Page 1

Spring 2016

1


Volume 30 | Issue 2 Editors-in-Chief Jordan Jacob Briana Lopez Mary Feimi Alexis Williams Layout & Design Kiara Ivey Website Ruvi Gonzalez Chelsea Ashley Submissions Christina Sumpter Zarra Marlowe Poetry Aracely Medina Madison Dorsey Fiction Jacob Dvorak Seth Gozar Creative Nonfiction Christina Sumpter Savana Pendarvis Art McKenna Flanagan Zoey Carter Marketing & Social Media Dwight James Claudia Kildow Logan Monds Community Relations Tatiana Saleh

2


Creative Writing Department FACULTY SPONSOR Tiffany Melanson

DEPARTMENT CHAIR Liz Flaisig

3


Contents Portrait of Madam Mary Alden Murphy

Cover art

Kids’ Island Kiara Ivey

8

Pooling from Memory Emma Varland

9

Eighth Grade Summer Logan Monds

10

Pink Pine Brittany Davis

13

The Life and Times of an American Christina Sumpter

14

The Fourth Day Jordan Jacob

17

Mardis Gras Roudy Leonard

18

Garuda and Gajendra in a Dream A. Williams

20

Hidden Faces Shonzona Rainy

21

Untitled Corey Kreisel

22

Immigrant Zoey Carter

23

Men and Chicken Mary Feimi

24

Angellic Cheyanne DuPont

27

Hot Comb Amy Duncan

28

4


Looking Forward Shahla Mack

30

Agatha A. Williams

32

Father Kashta Dozier-Muhammad

35

Witness Seth Gozar

36

Wednesday’s Colors Leave White Space Hadley Hendrix

37

Horizon Mary Aupperle

40

Son Haley Switzer

41

Remembering Jerusalem Jacob Dvorak

42

Khoresh Fesenjan Joyce DeCerce

43

Abstinence Alden Murphy

45

Confused Karryl Eugene

46

Haitianos Amy Duncan

47

Ascending Meredith Abdelnour

48

Registering to Vote Keiana Wilkerson

51

Steps to Waking Up McKenna Flanagan

52

5


Abandonment Roudy Leonard

55

The Belt Justin Bumgardner

56

Bottles Deja Echols

58

the sun Tatiana Saleh

59

Daylight Savings Time Joyce DeCerce

60

Taurus Hannah Chelgren

62

Solitude Oona Roberts

63

My Father Speaks of Dying Aracely Medina

66

Timeless Chandler Fowler

67

How to Communicate with the Dead: A Stepby-Step Guide Logan Monds

68

Fear Sean Cowan

70

Blue Ridge Parkway Joyce DeCerce

71

To Make Windows A. A. Reinecke

72

Spreading my Father’s Ashes Briana Lopez

74

Life and Death Liam Foster

75

An Enchanted Lilac Forest Halsey Hutchinson

76

6


Across the Universe Kashata Dozier-Muhammad

78

Fall Jacob Dvorak

79

Metamorphosis Lily Paternoster

80

God drains the stars Mary Feimi

82

Traces of Lipstick on a Cigarette Remy Cunningham

83

Artemis Hannah Chelgren

84

White and balanced shells Jacob Dvorak

85

Photograph 64 Karryl Eugene

88

Ecophagy Mackenzie Steele

89

7


Kids’ Island Kiara Ivey

We journeyed across the sun-slicked road, angry burns seeping through the soles of our shoes. We pranced through the lazy summer lawns, past the houses, neat in their little rows, we pushed ourselves in between the trees packed in behind the suburbia in search of a great land beyond them. A land where we could conquer blue stretches of afternoon and climb unforgivable mountains, our little brown hands extending to peel the sky into ribbons. We volleyed forward, crushing the twigs, kicking up withering weeds, until we saw our sweet, honey land. We played until grainy pockets sunk into our socks and our stomachs reminded us that we were not immortal. Slipping through the baby forests, following the path back home, we cleaned off our shoes before going inside and left them at the door, to wait.

8


Pooling from Memory Emma Varland

9


Eighth Grade Summer Logan Monds

“Dad!” I called from the which hole?” brush, staring into the open eyes of “Five,” I said. We raced someone half-leaned into pine straw. to disconnect, a reverse of the no My knees dug into the briars. His you hang up script that ended legs were entirely covered. with one as the badass and the I waited for a response. other left in silence. “Dad!” “What?” from the green. *** “I-” I couldn’t look away. “I can’t find it!” The staring contest Lewis kicked me in the continued: me afraid to blink, the head when he arrived 20 minutes body still as a predator. After pulling late and said, “Show me the way.” a buck out of the windshield, Dad He helped me up off the ground told me that fear of the vehicle is why and I shook dirt from my hair. deer stop in the middle of the road. The flag marked with a bold red I couldn’t tell if I was the deer or if five slumped against his side, and I was the truck, as we walked he stuck in time stabbed holes by eye contact. “The thought of the body drew into the ground. I would be the I found home closer.” first to blink. the section of “C’mon forest border back to the cart, we have three more where we lost the ball (marked and maybe fifteen minutes ‘til your by two crumpled soda cans) and mom starts yelling from the porch.” held Lewis’s hand as we crossed I backed out of the scrags tentatively into the brambles, with bleeding knees and left him in using each other for balance. the straw, golf ball in his lap. I could still see my porch light winking through the trees across *** the course; then again, Lewis probably thought he saw his “You have got to be kidding house too. The thought of the me,” Lewis said. body drew home closer. I pushed the phone harder to Street lights from the my ear. “I swear on my life and yours, road beyond the forestry filtered he’s out there.” The guy in the straw, between the trees and, as we dug with three holes through his chest deeper into the woods, lit the and a golf ball in his lap. Legend or silhouette of the slouched body. reality? To be confirmed tonight. The bullet wounds were hazy in Lewis sounded hopeful. “He the dark, but the smell hit me hard better be. Meet you at midnight, enough to bring new meaning 10


to it smells like someone died in here. I didn’t realize we were still holding onto each other until Lewis squeezed tight and said, “You can tell the raccoons got to him.” With the flag, he pointed to the guy’s right hand, fingers gnawed off. “I told you I wasn’t kidding,” I said. Lewis let go and hovered the flag over the white circle in the guy’s lap. “Is that your ball?” If we were at school, I would’ve called him gay. Under current circumstances, I watched the tiny moon beneath the flag, a perfect circle of scooped ice. There was a quality of temptation to the ball, worse than that of an apple. “Yeah.” Carefully, Lewis prodded the ball toward us with the flag. It rolled between the guy’s knees. I took a step forward and pushed the flag aside. My hand closed around the golf ball, scarred from the club. *** “We have to burn him,” Lewis decided. I could hear him rummaging through his room, hunting for the lighter he stole from his dad when middle school started. “No we don’t.” The radio blared an old summer song from his end. He was the only kid I knew who still listened to NPR. “You don’t get it. We could get in trouble with the police for not reporting the body. And what happens if the guy who killed the guy comes looking for us? I think we’re technically witnesses, so he’d probably kill us.”

“How would burning him fix that?” I countered, even though I hadn’t considered the cause of the guy’s death up until that point. “We’d be doing him a favor.” Flicking on his end, then a pause. He found the lighter. “The body?” I held my breath as my dad’s footsteps passed my door. Official bedtime was two hours ago. When the door to his room shut, I said, “You don’t make sense.” “Whatever. I’m going whether you come or not.” *** I woke to the smell of smoke. The start to a headache brought me to sit forward in bed, my eyes stinging and body heavy, as though my skin was filled tight with water. I was pulled out of bed by my dad. “I can’t see,” I complained through the fog. The pain of waking up was fading toward numbness, and I neared a state of floating. I felt for my dad’s hand and followed him through the hall to leave the house. My being threatened to drift. The fog was even worse outside, but he walked me to the street, where everyone living on the course congregated in their night clothes. My first real emotion since waking up was embarrassment. I was wearing matching pajamas. My second was realization. The lighter. The body. Lewis. I turned and saw the woods ablaze, fencing in the golf course to create asphyxiation hell at the center. Everyone’s backyard was on fire at once. The third was worry (that 11


my fourth may be grief). But Lewis emerged from the crowd, face of soot and clothes blackened like a coal miner’s. He traded places with my dad, who immediately lost himself in the sea of chaotic exhaustion, all too willing to go back for neighborhood pets. Lewis said, “I only got two fingers to catch before the whole patch of straw lit up. It looked disgusting. Wish you were there.” He held up the yellow plastic lighter. If I could’ve given him the golf ball then, I would have. But it was still under my pillow, waiting for something derived from fiction to remove the memory of unspeakable death in the briars. So I gave him what I had to offer and held out my hand. He took it, and as we gasped in what had become the apocalypse of our neighborhood, his fingers pressed ash into mine.

12


Pink Pine Brittany Davis

13


The Life and Times of an American Christina Sumpter

F

our years old: You will learn mother got to the school she was to spell your name from Ms. embarrassed. Explained that it Richards. was her fault. Laughed at you in You show your mother each the car. syllable of your name, her hands Six years old: You will covering yours as she points each one pick up any new curse word your with you. She’s proud so she hangs it mother spews out of her mouth. on the refrigerator. She will shake her head You share your graham and tell you that you’re too crackers with Mark because he is young to use words like that. your boyfriend and whenever your Consider herself a bad mother. parents take you to Chuck E. Cheese’s She’ll imagine the rash spreading you notice how they divide the pizza past your ankles and into your into compartments, pepperoni for throat, until your vocal cords are him, meatball for her. You don’t hoarse like hers. Your father will like how divided blame her for the pizza looks “She looks at it just like you cursing in front as they turn it to of you. He will look at paintings in the face their side. go back to work. You and musuem, not knowing what You will see him Mark broke up they mean, and not desiring again tomorrow the week before morning. You to.” summer break. will pretend that He told you your he is more than juice wasn’t Capri Sun and he couldn’t a lucid dream that he is more to be with a girl who drunk store brand you than a father, that he is the juice. You got off the school bus with god your mother makes him out tears in your eyes, crying like you did to be whenever she’s with her when you got that rash on your ankle. friends. She won’t tell them that You told your mother about the juice. he’s no more than a businessman She was infuriated. That week your that only comes home to have sex mother decided to work overtime, with her to say that they’re still and when you came home she had together. four cases of Capri Sun in her hand. One night you walked in Mark asked you out again. You told on them. They didn’t move. You him no, because your mother said remember her looking at you like not to date anyone who was enough the sick dogs on commercials. of an ass to obsess over not having Your father glaring at her like Capri Sun. the master that left it for dead, You were written up on a only to see that it survived. You referral for saying ass. When your quickly slammed the door, threw 14


yourself down on the stairwell. You could hear your father curse at your mother about not locking the door. You remember hearing soft whimpers in the bathroom. The next morning you could see her blush on the hand towel. Eight years old: Your third grade teacher will tell you to draw a picture of your family. You will draw your father, big and strong, but separate. You will draw your mother standing beside you. Your teacher will ask you what it means. You will say that you don’t know. She’ll pretend to care and admire the bleak coloring. Then add a 100 in the corner of the paper as though it were some profound image. She looks at it just like you look at paintings in a museum, not knowing what they mean, and not desiring to. Nine years old: You will wake up one night, hearing your father yelling. You won’t hear her whimpering in the bathroom. You will hear her slam the door. You will run down stairs. You will see your father sitting on the couch, toying with one of the couch cushions. He will look surprised to see you. You will look surprised to see him. You won’t say anything but he toys with your hair just like the couch cushion. He will tell you that you all are going to church tomorrow. You don’t, but he assures that you will. Ten years old: The Escalade is gone. It’s just you and your father in an SUV that could pass for a limo. You will go to church. You have never been so you were excited to be wedged between

strangers like a book on a shelf. Imagine that you’ll see another spine like yours. You will stare at the stained windows. Look at the Pastor’s Bible as he bobs it up and down from his mantle. You will ask your father if he’s Jesus. He will laugh and say that he doesn’t know. You will go home, you won’t think about anything the Pastor said except that he said “God loves all His children.” Which means that God loved your father, so you had to too. While you pour a cup of orange juice, he puts his hand on your shoulder and says that we are all Jesus hanging on different trees. You hear the Escalade pull up in the driveway. You shove his hand away. Your mother will come home. She smells like your Uncle Roger does when he comes over on the Fourth of July with his beer packs. “She’s just happy,” your father says as he pours vodka into his cup of orange juice. 14 years old: You told your mother you wanted her Escalade. She started teaching you how to drive. Your father said that you were too young. 16 years old: Your boyfriend asked you when you were getting a car. You didn’t know, so you told him eventually. He didn’t mock you but you remembered how your mother reacted when that kid told you that you needed Capri Sun. 17 years old: You got her Escalade. You rolled your first joint in that car. You didn’t even like 15


it, but you liked the audacity of it as you purposefully exhaled on the steering wheel, seat belt, and dashboard. Finished a paper at midnight when you felt capable enough to walk to the door. You could hear your mother chuckling in the kitchen. You could hear your father in the bathroom whimpering into a hand towel. As you stood in front of the bathroom door you mumbled “I hate you” but you didn’t have the audacity to say it louder. You will take the pageant money out of your bank account, and pretend that it is your livelihood. Your mother doesn’t say much about the missing money. But you can see that she despises you for doing things she was afraid to. 18 years old: You graduated. Grinding your teeth in between phony smiles as your father pretended to be proud of you for going to a college he’d never heard of. You got few scholarships. This means your father will never take another vacation, and your mother will spend most of her days alone. She stares at you the same way she stared at you when you walked in on them that night. This time her blush is on your blouse.

16


The Fourth Day Jordan Jacob

And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him and let him go.” —John 11:44 Grief taught my sisters how to pray, throw the weight of their chests into words that made the dead worth living again. I would rather have them live in anguish than tell them they prayed for this, cried in the numb dark for days, so I could come stillborn into the world, see that city again. But how does daylight compare to lightness bone deep, white rest you cannot wake from gently? When he spoke the name Lazarus, dark ached in my limbs. Ills clung to me like the rags they buried me in, the sisters who gathered a mob of mouths to drown out their scream. In the sterile black, I saw my family turn to the crowd that opened and swallowed them with the opening of their savior’s hands. I could not will my legs to stand. I came back kneeling, silent and slumped forward. There were no arms to greet me, none that I would have embraced.

17


Mardi Gras Roudy Leonard

18


19


Garuda and Gajendra in a Dream A. Williams

Based on a Hindu legend As a young girl, you chased moksha— the sky lantern—through the slums barefoot, ruffled swags of damp towels as you dove into the green pit where Amma scrubbed your clothes and yanked you by the neck, pinned you to her hip. You watched that light sink into the water and prowl like the crocodile mouth— hungry for you as you were for it. In the night, Allah’s realm awakened, buzzed like disturbed wasps, an unfinished nest. Asleep, you remembered the king’s despair and eagle’s eyes while your spirit writhed in your frame. Your forward mind distinguished Vishnu from sky and sky from lantern and lantern as apparition that bit back on dry flesh and lantern and fist were the same—the Muslim fist that tossed flames to Appa’s back and burned him alive in the street. Some days, you lay afloat in the green pit where other children played and felt the lantern’s cold skin graze your ankles. Four arms extended from the sun to save you before the bite and the water turned silver blue, bubbled over onto sunbaked ground—the implication of Allah’s love like white jasmine toppling in and out again and rising up toward Gajendra’s upturned tusks, which were your tusks, and Garuda’s praying hands, which were your hands held in prayer. You could then see all the evil lurking in the water turned silver blue.

20


Hidden Faces Shonzona Rainy

21


Untitled Corey Kreisel

22


Immigrant Zoey Carter

P

oor country, poor people. learn to ignore it. Learn to work Watch your family starve, in groups far underground, where bodies soon to be buried in the death comes more often than soil of your farmland as fertilizer. It is even flecks of gold. If they weren’t not uncommon to see the footprints criticizing you for working of soldiers in the dirt. You know in too low wages, they would be those times you have to be quiet, tell criticizing you for taking their your daughters to hush, hold your money. They don’t know that you wife in a corner, and hold the baby to haven’t sent money back to your your chest to stifle the crying. Season family in months, and no letters after season the have come since crops die and “Season after season the crops the first month. the animals They don’t drop dead and die and the animals drop dead know what the you wonder if and you wonder if the disease is starving ribs of the disease is a little girl look humans.” humans. like, they don’t You can’t stand the feeling of know how close to death someone your little girl’s ribs when you hold can become until their hunger her in your arms as she cries, daddy, eats them alive. You can’t accept daddy where is my life, where am I the fact that your family has supposed to go from here? You tell probably already sunken into the her you are going to America. You earth, become dust like the rest of tell her one day you will bring her everyone else. with you, that she only has to hold Shall they have Chinese? on a little longer. Daddy’s going to No! No! No. They hate you so America. Daddy will be home soon. much they pass laws against you, As soon as you step on the hard soil close off their borders to you. you know you have lied to your little There is no safety in America. girl. Your legs shake with the feeling There are no opportunities in of being on land. The sea had swept America. America. If your family you off for so long. This country is was still alive you could not bring foreign, just like you, and the people them here anyway. Not that you know you are foreign and you are would want to. like a bitter taste on their tongues Find a new wife. Try to that wrap around words you can’t make anything of yourselves but comprehend. Like dog meat. she is like you and they see you all You are yellow peril. Your the same. Have children, Chinese eyes are too slanted. Your skin is too children who look just like you, dark. The white laborers whisper and cry because you were hoping words behind your back, and you they would come out white. 23


Men and Chicken Mary Feimi

S

he soaked in the sun. She was Originally Rejep would sitting in the sand, washing only marry her if he was given the clothes in the pools that formed whole farm, but her father said after a good rain. It smelled like he wasn’t a prince. He wouldn’t summer and salt, so much so that settle for someone, and then not when the wind blew, her nose bled be able to provide for himself. Tia from the salt, sand, and wind. Her would turn seventeen in a few white dress ruffled, and she thought weeks. Her mother was afraid she about the clash of white against her had had too many periods by this brown skin, how this white was so point and had lost all of her eggs beautiful. When she returned home, to create a boy. Tia’s mother knew her mother was cooking chicken soup he would be walking through the with curry. Her mother had polished woods attempting to hunt rabbits the wooden floors and the dinner in the July heat. Tia’s mother also table, so when her father came home knew of the lake that Tia would be he could relax, bathing in, and not complain. “When she stammered to get told Rejep many Tia’s mother gave up she thought to herself, rabbits came that her a stern look, way. the same look maybe she deserved this.” He had her father gave a two rabbits in chicken when its life was over. each hand, one with its ears “The towels aren’t folded bleeding because it struggled in properly,” said her mother. his bare hands, and before killing “I did them the way you it, Rejep wanted the rabbit to showed me.” know that when you are hunted, “You stupid girl. How do you you must completely surrender. expect to find a good husband?” Sweat and dirt-caked, he saw Tia “Maybe he will find me,” said in the distance. He stood behind Tia, clenching her teeth. a tall oak tree, watching her wring “Well, he will be here tonight.” her midnight hair in the clear She remembered how Rejep lake. It looked as if Tia were at the sat at the dinner table slurping the edge of the world; trees and the soup, making her mother get him setting sun surrounded her. Her more water, more Coke. How the acid only backdrop was the darkening of the Coke stained his teeth and how sky. He saw her slender body, and the whole time he looked her body the way her thighs touched each up and down but didn’t recognize other. He saw how delicate her anything special. He thought maybe breasts were, nipples the shape when she was naked something of raspberries, nipples that were would stand out. large enough to feed a boy, and 24


lastly he saw her mouth, heartshaped, tinted pink. As he walked back through dirt and sand with the rabbits in his hand, he asked himself what the color of her eyes were, and he regretted not looking. What the reasoning would be that changed his mind, he couldn’t say. Her breasts or her thighs? “Your daughter has the most beautiful eyes. The more I think about it, I regret not trying to make a deal with you.” Rejep’s voice cracked. “We can bargain now.” Tia’s father laughed boisterously. Tia never knew it wasn’t her eyes that made Rejep change his mind, but she did know that when he glided his hands along her breasts it felt the same way as he held the ears of rabbits. She never liked how his dirty hands stained the white fur. He never could kill the rabbit without the blood gushing all over its fur. So once it was killed only its meat could be used. Rejep would be home soon. His body would be drunk in sweat, his face tarnished, and his fingernails filled with dirt. When he got home, his dinner graced the table. He was tarnished just the way Tia had imagined. Before eating Rejep sat on the couch, clogging the vibrant scent of the house with his sweat, his hands fogging the glass of his beer bottle. He was a bigger man, tall and his gut overlapped his pants, making them too tight. Before coming home he thought about how many miscarriages Tia had, how many times he got on his knees and prayed for a boy. A daughter would only cause him

trouble. He would be like Tia’s father. Without a farm, without money, just so his daughter could have pride and be married. He imagined soaking in the sun till he was about to die. He could never retire. He thought about all these things as he pushed a woman into his truck. She was standing on the street without shoes on, her dress lifted showing her thighs, and when she told him she was tired, she had been doing this all day, she had to go home to feed her kids, he said he would pay her double. He thought how if he got this woman pregnant and she had a miscarriage, at least he wouldn’t know about it, and she, being tired, wouldn’t even care. When he was finished, he folded a twenty dollar bill over a stack of seven ones, told her he had paid her sixty, before throwing her out of the truck. He told her, “Baby, it’s all twenties.” When Rejep got home, he matched the tarnished image Tia imagined. She patted his back and moved him toward the table. He exclaimed to her that he wasn’t hungry, that he had already eaten. She knew he was with one of his whores. Maybe he had bought her dinner, maybe they laughed in between sips of wine. Tia begged him, “Please eat, I don’t want Salvie to go to waste.” “Why would you name him?” But Tia didn’t know the answer. She began to cry, begging him to eat the chicken. Sharply Rejep got up from the table. “If you loved the chicken so much, then you eat him.” He shoved the chicken down her throat, and when she 25


wouldn’t swallow he slapped her across the face. Slamming it into his dinner plate, the chicken’s breast and thighs were clogging her mouth and nose. She couldn’t breathe. With her face in the plate, she was reminded of the first time he had kissed her, consuming her body as if it were his own. She remembered smelling the garlic on his breath and his thin rubber lips gliding across her face. “Maybe tonight you will give me a boy,” Rejep howled. Tia didn’t say a word. When she stammered to get up, she thought to herself, maybe she deserved this. He held her down until the plate broke and shards of glass got caught under her skin. When he let go, the blood on her face was a glue, and the chicken wouldn’t get off no matter how many times she wiped. “Tia, the chicken is off your face, go take a shower.” She knew the chicken still consumed her face. No matter how many times she scrubbed, it was still there. She thought, “Why did I name it? Why did I do that to myself?” She thought about all the times she named the baby in her belly and how they too stained her body with blood.

26


Angellic

Cheyanne DuPont 27


Hot Comb Amy Duncan

Mother yanks my dark wet curls and leads my head towards the white stove. I stand stiff, black bronze grazes my scalp. Clouds of grey smoke surround us. I cough and Mother needs more grease. We walk to the master bedroom, third trip now, sweat piles on my forehead, runs down my too-wide nose. Mother slaves over stove, wipes thin dark brow, slathers grease once more, travels back then forth. She bends my neck towards her, feel it as it cracks, feel my back bow when she combs out my roots, my hair in her fist, neck bent sideways, helps me stumble into kitchen.

28


Feel big ears burn red and white, crying out, feel hot grease and dry dead hair stuck to wet neck, boil oil on dark skin, cold water later, almost done now. This is beauty: brush out burnt curls, and back to the white stove.

29


Looking Forward Shahla Mack

30


31


Agatha A. Williams

R

euben and his boys were wrestle on the grass. She propped smoking at the edge of the her empty water on the hood woods behind his cousin of his Saturn and climbed onto Miguel’s place when they spotted the the hardtop, her flats twinkling body facedown in the stream, splitting like stars against the night sky. the dense green mask of the water as She looked down at everyone it bounced against the bank. Reuben for a good while and opened her had seen the dead body of a man mouth wide, but if any sound was once, spread over a steering wheel coming out, no one could hear. A on the shoulder of a sleeping street group of men gathered at her feet with a bullet wound in his forehead. like hounds. She climbed off then This one had the gaunt build of the and marched stubbornly down girl who lived below Miguel and slept the bend in the road. Reuben at the back of left then too Reuben’s bus “It’s a funny thing, my mama and followed every morning far behind, on her books, used to say there’s death in the tap looking for her thick coils water and that’s why everybody’s in the dark, but frizzed around gone so fast. But she still drank she was gone. her dreaming He gave it.” face and falling girls little from her scalp attention, but like springs, flattened now on the still he’d always been attracted to her surface of the water. She was fully in a modest sort of way, unlike clothed and drifting as if on the wave the other boys in East Ochre who of a deep sleep. spoke off-handedly of her breasts Her name was Agatha. She and how she could never shut up. had skin like satin and legs for miles She was too smart for any of them and milky eyes the size of the moon and she was a virgin and this that could see the whole world at once fascinated them. Leaning against and probably the center of it too. She old trucks, they puckered their used to walk up Margaret Road, past lips when she passed and called the apartment’s front steps where her “Chocolate” in Spanish and Reuben smoked, mouthing lyrics the clerk in the 7-Eleven always and counting cars. He’d seen her one told her chest to have itself a fine night at a house party on the hill, day. standing alone in the basement in But she moved in a dark the knot of moving bodies and sweat, fog everywhere it mattered most a bottled water in her hand, and later that she didn’t, especially in her on the front lawn where the party own apartment, where her dead had migrated to catch two drunkies mother’s boyfriend felt her up 32


and beat her in the same night. He had big hands like baseball mitts. Wayde had told Reuben last summer a rumor swirling around East Ochre that the guy had strangled his first wife in the bathtub, long ago in another city, and no one knew for sure. But Reuben believed everything he heard. Sometimes in the apartment he could hear his voice below the floor, rumbling like an earthquake. Agatha lived alone with him. She went to school bruised. The boys left her body there in the stream, cursing to themselves, and ducked back inside the apartment. They smoked a while longer in the front bedroom with the windows open, sneaking quick glances at one another, thinking. Should we do something? Reuben said. Wayde blew a ring and stirred with his finger until it vanished like coffee cream in the air, watching him fixedly. Like what? Reuben had known she was going to die soon, somehow, since the first night they spoke. It was storming on the outskirts of downtown and he lied in bed for long hours, hearing his mother’s ghost humming and frying fish in the kitchen. He went out to buy himself a new lighter. He drove with the radio off and drifted to the soft thunk of the wipers blurring the road wound like carpet beneath him. The Saturn purred uneasily against thunder. She was huddled under the awning of the Lunch Box at the end of Margaret, gazing out into the rain with those moons,

chewing on the inside of her cheek. He saw the black smudge of her curls and pulled up. She looked at him. She didn’t move. He rolled down the window. What’re you doing out here? Her shape seemed to meld into the walls of the old restaurant boxed tightly around her, and he felt she was seeing everything in the car and into his dreams too. She knew him. Who’s asking? Reuben’s asking, he said. She paused. Why does Reuben wanna know? Reuben’s worried, he said, that Agatha’ll be hunted by the creatures that stalk the streets at night and be eaten or something. Reuben knows Agatha’s name? I do. After a moment of thunder and gurgling rain, he reached over and opened the passenger side door. She got in, stuffing her long legs against the glove compartment, and buckled her seatbelt. He took her back to the complex and parked beside the stream, which wrapped around the woods like a skinny finger. They sat on the bank beneath the dripping trees. How many times have you seen me go up that road? she asked. Every time. I don’t go anywhere, she confessed. It’s a funny thing, my mama used to say there’s death in the tap water and that’s why everybody’s gone so fast. But she still drank it. I never understood that. I don’t believe it anyway. I would. Agatha gave him a strange 33


look. You believe everything you hear, don’t you, pretty boy? That’s a nice thing, I think, but I can’t do it anymore. I used to believe God was made of fairy dust, you know, but I’m starting to think He’s all bad dreams. Reuben couldn’t stretch his mind that far, all the way around the world like that. There was nothing beyond East Ochre. This was all there was. Reuben? She looked upward. The clouds were a sultry grey, and she imagined black angels peeking out from them, afraid to come down. You think we’ll die here? He didn’t want to think of it. He told her he wanted out of the rain and was going to try to get some sleep, mopping his face with his palm as he said this. His head was heavy. She dug her fingers in the mud. I don’t wanna go back to him, she said, so he took her up to Miguel’s, and in bed he pushed her curls back from her bruises because he’d been wanting to do that, and she lied there looking into his dreams again and saying over and over how pretty she thought he was, and sometime afterward, when they’d found her body and the boys of East Ochre complained about her dying a virgin, he couldn’t bring himself to light another cigarette.

34


Father

Kashta Dozier-Muhammad 35


Witness Seth Gozar

Flip the switch, the bulb flickers to life. Tick. Behind a dust-smothered display a twisted wire glows molten. As the sickly blush seeps out from yellowed skin, stale warmth drips down clothes, clings to hairs. Light spills across skin, fumbles silent and cool. Flip the switch— the bulb’s core is an ember, just swirls of grimy-orange wire.

36


Wednesday’s Colors Leave White Space Hadley Hendrix

O

ctober 28, 2:03 a.m. — Deep melancholic eyes. All of them are Blue done in deep blue ink, precise and abstract creatures trapped in the His fingernails are a deep pigmented color, trying to escape blue—only his fingernails, but they the white page. aren’t painted. It’s as if something His seatbelt lays still on lives beneath them, a color trying to the side of the door, something spring to life before death. His eyes he purposefully forgot when are the most magnificent marine speeding towards the barricades green but change into a charcoal grey at the dead end of Brandon Road. in certain lighting. His hair is a thick He sits in the seat for nine hours dark brown pushed up and away before someone finally notices from his face. and calls the police. It’s a Wednesday. He’s driving in our mom’s car. He hates December 28, 4:15 p.m. — Black our mom. Shards of glass fly everywhere, My mom and I haven’t sprinkling across talked about the ground and “His artwork is composed him since the into the car; funeral. A certain some tiny pieces of creatures nostalgic for a blackness still better time.” glistening in lingers over his skin. If you us. The kind of were looking at it happen from the blackness that blinds you with perspective of the sky, the pieces of every mistake you’ve made and glass would glisten as if they were every regret you have. stars on earth. There isn’t any sound I’ve been waiting for his of brakes screeching. The only thing things to turn into a particular that would still ring throughout the color, even though it’s been forest after tonight would be the months. That’s what we were crumbling sound of the concrete taught in school. When someone barrier, and the smashing in of the dies, their items will change into hood which looks like a rotten orange a color within a week, but it’s that has been squeezed of its juice. been a lot longer than that. I’m flipping through his We walk around the house drawings. He always hates when like nothing happened, but even I’m in his room, so I snuck in when looking in the refrigerator makes he left the house, tugging at his us depressed, seeing the half drawer, opening it gingerly, and then empty gallon of whole milk only taking out all his art. The inanimate he used. We exempt ourselves figures stare at me with distant and from anything reminding us of 37


him. We’ve eaten takeout for the “Put them away now before last two months. The milk is rotting I smack you like I did him.” in the fridge. I take the Altoids back to his room, and everything is a dusty January 7, 5:46 a.m. — Burgundy pink. His artwork is composed of creatures nostalgic for a better My mom is asleep. I woke time. up a few minutes ago and couldn’t suppress the urge to have some January 9, 4:17 p.m. — Vibrant water. I open the refrigerator for Orange the first time in months. Cold light burns my face. The only thing I see I’m walking outside, is the milk, but it isn’t rotten. It’s a carrying the now vibrant orange perfect shimmering burgundy. box of Altoids and examining it I reach my hand in and pull while trying not to trip over cracks out the jug. It feels like it weighs in the sidewalk. My neighbor, who 20 pounds as I amble towards his goes to school with me, walks past room. I repeat my earlier process and notices it. of gathering the drawings out of his “I’m—I’m sorry about your drawer. I spread them across his brother. I hope you’re doing okay… bedsheets. I look at the creatures I like the color,” she says, pointing who now have fear etched onto to the box. their faces in red ink. My brows “Oh...thanks. It changes wrinkle in confusion, but I soon colors actually. All of his things do. begin searching the house for more Do you wanna come over and see?” of his things. Eventually, I have “Oh, yeah, I mean—if you a compilation of items: a box of don’t mind me coming over, then peppermint Altoids, a vinyl of the sure,” she says. 1974 Great Gatsby soundtrack, and “No, I don’t mind.” a string with a ring attached to it. We walk back to my house All of them had turned maroon. together in silence, but I know she’s still looking at the box in my hand, January 9, 2:15 p.m. — Dusty Pink and I begin to regret my decision of bringing her over, but I don’t know Our mom doesn’t know why. about any of the colors. I tried to tell her, bringing the box of peppermint January 9, 4:34 p.m. — Charcoal Altoids into the kitchen and asking Grey her to look at the color, but she couldn’t see it. I walk her to his bedroom “I don’t see anything. Stop and over to the shelf where I put all messing around with his stuff, and his things. I show his artwork to stop trying to pretend he’s still her first. The figures have glowing here. He’s not, and his things will childlike faces, and we witness never turn colors,” she said. them change into detached faces “But—” outlined in charcoal grey ink. The 38


paper stiffens in my hand. I look at her, worry engraved on my face. She backs away. She’s trying to say she’s sorry, but nothing can come out. “Get out,” I say. She’s shocked. I scream this time. “Get out!” My vocal chords ripping apart as the words crackle together, and the worry has been erased from my face as I begin to cry. My face a wrinkled canvas. She leaves quickly. “I’m so sorry,” she says quietly before she runs out, the thumping of her footsteps pounding a migraine into my head. I can’t believe I let her poison his things. I didn’t realize he only wanted me to see them. January 11, 3:16 a.m — Charcoal Grey I’ve decided that if the colors don’t come back, I won’t show anyone. I’m too fearful their eyes will taint what’s supposed to be, leaving a dull smoke residue behind. January 13, 2:03 a.m. — White Everything is white now, and the creatures on the pages no longer exist. I know he felt black when he left, but he saw every color imaginable, and now I am left with the responsibility of filling the white space.

39


Horizon Mary Aupperle

40


Son

Haley Switzer

Your pencil dribbles tiny water droplets. Gray lead splashes in-between wide lines, soggy words wring onto white paper, you blow eraser shavings into rosy horizons. Eggshell pages crack, and then break, ooze a gooey, yellow yolk onto the Big Dipper’s clean slate. Jerusalem sands press to Your lips, Your lively breath intoxicates paper-thin lungs within her Mary little womb. He simmers, sifts through a cradle of hay, and waits thirty-three years before gripping Your shoulder— a glow shines through earthly craters in His hands. You stand, kiss His cheek, and cover His unbroken body with a sunlit robe.

41


Remembering Jerusalem Jacob Dvorak

It was one of the towers in my life, the four of us lying pondside, water lapping like pale blue fire, tasteless and calm and honest in heat, and the four of us the first family, before Eve and before Adam and the wind and the sand and the stars. That was salvation, that was Jerusalem, standing around us, towers and walls and monuments to the family we were. That is how I lie to myself. The people I loved were no sand or stars or even wind. Never that delicate, never that hard to find or create. Always so promising and always so ready to say that Jerusalem is only a park at the end of Jerusalem Street, covered in litter and angry hissing geese. Needles line its grass. Its walls by the highway covered in kudzu, and the benches coated in grime. I am so tired, already. Of wind going brief through my short torn hair, grainy hands waving through storms, flares of fire burning into my temples, pond swallowed in algae, graffiti on every flat thing. Hymns out of curses and false mirage. Call it heaven and still no one would go there.

42


Khoresh Fesenjan Joyce DeCerce

T

hough I have no scientific the first and, looking up with literature to back up the claim, pure ecstasy in my little amber and only my mother’s cursory eyes and beef juice on my chin, level of detail to go by, I’m asking you began pounding my tiny fists on to go with me here. As a child, I was a the table. baby bulimic. I wanted a third. Though not as much as I My mother had to was as a toddler, but even then I consider this. As a Persian before wobbled, on my way to becoming a anything else, it gave her great plump child, hungrily ambitious and pride to be able to cook more than bent on devouring anything that got anyone could eat. But she looked in my way. My mother would tell at me, round cheeks and belly anyone who would listen that she’d and all and thought, no. She can’t never seen a young girl eat like I eat another six pounds of ground did and, even more so, never seen beef. She shouldn’t eat another anyone react the six pounds of way I did when ground beef. A refused more “A plate of kubideh was our third plate isn’t food. I vomited. good mothering. first warning.” According to A third plate is my mother, this child abuse. behavior started when I was about 18 I cried, banging my fists months old, and lasted no more than on the table. Out of my mouth maybe two years. At this point I’d like sputtered a horrible sound of to congratulate myself for stopping grief and choking, something such an evidently compulsive you’d expect to hear in a warzone behavior without any intervention, or a hospital. But that wasn’t the but I’d be getting ahead of the story. only thing that came out of my A plate of kubideh was our mouth. With it flew the two plates first warning. My mother had given of kubideh, through my throat me a serving — a hamburger-like and out of my stomach, onto the recipe that had been passed down table. My mother assumed she through generations of Iranians and had witnessed what had simply appropriately bastardized by the been a particularly violent and diaspora to America — and assumed, messy temper tantrum, but I like any reasonable mother, that this think it was something else: the would be more than enough for a beginning of a legacy. It became child my age. So the second plate she repetitive. No second dinner? I expected would be barely touched. threw up. No desert? I threw up. The way she described it, I plowed My mother began preparing for through that plate faster than I did the worst whenever she knew she 43


was about to disappoint me. But the real source of that reaction was a deep, innate love of food. I remember everything about my favorite foods, or even my favorite parts of foods. At age six, it was saalab, a sweet milk with rice flour, heated until the top frothed over and dashed with sugar and sprinkled with cinnamon. Every Friday night it’s sweet scent perfumed our apartment as the family drank it in front of the television. I remember I always volunteered to take the mugs back to the kitchen, because though my mother and father would have finished theirs, Arash and Reza almost always left cream at the bottoms of their mugs, which I would scoop up with a finger on the way to the sink. At seven, I was introduced to morgh polou, a huge chicken breast topped with basmati rice and an array of seasonings, fried and coated over the top with a breading that, though it tasted fine in America, always seemed best when my grandmother in Tehran cooked it. Age nine: khoresh fesenjan. Lots of Arab dishes have made their way into the Iranian culture and diaspora over the centuries, but you always know any Iranian dish, if not by its superior taste, because Iranian dishes have special naming conventions. Part of the name always describes the kind of dish — fesenjan, morgh, kebab — and then the other part explains what’s in the dish, or rather, what it’s really made of at its heart. Fesenjan is a rice stew, but nothing like the kind of stew Westerners know. First off, there’s no broth. What Americans 44

dispense as broth, we incorporate as an essential part of the cuisine. For fesenjan, that’s pomegranate paste and juice, which holds the rice together. Then, to give it its texture, walnuts, crushed and whole, are spread throughout it. Chicken and duck, battered in the stew, make the khoresh of the fesenjan, and cinnamon and saffron top the dish. Made properly, it’s a golden purple that glimmers in the light. Fesenjan has survived centuries: in the ruins of Persepolis, archaeologists found a stone tablet, engraved with none other than the ingredients to someone’s mother’s khoresh fesenjan. All of us could eat, but my father and I could eat the most. I took after him in that way. He frequently took Arash, Reza, and me into the city to sports games. Arash and Reza loved the games. I loved the peanuts and hot dogs with which vendors roamed the aisles. “You’re getting another hot dog?” my father would ask when he saw me waving one of them down. He wouldn’t be opposed, just surprised. Arash and Reza would still be on their first hot dogs. The game seemed to distract them.


Abstinence Alden Murphy

45


Confused Karryl Eugene

46


Haitianos Amy Duncan

This sky is an island littered with plastic trash and orange peels and shells of the aguacate we grow and carry on our heads to their concrete houses. We beg for permission to cross a 90째 border. We hike through cities with more dirt or tar than money so our children might eat the guineo crop we sow for them. Our sky is a shooting range, policia badges shoved in our faces, bullets whizzing past us like speeding motoconchos as we apologize in frantic French or broken Spanish for moving too quick or speaking too loud. Still, we sit in our sweat and repair their roads for pesos, choking on dust from the cars that pass us by.

47


Ascending Meredith Abdelnour

Y

ou meet them at the door. They God knows humans love what’s look like your usual clients, an easiest. The silver necklace attractive young couple who resting lightly on her clavicle cost got tired of going to the movies or more than your entire rent check. sitting quietly at the fancy kind of You motion for them Mexican restaurant. This is their act to stretch out their arms and of rebellion for the month, because expose their palms. This is one going to the artsy side of downtown of the more unbelievable parts. and getting a psychic reading is People who calculate numbers different enough to be considered and analyze facts during the day spontaneous but still shy of taking come into at atmospheric room an actual risk. You study them as that night and believe you can tell they glance around the room, taking when they’ll die from a line on in the overstuffed armchairs and their body. Truthfully, the only vintage-looking bookshelf that you secret people hide on their palms bought at Target. is how often they moisturize. But “Hello.” you say, lowering people expect a palm reading your voice an octave and stretching from someone who advertises out your vowels. themselves as a “Now before we “It’s easier for her this way, psychic, so you start, I need you run your fingers to understand and God knows humans love over the lines in what’s easiest.” that you are the man’s palm. undertaking a His phone lights journey, and there is no way you up in his lap, a notification from will come out unchanged.” This is a Jessica. “You’re lying about recitation, you copied it almost word something,” you declare, raising for word from an article online, but one eyebrow. It’s vague. Of course the girl nods earnestly. She’s pretty, it’s vague, but it’s true. No one is gorgeous even, with long black hair being completely honest about framing her face and hazel eyes anything, and a lot of people that really look at you, but you can think that’s horrifying but it’s not. tell he doesn’t appreciate her. He’s It’s just human nature. Despite obnoxiously slouched in his chair, this, the girl inhales sharply. You and he’s sent three texts in the five don’t understand why couples minutes they’ve been in here. He’s think this would be a fun bonding definitely a cheater. The girl probably activity. You’re not going to tell knows that his Tuesday night dinners them that they’re destined to be with his college best friend aren’t together because Mercury was in entirely platonic, but she doesn’t retrograde when they matched care. It’s easier for her this way, and on Tinder. You don’t have 48


any interest in sustaining their relationship with false astrology, science, whatever it is you do. He scoffs at you, possessively puts his other hand around his girlfriend’s shoulder. “I’m not lying. We’re not paying you to be a rude—” he stops himself. Ah, he’s defensive, but you should’ve known from his expensive watch and fair skin that he’s accustomed to getting what he wants. Jessica texts him again. “Your girlfriend will find out soon enough, so just be prepared for that,” you tell him as you shift positions to grab her hand. She jumps a little bit as you trace the lines in her hands. You stare in her eyes, practically daring her not to look away. “Well, you’re boring your poor girlfriend to death,” you exclaim to the boy without breaking eye contact with her. “She needs a little excitement. She’s unsatisfied. Emotionally, sexually.” The boy shoves back his chair and jumps up, grabbing the girl by her arm. “You’re an idiot. Sophia, I can’t believe you made me waste my time on this.” They leave, reminding you why you make people pay beforehand. She comes back, even faster than you predicted. It’s barely been a day, but there she is, standing nervously on the street. She looks different in the harsh sunlight, has a handful of freckles sprawled across her face and a gap in her teeth. You don’t usually see clients in the daytime for this reason—the facade of clairvoyance is mostly atmosphere. You’ve lost all of your power when the blinds are open and the incense has burned out. She speaks before you have a

chance to—tripping over her words about cheating and lying and her feeling like you can fix things. “Relax,” you say, leading her inside. “What was your name again?” you inquire. It’s an honest question. You never ask your clients what their names are because you want them to think you know all there is to know about them. “Sophia,” she mumbles. “But it doesn’t matter. Just tell me the truth,” she pleads. “I know you know. You were right. We’re bored with each other and he’s getting his extra energy out with the girl from the office, right?” You place your hands over hers, wait until she looks at you. “He’s cheating on you.” She closes her eyes and her hands start to tremble. “But you knew that,” you continue. “It’s Jessica. They spend a lot of time together, don’t they?” Sophia looks down, trains her eyes on the coffee stain on the ragged carpet. “She’s pretty, but I think you’re much prettier. Is she blonde?” you ask, smiling. She looks up and meets your eyes for a second, but then averts her gaze. “Yes,” she mutters. “Well, your boyfriend never seemed like the type to go for an exotic girl. Don’t worry. They’ll get married, she’ll get the rush of wearing the expensive jewelry for a little while. Then they’ll have two extremely photogenic children that will end up in therapy for years due to the emotional ramifications of having parents that only got together for image and money. The stars only tell me so much,” you say. She laughs. You tilt your head to the 49


side. “You know I’m not actually a psychic, right?” you ask her, serious now. Her eyes widen. You don’t know why you’re telling the truth to this girl, if it’s her freckles or her smile or the fact that she thought that a psychic could fix her relationship problems. “None of this,” you say, gesturing to the candles and the tapestry and the astrology charts, “means anything. It’s a job.” “So,” she says, choking on her words, “what you just told me doesn’t mean anything. You don’t actually know anything. I could have a happy life with him, you know, we were doing fine until you got us both suspicious about everything,” she rambles. “No,” you correct her. “He is cheating on you. You are bored with him. And I don’t know that because Saturn is ascending or from the energy radiating from your hands, I know that because of human nature.” You reach out behind her. Brush your fingers across her neck. She doesn’t shy away. “I think you both know that the lives you want can’t be found with each other. But he’s comfortable, he’s safe, he’s easy.” You undo the clasp on her silver necklace. “If you would just sacrifice a little bit of comfort, you could be a lot happier.” You toss the necklace behind you. “Take a risk.”

50


Registering to Vote Keiana Wilkerson

We drive over steel into Lego-block towns, suspended in five o’clock traffic. Between radio ads and Michael Savage, my father gathers radio static in his palms. A very important day. His words gritty, like sand in an hourglass, overflowing as he says “This is the first day of the rest of your life.” My desert is eternal as Dali’s “Persistence of Memory.” Time falls and repeats like a drunk’s hangovers, slumping across sand dunes. Each second is a drop of hot sauce on a summer day, a worm writhing down my throat, still air of camel spit tacked to my pores. My arms become lead, my lips chipped concrete. The sun beats time until my eyes melt to droop on my lips. The car’s leather seats pucker kisses, suction skin. My palms find no cool relief on the window, and he drives, eyes forward, steadily, across the bridge. Dali’s piece persists across my skin. My sweaty fingers ache to grab the wheel in tight choke—hold heatstroke, but the gold frame and oil paint reduce me to the grains of sand at the bottom of the car, piling higher, covering my mouth until I can no longer breathe.

51


Steps to Waking Up McKenna Flanagan

D

on’t expect to walk away from such a situation still balanced. At work the next day, your hips will be out of alignment and the crests of your shoulders will ache from how hard you tensed when you heard the glass door shatter at the front of the building. You will walk, each step feeling like your left leg won’t pop back into place again, just like your neck. You feel guilty, hurting when you were never even physically harmed, but the man shot in the shoulder has given you sympathy pains that run deeper than muscles and tissue.

let go. Your co-worker will ask what possessed you to burn your hand. You won’t know.

*** Your neighbor will respond with a solemn nod when you told them about the gunman holding you and four customers hostage on a night shift you were covering for a friend, how uncertain the fate of your lives were. She’ll say “God is good,” say kind words, give you a hug. Something rubs you the wrong way about “God is good.” God made man in his own *** image, made the gunman in his The aches and pains will be own image, a man who critically the only lasting wounded a regular feeling you have customer and held for a long while. “The aches and pains will be five strangers Every time a the only lasting feeling you hostage for five customer at the hours because he have for a long while.” register makes detested mankind. you smile, you remind yourself of the events that *** took place the other night and you In the ICEE machine, drop your grin, bow your head for a when someone dumps a glob of moment of silence to the old woman Coke slushy into the grate and the that pissed herself out of fear when top flays like the torn shirt of the she watched the gunman shoot the shot man, you must not stare for glass. But you detach yourself from too long or think too hard about those moments, fiddling with the the memory of the mess of a man hot dog warmer, wondering what sprawled on the tile. Before you triggered such a numbness to ooze gag or cry again, you’ll open the from an orifice in the back of your grate and wash away the glob, brain to the tips of your fingers. You and think to call the hospital, ask flex them, white and veiny. With your how the man is doing. You held left hand you’ll grip one of the rack’s towels to his wound, asked him rods, 140 degrees strong, cry out and to press down first so that you 52


would not have to feel his broken body beneath shaking hands. You made a connection with a neardying man and your guilt will beg you to contact him, follow him through his recovery, think of his welfare. You will recall all the trashy romance films you’ve watched and wonder if somehow you could become friends with a man you handed towels to as you attempted to live through the night shift of the job you’re using to put you through college. But you’ll remember through the haze in your head that it’s more likely that you’ll send him a card or two, he’ll maybe thank you and if you see each other face to face, you may share the absurdity of the situation together, but only in fragments, afraid to think of the severity of it all. The possibility of loss of life. *** You’ll have to buy more blankets, since the old ones with rough twine aren’t going to battle the shivers you feel when alone at night. You’ll be so desperate to put your mind somewhere else that you’ll recall your ex and think about talking to them, what they’d say, what comfort they’d give. But then you’ll be brought back to your senses—if only for a short while—and remember that the very reason you got a cat was because it provided more love and affection than your last boyfriend.

has never been much of a thought for you, and you doubt it will affect you after the shooting, but just in case you’ll need to brace yourself, waiting for depression to push you over the edge. Instead of thinking of ending it all, you’ll just cry that much more, focus on putting memories of that night through a coffee filter, tossing out the heavy moments. *** Going home from work will never be the same again, whether you’re coming from a job at the drugstore or a future, career. In the future you’ll just feel tense discomfort, grip the wheel a little harder, but in the here and now, you’ll grasp the wheel with your hands, the burned one wrapped up but still aching from the pressure you heave on the wheel as you dart down the highway. The pain reminds you that you are living and burning and the man in the hospital is living and bleeding and the old woman is living and dry. You’re grateful, but you feel the new bullet-hole in your chest, caving in until the fire dies out.

*** Your family will be concerned for where you’re heading. They’ll find your detachment “suggestive.” Suicide 53


54


Abandonment Roudy Leonard

55


The Belt

Justin Bumgardner

For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. —Hebrews 12:6 It constricted the waist, chafed and burned against my slacks, gold metal head ringed against my button. In a father’s hands it’s no different than a whip. In my uniform, the three rings of the holy trinity formed the body of a dove over my heart. In my hand, a yellow paper from school, a broken commandment. Inside it was night, the garage like Gethsemane, an ugly trunk shooting through the shattered concrete, a garden with rust raining down the walls. Father commanded I give him the belt. My pants dropped lower. He told me to let them fall to my ankles. He snapped the leather like an unscaled snake. Together we counted its bites. One, two, three, twelve. The belt’s clamps and tailwhips buried venomous visions I carry in my mind: 56


A night spent limping, tearing the Father’s ring from my heart.

57


Bottles Deja Echols

58


the sun Tatiana Saleh

when the sun arrives to pick you up from softball practice, he’s forty minutes late. it is 5:35, he is already drunk. he staggers down the field. bleachers melt. the coaches stand off to the side, watch him collect your gear, watch him fall down face first. grass shrivels under his touch. he asks when the game starts. you take his keys, half melted, and drive him home. humbling the sun has never been easy. his car is a mess inside. the engine’s overheated. fried pork rinds lay in burnt piles on the floor. a warm plastic smell. you buckle his seatbelt in place and wipe saliva off his cheek with a crusted napkin. half of him smiles at you. you’re the best thing he’s ever made, he whispers. he wants credit for so many things. he cups his blistering hands gently together and vomits. the sun’s heart burns. some days you are the reason he is like this, the star fallen from his bumbling grasp. other times you are the night light he needs to sleep. the constellation he could have been part of. he pulls a torn blanket around his shoulders and shudders. at what point do you burn so brightly you don’t know what it’s like to be warm? when you scorch the ones you love most, do you remember to check your own body for scars? the sun is passed out in the passenger seat of his 2004 chrysler, mumbling and cracking his knuckles. he wants to hold your hand. he wants your mother to take him back. outside, homeless men in their cardboard shelters commit acts of god: create galaxies between cracks in the sidewalk. the sun looks out at them, remembers when the world wasn’t spinning around him, when he breathed among the stars, when he could pull your mother close without setting the house on fire. when their love was a slow burn. you remember when he called you heaven.

59


Daylight Savings Time Joyce DeCerce

I

have always had a persistent fear of a concerning ordeal. And then, that you will leave me, afraid that months later, at a parking meter, one morning I will wake up and or a restaurant, suddenly it is the it will feel as if something is missing, most frustrating loss in the world. the feeling one gets when going out, It brings thoughts of yesterday. not quite sure what they have left “Well, one January I behind until they are out the door mailed her a painting for her and damn it my keys! But this time, birthday.” I will lock the door and be on my way “You mailed her a to my car and realize that you are painting?” gone, and when I go inside to find “Yes.” you, you will be nowhere to be found. “And what is wrong with There is a long German word that?” for this. Angstvoretwaszuverlieren. “Well, America is a I know because I asked a Slovak very large place. But we also in a train station once. As I was have public records. When writing this he you use public approached me, records, you can “[...]for every person for find asked what I was people’s writing about. whom there is a should have, addresses. But as “An early there is a neighbor who says, it turns out, and memory,” I told until then I was if only I had not.” him. This evolved not aware, it is very abruptly not an acceptable into a discussion of love lost, and I thing to do.” learned his mother had been killed The word rings of should during the bombing of Yugoslavia, haves and ifs. Everybody should not by a bomb but by a stroke. He was have done something yesterday: so struck with the irony of it that he the old proverb goes that the best had spent years of his life looking for time to start was yesterday, the something even more so. I informed second best, today. But for every him, regrettably, that I had nothing person for whom there is a should for him, but he persisted anyway, have, there is a neighbor who until I started telling him about the says, if only I had not. day I stopped hearing from you. “And no one informed you Angstvoretwaszuverlieren. It of this?” For a Slovak, he seemed would be like losing a coin, or a gift well-versed in the mannerisms card. For the first few days there is of American public information regret, but then, as everything else culture. we’ve found ourselves caught up in “No.” gets the better of us, it becomes less When he left, and I 60


boarded my train, I felt I must have left something behind. I had my bag, my ticket, but I had gone off without some way to get in touch with him. Looking back, I doubt he had a phone number or an email address to give, but it would have been nice to mail him a postcard. Perhaps I would look up his address in the public records search. To this day I am still unsure of what happened. One moment you, like my bed and my clock, are still here. Like the clock, there are still some things I needed to fix. The time, which perhaps I had never changed from Daylight Saving Time, or that the second hand didn’t move to begin with. But like the bed, you were at least vaguely reliable. I could fall back on you nightly, not expect you would ever be gone. And then, one day, I wake up on the floor and say to myself, “Oh my God, somebody stole my bed.”

61


Taurus

Hannah Chelgren 62


Solitude Oona Roberts

J

ohn felt numb. cabin, but it didn’t quite register The interview hadn’t gone in his head. Not many things did. well—the manager barely smiled It was odd, that was for at him—and the receptionist didn’t sure, but he was tired and sad, even offer him a “goodbye” on his and so he sat down in a window way out. seat next to a pretty girl with long Now he was on the elevator. white hair and piercing eyes. He was leaning against a mirrored “Hello!” She said wall, and his eyes were closed, and cheerfully, and she smiled. his throat was sore, and his brain “Hello,” he replied, and ached, and everything was ruined. He the girl stuck out her hand. Her was broke, depressed, and without a fingers were long and thin. job. He had considered swallowing “I’m Mary-Jane Engel. the bottle of Aspirin that he carried And you are?” around inside of his briefcase, but “John. Just John. Are we he was a coward. He wasn’t strong on a plane?” enough for suicide. He wasn’t strong “Yes. That’s a pretty enough for death. strange question to ask, though.” He wasn’t strong enough for And that was that. anything, really. He’d never even been Everything was silent. The girl, in love. And love the boy, even the requires strength, plane. It lifted “[...]the pit of wilting he thought to flowers in his stomach was off without so himself. much as a sound returning.” God. It from the pilot, was all so terribly but if John were painful. Not in a physical way, and not being honest with himself—and in a mental way, either. Not exactly. he wasn’t honest with himself a It was more like there was this soft whole lot—he didn’t notice. Or drone that was constantly buzzing in maybe he did. Maybe he just tried the back of his head, and he wasn’t to forget about it. going crazy. He would swear that he He stared out the window. wasn’t. The girl stared out of the window, At long last, the elevator too, and they watched a world doors opened. John stepped outside, John didn’t recognize swim below yet he found that he was not in the them. Together. Together? lobby of the AT&T building. No, he “Say, where are we flying was somewhere entirely different, to?” John asked, and the girl and as he looked around, he figured laughed. that the place looked a whole lot like “You’re very forgetful,” a plane cabin. In fact, it was a plane she said. “We’re flying to South 63


Africa. Cape Town.” John raised his eyebrows. “South Africa? How exotic. I’ve never been anywhere exotic. In fact, I’ve never even been out of the United States,” he admitted, and the girl shrugged. “America’s an okay place,” she replied, and she was right. John could feel their conversation drawing to a close, but he wanted to keep it going. He felt lonely, and he still felt terribly upset about his interview, so he gulped and closed his eyes and said something random. Out-of-theblue. “I’m nearly homeless,” he exclaimed, and the girl laughed again. Damn, she really laughed a lot. John didn’t laugh a lot. “Is that so?” “Yes. I don’t have a job. Or a wife. I went to an interview today, but it didn’t go well. Sorry for all of the rambling,” he mumbled, and the girl shrugged. She seemed happy. “It’s not a problem. You see, I’m in college right now, and I don’t have a lot of loose change hanging around, either.” And then she rummaged around in the back of the seat in front of her and pulled out a book. The Catcher in the Rye. John had never read it before, but he’d heard that it was good. If John were being honest with himself—and he wasn’t often honest with himself— he didn’t read a whole lot. Words weren’t always his friend. “I got on this plane through an elevator,” he said, and MaryJane simply smiled, and smiled, and smiled. John wondered if she 64

ever stopped. “Oh. Well, that’s not the strangest thing I’ve ever heard of. My best friend, Malaika, met an angel once,” she retorted, and John raised his eyebrows. He didn’t really believe in the supernatural, though he decided to go along with it. For her. “Wow,” he said. And then a conversation about angels began, and then a conversation about literature (John was no literary critic, but he knew his way around his classics— his favorite book was called Lie Down in Darkness, and he learned that her favorite book was called One Hundred Years of Solitude.) And then they started talking about mothers, and then fathers, and then absolutely nothing at all. Suddenly, his stomach dropped. The plane began to wobble a bit, and he wondered if they were stuck in a cloud or— “Are we beginning our descent?” He asked Mary-Jane, and she sighed as she looked over at him. “I think so,” she replied. And it scared John, because this was the happiest he’d felt for months. Years, even. As if she could read his mind, Mary-Jane reached out and touched his arm. Her skin was soft, and her fingers were deft and gentle, and John wilted into the iciness of her hand. When she pulled away, he was once again carrying a weight he couldn’t describe on his shoulders. It felt a lot like sadness, but he couldn’t be sure. Oh well. John wasn’t sure about a lot of things. After another hour or so, the


plane touched down on the ground. off to sleep. And John desperately wanted— “Goodnight,” he said to truly wanted—to stay on the plane nothing more than darkness. for just a little while longer. He stared over at Mary-Jane again, and she was smiling, and smiling, and smiling, and he tried calling out for her, but he was silent, and he was caught up in the hustle and bustle of the rest of the departing passengers before he could say goodbye. He wanted to, though. And then he was back in the elevator. Stunned, though not completely confused, he pressed the “lobby” button again, and when the doors opened, he was in his living room. He sat down on his crumbling sofa and peeled off his loafers. He thought about the interview, and his stomach dropped when he remembered the way he had stumbled over his words like he was nothing more than a school child. He could feel something press and compress behind his eyes, but he ignored it. He tried to think back to the plane, but his memories were fading fast. He knew that there had been a girl there, a beautiful girl, and he could remember something about solitude. Darkness? Rye bread? Catchers in rye bread? He wasn’t sure. John wasn’t sure about a lot of things. He decided to go to bed. Before he closed his eyes, he pulled out a book he kept in his bedside table: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. Or was it Virginia Woolf? He read until he couldn’t read anymore, and then he thought about angels, and about elevators, and about airplanes, and he drifted 65


My Father Speaks of Dying Aracely Medina

“It’s here and gone,” he says driving to the flea market. Suddenly I see a colony of maggots huddled in his parted mouth. His cheekbone cutting through his skin. “All it takes,” he says, “is a drunk in an alley to come after you with a jagged bottle in his hand.” But he says he doesn’t want tears but the mariachi to sing to his casket, tacos heaping with meat, and clothes made damp from dancing. He knows his dead sagging tongue will lick the altars of candied skulls, roses, bowls of refried beans. He says he wants to buy a pink stucco mausoleum for his family to lie private with their with old body heat. “These are the things you have to think about,” he says. At the flea market he ogles a papaya I pick up and palms it in his mammoth hand. “Two days,” he said, hands swallowing the unripe flesh. I waited for two days as it stood leaned up against a basket on the counter, the squirt of its blushing orange flesh, one less meal away from my father’s dying.

66


Timeless Chandler Fowler

67


How to Communicate with the Dead: A Step-by-Step Guide Logan Monds

1. Find the rock she carried with how she tapped wood everywhere. More likely than not, before touching metal to avoid a you already have it with you. sudden shock. Like your mother’s 2. Enter the bathroom. Stand Tuesday night drives to Waffle in front of the mirror. Turn the lights House. Like Bibles in purses, or off. Leave the door open. Do not rabbits’ feet on keychains. Like think of Bloody Mary. Again: do not lit evergreen candles that she think of Bloody Mary. always forgot to blow out and you 3. You once asked her why never remembered to light. Like she carried a Bible in her purse, the smoking on the late shift. Like time she pulled it out to get to her habit. hairbrush. She said, “Carrying a Bible 6. Think about the is the best form of insurance a person California Redwoods. Wonder if can have.” She hung a cross from her a plane ride could have changed rearview mirror her mind. Wonder to discourage car- “Listen away from silence, if, maybe, more jacks. She dangled Christmas candles for something more.” the thorny crown from T.J. Maxx of Jesus from her could have done neck, to ward away strange hands. the same. Even then, you knew her enough 7. Listen away from to know that she did not believe in silence, for something more. Hear superstition. A few months later, her faintly, always a conversation you found out that when she was between her and the house phone, (almost) mugged, she was carrying seated at the couch. Something her mother’s copy of the Bible. It fell about the mountains and air from her purse as she dug for her pressure. It was never that you wallet, and the mugger backed off. wanted to leave behind the place 4. Do not give into the she was born, but she still dug temptation of prayer. This moment is her nails in tight and refused to between you and her. He has nothing let go. You wanted to be Jack and to do with any of it. Jane but wound up Florida and 5. Be selfish with the rock. Colorado; the best thing people (She preferred to call it a stone.) could say about the two of you Squeeze it in sweaty fists, relax into was that opposites attract. the memory of how she slipped it 8. Wonder, not for the into the pocket of her jean jacket, first time, how she felt as she always, before leaving the house, drowned. Did she imagine herself a practice that went hand-in-hand as Virginia Woolf? She left her 68


stone on the table while you made dinner. She must have found others near the water. 9. See yourself, in parallel. Catch yourself thinking about Bloody Mary. Say her name three times, soft, violently fast with your grip on the stone harder than it was around her wrist as you dredged her from the water, dress snagged on branches, lips soft and open to the sky. She was heavy. Waterlogged, the report would read. Full. Eyelids closed, bruised from tension. Mountain ranges over her legs, crinkles of sun-bleached cloth. 10. Why couldn’t she have loved Sylvia instead? You never would have left her alone in the kitchen. That was your meeting space, where south and north and west and east meshed into white rice and liquor. Neither of you were vegan, but you ate like you were. 11. Turn on the light. Contemplate brushing your teeth. Deny the request for fear of the sink. Remember: drowning. 12. Study your reflection. This is not the only time you have sworn to sleep and it is far from the last. Watch over your shoulder closely. Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary. Wait for an apparition, for a touch, a voice, anything to kill the quiet numbness beneath your fingertips. Do not hold your breath. 13. Keep the Bible in the second drawer, stone in the first.

69


Fear

Sean Cowan 70


Blue Ridge Parkway Joyce DeCerce

I am in Brevard today, on a bench you kissed a boy on. A violinist plays one string, over and over on Main Street, snow kindling. There are no more cars. The last one left for Charlotte, and by now it must glisten in a sunrise at the peaks of the Transylvania mountains. Too cold to touch, too warm to know. Marks in the snow say you walked your dog here once. Peeling wood on an old apartment calls your name in rows of echoes. Your cold youth bruises on the palms of my fingers— the wind whispers briskly on my cheeks: dead, dead, dead

71


To Make Windows A. A. Reinecke

F

amiliar porcelain, in a pink them as catch-all trays or to hold china pattern, wore sweaters toothbrushes in the bathroom of dust. A wooden school desk, or to drink coffee. He didn’t, for long neglected in the garage, sat some reason, anticipate their beside a hardwood dresser, and the utility as the alcoholic kind. three-fourth pile, green carpet, worn “You know what this’s and dented with the ghosts of coffee for?” asked the graduate. tables, linen couches, arm chairs, “You mean the sale?” he and the brocade piano bench they’d said. had done to match the Rockefeller “Yeah. Someone must’ve one in that year’s Mansion Section. died, huh?” One of the graduate-aged Brady returned his hands men approached Brady. You the guy to his pockets. “What do you they assessed in mean?” the newspaper? “You don’t He expected. And “There he was, like everyone see yard sales at Gerald Brady? places like this else, filling the creases.” Know him? Saw unless someone him once on the died.” Northeastern circuit— He looked at the tennis “You buying those?” he said, court with the imported clay. “I instead. guess you don’t.” “What?” said Brady. “You know the guy or “Those,” he spoke to a set something?” of gold-rimmed liquor glasses. “It’s “No,” Brady said to the fine if you are. Napoleonic Code and clay. whatnot. You had them first.” “Interesting things they’ve Brady stepped back from the got.” glasses. He could see the dust over Brady looked at the table all of it then. Time spilt over Gerald’s house and felt a pang of secondthings like flour or salt by a child’s hand defensiveness for it. “I think incautious palm. “No. Go ahead.” it’s a pretty good show.” “Thanks,” said the graduate. The graduate nodded. “A He put liquor glasses atop a linen- good show—yeah. I didn’t mean covered book he’d already selected. bad interesting, only—” he rubbed The cover of the book was dark blue, a bit of the liquor glass dust with almost black, the title shielded with his coat sleeve, “I like estate sales, his coat arm. “Really. These’re great.” okay. I just can’t shake the idea Brady nodded. He thought they’re selling existences.” of the graduate taking them to “How do you mean?” wherever he lived. He might use “You know. Pieces of the 72


deceased for five dollar sums and whatnot.” Brady did not give a response. He found a gum wrapper in his left-hand pocket. The graduate rushed to fill the space his unanswered words had left. Brady thought that interesting, the way people tried so hard at filling the creases of things, tying knots of torn hems, cutting hangnails, pressing egg salad sandwiches together so the eggs meshed and didn’t leave any gaps. “I don’t know,” he said, “What do I know more than anyone? I don’t know the family.” He looked very skinny when he closed his mouth, as though the words had accounted for bulk in his frame. “Everyone knows more than anyone about something,” said Brady. There he was, like everyone else, filling the creases. Only a man before the newspaper assessment and only a man then. “I guess you’re right,” said the graduate. His face was wide and there was something painfully honest in the composition of his features. “That’s a nice bowl. You should get that.” Brady looked at the table. “It’s forty-five dollars.” The graduate nodded. “That’s what I meant. Don’t you think it’s worth a lot more than that?” he said. “I don’t know.” Brady felt tight in his coat, though he hadn’t eaten much in a month and he could, in the bathroom mirror, see the desert dunes of his ribs through his chest. I didn’t used to be like this, he thought. I used to make

good conversation. The priest in Edgartown had a habit of allowing me two wafers at the Eucharist. “I guess I’ll go and pay. It was good talking—” “I know the family,” Brady said, “I know the family and the father died in a sailing accident.” The graduate put the glasses down. “I know the brother,” Brady continued, “I know him from college. It was a capsize, the accident. The rudder got stuck—” “Is he taking the loss alright? I know that’s hardly, but—” “I don’t know.” It was darkening with late afternoon and Brady saw Bumby and Richard through the window, Richard sprawled on the cool extension of the fireplace, where the marble lip of it met hardwood. There was a comforting yellow glow from the pane and Brady remembered an old axiom from his sophomore year at Georgetown. Elizabeth I. “They’re fine, though? The family?” Brady looked in at Bumby with his turned-in mouth. “I don’t know. I read somewhere not to make windows of men’s souls.”

73


Spreading My Father’s Ashes Briana Lopez

I sprinkle you into the water. Silvery powder dusts off my palms. The settled darkness of deep sea breaks with light. You sink slowly, glimmering. In the distance, I see our sailboats. You and I on either side, balancing the weight. Fighting the restless sea breeze. Below us are beds of honeycomb coral that we slept in on nights you took me diving. Moonlight from the melting purple sky speckled against our Prussian blue waters. I am fully submerged here. Choking on the air I am lacking. Your flakes disperse around me, their weight splitting my skull. My bones are tender. I am blinded by navy shadows cast by sailboats that I can no longer assign our names.

74


Life and Death Liam Poster

75


An Enchanted Lilac Forest Halsey Hutchinson

B

lood from his forehead dripped with her thick, warm outer guard in streaming streaks through hairs. Caressing his smooth white the slipper orchids and deer cheeks, she sang songs of the ferns that lined the rocky spring. She Narragansett Indians. Just 400 watched, nervously, and waited. His years ago, the Chiefs, Sachems, bare skin wouldn’t last much longer saved her from the horrible blaze exposed to the icy creek waters. A that destroyed so many of her bright luminous moon foretold his kind. The Indians used magical fate. It had been many years since spells to heal her wounds and she strayed from the protection of the dress her raw membrane. They did mighty Sequoia. She would expose not fear her breed or the color of herself. He extended a lone arm, but her blood. The silver-faced moon even her elongated limb couldn’t shined down on them. Delicate reach him. He was dying. After pearls of light. Tonight she would hundreds of years hidden among the save the man and make up for towering groves, she would allow those she could not save. The last herself to be seen in the clearing. She Narragansett and Pequot, the stepped slowly from the shadows of helpless children slaughtered and the needles and women raped rooted trunks. “The Sequoia could not feel him by the men that Grabbing his and there was no connection had arrived cold, frozen hand in boats. She from the flowing between these men and the had traveled forest.” brook, she lifted west alone. the man easily, The journey to slinging him over her immense, the Redwoods had taken many broad shoulders. years. Moving from forest to A warm fire would not be forest tasting the delicate bark sufficient. She took off all his clothes of so many native species. Sweet and covered the bare body with her syrupy red and balsam fir in the bushy warmth, careful not to crush Green Mountains, then bitter the man under the weight of her ponderosa pine of the Sierra bulky frame. He felt so slight and crest. At the edge of the world, narrow, fragile. The fleshy body the majestic Sequoia brought her without underfur or coarse hackles safety and shelter, the sweetest of would never endure more than 70 or them all. 80 years. He smelled awful, so she Moonlight faded with the grabbed a handful of lilac blooms morning sun. Covering his body beneath the fat sprouts of the forest through the night, feeding him floor, rubbing them gently into his drops of milk. Nourishment made delicate skin. She covered his body his heartbeat grow stronger. 76


She made a list of herbs, berries, and vegetation to gather for him. Gently, she licked the caked blood from his forehead; she understood that these men had grown weak from meat and so little sustenance from the earth. His naked form, she held him near her sandy brown breast, a newborn nursing from all six nipples. Touching his skin tenderly, careful not to scratch the delicate film, she sang a Narragansett ballad to soothe his nerves, “With foam as soft as maiden fog, the baby of the crying bog.” His eyes were blue and petrified. Squirming to break free from her grasp, she was twice as strong. As he screamed for help, she whispered to him and caressed his forehead. She wanted to keep him. She spoke softly and called herself “Lily” after the lilac blossoms that now coated his skin. Of course her kind never used names, they communicated in a way that men could never understand. He whispered back, “John.” He was important to his people, “a religious man.” Reminding her of the tribal shamans, the healers, she asked John if he possessed magic or explored the spirits of the forest. Instead, he talked wildly of gods and “the book” he often read. The people in his town listened to him for hours and he “gave them hope.” Claiming he “saved” many of them, Lily could tell John truly believed his words. She wanted to hug him every time she looked into his sky-blue eyes. She stood up, walking through the trees in the night air, holding him in her arms and showing him off to the grand

Sequoia like her own child. The Sequoia could not feel him and there was no connection between these men and the forest. The trees spoke back to her, “one more night.” The radiant moon looked down, flushed and luminous. Maybe she would bathe him in the morning, and then feed him ginseng rootstock or bright pink huckleberries. It was time. Bravely, she left the shadows of the tall trees. They held hands and strolled together into the bright sunlight of the clearing. She looked down at him, smiling. John wanted to walk himself and she was careful to hunch lower so they could grasp hands. She loved him. When they emerged from the forest, the men who knew John began to shout. John suddenly released her hand and ran towards the voices of his people. All she could hear were his cries of “God help me” and “save me.” The last word she heard was “Shoot!” Pieces of molten metal felt like rain. A warm summer rain or heat from a summer sapling, maple dripping down onto her chest. Shotgun cartridges were loud, exploding in her ears. Falling to the ground, she began to cry. She closed her eyes. The fuming lead powder ignited, setting the brilliant blue blaze that caused the men to run. Some of them tried to drag her and shouted about “pelts” or a head for the “mantle.” She was too heavy and there was no time. Flames burned swiftly through the dry brush. Lily burned fast and bright. Without her wooly coat, her smoldering bones looked just like human bones, only a bit bigger. Few could tell the difference. 77


Across the Universe Kashata Dozier-Muhammad

78


Fall

Jacob Dvorak

In the spires of them, their circling towers I failed them, could not love the things they loved, their trees and flowers, embracing green wrapped around every rotten falling brick. I showed my talons or wolf’s heart, gave the ones I loved a kiss of metal that tore their lips away, burnt the skin of their shoulders, covered their backs in tattoos and burns around their bodies, stomachs circled in red, legs ringed in bright barbed chain. Now I fall from the soft white of them, rippling as I collapse, robes of grey night around me, until I am grey, until everything I see is grey, glass and silent. I will not see things that bright again. I realize too late I was meant to fall, press into the grey ground bleeding, look at the net stretched over night, the lines of light across every star, pulling tight the night, cold and grey, glassy sky of ice, making it blush and bleed.

79


Metamorphosis Lily Paternoster

Y

our legs are dangling ankle- Only now there’s more red than deep into the water, splashing white surrounding your pupil and as my toes barely graze the they’re rimmed with slight tears. top due to our height difference. I’m “I love you too.” You say into my thankful I’m only wearing underwear empty eyes. and a big t-shirt by the time we make We slowly make our way it out of the car, for the wood of the back to the car before the sun dock is damp with morning dew and rises even more. A black boy and might’ve soaked through my soft a white girl in a Benz before 7 cotton shorts. There was more space a.m. reeks of trouble. The seatbelt between us than there had been in you demand I wear, like you care the year I’ve known you. The only about my life anymore, pulls at noise was the soft exhale of breath my neck as I lay my head against leaving your lungs. It’s laced with the window. Your hand is on top smoke and heartbreak, drowning of mine, death-gripping my thigh. out all the things I want to say. You I want to cry. I want to let out all of cough, ashing it, then throwing it into the angry tears and heartbroken the water. I want to yell about the tears and how-could-you-treatecosystem or me-this-way the turtles tears right at or what an “We say bye in unison; for the this moment inconsiderate first time we both mean it at with your hand asshole you are. bruising my the same time.” I want to yell thigh but I about anything don’t. I hold it in and everything but you beat me to because I know they won’t come it. I jump at the deep grumble of and I know you won’t care. I don’t your morning voice. “How could want to hear about the sodium of you—…how could you turn out like my sadness ruining your sister’s the rest?” I leap up, ready to defend boyfriend’s new car. When we myself but you pull me back down pull into my driveway, you loosen into you. “Say you don’t love him. your grip but refuse to unlock the Say he means nothing and I mean door without getting one last kiss. everything.” You sob into my chest. We say bye in unison; for the first I coo softly into your ear, rocking time we both mean it at the same back and forth on your lap. “He time. means nothing, he is nothing. You I thought I saw the devil are everything, and I love you.” I this morning when I walked past whisper. You look up at me, the same a boy wearing the cameo jacket empty eyes I had been staring into I used to use as a blanket when for months now still just as empty. you came to comfort me during 80


the winter months. The boys I had once known as my future brothers stared with their mouths agape at my ability to still come to this place, they weren’t the first. They sheepishly greet me. Side hugs, whispers of “I’m so glad you’re okay” all around. Even the people who saw the good in you are convinced you’re a murderer. I enjoy playing the victim because it’s easier on my already weak heart but I bit at your throat almost as many times as you did mine. I bled a little more, you still bled. You thought you saw the devil this morning too, it was just me.

81


God drains the stars Mary Feimi

Eve, having existed in God’s thought, she appeared upon the earth. —Genesis 2:23 I. Glitter laces his fingers, sculpts her with blood and bones, covers her with translucent skin. violet, black blue collide against her narrow waist. He presses down, forms her hips, shapes breasts the size of lemons, nipples like raspberries. Rips open her mouth, “too big”, stitches torn tissue together until the only movement her mouth can make is to kiss Him. II. When He cradled her in his arms, her eyes opened for the first time. Looked at Him as if His stars told lies. As if His hands shouldn’t have cupped her breast that way, shouldn’t glide His hand between her thighs. Stomach clenched, never felt salt crystallize to sweat. Skin broken in hives, the color of grapefruit. Lungs so big the whole sky could fill her with air every time He touches her.

82


Traces of Lipstick on a Cigarette Remy Cunningham

83


Artemis

Hannah Chelgren 84


White and balanced shells Jacob Dvorak

T

he first night he dreamt of listened to her speak. She spoke silence. He lay in the ocean, fluid, wandering, though he balanced on his back, the waves knew they could both feel time moving along his body, pressing into pulling them. They had met in the skin of his back, pivoting him the restaurant years ago, and he along the line of the water. The sun could not imagine her anywhere was cold and diffused, and there else, and could not imagine her was no color, in the water, the air, or silent, and could not want her to anything he saw. His hair soaked in stop talking. She spoke him tired, the water and fell away, leaving the and he would not speak back. He scalp lined with salt. The salt filled bought her meals and when she his pores, the water burned his palm- had finished eating and drinking lines red. When his head turned and talking, he left her there. He and the pores walked on his shifted, the own down the grains of salt “He stood on the water in every beach and slept would not stay dream. Every dream he stood, there thinking sleeping in his about her, her skin, would fall every dream he saw no colors.” skin and the out with their dew that rested arms outstretched and leave the air on it when they ate. She was colors in webby strings of quiet gold. the only one who talked, and he He lifted himself and stood would watch her, her lips alive like on the water. He stood on the water waves in front of him. He would in every dream, trying to be more imagine her body like the ocean than waving. Every dream he stood, and see in her every wave on her every dream he saw no colors. The hips and cheeks, rounded full sun wrapped him, he could not and speckled with dew. He would breathe, and his ankles swallowed think, while she spoke to him, of the water beneath him. He sank into laying his skin on top of hers and the ocean, became the sand of the walking down her like the beach, ocean, covered his nose and mouth balancing the thin soles of his feet in shells and skeleton, his nose filled against the warmth of hers. He with small shells and finally his eyes would picture it and say nothing. sealed over in salt and suddenly wax He could not remember the last flakes of water. The sun became pale, time he surprised himself. foggy, and he awoke gripping his The morning after mattress, fingernails swollen with dreaming, he left to walk early. blood, lips salty with sweat. The sand had formed tough He saw a woman at night, plateaus of solid ground in the met her in the beach restaurant and night—it had rained—and, by 85


instinct, by a dreaming intuition, he stood on its edge, his sandals giving into the ground, softening its grey edge into rapidly falling powder. The rubber of the soles, worn into flatness and a soft tan, struggled with the balance of his walk and there were several times he fell into the upper part of the sand bank, which had dried quickly in the morning, and he didn’t mind. When he stood, his chin powdered by the ground, and he would gently brush it away, savoring even its light scratch. The bottom half of the bank was muddy. He fell and bruised a leg with mud and crust. He held his sandals and walked into the shallows, letting the water soak his feet, his ankles, his calves. When he walked out, footprints remained in the soil of the bank, dotted in its middle with shells, white smooth shells that spiraled like flowers, and when he saw them he almost spoke. The beach was not as crowded as later in the day, and as he walked along the line of the ocean, sandals on again, he dried and stared at the sky, walked down the beach further into the shadow of the pier, made of torn dry wood, bleached by the saltwater and sun. It was here that he would meet the woman, on a restaurant on the pier. He often remembered meeting her, imagined her as he walked the beach, her talking, her regular portions of food the same every night, her skin lined by water from below the pier. Imagined the water on her arm, her hands, as she wiped it from her face. He would talk to her. He 86

would tell her about the beach and his walks there, about how he tried to balance on the sand, the beach houses, the washing of feet and the filling of sandals with sand, the shells he left behind him, cushioning his feet, protecting them from the sharp hard ground, would tell her about his dream of silence, his dream of being swallowed by the ocean. He would tell her how he thought of her skin, how he thought of the water and dew sitting there, how her skin made him scream silent, how he couldn’t speak in dreams and that now when he saw her wet skin, her hair flowering sandy around her head in haloes, he would speak, would speak, would sing in speech along her skin, rub a line of shells and feeling into her legs and lips, a circle of lotused lips on her stomach and cheeks. He sat in the sand, opened his mouth and closed it, practiced the feeling of air inside it. He could see the restaurant on the pier. And saw his smiling woman there. She was there in the morning and his shoulder jerked downward, the left of his body tore from him, his jaw ached now and he watched her. Another woman sat next to her and they talked. The women talked to each other. One talked for a minute and the other responded for a minute. He timed it. And every other minute, his haloed woman would kiss the other. Would kiss her cheek and hold her hand. He saw it all, felt his feet go numb and his knees shaking. His jaw was tight and hurt no longer, and he fell to the ground, his back straight and tight. Dreamt again. He could not


balance himself on his back, which bruised and bled in the water, and he fell in immediately. He woke and left his house, was on the beach at night. He walked into the water and stood there, the water higher on his body, swallowing his legs and anchoring him to the soggy and liquid ground. For a moment he stood against the waves, felt he was made of steel and concrete and grey dry wood, was solid against the waves and could speak and sing, could feel the bottoms of his feet on the bed of the mud and sea, the sea floor curving like a body against him, filling his ears with saltwater, full liquid, the waves like the force of a body pressing into him, and he felt that he could stand speaking its praises for hours, for weeks, every morning for the rest of his life. He stood there, rooted, and the waves rocked him, and for a second he stood still, shook, fell into the water, righted himself, was thrown by the waves around.

87


Photograph 64 Karryl Eugene

88


Ecophagy Mackenzie Steele

I, the festering tree. You, the poisonous fungi who feasted on my putrid flesh, sagged under yellow pustules, damp with receding moss. The forest around us was choking, its roots grasping at loose soil, constantly searching for escape. I could feel thick grey poking at my thin branches, and my bark became drenched in burning. I felt you still suckling at my sap, even while tinges of blue peeked out from the heart of the blaze. I shook my panicked branches, trying to stymie the heat, but only managed to enrage the crimson waves lapping at my skin. They tasted the charred life within my inner rings and spat fire into my earthen rivulets. They swallowed me in a wash of orange death. But somehow, even as I crumbled slowly down, embers melting into me, I noticed you still lingering.

89

Profile for Élan Literary Magazine

Elan Spring 2016 Online Edition  

Élan is an international student literary magazine and a publication of the Creative Writing department at Douglas Anderson School of the Ar...

Elan Spring 2016 Online Edition  

Élan is an international student literary magazine and a publication of the Creative Writing department at Douglas Anderson School of the Ar...

Advertisement