Contents 1 Self Portrait With Shoulder Pain Sarah Champine
18 Free Runner in Portland Patrick Blanchard
2 UPS Express Sarah Champine
19 Multnomah Falls Patrick Blanchard
3 Your Grandmother Is In The Hospital Sarah Champine
20 Building a Greenhouse on the Day of the Dead Clare Hintz
4 The American Carrion Beetle or Necrophilia Americana Phillip Neel
21 Where I'm From Travis Moore
5 Daves Affordable Furniture Phillip Neel 6 Eureka Phillip Neel 7 Eclipse Heaven Cook 9 DaliCicle Miguel Alvelo 10 Ghosts Miguel Alvelo 11 Stoneware Bust Tina Giagnoni 12 Nick # 6 Tina Giagnoni 13 Anna Arches / Money Bryce Henry
22 Thoughts of September Jessica Brown 23 Creation Jessica Brown 24 Placed Jessica Brown 25 The Life Cycle Jen Kelly 26 I Lick the Member Conductive Caleb Durward 28 Red Rock Billy Flynn 29 Cactus Twice Billy Flynn 30 Makwa Liz Burnett
14 Spash Monica Lieb
31 Waa Waa Shkashe Liz Burnett
15 Perspective Monica Lieb
32 Down Home / Some Advice Robyn Eddy
16 That Faithful Night / Stoneware Tree Peter Weber / Korrin Korbel 17 Stoneware Cup Sara Messer
33 From the Banks of Gummy River Robyn Eddy
Letter From the Editors Despite payroll and production cuts, this is one of the best Quartiles to date. Prizes were surprisingly difficult to award, as every piece included here has that sheen of quality. If you are one of these artists, take pride in your minor publication! Show off to your adoring family. Whip it out to impress your hot date. Keep it under your pillow as that last validation of your self-worth, that final attempt at sharing joy with your fellow beings before selling out to the man. Cry into it, your tears neatly flowing off the glossy surface while your decrepit hands uncontrollably shake the perfectly bound, thick, clearly structured pages as you commiserate in your lonely mansion. If only you’d stuck with that art degree. The runner up visual arts prize goes to Miguel Alvelo’s “Dalicicle,” which features a full tonal range of creamy blacks and grays to brilliant white highlights. There are dynamic angles created from the slanted brick wall coming into contact with the elongated shadows, and this effect borders on a photographic abstraction. The first prize for visual arts goes to Tina Giagnoni for her stoneware bust. It has a wonderful visual and anatomical structure, great handling of the surface texture, and a subtle emotional presence that is often difficult to portray through sculpture. Sarah Champine’s “UPS Express” wins the runner up literary prize. In this hard-hitting poem, we are swept along in a vivid slipstream of imagery until bam, emotional contact. The result is an effective juxtaposing of the innocuous everyday with that which we cannot help but notice. It is the type of poem that has the power to change how a reader views the world. The winner of the literary prize is Robyn Eddy’s “From the Banks of Gummy River.” Sense of place literature is very difficult to craft, which makes the apparent ease with which Robyn spins her prose all the more admirable. Her tale is a memorable exploration that invites rereading. Enjoy. Your Contributing Editors, Billy Flynn Caleb Durward
Self Portrait With Shoulder Pain The idea had been brewing for months: a concept piece, an eternal image of himself, slight smile playing at the inside edges of his (graying) goatee. Over his shoulder, the Brooklyn Bridge (or was it the Golden Gate?) suspended in time, cables arching up toward the sky forever in mid-stretch the way he used to hold a pose with an inch of (once-flat) abs exposed, a thick cloud of dark hair suggesting a (now-dormant) virility. The pleasure of pre-game stretches: half warm-up, half exhibition for the girls sprawled on blankets, caught looking from the opposite side of the fence. He’d stolen all their bases, home runs every night—he’d crack his joints one-by-one to remind them that he didn’t care, and to reassure himself. This was before a case of bursitis flared up, joint inflammation from too many summers’ nights of tipsy tavern-league baseball, his jersey stained with slopped beer and idealistic art-student sweat. Now he reaches a blue-laden brush to the canvas. His left shoulder burns with blurred memories of late-Augusts, bar-hopping in coastal cities at the end of summer, before school started, looking everywhere for a bridge worth jumping from, lines upswept like a curveball, up and out of sight. The bases are empty now: no buddies are left to remember the hollow metal chunk of a bat thrown earthward. In the swish of paint on canvas, in the crack of swollen tendons he hears wistful female cheers, and the satisfying contact of bat on ball. -Sarah Champine
UPS Express Here’s what brown can do for you: shuttle a cargo of yellow padded envelopes and toaster-, microwave-, couch-, industrialrefrigerator-sized cardboard boxes from San Francisco to Minneapolis, a truckload of unopened packages, addresses printed neatly in Times New Roman or in Grandmother’s school-teacher cursive. Brown can overnight Mom’s birthday wishes to a friendless college freshman in Burlington, Vermont or rush a fifty-page contract between CEOs in Albany and Milwaukee regarding a strip mall going up somewhere south of Fargo. In 3 to 5 business days brown can ship an ebay’d size 14 wedding dress from finallysingle64 in Albuquerque to Maplewood, New Jersey, where blushingbride900 slices the clear packing tape across the box-top carefully, reverently, while the driver pulls the truck out of the yard and onto the next exit. Here’s what happens next: brown slams into a Budweiser semi on the Massachusetts turnpike, I-90 out of Boston. The shorts-clad delivery man is flung from the open side door, hairy bare legs cartwheeling, clipboard arching overhead. He lands like rejected paper, crumpled in the median. A confetti of cardboard, contracts, anniversary cards and candy flutter onto the yellow lines, and a haze of packing peanuts rain into the carpool lane, where cars of every color get backed up for miles. -Sarah Champine
Your Grandmother Is In the Hospital It’s a played-on apprehension, printed in every assisted-living facility brochure, flashed in black-and-white television advertisements: the phone hanging from its cradle, wailing the dial-tone into a house empty except for the little old lady lying prone on the floor. You’ve seen frowning doctors motion anxious grown-up children into fluorescent-lit hallways to discuss the feasibility of Mother continuing to live at home. What if she falls, breaks her hip, hits her head? Better now than later, before the mailman finds her. But you didn’t think that your own grandmother could ever tumble down thirteen carpet-covered stairs to lie on the landing, dazed, her heart aneurysm jarred open, quietly leaking blood. You never thought she would have a thin plastic snake with a single fang buried in her vein, pumping soothing morphine into her, or that drops of water would make her choke, or that her voice over the phone would ever be so faint as she told you hoarsely that there wasn’t much to talk about, was there? You never expected to hear your mother, tear-thick on the other end, detailing the sweat-soaked sheets, sponge baths, ice-chips, blood-thinners, and prognosis. All you can think of as your mother complains about harassed impersonal nurses is the heart-monitor beep of a dial tone, the stretched-out coils of phone-cord, the handset gently swinging above your grandmother’s head. -Sarah Champine
The American Carrion Beetle or Necrophilia Americana On the trail once I encountered a swarm of the beetles, clumped around some remnant of rotting flesh or fungus. Their carapace is colored yellow with a single black dot, which is the pupil of the eye of judgment, which is ravenous and arbitrary and insatiable. The swarm was feasting as only insects feast, at once an orgy and a war, one against one and all against the usurping larvae of competitors. Of all creatures, insects understand best that life is merely a sequence of different kinds of eating flesh. Farther down the trail there was an abandoned settlement, now just a vague sense of breadth, sunken concrete, a cellar partially excavated. It was strange to feel this opening, buried in the density of the forest. The absence here, and the lingering question of purpose, of the nature of objects. And all around, of course, the thundering thundering thundering green: Color hits the skull which is a mouth and drinks deeply. -Phillip Neel
Daves Affordable Furniture He didn’t know what he wanted. “I really don’t know a thing about mattresses,” he explained to the salesman. The salesman’s shirt was a gloriously misanthropic yellow and you could wonder at this. He explained, “This one is good for fucking girls. You get one you like and, you know, lots of space. You can maneuver is what I’m saying.” The thing about the shirt is that it is like a tiny optic suicide bomb, constantly exploding. The thing about it is the guy has to know what he is doing, doesn’t he? “And I want to maneuver? What if I don’t need to maneuver? I pick something and stick with it, wear the thing out to its bitter end.” The salesman handed him brochures about mattresses. And if the salesman doesn’t know about the shirt then he is simply strapped to some portion of that enormous machine which rolls relentlessly over the bodies of nations. Afterwards the stench is like an inanimate mass that stands up on its own and walks for a while.
you the truth. The truth is that with mattresses you are going for support in periods of great velocity. We are flying through space at 67,000 miles per hour, not to mention the speed of the solar system, of the universe expanding. Are you ready for that?” The salesman pushed on a mattress and told him to listen to the sound of the springs compressing. He did and he hadn’t heard anything like it before. “That’s the sound of half a person’s life all at once, isn’t it?” “Now you know about mattresses, kid. You’re becoming privy to the shit.” He compressed the springs again and his yellow shirt ruffled. “Privy to the shit.” “The greatest shit.” “The greatest shit.” -Phillip Neel
“You’re a good kid so I’m going to tell
Eureka Sid drank 40s of malt liquor. When my roommates’ metal band would practice in our garage, he would often come in and say, That’s some heavy shit guys! He would take a swig of the 40 and proceed to rock out. Other times he would come to our door red-eyed, clutching the bottle, and he would ask if we’d seen any fuckers going into his house, because some of his shit was moved around, and he had enemies, you know? At night he would set off firecrackers, like every day was the fourth of July. And when we would walk by he’d give us a nod, and sometimes his girlfriends would smile at us, even though they did not have many teeth. In his backyard there was a car tent that everyone assumed was filled with weed. He only had one vehicle, and this vehicle was an enormous, rumbling truck, so large it had to be parked halfway on the sidewalk and would never fit in the car tent, even if he tried. The truck had no paintjob, just a mosaic of different primers, each frayed at the edges and peeling into the next. It came and went at strange hours. On the bumper there was a magnet, shaped like the Support Our Troops ribbons that we used to steal in high school, but this one was a different color and it said Support Strippers. When Sid would drive up in the middle of the night you could see the magnet illuminated in the coastal fog, glowing red with the brake lights, then disappearing as he stumbled to his house.
One day there was a storm. It was the biggest storm Eureka had seen in a long time, according to the people who knew. The birds couldn’t stay in the air, the hobo jungle was flooded, and the wind erased the smell of the pulp mill. There weren’t may days you couldn’t smell the pulp mill, which meant this was a bad omen. And it turned out that, sometime in the night, Sid’s car tent had been uprooted and thrown through the fence into one of our trees. When we finally found it, the aluminum leg of the tent was sticking straight up like the prow of a death-ship. Canvas flapped in the wind. We gathered and looked through the giant hole in the fence, and there wasn’t any weed where the tent had stood. There wasn’t anything. This is how you know about Eureka. I saw a man once driving on Wabash Street, heading toward the sea in his little blue hatchback with the hatch open and, sticking out of it, a gaudy, plaid couch, longer than the car itself. The only thing holding that couch in was the fact that Wabash sloped downward. The only thing holding that couch in was the fact that that man’s eyes were the same red as Sid’s. I imagine that Sid is one of many wading in the stagnant, polluted water of Humboldt Bay, and when the tide pulls out and reveals the ancient pubus of the insterstice, it also lowers from Sid’s beer gut and for a moment the gut floats on top of the water like a giant egg. -Phillip Neel
Eclipse The rotting boards crooned fondly under the old man’s weight. The air was heavy, warmer than he liked, and he could feel the direct hotness of the sun better than he could in the house, but there was a breeze now, a breeze which stirred the overgrowth in the front yard, twisting the long grasses to sheafs that whispered against each other. His knees were on fire, and he leaned more fully on his cane, knuckles white as sweatbloated fingers betrayed his dependence on it. He resisted the urge to rest, his slippers scuffing over the porch as he finally reached his chair. The trick was lowering his generous frame into the chair without hurting himself, and it was only after he had accomplished the deed that he allowed himself to relax. He tipped his head back, baring his neck to the teeth of the sun. He could feel the scalding light trickle through the gray wires of his beard and dribble down his chin, hailing beads of sweat that sat on his chest like watermelon seeds. He sighed, wiping his forehead with his palm and running his fingers through his hair in the same gesture. He’d combed it before coming out, but now the sweat made it stick straight up. The beginnings of panic ebbed as he felt the breeze drying it, and it was too late to fix. “Moira will not be pleased,” he thought, a touch of mischief peeking out from the corner of his down-creased mouth. He was getting a picture taken today, a permanent stamp of his image to haunt the future when he was gone-- or at least, that’s how he saw it. He sighed again, this time with more brush with cynicism had restored him. He closed
his eyes and dozed, feeling the sun soak into him. When he opened his eyes again a short while later, his skin felt ironed tight by the sun. If it burned, he thought to himself, he’d not be pleased. They were done right out of lotion, and it’d be ‘nother two weeks afore he’d see a body who wasn’t out too. He lifted his head slowly, not wanting to snap a crick into his neck, and narrowed his eyes against the endlessly bright light of the sun. A little girl was playing in the overgrowth, the bottoms of her feet brown from running around barefooted for hours on end. The man on the porch frowned, a twang of parental over protectiveness as he glanced at the vulnerability of those perfect, filthy toes. “Moira!” He called sharply. “Y’best put on some shoes afore you step on a scorpion’r somethin’.” The little girl didn’t look up. She seemed entranced in braiding pieces of grass together where they grew. “Moira!” He tried again, irritation seeping into his tone. He didn’t like being ignored, and it wasn’t his way to allow poor manners in his children. “Moira, get over here!” The little girl continued to play, entranced in her game of braiding the earth. Instead, he heard light footsteps rush towards him from inside the house. A woman emerged, her cheeks flushed, her hair damp with sweat and tied back with a ribbon. “What is it, Dad?” She asked, looking him over critically with worried cornflower blue eyes that were distinctly his Moira’s.
He widened his eyes in shock and confusion as this strange woman who was not his wife but had his daughter’s eyes stood before him, and he glanced back towards the little girl, who was now looking right at him. She flashed a gaptoothed grin and ambled towards him, her feet patting up small clouds of dust. “Grampa, what’s wrong?” She asked in a five year old’s lisp, her eyes, a cool hazel, bright with the freshness of youth. The old man’s gut wrenched with the unsettling feel of displacement, and then he recovered a fuzzy sort of recognition. He did that sometimes; his memories eclipsing the present. He sighed, and ran his fingers through his hair again, his body slumping deeper into the porch chair. “When... when is the photographer coming?” He asked, hoping not to tune his daughter into his momentary lapse. Moira’s brow wrinkled as she tried to think of what to say, but before she could open her mouth, the little girl chirped in, “you already had your picture taken, Grampa!” She dashed into the house and came back not a minute later with a neatly framed picture and brandished it excitedly. The old man looked at himself, five years younger, and blanched. It was quite haunting. - Heaven Cook
Miguel Alvelo: DaliCicle
Miguel Alvelo - Ghosts
Tina Giagnoni - Stoneware Bust
Tina Giagnoni - Nick # 6 - Oil on Canvas
Bryce Henry - Anna Arches
Bryce Henry - Money
(Right) Monica Lieb - Perspective (Above) - Splash
Peter Weber - That Faithful Night - Woodcut
Korrin Korbel - Stoneware
Sara Messer - Stoneware
(Left) Patrick Blanchard Free Runner in Portrland (Above) - Multnomah Falls
Building a Greenhouse on the Day of the Dead I’m digging out the trench for the greenhouse footings; it has collapsed under the weight of rain, red clay sloughing off excavated walls like old skin. I stop and grieve the loss of you, heaving earth and resting on my shovel handle to catch my breath. You won’t see it, but this foundation is rooted deeper than frost can reach. My greenhouse will shelter verdure despite winter: Keat’s shores of the wide world in the slanted light making jewels of the leaves. -Clare Hintz
Where I'm From I am from the Earth The stones and rocks that make life complete I am from the dirt The trampled leaves that cringe under my feet I am from deep water The water that gives me the force I need I am from East wind The friendships I have planted with that seed I am from a red canoe With a paddle in my hand I am from lakes near and far These travels have made me a man I am from dancing Northern Lights Green and white sparkling in the sky I am from late night fires The flames flicker in our eyes I am from the backcountry The natural world so unknown I am from the rivers and fields The only land left unsown -Travis Moore
Thoughts of September Once again I find myself standing here in sandals and favorite jeans, Confident, under these last fall leaves, in meeting the rigor of this year, Earnestly awaiting the embrace of blue sun and breeze When overwhelmingly life leans in, And as fall brushes my lips, I inexplicably sink down, weighted, wanting only somewhere to lie and stare, to think up into this surreal sky of all thatâ€™s happened since last we met. -Jessica Brown
Creation I paddle through an ink drop black, a bottomless plop on the page of the world. Over clouded chaos churning just under the surface, I trail familiar images in swirls, recombinant strings. My paddle is forever feeble but enough to add its resonant ripples to these rising waters, and through this ambiguous mass somehow made sense, these drips flowing from this my love and labor, this motion of wrist, come up clear. -Jessica Brown
Placed Alone along a portage trail, following a hopefulness of heart and the quickening call of white-throated sparrow overhead in the trees, I am in my place. A constant embrace of support and strength, my Duluth pack is clipped squarely around my hips and bounces on my tailbone, with my tent cinched up under the flap. In it is everything I need to live, to sleep, to set up at any moment anywhere what little comfort, what home, I could ever need. Finding belonging is a journey, this I believe, and as I travel, my wondering eyes search for familiarities forgotten, memories of home unexpectedly evoked that ground me, mind and spirit, in this place. The rough flakes of red pine bark I brush with outstretched palm, the gathering rustle of grass dunes shifting in the breeze, this curved trunk like a willow bench waiting, all these call to me and grant me peace. Wherever I am, no matter how wild and unknown, there is always reborn a detail, a sense, a touch once known, a recollection from deep in the ever-expanding yet finite reaches of my life experience that will infuse my heart with a sense of home, a connection and belonging flowing from past to current place. Ahead the path fades into pine-needled obscurity, and I squint to create curves from faint shufflings, making some for my own. Despite the ambiguity that surrounds, I feel no confusion, panic, or distress.
I am neither lost nor burdened by my journey, my existence, and continue onward, content and confident in the inherent providence of the world, trusting my senses to guide my steps. Though I donâ€™t know how I got here, or just where I really am, in this medium of earthy air and water lapping softly on the shore, I feel the soft warmth of sun on my back, my hair, my face, within, and I know that I was placed here lovingly and with purpose, and I believe that I will find myself, my place, my happiness herein. -Jessica Brown-
The Life Cycle Those little hands. That was the first thing Eloise noticed when he came out of her. Every other new mother she had talked to raved about the eyes, but even seven years later his hands were all she could see. She used to think that knot that crept into her chest when viewing them was delight or some other positive adjective… or even just a too tight corset. But ever since that day in late August, she knew better. Early August mornings were the bane of Eloise’s existence. The summers in England tended to crescendo towards the end of July: the stench of the street, the driblets of sweat that dripped between her breasts, the never-ending drone of frogs. It grated on her nerves to the point where three hours of sleep a night would be a blessing. The first of August that year was especially frightful, and Eloise woke up to sweat hammering out of each pore on her body. Groaning, she flung her feet to the side of the bed and quickly mashed her feet into her slippers. Blame it on the lack of sleep or the hellish conditions, but it wasn’t until the fifth step that Eloise registered the mucus between her toes. Upon further toe wiggling investigation, she realized there was something gooey and crunchy around her foot. Closing her eyes, she ever so slightly pulled her left foot out of the slipper. The deep breath she took quickly shot out of her (along with last nights stew) and her eyes burst open, searching for the stench. From her toes to her heel there was a thin coating of gore speckled with thin bones. That was when she fainted.
Neither she nor her governess knew what small creature was left in her slipper. The answer to that mystery wouldn’t be solved until the next week when she peeked into her slipper before putting it on and discovered a dead frog with its hind legs askew. As she cried out, Edgar came running into the room. Sensing his mothers’ fright, he gingerly reached his elfin hands into the slipper and raised the frog by its leg. Eloise stopped screaming. Eyes wide, she pointed outside and Edgar dutifully followed suit. Time passed (as it tends to do in short stories). On the last Saturday of the month, now that summer was nearing its end, she allowed herself to journey to the warmest part of the building: Edgar’s room. His door was open just enough to make out his form. Silently opening the door, she crept along the edges of the room while the silhouette of Edgar twirled in position. He was sitting, with his legs spread, hunched over something. Leaning in to get a closer look, she saw one of his little white hands clutching a knife. The other hand was pecking away at a frog’s eye. After finally getting two bony fingers into the eye socket, he ever so slowly lifted the eye, pulled out the optic nerve, and cut the cord. -Jen Kelley
I Lick the Member Conductive I My semen is a frothy cap , a filmy layer of spent manhood, Floating on a brew of swirling delicacies. Who is American enough to Drink my brew? This is my mug This is my America Taste it Terrible good II They say a flag is flame retardant in awed voices, like it is an indestructible thing, a proud avatar choking the world in American juices. They didn’t count on the diesel. It used to be a flag took work, real shit, hand cut, hand woven, hand embroidered shit, These days, They print them in factories. Flag hats are all sewn by a bloody fingered eight year old named Diego Flag pins adorn a white hat above a white shirt connected by a white skin that still looks pasty Flag droppings are the painful shit you take after the pledge of allegiance Flag day is to flush out all the human wastes of life, an unsatisfying witch hunt with no burning Flag jissom is the most exquisite kind, the kind when a paper napkin or a used sock won’t due Somewhere, a naked Indian cries by a giant pile of flag pins, But this isn’t the Indian’s land, He’s commercial-paid, Fake. Someone is raping his tight Indian anus Someone is thrusting him against the pile of sharp pins Someone is laughing at the blood from the pins from the penetration Someone is lapping the flowing sobs and snot from the Indian’s face Until the Indian forms an erection ,still crying, and cums all over the rapist, the highway, the pile of hat pins, the old south, the frozen banana coated in chocolate and smelling of spent masculinity The rapist throws the crippled Indian to the ground The rapist knows they don’t make them like they used to
III Every time a housewife drinks of her husband’s froth, she drinks of me For I am the orgasm of an amber wave of grain Feel its seed trickle through your hand, Brush it to your lips, Roll in it with your children For I am America, And they should know me too The people once knew the cum and the land were one, And the priests tended the flock in the fields as well as the pulpit, And a sheep was a better lay than a Christian girl, And soup-takers ate worse than the faithful, And the holy rollers found Jesus in their thrashing on the floor, And Jesus rode a dinosaur across Utah, And the dinosaur bled from never being on top, And Americans knew all this, And didn’t need my poems. IV Such grace, Such self control, Puritans never beat their wives, At least, the wives wisht that were true. Thanking god for the wonderful penance they were allowed to pay through bruises in the shape of a palm Thanking god for letting their houses burn on the backdrop of their flaccid crops Thanking god for the rape their Christian husbands bestowed upon them, night after night For Rape is man and man is the image of God. The man who is not rape is, The man who thinks without guidance is, The man who does not give to the church is, SAtan Incarnate. Shun him as a Leper As JEsus would from atop his glorious rapeasourous Raining the sweet brimstone upon us believers so that we may know piety, And the science worshippers that built their homes away from the volcano’s flames will know a thousand eternities (that’s more than one) in the fires of Hell. Let us buy their tea and dump it, For we are drinkers of God’s fountain, and we shall be quenched eternally, Flag pins glinting in the hot desert sun.
Billy Flynn - Red Rock
Billy Flynn - Cactus, Twice
Liz Burnett - Makwa - Silk Screen
Liz Burnett - Waa Waa Shkashe - Silk Screen
Robyn Eddy - Down Home
Robyn Eddy - Some Advice
From the Banks of Gummy River The first night I was there I could have sworn I saw two moons rise, ghostly and pale above the horizon. Idaho reminded me of India, a place I had never been. Maybe it was the landscape: barren, lunar. I was staying with some friends of my father’s—a violinist and his wife, or perhaps the other way around—who lived in a house full of music. Gershwin, Mussorgsky, Bach—they played it full volume, from around seven in the morning until late into the night, when their musical friends would come over to drink wine and smoke and play loud waltzes with accordions and banjos and something they called the glockenspiel. Anyhow it was all very strange to me and most of the time I felt like I had landed on the moon. Instrument cases lay about the house like coffins—the final resting place for guitars with broken strings, off-key mandolins, humbled cellos and hobbled French horns. There were panpipes next to the refrigerator and a lopsided double bass skulking near the door of the upstairs bathroom. I realized that I was living in a house full of dinosaurs; an elephant graveyard full of old bones. There was even the carcass of a mangled harpsichord lurking beside the pantry. The house smelled of mildewing paperbacks and rotting wood. “It never smelled like that until Jasper moved back in,” the violinist—her name was Bhat—confided in me, referring to her elusive, chronically depressed son. I had only seen Jasper once or twice. He was thirty and lived in the bedroom beside mine. He worked as a house
painter during the day, I think, but at night he disappeared, fading into the patchwork of dimly lit bars downtown. Bhat taught music classes at the university in Boise. She was gone a lot too. I spent the most time with Bhat’s husband, Norris. Norris had been ducking in and out of my father’s life since before I was born. They had researched tundra swans together in the lowlands of Iowa; they conferred with shamans in the Southwest and returned with bags full of turquoise; Norris collected Mojave rattlesnake paraphernalia for four months in the Las Vegas desert while my father dealt blackjack at the casinos, raising money for India, a place he had also never been. Now Norris peered at me from under a Panama hat. He had crow’s feet; he smiled. “Come on, I’ll show you the garden,” he said. The garden was behind the house. It was a large, scraggly plot, surrounded by the skeletons of lawnmowers and combines and spinning wheels. Heat waves rose from the ground. We walked among the corn and tomatoes and sunflowers and cacti with pink and yellow flowers. Marigolds erupted from the ground like tiny suns, and sweat bees swung from bloom to bloom, tongues lapping. Norris pointed out his poppy patch. “The opium kind,” he clarified. “You grow opium?” “Yeah, I thought I’d give it a try,” he said, scuffing his sneaker in the dust. We were wearing the same faded black all-
stars. “It probably won’t amount to much; the climate isn’t quite right and I think I started them too late…But we’ll see…”
“I don’t smoke cigars.”
At night, Bhat would prepare for the musicians. Furniture was pushed aside, candles were lit, beer and ashtrays and Gruyere laid out. The night sky would darken to a heliotropic shade of red, like the inside of a pomegranate. I thought I was going to hell. “It’s just the lights from Boise,” Norris told me. “Light pollution.” The red eventually faded into an uneasy black. Stars came out. People arrived. They were toting instrument cases and bottles of wine and cigars. I sat and watched everything from the patio off of the kitchen. A cottonwood tree, majestic and gnarled, sprawled up from the sparse grass, branches unfurling just over where I was sitting. From its limbs hung garden lanterns, the little electric bulbs burning red, blue, green, purple. The tree reminded me of a crab with pearls studded along its legs. I listened to the waltzes being played inside—everything sounded Cajun. I wondered what Cajuns were doing in Idaho. More importantly, I wondered what I was doing in Idaho. It seemed I had come because of details of vast importance—the sun in my eyes, the lethargy of the Midwest, how everything seemed removed and pointless and stagnant. But instead of disappearing, these things had been replaced only with the floundering unfamiliarity of a new place. Nothing was better; it was only different.
“I don’t want hair on my chest…”
At any given time there were five or six people sitting near me on the patio. They kept handing me glasses of wine. Norris gave me a cigar.
“It’ll put hair on your chest.”
“I’m just kidding, kid. Here.” He took out what looked like a miniature guillotine and circumcised the end of the cigar. The tip fell somewhere into the grass. Then he lit it in his mouth, sucked on it, and handed it to me. “Try that.” I inhaled. Before I coughed I saw visions of opulent sultans and the glistening thighs of dancing harem girls, tigers crouching among jungle-book leaves, particles of dust rising to block out a million red suns… “Nice,” I managed, eyes watering. There was a river that separated either side of town. The sand of the riverbed was gummy and swallowed my ankles when I waded in. I once asked Bhat if there was anywhere to swim. “Not unless you want a snake latched on to your foot,” she replied. So I avoided the snake-infested water and wandered listlessly. To kill time I walked along the train tracks until I reached the fields of wheat growing near the edge of the highway. I was lonesome for the cornfields of Wisconsin; I wanted to see wild turkeys congregating in cemeteries; the long outstretched necks of whooping cranes mid-flight. The sweltering sun and dust and the mean, rundown streets made me tired.
eteries; the long outstretched necks of whooping cranes mid-flight. The sweltering sun and dust and the mean, rundown streets made me tired. “You look despondent,” Norris told me one day. “Let’s go for a drive.”
bloodstained palm of some dark, foulsmelling beast. It scares me; it pleases me as well. I listen to it with the bedclothes pulled close to my head, so that in case it becomes too much, I can simply fall asleep. -Robyn Eddy
So we got in his car and drove, following the river. We navigated our way through a neighborhood of river houses: houses built on stilts and cement blocks, ramshackle and patched numerous times with plywood, plastic siding, chicken wire. The place was a battlefield, scarred and forlorn. Mosquitoes hummed in the trees. I could smell the river—fishy and full of rotting silt. I was glad when we left the place behind, and unable to see why Norris seemed to love it. When we got back I put on Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony and trudged upstairs to listen to the vibrations through the floor. Not very much later, on my first night back in the Midwest, I was taken aback at how quiet it was. No waltzes, no accordions, no laughter or footsteps or toilets flushing or loud voices telling stories of car thieves and mudslides. Just the glow of the clock and the sweet, steady chirp of crickets beyond my window. On the other side of the house, my parents slept. Things were lonely. I did not miss Idaho, not really, and I didn’t want to return. But for some reason, ever since I got back, I’ve grown very fond of the smell of cigars, and of Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain. It is a chilling piece, if you’ve never heard it, full of arching violins strung with nerve endings… It is the kind of piece, that, when you close your eyes, makes you envision skeletal things with horns dancing in the
Northland College has a burgeoning artistic population and the Quartile provides a platform for the dissemination of students, employees, and professors literary and visual arts. Published at least three times during the school year, the Quartile allows the population at Northland college to be exposed to some of the campuses best work, allways free of charge. The magazine is edited and designed by two dedicated studenteditors. At the end of each academic year, the current editors interview and select two qualified students to be the next years editors. In this way, the Quartile is an exciting and constantly evolving publication, reflecting the contemporary tastes of the student body.
Published on Jan 7, 2010