F R A G M E NTS OF CHIAROSCVRO VOLUME I: ISSUE II
Ladybug on Flower [Andi Mo]
A Note From the Editor Six months ago, this project was nothing more than a collection of fantastical ideas and a few people who yearned to see those ideas come to life. Four months ago, we sent out the first acceptance letter ever written and waited in breathless anticipation for a reply. Three months ago, after countless hours spent writing, emailing, editing, and formatting, Issue I came into existence. Our history may be short, but weâ€™re always adding to it. Now, for Winter 2015, we present our newest addition. Issue II: in which we explore a universe never known, a light bulb full of stars, a girl whose thoughts are her armor, and the anatomy of a breakup. A huge thank-you to everyone who has helped make this dream a reality. This oneâ€™s for you.
Reini Lin Founder & Editor-in-Chief December 2015
Table of Contents A Note From the Editor ii A Light Bulb Full of Stars | A.J. Huffman vi A Day at the Beach | W. Jack Savage vii Grasping Trees | Taruni Donti viii We Dream | Barbara Ruth ix Deciduous and Evergreen in February | Barbara Ruth ix Tess | Bobbi Sinha-Morey x She Could Feel | A.J. Huffman xi
Morning Contemplation | Rachel Bownik xii Grey Space | Lance Rosenberger xiii Untitled | Paul Valadez xvii Serafina | Bobbi Sinha-Morey xviii A Universe I Never Knew | Konstantina Georganta xix Holding On | Barbara Ruth xx The School Board Meeting Will Come to Order | W. Jack Savage xxii Breaking Up | Melodie Corrigall xxiii
Table of Contents [contd.] Face in the Crowd | Barbara Ruth xxvii Fingerprints | Barbara Ruth xxvii Almond Trees in the Museum | Konstantina Georganta xxviii Precipice | Akshata Rudrapatna xxx Tybee Lighthouse | Mark Antony Rossi xxxi Of Owning and Observation | A.J. Huffman xxxii Communication Protocols | Barbara Ruth xxxiii My Two Years at the Equator | W. Jack Savage xxxv
Tomorrowâ€™s Eyes | Bobbi Sinha-Morey xxxvi If I Ruled the World | Taruni Donti xxxvii Pray | Jacquelin Ho xxxviii Divine | Reini Lin xxxix Solitude | Andi Mo xl
About the Editors xli About the Authors xliii
“Live the full life of the mind, exhilarated by new ideas, intoxicated by the romance of the unusual.” ERNEST HEMINGWAY
A Light Bulb Full of Stars [A. J. Huffman] and I burned out at the same time. No mystical switch controlled it, our darkness was spontaneous. The absence that followed echoed inappropriately with laughter. Not mine. Maybe the skyâ€™s. Either way our dissolution became
a joke. In spite, I lowered a visible line, tempting anonymous hands to try and relight us. Talk about a punch line. When pulled, the air shot a spark bluer than my lack of regret.
A Day at the Beach [W. Jack Savage]
Grasping Trees [Taruni Donti] Branches reach past the blue ceiling and far into the farthest reaches of the universe. Wishing Waiting Watching Dreaming Believing Not seeing.
Leaves Wonder Stretch Drink Wait Wither.
Roots stuck dark
Trunk Content with life Stays down to earth.
We Dream [Barbara Ruth] Silence in movement, congealing of light, path through the forest our formless grief
solidifies. We grow into each other, out past where light and twilight abandon themselves. We dream (oh darling, our tear-soaked dreams) we dream in stars.
Deciduous and Evergreen in February [Barbara Ruth]
Tess [Bobbi Sinha-Morey] Barren woman brings thimble of water to her dollâ€™s lips, the doll which she holds so close to herself, fastened by a chain to her waist and hip. She strokes its yellow hair with her rough hand in the glint of light, not bedding it in a cradle but
in a childâ€™s coffin, a checked blanket pulled up to its chin, a petite pillow for its head. A doll named Tess she found in a shoebox inside a vacated house. In the rays of the softly changing dawn, she wakes up by her side, chilled from the wet grass she slept in.
She Could Feel [A. J. Huffman] a darker red, almost black. She had every night tied around her waist, like silence or an exact fit. Spaces redacted into memories became images of falling backwards through glass clearer than mirrors.
Disappearing into the void, she whispered, â€œI am
on my way,â€? knew it would be too easy to disconnect from mundane light.
Morning Contemplation [Rachel Bownik]
Grey Space [Lance Rosenberger] Shadows were an impossibility. We had just passed under the last amber streetlamp, and now we stood staring into the grey gulf ahead of us, searching for pinpricks in the fog which might lead us back to our hostel. Our eyes were quickly adjusting away from the light-blindness imposed by the lamp, but adjusting to what end? I could barely make out the slabs of concrete under our feet through the haze.
perturbed by the people huddled in the alleys looking our way. She didn’t even glance at the open market—so full when we arrived on Sunday, now another in a long row of hollowed-out, desolate buildings covered in graffiti. No, not graffiti. Graffiti implied some degree of artistry. These were just people learning to write their initials for the first time, in what I could only assume was the only medium available to them.
Agnieszka—Aga to anyone other than family— had her arms crossed again, standing as far away from us as possible while remaining on the path. Clearly she was still mad; at me, or Anja, or just the whole world—I had no idea. I wasn’t even sure what she was mad about anymore, and the simple truth was I didn’t care. She wanted this trip, and we made it happen.
Her stride spoke of confidence. Maybe the bullheaded confidence of an American making wherever she walked her home. Perhaps the confidence that comes with security, of knowing that no matter what happened, the ring on her finger was a promise of future happiness the rest of the group couldn’t proclaim. Whatever it was, that confident stride quaked at the edge of the dark fog, then puttered out as I stopped beside her, sharing I had met her my first night in Wales. Jetlagged her objectless gaze ahead. and stomach rumbling, I scrambled to unpack and see what the Exchange Student Dinner at my host A few paces back was Aga’s roommate, Anja. school, Swansea University, offered. I ended up Her arms were also crossed, but from the cold, not sitting next to Aga—a mousy girl that hid her gi- animosity. She was shivering. It was cold—I had ant smile behind a shy persona. Two nights later to admit that fact to her as our breath melded we were making out on a dance floor, and that ef- with the miasma around us—but it wasn’t shiverfectively sums up the pace of our relationship. ing cold. Her body was an assortment of straight lines and sharp features buried underneath a thick Carissa, the only other American in my classes, coat. Her eyes were such a soft shade of blue that had been strolling ahead ever since we got off the under harsher lights her irises looked like sunlast metro stop about a mile back. She didn’t seem bleached tiles. She had the most casual, happy-go-
-lucky smile of our small group.
left side of his face hung dead, his eye one massive grey cataract staring at me with complete indifferThat smile was lost amongst clattering teeth as ence. He said something quick, in a tongue I didn’t she stood showered by the light of the streetlamp. understand, and his lunge connected, knocking Were those clattering teeth just from the cold, or me into the arms of someone behind me. I didn’t was something else in play? Was it the murky have a chance to see who had caught me before he night we were all mustering ourselves for that set was coming for another push. her teeth to tapping? Of course not. If anything, she was afraid of whoever might be lurking just But this time he never connected. Another of beyond the cloud-wall whirling before us. the muggers, the tall one I had handed my money to, had reappeared and broke us apart, repeating a I couldn’t blame her. Milan had proven itself to few times in a slow, thick English “Enough. be a callous bitch so far. Just earlier that day, I had Enough. It’s all he has.” The dead-eyed man evenbeen robbed right outside of the Duomo di Milatually nodded his head and backed into the crowd, no. The six muscular Ethiopian men who had deftfading away. The tall man turned to me, gave me a ly encircled me in the crowd insisted I pay a “fee” sharp once-over as if to conclude our business, and of twenty euros per person in our group for the then disappeared in a different direction. Whoever “privilege” of feeding the pigeons. That was eighty had caught me was also leaving. I turned just in euros, sixty euros shy of what I actually had. They time to see a third mugger moving away from me didn’t seem to care much that it was mid-morning, in a third direction. or that there were dozens of witnesses, or that the girls I was traveling with also fed the birds. Worst The man’s assault had terrified me, leaving me of all, no one else seemed to care either. I was the shaken and drained –the evitable hangover to the man and apparently I was financially responsible adrenaline cocktail I had just been served. Aga infor the women. I didn’t know that Milan was sisted we continue to tour the city, despite having stuck in the fourteenth century, but if you had just watched from a safe distance while I had been asked Aga, that would just be another thing on a robbed. As we left the Duomo and took the metro long list of things I didn’t know. towards the next museum, the image of him lunging at me played over and over in my head, unable After I had handed over what money I had, the to get that dead eye out of my mind. men began to fade back into the crowd. Then I was shoved in my side, hard. I twisted to find that And now here we all were, the four of us, half a one of the men hadn’t left. He was a head shorter day later, staring into the cataract of Milan with than the other men, built like a boulder, and was all its harsh indifference. coming at me for another hard shove. A prideful A small squeak, the sound of a door on rusty indignation crawled across the right side of his hinges, could be heard coming from the distant face, as if my pittance wasn’t nearly enough. The
buildings that surrounded the park. The park had once been part of the hostel, back when it was still a mental hospital—a place for the patients to get some fresh air and exercise. When it was converted to a hostel they had dead-bolted the one doorway connecting to the main road, so the only way to go to and fro was to cut through the park.
possible to see through and making me weigh every step I took.
Besides, I couldn’t really abandon them. I had taken Anja’s shaking for trembling, and she had come across as genuinely ashamed for her lack of action earlier that day. I don’t know what she could have done to change the outcome—and I Now the park was owned by the city. The doubt she knew either—but she spent the rest of mulch from years of leaves clogged the fountain the day insisting to pay for all my museum tickets. near the playground as the roots of trees lifted the Carissa urged me to let her pay for dinner. Neither concrete out of the ground in jagged lines. of them wanted me to pay them back. Aga offered nothing, but nothing was all I expected from her I looked from Carissa on my left, to Anja over at this point, so she was at least on par. my shoulder, and finally to Aga. She gave me that look that said “Well, what are you waiting for?” As I walked through the fog my vision seemed The same look she gave me whenever she tried to only to hinder, so I set it to watching my steps for teach me a word in Polish, which I always failed to uneven concrete slabs. I inhaled deeply, allowing remember. The same look she gave when she even- the sweet decay of wet grass and mulch to entantually admitted that she could never be serious gle together in my nose, perfumed lightly by a mewith someone who didn’t speak her native tongue. tallic scent—zinc, copper, pennies, blood. The The same look we gave each other when we real- sound of their breathing was loud behind me, but ized our plane tickets for this trip probably had a something ahead of us also played in my ears—a longer shelf life than our relationship. The look light, metronomic screech, as if some distant metthat said “I dare you to make the first move.” als were bending or scraping against each other at regular intervals. This time I took the dare. It was what she wanted, and I had to pick my battles. I had already The path abruptly turned, but I stepped into yelled at them for just standing there while I was the damp sand of what I knew to be the playrobbed and assaulted early that day. It wasn’t fair ground. The hostel was just on the other side of to them, but it hadn’t been fair to me either. I had the playground, and the path looped around the felt abandoned, alone, despite them being only rest of the park. A small dot of light, enough to yards away. Maybe if I moved fast enough I could signal our way but not enough to illuminate our abandon them for a change. nonexistent path, shone through the park. When I squinted I could just barely make out the blurred But no luck. Though I tried to rush forward, the and faded outline of the swing set at the far end of grey space ahead of me was like leaden sheets, imthe massive sandbox. The metallic bending—it
was definitely bending now, it lacked the sharp whine of scraping—was closer, immediately in front of us. Each step I took screamed to halt, desist, stop before whatever waited for me in the gloom descended to finish the job the dead-eyed man had begun. But I took four more steps.
them to a safe haven, if only temporarily. Something dashed past me. Kicking up large clumps of sand, Anja was in a full sprint towards the dim lights. She quickly changed to a silhouette and then vanished completely, but not before Carissa also broke into a run.
I twisted myself around, half expecting to be In the gloom was a row of three rocking horses face to face with some Lovecraftian horror. But all on springs. Each was made of a faded, dew-coated that stood there was Aga, eyes wide and hands plastic: one red, another blue, the final yellow. All clenched as she stared in shocked horror. All the of their springs had rusted. In the silent hum of while the horse continued its rocking, its glass night, without any other sounds to be heard, the half-orb eyes filled with no malicious intent or red horse rocked back and forth on its own acpity for the feelings it had stirred. cord. I wanted to leave, to escape like Anja and Someone had just been there. Close enough to Carissa had, but I couldn’t leave Aga like that. She keep the horse rocking, but far enough to disapwas more superstitious than the rest of us compear into the night before we could hear them bined. Leaving her there would spell a nasty leave. breakup in front of our friends, and a horribly uncomfortable plane ride back to London. Our relaAn adult wouldn’t fit on that horse—the image tionship was beyond saving, but we could still was ridiculous—but no parent in their right mind save face. And maybe, just maybe, I wanted one would allow a child out at this time of hour or in good memory in this whole wicked trip. this weather. I sighed and held out my hand, motioning for Dots that never should have been connected in her to take it. She gazed at my hand for a moment, my mind began to link. Thick fog, mental hospital, and then stared into the grey night. Finally her creepy playground, things moving on their own. A eyes fell back to the horse. The repeating chime of mental hospital was just one step shy of an insane the bending spring was starting to wobble, to asylum, wasn’t it? I could feel the patients being shake out of rhythm as it slowed. I motioned experimented on—deranged, twisted beyond their again, my patience starting to wear thin, and her own psychosis by prescribed agonies. All with gaze shifted back up to me. I gave her the look, the those dead, cataract eyes locked on us through the look that said “Well, what are you waiting for?” fog, with neither glint nor glimmer to give them away. Wandering aimlessly in their own clouded She took my hand and I squeezed, unintentionheads, searching for their own pinpricks to guide ally too tight. We ran after our friends and out of that grey space.
Untitled [Paul Vasquez] XVII
Serafina [Bobbi Sinha-Morey] She is a girl who never had the peach, never mind the cream, no gold band enclosing her finger. She lives in one of nine tiny rooms, her own a dead end trapped in her own closed orb of experience. Her thoughts had been her amor all of her life, and her pity, unlike hate, could be boxed up and put away. In the tears of a rose she clasps her hands in a fist of prayer, waiting for a sign in the pearlescent dusk. Wider than her palm a red butterfly, its wings edged in black lace. She wishes one day she will hear the words from a man: you are sunlight through a window.
A Universe I Never Knew [Konstantina Georganta] A nuclear mass walks past me. Bullet-people looking for a crack to creep in. Comet-people falling and changing our geology. Wolf-people hunting in packs. People-cum-question marks in every corner.
Nuclei poles past me multiple memories of nuclear threat dust-people filling the gap between us nuclear atoms with nebulous tracks gunpowder, residue, tar one single molten mass.
Holding On [Barbara Ruth] “Transient global amnesia.” Elsa pronounces the seizures or the number of times Connie rethe words again, slowly, carefully, as Connie keeps peats herself. I am the witness whose testimony is asking, “What’s wrong with me?” not required. I am sitting on the couch kitty-corner across from them in the side hallway at the Marriott Hotel, where the conference we are all attending proceeds on. I managed to get myself this far, but now I’m halted, in a holding pattern, because of my own transient “event”, as they say in the medical world: cut-outs in time, little blank places where I am not, a cosmic remote button putting me on hold while the show goes on. I know from past experience I need to get myself somewhere safe, ultimately home, but right now, this couch is the best I can do .
“No,” Elsa answers. “That’s what I thought when it happened to me. You can go to the ER and get it checked out like I did, and that way you’ll be sure it isn’t something else. They told me it rarely repeats, it’s benign, not a sign of something bad, and it’s not a stroke. Your mind is scrambling around right now, trying to hold on to the words, but it can’t make new memories until the episode is over. I’ll send you a text message with the words: ‘Transient global amnesia’ and if you want, you can ask me for a link. When you’re ready.” She speaks patiently, smiles at me; we’re friends. How did Connie end up here on this couch with a per“Absence seizures” is such an apt term for this, son who had this experience herself? Perhaps although most people still call them by the outdatsome day I’ll know. ed “petit mal.” I know that for me, repeated “petits” often precede a “grande.” But neither ConConnie pays me no mind. I would move and nie nor I ever heard of “transient global amnesia” give them more privacy if I could. My plan is to sit before. here until someone I know goes by, and then ask that person to help me up to my room. That’s “Is it a stroke?” Connie asks again. I can’t tell if where I’ve left my CBD—the non-psychoactive the problem is with my brain or Connie’s, but I’m ingredient of cannabis, a very effective treatment caught in a loop with her asking that question for seizures. Even though I’ve had a medical mariover and over and over. I can’t figure out how juana card for years, somewhere in my 68-year-old many absence seizures I’ve had, because the promind I don’t believe cannabis is actually legal, so I gram I’m watching on the other couch has so don’t carry it around in my messenger bag. many repetitions. But no one will ask me to count
Before we were all sitting here in the hallway, Connie gave a presentation, as part of a panel for this morning’s plenary session. The last thing she remembers is going over her notes and getting in her car to drive to the hotel. “You got here safely; you gave your presentation,” Elsa assures her. “Was I smart?” The list: Am I having a stroke? How do I get home? Did I make a fool of myself? These are my concerns when caught having neurological events in public. If it happened while I was on stage, giving a presentation, I’d be desperate to know: Was I smart? “You were very smart,” Elsa answers. “You gave a really good talk. People liked it a lot. I’ve called Marcy, and she’s on her way. She knows what happened. You just need to hold on.” Sooner or later, someone I know will walk down this hallway, and I’ll manage to call to them, and they will get me up to my room and make me CBD tea, and help me figure out how to get home. For now, I, too, am just holding on.
The School Board Meeting Will Come to Order [W. Jack Savage] XXII
Breaking Up [Melodie Corrigall] After running through a gamut of emotions— anxiety, guilt, and regret—Athena’s reaction to her decision had impaled Sheila with terror. She’d read of men—and to be fair, also of women—who were so enraged when a spouse or lover left them that they became violent, which is where things seemed to be heading.
the lab, checking beakers for temperature and activity, as regular as clockwork—in fact, by clockwork—she showed her fidelity.
As to her family and friends, it was catch as catch can. A long-time acquaintance had pointed out that if she didn’t take the initiative to call Sheila, they would lose touch. It wasn’t that Sheila Safe in her cozy living room, Sheila had smugly minded meeting for coffee or going to a movie, on wondered why the murdered partner described in the rare occasion she and a friend could agree on the newspaper had stayed so long. Now she real- one, but arranging social outings was never on the ized the victim might have feared that if he or she top of her mind. tried to leave, the consequences would be fatal. Sheila’s mother, who lived on the eastern side Sheila couldn’t imagine how Athena would kill of the country, had mistakenly concluded that her—maybe a drug overdose, or startling her so with e-mail available 24/7—whether her daughter she tumbled off the cliff. But whatever the conse- got home from the lab at midnight or left at dawn, quences, it was too late to turn back. Unfortunate- she would send a message. And she could have, ly, she had no one of whom to ask advice. Since but there were so many other demands shuffling day one, the relationship with Athena had been like anxious amoebas in line; e-mails to her mother secret, so she had no friend with whom to share to relay information of little interest to either of her dilemma. them were not a priority. Initially, Sheila had benefited from her relationThat was what made the difference with the ship with her inspirer. Was she being fair, now one she affectionately called Athena. The little that her needs had been satisfied, to end the rela- notes had always been a pleasurable surprise. tionship? There was never an overtone of “Why don’t you write?” or “A quick phone call wouldn’t cost you.” They had been linked for more years than she could remember, though their interaction had She had chosen the pet name Athena, the Greek been inconsistent. Only in her work could Sheila goddess of wisdom, because that is what she had be depended upon for a reliable give-and-take. At provided: wisdom. Her insight had done the trick
for her. If, in fear, she turned from Athena now, she’d be safe but incomplete.
love, the connection had changed her life. She knew from her sister’s tearful sagas that breaking up with a beau—pulling apart from one who had Until recently, the connection had been smooth become an other-self—would be like ripping off -sailing, with only a few minor complaints. One skin. was Athena’s cramped writing. As a scientist, Sheila prided herself on her clear, print-like script. The initial correspondence, so long ago, had Unlike Athena’s scrawl, there was never any startled but intrigued her. It promised a revelation doubt about what she was saying. Never any need that she soon recognized might be useful: an opto read between the lines. portunity to open herself up to creative thoughts. The note had appeared on her bedside table the Another quibble was that Athena’s messages second night she had stayed at Friendly Bear Bed were often ambiguous and left Sheila struggling to and Breakfast. interpret them. Once, in desperation, she had risked asking a colleague to decipher a communiIt was the off-season, and there were only a few cation. “Who wrote this?” he had asked suspivisitors. When Sheila booked, the owner had apolciously. She didn’t enlighten him. It was safer to ogized that most local sites were closed for the keep her associates in separate compartments. winter. Recently, as the communications had gotten “That’s fine,” Sheila had said. “I’m looking for a wild and the suggestions ever more bizarre, Sheila quiet place, close to town, to have a rest…” recognized that, as for most domestic intolerances, “That we can provide,” the proprietor had asher earlier concerns had been trifling. Now, the sured her. “And a good breakfast.” messages almost burned her fingers. She wanted to shout, “Don’t push me.” Sheila hadn’t mentioned that she was escaping the scrutiny of colleagues and family to figure out Sheila had considered crumpling the notes, how to kick-start her failing career. scribbled on small scraps of paper, and flushing them down the toilet. But a proud moderate in all Two weeks earlier, her boss had told her she things, she was determined to keep her cool and was too rigid—no more than a clerk. Colleagues not respond so dramatically. And, although the joked about her, saying she was caged more semessenger was acting erratically, surely there curely than the rats in Lab B. could be no real danger. Desperate to find new solutions to her work But from the moment she considered severing challenges, Sheila had come at problems from everelations, Sheila knew that after ten years, it ry door she could imagine. But her vision was limwould be difficult to cut off ties. Like any first ited. There might be a door as small as Alice in
Wonderland’s that she was missing. With her career on the line, she had headed out of town to think things over, not expecting to be contacted by a secret correspondent—Athena—a savior who arrived to lead her to triumph. The first day at the B and B, Sheila had done everything by rote: ate breakfast, walked on the beach, and checked the one gift shop, open only half days, for a souvenir for her mother. The second day, the B and B owner had insisted she drink a large rum toddy to warm herself against the cold sea breeze before setting off. Cheered by the alcohol seeping through her tired body, Sheila wandered along the shore, no destination planned. Her thoughts began to float contentedly. She smiled at a stranger with a small, warmly clad dog and talked to a girl with a multi-colored outfit, confident that she would not meet either of them again. Indulging in supper with a carafe of wine, which the owner was proud to describe as a local award winner, Sheila had gone to bed mellow. Upon waking, she discovered the first communication.
work. Having relished the open country, the uncluttered beach, and the soft white winter sun, the lab was dark and confining. She turned up the light level, and when that didn’t provide the desired brightness, cranked open the blinds—long secured shut—to let in the sun, as instructed. Her spirits rose; she felt more hopeful. A few days later Sheila was astounded to find she was not the only one to blossom with additional light. Her specimens, snug in their dishes, had woken. The results were astounding. Hardly believing her eyes, Sheila called a colleague in a southern country, they adjusted the time and light factors in special growth, and presto: the results were astonishing. As often the case, the factor that made the difference was small and, once noted, seemed obvious, but she and her colleague had had the wit to note it, and then provided the supporting research to explain the success. The result was a hefty grant and surprised compliments from her colleagues.
That was the first of numerous occasions when When she found the note—leaning against the Athena gave her the tip or prod to try something bedside lamp—her first thought was who had new: “Defy gravity” was another message which written it? She suspected that it was one of the when she finally deciphered it led Sheila to anothregulars playing a trick, but the owner had insist- er breakthrough, and leap forward in her career. ed no one could have entered her locked room. That was all fine and good, and she appreciated She tossed the message in the garbage bin only the guidance, but now things had gone too far. to retrieve it later—feeling superstitious for the The notes were confusing and disturbing. first time in her life—and already suspecting there She was successful—a tenured professor—and was a clue in the message. On initial reading it didn’t need these silly messages like “Flee…watch seemed to say “Bive me the bun”, which she later your heels…leave well behind.” deciphered to read: “Give me the sun.” It was time to cut the cord and the best place to
After her week’s holiday, Sheila returned to
do so was to go back where it all began: Friendly Bear Bed and Breakfast. The owner—now stooped with age—didn’t remember her but provided a rum toddy on request. In the morning, the note read “Destroy me not, no.” Sheila snatched up the paper and burned it in the fireplace.
wind. She knew now that Athena would not depart without a fight. Athena was not only the goddess of wisdom; she was also the goddess of war. And in a fight with the goddess of war, Sheila feared she would not prevail.
That night she wrestled to get some sleep, haunted by a presence in the room and fearing that her decision to cut the ties might be dangerous. In the morning, there was no note, but the blue china vase on the dresser was smashed. Noting that she had left the window open, Sheila blamed the wind. The next day, the note, which she ignored, sported a lopsided smiley face, and read, “Can we see friends?” On the following morning she worked to discover her clothes knotted, and her shoes thrown to the dusty corners under the bed. Her complaint to the owner that someone was playing tricks during the night resulted in rolled eyes. The woman pointed to an ancient mariner dozing in a corner chair, “He couldn’t make it up the stairs, and I don’t imagine he’d knot guest’s clothes.” No, of course not. It must be Athena, angered by her cutting off correspondence. Perhaps she should have chosen to end the affair at home. After all, it was at the B and B that it all started; maybe that was the problem. This was Athena’s base. Sheila strode up and down the beach, tightening her scarf to protect herself from the harsh
Face in the Crowd [Barbara Ruth] I have touched you, nameless, the face in the crowd life-lines crossing intersection of whirlpools tangent to this the worlds before, beyond.
Fingerprints [Barbara Ruth]
Almond Trees in the Museum [Konstantina Georganta] The amputated women at the back of the room stare at us. We do not lack any limbs, they say, only in the depths of time we got extinguished and what is not in plain sight surrounds us like a shadow. Each kore holds a story each aegis a century of waiting the snakes at the ends a call -
Wake up while there is time the shadows will feed on your perishable flesh and no one will remember. Fortune tellers, goddesses, women women who made idols out of clay threw them in the fire and then buried them forever. Each woman a symbol a pomegranate or a wreathe on the right hand a gift to the fighter goddess a gift to herself.
A thousand faces open up before us but, do you see us at all? Our gaze has frozen but is electrifying still the space around a funnel of moments untold. Consider us a little, youâ€™d think this would be so, Us, our world, all our everyday rituals all the earthenware jars filled with olive oil and barley a bunch of forgotten bones soil and ash. Place us in your garden at the roots of a pomegranate tree let the underworld bloom again. Bring your homeless to us, here they will find food and then they will fall asleep with no fear. Each crack in us a nest
distant yet warmly alluring. We are shadows.
Precipice [Akshata Rudrapatna] The steel-grey needle flicks frantically between the black Times New Roman size-36 numbers (even though all you hear is tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock), adorning what otherwise would be a sleek work of art with the makeup of functionality. It hypnotizes,
bewitches, and traps you with its constant struggle, a potent reminder that everything rests on a precipice.
Tybee Lighthouse [Mark Antony Rossi] XXXI
Of Owning and Observation [A. J. Huffman] A raven watches. A twisted moon watches back. Silence and light devour each other. Midnight fills with blood, and I am left to drown in its shadows.
Communication Protocols [Barbara Ruth] “Please explain to me the technology and proAnnie is very sweet, gentle in how she handles cedures of conversation.” I've been rehearsing that my body and speaks to me, but she isn't going to sentence so I can ask whoever comes in my room help me solve this problem that's plaguing me. first. It's a new nurse, a Pacific Islander, I think. Or “Oh my, look at these bruises.” Genuine conmaybe I'm just not remembering her. I’m forgetcern. I love her. “All up and down your arms and ting so much. so dark. Did all that happen to you here in the hos“What do you mean, honey?” She puts her hand pital?” She applies warm compresses to the worst on my arm. “There's no technology to conversaones. tion. People just talk. No special procedures ei“Thank you. That feels good. I'm not trying to ther, you just open your mouth and the words be a bad patient. I will respond to simple acts of come out.” She smiles widely—she's missing sevhuman kindness,” I inform Annie and anyone else eral teeth, she's at least as fat as I am, she's beautiwho may be listening through the television, ful. through the air conditioning vents, through the “It sure doesn't seem that simple. Everything helicopters. around here is very high-tech, don't you agree?” “Everybody responds to human kindness. Did She looks around the room. “You mean the IV someone say you were a bad patient, honey?” and the monitor, things like that?” “Not in those words, but I feel it from the way “I think there's plenty here I don't even know some of the people here touch me and talk to me. about.” So I thought I should explain myself. For the record.” She laughs again. “Well, I probably don't know about it either. My name is Annie and I'll be taking “I can tell people have hurt you while drawing care of you today.” your blood. I hope you'll have a better day today. Here's your breakfast, honey. Why don't you have I introduce myself then go back to my concern something?” of the day. “I really don't understand how communication happens here, so if you could explain it, “Please take away the coffee. I'm allergic to the that would help me so much.” smell.”
Annie takes the coffee to the hall. “Coffee's not so good for sick people anyway,” she says. “A lot of the things here aren't so good for sick people.” “It sounds like you don't like us so much.”
We go through the same old orientation questions. She doesn’t ask me Annie's name; I could have gotten that one right. “How do you think you're doing today?” “In terms of what?” I don't think she’s a good choice to ask about communication protocols.
“Not so much. I mean, I don't much like this hospital. But I like you fine.”
“Mentally. Do you feel more like yourself?”
“Well, thank you. I like you, too. I need to look I consider that question. What is the self anyat your skin.” She examines my labia wound— way? Would it even be possible to feel like myself doesn’t ask how I got it. What a relief, not having while I was in this hospital? “I'm still trying to into repeat that story again. “We're going to have to tegrate fantasy and reality.” put another barrier on,” she says. “What do you mean by that?” “What do you mean?” “I thought it was a pretty clear sentence.” “You've got some skin breakdown,” she goes on, “Well, I'd appreciate it if you'd explain what examining my folds. “Haven't people been putting you meant.” ointment on you?” “Maybe. I'm not sure.” I think I would remember talk about barriers.
I've probably said too much already. “The thing is, I can't remember ever telling you something and being glad afterwards.”
“Well, that's okay. We're going to use another kind. Would you like me to help you take a sponge bath?” Of course I would. My peace ends when the psychiatrist comes in. I've forgotten her name, but I know she’s the one who has the most questions for me. I wish Annie would stay while she’s here, but of course she doesn’t. “Hello, Patricia. How are you today?” “Tired.”
“Sounds like you're not so happy with me.” “Does that mean I get another psychiatrist?” “I don't think that's going to happen.”
My Two Years at the Equator [W. Jack Savage]
Tomorrow’s Eyes [Bobbi Sinha-Morey] My tears fall into the ashtray when it’s dusk; each evening the house leans in shadow and I curl against the ridge now that I’ve parted myself from yesterday. Tomorrow’s eyes have followed me through today, uncaring how my prayers have been uprooted in heaven’s
garden. In my silence I practice what not to say, the road before me too curved and cold to walk alone, a path no wandering soul has touched. Once my voice broke out in a sweat when I’d lost belief in my soul. I reached skyward with my withheld breath, and time was the friend that came to stay.
If I Ruled the World [Taruni Donti] If I ruled the world, would the roads be paved with white concrete? Would hope click its heels and comfort the boy hiding in the discarded cardboard box next to the grocery store fragile painted across his side tears stained gray on his pale face?
If I ruled the world, would darkness hold liberty clutched to its chest? Would misery slither from behind the dumpster and strut down the ashen sidewalks lined with midnight-colored shops taking the little boy by the hand teaching him to laugh at his own gray blood?
Pray [Jacquelin Ho]
Divine [Reini Lin] the dawn splinters gracelessly. a thousand voices echo off empty ears. a thousand prayers scratch an indifferent sky, never fracturing. (i scatter promises to the wind: they collect in your eyes and stain them rose.) build your temples from sweat and sand, maybe you can touch the sun. but make no mistake: this is not catharsis. (wait for a sign. the silence is an incision.)
hold your breath cupped between palms like an offering, like a prayer. sacrifice your words for me burn them. unlearn them. sign your name in blood on my altar. (your cries are sweet absolution. where are you now? and i have no answer. this love affair has been unrequited from the start.)
Solitude [Andi Mo] XL
“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way—things I had no words for.” GEORGIA O’KEEFE
About the Editors Reini Lin | Founder & Editor-In-Chief Sixteen-year-old wordsmith, poetry scribbler, voracious reader, and aspiring novelist with a penchant for clever quotes, dystopian novels, and Oxford commas. Her work is published or forthcoming in Polyphony HS, Dull Pencil Anthology, Silvae Magazine, Half Mystic Journal, and -Ology Journal. She holds positions on the editorial staff of her high school magazine and the Glass Kite Anthology. Rupal Nigam | Founder & Prose Editor A pencil breaker, book hoarder, and midnight thinker, she mindlessly doodles in corners and recreates her life on paper. Her unbreakable habits include nibbling dark chocolate, testing the limits of her telescope, and torturing her punching bag. She has won district and state awards for her writing and refuses to add color. To anything. Michelle Kim | Prose Editor Michelle is a book addict who blogs about books. Though an un-amusing comedian, she loves (awkwardly) laughing at mundane things like pillows, dinosaurs, and her dog. She has edited for and contributed to the Dull Pencil Anthology and has been awarded for her prose at a district level. Alexander Wang | Poetry Editor Alex is more of a math and science person. However, he uses writing as a welcome break from the often frustrating equations. In his spare time, he plays the bassoon and guitar, watches sci-fi/horror movies, and surfs AoPS. He has been awarded for his poetry and prose on a district and state level. Taruni Donti | Poetry Editor This cheerful Indian constantly scribbles words onto tattered pages woven from big dreams. She spends most of her time on her tired laptop and loves walking along the snow-covered sidewalks of Colorado. She is part of the editorial staff of her high schoolâ€™s literary magazine. Andi Mo | Art Editor Andi has more than a decade of fine arts training. She has won awards in the district and international level such as finishing as a finalist in the 20th & 21st North American International Childrenâ€™s Painting contests. Her artwork was featured in the Contra Costa Times. She has taken courses in AP Studio Art and AP Art History, hosted her own drawing summer camp, and designed logos and flyers for local organizations. She plans to pursue a career in graphic design.
Jacquelin Ho | Art Editor Jackie focuses on oil painting, with about seven years of training with pencil and charcoal. In the past year she has won awards on both the district and regional level for her oil paintings. In addition to these media, she has experience with color pencil, acrylic, pastel, watercolor, ink, and ceramics. As a huge fan of both Studio Ghibli and Marvel, she also loves design and architecture. Yaxin Li | Social Media Manager A window-shopping fanatic, a lover of all things funny. Inspired by family, friends, and Karlie Kloss. She likes her papers to be neat and tidy and always has a planner at hand. Her mind is filled with random thoughts, surprising secrets, and silent dreams. Her ideal place to be? A room full of puppies and kittens.
About the Contributors A.J. Huffman A.J. Huffman has published eleven solo chapbooks and one joint chapbook through various small presses. Her new poetry collections, Another Blood Jet (Eldritch Press), A Few Bullets Short of Home (mgv2>publishing), Butchery of the Innocent (Scars Publications) and Degeneration (Pink Girl Ink) are now available from their respective publishers and amazon.com. She has an additional poetry collection forthcoming: A Bizarre Burning of Bees (Transcendent Zero Press). She is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a two-time Best of Net nominee, and has published over 2300 poems in various national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, Bone Orchard, EgoPHobia, and Kritya. She is also the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press (www.kindofahurricanepress.com). Barbara Ruth Barbara Ruth writes at the intersection of Potowatomee and Ashkenazi, disabled and neuroqueer, fat and yogi, not this and not that. She has memoirs, poetry and fiction appearing in the following anthologies, published in 2015: Tales of Our Lives: Biting the Bullet: Essays on Women and Courage, and QDA: Queer Disability Anthology. She is also a published photographer.
Bobbi Sinha-Morey Bobbi Sinha-Morey lives an idyllic life in Brookings, Oregon. Her poetry can be seen in a variety of places such as Plainsongs, Pirene's Fountain, Bellowing Ark, The Phoenix Soul, Black Fox Literary Magazine, and others. Her books of poetry are available at Amazon.com and www.writewordsinc.com. Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net. Rachel Bownik Rachel Bownik is a writer and filmmaker, currently studying screenwriting. When she's not taking pictures of bug and flowers she is making short films about artists, relationships, and ghosts. Many of these videos have had screenings in film festivals. She resides in Minnesota, writing and reading.
Lance Rosenberger Lance Rosenberger is a scrawny man-child. He lives near beaches but wishes for mountains, ponders which apocalypse will befall the earth first, and currently pursues both an MA and MFA in English. When he is not writing vague third-person descriptions about himself, he can be found substitute teaching anything from kindergartners to high school seniors.
Paul Valadez Paul Valadez is a figurative painter; his work subtly deals with race, culture and history. He was born in San Francisco, raised in the Central Valley of California and currently resides in Edinburg, Texas where he is a full-time lecturer in the Art Department at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley and is active in numerous arts and cultural programs. Konstantina Georganta Konstantina Georganta is a scholar and poet living and working in Athens. She is the author of Conversing Identities: Encounters Between British, Irish and Greek Poetry, 1922-1952 (Rodopi, 2012). Her first poetry collection, Ρακοσυλλέκτης χρόνος, was published in 2015 by Panoptikon. She is the administrator of www.athensinapoem.com, a website dedicated to the collection and dissemination of material on Greek urban poetics. W. Jack Savage W. Jack Savage is a retired broadcaster and educator. He is the author of seven books including Imagination: The Art of W. Jack Savage (wjacksavage.com). To date, more than fifty of Jack’s short stories and over five-hundred of his paintings and drawings have been published worldwide. Jack and his wife Kathy live in Monrovia, California. Melodie Corrigall Melodie Corrigall is an eclectic Canadian writer whose stories have appeared in Litro UK, FreeFall, Half-
way Down the Stairs, Bethlehem Writers Roundtable, Six Minute Magazine, Mouse Tales, Subtle Fiction, Emerald Bolts, Earthen Journal, Switchback, and The Write Time at the Write Place. (www.melodiecorrigall.com) Akshata Rudrapatna Akshata Rudrapatna is a seventeen-year-old senior at Hamilton High School. She has won accolades in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the Anthem Essay Contest, and the National Peace Essay Contest. When not writing, she can be found doing an endless pile of homework while drinking strong coffee. Mark Antony Rossi Mark Antony Rossi’s poetry, criticism, fiction and photography have appeared in The Antigonish Review,
Another Chicago Review, Bareback Magazine, Black Heart Review, Collages & Bricolages, Death Throes, Ethical Spectacle, Gravel, Flash Fiction, Japanophile, On The Rusk, Purple Patch, Scrivener Creative Review, Sentiment Literary Journal, The Sacrificial , Wild Quarterly and Yellow Chair Review.
A final thank you and round of applause to our contributors and editors, as well as to everyone who has read this, liked a Facebook post, or done any other deed (big or small) in support of Fragments.
End of Fragments of Chiaroscuro, Volume I: Issue II. DECEMBER 2015.
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Published on Dec 31, 2015
a lit & art mag dedicated to exploring the black, the white, and the shades between. published december 2015.