FIVE QUARTERLY spring 2014
GUEST EDITORS Rosebud Ben-Oni is a 2013 CantoMundo Fellow, the author of SOLECISM (Virtual Artists Collective, 2013), and co-editor for HER KIND at VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. Jenny Boissiere is a dancer, performer and Pilates Instructor living in New York City. John Bussman is a criminal defense attorney in Orange County, CA. Flannery James is a high school senior at Newark Academy. Jason Polan is the founder of Taco Bell Drawing Club.
FOUNDERS Vanessa Jimenez Gabb Crissy Van Meter ASSISTANT EDITOR Jessica Gray
FICTION Bones in the Bucket | Bizzy Coy…4 Juniper | Andrew Hofmann…10
Wolf | Shaunagh Jones…15 Sorry Not Sorry | Amanda Miska…23 LEDA LIEBLING | Robert Wexelblatt…24
POETRY To Champion | Dan Encarnacion…34 Nine Short Poems | David Hornibrook…36 Euromaidan | Anastasia Knasiak…38 WITH LOVE | RB Mertz…39
Weekend At Home | Sam Samson…43
Bones in the Bucket Bizzy Coy Most women standing on their front lawns look upset, and this one was no exception. It’s not a natural place for a girl there in the middle of the grass, not mowing or raking or weeding or tanning or passing out beers but just there, awkward, like it’s someone else’s house and she hasn’t been invited. This one was standing alone, bundled up, answering the Chief’s questions as we buzzed around her property like snow bees. The Chief, as usual, was calm as shit, but this woman kept talking way too loud, agitated. He was standing right there, it’s not like he couldn’t hear her. “I said I don’t know, I went to the pile to get more logs and I seen the fire coming out of the chimney.” I’d seen this a ton of times. This was just another boring call for me and the rest of the guys. The same old stupid fire that could have been prevented with a cheap cleaning that took literally ten minutes, and the right sort of wood, hard and seasoned, not this cheap shitty green pine stuff cut down yesterday that builds up creosote until it ignites. For four years, ever since I was old enough, I’d gotten in my dad’s car as soon as I heard the sirens to go see what neighborhood knucklehead almost burned their house down this time. My mom thought that was funny and started asking me, when I came home, for Wolfy’s Knucklehead Report. We laughed about it unless someone’s house got really damaged or someone was hurt, which didn’t seem to happen that much. When it did, there’d be a collection at the Four Corners pretty much the next day, with everyone stopping by to throw dollar bills in a jar. Printed flyers would go up at the grocery store advertising a chicken dinner fundraiser at the town hall next week.
This was a regular day for us, but this lady was freaking out. I could tell she was shaking over there, asking the Chief if her house was going to be okay. She was in her thirties, maybe her forties. I’m not good at guessing people’s ages, but I do have kind of a thing for older women, not that I’d ever tell anyone, but I think they’re sexy. Experienced, or something. It was hard to tell exactly how old she was with her white fluffy hat pulled down over the top half of her face and her dingy puffy coat zipped up over the bottom half. Her eyes were really light blue. She wasn’t wearing gloves and I could see that her hands were getting red and she wasn’t wearing a ring. I got the feeling she lived here alone. “It looks like everything’s fine now, I’m sorry to bring you guys out here. You can go if you want.” The Chief shook his head no, not yet. The boys had already checked the attic and the roof, no signs of spread, which was good news. But we still had to drop a couple of chimney bombs to make sure the flame was all the way out. Scrape out the rest of the residue. I kind of hung back at the truck and waited for someone to give me the signal that I could go in and do my thing. They stuck me with cleaning out the woodstoves and fireplaces when I first started, because it’s grunt work and no one else wanted to do it, but I didn’t mind it and then it became “Wolfy’s Job.” Brady shouted over that I could get started, so I grabbed my metal buckets and the shovel and the brush and headed in. The house, inside, was kind of cool. Like there were bright colors on the walls, which I wasn’t expecting, this pumpkiny orange color and a goldy yellow. Almost too hip for this place, where people seemed to have all decorated their houses about twenty or thirty years ago and just left it at that. It made me wonder, like, what she did for a living or why she was out in the middle of nowhere. Why had I never seen her out somewhere, at Grant’s or the Valley Inn? Did she
work weird hours? Was she in the house all day alone? Maybe she was an artist or a house decorator, or she had some disability and couldn’t work, like my dad with his back. Maybe she had that thing where you’re scared to go outside. Maybe she had a shitty divorce and liked bright colors because they cheered her up. I scraped out all the wood and ash and embers, fast enough so that I wasn’t holding up anybody else’s job, but careful enough that I didn’t make a mess. Usually I’m less careful, because there’s already ash on the floor or you can tell they aren’t people who care about a clean floor, but this house was nice and I already felt bad enough that I was wearing my slushy boots inside. I filled up one and a half buckets and lugged them to the front door, brought them outside and got to work making sure nothing was hot anymore. I shouted up to Brady that he could get started with the chains. As I put a little bit of water in the bucket, mixing it around, I noticed something I don’t usually see, something whitish mixed in with the charred logs and coals. A smooth twig. It took me a second to realize it was a bone, maybe a rib. This happens sometimes - a squirrel or a chipmunk falls down the chimney. That’s country living, my mom will say. Or maybe what had happened was, she had found a dead mouse in the basement that stunk to high heaven and she didn’t want to wait until the garbage dump opened on Saturday to get rid of it. So she dropped it in the fire and let the thing burn to a crisp. I saw her looking over at me, maybe twelve feet away, still shivering and worried on the lawn. Maybe why she was nervous because there was a bone in the bucket. Maybe she thought I would judge her for burning up a rodent. I wasn’t judging, though. I thought it was kind of bad ass. She shouted over at me. “Is that the ashes? You can just dump them over by the garage. It’s wet. It’s fine.”
That was nice of her to offer, but I knew better. She’d be calling us in an hour when her garage was burning down, and then I’d be in big trouble for being a knucklehead. I didn’t want to disagree with her since this was her house and these were her ashes, technically, but I had a job to do. I nodded, kind of acknowledged “I heard you,” then went back to mixing in the water. There was another bone, very bone-ish looking. It was a teeny arm, upper and lower, with fingers on one end. Like the human skeleton in the biology classroom but about a billion times smaller. It was cool, I would have shown it to the Chief, but he was up on the roof with Brady, dropping the chain down the chimney and getting ready to spin it around and shake down whatever creosote was left. I hoped whoever was inside working the bottom of the chain would keep things clean. So much crazy shit comes falling down out of an old chimney, it’s disgusting. Then she was right up next to me. “Please be careful,” she said. I could see in between her hat and her coat that she was actually really pretty, a few crinkles next to her eyes, and I thought that if this lady lived here by herself only about ten minutes from my house, and she would be interested in a younger guy, even for something casual, I should try to make this happen. Maybe she’d give me her number and we could get together sometime. “It’s just.” She started crying before I could make my move. This happened a lot on fire calls, always someone really freaked out because we’re all taught that fire is such a scary thing. Even though people used to live in houses with open flame, heating up the place and boiling water and cooking food. Most fires we deal with are small, nobody dies and there’s only a little damage, but people are yelling and sobbing like it’s the end
of the world. Maybe if kids had to learn in school how to start a fire, and how to put it out again, everyone could calm down and handle it with dignity like the pioneers or the cowboys or the cavemen. “I know there’s bones in there. It’s my gerbil.” Okay, honest to God, I didn’t know whether to laugh or back away slowly. “He died a couple of nights ago. It was my fault. I had the cage near the window and it got too cold. I guess he froze to death.” That was a weird as hell explanation, but I kind of understood. She was having a moment for the gerbil, doing a cremation thing to honor the dead. Then her chimney lit on fire and she got interrupted in the middle of it. Maybe she was having a ceremony with candles and stuff. No wonder she was emotional. But still. A gerbil. That was weird. Not weird enough to stop me from wanting to masturbate about her later that night, quiet under the covers, assuming my mom can’t hear anything since she’s downstairs on the couch because of dad’s back. Imagining her light blue eyes, looking right into mine as she touches me and whispers what she wants me to do to her inside her pumpkin house. But still. Weird. I wanted to reach out and touch her, stroke her arm or wipe away a tear, which sounds so ridiculous, because I had on my big thick gloves and they were covered with ash, so I stood there like an idiot while this poor woman cried. The guys pulled up the chain and came down the ladder, and I didn’t want her to look like a mess in front of the entire department on top of accidentally killing her own pet, remembering every time she passed one of us at the post office
that we had seen her sobbing on her own front lawn. So I grabbed both bucket handles in one hand and her bare hand with the other and led her through the snow to the garage. I dumped the bones and ash onto the ground, first one bucket and then the other. Then I kind of pulled her by the waist right up next to me, both of us facing the pile. The guys were loading stuff back into the truck and couldn’t see us. I felt like I had to say something to shut her up. “Say a prayer,” I said. At first she leaned her head over onto my shoulder, or at least right up against it, since I was taller than she was. Then, after a second, she just dropped to her knees, right there in the drift. She was really feeling for this gerbil. This gerbil she wasn’t even careful enough to keep away from the window in the middle of winter. What sort of a grown person has a gerbil, anyway, I thought to myself as tears dripped off her cheeks, making stinging sounds as they hit the ice. Where would you even get one in this town when we don’t even have a pharmacy or a movie theater. The truck started up. I didn’t want to interrupt her but I wanted her to know that it would be okay and that I wasn’t going to judge her. I couldn’t hug her while she was on the ground so I patted her on top of the head like she was a kid, leaving soot on her fluffy white hat. She still looked cute with her face all red. I jogged back over to the truck, buckets clanking.
Juniper Andrew Hofmann The sun is shining and everything is beautiful at the nature reserve including the blood on my loafers that sort of dimly glitters in the god-rays of the red cedar forest. It’s a red cedar forest because it was once a place where cows were born and raised and milked and forced to give birth and then slaughtered and they gorged themselves upon the land, stole every nutrient from the ground and left the soil shit and so now the only thing that grows here is red cedar, which is as ugly as hell—but like I said, everything is beautiful. There’s blood on my loafers because I get really bad nosebleeds. I’m hiking but it was real bad idea. I wore loafers for some reason and my feet are crammed into them because they’re too small and so I’m in excruciating pain from walking for miles and miles on rough terrain in terrible shoes, and I’ve been having nosebleeds on and off for the past hour. The nosebleed problem is because of a condition I have and I have medicine for it and everything but I haven’t been taking it for a while now. Something I like to do is imagine everything I’m seeing is part of some movie, like my vision is the view of a camera recording a movie or a T.V. show or whatever. Sometimes I do it when I’m bored or in pain and sometimes I do it because I want to disassociate from myself and in this case I do it because I’m feeling all of those things. The camera hangs just about eye-level above the ground and it glides like a ghost through the woods for about an hour in complete silence, lovingly framing every shot with a certain quality of obsession. Every once in a while, the camera might look down at bloodstained hands trying to plug up a bleed. I’ve been thinking about it, and the reason I probably wore my too-small loafers is the same reason I’ve stopped taking the nosebleed medication. Anyway, the camera stops as I also figure out that I’m probably completely lost, and I think it would be dramatic to say it out loud, so the camera catches it as I say it— “I’m lost.” And it’s quite poignant, honestly. I’m feeling lightheaded and my feet fucking hurt but it’s like, if I don’t keep going I’ll probably die so I stay there for a while and think. I fiddle with the last of the burger king napkins in my pocket as my nose starts bleeding again and the light now has a red quality and I realize it’s probably sunset. And with the red light and the red blood and the red cedars I’m thinking about how I’m surrounded by an ocean of red. Standing there in the middle of the woods and I think I can feel an insect on my arm so I swat at it and the sensation is gone. Red cedars and moss, actually. There’s a lot of red cedars but there’s also a bunch of moss in spaces where the trees can’t grow. I hoarded those burger king napkins yesterday when I went there for lunch in these same damn clothes, down to the loafers. The camera in my mind stared for a long time at my Wopper With Extra Cheese and I imagined that I was a photographer trying to capture how I felt about the burger and I’ll say right now at the time it wasn’t a positive feeling, but the camera couldn’t quite capture it and in the end I threw it away without eating it and that was probably a waste of perfectly good cow-flesh but I couldn’t and I didn’t eat dinner or breakfast or lunch again either. A pine needle dropping on my face reminds me I’m probably in a near-fatal situation and I fucking project an inferno of hate onto the red cedars but then I remind myself that everything is beautiful including the moss and the trees and mountains of cow shit. So I think to myself, I should probably keep walking.
So I sprawl out on the moss while my head feels real light and it tickles against the back of my neck and I realize I should be worried about the next nosebleed suffocating me, and I keep lying on the moss. My mother had also been to burger king and she had been trying to have a conversation with me and it ended badly. The light is turning a darker red every moment. She called it an intervention. I’m lying in ancient cow shit. Blood gushes into the back of my throat and I can’t breathe for a moment so I instinctually sit up and spit some reddish phlegm onto a patch of barren earth beside me. As far as I can tell, there’s no other life around save for the trees and I and I manage to stumble to my feet despite my throbbing head and I start walking again, finally, at a really slow pace. The camera starts rolling, rolling over the hills. The nosebleed dries up and I realize all my burger king napkins are sopping with blood and I scrunch my forehead up and throw all the completely unusable ones on the ground behind me in a trail. I remember that my feet are aching. I figure at this point that the loafers are doing more harm than good but I leave them on. I don’t like my mom. When I was a kid my family owned a farm and they had corn and chickens and pigs and fucking cows but a big company bought them out or something and now they live in an apartment in Cincinnati and now they talk all the time about the reds and I moved out recently. I’m probably turning inward and thinking about all this me stuff because I’m in pain and I’ve convinced myself I’m probably going to die in this red cedar forest and I don’t know why I went hiking in the first place. That’s a lie. My head is hurting. I moved out last month in a big huff and a puff and I was in a big hurry and I packed like three suitcases of my stuff but I forgot the really important thing which is a piggy bank shaped like a cow, which I use to remind myself. So the burger king thing was actually about that but my mom turned into an intervention and she refused to give me the cow bank and she asked me to come back home and I said no and I threw away the Whopper and of course now I’m walking lost in a red cedar forest and I think, I didn’t make these last moments worthy. Worthy for what. For whom. I feel something warm in my right shoe and now I’m even more lightheaded and I realize it’s probably that my foot is bleeding from the shitty shoes. So I take off my loafer and my sock is all red on the bottom so I take off my sock, too, and I take off the other shoe and the other sock, to match, and I unbutton my shirt because why the hell not and I leave all my footwear at the base of a cedar and I don’t look back and now I have to walk gingerly over the rocky earth. And its dark and I try to feel despair but I don’t so I keep walking. This would be the worst film. Hours and hours of fucking cedars. Wal-Mart parking lot. I blink, mildly surprised. My nose starts bleeding and I get it all over my chest. My father understands, so he doesn’t press the issue but mom does and so it’s trouble for everyone and that’s how it is and I turn around and walk away from the Wal-Mart. Something I’d do when we had the farm was that I would try to help with the cows and now I realize I was an idiot child for precisely this reason. Wal-Mart was all bright and beautiful and shining in the near-dark and the neon logo and a couple of lights of cars in the distance peppering the parking lot had given everything an unearthly glow. To contrast, the forest was dark and dim and the needle-scales of the forest were like alien fingers in the greyness and it was
all very wild and unordered compared to Wal-Mart but in the end it was also beautiful even though it was rather ugly. I’m walking away and there’s another nosebleed. So one morning when I was an idiot kid I decided I was gonna milk the cows and clean their shit and be all grown up and my parents would be proud of me and it’d be the best day ever. It might be because I’ve been rapidly losing blood all evening, but I could almost see myself walking in the predawn lightlessness, heading for the cow pen. I wonder about when this red cedar forest was once a bovine den of slaughter, what it looked like, what it smelled like, what the owners were like. The farm was converted into a nature reserve several generations ago, probably at least forty years ago if I’m trying to judge by the size of the trees. Long before I was born and long before my parents up and decided they wanted to be farm folk and what do you know they started farming and my life began and I was their only child forever and ever and my mom told me I was a disappointment at Burger King while I was refusing to talk to her unless she gave back the cow bank and thinking about how beef is the most horrible thing in the world. Sometimes in order not to think about things the camera will just take over my mind and there’s all these finely crafted shots with my eyes in the moonlight darkness zooming across time and I can forget about the nosebleeds and my fucked up feet and my open chest shivering against the chilled nighttime, and all of a sudden it’s nighttime and I didn’t realize it, it’s night. I blink and the director calls a cut. My mother is the one who told me about how everything is beautiful, in its own way, when she took me out in the middle of the summer night, like this one, which is how I’m onto thinking about it. She brought me out into the middle of one of those big semi-unowned woods you end up finding in the country, pieces of land that legally beyond to such-and-such but in the end cannot truly be possessed. It was dark and scary and I wanted to cry but Mother told me to look up into the sky and I saw the stars and I wasn’t afraid and that’s when she told me that everything is beautiful in its own special way, and I was like, okay. As my head turns the camera pans through the vertical-brown forms of the forest and there’s a bright horizontal rectangle of light in the distance and it’s all, oh, and I think about how I’m saved and this would be the dramatic climax of the movie and I’m in a lot of pain and I start walking towards the light, transfixed. And what I didn’t realize that day when I was kid on the farm was that it was slaughtertime. So it turns out the light is a gas station. Next thing I know I’m stumbling across the street, into the parking lot and I trip and I’m face-down in the gravelly tarmac and I can tell I hit my head pretty hard and my left hand is all cut up by a smashed beer bottle and I’m puking and it mixes with the blood. Intercut are shots of a ten-year-old me climbing over the fence in that unfocused way you associate with childhood and landing face-first in a cow pie, and this child tries to wipe the shit off of themselves lying on the ground but it doesn’t work and they end up covered in cow feces. But then the cows are issuing their primal cries and the child forgets. The child stands up. Suddenly, I’m halfway across the parking lot, the camera half-stumbling as I walk towards that window of too-bright fluorescence and there’s a half-formed thought about damaged footage and I take a deep breath and then I’m coughing and I don’t think about the fluids that come out of my mouth. Where are my loafers? The child is now at the mouth of the barn, one door slightly opened, like the gap in my mother’s perpetually slightly-pursed lips. It swallows up the sky and the earth and I might be
projecting but for the first time the child feels small and aware of the human body’s permeable borders. Yet the child steps forward and where are my loafers? I don’t know where my loafers are. I flop onto the door with the last few ounces of my strength and it doesn’t open. I take an unsteady step backwards and I look at the entryway, confused. In half-destroyed, block-letterdecal text, the glass reads, “PULL.” Pulls the barn door further open with a tiny heave, and there’s a shot of Father aiming his rifle point blank in-between the unknowing eyes of a for-beef heifer. Confused, disoriented, I’m scrabbling at the handle and I can’t get a grip and my nose is bleeding and I can taste blood I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forgive my mom. For such a beautiful lie. My fingers won’t work. And then the crack of the gun and then Father is on top of the felled cow and slits the throat with a deft motion, like he’s done this many times before. The legs are twitching erratically as the blood spills out onto the concrete. The shit-covered child watches. The door jingles when I finally open it and I collapse on the tile floor, surrounded by fatty snacks and magazines, my nosebleed running sideways down my lip, running onto the floor in a small puddle. Distantly, I hear the clerk scream but it doesn’t bother me. The camera pans backward, upward from my body, as if this were some sort of out-ofbody experience and I’m watching somebody running over to me with a wad of napkins and trying to stop the bleeding. It’s absolutely silent and it’s almost like everything is in slow motion, it’s so serene and without realizing it I’m following shitstained me ten years ago from above, following like an angel and the camera swoops into my prepubescent body and I’m there. This is what will happen: I will run into the forest, thick with cedar trees and for hours I will huddle in the brush, scared and alone and my parents will be unable to find me and it’ll be evening when, for the first time ever, I have a nosebleed. I will be crying, covered in dried shit and fresh blood and died blood and scared piss as I cross the autumn field, barren and harvested and at about halfway there my Father will run out to me and he will hold me tight to his chest and tell me how much he loves me and how worried he was but I don’t hear it, I just stare at the cow’s-blood still on his hands. I will be carried back home to Mother. For every moment for the rest of my life I will remember the look on her face as she saw me as I was, how this woman who had confidently told me that the world was beautiful instantly broke that promise, disproved that conjecture with a look of pure, visceral revulsion. And then: the next ten years. Something that’s stuck with me is a conversation I had with some friends last week while they were dropping me off at my apartment, about how we were talking about this kid who had laid down on a set of train tracks the night previous and could only be identified as a “male” that morning. It was like, I wasn’t particularly bothered by the whole ordeal but my friend, she was absolutely distraught, and she was flipping out and acting all horrified like maybe how my mom would be horrified, and she said something along the lines of how it’s so horrible because all it was, was that they had made a small mistake and you end up wishing that they could’ve come out of that mistake alive and learned from it but instead they’re dead and sometimes life doesn’t forgive mistakes. I swear, I have no idea where my loafers are.
I’m pretty sure I’m dying. I’m bleeding all over this kind shop-clerk who’s cradling my head while I scream and cry until my throat grows hoarse and she’s already called 911 and she looks serene, sort of. She brings a cup to my lips and I gulp it all down and it’s cool and sweet and it tastes like how you’d imagine water tastes in a commercial. The thing is, though, space and time are slowing down or they aren’t making sense or my brain is acting like it isn’t making sense and it’s because my body is shutting down, I’m fairly certain, and physically I’m in some gas station out in the country but my consciousness is in a void, a space created by oxygen and/or blood depravation and the camera sends me back in time again, despite everything. I’m a cow shit huddling in the brush sniveling. Maybe I came back here to be clean again, to be worthy. For what. For whom. A squirrel alights on a nearby branch, cocks its head inquisitively. I stare at it, absolutely still, and apparently I intrigue it in such a way that it draws closer, so close that I could touch it, so in a quick sudden motion I grab it and snap its neck except I don’t do it right and so instead it’s just kind of broken and bleeding but still alive and clawing at my hands and I can see its tendons and bones and it shits and pisses on me and I peel back its flesh. The tiny heart beating so fast and afraid. One of the lungs collapsed. Ribs like a broken cage. The distinct impression I’m missing something. A puzzle piece that doesn’t fit. The camera cuts back to the present. I’m delirious, trying to stand up, laughing hysterically, insisting that I take my shirt the rest of the way off and so I do despite the clerk’s best efforts and then my pants and the rest and I’m naked and I ask, if this was a horror film, who do you think the monster would be? And I say it would be me and even now I’m lying. For what. For whom. Somehow the sunlight hits the damn cedars just right and a singular god-ray streams from beneath those gnarly branches and it hits the squirrel right in the chest, right on its tiny heart and it glows. The veins throbbing. The muscles tensing and untensing. The loafers I left behind. I stare it in the eyes, big black circles full of fear, maybe crying. What did I do. Why do I do. For What. For Whom. My hands are trembling, and the camera reel starts to run out as I bring that broken creature up to my face and I kiss it more fully than I did any lover. The sun is shining and it throws into ugly detail every ugly detail. I can taste the blood in my mouth and the kiss on my lips and I take a deep breath when the heart stops and the movie ends. For What. For Whom.
Wolf Shaunagh Jones They were using the boat with the grappling hook again. They’d been alerted to something below the water. All debris needed to be cleared so it didn’t hinder the boats that came into port. I watched as the hook was lowered into the dark sea. If I didn’t know better, I’d think it looked like a crane game at an arcade. There was a shout from a man on board and the hook was raised. Something hung from its claws. I thought I saw arms and legs, but the rest was obscured by metal. I walked closer to the edge of the harbour wall to get a better view. The four men hauled the corpse off the boat in a plastic sheet. They were sweating; the body was heavy because it was water logged. The workers lowered it to the ground. I nudged the sheet with my foot and it fell away to reveal the bloated face. It was hard to tell if it was a man or a woman. The skin was grey and waxy, the matted hair tinged green like seaweed. One of the men remarked the body looked like a scarecrow and I understood what he meant. A bird landed by the corpse and John shooed it away. I saw him most days and knew only his name and occupation. He was the head labourer and constantly scowled. I recognised the two other men standing by the body, but we only nodded to each other in passing. The fourth I hadn’t seen before. He was no more than twenty and I wondered why he was doing this job. His red wool scarf looked out of place amongst the grey buildings that surrounded the harbour. The other men wore dark, waterproof jackets. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen a corpse. By the time they were taken out the water, they didn’t look like people anymore. Mostly, they were suicides who’d drowned themselves in the sea and been washed into the harbour. I walked away to call the police and John shouted after me.
‘Hey Harding, take Wolf with you. He’s looking a bit pale.’ I hated the way John addressed me by surname only. I turned and waited for the boy to catch up. He moved uneasily across the concrete and his face had turned grey. Despite that, I noticed the tightness of his jeans. ‘Don’t worry,’ I told him. ‘You’ll get used to it.’ He smiled thinly, in a way that implied he didn’t believe me. The others had probably told him about me. To them, I was Harding the Loner. I’d overheard the men’s conversations and watched on CCTV as they huddled together, smoking and laughing. I asked about his unusual name. It sounded adopted, as if he’d been trying to change the person he was before. ‘My parents liked it,’ he said. His accent was American, which was unusual in the town. The sun was setting when the police and ambulance arrived. I gave them the details and the body was taken away. The process was quiet and formal. The workers started to drift home, but I would be there until the night guard took over. The boats cast thick shadows on the harbour wall as I checked the area. The next day, they would carry cargo to Norway or go out into the North Sea to fish. The salty wind from the ocean stung my skin. It whistled and twisted around the harbour, rattling the fences. I pulled my jacket tight around me. The pubs were starting to fill with post-work drinkers and I looked forward to my first beer of the night. I remembered a time when I had a reason to go home; I always did when it grew dark. ‘Bye, Nick,’ Wolf called. I waved and watched as he disappeared out the gates. I hoped he wasn’t going home to an empty house. In The Crown and Anchor, the lighting was dim and paint flaked off the walls like dead skin. A slot machine flashed orange and red in the corner next to a jukebox; unplugged with dust coating its surface. The weather forecast on the TV said the temperature outside was minus four.
I sipped pint after pint of flat lager. I read the newspaper until the words on the page started to swim. Three other men sat at the bar, not speaking, content to keep their stories to themselves. I rarely told mine. I used to, when it all first happened. I’d talk to strangers on the train and tell them my wife had left me. The day she went, Elizabeth cooked us both breakfast. That was unusual because she was normally asleep when I left for work. Normally, I ate a slice of toast on the walk to the harbour, but Elizabeth was already awake, wearing the silk kimono I’d bought her one Christmas. She was breaking eggs into a frying pan, and a pot of coffee sat on the table. We ate together, and I talked about us going away somewhere. She suggested Italy and I said we’d look into it at the weekend. At the door, Elizabeth smiled and kissed me on the cheek. She smelled like the face cream she’d always used. I came home and Elizabeth was gone. I opened the bottle of champagne I’d been saving for our anniversary and thought about what I was going to do. She’d left a tube of her lipstick behind and I noticed the shade was Deception. I painted my mouth with the red bullet. I swallowed the dregs of my drink and considered ordering a whisky. Instead, I stood up, steadying myself with a hand on the bar and concentrated on walking in a straight line to the door. One of the men looked at me, but I didn’t care what he thought. The cold night air hit me full force. I hoped it wouldn’t sober me up because I would be troubled by nightmares. I saw him ahead. Wolf’s red scarf burned through the darkness and I recognised his walk; hunched shoulders, head down. I ducked into a doorway, but I kept watching. A woman stopped him. She was wearing baggy jeans, a black hooded jumper and a cap pulled low over her eyes. Sexless considering what she sold. Wolf nodded at something she was saying and she moved closer, talking quietly, a hand on his arm. She gripped it like she needed him. There was a street that passed under a bridge and she walked into its shadowed mouth. Wolf stood alone for a
minute, waiting. He kept looking around. I saw his face illuminated briefly by a street light before Wolf followed the woman into the darkness. I was left shivering.
In the morning, the ground was slicked with rain. I woke with the putrid taste of alcohol in my mouth. I regretted watching Wolf and doubted my memory. Did he see me? ‘Horrible day,’ Wolf said, when I ran into him later. His cheerful tone was off kilter, given he was talking about the rain that lashed down on us. I moved closer to him, pretending I couldn’t hear that well and asked if he was enjoying the work. ‘I’m starting to get used to things. Back home, I just worked on the fishing boats. The ships are so much bigger here, so much more to do.’ ‘Where's home?’ I asked. 'Connecticut. I travelled about a lot though.’ And I wondered why he'd come all that way to this lifeless town. I liked it, but it wasn’t a place for the young. Wolf told me how his dad used to take him fishing in the river that snaked through the state. They would leave early in the morning, while summer fog still hung in the air and drive to where the woods were thick and where no one else would be. Wolf said he liked being enclosed in a circle of trees, sitting quietly with his dad. ‘In the summer the river was so blue,’ he said, ‘but when my mum got sick we stopped going there.’ His name was called from one of the boats and he had to go. Wolf asked if I wanted to get a drink that night. I shook my head and told him: ‘Some other time.’ Walking away, he looked back and smiled. I wished I could’ve taken a picture. I got home a little after twelve. Normally, I left the pub earlier but the music was good: bands my dad used to listen to when I was a young. But then someone put a familiar song on and I
couldn’t breathe. I hadn’t heard it in a long time. Elizabeth played it a lot when we’d first married. The day we moved into our new house, she made me dance with her in the living room. The room was completely bare, but as she swayed with her arms around my neck, it seemed like home. After the divorce, I threw the record away. I tried not to think about Elizabeth much. I didn’t blame her for leaving. When we fought, she’d shout that I needed help with my problems. ‘What problems?’ I’d shout back. ‘You know exactly what I mean,’ she’d say. She re-married a few years after the divorce. I expected that; she was very beautiful.
Wolf didn’t show up for work and he wasn’t answering his phone. No one else seemed worried, but when he didn’t appear the next day I got his address from the records in the office and made my way there. His house was further along the coast and I drove along the narrow country roads. No other cars passed by and I could see the bulk of the cliffs and the ocean. I rolled down my window slightly and the cold salt-tinged air invigorated me. I passed a derelict service station. The windows were boarded, yet there was a sign outside that still gave the opening hours. On the roof, there was a fast food restaurant mascot: a cat wearing a chef’s hat. The cat’s eyes had been spray-painted black and its smile revealed yellowing teeth. A car swerved around the corner, tyres screeching on the road. The car clipped the side of mine and I slammed my hand on the horn. The four by four didn’t slow down and it disappeared down a private road. As I got out to inspect my car, I considered following the driver, but decided it wouldn’t be worth it. The body of the car had a dent in it, but that was all and I didn’t care what it looked like. I got back in and unfolded my map. Three more miles.
When I drew into the village night was falling. It was merely a cluster of houses and a phone box. A white lighthouse was the only building of note and it stood on the cliffs so the eye was drawn to it. Wolf’s house was near there, facing onto the ocean. The lighthouse’s beam flickered across the bay, illuminating everything for an instant, before it was plunged into near-darkness once again. Ships must have been wrecked there years ago. There was no answer when I knocked on the door of Wolf’s house. I went to look in the windows, but the curtains were drawn. I found the back door had been left open. I called his name and switched on the lights, hoping he’d appear and ask what I was doing. Each room was haphazardly decorated. The living room had mis-matched sofas and a picture of an owl hung on the wall. The rug had burn marks on it and a chipped crystal ashtray sat on the table. It was full – I’d never seen him smoke. The air was stale. I looked around for pictures of his family or something to remind him of home. There was nothing. Upstairs, I heard a flapping sound. A window had been left open and a magpie perched on the headboard of the bed. A thin layer of frost clung to the inside of the window and I could see my breath on the air. The creature squawked and flapped its wings. A lamp lay on the floor, its bulb smashed. I grabbed it and swung it at the bird. The magpie escaped through the window, and I was finally alone in the disordered bedroom. Books were stacked on the floor and the bird had shredded some of them, leaving a jigsaw of pages scattered across the room. There was a trail of black and white feathers across the unmade bed. Amongst the clothes hanging in the wardrobe, I found the navy cable knit jumper Wolf was wearing when I first met him. I held it up to my face and breathed in. It smelled like his aftershave and I took off my shirt. For a moment, I stood like this, semi-naked, in Wolf’s bedroom. Then I put on his jumper. It was too small, but I kept it on anyway, enjoying the feel of the wool scratching against my skin.
His wallet lay on the kitchen counter. There was no money in it, but a photograph of a girl was tucked behind his bank cards. It was creased and had been unfolded and refolded many times. The girl had red hair and a Cupid’s bow mouth. I pocketed the picture, leaving everything else as it was. I wasn’t sure what to do about Wolf’s disappearance. Perhaps he’d gone to be with the redhaired girl. The work at the harbour was difficult so it was common for people to drift away, but I’d hoped he wouldn’t. From the state of his house, it seemed like someone would be back soon. I got into the car and started the engine. I took a final look at the lighthouse and there was a figure standing against its beam. The outline of a person flashed in and out. I killed the car’s ignition and got out to take a closer look. Someone was standing on the balcony that encircled the top. The figure leaned over the railing and as the light grew bright again, I noticed a red scarf flapping in the wind. I called out, my voice thin against the wind, but he was too high up to hear. Before I could do anything, Wolf leaned too far over and plummeted towards the ground. By the time I reached the lighthouse, I was breathing heavily. I searched for his body, circling the building until I grew nauseous. I scanned the rocks at the bottom of the cliff, scared of what I might see. There was nothing, except for a wooden lifeboat with a large gouge in the side. I looked out at the ocean and watched the waves churn. He was gone. In the car, I took out my phone and the photograph fell out. The red-haired girl mocked me with her smirk. ‘Look at you, wearing his jumper,’ she seemed to say. ‘The police will know you’ve been in his house.’ I tore the picture up and threw it out the car window as I drove away.
I watched as a boat stopped in the middle of the harbour and the claws of its grappling hook were immersed in the water. I couldn’t look as it was raised. Three men carried a body off the boat and they lowered it to the ground.
‘Got another one, Harding,’ a man said, but I couldn’t see his face. He knew I was hesitating so he pulled the corner of the sheeting away. I just turned and walked away, leaving someone else to deal with it. ‘What’s the matter, Harding?’ one of the other men shouted after me. The corpse was wearing a red scarf. Each night, with my heart pounding, I woke from that same nightmare. I lay in the darkness, thinking about the day his body would be discovered and the events at the lighthouse. Wolf’s navy jumper was hidden at the back of my wardrobe. Sometimes, I put it on, but it no longer smelled like him.
Sorry Not Sorry Amanda Miska I. I’m sorry I pushed A-‐7 on the jukebox, R. Kelly’s “Bump n’ Grind,” as a joke and danced up on you (even though I agree that there’s nothing wrong with two consenting adults getting it on). I’m sorry you were on a break from your long-‐distance girlfriend. I’m sorry I followed you back to the bar bathroom and pulled you into the ladies’ room by the collar of your shirt because I saw it in a movie once (my mind was telling me no, but my body, my body was telling me yes). I’m sorry that it smelled like urine masked with Febreze pellets when we kissed. I’m sorry my tongue tasted like Rumble Mintz—it was on special for the winter holidays, and I was broke. I’m sorry I called you that night when I got home. I’m sorry we stayed up until two-‐-‐talking, breathing, talking-‐-‐even though you had to be at work early the next morning. II. I’m sorry I’m a shitty beer pong partner. I’m sorry I still owe you ten bucks. I’m sorry I thought a break from your girlfriend (now fiancée) meant I could keep kissing you whenever I felt like it. I’m sorry I chased those beers with sour apple jello shots. I’m sorry I made out with your best friend in your bathroom. I’m sorry I sent your best friend out to look for you after I started puking Pucker-‐green. I’m sorry for making you leave the party to hold my hair (why were your hands so soft?). I’m sorry I cried, but I always cry when I throw up. I’m sorry I stole your jacket when we went outside for fresh air. I’m sorry I smoked your last Parliament (a nasty habit). I’m sorry I sent my designated driver home. I’m sorry I fell asleep on your couch. I’m sorry I crawled into your bed when it got too cold or at least, I said it did. I’m sorry I tried to spoon you against your will. I’m sorry I straddled your hips and kissed you. I’m sorry I wasn’t wearing pants, only see-‐through neon orange underwear and my t-‐shirt. I’m sorry we kissed more and almost did more than kissing. I’m sorry you’re the one who ended up on the couch in the early hours of the morning, wrapped in your coat because I had your only blanket. I’m sorry I probably (definitely) drooled on your pillow. III. I’m sorry my life was so dark that even your tiny Christmas-‐light heart was a beacon. I’m sorry I was lost and tried to make you into a map. IV. I’m sorry you had to drive me home in the morning, both of us hung over with the sun piercing the dirt-‐fogged windshield. I’m sorry you couldn’t look me in the eye, even with sunglasses on. I’m sorry we didn’t say anything—I’m sorry we didn’t even say I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t offer to pay for gas, but I was still broke—broker (more broken).
LEDA LIEBLING Robert Wexelblatt
Dear Ms. Schrader,
Thank you for allowing us a free choice of topic for our final paper assignment this semester. I have chosen to write about the singer-songwriter Leda Liebling. I looked up everything published about Ms. Liebling in English and French and—with some effort and a great deal of luck—conducted one short interview. Ms. Liebling is regarded as a mysterious figure, aloof and solitary. For a few months she got a lot of attention; her first album was widely played and reviewed; articles were written about her and she was much photographed. Then she seemed almost to vanish. Her early songs helped me through my penultimate year of high school when some bad things were going on in and around me. This debt, along with Ms. Liebling’s integrity, her disdain for celebrity, prompted me to seize the opportunity of this assignment to find out more about her. I hope it will be all right that my essay is not a formal research paper. You didn’t stipulate that was what you wanted. I hope you will like it a little. Thank you for your enlightening course.
Phyllis Lamontaine English 102, Ms. Schrader
LEDA LIEBLING ALONE: ARTIST AND SURVIVOR
Part One: Things Almost Everybody Knows
Three years ago Leda Liebling’s album Laurels scored, as they say, a critical and popular success. Perhaps saying it helped to make it true. The lyrics are serious, even tragic, but most of the melodies are either catchy or gorgeous, some are circus- or waltz-like. Her guitar playing was frequently compared to James Taylor’s. The story goes that Leda Liebling was performing in some small L.A. club when a talent-scouting record company executive discovered her, gave her a studio, a contract, a back-up band, publicity and promotion. This makes a good story, though hardly an original one, especially in Los Angeles, the city with the largest population of hopeful, not-yet-discovered stars. People knew it was a fairy tale but they bought it because it fit the grooves and they didn’t bother to question it. I know I was more interested in the songs and the songwriter than whatever machinations led to my hearing them. The funny thing is that the story is apparently true, or at least it’s mostly true. Laurels had a lot of pain and bitterness and I guess it caught a mood, at least the mood of girls around my age—too old for ‘tween pop, not old enough for brutal hiphop, techno, club music, or retro ballads. To me, the distressing lyrics were glamorous. If they listened to them, parents were, like mine, satisfyingly horrified.
Messed and marked and mucked up,
Fouled and screwed and fucked up; Yet she’s got such pretty hair, such long and silken hair. . .
Some songs were disturbing even to me, the more so because they said what I suspected about the world and myself—my worst suspicions. On top of this, the songs on Laurels seemed to embody a paradoxical but compelling, if obscure, wisdom. Leda could write the sort of lines you turn over and over when everything is quiet and you are alone.
Remember, when you lie down to rest, Your worst is better than your best.
Other songs spoke directly to girls like me, grasped the texture of our teenage lives, our high schools, and confused sexual attraction/repulsions. Take these lines from “Harding High” for example:
The nice boys are too weak The strong ones aren’t nice. Boys are an infestation Just like bed bugs or lice.
My schedule is a sentence. The moment they ring the bell The halls are packed with sinners. School’s all nine circles of Hell.
After Laurels became popular, the media went after Leda Liebling. There were articles—mostly empty or made-up—and even photo-shoots. Still, she granted no interviews and gave no concerts. Leda did perform one song on SNL then—nothing. Demand was higher than ever but Leda adamantly supplied nothing. The story had it she was a recluse. Comparisons were made to Greta Garbo (I looked her up – I vant to be alone). By refusing celebrity Leda became an object of mystery. She was different. To young fans like me, her turning her back, even on us, looked like integrity, like disgust with the phony media machine, of which we, too, wanted to believe we had had enough. Not caring about money was a further proof of authenticity. For a time, indifference to fame became cool, even fashionable. Young women imitated her, at least the superficial things they knew of her. They wore tight black jeans and boots, let their hair grow long—even dyed it jet black—affected aloofness and cultivated solitude. According to one tabloid article, which might have been pure fabrication, Leda Liebling did not even date. As to fame, she was famously quoted as asking, “Why would I want to be known by people I don’t want to know?” Eventually the talk show producers stopped phoning and the paparazzi went elsewhere. The record company canceled her contract for a second album. I understand why the vogue for Leda could not last long. For one thing, she was independently wealthy, a quality harder to imitate than her Johnny Cashesque outfits. Her fans might have admired her anti-sociability but they didn’t really share it. It’s only possible to be cool in the sight of others. Solitude isn’t so cool if nobody’s there to notice. I read somewhere that most vices are social and most virtues personal. Leda Liebling seemed to me to possess a lot of personal virtue and the proof was that she isolated herself when she didn’t have to. I liked that she stuck to what was essential and genuine: just herself, her guitar, her songs.
It didn’t take long before another mega-hit came along, sung by a performer far more accommodating and cooperative, also more sentimental and easy to understand, than Leda Liebling.
Part Two: Things Hardly Anybody Knows
Leda was born Leda Sylvia Lehman in Santa Barbara, California, and raised there. Her mother was fond of the Greek myths and named her first daughter Daphne. Leda was born six years later, which means that she was thirteen when Daphne died. The mythical Daphne, of course, escaped Apollo when she was turned into a laurel tree by her father. Some critics speculated Leda called her album Laurels to suggest victory or domination, an act of bravado, even hubris. The title song is actually about Leda’s sister; in fact, the tone of the entire album is set by the fact of Daphne’s suicide. The key of the title song is B-minor, the one in which Bach set his mass (BWV 232) and Scarlatti the most profound of his sonatas (K. 87). The melody, though, is not lugubrious. It sounds like a transposition into the minor of something jollier, something that used to be in the major—that is, a tune that was once happy. “Laurels” was Leda’s nickname for her big sister, whom she adored. Daphne called her “Eggs.”
In the bleak reaches of the night Wrong gets all mixed up with right, Despair’s more plausible than hope, Especially when you’re out of dope. And so she took a razor blade—
Deep, deep the two cuts that she made; Red the trickle and red the gush. She heaved one sigh then she hushed.
It’s no go, no go, you know. Killed by an asshole or by blow; No go restlessness, no go rest. Oblivion’s all that’s left.
The Lehman family was blown up by Daphne’s suicide. Leda’s parents stood guilty before one another, accused each other, offered briefly some inept comfort to Leda but soon ignored her in favor of clawing at one another. When they divorced Leda stayed with her mother, visited with her father on weekends, and was equally unhappy with both. Her father was a big shot in one of the larger production companies. Three months after the divorce was final he remarried. Leda disliked his second wife—a young actress whom she nicknamed the Cliché. When Mr. Lehman and the Cliché were killed in a private plane crash on their way to Montana to look at ranch they planned to buy Leda became rich. She was seventeen. That was when she changed her name, left school, moved into an apartment in Los Angeles, and began writing songs. I found some of this out from an interview in a now-defunct French music magazine, Musique de Jeunesse. The interview was not with Leda but with the executive who had signed her. The contract for the second album had just been canceled. I imagine he was feeling disappointed, angry, maybe betrayed. Perhaps that’s why he spilled so many beans. The rest I discovered from public records and a conversation with the singer herself.
Leda Liebling, even if she is a recluse, has many and varied interests. She is a cyclist and collector of antique mantel clocks. She has also published two scholarly articles on the poetry of Gene Derwood (1909-1954). I can see why Leda finds her sympathetic. Ms. Derwood wrote religious poems that are short on religious consolation:
. . . Grow mild before the flicking lash seems welded to your hand, self-wounder. . . No seeded faith before, nor after, miracle, Of bidden faith in things unseen, no particle. For we think only through our troubled selves.
No one should be surprised that a singer-songwriter writes autobiographically. It has been the lyric tradition, from Sappho to Adele. Nevertheless, nobody seems to have looked closely into how autobiographical Leda’s first album was; I mean the specifics. Maybe this was because of Leda’s whole manner—the scorn of selfpromotion, the almost haughty silence, those armor-like black jeans. Everyone knew the songs had to come from somewhere, of course, and that this somewhere had to be Leda’s life; all the same they (we, I) saw them in an abstract light. I believe it was just because Laurels seemed autobiographical in general that girls like me felt themselves read by it, moved even by the elusive wisdom of “Gnomic Song”:
Arcanae in roots of heather, chthonous rumbling under clods: if gods didn’t make the weather, surely weather made the gods.
Go pluck pits from brittle pods, songs from lungs fretted with feather. If weather hasn’t made the gods, Surely gods have made the weather.
From the French article I learned that Leda is also an amateur astronomer (myths in the heavens) and a geocacher. I am also into geocaching and I came across the name Leda Lehman and her email address in a newsletter. She was cited at the chief organizer in a northern California district. Geocaching is a treasure hunting game. Players use GPS devices, guiding themselves to specific locations where they try to uncover concealed containers. The hiding and maintenance are done by members of the community, especially the devoted ones, like Leda. Just before Spring Break I succeeded in contacting Leda by email and somehow convinced her to take me along on a hunt. It would have been shameful to trick her. I told her I knew that she was Leda Liebling and admitted I was a fan, but stressed my enthusiasm for geocaching. To my amazement she agreed to let me join her and suggested a specific day, the Tuesday of spring break, and a place up in Mendocino. I booked a night at the Holiday Inn in Fort Brag and borrowed a car. We rendezvoused at the trailhead at eight o’clock. Leda Liebling is tall, reserved, and charismatic as ever. She was wearing blue jeans, a sweatshirt, and her hair was a little shorter than it used to be. “How long have you been at it?” she asked. “Geocaching I mean.” “Oh, I’m still pretty new. Only a year and only on vacations. I’ve only been out four times before, actually.” She was so nice to me, told me about the tricks of camouflaging. “Always check the trees.” About half an hour in she began asking me about myself, about school, my family, my plans. I answered all her questions; in fact, I probably went on a little too
long. Then I told her that Laurels was my favorite album of all time and about the bad things it had gotten me through. “You may have saved my life,” I said dramatically. It was only as I spoke the words that I realized how true they were. And that seems to have pried open the door. Not all at once, but in short snatches through the morning Leda revealed some details about her life and her family. “Do you still write songs?” I asked. She laughed. “Writing songs is a serious hobby; that is, a habit, a disease.” We talked a little about things the critics had said about her work. I observed that the consensus was that she was a Romantic. She scoffed. “Beethoven said only the pure in heart can make a good soup. That’s Romanticism for you. You really think I’m a Romantic?” It was a wonderful experience being with her, and all too brief. We found the cache and walked back to the trailhead where I thanked her and we said goodbye. Two weeks later I got an email from Leda with an attachment. It was an MP3 of a new song. She said she was sending it to me because it was our morning together than had inspired it. “It’s been a long time since I spoke to anybody about my family. In fact, I don’t talk to anybody about them. I don’t know why but it felt good.” The title of the song is “Black Forest Cake.” The melody is tender; here are the lyrics:
Hansel and Gretel needed a mother, Lost a good one but got another. Rock candy just wasn’t the same— What was that old witch’s name? Was it mother, Mother?
Gretel and Hansel had a weak father, Married a bitch and wouldn’t bother. Could he really not have seen How greedy she was, cruel and mean? Who was that feckless father, Father?
What the kids found instead of love Were chocolate walls and a Topf stove. All the same, the two survived, Took the treasure, then they thrived. Clever girl, resourceful lad, Fucked-up mom, worthless dad.
Note: J. A. Topf und Söhne was the company that designed and built the furnaces used by the Nazis in their death camps.
Dan Encarnacion When Albert Brooks drives the knife into Ryan Gosling’s gut in silhouette against the graveled asphalt of a parched, sun-‐speared parking lot outside an ostentatious strip-‐mall Chinese restaurant, it punctuates your presence in the grime of an unbound L.A., it expurgates the assumptions that had been dogging you throughout the film—assumptions that dictated that Albert Brooks would be Gosling’s final encounter because Brooks was the first sinister sort to speak; but no matter, Drive is about the journey and it’s its delectable disrobing of plot, its descent into the disarmingly dubious dimensions of infidelity that we leave with rolling around in our mouths, gobstopping flavor until it dematerializes and we are obliged to swallow. When Jimmy Stewart’s consumed Scottie drives Kim Novak as the acute Judy dressed as the refined Madeleine to the sinisterly omniscient campanile of the old Spanish mission, we know that enflamed images are swarming Stewart’s eddying brain—we know that rapture, betrayal and hurt are driving his foot harder on the accelerator, we know he is racing to ravage his fear of facing his fears and his desire for the elusive. Through the car’s front windshield, as we stare at blindered Stewart in the driver’s seat and distraught Novak in the driven’s seat, we imagine the dark specter of the bell tower looming, rising invisible in the space between their pairs of divided, clenched shoulders. We anticipate them scaling to the top of the campanile on the spiraling wooden stair ascending, as once they did, emerging wrought flush, broken from a shell. In reality, the bell tower did not exist above the church of the old Spanish mission where Hitchcock had filmed. The armature for the harrowing climax was a painted projection to accommodate Hitchcock’s want for a keen, vivid end to his vision of Vertigo. When Suzanne Somers drives up in her immaculate white Ford Thunderbird parallel to the back passenger side window where sits white Wonder Breaded Richard Dreyfuss, male nerves stir, potential erections twitch—mysterious blonde, mythical car: to be inside her gleaming white T-‐Bird with her wrapped around you like albumen around its yolk— englobed, ensealed—your protein unrunny, well-‐done, not draining away; her substance so soft, inhaling you into her liquid heat; you remain a perfect sphere cradled in her thick translucency—an unindelible whole. You feel yourself embraced by her in a womb of scuplted steel; the lights
are out and before you unwinds American Graffiti, your lips free to regulate your wet breath. When the world’s vulgarity drives you to need resuscitating arms—triage to hide your head and dress your exposed flesh, its sharp wetness bit by an other’s touch and tongue—will the limbs that wrap you be mine to manipulate; what small thing of yourself did you see in me that you had to attack so vehemently; when would I have held you back; who had not held you up to nothing—in Rebel Without A Cause, when James Dean plays “chicken” with another guy, drag racing cars off a cliff, the other guy gets his sleeve caught on his door handle and can’t jump out in time. •
Nine Short Poems David Hornibrook 1 Mornings after rain, the pools on the sidewalk shimmer. Some days are perfect for walking, other days, I know the knives are close behind. 2 Deer rip the flame licked sunflowers from their stalks and eat them whole. Once, I watched a pale tomato worm burrow into the plump red fruit. 3 When the water is cloudy, the swimmers think twice. Sometimes, when I’m not watching the plecostomus comes out of hiding. 4 How did I fail to realize the heads on Easter Island were simple bodies buried to the neck? At the Gentleman’s Green no one turns the sprinklers off when it rains. 5 At noon – I have perfected the art of nervous laughter, climbing out of someone else’s swimming pool, dripping and searching for a towel.
6 I watch the blue heron glide over the pond, I watch the night heron shift on its branch. I watch the cars go by on the road. 7 Nights when summer reaches its most terrible heat the beads of sweat on the air conditioner start to evaporate, the machine groans and threatens to evict me. 8 In my dream, all the bodies in the world made one body. A fierce, five-‐headed body splashed with paint and fire. 9 Van Morrison sings Tupelo Honey in 1971 and I’m hearing it decades later over wall mounted speakers in a coffee shop. It’s common now, to see hawks drifting over the road.
Euromaidan Anastasia Knasiak After multiple revisions, the crowd has decided That you will rule Ukraine. Please, eyes bright But bowed, address the crowd. List your Fears, your fight, but, moreover, your Hope for this virgin country coming Into place against pockmarked Central squares. Adjust your dark eyes to the flood Lights and your ears to the roar Of this crowd. You will soon learn About shrines near you that haveOne water-stained icon Leaned against a column And piles of plastic-wrapped flowers. Letâ€™s show you to the Rada, that Glad council. They tremble, wanting To know how you will relate to them. Are you kind, compulsive, quick to anger? Poised with one hand over backspace? Soon, the handlers say, you will be Shoved shoulder to shoulder with displeased Journalists and required to account for it all. So open your mouth, please. Speak.
WITH LOVE RB Mertz trying to be like Chris & Dan Dear Owner of sparked car bodies spilled, imagine deer friends lifting a kind of friend held up by noses/knows “goat” signifies the animal spilt whose body violence against is not criminal the Lord says kill the kid but for nothing don’t cut the contract. Dear Owner, I don’t believe in ownership. Let’s carry her with our noses no matter how many it takes, Look/hear, Hunter, gunned down in class wars
come up prices go up kids slow up in to soldiers throw up or throw their medals in congress on screen I am living the payoff I am living the payoff live off my pay, love, I will share, deer like to share is to be shared with or without imagination I hit the deer/child hit, I called my father I called the bird I just left dear deer, I’m sorry I didn’t believe enough that your life was worth my holiday time my eyes beheld
the life I wanted to bring one back with in the normativity the narratives fall into their places the feelings fall into their places you can trace the tracks, Hunter doesn’t have a license to hunt me I am not meat but fowl out of season our scents confuse verses delight man-‐made unnatural schools of fleshes out of synch out of closets thick winter coats immobilizing light cracks blinds drawn between times this
time or the last time the dates line up tin cans we whispered and shot through
Weekend At Home Sam Samson your death shaves my legs, it whistles whatever this bow shoots must fall and What does my mother see? we make love on the armchair, nothing is left the armchair but our fingers my neighbors saw your death in the backyard eating a sandwich, writing the Greek alphabet on the sandwich, on a wall we paint each otherâ€™s toes we paint faces in the dictionary your death picks out my hat, lays it down on the unmade bed
Bizzy Coy used to be a writer in Brooklyn and is now a writer in the wilderness of upstate New York. This is her first published fiction. Dan Encarnacion earned an MFA in Writing at the California College of Arts and lives in Portland, Oregon where he co-curates the Verse In Person poetry series. Andrew Hofmann currently lives in Ohio, where he is "being educated." David Hornibrook is a Pushcart Prize recipient and MFA candidate in the Helen Zell Writer's Program at the University of Michigan. Shaunagh Jones is a short story writer and a graduate of the University of Glasgow's Creative Writing MLitt programme. Anastasia Knasiak is learning Swedish and Czech and lives in suburban Chicago. RB Mertz is a poet and adjunct in Pittsburgh, PA. Amanda Miska lives and writes in Northern Virginia and received her MFA in Creative Writing from American University. Sam Samson lives in Las Vegas where she is currently working on her MFA in poetry at UNLV. A professor and author, Robert Wexelblatt lives in the Boston area.
copyright five quarterly 2014 fivequarterly.org
Published on Apr 18, 2014
Five new poems. Five new stories. Five new editors. Fiction by Bizzy Coy, Andrew Hofmann, Shaunagh Jones, Amanda Miska, Robert Wexelblatt. P...