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phoenix

2008•2009

Literary & Visual Arts Journal 51st Edition•Eastern Mennonite University


phoenix

2008•2009

Literary and Visual Arts Journal Language and Literature Department Eastern Mennonite University Harrisonburg, VA

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Staff Jacob Goertz

Ben Shank

General Editor

Literature Editor

Jake King Visual Editor

Kirsten Beachy Advisor

Phoenix Recognizes: Kirsten Beachy, for her support as an advisor The editorial team, without whom none of this would have come together. Mark Fenton, for his help with Photography selection and layout. Koren Lucke, for helping with the initial steps towards completion. Mike Reno and the EMU Print Shop Student Government Association The contributors and community at EMU that continue to support expression of all different kinds. For consideration in our next edition, send works to:

phoenix@emu.edu

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Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. C.S. Lewis

Works of art, in my opinion, are the only objects in the material universe to possess internal order, and that is why, though I don’t believe that only art matters, I do believe in Art for Art’s sake. E. M. Forster

Tremendous amounts of thanks and humility are due to our many contributors. Without their efforts, these pages that tell of renewal, beauty, and truth would be blank spaces without expression. It is their works that bring redemption from out of the ashes.

The works of art, whether written or visual, that reside within these pages are our best attempts “to try to tell the truth.” They create worlds never before imagined, and they connect us, if only for brief moments, to the artists. We hope that these pages paint a vivid picture of humanity: its brokenness and hope, its sorrow and joy, its love.

Jacob Goertz General Editor 2009

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Hannah Beachy (p 22) is a freshman at EMU, majoring in Elementary Education.

Sara Beachy (p 32) is a sophomore English major with minors in Psychology and Spanish. She loves working with teens at the ALC as they explore their humanity and brokenness. She also works at New Bridges Immigration Center where she can explore her love for different cultures and languages. She has no clue what she will do after college but hopes that she will work with teens at some point in her life.

Christine Bottles (p 10) is a junior English Education major from Williamsburg, VA. Her goals in life include standing behind a waterfall, learning Morse code, swimming in Jello, and going to a Dallas Cowboys football game.

David Brennan (p 11) is an old man. He gathers paper, books and vacillating fans. He double-knots his shoelaces and pedals with speed. David lifts, not with the back, but the knees.

Katie Brubaker (p 16) is a senior Spanish major, with minors in TESL and art. She really likes children, colors, small things, and languages.

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Jen Christner (p 6, 9) is a senior from Sarasota, Florida, majoring in Elementary Education and Liberal Arts.

Gavin Connor (p 14) is a graduate student in Counseling.

Rachel Diener (p 27) is the director / teacher at EMU’s Early Learning Center and enjoys doing portraits in pencil and watercolor in her spare time.

Anna Engle (p 6) is a sophomore History and ESL Education major who enjoys backpacking, the show “Northern Exposure,” being creative, ethnic food, and reading magazines. She desires to teach either on an Indian Reservation or in a rural location, such as Alaska, Idaho, or West Virginia.

Mark Andrew Fenton (p 11, 12, 26, 29, 31) is a junior at EMU, studying photography and digital media. When not in class or doing homework, Mark enjoys friends, art, and living life. Mark has aspirations for more photographs, a job that doesn’t quite put food on the table (stupid college loans), and a lively city life.


Daniella Fleur (p 18, 23) is a freshman English Education major at EMU. She is originally from Ohio but has fallen in love with the mountains and the beautiful views of Virginia. She has been writing poetry since she was ten, and hopes to continue writing until she is old and decrepit.

Malea Gascho (p 7, 35) is a sophomore from Pigeon, Michigan.

David Glanzer (p 36) is a professor of EMU’s M.A. in Counseling program.

Jake Goertz (p 21, 28) is a senior English major from Florida.

Stephen Henry (p 10) is a freshman at EMU, focusing on Biblical Studies and English.

Jason Horst (p 19) is a senior majoring in Chemistry, with a History minor. He enjoys hanging out with his family and friends, playing soccer, playing piano and traveling.

Michael Spory (p 8, 25, 34, 37) is a sophomore photography major from a dairy farm near Boswell, PA.

b. thunder (p 24) is a junior English Education major from Ohio. He likes words.

Douglas Alan Wandersee (p 13, 42) grew up in Anoka, Minnesota. He graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris and received his Masters from JMU. He has worked in Student Life at EMU since 2004. Doug thinks words are just like Legos.

Dylan Zehr (p 30, 43) is a junior History Major, with no plans for the future. With luck, he’ll find a way to get lost for three or four years after college, then rejoin the people that he knows and loves. He writes sporadically...

Larisa Zehr (p 17, 20) is a sophomore Peacebuilding and Development major at EMU. She sees poetry as penned vulnerability, a challenge, a way to peace. Write, read, listen.

Glenn Kauffman (p 34), in a former life, was Professor of Chemistry (Emeritus, 2003), and now enjoys the occasional mixing of metaphors from science, religion, philosophy, and other insignificant aspects of life.

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Deux Jen Christner Who would have thought it is so dangerous to sink one’s teeth down in the crisp white flesh? Like Atalanta paused along the path to rescue three, golden delicious, and the pageant prize from Eris that began the war the horse the face the thousand ships. And speaking of the fairest of them all, remember the fair girl and wicked queen’s juicy-poisoned-apple-induced coma quite similar, the original sin.

Sweet Me (the story of an orange) Anna Engle I am wrinkledlike the old woman’s face. I feel like cellulite On her aged, well-lived thighs. Yet I am young and bright. I smell like a child’s sweet, sticky hands. I look like a bouncy playground ball from afar, but when you get close The old woman unwraps me with her arthritic hands. And gives- a tasteof my sweet fleshto the child. A hundred years and five Love me just the same. 6


Plums Malea Gascho

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On The Way Back Michael Spory 8


Dust Jen Christner The trip back down didn’t hurt so much as the sputtering realization that things would never be the same. We were invincible, fighting one-handed barbarians, meeting fish-tailed princesses, flying over meadows and mountains and oceans with a happy little thought. Oh, and dust. But reality called and beckoned we return, with promises of wisdom and opportunity and a family, and we returned, messengers of youth to a washed-out world with one foot in the grave. Wooden swords and shell bracelets, the last relics of an interminable youth, packed away in an unused suitcase in the closet under boxes of neglected Christmastime decorations and smoke-stained linens. Uncertain of the new frontier we watched the starry ghost-ship sail, dissolve into the firmament.

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Starbucks Suicide Christine Bottles Tapping feet, frozen line Debating nothing Awaiting daily injection Inhuman before ingestion Barista’s rimmed eyes squint Painlessly Lobes burn Shamelessly Jagged records of Discover Lincoln dances on the counter Iced? No, wet. Whip? No, dry. Excruciating inhale pushes pupils away Stomping crescendos‌ Oh! Traced with cliffs of Dover Shots all around.

Sorrow Stephen Henry What would sorrow think if He saw me here Plucking my fingers on this lonely guitar, The frayed strings wagging and twinkling, My breathing low and quiet and gone... Stuffy-eyed in a darkness-room I lit one candle and it melted down, down And the wax dripped on my nail

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Mark Andrew Fenton Married to Eternity David Brennan Broken the bowl knows all its fragments My watch is broke and God’s off lawn bowling I hold no grudge

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Mark Andrew Fenton

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Carbon Douglas Alan Wandersee None of us is sure how we got here, only somewhere along the line luck and a few tricks of the trade drifted in… Assembled we are vagrants watering day blooms— a chorus of ivory refusing to flip the beacon or glean for a second Just try and deposit gold like you keep telling lies never pretended And therein lies the difference: time’s not worth a drop.

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The Burgeoning of Love Gavin Connor To begin, I am in the loft of a small barn, standing before its door, open to the morning sky. For whatever reason, I turn and am, some yards through the shady interior, eye to eye with a small owl. A few blinks… I step clear… the owl glides effortlessly, powerfully out of the barn into the day. The owl glides away, yet the end doesn’t come. Rather, something arrives, and keeps arriving. The feel is of an immanence--not a just happened, but an about to happen--particular and individual, yet uniquely alive and of a whole. Moreover, the ‘me,’ present in this retelling, is, in the event itself, essentially gone. The mind goes silent, and everything is taken up into this other sort of presence. At least it feels like a presence. We might even say Presence is present. Though for sure we know our attention has shifted. We are in fact through the gates of the cathedral. A cathedral, dear reader, open and accessible, everywhere and at all times. We travel here often, I suspect, yet mostly do not linger long enough to develop a sense of where we are. It is as if we must miss a turn, or twist a knee, or let some other misfortune lead us into any sort of local depth. Other times it feels we are close, and must close our eyes, or withdraw into solitude… to find the gates… but not these gates. Rather, it is the attention one shifts, the inner gesture one adopts, so that the glamour of the senses begins to loose its hold allowing something else to come to the fore. To receive in this way is to feel a coming, an always arriving ‘something else.’ Here, we notice this something carries with it the feel of imminence, an about-to-happen. We notice too it is of a whole, multiple yet felt as one. That is, we know where we are. We hold the particulars of our attention, yet we are neither inside nor outside, nor is anything else. Rather, just as words fall away to reveal the meaning from which they arise, so too does the visible world give way to its mothering. The activity here is organized, embryonic and burgeoning, yet has no form; it informs form, perhaps even produces it, yet is closer to power or tone than anything fixed or finished. Let’s linger for a time on what this feels like: Inwardly, in our cathedral-grove, we have moved from looking to listening: a calm, gentle, consenting, attentively receptive activity… as if one has inwardly dropped to one’s knees, lowered, and opened. Here, in this self-forgetful prayer, one feels an inner dilation, pregnant 14


with the tones and volume of a seemingly endless arriving. It is the body as awareness. More precisely, an intensification of awareness capable of identifying with all other aware nesses (trees, owls, people, etc.). There is in fact no body outside these aware nesses. Instead, there is a moment where the things of the world fall away, they lose their ‘thing’ ness, and are taken up into a germinal unfolding. This we feel as a force, a swelling, a pressure simultaneously within and without. We feel interior to an overwhelming fullness, an always new, always unfolding, all ways opening force. This ever-opening feel is a burgeoning feel. Let’s call it The Burgeoning. It is the feel where every thing is always opening. It is the ever-opening feel of pure becoming. A force where no thing is. Where every thing falls away even as it is created. This is a subtle movement to catch, but to do so is to become present, even for a moment, to the creating and destroying of which we are a continuous part. Outside the burgeoning I am buffeted among the presences of the world. Whatever I know of them I know over and against what I know of myself. I am an observer among the observed. This consciousness is comfortable and secure for it deals with the finished as it is seen. The knowing here is a mental knowing—it is experienced this way—and can be safely examined and classified. The burgeoning takes us away from this. Indeed “crossing over,” as to anything transformative, can be an anxious thing. The approach of no-thing can be anxious; its arrival is not. Everything still exists in its individuality yet from a voluminous unfathomable ever-opening sea. The burgeoning sea. And how can we know this sea?! It is as if all points everywhere surrender a pretense of sovereignty. There are no longer points. Rather, all things move and grow from the same source. All grow from the source, yet nothing leaves the source. This means that all things, each person, radiates a particular tone that is both source and its expression. A differentiated unity that instantly reforms the body, as a wave reforms the sand. We live in a symphony of tone; we are formed by the music. The attention can select or restrict itself to any of this music, any of these tones, or remain in the burgeoning as a whole, wherefore attention itself is known as part of this larger force, this larger composing. Here we reach a paradox. Here attentiveness knows the paradoxical situation that within the Continued on page 38

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Chaouen Women Katie Brubaker 16


Aubade Larisa Zehr the green tea in your favorite mug, wide and blue with a dimpled handle toast dripping with honey on the chipped red plate wine glasses clattering into the dishwater, foaming over the edges of the sink I gather empty bottles, sweep bread crumbs into my palm I melt as I hear your rhythm on the stairanother day on the worn pine we move in choreograph piece our breaths together like a sigh brushing spheres as our shoulders blush grazing limbs as I wipe the table wood as you stoop to gather the crumbs I spilled I turn my back elbow deep in foam, my spine stiffens, my breath is hung waiting like the dishtowel your slim fingers catch me scrubbing the pan spin my waist around my soapy wrists drip around your neck but my eyes are lost in the windowpane and my hands are damp and crumpled from the water.

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A Summer Afternoon Daniella Fleur The sun glints off the water My eyes squint The air is hotter And the old man still stands. He holds high his hand And is surrounded by a band Of birds. Of blue jays and cardinals Of finches and wrens. The cooing of doves The clucking of hens. And though the sun scorches My skin turning pink He continues to stand His eyes never blink. The mossy mass seems heavy, yet light. He shows no sign of pain. And the birds of flight Take pure delight As they step into the murk. Lightly, as to not break the tension They step onto the water And appear to walk Above the surface Of the beautiful work of the potter. The man just smiles Delighted with company And I am tempted to join. I near the basin Hands in pockets Rummaging for a coin. Continued on Next Page 18


Without any luck And with downtrodden face I continue to walk And begin to unlace My shoes and my socks I kick off and knock My toe on the man’s solid base. With a red stain on his perfect façade I fear I have ruined this clay. But the birds still sing And splash and fling Reminding me of the beautiful day.

Sunrise Over the Ganges Jason Horst

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Mother in Exile Larisa Zehr As I bend deep over the washbasin, I feel the sinews of my back tighten, knitting my corners together, the corners that slapped red river mud into bricks, and heaved corn meal up from the dirt to sink heavy in the soldiers’ bellies, stretching from the feet that walked thirty miles alone with my mother’s shrunken hips as a compass, that didn’t shepherd two children to drunkenness but returned, stiff-backed, to prod the straggling three many more miles than their father, to the neck that bends and shifts under river by river on the waterpath, bowed under the yellow canyes- my back holds the shoulders that will refill this basin after I’ve red-rubbed my wrists, and the ears that hear grandchildren I can’t name laughing on the dusty football pitch and smile in a secret place inside my fallen cheeks, but the weeping edges fold in as well, my able arms struggling with sacks of strange grain, the sidelong glances that watch children dream of fires and chase like lions, that cringe from the warbeats of parades and heat lightning, the slack voice that screams into the blank skyrain down!but more than all, my back draws in my scarred fingers that shuffle the oily water, pulling salty shirts out from beneath the surface.

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Concentration Camp Through Barbed Wire Jake Goertz

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Sitting Hannah Beachy 22


My Heart Wants To Scream Daniella Fleur My heart wants to scream “I love you” but this wool sweater smothers the noise and suffocates the truth. My fingers want to reach out and grasp your palm but you are out of reach and I will fall if I try. My ears want to hear “I love you” but they are deaf. Or maybe you just aren’t speaking. That’s probably true.

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Massanutten Magic b. thunder What more is memory than stuffing a pipe full of tobacco, an invisible caul trembling to retain every bit, momentarily hovering before being rent apart, spilling gray-mattered flakes, starving, to the grave? The immortal mother tends to the flame, tongueless no more, yet speechless in the silence. The thick smoke grows, ploughing through the air on its quest for some Mecca uncreated, twining with the depths as quick binds to what it hopes is immovable. I knock this miracle against my shoe and forget the things I should.

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For Dad Michael Spory

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‫یچژک‬

(translated, it’s truth)

Mark Fenton age 13, barely 2001, my eyes focused, I saw clear. cloth (not rags) on heads became meaning, became significance, became respect of devotiondiscipline (devotipline, I lack the words) something I didn’t understand, more things I don’t complexity had begun in my mind, sharp granolacrunchingof mind pain, ideology, theology, the mind. I summed less up, I objected less but more fervently, and learned of another world, war torn. I sang and doubted, worshiped and shouted, but soon the explosions numbed belief. the war does tear. more than lives, more than homes two, no. Four. more years. I was enraged, an angry boy. 26


I learned the ____. it isn’t as it should be I learned behind the eyes a little letter, written in script, “learn, live, see, listen, seek ____” the anti-Babel, the uniter, bridegroom of Love, son of Justice and Mercy, akin to the Divine.

Menno Portrait Rachel Diener

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I Found Change I Can Believe In Jake Goertz The box, his home, sat three feet back while he took his place behind a crated pulpit. He had moldy flannel bunched in the sack, the enduring symbol that clothes did not outlast wit. While he took his place behind a crated pulpit, he shouted, and cracker crumbs dotted his lips, the enduring symbol that food did not outlast wit. He broke the morning’s hum-drum quips. He shouted, and cracker crumbs dotted his lips, “I found change I can believe in” the provocative sermon broke the morning’s hum-drum quips, “But that change never came from power’s son.” I found change I can believe in, is a provocative sermon, but power means compromise and a two-thirds vote. And that change never comes from power’s son, because power is a difficult thing to tote. But power means compromise and a two-thirds vote, his words pierced sinner and saint alike, because power is a difficult thing to tote. They took his grungy sack and bike. His words pierced sinner and saint alike as he fell to his knees, to receive the stone and they took his grungy sack and bike, so that he could spread his arms to the sky, alone. He fell to his knees and accepted the stone, moldy flannel still bunched in his sack. He spread his arms to the sky, alone, The box, his home, sat three feet back. 28


Mark Andrew Fenton

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Modern Lamentation Dylan Zehr If only midwife’s hands had clasped my skull instead of surgeon’s forceps, if mother’s screams had loosened roaches from their perches within a grass-roof thatch, instead of ruffling sterile curtains, if outbursts had been muffled by the force of pillows, instead of epidurals... Even a small candle can be seen at distances of forty miles, if those miles sit in darkness. Instead, I sit out, a meager flame in fiber-optic sun.

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Mark Andrew Fenton

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95,734th Sarah Beachy She stood at the grimy, cracked window, listening to the wind hiss between the skeletal panes. The cold brick buildings stood, erect, grotesquely pinned against the hazy, polluted sky. The myriad bare shafts and frames of more soon-to-be constructed buildings were slowly eroding away the sun. Her sun. The same sun that had awoken her every morning by Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, with the cool mist rising from the deep blue stretching to touch the sky. She sighed as she remembered skipping barefoot with Josephina, carrying the blues, reds, yellows, and blacks of their dirty clothes on their small backs; they would gather the smooth round pebbles that had collected in the puddles hugging their ankles. Her thoughts were torn from her, as a sharp pound resounded on the thin, sagging door frame. “Ready? ¿Lista señora?” the sardonic, sadistic voice said. She cringed at Rob’s voice and gave a twisted smile at the irony of his name. Rob, who had robbed her of her life. She felt a draft. Rob had not waited for an answer and instead, had opened the poor excuse for a door and ushered an eagle-like, greasy-haired man into the cramped room. The door closed with Rob, leaving the eagle and her behind. The eagle eyed her, surveying his trapped prey with beady eyes. His greasy hair hung like pernicious tentacles. Despite the tentacles and beady eyes, she was more disgusted by those fingernails; those long, jagged, hook-like claws. Her thoughts flashed to Diaz and his longish fingernails. They had been okay to look at, nice in a unique way. Diaz had often sung to her, strumming his guitarra with those longish fingernails. Those hated fingernails that had beckoned her, lured her to come join him for a ride that night. That hated night, full of tearing, tearing of clothes, tearing of anatomy, tearing of the eyes. Snap Snap. The eagle was snapping her out of her waking nightmare. “Day-dreaming ho? Day-dreaming of me naked?” he said; the twisted smile curled into the Devil’s horns. Prowling around her, eyeing and sizing up his new purchase like a slave buyer, he slapped her butt…hard. Sniffing her neck and hair like a vulture, he pressed 32


his bony, greasy body into her curved back. “Have to make sure my money wasn’t wasted on shit,” his foul breath whispered in her prickling ear. She thought back to that trip to the village, where she had thought she lost her little sister in the dense forest. The shadows had danced like jaguars, while the jostling of armored skin signaled crocodiles nearby. The moon could not even shine through; the trees had been a prison. The only light had been the fluorescent shine of poisonous frogs, and that light was not comforting. “Deina!” she had frantically called, pacing between the two path-marked trees. Like a ghost creeping up behind her, Deina’s breath had whispered in her prickling ear, “Estoy aquí.” “Come on bitch. I’ve had enough of your daydreams,” the eagle snarled, as his outstretched paws clawed at her buttoned-up, dirty dress, tearing at her cheap, black, lacy bra. She shuddered as his greasy tentacles flapped against her chest, leaving streaks of grease in their wake and he stuck his sausage-like tongue between her breasts. “I don’t want you bitch. I don’t care what you think. Shut up and you won’t get hurt. That’s all I want; your parts, your dirty parts.” The prey thought back to her coming of age ceremony. The pure white, hand-made dress, wrapping up her purity. The scent of Buñuelos on her mother’s hands, as the hands darted daintily back and forth, back and forth sewing, cutting, sewing, stitching, cutting, making, molding that beautiful, pure white dress that would dazzle her friends and families as she stepped out of childhood to become a woman. She remembered that day, her reflection in the glassy lake, her realization of her curves, of her form, the dawning of the day highlighting her silhouette in the water. Her mother had cried; even her father allowed himself a tear or two. “Shut up bitch. Shut up Perra,” his hiss penetrated through her mind. She had accidently slipped words from her dream to reality. “Mama,” she had cried out loud. He gripped her arm, spinning her around, pinning her down on the coarse, matted sheets. His sandpaper tongue cut into her lips, moving like an eel. Lips. Bed. She had put her three younger sisters to bed every night on the thin mattress, stuffed with feathers from the wide-eyed, Continued on page 39

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Upon the Spinning Wheel Michael Spory The wheel is spinning smoothly to the left between his aching knees. He does not know the pinch or pull, his fingers simply deft enough to stem the stoneware’s ebb and flow. The potter makes a fist and punches down. The swirling pile clenches, breaks and moves against his bloody palm; a gentle frown like distant thunder from the sky, reproves. He heels the treadle, whirling faster still; the mass hangs on, throwing groggy spray upon his trousers; he lets go the hill. But wheel-thrown vessels never have their way. The potter grips the twisting clay again; creates; a task beyond all mortal men.

Wood Smoke Glenn Kauffman Far from the smoldering Brush-pile of my mind, Thoughts, like smoke, Waft through the air Carried by various drafts, Now here, now there, Dispersing, diluting, In words, sometimes, Detected by others Leaving faint impressions, Or none, Finally to disappear In the mists of earth time.

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Vines and Grapes Malea Gascho 35


Grief David Glanzer A leaf, drained of life, rocks slowly down The barren branch dark against a pale sky shivers in the cold wind Alone on a twig sparrow holds my heart in its tiny warmth The hearth is cold stone that once held a blazing fire Scattered embers remember fragments of heat then die This brown leaf spared the fire has no joy in that The sparrow flies the branch is still the sky darkens I take leave rubbing a cracked stone smooth

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The Tractor Shed Michael Spory

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Continued from page 15

burgeoning, though everything is always opening, everything is already dying. A tuft of grass, the most delicate flower, even the boiling dome of a Yosemite mountain… the entire manifest world has this quality of the already dying. Indeed, the moment I leave off from an awareness of the burgeoning, I belong to the thing-ness of the world. Things, in this sense, no longer point beyond themselves. A corner of our experience we have come to identify with. In the light of the burgeoning this knowing has no future. However fruitful, it is a knowing split off from its fullness, and therefore from its newness (and surely from its thou-ness). Within the burgeoning, the processes of death are known within those of life, within the mothering fullness of inexhaustible becoming. Here unity and multiplicity are one, though it is something the mind cannot see. The body can, though the experience is not my body. Rather, it is THIS is my body, our daily bread: the owl and the immanence, the coming and the dead, the wide currents of the burgeoning sea. THIS body is in constant formation, constantly being figured and reconfigured in an oscillating motif of death and resurrection. We know this as a force, even a Will. The Will we feel is that of Love. Presence is Love. Attentiveness is Love. The Burgeoning is the intimation that we are composed of Love. With, by, and for. So comes the whisper… “Thou art that.”

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Continued from page 33

brown hens that strutted outside. She would sit on edge of the bed, singing softly. “Duérmete mi niño, duérmete mi amor, Duérmete pedazo de mi corazón,” as the chocolate eyes fluttered closed. Her hands would brush the black hair away from their cheeks, and her lips would softly rest on each forehead before blowing out the lantern and tiptoeing around that creaky termite-filled board, past the snoring dog and finally to her pequena loft next to the dilapidated bathroom. Exposed body parts ripped her beautiful thoughts away. Gripping her wrists, he swaddled her between his talons, molting his clothes in a dark, dirty, discarded pile on the black, cheap, WalMart rug. He ripped off her white skirt, fondling her through the transparent lingerie. Rocking back, he snapped off the lingerie, gashing her thin brown thighs by the tight, seductively webbed lining. Kneading her back, he savagely prowled around until he found what he wanted. Lake Atitlan, home of the birds, the beautiful birds. If she thought…or fought hard enough, she could remember the eerie, highpitched call of that beautiful green and white bird. “Hermosa, el amor del ave,” her father would perch on the creaky wooden chair, smoking his early-morning brown pipe, the smoke drifting lazily towards the sky. The sun would rise, sending purple and pink rays to embrace the raised head of that green and white bird as it spread its eagle-like beak to the heavens, as if to challenge God. The green and white bird would swoop down, the sharp beady eyes probing the Atitlan surface for the splash of fish. Scraping now. Scratching. Breathing harder. She closed her eyes remembering the simplicity of scraping the water-worn rocks against the clothes, scrubbing and rubbing till most of yesterday’s stains were off. She would take the newly washed clothes to her Papa, the black trousers, patched and worn through the knees and the red shirt with the tassels that would bounce against his chest as he walked to the village, whistling. After chores, when the sun was scorching, she would breathe in a fresh gulp of sun-saturated oxygen, plunging into the cool waters of Lake Atitlan. Pain. Pulsating. Pain. Throbbing pain always exploded in her mind at moments like 39


these. Pain of betrayal. Pain of rape. Pain of slavery. She had trusted Diaz and his longish fingernails that played la guitarra. She had trusted kind, respected Diaz when he had asked her out in his stylish brown trousers and hand-woven, well-fitting yellow shirt. She had trusted Diaz when he opened the door to their bungalow, handed her white and purple jewels that grew along the wild river banks. Diaz had stopped. “Flat tire,” he said, getting out of the beat-up blue car, along the dusty drive. Then, there had been two animals at the door, shoving, pushing, and tearing her body out of that car into the steel trap of the truck. Then, Rob had taken her, shook her, scraping her, raping her, then driving. Driving. Driving. Driving. Past the children playing by sun-washed adobe buildings, past the toucans in the seasonal rainforest, past the jackrabbits kicking up their heels in the whitened sand prairies, past the 365 churches in Mexico City, past the woman selling yams, past irrigation in Arizona, they had driven. Every night there had been an animal inside of her, consuming her soul. He scratched, he tore, he bit until she bled. Then nothing. Stillness. The eagle collapsed down onto the bed. Imperceptibly she inched her ravaged body away from him. She liked the stillness after the storms, especially Lake Atitlan storms. Always had. She would stare up at the clouds fighting for control in the sky, while hurling down their thunderbolts of anger. The waves would roll in agony as the wind bullied their white caps. Then nothing. Stillness. The silence would roar. Trees would be strewn about, losers in battle. There would be those one or two trees contorted in a grotesque posture, like the discarded dead after the war. “Señorita, gracias,” the sarcastic eagle hinged his beak into a tight smirk, stretching his wings in a glorified gesture. He eyed her like a scavenger would eye a dead pussycat on the road. “You just okay whore. Expected more from a dirty Mexican though.” She did not bother telling him she was from Guatemala, as he walked out the door. She didn’t bother telling anyone anymore. At first, she had pleaded, speaking shrilly in broken English her story. Most had laughed. Some had smiled. One had slapped her. No one wanted to hear. A weak shaft of light peaked in through the grime and gore 40


on the window. The sun, her sun, washed over her beautiful brown Guatemalan body, as she lay twisted, contorted in a grotesque posture where the eagle had swooped, attacked, devoured. She looked up, nauseated, partially due to the after-smell, partially due to the spotted brown-peeling ceiling, and partially due to the fetus growing inside of her. Three months about. Rob would find out soon enough, showing up again with one of her clients, a foul-smelling, hungry-eyed man that would straddle her, push her legs apart, and tear the fetus out, somehow. She never knew how. She would never look, instead she would close her eyes, and through the memory of when she was eight, she’d watch her sloppy little sister be born, crying, and clawing at the air. The joyful memory would always be washed away when the “doctor” got his payment…her. She lay there, naked, the sun bathing her. She stretched her throbbing body, sitting up to dangle her feet placidly off the bed. Standing up, she put one foot in front of the other until she reached the cracked, grimy window. Her sun greeted her, as she traced the crack down the window, finally resting her strong Guatemalan palms on the rotting window frame and leaning her head against the window so that she could survey the eroding horizon. This ritual of windowwatching, man, window-watching, man, had gone on and on and on. She always ended her ritual, addressing the invisible dots in the buildings and on the streets and in their cars, accenting her I’s and slowly pronouncing each syllable, each letter: “My name is 95,734th. I am a statistic. I am in the U.S., the land of the free. I am in the U.S., the land of liberty. I am in the U.S., the land of justice. Yet, I am nothing. I am an amount that flashes in the titles of papers, of magazines, of news scripts. I am a blurred face, lost in the crowd. I am a sister, lost in a strange land. I am a woman, lost to men. I live eight blocks from you, yet you know nothing. I have served your father, your brother, your husband, you. Forty times a day, probably till I die. Or, until you open up your eyes.”

41


Bridge Douglas Alan Wandersee

42


Unkempt Dylan Zehr On the streets of Kolkata I stopped, a westerner of course, too stunned to keep my steady pace. In front of me a dog was stretching, ‘round him ran a human race that swallowed me and shat me out, but multiplied by fifteen million. Unclipped nails, unlike the western dogs that I have known, protruded from his cat-like paws like beggars pushing out from bases of the modern glistening Indian buildings.

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The Phoenix - #51 Literary and Visual Art Journal of Eastern Mennonite University  

Eastern Mennonite University's undergraduate annual literary journal, produced by students in the language and literature academic program....

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