a publication of Rowan Universityâ€™s Master of Arts in Writing
featuring calm meets cacophony making tough choices the good side of evil
Cover art: “In the Midst of it All” by Kari Hall
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 Steve Royek Myriah Stubee ASSOCIATE EDITORS Elizabeth DiPietro Mikaela Langdon Joseph Magaletta Amanda Rennie POETRY EDITORS Juliana Crescenzo Ashley Haden FICTION EDITOR Rebecca Rodriguez NONFICTION EDITORS Elyssa Finkelstein Tyler Riggs Kelly Walz ASSISTANT EDITORS Tim Donaldson Julie Malsbury Anthony Palma COPY EDITORS Editing the Literary Journal Fall 2018 students
glassworks Fall 2018
MASTER OF ARTS IN WRITING GRADUATE PROGRAM ROWAN UNIVERSITY
Issue 17 | Table of Contents Art
Bruce Louis Dodson, Dreamscape 2 | 47
Iron Maiden 1 | 8
Iron Maiden 2 | 30
Gerburg Garmann, Pink Contemplations | 44
Walking on Pins and Needles | 22
Kari Hall, Earthwave | 4
In the Midst of it All | cover
Into the Deep | 15
Fiction Thomas Bulen Jacobs, Freedom | 34 Amanda Lara, Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea | 16
Nonfiction Rocky Halpern, Do You Know What They Do... | 23
Briana Loveall, Playing Life | 9
Adina Sara, Dark Tea and Melodies in Minor Keys | 48
Poetry Carl Boon, Sakura | 21 Clayton Adam Clark, Sleepwalk Mannerism | 20 Myron Ernst, Wintry | 32 Katharyn Howd Machan, Fearing Roses | 45 Nancy Lee, The Vicar | 28 Noah Leventhal, In the Car, on the Way to Your Memorial | 12
Jessica E. Lindberg, The Elephant Myth | 51
KG Newman, Within Bowed Walls | 46 Anna-Marie Sprenger, Late Summer | 3 SM Stubbs, Preparing Not to Drown | 14 Elizabeth Sunflower, Tiny Planets | 5
Danielle Weeks, Ghost | 33
John Wojtowicz, Flipping Horseshoe Crabs in Fortescue | 19
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.
1 When the sun sets in August the sky burns neon red for a few instants before shrinking into a pause, and then into night. This is when I see rabbits in the cemetery. Their bodies, like sandy clumps between the tombstones. 2 When a rabbit is still its eyes translate less into a blankness and more into a certain kind of knowledge, the kind that has seen everything in the cemetery at least once, and does nothing with the memory. When the rabbit finally blinks, it recollects. 3 Even in the dark, the rabbits are visible still, their fur pale enough to catch the thin moonlight out of the air. 4 A soundâ€”the grasses in the dry wind, crisps their silky ears up, vertically. When the rabbits tilt their heads and gaze, they seem to grow tall. They disappear into the mountains.
Earthwave Kari Hall
Tiny Planets Elizabeth Sunflower
I. From above it is spearhead. One dull gray point, pointing. A question: who are you? In the hand, trace subtle ridges where the rock fused to itself: meridians, a smear of white worn away by wave and sand. What a beautiful day. Francesca among the tide pools, collecting snails in a bucket, this rock dug into the shore. II. This stone I hold in memory: white-flecked and shimmering, catching the light of a forgotten sun. The fracture is smoothed, the instant of its breaking lost and all that is left is here in my hand. not hand memory Imagine this quartz world and the people who lived here buffed, burnished on its surface. Even love lands stinging on bare skin. Even their word for love, translated literally: to bear the sting with joy.
III. This one is a perfect replica of its origin— a small, shear cliff. The footprints of pine trees marking the face. How many ran fleet-footed off that edge to arc and plunge into the water below? What thoughts of daring as soles broke the surface? IV. I dare you to hold this one on your tongue. But first imagine a coconut gum drop. Something like summer and sunburns, something like easter baskets and jelly sandals. Imagine a gum drop rolled in sugar, then carried for weeks in a plastic bag. The larger crystals have rubbed off, sugar dust slowly dissolves into the candy.
Hold it on your tongue but do not bite downâ€¨ or your tooth will break and I will gather the porcelain bits and carry them with this stone.
Iron Maiden 1 Bruce Louis Dodson
Playing Life Briana Loveall
My daughter and I are playing Life. She has dragged the cardboard box to the coffee table and is setting up the pieces. She unfolds the board, revealing a complicated road of yellow boxes that intersects and doubles back on itself. The game starts with a choice: decide to go to college and take longer to reach your first payday. Decide to begin work right away, and reach two paydays before your peers. My daughter shuffles through the career cards; she has decided not to go to school, and ends up with an actor card. She makes one hundred thousand dollars per payday. In the tangible world, I just finished graduate school. I grab a college career card. I’m a scientist, an investigator of life. My daughter spins first and reaches two paydays in her first move. She draws an action card: “You’re voted the nicest person ever. Bank pays you fifty thousand dollars.” I spin, draw an action card: “Fired for sleeping on the job.” I draw another college career card, and become a doctor, a healer of hurts. My daughter’s spin. Stop. Life Choice. Go to night school or continue on life path. “Don’t choose night school,” she says, “it’s really hard.” She continues
on her life path and picks up twin babies on her next turn. ~ Night classes drain you in a way you hadn’t previously anticipated. Two nights a week you head straight from work to school. In class you unwrap a sandwich, pop open the lid to a salad. On breaks you call your mom, at home with your daughter, and ask how things are going. You can hear your daughter, two, crying in the background. You tell people you’re in school for your daughter; “I’m doing this for her,” but that isn’t true. You sacrifice your time with her, for time to yourself. Around you students are talking about parties and dances and boyfriends and games, and you are eating dinner without anyone asking you for anything. ~ Life is a game designed to mimic the sequential series of questions adults are presented with as they progress in age. It’s a silly game where players are paid unrealistic amounts on payday, and how many children you have is based solely off the number you spin. This is one of my daughter’s favorite games. On the board, she has surged ahead of me. She is gleefully gathering children, and I am watching. She has told me before her fears about
having real children. She worries about getting a driver’s license and a job and leaving her home and having babies. I tell her that she doesn’t have to do any of those things. In the game, she loves collecting pink and blue pegged children, until she needs two plastic cars to fit them all. ~ Stop. Family Planning. Choose to have unprotected sex because you are stupid and do not think you will actually get pregnant. When you do, choose whether or not to tell your boyfriend, whether or not you will make an appointment at the squat building with opaque doors. Stand at the door of your mother’s bathroom while she gets ready for a work party and tell her. Watch her in the mirror until you realize there is two of her staring at you in disbelief.
daughter is going to ask me what it was like when she was born.
Even though you are terrified and nineteen and working at a fast food joint and have only been with your boyfriend for six months, decide to keep the baby. Then the next day change your mind. A week later change your mind again. Your boyfriend’s aunt is planning your
baby shower; call her multiple times to tell her the shower is off. Experience the unsolicited advice of every well-intentioned person around you. Your family doesn’t want you to give your baby up for adoption. If you would just hold a baby, they tell you, everything would be fine. Children are a joy, they say, drawing out the last word until it sounds like a painful cry. Continue moving through your pregnancy, afraid and alone. Later you will look back on this year and realize your undiagnosed anxiety could have been tempered with medication, a visit to a therapist. Instead, you spend nine months harboring a pain and anger that grows next to your unborn child, until she is born with a twin made of fear. ~ The game of Life is a decisionbased game. Perhaps this is why it is my daughter’s favorite. Children like being given options because it helps them feel in control of a life they have no control over. Children don’t realize they are being primed for adulthood, when they will have to choose behaviors central to their existence. That their choices will be driven by survival instincts and psychological needs. I am worried that my daughter is going to ask me what it was like when she was born. Her favorite game seems like the perfect opportunity for that conversation, but so far it hasn’t come up. She is absorbed in
more loving, and to be kind. This is the truth you want your daughter to know. Every day you make the choice to be her parent. Maybe Sherman Alexie said it best: “He loved her, of course, but better than that, he chose her, day after day. Choice: that was the thing.” ~ We reach the end of the game. I have been careful with my spending habits and did not invest in children or a home. I played the game with my career in mind, and finish with over three million pink and green and blue dollars. My daughter is in the process of selling three properties and counting how many children she has: six. She receives several hundred thousand for her home and almost just as much for her plastic peg children. Her total is only moderately smaller than mine, some two and a half million, but she beams with pride at her children and cars and homes. I am only proud that I have finished the game; my pride comes from small victories. She doesn’t say that she regrets anything, even though she lost. She must think, because I have won, that I won’t have any regrets either.
Briana Loveall | Playing Life
the game, acting out her profession as a movie star, making change with the bank when she buys a riverfront property worth forty-thousand pink dollars. I am most worried because I don’t know how I will respond. I will have the choice to tell her the truth, knowing that the truth would gut and bleed her. I have considered modifying the events and telling her that I was scared but excited. That she was wanted. That I made the choice to keep her and never looked back. ~ Read about Choice Theory. You are driven to do what satisfies you. You are responsible for your own behaviors and your circumstances don’t make you do anything. You created a world where you wanted to be loved and connected and free; to experience joy and fun; to survive. But in real life you are in the fetal position and the baby is in the next room wailing. You will blame her. You will hate yourself. Continue moving through the game, losing jobs for incompetence, getting jobs you don’t deserve. Choose to live with your boyfriend’s parents to save money. Stay there for one year and save nothing. Eventually break up with your boyfriend and move in with your mother. Never really live on your own. You understand now that parenting wasn’t about making a one-time decision, because every day you had to choose to try harder, to be patient,
In The Car, On The Way to Your Memorial Noah Leventhal
And as I lean above the heap of earth that hides your body, I roll up my sleeves, grip the shovel as I’m supposed to. I am supposed to hear the hollow rumble of earth upon your coffin, as flecks of dirt and grass speckle my spotless whites. I stop for a moment and think to myself, “if this were a story…” but it isn’t. One by one our guests walk beside me— I strain and sweat beneath a smoldering July. Some place their palms on my shoulders, or whisper their regrets like they’re supposed to. And I know the shovel is more efficient but I want to use my hands to see you off, to touch the dirt that will embrace you. It crumbles the way earth does, undecided— one or many, mud or dust—I brush it from my fingers and some of it sticks. My arms are sunburned and my face rusty, smeared with earth. The hill burns out like a sunset. I get back in the car because I am supposed to. My throat burns, my mouth is scorched, charcoal and vinegar. And we ride in silence for a while, struggling to distinguish between
tears and coughs and hiccups. And still that burning in my throat. And the dark air rises from somewhere deep. And I am pure komodo, harsh earth dragon. Spitting poisons—wishing I had a glass of water. “When I was young,” my father tells me, “Mary and I used to call that a hiccup burp.” There is silence, then laughter. And I laugh because that name was never theirs. And I laugh because I am not supposed to.
Preparing Not To Drown SM Stubbs
Growing up near the ocean I knew a hundred ways water might reclaim me. South Florida’s always been full of hazards: canals and sinkholes, choppy inlets where the Intracoastal meets the sea, a dozen swamps. One day in someone’s pool a neighbor kid pulled me down, held me under. I saw my path toward death and thrashed my way up. Other close calls: aged 3, the water slide; aged 9, pinned beneath waves by the undertow; 7-18, countless gallons inhaled when least expected. See, not drowning involves impossible calm. After the sky went silent on September 11th everyone in New York City held their breath hoping to find the surface. We emerged from subways with our lungs full and went about our business as if we’d never need more oxygen. I knew my throat would seal itself off if I didn’t hunt for escape routes, didn’t keep packed bags next to the door. In the weeks that followed I saw how gentle people could be and thought, We share sidewalks, we step aside when someone’s choosing olives, we don’t stab each other in the neck to make it easier to breathe.
Into The Deep Kari Hall
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea Amanda Lara
CeCe dates you because you are an arsonist. You know this because when her family moved into your building, she’d knocked on your door and said, Hi, my name is CeCe, but Mrs. Wu down the hall said to steer clear of you ‘cause you’re a pyromaniac. Is that true? You had just gotten back, in fact, from setting fire to a rose garden down the street. The thrill of it was still racing up your spine. You said, Yes, I am, and she’d asked you out for coffee right then and there. Later—while she’s taking off her shirt behind the coffee shop’s dumpster—you think, One day I am going to watch this girl burn. On her phone, CeCe’s got your number saved as ‘Babe’ alongside an orange string of emoji flames. Before your mother dumped you at your rich-bitch aunt’s doorstep, you cannot remember the desire to watch something crumple to ash. Abandonment interlinked with puberty made for a poor combination in sexual development; in high school you began bringing lighters on dates, or fucking girls on the forest floor just to toss a Zippo into the closest patch of dry brush. Your rich-bitch aunt is a lawyer, and even though she does not like you, she keeps you out of prison. Thus far your record is only blotted with
periods of community service and one overnight stay in a police holding cell; to top it off, you’re fairly handsome, so whenever you feel like finding part-time work, it’s easier to flirt past the checkered pattern of your past. Arson is kind of kinky, anyway. Sometimes women call you Christian Grey. By contrast, CeCe never presses for the specifics on why you like to set fires. From what you know, her father is a hard man; a courtcircuit judge and darkly puritanical to boot. In retaliation, CeCe says she’s compiling a list of criminal lovers—so far she’s dated men who’ve committed tax evasion, robbery, and second-degree manslaughter. Someday, I’m gonna date a serial killer, she confides one afternoon at your apartment, a serious expression on her face, but when I go missing, don’t tell anyone. The two of you are huddled beneath a blanket, watching a rom-com rented from the nearest Redbox. Outside the world is bright but blistered with winter frost. You very nearly kill her then. Eventually you notice that she’s begun to replace her perfume. Pomegranate and lavender give way to something sharp, something strange and beautiful; it doesn’t take you long to figure out that she’s
“No, you reply... I love you. This is neither a lie nor the
truth, but it does its job.
You begin to hear the stories: whispers surrounding Cecilia Moore, daughter of a federal judge, twenty-five years old with a private-school diploma and no career to show for it. Rumor has it that she actually OD’d in high school, and that she liked being dead so much that she wanted help getting back to the grave. Ex-boyfriends actually take the time to DM you through Instagram, Twitter. She’s goddamn crazy, writes the burglar, a lumpy forty-something truck-driver named Sam. Stay the fuck away, if you know what’s good for you. It is not a small town, but somehow everyone within your small circle of friends manages to know something about her—the girl who asked to be kidnapped, the girl who wanted to kiss a murderer.
On the day you and CeCe break up, she’s dyed her hair from blonde to red. It’s an artificial color, a shade or two lighter than wine, not too far off from blood. Today her hair hangs in waves, frizzed out towards the ends, so that it looks like a spill of cold, dark flame. Do it, she begs. Help me. A twisted, sickly part of you is actually tempted. The most infuriating part about CeCe, you think, are her eyes. They’re blue, ocean-blue, desperate and lovely and wet with every blink of her long lashes. More than anything, you want to dry up the sea in her gaze; to stick a lighter into each pool until all the water in her goes up in steam until there’s nothing left but blind dry socket. No, you reply. I can’t. I love you. This is neither a lie nor the truth, but it does its job. Within moments CeCe has gathered up her things and left, tearless, ruby-glossed mouth trembling. CeCe dated you because you are an arsonist. She is twenty-five and still living with Daddy dearest; their nightly screaming matches are the building tenants’ most frequent noise complaint. CeCe only understands love in the shape of damage. After she has left for good, you scribble her name over and over on a piece of paper—CECE
Amanda Lara | Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
dousing herself in gasoline, showing up at your apartment twenty minutes late for dates and saying, Sorry, I just showered, while her hair drip drip drips oily stains onto the carpet. Aside from that very first conversation, the two of you have not spoken about your fire-setting tendencies. CeCe is being deliberately inflammatory and it leaves you hot and bothered and hateful all at once.
CE CE SEE CEâ€”before setting it on fire. Rather than dropping it into the sink you put it into the trash; soon enough, heat licks its way up up up inside your home, sinking quivering orange teeth in everything in sight. Overhead, the smoke detector wails; in the hall, there is a bustle of panicked movement. No doubt the authorities will trace the source of the blaze back to your place, and itâ€™s unlikely that your aunt can help you out of a felony charge this time. To you, this all means very little. You sit back, relax. As the smoke rises, you do nothing except watch.
Flipping Horseshoe Crabs in Fortescue John Wojtowicz
She bent down every few feet to flip over the ones upended by the tide, left exposed to the red knot gulls. Her eyes were still blue in moonlight with the shadow of her dark hair creating an eclipse every time it fell in her face. We met a couple beers and a bonfire ago as sheâ€™d wandered off, strolled the beach raised by the tide not washed away in it. Horseshoe crabs are old fashioned preferring to mate at night during high tides, new and full moons. She silently showed me how to flip them from the side, avoid injuring the tail, watch their scuttle back to the Delaware Bay. 400 million years the species has fumbled like Charlie Brown, heels-over-head, guided by instinct and May-June moonlight: surviving ice ages, meteor strikes, mass extinctions, the rifting of Pangaea by engaging their ancient lunar ritual. I followed her unspoken hand and cotton skin picking the rhythm of the tide, burrowing into sand at the mercy of waves.
Sleepwalk Mannerism Clayton Adam Clark
A long neck and some yellowed light in the flat glass, the mirror, your eyes shutter. A goose—there was a goose. Sit on the toilet and pee. Remember its fur, not feathers. Buy me a burger, it said, squatting on stairs, its neck writhing herky jerky. Your neck was elongated just now, slender at best. You didn’t buy the goose a burger. Its timbre matched the man’s on High by Wendy’s—Spare some change. You bolted. Sensible, given the squawking goose, lurid like the jangling cup— Dixie—you pass each way to work. Flush. You’re less Parmagianinian in the mirror now, less serpentine and more natural, though there’s less of you, but the heart—where’s your heart, friend?— still pounds, and though you didn’t pee in the kitchen trash again, the excess cervical vertebrae weren’t yours to keep. A voice calls from the bedroom. You can’t go back. Beyond the light your skin’s a scarf tasseled with thumping carotids. You must miss the ornate brass doorknob, reaching a hand no longer artful, the fingers now to scale.
Sakura Carl Boon
You promised me your hands on my skin, a place to sleep, and a thousand plates. That we’d be still—shoulder to shoulder— in Kyoto where your nametrees wrenched all horizoncolor for their own. You promised me also the garden where your mother tended miniature roses, poured tea in glasses so fragile they might have been air. A decade’s passed—or two— and in my soft decline, our evergrowing distance, I wonder what a promise is, what your hands meant when they motioned to me. Whispers of nail, petal-textured flesh… forget, begin again. Imagination keeps the lover still too long, and cold. In Yokohama now you sit with a man, sip what did belong to me—almost. Bright waves move northward in storm, bright pink still the vowels of your mother, mumbling and older now. Long ago she swept from the corners of your room dead bees and ink on blue paper— love notes, the poems of Takamura I’d given you the morning of your nineteenth birthday, a morning of clouds when the cherry trees had yet to blossom.
Walking on Pins and Needles Gerburg Garmann
Do You Know What They Do to Guys Like That in Prison? Rocky Halpern
I’m thirteen years old and my father is driving me to middle school: wild-eyed and high, he zips through the winding hills of Orange County like an escaped convict mid-pursuit. It’s a typical school day morning with my father; he’s listening to the The Howard Stern Show, slurping glugs of coffee and Kahlua from a Styrofoam cup, and yelling. Much like Howard Stern, my father yells about everything: Anti-Semitism in Keebler Elves, the overlooked brilliance of performance artist Karen Finely, Frank Zappa, Twinkies, Rosie O’Donnell, and on this morning, pedophilia. My father’s morning tirades always spanned a variety of topics, but pedophiles seemed to be the one we circled back to more than others. It’s a warning, but for whom, I do not know. That year I spend all my time with Nichole and Macy, two fellow middle school train wrecks identical to myself complete with thick black bracelets masking our dripping self-harm scars. One particularly sweltering afternoon, we decide to make the trek from Macy’s house to Nichole’s house, where there is a pool. As we clomp past rows of Spanish-style manors with gangly palm that line the front yards, I text
my father to let him know we’re going to Nichole’s house to swim, something I had done multiple times before. Not even ten minutes after we walk to Nichole’s house, my father shows up, honking erratically and yelling out the car window. He pounds on the front door, screaming and cursing until my attention is caught, insisting that we have to go right-fucking-now. He pulls me from the house, frantic like there’s a bomb about to go off inside. He drags me into the car, scowling at my friends who are watching the scene unfold from the front porch. My father and I never speak about the incident again. Three years later, I would find out about Nichole’s father: the hidden cameras in the bathroom, and the videotapes, hundreds of them, with saccharine titles like “fun pool party” and “10th birthday celebration.” It was the first time I came to understand that no one can sniff out a predator better than another predator. ~ My parents watch TV together in separate rooms. My mother watches in the living room on the flat screen, and my father watches the same TV show in the garage on a tiny, obsolete screen from the early 2000s.
My father is in fact allowed inside, (he’s housebroken and everything) but prefers to watch by himself and intermittently wander into the living room to talk to my mom about whatever they’re watching. After years of a lukewarm to an oftentimes hostile and abusive relationship, it’s about as close as they are willing to get to each other. This evening, they sit in their respective rooms, watching a rerun of the reality show To Catch a Predator, a
that at least these men had been caught. My father ruptures into a state of pandemonium once again, swearing and keening, working himself near hysterics. “It doesn’t matter. They won’t stop.” It’s an ominous statement and it hangs in the air above my mother’s head until To Catch a Predator comes back on the screen. He returns to his grimy little area in the garage, still muttering, circling an idea too fearful to name yet. ~
“We are frogs in a warming pot of water; we edge
closer to the precipice every day, but the burn is too slow for us to notice. While being boiled alive, it’s hard to
remember what the world feels like without heat. reality series from 2005 about men who prey on underage girls. I sit perched at our Amish wood kitchen table, balancing a melodramatic young adult novel about lesbians behind my U.S. History textbook. On a commercial break, my dad busts through the garage door, an angry, dark storm cloud of weed smoke and unresolved trauma. He accosts my mother, talking rabidly and pacing in circles. “Can you believe these sick fucks? Sick, filthy fucking monsters. Monsters.” He’s rubbing his temples and repeating himself, and my mother makes a rookie mistake and engages him, pointing out
It’s with this same kind of energized ferocity that my father attacks our family therapist a few weeks later. In a cramped, windowless office, he is feral; he charges through the session, barely letting the therapist speak, and leaving my mother wild-eyed and squeamish, a terrified rabbit caught in the mouth of a vicious beast. I float above them all, a master of leaving my body without moving a muscle. This dissociative, maladaptive headspace I enter when I’m feeling threatened or afraid protects me. They fight. They fight from the second we sit down until it’s time to
behavior. Tiredness, hungriness, and day four of sobriety are some of my mother’s past excuses for him; she mumbles something vague along these lines. My mother promises to be in touch for our next session. We will never return to the therapist’s office, but it’s important to her that we keep up the illusion that we will. We can never go back, because the therapist is circling too close to the truth. And it’s not time for that. ~ The first thing I notice is that he’s wearing his dead father’s sweatshirt. It’s a ratty green thing that reads 15 Brooklyn, homage to Brighton Beach where my grandparents lived until my dad was six and the family moved to Phoenix, Arizona. Phoenix is where it happens. It’s December 18, 2013, and my parents have been separated for two years. I’m home from college for winter break, lying on the couch with my mom, our Bichon Frise, Cocopuff, snoring in between us. Life is gentler now, not perfect, but freer from the chaotic turmoil and pain of living with my father. We’re talking about getting Skyline Chili for dinner, a savory-sweet Ohio delicacy consisting of chunky meat goops and lethal amounts of cheese, when the first call comes in. Mom glances
Rocky Halpern | Do You Know What They Do to Guys Like That in Prison?
leave. They fight about money, drugs, addiction, my mother’s botched lap-band surgery, my bad grades, my father’s decade-long unemployment, and pornography hidden in the guest bathroom. They fight about the parking spot we picked in the lot outside of therapy. After the session, my father goes outside to wait in the car, completely ignoring my presence as he storms past me in the waiting area, still cursing and muttering to himself. Inside, my mother pays for the appointment and the therapist tells her that she has never feared for her safety the way she did during our first session. The therapist has some questions for my mother. 1. Do you feel that your home is a safe environment? 2. How often are you afraid of your husband? 3. Do you feel you and your daughter are in immediate danger? There are no answers my mother can give to satisfy the therapist. Are we afraid? Yes. Is our home a safe environment? Probably not. Is the danger immediate? No. We are frogs in a warming pot of water; we edge closer to the precipice every day, but the burn is too slow for us to notice. While being boiled alive, it’s hard to remember what the world feels like without heat. My mother, a pro at having to answer for the poor behavior of men in her life, offers a thin-lipped smile and weak excuses for my father’s
at her phone, noting that it’s her best friend Donna. Mom doesn’t answer, and just as she’s telling me she’ll call Donna back later, her phone rings again. And again. And again. Her iPhone blinks and buzzes rapidly, all incoming calls and texts from our family and friends in Arizona. She answers one of the calls. It’s her younger brother, David. Mom puts him on speaker, and before she can say a word, he’s off, talking a mile a minute. “Oh my god Laura, oh my god. I’m so sorry. All those years, we suspected of course, but we never knew for sure, and Rachel, poor Rachel, do you think he ever—?” Mom cuts him off, begging him to explain what’s going on. David doesn’t have to explain much, because as it turns out, we can see it for ourselves. Mom hangs up the phone and opens one of the numerous texts she’s just received; attached is a video. We lean our heads over the screen and begin. “This dramatic video shows what happens when men are caught trying to buy sex from someone they think is a minor. In this case, it’s two police detectives posing as sixteen-year-old girls.” Elizabeth Erwin of ABC15 Arizona News starts us off quickly, leaving nothing to the imagination. The video abruptly cuts away from the reporter. All of a sudden, we are inside a sallow hotel room, my father’s baldhead and sweatshirt-clad torso clearly visible on a bed. We are entering the room mid-scene,
the undercover police detective speaking in a teasing lilt. “I feel like I told you, we’re sixteen, we don’t want any trouble. Like, we would get in so much trouble.” My father groans and shakes his head, standing up and approaching the girl. His voice is thick with lust and it’s hard to understand exactly what he says, but it sounds like “okay, well, save it for the cops, just touch me, that’s all.” The detective pushes him against the chest as he approaches her and says, “Touch you like that?” Elizabeth Erwin’s professional, clear voice is once again the focus. “These men clearly know they’re trying to pay underage girls to have sex with them.” I watch the moments tick past on the little black time bar on the bottom of the screen. It feels like the seconds are going in reverse; I cannot make sense of any of the things I’m seeing. The voiceover continues as my father stumbles over himself, trying with desperation to touch this girl, this child. As the segment featuring him ends, we see his hands circling the front of his pants, unwilling to give up. ~ “Pugs are the goddamn ugliest sons of bitches to ever stand on four legs.” My father used to tell me this every Christmas, Hanukkah, and birthday when I would inevitably beg for a pug of my own. I would have settled for any kind of dog, a cat, a hamster afflicted with rabies, a plank of wood with googly eyes
“I’m sorry I destroyed our family.” “I’m sorry I’m alone.” They are apologies, technically, but they are more for himself than for me. He speaks in almost the same dramatic flourish of his that I remember from years ago, but he is weaker and older and afraid. I don’t know if he is actually sorry, or just sorry he got caught. I’m not even sure there is a difference.
Rocky Halpern | Do You Know What They Do to Guys Like That in Prison?
glued on it. I was an only child in a family of rootless wanderers; we belonged to nowhere and no one but each other, and I was starved for companionship. My stuffed animals, each with a name and complex origin story, filled the four-legged hole in my life a bit, but as I got older, a dog felt more crucial. I wanted a pug the most because my father wanted a pug the least. “The man who molested me had pugs,” he told me, vitriol thick on his tongue, accusing, as if I personally had something to do with it. There is something else behind that cruelty, a look on his face, something that my father is masking; it’s shame—it’s a secret unable to be taken back. I see that look upon his face again in the video I watch with my mother on that frigid December evening. I see it and it makes me wretch. I am ashamed too—of the way these cycles repeat themselves, of how I am unable to stop it, of my very own DNA. He does not mean to be, but my father is a rotting husk of man: menacing and fruitless in his sorrow. He knows he cannot expect pity, but he also cannot take blame. It rips him in half, and I stand far away, trying to avoid the splash back of my father’s dark deeds dripping from the walls. On the rare occasion we talk, it’s not a conversation so much as it’s a bombardment of “I’m sorrys.” “I’m sorry I ruined my life.”
The Vicar Nancy Lee
If only they could speak as couples spoke in films, half glances of devotion, in jokes, marital murmur by a lake with a glass of wine. The warmth of accomplices. Instead she writes lists, and he sulks in a constant state of exit, keys jangling in his anorak. Chores, errands, useless things. So little to say. Silence like the mystery sand gathered at the bottom of drawers and bags. Perhaps if she read him her article on Mormonism’s white sheet snapping across the Americas, or showed him the carved leather Quran, perfumed with tobacco, left in their mailbox. She might admit that years ago a doctor blamed her uterus for their lack of a child, and she chose denial so their pointless night churning might continue. She wants to tell him about pregnant brides, two in one day, the second so sick, she vomited in a bridesmaid’s bouquet, or the groom who remarried while his first wife was dying in hospice, or the couple who whisper-bickered through their vows. This is marriage, she wants to shout, this broken, stumbling thing. She will tell him she cries when she prays alone, baffling ruptures that leave her parched. And that a strange, flinty lust rises at the sight of her underthings dangling from a doorknob. She will not tell him sometimes she imagines knifing her throat, squeezing the wound to feel life beat away, or that once, when she gave a woman a lift to town, the woman bared her breasts, and all afternoon, she felt ridiculously lucky. She wants him to know, when they first met beside the chapel bake sale’s frosted cakes, she wasn’t put off by his stiff, awkward posture,
Nancy Lee | The Vicar
his guileless eyes. She imagined him ripe and tender, a fruit she could peel and gouge, flesh to be eaten in nightly communion until there was only the pit of him, hard and tasting of almonds.
Iron Maiden 2 Bruce Louis Dodson
It isn’t the tree itself that’s sharp but the way it’s seen. It may cut and cause to bleed between a late moon and a silver bead of ice. Take a hand scraped on hardened skin— it can make a deep imprint in frozen air, but the cut, the slice is painless—don’t cry, the air is too still—let sleep, let ache whatever lies beneath a rock. The gloveless hand moves to bend a hawthorn; desire bends and congeals. The stars are out to bite.
This old house wood warps apart and makes space, invites her in to the thin, dark places. I wash my face and wonder if she wore button-downs or leopard print, if she sat feet on the floor or knees tucked to the table. She slips under my shirt collar, bites with a brushing touch like eyelash teeth. Sometimes I ask her if I should move away, change my name, donate all my clothes and paint a second skin. I want someone to say Iâ€™m alive enough to change. She takes shadows off the shelf and knits their metal through me, crosses over and over.
Thomas Bulen Jacobs He saw it before it happened. The black car rolling almost sultrily through the red light on Prospect Park South, until Mustafa, whose brakes simply hadn’t had enough time, slammed into the left rear door. He was tossed forward onto the handlebars. The black car shot off into the traffic circle. Another cyclist, a skinny guy with a red beard down to his nipples, pulled up alongside Mustafa, swearing, and helped him to cross the rest of the street. Mustafa’s left thigh hurt where he’d landed on the crossbar, but he was otherwise none the worse for wear. He wished he could say the same for his bike. The front wheel was bent in half, and the stem had been slammed back towards the down tube. He’d bought it used for two hundred dollars, but still. “You could get it hammered back,” the bearded dude was saying. He knelt by the stem and gave it a tug. “But it’s like a paperclip. Once it’s been stressed, it’s only a matter of time before ping, you know?” “Thanks for helping me.” “Hey, no worries. That was some fucking bullshit. Just ran the red light. Dope mustache, by the way!” With that the bearded guy was off, looping around Machate Circle
and heading up towards Prospect Lefferts Gardens. Mustafa half-consciously twirled the end of his handlebar mustache. He was short, bald and, he had always thought, a little doughy and nondescript. He’d grown the mustache when he moved to the US for graduate school. He knew it made him look like Poirot’s swarthy evil cousin, but he enjoyed the fussiness of his routine with it every morning. The wax, the twirl. It went well with his glasses, thick-rimmed and black, which he wore even when he cycled. Now, the decision was whether to return to Williamsburg or to lug the bike to Coney Island. The day was glorious, the decision easy. He sent a quick text to his friend Hakim, explaining what had happened. Said he’d probably be early because he would take the train. Hakim hadn’t texted by the time he got to the subway, so Mustafa descended, bike over one shoulder. His subway card was in the black leather fanny pack that he wore without a hint of irony. It was Tuesday morning, busy enough in the way that New York was busy enough during the hours of normal life. There was room on the F train for the bike, without having to tread on anyone, so Mustafa stood in the center of the aisle
the shift between and within the neighborhoods. There was a kind of symmetry in the way that money and race rose and fell—not strictly speaking a normal curve, for that implied density at the center of the distribution—along this straight stretch of subway track. Bangladeshis, Orthodox (clothes from Old Navy), Rich Orthodox (pearls, makeup), Orthodox (shirts from the Gap), Bangladeshis. And here they were at Coney Island. Mustafa waited until the subway car was mostly clear before hefting his bike to his shoulder and beginning the long, warm walk down the platform towards the murals that would expel them onto the corner of Surf & Stillwell. Nathan’s Famous was kitty-corner, with the billboard announcing to the world just how many hot dogs some poor soul had been able to stuff down his gullet in a minute or two that summer. From there, the brief walk down the left leg of the long U-shaped turnaround, past the fairgrounds, towards Beer Island and the dusty white slats of the boardwalk. To his surprise, he passed a Hasidic woman, walking alone. She had been on the train when he embarked, seated by the door. He remembered only because he saw her now.
Thomas Bulen Jacobs | Freedom
between the rows of bench seating, one hand on the bike, the other on the pole. He was Turkish, a PhD student in labor economics at the New School, ABD. He’d been up all night running regressions for a paper he was working on with his dissertation advisor and another economist, who was working late on the West Coast. This was something like the eighth iteration of the paper, every revision more urgent than the last. They were going to publish in Labour Economics. Very prestigious. Mustafa felt his eyes flickering and wished he could sit down. As they moved deeper into Brooklyn, the texture of the train car’s denizens shifted. He had learned, through his near-decade in New York, the codes behind the visual panoply of the city and took great pleasure in articulating it for himself. It was a way of enfleshing the dismal curves of the data with which he was saturated. There were the handful of stops where clusters of Bangladeshi women swarmed the benches en masse, followed by a switch to the poor Orthodox, also mostly women and girls. This was curious to Mustafa, for his own neighborhood was home to the ultra-Orthodox, the Hasidim, Hebrew-speaking, wholly ghettoized. Once, all the dark-textiles and black caps had looked so much alike, but now he could see the striations in class and affect that accompanied
His phone buzzed with pent up messages, Hakim informing him that he would not be able to make it after all. Mustafa sighed. It was annoying, and almost wholly expected, but it was not the end of the world. He was glad to be out. But holy shit, he was tired. He would sleep on the beach for a few hours, get a bite to eat, and head home to his inbox of further regressions. He locked his bike at the base of the boardwalk stairs, more from habit than from necessity, and also so as not to have to lug the thing with him all over the beach. He walked aimlessly for a while, his sneakers tied together and thrown over his shoulders. He rarely wore socks. He walked out deep enough for the water, frigid even in late July, to reach his knees. He was overcome suddenly by the nauseating sense that if he took another step, he would be sucked up in the undertow and dragged out into the black infinity of the ocean. He walked backwards towards the dry beach, afraid to turn his back on the water. He stood for a moment on the hot sand, grounding himself, and was surprised to hear a high-pitched whistle and his name. He looked around, at first not seeing. Then, after a moment, there was Stelio half-risen, long skinny arm waving to him from just down the beach, under a massive green-and-white beach umbrella.
Mustafa nodded and found that he was glad. He did not know Stelio well—he had met the lanky Mozambican only a couple of times through Hakim—but he felt it was better not to spend this glorious day alone. Stelio sat back down. Mustafa saw that he was with others. Fat Amadou was there, too, with his wife, Rosaline, and their daughter. Mustafa had met the parents too through Hakim. “Hello!” Mustafa said. “Sit, man, are you here alone?” They had laid out a couple of bedsheets, faded yellow, spotted with flowers, and there was plenty of room for Mustafa to sit. He bumped fists with Stelio and Fat Amadou, smiled politely at Rosaline and gave a little wave to the girl, who was two or so. Mustafa’s sister had a son a little older. The girl stumped over to him with a pail and shovel and said something. Mustafa bent his head. “I’m sorry, what?” Rosaline laughed. She was American by way of Haiti, black as midnight, with glorious hair, hair that Mustafa fantasized about. No need for his mustache with hair like that. “She’s speaking in French,” Rosaline said. “Doudou. Parle en anglais, mon petit coeur.” “I want it, you dig!” the girl enthused, thrusting her pink plastic spade into Mustafa’s hand. “Thank you. Merci!” he said and took it. The girl demanded it back a moment later but sat by his feet to
“He closed his eyes and
drifted quickly, lulled by the
clacketing of the Cyclone, the sound of the water, the angry ululations of the
Mustafa picked up a handful of sand from the shady spot under the umbrella and another warmed by the sun. He held them both out to Doudou. She reached tentatively for the hot sand and when she touched it Mustafa said “hot!” and they giggled. Then she touched the cool sand and Mustafa said “cold!” and again they laughed.
“Be careful,” warned Fat Amadou. “All day she will want to play.” “It’s cool, I like kids,” Mustafa said. He dumped out both handfuls of sand and drew them fresh. He pretended to hide them behind his back, then began the game again. For a while they sat in silence while Mustafa played with the girl. Somewhere down the beach a Dominican family was blasting hip hop from a boombox. They had a whole setup, tent big enough for a circus, chairs and coolers. A table laden with food. It was awesome. After a while, the girl grew restless and Rosaline said something in French to Fat Amadou. He shifted his great bulk from the bedsheet and rose to his feet. He wore long blue swim trunks and a white t-shirt. He was tall, massive as an obelisk. When he stood, he blocked out the sun. He picked up his daughter in a swift motion, drawing her up into the cradle of his elbow. She protested faintly, so he knelt and snatched up her pail in the crook of one great finger. He moved unhurriedly towards the water. Rosaline moved deeper into the umbrella’s shadow. Stelio had already lain back with his arm across his eyes. Mustafa rose, dusted the sand from his shorts and went to
Thomas Bulen Jacobs | Freedom
fill and dump one scoop at a time into her bucket. “If she bothers you—” Rosaline started to say. But Mustafa waved her worries away. “I was going to meet Hakim, but he canceled.” Stelio grinned. “I would cancel too, a thousand times.” Rosaline reached over and pretended to punch him in the shoulder. Hakim had many girlfriends, and many women who were not his girlfriends.
Stelio’s other side, so that he was not in Fat Amadou’s spot beside Rosaline. He lay on his stomach and adjusted in the give of the sand. He was surprised to see the Hasid woman a few meters behind them and to the left. She sat alone on the sand, her black shoes off, set neatly beside her. Her legs were still stockinged. She was leaning slightly forward, her hands around her knees. Mustafa removed his glasses and slipped them into one of his sneakers. He closed his eyes and drifted quickly, lulled by the periodic wooden clacketing of the Cyclone, the sound of the water, the angry ululations of the gulls. He dreamed fitfully of the crash, in looping, increasingly hallucinogenic detail. The black car moved forward and back on a stretch of highway and Mustafa rammed into it again and again. As he rammed it his body began to fall apart, first his legs, then the parts of his face. The driver was a leering jackal, or no, a gorilla… He jerked awake to the sounds of conversation. Fat Amadou and Doudou had returned from the water, laughing and wet. Amadou stretched out in the sunlight while Rosaline lay, back to the others, with the girl in her lap, nursing. Stelio was sitting up. He glanced down at Mustafa. “Sorry if we woke you.” “No. What time is it?” The dream
lingered. His thigh still hurt. “About noon, maybe a little before.” “I’m hungry.” Mustafa pulled his glasses on, felt the ends of his mustache, which had begun to droop. He had a tin of wax in his fanny pack, but he hesitated to deploy it quite yet. “There’s a Mexican place. Fantastic. You can carry out.” “Yes, I want it.” Fat Amadou’s voice floated over to them. “Get something bien piquant, Sono.” Sono was what the Africans called Stelio. Mustafa assumed it was a term of endearment. Stelio rose, gathering his worn black backpack. Mustafa pulled on his sneakers. “If you buy us lunch, we’ll buy you beers.” Fat Amadou grinned under closed eyes. “There’s money in my purse,” Rosaline said. Stelio stepped gingerly around her, unworried about the money. Mustafa followed. As they moved up towards the boardwalk, Mustafa noticed again the Hasidic woman. She was lying back now, her legs outstretched, her head on her bag. Her eyes were closed. They ascended to the boardwalk, talking about this and that, the little biographical reminders. Maputo, Istanbul. College in Amsterdam, Texas. How they had met Hakim; neither quite remembered. Doña Zita’s was past the boardwalk, by the entrance to the fair.
Mustafa flushed but Stelio saw and shook his head that it was no big deal not to perform the prayers. “He drinks, he smokes. He married a Catholic.” “Still,” Mustafa said. They hung back. Rosaline sat in the shade of the umbrella. Doudou tumbled into view a moment later, then bent down in imitation of her father. Rosaline reached out and carelessly pinched the girl’s chubby ankles, but she did not disturb her. When Fat Amadou was finished, he hunched over his prayer carpet and rolled it back up, slipping it neatly into their beach basket. Mustafa and Stelio sat and began to distribute the food. “Shit! We forgot to get drinks,” Stelio said. “Just wait, the Lord will provide,” Rosaline said with a grin. A moment later, from down the beach, they heard the monklike chanting of the beer monger: “Cold watta, cold watta. Ice cold. Bud Light, Miller Lite, Coors Light, Corona, Corona.” “My turn,” Fat Amadou said, his eyebrows twitching with vaudevillian glee. “Here,” he hollered, and the beer man trod slowly over through the thickening crowds of people. It turned out he too was Senegalese, and Fat Amadou spoke to
Thomas Bulen Jacobs | Freedom
They walked past the murals for the mermaid museum, the posters for Coney Island Lager and Mermaid Pilsner, green wire wastebaskets already full to overflowing. There was a line at Doña Zita’s, mostly Mexicans. A few plastic tables were set up in a concrete patch off to the side, kids running around them while their parents ordered chalupas, tacos and tortas, con Coca-Cola, the good kind, made with cane sugar, hecho en México. When it was their turn, Mustafa ordered first, pointing to the menu. The woman behind the counter watched his mustache as if it were giving her instructions from space. He ordered more than he could eat, remembering that his bike was wrecked and that he could carry the extra home for dinner. He would not want to cook. But shit. The bike. The crash was becoming more real. Stelio ordered for the rest of them, and when they had paid, they sat at one of the little plastic tables waiting for the food to come up. Stelio, Mustafa now recalled, had majored in statistics. They talked a little about his current research. When the food was ready, they threw on some hot sauce and oaxaca. When they got back to the beach, they saw that Fat Amadou was bent in al-zuhr, his great forehead pressed into the sand, facing east, towards Long Beach, Montauk and farther still, Mecca.
him for a long time in Wolof. They knew no one in common. But the man was willing to part with a few handfuls of ice, which Fat Amadou packed around a couple of spare bottles of beer in his daughter’s little beach pail. “Come back in an hour, I promise we’ll be waiting for you.” The beer man grinned and shot them the thumbs-up as he pushed on further down the beach. Mustafa thought of offering a few dollars for beers, but he thought better of it. There were beers there and the man would be back. He would buy next time, or the next.
We had a wire grill and we would bring fish and shrimps from the market, fresh, man, fresh. Cook it on the fire and drink and dance.” “In Turkey, we have a proverb. ‘I’d eat my father if he came from the sea.’ It’s not the same in English.” Stelio nodded. “Yes. Seafood, man. Now I’m wishing I had got shrimps.” “I got it for supper, please take a taco.” Mustafa pushed the covered plate to Stelio, who accepted a taco. He took a bite and nodded appreciatively. “Yes, it’s very good. I want to visit Mexico.”
“He loved New York; you surrendered to its bigness. It
was not always so simple. You could be crushed. But in
the surrender there was a kind of freedom. They sat for a time eating Mexican food and drinking Coronas while Doudou took alternating bites first from her parents, and then from Stelio and Mustafa as well. They laughed and Rosaline dipped her pinky in a bottle of beer and offered it to the girl. She took a slurp, made a face, stuck out her tongue and said, “More, Mama.” Stelio looked out at the ocean and chewed for a moment on his inner lip. “In Maputo, in summers, we would go to the beach at night and light...how you say? Bonfires.
Mustafa turned and pushed the rest of his tacos over into the shade by his shoes, which he had once again removed. From habit, he glanced up the beach at the Hasid. He blinked to be sure he wasn’t seeing things. She was sitting up and had removed her hat and wig. Her shaved head was white as alabaster. She quickly unbuttoned first the cuffs of her shirt, then each of the buttons down the front. She shrugged the shirt off, folded it carefully and set it in her bag. Then she lay back in her white brassier
The Senegalese beer monger was back and this time Mustafa hurried to his fanny pack for the necessary cash. He bought another round of Coronas and they settled in for the afternoon. A Mexican woman with mangoes walked by a few minutes later. Mustafa bought the woman’s last three mangoes on sticks. Stelio declined, and Rosaline said she would share with Doudou, but she wound up sharing with Fat Amadou because the girl took up her mango with both hands and proceeded to devour it like a lion tearing strips of flesh from an antelope. Her face and hands grew messier and messier, and soon there was a thick film of sandencrusted mango nectar across her face and chest and forearms. Stelio good-naturedly offered to bring back a pail of ocean water to rinse her with, and when he did, her swimsuit was so sticky that Rosaline simply stripped her naked. By now the girl was beginning to whine and so Rosaline lay on her side and drew a towel over the baby to nurse her down for a nap. In minutes, she too was asleep. Mustafa offered a bite of his own mango to Stelio, who took it and nodded his head slowly in gratitude. “That shit was exported from the Garden of Eden.”
Thomas Bulen Jacobs | Freedom
and modest skirt, her feet still locked in their stockings. Mustafa turned back to his meal. He was glad for her. He loved New York; you surrendered to its bigness. It was not always so simple. You could be crushed. But in the surrender there was a kind of freedom. After they ate, Stelio took Doudou by the hand and led her down to the beach. Mustafa stripped off his shirt and followed. He took the girl’s other hand when it was offered and together the three of them dashed into an oncoming wave. The girl was ecstatic. They took turns holding her hands above her head, and then lifting her up into the air with a “whoa!” when each wave came crashing in, so that only her little feet kicked in the water. When she tired of that game, she sat on the beach with Stelio, who showed her how to take handfuls of wet sand and let them drip into piles of little dusky pancakes that could be washed away by the water. Mustafa left his glasses with Stelio and went out into the water to swim. The sense of terror was gone. He dove a few times then simply bobbed in the water, the tips of his toes keeping him loosely tethered to the sand. When he felt the need to urinate, he waited for a big wave and then let things run their course. When he saw that Stelio and the girl were heading back, he rode the waves up to the shore and followed after them.
Mustafa stifled a laugh. It was, really, almost that good. He gazed at the stone in his palm, stripped of all flesh. Stelio had laid back down and Fat Amadou was reclining on a hilariously small fold-out chair reading Stendhal in French. They lingered there for another hour while the baby slept. When she awakened, Rosaline and Fat Amadou took her once more down to the ocean while Stelio began to gather up and fold the bedsheets. Mustafa rose to help him. He and Fat Amadou had finished the beer and Mustafa was finally beginning to feel that pleasant sudsy tipsiness that came with good food, a hot sun and exhaustion. He glanced over at the Hasid, who lay now on her stomach, brassiere unclasped. Still her stockings were on her feet. Mustafa could see the seams that ran along the tips of her toes. Fat Amadou and his family returned a few minutes later. Together they gathered up what remained of their things, the big soft beach basket, the folding chair, the umbrella. They slipped into shoes and shirts and sandals. Rosaline tied a bright yellow wrap around her waist and set Doudou on her hip. She had dressed the girl now in a sleeveless blue pullover and white sandals. Together they waved adieu to the beach, to their neighbors, to the gulls. Doudou turned at last to
Mustafa and waved adieu to him, too. “Not quite yet, mon petit coeur,” Rosaline laughed. Mustafa put his hand over his heart and pretended to cry. The girl grinned. “C’est tout?” Fat Amadou said. “Yeah,” Stelio replied. He had collected their trash in a Gristedes bag and was dangling it from one long finger. They set off for the boardwalk. Mustafa looked once more for the Hasid but in those few minutes she had vanished. They rinsed their feet under a spigot behind the brick bathrooms at the head of the boardwalk. Then Mustafa went into the bathroom to fix up the ends of his mustache. When he emerged, Mustafa saw that the others had waited for him, watching the baby toddle along the sun-blasted slats of the boardwalk. As he made his way towards them, he passed the Hasid. Their eyes met and in that moment, they saw one another. He had ten thousand questions: was she married? Did her husband know she was here? Wouldn’t he see her tanned skin, wouldn’t someone, and thereby know? He remembered something he had heard, how the Hasidim had sex through a hole cut in a sheet. Was this possibly true? Could you go your entire life and never see your lover naked? She was older than he, perhaps middle aged. She had a long pale
mouth of Mount Doom. His heart was pounding. His whole body hurt. Mustafa clambered up onto the rocks, then leaped two, four, twelve stones deep. He bent his body and with a great wail of fury flung the bicycle out spinning into the infinite green.
Thomas Bulen Jacobs | Freedom
face, dark circles under her eyes. She was carrying a bag, a long-handled tote, in addition to her handbag. He glanced down and saw the logo for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Then it was all there for him, the meaning of her beautiful, private rebellion. “You’re dying,” he said. He felt that she would understand that he too had been near death, that this connected them. That he had come to this beach today just to see her and understand her. But she turned her eyes pointedly away and went silently, swiftly past. Mustafa watched her as she walked away and he wondered whether he had even spoken the words aloud. Fat Amadou and Stelio were talking about how shitty the subway was, how much better it had been just a few years ago. The girl clung now to her father’s neck, half-asleep. When they descended to the sidewalk, Mustafa stopped to unlock his bike and Stelio whistled through his teeth at the damage. Mustafa undid the locks, slipped the chain from the wheel and the frame. Suddenly his body felt the fullness of the crash, the fear, the pain, his strange survival. In a fit of glorious madness he picked up the bike and dashed back up to the boardwalk, past the reeking bathrooms, down the long slope of beach. There before him, the long stone breaker sat like the jagged path towards the
Pink Contemplations Gerburg Garmann
Katharyn Howd Machan
Because their scent has been stolen away. Because a father should have died instead of sacrificing his young daughter to endure a blood-ruddy beast. Because their thorns are hopeless, helpless to stick anyone but those who adore them and would place them with care in cut crystal vases, sunlight a fractured rainbow. I will not touch them. I will not try to bundle them safely to my heart in a bouquet of promise and prick. Give me safe fruit in small ruby bunches: them I will carry to my foolish children who donâ€™t know the meaning of historyâ€™s love, how it dazzles and dances and tricks.
Within Bowed Walls KG Newman
All I asked for was a reasonable word. Finally I hit her with the worst ones I knew: I. Don’t. Care. Maybe it was true or maybe since the dragonflies escaped the seams between the laminate floor beams have widened—perhaps because I didn’t let the “wood” adjust enough before installation—and in turn that’s created a curse worse than we ever could’ve imagined, riches and children and an additional cabin and for what? There’s no sense in a discussion if we can’t stand on even ground in our kitchen, where three years prior we tore out the uneven backsplash, cementing our own with haste while laughing at the raw incompetence of the former owners.
Dreamscape 2 Bruce Louis Dodson
Dark Tea and Melodies in Minor Keys Adina Sara
I am carrying a glass of hot tea, taking small, careful steps across the kitchen to the place where he sits. The steam from the glass warms my chin. I watch the color turn from pale to dark, smell the reddish broth both bitter and comforting. When I place the glass in front of him, I dip the tea bag three more times, wrap the string around and squeeze it dry. Later, he will reheat the kettle and we will listen while it changes from a steady hiss to a train-loud screech. Turn that thing off! my mother yells from somewhere in another room. But he lets the kettle screech until the sound hurts my ears. When I canâ€™t stand it any longer I run to turn down the flame but he tells me, wait, itâ€™s not ready yet. It has to be hot, very hot. I turn the flame back up, wait while the screeching sound returns, high but distant this time, like a train that has already passed. At last he nods, satisfied it is hot enough. Again he dips the soggy sack. It has life in it still. I curl my feet under me on the chair beside his and watch my father sip his tea through a sugar cube that he holds between his teeth. We are playing a game of checkers, and sometimes he lets me win. Sometimes he gets quiet, studying the board long and hard, lifting and
lowering his tea bag while he charts his next move. I get up to boil more water when his glass cools. It is Sunday afternoon. No one is with us. Not my mother, not my sister. They are glad that for the time being he is involved, active, not asking impossible, unanswerable questions. I am too young to know the reasons for their anger. Get it yourself, my mother screams at him. Leave me alone, my sister screams at him. They are on another team, the team of women who know that men are difficult, maddening, disappointing companions. I am still too young to know this and relieved they do not want to join us, relieved that it is only my father and me at the table, dipping tea bags in boiling water. This, too, I remember. We are sitting in the den, the room that holds his books, and he gives me his special pipe tool and lets me tamp the sweet tobacco leaves down into the bowl of his pipe. The leaves disappear into the bottom of the bowl and he lets me fill it again with the sweet brown shreds. The smell sticks to my hands and I lick my fingers when he isnâ€™t looking. My father has rows of pipes in wooden stands, some so large they cannot fit in the stands and lay loose on the table. He teaches me about
the time I grew
older, I too absorbed and mastered the acid tones
Sometimes when my father smokes his pipe, he tilts his head backwards, eyes softly opened, and starts to hum a quiet melody. While he hums, he taps his fingers lightly at the edge of his chair, humming, tapping, as if this alone might lift him to another place, high above where any of us could ever reach. My father was a gentle man, too gentle for the shrill world of an unsatisfied wife and two very American daughters. He came to this country a frightened child, and that child stayed with him. He lived deep inside the folds of his books, or somewhere else I could not know. A scholar, said my mother, I had to
marry a scholar, buried in his books all day. I watched her and learned from her, and by the time I grew older, I too absorbed and mastered the acid tones of dissatisfaction. The books my father read had no pictures. I saw him underline whole pages sometimes, watched his thin-veined hand write in thin blue lines that wove around the margins in esoteric strands. He traced and transcribed anything that might possibly answer his constant, desperate question: was there or was there not a God? And if there was, why would He allow such suffering? I knew not to disturb him when he read his thick, frayed books. His was a quiet that even a child recognized. Sometimes he did put his book down, satisfied for the moment, and came to where I sat, took my head softly in his hands, called me his ketzele (little kitten). His eyes welled up with a wetness that seemed less like tears, more like the washing away of stale crusts of pain. I would ask him, Why are you crying, Daddy? and he answered, I am crying tears of happiness. A strange kind of happiness, I thought. Like the warm rush of black tea, a brief and bitter pleasure. I regret never asking my father about his childhood, though dark hints and flavors occasionally seeped through. By the time
Adina Sara | Dark Tea and Melodies in Minor Keys
their distinctions, the subtleties of their feels and shapes. He lets me hold his favorite, from Denmark, creamy smooth and made of bone. It is weightless in my hands. He lets me tip the pipes out of their wooden holders and rearrange them by size, by color, by feel. I am so careful, so careful, thatâ€™s how I earn his trust. I wriggle in close when he lights his pipes and breathe in the smell of comfort burning off his lips.
my aunt was dead and my father’s mind gone, it occurred to me to ask a thousand questions. What kind of work did my grandfather do? What did their house look like? Did my grandmother sing? So many questions, dead and lost. But he never spoke of his parents or his past. Whatever world he left behind lived only in the misted gray light of his eyes. ~ I have told my children few stories about their grandfather. They don’t remember the man who hummed off-key in their sleeping ears, who tickled them and chortled like a baby to see in them the perfect continuation of life. My children did not inherit their grandfather’s pain. They were born into a world of plenty, of green playing fields and sunshine. Had he lived to know them, he would not have known them. But he does live on in the pale shadows of my memory—tea bags at the kitchen table, the stale comfort of dusty books and warm tobacco, the shallow distant humming of melodies in minor keys.
The Elephant Myth Jessica E. Lindberg
My father was born in India, but he does not need elephant knickknacks to remind him. We, his three kids, got that wrong. In our childhoods of gift-giving, when we could have picked socks or a sharpened chisel we went with a miniature elephant carved out of tagua nut. We went teak pachyderm to crowd the mantel with the rest of his stocky herd. I could identify the hunch of an Asian elephant’s back, the African’s larger ears draped like gray tablecloths. He insisted we get the species right, at least, although I see now his aim was less wisdom and more population control. On birthdays, he might have liked to make us his famous pecan pancakes on an unscathed griddle, but we just gave him more elephants. Like the blind men in the parable, we ran our hands over his foreign birth story and felt pieces—his mother’s scarlet fever, her empty breasts, the manservant spooning rice pudding— we made of these portions, his whole elephant. We gave it back to him again and again as if to say here you are, you belong to us now, remember.
Art Bruce Louis Dodson is an American expat living in Borlänge, Sweden, where he practices photography and writes fiction and poetry. His most recent work has appeared in: Foreign & Far Away (Writers Abroad Anthology), Trip of a Lifetime Anthology (Sleeping Cat Books), Pirene’s Fountain, Tic Toc Anthology (Kind of a Hurricane Press), Storm Cycle Anthology (Kind of a Hurricane Press), Vine Leaves, Cordite Poetry Review, Buffalo Almanac, mgversion2>datura, Maintenant 11, Door Is A Jar, Popshot, Last Call (Raven Chronicles), Proverse Poetry Prize Anthology, and Without Words Anthology (Kind of a Hurricane Press). Gerburg Garmann, a native of Germany, is a professor of German and French and the assistant dean of Interdisciplinary Programs & Service Learning at the University of Indianapolis. Her scholarly publications appear in English, German, and French in international journals. Her poems and artwork have appeared in various magazines and anthologies around the world. Kari Hall (Guziec) was born and raised in the Chicagoland area and earned a BA in Visual Communications Design from Purdue University. It was there Kari was first introduced to encaustic painting and has kept her concentration on developing work in this medium. She worked successfully as a graphic designer for ten years before leaving to pursue her passion as a full-time artist in 2014. Her work has been shown in many galleries, primarily in the Midwest and East Coast. Now based out of the Houston area, when she isn’t in the studio painting, she is spending time with her husband Drew, daughter Rosie, and bloodhound Harvey.
Fiction Thomas Bulen Jacobs was raised overseas, mostly in South America, Turkey, and Spain. He is a graduate of St. John’s College in Annapolis, and the New School in New York City. His fiction has appeared in The Nassau Review and MAYDAY Magazine.
Contributors | Issue 17
Amanda Lara is a writer with credits in both fiction and journalism. Her work has appeared in Goldman Review, Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things, and Inaccurate Realities (among others) and has been published in print, electronic, and audio mediums. Prior to her creative endeavors, she wrote a bimonthly column entitled “Teen World,” which was geared towards young adult readers, for the Fullerton Observer. Amanda resides in Orange County, California, and can be found on Twitter @amhlara.
Nonfiction Rocky Halpern is a first-year candidate in The New School’s MFA Creating Writing program, with a focus in nonfiction. Their work centers on themes of transgenerational trauma, LGBTQ identities, travel, sex, gender, and mental illness. They work in an office in Manhattan on Fifth Avenue during the day and at night somnambulate through the streets searching for queer art films, the perfect onion bagel, and a little pot. Briana Loveall earned her MFA from Eastern Washington University. In 2018 she was a finalist for the Beacon Street prize. In 2017 she was a finalist for The Montana Book Festival Award and the Annie Dillard Award. Briana is the recipient of the 2018 Hal Pulse Prize. She has forthcoming publications with The Rumpus, Under the Gum Tree, Crab Orchard Review, and is published elsewhere. Adina Sara’s short fiction and essays have appeared in Persimmon Tree, East Bay Express, Green Prints, Cottage Gardener, and Peregrine Press among others. She is the published author of a novel, Blind Shady Bend, and two collections of poetry and essays. She is currently completing a memoir, Untying the Family Knot: reflections on five generations. Find her online at: www.adinasara.com
Poetry Carl Boon lives in Izmir, Turkey, where he teaches courses in American literature at Dokuz Eylül University. His poems appear in dozens of magazines, including The Maine Review and Posit. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Boon is currently editing a volume on food in American literature. Clayton Adam Clark lives in St. Louis, his hometown, where he works as a public health researcher and volunteers as a board member for River Styx. His first poetry collection, A Finitude of Skin (Moon City Press, 2018) won the 2017 Moon City Poetry Prize. His poems have recently appeared in The Massachusetts Review, Mid-American Review, Cimarron Review, and elsewhere. He earned an MFA in creative writing at The Ohio State University and is currently studying clinical mental health counseling at University of Missouri-St. Louis. Myron Ernst is a retired-owner and director of a private Montessori school. He taught French at the college level for several years. His poetry has appeared in: Poetry East, Hopkins Review, Chicago Review, Quarterly West, Tar River Poetry, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Texas Review, and Salmagundi, among others. Katharyn Howd Machan, author of 38 collections of poetry (most recently What the Piper Promised, winner of the 2018 New Alexandria Press chapbook competition), has lived in Ithaca, New York, since 1975 and, now as a full professor, has taught writing at Ithaca College since 1977. After many years of coordinating the Ithaca Community Poets and directing the Feminist Women’s Writing Workshops, Inc., she was selected to be Tompkins County’s first poet laureate. Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies, and textbooks, and she has edited three thematic anthologies. Nancy Lee is the author of Dead Girls, a collection of short stories, and The Age, a novel. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals including Canadian Literature, Event Magazine, Prism International, Occulum, and The Puritan. She lives in Steveston, British Columbia with her husband, the author John Vigna.
Contributors | Issue 17
Noah Leventhal is a recent graduate of the classics program at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He has been published in Rogue Agent, Burningword Literary Journal, and The Scarlet Leaf Review. He participated in the summer poetry program at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop in 2016 and the summer poetry program at the Kenyon Review in 2017. Noah spends much of his time reading. In his mind, the best writers are also the best readers, not only of poems, essays, or fiction, but of their audience. Great writing is a conversation. Jessica E. Lindberg teaches at a community college in the northwest Georgia mountains. She is up against the ten-year deadline to finish her Ph.D in poetry at Georgia State University. Her work has appeared in Mississippi Review, Sand Hills Literary Magazine, Old Red Kimono, and sometimes on her parent’s refrigerator. Jessica and her husband raised two sons and enjoyed it so much they had another boy, sixteen years after the first two. KG Newman is a sportswriter who covers the Colorado Rockies for The Denver Post. His first two collections of poems, While Dreaming of Diamonds in Wintertime and Selfish Never Get Their Own, are available on Amazon. He is on Twitter @KyleNewmanDP. SM Stubbs is the co-owner of a bar in Brooklyn, NY. He grew up in South Florida and has worked as a publishing grunt, line cook, landscaper, college instructor, museum display, and a bunch of other things. He received an MFA from Indiana University, is the recipient of a scholarship to Bread Loaf and has been nominated for Best New Poets 2018. Poems have appeared or will appear in The Normal School, Jabberwock Review, Cherry Tree, Poetry Northwest, Opossum, Atticus Review, Puerto Del Sol, and others. Anna-Marie Sprenger is from Provo, Utah and currently studies linguistics at Stanford University. Anna-Marie’s work has appeared in Textploit and Silver Needle Press, and has been presented at the National Undergraduate Literature Conference. Elizabeth Sunflower is a poet, teacher, wife, mother, and rock collector living in Philadelphia.
Danielle Weeks received her MFA in poetry through Eastern Washington University’s creative writing program. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in The Boiler Journal, Salt Hill Journal, Sugar House Review, and Zone 3, among others. Her poem “Human Uses” was chosen as the winner of Atticus Review’s annual poetry contest in 2018. “Catfish” John Wojtowicz grew up working on his family’s azalea and rhododendron nursery in the backwoods of what Ginsberg dubbed “nowhere Zen New Jersey.” He is currently employed as the mental health coordinator for a local community college and takes every opportunity to combine this work with his passion for wilderness. Besides poetry, he likes bonfires, boots, and bluegrass. Recent publications include: Stoneboat, Naugatuck River Review, El Portal, r.k.v.r.y, The Mom Egg, Driftwood, Spitball, and The Paterson Literary Review.
Contributors | Issue 17
Bruce Louis Dodson
Clayton Adam Clark
Katharyn Howd Machan Nancy Lee
Thomas Bulen Jacobs
Jessica E. Lindberg
KG Newman SM Stubbs
Issue 17: a publication of Rowan University's Master of Arts in Writing