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TRANSCENDENCE steven berroteran • shaun blake • sara campos aliza cohen • john downing • denise duhamel justus evans • dallas fletcher • bruce fowler kat genikov • andrew p. heath • leanne howe joseph krauter • victor lavalle • kim magowan joe mcdermott • maryse meijer brendan murdock • eileen myles maggie nelson • ed ntiri • richard king perkins ii yulia pinkusevich • michelle ramin jess rodriguez-williams • taylor sacco kevin d. sawyer • ariel strong terry ann thaxton • a. kevin valvardi • jose h. villarreal molly vogel • julie marie wade • jaade wills • matthew woodman




issue eighteen


{ managing editor Deborah Sherman fiction editor Andrew P. Heath poetry editors Brooke Hardy Brea Watts


Issue 18 • Copyright 2016

ISSN: 1523­4 762

readers Camille Brown Curt Brown Michelle Kicherer Sarah Jeanne Lombardo Heather Pratt faculty advisor Micheline Marcom

design + layout template: emji spero designer: Deborah Sherman with assistance: Curt Brown Heather Pratt cover art An Uphill Climb Michelle Ramin

580 SPLIT is an ANNUAL JOURNAL of ARTS + LETTERS Edited by a revolving staff of graduate students at Mills College, 580 Split aims to publish innovative poetry, prose, and visual art. The journal takes its name from the highway ramps, overpasses, and interchanges near the college. 5000 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland, CA 94613 You can find submission guidelines at:

Mills College

Oakland, 2016

issue eighteen




Whole Life Ahead


Raw Blush


Savage Conversations

Jaade Wills



LeAnne Howe

Invisible Woman



Kim Magowan John Downing

non - fiction



Maryse Meijer




/ essay

22 Lasts Julie Marie Wade & Denise Duhamel

Notes on Transcendence Andrew P. Heath



Rooftop Minstrel




Self Forgiveness


As Moments Adjourn

Richard King Perkins II Molly Vogel Sara Campos Taylor Sacco


Orientation by Nightlight



Matthew Woodman Dallas Fletcher


25 41 108

Victor LaValle Maggie Nelson Eileen Myles

prison art




Somewhere in the Middle, Unfulfilled Legacy

Shaun Blake

A. Kevin Valvardi





Brendan Murdock Jess Rodriguez-Williams


Prison Nature


Know Thyself


Song of an H.F.A.


Do You Know I’m a Vegetarian?

Kevin D. Sawyer Bruce Fowler Joseph Krauter

Jose H. Villarreal


Just Us Justus Evans

visual art


Holding On


Shadow Boy




Light and the Desert


Searching For Paradise


Untitled #25507


Silencing the Cacophony

Kat Genikov Ed Ntiri Steven Berroteran Aliza Cohen Michelle Ramin Joe McDermott

Yulia Pinkusevich




Filbert, West Oakland


They Were Pale Blue and There Were Many Horses

Ariel Strong Ed Ntiri

Aliza Cohen

from the Editor Deborah Sherman

how the theme of transcendence came to us , I can’t fully explain. And

perhaps that in itself illustrates its very mystery. Though many definitions exist for this “state” or “experience,” they all seem to skirt the real heart of the matter: its inexplicability. There’s no doubt that in experiencing a work of art (whether literature, visual art, music, or film) we lose ourselves to some degree. We become immersed in the world the artist has created for us. Indeed, often the measure of an artwork’s greatness is the degree to which we can be swept from our everyday experience into some otherworldly realm. There’s an interesting corollary—professed by artists from William Blake to Jackson Pollock to Tom Waits—about how some creative force or power or muse overcomes them, such that they themselves cease to exist in that magical moment of creation. They exceed themselves. Personally, I can only attest to only having experienced this once, maybe twice (despite years of writing), when, as though having woken from a spell, I looked back upon the words I’d written and had no idea where they had come from. I wish I knew the incantation to unlock this portal more frequently, because those words have been some of my best, but alas… In seeking submissions for this journal we asked artists to stretch, to be bold, to let their imaginations be their guides. We’ve also dedicated a special section to artwork by the incarcerated, whose confinement makes the notion of transcendence particularly poignant. In choosing our final selections we’ve hoped to showcase the work that has most fervently whisked us from familiar terrain into unknown and uncharted territories. We hope that in these pages, you too, will find yourself lost.

Whole Life Ahead Maryse Meijer

i ’ m so cold , she says , the first thing, her voice small and far away, and

he doesn’t know if she is saying it to him or if it is something she has been saying for a long time before he got here. He clears his throat, says her name; she turns her head, sharply, like a deer, on the edge of fright. Hello? she says. It’s me, he tells her, and puts his hands on her arms. When she moves dirt falls on her shoulders, skips down her dress. He’s aware that her back is only bones beneath the dress, skin shrunk against them like leather, but he doesn’t mind; he expected worse. Do you know how long were you in the ground? he asks. No. Eight weeks, he says, and she looks surprised, her eyes climbing the hill as though looking for something. Oh, she says. He met her on TV. She was already dead by then: in all the photographs beautiful, smiling, nineteen. She was buried a mile from his apartment and he went to her, every night, all night. The facts of her death did not deter him: brutal, raped, slashed. His love would fix all that. All she had to do was find her way back to the world, to him. If he wished hard enough, loved strong enough, she would. Did. Cortney Cassidy


When he kisses her he can taste her teeth right behind her lips. There is no water in her; she can’t cry, she can’t spit. Everything on her cracks and splits. When he touches her he can feel her bones trying to remember how to move, clicking where the cartilage is almost gone. Do you like it when I do this? he asks. I will, she says, I just have to get used to it. Am I your first? She frowns. Why does that matter? It doesn’t, I just want to know. Well, you know what he did, she tells him. I mean besides what he did. Then you’re the first, she says, and he squeezes her hand, so happy. He says it: I’m happy. She touches the hem of her dress, remembering something about it. Picking it out, putting it on. Being happy too. She couldn’t reach the zipper herself and someone had to zip it for her and that must be the sound she hears all the time, the teeth coming together, then being torn apart. The cut is still there, a dark smile on her throat, but on the third night he can see something bright glitter beneath the skin: freshness, red. There’s blood, he says. What? Growing, inside. Can’t you feel it? She swallows. The spot shifts, looks wet. No, she says. She touches the white line of skin on her ring finger. Not there, he says. Here. On your neck. I can’t feel anything there. Just try. No, she says again, and pushes his hand away, the bone-light brush of her without power, without weight. He thinks of holding her wrist, squeezing it. It would snap. Even a man like him would be able to hurt


Maryse Meijer

her. The other man, the bad one, was so big he could do anything. Whatever he wanted. She looks tired, or maybe it’s just how deep her eyes have sunk in their sockets. It’s hard for her to really look at him; she keeps seeing old things, things that aren’t happening anymore, and the new things get lost beneath them. He tells her that her vision will get better; she knows it won’t, because her eyes aren’t really eyes anymore, but she keeps this to herself. They sit on the dark grass and he holds her hand, marvels at it, the split nails still flecked with polish, pink. There are lots of little things like this, things that delight him: the full white skirt of her dress, the ankle straps on her white shoes, the small gold hoops in her ears. Did you know? That I was here? I came every night. I read you all the articles and the obituaries and stuff, remember? She nods. She doesn’t say what else she heard: the dropping of his semen in the dirt, its slow sinking, the thirsty earth bringing it closer. The box stopped it from touching her but she still knew it was there, more and more, his crying out a whisper bleeding down to the roots of the new grass. She shivers and he puts his arm around her. She can’t seem to be made warm but he tries, he holds her close, closer, and she makes a sound and it sounds to him like Yes. He can’t take her out during the day—when the sun appears she is simply not there, doesn’t come back again until it is night—but in the dark she can pass as something still living. He is ecstatic when he sees her, less than a week later, changed; the bones don’t press so painfully against the skin, her eyes have fattened in their sockets. He has brought a comb and he rakes the rest of the dirt from her hair until it gleams. The wind strokes the tall grass. When they take their first step beyond the cemetery he is delirious, full of plans. We could go out, he says. Dancing, walking, wherever you wanted to go.


Oh, no, she says, shaking her head. No, I don’t think so. Why not? It’s almost closed up, he says, looking at her neck. And the dress fits now. You gained weight. I don’t weigh anything, she says matter-of-factly. He smiles. If you say so. She looks down the road outside of the gate and stops, pulling on his hand. What? he asks. We shouldn’t, she says. Shouldn’t what? You don’t want to go out tonight? I don’t think I want to go out any night, she says. Why not? I should go back to where I came from. But you came from the ground, he says, giving her a little smile as he gestures toward the cemetery. Isn’t that where I belong? No, he says. Why would you even say that? She looks over her shoulder, back to the hill, takes a few drifting steps to the gate: he takes her arm to stop her, his fingers meeting around the narrow bone. You’re not giving this a chance, he says. A chance? she says, and there is that look again in her eyes, like she is seeing two things at once. Look, he urges. I’ll be with you the whole time. I won’t let you out of my sight for one second. She swallows and her throat makes a clicking sound. I don’t want to get in a car, she says. It always happens in cars. He doesn’t ask, what happens. Fine, he says, shrugging. We can walk, it’s just six blocks. A nice place. I promise, you’ll like it. Okay? She is quiet. Okay? he says again.


Maryse Meijer

He gets her a soda water with cranberry; he drinks bourbon straight. She looks at the glass. I could have brought you a clean dress, he apologizes. I will next time. She shakes her head. It’s fine. Take a sip, he suggests. She puts the glass to her lips; the liquid somehow doesn’t make it into her mouth. She can feel it dripping down the front of her. The cranberry juice leaves a long pink mark and she scratches at it with a napkin, over and over. It’s okay, he says, patting her knee. We’ll try again some other time. Did you taste it at all? he asks. I don’t know, she says, and as she works at the stain on her dress her movements become angry, erratic. What is it supposed to taste like? she says. What do you mean? I can’t drink it! she half-shouts, the scarf around her neck slipping; she pushes it back up. Hey, he says, leaning close to calm her. Shh. There’s nothing wrong. Her fingers tremble. I still can’t really see you, she says. I don’t know what you look like. Who cares, honey, you will, you’ll see everything just perfect in a little while, he says, draining his glass. I’ll put a song on for you. I don’t want music, she says. He tucks his lips, turns the glass of bourbon in his hands. I didn’t bring you here so you could mope. What did you bring me here for? To just… have a nice time. He shrugs. He can’t say what he wants, it is so deep, so difficult inside him. It will take time, he reminds himself; he can wait, he has already been so patient. Remember this? he says, slipping the ring out of his pocket, putting it on the bar. She stares at it: something flickers in the amethyst heart,


the scratched gold band. Where did you get that? I found it, he says, grinning. He offers it like a piece of candy, in the palm of his hand. It might be a little big now, he says. But you’ll grow into it. I don’t want to, she says. Why not? She keeps her hands clasped beneath the bar. He elbows her gently. Just take it, he says. She remembers the box it came in, white velvet, stamped with the name of the jeweler in silver letters. But why? she asks. Why should I take it? Because it’s yours, because it’s pretty. Why does it matter? Why do you make a big deal out of every little thing? I don’t. You’re always complaining. She is silent. Hey, come on. You look beautiful. No one can tell what happened to you. Don’t worry about it. She turns back to him, her eyes fresh with tears; his chest clenches to see them. Water. Life. It’s not that, she says through gritted teeth. Her cheeks are fuller, rounder. He still can’t believe how young she looks. Is. Was. Can we try to have a good time? Please? Yes, she says. I’m trying. He finishes his drink in hard small swallows. You don’t know what life was like for me before I met you. I know you had it bad, at the end, but you came from a good family at least. Not me. I’m sorry about that. You could at least thank me. She covers her face with her hands. He wonders what she is doing behind them—crying, or getting ready to scream. He looks around the


Maryse Meijer

room but no one is watching. He wipes his napkin against the damp bar. You can go to the ladies’ room and clean your face, you know, he says. You can get that crud out from under your nails. You can make an effort. She gets up from the stool and walks across the empty dance floor to the bathroom without moving her hands from her eyes. When she doesn’t come back after a quarter hour he goes to look for her, his knuckles sorry on the door. Hey, you okay? he calls. No answer. He knocks again. Please, I didn’t mean it, just come out. When he opens the door there is no one inside, just a circle of dirt in the wet sink. She walks until the pavement gives way to tall trees and soft earth. This is a different place, not the cemetery, not the side of the other road, where he might go to look for her again. This way is steep; she uses her hands and knees to climb her way upward, her shoes slipping over the leaves, until the lights from the town are dim and she can start to dig. She remembers this: the feeling of the dirt beneath her nails, the taste of it tamped hard into her mouth as the soil sucked her dry. There are white things in this earth, pieces of young roots, or teeth, or bone; she still can’t quite see. Instead she sees him, recalls the naked rage in his face when she threw the ring from the window, the ring he had given her, the ring she did not want. It is on her hand now, because of him, the other one, and she takes it off, throwing it once more into black grass. Sitting in the shallow pit, scooping dirt over her legs like a blanket, she watches as the white dress darkens; there is no young man here, she tells herself, no ring, no knife. The dress is gone. If she is lucky, she, too, will disappear.


Holding On Kat Genikov



MUD SONG Terry Ann Thaxton I found the hollowed-out wind, a thin un-readable sign, and, for three hours, I hiked the muddied path— bright palmettos, armadillo holes, dog shit. Each step was still a desperate rerun of childhood. I, the oldest girl, did not become a thin tugboat, as predicted, floating along the horizon. Though I’ll never again see my parents, their lives are nailed to mine. Like their little girl of silver I wait for the call, still angry at my hands, like pebbles, in the kitchen sink. I caved into expectations, but never stopped asking for daisies or gardenias. I felt like a mournful twig. Here, I could start dying. My head falls onto the shag carpet of my teenage room. I walk as if I can no longer hear my parents. I know the value of mud on a dog’s paw. I want to wake up and disappear into the minutes where the crows fly. I want someone to leave me in the clouds and carry my gown across the night.


IN MEMORY OF ME Terry Ann Thaxton

The rocks are not for pulling my body to the bottom of the sea, but for guests to hold in their hands while the day continues to drip with sunlight. I have become hay become wind become sour. My hands feel as though they are draped from the top limb of the camphor tree that stood outside my window, like a curtain through my days of grading papers. Now the others speak: Once, she was a light bulb hanging from the basement ceiling. She was a line on a single note card. We were her friends until that night at dinner when she spoke of marrying her dog. Her silence no longer opens doors.


She listens only to the nest in the wild water.

an Interview with Victor LaValle Andrew P. Heath

victor lavalle is the author of the short story collection Slapboxing with

Jesus, three novels, The Ecstatic, Big Machine, and The Devil in Silver, and two novellas, Lucretia and the Kroons and, most recently, The Ballad of Black Tom. He’s received a Whiting Award, a Guggenheim fellowship, and the key to Southeast Queens. He teaches at Columbia University.

ANDREW P. HEATH: victor lavalle: i felt i turned serious when I was

When did you first get serious about writing, as in, when did you realize it was something you were good at and wanted to pursue on a full-time basis? What was your earliest work like? Who did you read at the time?

about thirteen or fourteen. By that I mean I was reading a lot and decided to try my hand at writing short stories and I even sent two of them out. Both were rejected, but that part doesn’t matter. They deserved to be rejected, but I still had the intent, the fire, you know? That’s what makes anyone a serious writer, in my opinion, producing the pages. And I did dream, even then, of making my entire living from the writing alone. Still dreaming about that part. My early stuff could be called “horror” if you’re being generous. Generous because most of it wasn’t very scary. Largely I found myself ripping off the much better fiction of the people I’d been reading. Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, H.P. Lovecraft, Clive Barker, and many more in that vein.



’ that I am able to write with a greater sympathy for people, characters, who are nothing like me. I understand that I’m not the center of the universe and that every other human being in the world is as rich with complication and surprising motivation as I am. My early work, like when I was a teenager, often had a “good” person at its center and then a handful of vaguely bad people who acted against him or her. Now I’m more likely to have a cast of characters who all think they’re acting out of understandable, if not always good, motivations. This usually forces my plots to become more complicated and makes my books better.

Have you matured as i ve matured in the sense a writer?

Your earlier work is very gritty and very dark. A story like “Slave,” for example is incredibly frightening and tragic and I think the tragedy is somewhat fueled by the realism employed there. The Devil in Silver is frightening too, but the fear it evokes is more genre-related. I guess my question is: how does genre affect or inform your work?


Victor LaValle

“slave” is the best short story I ever wrote. It’s

brutal. I’m very proud of it. It didn’t need me to throw in anything more than the facts of the main character’s life. That was horrific enough. The Devil in Silver is about a mental hospital and the lives of both patients and staff inside a poorly run, if not downright evil, mental health system. The lives of the characters inside, if approached realistically, could easily read as rough as the life of the boy in “Slave.” But what works in a short story might not always work in a novel, at least not for me. I wouldn’t want to write a novel-length version of “Slave,” if only because it would hurt me too much. The reality would tip over from brutal to numbing. So the aspects of the horror genre that filtered into The Devil in Silver were there to carry some of the weight of the lives inside the hospital. Some

pretty terrible things happen to those patients and none of that treatment is fiction. But in order to get a reader to really bear witness to those lives I used a story that would pull them through. I can’t say that’s down to genre but more the difference between writing something short and something long.



When you came to oh sure I do almost everything that shows up Mills last year you talked in my books. Or at least some version of it. about having your wife put a bike lock around your Even the story we talked about earlier, “Slave,” neck to get the feeling right was based on some experiences I had witnessed for a scene in a book. Any when I ran away from home for a very short other method-acting-type things you’ve done for your time around the age of fourteen. I haunted the writing? Port Authority and Times Square and met a

kid who became the inspiration for Rob. When I was writing the story in grad school around age 25 or so, I went back to the Port Authority, back to a specific bathroom where I first met that kid. The beautification of Times Square had already begun by that point (it was about 1996 or 1997) but some of the old grime was still there. Even just walking the old paths, standing in the old places, can be enough to make a place/time/event more vivid.

You said recently on because it s so damn hard to get everything down Twitter that your first drafts in a first draft. It’s hard even by the fifth or usually lack an antagonist — any theories as to why? sixth draft! I find that I tend to work in a pretty

specific order. My first drafts usually have lots of voice but no antagonist, not much vivid action, no plot, barely any clear settings, and no ending. Each draft I write is then focused on fixing — or just creating — one of these. I do a whole draft just for settings. A draft for vivid



actions in the present. A draft for the antagonist. And so on. By the time a story is done it’ll go through at least seven or eight drafts. Then I’m reasonably sure I’ve got everything in and can start revising for the actual quality of the writing! It’s exhausting, but that’s also the fun. I can never get everything down in one draft and I’ve never seen anyone else do it either. Embracing that, understanding it, helps me from being too hard on myself when I reread the early drafts or show them to others. You mentioned when before i became a father I could spend seven you came to Mills last year hours at the desk and come away with a page that you were doing a lot of work at a nearby Dunkin’ of writing. Not even a good page. I took my Donuts. Are you still doing time, I played music, I might pause to watch that? I’m interested in other something, I’d go down some rabbit hole of writers’ methods because I research online. Now that I’m a father I don’t feel like a big part of becoming a writer is figuring out have time for all that shit. I write two hours how you work. My question a day, four or five days a week. Never on the is, I suppose, what does a weekends because the kids are home from standard day of work look like for you? school. To my great surprise I am infinitely

more productive this way.

What I’ve discovered is that I thrive on routine. I can’t wait for inspiration (because of the kids) but I also don’t do well with boredom and down time. I need to know there’s a task to complete and then I go complete it. I’ve been working this way for about five years (since our oldest was born). At this point my brain knows to “turn on” when I get down for the two hours. They’re usually in the morning, after I drop the kids off at school, but sometimes it’ll be in the afternoon. That part doesn’t matter.


Victor LaValle


It’s the routine that matters. Two hours equals about five pages. In a week that’s twenty to twenty-five pages. In a month that’s almost one hundred. In half a year I can write a really loose draft of a novel. Then I spend the next six months rewriting and revising. Again and again like that. In three or four years I can actually have a tight book I’m ready to show others (and to sell). I accomplish those two hours of work best outside of the house. Inside there’s always too much to do and I could always find something to stream on the computer (or play Fallout 4, my current pleasure). Outside the house I get deep into business mode, especially if it’s a place that’s not full of other writers. The Dunkin’ Donuts was full of people on break from their jobs or about to start them and it made me feel like I, too, was on the clock. The new book has been written at a coffee shop next to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, so it’s full of doctors and RN’s and interns and medical students and those people are on the clock too. I fit right in. You recently had a the ballad of black tom is a return to one of my novella come out — The great literary loves, H.P. Lovecraft. I devoured Ballad of Black Tom — can you talk a bit about that man’s wild, weird work when I was the writing process/what younger. Only when I returned to it as a grown readers can expect? man did I see the rampant racism, sexism, anti-

semitism, anti-immigrant bias that seethed through the pages. The man rarely came across a group of non-white men he didn’t hate! The easy thing to do would be dismiss him entirely. Fuck him and all his work. But I still loved it. In


fact, his stories were once the pillars on which I’d built my imagination. So instead of casting him out I thought I’d like to argue with him. Mess with him. One of his most famously racist stories is called “The Horror at Red Hook.” Lovecraft was living in Brooklyn for a short time and hated it completely. He hated the immigrants there so much that he’d walk down the middle of the street just to avoid having to share the sidewalks with them. I decided I’d take “The Horror at Red Hook” and turn it on its head. Instead of telling it from the point of view of the Lovecraft-like white police officer, as he did, I retold a version of that same story but from the perspective of one of those dusky masses he so hated. It’s Lovecraft remixed, chopped and screwed, with guest verses by yours truly.

Our theme this year there s a nine inch nails song I always loved called is transcendence. What, if “The Way Out is Through.” I think that title anything, does that mean to you? sums up my idea of transcendence. To progress,

to change, but not by leaving anything behind. To be truly in this world and to let this world into you.


Victor LaValle

Shadow Boy Ed Ntiri


Rooftop Minstrel Richard King Perkins II

Together, near a lakeshore in the city, among skyscrapers we reunite, standing silently within our heavy energy and duty. In the first tines of morning, relegated to the most dangerous arenas, we steal rainwater and release pigeons from pretense and innocence. I could be with you in some future night, dissimulating myths of negation. You dislike this unnatural buoyancy, the forced mantra, asking the earth for permission to undulate like a manifest of ill-intent. You’re a primitive plaything, a self-generated reality of one, sifting the creep of pragmatism. I receive the affirmation I require. I hold the ceiling up with fingertips. The floor rises inevitably skyward.


“Raw Blush” is the winner of the 580 Split short fiction contest for current Mills students and alumnae.

Raw Blush Jaade Wills

If I am but not If Only I am At least, Skin.

he decided that for their first time he would use red hemp rope with

natural fibers no thicker than an index finger, because the woman at the Kinky Kat sexshop told him that natural fibers wouldn’t strain against the skin, and would naturally tighten as the model resisted. “I thought we’d try this position,” he explains with a half grin while pointing to a diagram entitled “The Turtle Bind.” In his New Shibari book, the instructions are accompanied by a tiny illustrated example of what the bind will look like on a cartoon woman. Dana glances at his grin, then at the book, then at his hands, which carry two handfuls of thin red rope. The picture is of a girl in the fetal position, with both knees tight against her breasts, and her arms tied on either side of her legs. The illustrated girl is painted teal blue, and the rope that binds her is white as bone. She studies the picture and is immediately struck with envy towards this drawn kink girl that is able to bring her knees as high as her collarbone without strain, while still appearing to preserve a keen seduction in the process. Immediately she states the first thing


that would make the picture girl seem less appealing. “She looks like an egg,” an declares Dana. “Isn’t the idea that we are able to have sex after the tying?” He explains to her of the hurt it wouldn’t cause to simply try getting into the position, and if they exhaust their efforts that they would just try a simpler bind. Immediately, her first thought is to perform at an unsatisfactory level so he would give up on this ambitious task, and point to an image like the one on page two: “The Plank Bind.” Dana likes the plank bind because it only requires her to be awake, lie like a stiff wooden plank atop a flowing river, while he binds her ankles together, and seams her wrist with rope above her head. She practices her finest turtle position on the maple hardwood, noticeably struggling to keep her knees at the same height, all the while keeping a steady influx of air in her lungs. She glares up at him as if to say, “See, this isn’t going to work.” Her roundness rolls on the floor as a ripened plum rolls from its sanctioned branch, taking a leaf or two with it as a souvenir to its new life. So too were her soft curves wheeling away from him, taking the end of his rope with her in the process. Instead of the response she is hoping for, where he would have flipped a few pages to land on the plank, which is home and refuge, he politely asks her to try it again. Dana starts getting into position by lying on her back atop the padded yoga mat on the floor, wondering if she has ever used the mat for anything other than their sexual explorations before. She confirms that she hasn’t. Her breaths are heavy and deep as she motions both legs into a cradled position, her knees pressing against her D cups, her feet parallel to the floor. Earlier this evening, he positioned the wardrobe mirror that once hung against his closet door on the living room floor next to the mat, so they could both watch while he tied her. Lying on its side, the mirror provides a horizontal floor view of the binding in question. Dana can’t seem to take her eyes off her nakedness and the contrast


Jaade Wills

that the redness of the rope makes against both her fair complexion and her silvery stretch marks, which trail along each side of her upper thighs. She has never seen this angle of herself nude before, and remains unclear of her assessment of it. Having only gotten to the right knee, the bind holds her right side hostage in a bent position, while the left leg flails on the floor. Dana feels the need to resist her reflected gaze, but can’t help but stare at her body and the stressed indentations where the rope meets her soft skin, and the meat which hugs around it in embrace. She feels in this moment like a roast dressed in macramé, tied with butcher knots into a compressed ball before entering the heat of a broiler. With the excess rope wrapped around his wrist, he weaves the remaining parts beneath the free leg, bends it at the knee, places her arm against it, and pulls the ends to form a firm knot. Once more, Dana’s eyes carefully follow the rope that coils around her, and she is taken aback when the words that hadn’t penetrated her mind in years, her grandmother’s words, appear at the forefront of her subconscious. You serve no one when you serve only yourself, echoes in her ears as he twirls the bits of rope remaining into a loop, tucking it neatly away behind her right wrist. With the knot rubbing against her veins, she can feel the individual pulses of her heartbeat, and its quickening pace, with the bind finally complete. He leans in, hoping to kiss her, take her away from her distracted gaze in the mirror, and envelop her mouth into his. Dana motions her head sideward for a moment’s breath and a polite request, “Would you please flip the switch to the ceiling light off?”


“Kara� is the winner of the 580 Split visual art contest for current Mills students and alumnae.


Steven Berroteran



Beauty. “He who loves the beautiful is called a lover because he partakes of it.” See Phaedrus 249 E as the midwife of the soul. The ladder is always there. The words are maps. We are dealing with a phantom. I could speak about the thing more autobiographically; it’s the emphasis where one is most likely to be questioned, n’est-ce pas? Bird. The derivation of the word augur is uncertain; ancient authors believed that it contained the words avi and gero, Latin for “directing the birds”—but historical-linguistic evidence points instead to the root aug-, “to increase, to prosper.” Only a few birds could give auguries among the Romans (Cic. de Div. II. 34). You can be air since I am bird. California. Calafia: Las sergas de Esplandian, 1500. “Know ye that at the right hand of the Indies there is an island called California, very close to that part of the Terrestrial Paradise, which was inhabited by black women without a single man among them, and they lived in the manner of Amazons.” They were robust of body with strong passionate hearts and great virtue. Dactyl. For the association of the metrical foot, late 14c., from Gk. dactylos, literally “finger” (also “toe”); origin unknown; a long syllable followed by two shorts analogous with the three joints of a finger.


Oak. A magical tree. I remember a dream: a twelve-year-old boy has fallen asleep under a tree. In time, the tree grows old. Think of the body’s loneliness. You sleep to stay alive. The tree and the boy are inseparable. How long did you lie amongst the acorns? In a poem, you bring them all together. Self. One is right to distrust the opinion that associates self with self-expression, as if the self-expression were ectoplasm emanating in a tenuous stream from the allegedly authentic self. One’s idea of the authentic self may be quite different from the authentic self as it really is. The dividing line between innocent stupidity and fakery is very unclear; that innocent stupidity and deliberate fakery can coexist in the one writer. Truth. See Giovanni di Paulo’s St. Thomas Aquinas Confounding Averroës. There is one truth, but at least two ways to reach it. The world is eternal, the soul divided. See “monopsychism.” If I remember rightly, the synopsis said that St. Thomas is refuting Averroës, and that Averroës is writhing in pain and distress on the floor. To me he looked peacefully asleep.


Molly Vogel

Light and the Desert Aliza Cohen


Searching For Paradise Michelle Ramin


an Interview with Maggie Nelson Andrew P. Heath and Deborah Sherman maggie nelson is the author of several books of poetry, autobiography,

and criticism including Women, the New York School, and Other True Abstractions, The Red Parts: A Memoir, The Art of Cruelty, Bluets, and most recently, The Argonauts. Recent awards include a 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship in Nonfiction, a 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry and a 2013 Innovative Literature grant from Creative Capital. She is the Director of the MFA program at CalArts and lives in Los Angeles, California. DEBORAH SHERMAN: maggie nelson: you don’t know, of course. And I don’t

You write that your “aim is to not rediscover the eternal or the universal, but to find the conditions under which something new is produced (creativeness).” Could you speak a bit more about your process to find these conditions? How do you know when you’ve tapped a creative vein in which something new has been produced? And does that moment in any way feel transcendent?

really write with the explicit aim of producing something new, save in the most literal sense, i.e. that no one will have written the same thing I’ve written in all of history only because that’s an ontological fact. But your question makes me think of T. S. Eliot’s famous remark (in “Tradition and the Individual Talent”) that the search for “new human emotions to express” is an error that will lead only to “the discovery of the perverse.” As I say in The Art of Cruelty, “for those of us who sense that there is more human hope and enlivenment to be found in the realm of the perverse than in traditions that have proved dull, restrictive, unimaginative, inapplicable, or unjust, Eliot’s warning acts as a goad rather than a discouragement.” As for the experience of transcendence in writing, I think


that belongs more to the reader than to me as a writer, which seems fair enough.

DS: In The Argonauts there s been a lot of work on wildness as a you write of Harry’s “art of concept as of late, from José Muñoz to Jack pure wildness––as [you] labor grimly on [your] Halbertam to Wu Tsang and much else, and sentences, wondering all while it interests me some, I personally can’t the while if prose is but the approach the goal of wildness in my work gravestone marking the forsaking of wildness...” head-on (maybe you’re catching a theme here, Could you speak more about as per my above response about newness or this wildness and how prose transcendence). One of this book’s inspirations (or perhaps language in and early readers, the poet Dana Ward, paid general) constrains it. And if there is a way in which me the incredible favor of describing the wildness does show up in wildness he felt in this book as based in radical your work?

sanity as opposed to insanity, which is the more well-trod trope. I don’t know if I’m warping his comments or if I understood him fully, but I do know his remarks made me very happy.

ANDREW P. HEATH: on a sentence by sentence level, or a word for

How do you keep your work so crystalized/contained? Do you cut a lot? Or are your revisions more a matter of words/flow?

word level, I am very concerned with cutting away dross. I cut, revise, everything you can think of. When I thought I’d pared everything unnecessary or clichéd off this book, for example, another poet friend of mine, Ben Lerner, told me to go make a huge iced coffee, and go over the book again at the most micro level. At first I resisted, feeling like it was most certainly edited enough, but he was absolutely right. Eventually you have to abandon a book, but before you do, rigor should be applied to every word.

DS: The Argonauts and Bluets include rich quoted material from many artists, writers, and thinkers. Can you talk about how you sometimes i start writing with someone approach this material? words, sometimes I start with my


Maggie Nelson

else’s own.

Sometimes there are two quotations by others I want to bring into conversation, and I write enough of “my own” words to make a bridge. Sometimes I just write out “my own” stories. It’s really one flow to me, though the method/ratio changes book by book.

APH: While you were i didn t refer to it as anything in my head. At some working on The Argonauts point with a piece of writing, its form becomes how did you refer to it in your head or when you were clear to me, so in this case, it eventually became talking about it with other clear after a lot of writing that it was going to people as an essay? be a book-length prose piece with one or two A memoir? DS: I think you used the term “memoirist in drag.”

spaces between paragraphs as the only formal measure of pacing or separation. So I guess I referred to it as a book-length unbroken prose thing with paragraph breaks of varying size. “Book-length essay” is fine as a descriptor (certainly beats “memoir”). But genre isn’t a major driving force for me.

APH: You talk a little oh i would imagine so, unless I become about teaching in The unforeseeably wealthy! But I like teaching, so Argonauts. Do you think you will continue to teach? that’s fine with me. Being a student and being a

teacher have been big parts of my life; in many ways The Argonauts is an unabashed homage to those two intertwined subject positions.

APH: What are you i’d rather not go into it, but I’m reading a lot, working on now?

which is great.


Savage Conversations LeAnne Howe

president abraham lincoln gave the order to execute thirty-eight Dakota

Indians in Mankato, Minnesota for their actions in the Dakota War against white settlers who had first stolen their lands, then their rations, and raped their women. At 10 a.m. on December 26, 1862 the synchronized hanging of thirty-eight Dakotas was, and continues to be, the largest mass execution in United States history. Four thousand settlers attended the execution. After the mass burial, their bodies were dug up by a local doctor and used as medical cadavers. Fast forward eleven years to November 1873. Dr. Willis Danforth of Illinois treats Mary Todd Lincoln for “nervous derangement and fever in the head.” He notes peculiar symptoms. Mrs. Lincoln tells him that someone is removing wires from her eyes, especially the left one, and the bones from her cheeks. She attributes the fiendish work inside her head to an Indian spirit. Nightly, she claims, he lifts her scalp and replaces it by dawn, sometimes cutting a bone out of her cheek. “The Indian,” she says, “slits my eyelids and sews them open, always removing the wires by dawn’s first light.” In May 1875, Mary Todd Lincoln goes on trial in Chicago for insanity. Judge Marion Wallace presided. Mary’s only surviving son, Robert Lincoln testified against her. The jury deliberated for ten minutes before bringing in a verdict. They recommended she be placed in an asylum. Robert Lincoln escorts Mary Todd Lincoln to Bellevue Place Sanitarium on Jefferson Street in Batavia, Illinois. Once there she continues to blame an American Indian for her maladies claiming she’s being tortured by a ghost.


LeAnne Howe

And I believe her.


Apocrypha June 1875 Bellevue Place Sanitarium 333 S. Jefferson Street, Batavia, Illinois Mary Todd Lincoln’s suite at Bellevue. The sitting room is chocked full of her goods. Seventeen trunks, six carpetbags filled with footstools, silk curtains, jewelry, fifteen pairs of kit gloves, and a few hidden vials of laudanum hidden among her things. Savage Indian sits in a dark corner of the room. He wears a black Vigilante Town Coat, the one he was hanged in. The coat droops open because the hangman’s wife cut the buttons off to use on a new frock.

Mary Todd Lincoln Before you can think, you forget and then remember A dress of blood, gloves I refuse to wash. Ever. What is it to a wild Indian? The president is shot. Fool, I was his all-in-all, his Molly, his Child Wife and Mother, his Puss. Everything. Savage Indian He called me Puss, too.


LeAnne Howe

Catafalque June 1875 Bellevue Place Sanitarium 333 Jefferson Street, Batavia, Illinois

Midnight. A single candle lights Mary’s sitting room. She wears a tattered nightdress; the underarms are soiled and brown. Her small feet are swollen and the skin is paper-thin.

Savage Indian The small box on his lap is filled with her jewelry. He examines

each piece and finally fastens a pearl necklace around his neck.

Mary Todd Lincoln Holds a mirror in front of her face Nightly I examine the ruined heads in my handheld mirror: yours and mine, our eyes dangle like dull grapes on a broken vine, is it the candlelight? Savage Indian Watches her with menacing eyes but does not move. Mary Todd Lincoln I touch the blemish on your face, finger your blood-stained shirt, a drop of spittle has escaped your tight lips, your bare feet clammy as fish, all there, and here; I kiss the mirror, beg you to wake, fight to catch your attention through some mad, theatrical gesture, remember? My bed, always a catafalque to you; Oh let fly my flesh, hair, and eyelash, pay the Nightjar who regularly serenades, but like us, steals the milk of goats. Here, at last, I’ll tell it all; I did wish you dead, Sir, eight thousand thirtynine times for all the days you ran sideways from our home, whistling a Nightjar’s tune. Pay them all now Sir, before dawn’s light. Savage Indian Reads aloud the inscription of her wedding ring. Love is Eternal.


Catafalque II June 1875 Bellevue Place Sanitarium 333 S. Jefferson Street, Batavia, Illinois

Mary Todd Lincoln Arriving nightly without invitation, You make the room a ceremony as Nightjars sing, wing clap, chirr a bird’s song. Inhibited at dawn by God’s will, like us. When shall I tell them the truth? Where shall I keep the truth? Under my frayed petticoat, It will not flower now. There is no need to wait for tea: I confess I did long for the pleasure of your coarse skin, Money to spend, kit gloves, chiffon and satin Ball gowns properly hemmed. Doomed children. Tonight, let us hoist the catafalque over a new grave Hold my hands above the dank earth as the Nightjars serenade Oh what a great heart smasher you are, Mr. Lincoln. Adieu, my confessor, my all-in-all, lover, protector, ghost husband. Wishing for nothing, not even breath, Take the flint knife, Cut me, I dare you.


LeAnne Howe

Savage Indian Feeds Gar Woman June 1875 Bellevue Place Sanitarium 333 S. Jefferson Street, Batavia, Illinois 3 a.m. A slight breeze blows the gauzy curtains and a candle flickers on the bureau.

Mary Todd Lincoln Cleave unto me, Seduce, Fetter, Handcuff, Wheel clamp the irons, Savage, I cease all protestations. Savage Indian Checks her scalp for nits.

Wipes excess bear grease from his hands on her nightdress. Fills her gaping mouth with fescue and sod.

How does it taste, Gar Woman? “If they are hungry let them eat grass, or their own dung.”1 Trader Andrew Myrick’s words Lower Sioux Agency, August 15, 1862. Your sentiment repeated many times Mary Todd Lincoln She swallows.

May 9, 1875. I am in possession only of my name, Mary Todd Lincoln, bewildered with a joy so noble I too, could expire Savage Indian Who says Abe is dead?



Long Night’s Moon June 1875 Bellevue Place Sanitarium 333 S. Jefferson Street, Batavia, Illinois 4 a.m. Mary Todd Lincoln’s Suite of rooms. Many candles light bedroom. The air is hot and stifling.

Savage Indian With a long rope and a smile, he shackles her legs to the chair for the 57th time tonight.

Gar Woman. That is your true name. Gar feed at night, Sometimes eat their eggs. We were all once fish The scent of woman during copulation reminds us. Mary Todd Lincoln Vulgarity at last, just like my Mr. L. He once asked me why a woman was like a barrel? Savage Indian He shrugs.

Mary Todd Lincoln She giggles.

You have to raise the hoops before you put the head in. Savage Indian Breathes through his nose. Snorts the bad air. Leaves her side, walks around her bedroom.

Mary Todd Lincoln Fiend, he was my lover, father, and comedian.


LeAnne Howe

Savage Indian Pinches and sniffles her things; the nit comb on her bureau intrigues him the most.

Fishy in here. Mary Todd Lincoln Smoothes the wrinkles of her sour nightdress, the one she’s worn since March 12, 1875.

Ghoul, Specter, Poltergeist, Banshee, You are the fishy one. Savage, at last be gone from my head! Savage Indian Quiet, someone is coming.


Mary Todd Lincoln No doubt the Wandering Jew, Nightly he steals my pocketbook.2 Savage Indian Hush! Be still.

He moves in close, gently caresses her face. Takes a sharp flint from his leather pouch, slits the soft skin above her eyelids. Sews them firmly open with silver filigree.

Mary Todd Lincoln Euphoric. Oh! At last I can see the world as it truly is.


The Insanity File: The Case of Mary Todd Lincoln. Mark E. Neely, Jr. R. Gerald McMurtry. P 7.


LeAnne Howe

The Rope Seethes.


Now I Lay Me Down June 1875 Bellevue Place Sanitarium 333 S. Jefferson Street, Batavia, Illinois 4 a.m. Mary Todd Lincoln’s suite. A small tallow candle flickers against the darkness.

Mary Todd Lincoln Sits in a chair in the middle of the room. Tattoos adorn his arms and hands. Like night-blooming cereus they prick the skin, slash my will The Savage says nit picking takes time and patience, but can be very enjoyable for both parties. Savage Indian Stands behind her as if a hairdresser.

He combs her oily hair. This one night he forgets to bind her arms and legs.

Immerse any nits or lice in kerosene water. Pull them from the hair; drop in bowl Pin cleaned sections of the hair aside, Scissor divided segments close to the scalp. Wait. Mary Todd Lincoln These many days after Abraham, I have come to this, Hairless with a deformed cheek, Those of us with eyes sewn open Perceive nothing to fear Not Gunpowder, walls afire, A Wild Dakota Indian The Presidential Box at Ford’s Theatre, A hangman’s noose Savage Indian Silence, Gar woman!


LeAnne Howe

Ever so gently he takes the sharp flint knife from his leather pouch, slits the skin above her eyelids. Sews them firmly open with a thin wire thread.

Mary Todd Lincoln Stands and walks to the bureau. She picks up the mirror and studies her face.

I faint from the ecstasy. Her thin upper lip curls into a smile.


The Rope Seethes.


LeAnne Howe

The Rope Speaks July 4, 1875 Bellevue Place Sanitarium 333 S. Jefferson Street, Batavia, Illinois A single noose hangs from the ceiling in Mary Todd Lincoln’s sitting room. Savage Indian holds a flint knife in his hand.

Rope I done it. I come when I’m called Like a dog, A horse, A lover. This is how I make brothers and sisters. Rope begins to fashion a second noose with his hands. Start with a piece of string or rope three feet in length. Bring one end of the loop down parallel to the original rope and fold it into thirds. It should form a wide, sideways “S.” The lead (the left side) should be left longer so that you have some string left at the end for tying to something. With the bottom of the original “C” wrap the end of the rope around the loop several times, from the bottom near your hand, upwards. With the rope that has been wound around the “C,” poke the end of the rope through the top of the loop left by the “S.” Once the loop is fully tightened, the task is complete. Rope laughs softly. Holds the noose up for inspection. Hangs the noose on a bare wall in Mary’s sitting room as if a piece of art.

A good noose should have one giant loop at one end and a piece of rope at the other end. Mary Todd Lincoln and Savage Indian admire Rope’s creation.


The Rope Seethes Two down, 36 more to go.


LeAnne Howe

Savage Indian Lament July 4, 1875 Bellevue Place Sanitarium 333 S. Jefferson Street, Batavia, Illinois Mary Todd Lincoln’s suite. Savage Indian walks amidst all the clutter in her room. Mary is seated in a ladder-back chair but her legs are bound. She periodically covers her ears to prevent hearing his lament.

Savage Indian I know isolation. Silence. The slow descent downward Lost somewhere in mid-air, Gar Woman, I have crippling doubts, but I surrender nothing, not even in death. He pauses and looks around the room.

I no longer have to worry. That doesn’t mean I am not suspicious of the living, They enter my dreams uninvited. In Dakota-land they are pulling down the last of our dead Bodies of men and women hanged by a rope of lies When I was human, I would sing the air thick with Dakota songs. December 26, 1862. In one hundred and fifty years the citizens of Mankato will shiver, asking why their ancestors hanged 38 Dakota Indians over a handful of hens eggs. When I look at the world it fills your room. Because in the end, even your life is a reservation.


Maybe all are reservations. For the thirty-eight lives abandoned. He drinks water from a china teacup on the table in Mary’s room. Pause

In that moment in Mankato I was misplaced. Maybe the Nightjars carried my spirit to safety. Back to the beginning. Maybe before Mother Earth existed. You are probably wondering when. What epoch, Because in your eyes every hour is measured. Savage Indian again drinks water from a china teacup as if he is making a toast.

To die alone while dying with 37 others. This is where I tell you about my friend’s dying. A death song, he sang it, then we sang together. On the platform in Mankato we tried to grasp hands, shouting to the winds, Mni sota Makoce, the Land Where the Waters Reflect the Skies, the land where we die. The words caught in our throats. Choked by a muscular rope. Savage Indian points with his lips to ceiling.

Rope, he held fast. The Rope Seethes Shimmies down from the ceiling. Stands. Takes a bow. Savage Indian 1862, almost like a birthday. Tiny needles sew shut the burlap around our faces. Buried in a mass grave only to be dug up, Stolen by physicians to be used as medical cadavers, Later stored in cast iron pots.


LeAnne Howe

Still, Our bodies cramped and squirmed in the wind, our spirits scattered. All of us, Gar Woman, still hang And you, in your nightshift, The one you refuse to remove all these weeks Can never cover the past The soldiers are pulling on their boots, They are not the ones they think they are. When I am myself as I am tonight, every word is a weapon When I am myself as I am tonight, why can’t I forget what happened and Take you amid the dried up tingling in my head, The dried up prickle between my legs, The ragged filaments of desire Oh I lie, But Gar Woman, you are not who you claim to be, You bring a child into the world and intensely regret it, despite your theatrical tears Pause


And you believe you know what must be done with your Deadly teas and bad medicine. I have seen the ghosts of your relations shrink When you enter the room, Abe, Willie, Tad, Shadows escaping your sun. What happens next Gar Woman? You’ve swallowed your eggs. Because the wind refuses your touch, Because the insects abandoned the ground where you sleep Because your prayers wilt the prairie grasses Because at dawn your every breath is a trial, Because with your eyes sewn open you still see nothing, Because everything you touch leaves a bruise. The muskets are being reloaded The carbines are being reloaded The Large bore rifles are being reloaded The Gatlin Guns are being reloaded Emancipate me. Fire!


LeAnne Howe

The Rope Seethes And now a bloody red tongue unspools.

Told you I believed her.


Prison Art: an Introduction Deborah Sherman

“There are many ways to be free. One of them is to transcend reality by imagination...” ~Anaïs Nin

in furthering our exploration of transcendence , this mid-section

showcases work created by individuals either currently or recently incarcerated. Some of this work we sought deliberately, coordinating with programs like the Prison Arts Project, whose aim is to create a sanctuary where inmates are treated with respect, courtesy and an openness to their unique expressions as creative human beings. Other pieces came to us solely through the dedicated trial and effort of the artists, striving to have their works seen and experienced beyond the boundaries of their confinement. In fact, it was the regular delivery to our desk of postal packages from prisons around the country, with return addresses referencing inmates by number rather than name, that sparked our idea for this section. I’d like to thank the following individuals and organizations for their assistance with this project, and more importantly, for their ongoing work, providing individuals (regardless of circumstance) with the meaningful experience of creative self-expression: Dunya Alwan – Art Facilitator, William James Association Arts In Corrections Program, San Quentin Prison Zoe Mullery – Creative Writing Instructor, San Quentin State Prison ( Carol Newborg – Program Manager, Prison Arts Project ( Jackie Ramos – Healing Mentor and Resident Poet, Young Women’s Freedom Center (


Prison Art


Shaun Blake


Somewhere in the Middle A. Kevin Valvardi

Even the endless fields, blistering fingers, baskets, brutal sun, and broken back would have been a fair trade for the clapboard shack, filled with its dank, musty air and horror. Was it how my mother felt when the boss-man called her away from the fields to the barn? The young, African virgin, laboring; her “miraculous” blue-eyed child squirming upon her back as she fought the blazing sun and boll weevils daily, humming decades of lamentations— stories passed on for future generations; not Orion’s version, but Leo’s, carried on the wind to distant lands, then carried back again with all new verses. Maybe I will see the day when all will be revealed, and we’ll find a way to meet each other somewhere in the middle.


Prison Art

Unfulfilled Legacy A. Kevin Valvardi

I wish I hadn’t waited to create you. Even though my heart would break leaving you behind, my son, my daughter; your pictures ‘pon my walls— my broken, concrete heart…. Would your eyes have looked like mine or like the grandfather whose legacy I robbed?



Brendan Murdock


Prison Art

Frustrated Jess Rodriguez Williams Frustrated. Frustrated by the constraints of my mind, the fact that i walk in the room and gotta command space, cuz according to colonization, space ain't rightfully mines the fact that patriarchy got me fucked up, telling girls in saudi arabia that they can't go to school, tellin my home grrrls in the barrio that their worth ain't nothing unless their stomach is baby full promoting marriage and child rearing amongst young low income women of color, as opposed to tellin us that we can grasp a higher conscious, and that we have the capacity to inspire another it's always someone else's problem, fault and excuse that allows for women to put another woman's capacity aside,
 you say you on another level but full of conscious “woke” pride i got normalized delusions living under white supremacy, cuz if i be addressing every single injustice i see, these people don't know what they get when they mess with me when they fuck with the strength that is women of color and our flow it take them all but a second longer glance to see what wisdom we got, that others won't ever know. that's why they scared and second guessin, cuz the power of mi hermanas y curandera blessings are higher than they can ever conceive of my essence. Frustrated. cuz they make us fill the void of generations of trauma,
 with a colonized mindset, that we deserve to be poor, we just gotta be smarta


they got us fighting over turf and which woman belongs to who,
 all in the scheme of trying to distract us from the fat cats droppin bombs on hospitals and schools got mi compas of afro-descent saying that black lives matter. you hear me? Black Lives Matter. fighting for the right to breathe, fighting a new set of laws disguised, with racist banter got indigenous people fighting corporations using them as mascots, what they think, they could just do this shit and ain’t sumthin gonna pop off? Frustrated. cuz women and children are being held like prisoners on the southern border, as if the shipment to refill gun demand in latin america didn’t come from a white man's order so, ima check u for a minute - just cuz you buy a headdress don't mean u cultured, just cuz u paint your face for dia de los muertos don't mean you have a right to build an altar just cuz you listen to rap music don’t mean you understand the struggle just cuz you identify as an intersectional feminist ally don’t mean you humble. so ima let this be known. i don’t got time to educate you, i don’t have a smile for the male privilege you exert,
 so you a male feminist? meanwhile not givin a damn about the woman's mentality and body you hurt. you want to beat another woman's ass cuz she slept with your man? i’ll talk with you about the historical, social factors that disintegrate a woman’s capacity to only being able to keep a man ya i'm Frustrated, cuz governor brown says he’ll sign legislation for equal pay for women, my first thought is, what type of women?
 Frustrated cuz me cruising in the lgbtq community got me filled with “spicy” adjectives and presumptuous people of interest...


Prison Art

Frustrated. so damn Frustrated, with racism, xenophobia, transphobia and countless other oppressions. Frustrated with this world cuz you're seen as weak when you show sincere affection protesting, learning, eating, sleeping, reading, Frustrated. brown, queer, chubby, clever, decolonized, educated. all i know is, i'm not gonna die Frustrated, i'm doing something about it


Prison Nature Kevin D. Sawyer The mattress hurts, but that’s all there is. Same old blues—the clothes I wear Rack the bar; step out the cage—chow time. Long line again; they ran out of food Too many people; here come the feds Three judges later, and I’m still waiting Waiting a lifetime, but I had a life Now I’m serving a life sentence Exercise today? Did a thousand pushups. Shoulders hurt. I’m getting older Might be that mattress, or my age Maybe too much time in that cage. Read a lot of books in there; maybe too many. The “goons” aren’t happy about that. All that Huey, George, Mao, and Che Could land me in Pelican Bay. Validation looms. They say I’m part Guerilla. Sorry, no dragon painted on me—never liked gangs. But stuck in prison all the same ‘Cause someone said I’m to blame Another day, week, month, year, decade Time goes by, chow time again And the mattress still hurts, 19 years later I’m getting older


Prison Art

Know Thyself Bruce Fowler

A view into the theater of life. Where the curtain has been raised that once obscured the fate of a man who has failed to restrain his alter-ego. Subsquently leading to his own demise, and damnation of his soul. The End


Song of an H.F.A. Joseph Krauter

there is whispering outside my cell door. I can't tell what is being said.

The door is an expanded metal grill covering ancient round bars. A pierced tongue of metal juts out from the doorjamb. It holds the only piece of jewelry allowed: a combination pad lock. Today is the last day I will ever pierce that tongue again. I stepped out onto the tier. The floor was sand, whether covered in it, or completely made of it, I couldn't know. But there was enough of it loosely packed that I could shift it with my feet if I chose. But I knew in my heart that if I touched it, I wouldn't leave the fourth tier of North Block of San Quentin State Prison intact. The sand glittered a little, catching the light refracting through the dirty, three-bar, crystalline handrails that traverse the entire length of the tier. They look smoke-stained with lightning bolt veins streaking through them. I turned left, to walk down the tier. A miasma of colors, unfriendly rainbow striations painfully etched into the metal and concrete of each cell door. Shreds of sheet hang out of the little holes of the expanded metal: ghosts of cheap linen reaching out to catch me or maybe escort me down the tier. Every cell told a different story in action: A toothless mannequin, soft featured, unknowable whether man or not, it is so androgynous; on its knees facing a spatula with blue eyes cooking over a George Foreman grill. The mannequin looked over its shoulder and smiled at me. Next was a cell door open. Blocks of smoke grinding through the oppressively tight threshold of a North Block cell. The grunting and coughing of a large animal. I could not tell what, save that I knew it was a predator. All I could see were watery red-rimmed eyes that


Prison Art

tracked me through the smoke. The smoke made me cough and choke. The predator chuffed out phlegmy laughter and flicked a roach butt of whatever it was smoking at me. It landed in the sand of the tier next to broken hypodermic needles and random pills, and was consumed. The dirty lightning veins in the handrails pulsed and throbbed. I pushed forward, quickly now. "Don't come back," the predator coughed after me. "Or do, I'll be here." The next cell was covered in copper wires of all sizes. Distorted, bodiless mouths were being caught in their weavings like salmon in a net. Each mouth spoke: random things, terrible things, funny things, sexual things, or singing things. It was too much to follow and had a deafening, drowning feeling to it. The wires pulled away from the grill of the cell door, slithering through the air towards my face. I knew that if I spoke, I would be snared, in that net of copper. Trapped until I could never speak again. Quickly I pressed on, almost running now. The next cell had the slapping meat, grunting groanings of maddened passion. Black and grey feathers spewed from the cell like confetti. Next was the sobbing laughter of jangling keys being thrust into a lock that will turn one way and then the other, for ever. Finally I made it to the stairs. Four flights of uncertainty, of unknown visions that will try to catch my eye, forcing me to stay here for the rest of my life. But I can resist. All needs be done is stare at my feet like I did when I walked the yard, to keep my balance and not have to look the faces, the acquaintances, the near friends, the green monsters, the fakey fakes, the liars, or even the savers and the helpers in the eyes. Ignore the smells of coffee, shit, and frying foods, of pot and cigarettes, of giving-up-ness. Ignore the sounds of confusion, rage, fake happiness, despair, abused opportunity, and the jangliness of people stuffed over a thousand-plus into a building, forced to live in closets small for a child's scale. Flinch away from the extended hands as I reached the first floor, the falling


feathers off diseased birds, the wet paint covering up decades of lies and sins, the wet dampness of swamps that make people sick and call them showers. Ignore the blaring of a P.A. system that green monsters believe they must give fellatio to in order to make work. Ignore the twelve coffins that let people in the real world reach across the void-filled curtain to talk with the lost, walking dead. Ignore my name being called over and over again by the damned that will never get out and are okay with that. There is a large iron mouth with no teeth at the back of the building. It is covered in rusty cold sores and disgust. Sunlight pours through it. I know that sunlight is for me. I know that it is time for me to stop walking on slippery sand that can trap me, bury me. I know it is time to shake the chains that bind me to this world. I know it is time to stop being blue and start being alive again. It is time to stop crying fugues of pain and rage. It is time for a new song. An alive song. A not-on-pause song. It is time for living joy song. I stepped into the sunlight, coughed out feathers and sand and scarred pieces of flawed mirror glass; lengths of chain falling off my body, blue bleeding off my body. I walked to the main gates of San Quentin, nodded to the last green monsters I would ever see, stepped through those horrible ancient lips... and flew.


Prison Art

Do You Know I’m a Vegetarian? Jose H. Villarreal Those walls circling my cage, enveloping me like a bear hug from hell, a rock monster I dare not meet. Or so it seems. What's this meaning of the supermax I ask, the response comes from the pop and crackle of the guntower answering with the live rounds of the Mini-14 rifle. I beg to differ. What do you mean I can't touch another human being for a decade, censoring my subscriptions AND my books? I need that pen and paper. You say I'm the worst of the worst because I don't agree to go along to get along and some can of mace or night stick should hammer this point home? Did I tell you my favorite joke yet? So my skin should lose its pigment and my veins should stare out like emerald green rivers because the sun is held hostage for my payment of sanity? Did I show you my favorite Salsa dance? Tangle with my poor brother to quench your ancient coliseum fantasy, some twisted rooster game with sharper spurs. A blood sport gone bad? Consume my salvo. Warehouse my mind while my body withers like the parchment found in them old caves. Spoon feed me chemicals or more lies? Where the hell is my Yoga mat? Shackle me up like some animal who even PETA don't want, cast in a windowless cell, a sarcophagus and smirk? Do you know I'm a Vegetarian for crying out loud?


Just Us

Justus Evans

78 78

Prison Art

Self Forgiveness Sara Campos A stifling insomniac night, she tosses inside regulation sheets ignoring the constant clang of metal—lost freedom’s cacophonous songs. Days and nights of insipid sameness years fading inside cement walls. Nightly she unfolds her eighteen-year-old bad-ass self coke-addled and invincible a foolish young heart following a man’s convenience store quick cash dreams. A girl woman too eager to think beyond quick romance. Her mind reels reruns: a humid night of wild promise. It wasn’t supposed to go like that. No guns, just fast money. Instead, a dark-haired guy in a Lakers jersey says “What’ll it be?” She remembers his earnest unsuspecting smile the sucking sound of bullets piercing flesh the whiteness of his knuckles gripping the counter before falling. His name was Evelio. At trial she learns he loved all sports, especially soccer. He loved playing with his twin boys. Thirty-seven years old now, each night she replays the scene doggedly she searches desperate to find a piece of goodness in herself.


As Moments Adjourn Taylor Sacco Mathematicians define a point as a dimensionless object *** Driving to work today I almost veer off the road because I’m staring at what looks like a woodchuck standing hind-legged and frozen in the morning air, as if straining his nose toward the scent of food in the distance. What the fuck does a woodchuck eat anyway? Wood? No, it can’t be wood. That’s too easy. And why don’t “food” and “wood” rhyme? Shouldn’t it be food and wooood? Or fud and wood? Anyway, it wasn’t a woodchuck. Just a weird, twisted root unearthed by the spring thaw. *** We dictate the nature of our realities by virtue of our experiences. Straining to expand our supposed assemblages and amassing such details toward some simmering sense


that the world is built anew with our own hands every day upon waking. *** Swirling gracefully toward a conclusion to the day, the line of the horizon wavers gently like the fuzzy edge of an ink mark on wet paper. It’s in these moments that my true lack of direction comes into focus, directly opposed to the blurring of the Adirondack Mountains. The space between my irises and the distance-blued peaks percolates. I am impossibly far and painfully close and this is when I realize that I need to break in anticipation of a stop sign. *** Suddenly I’m hiking again on the red rocks of Arizona. at the lowest point of a canyon, the space surrounding me is incomprehensibly vast, and for the first time I can feel my own body straining to fill the space: to occupy it with my atoms.


Oscillating between the comfort and the fear of such demanding geometries, this negative space swells, pulsating like the pumping heart of some massive organism beating its decisive baritone in the air, choked with the red dust of slowly eroding rocks. *** When I was nine years old, my cat Joey went missing all winter. When spring hit, I found the meager remains of his body, emaciated and frozen in the river behind our house. He had shrunk, so much from how I remembered him, parts of his mass slowly dissolving toward an impending oblivion as he shifted toward an object with no dimensions, his scaffolds gracefully breaking down. My father put him in a trash bag and buried him in the front yard. With his favorite toy beside him, Joey’s imperceptible pieces vanished, like magic, as he moved slowly, even painfully, toward an existence free from form. Toward a point of representation: a dimensionless echo both there and no longer there .


Taylor Sacco

Untitled #25507 Joe McDermott


22 Lasts Julie Marie Wade & Denise Duhamel

Last will and testament As a child, I wrote many wills, bequeathing various books, toys, and shells to my friends—real and imaginary. As an adult in a same-sex relationship, I learned how contestable we were. If anything happened to you, my lawyer-friend said, your partner could lose everything. We didn’t have much, but they were our belongings, acquired together or integrated into the eclectic story of our couplehood. The LGBT lawbook had a huge rainbow on the cover, the kind I drew in elementary school. Inside were templates. We drafted our last wishes, then sealed them with a kiss and a notary public. Uncle Will left everything to my sister and me. He’d lost his wife young, never remarried, and had no children of his own. He left my sister his house because she had children. I was going to get the cash. When he died, my sister and I had to see the lawyer who’d drawn up the papers. You can’t just give your sister the truck, he told me. You deserve half of the cash value. When my sister went in, he said, I think you could sue for some of your sister’s cash. We never liked lawyers much after that.


Last Tango in Paris I never saw the film, but I wouldn’t have believed its premise. Could sex ever be truly anonymous? Could grief ever make anyone feel sexy? I learned the tango with my ex-boyfriend in college, so skinny and jerky he made me feel like a sack of potatoes in a sheath dress. The teacher kept shouting, “Be water!” as we bumbled about the room, but we weren’t water, we were taters—at least I was. We weren’t in Paris after all. This was Parkland, Washington, the Northwest city most frequently seen on Cops. Nothing but a sexless foxtrot could save us. I never saw the film either, but I remember my older cousin saying Get the butter!, then breaking into laughter. When he was little, he ate all the butter pats at my parents’ wedding, a story my aunt and mother liked to tell to embarrass him now that he was a popular teenager and girls swooned when he played the drums. One even wound up in the emergency room, a suicide attempt when he broke up with her. I was learning love could be scary and violent, and lovers cruel as I watched butter melt on my hot roll. Last supper Is it true that death row inmates get to choose what they eat before execution? Because I love food and fear death, I have thought of this prospect many times. If you knew your life was about to end, would you be too nervous to eat, too inconsolable? Would I? Could any dish even taste good when accompanied by a slice of imminent mortality? Maybe it’s the paradox that pains me so. What reminds us more of being alive than the flavors and textures of food? Simple and American at heart, I would choose a cheeseburger, fries, and Cherry Coke. The night before he left for good, I was doing online banking and saw he’d taken $200 out of checking. Why? Cigarettes, booze, a mistress? It was the first day in a long time we hadn’t fought so I swallowed it, asking no questions. I went into the bathroom and started to cry,


hoping he’d come in and find me. He usually ran up everything on the credit card, one of our “issues.” Later, he asked if I wanted to go for sushi. All I could think of was the money. I feigned a stomachache while he raided the fridge. Last rites In Catholic school, they called it “extreme unction.” Unction sounded cruel to me, but the nuns insisted it was kind. It means to soothe, to make a salve, they said. Then why was it so extreme? Years later, I looked up unction in a dictionary and found this meaning: “an excessive, affected, often cloying manner of speaking.” Salesmen were unctuous, not to mention telemarketers. The nuns were sometimes unctuous, too. At baccalaureate mass, even Father O’Hurlighey got a little unctuous, wagging his finger at the crowd. I crossed myself for the last time and stepped out into the secular world. As a kid, I wore a medal around my neck with the words I AM A CATHOLIC. PLEASE CALL A PRIEST. I knew I could die at any time, given my asthma, the way my lungs shriveled, only the top half able to hold air. But all the other kids at church wore the medal too. The healthy ones who could run miles. The tough ones who could pummel you into the ground. I seemed to be the only one haunted by the bedtime prayer’s phrase, If I should die before I wake, I pray dear Lord my soul to take. Last resort Harrison Hotsprings Resort and Spa, Canadian-based but Americanowned—what my parents called “best of both worlds.” It began as an anniversary trip, but soon they were regulars, returning annually for unlimited brunch, high tea by the fire, ballroom dancing after dinner in the Copper Room. Next, they decided to include me—reluctant adolescent on their romantic getaways. Can’t we at least have a double


Julie Marie Wade & Denise Duhamel

room? I’d protest. Or better yet, can’t I stay home with Grandma? One year, a mountain lion wandered into the lobby while my parents were playing cards. It was their last time north of the border. We chose a cruise to Alaska that we couldn’t afford. I drained our bank account thinking if we couldn’t repair our marriage, we’d at least get a trip—I knew I’d be losing that money in the divorce anyway. We met in Seattle—I was coming from a reading in Portland and he from home in Florida. I thought it would be romantic to stay in a hotel, after each stepping off a different plane. But instead we were middle-age clichés. Silent when we went to the original Starbucks. Silent on the deck of the ship, as blue icebergs roared. Last question My version of heaven is a game of Jeopardy! that never ends. You can’t lose, but you also can’t win. If there’s an afterlife of perpetual syndication, I want to be the host. I’ll replace Alex Trebek, his smug demeanor and snide asides. I’ll make sure all the answers are multivalent, never merely right or wrong. After Double Jeopardy, we’ll have Triple and Quadruple. The categories will shuffle, then eventually recur. When a contestant rings in “What is love?” I’ll give an extemporaneous essay. As in life, the real joy rests in the discovery. All Daily Doubles will be “true.” Once you say I want a divorce, you open a door that’s not easy to shut. There are questions to which you’ll never get answers, such as When did you stop loving me? Was this all a charade? Was I a chump being used? You are surprised when he says okay and shrugs, agreeing to separate. Part of you that you don’t like thinks: Aren’t you going to fight to keep me? At least say you’ll change? These are not the last questions you’ll have to let hang in the air, each of your “I dos” turning to “I don’t.”


Last person on earth A little alone is OK, but I predict the extroverts would die of loneliness, and even the introverts grow bored of their own reflections. I’ve seen Will Smith in I Am Legend, Tom Hanks in Castaway, Will Forte in the new post-apocalyptic series on TV. Why is the last person always a man? Last man standing, last man on earth. I bet the mom on Swiss Family Robinson could have used a break from her husband and kids, a little me time in an island treehouse—no raft to build, no fish to fry, no one else’s needs to satisfy. I wouldn’t touch you if you were the last man on earth. It is always a man—you’re right! But the saying implies that there’s still a woman or women left. I saw Mad Max: Fury Road because the press seemed to think it was a feminist manifesto. Tom Hardy/Mad Max was the last “good” man, and Charlize Theron was a warrior with a mechanical arm. To escape or fight patriarchy—that was the question. Mad Max’s apocalypse was as stereotypically gendered as our past. A bunch of nubile sister-wives hid in the tank. The old women had the seeds. Last period I’m terrible about remembering when it was. The last time I ate cheesecake? The last time a Folgers commercial made me cry? The real last one is coming, of course—in ten years, fifteen maybe. This doesn’t make me sad, not exactly, but the name is wrong. All those times I bled through light slacks or doubled over with cramps should have been called ellipses or interpuncts. They are leading up to something. Lucille Clifton wrote a poem to hers: well, girl, good-bye,/after thirtyeight years. I await mine with equal parts anticipation and dread. The last one. Done. Period. My last one is a vague memory, nothing special about it, though it was pretty light as that is how it goes toward the end. I remember feeling a


Julie Marie Wade & Denise Duhamel

death of something but also a relief that now truly I, no matter what, would never get pregnant. Used to be women all bled at the same time in menstruation huts having prophecy dreams and telling each other about them, powerful in their ritual. Now we bleed alone, in separate houses—with Midol, tampons, and pads—having to go to work anyway, the rhythms of the moon obstructed by florescent lights. Last of the Mohicans I never saw the film, though I remember Daniel Day Lewis looking swarthy and proud on the poster. When my mother’s bingo club went to see it, she came home swooning. The next year, the method actor starred in The Age of Innocence, which I always called The End of Innocence by mistake. When Lewis kisses Michelle Pfeiffer’s wrists in the stagecoach—their one break with duty and decorum—I felt my whole body flood with heat. How I wanted to love a woman that way! But it would take another eight years for my own method acting to end. I read the book as a child and was obsessed with white Natty Bumppo who was raised by the Delaware tribe. Boy or girl, who didn’t want to be brought up by different people? My nonwhite husband was adopted by a white couple with whom we went to see the movie. My father-in-law said the Spanish were better conquerors, marrying Indians, producing Mestizos. My mother-in-law told me how she loved her boy from day one, squeezed his nose each night, hoping to make it pointier. When that didn’t work they gave him, for his sixteenth birthday, a nose job. Last minute Which is what I try never to be. I like the first minute: sunrise, ribboncutting ceremony, pre-race warm-up. I don’t mind waiting on my own terms. I’ll sit in my car, stroll around the neighborhood, grab a coffee. The early bird always gets the coffee. Isn’t that how the saying goes? But once I waited until the eleventh hour. I liked the man, but I didn’t love


him. How do you say this without implying the last two years were a waste of time? On elopement eve, I called to apologize: It turns out I can’t marry you after all. I was angry at my boyfriend and a little drunk. I danced with a guy who didn’t go to Emerson, who was a brother of a friend, who was someone we disrespectfully called a townie. Boston was full of preppies and thugs, doctors and mafiosos who moved into one another’s worlds. Before I knew it, his hand was up my shirt. Boston was full of women like me who moved from virginal to experimental on a whim. At the last minute, I wouldn’t go into his truck to finish what he said we’d started. He yelled, Lousy cock tease. Last laugh If you don’t go to your high school reunion, how will you ever have the last laugh? Remember the girls who were planning on medical school, law school, Ivy League all the way with six-figure starter salaries? From the cyber grapevine, you find that most of them actually are doctors and lawyers now. Perhaps there are no last laughs in prep school after all—only heart attacks at fifty and the occasional sailboat fire. They have husbands, you realize. They wear diamond rings that blind the baggers at Whole Foods. Their children are legacy students. They would laugh at you. If you do go to your high school reunion, the laugh will be bitter. I learn the football player indeed married the cheerleader, and he also beats her. The-best-dance-of-my-life Tommy has wed his high school sweetheart who’s grown into a bulbous shape. Tommy tells me he’s stocking shelves at Job Lot. He and his wife live in the projects where he grew up. I look my best. I have a book, but no one seems to care. The class president with her still-perfect posture leads us in a prayer. Earlier this year, the valedictorian shot himself in the head.


Julie Marie Wade & Denise Duhamel

Last kiss Rushing out the door this morning, she gives me a peck, a hurried press of lips like a semi-colon, the rest of the sentence yet to come. Morning kisses are quick denotations of love; evening kisses are languorous and suggestive, like an ellipsis, ampersand, or even an interrobang. I’ll refrain from saying something that would make her roll her eyes: how every kiss is unique as a snowflake, how the Inuit have fifty words for snow, how I would be content to rub my nose against hers forever in the cold. Remember butterfly kisses? Even my eyelashes await her return. I bent to kiss my grandmother in the casket but at first could only hover above her. Her cheeks were powdered, though she’d never worn makeup when she was alive. I touched the cold rosary, her colder hands. For a moment, I saw myself in the same casket, wearing blush everyone agreed I wasn’t old enough to wear yet. My first trip to a funeral home, I was most surprised by the pillow under her head. When I got the nerve, I kissed her cheek. An electric flash went from my lips into my fingertips, but my grandmother didn’t wake. Last in class I could read and write well, and I was passable at math, but I didn’t know how to be a Pioneer Girl. In my Christian primary school, this is what girls did on Wednesdays: went home, ate dinner, came back for further instruction at night. There were Bible verses and kickball games, and someone’s mother always sent a snack. But most of all, there was rehearsal for the great domestic play of marriage and maternity. My potholder couldn’t hold a hot plate. The buttons popped off my shirt like raindrops. The ironing, though: I scorched plenty of delicates on purpose. My primary physician is a comedian. What do you call the dude who graduated last in his class at medical school? I shrug. Doctor! We have


a good laugh, though now I wonder what his rank was at University of Miami. A chiropractor’s go-to pickup line: what’s a joint like you doing in a nice girl like this? We’ve never spoken politics, so I’m surprised when he tells me my favorite of his routine. Conservative Senator #1 asks Conservative Senator #2, “Jeez. What should I do about this abortion bill?” Conservative Senator #2 says, “My friend, you’d better pay it.” Last house on the left I saw the movie cover in the local video store, read the caption about two teenage girls captured and tortured “by a gang of psychotic convicts.” Adolescence was hard enough—some days downright torturous. At the time, I didn’t think I could bear the cinematic spectacle, and I’ve never seen it to this day. I remember, though, the dual categories on the sticker above the title: Horror/Thriller. Didn’t horror become horrible and thriller become thrilling? I mulled on this contradiction. Why did we delight in other people’s pain? Why did we pay a dollar a day to watch them suffer? I never saw the movie either—or many horror movies, for that matter. My friend who loves horror tries to convince me I’d like it—the paranoid woman, the hysterical woman, the woman “who sees things” always turns out to be right. There are forces working against her! Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar said it was up to women writers to go beyond the stereotypes of “angel” and “monster,” find the real woman who Virginia Woolf noted has been sacrificed, “killed into art” by male writers. When I hear a noise outside, I tiptoe into the dark, pen in hand. Last goodbye Eliot says, “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.” My grandmother was human. My grandmother was kind. Reality was hard for her, so she played Solitaire for thirty-six years after her husband died.


Julie Marie Wade & Denise Duhamel

I loved how she never scolded. I loved how she always smiled. When I was sixteen, I listened as she praised Clinton for the only good thing he ever did in office—the Defense of Marriage Act. One future Christmas, I would kiss her cheek, then leave to meet the woman I loved. How I longed to tell her the truth, but all I could muster was goodbye. The last thing I said to my grandmother was See you later, sure that I would. She’d made me a peach smock dress I loved, but my breasts were already bursting out of it. At 13, I was growing. At 74, she was shrinking. She had begun a diet consisting of donuts, canned frosting, and other sweets. The same foods that made me fat seemed not to affect her at all. In those days, it was called manic depression—she was either Lucile Ball or in a trance, rocking, refusing to talk. Then, one day she wasn’t there at all. Last four digits of your social security number Maybe in the end, we’re reduced to numbers, then to dust. The cheerful doorman greets me by my unit number, not my name. The valet wants the number on the little blue tag. The operator requests the serial number assigned at the time of installation. The doctor’s office files me under the Final Four. They’re hard to remember without reciting the five digits that precede them. I’m a poet. I memorize by rhythm after all. I used to write those all-important numbers on my palm until I realized I left a handmade stamp on every single surface I touched. The other day a customer service representative asked for the “last five digits” and I had to pause, recite the whole number in my head. She explained with identity theft rampant, the company had to step up security. I don’t know anyone’s phone number anymore, except for mom’s and sister’s. Everyone else I meet now is just a tap on my cell phone. We are all numbers, and then not even that. We look at our phones to check the temperature when we could just step outside and feel it. We forget to look at landmarks, GPS guiding the way.


Last episode When The Mary Tyler Moore Show ends, I am not even born yet, but syndication makes all things possible. There is that moment—the final scene of the final show—when Lou Grant beams at his rag-tag posse of friends and colleagues, proclaims I treasure you people. The summer before college, I worked at a local department store on the brink of bankruptcy. No one there had a college degree except the absentee manager. These women were graduates from the School of Hard Knox, as they liked to say. On my last day, I wept and repeated Mr. Grant’s words. I have to work the night the last episode of Roseanne airs. I love that working class couple who fight fair and make up quickly, who snuggle on their lumpy, plaid couch. Early in season nine, Roseanne dreamily watches TV imagining she is Mary Tyler Moore and Dan is Lou Grant. My husband thinks the show is crass, too American, too much like me. Still, he agrees to record it. I leave Post-it notes on the TV, on his computer, just in case. I rush home to a blank tape. It’ll be ten more years until our marriage is cancelled. Last dollar I knew my parents would never run out of money. If I married a man she liked in a manner she approved of, my mother promised $3000 in IKEA furniture. She kept the catalog clipped to the fridge. “And you’ll live in our neighborhood,” she decreed. “We’ll make the down payment, so my grandchildren won’t be raised in graduate student housing.” Instead, I followed my heart like all the fortune cookies say. I ran away with the woman of my dreams. We were broke for the first seven years, but I never once yearned for the things I didn’t have. After my parents put the down payment on the ranch house, my mother explained we had spent our last dollar. It was great to own—


Julie Marie Wade & Denise Duhamel

the American dream!—but this meant hotdogs and eggs for awhile. My father said not to grow too fast because we’d have to make our sneakers last for as long as possible. While my parents were unpacking dishes, my sister crashed her old bike into the new curb. My mother used our towels to sop up the gush of blood above her eye. We’d dry ourselves off with stained terrycloth for a long time. Last dance My college boyfriend and I signed up for ballroom dancing. Yes, we were both gay. No, neither of us realized it yet. We registered in November, but by January, we had broken up. “Look, you have to have a partner,” the teacher said, which is what the whole world seemed to be saying, and not just about dancing. We spent a semester looking past each other, swapping palm-sweat and making snide comments. On the last day, we won the foxtrot contest. He bowed at the end, and I bowed too. Then, he and his new love left to get fondue. If a guy asked you to slow dance to “Stairway to Heaven,” it meant he really liked you because the song is eight minutes long. When Tommy asked me, I looked over my shoulder, sure he was talking to someone else. He had another girlfriend, a steady one, and I was hoping they’d broken up, but I wasn’t going to ask. If he still had a girlfriend, I’d have to make a tough decision when the song ended, and he went in for a kiss. Turns out, she was home with the flu. That was our first and last dance. Last chance I went home for Christmas, though I had a girlfriend whose family said I could stay with them. We were new, but we loved each other. My mother said I was doing this to “punish her.” Doing what exactly? Every time I kissed a woman, I was punishing my mother? Some things are too Freudian, even for Freud. The three of us ate in silence. My father


squinted over his glasses. Mid-bite, my mother confiscated my pie. After dinner, she mentioned some “nice young men” she knew. The car keys chattered in my pocket. I knew I wasn’t coming back. I told him he had to get a job. Not only did we need the money, but I also found it depressing to come home day after day to find him sleeping on the couch. I don’t care if it’s at Starbucks. I don’t care if you are a crossing guard. He thought I was a nag. I thought he was a drag. Six years after the divorce, he started working at a fast food burger joint. I thought I was his last chance, but there was another woman waiting to give him another last chance. And he took it. Last call Though Charlie had never been good enough before, my mother found his number in the White Pages, dialed long-distance with her calling card. What’s done is done, he told her. She broke my heart, and I have to get over it. My mother suggested perhaps he didn’t. Sure, I might have left him for someone else, but had he really fought hard enough? Wasn’t there wooing left to be done? She’s not into guys, Charlie said finally, his voice that nail in the casket she refused to close. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to get over it too. If there was a Ladies’ Night, I was there. If there was a party with free booze, I was there. One time I’d even made up a song playing air guitar, jumping on a stranger’s bed. My friends at the party sang the lyrics back to me the next day, the words new to me. I didn’t remember my love song to David, a guy with hair longer than mine. He’d quit school to move to Amsterdam and in the song I’d followed him. In real life, I’d taken the last T home and missed my stop in a blackout.


Julie Marie Wade & Denise Duhamel

Last breath We catch it. We hold it. How do we let it go? I used to say, I do yoga because the woman I love does yoga. It’s still true, just not the whole story. If the teacher said listen to your breath, I rolled my eyes. I could be writing a poem or making a sandwich instead. Now I practice breath of fire, which heats my body from the inside. I practice ujjayi breath, which calms and steadies my mind. Release the ocean at the back of your throat, the teacher says—her version of a benediction. I eagerly comply. I wonder what my last breath will be. If I’ll be alone, panicking underwater. If I’ll be in a bed, someone holding my hand, saying, It’s OK to let go. Will I be on a monitor, a blip of hope before a green flat line? When I was a kid, my lungs became straws, and I felt like I was sucking nothing, the world an empty glass. I could never fish because the idea of a trout flopping on a pier would make me too anxious. I was the trout—so far, hook in mouth, I’ve been thrown back in.



Silencing the Cacophony

(installation view)

Yulia Pinkusevich


Silencing the Cacophony

(canvas close-up)

Yulia Pinkusevich



Orientation by Nightlight Matthew Woodman

The moon does not ask nicely. Or say please. Or remember to smile. Is no sonnet for you to compose, with your expertise in observatory and oubliette. Charles Allan Gilbert’s “All Is Vanity” reminds us that the way forward is through teeth and pharynx, a seasoned apogee of foreign body and obstructed view, the parameters of white privilege your doctor may ask you to swallow as the scope descends your throat. The message, though you won’t be able to speak, follows: In case of emergency, maintain eyecontact until you go blind.


Invisible Woman Kim Magowan standing on the circle with heather , I had the oddest feeling that we’d

slipped through a wormhole in time. The metallic bark of the apple tree still looked like dragon hide; the moonlight silvered the grass. It could have been 1986 again; we could be breaking curfew. We talked in those same harsh whispers. “I’ll figure this out,” I said. “I’m not holding my breath.” My sigh shuddered. She softened. “Because if I did I’d suffocate. But here’s hoping.” And she rapped the apple tree, knocking wood, her smile thin as a paper cut. The whole next day I walk through my house in a daze. Rob dropped me and Ben off, then took the train straight into the city to catch up on work. I barely slept in the hotel the night before, and I’m so tired I feel drugged. But my skin is electrical. I can picture the bundles of nerves: blue and red wires like those inside the Invisible Woman my parents got me at the Natural History Museum when I was eight. I remember holding her, her cool plastic skin. Looking at the pink coil of her intestines, the chunk of liver, the fronds of lungs. Tired, wired. I shuffle through the house, half-listening for Ben to wake from his nap. I touch everything. The edge of the Baccharat ashtray hurts when I press my thumb, hard, on the corner. Upstairs, I open the drawers of our walk-in closet. I heft the Marc Jacobs purse Rob gave me last month on my birthday. So red, it reminds me of a tongue; I rub my finger over the thick zippers. Too many zippers, and the wrong color, but he tries so hard. Watching me as I pulled it out of the tissue. In the mirror, I am a ghost of myself.


For two hours, the whole stretch of Ben’s nap, I walk around the house, touching. In one hand I hold a balled Kleenex to staunch the snot, the tears. Everything is leaking out of me. I will shrivel like some dried fruit. I remember doing something like this in the days before I left Heather: walking through our house in Hanover, fingering objects. Staring out the window to locate more things to touch: the rusting spring on the trampoline; the glass candies we got in Venice, just before I got pregnant. I pressed my thumb then, as now, on the sharp edges of the candy, wanting to draw beads of blood. Same, but different. Because then, I was touching and looking at and holding our things, to ask myself one question: can I stand to let this go? I remember putting on a green sweater of Heather’s: cashmere, a hole in the elbow, as soft as the twins’ blanky. She had it back in high school. I used to borrow it constantly. I remember it folded on the shelf of our double room sophomore year. Always on top of the pile, because it was always being worn by one or the other of us, in constant rotation. I put it on and looked in the mirror. It smelled of Heather, nuts and lemons. Can I bear to leave this? I asked myself, and eventually, I thought yes, I can. But now, I touch things with opposite intent: will these things help me stay? Anchor me, keep me from floating all the way up? Can I bear to be here, with these zippers and electrical cords, these curling metal pipes? (Somehow those are the things I keep touching: the sutures, the bundles of nerves). Can I make myself stay? By the time Rob comes home for dinner I know I can’t. I jangle like keys. I drink a glass of wine, arrange cheese on a platter. The whole time I’m rearranging wet wedges of cheese (I can feel the sticky coat of them on my fingers, no matter how many times I wash my hands), I rehearse what to say.


Kim Magowan

But when we sit and I start, as soon as I say “Heather,” it goes to hell. “Heather,” he repeats. My parents do exactly the same thing, pucker and spit her name. Like she’s indigestible. But am I so fucking digestible? “I’m so sorry,” I say, and again his mouth twists over how inadequate these words are. How inadequate I am. Rob is kind. Once one is forty-three, once one has been breaking up with people for, oh, thirty years, three quarters of a life, a spectrum forms. Patterns emerge. There are the break-ups where you run on anger and lack of options. Crystalline ones. Porter was like that: I never even told him goodbye, or said anything at all. I just looked at a spectacle that flipped everything and made words beside the point. The sound clicked off. With Will, though our couples therapist might have disagreed, there was really, as my lawyer told me, no choice. And I remember the relief of that. I was extricating myself from a weight that would drown me if I tried to keep hold. No choice, no option, consequently no blame. Even if I did feel, at least in my mother’s eyes, that much more cracked and dirt-caked. But Rob has done nothing wrong, except chosen badly. He has tried, he has kept trying. His double-exposure face, watching me lift the Marc Jacobs purse out of the tissue paper: hopeful but already settling into disappointment at my disappointment. To be recognized; that’s the thing about Heather, she recognizes me. Rob’s recognition is partial and tragic: he sees that he’s let me down, but he doesn’t see what I want. Of course it’s the same for me. I understand, again and again, an awful cognitive loop, that I am making him sad. But I don’t have the power to change things, to make him smile instead. It’s like the only things we clearly perceive about each other are the ways we discourage. We do not brighten or elevate or even cheer each other up.


It is so hard to leave someone this kind. It is only possible because it is harder to stay. And I can’t shake the feeling that this is a relief to him; Veruca Salt going down the bad nut chute. I have finally hit the bottom of his steadily lowering expectations. Almost since we first got married, Rob has maintained—or mildly insinuated—that the shiny, confident, “normal” woman he fell in love with was a mask, that I lured him in with some performance of self-aware stability. I can’t deny it. “I wish you’d figured all this out sooner and saved us a lot of time and trouble”: that’s as harsh as Rob gets, and makes me wince, then cry. I am as transparent as the Invisible Woman, all the ghastly parts of me exposed: here are my barnacle kidneys, my blue-red, defective heart. My high school boyfriend cried more when I ended it. It seems suddenly obvious to me, it’s the bright light that shines on our mutually blasted expectations, that Rob never really loved me. I was more wounding to a sixteen-year-old boy than to my husband. I picture Ian Saltonstall wiping his nose on the ribbed cuff of his sweater. Why does it matter if one loses something as insubstantial as an Invisible Woman? He can find a replacement, real flesh. Like that day-trader with the cap of hair, short as Astroturf: Alice Copeland. I know he likes her. When she’s come to parties I’ve envied her cool, brazen, burgundy hair. Once or twice I’ve sidled behind Rob and seen her name on his Inbox. He’s lowered his laptop, been a little too quick to make her disappear. I’ve been jealous of her. Or, rather, I’ve identified her as someone I ought to feel jealous about, if I had functioning feelings, if I weren’t so numb. “Alice,” I start to say. But before I can get out anything else he looks up. His eyes are both molten and icy, paradoxical. He says, “Fuck you, Julie.”


Kim Magowan

Break (Print Series) Ariel Hansen Strong


an Interview with Eileen Myles Michelle Kicherer and Sarah Lombardo eileen myles is the author of nineteen books including her latest collection

I Must Be Living Twice: New & Selected Poems, and a recent reissue of her celebrated Chelsea Girls. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in non-fiction, an Andy Warhol/Creative Capital art writers’ grant, a Lambda Book Award, the Shelley Prize from The Poetry Society of America, as well as being named to the Slate/Whiting Second Novel List. Currently she teaches at NYU and Naropa University and lives in Marfa, Texas and New York. MICHELLE KICHERER: eileen myles: i have no idea. I just write them

Your poems are quite visual. Do you think the way your poems are shaped on the page influences the experience of the reader?


according to how the energetic experience of how I organize my thoughts. How I write is influenced by the paper or computer or whatever I’m writing on, and I often write in small notebooks so the lines are short. There are poets who’ve written in short lines, so I knew that was something I could use—it was impressed upon me as an option. I think it has something to do with speed and attention span. I like the idea of the reader reading them quickly. I guess that has something to do with visuality: I want the reader not to think about how it looks on the page, but to be reading swiftly and taking it in mentally. It’s like there is a consumption plan in there... like there are little bites.



MK: Is there an no but i notice when i travel I tend to write a lot. environment that’s ideal for It’s exciting and stimulating for me. Being on your writing?

planes, trains—being alone—being someplace where I know I’m not going to bump into someone and something isn’t going to happen. It puts me in a mental space where even though I’m not doing anything, something is getting accomplished. Bob Dylan said movement is really good for writing, and I totally agree.

SARAH LOMBARDO: no, i think it’s about being. A person is sitting on

Your prose often features non-linear rapid-fire vignettes that jump back and forth or sideways, contextualizing particular lines. Is that how you write, or do you write linearly and then rearrange?

a couch and thinking things—if you were in conversation or letting your mind ramble, it would go in all kinds of directions and yet it has real patterns. What’s interesting about writing over many years is that I see that my mind thinks certain things and returns to certain subject matters again and again. Allen Ginsberg said once that the mind is shapely. I think that’s really true. I feel I’m following a seemingly chaotic thing that also has rhythm. It’s very musical to me to write and let your mind go. Linearity seems like the artifice for me.

SL: And it’s also very i think it depends on who does it. When a masculinized and idealized. writes—depending on who it is and Tangential is a dirty word.

man how many credentials he has—looping around can be an act of genius. But I think when a woman does it we’re prey to criticism about being disorganized and messy. Often male writers, or writers trained to follow a male lead, tend to think a woman is taking them into parts unknown, because it’s a female


mind. “This content makes me nervous. Where is she going?” There’s much more of an embrace of the male adventurous mind that asks you to give it a little space. We’re trained, all of us, to not give women much space at all. We’ve all been in these group conversations—in the classroom, around a dinner table—a man starts talking and everyone listens. But a woman starts talking and small side conversations pop up. It’s like it can’t be the main conversation unless the woman has a lot of authority. You see it time and time again. MK: You floated around there are lots of writers there. There are lots of a bit before going to New poetry readings. I know a million writers in York, then headed there to be with the community of New York. Certainly scenes are driven more poets in the Lower East Side. by younger people than older people. When What’s your relationship I’ve been in New York and going to readings, I to the city now given find myself very often being the oldest person gentrification? Is there still a scene there for you? there. I like people of all ages but I wonder:

where are my contemporaries? They’re at home having their lives. They’re teaching. I think it’s happened in the city because of economics, because of MFA programs. There’s an organization of groups around generation.

When I was in my twenties I had a gang of young poets, but there were older poets too. It was a little more fluid. Being in the city, the more established you get, the more you feel like a resource, so then, whether you like it or not, it feels like work. On one hand you want to get the attention of being someone who has written for

110 Eileen Myles

years, where people know your work; you want to be that person, but you can start to feel like a utility. That’s true of New York in general. You get known and then you’re seen, and there’s a certain level of idleness and unconsciousness that’s missing. I bought a house in Texas and I’m excited about having a getaway place, because I’ve always used artists’ colonies and people’s houses, and now I’m becoming one of those people that has one of those houses.


MK: Did you think well it was kind of a plan. But you never that this would be your if the plan will work. There’ve been a trajectory?

know lot of feelings over the years about how it was going, or how I liked it, or what I was getting, or who was getting what, and a whole array about living around other writers versus living on your own, and how agreeable that would be. But I have to admit the reason to go to New York is to become known, to meet the writers and become known, to let people know your work. For years I’d joke that I got a BA in English and was using my degree.

MK: When I talk to that makes no sense to me... I mean, why are we people about getting an MFA talking? Why not just talk to ourselves then? they ask me, if I’m a real We’re very social animals. What’s great about artist, why it matters if I get published or anyone actually writing and books and literature is that it gives reads my work? Isn’t just you an opportunity to get into other people’s writing it for myself enough? minds. I remember being at a panel in the early

80’s and Louis Rorscht said that as a child, when he first started to read is when he realized that other people actually thought. There’s this whole wonderful world of the mind, that in those early days, you don’t even know if it’s


happening to anyone else. So much of writing is testing the boundaries of reality.


SL: You’re re-releasing it s really cool It’s really great to see old work get a lot of older material. What re-received. In a way the world is very different does it mean for you to recontextualize these poems than it was in the 70’s and 80’s, but on the other in today’s culture? hand people in their twenties and thirties now

are very similar to people who were in their twenties and thirties then. I’ve had a great experience of connecting to younger writers through my work, and finding that it doesn’t need any translation. It’s very present. The thing about writing is you don’t know where it’s going, you don’t know who will pick it up, you don’t know how it will travel—the whole thing is a big question. Watching that question loop around and see itself—it’s really a good experience.

Several people who are into astrology have pointed out that it’s really great to get these retrospective books published during Mercury Retrograde. It’s funny—as Mercury’s going backwards, my work is coming forward. It’s an astrological coup! SL: There are some writers who seem i feel like experience is tricky On the one hand we particularly self-conscious have the experience of the class we’re born into about their lack of and the race we’re born into and the gender oppression (whether white, male, affluent, etc.) When we’re born into, but it doesn’t limit us in terms it comes to poetry that’s of where we go and what we see and what we political or politicized, how do with that knowledge. The political is there can writers grapple with their privileged perspectives?



Eileen Myles

for all of us. You don’t need to be un-privileged to have a political critique. You don’t need to be un-privileged to access an awareness of the suffering of the world. A poem isn’t an act of will. I think it’s more voluntary than that. But we have a lot to say about what’s in and what’s out.


MK: So, this is a what are they doing there different topic. I’m in the MFA program here at Mills, and I know folks who don’t Were they sent there? But seriously, I’ve taught see any value in workshops a million poetry workshops, and I’ve attended for poetry specifically a ton of them. I think we can all feel a little (versus prose) jaded sitting around a room with the same MK/SL: [together] Exactly! ten people looking at a poem for too long and

feeling like it’s a dead end. But I think it’s an amazing opportunity to see work in process. The process presents you with a poem that isn’t done, that isn’t claiming to be finished. You get to watch someone’s process. I’ve liked this since the beginning––you learn how to edit. You look at somebody else’s poem and you have the inclination to fix it. Even if it isn’t valuable to them, it’s really valuable to you. The incomplete poem suggests that it wants that, it wants to be edited. I like that moving around of language. Often people are trying to figure out how to edit. You have to get some level of familiarity with your own writing, you don’t have that at first. And it’s hard, because you’re a little precious about your own writing at first, but you’re not precious about other people’s writing. You don’t know where it came from so you don’t hold it as immovable. It feels like


something that can be messed with, and that’s a great experience with language. MK: How do you help sometimes i think workshops can be places someone else determine leave work alone. We don’t always have what they’re trying to say?

to to have a response. A poem doesn’t always have to do something. It’s an opportunity to show work, even when we don’t know what the hell to do with it. That’s ok. The act of producing poems and the act of reading poems can just be enough, until you do know. I think there’s too much pressure put on what to make of this.

MK: Your book in his day he was kind of like andy warhol, which Maxfield Parrish: Early and was maybe the day of my grandparents. It New Poems - was it inspired by him? was like poster art. It was everywhere—on

lunchboxes—it was really, really, really popular. His work was ethereal and really strange. And there was certain blue that they would call Parrish Blue—it was very iridescent, magic, an Art Deco color. In the first poem, when I talk about the flowers, it was after spotting flowers at a Korean supermarket on First Ave in New York. The flowers had clearly been sprayed to heighten their color. It was both natural and artificial color. My experience of that felt like my experience of art—the book that those poems are in has a cover by one of my favorite artists, Nicole Eisenman—the flowers are fake, wooden flowers, little funny sculptures that are nailed together, and they are in conversation with a real flower, and they’re joking together about who is real or not.


Eileen Myles

It was this whole way I was aware that art is such an artifice, and yet one that makes up stories or spaces or positions that we can live. And I was feeling my position changing at that time and it seemed a little bit magical. That collection to me feels like the most graphically sexual, which was something about that time of my life then. Sex is really trippy—genitals become other genitals, people become other sexes. It feels very psychedelic. I had never really aligned sex and surrealism. All those things are going on, and Parrish is a really dreamy illustrator, so a lot of that stuff was floating around together. MK: When was that? it was 1995 and I was in my forties. MK: You don’t drink i’ve not drank since the 80s. I was a great lover anymore, right?

of drugs and alcohol, but I come from a long line of alcoholics and by the time I got to my thirties I felt like it was live or die, and I wanted to live. I could see the path I was on was really deteriorating. A lot of people probably knew it before I did but I just didn’t want to know it. I made that choice and it has been only great for me as writer and an artist—I have so much more time, I feel stronger and healthier. I feel young for my age. I take care of myself. It feels like a second life, so a lot of that is about the extra space I gave myself and the extra time I gave myself by not kicking the shit out of myself all the time.


SL: Did your writing yeah. The book that’s really about that is Not change?

Me. Not Me was the end of my drinking and suddenly being in a new day, and looking at the world differently. At the time it was the height of the AIDS crisis, the homeless population really exploded... It was an amazing time to be awake and alive.

SL: Did you take part i went to some meetings. I went to some actions in Act Up?

and marched, but the kind of personality—I was very aware of the grabbing for power, the egos. It’s not like we don’t have a ton of that in the poetry world, but somehow the way it was playing out in Act Up just wasn’t for me. I have so many friends who were hugely in Act Up. I was in awe of the graphic design and the political power, and how brilliant they were visually, and in terms of organization, how they figured out what they wanted. They were brilliant. I witnessed it but I wasn’t a member.

, but if it’s had that effect I’m glad.

SL: Do you feel your not deliberately writing is activist writing?

By the time I stopped drinking and drugging I became more aware of the political nature of what I was experiencing. My work just became more political. My Kennedy poem [“An American Poem”]—in some ways my most popular poem, although “Peanut Butter” is zooming up and becoming better known—that one poem was so much about figuring out that if I wasn’t me—if I was someone else—would I have a way to talk about these things?


Eileen Myles

The Kennedy poem accompanied me in the act of running for president as a write-in candidate in the early 90s. Part of that was finding ways to make political speech inside of poems and outside of poems. Who is entitled to speak? Who could use that? I realized if I had the gig of being a presidential candidate, then all the political information I had access to, I had a way and a reason to use it. That was an amazing experience—an experience with scale and largeness, and what it felt like to be really public, and to ask for that and then use it once it was given to you. I watched Allen Ginsberg from the perspective of being 30 years younger, watched him be a poet who was always large. He had been in that position for 20 years when I met him. And it was amazing to see a poet wield that opportunity, and be asked about public things and have answers. I admired that and I wanted to be that poet on some level.


MK: Have you ever i have several farts in poems Of course, I didn’t written a poem that’s really want to be known as a farter [everyone laughs] goofy? Or how do you feel about a poem about but I felt like: you’re writing a poem and the fart something like a fart? comes to your mind or the fart comes to your

body—let the fart in! The question is whether it’s a good poem or not, if it can sustain a fart. For females, I think it’s good to be kind of gross, to take the body on, to do something abhorrent or funny, not to be so homogenized and manicured and normalized.


The thing that’s funny about silliness in poems, sometimes it’s silly and embarrassing, and then later it isn’t. There are some poems I’ve written that I thought were good—I wouldn’t put them in a book if I didn’t—but they’re really different poems now. In the end, the reception that is most important is the reception you give your own work. It changes over time. It’s really surprising what happens. The thing that’s really important about funny stuff—the most exciting thing in a poem is its shifts. You make joke, and they think “oh, this is a funny poem,” and then something really dark or really sad happens. The tonal shifts are what makes the poem really exciting and interesting. I don’t like a poem that reduces something to a single effect when so little in life really does. And you know, the greatest source of political truth is in comedy. A lot is going on behind the funny, even if it’s a fart.


Eileen Myles

Filbert, West Oakland Ed Ntiri


Consonant—Afternoon John Downing

at first the mother is covered with a rug, but appears in a later

composition adjacent to an arrangement of cut-grass and marigolds. Count five steps from the entrance, three more or less level frames, one upended carpenter beetle dawdling its legs under the hooks where coats hang. Enter in the customary way. When the sun crosses the hall in August and warms the South wall, her hand, in black satin, will appear in the glass plate, collecting the pleats of the child’s gown in the pit of its arm. On such occasions a small gift or flourish will fix the moment, set the fractured afternoon: something that fits in a pocket without crushing it. The father is obscure in the evening, when a stand of cedar takes sun, and has, I am told, something hidden in his mouth—which might explain the way he fades into the wall hangings. In any event, the child should have swelled and stood unsupported by now, but as of yet I have nothing to support this. A vase, cracked glaze, two books, a pair of glasses, arms folded, and a feather on the end table complete the portrait, the father sitting, the mother with a hand behind his neck. *** If nothing, the action of a hinge. A talking stair. The collection of pressed flowers in the father’s chest, at least, speaks of concessions and reconciliation. Not to mention the penknife on the nightstand or the spider—a cramped pellet now—in a cup behind the potash and bonemeal in the shed. In some traditions the husband feigns sickness, in others he loses a parent, or disarms his bride by falling from a height. The dormers, however, will not open, their aspect formal from the


road. As first impressions tend to darken—the cutting board suggests as much—surrender and forfeit have retained a legal implication. The floor plan, however, follows the movements of the mother through in day, from room to room, following the sun as it pivots into corners, lighting first the West wall of the master bedroom, descending then to the kitchen, exposing cobwebs by the baseboards and the state of the silver, the sitting room, next, briefly in the afternoon, as the sun mounts the stairs through the bay window, lighting last and longest on the East wall of the child’s room, pillows turned and covers replaced before full dark, before the father calls from across the hall. Surely the snag of hair then, which fidgets, by the sill where the pine frame ill-fits its pane, and does not settle. But these things happen, if at all, in half-measures, as hem and skirt, deferring indefinitely an agreement to secrecy. *** Despite their apparent similarity, ghost is not derived from ghostis, the stranger, as I’d thought. It comes instead from gast, the breath. The sense of a shadow or semblance dates from the seventeenth century. Domestic scenes from this era often depict the husband as dissolute, or do not. A joint of meat cast to the floor, fragments of ceramic, absent an empty chair, an open door. A clapper or crutch is often propped in the corner, foreshadowing disease or misfortune. The wife has turned her back. She inspects a letter or a mirror beside an ignored view of the river. *** In the first of three surviving letters, the mother writes from her sister’s home in Bedford. It contains the price and taste of an orange, the husband and the sister in their parlor, the children, their height, weight and pallor, and a misunderstanding involving their driver and drifter after a picnic in the country. It closes with a visit to the site of a recent fire. The mother writes, if I recall correctly, only a handful of the buildings remain, or perhaps, only a handful of the building remains.


*** The stranger precedes the host, in folklore, down a long, narrow passage, or takes the departed’s place at the dinner table and lifts a glass. In the kitchen run the tap. Note the starlings in the cedars. The plumbing, straining. The break, the turn, the resolution of the flock. Note the neighbor’s house, a goat—now quartered by the split rail, now halved—and a wing in grease on the windowpane. A few will invariably go missing in spring to return a few months later, or show up two towns over, served with a mint sauce. Cup the rust-brackish sputter in a palm and taste the water. A cigarette yellows in the pantry, in a tin labeled cinnamon. The walls were white once, as the shadow of a portrait in dining room attests: the rose madder pique in his lips and cheeks long since muddied, the furrows in his brow, applied with a palette knife, reveal the canvas in their creases. *** In October, after the children are gone, the neighbors will burn their leaves and clippings in the lot that blight cleared. A watch posted to stoke the embers and bury the ashes. A thermos of something will lighten the evening. Bedclothes and undergarments, however, are burned in a pit in the yard, or else behind the house where the eaves will deepen with soot. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the tulips—lovely things—or the care the weeds require. In June tansy chokes the ditch, pollen and dust in sheets will soften the view from the sitting room. Perhaps it’s ragwort in the ditch, a knot of it. Either way the shears will remain as they are, undiscovered and rusted shut in the runoff. A figure, approaching from the East, will cut a telling silhouette where the road crests a small hillock. Hence the chair by the window. Hence the father in the evening and the mother at her knitting. The child too, I presume, rising from the yard with a fistful of turf. *** Pant, to gasp for breath, shares, it so happens, a root with phantom through pantasaire, to be beset by nightmares. Phantom, for its part,

122 John Downing

follows from fantosme, dream, illusion, apparition, from phastasma, an image or mere appearance, a stem of phainein, make visible, bring to light. Phantom, however, bears no relation to fantem, speaking, fatum, spoken, or infant, without speech. Which is to say a hutch or hovel will appear in the woods beyond the brake in April, after the children return, the earth newly soft, hornworms fat among the heirlooms, the last of the frost-touched lettuce boiled for broth. Dark men trucked in from Bedford and Keening to work the harrow and clear the windfall will drink from a pitcher by the road in the heat and dust and leave the glasses in the shade of the stoop. The neighbors will secure their dog in the cellar, or they will not. The children, root-white and stooped, might occur as a face under the dormers, or a shadow, if the moon permits, in transit between houses. *** A shadow cuts the sitting room in two. Neglect has left a chair upended and the curtains drawn back. After the sun has set, from where the stairs lead to the sleeping quarters, the pleats and creases will conspire with the highboy to describe a figure with its head against the wall. If the wind is up, a draft will worry the heavy fabric, suggesting an attitude of grief or rage—perhaps relief— which dissolves upon crossing the room. In the second surviving letter the mother addresses the father as Sir or Expected. A week’s weather is followed by a catalogue of items alongside their approximate dimensions. The letter concludes with an empty room, someone disconsolate in the attic, and a flower pieced apart in the yard. The letter is signed, Eagerly, Earnestly, Yours Turly. One of several errors. A 6x8" quilt, for instance, or the phrase, what a cruel moth March is! *** The final letter molders under the highboy, where damp has bled the script and mold taken the paper, in thirds, where it folds, as if to fit an envelope. What remains is as follows, Mother, I cannot begin to tell.


They Were Pale Blue and There Were Many Horses Aliza Cohen


Notes on Transcendence (Swing for the Fences Version) Andrew P. Heath


I took a meditation class on my phone, but when the free trial ended so did my practice. I hadn’t been very good at it: I’d always forget to take my shoes off until the gentle voice of the instructor asked me to feel my toes against the ground. Often my mind would stray and I’d begin listening for the woman down the street who went hoarse screaming at her husband and child on a daily basis. After ten minutes the British man on my phone would end the meditation by asking me to open my eyes. I’d do so, and my body would feel heavy. For a little while I’d be at ease, but it was a fleeting feeling, like you’d expect from a bath or a brief nap. In short, I don’t believe that I arrived at the deep mindfulness thought to be the goal of meditation. A nebulous idea of inner peace—that was what I was after, as too often I gave in to my woeful impulses and seemed to be in a constant state of irritation. My aim had been to furnish my mind with a sort of psychic relief valve that would allow me to take a slight step out of my head and calm myself. On a more subconscious level I believe I was also searching for another supposed product of meditation: transcendence. Meaningful experience beyond the physical order. In my head this is something that we’re all privy to, if we try—a space beyond discreteness. I believe in this


space as a matter of faith; that because we’ve all breached from the same primordial glop, we share a common experience and a common pathos. Transcendence is something we can all access. discreteness

“One of the main characteristics of life,” writes Nabokov, “is discreteness. Unless a film of flesh envelops us, we die. Man exists only insofar as he is separated from his surroundings. The cranium is a space traveler’s helmet. Stay inside or you perish.” The inside versus the outside. I still think, in many ways, that transcendence can mean mind versus body, though that “versus” might sound a bit combative for the alleged serenity of our topic. But I do think it is versus, as you’re recognizing that your body is just a body— flimsy, breakable, wearable, in all cases superable—while what actually makes you you is so much more: tapped into something that is protean and magic: a mind at work, a consciousness, an “I.” And the body thwarts the mind, limits it. The body defines what is possible. It’s in the physical realm that a person lives and dies, while the soul is thought by theosophists/mystics to ascend onward to an astral plane. This is the place where the dictionary definition of transcendence begins to intersect with religion and loads the word up with all the sticky loftiness that has made this essay so difficult to write. Such an exhilarating idea! but it’s become so embedded, so trivialized that I feel like a dope for attempting to say something novel about it or to even approach it. I’ll have to circle around, look on from a distance, wait… solipsism

In high school my close friend would always complain about some part of his body hurting—his legs, stomach, chest, throat, arms, head, or just the whole thing—but he would refuse all types of medicine. His mother was a school guidance counselor, and so wallowing in pain was something he’d more or less been bred for. He didn’t believe in medicine,

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not due to any specific reason, I think it was just an attitude like, “pills never helped me before, why would they help me now?” He did use over-the-counter medicine, though, but only to get high. Triple-C’s: Coricidin Cough and Cold. If you ate about ten of them you could get really fucked up. But to simply take an Advil to relieve pain was something my friend didn’t believe in, and so when he’d complain of these indistinct aches I was never really sympathetic; in fact, I remember telling him that being his friend was like being friends with an old Jeep: constantly breaking down, never at one hundred percent. Another memorable remark re: his chronic pain was when he suggested, I think after another joke-y exchange, that if he and I swapped consciousnesses I would literally die from the pain, a premise I shrugged off at the time. What point am I trying to make here? Is it that I was young, callous, naïve—wouldn’t accept, in fact, actively reject this simple claim, perhaps one of the oldest in human history: I hurt? As Nabokov said, in that quote above, “one of the main characteristics of life is discreteness,” and that is a simple fact, an unfortunate one. Really there was no rejoinder when my friend suggested I would die if I even briefly occupied his head space, except for maybe suggesting the same thing right back at him. What about my pain? What if you were the one that died motherfucker? mind


. body

I’ve always had a thorny relationship with wherever I live: it never takes long for me to start a list of things I deem wrong or awful about a place. My automatic response is to quit, to move on, and consequently I’ve lived and traveled in many different places, all with various unforgivable qualities. Of course, when I think of all the places that I’ve lived and the problems I’ve had with them, it’s not hard to ID the common


denominator: me. I have, after all, hard opinions on things, a negative/ dismissive attitude, etc. I have a tendency to purposefully put myself at odds with the locals, like I’ve come to their home for no reason other than to say: “You live here?” When I lived in Seattle most of the people I knew had grown up there and so they had a somewhat falsified perspective of the city. To them it was one of America’s great metropolises, like Chicago or San Francisco. While I lived there, I felt this constant drive to correct them— to make Seattleites see the city the way I did. When I would meet other people from out-of-state, I would get a little thrill and eagerly shit-talk the bland architecture and mediocre cuisine with them. “And the coffee is nothing special,” I’d say. I moved there, I moved away, I moved back, I moved away again. I have thought about moving back for a third time, because, despite myself, I carved out a home there. When I began driving around Oakland where I now live (always driving, always in a car in California…) I thought about how I would never come to know it the way I had known Seattle. I had lived all over that city: Capitol Hill, Lake City, the Central District, the University District. I had a favorite phở restaurant, a favorite bar, a favorite park, a favorite time of year (the summer, obviously, as that was the only time the sun was out). By the time I’d come to Oakland, I had learned enough about myself and what was “out there” in general, that I didn’t have that precipitating curiosity that might cause me to leave my house—didn’t have it in me to go to an acquaintance’s birthday party on a Wednesday night, say. Still, I always find myself envying those who feel a strong affinity with a certain place. I’ve heard, many times, folks describing this restorative feeling of arriving somewhere and realizing I’m home—I’m finally where I’m supposed to be. Taking what these people say at face-value it sounds really wonderful: to find this harmony between a location and yourself so that your first reaction is to stay and plant roots. But when I hear people say things like that, my knee-jerk response is one of disbelief.

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It must be because I’ve never had such a strong (positive) reaction to a locale before. There’s that old saying, erroneously attributed to Confucius or Churchill, I’m sure: Wherever you go, there you are. boredom

In the fourth grade, in an after-school acting class, we were made to sit in a chair in front of our peers and “do nothing.” Any expression of boredom, or anything that might be perceived as affected, and the teacher would make a loud buzzer noise with his mouth and tell us to reset. As a young person, my aspiration was to be a living cartoon character, and so to not emote, to not demonstrate my boredom, caused such a dissonance within me, that I couldn’t stand it. My first time in front of the class, I placed my chin in the palm of my hand and was instantly disqualified. When my turn came again, I managed to last maybe ten seconds before leaning back in my chair and again I was buzzed. It’s a privilege to be bored, of course—there must be certain settings in which boredom is not a luxury that can be afforded, much less encouraged and instructed upon in acting classes. I keep thinking about excruciating waits people are made to endure: hours and hours at the DMV, say; and meeting boredom in real time—watching the proverbial paint dry—is so insanely hard for even the most well-equipped mind. It seems to me like putting your consciousness in solitary confinement: the stimulation has been muted and you’ve nothing to do but bang the cup against the bars. Experiencing time in such an active way throttles the imagination and diminishes a person—strange, because you’d think your mind would be this great refuge. How’s that for a definition of what transcendence is not? Being totally mentally “present”—not permitted to read, text, watch TV, etc., and not allowed to just space out or doze, forcing a person to be engaged and alert, all while something actively boring is happening— pure torture.



I’m a very impatient person, I’ve been told. I’ve gone from thinking that this was merely a foible, to realizing it’s actually a full-blown weakness. Suddenly I’m urging the yoga teacher on the screen of my laptop to just get on with the yoga already, even as she implores me over and over to simply relax, to breathe, in and out. To rid myself of the weakness I try meditation again, with similar results as before. I’m told, over and over to let go of my worries and stresses—release, be at peace. disconnection

I keep thinking that if I had paid for yoga classes, or meditation classes, I might have taken it a little more seriously and might have gotten more out of it. At that point, after all, I’d be faced with an actual living/breathing instructor, rather than just an image on a screen. I would be in a classroom filled with people like me, all of us chasing a little taste of inner peace. I keep imagining that room of people. It makes me feel anxious, just thinking about it. There’s this kind of ambient unease surrounding simple intercourse that has become endemic. Or maybe it’s always been there, but just in the last hundred years or so we have gotten really good at finding ways to avoid face-to-face communication and interaction. I remember seeing something online in which a person was admonishing others for using the self-checkout at a grocery store when there was an available human checker a few lanes over. The comments section was a standard shit-show of acidic replies, criticizing the OP for not thinking of those with crippling anxiety who could not suffer the ho-hum small talk of a grocery store clerk. Reading through both the original posting and the comments, I tried to pick a side. On the one hand, the grumpy old man in me wanted the supposed people who were paralyzed with anxiety to try it out, attempt something they didn’t


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want to do, because that’s the kind of thing that helps a person grow, and frankly, I don’t want to live in a world filled with people that can’t engage one another in such a simple way. On the other hand, I don’t much enjoy interacting with clerks myself, the finehowareyous, the haveanicedays—it can be a little inorganic. As forced as the small talk can be, I think I would hate it more if we (the clerk and myself) met each other in complete silence, and so, yeah, the self-checkout is a pretty attractive option. But there might come a time not too far into the future when all of or the majority of interactions have become automated, digitized—it’s not a totally unreasonable proposition. What makes it so plausible, I think, is that connection has become something cheap and excessive. Connection over the internet has become something like candy: sweet, poppable, but it doesn’t give anything really substantial. It’s as though we’ve collectively lost confidence in ourselves to interact unless we’re behind a screen, a barrier. Most people I know (including myself) are now afraid to even talk on the phone. I could write here a long screed on social media, advertising, comment culture, outrage culture, listicles, etc., but I don’t really have the patience for that, and I think I’ve already flirted enough with the expected clichés about the dangers of the internet. Instead I’ll talk about the time I went to see 2001: A Space Odyssey at the Seattle Cinerama. Right before the intermission, a voice cried out “Help, Help!” The theater was completely full and soon everyone was looking around for the person shouting. A woman stood next to a man slumped over in his chair; he clearly was in some troubled state. “Someone Help!” she cried. None of us stood, oddly. Instead we all looked around to see how everyone else was reacting. mind

I’ve long believed that the mind is constantly entangled in either the past or the future: what’s happened to us, and the dreadful unknown.


It’s very rare that we fully engage with what is actually happening in front of us, I think. It’s only when we’re terrified, when put in the way of physical or mental danger, does the bracing present reveal itself, and yes, it is a scary thing. body

In my early twenties I was traveling by myself through Central America and I went for a swim on the Pacific side of Nicaragua. I had been swimming all morning and walked far enough in my wet bathing suit that I developed a bad rash on my thighs. The night before I had been drinking with some Canadians I’d met. It was someone’s birthday and we were drinking grasshoppers or crickets or toads—that they were green and on fire is all I can remember. I bring this up merely because my physical weakness, exacerbated by my hangover, plays somewhat into this story… After walking away from town for nearly an hour, I came to Playa Larga, a stretch of beach about two miles long that was completely devoid of people. Like I had done many times that day, I took off my sandals and shirt and went out into the water, farther than usual. There wasn’t anyone around. I allowed the water to massage my aching, hungover body. After swimming for a while, I turned around and the beach was much farther away than it had been. I started swimming back, but I made no progress—a rip current. Here was where the hangover and the fact that it was my third time swimming that day comes into play: I recall thinking that I did not possess the physical strength required to bring my body to the shore. Maybe if I had flat out panicked, good old adrenaline would’ve kicked in and I could have muscled my way home, but as it stood I’d never felt so helpless in my life. Somehow I’d gotten to the point right where the landscape dropped off—right where the sand took a sharper gradient and the water’s depth dramatically increased. Throughout this ordeal, I kept thinking that I

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should swim parallel to the shore, which is what I’d been taught to do in a rip-current situation, but I just felt so exhausted that swimming in any direction except towards the shore seemed, at the time, like a waste of energy. I could still hold my head above the water if I extended my big toes, and this was the moment when I thought—when the idea was really nailed home, I mean—that I could drown there. I was bouncing up and down on my big toes, too weak to swim, and with each bounce the sand would shift just slightly. So like at a concert, in a mosh pit, I bobbed up and down moving slightly left or slightly right as the shifting of the sands dictated. The water was right at mouth level, even if I tipped my head up, and so I kept my mouth shut tightly, breathing through my nose. I was stuck like that, bobbing on the edge for maybe five minutes, arms treading slightly to either side. I tried to pull myself in with my toes, but the sand kept shifting and the current kept pulling me out toward the open water. The best thing I could do was keep my toes extended and planted firmly to the ground, and try, simply, to maintain this stasis I’d found. Really, this is the climax of the story. If you can believe it, I don’t recall how I escaped that predicament. I think I had the idea of waiting for a large wave and then using my weight along with the momentum of the ocean to propel me out of the rut I was in. I remember that I had this idea, but I have no recollection of executing it. I do remember finally walking on to the beach, wading through the thigh-deep water feeling completely and thoroughly drained. I wish I could say that this experience fundamentally changed me, that I walked away with a new lease on life or something like that. Maybe for a little while it did: I had a newfound respect for the ocean, and for my life. one last thing

At the risk of sounding like one of those people who talk about angels on TV, I learned later that day that my grandmother had passed


away in her home in New Jersey. She had been ill, and she was ninety years old. The message was one that I’d been expecting for several days—a week, even. In a classic case of happenstance, if I had happened to drown out there on Playa Larga, the two of us would have died within minutes of each other. connection

When I was about to move away again from Seattle for the last time, I was harping on about the city to a friend. I told him, as a kind of conclusion, that I didn’t think I fit in there and that I had to leave. He disagreed. “I think you’re great here,” he said. It was a comment that was offhand, casual—this guy and I weren’t even that close—but for some reason it has stayed with me. Somehow it seems like one of the kindest things that anyone has ever said to me. I felt known—like I did actually have a place in the world after all. transcendence

Can we learn transcendence? Or is it something we always sort of know? Are we locked in our bodies? Are they cages? Or is that just a drastic oversimplification? Is it possible to truly connect with others, or are we sentenced to solipsism? I’m not sure if I can draw any conclusions here, just ask these questions. As I write this, it’s an unseasonably warm February afternoon. From my window I can see two women running around, combing the air with butterfly nets (there seem to be no butterflies). I’ve missed this essay’s deadline several times over by this point because I’ve just been so frightened of engaging with the topic and then not saying anything, or worse, saying something patently false. Because of how I spend my time, I automatically connect transcendence with writing and art. I think that’s because when we create something, we really are “putting ourselves out there,” a little piece of ourselves, anyway. You could argue that by creating a piece of


Andrew P. Heath

art that’s personal and meaningful, the act of transcendence has already occurred. Even marginal doodles affirm some kind of deep humanity within ourselves. Somewhere inside of us there’s something else too. You might call it instinct, you might call it God, Mystery Quality X, whatever, but it’s the stuff that true art aims to pick at. It’s primeval, whatever this thing is, but by risking connection with others (e.g. through art) we just might be able to escape the confines of this awful discreteness and the implied solipsism that comes with it. I tried meditating again just now. I took my shoes off, I sat up straight in my chair, and closed my eyes. I remembered the soft, British voice of the instructor on my meditation app asking me to scan from the crown of my head to the tip of my toes and try to locate any tension. As I attempted to do that, I realized my whole body was in a state of tenseness: my jaw was clenched, my gut sucked in. I could feel my heart pounding, no doubt due to the energy drink I’d just chugged. I had set a timer for ten minutes, but peeked after about four. Beside me, my phone chimed. Maybe meditation is not for everyone, or perhaps it just takes a variety of different forms. I kept thinking how funny it would be to start this essay with a good old “Webster’s dictionary defines ‘transcendence’ as…” I kept making this joke to myself, until finally I realized that although I had looked at my computer’s dictionary definition of the word, I had not looked at Webster’s: “The quality of being beyond comprehension.”


Growing Dallas Fletcher

My daughter Katie is walking twenty feet ahead of me, and she is holding the hand of some boy, this stranger I have yet to meet. The smell of corndogs in the air reminds me of last year at the carnival–how she would stand unashamed beside me, ketchup on her lips. How fast she grew up. At twelve, she would hold fast to my hand, even in public. Now, at thirteen, the last place she wants to be seen is with Daddy. The hand of this boy has replaced mine, and I understand that they are “hanging out.” Beside me is the three feet of cowlicks and dusty cheeks and eyebrows-that-meetabove-his-eyes that I call my son. My only hope. We tell Katie, meet us after the fireworks at the cotton candy stand and Connor drags me to the livestock barn. Last year, he was frightened by the 800-pound sow with feet swallowed up by large folds of fat. He ran away as fast as some of those chocolate-chasing piglets that the farmhands race for money on the track behind the stables. His hand squeezes mine tightly now, and his sneakered feet move slower as we near the barn. I could never stand


the smells of manure and sweet hay that cling fast to your clothes even on the drive home. But he wants to meet this year’s prize sow–924 pounds–and he says last year he was just a big scaredy cat. So I will try to outlast the aroma of swine to help Connor face his fears. This morning, at breakfast he announced that he was growing up. True; I have noticed his feet are outstretching his sandals and his dream to meet Oscar the Grouch has been replaced by one to shake the hand of Oscar De La Hoya. But now, as my boy and I stand in the doorway of the livestock barn, I can understand how I seemed to miss Katie’s growing-up. Our eyes meet the sow’s and she grunts at us piggishly. I am amazed at how fast Connor is a little boy again, hiding behind me with his hands wrapped around my leg. I hope this will not be the last time he chooses to hide here. But as we move a few feet closer, his feet shuffle with mine and his hands gently relax their grip. We meet the sow at last, and watch her body jiggle as she slowly tries to stand.



steven berroteran is a Nicaraguan-American born photographer from

Vallejo, California whose work focuses on the body, life struggles and systematic endurance by documenting the experiences that manifest within it. shaun blake is was born the youngest of six children in Ogden, Utah.

He’s divorced with three beautiful daughters (two presently in college), and is currently in maximum security housing at the Utah State Prison. “Yearn” is his debut in a free-world publication. sara campos has published fiction, poetry, and nonfiction articles

in a number of publications including, St. Anne’s Review, Rio Grande Review, Literary Mama, Colorlines, AlterNet Media, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Review of Books. She is also a recipient of the Letras Latinas Fellowship, an Elizabeth George Foundation grant, and residencies and fellowships with Hedgebrook, the Anderson Center, and Voices of our Nation (VONA) workshops. She is currently working on a historical novel set in Guatemala. aliza cohen grew up in the Bay Area and received an MFA in Painting

from Boston University where she studied with English painter John Walker. A relentless observer, she is captivated by contrast, whether visual, philosophical or conceptual. She currently works out of her studio in Richmond CA.

john downing lives in Olympia, Washington. denise duhamel ’s most recent book Blowout (University of Pittsburgh

Press, 2013) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and winner of a 2014 Paterson Poetry Prize. A recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and Guggenheim Award, she is a professor at Florida International University in Miami. justus evans : Crayons at 3 years, pens and markers at 10 years, spray

cans 12 to 17, multimedia in prison 17 to 39+. “Without our connection we become separated from each other. If we learn what we have in common there is nothing we can’t achieve.” dallas fletcher is a San Francisco Bay Area transplant originally from

the Midwest. He has an MFA in creative writing from Mills College in Oakland and writes fiction, poetry, and occasional grocery lists. His superhero day job is teaching at a special needs preschool for students with emotional and behavioral challenges. He finds inspiration for writing by hiking through the redwoods with his partner Harold. bruce fowler has about six years of oil and acrylic experience. He was

raised in a construction family, with his preferred profession being carpentry. Having spent a lot of time in or around the ocean is where his love of seascapes comes from. His main motifs are seascapes and surrealism, which allows him to express insight into life lessons he’s experienced. Born 1965. kat genikov , Russian-American artist b.1987, uses a variety of mediums

not limited to paint. Her methods include working in oil, musical composition and video while improvising with a personal visual language alongside a discourse with contemporary abstract language. Genikov’s process is multilayered, beginning with music compositons that she then develops into paintings and drawing, created in trance

like states. Through layering and collage techniques, the paintings are transformed into animated works. Genikov received her BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and lives and works in Los Angeles CA. andrew p . heath was born in upstate New York and currently lives in

Oakland, California. He is the fiction editor of 580 Split.

leanne howe is an enrolled citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

She writes fiction, poetry, screenplays, creative non-fiction, plays and scholarship that primarily deal with American Indian and Native American experiences. Her latest two books Choctalking On Other Realities, a memoir, and Seeing Red Pixeled Skins, American Indians and Film, a co-edited anthology of film reviews, were both published in 2013. She is the Eidson Distinguished Professor of American Literature in the English Department at the University of Georgia, Athens. joseph krauter is a 33-year-old incarcerated American with autism

spectrum disorder serving a 15-years-to-life 2nd degree murder sentence. He uses writing a a first line of defense and therapy against a symptom called Intrusive Imagery due to his condition. Joseph is an aspiring writer and hopes to continue to entertain people with his writings. He is a part of the Brothers in Pen creative writing class at San Quentin, sponsored by Zoe Mullery. kim magowan lives in San Francisco and teaches in the English

Department at Mills College. She has fiction published or forthcoming in Arroyo Literary Review, Atticus Review, Bird’s Thumb, Breakwater Review, Corium Magazine, Crack the Spine, Fiction Southeast, The Gettysburg Review, Hotel Amerika, Indiana Review, JMWW, Parcel, River City, Sixfold, SNReview, Squalorly, Valparaiso Fiction Review, and Word Riot. She is working on a novel and a short story collection.


joe mcdermott , a resident of Berkeley, California, has lately become

entranced by the recent construction and destruction occurring in and around San Francisco’s financial district, and he hopes to capture the beautiful, grotesque, and paralyzing aspects of it by using multiple exposure photography. You can find more of his work at: josephburl. com. maryse meijer ’s work has appeared in Portland Review, Dallas Review,

St. Ann’s Review, Joyland, and elsewhere. Her collection of stories, Heartbreaker, is forthcoming from FSG July 2016. She lives in Chicago. brendan murdock is a Venice native who attended Crossroads School

for Arts & Sciences in Santa Monica. The 48-year-old has an MFA in fine art and has worked as a graphic artist. He was released from San Quentin two years ago. ed ntiri is a photo generator utilizing 35mm black and white film. For

him, the process of making images is a ceremony of light, chance, and memory in which focus is less important than feeling. His work can be viewed at richard king perkins ii is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in

long-term care facilities. He lives in Crystal Lake, IL with his wife, Vickie and daughter, Sage. He is a three-time Pushcart nominee and a Best of the Net nominee. His work has appeared in many publications including The Louisiana Review, Bluestem, Emrys Journal, Sierra Nevada Review, Roanoke Review, The Red Cedar Review and Crannog. His poems are forthcoming in The William and Mary Review, Sugar House Review, Plainsongs, Free State Review and Milkfist. yulia pinkusevich is an interdisciplinary visual artist born in Kharkov,

Ukraine. Yulia has exhibited nationally and internationally including recent site-specific projects executed in New York, Paris and Buenos

Aires and San francisco, her work is represented by Kent Fine Art. Yulia is currently an Artist in Residence at Autodesk Pier 9 and works as an Assistant Professor at Mills College. She lives and works in Oakland, California. michelle ramin , receiving her BA from Penn State University and her

MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute, has exhibited locally and nationally, with upcoming solo exhibitions at the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, PA and at Duplex Gallery in Portland, OR. Ramin’s work has been featured in such publications as the SF Chronicle, SF Weekly, and New American Paintings, to name a few, and was also awarded the prestigious San Francisco Bay Guardian’s 2014 Goldie Award for Excellence in Visual Art. Michelle currently lives and works in San Francisco, CA. jess rodriguez williams is a queer, Colombian and Mexican mix, first-

generation high school graduate, whose life is dedicated to radical, decolonized activism and intergenerational healing. Jess’s pride for being a radical, low income, intersectional feminist, means power to and representation of marginalized communities. taylor sacco is founder and member of “The Innkeepers Collective”

with whom he writes, workshops and grows. He has lived in Vermont his whole life because he finds it beautiful and peaceful. He lives on a farm with his wife and dog. kevin d . sawyer is a native of San Francisco, born in 1963. His interest

turned to writing 18+ years ago while in jail awaiting trial. Sawyer has written numerous unpublished journals that chronicle his jail experiences; and he has written several unpublished essays and poems. He is a published journalist and a former member of the Society of Professional Journalists.

ariel hansen strong is a book artist, printmaker, and designer based in

San Francisco. She received her BFA in Sculpture from San Francisco Art Institute in 2011, and her MFA in Book Art & Creative Writing from Mills College in 2015. Strong’s portfolio is online at terry ann thaxton has two books of poems: Getaway Girl and The

Terrible Wife, as well as a textbook, Creative Writing in the Community: A Guide. She’s also published essays and poetry in Connecticut Review, Defunct, Gulf Coast, Cimarron Review, flyway, Sou’wester, Lullwater, Teaching Artist Journal, and other journals. She teaches creative writing at the University of Central Florida. a . kevin valvardi was raised in the small rural town of Erial, New

Jersey, and is currently an inmate artist and poet serving a life sentence in California. He has been writing poetry since the age of nine and began teaching himself to draw while in prison. As part of San Quentin’s Journalism Guild, he has written a number of articles for San Quentin News. He has also written several children’s stories and began learning to write short fiction and non-fiction stories in 2012. He plans to write a story about his life prior to his crimes and incarceration and hopes to have his poetry and stories published one day. jose h . villarreal is a prison correspondent for Poor Magazine. He’s a

Chicano artist, writer, poet and playwright whose most recent writings and art have appeared in San Francisco Bay View, Socialist Viewpoint, and California Prison Focus. He is a contributor to “A Year of Corcoran Sun” (Freebird Publishers 2015) and more of his work can be viewed at molly vogel is a poet from Thousand Oaks, California. She has been

shortlisted for the Fish Poetry Prize, the Jane Martin Poetry Prize, and the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award. A selection of her work has been

published in Carcanet’s New Poetries VI and she is currently completing a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow. julie marie wade ’s forthcoming collections are Catechism: A Love Story

(Noctuary Press, 2016) and SIX: Poems (Red Hen Press, 2016), winner of the AROHO/To the Lighthouse Poetry Prize. A recipient of a grant from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund and the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Memoir, she is a professor at Florida International University in Miami. jaade wills is a graduate student at Mills College studying Creative

Nonfiction. Her work is deeply influenced by the fragilities of the human condition. During the moments she is not writing, she is exploring the oddities of Oakland, California. matthew woodman teaches writing at California State University,

Bakersfield and has poems forthcoming in Spillway, Gold Man Review, Sugar House Review, and The California Journal of Poetics. For a full list of his publications, please visit his website:


was designed by deborah sherman (with assistance from curt brown and heather pratt). emji spero designed the template using Minion Pro for body text and Knockout for titling. This journal was offset printed by golden gate print & media service, on 100% recycled papers with soy-based, zero-VOC cmyk inks, and perfect-bound with PUR glue, 2016. oakland , california

580 Split Issue 18 - Transcendence (2016)  

Interviews with Victor LaValle, Eileen Myles, and Maggie Nelson New work by LeAnne Howe, Kim Magowan, Maryse Meijer, Molly Vogel, Julie Mar...

580 Split Issue 18 - Transcendence (2016)  

Interviews with Victor LaValle, Eileen Myles, and Maggie Nelson New work by LeAnne Howe, Kim Magowan, Maryse Meijer, Molly Vogel, Julie Mar...