a publication of Rowan Universityâ€™s Master of Arts in Writing
featuring the quiet allure of nostalgia the pull between self-doubt and certainty & the synesthetic emotion of sound
Cover art: “Robot Drone Evolves” by Terry Wright
EDITOR IN CHIEF Katie Budris
The staff of Glassworks magazine would like to thank Rowan University’s Master of Arts in Writing Program and Rowan University’s Writing Arts Department.
MANAGING EDITOR Andrew Davison
Cover Design & Layout: Katie Budris
Glassworks is available both digitally and in print. See our website for details: RowanGlassworks.org
Glassworks accepts literary poetry, fiction, nonfiction, craft essays, art, photography, short video/film & audio. See submission guidelines: RowanGlassworks.org
Glassworks is a publication of Rowan University’s Master of Arts in Writing Graduate Program Correspondence can be sent to: Glassworks c/o Katie Budris Rowan University 260 Victoria Glassboro, NJ 08028 E-mail: GlassworksMagazine@rowan.edu Copyright © 2018 Glassworks Glassworks maintains First North American Serial Rights for publication in our journal and First Electronic Rights for reproduction of works in Glassworks and/or Glassworks-affiliated materials. All other rights remain with the artist.
SENIOR EDITORS Michael Fotos Julie Malsbury Steve Royek ASSOCIATE EDITORS Elizabeth DiPietro Mikaela Langdon Joseph Magaletta Sarah Knapp POETRY EDITORS Julianna Crescenzo Ashley Haden FICTION EDITOR Rebecca Rodriguez NONFICTION EDITORS Elyssa Finkelstein Tyler Riggs Kelly Walz ASSISTANT EDITORS Diane Gautier Amanda Rennie Myriah Stubee
glassworks Spring 2018 Issue Sixteen
MASTER OF ARTS IN WRITING GRADUATE PROGRAM ROWAN UNIVERSITY
Issue 16 | Table of Contents Art
Marissa Anne Ayala, #2016, 2016 | 31
Asleep in Hunts Point | 44
Jury S. Judge, Break Me a Wishbone | 34
Lily Entropy | 28
Jenn Powers, Primavera | 19
Verano | 6 Terry Wright, King Jellyfish in the Night Kingâ€™s Army | 59 Robot Drone Evolves | cover
Why Do the Heathen Rage | 15
Suzi Ehtesham-Zadeh, Jungle of Stars | 46
Kaila Lancaster, When the World Goes Dark | 7
Jen Corrigan, Food, My Body | 35
Elizabeth M. Dalton, Ripe | 22
Jim Daniels, Sunday Morning, Phipps Conservatory | 62
Sydney Doyle, Dead Cat | 18
Irene GĂ“mez-Castellano, Pool, translated by J.G. McClure | 20 Natalie Homer, Sunflowers in the Median | 4
Hannah Kimbal, New Fruit | 30
Kathleen McGookey, The Girl in the Feather Skirt... | 33
Whereas | 32
Anna Elizabeth Schmidt, Learning to Pray | 3
Sharon H. Smith, Grandfather Clock | 16
Losing Skip | 17
John Sibley Williams, The Conversation | 61
Supernova | 60
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.
Learning to Pray Anna Elizabeth Schmidt
She shakes the box of tea leaves before each decision: chamomile for discernment, vanilla for success, star anise for protection against dreams masquerading as her ownâ€” the attractive ones full of eloquence. She speaks no words, assumes some element of earth will understand and present her quandary to another force with power to intervene in such matters. The intercession of saints and angels she stopped trusting long ago. She used to catch rain in her hands and throw it back at the sky. She needed someone to talk to about pictures in clouds, but the rain twisted itself between fractures of air and disappeared. She was a child. She believed her ability to wake from sleep unharmed was due to prayers she said each nightâ€” ancient rhymes to scatter evil spirits. Now she scatters leaves onto a map of paths she could take away from those who said they knew what was best and how to interpret the riddles of spirits and stars. But the leaves cover each path evenly meaning any choice is possible and they too have stopped listening. She slides the leaves into her palm, goes outside and offers them to the wind.
Sunflowers in the Median Natalie Homer
In the median—wild sunflowers for miles. Cheerful, unassuming. They are no one’s bouquet. My dad and I try very hard to seem at ease with each other. We comment on the bison stampeding across the casino’s electric sign. Pixilated, their breath leads them again and again over an imagined prairie. I wear the ring he gave my mom. It is dated: yellow gold, tiny diamond. I like it because it was not meant for me. He does not ask about it. I twist the band, note where it was soldered sloppily. On the drive I know to look for landmarks: a white B carved into a barren hill, wind turbines in a ragged line, the water tower striped like a peppermint. We hold our relationship between us, carefully, an expensive figurine that belongs to someone else. But it’s a morning I’m not sorry to be awake for, so that’s something. And no one mourns a coyote with his russet head resting on the road’s shoulder. Neither does the ditch fire elicit sympathy.
bouncing in the slipstream of trafficâ€” I decide I will believe anything they say.
Natalie Homer | Sunflowers in the Median
The sunflowers did not teach me this, but their small faces look so cheerful
When the World Goes Dark Kaila Lancaster
“Soup. We’ll need canned soup,” Mother said over the phone. Her voice cackled out of the speaker, and Paris wondered if she had started smoking again. “Okay. What else?” Mother rattled off a list and Paris pretended to take notes; she scratched her fingernail against the sofa as Mother recited the supplies: matches, bottled water, plastic cans of gasoline, pots and pans, bleach, hydrogen peroxide, flashlights, batteries, a year’s worth of everything. Paris turned her muted television to the Food Network. An episode of Cupcake Wars. She could hear Mother’s television through the phone: talk of war and politics and men’s gruff voices berating and condemning the world. “When the world goes dark,” Mother said, her voice soft from three hundred and fifty-three miles away, “we’ll be prepared. You know the plan?” “I think so.” “Do. You know. The plan?” Paris said yes. She’d known the plan for a while now. ~ Paris went to work the next day in a thick coat and pink fingerless gloves to combat the cold. Paris was a zookeeper, and she cared exclusively for the big cats. Because it was
so cold for early December, the cats cozied in their nighttime enclosures for the day. During lunchtime, Paris spoke to the lion she was feeding through chain links. “My mother thinks,” Paris said, “that terrorists are going to send a device into the sky and wipe out the Earth’s electronic signals or something. ‘The grid.’ That the modern world’s destruction is imminent. Isn’t that crazy?” Paris asked the lion that was crouched behind the fence. The cat ripped and swallowed rabbit carcass. She fed Leonard— the lion—pre-cut, bloodied pieces of bunny. Leonard licked wet blood from the coarse fur above his lips and moaned. After he had his fill, he yawned. His fangs gleamed white and crimson. “That’s not so crazy,” the keeper from the ape department said as he walked by. Ape Keeper carried a bucket of bananas, and his hair and eyebrows were wild with dark curls. “They’re going to do something, and what your mom’s saying makes sense,” he said. Paris turned her back to Leonard’s cage and dismissed Ape Keeper with a wave of her hand. Ape Keeper stalked away and shook his head of thick, shag carpet hair. “I’m surrounded by crazies, Leonard,” Paris whispered. Leonard
swallowed the last of his rabbit and pawed the chain links like a house cat begging for a treat. ~ As Paris fed writhing mice to the panther, Paula, later that afternoon, she thought about the first time she had really heard—really listened—to Mother’s doomsday “plan.” It was ten years ago, the day Mother had finished moving Paris into college. The pair had stood in a parking lot at a university three hundred miles away from Paris’s hometown. The August sun was hot and blinding and uninhibited by clouds or trees or anything. A dorm— Paris’s dorm—loomed over Paris and Mother, its windows winking, its brick bright red in midmorning light.
imagined that the
world could never go dark in such a vibrant, new
“When the world goes dark,” Mother began, “you’ll know. Everything will flicker off, computers won’t work, cell towers will be shot. You won’t be able to talk to me, anyone. I’ll be home, and you’ll be here.” Mother wrung her hands; her gold rings somersaulted around thin fingers. “When it happens, you
get in the car—you always keep your tank half full, no exceptions. There will be a gas shortage, so fuel’s essential. You drive to the meeting place. You wait there until we’re all together. You take your water, your everything. You’ll need to start a pile—like the one in our trailer at home—but much smaller. I’ll hitch up the trailer to the car and be on my way, too.” “Where’s the meeting place again?” Paris asked. “Grandpa Mike’s old farm outside of Frederick, about two hours from here,” Mother said, her eyes twitching inside sunken sockets. “No one will look for us there. It’s our best chance.” Paris hugged her mother goodbye and climbed the five flights of stairs to her room. She sat on her bed in the dorm and closed her eyes and listened: water dripped from the faucet’s rusted head in her room, sex music thumped down the hall, toilets flushed in the communal bathroom, weak showers beat against molded fiberglass, elephants stomped on thin ceilings. She imagined that the world could never go dark in such a vibrant, new place. She began to play lilting soundtracks from her phone and sang along to tawdry lyrics only found in blackand-white movies or Broadway musicals. Her mother was wrong: such a world would never go dark. ~
coated Mother’s lips; her eyes were bloodshot, tired. Paris pretended to make a note in her phone, to “add to her list,” but she really scrolled through Facebook and typed and re-typed a status she never posted. Mother and Paris unwrapped presents snatched from underneath the plastic evergreen, and Paris feigned pleasure with her haul of jugs of white vinegar, rolls of aluminum foil, and a deck of playing cards. “We have to have a little fun when the world goes dark,” Mother said of the cards. Paris pretended to laugh and pulled a sweatshirt over her head. Ice covered the home’s windows and filtered the rays of the sun. ~ “Mother, you want to hit the sales today?” Paris asked the next morning. Paris peeked inside Mother’s room, a space she’d frequented as a child once her father had left the family. Paris was prone to nightmares as a girl, and the clutter was her solace during sleepless nights sprawled next to a snoring Mother. Now, Mother rested beneath thin covers. Unsorted boxes of pans and canned soup gathered dust in the bedroom’s corners. A stack of newspapers towered beside the bed, a stale cup
Kaila Lancaster | When the World Goes Dark
Paris had a week off of work for the holidays. She went home to Mother for the week. She packed a duffle full of sweatpants and paperback novels and drove south on an empty freeway. Miles of withered wheat fields and an endless terrain dotted with patches of red clay made the six-hour drive feel like eight. When Paris pulled into Mother’s driveway just before sunset, she noticed the white bricks of her childhood home were striped with grimy water stains. The gray streaks seeped from the front windows like eyes leaking tears. Scraggly weeds choked brittle flower beds, flower beds that once bloomed with wildflowers in the springtimes of Paris’s childhood. Paris decided she would spend an afternoon tidying the exterior of the home during her holiday. Inside the home, Mother planted a kiss on Paris’s forehead and offered her a rum and Coke. Paris drank and savored the burn of alcohol. Sometimes Paris thought it was nice to be home again. ~ Christmas Day brought an ice storm and a plate of Mother’s monkey bread. “Add blankets and wool coats to the list,” Mother said at breakfast, before presents. “When the world goes dark, we have to be prepared for all seasons.” Mother stuffed a fist-full of the buttered bread into her mouth. Sugar-cinnamon dust
of coffee balancing on the surface. Mother watched the news flash on a tiny television screen, her mustard-yellow hair pulled tight in a knot atop her head. “Do you want to see a movie or something?” Paris prodded. Mother turned to look at Paris. “Sales?” “Clothes? Do you want to look at clothes, Mother? Shoes?” Paris suddenly regretted asking. Mother agreed to an afternoon of shopping, as long as a trip to the hardware store was the first stop. Paris drove down streets she rarely traveled anymore and played belated Christmas music through her car’s dusty stereo. White sun sliced through thin air outside the Ford Escape, and Paris was reminded why she enjoyed this time of year. The sun seemed brighter. “Do we have to listen to this? Christmas is over, Paris,” Mother said, her foot bouncing against the floor of the passenger side. “It’s festive. Let’s be festive.” “It’s annoying,” Mother said, but she sang along to “Sleigh Ride,” anyway. “This one’s allowed,” Mother said. “It’s a winter song. There’s a difference.” At the hardware store, Mother chose a roll of duct tape. She twirled the roll around her index finger in line at the cash register. The tape almost slid off the finger, but Mother caught the plastic bangle before it catapulted toward her face.
“Mother, don’t hurt yourself,” Paris said. “Lighten up, Paris.” She continued to revolve the tape. The motion mirrored that of the gibbons at the zoo, those monkeys that swing around ropes and bounce between limbs of trees. With her hair taken down from its top knot, Paris thought Mother resembled an aged eighties movie icon. The lighting of the hardware store coated Mother’s coiled strands in soft light, like the golden, humming light of a reptile egg incubator. Paris thought she looked nice, but she didn’t tell Mother. Mother would just dismiss the compliment as something that didn’t matter. “The mall now?” Paris asked after they settled in the car. “I guess. Clothes for you, right?” “And maybe you?” Paris asked. “A new sweater or something?” “I don’t have money for crap that doesn’t matter, Paris. If I see a coat or something for when the world goes dark, then we’ll talk,” Mother said, and she grabbed a pack of cigarettes from inside her purse. She plucked one from its resting place, lit the end, and rolled down the window to sprinkle ash onto the zooming pavement. At the start of the day, Paris had hoped to go twelve hours without hearing Mother’s favorite phrase. Her hopes now disintegrated like the end of Mother’s cigarette. ~
“At the start of the day, Paris had hoped to go twelve
hearing Mother’s favorite phrase. Her hopes now disintegrated like the end
of Mother’s cigarette.
“Is your pile back home going well, Paris?” Mother asked. “Decent. Yes,” Paris said. She drank a swig of coffee and felt the brown liquid burn her throat and warm her stomach. She stared at the crown molding of the kitchen. Cobwebs quivered from the stream of heat that slipped from the vents in the ceiling. “I keep it pretty stocked,” she lied. “Good. I think it might happen soon. Tensions are high right now, the news says so,” Mother said.
Mother spooned Frosted Mini Wheats into her mouth, and milk dribbled down her chin. Paris thought that the news always insisted “tensions were high.” But she didn’t say anything. “I’m going to miss you, Paris,” Mother said. She reached across the table to pat Paris’s arm. Mother’s hands were rough against Paris’s skin, her fingers chapped and peeling after years of forgoing lotion. Lotion wasn’t essential; that’s what Mother had always said to Paris in the beauty aisles of grocery stores. “I’ll be counting down the days until next Christmas. But maybe we’ll see each other sooner,” Mother said. Paris almost said, “Maybe I’ll come for Easter or something.” But she knew what Mother really meant. Paris took another sip of coffee and licked the watery remnants from her chapped lips. After five minutes or so of scrolling through her phone and Mother reading the newspaper, Paris spoke. “Mother, what if the world never goes dark?” she asked. She didn’t know why she asked. But she couldn’t steal her question back. Her words were born and plummeted to the cracked yellow linoleum. Mother finally said she didn’t understand.
Kaila Lancaster | When the World Goes Dark
On the day before Paris left for her home, Mother and Paris sat around the table eating cereal and drinking hot coffee. Paris drank from a “Visit Yellowstone!” mug sans handle: she cradled the cup as if it were a communion wafer from the church of her childhood. The coffee warmed her stiff hands, and the steam rising from the cup sprinkled her face with a kind of dew.
“What if you’ve done all this,” Paris motioned toward a new pile in the corner of the kitchen, the shopping bags from the day before. “For nothing?” Mother was silent for awhile. She began to stack her newspaper, and her eyes shifted to the page she was holding in her ink-stained fingertips. The paper was damp from melting ice that covered the front lawn outside, and black words smudged the honey-colored wood of the table. Sun streaked through the blinds and filled the kitchen with sharp, white light. Mother finally said, “What time are you leaving tomorrow, Paris? You don’t want to hit traffic in Fort Worth.” ~
stripes lounging among urine-damp straw, and Paris gave up trying to feed her. She tiptoed around the sleeping tiger and scooped dung into a black bucket with a pitchfork, and the acrid smell of the waste burned her nose, caused her eyes to water. Paris had lunch in the break room and ate pizza for the first time in months. She went home happy, wind burnt. After dinner, she curled up on the sofa like a roly poly hiding from the bottom of a shoe. The sun crept below the wheat field outside, and the stars were broken, faint Christmas lights draped haphazardly across a tarped roof. Paris watched Chopped— chefs prepared dishes with beef tongue, cactus flower buds, rose water syrup, and shad roe sac. One guy
“The lights went out, and the heating unit sputtered and
wheezed into total silence. When Paris thought the world went dark, tornado sirens shrieked through her town and then sputtered into quiet. Stars burned hot and bright
against a blackened sky.
Her first day back at the zoo after the holiday was cold and windy. A gray sky heavy with bulbous clouds hovered over the town and the zoo. Sasha the tiger refused to leave her nighttime enclosure; she was a bundle of lethargic black and orange
made a salad with his dish, and Paris thought it might taste good. When two chefs were left and concocting a dessert derived from the syrup of rock candy, the television flickered. Paris uncurled from her ball. The television and the lights in
“What?” “You know. The darkness. I thought it happened. I drove,” Paris said. Her breath vaporized in puffs as she spoke. The breath-smoke swirled like Mother’s nicotine-fueled exhalations. She could almost smell Mother’s toxic breath, her smoke-soaked clothes. Paris’s eyes crossed as she watched the puff melt into nothing just beyond her lips. “You drove? You drove to Grandpa Mike’s?” Mother said. “Not all the way there, no. I stopped when I saw lights in people’s houses.” “But you drove.” Mother’s statement rose from the phone’s speakers, and Paris thought she could see Mother’s breath, too. She imagined Mother smoking in her recliner back at home, vapors trickling through her Nokia and out Paris’s iPhone like a warped scene in an old cartoon. Paris almost laughed. She didn’t know why she felt like laughing. “Yes. I drove.” Mother was silent for a moment. Outside the wind howled like a litter of whiny Shih-Tzu puppies, high pitched and shrill. Frigid blasts rocked Paris’s car. As she waited for Mother’s response, Paris breathed against the driver’s side window and drew a wobbly sun in the frosted patch. She wished she could see the sun right now, but the
Kaila Lancaster | When the World Goes Dark
her house began to flash like strobe lights at a sweaty, pulsing rave. The lights went out, and the heating unit sputtered and wheezed into total silence. When Paris thought the world went dark, tornado sirens shrieked through her town and then sputtered into quiet. Stars burned hot and bright against a blackened sky. In her darkened living room, Paris said, “Holy shit,” and groped for her car keys. ~ The whole world didn’t go dark that night. Paris’s town had been hit by a winter wind storm, and as Paris drove past its city limits, she saw lights flickering inside tiny farm houses. Her breathing returned to normal, her heart slowed, she regained feeling in her fingers and cheeks. She pulled into a gravel driveway to turn around, to go back home and sit among scented candles she’d bought at Walmart. Her hands shook as she clutched the steering wheel. She stroked the cracked leather beneath her fingertips— the surface felt stiff and cold, and her legs beneath her sweatpants felt the same. When she pulled into the driveway of her home— windows dark, floodlights dead— she turned off the car and sat behind the wheel to watch her breath fog in front of her. Paris called Mother. “I thought it happened,” Paris said when Mother answered the phone.
moon was awake and bright behind clouds. Mother said, “Shit, Paris. I’ve never been prouder.” ~ Paris went to the grocery store the following Sunday. The week had been sleepless; Paris wore a cap and glasses to the store in attempt to mask the shadows beneath her eyes.
“‘You know.The darkness.
I thought it happened. I drove,’ Paris said. Her breath vaporized in puffs
as she spoke.
In the frozen food aisle, she compiled the Lean Cuisines she enjoyed. She claimed a carton of Ben and Jerry’s, the exterior frosted, hard with ice. The refrigerated section was home to her special kind of milk: the organic kind with the cow printed on the front. She chose a new brand of cereal to try, plucking an unfamiliar multicolored box from the shelf. After tossing a bag of medium pasta shells into her basket, Paris made her way to the checkout. She walked towards the front of the store, the laces of her tennis shoes slapping the ground as she moved, but then stopped beside aisle three,
the canned food aisle. The end of the aisle sported a neon-pink sign. “SALE” was written on the posterboard in teenage girl letters: bubbly, rounded characters dark with black Sharpie. Paris went down the aisle. When Paris emptied her groceries at home, she placed twelve cans of SpaghettiOs into an old cardboard box. Paris pushed the box into a corner near her television. On the box she wrote, “For my fucking pile.”
Why Do the Heathen Rage Terry Wright
Grandfather Clock Sharon H. Smith
The painters refused to paint it white. Afterwards, she banished the clock you loved to a darkened hallway. “The past is the past,” she said abolishing all photographs of us and our mother from the house. You traded in your tweed coat and our family for jazzy jersey shirts. She knew if she threw you a lifeline, in all your grief you would grab it. You did. She knew you would follow her rule book. You knew you had to. You didn’t dare not. Now both of you are gone. I’m back at your house in the hallway where the grandfather clock still stands. You wanted me to have it. But after you passed, she wouldn’t allow it and the clock stayed another 10 years in the forgotten hallway. The clock fellow just came by and took it apart, wrapping each piece of its workings gently in clean cloth. He will restore it and return it back to the way it was before. Back to the way it stood in our childhood home; before that at the foot of grandmother’s stairs. It will stand in my small house against the only wall tall enough to hold it. A well-lit space where the warm mahogany will glow again and the chimes will sound the hour. The sun will replace the moon. It will be back to the way you loved it too, the way you would have kept it if only you could.
Losing Skip Sharon H. Smith
She follows us to the bright room, circling at our feet, circling through the legs of chairs, then over to the tall window crying that small cat cry. Where is he? Outside in his pond, the koi are circling, looking up, around, not seeing who they want to see. Where is he, they ask? No scent of pineapple, no jolly Santa presence, no sitting in chairs that sink into the sand. Sitting in his glass house surrounded by his bamboo, it is so quiet. His roundness vanished. â€œHe was still here when this tree began to bloom,â€? his partner said, pointing to the blushed magnolia outside. We paused, enjoying its grace, open handedness peeking around the window frame. Still circling at our feet, she rubs her soft fur against my leg. I reach down, pet her warm head. I miss him too. I tell her. I miss him too.
Dead Cat Sydney Doyle
Mother pours a lick of fatherâ€™s blackberry brandy into her morning coffee after finding the cat dead, crawled beneath the rosebush, tangled up and cold. Father restarts the coffee maker, eyes the brandy, says, great minds drink alike, and laughs as if to clear his throat, as if about to speak. Then the room becomes mute. The scraping of motherâ€™s spoon against ceramic stirs her cocktail. The low whir of the refrigerator, and gurgling water, purr, like a hive.
Primavera Jenn Powers
Irene Gómez-Castellano translation by J.G. McClure Already you know it doesn’t matter how many laps you swim today, how well you move the pencil of your body between the lines in silence. 15, 30, 54, it doesn’t matter. No one is listening as you bob your head, rhythmic, harmonious, mute. When you swim everything flows, dominated by your arms. Your tongue spits only silences. Wordless, you are beautiful and your hair leaves its marks above the verses of the water, not drowning in the waves’ enjambment. You like your smooth somersault, how it keeps your liquid body moving. The pool is deaf but knows to listen. Love this—the water lapping your smooth and lonely body, its tense marine joy. Words are anemones that blink at being spoken. You would drown them with your kisses. No one sees the dark calligraphy trapped between the water, the tiles glazed like stars. Stay under. Everything is beautiful, safe in silent bubbles. These thoughts of yours— they are so beautiful before they break, before you speak and they emerge, trade their tails for legs and learn to live ashore.
Irene Gomez-Castellano | translation by J.G. McClure | Pool
20, 30, 64. It doesnâ€™t matter because as much as you swim, as much as you breathe to the rhythm of the water, always this fishhook stays caught in both your lips. It doesnâ€™t matter how many silent lines you write upon the water. Your tongue will twist the hook. Your words will start to rust the second that they surface.
Elizabeth M. Dalton
Molly slaps at a bug on her ankle and I whip open the brown paper bag in my hand. Before us lies a seemingly endless row of tomato vines waiting to catch at our hands and clothes while bugs whirl overhead. We will be here all morning. Sweat beads up beneath the grubby old baseball cap my mother made me wear, and the feel of grease in the creases beside the flanges of my nostrils alerts me that another breakout is on the way. Molly tucks her hair up under her cap and we argue about who will have to walk all the way to the other end of the row so we can meet up in the middle. She loses but tells me she’s taking the salt shaker with her. I watch her shuffle through the grass to the other end before I step into the garden. She dallies for a second to tuck another strand of hair beneath the cap, her shoulder blades poking out of her back. She’s thin like a water bird, all neck and legs and wings. At first the cracked crust of topsoil is a relief to my wet feet, but the uneven soil cuts into my soles so that it is miserable to stand or crouch in any one place for long. So, moving from foot to foot, I contemplate the bushy plants and the green tomato worms hidden within them, their heads curled serpent-like over a leaf or stalk.
I shudder, close my eyes, and reach. Tomatoes are tricky. They may be red on one side and green on the other, so I look before I pull. It would be easy to simply clean off the plants, for every tomato we leave on the vine is a tomato I will have to pick on another muggy morning. Some are overripe and rotten where they have fallen to the ground. The black cankers look like running sores on the bottoms of the fruit. I toss these into the tree line, listening for the crash of the tomatoes among the leaves and branches.
They may be red on one side and green on the other, so I look before I
Once my sack is half full I stand and stretch and rub forearms irritated from contact with the scratchy tomato vines and leaves. The spicy odor of tomatoes wafts from my palms. I thrash around, trying to swat away the sweat bees attracted to the perspiration in the hollow between my breasts. Even the backs of
it’s always this way. On Saturday mornings, she hums and drifts through the house, distractedly flicking the dust rag over the tabletops or vacuuming the same two feet of carpet over and over again with a vague smile on her face. There is no hurry in her, while I am all hurry, trying to get as much in as possible before time is up. I go back at it, riffling through the cool undersides of the prickling leaves, first feeling the fruit, peering at it, and then pulling with a quick twist. An occasional breeze wafts through the corn and across my greasy forehead. About a third of the way through the row, my bag bulges. Molly has moved perhaps a few feet from her starting place, and her bag might be half full. Move it, I tell her. She stops humming long enough to tell me to shut up. We hear the screen door slam and Mom soon appears with a few more folded grocery bags. She shakes one open and drops the rest at the garden’s edge. Then, she wades in to check our progress. Before she takes three steps, she finds two tomatoes I missed. Look under the leaves, she says, placing the tomatoes in the fresh bag. Molly smirks. I do, I tell my mother. She bends over the vines, feeling green and yellow fruits, then pulls the
Elizabeth M. Dalton | Ripe
my knees are damp. Near the opposite end of the row, Molly crouches, head bent over her work. She looks up and flings a tomato overhand toward the tree line, her long fingers outspread in the air beside her head as she waits for the fruit to fall. Beyond the tree line, we hear the distant hum of farm equipment moving through the fields. I lift my cap for a second, then squint toward the field, the road, the house. The sun is a blurry disc in a white sky this morning and the apple tree slouches beneath its weight of fruit and bees. One more week and then I’m in high school. I’m ready for the end of the hot summer, though I wish I were taller and thinner, and less bookish. Molly will be a seventh grade cheerleader this year. She and her girlfriends trade boyfriends and overnights at each others’ houses. Which boy she calls a boyfriend right now, I don’t know. Which friend is in and which is out is a mystery to me. All of the sudden, there are whole parts of her life I know almost nothing about. She bends, elastic in the heat, her long back and arms stretching toward the tomato plants. She hums a little, and is not angry—like I am—about the injustice of this chore. Jason, our little brother, is inside where it’s cool. Molly moves slower than I do, dropping in one tomato for my two. If she’d work as quickly as I do, we’d be done sooner and out of this heat, but
leaves back to show another cluster I have missed. Still, I’ve done more than Molly, I tell her. Here you go, she says, handing me the fresh sack. Red tomatoes roll across the bottom. She takes my full bag and carries it to the garden’s edge, then walks to get Molly’s. She does not say a word about Molly’s half-full bag, perhaps because Molly is smiling at her as she takes the empty sack from Mom’s hand. I, on the other hand, vow I will never keep a garden when I have my own home. I will never make my children work in this kind of heat when tomatoes can be purchased for a few cents a can from a grocery store. Carrying one bag on each hip, Mom heads back to the house where water is on the boil and sterilized jars stand ready for the fruit. Molly and I watch. I’m hungry, she says. She walks to her edge of the garden and picks up the salt shaker. Perspiration sparkles on her neck and shoulders. Come on, I tell her. Let’s finish this. She doesn’t listen, so I shrug, select two tomatoes from the sack, and follow her; I don’t want to be stuck doing even more of the work than usual. We collapse, cross-legged, in the warm grass. Molly’s hair is bright where the sun touches it and her blue eyes gaze out from behind the sun-pinked hills of her cheeks as she laughs and points at our dumb cat hiding in the cornstalks. She slaps a mosquito on the knob of her shoulder and grimaces as she wipes
away the corpse. The tomatoes are sharp-smelling and warm in the palms of our hands. The fruit is so ripe it feels almost liquid beneath the skin. I rub grains of soil off on my shorts and take a bite. As soon as my teeth puncture the skin my mouth is filled with juice and pulp. Molly slurps at hers and upends the salt shaker over the top. She takes another bite and juice runs from the corners of her mouth. She closes her eyes. I take the salt shaker and do the same. We eat until we are full of tomato flesh and salt. I throw off my cap and lie back in the grass. Cicadas set up an electric rattle in the trees. The nearby whir of a honeybee alerts us to her presence. Molly tells me she’s not ready for school to start. I am, I say, and my eyes drift closed again. She talks about the boy she likes, her voice a lazy hum that blends with the late summer sounds around us. I think about boys, too, and how they are waiting at the edge of autumn. But here there is nothing but the grass, the growing garden, my sister, and the bee. Fingertips of a hot breeze trace our skin and scalps. The summer heat warms me through until I feel heavy, slow, and ripe. The insides of my eyelids glow red. ~ The aisle was as short as the country church was small. Molly took her place at the end of it and the elderly organist shifted from a
aisle with the other attendants and wept. At 27, my sister was a woman, nothing like the silly girls I’d seen at so many weddings during the past ten years or so. She had been in no hurry for marriage or children. She meandered through her 20s, working odd jobs, driving ludicrous little hatchbacks, and living a life she concealed from the rest of her family. She strolled down the aisle, her smile brilliant.
Elizabeth M. Dalton | Ripe
diffident Pachelbel to a key-pounding Wagner. Autumn sunlight backlit Molly’s veil but I could still see her face beneath the tulle. The high lace collar on her dress covered the surgery scar in her throat. The thyroid was gone and with it, we believed, the possibility of cancer. We were more concerned about the dragon tattoo on her leg, a relic from her past. At some crazy party, she’d extended her leg to a tattoo artist, who took full advantage of her long calf.
stepped toward the altar with a dragon
beneath her skirts.
The large tattoo horrified our parents and fascinated me. What had it felt like? Why a dragon? When our mother complained, as she did every time she caught a glimpse of it, or when I asked, Molly shrugged and smiled. The voluminous wedding dress covered all but the toes of Molly’s pumps, but our mother wanted the thing to disappear. She purchased pancake scar concealer for both the surgery scar and the tattoo, but a trial run proved the stuff smeared; it wouldn’t survive the effort to pull on a pair of stockings. Molly stepped toward the altar with a dragon beneath her skirts. Hair grazed collars as heads turned and slacks slithered over knees as they extended and guests stood. I stood at the top of the
I don’t remember much of my first wedding, certainly not the words I spoke. A lot happened during those first few years of adulthood. By the time I was 24 years old, I had two marriages, one divorce, two children, and a college degree to my name. What I do recall from that first wedding is trying to keep my lashes from tangling in the veil while my fiancé swayed beside me like a tree about to be felled. We gripped each other’s hands as the minister insisted on sharing with our unsuspecting guests that I was pregnant. Two years were all it took to topple that marriage. My second try at 24 took root, the one where I spoke my vows with at least some
understanding of their meaning and power. Molly took her time, listening carefully, repeating clearly, her face as confident and still as a Botticelli Madonna’s. She and Jim held hands and watched each other’s faces. I swiped at my eyes and nose, my green taffeta dress rustling like a paper bag.
dragon bristled on
her leg and a scar nestled between her collarbones, concealing a secret that was even then blooming in
the hollow of her throat.
Glasses clinked and the aunties on my side of the family settled in for ornery talk. My husband, John, left his food to videotape various parts of the reception: the cake cutting, the best man’s toast, the bouquet and garter toss. My five-year-old daughter, Sarah, danced herself to dizziness and refused to eat anything that wasn’t sugar-coated. Various family members had handed her cookies on the sly and slipped her several cans of soda, and she was careering toward a tantrum when my motherin-law sat her down with a plate of food. John was who knows where.
My son, Daniel, had eaten and wanted to know if he could have more. Yes. I went with him to the buffet table and dropped a few things on my plate while Daniel filled his again. I set my plate down at the half-empty table set aside for the wedding party when I heard the fussing begin. I scurried over to Sarah with my pack of hushes, threats, and bribes. There was some haggling and some very slow liftings of the fork while I watched in the gloom. Finally, I turned my daughter loose again. My plate of food would be cold, but I was past eating anyhow. Mirrors flashed and laughter burst from the ladies’ room when I opened the door. There stood Molly surrounded by her hippie-chick girlfriends who touched her veil and dress, her hair and face, and told her she was beautiful. She was flushed and a little out of breath, fanning herself with one hand while the other fluttered the wide skirt of her dress up and down, revealing and hiding the dragon by turns. Her teeth gleamed as her laugh, as red as her hair, filled the room. I was a green sliver in the background as I dried my hands. I smiled in her direction, envious of her friends, and hurried back to my children. In the dim reception hall, the opening chords of “Harvest Moon” elicited a sigh from the overheated guests. I scanned the room for my husband. He stood nearby,
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videotaping the dance floor, where Molly had materialized. She stepped toward her husband, who curled around her like a vine. His head bent toward her as she talked in his ear, and his arms curved around her so his hands held her at the waist where her dress nipped in. My eyes followed my little sister, a patch of white in the darkened room. A dragon bristled on her leg and a scar nestled between her collarbones, concealing a secret that was even then blooming in the hollow of her throat. Neil Young warned all of us that the time was getting late, but Molly lifted her face, round and fresh and pink, for a kiss. I, too, reached for my husband, because I thought it was just the beginning.
Lily Entropy Jury S. Judge
New Fruit Hannah Kimbal
Like a green marble pinched between finger and thumb, dense and smooth. I cannot name the drupe that sucked the spit from my crying tongue, so little flesh on the stone, the thing resisted the word fruit. The only explanation was an outstretched palm, the hand of a boy who cupped an unripe emerald as if on a velvet cushion. I ate the little berryâ€” I think I was meant to eat it but couldnâ€™t ask the boy with whom I shared no words, who gave me a mystery instead.
Marissa Anne Ayala
The girl in the feather skirt gets tired of waiting for her story to start. When would the mushroomy underside of the moon explode? Darling, she writes, Iâ€™ve sold your clothes. She loves the slash and glister of her pen. By the time you read this, my ship will be en route. Here on board, gold-tasseled tablecloths sway. Petal by petal, an inchworm crosses the centerpiece of lilies and phlox. The galley door swings, dishes clink, a kettle hisses. Sometimes she strokes the cricket in her pocket for luck. Here on board, staircases unfold into silken dark and tenderness begins at its regularly scheduled time, nothing like a coin purse snapped closed. Snowflakes fall like whispers and someone keeps shaking the globe.
The Girl in the Feather Skirt Sends a Postcard Kathleen McGookey
To Whom It May Concern: Today I plunged into the living room and the lovely bubbles of my breath rose through the crystal ropes of the chandelier. Sunlight on water makes waves like fish scales, iridescent even from underneath. The pale overstuffed couch swayed. Blurry shadows soared above the surface, calling each other with reedy, two-step notes. The windows are open but the water will not leave the house. That’s one hidden rule. Here’s another: inside my sleep I am never lonely. I’ve set out white teacups on the windowsill for us, a little trail of bones.
Break Me a Wishbone Jury S. Judge
Food, My Body Jen Corrigan
I. Heidi Klum has shark eyes. She is a predator in leather pants and blue pumps. From beyond the screen, she pulls me in. She wants to consume me. In the middle of New York City, she stands in front of seventeen designers for Project Runway season eight. With a smile that doesn’t touch the darkness beneath her low eyebrows, she welcomes them, opens her arms for them to slip inside and down into the pink of her stomach. She wants to swallow them. She tells them they’re not out of the woods yet. She grins. Using a piece of clothing from a fellow contestant’s suitcase, the designers must each create a look for the very first runway challenge. The contestants react with gasps, hands clamped over open mouths. It is an exercise in usurping someone’s style and cutting it, shaping it, so that it is one’s own. This piece of clothing has settled and rested against the body of a rival. It is a precious whole to be split into pieces. The two oily pools in Heidi Klum’s face swirl like Charybdis. ~ II. When it came to her body, my mother had too much determination.
A bulimic, she only ate on Sundays and lived on diet pills and Fresca the rest of the week. Grandma would often send me to my mother with an offering in hand, a plate of dinner. “Try to make her eat something,” Grandma told me. At ten, I was a worshiper bringing fruits and spiced meats to appease a jealous god. I’d bring her these offerings with a strained smile. For God loveth a cheerful giver.
is a predator in
leather pants and blue pumps. From beyond the screen, she pulls me in. She wants to consume
In my mother’s half of the house, she flushed Grandma’s meatloaf, potatoes, fruits, vegetables, down the toilet and handed me the empty plate to take back upstairs. The first time, I told Grandma what my mother did. Grandma went downstairs to confront my mother, to ask her why she wouldn’t eat something, anything. I followed and stood half hidden while
Grandma implored my mother to eat, eat, eat. My mother looked at me, pointed her finger right in my face like she did when I told her she shouldn’t drink vodka while on her medication. “What’s she doing tattling on me? I’m her mother, not her fucking sister!” She went into her bedroom and slammed the door. Grandma called after, my mother’s name soaked wet with tears. After that, when my mother flushed her dinner down the toilet, I watched silently. The colors and chunks swirled prettily down the pipes. I took the plate back upstairs to put in the dishwasher. “She ate it,” I lied. “All of it.” I hoped my mother would die in her sleep, a starved god. ~ III. “I’m not used to designing for fat people,” Olivier from season nine complains in the Project Runway confessional. The challenge is to design an outfit for the band members of The Sheepdogs, a Canadian alternative rock group that sounds identical to every other alternative rock group. The lead singer is tall and broad shouldered, not cut with the v-shaped lines of a model. But he is not what I would call fat. I wonder if I am wrong. In previous episodes, Olivier complained about fitting his female model. Her big breasts and wide hips are obstacles for Olivier to
overcome; he can only design for the ideal body, an idol designated by the perfectly proportioned mannequin. He seethes at the mounds that press wrinkles into his clothes: the soft curve of her ass, the tumorous bulbs of her breasts. Tim Gunn consults with Olivier in the workroom, expresses that Olivier, a menswear designer, should have this challenge in the bag. “It’s hard because he’s much bigger than the mannequin,” Olivier says bitterly as he pins patterns onto the inanimate body. Tim Gunn looks at Olivier sternly from over his glasses, his arms crossed over his chest. “You have his measurements,” Tim says. “As a designer, you’ll have to work with clients who don’t have model bodies. That’s just how it is.” Olivier pouts, rolls his eyes. He wishes again and again that his client were thin. ~ IV. I tell myself that I’ll do better with my diet if I feel pretty. Replacing the thrill of binging with the thrill of spending money I don’t have, I drive to a used clothing shop where I spend three hours picking through racks of trendy clothing for hip young adults. I scavenge for leftovers that will hang well on my frame as effortlessly as brush strokes. There are few options that fit and even fewer that look good on my short doughy body.
takes up space. I leave with two nice shirts, and I am surprised. I catch myself feeling pretty. ~ V. Mondo Guerra from season eight of Project Runway creates two companion dresses for the L’Oreal advertorial challenge: a structured haute couture gown and a brown, formfitting dress with white v-shaped stripes down the front. The model is styled simply with her hair pulled back tight and shiny. Her only accessories are her black patent leather pumps and a thin black belt tied around her waist. She is light and dark, contrast. She walks quickly and confidently, her arms swinging just slightly. She is beautiful. She turns heads. At the judging, Michael Kors, Nina Garcia, and Heidi Klum praise Mondo for knowing what chic young women want. “Look how the lines flatter her body,” Michael Kors declares, blessing the garment with an open hand. “Any woman would look great in that dress. Any!” I imagine the way the formfitting material would hug my body, emphasizing the bumps and rolls along my stomach, my sides, my back. I imagine how my gut would stick out the front and my ass out the back. I imagine
Jen Corrigan | Food, My Body
I came for a new pair of jeans; my fat thighs rubbed a hole in the only decent pair I had, so now I have to wear a pair that fits but widens and flattens my ass like a deflated soufflé. In them, I look twenty years older. I pick through the jeans, the colors fading from navy to cerulean to sky blue and back again, a discarded ombre. I pull four pairs off the rack, all dark blue. I read in a magazine that darker colors are more slimming, and I’ve clung to that hope every since. I go up to the dressing rooms with hands that floweth over. The attendant looks at me stupidly. She is beautiful and petite with empty brown eyes. “You wanna try those on?” she asks me unnecessarily. “Yes, please.” She unlocks the door, gives me a smile like her lips are trying to press wine out of grapes. Behind the closed door, under the purple-tinged fluorescent light, I try to cram my big, pale body into each pair only to peel them off and place them back on the hanger. I open the door and hand them to the stupid fitting room attendant, muttering, “These are a ‘no.’” I do this again and again and again, moving on to shirts and jackets and sweaters. I am desperate for something I can leave with to validate the wasted afternoon spent trying minimize the way my body
how the hemline would cut across my thighs, pointing to the stretch lines and cellulite. I am a woman, but not the right one. ~ VI. Because I was tall for my age in middle school, Grandma made me play basketball. On the way home from a defeat against a rival school, Grandma took me to McDonald’s, back when the tag line was “We love to see you smile.” I got a McChicken and steaming, fluorescent-yellow fries. The sandwich had too much mayonnaise that dribbled out the sides onto the wrapper spread flat on my lap. Grandma glanced at me suddenly as if remembering something. “Did you get all your stuff ? Your backpack?” With a jolt in my chest, I could see it back in the guest locker room in a strange school, propped up against the wall and filled with my homework, my textbooks, my wallet. I could see the janitor coming in to sweep the slate-gray cement floors, closing the door and locking it behind him. “I forgot it,” I said. Anxiety flooded my mouth metallic. “I’m sorry.” This was the second time I had done this. “Now we have to turn around,” she said. Her voice sharpened into points. “We have to turn around, and now it’ll be dark before we get
home!” At the beginning of growing blind, Grandma could still drive during the daytime but struggled at night, relying on me to coach her steering and keep us out of the ditch. “I’m sorry!” I wailed. “I’m sorry!” With both hands, I took my McChicken and crammed as much of it in my mouth as I could. I chewed viciously, working the wet mass around in my mouth, in my bulging cheeks. The squishing sound of it in my head only half smothered Grandma’s shrill lecture. I tried to focus on the way my body was filling itself up with mass: the mastication, the swallowing, the outside becoming internal. Food, my body. When I had finished the sandwich, I licked the mayonnaise off the wrapper. My tongue tore holes in the paper. ~
“I am a woman, but not the right one.” VII. Michael Kors embodies the male gaze as a Project Runway judge, not only criticizing the designers’ clothing but offering catty comments on how the models are styled. I get an electrical surge of delight when Michael cuts down the designers, questioning everything from their sewing knowledge to their aesthetic tastes.
During the mother-daughter times I could not avoid, she liked to tell me about the plastic surgery she was saving up for: liposuction, tummy tuck, Botox injections. Her breasts were already done, made big and large and firm. Everyone at her workplace had seen them at the Christmas party one year when she got blackout drunk and took off all her clothes. When she wasn’t talking about dieting or plastic surgery, she was talking about tanning, makeup, dying and cutting and curling her hair. From the inside out, she hated herself. She found comfort in slowly becoming someone else. One day, when I couldn’t avoid it, she took me with her while she went bra shopping. She had phrased it like we’d go get a bra for my own budding breasts, but I only remember the bras she bought for herself. It was summer, so my mother told me about her summer job. “When I was in high school, I worked at the Dairy Queen in town. A bunch of my girlfriends worked there too. We always messed around. Whenever we screwed up an order, the manager made us eat it.” “That sounds like a great job!” I said. “I’d mess up on purpose to get free ice cream.” “It wasn’t great at all,”
Jen Corrigan | Food, My Body
She looks like she’s a barmaid serving her hair. Do I think it’s pretty? No. Where do I start? You basically took a checklist of everything that can turn tacky. I mean, hello! Slutty, slutty, slutty. I watch this and remember going to the gay nightclub in my college town on Saturday nights, always accompanied by the same friend. She had an array of gay male friends, men who masked their cruelty with camp. They liked her because she was thin as a model, and they loved to dress her up like a doll, picking out everything from her handbag to her false lashes. We ran into an acquaintance of hers at the club one night who praised her cocktail dress that was both too short and too low in the front with the dark color giving her skin the washed-out pale of a snake belly. Bitch, your tits look amazing in this dress. Where did you get it? I just love it! He turned to me. He looked a lot like Michael Kors, with tangerine skin and teeth that glowed like mirror shards. The man didn’t say hello to me. He just looked me up and down, at my large body hidden and revealed by the fake smoke in the nightclub, my T-shirt, my jeans, my sneakers, my flat brown hair. Oh, honey. Where do I start? ~ VIII. As a little girl, I tried not to spend too much time with my mother.
Mom said. Driving with her knees, ten miles above the speed limit, she pulled out a cigarette and lit it. “I gained so much weight that summer. I got fat. I mean really fat. I was miserable, Jennifer.” I turned my head away, put my face down by the air conditioning so I wouldn’t have to breathe in the smoke of my mother’s Marlboro. With both hands, I kneaded my thick thighs, tanned topaz by the July sun. “Sometimes,” I began uncertainly, “I think I’m fat. I’m bigger than all my friends.” She took a big drag and held the smoke in her lungs. She shook her head. The sunlight glinted yellow off her highlights. “You’re not fat. I was fat when I was your age. God, when I was in fifth grade, I was pretty close to a hundred pounds.” I didn’t tell her that at the doctor’s last week I weighed ninety-five. “And you’re tall for your age,” my mother continued. “You won’t have to worry about being fat until you’re one hundred twenty or so.” I etched that number into my gray matter, set an alarm so that when my mass crept up on that number I would know, definitively, that I was fat. ~ IX. In Project Runway season eight, the designers are tasked with creating a look that embodies who the Marie Claire woman really is.
“She’s fashion-forward, chic, a career woman who is always on the go,” Nina Garcia tells the designers who all nod and nod and nod. Jason Troisi nods the hardest in his stupid bowler hat that he wears with any and all outfits, including tank tops and shorts. It is a signature, and it is a questionable one. From the start, Jason has bragged about being “full-blooded Italian” and “the only straight guy there,” using his biological qualities to define himself. He is a poor designer. Lines and curves of a woman’s body elude him. He is conscious of himself, but not his model. He creates a satin dress in a lavender that is reminiscent of Easter Sundays with strange folds in the front, which he tacks in place with safety pins. He spikes his model’s bleached hair, puts her in hiking boots. When questioned about his garment, he points to the folds, traces their shapes with an index finger. “It’s an infinity symbol,” he explains. “It’s an ‘8’ for season eight.” “You got lost in your own idea,” Nina Garcia says, her eyes unapologetic and steely. “You did not design this for a woman. You designed this for yourself.” He is eliminated from the competition. ~ X. One of my friends in high school was naturally skinny. She had low
You’d be really hot, too, I thought, if you were someone else. ~ XI. Ven Budhu of season ten is disappointed when he sees the picture of Terri, the thirty-something woman he is tasked with making over. Her body looks like mine, just with thinner hips: big waist, thick thighs and arms. “She doesn’t have a shape,” Ven complains to Tim and his competitors, vexed. “And her sense of style is nonexistent.” Ven is an overweight man with a fat face and a small, puckered mouth that looks like an asshole. He wears khakis paired with pastel-colored polos.
Jen Corrigan | Food, My Body
self-esteem despite her thin frame and long, slender limbs, and she fueled herself on male attention. A twenty-six-year-old cook at the restaurant where she worked convinced her to have sex with him in his truck by just begging, “just the tip, just the tip, just to see how it feels.” He was already engaged to someone else whom my friend called “that fat cow.” She and the man, after beginning their affair, would laugh together at the woman’s stupidity, how she was being humiliated by a seventeen-year-old girl. Their love grew out of hatred for the Fat Cow. The man dated my friend eventually, took her to prom even though he looked ridiculous, old and overweight, crammed into an ill-fitting
‘You’d be really hot if you lost forty
pounds’ . . . You’d be really hot, too, I thought, if you were
tux. They broke up after several years when, drunk and jealous, the man sent her a text calling her a cunt. While they were still together, the man and I would chat online sometimes. One evening, he turned the conversation to my body, my weight. He typed, “You’d be really hot if you lost forty pounds.” I stared at the screen and thought about him, his overweight body, his lazy eye, his crooked rotten teeth.
During the fittings, he makes flat, toneless comments to Terri about her size and her lack of style. Your hair looks great. I was surprised when you came in, because you look really beautiful. All the belts are too small. I’ll have to request a special belt for you. The black skirt will make you look slimmer. Terri cries. “I’m just really
disappointed,” she says while Ven rolls his eyes behind her. At the runway show she tells the judges, “At the first fitting, I wasn’t happy. And at the fitting this morning, I still wasn’t happy.” Ven stands next to her, his arms resting behind his back, his mouth and eyes thin slits. Her body has failed him. ~ XII. I read essays about body image and being fat. Some of them throw around labels that attempt to boil down the fat experience into definable terms: fat phobia, thin privilege, body shaming, fat acceptance. Many of these essays make me feel even worse about my body instead of making me feel empowered. An essay that makes me want to love my body is Carmen Maria Machado’s “The Trash Heap Has Spoken.” She writes about how one must have a fat mind to exult in the way one takes up space in the world. Machado cites Ursula from The Little Mermaid as an example of this fat mindedness, a villain who chooses to be large, to jiggle her breasts and ass to the rhythm of her own singing. Machado points out that Ursula, in magicking herself into a woman figure as a means to steal away Prince Eric, does have the ability to change her figure into someone young and thin, but that she chooses not to do so. Instead, she revels in her body, in her garish makeup. She allows
herself to be a big woman and to draw the audience’s attention to it. However, Machado does not mention that the inspiration for Ursula was the legendary drag queen, Divine, who made a career out of performing femininity. I step away from the essay both comforted and confused by my fatness, my womanness. I wonder if I can be both at the same time. I appreciate the essay and enjoy it, and I believe it for other people. I wish that I believed it for myself. Again, I am dieting and going to the gym. This time, I am losing weight and keeping it off. I feel giddy with this fact, and I feel both proud and ashamed of myself for pursuing a standard of beauty that has been decided for me. I go to the gym later in the day when there are fewer people there. It’s not that I care what other people think of my poor form or my weak muscles or the way I sweat through the crotch of my yoga pants; the context allows me that. Rather I don’t want to discourage myself when I look at the sleek and sculpted legs, the taut muscles, tight and hard with every calculated movement. I try not to even see them. I lift more than I probably should so I’ll feel the dull sting of my efforts the next day as a reminder that I’m trying. I lift and I stretch and I run on the elliptical while I distract myself by reading the closed captioning on the muted TV. I make my
Jen Corrigan | Food, My Body
body move in ways it doesnâ€™t want to until I feel heady, and I begin to believe this is more satisfying than the bite chew swallow of mouthful after mouthful of synesthetic food. I go home, convinced that I feel myself getting skinny by the second. My fat evaporates in ripples. I let myself believe that. I do not look in the mirror.
Asleep in Hunts Point Marissa Anne Ayala
Jungle of Stars Suzi Ehtesham-Zadeh
He sets out from his apartment in the early morning hours, before daylight has fully broken. Even though it’s June, the sky looks icy; its hazy orb glimmers faintly behind the clouds like a goldfish languishing beneath the surface of a frozen lake. He does not need the sun’s light— he has taken this path so many times now that he knows it by feel and by count. Seventy-three steps down Ferdowsi Avenue; avoid the cracked asphalt at the corner and turn onto Shemiran Road; walk sixteen paces down Shemiran and turn left; follow the blind alley all the way down to where it dead-ends.
The bakeries haven’t opened to the public yet, but the smell of naan fills the air. In the distance he can hear the cawing of crows and the howling of the vagrant dogs that roam through south Tehran. He always feels a kinship with these creatures who are eking out an existence in this hostile city like he is, and who, like him, only come out in the early morning hours. Nasser is waiting for him outside the fabric shop, squatting beside the curb and smoking a cigarette. He stands up and greets Hamid wordlessly, then motions him toward the side entrance to the shop.
“This is Hamid’s favorite time of day; the only moment
when he finds Tehran almost beautiful. In the daylight a thick veneer of grime covers the poplar trees that line the streets, but now, silhouetted against the iridescent sky,
their edges look clean.
This is Hamid’s favorite time of day; the only moment when he finds Tehran almost beautiful. In the daylight a thick veneer of grime covers the poplar trees that line the streets, but now, silhouetted against the iridescent sky, their edges look clean.
Hamid watches as Nasser slips in the key, opens the door, and flips on a switch to illuminate a bare light bulb hanging over a metal table in a tiny room lined on all sides with shelves holding bolts of fabric. Nasser slides his hand between two of the bolts
You can pay them off if they catch you, of course—money is what they’re after. But with those Kalashnikovs in their hands, they can ask for whatever they want, and you have no choice but to give it to them.” “If they catch me, they will learn that no matter how hard you squeeze, you can’t get blood to come from a stone. But don’t worry; I will be careful. I’ll see you in a few weeks.” Out on the street the sun has risen to just above the tree line, but a sliver of moon still hangs in the sky. Hamid has noticed this phenomenon before, but has never been able to explain it. The sight of the two heavenly bodies appearing together always moves something in him, even though it makes him feel small. It is as if the sky is showing off its vastness and its mystery, mocking the frenetic activity of the foolish people who live beneath it. Rush hour has not reached its peak yet, but cars have begun to screech and weave down Ferdowsi Avenue, honking their horns as they go. There is no trace of the dogs now, and the crows have retreated to the trees where they sit silently watching as the city awakens. Inside his apartment, Hamid takes the opium out of his pocket and kneads it and smells it again. Its feel and odor alone are
Suzi Ehtesham-Zadeh | Jungle of Stars
and retrieves a small package that is wrapped, incongruously, in a gaily colored cloth remnant that might be found on a child’s quilt. He extends the package toward Hamid on his outstretched palm as though he were making an offering on a tray. Without removing the package from Nasser’s hand, Hamid reaches into it, unfolds the cloth, and gingerly peels back the waxy paper around the object nestled inside. He lifts the opium up, sniffs it, then places it between his palms, rolls it back and forth, and sniffs it again. He holds it lengthwise between his thumb and forefinger as if to measure it: it is a full lool, at least 20 mesghals. He kneads it and bends it gently in the middle to check its freshness. It should not be brittle, and it isn’t. It is roughly the consistency of a piece of toffee. Nasser takes the opium out of Hamid’s hands and raises it up against the light bulb. “Look at the color,” he says. “It is very pure. It is worth much more than I am charging you.” “I can see that,” Hamid says. “Mutshakeram. I appreciate it.” He pulls a roll of bills from the front pocket of his jeans, and Nasser takes the bills without counting them and slips them into his own pocket. As Hamid is turning to leave, Nasser grips his arm. “Be careful,” he says. “They are on the prowl lately, you know. I’ve heard they’re even knocking on the doors of people’s homes.
enough to make his neurons start to tingle, the sensation traveling all the way down to his fingertips and even into his legs and toes. He has never studied the anatomical processes by which a narcotic substance works, but his limited scientific understanding tells him that there can’t be any physiological sensations in his body until the substance has actually entered his bloodstream. Perhaps the tingling is in his imagination, or some kind of psychological response that comes from the power of suggestion. He knows that the line between addiction and habitual smoking is very thin, and that he is on a slippery slope. The tingling before he smokes is a sign. Opium is a delicate substance that must be melted, not burned—and melting requires a particular kind of heat source. Hamid has often bent up his best problem-solving abilities to the task of smoking opium in the most frugal way possible. He recently discovered that he could drop a tiny piece of opium—no bigger than a crumb of bread—onto the glowing end of a lit cigarette. But the opium only lasts for a second this way, and the cigarette smoke masks its rich, musky taste. A more effective method is to heat a metal object like a kebab skewer over the stove until it is red-hot, hold it a hair’s breadth away from a piece of opium until it begins to melt, and inhale the smoke through a funnel or a cone. Less of the opium is lost this way.
Of course there is no replacement for the full ritual, which is deliberate, exact, and gorgeous in its slowness. Hamid is not in a hurry this morning, so he decides to prepare his manqal. He goes outside to the courtyard, fills the manqal with lumps of charcoal, douses it with kerosene, and strikes a match. While he waits for the flame to die down, he returns to the kitchen and plugs in the samovar. To avoid nausea, one must always remember to eat before smoking. He opens the refrigerator and pulls out the box of pastries his mother brought by for him last week. They are a bit stale, but he takes out two of the pastries and eats them quickly. Then he brews the tea, arranges a teapot, a teacup, and a box of dates on a tray, and carries the tray into the living room. By the time he goes back out to the courtyard, the manqal is ready—the flame has disappeared and the charcoal is glowing red. The full opium ritual is much easier when there is a second person to act as an assistant, since it is difficult for the smoker to hold the pipe and the charcoal at the same time. The fact that opium smoking is a joint effort and a shared experience has always seemed beautiful to Hamid— but he has grown practiced at smoking alone. He places his pipe on the corner of the manqal to warm, then sticks a piece of opium onto the ceramic bulb just above the pinhole and dangles a piece of charcoal over
fact that opium
smoking is a joint effort and a shared experience has
beautiful to Hamid—but he has grown practiced at
Almost immediately after inhaling, he is overtaken by a crushing emotion that feels a little bit like sorrow. This emotion washes over him often when he smokes, and it is a feeling that he craves. Perhaps he should not think of it as sorrow, because it also feels a little bit like love—for his family; for his city; for the crows and dogs; for the sun and moon; for Nasser; for the people who live on his street; for humankind in general; for life itself. For years now Hamid has found it hard to shake himself out of a state of emotional numbness, but under the influence of opium everything takes on a quality that makes his heart swell to the point of bursting. The universe seems like a mystery—like a puzzle that can never be solved—and it
seems righteous and meaningful for it to be that way. Hamid knows that opium is an addictive substance, but it always seems to him that smoking it is going to prolong his life. He has seen the fields of bright orange poppies that are the source of the drug, and nothing could be more natural, more colorful, more simple and truthful. Whenever he pictures the tiny delicate flower that has given of itself, that has sacrificed its life to provide him the gift of opium, he feels immense gratitude There is a word for the opium high: khomar. It is not a mental state; it is a purely physical one. The mind must not interfere at any stage during the smoking of opium; it must shut down most, if not all, of its processes. To be khomar is to surrender one’s body entirely to physical sensations; to allow every single cell and atom of one’s body to be massaged and caressed from the inside. Being khomar also heightens one’s senses, and Hamid’s senses have grown so sharp that even when he closes the windows and curtains of his apartment he can hear the sounds of the city. It isn’t just the constant hum that he hears; he has learned to isolate each dimension of the sound and trace it to what he believes to be its source. In his mind’s eye, he pictures the
Suzi Ehtesham-Zadeh | Jungle of Stars
it delicately, without allowing it to touch the surface. As soon as the opium begins to sizzle, he inhales deeply and closes his eyes.
sounds as they are being produced: the young girls making their way to school with their maghna’eh flowing around their nubile bodies; the owner of the fruit stand grinding the metal handle to raise the awning of his shop; the bakers at the naan-va patting their loaves onto the sides of their red-hot tanoors; the old woman coming down the stairs in her chador to sweep the entrance to her apartment building. He has rarely conversed with any of these people and he doubts they know who he is—but he knows them all so well that he can intuit their innermost thoughts. At times his senses are so sharp that he can almost hear their hearts beating. ~ Hamid has been living in the apartment for only eight months. He was the last to move out of his childhood home: his sisters have both married and are living with their own families; his older brother is a contractor working for an Italian company in Ahvaz, many miles away in the south. Reluctant to part with their baby, his parents opposed his move to the apartment, and worried especially about his decision to put off going to university. He argued that a university education was worthless in Iran, that it would only delay his entry into the job market. It is better to embark upon a trade now, he told them, and work his way up toward a stable profession. After all, he is only twenty-three; there is
still time to go to university. But so far he has only made a bit of money here and there doing odd jobs: buying and selling cell phones; framing illustrations torn from books and selling them to tourists; delivering pizzas by taxi to wealthy families in the north of the city. He has scraped together enough to buy groceries, but his parents have paid his rent for five of the eight months he has been living alone. During his last visit to his parents a few weeks ago, Hamid found himself wracked with guilt. A lump rose in his throat when he walked into the kitchen and saw his mother with her sleeves rolled up, bringing a meat cleaver down on a shank of lamb and cutting it into pieces. He didn’t know exactly what it was about this scene that made him feel so sad—some combination of pity, nostalgia, and remorse. He couldn’t bear the thought that the meal was being prepared especially for him when he was so undeserving. “I am making khoresh-e-gheimeh,” his mother said when she saw him in the doorway. “I know it has always been your favorite, ever since you first tried it when you just a baby. I’ll never forget how you sucked the meat off the bone when you didn’t even have teeth yet!” “It is my favorite, Maman-joon. But you didn’t have to go to so much trouble.” “I worry that you don’t eat enough, azizam. And I’m sure you don’t eat
a faint wheeze behind his voice. Much of what he said was in the form of angry invectives hurled at the television screen. “You are liars, every single one of you!” his father shouted when the turbaned leaders from the majless appeared on the screen. Do you think that those filthy cloths you are wearing on your heads will convince us that you are honest? The people eat like dogs now—we make our khoresh with bones. We don’t want your Islamic purity, you bastards! We want meat!” Over dinner, both parents slipped into their usual refrains. His mother: “When are you going to meet a woman and get married?” His father: “If you’re not going to study, you must find a job, Hamid-joon. Otherwise this disgusting regime will eat you alive.” Both parents urged him to shave his scruffy beard so he wouldn’t look so much like a member of the Baseej or the Hezbollah. And both entreated him to move back home. Not wanting to hurt their feelings, he merely nodded and said, “I might. I’m just not ready yet.” He was lying to them, of course— he couldn’t move back home even if he wanted to. His parents probably thought it was because of pride that he insisted on living alone, or because their behavior
Suzi Ehtesham-Zadeh | Jungle of Stars
enough meat now that it has gotten so expensive! Agha-Rahman saved this piece of lamb especially for me. I picked it up just this morning.” As a child Hamid had often accompanied his mother when she went shopping, and he had especially loved going to Agha-Rahman’s butcher shop. He would watch in fascination as the jolly butcher lifted the huge sides of lamb and beef down from the meat hooks and sliced off the pieces his mother wanted. There were usually flies swarming around the carcasses, but Agha-Rahman just shooed them away. “Why don’t you buy your meat from the supermarket?” he asked his mother that night in the kitchen. “They have those big packages of frozen lamb from New Zealand. The meat is already cut into pieces, and it’s very cheap.” “How do you know where that meat really comes from?” she said. “Besides, I don’t trust meat that has no odor.” While his mother cooked, his father sat in front of the television and lit cigarette after cigarette. He had been a chain-smoker for as long as Hamid could remember, but that night, as he watched his father in front of the television, he noticed that everything about him had turned yellow: his teeth, his eyes, his skin and his hair had all taken on an amber hue. Every time his father spoke that night, Hamid detected
annoyed him. He knew that it hurt them to think these were his reasons. But the truth would hurt them more. ~ After he smokes three basts of opium, Hamid turns his attention again to the sounds beyond his window. There is something different about the sounds today, but he can’t quite pinpoint what it is. He leans back against the bed and closes his eyes so he can listen more closely. What he hears astonishes him: it sounds like the hoofbeats of horses on pavement. His eyes are still closed when above the distant sound of the hoofbeats comes the immediate sound of knocking on the front door of his apartment. At first he thinks he is imagining this, but then the knocking comes again, this time more insistently. The third time it comes, a voice accompanies it. “Hamid! Open the door!” Recognizing the voice of his childhood friend Khosrow, Hamid heaves his body up from the carpet. His body feels heavy and sluggish as he moves toward the door, as if he might be swimming through some kind of viscous liquid. The sounds of the deadbolt turning and the door creaking reverberate in his brain, loud and intrusive. On the other side of the threshold stands Khosrow, and behind him stands his girlfriend Jhaleh. Hamid does not remember Khosrow being so huge; his frame seems to fill the
whole doorway and his face seems twice the size of a normal human face. When he speaks, his voice explodes in Hamid’s head. “Che-kar meekonee, agha?” booms the voice. “What are you doing inside, man? Get ready! You’re coming with us!” “Coming with you where?” “Are you deaf ? Don’t you hear the people out there? There must be at least a million of them already, and more are coming. We need to get out there now. I want to take pictures and put them on the Internet.” It takes a few seconds for Hamid’s mind to come into focus, but then he remembers. People are angry about the election that took place a few days ago, which they say was rigged and fraudulent. There is no doubt in his mind that it was—how could it not be? The government announced Ahmadinejad to be the winner only hours after the polls closed, before they had time to count even a fraction of the votes. Hamid conjures the face of Mousavi, the former prime minister and university professor whose image has been plastered all over the walls of Tehran for weeks now. Mousavi was supposedly the real winner of the election. Hamid doesn’t know much about the man, but at least he looks kind. He certainly seems more human than Ahmadinejad, who has the forehead of a monkey and the eyes of a snake. Whenever Hamid sees the image of Ahmadinejad or hears
proxy server so we can bounce our connection through another country. It’s brilliant! We can hide encrypted data inside our own government’s communications! If the sons of whores only knew how we are tricking them!” “That’s great.” Hamid says this with as much conviction as he can muster, but he is skeptical. He finds it ironic that Khosrow has so much faith in an American man he has never met, when Hamid has often heard him deliver extended tirades against the United States, blaming the Americans for every conflict that is raging in the world and for everything that has gone wrong in Iran’s history. Khosrow reads his mind. “People all over the world are on our side right now, Hamid. You can’t just sit inside your suffocating apartment and smoke opium all day while history is being made.” “I’ll bring my cell phone if I come.” After Khosrow and Jhaleh leave, Hamid sits back down on the carpet and smokes another bast. He thinks back on the party the two of them had dragged him to a few months earlier at the home of one of Jhaleh’s wealthy cousins in northern Tehran. Hamid had never seen a home that opulent: it looked like the set of an American movie.
Suzi Ehtesham-Zadeh | Jungle of Stars
him speak, he feels a sudden wave of revulsion mixed with a stab of fear. It dawns on him now that the sound of hoofbeats he heard earlier was actually the sound of human feet; of masses of people gathering for a protest. The thought of going out into that crowd right now terrifies him. “I’m not dressed,” he says. “I don’t want to make you late. You go ahead, and I’ll join you later.” “You won’t,” says Khosrow. “I know you. This is a historic day, daddash. You’re going to be sorry if you miss it. You can smoke your opium tomorrow. Today you really need to get up off your ass and come to the protest.” Khosrow reaches toward Hamid’s back as if to physically impel him toward the door, but Jhaleh puts her hand out and stops him. “Leave him alone, Khosrow. He can message you when he gets there and you can find each other.” “Whatever,” says Khosrow. “If you come, bring your cell phone. It’s really important for as many of us as possible to take pictures today and broadcast them. Everyone is writing about our revolution on Twitter. Do you even know what that is?” “Yes, Khosrow-joon, I know what Twitter is.” “Well, the bastards are trying to shut down the Twitter feeds coming out of Iran, but there’s this young American man named Austin who has figured out how to set up a
The compound was enclosed on all sides by a brick wall that was several meters high, and the front gate was guarded by man wearing a uniform. Inside the walled compound there was a well-groomed lawn and sweeping patio tiled in marble. Beyond this lawn, hidden from view by enormous trees, was a swimming pool where men and women frolicked together in the water. Inside the house, Western music was blaring from speakers, and dozens of guests were dancing wildly to it. Some of the women who were dancing were wearing wet swimsuits that revealed their nipples and pubic hair. Bottles of alcohol and joints of hashish circulated through every room. Hamid peeked inside one bedroom and saw that it had been converted into an opium den, complete with a large ornate manqal. He tried to make his way into that room, but on his way in a young woman grabbed him and forced him to dance with her, thrusting her breasts against his torso and bouncing her hips against his. Desire had welled up in him, but doubting his own ability to perform sexually, he resisted her advances. Remembering that party now, he can’t help but wonder how Khosrow and Jhaleh can inhabit that world and at the same time believe in the political processes of the Islamic Republic. They are deluding themselves. When he was a child, Hamid learned about the tragic death of
his uncle Ali-Reza, his father’s older brother. He had heard the story of his uncle so many times that he had committed every detail of it to memory. Ali-Reza had been young and idealistic when the unrest first began on the streets of Tehran, and had participated in many protests in support of the Revolution. But after Khomeini came to power and installed an Islamic Republic instead
“He is not prepared for
the daylight—it has been a long time since he has seen such a brilliant sun or
such a blue sky.
of the socialist paradise everyone had expected, Uncle Ali-Reza had turned to radical Marxism. He was arrested while at an underground meeting, and for weeks Hamid’s parents had no idea where he was. Then one day, a few weeks after Ali-Reza went missing, they received a phone call saying that he had been executed at Evin Prison and that they could come to the prison to prepare the body for burial. Hamid’s father was only fourteen at the time, but he had gone with his parents to help them wash his dead brother’s body. It is no wonder his father detests all political leaders, especially those
children on their shoulders, adolescents dressed in jeans and sweatshirts, businessmen dressed in suits. Although the women are wearing the mandatory hejab, most of them have draped their scarves loosely about their shoulders, exposing lots of hair. The color scheme of the crowd is predominantly green. Hamid remembers hearing something about a green sash that is Mousavi’s symbol. Many of the young people are wearing green shirts and scarves, and some have streaked their faces with green paint. Thick black smoke is rising from the center of the street, and he pushes his way forward to see what is causing it. Hamid identifies the source of the smoke by smell rather than by sight: it is the distinct odor of burning tires. He can’t get a clear view of the intersection, but he can see several people who look like they are standing on the tops of parked cars. Some of them are shouting through megaphones, but the cacophony around him is so intense that he cannot make out what they are saying. Arms are reaching toward these speakers from all directions—arms ending in fists; arms ending in peace signs; arms that have been dipped in red paint to look like they are covered in blood. He glances up at the balconies of
Suzi Ehtesham-Zadeh | Jungle of Stars
who wear turbans. No matter how kind his face looks or how progressive his rhetoric is, it is foolish to think that Mousavi will be any different. And yet, although a part of him wants to stay indoors and smoke opium until he falls asleep, another part of him does want to go out and see what is happening on the streets. Being khomar will make the protest seem surreal, and perhaps the protest will also enhance his high. The hoofbeats have grown so loud now that they seem to be right outside his window, and there are voices accompanying them. Whether he likes it or not, he is already engulfed in this protest—and anyway, he will not be able relax and smoke in peace if he stays in his apartment. He pulls on his jeans, splashes water on his face, and goes out the door. He is not prepared for the daylight—it has been a long time since he has seen such a brilliant sun or such a blue sky. His apartment is only a few blocks from Tehran University, and the crowds appear to be heading there. It is still only about 8:30 in the morning, but already throngs of people are pouring in from every direction; so many people that it is difficult to move forward. He has his cell phone with him, but he knows right away that it is useless to try to find Khosrow and Jhaleh in such a dense crowd. The crowd is made up of all kinds of people: young men holding
the apartments surrounding the square and sees that they, too, are brimming with people. Everywhere Hamid looks, he sees a veritable sea of cell phones. The sensation of bodies pressing all around him is making him weak and queasy, and the insides of his veins feel itchy. He is familiar with this stage of being khomar, and knows that the only way to make these sensations go away is to sleep or to smoke more opium. He can’t do either of these things now—he can barely move. He wishes he had a cup of tea and something sweet to settle his stomach, but that, too, is impossible. Suddenly the crowd begins to sway, and in the distance he hears the sound of singing. It takes him a few minutes to recognize the song: it is one his mother used to sing to him when he was a child. He is stunned to realize that he still remembers all the lyrics. He cannot bring himself to sing them aloud, but when the refrain comes, he mouths the words to himself silently: We have planted the sun in the mountains In our hearts there is a jungle of stars As a child he had never paused to ask what these lyrics meant, and he doesn’t fully understand them now. But the tune stirs something in him, and he has the sudden desire to cry. After the song ends, the crowd begins to chant in unison:
“MARG BAR DIKTATOR! Death to the dictators!” Again Hamid is not able to lift his voice to shout along with them. Instead he looks up at the sky, bright blue and cloudless, and closes his eyes. When he opens his eyes again they are fixed on a woman who is standing beside him, her body almost touching his. He can tell at once that she is from a well-to-do family: she is dressed in a roopoosh that looks expensive, she is wearing lipstick, and the hair that peeks out from beneath her headscarf has been highlighted. He guesses that she has come here out of curiosity, not out of a belief in the green movement. She is not chanting either. She takes off her sunglasses and looks into Hamid’s eyes. Her own eyes are deep-set, long-lashed, and unusually light for an Iranian woman. He wonders if they are green, or if this is a reflection of the green sash that is tied around her neck. The corners of her mouth turn up in a smile, and she lifts her voice above the din and addresses him. “I’m Neda. Who are you?” “Hamid. Are you a student at the university?” “Economics. Second year. You?” “Not yet, but I live right here, near the university. So, why did you come here today?” “Same reason you did. Because this is our country. And because Khamenei and Ahmadinejad are a madar-sag, sons of dogs.”
might have been a supernatural being or a vision created by his morphine-drenched imagination. But he can still see her up ahead, walking on the pavement just like the other members of the crowd. He decides that she is real. He does not know what impulse it is that makes him pull out his cell phone and begin to film her, but he follows her now on the screen as she pushes her way through the crowd. He watches her on his phone as she moves to the center of the intersection. He keeps his cell phone trained on her body as she raises her fist and chants “Death to the dictators!” He films her as she hoists herself up onto an upturned barrel and continues chanting, now more loudly and more angrily. He films her when, still standing on top of the barrel, she rips off her headscarf, tosses it into the crowd, and shakes her long auburn hair in the wind. He films her when, seconds later, she falls to the pavement, and he films the loud tattoo of the machine gun that accompanies her fall. The crowd surges forward and Hamid is thrust forward with it. A space opens up around Neda, and he moves his cell phone downward until the screen frames her body, which is now splayed on the asphalt. He films
Suzi Ehtesham-Zadeh | Jungle of Stars
Her face is so luminous that it is making him feel faint to look at it. He casts his eyes down toward her feet, whose delicate shape he can see beneath her open-toed shoes, then upwards toward her shoulders, then down again toward breasts, the contours of which are visible beneath her thin roopoosh. Perhaps it is the effect of the opium that is making his imagination so keen, but in his mind he is able to conjure her in the nude, to picture each curve and angle of her body. A hush now falls over the crowd, indicating that the speakers are about to begin. Hamid does not even attempt to listen to what they are saying—he is far more focused on the sensation of Neda’s hips touching his each time she shifts her weight. He isn’t sure whether she is pressing herself into him or whether he is the one pressing into her, but soon so many parts of their bodies are touching that it feels like an embrace. If anyone were to ask him tomorrow what the leaders of the Green Movement had said in their speeches, he would have no idea. He cannot calculate how long they remain standing that way, but all too soon the crowd begins to disperse. Neda turns to him, gives him a smile, and leans in to kiss him on the cheek. Then, without saying goodbye, she moves away from him and into the crowd. For a split second he wonders if she
her head lolling to one side. He films the blood that pools around her head. He films the sunlight as it glints in the pool of blood and illuminates her face. He closes his eyes and surrenders himself to the crowd that is now stampeding like a herd of enraged animals. He feels the dying effect of the opium as he moves with it: the familiar sensation of emptiness accompanied by nausea. He cannot see Neda any longer, and wonders again if she might have been a hallucination. The phone is still in his hand, but he does not scroll back through the videos he has taken. Instead, he moves over to one side of the crowd, searches for Austin’s proxy connection, and sends his video upward. He feels it rising into the air, above the trees full of cawing crows, above the bakery and the school and Nasser’s fabric shop, above the mansion of Jhaleh’s friend, and above his apartment with the manqal he now realizes he has forgotten to put away.
King Jellyfish in the Night Kingâ€™s Army Terry Wright
John Sibley Williams
If the lights strung from the sky are far-off collapses, nearing, I can live with that. And if the names we give to the world don’t break its surface. If I say love but mean something else entirely, you reply in kind, and so on. Though it gets harder to distinguish embellishment from memory, I am pretty sure as a father I’m meant to be more than this. I imagine, maybe remember, a horizon as urgent, gold as our expectations of it, and systems of stars named for fiercer animals than the ones I point out to my son. It hurts when I laugh at the wisdom, or lesson or lie or whatever you call the preserved parts of conversations thawed out for handing down, and I’d like to say I don’t believe a word. In and over and through our view of each other, a spattering of bird shadow. Some newfound restlessness that’s always been there. A new world on its way to wintering. And I say I can live with that. And I live with it. And it hurts so much less than forgetting.
The Conversation John Sibley Williams
That there will be a future and excess of heart. I tell my son he’ll love this world even after it leaves him half-sane, by which I mean all grown up, by which I mean a stranger to him-self, which I know is only half-true. All antecedent: all consequent; I say living in the now is like breathing through a straw. That it takes a hell of a lot of distance to stay this close. That to know what you really have you must first hold it up to the light that emanates from what is missing. I don’t show him what is missing; I still don’t know what it is I have. That my hands will always be softly & this house, like a note hanging in the air long after the song has gone silent, tenderly. How I am terrified he’ll forget me when he wakes.
Sunday Morning, Phipps Conservatory Jim Daniels
“I bid stillness be still” -Theodore Roethke I hand my wife a penny to make a wish in the official wishing well in the Broderie Room. Not the pond with floating koi and the sign: No Wishes Allowed. First time in fifteen years, we’re in the greenhouse without our children. Fifteen, fourteen, they sleep back home. Even in their dreams, they must be mad at us for almost rousing them to come along. The koi stand still against the current. Something we cannot do. No one should throw coins at them. We cultivate nostalgia in the room full of orchids. We pass the bonsai. No trimming children to keep them small. We bought a brick on this path with their names on it. Remember the cheap thrill, how they raced to find it? Ho-hum. I used to spoon them cappuccino foam, buy them a giant messy chocolate cookie to split. Wipe their hands and faces. The butterflies sleep cozy in cocoons in Butterfly Forest, and no color alights on us despite our lingering. An old man takes photos of flowers with the intensity of a new parent grudgingly letting us pass. My wife tilts her head toward February sun melting through the glass.
They always made wishes here. Iâ€™m wishing I knew their wishes.
Jim Daniels | Sunday Morning, Phipps Conservatory
Last night, the moon looked larger than usual as we waited up for the children to come home from a school dance.
Art Marissa Anne Ayala is a writer and artist in New York City. She earned a BA from Naropa University and an MFA from The New School. Her collaborative project Inside/Outside: a Map of Self and Place was featured in Handwritten and exhibited at Pen + Brush gallery in Manhattan. Her work has been featured in Entropy Magazine, Strata Magazine, and Tupelo Press. You can find her on Twitter: @MarissaAAyala Jury S. Judge is an artist, writer, photographer, and political cartoonist. She has been interviewed on the television news program NAZ Today for her work as a political cartoonist. Her artwork has been internationally published in literary magazines such as Dodging The Rain, South 85 Journal, and FishFood Magazine. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BFA from the University of Houston-Clear Lake in 2014. Jenn Powers is a writer and visual artist from New England. Her most recent work is published or forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Jabberwock Review, The Pinch, Stonecoast Review, Mud Season Review, and Calyx, among others. She is also at work on a memoir and a psychological thriller. Please visit: www.jennpowers.com Terry Wright is an artist and writer who lives in Little Rock. His latest poetry book is Fractal Cut-Ups. His art has been featured widely in venues, including Queen Mob’s Tea House, Potion, Riddled with Arrows, Sliver of Stone, Third Wednesday, and USA TODAY. Exhibitions include the 57th Annual Delta Exhibition. Deep dive to: www.cruelanimal.com
Fiction Suzi Ehtesham-Zadeh is a cultural mongrel who was born in the United States, grew up in Iran, and later spent large chunks of her life in Spain. A career English teacher who has taught on four continents, she has dabbled in writing for most of her adult life. She holds a BA in Philosophy from Stanford University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Boston University. Suzi’s work has appeared in Quiddity International Literary Journal, Narrative Northeast, Mobius Journal of Social Change, Fiction
Kaila Lancaster is originally from Waco, Texas. She is currently an MFA candidate at Oklahoma State University.
Contributors | Issue 16
International, and elsewhere. She lives on a mini-farm in Woodstock, Georgia with her family and a menagerie of animals.
Jen Corrigan is a nominee for the 2017 Pushcart Prize. Her prose has appeared or is forthcoming in The Rumpus, Pithead Chapel, Change Seven Magazine, Hypertext Magazine, and elsewhere. She is a book reviewer for The Coil. Visit her at: www.jen-corrigan.com Elizabeth M. Dalton’s short stories, creative nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in a number of literary journals, including Sliver of Stone Magazine, Clockhouse Review, New Millennium Writings, Earth’s Daughters, PMS: Poem/Memoir/Story, Ellipsis: Literature and Art, River City, upstreet, and r.kv.ry quarterly literary journal. She received her MFA in fiction from Spalding University in 2016 and teaches humanities at Ball State University. She lives in Mooreland, Indiana, with her husband, John.
Poetry Jim Daniels is the author of numerous poetry books, including the recent Rowing Inland (Wayne State University Press), Street Calligraphy (Steel Toe Books), and the forthcoming The Middle Ages (Red Mountain Press). A native of Detroit, Daniels is the Thomas Stockham University Professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University. Sydney Doyle is a small-town, northern New Jersey native currently living in Baltimore. She is a second-year MFA candidate in poetry at Johns Hopkins University where she teaches courses in creative writing. Irene Gómez-Castellano holds a PhD from the University of Virginia and teaches modern and contemporary Spanish literature at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. She is the author of
La cultura de las mascaras. Her first poetry collection, Natación (Bokeh Press), won the 2015 Premio Victoria Urbano de Creación. See more at: www.irenegomezcastellano.com Natalie Homer is an MFA candidate at West Virginia University. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in The Journal, Blue Earth Review, The Pinch, The Lascaux Review, Ruminate, Salamander, the minnesota review and others. She received an honorable mention for poetry in the 2017 AWP Intro Awards. Hannah Kimbal lives in Virginia, where she teaches high school English. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Atticus Review, Virga Magazine, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show, among others. She was a finalist in the Atlanta Review International Poetry Competition. She is pursuing her MFA in poetry at George Mason University. J.G. McClure holds an MFA from the University of California – Irvine. His work appears in Best New Poets, Gettysburg Review, Green Mountains Review, and Birmingham Poetry Review, among others. His first collection, The Fire Lit & Nearing, is forthcoming (Indolent Books, May 2018). See more at: www.jgmcclure.com Kathleen McGookey has published three books of poems, most recently Heart in a Jar (White Pine Press). Her work has appeared in journals including Crazyhorse, Denver Quarterly, Epoch, Field, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, and Quarterly West. She has received grants from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Sustainable Arts Foundation. Anna Elizabeth Schmidt lives in Saint Louis, Missouri where she teaches writing and African American history and literature at area universities. Her poems have recently appeared in America, Dappled Things, Pilgrimage, and elsewhere. Sharon H. Smith, a poet-writer and former book designer, lives in San Francisco with her husband and frequent collaborator, architectural photographer David Wakely. She has long participated in Laguna Writers San Francisco, and hosts writing retreats and workshops at her home in West Sonoma County. She created and co-edits the Birdland Journal: Celebrating Northern California Voices. Her work has appeared in
John Sibley Williams is the author of nine poetry collections, most recently Disinheritance. An eleven-time Pushcart nominee and winner of various awards, John serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review. Publications include: Yale Review, Atlanta Review, Prairie Schooner, Midwest Quarterly, Sycamore Review, Massachusetts Review, Columbia, Third Coast, and Poetry Northwest.
Contributors | Issue 16
Haunted Waters Press, Juddhill, Gravel Literary Journal, Tell Us a Story and Eunoia Review, Adanna Literary Journal, KQED Perspectives, and other publications. Her chapbook entitled Held: A Father Lost and Found will be published by Red Bird Chapbooks this spring. Learn more at: www.savorsmith.com
Contributors Fiction Suzi Ehtesham-Zadeh Kaila Lancaster Nonfiction Jen Corrigan Elizabeth M. Dalton
Art Marissa Anna Ayala Jury S. Judge
Poetry Jim Daniels Sydney Doyle Irene Gรณmez-Castellano Natalie Homer Hannah Kimbal J.G. McClure Kathleen McGookey Anna Elizabeth Schmidt Sharon H. Smith John Sibley Williams
Jenn Powers Terry Wright
Issue 16: a publication of Rowan University's Master of Arts in Writing