a publication of Rowan Universityâ€™s Master of Arts in Writing
featuring the fruits and hymns of autumn letters inscribed with grief and an interview with Aimee Parkison
Cover art: “Yes I Am” by Phyllis Gorsen The staff of Glassworks Magazine would like to thank Rowan University’s Master of Arts in Writing Program, Rowan University’s Writing Arts Department, and The Glassworks Advisory Board: Ron Block, Martin Itzkowitz, Lisa Jahn-Clough, Andrew Kopp, Jeffrey Maxson
Cover Design & Layout: Katie Budris
EDITOR IN CHIEF Katie Budris MANAGING EDITOR Andrew Davison SENIOR EDITORS Joan Hanna Steve Royek Kaitlin Zeilman
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Glassworks is a publication of Rowan University’s Master of Arts in Writing Graduate Program
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glassworks Fall 2015
MASTER OF ARTS IN WRITING GRADUATE PROGRAM ROWAN UNIVERSITY
Issue 11 | Table of Contents Poetry
Ceridwen Hall, In the Province of Eldest Daughters | 42
Rage Hezekiah, Firefly | 46 Karen Hildebrand Dia De Los Muertos | 4
Home, ca. 1951 | 5
Lynn Holmgren, Girl With Cherries (Copley Square) | 26
The Floors Creak Like You’ll Fall Through | 37 Tire-Swing Elegy | 36
James Croal Jackson, The Universe Necessarily Sends Metaphors | 18
Susanna Lang, Letters, No Address | 44 Yvonne Higgins Leach Letter to Clark and Charlotte | 39 The Turner’s Place | 38 Kevin O’Connor The Mystic II | 21 The Tourist: Havana | 20
Claudia Putnam, She Who Was Able to Embrace the Eagle... | 17
Noel Sloboda At the Spanish Riding School |61 Evergreen | 62 Tina Tocco Boys of Fall | 58 Gone | 59
Mark Lee Webb, Salvation | 64
Susan Whitmore, Falling Fruit | 3
Fiction Rachel Cochran, Chimney Sweep | 7 Brett Roth, Grades | 47 Alan Wor, Now Partly Emerged | 23
Nonfiction Kathryn Brining, Denia R. Martinez, Michael Nusspickel, Looking Within Ourselves: An Interview with Aimee Parkison | 28 Kelsey Dean, Dandelion Milk | 40
Metro | 43
Yes I Am | cover Dave Magyar
Pan’s Puzzle I | 27
Pan’s Puzzle II | 35
W. Jack Savage
Casual Friday | 19
Enough for Change | 60
Rizzo | 6 Show | 22
The History of 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, and the willingness to explore and test conventional boundaries to create exciting new work is part of the continuing spirit inspiring Glassworks magazine.
Falling Fruit Susan Whitmore
Peach trees crumbling pink gossamer petals Like scarlet snow, dropping fruit-yet-to-be Wet and heavy as sex onto the muddy ground. The thud will eventually come, Come the splitting of skin, come the moisture Of pit and earth, soft fur of membrane soiled And flesh cleaved down to its singular bone. Wherein lies the seed, branches, leaves, A thousand blooming bodies inside a single tree.
Dia De Los Muertos Karen Hildebrand
We take our pallor from a tube, face paint to hollow the eyes and blot our rosy lips with bony teeth. We are calling in the souls— sugar skulls, incense, salt, and song. The crowd forms on Mission— Mayan dancers shake their bells and beaded sticks. How will you find me? A musky trail of marigolds? The purple sequins of my skirt could spiral from here to Venus. A pack of smokes, more likely— I saved your last in a Ziploc. My altar glows. The souls approach like fire ants. I am calling, you are crawling farther from me every year.
Home, c. 1951 Karen Hildebrand
Kerouac ended his opus the year I was born. I was but a glimmer in the backseat of that jalopy jammed with jitter and yakety, wind flapping his hound-dog tongue. Jack made it look easy, all that malarkey. I’m the stuff that made his eyelid twitch: What about the mortgage? What about Blue Cross Blue Shield on the road? It’s no fun to be no fun. Like the bologna and mayo sandwich his girl insisted, It’s a long way to Toledo. I’m the way he cried a little when he held her and asked if she’d be true. And I’m the relief she felt after the screen door banged shut. I’m miller-moths dancing in the porch light. I’m the dishes settling in the sink like a sigh.
Before his father died, Greg’ry once asked when exactly a boy became a man, and his father told him, You’ll know. But plenty of things had passed Greg’ry by without his noticing—hadn’t he once been walking through the gate when he got to daydreaming and all the hens went loose and onto the street and his mother, god rest her soul, boxed his ears and told him he was nothing but a woolgatherer like Uncle Haim? So, Greg’ry was scared that he would miss the change, that it would rustle by him in a rush of feathers and he wouldn’t even stir. But as it happened his father was right, because the instant Greg’ry changed was in the end of April when he was shimmied down in Miss O’Reardon’s chimney and he felt his boy’s body become a man’s, his skeleton surging out like a newborn horse kicking its birth skin, his shoulders broadening, his hands growing large as plates, and suddenly he fit into the chute too tightly to move. At first, Greg’ry only felt peaceful, like being held too close when being rocked to sleep, or wearing old clothes that had grown snug. When Ned Pearse, the sweeper, called down to Greg’ry and asked how much longer, Greg’ry was
sleeping comfortably with his head nestled against the sooty walls. The silence alarmed the old sweeper. Sometimes climbers would lower themselves all the way to the inglenooks and purloin little trinkets from the chambers below, so Pearse peered down into the stack. A twinkle, and the boy was where he should be; a bright beam, and he had slipped out. But what Pearse saw was the pitch black like the inside of a closed box. Something had entirely eclipsed the blue glow of Miss O’Reardon’s parlor. “Halloa, boy,” Pearse called. An echo, and the flue was shut, but there was no echo. “Halloa,” he called again. “I wasn’t sleeping,” Greg’ry cried back, prising his eyes open. “Haven’t you done in there yet?” Pearse said. “I’m halfway up,” said Greg’ry. “Hurry along. We’ve eight more stacks to do by Mayfair.” “I can’t budge,” said Greg’ry. “Then unstick your knees.” Greg’ry had gotten knee stuck before, and then it was just a question of turning himself into the corner to work free. There would be no turning himself now, not by a single degree.
Rachel Cochran | Chimney Sweep
“It isn’t my knees,” he said. “It’s all of me.” Pearse was angry. There were other boys in other chimneys to attend to, so he left Greg’ry where he was to unstick himself. The sun fell, and Pearse worked his way down and up the clean Dublin streets, collecting and tabulating his sooty climbers and lining them up in a row only to discover that Greg’ry was not among them. So, Pearse took the ladder up to Miss O’Reardon’s rooftop again and called into the chimney mouth. “Now, Greg’ry,” said Pearse. “Come up and out of that chute.” Greg’ry had passed the day in a nervous state. The chimney no longer felt like an embrace but like a vice, and although his body would not budge either higher or lower he had the distinct feeling of being squeezed from a tube. In the first hours after his abandonment he had cried out to no answer and, when he was certain that none were around to hear him, he had wept shamefully in the chimney’s dark interior. As a boy, Greg’ry had never felt shame in tears, but his man’s body was burned by the tracks they left down his face, and, unable to move his hands to wipe them away, they stung like salt air, staining and constricting his skin. When he heard Pearse calling to him again he felt certain that he would be saved now; if there was anything the old sweeper hated it was a sunk investment. Greg’ry
answered Pearse in joy and relief. “Hand up your broom,” called Pearse. “Will you lift me out?” “Your broom,” said Pearse again. “It’s above me. You can grab it if you reach in.” Greg’ry nudged the broom further up the chimney with his nose. He felt the handle twitch against his cheek as Ned Pearse grabbed hold of the bristled end. “Wait,” said Greg’ry. “I can’t grip it.” His arms were trapped against his sides, and he struggled to free them so that Pearse might be able to tug him free. But the broom began to pull from him, knocking soot loose and into Greg’ry’s eyes. It pulled from the chute, away and away and along with the sweeper himself, leaving a window of greyish sky visible above. ~ The climbing boys drifted from their row, and they filled the street from gutter to gutter so that when Miss O’Reardon’s carriage came down the lane they scattered like flakes of ash in a breeze, and the twohorse chaise clattered past and up to the door. Here, Ned Pearse stood, flatcap in hand, and when Miss O’Reardon stepped down, delicately lifting her skirts, he greeted her with a bow and began to speak to her in his most obsequious tones. As they spoke the boys fluttered closer, but Pearse jabbed with Greg’ry’s bristle broom to keep them at bay, and
The chimney no longer felt like an embrace but like a vice, and although his body would not budge either higher or lower he had the distinct feeling of being squeezed from a tube. When they left without Greg’ry, there were confused whispers amongst the boys, but none went back to find him, and later, when Pearse passed them the heel of his bread and they pinched off crumbs for themselves, the sweeper addressed them to say that Greg’ry had aged out, that is, had got too big for his work, and one day they would, too, and that was why they ate so little—to keep them small,
he said, for their security. He was looking out for his boys, wanted to help them help themselves since they had no parents to do it. Greg’ry once had parents. Surely they could all remember the way Greg’ry talked of his family, just the way a boy who’s used to wearing shoes complains when he’s forced to walk barefooted. Greg’ry’s parents, Pearse explained, filled him full of bread and beans. They primed his body to grow too big for honest work. What hateful parents, said Pearse, not to care whether the boy can or can’t work to support himself. The boys were lucky, said the sweeper, and his voice got loud and bold like when he sang hymns of a Sunday, to have someone to train them how to supper themselves, to keep them small enough to climb. The boys sat without speaking, so Pearse thought that they were listening, but truth was they were holding their morsels of bread still in their mouths, careful not to dislodge them. If they waited long enough, the bread sank into their tongues, and their entire mouths began to taste of bread, and the food disappeared so gradually that the boys could almost pretend the morsel was a meal; but, if they moved it round in their mouths it slipped down their throats in an instant and that was their supper.
Rachel Cochran | Chimney Sweep
each time he had to corral them they heard him simpering after to the Miss—“See how I mean? Like ruddy animals, they are, if you’ll pardon me—no controlling hand a’tall—” and then his voice would fall to a groveling mumble again and they no longer heard, except for the little exclamations from under the broad brim of Miss’s hat: “Oh!” and “My!” she’d say, her little gloved hand flying up to cover her mouth.
So alarmed had she been at the sweeper’s words that Miss O’Reardon bolted the door to the blue parlor, and she commanded the maid to leave it be for now until they could conceive of a solution. Miss explained the circumstances in such a flurry of words that in her haste she led the maid to believe that a wild animal, having somehow slipped in through the chimney, was now trapped within the closed room. The maid, who was wildly afraid of all animals ever since a rook had once roosted in her hair when she was a girl, gave her notice immediately. Miss, still rather agitated, told the maid very well, if that was her reaction then so be it. Dinner was set, eaten, and picked up in tense silence that evening, and come Mayfair morning the maid had packed and gone, and Miss was all alone in the big house. There was still the man in the chimney to consider—how to remove him, although the sweeper said he had consulted with the mason, who had said there was no possibility of it, or at least not at great expense. Great expense! Miss despised the words. The truth was that the O’Reardons’ financial state was in a spot of trouble. The only remaining member of the family, Miss had never been taught how to balance her economies, and she had, in the period of grief following her father’s death, maintained the same
number of household staff as a sort of comfortable indulgence to herself. When the solicitor told her that the money was gone and she would no longer be able to support more than a single maid, Miss had been tempted to throw all of them out and live as simply as a poor woman might. After all, wasn’t she poor now that she had no money? It was only after the butlers, cooks, and scullery girls all left, and the solicitor, too— ten percent of nothing being, ipso facto, nothing at all—that Miss realized that ‘poor’ was not a transient circumstance that might befall anyone but instead a condition of birth, an unshakeable aspect of breed, and one of which Miss would never be a member. So, before the last maid could go, Miss begged her to stay, although in truth the maid was Miss’s least favorite among the help, and Miss was the maid’s least favorite among the family. Still, they were the last each of their kind in what had once been a society townhome, and until the man in the chimney they had avoided contact when possible, performing their duties in regard to each other in disdainful symbiosis. So, alone for the first time since the womb, Miss entered the parlor and crossed to the fireplace, and she looked up the flue into the darkness beyond. “You up there,” she said. “Yes, Ma’am?” she heard. The voice was undoubtedly a man’s, though timid.
heard Greg’ry sobbing. Miss took to reading the sermons again, her voice louder than before, and the sound of pipes and drums faded and faded and were gone. ~ Time passed in the square of grey sky above Greg’ry like images in a magic lantern, days coming and going in a flicker, only slowing when Miss entered the parlor, when Greg’ry could hear the padding of her feet as she tidied up, or when she spoke to him, or read, or those few times when she would sing in her thin voice. Sometimes when they spoke Greg’ry would close his eyes and imagine himself sitting in the blue parlor with her. Having never seen a fancy woman before, Greg’ry could only picture his vision of a perfect female body, a woman who looked very much like his own mother: a full bosom, round hips, dark eyes, and a friendly, reddish complexion. In reality, Miss looked exactly unlike the figure of Greg’ry’s imagination, slender and white in that ghostlike way that had the capacity for capturing the attention of similarly slender and white gentlemen. Indeed, Miss had attracted the attention of one Frank Preston, who noticed Miss in a bookseller’s one day not long after Mayfair attempting to trade a large tome of sermons for a children’s storybook. The bookseller
Rachel Cochran | Chimney Sweep
“What’s your name?” There was a slight shuffling, and some soot dropped down and onto the dry logs below. “Greg’ry, Ma’am.” “Not Ma’am,” she said. “Just Miss.” “Greg’ry, Miss.” “And you’re sure you’re stuck in there, Greg’ry?” “Yes, Miss.” What a shame, thought Miss, for a sweep to miss the Mayfair parade. She felt keenly for this man, trapped in this house much as she was. So, she asked Greg’ry whether he liked stories. “My mother used to tell them to me.” “Won’t your mother be worried if you stay here?” “My mother died,” came the voice, drifting down the chimney stack and settling into the furniture, and Miss remembered the echo of her own mother’s voice in that very parlor. “My mother and my father, and there’s no one left to miss me.” So, Miss brought down a book, although the only one she found was a volume of sermons, which she tried to read in as lively a voice as she could manage. When the Mayfair parade passed outside, the sounds of revelry drowned out Miss’s voice for a minute or two and, though both were silent when the noise of the parade had passed on, for a moment Miss thought she
seemed to misunderstand what the lady was asking, so Preston stepped in and said exactly what Miss had been saying, but the bookseller grasped the meaning when a man spoke it. As they waited for the seller to retrieve the book, Preston made his introduction to the lady, who received his attention and graciously gave him her card and an invitation to call on her at any time. Miss had many visitors, and when the weather was fine she sat with them in the parlor. Greg’ry remained silent and listened to the kinds of conversations they had. They spoke of things utterly foreign to Greg’ry, politics and imports and varieties of tea. He was amazed to discover that, when left to their own devices, fancy ladies were far more complex than he would have imagined. Although they engaged in a fair amount of gossip and giggling, far more of their time was spent in deep conversation that moved over all matters of life, death, and the soul, and Greg’ry felt his mind expand each time he challenged himself to follow the conversations’ twists and turns. Truthfully, it strained Miss to entertain company. With no help to maintain her house, Miss was forced to perform all necessary functions herself, which there was no trouble at all when there was only Greg’ry to overhear. However, to hide the truth of things under the nose of a prying audience, toiling but pretending at
a leisurely life, proved a far greater challenge. If a guest arrived before Miss had the opportunity to finish preparing the tea and cakes, Miss had to slip away under the pretense of berating the maid, leaving the guest
This was the life below Greg’ry, though above him there were reminders of another sort of life. There were rooks that landed on the rim of the chimney, black tail feather silhouettes staining the sky. There were clouds, sometimes dark and sometimes pale, and stars at night, and now and then there were voices, sweepers and climbers shouting to each other over the rooftops of the city. unattended while she hurriedly set the trays herself. Miss would arrange the table and, in case the guest happened to be listening in, she often carried on two sides of a dialogue, saying first in her own voice, “Faster, Nelly, so-and-so has been waiting an age,” and, in an altogether different
able question, too, and Greg’ry kept his silence. This was the life below Greg’ry, though above him there were reminders of another sort of life. There were rooks that landed on the rim of the chimney, black tail feather silhouettes staining the sky. There were clouds, sometimes dark and sometimes pale, and stars at night, and now and then there were voices, sweepers and climbers shouting to each other over the rooftops of the city. This was the life that had once been Greg’ry’s own. Had Greg’ry been standing firmly on the rooftop when the change had come—how differently might life have gone! He would no longer climb, of course, but he might have become a sweeper, collecting the orphans and the unwanted and sending them down with their bristlebrooms into the chimneys of Dublin society. He might have married. He might have become a drunk. He might have died of work, like his father, or of disease, like his mother, or of daydreaming, like his Uncle Haim. All would have been decision, possibility, and disappointment. The chimney no longer felt like an embrace nor like a vice. It held him back and it held him up, a fact of his position, inescapable as air. ~ The day that Frank Preston
Rachel Cochran | Chimney Sweep
tone, respond, “All right, Miss, it’s nearly done now.” Visitors were left with the impression that Miss O’Reardon had a staff of reluctant and seldomseen women who were not very good at their jobs, which only reinforced their fears about their own household staff. Many a member of Dublin society returned home after a visit to Miss O’Reardon’s with a renewed antipathy toward their drivers and maids, keeping a keener eye than ever that their help step lively when called upon. In this way was Miss’s secret kept safe, and only Greg’ry knew that the voice of the mistress was the same as that of the maid. At first, Frank Preston’s voice did not distinguish itself among the others, a single recurring character in an obscure cast, though eventually Greg’ry came to recognize the softspoken man who loved to pontificate on poetry, who continually asked Miss questions that led the lady to speak at length about herself. Greg’ry soon realized exactly what the questions meant, because they were the questions Greg’ry himself wanted to ask of her if only his brutal, common vowels were not too vulgar to frame the words. Each time after Preston had gone, when Miss apologized for disturbing Greg’ry’s peace, Greg’ry longed to ask her about the man, to ascertain the lady’s true feelings toward him, but that was an unspeak-
proposed marriage to Miss O’Reardon was the first cold day of winter. Greg’ry felt the chill on his face, the icy raindrops falling on his cheeks and eyelids. Miss did not bring Preston into the parlor because it was impossible to build a fire there; instead, she kept him in the warmer rooms in the house. That is, she did so until he began to speak to her in general terms of marriage, of love and devotion and eternity, and the air grew too thick for her to breathe, so she excused herself. The maid, she said, really ought to have brought in the tea by now. Caught up in his ardor, Preston would not allow his target to slip away so easily. So, as Miss flitted from room to room, calling for the maid, her lover pursued her, reaching out to capture her hand, dropping now and again to his knee only to spring up again and give chase. By the time she entered the blue parlor, Miss had grown so agitated that she sank briefly onto the settee to regain her bearings. “There you are,” said Preston, standing in the parlor doorway. He saw that Miss had stopped running now, and his shyness returned to him. He could not remember the words he had planned to say. She was looking away from him, her face turned to profile like a lovely and delicate cameo portrait. When he saw that she was staring at the unlit fireplace, he crossed and began to prod the dry logs with the poker. “It’s cold,” he said. “Allow me to light the fire.”
“No!” she cried, and she was on her feet in an instant, grabbing both of Preston’s hands in her own. Their eyes met, and he saw in hers a spark of unnamable passion. It was this that sent him to his knee, still clutching her hands in his, and so flushed was she, pinned as she was, that she gave him the only answer available to her. When Preston had gone, Miss stood in the blue parlor, facing the fireplace. There were many things she longed to say, but how could she ever say them? How could the poor, trapped Greg’ry understand that it was possible for a woman to become trapped, as well? So, she asked whether he was cold, and when he answered that he was warm enough, she withdrew the book of stories and read to him, marveling at the way nothing seemed to have changed, neither the words on the paper nor the voice that spoke them, nor the hand that turned page after page, that shook from cold as it gripped the leather bindings. The cold rain continued to fall on Greg’ry’s face, and it turned him icy and blue as the parlor below. ~ The day of the wedding, Miss O’Reardon’s female friends gathered in the blue parlor to dress her. Greg’ry heard their conversation. Today, it was all gossip and giggles, and they fawned over Miss’s gown, and they told her of their weddings and wedding nights and of traditions she could not possibly forego.
~ When the man first offered Maggie the book in exchange for her coming home with him, she was tempted to tell him to leave her alone. But there was a sadness in his bearing that captivated her, so she followed him all the way down to what was left of the old O’Reardon place. “This book,” she said, holding the large, leather bound volume. “It ain’t stolen, is it?”
Rachel Cochran | Chimney Sweep
“A chimney sweep,” one of her maiden friends cried. “A bride must see a chimney sweep on the day of her wedding.” It was true. It was great luck to see a sweep, Greg’ry knew. Pearse would hire out his boys to walk in wedding processions, to stand outside of churches in their grubby clothes so that the brides could see them through the windows and know that they would be blessed with peaceful marriages and clean chimneys. So, when the women had finished dressing her, Miss asked them to leave her a moment, and when they were gone, she asked whether Greg’ry might mind if she came onto the rooftop and peered down the chimney at him. “Anything you wish, Miss,” he said. “Not Miss for much longer,” she told him, and then she left the blue parlor, and all Greg’ry heard was the whistle of wind across the chimney top like a breath across the neck of a bottle. When he heard Miss speak again it was from above him, like the voices of birds. “I’ve brought a lantern,” she said. She was a dark silhouette against the sky. “Do you mind if I direct the light down to you?” “No, Miss,” he said. But the light blinded him, so much brighter than the grey clouds, and he could not see her, though he heard the sigh she gave as she looked on his face for the first time, and the last.
It was a fortnight since the house had crumbled apart, drying into nothingness like the family that had once inhabited it. “There’s no one to come looking for it,” the man promised. His voice sounded like the settling of dust, and he stepped this way and that way over the tumbled bricks of the old house. It was a fortnight since the house had crumbled apart, drying into nothingness like the family that had once inhabited it. The house’s demise had given Maggie a moment’s distress when she first heard the news. She had no reason to care for the O’Reardons, except that Maggie, with her full bosom, round hips, dark eyes,
and friendly, reddish complexion, had often been told that she looked exactly unlike the young Miss O’Reardon, and this gave her a fondness for the other woman, whom she had never met, and whom she had seen only once, at a distance, as the young lady clambered in her white wedding gown onto the roof of her own home to inspect something in her chimney. Not a sight you see every day, Maggie had said to herself at the time, but no one else had been around to see, and by the end of the day Miss O’Reardon had changed her name and was never seen in the neighborhood again. And now the old house was gone, broken apart by time, and no one seemed in a hurry to clean up its remains. So, this man had taken to living in the ruins, moving slowly and strangely amongst the things like an infant who had just woken from sleep, uncertain yet as to where or when he was. “I can’t read,” said Maggie. “There’s pictures,” said the man. And so there were. Maggie inspected them in the dim moonlight, marveling over what she could see of the intricate colors and lines. She traced them with her fingers. “It’s lovely,” she said, closing the book and setting it aside. There were no walls standing, but the bricks were piled high enough that they were blocked from the sight of the street. She loosened the ties of her dress. “What will you have?” The man stood facing away from
her. “Wrap your arms around me,” he said, and she did it, moving to him without question. “Tighter,” he said, and, when she had done it, he said the word again, then again. She gripped him tightly enough to bruise, so much that her thick arms shook, holding him close against her as though she were afraid he might slip and fall into nothingness. Only then did she hear him expel a breath into the night, long and low and content as a child’s yawn.
She Who Was Able to Embrace the Eagle Knew Its Last Thought Claudia Putnam
An eagle is no sparrow to catch. It was dying when she crested the pass and came upon it, lurching for the sky, hovering a few moments at eye level. She pulled her car over. Nothing appeared to be broken, the wings five feet, stretching, outstretching, the bird falling, falling. She went to the eagle, arms wide, heart forward. She caught it on the fourth fall. Its wings folded in her embrace. At first it flapped, forcing her arms apart. But the second time she caught it, it went quiet in against her breasts. And then a little while later it died. She said she felt a heaviness heavier than the eagle itself. A grief over leaving the sky and dying on earth. A sadness blanketing twenty mountains. What do you do after that gift, standing there with the body of a dead eagle?
The Universe Necessarily Sends Metaphors James Croal Jackson
Swathed in bedbugs, draped in the gloom of willing hearts in collective song maddeningly swept by enkindled starlight obscured, fate sprouted flowers along marshy graves and windtorn spokes of the ethereal wheel of coincidences, salvos brisk and violent, precisely when the window-dead moth inched baby-bug steps, when you plucked a magic eyelash from a crook in my face, the numb morning heat of your breath whispered, in translation, morose and umber. Now we wait, sanely, eyes closed, for all the other things I wished to bear gold in streets we walk at night, hand entwined in yours.
Casual Friday W. Jack Savage
The Tourist: Havana Kevin O’Connor
What of the fisherman laden with trout and mackerel, canvas slung over tanned shoulders, roughened by sun and wool? Near the market, artists crouch in corners beneath windows filmed with dust. A girl retrieves an aluminum can of pencils. Wisps of hair fall across her eyes, her feet bound by sandals. Men in ripped shorts and faded t-shirts, round bellies protruding, hawk almonds and candied peanuts. In the distance, a blur of soft voices, guitar. Paint peels from café chairs in the town square, akin to these images of craftsmen and mountains of Santiago de Cuba, shorelines, and walkways carved beneath banana and palm. Weather in the north chills steadily, daydreams of islands blurring into the reality of foxes and jays, no matter how near or far I wander, no matter if I’ve seen it before thousands of times.
The Mystic II Kevin O’Connor
A writer said, Enjoy your ice cream while it’s on your plate. But even simplicity hearkens back the ineffable. What plate? The chipped ceramic I never use, blue with raised crests? I’m always out of dessert. Sometimes a handful of strawberries eaten over the kitchen sink suffices. Sometimes nothing at all. Love calls from another atmosphere, a melody no one wants to hear, silhouettes the steps of city houses, obscured by vine and uprooted oak. Hammer the sky, light the grass on fire, I think, which makes sense on a cloudy night, but doesn’t answer the main query, What do you live for?
Gary runs the sandpaper over the wood, leading with his palms, something he often starts with when choosing a design. It’s a piece of cherry he’s had sitting around for a time, collecting dust and taking up space in a corner of his garage. About eight inches across, standing it comes almost to his knees. He thinks he sees a dancer in it. In its lines, which, if he lets himself stare into them for too long, make him feel young and dizzy. His daughter, Sally, worries about this. His mind and its ways. How it seems to be slowing down and bending. But she lives out in the Midwest somewhere, in a town that grows wheat or corn or something, and has a school, where she teaches, that used to be a pioneer whorehouse. The name of her town he often misremembers or mixes with his childhood places. Battle Creek. St. Peters. Blue Springs. He keeps it written down on a scrap of paper in his bedside table, along with Jordan’s unit number and rank. Things he can’t afford to forget and pretends he hasn’t. He works out on his porch, over a work table, blowing particles of wood dust out like clouds. The air, the dusk. Somewhere up the road, children call like birds. Once he
decides, yes a dancer, in motion, like the lines, he takes a U gorge and strips curls of wood from the main piece. He wants to bring out the shadow. The profile of the dancer. He can see it like a memory, on the inside of his eye. The block of Cherry was a gift. But from who? He thinks on it as his hands work, the scent of opening wood starting to fill the air. Had he been a man then? Or already as he is now. Something other than a man. Lacking in man characteristics. The ability to work and carry things on his back. The ability to take care of himself and protect others. To remember names and places and dates. He remembers hunting. He remembers someone, his son, or brother, or father, leaning their rifle against a tree and pulling the block from the snow, brushing off the ice and dirt. “This could be something. It doesn’t look it, but don’t be fooled. Something’s hiding inside here,” Gary’s father said. Or had Gary said that? Had he tried to give the hunk of wood to his son, only to be rebuffed? “Carving’s more your game, Dad.” And then, as a kind of apology, “I like shooting, though.
Alan Wor | Now Partly Emerged
Now Partly Emerged
stuffed into two cases in the hall. Rifles and handguns spanning a century of make and model. Some belonged to his grandfather. Some to his father. To his brother, who died from a heart attack set off by a car crash, which dented his front quarter panel, but did little else. Besides, of course, stop his heart. A funny man with a generous, broad smile. Who always thought he would die in his sleep, and prayed every night, kneeling at the foot of his bed, that it would be painless. Some of the guns, Gary had forgotten, he was always forgetting, belonged to his son. Now scattered somewhere in a desert. Body like rain, sinking into the sand. He was a crack shot. Always better that Gary. He knew how to take his time and stop his breath. Slow the pumping of his own blood to stop, for a cold second, the slight, ever present movement of life. A thought comes The phone in Gary’s parlor starts to ring. He hears it, but doesn’t stop to him, wordless and intimate and so terrifying cutting into the wood. It would be Sally. He guesses she almost forgot too. the gorge slips from his Or maybe is calling late in the evening hand and falls to the hoping he will already be asleep. All porch with a thick clunk. dates and days are the same to him After a while, the phone stops What if he had not now. and the hum of crickets and 50 watt become this way, but had streetlamps returns. He gives up on the Cherry then. always been like this? The dancer doesn’t move like he thought it would, and something has It’s dark now. The night is a blan- turned the night bitter. He slides the ket. A cape. A suit he can wear. Maybe. chip knife back in its holster and heads He thinks of his guns. His collection inside. He considers calling Sally back, It’s wild, how quiet it is out here.” He wonders what part of this memory is real. How many of its pieces belong together. How many places and times and people had just been mixed in him. A thought comes to him, wordless and intimate and so terrifying the gorge slips from his hand and falls to the porch with a thick clunk. What if he had not become this way, but had always been like this? He reaches down for the gorge, places it back in his kit, and pulls out a chip carving knife to start cutting in the details. The hips. The arms. The cheeks and eyes. He turns the thought in his head. Anything is possible now that nothing is known. He cuts careful, small pieces away from the wood, and he can almost feel it getting lighter under his hands. Thought sinks into his gut.
Alan Wor | Now Partly Emerged
but she has children of her own now, who he doesn’t want to wake. She is very busy with her life, her teaching, her family, her wheat and corn, and doesn’t need him intruding. He walks past the phone, down the hall. He leaves the figure out on the work table, now partly emerged from the wood. He struggles with the combination lock on the first case. It glints steel in the distant streetlights. It’s true. The dancer doesn’t move like a dancer. A hard, wooden effort is apparent in every curve and line of its body. And it looks as if it is attempting to rip itself from the wood. The worst kind of contradiction. The contradiction of identity. Gary can’t remember the combination. It’s somewhere just beyond his fingers.
Girl with Cherries (Copley Square) Lynn Holmgren
She’s got ripe cherries tattooed above each knee— socks pulled up to bicker with her short skirt hem. Bubblegum-blue hair, bright as mouthwash, singing as she soaps her hands in the marble sink of the city library. Beige women wait in line, a collective glance in the mirror confirming their median age: Ancient Roman bust. The lions’ tails have been rubbed blind for wishes less than these— cherries with their playful, winning-eyes, like a slot machine— A vendor in the square sees a spike in sales, vermilion, azure, artichoke, arsenic; brightly-colored neckscarves, wound to keep heads from rolling.
Panâ€™s Puzzle I Dave Magyar
Looking Within Ourselves: Interview with Aimee Parkison
with Kathryn Brining, Denia Martinez, Michael Nusspickel Winner of the Christopher Isherwood Fellowship and a Kurt Vonnegut Fiction Prize, Aimee Parkison sets out to explore the damage of our world with her fiction and poetry. Parkison’s short story collection, The Innocent Party (BOA Editions, 2012), is an intriguing look at what happens when an innocent party becomes the guilty party. Parkison’s most recent work, a short poetic novel, The Petals of Your Eyes (Starcherone Books, 2014) takes a look at the nightmare of the world of human trafficking through the eyes of one of its captives. Through tone both dream-like and visceral, Parkison pulls no punches and leaves the reader with more questions than there are answers, both about the book and the horrors of the sex trade. Glassworks Magazine (GM): The Petals of Your Eyes is about the plight of girls kidnapped for sex trade. Using the theatrical terms such as “director,” “patron,” “actor,” etc. emphasizes the dehumanization of the captors in the story while the captors assign flower names to the girls to strengthen the delicate state of their situation. Are the flower names taking away their identity? Aimee Parkison (AP): In most clichéd expectations of masks and
crime, one imagines a criminal wearing a mask to protect his or her identity. However, in The Petals of Your Eyes, the identity of the victim is masked in order to protect the criminals and enable a crime against humanity. If the mask backfires for the captors, it’s because of the deeper symbolism of the flowers—the constant reminder that the petals are fragile, like human skin. The masks are beautiful, but not as beautiful as the tortured faces that lie beneath. In The Petals of Your Eyes, the masks are a sign of the captors’ creation of an experience for their theatergoers, a way of making the child actor into a product, part of an entertainment experience that relies on erasing the humanity of the victim, as slavery often does. Slavery, even in its contemporary forms, relies on one person seeing another person as less than human, an object to be used, bought, sold, altered, and oppressed. So, more than anything else, the need for the mask means that the captors are having problems dealing with the psychological awareness of their own guilt. GM: Are the masks a way for the captors to dehumanize or desensitize the girls? Do you feel like it backfires? AP: It’s an awful psychology—a sort of reverse personification that
cent Party. Both follow the theater metaphor/setting very deeply, both involve captivity and abuse, and both narrators develop complexes around their sister. There are a few specific themes and ideas that the two share as well (Taxidermy, corpses, referring to characters by role as opposed to any names.) While “Theater” is from the perspective of the captor’s while Petals is from the captive’s, both narrators have rape and abuse in their backgrounds as key trauma that defines who they are. Were you working on these simultaneously or did one influence the other? AP: Here are two quotes from the fictions so that you can see how they deal with similar themes in slightly different ways— “Every town has a secret theater disguised as a house among houses.” (The Petals of Your Eyes) “The illogical nature of animalistic destruction was the demon inside all man, the demon that had invaded my childhood home.” (“Theater of Cruelty”) I was working on “Theater of Cruelty” in proofs and galleys while drafting a revision of The Petals of Your Eyes at the same time. Both manuscripts had already been accepted for publication and both overlapped in terms of their final revisions and their contracts, so that one publisher
An Interview with Aimee Parkison
sexual abuse and kidnapping, or any situation of human trafficking and captivity—relies on. The captors must erase another’s humanity in order to protect their own humanity. In the face of the sin of slavery, a mask is born of the necessity of turning a victim into a thing, a commodity to be bought and sold. At one point in history, racism was the mask. But in The Petals of Your Eyes, the mask is something else, concrete rather than abstract in its use and invention. In The Petals of Your Eyes, the masks are flowers because of the funereal iconography and oppressive yet beautiful bridal rituals—the idea that a woman is “given” by her father/owner and received by her mate, an object to be possessed by paternal tradition. Every wedding is a theater. A flower is a virginal and pure sacrifice of beauty. Symbolizing life and death, petals can be picked or cut so that the flower is captured for human consumption in a home or a building. That theatrical setting becomes a prison of sacrifice, a place for the flower to wilt and die so that strangers can appreciate its beauty while being reminded of their own mortality, the greater theatrical significance. GM: We couldn’t help but notice the intense similarities Petals shares with the short story “Theater of Cruelty,” which is included in your collection of short stories, The Inno-
had to agree to exercise a competing works clause. So, yes, one narrative might have subconsciously influenced the other during my creative process. It wasn’t conscious but certainly possible. GM: How long had you been playing with these ideas before you wrote these pieces? AP: Nightmares had been dancing around in my mind for years before I started writing these fictions. Certain themes and subject matter are reoccurring elements in my work, often repeating with different characters of various ages, genders, backgrounds, and worlds. I’m not sure why I’m compelled to create such stories. GM: Will this be a recurring theme in other works? AP: Currently, I’m working on several fictions, one is a historical novel that has many characters. Because of the historical setting, society’s understanding of rape was different, so rape is a complicated aspect of the novel I’m still researching. I have also been working on a contemporary novel about the adult sex trade, but that project isn’t as far along. GW: In your novel, The Petals of Your Eyes, The Rose seems to witness and experience quite a lot in her time at the theatre. In fact, it seems to make her stronger than before and not so reliant on no one’s daughter, whereas no one’s daughter seems to rely on just herself and succumbs to what everyone wants. Are there anymore charac-
ters that we should be paying attention to in The Petals of Your Eyes and how they relate to the girls in such terrible conditions? AP: Other characters in the novel, besides the girls, are their captors. They’re important because each has his or her own tortured psychology. Many of the captors were victims of their own pasts and are not really free. GW: Is this the same outcome for girls who are stuck in sex trades, where some may become powerful and determined and others seems to just wilt into submission?
There are many ways to fight. One way to fight is to physically lash out at an attacker. Another way to fight is to run. Still another way to fight is to submit, to give in. AP: In some situations, a victim has to learn to adapt quickly in order to survive. She has to learn to know her attacker or captor as a matter of survival. Instinct and survival become part of a trial-and-error process. Girls who are victims have to fight to survive, but there are many ways to fight. One way to fight is to physically lash out at an attacker. Another way to fight is to run. Still another way to fight is to submit, to give in. It’s a way
something rather than just zoning out and escaping. What I write is the opposite of escapism, even if set in a nontraditional world. GW: You are currently working on The Dumb Supper which is a historical literary fiction about four young women who need to nonverbally communicate their needs and desires to their potential mates. Do you find writing this story any different than your previous works? AP: The novel takes place after the Civil War, a time when eligible men are scarce and proper women are expected to become wives, so death and love are intertwined. The dumb supper is a unique celebration linking death and dating in the years directly after the Civil War. Set in Concord, Massachusetts, in the late 1860’s, my novel focuses on courtship among women and wounded veterans. With the help of local matchmakers, these women meet their potential mates at a dumb supper, a ritual based on the superstitions of Irish immigrants. GW: Are you approaching the nonverbal aspect differently in this new novel? AP: The nonverbal aspect is difficult as it relates to the mores of another time, a time of parlor games and social formality, a formality that bled into gender roles, courtship, and social status. What
An Interview with Aimee Parkison
to stay alive, especially in cultural situations where refusing to submit has its consequences. Kidnapping, domestic abuse, and human trafficking are a culture. Even those victims who appear submissive might be powerfully determined to survive long enough to escape to freedom. For instance, Stockholm Syndrome might allow for longer and more sustained (safer) methods of survival in captivity. GW: You have a gift for the unnerving and disturbing, but you also write endearing works about the ordinary. What makes you decide when a piece gets to be innocent like “What Happened with Gilbert That Night” and when it should be more intense like “Allison’s Idea”? AP: Voice is influenced by emotion, as well as the narrator’s motivation for telling. Often, something lurks beneath the surface, something implied, hinted, indirectly told. This changes everything. The question of intensity often has to do with humor, when and if and why humor is used or not used. Humor allows for relief, a break in intensity. Works with less humor are less endearing but also perhaps more intense for the reader. Different readers respond to such intensity in different ways. Many resent it. Others appreciate the experience. It’s torture, just like a good horror movie should be torture. It’s great to really be scared or challenged by
fascinates me is the constraint, the fact that so much is left unspoken because certain thoughts were socially unacceptable, but those thoughts and desires and fears are still there. So, there’s a hidden implication in every staged aspect of courtship, even parlor games, which have strange histories. GM: Have you ever felt as if your characters ran away from the direction that you wanted them to go? How do your characters personally deal with their oppression differently than how you originally imagined? AP: I’ve felt the creative challenge and frustration of realizing that my characters are strangers to me during the drafting and revision process. So, yes, in that sense the characters have tried and often do get away from me and have different reasons for their current predicaments and reactions that I might have originally intended. Having a relationship with a character is just as challenging as having a relationship with a living human being— the character is constantly changing and reacting and growing. There are moments before the present that you have to try to understand in order to get a full sense of the person. Creating a character is about going deeper. The first imagined scenario is not always the best result. You have to reimagine, to mine the character. GM: Do you think the approach of using a male perspective in “Locked Doors” and “Theater of Cruelty” takes away or helps to showcase the
oppressive situations that your female characters tend to face in your stories? AP: That’s an interesting question, one I’m still struggling with, partly because the question is so political and our society’s notion of gender is constantly evolving. I’m sympathetic to both interpretations of my handling of gender in what I consider rather risky subject matter of sexual violence. Readers or critics have pointed out that I often write about violence from the female point of view. Such people rightfully point out that males are victims, too. Then, on the other side, there are readers that support a strong feminist reading of my stories, and often these readers resist or perhaps resent my using the male point of review to reveal men oppressed by similar trauma that society often associates with female victims. GM: When it comes to writing about violence, what do you feel is your most significant challenge? AP: When it comes to writing about violence, gender is perhaps the biggest complication. I’m currently writing an article for AWP The Writer’s Chronicle called “Women Writing Violence,” so I’ve given a lot of thought to the topic lately. Many readers think violence against women is titillating and are more comfortable with victims being female. I hope that I’m working against this notion by taking away that comfort. When writing violence, I want to rob people of the notion of comfort, not
Life is damage. Love is damage. Ever ything worth doing is difficult. Gender clichés play a huge role. For some reason, the question of who is passive and who is active often becomes a question of who is truly female or truly male. The
stereotypes are always there for a writer to work against, but they can’t be ignored. Women who commit violence become masculinized or monstrous, and men or boys who have violence done to them run the risk of being feminized by their victimhood. A lot of what I deal with in writing about violence has to do with shame of violence and what it does to gender roles as interpreted by society. GM: You touch upon difficult subjects such as suicide, alcoholism, incest, sexuality, prostitution, etc. Do you feel any topic is off limits to you? AP: Because the damage of living is what makes the lives of survivors possible, I don’t really feel that any topic is off limits. That’s part of being an artist—taking risks. The real danger is being too safe, of losing the sense of risk taking. That’s when the work dies. Life is damage. Love is damage. Everything worth doing is difficult. Every great moment has an end to mourn. Every great love takes courage because there is so much to lose. The act of birth is violent and dangerous. Everything that is beautiful is also deadly. Everything that lives kills to survive. GM: What real world “damages” have occurred to bring inspiration to your stories?
An Interview with Aimee Parkison
play into it. I realize that some readers might go to my subject matter for the wrong reasons, looking for the wrong things, but I hope that the disturbance I create in fiction doesn’t allow such readers to feel comfortable for long. GM: Do you feel that gender violence is discriminatory? AP: There are violent women, just as there are violent men, but society is less familiar and less comfortable with this notion. In the same way, just as there are female victims, there are also male victims, but society is also uncomfortable with this aspect. So I would agree that another aspect of violence is the gendered reading of victim and predator.
AP: Perhaps I’m hyper aware of this because I’m what’s called a “highly sensitive person.” That means that I feel not just what happens to me but what I imagine could happen. It’s hard for me to have too much social interaction as I’m so susceptible to the moods and unspoken cues I get from others. It’s too much. If I hear something horrible happened to someone, I feel it also could or will happen to me. I feel it. I think about it. It stays with me. In a way, I might have too much empathy. The disease of empathy can become paralyzing to a highly sensitive person. But it can also be a great resource to draw from as an artist. It allows you to feel for your characters and to find ways to create empathy in readers. GM: What is the message that you want your readers to take away from your writing? Do you want your readers to become self-aware of their daily lives in order to survive the daily battles, a sort of “learn from others mistakes”? AP: I want to make people feel. I want to make people experience any powerful emotion. If a reader can feel the suffering of others, even an “other” very different from the reader, then that reader will be more connected to greater humanity and more aware of the need to protect themselves and those who need protection.
Panâ€™s Puzzle II Dave Magyar
Tire-Swing Elegy Jessica Hudgins
Because the worms always got to the grounded walnuts first. Because of the fishhook-thorned blackberry scrub. Because we were too obedient to follow the creek past the fence. Because I could pee outside like the men. Because of the itchy carpet and the too-long Braves games. Because of the cleaning table where I tried to pierce an eye on my knife-point, imagining the catfish was alive. Because of the long, barefoot-on-gravel walk to the mailbox. Because of honeysuckle tongues. Because of the bottle-opener on the barn door and my first beer. Because of all the nursing dogs and the dogs in heat and â€œthe talk.â€? Because you always changed out the sofas and ceiling fans, but kept the same bedclothes, plates and dining-room chairs. Because I creaked differently each time I sat in those dining-room chairs. Because of the top of your hand like tissue paper and the palm of your hand like sandpaper and your hand between my index finger and thumb and you saying grace. Because the rope still hangs from the oak.
The Floors Creak Like You’ll Fall Through Jessica Hudgins
That July in Mansfield was the town’s second-wettest. It had been a monthful of frogs. Their bodies pressed against the bedroom windows. Their croaks echoed along the terrazzo. Summer nights in bed, I stayed awake, listening for the last to sleep. The cabin held death still and close, its windows eyed by hunting seasons. We shot beer cans and fed entrails to trap-jawed brim that jumped at the sound of us. Sundays we begged free of the pastor’s apoplectic hollerings. In what was to be a long history of broken windows, we killed carpenter bees with baseball bats. Unchecked, the insects drilled the interior, their delicate skeletons closeted with the linens. The basement was a first home to dozens of puppy litters, their new bellies like the frogs’ taut underbellies. Time was tangible, that summer of rains. Our brogans muddied the terrazzo. We walked to bed with the short strides of storm-stiffened bones.
The Turnerâ€™s Place Yvonne Higgins Leach
Perhaps the house knew, when You were having it built, that It would outlast your bones. Its skeleton of beams and frames And foundation. Funny how Most houses know this about their owners. It eases the door open for you, Forgetting you are soul-spirits now And can pass through its walls. Opens to a pleasant visit with old friends And to the flash flood of memories That set aglow again each room of its being.
Letter to Clark & Charlotte Yvonne Higgins Leach
You come to me in pieces: in the stories your sons recall, memories as fresh as garden flowers; in black-and-white snapshots in the desk drawer that I try to imprint on my mind like a tattoo; in the wood-making tools your hands last touched, Clark; in the surprise when I pull a hand-painted English vase from the back of the kitchen cupboard, Charlotte. I have come here now, season over season, wrapped in the love of our oldest son. Here, to this house you envisioned, built, and lived in for forty-two years. I am the body you once were, as the salt water latches to my lips, as the invisible obedience of the moon unveils beach and rock and kelp, the ferry to Southworth by day still gleams white as a horse, and by night glows like a lit birthday cake. From this living room where cancer, for both of you, took your last breath just one year apart, the view remains magnificent, and just when tears fall from my heart for not knowing you, I feel your gratitude that we continue to live with the rhythm, the landscape, the praise of song.
Dandelion Milk Kelsey Dean
Forced, out of love, to drink a cup of milk every night with dinner, I plugged my nose in a dignified sort of way and let it slide down my throat without breathing so I wouldn’t taste it. I didn’t know gagging was so good for you, I wanted to say; but I’d fought more milk-based battles than I cared to count, and never had I won. Milk tastes like defeat, I thought irritably. I hated drinking it every night of the year, but it tasted even worse in the summer—stagnant and heavy, like the hot air squeezing in through the cracks in the windows and doors. The long and unstructured days of vacation left plenty of time for brooding about such things. On those muggy July days, my mother interrupted my moping about by paying me a penny for every dandelion I plucked from our lawn. She hated the bright army of buds that spilled across the grass, marching right up to our walls and screens and through her precious flowerbeds. With her grownup vision (which always makes people forget how to properly look at things), she could only see a ruthless pack of weeds storming our home. All I saw were fallen pieces of the sun, flourishing at my feet with steadfast cheer. Those puddles of gold were all mine to collect, to toss in the air, to wrap around my fingers and wrists like fine jewelry. I made crowns fit
for queens and stomped through the waving grass with them perched on my head. Each night, I carefully removed my crown from my hair and tramped inside for dinner to grimace through cups filled with milk. My baby brother laughed at the faces I made, but I stuck my nose in the air and proceeded to flashily count the lucky pennies that lined my pockets. I knew that shiny coins were highly coveted by toddlers, and very much forbidden to them by parents; the satisfaction of having an abundance of off-limits objects and endless quantities of vibrant flowers offset my hatred of milk quite nicely. My grimaces of protest had always faded into smug smiles by the time my father opened my bedtime storybooks, and I was sure that the princesses living inside them must be as envious of my possessions as my brother was. To my frustration, however, I had to gather new bucketfuls of sunshine every day because the flowers quickly lost their glow after being picked. They hung their heads limply and tangled themselves into a hopeless mess. I thought that maybe they wilted each evening out of sadness for the disappearing sun, but no matter how many times I explained that it would rise again in the morning, they always died. They have no vision, I thought. Just like grownups.
my jingling piggy bank upstairs. I had earned whole dollars that summer, and each dollar was a hundred wasted blossoms—a hundred milk-drowned dandelions that I had been tricked into picking like weeds. “I’m sorry,” I whispered to the remains of my crown and bracelets. Their only response was stillness and silence, and dead weight pulling my arm toward the ground. That night, standing on the porch among fireflies and constellations, my belly full of sour milk and my bucket clutched in one determined hand, I decided that I would not sell out my dandelions for any more shiny pennies. My mother would have to scour the lawn herself if she wanted it stripped clean of its pretty yellow polka dots. Gold was worth much more than copper, and I intended my kingdom to be richer than any of the fairytale lands hidden in my bookshelves.
Kelsey Dean| Dandelion Milk
As I grudgingly drank my milk one night, I looked into my bucket and saw the sticky brown spaghetti stems of my dandelions dying quietly under the table. They looked so ugly sitting there in their soggy stupor, and it made me grumpy to see them lose their glory. I frowned at them with all the ferocity I could muster. No princess would wear you in her hair, I silently scolded them. Something about their withered forms made me lean closer, perhaps just to glare at them more effectively; as I focused on the stems, I realized with horror that it was their own milk that clogged their senses and blinded them. Milk flowed through their little bodies and pulled veils over their yellow faces as the day wore on. It was when the milk started flowing that my flowers started dying. Maybe milk tasted sweet to my crying baby brother, but for my dandelions, it was a sticky, smelly death sentence that curdled the already unpleasant taste in my mouth. “You’re not excused,” I heard my mother call as I shoved the screen door open and ran outside. The crickets were loud, much louder than the tired reprimand from my mother, and the air was calm and cool against the angry pink patches on my cheeks. My lifeless dandelions were suddenly heavier out there in the dark. They weighed me down as I cradled them and thought of
In the Province of Eldest Daughters Ceridwen Hall
It is winter, snowing. There is always something to complain about. Perhaps this is a requirement for peace between sisters. We lean on the counter and throw stones at the sky. We need not say all that we are thinking—my driving out was gesture enough. Any task is a statement here. I’m beginning to understand. There is no script. We won’t ever speak of it: strange that we two should share this territory. Are you also glad, angry? You break eggs neatly into the bowl and discard their shells. I measure flour. Your daughter carries her chair across the kitchen, climbs up to watch.
Letters, No Address Susanna Lang
Victor Goines, “Joie de Vivre” Dear clarinet, Please tell that story again, the one whose grief fills our hearts with something like joy, green neon letters glowing in the glasses on each table. The bartender frowns at two young women to listen, listen closely: their stories can wait till yours has ended. Wind chill warning remains in effect….National Weather Service Dear winter, We understand now. We have stopped whatever we were doing: our schools have closed, trains ground to a stop, the river frozen over. What more can we learn from a cold that cramps our fingers, settles into the bones of our houses, breaks up the pavement beneath our wheels? John Donne, “To Mr. R. W.” Dear John, No, not that kind of letter—you are long gone so it’s not about letting you go. I’m just curious about this magic that brought you back to life simply by reading a few words from a friend. Every day I check the mail for a letter like that but so far only catalogs and bills.
Susanna Lang| Letters, No Address
“Bald eagles’ numbers soaring in Illinois,” Chicago Tribune Dear eagles, I don’t blame you for not following the script. You don’t owe us anything, certainly not a spectacle since grace is our concern, not yours— yours is the ice that seals off open water where you can fish. I hear it’s better in Kansas: a friend writes of seeing eagles gather near a lake that’s still unfrozen. Go visit her; she’ll send me a postcard.
Rage Hezekiah You were aglow, sharpening yourself against the lake-night sky. In a wooded cabin, lit by milky harvest moon, I lay awake. Traces of city life surrendered when you arrived, luminous, hovering above the bed. But you froze before me, caught in wisps invisible, your wingsâ€™ resistant vibrato in her web. I turned toward the dull buzz of you, saw your flickered light hum among the cricket din, your body dimming, a brief autumnal hymn.
Grades Brett Roth
I can’t teach a student who uses feces as sculpture, Roger thought. He already covered the sensible issues with her, like sanitation, preservation, presentation, and the board of health. The Mansfield Art Center housed a foundry, spray booths, fume hoods, kilns for ceramics and glory holes with molten glass, but the one facility designed to handle human waste became kinetic sculpture only after you flushed. Danica complained to the Dean and shit rolls downhill, but Roger had not responded to the Dean’s email or voicemail. Much to the disdain of school bureaucracies, Roger never accessed a computer outside of school, and he did not answer his cell phone either. Roger glared at the red light on his desk phone. Nothing, nothing, nothing, Roger hit seven twice deleting the first two messages, school-wide broadcasts announcing a lecture and a gallery opening—sigh—and finally Danica asking for another meeting. Delete. Roger’s computer opened a portal into the academic quagmire of student records, and he located his classes and began inserting grades. Roger silently pounded B and tabbed into the next student’s
record and pounded B again. Students said you had to be a total fuck-up to fail Roger’s class, and it was true he never failed a student. Roger thought most of his students had a world of failure confronting them, and it was unnecessary to point out the obvious. ~ The radiator hissed at him. Winter was a miserable season to teach, but the school denied his request for a travel grant. Roger’s brain screamed coffee, and he wondered whether he could endure the student coffee shop, the de-facto faculty club, which was a small café around the corner, or walk the four blocks to Starbucks. The student shop was closest, cheap, but run by students; the coffee was lousy and service nonexistent. The café around the corner served a European breakfast and lunch, by experienced, if a bit too pretentious baristas, was a trifle pricey, and over-populated with faculty, administrators and, worst of all, alumni. Starbucks was a long walk on a cold morning. Roger’s phone rang. He rose from his chair, threw on his coat and gloves and walked out of the building. Donnelly’s wasn’t open this early, but he peered into the window as he marched by the pub.
Roger saw a shape moving behind the bar, head dropping below the plane of the counter, cleaning something. Coffee and a little Irish in the morning would only bend his day in a unlikely direction, and Roger’s game deck was pathetically depleted of Get-Out-ofJail-Free cards, so he turned into the wind pushing up the canal and faced the cold reality of freezing snot, an unsuitable material for sculpture. ~ At Starbucks Roger ordered with a frozen face, and he left his dimes and pennies as a tip. He slid a paper sleeve around his cup and looked around for an empty table with a discarded newspaper, some defense from the other coffee drinkers. A slaughter of advertising inserts covered a small table in the rear of the coffee shop, and Roger sat down and shuffled the advertisements into a barricade. Roger stared at the gleaming kitchen appliances, the contour shapes of the waffle irons, CO2 bubblers, crock pots and coffee machines, like they were artifacts from a recently discovered civilization. God help us, he thought, blowing across the surface of his coffee. Satisfied with Target, he paged through a nearly identical flier from Wal-Mart before his coffee was cool enough to drink. Adrianne Empre stepped out of line, a purse slung over one shoulder and a bulging school tote on the other. She held a large cup of coffee and talked into her phone, unable to carry
anything else. Adrianne measured her influence on the faces around her, and she zeroed in on Roger with caffeine clarity. The New England Tire insert wasn’t big enough to conceal him. Not her, he thought. Not before I’ve had my coffee. As the Dean of Fine Arts, she dismissed every request Roger made, and his last travel grant application was torpedoed and sunk before it had a chance for review by the Provost and Selection Committee. Didn’t even make the first cut. Adrianne had fifteen applications, and the Provost’s Office said forward ten. Sorry. When he protested to Adrianne, she threw the don’t start with me argument at him and slid into the you’ve had your moment explanation. Ultimately, Roger retreated to Donnelly’s Pub, where he won a round of opinion and a few drinks. Gesturing with her cup, Adrianne talked her way over to Roger’s table. It wasn’t Adrianne’s fault, Roger thought, but it was difficult to take her seriously. She was the fourth Dean of Fine Arts in eight years, and the collective memory of the institution was like an Alzheimer patient’s, full of holes, imprisoned in the present, reacting to situations without a coherent strategy for the future. Adrianne sat down. “Please have a seat,” Roger said. Adrianne paused her finger on the face of her phone and smiled at Roger. Lifting her pinky finger with a flourish, the phrase—just a second— passed
pleased to hear she isn’t flunking, and I’d give her an A for effort, but lumps of shit is not happening in my class.” “You’ve been abundantly clear. Care to entertain her parents?” “Absolutely not.” “Very well. So after Academic Council denies her petition, I suppose we can expect another phone call from her parents in Seattle, and I might need you for a Skype slash conference call in my office or Barbara’s, depending upon how this evolves.” “Okay, okay. Sure, whatever. Set it up, but I don’t read from a script.” “I wouldn’t expect you to.” “You know, more to the point, Danica’s work is too dark and pessimistic. Everything is shit to her.” “Yes, great. Topic for another time. So you’ll sit in with commentary if needed?” Adrianne stood to leave, glancing at her palm screen, as if measuring time by the reply instead of minute. “Save some of the vitriol for later, and not at Donnelly’s.” “Aye, aye, Captain,” Roger saluted his dean, which Adrianne interpreted incorrectly as a compliment. “Grades,” she shot back reminding him about today’s deadline. “Already done.” Adrianne fingered her phone
Brett Roth | Grades
from her eyes into Rogers’s brain. Fuck you, Roger grimaced with his smile. “Sorry, but I had to finish my thoughts,” Adrianne clicked her phone off. “So, Danica Davies.” “Yes, Danica,” Roger agreed. “Well?” “I told her no. You told her no. She wants to petition Academic Council. Go ahead, I said. They can tell her no, too.” “Her mother called the Provost. Said we’re inhibiting self-expression. That’s a pretty strong accusation at an art school, especially when she starts throwing the numbers at me.” “Tuition does not pay me to clean bedpans. Yeah, we’re being mean, however appropriate. And you told her, yes, perhaps just this once, we are denying a student’s creative impulse, but for a very good reason.” “Not in those words.” “And?” “Her husband is a lawyer.” “So what?” “So she’s threatening us with what I don’t know, but this is something we have to consider seriously. Student dislikes you as an instructor, I should add.” “So what. She’s late for class, smells like dope half the time, and has never finished an assignment on time, up to and including her present pile of shit. Doesn’t like me? I can live with that. You should be
ignoring Roger’s efficiency as an academic administrator, and he flipped her his middle finger behind a New England Tire insert, as she turned and departed. At noontime, Roger wandered over to Donnelly’s Pub for a sandwich and a pint. Feeling invigorated about his encounter with the Dean, Roger fantasized about having sex, but he didn’t have a girlfriend or a wife. His lust dissipated quickly. Academic deadlines were anesthesia enough without resorting to whiskey. Drinking the hours. Inspiration was a dark hole. Two foundry rats perched on stools nearest the grill. In overalls covered with the carbon smudges of metalworking, they reeked of an evening pouring molten metal, and Roger imagined their thirst from memory. “Chico, Goldstein, what has thou poured? Be it aluminum or bronze?” “Bronze,” Chico and Goldstein replied in unison. “Ah, very good. Proprietor, a pint of pilsner and a Rueben.” Chico and Goldstein grunted and acknowledged Roger without addressing the larger problem. Roger had not shown a new piece in seven years, and his stature among students had declined. His reputation earned a throne of distinction at Donnelly’s, but the graduate awe fell away fast, like rust on the hull of a beached ship after a hurricane. Once the world stops moving the damage is evident. A second pint materialized in front
of Roger, and his empty glass disappeared with barroom prestidigitation. The ritual was two pints and a sandwich, body and blood. Whiskey was for comfort, confidence, conflict or confession but never simple conversation. “Visiting artist reception tonight at Cindy Tifton’s. Martin Drossier, the LA bicycle guy. Going?” Chico asked.
The graduate awe fell away fast, like rust on the hull of a beached ship after a hurricane. Once the world stops moving, the damage is evident. Roger was no longer involved with the visiting artist program. He loathed the whole process; students for choosing lame artists, and the artists with their tiresome demands, like a glassblower who demanded a vegan bedroom and slept on the floor. When Roger visited schools, his requests were simple, booze and ladies who listen to lies, but it had been years since his last invited lecture. “Drossier, maybe. Haven’t seen him in a while. Cindy’s is where?” “Fourteen–oh–eight . . .” “Sherman Street,” Roger interjected. The duplex at 1408 Sherman Street was a relic from an extravagant era, which seemed permanently
confessed. “Why not?” Roger wiped juices from his face with a paper napkin. Chico and Bernstein looked at each other for answers. “Been there. Done that,” Chico said. “Love the bicycles, but . . .” “But they’re just bikes,” Roger said. “Yeah. Bicycles. I get the whole environmental thing. Terrific. D-I-Y, sure. Change the world. The gigantic bikes are maximum rude. But it’s a logo for a polo shirt, know what I mean?” Roger chewed his sandwich and listened as if Chico was talking about artists of a certain age, except that Roger didn’t have a show at the Taxidermist. A gallery show would require studio time, which Roger utilized for naps on a sagging sofa propped with bricks. “So, cocktails at Cindy’s. Good old Martin.” After lunch, Roger trudged up the hills outside of campus with the wind blowing against his back like a helping hand pushing him home. Emerson Meadows was a small community perched above the college comprised of old mansions and oversized, renovated barns, large land parcels, several interesting modern constructions, and two eco-friendly domiciles, owned by various faculty, a smattering of lawyers and bankers, but
Brett Roth | Grades
deeded to the next trust fund artist at Roger’s school. 1408A and 1408B were beautifully restored, with twin wrapping staircases ascending from vaulted entryways replete with crystal chandelier, parquet floors, and marble fireplaces. The Sherman Street duplex was famous for wealthy student parties. Roger had slept with a couple of its inhabitants and used every bathroom in 1408A and 1408B. He did not know Cindy, but he was intimate with her domicile. “I might make that. Sure. Drossier is a good guy. Surprised you picked him.” “We didn’t,” Chico said. Chico was short and fierce, and his statements sometimes hung in the air like threats. “He has a show at the Taxidermist. Was in the neighborhood. Volunteered is what I heard.” Roger doubted Drossier volunteered for anything. The gallery might have arranged the lecture for publicity. Whatever the situation, Roger would skip Martin’s lecture but meet him afterwards. Roger’s sandwich arrived before he ordered another beer, like a yield sign. A thick rag of sauerkraut sat on the sliced meat and cheese, which was topped with a plop of pinkish sauce. Roger squished the sandwich with two hands and bit. “Seen his show?” Roger asked, with a thread of sauerkraut on his lip. “No,” both Chico and Bernstein
not a single physician, surgeon or dentist, as if men with real blood on their hands weren’t interested in the sedate location. Unlike his neighbors, Roger did not own pets. His cocker spaniel, Peaches, departed with his wife, and cats pissed him off because they were artfully lazy, but he had two tenants. On the second floor of Roger’s three-decker lived a secretary who managed the Graduate Studies Department. Roger’s third floor apartment was home to a visiting ceramicist. His tenants were at school, so Roger fixed himself a short whiskey and retired to his living room couch. Propped in the left rear corner with two red bricks, the leather couch sagged in the middle, conforming to Roger’s body like a baseball mitt. Three swallows of whiskey struck him out. When Carmen Lesser slammed her vehicle’s door, it sounded like the final exit of a husband too fed up to speak. Roger couldn’t understand why she always slammed that car’s door, but her arrival disrupted his soft snores with a loud—Whoomp. Carmen’s mean stomping up the stairs troubled him, but Roger was used to her moods. She kept to herself, and Roger saw her more at school than at home. A wiz of an administrator, she impressed Roger by arranging for automatic rent deposits to his bank account, and since Roger never raised the rent, her communications with him about maintenance issues were emailed to him, preserving
her secretary’s credo—get it in writing. Up from his nap, Roger splashed cold water on his face, and he was reminded how the perfect symmetry of sagging flesh amused, aroused and repelled him all at once. Fairly certain he could secure a ride home and indifferent if he didn’t, Roger held to his workout regimen and walked back down to campus, past Donnelly’s and the motley collection of bookstores, head-shops, cafes, and gadget stores that surrounded the school with retail precision. It was much colder since the sun went down, but Roger wore a large gray overcoat, which enveloped him in thick wool, and gloves he stashed in its pockets. Hatless, the tips of his ears and nose felt the bite of winter, but the wind had died with the sun; booze would mitigate the need for a hat. The windows at 1408 Sherman Street projected a pink glow from within, but 1408A seemed brighter than 1408B, so Roger climbed the stairs to 1408A. In the past he entered the wrong duplex but never disastrously. Clumps of smokers jockeyed for space on the steps, and Roger wondered if the building was now nonsmoking, a cultural transformation he disapproved of despite quitting cigarettes. The door swung open into a crowded foyer framed by a curved white staircase. Roger loved how the banister and stairway lines were complimented by tall women, who stepped
faces. Students around them watched as the two elder statesmen greeted each other, measuring every idiosyncratic movement, habit or folly. Martin was the first to raise his arms and engulf Roger in a hug full of spirited enthusiasm, which Roger did not hesitate to return. “I need a goddamn drink, and then we can fuck, OK?” Martin loosened his embrace and stepped back a distance best described as the unfortunate closeness of an inebriated acquaintance. “Roger, how have you been, my friend?” “Good. Good. Thanks.” Roger finally had a glass of whiskey in his hand, and noting the brands behind the bar, he was drinking better than at home. Instantly pleased with his first drink, Roger swished the ice cubes to mellow the booze. “You’re at the Taxidermy. I’ll stop by and see it.” “I appreciate that. Of course you won’t like any of it—not your thing—but be sure and sign the guest book. Keeps you on my mailing list.” Surrounded by various graduate students, Roger and Martin were unlikely to say anything relevant or honest about themselves, and their experience with booze precluded any truths from
Brett Roth | Grades
into profile with each step up or down the stairs. Shorter figures rose or fell like vegetables on a conveyor belt. A whiff of marijuana smoke drifted past him, but Roger found pot boring and vastly too soporific. Booze was his mainstay drug, and his instincts guided him directly to the bar, a converted study off the foyer, an octagonal room, with large windows overlooking the small courtyard and ultimately the river. A trunk beneath the nearest window was jumbled with coats, and Roger added his to the pile. Bookshelves lined the walls of the room, and Roger determined the books were part of the furniture, as Milton’s, Paradise Lost, was predictably on the second shelf from the floor, on the right of the third set of windows, dusty and unread. Adam failed Eve, Roger thought for the hundredth time. Case closed. Martin Drossier and Roger were the same age, but what little hair Martin had was white and sparse, whereas Roger’s hair was thick and bushy, speckled gray. Roger’s face bore the etching of six decades, and Martin’s face shone white and smooth, like sanded alabaster, except for a bulbous red nose. “Professor,” Martin greeted Roger lifting his glass. “Martin.” The two men shook hands and genuine smiles spread across their
leaking out. Instead, they joked like old friends about pastimes and pleasures easy to remember. The young artists soon fell into the background, impatient for a revelation, but a few hipsters hung around with their backs to Roger and Martin, listening over their shoulders, hungry for an utterance they could dissect and devour. There were pitiably few women surrounding the two artists, and Martin was the first to mention it. ~ “Take me to a titty bar after we’ve drunk all their booze.” “You have a car? I didn’t drive, and it’s too far to walk.” “No, lodging at the Blue Cottage.” Roger nodded. The Blue Cottage was a bed and breakfast across the street from campus, within easy walking distance of downtown and the Taxidermy, which Roger’s department utilized for visitors. Roger had never slept there. “Screwing anyone?” “Not even the school. Didn’t teach today and spent the morning in bureaucratic Purgatory, pissing coffee, and performed a very distasteful Dean of Fine Arts butt kissing ritual, followed by some dismal student pandering. You?” “Gallery is run by lesbians.” “Shelly and Sheila. Yeah, ain’t a bump in that bunch. Where’s the wife?” “Julia broke her leg skiing in Colorado. Couldn’t make the trip.”
“Jesus God, man. Sorry to hear that. When . . . what?” “She’s a terror on crutches. We were at Breckenridge. Went skiing for a few days. Fancy hotel there bought one of my big bikes, anyway—She’s going to be OK.” “Cheers. I’m sorry to hear about Julia. Please, if there is anything I can do.” Roger took another swallow. “Anything, call me,” Roger said using his disclaimer. Adjusting for booze and nights when the phone was out of charge, communication with Roger was as variable and spotty as late spring rain. “I will, you asshole. I will. Don’t think you can hide from me. Hell, I’m in town. I know where you live. And you owe me a good time. Drink, Roger, drink to me. Drink to you. Drink to this whole goddamn crazy world where neither of us feels like we really belong. Ever have that feeling, Rog? You know, where you feel like you’re the only person in the world who doesn’t fit in with all the rest. I’m not saying we’re special. That isn’t it. Pathetic is more like it. Outsiders. Don’t belongers. I don’t belong at home. Don’t belong here. Know what I mean? Stranger in a strange land, Rog, and all that shit.” Roger was beginning to feel the booze adjust his stance, and he squared his shoulders and held his chin a little higher. “Well, to answer your question... Something like that, only I feel like I
Drink to me. Drink to you. Drink to this whole goddamn crazy world where neither of us feels like we really belong. Every have that feeling, Rog? “Cheers, old man.” “Hey, slow down. You’re already listing to starboard.” “What’s it matter. You can drive me later.” “I didn’t drive.” “Right, you told me that already. Fuck it. I can walk.” “Like you’re in any condition.” “I’ve aged well.” “But no more bicycles,” a voice cut into their conversation. A tall, skinny grad student covered in black line tattoos, with spikes embedded in his cheeks and ears said, “No bicycles, man. Love the new stuff. What’s up with that?” Martin Drossier’s show at the Taxidermist did not contain a single bicycle, his signature form, instead Martin had assembled a series
of stainless steel shapes that held suggestions of mobility. “Martin, Billy Barnum, second year grad,” Roger introduced them. “Yes, no bikes. I went back to what compelled me to make them in the first place, which was the circles and angles. So I’ve regressed a little. Took a step backwards, in a way. Besides, well, I got tired of trying to perfect one idea. Took me a while to unlearn that lesson.” Billy Barnum listened spellbound, like a secret handshake was revealed, but what Roger heard was a man excited about his work. Roger fought the urge to suppress his feelings in another drink, and he walked away from Martin’s monologue. Maybe Martin was right. Stuffing G-strings with cash held a certain appeal, but titty bars were logistically challenging. The treasure chest was at its monthly low, and Roger quit drinking and driving under regrettable circumstances. “Professor,” Roger heard, and he spun around, but Jace Tarantolo, a South American painter, smiled at him and addressed the student. Jace earned full professor in less time than anyone Roger could remember, but at Roger’s school perceived artistic merit was more valu-
Brett Roth | Grades
belong here but none of the other of you fuckers belongs. Difference of perspective. And you know what? Second time today someone’s called me a asshole. Note to the world: I decidedly am not.”
able than intellectual capital. Jace painted with bright colors. Inspired by the sun. Blah, fucking, blah. Roger rattled his ice cubes. One of Roger’s grad students hovered behind Jace, like an eager puppy on a leash ready to leave. She didn’t know Jace was gay, or maybe she did, Roger was confused about who fucked who anymore. Roger’s feeling of insignificance reached his stomach and churned with whiskey. Besides a drunken old friend, no one at the party was interested in talking to Roger, and he was an old man occupying space. Clusters of students surrounded Jace and Martin; Roger stood alone.
Outside, the cold air remembered him by slipping inside his overcoat, but he buttoned up, found his gloves, and fought temperature with his stride. Fortunately his coat wasn’t buried, and he escaped 1408A Sherman Street before he embarrassed himself. Outside, the cold air remembered him by slipping inside his overcoat, but he buttoned-up, found his gloves, and fought temperature with his stride. Roger walked with a slightly boozy step devoid of successive straight
lines, and he recaptured his warmth at the bottom of the hill to Emerson Meadows. At night he was grateful for streetlights glowing in familiar patterns, shadows he expected, and the leafless trees clawed the black sky. Tonight he missed Peaches, her tug on the leash, Theresa’s fast car, the smell of a woman in bed. Roger had forgotten to lock his front door, and his key spun effortless in the lock. Amused with himself for being careless but acknowledging no one would ever burglarize his domicile, he slammed the front door behind him without spinning the lock closed. His gray wool overcoat landed on the back of an armchair halfway to bookshelves loaded with worn and tattered books, interspersed with the dusty baubles of a lifetime. Armed with a short whiskey, Roger sunk into his couch until his butt hit the floor. The last sagging spring had disengaged itself from the frame and cushion met floor. “Damn.” His drink intact but vulnerable, Roger set the glass on the floor and struggled to sit upright with his knees up to his shoulders. A bead of sweat broke free from his brow and trickled down through the crags of his face. He wiped himself with the back of his hand and finally stood triumphant. Bending down for his glass, he surveyed the disaster of his couch and then kicked the two red bricks out from under the corner. The couch
mice piss, his studio didnâ€™t smell as dead as he feared, and Roger set his bricks down on a work table. Rogerâ€™s table stood on the floor like a patient, slow and reliable ox. Without a glance at the walls, Roger knew were every single tool in his studio hung, and he clutched a wooden mallet. He felt his fingers in the grip of the handle, like a familiar acquaintance visits after many years. Roger whacked the table with the mallet, and the sharp noise confirmed he was alone with his tools. No one yelled at him to be quiet. Setting the mallet down, Roger conceded that Martin was right about feelings of not belonging, the lure of titty bars and basics. Roger sketched the triangle pattern, emphasizing the wood grain embossed in the brick. Lines terminated with sharp angles. The two textures were somehow fused together, and this distinction infected his eye and moved his hand.
Brett Roth | Grades
leaned to one side, collapsed in the middle, and reminded Roger of a car wreck. Roger gathered the two red bricks in one hand, and while he retained his grip, a slight tremor shook in his arm. Roger carried the bricks into his kitchen. Flipping light switches with his elbow and backhands, he set his glass on a shelf near the back door, and then he lit the walk between the back door and his studio, a converted garage ten steps from the back door. The garage was a large building with three automobile entrances, however, it never housed a car since Roger owned the property. Inside was home to an array of tools, benches, materials, and a million odd objects significant only to Roger. Relieved the furnace was working, Roger closed the door to his studio and stood inside the entrance with his bricks, not knowing why he brought them out here but certain this is where the bricks belonged. Rogerâ€™s finger traced where the weight of the couch formed an impression in the fired clay. His lazy weight had pressed an impression of a wood grained triangle, finished smooth as glass, onto an ordinary red brick. The accidental beauty of the object caused a grin to morph between the wrinkles of his face, and he took a deep sniff of the air inside of his studio. Although a trifle dusty with the faintest odor of
Boys of Fall Tina Tocco
On the margins of hill country where the stripped quarries stand men uniform their boys and push with a hardened hand their souls to glory. Where the stripped quarries stand, each man lays his story, last checks on the bar, lifting their souls to glory. To their boys they are gifting all that they know, last checks on the bar, lifting half glasses as school jerseys flow in this trace of a town, where all that they know is that grown dreams are rare on the margins of hill country in this trace of a town where men uniform their boys.
Tina Tocco A toad cracks her breast like a thunderclap against river stones I packed near her home, that patch thick with clay mud and June bugs down by the runoff pond, where her eggs will hatch without her, or lay still without a mourner, snapped in a woodcockâ€™s beak, or cupped lightning-bug style in the mothering palms of a child, an oddity for a moment, then shaken off, gone.
Enough for Change W. Jack Savage
At the Spanish Riding School Noel Sloboda
A tour group of Hmong behind me spits and hollers at Gorilla Glassâ€” tiny magic mirrors cradled in palms promising revelations of truth. Pixels shimmer while Lipizzaner stallions surge once more across the white-washed ring, sinews now forever fluid and inevitable as the Pacific tide. As a new team as pale as the last clomps through the far gate, I struggle to remain in the moment, yet find myself drawn to the squabble at my back. Miniature speakers crackle while the former scene loops again and I swear I understand the language of these amateur directors debating how much footage will be enough to prove to folks back home they visited such a faraway place.
Evergreen Noel Sloboda
Before we braved the blue weather to wrestle that live spruce from dad’s pickup he carefully bundled my little brother and me in layer upon layer—as if shipping us overseas, worried we might break in transit. Soaked with water enough to last the change of seasons, the root ball was almost too much and we teetered on uneven bricks that once made a neat path to our door before the earth grumbled about the chill. We gouged trim on the doorframe and littered our trail with green caltrops. In the living room, the treetop scraped the ceiling before we could cap it with a plastic silver star. We balanced the pine atop a rusty baking sheet and swaddled the base in hot pink towels mom left behind when she headed west. That night we strung a new set of white lights and pricked our fingers while we listened to dad confess how he always hated the ritual of going out with mom deep into the woods, to take down a fresh fir: after the glitter and fancy paper were scrapped the carcass brittle and brown dumped by the curbside—so much waste at the start of each new year. Now
We watered the spruce every morning and devoutly took turns waking in darkness to gather fallen needles, later secreted
Noel Sloboda | Evergreen
that we were free from tradition he wanted to make a living memory, one that grew, like us, across the years.
at the bottom of the garbage bin. That first morning in January we wore faces full of hope as we wrangled the spruce back outside. But the ground was as hard as the eyes of the many women who years later would drag my brother from city to cityâ€” before we lost track of him altogether. Our shovels soon grew heavy and we bent double watching our chuffing make strange shapes before being carried off by the wind. No matter what the calendar claimed it was too late to change the terrain, too early to plant anything living. Before dad let us back inside, he made us swear when we visited mom in spring we would never reveal how we had failedâ€” what that winter had undone.
Mark Lee Webb It is only an infestation of flying ants, not termites or tumors. In the chimney, below the flue. There are people who spray for that, just make sure the children do not follow too closely. Send them outside to pray at The Church Of God With Signs, where Pentecostals handle snakes to prove their faith. Teach them to preach, testify, and lay hands on the sick. Every once in a while pick up a copperhead. Bring them inside at first frost along with the crepe myrtles – they never survive the winters.
Phyllis Gorsen received her Masters of Fine Art from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She has shown her work extensively throughout the Philadelphia region and has received several honors for her work. Many of her paintings in are in collections including the Camden County Historical Commission. See more of her work at: www.phyllisgorsen.com Dave Magyar, a native of New Jersey, received his BA in fine arts at Montclair State and his MFA degree from Pratt Institute. From 1970–2004, he pursued a career in art education, and since, has actively shown his work in group shows, galleries, and museums across Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, and Delaware. He received the von Holtzbrinck Coexistence Award for his entry in the New Brunswick “Exhibition Coexistence” (2007), his entry “Water” in New York Center of Photographic Art’s international exhibit received honorable mention (2013), and his entry into The Photo Review’s 2014 International Photo Competition was selected for inclusion in a special Web exhibition.
than fifty of Jack’s short stories and over five-hundred of his paintings and drawings have been published worldwide. Jack and his wife Kathy live in Monrovia, California. Find his work online at: www.wjacksavage.com Fred Siegel, when not taking pictures, spends his time advising Honor, an early stage company that helps older Americans remain in their homes longer as they age, is advisor to Years Of Living Dangerously, a television series dealing with climate change, and works with Stand Up To Cancer, a non-profit working to find cures for cancer.
Issue 11 | Contributors
Rachel Cochran has published works of short fiction in Deep South Magazine, Literary Orphans, Mandala Journal, The Missing Slate, The Ohio River Review, Winged: New Writing on Bees, and more. She received her BFA at the University of Evansville, her MA at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and is currently pursuing her PhD at the University of NebraskaLincoln, where she focuses on W. Jack Savage is a retired broadcaster writing Neo-Victorian fiction. and educator. He is the author of seven books including Imagination: The Brett Roth, a native of tropical Art of W. Jack Savage. To date, more Montana, has had poems appear
in Blast Furnace, Off the Coast, Tiger’s Eye, Raven Chronicles, The Tunxis Review, and his fiction has been featured in Hawaii Pacific Review, RE:AL, and The Iconoclast. Brett is a program coordinator in Fine Arts at Rhode Island School of Design, and he plays a loud electric guitar. His short story “Grades” is the first chapter of a recently completed novel. Alan Wor is the pen name of Ryan Row. His work has been previously published in Blueshift Journal, 94 Creations, Danse Macabre, and elsewhere. He is currently studying Creative Writing at San Francisco State University. Alan Wor is the broken down superhero who lost his powers and now lives inside the hollow of Ryan’s breast bone.
Poetry Ceridwen Hall holds an MFA from the University of Illinois UrbanaChampaign. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Cold Mountain Review, Denver Quarterly, Poet Lore, and elsewhere. Rage Hezekiah is a former farmer, baker, and doula, with an MFA from Emerson College. She was a finalist in the Hurston-Wright College Writers Contest and received honorable mention in the Zero Bone Prize Poetry Contest. She was featured as a Showcase Poet in the Fall 2014 issue of The Aurorean. Her poems have appeared in Fifth Wednesday, Really System, Riding Light, and Freshwater, as well as other journals, and are forthcoming in Caesura. She is currently translating her own work into Spanish to appear in Juana Ficción, a contemporary women’s literary journal. Her work has also been anthologized in Other Tongues: Mixed Race Women Speak Out and was featured in the collection Wide Awake, Every Week: 52 Writers Share Their Aha! Moments.
Kelsey Dean is currently an English teacher in Istanbul, where she enjoys petting stray animals and riding ferries across the Bosphorus. Her artwork and writing can be found in several publications, such as Glint, Arsenic Lobster, 3Elements Review, and Ember: a Journal of Luminous Things. You can Karen Hildebrand, based in NYC, is view some of her art and writing at: chief content officer for the publisher www.kelseypaints.tumblr.com of Dance Magazine. Her play, “The Old In and Out,” (cowritten with poet Madeline Artenberg) was produced off-off Broadway by Three Rooms Press in 2013. Her poetry appears
Her poems have appeared in journals including Little Star, New Letters, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, The Green Mountains Review, The Baltimore Review, Kalliope, and Jubilat. She lives in Chicago, where Lynn Holmgren lives and writes in she teaches in the Chicago Public Boston. She is a recent graduate of Schools. UMass Boston, earning her MFA in Fiction. Her work has appeared in Yvonne Higgins Leach is Stoneboat, Merrimack Review, Hawaii the author of Another Autumn Pacific Review and Sonder Review. She is (WordTech Editions, 2014). Her a community arts organizer, bicycle poems have appeared in South advocate, and co-founder of WWF Dakota Review, South Carolina (Women Writing Fiction). Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Cimarron Review, Wisconsin Review, Jessica Hudgins is currently earning among others. She earned a her MFA at Johns Hopkins University. Master of Fine Arts from Eastern Her work appears in Portland Review, Washington University in 1986. Hidden City Quarterly, Baldhip Magazine, She spent decades balancing a and elsewhere. career in communications and public relations, raising a family, James Croal Jackson lives for art, and pursuing her love of writing adventure, whiskey, and music. He has poetry. Now a full-time poet, she been widely published and his poems splits her time living in Snohomish have appeared in The Bitter Oleander, and Spokane, Washington. LEVELER, VAYAVYA, and 99 Pine Street. He moved to Columbus, Ohio Kevin O’Connor received his from Los Angeles in the middle of a B.A. from Johns Hopkins and 48-state road trip. Find more of his his M.F.A. from Old Dominion work at: www.jimjakk.com University. He has published writing in Slant, Anderbo, The Susanna Lang’s newest collection of Fourth River, Bayou, Bluestem, poems, Tracing the Lines, was published Literary Juice, The Tulane Review, and in 2013 by the Brick Road Poetry Press. The Pinch. He lives in Buffalo. Her first collection, Even Now, was published in 2008 by The Backwaters Claudia Putnam lives in Western Press, followed by a chapbook, Two Colorado. Her poetry and by Two (Finishing Line Press, 2011). fiction appear in Barrow Street,
Issue 11 | Contributors
in a variety of journals including Poet Lore, Meridian, Fourteen Hills, A Gathering of the Tribes, and Maintenant. Learn more about her work at: www.karenahildebrand.blogspot.com
Tar River Poetry, Poetry East, Spillway, Confrontation, Cimarron Review, and in many other journals. A chapbook, Wild Thing in Our Known World, is available from Finishing Line. She was the 2011-12 George Bennett Fellow at Phillips Exeter Academy and has also had residencies at Ragdale and Kimmel Harding Nelson.
on a surfboard and how to get from Malibu to Westwood via Mulholland. But he also knows how to find Paris without leaving Kentucky. He’s Editor and Publisher of A Narrow Fellow Journal of Poetry. Mark presented his newest chapbook, Whateverits (Finishing Line Press), at the 2014 University of Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture. His other Noel Sloboda is the author of the poetry chapbook, The Weight of Paper, poetry collections Our Rarer Monsters (ELJ Publications) was also published (sunnyoutside, 2013) and Shell Games in 2014. (sunnyoutside, 2008) as well as several chapbooks, most recently Risk Susan Whitmore is the author of Management Studies (Kattywompus four books of poetry: Your House is Press, 2015). He has also published Floating (Liquid Light Press 2013), a book about Edith Wharton and The Melinda Poems (Pudding House Gertrude Stein. Press 2004), The Invisible Woman (Singular Speech Press 1991) and The Tina Tocco’s work has appeared in Sacrifices (Mellen Poetry Press 1990). Harpur Palate, Passages North, Potomac Her poetry has also appeared in Review, The Portland Review, Roanoke CrossCurrents, Dalhousie Review, Georgia Review, Italian Americana, Clockhouse Review, Georgetown Review, I-70 Review, Review, Inkwell, Border Crossing, Fiction Melusine, New Letters, Poet Lore and Fix, Voices in Italian Americana, The Stone Highway, among other journals. Westchester Review, The Summerset Review, She is the current Vice President of The Citron Review, Rathalla Review, and Development of First Call, a nonprofit other publications. She was a finalist organization in Kansas City, Missouri. in Inkwell’s 2007 Poetry Competition, judged by The New Yorker’s Alice Quinn, and in 2008, her poetry was anthologized in Wild Dreams: The Best of Italian Americana (Fordham University Press). Mark Lee Webb is a native of Kentucky, but as a teenager lived in California. He knows where a skeg is
Lynn Holmgren Jessica Hudgins
James Croal Jackson
Yvonne Higgins Leach
Denia R. Martinez
Claudia Putnam Noel Sloboda
Mark Lee Webb
W. Jack Savage Fred Siegel