs have Lilith qualities. Lilith, who was on top of Adam when he had all his ribs. The dark side, the black moon of your personality. For Pisces, they include inconsistency and escapism, as well as being hysterical, creating illusions, deceiving, and charming others. “Because of the need not to experience the end—because of the fear of losing or crumbling of ideals—these people can for years endure a strange state of life that is not of the heaven or from the Earth, believing in something that is long gone since,” a garbage astrology website says of Lilith in Pisces. My Lilith is always showing. My nail broken, and I’ll let it stay and catch in my hair until the feeling of its separation morphs from the sadness that it’s leaving into horror that something gone is still clinging. But he’s not gone; every day he wakes me and wants more of whatever darkness inside me wants him to hurt me to show me he loves me. Violence is such a sincere form of passion. His Lilith awakens with a growl at the touch of my own. But while he’s telling me how he wants to twist me, how he wants to mend me to break me again, he is sure that if we had met years before, we would have stayed. That our rage and petulance, our jealousy and our Fear that echo each other’s so loudly, are an insatiable match. That we would have stayed. In summer, I told him I was watering the basil on the porch. The sun was strong and my skin drank it in, too eager for anything at all to touch it , to hungrily consume any warmth it could get for all the rejections it would endure biding its time until the next round of sunny days. Garlic and onions roasted in the
oven. It was eight a.m., and I was wondering, while waiting for him to respond, why at a fingertip glance the basil was in my skin but if cut it would rapidly wither on the countertop, long before it could be muddled with garlic and olive oil. I told him my grandmother never made homemade pesto, but that I liked to—liked the ache in the crook of my arm, my shoulder’s protest . “Tending to your garden,” he said. “That’s a fine image.” Classic Pisces naivety says I could pacify him in a rage. Placate him. I am never content , but I can be dizzyingly gleeful. Particularly when he tells me he wants to make me hurt . The sight of my own unbroken skin makes waves in my nervous system. “Bite harder,” I’d say, no matter where his teeth traveled. If it doesn’t bruise and swell, it barely counts. “That’s the evil,” he says when I let him chase demons too far down. I tell him to keep talking, to tell me what he thinks about when I’m obstinate, when I’m giving, when I’m good or bad. He’ll stop himself and say, “That’s the evil. I’ll stop. I’m done.” “Why? Do you think you’re scaring me?” “Yes.” But I’m only afraid of what he thinks of me, of disappointing him. I’m not afraid he’ll snap my bones just to hear me cry, or cut me deep enough that I’ll need stitches, or see the red of my blood and never stop. I’m afraid he’ll stop loving me enough to want to, stop loving me enough not to. I’m drunk in my own image he paints me, dwell in waves of wonder if it makes him tipsy too. I’m stuck in my own motion because I want to know if he’s watching—if I’m dancing when I walk, or if I’m just walking. Can he empty me so I’m only caverns to explore? I feel no fear for my body because I shake over how much he hungers to hear my every thought , how he doesn’t cringe away from what a project it is to keep me semi-whole and functioning. I feel no fear because I hear tones of carnal need in his apologies, tones of unrelenting longing when he asks me to better explain why I think important parts of him are worth protecting in the feral, desperate ways I want to. I feel no fear because I saw myself when he was shouting ultimatums, felt a transference that showed in every nerve that we matched, that we are too much the same. I feel no fear because our left sides are scarred forever, where the evil lives, where it’s tried to break free. We alight in the shining white of where it keeps living inside us. “Alone” has the emptiest stare as it inches to the line. It refuses to cross, is stalwart in ways I can never be, calling my bluff—and the days tick themselves by within and without me, all my muscles tense as I weigh the pros and cons of finding out if “freedom” is worth so much destruction. Break my body, let my mind break itself. I’ve forgotten now who taught me it was more terrifying to be alone with myself than it is to love someone who dreams of carving me apart irreparably.
[ contributors ] afraid, fall 2016
Kate Ciavarra is a 25-year-old princess. She loves murder mysteries and histories and really anything interesting. Kate loves running around with her students and talking books with her peeps at Barnes & Noble. Favorite foods? Pad Thai and sweet potato sushi. Favorite outfit? Big, baggy sweater, leggings, thick socks, boots, scarf. Favorite season? SPRING. Fall is nice, too. For poetry, Kate likes to let the words spill on the page until they start making sense. Kate would shrivel up like a prune without music, art, laughter, family, the Oxford comma, and energy drinks. You can find Kate at evereverafterlys.tumblr.com and Ever Ever Afterly Creations on Facebook.
ROBIN WYATT DUNN
Robin Wyatt Dunn writes and teaches in Los Angeles. His first book of poetry, “POEMS FROM THE WAR”, is now available from Popcorn Press. robindunn.com
Grace Franzen is currently attending San Francisco State University completing the undergraduate program for an English degree, with an emphasis in creative writing. Her work has appeared previously in university publications, and here she presents her never-beforepublished piece “The Hunters.” She loves ghost stories and secrets told in the dark. Grace lives in Daly City with a plant.
A.J. Huffman has published twelve solo chapbooks and one joint chapbook through various small presses. Her new poetry collections, “Another Blood Jet” (Eldritch Press), “A Few Bullets Short of Home” (mgv2>publishing), “Butchery of the Innocent” (Scars Publications), “Degeneration” (Pink Girl Ink), and “A Bizarre Burning of Bees” (Transcendent Zero Press) are now available from their respective publishers and amazon.com. She is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a two-time Best of Net nominee, and has published over 2400 poems in various national and international journals, including “Labletter,” “The James Dickey Review,” “Bone Orchard,” “EgoPHobia,” and “Kritya.” She is also the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press. kindofahurricanepress.com Steve Klepetar’s work has appeared worldwide, in such journals as “Boston Literary Magazine,” “Deep Water,” “Expound,” “The Muse: India,” “Red River Review,” “Snakeskin,” “Voices Israel,” “Ygdrasil,” and many others. Several of his poems have been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize (including three in 2015). Recent collections include “Speaking to the Field Mice” (Sweatshoppe Publications, 2013), “My Son Writes a Report on the Warsaw Ghetto” (Flutter Press, 2013), and “Return of the Bride of Frankenstein” (Kind of a Hurricane Press). web. stcloudstate.edu/sfklepetar/
Lara Lewis is a writer, but doesn’t let that stop her. Her workplace of choice is
Savannah, Georgia, the city that thinks it’s a town. She spends her days writing, drawing, and warily regarding the unknown. It regards her warily in turn. Her goal is to one day conquer it, so it had better not try anything funny. She sincerely hopes you gained something from her story, and never get glass caught in your fingers. She can be found at linkedin.com/in/larascad, or emailed at email@example.com
Joan McNerney’s poetry has been included in numerous literary magazines such as “Seven Circle Press,” “Dinner with the Muse,” “Camel Saloon,” “Blueline,” “Poppy Road Review,” “Spectrum,” three “Bright Hills Press Anthologies,” and several Kind of A Hurricane publications. She has been nominated three times for Best of the Net.
EMMA M C PHERSON
Emma McPherson spends entirely too much time in the past, which can make the present relatively impossible. Though reality is largely lost on her, she won’t be found without something to physically write on. She wants to say she is a watercolor painter but it’s just not true. Her ideal form of escapism is a bottle of wine and a good book, a.k.a. someone else’s life. Ultimately, she aims to work in children’s book publishing. firstname.lastname@example.org
pastime is hanging with friends and watching silly videos. Though likes making people laugh, beware her mischievous streak. She also harbors a passionate aversion to cilantro.
Ann Welch is an East Coast native who lived in New York for 30 years. She is a lover of words and has written extensively in her field of work, which, sadly, is not related to literature and poetry. She lives on the west coast, where—among other things—she teaches, reads, sings and writes. Her poem “Bridge Sonnet” appeared in East Coast Ink’s 2014 Bridges issue. She can be contacted at anniewriterw@gmail. com.
Guinotte Wise lives on a farm in Resume Speed, Kansas. His short story collection (Night Train, Cold Beer) won publication by a university press and not much acclaim. Two more books since. His wife has an honest job in the city and drives 100 miles a day to keep it.
Giulietta Schoenfeld is a 22-yearold recent graduate from Bryn Mawr College. She majored in Spanish with a minor in psychology and significant amounts of coursework in the fine arts and creative writing (she can never make up her mind). While Giulietta has always expressed a passion for writing and telling stories, Bryn Mawr introduced her to writing poetry, with which she quickly fell in love. Aside from writing, Giulietta also enjoys animation, drawing, singing, fencing, and a good sense of humor. Her favorite
ea st coast ink | issue 012 | afr aid
Fear has incredible power; from anxiety that can illogically keeps us paralyzed while trying to do incredibly ordinary life tasks (like trav...