Sibyl Elmira Collegeâ€™s Literary Magazine 2009
Sibyl The Nation’s Oldest Continually Published
Student Run Literary Magazine Volume 138 Published May 2009 Jamie Carlisle’09
Jolene Carr ’09 Erin Damon’09 Kara Fairchild’12 Katie Jordan’11 Chelsea Rose’12 Meghan Stone’12 Heather Turnbull’11
Raven See’11 Rachel Plass’11
Professor Heather Bartlett Dr. MaryJo Mahoney
All Photographic Art By Michelle Kilgour’10
Table of Contents [one] Into The Deep
Jon Bourn “Into the deep end” 3 Christopher Jenkins “ring” 5 jon bourn “Two Bloody Sneakers” 7 Leslie Swayze “Peter, Peter, Pumpkineater” 9 Jamie Carlisle “Little Pink fascist panties” 10 lesile swayze“modern cinderellas kick off their glass slippers” 11
raven see “No ONe Ever Said Life was fair” christopher jenkins “One Less clown” jon bourn “Hunger” meghan stone “Just another poem” abigaIl coover “Allegiance” ashley loga “An ode to espresso”
[three] Where To?
15 17 22 23 25 27
krystle morrison “Sound of a smile” 30 meghan stone “Write With ME” 33 katie jordon “Puzzle Pieces” 34 adam killebrew “I want you to go into business” 37 raven see “All i really wanna do...” 39
[four] sweet thunder
Leslie Swayze “Manifest destiny” 43 Heather turnbull “Sweet thunDer” 44 meghan stone “I tied her up today” 48 ryan kittle “attack of the man-child” from l’homme-enfant 49 erin francisco “Serrated song of...him, and myself” 52 jon bourn “10 ways people look at the passerby (and one way to actually go about it” 55
3rd Annual Contest Winners poetry
lesile swayze “peter, peter, pumpkineater”: first prize jon bourn “10 Ways people look at the passerby (and one way to actually go about it”: Second prize
christopher jenkins “Ring”: first prize katie jordan “puzzle pieces”: second prize
[one] into the deep
Jon Bourn Into the Deep End Stand on the edge, feeling like your heart is in a puddle at your feet in a hot liquid mass reminiscent of oddly-colored vomit; Not knowing what to do or how to even begin asking yourself the correct plan of how to escape this horrible predicament you have woken up to find yourself in. Your nervous system fails; you feel nothing â€“ numb as if you were given a hundred doses of Novocain. Numb, numb all over, causing your body to fall forward, down, and through; breaking the surface you gasp and struggle, gasp and struggle like freshly pounced upon prey. 3
You are all alone â€“ stroke, kick, fight, or just give in, allowing your body to rise, back first, to the top. Will everyone have to wonder where it went wrong?
Christopher Jenkins Ring
Edward picked up his coffee, took a sip, and looked down. Small drops from the overflow of his mug speckled his chin as he carefully wiped it off. The ring lay there on the spotless surface of the countertop as Edward glanced around the kitchen to see if Sarah was nearby. She always kept a cleanly existence in the house, making sure that the kitchen itself was a sterilized masterpiece. Every type of utensil had its own drawer, the plates were symmetrical towers of porcelain, and the floor transformed into a waxed gloss. He knew she would find something amiss in an instant, but that is why he carefully put the ring on such a white surface. It was a perfect, if plain, circle, with a golden-brown coloring that offset its white background. If Sarah walked in now and saw him with the ring, much of the surprise would be gone. Edward had thought about this for a while, toying with the idea, but not looking too deep into it. The argument he just had with Sarah half hour ago brought it up again. He could have easily avoided the spat, but Edwardsâ€™s stubbornness drew him in. Sarah yakked about their relationship, where they were going in it, and the joint responsibility for the house. Her house, actually, though it might as well be both of theirs as he visited so often. She often entertained friends from work, and claimed that appearance was key, but he made the mistake of joking about Sarah having an obsession with cleaning. This comment made her storm off, venting and fuming, leaving Edward in the kitchen to mull over the conversation. That last point brought up his ring for Sarah again. He and Sarah had been a couple for over two years, so why shouldnâ€™t they be equals under the same roof? They did regard each other as best friends despite the fights that would sometimes erupt. After she saw the ring, Sarah would know exactly what he thought about her right 5
then. Edward peered closer and saw that he was mistaken about the ringâ€™s precision. It had a small dent, but the imperfection was minute. Besides, that was not the point. After the discovery, her exclamation would be so loud that she would come running for him. Of course, in order for the surprise to be complete he would need to leave the kitchen. Edward gulped the coffee down, taking care not to spill anymore. Other options where the ring could be placed have already been covered. The couch was first choice, but the ring may be lost in it quickly. It was the same with the chairs and the stained wooden bureau down the hall. It was best that he left it on the countertop, her homemakerâ€™s eye would see it in an instant. Hopefully, Sarah would be able to understand that he was trying to take action, certainly in a way unexpected, but a step nonetheless. Edward awarded himself a small smile, but quickly frowned and put the cup down. He remembered the threats she made, reconsidered, grabbed a towel, and wiped the ring off the counter. He dumped the remaining coffee into the sink and washed the mug, rinsing away all trace.
two bloody sneakers The world broke down, ceasing to spin on that cursed day when the doves cried in unison. Ceasing to spin, the world wept when the doves cried in unison knowing the thirteen poor souls now slept. The world wept seeing the pain, knowing the thirteen souls now slept the anguish, my heart could not contain. Seeing the pain, my mind knew it was not fair. The anguish, my heart could not contain; I still inwardly weep, even now, from my chair. My mind knew it was so not fair â€“ death, for going to school. I still inwardly weep, even now, from my chair, wishing no more to have to experience something so cruel.
Death, for going to school, how could this be?
peter, peter, pumpkin eater I felt you carving me up as I slept, and I woke with a gap toothed grin next to a seedy pile of innards. Soon I will rot, and everyone will see the black disease overtake me. My mouth is a window. You did not cut me a tongue; I cannot shriek for help. I feel you carving me up as I worry, and my guts become stale in the wind.
little pink fascist panties On the corner of 3rd and Maple I stand, got my fringed jeans on got my black tennis shoes on got my red sweater on but the little pink fascist panties bite my butt. In the cafeteria at the big table I sit, a can of cherry coke fizzling a mound of mashed potatoes a piece of underdone meat a slice of chocolate pie, but they strangle my butt with the elastic band turning my cheeks blue. Sometimes they like to talk to me, they hide in the corner of my top dresser drawer. The pink lace full of little flowers, a tulip a daisy a rose and a pink silk bow, My little pink fascist panties, my little Benito Mussolini. 10
Sometimes they tell me ‘drop your head into the toilet, vomit until bile spills from your nose,’ ‘stay in your room, cry until salty tears burn your cheeks,’ ‘you’ve been bad’ they say, ‘let us make you feel pretty.’ They always snap at my hand when I dig through the mounds of my multi-color underwear. I feel their pink lace snag on my nails, I feel their scratchiness on my hand I feel their hunger in the tight elastic band, My little pink fascist panties that summon themselves to my butt and suffocate like cling wrap. They grow in the dark corner of my dresser drawer. Their watchful eyes, bid me wear them, they might as well carry a gun a knife a noose. 11
modern cinderellas kick off their glass slippers
Stupor clouds the room like the hazy senses of everyone here. Hands grope scantily-clad bodies beaded with sweat. Tight silk dresses are hiked up to the knees; arms rise in the air and throb to the deafening bass. Hips gyrating, ass to groin, couples grind blindly. They fumble for flesh to hold onto. Strangers paint one another with coats of saliva. Strobe lights capture each jagged second of this pornographic dream-scene. Stilettos line the dance floor, kicked off by women too drunk to stand on pointed tines. Their bare feet absorb pools of beer and grime. Someone drops a tumbler. Shards fly everywhere, zing against bare legs. The throng rushes outward like an explosion; breaking glass pierces the air. Within seconds, the accident is forgotten. Barefoot girls slog across the site. Maybe they will notice the blood on their feet when they wake up in a strangerâ€™s bed tomorrow.
no one ever said life was fair Put your listening ears on; gather around; take your seat; pay attention. Have you heard this one? Once upon a time the good and brave knight defeated the evil wizard. Now listen up. You’ll like this one. A long time ago in a land far far away the well-behaved little beggar girl became a beautiful princess. Listen to this one. There once was a boy who was so good that he could pull a magical sword from a stone. Sit still; hear what you’re being told. Do you remember the one about the three little pigs? I remember everything I’ve been told. Now don’t start day dreaming; listen up. Do you want to hear about the bad little boy who cried wolf? Stop messing around. Listen and hear about the boy who stole jam and had to white wash the fence. Be quiet; keep your eyes and ears open. You must have been told the one about David and Goliath. But why was I never told the one about Job. Don’t stare out the window. Keep on task. Have you heard of the good little boy that never told a lie? He grew up to be the president. Open your book. Once upon a time there were 13 colonies that fought for their independence from a cruel king. You should know this one. They became the greatest country in the world. Make sure you follow along. Not so long ago in a land across the ocean an evil man started a world war. Remember this one? The villain was defeated and the innocent people were saved. Do you need to hear anymore? I am quite sure I’ve heard it all before. Well then get up. What are you doing just sitting there. Why don’t you know the one about the brave country that went to war to defeat the enemy and came home broken and divided? Look around you. This is no time for your day dreaming. How about the strong man that fought for equality, peace, and justice? Didn’t you hear this one? He was shot and killed. Why are you still sitting there. Do something. 15
Have you not heard of the men who worked hard all of their lives and died in poverty. Open your eyes; where has your head been? So whatever happened to your happily ever after? Donâ€™t be silly no one believes in fairy tales.
christopher jenkins one less clown
Frederick gave an inward sneer, fixed his face into a grin, and began to tie off balloons into animals. Children clustered at his feet, clambering over his oversized shoes and tugging on his polkadot pants. Each one wanted a specific animal, screaming out the names: a giraffe, a lion, a hippo. It was too many orders for Frederick to take in all at once. His head pound under the thick layers of face-paint. Quickly tying off a balloon, he would immediately thrust it into some childâ€™s hands only to be met by a dozen empty ones. Seeing a clown at the circus meant balloon creations, and the children converged like predators on the weakened kill that was Frederick. Trying to satisfy the little cretins in the baggy costume made him sweat and he knew he would soon overheat in it. The make-up melted from the moisture on his forehead but he dared not wipe it or else smear his face. In the inner pit of the circus tent the animals below would soon be out with their trainers. Frederick was trapped, the inner rail at his back, unable to slide away and escape from the horde of youngsters. The first of the animals came out. A troop of zebras cantered and neighed at the audience in the stands. The children fled to sit with their parents. Most of them had dropped their balloons. As the zebras pranced around the pit several feet below him, he thought of how he became a clown for the circus. The managers convinced him with decent payment for nothing more than making people laugh. Juggling and cartwheels were natural talents and pulling pranks and parading with the other clowns were easy job requirements to get used to. Frederick immediately signed up when the next circus troop came into his hometown. It was a good life for the first couple of years. It was enjoyable to see the families come to the shows. He would often try his best, wanting nothing 17
more than appreciation and laughter in return. The trumpeting elephants came out, each one with a rider. Frederick watched, unimpressed, when he felt something hit his nose. He spun around, and another object bounced off his forehead. A boy stood there with a bag of peanuts in one grubby hand and with the other he was hurling its contents at Frederick. Chocolate smeared his face and his dirty blond hair sat disheveled on his head. As Frederick stared, he remembered why he hated being a clown. Making people enjoy their time at the circus was the purpose of his job, but being an object of ridicule was not. Being dressed with a tiny hat and large shoes was not a license for kids to do whatever leapt into their minds. Frederick put up with it at first, willing to ignore the pestering children for the sake of the show. This aggravation proved to be a poor reward for the circus. It soon got to be too much for him and the other performers did not sympathize whenever he complained. As the years went by, the pleasure of being an entertainer turned sour and Frederick began to despise all life under the age of ten. The harassment and whining became a constant in his existence. As hard as Frederick tried to please the children with antics and jokes, they’re demands never stopped. Another peanut hit him in the eye, the salt stinging him. With one hand trying to rub the pain out, Frederick fumbled for the rubber balloons in his vest pocket. The giraffes came out a little wary and skittish from the elephant’s trumpeting. Frederick blew the balloon up, waiting for the inevitable demand for a critter to be named. “What would you like?” “A tiger!” A tiger was an easy enough request, so why be a pain about it? He began to blow the balloon up, but lost his breath as a barrage of peanuts peppered his face. The balloon sputtered into the pit and Frederick reached for another one. 18
“A tiger! Now!” the kid yelled. Frederick felt a pain in his forehead. These migraines did not usually come on until after a performance of clown-induced stress. This child must be an exceptional case, Frederick thought. He blew the balloon up again, his gloved hands slipping against the rubber. Behind the boy sat the mother, Frederick observed. She was in the front row of the stands, taking pictures of the gibbering boy. She was laughing, thinking it was all a grand moment for her camera. Despite the show in the circus pit, her boy was the star. Frederick clenched his jaw, trying desperately not to break clowncharacter. The headache worked its way from his forehead into his temples. The polka-dot clown outfit stuck to him and the sweat blended into his eye, added more to the salt-sting. The audience’s entire attention was on the animals in the pit. “A tiger!” came the shrill cry from the boy. More peanuts. The boy’s handler laughed and clapped her hands. Frederick was done with the balloon and tied off the ends. After this, he will quit. No more performances, no more circuses, Frederick was finished with being a clown. After this kid, new employment would be in order. He passed the finished tiger-balloon to the boy, hoping that the little nightmare will take it and leave. The kid took the tiger. After staring thoughtfully at it for a moment, he threw it at Frederick’s feet where it popped. “That’s not tiger enough!” the child-beast screamed. “Make it again!” The mother laughed some more. Frederick’s clown face was twisted into a half-cocked choked grimmace as he fought to stay in character, but the bubbling emotions were enough. The boy shifted from foot to foot with what Frederick thought was an expected, entitled expression on his face. Frederick stood against the railing of the pit in a kind of disbelief at this rejection of his tiger. “Ladies and Gentlemen,” but the announcer was drowned out by the sound of snarls at the entrance to the pit. The audience 19
collectively craned their heads forward. Even the mother lost her focus on Frederick. The howls and growls continued, making the exiting giraffes skittish and the crowds all the more excited. Then Frederick got a marvelous idea. The cheering people, the screech of the boy, and general cacophony of the circus tent made it hard to focus, but Frederick knew what had to be done. Besides, if he was going to quit, what did it matter? Once it was done, the audience understandably distracted, Frederick would make a break. Who would notice one less clown? Several more peanuts bounced off his head and into the pit. The noise from the entrance to the pit grew louder as a cage was led into view. The snarling intensified and glimpses of orange and stripes greeted the audience as the cage door was dropped. Frederick blinked from the make-up in his eyes and turned around to the boy. Peanuts whizzed through the air at a frantic pace. Frederick was beginning to like his idea the more he thought about it. â€œWant to see a real tiger?â€? Frederick said as he reached forward. The janitor picked up litter from the circus pit. Peanuts and shredded cloth littered the cement floor. It was too bad the circus had to end that way, he thought to himself. The janitor witnessed it all. He was standing at the time by the pitâ€™s entrance, pail in hand to quickly clean up after the animals. On the other side of the pit the clown stood by the railing. He was reaching down to pick up a random child, most likely to pose for the woman nearby with the camera. The janitor was pleased that the clown was demonstrating some pride and dedication for the circus work. Quality performers were coming harder to come by each year. The small boy was thrashing as the clown picked him up. The janitor remembered the piercing shriek as the clown went tumbling over the side as he lost his balance. By then it was too late and the cages were already 20
open. The boy was safe at least, the clown dropping him on the right side of the railing. The janitor pulled out a mop and began to swab the tacky brown crust off the cement. It was regrettable, he did like that clown a lot. He should be a hero.
jon bourn hunger
Struggling Floundering like a fishâ€Ś Too damn clichĂŠ. Eating Swallowing the words I write hoping to be satisfied. Always eager for more feeling like Iâ€™m starving and will never be full again. Needing Striving for bulk and meaning, for a point others have yet to get. Poignant Honest The hand moves on
just another poem I was just another poem in your notebook of fallacious jargon. You started with a blank sheet, envisioning the composition you would write. As you began to form the words, everything was blissful. Your fellow brothers knew the perfection wasn't eternal; they negated your expectation, and after the second stanza, the words became distasteful, disoriented, disliking to your fancy. You erased, rewrote, moved the adjectives around, but in the end, you gave in to their allegation. You reached over your desk with pressed lips and frustrated eyes, tore the paper out, crumpled it into a ball, and threw me away. I joined the others surrounding the wastebasket: Your memory to be forgotten.
A victim of writer's block. Just another poem.
abigail coover allegiance
This I swore with up-raised chin as he stood before me, his eyes a blade at my throat. And now I hover at the frost-brittle window, bound to the liarâ€™s art, and I can feel the pendulumâ€™s blade swing, though I will not claim responsibility for what happens in the courtyard. I walk behind shutters of the morbid house, I grin and curtsey to its boar-faced chieftain, but he cannot hear. I do not march in step with these who hold manâ€™s breath in a pen-stroke, but in the sway of those offshore, beyond this city of grit and artillery, pitted and scarred by the rule of its law.
I long to carve into these ghastly walls, inscribe them with the voice of every skull in the courtyard, but only with my silence can I make their number cease to grow. I am a shell, for I have left myself at sea in the wind-swollen sails of noble menâ€™s ships, in the smiles of comrades not skilled in deceit. I think of them when I speak the half-lie, when I pledge to the monarch and his shadow.
an ode to espresso As bitter as burnt bread, resembling liquid mud spewed up from the streets, to some it is a delicacy enjoyed with a lit fag and the flow of words. A deliciously dirty water sipped slowly. Smooth and powerful, it fuels my life. To me, it is liquid gold bringing with it spark and passion.
[three] where to?
krystle morrison sound of a smile
Her smiles are fake. Her words are silent. Sadie tunes her ebony bass guitar with practiced precision. Rolling her fingers over the metal strings, she tests each open note a few times for satisfaction. I sit beside her on the edge of the platform, feeling like I’m on the edge of the world. The hall is populated with over a thousand seats. Soon they’ll fill with people, people who’ve been waiting anxiously to see us perform. It’s unimaginable. “We wouldn’t be here without you,” I remind my bandmate. As I expect, Sadie stays silent. She rests her bass on the space beside her like a mother easing her child into bed. Picking at the wristband hiding her scars, she sighs nervously. She weaves her fingers together on her lap and stares at them, still holding that feeble smile. Maybe she’s happy to be here. Maybe she doesn’t want to be anywhere. Sadie only spoke to me once since I met her. She was fresh from high school and near my age. Our band needed a bassist, she was recommended, and I went with my guitar to audition her. She granted me a smile when I told her she could join, but all she said was, “Thank you.” That was two years ago. None of us forced her to talk. We let her be who she was. She came to every practice. She made few mistakes. She established herself as a phenomenal musician. Even so, Sadie was walking dead. She composed her riffs with minor notes. Being the only other girl, I felt the need to change that. But I did nothing. I regret it now. They’re testing the lighting in the theater. Blue, red, yellow, and white flash and fade around us as I struggle to say something, 30
something that might make a difference in her life. Every potential thought turns into words in my head. The words never reach my lips. Sadie tucks her sable hair behind her ears, revealing that face of many secrets. I long to know her. I want explanations for all those hushed scenes. I found those torn notebook pages of rejected lyrics. I saw that blood on her wrist before she fled from me. Will I ever know the reasons? She returns her bass to her lap slowly, lifting it by the neck. The muscles in her right arm tense against the ten pounds of mahogany until it’s safe at rest. Calloused hands grip the fretboard upon the lower notes. She plays that familiar solemn melody the whole band knows, but only she will play. Perhaps I have no choice but to join her. Picking up my guitar, I do. I’m not used to using such somber notes. I envision my guitar strings snapping under the emotional weight, but they hold firm. This isn’t right. Unable to stand the unnatural feeling, my fingers pause. Sadie glances my way, a look of forced serenity. Her funeral song holds its steady pace. It’s like a countdown to her demise, a dirge played in drop D tuning. The melodic heartbeats grow slower, softer, shorter . . . An unexpected violent note breaks the air. I see her fingers leave the frets as the black instrument escapes her hands, tilts forward on her lap, and topples off the stage. She reaches for it, misses, then withdraws just before the dull thud of metallic discomfort sounds. The background of our band has broken. Sadie rises and stumbles down the left staircase, swiftly arriving at the scene of the accident. “It’s okay,” I comfort from above. “You have a backup one.” She ignores me, handling the pieces of her treasure like 31
broken glass. Her mouth stretches into a thin line. Her steel blue eyes fall to gray. I make my way down to her phantasmal figure. “It’s okay,” I repeat. My fingers meet her shoulder. It trembles beneath my touch. Her skin is colorless and cold. Voices come from the stage, wanting to know what happened. I’m watching Sadie’s lips quiver as she cradles a single silver string in her hands. The tears appear, but I’m not sure they’re necessary. The instrument’s not beyond repair. She’s fighting against something inside her. Her body’s stuttered movements worry me. I wonder why she can’t hold it back like before. Do I want to see that ravaged smile or those meaningful tears? “I can’t do this anymore,” she tells me. Her voice is raw and strained. “I can’t play this song anymore.” I tighten my arm around her, not sure how to react to the foreign melody of her speech. “Don’t worry,” I soothe. “We can fix this.” She slides off the checkered wristband. It lands atop the fragmented bass. One finger traces the exposed white lines. “Don’t let it happen again,” she pleads, then presses her head to my heart. I can feel her body shake against mine, and I realize that I still don’t know her. What battles has she been fighting behind those lies? I want to know it all. I’m one step closer. Sadie’s muffled voice finally breaks through the sobs. “Thank you.” She raises her head and smooths back the fallen strands of hair. I barely recognize her now. The muscles holding her lips into a curved shape seem stronger than ever. The smile is new yet natural upon her face. No invisible forces keep it in place. It changes her spirit’s grave tempo to an upbeat rhythm. It amplifies all the features I didn’t notice before. It’s evanescent, but it’s beautiful. 32
meghan stone write with me
To a dear friend, You are a broken shadow hiding amidst the thorns and weeds, clinging to vestiges of scenes that make you cry. Try to alleviate the pain from his goodbyes. Two different sides: We both know what it's like to love a phantom in disguise, and all his solemn vows, our foolish thoughts, mean nothing now. Delusions don't construe the why and how. The lovely lyre, once serenading blessed songs, lies shattered in a mess of lonely hearts and shallow wrongs. Our separate stories fell apart halted with no end, but keep your pencil of the past, and throw the paper in the trash: Someday we'll write again
katie jordan puzzle pieces
A corner of pink poked out from under the telephone. It stood out against the faded brown of the desk. Sighing inwardly, Frank slid the phone aside revealing a post-it note decorated in familiar shaky handwriting. Call Andrea. Lunch date at three. His callused fingers retrieved the note from its resting place and reached up to place it among the others on the wall above the desk. Scanning the rows of colorful paper, Frank wondered how everything could have changed so quickly. It seemed not so long ago that he and Margaret had sat down with the doctor and listened quietly as he explained the stages of Alzheimer’s. He remembered reaching over to grip one of Margaret’s small hands, not because she needed it, but because he did. Frank’s hand trembled as he traced each reminder; Margaret’s determined strategy to fight back against her failing mind. He kept finding the fluorescent notes everywhere, in the opinion section of last week’s newspaper (laundromat closes at 7), on the handle of her curling iron (turn off when finished! red button on bottom), and even in the cupboard on the sugar dish (two scoops for me, one for Frank). Each time a new post-it was discovered, Frank felt a small twinge in his stomach. He couldn’t bear to throw them away so he took to sticking them here, on the wall above the desk, creating a collage of her illness. She used to sit at this desk every night, reading endless articles and books on the disease. “Frank,” she used to say, “I won’t let this damn thing take my mind. I won’t.” But it did, slowly, like walking out of the house in her slippers, and forgetting which drawer held her favorite fleece sweater. That’s when the post-it notes started. She got the idea from the pages of some glossy magazine. Frank was sure the magazine 34
had only mentioned the notes as a way to remember to go to your doctor’s appointment or to not forget to send in a bill, but when Margaret read it she saw her cure. She was so sure that these little pieces of paper were the answer to everything, even when they stopped working. Frank only had a half hour until visiting hours started. Shrugging on his heavy coat and worn out loafers, he ventured out into the crisp, cold air and followed the route he now knew by heart to the hospital. *** “She’s sleeping right now,” the nurse said, “But go on in if you like.” He thanked her and slowly pushed open the door, stepping carefully around the creaky indentation in the floor. Sliding into the chair placed next to her bed, he gazed down at his wife’s vacant face. The grey locks lay skewed on the pillow under her head. The lines on her face seemed more prominent, the paper thin skin hanging loose around her closed eyes. Frank couldn’t bear how weak she looked; Margaret had always been the strong one. He traced his fingers down her arm until he reached the bony hand. Noticing that she had clenched it in a fist, he gently began to pry the fingers loose, exposing a crumpled piece of paper. The bright pink reflected in Frank’s eyes as he flattened the note out into his palm and read the words. Tell Frank to finish the puzzle. Frank’s mind immediately returned to the image of a small, dusty table forgotten in the corner of their living room. Scattered atop it was a partially completed puzzle, a calm lake surrounded by colorful trees. Margaret loved puzzles, especially the hard ones like this, with no specific lines or borders. However, she became frustrated when her mind could no longer handle the challenge. Frank would often catch her trying to put the pieces together at night when she thought he was in bed. Suddenly inspired, Frank knew what he had to do. Leaning down to kiss her lightly on the 35
forehead, he slid the pink paper in his pocket and stepped out of the room. *** “I’m Margaret. What’s your name?” She asked her husband pleasantly. The twinge returned to Frank’s stomach as he introduced himself once again to the woman he loved so deeply. Refusing to let this deter him, he set the box down onto the table in front of her. “Would you like to do a puzzle?” Margaret’s eyes lit up and for a moment Frank thought he saw part of her hidden behind them. He poured the pieces carefully from the box and watched as she hesitantly reached out to grasp a corner of the blue lake. “I love puzzles,” he heard her softly murmur. Margaret’s hand began to waver and Frank grasped it firmly, helping her fingers to close around the small piece. He scanned the table, searching among the disarray for a connection to the part of the puzzle that Margaret now held. Finding what he was looking for, Frank slowly guided her piece to join with the one in his own hand, the lake meeting the shore.
i want you to go into business It was noon when James entered the bar he frequented for his lunch hour. He conducted a quick survey of his surroundings. A bearded flannel shirt and coveralls; faded blue jeans and a trucker cap; a trio of black business suits: the usual motley assortment. James plunked down on an empty stool at the bar and ordered his meal, with a nip of Scotch. The amber drink was welcome. Fresh out of school, he had taken a job at the office. Now, six months later, his patience for it had worn through. One relieving nip of scotch turned into a numbing four or five. With each drink, James’ tie further loosened. Eventually, the knot was undone; the tie lay tangled with his suitcoat, discarded on the bar’s floor. When James was a boy, he would play with his plastic dinosaurs by his father’s Barcalounger. The imaginary dialog between the green stegosaurus and the red triceratops was interspersed with armchair philosophies from the man above: “It’s the clothes that make the man, my boy!” “James, a man needs to attain high station in life!” “Digging for rocks is no job for a son of mine!” When James was a boy, his father sat in the Barcalounger, wearing maroon plaid slippers and drinking Scotch, happy with his clothes, his status, and the lack of rocks in his workplace. Three o’clock rolled around. James mumbled something about really earning this unsanctioned three-hour lunch break. Clumsily, he left the bar and walked back to the office. No one in the bar noticed the coat and tie left rumpled upon the floor. James ambled back to his cubicle as inconspicuously as he 37
could. No one noticed that he had returned from lunch two hours late, or that he had fallen below the dress code. At his desk, James scrawled a note. It began: Dear Mr. Boss Sir, I wish to have decided. . . Irritated with writing, James crumpled the note and tossed it toward the trashcan. He then wove his way through the maze of cubicles and partitions to Mr. Boss’ office. Mr. Boss was on the phone. Raising a lazy eyebrow, he frowned at James’ odor and appearance, extending an index finger as if to say, “I’ll deal with you in a minute.” Paying no mind to Mr. Boss’ gesture, James placed a small green plastic toy on the desk. Mr. Boss halted his conversation, pressing the ‘hold’ button and setting the handset down. The right corner of his scowling mouth twitched upward. His nose, then the corner his right eye, followed suit. He began to laugh; a chuckle at first, but then swelling to a hearty roar. The office staff peered up from cubicles like prairie dogs watching to see one of their own come to a horrific end. Mr. Boss’ laughter subsided. He tossed the plastic dinosaur toward his office door. “You can go now, James.” James bent to pick up the toy on his way out. Mr. Boss let out a grumpy hurrumph and picked up the handset. He propped his feet on the desk, and resumed his business.
all i really wanna do... Sometimes it was Tulsa Oklahoma. We knew him as Jack. He had just ridden in on an old Camero from out west. Sometimes it was Duluth Minnesota. He was the product of a broken down coal mining town. Other times it was Greenwich Village. He was a genuine New Yorker. This time as he tuned his guitar and the café’s make shift spot light settled on him, he was from Cavanaugh Michigan. “Just arrived” he told us between sets. He had outgrown the last town, knew he had talent, and like a lot of people was looking to make it big. I can’t say as I ever really believed any of the stories he told up there on stage. I wasn’t sure about the ones he told off stage for that matter. We knew him as Jack Allan. He had been staying with us at the apartment for about a month. He couldn’t have been more than twenty. He had round cheeks, a hard set jaw, and squinted eyes. And no matter where he went, he wore a Huck-Finn style cap pulled down over a mess of hair. It made him look like a little boy. He was energetic in a nervous way. He had a twitch in his right knee and never really could sit still. He kept to himself but befriended everybody. You’d think a kid like him couldn’t make it in the city. Some of the other girls tried to mother him. But he knew his way up Bleeker and down MacDougal better than anybody below 14th street. He pulled his weight around the place but didn’t say much. He mostly watched, always absorbing everything. When he did though, he had a story to tell. To listen to him talk he had a history that spanned sixty years. He had been orphaned, grew up in and out of foster care, had run away from seven different homes at least ten times, and couldn’t remember the name of the last person he stayed with. He 39
worked at a carnival. A one-armed man taught him to juggle. He learned piano in a country western bar. The only thing he had was the guitar a gypsy had given him. He had been singing since before he could remember. He’d dropped out of school and hitched cross country. Now he was in New York looking for his next big adventure. Though his facts never lined up, you almost couldn’t help but believe him. His stories would start slowly, deliberately. He’d deliver one word at a time; reaching for them like his mind was grasping for the far off memory. Then he’d pick up speed. His eyes would close, his body would tense and his gestures would grow wide and excited. His right leg would jerk up and down to the music running through his veins. We’d lose ourselves in that raw, coarse voice. But that’s the effect he had on people. His stories were full of holes, but he was real. One afternoon, when Jack was already at the cafe, I slipped into his room and began fishing. I found a stack of papers. Looked like bills and letters all addressed to a Jack Adnopoz. I read the papers. He was a middle class Jewish kid. Turns out he was from Michigan. He had parents. Good ones that sent him letters and money. I grabbed the letters and headed to the café. I sank into a chair and let the music overwhelm me. My fingers traced the outline of our corner table as I mouthed the familiar lyrics under my breath. Old Christmas lights hung loosely in the windows, gave the place a soft kind of glow to it. Unfamiliar faces huddled over their coffees. Eyes and ears strained forward. Fingers gripped at the ceramic warmth. The last chord faded. All eyes were on Jack. The man who owned the place called out “Now tell us who you are and where you’re from.” “Evening” Jack said. “I am Jack Allan. And does it really matter where I’m from” He closed his eyes and let his gravel voice drive into the next song. I folded the letter. This time I really did believe him. 40
[four] sweet thunder
manifest destiny Lake Ontario lies dormant. Beneath the dock where our feet dangle, the water forms a dark carpet, starred with reflections from the midnight sky. Smoke rises from three lighted cigars. We are eighteen, inhaling and exhaling. Plumes curl around cheekbones, flirt with wisps of hair. The cigars are beacons in the fog. Their ghostly remains haunt the air around us, and then, the tendrils dissolve upward. Soon weâ€™ll leave this place.
heather turnbull sweet thunder
I could have easily been mistaken for one of the many just shy, innocent girls in elementary school. Those girls who answered every one of the teacher's questions, and sat politely with their arms perfectly folded on the desk. Their hair would be in a perfect ponytail, or bun, with a designer clip to hold its place. Those were the ones with their books straightly aligned in sequential order. Their clothes of course, were perfectly pressed, picked out by either their mother or extremely fashionable father. Their pencils boxes were filled with copious amounts of markers, and crayons. Sometimes it even held one of those neat little Lion King pins, the one I saw in the store but mom would never buy. Only the perfect girls had them and I did not possess it, yet. Discovering my conniving nature at age 6, I started with little things. As I opened the drawers to my mother's cabinet filled to the brim with bills, and papers labeled, "IMPORTANT," a sense of power came over me. I violently flung each and every one onto the floor. I can remember sitting in a puddle of tax returns, and insurance documents, waiting to hear the shuffled movements of my mother coming towards me. Her screams still echo in my ears, and my first reaction was to point to my sister, Brittany being an infant at the time, sleeping soundly in her baby swing. "SHE DID IT!" I announced. Of course I wasn't going to admit that I did it. Phew, I was in the clear. Accusing others was my specialty. Take my cousin's prized hermit crab for instance. I just had to play with the thing, even after she said not to take it out of the box, and my attention was averted for probably not even a second, poof it was gone. By the time my cousin returned to her hermit crab not only out of the container, but gone I already had an alibi. My other sis44
ter, Amber took the blame for this one, when my cousin found it in her garage five years later. Just because the puddle of tax returns was sopped up, and the hermit crab situation was resolved, I was not finished. If there was anything to learn from all of this it should be to start out easily, and gradually work upward. My skills for masterminding plans only grew as I got older. With that in mind, I knew Dad would be occupied, that whole Saturday, working on his truck. I also knew that the eggs in the fridge had especially caught my attention earlier that morning. All they did was lounge in a carton all day waiting for one of us to eat them. I decided to make them useful. Their yellow insides left a mark on my neighbor's roof, as they trickled downward. My neighbor sent his son off to spend the entire afternoon cleaning up that roof, as they fried onto the shingles. Desperately I peered into the shed, staring at my huffy banana seat bicycle, 'Sweet Thunder,' as we called her. She was from the 1980's, the only bike we had. She fit my personality, since at first glance she seemed like a pink, sleek bike; however, she was much to blame for most of my crimes. This sweet ride to salvation (or my real destination, Grandma's house) was placed less than ten feet away. I had then tried to make my exit, but apparently Dad had more common sense than Mom. Grandma's house was a distant plan, since I got stopped dead in my tracks, almost as if Dad had counted the eggs, and figured out that four out of the twelve were missing. Eggs do not even compare to fire. Fire has that seductive allure; like it knows that it is untouchable, or unattainable making it all the more fascinating. Well, it was around lunchtime, and my sisters and I were pretty hungry considering that mom and dad were not home. Hotdogs seemed to be the cure to an empty stomach. I as45
sured my younger sister, Amber, that since I was in second grade, I knew exactly how to cook these things, and with that I started my search for a cigarette lighter. The fire was ablaze on the freshly trimmed lawn, as we sat there singing camp songs roasting our charcoaled hot dogs. Ash filled my lungs, as the byproduct of the once crisp lawn. Hairspray, although the can was half empty, sat alongside us spraying the fire every time it seemed to dwindle. The side door opened furiously as Dad came running out, bashing the cement with each step. As I sat there watching the fire glisten with intensity, I frantically search for my accomplice, Sweet Thunder, but alas she was nowhere to be found. Food was the motive for a mess of havoc. Keeping food in the house, food that all of her children would eat, was not one of mom's strong points. We needed something nutritious yet unordinary. First of all I must say it is a noble act to ride 'Sweet Thunder' around door to door asking for canned goods for a charity. My sister and I made flyers, and even had a collection bag for our neighbors to deposit their donations. Our collection was indeed a success, we got plenty of spaghetti O's, and the less notable mentions, like canned yams. It is not okay; however, to ruse those generous individuals when in fact they are not for charity, but instead because Mom does not have any 'good' food. All of this mischief led up to the long awaited weekly desk cleaning day of the 3rd grade. It was time for all of the loose odds and ends within the desks to get thrown away. My desk was practically clean. The cleanliness can be attributed to the fact; I did not have all the luxuries of life, just the bare necessities. I was lucky I even had those scissors Dad had to put back together with a new bolt. My books were aligned in sequential order; the few pencils I had were sharpened and placed neatly into my pencil box. Suddenly, 46
I spotted her, a classmate, having quite the trouble hovering over the garbage can, emptying her new, designer (space maker), pencil box. She was one of those who answered, all the questions, and had her arms folded at 90 degrees angles on her desk. "Do you need some help with that?" I offered my help, hoping to not sound too insincere. She warmly accepted the offer. We went through at least a dozen of unopened markers, pencils, and pens. Who did she think she was shoving all this in my face? She in turn asked about my desk, "My desk is always clean," I stammered. There it laid, atop the masses of eraser caps, the Lion King pin! I suddenly recalled the time that mom raised her voice in the store, when I saw it for the first time. Still, only the perfect girl could have it. The pin illuminated the chalkboard as the light from the sun hit. It sparkled in the beating sun, and had the same allure as fire. However; unlike fire this pin was attainable, as I slinked it into my pocket while my classmate's head was turned. I had peas in my hair from the night before, my arms looked awkward when I tried to fold them, nor would I answer the teacher's questions, but I had finally gotten the Lion King pin. My ride, Sweet Thunder, was not so different from me; sweet girl exterior, fiendish interior.
i tied her up today I tied her up today She kept following me around And with such a heavy shadow I kept tripping on the ground I had tried before to lose her But she'd find me right away And she'd grab my arm and grab my knife And punish me for days I had tried before to love her But her feelings were pretend She took that time to rule And bring some friendships to an end I had tried before to kill her With the hope of liberty But when the courage finally came She brought the pills to me I tied her up today With chains as strong as time With a smile I walked away And left my Past behind
“Attack of the man-child” from l’homme-enfant
[A surviving excerpt of the poem, as Transcribed by the Monks of Abbeypalooza.]
Then Jankyns continued to tell his tale once more, For all the lusty men had now entered from the door. The half-naked bearded king had the hearth kindled While the effects of their drunken stupors dwindled. Jankyn’s surly voice filled the den soon again And skulls filled to the brim with Tab were drained: “Yea, our parties were in the midst of hunting wolverines When the sun collapsed and the moon arose to be seen. And out came that fell fiend, that damned creature. Korrmier the Mighty was his unholy name, true to feature. Ever since he had been birthed from the elk-god, Elm, The monster ravaged and terrorized the wooded realm. The brute surrounded our party with his bellows and howls, And Pauhl, great naked lord, ordered us up trees like the owl. We did so, each man to a tree, and I climbed the mightiest To see if the beast was dumb enough not to resist. Timm the Goode took up the sequoia, Erick had the palm, The king received refuge from a Christmas tree and was calm. The equally naked man-child lumbered up in his loincloth And spying the men in the trees, he began to hungrily froth. As Erick the Blessed was the lowest of the warriors, 49
The monster took to him first, grabbing him with a roar. The Blessed was not so blessed anymore now, sadly And he was mauled by the monster quite badly. We wept for our fallen brother but realized the monster Was not finished with his torture, as he noisily purred. Catching me with his eyes, he tried to grasp me but failed, But I was not about to let this tree, my honor, jail. Proclaiming the realm’s signature catchphrase in battle-song, Named after my father’s great lord, “Shamma-lamma-ding-dong”, I jumped down from the shadowy branches and showed my sword To let the man-child know that I would protect this horde. Jumping on top of the mighty man-child’s hairy back, I raised my sword, named after my ancestor’s aunt, La Krack. With both my eyes on his skull and my hands on the hilt I went and swung for a blow that surely would have killed. But as I yet did not know the angle of his dangle, Korrmier, mighty Hell beast he was, escaped death’s strangle. Wounded he was, but he slashed back with such ferocity, That I had no choice but use as a shield, a kitty. Yes, sir-ee Bob, this Korrmier the Mighty was a tough cookie. My hirsute king, however, advised way up from the tree That the weakness of the monster lied in his source of power: His shredded concert loincloth, with which he was empowered. Quickly, I ran through the article of clothing like butter, Causing the humongous man-child to obscenely mutter About nasty horrible things, like rock ‘n’ roll demons 50
And waking up in bed next to a crusty old sea captain. The man-child was down so I went in for the last blow, So that the creature would harass the realm no mo’ And taking formerly-Blessed Erick’s Axe of Dominic-Monaghan, Korrmier’s ginormous T. Rex head became a trophy for the clan. The happy men, seeing the monstrous skull on the ground, Climbed down from hiding and handed me a Lebanese pound. They asked if we should slay Pauhl, and make me queen, But I said “No, no…for all I want, baby, is the green.” [And so the excerpt ends due to lazy Monks.] Translated to the Common Tongue by Ryan Kittle ‘10
serrated song of...him, and myself Just as you had thoughts of Walt Whitman, I too have come down from the heights of hourly ego and think of you, Allen Ginsberg. I cannot see your visage any younger than forty years; no, I know only of your satyr’s beard, your devil’s pubic horns, and your blues brother’s framed glasses, the tinted lenses both poked out. I think of your hands, nestled within the remnants of lint stuffed hard into the bird’s nest of your suit coat or pants pockets, strolling along an empty white sidewalk in the crooked midst of American heaven. I gaze out of the eighth-story window where I live and think to see your spirit in the street lamps below, waving politely from 1997, echoing back into my bulging Neanderthal eyes. Tangentially, I think of a tall skinny boy to whom I am forever indebted. He has a Father who once sat down to tea with you; and though I rarely think of it; they are clean men as far as my knowledge of father and son stretches, unworthy of your “dirty asshole” label maker. O, Allen… I never call you that. But it is because of you that I now come to the unhappy realization 52
that I will probably be beside my lonesome self, for most of always. The trouble with people. My problem with other people. The trouble with people is that they want to know yet they do not want to be a part of it. They want to know of you, not become a part of who you are. They want to know poetry, not aspire to be the poem. Everybody knows of existence, but could any one prove that they have drawn that first breath and been? And so with you tonight, Allen Ginsberg, I explore the evidences of my shelled skullcap memory bank and scourge at nothing. I come here to abandon what I would be; the twenty year old white middle-class female university brat, reading people and shadows and pages, marching sunken into the murky depths of instituted information while swallowing up theoretical fertilizers in hopes of cultivating, spurting wings to carry my water-rotted hands up to the surface for breath. The little dreg who spends her time in apartments, on sidewalks, in passenger seats, and on dining room chairs. The recapitulated vaginal anchor that wonders how plausible possibility really is. Tonight I know 53
in no real place, time, head, that I have you to thank for something. But looking back to the glass of the eighth-story window, I do not see through the pane and out into your night: by the reflection of a pen in my own hand, I am too captivated, such as Caliban.
10 ways people look at the passerby(and one way to actually go about it) 1 His eyes were blank as a freshly cleaned chalkboard. He left me feeling nothing. Better luck next time.
2 What a sexy man! Cute face, little facial hair, dark hair, blue eyes; we could be an us. If only he were mine, to cling to and keep. Heâ€™s going places, Iâ€™m as sure as Democrats are liberal. 3 Going somewhere, wanting something; going where, wanting what? Maybe I should follow him. Clenched jaw, dark chocolaty eyes seen under narrow lids; heavy breathing, 55
and hands folded tightly into fists. 4 Obviously a loser. His clothes were whack! Shabby, tattered, and ripped – must have got them from a thrift store. Random mental notes are a good way to pass the time; tired of watching pathetic excuses for human life pass by. Gotta take myself to where cool people go; gonna chill like Jell-O. 5 Is he Mexican? God, I hope not; can’t trust those people. 6 Can he see me? I see him. Look down, look away, who cares. Thank Jesus, Buddha, Allah and the rest that many people don’t come by here. How embarrassing! Flushed cheeks, sweaty palms; 56
classic symptoms, almost cliché. Scary time done and creepy guy gone; am I alone now? 7 That looks just like Steve! About 6’1.5”, sapphire-shaded eyes of lust and passion, and a small mole about one inch to the right of the narrow nose. Don’t notice me, just look away. Let me take your damn picture so I can show Steve! Maybe he’s just like Steve. Identical twins, they’re not, though a near-perfect carbon copy – possibly. Is he really like Steve? 8 Left, right, left, right; heel, toe, heel, toe. Long limbs flowing, cascading with the breeze. Maybe we have found a model in this Mecca of nothingness. This is the center of town, 57
but a town of no significance. Sure wouldn’t mind seeing him in a magazine! A strut as fierce as Beckham going for the goal. Probably dumb as the “Caution” warning on coffee lids since all models are. 9 I need warmth to enter my body. He stared at me through dark satanic eyes, surrounded by black facial make-up, accompanied by dark hair, black as a witch’s cat. The chill sinks into my body, through my tissues, and into my veins and arteries. My body trembles and I’m a child longing for his mother. What is he thinking about? It won’t be Skittles, rainbows, Care Bears, or anything else that’s bright.
10 Such a dainty fruitcake. If the flippy-floppy flip-flops beneath his pedicure didn’t give it away, then the hairstyling certainly did. Hope he doesn’t try to flirt for he’s got another thing comin’. This here is America good and pure; fairies need not apply. One I see a man pass by; a man he is, but anything else I know not. I need not know and I dare not try. Why wonder? It’s superficial, cruel, and rude as cutting off cars for the fun of it. Dare to not judge – avoid temptation.
contributions by jon bourn christopher jenkins leslie swayze jamie carlisle raven see meghan stone abiail coover ashley loga krystle morrison katie jordan adam killebrew heather turnbull ryan kittle erin francisco
Published on Apr 12, 2011
SIBYL Spring 2009 Sibyl Elmira College’s Literary Magazine 2009 Raven See’11 Treasurer Rachel Plass’11 Senator Professor Heather Bartlett Dr...