Freshwater Literary Journal 2017
Freshwater Literary Journal 2016-17 Editorial Board Aaron Blais Victoria Orifice Miranda Stephens Jessica Vaughn Faculty Advisor: John Sheirer Cover Illustration and Design: Miranda Stephens Interior Design: Victoria Orifice and Miranda Stephens
Freshwater Literary Journal is published annually by Asnuntuck Community College. We review poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. The upcoming reading period will be August 15, 2017, to February 15, 2018. Responses sent by the end of March 2018. Poetry: Three poems maximum, up to 40 lines each. Prose (fiction or creative nonfiction): One or multiple pieces up to 1,500 words total. No previously published material. Simultaneous submissions considered. No snail-mail submissions. Email submissions to Freshwater@acc.commnet.edu. The 2017-18 Freshwater Writing Contest will focus on creative nonfiction. The contest will be open to full- and part-time undergraduate students enrolled during the 2017-18 academic year at Connecticutâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s community colleges and public universities with an entry deadline of January 31, 2018. More information will be available in fall 2017 at www.asnuntuck.edu/freshwater. We can be reached at Freshwater@acc.commnet.edu; Please follow Freshwater on Facebook: FreshwaterACC.
Table of Contents 6 / The 2017 Freshwater Writing Contest Winners: 8 / First Prize: “The Real Monster” by Amee Marcantonio 10 / Second Prize: “;” by Victoria Orifice 12 / Third Prize: “Snow Day” by Polly Martin 14 / First Honorable Mention: “Reflections” by Kathleen Roy 15 / Second Honorable Mention: “Day 1” by Angel Simmons 17 / Third Honorable Mention: “Questions About Life Because of Chickens” by Miranda Stephens 19 / Fourth Honorable Mention: “The Battle” by Joseph Frare 21 / Julia Alexander: “Making the Same Mistake” 23 / Robert Beveridge: “Chapel” 24 / William C. Blome: “The Fix” 25 / Leah Browning: “In Transit” 26 / Leah Browning: “In the Meadow Next to the Rented House” 28 / John F. Buckley: “Epic” 29 / James Chang: “Cold Cereal and Morning Revelations” 31 / Benjamin J. Chase: “Childhood Reflections” 32 / Gabriel Chase: “Miracles” 33 / Gabriel Chase: “God of the Rainy Thursday” 34 / Joe Cottonwood: “6.0, August 24, 2014” 35 / Jamie Crepeau: “Idaho” 36 / Meghan DePeau: “Drosophila, or, Why I Fished in my Rosé with an Ice Cream Spoon” 37 / Meghan DePeau: “What Is Broken in Us” 38 / Brian Fanelli: “Stopping to Look at Deer” 39 / Brian Fanelli: “First Year of Home Shopping” 40 / Claire T. Field: “Meandrous” 41 / Taylor Graham: “Along the River” 42 / John Grey: “The Old Swap Fisherman” 43 / Jessica Handly: “Coldstone” 47 / Jack Harvey: “1977 Jamaica Race” 48 / Jack Harvey: “Croix de Guerre” 50 / Joey Hedger: “The Germ” 51 / Ruth Holzer: “Brasserie Equivoque, 16 rue Blondel, 1910” 52 / Ruth Holzer: “Wapping” 53 / M.J. Iuppa: “The Art of Empty” 3
54 / James Croal Jackson: “Sleeping Alone” 55 / James Croal Jackson: “School Bus in the Blizzard (Supper Waits)” 56 / Seth Jani: “Sky Country” 57 / Seth Jani: “Heat Damage” 58 / Seth Jani: “To the Perfect One” 59 / Lynn Johnson: “A Zippity Day” 63 / John P. Kristofco: “Baptized” 67 / Martin H. Levinson: “Overcoming Inertia” 68 / Martin H. Levinson: “On Reaching Seventy” 69 / Laurinda Lind: “Things Learned Alone” 70 / Richard Luftig: “Frost” 72 / Jeffrey H. MacLachlan: “Armageddon Sympathy Card” 73 / DS Maolalaí: “those summer nights at 17” 74 / Susan H. Maurer: “La Maison de Croque Monsieur, 17 East 13th Street” 75 / Terence McCaffrey: “Starts” 77 / John McKernan: “The Word Cancer Spoken Yesterday” 78 / John McKernan: “Polite Request” 79 / Bob Meszaros: “The Landmark” 80 / James B. Nicola: “Three Wisdoms” 81 / James B. Nicola: “Mount Wachusett” 82 / Simon Perchik: “This tattoo ...” 83 / Thomas Pescatore: “Death Valley” 84 / Thomas Pescatore: “Why I’m not Coyote” 85 / Thomas Pescatore: “Imperial Delight” 86 / Barb Reynolds: “Turning Around” 87 / Marzelle Robertson: “Last Pheasant Hunt” 88 / Marzelle Robertson: “Still Life With Pistol” 90 / Russell Rowland: “Revisionism” 91 / Russell Rowland: “Menarche” 92 / Russell Rowland: “Sleeping Naked” 93 / Russell Rowland: “Last Times” 94 / Ryan Russin: “The Device” 98 / Karen Sandberg: “New Orleans Will Trip You” 99 / Heidi Seaborn: “Ode to the Athlete” 100 / Heidi Seaborn: “Shore Leave” 101 / Bobbi Sinha-Morey: “The Well-Kept Grave” 4
102 / Bobbi Sinha-Morey: “In Her Small Granite House” 104 / Bobbi Sinha-Morey: “A Life Once Lived” 105 / Richard Smith: “North Korea 1951” 107 / Geo. Staley: “One More Drive” 108 / Miranda Stephens: “Such Weird Creatures” 110 / Robin Stratton: “Oh, Man!” 111 / Robin Stratton: “Results” 112 / George Stewart: “The Skeptic Tank” 114 / Daryl Sznyter: “Strawberry Picking Season” 115 / Marne Wilson: “Snow Day” 116 / Diana Woodcock: “Puffins, Day Five” 118 / Catherine Young: “Mapping the Empty Lot” 119 / Catherine Young: “Dear Sara” 120 / Matt Zambito: “Poem that Only Wants his Bullets” 121 / James Zimmerman: “Whipsnake” 122 / James Zimmerman: “Obituary of a Successful Man” 123 / Contributors Notes
2017 Freshwater Student Writing Contest This year’s contest featured the difficult medium of flash fiction— in this case, short stories of less than 500 words. The contest was open to students at Connecticut’s public state universities and community colleges. We received many terrific entries that managed to do what many writers won’t even attempt: tell a coherent, complete story in a package smaller than most introductory sections to standard length short stories. Many Thanks to the 2017 contest judge, Robin Stratton, and to the Asnuntuck Community College Foundation for helping to fund the prize awards. Judge’s commentary on the winning stories: First Prize ($200): “The Real Monster” by Amee Marcantonio (Southern Connecticut State University) This story spins an excellent narrative that builds suspense and turns on an unexpected twist to bring harsh reality to the standard “monster” tale, elevating the theme by shattering our expectations of safety and danger. The author gives us both very strong writing and a smart sense of justice from an unlikely source. Second Prize ($150): “;” by Victoria Orifice (Asnuntuck Community College) This story might be a mystery or a ghost story—or it might be both at once! But it works in each way to draw the reader into the intrigue with vivid description and a narrator who reveals just enough but never too much. Best of all, the story rewards multiple readings with different levels of meaning. Bonus points for connecting the unconventional title to the last line. Third Prize ($100): “Snow Day” by Polly Martin (Asnuntuck Community College)
This story features great visuals and a sense of impending doom and dread as the main character faces his own risks in a desperate quest for his family. Ultimately, risk gives way to irony in a reversal that will leave readers’ heads spinning. First Honorable Mention ($50): “Reflections” by Kathleen Roy (Manchester Community College) There are two dramas here: the “you” character’s perception that she is not beautiful and her finding a drowned girl. Many emotions are evoked here, which isn’t always easy to do in such a short story, but this story succeeds. Second Honorable Mention ($50): “Day 1” by Angel Simmons (Asnuntuck Community College) This story has a great setup and some very intriguing characters. Their interactions move through the beginnings of a possible relationship, and the last line implies that this “sober” beginning is a fresh start for the main character. I wanted to read more. Third Honorable Mention ($50): “Questions About Life Because of Chickens” by Miranda Stephens (Asnuntuck Community College) Almost entirely through dialogue, and mostly while not mentioning the subject directly, this story explores the aftermath of war with subtlety and misdirection. Some subjects are too much for a story’s characters to come at directly, and this story shows how an indirect approach can be a powerful option. Fourth Honorable Mention ($50): “The Battle” by Joseph Frare (Asnuntuck Community College) This story features lively syntax and strong description of coming to blows with the dark inner self. Psychology becomes a contact sport in this vivid tale.
The Real Monster Amee Marcantonio Sally was afraid to go to bed. She’d cry, she’d beg, she’d do anything to avoid having to go into her bunk and turn off the lights. At twelve years old, she knew monsters were make believe. But she also knew, without a doubt, that there was one living somewhere under her mattress, in the spooky area that also housed boxes of clothes and forgotten toys. On a cold night in January, Sally’s mother tucked her in as Sally continued to wail. The terror in her eyes was something her mother tried to ignore as she pulled the ripped comforter over her. “Honey, you need to sleep. There are no monsters. I’ve searched. You are twelve years old, and it is time to act like it.” She placed Sally’s old stuffed animal next to her. “Look, Mr. Alligator is here to protect you.” “No,” Sally replied with a scared, shaky voice. “He is huge and has sharp teeth and … oh, Mommy, can’t I sleep in your bed tonight?” “Absolutely not. I’m turning off the light and you’re going to bed whether you like it or not.” With that, Sally’s mother turned off the pink shaded lamp by Sally’s bed and walked out of the room, closing the door behind her. An hour later, Sally fell into fitful dreams, tossing about like she was caught in a spider’s web. The monster listened, his small ears tuned to the room, but he couldn’t hear anything but Sally’s quick, shallow breathing. Once he figured it was safe to exit, he unfolded his large body out from under the bed and stood up. At over seven feet tall, he towered over everything. He paced the area, looking for anything that seemed off, nodding with satisfaction when he concluded that everything was as it should be. The door slowly opened, exposing a sliver of light from the hallway. Moving to the corner, the monster watched as Sally’s father entered the room, the smell of sweat, grease, and beer changing the air. Her father walked over to her bed and studied her. The monster had seen this before, from Sally’s father and 8
others. He stood quietly as he watched the comforter slide off her small body. The monster moved faster than light. “Get away from her,” he hissed through his clenched teeth. “What the …” Sally’s father dropped the blanket and turned, anger quickly turning to horror as he saw the enormous shadow. “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. What in the hell …” “I said, get away from her. If you go near her again, I will destroy you.” Sally’s father backed out of the room, the front of his jeans turning dark as urine soaked them. The monster walked over to Sally’s bed and gently replaced the comforter over her, ripping it a little more as he did, before he became just another memory.
; Victoria Orifice It’s raining as you approach the house. It is a small house, made smaller for how it seemed to be built as an afterthought, wedged within the densely-packed copse of trees – a forgotten slice of humanity in a place almost ethereal for how untouched it is. The water has long-since soaked through your light jacket and the sweater underneath, and you’ve had a chill set deep in your skin ever since you awoke. You’re not sure who you are or where you came from, but the echo of someone you used to be led you here, and while you may not be certain whether you were a trustworthy sort, you’re definitely optimistic enough to follow the path set before you. The porch is in a state of disrepair, you notice, gingerly testing the half rotted-through wooden steps leading to the sturdierappearing foundation. Wood slabs have been torn free, be it by weather or wild animals, to reveal geriatric bricks and mottled concrete. A welcome mat of leaves, old and new, decorates the entrance, and you spot the edge of a bird’s nest in the awning as you duck through the front door, which gives way easily with the lightest of pressure. This house has not been a home in a long time. It’s clear, though, from the mantel above the fireplace in the first room, laden with broken picture frames, that it used to be. Upon closer inspection, the photographs within the frames are faded or have been otherwise destroyed by the elements and time. You brush the blanket of dust off the glass of one, but can’t make out any of the faces, only the vague shapes of people, body language saying all that needs to be said in that small, withered instant of time. Something tickles the back of your mind, and weighs heavy on your heart. There had been a family here, once. Of that, at least, you are certain. You’re surprised by the integrity of the roof, after all these years. The only rain that works its way into the confines of the walls is that which creeps in through the holes where the windows 10
used to be, puddling in grooves that were carved out by many storms over many years. You pick at the dirt embedded in your fingernails as you walk the strangely-familiar halls, other hand trailing along the stained wall. No fridge in the kitchen, but a hole in the roof, there. Parts of an oven litter the floor, raccoons having taken up residence in its husk. You take care not to wake them as you pass. There, the bathroom, and the little blue rubber duck Mark played with every time he took a bath, outliving even him but still lying abandoned amidst the rubbleâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;and you know, for a second, who Mark is, before it slips away from you, leaving nothing but a broken echo. Your fingertips twist around the doorknob but do not grasp it, and you move on;
Snow Day Polly Martin Landon was staring at his computer screen while holding the phone, his wife’s voice in his ear. Paige was telling him that the schools were getting out early and the kids would need to be picked up. He was attempting to finish up his report and wrap up his day at the office so he could get out on the road. Glancing out the window, he noticed the snow was piling up quickly. Paige was urgently shouting, “Are you listening to me?” The baby was crying and he could sense Paige’s annoyance that he was not responding. “Yes I hear you and I will be leaving as soon as I finish up this report.” While driving, Landon tried to stay focused on the snowcovered road that lay ahead of him. Passing cars were sliding off the road. The lanes were not visible and Landon could feel the car’s tires slip atop the ice-covered surface. The short five minute ride was stretching out in front of him like a lazy cat on a bed. The windshield wipers were freezing up caked with snow and ice. Landon felt like he had been dropped in the middle of one of his child’s drawings, “A Polar Bear in a Snow Storm.” Approaching the school entrance, Landon slowed the car to a creep, instead of a crawl, intent on mastering the turn. His safest attempt failed miserably as the car skidded across the driveway and jumped the curb. Still in shock, Landon abandoned the warmth of the car. He started to trudge through the snow as cold wet slush began to seep into his dress shoes and wind whipped at his face. The snowflakes stuck to his eyelashes, making it close impossible to see where he was going. If he ever made it to his children, how would he get them back to the car? When had the weather turned? Just this morning a few flakes had been gently floating in the air. As Landon made his way to the school and his children, the snow seemed to have grown and now was gripping at his thighs. His footing gave way and he fell face first into the snow. 12
Afraid to open his eyes, he lay still for a moment, focusing on the far away voice in his head. It was Paige, “You have got to get up!” Feeling cold and tired, Landon just wanted to lay there. Thinking of his family, he slowly opened his eyes. Only then did the bedroom come into focus. Blinking a few times, he realized that his wife’s cold wet towel was thrown across his feet, and, like always, the bedroom window cracked to let the outside in. He turned to the window and saw the first flakes flutter by. Kicking off the towel and grabbing the blankets, Landon rolled over and told Paige, who was standing in the doorway, baby perched on her beautiful hip, “I declare a snow day. The children and I will be staying home today.”
First Honorable Mention
Reflections Kathleen Roy You think back to a time when you were five years old. You stood in waist-high water at high tide pretending you were a mermaid. You peered down into the dark green murky water trying to see your reflection. You caught glimpses of yourself in between the cresting waves as they rolled in, one after the other, like a game of catch-me-if-you-can. Your image flashed up at you as clouds briefly passed over the sunlight, the sun and clouds and you playing peek-a-boo. Your grandma used to say, “The sun shines on everything beautiful.” Gazing into the water, you saw yourself. It occurred to you that you didn’t see anything beautiful. Then you spotted a mermaid! You squinted into the brackish water and realized it was only a bunch of ruffled seaweed wrapped around a deflated yellow tube. You hadn’t seen the lifeguard run into the water. You didn’t have time to move away as he frantically splashed toward you, dove under the water, and pulled the little girl up. You had cried as they laid her lifeless body on the beach. Looking back to that day, you remember her: a small blondehaired girl in a green rumpled bathing suit. Her little face was as white as the sand. The sun shone down on her. Grandma’s words come back to you sadly, “The sun shines on everything beautiful.”
Second Honorable Mention
Day 1 Angel Simmons Fearfully pacing the aged floor beneath my sneakers, my thoughts are inundated with questions of What if? Should I? Do I? Burdened by a mind that tends to run away with the worst case scenario, part of me just wanted to run. You were late, only a minute or two. Regardless, I had no idea what I was doing there, in a spot so familiar to me. Maybe I should just go. I spun back on my heels and stepped to leave. My foot hit the floor as you rounded the corner off the bottom step. The smile on your face erased my doubt. I was sure that my face spoke with a soft blush and grin. I took one more step, and you met me the rest of the way. Simple awkward pleasantries and a thank you for joining me transpired. I had asked you for coffee. You got tea. I smiled, chuckled, reached for my wallet, and paid. We wondered to a table off the used path, not that there was a crowd. We sat for a moment, let us say three. You played with your cup, as did I with mine. Then, like our first message from the day prior, our words took charge. We started with the basics: work, family, past relationships, and onto just life. Most responses from either was, “me too" or “I completely understand.” I gave you my hard and painful. You gave me strong and heartbreaking. Conversation ensued for about two hours, and to be honest, I truly only had twenty minutes. Your coworkers worried, text after text. Before our departure, a brief embrace with hopes we can plan a future date. Only a couple hours later, you and I still messaging. You’d asked me to join you for a walk. I was already otherwise engaged. I apologized but I was going to be a bit longer. I called you, and knowing how badly I wanted to see you again only after a few hours, I asked you to dinner. We met in a parking lot. You got into my car. We drove and talked. We ate and talked some more. While driving back, I took your hand in mine. With a simple glance and smile, I knew right there I was falling. 15
I pulled into a Barnes & Noble. We sat talked even more. I explained some things, and you listened and responded sweetly. I asked if I may kiss you and you nodded. Like magic, I felt my heartbeat change. We walked the bookcases holding hands, talking stories and authors. Our night had to end. We sat back in my car under the summer stars. You turned and said, “I want to see where this goes. I don’t want to see anyone else and no pressure.” I didn’t feel pressure. I knew three things: I wanted the same, I needed to take it slow and sober. One more thing: this is only day 1. I couldn’t wait for day 2.
Third Honorable Mention
Questions About Life Because of Chickens Miranda Stephens “Farm’s looking great,” Julia said, stepping out of her compact car. “Ya,” Jacob agreed from the front porch. They watched a few chickens pluck at the ground before them at the bottom of the porch stairs. “Do you think chickens think about anything else than eating?” Jacob said from his seat beside her. “What?” Julia processed the question. “You know Jules, do they, like, think about the world around them?” “Hmm …” She pondered the idea. “I don’t think their brains are wired to do that.” “Is it because they’re just your standard egg-laying hens?” “No. I mean the people who domesticated them long ago didn’t breed them for their smarts. They bred them for meat and eggs, right?” “So why do you think they have personalities?” Julia scratched at the scars where her prosthetic arm attached to her natural elbow. “Having a personality isn’t necessarily a sign of high intelligence.” “But don’t you need an advanced brain to have stuff like that? I know their brains aren’t as advanced as ours, but I mean they got something in there.” Jacob leaned forward against his walking cane. “Maybe they just picked up their personalities from their parents. I know people do that.” Jacob skewed his mouth. “Possibly. This is the fourth generation of chickens I’ve had, and the hens raise the chicks.” Small and fluffy chicks stayed close to the hens, watching them pluck at the ground. “Actually, if that’s true that we pick up the personalities from the previous generation, what happens with people like us?” “Us?” Julia repeated. “You mean the PTSD?” “Yah. We’re not like our parents. I mean I had a fiancé, but I broke that off.” 17
“I kinda remember the original us before we hit that landmine, but it’s fuzzy. Like it’s all missing.” “You don’t really remember anything about your parents?” Jacob asked. “No, not really.” “Same, but then why do we have personalities if we don’t have many memories of our parents?” “Maybe we picked up our personalities from other people.” “That could be right, Jules. Doesn’t that mean our slates were cleaned and we got new personalities?” “Probably,” Julia agreed. “All I wanted to do was serve my country then settle down with a big family and tons of animals.” “Now all you want to do is be alone and paint?” “Ya, it’s kinda lonely, but doesn’t feel lonely.” “Do you think it’s lonely because your family tells you its lonely?” Jacob greeted a hen and her two chicks when they hopped onto the porch. “Hey there, Peaches.” “Sometimes I wish I just was a chicken,” Julia said, smiling. “Why? All they do is eat, sleep, shit, and repeat.” “That’s all humans did long ago but then we discovered farming and civilization. Now look where we are now. Sitting on a porch talking about life and chickens.” “Damn wars,” Jacob said. “Damn PTSD,” Julia followed with. They looked at the chickens and, with similar minds, said together, “Damn chickens.”
Fourth Honorable Mention
The Battle Joseph Frare I was knocked backward, nearly winded from the powerful blow of my enemy. As the strike of a clenched fist had hit home in my solar plexus, an injection of bitter anger flooded within the wound. I could fearfully detect it creeping upward into my barely moral mind like the most fatal of poisons from a venomous serpent. I dashed to the side, just avoiding my enemy’s shadowy right hook. With retained strength, I quickly fixed myself back into a balanced stance, breathing heavy, concealing the pained area with a bruised hand. I managed to hold in the pain, the arising vomit of blood. My opponent showed not a single physical quality of my fatigue. He merely turned his body towards me, fixing those red eyes upon me. His skeletal smile was mocking my dwindling state. The monster fumed shadows from its warrior’s build, and faint voices whispered like an unholy aura around it, voices that I very much knew were my own. My opponent looked stronger, more fearsome, and from that horrible ghostly grin and calm demeanor, he was confident in the outcome of this battle. Our arena was a dark, pulsing room of my consciousness, veins strung about on the walls like cobwebs. The poisoning emotion of fury numbed me, and I charged at my opponent with no real stratagem—just blind rage. We clashed fists and strength, but in a matter of seconds, I was already being subdued. The dark monster’s fists violently sounded off my skull in a onetwo of hits, having breached my barricade of forearms—proving them the most useless of shields. My vision blurred and spun, and a great many aggravating but familiar voices flooded into my ears. Cries of blame, anger, disappointment, and shame began a resounding choir in my head, just as painful as the physical blows. I fell to the ground, writhing from the corrupting agony both mental and physical. The overriding emotions were unbearable, my damaged morality choked by its poisonous grasp.
The dark figure—my opponent—loomed its heavy bulk over my state of defeat. I tried to move my head, to control my twitching hands, my convulsions of overwhelming anger. I could not use this strong hatred within me against him … because he was made up of it. He was the embodiment of my inner madness. A terrifying creature, who encaptured my depression and anger from scandals I’ve endured, the rejections of romance I was shattered by, and the suppressed revulsion of the people I’m forced to walk the Earth with. It thrived upon the twisted devisings I had wished to conduct against them all. The creature’s insidious face was now mere inches from my own. But all too suddenly, it molded into a blanket of shadow, and suffocated me in my own thirty years of suppressed inner conflict, and I felt that final push off the edge of sanity.
Making the Same Mistake Julia Alexander In a darkened bedroom the blue glow from the phone screen washes over my face. A faint humming rattles in the back of the throat when he is too timid to commit fully to song. Shifting weight carefully on the floorboard that always creaks, his lips brush against mine before I can recite the full verse. Mist rises off the fields at sunrise, one by one the streetlights turn off, as a single car passes through unnoticed. Sitting on the floor of the shower, the water rolls down my spine. Gingerly on my tongue, I hold a fresh egg; to open up would be to crack ignorance and innocence. Boots sink into the mud. Soon the footprints will be covered by the snow.
You mouth my name in your sleep. The air brushes against my naked ear.
Chapel Robert Beveridge Footsteps echo, grow. Sound surrounds. Fills the nave, the choirloft. Footprints left in dust as if on a treasure map. There is nothing material here. All was taken away when the church was closed, all, save the pews, the altar. What is left are beds, now, for families of raccoons, or temporary lairs for the odd lynx or panther who happens by. The air is heavy, still. Kicked-up dust floats insensate, unmoving in the multicolored light of St. Joan’s conflagration. This place does not say “kneel”; rather, “reflect.” I lean my elbows on the altar and do.
The Fix William C. Blome Actually, my own view is that frogs can speak for themselves, and I don’t merely mean that guttural nonsense—that essentially male boasting—that we hear around lily pads and birdbaths on full moon nights in summer. No, you have to get past the stereotypical croaking, but I swear if you’re learned and patient, you can bear witness to academic frog discourse, knowledgeable medleys about shit as varied as thermodynamics and archery. Now and again, I’ve even piped in on biographical and confessional material, in modest good taste for the most part and of high enough universal value to be way above the drivel found inside our neighbors’ private diaries. But as I say, my ears have been cocked now on many a midsummer night, and I can confirm that one subject forever absent in frog recitals is you—you, you obvious and brazen cheater. But the green folk know all about your comin’ and goin’, even if they’re totally preserving your confidence, and I totally doubt that’s accidental, ’cause your filthy escapades are gossip elsewhere in our realm, and that makes ’em famous and historic enough to naturally draw scholarly attention. But my guess is that somehow, you’ve gotten through to the amphibians, you’ve matched green dollars against their wet, green skin and purchased total silence. O the fix is in throughout my world!
In Transit Leah Browning When we left Canada, when we drove over the border for the last time as landed immigrants and went back to being ourselves, we went straight to your aunt and uncle’s house in Detroit, the one they’d owned at that time for forty-seven years, and were able to say goodbye to him—not knowing then that it was goodbye— before we flew to San Francisco. Under my seat, undermedicated, the cat cried in her carrier. We’d signed over our cars and almost everything we owned and here we were again, in limbo, in transition, in transit. The family of red-necked grebes floating on the surface of the lake crack open their wings, about to go up into the air or down into the water, but lingering, at least briefly, before moving on from this world to the one that follows.
In the Meadow Next to the Rented House Leah Browning There was a long road leading up to the house we rented that summer. A brown wooden house with two stories and rustic wood siding and darker brown wood shingles on the roof. On one side of the gravel drive was the tall brown house and on the other side was a wide meadow and a pair of horses separated from us by a delicate wire fence. The meadow was dotted with little yellow wildflowers as if it were a picture postcard we intended to send back to our families. You washed carrots and went outside. But which story will this be? Soft lighting, wind chimes hung from the eaves, the suggestion of wild mint growing along the fence? Or will the horse turn its head and bruise or even break the skin?
Inside, the peels are in the sink. The sunâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s head is heavy, falling slowly toward the ground. Still, you think you hear chimes, see a hint of green. Walk forward. Hold out your hand.
Epic John F. Buckley The heroic responsibilities of the legion of modern-day imitators swarmed in the dusty air at the café outside Thermopylae: clamoring for the ayatollah’s head, crafting a Twombly-inspired sans-serif font, sweeping the wood shavings, and all the secret missions written on slips in the chore jar. Several of them had forgotten to whet their #2 pencils upon their bronze cuirasses. One, two, three, they strode the earth like giants with dull points, hulking copycats bereft of a Hector, examining their chin hairs in shields like convex mirrors, unable to punch holes in paper. When the gods look down on the marble battlefield, they see a Jackson Pollack composition. They reach for sponges and the Mr. Clean until they remember the maid. My own fate resembled an arcing smear of chili oil on alabaster, something garnishing a plate of tamales at a Tex-Mex bistro. I would grow cold, soggy with hubris and crème fraiche, waiting for memories of an original sin to propel my postmodern elegy down the gullet of a milky gray stream.
Cold Cereal and Morning Revelations James Chang It’s Sunday morning and you are back, sitting across from me at the kitchen table. The nanny has prepared a bowl of cereal for each of us, and although I am starving, I don’t eat. It doesn’t seem appropriate. Instead I stare at you. Your tattered clothes. Your hair, streaked with mud. The frozen sweat clinging to your brow. You stare back, but I know you aren’t actually looking at me. Your thoughts are elsewhere, miles away. Like seeds, brief and unburnished, flung onto fresh soil. “What’s been your deal lately? Locking yourself in your room, ignoring me? Why did you run away last night?” I long to ask you these questions. But even when I start through gritted teeth, the words falter before they can reach my lips. My voice breaks. The cereal coagulates. I have never been the bold one. Instead I hug you, pull you in tight. But you are cold and dry and I am thinking that the soil across your face makes you look unfamiliar. Tell me what’s going on. Our mother is still outside arguing with the policemen who found you barefoot last night in a t-shirt and pajamas. I want to match her hysteria. Maybe then you would tell me everything, explain to me how every second in our Georgian-styled house feels like suffocating. How most things feel like suffocating these days. You would press your face against the marble tabletop and tangle your fingers in your hair and talk about how our father leaves for months at a time on overseas business trips and how our mother’s been slowly unraveling after quitting grad school. You would tell me how you can’t stand the fighting, the long stretches of silence or how he sleeps on the couch. You would tell me how you despise the way she wanders from room to room, searching for something to busy herself with. We would talk like we did when we were younger. Nestled in the backyard of those untouched ochre evenings, coarse and rugged and real. But I am not as strong as I used to be, and so I will never know why you ran away last night. Why you launched yourself into the 29
swift January darkness, letting it burn your lungs and rush into your head. The way the crisp air, raw and naked, consummated you. How the stars traced your exodus into the night. The cereal is soggy now. A layer of milk skin has formed on top of my bowl. I can hear the police car backing out of the driveway. “Mom’s going to yell at you again,” I say. My voice is angry, but small. Perhaps privately, you want me to hold you, to hold you while you shatter for the second time this week on the kitchen floor—you, the brother whom I love. But I can’t do it. Not anymore. The front door opens and the wintery air swirls into the house, curling, twisting, disappearing into nothingness. It stills for a moment, and I know it is carrying the unspeakable truth away.
Childhood Reflections Benjamin J. Chase I first found infinity in the aisles of Kmart. Mom was busy shopping, and I was multiplying in parallel mirrors by the fitting rooms. Suddenly the edges of my expressions notated no end, though I couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t see much beyond the first figure. My mind faltered, but mom was unfazed when she called my body from its reflections with a jolt.
Miracles Gabriel Chase When I was six, my dad used to spot red-tailed hawks on bare limbs as he drove us on the highway. “There’s one,” and “there’s another,” he’d say, pointing as I squinted, straining to see them. He seldom missed their red-brown feathers and streaked bellies. Occasionally, he would see one plunge to the earth to grab an unsuspecting rodent. Try as I did, I couldn’t see them then. My eager eyes looked everywhere they were not. Now, I can’t stop seeing them, sometimes seeing several in a day.
God of the Rainy Thursday Gabriel Chase The prophets say God is not in the fires or the earthquakes. Neither is God in the mountain peaks, nor in their snow-capped mists. But God is in the rainy Thursday I see from a cubicle window, where tiny droplets cascade over weary asphalt, forming tributaries and puddles on uneven ground. The raindrops persist in a gentle rhythm, while fluorescent reflections and clunky blinds obfuscate the view.
6.0, August 24, 2014 Joe Cottonwood The earth wakes us shaking the bed. It’s 3:21 a.m. I sit bolt upright, the dogs growl, you clutch my arm. We, naked in the dark. To the ears of this old carpenter the home we built is sort of moaning but not in a painful way more like the way my body feels when I stretch after sitting too long. After a few seconds: silence. The planet rests. “Want to check anything?” you ask. “No,” I say. So we curl together and go back to sleep: you, me, dogs, our little house, forest, mountain, tectonic plates. No damage but a reminder of who owns this place, payment due some day and when it comes I want to be with you.
Idaho Jamie Crepeau After a twenty minute nap I got to daydreaming and imagined that, through some twist in work or scheduling, I would live in Idaho and on a summer evening go driving along the strip of land that straddles Washington and Montana up to the Canadian border. I would turn to my wife and say to her, “Let’s drive into Montana” for no reason other than to say we were in Montana, gazing at the pinks and purples illuminating a skyline of trees and mountains as a slight wind dries the sweat on our faces with Joe Satriani’s “The Crush of Love” blasting on the stereo, absorbed by a backlash of air currents.
Drosophila, or, Why I Fished in my RosĂŠ with an Ice Cream Spoon Meghan DePeau The fruit fly circled beside me, drowsy with summerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s heat, and I moved to end her life, but stopped my hand mid-flight. Show a little mercy. Why not? I turned back to my work. Minutes later, I paused to sip my wine and there she was, drowning herself. Is there nothing that can save us from ourselves?
What Is Broken in Us Meghan DePeau The podcast is about the way clothing alters the way we see ourselves—a man who wears sunglasses at all times because they give him confidence, another who dresses as a woman and then again as a man, the boost study participants experience while wearing a doctor’s lab coat, and later, a mother who teaches her African-American son about hooded sweatshirts (the hood must hang loose on your back), belts pants at his waist and when he comes home from school one day with them sagged, she home schools him for three years. Her voice is sweet tea sweet when she tells the interviewer she is teaching her son to be proper, polite, respectable, and when her son steps outside, an aspiring policeman, she sighs. If only this cotton armor could protect him.
Stopping to Look at Deer Brian Fanelli I remember countryside drives with you, clouds of dust from your Fordâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s tires, trees that shaded us, pregnant with leaves in summer, branches that bowed to bitter winds in winter. I remember riding home with you after practice, when the moon hung low like a silver hook. You tuned into Froggy 101 for crooning country, or slipped an Elvis cassette into the tape deck, its track listing rubbed off from years of play. I used to imagine you at a school dance, your hair slicked back in a 1950s cool, as you asked my momâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hand for a dance. She always sat shotgun with us, while I nodded off in back, my knees scrunched against the seat, until you slammed the breaks, pointed to deer, their heads cocked towards us, their eyes green like marbles. Now, years after your cancer, I still pause when I see deer, remembering how you turned the radio low, hushed Elvis, rolled down the window, waited for them to dash across dirt roads under the canopy of county side stars.
First Year of Home Shopping Brian Fanelli From spring to fall, we toured home after home, called the realtor, glanced at his gleaming shoes and centered tie as he checked our credit reports. We liked best houses with huge yards where we envisioned a gardenâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; tomato plants snaking up wooden stakes, lettuce thick and green under a July sun, blueberry bushes ripe for picking. We imagined the scent of pie permeating through our kitchen and the sweetness lingering on our tongues. We liked houses with wrap-around porches where we imagined drinking a beer after hours of yard work or chatting with neighbors. All the houses within our budget had outdated yellow carpet, or peeling, flaking wallpaper, or loose shingles. By the time trees shed leaves, we treated back to our apartment with creaky floorboards, few parking spaces, books stacked in corners cobwebbed corners. When the dream slipped from our grasp and I cursed our wages and situation, you uncurled my fist, held my hand, reminded me of all we have.
Meandrous Claire T. Field She hates straight lines, their boldness leading to the same old destinations. Since she worships the convoluted, she enters evil’s core with gusto. Skeletons wrapped in dirt amuse her as well as trees thick with moss, ants, and dead squirrels stuck to the trees. She swims in whatever serpentine she can find, the mountains’ waters too slim to be creeks, but just right for her. Because she is happy alone, she thinks of a human mass as being like a wasps’ nest, spiteful and narcissistic.
Along the River Taylor Graham She fixed his breakfast, the same he always liked on Sunday; arranged his pills on a saucer beside the glass of orange juice—more meds all the time now, with his condition. But he still liked to sit in his chair by the window, watching the river flow. It never gets old, he’d say. Even in drought it doesn’t slow, but leaps the rocks then gentles around the bend, the dock where he kept his boat. When sun burned off the mist, he’d walk the bank, listen to the river like his oldest friend; check to see his boat securely tied. He wouldn’t dare go out in it again and wouldn’t stand to give it up. She’d watch him walk out the door—not with that stride the young men couldn’t master, not anymore. But he’d walk out, and later come back in, and sit back in his chair. How could she know, this time he wouldn’t be back, and she’d be walking the river calling, and the river answering back.
The Old Swap Fisherman John Grey He dwelled a mere snakeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s forked tongue from the cypress swamp. It was like living next to an open coffin that no one ever got around to burying. From the deep bass burps of alligator mating cries to the shrieks of nesting herons, the fecundity sounded just like death throes. Most afternoons, heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d sit on the deck of his shack, toss a line into the turgid waters. Occasionally, something took his bait. But he never did learn what it was or where in hell it took it to.
Coldstone Jessica Handly When she first joined the sisterhood, she had never heard of Coldstone. Little wonder, then, why it obsessed her so. She found little interest in other sorcerous arts; divination held nothing but a blank page into the ether. Crystaling was nothing but holding a rock in her fist. Potions were best and Coldstone was the topmost potion of them all. In the cloister, it was saved for only the best and most wizened of crones. The arb’ha plant crushed beneath their golden teeth and spat into the mortar, spun round and round with the pestle as other ingredients were added bit by bit. She’d seen it done but once, watched as arb’ha and saliva and powdered rootweed were added until a thick, milky froth like confectioners-in-water formed at the top. Coldstone, they called it. Cold, always cold, it was given as a last right to those most faithful. Mother of The Order gave it to those select few herself, a dip into the cold milky mix and a dab on the tongue, and the dying would soar to meet the Green Ones. Instantly illuminated, in their last moments they understood all. Saw all. Insight into the most hidden secrets of the world. Sight beyond the silver moon and yellow sun, into the Othermost. Jareen always found solace in the greenness of the world. As far back as she could remember, she’d lived amongst the arbor mice and daylilies. The sisterhood saw this and wanted her for their ranks. At first, Jareen resisted their call. She could not imagine life existing in the glass-walled confines of the cloister. But when she entered its vast depths, kicking and screaming and wailing, she found herself surrounded with Earth, Sea, and Sky. Lush sea-floor carpets rose up to meet her bare, muddy feet … which the sisters cleaned forthwith. Dark green snakevines rose from their potted oases and headed with heart and breath towards a palesky roofing some twenty feet up, speckled with foolsgold to create the appearance of stars. Trees bursting with loveseed fruit ran bursting from the floor and gave refuge to songbirds and furryhelms. Jareen was taken with love for the place, and when Mother asked her to bend the knee and kiss her hand, she accepted. 43
It was the crones who told her of Coldstone. Jareen was tested at each of the sorcerous skills, and showing no great potential for anything but herblore, was placed into the care of the crones. The eldest of the sisterhood wore robes of gray and white … Jareen and the other few novices selected to work herbs wore blue and black. The gowns were pleasant enough. The ritual of shaving one’s head … you are born without locks and so it is you must come into the sisterhood … was not. Jareen refused to cry about the pale flaxen locks as they fell to the floor, but complained, loudly, that she had not been born thus. She had been born with hair. The crones twittered and chirped, claimed once they’d chewed the arb’ha root, such lies had all the substance of a Fourth Month’s snow. Jareen considered. She knew very little of the arb’ha, but that it was rare, given to the world by the Green Ones, and verily used for sorcery. It was through a brief question and answer that she learned of Coldstone. Jareen wanted to learn the potion’s secrets. She longed for it, yearned for it night and day. But as an acolyte, she spent her days stripping bark from the peregrine plants, cutting her palms on nettle and redthorn, picking elderberries and bryme. The crones alone held the secrets of the arb’ha, and the other acolytes had little interest in doing anything other than what they’d been told. Late one night, after the bell for bed rung, Jareen made for the herbhall. She hid behind the crawling snakevine and waited for the bells to ring on towards Middlemass. When it came, she crept out of her nest and pulled aside the great gold curtains that covered the glassen walls. The moon shown down well and silvery, spreading light all across the lush sea-floor. She waited, awash in the moonlight, holding her breath for nigh on twenty, until she felt sure all were abed and none like to disturb her. She rummaged through the cabinets and bins, seeking out all she would need for the potion. Once all was assembled on the worktable, she slipped off her cowl, bent her shorn head to the moon and lit the wick of a fireoil lamp. It sputtered to life and she took stock of her sorcerous tools, much as a youngchild might take stock of his weapons before running off to war.
The marble mortar and pestle was there before her, this one flecked in shining foolsgold. The arb’ha plant looked as innocuous and common as lettuceleaf. The jar of powdered rootweed waited in the glass caul. There were other ingredients, of this she was sure. She’d seen the crones add a bit of this, a dash of that, after chewing the arb’ha and spitting it down into the mortar. There was cream of caan, wasn’t there? And a bit of dragonsblood? Jareen reached for those, hands shaking, wondering if this was right. Convinced there was no real way to know but to try, she lifted the arb’ha in her hand, and pressed it to her tongue. It crunched beneath her teeth, very like lettuceleaf. It had little taste, a bit of water, a bit of tongue. She wondered if she would know when to spit, just as the saliva began to fill her mouth. It trickled from the corners of her lips, slugged its way up the back of her nose. She snorted and pawed at her face, and began spitting, more like to drooling, out ropes of creamy arb’ha and chewed leaf. Even after the leaf was in the mortar, she continued to spit. Eyes watering, nose running, drool rolling down her chin, Jareen demanded of herself not to run murky and fettered from the herbhall. She rubbed the water from her eyes and lifted the pestle, grinding rootweed and caan and dragonsblood down into the arb’ha and saliva. Bit by bit, the Coldstone formed. It frothed, milky and perfect, and as it did, she stuck a finger into the mix. The potion was freezing cold to the touch. Jareen gasped, pulled her finger forth and examined it in the light of the silvery moon. The frothy white trailed down her finger into the palm of her hand, creating a pool that caught the silver light and penetrated. Jareen watched as the Coldstone cratered her palm. As it slid through and dripped down onto the floor. Gasping, Jareen stepped away. The little pool of Coldstone now found refuge in the sea-floor carpet. It sat, an unblinking, steady, miniscule pond of silver. An eye, knowing all, seeing all, watching her watch it … and now Jareen was down on the floor, staring back at that eye, and falling deeper, deeper, altogether down into it. She was away somewhere when she heard the crash. It muffled, thump, thump, and she wondered if the crones would be enraged. She’d learned the secret of the Coldstone. She … and the Green Ones … were one. 45
Jareen woke when the bell rang out the call for Breakdawn. She remembered the Coldstone, the pool of silver, that unblinking eye, and found nothing there on the sea-floor carpet but for a pile of browning vomit. She wrinkled her nose, thinking one of the furryhelms must have disgorged his meal, but realized, with some inkling fever, that it had come from her. Jareen scrambled up and to the nearest silverback star. In the silverback, she found her face. Her shorn head still gleamed, as if touched by the moon. Her eyes blue as the sea-floor carpet. But behind them and beyond, she saw. She saw the crones waking from their sleep, she saw the novices at work with the Breakdawn meal. Jareen struggled to stop the flow of knowledge, but at the same time, she wanted more. Her head swiveled, she gazed at that perfect batch of Coldstone, and knew she could make it again. What’s more, she knew if she took the potion and ran, no one would come after her. She knew this as perfectly as she’d known the daylilies, the forest and field, and the homes of the arbor mice. A girl with no knowledge of her own past, Jareen always found solace in the greenness of the world. For as far back as she could remember, she’d lived amongst the arbor mice and daylilies. The crones twittered and chirped, claimed once they’d chewed the arb’ha root, such lies had all the substance of a Fourth Month’s snow. When the crones came into herbhall that day, they found the carpet bedecked in the vomit of a novice. They found the mortar covered in fine skim of Coldstone, a lump of ground rootweed on the mixing table and its glass caul strangely absent. Louder and less strange was the absence of a girl named Jareen.
1977 Jamaica Race Jack Harvey Once again at sea, northeast of Cat Island; sinister beaches dry as bark. That morning, sounding along tiny bluffs the water clear and dark as blue heaven above, then light as lime; there the waves, like hounds, bark against the sawing reef. Three hundred yards away, lonely and white, sailboat Dolphin wrecked before dawn. Beware the patient sea, lover with the hair of Medusa; frisson of stone in your face.
Croix de Guerre Jack Harvey Let me tell you chiefs and chefs, I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know, havenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t the faintest idea, how to accept all this honor; how to show, without fraud or display my deep feeling, my gross emotion, and all in all thanes, your gleaming eyes bespeak an honor not mine, but of all those who died, pro patria; gutted like perch, their holy stink ascends to Valhalla. But on. Let me say thanks; my parts are here, arms, legs, eyes; the net has not been cast over my darling anatomy, eagles, no thanks to youin the baldric my scars start and end. So I say I am honored; honored by your respect and repast; honored by the tombstone I carry on my back. But let me tell you, generals and commanders, 48
I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want lunch or dinner; in the field the wheat is broken and the stumps of the slain have cast their final vote, raised dead limbs skyward.
Kameraden, let me tell you go and give the dead food.
The Germ Joey Hedger Somewhere inside these keys is a germ, clinging to some plastic corner that hasn’t been touched since it was shaped and glued in whichever factory is responsible for shaping and gluing computer keys. And I’m trying to find it, my nose just inches away from finger printed and all-capped letters—my eyes big. I’m trying to find it. Somewhere packed amidst a particularly tight bunch of toxic tobacco is that germ, and I’m lighting up, uncertain which clove cigarette or which menthol-cased pack will be hiding it. I’m inhaling it all, taking in the world to reach that microscopic speck, that condescending pencil-prick wormhole into another galaxy. Somewhere along a leather-shoe scuffed Subway floor in New York City—or that marble step along the National Mall—no wait, maybe the scorching asphalt on an L.A. drive—somewhere I’ll fall in just the right step—the precise motion—to wake up completely, to click the notch that jumpstarts the whole machine. Somewhere in the folds and wrinkles of my sheets is that dream, the dream that erupts in my skull like a virus; and just one more turn, one more body-back restless night will wring it out completely. I want to sleep again when the seed has run its course, but more importantly, I want that germ. Somewhere in the scents of stir-fried chicken and teriyaki sauce on fried rice, the germ has not yet been cooked out. In a small, white to-go box, I’m sure I’ve carried it home once and just missed it, just missed the bite-and-swallow of the time-collapsing, soysauce burden ache of everything. We swallow the world for the tiniest things.
Brasserie Equivoque, 16 rue Blondel, 1910 Ruth Holzer (Eugene Atget photograph) On the menu of the Equivocal Restaurant, flesh or fowl or good red herring. Svelte are the waiters who serve the wines that go with everything. The habituĂŠs: adulterous couples gorging themselves, and figures of blurred gender sitting at separate tables, quiet corners, contemplating their omnivorous city.
Wapping Ruth Holzer Deserted on an early Sunday morning, the cobbled High Street drew me to follow its length up and down between brick warehouses. The smells of chocolate, spices and overripe fruit clung to the air. In the gutters, crushed coffee beans and scraps of labels with writing that I couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t understand. Brownish foam washed fragments of lost cargoes to the shore. The Old Stairs, slime-green, were chained off, as were the New Stairs and King Henryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Stairs near the dock where they used to hang pirates and sea rovers, leaving the bodies on display for three incoming tides.
The Art of Empty M.J. Iuppa Staring at a face made of bricks, small and neat, cured in the weather of transition, this puzzle of conformity cracks when someone notices an edifying leak—
O mouth, o rusty faucet come loose in this pressure, waiting for a stuck spigot to open with the rush of water, professing a truth few hear— Why do I dream this insight? Is it to be charitable, letting a steady draft usher every last thing onto a small boat that’s stowed beneath a bridge? Who else knows that this is an escape? Who is this figure coming towards me?
Sleeping Alone James Croal Jackson I spend most nights in the company of shadow, a universe to toss and turn, mind wandering in the smell of strawberry shampoo—my sheets, familiar honey. I sleep in a crater growing deeper without you. At night, birds are mostly silent. The occasional siren punctuates air and I hope you are all right, wherever you are. Without your orbit, I wake at six and the room burns me dry. There must be a medical reason for this: the heart, when under sheets, overheats but when alone becomes so cold, to sleep too long is dangerous, and the temperature drops to near the threshold of memory– my hair mussed in darkness by my pillow’s imitation of what your hands might do if they were here, wanting to be held again.
School Bus in the Blizzard (Supper Waits) James Croal Jackson The chicken soup swirls with the ladle. Garlic and pepper steam the kitchen. Limp horseradish soaks at the potâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s silver bottom. White meat swims laps in the yellow broth. Animals do fine without bones. The clock strikes a new hour. The oven timer goes off (or does it). Outside, snow blinds the world. Shovels conceal pavement. There is no good way home.
Sky Country Seth Jani It is a study of space, Of malfunctioning closures. The way the earth recedes, The horizons, and the night Comes down; black, incandescent, Full of vacuous eyes. Suddenly that tethered body, That system of bones And calculations breaks loose. Our pupils turn to the stream Of glittering mirages. We see Ghosts in the Midwestern sky.
Heat Damage Seth Jani (Landscape Painting, Ca. 1912) Cinereous evening, The color of my grandmother’s shawl Under dark water. And the door that the birds open Is also the door through which Our prayers vanish. No one answers Save more birds, More clouds Hung like static laundry, More gorgeous, substanceless light. As the world ages The field’s frayed threads start to unravel. The horses rush the horizon Before the horizon burns away.
To The Perfect One Seth Jani Always you were there, A possibility in the dark, Just watching. The person I wanted to be Looking out through My gnarled imperfections As I fumbled through the world Destroying the perfect plotline With too much fear Or hesitation. You laughed when I stood Before the prettiest girl, Trying to win her over With a mouthful of words You let me butcher. You laughed as I dragged myself Through the darkened streets Thinking my luck was spent, Popping pills in the backlit alleys While the cars bleared past. Is this how it is in every life? The force of destiny leads You down the road But when you arrive at the inevitable fork, Just as the wind comes to point the way, You stumble on some unseen snag And the voice which should have said Go left! Mockingly commands Now close your eyes â&#x20AC;Ś Bleed.
A Zippity Day Lynn Johnson Waiting in the long line of people snaking its way to the Zip Line, I thought I’d have plenty of time to change my mind. My husband, David, and I had decided to end our summer vacation by trying some new and exciting adventure. Our resort brochure convinced us the Zip Line would fit the bill. I wasn’t exactly sure what a Zip Line was, but the word “zip” made me think that whatever it was, it would be fast. After first talking myself into trying the Zip Line, I convinced David that it would be “fun and easy.” Wearing shorts, T-shirts, and comfortable sneakers, we walked down the grassy slope that led to our afternoon adventure and joined what looked like a line of lambs being led to slaughter. The Zip Line was a strange-looking contraption consisting of long cables that were attached to very high wooden poles. We watched as two instructors hooked brave people to the cables, then stared in amazement and horror as they jumped off the narrow platform and zipped through the air. They looked like laundry being torn from a clothesline in a gale-force wind. Yet, they somehow stayed attached to the Zip Lines. We could hear them screaming as they flew all the way down the cables and across the field. It was hard to tell if the screams were from fright or delight. I fervently hoped it was delight. Suddenly, my enthusiasm turned to fear. What was I thinking? I wondered. It’s bad enough that I signed myself up for this insane activity. But I also persuaded David to join me. Unfortunately, the fact that he’s afraid of heights had momentarily escaped my thinking. Awash with guilt, I asked him if he still loved me and if he wanted to drop out of this idea. He assured me of his love and said he still wanted to take the challenge. After many years in the construction business, David was used to walking around on scaffolding and climbing up and down tall ladders. But he had always avoided working higher up than two stories. By agreeing to join me on the Zip Line, I think he was trying to overcome his fear of heights. He was braver than I expected—and much braver than I was.
In front of us, I spotted an older gentleman. I guessed he was close to 80 years old. Curious, I started a conversation with him. “So, have you ever done this before?” I asked. “Nope. This is my first time. Looks kinda fun though,” he grinned at me. “Are you … afraid?” I probed a little more. “No, not really. Looks like everyone is having a good time,” he said. “Just thought it would be fun to try something new while I’m still young. I’m 82, you know.” “I can’t believe you’re 82 and willing to try this,” I responded. “Are you sure you haven’t ever done this before?” “Well … not exactly,” he admitted. “When I was a young man, I was a crew member on a large sailboat. We used to climb way up to the crow’s nest and walk all around the rigging. Of course, we weren’t tethered to anything.” I was not quite as impressed, now that I knew this daredevil sailor had already succeeded at something more dangerous than Zip-Lining. Still, I admired his spunk. Over and over, I talked myself into getting on the Zip Line, but with every step forward, I talked myself out of it. At last, the long line of people disappeared and we were next. The instructor on the ground fitted us with black harnesses. They had parachute-style buckles, double clip-in loops, and wide-webbing seat straps. We buckled our straps very securely, feeling like frightened, first-time skydivers. Looking for a little reassurance, I asked the instructor, “So, have you done this before?” “Hundreds of times.” He handed me a white safety helmet and helped me click the strap under my chin because my shaky fingers were worthless. “Don’t worry, it’s really easy. You’ll do great. When you get to the top of the pole, just hang on tight because the other instructor has to unhook your harness before he can hook you to the Zip Line.” Very reassuring, I thought. I’ve decided I’m not going to do this after all. I’m chicken and I don’t want to die. Just let the next person in line go ahead of me. By this time, David had already climbed halfway up his pole so I couldn’t exactly abandon him. I grabbed hold of the steel spikes 60
on the pole and started climbing. I felt like a telephone lineman. I felt like the little boy in Jack and the Beanstalk, climbing up, up, up into the sky. At first, I thought the climb would be a cinch, but by the time I heaved myself up onto the platform, I was dripping with sweat and exhausted from the effort. David had his safety harness already attached to the cable on the pole across from me on the very narrow platform we shared. I hollered some words of encouragement to him. “This is great! It will be fun. But don’t jump without me.” I felt the instructor’s hands unbuckling my harness. “Hold on tight.” he warned gently. “Just put your arms behind you and hang onto the pole while I unhook you, and then I’ll hook you up again to the Zip Line.” Hold on tight? Are you kidding? Slowly, very slowly, I put my arms behind me and grabbed the pole with all the strength in my hands. Nothing can pry my fingers off of this pole! “Okay, you can let go now. You’re all attached. Go ahead and jump,” he told me, rather nonchalantly. “Jump? Just like that?” I screamed at him. My voice became a little softer, a little braver. “I think my husband and I should jump at the same time. That will be easier, don’t you think?” “How about if I count?” he suggested. “One, two, three,” he counted aloud between us on the platform. Neither of us jumped. I started to laugh because my brave husband was suddenly not so brave, at least not this time. “Do you want me to count again?” he volunteered. I think he was about ready to push me off the platform. The people on the ground were getting impatient for their turns. “Okay. We can do this,” I told him with a little more confidence. Patiently, he counted again. “One … two … three!” I didn’t want to do the climb of shame back down that tall wooden pole. Figuring my stalling time was up, I took a deep breath, said a quick prayer, and jumped. I was totally terrified for the three seconds of freefall before my harness and line caught onto the cable. I heard myself screaming. I was flying, soaring like a weightless seagull, thrilled by the ride. Two seconds behind me, I
heard David’s screams echoing mine. He sounded delighted. I felt very proud of our courage and smiled until my face hurt. We glided smoothly to the end of our ride. The ground crew arrived quickly with eight-foot ladders for us to climb down. David and I were relieved to be back on the ground—safely. We were laughing out loud. Our Zip Line adventure was worth every second of fear. Holding hands, we walked back up the grassy slope. Grinning, I teased him. “I jumped first, you know.”
Baptized John P. Kristofco We never saw our parents swim, and so we never went. Maybe to the lake with friends or the pool with the neighbors once or twice, but we never went swimming, never learned to swim. We had a sprinkler, though, an old round green thing, heavy as a brick with a shiny silver head that spun itself like a figure skater at full twirl. We didn’t see it much, “water costs money” of course, but when verdant early summer turned to the dry cicada buzz of late July and August, we began to feel hope. As the backyard grass began to wilt to wheat-brown, my father stood on the back porch looking pensively at the tiny yard (funny, how it didn’t seem tiny at the time), half of which was consumed by his prized vegetable garden. He’d light up a Winston and do a slow scan. I watched him from the driveway where I bounced a tennis ball off the garage roof, sensing that the sacred phrase was close. But I had paid attention as a kid and learned not to assume; I had been disappointed before. He withdrew the cigarette from his mouth and blew a line of smoke that scattered through the screen. He turned his head back toward the house. “We need to water the lawn, hon.” And there they were, the magic words, the abracadabra of late summer. Father headed toward the basement where he kept the sprinkler on a workbench with the gaggle of dusty old tools that he hardly ever used, and when he did, it was often forcing them to purposes for which they had not been designed. There were two screwdrivers, a rusty wrench, and an ancient brown hammer that were apparently all the gizmos he ever really needed. I ran around to the side door and passed just behind him as he headed down the steps. I went up to the small dormer bedroom where my sisters were doing whatever it was that ten year-old girls did in their room on a Saturday afternoon in late July. “Dad’s getting the sprinkler” was all I needed to say, and by the time he had fetched the device and headed out to the garage to get 63
the hose, the three of us were already in our swimsuits standing on the back porch. Jenn and Jan were pulling on their rubber swim caps, one yellow the other pink, with their matching ruffled red, white, and green one-piece togs (they were twins after all). As usual, I felt embarrassed standing in my ill-fitting, baggy blue trunks that tied in the front, my skinny legs out there for the world to see. I hated wearing them, whether that was complex modesty that had already been ingrained or just the reality that I more than once considered in the long mirror in the back hall. I didn’t even own a pair of shorts, but I was willing to endure it for the opportunity to run through the sprinkler on a hot summer day. Father emerged from the garage with the old black garden hose draped over his right shoulder and the green sprinkler in his left hand. Just short of the yard he stopped when he saw us on the porch. “Did you ask your mother if you could do this?” he called without a smile. “Yes,” the girls said together. If they did, I wasn’t aware and remained silent. After all, I was only eight. Leaning forward, he squinted across the bright yard, as if looking for the truth in our eyes. I looked away. The girls flashed their practiced smiles. An awkward moment passed. “Well okay,” he said as if agreeing to overlook a misdemeanor. “Just wait until I get this thing set up.” A squeal erupted as the girls raced past me on the way to get towels from the bathroom. I stayed on the porch to watch my father stretch the hose out from the faucet by the side door, twist the old metal sprinkler onto the end, and set it in the section of yard closest to the house. He squinted and made lines with his right index finger to spot the center of the small space, looking as though he was marking himself with the cross. He didn’t see me watching and smiling just a little bit. He spun the water on then off, re-positioned the sprinkler, and then turned it on again. The silver top flashed as it sent a spray of water like diamond beads four feet in the air for a twelve-foot 64
circle. By the time I turned to go out, the girls were already setting their towels by the side stoop. “Now, don’t go crazy. I don’t want any cavorting out here,” father said. I had come to translate "cavorting" as my father’s word for "having too much fun," an idea that I believed was rooted in his childhood in a coal mining town where being one of eleven children meant learning early the concepts, and weight, of duty, constraint, and limitation. With each pass through a segment of the outer ring of the wonderfully cold water, I grew less self conscious of my trunks and skinny legs. My runs grew braver until at last I walked slowly to the center of the circle and stood directly above the spinning silver head. The water whipped my legs with a delicious cold sting. I looked into the mesmerizing flick of twirling light, transfixed, transported. It was as though I was someplace else, not in the tiny back yard of our bungalow on a corner, not a part of a day that would, like so many other things, come only once, but someone else, somewhere else altogether. My father sat on the porch, watching. The glow from his cigarette lit his face behind the screens, but I couldn’t tell if he was smiling. The sun rose above the yard and touched us with a glaze, a sheen as we ran squealing through the sprinkler, tramping our shadows into the shining grass with every step we took. That was nearly sixty years ago. Today my sister still lives in that house. A maple tree I planted in the center of the yard when I was nine rises fifty feet above the small space where my father grew his garden, and where, when the sun dried the lawn in late summer, we cavorted in the old green sprinkler. It was a kind of baptism into the faith of limitation, the reading of the gospel of “be satisfied with what you get” in a world where joy was stolen from the hum of passing time. And though I never learned to swim, I love it at the ocean now, especially at night when diamond stars watch cold waves rush against my still-skinny legs, and I remember the purest sensation ever, running half-naked through the sprinkler on a hot summer day when the world went by and didn’t notice, didn’t see my stance against the dogma of the
sun and its subtraction of our shadows from the finite total of its given light. Today, the old green sprinkler sits dusty with the other tools on a shelf in my garage. It hasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t spun in decades. It doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t need to. I look at it from time to time and see it still as one of the marvels of my universe, still twirling its silver faith into all the places I have ever walked.
Overcoming Inertia Martin H. Levinson I’d rather check my email than pen this poem, for I can think of nothing to say and the yard needs mowing, the car needs washing, the tub needs scrubbing and I guess I’ll make myself a cuppa coffee, have a bit of the danish I bought this morning at Briermere Farms, fresh from the oven and the finish of a two-mile stroll by the banks of the Peconic where I watched a vesper sparrow circle lazy in the sky, a cumulus cloud hang low on the horizon, an alice blue kayak sail slowly past a McDonald’s parking lot that abuts the water upon which floated a white plastic coffee lid and two cigarette stubs that seemed horribly out of place in a place where fluke, flounder, and bluefish hail from and swans, geese, and Carolina ducks also call home.
On Reaching Seventy Martin H. Levinson I want to be a super-ager like the sun, bright and badass in the morning, blazing hot through the day, kicking sand up at the moon that sedately stays in place while le soleil heads for the horizon to lift weights, do curls in a celestial gym where planets jog around their orbits, galaxies stretch and asteroids spot comets, under their frozen cores, as they shoot through space thinking theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re faster than old-man sol â&#x20AC;&#x2122;cause they got slim solar-system bodies and dust and gas ion tails that may look good to the casual observer but arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t very well suited for warming up the atmosphere and keeping the Earth going, tasks Mister Bright Star shines in.
Things Learned Alone Laurinda Lind To put my attention there so I could make it real and not robot it as if I were sitting inside my head in an armchair with a remote control. To say uh-huh while insulted by sociopaths who want me to hate them so they can unlock all their juices and melt me with them but I won’t, they’ll have to stew in them themselves. To fold the end of the breadbag over and throw that fucking plastic thing away that holds it together so there’s one less piece of crap pointless thing in my house too full of things because clutter makes me comfortable. To wrap all the airholes in the bathtub with duct tape and starve out the space in the trap so the drain can’t resist the plunger and no matter how much that guck likes it down there it has to come up to me and show me how it did what it did. To make my mind stop saying those loud things, the anxiety loop you have cancer you waited so long to go to the dentist they’ll pull out all your teeth since it’s not real, it’s what they want you to think and who they want you to think you are. And they don’t get to tell you that.
Frost Richard Luftig It’s so cold here I can see my breath on the inside windows of my house and it makes no difference which of the two roads I take to town; the drifts have blocked them and the sand trucks won’t pass this far out in the county for at least another two days. But I can’t take another hour of only having stubbles of corn in the fields for company. They may be all ears but they sure don’t say much. So, I’m going to take the chance of ending in a ditch, and drive into town to Sandy’s Bar & Grill. Who knows; the country band may still show up. Or the karaoke machine will be working for a change. Maybe they’ll have a Shot-and-a Beer Blizzard Special. You never know. Maybe I’ll sing on key for a change. Maybe I’ll get lucky and Darlene will dance with me so close I can smell the perfume and shampoo on her neck. Maybe she will risk the weather and finally come home with me. Maybe I’ll even have
no regrets in the morning. And maybe, just maybe itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s like what that poet guy we studied in high school said; you know, how bad choices make good stories.
Armageddon Sympathy Card Jeffrey H. MacLachlan Thinking of you after Gog and Magog anchored your family to the coal-fog floor of the fiery abyss disguised as circlets of amethyst roses but think of this as an opportunity to reflect and remember that an afternoon pot of holy basil tea can potpourri prison scents of cigarette debris and help discover keys held by flabby infant angels dripping down like marshmallows on sticks in a fire pit at a windy camp but if your stay is permanent take heart in the sentiment no matter what your future brings weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll forever keep our guest room ready with your white canary, chirping lyre strings to a ghastly chorus
those summer nights at 17 DS Maolalaí were wonderful when we’d stumble funny home from the city center to dodge the cost of taxi fare, drunk and sometimes singing or sometimes talking about our favorite songs loudly over the thunder of nightbuses and the clatter of piss on alley walls. the night was always peaceful as somebody falling asleep, funny as slapstick, and we’d pick up more beer from our houses to keep us from losing the edge and end up at 4am in the schoolyard nearby, looking at the emptiness and drinking it slow and sharing the kind of talk you have late at night while the lamplight poured across the buildings like a glass of yellow wine. the friendships that you get at 6 years old have nothing to do with personality and everything with convenience but they last harder than anything, and cling like creepers on a wall. and now, years later, after all the other things were burned away I sometimes drink a beer in my small apartment, and I open the window and close my eyes, letting the cold air and the taste of beer try to help me feel the way I felt then.
La Maison de Croque Monsieur, 17 East 13th Street Susan H. Maurer Across the street a building, painted brick, is either two floors or one and a duplex. Sandwiches like my favorite gooey cheese and raunchy mushrooms. They’re called The Henry, The Gore, etc. supposedly named after Anais Nin’s lovers. Gore for Gore Vidal? After many melts I see a little sign. Anais Nin once lived here. “Munch, Mister” in English, the store is called “Croque Monsieur,” “La Maison de Croque Monsieur.”
Starts Terence McCaffrey April, and it’s snowing In Connecticut. No more unusual but for an intermittent hush that grows into the sound of a proximate jet engine and drowns the perfect silence, weighs on me like Fate done up in a suit and tie makes me think that in a few days the forest will dry— the sun always finds its corners— and we can steal outside, jacketless, shedding our old pretenses and wave to our neighbors for the first time since December, realizing that they, too, have bared the burden of this imbruted world. In the covert of trees we’ll let leaf mold and rud punch our noses press their way into our lungs make us mouth, Rebirth: fix it, try something new, write even because we’re really coming down now and the month feels like damp paper. Just listen as another crosses our pale sky, lost somewhere in the whitening world; imagine everyone on board, pasted to their seats, praying 75
for a safe landing, gripping their armrests, absorbing life’s regrets— they’re stuck in that mechanical sepulcher and cloud, bracing for the touchdown then the slow saunter up the portal and into the electric light, unwittingly prepared to ward off the rhume of recognition to emerge clean again.
The Word Cancer Spoken Yesterday John McKernan He said it softly Slowly The little C’s A matched pair of right & left hand knives Tiny enough to slice in layers my retinas To unmoor the little pump of my heart Growing like a red flower on its blue stalk & all the tatters of an alphabet in that word Their rising levels of mute hatefulness The fashionable ski-slope A (Don’t you just Want to scream & turn it upside down?) How do you sound now Mister A? & that N I’ve spent entire days thinking How a misspelling might change a meaning But mostly that lower case e Its masquerade For that final fork E That vast Einsteinian E
Polite Request John McKernan I want you to lie down beside my corpse I want you to bend over and touch it with two fingers Slowly Quietly You don’t want to scare it away I want you to stand up with it Carry it with care Don’t worry I hate it too Especially the new clothes It will be light as a shadow Smelling like licorice Look both ways as you cross the river to Omaha Walk slowly into the calendar Looking carefully for my birthday May 11 1942 It will be quiet there The Greatest War has just begun Just when the sun rises Recite my name Once Right beside the joyful tears of my mother Don’t worry She’s not afraid of anything by now I want you to sprinkle it with holy water Carry it off To some garden or garbage dump Far away Don’t let it come near me Ever
The Landmark Bob Meszaros Below the golden bell-shaped dome, their black handâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s leaching rust, the clocks have stopped. The belfry with its paired pilasters, its round arched louvered openings. is slowly turning red. On balustrade, on wooden urns, on cornice, on each clock face, the white paint cracks, then peels. Forgotten, the past is rotting overhead: its metal hands and numbers weep; its bared wood festers like an open wound. And on a finial, atop the golden bell-shaped dome, as if waiting for restoration to be done, day after day, week after week, the weathervane is still.
Three Wisdoms James B. Nicola That there is a beyond to the mackerel sky and a purpose in shades of gray that signal the radiance of a white albeit far away; That the arrow I shoot (which soars on high, hits not a thing, and then falls) is a bird for a span of a single flight as I try to transcribe its calls; But that purpose, the beyond, is just a term, like love manquĂŠ: And all three, by definition, must be somewhere far away. But I have met, and imagined, you. As birds take to air, then, so I, driven if aimless in what I do, or where I go, or why, go again and again, as loveâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a draught, and as air must be breathed, and the hand of flesh pull and thwack, even if laughed at everywhere we land.
Mount Wachusett James B. Nicola From the summit you can see all the way to Boston on a clear day. The first time my father drove us to the top, the day was cloudy. But I park below and climb, today. The trail is marked but it is rough enough to have to squat and grab. Still, I’m undaunted and I get there soon enough. Why didn’t I climb it when I lived here? We take for granted what is always near, I guess. I wait for Boston to appear. No clouds obscure it: only impure air. Thoreau said that he loved Wachusett, so I wait for the dense day to clear … Ah, there— Boston, as clear as you, if not as clear as the spirit of Henry D. Thoreau.
This tattoo ... Simon Perchik This tattoo once had the courage, a rose surrounded by summer evenings and skin that remembers how warm the name was —what’s left is covered with the forever growing on your arm as the voice belonging to a dead woman making room for an immense sea, silencing the Earth from outside—here, was a shoulder here, her lips—here the dress becomes too heavy, falls into you as driftwood—here was the heart, naked beginning to snow—here was the sleeve.
Why I’m not Coyote Thomas Pescatore he walk with belly face the ground hitch in step slant smile tongue wag long shag hair eyes to grind see road roll
I’ve no story of coyote man I got no place; no past. land had shackles before I crossed. only heart is here my own who knows from where I’ve come. Coyote is not buddha but friend to buddha man maybe I am not coyote sure maybe I am buddha then if buddha were american maybe he’d be me too but then like coyote say he could also be you.
Death Valley Thomas Pescatore Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m so far removed from the atomic bomb some nights I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t even feel its life-like pull it is like I never existed at all and the trap door under the earth never spun open it is like the national parks still remain isolate and remote. why were those UFOs left to shine their lights onto the carapace without anyone bringing them down? this was reported on Sightings long ago. I remember the man with the hard black hair and the lines on his face, he spoke earnestly through green veins. why wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t the reports of my birth certificate go away? It seems like my remote finds the same programs every night, the channels keep multiplying but the DNA stays the same. Radiation is placed in front of a green screen then filmed. the guys in the back are just bodies, dancing. ink is less dynamic skin and bones, tightly wound by ribbons.
Imperial Delight Thomas Pescatore when you told me about how its skull was split open and he was eating the brains I fingered my gun fetish all my heroes carry them around on their shoulder blasting all the great brown people I am reminded some are yellow too the red ones died and buried long ago but only their bodies deserved to go we should shoulder the blame itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not some conspiratorial imperialist state no body actually dies in the mid east the bomb is just a tv sparkler hatred is only an individual delight it is not bred and baked by the state not one hour on tv is not bathed in red guns are the answer until and when they are not righteous armies marching hate we are all pulling the trigger itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s how the west and the east and north and the south and the cause was won there will be no greater example than the continual reassurance of the finality and necessity of mass destruction no change
Turning Around Barb Reynolds This time I sit in the corner, in the dark leather chair. I see the oak trees that are usually behind me, their leaves turning from green to red to amber. I see the section in the bookcase on gardening and permaculture, when I normally face psychology. A piece of colored glass dangles from a thin white string in the bright, almost glaring, picture window. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve always seen the reflections of the glass, little prism rainbows dancing on the dark plank floor, but I never look at the glass itself. I hear the sounds of the house through my other ear now: the clicking on and then whoosh of the furnace, the hourly refrigerator whatnots, the creakiness of settling. All the sounds that blend into mute when you keep looking in the same direction. A plane passes overhead. A woman rakes her leaves. Cars drive by both ways, too quickly. One neighbor waves to another, the other waves and smiles. Sparrows soar and dip and circle back in pairs, as if they forgot their keys on the counter back home.
Last Pheasant Hunt Marzeelle Robertson All day the cold sun is with you through the fields of corn stalks, and maize, waist high, head high, rasping your clothes and skin, wind stinging your face, and on either side of you, rows of armed men. And close to the ground, unseen, the quarry, with elegant, long, striped tails, white collared necks, heads red, vivid green, silent, practiced in hiding, their piercing, bright yellow eyes watching you as you walk by. The dogs, snuffling, tense, barely biding their time, ears primed for a call like a cough, the sudden wing rush and whir of life launched from dirt underfoot into the air, the startled, audible drumming of human and animal hearts, a gunâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s report and another, gun smoke, the feathering drift and dart, the hard ground receiving the heavy breasts dropped copper colored like shields in battle, dogs trembling and lunging, retrieving, the whoops and hollers, the celebratory camaraderie in the passionate fields. Then the dispassionate sun abandons the clash and color, the revered wild ceremony for regions more quiet and dim as if all along it had waited for them.
Still Life With Pistol Marzeelle Robertson after Antoni TĂĄpies There is the requisite table, but no goblets, no pitchers, no bowls of fruit or flowers, not even a partridge or a slaughtered hare. There is a pistol on the table, large, its grip toward someone who was or had been there leaving cigarette butts in an ashtray, a heaviness in the table, the gun, the air of someone who waits. In still lifes, someone always is just out of sight, has poured from a pitcher or gathered the fruit, and we canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t fully know their intent, as with whoever has set this table out in the night like a table of justice or judgment on a high terrace or ledge overlooking a town, a street of white houses with lights on inside but no people, no movement, nothing to create sound. If there is still life in such stillness, it could be our collective breath held in the shadow of violence, or it could be the quiet of people quiet because our conscience goes peacefully through its routines with lamps lit, unaware, or as if unaware, 88
of the table, the gun, the watcher above us, if heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s still there.
Revisionism Russell Rowland The blitzkrieg of a gale out of the east: trees drop in line, machine-gunned villagers. But in the sepia-tinted daguerreotype, they remain forever saplings, straight. Or in some glade, a family of Krakow Jews, seven in numberâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;parents, two grandmothers, three children, a menorah of cadaversâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; gather companionably, albeit in midair. Heads bowed, arms at sides, they seem to be listening: Hear, O Israel â&#x20AC;Ś The girl-child alone revolves in pavane. Were they not cut down, restored alive to their prosperous village? Was not the lost lamb actually found, in this retelling, by David, the boy with a sling? Old storm-troopers died philanthropists? Even the heart has forgotten what it hid.
Menarche Russell Rowland Romeoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s future flame, text-messaging on the toilet, found the second period of her fledgling menarche had begun. I passed a roll of paper towels through, then sped to the drug store. Now the child is back with Mom, while in my wastebasket slashes of her blood dry red to brown on a wedge of towel. It will cease to be with our Juliet after the manner of women. We may not be here to help mourn her climacteric. Between milestones of womanhood, she will count off days to foil her own fertility and reassure herself that love sans vows has not conceived a bastard. Lover can flee and leave beloved bereft, or passion wither with egg and sperm. To messy extremities desire will drive the young, till all Verona is discomfited. Our melodramatic heroine throws a fit: better to be dead, and get it over with!
Sleeping Naked Russell Rowland Who wants to tug fresh pajamas over sticky elbows, knees: this film of July humidity that won’t wash off? No one will be offended or aroused, or suspect me of meaning to arouse. Gravity’s long dirty work is undone a few supine hours. Sags disappear, flab settles between the hippy bones, ribs emerge: spars of a derelict. Such lean meat I am, while prone. I toss, evading sleep. My little man founders left and right in the foam of sheets. The needle cannot find north. It is many a lonely night since he was proud to be a prick. Sleep wins. On backs of eyelids the show begins. The ring is in my pocket, in a small velvet box. I inhale perfume. It is a dream— I can’t prevent what happens next.
Last Times Russell Rowland Wednesday at 9:38 a.m., two fast vehicles traded drivers and paint jobs in the process of absorbing each other’s momentum. 63 years, 5 months, 12 days before impact, she was born: for the first time, obstetrically —and only time, theologically—speaking. 37 years, 11 months, 2 days before impact, she lost her only child to a swimming pool: her toddler. Depression, but no lawsuits. 12 years, 7 months, 3 nights before, husband and wife made their last love, though neither knew that then; it was the usual hard work. 16 hours and some-odd minutes prior to the collision, she walked their Doberman for the last time. He did not act distraught. That morning, five minutes and counting, she voided what one never suspects is one’s final void: empty bladder for the mortician. At 9:36 a.m. she went right on Airport Road for the last time: remembered her turn signal, avoided a dead squirrel without foreboding. At 9:37 and spare change, one final gasp. No time for her whole life to flash before her eyes. But the obituary has most of it.
The Device Ryan Russin Hunting for the most bleeding edge of technology was as much an art as it was an act of desperation; the black market was notoriously dodgy on availability, and getting what you wanted required a combination of a keen eye, people skills, and knowing the right people. Can’t get that Akira x7400 power drive if you’re not there to pick it up in time, now can you? The device Sneakers had purchased from the market was a small thing, barely bigger than the palm of her hand, with the edges smoothed out and sporting a chromed-out finish. It had two ports—one for Ethernet, the other for a USB jack. Beyond that, it had no identifying marks on it, and nothing in the cyborg’s systems could tell her what it was. It seemed typical of most personal datajacks, where one can plug their brain directly into the web. In truth, Sneakers didn’t need the device—her own cybernetic implants were superior to most anything out on the market—but the lack of screws or even seams on the mysterious box all but ensured she’d shell out the credits just to see what it was. Curiosity is a hell of a drug, and in the confines of her own home she could indulge in discovering just what the hell this thing was. Her home was a hacker’s wet dream. Ultra-thin monitors hung from the ceiling in a circle around her equally round desk, with several computer towers shoved underneath the countertop. Most of the computers were hack jobs, a frankensteinian mix of products hot-wired and soldered together in ways no computer logically should, and yet somehow worked despite their hacked-together appearance. As befitting such a techy crash-pad, wires hung from the ceiling, most of which did nothing more than complete her sense of aesthetics. A constant hum of electronics hung in the air, accompanying the faint smell of burnt ozone. It was always warm, but Sneakers didn’t seem to notice or care; her manufactured body, a composite form of polycarbonate and synthetic muscles, kept what few organic parts that were left at a constant ninety-eight point six degrees.
As her black synthetic fingers trailed over the surface of the device, she ruminated that it had been a stroke of luck to find the device in the state it was in. *** She hadn’t set out looking for it, of course. Browsing the black market was more a social event than anything else for Sneakers, and she hadn’t wanted to purchase anything other than some useless trinkets to add to her growing collection of cute but worthless things. The slums of Neo-Tokyo were a breeding ground for illicit items to buy, ranging from narcotics to weapons to tech— and even people. It was not a place for good folk to venture, either; no one with a strong sense of morals went there, to that dark place full of shadowy dealers and two-bit criminals, where everything was cramped together and there was always someone trying to sell you something. A common sight in the perpetually rainy streets of the slums, Sneakers had come to know several of the dealers, and even some of them by their real names. Her favorite seller of them all was Mouse, a tiny man with more wetware installed in his cranium than was strictly healthy, and who had an uncanny knack for getting all the latest in unreleased technology. Or, that’s what he claimed, anyway; sometimes it was just junk dressed up all nice and spiffy that he sold for an outrageous price. He had a quick wit and made her laugh with his terrible jokes though, and so she didn’t mind that sometimes what she bought off of him was a dud. That day though, there was something new there. The hint of something new and different, of the device that didn’t match her current records, made her catch that bug of intrigue. Mouse’s elusiveness about where he got the product, and even the deflection of what it was, sealed the deal for the young cyborg. Nothing quite got her attention like something she couldn’t identify or figure out. She bought it immediately, and rushed home to try it out. ***
Normally, Sneakers would run diagnostics on her new device, but a part of her—what was still human—told her to toss caution to the wind and try it out now. A giddiness she hadn’t experienced in years filled her, borne from the mystery of this internet drive. What did it contain? Who built it? Was it just a commercial-grade datajack in a fancy case to upsell it to gullible idiots, or was it more than that? Maybe it was government tech. Or experimental stuff stolen from one of the corporations. Or heck, maybe it was a bomb and it’d all explode in her ceramic-white face. It was all just so … so unknown. Could anyone really blame her for buying it? For bringing it home, to insert the Ethernet cable into it with surprisingly shaky fingers? She didn’t even register when she plugged the USB cable into the other port, nor when she plugged the opposite end of the cable into the back of her own neck. To Sneakers, and to most people using a datajack, the web looked like a series of 1’s and 0’s that vaguely formed images. Easy enough to explore, though rudimentary, and with the right knowhow one could manipulate these binary numbers to do as they wished. But this was different. Sneakers could feel it, even as the first kilobyte reached her, even as her artificial eyes widened and a gasp left her synthetic lips. No. This was not normal. Power shot through her spinal cord like lightning, running its course up past the cranial cage that housed her brain and directly into her Occipital lobe. Neurons fired off, one after the other, with dendrites writhing rapidly across her grey matter in ways she’d never experienced before. Jacking into the web was an experience, definitely—intense at times, mundane at others—but this was like nothing else. It hummed through her, her fake teeth vibrating with a frequency both terrible and wonderful. Like rain on a train, plinking across a speeding bullet of steel as she rocketed towards … something. She wasn’t sure, couldn’t be sure, and her mind lost itself to the glorious unfolding of this new dream of technological livewire mysticism. A cavalcade of experiences, of colors unfolding like origami before her, lattices of bright and glorious logic sprouting around her from a colorless expanse of nothing. 96
Numbers turned to images, and images into sensations, and sensations into experiences, and experiences into … something else. Something indescribable, something that reached deep into the lizard part of the brain and squeezed. It was like seeing for the first time after spending your whole life being blind. Her whole career as a hacker was nothing compared to this. It was almost sexual, virginal, this first time really seeing the web for what it was—not as a series of numbers, no, but as things. Objects, people, places, even smells, experienced in ways she never thought possible. This wasn’t hacking. This was being touched by God.
New Orleans Will Trip You Karen Sandberg Moss grows between pavement blocks in the heat and afternoon rainfall. Red bricks angle underfoot. Humid now, sunlight tiptoes into dark courtyards overhung with palms and pink flowers twining iron fretwork. Music bubbles like fountains splashing jazz or Cajun, hangs from the balustrade like tipsy ferns. You come here to look around, sun tipples your head. Fronds from the palm tree makes a fan like a coquette. And in a shadowed surround, a guitar sings the blues. You are unable to leave. You find work in a bar, grow your hair long, pierce your ears and nose, disappoint your mother. In the evening, your life leans over the balcony.
Ode to the Athlete Heidi Seaborn For my son with a nod to Pindar Blessed is the boy. Grown tall long before he’d grown up. Gifted boy, an unexpected gift. The surprise of an old soul born easily, early to parents snared in life’s tragedy. He held fast at first. Fingers tightly gripped my skirt. His stories whispered in my ear alone. Soon, the boy’s dreams took flight. His walk, a run. His jump, a leap. Phrikias of the pre-school set. Winged feet like Mercury, he dashed to victory. To best the boys race after race. His pace quick. Each year, his share of prizes. Then felled by injury one day, wings singed, spirit smoldering, the boy’s mind collected his power. He took gods’ design, made it sweet, a new beginning for a boy now becoming a man. His hands guide his imagination’s strength, reasoning. This race runs faster at thought’s speed. His competition labors in the city’s towers— lit up at night like captive stars. He knows the race of men, of gods, that both breathe life from one mother.
Shore Leave Heidi Seaborn Dr. William N. Stone, Boston Harbor, 1869 He could diagnose the particular illness from across the docks by the way a sailor walked off the ship and down the gangway. Rickets: the scrawny bow-legged one. Scabies: the short sailor, bag shouldered, free-hand scratching vigorously. TB: the mick’s hunched, stalling cough. Another hobbled by gangrene’s deathly creep. He’d ready the lotions, medicines, scalpels, suture needles, bandages, whiskey. Ready for bile-filled bellies, bones badly broken then badly set. Mites and lice, scurvy’s blackening bruises, bloody toothless mouths, wreaked livers, weakened lungs, busted noses, cauliflower ears, the ooze of puss from open wounds. Steady stream. They’d queue outside. First stop before pubs, whores, dinner, a bath, while they still had cash in hand. He’d ask them in to his room, seat each sailor on the table. Quick check then set to work, probe, mend, amputate, medicate, bandage, eradicate. Their breath stinking of rum and rot. Their talk of storms, endless seas, loss. Some arrived wearing death’s ragged coat, he’d refuse their pay. Peer, pry, then lie, ply with more whisky and send off with a pat. 100
The Well-Kept Grave Bobbi Sinha-Morey She had the most beautiful, well-kept grave. The old woman who lived across Krista Lane lies there, and now all her grown children are packing up memories, wrapping her glass figurines, framed pictures of grandchildren, her favorite paintings and her self-portrait made by her own hands. Mother of dynasties; she collected silver bells and brass bells and theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d strike like gongs with handles of dragons. She died more quickly than the world could imagine, held by some spell under the great bell of time. A few forsythia petals have fallen from her great vase, like the gold clothes of angels who dressed in a hurry, then left. Her urn, inlaid with its perfect red jewel, more valuable by far than any ruby. Anyone who gazed upon her always noticed how her black hair spread like a silk fan, the blue threads, the purple. Now her closest family stand by her grave in a perfect circle, under the perfect circle of the golden sun her key has opened. The flowers are folding themselves up like clothes in the tiny cupboards of grass, her world like a blue drop of water you hold in your hand, entirely gone.
In Her Small Granite House Bobbi Sinha-Morey She walks only at night through fog or dreams, a quiet air of propriety all about her. To her, the sky is bluer than a children’s book, and order is soothing, like a drug or sweet tea. Each small granite house in her neighborhood boasts its carved angel or garden gnome. All she has is an American flag, and she rarely goes outside of her home, peering from behind the plain fabric of her curtains at other people’s windows. She was wiser as a child, not so fearful as she is now, and when she was little she’d hold her only doll so close; it had deep brown haunted eyes, dark blonde hair down to its shoulders, and she’d wondered what went wrong as she’d gotten older. Her few relatives come see her by the gravelly path, set down like a long black stone in a plain old brooch. And it is strange how the one thing their fingers long to touch is not a lemon on her tree, so yellow and ripe, but the one fallen to the grass, half lost, or the lone dandelion, gone to seed. Her adult children are
there not to argue with her, but to mend loveâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s fabric.
A Life Once Lived Bobbi Sinha-Morey Confined to her home, an oxygen machine by her bed, angry at herself that she can no longer drive, she waits for her caregiver every day, life around her having dissolved: people, French shoes, aspirin in water, a mist the sun burned away. Now in her mid eighties, hair a halo of white, she remembers loving pink candy hearts, hoarding them, counting them, her pink abacus of health, letting each one slowly melt on her tongue. She, a miser of medicines, survives on what sweet things are left to her as best she can, and the mirror in her bathroom holds her face like two Italian, tapering hands. A lady once of porcelain skin, ebony hair; her hands dotted with age spots she couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t hold back, blue veins in each one like a map. In her dreams she is twenty-five again and wearing her jewels; a lifetime sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll never forget, and now in her senior years, memories are reaching up to her lips. In her porch window the best part of the day is waiting for the sunâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s afterimage.
North Korea 1951 Richard Smith We launched from the catapult in the darkness for another night sortie over North Korea. We fly in total radio silence, as we arrive near our target zone we see gun flashes from the twenty millimeter cannon, the enemy has been waiting. We fly a pass over the last flash area spotted before darkness covered them and spray a few hound dog rockets hoping for contact. There is a sudden terrific explosion, “not on the ground”, but beneath our wings. We have been found, we have taken a major strike. I notice something warm creeping down my leg inside my flight suit. I feel no pain, so I must be alright. But the warm feeling spreads, I can’t breathe the way I should, I know I don’t need oxygen at this altitude, I’m suddenly very dizzy I can hear the engine running very rough and the pilot seems to be saying “we’re out of it,” then yells, “we’re going down.” The engine quit and everything was silent but for the air flailing past our falling plane. Sometime later when I regain consciousness, I don’t recognize any one, I don’t know where I am.
A man in green clothing said to me, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Son, are you finally coming back to us?â&#x20AC;?
One More Drive Geo. Staley Four and one-half hours out of Portland well into eastern Washington after miles and miles of rolling grassland and a lull in the conversation she says—more than asks— “Where the hell are we?” After a few moments and nearly 41 years of marriage he says, “Here. Together.”
Such Weird Creatures Miranda Stephens 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32.
They were such weird creatures. We knew about them, But ignored their existence because of their many trifles. However, a day, the day, did come from the long wait A wait that should have never ended. The wait to meet these known but new creatures. We just didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know nor could have predicted their strange behaviors. Our communication was clear, but their intent was not. We read their language as best as we could, Yet their faĂ§ade was too great even for our eyes. We offered peace and accepted the gift. We asked for an offer and given nothing. As time passed, the wall of their lies crumpled, Torn and eroded away like the pressure we gave was wind and water. Their fear ignited the flame of ignorance and hate. The unknowing gave way to the collapse of good judgment, As if it were never there before our approach. It then all began, When things fell apart. To bring themselves up and above us, As if it were our true place, they dragged us to the bottom. To establish their freedom on us, They incarnated themselves and us within walls. To obtain smiling white peace, They brought us wailing toxic war. Only their truth can be reviled, Because they are easier to spot in the oceans of their lies. In order to build, to maintain their existence We, the original, must first be destroyed. They protect their overly precious life, By committing hateful and righteous murder. They believe more in the unexplainable beings in the sky and clouds, 108
33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40.
Than the very science they devised with tests and facts. A few were given more everything, And the many were given less of nothing. Their concept of value, Made us worthless. Their words spoke and preached of holy creation, Their actions cried and roared dark of destruction. Humans are such weird creatures.
Oh, Man! Robin Stratton When man became fully erect, his bipedal method of locomotion took him to the savannas where he hunted and made fire. During a Pleistocene Ice Age he walked from Siberia to North America. Used to be when he arrived heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d bring flowers, but now he mostly sits and watches television.
Results Robin Stratton While I await biopsy results I decide to that no matter what the news is, I am, from this moment on, going to enjoy every sunrise, every trip to the beach, every licking puppy. The doctor comes in and smiles. Negative. Giddy with relief, I call a few people and tell them the good news. It’s Friday and I’m in a hurry to get home and start celebrating, but the traffic is horrendous. When someone ahead of me doesn’t move when the light changes, I honk my horn. What are you waiting for, asshole, an invitation?
The Skeptic Tank George Stewart Alone and annoyed, he awoke to the chorus of a thousand voices, as he had every time now, for just about as long as he’d remembered. They shuffled swimmingly, a golden orange infirmity of existence ricocheting back and forth, from one side of the box to the other. They had all been saying different things. Some screaming, some crying, some laughing, but when confined to the restrictions of the box their voices became one basic, boring, blast of noise that ultimately wasn’t even worth attempting to comprehend. Occasionally, he would try to make out the sounds, in hopes they contained some sort of information that could give him some basic insight as to why they were there, what their purpose was, and who the strange, lungless, meat-sacks were who held them captive. Ultimately, the information usually proved to be pointless. There was one theory floating around, that air drinkers were Gods, those who followed it believed the box was some form of aquatic purgatory. Some of the other golden backs like him, believed that if you’re good, if you didn’t swim about bumping into others, if you ate your fair share at meal time and no more, and of course if you didn’t consume the flesh of fallen friends, the gods would smile down upon you. Every so often these Gods or, air drinking meat-bags as some of us liked to call them, would pick up a net and use it to make contact with our world. With it, they carried us off. Our living, our dead, it didn’t matter. The dead were dumped in a small, grey, box on the floor but the living had two options, in the bubble or another box. The Gods theorists believed that the bubble fish were granted true freedom, free to roam worlds of both air and water as escorted by the gods themselves. That was all a bunch of algae. He’d seen what Gods did to golden-backs, and so far the only system in place determining if you ended up in a strange bubble, the trash, or another box filled with bigger and scarier fish didn’t care how kind or good you were. He’d seen plenty of good golden
backs get thrown in with the crabs, and plenty of bad ones get taken home by smiling little gods with ribbons in their hair. As he was thinking this, a smiling little god made her way to the front of the tank. Soon, the net of the gods entered the sickening sanctum of the golden backs. They swam in a constant confusion. Some in fear of the net, screaming and crying, older golden-back attempting to charge into the net in hopes to protect the younger, some charging straight for it. But him? He just sat there. He would not play this game. He would sit, he would shit, he would eat, and he would die. Living his life in the box until the drifts and the waves carried his body to its surface.
Strawberry Picking Season Daryl Sznyter I wish you spoke about me the way you talk about pies at the farmer’s market. You disapprove of curse words yet can’t stop yourself from moaning fuck, they’re so good. Can’t the lovingness of my ribcage pressed against yours parallel the warmth of a broken lattice? When my arms move around you and in you and through you, leaving you sticky with sweat, does it evoke the same emotion as jam dribbling down your chin on a humid day, staining your white t-shirt with sin? I notice the unexpected smile break your lips when you cut the first slice. If only your face flushed like that in response to my naked flesh.
Snow Day Marne Wilson My dog doesn’t want me to write this poem. He thinks we need to leave for the park right now, for if we wait too long, other dogs will be the first to mark the virgin snowfall with paw prints, pee, and poop. He knows there are more important things than the writing and reading of poems, especially on winter’s first white morning while the wind whistles through the trees. Let others sit by the fire sipping cocoa; we were made to explore. For once, I admit he is 100% correct in his argument, and so this poem ends, sooner than I’d expected but not a moment too soon for him.
Puffins, Day Five Diana Woodcock After dinner, the captain calls us to the deck, slows the ship beside steep inaccessible bird cliffs. I count twelve Atlantic puffins settled on narrow ledges among uncountable Northern fulmars, Brünnich’s guillemots, Little auks and Arctic skuas, Blacklegged kittiwakes. Ecstatic, having seen a dozen of the few puffins choosing to breed in the high Arctic marine zone, ship sailing on past snow-streaked mountains, I sit an hour later beside my porthole, counting fulmars sailing with us, marveling how the oldest puffin ringed here in this timeless place, steeped in ice and grace, was thirty-six. Sheltered in my ark of a Barquentine tall ship named Antigua, back among the familiar joys – sea, clouds, wind – turning again away from politics and other irritants as the midnight sun wears on, to rest where every sense is nourished, all exhaustion and distress vanishing as the mind focuses on the clown-like faces of sea parrots breeding on steep cliffs. Oh to live on that island near the Arctic Circle, to celebrate the awaited day each April when, 116
they say, 200,000 puffins return to Lovund to nest until mid-August. I would rest happily in their midst, trusting in their time-keeping.
Mapping the Empty Lot Catherine Young where my grandmotherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s house stood is like tonguing a lost tooth. I cannot find my bearings. Only broken boulevard flagstones say there was a home here once. Gravel replaces grassy yard. I am at loss to restore the snapdragon-lined passage from hedge in front to where apple trees blossomed in back; the place along the fence where we children scavenged pears and plums from the old lady next door who yelled whenever we got near. I pace the ghost house where barrels of apple wine once convened in the basement and jam jars dribbled sweetness along wooden shelves, while upstairs at the dining room table, we gathered for Thanksgiving. I strip veneer from memory and try to measure the gap in years, all that happened in this place: the fears for sons gone to war, the path worn from mailbox to door. Their mother prayed over photos of them in uniform on the living room walls while she waited to caress their faces. The sons returned from their hidden hells emptied, their souls scattered, shattered by mortars. Time moved on without them, as the shells of their lives filled the halls. Grandmother sat in the rocking chair, swaying back and forth on her crumbling front porch floor where she still hovers. And I, on empty gravel, still search for the door. 118
Dear Sara Catherine Young I still carry your first kicks in my hands. The vibration rings out, says you are coming, you are coming. She was eighteen and Catholic, far from her family. We were housemates, we were bees; we were butterflies who felt the flutter of you. She kept her promise while we kept watch, fed you both stirfry, saw you grow; let you go. Do you have your mother’s brilliant blue eyes, her surprised expression each time she listened to any question? Do you have children; are you a mother, too? She has children who don’t know you. But we remember. Wherever you are in this world of bells and flowers, you carry the echoes of our voices in bone, and I still bear your first kicks in my hands, Sara, though that’s probably not your name now. The answer to the question you’ve carried all these years is this: You were borne in love. Happy Birthday.
Poem that Only Wants his Bullets Matt Zambito When the activist wearing a Santa hat outside of the Walmart Supercenter asked if I’d like to sign a petition to protect gun rights, I thought, From what?, you radical Christian terrorist ..., and then thought better of it than get honest with a grown man so afraid he’ll lose his death gadgets he’s willing to be ridiculed in poetry, the most ridiculous of all writing even when it’s just half-right as rain, angles, bills of good things, true things, best.
Whipsnake James Zimmerman there is a silence that slips every day through the sound barrier crawls like a rock dying in the wind sits like a whipsnake drying in the sun has no words to keep it split in two and splintered into thinking there is a silence that shares the revelry of a moonless sky ties itself to nothingness with raveling thread that you will never hear even when I cut it into pop-in-the-mouth pieces and lay it on the page right in front of you
Obituary of a Successful Man James Zimmerman ate his morning standing up in the dewy breath of dawn read his bitter coffee black in headlines of the day ahead hand on the prize, he always said eye to the wheel, ear to the drumbeat, every footfall lined in gold survived by his loving trust account, beloved luxury sedan, faithful handmade suits, vintage wines mansion on the water and when the earth turned inward on itself, rolling up its carpet at the end of days he only saw the sun drop into black of night never felt the fire behind the map of stars pinholes where the brilliant light beyond is shining through
Contributors Notes Freshwater Literary Journal 2017 Julia Alexander is a part time poet and a full time crybaby. She’s published a handful of chapbooks online including, The Brake isn’t on your Side of the Car, and A Giant in this House. Her first book of poetry, The Dirt I Rise From, was published in 2015 by Paint Poetry Press. Currently, she is on the poetry panel for Long River Review. She previously edited for Freshwater Literary Journal and Insert Lit Mag Here. Find out more about Julia at juliaalexanderpoetry.com. Robert Beveridge makes noise (xterminal.bandcamp.com) and writes poetry just outside Cleveland, Ohio. He went through a messy divorce with Facebook some months ago, and as a result, his relationship with time is much improved. Recent/upcoming appearances in Ghost City Review, Minor Literature[s], and Barking Sycamores, among others. William C. Blome writes poetry and short fiction. He lives wedged between Baltimore and Washington, DC, and he is a master’s degree graduate of the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars. His work has previously seen the light of day in such fine little magazines as Poetry London, PRISM International, Fiction Southeast, Roanoke Review, Salted Feathers, and The California Quarterly. Leah Browning is the author of three short nonfiction books for teens and pre-teens and four chapbooks. Her fiction and poetry have recently appeared in Santa Ana River Review, Coldnoon, Bellows American Review, Chagrin River Review, Fiction Southeast, Toad, First Class Literary Magazine, 100 Word Story, Waypoints, Wigleaf, Glassworks Magazine, Amygdala, and Mud Season Review; with audio and video recordings in The Poetry Storehouse; and in the anthologies The Doll Collection from Terrapin Books and Nothing to Declare: A Guide to the Flash Sequence from White Pine Press. In addition to writing, Browning serves as editor of the Apple Valley Review.
After twenty years in and around California, John F. Buckley once again lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with his wife. His publications include various poems, two chapbooks, the collection, Sky Sandwiches, and (with Martin Ott), Poetsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Guide to America and Yankee Broadcast Network. His website is johnfbuckley.net. James Chang is a 16-year-old junior at the Horace Mann School in New York. His work has previously been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the New York Times, and Teen Ink. In his free time, he enjoys playing the saxophone. Benjamin J. Chase has published poems in Freshwater, The Helix, Windhover, and several other journals. A Connecticut native, he teaches English at Christian Heritage High School in Trumbull and is working on an MFA in Poetry at Western Connecticut State University. Gabriel Chase is a 27-year-old insurance agent at an independent agency in Essex, Connecticut. Born and raised in Haddam, Connecticut, he attended Wheaton College in Illinois and graduated in 2012 cum laude with a BA in Communications. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his wife and best friend Heather Chase, drumming for his rock band Digital Exile, crossfitting, and writing poems when random inspirations come. Joe Cottonwood has worked as a carpenter, plumber, and electrician for most of his life. Nights, he writes. His most recent book is 99 Jobs: Blood, Sweat, and Houses. His website is joecottonwood.com Jamie Crepeau is a writer who works full time as a machinist in Connecticut. He developed his writing skill by taking classes at Asnuntuck and Manchester Community Colleges. His poems have been published in magazines such as Freshwater, The Helix, Fresh Ink, Crab Creek Review, and Broad River Review. He is currently part of a Connecticut writing group, Downstreet Poets and Writers. He has a Bachelorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Degree in Architecture from the University of
Hartford and a Certificate in Manufacturing Technology from Asnuntuck Community College. Meghan DePeau’s work will be appearing in forthcoming editions of the Common Ground Review and Shapes. She won Common Ground Review’s annual poetry contest in 2016. She also received the Outstanding Young Poet Award and won the annual writing contest at Manchester Community College during the 2015-16 academic year. Brian Fanelli is the author of one chapbook, Front Man (Big Table Publishing), and the full-length collections All That Remains (Unbound Content) and Waiting for the Dead to Speak (NYQ Books). His poetry, essays, and book reviews have been published by The Los Angeles Times, World Literature Today, Main Street Rag, The Paterson Literary Review, Kentucky Review, and elsewhere. He has an MFA from Wilkes University and a PhD from Binghamton University. He teaches at Lackawanna College. Claire T. Field: I was born and grew up in Yazoo City, Mississippi, the town where the hills meet the Mississippi Delta. My first poetry book (Mississippi Delta Women in Prism) was published by NewSouth Books in Montgomery, Alabama. My second collection of poetry (Southern Aunts: The 1950s) was published by Tillandsia Press. My third collection of poems (Indigo Blues) was published by The Origami Poetry Project. My creative nonfiction book (A Delta Vigil: Yazoo City, Mississippi, the 1950s) was published July 2014. My most recent creative nonfiction book (Mississippi Delta Memories) was published 2016 by Solomon & George. Joseph Frare: I am a community college student living in the Connecticut area. My first published short story, “Delivering the Peace,” appeared in last year’s issue of Freshwater. As for hobbies, I enjoy hiking and weightlifting, as well as indulging myself in a good book while eating a scone and drinking tea. Disclaimer: none of the latter is true but sounded very appropriate for ending the sentence. I haven’t had a scone or a cup of tea for years.
Taylor Graham is a volunteer search-and-rescue dog handler in the Sierra Nevada, and serves as El Dorado County’s first poet laureate (2016-2018). She’s included in the anthologies Villanelles (Everyman’s Library) and California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present (Santa Clara University). Her latest book is Uplift (Cold River Press, 2016). John Grey is an Australian poet and U.S. resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Stillwater Review and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Cape Rock, and Spoon River Poetry Review. Jessica Handly teaches English at Asnuntuck Community College. She holds a Master of Arts in Liberal Arts, has worked as a professional writing tutor, held seminars on writer’s block, led fiction writing and journalism clubs, and has served as a reviewer and tutor for other authors. She feels her greatest achievement is that she has inspired young authors to read and write. Jack Harvey has been writing poetry since he was sixteen and lives in a small town near Albany and was born and worked in upstate New York. He is retired from doing whatever he was doing before he retired. Joey Hedger: After spending my life in Florida, moving from coast to coast, I recently came to Northern Virginia to purse love, dreams, and those sorts of things. Now, I’m working as an editor, and my own writing has been recently published in Jelly Bucket, Pilcrow & Dagger, Bitterzoet Magazine, and Albion Review. Ruth Holzer’s poetry has appeared previously in Freshwater, as well as in Connecticut River Review, Journal of New Jersey Poets, The South Carolina Review, Slant, Blue Unicorn and THEMA. Her work has also been published in many anthologies. A six-time Pushcart nominee, she is the author of the chapbooks The First Hundred Years, The Solitude of Cities (Finishing Line Press, 2004, 2006) and A Woman Passing (Green Fuse Press, 2014.)
M.J. Iuppa is the Director of the Visual and Performing Arts Minor Program and Lecturer in Creative Writing at St. John Fisher College. From 2000 to present, she has been a part time lecturer in Creative Writing at The College at Brockport. Since 1986, she has been a teaching artist, working with students, K-12, in Rochester, New York, and the surrounding area. She has three full-length poetry collections, most recently Small Worlds Floating (2016) as well as Within Reach (2010) both from Cherry Grove Collections; Night Traveler (Foothills Publishing, 2003); and five chapbooks. She lives on a small farm in Hamlin New York. James Croal Jackson’s poems have appeared in magazines including The Bitter Oleander, Rust + Moth, and Columbia College Literary Review. He lives in Columbus, Ohio. Visit him at jimjakk.com. Seth Jani currently resides in Seattle, Washington, and is the founder of Seven Circle Press (sevencirclepress.com). His own work has been published widely in such places as The Chiron Review, The Hamilton Stone Review, Hawai`i Pacific Review, VAYAVYA, Gingerbread House, Gravel, and Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry. More about him and his work can be found at sethjani.com. Reading well-written stories inspires Lynn Johnson’s writing. Mostly, she enjoys memoir writing because she loves sharing stories of personal adventures and ordinary, everyday events. Lynn is a retired elementary school teacher. Returning to school at Asnuntuck Community College and taking classes in Creative Writing and Public Speaking has been a great experience. She and her husband, David, have three wonderful, grown children and twelve absolutely amazing grandchildren who provide endless ideas for her writing. She is not planning another zip line adventure! John P. (Jack) Kristofco has published over six hundred poems and forty short stories in about two hundred different publications, including: Folio, Rattle, The Bryant Literary Review, The Cimarron 127
Review, Grasslimb, Iodine, The MacGuffin, Sierra Nevada Review, Blueline, Slant, Snowy Egret, and Poem. He has published three collections of poetry with a fourth due out next spring. He is currently working on a collection of short stories for publication next year. Jack has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize five times. He lives in Highland Heights, Ohio, with his wife Kathy. Martin H. Levinson is a member of the Authors Guild, National Book Critics Circle, and the book review editor for ETC: A Review of General Semantics. He has published nine books and numerous articles and poems in various publications. He holds a PhD from NYU and lives in Forest Hills, New York. Laurinda Lind shivers, writes, and teaches in New Yorkâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s North Country. Some poetry acceptances and publications were in Antithesis, Ascent, Bindweed, Blue Fifth Review, Brushfire, Chiron Review, Cold Mountain Review, Comstock Review, Conclave, Constellations, Dryland, Far Off Places, Forage, Liminality, Main Street Rag, Mobius, Moonsick, Mudfish, Off the Coast, Oracle, Origins, Paterson Literary Review, Plainsongs, Sanskrit, Ship of Fools, Thema, Triggerfish, Two Thirds North, Unbroken, and Welter. Richard Luftig: I am a former professor of educational psychology and special education at Miami University in Ohio now residing in California. I am a recipient of the Cincinnati Post-Corbett Foundation Award for Literature and a semi-finalist for the Emily Dickinson Society Award. My poems have appeared in numerous literary journals in the United States and internationally in Canada, Australia, Europe, and Asia. Two of my poems recently appeared in Ten Years of Dos Madres Press. DS MaolalaĂ was born in Ireland and currently lives in Toronto, where he works maintenance for a hospital and spends his off hours drinking wine. His first collection of poems, Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden, was published by the Encircle Press in 2016, and he has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
Jeffrey H. MacLachlan has recent work in New Ohio Review, Eleven Eleven, The William & Mary Review, among others. He teaches literature at Georgia College & State University. He can be followed on Twitter @jeffmack. Amee Marcantonio: Creative writing is my passion. I have been writing poetry for many years and this semester took on fiction as well. It has been a wonderful adventure! I am currently a senior at Southern Connecticut State University, getting my degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, with focuses in Psychology, Sociology, and Creative Writing. In the future, I would like to use writing in therapy, knowing that it is an important tool to help in the healing process. Polly Martin: I’m a 46-year-old single mother of a 19-year-old daughter, Paige. I have returned to Asnuntuck to obtain an Associate’s degree in Human Services. While writing is not my major, I enjoy telling stories. I discovered this while taking my first English class since 1988. Starting college last year was one of the best accomplishments I have done to date. I am learning and trying so many new things. My plan is to continue this pattern well after graduation. Susan H. Maurer lives and writes on East 15th Street in New York City and invites us to visit the home of Anaïs Nin on our next NYC trip. Terence McCaffrey’s poetry has appeared in the Connecticut River Review and Helix. It has also been featured on Autumn Sky Poetry Daily. He lives and writes in Middletown, Connecticut. John McKernan—who grew up in Omaha Nebraska in the middle of the USA—is now a retired comma herder/phonics coach after teaching 41 years at Marshall University. He lives in Florida and West Virginia. His most recent book is a selected poems, Resurrection of the Dust. He has published poems in The Atlantic Monthly, The Paris Review, The New Yorker, Virginia Quarterly
Review, The Journal, Antioch Review, Guernica, Field, and many other magazines Bob Meszaros taught English at Hamden High School in Hamden, Connecticut, for thirty-two years. He retired from high school teaching in June of 1999. During the 70s and 80s, his poems appeared in a number of literary journals, such as En Passant and Voices International. In 2000, he began teaching part time at Quinnipiac University, and he began once again to submit his work for publication. His poems have subsequently appeared in The Connecticut Review, Main Street Rag, Red Wheelbarrow, Tar River Poetry, Concho River Review, and many other literary journals. Widely published on both sides of the Atlantic, James B. Nicola has several poetry awards and nominations to his credit, with recent poems in Freshwater, the Southwest and Atlanta Reviews, and Rattle. His nonfiction book, Playing the Audience, won a Choice award. His first full-length poetry collection, Manhattan Plaza, has just been released; his second, Stage to Page: Poems from the Theater, was published in 2016. More at sites.google.com/site/jamesbnicola. Victoria Orifice is a Liberal Arts major at Asnuntuck Community College. By her own admission, she should probably be studying right now. Simon Perchik: My poetry has also appeared in Partisan Review, The Nation, The New Yorker, and elsewhere. Thomas Pescatore can sometimes be seen wandering along the Walt Whitman bridge or down the sidewalks of Philadelphiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s old Skid Row. He might have left a poem or two behind to mark his trail. He maintains a poetry blog: amagicalmistake.blogspot.com. Barb Reynolds: My degree is in psychology, and I was a child abuse investigator for 23 years. My chapbook Boxing Without Gloves was published by Finishing Line Press in 2014. My poems have
appeared in A&U Magazine, CALYX Journal, Breakwater Review, and Apogee Journal. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Marzelle Robertson is a retired English teacher and school counselor living with her husband in East Texas. Her poems have appeared in Arts and Letters, Borderlands, Cyphers, The Evansville Review, First Things, and numerous other journals. New Hampshire poet Russell Rowland is widely published in small journals. A seven-time Pushcart Prize nominee, he is a past winner of Old Red Kimono’s Paris Lake Poetry Contest, and twice winner of both Descant’s Baskerville Publishers Poetry Prize, and the Plainsongs Award. His chapbooks, Train of All Cabooses and Mountain Blue, are available from Finishing Line Press. Kathleen Roy: I graduated from Manchester Community College in 1983 with an Associate in Science Degree in Occupational Therapy Assisting. I am a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. I have enjoyed a long career, working in the medical field. Through the years, I’ve worked two jobs and raised three daughters. I retired in 2012. Now that I finally have free time, I’ve returned to MCC. I’m taking classes in Fiction and Non-Fiction Creative Writing. This is my third semester. Now, more than ever, I appreciate the opportunity I have to continue learning. Ryan Russin is a Liberal Arts student at Asnuntuck Community College and is a professional painter and amateur writer. “The Device” is his first submitted work of fiction to a publication. Karen Sandberg: I’ve been published in Main Street Rag, a literary journal from North Carolina, and Penchant Anthology, from the Northfield, Minnesota, Women Poets, and other Minnesota small press magazines. While I like to travel, I live and write from Minnesota. According to David Wagoner, “After just over a year of writing, Heidi Seaborn has quickly gained recognition as a remarkable fresh voice, with a powerful lyrical quality to her writing.” Her poetry 131
has or will appear in Gravel, West Trade Review, Into the Void, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Gold Man Review, Carbon Culture Review, 3Elements Review, in several anthologies, and as the chapbook Body Politic, published by Mount Analogue Press, on a Seattle bus, and elsewhere. Angel Simmons: I am not new to the college experience. I have gone to different community colleges across the country. I love learning and, in a way, teaching others through my life experiences. I am a veteran of the United States Air Force Reserve, completing safely four tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. I am still finding my footing in where I want my life to go. I do know that since entering adulthood, I have a passion for the written word, primarily poetry. Bobbi Sinha-Morey lives in the peaceful city of Brookings, Oregon. There she writes poetry in the morning and at night, always at her leisure. Her work has appeared in a variety of places such as Plainsongs, The Path, Taproot Literary Review, The Wolfian, Pireneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Fountain, The Laughing Dog, Page & Spine, and Black Fox Literary Magazine. Her books of poetry, Crest of Light, White Tail, The Glass Swan, and others are available at writewordsinc.com. In addition, her work has been nominated for Best of the Net and her website is located at hbobbisinhamorey.wordpress.com. She loves aerobics, knitting, reading, and taking walks on the beach with her husband. Richard Smith has been writing poetry since 1985 and did his first four open mic readings in Las Vegas in 1987. He has read in many bookstores, coffee shops, libraries, and on Pittsfield Community TV for the last thirteen years, and has been involved with Freshwater since its beginning. Geo. Staley is retired from 25 years of teaching writing and literature at Portland Community College. He had also taught in New England, Appalachia, and on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation. His poetry has appeared in Chest, Four Quarters, Loonfeather, RE:AL Artes Liberales, New Mexico Humanities 132
Review, Fireweed, Oregon East, Evening Street Review, and many others. Arc of the Ear is his third chapbook of poems and was released by Finishing Line Press in July 2015. Growing up, Miranda Stephens wanted to be a veterinarian and attended an agricultural high school with animal science classes. She eventually figured out what she wanted to be: a comic book artist! To practice creating good stories, she began writing short stories with characters that you could meet in real life. She will soon complete her Associates Degree in Fine Arts and then continue further study of art and literature. Robin Stratton has been a writing coach in the Boston area for over 20 years. She is the author of four novels (including one that was a National Indie Excellence Book Award finalist), two collections of poetry and short fiction, and a writing guide. A four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, she’s been published in Word Riot, 63 Channels, Antithesis Common, Poor Richard’s Almanac(k), Blink-Ink, Pig in a Poke, Chick Flicks, Up the Staircase, Shoots and Vines, and many others. She is Acquisitions Editor for Big Table Publishing Company, Senior Editor of Boston Literary Magazine, and Director of the Newton Writing and Publishing Center. George Stewart: I am a 22-year-old writer, English tutor, comedian, and sandwich artist from Brooklyn, New York, currently based in the New Haven county area attending Housatonic Community College. There, I serve as Chairmen of the Student Activities Committee and President of the Literature Club. I am a tutor at Housatonic’s English department working under Professor Karyn Smith. I have been writing since the age of 14 with mostly short scripts, but since then, I’ve moved into just about all forms of writing. Daryl Sznyter received her MFA in poetry from The New School and her BA in creative writing from Pepperdine University. Previous and forthcoming publications include Word Fountain, Best American Poetry blog, Noble/Gas Qtrly, Bluestem Magazine,
Eunoia Review and others. She currently resides in Dunmore, Pennsylvania. Marne Wilson grew up on the plains of North Dakota and now lives in the foothills of West Virginia. Her poetry has appeared in such places as Atlanta Review, Poetry East, and The South Carolina Review. Her first chapbook, The Bovine Daycare Center, was recently published by Finishing Line Press. Diana Woodcock is the author of two full-length collections of poetry, most recently Under the Spell of a Persian Nightingale. Her first book, Swaying on the Elephant’s Shoulders, won the 2010 Vernice Quebodeaux International Women’s Poetry Prize. Her third, Tread Softly, is forthcoming from FutureCycle Press. Chapbooks include Beggar in the Everglades, Desert Ecology: Lessons and Visions, Tamed by the Desert, In the Shade of the Sidra Tree, Mandala, and Travels of a Gwai Lo. Since receiving an MFA degree in Creative Writing in 2004, she has been teaching creative writing, environmental literature, and composition at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar/School of the Arts. Previously, she spent nearly eight years working in Tibet, Macau, and on the Thai-Cambodian border. She is a PhD candidate (creative writing/poetry) at Lancaster University. Catherine Young is fascinated by perception of landscape and how it shapes our movements in the world. After having worked as a national park ranger, teacher, farmer, and mother, she completed her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia. Her essays, poetry and children’s fiction appears in Imagination & Place: Cartography, Hippocampus, About Place, Wisconsin Midwest Review, and Cricket, among others. Catherine is currently seeking a publisher for her landscape memoir of coal country. Matt Zambito: My full-length collection, The Fantastic Congress of Oddities, was published in 2014 by Cherry Grove Collections, and I’ve written two chapbooks, Guy Talk and Checks & Balances, both out from Finishing Line Press. New poems are forthcoming in
Pembroke Magazine, Little Star, Writers Without Borders, Slipstream, and elsewhere. James K. Zimmerman is an award-winning poet and Pushcart Prize nominee. His work appears in The Evansville Review, Confrontation, Atlanta Review, Nimrod, The Bellingham Review, Vallum, Kestrel, The Cape Rock, Oberon, and The MacGuffin, among others. He is the author of Little Miracles (Passager, 2015) and Family Cookout (Comstock, 2016), winner of the 2015 Jessie Bryce Niles Chapbook Prize.
Notice of Non-discrimination: Asnuntuck Community College does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religious creed, age, sex, national origin, marital status, ancestry, present or past history of mental disorder, learning disability or physical disability, political belief, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression or genetic information in its programs and activities. In addition, the College does not discriminate in employment on the additional basis of veteran status or criminal record. The following individuals have been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies: Yhara Zelinka, Title IX Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org (860) 253-3092 and Cheryl Cyr, 504/ADA Coordinator, email@example.com (860) 253-3045, Asnuntuck Community College, 170 Elm Street, Enfield, CT 06082. 135 Â