a magazine of literature and art
a publication of Rowan Universityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s master of arts in writing graduate program
The staff of Glassworks magazine would like to thank:
Rowan University’s Master of Arts in Writing Graduate Program
Rowan University’s Writing Arts Department
The Glassworks advisory board: Jeffrey Maxson, Jennifer Courtney,
Drew Kopp, Martin Itzkowitz Cover art: “His Name Was Always Buddy” by Carlos Ramos To see more of this artist, vistit: www.theCarlosRamos.com Cover Design: Karen Halloway __________________________________________________________ Glassworks is available both digitally and in print. See our website for details: www.RowanGlassworks.org _________________________________________________________
Glassworks accepts poetry, fiction, nonfiction, art, photography, short video/film & audio relevant to literature. See submission guidelines for more information: www.RowanGlassworks.org ________________________________________________________ Glassworks is a publication of Rowan University’s Master of Arts in Writing Graduate Program. Correspondences can be sent to: Glassworks c/o Ron Block 205 Hawthorn Hall Rowan University Glassboro, NJ 08028 E-mail: GlassworksMagazine@gmail.com Copyright © 2012 Glassworks
Glassworks maintains First Serial Rights for publication in our journal and Electronic Rights for reproduction of works in Glassworks and/or Glassworks-affiliated materials. All other rights remain with the artist.
glassworks Spring 2012 issue three
Master of Arts in Writing Graduate Program Rowan University
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Ron Block MANAGING EDITOR Manda Frederick CONTENT EDITORS Myra Schiffmann Samantha Brown COPY EDITORS Laura Parise Tamikka Malloy Karen Halloway Michael Baccam GRAPHIC DESIGNER Karen Holloway
TABLE OF CONTENTS POETRY Robert Wrigley: “Dada Doodads” .....................................................................................................................................................6
James Grabill: “Crossing” ......................................................................................................................................................................8
James Grabill: “Inter-Resilience” ........................................................................................................................................................9
James Grabill: “Scent of the Sweet Peas” ......................................................................................................................................10
Russell Thorburn: “If We Were Art” ..........................................................................................................................................20
Russell Thorburn: “Hotel Memory” ...............................................................................................................................................21
Carolyne Wright: “Sunday Morning in the City” .........................................................................................................................26
Russell Thorburn: “Rain and Thunder” .......................................................................................................................................27
Carolyne Wright: “Aubade: Still Life” ..............................................................................................................................................28
Carolyne Wright: “Round: Mirror” ...................................................................................................................................................30
Oliver de la Paz: “Nocturne with A Séance at the End of the Ocean” ....................................................................................32
Oliver de la Paz: “Nocturne with a Stack of Trepanned Skulls Facing Right” .........................................................................35
Oliver de la Paz: “Nocturne with Fletches Sounding Past” ........................................................................................................38
Don Shea: “Wrong”............................................................................................................................................................................1
Andrew Lam: “Slingshot” ...............................................................................................................................................................11
Benjamin Rosenbaum: “The Duck” ..............................................................................................................................................18
Madge McKeithen: “To Uzbekistan and Back” ............................................................................................................................3
Susanne Antonetta: “Dark Energy” ..............................................................................................................................................22
Kelly Madigan: “Instar” ...................................................................................................................................................................39
Carlos Ramos: “It’s Just a Flame” ....................................................................................................................................................5
Carlos Ramos: “Just Let Me Rule You” ........................................................................................................................................19
Carlos Ramos “The Overlook” ......................................................................................................................................................24
Carlos Ramos: “Forever and Ever” ...............................................................................................................................................25
Carlos Ramos: “The Monolith” .....................................................................................................................................................31
Carlos Ramos: “Rock N’ Roll Bitch” ............................................................................................................................................34
INTERVIEW Manda Frederick: “Interview with Carlos Ramos” .....................................................................................................................48 glassworks v
Wrong Don Shea People who live in San Francisco don’t notice the views after a while. Like people who own ocean front houses. Alex and Jane don’t live in San Francisco. They get up early the first morning of their visit with Stefan and Cody and walk, naked, into the living room. The apartment is a floor-through in a Victorian on Pacific Heights. Alex and Jane hold hands and look out the living room windows, which are filled with San Francisco Bay. Even through the fog, the view is too sharp, too sweet. It makes them feel optimistic and sexy and sad. The sweep of it makes them uncomfortable in a happy bittersweet way. Stefan enters the living room behind them wearing a short blue silk kimono. “You look like sweet children,” he says. “Like Adam and Eve.” They all laugh.
~ These two couples are young and beautiful and the best of friends although a continent usually divides them. Stefan suggests a new breakfast place downtown. Jane and Cody get in the back of Stefan’s Jaguar so they can talk. Alex and Stefan get in the front. Everyone’s clothes, even their shoes, are beige and white and cream colored. Stefan likes to drive and restore classic Jaguars. He sells the one he’s got and buys another about once a year. All his Jaguars are white sedans and all are 1965 or earlier. This car is a 1963 sedan, an English model with the steering wheel on the right. The temperature is an absolutely perfect 72 degrees. On the hill before them, Coit Tower rises like a glistening sugar stick from the surrounding foliage. As they drive, the fog burns off and the sun begins to dance with the city and the bay and with their young hearts. Stefan opens the sun roof. Alex takes out his new sunglasses. In the upper right corner of the right lens, the word `ROLLINS’ is etched in white letters. He takes out a key chain to which a tiny Swiss Army knife is attached.
He opens one of the tiny blades and begins to scrape the letters from the glass. “Why are you doing that?” Stefan asks. “Aren’t you going to scratch the lens?” “Hey,” says Alex, “I have no arrangement with these Rollins people. Nobody’s approached me about representing their products. I’m willing to talk, you understand...” “I think I understand,” says Stefan. They all laugh again. It isn’t that funny. They just feel good.
~ The new breakfast place is across the street from the Drake Hotel. Alex volunteers to get a table while Stefan finds a parking place. Stefan pulls up in front of the Drake to drop Alex off. The doorman at the Drake is a tall, middle-aged man in a Beefeater uniform with a shattered, purple veined nose. As Alex steps out of the left side of the car, the doorman hurries forward. His red and yellow puffed sleeves bob and rustle as he moves. “You can’t park here,” he says in a loud quavering voice. “You’ll have to move.” “I know,” Alex says, and smiles. “We’re not parking.” He stands like an insouciant prince in his pale silks and cottons. “You didn’t hear me,” the doorman says, louder still. “You can’t park here, even for one minute!” Alex notices his eyes. The doorman’s eyes are screaming. “I heard you,” Alex says, still smiling. The Jaguar begins to move forward. The doorman’s head snaps around. He looks through the windshield and sees no one and no steering wheel on the left. Then he sees Stefan behind the wheel on the right. The doorman looks at Alex. His mouth works soundlessly. He appears to be in great pain. “I’m not wrong,” he says at last.
~ Others have discovered the new breakfast place. It bustles and chatters with youth and confidence, even white smiles and steaming vegetable dishes. Alex waves
wrong from the balcony table he has secured. “Let’s do a play, like we used to do,” says Cody when they are seated. “Let’s do some characters. Let’s be, I don’t know. Bosnians. Or figure skaters or lesbians.” “Let’s play ourselves, only more so,” says Stefan, smiling. “Let’s play our absolutely best selves, but without getting out of character. Without posing or posturing.” “Isn’t that what we do anyway?” asks Alex. Cody is delighted with the idea of a clever little improv. “How do you mean?” she asks Alex. “I mean, isn’t that what we really do in every situation involving other people?” asks Alex. “Don’t we try to sell some cleaned up version of what we know to be the whole private truth about ourselves?” That one stops the table. A little dip of quiet in the sea of buzz. Jane takes Alex’s hand. Stefan looks for the waiter. Cody smiles, looks away. Alex doesn’t know where that thought came from. He had no intention of getting heavy. He looks around the table, trying to catch someone’s eye. “I’m not wrong,” he says at last, then realizes that no one else will get it.
To Uzbekistan and Back Madge McKeithen He is no better and no worse, but he is free of Lethe’s curse: his warm hand makes a human pledge. -Anna Akhmatova* Why Uzbekistan? When people asked, and they all did, I would say that I was concerned about income. Other things, too, of course, but income I could do something about. Parents in their eighties in an excellent senior living facility in NC, a son sick for 15 of his 29 years settled into a terrific residential community in GA, the other son happily working in Moscow, contemplating grad school, the husband gone, remarried, the two books I had been working on eluding me. Why not go? Offers came from other international schools, but Tashkent had the head of school I knew best and had reason to admire. Living expenses would be low, salary and benefits good, and the job—working with motivated special needs high school students, great. The university in New York where I had been happily teaching for seven years readily shifted my courses to online; I would have one full time job and one part-time job. Adventure was the word everyone around me used. “Terrific, Mom,” Ike, our older son (my former husband and I have two) said. “It means you’re not so worried about me.” More than half his life now, living with a still-undiagnosed degenerative illness, Ike talks less as the years pass; his speech has become aphoristic and extracted—pithy, sometimes funny. Clearly he wants his mom to be happy. My mom, living independently in the same senior living facility where my father lives with dementia in the skilled nursing unit, expressed similar support—pride, perhaps. So Tashkent, it would be. Adventure by proxy for my family and friends, increased income and new work for me. The staff where Ike lives put up a second clock in the hall outside his room—one for Atlanta time, one for Uzbekistan time. I arrived in Tashkent in hot (114°F), dry weather to
almost instantaneous ill health. “Comforting familiarities” a friend emailed me. “I’m sorry to think of you there sick without comforting familiarities.” Over 12 weeks, I had six acute bouts of gastroenteritis despite careful food hygiene and an increasingly limited regimen. I grew accustomed to dealing with the acute bouts in the solitude of my house but never the chronic low energy and fuzzy-headedness that went to work with me everyday. A severe bout just before fall break led to medical exams back in New York that indicated a gastrointestinal condition with potential complications that made my return to Tashkent inadvisable. Once back in New York, and feeling better physically, I thought not only about Uzbekistan but that move in light of others. With a pencil and ruler, I traced the trajectories of my last four years’ moves on a piece of paper: two Manhattan locations; Beacon, NY; Darien, CT; another Manhattan location; and Tashkent, Uzbekistan. I penciled Ike’s moves in over mine: Downingtown, PA, to Marlboro, NJ, to Darien, to Suwannee, GA. The shape resulting from our intersecting moves was that of a high dive with a very long board, the tip of which was Tashkent.
“You did after all go to the other side of the world,” Nick, our younger son, 26, said. We were on the train from Tashkent to Samarkand. Nick had come for a visit before wrapping up his work in Moscow and heading to Chicago for graduate school. “Not exactly.” I pointed out that 6500 miles is not, in fact, half the earth’s circumference; he did not let me finish the sentence.
to uzbekistan and back “Mom, really. You cannot get much farther away than Uzbekistan.” As soon as I came across the German word, fernweh— farsickness, it rang immediately, emotionally, personally true. It fit what I had experienced better than wanderlust. I had been aching for distance, more concerned with getting away than getting to. When I thought about the other end of the flight from JFK, remoteness and an unimaginable otherness floated, partially visible, in my mind’s eye. Mosques and madrassahs, gypsy cabs and policemen with orange sticks waving cars over along Nukus Street, long weekends in my house on Permakhmedova, the sounds of Tajik children in the street beyond my wall—I had anticipated little. My life there was basic, with few expectations, luxuries, or time for abstractions; my work was stimulating and the students, as almost always true for me with teaching, were the best part of the experience. Yet, my experience in those three months was very much about what was not there. Dislocation was a constant experience—expats aware, sometimes intensely, of where we are not and Uzbeks always a bit puzzled it seemed, at our choosing to be there. A boisterous, jovial man I had met six weeks before leaving for Uzbekistan and I Skype-d, New York to Tashkent, our tele-romance airing twice daily, early morning and prime time. That I returned to New York because of my health— and not my father’s or son’s—is one of the surprises of the Uzbekistan time; that I am now more contentedly at home than I have been in a long time, perhaps ever, is another. I have spent time with my parents in North Carolina, my sons in Georgia and Chicago, and I see more clearly the limits of what I can do for any of them and the losses of over-reaching. Boomeranged back from the far end of the diving board to the good of being here and healthy, my fernweh has mellowed into complex gratitude and a stronger appreciation of constancy. Ike says that where he lives now is home. He has a girlfriend, a computer for checking Major League Baseball scores and Skype-ing, a TV for keeping up with the Braves and the Yankees, the Rangers and the Giants. More now, the caretakers there tell us, we will bring meals and games and people in when we come to visit; trips out are hard for him. He is anchored and content.
In his essay “Blindness,” Borges writes that “of all the things that have happened to me, I think the least important was having been blind.” A few months back from Uzbekistan, in North Carolina, in my mom’s apartment, trying to finish the fourth or fifth rather mind-numbing task before leaving for the 632-mile drive back to New York, I was engaged in the most avoided task of clearing up some problems with her computer. My father had made it home from a hospital stay, and we had enrolled him in hospice. It had been a long two weeks. Midway through the download and install procedures for the new printer, Ike called my mother’s computer on Skype. We could not hear him. I cupped hands to ears and shook my head, gestured that we would call back later and clicked back to the Printer Install screen. We encountered multiple more malfunctions. We needed to set up an account with HP, and apparently Mom had an account but we could not find her password. Minutes ticked by; my window for getting on the road that day was closing. I became irritable; Mom became irritable. We found the password, but could not get the screen to accept it. We opened a new account. Twenty-six minutes passed. I knew this only when the Printer Install screen cleared and there beneath it, smiling ear-to-ear was Ike, still on Skype. He had not signed off. He had heard our every word, likely broadcast at full volume in his room, the fretting and fussing of his mother and grandmother. I located the loose wire and reconnected Mom’s computer speaker. We could hear him. I apologized. “It’s okay, Mom,” he spoke slowly. “I know, I know, I’m not particularly schooled (he enunciated the oo with effort) in computers either.” We all laughed—a good one. Ike had caught us unrehearsed, unguarded, and unmanaged and it was a great shared moment. The least important thing was that Ike was sick. We were together at a distance and as close as ever. •from ”Poem Without a Hero,” written during the poet’s evacuation to Tashkent in 1942 and repeatedly revised over twenty years, published in Poems of Akhmatova. translated by Max Hayward & Stanley Kunitz. (Mariner Books, 1997).
Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Just a Flame
Dada Doodads Robert Wrigley The house the widow sold us contained, she said, an attic full of treasure or trash, and it would be our adventure, my wife’s and mine, to discover which. And what it was, was a museum, a gallery, or at the very least a monument to the organizational skills of her late husband, a veteran of World War I, dead many years. Everything boxed, stacked, and labeled, and every label gospel. “Two ’37 Ford hubcaps, one dented,” and inside, just that. “Shells from the beach, Atlantic,” another from the Pacific. Old dishes, so noted. A box of paper bags, another of boxes. A box of brown work pants, “never worn.” Another at the bottom of a tall stack, “Assorted screws,” weighed fifty pounds. And I, being less afraid of spiders than my wife, was appointed auditor and found only accuracy and doodads: there was a box in which I discovered— I counted them—“Fifty-four things of no apparent use,” exactly as he’d said, and I worked my way from the attic’s far end to the one nearest the trap door back down into the bedroom closet, stretching out to take up from the decades’ accumulated dust the final container of more than a hundred I investigated there. In his usual block print letters, the following: “Empty box,” which a first shake seemed to confirm as true, but still
robert wrigley I looked inside to be sure. And may I say how glad I was then, that by some dumb luck I had begun my accounting, as he must have wished someone to, at that far, other end. And may I also say how much my respect for him, or her, as well as my compassion— for her, for him, for all the world— was increased at just that moment, since this last box contained only, in the same black marker, scrawled diagonally across the bottom, the word “nothing.”
Crossing James Grabill Out of the distance, the long-term train that once was molten steel groans, where August drops its voice, passing stopped ten-ton trucks and running up to old warehouses of uncrackable re-enforced safes. The lone diesel word for steady ahead or always in between spreads across cornfields and builds into a further 3 a.m. moaning call for the crossing. Swallowing their tracks or the teeth of track-kill the stacked engines roar through furious tunnels of the unknown future desert wind. The last-known camouflaged Abrams tanks rumble in the underground. Packed and triply wrapped cases of embroidered cowgirl blouses go silent, passing, anonymous as bleached coral in a heart-sick bleat of warming ocean heaviness in what the massive engines lower into night, that reaches the small neighboring houses with rocking international rail cars that clatter until they darken, where the long past works to rescind the latest, and yet not a lot appears ready to return to any spiral whorl of higher intention. The rushing sad morning and midnight charge on. The blistering thin encircling gases reseed their nuclear planets, as time erases each time within the fingerprint night sky nebulae.
Inter-Resilience James Grabill A great blue heron flies if liberty is the eyes seeing if freedom is archaic large wings that draw a body through the world. So a heron flies over the road, if evening is potatoes in ovens, yellow skirts in streetlight, with eyes met in leaf-thickened historical doorways arching in galaxies of hazelnut trees, the underground root churns on scores of transverse axes from which we draw, living as we do on the ocean floor of daylight, cinnamon-streaked as finches landing and tortoises swimming across sand trailing murky kelp, watery in singes not only of bodily chording but whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s still siphoned-up or steam-shoveled into no or yes, or placed on the soft pelt-spread beds and sharpened altars we know in the cells surviving, individual but always part of the whole, always part of immense oceanic swims before nightlight can lay its leathery eggs or archaic bone-hinged wings pump from their leaf-thickened taproot churns, lifting the body alive over the sea floor of light.
scent of the sweet peas
Scent of the Sweet Peas James Grabill The hour which stops trying for unfinished points of horizon, transcendental clocks towering over variables in the equation, cuttlefish that speak in shimmering up-washes of skin color with researchers who’ve described them as friendly as puppies, a Stellar’s jay suddenly outside the kitchen window, looking in, vastness in a bone flute’s afternoon call across former savannah, lightning terrain that reaches behind what conscious mind recalls, the lung and gill, before time started in on waking and sleeping, wing-spreads of molecular integrity bending with the roll of gravity, seagulls sitting along the apex of a motel in the root sound of sea, the blue glass bowl opening the direction in which it was created, the water engraved with exhalations of nightcrawlers after a rain, bacteria in a swoon, the first thread drawn through a hole in nothing, enlarged and shrinking faces in concave brass of a concert trumpet, the sun-warmed sweet pea blossoms making their starlight a scent, the maples sheltering what lifts them, then giving it to the species.
Slingshot Andrew Lam This dude, right, a loner and everything, made his sorry ass part of our family and Mamma insisted that me and Pammy call him Uncle Steve, but I wouldn’t. Uh-uh. I called him U.S. for short. U.S. came to eat at our restaurant a couple of years ago and ordered Mamma’s special Hu Tieu soup. Kept saying he hadn’t eaten authentic Vietnamese cooking since he stationed in Nam and such. Next thing you know, dude’s a regular. And Mamma and Pammy, sweet, ready to please Pammy, started to treat him like a long lost relative. “Poor Uncle Steve,” Mamma once said in Vietnamese, “he’s a nice man and all alone. He fought on your father’s side during the war and even knew his infantry. So treat him nice, you two, especially you, Little Monkey.” “Sure,” I said, “sure, Mamma. Whatever.” The thing about regulars is that they sometimes get too personal. They, like, totally get on your nerve. They don’t leave at closing time. They walk up to the cash register when you’re way too busy adding up the bills or something and start kicking it with you, yammering and yacking ‘til you’d get real distracted and lose your place and then you just want to tell them to shut the hell up. I mean they pay for good cooking and give a tip for good service but ‘scuse me where does it say on the menu that our special dinner combo of spring rolls, salad and curry chicken for $6.99 comes with psychological treatment? Some regulars just hang around late, you know, and ask if we need help cleaning up, or if we want escort to our apartment after we close even if it’s only two blocks away, or what dish we’re preparing for tomorrow but like, hello, it’s the same menu every day for the last three years. Some of them just didn’t wanna go home, period, and I’ll tell you why: most regulars are helluva loners But U.S. was the worse. Kept telling us how he hated being an American and everything, hated “this damn country,” hated how his wife took the kids and skipped out on his sorry ass back to Texas after he came back a little loony-tooney from Nam.
Sometimes U.S. would get way annoying when he pretended like he’s somehow Vietnamese, ‘cause he’s been there and knew some stuff. Like he knew all about Tet: “you dress up nice and you go visit relatives and you give money in red envelops to little children, am I right, Mrs. Nguyen?” About wedding tradition: “The groom’s side of the family comes over to the bride’s side bearing gifts wrapped in red. They carry a roasted pig on a big lacquered tray and fruits and tea on the smaller ones, isn’t that right, Pammy?” And about funeral arrangements: “You wear white head bands, you burn paper offerings to the dead and you play really sad music. I remember people in the rural areas prefer to live near their ancestors’ graves so they can tend to them. Hell, I’ve even seen graves in people’s backyards. Live and die together, that’s the way you people are, am I right?” If that’s not enough to yank your chain, there was this helluva annoying phrase U.S. always used when he came in a little tipsy: Toi cung la nguoi Viet Nam !—I’m also Vietnamese!—and sometimes Mamma, when she was in a good mood, she’d laugh and clasp her hands and answer him with her broken English: “Uncle Steve, you, you Viet-Nam people like us.” Whenever he heard that, boy, dude’d be beaming like Mamma’d just announced that he’d won the Oscar for best actor or something. But Mamma was only humoring his ass. I mean, Vietnamese like U.S.? Who was he kidding? A dufus from Texas with receding blond hair, a thick mustache and a beer belly who loves to wear obnoxious smelling cologne and loud Hawaiian shirts on the week-ends? Puh-leeze, put black pajamas on that dude and he’d be looking more like, I don’t know, a chocolate truffle or something. Anyway, soon U.S. got way too friendly. He brought us flowers, irises and tulips and daffodils and roses or what have you. Then he’d send us post cards when he traveled. U.S. travels for free or for very little money ‘cause he’s a baggage handler for United Air at SFO. London? Been there. Hong Kong? Been there too. Morocco? Done that. Even if it’s only on a long week-end, U.S.’d be going off to some place far. That one time he came back from France, he got gifts for us all. He got a little purse for Pammy, a blouse for
slingshot me, a hat for Grandma Thien, who I call Grandma T. on the first day she got hired by Mamma to help out with the cooking a few years ago, and for Mamma, a real kick ass turquoise necklace. We all said no, no, no thank you, especially Mamma, who kept saying “no gift, Uncle Steve, no gift. Post card OK, flowers OK, expensive gifts not OK!” and waved her hands in the air like she was hailing a cab but U.S. wouldn’t listen. Toi cung la nguoi Viet Nam, he kept saying, Toi cung la nguoi Viet Nam until Mamma pretended to be angry and placed U.S.’s gifts in a pile on the table and he had to give up and offer the loots to Grandma T. And Grandma T. took them, too, cause she has more grandchildren than she could feed. Still it’s got so that U.S. wouldn’t think twice about going back to the kitchen and standing there like he was the chef himself, tasting the soup and chatting with Mamma and Grandma T. about this and that, that and this. It didn’t matter even when they were way too busy, U.S. would yap, yap, yap. Sometimes, he’d say something stupid to Mamma like, “Mrs. Nguyen, correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the river in Ben Tre rise real fast sometimes in the afternoon, especially when it’s monsoon season?” And Mamma would stop what she was doing and nod and squint her eyes and stare at the industrial size fridge as if she could see the damn river rising from somewhere behind all that steely grayness. Another time, she was preparing bun tam bi, a Southern Vietnamese dish that uses coconut, mint and pork skin, and a bunch of other good but unidentifiable stuff, and U.S. came in and said, “Mrs. Nguyen there’s no better coconut than the ones grown in Ben Tre, am I not right?” And Mamma would giggle and answer, “Uncle Steve, you right, you right. Fresh coconuts over there! Only cans over here! Not the same, no good.” Pammy, too, she’s real sweet to U.S. but I guess she’s sweet to everybody, that’s just the way she is. She’s a year older than me but she acts like she’s fresh off the boast. Just me, I guess, I’m the one who told the bums to get lost and the doggin’ customers to clear out. I’m the one who ambushed Dwayne Kawowski on the bike path that one time at Golden Gate park on that 7th grade field trip and shot him in the knee cap with Papa’s slingshot using my favorite ammunition, a jawbreaker—a purple one at that—’cause he kept teasing Tammy, yanking her long
braid and stuff. Told that child to cut hers short like mine to avoid assholes like Dwayne but would she listen? No. So, anyway dude was lame for a whole week and couldn’t even tell people that a girl shot him with a damn piece of candy. So guess who was the one to tell U.S. waz’up? Yup, yours truly. Like that one time, right, when U.S. insisted on staying after closing time and helping me and Pammy clean up. It wasn’t necessary, we all said, but dude insisted. Then suddenly, when we were all stacking chairs onto the table to mop the floor, he got all misty eyes and blurted, “You two are my favorite Mekong Delta girls. So smart. So filial. I mean it, Jesus almighty, I adore you both like my own.” Mekong Delta girls! Ewww, waz’up with that crazy, corny shit? I mean out of nowhere, this gringo’s confession, major vomit material. I get totally bugging when he’d be talking like that. Like there we were in a dingy little dive in the Tender-full-of-freaks-loin with the smell of fish sauce and Pine-Sol up our nostrils while the bums milled about outside looking like zombies and U.S. talked to us like we were those images in the greased stained brush paintings hanging on our walls: you know, wearing conical hats and planting rice by the river and rowing boats and singing folk songs and leading the oxen home to the village or shit like that. So I said, “U.S., you’re crazy if you think we’re your girls. That’s heinous, alright. We ain’t living in your sorry ass Mekong Delta fantasy shit. Get a grip. We took a trip. We’re in San Francisco—like, A-Me-Ri-Ca? U.S., you ain’t no Vietnamese and you know it.” Boy, you should’ve seen him. Buttsucker had that hurt puppy look. “You’re mouthy, Tammy,” he said, shaking his head and sighed, “but I know you got a good heart.” Then he said, “I know we’re in America. I know I’m not Vietnamese, racially. All I’m saying is that, after what I went through, Vietnam is part of me too. I don’t know, may be you’ll see it someday.” “Yeah,” I said. “Sure, U.S. Whatever. So it was escalating warfare between U.S. and me ‘cause that time of love declaration from U.S. was nothing compared with the other time when U.S. really got me royally bugging and in helluva trouble with Mamma. He
andrew lam saw me and Adam K—you know, bedroom eyes Adam, tall, brown hair down to his big shoulders, real light skin with the tattoo of a coiling snake with a blood red rose in its mouth on his left arm and with a turquoise ear ring and the best smile in last year’s yearbook. Anyway, we were just walking and holding hand on the street, right, and I didn’t see U.S. spying on us or nothing but when I got to the restaurant he was all nervous and everything. At first I thought he developed a tic or was having a stroke maybe, but then he said, “I saw you with that Tattoo Guy today, Tammy. Hope you don’t mind a piece of advice but I just don’t trust the look on that one. I’ve seen him real chummy with them gang bangers scoring some dope on Hyde the other day. Tell you what I think: He’s the type that’ll get in trouble sooner or later. So go slow, OK.” Tattoo Guy? I couldn’t believe my ears! He was like dissing Adam, my bedroom eyes Adam. Worse, U.S. be talking to me like I was his own daughta... not! No wonder Texan wife and kids took off on his sorry ass. Had to. Either that or harakiri. Besides homey ain’t relative no matter how much he fantasized himself to be. A regular’s still a customer and he’s not suppose to tell his waitress who to date, period. He’s suppose to sit at his table, you know, and order and eat and say, “Ah, that was delicious, miss, thank you very much!” and leave a big tip and then leave. I totally lost it. I said: “U.S., why don’t chew do us all a favor and just FUCK OFF!” Unfortunately Mamma heard it all the way in the kitchen ‘cause I said it LOUD and she got real MAD. There were only two Hispanic customers in the afternoon and they were too busy looking in each other’s eyes like Romeo and Julietta and they didn’t give a hoot what we did. But Mamma, she cared ‘cause right away, she came out and made me apologize to U.S. even when she didn’t even know a quarter of the story. Now, Mamma, she may not know the true meaning of “fuck off!” but she pretty much guessed that it weren’t no nice, respecting phrase like “Hello, mister, how are you today?” or “Are you ready to order, Madam?” But I wouldn’t apologize to U.S. Na-uhh, no frick’n way. “No, Mamma,” I said, “no apologies.” “Little Monkey, apologize,” Mamma said it again in Vietnamese, her voice steady and cool as cucumber which
only meant one thing: Mount Saint Helen Nguyen was ready to blow serious lava. “Don’t be rude to him. Uncle Steve, he’s just like a relative.” “Hell no,” I yelled, “Why should I apologize? He ain’t no real uncle. He certainly ain’t my father. He ain’t nothing, Mamma, a nobody. So, how’s he family?” Mamma didn’t answer. She just looked kind of surprised that I blew first. But it was like Mamma didn’t even know what happened and she automatically sided with this dude, an outsider. So I went on in this cold, bitchy voice, you know, pretending like I just figured something out that very second. I said, “Oh, oh, wait a minute, Mamma, I get it. He’s going to be my new Papa soon, am I right?” and I heard Pammy suck in her breath. I mean I shouldn’t have said that, I know. But I was still bugging, and therefore, went too far and dissed mi own madre in the process. So she slapped me—Slapp! —right in front of U.S. and Pammy and the Romeo-Julietta couple, who abandoned their banana flambe, threw some money on the table and made like el viento. For one thing, no chef should slap no waitress in front of no customers, that’s no good for business for sure. For another, no waitress should cry in front of no regulars, but, oh man, I just couldn’t help it, I bawled. “Go ahead, Mamma,” I said through my curtain of tears, “you just go ahead and hit me some more to make yourself happy but I ain’t apologizing to this wuz, alright. Who asked him to har-rass me in the first place? I don’t care if he’s been to Ben Tre, Mamma. I don’t care if he knew Papa’s infantry. I mean, what does it matter now? We’re living in the Tender frick’n loin and Papa is dead, buried somewhere in the re-education camp by the goddamn Vietcong and nobody asked me for permission to let this wannabe ruin my life.” I geared myself for the next assault, but it didn’t come. Mamma’s face suddenly changed from being totally bugging to this real sad look. She raised her hand like she was going to re-slap me but she just turned it slowly toward her own face instead. Then she wept into it like a baby. Oh my goodness, even now, after all that happened, even after I did what I did later on, I can still see her thin shoulders tremble and shake. Shouldn’t have said all that stuff, I know, I know. My
slingshot tongue, I swear, it’s sharper than Ginzu knives. Tell you truly, I’d rather she re-slap me, no problemas. It’ s easier to take than her crying. I couldn’t bear it. I felt so hurt inside, like somebody was twisting a knife in my guts or pinching my heart with her long, gnarly nails. So I did what came naturally: I grabbed and hugged her, my Mamma, who once held tiny old me and Pammy in her arms when we sailed out to sea in that old stinking and crowded boat from Ben Tre a zillion nights ago, but who felt suddenly so small in my arms now, so frail, so bony, who suffered so much already. “Oh, Mommy, I’m sorry,” I said, “I’m so sorry,” and then Pammy came rushing to us for a team hug and we cried, the three of us, like we were in some weird choir practice. So everything—Les Miz, Les Vietnam-Miz or whatever—was happening right in front of U.S. And dude be acting like he was all tied up. He trembled like he was struggling to get out of some invisible rope until finally, his hairy arm slowly reached out like an elephant’s trunk toward me and Pammy and Mamma, trying to touch us maybe, but before he could accomplish his mission impossible I shot him my special Medusa laser ray stare and froze that ex-GI in his track. That was when Grandma T. came out of the kitchen with her ladle. She looked at us for a second or two. Then she sighed and shook her gray head like she’d seen it all before and she waved the ladle in the air like a magic wand. “Troi oi, troi!” She said, her voice low and throaty. “You people are worse than the monsoon. Please, enough with the crying already, my beef soup went sour back there because of your wailing.” We all started to giggle ‘cause Grandma T’s voice was raspy from years of smoking—she sounded like a Vietnamese Darth Vader or somebody cool like that—and her wrinkled up face was frowning like a sad old clown. U.S. laughed too, even though he probably didn’t get 90% of what she was saying, Mr. I’m Also Vietnamese. But Grandma T. was stern to him. She pointed the ladle toward the door and said, “Uncle Steve, you should go and handle baggage. Let us women folks take care of things.” U.S. stared at us like he wanted to say something but nothing came out. So he just looked at Grandma T’s ladle like he was really thinking real hard about something and then he nodded and left.
Me, I was still bugging and thought dude got away easy. I don’t know, I kind of expected Grandma T. to like turn his sorry ass into a wart hog or something. U.S. did not come back the next day or the next. A week went by, then another. Soon every one started to wonder, including all the other regulars, whatever happened to Uncle Steve, the ex-GI who thought he was Vietnamese? Everyone but me, that is. I mean I didn’t care. U.S. was finally out of my hair? Good. Why ask why? It was like having a vacation. It was like it was raining for a week and then you woke up one day and the sun was out and the sky blue. It was, like, too good to be true. The dark clouds came back pretty quickly. After a month or so, just when I got used to the idea that U.S. was really, really gone, we got a post card from you know who. It showed this pretty Thai babe, a dancer in traditional costume with an intricate pointy headset. Her fingers were bent at an impossible angle, her head leaned to the side, and her eyes wide and flirty. And she had this smile on her like she was real happy but you could tell that she was just pretending. “Dear Mrs. Nguyen and family, If you all are wondering whatever happened to your Stephen, well don’t you worry. As you can tell from the post card, I am in Bangkok, on an extended vacation. I finally decided that I need to take a trip back to ‘Nam to look at the past. I am heading home in a few weeks after much needed r&r and then I’ll have a very, very precious gift for you and this time you can not possibly refuse, guarantee. Affectionately yours, Steve PS. Hello Pammy and Tammy, how are my favorite gals?” “What’s Uncle Steve saying Mamma?” Pammy asked after she was done reading the card out loud for Mamma. “Yeah,” I joined in, “what’s so precious that we can’t possibly refuse? Don’t we always refuse? Didn’t you say we don’t need any charity? We make our own living, right Mamma.” “No charity,” Mamma agreed. “Post cards, OK. Flowers ok, expensive gifts, not OK.” She studied the
andrew lam post card for a few seconds then pinned it on the board next to the cash register with all the rest like she didn’t care but you just know she was still thinking about it. So that night right, when we were getting ready for bed and everything, Pammy dropped the bomb, “I mean what if Uncle Steve wants to marry Mamma?” she said. “What?” I said. “Miss P., are you on LSD. Puh-leeze, Mamma and U.S.? Like, they haven’t even dated. Wait, what am saying: Mamma never ever dated. I just don’t see it, Pammy, she’s so...virtuous. She lights incense in the altar, praying and talking to Papa and dead ancestors and all that every night for God’s sake. She’s like ‘I must suffer ‘cause I’m a totally traditional Confucian Asian’ babe.” “Tammy, I swear, someday your tongue will put you in intensive care.” “My tongue nothing. Miss P., if U.S. so much as touches her I’ll shoot him right between the eyes with Papa’s slingshot, I mean it. He’s not right in the head.” “And you are?” Pammy said, rolling her pretty eyes. “You know what, Tammy, you should have put that slingshot away when you were 12. You’re a sophomore now, and you’re still playing with that thing. I swear, sometimes I don’ t know whether you’re going to end up at Stanford or in San Quentin.” But that was not the end of that. Pammy paused for a few seconds and then in this totally different voice in Vietnamese, all demure like, she said, “Little Monkey, Mamma’s been alone for so long. Mamma should have somebody. We shouldn’t stand in the way.” I didn’t answer her. I just turned out the light. In the dark, I did what I usually do when I’ve a hard time falling asleep: I try to remember Papa. I have this favorite memory of him, so long ago, when I was four or five, before the asshole VCs took him but I remember it super clearly. It’s a Kodak moment: A late afternoon in Ben Tre, a golden sun shining over the greenest rice fields you’ll ever see and the wind is blowing, making the whole field waver like it’s an endless green sea. I am sitting on Papa’s lap and we’re swinging on this hammock in the back of our house looking at that emerald sea. I’m pulling on the sling with one hand and try to shoot but I don’t have the strength and the rock flies for less than three feet. Papa laughs and rubs my hair: “Little
Monkey, you’ll have to wait until you’re older. By then you have to go hunting for wild ducks and rabbits to feed me and your mother.” Papa shows me how he does it. It’s so easy for him, so effortless. He puts a rock in the pouch part and holds the handle in his right hand, turns his head slightly so that he’d be looking at it from the corner of his eyes and then he pulls the sling far, far back. He lets the rock zip into the air as he exhales. Phhtoc!—it hits the trunk of a star fruit tree growing by the edge of the rice paddies some 20 yards away. All of a sudden there’s this commotion and a flock of wild parrots, hidden in the branches, take off from the tree top, flashing their red and blue and yellow and green feathers, a squawking rainbow toward the sky. I remember yelling and clapping my hands. It’s magic, Papa. It’s awesome. Oh my goodness, it’s the best moment of my life. But the replay button in my head didn’t work that night. I mean I couldn’t see Papa’s face clearly, not to save my life. Instead I kept seeing U.S. and Mamma holding hand in my head. Worse, when I fell asleep I dreamed that Grandma T. was scooping soup out of a coffin into a bowl and asked me to drink it but I wouldn’t. Then I saw Mamma and U.S. rolling around on this big bed made out of big tree branch in this big old tree house doing the wild thang and I just sat there by the bed and cried and cried but it was like U.S. and Mamma didn’t even see me and that bummed me out, totally. So maybe it was just sheer luck, or maybe it had to happen. Like Grandma T always said: “Be careful what you hate or God will give it to you on a lacquered tray.” So when Mr. I’m Also Vietnamese returned one bright Saturday morning to the tender-freak’n-loin from overseas, he was in my target range. I mean usually I wouldn’t even think of shooting anybody from the roof top, left alone a paid customer and a regular, no matter how much he gets in my hair. But Adam was with me. And before we saw U.S. we were already on the roof of my building getting stoned on one of his reefers and shooting at the billboard with Papa’s slingshot. The billboard was helluva annoying. It showed this happy couple and their three children holding hands and smiling with impossibly white teeth as they walk out of
slingshot this white castle. So Adam broke a candy machine the night before and stuffed his army pants pockets with jawbreakers just for me so that fake smiling family didn’t stand a chance. We let one colorful piece of candy after another zipping toward the gringo family. Phtoock! —I took out the oldest girl’s front tooth with a red jawbreaker. Phtoock! —Adam shot the mother in the chest and Phtoook! —I shot the father in the forehead. And then I just went for the baby, the one with a Mickey Mouse hat on—Phtoock! Phtoock!—I made Swiss cheese out of that little boy. We shot and shot until the roof was littered with broken candies. It looked like a rainbow had shattered and rained down in pieces. We couldn’t stop laughing. It was my second time doing pot but the first didn’t really count: nothing happened that first time. So how would I know I was gonna be higher than a kite the second time around? The stuff, as Adam said, was from Colombia, so it had extra strength, extra magic. One puff—I coughed, cursed, breathed in, breathed out—two puffs—I had tears in my eyes, pain in my lungs, and my throat hurt like hell— three—and boom, I was gone. I was like, Oh my God, I’m swimming in this thick, gold bright air. My head felt like it had on that gilded traditional hat the Thai dancer was wearing in U.S.’s post card. It felt heavy and weird but kinda cool too, like the sunshine had found a way inside and was swirling around. I was laughing like the mad and messed-up chick that I was when I saw over the embankment an all too familiar shape. He had on this conical hat on his head and a red and yellow Hawaiian shirt full of flowers and in his arms he had a brown vase wrapped in a red ribbon. If you asked me U.S. looked like he was depriving some village somewhere of an idiot. “That’s him, Adam,” I said, giggling still, “that’s him. He’s back. That’s the dude who’s going to try to marry my Mamma. Look, he’s even got a wedding gift wrapped in red for her, see.” “That shithead down there with the funny hat?” Adam said. “He’s the one who called me Tattoo Boy?” “Tattoo Guy.” “Who gives a fuck,” Adam said. Then he had this look on his face, like he just thought of something funny.
“Hey,” he said, “Tammy, listen, you can prevent a wedding.” “How?” I said and kept staring at the bleeding rose in the snake’s mouth on his arm. When he flexed it, it seemed like it slithering. Adam turned to look at me like I was real stupid. “What’d you mean how? Look down, babe, that ain’t no toy in your hand. “ I looked. Papa’s slingshot, made of mahogany and smoothed by years of use, was glowing like wild fire. Adam took out an orange jawbreaker from his pants pocket, blew on it for good luck and took my hand. He made me squeeze it, then kissed me. “Do it, baby,” he whispered into my face. I closed my eyes. I could taste the sweetness of his breath, feel the intense heat emanating from his body, smell his salty sweat. “Do it. Hurry! Before he’s out of range.” What happened next I see it now like watching TV, in slo-mo. I see me putting the jawbreaker in the sling and pulling it far, far back. I see me taking aim at U.S., and then the jawbreaker just flew. It took forever to reach that conical hatted figure down below.... Years... Decades... Centuries... And for a moment I thought it would never reach him. But how could it not? Papa’s slingshot was magicked. That morning was magicked. And so was Adam’s candy. It hit U.S.’s upper left shoulder with a small thud and he automatically jerked forward, yelped and the vase in his hand fell out of his grasp to shatter on the sidewalk in this nasty, cracking noise. “No,” he wailed and stepped one step forward before sinking to his knees. Then he checked his shoulder to see if he was bleeding but of course he wasn’t. “Who did this? Who did this?” He yelled and took off the conical hat and looked around but didn’t see anybody. So he looked down again at the mess. “Oh, Jesus! Jesus almighty.” By then Adam had pulled me back away from the embankment, out of U.S.’s sight. “Holy fuck’n shit, Tammy,” he kept hugging me and laughing like a mad man. “You’re my girl! You’re in Da House!” but I wasn’t even listening to him anymore. U.S.’s voice was the only thing that reg-
andrew lam istered. It sounded so wounded, so hurt down there, like an injured dog. I pushed Adam away. I went to the embankment and looked again. U.S. was still down there on his knees, busy now gathering the damaged goods into the hat while yelling something like “all that work, all that negotiation...” to himself but his voice trailed off in the morning wind. A strange gray-white powder had spilled from the broken vase and was spiraling upward from his hands and into the sky like smoke. I must have moved then ‘cause U.S. looked up and our eyes met. Suddenly the giggle went out of me. His eyes were in tears and his face, tanned and smeared with that gray white powder, was in such pain and hurt that it took my breath away. I mean I didn’t recognize it at all but, at the same time, it felt like I’ve been staring at it all my life. When he spoke his voice was all choked up, “These are your father’s ashes. I brought them back from Nam— For you...for the family.” Something had gone off in my head that moment, a flash, I guess, or a flood of light and it formed a circle between us. We were somewhere else, another place, another morning. The street below was fast turning into a dark river and the light poles were sprouting silvery fronds. I could almost smell the jasmine fragrance of the rice fields in the air, hear the parrots squabbling somewhere in the sky, feel the burning heat of a tropical sun on my back. “Your father’s ashes,” U.S. said it again then held the conical hat with its broken urn up higher for me to see, his gift. For the first time since I knew U.S., I didn’t have a thing to say to him, not a thing. So I just stared. Then suddenly I couldn’t help myself: I raised my arm high in the air and waved over and over again like I was waiting at the dock welcoming him home or something.
The Duck Benjamin Rosenbaum A light bulb salesman fell in love with a duck. He followed the duck to Canada in his little red van, the light bulbs rattling and clicking in their cases. Past trout, moose, and grizzly bears, and into the tundra, he drove the van, calling to his duck beloved, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Sarah, my darling, will you come to me, will you lay your small head against my knees?â&#x20AC;? Driving, sleeping, he dreamt of the duck, of kissing her webbed feet, of laughing together by the lakeside, of holding a can of beer for her to drink from in the summer night. The duck felt charmed but harassed, the duck felt pity: her name was not Sarah anyway, and she had another lover: the cold and resolute magnetic North Pole, female, indissoluble, old as earth. The duck flew on, admiring the showy dress her lover put on, the Aurora Borealis. The salesman drove his van onto an ice floe, took all his light bulbs out and connected them with wires to his car battery; and, floating in the Arctic sea, revving his engine, he competed with the Aurora Borealis, as long as his gas tank held out.
Just Let Me Rule You
if we were art
If We Were Art Russell Thorburn Monet would have us row through the lower harbor, your boat leer at the cold waves, as if its handmade lines were unafraid of heavy water. If Monet were onshore heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d paint daubs of dying winter light around us seated in the flat-bottomed boat, eyes lifted to the seed-ball of sun, squinting at heaven. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d be discussing Cesare Pavese perhaps, or characters in novels we were writing. Our broad-brimmed hats afloat in the air, an orange or an apple in one of our hands; why, because Monet threw it to us from shore, says us painters need more round things inside the heart of a painting.
Hotel Memory Russell Thorburn Memory is a hotel of undusted furniture, of perfect views, clouded by grit on the panes. One does not invent embarrassment. It is the curtains, found in the crockery that once clattered like fine conversations. The letters mailed from locations such as Paris, but not the one with the Eiffel Tower, another one on a road headed northâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; where the Tuileries are imagined in corn fields, and the milk-white champagne drunk in the vintage light.
Dark Energy Susanne Antonetta Will you understand what I’m going to tell you? ...No, you’re not going to be able to understand it. ...I don’t understand it. Nobody does. Do not keep saying to yourself, if you can possibly avoid it, “But how can it be like that?” because you will get “down the drain,” into a blind alley from which nobody has yet escaped. Nobody knows how it can be like that. -Richard Feynman What draws me back: that dark energy accounts for seventy to seventy-five percent of the universe, as water accounts for seventy to seventy-five percent of our planet’s surface, and the same percentage of our bodies, sloshing around and ready to be pearled off at the pores or voided or wept out. Do I understand it? No, and my not-understanding is orders of magnitude different from Feynman’s, his an expansive and appreciative not-understanding—a knowing minus some layer of complete intestinal comprehension—mine a pure not-knowing. And they seem to have a rending heart in common, these forces: dark energy tearing the cosmos apart limb from limb as our fluids will betray us and pour out at the slightest nick, and almost all our earth’s water mocks our collective thirst—now at crisis levels—with its salinity. As we consider this strange gathering of seventies, do we mention the Hebrew seven, the zayin, which can be our ordinary seven reached by math, but that also represents infinity. When the Bible orders us to forgive not seven times but seventy times seven, it means forgive someone not four-hundred-and-ninety times but forever. That concept pains me, though I have a teenage son, and find myself shocked—as a physicist discovering the cosmos flying apart must be shocked—at how much can be forgiven, how many I hate yous, I wish you weren’t my mothers, even the nuanced meanness of the You turned me into a pussy I got this summer, all as simple to take in as the homework cluttering our tiny parlor. Dark energy is now the mystery of mysteries in physics, more pressing than the graviton, more scintillating
than the multiverse; it remains stubbornly hypothetical even as it tears the universe apart. Yale physicist Meg Urry says, It keeps us up at night. It takes a lot to keep physicists up at night, they who have slept well through parallel universes and a space-time that flexes and yields to gravity and quantum particles popping up, soda bubbles, in many places at once. It may well be, as physicists like to say, that dark energy is simply “the cost of having space”: an energy intrinsic to space itself, kind of a vacuum energy. As space expands, more and more dark energy comes into being, more and more rapidly. Gravity slows down the expansion of the universe; dark energy speeds it up. And though it has had a relatively small role in the past of the universe, dark energy with its rapid growth has the lead part in our future. If the universe were the movie All about Eve, gravity would be the aging actress Margo Channing, played by Bette Davis, and dark energy the ingenue Eve, played with dewy cunning by Anne Baxter, upstaging her older rival, stealing her starring roles. Dark energy is speeding up the cosmic expansion, which will go on—more rapidly than we ever guessed, and falling over itself to go faster and faster— likely until the Big Rip, the technical term for the end point when everything pulls apart In the same way dark energy corrupts the universe, the water in our bodies causes us to decay much faster; a dessicated corpse, like the six hundred year old preserved head of St. Catherine of Siena, which sits in a bell jar at San Domenico, can last in the same shape for ages. It’s true that I’m afraid. All the time. That I cannot sleep anymore because I wake up in order to be afraid. It’s a chicken-and-egg kind of thing—I wake up because I am afraid and stay awake because I’m afraid: of the implications of going to sleep and thus not being afraid for a while, not running through my head all the things—wrack of metal, bluish lip, stiff or drenched bod—that could occur to people I love, the forgetting of which would signal to the cosmos that I need to be taught some deep lesson regarding fear. I live on the water—the Puget Sound, specifically, gray and with a foam like caul fat. It goes black at night, shiny and rounded as a crow’s back, and like a crow, larcenous. It will take what you let go of, even for a second:
susanne antonetta earrings, an overstuffed wallet, even a child. A boy, a new freshman at the university here, walked out of a party and somehow wound up dead in the log pool at the waterfront, behind a chainlink fence. There’s a monument to the drowned—a man in fishing slicks whose feet hover on a block of names—that rises in copper by the water. Just a year ago my son heard a man’s last cry, on a small but frigid lake across the street from his middle school. Just today I had blood drawn and the needlestick wouldn’t stop bleeding, blood itching its way down my arm to my hand, darkening the yellow shirt. I bang something ever so slightly and the bruise spreads under the skin—the contusions seem to be waiting there—and such colors. All the khakis and plums and gnarled blues of water. You have no clotting factor, a doctor told me once, after surgery, and I was groggy enough to ask, Is that a bad thing? at which she shrugged, doctors being resolute in their lack of opinions about the body Is it worse to admit that, though there’s an eerie thrum from the idea of the Big Rip, I’m almost entirely fearful for my child? Who has done little to deserve my worry except to be fourteen and in the path of the forces that seem ready to occupy any empty spaces in his life. His friends try suicide, get arrested stealing gadgets for their Ipods, smoke and sell marijuana and God knows what else. One boy ran a knife across his own throat, longing for the outward touch of his deep rivers. I may be down Mr. Feynman’s drain. It is I think the water I bear: so alert to its multiplicity of forms, the way it nags at the boundaries of what holds it, its cell-thin pipettes leading to the bulb of the heart. It shows as blue roads beneath the skin. Ice invades the fluids and crisps the bodies lost on the alpine tor of the mountains. Mountain-climbers try not to talk about this, that the bodies of those who don’t make it are often left on the slopes, too hard to remove, too beautifully preserved to disappear. If someone has climbed one of the earth’s major mountains, I don’t care how he or she tells the tale—how much heroism and endurance, how much frostbite, how many lost digits—that person succeeded by climbing past the blued, frost-furred bodies of those who didn’t make it, choosing to go for the glory rather than bring those bodies home.
No one knows why or how that boy, Dwight, landed down at the water in the chill hours of the morning— the university’s a few miles inland, uphill—or how he got over the impossibly tall fence, or how he fell in. Or if his corpse simply drifted from some other point in the Sound to the log pond. He was alone: his death ruled an accident. His cell phone dialed a number from a downtown street just before he died. He was here, there, everywhere. I have thought, How can it be like that? a bit too much. People come up with crazy theories: Smiley Face killers who drown college boys and make it look like an accident, just identifying themselves with a smiley face scrawled at the crime scene; the perfect proportions of dark energy and everything else as proof humans were meant to exist, even that we cause the universe to assemble—to come out of its shimmy of multi-placed quantum particles—by perceiving it. Every possible explanation of things lures me in, at least once. Though I have to be ordinary, unthink, as mid-afternoon comes and the front door opens and in walks that quantum package of need and scattered anger, and I and my floods turn, attempt escape from Feynman’s alley—the one no one has escaped from before—say, And what did you hear in school?
Forever and Ever
sunday morning in the city
Sunday Morning in the City After Kelly Cherry
Carolyne Wright You are posting on Facebook. I am making More coffee. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Green Dolphin Streetâ&#x20AC;? is streaming From my MP3, and out the windows glistening With rain, the days are getting longer. Faces glisten on your screen, and you are draining The bean sprouts. Coffee steams the windows And music is dreaming in green and blue. I gaze at day streaming through the rain-streaked glass. Bean sprouts green on the window sill. You Are reading the news onscreen and your face Gleams with the weather. We turn and gaze At the lengthening day. My face dreams toward you.
Rain and Thunder After Edward Thomas
Russell Thorburn Nothing but the wild rain and the beat against my windshield as I sit in my car remembering again that I shall die and neither hear the rain nor give it thanks for washing me cleaner than I have been. Since it rains wildly nothing needs to be done and blessed are the dead that the rain rains upon. But here I pray that it makes me a better man who speaks to the tempest and finds more than loneliness. Rain sends me deeper into my shelter of dark, clear sentences that drip onto an envelope from a pen found on the floor and the rain washes away pain just as the light changes.
aubade: still life
Aubade: Still Life Carolyne Wright A length of sari voile draped over the curtain rod filtering the North Atlantic’s morning light. Arabesques, paisleys of rainbow splayed over last night’s wine glasses. One glass tipped over on the table, a tongue’s lick of claret trembling in its belled stem. Fingers of sun across the room as I step, still sheathed in dream, onto naked floorboards. In the bed, the man sleeps. One arm has thrown the old quilt off, his body lean, mahogany among tangled blankets where a single uncurtained slat of light presses against him, his sex at rest, legs akimbo, his arms outstretched, embracing my shadow imprint in the sheets. How could the two of us have slept so in that narrow bed? I wash in a pool of hyacinthine light that spills from the bathroom mirror, touching myself as gently as he did last night, when he stepped between me and my door. When he stopped taking No for an answer, and my own acquiescence surprised us both. His hands across my body through what was left of night, almost proved my fears wrong. His flesh entered mine for the first time: colors penetrated, passed through our hands like kaleidoscopic fragments, arabesques of shadow kneeling to each other. Now, taut mask of his face relaxed in a dreamer’s
slight smile, skin under the moustache and beard-wisp smooth as a boy’s. Now, Ravel’s Alborada del Gracioso plays on the tape deck in the young painter’s studio next door. We could hear her weeping through the wall last night as we made love, our mattress practicing its own blue music.
Round: Mirror Carolyne Wright Too many questions in the mirror through which the water moves. Are you sleepy yet? At peace? Whom do you call upon in dreams? There are too many questions, the glass can’t contain them all, the images dissolve like breath’s reflections fading from the glass, the water moves through all your words, your questions can’t contain them, the mirrors face each other and endlessly reflect—the tunnels of reflection curve away, dissolve your breath in dreams, in sleep, in the peace that passes for water, that passes for all the questions we call upon that tremble and talk back in the mirror.
Carlos Ramos glassworks 31
nocturne with a séance at the end of the ocean
Nocturne with a Séance at the End of the Ocean Oliver de la Paz The medium’s voice jumps an octave as the ocean liner tilts on its axis. The explosion of its breached hull is the music sifting among the cabins below. Water, palpable in its density below the spiritualists seated in a circle. On top of their table, a candle’s flame points upwards and remains fixed while the rest of its body turns to a thirty-degree angle. The chandelier’s crystals spin their gibberish with light about the room, and the faces are kissed by the refractions. Alarms arrow out of the loudspeakers and cries from passengers fill the grand hall. And yet the mind of the medium is elsewhere. Her eyes, loving the terrified faces into worn sponges and the warmth of this new body sets her teeth on edge. Every unction. Every sound. Every trick of light she receives in joy. Having tricked death for this moment and only this moment. In the midst of an epileptic fit she sings for them, her bitten tongue staunched by a silk kerchief. Meanwhile, ocean spray cleaved by the rail breaks into tiny diadems. The members of the séance watch the grand piano roll from one end of the hall into the orchestra pit. And for this instant the medium sings like a memory of a good flower cut at its stem— the spell of summoning cracks her dark mouth into vowels, patient in their hollow. The blood on the kerchief, a repetition of vibrant flowers. Her red lips woven nervously along the fabric’s creases. While hands,
oliver de la paz despite the commotion, are still locked as the song rises above the racket of the shipâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s impeding death. Lightning outside the windows cuts the black clouds into slabs of topaz as the mediumâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s body begins to rise. The hairs of her arm stand on end, and then the sickening pull of gravity as the chairs drop away.
Rock Nâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Roll Bitch
Carlos Ramos glassworks 34
oliver de la paz
Nocturne with a Stack of Trepanned Skulls Facing Right After “Trepanned Skulls,” a photo by Rosamond Purcell
Oliver de la Paz In this state, the human heads cast their gaze off frame. Each eyesocket a story without progress. Furrows notched into one skull like crosshatches in a game of tic-tac-toe. The center square, a void from which the mind unravels its wild ribbons to the afterlife. On the frontal plate of another skull a hollow space at the top. This face turned slightly towards the camera as the shutter clicks, a little door opens in its orbit and the topaz flash highlights sutures along each bone plate. Other skulls stacked, pyramidal. The hollow from each trepanning, visible affronts. There are rivers among the skulls, whole canyons as easy as a breath through fabric—as easy as two hands pulling curtains together or apart. Each skull’s obscene hole, an empty mouth with a story. With an after all . . . a dark because. ~ A man had been walking, then stopped and held his head. And in the heavy dark, felt his mind pierced by a god. As though the god
nocture with a stack of trepanned skulls facing right fingered his eye-socket, rubbed the smooth ridges of his soft tissue. The current of such a thing dropped him to his knees and he could hear a bell peal in the distance. The bell, occupying his brain in unswept corners. As the hippocampus sparks its green flame—two rocks struck in the dark. The pain of his mind careening off the stones, holding the man in its hand. Like the time he held a stunned bird whose heart tore itself apart as its eyes said hate, hate, hate—its little electric self finding its way into the man’s brain.
And here is a third story— Somewhere in the past, upon the hole’s making, a desert night cooled in a slowly shaved dance. The milk of aloe hammered from succulent leaves to a mortar filled with the tarred residue. The wet aloe around the wound throws what little light comes from the moon into the skull’s own dynamo as spirits rise in their stuttering and celestial hungers. From the mystical hatchet comes the pierced head but also the quiet. The shape of temple blocks flicker as bone breaks and a door unhinges. What pours forth are constellations—little clusters of cloud, astounded by the shock of impact. Chip after chip chewed by the axe’s tooth as the gods empty themselves from the skull, creep from the tight confines of the brain,
oliver de la paz stretch their sinuous torsos so their spines pop like the slight click of latches shifting from the twist of the key as a door from this world unlocks the next.
nocturne with fletches sounding past
Nocturne with Fletches Sounding Past Oliver de la Paz Snow has come to the plains early, and patches of grass thrust their arms up like cannon brooms. Despite this the sky is unusually bright with stars—the cold night air drinks its flask of constellations. In the narrows of the mountain pass, a team of dark riders is a sudden ache, growing slowly into a fist as they close the distance. The once sleeping flocks of sheep are parting before them like an unhooked blouse. A clamor of mouths sets the lights of the yurts on the periphery as the steppes ring with the heavy percussion of hooves and the shouts of harried men, scurrying to their bows. The registers of the scouts shear the evening in two. The steppes have grown loud with the sounds of war and the Urals are a heavy apparition. In the hills, torches descend like the burning wax of a candle. The lamp in the yurt master’s home has blazed all morning and evening, illuminating the skins from within as it dances to the weight of running horses. The hides curing beneath the fire sway a little—their hairs slightly singed. Dried pelts of foxes sway over the entrance of the emptied quarters while stalactites of bone chime their hollow discords as the force of the horsemen rushes past and a hiss of arrows blisters the white hides. The khan has vanished in a flourish of animal smoke and fletching burst. The yurt master’s horses are merely a fume in the light dusting of winter. The riders dismount, pulling their arrows from the strung-up skins while the decibels from a handful of sheep blow the evening into an open eye.
Instar Kelly Madigan The spirit has infinite facets. -John Updike When my mother was about to turn sixty, my father planned a surprise party for her. He booked a room at the Officer’s Club, arranged for each of her three children and their families to return home for the occasion, decided on the menu, and made a list of invited guests, which he left out on the desk in plain view. Therefore, my mother knew about her party, and pretended otherwise, feigning shock and joy in front of sixty of her closest friends. Despite the lapse in judgment that allowed my father’s guest list to be examined, he did try to think of everything. He invited their childhood friend to play guitar, asked her children to speak about her many charms, and he himself wrote a song outlining their history together, which he sang a cappella at the podium while guests were savoring their dessert. He described their meeting, romance, and marriage, followed by the arrival of each child, captured forever in my father’s rhyming couplets. He sang it to the tune of, well, frankly, I cannot recall the original song because it has been replaced in my memory with my father’s lyrics. Those lyrics were a wonder to me, because I tend toward lengthy description that hammers out every nuance so the reader couldn’t possibly be allowed a false impression, the prose of a control freak with too much time on her hands, whose Christmas letters alone require a portion of January to wade through. I was stunned that he could categorize entire decades or generations, in two iambic pentameter lines. Whole persons described in seven words! He had not allowed any of us to preview the song, or even know it was in development, so when he stood at the podium and unveiled his intentions, he had our undivided attention. Was my father about to make a fool of himself ? Couldn’t he have let us help him with this? But most important, in my mind, was what my father was going to say about me.
As the youngest of my parent’s children, I had the advantage of a brief telegraphed warning that something was about to be declared about me in public, deduced from listening to what he was singing at the microphone about my brother, and then my sister. His characterizations of them were both succinct and apt, and laden with humor. As he sang about each of them, the sixty pairs of eyes all turned their gaze to first one, then the other, and in spite of having always been described by my siblings as wanting to be the center of attention, it wasn’t exactly true. I liked being the off-center of attention, slightly left of the limelight. The direct spotlight actually produced a state of self-consciousness that made it a little hard to breathe, and made my hands shake. I had been forced to drop out of my college speech class due to my extreme anxiety. While I relished lobbing half-appropriate comments into a conversation from the sideline, claiming the focus for a moment, the knowledge that all eyes were about to be upon me was giving me a massive case of stage fright. What was my father going to say about me? It’s no wonder I might be concerned. I drank my way through my high school years and was nearly expelled for truancy prior to graduating. I had run a car completely out of oil, sank my dad’s Jon boat, and had openly declared my rejection of the religious beliefs of my extended family, and therefore in the eyes of some was halfway down the road to perdition. I had dropped out of college, married an outspoken young man with the mouth of a sailor, and was barely scraping up enough money each month to pay the mortgage payment on our bungalow with a leaking roof and disintegrating ceilings. I had all but gotten a tattoo. At least I wasn’t a lesbian. Paging through the catalogue of my qualities, I couldn’t imagine what my father might choose for this impending, all-too-public summation of my life up to this point. One who fails to live up to her potential? Child who is unlikely to make much of herself ? Spoiled brat? Even at this moment, my youngest was fussing in the back of the room, disturbing those around her, and making it hard for the audience members to fo-
instar cus. Behind each of her howls was the sound of my husband, imploring her to hush. She was twenty months old, and though the tubes that were surgically placed in her eardrums had relieved the discomfort that characterized her first 13 months, her allergies were still drumming up a storm. She needed a nap, and wanted her mom, but now was not the time. I was wishing at that moment I both was and had a better behaved child. But it was too late. I was seconds away from my father’s proclamation upon my character. My discomfort, I should say, had more to do with my own unwrestled issues than with the opinions of the people in this room. These were my aunts and uncles, my parent’s classmates, my grandmother—people who made rag dolls with me, taught me to water ski, and polkaed at my wedding dance in this same Officer’s Club seven years earlier. They embroidered towels for my kitchen, sent me birthday cards, and said novenas for my salvation. As far as I could tell, these people gazed at me with eyes of love, a love I returned a hundred fold. It wasn’t their scorn I feared, though I didn’t understand that at the time. It was my own. Have I mentioned that this party wasn’t about me? It was, from all outward appearances, about my mom and her sixtieth birthday. But if you had the ability to cast your memory back to the events preceding, you might decide it was in many ways about my father’s impending death. Two years earlier, he had spent 15 days in intensive care—much of that on a ventilator—after his second major heart surgery. I was confined to my couch two states away on what they describe as “bed rest,” in an effort to keep my baby—my dad’s youngest grandchild —from arriving critically premature. The tocolytic drug my doctor had prescribed made me jitter, and the idea of my father tied to this life via breathing tube, catheter and IV drip was breaking my heart. It was hardly restful. My sister spoke to me gently about what arrangements could be made for me to travel for a funeral, and we both began to mentally rifle our closets for dark and tasteful clothing. But my father survived, and was released to my mother’s care, and gradually regained his vitality though it took many months. When our baby was born with no apparent ill effects from the weeks of pre-term labor, he
was still too weak to travel. He met her when she was five weeks old and we could make the trip. My dad didn’t scare easily. Once, when he thought someone was hotwiring his Buick in our suburban neighborhood, he ran out to confront the thief, with no weapon in hand and dressed in his underwear. The sight of him, enraged, startled my brother who had locked himself out of the house and was looking in the glove box for a spare key. There is no end to the list of frightening things my father had done, and usually done stoically—swallow raw oysters, stare down a bear in the wild, fly missions over the Ho Chi Minh trail, and employ needle-nose pliers to retrieve a hook from deep inside the alimentary canal of a fish. He had commanded men, raised teenagers, bought and sold property and played blackjack with some of the world’s best players. He didn’t get shook. Until now. My father’s heart was giving out, dying in stages, and he was terrified. Looking back, I have to believe that his fear centered on if and how he would be remembered. He wasn’t insecure about his financial legacy, since my parent’s frugal ways and the lifetime pension from the Air Force would insure my mother was taken care of the remainder of her life. A few years later, on a particularly strong day for the stock market, he would briefly be a millionaire. He had proved himself in the academic arena with his master’s and PhD, and had steadily climbed in Air Force rank to what we referred to as “full bird.” He had traveled, worked hard, risked, and been rewarded, and was able to retire at age 47. But my father had been something of a task master, a perfectionist, and like so many of his generation, gender-biased. The major decisions of my parent’s lives were made in service of his schooling and his career, and when my mom wanted to pursue a trade of her own, and start a small business, he resisted her efforts and worried she was preparing to divorce him. Maybe he hadn’t been nice enough. My dad was, in effect, staring at the landing strip. He was not a likely candidate for a heart transplant, and the damage to his heart muscle from childhood rheumatic fever and a small heart attack or two could not be well compensated for with stents, replacement valves or medication. He set about using the time he had left in the rich-
kelly madigan est ways he could imagine. He wanted memories, but not memories he would cherish into his old age. Abandoned by his own rusted-out shell of a heart, he wanted to live on in ours, and hosting this party for my mom was one way to do so. So here we were all gathered, in a private dining room with doors that opened out to a terrace that overlooked the Minnesota River, just before it poured itself into the Mississippi. Overhead, jets lined up behind one another to approach the nearby international airport. My dad was at the microphone, publicly stating his love and devotion toward my mother, risking himself though his humor and artistic offerings, his storytelling, his lyrics. My dad, the colonel, the physicist, the fiscal conservative, now starring as the romantic, the man still wanting to stand on the rooftop to tell the world about his passion for this one, dark haired, beautiful woman, saying it on camera, with witnesses, in a beautiful setting, and on his tab. Looking back, I can see that his words at the microphone could be tenderly translated into remember me, remember me. Years later, in a therapy session, it would be revealed to me that my intense discomfort over saying or doing stupid things in front of an audience was related to my own harsh judgment of my performance. It wasn’t that I couldn’t stand the thought of what others were thinking of me, but that I was so unforgiving of myself that life inside my skin became unbearable when I failed to live up to my own standards, magnified by the number of people in the listening audience. When my therapist taught me to face myself with tender appreciation, and to agree not to jilt myself when the going got rough, I was freed up to mispronounce words, sweat through my clothes or forget the simplest facts on camera without mercilessly beating myself up afterward. My body became a cradle to my spirit, rather than an after-the-fact interrogation room. My father was dead by the time that revelatory therapy session occurred, so as I waited in that dining room with glasses and dessert forks tinkling around me, listening to his lyrics, knowing he was about to say something he believed captured my spirit in a few syllables, I was without the benefit of loving self-regard. All I could think of, besides my daughter’s fussing in the back of the room, were my failings, many of which might lend themselves
to amusing this crowd. But of course that is not where my father went, not a sideswipe at my lack of accomplishment, not a lecture on the value of a solid work ethic, not a joke about my voice that carries. My father instead spoke to my spirit. He spoke about my core, in seven words he loosely borrowed from the base of the Statue of Liberty. Then came Kelly, yearning to be free. There was more that followed, maybe something about my childhood penchant for tree-climbing. I don’t recall. I was pinned to the mat by that first sentence, pierced by this definition of self as though it were one of my mother’s straight pins put into service to mount a fatbodied moth to a piece of cardboard torn from a moving box. It was both specific and grand, it had muscle and verb, and it was as true that very moment as it had been all of my retrievable life. It was a phrase that could serve as a deeply set center pivot, around which my life could both circle and collect. My earliest memory is of setting out, travel, leaving something behind in order to experience the tastier, more beautiful land of next. Though we lived in Chicopee, Massachusetts for my first three years, a small city that bordered Westover Air Base, I cannot drum up a single memory of our red brick house there, or any interactions with my parents or siblings. I don’t recall our cat, the sidewalk full of worms after a rain shower that my sister insists I ate, or my own bed. Instead, my first memory opens at the back door of a neighbor, two doors down. Her name was Mrs. Charpentier, and she had several things I apparently coveted, if a three year old can truly covet. Mrs. Charpentier had a little dog. She also, on a dependable schedule, baked cookies, which she was willing to hand out to a certain three-year-old who appeared at her kitchen door. Apparently, I would knock, and she would greet me, hand me a warm cookie, and send her dog out to keep me company in her backyard while I consumed the warm sugar in my hand. Cookies and the company of a good dog would be enough to draw me back there like a homing pigeon, but there was more. Mrs. Charpentier had a structure in her back yard, an arched garden bridge with handrails on either side. I have to think it was purely decorative, that there was no river running through her sod that required an elevated walkway
instar to cross over. I’m sure it didn’t actually go anywhere—a bridge from one part of a suburban backyard to another part of said yard—but the arch, the planked walkway, suggested movement. It was a way to overcome whatever was below, a place to take an elevated stand, and for whatever reason, it is where my psyche planted the toehold of memory. Anything that came before the backyard bridge is lost in the mist. Many years later, I developed a psychological theory about the significance of one’s first memory, claiming one could “read” the remembrance like a Tarot card and in it see the person’s orientation to, or relationship with, the world. It made for good conversation on road trips, and over time I began to believe it in earnest, based on the uncanny accuracy it seemed to have. How I usually interpret my own first memory is that I see the world as a welcoming place, where people are glad to see me and offer me great things, and where there are good (animal) companions. It is safe to travel. There is much to discover. But that hardly sums it up. My first memory is rife with symbolism and meaning. I do not recall my family members, for instance. The moment occurs outdoors. Someone kind has fed me, but doesn’t eat with me or invite me inside. I am standing on a bridge to nowhere, suspended between two places, as though I am between the unremembered life that came before, and the new life, beginning that moment, of retrievable experience. I imagine it is the opposite of dying. You might argue that being born holds that position, but what do we recall of that? Our experience of life begins with the onset of memory, and so that would logically be the antithesis of awareness expiring. Seen this way, our birth is the moment of our first recollection. I was born on a wooden pedestrian bridge. My life began on an ornament. My birth was attended by a midwife in the form of a small but friendly dog, and I was immediately afforded a clear view of the sky. I was born with a cookie in my hand, and I was utterly, inarguably happy. So, in this first grace of memory, I have set out after something—connection, sustenance, movement. I want to go to her door, I want the cookie, I want to be on her bridge, and perhaps I even want the experience of be-
ing alone. I am outside of my own house and my own yard, two doors down and outside of supervision. Surely someone in that 1960s neighborhood was keeping an eye out on me, ready to sing my name out across the yard, but I experienced myself as unharnessed. I was free. Maybe it was the first time I was both alone and outdoors. And right then is when the shell of amnesia broke open, and I began to remember my life. Freedom became my aim, and in many ways my obsession, though an uninformed observer might not see evidence for this assertion. I appear deeply rooted, working for one employer my entire adult life, living more than two decades in one neighborhood, married 25 years and counting. Yet, underneath that skin of a life, restlessness boiled below. Look across the timeline stretching from the moment of birth on the wooden walkway 40 some years forward, and at any juncture you could name, any resting place on that line your gaze might stop, I could tell you about my yearning. In fact, the experience of wanting or anticipating is the salient feature of my consciousness in each of those years. I have been an engine of desire. Though it presented in a variety of guises, the object of my yearning was in fact, as my father summed up, to be free. From each developmental stage of my life, the facets of this desired freedom appeared different, so I was by no means always aware that this was my quest, but I have to admit now, he was right. Even when he said it, I understood it was true, but the phrase acted like a depth charge, initially piercing me, but only much later opening into full comprehension, perhaps not even yet fully realized today. My first plan to escape to freedom was in junior high. My friend Linda and I dealt with the excruciating brutality of teen pecking order by deciding to make a break. We imagined ourselves living a life inspired by listening to far too much John Denver, and began cutting out and saving magazine pictures of the mountains. I couldn’t recall ever seeing mountains, having been there before my memory switched on, but they looked impressive, and John Denver liked them, and anything had to be better than the hideous routine of going to school every day, following some prescribed curriculum, and getting torn to ribbons psychologically by my peers. At some level I
kelly madigan must have known this was just talk; that two twelve-yearold girls couldn’t start a new life in Aspen without being detected, detained and returned to their rightful families. Yet the feeling, the immense longing for this fancied existence, consumed me. I thought of our plans ceaselessly, and carefully composed the letter I would eventually be leaving for my parents on the day we finally, sweetly, departed. I carried the letter and the magazine cut-outs in a folder that I peered into throughout the school day, a worry stone of sorts that transported me from the numbing repetition of my regimented schedule and the constant threat of ridicule. I campaigned even earlier than that for the rights of the wrongfully trapped. In this case, animals in real traps set by people who are paid for the pelts. In grade school I sent in for information in response to an ad in a magazine, and soon became a member of K.I.N.D., an organization seeking to ban the use of steel jaw leg-hold traps. They sent me newsletters describing the slow deaths of animals caught by one leg, terrified and unable to flee. I organized neighborhood children into a local chapter, nailed posters depicting young raccoons looking up pleadingly from their traps to telephone poles in my neighborhood, and attempted to engage my dad and uncles—hunters, all— to join with my outrage at the needless suffering caused by this particular style of trapping. The actual death of the animals wasn’t my focus; I had killed things myself by that age. What tormented me was the idea of being tied to one place, caught in the iron teeth and chained to a deep-set post in the ground, unable to go to the next place, held there while the moon rose and set and rose again, while the sky rained ice needles, while the fearsome trapper himself approached. My tendency was to gauge things by their level of drudgery. Classes, schedules, and jobs could easily tamp down my spirit to a little nub until I felt like the raccoon, held fast by a forepaw, gazing up, hoping for rescue and release. I needed not so much to be free, but to feel free— to feel as Joni Mitchell said, unfettered and alive. My music preferences, book choices and even my response to movies all reflected this. At ten, I read and reread my dad’s tattered copy of Kon-Tiki, the true story of a team of men who sailed thousands of miles across the Pacific
on a raft to investigate a theory. These were not people who had to move from Earth Science to PE in four minutes, funneled like cattle in a chute. Linda and I never boarded the bus to head out for our new life in the Rockies. My mom found the letter and called the principal or the guidance counselor at my junior high, frantic about our intentions, thinking we were about to leave. I felt I was betraying some essential part of myself when I assured her it wasn’t real, that we wouldn’t have really done it. I still wanted to believe we would, wanted that mountain air scented by pines, wanted to sit by the campfire at dusk, out of reach of my alarm clock, and far away from the relentless trudging through one day drawn out in little squares just like the last, predetermined, endless and deadly. I was particularly susceptible to the wooing of young men who suggested we might one day run off together. I liked boys with cars, and destinations. At sixteen, I dated a young man purely for his intention to move to Canada and live off the land. He had vacationed there with his family, and knew of a remote cabin on a lake in a woods so thick and wild we’d not be found. He was a man with an ax, who knew how to start fires, and if I ever started to lose interest in him, he could rekindle my affection by talk of moose sightings, and a stove with a cord of wood stacked nearby. Neither of us had a lick of problem-solving skills, but we focused our meager collective experience into the development of a plan, talking about highways we’d take, how to cross the border, provisions we’d need. I thought of books; he thought of lanterns. To prepare, we camped one winter weekend at a state park about 20 miles from our homes. The concession stand was closed for the season; we were truly roughing it. But for the regular interruption of trains passing through with their horns blasting, I could picture us in north Ontario, like Neil Young sang about, knowing that even if we never set out, in my mind I still need a place to go. For a time I was a student of out-of-body experiences. I was aiming for the astral plane, and collected instructional material that might help me get there. Rumor had it that the half-sleep state, hypnagogia, was fertile ground for astral projection, as was lucid dreaming, so I courted both. The first time I had the experience of
instar feeling outside of my own body was brief; it happened after meditating. First I had the precursor effect of seeing glitter, thousands of tiny, moving specks of color in the air everywhere I looked, and then it was as though I popped right out of my body and zipped up to the ceiling, and up through a square of light reflected off a glass lampshade on the ceiling. Though I couldn’t see myself, it felt as though I entered through the square of light up to my waist, and so the top half of my “self ” was just inside this illuminated world. I leaned forward slightly to look down, and tumbled into a slow somersault, no longer halfway through but completely within the radiant space. As quickly as it started, it was over—my consciousness returned to my own body on the bed below, but like many before me, I was now flooded with the richest sense of elation I’d ever known. I felt love as though it were pressurized, a supercharged love that infiltrated not only every crevice of my being, but flooded the universe, as well. I had perforated the membrane of the world into a river of love, and it was bright, evident and eternal. Still, I was agitated. I had difficulty going to college classes, felt sick too often, and was depressed by the prospect of clocking in and out at some job for the next fifty or so years. I wanted to write, to lie down in the tall grass, to be both connected to others and left alone. In opposition to that, I also wanted marriage, children, and a home. As time passed I wanted more responsibility, then less responsibility. I wanted access to land where I could wander, and a peer group who understood and supported my creative endeavors. I wanted to talk about ideas, to publish, to teach. I wanted to be unstuck, and I wanted others to be unstuck, too. I wanted to go out in the dark and watch for meteors, play my harmonica, pray. I rebelled against my time belonging to someone else, and as a result I had personality conflicts with many of my bosses. I meditated long hours just to be halfway sane. The world seemed to have a conspiracy against me. I fought hard for what seemed like woefully insufficient amounts of freedom. I made a career out of coaching others to freedom, showing them how they might slip the restraints that addiction had tightened around them. The negative consequences of their chemical use and associated behaviors
were legion—driving a car through the garage wall and into the living room, a battle-scarred liver that could no longer do its work, and the yellow or green skin tone that made the liver failure hard to hide, a baby in the protective custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, a nursing license yanked forever. But just beyond those real-world effects was where I most wanted to focus, on what the spirit had lost. Dreams dismantled, the quiet voice within muffled, the thin bright cord connecting a person to his or her Creator severed. Chemical dependency was robbing people of the freedom to be themselves, the freedom to move and create and manifest. They could not do their work, in the very largest sense of the word. When we could get there in therapy, the revelation was potent: “I want my life back.” In junior high, there was more to be feared than the numbing schedule of classes. In our new-found sophistication we sharpened the knives used to slice one another up. I was vicious to a girl who lived near me and who was taunted for being overweight. I associated with her when no one else was looking, but otherwise would shun her or tease her myself to avoid having her attackers turn their weapons on me. This decision not only insured I’d be making a lifetime of amends, but the strategy was ineffective. Weight wasn’t the only target. My surname had been deployed against me in grade school, separated and posed as an annoying question asked more times than I can tell, “Kelly, are you MAD AGAIN?” Harmless enough. But now the boys lining the hallways of the school were taking every insult to a new height, and as I walked past they’d mutter “maggot.” Maggot. At first I didn’t even hear it correctly. Lucky for me I had many opportunities to have it repeated, since it was a hallway I traveled daily. Maggot. Sometimes one boy, sometimes several. Boys who were much bigger than me, boys who slammed one another into lockers, boys who were the brothers of my friends. In those same years we lived at the edge of a housing development, and I often walked out into the fields with my dog. We’d climb down into and back out of a valley, crossing the railroad tracks as we went, and then range through the untended acres. Sometimes I’d flush a pheasant, startling at the snap of his wings near my feet, and
kelly madigan other times I’d be surrounded by the company of grasshoppers, staining my hands with their tobacco spit when I held them, listening to their rustled jumps and landings as I walked past. Eventually I’d lie on my back, nestled into the dry grass, and wait for my heart and breathing to slow. Sometimes I’d sing, make up a prayer, or sleep in the sun. Outside of school, away from friends and enemies, far enough away from people that I wasn’t at risk of a social gaffe, I could settle in, and was free to think my own thoughts. I never examined the word maggot. What in my behavior, attire or personality might have suggested this nickname? Was it simply that the word shared some letters with my last name? What exactly is a maggot? These were questions that never occurred to me, because my response wasn’t an intellectual one, it was what Lucinda Williams describes as feel like I been shot but didn’t fall down. I didn’t need to research the life cycle of a fly to know that I was being described as vile. By the end of tenth grade, I felt some relief to know my dad was being transferred, and I would start my junior year in a school where no one knew of my lowly and parasitic nature. My husband and I often went to Monona County, Iowa for holidays with his family, especially after his dad retired and moved back there, a rural county with a population of less than 10,000 people. I had a good relationship with his dad, in spite of a rocky start when he told his son he couldn’t marry me because the two of them working together couldn’t afford me. It was a fear that sprung from his working class background and his awareness of my father’s rank. As it turned out, my need for space far exceeded my need for material goods, and while this comforted my father-in-law to some degree, I remained a puzzle to him. One Thanksgiving after dinner, he and I went for a drive in his red truck. I listened as he pointed out sites of interest from his childhood. He liked to drive slowly. As we inched down a dirt road through some land owned by the state, a hill came into view on our left. I nudged his arm. Can we go up there? He glanced at me to see where I was looking, then turned his attention toward the hill. You want to go up that hill? I did. I wanted to scale that hill more than I wanted anything, ever. His son and I and
our two young daughters were living in a tiny house at that time, situated in a tiny yard, where the back door swung open and nearly hit the property line, and the stars were obscured by city lights, and if there were fields to walk outside of town I didn’t know how to find them, or whose permission to seek before crossing them. It was late November, and snow had settled down between the stalks of bent grass on the hill. He wouldn’t climb the hill, but told me to go ahead, he’d wait. I slid out of the truck, crossed the road and headed up, catching my breath on the steep incline, and pulling my coat in tighter around me. What was I doing? My family, my husband and children and niece and nephews were all back at my sister-in-law’s place, eating pie and playing games. It was cold out here, and the light was beginning to fade. I kept climbing. At the crest I turned and looked back. The sky out in front of me was pink and jade and salmon and sapphire above the faded brown landscape, and the sun quivered at the skyline, showing through the empty brace of trees. I sat down in the grass, and tears came, and I watched the sun disappear through the clouds of my breath. Below me, the red truck idled on the dirt road. My dad was right about me. And yet I wasn’t seeking freedom for its own sake. I had listened to Janis Joplin singing “Me and Bobby McGee”; I knew what freedom’s just another word for. I didn’t want to hurt anyone; I didn’t want to wander aimlessly with no family ties and no work in the world. I just wanted to feel as though I owned my own life, like I could respond to the direction my spirit was providing, audibly dictating, on a minute to minute basis. I didn’t want to be a maggot. What is a maggot, anyway? Fly larva. Like caterpillars, maggots shed their skin as they move from one stage of development—or instar—to the next. After three instars, they pupate, and then emerge as flies. Maggots have no eyes, but once a fly emerges, it is equipped with eyes as complex as any in the insect world, designed to give it nearly complete 360 degree vision, with many individual facets on the surface each acting as a separate light-detecting device. Flies see the world as a mosaic, and they see it all the way around. The second time I had an out-of-body experience, I was in that hypnagogic state, the trance-like installment
instar between sleeping and waking. My body was lying face up on our waterbed in that tiny house, and when I felt the sensation of leaving my own body, I was immediately flying. The landscape below me was brown and the vegetation was sparse, and I was flying fast, face down, high above the shoulder of a long road. It was dusk. I realized I was out of my body, and flying, and I wondered if I had any control of my flight. Could I fly lower to the ground? Instantly I was two feet above the shoulder of the road, still traveling fast. Could I slow down? Again the effect was immediate, and I slowed to the point of being able to see individual stones in the gravel lining the highway. When I returned to my body, it was as though I had pressed down on the waterbed. Waves moved beneath me. Imagine the transformation from wriggling on your belly to being airborne. Fly wings provide enough gusto and precision for instant liftoff and complicated flight movements, including zigzags, tight spirals, and even backward maneuvers. The sightless creature awakens to a world of panoramic vision, light flooding into each separate facet of the oversized eyes, and lifts off. It is simply a stage of development—egg, larva, pupa, fly. It would be nice to be able to tell them, to lean over the rotting body of the deer in the ditch and say your whole life won’t be about digesting the dead, my little friends. As each molt approaches and the space they are living in seems too tiny, we could inform them it is only natural, to go ahead and let the skin spilt open. Wriggle free of it, tiny recycler. A new body awaits. But probably better not to rush it. They are, in their worm form, performing a corporal act of mercy as agents of decomposition, reducing the mass of the dead, making much-needed room in a world of limited space. And in that sense, the mulling over of those who have gone before, I am in fact a maggot. Family historian, eulogist, executor, mourner. And the other similarities have not escaped me. I have felt constricted and then grown, and felt restricted again, and I have popped right smack out of my body into an astonishing world of both flight and light, neither of which existed until the moment I bathed in the river of love. I don’t know what my father’s earliest memory was.
He’s been gone eight years, and the dinner he was simmering on the stove has long since cooled. It was ham, and cabbage, and carrots and onions. My mom and sister left the hospital with a plastic bag that held the shirt the paramedics had cut off of him in order to do their work, and when they returned home the kettle of food was still warm on the stove. I have heard that smell is the most primal of our five senses, that it takes place in an ancient part of the brain. So although I cannot tell you the incident that switched my father’s memory center on at two or three or four years old, I ‘d like to think his last memory, his very last experience, was anticipatory pleasure, one of my dad’s all time favorite things. He sat in the living room as the food cooked, the smells doing their good work, his mouth watering. I am back in Monona County. Last night I walked down to my sister-in-law’s barn at sunset to see the three new calves. Their moms stared at us and snorted and moaned their warning, but we weren’t a real threat. The babies were tiny forms in the clean straw, legs tucked beneath them. Today her son and I collected abandoned bird’s nests for a project, and flew a kite we assembled together. This boy is too young to remember his grandpa, the man who sat in the idling truck while I climbed a hill in the near-dark, but he knows where his grave is, and pointed it out to me as we drove slowly down the cemetery road looking for nests. I crossed a bridge to enter this life. I came on foot, and the sky was high and wild above me. I have moved through instar after instar, and as I have done so my husband came and threw a jacket over my shoulders, and two little girls appeared and squeezed my hand and let me brush their dark hair, and my father turned from tending dinner on the stove and stepped away. I remember going to the edge of the sea with my father. We woke in the dark and went down to the water without speaking. I was not afraid. Stars were fixed in the sky above us, but we were on a planet that was rolling forward. Waves broke near the shore and flashed white froth, visible in the low light, and the air salted the skin of our faces. I could tell you how the sun rose up before us, how it threw light over the shoulder of the ocean to announce itself. Or I could say that after midnight tonight,
kelly madigan caught in the tangle of these words, I stepped out into a valley in Monona County, far from the ocean, a mile or two from the graveyard where my husband has bought burial plots near the grave of his father, and a meteor blazed for a moment through the earth’s atmosphere. There is great value in having someone recognize you, even for a moment, before they go; to have someone say your name aloud. Tolkien said not all who wander are lost. In the lore of astral projection, we leave our bodies but are tied back to them with a golden cord, a lifeline much like a rancher might need to go from the house to the barn in a blizzard. My father’s lyrics tie me back to myself, and the cord shimmers out across the water, bright and flexible, long after he has missed his dinner. In fact, the words travel backwards, as well, a truth that eradicates lies that were said to me beforehand, by boys who did not understand maggots, who didn’t stand still long enough to wonder at their mystery, and see their work in the world. Maggot, star, meteor, girl, father, river, nest, grave, jade, daughter—each a ribbon tucked loosely under and over the others, nothing tied, nothing knotted, nothing pinned or sewn. Free.
interview with carlos ramos
Interview with Carlos Ramos Manda Frederick What possibly strikes a viewer first about Carlos Ramos’ work is that the images have a sense of familiarity—but not familiar like, say, a Van Gogh print that you’ve seen all your life on a postcard or a refrigerator magnet. When you view Ramos’ paintings inspired by David Bowie and Stanley Kubrick, you don’t think, “I’ve seen this before.” Because, of course, you have not seen Ramos’ paintings before. But you think: “I somehow know this. I have experienced this.” Because Ramos’ work distills the vivid, reallife personas of Bowie that we know and the narratives of Kubrick’s films that we’ve watched, his paintings ask viewers to call up a string of concrete, sensual memories and experiences related to the content: that Greyhound bus ride to Seattle listening to “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust on repeat, waiting for the moment when the music cuts out and Bowie sings that we’re not alone; that Comp II visual analysis paper your student wrote on the use of sound and color in The Shining; that summer you spent, as a child, at your uncle’s house in the Michigan country-side, watching and rewatching The Labyrinth. Glancing through Ramos’ work is like flipping through a scrapbook you don’t remember making. This experiential reaction from the viewer is one of Ramos’ favorite aspects of creating and sharing these images. Ramos expresses, “The best part of the Kubrick show was everyone wanting to tell me a personal story about Kubrick and how he affected their lives. I’ve heard more stories than I can remember.” In the interview that follows, Ramos shares his thoughts on art in this new-media age, the creation of his work, and the effect he hopes to have on his viewers. To see more of Ramos’ art, see his site: www.theCarlosRamos.com. Manda Frederick: Glassworks is attracted to your work because it encompasses the energy of “new media”—the
representation of narrative or information through image and a sense of motion. But “new media” is, of course, hard to define absolutely. What does “new media” mean to you as an artist or consumer of art, and what do you think its place is in the current landscape of art? Carlos Ramos: I feel that “new media” is just a term that means more people can share their ideas globally. Tumblr, I feel, is the best example in that it’s almost anonymous, unlike Facebook, but people from every part of the world share not only themselves but, more importantly, their tastes. It’s an image-based site, mostly, but can also service writing or any other obsession. I only post art in it a couple times a week and tend not to follow artists but rather people who share the same tastes as me. How is this marketable? I don’t think anybody knows yet, but this sharing of ideas and taste has been a breakthrough for me as a form of entertainment. For example, I have a Tumblr page where all I do is caricatures of Howard Stern characters. As far as being an artist, I love having something like this aside from just having an art website. It allows people who like my stuff to follow me and hopefully get an inside look into my influences because, as you can see in my art, I’m more pushed by imagery from film and music than I am by fine art. MF: While Glassworks is featuring your paintings, you are also the creator of the animated series The X’s for Nickelodeon. Can you reflect a little bit on the differences for you, as an artist, in creating still-frame paintings versus an animated series? CR: With both fine art and animation of an expert level, you are dealing with art as commerce. So with both things you are trying to satisfy your own tastes and, at the same time, a wider audience. With an animated series, you are in charge of a small army of people who are all trying to get your vision to the screen. It’s an incredible job that can be extremely rewarding, but it can also be exhausting to be a boss. Fine art is the opposite: you are locked-up inside for years talking to your dog. Animation and painting are totally different experiences but both come with their own
manda frederick down sides and set politics, for sure. MF: It seems art has traditionally been thought to have an element of “social responsibility,” to act as a representation of the time and culture in which it is created. But “art,” in this technological and new-media age, seems to be changing in how it is created and consumed. Do you think that traditional expectation of art is still true? CR: Well, to be honest, the market is flooded with every kind of art these days (my e-mail inbox is filled with group art-show requests ranging from interesting to absurd) and “social responsibility” is a term to be held to politicians and police. Art is in the hands of an individual who shouldn’t have to think about being “responsible.” An artist doesn’t sit back and go, “What’s in the news today…?” An artist creates from their gut and tries to push through, in an image of something personal, and then place it on a wall. After that, it’s up to the viewer to be moved or just to call it crap. MF: It occurs to me, then, that the publishing industry and writing itself is, of course, also changing with technological advances, and many writers lament on the “death of books” and “literacy” because of this digital age in which we live. The technological era could be—maybe should be—having the same effect on art, such as paintings. And, yet, I have not encountered the same sort of sadness or sense of finality from visual artists. Do you feel that this technological era is harming how people consume art, or harming the quality of people’s understanding of what “good” art is? CR: Yes and no is the clearest answer. Technological advances, especially the internet, have made art collectors out of everyone. And there’s a lot of art out there meeting the demand for people wanting to have art on their walls, desktops, iPad cases etc. So the term “good art” is becoming looser because something very low brow can appeal to somebody living in France who wants that image on their backpack. I may not agree with all of it, but it is nice to see so much excitement about art. I get daily requests for prints, which I don’t do. Maybe because I don’t hang prints in my own place. I want the
real thing. A real piece of art feeds me daily. Looking at a real brush line or a mistake on the canvas delights me, and I just don’t get that charge from a print. I remember the first time I saw a real Van Gough. It blew me away just because postcards and books can never do his work justice. It’s a textural experience. I guess my point is for my own personal taste I don’t want “art” on my jeans. Plus, the idea of going to the post office weekly with a car full of my prints in tubes and printed iPod cases in boxes scared the hell out of me. MF: Your work strikes me as sort of updated ekphrastic work—art in response to other art. In this case, Bowie and Kubrick. Traditional ekphrasis tended to mean writing something in response to visual work. In your work, you create an image in response to other images or visual work. Can you speak to how these visual artists influence your art? CR: Both the Bowie and Kubrick shows just came from my own personal desire. Kubrick is my own obsession and so it was a show I wanted to commit to and see to the end. Bowie was a quick follow-up, and it just tickled me to paint such a strong artist/musician with so many personas. Again, it would be hard to do any other rock star. There is only one Bowie just like there is only one Kubrick. So both those shows were just something I needed to get out of myself regardless of what anybody else wanted. Kubrick’s work especially means so much to me, and spending over a year in his work was amazing. I wasn’t out to “copy” anything but to celebrate his work because it is so specific and bold. But I will say that it ends with him because, after that show, people would ask which director I was going to do next—to me, there is no director like Kubrick or another director I could imagine spending that much of my time on. The funny thing is that my Shining pieces led me to working with Rodney Ascher, the director of Room 237, a sort of documentary about people’s obsession with The Shining. My Danny carpet image—“What’s in Room 237?”—was used as the poster, and I did a bit of animation on the film. It was accepted into Sundance and, now, Cannes. It was bought by IFC, tentatively coming out in
interview with carlos ramos the fall. It’s just amazing to see my art come together with a film, being turned into another kind of art—all in celebration of the mighty Stanley Kubrick. MF: Your paintings from Kubrick are obviously paintings. And, yet, when I survey online galleries that house your work, your paintings largely appear on new-media sites for film or science fiction. Why do you think that is? In creating your work, did you intend or hope to continue to align yourself with the cinema, or do you hope that your works stand alone as paintings in their own right? CR: I don’t know that there ever was a plan, to be honest. I pitched the show to Copro Gallery, and I think they let me do it just because I was so excited and clearly was going to do it anyway. But as the show got closer to opening I was being interviewed by as many film sites as art sites, which was very exciting and unexpected—although my past my work has had a fan-base in the genres of film and video games. But also the best part of the Kubrick show was everyone wanting to tell me a personal story about Kubrick and how he affected their lives. I’ve heard more stories than I can remember. One of my favorite Kubrick nuts is Pixar’s Lee Unkrich who payed for most of the Kickstarter on Room 237. He knows more about The Shining than anybody. I hope he writes a book. MF: Could you talk a little bit, more specifically, about one of your Kubrick images? CR: Well, “Forever and Ever” is obviously portraying an extremely iconic Shining image of the twins in the hallway. So, clearly, it had to go in my Kubrick show, but how to paint it? I rely heavily on getting an image to “pop” into my head. A vision. And this one I think took awhile. Then the image was there, and I went for it. The problem with this piece is that it had to be completely symmetrical, and it contained specific patterns like the wall paper. So this piece took a lot of pre-planning and stencils, which I hate. And maybe I didn’t have as much fun with this painting but, after, I really liked it. I have a very consistent habit of hating a piece until it’s done, and then I don’t look at it for
a week. Then they usually surprise me. It’s an odd process. But I don’t know if there is much of a definite method to my painting. Unlike a lot of painters, I don’t plan much. I don’t project a sketch onto the canvas. It’s all pretty much free-hand on the canvas, which is the way I like to work. So although there is a pre-existing image for my Kubrick or Bowie paintings, I’m still just wrestling with a giant piece of wood, and I don’t know how it will end—even in painting something as specific as a Kubrick image. That’s the joy and pain for me. Not knowing where I’m going with a piece. It’s a very rewarding process.
See more of Carlos Ramos’ work and follow his current projects at his website. www.theCarlosRamos.com
Susanne Antonetta (Suzanne Paola)’s most recent book, Inventing Family, a memoir and study of adoption, is forthcoming from W.W. Norton. Awards for her poetry and prose include a New York Times Notable Book, an American Book Award, a Library Journal Best Science book of the year, a Lenore Marshall Award finalist, a Pushcart prize, and others. She is also coauthor of Tell It Slant: Creating, Refining and Publishing Creative Nonfiction. Her essays and poems have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Orion, Seneca Review and many anthologies, including Short Takes and Lyric Postmodernisms. She lives in Bellingham, Washington, with her husband and son.
Oliver de la Paz is the author of three books of poetry: Names Above Houses, Furious Lullaby, and Requiem for the Orchard. He is also the co-editor of A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry. His work has been published in journals such as the Southern Review, New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Third Coast. He is the co-chair of the Kundiman.org advisory board and he teaches English at Western Washington University.
James Grabill was born in Ohio and attended the College of Wooster, Bowling Green State University, and Colorado State University where he earned a MA and MFA degrees. He has taught writing and literature at Colorado State, Clackamas Community College, and the Oregon Writers’ Workshop. His books of poems include One River, Clouds Blowing Away, To Other Beings, and In Personal Essays, Prose Poems, and Poems. He now lives in Portland, Oregon, and is Coordinator of Summer Programs for the Oregon Writers’ Workshop.
Andrew Lam is the author of East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres and Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora. For eight years, he was a regular commentator on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” An editor with New America Media, the nation’s largest association of ethnic media, Lam has contributed essays to dozens of newspapers across the country, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Baltimore Sun, the Atlanta Journal, and the Chicago Tribune. His third book, Birds of Paradise, a short story collection, is due out in 2013. He is currently working on a novel.
Kelly Madigan works as a licensed alcohol and drug counselor in Nebraska and is the author of Getting Sober: A Practical Guide to Making it Through the First 30 Days (McGraw-Hill). Her work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Crazyhorse and Barrow Street. She is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship..
Madge McKeithen teaches in the Writing Program at the New School University in New York City. Her work has appeared in anthologies and journals including TriQuarterly, Utne Reader, The New York Times Book Review, and Best American Essays 2011, and in her first book, Blue Peninsula: Essential Words for a Life of Loss and Change (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2006).
Benjamin Rosenbaum lives near Basel, Switzerland, with his wife and their two kids. They are world champions of a martial art of their own invention, called Airport, which involves stepping on each others’ feet in airports. Benjamin’s work has appeared in Harper’s, McSweeney’s, and Nature, been translated into twentysome languages, and been nominated for Hugo, Nebula, BSFA and Sturgeon awards. More info (and more stories) at http://benjaminrosenbaum.com; twitter @ ben_rosenbaum.
Don Shea’s stories have appeared in many venues, including The North American Review, StoryQuarterly,The Gettysburg Review,The Utne Reader, Other Voices, Stirring, Brevity,The Quarterly, Quick Fiction and numerous other magazines. His work has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, broadcast on NPR’s Selected Shorts, performed by Speaking of Stories, and nominated for best online stories, 2008. He has been included in the Norton anthologies Flash Fiction and Flash Fiction Forward, the Great Books Foundation Short Story Omnibus, the Doubleday anthology Quickly Aging Here, and in Best of Crosscurrents. His stories also appear in the teaching texts Reasoning and Writing Well 5th Ed. (McGraw Hill) and Fast Fiction (Story Press). His story collection, Injuries and Damages, was short listed for the Iowa Short Fiction Prize. He has taught writing workshops at The Writer’s Voice, West Side YMCA and The New School, and is currently a writing tutor at Bard High School/Early College, a New York City public school for gifted kids.Visit his website at don-shea.com. His story “Wrong” first appeared in the Winter ‘97 issue of the Gettysburg Review.
Russell Thorburn lives in Marquette, Michigan, with his two sons and wife. A recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in poetry, he teaches at Northern Michigan University and is an independent manuscript editor and consultant whose clients have published numerous books with national presses in the U.S. and Canada. His fifth book of poetry was recently published, Misfit Hearts (Rocky Shore Books). His debut fiction, The Only Map We Have, is forthcoming from Marick Press.
Carolyne Wright has published nine books and chapbooks of poetry, a collection of essays, and four volumes of translations from Spanish and Bengali. Her latest book is Mania Klepto: the Book of Eulene (Turning Point, 2011). Her previous collection, A Change of Maps (Lost Horse Press, 2006), finalist for the Idaho Prize and the Alice Fay di Castagnola Award from the PSA, won the 2007 IPPY Bronze Award. Seasons of Mangoes and Brainfire (Carnegie Mellon UP/EWU Books, 2nd edition 2005) won the Blue Lynx Prize and American Book Award. A Seattle native who studied with Elizabeth Bishop and Richard Hugo, Wright has been a visiting writer at colleges, universities, schools, and conferences around the country. She moved back to Seattle in 2005, and teaches for the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts’ Whidbey Writers Workshop MFA Program, and for the Richard Hugo House. A poem of hers appeared in The Best American Poetry 2009 (ed. David Wagoner) and The Pushcart Prize XXXIV: Best of the Small Presses (2010).
Robert Wrigley teaches at the University of Idaho. The Church of Omnivorous Light: Poems Selected & New will appear in the United Kingdom, from Bloodaxe Books, in March, 2013. In April 2013, Penguin will publish his tenth book, Anatomy of Melancholy & Other Poems.
About Glassworks The tradition of glassworking and the history of Rowan University are deeply intertwined. South Jersey was a natural location for glass production—the sandy soil provided the perfect medium, while plentiful oak trees fueled the fires. Glassboro, home of Rowan University, was founded as “Glass Works in the Woods” in 1779. The primacy of artistry, a deep pride in individual craftsmanship, the willingness to explore and test conventional boundaries to create exciting new work is part of the continuing spirit inspiring Glassworks magazine.
CONTRIBUTORS Susanne Antonetta Oliver de la Paz James Grabill Andrew Lam Kelly Madigan Madge McKeithen Carlos Ramos Benjamin Rosenbaum Don Shea Russell Thorburn Carolyne Wright Robert Wrigley
Cover Artist: Carlos Ramos was born and raised in Burbank, California and graduated from the California Institute of the Arts. Ramos has created numerous shows for Cartoon Network,Walt Disney Studios, and Nickelodeon, including The Xâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s and Chalkzone, which garnered him an Annie Award for Individual Achievment in Art Direction. Ramosâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; work has been featured in numerous galleries and he used to co-host the Burning Brush auctions with Tim Biskup in the early days of Pop Surrealism. He currently lives in the hills of Silverlake.Visit: www.theCarlosRamos.com for more.